While everyone has moved on from skepticism and epistemology, interest in the philosophy of mind & language have taken up the slack. I finally abandoned skepticism myself a while back and agree that the traditional problems of “other minds” and so on are not really problems worthy of much effort anymore.
How to get ones mind around problems of the mind is a bit like trying to look at your own face. Nevertheless the problem keeps plenty of professional philosophers busy. I’ve dipped my toe, well maybe my whole foot into the debate and as usual am of two minds on the subject.
First I agree that dualism is utterly unworkable. We cannot deny the clear-cut evidence of the dependency of mental events on the brain. In fact I would go further and say, contra those who still believe that a “brain in a vat” is a useful thought experiment, that the mind is not only dependent on the brain, but on the entire central nervous system. It would be rather difficult, and certainly unethical, to try and do an experiment to prove this thesis, but my hunch is that the whole network of neurological activity that makes up the body is interconnected and a brain on its own would not be able to support mental events.But that’s just a side issue.
So we all can agree that mental events are dependent in some way on the body/brain for their existence, that is if they exist at all. Eliminative materialists have been making that case for some time though I am baffled by that position. Dennett has been a quite successful advocate of that position, but I don’t think the majority of his readers really understand what they are subscribing to. Searle’s arguments against that group I think are successful (see Biological Naturalism). But then Searle is accused of being a property dualist and I suspect he’s not taken very seriously anymore by the current generation of philosophers. Case in point: I listened to a lecture by David Chalmers who has had some luck selling his books too and I found it to be pretty much unintelligible. Endless discussions of Putnam’s “Twin Earth” problem remind of the scholastics counting angels on pinheads.
Whoever wins the day in all this will have only a Pyrrhic victory I’m afraid. What will have been accomplished–and it’s certainly not without value–is a coherent system of understanding that matches as closely as possible to the experimental data. It will be something like a mathematical model that takes into account the neurological data and the mental “contents” that the neurons produce. It will be taught in medical schools. It will allow us to develop better drugs that will alter the brain in better and better ways. What it will never do, in my opinion is accurately describe what the mind is.
Heidegger is hard, which is why it has taken me so long to be able to get what he’s saying. Having said that, I will preface anything I say about his philosophy with the disclaimer that I am still not sure I have it right. But there are advantages to being a non-professional, so I will dive in.
One of Heidegger’s projects is to eliminate the subject/object version of reality that western philosophy inherited from certain Greeks but especially from Descartes. The definition of Dasein itself is a clue. Being In doesn’t sound like a description of a subject object relation. In Being and Time Heidegger does not directly address the problem of the mind per se, but he has two short chapters that address skepticism about the external world and it’s not difficult to infer from what he says what his take on the mind is.
When Dasein directs itself towards something and grasps it, it does not somehow first get out of an inner sphere in which it has been proximally encapsulated, but its primary kind of Being is such that it is always ‘outside’ alongside entities which it encounters and which belong to a world already discovered. Nor is any inner sphere abandoned when Dasein dwells alongside the entity to be known, and determines its character; but even in this ‘Being-outside’ alongside the object, Dasein is still ‘inside’, if we understand this in the correct sense; that is to say, it is itself ‘inside’ as a Being-in-the-world which knows. (Being and Time. Macquarrie/Robinson transl. p 89)
Whether one agrees with this account or not, I think Heidegger’s project of making an account of reality as a strictly ontological exercise is the right approach. Whatever scientific/philosophical account of the Mind eventually wins the day, it will scarcely scratch the account Heidegger has laid out. The phenomenon itself of being a thinking-thing and how we peculiar thinking things encounter the world is the correct approach to coming to an understanding of what the mind is. Consider the fact that even if science makes great strides in determining the essential characteristics of mental events and their interactions with the brain and body it will have zero explanatory power over the definition of the human being itself (as a being-in-the-world as Heidegger says). The mental, in Heidegger terms, is an active component of Dasein’s activity in the world, and has no separate existence itself, nor would Dasein exist without it being wholly intertwined in the world.
The subject/object relation so necessary to traditional analyses of the Mind is absent in Heidegger’s account. If it seems unsatisfying I suspect that has more to do with the cultural baggage of dualism than with Heidegger himself.