- Dualism (philosophy of mind)
While Aristotle shared Plato's view of multiple souls, (ψυχή psychí) their hierarchical arrangement corresponded to distinctive functions of plants, animals and people: a nutritive soul of growth and metabolism, shared by all three, a perceptive soul of pain, pleasure and desire, shared by animals and people only, and the faculty of reason, unique to humanity. In his view, a soul is the hylomorphic form a viable organism, where each level of the hierarchy formally supervenes upon the substance of the preceding level. Thus, for Aristotle, all three souls perish when the living organism dies. For Plato however, the soul migrates to a new body after death and is not identified with the physical body.
Dualism is closely associated with the philosophy of René Descartes (1641), which holds that the mind is a nonphysical substance. Descartes was the first to clearly identify the mind with consciousness and self-awareness and to distinguish this from the brain, which was the seat of intelligence. Hence, he was the first to formulate the mind-body problem in the form in which it exists today. Dualism is contrasted with various kinds of monism, including phenomenalism. Substance dualism is contrasted with all forms of materialism, but property dualism may be considered a form of emergent materialism and thus would only be contrasted with non-emergent materialism. This article discusses the various forms of dualism and the arguments which have been made both for and against this thesis.
- 1 Historical overview
- 2 Types of mind-body dualism
- 3 Dualist views of mental causation
- 4 Arguments for dualism
- 5 Arguments against dualism
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Plato and Aristotle
In the dialogue Phaedo, Plato formulated his famous Theory of Forms as distinct and immaterial substances of which the objects and other phenomena that we perceive in the world are nothing more than mere shadows.
Plato makes it clear, in the Phaedo, that the Forms are the universalia ante res, i.e. they are ideal universals, by which we are able to understand the world. In his allegory of the cave Plato likens the achievement of philosophical understanding to emerging into the sun from a dark cave, where only vague shadows of what lies beyond that prison are cast dimly upon the wall. Plato's forms are non-physical and non-mental. They exist nowhere in time or space, but neither do they exist in the mind, nor in the pleroma of matter; rather, matter is said to “participate” in form (μεθεξις methexis). It remained unclear however, even to Aristotle, exactly what Plato intended by that.
Aristotle argued at length against many aspects of Plato's forms, creating his own doctrine of hylomorphism wherein form and matter coexist. Ultimately however, Aristotle's aim was to perfect a theory of forms, rather than to reject it. Although Aristotle strongly rejected the independent existence Plato attributed to forms, his metaphysics do agree with Plato's a priori considerations quite often however. For example, Aristotle's argument that changeless, eternal substantial form is necessarily immaterial. Because matter provides a stable substratum for a change in form, matter always has the potential to change. Thus, if given an eternity in which to do so, it will, necessarily, exercise that potential.
Part of Aristotle's psychology, the study of the soul, is his account of the ability of humans to reason and the ability of animals to perceive. In both cases, perfect copies of forms are acquired, either by direct impression of environmental forms, in the case of perception, or else by virtue of contemplation, understanding and recollection. He believed the mind can literally assume any form being contemplated or experienced, and it was unique in its ability to become a blank slate, having no essential form. As thoughts of earth are not heavy, any more than thoughts of fire are casually efficient, they provide an immaterial complement for the formless mind.
From Neoplatonism to Scholasticism
In the early Middle Ages, there was a resurgence of what is now called Neoplatonism, which is generally based on Plato's philosophy. Neoplatonism exerted a considerable influence on Christianity, as did the philosophy of Aristotle via scholasticism.
In the scholastic tradition of Saint Thomas Aquinas, officially incorporated into Roman Catholic dogma, the soul remains the substance of a human being, as it did per Aristotle. Aquinas, however, provided for the separation of the soul from the body, although the soul by itself, was understood not to be a person (substance). Hence, Aquinas suggested that "soul of St. Peter pray for us" would be more appropriate than "St. Peter pray for us", because all things connected with his person, including memories, ended with his corporeal life.
The Catholic doctrine of the resurrection of the body states that at the second coming, the souls of the departed will be reunited with their bodies as a whole person (substance) and witness to the apocalypse. The thorough consistency between dogma and Aristotelian physics evident here resulted from a belief that there can be only one truth. Consistency with science and logic remained a high priority for centuries, and a university doctorate in theology generally included the entire science curriculum as a prerequisite. This doctrine is not universally accepted by Christians today. Many believe that one's immortal soul goes directly to Heaven upon death of the body.
Descartes and his disciples
In his Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes embarked upon a quest in which he called all his previous beliefs into doubt, in order to find out of what he could be certain. In so doing, he discovered that he could doubt whether he had a body (it could be that he was dreaming of it or that it was an illusion created by an evil demon), but he could not doubt whether he had a mind. This gave Descartes his first inkling that the mind and body were different things. The mind, according to Descartes, was a "thinking thing" (lat. res cogitans), and an immaterial substance. This "thing" was the essence of himself, that which doubts, believes, hopes, and thinks. The distinction between mind and body is argued in Meditation VI as follows: I have a clear and distinct idea of myself as a thinking, non-extended thing, and a clear and distinct idea of body as an extended and non-thinking thing. Whatever I can conceive clearly and distinctly, God can so create. So, Descartes argues, the mind, a thinking thing, can exist apart from its extended body. And therefore, the mind is a substance distinct from the body, a substance whose essence is thought.
The central claim of what is often called Cartesian dualism, in honour of Descartes, is that the immaterial mind and the material body, while being ontologically distinct substances, causally interact. This is an idea which continues to feature prominently in many non-European philosophies. Mental events cause physical events, and vice-versa. But this leads to a substantial problem for Cartesian dualism: How can an immaterial mind cause anything in a material body, and vice-versa? This has often been called the "problem of interactionism."
Descartes himself struggled to come up with a feasible answer to this problem. In his letter to Elisabeth of Bohemia, Princess Palatine, he suggested that animal spirits interacted with the body through the pineal gland, a small gland in the centre of the brain, between the two hemispheres. The term "Cartesian dualism" is also often associated with this more specific notion of causal interaction through the pineal gland. However, this explanation was not satisfactory: how can an immaterial mind interact with the physical pineal gland? Because Descartes' was such a difficult theory to defend, some of his disciples, such as Arnold Geulincx and Nicholas Malebranche, proposed a different explanation: That all mind-body interactions required the direct intervention of God. According to these philosophers, the appropriate states of mind and body were only the occasions for such intervention, not real causes. These occasionalists maintained the strong thesis that all causation was directly dependent on God, instead of holding that all causation was natural except for that between mind and body.
Types of mind-body dualism
Ontological dualism makes dual commitments about the nature of existence as it relates to mind and matter, and can be divided into three different types:
- Substance dualism asserts that mind and matter are fundamentally distinct kinds of substances.
- Property dualism suggests that the ontological distinction lies in the differences between properties of mind and matter (as in emergentism).
- Predicate dualism claims the irreducibility of mental predicates to physical predicates.
Substance dualism is a type of dualism most famously defended by Descartes, which states that there are two fundamental kinds of substance: mental and material. According to his philosophy, which is specifically called Cartesian dualism, the mental does not have extension in space, and the material cannot think. Substance dualism is important historically for having given rise to much thought regarding the famous mind-body problem. Substance dualism is a philosophical position compatible with most theologies which claim that immortal souls occupy an independent "realm" of existence distinct from that of the physical world. David Chalmers recently developed a thought experiment inspired by the movie The Matrix in which substance dualism could be true: Consider a computer simulation in which the bodies of the creatures are controlled by their minds and the minds remain strictly external to the simulation. The creatures can do all the science they want in the world, but they will never be able to figure out where their minds are, for they do not exist in their observable universe. This is a case of substance dualism with respect to computer simulation. This naturally differs from a computer simulation in which the minds are part of the simulation. In such a case, substance monism would be true.
Property dualism asserts that an ontological distinction lies in the differences between properties of mind and matter, and that consciousness is ontologically irreducible to neurobiology and physics. It asserts that when matter is organized in the appropriate way (i.e., in the way that living human bodies are organized), mental properties emerge. Hence, it is a sub-branch of emergent materialism. What views properly fall under the property dualism rubric is itself a matter of dispute. There are different versions of property dualism, some of which claim independent categorisation.
Non-reductive physicalism is a form of Property Dualism, in which it is asserted that all mental states are causally reducible to physical states. One argument for this has been made in the form of anomalous monism expressed by Donald Davidson, where it is argued that mental events are identical to physical events, and there can be strict law-governed causal relationships. Another argument for this has been expressed by John Searle, who is the advocate of a distinctive form of physicalism he calls biological naturalism. His view is that although mental states are ontologically irreducible to physical states, they are causally reducible (see causality). He has acknowledged that "to many people" his views and those of property dualists look a lot alike. But he thinks the comparison is misleading.
Epiphenomenalism is a form of Property Dualism, in which it is asserted that one or more mental states do not have any influence on physical states (both ontologically and causally irreducible). It asserts that while material causes give rise to sensations, volitions, ideas, etc., such mental phenomena themselves cause nothing further: they are causal dead-ends. This can be contrasted to interactionism, on the other hand, in which mental causes can produce material effects, and vice-versa.
Predicate dualism is the view espoused by most nonreductive physicalists, such as Donald Davidson and Jerry Fodor, who maintain that while there is only one ontological category of substances and properties of substances (usually physical), the predicates that we use to describe mental events cannot be redescribed in terms of (or reduced to) physical predicates of natural languages. If we characterize predicate monism as the view subscribed to by eliminative materialists, who maintain that such intentional predicates as believe, desire, think, feel, etc., will eventually be eliminated from both the language of science and from ordinary language because the entities to which they refer do not exist, then predicate dualism is most easily defined as the negation of this position. Predicate dualists believe that so-called "folk psychology", with all of its propositional attitude ascriptions, is an ineliminable part of the enterprise of describing, explaining and understanding human mental states and behavior.
Davidson, for example, subscribes to Anomalous Monism, according to which there can be no strict psycho-physical laws which connect mental and physical events under their descriptions as mental and physical events. However, all mental events also have physical descriptions. It is in terms of the latter that such events can be connected in law-like relations with other physical events. Mental predicates are irreducibly different in character (rational, holistic and necessary) from physical predicates (contingent, atomic and causal).
Dualist views of mental causation
Interactionism is the view that mental states, such as beliefs and desires, causally interact with physical states. This is a position which is very appealing to common-sense intuitions, notwithstanding the fact that it is very difficult to establish its validity or correctness by way of logical argumentation or empirical proof. It seems to appeal to common-sense because we are surrounded by such everyday occurrences as a child's touching a hot stove (physical event) which causes him to feel pain (mental event) and then yell and scream (physical event) which causes his parents to experience a sensation of fear and protectiveness (mental event) and so on.
Psycho-physical parallelism is a very unusual view about the interaction between mental and physical events which was most prominently, and perhaps only truly, advocated by Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz. Like Malebranche and others before him, Leibniz recognized the weaknesses of Descartes' account of causal interaction taking place in a physical location in the brain. Malebranche decided that such a material basis of interaction between material and immaterial was impossible and therefore formulated his doctrine of occasionalism, stating that the interactions were really caused by the intervention of God on each individual occasion. Leibniz's idea is that God has created a pre-established harmony such that it only seems as if physical and mental events cause, and are caused by, one another. In reality, mental causes only have mental effects and physical causes only have physical effects. Hence the term parallelism is used to describe this view.
Occasionalism is a philosophical doctrine about causation which says that created substances cannot be efficient causes of events. Instead, all events are taken to be caused directly by God himself. The theory states that the illusion of efficient causation between mundane events arises out of a constant conjunction that God had instituted, such that every instance where the cause is present will constitute an "occasion" for the effect to occur as an expression of the aforementioned power. This "occasioning" relation, however, falls short of efficient causation. In this view, it is not the case that the first event causes God to cause the second event: rather, God first caused one and then caused the other, but chose to regulate such behaviour in accordance with general laws of nature. Some of its most prominent historical exponents have been Louis de la Forge, Arnold Geulincx, and Nicholas Malebranche.
According to epiphenomenalism, all mental events are caused by a physical event and have no physical consequences, and that one or more mental states do not have any influence on physical states. So, the mental event of deciding to pick up a rock ("M") is caused by the firing of specific neurons in the brain ("P"). When the arm and hand move to pick up the rock ("E") this is not caused by the preceding mental event M, nor by M and P together, but only by P. The physical causes are in principle reducible to fundamental physics, and therefore mental causes are eliminated using this reductionist explanation. If P causes both M and E, there is no overdetermination in the explanation for E.
The idea that even if the animal were conscious nothing would be added to the production of behavior, even in animals of the human type, was first voiced by La Mettrie (1745), and then by Cabanis (1802), and was further explicated by Hodgson (1870) and Huxley (1874).
Non-reductive physicalism is the idea that while mental states are physical they are not reducible to physical properties, in that an ontological distinction lies in the differences between the properties of mind and matter. According to non-reductive physicalism all mental states are causally reducible to physical states where mental properties map to physical properties and vice-versa. A prominent form of non-reductive physicalism called anomalous monism was first proposed by Donald Davidson in his 1970 paper Mental events, where it is claimed that mental events are identical with physical events, and that the mental is anomalous, i.e. under their mental descriptions these mental events are not regulated by strict physical laws.
Arguments for dualism
Subjective argument in support of dualism
A very important argument against physicalism (and hence in favor of some sort of dualism) consists in the idea that the mental and the physical seem to have quite different and perhaps irreconcilable properties.
Mental events have a certain subjective quality to them, whereas physical seem not to. So, for example, one may ask what a burned finger feels like, or what the blueness of the sky looks like, or what nice music sounds like.
Philosophers of mind call the subjective aspects of mental events qualia (or raw feels). There is something that it's like to feel pain, to see a familiar shade of blue, and so on. There are qualia involved in these mental events. And the claim is that qualia seem particularly difficult to reduce to anything physical.
Thomas Nagel, himself a physicalist, first characterized the problem of qualia for physicalistic monism in his article, "What is it like to be a bat?". Nagel argued that even if we knew everything there was to know from a third-person, scientific perspective about a bat's sonar system, we still wouldn't know what it is like to be a bat.
Frank Jackson formulated his famous knowledge argument based upon similar considerations. In this thought experiment, known as Mary's room, he asks us to consider a neuroscientist, Mary, who was born, and has lived all of her life, in a black and white room with a black and white television and computer monitor where she collects all the scientific data she possibly can on the nature of colours. Jackson asserts that as soon as Mary leaves the room, she will come to have new knowledge which she did not possess before: the knowledge of the experience of colours (i.e., what they are like). Although, by hypothesis, Mary had already known everything there is to know about colours from an objective, third-person perspective, she never knew, according to Jackson, what it was like to see red, orange, or green.
If Mary really learns something new, it must be knowledge of something non-physical, since she already knew everything there is to know about the physical aspects of colour. David Lewis' response to this argument, now known as the ability argument, is that what Mary really came to know was simply the ability to recognize and identify color sensations to which she had previously not been exposed. Daniel Dennett and others also provide arguments against this notion, see Mary's room for details.
Special sciences argument
This argument says that, if predicate dualism is correct, then there are special sciences which are irreducible to physics. These irreducible special sciences, which are the source of allegedly irreducible predicates, presumably differ from the hard sciences in that they are interest-relative. If they are interest-relative, then they must be dependent on the existence of minds which are capable of having interested perspectives. Psychology is, of course, the paragon of special sciences; therefore, it and its predicates must depend even more profoundly on the existence of the mental.
Physics, at least ideally, sets out to tell us how the world is in itself, to carve up the world at its joints and describe it to us without the interference of individual perspectives or personal interests. On the other hand, such things as the patterns of the weather seen in meteorology or the behavior of human beings are only of interest to human beings as such. The point is that having a perspective on the world is a psychological state. Therefore, the special sciences presuppose the existence of minds which can have these states. If one is to avoid ontological dualism, then the mind that has a perspective must be part of the physical reality to which it applies its perspective. If this is the case, then in order to perceive the physical world as psychological, the mind must have a perspective on the physical. This, in turn, presupposes the existence of mind.
The zombie argument
The zombie argument is based on a thought experiment proposed by David Chalmers. The basic idea is that one can imagine, and therefore conceive the existence of, one's body without any conscious states being associated with it.
Chalmers' argument is that it seems very plausible that such a being could exist because all that is needed is that all and only the things that the physical sciences describe about a zombie must be true of it. Since none of the concepts involved in these sciences make reference to consciousness or other mental phenomena, and any physical entity can be by definition described scientifically via physics, the move from conceivability to possibility is not such a large one.
Others such as Dennett have argued that the notion of a philosophical zombie is an incoherent, or unlikely, concept. In particular, nothing proves that an entity (e.g. a computer or robot) which would perfectly mimic human beings, and especially perfectly mimic expressions of feelings (like joy, fear, anger, ...), would not indeed experience them, thus having similar states of consciousness to what a real human would have. It is argued that under physicalism, one must either believe that anyone including oneself might be a zombie, or that no one can be a zombie - following from the assertion that one's own conviction about being (or not being) a zombie is a product of the physical world and is therefore no different from anyone else's.
Argument from personal identity
This argument concerns the differences between the applicability of counterfactual conditionals to physical objects, on the one hand, and to conscious, personal agents on the other. In the case of any material object, e.g. a printer, we can formulate a series of counterfactuals in the following manner:
- This printer could have been made of straw.
- This printer could have been made of some other kind of plastics and vacuum-tube transistors.
- This printer could have been made of 95% of what it is actually made of and 5% vacuum-tube transistors, etc..
Somewhere along the way from the printer's being made up exactly of the parts and materials which actually constitute it to the printer's being made up of some different matter at, say, 20%, the question of whether this printer is the same printer becomes a matter of arbitrary convention.
Imagine the case of a person, Frederick, who has a counterpart born from the same egg and a slightly genetically modified sperm. Imagine a series of counterfactual cases corresponding to the examples applied to the printer. Somewhere along the way, one is no longer sure about the identity of Frederick. In this latter case, it has been claimed, overlap of constitution cannot be applied to the identity of mind. As Madell puts it:
- "But while my present body can thus have its partial counterpart in some possible world, my present consciousness cannot. Any present state of consciousness that I can imagine either is or is not mine. There is no question of degree here."
If the counterpart of Frederick, Frederickus, is 70% constituted of the same physical substance as Frederick, does this mean that it is also 70% mentally identical with Frederick? Does it make sense to say that something is mentally 70% Frederick? A possible solution to this dilemma is that of open individualism.
Argument from reason
Philosophers and scientists such as Victor Reppert, William Hasker and Alvin Plantinga have developed an argument for dualism dubbed the "Argument from Reason" and credit C.S. Lewis—who called it "The Cardinal Difficulty of Naturalism," the title of chapter three of the book—with first bringing the argument to light in his book Miracles.
In short the argument holds that if, as thoroughgoing naturalism entails, all of our thoughts are the effect of a physical cause, then we have no reason for assuming that they are also the consequent of a reasonable ground. Knowledge, however, is apprehended by reasoning from ground to consequent. Therefore, if naturalism were true, there would be no way of knowing it—or anything else not the direct result of a physical cause—and we could not even suppose it, except by a fluke.
By this logic, the statement "I have reason to believe naturalism is valid" is self-referentially incoherent in the same manner as the sentence "One of the words of this sentence does not have the meaning that it appears to have," or the statement "I never tell the truth." That is, in each case to assume the veracity of the conclusion would eliminate the possibility of valid grounds from which to reach it. To summarize the argument in the book, Lewis quotes J. B. S. Haldane who appeals to a similar line of reasoning:
If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true ... and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. —J. B. S. Haldane, Possible Worlds, page 209
In his essay Is Theology Poetry, Lewis himself summarises the argument in a similar fashion when he writes:
If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on biochemistry, and biochemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of the atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any more significance than the sound of the wind in the trees. —C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, page 139
If consciousness (the mind) can exist independently of physical reality (the brain), one must explain how physical memories are created concerning consciousness. Dualism must therefore explain how consciousness affects physical reality.
One possible explanation is that of a miracle, proposed by Arnold Geulincx and Nicholas Malebranche, where all mind-body interactions require the direct intervention of God.
Although at the time C. S. Lewis wrote Miracles, Quantum Mechanics (and physical indeterminism) was only in the initial stages of acceptance, he stated the logical possibility that if the physical world was proved to be indeterministic this would provide an entry (interaction) point into the traditionally viewed closed system, where a scientifically described physically probable/improbable event could be philosophically described as an action of a non physical entity on physical reality.
Arguments against dualism
One argument against Dualism is with regard to causal interaction. If consciousness (the mind) can exist independently of physical reality (the brain), one must explain how physical memories are created concerning consciousness. Dualism must therefore explain how consciousness affects physical reality. One of the main objections to dualistic interactionism is lack of explanation of how the material and immaterial are able to interact. Varieties of dualism according to which an immaterial mind causally affects the material body and vice-versa have come under strenuous attack from different quarters, especially in the 20th century. Critics of dualism have often asked how something totally immaterial can affect something totally material - this is the basic problem of causal interaction.
First, it is not clear where the interaction would take place. For example, burning one's fingers causes pain. Apparently there is some chain of events, leading from the burning of skin, to the stimulation of nerve endings, to something happening in the peripheral nerves of one's body that lead to one's brain, to something happening in a particular part of one's brain, and finally resulting in the sensation of pain. But pain is not supposed to be spatially locatable. It might be responded that the pain "takes place in the brain." But, intuitively, pains are not located anywhere. This may not be a devastating criticism. However, there is a second problem about the interaction. Namely, the question of how the interaction takes place, where in dualism 'the mind' is assumed to be non physical and by definition outside of the realm of science. The mechanism which explains the connection between the mental and the physical would therefore be a philosophical proposition as compared to a scientific theory. For example, compare such a mechanism to a physical mechanism that is well understood. Take a very simple causal relation, such as when a cue ball strikes an eight ball and causes it to go into the pocket. What happens in this case is that the cue ball has a certain amount of momentum as its mass moves across the pool table with a certain velocity, and then that momentum is transferred to the eight ball, which then heads toward the pocket. Compare this to the situation in the brain, where one wants to say that a decision causes some neurons to fire and thus causes a body to move across the room. The intention to "cross the room now" is a mental event and, as such, it does not have physical properties such as force. If it has no force, then it would seem that it could not possibly cause any neuron to fire. However, with Dualism, an explanation is required of how something without any physical properties has physical effects.
By assuming a deterministic physical universe, the objection can be formulated more precisely. When a person decides to walk across a room, it is generally understood that the decision to do so, a mental event, immediately causes a group of neurons in that person's brain to fire, a physical event, which ultimately results in his walking across the room. The problem is that if there is something totally nonphysical causing a bunch of neurons to fire, then there is no physical event which causes the firing. This means that some physical energy is required to be generated against the physical laws of the deterministic universe - this is by definition a miracle and there can be no scientific explanation of (repeatable experiment performed regarding) where the physical energy for the firing came from. Such interactions would violate the fundamental laws of physics. In particular, if some external source of energy is responsible for the interactions, then this would violate the law of the conservation of energy. Dualistic interactionism has therefore been argued against in that it violates a general heuristic principle of science: the causal closure of the physical world.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy mentions two possible replies to this objection. The first reply says that it might be possible for mind to influence the distribution of energy, without altering its quantity. Another possibility is to deny that the human body is a closed system. Since the principle of conservation of energy applies only to closed systems, the objection becomes irrelevant. Catholic Encyclopedia mentions the same replies. These replies may protect The Law of Conservation of Energy, but they do not in themselves offer an explanation of how the interaction takes place (- it may be assumed to be a miracle).
Another reply to this objection is to assume some modification of causal relations in the physical universe - Mills has responded by pointing out that mental events may be causally overdetermined. Causal overdetermination means that some features of an effect may not be fully explained by its sufficient cause. For example, "the high pitched music caused the glass to break but this is the third time that that glass has broken in the last week." It is certain that the high-pitched music is the sufficient cause of the breaking of the glass, but it does not explain the feature of the event that is identified by the phrase "this is the third time this week...". That feature is causally related, in some sense, to the two prior events of the glasses having broken in the last week. In response, it has been pointed out that we should probably focus on the inherent or intrinsic features of situations or events, if they exist, and apply the idea of causal closure to just those specific features.
Another reply to this objection is that there is a possibility that the interaction may involve dark energy, dark matter or some other currently undefined scientific process, however in this case dualism is replaced with physicalism, or the interaction point is left for study at a later time when these physical processes are understood.
Another reply to this objection is made with respect to the derivation of an indeterministic physical universe, where perhaps the interaction which takes place in the human body is not at all of the classical "billiard ball" type of Newtonian mechanics. There is an important question of physical determinism versus physical indeterminism. If a non deterministic interpretation of quantum mechanics is correct then events at the microscopic level are necessarily indeterminate, where the degree of determinism increases as a function of the scale of the system (see Quantum decoherence). One particular example of such indeterminism is Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, where the more precisely one can localize the position of an electron along an axis, the more imprecise becomes the ability to determine its linear momentum along this axis and vice-versa. Philosophers such as Karl Popper and John Eccles have theorized that such indeterminacy may apply even at the macroscopic scale.
Argument from brain damage
This argument has been formulated by Paul Churchland, among others. The point is that, in instances of some sort of brain damage (e.g. caused by automobile accidents, drug abuse, pathological diseases, etc.), it is always the case that the mental substance and/or properties of the person are significantly changed or compromised. If the mind were a completely separate substance from the brain, how could it be possible that every single time the brain is injured, the mind is also injured? Indeed, it is very frequently the case that one can even predict and explain the kind of mental or psychological deterioration or change that human beings will undergo when specific parts of their brains are damaged. So the question for the dualist to try to confront is how can all of this be explained if the mind is a separate and immaterial substance from, or if its properties are ontologically independent of, the brain. Property dualism and William Hasker's "emergent dualism" (which is largely similar to Vitalism) seek to avoid this problem. They assert that the mind is a property or substance that emerges from the appropriate arrangement of physical matter, and therefore could be affected by any rearrangement of matter.
Phineas Gage, who suffered destruction of one or both frontal lobes by a projectile iron rod, is often cited as an example illustrating that the brain causes mind. Gage certainly exhibited some mental changes after his accident. This physical event, the destruction of part of his brain, therefore caused some kind of change in his mind, suggesting a correlation between brain states and mental states. Similar examples abound; neuroscientist David Eagleman describes the case of another individual who exhibited escalating pedophilic tendencies at two different times, and in each case was found to have tumors growing in a particular part of his brain.
Case studies aside, modern experiments have demonstrated that the relation between brain and mind is much more than simple correlation. By damaging, or manipulating, specific areas of the brain repeatedly under controlled conditions (e.g. in monkeys) and reliably obtaining the same results in measures of mental state and abilities, neuroscientists have shown that the relation between damage to the brain and mental deterioration is likely causal. This conclusion is further supported by data from the effects of neuro-active chemicals (such as those affecting neurotransmitters) on mental functions, but also from research on Neurostimulation (direct electrical stimulation of the brain, including Transcranial magnetic stimulation).
Argument from biological development
Another common argument against dualism consists in the idea that since human beings (both phylogenetically and ontogenetically) begin their existence as entirely physical or material entities and since nothing outside of the domain of the physical is added later on in the course of development, then we must necessarily end up being fully developed material beings. Phylogenetically, the human species evolved, as did all other species, from a single cell made up of matter. Since all the events that later occurred which ended up in the formation of our species can be explained through the processes of random mutation and natural selection, the difficulty for the dualist is to explain where and why there could have intervened some non-material, non-physical event in this process of natural evolution. Ontogenetically, we begin life as a simple fertilized ovum. There is nothing non-material or mentalistic involved in conception, the formation of the blastula, the gastrula, and so on. Our development can be explained entirely in terms of the accumulation of matter through the processes of nutrition. The postulation of a non-physical mind would seem superfluous.
Argument from brain scans' ability to discern mental states
Argument from simplicity
The argument from simplicity is probably the simplest and also the most common form of argument against dualism of the mental. The dualist is always faced with the question of why anyone should find it necessary to believe in the existence of two, ontologically distinct, entities (mind and brain), when it seems possible and would make for a simpler thesis to test against scientific evidence, to explain the same events and properties in terms of one. It is a heuristic principle in science and philosophy not to assume the existence of more entities than is necessary for clear explanation and prediction (see Occam's razor).
This argument was criticized by Peter Glassen in a debate with J. J. C. Smart in the pages of Philosophy in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Glassen argued that, because it is not a physical entity, Occam's Razor cannot consistently be appealed to by a physicalist or materialist as a justification of mental states or events, such as the belief that dualism is false. The idea is that Occam's razor may not be as 'unrestricted' as it is normally described (applying to all qualitative postulates, even abstract ones) but instead concrete (only applies to physical objects). If one applies Occam's Razor unrestrictedly, then it recommends monism until pluralism either receives more support, or until it is disproved. If one applies Occam's Razor only concretely, then it may not be used on abstract concepts (this route, however, has serious consequences for selecting between hypotheses about the abstract).
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- ^ Glassen, Peter (1976) "J. J. C. Smart, Materialism and Occam's Razor", Philosophy 51, pp. 349-352; J. J. C. Smart (1978) "Is Occam's Razor a Physical Thing?", Philosophy 53, pp. 382-385; Peter Glassen (1983) "Smart, Materialism and Believing", Philosophy 58, pp. 95-101.
- ^ Plato Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Simplicity. Excerpt:"Perhaps scientists apply an unrestricted version of Occam's Razor to that portion of reality in which they are interested, namely the concrete, causal, spatiotemporal world. Or perhaps scientists apply a ‘concretized’ version of Occam's Razor unrestrictedly. Which is the case? The answer determines which general philosophical principle we end up with: ought we to avoid the multiplication of objects of whatever kind, or merely the multiplication of concrete objects? The distinction here is crucial for a number of central philosophical debates. Unrestricted Occam's Razor favors monism over dualism, and nominalism over platonism. By contrast, ‘concretized’ Occam's Razor has no bearing on these debates, since the extra entities in each case are not concrete"
- Bracken, Patrick, and Thomas, Philip (December 21, 2002) "Time to move beyond the mind-body split", editorial, British Medical Journal 325, pp. 1433–1434. A controversial perspective on the use and possible overuse of the Mind-Body split and its application in medical practice.
- Spenard, Michael (April 11, 2011) "Dueling with Dualism: the forlorn quest for the immaterial soul", essay. An historical account of mind body duality and a comprehensive conceptual and empirical critique on the position. ISBN 978-0-578-08288-2
- Amoroso, Richard L. (2010) Complementarity of Mind and Body: Realizing the Dream of Descartes, Einstein and Eccles, book. History making volume with first comprehensive model of dualism-interactionism, that is also empirically testable. ISBN 978-1-61668-203-3
- Dualism in the online Dictionary of Philosophy of Mind
- Dualism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Zombies in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Mind and body, Rene Descartes to William James
- Online Papers on Materialism and Dualism
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