• rickyk95
    42
    Cartesian dualism tends to be one of the most troublesome concepts in the history of philosophy. Not because of the intrinsic difficulties that are required to effectively criticize such an outdated notion (there are none), but rather, because of the consequences that are brought about by its widespread belief. Everything, ranging from our morals, to our justice system, is at least partially buttressed by the idea that we are not merely materialistic beings, reduced to atoms and molecules, but that there is something else, some metaphysical entity that supersedes on our physical endeavors, some “ghost in the machine”, so to speak.
    Cartesian dualism has been one of the most enduring philosophical responses to the mind body problem. It holds that mental events, in their most fundamental sense, are different than physical ones. The mind (as in the thoughts, emotions, and subjective experiences that we have), is absolutely orthogonal to the physical processes that underpin our existence (your neurons firing, your hormones secreting, etc.), Dualists claim. To further elucidate what this means, I might provide an example.
    Suppose I pinch you, and you scream “ouch”, this event can be described through two different avenues. The mental, is the subjective feeling of pain that you had when I pinched you. The physical explanation, on the other hand, relates to the observable physical manifestations that arise from me pinching you, in this case, your sensory neurons firing in your nervous system, along with you jerking and screaming “ouch”, and everything else that surrounds it.

    As you can see, the difference between the physical and the mental is that the former is scientifically observable, from a third person perspective, while the latter is inherently a first person phenomenon. While anyone in this planet can assuredly confirm that you expressed pain by simply watching you cry, no other person other than you, can have access to your actual feeling of pain; to your inner world of thoughts, emotions and feelings. No matter how many fMRI machines I build, or how groundbreaking our investigative tools become, I will never be able to determine what it is that you feel when you’re having a sip of coffee, or showering in cold water. All I am able to determine with these inquisitive tools are the patterns that correlate with such self-reported experiences (e.g. high cortisol levels usually correlate with people self –reporting feelings of anxiety, caridovascular exercise and the secretion of endorphins in the brain that comes along with it, is correlated with a self reportedly relaxed state of mind), but we can’t go further than that.

    The nature of our mental lives, makes it impossible for us to inquire about the nature of others’ mental experiences, it is a private sphere, sealed off from outer examination. With this said, and holding in mind the fact that according to Dualists, the mind is totally distinct, and unrelated to the body, one stumbles upon some pretty strange conclusions that seem to inevitably follow.

    For instance, although the physical and mental are in principle completely unrelated, it is a fact that in your case, the two correlate. When you’re happy (subjective mental state) you usually smile (physical manifestation), when you feel stressed (subjective mental state), your blood pressure goes up (physical manifestation). But remember, that the only mental world to which you have access to ,is your own, hence it would be insensible to assume that everyone’s mental world correlates to their physical body in the same way that it does with yours. If the mind and body are not related at all (as Cartesian dualists hold), then the fact that your mental events correlate with your physical manifestations in the way they do, could just be mere coincidence. In other words, it is not intuitively obvious that the kinds of physical happenings that seem to go along with mental experiences should be the way they are. Why should it be obvious that a sense of sadness be expressed through tears? How do you know for sure that tears usually indicate sadness in other people? For all you know, all you can confidently make conclusions about, are your own mental states. To put it another way, if we were to mathematically plot on a Cartesian plane (so ironic!) the correlation between mental events and physical ones, we would not be able to make any significant assertions about it, mainly because we would only have one point in the plot (our own). It would be irresponsible to blindly assume that everyone's physical states correlate with their mental ones in the same way they do in us (or that they have any mental life at all for that matter).

    Following this dangerous logic leaves open possibilities that would seem nothing but ridiculous to any sound person. If the mind and body are after all, separate, and not necessarily correlated, it can be possible that while punching you in the face causes you to subjectively feel pain, punching your friend makes him experience a great deal of orgasmic pleasure. When you are seen laughing powerlessly to some joke you heard, you are subjectively experiencing a funny feeling, a feeling of laughter. But when your friend is seen laughing, he is undergoing the deepest feelings of misery any human being can have. These are the outcomes that one has to maintain as possible if he claims that mind and body are in principle, unrelated.
    All of this follows of course, if we are generous enough to grant the possibility that other human beings have a mental life at all. For all we know, they might also scream when “mad”, and their face might still turn red in circumstances in which they would be expected to be angry, but subjectively not be feeling anything at all. If the physical and mental don’t affect each other, and they aren’t intertwined, then these possibilities must necessarily remain open.
  • jamalrob
    1.8k
    I don't think Cartesian or substance dualists hold that the mind and body are unrelated. If I'm right then I think your argument fails.
  • SomXtatis
    15
    'tis true, being a substance dualist would hardly make sense if you thought they're completely unrelated and the assumption of the physical would be quite arbitrary at that point. But the Cartesians were not stupid and Descartes himself even located a point in the brain where the physical and the mental interact, the pineal gland, the "seat of the soul".

    Not that it's not a good argument, just against a straw man.
  • Hanover
    4k
    Yeah, no one holds the mind and body aren't interrelated. The question is how they are related. Even parallelism posits the mind and body correlate, even while denying a causal connection.
  • rickyk95
    42
    Perhaps I expressed it wrongly. Yes,Cartesian Dualists believe that when the mind intervened in the body, it did so through the pineal gland.But they were both, in principle unrelated. That is to say, it was not a necessary fact that they should be related, they are in essence, diferent substances.
  • SomXtatis
    15
    The mental and the physical are related through the thinking thing. Although I think this might mean that they are related necessarily just by the mere possibility of the thinking thing (also, for Descartes, through God), even if we suppose that not, your argument seems to me to play on the connection with the physical and mental, hence as if the thinking thing exists. Take it away and you're saying not much at all, I think.
  • Banno
    3.5k
    There's a lot to contemplate here, but I think this might be the most interesting...
    The nature of our mental lives, makes it impossible for us to inquire about the nature of others’ mental experiences, it is a private sphere, sealed off from outer examination. With this said, and holding in mind the fact that according to Dualists, the mind is totally distinct, and unrelated to the body, one stumbles upon some pretty strange conclusions that seem to inevitably follow.rickyk95
    This is such a commonplace that it almost passes without critique.

    But we do enquire about the nature of other's mental experiences. "How are you feeling?"; "Does this hurt?"; "Do you love him?". And further, these enquiries are useful - vital - in our social interactions.

    And we can go a step further. That you do not feel someone else's pain is perhaps a mere accident, not a necessity. Does one siamese twin have a pain in the arm of the other? Couldn't we wire Peter and Paul's brains together in such a way that Peter has a pain in Paul's leg?
  • Banno
    3.5k
    I don't think Cartesian or substance dualists hold that the mind and body are unrelated.jamalrob

    I would say that is exactly what they believe. It's implicit in the word dualist.
  • Hanover
    4k
    Then why all the talk about the mind body interaction problem?
  • Banno
    3.5k
    Exactly. It's not a problem for non-dualists.

    The Cartesian(?) solution was simply to say that God made the body do what the will decided. Not an acceptable solution to my way of thinking. You?
  • Hanover
    4k
    A monist must accept a critical distinction between the phenomenal states of experience and the objects of the objective world. How does the cup image form in my mind, what is it's composition, and how does it correlate with reality?

    That is to say, the monist has to admit to dualism and offers no better explanation as to the interaction problem as the dualist. The God explanation is the "it just does" explanation. Isn't that what you ultimately say?
  • mcdoodle
    995
    As you can see, the difference between the physical and the mental is that the former is scientifically observable, from a third person perspective, while the latter is inherently a first person phenomenon.rickyk95

    People are often saying this stuff. But on the one hand, most of the science I think I know comes from first person testimony by other people. They say they're experts in one field or another, and I trust them. I'm blowed if I'm going to do all the complicated stuff with machinery and textbooks they've gone through.

    On the other hand, there are lots of scientific and other ways we enquire into how other people's minds work. Before we can talk we are studying each other for clues. It's how humans interact with each other. There is a very active and growing neuroscience of mind-reading.
  • jorndoe
    615
    Seems that religious substance dualism adds something extra, something entirely independent, to our lives:

    gxjxo0bd9ntlqs31.jpg

    Can this sort of thing be justified?
  • javra
    609
    Hey, a truly humorous depiction of an entire philosophical stance. Nice!

    Can this sort of thing be justified?jorndoe

    Going by the illustration, I'd say it would first require the justification of ontically real homunculi. For instance, in Buddhist worldviews, where there are various sorts of afterlives, no such illustration would hold. ... Then again, Buddhists tend not to be substance dualists.
  • Banno
    3.5k
    A monist must accept a critical distinction between the phenomenal states of experience and the objects of the objective world.Hanover

    Why? Rather, a monist would reject that very distinction. The "must" is what a dualist might think the monist must do. Monists might well disagree.
  • Hanover
    4k
    Why? Rather, a monist would reject that very distinction. The "must" is what a dualist might think the monist must do. Monists might well disagree.Banno

    A monist can no more reject a distinction between a mental state and a physical state than he can a cat and a dog. They are different things. The problem for the monist though when distinguishing between mental phenomena and objects is that, unlike cats and dogs, they are different in class, not just different in degree. Mental phenomena of rocks are subjective, rocks are objects.

    Doesn't the fact that you can't show me your phenomenal state of the rock but you can show me the the actual rock offer a meaningful distinction between the two? So the monist tells me that one is composed of Element A and the other of Element B, but those are both subtypes of Substance A. The dualist says the same thing, he just doesn't acknowledge the two types are of the same substance. I say there's no real difference between the two positions.
  • Hanover
    4k
    Doesn't the atheistic monist have to deal with the same question of when consciousness (i.e. that something extra) begins and ends during a life cycle?
  • Banno
    3.5k
    A monist can no more reject a distinction between a mental state and a physical state than he can a cat and a dog.Hanover

    Indeed, a cat/dog dualist might insist on their being incommensurate. A cat/dog monist might insist that cats and dogs are both mammals.

    These are not distinct epistemologies, so much as distinct ways of talking about cats and dogs.
  • Hanover
    4k
    Indeed, a cat/dog dualist might insist on their being incommensurate. A cat/dog monist might insist that cats and dogs are both mammals.

    These are not distinct epistemologies, so much as distinct ways of talking about cats and dogs.
    Banno

    And do you not concede though that when speaking of mental states versus external states that they are epistemologically distinct?

    I know the cup is red by sensing it. I don't know your phenomenal state of the cup is red by sensing it.
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    It was suggested in one of the posts that science is somehow the arbiter in this dispute, i.e., the implication seems to be that if science can't know it, then it can't be known. Science is only one way of having knowledge. Surely I know I'm sitting at my desk without having science intervene and tell me that it's a piece of knowledge. Moreover, I can know through linguistic training, testimony, etc., so there are a variety of ways of having knowledge. I don't understand why some seem to limit knowledge in this way. I'm more of a Wittgensteinian when it comes to knowledge, i.e., that there are a variety of uses of the word, and that we justify what we believe in a variety of ways.
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    It's interesting to me that those who don't believe that there is evidence that consciousness, for example, can survive the body, will not allow any experience count as evidence. Even if there are literally millions of consistent reports of people having experienced out-of-body experiences that can be objectively verified. I'm not talking about laboratory verification, but sensory experiences verified through testimonial evidence. I find that most of the arguments against this testimony to be fallacious (self-sealing). Why? Because even if the evidence is largely consistent, taken from a wide variety of subjects, can be objectively verified, it's still rejected out-of-hand. Unless one rejects testimonial evidence as a valid way of knowing, how can one reject the testimonial evidence as evidence for dualism? There is plenty of evidence of the dualistic nature of humans. People reject the evidence simply because it doesn't fit their narrative. I'm not saying they do it consciously, but it doesn't fit their world view.
  • Banno
    3.5k
    What does that mean? That you learned that the cup is red in a different way to how you learn that I learned that the cup is red?

    Did you learn about the cup and I, or did you learn about how we use the word "red"?

    Part of your learning that the cup is red is your learning how to use the word "red".

    That supposed distinction between internal and external, subjective and objective, breaks down on close inspection.

    And that's the problem with the juxtaposition of dualism and monism. Two ways of talking, not two ways things are.
  • jorndoe
    615
    there are literally millions of consistent reports of people having experienced out-of-body experiences that can be objectively verifiedSam26

    A wee tiny detour?

    a6nxlwjwvt3ryi6c.jpg

    You don't find it the slightest suspicious that out of body / near death experiences somehow report seeing something, even though their eyes were safely back in their body...?

    Alien abduction stories at least report seeing with their eyes.

    We tend to explain phantom pain, synesthesia and confabulation a bit more down-to-Earth, for example.
  • Banno
    3.5k
    Even if there are literally millions of consistent reports of people having experienced out-of-body experiences that can be objectively verified.Sam26

    The problem is that even if we grant the experiences as consistent, how do we tell that they are not a phantom of a brain starved of oxygen (or some other physical malady) - in which case what is common is not a disembodied soul but a certain shared brain structure.
  • jorndoe
    615
    Hey, a truly humorous depiction of an entire philosophical stance. Nice!javra

    Probably the wand that gives it a humorous flair. :)

    There are any number of oddities though.

    When is this extra stuff installed?
    What difference does it make?
    What the heck is this extra stuff anyway?
    Did Neanderthals have it? Homo erectus? Homo ergaster? Bats?
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    That's a good point, and it's one that has been addressed by those who have thought much about this subject. First, a brain starved of oxygen isn't going to give testimonials that relate that their experience in this state is even more vivid that normal experiences. Most people testify that this reality is dreamlike compared to their out-of-body experience. If anything they report experiences in which their sensory experiences are heightened, not dulled by a brain starved of oxygen.

    Moreover, there are many thousands of experiences that are corroborated by doctors, nurses, friends, and family, that is, the reports of what they saw and heard are verified by people who were there and in a position to know.
  • Hanover
    4k
    What does that mean? That you learned that the cup is red in a different way to how you learn that I learned that the cup is red?Banno

    That (1) the cup is red and (2) you have an experience the cup is red. I learned #1 by seeing the cup. I learned #2 by your telling me. I have no way to verify #2.

    Did you learn about the cup and I, or did you learn about how we use the word "red"?Banno

    I learned about the cup by seeing it. I learned about how we use the word "red" by hearing it.
    Part of your learning that the cup is red is your learning how to use the word "red".Banno
    Obviously for me to label it red, I must know what "red" means. But if it had a peculiar odor for which I had no name, I'd just as much know that smell name or no name.
    That supposed distinction between internal and external, subjective and objective, breaks down on close inspection.Banno

    I don't follow this at all.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    It's interesting to me that those who don't believe that there is evidence that consciousness, for example, can survive the body, will not allow any experience count as evidence. Even if there are literally millions of consistent reports of people having experienced out-of-body experiences that can be objectively verified. I'm not talking about laboratory verification, but sensory experiences verified through testimonial evidence. I find that most of the arguments against this testimony to be fallacious (self-sealing). Why? Because even if the evidence is largely consistent, taken from a wide variety of subjects, can be objectively verified, it's still rejected out-of-hand. Unless one rejects testimonial evidence as a valid way of knowing, how can one reject the testimonial evidence as evidence for dualism? There is plenty of evidence of the dualistic nature of humans. People reject the evidence simply because it doesn't fit their narrative. I'm not saying they do it consciously, but it doesn't fit their world view.Sam26

    This is the point. I once bumped into such people. I don't know what to make of their testimony which was similar yet different. It appears to me that something is there to inquire about. Consciousness is a vast unknown. Even everyday phenomenon such as switches in states of consciousness such as sleep-awake, day dreaming, etc. are mysterious. The only way for a person to understand consciousness better is through inquiry your via direct observation and experience. It's an area of inquiry that I keep my eyes and ears open to.
  • Banno
    3.5k
    A fair counter - yet I remain unconvinced. It seems to me that a brain suffering some malady that changes it's structure will attempt to make sense of those changed memories as best it can - and that might well lead to memories of an event that did not take place.

    But at heart, I reject the notion that there is a thing that could have consciousness apart from a brain or other substrate. It does not meld with what I know about being awake, being asleep, being drunk and watching corpses.

    Whereas perhaps at heart you have a different view?
  • Sam26
    1.1k
    To be honest if I had heard this testimony from just a few people I would agree with you, but there is just too much to ignore. Most don't deny that people are having the experience, however, they do try to explain it by appealing to other causal explanations. I have found no causal explanation that can explain the following:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YO8UVebuA0g&t=4s
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