Descartes argument for dualism
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Descartes argument for dualism. Descartes has shown in meditation 2 that he can understand himself purely as a thinking thing In meditation 5 he has shown that he can understand bodies purely in terms of their spatial, extended characteristics

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Descartes argument for dualism
Descartes argument for dualism

  • Descartes has shown in meditation 2 that he can understand himself purely as a thinking thing

  • In meditation 5 he has shown that he can understand bodies purely in terms of their spatial, extended characteristics

  • Whatever can be understood clearly and distinctly as distinct really is distinct

  • Therefore there is a real distinction between mind and body.


  • Is it true that we can understand our minds independently of anything physical?

  • Is it true that whatever we can understand as distinct is really distinct?

  • Lightning is identical to an electrical discharge, but it was a scientific discovery that these “two” things were really one.

  • Could the same be true of mind/body?


Another argument for dualism
Another argument for dualism anything physical?

  • Physical things are spatially extended (have a certain size, exist in space)

  • Minds have no spatial extension

  • Whatever is identical must have all properties in common.

  • Therefore minds and bodies are distinct things.


The mind body problem
The Mind/Body Problem anything physical?

  • Descartes is an interactionist dualist. He believes that there is causal interaction between minds and bodies.

  • When I move my hand my mind causes my body to move.

  • When I stub my toe, my body causes my mind to experience pain

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It s hard to understand how interaction is possible
It’s hard to understand how interaction is possible anything physical?

  • It seems that when two things causally interact, they must share a common medium, they must be able to “meet up” somehow

  • One billiard ball can cause another to move only because they are both in space and can touch each other

  • The Moon and Earth do not touch, but they share the medium of space. Even “action at a distance” presupposes a common medium


  • But if the mind is not in space, it cannot meet up with the body, nor is it possible for anything physical to come into contact to the mind.

  • Therefore (the critic argues) dualism leads to the conclusion that mind body interaction is impossible

  • But this is crazy—therefore there is something wrong with dualism


Dualist responses
Dualist Responses body, nor is it possible for anything physical to come into contact to the mind.

  • Causal interaction is in general mysterious. There is no special problem for mind/body interaction

  • Just because we do not understand how mind/body interaction can work, does not mean it cannot work (see above) experience teaches they do interact.


Another mind body problem
Another mind/body problem body, nor is it possible for anything physical to come into contact to the mind.

  • It is a presuposition of science that the physical world is causally closed. This means that the cause of every physical event (if it has a cause) is also something physical.

  • But interactionist dualism denies this. If interactionist dualism is true, there are some events in the brain that are caused by a non-physical thing, the mind.


Alternatives to substance dualism
Alternatives to substance dualism body, nor is it possible for anything physical to come into contact to the mind.

  • Materialism: If the mind identical brain processes, there is no mind/body problem, since the mind itself is something physical.

  • Idealism: If matter is it itself mental or mind dependent, again no mind/body problem


Alternative versions of dualism
Alternative versions of dualism body, nor is it possible for anything physical to come into contact to the mind.

  • Property dualism: there is only one kind of thing (matter) but this thing sometimes has mental properties

  • Epiphenomenalist dualism: The body interacts causally with the mind, but not vice/versa. Mental states are byproducts of brain activity (like car exhaust)


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