I move therefore i am physical literacy june 2013
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I move, therefore I am Physical Literacy June 2013. Jens E. Birch Oslo University College jens.birch@hioa.no. Structure of the talk. 1. What does dualism mean? 2. What is wrong with substance dualism ? 3. If we deny substance dualism, where does that leave us? Monism

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I move, therefore I am Physical Literacy June 2013

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I move, therefore I amPhysical Literacy June 2013

Jens E. Birch

Oslo University College


Structure of the talk

  • 1. What does dualism mean?

  • 2. What is wrong with substance dualism?

  • 3. If we deny substance dualism, where does that leave us? Monism

  • 4. What kind of monism should we support?

  • The phiIosophical underpinnings of Physical Literacy; is there such a thing as a free lunch?

  • 1. Dualism

    • Dualism: the view that the world consists of two things/parts/substances

      • Ontological- and epistemological dualism

    • Cartesian dualism, from René Descartes (1596-1650): the doctrine that the soul is distinct from the body. It is a substance dualism, it has ontological claims

    • Why divide the world into two parts?

      • Descartes wants to establish the fundament on which to build science. He wants to find what we cannot doubt

      • We may call into doubt every material object (like the body extended in space). A demon may trick the senses, and my senses have been fooled several times

      • I cannot doubt that I doubt (doubt is to think). To think=to exist. It follows

      • I think, therefore I am (Cogito ergo sum)

      • Things not sharing all properties are different (I may doubt the body, but not thinking)

      • Thus, the material body and the thinking mind are not the same thing, they are two different substances

        • Material bodies are physical; the essence of the physical is extension in space (res extensa)

        • The thinking substance is immaterial; the essence of the immaterial mind is to think. The immaterial substance must lack spatial location and extension

    • Descartes (1996) held that there does in fact exist a two-way psychophysical interaction between the physical body and the immaterial mind

    2. Arguments against substance dualism

    • The problem of interaction: the body has a causal potent effect on the mind, and vice versa. But how can something immaterial, something without extension and location in space cause something in the physical realm?

      • the physical world is causally closed. It is a basic principle of science, and the psychophysical interaction of substance dualism goes against any scientific understanding of the world

    • The theory of evolution: when and how did an immaterial mind evolve in humans? The same holds ontogenetically, from egg cell to mature adult: our cognitive and mental capacities develop throughout the lifecourse

    • Substance dualism is impossible to verify. It is non-scientific

    • Substance dualism may also be interpreted as existentially problematic: it rates everything physical; our bodies, our senses, earth, life on earth as secondary to pure thinking (contemplation without body, brain and world)

    • Why would anyone be a substance dualist then?

      • Life after death

      • Offers an escape from the body and the world, which seems profitable in certain situations

      • Substance dualism seems to explain how physical matter can be conscious. But we are left with the problem of interaction. What is the alternative?

    3. Monism

    • Monism: the view that the world consists of only one thing

    • Idealism: everything that exists is immaterial

    • Physicalism: everything that exists is and is necessitated by the physical

    • If everything from sticks and stones and humans are made of the same stuff, how can the physical think and feel?

    4a.What is problematic with this brainbased view of ourselves?

    • The brain is more important than the body. The brain directs the body. It is in the brain that everything really happens

      • Joseph LeDoux: The Synaptic Self (2002)

    • This leads to a new form of dualism: between brain and body

    • It is what Evan Thompson (2007) calls a Cartesian Hangover: I can exist as brain, without the body

      • C.f The Matrix/the mad scientist/brain in the vat

    4b.What could be an alternative to the brainbased view?

    • Thompson: we must rethink the brain in the vat argument. Humans evolve as bodies in the world

    • Andy Clark (2008): the extended view. The brainbased view is focused on

    • Internal control: (perception → cognition → action)

      • Active dynamic (Asimo) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZeseJBzuF4&feature=related

        vs the extended view’s focus on

    • External control: (perception → action)

      • Passive dynamics is an approach to movement control, based on utilising the momentum of swinging limbs for greater efficiency http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwEWki9H0Ao

    • Rizzolatti & Sinigaglia (2008): motor actions are intentional and thus cognitive

      • Not to be confused with automaticity and the non-conscious (Bargh, 1999). This view must also be some cartesian hangover. Cf perception → cognition → action

    • If motor actions are intentional and cognitive, then motor actions are also conscious

    • Understanding skills and know-how in physical activity may help us to understand how human consciousness works in and through the world: humans are conscious even if something (like motor movement) occurs without prereflection, an accompanying- or declarative thought. Weaknesses?

    • Although we must accept that not all cognition is motor action, all motor actions are cognitive. To move is to think

    • If moving is thinking, and thinking is existing

    • It follows

    • I move, therefore I am


    • Bargh, J. & T. Chartrand. (1999). The Unbearable Automaticity of Being. American Psychologist 54:7

    • Clark, A. (2008).Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension. Oxford: Oxford University Press

    • Descartes, R. (1996). Meditations on First Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

    • LeDoux, J. (2002).Synaptic Self: how our brains become who we are. New York: Penguin Books

    • Rizzolatti, G. & C. Sinigaglia. (2008). Mirrors in the Brain. Oxford: Oxford University Press

    • Thompson, E. (2007).Mind in Life. Cambridge: Harvard University Press

    Thank you for your attention

    • jens.birch@hioa.no

    Ontologicaldualismvsepistemologicaldualism ?

    • Part I: Descartes’ Sixth Meditation Case for Cartesian Dualism

    • Argument 1: The Divisibility Argument

    • (1) The body is divisible into parts.

    • (2) The mind is not divisible into parts.

    • Therefore,

    • (3) The mind is not identical to the body.

    • Two important assumptions (required for The Divisibility Argument):

    • Important assumption #1 – Leibniz’s Law of Identity:

    • (LL) Two things x and y are identical only if, for every property F, x is F if and only if y is F.

    • Important assumption #2 – The necessary divisibility of extended objects:

    • (DE) All extended things are divisible things.

    • Argument 2: The Master Argument (often referred to as The Epistemological Argument)

    • (1) I, Descartes, have a clear and distinct understanding of my self as essentially a thinking substance, but as not essentially extended.

    • (2) I, Descartes, have a clear and distinct understanding of my body as essentially extended substance, but as not essentially thinking.

    • Therefore,

    • (3) I, Descartes, have a clear and distinct understanding that I, my self, can exist separately from (my) body.

    • (4) Whatever I clearly and distinctly understand can be brought about by God as I understand it.

    • Therefore,

    • (5) I, Descartes, can exist separately from my body.

    • (6) If x can exist separately from y, then x and y are really distinct.

    • Therefore,

    • (7) I, Descartes, am really distinct from my body.

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