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Dualism Essay, Research Paper
I believe that the popular or "ghost in the machine" form of substance
dualism best solves the mind body problem. My views in this area have been
influenced by my twelve years of Catholic education. The soul, or mind,
depending on your level of belief, was a complete and separate entity and was
the center of a human being. The body was an ambulatory device that the soul
directed. The idea that the mind is a separate entity and that it is independent
of the physical body is the central point of substance dualism. Churchland
explains that substance dualism claims that the mind is a distinct nonphysical
thing, a complete nonphysical entity that is independent of any physical body to
which it is temporarily attached. Any and all mental states and activities, as
well as physical ones, originate from this unique entity. Substance dualism
states that the real essence of you has nothing to do with your physical body,
but rather from the distinct nonphysical entity of the mind. The mind is in
constant interaction with the body. The body’s sense organs create experiences
in the mind. The desires and decisions of the mind cause the body to act in
certain ways. This is what makes each mind’s body its own. The popular or
"ghost in the machine" form of substance dualism states that a person
is a "ghost in a machine", the ghost being the mind or spirit and the
machine is the body. Within this description, the mind/spirit controls the body
and is in intimate contact with the brain. The brain would be the nexus between
the mind and body. The popular form of substance dualism was adopted after the
difficulties of Cartesian dualism could not be overcome. Rene Descartes stated
that the nonphysical and the physical could not interact. This became a problem
in dualism since the nonphysical mind needed to interact with the physical body.
These difficulties provided a motive for the move to popular substance dualism.
The first major argument for substance dualism is religion. Each of the major
religions place belief in life after death that there is an immortal soul that
will survive death. This very closely resembles substance dualism. The mind can
be substituted for the immortal soul. In fact the two are almost
interchangeable. This argument is primarily the basis for my own belief in
substance dualism. My personal experiences as a religion student give me insight
into this argument. The second major argument for substance dualism is
irreducibility. This points to a variety of mental phenomena that no physical
explanation could account for what is going on. An example would be the quality
and meaningful content of human thoughts and beliefs. These things cannot be
reduced to purely physical terms, hence irreducibility. This is also another
good argument that I can understand from personal experiences. I cannot reduce
my reactions and feelings toward how a steak tastes to a mathematical equation.
This is the same idea. The final argument for substance dualism is
parapsychological phenomena. Mental powers such as telepathy, precognition,
telekinesis, and clairvoyance are all near impossible to explain within the
boundaries of physics and psychology. These phenomena reflect the nonphysical
and supernatural nature that dualism gives to the mind. Because I believe in
these phenomena, it seems logical to me that parapsychology is an excellent
argument for substance dualism. These arguments give a good basis for a
philosopher to believe in substance dualism. However there are also serious
arguments against it. The first major argument against dualism is simplicity.
Materialists state that because their view is simpler (they only believe in one
thing- that which is physical) it is more rational to subscribe to their view.
The materialist point of view is also easier to prove because there is no doubt
that physical matter exists, while nonphysical matter is currently a hypothesis.
This argument seems very illogical to me. Philosophical views should be chosen
because one makes more sense to you, not because one has a smaller number of
ideas within it. The second major argument against substance dualism is
explanatory impotence. Materialists can explain anything physical through
scientific study, whereas dualists can explain nothing because no theory has
ever been formulated. Churchland says, "…dualism is less a theory of mind
than it is an empty space waiting for a genuine theory of mind to be put
in". I see one flaw with the materialist theory here. The mind in the
dualist theory may use a form of energy transfer not yet discovered by science.
Centuries ago, undiscovered forms of science were refuted and called
"magic". In the future, The mind may become completely understood by
science. The third argument against substance dualism is neural dependence. That
the mental capacities depend on the brain’s neural activities. The materialists
show that the mind is altered when the brain is altered by drugs or injuries. I
would explain this by saying that since the mind is a separate nonphysical
entity and cannot interact with physical matter, it needs a focal point to
control the body from. This focal point is the brain. The mind and the brain are
so intimately intertwined any disruption of the brain will affect the mind. The
Final argument against substance dualism is evolutionary history. The
materialist states that human beings have been incrementally built up from
simpler physical creatures. This is evolution. Because this is a pure physical
process and the simpler creatures we were constructed from had no nonphysical
mind, there is no way to account for our mind. This is a difficult argument to
win. The only rebuttal I can give is that because we are a pinnacle of
evolution, we developed the nonphysical mind along with free-will and our level
of intelligence. This may be an extremely arrogant and proud view, but it is the
only one I can think of. I believe that the strength of dualism’s positive
arguments outweighs is detractions.
Churchland, Paul M. Matter and Consciousness. Massachusetts: The MIT Press,
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