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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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