Author Topic: Problems of Substance Dualism  (Read 1750 times)

Recusant

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Problems of Substance Dualism
« on: November 08, 2015, 01:41:08 AM »
"Substance Dualism" in simple terms is the idea that the mental being of a person exists as a different (non-physical) substance than the physical substance of which the person is composed. That when you think, what is actually taking place is a non-physical activity. This idea has some problems but it also has a venerable history and is still championed, mostly by theistic philosophers. Here is a video from Qualia Soup that does an excellent job of countering some of the main arguments in favor of Substance Dualism:


[youtube width=700]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6QjoizMxaE[/youtube]
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xSilverPhinx

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Re: Problems of Substance Dualism
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2015, 03:11:42 AM »
Very interesting. Qualia Soup's videos are always so informative and insightful, and it's a pleasure to watch him dismantle common arguments for weird philosophical views.

I wish he had mentioned David Chalmers' idea of naturalistic dualism, though. His thought experiments are as strange as the examples in Qualia's video but slightly more difficult to tackle I think.
Chalmers invokes zombies (identical to us in every way but lacking consciousness) to make his point which is just as untestable as religious claims, even though he says that it's a version of dualism that is compatible with a scientific view of the world.
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Recusant

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Re: Problems of Substance Dualism
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2015, 07:06:48 AM »
I'm not particularly familiar with the "philosophical zombie" argument. To save some time for those who may be interested in this, here's the outline of Chalmers' "p-zombie" argument:
  • According to physicalism, all that exists in our world (including consciousness) is physical.
  • Thus, if physicalism is true, a metaphysically possible world in which all physical facts are the same as those of the actual world must contain everything that exists in our actual world. In particular, conscious experience must exist in such a possible world
  • In fact we can conceive of a world physically indistinguishable from our world but in which there is no consciousness (a zombie world). From this it follows that such a world is metaphysically possible.
  • Therefore, physicalism is false. (The conclusion follows from 2. and 3. by modus tollens.)
:zombie2: When I read a phrase like "metaphysically possible world" I have a strong sense that I'm dealing with some high-powered malarkey reminiscent of Anselm's Ontological Argument. Such arguments can be fascinating, but I question whether they actually lead anywhere. They seem like very sophisticated versions of a dog chasing its tail. Anyway, having a minor weakness for delving into difficult foolishness, I'm reading the page you linked, xSilverPhinx. :eyeroll:
« Last Edit: November 08, 2015, 10:08:05 AM by Recusant »
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
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xSilverPhinx

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Re: Problems of Substance Dualism
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2015, 01:52:33 PM »
Anyway, having a minor weakness for delving into difficult foolishness, I'm reading the page you linked, xSilverPhinx. :eyeroll:

I'm truly sorry for that, Recusant. :P

 
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Recusant

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Re: Problems of Substance Dualism
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2015, 08:19:23 AM »
I'm truly sorry for that, Recusant. :P

:mb lol: I'm enjoying it, even if I also find it vexatious. It reminds me a bit of a conversation I had here with Ecurb Noselrub a few years ago. As I said in that thread, maybe I'm simply too thick to understand the "mystery" that so many people see in consciousness/experience. I'm about a third of the way through Chalmers' paper, and I still remain unconvinced that the "hard problem" of consciousness requires the adoption of any sort of dualism. I will certainly carry on and finish the paper, and have another waiting in the wings: "A Zombie, a Bat, and a Metaphysicist Walk into a Bar: Property Dualism Examined," by Laura Truman (PDF)
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
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xSilverPhinx

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Re: Problems of Substance Dualism
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2015, 01:19:23 PM »
Well, that paper you linked is better to read than Chalmers'. ;)

While I don't think consciousness is easy stuff to understand, I also don't think it's as mysterious as property dualists claim it is. It's almost like they're invoking mysterious magic to explain how a physical entity could experience thoughts, which they claim is non-physical. And that, of course, leads no where. ::)

Bruce in that thread mentioned that:

Quote
There is nothing in the complex functioning of the brain that gives us a clue, if examining it from without, that the brain is conscious.  It just looks like a complex machine responding to stimuli.

Yes, but how could it in the first place? Even if we eventually develop machines that allow us to read minds and translate "brain language" into something we can interpret as consciousness we will still filter everything through our own consciousness. Even if conscious thoughts could be measured, could they ever be experienced by another?   

I saw a documentary a while back on two siamese twin sisters who were linked by the back of their heads. They shared physical substrate, both their visual cortices were merged together. They both experienced what the other saw, even though one couldn't look in the same direction. I wonder what that must be like...

But anyways, back to Bruce's quote. So we filter everything though our own consciousness. I can't help wondering what people expect another's consciousness to look like? How will we ever prove that something else is conscious? Is it something that is self-aware? That has meta-cognition? Something that has language and can convince you that it's conscious? Is it something that behaves in a certain way? What would that way be, exactly?

We can observe behaviour but that can be problematic when determining whether something is conscious. Have you ever heard of blindsight? It's fascinating stuff. Here's a video of a man with cortical blindness avoiding obstacles in his path that he is not consciously aware of:

[youtube width=600]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwGmWqX0MnM[/youtube]

And then you have people who argue we are not really conscious at all.

It's a big mess.  :whirly:
 
     
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jumbojak

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Re: Problems of Substance Dualism
« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2015, 04:46:23 AM »
You could always throw a little Popper in the mix to really muddle things. Just postulate the existense of different Worlds - not in the same sense of Chalmer's possible worlds - and you almost make the idea of dualism make sense. Almost, but not quite. It makes you think though.

As for Chalmers, I really don't see how a world where consciousness is something physical can be translated into a world where all physical facts are the same and yet consciousness doesn't exist. If the physical facts are the same and consciousness is a physical property you can't simply say that every physical fact is the same except the one.

Maybe I don't get the argument, but it would seem that zombies would be conscious in the same sense that we are.
 

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xSilverPhinx

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Re: Problems of Substance Dualism
« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2015, 12:39:06 PM »
You could always throw a little Popper in the mix to really muddle things. Just postulate the existense of different Worlds - not in the same sense of Chalmer's possible worlds - and you almost make the idea of dualism make sense. Almost, but not quite. It makes you think though.

As for Chalmers, I really don't see how a world where consciousness is something physical can be translated into a world where all physical facts are the same and yet consciousness doesn't exist. If the physical facts are the same and consciousness is a physical property you can't simply say that every physical fact is the same except the one.

Maybe I don't get the argument, but it would seem that zombies would be conscious in the same sense that we are.

I'm not familiar with Popper's view. I found this, in case anybody wants to read it. I will later. :smilenod:

Chalmers makes leaps in his assumptions and his 'zombie world' is problematic.

I agree, if two beings are identical in every way, (atom arrangement and underlying processes), then resulting phenomena should be the same. I really don't see how it could be different.  :scratch:

(Maybe I'm just not thinking clearly, I'm a zombie in the mornings...  :reading:)   
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