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comment by Saouka
Saouka  ·  2719 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The Dualist Program, Part 1: A Historical Primer  ·  

A very strong summary of dualism, I wouldn't have necessarily considered Greek thinkers as a forefront of dualism but instead started at Descartes, so it's an interesting perspective. Aristotle's Psuche was considered to have separate levels for humans and plants depending on their purposes, such as breathing, conscious thought and movement. Anyone reading Aristotle's De Anima (On the Soul) should remember that Psuche and Soul are pretty much analogous to some translators, even if our modern conception of the soul (Which is fairly bastardized), is very different. You can even have Psuche for objects that aren't alive; the psuche of an axe for example would be 'to cut', or the psuche of the eye would be 'to see'. Aristotle comes to the same kind of conclusions than Descartes does in the separability of the soul from the animal though;

    So just as pupil and sight are the eye, so, in our case, soul and body are the animal. It is quite clear then that the soul is not separable from the body, or that some parts of it are not
(413a Aristotle's De Anima II.I) He carries on to ask whether the soul is the sailor of the boat, and so parts are very much separable, or the actuality of the boat, and not separable in any way.

    Developing this concept further, he hypothesized that each of us has a life force running through our blood vessels (pneuma) that allows us everything from muscle contraction to sensory perception.
It's useful to link this to Vitalism, as the theory of a life force of some form didn't stop in Greek times but carried on in relative force until the early 1900's.

    With his view that mind and body are separate as well as separable
Note this is a contentious point of Descartes' philosophy. Sartre's Being and Nothingness claims this is the foundation of Descartes' downfall; he should have instead considered them as a singular and looked at where their union was effected; the imagination, not by attempting to rejoin them. (pp. 27 B&N) Descartes' reason for separating them was that it was conceivable to separate them, and so it must be possible, at least by God. If you're interested in a more modern conception of Non-Cartesian Substance Dualism that doesn’t separate them, check out EJ Lowe's Non-Cartesian Substance Dualism and the Problem of Mental Causation: Erkenntnis (1975-) , Vol. 65, No. 1, Prospects for Dualism: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2006), pp. 5-23 I found Erkenntnis a bit of a bastard to find, although it's on JSTOR if you have access to that.

    The problem was that if it truly isn’t your eyes that are seeing (but rather that the image that is reconstituted on your pineal gland so that your soul can perceive the image presented to it) then this automatically begs the question of who is seeing for your soul? Doesn’t your soul then need its own eyes and pineal gland inside of it?
What you’ve raised is known as the ‘homuncular fallacy’. Descartes replies to this directly; “Now, when this picture [originating in the eyes] thus passes to the inside of our head, it still bears some resemblance to the objects from which it proceeds. As I have amply shown already, however, we must not think that it is by means of this resemblance that the picture causes our sensory perception of these objects—*as if there were yet other eyes within our brain with which we could perceive it*. Instead we must hold that it is the movements composing this picture which, acting directly upon our soul in so far as it is united to our body, are ordained by nature to make it have such sensations” (AT VI:130, CSM I:167). So Descartes would probably disagree with you on the soul requiring eyes in order to see this composed object, unless this is what you meant in Descartes appears to make the soul entirely supernatural. Assuming the homuncular argument does disprove Descartes’ argument, of which is one of the smaller problems of Descartes’ Mind-Body solution, it now must be shown that it is also applicable to modern neuroscience, which you appear to say it does by assuming it is analogous with Dualism. If it is not analogous with dualism, then the homuncular argument has no grounding what so ever, for there is no regress.
    An activity is carried out in a person’s brain
Does not seem to immediately follow that a brain thinks for a distinct person, because ironically this IS begging the question, whilst mistakenly using the phrase ‘begging the question’ (See section below), that a brain and a person are separable entities; you’re using “for” to imply a separation. I feel that simply having an action carried out in my brain doesn’t necessitate that my brain also must have a brain thinking inside it; the brain appears to be the instrument by which the person thinks. | Cognition and cogitation are functions of man, not of our brains| This isn’t necessarily shown. Cognition is indeed a function of man, but I would argue that part of a man is his brain. Otherwise can I equally argue that picking up a rock is a function of man, not of our arms? You need stronger evidence to show a dualism between mind and man, I’m still very much convinced they are one and the same.

I do have a small problem in your argument with the following phrase, although this is not damaging to your argument, just a complaint to do with terminology:

    This begs the same question that if a brain thinks for the person, who thinks for the brain?
I apologise, but unless I'm mistaken, do you not mean "invites the question"? Begging the question is a very specific form of circular reasoning which isn't present here. The other use in this article appears to be incorrect also. I am writing this out at 3AM, so I’m a little cautious about challenging it, but I figure I might as well.

Back to your argument. Regrettably I can't read any more of your Source 1 than the summary because I don't have PubMed access, I'll see if I can fish around for a copy later, but this is just from the summary.

    The Edinburgh survey revealed a predominance of dualistic attitudes emphasizing the separateness of mind and brain. In the Liège survey, younger participants, women, and those with religious beliefs were more likely to agree that the mind and brain are separate, that some spiritual part of us survives death, that each of us has a soul that is separate from the body, and to deny the physicality of mind.
Really, genuinely interesting. I wouldn't have thought dualism was that pervasive in medical attitudes, but I'm more convinced by the spiritual leanings of the summary than that people genuinely believe in the philosophical implications. This links back to my earlier concern over you jumping between the use of 'mind' and 'soul' with ease; whether someone would agree that a person has an immortal soul and whether they have a mind separable from their brain is not the same thing. You're welcome to, and I'd delight, in you challenging this. I’m really curious to see how you develop this in neodualism in neuroscience, so thank you very much for writing these articles!

b_b  ·  2718 days ago  ·  link  ·  

And as an aside, I don't think that Aristotle was a precursor dualist. I think that he was basically on target, but that dualism can't be understood without reference to the historic continuum, of which his ideas are a giant part. Its sometimes difficult to be clear in 1500 words, but I try to keep each post at the approximate length, as I don't know if most people would read much more than that in a single sitting.

b_b  ·  2719 days ago  ·  link  ·  
This comment has been deleted.
b_b  ·  2719 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Firstly, thank you heartily for the reply.

On the topic of "begs the question", I concede your point. On second read I used incorrect language, and I hope it didn't detract too much form comprehension of my broader points.

Second, on your point about Descartes and his observation that our soul lacks eyes, he was absolutely right to point this out, but then he directly contradicts himself by asserting that the two images--one from each eye--must be reassembled and presented to the soul via the pineal gland, so that the soul knows what it is observing. He was on the right track, but could not see past his own misconception that soul and body are separate. This is an ideology that will always lead to failure. There is no such thing as an 'image' in the brain. This problem persists in modern neuroscience in the "binding problem", a topic I plan to cover in the next (or perhaps the third) post. In modern neuroscience, it has evolved from the homuncular fallacy to the so called mereological fallacy; that is, ascribing to a part that which can only be ascribed to the whole. I shall cover this topic in detail in post 2.

    This isn’t necessarily shown. Cognition is indeed a function of man, but I would argue that part of a man is his brain. Otherwise can I equally argue that picking up a rock is a function of man, not of our arms? You need stronger evidence to show a dualism between mind and man, I’m still very much convinced they are one and the same.

This is not shown here, but please be patient; this is a series of posts in which I will address this. Picking up a rock is a function of man. I don't know if you're trying to poke holes in my argument, but I agree with this statement 100%. A disembodied arm can no more pick up a rock than a brain can think or "assemble and image".

I look forward to your critique of parts two and three :)