Announcement: Your votes are in! The January 2019 Philosophy Book of the Month is The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World by David Eagleman and Anthony Brandt.

A Pragmatist Argument against Substance Dualism

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
Post Reply
User avatar
Mosesquine
Posts: 182
Joined: September 3rd, 2016, 4:17 am

A Pragmatist Argument against Substance Dualism

Post by Mosesquine » August 4th, 2018, 1:01 pm

The aim of this post is to offer a pragmatist argument against substance dualism. Some important key terms are defined, first of all, as follows:

Pragmatism = Pragmatism is an idea or thought such that usefulness and things that can be practiced or manipulated or handled are the most important things.

Substance Dualism = Substance Dualism is a mind-body dualism such that mind and body are distinct substances.

Physicalism = Physicalism is an idea that everything, including mind and body, is ultimately physical, and can be explained by contemporary physics.

Mental = Mental is the set of things, phenomena, etc, directly related to thoughts, perceptions, etc.

Physical = Physical is the set of things, phenomena, etc, directly related to movements of objects, neural states, brain processes and states, etc.

Now, let's jump into the problems of substance dualism. Substance dualism claims that there are two kinds of substances: mind and body. However, the very term 'substance' is a classic term originated from modern era of 16th-17th centuries, probably. So, instead of using the term 'substance dualism', there is no problem of using the term 'type dualism' safely. Now, the term 'substance dualism' is substituted into 'type dualism', and redefined as follows:

Type Dualism = Type Dualism is a mind-body dualism such that there are distinct-fundamental types into two kinds: mind-type and body-type.

The version of type dualism of mind-body things is, in fact, the same as Cartesian dualism. The so-called Cartesian dualism is a theory including following definitions:

Cartesian mind = Cartesian mind is a thing that is made up of immaterial, non-physical, non-spatio-temporal thoughts.

Cartesian body = Cartesian body is a thing that is located in a spatio-temporal point or such points by being extended in spatio-temporal points.

Now, the combination of type dualism and Cartesian dualism is Cartesian type mind-body dualism, defined as:

Cartesian type mind-body dualism = Cartesian type mind-body dualism is a set of ideas such as (i) endorsing two distinct types constituting the world as mind and body, and (ii) embracing immaterial, non-physical, non-spatio-temporal nature of mind, and material, physical, spatio-temporal nature of body.

Now, all key terms are ready. It's the time that we are going to examine the very problems of Cartesian type mind-body dualism by a possible scenario as follows:
Robert is a Cartesian type mind-body dualist. One day, he is in the situation of looking at some red tomato. The red tomato that Robert is looking at is, of course, a physical object located in such and such and such space-time points. Now, the neural states and the brain states of Robert are working such and such and such for making such and such and such visual perceptions perceived by Robert. All the neural-brain states of Robert are located in such and such and such space-time points, like the tomato that Robert is looking at. Unfortunately, however, the Cartesian mind of Robert is not located in any space-time point. Robert's body, including his neural states and brain states, is only working in space-time points, but his mind is not working in any physical world. This means that his body, including neural states and brain states can contact with the red tomato, but his mind cannot be related to the physical-space-time-point-located-red tomato!!! Our poor Robert cannot have, therefore, a thought like "there is a red tomato over there," "Robert thinks that there is a red tomato over there," etc. Even his mind is not perceiving that there is a red tomato, since mind is not in space-time points, but only his body-neural-brain things with the red tomato are in space-time points.
In other words, the fact that we can think like "there is a red tomato over there" when we see or look at the red tomato is a definite proof of which Cartesian type mind-body dualism is false. So, the more formal argument goes as follows:

(1) If Cartesian type mind-body dualism (i.e. Substance dualism) is right, then there cannot be mental states.
(2) There can be mental states.
Therefore, (3) Cartesian type mind-body dualism is wrong.

This argument against mind-body dualism is formally taking modus-tollens formulation, and so formally valid. The argument is called 'a pragmatist argument against substance dualism' in that we can easily accept that refuting dualism and embracing monism are better and more useful (appealing to usefulness), and that we can manipulate, or handle, or practice, etc. our perceptions and thoughts when we abandon dualism.

Karpel Tunnel
Posts: 519
Joined: February 16th, 2018, 11:28 am

Re: A Pragmatist Argument against Substance Dualism

Post by Karpel Tunnel » August 5th, 2018, 4:52 am

A quibble, but we know that....
Physicalism = Physicalism is an idea that everything, including mind and body, is ultimately physical, and can be explained by contemporary physics.


is likely false, or all the physicists would move on to other fields where not everything is explained.

I added the bold to 'contemporary'.

User avatar
Mosesquine
Posts: 182
Joined: September 3rd, 2016, 4:17 am

Re: A Pragmatist Argument against Substance Dualism

Post by Mosesquine » August 5th, 2018, 5:37 am

Karpel Tunnel wrote:
August 5th, 2018, 4:52 am
A quibble, but we know that....
Physicalism = Physicalism is an idea that everything, including mind and body, is ultimately physical, and can be explained by contemporary physics.


is likely false, or all the physicists would move on to other fields where not everything is explained.

I added the bold to 'contemporary'.
Not all physicists are philosophical physicalists. You seem to confuse 'physicalist' with 'physicist'.

User avatar
chewybrian
Posts: 282
Joined: May 9th, 2018, 7:17 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Epictetus
Location: Florida man

Re: A Pragmatist Argument against Substance Dualism

Post by chewybrian » August 5th, 2018, 7:29 am

Mosesquine wrote:
August 4th, 2018, 1:01 pm
Pragmatism = Pragmatism is an idea or thought such that usefulness and things that can be practiced or manipulated or handled are the most important things...

Therefore, (3) Cartesian type mind-body dualism is wrong.
The mechanism of consciousness or free will is just a novelty, but the existence or usefulness of these things are critical to moving forward in life. Do you go on to another assertion of compatiblism, or does your argument lead you to believe in determinism and deny free will?

If so, that does not seem pragmatic to deny yourself free will. "Rather than resting my judgment on principles or facts, I choose instead to be practical and deny my own existence." Does that make sense? Would it not be more practical and useful to assume you have a free will, if the facts are in doubt? Don't you want to choose your own future, rather than thinking you are a plastic bag floating in the breeze of cause and effect?

I don't want to assume your position on compatibilism, but I am assuming you believe your own argument about dualism being impossible, and you know where that tends to lead. So, if you are a compatibilist, I would like to see how that works for you. And, if you are not, I would like to see you defend the pragmatism in determinism, which does seem like the next step.

User avatar
Mosesquine
Posts: 182
Joined: September 3rd, 2016, 4:17 am

Re: A Pragmatist Argument against Substance Dualism

Post by Mosesquine » August 5th, 2018, 8:59 am

chewybrian wrote:
August 5th, 2018, 7:29 am
Mosesquine wrote:
August 4th, 2018, 1:01 pm
Pragmatism = Pragmatism is an idea or thought such that usefulness and things that can be practiced or manipulated or handled are the most important things...

Therefore, (3) Cartesian type mind-body dualism is wrong.
The mechanism of consciousness or free will is just a novelty, but the existence or usefulness of these things are critical to moving forward in life. Do you go on to another assertion of compatiblism, or does your argument lead you to believe in determinism and deny free will?

If so, that does not seem pragmatic to deny yourself free will. "Rather than resting my judgment on principles or facts, I choose instead to be practical and deny my own existence." Does that make sense? Would it not be more practical and useful to assume you have a free will, if the facts are in doubt? Don't you want to choose your own future, rather than thinking you are a plastic bag floating in the breeze of cause and effect?

I don't want to assume your position on compatibilism, but I am assuming you believe your own argument about dualism being impossible, and you know where that tends to lead. So, if you are a compatibilist, I would like to see how that works for you. And, if you are not, I would like to see you defend the pragmatism in determinism, which does seem like the next step.


Although pragmatism is an idea about usefulness, capability of handling, controlling things, etc., pragmatism itself is not so much related to free will/determinism issues. Pragmatism is, of course, completely compatible with free will. So, the question is whether pragmatism is compatible with determinism. However, if it were the case that the deterministic idea is right, it would be the case that everyone can be appeared to control many things. That is, pragmatists work their own even in the deterministic worlds. So, manipulation is not so much relevant to the issue of determinism, in the sense of previously explained above.

Gertie
Posts: 608
Joined: January 7th, 2015, 7:09 am

Re: A Pragmatist Argument against Substance Dualism

Post by Gertie » August 5th, 2018, 10:18 am

Robert's body, including his neural states and brain states, is only working in space-time points, but his mind is not working in any physical world. This means that his body, including neural states and brain states can contact with the red tomato, but his mind cannot be related to the physical-space-time-point-located-red tomato!!! Our poor Robert cannot have, therefore, a thought like "there is a red tomato over there," "Robert thinks that there is a red tomato over there," etc. Even his mind is not perceiving that there is a red tomato, since mind is not in space-time points, but only his body-neural-brain things with the red tomato are in space-time points.

First - thankyou for defining your terms, very helpful!


I'd suggest you could use the point that mental states are apparently not located in time and space to argue for substance dualism.


Physical stuff like neurons are locatable in time and space

Mental states are seemingly not locatable in time and space

Therefore mental states are not physical stuff.


Take your pick...


The point is we know there is correlation between certain physical systems (brains not tomatoes) and mental experience, there is a Relationship. But we don't know the nature of the Relationship, because our (current) physical models don't apparently even have a way of addressing it.

User avatar
Mosesquine
Posts: 182
Joined: September 3rd, 2016, 4:17 am

Re: A Pragmatist Argument against Substance Dualism

Post by Mosesquine » August 5th, 2018, 11:43 am

Gertie wrote:
August 5th, 2018, 10:18 am
Robert's body, including his neural states and brain states, is only working in space-time points, but his mind is not working in any physical world. This means that his body, including neural states and brain states can contact with the red tomato, but his mind cannot be related to the physical-space-time-point-located-red tomato!!! Our poor Robert cannot have, therefore, a thought like "there is a red tomato over there," "Robert thinks that there is a red tomato over there," etc. Even his mind is not perceiving that there is a red tomato, since mind is not in space-time points, but only his body-neural-brain things with the red tomato are in space-time points.

First - thankyou for defining your terms, very helpful!


I'd suggest you could use the point that mental states are apparently not located in time and space to argue for substance dualism.


Physical stuff like neurons are locatable in time and space

Mental states are seemingly not locatable in time and space

Therefore mental states are not physical stuff.


Take your pick...


The point is we know there is correlation between certain physical systems (brains not tomatoes) and mental experience, there is a Relationship. But we don't know the nature of the Relationship, because our (current) physical models don't apparently even have a way of addressing it.

The idea of non-located mental states is the idea from Cartesian sorts of dualism. Physicalist philosophers of mind might argue that mental states are reduced to physical states, i.e. reduced to space-time-located physical states. Mental causation (both mental causing physical and physical causing mental) is evidence of physicalism. My point above is that mental is reduced to physical so substance dualism is wrong.

User avatar
chewybrian
Posts: 282
Joined: May 9th, 2018, 7:17 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Epictetus
Location: Florida man

Re: A Pragmatist Argument against Substance Dualism

Post by chewybrian » August 5th, 2018, 12:35 pm

Mosesquine wrote:
August 5th, 2018, 8:59 am
Although pragmatism is an idea about usefulness, capability of handling, controlling things, etc., pragmatism itself is not so much related to free will/determinism issues. Pragmatism is, of course, completely compatible with free will. So, the question is whether pragmatism is compatible with determinism. However, if it were the case that the deterministic idea is right, it would be the case that everyone can be appeared to control many things. That is, pragmatists work their own even in the deterministic worlds. So, manipulation is not so much relevant to the issue of determinism, in the sense of previously explained above.
Strangely, you seem to avoid and answer my questions at the same time. You appear to be saying, without giving your own opinion, that *if* determinism held, then a pragmatic answer would be to go on living as if free will existed anyway. This is a third answer which I did not consider, but should have, since I've seen it many times. As someone very much in the free will camp, it is a frustrating cop out to me.

The idea that I would need to pretend to be true something I "know" is not true in order to function would tell me I must have made some false assumption(s) on the path to that conclusion. Rather than pretending, I should re-examine my assumptions. None of my other faculties of sight, sound, smell and such feed me bad information (as far as I know). If my faculty of reason tells me I am choosing, then I choose to believe that is what I am doing until I see some very hard proof against it.

In place of pretending, I think I would examine both the determinist position and the non-dualist position. Since neither seems to be proven to anyone's satisfaction, perhaps the real pragmatic answer is to avoid adopting either, and continue to believe that I can decide for myself what to have for dinner. If I first found a compatibilist argument appealing, then maybe...

Gertie
Posts: 608
Joined: January 7th, 2015, 7:09 am

Re: A Pragmatist Argument against Substance Dualism

Post by Gertie » August 5th, 2018, 12:36 pm

The idea of non-located mental states is the idea from Cartesian sorts of dualism. Physicalist philosophers of mind might argue that mental states are reduced to physical states, i.e. reduced to space-time-located physical states.
Yes and Physicalism is a reasonable argument to make, but it entails getting into the nitty gritty of what that would mean, and running into the sort of problems which your neat syllogistic 'proof' doesn't address.

Mental causation (both mental causing physical and physical causing mental) is evidence of physicalism. My point above is that mental is reduced to physical so substance dualism is wrong.
There is evidence of correlation, which is probably our biggest clue. But any causal interpretation would be an inference based on the observed/evidenced correlation. And so is reductionist Physicalism. There are other competing interpretations, including Substance Dualism.

The problem lies in finding a way of demonstrating which is right, if any. And I offered a syllogism which basically interprets the evidence differently to yours, to show that's not a conclusive solution to the problem. Doesn't mean you're wrong, just doesn't mean you're right, imo.

User avatar
Consul
Posts: 1344
Joined: February 21st, 2014, 6:32 am
Location: Germany

Re: A Pragmatist Argument against Substance Dualism

Post by Consul » August 5th, 2018, 1:10 pm

Mosesquine wrote:
August 4th, 2018, 1:01 pm
However, the very term 'substance' is a classic term originated from modern era of 16th-17th centuries, probably.
The English word "substance" appears in the 14th century (source) as a translation of the Latin word "substantia", which is much older. We find it in Roman literature, and I read that it was first used by Quintilian (35-100 AD) as a translation of the Greek word "ousia". But "ousia" is etymologically closer to "essentia", whereas "substantia" is etymologically closer to the Greek words "hypostasis" and "hypokeimenon".

Background information: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/substance/
Mosesquine wrote:
August 4th, 2018, 1:01 pm
So, instead of using the term 'substance dualism', there is no problem of using the term 'type dualism' safely.
Yes, there is a problem, because it needs to be clarified first what types are.

Background information: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/types-tokens/
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

User avatar
Mosesquine
Posts: 182
Joined: September 3rd, 2016, 4:17 am

Re: A Pragmatist Argument against Substance Dualism

Post by Mosesquine » August 5th, 2018, 11:27 pm

chewybrian wrote:
August 5th, 2018, 12:35 pm
Mosesquine wrote:
August 5th, 2018, 8:59 am
Although pragmatism is an idea about usefulness, capability of handling, controlling things, etc., pragmatism itself is not so much related to free will/determinism issues. Pragmatism is, of course, completely compatible with free will. So, the question is whether pragmatism is compatible with determinism. However, if it were the case that the deterministic idea is right, it would be the case that everyone can be appeared to control many things. That is, pragmatists work their own even in the deterministic worlds. So, manipulation is not so much relevant to the issue of determinism, in the sense of previously explained above.
Strangely, you seem to avoid and answer my questions at the same time. You appear to be saying, without giving your own opinion, that *if* determinism held, then a pragmatic answer would be to go on living as if free will existed anyway. This is a third answer which I did not consider, but should have, since I've seen it many times. As someone very much in the free will camp, it is a frustrating cop out to me.

The idea that I would need to pretend to be true something I "know" is not true in order to function would tell me I must have made some false assumption(s) on the path to that conclusion. Rather than pretending, I should re-examine my assumptions. None of my other faculties of sight, sound, smell and such feed me bad information (as far as I know). If my faculty of reason tells me I am choosing, then I choose to believe that is what I am doing until I see some very hard proof against it.

In place of pretending, I think I would examine both the determinist position and the non-dualist position. Since neither seems to be proven to anyone's satisfaction, perhaps the real pragmatic answer is to avoid adopting either, and continue to believe that I can decide for myself what to have for dinner. If I first found a compatibilist argument appealing, then maybe...

Your question has never been clearly stated. No bad question can be answered well.

User avatar
Mosesquine
Posts: 182
Joined: September 3rd, 2016, 4:17 am

Re: A Pragmatist Argument against Substance Dualism

Post by Mosesquine » August 5th, 2018, 11:31 pm

Gertie wrote:
August 5th, 2018, 12:36 pm
The idea of non-located mental states is the idea from Cartesian sorts of dualism. Physicalist philosophers of mind might argue that mental states are reduced to physical states, i.e. reduced to space-time-located physical states.
Yes and Physicalism is a reasonable argument to make, but it entails getting into the nitty gritty of what that would mean, and running into the sort of problems which your neat syllogistic 'proof' doesn't address.

Mental causation (both mental causing physical and physical causing mental) is evidence of physicalism. My point above is that mental is reduced to physical so substance dualism is wrong.
There is evidence of correlation, which is probably our biggest clue. But any causal interpretation would be an inference based on the observed/evidenced correlation. And so is reductionist Physicalism. There are other competing interpretations, including Substance Dualism.

The problem lies in finding a way of demonstrating which is right, if any. And I offered a syllogism which basically interprets the evidence differently to yours, to show that's not a conclusive solution to the problem. Doesn't mean you're wrong, just doesn't mean you're right, imo.

My argument in the OP above clearly argues that dualism is wrong. Your opinion has nothing to do with it.

User avatar
Mosesquine
Posts: 182
Joined: September 3rd, 2016, 4:17 am

Re: A Pragmatist Argument against Substance Dualism

Post by Mosesquine » August 5th, 2018, 11:37 pm

Consul wrote:
August 5th, 2018, 1:10 pm
Mosesquine wrote:
August 4th, 2018, 1:01 pm
However, the very term 'substance' is a classic term originated from modern era of 16th-17th centuries, probably.
The English word "substance" appears in the 14th century (source) as a translation of the Latin word "substantia", which is much older. We find it in Roman literature, and I read that it was first used by Quintilian (35-100 AD) as a translation of the Greek word "ousia". But "ousia" is etymologically closer to "essentia", whereas "substantia" is etymologically closer to the Greek words "hypostasis" and "hypokeimenon".

Background information: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/substance/
Mosesquine wrote:
August 4th, 2018, 1:01 pm
So, instead of using the term 'substance dualism', there is no problem of using the term 'type dualism' safely.
Yes, there is a problem, because it needs to be clarified first what types are.

Background information: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/types-tokens/


What I mean by the term 'substance in 16th-17th centuries' is about philosophical uses of it. The fact that 'the English word substance appears in the 14th century' is not so relevant to this topic.

What types are is not much clarified above. However, this topic is the topic of mind-body problem in philosophy of mind. Types are defined as sets, universals, or something else. No matter how types are defined, the story completely well goes.

User avatar
chewybrian
Posts: 282
Joined: May 9th, 2018, 7:17 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Epictetus
Location: Florida man

Re: A Pragmatist Argument against Substance Dualism

Post by chewybrian » August 6th, 2018, 6:06 am

Mosesquine wrote:
August 5th, 2018, 11:27 pm

Your question has never been clearly stated. No bad question can be answered well.
I did not say anything that could not easily understood by someone who knows the meaning of 'compatibilism' or 'determinism', and I am certain you do. That is only a cheap bullying tactic you often use to avoid questions you don't want to answer, and to try to discredit or intimidate others and inflate yourself. It does more damage to you than to any of your intended victims, and has no place in any meaningful discussion.

User avatar
Consul
Posts: 1344
Joined: February 21st, 2014, 6:32 am
Location: Germany

Re: A Pragmatist Argument against Substance Dualism

Post by Consul » August 6th, 2018, 7:28 am

Mosesquine wrote:
August 5th, 2018, 11:37 pm
What I mean by the term 'substance in 16th-17th centuries' is about philosophical uses of it. The fact that 'the English word substance appears in the 14th century' is not so relevant to this topic.
The word "substance"/"substantia" was used in the philosophical sense by pre-16th century philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) [see e.g. De Ente et Essentia/On Being and Essence]
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

Post Reply