The Instigator
popculturepooka
Pro (for)
Losing
8 Points
The Contender
TheSkeptic
Con (against)
Winning
11 Points

Dualism is true.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 7 votes the winner is...
TheSkeptic
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/21/2010 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 15,687 times Debate No: 10837
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (42)
Votes (7)

 

popculturepooka

Pro

Recently, TheSkeptic and I got into a friendly discussion about substance dualism (which can hereby referred to as just "dualism") and we mutually decided to debate this issue.

But in this debate I seek to defend and/or establish not a particular version of dualism (as there are many, many kinds even within substance dualism itself), just that "mere" dualism is true.

I will be taking the Pro side in that I believe that dualism is true and that there are good reasons to believe dualism is true and my task is to demonstrate this.

My opponent, TheSkeptic, will be taking the Con side and arguing that dualism is not true and there are good reasons to suppose this is the case.

Now on to some definitions:

Dualism - The view that the mental and the physical comprise two different classes of objects: minds and bodies. [1]

True - Consistent with fact or reality; not false or erroneous. [2]

Rules:

The first round is to be used only to either consent or disagree with definitions and propose new definitions of your own if you feel they are necessary. Or this round can also be used by my opponent, if he feels that the way I framed the debate , to re-frame the debate. Or he can even take time to ridicule for believing in such an old, dated, superstitous, long-ago disproven and discredited philosophy. Okay, not really. ;) No arguments, please.

The second through fourth rounds is when we will get into debating our reasons for and against dualism.

And I have no reason to suspect that TheSkeptic would use semantics to win a debate, but just for posterity's sake, no semantics, please.

I look forward to an interesting and challenging debate with a very worthy opponent.

Sources:
[1] http://philosophy.uwaterloo.ca...
[2] http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
TheSkeptic

Con

I thank my opponent for challenging me to this debate - I'm definitely excited for this!

I just want to make clear that in support of dualism, my opponent is proposing that the mind and body are ontologically separate categories. I'm sure he knows this himself.

Besides this, I have no qualms - let the debate begin!
Debate Round No. 1
popculturepooka

Pro

I thank my opponent for accepting the debate.

I am proposing that dualism about the mind - that the mind and the body are ontologically distinct as my opponent kindly pointed out for the readers - is true, and because I sense that this may turn into a lengthy and detailed debate, I am only going to be using one argument for dualism. This argument has always been intended as a metaphysical demonstration of the truth of dualism, so if the premises are sound, the conclusion is established with certainty. If sound that would entail that the philosophy of the mind my opponent holds to is false.

Almost all forms of the argument, modern and ancient, have their roots in the famous philosopher Rene Descartes. [1] This argument has several names but I will be calling it the modal argument because I like the name better. ;)

--------------------------
The Modal Argument
--------------------------

As a preliminary, let me state a very important principle that these types of arguments for dualism rely on that is usually only implied and not explicitly stated.

This ontological principle is called "Leibniz's Law" which states "the identity of indiscernibles. What this means, roughly, is that if there is no conceivable way of telling the difference between A and B, then A is B. More precisely, A is B if, and only if, all the attributes of A are also attributes of B (and vice versa). To put it yet another way, A is B if everything which is true of A is also true of B (and vice versa again)." [2]

This principle is relatively uncontroversial in metaphysics, but it's uses are usually contested. Yet, it has important implications in philosophy of the mind - if the mind has attributes or properties that the body does not then have then it cannot be identical to the body, or more specifically, the brain.

Let me explain - claims of identity are necessary, if and only if, they involve "rigid designators" on both sides of the equation. A rigid designator "designates the same object in all possible worlds in which that object exists and never designates anything else." [3] This is a term coined by the philosopher Saul Kripke. Interestingly, this leads to many seemingly counter-intuitive ideas such as the fact there are posteriori necessary truths; it has been generally thought that a posteriori truths are contingent. This means that there are necessary truths that are found through experience. An example of this would be water = H20. If water is the same thing as H20 as we know it is, it follows that water = H20 in every possible world it exists as well. What does this mean? That it's inconceivable to think that water is not H20. Thus, it should be inconceivable for me or anyone else to conceive of the mind as being distinct from the body if it is the same thing. Surely this not the case and the mind has an attribute or property that the body does not have, namely the ability to be conceived of disembodied. Obviously, a body cannot be conceived of (nor imagined) as disembodied. So, by Leibniz's Law, the mind is ontologically distinct from and not identical to the body.

1. It is imaginable that one's mind might exist without one's body.
therefore
2. It is conceivable that one's mind might exist without one's body.
therefore
3. It is possible one's mind might exist without one's body.
therefore
4. One's mind is a different entity from one's body. [4]

A relatively simple argument, that if sound, establishes an important conclusion.

I will now move on to defending each premise.

-------------------------
Premise 1. "It is imaginable that one's mind might exist without one's body."
-------------------------

I believe this is relatively uncontroversial. Surely one can imagine having an out of body experience like hovering over and looking down on one's body at a murder scene. Or one could imagine being like an insubstantial ghost with no body going through wall buildings.

-------------------------
Premise 2. "Therefore, it is conceivable that one's mind might exist without one's body."
-------------------------

I believe this is also relatively uncontroversial. Imaginability is forming a mental image of something. Conceiving of something (in this context) is thinking of something without logical contradiction. Not all things that are conceivable are imaginable - I can conceive of shape with 1,000,000 sides (in that there is no logical contradiction) but not imagine it - but all things that are imaginable are conceivable. So, if it is imaginable that minds exist without bodies then it is conceivable.

--------------------------
Premise 3. "Therefore, it is possible one's mind might exist without one's body."
--------------------------

This is not relatively uncontroversial. It is very controversial. The question is from P2 does P3 follow? Or does conceivability entail metaphysical possibility? Well, the greatest skeptic (hehe) of them all, David Hume, certainly thought so: "Tis an establish'd maxim in metaphysics, That whatever the mind clearly conceives includes the idea of possible existence, or in other words, that nothing we imagine is absolutely impossible. We can form the idea of a golden mountain, and from thence conclude that such a mountain may actually exist. We can form no idea of a mountain without a valley, and therefore regard it as impossible." [5] As to not make an argument from authority I merely bring that quote up to say that that conceivability entails possibility has generally been accepted up until modern times. Of course, that doesn't mean it's right by virtue of the fact of general consensus of past philosophers but I think the principle is right.

The objector can object that it's possible to conceive of a something that is metaphysically impossible therefore refuting the principle that conceivability entails metaphysical possibility. Opponents of this argument sometimes will even bring the water = H20 example that I mentioned earlier against this principle. They suggest that it is possible to conceive of water (with all the same attributes) being a different chemical composition than H20, something like B3Z, even though they agree in the actual world it is necessarily the case that water = H20. So then we'd have a case of conceivability not entailing metaphysical possibility and the argument would fail.

This example would be wrong, though. I can appeal to Kripke's notion of rigid designators here. "Water" would designate the substance in the actual world that has properties of being a liquid, freezing and turning to gas at a specific temperature, etc. "H20" would designate the substance in the actual world that has a specific chemical makeup. So H20 in any possible world would designate what whatever substance that has a specific chemical makeup. If we know that the substance with the properties of being a liquid (etc) is the same as the substance with a specific chemical makeup in the actual world then water = H20, so water and H20 must be the same in ever metaphysically possible world. It is therefore inconceivable and thereby not possible that water =/= H20. If we said we had a substance that had all the properties of water but it has a chemical makeup of B3Z it would not be water as there is no such substance in the actual world. Now one of the major objections to the principle that conceivability entails metaphysical possibility is rendered ineffective, and furthermore, if you carefully consider the notion of rigid designators and properly apply them then are an no legitimate objections to be made. Besides, how would objectors know that anything is metaphysically possible without using conceivability?

--------------------------
Conclusion "Therefore, one's mind is a different entity from one's body."
--------------------------

This conclusion follows if the above argument is sound.
TheSkeptic

Con

I thank my opponent for his response - he has supplied a fascinating argument for substance dualism that has been championed by the likes of Richard Swineburne and Alvin Plantinga: the modal argument for dualism. I am very pleased to see that he is well aware of the philosophical material behind it, and I can't wait for how this discussion will unfold. Let's begin.

Before I dive into the topic, I want to make something clear: my opponent has the burden of proving substance is dualism is true, via this argument. I will propose that my burden is to simply disprove his argument and show there are no arguments in favor of dualism, thus negating the idea that it is true. Of course, I could go the extra mile and provide arguments against dualism as well but this isn't necessary. Furthermore, I find that given such a debate topic as this, to reach out into multiple angles concerning this subject will be biting off more than we can chew - it is often the case during philosophical debates on this website that space constraints prevent a debate from being much better than it could have been. In fact, following along with this fact in mind my criticism of the modal argument for dualism will only be ONE or TWO arguments - for I want to develop them as much as I can without sacrificing detail. Bringing other forms of contention will bog this debate down.

Anyway, as the name suggests, the modal argument for dualism is based on the relation between conceivability and possibility. Indeed, it is this focal point where most contentions will occur as well, given that the other premises of the argument (which is logically valid) are relatively uncontroversial - as my opponent points out. So yes, I will agree that Leibniz's Law is sound for the sake of this debate since I want to focus my criticisms at the relation between conceivability and possibility. My case will be two-fold: I will challenge the possibility of disembodied perception and further argue that even if such a thing was logically possible, the rest of the argument would not follow. My quotations will be taken from Nicholas Everitt's paper on Substance Dualism[1] - I browse infidels frequently (as it is one of my favorite websites) and I've read several of his papers before. This paper caught my attention awhile ago, and now it's in use.

====================
Rejecting the idea that it is logically possible for me to continue to exist without my body or any part of it such as my brain
====================

The idea that it is possible one's mind might exist without one's body or any part of it is a consequence of the transition from imagining it to conceiving it. While my opponent finds the first premise to be relatively uncontroversial, Everitt makes a convincing case that it is quite the opposite -- the idea of disembodied perception (sensing other objects in the environment when you are separated from a physical body) is rejected given it's problems.

The problem arises in how we can perceive things without a body - not in the physical mechanics of how it is to be done (which is another issue altogether), but how we can even come to imagine such a process. Take the following:

"The idea that I am seeing my environment presupposes that I have a location from which I do my seeing. If I am in the kitchen, for example, the sink but not the television in the living room would be within my visual range, whereas if I am in the living room, the television but not the sink would be within my visual range. So if I am in the kitchen, and I have visual experiences as of seeing the sink, then maybe I really am seeing the sink. But if I am in the kitchen, and I have visual experiences as of seeing the television, then I am not really seeing the television: I am hallucinating it, or misperceiving as the television some other object in the kitchen. Similarly, if I am in the living room and I have visual experiences as of seeing the television, then maybe I am really seeing the television. But if I then have visual experiences as of seeing the kitchen sink, then I am hallucinating or misperceiving."

Everitt argues that at the least, the observer can resort to physical relationships. If he is sensing an object that shouldn't be in reach of his senses due to his current physical location or constitution, then he would have good reason to suspect he is hallucinating as opposed to real seeing. However, without a physical body how can the disembodied perceive tell the difference? Indeed, the bigger problem is how can we IMAGINE what this would be like? To make a distinction between real seeing and hallucinations, "I must have a determinate position in space."

This relates to the modal argument for dualism in that "if the supposedly disembodied perceiver's experiences might all be hallucinations, there is no reason to think that the perceiver is located outside her erstwhile body." We have no reason to entertain the first premise of this argument.

=====================
Rejecting the argument even if premise 1 was true
=====================

This is the basic formulation of the modal argument for dualism:

P1. It is logically possible for me to continue to exist without my body or any part of it such as my brain
P2. So I must (now, here) already have some nonbodily component, whose persistence is the persistence of me.
.: I must have a nonbodily mind, a mental substance.

According to Swineburne (whose argument format I am relying on, and of whom my opponent is, whether he knows it or not, supporting) logical possibility means no logical contradictions, obviously. Now, take the following counter example with a parallel format:

P1. It is logically possible for my chess set to survive even in a world in which there is no plastic.
P2. 'My chess set survives although there is no plastic in the world' is not self-contradictory.
.: My chess set now has some nonplastic part which continues to exist when all the plastic in the world is destroyed, and whose continued existence is the continued existence of my chess set.

There is an obvious absurdity here, and Everitt sums it up in the following passage:

"If you know that I am in fact a human body, you can deduce that I will be destroyed in a world in which all human bodies are destroyed. And similarly, if you know that I am a nonbodily 'soul,' you can deduce that I can survive in a world in which all the human bodies have been destroyed. But that means that you have to know what I am (what I am made of) before you can decide whether I can exist in a world in which all human bodies have been destroyed."

He is arguing that the movement from premise 2 DOES NOT LEAD to the conclusion, for the very reason listed. I will be prepared to defend this argument (as I can suspect some counterarguments already), but my character limits prevent me from doing so right now.

=====================
Conclusion
=====================

I have mounted two arguments - the first is meant to refute the argument by arguing it is inconceivable to imagine such a thing, but even if this were to fail I can fall back to the second argument that demonstrates the modal argument for dualism is either invalid or question-begging.

Depending on how my opponent responds, I will decide to focus on certain arguments, or parts thereof, in comparison to the rest.

---References---
1. http://www.infidels.org...
Debate Round No. 2
popculturepooka

Pro

Thank you again to TheSkeptic - he provided some excellent objections.

I agree with my opponent as well in that it's best to keep the arguments to a minimum so we can fully explicate and defend our arguments properly.

====================
Is disembodied existence and perception incoherent and/or inconceivable?
====================

I still do find this premise relatively uncontroversial - contra Everitt and Skeptic- and here's a couple of reasons why.

First, there is a philosophical position called idealism [1] (a form of solipsism), which many agree is false, but not NECESSARILY so. Many agree that it is only contingently false, meaning the world could have been this way. Now if you grant that idealism is only CONTINGENTLY false and not NECESSARILY false then it seems the objection falls flat. For in idealism it is certainly possible for the mind to perceive without a body. In fact, the body is just a perception of the mind. So, if you grant that idealism and solipsism is coherent and logically possible this objection does not hold. Unless if you want to say that idealism and/or solipsism is incoherent - which would be quite a move! - I think this objection loses it's force.

Second, Everitt talks of having to have a location in space in order to do the seeing (perceiving). Substance dualism itself is not necessarily committed to the idea of a non-spatial mind, so this objection would not really work against dualism per se. In fact, there are some spatial accounts of the mind.

Third, if you accept my contention that conceivability entails possibility then by arguing that it is inconceivable (in the same way that water =/= H20) to imagine a mind existing without a body you are saying it's not logically possible that a mind exist without a body. The argument against dualism from disembodied perception at best just shows that there are difficulties with accounting disembodied perception not that it is logically impossible to perceive without a body. For that, you'd have to make the argument that a necessary condition for perception is a body.

"This relates to the modal argument for dualism in that "if the supposedly disembodied perceiver's experiences might all be hallucinations, there is no reason to think that the perceiver is located outside her erstwhile body." We have no reason to entertain the first premise of this argument."

My opponent is referring to Everitt's argument in section "IV" here in which Everitt admits: "But if this circle is virtuous for normal embodied perceivers, there is no reason why it should not be virtuous for abnormal disembodied perceivers. And in that case, the argument from section IV fails." [2] Seeng as Everitt admits that that particular argument fails I see no need to respond to the hallucination argument.

=====================
Am I begging the question?
=====================

My opponent claims that the modal argument begs the question because I would first have to know I am not my body in order to know that I can become disembodied. Basically what the objection is saying is that this begs the question against physicalism/materialism because it already assumes dualism is true and argues from there. This would be a dualist assuming a hidden premise (dualism is true) that the opponent would not grant and would automatically rule out the opponent's position.

What can I say to this objection? A lot of things. ;)

First, there are reports of out of body experiences that could give a non-committed person (someone who has no particular position on the mind-body issue - there are many) some inclination toward dualism without them being convinced of the truth of dualism beforehand.

Second, this argument does not beg the question as there are physicalist philosophers who grant that it is conceivable to become disembodied. Such as, David Lewis, David Armstrong, John Pollock, P.F. Strawson and Richard Boyd. These philosophers being physicalists are not committed to the prior truth of dualism. This would seem to refute the objection that one would have to be convinced of dualism in order to grant that the mind can be disembodied.

Armstrong says, "But disembodied existence seems to be a perfectly intelligible supposition. . . . Consider the case where I am lying in bed at night thinking. Surely it is logically possible that I might be having just the same experiences and yet not have a body at all. No doubt I am having certain somatic, that is to say, bodily sensations. But if I am lying still these will not be very detailed in nature, and I can see nothing self-contradictory in supposing that they do not correspond to anything in physical reality. Yet I need be in no doubt about my identity." [3]

P.F. Strawson, "within our actual conceptual scheme, each of us can quite intelligibly conceive of his or her individual survival of bodily death." [4]

David Lewis even thought that the mind and the body are *identical* yet he thought that it's possible for the mind to existence in absence of the body.

These are not philosophers are dualists in any shape, way, or form. In fact, I'd argue that a great many of non-dualist physicalists would grant that it's possible to conceive of and imagine disembodied existence so it's hard to see how the modal argument begs the question against the physicalist or materialist.

=====================
Conclusion
=====================

I have evaluated the arguments TheSkeptic presents and found them lacking. I find the modal argument for dualism to still be sound.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] http://www.infidels.org...
[3] A Materialist Theory of Mind [London: Routledge, 1968], p. 19.
[4] http://web.mac.com... (pg 24)
[5] http://books.google.com...
TheSkeptic

Con

I thank my opponent for his intriguing responses which is leading to quite the exciting debate :). Since my opponent has recognized the need to localize the focus of our debate to the contentions that matter I will format my round the same he has to refer to the two main claims.

====================
Is disembodied existence and perception incoherent and/or inconceivable?
====================

A couple of things to say about your point about idealism - it would be a little suspect to use the fact that idealism may not be necessarily false as a contention, after all in the end I would want to see you prove this claim (or such a mention will have no effect on my argument). But rather, I will throw something back. You speak of idealism being at the very least a logically valid theory, which I would agree could give footing to your modal argument. However, you ignore the many other serious logical criticisms of idealism by the likes of Nietzsche and G.E. Moore who do mount a logically serious criticism -- they do realize the oddity in such a philosophy. If you wish, read about Moore's criticism of idealism[1], which is probably one of the first among analytic philosophers. And while I will agree his criticism itself isn't a solid knockdown of idealism, it is one of many (notably ones like Nietzsche) who do front a serious logical attack against idealism. As you can see, Moore employs informal modal logic in his criticism.

"Second, Everitt talks of having to have a location in space in order to do the seeing (perceiving). Substance dualism itself is not necessarily committed to the idea of a non-spatial mind, so this objection would not really work against dualism per se."
----> I would then be in confusion as to how you can support substance dualism, which is specifically deemed to purport to say that "if one thinks that the owner of these states is something quite over and above the states themselves, and is immaterial, as they are, one will be a substance dualist[2]."

"The argument against dualism from disembodied perception at best just shows that there are difficulties with accounting disembodied perception not that it is logically impossible to perceive without a body"
----> Now hold on, don't you yourself move from the step of conceivability to possibility? Therefore, is it not perfectly acceptable on my part to deem it to be inconceivable and thus impossible?

Lastly, you quote Everitt to his supposed admission of a failed argument but I think it's a little more complicated than that. Obviously, for his purposes he does not need such an argument to succeed and he seemingly throws it away when considering some objections. All I want to point out is that he, and I in my argument, maintain "that our understanding of what perception is, is closely tied to the way in which human perception is dependent on facts about human bodies [3]." This happens to come from section 3, and even if you throw away the fourth one the former stands in cogent opposition.

=====================
Begging the question?
=====================

Reports of out of body experiences do not constitute valid instances in which a person has a clear conception of a disembodied experience given that out of body experiences are not really out-of-body (which lends evidence to the idea that they are simply hallucinating such an experience, thus grounding it's seemingly realistic experience).

And lastly, your argument is once again simply relying on authority. Simple look at how you introduce it: "Second, this argument does not beg the question as there are physicalist philosophers who grant..." I ask of you, do we really want to reduce a philosophy debate to points about who agrees with what? Let me demonstrate why I find such exclamations of the inconceivability of dualism true by an analogy:

Now, the reason why I am interested in this argument isn't really because I find it convincing (I personally have yet to figure this out myself) but because it reminds me of Dennett's response to the problem of philosophical zombies, which as you should know follow very closely in vein with the modal argument for dualism. Read the following notes about Dennett[4], and his words about philosophical zombies which I just find incredibly intuitively true:

"Daniel Dennett thinks those who accept the possibility of zombies have failed to imagine them thoroughly enough: ‘when philosophers claim that zombies are conceivable, they invariably underestimate the task of conception (or imagination), and end up imagining something that violates their own definition . . . He compares health: Supposing that by an act of stipulative imagination you can remove consciousness while leaving all cognitive systems intact — a quite standard but entirely bogus feat of imagination — is like supposing that by an act of stipulative imagination, you can remove health while leaving all bodily functions and powers intact. … Health isn't that sort of thing, and neither is consciousness."

Taking in the same breathe, I would argue that such statements from philosophers are as what Dennett states - they are quite standard but entirely bogus feat of imagination; they are essentially fooling themselves.

=====================
Conclusion
=====================

Before I conclude, I would like to say that the article about zombies there is an interesting one about the link between conceivability of possibility, but nonetheless we both realize that I decided to focus on the former concept rather than the connection between the two :).

As you can see, while my opponent's argument rests on the idea of conceiving disembodied perceivers, Everitt and Dennett points out that such a task is absurd.

---References---
1. http://plato.stanford.edu...
2. http://plato.stanford.edu...
3. http://www.infidels.org...
4. http://plato.stanford.edu...
Debate Round No. 3
popculturepooka

Pro

Again, I have to thank my opponent, TheSkeptic, for making this such a good debate.

====================
Is disembodied existence and perception incoherent and/or inconceivable?
====================

I'd rather not get drawn into defending idealism as it is not my intention to defend a position I do not hold to. I agree, however, at the very least, a basic sketch of how idealism is not incoherent and/or inconceivable is appropriate.

Here is the basic test to see if idealism is inconceivable - can I spy any logical contradictions in asserting that's it's possible that some type of disembodied mind perceiving of the material world? To be honest, I simply cannot find any logical contradictions. This, of course, does not necessarily mean there aren't logical contradictions in reference to a disembodied mind perceiving (I simply may not be thinking hard enough), but, I, and most philosophers, cannot spot even one. This is good reason for supposing that there are no logical contradictions therein. Furthermore, I read the section about G.E. Moore's attack on idealism that TheSkeptic linked to and I admit to being slightly perplexed as to the point being made. He certainly did (supposedly) spy at least some logical fallacies in idealism, but those certain fallacies have nothing to do with whether or not it's inconceivable that the mind can perceive without the body. As far as I can tell he argues against idealism based on the idea that "blue" is separate from the "sensation of blue" but with idealism "blue" and the sensation of "blue" would have to be the same thing, which is false because "blue" has an existence independent of experience. He also makes an argument against the idea that all relations are internal (in the mind) but he argues that that makes no sense and that there are some external relations. Notice, however, nothing here picks out any logical contradictions with a mind perceiving without a body - the objections deal with other issues in idealism which are only contingently false (as reality could have been that "blue" and the sensation of "blue" are the same thing). So, therefore, it still seems that the particular part of idealism I am concerned with, perceiving without a body, is not necessarily false. And, that part of idealism at least, still seems logically valid which is all I need to give myself stable footing in regards to the first premise of the modal argument.

"I would then be in confusion as to how you can support substance dualism..."

To be a substance dualist all one would have to believe is that there is at least ONE property of the mind that is not reducible or supervienient on the body. As for myself, I am agnostic on whether minds can be in space or not, but there are several properties that the mind has that NO material thing can have such as intentionality (among other things)[1]. I never said that minds are non-spatial and neither does substance dualism broadly speaking. Cartesian dualism does, however.

"Now hold on, don't you yourself move from the step of conceivability to possibility? Therefore, is it not perfectly acceptable on my part to deem it to be inconceivable and thus impossible?"

I do, you are correct. What I am saying here is that a mind existing without a body is conceivable and therefore not impossible. I say this for the specific reason that there aren't any logical contradictions in conceiving of such a situation. It's up to you to show that I am not thinking hard enough about it and there are logical contradictions in how I'm thinking about this situation. Like, for example, in my first round I made the argument that it is inconceivable that water can't not equal H20, even despite preliminary considerations that suppose that it is conceivable that water not equal H20. And finally, the argument from the impossibility (implausibility?) of disembodied perception is not strictly a refutation of the modal argument. Why? First and foremost it's basically a restatement (albeit a clever one) of the interaction problem objection against dualism [2]. While this problem can be difficult to answer - at it's heart it is an *epistemological* objection to a *metaphysical* position. Even granting that if this objection renders it a complete mystery as to how a mind can perceive (see) without a body (which I do not think so) this does absolutely nothing to refute the modal argument; it does not attack conceivability in the slightest. So, if there are good metaphysical arguments for dualism, which there are, it is simply absurd to assert that an epistemological argument defeats dualism. Simply because it may be hard to explain as to how a mind mind can perceive without a body does not refute dualism. For you to make a case against the modal argument's first premise you'd have show that having a body is a necessary condition of perception.

=====================
Begging the question?
=====================

"Reports of out of body experiences do not constitute valid instances in which a person has a clear conception of a disembodied experience given that out of body experiences are not really out-of-body (which lends evidence to the idea that they are simply hallucinating such an experience, thus grounding it's seemingly realistic experience)."

Now that's begging the question. You're simply assuming that out-of-body experiences are not really out-of-body. I think it still supports my point that one need not be already convinced of dualism in order to think that it's possible to conceive of a disembodied mind. An undecided person could be given a simple inclination towards thinking the first premise is possible by hearing reports of out-of-body experiences.

"And lastly, your argument is once again simply relying on authority. Simple look at how you introduce it: "Second, this argument does not beg the question as there are physicalist philosophers who grant...""

I think you miss my point - begging the question against a position is assuming, as truth, some premise that some particular position would not grant. In other words the objection is that to grant that is conceivable that a mind can exist without a body one would already have to a dualist, but, as I showed before, this is plainly not true!

For example, "We know God exists because we can see the perfect order of His Creation, an order which demonstrates supernatural intelligence in its design...[3]", would be an example of begging the question against an atheist because they would not grant the premise that God exists.

It would not be begging the question if opponents of dualism grant premise 1 of the modal argument! If physicalists and/or materialists grant that it is conceivable that a mind exist without a body then there is no position I am begging the question against. It simply doesn't matter if you think physicalists are, just like dualists, performing bogus feats of imagination - they still grant premise 1.

I can't really respond much to Dennett due to character limits but I will say that further argument is required to relate consciousness to cognitive systems as health is to bodily functions. In fact, that's whole question here, isn't it?

Furthermore, I am still awaiting an argument that shows that it is inconceivable that a mind exist disembodied as I've shown above, the argument from the impossibility of disembodied perception is an epistemological objection - not metaphysical. It does nothing to refute the modal argument.

=====================
Conclusion
=====================

"As you can see, while my opponent's argument rests on the idea of conceiving disembodied perceivers, Everitt and Dennett points out that such a task is absurd."

I think not. ;)

I still think I have showed the modal argument to be sound and urge the audience to read carefully and come to their own conclusions about who won this debate. Cheers!
TheSkeptic

Con

This was an excellent debate on this popular philosophical issue, and I'll be glad to debate with my opponent anytime again about something similar! Throughout this debate, my opponent has countered my claim that we can conceive of disembodied perception but I propose otherwise (obviously). My main task will not only to prove this, but to also reply to his cursory remarks about dualism (dualism's casual interaction problem notably) and whatnot.

====================
Remarks about incoherent, idealism's relevance, and substance dualism
====================

My opponent's defense of idealism's coherence is at fault mainly in how he views what would make an hypothesis incoherent. An obvious basic test is to see if idealism is logically contradictory - this should be obvious to do (can you imagine a three-sided square?). The problem with his criticism is that there is a much more rich way to spy out incoherences than to simply spy for any violation of the law of identity in it's barest form - it's still a logically serious criticism, but a little more thinking is needed to be done. He reminds me that "nothing here picks out any logical contradictions with a mind perceiving without a body - the objections deal with other issues in idealism which are only contingently false", which he emphasizes the point that there isn't anything logically contradictory about idealism.

I would say this is undoubtedly false. As I've pointed out, there are logical criticisms of idealism. I don't want to flesh out Moore's criticisms, so let me introduce you to a very simple one to understand: Nietzsche's criticism of Kant's transcendental idealism as either begging the question or being tautologically true (which under Kant's framework is troubling given that any argument that has a necessarily true premise cannot make any synthetic a priori statements). As Nietzsche said himself, "all idealism is falsehood in the face of necessity."

"To be a substance dualist all one would have to believe is that there is at least ONE property of the mind that is not reducible or supervienient on the body."
----> Which, in other words, means this other substance must be ONTOLOGICALLY different than the body (the physical). I would be as clear as mud for me to understand how you can demonstrate how something fundamentally distinct from physical things have any spatial properties to them.

"I do, you are correct. What I am saying here is that a mind existing without a body is conceivable and therefore not impossible."
----> And in similar fashion, I will also redirect you to my previous counterargument about it being incoherent. We've gone into a little tangent about idealism, so let me wrap my criticisms of your first premise in a new section again:

====================
Is disembodied existence and perception incoherent and/or inconceivable?
====================

You claim not only that I haven't shown a logical incoherency in conceiving of disembodied perception, but that my argument from the inconceivability of disembodied perception is "a restatement (albeit a clever one) of the interaction problem objection against dualism." So let me reiterate my criticism with more force, and go further to explain why the interaction problem is much more deadly than you would pretend.

As I've explained before, given the very nature of perception it would be incoherent to perceive something without a spatial relation to relate to. Again, I have utilized the argument by Everitt but you have yet to respond in detail: "The idea that I am seeing my environment presupposes that I have a location from which I do my seeing. . . Why should this matter to Swinburne's case? The reason is this: if the supposedly disembodied perceiver's experiences might all be hallucinations, there is no reason to think that the perceiver is located outside her erstwhile body [2]."

As for your remarks to the interaction problem, I would argue that you are lessenning it's actual effects. The problem with ontologically different substances interacting isn't just an epistemic issue of simply not knowing, but evidence against your metaphysical thesis. If we have reason to doubt such an interaction can't take place (or is highly unlikely to), then your dualist thesis crumbles. And that is EXACTLY what the interaction problem does -- it doesn't point to some practical lack of knowledge we are in about dualist metaphysics, rather it points to a theoretical issue the substance dualist is prey to. For example, how wold the dualist account for the relationship between mind and body? We get pricked and we feel this pain from the mind, or we decide to move and the mind signals the body; there seems to be a direct relationship between the two and yet your hypothesis has a much more extravagant job to do by explaining this.

It's been often noted that "physical objects are spatio-temporal, and bear spatio-temporal and causal relations to each other. Mental states seem to have causal powers, but they also possess the mysterious property of intentionality — being about other things — including things like Zeus and the square root of minus one, which do not exist[3]." The concept of a mental substance interacting with a physical substance is not simply an incredibly difficult epistemic problem, it's evidence against your position on theoretical grounds. It would seem prima facie, and even more, that such a causal relationship is absurd.

=====================
Begging the question?
=====================

"Now that's begging the question. You're simply assuming that out-of-body experiences are not really out-of-body."
----> Actually, I was ready to defend it on scientific grounds though it seems you didn't seem to want to defend such a controversial claim. There are many solutions[1] to explain it, and though there obviously isn't a unanimous theory many factors have been considered to be caused via tangible, scientific reasons. Needless to say, things such as out of body experiences or near death experiences have tangible scientific reasons for their occurrences, dispelling any notion of another "substance" coming into play.

"It would not be begging the question if opponents of dualism grant premise 1 of the modal argument!"
----> Absolutely, but who is your opponent right now? That would me, and I obviously do NOT grant your the first premise :). You can't refer to what most physicalists will grant to be true and then imply I have the same rational obligations; this would be rushing the process much to quick and thus creating errors along the way.

====================
Conclusion
====================

I would like to remind my opponent and the audience on a slight tangent that personally, my main line of criticism would actually be the move from conceivability to possibility (as most philosophers do). I find it highly suspect that we can garner such a move from an epistemic act to a metaphysical possibility. However, I find the idea of attacking the very idea of disembodied perception as incoherent to be incredibly fascinating. While I was preparing for this debate and reading sources I came across interesting articles on precisely this criticism, so I decided to go "what the hell" and try this argument. While I am not entirely familiar or comfortable with it as I am with the criticism of conceivability to possibility, I do believe it still is strong enough to cast serious doubt on my opponent's argument.

So there you go, I propose that disembodied perceptions is as incoherent of a thing to conceive as philosophical zombies; it's what Dennett calls "the most seductive error in current thinking."

---References---
1. http://www.mindspring.com...
2. http://www.infidels.org...
3. http://plato.stanford.edu...
Debate Round No. 4
42 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by tBoonePickens 6 years ago
tBoonePickens
"...Conceiving of something (in this context) is thinking of something without logical contradiction."
According to these definitions, we can surmise that all things that are conceivable are imaginable but NOT all things that are imaginable are conceivable.

"So, if it is imaginable that minds exist without bodies then it is conceivable." Absolutely does not follow.

"Premise 2. Therefore, it is conceivable that one's mind might exist without one's body." This then becomes debatable; however, I think that it is a contradiction as concepts cannot independently from their source (i.e. physical source.)

From the first Premise on, things do not follow, so I guess that's it.
Posted by tBoonePickens 6 years ago
tBoonePickens
"...the mind has an attribute or property that the body does not have..." Of course it does; it can have a virtually unlimited amount of them. On the other hand, the body has attributes the mind doesn't have as well. Actually, the only attribute that they share is the fact that they have attributes! (i.e. they are both "objects.") To put it simply, the mind has mental properties (non-physical properties) while the body has corporal properties (physical properties.)

"...Obviously, a body cannot be conceived of (nor imagined) as disembodied." Well, in as much as 'conceiving' something non-physical to have physical features is also not possible. On the other hand, such a thing CAN be IMAGINED: imagining things that make no sense or are ludicrous happens all the time.

"Premise 1. It is imaginable that one's mind might exist without one's body." This is meaningless, as one can also IMAGINE the opposite: one's body can exist without one's mind.

"...Imaginability is forming a mental image of something." Well, it's more than just images, as images do not account for sound, etc. (Imaginability can also be: to believe, suppose, guess, to form a notion of without sufficient basis, etc.) A better definition would be: 'the ability to form a mental representation of something; an abstraction.'

"Surely one can imagine having an out of body experience like hovering over and looking down on one's body at a murder scene." Sure. You can imagine just about ANYTHING if you smoke enough 'sherm.'

"Or one could imagine being like an insubstantial ghost with no body going through wall..." If there's no body then what exactly is it that's going through walls? How is it that something non-physical has physical properties and executing physical actions when ONLY physical things can have those abilities? There are a myriad of fantasies one can imagine.
Posted by tBoonePickens 6 years ago
tBoonePickens
Hi popculturepooka, thanks for the reply.

"No, it doesn't. Give me an ARGUMENT as to why the brain is a necessary condition for consciousness..." I don't what to say. I thought that this would be something quite fundamental, given our current knowledge of science technology. We have never observed nor have any evidence to expect otherwise. This is FACT and NOT speculation.

"Again give me an ARGUMENT as to why a conceiving necessarily requires a brain. I'm not going to just grant your dubious assumptions." I am not basing it on assumptions; I am basing it on empirical evidence & readily observable facts. Your argument is purely speculative assumptions.

"You have not given me any arguments to work with." Again, all scientific evidence points to this fact; why would one expect otherwise? ...other than pure speculation.

"...if the mind has attributes or properties that the body does not have, then it cannot be identical to the body, or more specifically, the brain..." If by DEFINITION we already understand that these two are different, why is this an issue? Why would one expect a 'concept' to have ALL the same properties as a real physical thing? Concepts don't have physical properties, they have conceptual properties; and physical things have physical properties.

"...Thus, it should be inconceivable for me or anyone else to conceive of the mind as being distinct from the body if it is the same thing." Why? One could conceive the ridiculous or even paradoxical. Furthermore, one could conceive this or any concept and (unbeknown to oneself) be in error. This is a *key* difference between physical reality & mental reality: (for example) gravity will NEVER (unbeknown to itself) mistakenly forget to attract.
Posted by popculturepooka 6 years ago
popculturepooka
My bad about the lateness, Pickens.

"Which of course presupposes a brain. Again, something physical giving rise to something non-physical."

No, it doesn't. Give me an ARGUMENT as to why the brain is a necessary condition for consciousness. Even functionalist materailsts (at least of the multiple realizability kind) wouldn't agree with you that consciousness presupposes a brain.

"One must then realize that what's left over are the things that exist conceptually...which require a conceiver...which require a brain. Once the brain is gone, so is the concept...unless of course it is re-conceived or physically stored."

Again give me an ARGUMENT as to why a conceiving necessarily requires a brain. I'm not going to just grant your dubious assumptions.

"....because that is the only way the 2 can be meaningfully compared. This is so, because 1 is an epiphenomena of the other.

Lol, again, do you not understand I don't share your presuppositions? Seriously, all your doing is begging the question against me. You have not given me any arguments to work with.

"If this is so, then there is no point of contention thus far UNLESS you wish to dispute the PHYSICAL origins of said mental objects."

...I did dispute that in the debate.
Posted by tBoonePickens 6 years ago
tBoonePickens
You said "...being able to evaluate your empirical evidence presupposes consciousness..." Which of course presupposes a brain. Again, something physical giving rise to something non-physical.

"-it's not a valid inference from 'we can empirically test physical things' to 'all there is is physical things'." Perhaps I didn't word it properly. What I meant to say, is that all there 'physically is' IS the physical. I did not wish to state it that way because it sounds dumb or at the very least, redundant. One must then realize that what's left over are the things that exist conceptually...which require a conceiver...which require a brain. Once the brain is gone, so is the concept...unless of course it is re-conceived or physically stored.

When I said "show me something non-physical" I meant "show me physically something non-physical" which of course is ludicrous...but then again so are some concepts in Dualism.

You said "Dualism - The view that the mental and the physical comprise two different classes of objects: minds and bodies." I have no problem with this definition so long as the ambiguity of the word "object" is paid attention to in such a way that we are to understand that it is *abstractly* referring to both the physical & the conceptual. I say abstractly, because that is the only way the 2 can be meaningfully compared. This is so, because 1 is an epiphenomena of the other.

As such, your definition would be equivalent to the following definition: "Dualism - The concept that mental objects and physical objects comprise two different classes of objects." If this is so, then there is no point of contention thus far UNLESS you wish to dispute the PHYSICAL origins of said mental objects.
Posted by mattrodstrom 6 years ago
mattrodstrom
"The observer is the observed"

I would imagine you mean what's "observed" is a function of "the observer"... Right?

Or do you mean we talk of ourselves being "the observer" only b/c we observe that we observe???

Or do you mean the Observer is only existent because IT'S observed???
And, if so, how does one come to understand that if they just think about it enough.
Posted by popculturepooka 6 years ago
popculturepooka
Will you enlighten me then?
Posted by tBoonePickens 6 years ago
tBoonePickens
No.
Posted by popculturepooka 6 years ago
popculturepooka
No.

Is that seriously your argument for physicalism?
Posted by tBoonePickens 6 years ago
tBoonePickens
Show me something non-physical.
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