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Mind & Matter

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Started: 5/20/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 646 times Debate No: 33912
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I will argue for substance dualism and my arguments are two in number. I thank whoever dares this rapid debate!

The mental does not have extension in space, and the material cannot think. Although mental states, such as beliefs and desires, may causally interact with physical states. Consider a computer simulation in which the bodies of the creatures are controlled by their minds and the minds remain strictly external to the simulation. The creatures can do all the science they want in the world, but they will never be able to figure out where their minds are, for they do not exist in their observable universe. This is a case of substance dualism with respect to computer simulation. This naturally differs from a computer simulation in which the minds are part of the simulation.1

Minds perceive intramental states differently than sensory phenomena, and this cognitive difference results in mental and physical phenomena having seemingly disparate properties. These properties are irreconcilable under a physical mind.2

Furthermore, if all of our thoughts are the effect of a physical cause, then we have no reason for assuming that they are also the consequent of a reasonable ground. However, knowledge is apprehended by reasoning from ground to consequent. Therefore, if physical-ism were true, there would be no way of knowing it! Haldane says:

"If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true ... and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms."3

Likewise, Lewis concludes:

"If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on biochemistry, and biochemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of the atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any more significance than the sound of the wind in the trees."4

1) Chalmers, David. "The Matrix as Metaphysics". David Chalmers' Home Page. Retrieved 2013-01-24., Note 6.

2) Prinz, Wolfgang (January 1992). "Why don't we perceive our brain states?". European Journal of Cognitive Psychology 4 (1): 1. doi:10.1080/09541449208406240. Retrieved 19 November 2012.

3) J. B. S. Haldane, Possible Worlds, page 209

4) C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, page 139


I accept the challenge! I just have one argument but it's sufficient.

Any action of a nonphysical mind on the brain would entail the violation of physical laws, such as the conservation of energy. eg, When a person decides to walk across a room, it is generally understood that the decision to do so, a mental event, immediately causes a group of neurons in that person's brain to fire, a physical event, which ultimately results in his walking across the room. The problem is that if there is something totally nonphysical causing a bunch of neurons to fire, then there is no physical event which causes the firing. This means that some physical energy is required to be generated against the physical laws of the deterministic universe — this is by definition a miracle and there can be no scientific explanation of (repeatable experiment performed regarding) where the physical energy for the firing came from. (1)

Citing Sources

(1) Baker, Gordon and Morris, Katherine J. (1996) Descartes' Dualism, London: Routledge
Debate Round No. 1


Let me clarify that I'm not coming from a theological frame work, I think you can be a dualist and maintain agnosticism at least. Anyway, AnthraSight never replies to my argument from reason and so his case remains self-refuting. But in reply to his argument, first, the mind may influence the distribution of energy, without altering its quantity, but I agree that such an influence still violates energy conservation. Second, but the human body doesn't seem causally closed, as the conservation of energy applies only to closed systems! If anything science therefore wouldn't be able to explain the mind, which isn't at all surprising for the dualist.


GUSTAV forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
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