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

Mind Over Matter? (2)

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
TheSkeptic
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/17/2010 Category: Education
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,196 times Debate No: 12484
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (42)
Votes (3)

 

popculturepooka

Pro

TheSkeptic wanted to debate this so here it is:

=========
Introduction
=========

This debate will be on the age-old clash in philosophy of mind over the issue of whether or not there is an immaterial element to, but not limited to, persons. This immaterial element is attributed to the mind or the soul. Of course, the question is whether or not this immaterial element even exists and that is what we are here to debate. To put it another way - is there more to persons than their material bodies? I will be answering "yes" to that question so I will be taking the Pro side. My opponent shall presumably be answering "no" to that question and thus will be taking the Con side.

To make it very clear: I affirm *substance* dualism as opposed to *property* dualism. [1] I'll leave it to my opponent to describe what kind of materialism he affirms.

I will now offer some definitions that I think are necessary as many of these terms have an everyday use and a more narrow, precise, philosophical use. To avoid straw-manning or pigeon-holing my opponent I'll let him define terms for his side if he feels the need to do so.

==========
Definitions and Clarifications
==========

Mind - (in a human or other conscious being) the element, part, substance, or process that reasons, thinks, feels, wills, perceives, judges, etc. [2]

Matter - the substance or substances of which any physical object consists or is composed. [3]

Substance - a substance is characterized by its properties, but, according to those who believe in substances, it is more than the collection of the properties it possesses, it is the thing which possesses them. [4]

It seems, in summary, that there are at least six overlapping ideas that contribute to the philosophical concept of substance. Substances are typified as:

1. being ontologically basic—substances are the things from which everything else is made or by which it is metaphysically sustained;
2. being, at least compared to other things, relatively independent and durable, and, perhaps, absolutely so;
3. being the paradigm subjects of predication and bearers of properties;
4. being, at least for the more ordinary kinds of substance, the subjects of change;
5. being typified by those things we normally classify as objects, or kinds of objects;
6. being typified by kinds of stuff.

We shall see later that the Kantian tradition adds a seventh mark of substance:

7. substances are those enduring particulars that give unity to our spatio-temporal framework, and the individuation and re-identification of which enables us to locate ourselves in that framework. (It should be remarked in passing that at least one major expositor of Aristotle (Irwin: 1988, especially chs 1, 9, 10) attributes a very similar intention to Aristotle himself.) [5]

The philosophical concept of "substance" often gets confused so I must hasten to add that this term doesn't presuppose dualism as it could very well be that reality only consists of one kind of substance; a materialist would (should?) take that to be true. (Technically, there could other kinds of substances if other monisms are true like idealism, [6] or neutral monism, [7] but I consider those options irrelevant to the debate.) I am also not talking about substance in terms of chemistry.

Dualism - in the philosophy of mind, dualism is the theory that the mental and the physical — or mind and body or mind and brain — are, in some sense, radically different kinds of thing. [8]

==========
Rules
==========

Preliminary Round:

1st "Round" - is for assent, questions, introductions, clarifications, definitions, worries about how I framed the debate and things of that nature. NO ARGUMENTS, PLEASE!

Debate Rounds:

2nd Round - is where both I and my opponent will present our respective case(s) for our respective metaphysical theory.

3rd and 4th rounds - are where the real fun begins and we get to attack each others' positions and defend our positions from attacks.

I don't really expect for this debate to devolve into semantics, but, just for posterity's sake, no semantics!

P.S. Sorry for the cheesy debate title but I couldn't resist - it's just so perfect for the debate topic. :)

P.P.S. I thank my worthy opponent for agreeing to debate with me. I'm sure this will be a good one.

==========
Sources
==========

[1] http://plato.stanford.edu...
[2] http://dictionary.reference.com...
[3] http://dictionary.reference.com...
[4] http://plato.stanford.edu...
[5] http://plato.stanford.edu...
[6] http://www.iep.utm.edu...
[7] http://plato.stanford.edu...
[8] http://plato.stanford.edu...
TheSkeptic

Con

I thank pop for challenging me to this debate - I was interested in debating him again stemming from our first enjoyable one, so hopefully this one will turn out even better.

I am fine with my opponent's terms and definitions, and affirm that my opponent will be arguing for substance dualism. On the other hand, as per my opponent's request I will pronounce my profession for a physicalist position: functionalism. "Functionalism in the philosophy of mind is the doctrine that what makes something a mental state of a particular type does not depend on its internal constitution, but rather on the way it functions, or the role it plays, in the system of which it is a part[1]."

Before I end, I want to note one worry I have about the length of this debate topic. It seems that debating about substance dualism and functionalism can't be adequately captured in a few rounds (let alone a debate on just one of these topics). I'm not sure what my opponent will do, but I will attempt to structure my rounds to simultaneously defend functionalism while attacking substance dualism.

---References---
1. http://plato.stanford.edu...
Debate Round No. 1
popculturepooka

Pro

Just a quick note: I use the terms physicalism and materialism interchangeably like many philosophers do.

I'm going to stick with one argument as I want the space to explain it. This argument has it's roots in Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas who gave a version of it to try to prove the existence of a soul/immaterial intellect but has been given a modern twist by the philosopher James Ross. [1]

I will present the argument in syllogistic form and then go on to defend each premise.

==========
Argument from Indeterminacy of the Physical
==========

(1) Some thoughts have determinate content. In particular thoughts that involve formal reasoning (i.e. mathematical and logical reasoning).
(2) Physical process or function among physical processes are indeterminate with respect to intentional content. Any physical state is logically compatible with the existence of a multiplicity of propostionally defined intentional states, or even with the absence of propositionally defined intentional states entirely.
(3) Therefore, some thoughts are not physical processes or functions among physical processes. [2, adapted from Victor Reppert's formalization of Ross's argument]

=========
(1)
=========

This premise is, or should be, uncontroversial. Indeed, denying that at least some of our thoughts are determinate is self-refuting (I'll explain if necessary). However, I will show clear examples of the determinate content of some thoughts. The type of thought I am focused on is that of formal reasoning, that through their form, preserve truth.

In logic there are certain argument forms that determine validity. Let's take modus ponens: if p then q; p; therefore q. Example: If Ash is a Pok�mon trainer then he can catch Pok�mon; Ash is a Pok�mon trainer; therefore he can catch Pok�mon. That argument couldn't fail to be valid because I reasoned by the form of modus ponens. Now it must be the case that modus ponens be logically incompatible with any other form of reasoning or it would fail to retained it's validity in all cases - and that would be disastrous! Imagine if modus ponens only was valid *some* of the time. What would that do to all of our arguments? There'd be no way to differentiate between a valid modus ponens and an invalid "modus ponens"! That means we would have never given a logically valid argument in our entire lives. Surely, the argument form of modus ponens is determinate then.

In math, like logic, their are certain forms that will always have to work in every single case. Let's take addition: x + y = z. Example: 1 + 2 = 3. Obviously, for it to be adding it has to work for every single case you add correctly. It can't be adding if I get the right answer only some of the times. Would it really be addition if 3 {+} 12 = 15 but 45 {+} 3,000 = 5? No, of course not. Addition must determinate enough to exclude anything that is logically incompatible with it. And certainly the last problem I presented is logically incompatible with addition (more on that below).

==========
(2)
==========

I expect this premise may be less obvious then the first but if you think about it I think you will see my point. There is nothing inherent in matter that will give it one meaning (or particular determinate content) instead of another. And even if we can somehow eke meaning out of manner, the meaning would still be indeterminate. There is nothing inherent in matter that will "constrain" it to be compatible with some particular determinate.

I propose two arguments to definitely show that this is the case. If these two arguments are sound their results can be generalized to all cases of meaning and determinate content.

First, W.V.O. Quine's indeterminacy of language thesis. [3] Quine asks us to imagine an anthropologist who is trying to translate an unknown language into, say, English. She comes across native speaker of that language who she notices says the word "gavagi" every time when looking at a rabbit. Naturally, she would think gavagi means rabbit and goes on to translate as such. But, equally compatible with the natives behavior alone are other translations such as gavagi meaning an undetached part of the rabbit. Perhaps those people like a particular body part of rabbit (like the foot) but only while it is still attached to the rabbit. It is highly implausible but it is possible. The point is that there is nothing about the behavior/material facts of these people that determines whether they mean rabbit or undetached rabbit part by gavagi. It is indeterminate what they mean by it just going on how they act. Quine took this to mean that there is no interpretation of gavagi that is objectively better than any other and that choosing the "correct" translation is a only a matter of mere pragmatics. Generalizing this it leads us to the conclusion there is no fact of the matter about people's behavior that would determine what we mean by anything we ever say. Or to put it alternately there is nothing about people's physical facts that we could derive determinate content from. That's an issue to say the least.

Second, Saul Kripke's interpretation of Wittengenstein's rule-following paradox which is really just a sceptical paradox of meaning. [4] Basically, Kripke makes this point by contrasting addition and "quaddition". Addition is defined as it normally is - but what is "quaddition"? Quaddition is similar to addition except past some certain point where you have never added the numbers it diverges from addition. For the sake of simplicity imagine that you have never added any to any sum larger than 57.

The form of quaddition is this:

x {+} y = x + y if x, y < 57
x {+} y = 5 otherwise

With addition the answer to 57 +1 would be 58. But if you quadded 57 {+} 1 what would be the answer? 5, of course. Now imagine I asked: "What fact about you determines whether or not you are adding or quadding?" You can't appeal to when you have added in the past because I can easily just say when you thought you were adding you were really quadding. This seems to show that there is no fact of the matter about what you meant when you said you were adding as you might well have been quadding the whole time and not known it. But if that is a problem for adding then it can be generalized to be made a problem for all meaning as there is nothing about the physical facts that determine meaning at all. Surely, one can see the problem with accepting this conclusion? It leads to radical meaning skepticism.

If we accept both of these arguments it it would seem that all of our thoughts are indeterminate.

==========
(3)
==========

But, wait! If it has been established that some thoughts have determinate content and that matter literally *can't* have determinate content - i.e. it's indeterminate - then matter, in principle, cannot even be capable of thought. It's impossible for thoughts to be thought without a thinker so we need to look elsewhere for what is responsible for thought. The only answer seems to be that there is an immaterial thinker, a substance, that thinks these thoughts.

I think this argument supports my advocacy of substance dualism while simultaneously attacking physicalist functionalism.

I turn it over to TheSkeptic.

==========
Sources
==========

[1] http://www.nd.edu...
[2] Victor Reppert, "The Argument from Reason", in William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland, The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2009) pg 379
[3] "Translation and Meaning", W.V.O. Quine, Word and Object (Cambridge,MA:The MIT Press, 1960) pgs 29 -34
[4] "The Wittgensteinian Paradox", in Saul Kripke, Wittegenstein on Rules and Private Language: An Elementary Exposition (Harvard University Press; Reprint, 1984) pgs 7 - 55
TheSkeptic

Con

I applaud my opponent for his intricate round - I'm itching to refute his arguments, but I realize that the 2nd round is designated for arguments in favor of our favored theory of mind. As stated before, I will be defending a physicalist functionalist theory of the mind (I prefer physicalism over materialism as it means ultimately the ontology of any being is described under physics).

====================
Argument for physicalism
====================

Before I can even begin to argue for functionalism, and either of it's major variations, I will first solidify my metaphysical foundation. The argument from methodological naturalism is simple, and I will use this instead of the more commonly referred argument for physicalism, the argument from causal closure. The argument from methodological naturalism is as follows:

P1. It is rational to inform one's metaphysical beliefs based on the methods and results of natural science.
P2. The methods and results of natural science infer that physicalism is the probable metaphysical world view.
.: It is likely that physicalism is true.

A simple argument, and yet already at face value one would be hesitant to object to either of the two premises. I'll leave it to my opponent to either accept this argument and use his mentioned Argument from Indeterminacy of the Physical as his ticket out, or refute my argument in whatever way.

====================
Argument for functionalism
====================

Defense of functionalism usually take the form of criticizing other competing monist theories (behaviorism and identity theory), or replying to common criticisms that functionalism entails too many systems to be labelled as having mental states (Chinese room argument, philosophical zombies, etc.). Obviously, my opponent does neither of these. So my plan is to first reject the other two popular monist theories of the mind, then have functionalism in the placeholder of the most likely theory given our understanding regarding the mind and of related concepts such as multiple realizability, supervenience, etc. Of course, a glaring objection is my opponent's dualism -- I will address this next round.

So first, the crushing objection supplied by Putnam against behaviorism[2]:

P1. If behaviorism is true, it is not possible for there to be a perfect actor or doppelg�nger who behaves just like me but has different mental states or none at all.
P2. But it is possible for there to be a perfect actor or doppelg�nger who behaves just like me but has different mental states or none at all.
.: Therefore, behaviorism is not true. (by modus tollens)

On the other hand, a serious logical objection to identity theory follows:

"...the physical-chemical state in question must be a possible state of a mammalian brain, a reptilian brain, a mollusc's brain (octopuses are mollusca, and certainly feel pain), etc. At the same time, it must not be a possible (physically possible) state of the brain of any physically possible creature that cannot feel pain. Even if such a state can be found, it must be nomologically certain that it will also be a state of the brain of any extraterrestrial life that may be found that will be capable of feeling pain before we can even entertain the supposition that it may be pain[2]."

This is inextricably linked to the concept of multiple realizability - whereas identity theory can't account for several species of animals (who happen to have distinctly different mental processes) who feel the same type of mental states such as pain, functionalist theories can. Identity theory demands an explicit one-to-one relation, whereas functionalism is much more liberal.

---References---
1. http://plato.stanford.edu...
2. http://www.iep.utm.edu...
3. http://w3.uniroma1.it...
Debate Round No. 2
popculturepooka

Pro

Thankyou to TheSkeptic for his well-thought out round. I apologize beforehand if this round seems lackluster; I have very little time to type it up. I also want to keep my criticism short so Con has space to defend his arguments and attack mine.

I have 2 points of attack:

=========
Defining physicalism
=========

My opponent subscribes to metaphysical physicalism where physcialism is the doctrine that whatever exists can be, in principle, described by the natural science of physics. There is a well-known problem with this method of defining physicalism - it is called Hempel's dilemma. [1] Boiled down, the dilemma states that defining physicalism this way in reference to physics is highly problematic because if you define physicalism in terms of modern physics then that comes to close to an outright refutation of physicalism. Can anyone in their right mind think that modern physics is complete and finished? We don't even know how to reconcile General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics yet! I think the answer is a resounding "no". That is the first horn of the dilemma. But the second horn of the dilemma is just as bad! It states that if the physcalist defines physicalism in terms of some future ideal, completed physics then no one knows what what might end up being included in science. For all we know in some ideal physics immaterial, mental things are included in the onotology. This would render physicalism so trivial one would wonder why one would want to a physicalist. One can't very well make an argument for physicalism if no one knows what exactly it is!

==========
Non-reductive Physicalism --> Epiphenomenalism
==========

Even accepting that a good definition of physicalism can be had there is a looming, difficult problem for Con's version of physicalism. Con's functionalist account of the mind entails non-reductive physicalism. That is the thesis that while mental states are physical they cannot be reduced to physical properties. [2]

The issues with this position are numbered below:

-----
Mental causation
-----

Non-reductive physicalism seems to leave us in the position where, combined with the physicalist supposition of causal closure of the physical world, [3] our mental states never cause anything. This is radically counter-intuitive and some would say incoherent. Because, first of all, physicalism is usually adopted because of the supposed problems that substance dualism has with mental causation - how can a non-physical thing *cause* an action in a physical thing? But it turns out that physicalism has an even worse problem with mental causation. Here I drawn upon Jaegwon Kim's argument against all forms of non-reductive physicalisms.

His main argument is this:

"The problem of causal exclusion.

Consider a case in which a mental event m of mental type M causes a physical event p. (Recall that lower-case letters represent events, upper-case letters represent types or properties.)

1. p has a complete physical cause c. (causal closure of the physical)
2. c causes its effect by virtue of its physical type C.
3. Even if m = c, M ≠ C. (This follows from nonreductionist physicalism, e.g. functionalism. For an identity theorist, of course, M = C.)
Therefore,
m does not cause p by virtue of its mental type M." [4]

The reasoning behind this contention is like this. Some physical event has a physical cause and only a physical cause
This physical cause only causes things because it is something physical and with respect to it's specific causal powers and physcial properites. EVEN IF we think that some particualr mental event is identical with some particular physical cause, non-reductive physicalism holds that mental properties are not reducible to physical properties. So then we realize that that particular mental event does not cause any physical event by virtue of it's content. What this means is that if we accept non-reductive physicalism then no mental properties ever causes physical events. Think about how radical that is - what it is saying is the fact that you are in pain from putting your hand on the stove doesn't CAUSE you to withdraw your hand from the stove. In fact it would mean that you couldn't even so much as talk about your mental states! For if your beliefs – including your belief that you are in pain – are physical states of your brain, and mental properties can have no effect whatsoever on anything physical, then whether or not you are really in pain has nothing to do with whether you you are in pain. That seems patently absurd!

From this argument we can conclude that non-reductive physcialism leads us to epiphenomenalism. [5] This should be an unacceptable consequence for any philosophy of mind.

I now turn it over to Con. I apologize in advance for any unclear things. I typed this in about 30 minutes.

==========
Sources
==========

[1] http://plato.stanford.edu...
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[4] http://www.trinity.edu...
[5] http://plato.stanford.edu...
TheSkeptic

Con

I thank my opponent for his informed argument, and I realize that he's running late on time due to personal reasons. He asked me to submit my argument as late as possible, though there's no need to ask :P. Anyway, in this round I am addressing two of his arguments against functionalism: Hempel's dilemma (in reference to physicalist functionalism) and Kim's argument concerning mental causation.

A problem occurs though: saving enough character limits. While I will probably have enough character limits to respond to both of my opponent's argument, I remind my opponent of the arguments I made in my previous round (for functionalism) and would additionally have to reply to his initial argument for dualism (indeterminacy of the physical). Obviously, doing all these things with 8,000 characters is extremely difficult if I want to produce an effective rebuttal. I will do my best to integrate my response to my opponent's last round and a defense of my initial arguments -- however, I fear I won't have much space to respond to the argument from indeterminacy, meaning this round I won't respond to it. Perhaps I will in my last round, but as it is there are simply not enough characters.

====================
Hempel's Dilemma
====================

A simple response to this dilemma is to deny it's full effect. Perhaps Hepel is true in pointing out the vagueness of defining what is physical in relation to a certain step in development of physics. However, simply because it's difficult to explain the concept doesn't deny that we have no substantial understanding of said concept. An analogy can be made with knowledge; philosophers lately have their work cut out for them due to the introduction of Gettier's problem, which promptly questions the constituents of the concept of knowledge. However, despite the problem inherent in asking what constitutes knowledge, this doesn't mean we have no understanding of knowledge - rather, we are just incomplete in our understanding.

In the same sense, physicalism tells us what we DO know exists - all that is detailed under physics. Does this mean that anything not described by physics doesn't exist? No, of course there is still the possibility of souls and what not. However, at the same time there exists NO evidence for their existence either. There is a distinction to be made between lack of evidence and evidence against. and even though we don't have the latter (unless said conception of soul is ludicrous to the point of having contradictory parts) we can still put them on a shelf of epistemological neutrality.

Furthermore, and in conjunction with my argument for physicalism in the earlier round, we know that the scientific method and other related methodologies are highly effective in figuring out what exists. While there are varying conceptions of paradigms of what is a physical theory (common sense physics, Newtonian quantum, etc.), we can refer to a common set of theoretical constructs between all of them. We can reserve and highlight the appropriate methodologies; "in short, we might say that the notion of a physical theory is a Wittgensteinian family resemblance concept, and this should be enough to answer the question of how to understand physical theory[1]."

====================
Non-reductive Physicalism
====================

As my opponent has pointed out, most if not all functionalists identity with non-reductive physicalism. This means that we take a holistic approach with characterizing mental states - this should be clear with the commonly related concepts of supervenience and multiple realizability.

My opponent utilizes Kim's argument that mental events are causally inert, or inefficacious. Kim believes that if mental causation is possible, dualism must be true. He draws this conclusion from the idea that higher level non-reducible properties causally effect lower levels, but are NOT causally effected by the lower-levels themselves.Or in other words, "upward determination excludes downward causation[2]." Kim says that if such a thing happens, then it would be a case of overdetermination[3], a term in philosophy of action referring to the situations in which multiple causes sufficiently apply to the same corresponding event. A classic example of this is the firing squad: if all members of a firing squad shoot and kill the prisoner, can we say that one of the members killed said prisoner? Refer to this graph per Kim's argument[4].

If we accept the exclusion principle and the concept of supervenience, then there seems to be a case of a mental event be causally inert. How can this be accounted for? Well, I will bring up two responses relating to the idea of downward causation:

On one hand, it can easily be stated that there are examples of macrophysical effects caused by macrophysical causes, and at the same times these macrophysical causes have microphysical effects. The earlier paper I referenced[3], includes an example of tectonic plates: "The fact that this particular silica molecule has been uplifted some tens of kilometers from deep within the crust is caused by the two tectonic plates colliding. And while these tectonic plates are constituted by microphysical entities, they cannot be identified with them. If two molecules with in a tectonic place were rearranged, then we would have one and the same tectonic plate."

The other reply would be to deny that non-reductive physicalism entails that mental properties have irreducible causal powers. Introduced are two important terms, Alexander's dictum and Causal individuation. The former claims "If A is a real property, then A has causal power" whereas the latter claims "If A is an irreducible property, then A has irreducible causal power[5]." The problem is that Kim conflates the two when claims that mental properties being irreducible entails for them to have irreducible causal powers -- this would be validated IF argued via Causal Individuation, not Alexander's dictum. For the functionalist, whereas mental properties are considered irreducible from the physical this is so because they are multiply realizable.

There is a jump from the claim that because mental properties are irreducible, Causal Individuation must apply.

---References---
1. http://plato.stanford.edu...
2. http://www.uvm.edu...
3. http://en.wikipedia.org...
4. http://en.wikipedia.org...
5. http://www.philosophy.ed.ac.uk...
Debate Round No. 3
popculturepooka

Pro

Thanks to my opponent for a stimulating debate and I fully understand the circumstances of him not having the space to attack my argument; we will definitely have to continue this debate where he has an opportunity to attack my argument. I did not realize (silly me) how involved and detailed this debate would become. My apologies to my opponent and the readers.

Jumping straight to my rebuttals:

==========
Hempel's Dilemma
==========

Here, I think Con misses the full force of what choices the dilemma forces the physicalist to make; either one is an extremely unattractive choice (at least to me standing over in the dualist cam) and I do not think Con has successfully offered a way to escape the dilemma. Remember: on the first horn of the dilemma there is the option for the physicalist to define physicalism in terms of contemporary physics - but no one in their right mind what say that contemporary physics is at all finished and so physicalism would not have a complete ontology. Imagine if materialist ("physicalists") philosophers one hundred years ago had decided to define physicalism as only those things that are countenanced by their own modern physics were the only things that existed. Fast forward one hundred and take a look at present day modern physics which is a vastly different landscape. This would would serve as a refutation of their physicalism. Now what principled reason could one give to deny that it is highly likely that this will happen again and again and again in the future while holding on to the definition of physicalism as only things that can be described by physics existing? On the send horn we have the option that the physicalist might take where they define physicalism in terms of whatever future, ideal, complete, finished physics looks like. That's all well and good but, naturally, we have no idea what that will look like. For we all we know immaterial substances might end up being described by "physics". If "physics" is as malleable as to study non-physical mental properties or substances in the future it couldn't even properly be called physics for one and it would basically make "physicalism" be logically compatible with dualism (if not the same thing) for two. Physicalism is supposed to be the denial of substance dualism, and what's more, is supposed to be logically incompatible with substance dualism. That would render it trivial at best or false at worst.

This dilemma isn't just about the problem of incomplete understanding of what is to be properly understood as something being physical. It's a bit hard to exclude substance dualism if no one knows precisely what physicalism is supposed to be.

I'd also like to quibble a bit with this:

"Does this mean that anything not described by physics doesn't exist? No, of course there is still the possibility of souls and what not. However, at the same time there exists NO evidence for their existence either."

It seems to me to be that by "evidence" Con means scientific evidence. But there are more kinds of evidence then scientific evidence. For example, I tend to find some arguments for an immaterial mind or soul convincing and I count that as evidence of their existence. That Con doesn't find these arguments convincing is not the same as there being no evidence of souls.

=========
Non-Reductive Physicalism
=========

My opponent's main criticism of Kim's argument seems to be Kim's alleged conflation of Causal individuation with Alexander's dictum. My reply would be first to ask Con if he believes that mental properties have any causal powers at all? It seems that he does with his explication of how downward causation could possibly work between the mental and the physical with an apt example of the movement of tectonic plates. If he doesn't believe that, again, that would entail epiphenomenalism which is pretty much a reductio ad absurdum of any theory in philosophy of mind. So I think it reasonable to think that Con does think that mental properties do have causal power. The problem is that causal powers are inherently irreducible. What this means is that causal powers aren't capable of being reduced to anything else or analyzed in non-causal terms nor can they be reduced to something that is more basic. A causal power would be something like a particular property being instantiated and when it is the cause then that property is one of the factors that make the effect instantiate the way it does. This would certainly seem to be the case when certain mental properties are instantiated like that of "being in pain". That seems to cause me withdrawing my finger from where it was jammed in the car door moment before. And a non-reductive physicalist would, just like me, assert that the mental property of "being in pain" is irreducible or not reducible to any particular physical system. If the non-reductive physicalist affirms all of this I can't see what is stopping the non-reductive physicalist from having to use the Causal individuation principle. If they have to use the Causal individuation principle then Kim's argument from mental causation remains and emerges from the battle unscathed and more importantly remains as a very serious objection to all forms of non-reductive physicalisms.

Thanks for reading and vote for you feel had the best arguments.
TheSkeptic

Con

I thank my opponent for understanding the plight of our restricted character limits. Hopefully we can start suitable continuations of this debate, perhaps to the point of focusing on many sharply specific issues.

====================
Hempel's Dilemma
====================

"Now what principled reason could one give to deny that it is highly likely that this will happen again and again and again in the future while holding on to the definition of physicalism as only things that can be described by physics existing?"

I'll go off this quote to begin: my reply specifically noted that there is a distinct fuzziness in physicalism. At my current knowledge concerning physicalism, I am inclined to agree that there is no fundamental principle in believing that only the physical exists (unless one creates an overtly adaptive definition of physical, which I am not keen towards doing). Is this a problem? Perhaps, if I was an ardent physicalist who denies dualism based on such convictions...but I'm not.

I affirm that I know the physical exists due to scientific principles (indeed, whatever science discovers IS considered to be physical). However, I also agree that this does not deny the existence of souls and what not - as I stated in my previous round, we simply put them on a neutral epistemological shelf. Of course, if you introduce philosophical argument in their favor then this would be a compelling reason (but I have yet to see any convincing arguments :P). I can't stress again that while there is no evidence against dualism, there has yet to be solid evidence in favor of it as well. I don't need to debunk every possible threat against physicalism or current scientific knowledge (fairies, souls, ghosts, etc.), the burden of proof isn't on me.

Continuing in the same vein, take into consideration the understated historical fact that most trends of thoughts change drastically. It could be that in a few centuries functionalism has either been largely abandoned or vastly improved on, whereas dualism is an ancient philosophical tradition learned for scholarly/historical purposes. If one were to trace the trend in history, MANY philosophical beliefs and systems have been abandoned or improved significantly. This is a parallel to the problem my opponent presents towards physicalism, and I would assume he is reserved about my example. The reason would be that whereas we realize there is a distinct probability that our beliefs can turned out wrong (or not 100% correct), this is to the best of our knowledge anyway. Apply that analogy to physicalism.

====================
Non-reductive Physicalism
====================

Refer to the article I cited in my previous round: http://www.philosophy.ed.ac.uk...

We can regiment this line of thought as follows:
(1) Mental properties are real (Mental realism)
(2) So, mental properties have causal powers (Alexander's Dictum)
(3) But mental properties are irreducible properties (Property Dualism)
(4) So, mental properties have irreducible causal powers (Alexander's Dictum)

The problem is that (Alexander's Dictum) does not license the step from (3) to (4); only (Causal Individuation) would validate this move. All the dictum says is that to be a real property is to have causal power, regardless of whether that property or its causal power is reducible or not. It is one thing to say that to be a real property is to confer causal power on its instances, another thing to say that to be a real property is to confer irreducible causal power on its instances. The nonreductive physicalist will accept the former, but need not agree to the latter.

^That entire group of text was cited from said article, pg. 13. I did so since it succinctly bolstered my point about a distinction to be made between Alexander's Dictum and Causal Individuation. Note that it is one thing to say real property -> causal power, and another to say irreducible property -> irreducible causal power.

"The problem is that causal powers are inherently irreducible. What this means is that causal powers aren't capable of being reduced to anything else or analyzed in non-causal terms nor can they be reduced to something that is more basic."

I think your characterization is misguided; an irreducible causal power would be a causal power that is not reducible to lower levels. If A supervenes upon B (B being the distinct base property), and A has a causal power that B can't instantiate, then A has irreducible causal power. In other words, if A can cause something that B can't (thus can't be reduced to), A has irreducible causal power. This would be a case of emergence. However, as noted before the functionalist is not bound to this.
Debate Round No. 4
42 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by popculturepooka 3 years ago
popculturepooka
Yeah, it did cut very short. I don't know what I was thinking by proposing that we debate two subjects in limited, timed character rounds like this. :/
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 3 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
Well presented on both sides :

"It seems that debating about substance dualism and functionalism can't be adequately captured in a few rounds (let alone a debate on just one of these topics)."

This seemed glaringly so, the debate seemed to end just as it was starting and it felt restricted due to space limitations.
Posted by Anacharsis 4 years ago
Anacharsis
Just so my failure to comment further on this won't be taken as indicating any admission of superiority to PCPs arguments, I'll note that I've informally suggested we might debate the matter in a more rigorous way. So, I'm reserving comments til that opportunity may arise.
Posted by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
Your arguments seem to assign no function to the brain at all or at least not to account for any of the observed activities in the brain that are known to correlate highly with certain mental tasks.

False. I'm saying thought is not physical; I'm not saying that thought cannot have a physical medium or physical realization.

So, while we know for certain that certain mental tasks are highly correlated with specific activity in specific physical parts of the body, we also know that quadding doesn't exist.

We don't know quadding exists. That's the point. What physical fact of human beings can you point to that is adding and but excludes quadding?

"We don't say that my brain is associating neural pathways over this debate because it is of a completely different scale than what we normally focus on with our senses, but it is still a part of what is happening. I also wouldn't say that the muscle fibers of my fingers are contracting and expanding about what you've said even though it's a verifiable part of me typing."

Bad analogy. The action of typing is a physical activity through and through. What I'm arguing is that thought has properties that no physical processes of function of processes has.

It's not just that it's of a scope that we normally don't focus on - it's that it is *literally* incoherent to say that my BRAIN is literally about this debate. My brain is a physical object. Physical objects are non-intentional and indeterminate. Physical objects can't be about anything. Thought can. So, thought is not physical.
Posted by Anacharsis 4 years ago
Anacharsis
But we do know that we can measure the activity of the synapses of your brain and that the activity of the different areas of the brain is different when you are doing different activities. Your arguments seem to assign no function to the brain at all or at least not to account for any of the observed activities in the brain that are known to correlate highly with certain mental tasks. So, while we know for certain that certain mental tasks are highly correlated with specific activity in specific physical parts of the body, we also know that quadding doesn't exist.

We don't say that my brain is associating neural pathways over this debate because it is of a completely different scale than what we normally focus on with our senses, but it is still a part of what is happening. I also wouldn't say that the muscle fibers of my fingers are contracting and expanding about what you've said even though it's a verifiable part of me typing.
Posted by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
"Theoretically, we could simply measure the physical state and with sufficient knowledge of the laws of the physical matter involved determine the intentional content."

The whole point of the argument is to show definitively that this isn't the case. Take Kripke's quus argument - what fact of the matter about a person's physical constitution could ever determine that they really were addng instead of quadding? Having better and better knowledge of the laws of physical matter will do nothing to alleviate this problem because it's a conceptual problem. It's not a matter of simply being ignorant of how physical matter can contain intentional conent - it's by analyzing the very concept of the physical or matter one concludes it is, in principle, metaphysically impossible for mere matter or physical facts to contain intentional content. It doesn't make sense to say my brain/chemical processes and neuronal synapses firing in my bran is/are currently about this debate but it does make sense to say I am currently thinking about this debate.
Posted by Anacharsis 4 years ago
Anacharsis
2) "Pro's Argument from Indeterminacy of the Physical fails in my opinion"

Reason?

(2) Physical process or function among physical processes are indeterminate with respect to intentional content. Any physical state is logically compatible with the existence of a multiplicity of propostionally defined intentional states, or even with the absence of propositionally defined intentional states entirely.

It seems to me that from some physicalist views, though probably not functionalist, physical processes would not be considered indeterminate with respect to intentional content. Theoretically, we could simply measure the physical state and with sufficient knowledge of the laws of the physical matter involved determine the intentional content.

Now, I'll have note that I don't believe in the physicalis it interpretation, but it's closer than substance dualism. If I had to put a label on my concept just to convey something useful about it quickly, I might call it dialectical monism. So, while all dualisms are erroneous perceptions, within the appearance of dualism things seem to be pretty well explained by a physicalist approach.

While most Sikhs would agree with you on the existence of something that might be called the "soul" or a spiritual element, it would be from a different basis. I go a bit further and believe that there is no reason to wait until after death to be merged in Oneness. If I can be merged in it right now, then the perception of a soul disappears. The perception of the existence of an individual soul stems in any case from the desire of the ego to believe in some kind of individual persistence.
Posted by J.Kenyon 4 years ago
J.Kenyon
K, I've read it. I spent a while thinking about the argument from indeterminacy of the physical, I think I get it. I'll be ready to vote soon.
Posted by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
"1) http://www.philosophy.ed.ac.uk...;

http://www.indiana.edu...

2) "Pro's Argument from Indeterminacy of the Physical fails in my opinion"

Reason?
Posted by TheSkeptic 4 years ago
TheSkeptic
But thanks for the vote!
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Cliff.Stamp
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