That the mind is a purely physical substance.
That the mind is a purely physical substance, existing in the brain and that all dualist accounts supposing the existence of a non-physical soul are false.
1. A forfeit or concession is not allowed.
2. No semantics, trolling, or lawyering.
3. All arguments and sources must be visible inside this debate.
4. Debate resolution, definitions, rules, and structure cannot be changed without asking in the comments before you post your round 1 argument. Debate resolution, definitions, rules, and structure cannot be changed in the middle of the debate.
Voters, in the case of the breaking of any of these rules by either debater, all seven points in voting should be given to the other person.
Round 1: Introduction by pro and model by both pro and con
Round 2: Presentation of arguments by both pro and con
Round 3: Rebuttal by both pro and con
Round 4: Defence by both pro and con as well as conclusion.
Model: Throughout the debate I shall put forward the following two arguments:
1. The Argument from Causal Closure
2. The Argument from Methodological Naturalism
Thank you for coming to tonight's debate. I hope you will find it interesting and thought-provoking.
Although Pro didn't stipulate whether the burden of proof would be shared or whether it would be solely on him, I am assuming, based on the debate structure he laid out, that he intended us to have a shared burden of proof. So rather than simply poke holes in his arguments, I will make arguments of my own for substance dualism, which is roughly the view that humans have both a physical and a non-physical aspedt to the nature, these two aspects being two distinct substances usually designated the body and the soul.
I agree to all the rules Pro spelled out.
If I understand Pro correctly, we are each to defend our respective positions in the opening rounds. That means that in my opening, I will not be attempting to repond to his opening. I will just give arguments for substance dualism. Then, in the following round, he will respond to my opening, and I will respond to his. Then, in the closing, we will each try to defend our own positions against the attacks of the other, then give a closing.
The arguments I actually use will depend on how much room I have. I won't know for sure until I've written it up. But here are a list of the arguments I plan to choose from.
1. The argument from the indiscernibility of identicals.
2. The argument from intentional action.
3. The argument from from reason.
4. The argument from continuity of personal identity through change.
5. The evolutionary argument against naturalism.
Good luck, 113086, and may the odds be ever in your favor.
1) The Argument from Causal Closure
Axiom - Every caused event has a physical cause.
P1 - Mental events cause physical events.
By observing our behaviours in the physical world, we see that this premise appears to be true. A mental event such as an emotion, thought or desire clearly leads people to act upon these mental events. The classic example of this is that my mental desire to lift my arm causes me to physically lift my arm. One might object to this premise and adopt a position known as epiphenomalism. This however appears rather troubling, if for instance someone whom I am talking to is claiming to be experiencing the mental event of a pain or of a pleasure, it seems that I do not have any reason to believe this to be so, given that said person's pleasure or pain is not the cause of their claim. Evolutionarily speaking, it seems absurd that we would evolve mental at all, if they are not the cause of our physical events which lead our survival and reproduction. This also leads to significant problems regarding the existence of other minds - the main reason that we believe a person to be in pain while bleeding or crying is because we are in pain when bleeding or crying, but this does not seem reasonable unless we are to suppose that these physical events are caused by the mental event of pain - epiphenomalism denies this.
P2 - That mental events supervene upon physical events
Commonly formulated as "If an event e causes event e*, then there is no event e# such that e# is non-supervenient on e and e# causes e*.", the exclusion principle is perhaps better illustrated by example. Take for instance the previous example that if I desire to lift to my arm, and this causes me to lift my arm, then there are no events that is non-supervenient (ie. dependant upon) to the desire to lift my arm that also causes me to lift my arm. One might try to object to the exclusion principle by claiming that something can be overdependant, for instance, if more than one gunman shoots down the same person, then it would appear that in this case the exclusion principle is false. What this fails to do is provide an explanation of how such exceptions could be so widespread. Surely we are not claim that every single mental-pysical interaction throughout the history of such interaction has been an instance of overdependance.
C Physicalism is true
This follows, given it has been shown that mental events supervene on the physical.
2) The Argument from Methodological Naturalism
Axiom - It is rational to base our metaphysical beliefs upon the methods of natural science.
P1 - The methods of science lead to a physicalist metaphysical system.
That this is true should be obvious. Science has, time and time again, given naturalistic and non-teleological explanations for previously inexplicable phenomena. Take for instance the intricate design of the snowflake, or the astonishing and time-tested order of the beautiful rainbow - all of these were once regarded as proofs that their origin must be non-naturalistic, and the product of divine order. Science however cannot make this assumption, it bases itself upon the fundamental idea that we must try to come up with physicalist explanations that are in accordance with the laws of nature. Given the huge body of evidence for the physical, and the highly contentious body of evidence for the non-physical, we must therefore, as per Occam's razor, go for the physicalist explanation, as this is most strongly in accordance with our other experiences and observations.
C It is rational to be a physicalist
This follows from the first two premises.
1 - http://plato.stanford.edu...
Friends, acquaintances, total strangers, lend me your eyes. I come here to persuade you that people are souls, not just that they have them. Here are my arguments in no particular order:
But all the causation happens between the physical brain states. The mind is passive. It's just an emergent property that supervenes on the brain. It doesn't cause anything.
However, we have immediate and direct access to our own mental states, so we know that we are able to act out of desires and motives. That means our mental states have causal influence over our brains. But that is only possible if our minds are substances distinct from the brain. So the fact that we can act intentionally shows that we are immaterial souls.
IV. The argument from reason
1. If we are not immaterial souls distinct from the brain, then our beliefs cannot be rational.
If we are not immaterial souls, then every mental state we have is the direct result of a physical state in our brains. Our brains are just physical objects that obey the laws of chemistry and physics, so all of our beliefs are arrived at by blind mechanistic causes. That means our beliefs are not rational because the only way they can be rational is if they are the consequent of good grounds and sound reasoning. If our beliefs happen to be true, that is just luck because if our beliefs are caused by blind mechanistic processes in the brain, then they would result whether there were good grounds for them or not.
This argument is especially powerful because it shows that any denial of an immaterial soul is self-refuting. By denying the existence of an immaterial soul, you'd be denying the necessary preconditions for rational thought which, in turn, would make your denial irrational.
Pro could bite the bullet and deny my second premise, but the problem is that if he does, he will undermine his own case at the same time. He'd essentially be admitting that even his own belief in materialism is not rational.
Re: Continuity of Identity Through Change
By bringing up this argument, Philocristos has brought up a huge worthy discussion on its own - Personal Identity Theory. I am going to endorse a view known as the Psychological Approach. To start with let's look at the nature of a person and what distinguishes personal identity from any other Ontology - in other words, why can't Plato just it is something that participates the form of person? Or why can't Aristotle simply make reference to four causes? The key difference to note here is that, immaterial or not, a person has something that an ordinary object does not - consciousness. Philocristos has argued that physcialism implies that one subscribes to a view that holds the body to be key to Personal Identity, and proceeded to show problems with this by giving a twist on the classis "Ship of Theseus" thought experiment. What this thought experiment fails to understand in this case however, is the special features that apply to Personal Identity Theory over regular Ontology - specifically, consciousness.
Consider the case of recent events inthe Spider-Man comics, given that perhaps not everyone is as nerdy as I am suppose I should explain. Doctor Octopus had a terminal illness, and not wanting to die, he switched consciousness with Spider-Man, leaving Parker's consciousness to die (at least for the moment) in the body of one of his greatest foes. In this example, Parker and Ock have not switched brains, but merely consciousness (characters in the Marvel universe do have souls) - the key question that we wish to answer is who survived, and who died. Looking at the reaction to the comic, it seems clear that there is no debate about how survived and who died - Pete died, Ock lived. The reason we say this is because Doctor Octopus in Peter Parker's body has the consciousness, and psychology of Doctor Octopus. This does not prent a challenge to physicalism however, because the identity of a person, regardless of whether or not that person is physical, can still be rooted in consciousness, rather than in the brain.
To further illustrate the weakness of the soul theory of personal identity, consider a thought experiment by John Locke - imagine, that when you went to sleep last night, God replaced your soul. This soul is a completely new soul, but has the same memories, beliefs and abilities as the old soul. Consider this taken even further, that for every second which passes your life, God replaces your old soul with a new one, each with the same memories, beliefs and abilities as the old one. Here we have the soul theory, advocating that it is possible that we can not even be the person we were one second ago. Can we seriously uphold this? Common sense says no, the soul theory says yes.
Re: The indiscernability of identicals
Consider the following premises.
P1 - If one were to have a perfect understanding of the brain, then so too would one have a perfect understanding of the mind.
I will not support this further, it follows from the Physcialist viewpoint.
P2 - Different language can be used to describe the same thing, and the usage of the different language will affect linguistic consequences.
I can describe Venus as either the morning star, or the evening star - but they are both Venus. Still, I can say things about the morning star that I cannot say about the evening star.
With these two premises, we can refute 1-4.
1 - In theory, the brain could be subject to first person observation, were we to have perfect knowledge of the brain. In other words, with this perfect knowledge we would understand the conscious experience of the person whose brain it is.
2 - This is clearly a linguistic difference, the mind refers to the conscious experience of the brain. Were our language different the part of the brain experiencing thought would be acknolwedged as equivalent to that thought and could therefore be about it.
3 - Yes, there is an image of a green sweater being processed through the brain as a mental state.
4 - Yes, the emotion does have a mass and chemical composition.
Point 5 is an entirely different debate (i.e. about whether or not it is possible for an immaterial substance to experience consciousness). For what it is worth, I do not think that one's mind can exist independantly of the brain or vice versa. This is a serious position and I refer you to the Philpapers survey where "Conceivable, but not metaphysically possible" was the most common response to the issue of philosophical zombies.
Re: Argument from Intentional Action
The idea that because physicalism implies that because the mind and brain are in a way the same it therefore implies that mental states cannot influence physical states is downright silly. It should be plainly obvious that a part of something can influence the thing of which it is a part (e.g. The Sun is a part of the solar system, and can influence the solar system). Just because mental states are a part of the brain does not mean that they cannot influence other parts. Remember, I have argued earlier that mental states are equivalent to the brain states to which they correspond, so problem here.
Re: The Argument from Reason
The first premise here is false. Philocristos has argued that because physicalism implies that our beliefs are the result mechanistic processes and mechanistic processes do not give rise to reason then our beliefs cannot be rational. This is a very trippy argument, but it makes a very fast leap from physics to chemistry to biology. It is clear that physical laws themselves are not rationl processes, but they do give rise to life.The important thing to note then is evolutionary theory, whatever characteristics of a lifeform are most likely to lead to its survival and reproduction will be the ones that are most likely to be passed on. I do not even think it up for discussion that a creature will be more likely to survive and reproduce if it can form rational beliefs than if it can't (e.g. When hunting it would take use of reason to decide how and whether or not we should kill a mammoth).
1 - http://philpapers.org...
I do appreciate lucidity in an opponent, so thanks to 113086 for that opening.
I. The argument from causal closure.
Philochristos asserts that my axiom is question begging, because it follows from it that physicalism is true. Of course, that is precisely the point of any argument, but oh well. Still, it would appear that many substance dualists would accept this axiom, and it seems clear that mental events are caused by physical ones (e.g. the process of conception leads to the creation of a person with consciousness). In fact, lest Philocristos revert to a non-physicalist account of the origin of the universe (e.g. God) he must accept this premise.
He then goes on to list four supposed problems with the conclusion of the argument, I shall deal with them in point form.
a. From the account of identity physicalism I have given in part three, it does follow that mental properties are subject to third person observation. Of course, as before mentioned, this could require a perfect understanding of the brain (ie. down to each particular cell), but does not deny the possibility of it in theory.
b. It is claimed that if physicalism is true, then the semantical content of our mental events must be irrelevant. This completely misses the point, consider the case of a chair, a chair is a chair because of the material, rather than immaterial, stuff that it is made out of. The semantics of the chair are derived from the physical material out of which it is made, so too is this the case with mental states such as beliefs and desires - the semantics are derived from the physical stuff out of which it is made. Finally, he states that "we should not expect evolution to have produced reliable belief-producing cognitive faculties"; this is a view towards which I can sympathise, but it is clear that on some level evolution must produce reliable belief-producing cognitive faculties. Why? Because if evolution did not produe any reliable cognitive faculties, then it is plainly absurd that we would survive and reproduce.
c. It is next asserted that supervenience fails to escape the same problems faced by epiphenomenalism. This is clearly false, given that it can and does maintain that mental events do influence other physical events - we act intentionally when the mental events in question (e.g. brain states) cause our bodies to act.
d. This is a reassertion of his Personal Identity Theory argument, and given that I have already dealt with that extensively, I refer voters to my third round post.
e. This downright contradicts most science. I am not going to spend very much time resopnding to it - but rest assured most neurological evidence (and most neurologists) points to physicalism.
II. The argument from methodological naturalism
Philocristos' statement that science does not imply physicalism is rather odd. It must of course be noted that there have historically been many things attributed to non-physical forces that now have widely accepted scientific explanations: two examples of this are the precise ordering of colours in the rainbow (which has been explained by the light spectrum), and the diversification of life (which has been explained by evolution). Science tries its very best to answer things in a physicalist way, and it has been very successful in doing so. What seems bewildering to a 15th century theologian can be widely accepted with a physicalist explanation today, and substance dualism/idealism is rapidly finding itself in a similar circumstance. Given that science has shown, time and time again, that there are physicalist explanations for what was previously thought to require a non-physicalist explanation, science continues to do so in other areas, such as the soul/no soul debate. Scientifically speaking, it would be an unreasonable leap to claim that the explanation of something is non-physical when so often we have been shown to be false in that assertion, and when there is such an overwhelming majority of things with a purely physicalist explanation.
Philocristos seems to fail to grasp the concept of induction - upon which science is founded. According to induction we make general/universal claims from an existential/specific one (e.g. I have dropped a ball from my hand 1000 times, and every single time it has fallen; so if I drop it again, it will fall again). Inductively speaking, given that so much of the universe has already been shown to be physical, it would be an astonishing claim to suppose that minds are made up of an entirely distinct substance.
Philocristos' arguments have all been shown to be faulty. Meanwhile, the argument from causal closure and the argument from methodological naturalism have both survived my opponent's rebuttal and construct a powerful case for a physicalist conception of the mind.
1 - http://www.nytimes.com...
In this round, I will defend my arguments for substance dualism against Pro's rebuttals. Then, if I have room, I'll give some kind of conclusion.
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