The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
3 Points

That the mind is a purely physical substance.

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/10/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,598 times Debate No: 31146
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (4)
Votes (1)




Full Resolution:
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.
Debate Structure:
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.

Debate structure

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.
Debate Round No. 1


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*."[1], 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 -


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:

I. Continuity of identity through change

1. If all we are is the sum of our physical parts, then we do not maintain personal identity through physical change.
2. We do maintain personal identity through physical change.
3. Therefore, we are not merely the sum of our physical parts.

Suppose there is a wooden ship, and we replace each piece of wood on the ship one at a time until there are no original pieces of wood left, and the entire ship is made of new wood. If that happened, then you would no longer have the original ship. It would be a completely different ship.

If you are not persuaded, let's press the analogy further. Let's say that we gather together the original wood that used to be part of the ship, and we assemble it into a ship that has all of the properties of the original ship before you started replacing parts. Now you've got two ships--one made entirely of new parts, and one made of all the original parts. Surely if either of these ships stand a chance of being the original, it's the one with the original parts.

If you are still not persuaded, let's tweak the thought experiment a little. Instead of replacing each piece of wood with another piece of wood, let's say we replace each piece of wood with cardboard. In the end, we'd have a ship made entirely of cardboard. By now, you should be able to see that if you replace all the parts on the ship, then you no longer have the original ship.

So it is with people. We are in a constant state of change, and within 10 to 15 years, we have a mostly new body.[1] If we were identical with our bodies (i.e. if we are our bodies), then none of us have been around for longer than 10 or 15 years. You yourself never were a baby. Even some of the memories you have were not your own. Rather, you inherited them from somebody else who had those experiences but has passed out of existence.

But to deny that we ourselves have continued to exist in spite of our physical changes is absurd, and many counter-intuitive results follow from it. It would follow that nobody should be convicted of a crime that happened more than 15 years earlier. It would follow that you were never born and that you have no parents. It would follow that your memories are not your own. It would follow that within another 15 years, you could cease to exist without dying.

Since we do maintain personal identity through physical change, it follows that we are not identical with our bodies. We are immaterial, and we animate different bodies throughout our lives.

II. The indiscernibility of identicals

According to the law of identity, everything is identical to itself. It's just the banal tautology that A is A. Then Gottfriend Leibniz came along and explained how this banal tautology could be put to practical use. If A and B are the same entity, then they should share every property in common. Whatever is true of A is true of B and vice versa. If there is anything true of one that is not true of the other, then they are not the same thing.

If the mind is the brain, or part of the brain, then the mind and the brain should have every property in common. But they don't. Here are some properties they do not have in common.

1. The brain is completely open to third person observation, but the mind is only open to first person observation.

2. A thought can be about something, but the brain isn't about anything.

3. While dreaming, a person can have a vivid image of a green sweater in their mind, but there is no image of a green sweater in their brain.

4. A part of the brain can have a certain mass and chemical composition, but the emotion associated with it (e.g. elation or grief) does not have mass or chemical composition.

5. It's possible that my mind could exist even if my brain doesn't, but it's not possible for my brain to exist even if it doesn't.

III. Argument from intentional action

1. If we are purely physical beings, then we cannot act willfully.
2. We can act willfully.
3. Therefore, we are not purely physical beings.

When we act willfully, our mental states have causal influence over our brains. For example, a desire for cake combined with a belief that there's cake in the kitchen can result in brain activity that sends signals to the appropriate muscles, causing you to walk to the kitchen to get cake.

If we are purely physical, then the brain state in each moment is causally determined by the brain state in the previous moment.


Each brain state will give rise to a mental state.





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.
2. Our beliefs can be rational.
3. Therefore, we are immaterial souls distinct from the brain.

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.


[1] "Your Amazing Regenerating Body" by Gaia Vince "Cells That Last a Lifetime" by April Holladay

Debate Round No. 2


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[1].
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 -


I do appreciate lucidity in an opponent, so thanks to 113086 for that opening.

In this round, I will only be responding to Pro's opening. I will use my conclusion to respond to his rebuttal of my opening.

I. The argument from causal closure.

Pro begins with the axiom that every caused event has a physical cause. He goes on to say that mental events cause physical events. It would follow from the axiom and this first premise that mental events are physical causes. He explains in his second premise how that is possible, namely by mental events supervening on physical events.

I completely agree with him that mental events cause physical events, which negates epiphenomenalism (epiphenomenalism is the view that physical events cause mental events, but the direction of causation does not go the other way around). However, I think his axiom begs the question against substance dualism. If substance dualism is true, then it would not be the case that every caused event has a physical cause. So Pro cannot use his axiom as a starting point lest his argument be circular.

There are a number of problems with the view that mental events are supervenient properties of physical events.

a. in every other case of a supervenient property, the property is open to third person observation. For example, when hydrogen and oxygen come together to form water, wetness emerges as a supervenient property, and it is open to third person observation. But mental properties are not open to third person observation. A scientist could give an exhaustive physical description of the brain and never make reference to mental events. Mental properties are just not physical properties.

b. If supervenient mental events cause physical events, they only do so by virtue of their syntax (i.e. their underlying physical structure) rather than their semantics (i.e. their meaning or propositional content). Mental events, such as beliefs and desires, have intentionality. That is, they are about things, and directed toward things. If the semantical content of our mental states are irrelevant to behavior, then we should not expect there to be a correlation between our intentions and our behavior. Moreover, we should not expect evolution to have produced reliable belief-producing cognitive faculties.

c. It is hard to see how the supervenient view escapes the problems of epiphenomenalism. It seems to me that epiphenomenalism would follow from the supervenient view. Each brain state from moment to moment is in strict causal relation with the previous brain state, and there doesn't seem to be any room for mental agents to act. Supervenient properties just ride on top of the physical events. The sense we have of acting intentionally would just be an illusion.

d. If the supervenient view is correct, then there is no enduring self from moment to moment. The self is just a series of mental events which are properties of physical events. There is no self that has the mental events. The mental events are just had by the brain. Since the mental events are in a constant state of change, there is no enduring self.

e. A good scientific theory is able to make accurate predictions. A chemist can predict the properties of water by knowing the properties of hydrogen and oxygen. But in spite of the wealth of knowledge we have about brains, there is nothing from which to predict mental phenomenon. We currently have no theory whatsoever that predicts minds, nor any idea how such a theory could be conceived. The fact of the matter is that there is nothing about the physical structure of the brain or any other entity that would give us any reason to expect mental events to emerge as properties.

II. The argument from methodological naturalism.

I agree with Pro's axiom that it is rational to base our metaphysical beliefs on the methods of science as long as this axiom does not mean that the methods of science are the only means by which we can arrive at rational metaphysical beliefs, and as long as it does not mean all of our metaphysical beliefs should be based on the methods of science. If the axiom merely means that scientific methods can give us true information about the world, then I wholeheartedly agree with it.

I disagree with his premise that the methods of science lead to a physicalist system. They don't. The methods of science can only tell us how the physical world operates when there are no non-physical interventions. Granted, if there were continuous non-physical interventions, then scientific methods could tell us little about the laws of nature. But interventions need not be continuous to be actual. In fact, they may be quite rare as in the case of miracles which no description of nature could predict. If they are rare, then we should expect that methodological naturalism will result in accurate information about the world.

So methodological naturalism does not lead to philosophical naturalism--the view that the physical world is all their is. Science can tell us about the regularities of nature, but it cannot tell us whether the physical world is all there is.

If substance dualism is true, then there are non-physical interventions in the brain. Substance dualism, by itself, doesn't tell us anything about whether there are non-physical interventions anywhere else in the universe, so even if the successes of science could rule out non-physical intervention everywhere else in the universe, that would still be insufficient to rule out substance dualism. The only way to rule out substance dualism would be to exhaustively map the entire causal chain in the brain over some interval of time in which mind/body interactions occur. If there are no causal gaps, then that might justify us in ruling out substance dualism. But there is no computer in the world that could process that much information, so obviously it has never been done. Therefore, the methods of science have not ruled out substance dualism.


Since both of Pro's arguments are inadequate to substantiate the resolution that "the mind is a purely physical substance," his burden of proof is unmet.

Debate Round No. 3


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 -


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.

I. Continuity of identity through change

Pro essentially agrees with the conclusion of my syllogism, that we are more than the sum of our physical parts. But he denies that the "more" must be a soul. Instead, it is merely consciousness.

In his analogy of the marvel characters switching bodies, he says it is the consciousness that determines personal identity. But notice that he makes the parenthetical comment that "characters in the Marvel universe do have souls." These body switchings make no sense otherwise, so his analogy presupposes that their souls are being switched.

Mere consciousness is not a sufficient criteria for personal identity for two reasons:

1. Under physicalism, all of our mental states are the product of the physical state of our brains. If there were two brains with the exact same physical structure, then they would have the exact same mental states. Yet they would not actually be the same person. For example, if God created an exact duplicate of you, complete with memories and all, the duplicate would not actually be you.

2. Not only are our bodies in a constant state of change, but our minds are as well. We forget old things and remember new things, we go from thinking about one thing to thinking about another. We go from sleep to being awake, to being asleep again. And, in the case of people who go into comas and come back out, there are gaps in their conscious life. Yet we maintain our personal identity throughout these changes. So we are not our consciousness. Rather, we are souls who have consciousness. An immaterial soul is the only way to maintain personal continuity through both physical and mental change.

II. The indiscernibility of identicals

Pro's first premise begs the question against substance dualism. He admits that the premise follows from physicalism.

I agree with his second premise, that there are different levels of explanation. But I don't think that is sufficient to account for the different properties had by the mind and the brain.

I gave five examples of properties that the mind and the brain do not have in common, showing that they are not the same thing.

1. He thinks that exhaustive knowledge of the brain would give us first person access to the mind, but he doesn't substantiate that claim. One need only understand the meaning of "first person" to know that that's impossible. No third person observation of anything can give you first person access to it. If you had first person access to somebody else's thoughts and feelings, they'd be your thoughts and feelings.

2. Pro think the ability of thoughts to have intention, which chemicals don't have, is a mere linguistic difference. A thought can be about tomorrow, but it doesn't even make sense to say that chemicals and neurons are about tomorrow. There is no mere linguistic difference.

3. Pro claims that the mental image of a green sweater is "processed through the brain as a mental image." If there were an image of a green sweater in the brain, it would be observable to a third person, but it is not. The image exist solely in the mind, so the mind has a property (greeness) that the brain doesn't have.

4. Pro merely asserts that emotion has mass and chemical composition. He is probably confusing the cause of emotion with the emotion itself. To attribute mass and chemical composition to emotions is just to misunderstand what emotions are.

5. Pro ignores this point and refers the reader to a poll in which philosophical zombies are "Conceivable, but not metaphysically possible". Well truth is not arrived at by counting noses. Besides, what I'm arguing is the exact opposite of philosophical zombies. A philosophical zombie is a thought experiment in which there is a body that behaves exactly like a real person except without a mind. What I'm arguing for is the possibility of a mind existing without a body. If it's even possible, then there is something true about you that is not true about your body.

III. Argument from intentional action

Pro again begs the question against substance dualism by assuming in his response that mental states are identical to brain states. He also contradicts what he said in his opening, that "Mental events cause physical events" which only makes sense if they are not the same thing. By arguing that mental events are emergent properties, he is committed at least to property dualism. But he contradicts himself here by making mental events and brain events identical. If they are identical, then…


…means the same thing as…


But if his supervenient argument is sound, then it would look more like this:


But as I argued in the last round, this scenario is not even possible because under physicalism, there is a closed causal connection between each brain state. The mind just rides on top of it and doesn't cause anything.

IV. The argument from reason

Pro responds with more unsubstantiated assertions. If our beliefs are to be rational, they must be the product of prior beliefs. For example, my belief that Socrates is a mortal is rational as long as it is the result of my beliefs that all men are moral and that Socrates is a man. But if physicalism is true, then none of my beliefs are the result of other beliefs. Rather, each belief is directly caused by my physical brain state.

B1-->the belief that all men are mortal.

B2-->the belief that Socrates is a man.

B3-->the belief that Socrates is mortal.

Since B1-->B2-->B3, there is no room for these mental states to be connected with each other. The sense we have of reasoning through an argument to arrive at a conclusion is just an illusion under physicalism. Physicalism is self-refuting because it undermines the necessary preconditions for rational thought, which means that even the belief in physicalism is not rational.


I don't think any of Pro's responses to my arguments were adequate to undermine them. Most of his responses begged the question against substance dualism by merely assuming physicalism and asserting that it must be possible to overcome these difficulties. E.g. mental properties MUST be physical properties, because physicalism is true. Pro failed to really grapple with my arguments, and simply negated them with assertions.

Thank you for coming to tonight's debate. And thanks again to Pro. It has been interesting.

Debate Round No. 4
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by serp888 4 years ago
Con REALLY makes a bunch of hasty assumptions too. Wish I could have voted.

A few Examples-
"1. If we are purely physical beings, then we cannot act willfully."
Do you have proof that humans do in fact act willfully, and that we cannot act willfully if we are purely physical beings? Human will is determined by automatic processes in the brain.

"The brain is completely open to third person observation, but the mind is only open to first person observation."
You need proof once again--magnetic resonance imaging shows how blood flow in the brain corresponds to neuron usage. The bloodflow patters represent the mind from a third person observation by telling you which part of the brain is doing work.

" there is no image of a green sweater in their brain." Yes, there is, and scientists can recreate images from the brain. The data is just stored differently in the brain in an area known as the hippocampus.

" It's possible that my mind could exist even if my brain doesn't"

"we are more than the sum of our physical parts."
False, the brain is designed chemically to grow and adapt, making the physical parts more efficient and functional, eventually leading to consciousness. Con, once again, requires proof that we are in fact more than the sum of our physical parts.
Posted by serp888 4 years ago
False? Pro should have really discussed this, but
A cat brain, as well as a rat brain have been created on a computer using a simulation of biological neurons. Human brain simulation will be realistic in the next ten years. Thus, since all the components of a computer are explainable physically--they have to be in order to work--it means that the mind, through transitive logic, is also a physical entity alone. There is no spooky action, which con would have to prove scientifically with studies and evidence. Artificial intelligence is a mind made of a purely physical substance, and to say otherwise is plain wrong.
Posted by StevenDixon 4 years ago
." We do maintain personal identity through physical change."

So....that statement is completely debunked...

not only do physical changes change our identity but alot of our medication mental illness specifically targets areas of the brain that will change the persons attitude, personality, emotions, etc.
Posted by Pwner 4 years ago
Huh, I guess I need to have 3 debates before I can vote. But, I'd vote for Con, I think he said it best in his conclusion.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Apeiron 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Con was successful in showing the implausibility of Pro's Causal Closure argument since it clearly begged the question. Con was also successful in showing the methodological naturalism doesn't imply ontological naturalism. Then Con put forth 5 arguments in favor of denying the resolution which all of which enjoyed sufficient intellectual support despite Pro's objections.