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

A human Soul exists

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Post Voting Period
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after 3 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/9/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,528 times Debate No: 58738
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (43)
Votes (3)




Hey everyone,
First round is for acceptance.
A soul is defined as:

"The spiritual or immaterial part of a human being, regarded as immortal" [1]

BOP will be on me.
This debate is impossible to accept; if you want to debate, leave a comment :)

Debate Round No. 1


First off, thanks to n7 for accepting this debate, I hope you and all the viewers enjoy it.

Argument from fungibility
My first argument is split into 2 parts/syllogisms.
The first syllogism is merely to establish a starting point and a line of reasoning; the second syllogism is the actual argument.

First some definitions:
Fungibility: Mutually interchangeable; [1] changeable with no intrinsic value lost or gained.
Derivatively: Originating from, based on, or influenced by [2]

Syllogism #1

P1) All purely material objects are fungible.
P2) No persons are fungible.
P3) So, no persons are purely material objects.

At first, this first syllogism seems cogent. For P1, say you changed every single atom of a watch, for identical atoms. It will perform the exact same function and look exactly the same as before. It will be identical both before and afterwards, with no intrinsic loss or gain of value. The same cannot be said of humans, however. If you clone or replace a human atom by atom, there will be something different; for one, there will not be the same experience, memory or nurture. Secondly, an intrinsic part of human experience is introspection, which will inevitably be different. We at least have a prima facie view that in the subjunctive scenario that there exists two human beings - one real and one cloned, that they are not mutually interchangeable, hence P2.

However, there seems to be an inconsistency. For at least some material objects seem to be non-fungible - for example, the Mona Lisa, or Grandpa's old Bible, as even if you replaced such objects atom by atom, there would still be some sort of intrinsic quality missing - that is, the actual involvement of a famous artist (Da Vinci) or the actual reading of the Bible by Grandpa.

However, the non-fungibility of such objects are in themselves derived from fungible processes - id est, the painting by Da Vinci, or the reading by Grandpa. But if you take away the external involvement - if you take away the derived qualities, you are simply left with a fungible object; if Grandpa never read the Bible, you would be left with a fungible book; if Da Vinci hadn't been involved in the Mona Lisa, you would be left with just a fungible painting. But if we take away external influences from humans, then we still appear to be non-fungible. Sans external, derived factors, it would be hard to admit, for thought experiment, that if some scientist were to take every individual atom from a person's body, then put each atom back together in the exact same place, that the resulting person would be the identical person as before. We have prima facie reasons for admitting this premise - it certainly appears to us that ceteris paribus, each person is both unique and irreplaceable. Perhaps part of this reasoning is because innate to a person is introspection, which don't appear to be fungible or replaceable even in the slightest; or, perhaps it is due to an intrinsic value we place in each individual human. Either way, we have reason to accept the notion that each person is non-derivatively non-fungible.

So, we alter the argument. We take away the external influences, and the argument is valid. It will state as follows:

Syllogism #2 (actual argument)

P1) No purely material object is non-derivatively non-fungible.
P2) Every person is non-derivatively non-fungible.
P3) So, no person is a purely material object.

Which is sound.

Why this results in a Soul
If no person is a purely material entity, then it follows that there is a part of a person that is immaterial. If there exists a part of a person which is immaterial, then it is not then subject to material degeneration and as such, will exist forever. This is, in essence, a Soul.

Modal Argument
Now, we come to my second argument. It's called a modal argument simply because it concerns possibility, not because it uses modal logic.

First, some definitions:

'body':The physical structure, including the bones, flesh, and organs, of a person. [3]
'epistemic possibility': true, for all we know; conceivably true. [4]

P1) It is epistemically possible that a person could exist without their body
P2) It is not epistemically possible that a person's body could exist without their body
P3) Whatever is epistemically possible in is also logically possible
P4) Therefore, what is logically possible of a person is not logically possible of their body (from 1,2,3)
P5) Therefore, a person and a body are not identical (from 4)
C) Therefore, a person is not their body (from 5)

[5], [7]

Defense of P1

P1 seems to be cogent. I could conceive that my thoughts, introspection etc. could still possibly exist sans my physical body: for instance, in another sort of physical existence, or without a physical embodiment altogether. I see no reason to reject that.
Plantinga illustrates this notion by citing 'The Metamorphosis' by Kafka, where a man wakes up to find he has the body of a huge insect. While this is obviously fictitious, it does at least show the coherency of the conceivability of existence without a human body. It doesn't appear that a human body is a necessary feature of human existence (though a general feature, but general doesn't equate to necessary).

Defense of P2
The second premise is evidentially true, by definition. If a body existed without a body, then nothing would exist - it simply isn't possible that a body could exist without a body. It is a self-contradiction.

Defense of P3
Essentially, the same reasoning is used in both epistemic possibility and logical possibility, for whatever is epistemically possible is logically possible, and vice versa. Whenever someone tries to establish logical possibility, they must conceive of the essence of the entity, and test it in accordance to logical laws. The same is with epistemic possibility - after all, we can't, by definition, conceive of something that is logically impossible, like a square circle. It simply isn't possible. Equally, if we could conceive something, assuming that we know of its essence, then it must be logically consistent - how else are we to conceive of something?
Hart states that no example has been given such that: "one can imagine that p (and tell less imaginative folk a story that enables them to imagine that p) plus a good argument that it is impossible that p". [6] In other words, nothing that is epistemically possible can also be shown to be logically impossible. If we can imagine of an entity existing, then it entails that it doesn't do so in violation of any logical truths. Equally, we can't imagine of, say, a square circle, as it is a logical impossibility. There is a logical and deductive connection between the two possibilities.

Premises 4 and 5
P4 and P5 both follow from the previous premises. If it is logically possible that a person could exist without their body, yet it isn't possible that a person's body could exist without a person's body, then it follows that a person and their body are not identical, in accordance to Leibniz' law, [8] which states that in two identical entities, a and b, whatever is true of a is also true of b.
However, it then follows that a person and their body aren't identical, for there is a difference: namely, possibly exists when a person's body doesn't.
The Conclusion should then follow; a person is not their body.

Why this results in a Soul
If I am not my body, then it follows that I either exist as another sort of external physical embodiment, or as an immaterial substance. However, my existence appears to be at a constant with my physical embodiment - yet I am also not my body. Therefore, there must be a coexisting, immaterial part to my being, which is not subject to physical degeneration, which is, in essence, my soul.

In both the arguments, I have shown that each premise is more plausibly true than not. As a result, the arguments succeed and the resolution is upheld.

Back to Con!

[6] Hart (1994) p266


A debate about identity and the mind! The Maker must be smiling on me today! Thanks to Pro. Now, onto the arguments.

Argument from Fungibility

The problem with this argument is that it’s a non-sequitur. The conclusion doesn’t follow from its premise. It also strawmans physicalist theories of identity by over simplifying them. Physicalist theories of identity don’t state that the atoms with you now or at your birth are you. Just like one who advocates in favour of a Lockean view don’t state the psychological state you’re in now or at your birth is you. Locke says the psychological continuity is what makes you, you. Similar to the physicalist theories. Individual atoms may be fungible, but what is non-fungible is the fact that there is a continuation of atoms. For example, Peter Unger proposed there are three ways for person X to be identical to person Y.

….person Y is identical to person X—in other words, X will

survive into the future—if and only if three things are true: Person

Y has to have mental capacities, the brain that realizes person Y’s

mental capacities has to be physically continuous with the brain

that realized person X’s mental capacities, and there has to have

been no moment in time between the existence of person X and

person Y where that physically continuous object -the brain- did

not have mental capacities. [1]

So of course cloning someone doesn’t make that person identical to the original person, but that’s because Pro is attacking an overly simplified strawman of physicalist theories.

Another theory referred to as the “Time Worm” theory is proposed by David Kellogg Lewis. Dr. David Kyle Johnson explains with the analogy of TV shows. What makes one episode of The Walking Dead the same show as another episode? It’s not Daryl Dixon’s crossbow, but because the show is in time. Lewis suggests persons are like this, four-dimensional objects within time.

So, asking whether you now and your eight-year-old self are the

same person is like asking if two episodes of a show are the same

show. Your eight-year-old self is not you; it’s an episode of you. You now is not you;it’s an episode of you. Lewis calls your episodes time slices. And a person just is a collection of time slices spread out over time: a time worm [2]

A TV show like a person needs no soul. A person can be a non-fungible time worm.

Thus the argument is a non-sequitur, as I can accept both premise one and two, but reject the conclusion.

Argument from Conceivability

Pro presents a version of Descartes argument from conceivability. It is possible for a mind to exist without a body, but a body cannot exist without a body, thus the mind is different from ones body. The premise that is the legs of the argument is premise three “Whatever is epistemically possible in is also logically possible.” or simply, what is conceivable is possible.

First, the a priori possibility of something doesn’t entail the metaphysical or a posteriori possibility of something. Saul Kripke talks about this in his book “Naming and Necessity.” Kripke notes it is entirely a priori conceivable for water to be something else other than H2O. In that we cannot rule out a priori that water is some other chemical. However Kripke states water being H20 is an a posteriori necessity. In no metaphysical world is water not H20 [3]. Another example is the Morning star and Evening star. It is conceivable for one to exist without the other, but since these stars are the exact same thing, in no metaphysically possible world does the Morning star exist without the Evening star. So, my point is, a priori possibility doesn’t equal metaphysical possibility. I could concede that it’s conceivable for the mind to exist without the body and this wouldn’t hurt my position. The famous critic of materialism David Chalmers agrees that Descartes argument fails for this very reason.

….The soundness of this argument [Argument from disembodied existence] is often doubted, and the standard reasons for doubt can be expressed straightforwardly in the current framework. The sense in which it is clearly conceivable that I am disembodied is primary positive conceivability, from which the 1-possibility of disembodiment follows. The sense in which physical things are essentially physical involves 2-necessity (as do all claims of de re necessity). But the 1-possibility of disembodiment is quite compatible with the 2-impossibility of disembodiment, so the claim that I am physical is not threatened by Descartes' argument. [4]

My second objection to this principle comes from the philosopher Andrew Bailey. Bailey points out in order for us to conceive of something, we must first have all relevant background knowledge and adequate cognitive cabilibilties.

“X is ideally conceivable (if and?) only if someone who has adequate cognitive

capacities and who is in possession of all the relevant factual and linguistic

background information, and who has no additional distorting beliefs, could

conceive of X.” [5]

However, this now presents a problem for a conceivability thesis. Now the idea of ideal conceivability rests on another modal idea. Bailey explains

“But now we are in a position to note the following: to assert that something is ideally

conceivable is to make what is partly a modal claim—in order for something to be ideally

conceivable it must be conceivable under the right counterfactual conditions. Thus, modal judgements which are supported by arguments from conceivability inevitably tacitly rest on

another modal claim: modal claim p is true if the situation described in p is ideally conceivable,

but this situation is ideally conceivable only if it would still be conceivable under relevantly

ideal epistemic conditions. If this latter modal claim, q, is false, then p remains unsupported…..and this in turn will require another modal

claim which will require independent support, and so on.”

Thus an argument from conceivability can never be sound, as it rests on an infinite regress of arguments that need to be supported.

Another problem with this argument is similar to the problem with the first argument. I can accept every single premise and the conclusion, but still reject the concept of the soul. How? Because non-reductive physicalism is perfectly compatible with the argument. The mind can come from the physical, but be another type of property in the physical world.

I do not find Pro’s arguments for the soul convincing. Upon further examination, we find that they fail.

Why the Soul Hypothesis Fails

First, proposing a soul preserves identity is an awful theory of identity. Pro could mean one of two things when claiming the mind preserves identity. One, the contents of the mind preserves identity or two, there is a type of thing within the mind that preserves identity, a serial number as Zmikecuber calls it. Both fail.

The first option fails because the contents of the mind is not the thing containing these things. Let’s say you’re tied up and about the become tortured. Luckily I come to save the day. However, the problem is I spent all my time learning philosophy, so I cannot untie you as I’m too weak. I cannot fight the person that captured you and I cannot kill you myself because I’m too weak. I have a solution. I created a machine that will give you new memories, thoughts, beliefs, ect. Your mental life will be totally different. If we accept option one, you would have died and someone else would be tortured. Would you go through with this? This wouldn’t seem to make the slightest bit of difference. You would still feel pain, but you would just have a different mental life. Because the contents of the mind is not the container itself. It also seems wrong to say two people who at one moment have the exact same beliefs, thoughts, memories are the same person. As only one person can be identical to you.

The second option is even more problematic. It borderlines on meaninglessness. If there is some thing within the mind which preserves identity, but not the contents, how would we tell two different persons apart? We cannot appeal to anything at all. This thing doesn’t have physical shape or spatial location. Furthermore, what happens if two of these things switch? How would we even tell? There would be no breaks in the mind or consciousness or the physical. It couldn’t preserve identity because it is unnecessary for personal survival.

A soul cannot account for facts about personal identity and thus fails.

A second problem is that this implies substance dualism. Princess Elizabeth was the first to point out there is a problem of interaction. How can these two substances ever interact with each other? There must be some interaction via a shared property (otherwise there would be no interaction). However, an interaction with a shared property entails monism. Because we would keep going down a slippery slope granting physical properties to the mind. This makes dualism incoherent or at least with many counter-intuitive ad hocs.

The soul hypothesis fails because it cannot account for interaction. Those theories that do are bound to contain ad hocs. As they must deny interaction happens

I may bring up a problem of causal overdetermination in the next round if space allows. However, I feel I have sufficiently refuted Pro’s arguments and shown how proposing a soul in our ontology fails.

Thanks and now to Pro.


[1] Unger, Peter. “The Physical View.” In Self and Identity, edited by D. Kolak

and R. Martin, 192–213. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1991.

[2] Johnson, David. “Exploring Metaphysics.” Lecture 9. Pg 68.

[3] Kripke, Saul. 1980. Naming and Necessity. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

[4] Chalmers, D. J. 2002, ‘Does Conceivability Entail Possibility?’, in Gendler and Hawthorne 2002.


Debate Round No. 2


Thanks Con! Onto the rebuttals.

Fungibility Argument

Physicalism And Non-Fungibility
Con's central objection lies in the accusation that Physicalism can account for non-fungibility, as "what is non-fungible is the fact that there is a continuation of atoms"
However, this doesn't seem to be a correct or even a coherent view. What exactly about a 'continuation of atoms' is non-fungible?
As Alexander Pruss states:

"Start with the thought that: 'Something wholly composed of fungible parts is fungible'.

If this is right, and material objects are composed of elementary particles, then all material objects are fungible since elementary particles are fungible. And that's all we need for [the] argument." [1]

So, it makes no difference whether an entity is a continuation of atoms. Assuming the notion that elementary particles are fungible, then it entails that something wholly constituted of fungible parts is still fungible - each part can be replaced with no intrinsic loss or gain, to result in a wholly fungible being.

It should also be noted that there is a distinction to be made between 'identical' and 'fungible'. While two identical entities are fungible for each other, two fungible entities need not be identical. They may be identical in form, but that is not to entail that they are intrinsically identical. Fungibility does not necessarily rest on that. And so we should view Con's objections with caution when he places the focus on identical persons, as it is not necessary for the argument.

"A TV show like a person needs no soul. A person can be a non-fungible time worm"

That's going on my profile.
While I agree in principle to this view, I also see it to be largely irrelevant to the argument, which rests on the non-derivability of the entities at hand. This is because such a theory could only ever be non-fungible in the sense of dynamic non-fungibility. However, this is a derived change - deriving non-fungibility from dynamical processes and thus, cannot be considered to be a sound objection to the argument.
It also seems to rest on a tenseless theory of time, which in itself is controversial and huge assumption to make. [2]

Is the Argument a Non-Sequitur?
Finally, Con states that the premises can be accepted while still accepting a physicalist conclusion. However, it seems that Physicalism as a concept is contested in P2 assuming P1 - if all persons don't possess a property that all material entities possess, then we have no choice but to conclude that Physicalism, that states that all humans are purely material objects, is false.
It appears that what Con is really objecting to is P1 rather than the conclusion, by stating that humans, though purely material objects, can still be non-derivatively non-fungible. Of course though, this is a minor point.

Modal Argument

A Priori, A Posteriori Necessity and Conceivability
Con objects by stating that the 'a priori possibility of something doesn’t entail the metaphysical or a posteriori possibility of something'. And while I see no reason to object to this principle in general, Richard Swinburne (1997) proposed that we do have reasons to think that it differs in the mind-body case. [3] Essentially, a posteriori necessities are always based on observable, superficial stereotypes that originate from the observation of essences. For example, we know a posteriori that water is H2O, from our observation of its essence. However, when we make metaphysical claims about the mind, we know of its essence - after all, we experience it. If so, then it appears that there is no difference between a priori and a posteriori metaphysical claims about the mind; all metaphysical claims are based on our a posteriori experience of the mind. In such a case, it is indeed true that a priori possibility does entail a posteriori possibility.

Con states that when we make an ideal conceivability claim, this leads to an infinite regress.
However, it seems that this issue is avoided when we arrive at conceivable metaphysical possibilities which are possible in accordance with the actual world: in such scenarios, there is no need to ideally conceive of possible world p, as the possible world is known.
Now an obvious response would be to note that metaphysical possibility is entirely different to epistemic possibility, which is posited in P1. However, if we take P3 to be true, then it is easy to see deduction between general logical possibility and logical possibility in the actual world (id est, metaphysical possibility) - at which point, we avoid an infinite regress as we need no modal epistemic justification for modalities in the actual world.
In other words, it only seems that we only need to posit a single possible world in which we need no epistemic justification in which it is conceivable that I might exist without my body to avoid this regress. It seems perfectly rational that this possible world might be something like the big conjunctive contingent fact, which needs little to no justification for its possibility (as it is, in essence, the actual world).

Is The Argument Compatible With Physicalism?
Simply, no. It seems that a non-reductionist physicalist approach would still constitute 'physical embodiment', for nowhere in the argument is it necessary to equate 'body' with the immediate physical reality of a person; what's required is to posit the entire physical reality of a person - of which, would be inclusive of any such non-reductive structure. That's to even ignore the issues of positing non-reductive physicalism to begin with. As such, it doesn't appear that the argument is compatible with physicalism even in the slightest.

Issues With The soul

The Soul And Identity
Con claims that identity is an issue when advocating a soul, and presents a dilemma. However, A Lockean view of the soul seems to solve this issue. That is to say, that the soul preserves identity in the sense that it preserves consciousness (viz. memories, experiences, thoughts etc.) rather than the actual substance of the soul or body. This is clearly distinct from the Cartesian description that Con provides - consequently, two beings with the same consciousnesses are to be considered the same person - contrary to the dilemma that is provided. All the while, the soul exists, preserves consciousness, and as such, preserves identity, albeit indirectly. [4]
Moreover, I see no reason as to how Physicalism provides any further enlightenment on the issue, as it holds that identity is the brain state. But as Chalmers (1996) points out in his criticism of identity theory, if this is true, then it becomes inexplicable as to why we might experience non-physical qualia. [5]
So it seems that in order to be an advocate of a Physicalist theory of identity, you must in turn advocate that non-physical qualia could be experienced through physical means. This seems to be a case of the fallacy of proving too much. [6]

While one could then resort to a non-reductive Physicalism, this appears to be ad hoc, and also rests on the truth value of the conceivability argument which, as I stated, still includes non-reductive physical structures.
So, far from being an issue exclusively for the proponent of a soul, it is a universal issue for all ontologies.

The Soul And Interaction
Finally, Con states that interaction is an issue for the substance dualist (which, my arguments imply). However, this presupposes that for two substances to interact, they must be of the same kind of substance, or at least, possess a shared property. But there doesn't seem any reason to assume that - what do we even have to base it on? Sure, we have moderate inductive reasons to think that, but this only provides a general, not necessary property of interaction. I see no reason to think that the shared property couldn't be 'existing in space-time', which would be sufficient enough for interaction, all the while remaining distinct separate substances within that. This doesn't seem like a strong objection either.
Indeed, for sake of subjunctive conditional (not ad hoc), there are several solutions for the dualist in response to this; namely, that an immaterial substance could emit some form of ethereal substance, that interaction can be achieved via a simple conjunction, or even some kind of occasionalism can't be ruled out. This shows, albeit not an adequate response by itself, that it at least isn't nonsensical upon dualism for interactionism to have merit

I have shown that despite apparent issues concerning the soul that Con has brought to the surface, there are adequate responses to these issues for the proponent for the soul.

Back to Con!

[2] Craig (2000), 'The Tenseless Theory of Time: A Critical Examination (Synthese Library)
[3] Swinburne (1997), 'New Appendix C' (Clarendon Press)


Yes, onto the rebuttals of the rebuttals.

Argument from Fungibility

Pro straw mans my first argument here. He argues quite well the the set of atoms is fungible. This isn’t what I argued. I argued identity is preserved by the continuation of the atoms. This is very different from claiming the whole of the atoms is what preserves identity. Let’s what I proposed

Person Y has to have mental capacities

Nothing about the person being the whole set of his atoms

..the brain that realizes person Y’s mental capacities has to be physically continuous with the brain that realized person X’s mental capacities

Again, nothing about the person being the whole set of atoms. Continuation doesn’t mean the whole set of atoms.

there has to have been no moment in time between the existence of person X and person Y where that physically continuous object -the brain- did not have mental capacities.

Nothing about the person being the whole set of atoms here either.

You cannot switch out the continuation otherwise, it wouldn’t be a continuation in the first place.

He also says I’m talking about two people being identical. This is a misunderstanding. Talking about two people being identical is to help us see what preserves identity.

In regards to Perdurantism, I’m not entirely sure what Pro means by “That's going on my profile.” as this could have many interpretations. Does he think I’m being stupid? Does he legitimately believe it’s an interesting view? Perhaps Pro will comment briefly about it in the next round, as a voter could potentially take this as poor conduct depending on if they feel Pro was being contempt. If Perdurantism does imply derived change, then Pro needs show how the theory fails to account for identity, otherwise it would be a refutation of premise two. Furthermore it’s false to state it’s derived from dynamic processes, as Lewis takes a person to be the complete set of temporal slices. The passage of time itself doesn’t preserve identity.

On a technical note, this does necessarily need the tenseless theory of time. It just needs the past and future to exist. This doesn’t need a temporal ontology to be tenseless (Moving spotlight theory). Although it is controversial, so is every other theory of time [1]. However these temporal ontologies have the most support from relativity [2] and quantum mechanics [3].

In regards to the non-sequitur claim. I wasn’t thinking of continuation as an actual object, but I guess you could argue against that on a technicality. It is trivial anyway as Pro said.


Argument from Conceivability

Pro attempts to rebut my first objection by bringing up Swinburne’s objection. We have direct knowledge of our minds, so we cannot be wrong in deducing a priori conceivability conclusions. The problem with this is that we indeed have direct and absolute knowledge of the contents of our minds. Our feelings, thoughts, ect, but this is conflating having absolute knowledge about the fundamental substance of the mind. The fundamental substance and what’s inside the substance are two different things. We know what’s inside the substance quite well, but this doesn’t equate into having the knowledge of the substance itself.

On a technical syllogism note. Premise three should be “Whatever is epistemically possible for the mind is also logically possible”. As Pro did just concede premise three in general is false, which negates his argument. Note however, I didn’t bring this up as an objection, because that’s just quibbling.

With Bailey’s objection, Pro says we don’t need to justify another modal claim, because we can just point to the actual world. While I think this is correct, this is going from the frying pan into the fire. Now Pro needs to show we are “in possession of all the relevant factual and linguistic background information” and have “no additional distorting beliefs”. This would require a complete knowledge of the physical brain and body. As Bailey writes [4]

….we are not currently in a relevantly ideal epistemic situation with respect to the claims made by a completed, true physical theory. There is a vast amount of new information such a theory would provide that we presently lack, and this new information might well be relevant to the physical status of consciousness. Our present physical theories are almost certainly mistaken in some crucial respects, and are certainly incomplete, and thus we may currently be committed to distorting beliefs about physics….

Now that Pro has defined a body as the “entire physical reality of a person”. It would be hard to defend the idea that non-reductive physicalism is compatible with the entire argument. However, if non-reductive physicalism is true, conceiving of the mind without the body is just conceiving of another part of the physical reality without another part. In a world where non-reductive physicalism is true, we should expect to see arguments like these as sound, otherwise the mind would be reducible to the brain.

Why the Soul Hypothesis Fails

Pro presents what he thinks the soul does.

Pro doesn’t escape the dilemma. I responded to Locke’s conception in the previous round and Pro’s neo-Lockeian conception of the soul still falls into the grips of the first horn of the dilemma. The very first horn was attacking the Lockeian conception of person identity, which Pro ignored entirely.

Pro then goes onto attack physicalism via the problem of qualia. However, one can reject that qualia is non-physical in the first place. If someone like Mary sees red for the first time, her brain is processing new physical information. Also, there is a distinction between knowing-that and knowing-how. A man may know that a guitar needs strings to be properly used, but that man may not know how to play that guitar. Mary may know that light waves enter the retina and that the brain processes them. Mary may have all that-knowledge, but this doesn’t entail she has all how-knowledge. So when someone experiences qualia, she doesn’t gain any new physical that-knowledge, but can indeed gain new how-knowledge.

Pro then talks about the problem of interaction. However, it seems he is very hung up on me stating there must be a shared property that he has ignored the main idea of the argument. Which is how do these two substances interact. Anyway, it’s obvious why there must be a shared property. In order for there to be interaction there must be some type of connection. In order for a neuron to be caused to fire by the mind, there must be a connection from the mind to the brain, otherwise there is no interaction. This connection cannot be purely physical, because you’re trying to answer how the physical connects with the mental. This connection cannot be purely mental, for the same exact reason. Physicist Johanan Raatz made a simple equation to show this.

"Let's suppose your arm wiggles due to a neural impulse of half a volt, that was triggered by one bit of mental stuff M. So we set up an equation. M + whatever voltage was there before (B) = half a volt. Now just subtract B from both sides, and you have just established that because M caused the voltage, that therefore M must have a voltage too. It's very elementary."

To further push this point, let’s forget about the mind, body, souls, identity, and Descartes all together. Let’s examine a simple diagram with colours.

Colour analogy for the problem of interaction.

Red cannot interact with blue.

Pro suggests the shared property can exist within space-time. Sure, but this still doesn’t escape the argument. The same goes for his idea that the immaterial substance can emit some other substance in which an interaction can happen. This still fails to explain how the interaction happens or how this new substance takes part. It seems to be going with the red/blue connection route. He also says some type of occasionalism cannot be ruled out. However, this is bloating his ontology. Even if you accept the existence of God , you have to agree this is a huge position to take. As it seems the mind-body relationship isn’t because of occasional causes, but because there really is a casual relationship. Pro presents these two solutions for “sake of subjunctive conditional”. However, if you’re not going to actively propose one, why bring it up at all, other than to try to get around the ad hoc nature?


I feel Pro has strawmanned my objection in his first argument, conflates between the contents of a substance and the substance itself, given himself an impossible to meet BOP with Bailey’s objection, and never solved the problems with the soul hypothesis.

My arguments and rebuttals remain standing, whereas Pro’s fall.

I now pass the internet text microphone to Pro.






Debate Round No. 3


Thanks Con! Onto the final round.

Argument from fungibility

Con claims that I create a strawman when I object to the whole of atoms as opposed to a continuation of atoms. However, this would be to create a strawman within itself; I do in fact object to the continuation of atoms. What I stated is that anything wholly composed of atoms (of which, a continuous formation would be inclusive of) must be fungible, for anything wholly composed fungible matter (parts) must be fungible. A continuation of atoms is wholly composed of fungible matter and thus, is fungible in itself.
I see no reason why a continuation of atoms can't be replaced atom by atom in the exact same place and the exact same formation/bond between other matter, to form a new continuation and have no intrinsic loss or gain. A continuous formation is a fungible one.
Indeed, there hasn't been any justification by Con concerning exactly why a continuation of atoms is non-fungible - it has merely been asserted.

The crux of the issue is, as I stated, that while non-fungibility is there, it is derived. As Sider (2001) (and indeed, perduantists in general) proposed, enduring objects have temporal parts. In such a case, it is arguable that there would be derivability - viz. in the temporal parts themselves, which upon perduantism, is the source of identity. [1]
Con concedes that eternalism is assumed in the argument. This seems to weaken the argument - for any argument that has an underlying assumption that is innately controversial is an argument best left unargued for. Indeed, presentists like Craig (2000) and Prior (1959) have criticised eternalism as an unsound theory of time. As such, it appears that Con's case is compromised.

Modal Argument

Epistemic Knowledge and The Mind
Con responds to Swinburne's objection by stating that the contents of the mind don't equate to the substance of the mind, which is required for conceivability claims.
However, surely knowledge of the content is all that's needed? For if we are to conceive of anything, then we must evaluate its essence in the face of logical truths - but the contents of the mind are its essence. It seems that the mind is simply a means of introspection and qualia - of which, we have direct access to. But if we have such knowledge about introspection and qualia (id est, the mind) then surely we have plausible a priori justification for conceivability of the applicability of introspection and qualia sans a physical body. This is all that's required for the argument, it seems.

Possible Worlds
Con claims that if I am to argue that metaphysical epistemic claims prevents the regress, then I give myself an unattainable burden of proof. And while I certainly agree that this gives me an increased burden, I would contest that it isn't unattainable: some aspects of the previous paragraph can certainly be applied to this. It seems that we have perfect a posteriori knowledge of consciousness in the actual world and as such, are in a position to state whether or not it is epistemically possible in the actual world for mind to exist without body. We have knowledge of the mind and the body (albeit with some imperfect knowledge) ,that appears to be sufficient mouth to make metaphysical epistemic judgement.

Non-Reductive Physicalism
While Con concedes that if 'body' is defined as the entire physical reality of a person then non-reductive physicalism is ruled out, he claims that the argument should be expected to be sound if it is true.
I see no reason to deny this in general, but it does appear that if one has to resort to non-reductive physicalism to deny the argument then the argument is a relatively successful one; not to mention, it would be ad hoc to avoid the conclusion by positing an extra hypothesis like non-reductive physicalism.
And so while this could certainly be asserted by the physicalist, it doesn't seem to be particularly reasonable to do so.

Issues With The Soul

Con states that a Neo-Lockean view of the soul is denied in the first horn of the dilemma. However, it seems that a Neo-Lockean view is a reasonable alternative to the first horn - for it certainly seems cogent to view two identical consciousnesses to be identical persons - equally, if you were to replace your current conscious with a different consciousness, it seems cogent to view that you were to become a different person.
We at least have prima facie reasons to think this, for individual consciousnesses are correlational with individual identities. And since consciousness is a component of the mind, it is a feasible view to think that the contents of the soul/mind preserve identity.

In relation to non-physical qualia, Con claims that there is a distinction to be made between what-knowledge and how-knowledge.
However, i don't think that this helps his case. It seems that if we follow Jackson's thought experiment (1982) on the Ability Hypothesis, then that-knowledge should equate to how-knowledge iff qualia truly is physical. For if all qualia is purely physical, what-knowledge should be sufficient enough for how-knowledge; under physicalism, there is simply no difference. And so if anything, the fact that there even is a distinction is support for non-physical qualia in itself. [2] [3]

In response to interactionism, I can only state what I have already said; one, that a shared property or even interaction doesn't entail monism, and two, that with everything being said, it is ultimately irrelevant: there are solutions for the dualist in response to this and even if there weren't, it wouldn't make much difference.
As Philosopher Scott Calef states:

"To be bewildered by something is not in itself to present an argument against, or even evidence against, the possibility of that thing being a matter of fact. To ask “How is it possible that . . . ?” is merely to raise a topic for discussion. And if the dualist doesn’t know or cannot say how minds and bodies interact, what follows about dualism? Nothing much. It only follows that dualists do not know everything about metaphysics. But so what?" [4]

So, to object to interactionism isn't sufficient enough to put into question the truth value of dualism or even a soul. It is an internal problem for the dualist, as given the truth value of dualism, interactionism is not an intrinsic issue; as I stated, there are many solutions - namely, ethereal emission, or occasionalism. But even if these weren't successful, it can be argued that nothing of value is lost for the dualist.

First off, thanks to n7, who is an amazing debater. Thanks also to the viewers/future voters for following the debate.
In this debate, I have given 2 arguments which have been defended by me and rebutted by Con. However, These rebuttals have rested on unsound premises, as i have hopefully shown. Furthermore, Con's arguments against the soul have been largely unsuccessful, failing in several respects: they have failed in their assertions and even if they were successful, it doesn't follow that no soul exists.
Consequently, the notion of a soul has emerged to be more plausible than not, and the resolution is affirmed.




It is still a strawman. As I agree some set of atoms is fungible. A continuation of something isn’t the same as the set of something. This is clear, as a continuation is the progress of the fungible items. He tries to respond to the idea of a continuation being non-fungible by saying the atoms can be replaced to form a new continuation. This fails because it wouldn’t be a new continuation in the first place. Since it is the progress of something, it would be the same continuation. He states I have only asserted that a continuation is non-fungible. This is untrue. I stated clearly in the last round that you cannot interchange a continuation with something new, because you would affect the physical continuation of someone’s brain.

Furthermore, Pro has dropped his argument about a “distinction to be made between 'identical' and 'fungible'”.


Pro hasn’t said what he meant by “That’s going on my profile”. So, I’ll let the voters decide if this warrants a conduct point against Pro. Pro drops one of my argument and strawmans the other. I never rejected the idea that Perdurantism has a derived personhood, I rejected the idea that it’s derived from dynamic processes. Pro dropped my other argument entirely. If the temporal worm theory proposes persons are derived, he needs to point out a flaw in the theory, otherwise premise two would be refuted. This went unaddressed, thus this objection remains untouched.

Pro makes a quite damaging claim to his case. Pro stated “...any argument that has an underlying assumption that is innately controversial is an argument best left unargued for”. Well, recall in his conceivability argument, Pro must argue for the controversial premise that conceivability entails possibility. This is highly controversial [1]. According to Pro his argument from conceivability is “best left unargued for”. His first argument is also subject to this. As his argument contains the assumption that persons exist as we think of them. Even this is controversial, it is argued against by Hume and various Buddhist philosophers [2]. If Pro really wants to accept this line of thinking, he has just destroyed his case.

However, I see no problem if I present sound arguments for this theory of time. As if an underlying assumption is soundly argued for, then it’s just a part of the argument and should be argued for. If Pro wants to be consistent, he would have to object to making arguments in favour of a controversial proposition. This would leave Pro in an awful contradictory position, because he has been trying to provide arguments for controversial propositions from the start.

Pro attempts to respond to my arguments by citing Craig and Prior. What I consider to be the strongest argument for an existing past and future is the experiment from quantum mechanics which was performed in April of 2012 [3]. Unless Craig and Prior are time travelers, they couldn’t have rebutted this experiment. They most likely responded to deductive arguments and the argument from special relativity. I don’t know, as Pro never cited their actual work, just their names and the year. I do know Craig responds to the argument from relativity by proposing a new interpretation of relativity called the Lorentzian Interpretation. The problem is that this interpretation still allows for the moving spotlight theory to be true, as it

..posits a 3+1 dimensional ontology featuring a privileged time and a privileged rest frame. Lengths contract and time rates dilate in the usual relativistic way only for systems in motion relative to the privileged rest frame. [4]

The temporal worm theory can still be true as the past and future still exist, but the just dilate relative to a privileged frame of time. Thus Pro’s arguments here fall.

My objection remains standing


Pro tries to argue that all you need to know is the contents of the mind to determine what the mind is. He states the mind is “simply a means of introspection and qualia.” This is wrong, the mind contains introspection and qualia. The mind isn’t introspection or qualia. This seems correct prima facie, as the mind is something that allows us to introspect and experience qualia. If you defined the mind as introspection and the experience of qualia, then you’re defining the mind as a verb, but the mind is clearly a noun. The very definition of a mind supports this [5].

The element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought:

It also seems like there can be some type of simple consciousness that doesn’t introspect of experience qualia, but is a mind.

Thus, it seems very very wrong to state the mind is simply a verb, making Swinburne’s objection fail.

What of Bailey objection? Pro agrees it gives him an increase BOP, but not an impossible one. It doesn’t seem that Pro has fulfilled his increased burden. Remember, Pro must demonstrate that we have the “adequate cognitive capacities”, and are “in possession of all the relevant factual and linguistic background information” with “no additional distorting beliefs”

Pro’s argument for this in a nutshell is “It seems so”. However, I presented an argument refuting this, which was dropped. We don’t have all relevant factual knowledge of the body, because physics isn’t complete. It also seems we can have distorting beliefs, as we are still trying to learn about the physical body. Physics and psychology are incomplete[6], thus Pro’s prima facie argument fails secunda facie.

Pro concedes that non-reductive physicalism is compatible, but he says it’s an ad hoc. First, the reason I brought this up was to show a soul is not a necessary conclusion, thus the argument is a non-sequitur. That went unaddressed and Pro is now attacking on explanatory grounds.Second, even on explanatory grounds, non-reductive physicalism wins. A dualist hypothesis would be more ad hoc as non-reductive physicalism is more parsimonious. NR physicalism only proposes the physical world exists, it doesn’t propose this immaterial world where minds exist and reach into the physical to interact. My objection still holds for those reasons.

Problems with the soul

Throughout the debate, Pro has ignored the problems I’ve presented with Locke’s proposition of personal identity. Pro here just gives prima facie reasons why Locke’s idea is a good one. However, since in the last round he defined consciousness as “memories, experiences, thoughts etc” then this proposition falls under the first horn of the dilemma. Since Pro has ignored my objections, my objections remain untouched.

Next, Pro states knowledge-that and knowledge-how should be the same if qualia is physical. However, he just asserts this. There is no reason why tha is should be the case. If I know that a guitar can make a pleasant sound, this doesn’t mean I know how to play a guitar. There is clearly a distinction. Jackson’s argument only proposes that Mary has all knowledge-that, however this wouldn’t entail a falsification of physicalism. Jackson himself agrees with this, this argument has caused Jackson to reject his early formulations of the argument and he now tries to show that Mary has learned a knowledge-that [7]. Pro has dropped my argument that if qualia is physical, then the entire thought experiment is incoherent from the start. If you claim Mary has all knowledge of the color red, then that means she already knows what red is because her brain processed that information. It rejects the idea that Mary has all physical knowledge of red.


It seems Pro has essentially dropped just about everything I’ve said. He acts as if there was never a round 3. Pro says he can only restate what he has said before, that interaction doesn’t entail a monism. This is dropping my argument from the color analogy and Johanan Raatz argument. He also says there are solutions in place, but this drops my arguments against those solutions. He cites Scott Calef saying if there was a problem, then we just don’t know how to solve it. This is an ad hoc. I can defend any and every position the same way Scott Calef defends dualism. A square circle seems incoherent right? Well, so what, it just proves squarecirclists don’t know everything about Geometry or the proper way of defining these shapes. The problem is, either dualism is incoherent or bares the huge improbably absurdity that the mind and body don’t interact. Calef is responding to a question form of the interaction problem, not this one. Pro next proposes the same solutions again, however he has yet to respond to my objections to them.

Pro has failed to respond to the interaction problem. He ignores tons of my arguments, attacks a different formulation of the problem, and ignored the problems I have presented with his solution. It is best to reject the soul entirely, than to bare these assumptions.


Pro has dropped a lot of arguments.

* The argument that there is a distinction to be made between 'identical' and 'fungible'

* That Perdurantism refutes premise two.

* Bailey’s argument that we’re not in relevant epistemic conditions.

* My objections to Locke’s view of identity.

* The qualia argument being incoherent.

* My color analogy against dualism

* Johanan Raatz’s argument against dualism.

* The problem with the ethereal emission solution and occasionalism

Pro’s argument fail as he has never successfully refuted Unger’s conception of physical identity or Perdurantism. Swinburne's objection fails to have a proper conception of what the mind is. Bailey's argument was dropped, as we’re not in relevant epistemic conditions. That is enough right there, as the BOP is on Pro. However, I presented arguments of my own. Pro has failed to object to the problems with Locke’s view of identity and Pro has failed to answer the problem of interaction.

My objections and argument remain standing, Pro’s case fails.

Thanks Pro.


Debate Round No. 4
43 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Codedlogic 7 years ago
Jedi4 this is clearly an argument from ignorance. Not knowing where a "sense of coherency" comes from doesn't justify the existence of a soul. And, even if we grant that souls exist, how does that solve the issue of coherency?
Posted by Jedi4 7 years ago
A human soul clearly exists where does our sense of coherencey come from?
Posted by Toviyah 7 years ago
That's a terrible vote RFD sagey. You obviously didn't understand anything in the debate.
Posted by Envisage 7 years ago
I see n7 didn't fall asleep :-p
Posted by Toviyah 7 years ago
Haha that's pretty scary XD
Posted by n7 7 years ago
I had a dream that I was trying to write my arguments with three hours left and kept falling asleep. I ended up forfeiting the last round and all the RFDs were bad. Pretty scary nightmare.
Posted by johnlubba 7 years ago
Excellent argument Toviyah, And one that has been widely established by His Divine Grace A.C Bhativendtata Swami Prabhupada,

I'll look forward to thoroughly reading through this debate.
Posted by Sagey 7 years ago
The Fungibility argument fails completely when reality jumps in.
Every 7 years nearly every cell in our bodies are replaced, so we are fungible.
Replacing atoms with an atoms of the same element, will also work in the human body, as it did in the watch.
Replacing with an atom from a different element can destroy both the watch and the human body, yet the human body is more resilient there as well, as we have an immune system which may discard the damaged cells, where the watch will simply fail.
Posted by n7 7 years ago
Thanks. This probably is one of the best if not the best debate I've been in. Out of all the debates in this account and my older one.
Posted by Toviyah 7 years ago
Thanks n7 for the debate, I enjoyed it :) you're an awesome debater btw
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Codedlogic 7 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Fantastic debate. I found Pros fungible argument to be the best one they made but in the end Con was able to effectively refute it.
Vote Placed by Sagey 7 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: The Fungibility argument of Pro's was defeated by Con, though in physical reality every atom of our body is replaced every 7 or so years, which also defeats Pro's argument. Con's arguments of Consciousness being based on the brain with the woman seeing the color red for the first time and Descartes was a nutjob, so I ignore his work, if we can conceive something it does not mean it exists, it may simply be totally imaginary. You, know, like God.
Vote Placed by 9spaceking 7 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: this debate was a tough call, but pro dropped some crucial arguments to the human soul, such as the fallacies within the soul hypothesis, the dualism statements, and finally the view of identity.

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