Monday, April 01, 2013

The Problem of Pain-for naturalists.

Steven Carr wrote: I really don't think Victor understands the argument from evil.

Evil and suffering occur pretty much randomly.

There is no god organising the world, just as there is no god organising quantum events.

VR: No, I think I do understand it. The claim is that if theism is true, then we should expect the world to be one in which pleasure and pain are distributed strongly in favor of pleasure, while pain or suffering will occur, if it occurs at all, only when it is necessary to some greater good. 

On the other hand, if naturalistic atheism is true, then we should expect to find pleasure and pain distributed evenly and randomly. Since that is what we do in fact find, the pain and suffering in the world gives us a reason to believe that naturalistic atheism is preferable to theism. 

But, here's my problem. I wouldn't expect there to be any pain and suffering given naturalism. Pain behavior maybe, but not real pain and suffering. Unless someone has a solution to the hard problem of consciousness, pain may be a problem for theists, but it's a devastating problem for naturalism. Why is the theist's problem of pain worse than the naturalists? 

41 comments:

B. Prokop said...

Granted that this "problem" is highly emotional, it also appears that it is nothing but emotional.

Part of the problem in discussing this issue is the confusion of words used, and people's differing definitions. We shouldn't use pain, suffering, and evil interchangeably.

I half-way agree with Ben that animals don't "suffer" although they do experience pain. (I say only half way, because I suspect that consciousness might be more widespread than we generally acknowledge.) It's probably best to confine any discussion of suffering to human beings, since there are just too many going-in assumptions that have to be granted without proof before we can bring animals (or even plants) into the mix.

As I've said before, when it comes to the existence of "evil", that is solely a problem for the atheist. The Christian (I'm not speaking here for other religions) knows precisely where evil comes from, whilst the materialist is at a complete loss to explain its existence.

"Pain", as such, shouldn't be a problem for anyone's worldview, philosophy, faith, religion, what have you. It just is.

Matt DeStefano said...

But, here's my problem. I wouldn't expect there to be any pain and suffering given naturalism. Pain behavior maybe, but not real pain and suffering. Unless someone has a solution to the hard problem of consciousness, pain may be a problem for theists, but it's a devastating problem for naturalism.

I don't understand the argument here (is it a sort of epiphenomenalism? that phenomenology is causally inert?). Could you expand?

Victor Reppert said...

No, it's just that the causes and effects could be present while the inner state is missing. A computer makes chess moves, but doesn't really have the experience of playing chess.

Martin said...

Nagel makes this point regarding the hard problem of consciousness:

"The modern mind-body problem arose out of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, as a direct result of the concept of objective physical reality that drove that revolution. Galileo and Descartes made the crucial conceptual division by proposing that physical science should provide a mathematically precise quantitative description of an external reality extended in space and time, a description limited to spatiotemporal primary qualities such as shape, size, and motion, and to laws governing the relations among them. Subjective appearances, on the other hand -- how this physical world appears to human perception -- were assigned to the mind, and the secondary qualities like color, sound, and smell were to be analyzed relationally, in terms of the power of physical things, acting on the senses, to produce those appearances in the minds of observers. It was essential to leave out or subtract subjective appearances and the human mind -- as well as human intentions and purposes -- from the physical world in order to permit this powerful but austere spatiotemporal conception of objective physical reality to develop."

Matt DeStefano said...

No, it's just that the causes and effects could be present while the inner state is missing. A computer makes chess moves, but doesn't really have the experience of playing chess.

Sure, but what bearing does this sort of argument have on the expectation of agents having phenomenology given naturalism. The fact that behavior and phenomenology can come apart is not an argument in favor of concluding it is unlikely given naturalism.

B. Prokop said...

Martin brings up a very important point. We blithely talk about external reality all the time whilst failing to keep in mind our subjective perception of the same. We carelessly talk about green grass or the blue sea, when in reality they are no color whatsoever. We see everything that is in terms of its relationship to our senses, our physical scale (galaxies are "large", atoms are "small"), and our ability to manipulate them (steel is "hard", rubber is "soft").

Human consciousness plays a decisive role in our understanding of "material reality". That by itself should be sufficient proof that consciousness is not itself a part of said reality. Otherwise, we once again fall into an endless chasing-our-tails circular reasoning with no hope whatsoever of ever discerning anything "real".

Victor Reppert said...

But, why do these states exist, given naturalism? The phenomonology doesn't follow from the state of the physical, so why does it exist at all?

BeingItself said...

How does supernaturalism solve the problem of consciousness?

ingx24 said...

How does supernaturalism solve the problem of consciousness?

This is another symptom of the scientism that is so prevalent in contemporary philosophy. Materialists simply cannot see anything in anything other than material terms or as being a scientific hypothesis. Hence, materialists think that dualists are "positing" some kind of "immaterial matter" or "ectoplasm" to "explain" the mind because neuroscience hasn't been able to do it, making dualism seem like a kind of "soul of the gaps" that doesn't do any better at "explaining" the mind than materialism and neuroscience do. But this is not what dualists think - dualism is simply the common-sense view that mental phenomena (i.e. thoughts, feelings, mental images, beliefs, desires, etc.) are real and not reducible to electrochemical reactions in the brain. The way materialists conceive of dualism is nothing more than a straw man - in fact, most dualists would see the idea that mind is reducible to "ectoplasm" as being closer to materialism than to dualism!

In short: "Supernaturalism" (i.e. dualism) doesn't "explain" consciousness in terms of something else - it takes mind and consciousness as fundamental, not reducible even in principle to anything else. Dualism doesn't even need to invoke anything theistic - people like David Chalmers and William Hasker have developed forms of dualism that don't need to appeal to God in order to explain how mind/consciousness got here (although Hasker is himself a theist).

BeingItself said...

ingx24,

Are you going to answer the question?

Vic's complaint is against naturalism, not physicalism. One can be a naturalist, as Chalmers is, and be a type of dualist.

So what does supernaturalism add? Vic seems to think there must be something important.

BeingItself said...

ingx24,

These are your own words:

"the human mind, not being a physical, observable thing, is separate from the physical body, and therefore can exist apart from the body"

What evidence do you have that that is true? What makes you think your mind is riding herd on your brain? (Other than infantile wishful thinking of course.)

ingx24 said...

Maybe you could try quoting me in context:

"There is more to it than this, though. The most obvious argument for an afterlife is that the human mind, not being a physical, observable thing, is separate from the physical body, and therefore can exist apart from the body. Since there is no logical reason why the mind should simply disappear after death, there is good reason to believe that the mind (or soul, as it is often called in religious contexts) survives bodily death in some form."

This passage was very sloppily written, in hindsight - I probably should have added the qualifier "logically" to "can exist apart from the body" to make it more clear what I was saying. Either way, though, your quote of me was in the context of presenting a common argument for the afterlife - not stating that I believed as fact that the mind survives physical death (I am agnostic on that question at the moment).

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

But, here's my problem. I wouldn't expect there to be any pain and suffering given naturalism.

Suppose you are right and consciousness counts for theism and against naturalism. Given that consciousness exists, the biological role of pain and pleasure counts for naturalism and against theism.

Matt DeStefano said...

ut this is not what dualists think - dualism is simply the common-sense view that mental phenomena (i.e. thoughts, feelings, mental images, beliefs, desires, etc.) are real and not reducible to electrochemical reactions in the brain.

This is a pretty poor exposition of dualism. In philosophy, we generally distinguish between two types of dualism: substance and property. Substance dualism is the view that there really are two substances in the world (there is an immaterial substance that produces immaterial states). Very few philosophers hold this view any longer, despite perhaps some religious philosophers.

Property dualism is the view that, quoting the SEP, "..the ontology of physics is not sufficient to constitute what is there. The irreducible language is not just another way of describing what there is, it requires that there be something more there than was allowed for in the initial ontology."

However, all of this is irrelevant, because as BeingItself pointed out already -- supernaturalism (or theism) and property dualism are not equivalent. Victor owes us an explanation as to how theism solves the hard problem in order to make us think that this counts as a strike against naturalism. (I doubt very much that any such explanation is forthcoming.)

Additionally, as Jeff has already pointed out - if consciousness and pain/pleasure phenomenology come apart, this exacerbates the problem of evil for the theist. Why would God give us pain-states when pain-behavior will suffice?

Papalinton said...

"Suppose you are right and consciousness counts for theism and against naturalism. Given that consciousness exists, the biological role of pain and pleasure counts for naturalism and against theism."

Yes, yes. And this fits with Matt Destefano's; "Why would God give us pain-states when pain-behavior will suffice?"

Papalinton said...

Oops! Perhaps my comment is redundant, as I had overlooked Matt's, "Additionally, as Jeff has already pointed out ...."

BeingItself said...

ingx24,

Thanks for the clarification, as it seems today you are ridiculing a view you yourself held just a few months ago.

Regardless, this has been a diversion from my main question. If consciousness and the subjective experience of suffering are in need of an explanation, how does supernaturalism do so?

Asked another way, what makes consciousness and subjective experience more likely on supernaturalism rather than on naturalism?

I have been asking this question for months. Vic keeps hammering away about how naturalism is somehow in a weak position here, but at no time does he explain how supernaturalism is in the stronger position.

His ongoing silence on the matter speaks volumes.

ingx24 said...

Thanks for the clarification, as it seems today you are ridiculing a view you yourself held just a few months ago.

My views have not changed - the word "substance" in "substance dualism" does not refer to a kind of "immaterial matter" or "ectoplasm". The terminology is very unfortunate - all "substance dualism" means is that the mind is an entity in its own right instead of just being a set of properties of the brain. Most substance dualists wouldn't even claim that the mind is "made of" anything - it's indivisible and metaphysically simple (i.e. not composed of parts).

Papalinton said...

ingX24
"The terminology is very unfortunate - all "substance dualism" means is that ...."

Yes. Unfortunate. What these terms may have once denoted have been philosophized out of all meaning. Bob Prokop, in the first comment in this thread alluded to it: "Part of the problem in discussing this issue is the confusion of words used, and people's differing definitions. We shouldn't use pain, suffering, and evil interchangeably."

It seems to me there is no commonly acknowledged grounding from which discourse in philosophy can productively ensue as an instrument for structured argument. Philosophy seems to be inherently predisposed to do much heavy lifting at the definitional stage, long before it gets to the preliminaries of outlining the respective arguments. Many, if not most philosophical debates are simply derailed at the definitional stage. It is a feat of endurance, to survive a death by a thousand definitions. Most if not all questions in this thread are about definitions. It is a deeply problematic feature of philosophy as it seems characteristically, and perhaps irreconcilably, disparate by nature.

Despite the rhetoric of ordered argument, precedence, logic flow and reasoning, etc etc philosophy is at base an argie-bargie exercise, little different to the 'he said she said' allegations found in civil and criminal jurisprudence.

Martin said...

BeingItself,

> If consciousness and the subjective experience of suffering are in need of an explanation, how does supernaturalism do so?

One way of arguing it would be to say that theism is tied with the Aristotelian worldview, and that the hard problem of consciousness comes about precisely because of the rejection of that worldview. The worldview that opposes Aristotelianism (mechanistic philosophy) reduces to absurdity, and therefore Aristotelianism must be true, and theism is tied with it.

So theism does not provide an explanation, so much as it is tied with the worldview that solves the hard problem of consciousness.

Or at least that is one possible point of view. Not sure what Dr Reppert has in mind as I do not believe he is an Aristotelian.

Matt DeStefano said...

My views have not changed - the word "substance" in "substance dualism" does not refer to a kind of "immaterial matter" or "ectoplasm". The terminology is very unfortunate - all "substance dualism" means is that the mind is an entity in its own right instead of just being a set of properties of the brain. Most substance dualists wouldn't even claim that the mind is "made of" anything - it's indivisible and metaphysically simple (i.e. not composed of parts).

You've misunderstood what substance dualism is. Perhaps this comes from your use of imprecise terms like "is an entity in its own right", but substance dualism claims something specifically about the nature of the mind. From the SEP, again (emphasis mine):

"There are two important concepts deployed in this notion. One is that of substance, the other is the dualism of these substances. A substance is characterized by its properties, but, according to those who believe in substances, it is more than the collection of the properties it possesses, it is the thing which possesses them. So the mind is not just a collection of thoughts, but is that which thinks, an immaterial substance over and above its immaterial states."

It is helpful to understand the terminology of the position you are advocating. Substance dualism is a pretty ontologically extravagant position, and you invite a whole host of problems that naturalists can happily ignore (or property dualists, or 'predicate dualists' for that matter).

ingx24 said...

One way of arguing it would be to say that theism is tied with the Aristotelian worldview, and that the hard problem of consciousness comes about precisely because of the rejection of that worldview.

How does Aristotelianism solve the hard problem of consciousness? Saying that colors, sounds, etc. exist objectively in the physical world does not help us see how an organism could experience them. Nor does a non-mechanistic definition of matter help us see why animals and humans are conscious while plants and inorganic matter are not - Aristotelianism, so far as I am aware, simply takes animals being conscious as a brute fact without actually explaining it, and is therefore no better off than property dualism.




Matt:

What you posted does not contradict what I said. The confusion comes from using the term "substance". Back in Descartes's day, "substance" meant something closer to "entity" or "object" than to "stuff things are made out of". Descartes's idea of the mind was as an entity/object whose entire essence is to think, feel, and be conscious, not as a kind of "ectoplasm" or "immaterial matter" or "ghost in the machine" or whatever materialist strawman is most popular these days. Descartes specifically said that the mind was not "made out of" anything - his view was that the mind was indivisible and not composed of parts.

Now, I don't agree with many of Descartes's ideas on the mind (e.g. that it is not located anywhere in space, that only humans have minds, etc.), and I am agnostic on the question of substance dualism vs. property dualism (there are good arguments both ways, in my opinion), but I do think that Descartes deserves more credit than he is usually given.

Matt DeStefano said...

ingx,

A substance is a thing which possesses properties. In this case, it is an immaterial thing which possesses immaterial properties.

To steer you back to the original issue: substance dualism gets us no traction on the hard problem of consciousness. How do these immaterial states in an immaterial object interact with, or relate to, the physical brain? (Now we not only have an explanatory gap, we have a metaphysical one too!)

The Cartesian answer is "through the pineal gland", which is actually intellectually honest of Descartes to make an attempt, despite being clearly wrong. Similar interactionist theories have failed. Frank Jackson originally advocated for an epiphenomenalism (i.e. the Knowledge Argument), but has since rejected it in favor of physicalism. So, what options do we have left?

ingx24 said...

I really don't think the interaction problem is an issue - it's pretty obvious from neuroscience that mind and brain function as a unit, rather than "interacting" in the traditional sense of two disconnected entities affecting each other through contact.

Matt DeStefano said...

I really don't think the interaction problem is an issue - it's pretty obvious from neuroscience that mind and brain function as a unit, rather than "interacting" in the traditional sense of two disconnected entities affecting each other through contact.

I don't even know how to begin responding to this. You think that neuroscience makes it "pretty obvious" that an immaterial mind and a physical brain "function as a unit"? You should tell neuroscientists (and philosophers of neuroscience) about this. They don't think it's at all obvious, and in fact many think that evidence from neuroscience demonstrates the explanatory uselessness of such a pairing.

You keep using these ambiguous terms which makes your position as difficult to pin down as jello. What does it mean for a physical brain and an immaterial mind to be a "unit"? How can they causally interact? Why do neuroscientists not need to posit an immaterial mind to understand how to treat various brain disorders and understand the various functions of certain brain areas?

Of course, we're still no closer in understanding how dualism explains the hard problem of consciousness. Looking forward to hearing this.

ingx24 said...

What does it mean for a physical brain and an immaterial mind to be a "unit"?

It means that they work in such a way that when one changes, the other has a corresponding change.

How can they causally interact?

How can two quantum particles light years away from each other affect each other instantaenously? Does lack of a Newtonian explanation of quantum entanglement count as a refutation of quantum mechanics?

Why do neuroscientists not need to posit an immaterial mind to understand how to treat various brain disorders and understand the various functions of certain brain areas?

Because neuroscience, BY DEFINITION, only deals with the physical brain. If mind and brain are intertwined in such a way that they function as a unit, then it should be no surprise that methodological mind-brain identity theory has worked for so long.

You think that neuroscience makes it "pretty obvious" that an immaterial mind and a physical brain "function as a unit"? You should tell neuroscientists (and philosophers of neuroscience) about this. They don't think it's at all obvious

What I meant is that, within the context of substance dualism, the evidence from neuroscience tends to support a more "integrative" dualism where the mind and brain don't so much "interact" in the traditional sense, but rather function as a unit. I didn't mean to imply that substance dualism itself was at all "obvious" (I think that property dualism and, to an extent, Russellian monism, are also strong positions on the mind-body problem).

and in fact many think that evidence from neuroscience demonstrates the explanatory uselessness of such a pairing.

Substance dualism is a philosophical position, not a scientific hypothesis. "Explanatory usefulness" is irrelevant; if substance dualists' arguments are sound, then substance dualism is proven regardless of its "explanatory power" in neuroscience. What is at issue is whether substance dualism has, in fact, been established by the arguments, and whether the arguments against it outweigh the arguments for it.

Papalinton said...

"Now, I don't agree with many of Descartes's ideas on the mind (e.g. that it is not located anywhere in space, that only humans have minds, etc.), and I am agnostic on the question of substance dualism vs. property dualism (there are good arguments both ways, in my opinion), but I do think that Descartes deserves more credit than he is usually given."

ingX24, it ought to be remembered that it was Descartes who also posited the soul residing in the pineal gland.

I just think it is foolhardy to latch onto Aristotle, Aquinas and Descartes as if they were the source of all truth. Three hundred years has passed since he posited his treatise. The others, by example, are 800 and 2,000-plus years since their work. The trends in modern philosophy are there not by some act of conspiracy. Modern philosophy arises out of the journey from earlier philosophy. There is no bringing back of Cartesian philosophy as a working model. It is largely ancient history, and the lessons you draw from it must be sufficiently nuanced and must be read in the context of modern philosophical argument. If one claims to be an Aristotelian today, those that use the Aristotelian model to inform their views. to the exclusion of contemporary philosophical knowledge and understanding, they are dinosaurs, philosophical dinosaurs. Dr Feser is one such. He openly eschews modern philosophy and pines for the days of Aquinean classical scholasticism. His form of philosophy contributes little going forward, the holding of the line and can be characterised as a blocker to further investigation and advancement. His raison d'ȇtre is to prop up the christian mythos.

Those that use the Aristotelian model as a basis for their deliberations but also accounts for the substantive claims of contemporary philosophy, they are genuine philosophers with a contribution to make in today's world. These are the philosophers that you might wish to review. As you can appreciate from my atheist perspective, I would advise to step away from the philosopher theologists. There are many others who are Aristotelian in perspective but have a much looser connection with theology. These, to my mind, are the genuine Aristotelian philosophers.

Walter may have a list of such philosophers.

ingx24 said...

Papalinton,

There are so many things wrong with what you just said that I'm not even sure where to start.

The trends in modern philosophy are there not by some act of conspiracy. Modern philosophy arises out of the journey from earlier philosophy. There is no bringing back of Cartesian philosophy as a working model. It is largely ancient history, and the lessons you draw from it must be sufficiently nuanced and must be read in the context of modern philosophical argument.

So you're saying that I have to be a reductive materialist, otherwise I just haven't taken account of "modern philosophical argument"? Do you seriously think that I believe that the mind resides in the pineal gland? Do you seriously think that my views on the mind are entirely shaped by what Descartes wrote? My views on the mind are shaped by common sense and personal experience, not by something that a 400-year-old philosopher wrote. All I said was that I thought Descartes did get a lot of things right.

Those that use the Aristotelian model as a basis for their deliberations but also accounts for the substantive claims of contemporary philosophy, they are genuine philosophers with a contribution to make in today's world. These are the philosophers that you might wish to review. As you can appreciate from my atheist perspective, I would advise to step away from the philosopher theologists. There are many others who are Aristotelian in perspective but have a much looser connection with theology. These, to my mind, are the genuine Aristotelian philosophers.


How many GODDAMN times do I have to tell you that I DON'T HAVE ANY GODDAMN CONNECTION WITH THEOLOGY. My dualism is NOT based on religious dogma or theology. It is based on my OWN EXPERIENCE AND COMMON SENSE. I am and will probably always be agnostic on the questions of God's existence and an afterlife (although I do believe that the questions of God and the afterlife are separate issues, despite what most have been trained to believe). If you're OK with Aristotelian philosophy separate from theology, why the hell are you not OK with dualism separate from theology?

BenYachov said...

@ingx24

Paps is a simple minded fundie. He was a fundie back when he believed in God & he is a fundie now.

For him if reductionist materialism & Positivism are false then God must exist and for him God may never exist or the woo's are correct.

He could not concieve of believing in a God who would use evolution & didn't create the world in 6 literal days what makes you think he can concieve of any Atheist reality apart from reductionist materialism, physicalist monism & Positivism?

His head would explode.

ingx24 said...

Sounds about right.

Papalinton said...

ingX24
At no time did my comment to you castigate or question your philosophical journey. All I was doing was to place a context in the mash that generally comes under the rubric of philosophy. Not was it any form of criticism or denigration. I am very concerned that you have perceived it that way. Point by point:

1. "So you're saying that I have to be a reductive materialist, otherwise I just haven't taken account of "modern philosophical argument"?"

Where did I say this of you?

2. " Do you seriously think that I believe that the mind resides in the pineal gland?"

Not at all. Where did I say this? The intention here was to illustrate that while Descartes was one of our greatest philosophers he also got things wrong; big time.

3, " Do you seriously think that my views on the mind are entirely shaped by what Descartes wrote?"

Again, where did I refer to this in relation to you? Again I was illustrating that Descartes offered his treatise over 300 years ago and the truths in it must be viewed in the context in which he wrote it. Particularly the idea of dualism. But much of current philosophy as it grapples with and takes account of the research from the various branches of neuro-science seem at this very early stage of investigation there may be no merit in the separation of mind and body, mind and soul or brain and mind.

4. "My views on the mind are shaped by common sense and personal experience, not by something that a 400-year-old philosopher wrote. All I said was that I thought Descartes did get a lot of things right."

And I certainly understood all of this from your comments. And yes it is acknowledged Descartes did get things right. But he also got things wrong; hence my comment re: pineal gland and soul connection. The question of the concept of dualism also appears to be the subject of strong challenge within philosophy today, notwithstanding what the neurosciences seem to be provisionally informing us. My advice to those that root for Descartes' dualism, they might wish to keep their options open until the jury returns. Otherwise there may be some very disappointed dualists.

One thing that I would strongly suggest is to remind yourself on occasion, the Catch-22 of 'common sense' is that it is isn't all that common. And 'personal experience' is not a reliable guide at the best of times and must be tempered with external knowledge, experience, and outside advice. This external stuff is what we call learning and what informs and shapes our 'personal experience'. The intuition aspect of personal experience is simply not enough.

CONT

Papalinton said...

CONT.
5. "How many GODDAMN times do I have to tell you that I DON'T HAVE ANY GODDAMN CONNECTION WITH THEOLOGY."

And nor did I either imply or say that you did. Your outburst is deeply concerning. If you read my comment again, all I asked was that you steer clear of the philosophy-theologists, because I don't think any answers are to be found there. I say this because I openly noted that I am an atheist. I also advice that from personal experience after having also been a Christian for the first half of my life. So I have witnessed and experienced both sides of the fence.

6. "My dualism is NOT based on religious dogma or theology. It is based on my OWN EXPERIENCE AND COMMON SENSE. I am and will probably always be agnostic on the questions of God's existence and an afterlife (although I do believe that the questions of God and the afterlife are separate issues, despite what most have been trained to believe)."

And I wouldn't want you to have it any other way. How you resolve these issues are completely a matter for you and I would never presume.

7. If you're OK with Aristotelian philosophy separate from theology, why the hell are you not OK with dualism separate from theology?"

Two reasons. I don't think theology is a proper basis for philosophy. There seem to be emerging better explanations about the relationship between body and mind and brain and mind. Early research seems to be filling in some of the blanks. So the question I ask myself: Should I remain faithful to a 400 year-old philosophical position or should I lean towards the preliminary findings of contemporary research into the mind-body conundrum?

I hope you find an answer that best suits what you are seeking.

ingx24 said...

The thing is, neuroscientific research has only revealed causal correlations between brain activity and mental activity: when one is affected, so is the other. This does not mean that mind and brain are identical - while perfect correlation can be evidence for identity if all else is equal (Occam's razor etc.), if we have independent reasons to believe that the mind is not just electrochemical brain activity (and personal first-person experience gives us plenty of reasons) then the best conclusion to draw is that mind and brain are deeply connected, not that the correlation implies identity.

Papalinton said...

IngX24
He is a clean edited version with far less mistakes and spelling errors:

ingX24
At no time did my comment to you castigate or question your philosophical journey. All I was doing was to place a context around the mash that generally comes under the rubric of philosophy. Nor was it any form of criticism or denigration. I am very concerned that you have perceived it that way. Point by point:

1. "So you're saying that I have to be a reductive materialist, otherwise I just haven't taken account of "modern philosophical argument"?"

Where did I say this of you?

2. "Do you seriously think that I believe that the mind resides in the pineal gland?"

Not at all. Where did I say this? The intention here was to illustrate that while Descartes was one of our greatest philosophers he also got things wrong; big time.

3. "Do you seriously think that my views on the mind are entirely shaped by what Descartes wrote?"

Again, where did I refer to this in relation to you? And again I was simply illustrating that Descartes offered his treatise over 300 years ago and the truths in it must be viewed in the context in which he wrote it. Particularly the idea of dualism. Much of current philosophy, as it grapples with and takes account of the research from the various branches of neuro-science, seem to be showing at this very early stage of investigation, that there may be no merit in separating the mind from the body, or brain from mind.

4. "My views on the mind are shaped by common sense and personal experience, not by something that a 400-year-old philosopher wrote. All I said was that I thought Descartes did get a lot of things right."

And I certainly understood all of this from your comments. And yes I acknowledged that Descartes did get things right. But he also got things wrong; hence my comment re: pineal gland and soul connection. The concept of dualism also appears to remain in question and deeply problematical, as well as the subject of strong challenge within philosophy today, notwithstanding what the neurosciences seem to be provisionally informing us. My advice to those [and I mean this generally, not specifically you] that root for Descartes' dualism, they might wish to keep their options open until the jury returns. Otherwise there may be some very disappointed dualists.

One thing that I would strongly suggest is to remind yourself on occasion, the Catch-22 of 'common sense' is that it isn't all that common. And 'personal experience' is not a reliable guide at the best of times and must be tempered with external knowledge, experience, and outside advice. This external stuff is what we call learning and what informs and shapes our 'personal experience'. The intuition aspect of personal experience is simply not enough.

CONT

Papalinton said...

CONT.
5. "How many GODDAMN times do I have to tell you that I DON'T HAVE ANY GODDAMN CONNECTION WITH THEOLOGY."

And nor did I either imply or say that you did. Your outburst is deeply worrying to me. If you read my comment again, all I asked was that you steer clear of the philosophy-theologists, because I don't think any answers are to be found there. I said this and openly noted that I am an atheist. It was also from my personal experience, after having also been a Christian for the first half of my life, that I make this comment. So I have indeed witnessed and experienced both sides of the fence, as a flag-waving, card-carrying Christian bible thumper, and latterly as an atheist.

6. "My dualism is NOT based on religious dogma or theology. It is based on my OWN EXPERIENCE AND COMMON SENSE. I am and will probably always be agnostic on the questions of God's existence and an afterlife (although I do believe that the questions of God and the afterlife are separate issues, despite what most have been trained to believe)."

And I wouldn't want you to have it any other way. How you resolve these issues are completely a matter for you alone and I would never presume.

7. If you're OK with Aristotelian philosophy separate from theology, why the hell are you not OK with dualism separate from theology?"

Two reasons. (1) I don't think theology is a proper basis for philosophy. (2) Better explanations seem to be emerging about the relationship between body and mind and brain and mind. Early research seems to be filling in some of the blanks. So the question I ask myself: Should I remain faithful to a 400 year-old philosophical position or should I lean towards the preliminary findings of contemporary research into the mind-body conundrum?

I hope you find an answer that best suits what you are seeking.

Papalinton said...

ingX24
"The thing is, neuroscientific research has only revealed causal correlations between brain activity and mental activity: when one is affected, so is the other. This does not mean that mind and brain are identical - while perfect correlation can be evidence for identity if all else is equal (Occam's razor etc.), if we have independent reasons to believe that the mind is not just electrochemical brain activity (and personal first-person experience gives us plenty of reasons) then the best conclusion to draw is that mind and brain are deeply connected, not that the correlation implies identity.

If this comment characterises the essence of your understanding to this point, then go with it. But as for 'dualism' generally, keep an open mind and keep an eye on the data going forward.

You do understand where I stand though on the matter of dualism; that is, the mind is what the brain does and I will continue to argue from that perspective. But please don't see that as a personal attack on you, but rather on the ideas held. I see no future for dualism nor anything that resides in the supernatural, because the supernatural, just like leprechauns, or Middle Earth of the Lord of the Rings, or Narnia, are figments of the mind, with no basis for reality in the natural world.

Cheers

Dan Gillson said...

Paps, honestly, go away. You have once again proven that you 1.) Can't follow what's going on; 2.) Can't contribute in a meaningful way; and 3.) Try to write well beyond your level of skill.

Hal said...

ingx24,

'"Explanatory usefulness" is irrelevant; if substance dualists' arguments are sound, then substance dualism is proven regardless of its "explanatory power" in neuroscience.'

How would you establish the existence of something in this world that has no explanatory power?
That appears to me to be impossible.
Care to provide some actual examples?

ingx24 said...

When I said "explanatory usefulness", I was referring more or less to scientific explanatory power, i.e. the ability to explain observable phenomena. Materialists often misunderstand and misrepresent what dualism actually is - they assume that dualism is "positing" some kind of "immaterial matter" or "ectoplasm" to "explain" the mind, then go on to say that "ectoplasm" doesn't explain anything about the mind any better than normal brain matter does and that "positing" "ectoplasm" is just multiplying entities beyond necessity. But this is not what dualism claims at all. Dualism is just the common-sense view that the mind is a thing in itself, not reducible to anything else, and logically separate from the brain and body (even if the mind may, for whatever reason, not actually survive the death of the body). Materialists have a hard time understanding dualism because they tend to only see things in scientific terms (to the point where materialists see mental phenomena as theoretical entities posited to explain behavior, hence theories like functionalism and eliminative materialism).

Hal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hal said...

ngx24,
I’m not asking you to provide some kind of scientific support for this “mind” you keep referring to.

I think that even outside of science it is not possible to establish the existence of something in this world without that thing also having some explanatory power.
To be honest, I don't understand how anything could exist in the world without it also having explanatory power.

To be clearer, I think anything that is capable of being used in an explanation can be said to have explanatory power.

It would be helpful to me if you could give me an example of something that has been proven to exist in the world that has no such power.