Monday, August 28, 2006

On substance dualism, in answer to that question about beer, from Scott Brisbane

1. Problem of Interaction
The argument that we do not understand how a soul interacts with a physical body, appears to be based on an appeal to our ignorance (argumentum ad ignorantiam). For it assumes if we do not know “how” A causes B, especially if the two consist of different properties, that it is not reasonable to believe the two can interact. Yet, as Craig and Moreland point out, a tack can be moved by a magnetic field, and gravity acts on a planet millions of miles away.26 Gravitational forces and magnetic fields appear to have very different properties to the solid and spatially located entities they affect, and although we may not understand “how” such interaction takes place, it nonetheless does—just as we are alert to causation between the mind and body. As another example, even if one is not a theist, most do not view it as inconceivable to believe that God (given God’s existence) created the material universe and could act within despite each one being very different.
A second defense is that the question of “how” the mind interacts with the body may not even arise. As Craig and Moreland explain in depth:

One can ask how turning the key starts a car because there is an intermediate electrical system between the key and the car’s running engine that is the means by which turning the key causes the engine to start. The “how” question is a request to describe that intermediate mechanism. But the interaction between mind and body may, and most likely is, direct and immediate.27
If the interaction is direct and immediate, as Thomists would tend to believe, then there is no reason to assume there is an intermediate mechanism that facilitates the interaction.


Victor Reppert said...

Well, the objection is just an instance of what Bill Vallicella calls the "traditional problem of interaction." "If dualism is true, how does the mind interact with the body?" This is supposed to put dualism in the tank right away so that we can start discussing the fate of folk psychology given the fact that we all know (don't we???) that OF COURSE physicalism is true. Absent any further development of the argument, I think William Hasker is right: "this argument may well hold the record for overrated objections to philosophical positions.:" Over at Maverick Vallicella seems to be treating the "pairing problem" as a distinct argument, whereas in my book I see the "pairing problem" as a sophisticated attempt to develop the idea behind the traditional problem of interaction. But to merely ask the question Hivemaker asks without any further development of the argument or even awareness of how it has been answered by dualists of various stripes is to advance a highly overrated argument. But he isn't the only person arguing this way.

Victor Reppert said...

Nonphysical states are not fully describable in terms of physical laws. But they are integrated with physical systems. The laws governing those "nonphysical" states work in close harmony with physical ones to produce normal effects. There is enough freedom from the nexus of nonrational physical causation so that reasons-explanations can be basic explanations and need not be cashed out in nonrational terms. Otherwise, as I see it, the entire enterprise of science would not be possible. And I don't believe that physical states determine all other states, because I do believe in a libertarian view on free will which, on my view, alone makes the whole business of attributing responsibility to actions possible.

Here William Hasker's The Emergent Self (Cornell 1999) is just plain required reading.

Anonymous said...

HiveMaker, it doesn't appear that you actually read Victor's post, since the point of it was that there is in fact no issue here. Re-read the first sentence.

Anonymous said...

How does one distinguish between libertarian free will and random action?
If one has no determining reason for his acts, how can he be held responsible for them?