[asa] Re: [asa] Dualism and the thing that makes volitional me ³me²

From: Murray Hogg <muzhogg@netspace.net.au>
Date: Thu Apr 23 2009 - 16:27:56 EDT

Ted Davis wrote:
> According to Harrison, Descartes did indeed propose two substances (mind and body), but he did not believe that they were separate in terms of interactions.

Interesting point, Ted.

It's pertinent to Fred's original question for me to note that most, if not all, of my Christian acquaintances who are scientifically trained reject any form of mind/body dualism. Their reason for doing so is that it seems to make the "spirit" dependent upon the body in a quite unacceptable way. In particular, they are swayed by the sort of problems which arise when one tries to account for changes in personality which occur when one suffers deterioration in brain function through drug use, aging or injury.

This, however, seems predicated on the assumption that there is NOT a very close association of body and spirit. To put it simply (and perhaps not entirely accurately) they seem to think that dualism involves the claim that the human spirit exists as a kind of "puppet-master" which controls the body from outside and which can in no way be influenced by later - a kind of "one-way" interaction.

If, however, one posits a very "tight" association of mind and body such that the interaction runs both ways (and here we get back to the point of my response to Ted's above), then I don't see that the above objection to dualism stands. Why can it not be the case that humans are partially composed of some "non-material stuff" the behavior of which is constrained by the "material stuff"? It doesn't seem an incoherent suggestion and the very point, as I understand it, of a Christian dualism is that the spiritual is in intimate association with the physical such that the two cannot be discerned - a human being is, after all, a single entity and to try to drive a definitive line between the physical and the spiritual aspects of the person could be equated with attempts to drive a line between the emotional and the rational aspects of the person.

In saying this I am not advocating that dualism is correct - only that I believe a Christian concept of mind-body (or spirit-body) dualism should not necessarily be equated with the idea that the spirit exists as a detached entity which controls the body "from the outside." A Christian dualism should, in other words, look very much like monism in many respects.

I am, incidentally, prepared to allow that at a scientific level - that is to say, in terms of physical phenomena - it might be a rather moot point whether monism or dualism is correct. If the dualist claim is that anything which effects the body effects the mind/spirit and vice versa, then for scientific purposes it probably doesn't very much matter whether one is a monist or a dualist - but it's precisely the fact that it doesn't matter very much "for scientific purposes" that makes me wonder if my scientist friends who embrace monism haven't jumped to too hasty a conclusion.


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Received on Thu Apr 23 16:29:37 2009

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