Substance dualism: do Descartes arguments work? Michael Lacewing
Substance dualism: do Descartes arguments work? Michael Lacewing [email protected] .uk Descartes divisibility argument The body is extended in space; it has (literal) parts. The mind has no (literal) parts. Leibnizs law of the indiscernibility of
identicals: If X and Y are the same thing, then they have the same properties Therefore, if X and Y have different properties, they are not the same thing Therefore, mind and body are different. Objections Mental illness and theories of the unconsciousness suggest that the mind does have parts Reply: bodies are spatially divisible, but minds are only
functionally divisible On the divisibility of the body Is it always true to say that something physical has parts? Could the smallest physical things not be divided in principle, e.g. force fields? But we can still talk of them having half the size This depends on the best theory of space If not all physical things are divisible,
then the fact that the mind isnt divisible doesnt show that it isnt physical Am I a substance? I think - is there an I? What does this mean? If I exist - as a substance - from one thought to the next, Descartes has not shown this; only that there are thoughts. If I exist as that which thinks this thought, Descartes has not shown I exist for more than one thought.
Obj: The second premise assumes that the mind is a substance Perhaps minds arent divisible because there are no minds only mental properties Descartes conceivability argument It is conceivable that mind can exist without body. Therefore, it is possible that mind can exist without body.
Therefore, mind and body are distinct substances. What is conceivable may not be possible Just because Descartes can think of his mind existing without his body, this doesnt mean that his mind really can exist without his body. What is conceivable is not always possible I think the Masked Man robbed the bank; I dont think my father robbed the bank; therefore, my father isnt the Masked Man. In one sense, it is possible that my father is not
the Masked Man. But if, unknown to me, my father is the Masked Man, then it is impossible that my father is not the Masked Man. Conceivability and possibility From conceiving that two people are distinct, we cant infer that they are distinct. Perhaps this applies to mind and body Reply: when we clearly and distinctly conceive of two things as distinct, then we can infer that they are distinct
Clear and distinct conception can establish possibility, e.g. all triangles must have angles that add up to 180 Masked Man: not clear and distinct; mind and body: clear and distinct Possibility and reality Suppose it is possible that the mind can exist as a distinct substance. Does this show that it is a distinct substance? If we can conceive of the mind and body as not distinct, e.g. that the mind is the thinking part of something extended, then it also seems possible
that the mind is not a substance So which is it? Descartes must show not only that it is possible for the mind to be independent of the body, but that it is impossible for it to be dependent on the body Is mental substance conceivable? What makes it possible for me to think I think? Perhaps we become confused when
conceiving of mind as distinct from the body Logical behaviourism: To talk of mental states is to talk of how something behaves But without a body, how can something exhibit behaviour? A mental state is something that only a physical substance can have
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