Practical Metaphysics: The Case of Mind-Body Dualism

Metaphysics is unavoidable in human life and metaphysical assumptions predate rational self-conscious reflection. Though most people spend little or no time pondering metaphysical questions as such, there is no one who does not adopt one metaphysical stance or another. What I mean by a metaphysical stance is a position that assumes certain realities that go beyond empirical tests and all possible observations. These assumptions have practical consequences for the way a person experiences the world and projects him or herself into it. It is part of our ‘being in the world’. Philosophers, of course, have explicitly considered metaphysical questions. What is Being? Reality? Metaphysical Substance? How are appearances related to what is? How do reason and logic function in arguing metaphysical theories?

One unavoidable metaphysical concern is the problem of mind-body dualism. The ancient Western philosophical tradition largely treats mind and body as separate, though the concept of ‘mind’ is modern. The ancient distinction is between body and soul. Bodies can disintegrate, but souls move on to whatever awaits them after leaving the body. Some are described as going to Hades as gibbering shades, some to the Blessed Isles, others to the River Tartarus, Heaven, Hell or Paradise. Some are said to pass from body to body in successive reincarnations. Can we prove that such views are logically impossible?
Other-worldly religions perpetuate a commitment to metaphysical dualism for the simple reason that if this were not true, then there would be no ‘other world’, no afterlife, no other body to inhabit. Dualism is an unavoidable metaphysical view for those who believe and have faith in the existence of life after death. It is right that believers in the afterlife speak of belief and faith, because no metaphysical view can be proved beyond doubt.
Descartes provoked the modern problem by casting the mind-body distinction as one between Divinely created secondary metaphysical substances. This idea permitted the continuance of mental life beyond the destruction of the body. He deferred to revelation at the cost of logical consistency in his philosophy. Today’s debate about mind-body dualism takes up a naturalistic rather an a religious perspective. From this perspective, dualism can hardly be understood.
Sometimes a gap opens up between one metaphysical orientation and another. People looking at each other from opposite sides of this gap, over time, start speaking, as it were, different languages. We really stop being able to understand one another. It is like the lack of understanding we find in two intransigent ideologically-minded political parties. At this point, argument loses its grip. It is useless to attack someone who is not standing on the same metaphysical ground as oneself. The best we can do is to profess ignorance of metaphysical matters and start asking questions about the different views and their practical implications.
The situation is complex, but the basic idea is that the rejection of metaphysics is itself a metaphysical position. Even my own non-dogmatic skepticism is a profession of faith in the benefits of lightening the load of beliefs I carry. There are still plenty of things that I believe provisionally on the basis of experience, but I do not have to go on to make a leap of faith to one of the alternative metaphysical narratives that history has thrown my way.
To conclude, let us return to mind-body dualism. Accept it or reject it, one is willy-nilly entering into a personal contract with a metaphysical view. Furthermore, no matter what view is adopted, it will have practical consequences and affect one’s life and lived experience. So, from the naturalistic position of most Western university philosophy departments, what is the practical consequence of dropping mind-body dualism? The main one is that we will no longer be able to speak of mind continuing after the end of the body.
Accepting dualism, on the other hand, which it is always possible to do with faith and belief, legitimizes one or another of the myriad narratives that deal with the next life. For many believers, there is a heavenly judge who sees how law-abiding one has been. However, one’s consciousness changes upon the thought that one is being observed. In one story, Saint Peter is always looking on, never sleeping, recording in his book one’s good and bad deeds and intentions. This puts a burden on those who accept mind-body dualism that is absent from those who do not. I hope this shows that practical metaphysics is not a contradiction in terms, but a necessity. It is best to be actively conscious of the role that practical metaphysics plays in all our lives.

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19 Comments.

  1. Thank you very much for this clarifying and beautifully written article. I have just get acquainted with your posts, and I have to say they are excellent both in content and form. They have also triggered a lot of experiences and thinking that if you allow me I would like to share.

    First of all, during my growth I got in contact with many beliefs and belief systems that in many ways defined my position: I basically do not believe in a mind-body dualism and your article helped to understand why.

    First, I am a scientist. I have a PhD in Biochemistry and Cellular Biology, and have contributed to more than 20 peer reviewed articles in my field. Basically that defines strongly a lot of my thinking skills and belief systems. From that perspective, it is hard for me to justify a division between mind and body. I have never been able to study (or read a study) a mind out of a body or find a reliable theory that predicts a mind separate from a body. But, as in most important problems, I have no definite proof that there no minds outside bodies.

    Second, I grew up as a catholic and at some time I was heavily religiously inclined. I enjoyed the writings of monks, particularly Thomas Merton. But then in that process, I found something that impacted me. A Benedictine monk in his studies on the bible and the meaning of words describe the meaning of ‘Poor” in the mountain sermon by Mathew and Luke . In one it says, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, and in the other, Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The original arameic word was anawin whose meaning appears to be close to humility/humbleness. What at that time surprised me was that one of the modern Popes in the 20th century interpreted this as that poverty was good because you will enter heaven. This disappointed me completely, because I believed at that time and I believe now that there is nothing good in poverty as well as there is nothing good in suffering. So then, I started to wonder, if these promises of a better life after death were just a cheap palliative to unacceptable and unnecessary sufferings. For this plus other reasons I walked away from Catholicism.

    Then, following my spiritual inclinations, I practiced and still practice Buddhist meditation. This practice provided me perhaps with the best tools to understand suffering, its difference from pain, and allowed me to grow my mind/spirit. Just as a side note, there is a very successful program at UMass Med. Ctr lead by John Kabat Zinn (he has published several books Full Catastrophe Living could be an interesting read) that teaches meditation skills to patients that are in pain and cannot be treated by other disciplines. So that was good to me, there is at least some scientific aspect to meditation, it can be repeated, it can be studied. But then, it was very difficult for me to understand and/or accept the re-incarnation beliefs in some Buddhist traditions. They just did not make sense to me, but my practice of meditation suggested a different explanation. What if this re-incarnation belief is just a metaphor? A metaphor for our mind/spiritual growth: to change and grow, we need to let go (die) of many belief systems to allow the birth of new ones, and perhaps that was the meaning of the re-incarnation metaphor. Again, I do not have definite proof but it suited my life at that moment and is a belief I still keep.

    Finally, after reading this article I realize that the mind-body division reflects our stance on death, which in my opinion, is our stance on life. You see you can say I am living or I am dying and you are referring to the same process. There is no substantial difference in the statements only a subjective/emotional difference. I am living is associated with positive happy thoughts; I am dying with sad, fear, etc. So this left me with perhaps the most precious belief in my life; I want to live it as I would like to die, full of love, compassion and happiness.

  2. Re Jeff Mason Aug 19th.

    I am wondering if the mind body duality is really properly speaking, a metaphysical problem. Just looking at it from a daily viewpoint for what it is worth I am unable to find more than a scanty reference to it in four well known books on metaphysics in my possession. When I was at university which was comparatively recently The mind body problem was dealt with under the Philosophy of Mind and also in any studies of Descartes, Metaphysics was something else, if you like, ‘Philosophy Proper’. I am not claiming any rights and wrongs here, just what was the case, as I recollect..
    I am now however more inclined to think of it as a problem capable of solution by way of scientific method. You say “What I mean by a metaphysical stance is a position that assumes certain realities that go beyond empirical tests and all possible observations.” I am not sure that this is the case with the mind body duality. Here I am taking it that Mind is what brains do, nothing like a soul is involved. That I think is better considered in a religious context. So this leaves us with body and brain and surely brain is a part of the body with which it has when necessary, a two way, back and forth interaction. There is now sufficient scientific evidence to substantiate that free will is likely not the case, and also that the body can function and make decisions whilst in a state of unconsciousness. So science has to date performed empirical work which has included observations measurements and deductions within which I believe, the word Mind if used at all is not regarded as a scientific term. To enlarge on this would be too time consuming but it is in the public domain and most likely there are many already acquainted with it, especially with those who are not sympathetic with the concept of free will. If you are going to argue that mind is something non material, but nevertheless interacts with the body, perhaps as Descartes claimed, by way of the pineal gland, then I must choose the better explanation with which science has already made some surprising progress.

  3. “There is now sufficient scientific evidence to substantiate that free will is likely not the case”

    Don;

    Could you point me to the evidence supporting this? I am very interested to look at the experiments.

    Thanks a lot

  4. From Jeff: Thanks for the posts. It may be that metaphysics has a more restricted range in current research than I use. For me, the problem of free will, like mind-body dualism, will remain metaphysical because scientific experimentation can neither prove nor disprove them. Even Kant, who is no big friend of metaphysical speculation, acknowledged that free will can be neither proved nor disproved ti exist with apodeictic certainty. The question is really practical. What are the effects of believing in free will or not on the person who holds the belief? That is my question. It may be that what I am calling ‘metaphysical’ questions are really just those philosophical questions that will never be hived off into a new science. Just speculating.

  5. s. wallerstein (ex amos)

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/metaphysics/#ProAboMenPhy

    Here’s the Stanford Encyclopedia article on Metaphysics.

    If you go to section 3.3., “Problems about the Mental and the Physical”, you can see that the mind-body problem is still considered as a metaphysical one by many philosophers.

    I assume that the Stanford Encyclopedia strives to represent a consensus of professional philosophical opinion.

  6. Jeff, as I will call the author of the article, says that “no metaphysical view can be proved beyond doubt.” But his reason for making this assertion is not clear. The best candidate for such reason that I can find (based on the paragraph beginning “Sometimes a gap”) is that people with different metaphysical views disagree. But this obviously does not show that no metaphysical view can be proved beyond doubt. And, in the case of, say, dualists and materialists, are the two sides really speaking “different languages”? There are two features of mind that seem to be commonly recognized: qualia and intentionality. If both sides keep these features in mind, then there is some commonality in their ideas of the mind.

    And, if Frank Jackson’s knowledge argument* is sound, then it does prove beyond doubt that dualism is true. The argument assumes that we can know material facts, and you can deny this. But, if this is what Jeff is doing, he does not give a good reason. And bringing a fairly radical skepticism into the picture would make it pretty hard to do any philosophy of mind as commonly understood.

    But, even if we should adopt beliefs based on their practical benefits (which I think Jeff is claiming, though I think he is not explicit about it), this brings up issues of doxastic voluntarism that Jeff does nothing to address.

    I have two last points concerning the consequences alleged by Jeff of belief in dualism and lack of such belief. Given materialism, there may still be life after death because there may be bodily resurrection. Also, Jeff seems to think that there is a burden on dualists that is absent from non-dualists because, “[f]or many believers, there is a heavenly judge”. But it is perfectly consistent to be an atheistic dualist.

    *”Epiphenomenal Qualia” here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/%28ISSN%291467-9213/homepage/a_virtual_issue_from_the_pq.htm

  7. Michael, you are right that I did not prove that metaphysical views cannot be proved. There are all sorts of ‘proofs’ for metaphysical theories. You are right that it is probably impossible to provide a proof for the non-provability of all metaphysical claims. However, this fits my view that they are not provable. I think that the fact that people can always disagree about metaphysical claims does show that we cannot bring the usual evidence to bear on them. It is not like proving that circles have no corners, or that water boils at 100 degrees Celsius. As for the ontological status of qualia and intentionality, I am pretty sure that their status is not accepted as obvious.

    I am not claiming to know that no metaphysical theory is true, I am just skeptical about how we are to know such things. In the failure of knowledge, then the practical question arises. How do the beliefs you hold, that must remain beliefs, affect how you see the world and other people, the meaning of life, if any, etc. etc.

    As for reincarnation, I agree that if the token of my body were at this instant to be reduplicated somewhere else at another time, I would be there again. This is a good reason why Catholics insist that the body be buried, so that it can be resurrected on judgement day.

    As for atheistic dualism, perhaps. But if it is Cartesian on conception, then God comes in at the ultimate creator of minds and body.

    Also, I can guess what doxastic voluntarism is, but what issue does it raise that I need to address? Thanks for helping me get clearer about these issues. The great thing about writing meditations for TPM is that they do not have to be ‘last words’ but can always be a work in progress. The feedback is the best part for me. Jeff

  8. Re jmret August 19th.
    In reply to your request for scientific evidence concerning the problem of free will. The First port of call is The work of Benjamin Libet. This and similar information is contained in the following web sites
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroscience_of_free_will

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Libet

    I append a scan from Jeffrey Gray’s “Consciousness:-Creeping up on the hard Problem” You will appreciate that if we perform a bodily action before consciousness of it occurs, then the concept of free will is threatened. You might like to have a look at the following web site which will tell you more about Gray. He did not take a specific view concerning Free will as such, he was mainly concerned with he problem of Consciousness, but this does ramify into free will and scientifically speaking consideration of one will nearly always embrace the other,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Alan_Gray

    “2.1 Consciousness comes too late
    First, most behaviour takes place too quickly for it to depend upon conscious perception. This takes time. Estimates of just how much time vary somewhat, depending upon particular experimental designs, but a common estimate is that it takes about 250 millseconds (a full quarter of a second) after an event has impinged upon one of the sense organs before you become consciously aware of it.
    Now, apply that length of time to any fast-moving activity, grand-slam tennis, for example. The speed of the ball after a serve is so great, and the distance over which it has to travel so short, that the player who receives the serve must strike it back before he has had time consciously to see the ball leave the server’s racket. Conscious awareness comes too late to affect his stroke. The same applies to the perception by the receiver of his own return stroke. Consciously, he neither sees nor feels his arm move before the stroke is completed. Now, of course, the brain receives information about the visual trajectory of the serve before the return stroke is made; and also information, both visual and proprioceptive (the feel of the arm moving), while it is being made. Without that information, the return stroke could not be accomplished. But the brain’s use of this information to compute and perform the return stroke is performed unconsciously, that is, without the accom­paniment of conscious awareness. Some (but by no means all) of this information becomes available to consciousness after the event. When it does so, it retains (usually) the same, veridical temporal structure as the events to which it relates: so one has the conscious perception of the ball leaving the server’s racket and then the conscious perception of making the return stroke. Where the illusion lies is in the appearance that it was your conscious seeing of the ball that made it possible for you consciously to strike it.
    So anticipating the ball’s trajectory is achieved unconsciously. This is a theme I shall develop more fully later in the book (Chapters 7 and 8).You may also think that this is an exceptional case that occurs only under the extreme conditions of modern high-speed athletics. But it is in no way exceptional. In 1991 Max Velmans ( Behavioural and Brain Scienes 14. 651-69) reviewed a large experimental literature from which he concluded that all of the following processes are capable of being, and normally are, completed unconsciously before we have any conscious awareness of what is being carried out: analysis of sensory input; analysis of emotional content of input; phonological and semantic analysis of heard speech; semantic and phonological preparation of one’s own spoken words and sentences; learning; the formation of memories; choice and preparation of voluntary acts; planning and execution of movements. That is a formidable list (specific examples are presented throughout the book). The degree to which one is unconscious of what is going on varies somewhat from case to case. Generally, however, one is aware, after the process is completed, only of the preceived result of the process, not of how it was carried out: the meaningful words spoken by others or by ourselves, the form of the move­ment after we have made it, and so on. To take a striking example, one that brings us back to the earth of simpler functions, consider pain: accidentally touch a heated hotplate on the stove and you will withdraw your hand long before you feel the pain.”

    Other sources of information I recommend Are as follows
    “The Illusion of Conscious will” By Daniel M Wegner.
    “ The Visual Brain in action” By David Milner and Melvyn a Goodale
    “ Sight Unseen:- An exploration of Conscious and Unconscious Vision” By David Milner and Melvyn a Goodale.

    I thought rather than just quote scientific papers to you it would provide a better flavor of this fascinating subject to present it in the way I have. You will no doubt find such papers as you wish to find, from the information I have given, which I hasten to add is not comprehensive but hopefully will provide a good starting point, I assume you have access to whatever scientific journals exhibit experimental work.

  9. Don;

    Thank you for all the information. I will read it carefully but I agree with your arguments and I am convinced that a lot of responses are unconcious. In fact, athetletes train themselves to perform them as second nature.i.e not thinking about them.

    So agreeing that this is correct, then the argument follows that since we respond in a such a fast unconcious manner, there is not free will. Understanding free will as the expression of a concious procress. i.e free will can only be a result of a concious process and is not unconcious.

    I have 2 questions that migth be answered in the literature you provided, but I will share them with you anyway. First, there is still a slow concious process in play, where the unconcious can be tempered and sometimes overidden, wouldn’t these activities count as free will? And as I also stated athetletes choose to train themselves to respond in an specific task as second nature, like playing tennis, isn’t this activity, the planing, execution and the sacrifices involved, considered free will? So, finally free will might not be absolute, and here my arguments are similar to the discussions on determinism vs non-determinism.
    My second question, perhaps it is easy to answer but I am curious about your opinion. Can we consider the unconcious as a source of free will? Many creative processes have been expressed in dreams, for example the structure of bencene was revealed to Kekule in a dream; he was researching this topic. There are other examples. I know this can be highly speculative and take like that but I am interested in your opinion.

    Thank you for the references, I will enjoy reading them

  10. Jeff, I did not claim that it is probably impossible to provide a proof for the non-provability of all metaphysical claims. And, concerning the ontological status of qualia and intentionality, that is of course at issue in the debate between dualists and non-dualists. But qualia and intentionality present themselves in about the same way to all of us (or at least we assume that they do). So I still think there would be commonality.

    Now here is how I view your broader argument for practical metaphysics:

    1. We should either continue metaphysics as currently practiced or adopt practical metaphysics.
    2. It is not the case that we should continue metaphysics as currently practiced because no metaphysical claim can be proved beyond doubt.
    3. Therefore, we should adopt practical metaphysics.

    If this is your argument, then I think I see some problems with it (some I haven’t mentioned). First of all, I think you are using a false dichotomy in your first premise. It is surely the case that metaphysics as currently practiced aims at giving at least one provable claim. (Surely, it does not fail to aim to give even one.) But there is a possible kind of metaphysics that is different both from this and from practical metaphysics. For instance, one might believe that no metaphysical claim can be proved because we cannot disprove skeptical hypotheses like the one that we’re being deceived by an evil demon. Then she might just assume the falsity of such skeptical hypotheses and talk about metaphysics as though they were false without aiming to provide any provable metaphysical claim. But she need only make such assumption in practice. (One can believe whatever one believes, but what one assumes in an argument is a different matter.)

    This is different from metaphysics as currently practiced because it does not aim to give a provable metaphysical claim. (Or, if it does, it’s only in a certain context.) And it’s different from practical metaphysics because it does not essentially involve the claim that we should adopt beliefs based on the practical benefits of doing so (which I think practical metaphysics does).

    Secondly, if you cannot prove that no metaphysical claim can be proved beyond doubt, then I am not sure what kind of support you think the second premise has or why you think that support is appropriate or how you can maintain that it is without begging the question.

    Thirdly, if it is not the case that we should continue metaphysics as currently practiced because no metaphysical claim can be proved beyond doubt, then isn’t it also not the case that we should adopt practical metaphysics because it cannot be proved beyond doubt? I think practical metaphysics essentially involves the claim that we should adopt beliefs based on the practical benefits of doing so. But this is a normative claim that, if you try to prove beyond doubt, will lead to an infinite regress. If I am not thinking of this in the right way, perhaps this is better: If it is not the case that we should continue metaphysics as currently practiced because no metaphysical claim can be proved beyond doubt, then it is not the case that we should adopt practical metaphysics because no practical metaphysical claim can be proved beyond doubt. (Can it?)

    And my final point concerning the actual argument for practical metaphysics is that it needs to be spelled out what role choice is to play in practical metaphysics. “Ought” implies “can”. But I think very many of our beliefs we do not directly choose.

    Lastly, I’m happy you agree with me about materialism and bodily resurrection. But the only explanation I can think of for your apparent hesitance to agree with me about atheistic dualism is bias. You might have a strong inclination to associate dualism with theistic religion, but one can obviously consistently be even a substance dualist and an atheist.

  11. Hi, Charles Myro here,

    The notion that there is mind and there is matter and they are mutually exclusive—is an assumption, not a necessary point of view but optional.
    And I must ask, how does one separate mind from matter, mind from world, mental from physical, inner from outer. It seems to me there is no clear distinction between them–except by fiat.
    Just one example: subjectivity is assumed to correspond to mind and objectivity to matter.
    But if subjectivity exists, it must exist objectively and the existence of objectivity is determined subjectively, is a subjective determination.
    And isn’t then the scheme of subjectivity versus objectivity, a notion? But if it is an existing scheme, is not the scheme objectively existing? So where is mental diverging from matter, subjective clearly differentiated from objective? I don’t see it.
    Also, subjective and objective, and mental and physical are defined in terms of each other.In this way too, they are inseparable.
    At what point can we say that mind is uninvolved? I think it cannot be said.
    Why not just say, there are points of view, one being that there is mind and there is matter?
    In certain circumstances it is convenient to talk of mind and divide it from body or matter. But is it necessary? –instead of saying a thought came up that x is so,one could say that something arose that represented that x is so. Division into mind and matter are not a necessity, just a common parlance.
    If we are just as all other things are, then is-ness, being, is our common and everlasting foundation, unceasing. In this way, at least, we do continue after death of body and mind.
    The mistake is presuming we are somehow not part and parcel of this
    world and universe and the being which spawns it moment to moment.
    Obviously, we are integral and not apart at any time. It is all one system, as Physics teaches and we operate as part of the universes
    operation. The feeling of separation is a kind of fiction.

  12. Re Charles Myro 24th August

    Some good points here. We think we are special but we are not. We are a product of the evolutionary process. We have invented stories myths in an effort to explain what we believe to be an exceptional state of affairs so far as we are concerned. I suppose the viewpoint that humans have of themselves at the pinnacle of creation so to speak does confer survival value to the species, notwithstanding the wholesale slaughter of each other which always has been and continues to this day. There are many Human constructs which Humans think actually exist in the real world. I suggest that Mind is one, also the notion of Causation, and human experiences of Heat, Light, and Sound.
    You say “ At what point can we say that mind is uninvolved? I think it cannot be said.” I suggest that mind was not involved before life as we would commonly classify it, was on this planet. Notwithstanding it seems there was stuff around then and interactions and events occurred, Physical and Chemical. Out of all that eventually Humans emerged. But what are they, exactly why are they here; neglect other animal life for the moment? The best explanation I am aware of originates with Richard Dawkins that we are merely vehicles built by genes for their own propagation. As you will be aware genetic mutation is an important aspect of survival for genetic material rather like a wise investor who spreads his investments such that failure in one place will me counteracted by success in another.
    It seems in the human, the genes have produced a vehicle which can now actually interact with the genetic codes with a view to enhancing survival.

  13. Jeff commented “The question is really practical. What are the effects of believing in free will or not on the person who holds the belief?”

    I find it useful to go slightly farther than this: What are the effects of believing X on the people who hold the belief (individual effect) and on their behaviour (communal/social effect)?

    I think this is a more constructive way to approach this subject, because (as you have already said so clearly) these things cannot be proved or disproved.

    By confirming the effects of X on the individual and that individuals society, we can judge how worthwhile X is, based on real and practical measurements.

  14. I feel like there is a more fundamental issue here concerning practical metaphysics than anyone has made explicit. I have said what I wanted to say about Jeff’s comments concerning mind-body dualism. Here is an attempt of mine to get at more fundamental issues concerning practical metaphysics.

    First of all, Jeff seems to assume that no metaphysical belief is epistemically justified. This is a pretty big assumption, but, if we grant it, what then? Does anything logically follow? Well, Jeff cannot claim that any belief that anything follows would be justified, because such a belief would be metaphysical (I think), and he claims that no metaphysical belief is justified.

    So it might seem that we are left with the issue of the coherence of practical metaphysics as Jeff conceives of it. But, if Jeff believes that no metaphysical belief is justified, then he must rationally believe that the coherence of practical metaphysics is really a sort of non-issue. (A claim either way would be a metaphysical one.) So I am not sure why Jeff bothers claiming that practical metaphysics is not incoherent.

    But maybe some of us want to hang on to logic or believe that belief in logic is justified. In that case, there is obviously nothing inconsistent about adopting beliefs based on the consequences of doing so in itself (though I worry about its plausibility, because I think belief is in many cases not a choice). But maybe there is some inconsistency between both rejecting metaphysics and practicing practical metaphysics. I think Jeff holds that the latter is at least adopting beliefs based on the consequences of doing so. But he does not make clear what the former is. (The latter probably is not as clear as it could be.) So I am not comfortable speculating on whether or not it is consistent to reject metaphysics and practice practical metaphysics.

    (If one is to adopt beliefs based on the consequences of doing so, how is one to know what those consequences will be? Or does one only have belief about this? If so, how is such belief determined? Is any of this inconsistent with a rejection of metaphysics?)

  15. An old programming friend of mine said:

    “There is no such thing as software, its all just charge states of bits in a silicon matrix”.

    “Then why do you call yourself a software engineer”?

    “Cos it fools people into paying me a large salary!”

    Joking apart, first of all Jeff, loved the article. For what that’s worth.

    Totally agree – and its the cornerstone of my personal philosophy – that metaphysical assumptions underlie even the Nature of the reality we perceive, and there is no way to ascertain their truth content.

    “Truth relative to what?” is the perpetual cry of the critical philosopher..and lacking that one origin against which all axes may be plotted, we can never actually say.

    For me, the metaphysical game is one of deciding where to plant the origin…

    ..hitherto the Realist position is to plant the origin in a world which is real, observed by a mythical noumenous entity, the ‘detached observer’, of science..and then to deny the reality of this observer because he *cannot be found anywhere in the reality he is observing*…Quelle surprise!

    This leading to all sorts of curious notions about the spiritual independence of this entity from the space-time world it observes… and notions of life after death for it, in some eternal Timeless realm (has to be, since Time is part of Reality as perceived)…

    The mind body problem is therefore inherent in the Realist’s choice of axes or axioms..

    Stick your origin somewhere else, and there is no mind body problem. It transforms itself into a different problem entirely.

    There will always be A problem – in any objective ontology of rational thought. There has to be. The thinker and his thought are defined always as separate and distinct.

    Same with causality and free will. If you define the Universe as mechanistic and causal, then you define there to be no free will.

    JMIRET touches on the sorts of personal transformations one can make by slightly changing the origin of ones personal metaphysics. That is entirely my study..not to argue one metaphysic against another, but to grasp the implications of choosing one over another.

  16. Well said Charles Myro.
    Equator of self-contradiction (eternal gluon of pair), is the Absolute Logic of All in all (Cosmos).-Aiya-Oba(Discoverer of Absolute Logic).

  17. Beautiful explanation!

  18. It seems to me that dualism is far easier to accept because the most likely monism generally is taken as physicalism rather than as idealism.

    The problem for physicalism is not simply to show that all objective properties can be accounted for, but also to show that private knowledge does not exist. Knowledge which can be deduced from the objective facts is not private, thus if reality includes private knowledge, then an entirely objective description of reality cannot be a complete description.

    It seems contrary to our experience to give up on the idea of qualia as private knowledge, so as untenable as dualism seems, physicalism seems even more so. But it seems that physicalism excludes private knowledge, since an objective fact cannot be private in that sense.

    Objective facts are those facts that can be communicated and verified. But the verification step is necessary because it is not a part of the communication. The communication may assert verification, but it doesn’t contain that verification. Thus the objective facts without subjective verification are an abstract model of the world, language apart from its referent. The referent of this abstract model is found in the qualia, which cannot be fully communicated. The qualia make the world concrete rather than abstract. If there were no qualia, the word “exist” wouldn’t be meaningful.

    And what is awareness anyway? Is it a thought? If it is a thought, then who is aware of that thought? It seems that thoughts aren’t aware, rather there is some non-conceptual self that is aware of thoughts.

    The physicalist holds that an objective model of reality could be completed, so that there were no facts that were not included in the objective model. But either the model is itself the reality, or else the distinction between the model and the reality is not a part of the model. That is, the essential flaw in physicalism is that the correspondence between the model and reality (the subjective verification that the model coheres with the qualia) is not an objective fact.

    The software/hardware analogy is apt, but I think it is usually seen the wrong way around.

    A computer program entails a logical view of logical objects. The actual hardware is not available to the program, only the logical model of the hardware can possibly be available. For this reason, one computer can simulate another. Or a program can be run by hand. The program doesn’t behave differently on such a simulation. This is because it only deals with the logical model of the hardware, and thus has no way of knowing how or whether this is simulated (unless a model of that knowledge is added to the available logical model, and that model need not correspond to the physical hardware).

    The program can be viewed as a state machine, a mapping from some index set into a set of states. Each state can contain information about successor states and about predecessor states, but each state always sees itself as the current state.

    The actual current state is whatever state we perceive, or think of from some presumed current perspective, as being the current state.

    This is exactly the way the objective view of the natural world works. Every point in the timeline sees itself as “now”.

    If we then take the view that the “unperceived perceiver” is the hardware in the analogy, and the objective facts are the content of the states in the state machine (the software), then the mapping works much better.

    We may have been mislead away from that approach because *we* can see the hardware. But from within the system, only the logical model is available to the software. Within the system, the hardware is an unperceived ground of being.

    But if we see awareness itself as the reality, we arrive at a working model of dualism in which the objective facts are seen as logically distinct from the qualia, but also as a model of the observed relationships between the qualia.

    But that isn’t really dualism because, just as in the software/hardware analogy, there is no separate substance that corresponds to the logical relationships that represent the objective/logical/abstract facts.

    Thus the thinker and the thought do not represent distinct and separate substances, even though they are distinct in that the thought can never encompass the thinker. Under this view, awareness is the ground of all being.

    This still leaves the question of why the qualia have these rigid relationships, which we can model mathematically, and the terms of which models we might thus (mistakenly, in idealism) think of as external objects. But at least idealism avoids dualism without having to create real awareness out of impersonal and abstract objective attributes, as would be the case with physicalism.

  19. Sheep are utterly dependent upon the shepherd: if one gets lost,
    it is unable to find its way back home. The survival of the soul through the change called death is on the verge of being openly acknowledged by scientists and scholars of academic circles.
    When we humans put things into perspective we will soon realize that science is no different from metaphysics and spirituality.

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