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You too may be a Substance Monist!

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Ken Hemingway

You too may be a Substance Monist!

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Substance Dualism is the view that there are basically two kinds of stuff in the world. Material stuff and Mind stuff. Mind stuff includes such things as thoughts, perceptions, feelings, minds, souls, etc. Substance Monism is the view that there's only one kind of stuff in the world
MadArchitect

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Re: You too may be a Substance Monist!

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Playing devil's advocate here.1. Nobody has ever met one.The only problem with this proof is that there are people who believe that they have met one. So long as you dismiss those accounts altogether, your point stands. But if you allot them any credibility whatsoever, then you have to admit at least the possibility of disembodiment.2. If the brain gets damaged the mind gets damaged too.That's fine as regards the nonsubstantiality of the mind, but there are claims of other nonsubstantial aspects of being, namely spirits and souls (which you refer to in your next point -- the three are not equivalent in most traditions), which would feasibly not be damaged by neurological trauma.3. Persons came about as the result of evolution.That fact that most doctrines of mind/spirit/soul do not account for evolution does not mean that evolution cannot be incorporated into such a doctrine. I imagine it would be a fairly easy thing to do, really, and it wouldn't require falling back on a notion of stockpiled souls.4. Consider the mechanism that would have to connect the mind/soul to the brain. How does it work? What makes it work both ways (mind events driving brain events and vice versa)? Descartes thought the point of connection was in the pineal gland in the brain! How come nobody is doing research on this problem?Ah, well, that's a long-standing problem in metaphysics, but the existence of the problem doesn't necessarily disprove the existence of non-corporeal elements of being.Whether you can 'prove' it or not, it is just plain obvious that all forms of personhood only exist at a high level of material complexity, not at a low level, or in the absence of material complexity.That claim only holds good within the system of material being, whereas the modern concept of God has always posited the deity as existing prior to, and therefore external to, material being.
CSflim

Re: You too may be a Substance Monist!

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I agree with pretty much all of what you said. However you do seem to be confusing some of your definitions."Substance Monism is the view that there's only one kind of stuff in the world
Ken Hemingway

Re: You too may be a Substance Monist!

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MA, I was actually being fairly careful not to talk about 'proof'. But I did say you can 'know'.I take the position that proof is not required for knowledge. Most analytical philosophers (I think) will now say that there is no incorrigible knowledge (or belief). Once you admit Descartes' demon, all beliefs are possibly false. That would require that we either give up any claim to knowledge, or we loosen up the requirements for saying that we know. I choose the latter course.So I certainly will not claim that I can 'force' someone to believe what I believe by providing irrefutable proof.What I do believe, however, is that if someone is able to come to the question with some degree of open mindedness and a genuine desire to know whether it's likely that disembodied persons exist, and they consider the four points I listed, they will come to the conclusion I have come to. It seems to me that the reason most people do not come to this conclusion has nothing to do with the kinds of objections your devilish advocate raises, but is due to the fact that they are emotionally attached to the opposite view and start looking for the weaknesses in the argument before they even consider whether the evidence is pointing in the opposite direction.If I am right about that it will generally be futile to engage in long arguments about the reasoning. A better plan to help people escape into the light (platonic reference) might be to bring them in touch with people who are living a happy (and I would say 'spiritual' life) without reliance on theistic belief. Wouldn't that tend to reduce their anxiety about the consequences of looking honestly for the truth?
Ken Hemingway

Re: You too may be a Substance Monist!

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CS, I think I am ready to accept your corrections, but what is it about Reductionism that gets Neurophilosophers into a knickertwist? I seem to remember reading a talk by Patricia Churchland in which she indignantly rejected the charge that she was a reductionist, and I think I deduced from that that she was making the point that I tried to make - i.e. you can be a physical monist without denying that mental words have genuine reference and hence that the things they refer to can be said to exist.
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Re: You too may be a Substance Monist!

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Ken Hemingway: Once you admit Descartes' demon, all beliefs are possibly false.I see no reason to date that crisis as late as Descartes. All beliefs have always implied the possibility of error.It seems to me that the reason most people do not come to this conclusion has nothing to do with the kinds of objections your devilish advocate raises, but is due to the fact that they are emotionally attached to the opposite view and start looking for the weaknesses in the argument before they even consider whether the evidence is pointing in the opposite direction.No, I think there are some pretty solid reasons in my first post. Your first question, for example, is answered irrefutably by the experiences some people claim to have. Now, the fact that some one else claims to have encountered a disembodied spirit has very little effect on my belief, but for the person making the claim it tends to be conclusive. The problem, actually, lies in your question. You're leaving it up to the person's experience, presumably on the assumption that their experience is analogous to yours. But there are plenty of documents that demonstrate the variability of experience on that count.The second admits a number of possibilities, only one of which is that the mind is not independent of the bodily organs of the nervous system. One answer that you're likely to run into (I won't champion the idea, but it's worthwhile as a potential counterargument) is that the brain serves to facilitate the interaction of the incorporeal mind with the corporeal phenomenon of the body -- in other words, that a damaged brain does not damage the mind but merely divorces it from the body to some degree. Even if we discount that argument, the second question does not solve the problem altogether -- it only demonstrates the contingency of the mind, without touching the notions of the soul or spirit.The third question I really regard as a little misguided, so I won't bother too much with it. The problem with the question, as I see it, is that it dwells too much on a specific, very narrow doctrine, one that is not even, so far as I'm aware, explicitly expressed in most spiritual schemes. It wouldn't apply, for example, to a doctrine of transmigration, and even in a doctrine that asserted a single incarnation per soul, all the believer would really have to say in order to deflect the question is, "Yes, God did hold human souls in reserve until nature had evolved a suitable body."A better plan to help people escape into the light (platonic reference) might be to bring them in touch with people who are living a happy (and I would say 'spiritual' life) without reliance on theistic belief.I would imagine that would only be a useful method in the instance of the few people who think the purpose of a doctrine of souls is to make them happy. But I don't think that's often the case.CSflim: Substance monism is the view that there is one kind of stuff in the world. Period.If I understand the term correctly, the best way to explain the distinction is to point back to the early natural philosophers of ancient Greece. They were absorbed for some time with the problem of determining what the one specific substance of nature was. Some suggested fire, some suggested air. I think the final most workable suggestion prior to the atomists was, that the single uniform substance of nature was the "Boundless". I think that was the suggestion of Anixamander, but I'm away from my reference materials at the moment.Neutral Monism: The only stuff in the world is neither physical nor mental. Both the physical and the mental are aspects of some other kind of stuff.Now there's an interesting premise. Can you point me to some philosopher that have held that premise? Or is that related to modern notions in physics?
CSflim

Re: You too may be a Substance Monist!

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Ken:I was unaware that Patricia Churchland had problems with the label reductionist. Her work is fully compatible with reductionism. (Is that talk available online? I would like to read it.)The reason she does is probably to do with the fact that the word 'reductionism' has become a 'generic insult' among certain people. Because of this, the word has taken on many negative connotations, and she may be distancing herself from a straw-man version of reductionism, rather than reductionism, per se.What is reductionism?At a very crude approximation, a reductive explanation is when some 'high-level' phenomenon is explained by showing how it is the result of the actions of its constituent parts. So one may explain the operation of a pocket watch by explaining how springs, gears, catches etc (low level facts) all interact with each other in such a way that it results in the measurement of time (high level fact).Reductionism can also be hierarchical:An example of this is explaining the very complex properties of a living organism, in terms of the interactions of its parts (e.g. heart, lungs, bones, muscles, blood system, stomach, etc). Each of these parts are then explained as the interactions between the massive amounts of cells that make up, say, the heart. The cells in turn are explained in terms of chemistry. Chemicals can be understood with the idea of 'molecules'; constructions consisting of atoms of elements. The atoms themselves are seen as consisting of protons, neutrons and electrons...(and so on, all the way down to fundamental physics)This is how a reductive explanation works. Reductionism is often caricatured by painting it as the belief that 'an animal should be studied in terms of the movement of subatomic particles'. This is clearly ridiculous, and nobody sane actually believes this. ___________________Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?-Douglas Adams, Last Chance To SeeEdited by: CSflim at: 2/2/05 2:33 pm
CSflim

Re: You too may be a Substance Monist!

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Mad:"Now there's an interesting premise. Can you point me to some philosopher that have held that premise? Or is that related to modern notions in physics?"This notion is often also reffered to as propery dualism and dual aspect theory. It's most well known contemporary champion is David Chalmers. His book The Conscious Mind is excellent, full of novel insights and well worth reading. I believe Bertrand Russell held a similar view. And Spinoza's world view is also compatible with this notion. ___________________Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?-Douglas Adams, Last Chance To SeeEdited by: CSflim at: 2/2/05 2:31 pm
Ken Hemingway

Re: You too may be a Substance Monist!

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CS, Thanks for your full reply to my questions. This is pretty much what I understood as the basic meaning of reductionism.I'm afraid I don't recall the Churchland piece I saw (if I really saw it - it was several years ago). Searching for a web ref I came across this: philosophy.ucsd.edu/EPL/expect.html in which she reaches the conclusion: I am inclined to stick with the word 'reduction', despite the complications in the biological domain, because there is really nothing suitable to take its place, and because linguistic inertia is usually a sign that current usage is in fact useful.so it seems that it would be wrong to ascribe to her a rejection of reductionism.I have to say that I'm still rather fond of distinguishing between Monist and Substance Monist on the grounds that Substance Monists don't deny that there are many types of things that exist (e.g. shadows), it's just that the non-material ones are not substances and hence cannot be said to inhabit a non-material world in which they persist when the material world changes. But if that is not the generally accepted understanding of why Monist is qualified to be Substance Monist, I guess I'll have to stop using it when I'm talking to people who know what they are talking about.
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Re: You too may be a Substance Monist!

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MA: "That fact that most doctrines of mind/spirit/soul do not account for evolution does not mean that evolution cannot be incorporated into such a doctrine. I imagine it would be a fairly easy thing to do, really, and it wouldn't require falling back on a notion of stockpiled souls."Finding a story to fit the scene? Sorry to pull this out, but this type of human conjuring is at the center of my baffled cognition. On any topic that is not provable either way in the moment, are both sides truly equal in their validity? Or is there actually a way to figure out if one sides assertations hold more merit? Just pondering, pardon me. Doc: "In some way, it is a bit ironic that we must try to be more stupid to obtain salvation."MA: "I can't think of a better way to convince a group of critical thinkers of the worthlessness of faith."
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