Dualism Essay, Research Paper


In this paper I will be discussing the philosophical perspective of Cartesian Dualism. To draw upon reliable sources my information will be base from the textbooks Doing Philosophy as well as the Unfortunate Dualist found in the anthology Mind s I. I will make an attempt to show that Smullyan s theories based on anti-dualism do not hold weight in modern philosophy

During the period when Descartes was alive, religion was a major part of society. The belief that God was all around, watching and controlling everything. This firm belief in religion made it easier for Descartes to justify dualism to the masses. If there were computer during that time his opinion may have differed because it would show him that the human mind is not the only form or intelligence. In order to prove many things such as the existence of a higher power, and the immortality of the soul, Descartes came up with. The thought experiment entailed imagining your existence without a material body, which is conceivable. Therefore Descartes envisioned the theory of dualism, the existence of the immaterial mind and the physical body.

The main opponent to Cartesian Dualism is the theory of materialism. The theory of materialism states that the mind is brain matter and is stimulated or engaged into action. Bodily functions are occur when the brain tells the body it needs to move, and the body does so by neurons and electrodes that fire from the brain and stimulate the muscles in order to perform movement.

In Smullyan s opinion nothing exists outside of the physical world. He is stating that if there is something that cannot be touched or cannot be observed; then it is non-existent. He also says an immaterial object does not exist and therefore cannot be killed. It is absolutely impossible to kill something that you can t touch and you can t study the physical make up to find out what would kill it or help it. He then states that the drug is a physical object that could only then effect another physical object. Since the mind is immaterial physical substances cannot kill it.

In this thought experiment it is assumed by Smullyan that the mind can be effected by such a drug that is from a material world. Even if the drug could exist it would be non-effective because the body continues on as it did before even without the mind. So it would not be necessary to take the drug, instead you could take a placebo, and believe that your soul was killed but you still feel the same because you were told your life would continue as it always had when you had your soul. The purpose of the drug is to kill your mind, but the only way the drug would work is if the user made themselves believe the drug worked. They would then trick their mind, when they would take the drug the user would believe they had killed their mind. By dualist principles the mind is not killed but since the body goes on operating as usual the user then believes the drug has taken effect.

Some hidden and controversial subjects about this scenario exist. Theses subjects are personal beliefs, most of these are controversial because I can possible conceive any of these things occurring. First, it is inconceivable to have a physical drug that can kill something that has no physical attributes. Most striking is that we must assume that there is another human being that would walk into his friend s house and inject him with a needle full of a drug without consulting him first. Third, how did this guy come across the drug before it was placed on the market? They are minuscule subjects that do not effect whether or not the drug work or it exists, but to make the entire thought experiment complete these three controversial subjects are necessary. Due to the fact I personally cannot conceive these actions occurring it then makes it much more difficult for me to agree with Smullyan s anti-dualistic theories.

There are many arguments that would disprove the claims of materialist. The conceivability argument proves that it is conceivable for disembodied existence but the body cannot exist without the mind, so therefore we are not matter but an immaterial mind. This is an argument that requires a lot of certainties, but this is a belief that many hold to be true.

The next argument presented by Descartes is the divisibility argument. The principle of indiscernibility of identicals: if two things are numerically identical (that is, if two names or descriptions refer to one and the same thing), then whatever is true of one is true of the other, and visa versa. (54 Doing Philosophy) The premises presented by this is 1) Our minds are identical to our body, so what is true for the mind is also true of the body. 2) Minds are not divisible and our bodies are divisible. 3) With the previous premises it can be derived that the mind is not identical to the body. It proves the unfortunate dualist s mind would not be effected because the mind is not identical to the physical body so the physical drug would not injure the man s mind.

The next argument for Cartesian Dualism is epiphenomenalism. This idea states that the mind is an ineffectual byproduct of our body. This theory still states that the mind and body both exist so it fits under Cartesian Dualism, but it states that what you experience physically during your lifetime is what you mind is composed of. For example when you were a young child and you touched the stove while it was on, you will burn yourself, and next time the child sees the stove is on he or she will not go near it. Since the body experienced pain from the stove it learns not to perform the same action again. The mind is a by-product of a brain process and has no effect on the brain that produced it. (Doing Philosophy, 58) Applying this postulate to the Unfortunate Dualist it makes it impossible for the mind to be effected due to the fact that mind is not physically harmed like the body is, and only learns from the experience of the body.

In conclusion Smullyan s Unfortunate Dualist is a thought experiment plagued with holes and uncertainties. As a strong proponent of dualism I feel that Smullyan s anti-dualist scenario is fallible and inconceivable. As previously stated in the paper it is not possible to tell if there is a drug that can kill only the mind, since it is a thought experiment it is then necessary for the reader to imagine such a drug. But in fact, I see the thought experiment as a proponent of dualism, because it states that the drug is effective at first but since his body was already going through the motions of going to the store and getting the drug and injecting it that the body could not tell the difference between the mind working or being dead already. This explains that mind still existed because the dualist then believed the drug did not effect him and his mind is telling him it is not working. Therefore the physical drug could not kill the immaterial mind. Though the materialistic view that our body is functioning on neurons firing constantly is a safe bet because it is a proven scientific fact, but it is hard to imagine that the complex thoughts and memories that go through my head are electrodes. Rather the dualist would state that those complex thoughts and memories are intangible and no scientific theory could prove, for example a CAT Scan can only show the brain and not the memories inside of it.


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