JP Moreland’s Dualism and J.C.C. Smart’s Physicalism

Notes from lecture:

J.P. Moreland: A Contemporary Defense of Dualism 

Dualist interactionism: there is a distinction between the brain and the mind, the mind is immaterial and synonymous with the soul, there is a two-way street between brain and mind. Mind can cause changes in the brain and brain can cause changes in the mind. Psychologists have recognized the most successful treatment for people with OCD are for the person’s mind to make changes in the person’s brain through neuroplasticity. Where the mind is able to resist the impulses of the brain, the brain telling the mind to do various things. Most of us believe that we resist impulses to do various things. We think our brain or nervous system tells us to eat this, buy this and we often times resist these impulses. Dualists say this proves that mind is separate from the brain. Brain can also affect the mind. In Alzheimer’s disease the brain limits much of what the mind is able to do so that the person cannot access parts of their mind that they cannot have access to for various things. They act differently than they normally do.

Moreland defends dualistic interactionism, arguing that the mind is distinct from the mind. This is different from Cartesian Dualism.

Cartesian Dualism says there is a mind which is separate from the brain. However, the mind only affects the brain and not vice versa. Moreland also believes that physicalism is a defective worldview.

He compares physicalism, the view that the only thing that exists in the universe is matter, with substance dualism, the view that mind is separate from matter.

He thinks physicalism is false as a worldview. What are some reasons why Moreland thinks that physicalism is false as a worldview? If theism is true, you are not going to be a physicalist, because there is at least one entity in the world that is non-physical. If you think that numbers and other abstract objects exist, then obviously numbers are non-physical things. They may manifest themselves in various ways in physical worldview but the number 2 isn’t a physical object nor are things like the laws of logic physical objects either. If these things exist then physicalism as a worldview is false.

If you reject physicalism as a worldview, you will typically reject physicalism for a person. Some people do reject physicalism as a worldview, but still accept physicalism for the person.

He gives several reasons for rejecting physicalism and accepting dualism and claims that the idea of dualism is best understood from within a wider metaphysic, such as theism.

Law of Identity:

For any entities (X and Y) X is identical to Y, if for any property P, if X has P, then Y has P, and if Y has P, then X has P.

Moreland thinks LOI proves that dualism is true. Is there anything true of the mind that is not true of the brain? Suppose I was feeling sad. It would be correct for me to say that “I feel sad.” Would it make sense to say “My brain feels sad?” If the brain is just a chunk of matter, then how could a chunk of matter feel sad? The person has a brain, rather than being the same thing as the brain.

I can feel a certain way, it doesn’t make sense to say my brain feels that way. My brain is just a physical object. I believe something. Does it make sense to say that my brain feels something? There are certain mental events that are different from physical events.

J.J.C. Smart: A Contemporary Defense of Physicalism 

Smart argues that science is increasingly giving us a viewpoint whereby organisms are able to be seen as physico-chemical mechanisms. Suppose Smart is right, what implications might this happen with our relationship to other animals? Would there be any distinctions between us and other animals? Smart would say that we are more complex in terms of our reasoning, language skills, relationship ability than other animals. However, we are made of the same stuff as other animals. One could use this as an argument that animals deserve rights. Humans innately have rights, animals are made of the same stuff. How might a dualist argue that animals don’t have rights and we ultimately do? If you think that human beings are distinctly made in the image of God and that the image of God means having a soul, then you could say that rights attached to having a soul and therefore animals aren’t entitled to the same rights that humans have.

Smart thinks we should use Ockham’s Razor to shave away any need for a mind distinct from the brain. You’re not allowed to multiply causes beyond necessity. If you have a certain number of causes for a phenomena, and those causes are enough you, are not allowed to go beyond that and propose unnecessary causes. Neuropsychologists neurophysiologists have shown that for every mental event you might have, there is a physical correlate that goes with it. If it is true that for every mental event, there is a physical event that goes along with it, then why can’t we just say that the mind is the brain? So because of this correlation between mental events and brain events, Smart thinks Ockham’s razor shaves away any need for mind distinct from the brain.

Smart claims sensations are nothing over and above brain processes. Any sensation that you might want to make is nothing distinct from physical events.

Smart uses the theory of time slices as a way to preserve a measure of identity over time. If I take this desk and I gradually replace all of its parts with new parts that look just like it, so that at the end of the process I have a desk that looks just like the old desk but has different parts. Is it the same desk?

What is the case concerning human beings and recycling parts? Our cells regenerate every 7 years. 7 years ago there is not a single cell now, that I had then. All of my cells have been replenished. How do you retain personal identity unless there is a soul?

Smart uses theory of time slices to answer this question. Time slice says even though literally you are not the same person as you were 7 years ago, nevertheless, legally and ethically, you should be treated as the same because you have spatio-temporal continuity with the time slice of yourself that existed 7 years ago. Time slice is just that portion of who you are that exists at any moment that is continuous with who you are at any other moment. As long as you have all of these time slices in space/time alignment, then you can refer to the person as the same.


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