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An objection to the Cartesian argument for dualism:

many Theists argue for the existence of the soul (mind, spirit, etc.) cased on a Cartesian argument. They argue as follows:

1. I am known, with certainty to exist (from Descartes)
2. My body is not known, with certainty to exist (also from Descartes)
3. It follows that I exists, but am not my body (from 1 and 2)
4. Therefore, I am my soul

This argument has been around for a very long time, despite being almost childish in its failures of reasoning.
The first problem lies in the simple fact that the conclusion in no way follows from the rest of the argument. We may as well replace 4 with “I am a sentient computer program” or “I am a shoe that thinks”. Both are as useful as what has been offered here.
This is not, however, the greatest objection. The best objection to this argument is that it is fully circular. The Cartesian argument offered is assumes its conclusion. To buy it, you must except that 1 is equal to 2. And yet, 1. may be equal to an unspoken premise:

4. Therefore I am my body.

To see this clearly we can simply restate the argument as such:

1. I am known, with certainty to exist (from Descartes)
2. My soul is not known, with certainty to exist (also from Descartes)
3. It follows that I exists, but am not my body (from 1 and 2)
4. Therefore, I am my body

Seeing it offered this way, it becomes clear that the Cartesian argument for Dualism is useless.

Hope this isn't boring

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Comment Preferences

  •  I think (7+ / 0-)

    therefore, I think.

    "Societies strain harder and harder to sustain the decadent opulence of the ruling class, even as it destroys the foundations of productivity and wealth." — Chris Hedges

    by Crider on Sat Jul 27, 2013 at 07:03:56 AM PDT

  •  So the first argument (8+ / 0-)

    puts Descartes before the horse, right?

    Ceiling Cat rules....srsly.

    by side pocket on Sat Jul 27, 2013 at 07:16:01 AM PDT

  •  I agree it's silly, but I'm still (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wilderness voice, unfangus, mkor7

    a dualist.

    Wiki: Dualism

    In philosophy of mind, dualism is the assumption that mental phenomena are, in some respects, non-physical,[1] or that the mind and body are not identical.[2] Thus, it encompasses a set of views about the relationship between mind and matter, and is contrasted with other positions, such as physicalism, in the mind–body problem.[1][2]
    I don't think there's any proof of that or any need to prove it.  It's just a better way of understanding what we are.  It's like the distinction between the story of David Copperfield (by Charles Dickens) and the paper and ink that it's printed on.  

    I've said this to people before, and some (one, actually) argued back that the content of the book is the result of the deterministic processes emanating from the meat-machine mind of Charles Dickens.  That's true, in a way, too, but it still fails to grasp it.  The essence of the story is all we can grasp, when we talk about David Copperfield, and that exists independently of the paper it's printed on or the man who wrote it.

    It's like the concept of the circle.  There are no real circles in nature.  The only place the circle exists is as a concept in the human mind.  Likewise, what I think of and perceive as myself is like a conceptual creation and not dependent on my physical form.  I could, for instance, be uploaded into a sophisticated AI computer and still be the same person.

  •  If I know that "I" exist, then I can know with (0+ / 0-)

    equal certainty that my body exists, since it is the certain "I" that senses the body.

    If M. Descartes wishes to insist that my body may be an illusion, I'm going to take a lot of convincing.

    Find out about my next big thing by reading my blog. Link is here:

    by Kimball Cross on Sat Jul 27, 2013 at 07:31:25 AM PDT

  •  Typos, etc (0+ / 0-)

    I typed this up late at night and just realized that it is riddled with errors. I am sorry

  •  Others have chipped away at dualism, too (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ... which is fine with me.

    You might find this book interesting:

    Philosophy In The Flesh: the Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought

    Mark Johnson and George Lakoff explore similar territory in that book. You might see some elements turn up in Lakoff's more recent political writing.


    Most models are wrong, but some are useful.

    by etbnc on Sat Jul 27, 2013 at 07:58:58 AM PDT

  •  I am not a dualist (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    My favorite philosopher when I was a graduate student, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, observed that nothing is perceived other than through a body. In making the sort of argument that Descartes is making, one's existence as an embodied entity capable of reasoning is already presupposed.

    It can be argued (and here I am probably departing at least somewhat from Merleau-Ponty's view; I've been out of graduate school for nearly forty years) that the mind simply does not function as Descartes posited it and in fact that isn't possible. And while there is a logic of sorts implicit in existence it is not the sort of logic posited by Descartes.

  •  Do we know that much? (4+ / 0-)

    It could be that in some alternate universe, our logic isn't even the logic of that universe. Maybe we aren't capable of recognizing other realities. Maybe with the aid of drugs or other altered states we can have a peek. Maybe OOBEs and back-from-death experiences allow us a glimpse. I dunno.

    But thanks for making me think on a Saturday morning. Have a good day!

  •  Color, and other sense perception, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wilderness voice, unfangus, mkor7

    seem to be so clearly an aspect of mind.

    Color corresponds to something out there in the external world. There is a physical basis to our sense perception.

    But, "red," the specifics of how we perceive it. Physical process or physical basis can't explain sense perception entirely.

    "Red," how we perceive it, is just very strange.

    Color is an aspect of mind.

    Likewise for hearing, taste, smell, touch, motion awareness, pain, etc.

  •  The only people who still believe in (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cartoon Messiah, Skipbidder

    dualism are the religious who intentionally ignore science and the ignorant who just don't know science. We may not understand much about consciousness, but we do know that the "self" is in the form of non-localized physical neural activity in the brain. When certain parts of the brain are damaged, the self is irretrievably gone. The majority of people may still believe in the soul or the man-in-the-machine, but few, if any, neuroscientists do.

  •  Rene Descarte (5+ / 0-)

    walks into a bar and orders a martini, very dry. He finishes it and the bartender asks "Would you like another?" Descarte says "I think not." and disappears.

    "If I pay a man enough money to buy my car, he'll buy my car." Henry Ford

    by johnmorris on Sat Jul 27, 2013 at 10:11:24 AM PDT

  •  "I think, therefore I am... I think." - Carlin eom (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "Superstition, idolatry, and hypocrisy have ample wages, but truth goes begging." - Luther

    by Cartoon Messiah on Sat Jul 27, 2013 at 10:22:19 AM PDT

  •  Not Descartes (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alain2112, Snarky McAngus

    This might in some way vaguely be thought of as Cartesian-ish, but it's not really Descartes or his Mediations, or even what I think of as a fair representation of dualism. In fact, what is called dualism here has not really been defined, and it's unclear just where or in what fashion Descartes or dualists are supposed to be guilty of some amateurish logic of the kind taken on here.

    Descartes conducted a thought experiment ostensibly to discover what may be maintained with certainty. But his "cogito" is not the passive conclusion that, "I am known, with certainty to exist," but that he cannot believe otherwise than that he exists as a thinking thing.

    It is true that he does not, right after the cogito, have evidence that he exists as part of a body (or even that body, simply, exists), but here it is stated that #3 is a deduction from #1 and #2, whereas in the form presented, it seems to be only a restatement, and #4 is an elaboration of what it means to be an "I," not any sort of deduction from these propositions.

    The conclusion presented in #4 is also nothing that Descartes maintained. He went on in the 6th Meditation (primarily) to show how he knows, from what he calls "the light of nature," that bodies, and his body, exist and that his senses and imaginations "cannot be understood apart from some substance in which they inhere, and hence without which they cannot exist." He goes on to refer to humans as "composites." So, his "I" is apparently not exclusively a soul. To the extent that he believes this, he is following in a very long tradition of philosophers who maintain the commonsensical notion that soul or mind is not reducible to matter.

    As for the supposed circularity of the argument as given in the diary, the caricature only even gives the appearance of working because it contains its own circularity by failing to define the "I" in the first proposition, something that Descartes dealt with extensively in Meditation 2. I could only be my body based on some previous definition of both "I" and "body" which would permit such a statement.

    I would suggest a reworking of all of this, starting from clear statements of what is under discussion, what dualism could refer to, what a soul is, who might be a dualist, and even who are these "many Theists" (why "theist"?) who are claimed to have taken dualism as philosophical support for their (religious?) opinion.

  •  I + think = I am an embodied mind. /nt (0+ / 0-)
  •  Descartes as the least dogmatic (0+ / 0-)

    of all Dogmatists.

    This is the very old philosophical battle between the Cynics (we can't prove anything) and the Dogmatists (stuff is true).

    Descartes is the least possible dogmatic of all Dogmatists. He knows one thing for certain.

  •  I Need a Miracle Every Day (0+ / 0-)

    as the song goes.
    But current scientific theory only needs one miracle - the Big Bang.
    No more miracles allowed after that - how convenient.

    "When I see I am nothing, that is wisdom. When I see I am everything, that is love. My life is a movement between these two." - Nisargadatta Maharaj.

    by mkor7 on Sat Jul 27, 2013 at 12:44:13 PM PDT

  •  Descartes begs the question (0+ / 0-)

    As you correctly point out, Descartes' arguments are completely circular and question-begging.

    Descartes doesn't even get as far as most people think he does.

    He can have "thought exists".

    That's it.

    He doesn't even get "I am a thinking thing" without argument.

    He steals what he didn't earn.

    He plays fast and loose with shifting definitions that he never bothers to make explicit.

    He set up his own very strict (incredibly strict and unreasonably unobtainable) rules. Then he proceeded to ignore them.

    If we draw the sort of sharp distinction between brain and mind that most people wish to draw when they talk about dualism, then we have to describe a way in which one can act on the other. No plausible way has yet been described, and some are hilarious in their degree of hand-waving. Descartes' solution was the pineal gland. Somehow this could interact with both the mind and the brain. Why we should believe this and how we should test it, we are not told. This reduces to nothing more than the assertion that it is true because he says it is true. He may as well be sticking his fingers in his ears and saying "La, la, la, la, la" regarding any objections.

    Suggesting this today should warrant failing your intro level philosophy course. Or your intro level physiology course.

    If you are going to try to put forth a theory of dualism, you have to either try to revive the comic ideas of parallelism, or you have to explain just how you propose that the brain can interact with the mind if one is completely physical and the other is not. As it stands, dualism is a radically anti-scientific view. You are going to have to buck a great deal of criticism regarding the abandonment of the naturalistic framework. Or you can hang out with post-modernists who don't care if what you say makes any sense at all. However, this will put you in the category of people about whom few others care about what they say.

    The plural of anecdote is not data.

    by Skipbidder on Sat Jul 27, 2013 at 02:45:38 PM PDT

  •  Nothing about explaining consciousness is ever (0+ / 0-)

    boring.  I think along with Teilhard de Chardin that consciousness is an emergent property of life, and life ultimately must be physical in origin, but that doesn't equate to absolute materialism either.  A person or a culture includes minds and bodies together.
    Incidentally it's the contribution of the body to consciousness that I think will defeat any attempts to create 'artificial consciousness', whatever the Turing test may say.

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