Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Mind, matter, and dualism

  1. Jan 8, 2005 #1

    Math Is Hard

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    When Descartes wrote:

    "The mind exists just as long as there is a consciousness, which is not an attribute of matter"

    was he saying that consciousness (and the mind) can continue even if the material body ceases to exist?

    I am quite certain that he believed the reverse to be true, that the body could exist without consciousness or a mind, but I am not confident on what he believed about the other half of the idea.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 8, 2005 #2
    I think that on this point he was thinking unclearly. Perhaps he meant, "not _directly_ an attribute" of matter, meaning that although the mind may be caused by matter and may depend on it, it has some quality about it which is separate in some way from matter.
     
  4. Jan 8, 2005 #3

    Math Is Hard

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Thanks, Bartholomew. I am going to post a paraphrase of Descartes' argument for dualism (from my text, "Historical Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind" by Peter Morton) and see if you or anyone else has further comments on this:

    1) Anything that I can clearly and distinctly understand can be created by God exactly as I understand it. So if I can clearly and distinctly understand one thing apart from another, this is enough to make me certain the two things are distinct.

    2) I can form a clear and distinct understanding of my own existence as depending on nothing more than the fact that I think, and hence (from Premise 1) it follows that nothing belongs to my essence except thought.

    3) I also have a clear and distinct understanding of physical bodies (including my own) simply as extended matter; without possessing any thought.
     
  5. Jan 8, 2005 #4

    Math Is Hard

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    OK, reading a little further it looks like Descartes IS actually saying that the mind can exist without the body because I am now reading a review of his argument from another philosopher, Antoine Arnauld, who appears to be taking issue with how he reached that conclusion.

    Arnauld says that Descartes has concluded that the mind can exist without the body based solely on the fact that he can imagine his body not existing. Arnauld then then asks, 'where do we get the assurance that whatever we can imagine must be possible?' And he goes on to argue that just because Descartes is not aware of anything else belonging to his essence, doesn't necessarily mean that there IS nothing else belonging to his essence.

    I guess what Arnauld is basically saying here is that Descartes argument is fallable because he is drawing his conclusion from his perceptions and his imagination?
     
  6. Jan 9, 2005 #5

    plover

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    I can imagine Descartes' body not existing too, but I've never been able to turn that into a good argument. :frown:
     
  7. Jan 9, 2005 #6

    plover

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    It looks like you've got more or less the right idea about what Arnauld is arguing, but I'm going to be really picky about your use of language here.

    1) Did you mean 'fallacious' (as opposed to 'fallable')? From the point of view of logic, 'fallable' is not an adjective that can describe a single specific argument. As best I can tell, the rationale for this would be that in order to be 'fallable', an entity must be able to fail more than once. A specific argument, once it is stated, is, in and of itself, a static object—it is either sound or not (or perhaps is ambiguous).

    2) It's not Descartes' conclusion that is drawn from his mental perceptions, but rather his premises. Descartes is treating the assumption 'something that can be imagined is possible' to be unproblematic (for the domain of his argument anyway), and it is this premise that Arnauld's argument addresses.
     
  8. Jan 9, 2005 #7

    selfAdjoint

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    Descartes says there are two classes of notional referents: Those I can imagine away and those which are logically impossible for me to imagine away. Obviously the classes are disjoint (if you accept the excluded middle). Then he says the ability to think is in the second class but the body is in the first class. So they can't be consequences of each other in any order.

    (Well, if the class of all notions formed a topological space then you could contemplate the possibility that a sequence of imaginable-away notions could have a not-imaginable-away notion as a limit).
     
  9. Jan 9, 2005 #8
    This is a very interesting concept. I believe the consciousness lives outside of our dimension, but the mind is of this world (the mind being one with the brain, a sort of median between the physical world and the concsioussness).
    If that is true, then I would say the conscioussness is eternal and immortal.

    The brain is part of the body, and the mind is one with the brain, so the body without the mind would be no different. However the body and mind without the soul would be a body and brain without any direction or motive.
    The reason I see for this is: From the consciousness we science pain, pleasure, intrigue, love, ect.. These electrical signals would be nor more than simple geometrical movements of particles if it weren't for the consciousness. Yet, the consciousness would be nothing without these geometrical patterns of particles. So I presume that they both need each other, and even though the consciousness is immortal it needs this mortal body to function.

    In conclusion, if the two where separated the body and mind would be simple matter bound by the cause and effect of the physical world, and the consciousness would be an unknown entity. :rolleyes:
    If this doesn't make sense just tell me.

    ----- nwO ruoY evaH ,deeN oN <----?eeS I tahW eeS uoY oD
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2005
  10. Jan 9, 2005 #9

    Math Is Hard

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    nitpick #1 accepted.
    nitpick #2 accepted. The premise 'something that can be imagined is possible' is being challenged.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2005
  11. Jan 9, 2005 #10

    Math Is Hard

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I am not too sure about the rules for consequences on the logical level, but I think you are telling me this: we have two separate sets

    1) Things we can imagine away (the body is in this one)
    2) Things we cannot imagine away (thought is in this one)

    and there can be no intersection between these sets. An element of set one can't belong to set two and vice versa. That makes sense.
    What is the excluded middle you mentioned, though?

    OK, back to consequences.. Could you help me think of a simpler example showing how a thing can't be a consequence of another thing if each thing belongs to a separate class? Sorry, I'm a little slow. :redface:

    This is a little more difficult for me, but I can see that every notion can be classified as belonging to only one group or the other. If I move through the list of things that can be imagined away: trees, rocks, people, etc.. I don't appear to be approaching a 'thing that cannot be imagined away' as a limit.
     
  12. Jan 9, 2005 #11

    Math Is Hard

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Thanks for your reply. I think your philosophy might be too advanced for me at this stage, though. So far I am only up to the 17th century schools of thought. :wink:
     
  13. Jan 9, 2005 #12

    Math Is Hard

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    imagination

    ok, one more question:

    When Descartes refers to the imagination, does he believe that this is something that belongs to the mind or to the brain? I was convinced that he thought this was a function of the mind, until I came across a term he used in my translation of Discourse on the Method. He mentions the "corporeal imagination". That threw me, because it seems that he his inferring that the imagination is something physical.

    Here's the quote:

    "And I explained which part of the brain must be taken to be the 'common' sense, where these ideas are received; the memory, which preserves them; and the corporeal imagination, which can change them in various ways, form them into new ideas, and, by distributing the animal spirits to the muscles, make the parts of this body move in as many different ways as the parts of our bodies can move without being guided by the will, and in a manner which is just as appropriate to the objects of the senses and the internal passions."
     
  14. Jan 9, 2005 #13
    By mind do you mean consciousness. If you are talking about the mind, aren't the mind and the brain one and the same?

    ----- nwO ruoY evaH ,deeN oN <----?eeS I tahW eeS uoY oD
     
  15. Jan 9, 2005 #14

    Math Is Hard

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    According to Descartes, mind and matter (and the brain is included as part of the body, which is considered "matter") are separate "substances" - hence the "dualism". So the brain and mind are not the same here. He attempted to prove that the body does not depend on the mind for existence, and vice versa.

    I believe that "mind" and "consciousness" were synonymous to him, though. Anyone care to correct me on this?
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2005
  16. Jan 9, 2005 #15

    selfAdjoint

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    What Descartes actually identified was his ability to doubt. How is that classed today; p-consciousness or a-consciousness? I would expect a-consciousness since it did not seem to matter to him what it felt like to doubt.
     
  17. Jan 10, 2005 #16

    plover

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    The Law of the Excluded Middle is one of the underlying axioms of ordinary two-valued logic. It states that for any (well-formed) proposition P, one and only one of P and ~P must be true.
    I'm not completely sure what selfAdjoint is getting at here either. My guess is that he's addressing the question from your original post, and that his implied answer is: if one accepts that the body is in category (1) and the mind in category (2), then the existence of a mind cannot be contingent on the existence of a body and vice versa. In fact, he may be making the even stronger statement that: the existence of any entity from category (1) can not be contingent on the existence of any entity from category (2), and vice versa.

    I'm not quite sure why this should be true though.
    As for imagining a sequence of category (1) notions that reach a category (2) notion as a limit, one might think of a series of nervous systems (or computer programs for that matter) in which each successive item has mechanical properties that better approximate the function of a full (non-material) "consciousness". None of these "mind-like" objects would be the equivalent of an actual (non-material) mind, but would incrementally approach the functionality of one, though, of course, being unable to acquire all the qualities of a true mind while remaining materially instantiated.
     
  18. Jan 10, 2005 #17

    plover

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    I looked up this passage in the original French (yay Project Gutenberg!). First of all, the translation you have appears to be an abridged or simplified one—what is rendered in your quote as 'which part of the brain' is originally several long clauses describing the faculties of a nervous system. Next, it turns out that "corporeal imagination" seems to be an interpretation of the translator. The word in the original is fantaisie which, in the translation at Project Gutenberg (which seems to be the same one as my dead tree version), is simply rendered "fantasy". My French dictionary offers "whim", "imagination", and "fancy" as translations. It is possible that "corporeal imagination" has been taken up as a term by anglophone philosophy to refer to this concept in Descartes, but it may also be an invention of the translator.

    The sentence is a bit obscure, but my best guess is that what is being referred to here is bodily movements that happen at the "whim" of mechanical and material effects, as against those "guided by the will". In other words, things like autonomic functions, along with various tics, spasms, and reflexes. If I am correct, then I suspect the answer to your question is that "corporeal imagination" is indeed an entirely different phenomenon from what is commonly meant by "imagination"—with the former being on the "body" side of the duality, and with the latter, most likely (and as you thought), an aspect of "mind".
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2005
  19. Jan 10, 2005 #18

    Math Is Hard

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Thanks, plover. As always, your comments are very helpful. :smile: I am going to let go of fretting over that "corporeal imagination" term. I do believe that he means something other than imagination here, though I am not exactly sure what. Your idea about it is something I considered, but I couldn't work it out with complete certaintly. The context of it does suggest that he is probably speaking of all those things the body does without any direction from the consciousness - breathing, pumping blood through the heart, blinking, etc.

    Well, whaddya know! I didn't know there was a formal name for that, but we did study this concept in logic.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2005
  20. Jan 11, 2005 #19
    Metaphysical mind Physical body + consciouness

    MIH, I cannot correct you as I dont have the formal or amateur education in philosophy. My indirect philosphical and mathematical mentor, via his books, is R. Buckminister Fuller.

    For him "Mind" is all the weightless, sizeless, temperatureless, intellectual metaphysical concepts. E.g. cosmic laws/principles, which are alledgegd to be eternally true ergo inviolate.

    Phyiscal brain of humans, along with its the external sensing nerve attachments, provides the most known "ACCESS TO" metaphysical mind.

    "Consciousness" is the interrelational, inter-play between these two dualites-- meta-physical and physical --which are in eternal complementation to each other, with varyin degrees of access to mind as the physical brain develope more and more sensoral and intellectual expereinces in concurrenc with more and nurological connections.

    My own Rybonic Extrpolations of Fullers writing, along with others, has led me to beleive that quasi-physical(?) gravity is the buffer-zone between the physical and the meta-physical.

    My feelings are, that a conceptual intellectual thought, can be shared-- if not transmitted telelpathically --via two orgaisms having a set of similar whole-body or nearly whole-body resonance frerquencies involving quasi-physical gravity, and possibly some frequency or set of frequencies of electromagnetic radiation.

    Sorry if ive strayed to far off-your questions or interest.

    Rybo
     
  21. Jan 14, 2005 #20

    Math Is Hard

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Thanks, Rybo. I enjoyed your interpretation of this. It seems you are saying consciousness is some mechanism that works between mind and brain. I guess I can only see it as "awareness"- and there are only two modes. You are conscious or you are unconscious. If you are unconscious, is the mind still there? I guess I think of it like an electric light. If the light is turned off, it is dark, but the bulb doesn't dissappear. Am I seeing consciousness as a "state" of the mind then?
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: Mind, matter, and dualism
  1. Dualism? (Replies: 70)

  2. Mind Matter (Replies: 0)

Loading...