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This reading contains "outlinks" in that certain words are also hyperlinks to some other webpage that contain more information on that particular topic. You are not required to follow any of these links. They are only there in case you feel like reading a bit more on this topic. If the book and my exposition here don't make the concept clear for you, you may follow the link and do a bit of extra reading, but you absolutely do not have to follow any link.
You are required to read the following pages of the text book and the definitions and examples given on my assigned webpages. The "Helpful Questions" are here to help you understand the reading.and to anticipate the points I will be discussing in class. If you can master this material without following the reading questions, then you don't have to bother with them. However, the additional text I give on these pages is required because at least some of the points it covers will be on the tests.
Remember, you will be tested on this reading before the next lecture. Be ready to answer questions about this material.
Your reading is from Does the Center Hold? by Donald Palmer. Page numbers in blue refer to the 3rd edition, greenish page numbers refer to the 4th edition, and dark blue page numbers refer to the 5th edition.
Read pages 113-119 (in 6th edition), or pages 113-119 in 5th Edition or pages 116-122 in 4th Edition, or pages 113-118 in 3rd Edition,
This lecture turns out to crucially depend on understanding the concepts of idealism and materialism. So I've written this little dialogue to hopefully clarify the meanings of these two terms, and the difference between them.
Mindy. What's "materialism" Badger?
Badger. "Materialism" is a name for what I believe about reality. I believe that nothing exists that isn't made of mass-energy.
Mindy. What's "mass-energy?"
Badger. Well, matter and energy are actually two forms of the same thing, which scientists call "mass-energy." This includes all the known forms of energy, like gravity and electromagnetism, and all known forms of matter, like quarks, protons and atoms. Materialism is the philosophical doctrine that everything that exists is an arrangement of forms of mass-energy. If it isn't mass-energy, it doesn't exist.
Mindy. So ghosts are made of mass-energy?
Badger. No, ghosts don't exist because they're not made of mass-energy.
Mindy. How you know that?
Badger. If ghosts were made of mass-energy, people who believe that they've seen a ghost would always report that those ghosts always act according to the laws of physics. But they don't. Instead, they report that ghosts appear and disappear, levitate, and pass through walls. Those things defy the laws of physics. Things made of mass-energy always obey the laws of physics, so ghosts can't be made of mass-energy. Since nothing exists that isn't made of mass-energy, ghosts don't exist.
Mindy. I'm not sure I agree with that.
Badger. That's okay. You don't have to be a materialist.
Mindy. I notice that you started out talking about "mass-energy," but then you started talking about the laws of physics.
Badger. Good point. People who believe in ghosts might say that ghosts are made of "special matter," or they work through "special energy." It turns out that whether something counts as mass-energy depends on whether it's a kind of stuff that obeys the laws of physics. If you held something that seemed like a physical object to you, but which somehow violated the laws of physics, then it wouldn't be made of mass-energy as we understand the term. So whether or not materialism is true turns out to depend on whether or not all the stuff in the universe follows the laws of physics whatever those laws ultimately turn out to be.
Mindy. What else do materialists believe?
Badger. Well, generally they believe that just about all claims of contrascientific phenomena are false. That covers things like astrology, ESP, psychics, speaking with the dead, chiropractic, alien abductions and so on. These things may be entertaining, they may make people feel better, or help them in other ways, but they're not based on anything real.
Mindy. What's "contrascientific?"
Badger. Contrascientific means that the claim fails the test of science. A claim passes the test of science if it either is really observed when the observers are properly careful to eliminate sources of error, or it is consistent with the known laws of nature. A claim fails the test of science if it both fails to be observed when observers are being careful, and violates the laws of nature as science currently understand them. Both careful observation, and our best established physical laws imply that you can't tell anything about a person's personality or future just by studying the positions of the stars when she was born, that you can't perceive things without using your known senses, that you can't know specific things about other people without them somehow telling you, that you can't contact the dead, that you can't cure anything by performing specifically chiropractic manipulation, that the events reported as "alien abductions" can't happen, and so on. These things can't work without contravening the laws known to science, so they're contrascientific.
Mindy. I notice that you hedged your statement there. You used words like "generally" and "just about," which suggests that at least some materialists do believe in contrascientific phenomena.
Badger. Good point. Some materialists do believe in some of these things, but being materialists, they think that the contrascientific phenomenon they believe in actually appears when carefully observed, and so works by some law of nature that science hasn't been discovered yet. For instance, acupuncture used to be considered contrascientific, because scientists couldn't figure out any way it could work. But then somebody did some carefully controlled experiments with acupuncture, and it turned out to actually work. Since the effect actually happens, it's not contrascientific.
Mindy. So a materialist who believed in astrology...?
Badger.... would believe that it worked by some as yet undiscovered physical law.
Mindy. What if she wasn't a materialist?
Badger. Well, she could believe that it worked by magic, or by intervention of immaterial spirits.
Mindy. So why can't a materialist believe in ghosts?
Badger. Well, there may be physical explanations for some ghost sightings. For instance, there's visual processing errors, hallucinations, imagination, self-deception, outright lying, and people throwing things across the room when nobody is looking. But none of those things would be a real ghost. A real ghost would be one that does things that we know are physically impossible. Materialists only believe in things that are physically possible, so a materialist cannot believe in ghosts. So if you want to believe in real ghosts, you have to give up materialism.
Mindy. I can do that.
Badger. Okay, that would make you an "idealist," which is someone who believes that at least some "immaterial" things exist. That is, things that are not made of mass-energy. Since "mass-energy" is basically our name for any stuff that always obeys the laws of physics, that means you believe that some stuff exists that in some way is not bound by the laws of physics.
Mindy. What kind of stuff would that be?
Badger. Well, seriously contrascientific stuff, like communicating with someone without a physical means of getting the information to him, or human levitation. Basically anything that our best established scientific theories flatly imply is impossible, or which follows no discernable law.
Mindy. Does it have to break scientific laws to be immaterial?
Badger. Mmmmm... I guess not. It just has to be able to break scientific laws if it wants to.
Mindy. So, why are you a materialist?
Badger. Well, first I start with a rule that whenever I have absolutely no credible reason to believe a particular claim, then I will believe that that claim is false.
Mindy. That's not a good rule! Wouldn't it be better to believe that it might be true, that you just don't know?
Badger. Mindy, what would you do if you thought that it might be true that there's an undetectable dragon behind you about to incinerate you?
Mindy. Don't be silly! There's no dragon behind me!
Badger. But isn't it true that there might be?
Badger. But if you follow your rule, you have to believe that the claim "there's an undetectable dragon behind Mindy" might be true!
Mindy. But I have no reason to think that there's a dragon behind me! I can't see it, I can't feel it, I can't hear it and I can't smell it!
Badger. But by your rule, that's not enough! By your rule, the fact that you have absolutely no credible reason to believe that claim means that it might be true, that you just don't know. By my rule, you would be justified in believing that there's no dragon behind you. But in order to believe that, you have to first believe that when a claim isn't supported by any credible evidence whatsoever, that's enough to make the claim false!
Mindy. Um, I guess.
Badger. Anyway, I take that rule, and apply it to every claim that involves the existence of immaterial entities. Since none of these claims ever turn out to be supported by anything like a credible reason, applying the rule means that all these claims are false. Since all the claims of immaterial entities are false, there are no immaterial entities, and idealism is false.
Mindy. But if even one claim of an immaterial entity turned out to be true, that would mean that materialism is false.
Here's a couple of outlinks in case you want to read more about materialism or physicalism. You absolutely do not have to click these links, and if you do, you only have to read the stuff you feel like reading.
Helpful Questions (The number on the left is the page number in the 3rd Edition. For 4th edition, add two or three pages.)
113. Define "monism" in your own words.
113. Define "dualism" in your own words.
114. Why did Descartes change the subtitle of his book?
114. According to Descartes, what are the characteristics of a "body?"
(Remember, "extended thing" just means "a thing that takes up space.")
114. How does Descartes define "mind?"
115. What does Descartes think is his "essence?"
115. Does Descartes have a clear and distinct idea of his body as a thinking thing?
115. Does Descartes have a clear idea of his mind as an extended thing?
(The last two are trick questions, so be careful!)
115. According to the cartoon, what does Descartes think he has proved?
115. Given Descartes's definitions of mind and body, what is the real question?
116. What do we know about the relationship between mind and body?
116. Does Descartes's account of mind and body imply that this relationship is even possible?
116. How does the pilot in a vessel know when that vessel is damaged?
117. What what life be like if our minds had that kind of relationship with our bodies?
117. What kind of relationship does Descartes think exists between our minds and our bodies?
117. How does Descartes think that our minds are related to our bodies? What object accomplishes this relationship?
117. Is this a mental object, or a physical object? Is it a part of the mind, or a part of the body?
117. If it is mental, how exactly does it affect our physical bodies?
117. It is physical, how exactly does it affect our minds?
117. Does Descartes give a mechanism by which mind affects body, or does he just say it does in this particular object?
117. Can a belief be true if it implies something that we know to be false?
117. Can something be both possible and impossible at the same time?
118. Does Descartes give us any reason to think that the pineal gland does what he thinks it does?
118. Does Descartes give us any reason to think that it's even possible for the pineal gland to do what he thinks it does?
118. According to Descartes, is location a property of body or of mind?
118. Is the part of the mind that interacts with the pineal gland located at a particular point in space?
118. If something has location, is that thing therefore mental or physical?
118. Would an idealist think that mind was a physical thing? What kind of thinker would think that?
Explain Cartesian dualism and the mind body problem in your own words.
|Potential questions for Quiz
1. Define "monism" in your own words.
2. Does Descartes think that his body is a thinking thing?
3. Define "dualism" in your own words.
4. Does Descartes think that his mind is an extended thing?
According to Descartes, what are the characteristics of a "body?"
How does Descartes define "mind?"
What does Descartes think is his "essence?"
How does the pilot in a vessel know when that vessel is damaged?
What what life be like if our minds had that kind of relationship with our bodies?
What kind of relationship does Descartes think exists between our minds and our bodies?
What was Descartes' response to the mind-body problem?
Does Descartes give a mechanism by which mind affects body, or does he just say it does?
Does Descartes give us any reason to think that the pineal gland does what he thinks it does?
According to Descartes, is location a property of body or of mind?
If something has location, is that thing therefore mental or physical?
your own words, explain Cartesian dualism.and Descartes' argument for Cartesian dualism.
You should give a clear and complete description of the doctrine known as "Cartesian dualism," and you should also give a clear, thoughtful and complete account of Descartes' full argument for his dualism. What exactly does Catersian dualism say about the human mind and the human body? How is this view related to physicalism? What argument does Descartes give to support his view of mind and body? Finally,say what you can about how this argument is supposed to work, and make whatever other comments you can think of..
your own words, explain Cartesian dualism and how it gives rise to the Cartesian Contradiction.
Clearly and completely explain Cartesian dualism as an ontological view of the human mind and body. How is Cartesian dualism related to physicalism? Clearly and completely explain the Cartesian Contradiction, and how is it is implied by Cartesian dualism. What claim made by Cartesian dualism directly contradicts what other claim made by Cartesian dualism? Why exactly do these two claims contradict each other?
In your own words, explain and evaluate
Descartes' solutions to the Cartesian Contradiction.
Briefly explain the Cartesian Contradiction and say how it arises from Cartesian dualism. Clearly and completely explain Descartes first ("inimately conjoined") solution to the Cartesian Contradiction, and say why it doesn't work. Clearly and completely explain Descartes second ("pineal") solution to the Cartesian Contradiction, and say why it doesn't work.Finally, explain your instructor's reasoning for thinking that the Cartesian Contradiction cannot be solved, and make any other comments you can think of.
In your own words, explain and critically analyze Descartes' argument for Cartesian dualism.
How does Descartes argue for dualism, and what exactly is wrong with this way of reasoning? Briefly explain Descartes' argument for Cartesian Dualism. Clearly and completely say what kind of argument this is and how it is supposed to work. Give at least one hypothetical example of an argument that employs this kind of reasoning in a different context, and discuss how well this kind of reasoning works in that context. Finally, explain what all this means for the logical strength of Descartes' argument, and make any other comments that occur to you.
In your own words, explain and critically analyze the "etherial causality" defense of dualism.
Describe, as completely as you can, the defense of dualism that includes the term "more etheral causality." Is this an attempt to repar or replace Descartes' argument for dualism, to resolve the Cartesian Contradiction, or both? Does this defense give support to the idea that Catersian dualism is true? Why or why not? Does this defense resolve the Cartesian Contradiction? Why or why not? Is there any reason to think that kind of defense is a bad way of reasoning about possibility? Explain your answers clearly and completely, and make any other comments you can think of.