RE: dualism

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Sat, 17 Jan 2004 16:40:30 +1100

On 17 January 2004 Doug Porpora wrote:

Norman and Bruno: I myself am not defending a dualist position (body +
soul, mind, whatever). I am prepared to say the body is the only substance
that exists. That does not mean its behavior is explainable in terms of
physics alone.

Yes, I would say that whenever we think anything, our brains are doing
something. It may just be though -- and i think it is -- that our brains
give us the capacity to engage in linguistic behavior that is itself
non-physical. Whether an idea is logical or illogical, whether it is
relevant or off the point, whether or not an essay is disorganized -- these
are not physical properties. I cannot even fathom what it would mean to
say there is a physical state that is the irrelevance of a point.
*end quote*

I don't see how anyone could seriously suggest that a physical description
of the brain is the "same thing" as the subjective experience arising from
that brain state, and I don't think that denying this alone makes one a
dualist. My idea of a dualist is someone who claims that there is a
mystical, non-physical something-or-other, distinct from the brain although
perhaps residing in it, which is responsible for some or all our (more
noble, usually) thoughts and feelings. This (implicit) belief appears to be
surprisingly widespread among laypeople, as I have occasion to discover in
my work talking to patients with severe psychotic illnesses, such as
schizophrenia. They refuse to take medication because, they argue, how can
chemical changes in the brain possibly have any bearing on their thoughts
and feelings? "I now know it was silly to believe that my family had been
replaced by aliens, doctor, because I have thought about it rationally - not
because of the medication they gave me in hospital. If the chemical
imbalance in my brain comes back, as you say, it won't make me believe those
things again because I know they aren't true. And anyway, if I did believe
something weird, I wouldn't stop believing it just because of some
medication". So they stop treatment, and are soon back in hospital with
exactly the same symptoms. I have sometimes wondered whether pre-existing
familiarity with the mind/body debate would make any difference to a
patient's prognosis: there's a novel use for philosophy!

Stathis Papaioannou
Melbourne, Australia

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Received on Sat Jan 17 2004 - 00:43:19 PST

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