Re: In defense of Dualism (typos corrected)

From: Joao Leao <>
Date: Fri, 20 May 2005 11:40:37 -0400

Stephen Paul King wrote:

> Dear Jonathan,
> Non-separateness and identity are not the same thing! Your argument
> against dualism assumes that the duals are somehow separable and
> non-mutually dependent and thus lacking a linking mechanism dualism fails as
> a viable theory. On the other hand, once we see the flaw in the assumption
> that we are making, that Body and Mind - Physical existence and Mathematical
> existence (or Information!) are separable in the sense that one can have
> meaning and "reason to be" without the other, we can again consider how
> dualism can be viable as people such as Vaughan Pratt have done.
> The hard part is in overcoming the prejudice that has built up since
> Descartes' flawed theory was proposed. His failure was in assuming that Body
> and Mind are "substances" that have independent yet equal existence. The use
> of the assumption of "substance" caries with it the necessitation of a
> "causal connector" and barring the existence of such a connector the
> assumption leads to an inconsistency. When we consider the duality in terms
> of process or types and tokens or hardware and software, whose very meaning
> vanishes with out the other, it makes a lot more sense.
> This is analogous to claiming that numbers can somehow exist without
> there being any need for them to be representable in any way. How does any
> number, even a Gödel number, represent anything at all if the means by which
> to perform the act of making a distinction is not present "in them"? There
> is not such a thing as an "action" in Platonia!
> It is one thing to claim that any event or action or aspect of existence
> can be faithfully represented as some number, just like a movie is
> enumerated by a string of ones and zeroes in the tiny pits in DVD disc, but
> without there being some means that is not a number to act upon that number,
> the very notion of number vanishes. Numbers, all mathematics and logics,
> necessitate some means to express themselves.
> Unless we can somehow "read each other's minds", it is impossible for me
> to communicate the difference between the number 1 and the number 2. Without
> some physical structure to act as an interface between our Minds, minds
> cannot interact or even "know" anything; there is no "definiteness".
> Similarly, Bodies cannot ask questions or predictions or have anticipations
> or self-representations without some Mind associated. Nature has given us
> fingers with which to understand numbers...
> A Platonist neglects his own brain when he demands that we believe that
> numbers are all that exist.

Dear SPK

Though I entirely agree with what you state above, I take issue with your
characterization of "Platonism" as some form of mathematical monism.
If you had called "Pythagorianism" to the doctrine that "only numbers
exist" you would most likely be correct. Platonism, however, is very
definitely a form of ontological dualism: Platonists never deny the
existence of the physical world, though they insist that it exists as
a corrupted copy of the world of forms, that one holding the "true"
reality. It is one think to reject the false, and another one to deny
its existence! Sorry but this is not a pedantic point.

In other words: in all you say above you argue as a true Platonist,
(only one that does not know he is one)!

> Consciousness seems to be more of a functional relationship between the
> Physical and the Mental, the Outside and the Inside, as Chalmer's states.
> When the two dual aspects are taken to the ultimate level of Existence
> in-itself, the distinction between the two vanishes. Russell saw this long
> ago, he denoted it as "neutral monism". It is too bad that he made the
> mistake of excluding non-well founded sets from consideration.

If that ultimate level of Existence, as you put it, was as accessible to us as
the world of (mathematical) forms is to our minds, than I would take it as
an indication that we (our sould) would had already migrated back to it in
old platonic parlance. Till than dualism seems quite unavoidable.



> Stephen
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Jonathan Colvin" <>
> To: <>
> Sent: Thursday, May 19, 2005 6:22 PM
> Subject: RE: What do you lose if you simply accept...
> snip
> >> Stathis: Can the description of the apple, or bat, or whatever
> >> meaningfully include what it is like to be that thing?
> >
> > My argument (which is Dennet's argument) is that "what it is like to be
> > that thing" is identical to "being that thing". As Bruno points out, in
> > 3rd
> > person level (ie. the level where I am describing or simulating an apple),
> > a description can not "be" a thing; but on the 1st person level (where a
> > description *is* the thing, from the point of view of the thing, inside
> > the
> > simulation, as it were), then the description does "include" what it is
> > like to be that thing. But "include" is not the correct word to use, since
> > it
> > subtly assumes a dualism (that the qualia exist somehow separate from the
> > mere description of the thing); the description *just is* the thing.
> >
> > Jonathan
> >

Joao Pedro Leao  :::
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
1815 Massachusetts Av. , Cambridge MA 02140
Work Phone: (617)-496-7990 extension 124
Cell-Phone: (617)-817-1800
"All generalizations are abusive (specially this one!)"
Received on Fri May 20 2005 - 11:50:10 PDT

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