RE: Dualism and the DA

From: Jonathan Colvin <>
Date: Thu, 16 Jun 2005 01:02:11 -0700

Russell Standish wrote:
>> Nope, I'm thinking of dualism as "the mind (or consciousness) is
>> separate from the body". Ie. The mind is not identical to the body.
>These two statements are not equivalent. You cannot say that
>the fist is separate from the hand. Yet the fist is not
>identical to the hand.

Well, actually I'd say the fist *is* identical to the hand. At least, my
fist seems to be identical to my hand.

 Another example. You cannot say that a
>smile is separate from someone's mouth. Yet a smile is not
>identical to the mouth.

Depends whether you are a Platonist (dualist) about smiles. I'd say a
smiling mouth *is* identical to a mouth.

>> >> But unless I am an immaterial soul or other sort of
>> >cartesian entity,
>> >> this is not possible.
>> >
>> >I disagree completely. You will need to argue your case
>hard and fast
>> >on this one.
>> See below.
>Yah - I'm still waiting...

Well, to explicate, the DA suffers from the issue of defining an appropriate
reference set. Now, we are clearly not both random observers on the class of
all observers(what are the chances of two random observers from the class of
all observers meeting at this time on the same mailing list? Googleplexianly
small). Neither are we both random observers from the class of "humans"
(same argument..what are the chances that both our birth ranks are
approximately the same?). For instance, an appropriate reference set for me
(or anyone reading this exchange) might be "people with access to email
debating the DA". But this reference set nullifies the DA, since my birth
rank is no longer random; it is constrained by the requirement, for example,
that email exists (a pre-literate caveman could not debate the DA).

The only way to rescue the DA is to assume that I *could have had* a
different birth rank; in other words, that I could have been someone other
than "me" (me as in "my body"). If the body I'm occupying is contingent (ie.
I could have been in any human body, and am in this one by pure chance),
then the DA is rescued. This seems to require a dualistic account of
identity. All theories that reify the observer are essentially dualistic,

>> >
>> >> If I am simply my body, then the
>> >> statement "I could have been someone else" is as ludicrous
>> >as pointing
>> >> to a tree and saying "Why is that tree, that tree? Why
>couldn't it
>> >> have been a different tree? Why couldn't it have been a lion?"
>> >>
>> >> Jonathan Colvin
>> >
>> >The tree, if conscious, could ask the question of why it isn't a
>> >lion. The only thing absurd about that question is that we
>know trees
>> >aren't conscious.
>> That seems an absurd question to me. How could a tree be a lion?
>> Unless the tree's consciousness is not identical with its
>body (trunk,
>> I guess), this is a meaningless question. To ask that question
>> *assumes* a dualism. It's a subtle dualism, to be sure.
>Of course a mind is not _identical_ to a body. What an absurd
>thing to say. If your definition of dualism is that mind and
>body are not identical, then this is a poor definition indeed.
>It is tautologically true.

Why do you say "of course"? I believe that I (my mind) am exactly identical
to my body (its brain, to be specific).

 My definition would be something
>along the lines of minds and bodies have independent existence
>- ie positing the existence of disembodied minds is dualism.
>Such an assumption is not required to apply the Doomsday
>argument. I may make such assumptions in other areas though -
>such as wondering why the Anthropic Principle is valid. Not
>dualism implies the Anthropic Principle.

Then how can a tree be a lion without assuming that minds and bodies can
have independent existance? Assuming dualism, its easy; simply switch the
lion's mind with the tree's.

>> As a little boy once asked, "Why are lions, lions? Why
>aren't lions ants?"

>I have asked this question of myself "Why I am not an ant?".
>The answer (by the Doomsday Argument) is that ants are not
>conscious. The question, and answer is quite profound.

That doesn't seem profound; it seems obvious. Even more obvious is the
answer "If you were an ant, you wouldn't be Russell Standish. So it is a
meaningless question".

Switch the question. Why aren't you me (Jonathan Colvin)? I'm conscious
(feels like I am, anyway).

Jonathan Colvin
Received on Thu Jun 16 2005 - 04:10:12 PDT

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