RE: Dualism and the DA

From: Jonathan Colvin <>
Date: Thu, 16 Jun 2005 13:33:55 -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.
>Even when the hand is open????

Define "fist". You don't seem to be talking about a "thing", but some sort
of Platonic form. That's an expressly dualist position.

>> Another example. You cannot say that a
>> >smile is separate from someone's mouth. Yet a smile is not
>> >to the mouth.
>> Depends whether you are a Platonist (dualist) about smiles.
>I'd say a
>> smiling mouth *is* identical to a mouth.
>Even when the mouth is turned down???

As above. Is it your position that you are the same sort of thing as a
smile? That's a dualist position. I'd say I'm the same sort of thing as a

>> 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).
>This would be true if we are arguing about something that
>depended on us communicating via email. The DA makes no such
>argument, so therefore the existence of email, and of our
>communication is irrelevant.

It depends on us communicating per se. Thus, we could not be a pre-literate
caveman. In fact, the reference class of all people before the 19th century
is likely excluded, since the intellectual foundations for formulating the
DA were not yet present. Presumably in a thousand years the DA will no
longer be controversial, so it is likely that our reference class should
exclude such people as well. All these considerations (and I can think of
many others as well) nullify the na´ve DA (that assumes our appropriate
reference class is simply "all humans".)

But your response above is ambiguous. I'm not sure if you are agreeing that
our appropriate reference class is *not* all humans, but disagreeing as to
whether email is important, or disagreeing with the entire statement above
(in which case presumably you think our appropriate refererence class for
the purposes of the DA is "all humans"). Can you be more specific about what
you disagree with?

>> 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.

Ok, at least we agree on that. Let's go from there.

>> This seems to require a dualistic account of identity.
>Why? Explain this particular jump of logic please? I'm not
>being stubborn here, I seriously do not understand how you
>draw this conclusion.

Read the above again (to which I assume you agree, since you replied "yes".)
Note particularly the phrase "If the body I'm occupying is contingent". How
can I "occupy" a body without a dualistic account of identity? How could "I"
have been in a different body, unless "I" am somehow separate from my body
(ie. Dualism)?

>> >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).
>Really? Even when you're not conscious? What about after you've died?
>What about after brain surgery?

For the purposes of this discussion, yes to all.

 After being copied by Bruno
>Marchal's teletransporter?

Let's not get into that one right now. That's a whole other debate.

>> 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.
>The question "Why am I not a lion?" is syntactically similar
>to "Why I am not an ant", or "Why I am not Jonathon Colvin?".
>The treeness (or
>otherwise) of the questioner is rather irrelevant. In any
>case, the answers to both the latter questions do not assume
>minds can be swapped.

You are dodging the question. Assuming for a second that lions and trees are
both conscious, you still haven't answered the question as to how a tree
could be a lion, without dualism of some sort.

>> >> 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
>> >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".
>I _didn't_ ask the question "Assuming I am Russell Standish,
>why am I not an ant?" I asked the question of "Why wasn't I an
>ant?". Its a different question completely.

It is a question that *assumes* dualism. The only way those can be different
questions is if "I" is not identical with "Russell Standish". Otherwise the
question is identical with "Why wasn't Russell Standish an ant?".

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

>This one is also easy to answer also. I'm just as likely to
>have been born you as born me. But I have to have been born
>someone. I just so happened to have been born me. This is
>called "symmetry breaking".

Again, you are *assuming* dualism in your statement. How could you possibly
have been me? If you *had* been me, what would the difference be in the

Jonathan Colvin
Received on Thu Jun 16 2005 - 16:37:44 PDT

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