Dualism and Monism

As a society we tend to characterize things by both mental and physical things, a mental thing would be something which obviously takes place in our minds like a dream, and a physical thing is something which ‘actually happens’ or takes place like a game of football. They both are part of our everyday lives and we as a society are fairly sure that they are in existence. But how do these two entirely different entities interact? How does thinking you’d like to kick the ball end up with you actually kicking the ball? Some would say that there is no such thing as the mind!

What the mind, quite simply is, the chemical reactions within the brain. Another group of people believe nothing is real (in a physical sense); the world of which we live in is merely a mental projection or dream. This could possibly be a God, many gods or just what we as individuals or as a group want to see in the world. And there are many more views and versions of the relation ship between both mind and body. Dualism is the belief that we are both a concoction of mind and body; this is probably what our society collectively believes. They (body and mind) inter relate to each other or possibly better put interact with one another.

One cannot exist without the other. One of the main philosophers who argued this belief is a Descartes. He quoted the famous philosophical statement which in Latin goes ‘Cogito Ergo Sum’ or in English ‘I think therefore I am’. This philosophical statement had a flaw in it though. This is because it should have been phrased; ‘There are thoughts therefore I am’ because he assumes an I – all he really has established is that there are thoughts inside the brain. This simply is because of the fact that we our selves cannot be sure that we are thinking as an individual, independently.

It could be someone or something else doing the thinking and all we can do is experience their thoughts and there’s no such thing as ‘free will’ a thing which we all so love to think we have. The proof which supports Dualism and that both body and mind interact is the fact that some mental things have effects on some physical things and vice versa. For example consumption of large amounts of alcohol can produce hallucinations which is the physical affecting the mental, and an example for how the mental affects the physical is blushing when were embarrassed or positive thinking.

If you think something will have an affect e. g. if you take a pill to cure an illness and in fact it is a placebo and doesn’t have any actual medically healing properties you are far more likely to recover than someone who hasn’t taken anything even though it hasn’t any medical properties. The main principle of dualism as stated above is based on the assumption of mind and body inter relating. But how do they do this? Some would say ‘it just is’ – its an unexplainable phenomena, but this idea is a very weak argument without much sustenance. So others tried to find a way in which this happens.

Descartes looked for some part of the body (a specific organ or gland) with a specific function of acting as a kind of modem or translator which allows the physical body to interlink with the mind. He concluded that the most likely part of the body which would serve as this so called modem was the Pineal Gland which is located in base of the brain. His most likely reason for this specific organ acting in this way was that the Pineal Gland doesn’t seem to do anything and it was in a logical place i. e. the brain (the nerve center of our bodies. )

Descartes thought he had solved the problem of the mind and the body, because he had worked out he must exist, and eventually got round to working out that his body exists and on the way that God must exist. But the one thing which still persists today with this principle of Dualism and this is the ‘problem of interaction’ or as we call it the Matilda problem in our class. This problem is that if the mind has power over the body i. e. if we want to or find something amusing we laugh. So if our minds seem to have control over our physical bodies why does it just stop there why don’t we have control over non-bodily things like Matilda did.

Why cannot we pick up things through the sheer power of thought? Or put in other words make them levitate with just our thought. And no physical contact. To solve the problem of interaction bLeibniz put forward the theory of ‘Parallelism’. Which is much the same as Dualism, and is the belief that the mental ‘world’ runs in parallel with the physical ‘world’ much the same as two clocks set to exactly the same time, but which are totally independent to each other, another analogy is two different sets of dominoes set off at the same time.

The problem with saying this is how did the dominoes start to move? It was concluded that God started both of them at the same time, because there wasn’t at that time any other feasible explanation of how they started. This argument I think should be seen as a weak argument because it depends on God to start the chain of events. Leibniz also responded to Descartes ‘Dualism’ of the body and the mind, with the Idea of ‘Panpsychism’ this is the idea of every thing having consciousness. The pen with which you are marking this essay has a consciousness as well as the chair you are sitting on.

This is thanks to the ‘Monads’ which make up every thing in this universe. Leibniz believed that there were different levels of consciousness, and the different levels depended on the concentration or order of Monads. So if you were to sit on me I would be able to tell you to get off me, because I have a high concentration or order of monads where as the poor chair on which you are sitting cannot because it is got a low concentration or order of the monads and so cannot tell you to get off it!

In a similar way to Leibniz, in order to solve the problem of interaction cMalebranche brought forward the principle of ‘Occasionalism’ and said much the same as Leibniz and Descartes, that we are both mind and body, but he attempted to solve the big problem of interaction by saying how God swoops down on each occasion (hence the name Occasionalism) and moves my leg when I want to move, rather than me doing it myself. This did not in fact solve the problem in fact you could say that he moved it up a notch from the human level to the Divine level.

How can God who we think of as a nonphysical being or thing move (or physically influence) a physical one? The other problem with this is Evil. If God who we view as good as did Malebranche why would he pull my finger back on the trigger if I was to try and kill someone, especially since in the Bible he teaches of how we aren’t to kill one another. I have to disagree with his idea simply because it doesn’t seem to be a very strong argument, and is I would say not a sound argument because of the problems of which are associated. Ryle attacked what be believed to be ‘Descartes myth’, or the Dualist view which basically is that the mind is as it were ‘the ghost in the machine’. He said that the ghost in the machine example was one big mistake, and ultimately a category-mistake. He thought it wrong to talk of the mind as being an object or a sort of engine which drives the body as in the parable of the ‘Red Indians and the steam engine’. Ryle mocks Descartes idea of the ghost who drives the train, and he compares him to the primitive red Indians.

The Indians meet for the first time a steam engine, they said to the driver, “Mighty big engine, How!? ” The driver answers it is, and it has 100 horse power. The Indians then instinctively ask, “Well where are the 100 horses? ” The Driver attempts to tell them of how there are no real horses inside it, and how it drives its self. But they cannot grasp this idea. So the driver strips the engine to bits to show them that there really is not a horse powering it. When they do not see anything, they blindly say or assume that there is a mighty invisible horse inside the engine and they just cannot see it.

Ryle in this is saying that we have no mind driving ourselves, all we are is neurons in our brains, and to say that we have a nonphysical mind driving us is as ludicrous as saying that there is an invisible horse inside the train. Another example is Ryle’s ‘University’ example by a image with a tourist visiting either Oxford or Cambridge for the first time, seeing the various colleges, playing fields and so on, but then asking the question, where is the university?

This is implying that Ryle thinks the treatment by Descartes of mental events as separate to the other parts of the body, rather than viewing them as the one which he believed it was. Therefore there is no clear-cut difference between mental processes and physical processes. But Ryle does not explain how consciousness occurs through his criticisms of Descartes, and it isn’t the most likely thing that conciseness was a side affect of the chemical reactions in the brain.

And if our consciousness was just because of chemical reactions then it brings out the question do we have free will and if we don’t then it points to determinism which is the belief that all things came into existence and happen by pure fluke or coincidence. eClifford, another materialist philosopher, who like the other materialists thought that there is only matter in this world and to think that there could be an actual separate thing such as the mind which controls the matter is absurd and irrational he gave an example of his point, ‘we can see how a material object can move another material object – a snooker cue can move a snooker ball.

But is a difficult thing to see how an immaterial object like the soul can move a material object like the body’ – because even if there is a non-physical thing such as the soul they are entirely different entities and as such would be incompatible or so materialists believe. This idea is much the same as Positivism. Positivism is based upon the fundamental ideas of science. And because there is no actual evidence or at least scientific evidence the soul doesn’t exist or until it is scientifically proven.

Also a positivist explains how, the soul was invented; it was made up because science, in an un-advanced state, because science at the time could not explain our feelings and so on. Susan Greenfieldf is another materialist. She has put forward the idea that consciousness varies in quality, and this variant of quality happens due to the arrangement of neurons. The bigger the assembly of neurons the more conscious you are, and then the smaller the group of neurons gives a lower form of consciousness.

This idea is one which could well be true and could explain why monkeys cannot do all the same things we can with our minds simply because they have a lower concentration of neurons. Possibly as we develop further and possibly our concentration of neurons greatens possibly telekinesis may be possible. This may possibly explain something of our moods, brain damage (lower conscious state), and even schizophrenia to name but a few things, but are these all merely because of the arrangement of neurons in our brains?

G Strawson says what he believes is the weakness in Susan’s argument as well as all other materialists. He says how Susan has explained the correlation of consciousness but not the explanation. Or possibly better put she has explained the mechanics of consciousness but not the why or the experience of it. And the why may be the most important thing about it, as explained in the following thought experiment; Dr Sam has a PhD in love and knows all of the physical aspects and principles the dilation of the pupils.

But Dr Sam has never actually been in love himself, where as his friend Lee knows nothing about the scientific side to love but has actually himself been in love. So the person who knows more about love is Lee because he has experienced it. So some philosophical thinkers like Bishop George Berkleyg came up with the idea of Idealism. Idealism is the concept of the world of which we experience in our everyday lives, is nothing more than our own interpretation of thoughts projected either by our selves of by a God or gods.

Berkley said we cannot know whether we even have an actual body at all, we only have a body when we perceive it. He said ‘to be is to be perceived’. If his thoughts of there, possibly being nothing but thought (and no actual matter) are correct, there then comes the question of whether we live on after we die? If it is God who is generating us do we die as if we were turned off like a sort of hologram? Or do we still live on? Something else which supports the concept of Idealism is that of Peggy Palmer’s condition, of her mind filling in the missing part.

She suffers from bad eyesight – her brain only sees half of a word, and has to fill in the rest itself. This raises the question of whether our minds tell us what we want to see. It could lead to the idea that all physical matter is a projection of our minds. I conclude that, for me one of the most feasible theories is Dualism, but because of the fundamental flaws in it with the problem of interaction, I have tended to Idealism. Quite simply because it works and has no flaws in it. I like it because it doesn’t put into question that there couldn’t be a God; in fact I believe it supports it.

It gives a believable beginning of the universe, in my mind. I cannot compute the possibility that there was just a lump of rock and metal which exploded. Where did this lump of rock come from? We or I view mental things/spiritual things as eternal and them being realistically eternal because of a non-physical thing not being able to die because of the lacking of a physical shell to cease working. It makes so much more logical sense for the universe to consist of thought and only thought.

It then makes miracles and other miraculous things become believably possible. I believe that life of which I am experiencing is much like a computer game which God has made or even a type of Matrix. It has boundaries or limitations and you can die in the game. But you walk away from the computer consol alive. So what I am saying is that in this world we may seem to die, but because everything is just mental then once you have finished your game you live on and that’s where I believe where the after life comes in.