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At Mind Matters News: How did Descartes come to make such a mess of dualism?

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Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor thinks that mathematician René Descartes strictly separated mind and matter in a way that left the mind very vulnerable:

Michael Egnor: Descartes said that things that exist in the world can be broken down into two categories. One is res extensa, which is matter, just stuff as extended in space. And the other is res cogitans, which is “thinking” stuff. And thinking stuff was spiritual, it was the mind. He believed that human beings were composites of res cogitans and res extensa.

Thus we were immaterial spirits grafted onto material bodies. And Gilbert Ryle, a contemporary philosopher, referred to that concept as the “ghost in the machine.” While that might be a somewhat dismissive approach to what Descartes really meant, Descartes did believe that we were, in a sense, ghosts living in bodies.

Which is not at all Aristotle’s way of understanding human beings. It takes first person experience entirely out of our bodies. It says that our subjective experience is entirely in the res cogitans; it’s not in the res extensa. So in the body, there’s no first person experience. Only the mind has first person experience. (00:45:52)

Most materialists don’t realize this but modern materialism is just degenerate Cartesianism. Modern materialists swallowed Descartes’ metaphysics. And then they just got rid of res cogitans. They just said the whole world, everything, is matter extended in space. And that’s the whole story. There’s no minds out there.

So of course, if you take matter extended in space, which is defined as that which lacks first person experience, you’re going to have an awfully difficult time accounting for first person experience. Because you’ve put first person experience in the garbage.

So materialists have defined matter as that which cannot have first person experience. And then they write libraries full of books trying to explain how matter [which is all we are in their view] can have first person experience when they’re the ones that caused the problem. (00:46:46)

News, “How did Descartes come to make such a mess of dualism?” at Mind Matters News

Takehome: After Descartes started the idea that only minds have experiences, materialist philosophers dispensed with mind, then puzzled over how matter has experiences.

Here’s a transcript and notes for the first forty minutes:

What’s the best option for understanding the mind and the brain? Theories that attempt to show that the mind does not really exist clearly don’t work and never did. Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor reviews the mind-brain theories for East Meets West: Theology Unleashed. He think dualism makes the best sense of the evidence.

How we can know mental states are real? Mental states are always “about” something; physical states are not “about” anything. Michael Egnor argues that doing science as a physicalist (a materialist) is like driving a car with the parking brake on; it’s a major impediment to science.

Why neurosurgeon Mike Egnor stopped being a materialist atheist. He found that materialism is just not working out in science. Most propositions in basic science are based on mathematics and mathematics is not a material thing.

and

How science points to meaning in life. The earliest philosopher of science, Aristotle, pioneered a way of understanding it. Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor talks about the four causes of the events in our world, from the material to the mind.

You may also wish to read: Why the universe itself can’t be the most fundamental thing. Atheist biology professor Jerry Coyne is mistaken in dismissing my observation that proofs of God’s existence follow the same logical structure as any other scientific theory. (Michael Egnor)

3 Replies to “At Mind Matters News: How did Descartes come to make such a mess of dualism?

  1. 1
    William J Murray says:

    Descartes didn’t have access to the evidence we have now, which disproves the theory that “matter” exists, thus disproving both materialism and dualism. What exists is information. Information is always about something. Therefore, all of existence is in and of mind.

    It’s really all very simple and obvious, but apparently dualists are just as irrationally attached to the idea of matter as materialists.

  2. 2

    Dualism is true because the logic of subjectivity, and the logic of objectivity, are really different.

    To say a painting is beautiful, is really a fundamentally different sort of statement then to say, the earth revolves around the sun.

    The logic of subjectivity is to choose an opinion, which opinion expresses what it is that makes a choice.

    Meaning that all that makes a choice is inherently subjective, it is spiritual. (emotions, personal character, the soul, God)

    The logic of objectivity is that a fact is obtained by evidence of a creation, forcing to produce a 1 to 1 corresponding model of it, in the mind.

    Meaning that all chosen things, creations, are inherently objective, they are material.

  3. 3
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Most materialists don’t realize this but modern materialism is just degenerate Cartesianism. Modern materialists swallowed Descartes’ metaphysics. And then they just got rid of res cogitans. They just said the whole world, everything, is matter extended in space. And that’s the whole story. There’s no minds out there.

    Idealism did the same thing but just got rid of res extensa and kept res cogitans.

    How we can know mental states are real? Mental states are always “about” something

    The mind is directed to objects outside of itself.

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