Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Substance dualism and relativity theory

Here is an interesting argument against substance dualism:

  1. Something only exists simultaneously with my body when it exists in space.

  2. My mind now exists simultaneously with my body.

  3. So, my mind now exists in space.

  4. Anything in space is material.

  5. So, my mind is material.

If this argument is right, then there is at least one important respect in which property dualism and physicalism are better off than substance dualism.

The reasoning behind (1) is Relativity Theory: the temporal sequence that bodies are in cannot be separated from space, forming an indissoluble unity with it, namely spacetime.

One way out of the argument is to deny (4). Perhaps the mind is immaterial but in space in a way derivative from the body’s being in space and the mind’s intimate connection with the body. On this view, the mind’s being in time would seem to have to be derivative from the body’s being in time. This does not seem appealing to me: the mind’s spatiality could be derivative from the spatiality of something connected with the mind, but that the mind’s temporality would be derivative from the temporality of something connected with the mind seems implausible. Temporality seems too much a fundamental feature of our minds.

However, there is a way to resolve this difficulty, by saying that the mind has two temporalities. It has a fundamental temporality of its own—what I have elsewhere called “internal time”—and it has a derivative temporality from its connection with spatiotemporal entities, including the body. When I say that my mind is fundamentally temporal, that refers to the mind’s internal time. When we say that my mind is derivatively temporal, that refers to my mind’s external time.

If this is right, then we have yet another reason for substance dualists to adopt an internal/external time distinction. If this were the only reason, then the need for the distinction would be evidence against substance dualism. But I think the distinction can do a lot of other work for us.


Michael Gonzalez said...

I deny 2, on the ground that minds are not things. "Mind" talk is like "talent" or "ability" talk: it is really about the living creature and its features and capacities.

But, I also wonder about (4), since surely energy and fields exist in space, and they are not material, are they?

Alexander R Pruss said...

It sounds like your view is not substance dualism.

Maybe I should have said "physical" rather than "material".

Michael Gonzalez said...

My point was that it is a false dichotomy to ask whether the mind is this kind of thing or that kind of thing, when the mind may well not be any kind of thing at all (just as talents aren't any kind of thing, physical or non-physical).

Ren said...

So the internal time would be something different from the physical time... And the mind would only experience physical time due to the fact of being bonded with the body (more specifically with the brain, I guess).

How should we understand this internal time? As the succession of acts of will, as I once read in reference to the type of time the soul experiences after its separation from the body?

On the other hand, the process of reaching a conclusion from a premise through logical thinking seems to require some kind of temporality... What type of temporality takes place here? The physical time or the internal time? Because there is physical activity taking place in the brain while this type of thought process takes place, and brain activity is subject to physical time... But I cannot see a clear answer

Ren said...

After thinking about this, I believe that the mind and it’s thought process fundamentally takes place within physical time in so far as the body and the human soul are bonded together, as the intellect makes use of the brain circuits to organise and interpret the information coming from the senses, and to develop the thought process... The internal time would also exist (if we define this ambiguous term as ‘succession of acts of the will’) but still it would necessarily take place within the physical time

However, after the body dies, we would exclusively experience the more fundamental, ‘internal time’. Also, the intellect would no longer make use of the brain... which makes me ask in what way would the thought process take place