Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lecture 345: Property dualism

We will consider another form of Dualism - property dualism. Whereas substance dualism claims that there are two fundamentally different kinds of substances in the world,

property dualism claims that there are two fundamentally different kinds of properties in the world. When philosophers use the word "property" they mean, roughly, 'feature'.

The ultimate thing we want to understand is consciousness, what it is and where it comes from. Descartes reasoned:
1. Minds can be conscious
2. No physical object can be conscious
3. Minds are not physical objects.

We already have seen that this conclusion leads us into a lot of difficult questions, of which of course the most difficult one is: what kind of stuff is the mind made of and how does this mind-stuff interact or is causally related to the physical body?

Let's look at it from a different angle. Let's talk about the distinction between substances and properties. For our purposes, a substance is something which could be the only thing in the universe.

My body is therefore a substance, for we can easily imagine a universe which contains only my body. On the other hand, having a mass of, say, 85 kg is not a substance.

We cannot imagine a universe which contains 85 kg and NOTHING ELSE. So my body is a substance whereas having a mass of 85 kg is not. Having a mass of 85 kg is a property. More generally, substances have properties.

We are quite used to this substance - property dualism. When somebody asks you "who is Mr. Johns?" you describe the person by enumerating a number of properties or features: hair is grey, eyes are blue, tall 1.85 m….etc.

According to property dualism, mental states are nonphysical properties of the brain. The brain is a physical substance with various physical properties.

For example, the typical brain weighs about one kilogram, contains billions of neurons, has a blood supply and so forth. That much is common ground.

What is radical about property dualism is that it claims that, besides all these physical properties, the brain has some nonphysical properties.

These include being conscious, being in pain, believing that it is Thursday today. In short, mental states are nonphysical properties of the brain.

Is this a way to maintain dualism? One of the important property dualism views is called epiphenomenalism.

According to epiphenomenalism, mental states are nonphysical properties of the brain which are brought about by physical properties of the brain.

The distinctive feature of this view is that the nonphysical properties of the brain do not, in turn, bring about physical states of the brain. This seems to solve the interaction problem of substance dualism to some extend.

When you see some dangerous animal, you think "Help…danger!" but according to the epiphenomenalist,this thought itself doesn't do anything. It is only the physical states of the brain alone which cause you to run away.

Is the mind such a feature of the brain indeed? We still run into the same questions as with substance dualism. How can the physical properties of the brain give rise to nonphysical properties of the brain?

We still can ask what the features of nonphysical properties are; how we can observe them, what in the brain creates them, in what sense are they nonphysical?

If it is true that mental states, e.g. thoughts or seeing a danger, do not cause physical action, but that it is the brain which does that, we have a problem.

We have to give up a few rather common sense observations about ourselves:
1. Some mental states cause actions
2. some mental states cause other mental states.

Regarding 2 it would look like this according to the epiphenomenalist: You see a danger. This causes the thought "danger". Not your thought of danger causes your fear, but a further physical property of the brain makes the nonphysical property "fear" emerge from the brain.

Does this mean that we should regard consciousness as a "epiphenomenon". just a side effect of the physical brain?

The Discussion

herman Bergson: So much for today :-)
herman Bergson: The floor is yours
Qwark Allen: ::::::::: * E * X * C * E * L * L * E * N * T * ::::::::::
herman Bergson: .
herman Bergson: Thank you Qwark
herman Bergson: This is an attempt to save dualism....
herman Bergson: Is it saved?
Qwark Allen: i`m not sure
Qwark Allen: but was a good try for sure
Mick Nerido: Very weird save...
herman Bergson: yes but in my opinion you still keep the same problems as with substance dualism
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): hmmm
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): i doubt it
herman Bergson: yes Mich...what sounds a bit odd is that consciousness is some kind of side effect of the physical brain
herman Bergson: another question is about the semantics....
herman Bergson: object + property statements....
Lizzy Pleides: if it is a physical or nonphysical property , isn't that also a question of anatomy and histology and physiology?
herman Bergson: the quintessential question is ...those they really exist independent of the mind
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): have to review properties
herman Bergson: the point is....a tomato is an object.... it exists as a real thing outside the mind...
herman Bergson: but when I say this tomato is red.......?
herman Bergson: Redness....what is the ontological status of that?
herman Bergson: the brain is conscious....
herman Bergson: same question
herman Bergson: how do properties exist...?
herman Bergson: a tomato doesn't need a conscious observer to exist...
herman Bergson: its redness????
Lizzy Pleides: detection
herman Bergson: to show the asymmetry…
Mick Nerido: I see a tomato and I think "delicious" you might hate tomatos and think "bar vegi"
herman Bergson: yes Mick....but can there be the mental state 'delicious' without the tomato?
herman Bergson: can there be redness without this tomato....
Mick Nerido: I think so yes
herman Bergson: this line of questioning has along tradition
herman Bergson: You say yes Mick..ok....
herman Bergson: How do we see, detect, experience this redness?
Mick Nerido: Redness is a light wavelenth
Lizzy Pleides: as a remind?
Lizzy Pleides: it must have been an experience once
herman Bergson: Well Mick just study "The Knowledge argument" of Jackson...forgot his first name:)
Mick Nerido: "Delicious" is a learned experience...
herman Bergson: That is the most modern atttempt to proof that there must exist nonphysical properties
herman Bergson: We'll get to that issue later...
herman Bergson: What I now only want to bring to your attention is
herman Bergson: that we take properties as such obvious things….
herman Bergson: but when you really begin to ask questions, philosophical questions
herman Bergson: then properties are not at all such obvious things
herman Bergson: How do properties exist?
herman Bergson: Do they need a mind to be attributed to objects?
herman Bergson: Is it a feature of the mind to "see" properties?
Mick Nerido: So redness can exist without an observer and is independent condition in this view?
herman Bergson: You say that red is a certain wavelength, Mick...
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): like the tree in the forest
herman Bergson: well....suppose you never have seen a tomato....
herman Bergson: But you know that wavelength X is called to show you red
herman Bergson: So you know what red is....the property of an object....wavelength X
herman Bergson: but suppose all of a sudden someone showed you a tomato....
herman Bergson: Then you say....ahhhhhh!!! so that is red!
herman Bergson: then you know more...not only a wavelength but also another property of the tomato
herman Bergson: This is a very complex problem....
herman Bergson: The word that goes with it is "Qualia"
Sybyle Perdide: because a tomato is the sum of many properties
herman Bergson: We'll discuss this issue later...
Mick Nerido: If I was color blind to red and could not see red i would be in the dark, so to speak on redness
herman Bergson: Yes sybyle, what is that property "red" now...
bergfrau Apfelbaum paid you L$100.
Guestboook van tipjar stand: bergfrau Apfelbaum donated L$100. Thank you very much, it is much appreciated!
Qwark Allen is Online
Sybyle Perdide: meaningless for yo
herman Bergson: It would still be that specific wavelength always could pick out red objects with the right equipment
herman Bergson: Well...I guess I am cracking your brains :-)
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ‚ô• LOL ‚ô•
herman Bergson: Maybe a good idea to dig into the term "property" and its history.
herman Bergson: Dates back to Aristotle....
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): right
herman Bergson: In the middle ages it was the core of syllogistic logic....
bergfrau Apfelbaum: i must go! byebye class! byebye Birthdayherman!
herman Bergson: and today it is the child of the "qualia"
Lizzy Pleides: bye bergie
herman Bergson: Bye Bergie
Ciska Riverstone: bye Bergfrau
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): Bye, Bye „ã°
herman Bergson: so properties and qualia (= plural of quale) ....nice subject for some weekend reading :-)
herman Bergson: and take a copy of the SL Newser too „ã°
Ciska Riverstone: „ã°
Lilah Morgenstern is Online
herman Bergson: Thank you all for your attention and participation
Ciska Riverstone: thank you Herman
herman Bergson: Class dismissed „ã°
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ‚ô• Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ‚ô•
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): see you next thursday
Sybyle Perdide: thanks a lot
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): scrool down on the paper
wolk Writer is Offline
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): article about class
Mick Nerido: Thanks for the brain exercise!
Lizzy Pleides: thank you Herman!
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