God And The Argument From The Mind: Part I

John Calvin, in his landmark work Institutes of the Christian Religion, observes the following: "No man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves."

Have you ever thought about how amazing our cognitive faculties are? We reason, contemplate, reflect, remember, wonder, believe, accept truth, reject error and do all sorts of amazing things with our minds. Could these faculties really have arisen from matter plus chance? Many in our society reply yes … because our survival depended on it.

Oh? Does the belief of an amoeba really contribute to its fitness to survive? Do mollusks really contemplate their existence, or starfish reflect upon metaphysical questions? Does natural selection care about the content of beliefs, or does it merely care about our adaptive behavior?

These kinds of questions lead us into an area of apologetics known as God and the argument from the mind. It goes by different names: the anthropological argument, the argument from consciousness, and the argument from rationality.

It is an argument for God's existence in two ways. One, it argues against the possibility that physicalism is true (defined below). Two, it presents an argument for the existence of God because of the fact that human beings have rational minds. Naturalistic explanations for the existence of rational minds are at best, hand waving, and at worst, self-refuting. The most reasonable explanation for rationality is the existence of a greater rational mind.

I will rely heavily on J.P. Moreland's book, Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity, Chapter 3 as my source material for this series.

Since this fascinating argument wades into philosophy, I need to define some terms in order to lay the groundwork. I will do my level best to put the cookies on the bottom shelf … for everyone including me. I am not a professional philosopher, and this is not a philosophy blog.

Here are some helpful terms and how I am using them.
Physicalism. This is the view that reality in general, and humans in particular, are entirely made of matter.

Dualism. Forget Plato's ideas on dualism or gnosticism for a second … that is not the kind of dualism we are dealing with in this argument. The way I am using dualism is as an opponent of physicalism. It asserts that in addition to the body, a human being also has a nonphysical component called a soul, mind or self.

Property dualism. A type of dualism. Property dualists hold that the mind is a property of the body. Just like red is a property of an apple, the property dualist maintains that the mind is just a property of the body. The mind, to a property dualist, is a series of conscious or unconscious mental states and events. This is important. The mental states and events are never the cause of bodily activity … they are the effects of bodily activity.

Substance Dualism. A different type of dualism. Substances are different than properties. Substances have four characteristics. One, they are particulars. They cannot be in more than one place at one time. Two, substances can experience a change in their properties. A leaf, for example, can change from having the property of greenness to the property of redness … but it never loses its "leafness" (substance). Third, substances are basic, fundamental existents. Finally, and this is critical, substances have causal powers. Substance dualists, and I happen to be one, maintain that we are in fact, a body and a soul. Our soul causes things to happen in our body. My soul (my mind) entreats my arm to raise, and it raises. A property dualist would not see it that way … he would see the arm raising and his mind entering into a new mental state that recognizes the fact that his arm is raised. Nuanced, but important.

Epiphenomenalism. This fancy word is a synonym for property dualism. The mind is to the body as smoke is to fire. Smoke does not cause fire. It is a by-product of fire. Similarly, the mind "rides" on top of events in the body. Body events cause mind as a byproduct. The mind is a property of the body that ceases to exist when the body ceases to function.

I don't like long posts ... and this post is already too long. Enough groundwork has been laid.

In the next post, we will examine why physicalism is self-refuting.

Comments

Andrew said…
If you are going to define property dualism and epiphemonemalism in the same way, then why use both terms?

In practice, the standard definitions for them are not the same... your definition of property dualism is non-standard. I suggest you edit your definitions and remove from the definition of property dualism "The mind, to a property dualist, is a series of conscious or unconscious mental states and events. This is important. The mental states and events are never the cause of bodily activity … they are the effects of bodily activity"... because none of that is true.

Similarly you should remove "This fancy word is a synonym for property dualism" from Epiphenomenalism... because it isn't. Epiphenomenalism is not connected to property dualism - there is no reason an Epiphenomenalist could not be a substance dualist.
Robert:

Neat argument on the universality of concepts. Thanks for posting it. There are indeed many defeaters for physicalism.

Andrew:

From the keyboard of JP Moreland, p 79, Scaling The Secular City

"Property dualists hold that the mind is a property of the body. As Richard Taylor puts it 'A person is a living physical body having mind, the mind consisting, however, of nothing but a more or less continuous series of conscious or unconscious states and events ... which are the effects but never the causes of bodily activity'. This view is called epiphenomenalism."

I am more interested in epiphenomenalism than property dualism. I am sure there are differences, which would make my "synonym" comment in error. However, it is a blog post ... and my goal is not to unpack the entire mind/body problem in one post.

Thanks for the comments.
Andrew:

From the keyboard of Moreland, on p 79, Scaling The Secular City

"Property dualists hold that the mind is property of the body. As Richard Taylor puts it, 'A person is a living, physical body having mind, the mind consisting, however, of nothing but a more or less continuous series of conscious or unconscious states and events ... which are the effects but never the causes of bodily activity.' This view is called epiphenomenalism."

I am less interested in property dualism than I am in epiphenomenalism. I probably could have ommitted p.d. entirely without harming anything.
Andrew said…
It's just that I'm not myself sure whether to believe property dualism, substance dualism or idealism. So when I see someone saying property dualism (a very plausible possibility) and epiphenominalism (which is the most easy to refute idea ever invented) I have to raise an eyebrow.

I don't know what to think about the Moreland quote. His quote from Richard Taylor correctly describes epiphenomenalism. Perhaps Moreland's editors mistakenly joined the two? Perhaps Moreland copy+pasted into the wrong place? Perhaps Moreland doesn't know the difference himself, unlikely as that seems? It is argued by some (in my opinion correctly) that the more physicalist forms of property dualism such as Anomalous Monism actually end up being epiphenomenalist... but that's as close as the relationship gets.

Anyway, "property dualism" is virtually synonymous with "dual aspect theory". Basically they both say that the substance that constitutes the universe (or at least the physical part of it) has both physical properties and mental ones. eg an apple has both shape and weight. So, it is suggested, the one fundamental substance of whatever it is has both a physical aspect/properties and a mental aspect/properties. This is really a very general theory capable of subsuming many other mind-body theories under it. The differences come when you start thinking about to what extent the two properties can affect each other and whether either of them can change without affecting the other.

Popular posts from this blog

How Many Children in Bethlehem Did Herod Kill?

Where did Jesus say "It is better to give than receive?"

The Bogus Gandhi Quote

Discussing Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Revamping and New Articles at the CADRE Site

Exodus 22:18 - Are Followers of God to Kill Witches?

A Botched Abortion Shows the Lies of Pro-Choice Proponents

Jewish writings and a change in the Temple at the time of the Death of Jesus

Tillich, part 2: What does it mean to say "God is Being Itself?"

The Folded Napkin Legend