Philosophy Essay Exam 2

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Idealism, Materialism, and Dualism
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The doctrine that all that exists are minds (finite minds and/or Infinite Mind) and their contents; The doctrine that all that exists are material objects; The doctrine that reality contains both mental and material things.
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Descartes’ specific version of dualism
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Descartes’ Cartesian Dualism, aka substance dualism, is the doctrine that mental states are states of an immaterial substance (mind/soul) that interacts with the body. Descartes suggested that the human animal is in reality reducible to two separable and distinct substances, a mind having no parts or other physical characteristics and a body having shape, measurable quantity, and motion. He recognized that, regardless of what the changeable physical world was really like, his mind was still whole and unchanged, and therefore somehow separate from that physical world. His theory focuses on human nature and reality itself. Everything in the universe, according to Descartes, is either a mind or a body. Human beings are both.
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Descartes’ Divisibility Argument for dualism
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Descartes proposes a divisibility argument to test and explain his theory. His argument is that, If minds are identical to bodies, then whatever is true of minds is true of bodies, and vice versa; But minds are indivisible and bodies are divisible; Therefore, minds are not identical to bodies. In other words, according to Descartes, the mind and the body are two separate things. He writes, “When I think about my mind—or, in other words, about myself insofar as I am just a thinking thing—I can’t distinguish any parts; I understand myself to be a single, unified thing. Although my whole mind seems united to my whole body, I know that cutting off a foot, arm, or other limb would not take anything away from my mind.”
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Why contemporary philosophers and scientists reject this argument
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Descartes argument was subject to criticism by contemporary philosophers and scientists because his argument, although valid, was not sound. For instance, the evidence of neurophysiology strongly suggests that thoughts, memories, beliefs and other mental states are states of the physical brain; and brains can be divided into spatial parts. Split brain research conducted by Roger Sperry and Michael Gazzaniga specifically suggests that perhaps minds can be divided.
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Roger Sperry
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From his research, Sperry concluded that: “Each hemisphere of the human brain) has its own private sensations, perceptions, thoughts, and ideas all of which are cut off from the corresponding experiences in the opposite hemisphere….In many respects each disconnected hemisphere appears to have a separate ‘mind of its own’.”
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V. S. Ramachandran
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The neurologist V. S. Ramachandran has observed that some split-brain patients have raised perplexing problems about religious beliefs. In some patients, he has discovered that one hemisphere claims to believe in God while the other hemisphere claims to be an atheist!
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The interaction problem
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Descartes believes that our minds causally interact with our bodies, and vice versa. But how can a non-physical, non-spatial object affect a physical one?
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Why is it important for a dualist such as Descartes to explain interaction?
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Questions such as these are why dualists like Descartes need to explain interaction; we, the listener need to hear an answer as to exactly why our “minds causally interact with our bodies, and vice-versa.”
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What does Descartes propose to explain interaction and why can’t his solution possibly work?
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In his The Passion of the Soul, Descartes proposes that the locus of interaction is the pineal gland because he believed that this gland was the only part of the brain that wasn’t a duplicate. We now know that although it produces hormones like melatonin, the pineal gland doesn’t unify our sense experience, as Descartes suggested.
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D’Holbach’s deterministic understanding of nature and how it informs his general understanding of human life.
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Like most of his contemporaries, he was impressed by Isaac Newton’s new mechanical science that explained the entire universe as a deterministic mechanism: a clockwork universe. Like everything else in nature, our lives are governed by universal deterministic laws. This means that even our actions are subject to these causal laws.
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Hard determinism
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The doctrine that there are no free actions. It is the belief that all acts are caused by past events, and given enough knowledge, one could predict what a person will do.
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D’Holbach’s main argument for hard determinism
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D’Holbach’s main argument for hard determinism was: The will is a modification of the brain; If the will is a modification of the brain, then a person’s desires are causally determined; If a person’s desires are causally determined, then there are no free actions; Therefore, there are no free actions.
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How D’Holbach’s theory of mind and its place in nature informs his argument.
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Contemporary philosophers of mind would call his theory a version of reductive materialism (only the material world (matter) is truly real). The claim that “the will …is a modification of the brain” was the central premise for D’Halbach’s version of hard determinism and suggests that a person’s desires are just brain states. As a reductive materialist, D’Holbach believes all human desires are just modifications of the brain that causally determine their actions. But because all human desires are just modifications of the brain that causally determine their actions, one can never act freely.
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How D’Holbach responds to the objection that choice proves that there is free will
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He responds: The very desire to prove that I can act freely is the motive that necessitates the act; so the action that tries to prove free action actually disproves it!
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Why doesn’t he believe that choice proves free will?
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D’Halbach illustrates his point with the example,”There is no difference between the man who is cast out of the window by another, and the man who throws himself out of it, except that the impulse in the first instance comes immediately from without, whilst that which determines the fall in the second case, springs from within his own peculiar machine, having its more remote cause also exterior.”
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Why D’Holbach characterizes the belief in free will as an illusion
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D’Holbach believes that the illusion of freewill arises because we are ignorant of the causes of our behavior: “It is, then, for want of recurring to the causes that move him, for want of being able to analyse, from not being competent to decompose the complicated motion of his machine, that man believes himself a free agent…” The illusion is compounded by the multiplicity and complexity of the causes.
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Do you think his explanation is convincing? Why or why not?
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No, I believe free will exists and that it guides people’s choices toward being more moral and better performers. Therefore, the causes of our behavior are determined by our free will, our actions are not causally determined, and free will is not an illusion.

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