Property Dualism

Posted by Ali Reda | Posted in | Posted on 5/15/2015

Property dualism asserts that an ontological distinction lies in the differences between properties of mind and matter, and that consciousness is ontologically irreducible to neurobiology and physics. Although the world is constituted of just one kind of substance — the physical kind — there exist two distinct kinds of properties: physical properties and mental properties.It asserts that when matter is organized in the appropriate way (i.e., in the way that living human bodies are organized), mental properties emerge therefore it could be affected by any rearrangement of matter.


Whilst Cartesian dualism argues that there is a two-way interaction between mental and physical substances, not all forms of dualism agree. Epiphenomenalism argues that mental events are caused by - or are a by-product of - physical events, but that the interaction is one-way: mental events cannot affect physical ones. One of the curious side effects of this theory is that it implies that decision making is not a mental event. Apart from flying in the face of most common sense attitudes.

Biological Naturalism

Emergentism is the idea that increasingly complex structures in the world give rise to the "emergence" of new properties that are something over and above (i.e. cannot be reduced to) their more basic constituents.  Applied to the mind/body relation, emergent materialism is another way of describing the non-reductive physicalist conception of the mind that asserts that when matter is organized in the appropriate way (i.e., organized in the way that living human bodies are organized), mental properties emerge.

Searle holds that the brain is, in fact, a machine, but the brain gives rise to consciousness and understanding using machinery that is non-computational. On the level of neurons (Micro Level), which we search, there is no emergence of consciousness, but on the scale of the whole brain (Macro Level), consciousness emerge. If neuroscience is able to isolate the mechanical process that gives rise to consciousness, then Searle grants that it may be possible to create machines that have consciousness and understanding. However, without the specific machinery required, Searle does not believe that consciousness can occur.

Anomalous Monism or Eliminative Materialism or Predicate Monism

According to which there can be no strict psycho-physical laws which connect mental and physical events under their descriptions as mental and physical events. However, all mental events also have physical descriptions. It is in terms of the latter that such events can be connected in law-like relations with other physical events. Mental predicates are irreducibly different in character (rational, holistic and necessary) from physical predicates (contingent, atomic and causal). Eliminative materialists maintain that such intentional predicates as believe, desire, think, feel, etc., will eventually be eliminated from both the language of science and from ordinary language because the entities to which they refer do not exist. The only argument that Davidson gives for this point is that mental phenomena, like beliefs and desires, are subject to constraints of rationality, and rationality has “no echo in physics.”

Step 1: There are causal relations between mental phenomena and physical phenomena.
Step 2: Wherever there are events related as cause and effect they must fall under strict, deterministic causal laws.
Step 3: But there are no such strict deterministic causal laws relating the mental and the physical. In Davidson’s terms, there are no psycho-physical laws.
Step 4: Conclusion. All so-called mental events are physical events.

The first principle follows from Davidson's view of the ontology of events and the nature of the relationship of mental events (specifically propositional attitudes) with physical actions. Davidson subscribes to an ontology of events where events (as opposed to objects or states of affairs) are the fundamental, irreducible entities of the mental and physical universe. His original position, as expressed in Actions and Events, was that event-individuation must be done on the basis of causal powers. He later abandoned this view in favour of the individuation of events on the basis of spatio-temporal localization, but his principle of causal interaction seems to imply some sort of, at least, implicit commitment to causal individuation. According to this view, all events are caused by and cause other events and this is the chief, defining characteristic of what an event is.

Ted Honderich has challenged the thesis of anomalous monism, forcing, in his words, the "inventor of anomalous monism to think again". To understand Honderich's argument, it is helpful to describe the example he uses to illustrate the thesis of AM itself: the event of two pears being put on a scale causes the event of the scale's moving to the two-pound mark. But if we describe the event as "the two French and green things caused the scale to move to the two-pound mark", then while this is true, there is no lawlike relation between the greenness and Frenchness of the pears and the pointers moving to the two-pound mark.

Honderich then points out that what we are really doing when we say that there is "no lawlike relationship between two things under certain descriptions" is taking certain properties and noting that the two things are not in relation in virtue of those particular properties. But this does not mean they are not in lawlike relation in virtue of certain other properties, such as weight in the pears example. On this basis, we can formulate the generalization that Honderich calls the Nomological Character of Causally-Relevant Properties. Then we ask what the causally relevant properties of the mental events which cause physical events are.

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