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Are Persons Brains? The Challenge of Crypto-Cartesianism - P. M. S. Hacker and Raymond Tallis

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Published on Aug 2, 2012

Platonic dualism was transmitted to early modern philosophy via St Augustine, who married orphic dualism with Christianity. Augustine's conception was one of the fundamental inspirations for Cartesian metaphysics. Cartesian dualism was a three legged stool, the legs of which are a philosophical vision of the mechanical view of physical universe, the reduction of life to mechanism, and an irreducibly private conception of the mental and the identification of the mind with consciousness.
Despite the fact that Kant had inflicted grave damage on the Cartesian conception, Cartesian dualism survived in psychology until the rise of behaviourism, and in neuroscience until after the Second World War. Its demise, however, did not lead to the revival of the integrated monism advanced by Aristotle and espoused by Aquinas. Rather it led to a form of degenerate Cartesianism that might be caricatured as brain/body dualism. Although brain/body dualism accepts substance-monism, the psychological predicates Descartes ascribed to the mind are now ascribed to the brain, and the rest of the conceptual structure erected by Descartes is left intact. But replacing ethereal non-matter by grey glutinous matter does not even touch the deep conceptual confusions of Cartesianism.
Philosophers have contributed their share to the confusions by representing the brain as a limiting case of a mutilated human being. Hence the human person is held to be identical with the brain. This, as will be shown, is 'nonsense on stilts'.

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