Substance Dualism (Part 1 of 2) [HD]





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Published on Oct 7, 2012

Examining the view that mind and body are separate substances.

Note at 7:08 A reductio ad absurdum argument (one which attributes a machine with thought purely for the sake of argument, to demonstrate that genuinely absurd / contradictory consequences follow) would be valid. We can see immediately that Plantinga's thought experiment doesn't achieve this: failure to discern how a thinking machine is thinking indicates only lack of comprehension, not a genuine absurdity / contradiction.

But his use of Leibniz' scenario isn't valid. Leibniz doesn't just propose a thinking machine, but one we can enter and inspect. If physical thinking things are impossible - as Plantinga claims - then whatever machine we conjure up in our imagination to enter and inspect, it can't be a genuine physical thinking thing, just as it would be impossible to inspect a machine that prints square circles. (Besides, if there's truly nothing we could be faced with inside the machine that would signal thought, it makes no sense to ask us to inspect it, since no inspection could help us discern thinking machines from non-thinking ones anyway.) It is this sense in which Plantinga cannot use thinking machines to show machines can't think. His argument is incoherent. It is certainly not a valid reductio ad absurdum.


Selected Resources:

Humanoid robot Asimo demonstration:

Descartes, R - Discourse on the Method (1637)

Eccles, J C - The Human Psyche (1980)
Eccles, J C - Evolution of the brain (1989)
Eccles, J C - How the Self Controls Its Brain (1994)

Leibniz, G W - Monadology (1714)

Lock, A - Action, gesture and symbol (1978)

MacNamara, J "Nurseries, streets and classrooms", Modern Language Journal, 57(5-6) 1973

Pinker, S - How the mind works (1999)

Swinburne, R - Evolution of the soul (1986)
Swinburne, R - Interview with Science and Religion News (2006)

Velmans, M - Understanding Consciousness (2000)

Video reference:

Plantinga - Against Materialism (Talk at CA Poly State Uni, 2004)

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