Has Cartesian dualism been proven wrong?

How can substance dualism (Cartesian) explain how the mind is affected by brain damage?

This is an important question that interactive dualists are generally hard to admit. Most other physicalistic attacks on interactive dualism are based on argument or scientific error (the claim that different kinds of things cannot interact is - simply wrong; the claim that science has shown that energy conservation and causal completion of physical facts are also untrue, as shown by the current openness of physics and the continuous discovery of new interactions as well as the spontaneous symmetry breaking in the assumption of gauge symmetry). The defense of dualism usually focuses on these rebuttable objections and the evidence for dualism. Three good examples are The Self And its Brain by Popper and Eccles or this link for a more recent example: http://www.newdualism.org/papers/R.Bernier/Bernier_Thesis.pdf

The problem for dualists should be clarified. Substance usually assumes that consciousness is spiritual and interacts with the brain in the same way as a television broadcaster interacts with a television screen or as a remote drone operator interacts with a drone. This model explains some of the effects on consciousness from brain damage. If the circuitry of a TV has some shorts it can cause the display of a signal to malfunction (for example, when a person knows what they want to say but is unable to form the words due to a stroke) and Telemetry can be damaged. Sensors or cameras on the drone can interfere with the return of information to the operator (a stroke in the optical processing of the brain leads to blindness). In addition, dualists often try to defend a religious view in which "souls" are indivisible, and therefore claim an intrinsic indivisibility for consciousness. An example of both assumptions from a recent dualistic article is here: http://www.newdualism.org/papers/R.Collins/Collins-Scientific%20Case%20for%20Soul.pdf The Eccles interaction model is more explicit and has the same functions.

The problem with both assumptions is that there has long been significant evidence that CONSCIOUSNESS is affected by brain damage and that we can lose consciousness, not just our data or our printouts. The first documented case was a railroad worker whose brain was spiked and underwent a personality change in the 19th century: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/phineas-gage-neurosciences-most-famous-patient-11390067 / A recent set of examples is documented in "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat," which documents the case studies of a neurologist's patients and the unconsciousness they have lost. Patients who cannot even think of the left field of view, patients who cannot think of action verbs - these are deteriorations of the DRONE OPERATOR, not the data or the communication or the drone behavior.

I have only found two dualistic authors who admit this problem. Beloff http://www.newdualism.org/sites/moebius.psy.ed.ac.uk-dualism/papers/brains.html agrees that this observation supports physicalism but does not offer a solution. Mai and Mai offer a two-mode ad hoc addendum to dualism - when embodied the mind tracks trails with bodies for TBD reasons, but when separated they don't: https: // www. selfconsciousmind.com/TheoryOfMindAndBrain-12052011.pdf. Mai and Mai provide no rationale for why, if the mind can process the "left side of the visual field" when it is incarnated and there is no brain that processes this in parallel, but then when a brain does some of that processing, The Mind then cannot work the left side of the visual field, even if that part of Brian is damaged - they lack an explanation other than "that's how it is".

Note that the harm-to-thinking correlation is not a fatal objection to dualism, but only to the two assumptions I mentioned above. A dualistic model, to be compatible with this data, must allow souls to use brains to expand their functions and the throughput of consciousness. This can be done with a much more complex, coupled / interactive model. Anyone who has driven the security cars that partially process the road data for you and then tried to help control the car has experienced some aspects of an offboard think-tank. Our cars do not couple directly with consciousness, but according to interactive dualism, our brains do. So apply this concept to actual consciousness, and a dualistic model that treats the brain as the common enabler of some characteristics of consciousness would fit this data.

What this model would predict is that disembodied souls would have fewer skills and throughput than if they were embodied and could also have different personalities. This is a consequence that most dualists are reluctant to accept, but this is only a problem for some models of dualism and the dualists' desires, not for dualism in principle.

Dual aspect monism (DAM) is refuted by all refutations of identity theories AND faces both the same problem that dualists have and additional logical problems (the brain question is still there, why should a wiring difference cause mental changes cause)? . I haven't seen two aspect monists make the effort that dualists have to articulate a model as coherent as the TV / drone model. You need another poster to get DAM responses - I don't think they have any.


This is a great answer. You have shown at length why interactionist substance dualism has been proven wrong!


The reason philosophy of mind is still a very active field is that any effort to explain the mind has some major problems. Since these problems for interactionist dualism can be solved by a) limiting the theory, rejecting some popular variants of it, and b) adding more complexity, these problems are not fatal for interactive dualism. ID is actually in better shape than any other theory I've found - as the others either cannot be patched or the patches involve incoherence. I am an interactive dualist ;-).


Thanks for the clear dcleve. 10/10 answer!


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