The Dualistic Nature of Humans

    What form does the interaction between humans' physical and phenomenal natures take? We can get the known possibilities from David Chalmers's discussion of the topic. We have already shown that the physical affects the phenomenal. Does the phenomenal affect the physical? Yes. This is how Mary can say, "Ah ha! So that is what it is like to see red." To contradict this, an epiphenomenalist (the position that I am arguing against) must resort to extreme measures. The epiphenomenalist must say that seeing the tomato caused Mary, by a purely physical pathway, to say, "Ah ha! So that is what it is like to see red," and also, by a separate phenomenal pathway, caused Mary to have the sensation of seeing red. If this is the case, how does Mary know that she actually had the sensation of seeing red? She does not. Her physical mind has never had access to the phenomenal experience; and as such her physical mind has no way of verifying that the phenomenal experience actually occurred. Any physical reports (Mary verbally telling herself what she feels) are therefore unreliable. Therefore, an epiphenomenalist must hold that no facts about qualia are knowable. However, a premise of epiphenomenalism is that facts about qualia are knowable. Therefore, by the law of non-contradiction, epiphenomenalism is false.

    Is it possible that after physical minds evolve sufficient complexity, that phenomenal properties emerge spontaneously, and that these properties influence the physical mind, as described by property dualism? No. In physics, there is no such thing as spontaneous emergence. The properties of gases can be derived from the properties of atoms using statistical mechanics. The properties of stars can be derived from the standard model plus general relativity. If something appears to arise spontaneously, then either it has some non-physical cause, or the physics of the situation is not understood. If property dualism were true, then phenomenal properties would be a direct consequence of physical properties; and once Mary knows all the physical facts about the mind; Mary could derive all of the phenomenal facts as well, and she would learn nothing upon being healed. If the phenomenal is a direct consequence of the physical, we should reclassify the phenomenal as physical, and property dualism becomes incoherent. Essentially, the "phenomenal" becomes just one more gear in the materialist machine.

    At this point, we must accept that the physical and the phenomenal natures of the mind interact and that the phenomenal is not wholly dependent on the physical. For completeness we should also ask, is the physical aspect of the mind wholly dependent on the phenomenal? No. For this to be the case, my (or our) phenomenal mind (or minds) would have to determine the contents of my physical mind, including its genetics. This would require that my mind (or our minds) determines who my parents are, and their parents are, all the way back to the beginning. This requires at least two extremely non-intuitive things. The first is that I created (or assisted in the creation of) the universe, an event of which I have no memory or apparent ability. The second is that I (or we) created laws of physics that are intricate, extremely surprising to us, and self-consistent when applied in the appropriate regime.

    Now we know that both the phenomenal and physical contribute to what it means to be human, and neither of these aspects is based entirely upon the other. Let us consider the case of neutral monism. Neutral monism asserts that all fundamental particles (electrons, photons, quarks, etcetera) have an intrinsic phenomenal as well as a physical nature, just as particles have both a wave and a particle nature. If a physicist asks if an electron is a particle or a wave, the correct answer is somewhere between both and neither. The question is badly defined. An electron has properties of both a wave and a particle, but it is only one object. That we call an electron a "particle" is a historical accident because that is how they were first observed. Physicists understand that this is not correct, and a different name such as wavicle would be better, but no such name has caught on. Similarly, a neutral monist asserts that when you ask if a particle is physical or phenomenal, the correct answer is somewhere between both and neither. There is only one object, with one nature, that has different properties depending upon how you look at it. That we call an electron "physical" is a historical accident, because that is how we usually observe them. It is not necessary for an electron to be conscious in the way that we are conscious. As particles come together to build up a body at some point the ordered complexity of the physical properties of the particles causes the phenomenal properties of the particles to synchronize and form what we think of as consciousness. Neutral monism is contrasted from property dualism in that the particles in neutral monism already have a phenomenal nature which is synchronized by the physical, whereas in property dualism the phenomenal nature arises from the physical only. In neutral monism, it is irrational to suppose that unified consciousness survives death, or that there is any such thing that could be called a soul. The phenomenal decomposes along with the physical as the particles of the body come apart. Later, the particles recombine in a new form when they are taken up by other organisms. However, neutral monism cannot be correct, because we know that God loves us. A loving God would not give us life and make us conscious, only to destroy us.

    Only one philosophy listed by David Chalmers remains. Substance dualism asserts that there are at least two basic substances in the universe, physical and phenomenal, and that they interact in the mind. Understanding how and when God connected the two substances to each other is not required to understand that this model is acceptable. For comparison, realize that physicists do not need to know how and when God assembled the laws of physics to observe that they exist. All of the objections brought forth for the other philosophies do not apply to substance dualism. The physical nature of humans is typically called the body, and the phenomenal part is typically called the soul. We need the soul to direct the body, and the body to interact with the universe. Philosophically, our afterlife takes place in a new universe. Our soul will survive death as required by God's love, and our bodies will be rebuilt so that we may live in the new universe. To believe otherwise would be to assert that an all-loving God would leave us as half-dead ghosts. Realize that this statement, that both a soul and a body are necessary to be fully alive, is an official Christian teaching. The teaching that the soul is the true self while the body is a disposable shell is Platonism, not Christianity. At this point, it is appropriate to stop saying phenomenal and start saying spiritual when we speak of the part of person that is not physical.

    We have now reached the end of my discussion of the Christian faith, without reference to scripture. If you are familiar with Christian doctrine, you will note that much is still missing. For these other teachings, we must refer to scripture, which we turn to next.

This page was last changed on 2011/08/28