Saturday, August 13, 2016

More On Interaction Between Body and Soul/Spirit (Dialogue with a Friend)

I've edited the material below to preserve anonymity and to make the discussion more concise. Sean K., maybe this material will be helpful to you.

God could make a human with a non-material mind, then fully determine that mind (theological determinism). Dualism doesn't automatically make the problem of free will go away, and it [actually] raises a new problem of agent-causation. How does an immaterial will bring about action in conjunction with all of the physical factors that exert causal influence on us? That question is not easily answered with the tools of science or philosophy. See Watson, Gary (editor). Free will. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003. Flanagan, Owen J. The problem of the soul: two visions of mind and how to reconcile them. New York: Basic Books, 2002.

Here is where I'll broach the problem of overdetermination again. I'm not that comfortable saying "I am my brain" or "free will does not exist." It just seems that higher-level processes of the brain could explain free will and other conscious states. Conversely, I'm curious as to why you'd say that we need dualism to explain Alzheimer, addiction, hormones (etc.)? Could we not explain all of these phenomena by appealing to neurobiological processes? And if a physical cause is able to explain an effect, then why propose another cause for the effect (i.e., the problem of overdetermination)?

Addendum: On that last point, to illustrate, if pain can be explained adequately by natural factors and it's made better through analgesics, then why propose a supernatural factor to account for pain? Or if psychosis explains why a person hears voices, why claim that the person must be demon-possessed? If water can be explained by H20, why say that there must be something else that makes water, water?


Sean Killackey said...

Thanks Edgar,

Yeah, I don't see a need to say that I, or my mind is my brain; that seems wrong. I think that substance dualists are right to point out that, yes there is a difference between a brain state and a mental state (thoughts are about things, but physical states of affairs are not, for instance), but it seems that there is no need to go beyond proposing just one causal relation, that is, between the brain and the mind. The brain (and how it's constructed) and its causal relation to the mind doesn't seem to deny (at least the possibility) free will (for as far as we know), especially if top-down causation is possible. Given this and our own self-knowledge and belief that at least some of our actions are free, and that we do actions for which we are morally responsible, affirming that we have free will seem quite without positing a soul.

And I think it's a good point, which I think you mentioned before, that none of this precludes the existence of minded spiritual beings (or whatever other type of beings can exist). And related to that, and I think that you'll agree, this doesn't mean that someone can't be demon possessed.

Edgar Foster said...

You're eright, Sean. I believe that spirit beings have minds, and it is possible for people to be demon-possessed. But even the WT says that one should probably not quickly conclude that mental disorders are the direct result of demon-possession. Rather, they result from natural factors although the demons could aggravatea condition or use mental illness to harm someone's relationship with Jehovah.

Sean Killackey said...

From Paul's words to the Thessalonians - "Yet Satan cut across our path" - it would seem that just as happen chance can disrupt our activities Satan can prevent them to a degree as well; in the case of Paul prevented him from ministering in person to the Thessalonians at least twice. The same I think could, at least in principle, be said about demons and mental illness and health. Of course, I don't see why either mental illness or demon possession needs a soul - even with a soul, it seems that just adversely affecting the brain would be enough. (I don't know if you've ever seen the Star Trek Voyager episode where aliens were increasing various chemical levels in their brains, among other things, to see what they would do, but this could be such an example of manipulating people's minds by affecting their brains.)

In fact from the gospels, which describe the real activities of demons, it seems that sometimes sicknesses were caused by demons (a spirit of weakness, for instance) others just had some malformation or injury (such as the man born blind).

Edgar Foster said...

I've often used mental disorders and how we treat them as evidence against belief in the soul. Obviously, someone could always attribute depression and any healing for depression to a soul, but it's also possible that depression results from our brain chemistry, and we can make it better by taking drugs and seeking some kind of therapy. BTW, I'm not making suggestions here, but merely stating what is metaphysically possible.

I used to watch Star Trek as a child, but never got into Voyager. But I see your point and it's a good one. I also believe that demons sometimes cause sicknesses and even Jehovah is able to bring about illness at times. In the Bible, he gave certain men the "piles." He plagued the Egyptians too.