Monday, September 05, 2016

The Marked Difference Between Substance Dualism and Theism

The "father of modern philosophy" Rene Descartes (1596-1650 CE) contends that animals do not have rational souls. He makes a distinction between an "extended thing (res extensa) and a "thinking thing" (res cogitans) with the former having reference to material entities like bodies and the latter referring to the immaterial soul (mind). Descartes' position is known as substance dualism. He famously defines a "thinking thing" in this way: "But what is a thinking thing? It is a thing that doubts, understands, affirms, denies, wills, refuses; that imagines also, and perceives" (Meditations on First Philosophy).

So substance dualism argues that mind is non-spatial and non-physical; that is not necessarily my view. Moreover, while Jehovah and the angels (spirit beings) are non-physical and inherently non-spatial, Jehovah's Witnesses believe that all spirit persons have spiritual bodies, whereas it's clear that a pure Cartesian soul/mind does not. Jehovah and the angels are spirits, but does that mean their relation to space is analogous to a Cartesian soul's relation to space? Not necessarily. Thomas Aquinas believes that angels are spatial though he argues they do not have bodies. That idea is not outside the realm of possibility, but a pure Cartesian soul (by definition) cannot exist or operate in space. Nor can a res cogitans have spatial location. Of course, I'm referring to the Cartesian soul in se.

The exact mechanism used by angels to interact with space is important. Materialization is a special case of angelic interaction with space. And it's important to note that God and angels are embodied (spiritually) on the Witness view of matters, but the Cartesian soul is not. Yet even granting that interaction between the spirit realm and the material realm is possible, it's not clear how such interaction occurs.

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