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Is the Mind/Body Dichotomy Necessary to Religion?

 
 
coberst
 
Reply Wed 16 Aug, 2006 12:04 pm
Is the Mind/Body Dichotomy Necessary to Religion?

I was educated in engineering but also had some interest in philosophy. My first philosophy course was Descartes' "Meditations on First Philosophy". I suspect this is an introductory course for most students studying philosophy. Descartes has left Western tradition with a gigantic legacy that only now is this legacy being undermined by cognitive science. The legacy is the mind/body dualism. This seems to me to be an important legacy for those who are religious believers.

Descartes goes through a sequence of analysis in an effort to find an absolute truth upon which to build his philosophy. He settled on "Cogito, ergo sum". "I think therefore I am". The conclusions of this series of analysis by Descartes have set the course, more or less, of Western philosophy. What are the fateful conclusions derived from the work of Descartes?

"I am, I exist, that is certain. But how often? Just when I think; for it might possibly be the case if I ceased entirely to think, that I should likewise cease altogether to exist...But what then am I? A thing that thinks."

The Folk Theory of Essences
Every kind of thing has an essence that makes it the kind of thing it is.
The way each thing naturally behaves is a consequence of its essence.

Descartes knows he exists because he thinks. Because he exists he has an essence. He assumes nothing else causes his thinking but his essence. Conclusion: thinking must be at least a part of the human essence.

"Just because I know certainly that I exist, and that meanwhile I do not remark that any other thing necessarily pertains to my nature or essence, excepting that I am a thinking thing, I rightly conclude that my essence consists solely in the fact that I am a thinking thing."

"It is certain that this I [that is to say, my soul by which I am what I am], is entirely, and absolutely distinct from my body and can exist without it."


To have reached that last conclusion Descartes must assume an additional:

The Folk Theory of Substance and Attributes
A substance is that which exists in itself and does not depend for its existence on any other thing.
Each substance has one and only one primary attribute that defines what its essence is.

The following is what his introspection has made him "see":

There are two kinds of substance, one bodily and the other mental.
The attribute of bodily substance is extension in space.
The attribute of mental substance is thought.

How would religious believers respond if there was no mind/body dualism? I mean that everything was material.
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neologist
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Aug, 2006 12:22 pm
Well, according to the Bible, man, rather than posessing a soul, is a soul.
"the man came to be a living soul. " (Genesis 2:7)

So I guess your question should be "How would religious believers respond if they understood there was no mind/body dualism? I mean that everything was material."
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duce
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Aug, 2006 08:29 am
Does religion not echo this statement that the soul exists separately and without need of the body. Is that not at least what Christianity is about? The life of the soul continues after the body ceases.
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neologist
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Aug, 2006 09:58 am
duce wrote:
Does religion not echo this statement that the soul exists separately and without need of the body. Is that not at least what Christianity is about? The life of the soul continues after the body ceases.
What happens at death?

"His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground;
In that day his thoughts do perish." (Psalms 146:4)

So the person, who is a soul, is unconscious after death. Sort of like sleep. Sort of like the way you were before you were born.
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duce
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Aug, 2006 10:03 am
but when I sleep I do not cease to exist----it is just another state of existence
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neologist
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Aug, 2006 10:12 am
The Bible make numerous references to those who are 'asleep in death'. The writers apparently understood that God has the power to awaken those who have died in his appointed time. (See John 5:28. Ezekiel 37)
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agrote
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Aug, 2006 06:11 am
So neologist, you do agree that the principle, that the mind (or soul) is seperate from the body, is part of Christianity?
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neologist
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Aug, 2006 08:09 am
agrote wrote:
So neologist, you do agree that the principle, that the mind (or soul) is seperate from the body, is part of Christianity?
A spurious belief, of pagan origin, which has slithered into nominal christianity.
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agrote
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Aug, 2006 06:01 pm
So you would say that it's perfectly consistent to be a Christian and to not believe that the mind/soul is seperate from the body?
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neologist
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Aug, 2006 07:49 pm
agrote wrote:
So you would say that it's perfectly consistent to be a Christian and to not believe that the mind/soul is seperate from the body?
Sticking out neck. . . . Real far. . .

Not simply consistent, but necessary
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Doktor S
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Aug, 2006 11:18 pm
neologist wrote:
agrote wrote:
So you would say that it's perfectly consistent to be a Christian and to not believe that the mind/soul is seperate from the body?
Sticking out neck. . . . Real far. . .

Not simply consistent, but necessary

That little streak of elitism right there is part of what I like about you Smile
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neologist
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Aug, 2006 08:32 am
Doktor S wrote:
neologist wrote:
agrote wrote:
So you would say that it's perfectly consistent to be a Christian and to not believe that the mind/soul is seperate from the body?
Sticking out neck. . . . Real far. . .

Not simply consistent, but necessary

That little streak of elitism right there is part of what I like about you Smile
I think my neck is probably safe in your company, Dok.

BTW, Chumly never made the coffee scene; but the invite is permanently open.
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Doktor S
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Aug, 2006 08:18 pm
Quote:

So dualism of mind and body is necessary to Christianity.

I would never pretend to speak for Neos beliefs, however it is quite clear from his previous post(and his beliefs as I understand them) he is saying quite the opposite.
This would render the entirety of the rest of your rant entirely non-sequitur
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agrote
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Aug, 2006 08:19 pm
neologist wrote:
agrote wrote:
So you would say that it's perfectly consistent to be a Christian and to not believe that the mind/soul is seperate from the body?
Sticking out neck. . . . Real far. . .

Not simply consistent, but necessary



So you say it's necessary for a Christian to believe that the mind/soul is part of the body? Or one and the same as the body. Not separate.

How do heaven and hell work then? If all we have is a body, which part of us goes into the afterlife?
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neologist
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Aug, 2006 09:45 am
God gave Adam and Eve the opportunity to live forever on earth. The consequence for disobedience to his one command was death. If heaven or hell were to be parts of the equation, do you not think it would have been appropriate to let them know at the onset?

Solomon reminds us that the dead "are conscious of nothing at all". (Ecclesiastes 9:5) So the idea of eternal punishment in hell has no basis in the scriptures. While it is true that some will go to heaven, there is no reason to believe that the earth will not someday be populated according to God's original purpose.

I would really hope to be part of that. The prospect of floating around the universe holds little interest for me.
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Aug, 2006 10:05 am
The essence of Decartes dualism was that the body was a machine controlled by the mind (by "God' Grace") It seems to follow that any religion which advocates "free will" or "an afterlife" can only apply such concepts to a non-mechanistic non-material "mind" or "soul".
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neologist
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Aug, 2006 10:20 am
fresco wrote:
The essence of Decartes dualism was that the body was a machine controlled by the mind (by "God' Grace") It seems to follow that any religion which advocates "free will" or "an afterlife" can only apply such concepts to a non-mechanistic non-material "mind" or "soul".
What are the premises/reasonings leading to your conclusion? How is mind related to soul, for example?
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Aug, 2006 12:22 pm
Neologist,

I am merely extrapolating from Descarte's position which required "a God" to bridge his dualism. "Mind" and "soul" may not have been used interchangeably by him, but they are by later commentators such as Nicholas Humphrey who cites Diderot's ideas about "soul" when discussing "mind".

No doubt biblical scholars can raise all sorts of convoluted objections and rejoinders to this point, which I acknowledge does not show the necessity of Cartesian Dualim for religion, even if does illustrate close connections.
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neologist
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Aug, 2006 06:03 pm
Understood
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