Re: The Mind/Body Problem

From: HARNAD Stevan (
Date: Sun Mar 03 1996 - 16:26:15 GMT

> From: "HOLMES Sharon" <>
> Date: Fri, 23 Feb 1996 15:13:34 +0000
> There are two 'camps' in the soul debate. The physicalists, who
> believe that the 'soul' as such, is a by-product of consciousness or
> self awareness. Physicalists believe that when you die, there is no
> soul, because the 'soul' is a product of the biology of the brain and
> therefore dies with you.
> Dualists, on the other hand, believe that the soul is a detachable
> part. Basically, these souls float around, and attatch themselves to
> a child (or whatever) when he/she is born. When the individual dies,
> the soul detaches itself and floats off again andthe cycle continues.

Slight correction: Dualists don't necessary believe in an IMMORTAL soul,
they merely believe in an IMMATERIAL mind. (That's why they are called
dualists: because they do not believe that mind and matter are the same
"stuff"; they think they are TWO different kinds of stuff.) One can be
a dualist yet believe that one's immaterial mind only exists while one
is alive.

Moreover, there are many kinds of "physicalists" or "materialists" --
i.e., many ways of rejecting the idea that mind and matter are two
different kinds of stuff. One way is to simply declare that, somehow,
mind and brain are one and the same. These are the "mind/brain
identity theorists." They think mind and brain are identical.

Then there are the "functionalists," who think that mind is some kind of
functional property of the brain, and perhaps of other systems that are
like the brain in certain respects. We will be hearing more about
functionalism when we get to computational theories of mind.

Last, there are the "epiphenomenalists." It's not clear whether these
are really nondualists, because it is they who say that the mind is a
"byproduct" of the brain: It is caused by the brain, but it does not
itself have any independent effects. These leaves it open that the mind
may be immaterial after all, though caused by matter, and having no
independent causal power of its own.

There are other variants, but that pretty much covers the options:

(1) identity theory or functionalism are the nondualist camps,
(2) epiphenomenalism is either nondualist or innocently dualist
(because the mind, though immaterial, has not material effects) and
(3) dualism, which not only sees mind and matter as two different kinds


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