Post Author: Bill Pratt
In the previous post, philosopher J. P. Moreland explained what physicalists believe, particularly with respect to human beings. Physicalism holds that humans are composed of nothing but matter.
Now we will see what dualists believe. Again, we are quoting from Moreland and Habermas’s Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality. Dualists disagree with physicalists that matter is all there is. For dualists, there also exist mental entities. Moreland gives three examples of mental entities:
1. Sensations: These would include “experiences of colors, sounds, smells, tastes, textures, pains, and itches. Sensations are individual things that occur at particular times. I can have a sensation of red after looking in a certain direction or by closing my eyes and daydreaming. An experience of pain will arise at a certain time, say, after I am stuck with a pin.”
Moreland continues his description of sensations:
Further, sensations are natural kinds of things that have, as their very essence, the felt quality or sensory property that makes them what they are. Part of the very essence of a pain is the felt quality it has; part of the very essence of a red sensation is the presentation of a particular shade of color to my consciousness. Sensations are not identical to things outside a person’s body – for instance, a feeling of pain is not the same thing as being stuck with a pin and shouting, “Ouch!” Sensations are essentially characterized by a certain conscious feel, and thus, they presuppose consciousness for their existence and description. If there were no conscious beings, there would be no sensations.
2. Propositional attitudes: A propositional attitude is having “a certain mental attitude toward a proposition that is part of a that-clause. For example, one can hope, desire, fear, dread, wish, think, believe that P where P may be the proposition: ‘The Royals are a great baseball team.’”
There are at least two components to propositional attitudes:
First, there is the attitude itself. Hopes, fears, dreads, wishes, thoughts, etc. are all different attitudes, different states of consciousness, and they are all different from each other based on their conscious feel. A hope is a different form of consciousness from an episode of fear. A hope that it will rain is different from a fear that it will rain. What’s the difference? A hope has a very different conscious feel from a fear.
Second, they all have a content or a meaning embedded in the propositional attitude – namely the propositional content of my consciousness while I am having the propositional attitude. My hope that P differs from my hope that Q, because P and Q are different propositions or meanings in my consciousness. If there were no conscious selves, there would be no propositional attitudes. My hope that it will rain is different from my hope that taxes will be cut. The contents of these hopes have quite different meanings.
3. Acts of will or purposings: “What is a purposing? If, unknown to me, my arm is tied down and I still try to raise it, then the purposing is the “trying to bring about” the event of raising my arm. Intentional actions are episodes of volition by conscious selves wherein and whereby they do various actions. They are acts of will performed by conscious selves.”
So that is dualism in brief. Our next task is to defend dualism against physicalism, and we will start that process next week by examining the nature of identity.