Descartes’s Dualism: Mind-Body Distinction

In Chapter Two, Simon Blackburn introduced Cartesian dualism as an interpretation that holds that persons are constituted of two distinct substances: physical stuff and mental or spiritual things. The Zombie argument is an objection to Descartes' Cartesian Dualism, which states that mental and physical events belong to two different things. The notion believes that the body is material while the mind is immaterial, and that everyone has this dual nature. This is why Blackburn (Blackburn 51) says “I thought of the Queen and I saluted”, which shows the presence of the mental “I” and physical “I” that salutes. According to Cartesian Dualism, minds are not in space, nor are they subject to physics laws, thereby meaning that minds are private and only “I” can directly be aware of the events and state of one’s mind. Therefore, this Cartesian argument leaves people to understand that since minds are immaterial and private, the humans are only aware of their individual minds as well as existence and are not aware of other people’s minds. It is from Cartesian Dualism’s conclusion that a given individual is the only one that exists that its vulnerability to an objection from the Zombie argument is based. According to Zombie argument, the philosophical zombies resemble humans as there cannot be any physical difference between them. In addition, if the philosophical Zombie’s brain was to be opened, its functioning resembles that of humans, but zombies lack consciousness because there is nonexistence of ghost in their machines (Blackburn 53). It is from this concept that a question is directed to Cartesian dualism concerning how an individual can know that other people around him or her are not philosophical zombies. In addition, the argument against dualism questions the manner in which people can tell and know that other people are conscious.

According the Cartesian dualism, the events of the mind are private and only an individual can access his or her mind and mind’s processes, which means that other people cannot access that individual’s mind and events therein. If the Cartesian dualism was correct, then people have no way to tell or know that others have minds.

Conclusions and Supporting Premises of the Argument

As an objection to Cartesian dualism, the zombie argument asserts that if the concepts presented by Cartesian dualism were true, one cannot tell that other people have minds since minds are immaterial and private, but in reality, people can know that others possess minds. Based on this fact, Cartesian dualism is not true.

The first premise of the Zombie argument is that if Cartesian dualism was accurate then people could not recognize or tell that others possess minds. This is based on the Cartesian dualism’s concept that minds do not exist in space and are immaterial, which makes it tricky for any given individual to say that minds exist or do not exist for others. Descartes argues that people can only be sure of their own existence and not anything else outside them since the external world could be a delusion (Blackburn 48). The second premise of the Zombie argument is that people know that others have minds, an assertion that is founded on the interactions people have with different other individuals. The fact that people can fall in love with each other and share feelings shows the possibility that they are to each other’s mind, which can only mean that they all have minds. It is hard to intellectualize that an individual is the only human being in existence and this forms the basis to the belief that other individuals exist and possess minds. The validity of the second premise contracts what Cartesian dualism asserts in the first premise. The third premise of Zombie argument is that Cartesian dualism is not true because experiences make people know that others have minds, especially through eliciting same reactions and having shared emotions. Zombie argument is thus true by asserting that people are conscious and has minds since their mental events trigger their reactions, thereby determining the manner in which they react.

An Objection

The zombie argument can be objected, especially by rejected the second premise and say that people can know that other people have minds (Blackburn 53-54). According to an argument by Analogy by Cartesian dualism, other individuals have bodies and brains and there are a times when their conducts are similar. If I believe I have a mind and then see other people behaving like me then it means that we are similar, and therefore, we all have minds. This idea was best demonstrated by Blackburn using a beetle in a box (Blackburn 54). However, one problem with the Analogy argument is that it is an inductive disagreement that requires an individual to have made many different observations before supposing that what works in one case can be generalized to every case. The Analogy argument can therefore be said that it lacks reliability because it makes people to assume that other humans are not zombies but have minds by likening an experience of a given individual to similar experiences by other people.

From Cartesian dualism perspective, other people’s consciousness cannot be accessed by any one given individual because one only has a direct awareness of his or her mind. Therefore, based on this, the disagreement by Analogy is a false inductive argument. When an individual makes an observation inductively, he or she is literary observing his mind because he or she cannot observe other minds. Since it is impossible to observe other minds, the argument by Analogy is not true as it falsely observes different minds from own and it is already known that minds do not exist in space and are immaterial. It is wrong to base the argument by Analogy on one’s own mind observation as well as an assumption of other minds observations because no one can factually access the minds of other people. Based on the presented facts, even though the Analogy argument tries to defend Cartesian argument against the Zombie argument, it is baseless because of the validity in Zombie argument that insists that people can conceptualize zombies thus presenting a possibility that they indeed do exist.

Possible Response by Blackburn to the Objection

Going back to the first premise of Zombie argument against Cartesian dualism, it is clear that if the assertions made by Cartesian argument were true, then no individual would know that other people possess minds. The argument itself contradicts itself by showing that the minds are private, and then later on bring another argument by Analogy that state that people can observe that others have minds. Therefore, it is clear that the premises in the argument concerning Cartesian dualism and its defense according to the argument by Analogy are contradictory, thereby leaving the entire argument weak (Blackburn 55).

The Zombie argument is stronger than Cartesian dualism through its illustration of problem of other minds. People look like zombies in so many ways. The physical natures of zombies are difficult to distinguish from those of humans. Therefore, it follows that since zombies behave and look like humans, it becomes hard to tell which ones are zombies and which ones are humans that consist of consciousness. The argument does not use one-self as a model for all the rest like in the case of the argument from analogy. As used to support Cartesian dualism, the argument of analogy is incredibly weak because it irresponsibly generalizes one case. The mere fact that in one case there is a particular mental life linked to the body and brain is a flimsy ground for assuming that there is a similar association in every other case. In accordance to Cartesian dualism, the possibility that other people are not Zombies cannot be verified, and are only blind articles of faith. The physical and the mental are not as different as Cartesian dualism is claiming since the association between the intrinsic nature of the state of mind and its expression are very close. If the physical functioning of zombies is similar to those of humans, they respond to the world the way people do, they are sorrowful at appropriate situations just like humans do, what is the purpose of consciousness in humans? In conclusion, this essay has explained Cartesian dualism and how the Zombie argument objects it. The essay has also shown how the argument from analogy objects the Zombie argument, but contradicts the Cartesian dualism that it defends, thus leaving the zombie argument as the strongest of all and more sound.

Work Cited

Blackburn, Simon. Think: A compelling introduction to philosophy. Oxford University Press, 1999.

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