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The Road to Substance Dualism

  • Geoffrey Madell (a1)


The common materialist view that a functional account of intentionality will eventually be produced is rejected, as is the notion that intentional states are multiply realisable. It is argued also that, contrary to what many materialists have held, the causation of behaviour by intentional states rules out the possibility of a complete explanation of human behaviour in physical terms, and that this points to substance dualism. Kant's criticism of the Cartesian self as a substance, endorsed by P. F. Strawson, rests on a misinterpretation of Descartes. The so-called ‘causal pairing problem’, which Kim sees to be the crucial objection to substance dualism, is examined, and Kim's arguments are rejected.



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1 Kim, J., Mind in a Physical World (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1998), 101.

2 Kim, J., Physicalism, or Something Near Enough (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005), 165.

3 Ibid.

4 Dennett, D., ‘True Believers’ in The Intentional Stance (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1987), 26.

5 Cussins, A, ‘The Limits of Pluralism’ in Charles, David and Lennon, Kathleen (eds), Reduction, Explanation and Realism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), 198.

6 Strawson, G., ‘Panpsychism? Reply to Commentators’, Journal of Consciousness Studies 13 (2006), 275–6.

7 Papineau, D., ‘Irreducibility and Teleology’ in Charles, D. and Lennon, K. (eds), Reduction, Explanation and Realism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), 60.

8 Kant, I., The Critique of Pure Reason, translated by Smith, N. Kemp (London: Macmillan, 1956), A 363–4, footnote.

9 Strawson, P. F., The Bounds of Sense (London: Methuen, 1966), 168.

10 Ibid.

11 Descartes, R., Principles of Philosophy, I.51 in Descartes: Selected Philosophical Writings, translated by Cottingham, John, Stoothoff, Robert and Murdoch, Dugald (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 177.

12 Ibid., I.62–3.

13 Ibid., I.61, the paragraph in which Descartes makes this clear.

14 After it first occurred to me that the usual interpretation of Descartes' view of substance was a travesty I discovered that Galen Strawson has made the same point in a number of places. However, he actually endorses the footnote of Kant's for what seem to me to be mistaken reasons. I have no space to pursue my disagreement with Strawson on this point and on substance dualism in general, particularly with regard to his claim that Descartes' argument for the real distinction between mind and body was an error.

15 I have said quite a lot about this issue in The Identity of the Self (Edinburgh: University Press, 1981) and in a number of papers, including ‘Personal Identity and the Idea of a Human Being’ in Cockburn, D. (ed.), Human Beings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 127–42, and ‘Personal Identity and Objective Reality’ in MacIntosh, J. J. and Meynell, H. A. (eds), Faith, Scepticism and Personal Identity (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1994), 185–98.

16 See J. Kim, Physicalism, or Something Near Enough, op. cit., 75, where the passage from a letter of Descartes is quoted.

17 It is only later in his discussion that Kim acknowledges that the argument (the ‘pairing problem’) was first presented by Foster, John in ‘Psychological Causal Relations’, American Philosophical Quarterly 5 (1968), 6470: ibid., 79.

18 Ibid., 76–7.

19 Ayer, A. J., ‘Privacy’ in Ayer, A. J., The Concept of a Person and Other Essays (London: Macmillan, 1963), 55–6.

20 Though not necessarily to an object in the world, of course, since there may be no such object, as in the case of fear of ghosts.

21 There are complications, of course, which relate to Descartes' description of sensations as ‘confused modes of thinking’. I cannot pursue this matter here, but I do not think that it has a crucial bearing on the argument.

22 J. Kim, Physicalism, or Something Near Enough, op. cit., 170.

Geoffrey Madell was Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Edinburgh University. He is the author of The Identity of the Self (1981), Mind and Materialism (1988) and Philosophy, Music and Emotion (2002). He has published numerous articles on the philosophy of mind, particularly on the issues of personal identity and the mind-body problem.


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