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Arguments for Dualist Interactionism?

Eccles' book is shockingly short on argumentation; we imagine that Eccles himself would confess that argumentation (at least of the rigorous variety) isn't intended to be the book's strong suit. However, a charitable reading (an extremely charitable reading) yields three arguments that can be reconstructed from the text. They are:

``The Brain Replacement Argument." The basic idea here is that most of your body is inessential. That is, we can cut off your foot, and replace it with a prosthesis, or even just leave you without it (if we take care of the bleeding). We can do this for your nose, your eyeballs, your hair, tex2html_wrap_inline130 , in fact, we can clearly do it for everything beneath your chin. And we don't even need to stop when we reach your brain. As Eccles points out ([9] 219), removal of the cerebellum gravely incapacitates movement, but the person is not otherwise affected. So we can keep going at least until we get to parts of your neo-cortex. Once at this point, we note that the physical stuff in question can be replaced with other physical stuff as long as the new stuff operates similarly -- so how can a mind, a person, as a genuine thing that persists through time (an ens per se, to use the Latin), be a particular physical thing (an ens successivum)?
``The Argument from the Failure of Evolution to Explain X." The argument here flows from a disjunction to the effect that every X is either explained in natural terms by evolution, or in terms that invoke a realm beyond the physical. Eccles intends that X be instantiated to phenomenal consciousness (P-consciousness to use Block's [1] term); and he maintains that such consciousness cannot be explained in exclusively natural terms. If we have P-consciousness (as it certainly seems we do), and evolution can't explain it, then we seem to be sliding toward Wallace rather than Darwin: we seem to be sliding toward an explanation that goes beyond nature toward theism.
``The `Looking-Down' Argument." Eccles says that he likes to imagine himself floating above Earth, looking down on the drama of evolution as it unfolds. The idea is supposed to be that when one engages in this gedanken-experiment, and imagines evolution sped up, it seems implausible that this remarkable ascension from microbes to hss could have happened as a sort of cosmic fluke. For Eccles, this ``looking-down" perspective forces a Dramatist (with a capital, bold `D') into the picture.

Are these arguments any good? A1, or at least sophisticated versions thereof, is an argument that one of us (Bringsjord) has written a bit about elsewhere (cf. [4], [2]); the same goes for A2 ([3]). (Perhaps the most interesting instantiation of A2 (where X is set to `cognitive faculties that search for and find true or at least verisimilitudinous propositions') is given by Alvin Plantinga [14].) A3 would seem to be a variation on the Argument from Design. For example, presumably the most startling scene when one ``looks down" is that at turn after turn in the story of evolution, a fertile route rather than a barren one is taken because of the particular value of some tiny variable. As such, A3 probably stands or falls with the modernized Argument from Design articulated by Leslie [12].

But for Eccles (at least on a generous reading), A3 is more than a thought-experimental version of the Argument from Design: standing alone, the argument in declarative form is indeed supposed to deliver the conclusion that evolution is God's grand design; but -- and here is the more interesting strand -- the mere fact that we can articulate the argument is supposed to be proof that lying beyond the physical world is the world of mind. The notion behind this argument is that in order to articulate A3 one has to use what Eccles calls ``creative imagination;" one has to ``look down." Einstein, as much as anyone, employed this type of thinking; as is well-known, he sought to ``become" (e.g.) objects traveling at great speed. Eccles holds that the sort of cognition involved here is beyond the physical realm: it's an activity of pure mind, not an activity to be identified with any brain process. Since (as is the norm in this volume) no argument is given for this view, readers are left to ponder whether there is anything to recommend it. And that's pretty much the upshot overall: an interesting book, yes, but one that leaves the reader with a choice: since there are no arguments to speak of, do I bother to consider whether the views advocated herein can be established, or at least defended? Or do I place it in some recess never to be retrieved, a tired, pontifical recasting of Descartes' spooky theory of mind?

next up previous
Next: References Up: Eccles-iastical Dualism: Review of Evolution Previous: Dualist Interactionism

Selmer Bringsjord
Thu Sep 18 14:45:31 EDT 1997