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Moti Mizrahi


Thanks for bringing attention to this interesting paper. I, too, need to give it a closer reading. But I would like to raise a different question first. In the abstract, Borgardus writes:

“In the standard thought experiments, dualism strikes many philosophers as true, including many non-dualists. This ‘striking’ generates prima facie justification: in the absence of defeaters, we ought to believe that things are as they seem to be, i.e. we ought to be dualists.”

I am wondering about the truth of this general claim, namely, that if it appears to one that p, then, in the absence of defeaters, the appearance that p is prima facie evidence for p. I suppose that the converse is supposed to hold as well, namely, that if it appears to one that not-p, then, in the absence of defeaters, the appearance that not-p is prima facie evidence against p.

Now, since Borgardus says that dualism strikes “many” philosophers as true, I take it that there are a few philosophers to whom dualism doesn’t seem true. So, it seems we have the following situation:

(1) It appears to some that dualism is true, and so, in the absence of defeaters, the appearance that dualism is true is prima facie evidence for dualism.

(2) It appears to some that dualism is not true, and so, in the absence of defeaters, the appearance that dualism is not true is prima facie evidence against dualism.

So my question is how do we determine whether we should we give more weight to (1) or (2)?

Marcus Arvan

Good points! I think I'll mostly step aside for the time being to give Tomas a chance to answer on his own behalf -- but one thing I will say is this: Tomas contends in the paper (using a number of very surprising quotes from the hardest-core physicalists) that dualism strikes basically *everyone* as true. And I think he has some decent grounds for saying this. First, it's hard to believe that the mind-body debate would have lasted a few thousand years if the mind didn't strike most people as a very peculiar sort of thing not very easy to make sense of in physical terms. Second, Tomas gives a bunch of very surprising examples -- including examples of absolute *eliminativists* more or less admitting the intuitive pull of dualism. For example, he gives a quote from Dennett of all people (my undergraduate advisor) where even Dennett says, basically, dualism even initially strikes *him* as true. Now, knowing Dan personally, I can say that this is one of the most surprising things I've ever read. Dan's anti-dualist rhetoric is usually quite...strong (for lack of a better word:).

Anyway, I think that's all I'll say for now: namely, that I think Tomas means to say if p intially strikes just about *everyone* as true, that's at least some prima favor
reason to think p is actually true (though, to be sure, as a principle this does sound strange...after all, the Earth initially strikes everyone as flat!)

Why don't we see what Tomas has to say on the matter. I know he keeps track of the blog, so I expect (or at least hope!) that he'll choose to chime in.

Tomas Bogardus

Hi Moti,

Thanks for the thoughtful comments! Here are some thoughts in reply.

You said:
>>I take it that there are a few philosophers to whom dualism doesn’t seem true.>>

In the paper, I try to make it clear that the sort of "striking" or "seeming" that I'm talking about is what philosophers sometimes call an "intellectual" seeming, or an intuition. It's the sort of thing that happens when you consider Gettier cases, when it just strikes you as obvious that the character has a justified true belief without knowledge. The principle I'm appealing to is meant to be weaker than phenomenal conservatism, on which any old seeming counts as prima facie evidence.

So what I mean to claim is that those of us who have dualist *intuitions* ought to believe dualism in the absence of defeaters.

I think you're probably right that some people lack dualist intuitions. So the main argument of my paper won't apply to them. But, as Marcus said, the argument will still apply to quite a large group of people, including many non-dualists. Lots of non-dualists admit to having dualist intuitions.

But later you characterized the situation like so:

>>(2) It appears to some that dualism is not true, and so, in the absence of defeaters, the appearance that dualism is not true is prima facie evidence against dualism.>>

I read this as saying that some people have the intuition that dualism is false. That is, dualism strikes some people as obviously false in the same way that JTB=K strikes us as obviously false in Gettier cases. Now that's a stronger claim than the previous one of yours that I quoted. Dualism might fail to strike people as obviously true without it striking people as obviously false. (Take Goldbach's conjecture, for example: it fails to strike us as obviously true, yet it doesn't strike us as obviously false.)

I suppose if there are such people, this general line of argument (namely: believe the obvious absent defeaters, and there are no defeaters) might lead them to the conclusion that they ought to be physicalists. But just as sociological note, I haven't met anyone like that. Do you have some people in mind, people who think that dualism is obviously false in the way that JTB=K is obviously false in Gettier cases?

Moti Mizrahi

Hi Marcus and Tomas,

Thanks for your responses.

I should say that I don’t have a horse in the physicalism race. I am simply interested in the epistemological question about the role of intuitions as evidence.

So let’s suppose that it strikes everyone that physicalism is obviously true. How do we move from there to the conclusion that physicalism is true? Is the argument supposed to be some sort of appeal to consensus? For example:

1. (Usually) when it seems to everyone that p, then p.
2. It seems to everyone that p.
3. Therefore, (probably) p.

Gary Williams

It seems like this argument only applies to Type B materialists, as opposed to Type A materialists, who deny the epistemic gap and the conceivability of zombies. I guess I am one of these philosophers who has difficulty imagining zombies. I just fail to get a clear and distinct conception of a zombie in my mind. My view is that once we get a firm grip on what we are referring to when we use terms like "sensory experience", it becomes impossible to "subtract out" sensory experience from the physical world. The point about getting a firm grip on the explanandum has to do with our criteria for pointing out cases where we think there is phenomenality e.g. there is phenomenality whenever there is perception (like the bat perceiving a fly). Then, once we get a firm naturalistic grip on what perception is, it becomes difficult to imagine some nonphysical component to the perception process that can be subtracted out in conceivability thought experiments. My view is that zombies are only conceivable if we have an insufficiently naturalistic conception of what perception actually is. So I think the "battle of intuitions" between dualists and physicalists is actually dialectically symmetrical. If you start from physicalist conceptions of perception, then there is nothing to subtract out. If you start from nonphysicalist conceptions of perception, there is something to subtract out. So, I don't think the conceivability arguments really establish the truth of anti-physicalism.

Tomas Bogardus

Hi Moti,

You asked:

>>Is the argument supposed to be some sort of appeal to consensus? For example:
1. (Usually) when it seems to everyone that p, then p.
2. It seems to everyone that p.
3. Therefore, (probably) p.>>

Well, that's definitely an interesting argument, but it's not exactly the way my argument is meant to go. I'm encouraging people to run through this argument from the first-person perspective:

1. Dualism intuitively seems true.
2. In the absence of defeaters, I ought to believe that things are as they intuitively seem to be.
3. There are no defeaters for my dualist intuitions.
4. Therefore, I ought to believe dualism.

Notice that the conclusion isn't that dualism is true, but rather only that I ought to believe it.

And, as you pointed out before, some readers may not endorse premise 1. But I think a lot of people will, including many non-dualists (I provide quotations from lots of hardcore non-dualists who endorse premise 1.)

Tomas Bogardus

Hi Gary,

I think you're right that my argument will apply only to Type-B materialists, i.e. only to those who think there is an explanatory gap. For what it's worth, though, I think that includes a whole lot of people.

Maybe you have a hard time imagining your zombie twin. But how about life after the destruction of your body? Lots of humans throughout history have had an easy time imagining that. Not only did it seem *possible* to them, but they were so sure it would *actually* happen that they buried their friends and family with really expensive stuff for use in the afterlife.

Is your view that, if only we knew the complete neuroscientific story, life after death would cease to seem possible? Perhaps that's right, though it seems pretty optimistic to me. I guess we'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, though, maybe my argument still applies to you, insofar as life after death strikes you as *possible*. For then it strikes you as possible that the mental and the physical could come apart, i.e. that dualism is true.

Gary Williams

Hi Tomas,

That's an interesting question. I can imagine my mental existence continuing after the death of my body, but not in a way that would violate physicalist intuitions. I'm thinking of science fiction concepts of "uploading" the functional-information patterns of my brain into a giant computer that would then simulate my previous mental life, thus allowing me to "live" in a virtual reality like the Matrix. Thus, I can imagine my mind living after the destruction of my body, but this "after life" is still happening in the physical world given that the pattern of information in the computer would have a physical instantiation.

Andreas Wolkenstein

Unfortunately I haven't read the papers yet, but I find the ongoing epistemological debate highly interesting (and I will surely also enjoy reading the papers). So I dare to pose my question referring to this debate. Tomas, you write that our intuitions seem to have the content "JTB=K is (not) true" and "Dualism is (not) true". With this in mind you argue that it is actually hard to find people who believe that dualism is wrong. However, I want to raise the question if it is not more plausible to think that our intuitions say "Well yes, in Gettier cases the agent has no knowledge" or "In fact, people seem to talk differently when it comes to phenomenal experiences as compared to material things" etc. (fill in what intuitions you like). I think that given these intuitions, we cannot go on and conclude that people hold X true or that we are prima facie justified in believing X. The problem is that there is still the open question what we should do with these intuitions - whether we explain them away or follow them. Without a convincing (evolutionary) story about what intuitions are and what role they should assume, neither the intuition-skeptical nor the pro-intuition view does give us evidence for or against a position (as Joshua Alexander argues in his recent introduction to X-Phi).

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