Swinburne Interview on Dualism
December 1, 2006 — 22:05

Author: Trent Dougherty  Category: Afterlife  Comments: 4

Here are some highlights:
*He seems to share with Plantinga (esp. the recent Faith and Philosophy article and some of the correspondence with PvI) the view that it’s just bloody obvious that the concepts of the mental and physical are exclusive. Me: Pro: Can anything upon which both Plantinga and Swinburne agree methodologically be wrong?! Con: a posteriori physicalists will be entirely unmoved.
*He says that Physicalists are just too enamored with the apparent success of science. That sounds about right to me. I find the Success of Science argument very unpersuasive. I think its advocates don’t pay enough attention to the reference classes in the induction.
*Explicitly endorses souls for animals. I spend a lot of time arguing for this and freaking people out that its the traditional view.
*Makes predictions like: “Scientists will discover that when the brain is in this state it gives rise to the thought that ‘today is Friday’, and when it is in that state it gives rise to the thought that ‘Russia is a big country’.”
*Does philosophical Judo: ” it is the very success of science in explaining physical events , which makes it immensely unlikely that it will be able to take the final step to explain the very different kind of events which are mental events. Souls and their mental lives of thought and sensation are so different from waves and particles that you cannot have an integrated theory which explains their interaction.”

  • skeptical

    Congratulations on the excellent new baby.
    Yes, souls for animals — though Swinburne suggests that it is only conscious animals that get souls. But Swinburne also holds that souls are substances, and that they must be created by God. So not only is every human soul created immediately by God, but also every badger’s, lemur’s, chameleon’s, etc.
    I’m enough of a Thomist not to mind all living things having souls, but not enamored enough of non-human animal souls to have all of them specially created.

    December 2, 2006 — 11:22
  • On animals having souls: I’m curious to know which ones have souls, and how you distinguish very simple animals from plants. The difference between jellyfish and algae is not very pronounced. What criteria do you use to determine whether something has a soul?
    The primary reason I ask is that I’m trying to finish up an honors thesis on Berkeley’s theory of sense perception as language, and it seems clear to me that in the theory some perceptions (e.g. human bodies) must have direct non-linguistic referents (in this case, human souls) and other perceptions (e.g. tables) must not have direct non-linguistic referents. If we could figure out the criteria in the Christian tradition (or elsewhere) for determining whether a given animal has a soul, we would be almost there. Unfortunately, I really have no idea how we decide borderline cases, which all the lower animals seem to be.

    December 8, 2006 — 19:25
  • I really struggled with this question when reading Aristotle’s biological treatises in high school. I’d read Adler’s Difference of Man and the Difference it Makes and was convinced about differences in kind, not just in degree.
    I think, though, that its just another case of vagueness and all the options are the same. I’m inclined to go degree-theoretic (fuzzy logic), but supervaluationism is the most worked-out view. If you’re not familiar with the literature then just take a look at the Stanford Encyc of Phil article on vagueness.

    December 11, 2006 — 12:40
  • Trent,
    What do you mean by saying Swinburne holds “the view that it’s just bloody obvious that the concepts of the mental and physical are exclusive”? It seems he thinks that there is a non-physical soul on the basis of the splitting thought experiment, which suggests that it is a surprising conclusion we’re driven to that dualism is true, not that it’s obvious. [When I first read your remarks, I thought S and P were asserting that it is basically analytic that mental concepts can’t pick out something physical, but I don’t see S denying that and I can’t get my hands on P’s article for a while].
    It’s also worth noting that it’s not entirely clear that S is a dualist about minds or not as his argument is consistent with the view that the mind is a physical object numerically distinct from the soul.
    Quick question… Do you think S’s argument for dualism is any good?

    December 19, 2006 — 10:47