How do humans who are persons differ from animals and machines? A common answer of theists is that we have souls, and a common answer of nontheistic dualists (one need not be religious to believe that we are more than physical processes) is that we have minds. Both sorts of dualists insist that persons are not caused but rather are themselves causes. Our conscious experiences are not reducible to brain activities; instead, our brain activities give rise to phenomenal, subjective experiences that we know 'from the inside.' As Leon Kass puts it, the soul is the vital form of the body, "the integrated powers," the "ground and source of awareness, appetite, and action."

Monists deny dualisism is true. Reductionist monists such as Melnyk hold that we are nothing more than physical processes and argue that there is no evidence for souls and plenty of evidence against them. Blind mechanical causal processes such as the evolution of species and the growth of neural networks explains who we are. For the monists Daniel Dennett cals heterophenomenologists, every act of awareness, appetite or action allegedly attributable to the soul is or will be explained in a much more satisfactory way by the physical sciences using the best theories of physics available to us.

Which is it? Am I the expert, the final authority on my conscious experiences--be it the perception that this computer monitor is dimming, or the hope that a tenth guy will show for a pick-up basketball game, or the pattern of sounds that seems to me like Bach's 4th cello suite? Or are these conscious experiences but motions of electrons in my head, subject to misinterpretation by me and correction by third-person methods? Can naturalist approaches correct my first-person experience of the world? Or can it only provide explanations of the causes of my experiences--experiences that can ultimately only be explained by the subject of them, me?

Look left for the assigned readings from Melnyk and Kass.

Author: comstock
Maintained By: Gary Comstock
Last Updated: 2009-09-14