Howard Robinson: why there is no such thing as naturalism

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I just looked up Howard Robinson because on a Wiki page he's mentioned as one of the contemporary idealist philosophers. Actually he's a Neo-Cartesian substance dualist, but, whatever, one of the good guys. Wink

In a review of a primer on the philosophy of mind on Amazon, Titus Rivas thinks he does a good job presenting the dualist case for the mind-body problem.

Here's a rare talk from him on youtube, following the publication in 2016 of his last book so far,  From the Knowledge Argument to Mental Substance: Resurrecting the Mind.



If I understand the argument:
1) empiricism trumps scientific realism (for one thing, the qualia issue).
2) the natural world presupposes Intellect (modified Platonism).

The talk is 50 minutes, the rest is interesting Q&A.
(This post was last modified: 2022-07-28, 12:58 AM by Ninshub. Edited 2 times in total.)
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I'll watch the video, ideally in the next few days, but wanted to note I think his paper in the Blackwell Guide can be found in the New Dualism archive.

Quote:Dualism in the philosophy of mind is the doctrine that mind and body (or mental states and physical states) are of radically different natures. How exactly to express this difference is a matter of controversy, but it is generally taken to center on two properties possessed by the mental that are alien to the physical. One of these is the privacy or subjectivity of states of consciousness, as contrasted to the public availability of physical states. The other is the possession of intentionality or “aboutness” by mental states: physical states stand in spatio-temporal and causal
relations to each other, but are not intrinsically about anything. The principle task for the physicalist is to give an account of these properties in physical or physical-compatible terms. A dualist is someone who thinks that this cannot be done.

1. There are normally thought to be two forms of dualism, namely substance dualism and bundle dualism. The former is primarily associated with Descartes and the latter with Hume.

2 An important distinction must be made amongst bundle dualists, however. Some, like Hume, do not believe in either mental or physical substance, treating both as just collections of states, properties, or events (depending on how the theory is stated). For others, it is only the mind that is given this treatment: bodies are substantial entities, but minds only collections of states, properties, or events. This constitutes a relative downgrading of the mind and a move toward the attribute theory. According to this theory, mental states are non-physical attributes of a physical substance – the human body or brain. This theory can be regarded as the softest or least reductive form of materialism. It is materialistic because it says that the only substances are material substances. It is also a form of dualism, because it allows the irreducibility of mental states and properties.

Both substance and bundle dualisms face the same three problems...
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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(2022-07-28, 06:33 AM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: I'll watch the video, ideally in the next few days, but wanted to note I think his paper in the Blackwell Guide can be found in the New Dualism archive.


Quote:4.10 Conclusion

My arguments in this chapter have been in a Cartesian spirit. First, in sections 4.2–4.6 I argued that the thinking subject has to transcend the physical world about which (among other things) it thinks. Only if a strong reductionism were true (which cannot be) could its thinking be part of that physical world. Then, in sections 4.7– 4.9, I argued that the thinking subject has to be a simple substance, on pain of entertaining incoherent counterfactuals. These arguments complement each other, but they are logically independent and the second can establish its conclusion on its own.

My impression is that Robinson is promulgating a very esoteric and professionally philosophically technical approach, that is not very accessible to non-specialists. And he doesn't really directly address the main objections to interactive Cartesian dualism commonly used by materialists. And he doesn't even mention the very large body of empirical evidence for the existence of an immaterial mobile center of human consciousness ultimately independent of the physical body. Therefore not too interesting.

If he directly addressed some or all of the following I would be more interested:

Some of the major philosophical and other objections to interactive dualism:

- (General): Immaterial Cartesian minds and ghostly non-physical events don't seem to fit in with our vastly successful otherwise physical and scientific picture of the world, uncomfortably like spooks and ectoplasm.

- Darwinistic random mutation and natural selection is believed to have been the blind undirected purposeless mechanism of Man's evolution over aeons. It doesn't make sense that such a completely physical and mechanical aspect of Mother Nature (in the form of population genetics) somehow created immaterial Cartesian minds in addition to cells and physical organs. In fact, immaterial spirit would have no causal influence over survival and reproduction of organisms and therefore have no influence over evolution.

- If minds really are immaterial and non-spacial, how can they possibly interact causally with physical objects in space? In particular, with the brain and body in embodiment via a brain-mind interface of some sort?

- Immaterial entities would not seem to be able to cause physical motion consistently with the conservation laws of physics such as those regarding motion and matter-energy. It looks as if despite conservation of energy laws, spirit would regularly be injecting energy into the brain and body, energy which didn't formerly exist.

- There is no credible scientific evidence for the existence of immaterial spirit.
(This post was last modified: 2022-07-28, 04:31 PM by nbtruthman. Edited 10 times in total.)
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(2022-07-28, 03:56 PM)nbtruthman Wrote: My impression is that Robinson is promulgating a very esoteric and professionally philosophically technical approach, that is not very accessible to non-specialists.
Yeah I should have mentioned that at the beginning, Which probably explains the small amount of views! 

Good post.
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(2022-07-28, 12:47 AM)Ninshub Wrote: I just looked up Howard Robinson because on a Wiki page he's mentioned as one of the contemporary idealist philosophers. Actually he's a Neo-Cartesian substance dualist,
I'd like for the record to potentially correct that. I see elsewhere that he's again labelled an idealist philosopher. It may be that he's written on dualism or substance dualism, but does not necessarily subscribe to that model. Question mark for me here.
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(2022-07-28, 05:30 PM)Ninshub Wrote: I'd like for the record to potentially correct that. I see elsewhere that he's again labelled an idealist philosopher. It may be that he's written on dualism or substance dualism, but does not necessarily subscribe to that model. Question mark for me here.

Part of the issue I suspect is even in philosophy "Idealism" ends up a broad category, for example the German Idealists weren't necessarily saying there is only Mind.

OTOH maybe he has shifted from a Dualist position to an Idealist one in the way we usually take it to mean around here. I believe he was saying at some point that Dualism is the correct stance out of the options available?
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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(2022-07-28, 03:56 PM)nbtruthman Wrote: If minds really are immaterial and non-spacial, how can they possibly interact causally with physical objects in space? In particular, with the brain and body in embodiment via a brain-mind interface of some sort?

Of course, wouldn't they only have to affect the neurons of the brain in some way we haven't worked out yet? I don't want to invoke quantum mechanics particularly, but isn't that an example albeit not quite the same. 

(2022-07-28, 03:56 PM)nbtruthman Wrote: Darwinistic random mutation and natural selection is believed to have been the blind undirected purposeless mechanism of Man's evolution over aeons. It doesn't make sense that such a completely physical and mechanical aspect of Mother Nature (in the form of population genetics) somehow created immaterial Cartesian minds in addition to cells and physical organs. In fact, immaterial spirit would have no causal influence over survival and reproduction of organisms and therefore have no influence over evolution.

Assuming that Darwinian evolution or the basic principles are correct. That's one of the first questions I'm going to ask.
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(2022-07-28, 05:56 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: Part of the issue I suspect is even in philosophy "Idealism" ends up a broad category, for example the German Idealists weren't necessarily saying there is only Mind.

Yes, I think that's likely it. Rejection of physicalism becomes/equates "idealism".
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(2022-07-28, 06:02 PM)tim Wrote: Of course, wouldn't they only have to affect the neurons of the brain in some way we haven't worked out yet? I don't want to invoke quantum mechanics particularly, but isn't that an example albeit not quite the same.

I *think* the idea is more related to field effects like that of gravity, so the extensionless soul with 0-dimensions exerts something other than a push/pull billiard ball interaction.

Though from what I understand everything that exerts a gravitational field [h]as a coordinate location in space-time, so it's not clear to me how the extensionless soul is even placed in space-time. Is it carried in brain, or do all of these 0-D souls exist in the same non-place but are attached in someway to particular persons?

I do sorta like the suggestion of the physicist Carr and neuroscientist Smythies, that the dualism is of two intersecting spatial realities with one of those realities accounting for our physics and the other for our mental. I have had trouble fully grasping how this works but it seems like it could account for our mundane experiences + parapsychology in a reasonable way.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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(2022-07-28, 06:02 PM)tim Wrote: Of course, wouldn't they only have to affect the neurons of the brain in some way we haven't worked out yet? I don't want to invoke quantum mechanics particularly, but isn't that an example albeit not quite the same. 


Assuming that Darwinian evolution or the basic principles are correct. That's one of the first questions I'm going to ask.

Some unknown mechanism by which immaterial spirit can affect matter, and vice versa, in certain special circumstances - namely in close conjunction with brain neurons. Such a thing would not be discoverable experimentally in any physics lab unless very specialized and targeted experiments were designed along with very special equipment. As a general observation, such interactions would be brute facts of a designed reality and not necessarily understandable by humans, special cases built into the laws of nature and spirit by the powers that be so as to allow embodiment. A version of what is called mysterianism in philosophy.

Of course, today Darwinism is actually on its last legs. It never really was a true science anyway, since as it has been promulgated by its adherents it simply can't be falsified. We've devoted a very long thread to all the ways Darwinistic evolution has been and is progressively being totally refuted by scientific research and evidence.

The conservation law objection would have the obvious rejoinder that a fundamental part of interactive dualism is the premise that there is an existentially separate spiritual realm. In that case, the conservation laws of physics would be seen as applicable only to physical reality, not to special circumstances where there is an interaction from another reality - the spiritual realm. 

There of course are what I consider plausible answers to the other objections also.

Ultimately, the empirical evidence of paranormal phenomena, especially NDEs and reincarnation memories and mediumistic communications, trumps all these supposedly compelling objections.
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