Articles authored by J.P.

Substance Dualism and Self-Awareness
by J.P. Moreland

  • Title: Bioethics, Substance Dualism and the Argument from Self-Awareness
  • Date: 11/17/2011
  • Source: Presented at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society Meeting in San Francisco, California.
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I claim that there are two tasks for any adequate philosophy of mind:

(1) articulate one’s position and explain why dualism is the commonsense view.

(2) defend one’s position.

I believe that there is an argument that simultaneously satisfies both desiderata in a non-ad-hoc way and, thus, the argument can thereby claim the virtue of theoretical simplicity in its favor.

In my paper, I present the crucial argument--an argument from self awareness that we are simple, spiritual substances--and defend its most crucial premise, and respond to two criticisms that have been raised against it.

Related Content: If this conference presentation interests you, you might also want to consider the following:


  • It offers a contemporary argument for substance dualism.
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  • It offers a basis for applying the benefits of substance dualism to concerns of ethics.

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One Response to 'Substance Dualism and Self-Awareness'

  1. Shruti says:

    ) have recourse only to an aeagggrte-type understanding of identity. Hence, Moreland is not conflating two understandings of identity but rather is making a valid distinction. Moreland is precisely making the point that the second type of identity, which you mention, IS extraordinarily strong; that is why he disagrees with naturalism. Now, the argument from reason states that in order to reason from one premise to another, and eventually to a conclusion there must be a continuity of identity over time for the reasoner. We call this reasoner a person since persons, by definition, are reasoning things. Now follow and grant Moreland the following: IF it is the case that, for reasoning to take place, the reasoner must maintain identity over time (of a one-to-one nature since identity maps onto things in one-to-one relation) AND it is such that the naturalist is only allowed access to identity in terms of aeagggrte-identity, THEN the naturalist must face the following two options: accept naturalism (and give up on rationality) or accept the fact that we are capable of reasoning (I just offered an example) and give up on naturalism. There is, obviously, more that has to be fleshed out in supporting the points of the argument, but the argument should be clear enough. It would be more interesting to offer the reasons Moreland gives for thinking that naturalism cannot provide the requisite same person-ness .Identity is not the sort of thing that one can search for under a microscope or out among the stars. It is not, even, the sort of thing that can be found hiding among the sub-atomic particles. It is an ontological property and as such falls into the domain of discourse of the philosopher, not the scientist. No amount of scientific investigation could ever, in principle, identify what identity relations consist in; that subject is in a whole other sphere of investigation. Your computer undergoing a logical computation is actually not a helpful analogy. Here’s why: what makes it the same computer that performs the computation at time t1 and time t5? Adding the complexity which is a case of an organism, such as a human being, adds levels of difficulty that the computer case doesn’t begin to address (it is not just as plainly the same for us). It is not enough to say that it DOES have a degree identity, clearly (perhaps) we all can see that and the same is true for persons (notice, however, that this might be merely psychological). What is important, rather, is WHY there is identity and How we can say that this person is identical at t1 and t5. Until then, the argument may indeed be able to persuade, or at least proffer reasons to ruminate. Negligible effects on brain states has nothing to do with the argument or with the issue of identity. I can cut off my visual cortex or my arm and still be the same person, and those are hardly negligible.To offer a response to your final question as to why we should care about the kind of rationality that seems to smuggle in a transcendent self, I would say the following. First, it is not at all obvious that we need to smuggle in the idea of a transcendent self with the idea of reasoning and rationality, but rather it might be quite the opposite. That is, we can lay out a logical argument to the point that in order to have something with the features of reasoning, for reasoning to be what it is, there must be something capable of such an activity and that something has the following features (x-y-z-transcendent?). Second, what do you mean by that kind of rationality as opposed to the kind that actually exists ? What IS the kind that actually exists? What is it like, what are its features, what does it presuppose or demonstrate? Are you dismissing something without giving an argument for the dismissing? I would say that we should care about that kind of rationality because, if the ideas, arguments, and principles are TRUE, which Moreland and many, many others have offered and defend, then that is precisely the kind of rationality that IS actual. And so, we are trying to identify reality, not what we prefer or have cares about. And so, the naturalist is left with the case that (at least on this page) no answer to identity has been given nor an answer as to what the nature of rationality or reasoning is. (sorry for the long post too).