Metaphysics Exam – Studying

//Metaphysics Exam – Studying

Metaphysics Exam – Studying


  Idealism is the philosophy that people are identical to their mind/soul. Their bodies are just tools to an end much like a bicycle is not identical to the body riding it but instead a tool to an end. To be a living person you require a body and a mind.

  A mind (or soul) is a nonphysical thing, it is the embodiment of a persons entire self. To put it simpler, it is a “Nonphysical, conscious thing.” When thinking of Idealism the previous statement of the bicycle is probably the easiest way to understand it. Likewise it is important to realize the system of communication is entirely one way in Idealism. The soul/mind commands the body without return information.


  Materialism is the philosophy that people are identical to their bodies. The mind/soul is really just physical processes acting out in ones own physical brain via electro chemical responses (or more simply physical processes). It also states that all psychic phenomena are actually physical phenomena.

  A phenomena is a process that is seemingly unexplainable, so in the case of a psychic phenomena people tend to bring up things like telekinesis or out of body experiences. Basically in line with all other concrete knowledge it is the assumption that all things involving the person is likewise a series of events acted out entirely in the physical plane.


  Dualism is the Philosophy that a person is a composite object, a living person requiring a mind/soul and a body.

  The idea being that our mind is the nonphysical thinker and our body is the physical doer. They act in tandem to create a total organic package. When our body dies our mind goes off to live (misnomer?) on its own merry way.


  Interactionism is the Philosophy that a person is a composite object, a living person requiring a mind/soul and a body. Furthermore the mind and body work in tandem communicating back and forth between each other.

  When thinking about this it’s easiest to look at the mind and body as the two input/output devices, each sending information to the other and each receiving information from the other. The difference between Dualism and Interactionism is the explicit statement that there is a two way information transfer between mind and body.


In the next section I will present popular arguments against Materialism and my counter arguments to them (these arguments are not of my doing they are from metaphysics).

The Argument from Death:

  When a relative dies the common vernacular is to say that “that relative has passed on.” Materialism is wrongheaded because when we enter a funeral and see the dead body of someone we do not say “There they are.” In fact we instead say that they have left us, or passed on, or in some other way departed from there body. Because of this it is certain that the person and their body are not a singular being and thusly Materialism is wrong.

  Logically it would be seen as.

  (1) Uncle Mort passed on.
  (2) Uncle Mort’s body did not pass on.
  (3) If (1) and (2), Uncle Mort is not the same as his body.
  (4) If (3), Materialism is false.
  (5) Materialism is false.

  Justification for line 1 is that when someone dies we say that “They’ve passed on.” Justification for line 2 is that we can see that their body still exists under normal conditions after death. Justification for line 3 is that if a person is not the same as their body then Materialism is false.

  If all parts of the logical structure are true, then the argument from death is entirely valid. For an argument to be valid is just to say that if all lines are true then the conclusion must be true. It uses a series of Modus Ponens. For clarification Modus Ponens is the following logical structure. Where each line is a premise.

Modus Ponus
if P then Q


    However while the argument is valid, it is not sound, which is to say that all lines are true. Firstly we look at premise one. Popular opinion is still an opinion, in the same sense that just because you say something does not mean that it is true. It is erroneous to say that uncle mort has passed on, the following example shall illustrated why.

Jerry the Caterpillar

  When Jerry enters the metamorphosis stage we do not say that Jerry no longer is with us. Likewise when Jerry leaves the cocoon and is now a Caterpillar we do not say that Jerry is gone and a new being has appeared. Instead we acknowledge that Jerry has just entered one of his many stages. In all cases still being a physical being.

  Likewise the same is true with uncle mort. The materialist would argue that Uncle mort is in fact in the coffin in front of us. Uncle Mort has merely entered another stage of his physical sequence, in this case death. Much akin to our desktop still existing when we shut off our computer just no longer being accessible Uncle Mort’s brain has ceased to function and we have been shut off from communication. Likewise it may help to think of Uncle Mort’s brain as a monitor that projects thoughts and ideas and that with the ceasing of his heart he has lost power and is equally ineffective at functioning.

  Finally not only is this argument unsound I would further stress that it is a very weak argument. If one is willing to accept vernacular as a decider in real life facts then essentially all things are possible as long as we view them as possible. Yet merely saying something is possible has never been shown to suddenly make it true, to help further understand this it is meant that until something is said it is untrue (or impossible). In essence had everyone who walked into the church said “Uncle Mort is not dead.” would that act alone then make Uncle Mort alive?


The Problem of Other Minds

(1) If Dualism is true, then it’s not possible for me to know that there are other people in the world.
(2) It is possible for me to know that there are other people in the world.
(3) Dualism is not true.

  Now to help understand the above problem is to first look at a concept that shall be known as “Zombies”. Trying your best to not think of fantasy Zombies, it just makes us both look silly if you do.
  Zombies for the purpose of this discussion are human bodies without minds.
  The Zombie Principle: There is no way for me to definitively prove that other people have minds.

  So with this in mind we look at the above argument. Premise one establishes that by the tenants of Dualism that to be a live person you must a composite object of a mind and a body, however there is no process that we can use to prove that people have a mind. They could very well just be incredibly sophisticated machines simulating the same activities that one would attribute to having a soul. Responses, emotions, and all other human activities can be emulated and thusly there is no way for us to know. Likewise it is utterly nonsensical to think of examining a nonphysical entity with physical tools (the only ones at our disposal).
  The second premise is equally reasonable, nearly all persons would recognize that there are people around them. It would be a large stretch (and likely a hypothetical only) to say that anyone has lived their entire life and all those they know and love are to them just zombies. Equally simple would be using Materialism which can be proven by stating that all physical people around you are indeed people.

  If we take these two lines to be true then the argument is valid, because it is impossible to know whether there are other persons through the tenants of dualism yet it is ridiculous to say that all people around you are not people. It would place you in a position where you couldn’t have a discussion at all since all those around you are mere simulations of an actual living person.

  Further I would say that this argument is sound. I could think of no way through dualism that you could prove that there are people with souls. It is entirely possible to even program a software to believe IT has a soul which would take it even further to say that the dualist cannot even prove they have a soul. Ones own brain cannot accurately portray what it is because it cannot exist outside of itself (from the view of a materialist).

  If a statement can only be judged off nonphysical evidence it is flawed because all possibilities in life could be explained with ‘because I think so”. If we take this stance once we no longer need to search for enlightenment since our strategy will simply be to ignore physical evidence in the light of it conflicting with nonphysical evidence. I make this bold statement because it would appear if you are willing to omit physical evidence then all knowledge is omitted seeing as all things we know is either based on outside information or inferences based on previously gained outside information. Even knowledge at the genetic level is passed from parent to child, traveling far enough back until the information is first ingrained from the outside world into the DNA.

The Argument of Psychic Phenomena
(1) Psychic Phenomena Occur
(2) If (1), Minds exist.
(3) If (2), Materialism is false.
(4) Materialism is False

  A story and some clarification is necessary. Firstly we have Psychic Phenomena which are designed as follows.

Psychic Phenomena are defined as all events involving the mind that have no explanation, out of body experiences, reincarnation, and telekinesis being a few.

  Now for the story. There have been many reported cases of events such as telekinesis, out of body experiences, reincarnation, and other irrefutably psychic phenomena. Because of this it is blatantly obvious to anyone who is not close minded that psychic activities happen, psychic activities cannot happen without minds. Materialism states that the mind does not exist, but this evidence proves it does and thusly the philosophy of Materialism is wrong.

  With the above story and definition we find that it is a valid argument. Indeed psychic phenomena (according to the story) occur, thusly minds must exist, and finally Materialism is false if minds exist. I would argue while according to the story and the definition it is a valid argument, I don’t believe in reality that it is a sound argument. See below what I theorize is really happening.

  There is not necessarily such a thing as a Psychic Phenomena, instead there are two sub divisions, a perceived psychic phenomena, and a genuine psychic phenomena. It is quite possible people experience what they perceive in all honesty to be a genuine psychic phenomena however likewise they are not actually genuine. If Perceived makes it difficult to grasp instead try “Apparent”. It would then be safe to say the following:

Apparent Psychic Phenomena
(1) Apparent Psychic Phenomena Occur.
(2) If (1), Then Minds Exist.
(3) If (2), Materialism is False.

(4) Materialism is False.

  If you look at it instead in this light you will find that it is not only not sound but it is also not valid. While it is true that Apparent Psychic Phenomena occur they in no way are explainable solely by the existence of a mind or soul. Which means line 2 is false. In fact there is no better an explanation from the side of minds than there is from the side of materialism. Each raises many questions and neither answers them.

  In fact Materialism already states that all Psychic Phenomena are actually physical phenomena. This would mean that the apparent occurrence of psychic phenomena does nothing to disprove the existence of Materialism. Which means that line 3 is also false.

  For the Argument of Conceivability go back and read this article which is almost entirely on the topic of conceivability and misconceptions with it.

The No Interaction Argument

(1) Causal interaction between nonphysical and physical things is inconceivable.
(2) If (1), causal interactions do not happen between nonphysical and physical things.
(3) if (2), Interactionism is false

(4) Interactionism is false.

  The logic behind the first line is that there is no way to reasonably conceive an interaction between a non-physical and a physical thing. To do so requires very high levels of ambiguity that as I’ve discussed before is inappropriate. The reasoning behind line two is that if there is no way to conceive of it then the operation cannot happen. For a further understanding this returns to previous statements of physical evidence. If you accept natural law then the action cannot happen without negating natural law. If you negate natural law then you essentially rebuke existence which is a bold statement to make while arguing within it. The reasoning behind line three is that Interactionism explicitly states that there is a causal relation between both the mind and the body. If there is no means for this to happen then the philosophy is false.

  For reasons stated above the argument is valid, likewise I would say it is also sound. There is no way with any possible outside evidence to prove that nonphysical things interact with physical things. Because by design nonphysical things are entirely undetectable. If we are willing to create new rules to make it possible then we’ve essentially created a precedent to make everything true.

Finally we reach the last possible Argument on the exam tomorrow:

The Argument for Materialism by Taylor
(not me I think I could make a better on and probably did already on the conceivability article about god :P).

(1) Materialism is no worse off than any non-Materialist view in answering for a persons thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc.
(2) Materialism is better than non-Materialist views in explaining the connection between the conscious self and the physical self.
(3) If (1) and (2), Materialism is True.

(4) Materialism is true.

  Of all the arguments this one requires the most deep explanations to make it make sense. The justification for line one is that when you require non-ambiguity it is shown through comparison that non-materialist views are no better at explaining the difficult questions (many addressed above). Which is a nice way of saying on the unknown Materialism is tied with its competitors. The rational for line two is the idea that a materialist views the conscious self and the physical self as one in the same, there are tools one can use to show physical activities carrying out within the mind when a person is thinking that support it, in the sense that there are many physical means of displaying thought it would appear that Materialism is indeed one up on that.

  If then Materialism is no worse at explaining the difficult questions and is better at explaining the critical question of the conscious self and the physical self. With this it becomes apparent that it would be illogical to choose a non materialist view and thusly if you do choose Materialism (as evidence should direct you to) you are then admitting that it is True. Even if you are to say it is “True with all known evidence.” that means at the point of discussion you believe it is true. Indeed why would someone believe in something they don’t think is true, that would be nonsensical.

  If we have established the previous reasoning then the argument is sound, you cannot have a case (if you accept the above two paragraphs) where the above lines are true and the conclusion is not. I would further argue that it is a sound argument. The best counter argument I can think to this argument is that one could refute physical evidence but that would to me create the paradigm of explaining everything as true.

  However I will likewise admit that while this argument is sound, it’s a very weak or poorly worded argument. It requires far too much explanation to help make its point which is counter productive to the system of logical structure.

  With this I am done with studying for my next exam tomorrow, I hope anyone who reads this enjoys themselves. I realize in the beginning I was erroneously stating what ‘valid’ is but I corrected myself near the end. Regardless my points should still be correct :P.

By | 2009-02-03T20:26:13+00:00 February 3rd, 2009|Journal|Comments Off on Metaphysics Exam – Studying