Does Neuroscience Crush Dualism?

Is dualism no more than philosophical debris given the advances in neuroscience?

Dualism perhaps, but so too are Physicalism and Positivism obsolete philosophies given advances in neuroscience, physics, and psychology. Idealism, Panpsychism, and Non-Dualism are, in my view, still far ahead of neuroscience and cognitive science as far as being on the right track philosophically.It is very common for people who have a Physicalist view to confuse Non-Physicalist views with Dualism, Solipsism, Anthropocentrism, Theism and Naive Realism. In some cases there is cause for this confusion, but it is more common in my experience that it is a psychological projection or Straw Man argument against the view which is diametrically opposed to their own.There is a psychological dimension to this which is important. Jung’s identification of the Shadow projection, “the thing a person has no wish to be” provides a model for how hostility and prejudice can arise, even in the most scientific mind. Other very useful concepts include the Empathizing-Systemizing Continuum or Psychotic-Autistic Spectrum.

In short, the mind which is extremely Systemizing by default tends to suppress its potentials for Empathizing, resulting in a rigid, combative cynicism against anything which is perceive as anti-scientific (really Anti-Systemizing). Extremely Empathizing minds have identical response to what they perceive as Anti-Empathizing so that neither side can actually listen to the other’s perspective and both parties argue past each other. I call these reactionary and radical extremes OMMM and ACME respectively (Only Material Mechanisms Matter and Anything Can Mean Everything)  War of the Worldviews.

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Even neuroscience itself can be used to understand the limits of the current Neuroscientific approach. Brain lateralization, though held in disfavor after being overly hyped for several years, still has profound neuroscientific value (as explained in the video The divided brain). Animals with brains seem to split their consciousness between narrow, logical focus on the most immediate details of perception and broad environmental sensitivity.William James talked about ‘Tough-Minded’ vs ‘Tender-Minded’ philosophies.

[…]he interpreted the European divide between empiricists/positivists on the one hand and German idealists/rationalist on the other hand in a psychological way. He talked of the “tender-minded” and the “tough-minded.” The tender-minded are the German idealists and rationalists. Tough-Minded vs. Tender-Minded: William James’ Pragmatism and the Empiricist-Rationalist Divide

More recently Ernest Hartmann expanded it to a more general notion of ‘thin-boundares” and “thick-boundaries” in his book Boundaries: A New Way to Look at the World.

In my own understanding, I reconcile both ends of the spectrum to try to understand the underlying unity, which I identify as ordinary ‘Sense’. The qualities of thick/tough and thin/tender are seen as a consequence of direct Sensing and indirect Sense-Making modes of Sense which have evolved, and continue to evolve novelty and self-enrichment on many levels simultaneously.

This turns out to be along the lines of what many schools of Western Mysticism and Eastern Philosophy have taught, except  where they used Spiritual terms, my approach draws on semiotics and general systems theory. What many traditions identify as God or Spirit, I see as an Aesthetic Foundation or Pansensitivity which accounts for both Theistic and Atheistic appearances without collapsing into relativism. Sense is Absolute, and Relative-but-not-Absolutely Relative.For those Systemizing readers whose blood pressure is already climbing at reading this, you might want to stop while you’re ahead, before I add more fuel to the fire. Warning, silly sounding neologisms ahead…

Materialist Monism is actually Crypto-Cartesianism.

In other words, the conventional scientific worldview treats consciousness as an ’emergent property’ or ‘information processing’ without grounding those terms in physics itself. Since Physicalism and Functionalism reduce nature to unconscious, automatic interaction of forces and probabilities, all appeals to emergence or integration are really metaphysical appeals to panpsychism. The OMMM answer to Dualism, Solipsism, Anthropocentrism, Theism and Naive Realism are the diametrically pathological exaggerations: Nihilism, Nilipsism, Mechanemorphism, Anti-Theism, and Anti-Realist Sophism.

In the perpetual argument between the two extremes, the Superstitious Charlatan archetype is projected by its antagonist, the Substitutious Inquisitor. For every ACME appeal to God or Spirit, the OMMM counter-appeals to a mechanical substitute. Nothing can be considered ‘special’ except the negation of the ‘special’ through compulsive debunking. Words like ‘merely’, and ‘simply’ are thrown around liberally, as are epithets of ‘nonsense’, ‘rubbish’, ‘postmodernism’, and ‘word-salad’. Feelings and thoughts are merely electrochemical patterns in a brain. For everything imaginative or mysterious there is condescension and venomous hostility. For everything personal or subjective there is an impersonal object to substitute.

The final irony of course is that in seeking to nullify the personal self*, the denier of human specialness paints a mental picture of a universe of radical anthropocentrism. In this universe where all phenomena, even evanescent neutrinos and dark matter are absolutely real, there is only one phenomenon, one delusion conjured** by the brain function of Homo sapiens, which is absolutely unreal, and which contains all of the direct experience of Reality we can ever have. Instead of perception, we have deception† and instead of a phenomenal, sensible universe, we have a dualism consisting of two nihilverses – one devoid of life and consciousness, the other devoid of reality and truth.

*or Science forbid, “Soul”!

**Emergently, and Naturally of course

†with one ‘scientific’ exception

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  1. jazzbo9
    March 12, 2016 at 12:48 am

    Hi Craig – I discovered this blog via Quora and found your ideas vis-à-vis consciousness intriguing.

    I believe that consciousness is a fundamental property of everything and not some emergent epiphenomenon that magically appears from a suitable amount of complex electrical interactions.

    I am an autotheist, panpsychist, and a solipsist (we are ALL solipists) who believes that dualism is an illusion in that what we call the material aspect of the universe is an idea construct created by each of us. Our multiple perceptions (7+ billion in human entity terms – not to mention the practically infinite other entities from quarks on down) exist in superposition.

    All we can know is what our personality creates/perceives via our consciousness (our senses are an extension of our consciousness). Each entity creates its perceptions according to its beliefs, consciously or subconsciously (in the case of human entities – which I suppose could be considered a sort of dualism).

    As a panpsychist, I believe in a kind of trialism i.e., matter, energy, and consciousness are interchangeable, with matter being apparently “solid” energy and energy being a manifestation of consciousness. To that end the phenomenon we call gravity is a function of the natural gregariousness of consciousness although to be sure there are significant manifestations of consciousness that are “rebellious” and contravene the orthodoxy.

    Thanks for linking your blog on Quora which I will peruse further when I’m able.

    If this appears twice – I had trouble with WordPress, just delete the redundant copy – Tx.

  2. jazzbo9
    March 14, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Hi Craig – I discovered this blog via Quora and found your ideas vis-à-vis consciousness intriguing.
    I believe that consciousness is a fundamental property of everything and not some emergent epiphenomenon that magically appears from a suitable amount of complex electrical interactions.
    I am an autotheist, panpsychist, and a solipsist (we are ALL solipists) who believes that dualism is an illusion in that what we call the material aspect of the universe is an idea construct created by each of us. Our multiple perceptions (7+ billion in human entity terms – not to mention the practically infinite other entities from quarks on down) exist in superposition.
    All we can know is what our personality creates/perceives via our consciousness (our senses are an extension of our consciousness). Each entity creates its perceptions according to its beliefs, consciously or subconsciously (in the case of human entities – which I suppose could be considered a sort of dualism).
    As a panpsychist, I believe in a kind of trialism i.e., matter, energy, and consciousness are interchangeable, with matter being apparently “solid” energy and energy being a manifestation of consciousness. To that end the phenomenon we call gravity is a function of the natural gregariousness of consciousness although to be sure there are significant manifestations of consciousness that are “rebellious” and contravene the orthodoxy.
    Thanks for linking your blog on Quora which I will peruse further when I’m able.

    • March 14, 2016 at 7:29 pm

      Thank you, yes I suspect that matter is, to quote deChardin “spirit moving slowly enough to be seen”, although I would use ‘consciousness’ instead of spirit. I would go further and say that ‘moving slowly’ as also an appearance within consciousness, like matter, so that it is not really consciousness moving slowly but that the relation between one history of consciousness and every other history of consciousness uses frequency of perception to keep those histories ‘siloed’ from each other.

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