Are humans intuitive dualists?
Chinese afterlife (from Hodge's paper)
Mitch Hodge has just published an article questioning the hypothesis that human intuitive reasoning about other persons supposes a type of Cartesian mind (or soul)-body substance dualism (see Journal of Cognition and Culture 8, 2008), a hypothesis that has been defended by researchers such as Paul Bloom (see Descartes’ Baby). Hodge draws heavily on the fact that cross-cultural representations of the afterlife invoke embodied beings. Although I’m not convinced that afterlife conceptions provide the type of strong evidence supposed by Mitch Hodge, the article raises interesting conceptual and empirical questions about the nature of our intuitive understanding of other persons. Here is the abstract:
This article presents arguments and evidence that run counter to the widespread assumption among scholars that humans are intuitive Cartesian substance dualists. With regard to afterlife beliefs, the hypothesis of Cartesian substance dualism as the intuitive folk position fails to have the explanatory power with which its proponents endow it. It is argued that the embedded corollary assumptions of the intuitive Cartesian substance dualist position (that the mind and body are different substances, that the mind and soul are intensionally identical, and that the mind is the sole source of identity) are not compatible with cultural representations such as mythologies, funerary rites, iconography and doctrine as well as empirical evidence concerning intuitive folk reasoning about the mind and body concerning the afterlife. Finally, the article suggests an alternative and more parsimonious explanation for understanding intuitive folk representations of the afterlife.
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