Are humans intuitive dualists? Mitch Hodge replies.
Last October, a post by Paulo Sousa based upon a paper by Mitch Hodge generated much discussion on this blog. Mitch Hodge has kindly replied to the critics. I made it an independent post to avoid the comments thread to Paulo's post becoming too bulky _ Olivier.
I want to begin by apologizing for my late entry into this discussion, particularly since it is my own article being discussed. My delay should not be seen as a reflection of how important I have found the discussion thus far. Indeed, I have been following each post with interest and have been thinking about them for some time. Let me begin my post with some preliminary considerations.
While my article addresses Bloom’s conjecture that we humans are intuitive Cartesian substance dualists, many of the criticisms that I present against that position can be used against other forms of mind-body dualism. The most pressing, I think, is the growing evidence that (at least in the West) that the soul is not intuitively considered to be intensionally identical to the mind (Journal of Cognition and Culture, 8: 1-2, p. 99-115). This is important because the soul is that part which is essential to Western afterlife beliefs. What remains to be extracted from this distinction, however, is what relation the soul has to the mind and the body, for certainly it has metaphorical linguistic relations which it shares with both the mind and the body. My suspicion at this point in my research is that the soul allows for the continuation of the social identity of the individual which requires both physical and mental aspects of the individual to continue.
This brings me to what I hoped would be one of the important “take-away” messages of my article.
I think many academics involved in this research might be too eager to assume that the folk are dualists of one sort or another. Dan Sperber asks above whether we are substance dualists or properties dualists. What is not being asked is whether humans are dualists at all (at least at the intuitive level). There is more evidence, in fact, that we view a “complete” person in a tripartite fashion rather than a dualist fashion (see my paper, 397-398). What is unclear is whether those three parts are properties of the person, the person itself, or whether any of those parts are disposable while the person remains.
I think one of the points that confuses people when I talk of embodiment is that they assume that the person must maintain the same body. But this is not what embodiment, particularly the social embodiment which I employ, entails. We are capable of recognizing a person whom we have not seen in decades as the same person, but we do not do this merely from only mental characteristics or only physical characteristics. There are numerous cues that are involved in identifying the person as the same person we knew decades before such as mannerisms, speech patterns, general facial patterns, memories, beliefs, etc. In addition, we also use their social roles to identity them, such as the offspring of so-and-so or their position or title. Furthermore, it is the social role that they had in relation to us that is believed to survive death. Now, what I would argue that is that some sort of embodiment is required to be imagined in order for that social role to be imagined to be carried out. This is what I mean by social embodiment. This is also why neither reincarnation nor spirit possession is a real problem for what I have in mind, in response to Paulo Sousa.
Next, let me make a few points in direct response to Emma Cohen who presented a more poignant critique of my paper.
Firstly, I find it incredibly difficult to make sense of the claim that I missed Bloom’s broader “common-sense” dualism account by focusing in too narrowly on his substance dualism claims in two ways. On the one hand, Bloom uses common-sense dualism and Cartesian substance dualism interchangeably and equates the two. On the other hand, if common-sense dualism is not Cartesian substance dualism, then what exactly is it? There are numerous problems facing anyone who tries to claim that we see manifestations of human action as either solely mental or solely physical, none the least of these is emotions. This is a point to which I tried to draw attention in my paper.
Secondly, I find it far too generous an interpretation of Bloom’s work to claim that he is close to Dennett’s intentional stance/physical stance distinction, which I propose as an alternative interpretation of the empirical findings thus far. In fact, I have difficulty even imagining how such an interpretation can be applied to Bloom since he avoids any and all stance talk and speaks of states and substances exclusively. Perhaps I am missing something here, but I think such an interpretation is far afield of what Bloom has in mind. Moreover, what I am cautioning about Bloom’s work is that it might be taking those of us interested in such questions in the wrong direction. Just as philosophy of mind has had a hard time disentangling itself from the dualism of Descartes, I fear that the psychological community might be too eagerly embracing such dualism as well (although this time applying it to the folk rather than the well-informed academic—a role reversal as I mention in the opening of my paper). I am just not convinced that dualism really has earned a place just yet at the table in discussing the folk ontology of a person. After all, that the folk really are dualists has not be proven—it has either been assumed or provided for by presupposed academic categories.
Thirdly, in answer to your three specific claims of mistakes in my reading of yours and Barrett’s paper (Journal of Cognition and Culture, 8:1-2), I want to explain how that reading of your paper came about. Before explaining that, however, let me say that this in no way implies that the numerous caveats to your findings were neither seen nor ignored. The problem I had was that the caveats were inconsistent with previous claims. Let me start with your claim that your research question did not claim to support the dualism of the sort defended by Bloom. The first sentence of the abstract of your paper where you cite Bloom for the dualism that you will be using leads me to believe otherwise. While I do not want to make an intentional fallacy here, between that opening sentence and the statement, “Below we present the findings of two experimental studies designed to probe further the nature of dualistic thinking, in particular to identify the constraints that dualistic thinking operates within (p. 25),”it certainly sounds to me like you providing evidence of Bloom’s dualism. Secondly, if you are earnestly ascribing to dualism, then how are we to read the following claim about the displacement model that you research? “This possession concept entails the complete displacement of a single agency by another, such that a bodiless agent effectively acquires the body – but not the mind – of a physical being (p. 26).” If you are a dualist, then a “living” person normally has mind and a body. There is nothing else from which to compose a human. Then you make the claim that must associate the mind with identity if the thinking really is dualistic as you propose: “According to the displacement view, possession is not normally conceived as a ‘mind’ occupying a body, but as a bodiless person occupying a body (p. 44).” Now, I fully understand how and why you make the caveats you do concerning the nature of persons and identity, but if your paradigm for possession truly is based on mind-body dualism, then you have nothing more to base identity on, and you make it clear that the body is not the criteria for identity. Am I just over thinking this?
Finally, however, let me sincerely apologize for the oversight on the “transplant”-“transfer” distinction. Clearly that distinction was thoroughly discussed in your paper and I ran roughshod over it in my presentation. Certainly the outcome of your research was that the mind transfer was treated as a mind transplant though you did not present the questions as a transplant. Here, I should have been much more careful and diligent in my presentation of your work. My apologies.
Again, I wish to thank all for their thoughtful responses in this thread and I hope that my own will foster its continuance.