Curt J. Ducasse

C. J. Ducasse

(1881-1969), French-born, highly respected Professor of Philosophy at Brown University. Awardee of the Carus Lectures prize (American Philosophical Association). Contributed to the "Journal Information for Philosophy and Phenomenological Research", "Causation", "Immortality" (Edited by Paul Edwards), "Philosophical Dimensions of Parapsychology" (edited by James M. O. Wheatley). Ex-student of Josiah Royce. Pursued a career in philosophy but retained a strong interest in logic - so much so that he took the initiative to create the Association for Symbolic Logic with its Journal of symbolic logic. Among his many important papers on survival are "How the Case of The Search for Bridey Murphy Stands Today" Journal of the ASPR 54: 3-22, and "What Would Constitute Conclusive Evidence of Survival After Death?" Journal of the SPR 41: 401-406. His books included "A Critical Examination of the Belief in Life After Death", "Paranormal Phenomena, Science and Life After Death" (Monograph), "A Philosophical Scrutiny of Religion", "Nature, Mind, And Death", "Truth, Knowledge and Causation", "Philosophy As a Science: Its Matter and Its Method" and "Philosophy of Art".

A Critical Examination of the Belief in a Life After Death - Part 3

Chapter 9: Two Versions of Psycho-Physical Parallelism

1. Mind and body as in "pre-established harmony" | 2. Mind and body as two aspects of one same thing | 3. Mental activity as a function of cerebral activity

 - Curt J. Ducasse -

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          IN THE present chapter, we turn from the radically materialistic and radically idealistic conceptions of the body-mind relation, which we have now seen to be untenable, and pass to an examination of two versions of the conception of it termed Psycho-physical Parallelism.

1. Mind and body as in "pre-established harmony"

The "pre-established harmony" conception of the connection between the series of mental events and the series of bodily events goes back to Leibnitz. According to him, only "monads" exist-simple, unextended "substances" whose essence consists in the power of action and whose exercise of this power consists in having ideas. A substance, however, is conceived by him as well as by others in his day as something wholly self-dependent and therefore as incapable of influencing or of being influenced by the activities of other substances. Hence the monads "have no windows" through which anything might come in or go out. The sequence of their ideas proceeds solely out of their own internal, i.e., psychological activity. The material world consists of masses of monads, whose aggregations, separations, and motions are determined, not like the internal states of each monad by mental causes, but solely by mechanical ones. Yet, harmony obtains between the succession of ideas in a given monad, and the motions of it and of the other monads associated with it in what we call its body. On this view, the correlations which obtain between a man's mental states and his bodily states - for example, that a pin prick and pain, or that volition to move the arm and motion of the arm regularly go together notwithstanding that neither causes the other - is analogous to the correlation which obtains between the motions of the hands of two clocks notwithstanding that neither clock causes the other to behave as it does.

The explanation of the harmony between the behavior of the two is of course that it was preestablished by the maker of the clocks, who so constructed and so set them that they would keep time to each other. Similarly, on the Leibnitzian view, the harmony which obtains between the series of a man's bodily states and the series of his mental states is due to its having been preestablished by man's maker, God.

It is perhaps unnecessary to comment on this quaint conception beyond saying that no evidence at all exists that body and mind are each inherently incapable of influencing the other; nor is there any evidence that the harmony which obtains between them was preestablished by a cosmic clock maker.

But even if this should somehow happen to be the case, nothing at all could be inferred from it as to whether or not mental life continues after the body dies. For inferences as to this could be drawn only if one knew-whereas in fact one does not first that such a divine "clockmaker" as postulated by the preestablished harmony conception exists; and only if one knew in addition what his will is as to survival, or not, of man's or of some men's minds after death.

On the other hand, if one supposes the connection - or more properly then simply the correlation - between the bodily and the mental series of events to be a purely de facto parallelism; that is, one neither due to causation of the events of either series by those of the other, nor due to causation of both series by some one same cause distinct from both as in the preestablished harmony conception; then, ex hypothesi, termination of either series would have no effect at all on the other. Termination of the bodily series might, or might not, de facto, be paralleled by termination also of the mental series. From purely de facto parallelism in the past and present, nothing at all can be inferred as to the future.

2. Mind and body as two aspects of one same thing

Still another conception of the connection between mind and body is of the type envisaged by Spinoza, but divorced in the writings of contemporary biologists and psychologists that accept it from the theological hypothesis in terms of which Spinoza phrased it.

The connection in view is of the so-called "double aspect" kind, analogous to that which obtains, for example, between the two sides of a sheet of paper. There, a creasing of the sheet appears as a ridge on one side, and automatically and simultaneously as a valley on the other side, although the ridge does not cause the valley nor the valley the ridge.

If the paper analogy is used at all, however, its additional features also must be considered; for example, the fact that a spot of color on one side is not necessarily matched by a difference of any kind on the other side. The implication of the paper analogy as regards the "double aspect" conception of the connection between body and mind is then that one cannot tell whether the difference on the material side, which cessation of the body's life constitutes, is or is not automatically matched on the other side by cessation of consciousness, unless one knows independently what the entity or substance is, of which body and mind are alleged to be two "aspects;" and knows what properties it, as distinguished from either of its aspects, has. For only such knowledge would enable one to judge whether the body's death is analogous to, say, the ridging of one side of the paper - which, because of the properties of the paper sheet, is automatically matched by a valleying of the other side - or is analogous on the contrary to the staining of one side - which, again because of the properties of the paper sheet, is not automatically matched by any change on the other side.

In short, the supposition that body and mind are two "aspects" of one same thing is wholly metaphorical; and unless and until the metaphor has been translated into literal terms identifying for us the entity or substance itself, of which brain and mind are supposed to be two "aspects," nothing can be inferred as to whether the material change - death of the brain - is or is not automatically matched by death of the mind.

But no substance or thing having body and mind as two aspects has ever yet been exhibited, both aspects of which could be so experimented upon that one might discover what kinds of changes, if any, and of which aspect, are or are not automatically paralleled by changes of the other aspect.

Moreover, if it were suggested, as occasionally it is, that the body itself or the brain is that substance, and that mental activity is brain activity, but "viewed from within" - from the inside instead of the outside - then the appropriate comment would obviously be that the word "inside" as so used really means nothing at all. For, if one wishes to observe what goes on literally inside the brain, what one must do is simply to open it up and look. Such an operation might, in a then facetiously etymological sense of the word, be termed "Introspection," but would anyway be something radically different from what in fact is denominated Introspection.

Thus, although the "double-aspect" description of the connection between mind and brain or mind and body has found favor with a number of biologists and psychologists, it turns out on examination to be nothing but a vacuous metaphor, from which nothing at all follows as to whether or not mental life can continue after death.

3. Mental activity as a function of cerebral activity

A statement currently much in vogue is that mental activity is a function of the activity of the brain and nervous system.

The word "function," (from L. fungere, to perform) has a variety of meanings, some of which are not wholly distinct from certain of the others. Most broadly, when two things, A and B, each of which admits of variations, vary concomitantly, i.e., in such manner that variation of kind or/and magnitude V (a) of A, and variation of kind or/and magnitude V (b) of B, occur regularly together, then the two sets of variations are said to be functionally related; and either can be said to be a function of the other.

If, however, the variations given, or instituted, are, say, those of A, and the variations then observed those of B, then B is termed the dependent variable and A the independent variable.

If the variations of one of the two functionally related variables, say, those of B, occur after the variations of A of which they are functions, then ordinarily the dependence of the variations of B upon those of A is causal dependence, direct or indirect. This, apparently, is the meaning which "dependent upon" is intended to have in Webster's definition of one of the senses of "function of" as: "any quality, trait or fact so related to another that it is dependent upon and varies with that other." This sense is usually the one in which thought, or mental activity, is said to be a function of brain activity; and in which it is said that the specific function of the brain is to "perform" the various mental activities - thinking, perceiving, remembering, etc.

In the light of these remarks, it is evident that to speak of mental activity as a function of brain activity is not to offer a new description of the connection between the two, different from all those already mentioned; for each of these asserts that brain states and mental states are functionally related: If the functional dependence is causal, and of mental activity on brain activity, then this is the type of connection, i.e., of function. which epiphenomenalism describes. If the dependence is causal, but is of brain activity on mental activity, then this type of functional relation would be describable as hypophenomenalism - the exact converse of epiphenomenalism. If the functional dependence is causal, but not exclusively either of mental upon cerebral states, or of cerebral upon mental states, then what we have is psycho-physical interactionism. Lastly, if the functional dependence is not causal, then it constitutes parallelism of one or another of the types described in what precedes, from which, as we have seen, nothing can be inferred as to whether survival of the mind after death is or is not possible.

We shall now consider in turn epiphenomenalism, hypophenomenalism, and interactionism.

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Contents | Preface | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18 | Chapter 19 | Chapter 20 | Chapter 21 | Chapter 22 | Chapter 23 | Chapter 24 | Chapter 25 | Chapter 26

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