Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Body and soul

The hard problem of consciousness is the best-known philosophical argument for substance dualism, but here's another argument by the eminent American philosopher Roderick Chisholm:

In metaphysics, he held the view that ordinary objects (tables, chairs, etc.) are ‘logical fictions’, and that what exists “in the strict and philosophical sense” are parcels of matter. Parcels of matter cannot lose parts and continue to exist as the same things, according to Chisholm. But what we think of as ordinary objects are gaining and losing parts all the time, he noted. Some molecules that once composed the table in front of me no longer do so. They have been chipped off, and the table worn away with time. The same holds for human bodies. They gain and lose parts all the time, and thus for Chisholm, human bodies don’t persist through time “in the strict and philosophical sense.” But persons – whatever they are – do persist through changes in the matter that composes a body. Therefore, he concluded, persons are not identical with their bodies, nor with any part of the body that can undergo change.  


  1. Steve, what are your thoughts on his statement that persons – whatever they are – do persist through changes in the matter that composes a body? Is that true, and how do we know, apart from our sense that we are the same person over time? I think that the strength of the argument for dualism is predicated on the fact that my (any of us) awareness of my body is an awareness of a physical object, but no part of my awareness of my personhood (which I call the me inside of me) includes awareness of anything physical, and it is not perceived through any of the [five] senses by which we perceive matter.

  2. I'm sharing this argument on my blog.