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Posted by Paul R. Martin on December 1, 2003 18:08:33 UTC

Hi Kyle,

Yes, I am an unabashed, card-carrying dualist.

"This is really reducing to the monist-dualist debate, where I suppose you and I differ."

From this comment, I take it that you are a monist. if so, your supposition is correct.

"Everything I said makes sense if one accepts the monistic interpretation that consciousness is a brain state and thus mind arises from matter... not extranaturally or supernaturally but rather through the process of evolution (i.e. mind is but one aspect of natural existence)."

Even though many of us claim to be monists or dualists, I don't think any of us can give a very complete description of exactly what the one or two, respectively, fundamental constituent(s) of reality really is (are). I think we stumble worst when we tacitly assume what the constituent(s) might be without thinking it through and acknowledging the assumption.

From your sentence, it sounds like you have assumed that matter is the fundamental constituent. That's fine if you really meant to make that assumption, and if so, I suppose that would make you a materialist. And, yes, if matter were fundamental, then it makes sense that consciousness would somehow arise from matter.

From my point of view, that presents two hard problems: 1. What exactly is matter? and 2. The "Hard Problem" according to Chalmers: How did matter give rise to consciousness?

Science has been working on number 1. for a while now and the answer seems to become more elusive as we learn more. The progression of discovery from atom to proton to quark seems to be converging on the idea (as expressed by Witten or Wheeler or someone) of "it from bit". That is, that the fundamental constituent of matter seems to be the fundamental unit of information: the bit.

From my dualistic position, where the two fundamental constituents of reality are 1. consciousness, and 2. thoughts, the bit fits comfortably into that second category. Thoughts, ideas, information, bits, -- those are all names for the same fundamental stuff.

The second hard problem is being vigorously pursued by David Chalmers and company. I pretty much agree with his basic conclusion that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to explain how consciousness can arise from matter. And, from my dualistic position, consciousness is easily explained as simply the first of the two fundamental constituents of reality.

To complete my picture, and to satisfy Occam, I simply posit nothing more than a single consciousness with thoughts. A reasonable explanation of everything else naturally follows. It (the natural world) indeed comes directly from the bits (thoughts) in this consciousness (as Bishop Berkeley argued).

So, of course that makes me wonder: what are the "hard problems" with my dual point of view? I am really interested in anyone's opinion as to what any of them are. If you, or anyone, can point out a problem or two that are harder than the two I cited for materialism, I would eagerly switch my loyalty over to monism or materialism. I just don't see the problems.

"All I can say Paul is that I genuinely respect your point of view and that life would be boring if we all thought exactly the same. "

Thank you, Kyle. You know the feeling is mutual. Worse than boring, I think it would be dangerous to all think exactly the same -- at least until we know the truth.

Warm regards,

Paul

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