Substance Dualism

Richard Swinburne

in Mind, Brain, and Free Will

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199662562
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191748394 | DOI:
Substance Dualism

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Humans are mental substances, since the identity of a human being at a time is determined by which experiences are coexperienced at that time. Thought experiments show that it is logically possible that a person should continue to exist without the same brain (or body) or any brain (or body) at all. Each of us can pick out oneself by the ‘informative designator’ ‘I’. Given a result established in Chapter 1, when substances are picked out by informative designators, what is logically possible is also metaphysically possible. It follows that humans are pure mental substances with only one essential part—their soul. Continuity of experience over time shows that the same person exists well beyond the ‘specious present’, and it is inductively probable that they continue to exist at least as long as their brain does. This is the view of Descartes, and also (though misleadingly expressed) of Aquinas.

Keywords: Aquinas; Descartes; personal identity; pure mental substance; soul; substance dualism

Chapter.  20205 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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