I’m listening to an audiobook about modern philosophy and it’s got me thinking about the nature of reality. They’ve discussed Descartes, Locke and now Spinoza, to name a few. What I’m about to say may be well outdated by now in philosophical circles but I thought they were valid responses given what was being said, I’ll try to explain it in a way that’s meaningful to those who weren’t there when I was listening to it (which is everyone other than me).
Firstly, on dualism. Descartes was a dualist. It seems to me that dualism is the belief that there is mind and matter; and that’s the fundamental distinction. Mind includes soul. All of this is apart from God which to Descartes is like a third thing.
Part of the reason this debate about mind vs matter being a hard and fast distinction doesn’t ring true is because we inherently know that there is interplay between mind and matter. They affect each other. My suggestion is as follows. It is better not to think of it as mind and matter, but rather as mind, matter and organic matter. Organic matter is made of the same subatomic particles as matter and is physical. However it is what we are made of and it is inherently in constant exchange with its environment. Deep down we feel that it’s true that we are in constant flux exchange with our environment rather than being purely mind within matter. Mind feels this quality of being porous, it’s not insular.
I like Spinoza’s pantheist thinking about how nature and God are one, and they are the entirety of everything. Thus everything in it such as mind or matter are both simply attributes of the greater whole. The way they spoke about mentality as being an attribute of the whole got me thinking about the nature of mentality.
Mentality, what is it? I think mentality is a lot like the workings of a computer. The things that make it special is that occurs on a conscious level. It is experienced. That is to say it occurs within the frame of consciousness. Importantly it is also subject to volition despite “having a mind of its own” sometimes.
In this way consciousness is seen as being like a new plane out of which attributes in nature spring and are entirely based upon. If consciousness ceased to exist then the mental would cease to exist in any vital way and become not more than machinations to connect dots and achieve ends.
If you made a computer out of organic matter and gave it consciousness of its own machinations and power/update/servicing needs, wouldn’t that be eerily like a little person? The thing that would give legitimacy to its plight would be if we could empathise through some kind of facial interface and it with us through sensory input. Then it could tell us what it was feeling and soon about 50% of people would be in favour of granting it more rights.