Swinburne’s defense of substance dualism essay

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a) Swinburne’s defense of substance dualism proceeds in two stages. First, he surmises that an external observer’s knowledge of the events occurring to persons’ “bodies and their parts” would not be enough to make reasoned arguments as to “what happens to those persons who are (currently)” living and sapient human beings (Swinburne 146). Hence, Swinburne assumes that it is possible to regard human body and mind as separate parts of human essence.

The following example is advanced by Swinburne in support of his argument. He invites his reader to suppose that a major operation has been performed on a person so that his/her brain or a part thereof is transplanted to another person’s skull. If it were possible to remove one of the brain’s hemispheres and transplant it to the “living body from which the brain has just been removed”, two separate persons that would be allegedly identical in their “apparent memory and character” would emerge (Swinburne 147). However, these two persons cannot be completely identical to each other, as they would now have separate mental lives. Thus, it may not be possible to predict with certainty the future behavior of the new replicated person in question, leading to the conclusion that the source of uncertainty would not be strictly physical in substance. So the existence of some type of immaterial “soul-stuff”, distinct from brain matter, should be construed to person’s continuing existence and mental states’ alterations.

While Swinburne’s argument may be superficially convincing, it fails to address the problem of the formation of new mental states in the person that is hypothetically born from a transplanted hemisphere. It would appear that Swinburne fails to account for the possible impact of the physical sensations on the formation of the new mental states. Still, his insight on the irreducibility of mental states to the sensations connected with brain matter is still a challenge to be faced by physicalists and other materialist monists.

b) The Justified True Belief (JTB) epistemological theorem is based on the tripartite concept of the stronger state of knowledge, i.e. the one which is the subject of interest in epistemology. Within the context of the JTB analysis of knowledge, three main conditions should be satisfied for the subject’s (S) knowledge that p (proposition) to be true: the truth condition, the belief condition, and the justification condition. The knowledge may be found in accordance with JTB if only three of these conditions are established simultaneously.

The truth condition centers on the notion of factual felicity of the proposition in question. The belief condition implies the subject’s intrinsic belief in the veracity of his/her claims with regard to the proposition. Finally, the justification condition proceeds from the notion that the true knowledge received while following a random guessing cannot be regarded as such. Thus, the JTB theory may be intuitively correct, as it encompasses the dimensions of the fact’s actual veracity, the speaker’s/actor’s belief in correlation between his/her action and this fact, and the knowledge’s basis in objective motivation (justification). However, despite its appeal, the JTB is characterized by certain deficiencies, which would be evident if a Gettier counterexample is applied here.

In his 1963 paper, Gettier presented several counterexamples to the JTB. In one of these, Smith applies for a job but justifiably believes that his rival named Jones would get this vacancy. Similarly, Smith justifiably believes that Jones had 10 coins in his pocket. Hence, Smith infers that the man to obtain the job has 10 coins in the pocket. However, Smith obtains the job, not Jones; further, it turns out that Smith has had 10 coins in his pocket, too (Gettier 122). Thus, the suppositions of the JTB theory would prove invalid in this case, for Smith does not know that his belief in the connection between the chance to get the job and the number of coins in the applicant’s pocket is true with regard to himself.

c) The next analysis of knowledge paradigm is generally known as No False Presuppositions (NFP), or ‘No False Lemmas’. The NFP knowledge analysis rests on the introduction of the fourth variable in the equation, i.e. that subject (S) should believe that proposition (p) “is not inferred from any falsehood” (“The Analysis of Knowledge”).  Thus, such correction would represent an improvement over the JTB by isolating and excluding the cases of justified true belief without actual knowledge involved.

Nonetheless, the NFP analysis is still vulnerable to Gettier counterexamples. For instance, one may suppose that a person sees the lumberjacks going in direction of a nearby forest with their working equipment. They have been clearly given the instruction to cut some trees by their employer. So, the person infers that “the lumberjacks are going to cut some trees in the forest”, referring to this forest. However, it would later turn out that the lumberjacks have gone through the forest in question and begin falling trees in the nearby one. Thus, the speaker’s premises may be correct as a “matter of luck” (“The Analysis of Knowledge”), for, were the other forest not nearby, this utterance would be false.

Similarly, Goldman introduces the so-called Barn County case, whereas an observer is riding through a Midwest county’s landscapes littered with barn-façade fakes along the road. This observer believes these structures to be a true barn. Now, there is only a one real barn among them, and he/she happens to look at it and conclude that this is barn (Goldman). Thus, this correct inference was derived from the observer’s luck, not from any justified knowledge,  as he/she is still in deception with respect to the other ‘barns’ around. Hence, this example, just as the former one, demonstrates the insufficiency of the NFP paradigm.

d) The Reliabilist (RTB) analysis of knowledge attempts to address the problems caused by the notion of justification as such by replacing this criterion with that of reliability. According to this interpretation, knowledge is authentic when the subject (S) knows that proposition (p) if p is true, believes that p, and, importantly, believes that p is the result of a reliable cognitive process (“The Analysis of Knowledge”). Here the justification clause is substituted with the reliability one, making the question of what constitutes a reliable cognitive process extremely important one.

The latter’s definition may vary among different authors. For instance, in his 1988 work, William Alston proffers an interpretation of reliability that equates it with the notion of being justified in reason or ground (“Reliabilism”). On the other hand, Goldman laid down a reliable-process approach which proceeds from the exclusion of the appeal to evidence or such “doxastic states as belief, disbelief, and suspension of judgment” (“Reliabilism”). In Goldman’s interpretation, for a proposition to be reliably justified, its acceptance by the subject should proceed from the belief-formation process that depends on the perceptual processes empirically showed to produce a “high-truth ratio”, e.g. “remembering, good reasoning, and introspection” (“Reliabilism”). Thus, the reliability of the present proposition is constructed on a posteriori comparison’s basis.

From a Gettier perspective, the RTB conceptual framework may still be defective. For instance, “S believes that someone owns a Ford because Nogot does, and the facts are that somebody does own a Ford but not Nogot” (“Reliabilism”). Thus, while the S’s judgment is superficially based on the premises of earlier fact’s reliability, it has turned out that this proposition is correct but due to the accidental factors beyond the effect of S’s personal competence. Therefore, one may surmise that the RTB theories such as a reliable-process one are still vulnerable to the Gettier criticism.

e) A modern version of the radical skeptic paradox involves the incompatibility of three propositions each of which may be individually true. For instance, “the hypothesis that one might be a “brain in a vat”  being “fed” one’s experiences by computers” may serve as one of the well-known examples of the skeptical hypothesis (SH), while the proposition that “one has two hands” may be designated an “ordinary” one (O), entailing “the falsity of the skeptical hypothesis in question” (Pritchard 217). Then, a skeptic would draw an argument that, if one knows O, then he/she does not know non-SH, and, if he/she does not know non-SH, then the person does not know O as well.

The principle implemented in such argument is that of an inverted syllogism, as the skeptic assumes that the non-SH (i.e. the phenomenological condition of the everyday life) is unknown by the subject a priori, and thus his/her knowledge of O as a part of everyday life is likewise impossible. However, even though the inverted syllogism-based reasoning is defective by itself, it is possible to demonstrate the falsity of a radical skeptic argument using the same premises as it does.

One of the anti-skeptical arguments that address this problem is the “closure” principle. According to the premises of this latter, for the knowledge of O, it is necessary that S know “the denials of those error-possibilities that are known to be logical consequences of what one knows” (Pritchard 219). Hence, if one is running, one knows that one may not be a brain in the vat, for a brain in the vat would be unable to run; consequently, one knows that one is not a brain in the vat. As may be seen, this argument is based on the simple syllogism principle, attesting to its logical validity.

However, one may still try to deny the validity of the closure principle by arguing that it may translate only to the relevantly entailed propositions in question. Thus, it would be impossible to construct a simple entailment between the claim that one is running and the claim that one is not a brain in the vat, as they relate to different aspects of existence/activity. This may be the closure argument’s major weakness.

Question 2

a) The problem of temporary intrinsics refers to the paradox between a phenomenon’s intrinsic identity and its equally intrinsic changes in time. Lewis offers three possible solutions to this problem, i.e. presentism (only the present state being considered the phenomenon’s intrinsic one), perdurantism (temporally different parts of the same object naturally instantiate varied temporal properties), and endurantism (objects exist as a whole in the discreet time frames, without any temporal parts to them).

Lewis’s own solution to the problem of temporary intrinsics is perdurantist, as he believes that the introduction of the concept of temporal parts would satisfy the conditions of object’s temporal changes and the intrinsic properties. He criticizes presentism for its eschewing of the temporality, and endurantism as leading to the assumption of existence of mutually incompatible temporal properties in the same objects.

b) According to Swinburne, modern science rests upon the allegedly false premises of the mind/brain-events identity, while in his opinion, a human mind would instead be conceptualized as immaterial substance identical with the traditional notion of a soul. In Swinburne’s interpretation, human body serves as a link connecting this incorporeal mind to the physical world. Further, the mind would be able to learn and grasp new truths via the assistance of its physical shell.

c) The infeasibility of defining knowledge as mere true belief is explained by the fact that one may believe that something is true, and this proposition may even be true, but due to the accidental factors that are beyond the control of the subject. For instance, John may believe that he sees a sheep in the next yard and there is indeed a sheep here, but not the one he ostensibly sees, for the latter is an effigy. Hence, his belief has been true but it does not constitute the knowledge on his part. 

d) The problem of the criterion refers to the two key components of any epistemic suppositions, i.e. the extent of one’s knowledge and the criterion of knowledge. Two main approaches employed in addressing these issues are particularism (i.e. the belief that it is necessary to identify the instances of knowledge and then proceed to lay down their general criteria) and methodism (an assumption that the criteria of knowledge may be inferred independently of its actual instances). The particularism’s main advantage lies in its readiness to address specific epistemological situations, while its major drawback is its lack of capacity to generalize on the attained results. As for methodism, its advantage and disadvantage are a mirror copy of those inherent in particularism.

e) The general form of Gettier cases may be presented as a sequence that includes 3 main steps. Step (1) refers to the statement which is factually accurate and believed by the subject. Step (2) uncovers that the veracity of the statement is in fact dependent on accidental/random factors not known by the subject. Step (3) excludes the statement in question from the category of true knowledge. Thus, each Gettier case basically emphasizes the randomness and fallibility of much what passes for knowledge in mundane life.

f) The Agrippa Trilemma is a skeptical argument in accordance with which only three modes of replying are available when one’s proposition is challenged: 1. Refusal to respond, which entails an undefended assumption; 2. Repetition of an earlier claim, which leads to circular reasoning; 3. The invention of a new argument which entails the infinite regress.

Accordingly, three main responses have been advanced in reply to the Trilemma, namely foundationalism (i.e. the belief that some grounds do not need additional support, as they are truths in themselves), coherentism (the notion that circular reasoning can justify a belief provided that there are enough properties included in the circle), and infinitism (the idea that a proposition may be justified by infinite chain of arguments). However, all these views are problematic, e.g. a foundationalist would be forced to rely on subjective criteria of what constitutes a ‘foundational’ belief, a coherentist would likewise be at pains to justify his/her choice of the allegedly ‘coherent’ circle of beliefs, and an infinitist’s beliefs would be predicated on the unsustainable and counterintuitive notion of infinite chain of arguments giving rise to individual members of the chain.

g) The value problem refers to the need to explain if (or why) the justified true belief (JTB) may be more valuable than a mere true belief (TB). In case of Reliabilism, the JTB is construed as more valuable as it possesses not only an intrinsic value of veracity, but also an instrumental value as the one leading to the new TB. However, a so-called swamping problem arises here, for the a priori character of the belief as true by itself has already overridden any instrumental concerns.

The JTB analysis and virtue epistemology (VTB) avoid the value problem by excluding the instrumental dimensions and focusing on the subject’s competence and possession of respective intellectual virtues. This, however, may raise some additional objections.

h) A virtue analysis of knowledge (VTB) rests upon two basic assumptions: 1. Epistemology is a normative, not descriptive discipline; 2. Intellectual agents and their communities are both major sources of epistemic values and the main units of epistemic evaluation. Thus, the VTB practitioners and proponents would base their arguments on the notion that a justified belief would entail an epistemic or intellectual virtue. These latter may be defined as a knowledge produced by the subject’s virtuous activity and as a personal characteristic/trait that induces the superior cognitive abilities, respectively.

An objection to the VTB analysis may be that it is unclear whether the epistemic virtue in question would be extrinsic or intrinsic to the relevant JTB. Moreover, in both cases, the introduction of a new intrinsic value would be needed to account for the valuable character of the virtue-induced JTB property.

i) The Moorean argument against skepticism is a reversal of an a priori reasoning inherent in the former. Whereas the skeptic might proceed from an assumption that both he/she and other individuals do not know the denials of skeptical hypotheses, a Moorean would counter that both he/she and the large number of other persons may be found to acknowledge certain truisms about oneself and the world that run counter to the skeptic’s argument. Hence, a Moorean would oppose the skeptic hypotheses on these premises.

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