Survivalist: In our last conversation, we examined one of your objections against the survivalist position. I'd like to know that other objection could you to pose.
Materialist: I have a lot of objections against your position, but in this moment I'd like to comment in one particularly powerful one against the survival hypothesis and, specially, against the transmission theory.
Survivalist: Ok, go ahead.
Materialist: This is an objection that I like to call "The Alzheimer objection", because I think the proven effects on the mind of Alzheimer essentially refutes your position and powerfully support the production hypothesis.
Survivalist: Interesting. Why do you think that?
Materialist: To begin with, I'll mention an example mentioned by philosopher Paul Edwards, which I think presents clearly the problem with your position. The example is in regard to the mother of a friend of Edwards, named Mrs. D., who in the later stages of the disease, could no longer recognized her daughter:
"Let us now see what the survival theorists would say about Mrs. D.’s behavior. It should be remembered that on this view Mrs.D., after her death, will exist with her mind intact and will only lack the means of communicating with people on earth. This view implies that throughout her affliction with Alzheimer’s Mrs. D.’s mind was intact. She recognized her daughter but had lost her ability to express this recognition. She had no wish to beat up an inoffensive paralyzed old woman. On the contrary, “inside” she was the same considerate person as before the onset of the illness. It is simply that her brain disease prevented her from acting in accordance with her true emotions. I must insist these are the implications of the theory that the mind survives the death of the brain and that the brain is only an instrument for communication. Surely these consequences are absurd"
As Edwards pointed out, if the instrument or transmission hypothesis is true, Alzheimer couldn't possibly affect the mind and thoughts of Mrs.D, because her mind or soul would be essentially "intact" (untouched), and its only unability would be to express or communicate Mrs.D's true feelings. It's like being driven a car (instrument) which, due to a mechanical problem, goes in another direction. Your will is to go to the right, but the car goes to the left in spite of your contrary will. However, your will of going to the right hasn't been affected at all; it simply has been non-efficacious to direct the car due to the latter mechanical problem.
Alzheimer proves that alterations on the brain produces alterations on the mind. Therefore, the instrument/transmission theory is false.
Survivalist: I see your point. But even if it's correct, it's irrelevant to my argument, because I don't defend the transmission/intrument theory as formulated and criticized by Edwards.
Edwards' basic formulation of the instrument theory entails that consciousness is causative on the brain, but not the reverse. In other words, in Edwards' (and your) formulation of the transmission/instrument theory, the communication runs in one-way direction:
Consciousness -----------------------> Brain
Based upon the above idea, it's concluded (by Edwards and you) that if the brain creates specific changes on the mind (e.g. dramatic changes on thoughts, etc.), the transmission theory is false or "absurd".
However, both of you are arguing against a straw man. You're falsely (I don't know if intentionally or unintentionally) assuming that the above is the position actually defended by contemporary survivalists. And this is not the case.
Contemporary survivalists explicitly defend a two-way communication between consciousness and the brain. In other words:
Consciousness ---------------> Brain (e.g. placebo effect)
Brain ------------> Consciousness (e.g. drugs, LSD, brain diseases, etc.)
To prove that you're arguing against a straw man, I'll cite William James' EXPLICIT admission and reference to causation from the brain to consciousness too: "Everyone knows that arrests of brain development occasion imbecility, that blows on the head abolish memory or consciousness, and that brain-stimulants and poisons change the quality of our ideas." (emphasis added)
Note that you're not arguing against the ACTUAL formulation of the transmission theory as defended by its best proponents, but against an arbitrary and weak formulation of it to make it more easily refutable.
Materialist: This is false. Edwards' implications of the transmission theory are the ACTUAL testable consequences of that theory.
Materialist: Because any form of mind-body dualism or transmission hypothesis is committed to predicting that the mind (or consciousness) is largely independent from the brain.
Survivalist: Are you referring to ontological (existential) independence, or merely to functional independence?
Materialist: To existential independence.
Survivalist: Then I partially agree with you. If dualism and the transmission hypothesis are true, consciousness and the brain are existentially independent in the specific sense that the former doesn't depend for its existence of a biological brain. Therefore, consciousness will continue to exist even after the destruction or demolition of the brain. And while they're disconnected (e.g. after death), they won't affect to each other.
But being existentially (ontologically) independent doesn't imply permanent functional independence. Two ontologically (existentially) independent objects, substances or entities could be functionally dependent for certain purposes (e.g. for opering in certain enviroments) and during a certain time.
For example, my computer is an entity different of me. If my computer is destroyed, I'll continue to exist (because I don't depend of my computer for my existence). And If I die, my computer will continue to exist (because its existence doesn't depend on me).
However, being two wholly different and existentially independent entities, my computer and me are functionally dependent, because my computer functions only when I use it. Also, the contents (words, videos, information, etc.) expressed in the screem of my computer have influence on me. Thus, there is a two-way influence in the relationship of my computer with me.
But note that the functional dependence of my computer and me doesn't imply that my computer is existentially dependent on me, or viceversa. Both (the computer and my) are existentially independent but, at the same time, functionally dependent (at least, for some time and for some specific purposes).
Materialist: So what? What's your point?
Survivalist: My point is that existential (ontological) independence doesn't imply functional independence. Therefore, your argument than dualism or the transmission hypothesis is commited to a (existential) independence of consciousness on the brain doesn't imply that consciousness and the brain are necessarily independent from a FUNCTIONAL point of view.
Materialist: But I can't see how two existentially different things could be functionally dependent.
Survivalist: Are you serious? Come on, you're an intelligent and smart guy. Read my above examples and arguments again. (I'm no asking you to agree with me, only to UNDERSTAND my point)
I'll try with another example. Do you have a cell phone?
Survivalist: Are you existentially dependent on that cell phone? I mean, if your cell phone is destroyed, are you necessarily destroyed too?
Materialist: Of course not.
Survivalist: And if you die (e.g. of a heart attack), is your cell phone necessarily destroyed?
Survivalist: Thus, your cell phone and you are existentially independent. Both of you are two different and SEPARABLE entities, and the existence of each doesn't dependent on the existence of each other. Do you agree?
Survivalist: Now, the above argument entails that your cell phone and you are FUNCTIONALLY INDEPENDENT? I mean, the fact that both of you are two different entities, implies that between both of you doesn't exist any dependence at all for specific purposes?
Materialist: I don't dependent of my cell phone.
Survivalist: Existentially no, but functionally you do. In many instances, you need a cell phone as an instrument of communication (e.g. when you need to talk with your cousins who are living in another city).
Is not communication the proper function of a cell phone? It's essentially an instrument of communication, and when you use a cell phone, your communication depends functionally in part of the proper functioning of that instrument.
If the cell phone is of bad quality, your voice will sound strange, and maybe the other person won't hear you or will misunderstand you. So the quality of your voice is, at least in part, dependent of the proper functioning of the cell phone as instrument of communication. But your voice is existentially independent of a cell phone. The dependence is only functional.
Materialist: I see your point. But it doesn't prove that the transmission theory is true.
Survivalist: My above examples and analogies aren't intended to prove that the transmission hypothesis is true, but to refute your conflating of functional dependence with existential dependence.
You use "dependence" and "independence" without proper qualification (that ambiguety gives you rhetorical adventages); but when pressed, your concede that you mean existential dependence alone (thus, disregarding and neglecting the cases of functional dependence between two non-existentially dependent entities, like illustrated in the examples above).
Given that the issue at stake is the kind of dependence (existential or non-existential), your continuous use of "dependence" or "independence" (the latter, introduced in this discussion) without proper and explicit qualifications, when actually you mean existential dependence (the issue at stake!), your behaviour could be considered intellectually dishonest.
But I know that you're honest man and that you believe sincerely in your position.
Materialist: I'll disregard the latter point because it's irrelevant for my arguments.
And your example of the cell phone illustrate my point. If you destroy a cell phone, your mind or body won't be affected. This is what I mean with the idea that a existential dependence implied in dualism entail that modifications on the brain won't affect the mind. And this is what Edwards is defending above.
Survivalist: Your argument assume that instruments are only effects, that they are never cause on the agent or operator. But this is false.
My cell phone and my computer has influence on me. Watching some video or picture, or hearing something on my cell phone certainly will modify my thoughts and ideas. But it doesn't imply that my mind is existentially dependent on the cell phone.
What you fail to note or understand is that, while consciousness is connected with a brain, the former will be affected by the latter, precisely because they're functionally dependent (i.e. they depend, IN PART and while connected, of each other to their proper functioning.)
As you (and Edwards) cannot or don't want to see that, you're committed to argue with a straw man. Your criticisms miss the point, and don't affect at all the position of the survivalist.
Materialist: I don't think it's the reason. The actual reason is that believers want to believe in silly things and fantasies. They don't want to face the extinction after death.
Survivalist: Maybe some survivalists are afraid of death; and perhaps some atheistic materialists are so unhappy and angy with their personal life that they want to dissapear after death (they could consider it a great end for a worthless, unsatisfactory, lonely, emotionally devastating and socially sterile life). But this is irrelevant.
My suggestion is that you try to understand the transmission theory in his best formulation, not its caricatures. If not, it would cast doubts on your intellectual honesty or, at least, in your objectivity. And worst, your arguments will be effective only to the people who already share your position or are biased toward it. Thus, you're only preaching for the chorus.
Even if the transmission hypothesis is false (and it could be), the idea is that we confront and examine the best version of it.
Materialist: I think I understand it correctly.
Survivalist: I don't think so.
Anyway, let's to continue our conversation... in another moment.
Materialist: Ok, see you in other moment.
TO BE CONTINUED...
-Part 1 of this dialogue.
-Part 2 of this dialogue.
-Part 3 of this dialogue.