Growing up as a kid in a Christian household, I regularly attended church on Sundays. It was taught and widely accepted that everyone has souls posited by God himself. Throughout various points in my life, I have questioned God’s existence, but not until recently had I ever thought to question whether souls were superfluous in nature. Does one need to have a soul to explain the interaction between mind and body? Does one need a soul to explain consciousness? Or is a brain sufficient? I have been a dualist all my life. Not until recently had I considered the possibility of materialism, or the belief that all phenomena can be explained solely using the physical domain. As I attended Fred’s lectures and read the articles by Churchland, Papineau, and Jackson, I was able to delve deeper into the question of whether materialism is plausible. It seemed that more questions than answers arose as I learned about the philosophy. I think that it is reasonable to suspend judgment, because the arguments for and against materialism are essentially equal in persuasiveness. Namely, the strength of the causal argument for materialism, and the advantage of the qualia objection to materialism are enough to suspend judgment. The first objection to the view of materialism is that it is based on “fashion”, because it has just recently started to gain serious ground in the debate (Papineau 377). Basically, people are saying that the only reason others believe in materialism is because it is in right now. After all, not many of the historically famous philosophers were materialists. Are you saying that Plato, Socrates, Aristotle… etc. were all wrong? I’m not going to take this objection too seriously, because we have made many groundbreaking discoveries related to the human mind and consciousness in the past few years. Notably, materialism has one main argument to present its case, in which I will go into detail. In Papineau’s “The Case for Materialism” he defines the causal argument as: Conscious occurrences have physical effectsAll physical effects are fully caused by physical prior historiesThe physical effects of conscious causes aren’t always overdetermined by distinct causesSo, Materialism is trueIn his defense of materialism, Papineau does not try to present other arguments. Instead, he focuses on the causal argument and tries to deflect the dualists’ objections to it. Most dualists take issue with premise 1, but to contest premise 1 is to adopt epiphenomenalism. Epiphenomenalism is a rather odd view that states that physical events cause mental events but not vice versa. This means that the epiphenomenalist would deny that someone would go out to eat because he or she became hungry. Materialists would ask, “Why is it a one-way street?” To answer this question, the dualist has two things in his/her arsenal: pre-arranged harmony or coincidence (Papineau 379). Pre-established harmony is the belief where God must have arranged your mind and matter so that they don’t influence each other, but rather are on the same page at all times. Another option is to say that it is a coincidence that the two are just working together independently. Both of these views seem a little absurd to me, because it looks as though there are clearly times where mental occurrences affect the physical. Pain (a certain type of qualia in which I will discuss later) discourages you from continuing whatever is causing that pain; feelings/emotions cause how we act. The epiphenomenalist would argue and say that this is purely a misrepresentation of causation; moreover, physical events are caused by the prior physical events that cause the mental events such as hunger (Stanford). This too seems highly unlikely, so it seems that the first premise of the causal argument checks out. Another objection to the causal argument is with premise 3. Premise 3 in the causal argument acknowledges that there is only one thing that happens, separated into two categories, when one walks to the fridge. There is a feeling of thirst which is understood as the mental aspect, and there are neurons firing which is understood as the physical aspect (Papineau 379). A materialist would say that these are one in the same. The neurons firing are essential to the feeling of thirst. Some materialists (eliminative materialists) would say that there isn’t a one to one ratio of neurons firing and feelings. A dualist would contest the validity of this, saying that they are two separate entities. The problem with them being separate is that you have to have both happening at the same time. This is because (in the walking to the fridge example) you don’t want to say that your neurons aren’t firing and you are still feeling thirsty. You don’t want to say that you’re not thirsty and your neurons are firing which causes thirst either. So the dualist must accept that both are acting independently to try and accomplish one goal. To challenge premise 3 is to adopt one of two principles: parallelism or epiphenomenalism. We already established that epiphenomenalism isn’t plausible, and the case for parallelism isn’t much better. Parallelism states that both your brain and your soul are acting independently of one another to try and accomplish one goal. Neither of these are the most reasonable conclusions, but the dualist does have another option: overdetermination. It is also known as the “belts and braces” view, because it doubly makes sure that the person gets what they want. Both the soul has to be thirsty and the brain’s neurons have to be firing for the person to get the desired result to walk to the fridge and get something to drink. This has been named counter-dependence. The problem with this view is that we have not found counter-dependence to be present in any other causal relationships in nature. Again it appears like materialism looks more plausible in respect to the causal argument.So far I have found that the dualist has no compelling objections to the materialists’ causal argument, but that doesn’t mean he or she is hopeless. There is one argument where the dualist has an advantage in the debate: the problem of qualia. Qualia is defined as an individual’s conscious experiences, or the “what it’s like” feeling. It is hard for the materialist to explain where these experiences fit into the material world. The story of Mary the scientist by Frank Jackson is a great example of qualia needing to be categorized in another domain besides the physical. Mary is a very intelligent scientist who has lived all her life through a black and white monitor. She studies colors, learning all there is to know about which wavelengths stimulate the retinas of the eye to produce different sensations of colors, until there is nothing left to learn. After she is released from the black and white monitor, she is given a red rose. The question is whether she has learned something or not. This argument tries to disprove materialism by showing that even when she had all the physical information about colors, she still learned through qualia. She learned what colors were in her own individual experience. Another example would be war. One can study all they like about the effects of war on the brain, PTSD, etc… but they never really know “what it’s like” until they actually experience it for themselves. I think this is a very interesting argument and undeniable that one learns something outside of the physical. That being said, materialists can counter this argument by setting up a hypothetical situation. They say that creating a perfect clone of someone would make them have the same qualia, which would not make the experience individual at all. It would rather state that one’s “individual experiences” are caused by some intricate inner workings of the brain. Of course, the dualist would disagree and say that this is not the case at all. They would argue that it is perfectly conceivable that you can have a whole different body and still be you. I like how Alvin Plantinga puts through the replacement argument in his essay, “Materialism and Christian Belief.” He says that it is conceivable that one hemisphere of the brain performs all the functions a brain does while the other hemisphere is dormant. Applying this theory, it is conceivable that you could transfer all the important data relevant to your life to one hemisphere while the counterpart is replaced all while you are conscious. Doing this process one more time, transferring all the data into the new half of the brain, would give you a completely different brain while you are still the same person. There is an obvious standstill because our technology is nowhere near that advanced to where these hypothetical situations would become actual. But for the time being, I think dualists have a clear advantage when it comes to the argument of qualia not being stored in physical space. Because of the persuasiveness of both arguments for and against materialism, I think it is justifiable to suspend judgment. It is inescapable to believe in epiphenomenalism or parallelism if you reject either premise one or three of the causal argument, and neither of those are more plausible than materialism. The argument for qualia, the “what it’s like” feeling, shows that it is more likely that these feelings aren’t categorized only in the physical. This is because of someone being able to learn about something even when he or she has all of the physical information about the subject. Granted, I may still have some biases from how I was raised. Regardless, I don’t think it is permissible to entirely jump ship solely based on a couple compelling arguments in favor of materialism.