To Resurrect a Ghost
Cartesian dualism has largely been replaced by empirical theories of the mind. Central to this development is Gilbert Ryle’s criticism of an immaterial ‘ghost’ inhabiting the material ‘machine’ of the body. A metaphysical self is incredible, and even if it is credible, both it and its manifestation in phenomenal experience are unknowable by others. Failure of this approach occurs when it is realized that existence of the physical is just as incredible as existence of the metaphysical. Free will is also inconceivable without the assumption of a metaphysical self, it being the ‘ghost in the machine’ after all. As for consciousness, it is presupposed by the empirical. What counts as physical manifestations of mind are the effects or causes of phenomenal experience. Without this criterion the individual is a unity, it being impossible to separate the psychological since effectively it encompasses every aspect of the individual. Additionally, it is in phenomenal experience that the empirical is observed, and observation is the basis of empirical verification. To advocate the scientific method of intersubjective verification while denying the existence or significance of the phenomenal is inconsistent. At root, the mental attributes are ontologically distinct. Limited to only one ontological substance, empiricists either redefine or exclude troublesome attributes, commiting the error of confusing distinct kinds of substances. Dualism can accommodate all of the properties of mind in a single coherent theory by acknowledging these kinds of substances.
Perhaps the most influential recent philosopher of mind is Gilbert Ryle. Beginning with his criticism of Cartesian dualism, empiricism has come to dominate current thinking on the nature of mind. Basic to this evolution is Ryle's position is that "the dogma of the Ghost in the Machine" confuses one logical with another. Mind is physical rather than metaphysical, there being no other way to account for knowledge of other minds.
What Ryle and other empiricists fail to recognize is that there is no category error in accepting a "ghost in the machine." Such an error occurs only if setting out to resolve a particular problem, that of other minds. But psychological dualism is concerned with more than this, the issue of other minds being only an aspect of a more comprehensive theory of mind. To focus simply on other minds as Ryle does, is to ignore or deny the other mental features encompassed by a dualist theory.
Three aspects are contained in dualism, each presupposing an ontologically different kind of substance. Free will is accounted for by a metaphysical self, consciousness by phenomenal events, and knowledge of other minds by empirical events. Ryle accuses dualists of misconstruing one kind with different kinds, when it is he who commits the category error of misconstruing different kinds with one kind.
What lies at the basis of the metaphysical self is free will....