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THE SOURCE OF DUALISM

Aristotle may seem like a poor candidate for dualism, but, if you think back to our discussion of his concept of soul, you may remember that while the soul was the form of a person, and thus was an integral part of what the person is, the mind was necessarily disconnected from the body. Thus, since the mind was a part of the soul that was separate from the rest, sometimes referred to as the "intellectual soul", it too forms a kind of dualism. Aristotle was still a Platonist so he also saw that experience could only be described as a bodily function. The imagination, which he determined was an attribute of the senses and therefore of the body, was the imaging mechanism of experience. At the same time, he said that it was a mechanism that the mind made use of. Anyone who derives knowledge from experience must answer the question how does one gain knowledge of a world that includes both the past and the future from experience which entails neither. This is an act of creativity, an activity that is beyond the capabilities of the senses or of an imaging mechanism. Remember, knowledge of the unchanging necessarily implies a concept of time because without time the concept of the unchanging has no meaning. But more important to our present quest is the problem of training and learning. And for the answer to that we must turn not to De Anima, but to The Nicomachean Ethics.

The Nicomachean Ethics is not a discussion of ethical theory, it is a discussion of ethical actions. Therefore the existence of an ethical structure in society is simply assumed. The nature or the origination of that structure is not plumbed. It is the role of a man to increase his own virtue and it is the role of the polis to provide an atmosphere conducive to moral development among the citizens. a study of theoretical ethics would necessarily require an explanation of the source or ground for an ethical system and would be forced to choose between rival systems, or at the very least acknowledge their differences. For Aristotle man is a member of an essentially just system and it is his duty to improve his own virtue through virtuous action while improving the system through political action. So, when we discuss the Nichomachean Ethics we are not discussing knowledge or theory. We are discussing "training."

Training is the development of neural structures that have the simple responsibility of recognizing specific patterns in the environment picked up by the senses. Unlike knowledge approaches, training does not require rational thought. A dog or a parrot can be trained. Modern computer scientists working with neural computers and neural simulations in serial computers have developed a few of these kinds of structures. In cooperation with cognitive psychologists, they have been building a large inventory of such concepts under the general name, "connectionism". Structures of this kind are used, for example, by the post office for reading hand-written zip codes on letters. We need not assume that the number of types of these structures is small. With the billions of neural connections in the brain the possibility of a large number of different kinds of structures is possible. The prime purpose of training is to develop these structures. The prime purpose of the structures is to reduce the amount of variety in the environment to a manageable level. When G. E. Moore said that concepts like yellow, and the "Good" are simple and undefinable, he was trying to say, almost a century before knowledge of these neural structures was developed, that they are learned through training. You cannot describe yellow to someone. By pointing out yellow things to a child so that he develops a structure in his mind that responds to what is consistent among them, you train the child how to identify yellow. These structures predate language. And they are a necessary prerequisite for language. When we say that ethics is a matter of training we are saying that we develop neural structures in our brain which make us ethical people. Aristotle's approach to ethics is not as a theorist, but as a trainer. Again, his Nichomachean Ethics is not a textbook on ethics, it is a handbook for the ethical man.

The term "virtue" as used by the Greeks is a measure of how well something achieves the purpose (fourth or final cause) of its existence. Man is both an animal and a rational being. For this reason Aristotle divided the virtues into two kinds, intellectual and moral. The differences between the two lie in the way they are developed. Intellectual virtues are developed through teaching, and moral virtues through habit. This makes both the result of training. The first through the aid of a teacher. The second through active exercise of the virtues themselves. He said that a person becomes a good builder by building well and he becomes a just man by doing just acts.

So, let us return to Aristotle's definition of the kind of happiness that everyone naturally strives for. In his own words, "Activity of the soul in accordance with virtue." This includes only those activities which have an effect on virtue, that is, that modify how well the individual accomplishes his purpose in life. But the purpose of a person's life, his final or fourth cause, is individual to the person. Therefore the right activity at any moment in time is specific to the person, the moment, and the specific situation. His use of the concept of the mean is somewhat misleading until you examine it closely. He said that moral virtues always involve a mean between two extremes. For example courage is a mean between cowardice and foolhardiness. Each of those are the extremes of the continuum on which courage is found. Every act of courage is an act that lies somewhere between these two extremes. However, since every person is an individual and every event occurs under a set of specific conditions, the exact point on that continuum that would correspond to a courageous act is different for every act. An example he gave was in the case of sailors and non-sailors at sea during a bad storm. The non-sailors do not have the experience of the sailors. So an act that would be brave for a sailor who knew through experience how much the ship could tolerate would be foolhardy for the non-sailor who had no idea of the limits of the ship. For this reason Aristotle called Prudence, or Practical Wisdom, knowledge of the ultimate particular.

If we think of virtue in an Aristotelian sense it is not knowledge. He called virtues dispositions. A virtuous person chooses the right action automatically. He has no need to calculate what action is best for the moment. But a virtuous act, that is an act which has an effect on virtue, is an act that is calculated. In order for an act to have an effect on the virtue of a person, seen as his disposition to automatically choose the right actions, three conditions must be true.

(1) He must know what he is doing.
(2) He must choose to do the action and he must choose to do it for its own sake.
(3) He must do it from a fixed and permanent disposition.

Thus the active training element in virtuous actions is choice. For that reason Aristotle developed a detailed explanation of choice. Jack and Jill could not choose to pick up segments. The choice was made by the machinist who set them up. The frog could not choose to snag or not to snag flies. This choice was developed through natural selection. Of all of the animals on this planet only man actively exercises choice.

What makes choice the most important part of moral training? First it is voluntary. This is what separates an ethical act from a virtuous action. We recognize this even today in our legal system. If a person chooses to kill someone he is guilty of murder. If he kills the same person accidentally he is at best guilty of manslaughter. Killing a person in either case is an immoral act but only in the first case is it an immoral action because the addition of the quality of choice makes it an act that will have an effect on the virtue of the person. In other words, Aristotle contends, a person can commit a murder and be guilty of a heinous offense. But only if he chooses to kill from a fixed and permanent disposition is he a murderer. Again, we recognize this in our modern judicial system. A person who kills out of choice commits first degree murder and is treated differently from the person who is guilty of second or third degree murder.

What makes choice so important is that choices are made only after deliberation. So choice is never involved with the end of an action. The end of the action is determined prior to deliberation. Our murderer did not choose to want his wife's money. He did not deliberate over whether he should desire to be rid of her. His deliberation concerned only the choice of action that would best result in his becoming a rich widower. Deliberation, then concerns not the end of the action, but the best way to attain the end. This is important for Aristotle's concept of virtuous acts. For example, a man has a desire to be wealthy and to be single. He can become both if his wife were to somehow die. He then deliberates on the possible actions that will result in his becoming both rich and single. The result of his decision will determine whether he becomes a murderer or not. Thus even if a person has never developed a respect for moral ends once he has deliberated on the best actions he still has the opportunity to improve his own virtue by choosing not to commit murder.

So we can see that in Aristotle's view virtue is not knowledge, though knowledge particularly of good ends is necessary in order to become virtuous. But, our search is for an understanding of the concept of dualism. Training involves the development of neural structures that automatically result in actions determined by the inputs to the structures. In the case of Aristotelian virtue ethics it is involved in the developments of structures which result in dispositions to act in specific ways. But choice itself is not a disposition. It is a deliberative act. There is nothing automatic about it. Choice requires knowledge concerning future outcomes determined through knowledge of past outcomes. In an Aristotelian sense, particularly as developed by Aquinas, this involves an entity that is disconnected from the body. All inputs to the body are through the senses and they do not react to time. Even memory does not involve time. Time is a relationship between events and an abstract periodicity. This requires an entity that is outside the body and its sensual system. If we see it this way then we can see that it is this entity that actually is responsible for developing moral excellence through training.

Descartes' dualism includes some aspects taken from Aristotle. For example he too said that imagination is a bodily function but that the mind imagines. He brought out another important point when he discussed the actions of the passions. These were activities entirely bodily in nature that did not involve the mind or thinking. His detailed explanation of this mechanism might seem strange to our more modern view of human physiology and psychology, but it does answer the question of automatic responses that would be acceptable to someone who lived in the seventeenth century and therefore assumed the world to be mechanically connected. He did not get into the problem of the development of these functions.

We must be wary of another problem with the Cartesian concept of mind or soul as being separate from the body. Modern philosophers call this the problem of the Cartesian theater. This is the idea that the mind, or soul, is located at a specific point in the brain and from that judgement seat manipulates the body. Descartes tried to solve a problem that both Aristotle and Aquinas ignored. That was the problem that if everything that moved had to be pushed then there had to be a mechanical explanation for every action. For this reason Descartes found it necessary to seat the mind or soul in what he called the pineal gland, a small gland inside the brain. However, when he made the soul or mind incorporeal he said that it was not extended in space, thus it could not be located anywhere. However, this paradox is simply an artifact of the assumption of a totally mechanical universe and has nothing to do with dualism, so we can safely set that idea aside.

Though John Locke did not directly confront the problem of dualism, his concept of particular objects forming simple ideas and of perceptions being always of actual things requires something in which these perceptions must exist. Through the senses alone it is not possible to detect things. They only interact with what Locke called secondary qualities of objects. This led Hume and most subsequent philosophers to reject Locke's "ideas." However, these "ideas" are the equivalent of the modern connectionist structures which automatically respond to objects in experience. This means that they are the result of training. They are also physical, being patterns of neural connections. Therefore there is nothing mysterious about them. They also correspond to Aristotle's concept of imagination. They respond to the objects they are trained to identify, and they create images in the mind of the same things when we contemplate their existence. All epistemology that begins with the Humean approach to perception deals with the possibility of knowledge of external objects through an analysis of direct sensual awareness. If we see that awareness as not of sensory stimulation, but of objects in the environment we have created structures to recognize, then awareness takes on a completely different, and very Lockean appearance. We now have a physical mechanism through which the ideas of John Locke become direct representations of objects in our environment. But this not only backs up Locke, it also backs up the Cartesian-Aristotelian idea that what they called imagination, the image creating mechanism that responds to the senses is physical, it is part of the body.

Does this help us to understand the sources of our knowledge? To begin with this makes Locke's complex ideas, the ideas of secondary qualities that we derive from analyzing the simple ideas of our imaging function, simply a crude version of Kant. We can say this because we have bridged the problem of transcendentalism. The point is that knowledge can not be derived from training. Training, in the sense of building connectionist structures, operates only on appearances. At the same time, connectionist structures play a very important role in the survival of man. As I said back in chapter 7, a prehistoric man facing a charging saber-toothed tiger, or a modern man facing a careening out of control automobile both have the same problem. They must react immediately. There is no time for judgement. The mind is simply too slow. If man did not have the capability of immediate action without mental consideration, he would have been extinct long ago. As Locke explained perception, it is an immediate connection between sensation and a pre-established judgement. The judgement must already exist, having been developed through previous experience, through training. Then and only then can the mind arrive at the perception. This makes sense if you consider that the first time you experience something it takes a period of time before you realize exactly what it is you have perceived. It has an advantage over Descartes in that by including in the description elements formed from previous experience, it illustrates the Lockean dependence on both experience and learning. Lockean ideas have always seemed to be occult fantasies to many philosophers. However, from a connectionist perspective we can see that Lockean ideas are simply the outputs from connectionist structures. This means that they are the result of training. Locke then said that we develop complex ideas of things by analyzing these ideas, by applying mental operations to them. This requires again an entity that is separate from the structures themselves.

However, before I give the impression that I am suggesting the existence of a Cartesian spiritual mind that is in some way an incorporeal substance, I would like to turn to a different way of looking at reality.

Dualism