Mind/Body dualism What's the deal?

From: Russell Blackford (rblackford@hotmail.com)
Date: Wed Aug 15 2001 - 06:26:42 MDT

Helen said


>I was hoping somebody could help clear something up for me. I've just been
>looking at Max More's Phd thesis on self ownership, which I take is largley
>part of the extropian philosophy. He says that the mind/body dualsim should
>be usurped in favour of seeinng them as a whole, i.e. what effects the mind
>also effects the body. But a lot of you on the list want to finally upload
>your minds - in effect becoming disembodied. How do you work this
>contradition out? Anders, Natasha and More all seem to be suggesting the
>importance of the body to the self - but there are a majority of you who
>want to forget the body altogehther and upload. I'm confused.


So I say... this opens up a lot of questions.

However, some comments:

(1) Speaking for myself, I have no interest in being uploaded and have real
doubts about the pattern theory of identity, etc. To me, destructive
uploading sounds like a high-tech form of death. You'd find some others here
who share that view. It may even be the majority view.

My greater interest is in radical life extension through biotechnology. I
rather like my body; it just needs a good overhaul at the cellular level.
Sure, if we can take powerful new computational technology into ourselves,
well and good, but the immediate problem IMHO is to get the biotech to a
level enabling 40y.o.+ people like me to make it in reasonable shape to the
end of the new century. You'll see this priority reflected in my posts.

And you'll probably find a lot of varied priorities on a list such as this.

(2) Anyway, I don't see mind/body dualism as having anything to do with it.
There'll always have to be some kind of material, or at least physical,
substrate. Anyone who thinks you can run a conscious personality on a
computer substrate is probably some kind of materialist in his/her
philosophy of mind, or something awfully close to it. David Chalmers'
attenuated version of dualism is compatible with computer consciousness, but
*despite*, rather than because of, the dualistic element. The belief that
uploading is associated with mind/body dualism is one of the common and
important mistakes made by external commentators on transhumanist and
cyberpunk ideas. I hear it often from lazy literary academics who think they
can critique all these ideas with the banal insight that it is all Cartesian
dualism. Ho, hum. This is a metaphor in search of a concept. In your case,
though, thank you for seeking clarification, rather than rushing headlong

(3) Having said that, I am slightly less ferocious about point (2) than I
used to be (I once savaged Margaret Wertheim's _The Pearly Gates of
Cyberspace_ over this and other things), because I've come see that there is
an element of longing to escape bodily experience among *some*
transhumanists. Max More makes this point in one of his papers. Still, I
don't share any such longing and I don't see it in any of the important
thinkers. Nor do I see it in the cyberpunk fiction of, say, William Gibson.
People like Wertheim and the army of academic critics who think they
understand Gibson are *not* trustworthy on these issues.

Off topic, but glancing at your other e-mail, I'm damned if I know what to
make of Donna Haraway and other such "cyborg" or "posthuman" theorists. To
me, they're barking up the wrong tree, not realising that the important
issues for the new century relate to the *literal* possibilities of
enhancement, extreme longevity, etc. All this stuff about the cyborg as a
kind of analogue or symbol for the identity politics of feminism, gay rights
etc, is beside the point. Mind you, I am all in favour of social diversity,
experiments in living, etc, so I strongly support the "rights" ("rights
talk" is nonsense on stilts but reasonable shorthand here) of gays, polys
and so on. But that is within a worldview where I also want freedoms that
will enable radical enhancements of the body - quite literally.

Others can speak for themselves. I think I'm expressing one fairly common
transhumanist view, but I've found that there are a lot of views floating
around on this list that I don't share. So I'm no spokesman for the

Over to the list.



Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com/intl.asp

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Oct 12 2001 - 14:40:09 MDT