Substance and Selfhood
Lowe (E.J.)
Source: Lowe - Subjects of Experience, 1996, Chapter 2
Paper - Abstract

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Introduction (Full Text)

  1. Are persons substances or modes? The terminology in which this question is framed may seem archaic, but the problem itself is a live and important one.
  2. Two currently dominant views may be characterized as offering the following rival answers to this problem. According to the first view, persons are just biological substances. According to the second, persons are psychological modes of substances which, as far as human beings are concerned, happen to be biological substances, but which could in principle be non-biological.
  3. There is, however, also a third possible answer, and this is that persons are psychological substances. Such a view is inevitably associated with the name of Descartes, and this helps to explain its current unpopularity, since substantial dualism of his sort is now widely rejected as 'unscientific'.
  4. But one may, as I hope to show, espouse the view that persons are psychological substances without endorsing Cartesianism. This is because one may reject certain features of Descartes's conception of substance. Consequently, one may also espouse a version of substantial dualism which is distinctly non-Cartesian.
  5. One may hold that a person, being a psychological substance, is an entity distinct from the biological substance that is (in the human case) his or her body, and yet still be prepared to ascribe corporeal characteristics to this psychological substance1.
  6. By this account, a human person is to be thought of neither as a non-corporeal mental substance (a Cartesian mind), nor as the product of a mysterious 'union' between such a substance and a physical, biological substance (a Cartesian animal body). This is not to deny that the mind-body problem is a serious and difficult one, though it is to imply that there is a version of substantial dualism which does not involve regarding the 'mind' as a distinct substance in its own right.


In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Such a view has dose affinities with that advanced by P. F. Strawson in "Strawson (Peter) - Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics" (London: Methuen, 1959), ch. 3.

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