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I Am A Mind-Body Dualist, But I Think It Applies To All Species Equally, Not Just Humans

Troodon Roar

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Feb 12, 2017
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Why does it seem to me as if many dualists are human exceptionalists, who believe that only humans have an immortal soul, and all other species don’t? Even René Descartes, who famously proposed dualism, believed that non-human species were not even conscious because, in his view, they did not have souls.
Meanwhile, many who reject human exceptionalism, and think of humans as just another species of animal, are materialists who think the mind is a product of the brain.

Well, I am a mind-body dualist who thinks that humans are just another species of animal, and they are not unique. I think that any conscious being has a soul. In fact, I use dualism to argue that it is plausible that different species, despite having such vastly different bodies and brains, have much more similar minds. In other words, I speculate that there is no such thing as a “human soul” or a “chicken soul”. A soul doesn’t intrinsically have a species identity, any more than it intrinsically has a particular height or eye color. The soul of a human and the soul of a chicken are both just souls. One of them just happens to be inhabiting a human body, while the other happens to be inhabiting a chicken body.

Therefore, under such a framework of species-neutral dualism, it becomes plausible that non-human species are just as “intelligent” as humans, and have all of the same mental abilities that are usually considered unique to humans, such as reasoning, abstract thought, logic, imagination, creativity, etc. Meanwhile, ironically, materialism could easily be used to support the idea that humans are special, since a materialist could point to some feature of the human brain and claim that it explains why humans alone have a given mental ability.

According to my view, the fact that other species cannot communicate with humans for anatomical reasons has led humans to mistakenly assume that they are not capable of reason, and, thus, humans alone are special as the only rational animals. But absence of external behavioral signs of human-like mental abilities does not mean that those mental abilities do not exist. In fact, according to my view, the brain and the rest of the body are like the tools that the mind, or soul, uses to manifest its mental states physically. The fact that other species behave differently from humans, then, is no wonder, since their bodies (which the mind uses to manifest itself physically) are so different from those of humans. But this does not mean that the mind, or soul, itself is different.

Why does my view seem so uncommon? In fact, I think that, subconsciously, the reason many people reject evolution is because they are threatened by the implication that humans are just another species of animal, and, therefore, have no soul, and, thus, no possibility of an afterlife, just like the other animals. However, this depressing conclusion does not necessarily follow from the fact that humans are just another animal.
These people assume, as an axiom, that non-human species cannot have souls that can survive the deaths of their bodies. But there is no reason for this axiom. It is merely an assumption, a relic of the old days of humans being exceptional because only they are made in the image of God and all that jazz.

Yes, humans are just another species of animal, that evolved from other animals. But so what? What if this fact is no threat to the idea of the soul and the afterlife, because what if other species have immortal souls, as well? It is possible to reject the depressing, specisist dogma of human exceptionalism, and embrace all species as being equal, without embracing the depressing, self-contradictory dogma of materialism, and allow for the possibility of an afterlife.
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Impressive debut. Welcome to the forum.
I like your holism, and this: "the depressing, self-contradictory dogma of materialism" is right on!
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