restricted access Chapter 2: Non-Cartesian Substance Dualism
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48 Non-Cartesian Substance Dualism E. J. Lowe Non-Cartesian substance dualism is a position in the philosophy of mind concerning the nature of the mind-body relation—or, more exactly , the person-body relation. It maintains that this is a relationship between two distinct, but not necessary separable, individual substances , in the sense of ‘individual substance’ according to which this term denotes a persisting, concrete object or bearer of properties, capable of undergoing change in respect of at least some of those properties as time passes. When such an object undergoes such a change, it undergoes a change of state, for a state of an object consists in its possession of some property at a time, or during a period of time. Using a more traditional terminology, we may speak of these states as modes of the object or individual substance in question.1 As we shall see, non-Cartesian substance dualism differs from its more familiar cousin, Cartesian substance dualism, with regard to the class of modes that it considers persons—as opposed to their bodies—to be capable of possessing. Therefore, it takes a different view concerning what kind of individual substance a person—or, more generally , a subject of experience—should be taken to be. More precisely, 2 Non-Cartesian Substance Dualism   49 whereas Cartesian substance dualism takes subjects of experience to be necessarily immaterial and indeed nonphysical substances, nonCartesian substance dualism does not insist on this. As we shall also see, this distinctive feature of non-Cartesian substance dualism gives it certain advantages over Cartesian dualism, without compelling it to forfeit any of the intuitive appeal that attaches to its more traditional rival. 1. The Self as a Psychological Substance The view that I wish to defend in this essay is that a human person, conceived as a subject of mental states, must be regarded as a substance of which those states are modes—and yet not as a biological substance: not, that is, as a living organism of any kind, even though a human person’s body is clearly just such an organism. What sort of substance, then? Quite simply, a psychological substance. More specifically , a person, in my view, is a substantial individual belonging to a natural kind which is governed by distinctively psychological laws, with the consequence that individuals of this kind possess persistence conditions which are likewise distinctively psychological in character. However, saying just this about persons is consistent with regarding a person as being something like a Cartesian ego or soul— and this is a position from which I expressly wish to distance myself. The distinctive feature of the Cartesian conception of a psychological substance is that such a substance is regarded as possessing only mental characteristics, not physical ones. And this is largely why it is vulnerable to certain skeptical arguments to be found in the writings of numerous philosophers during the past three hundred years, including Locke and Kant. The burden of those arguments is that if psychological substances—by which the proponents of the arguments mean immaterial ‘souls’ or ‘spirits’—are the real subjects of mental states, then for all I know the substance having ‘my’ thoughts today is not numerically identical with the substance that had ‘my’ thoughts yesterday. The lesson of this is taken to be that—on pain of having to countenance the possibility that my existence is very much more ephemeral than I care to believe—I had better not identify­ myself with the psychological substance, if any, that is currently having ‘my’ thoughts, or currently ‘doing the thinking in me.’ But if I am 50  E. J. Lowe not a psychological substance, then it seems gratuitous even to suppose that such substances exist. Certainly, their existence cannot be established by the Cartesian cogito. But why should we suppose, with Descartes, that psychological substances must be essentially immaterial? Descartes believed this because he held a conception of substance according to which each distinct kind of substance has only one principal ‘attribute,’ which is peculiar to substances of that kind, such that all of the states of any individual substance of this kind are modes of this unique and exclusive attribute.2 In the case of psychological or mental substances, the attribute is supposed to be thought, whereas in the case of physical or material substances, the attribute is supposed to be extension. On this view, no psychological substance can possess a mode of extension , nor any physical substance a mode of thought. However...