Saturday, March 14, 2009

Matt Evans on Mind-Body Dualism in Plato's Phaedo

I heard NYU philosopher Matt Evans speak on "Mental Causes in Platoi's Phaedo" at a U of Michigan philosophy conference on Thursday. I enjoyed hearing what he had to say. The dialogue afterwards focused on whether Evans had interpreted Plato correctly. In that regard I am not a Phaedo scholar and was out of the dialogue. What interests me is Evans's idea that Plato gives a strong argument for mental causality in a world where such causality is increasingly questioned by philosophical materialists. Peter Railton was there taking in the conference. Railton is a great scholar and himself a materialist. His comments were directed towards understanding the Phaedo and not what he thought about the argument Evans presented.

There was a time when I was immersed in these kinds of conferences and dialogues. One thing I noticed and was reminded of was how humane and genteel the dialogue was. There was questioning and disagreement sans emotionalism. No one was freaking out. There were no ad hominem abusives. That's not always the case, as we see in some debates. Wittgenstein's poker was not used.
Hopefully Evans's book will come out soon. I think it will be important to all of us who argue for mental causality and mind-body dualism.

Evans said the main lesson from his talk was that, whether one is a substance dualist or a materialist, mental causality presents problems fo us all.