Greg Bahnsen & Substantival Monism?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Alexander, Aug 6, 2017.

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  1. Alexander

    Alexander Puritan Board Freshman

    I used to be a physicalist. For those that do not know, physicalists believe that there is no immaterial aspect to man. I also was incredibly put off by the Cartesian Dualism that it seems many Christians hold to. I heard of an alternative... Substantival Monism as held to by Greg Bahnsen. I read his article on it but am still confused on what it is and how it differs from Dualism. Anyone care to explain?
  2. Claudiu

    Claudiu Puritan Board Junior

    It's been years since my undergraduate studies when I dealt with this in a more meaningful way. I'll read Bahnsen's article tomorrow, refresh myself on the topic, and get back to you soon.
  3. Claudiu

    Claudiu Puritan Board Junior

    Alexander, I read the following article by Greg Bahnsen on Substantival Monism (which I assume is the one you are referring to in the OP): Bahnsen is not the simplest writer, but the article outlines some of his refutations against the main alternatives to substantival monism. Below are some quotes from the article and then my input.

    Dualism, or the "ghost in the machine" perspective, holds that man is composed of two substances, a material body and an immaterial mind (or soul, spirit, heart, etc.). Bahnsen's substantival monism, on the other hand, posits that instead of attributing immateriality to the mind (or soul, spirit, etc.) we can correctly speak of the mind as just being a different feature of our body. Hence, under substantival monism, as in physicalism, man is composed of just the material body (this would include the material mind), which is what we find in Bahnsen's quote above.

    Bahnsen goes on further to open up what he means by man being "a material body which is special for reason of its capabilities." These capabilities include features dualism normally attributes to an immaterial mind: intelligence and morality. In the article Bahnsen further opens up, using Wittgenstein, the word games we employ to describe different features of this human body. Example: when someone experiences pain we say "he is in pain" rather than "his body is in pain." Here, we are referring to the totality of the human, and not one feature in particular. However, it is correct, Bahnsen argues, to use language to refer to particular features of man as either just body or mind. Example: when speaking of intelligence, we call that the mind, and not the body. Here, Bahnsen is in agreement with dualism in the use of language to differentiate between the different features of the body. However, he parts ways when dualism not only employs different categories for these features, but different substances as well. For Bahnsen, while the language of the dualist is correct, the metaphysical appropriation of these words is incorrect. (Mind is still technically body, ontologically, for Bahnsen, and not a separate entity. However, Bahnsen still wants to preserve the precision in our language when differentiating the features).

    This is where I think Bahnsen's argument is the weakest (I wish he would say more, especially the underlined part). I think a crucial argument dualists make in the Judeo-Christian worldview is in regards to the personal identity of a person in death, the intermediate state, and the afterlife. Historically, Christian dualists have argued that the natural condition for man is a material body and immaterial soul. Death is unnatural in that a separation between the body and soul takes place. However, the hope of the resurrection is the reestablishment of mans natural condition in an even better state. Namely, the soul being reunited to an incorruptible, glorified body. Here, while Bahnsen highlights what death means under substantival monism, he does not say much about the intermediate state.

    What are the implications, if any, of substantival monism on:
    Sheol in general? (Luke 16)
    Numerous passages like Psalm 16:10?
    and 2 Corinthians 12:2–4?
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2017
  4. Joshua

    Joshua Administrator Staff Member

    As is evidenced by one subsequent response, coupled with my charitable surmising of said response, I can confidently answer in the affirmative to your question.
  5. Claudiu

    Claudiu Puritan Board Junior

    He strikes again!
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