Lycan's four objections to substance dualism
Josh Hickok, on Pretentious Apologetics, responds to four objections to substance dualism by William Lycan. Interestingly enough, Lycan himself seems to have moved away from a strong commitments to the objections to substance dualism, now claiming that they are overrated. However, Keith Parsons gave those arguments against dualism in our Philosophia Christi exchange in 2003, and I responded to those objections as follows: "Some Supernatural Reasons Why My Critics are Wrong", Philosophia Christi vol. 5. no. 1 (2003).
Lycan argues that Cartesian minds do not fit with out otherwise physical and scientific picture of the world and that they are not needed to explain any known phenomenon. But this argument seems to assume that my argument to the contrary is incorrect; if my argument is successful then we need something inherently rational to explain the existence of reason in the world. So simply to assert that we do not need souls to explain any known phenomenon is to beg the question against my argument, since my argument maintains that something nonmechanistic must explain our capacity to reason. And it is not the case that we know nothing about such a soul. We know, as a consequence of the argument, both that it is governed by reason and that reason reason can be a basic explanation for what it does.
Second, Lycan says that since human beings evolved over aeons by purely physical processes of random mutation and natural selection, it is anomalous to suppose that Mother Nature created Cartesian minds in addition to cells and physical organs. Again, this assumes a strong version of evolutionary imperialism that is certainly open to dispute. If my argument is successful, then the human mind could not have arisen through a purely physical process of mutation and natural selection, for, if it had, we would not have been able to discover that we arose through a purely physical process of mutation and natural selection. On the other hand, if theism is true, then it is hardly beyond the powers of Omnipotence to create souls or to give matter the capacity to generate souls.
Third, Lycan says that if minds are nonspatial, how can they interact with physical objects in space? First, I never said that souls were not in space, so I do not see why I have to take this objection seriously (unlike Descartes, who explicitly denied the spatiality of souls). Second, I have never heard anyone argue that since God is not in space, God could not create the world (a causal interaction if there ever was one). So if this is a good argument against dualism, the atheists have been missing out on a good argument for atheism. But it certainly seems logically possible for something that is not in space to interact with something that is in space; the claim that it is impossible is all too often made as a bald assertion, without argumentative support.
The violation of conservation laws does not strike me as a serious problem either, because the laws of nature tell you what happens when nothing outside the system interferes with it. If we are thinking of the soul as outside the physical order, and conservation laws tell us what will happen within the physical order, then it does not violate those laws if something from the outside that order causes something to occur that would not have happened otherwise. The argument works only if physicalism is true, and thus begs the question.