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Last year I took a philosophy class, and when we began talking about the mind-body problem I immediately thought about sleep paralysis. I feel like it's a pretty good support for the idea of the mind being separate from the body because although the mind is awake and working, the body fails to respond for extended periods of time. Basically, I'm asking for you guys to counter my argument so that I can dive a bit deeper into this. Any ideas?

  • Questions soliciting opinions are off-topic here, even though this is a solid philosophical query. You might tweak it just a bit to ask if any philosophers have considered this possibility --or to ask how a philosopher who rejects dualism might respond to this scenario. – Chris Sunami Oct 7 '15 at 16:20
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    @ChrisSunami Loptr's not asking for an opinion, but an analysis of the claim. It would be easier if Loptr provided a detailed argument, but I don't see this as being opinionated. – R. Barzell Oct 7 '15 at 16:21
  • During sleep paralysis, your eyes and ears still work, you still breathe, etc. You may not be able to open your eyes, but you can look around, you may not be able to take a full breath at will, but you can control the rhythm of your breathing, etc. Only the large voluntary muscles are paralysed, and only partially, exactly like when you are dreaming. So I don't see how this is any better test case for mind-vs-body questions than REM sleep. – jobermark Oct 7 '15 at 18:21
  • Look at a similar Floating Man thought experiment by Avicenna. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floating_man He uses sensory deprivation instead of sleep paralysis, and argues that a sense deprived man is still self-aware, and hence soul is severable from a body. It runs into the same problems as yours. – Conifold Oct 7 '15 at 22:47
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Your argument seems to be...

  1. The mind can only be part of the body if it can control the body
  2. During sleep paralysis the mind cannot control the body
  3. Therefore, the mind is not part of the body

Premise (1) is false. That alone causes the argument to fall apart.

Premise (2) is false. I've had numerous instances of sleep "paralysis" and it is possible to control the body; it's just very difficult. If you really focus hard and try to lift a finger or toe, you will do so and will snap out of it. You might as well argue that the mind cannot be part of the body because it's hard to move your limbs when you are tired.

To look at your argument another way, take the analogy of a car. Your steering wheel, gas and brake control the car, and they are a part of it. Yet if the connections from these components to the wheels, engine, etc... are severed, they will fail to control the car. Do you then argue that these are not part of the car because they could be severed?

Also, to beat this mind-body dualism dead horse, what about what happens to the mind when the body is damaged? For instance, if one were hit hard on the head, one would lose consciousness. How do you claim mind body dualism when the mind ceases upon damage to the body? Do you claim that the mind is separate, yet dependent upon the body? Is such a position even coherent?

  • Thank you, this was a very interesting answer. I'll keep thinking about this. – Loptr Oct 7 '15 at 16:54

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