Sunday, March 25, 2018

Mind and Physicalism

Image result for Metacrock's blog

Physicalism is the ideology taking the place of naturalism,materialism, and other such assumptions. It is a metaphysical assumption but skeptics and atheists are treating it like the gospel.In this blog piece I will examine a couple of arguments I make about the contradictory nature of physicalism. I will point to some of the most accepted arguments against it but I will focus upon my own ideas. This is mainly because I have not yet read the books I'm going to suggest you read.

Daniel Stoljar,  defines physicalism:

Physicalism is the thesis that everything is physical, or as contemporary philosophers sometimes put it, that everything supervenes on the physical. The thesis is usually intended as a metaphysical thesis, parallel to the thesis attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Thales, that everything is water, or the idealism of the 18th Century philosopher Berkeley, that everything is mental. The general idea is that the nature of the actual world (i.e. the universe and everything in it) conforms to a certain condition, the condition of being physical. Of course, physicalists don't deny that the world might contain many items that at first glance don't seem physical — items of a biological, or psychological, or moral, or social nature. But they insist nevertheless that at the end of the day such items are either physical or supervene on the physical.[1]

Professor Eric Sotnak says: "I'm open to the possibility that non-physical realities of some sort might exist. But physicalism has been really successful as a methodological assumption in the sciences."[2] True, bit we be careful not to confuse the methodology with the underlying metaphysical assumptions. Most of what science has achieved in modernity was not achieved by people who assumed that "everything is phyiscal." Many of those discoveries were made by people like Newton, Boyle, Priestly, Maxwell, Faraday, who assumed that God is pure spirit and the basis upon which all physical reality exists. 

People assume the metaphysical assumption is part of the whole, thus part of the success of science. But really what else could science do? Science is only capable of dealing with empirical data, it can only find physical things. It can't deal with anything else so saying that the assumption of physicalism shares in the success of science is like saying we can safely rule out the existence of on non-metallic objects underground because metal detectors are so successful at finding metal objects.

When we examine the concept of saying that reality is limited to just physical things we find confusion and contradiction. Take the definition of physical,. What does it mean to say a thing is physical? Let's consult Websters:


Definition of physical
: of or relating to natural scienceb (1) : of or relating to physics (2) : characterized or produced by the forces and operations of physics2a : having material existence : perceptible especially through the senses and subject to the laws of nature
everything physical is measurable by weight, motion, and resistance —Thomas De Quincey: of or relating to material things3a : of or relating to the body 
physical abuseb (1) : concerned or preoccupied with the body and its needs : carnal physical appetites(2) : sexual a physical love affairphysical attractionc : characterized by especially rugged and forceful physical activity : rough [3]

We can rule out b because it doesn't apply. Much in "a" is recursive. For example "of or relating to natural science b (1) : of or relating to physics " The physical is what we study in physics, and physics is abouit the physical. Very helpful. The most sensible thing we take from this definition is the line "having material existence. " Now we may be getting some place but there is a problem with material existence. We can't really say what it is. For example the dictionary expands upon material existence by saying "perceptible especially through the senses and subject to the laws of nature." Sub atomic particles are not perceptible through the senses and they don't seem to be subject to the laws of nature since they pop in and out of existence. Moreover if I could see a spirit and it obeyed certain natural laws would that make it material even though it would be a spirit?

Just as the term physical is ambiguous and can be tautological so the same can be said for the term "exists." 

....in mathematics, we can meaningfully say that the complex numbers exist, but their properties are not physical properties. Thus, the statement "to exist is to have physical properties" is certainly not true in a mathematical context.Let us then refine the statement to read as follows: "to physically exist is to have physical properties." If we define physical properties to mean the properties of entities that physically exist, then the statement appears to be a tautology, and there is no sense in which it is not true.However, whether or not something physically exists or has certain physical properties depends on the context. For example, we can meaningfully say that intrinsic angular momentum of the electron (i.e., its spin) is a physical property of an electron in the context of quantum field theory. But no such property is But no such property is well-defined in the context of classical mechanics. [4]

It seems that if we examine the nature of these cases we almost have to invent a special category for non material existence. Complex numbers are one example, subatomic particles are another, Virtual particles don't have a real existence, the are not concrete or tangible and seem to "exist: only in so far as the perimeters of quantum theory makes them plausible.[5][6] It's not enough to criticize concepts of the physical. physicalists couch their support for the doctrine in terms of a default status,since as they allege they can't find a good reason to accept non physical existence, "Physicalism is a view generally adopted by default. Few people go through the arguments for and against the view. As it turns out, the arguments in favor of physicalism are not very persuasive."[7] As Sotnak puts it, "Show me compelling evidence for non-physical realities and give me a compelling account of how they should be integrated into the rest of science and I'm willing to listen.."[8]

I find the arguments that mind is not reducible to brain to be compelling enough to suspect that there might be some form of non physical reality. I have traced those arguments at length in a two part series posted last week on this blog. [9] I wont go over all of that again sine it was posted so recently, That in itself is a good reason but there is more to it than that. The physicalists are dealing with mind in the from of "mental states," at least Sotnak is at any rate: "So to return to the original claim of your two posts (that there can be brainless minds): I have yet to see any compelling reasons for me to think that there are any mental states that have no physical basis at all."[Ibid]. 


I do not argue that our own mental states have no physical basis at all. I have no problem handling the supervenience of mind upon the physical even granting my religions faith because supervenience is not synonymous with reduction of mind to brain. I don't know of anyone else who argues that human mental states have no psychical basis at all. The problem is we are not merely dealing with our own mental states. At the back of his topic,indeed what set off the discussion in the first place,is the notion of God as the basis of mind. God is not just possessed of mental states, but is the basis of mind itself. Of course as creator of all Go transcends any laws of nature.

The position  that God is the basis of mind can be arrived at in a couple of ways, since God created all that is, God is the basis of everything and mind would be included. As the basis of reality, the ground of being  God is universal mind. This is a matter of logic given the basic attributes and God's super-essential nature.  Clearance Edwin Rolt explains the meaning
God, on the other hand, is Supra-Personal because He is infinite. He is not one Being among others, but in His ultimate nature dwells on a plane where there is nothing whatever beside Himself. The only kind of consciousness we may attribute to Him is what can but be described as an Universal Consciousness. He does not distinguish Himself from us; for were we caught up on to that level we should be wholly transformed into Him. And yet we distinguish between ourselves and Him because from our lower plane of finite Being we look up and see that ultimate level beyond us. The Super-Essential Godhead is, in fact, precisely that which modern philosophy describes as the Absolute. Behind the diversities of this world there must be an Ultimate Unity. And this Ultimate Unity must contain in an undifferentiated condition all the riches of consciousness, life, and existence which are dispersed in broken fragments throughout the world. Yet It is not a particular Consciousness or a particular Existence. It is certainly not Unconscious, Dead or, in the ordinary sense, non-Existent, for all these terms imply something below instead of above the states to which they are opposed.[10]
One can derive belief in God as super personal or universal mind through a logical extension of the doctrines of God. This is illustrated by what I just said in the doctrine of God's creatorhood, which leads to an understanding of  God's super essential nature. To that extend then any argument for God's existence backs the notion and necessitates mind as transcendent of the physical realm. Indeed God is the author of the physical realm. So human minds, because they are biologically based, supervene  upon the physical. But the physical supervene's upon God's mind. Really since God is the basis of mind we should say not that God has a mind but that God is mind itself. On the Cadre blog this week I preset two of my God arguments that  by their naturally God is personal.In addition to this kind of reason one can extrapolate from the irreduceability of consciousness to brain chemistry to God as transcendent mind. 

One can also deduce from  empirical experience of the religious kind, or mystical experience, the personal nature of God. So we have the implication of doctrine, arguments for God's existence, empirical experience of God's love, and extrapolation from the irreducible nature of consciousness. We might also make a proper basically argument that might spin-off of the acceptance of doctrine.


Be sure and read the two God arguments on Cadre



Sources

[1]Daniel Stoljar,"Physicalism",The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.) https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win ... hysicalism

(accessed 3/22/2018)

[2] Eric Sotnak, Comment, "Brailess Mimd part 2" Comment Section, Metacrock's Blog (March 15,2018)

http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2018/03/brainless-mind-part-2.html
(accessed 3/22/2018)

[3] "Physical," Webseters online Dictionary, no date,

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/physical?src=search-dict-box
(accessed 3/22/2018)

[4] 
Tom McFarlane, "To Exist is to have Physical Properties," Quora, ()
https://www.quora.com/To-exist-is-to-ha ... t-NOT-true (accessed 3/22/2018) 

[5] VPs

[6] "What Exact;y is a Photon," Physics Stack Exchange (April 2017)
https://physics.stackexchange.com/quest ... s-a-photon
(accessed 3/22/2018)


[7] 
Bruce P. Blackshaw, "The Case Against Physicalism: What is Physicalism?" The Philosophical Apologist, Website, (June, 2016)
https://philosophicalapologist.com/2016 ... ysicalism/
(accessed 3/22/2018)

[8] Sotnak Op Cit 


[9] Joseph Hinman, "Mind is not reducible to brain, pat 1. Metacrock's Blog
part 2 posted March 20, 2018


[10] Clearance Edwin Rolt,  "Translator's Introduction," Dionysius the Areopagite: on Divine names and the Mystical Theology, trans. Clearance Edwin Rolt , New YorkNew York: Cosmio 2007, from original 1920 publication.  see also online versionChristian Classics Ethereal Library, on line version, The Author and his Influence, trans by, 1920  website URL:  by http://www.ccel.org/ccel/rolt/dionysius.iii.i.html
visited May 13,

Rolt died at thirty-seven and this was his only book, but he had been hailed as one of the finest scholars ever produced by Queens College. I've done a blog post on super-essential Godead:
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/02/the-super-essential-godhead-god-is.html




15 comments:

ZgermanGuy said...

Am i correct to assume that your next book will be ablut the mind? If so when does dt come out?

Joe Hinman said...

My next book is called God. Science, and Ideology. The thesis: science is a valid tool for human understanding but it;s being used as an ideological tool for propaganda by several ideologies that all travel of the rue-brick of "scientism." Those include New atheism, tras-humanism and evolutionary psychology,I have chapters on various issues such as the mind, existence of God can science disprove God? the supernatural and so on.

Hopping to go to press this summer.

Ryan M said...

Don't poison the well by using "Physicalism" to denote a hypothesis in metaphysics AND a sort of ideological position that implies the truth of the metaphysical hypothesis. When you do this, you make it seem as if many well respected philosophers are no different than the average atheist posting on blogs.

For definitions of "Physicalism", I would advise that you proceed with caution when using dictionary definitions. Dictionary definitions very often do not line up with how philosophers define terms. For example, from the SEP article you cited, we can find a definition of Physicalism that does not line up with your dictionary ones:

1. Physicalism is true at a possible world W if and only if any world which is a physical duplicate of W is a duplicate of W simpliciter.

You language by philosophers doesn't line up with the language or ordinary folk.

7th Stooge said...

For 1. to be a definition, it would have to include a definition of the word "physical."

Ryan M said...

"For 1. to be a definition, it would have to include a definition of the word "physical.""

This would be like saying "For 1 to be a definition, it must include a definition of the word "world". Definitions do not require an exhausted list of each term provided in them.

Regardless of 1 including a definition of "Physical", it is still a definition since it explains what criteria must be met for physicalism to be true.

Also, it seems you missed my point, or more likely you avoided it to find something you thought you could attack. My points were that; 1. Joe ought not poison the well against physicalism, 2. Joe ought to consistently use definitions from the relevant authorities (So, do not use the SEP for one definition but then use lay definitions for the other ones).

If I had to guess, I'd guess that Joe did not use SEP definitions after the first one since they are technical and as a result neither easy to understand nor easy to attack.

Mike Gerow said...

Carl Hempel (cf. Hempel 1969, see also Crane and Mellor 1990) provided a classic formulation of this problem [of defining the physical]: if physicalism is defined via reference to contemporary physics, then it is false — after all, who thinks that contemporary physics is complete? — but if physicalism is defined via reference to a future or ideal physics, then it is trivial — after all, who can predict what a future physics contains? Perhaps, for example, it contains even mental items. The conclusion of the dilemma is that one has no clear concept of a physical property, or at least no concept that is clear enough to do the job that philosophers of mind want the physical to play. .
SEP article

....the SEP article itself takes up the point of the difficuly of defining "physical", and puts 7th's objection (as I understand it) a bit more more tightly too.

I also think it's clear that Joe was discussing the populist spin on "physicalism" as found out there on the internet, moreso than the pro-philosophy version.

Mike Gerow said...

Joe, I think a theological point to explicate - even if consciousness as an extent thing in the universe does point to some echo of consciousness being implicit in the ground of being - might be whether or not our extremely limited form of consciousness would be a particularly interesting thing to a supra-conscious, transpersonal, omniscient being? Our way of being is singular, limited by time, space and sensory apparatus, incapable of participating directly with any other subjectivity. God's being, as you always point out, would be much wider and vaster, and we would seem quite close to insensate rocks in comparison to that.

So, a colloquial question that gets at what I mean might be, what are angels like? (If there are such things.) Are they also singular and limited beings with limited egos, with God being the only being to experience transpersonal realities, or are they less limited, transpersonal entities themselves that are closer in essence to God?

Mind boggling!

Ya dig what I'm tryin to say? :-o

Joe Hinman said...

Don't poison the well by using "Physicalism" to denote a hypothesis in metaphysics AND a sort of ideological position that implies the truth of the metaphysical hypothesis. When you do this, you make it seem as if many well respected philosophers are no different than the average atheist posting on blogs.

thanks Ryan,m excellent advice.That's why I used Scientism as the catch all term fro my dislikes rather than physicalism

For definitions of "Physicalism", I would advise that you proceed with caution when using dictionary definitions. Dictionary definitions very often do not line up with how philosophers define terms. For example, from the SEP article you cited, we can find a definition of Physicalism that does not line up with your dictionary ones:

1. Physicalism is true at a possible world W if and only if any world which is a physical duplicate of W is a duplicate of W simpliciter.

You language by philosophers doesn't line up with the language or ordinary folk.

All good advice.I;ve ran into believers in God who have a form of physicalism. I know there is reductive and non reductive.

Joe Hinman said...

Mike Gerow said...
Carl Hempel (cf. Hempel 1969, see also Crane and Mellor 1990) provided a classic formulation of this problem [of defining the physical]: if physicalism is defined via reference to contemporary physics, then it is false — after all, who thinks that contemporary physics is complete?


Now he tells me Well I guess I didn't ask,

Joe Hinman said...

Mike Gerow said...
Joe, I think a theological point to explicate - even if consciousness as an extent thing in the universe does point to some echo of consciousness being implicit in the ground of being - might be whether or not our extremely limited form of consciousness would be a particularly interesting thing to a supra-conscious, transpersonal, omniscient being? Our way of being is singular, limited by time, space and sensory apparatus, incapable of participating directly with any other subjectivity. God's being, as you always point out, would be much wider and vaster, and we would seem quite close to insensate rocks in comparison to that.

good point Mike I think anyone who has read widely in the mystical consciousnesses can understand the dilemma, but cant talk about it. Regardless of how advanced God is,which is obvious, doesn't mean God doesn't care,

7th Stooge said...

I agree that Joe shouldn't combine meanings just to make a point. My point was that 1. seems to be more a condition to be met than a definition. A definition of the word "world" is available, and in any event isn't as crucial to understanding the word "physicalism" as "physical" is. Aside from polemics, does anyone have a definition of the word "physical"?

Joe Hinman said...

I gave a definition of the word physical in my post.I actually could not find a scientific definition so I used one from Websters.

7th Stooge said...

Not the philosophical definition.

Joe Hinman said...

I could not find a philosophical one,

a friend who teaches philosophy at Biola, ha good point: Physicality located in the third dimension of space/time in which we live. So he would understand it in spacial terms.

7th Stooge said...

So time and space wouldn't be physical concepts?