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Monday, May 11, 2009


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Bill, you could also be interested in David Oderberg's case against the emergence of life from non-life in his Real Essentialism, ch. 8.3. http://books.google.cz/books?id=gO_40ZwgdkMC


Thanks for the reference!

I think the arguments against some style of panspychism are weak. Typically they reduce to making the facile claim that things like water clearly don't have minds. However the stronger panpsychic view is that there are elements of proto-consciousness in the universe but these constitutents are not like minds as we conceive of them. Rather they have properties out of which minds can emerge without the radical emergence that folks like Lupu and others argue for. (Rather implausibly in my mind)

The strongest argument for panpsychism is that it only demands unknown constitutent properties, doesn't have the failings of substance dualism, and isn't just a cop out for some desired end the way emergence is.


Your comment is off-topic. The topic is emergentism, not panpsychism. Comments should address the content of the post and nothing else. Please don't leave comments like this. And saying that emergence is a "cop out" is a silly thing to say.

But you are right that the panpsychist is not committed to maintaining that every macro-object exhinits mentality.

Hi Bill,

Nice post. For my part, I find the 'poof' objection rather compelling. In the absence of some fairly detailed explanatory account of how a given mental state (token or type)can emerge from a given physical state (token or type), talk of emergence reminds me of the cartoon in which a mathematician inserts "... then a miracle occurs ..." in the middle of a complex proof.

Hasker's book is worth reading. While his defense of emergence does't satisfy me, he does have an interesting analogy to offer. He compares the emergence of a mental self to the emergence of a magnetic field. The field nomically supervenes upon and emerges from the electric current flowing through a wire, and it seems to have causal powers in its own right (e.g., it can deflect a compass needle).

Hi Alan,

I am aware of the cartoon you mention, and its seems quite apropos when people like Dennett speak diachronically of free will or intentionality evolving or emerging.

In the synchronic case, if there are laws that bridge the mental and the physical, would that not defeat the 'poof' objection? If the laws were mere Humean regularities, then I agree (with Nagel) that the 'poof' objection remains in force. But if the laws were of a stronger form, mightn't that defeat the objection? That is what Van Cleve seems to be saying. I'm not clear on the matter.

I recall that example of Hasker's. It is a good one. The field is clearly dependent on the current flowing through the wire, but it is a particular not a property, and its has causal powers all its own.

But if it is the nature of mind to be emergent in that way, then how can Hasker, consistently with that, believe in a God who is a nonemergent mind?

Bill, you're welcome.

Another tip on emergence I remember:

Tim McG at W4, in the comments: http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2008/12/an_open_letter_to_heather_macd.html

Sorry about that Bill. Mea Culpa.

Bill, you write:

"For a property of a whole to count as truly emergent it would seem that its connection to the properties of the parts of the whole would have to be logically contingent. "

I am not so sure that definition serves as a rigorous definition. According to a physical theory like chaos theory -- butterfly wings in China leading to a storm in Tennessee -- a small change in initial state can lead mathematically (and/or logically if you will) to a final state of periodic orbits. But a periodic orbit seems to be an epistemological emergent property.

The development of life from DNA is logically emergent isn't it? Life's connection to the DNA part of the whole is logically and/or (i.e., scientifically) consistent (and despite the facts we don't know, e.g., the creation of a phenotype, etc.)

It doesn't matter how small the item of life is either. A one celled organism is simpler than Man, but we can point to it and call it living.

It is interesting to me that defining emergent properties is so fiendishly difficult -- how do you define life? -- yet we know it when we see it, with finality like Bishop Berkeley’s rock.

Perhaps an emergent property can only be defined post facto -- we know it when we see it, and that too is a property of true emergent property.

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