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Friday, May 03, 2024

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Very helpful writing about something intuitively grasped, but difficult to explain analytically, or with the materialist lens. Thank you!
I am slowly digesting McGilchrist's The Master and His Emissary and I find its lens has helped me many times with these types of misconstruels, to parse out what thought is being attempted to articulate, and what 'substance' is being referred to. I've yet to ascertain McGilchrist's own granular notion of personhood, mind/brain dualism. I gather he's panentheist. I'm enjoying the book.
I wonder if you have already written or have an opinion regarding McGilchrist's work.
It took my plodding brain AND my mind 1/2 a morning, w/ interruptions, to make it through your post, but I did, and managed a comment too!

mharko,

Thanks for the reference to Gilchrist. No, I haven't read him. Does he discuss Julian Jayne's *The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind*?

Thank you for taking time with my latest Dennett piece. You will have noticed that online essays often include a specification of reading time. What an absurdity! That's proof positive of the hyperkinetic insanity of present-day society. No way anyone could understand my post in five minutes! The whole drift of our society is toward increasing thoughtlessness and inanity.

I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have about my post. It strikes me as clear, but if there is anything unclear or objectionable to you, I'll try to explain.

Yes he does refer to it, and discuss it, as a classic in the field. I would need to read the book twice to glean more of what's there, or to comment intelligently on that referent. I'm just over 1/2 way through its more than 500 pages, and it is heavily footnoted throughout, with an extensive bibliography and index. I was interested in reading "The Matter with Things" but figured I'd better start with the earlier, shorter book.
The only way I'm going to 'get stuff' is if i take the time necessary to hash it out, decode it to my own satisfaction. Even then, so much depends on the integrity of signal transmission, over which I exercise no influence. Hyperkinesis is not my gifting in things intellectual, though I arguably am better with things intuitive. The hyperkinetic character of our modern milieu is a self-licking ice cream cone in that it militates constantly against the vita contemplativa, and that is the arena I must pick and choose and manage my attentions and time. The "reading time" notice usually reminds me I should be doing something other than reading 'drive-by commentary'.
Nothing you wrote was objectionable to me, but I am not familiar with some terms, which your text mostly clarified. Not that I'm crystal clear. 2nd reading might help, but one must budget one's transference. I certainly agreed with the conclusion. I stumbled over the penultimate sentence though: "But the mind of the substance dualist is not a physical thing, ergo, the mind cannot act upon the body." Is the 'ergo' Dennett's consequent, or the dualist's? Does the... I start regressive looping, time to take a break.

mharko writes,

>>I stumbled over the penultimate sentence though: "But the mind of the substance dualist is not a physical thing, ergo, the mind cannot act upon the body." Is the 'ergo' Dennett's consequent, or the dualist's? Does the... I start regressive looping, time to take a break.<<

My penultimate sentence was less than pellucid. The 'ergo' is Dennett's, not the dualist's.

Dennett is arguing along these lines.

1) Causation is energy-transfer.
2) Energy-transfer occurs only between material substances.
Therefore
3) Substance dualism disallows causal interaction between mind and body.
4) There is such causal interaction.
Therefore
5)Substance dualism is false.

The substance-dualist interactionist rejects (1). Both parties accept (2) and (4).

Do you see that a substance dualist could reject (4)? If you see that, explain how.

I'll have to brush up on Swinburne and J.P. before I answer that.

Interesting post, Thank you.
I don’t fully understand your claim, would you be able to clarify it. I’m not philosophically trained, but I will try to make my confusion clear?
Are you arguing that a substance dualist will claim that the mental cause does not produce a change in the material substrate? With its causal efficacy not being the production of change, but rather something else? (Perhaps akin to contingent things being dependent on God for their existence, even if God does not produce a change in them) If so, what type of effect is it producing?
Or is it producing a change in the material world. If so, would that effect include a change in energy, or momentum etc. If so, would that mean that a mental act contains a break in physical conservation laws? If not, what kind of changes would it be able to produce?
Perhaps another way to ask this, within your Hume-inspired example in which there is a correlation, in what sense does M cause B, rather than B causing M or them having a shared cause? What exactly is M causing in B?

I have noticed, while designing things, that a thought can produce a change in another thought.

Thanks for the comment, Jacob.

>>Are you arguing that a substance dualist will claim that the mental cause does not produce a change in the material substrate?<<

No. All will agree that wanting a beer is very different from drinking a beer. Now what are discussing is interactionist substance dualism (ISD). (There are substance dualists who are not interactionists.) On ISD mental and physical events belong to radically different and mutually irreducible ontological categories. On ISD the mental event, e.g. wanting a beer, causes the physical event of drinking the beer.

>>With its causal efficacy not being the production of change, but rather something else?<<

No. The mental event produces a change in the body of the person who wants a beer and then drinks a beer.

>>If so, what type of effect is it producing?<<

A physical change. A change in the material world.

>>If so, would that mean that a mental act contains a break in physical conservation laws?<<

It certainly looks that way if all causation involves energy-transfer or the transfer of any physical magnitude. But it is not obvious what causation is, and there are different theories about it. Which brings me to you last question.

>>Perhaps another way to ask this, within your Hume-inspired example in which there is a correlation, in what sense does M cause B, rather than B causing M or them having a shared cause? What exactly is M causing in B?<<

On a Hume-type regularity theory of causation, there is no physical or material linkage between the cause and the effect. (I am assuming that the relata of the causal relation are events.) In the physical world all that's going on is regular succession of events. So makes e1 the cause of e2?

I gave the answer in the O. P.:

Let M be a type of mental event and B a type of brain event, and let m and b be tokens of these types. Perhaps there is nothing more to causation than this: m causes b =df (i) m and b are spatio-temporally contiguous; (ii) Whenever an M event occurs, a B event occurs. On this empirically-based, Hume-inspired, regularity approach to causation, Dennett's objection dissolves.

What I have just sketched is a regularity theory of causation. If that is the true theory of causation -- I am not saying that it is -- then the stock interaction objection to interactionist substance dualism fails.

By the way it is not M that causes B, but that a token of M causes a token of B. Also: correlation and causation are not the same. The regularity theory can accommodate this difference. What is the difference between m causing b and b causing m? The direction of time.



Physical conservation laws hold true only if the universe is a closed system.

But no-one knows wether or not the universe is a closed system.

Thanks for the explanation.
So if we follow that approach, we will reject the assumption that all causation is energy transfer (since a mental act does not have physical magnitudes and causes the physical result without such transfer).
But that still leaves open the question of whether the conservation laws hold under ISD. Either:
a. Drinking the beer will contain a net change of energy, momentum etc. in which case the conservation laws do not hold where mental acts are concerned.
Or
b. The change in energy etc. are compensated for somewhere else in the physical system. In which case the conservation laws hold, but the mental causation is not a transfer of energy, rather the mental act causes a transfer of energy, momentum etc. between physical bodies with no change in the conserved quantities of the system as a whole. (For example, lifting the beer puts an equal and opposite force on my muscles, leading to no change in net momentum etc.).

In short, I think we need to distinguish a flawed theory of causation which wrongly rejects ISD out of hand, with the question of whether energy is conserved according to ISD.
Do we have some good reason to prefer one of these possibilities over the other?

If the universe began at an infinitely small point (big bang theory), and thus cannot have had any angular momentum, because an infinitely small thing by logic can't be spinning, and yet we see plenty of angular momentum in the universe now, well that is an argument that the universe is not a closed system. Or else, all the left hand spins have to have an exact equivalent number of right hand spins. No one has shown this as far as I know, and I think it is much simpler to say that the universe is not a closed system at all.

Where did all the conserved angular momentum (original spin, ha ha) come from?

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