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Why Materialism and Dualism Both Fail to Explain Your Mind

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NOTE: This is a follow-up article to Patrick's post on Wednesday titled, "Body, Soul, and the Mind/Brain Question".
 


 
Having laid the foundation of the human soul in Wednesday's post, let us now turn to its proper character and function. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, man’s soul comprises all those powers proper to lower organisms, namely metabolism, sensation, and locomotion; however, a still higher power remains that is non-existent in all other soul-possessors—intellection. “We must conclude that the nutritive soul, the sensitive soul, and the intellectual soul are in man numerically one and the same.”1

Therefore, according to Thomas, the substantial form of the human body is the intellective soul, which, in the larger context of this question, is interchangeable with mind. It is by means of the intellective (or intellectual) soul/mind that man experiences an intellectual mode of existence in the world as an embodied creature, an existence entirely different than that experienced by plants, amoebas, frogs, or dogs. There is something it is like to be a knowing, human person, and this something is markedly different from what it is like to be a bat, for example.2 Intellectual existence shapes every facet of our lives and inherently defines what it means to be human.3

This intellectual soul permits us entrance into the sphere of truths where we can apprehend absolute principles and act as responsible agents. It also allows us to encounter a world not populated by brute particulars, but particulars of a universal kind. This allows us to know not simply that things are, but on an even deeper level, what things are. It gives us the ability to paint and build houses, to fall in love, and do science.

As we noted earlier, the middle path of hylomorphism must avoid the pitfalls of dualism and its twin, materialism, and it must also account for world-access and presence. Where dualism wishes to assert the preeminence of mind/spirit/soul over and against the body and brain, hylomorphism adamantly maintains that they are not separable, except through the event of death. The body and the soul are “grown-together,”4 forming a concretized whole that has powers and capacities greater than the sum of its parts. While the substantial form of man, his soul, is the principle of actuality and thus possesses a type of freedom from the body as it persists through time, nevertheless the material component of man, his body, is an absolutely essential ingredient to the substance of man, for the very raison d’être of form is to inform some matter.

Hylomorphism also sufficiently guards against materialism. The hylomorphic alternative does grant materialists that matter is eminently important, concurring with them that the matter of the body is essential—especially so when concerning the matter of the brain. However hylomorphism maintains, in contrast to materialism, the real presence of personal subjectivity experienced by each person by insisting that the substantial form of man is the intellectual soul. There is something about man (human nature) that is properly transcendent, non-reducible, and subjective. Because of this, we are able to reach beyond the material constituency of our corporeality in a non-physical, spiritual way, especially when we come to know anything. This must be granted if one honestly assesses one’s life-as-lived experiences. “We go beyond the restrictions of space and time and the kind of causality that is proper to material things,” writes Sokolowski,5 when we make vows,6 use language, utilize words and symbols, create art, share ideas and thoughts, perform works of Shakespeare, propose mathematical formulas, debate and discuss, engage in politics, and much, much more.7

This is especially the case when we invoke the personal pronoun, I, and act as responsible subjects and agents of truth—there is truly an “I” to speak of, present in every human person, that serves as the center of all personal activity. This spiritual modality of man is his intellective soul. But all of these activities, powers, and capabilities which are spiritual in character, require, at least in part, that we be embodied as well. One cannot bring to life Shakespeare’s Hamlet—a spiritual activity transcending space and time—without having actors with bodies. Though this may seem obvious, it is important for this position.

When it comes to the brain and the mind, it is not a case of either/or, but rather both/and. The brain and nervous system, being informed by the downward causality of man's intellectual soul and thus existing in a properly intellectual way, have a critical role to play when it comes to consciousness and perception. This, however, does not prove that the brain is the seat of intellection, but on the contrary, simply reinforces the hylomorphic position. The brain and the mind are wedded together, or, as Kass says, “grown-together.” Therefore, the mind working in, with, and through the brain exists and operates in a truly spiritual and transcendent way, allowing for world-access.

The mind is not some homunculus trapped within the Cartesian theater of consciousness and scanning the screens of sensory input. Rather, it is actively engaged with the world through the brain and the body as a whole. And just as hylomorphism maintains that persons are concretizations of matter and form grown together, so too does this anthropology grant that things existing in the world exist as matter-form composites. Our world is not populated by heaps of matter but rather matter as informed and as organized wholes. These matter-form composites, existing as intelligible wholes, are potentially knowable to man for he is an intellectual being capable of coming to know things by virtue of his intellectual soul. Moreover, through the brain—not by the brain but rather through it—the meaning, or the intelligibility, of things is conveyed.

Sokolowksi illustrates this idea further utilizing an innovative analogy. The brain and nervous system function, he maintains, much like a transparent lens. When a lens works properly, it refracts and presents that which is beyond it, whether that is a newspaper or the Andromeda galaxy light years away. Unlike a television screen that creates that which is seen, a lens serves as the physical medium through which what is seen is conveyed.

When I hold up a magnifying glass at arm’s length, and gaze into it looking at the wall opposite me through the lens, the image that seems to appear in the glass is not actually in the glass like the image on a TV screen, but rather is actually out there, beyond the glass. With the TV screen, I behold a representation, an image of the real thing, but not the thing itself. But with a lens, what I see in the glass is not something representing the wall, but rather the wall as wall, but in a specifically non-physical way. The lens, then, serves as a physical medium through which the external world of matter-form composites is conveyed and known.

Applying this analogy to the mind and the brain, we can begin to grasp the complex interrelation of soul and body. The brain and the nervous system are the physical medium through which the external world is accessible and knowable to the immaterial mind, not as the result of a secondary stage of re-presentation, but in a single, concomitant moment. The mind needs the brain for it is in accordance with human nature that we come to knowledge and understanding of the world through our physicality and the corporeality of things. This lensing analogy is also helpful in the negative sense, for if the lens is damaged, or misshapen, it cannot convey its object clearly or without distortion. So too when the brain is damaged, the extra-mental world of matter-form composites is not as easily accessible or knowable, and perhaps even opaque to the mind.

The intellect and the brain are wedded together, with the brain and nervous system acting like transparent lenses, not giving themselves, but rather giving that which is beyond them and other. It is only by being interwoven in the body that the mind, the I, can come to know anything, and, furthermore, it is only by encountering corporeal things, through the senses, that we are ever able to attain knowledge of the incorporeal. Therefore, to posit any separation between the mind and the brain, or, to posit any theory that considers the two identical, is incorrect. We conclude that the brain, though an absolutely necessary cause, is not a sufficient cause for the human mind.

This solution offered, however, may strike some as dissatisfying, still riddled with ambiguities. I would like to address that feeling of uneasiness. For many of us, our own intellects have been influenced by the categories and presuppositions of the Cartesian worldview that surrounds us in our contemporary culture. Because we live in a positivistic society that is more apt to follow the decrees of scientism, we almost unconsciously equate the true with the provable, or scientifically demonstrable. We want things to be, as Descartes articulated in his Meditations on First Philosophy, clear and distinct.8 Because of this, we desire to know clearly and distinctly how the immaterial mind and the material brain relate exactly to the point that it could be modeled. However, this desire is misplaced and unwarranted. There are inherent limitations concerning the human person that do not admit of such clear and distinct conceptions.

One such instance concerns the very nature of conscious experience. According to philosopher of consciousness David Chalmers, there are easy problems concerning the mind, and then there are hard problems. The easy problems of consciousness are those that are susceptible to the standard methods of cognitive science.9 Essentially, the easy problems—which are in fact monumentally complex in scope and wildly ambitious in aim—concern the functionality and structural mechanisms of cognition, like the “ability to discriminate, categorize, and react to stimuli...the focus of attention,” and much more.10 In all of these cases, a clear cognitive or neurophysiological model can be employed to give an adequate account of what’s going on up there.

However, the real issue in explaining consciousness is the problem of felt experience. As Chalmers puts it, there is a co-relative subjective element (i.e., pertaining to a subject, a unique I) to all of our objective mental activities; with each and every perception of the color red, for example, there is a concomitant felt subjective experience of what it’s like to perceive the color red. In a word, “there is something it is like to be a conscious organism.”11 I think Chalmers is correct to point out this perplexing quality of consciousness that is simply inextricable by recourse to material explanations and does not admit of clear and distinct answers. Why is it that when our visual or auditory systems engage in visual or auditory information processing, we have a visual or auditory experience? Why is it that when I hear “Amazing Grace,” or smell Dial soap I have an experience of these particular stimuli? His question, the hard problem, is this: “why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all? It seems objectively unreasonable that it should, and yet it does.”12

I believe that Chalmers’ distinction between the easy and the hard problems of consciousness is merely symptomatic of a second, deeper dichotomy concerning the nature of the human person: the distinction between problem and mystery and the rampant confusion of the two. Problems are those things that can be objectified.13 For us today, the word objective connotes a sense of precision, exactness, or unbiased truth. It comes from the Latin word objectum, which means, “a thing put before (the mind or sight).”14 In its original usage, then, something objective was something placed before me, in front of and present to my powers of manipulation, capable of being solved or overcome. Problems are questions in which I am not involved, and because of that, I can solve them (at least in theory). They can be addressed and solved through a technique repeatable by others. A mystery, on the other hand, is something in which I myself am inherently a part of; I cannot be separated from it, in an objective sense.15 With mystery, I am both part of the problem and the problem-solver.

In our modern world—particularly the Western culture—everything has been reduced to the problematic, leaving no room for mystery; we Americans are good with problems—we put a man on the moon, for goodness sakes! Mysteries, are a different story. In our culture, mysteries are those things that we have not yet solved. Daniel Dennett announces, “Human consciousness is just about the last surviving mystery. A mystery is a phenomenon that people don’t know how to think about—yet.”16 He goes on to equate the mystery of consciousness with other mysteries that eventually fell before the methods of science, such as the origin of the universe, the reproductive process, the nature of time, space, and gravity.17 Unfortunately, I do not suppose that the mystery of the human mind will give way to Daniel Dennett’s probing any time soon.

What I have been arguing for, and what I have proposed by way of a hylomorphic alternative, is a recapitulation of the mystery of the human person, revealed in the spiritual modality proper to him. The competing anthropologies of dualism and materialism each treated man as a problem to be solved: How, Descartes asked, can we clearly and distinctly conceive of the mind in relation to the body? Or, how, materialists wonder, can we prove that the mind is nothing but an epiphenomenon of the brain? Both positions fail, where they hylomorphic alternative maintains a both/and position that accounts for corporeality as well as intellectuality. It does not attempt to swallow up subjectivity into physical brain activity alone. It incorporates the brain and the mind in such a way that they are not only compatible, but also co-dependent and “grown-together.”18 The mind, or spirit, of man exercises definitive downward causality on the brain and the matter of the body, while the body and the brain are needed for the full flourishing and activity of the mind. Truly, man is not a problem to be solved, but rather a mystery to be lived. Let us insist on the mystery of the human person, and especially, on the mystery of the mind and the brain.
 
 
(Image credit: Kool News)

Notes:

  1. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, 76, iv.
  2. Thomas Nagel, Mortal Questions (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 165 ff.
  3. Thomas Nagel proposes an interesting thought experiment that asks, what is it like to be a bat? It’s curious because many, in trying to answer the question, in trying to picture flight, echolocation, a nocturnal life-cycle, etc., inevitably anthropomorphize these concepts. In other words, they consider echolocation through the lens of human perception. The point is that there is something it is like to be a bat even though we cannot say what it is; the objective cannot explain the subjective.
  4. Kass, Hungry Soul, 35.
  5. Sokolowski, Christian Faith and Human Understanding, 151.
  6. For a detailed discussion of vows, see Hans Jonas’ The Imperative of Responsibility, 205 ff.
  7. Sokolowski, Christian Faith and Human Understanding, 157.
  8. René Descartes, Meditations on First Philosohy in Descartes: Selected Philosophical Writings, trans. John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, and Dugald Murdoch (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 87.
  9. David Chalmers, “Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness” in Journal of Consciousness Studies (1995), 2.
  10. Chalmers, “Facing Up,” 2.
  11. Ibid.,3.
  12. Ibid., 4.
  13. Gabriel Marcel, Homo Viator (Peter Smith: Gloucester, Mass: 1978), 68.
  14. Oxford English Dictionary, “object.” <http://www.oed.com>.
  15. Marcel, Homo Viator, 68-69.
  16. Daniel Dennett, Consciousness Explained (New York, Boston, and London: Back Bay Books, 1991), 21.
  17. Ibid., 21.
  18. Dennett, Consciousness Explained, 35.
Patrick Schultz

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Patrick Schultz is a fourth year seminarian in formation at St. Mary Seminary in Cleveland, OH. He is passionate about good coffee, good conversations, philosophical apologetics, masculine spirituality and walking with non-believers as friends and intellectual companions; but his greatest passion is Christ the Living Mercy and sharing the reasons for his joy. He has a zeal for evangelizing and youth ministry, and looks forward with great anticipation to receiving Holy Orders, God-willing, in May 2016.

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  • Matthew Newland

    Thank you, Patrick. Now ... what are your thoughts on pansychism? That solves the problem equally well, if you ask me. (And it's my preferred solution, as you probably figured out by now.)

    • Phil

      Matthew--I don't wish to take the place of Pat, so I hope he still chimes in, but I did want to throw out a thought.

      This type of view also appears to be the one that Thomas Nagel finds most promising as I read through his "Mind and Cosmos". What I find to be the main issue is that if one truly wants to hold that matter/energy as a whole is conscious, by its very nature, then one needs to hold that a rock is just as self-conscious as a human person. It means that the matter that makes up the rock is not only potentially conscious, but is actually conscious. (I don't believe that a rock even has the natural potential for life or consciousness.)

      I think that reason can lead us to recognize that there is an essential difference between a living and a non-living being. A non-living being is not ordered towards life and growth, which is necessary for consciousness. The only reason why we can rationally posit the distinction and existence of "soul" is the fact that some material entities show forth signs of life, and others do not.

      Now it is possible for a person to say, "I hold that a rock is actually conscious". The issue is that one has no evidence for this. So because all inert material objects do not show forth signs of life, I believe we can safely put to the side pansychism.

      • Pofarmer

        You do realize that the only reason you are appealing to Nagel is because his views roughly align with yours? You also realize he is pretty far outside the mainstream in regards to his thinking and many other contemporary philosophers think he fell off the deep end?

        • Phil

          Hey Pofarmer,

          Not at all; I actually hold he is on the right track. I would hold that most of contemporary philosophers have went off the deep end!

          Most of modern philosophy has reduced the options to either a dualist and a reductionist materialist account of reality. And when dualism seems lacking, they assume that a type of reductionist-materialist option must be true.

          What they forget is that there is a middle ground--a type of hylomorphism! When it comes to truths about reality, it is usually the golden mean, the middle, where truth lies. The two extremes are not usually where truth lies. Yes, the extremes may be easier to understand at first, but this doesn't mean they are true.

          • Pofarmer

            The reason most philosophers have gone the route of materialsm is because that's where the answers are. There are no answers by appealing to the untestable. Hylomorphism isn't a middle ground, it's a holding action. If you guys would actually get out in front and do some actual research, you might be relevant again. As it is, you are not.

          • Phil

            What kind of scientific tests and research have you used to support your claim that, "materialism is where the answers are"?

          • David Nickol

            Science can't study the immaterial, which means that it can't say whether it does or doesn't exist. The immaterial may or may not exist, but we can't use science to find the answer.

            So would you say such things as prayer and the sacraments make no discernible difference?

          • Phil

            David, Can you clarify your question? The question doesn't seem to make much sense when referencing the quoted section in your comment. Thanks!

          • Pofarmer

            If the immaterial affects our material reality, then we should be able to discern and measure it. If it doesn't, then it's of no consequence and might as well be disregarded. But see, it's funny that you use the examples of infrared and ultraviolet light. Those are things that science discovered. If you want to make claims that the immaterial is interacting with matter, and or, giving form to it, information to it, whatever, then it is up to you to show your work. Otherwise, what is asserted without evidence, may be dismissed without evidence, and I am seeing a whole lotta without evidence.

          • Phil

            A few questions:

            1) What test does science use to tell whether something had a material or an immaterial cause?

            2) How do you falsify this belief: "Materialism is where the answers are."

          • Pofarmer

            1). This is about a claim that YOU made. It's up to you to provide evidence for your assertion if you want it to be taken seriously.

            2). Name a signifigant advancement in human understanding in the last 100 years that hasn't been material in nature?

            This may be getting to vague.

          • Phil

            1)

            This is about a claim that YOU made. It's up to you to provide evidence
            for your assertion if you want it to be taken seriously.

            You said:

            If the immaterial affects our material reality, then we should be able to discern and measure it.

            You seem to propose that science is able to test whether something had a material or immaterial cause. How does science go about doing this?

            (My view is science can't test for the immaterial because it can only study material objects.)

            -------------

            2)

            Name a signifigant advancement in human understanding in the last 100 years that hasn't been material in nature?

            The argument you are proposing is this: "If the material sciences have led to all the significant advances in the past 100 years, then it is the only way to come to truth about reality."

            That is a not a good argument because the second part doesn't follow from the first.

          • Pofarmer

            "(My view is science can't test for the immaterial because it can only study material objects.)"

            Why? If there were an immaterial causation, why wouldn't we detect that?

            I didn't propose an argument, I asked a question.

          • Phil

            Why? If there were an immaterial causation, why wouldn't we detect that?

            How could you detect something that is immaterial with something made to detect material things?

            Remember my infrared and ultraviolet example? If you are using an infrared detector, you aren't going to detect ultraviolet light. Similarly, if we are using the detector of the "physical sciences" which are made to detect physical things, you aren't going to detect immaterial things. It works off of the assumption that there are physical causes to be discovered.

            Only philosophy could tell you if there is even a physical cause to be found.

            ----

            Another way of putting this--where would be the point when the scientist would say, "we have concluded that what caused 'X' to happen was some immaterial cause"?

          • Pofarmer

            No, no, no. How did we first detect Ultraviolet light?

          • Lucretius

            Because what immaterial is not just another kind of material. It's not "ghost matter." Further, what Descartes ultimately called immaterial is quality, so to ask how to quantitize quality, or how to measure the non-measurable, is by definition nonsensical.

            Christi pax.

          • Pofarmer

            Answer the question.

          • Lucretius

            I'll answer if you answer mine: what is the square root of yellow?

            Christi pax.

          • Pofarmer

            My question has an answer. Show you can actualy think, or quit wasting everyones time.

          • Man of the Hour

            There's no material reality. Material, as defined as mind independent or nonexperiential stuff, cannot exist, because nonexperience can never interact with experience, and we have experience. So it's really as empirical or useful as phlogiston. Science tells us about experiential stuff. So all a neutral monist or idealist would say is that reality is experience/mental phenomena all the way down. Then there's no need for material as you've defined it, and then causal efficacy of mind and experience would be fully accounted for without magic supervenience, and minds can be accounted for without claiming that if you just arrange some nonexperiential stuff, experiential stuff will just magically appear ex nihilo.

          • David Nickol

            The reason most philosophers have gone the route of materialsm is because that's where the answers are.

            Of course, it is certainly within the realm of possibility that the current "mainstream" in philosophy has taken a turn in the wrong direction. But when there is a mainstream position or a majority position, those who disagree have to make a very strong case for their minority position. It is not enough to maintain that philosophy proves the existence of God and the truth of the Catholic religion, but the majority of philosophers were trained by atheistic universities and so deny the truth (although they—as all atheists—know in their heart of hearts that they are wrong)

          • David Nickol

            As I have pointed out in another message, Edward Feser classifies hylomorphism/hylemorphism (as understood by Thomists) as a form of dualism.

          • Phil

            Dualism would be a view that somehow two distinct substances (material and immaterial) come to work together while staying distinct from each other in some way.

            Hylomorphism is the view that a single substance is formed of the two (that is, the material and the immaterial).

            I think it is a mistake of language for Feser to use the designation of "hylemorphic dualism". This is because Feser himself is not a dualist in the proper sense (he makes this very clear in most of his writing).

          • David Nickol

            I think it is a mistake of language for Feser to use the designation of "hylemorphic dualism". This is because Feser himself is not a dualist in the proper sense (he makes this very clear in most of his writing).

            The question is not how to classify Feser. It is how to classify hylomorphism. Feser says:

            And there is a good reason why these (and other) writers classify Aquinas as a kind of dualist. The reason is that is that Aquinas just obviously is a dualist given the sense of “dualism” that has long been operative in modern philosophy of mind. As Stump writes:

            It is clear that Aquinas rejects the Cartesian or Platonic sort of dualism. On the other hand, Aquinas seems clearly in the dualist camp somewhere since he thinks that there is an immaterial and subsistent constituent of the subject of cognitive function. (p. 212)

            In particular, Aquinas holds that the human intellect is immaterial and that because it is, the human soul of which it is a power survives the death of the body. And that is more than enough to make him a dualist as “dualism” is generally understood today. To the vast majority of contemporary philosophers, to say “Aquinas thinks the soul is immaterial and survives the death of the body, but he isn’t a dualist” sounds a little like saying “Aquinas believed the existence of God can be demonstrated, but he isn’t a theist.”

            I don't want to quote too much, but Feser goes on to say:

            The reason Freddoso (and some other writers on Aquinas) resist the term “dualism” is that they tend to use it in an older sense, to refer more or less exclusively to what is today generally regarded only as one version of dualism among others -- specifically, to what Stump calls “the Cartesian or Platonic sort of dualism.”

            And one more quote:

            The trouble is that the term “dualism” just doesn’t have these exclusively Platonic and Cartesian implications in contemporary philosophy.

            I don't pretend to know a great deal about philosophy, but sometimes it seems to me there is a problem on Strange Notions with apologists presenting old arguments as if modern philosophy did not exist.

          • Phil

            I think what you are getting at is the need to make sure the terms we are using are defined well. It is possible for a modern philosopher to define hylomorphism in a way that is not in keeping with the traditional understanding.

            It is a fine distinction, but the reason why hylomorphism is not a true type of dualism is that it doesn't see material objects, be it a rock or a person, as several distinct substances that interact as distinct substances.

            In all, hylomorphism posits that the material cannot exist apart from the immaterial. So the material cannot exist apart from the immaterial, but it is possible for the immaterial to exist apart the material. The material and immaterial always form a single unified substance.

            This is why the Catholic position cannot be termed "dualistic" in the proper sense. When we are talking about the material it is always as a single unified substance. There is no dualism, no two separate substances present.

          • David Nickol

            This is why the Catholic position cannot be termed "dualistic" in the proper sense.

            In the proper sense? Are you saying Edward Feser doesn't understand philosophical terminology? How much clearer can he be?

            The reason is that is that Aquinas just obviously is a dualist given the sense of “dualism” that has long been operative in modern philosophy of mind.

            The trouble is that the term “dualism” just doesn’t have these exclusively Platonic and Cartesian implications in contemporary philosophy.

            The emphasis in the quotes is Feser's, not mine.

            What you are trying to do is use your own definition of dualism and then say hylomorphism isn't dualism. You don't get to make up your own definitions.

            This is the first time I have ever had to defend Edward Feser on this site! :)

          • Man of the Hour

            I think idealism and neutral monism explain things a lot better without postulating stuff we can never know. I think that a world outside of experience is a ludicrous idea, that needs to be abandoned to make genuine scientific progress into studies of mental and physical phenomena. We can never experience this ontological category, so to postulate its existence seems completely absurd. Either raw experience which manifests a subject-object dichotomy is the fundamental stuff, or subjectivity, of which experiences are merely excitations, and of which experiential objects are merely the excitations of as well as the experiences, is what everything is made of. Material, in the sense of mind independent stuff, is about as real, useful, or empirically verifiable as phlogiston.

          • Phil

            Hey Man of the Hour,

            I had an awesome teacher who was an idealist (of the Socratic-Platonic variety), but I've never been a fan of idealism or monism as I have never found it ultimately coherent when you follow it to its logical conclusions.

            Above:

            I think that a world outside of experience is a ludicrous idea, that needs to be abandoned to make genuine scientific progress into studies of mental and physical phenomena.

            The biggest issue, I believe, with a philosophy that focuses solely on the subjective mind (like most types of idealism) is that it renders interpersonal experience and communication incoherent and unexplainable. Experience between more than 1 subjective person requires that there is a shared reality independent of our mind in some way. If all we have access to is our own personal subjective view of reality, then coherent interpersonal language/communication is impossible.

            You want to hold idealism/monism so as to uphold "genuine scientific progress", but a true idealism or monism destroys the ability to do science in the first place. To do genuine science, one must assume that something outside of our own personal subjective experience actually exists to be understood. Idealism and monism state that this doesn't exist.

            The only next logical, and radical, step I've seen taken is to hold solipsism--that even other people have their source in one's own mind. Which in that case everything is destroyed and you are talking to yourself right now!

    • William Davis

      Personally I think it takes a neocortex to be conscious in a meaningful sense. This would make all mammals conscious to varying degrees, but make lower animals non-conscious. Anything with a neocortex can learn, lower animals like reptiles cannot learn and rely on fixed evolved behavior. I would consciousness and qualia in general are what it feels like to have a neocortex.

      Qualia isn't a problem for materialism. Here is a simple example: I can go through the computer code of a video game, understand how it works (even be involved in the design of the game engine), but I still wouldn't know what it is like to experience the game unless I played it. Thus, fully understanding what makes a bat's brain work wouldn't yield the experience of being a bat..but that doesn't imply anything about our knowledge of the bat's inner workings.

      Some people know what it's like to be a bat, at least in part. The human brain can convert sound into vision and see faces with the right equipment:

      http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/11/21/365486921/blind-from-birth-but-able-to-use-sound-to-see-faces

      There is no reason to think the neocortex cannot adapt to any type of sensor. It works by recognizing patterns, and we are getting very close to direct neural connections, it's already working in mice:

      http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-02/14/implant-gives-rats-sixth-sense-for-infrared-light

      Plans already exist to connect artificial neocortex to special weather sensors across the US to create an narrow AI that does nothing but guess the weather through the same mechanisms we use to construct our perceived reality. This will have MASSIVE advantages over cumbersome mathematical models, but of course, we will never know what it is like to be a weather brain, lol.

      • Michael Murray

        You don't have to be a weather brain to know which way the wind blows.

        • William Davis

          Sure, but maybe a weather brain might be able to to get a weather forecast right :P We'll see.

        • William Davis

          P.S. Here's one version of what I'm talking about:

          http://www.ijeert.org/pdf/v2-i2/35.pdf

          I think the future holds the use of intelligence itself for prediction over mathematical models in many cases. Think about how you and I can fairly accurately predict the behavior of a person we know, but we sure as heck can't make a math model of how this works. Nonlinear systems and math don't get along well.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks. That's interesting stuff.

          • William Davis

            AI has seen real advances over the last year or so, this paper is a little outdated. It gives the general idea though :)

    • William Davis

      On a side note, have you ever read John Searle? I think his philosophy of mind is pretty impressive, and is largely based on recent understandings in neuroscience. There are more out there, but I just got done with some audio lectures by him that were really good. The only scientifically useful philosophy of mind is materialistic, so I'm only interested in philosophers who avoid dualism. I a monist when it comes to God, so there is no reason to invoke a separate substance at all for me. Simpler ontology to boot :)

    • Ah, yes, Nagel's younger sibling, Bagel, who asked: What is it like to be a baseball bat?

      • William Davis

        Lol. Probably much like being dead with no afterlife ;P
        It has probably happened actually. Person dies, body decays, absorbed by trees to make wood, cut into a baseball bat. People could very well be playing baseball with the material that was once someone's grandma. Nature is good at recycling.
        My ten year old is getting exposed to basic ecology in school right now (they are teaching these kids much more in elementary school than I was taught). She thinks it's funny that most food comes from "poop" as she puts it.

        • BTW, William, I've been meaning to share this abstract ---http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-1-4020-6706-8_14 --- as it might indicate a bridge between your views and my own.

          • William Davis

            Thanks, just getting started on it, and it seems very interesting.
            One thing that always struck me about evolution, is how lightly we use the word chance. What is chance, and how did it (even with natural selection) lead to the world we experience? Chance seems to a place holder for a pattern or set of patterns we don't understand.

          • Or worse, the word random. Or necessary or absolute ... but who am I to complain. Half of the memory on my phone is taken up by words added over the years to its spellchecker. I had to delete my Angry Birds to make room for all the Mad Metaphysicians. They want my SD card to put in a time capsule (from the 17th century).

          • William Davis

            Sounds like you need a new phone. What good is a phone without Angry Birds?

          • Never played those game apps anyway. Angry Birds, to me, are those little graham crackers I share with my grandchildren.

          • William Davis

            I don't either, to be honest, though I play my share of Xbox One games (they are becoming eerily realistic). Angry Birds was a saving grace to occupy the 2 year old at restaurants. He had this terrible habit of finishing his food before us, and deciding he was done and leaving, didn't make any difference what the rest of us were doing. Angry birds gave him something to do other than scream. I think there is a "strong willed/hard headed" gene (or genetic connection), and we both have it, for better or for worse ;) My Dad is the same way.

      • Being silly, folks. Whitehead is WAY more nuanced than that cute caricature.

    • Mine too, pretty much.

    • Phil

      A side note--I picked up Thomas Nagel's "Mind and Cosmos" again, and I highly recommend checking it out. He poses a lot of the questions you are wrestling with right now.

      The only thing I wish he would do is engage basic Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics a little more, as that would seem to provide the answers to a lot of the questions he is posing!

    • Guest

      Your theory sounds related in many ways to eliminative materialism, but Im not sure. Here is a link that makes the argument that we have to have an immaterial intellect in order to understand or "grasp" immaterial concepts or universals. I not sure if panpsychism accounts for this.

      http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/01/aristotle_on_th093021.html

  • Mike

    "forming a concretized whole that has powers and capacities greater than the sum of its parts."

    Like when free electrons act differently than electrons in hydrogen and like when hydrogen alone 'behaves' differently than hydrogen 'in' water; and oxygen as alone and 'in' water - the whole is greater than the sum of the parts - ie the 'form' 'results' in new powers.

    A human being or other animal is carbon based and yet moves, senses, grows, and in the case of a human being "thinks". The "bits" of carbon are 'actualized' via 'soul' and take a new "form" out of which new "powers" "emerge".

    In the case of the hydrogen and oxygen what co-ordinates/determines how it will act in 'water'? Some principle some 'reference table' as i like to think of it must be 'telling' it in the position do this etc. For the human body and especially the brain, there must be some "thing"/principle (some emergent unifying "force") that coordinates everything all the different systems and processes and enables the human person to continue to grow live remember think etc on and on until old age and death.

    This "principle" can't be the DNA as if it is the DNA which is present in every single cell in the body in hair as well as in toes and in the brain etc. if it is the DNA then how does it co-ordinate the activities of all the other cells and communicate with all the other cells when they all have the same "code" and yet that is what seems to happen. And it's no good just restating the issue as this or that "system" because that just re - labels it without accounting for it.

    The 'soul' is a necessary concept no matter what the actual mechanics of our bodies and minds reveal.

    • Patrick Schultz

      Mike, thanks for reading the piece and for your thoughtful response! (Matthew, I'll respond to your soon. I need to read up a bit on panpsychism first to make sure it is what I think it is before I agree or disagree with you, lol).

      Mike, I have concern about one point in your comment. You said:

      "For the human body and especially the brain, there must be some "thing"/principle (some emergent unifying "force") that coordinates everything all the different systems and processes and enables the human person to continue to grow live remember think etc on and on until old age and death"

      If this "force," the intellectual soul of the individual person, is not "there" so to speak from the beginning (when sperm meets oocyte), guiding, directing, in-forming the matter to be this kind of being and this particular person, but only emerges at some point, then what is doing the organizing of the organism through time? This is why I'm weary of "emergent" language. There is a teleology, a wisdom, a power already at work long before hydrogen ever met oxygen to produce water. So too, there is a power, a force, a striving soul already at work striving to actualize itself in human matter right from the moment of conception. What do you think?

      • Loreen Lee

        Quote: So too, thee is a power, a force, a striving soul already at work striving to actualize itself in human matter right from the moment of conception.

        Then there is the statement that the intellect and the will are non-material, but within the Kantian/Christian trilogy, there is no mention of 'The Holy Ghost'.

        Have the will and intellect (of man here, not 'God' always been considered to always have been 'immaterial'. If they were not considered to be 'immaterial', but rather a development within 'conscious mechanisms' of the brain, (or conscious awareness, -don't want to get into the word problem - this is just a 'general' idea) does that really make a difference with respect to human subjective experience, and all the other tendencies you speak of.

        I agreed with the Buddhists that I studied with that mind, certainly had being. I have even recently postulated, (yes I like crazy speculative thought, that mind could be (emphasize could) like the black matter, or energy. Indeed, with a scientific description I read recently, that black matter is unlike out observable matter, because there is no 'interaction', and I thought of the angels of Aquinas, even: thoughts as genus rather than species, and even the windowless monads of Leibniz, and the 'points' of mathematics. Unfortunately, perhaps, I have read about all of these conflicting ideas, and so I'm appreciative that your post does point out some sympathy with respect to the confusions.

        I appreciate the studies being taken within Post-modernism, etc. regarding language. But I'm always questioning possible consequences with respect to these endeavors, be it the Scientism, the difficulties I have had in my life with the belief system of Catholicism, I could go on and on.

        I liked for instance the implied 'unity' within the following.: quote: “We must conclude that the nutritive soul, the sensitive soul, and the
        intellectual soul are in man numerically one and the same.”1

        These categories however, neither correspond to the Christian trilogy nor Kant's critiques of pure and practical reason and power of judgment.

        I keep look for correspondences, although I do remember philosophic debate that showed great limitation in this as well as in finding consistency and coherence.

        Thanks for your patience.

      • Mike

        I think you're right, i don't think that the "soul" emerges at some point but is right from the beginning the principle at work - from beg until death at which point we begin to disintegrate back into our constituent elements.

        As for say oxy and hyd i think that there is some potential in those 2 forms that determines what will happen when they come together but i don't suspect that it, the new form, the water, is reducible entirely to physics ie the particular abstract properties of the 2 elements or to their constituent electrons, neutrons etc. At each 'step' there is a new substance formed that must be investigated all over again.

      • If this "force," the intellectual soul of the individual person, is not "there" so to speak from the beginning (when sperm meets oocyte), guiding, directing, in-forming the matter to be this kind of being and this particular person, but only emerges at some point, then what is doing the organizing of the organism through time? This is why I'm weary of "emergent" language. There is a teleology, a wisdom, a power already at work long before hydrogen ever met oxygen to produce water. So too, there is a power, a force, a striving soul already at work striving to actualize itself in human matter right from the moment of conception. What do you think?

        This is a debate yet to be resolved within Thomism, apart from any quibbles with emergentist stances, which aren't a priori inconsistent with hylomorphism. That your invocation of formal and final causes properly invokes teleodynamic processes to organize organisms through time is a necessary but insufficient condition to differentiate them as persons.

      • Pofarmer

        "So too, there is a power, a force, a striving soul already at work
        striving to actualize itself in human matter right from the moment of
        conception. What do you think?"

        Is this true of dogs, cats, birds, worms, fish, sponges? What is the point of this striving soul? It doesn't inform us, after all, we must learn from the world around us from the time we're born. Learn to crawl, then to walk. Learn to speak, learn to reason, math, science, etc, etc. What does invoking this "striving soul" accomplish beyond that which we could know just by studying the thing and know it's organization and function? What would happen if this soul force didn't cement itself with the living organism? How does a specific soul choose a specific inhabitant? What if a dog soul get messed up with an elephant soul? What if two souls got crosswired?

        "There is a teleology, a wisdom, a power already at work long before hydrogen ever met oxygen to produce water."

        No, there's chemistry.

        • Lucretius

          You don't understand the concept. Formal cause is not efficient cause.

          Christi pax.

          • Pofarmer

            And you don't understand that the idea of causation is typically unnecesary.

  • Let us insist on the mystery of the human person, and especially, on the mystery of the mind and the brain.

    While I wouldn't insist on mystery a priori or in principle --- for surely those who urge upon me the principle of sufficient reason would not so readily ask me to give up my search? --- I am deeply sympathetic to this suggestion, for all practical purposes, for the foreseeable future (and I reckon we can see a fairly good way).

    William James makes your point, eloquently:

    Measurements, whether of psychic or of neural quantities, and deductive reasonings such as this method of proof implies, will surely be forever beyond human reach. No serious psychologist or physiologist will venture even to suggest a notion of how they might be practically made. We are thrown back therefore upon the crude evidences of introspection on the one hand, with all its liabilities to deception, and, on the other hand, upon a priori postulates and probabilities.He who loves to balance nice doubts need be in no hurry to decide the point. Like Mephistopheles to Faust, he can say to himself, "dazu hast du noch eine lange Frist," for from generation to generation the reasons adduced on both sides will grow more voluminous, parti pris outweighs that of keeping questions open, or if, as a French philosopher of genius says, "l'amour de la vie qui s'indigne de tant de discours," awakens in us, craving the sense of either peace or power, — then, taking the risk of error on our head, we must project upon one of the alternative views the attribute of reality for us; we must so fill our mind with the idea of it that it becomes our settled creed.

    Now, in keeping with the balancing of nice doubts, until we have uncovered reality's givens, both in terms of axioms or laws and of primitives, such as space, time, mass, energy or even, as some suggest, consciousness, perhaps we best draw a distinction between the ontologically and causally non-reducible? With that qualification, I could wholly endorse this conclusion:

    There is something about man (human nature) that is properly transcendent, non-reducible, and subjective.

    • Loreen Lee

      Quote: We are thrown back therefore upon the crude evidences of introspection
      on the one hand, with all its liabilities to deception, and, on the
      other hand, upon a priori postulates and probabilities

      The a priori 'concepts' which Kant does say 'derive' from intuition/perception call it what you will? against- from an immaterial intellect. (But I thought in a Catholicism, the 'Word was made Flesh'. Incarnation, Eucharist, and even the Resurrection suggest to me this theme. Heaven is 'within'. A new heaven and a new earth. Is this one true? Heaven on earth? etc. etc. et.

      Quote: There is something about man (human nature) that is properly transcendent, non-reducible, and subjective.

      Transcendent in what sense: as a idealism or as a realism? Is this realism in God or Man, or both, ---what?

      Spinoza" panentheism. One 'unknowable' substance, (even the unity of the trinity?) Please- I'm just throwing these out...I admit my 'incoherence'! My lack of 'modern/post-modern' authenticity, integrity, and all the other words, -the Christian Holiness, psychological wholeness, etc. etc.etc. So yes, I'm more animal than angel, as I have concluded, and yes, I am not always capable of sapient judgment, which is a characteristic within Kant, of the Power of Spirit, Intuition, perception, etc. placing the partiular within a universal - when possible!!!

      • Good ratio of question marks:exclamation points, Loreen, indicating how you well balance nice doubts.

    • William Davis

      Even if we actually could take the mystery out, it would ruin the fun wouldn't it? Without mystery, what do we have to debate, to think about?

      The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.

      Albert Einstein, Living Philosophies

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Sure mysteries are cool but the aim of the intellect is to know the truth. Therefore, one should never prefer not to know something (assuming it is knowable) than to know it.

        • William Davis

          I agree, but I think we know MUCH less than most people suppose. Every generation of man has thought they had it all figured out, but they have always fallen short. Intelligence is inherently fallible and biased, and that is how it is supposed to be, at least in my opinion.

          • Lucretius

            Or, to let Socrates speak: "I know that I know nothing."

            Christi pax.

          • William Davis

            He said it well. Too bad we don't have anyone to ask at Delphi today. Of course, whatever the response, everyone else would cry foul.

      • Some people will be very disappointed if there is not an ultimate theory that can be formulated as a finite number of principles. I used to belong to that camp, but I have changed my mind. I'm now glad that our search for understanding will never come to an end, and that we will always have the challenge of new discovery. Without it, we would stagnate. Godel’s theorem ensured there would always be a job for mathematicians. I think M theory will do the same for physicists. I'm sure Dirac would have approved.

        ~Stephen Hawking

    • Do you think there might be something about nature itself that is non-reducible and transcendent?

      What do you think it means for something to be properly subjective? I know it's not your words, but I'm wondering what sense you would make of this, as someone who is ontologically agnostic and causally a non-physicalist.

      • What do you think it means for something to be properly subjective?

        Succinctly, it plausibly could entail symbolic self-reference, the experience of our own minds, symbolically, among the other symbolic constructions and linguistic representations we employ. In addition to the implict logic of an animal's nonreflective, abductive instinct, which is syntactical and semantical, subjective experience requires the explicit logic of our human reflective, abductive inference, which is not mere syntax and semantics vis a vis signs or biosemiotics but also symbolic.

      • Do you think there might be something about nature itself that is non-reducible and transcendent?

        Think about, Paul. You're an astronomer, right. We can measure the distance, mass, temperature, luminosity and more of stars in far off galaxies. I get that. But, answer me this: how in the world do we know their names?

        Seriously, it seems possible to me that the cosmos could be eternal, so transcendent in the sense that, beyond our known givens (primitives, forces and laws), there could be primal or ultimate realities that overlap our proximate realities. Even then, the uniformities might present as an infinite regression of contingencies or as otherwise governed by brute necessities, which would be nonreducible both ontologically and causally. The way we predicate the concepts that we employ to putatively refer to (forget describe) primal and/or ultimate realities pre-planck epoch reveals a strong convergence between speculative cosmology and natural theology, for example, as we use words either univocally or analogically, increasing descriptive accuracy by affirming what a reality might be or be like (kataphatically) or by suggesting what it literally would not be or be like (apophatically).

        My default bias is to conceive of the cosmos or nature as transcendent, non-reducible in the sense of being eternal, whether as a series of contingencies or as conditioned and bounded by certain brute necessities.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    This OP appress to be an excellent explication of hylomorphism, but I don't see how it proves materialism and dualism wrong and hylomorphism right.

    • It doesn't. Thing is, though, while neither a truly eliminative materialism nor a robust ontological dualism can be a priori dismissed, on the other hand, to rather prematurely commit to either one could, in effect, invite us to shut down certain lines of inquiry (research programs)? At least hylomorphism and nonreductive physicalism, along with other nuanced emergentist approaches, remain amenable to our methodological naturalism. If we look for our lost keys under the lamppost at night, it's not to say we can't imagine them being elsewhere in the park, but only to suggest that, if they are, we have little hope to find them before sunrise. Maybe our methods will improve or a paradigm shift will yield falsifiable hypotheses instead of metaphysical tautologies. Until then, we can only argue plausibilities.

      • Loreen Lee

        I was going through the Disqus comments and found Phil saying that the immateriality of the intellect was due to it not being based on an 'image'. I immediately thought of coming here, (my immediacy again) and then thought, but I have no evidence, but couldn't find the quote again when I looked. So you can choose to believe me or not.

        But what of tautologies? What of Einstein's appreciation of imagination? I could go on and on.

        Am thinking of going back and reading more 'post-modernism'. I think I now understand not only deconstruction, (indeed I think I've done a bit of that) but also why they want to 'get rid of logos'. Back to the Presocratics. It all makes sense. In the new scientism philosophy may we expect that cosmological metaphysics to replace the air, water, fire and earth basis as categories, with wood added by the Chinese? It's all gone in a circle. We really are going back (and forth) perhaps to some ancient Hindu Precepts. Circles!! Epicycles!! I don't really expect anyone to accept the suggestion that a materialism doesn't really necessarily deny the existence of a 'religion' or a 'story'. But I've read again some arguments there, which convince me I do not want to be involved in these controversies without 'real' interchange because they perhaps often entail dialogue between persona. Perhaps I'm not the only one who has been susceptible to the need to 'please others' either. If only we could become truly 'independent' in this sense. I don't doubt that what I'm saying here will not be understood 'favorably of not' .I've attempted to 'make my peace' with both atheism and Catholicism, materialism and idealism. I expect to have a traditional burial which will be much less a bother than my children having to deal with the details of cremation. And it will give my neurons, and atoms, and change to mingle with the universe in a much more 'immediate' fashion.

        I do realize that Aristoteleanism, and Platonism are very mixed together
        within the Catholic tradition, especially, I believe since Aquinas,
        because possibly it carried on the 'Augustine,NeoPlatonic tradition'.
        But one philosophy leads to another, and despite what the Evil Overload
        said over on EN, that Darwin did it alone, he is perhaps unaware of the
        initiation of a temporal context of Philosophy in the works of Hegel.The
        Phenomenology of Mind, will remain one of my favorites.

        Oh! And that Phil guy, suggested that he couldn't help me with the mystery of the Trinity, because this was something to work out, (do I note a contradiction here) not through philosophy?, but within one's life experience. He was sorry he couldn't help me. Neither priest or psychiatrist be. But I do know that I am not a 'mechanism', and I don't particularly care any more whether that is determined to be or to have to be a monism, a dualism, or a tripartite structure, or even be based on the ancient schema of 12, common to I believe both China and Judaism.

        I am one of the few people among my friends who I believe have found happiness because I have been through so many 'failures'. But today I received a rather comfortable check from the Actors Pension plan, which I didn't expect. You never know. Maybe I'[ll go back to my rewrites of the books I wrote. Everything is a 'work in progress'...I have been grateful that I have made some very good choices in my past live, generally involving moving on. .It matters not in the long run what I do.....to any of you. Well, there's at least a rhyme. I guess it's time to be poetic.

        • Yes, one cannot reason from philosophy to the Trinity. Most of the discussions here are decidedly philosophical (natural theology) because that's the indispensable lingua franca for inter-ideological dialogue.

          But, yes, one can begin from the faith and wax poetic about the Trinity via a Theology of Nature (not natural theology) as metaphor after metaphor cascades through one's imagination, such as in the Psalms or allegories and parables---so many about nature! --- of Jesus'
          teachings. You get the story-telling and poetry. It's a creative endeavor, not one others would assist philosophically.

          • Loreen Lee

            Johnboy. I always appreciate your comments. I understand it to suggest that natural philosophy, etc. etc. are, may I say, analogous to even what the scientists refer to as 'models'. I thought of returning to Catholicism when I perceived the same construct. It's been quite an experience. I don't believe, although William Davis, suggested same, that a complete synthesis was achieved between the philosophical truths based on 'pagan' philosophies, and the fulfillment of Judaic law as in scripture. I appreciate in this regard how much I have learned, particularly from William Davis, especially in respect to questions I hesitated to articulate because of past history. For instance, when I attempted to return to confession, I was inevitably warned away from pursuing my philosophic pursuits. The only thing I needed to know was Christian doctrine and dogma. Of course there are many variations between priesthoods.

            I appreciate that people expressed discomfort regarding their observations of the effects of my introspection. With respect to whether or not there was relevance in my comments, however, I could not explicitly communicate the connections that would establish that they were; one of these being the remarkable similarities that 'could' (emphasized) be made between our times and the times of Jesus. There was just the attempt to somehow get the 'whole picture'. .Such is perhaps 'never possible', even with Richard Rorty, and certainly not within the restrictions of a com-box. (Is that the right term).

            No this is not the medium for exploration of such matters. There is just too much that cannot be said. There are just too many assumptions that derive from this. Which possible provides an explanation for some perhaps unproductive arguments. Like, for instance, examining what what is entailed by Spinoza's 'God'. would possibly take more than a seminar within a philosophy course.
            Not only that, I don't feel I am particularly being very helpful to any one. Philosophically and perhaps personally. I am most appreciative, that I do feel I have attained some cognant understanding of the History of Philosophy, which was confirmed for me by Father Barron's parallel explanation. Indeed I am most appreciative of his perspective, and will continue following his and other catholic posts. I still do not feel justified in saying I understand the 'problematic'. I do have many 'problems' still, intellectually, with respect to the Catholicism which is my inheritance.. It was most interesting to find such diversity, and even materialists, within this discourse. And I certainly can not agree with the Scientists if they assume they have the 'final solution'.
            With respect to Heidegger, and story, and poetry, and your articles on allopoietic, I would like to take a closer look at that. I am simply attempting to 'understand', not only philosophy, but others and myself. And this I believe is a life time project, which can involve many change in direction, and many lessons along The Way.

            Thank you for your friendship, JohnBoy. (I have of course been put on the censored list on EN, but am grateful that I was not completely banned). It will be a real challenge for me to be disciplined enough to remain resolute in this decision. I have gained so much in this dialogue. Thank you. And thank you Brandon. (Another long, personal post!!!!)

          • Thanks for your friendship, too, Loreen.

  • I agree with you that both positions seem inadequate. I don't know how consciousness works. It is a mystery, one that I hope scientists involved will someday figure out. But I don't know if they will.

    My personal suspicion is that there is fundamentally no mind and no matter. Both are different aspects of a singular underlying reality, analogous to how the electric and magnetic fields are different aspects of an electromagnetic wave, or how wave and particle are both different aspects of the quantum.

    Maybe there's some ultimate substance that manifests itself now as mind, now as matter.

    • Lucretius

      Good evening, Mr. Rimmer, nice to meet you:

      What you are speaking of seems to be a form of neutral monism, which was what Spinoza proposed. I think Bertrand Russel also support a form of it, and maybe Einstein (since he was influenced greatly by Spinoza).

      I think the problem of consciousness is unsolvable by science, as science deals with quantitative properties, and consciousness is inherently qualitative. Or to put it another way, everything we could measure we defined as a part of nature, and everything we couldn't we defined as part of the mind. The problem of trying to measure the mind then becomes obvious.

      Christi pax.

  • David Nickol

    Where dualism wishes to assert the preeminence of
    mind/spirit/soul over and against the body and brain, hylomorphism adamantly
    maintains that they are not separable, except through the event of death.

    It seems to me that to say that the soul and body are not separable "except through the event of death" tells us exactly nothing, since death is defined as the soul separating from the body. The Catechism says

    365 The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.

    This seems to say that the unity of soul and body is so profound that the only way it can be broken is by the soul leaving the body and going to purgatory, heaven, or hell, which is the fate of every single soul. The unity is so profound that it can only be broken when it is broken, which it eventually will be.

  • David Nickol

    The brain and nervous system function, he maintains, much like a transparent lens.

    Of course all analogies are imperfect, but it seems to me the lens analogy really isn't helpful at all. For one thing, a lens is useless to anyone who cannot already see without it. So if the brain and nervous system act like a lens through which the soul sees, the soul should be able to see without the brain and the nervous system.

    • William Davis

      What happens to the lens when you sleep?

      • David Nickol

        That's a great question. I'm glad you asked.

        People with the newer kinds of lenses can sleep with them in. However, older lenses should be removed before sleep and placed in a sterile solution.

        • William Davis

          They say I can sleep in my lenses, but I still take them out, or my contacts feel slimy or something.

          On a serious note, there is strong evidence that long term memories are encoded during sleep. The soul has to go offline to be permanently altered by what you learned during that day. Thus, after sleep, you awaken each morning with a new soul. Sure, it is similar to the one you had yesterday, but not the same.

          https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sleep-newzzz/201106/sleep-and-long-term-memory-maybe-s-why-we-sleep

          There are more reasons for sleep than just memory (and we still don't fully understand it) but most of us have awakened to realizing we have solved a problem or come to some insight while unconscious. Thomas Edison though he came up with his best ideas while falling asleep (as opposed to being asleep). He would keep himself sleep deprived so he could fall asleep more often, hoping to awaken with a "eureka".

          Descartes argued that one was always dreaming while asleep (even with no memory of the dreams) so the soul never actually went offline. I think we now know this is not the case, dreams only occur in a specific stage (REM) of sleep.

  • David Nickol

    Why Materialism and Dualism Both Fail to Explain Your Mind

    I am a little confused, since the the solution being advocated here (hylomorphism) is dualism. Edward Feser says:

    Hylemorphic dualism is the approach to the mind-body problem taken by Aquinas and the Thomist tradition more generally. (The label may have been coined by David Oderberg, who defends the view in an important paper and in his book Real Essentialism. “Hylemorphic” is sometimes spelled “hylomorphic,” though the former spelling is arguably preferable since it is closer to the Greek root hyle.) The view holds both that the soul is the substantial form of the living human body (that is the “hylemorphic” part) and that it is unique among the forms of material things in being subsistent, that is, capable of surviving beyond the death of the body (that is the “dualism” part).

    • I don't think you are confused, David. Perhaps Feser properly realizes that Thomistic Hylomorphism indeed departs, in a most salient manner, from the authentic Aristotelian conception, because, otherwise, why wouldn't he consider the phrase hylomorphic dualism a redundancy?

      In the same way that the OP seemed to arbitrarily suggest a distinction between the dynamical nature (gradually imposed) of artifactual forms and the "immediately given" forms of living beings, the Thomistic account arbitrarily draws a distinction between substantial forms and subsistent forms. No redundancy here as in Aristotelian terms a subsistent form sounds like an oxymoron, at least regarding realities that aren't self-subsisting.

  • David Nickol

    According to Catholic teaching, at the resurrection of the dead, the soul and body will be reunited. But for an inestimably huge number of people, even if the resurrection of the dead were to take place in the near future, their bodies would no longer exist. Each and every atom would have been long since "recycled." Additionally, those who are saved allegedly will be given "glorified bodies," apparently made of some unknown (and as yet to exist?) form of matter.

    So the best that can be said, it seems to me, is that the disembodied souls will not be "reunited" with their bodies. They will be provided with some kind of replicas of their former bodies. And in the case of, say, an aborted first-trimester baby Down syndrome, it will be provided with something that never existed—an adult version of the body it would have had if the Down syndrome mutation had not taken place, if the baby had been born, and if it had grown to adulthood.

    • Galorgan

      I'd like to see a response to this.

    • Andrew Y.

      The atoms that make up our bodies are being continually replaced, even while we are still alive, and yet we do not consider our bodies each year to be a replica of the prior year. It would follow then that if a body were to be created anew at some point in the future, though the physical matter was not original, it could still constitute an original body. The age at which a person dies and the existence of birth defects both seem immaterial to the question.

      • William Davis

        In general, you have a point, but what about things like mental retardation? If you make a retarded person have normal intelligence, how can they be the same person?

        • Michael Murray

          If you make a blastocyst a person who is it ?

          • William Davis

            Last year my 4 year old (Zack) was in my Mom's Christmas play. The play was about children being in the kingdom of God in heaven, and she had the stage covered with babies. Before the play Zack was complaining how creepy heaven was, being full of babies. During the play he got kicked off the stage (i.e. out of heaven) for talking and came to me. I was sitting in the front row beside some props, and Zack, with an angry look on his face, grabbed some devil horns and put them on saying, "I got kicked out." I couldn't help but burst out laughing, especially since my Dad was preaching at me during the introduction of the play (they no I'm non-Christian).
            Not long ago Zack caught my Mom on another contradiction about heaven. He had lost a few balloons, and my Mom told him they were going up to heaven. In a future discussion of heaven he asked, "So am I going to get all of my balloons back when I go to heaven?". It is funny, but in some ways it is a serious question. I guess he's a natural skeptic too ;)

        • Andrew Y.

          Mental retardation is but a limitation of the physical body. A man born blind would be no less himself even if he were made able to see.

      • Michael Murray

        What if it is a really early miscarriage? The rate of miscarriage is estimated by some to be as high as 80%. Many of these are just blastocysts consisting of a few 100 cells. At the resurrection of the cell do they come back as blastocysts or divine bodies based on their DNA ?

      • David Nickol

        The atoms that make up our bodies are being continually replaced, even while we are still alive, and yet we do not consider our bodies each year to be a replica of the prior year.

        The problem of identity and change goes all the way back to ancient philosophers. We're probably not going to solve it here. But suppose there is an ancient church that, over the course of a thousand years has been repaired, brick by brick, so that only a few of the bricks actually date back to the original building. One could make a case that it is still the church that was built a thousand years ago. But imagine there was another church built a thousand years ago that was utterly destroyed in, say, World War II. Not a trace of the original was left. Someone decides to build an exact replica on the spot, and they do a magnificent job. Is the second church the same church that was built a thousand years ago? I don't think anyone would say it was.

        So it seems to me if a person's body has been utterly destroyed, the body he or she allegedly gets at the resurrection of the dead is at best a replica. And of course if the person died shortly after conception, the body that person will receive is not even a replica. It is at best an extrapolation.

        It seems to me that strictly speaking, if hylomorphism is true, it is impossible to rise from the dead unless your corpse is reasonably intact. At the resurrection of the dead, the soul can't be reunited with a body that no longer exists (or, in the case of an early embryo, never existed).

        • David Nickol

          It also seems to me that if Abraham's souls is not, strictly speaking, Abraham, then Abraham has gone out of existence. At the resurrection of the dead, Abraham's soul will get a replacement body. I think all the talk about hylomorphism does not really make sense, and in reality, it is impossible to think about the whole issue without tacitly admitting that the soul really is the person, and the body is its housing. And if the housing is destroyed, another housing can be created for the soul to inhabit.

      • David Nickol

        The atoms that make up our bodies are being continually replaced, even while we are still alive, and yet we do not consider our bodies each year to be a replica of the prior year.

        But note the following:

        Most cells in our bodies’ organs and tissues, such as the liver, guts, or skin are continuously renewed. In contrast, the majority of the approximately 100 billion nerve cells in our brain and spinal cord are born — through a process known as neurogenesis — before birth and will last a lifetime. However, a few brain structures add new nerve cells during infancy and a single region adds new cells throughout the lifespan. [Emphasis added.]

        I think if a brain transplant were possible, if my brain were transplanted into another body, I would consider the new brain-body combination to be me.

    • I'm surprised you didn't quote the Catechism here; you seem to know it better than most Catholics!

      The relevant portions seem to be 997-1001: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p123a11.htm

      Some key differences with what you've written is that glorification flows from reunification. There is no talk of a "replica" body, unknown forms of matter, or a transformation into adulthood. But I get the spirit of your question: all has an "angels dancing on the head of a pin" thing about it. (A canard, by the way - no medieval ever debated that.) Which is why I think the Catechism refrains from speculation, affirming that the "how" of the reality of reunification "exceeds our imagination and understanding," even if "that" it happens flows from both faith and reason. I'm comfortable with that, just as I'm comfortable admitting that the reality of God far exceeds my imagination and understanding. I suspect that on the other side we can all expect the unexpected. (The leap from non-being to being human certainly wasn't something I was anticipating...were you?)

      • David Nickol

        There is no talk of a "replica" body, unknown forms of matter, or a transformation into adulthood. But I get the spirit of your question: all has an "angels dancing on the head of a pin" thing about it.

        But the discussion here is about the body and the soul, and that is why my questions pertained to. Take the following, from the Catechism:

        997 What is "rising"? In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus' Resurrection.

        Say the body of Person X was consumed in a fire or vaporized in a nuclear explosion. The soul of Person X awaits in heaven until the resurrection of the dead, but how is it possible to speak of Person X's soul "reuniting" with Person X's body?

        I think this is a perfectly relevant question, because hylomorphism as I understand Aristotle to have conceived of it could not possibly have conceived of a destruction of the body and a "reuniting" with it. It seems to me that if a human person consists of a body and soul in "hylomorphic union," even in the sense that Aquinas apparently thinks of it, a "reuniting" of body and soul would be impossible once the body was destroyed. It seems to me very important, because as I understand it, what we are being told here is that I am neither my soul nor my body, but a soul and body so "configured" that they form one thing—me. But once I am told that my soul can be separated from my body, and my body destroyed, I can think of myself not as my body and my soul, but rather a body and my soul. Because my soul is going to go away and be supplied another body.

        Not that I brought up the case of a person who dies before birth, as an embryo. We of course have no idea what happens after death, but would anyone seriously suggest that anyone who died in the embryonic stage will be resurrected as an embryo?

        The idea of the hylomorphic union seems to me to be untenable first of all because I don't think Aristotle ever conceived of the separation of the body and soul, but even more so because the soul exists without a body and is later joined with a new one (not "reunited" to the original).

        By the way, part of the problem with arguing about Catholic teaching is that it is not always easy to pin down what is "official" teaching and what is not. But even though the Catechism doesn't go into it, I have always understood it to be Catholic teaching that the glorified body will have the characteristics of identity, integrity, quality, impassibility, subtlety, agility, and clarity. The Catechism may not say anything about "unknown forms of matter," but a body with those sever characteristics is not made of matter as we know it.

        I suspect one of the problems is that the New Testament idea of resurrection of the dead (which developed in Jewish thought after Old Testament times) was in no way a Greek concept, and yet so much of Catholic teaching developed within Greek culture or culture influenced by Greek thought. I suspect Christianity would look much different today if it had continued to develop within Judaism.

        • David Nickol

          I am just imagining the hylomorphic union of being something like the union of hydrogen and oxygen to produce water, a completely unique substance unlike either hydrogen or oxygen. Then the water is separated by electrolysis into hydrogen and oxygen gas. If you mix them together and allow them to recombine, are they the same water that they were before? It is hard to say. But if you keep the hydrogen and dispose of the oxygen, and then mix old hydrogen and new oxygen to get water, is it the same water you started out with? I don't think so.

          So if Abraham's soul is not, strictly speaking, Abraham, then it seems to me that Abraham's soul united with a new, glorified body is still, strictly speaking, not Abraham. Because Abraham's body ceased to exist.

      • David Nickol

        Which is why I think the Catechism refrains from speculation, affirming that the "how" of the reality of reunification "exceeds our imagination and understanding," even if "that" it happens flows from both faith and reason.

        Yes, but the task of apologists here on Strange Notions has generally been to present a philosophical explanation about the "how" of things. The OP here is about hylomorphism, which is about the "how" of combining spirit and matter to get a human person.

        But I get the spirit of your question: all has an "angels dancing on the head of a pin" thing about it.

        Do you really think that the OP does not have an "angels dancing on the head of a pin" thing about it? As I said somewhere else, probably 99.9% of believing Christians have no trouble with the idea of body and soul separating and reuniting. God can do anything, can't he? But once you get into explaining a theory about how matter and spirit are combined (and separated! and recombined!), then there's something to quarrel about.

        Tell me we know by faith, based on the New Testament, that we will rise again from the dead, and I might be tempted to say, "Can't argue with that." But give me an explanation of one of these concepts, and then I have something to argue with. Say, for example, that spirit and matter are combined in a mysterious and incomprehensible manner to form a person who is not just a ghost in a machine, and I might believe or disbelieve that as a matter of faith. But tell me that body and soul are united by Krazy Glue, and I'll have some objections. How can Krazy Glue stick to a soul? (Or if the soul is the "form" of the body, how can it separate from the body and exist "autonomously" awaiting a new one?)

        For me, the problem in Catholicism often isn't so much the doctrine or the concept, but rather the explanation (and the sense that the people who believe the explanation are so certain).

      • Mike

        (The leap from non-being to being human certainly wasn't something I was anticipating...were you?)

        This was critical to my 'understanding' of what to expect; how strange and different that life will be compared to this one - maybe almost as strange as my non-being turning into "me".

  • Laney C.

    Sad, but true: neurochemistry can wreck your mind and "soul." A little glitch in your brain can have you hearing gods and voices in no time. On the other hand, a tiny pill can shut those gods up for you ASAP.

    Again, it's sad, but true... I don't think I've got a fluffy "soul" in me. Not at all. Reality (or non-reality?) can be a real downer.

    • Mike

      If you're alive you have a 'soul'.

      • Papalinton

        Unproven. The best that can be deduced is if you're alive your are alive. I am, as all are, fully constituted by my aliveness. No need for extra. The embedment of an extraterrestrial soul at conception through the actions of a non-human, disembodied extra-terrestrial agent has all the hallmarks of supernatural superstition. The limit of its explanatory power is exclusively confined within the idiosyncratic religious convention of one's choice with no basis in fact or evidence.

        • Mike

          "ully constituted by my aliveness." = "soul"

          We agree! There is no 'extra' as you correctly describe it.

          Think of 'soul' as a kind of 'emergent property' of carbon.

          Think also of how the whole is 'greater' than the sum of the parts how on their own the cells of your eye are just cells each with the same DNA but together they "form" an eye and your eyes are by themselves just devices but together with your nervous system and brain "form" vision and on and on up and up.

          Your "soul" is akin to the powers that hydrogen and oxygen magically form when put into the arrangement h20 that 2 oxygen and 1 hydrogen atoms don't have alone and that their protons neutrons and electrons have 'magically' as hydrogen or as oxygen that they don't have alone.

          • Papalinton

            Your "soul" is akin to the powers that hydrogen and oxygen magically form when put into the arrangement h20 that 2 oxygen and 1 hydrogen atoms don't have alone and that their protons neutrons and electrons have 'magically' as hydrogen or as oxygen that they don't have alone.

            Is that the same 'soul' akin to the powers when some of those two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen 'magically' form a lentigo maligna.

            Is the DNA that forms an eye the same DNA that can also form into a lentigo maligna? Experts tell me that it doesn't matter where they take cells from, be it an eye, saliva, lentigos, sweat, skin, the DNA profile does not change and that DNA is unique for each and every person.

            So I am curious as to how you really think your analogy is anything other than naive and ill-informed nonsense.

          • Mike

            Ok, thanks. all the best.

  • Luc Regis

    Having laid the foundation of the human soul in Wednesday's post

    Great....mankind in it's most primitive state of superstitious religious beliefs came up with the concept of the after life and spirit and soul. Then the Greek thinkers such as Aristotle, refined the concept because it was too simple for their intellect to be satisfied with , then Aquinas and the Catholic church continued the refinement, now are purporting to have the right and true definition, on the matter, and hence claiming the truth of the matter lest anyone be confused.

  • GCBill

    "However, the real issue in explaining consciousness is the problem of felt experience."

    Nope.

    "But the Aristotelian tradition has in the first place always regarded sensation and imagination as corporeal faculties, and as having nothing essentially to do with the reasons why our distinctively intellectual activities are incorporeal. It is only because they take for granted the desiccated, purely quantitative post-Cartesian conception of matter that contemporary philosophers and scientists regard sensation and imagination as at least philosophically problematic and are impressed by any evidence for the essentially bodily character of sensation and imagination. The Aristotelian finds himself stifling a yawn. “Big whoop. We’ve been saying that for centuries.”"

  • Doug Shaver

    Having laid the foundation of the human soul in Wednesday's post, let us now turn to its proper character and function.

    To me, that foundation doesn't look solid enough to build anything on.

    • Pofarmer

      Foundation of unproven assertions and warm air. Vapor.

  • Peter

    If atheists rely on materialism to describe the mind, they are paradoxically ushering in the greater likelihood of a Designer. An early universe containing the latent processes to create matter from energy and to create animate matter from inanimate matter is a universe with the appearance of design.

    If we now include within those latent processes a continuous and even more extreme specialisation which is the creation of mind from animate matter, the appearance of design in the universe is exponentially reinforced.

    Faced with a universe with the overwhelming appearance of design, I see no evidence to suggest that the universe is not what it overwhelmingly appears to be.

    • Andre Vlok

      I'm quite happy to follow the theist argument up to here, with very little to quibble about. It's the next step that gets me. Why would God set it up this way? Millions / billions of years of life, evolution, predation, suffering just to end up with - what? Consciousness? Us? People who can worship God? A designer designs to a purpose, a plan, a goal. Where is your designer going?

      • Peter

        All I know is that the latent processes of the early universe apply to the universe as a whole and not just our little corner. This means that life could be widespread throughout the cosmos and with it the possibility of mind.

        The form they would take - and the manner they arrived at that form - would depend on local conditions. The conditions of our own planet would have determined the duration and particular nature of our evolution, just as conditions on other worlds would determine the evolution of other sentient species,

        If we assume that the whole universe is designed for life and consciousness, as it plainly appears to be, then the evolutionary experience of our own planet is just one out of countless ways in which they can come about.

        • Pofarmer

          If the Universe were designed fir anything, it looks like it was designed for Chemistry. We see Chemistry literally everywhere we look. Life, not so much. If the Universe were "designed" for life, then why don't we find it on say Mars or Venus? Why is 99.999999% of the Universe we know Hostile to life? Why is over 70% of our own planet hostile to us?

          • William Davis

            I think the universe exists to bring forth possibilities, but I could be wrong. Life on earth is just one possibility, and humans are just one possibility within the myriad of possibilities in our ecosystem. Look at all the galaxies, types of stars, types of solar systems...who knows what is hidden within each of those. The possibilities are infinite, and the universe itself may be infinite (I think it probably is).

          • Pofarmer

            I don't think the Universe has a purpose. It certainly doesn't seem so from the evidence we have. But, I suppose, that is the difference in being and an atheist.

          • William Davis

            Notice the use of the word "seem". If purpose is all in my head, I'm still ok with it. If there is no objective meaning or purpose, I impose my own...no reason not to. If there is no objective meaning, then the the meaning of the universe is a blank slate waiting for us to write something on it :)

          • Pofarmer

            I can live with that.

          • joey_in_NC

            If there is no objective meaning or purpose, I impose my own...no reason not to.

            That can succinctly sum up the philosophies of all the totalitarian dictators in history.

          • William Davis

            I agree, however it sums up ALL philosophies since it has always been man that has created philosophy.

            When the Johannine put these words in Yeshua of Nazareth's mouth (I don't believe they are historical):

            John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

            They turned Christianity into a totalitarian belief system. I oppose ALL totalitarianism, including yours. I'm with Thomas Jefferson in that I agree (in general at least) with the moral teaching of Christianity, but have no use for political propaganda and abuse of those moral teachings that found it's way into the New Testament and Christianity.

            "The clergy ... believe that any portion of power confided to me [as President] will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion."

            - Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Rush, Sept. 23, 1800.

          • joey_in_NC

            I oppose ALL totalitarianism, including yours.

            What about your own? Did you not claim that you "impose" your own meaning/purpose without any regard to any outside/objective meaning/purpose?

          • William Davis

            I certainly did, but I did NOT say I would impose it on anyone else, now did I ;) When you have some real evidence of objective meaning, let me know, but as it is you only have a tradition and some old books. There is plenty more where that came from.

            My personal views are sort of a mix of Deism and Buddhism, with a whole lot of science and even some Christian philosophy mixed in. I find this concept fascinating:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_naturalism

            I think taking all cultures and major religions together gives us a better understanding of what natural morality is, but the modern world has expanded on that immensely (think about business law and complex ethical concerns only possible in a society as advanced as ours). Perhaps something like Religious Naturalism could bring a lot of us together, but we'd have to come to the table with a bit of an open mind, not thinking we have it all figured out ;)

          • Peter

            The reason the universe appears largely empty of life is because life is low entropy and the universe, due to its unique early conditions, is on a journey towards high entropy.

            In order generate greater entropy, the universe must create local complexity to produce pockets of low entropy which will contribute a greater net entropy to their surroundings. The relentless drive to generate entropy results in the creation of even greater complexity which produces pockets of ultra low entropy known as life.

            Evolution is driven by entropy, not just of life but of a planet or a star or a galaxy, or the universe itself. As for Mars or Venus, who's to say what will happen in a billion years?

          • Pofarmer

            You are assigning Agency to the Universe.

          • Peter

            I only following the observations to where they lead.
            What I observe is a universe which appears to be designed.
            I do not observe anything which suggests what I observe to be designed to be untrue.

          • Pofarmer

            What I observe, is that assigning agency to the Universe uses a known cognitive bias, "hyperactive agency detection." If we adjust for this known proclivity, I see no need to assume either a designer or a purpose to the Universe itself.

          • No one knows enough about the initial conditions of the cosmos to be able to realistically set one's bayesian-like priors regarding same. So, it renders our already weak abductive inferences merely equiplausible. There's just no way to probabilistically infer design or not. While metaphysics can be a useful tool to help probe reality, it's not a reliable way to prove reality. Should we ever get to the point that agency could be philosophically established, its character will not necessarily have also been thereby determined, because reality remains far too ambiguous for us and way too ambivalent toward us to lead us to any universally compelling conclusions regarding its primal or ultimate nature. No too few thus stand ready to haul any such
            agent in for questioning and many stand ready to indict it. Reasonable people, it seems, can take different competing stances regarding this issue, all remaining well within their epistemic rights, none thereby necessarily disestablishing the others' rights.

          • Andre Vlok

            What? A reasonable, fair, generous comment in a discussion on metaphysics and the cosmos? Mods! Mods, can he do that? It will never catch on. Bah, some people.

          • "What? A reasonable, fair, generous comment in a discussion on metaphysics and the cosmos? Mods! Mods, can he do that? It will never catch on. Bah, some people."

            Johnboy will be swiftly banned. His smart, charitable approach is bizarre and indefensible.

          • Andre Vlok

            Thank you. We have Internet standards to uphold.

          • Well you know what they say, sticks and stones. At least I've seldom been accused of intelligibility or accessibility. We can't all have the total package or be Alfred E. Neumans.

          • Peter

            As I argued on an older thread, HAD would be an inbuilt design feature leading sentient creatures such as ourselves to naturally look for their Creator.

          • Pofarmer

            Or it could be an evolutionary adaptation that helps/helped keep us safe from predators.

          • Peter

            Of course. What good would humans be to God if we were extinct?

          • Pofarmer

            Now you're moving the goalposts into presuppositional apologetics. why go there when we have a perfectly good naturalistic exclamation that ties in with other species with the same features. for field mice and ears and lemurs and her dog specially designed to worship God to.

          • Pofarmer

            Ya know, what good would Humans be to God anyway? He's the omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent creator of the Universe. What could he possibly want with us? We would be less than ants. Why in the world, should we be created to grovel at the feet of this God? We love you God, oh, please don't hurt us God, don't send us to hell God, don't send a drought to destroy our crops, don't send floods to wash away our homes God. Please, don't let my loved one die from an abscessed tooth, God. Please God, we love you, we love you so much, please don't hurt us God, we'll worship you all the more.

            Blech.

          • Michael Murray

            I do not observe anything which suggests what I observe to be designed to be untrue.

            You aren't looking hard enough. Many things look like the kind of hack you expect to result from evolution rather than design.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_poor_design#In_humans

          • Peter

            You confuse general design with specific design.

            In a universe broadly designed for the widespread creation of matter, life and consciousness, sentient species such as ourselves would physically evolve not in some abstract optimal manner but in a manner determined by local planetary conditions.

            It is our mind, not our body, which is made in the image and likeness of the Creator.

      • William Davis

        There is absolutely no reason to think God wants to be worshiped. Look at all of the people who worshiped gods that never made it. In my opinion, God wants to be understood. Here is where philosophy and science come in. At this point in history, philosophy without science is completely blind, and science without philosophy is meaningless, at least in my opinion. The two require each other and seem to be leading us somewhere more interesting than we ever imagined :)

        • Andre Vlok

          I share a lot of those sentiments, William, but the Catholic Church would not agree, to the best of my understanding. We have a duty, a responsibility to worship God.

          • William Davis

            We have a duty, a responsibility to worship God.

            Back in the bronze age, the clergy of all religions learned that it was important for the gods to have sacrifices. It is interesting, and not irrelevant, that these sacrifices doubled as food for the clergy. I suspect it is natural for the clergy to propose that method of worship that automatically entails a way for them to keep their job and food on the table. I'm not being cynical, but bureaucracies always have a survival instinct. Remember worship includes tithing.

  • Pofarmer

    " The mind, or spirit, of man exercises definitive downward causality on the brain and the matter of the body, "

    It seems to me that you've made a falsifiable statement here. Good Job! Now, what experiment do you propose to validate it or contraindicate it?

    "while the body and the brain are needed for the full flourishing and activity of the mind."

    Seems reasonable.

    "Truly, man is not a problem to be solved, but rather a mystery to be lived."

    Why? Wouldn't you like to see things like Alzheimers and Parkinsons cured, as well as a host of other mental diseases? Wouldn't it be great to augment our memories and thought processes?

    " Let us insist on the mystery of the human person, and especially, on the mystery of the mind and the brain. "

    Why? This is just religion retreating to it's happy place. At one time rain was a mystery, Comets were hurled by an angry God as warnings to man, Eclipses spelled doom, and the tides were an impenetrable riddle. Resorting to mystery means being happy in our own ignorance. Who wants that?

  • Pofarmer

    "Unfortunately, I do not suppose that the mystery of the human mind will give way to Daniel Dennett’s probing any time soon."

    Why not? It's certainly the way to bet. The scientific revolution has done more for us understanding our world in 250 years or so than theology and philosophy did in the preceeding 5000, even if they undergirded it. And, guess what? Our rate of discovery is increasing, not decreasing, while theologians here are invoking 2300 year old "mysteries". C'mon folks.

  • Great article Patrick! Very well written. I agree with a lot of what you've written, so I think it would be more interesting for me to pick out a few points of contention.

    One thing that has become clear to me - partially through interactions with atheists here at SN! - is just how much a lot of the arguments against materialism are at cross-purposes with each other. Theists tend to leverage them simultaneously without seeing how they contradict. I know I did. Arguments from Chalmers, Nagel, and other neo-dualists tend to emphasize qualia and sense perception, the "what it is like" to feel pain, see red, etc. But for the Thomist, these are uncontroversial operations of the body that we share with non-human animals. Ed Feser went after D.B. Hart about this issue just a few weeks ago: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/04/14777/) The arguments are compelling enough in our present climate - enough to make Sam Harris side with Nagel against Dennett in an essay titled "The Mystery of Consciousness"! - but ultimately stem from representationalist assumptions about the self and materialist assumptions about the world that, given their Cartesian heritage, undercut any Thomistic conclusion.

    The other thing I would say is that recent theologians (and Popes) have reacted (I think justifiably) against the closed rigidity of Thomism, and leading Catholic intellectuals like Jean-Luc Marion are reacting against metaphysics more broadly. This is all worth considering. I hope atheists are convinced that hylemorphist dualism is more plausible than Cartesian dualism, and I hope they see too that a strong case can be made that it's more plausible than eliminative materialism. But I think Thomists also need to be open to new horizons, and not assume that Aristotle, Aquinas, or any other mortal has the final say on the human experience - which, as you rightly pointed out, is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.

    • But for the Thomist, these are uncontroversial operations of the body that we share with non-human animals

      Yes!

      • David Nickol

        But I think Thomists also need to be open to new horizons, and not assume that Aristotle, Aquinas, or any other mortal has the final say on the human experience . . . .

        I couldn't agree more. As I said (at great length) elsewhere, for the skeptic teetering on the fence between belief and unbelief, it is often the "technical" explanation by apologists (who invariably are Thomists) that gives the skeptic cause (and means) to argue in favor of his or her skepticism.

        EDIT: This message was meant to be addressed to Matthew Becklo.

        • it is often the "technical" explanation by apologists

          And there's the rub, as some fail to distinguish between mere descriptive adequacy, wherein we adequately account for observations and impart heuristic value, for clear explanatory adequacy, whereby we adequately explain those observations and impart predictive value.

          Still, abusus non tollit usum, the abuse of something is no argument against its proper use. I'll repost my comment from another forum: >>>>> The HPoC raises questions regarding sentience  not sapience. Whether regarding either of those two, the different interpretive accounts, at best, plant flags to mark where the tips of our descriptive probes have gone and offer suggestions on which direction they might head next. They add nothing in the way of information to these scientific probes but merely try to make the methodological norms and stipulations of science explicit. Such descriptive flag planting and normative explication do not explain anything, they only label the problem.

          I like the Aristotelian account of causation and commend it to any in search of conceptual bookmarks, but I wouldn't urge it on anyone as if it were robustly explanatory. It's more like a mnemonic device. To me it's like a set of flash cards to help me remember some recurring themes in some otherwise diverse subjects. But if someone else finds that using a hi-liter to mark key passages in their textbooks works for them, I wouldn't a priori suggest that they'll fail the test because they aren't using my flashcards.

          All that said, Thomistic Hylomorphism goes beyond the Aristotelian account in a dualistic way, so might not be the best exemplar for planting the flag on the interpretive neutral ground between materialism and dualism. <<<<<

          • Addendum: None of this is to deny that our interpretive heuristics, which will need to have attained a modicum of descriptive adequacy and which will have employed a mix of theoretic (negotiated), semiotic (non-negotiaable) and heuristic (still-in-negotiation) concepts, will not have gone beyond mere flag-planting vis a vis our labeling of problems.

            Competing interpretations are said to compete precisely because they each plant another flag, which has further normative implications, like probe here next.

            So, we can thus apply a vector analysis to them by evaluating both the direction and the distance between the two flags, the first being an observational accounting, the second being a metaphysical suggestion. How far in any given direction those vectors extend would then indicate how dogmatic any given interpretation is.

            Dogmatism, which presents in various degrees, typically, will thus be revealed by the number of dogmatic concepts that have been thrown into the pre-existing mix of theoretic, semiotic and heuristic concepts. Not all competing interpretations, then, even if otherwise epistemically virtuous, will necessarily be equiplausible, equally compelling or enjoy the same level of normative impetus --- not because they will have necessarily violated any rules of evidence, but --- because they'll have exposed themselves to progressively higher burdens of proof.

  • Luc Regis

    Are the people of today really expected to take Ariststotle seriously in other than an academic philosophical sense of centuries past?...especially given that religions are hailing him in reference to their cause?

  • We go beyond the restrictions of space and time when we perform Shakepseare? When we perform we act in space and time and both are necessary for acting. I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. I can only speculate he is being poetic. I see no reason to invoke "spirituality" in this context.

  • The image on the magnifying glass is telling. In actuality, the "image" of the wall is not on the wall or on the magnifying glass it is in the brain and its activity. The "image" of the wall is not on the wall the wall is the wall, not an image. We know what we experience as an image in our mind is something we create. We know this because we know our eyes literally have blind spots that our brain fills in. Our eyes flip the light rays and our minds flip it back. There are many many more examples of this kind of thing, people's experience of "that dress" being another example.

  • We don't know what consciousness is. Indeed it may involve something immaterial. It may involve matter, something immaterial and a dozen other distinct modes of reality, each of which we don't have any grasp of and are so mysterious that we haven't even speculated about them. This is indeed mysterious. Does this mean we should cease inquiring into this issue? Should we specifically carve out things as mysterious and just live them, whatever that means?

    This concept of the immaterial and soul are not ruled out, but it doesn't mean they are true. This concept of the soul was long thought to be integral to account for mental experience. This is no longer the case. It is not necessary to explain anything and can be abandoned.

    This piece tries to demonstrate that matter is incapable of accounting for mental experience, it doesn't do this. But more to the point of discussion between theists and atheists, it gets nowhere close to showing that naturalism cannot account for mental activity.

    • Andre Vlok

      Agreed. For one, the Buddhist discussions on this question (see eg the Mind and Life discussions) does not get a mention.

  • Man of the Hour

    What about neutral monism or idealism? These seem to get dismissed out of hand without any evidence, despite being vastly more logical and congruent with what we experience. We have 0 evidence for a world outside of experience or mind, so why don't we just say the world is made of experience or mind? That would solve the mind body problem instantly, along with meaning that our mental causality is real, and it would never run into the hard problem of consciousness. We can quickly demonstrate that one of these immaterialisms is true thusly: P1. Minds and mental phenomena exist. P2. They interact with the external world-whatever it is. P3. If two things interact, they must be of the same fundamental nature (monism) C. Thus the external world must be of the same fundamental nature as experience or minds, and thus also be immaterial in nature. (Implying neutral monism or idealism)

  • Man of the Hour

    Would hylemorphism be a double aspect theory, or a neutral monism?

  • Man of the Hour

    Material is phlogiston. There's no need for it, we can never observe it if it existed anyways, it cannot interact with experience because two things must be of the same nature to interact, and it possesses none of the properties of the reality we experience- the best that could be said would be that there's some function from material to our experience, even though time, space, energy, and mass as we know them in experience would only be mathematically related to that stuff. Of course, if we just had the objects we experience as experiences being real, we would no longer have a need for such a thing, and they're real already, so there's no reason to make up anything else to explain it. So we should get rid of it. Mental phenomena are all we can know, so we should either go with neutral monism, where the mental phenomena is prior to the mind and the object it prehends, or idealism, in which the mental phenomena exist within the mind and are just modes of mental existence. I think neutral monism is unintelligible due to the mystery of the dialectic between subject and object, so idealism seems like the safest bet.

  • Peter A.

    According to St. Thomas Aquinas, man’s soul comprises all those powers proper to lower organisms, namely metabolism, sensation, and locomotion; however, a still higher power remains that is non-existent in all other soul-possessors—intellection. “We must conclude that the nutritive soul, the sensitive soul, and the intellectual soul are in man numerically one and the same."

    The belief that life itself represents something inexplicable that cannot be accounted for via the usual method of enquiry (i.e. the scientific method), and that it is an example of something above and beyond the purely physical, may be an old idea (vitalism), but it is also an erroneous one. The characteristics mentioned within the quote above - i.e. metabolism, sensation and locomotion - can also be attributed to something that no sane person believes to be alive: fire. Fire, in order to exist, requires oxygen which it "metabolises", needs fuel (i.e. food - ex. wood, petrol) to grow, can move from place to place (locomotion), and will halt when it encounters a substance (ex. a body of water) that it cannot assimilate.

    Therefore, according to Thomas, the substantial form of the human body is the intellective soul, which, in the larger context of this question, is interchangeable with mind.

    So the soul is the mind then. Why not just use the word 'mind'?

    It is by means of the intellective (or intellectual) soul/mind that man experiences an intellectual mode of existence in the world as an embodied creature, an existence entirely different than that experienced by plants, amoebas, frogs, or dogs.

    How do you know that our existence is qualitatively different from that of the higher organisms (ex. dogs, dolphins, apes)? I get the very strong impression that the author of this article has never been a dog owner, for if he were he would understand that they are much smarter, and more aware of their surroundings, than many people realise. For example, the dog that we have can actually (and unlike most humans in these illiterate days) spell words. Using any tone of voice, or even no tone, the dog in question can fully comprehend not only the meaning of certain words (admittedly, mainly related to food), but when we began to adopt the practice of spelling out those words in order to discuss the items in question without getting the dog all excited about being fed, it didn't take long for him to comprehend that we were actually discussing the same thing that we had prior to this simply said. Now we have to write those items down on a piece of paper (he can't read - yet).

    There is something it is like to be a knowing, human person, and this something is markedly different from what it is like to be a bat, for example.

    Again, how do you know this?

    Intellectual existence shapes every facet of our lives and inherently defines what it means to be human.

    This is debatable. If intelligent aliens exist somewhere out in space, then this claim will be falsified the moment they are found. You're assuming that us humans are not only special, but special because there is no one else like us in this big, wide universe. This is extremely unlikely.

    This intellectual soul permits us entrance into the sphere of truths where we can apprehend absolute principles and act as responsible agents. It also allows us to encounter a world not populated by brute particulars, but particulars of a universal kind. This allows us to know not simply that things are, but on an even deeper level, what things are. It gives us the ability to paint and build houses, to fall in love, and do science.

    Ants can build houses. Chimps can make tools. Dolphins and whales can communicate. Life is a spectrum, a continuous whole that interacts at every conceivable level, the interconnections being beyond our puny ability as humans to unravel. Life on Earth could carry on if we were to disappear overnight: in fact, it would positively thrive. If, on the other hand, insects were to disappear, it would be catastrophic, and we would find ourselves in the midst of a mass extinction from which it would be difficult for life to recover. When, oh when, will people accept the fact that we are NOT the most important thing in the universe?

    As we noted earlier, the middle path of hylomorphism must avoid the pitfalls of dualism and its twin, materialism...

    Dualism is not the "twin" of materialism. Admittedly I am simply responding to the specific claims you are making here in this piece, and have not read (yet) any of the articles you link to, and it is possible you explain your position elsewhere, but honestly, I don't find any good reason to believe this particular claim of yours. The dualistic worldview recognises the reality of an alternative to the material realm, and argues that the material can, and does, coexist with what we would call the supernatural. The worldview of materialists, on the other hand, specifically rules out the possibility of there being more to reality than what we ourselves can actually account for via our five senses.

    ...and it must also account for world-access and presence. Where dualism wishes to assert the preeminence of mind/spirit/soul over and against the body and brain, hylomorphism adamantly maintains that they are not separable, except through the event of death.

    Why the exception to the rule? What justifies it? If the mind and body are "not separable", then when the body dies so will the mind. Why do so many find it so hard to accept the finality of death? I just don't understand this irrational attitude to the most basic fact of everyday existence.

    The body and the soul are “grown-together,”4 forming a concretized whole that has powers and capacities greater than the sum of its parts. While the substantial form of man, his soul, is the principle of actuality and thus possesses a type of freedom from the body as it persists through time, nevertheless the material component of man, his body, is an absolutely essential ingredient to the substance of man, for the very raison d’être of form is to inform some matter.

    This is utterly incoherent. First of all, if it is indeed the case that the body and soul "grow together", then it goes without saying that our very existence, as both a soul and body, began when we were born (or shortly before it). That being the case, it cannot be claimed that we are eternal, or an aspect of God, as some do, and the reason why they do this has to do with the fact that nothing within nature can have a beginning in time but no ending (so much for the Christian concept of eternal life). You claim that there is a "principle of actuality" - whatever that is - that "persists through time" independently of the material aspect of man, but if so then you are a dualist, a position you also explicitly reject. If the "soul", for lack of a better term, indeed can exist independently of our material bodies, in any aspect whatsoever, then dualism is true.

  • Peter A.

    Hylomorphism also sufficiently guards against materialism. The hylomorphic alternative does grant materialists that matter is eminently important, concurring with them that the matter of the body is essential—especially so when concerning the matter of the brain. However hylomorphism maintains, in contrast to materialism, the real presence of personal subjectivity experienced by each person by insisting that the substantial form of man is the intellectual soul. There is something about man (human nature) that is properly transcendent, non-reducible, and subjective.

    You keep mentioning hylomorphism, but my understanding of this idea is as indicated by this link:

    https://www.britannica.com/topic/hylomorphism

    My take on it is that it is a purely materialistic, naturalistic philosophical view. Spirits don't come into it.

    "There is something about man (human nature) that is properly transcendent, non-reducible, and subjective".

    Such as... ? I will not deny that we can, and do, experience life from a first-person perspective, which is indeed entirely subjective, but that, in and of itself, does not constitute evidence for God (however you define that concept), the "soul", or an afterlife.

    Because of this, we are able to reach beyond the material constituency of our corporeality in a non-physical, spiritual way, especially when we come to know anything. This must be granted if one honestly assesses one’s life-as-lived experiences. “We go beyond the restrictions of space and time and the kind of causality that is proper to material things,” writes Sokolowski,5 when we make vows,6 use language, utilize words and symbols, create art, share ideas and thoughts, perform works of Shakespeare, propose mathematical formulas, debate and discuss, engage in politics, and much, much more.

    "...perform works of Shakespeare..." I've noticed that theists just love to harp on about how the creations of Shakespeare and Bach are somehow evidence for their particular brand of theism, but what about Dan Brown and Britney Spears?

    Seriously though, I really don't quite understand what you are going on about here. When we "come to know anything" we are acquiring an understanding of it, but how this somehow connects with what you describe as being the "spiritual way" I have no idea. It looks to me like the old, proverbial 'Leap of Faith' is being indulged here.

    This is especially the case when we invoke the personal pronoun, I, and act as responsible subjects and agents of truth—there is truly an “I” to speak of, present in every human person, that serves as the center of all personal activity. This spiritual modality of man is his intellective soul. But all of these activities, powers, and capabilities which are spiritual in character, require, at least in part, that we be embodied as well. One cannot bring to life Shakespeare’s Hamlet—a spiritual activity transcending space and time—without having actors with bodies. Though this may seem obvious, it is important for this position.

    The invocation of the personal pronoun is simply one of those aspects of language and communication that we have come to adopt over the years in order to clarify meaning. What, exactly, does a person mean when they use the word "I"? What are they referring to? If you were to ask them to explain this, the vast majority of people would have a great deal of difficulty in doing so.

    "There is truly an 'I' to speak of, present in every human person, that serves as the centre of all personal activity."

    The centre of such activity is, not coincidentally, our physical bodies, and you acknowledge as much, but why bring the "spiritual" into this? Is it actually required, or do you just think it is? You then go on to base a conclusion (i.e. "This spiritual modality of man is his intellective soul") upon a premise that is debatable to say the least. I don't accept the original premise, therefore I cannot accept your conclusion. To me it represents an unjustified "multiplication of entities", thus violating the Ockham's Razor principle. Earlier on you seemed to equate the soul with the mind, so if you are being consistent here and still believe the two to be equivalent, then we simply have no reason to indulge in speculation about things that are "spiritual", because we have no good reason to believe that anything more than material reality actually exists.

    When it comes to the brain and the mind, it is not a case of either/or, but rather both/and. The brain and nervous system, being informed by the downward causality of man's intellectual soul and thus existing in a properly intellectual way, have a critical role to play when it comes to consciousness and perception. This, however, does not prove that the brain is the seat of intellection, but on the contrary, simply reinforces the hylomorphic position. The brain and the mind are wedded together, or, as Kass says, “grown-together.” Therefore, the mind working in, with, and through the brain exists and operates in a truly spiritual and transcendent way, allowing for world-access.

    If the brain and the mind are "wedded together", and the mind is the soul, then absent the existence of the brain the "soul" also ceases to exist. The "hylomorphic position", at least in its original form, isn't what you describe here. Perhaps Aquinas added some modifications to it, but all of this discussion about spirituality is utterly irrelevant to it.

    And just as hylomorphism maintains that persons are concretizations of matter and form grown together...

    Yes, this is what hylomorphism means. Matter and form are both... can you guess? Material. Spirituality never comes into it. It is redundant. As a hypothesis, it isn't required, violates the principle of Ockham's (or "Occam's") Razor, and explains precisely nothing.

  • Peter A.

    Our world is not populated by heaps of matter but rather matter as informed and as organized wholes. These matter-form composites, existing as intelligible wholes, are potentially knowable to man for he is an intellectual being capable of coming to know things by virtue of his intellectual soul. Moreover, through the brain—not by the brain but rather through it—the meaning, or the intelligibility, of things is conveyed.
    Sokolowksi illustrates this idea further utilizing an innovative analogy. The brain and nervous system function, he maintains, much like a transparent lens. When a lens works properly, it refracts and presents that which is beyond it, whether that is a newspaper or the Andromeda galaxy light years away. Unlike a television screen that creates that which is seen, a lens serves as the physical medium through which what is seen is conveyed.

    The analogy doesn't work, because both the lens and whatever is seen through that lens are material in nature, not supernatural. The same goes for T.V. sets and signals, computers and software, and any other such comparisons that one can come up with.

    When I hold up a magnifying glass at arm’s length, and gaze into it looking at the wall opposite me through the lens, the image that seems to appear in the glass is not actually in the glass like the image on a TV screen, but rather is actually out there, beyond the glass. With the TV screen, I behold a representation, an image of the real thing, but not the thing itself. But with a lens, what I see in the glass is not something representing the wall, but rather the wall as wall, but in a specifically non-physical way. The lens, then, serves as a physical medium through which the external world of matter-form composites is conveyed and known.

    Any image that one sees through a lens is also physical, whether it be a real or virtual image. The nature of the light that is illuminating the object in question is physical, the eye that sees the image is physical, the lens is, the nature of the lens (i.e. convex, concave, planoconvex, planoconcave et cetera) is, the conditions under which the image in question will appear inverted (or not) is as well... I could go on, but at no point in any of this are there what could be described as being spiritual phenomena. The mind of the person in question may not be directly observable, but we know what it is and how it works by 1). studying the effect that it has upon its - purely physical - surroundings, and 2). performing experiments upon it, and observing and cataloging the results (for example, a mind that is intoxicated will display certain characteristics - ex. boorish behaviour, an increased propensity to violence, an inability to safely drive a car). If the mind isn't physical, if only the brain is, then why is it so easily affected by (for example) alcohol?

    The mind needs the brain for it is in accordance with human nature that we come to knowledge and understanding of the world through our physicality and the corporeality of things.

    A point of agreement. Finally :)

    The intellect and the brain are wedded together, with the brain and nervous system acting like transparent lenses, not giving themselves, but rather giving that which is beyond them and other.

    The lens, however, can be seen. It's dimensions can be measured, it can be weighed. We know how it works, why it works; in fact, we completely understand it. Can the same thing be said of the mind?

    It is only by being interwoven in the body that the mind, the I, can come to know anything, and, furthermore, it is only by encountering corporeal things, through the senses, that we are ever able to attain knowledge of the incorporeal. Therefore, to posit any separation between the mind and the brain, or, to posit any theory that considers the two identical, is incorrect. We conclude that the brain, though an absolutely necessary cause, is not a sufficient cause for the human mind.

    The first sentence, to me, sounds like Cartesian dualism. However, you then say that "to posit any separation between the mind and the brain, or, to posit any theory that considers the two identical, is incorrect". Well, yes, the mind is not the brain, but who has ever argued otherwise? We know that the two are not the same thing, but that is not the same as saying that the mind cannot emerge from the brain. We may not fully understand how the mind works, but just because this is the case we should not therefore simply give up, and say, "It cannot be accounted for, therefore it must be an example of something that is beyond nature, something given to us by God". Come on, that's just being lazy.

    Because we live in a positivistic society that is more apt to follow the decrees of scientism, we almost unconsciously equate the true with the provable, or scientifically demonstrable.

    What's wrong with that? Why should I accept ideas for which there is neither evidence nor reason? Would that be a smart thing to do? I don't think so. One would think that, for example if God were real, that we would find abundant evidence for the existence of that god within our physical realm. Agree? Don't you think it would be safe to assume that our world would reflect, in some meaningful sense, the character of the creator?

    What is the world really like? It is full of violence, corruption, death, decay, dishonesty, injustice, capriciousness, and it lacks meaning, purpose and design. Alvin Plantinga's free will defence doesn't work, if only because it cannot account for natural disasters. We are born, we live, we die. That's it. Why should we deserve more? Isn't that rather selfish? Eternal life. What an abhorrent concept. No thanks, but I would much rather vanish into oblivion than spend even one second in "heaven".

    Well anyway, I think I've said enough now for one day. I could go on here, but I've got other things to do unfortunately.

  • Peter A.

    One of my posts seems to have vanished.

  • Peter A.

    Now two of them have vanished. What's going on? Why am I being censored?

    • Michael Murray

      Have you had a look at your account on Disqus ? If they have been deleted they will still be there but marked Deleted in red or something similar.

      • Peter A.

        So it's a Disqus problem. Thanks.

        I thought they were deleting my posts (for some reason I always assume the worst).