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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Mind Regained

I'm reading a great book r8ight now called Mind Regained by the philosopher Edward Los. He makes several great points, one of which is that reductionist materialists have no basis for asserting their own metaphysics. That is because they assert that all that "really" happens in the world can be explained by the motions and interactions of elementary particles, and that all apparent entities or causal powers at higher levels can be reduced to the lowest level. In particular, there is no such thing as "mind" as an actually effective force in the world, able to have a particular causal efficacy of its own.

Through this reduction, however, materialist have left themselves with nothing capable of recognizing that materialism is true! The "conclusions" reached by a bunch of atoms may be "successful" in the Darwinian sense, but there is no reason to think that means they are accurate. (In some or even many cases, wrong conclusions might be more helpful to survival than correct ones. Indeed, that is the very point many Darwinian reductionists make vis-a-vis morality and religion!)

9 comments:

  1. I'm a Searlite, believing in the reality of Mind as an emergent property of biology, which is an emergent property of chemistry, and on down, so I'm not sympathetic to the hard reductionist view; in fact I reject it. But to the argument that, "Ha ha, if there's no mind there's nobody home to acknowledge the truth of reductionism!" my only response is, "So?"

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  2. Gene,

    I've brought this up before, but I can't remember your answer. Have you read CS Lewis' The Abolition of Man? I think he made the same point.

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  3. 'But to the argument that, "Ha ha, if there's no mind there's nobody home to acknowledge the truth of reductionism!" my only response is, "So?"'

    Well:
    1) The argument, of course, only applies to reductionist materialism.
    2) If you're not interested in philosophy, then "so" would be your reaction. But the fact that, say, you are uninterested in electrical engineering does not make the truths of electrical engineering any less interesting or relevant to electrical engineers! The fact is, a philosopher proposing reductionist materialism as being "true" is talking rubbish, since by his own criteria he has no access to truth.

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  4. Jim, let me clarify. What the reductionist materialist ought to say is, "I believe in hard-core reductionism, but, given that belief, it would be utterly stupid of me to argue for its truth, since my belief implies I have no way of judging what is true and what isn't."

    But they don't do that! Instead, they present arguments for hard-core reductionism, as if they were addressing "minds" that could make "judgments" and form "beliefs" about "truth" and "falsity" -- all things that there own view discards as illusions!

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  5. gene, thanks for the clarifications. I think your critique works as a perhaps somewhat pedantic jibe at arguably annoying people's characters. At the very least, a hardcore reductionist who says people ought to "believe" in hardcore reductionism is being very casual with his language.

    It just doesn't tell us anything about the truth-value of hardcore reductionism itself. It's at least conceivable (and yes, ordinary language is fvcking with me here) that hardcore reductionism is the case, the nature of the universe. And it's then conceivable that some coincidence of particles in fields of force would lead to statements and brain-activity patterns best described in ordinary language as some guy convinced of the truth of hardcore reductionism.

    Now, the very fact that the above is so hard to say - I still haven't wrung all the personification out of it - is one of the things that convinces me that hardcore reductionism is absurd on its face. It's like people who say "The Self is an illusion?" Oh really? To whom then? I want to know.

    Which I guess is me saying that I'm instinctively sympathetic to the idea that hardcore reductionism is ridiculous and hardcore reductionists, silly people. Still, I stop myself.

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  6. And wow, pass the hookah, but I just had a thought I should've had sophomore year of college, very late at night in the fraternity commons. If hardcore reductionism is true, and the HR universe can generate arrangements of particles in fields of force we can loosely call "ourselves," who imagine themselves to be real, have selves, consciousness, beliefs etc., then surely the same universe can generate an arrangement of particles in fields of force that imagines itself to be, for lack of a better word, "God." And of course some of the arrangements called Ourselves could even imagine that they know this "God" fellow.

    I think I will go drop acid and reread Roger Zelazny novels now.

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