Thursday, August 25, 2011

Vallicella on hylemorphic dualism, Part III

Bill Vallicella and I have been debating Aquinas’s hylemorphic dualism (HD).  Earlier posts (here, here, here, and here) have focused on Aquinas’s motivations for combining hylemorphism and dualism.  As we continue Bill and Ed’s Excellent Adventure, the discussion turns to questions about the internal coherence of the view.  In a new post, Bill summarizes what he takes to be one of the main problems with HD.  Give it a read, then come back.

Bill says that he thinks HD faces a problem similar to the one facing what he calls “compound substance dualism” (CSD), which is essentially Cartesian substance dualism together with the thesis that a person’s body is a proper part of him.  The problem with this view, Bill says, is that when we ask what exactly it is that is doing the thinking when a human being thinks, CSD seems to give us two answers -- that the soul thinks, and that the composite of soul and body thinks -- and that is one answer too many.  HD holds that it is the person as a whole, the composite of body and soul, which does the thinking.  So far so good.  But according to Bill, HD also seems to imply a second answer to the effect that the soul alone thinks, just as CSD does.  For HD takes the soul to be a subsistent form, capable of persisting beyond the death of the body, because it takes our intellectual powers to be immaterial and thus independent of the body.  And if they are independent of the body, then it is the intellect (or the soul in carrying out intellectual activities) that does the thinking, rather than the soul and body together.  And this wavering between two answers is as unacceptable in the case of HD as it is in the case of CSD.  (Bill seems to favor what he calls “simple or pure substance dualism” over either CSD or HD.) 

Now Bill’s comparison between CSD and HD is in my view mistaken, for I think he fails to take seriously enough the HD conception of the soul as a kind of form.  For CSD, the soul is a complete substance in its own right, and specifically a substance that thinks (res cogitans).  That is why CSD seems to lead both to the conclusion that the soul alone thinks (since the soul just is a thinking substance) and (since CSD wants to say that a person’s body is a proper part of him) that the soul and body together think.  But HD does not say that the soul is a complete substance in its own right, and it does not say that the soul is a res cogitans.  The soul is rather the substantial form of a substance (namely the living human body), that by virtue of which a human being carries out his distinctive activities -- not only thinking, but also seeing, hearing, digesting, walking, and so on.  And it is the human being as a whole which does these all of these things (including thinking) while a person is alive, and not the soul alone which does them.  

What leads Bill astray here is the HD claim that the soul persists beyond the death of the body and can think when it does so.  He apparently supposes that the way in which the soul thinks after death is the same as the way in which it thinks when conjoined to the body.  And since the way in which it thinks after death is (obviously) to do so independently of the body, this would seem to entail that HD is implicitly committed to the view that the soul thinks independently of the body even when it is conjoined to it, notwithstanding the official HD stance that only body and soul together think.  But in fact HD explicitly denies that the soul thinks after death in the same way that it does when conjoined to the body.  For our intellectual powers only operate when we are alive because of the data we get from the senses and the mental imagery this gives rise to; as Aquinas says, “the soul united to the body can understand only by turning to the phantasms” [where for the sake of simplicity a “phantasm” can be thought of, roughly, as a mental image] (Summa Theologiae I.89.1).  That is its natural mode of carrying out intellectual operations.  And for HD, sensation and imagination, unlike intellect, have a material basis.  (This is why for HD neural activity is -- as I have explained in a previous post -- a necessary condition of everyday cognitive activity despite the immateriality of the intellect, even if it is not a sufficient condition.)  Hence, while we are alive it is only body and soul together which think, and not the soul alone.

Now, after death the soul no longer has available to it its normal input from sensation and imagination.  If it is to think while disembodied, then, it must do so in a very different manner.  What this involves, for Aquinas, is “turning to simply intelligible objects” rather than to phantasms, as an angel (a wholly disembodied intelligence) would.  (Think of pure concepts divorced from sensation or imagination.)  And this entails a difference as well in the kinds of things the intellect can know after death.  As George Klubertanz says in a once widely-used manual of Scholastic philosophy: 

Knowledge of singular material things will be naturally impossible for the separated soul, and likewise existential judgments about material or sensible things.  It will also be impossible to acquire knowledge of previously unknown material objects…  On the other hand, in this life the soul has no actual direct knowledge of itself, because it is the form of a body.  Once separated in death, it will be actually intelligible in itself, and so the soul will directly know itself as an actually existing singular spiritual substance… Communication between separated souls and between souls and angels should be possible, at least in so far as states of mind and will are concerned… Whatever other knowledge is necessary will be given by God, in a fashion similar to the mode of angelic knowledge.  (The Philosophy of Human Nature, pp. 317-18)

To borrow and develop an analogy from an earlier post, you might think of the postmortem soul like a hand which has been severed from the body and which is not only kept alive artificially, but caused to move its fingers (and in this way to carry out something like its normal operations) via electrical stimulation of the muscles.  The normal state of the hand is to be connected to and controlled by the body in such a way that it is the entire organism, and not the hand alone, that moves the fingers.  But that does not entail that the hand might not also move them apart from the body, after being severed, by non-natural means.  Similarly, the normal state of the intellect is to be connected to the body in such a way that it is the entire organism, and not the intellect alone, which thinks.  But that does not entail that the intellect might not also think apart from the body, after death, by non-natural means.

Now, notice how different this is from the way a Cartesian res cogitans apparently operates.  To be sure, while conjoined to the body, the res cogitans does gather information through the sense organs, just as a Thomistic soul does.  But whereas for Aquinas the conscious processes associated with sensation and imagination are bodily in nature, for the Cartesian all consciousness resides in the immaterial res cogitans alone and the matter that makes up the brain is utterly devoid of consciousness.  (Interestingly, and as I noted in an earlier post, it is not so clear that Descartes himself -- who never entirely escaped his Scholastic inheritance -- put imagination on the res cogitans side of the divide between mind and body.  But if we think of imagination as a conscious process, then his position would entail that it resides entirely in the res cogitans.  And Descartes did of course notoriously deny that animals are conscious, precisely because they are material.  For the Thomist, who does not share Descartes’ entirely mathematicized conception of matter, there is no difficulty in attributing consciousness to animals despite their being purely material.)

Since cognitive and conscious activity alike reside, for the Cartesian, entirely in the res cogitans, the soul continues to operate in pretty much the same manner after death as it did before death.  Hence we get scenarios like W. D. Hart’s “seeing without a body” example (which I discussed in a previous post) on which the soul enjoys conscious perceptual experiences of just the sort we have in everyday life, only without any bodily processes whatsoever.  For the Thomist, this is impossible, at least naturally.  A disembodied soul, lacking the sensations and mental imagery that the body alone makes possible, simply could not have, on its own, the kind of experience Hart describes.  

Now the Cartesian position does not make much sense, in my view.  Precisely because it puts sensation and imagination on the side of the body, HD has (as I noted in an earlier post) a much easier time than the Cartesian does in assimilating what we know from modern neuroscience.  Bill seems to think the Cartesian view is much clearer than the Thomistic one, but in fact I think it is very much the other way around.  Aquinas’s position is a carefully worked out attempt to resolve the ambiguities in Aristotle’s approach and to capture, in the process, the middle ground between substance dualism and materialism -- to do justice both to the immateriality of the intellect that is revealed by philosophical argument, and to the tight relationship between mental processes and bodily ones that is revealed by experience.  Descartes’ position, by contrast, is an ad hoc attempt to fit the immaterial mind into a novel, post-Scholastic mechanistic conception of the natural world -- an attempt which led to bizarre consequences like the interaction problem and the denial of consciousness to non-human animals.

Be that as it may, the point to emphasize here is that the features of CSD which imply that the soul alone thinks, and does so in the same manner whether or not it is conjoined to the body, are not present in HD.  Thus HD is not open to the same objection that Bill raises against CSD.  In particular, HD is not open to the charge that it implies two, contradictory, answers to the question “What is it that thinks?”  When the soul is conjoined to the body, the composite of soul and body alone can be said to think.  When the soul thinks on its own, it does so only when disembodied, and in a very different manner.  Nor is this difference in manner an ad hoc device invented in order to avoid problems of the sort that afflict CSD.  Rather, it follows naturally from the Thomistic understanding of cognition as naturally dependent on phantasms.

Bill also suggests a second line of criticism, which will be familiar from his earlier posts on HD:

But 'subsistent form' smacks of contradiction.  How can a form be subsistent?  To say that a form is subsistent is to say that [it] is a primary substance, that [it] is broadly logically capable of independent existence.   But a form is precisely not a primary substance but a 'principle' invoked in the analysis of primary substances.  Aquinas cannot do justice to his own insight into the independence of the intellect from matter from within the hylomorphic scheme of ontological analysis he inherits from Aristotle.   This bolded (and bold) thesis is central to my critique of hylomorphic dualism.  His metaphysica generalis is at war with his special-metaphysical insight into the independence of intellect from matter.  

I have already addressed this criticism in the earlier posts in this series, but I want to say more about it here.  First, and for reasons I have stated before, I don’t think Bill can or would claim that hylemorphism is inconsistent with the notion that some forms might exist apart from matter.  (Indeed, in his most recent post he seems willing to allow at least for the sake of argument that a hylemorphist could conceive of God, though immaterial, as “pure form, the ‘form of all forms.’”)  Nor, as I have also noted before, is it correct to characterize HD as committed to forms existing all by themselves, without qualification.  Rather, for HD a form that exists apart from matter (whether an angel or a disembodied human soul) is always a form together with an “act of existing” (precisely because, as Bill implies, a form all by itself would be a mere abstraction).  So, Bill’s beef can only reasonably be with the idea that the form of a material thing, specifically, could exist apart from the matter that informs it, even as an incomplete substance conjoined to an act of existing.  

But why this is supposed to be problematic is not at all clear once these qualifications have been made.  One way it might seem problematic is if we think of the form of a material thing as a kind of shape or spatial configuration.  If we thought of it that way, then when HD characterizes the soul as persisting beyond the death of the body, it might sound like it is claiming that a shape or spatial configuration can persist when the matter that filled in the shape or the parts which were configured have disappeared.  And that does indeed sound incoherent.  But in fact a form (as that term is being used in the present context) is not a shape or a spatial configuration.  When HD says that the soul is the substantial form of the living human body, what it means is that the soul is that which gives a human being his nature or essence, and thus that by virtue of which a human being carries out his distinctive activities -- thinking, willing, seeing, hearing, digesting, reproducing, walking, and so on.  

Now, Bill presumably would allow that there is nothing incoherent in the notion of such a nature or substantial form -- that is, in the notion of a thing which by virtue of its nature carries out both material and immaterial operations.  There is, at any rate, nothing obviously incoherent in the notion.  (Consider P. F. Strawson’s famous analysis of a person as something to which both material and mental predicates apply.  Presumably Bill would allow that that analysis is coherent, and if we add to it the notion that mental predicates refer to immaterial attributes -- which Bill could have no problem with, since he sympathizes with dualism broadly conceived -- then we have the notion of a kind of thing which has both material and immaterial features.)

But Bill would still object to the notion of such a thing carrying out its immaterial operations entirely apart from matter.  But why?  As I have noted before, there is nothing incoherent in saying both that dogs by virtue of their nature have four legs and that this particular dog only has three legs because (given injury or genetic defect) it is not in its natural state.  There is nothing incoherent in saying both that moving the fingers is normally something done only by the entire person, rather than the hand alone and that this particular hand is moving its fingers apart from the body because (given that it has been severed but artificially preserved) it is not in its natural state.  So why should there be anything incoherent in saying both that normally it is only the soul and body together which think and that this particular soul is thinking apart from the body because (given the death of the body) it is not in its natural state?

Again, it would be no good for Bill to object “But how could a form subsist all by itself, given hylemorphism?”  The answer to that, as we’ve seen, is that no one says in the first place that the soul subsists all by itself; rather, it subsists, like the forms of purely immaterial substances do, together with an act of existing.  “But how could the form of a material thing do so?”  The answer is that the form of a purely material thing could not do so, but that the human soul is not the form of a purely material thing, but rather of a thing with both material and immaterial operations.  It is because of the latter that the human soul can persist beyond the death of the body; it is only the latter that it can carry out when separated from the body; and it necessarily does so in a very different way from the way it did while conjoined to the body.  So, again, what exactly is the problem?

Bill also calls attention to an earlier post of his which criticizes the HD approach to the interaction problem.  I’ll address that in a future post.

75 comments:

Michael said...

Dr. Feser,

Good and clear post, I learned a lot.

"S is a primary substance if and only if S is broadly logically capable of independent existence." - BV

When I first read his article I had misgivings about his definition of primary substance and how he uses primary substance interchangeably with something that is subsistant.

Two questions: Is this fair to say? And could his definition of primary substance be disambiguated if reference is made to essences? (or at least kept in mind as one reads his article?).

(Okay, three questions)

Ciao,
Michael

Mark Szlazak said...

On formal causes, can you give an example of how they work. Is it like the notion of like-cures-like. Does it allow two things to interact because they have the same form in an action-at-a-distance fashion?

Say I break a crystal in two so that each broken end fits the other perfectly then since the form of the ends are the same, does this allow some specific causal influence to happen only between them when separated far apart?

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Ed,

Thank you for your post.

I've written some articles on the mind-body interaction problem and free will, which may be of interest to you:

http://www.uncommondescent.com/
intelligent-design/
why-i-think-the-interaction-problem-is-real/

http://www.uncommondescent.com/
intelligent-design/
how-is-libertarian-free-will-possible/

http://www.uncommondescent.com/
philosophy/
battle-of-the-two-elizabeths-are-free-will-and-physical-determinism-compatible/

By the way, do you and Dr. Vallicella agree on the definition of form?

Best wishes,

Vincent

SR said...

Here is what bothers me about hylemorphism. You say that the role played by matter in a material substance is, in an immaterial substance (angel or post-mortem soul) played by "an act of existence". I would assume that the agent of such an act would have to be God, since otherwise a form could create itself. Or am I missing something here?

But if so, my bigger question is: what is prime matter that makes it different from being just acts of existence? That is, once one reaches the level of the simplest form/matter composites, the matter involved must be prime, which can have no characteristics, properties, or attributes, and so is, as far as I can see, nothing other than acts of existence. Which sounds to me like saying that prime matter is God, or at least acts of God.

And if that is the case, then why bother with the concept of matter, prime or not, at all?

djindra said...

[T]he human soul is not the form of a purely material thing, but rather of a thing with both material and immaterial operations. It is because of the latter that the human soul can persist beyond the death of the body; it is only the latter that it can carry out when separated from the body; and it necessarily does so in a very different way from the way it did while conjoined to the body. So, again, what exactly is the problem?

The problem is this "very different way" is very, very vague. How is it different, precisely?

Josh said...

Don,

You must have missed this part in your reading:

"Now, after death the soul no longer has available to it its normal input from sensation and imagination. If it is to think while disembodied, then, it must do so in a very different manner. What this involves, for Aquinas, is “turning to simply intelligible objects” rather than to phantasms, as an angel (a wholly disembodied intelligence) would. (Think of pure concepts divorced from sensation or imagination.) And this entails a difference as well in the kinds of things the intellect can know after death."

Anonymous said...

Hi, Charles Myro here,


Let me see if I understand you aright.
Are you saying that Aquinas is doing something like equating physical with subsistent and mental with non-subsistent?
Are you saying that therefor "form" as used by Aquinas is a nominal thing and that it could not be to Aquinas a real thing, realistic thing? ---that Aquinas could not be a realist about this "form"?
Is that true of Aquinas?
I would like to see how you come to that conclusion.
Unless I have misunderstood you.
And is it true that Aquinas subscribes to a mind/body split in some Descartian sense?
Is that what you are saying or presuming? If so, again I'd like to see how you come to that.
Because I'm not sure why it would be necessary to presume that of Aquinas.

djindra said...

Josh,

You gave me more of the same. We are told that to think while disembodied is to "do so in a very different manner." That's because of a loss of "sensation and imagination." But what does that mean? It does seem to mean that qualia are not in the soul after all. They're in the body. This makes a lot of "Philosophy of Mind" an attack on HD as well as materialism. If no imagination, why? Is imagination in the body too? And why is there a loss of imagination but not of concepts? Apparently memory remains in the soul as well. Yet it is scientifically demonstrable that memory resides in the brain. So this must be a different sort of memory. What could that be? But let's forget that and settle on the vague pronouncement that there is "a difference as well in the kinds of things the intellect can know after death." How about an example or two? What exactly are the things a soul's "intellect" will know after death?

SR said...

@djindra,

Yet it is scientifically demonstrable that memory resides in the brain.

False, that is, not scientifically demonstrable. Science can only establish correlations between mental and neural events. In the case of memory, it can find correlations with the retrieval of memories, but not where they reside. Though there was an experiment where mice were trained to run a maze, then parts of their brains cut out. The mice died before losing the ability to run the maze.

What exactly are the things a soul's "intellect" will know after death?

How about mathematics?

@everyone,

It seems to me that the anecdotal evidence, such as it is, of out-of-body experiences, denies the A-T view of the nature of disembodied existence. See Robert Monroe's books, for example. True, this is not hard evidence, but I would think it something to consider.

BTW, is anyone going to respond to my strictly philosophical objection to hylemorphism, or at least point me to a response?

Josh said...

Don,

Do you just stop reading when you get to some buzzwords you don't like? Most of the answers to your questions are in the post; except for the bit about the qualia of the soul's experience after death. There's only one way to figure that out....

Chas said...

"You say that the role played by matter in a material substance is, in an immaterial substance (angel or post-mortem soul) played by "an act of existence"."

SR:

Rather, the role played by matter in a material substance is played by form in the immaterial substance, for the form stands as potency to the act of existence. So, matter:form::form:esse. (see de ente, ch. 4)

Chas

djindra said...

SR,

"Science can only establish correlations between mental and neural events."

Science can only establish correlations between falling bodies and gravity.

"...but not where they reside."

You might as well say we can't establish that memory resides in combinations transistors.

"Though there was an experiment where mice were trained to run a maze, then parts of their brains cut out. The mice died before losing the ability to run the maze."

Silly experiment. We know with great confidence that brain damage destroys memory.

djindra said...

SR

Me: "What exactly are the things a soul's 'intellect' will know after death?"

You: "How about mathematics?"

That's a funny idea. I guess a large part of the population had better skip church and start preparing for their future through mathematic studies.

djindra said...

Josh,

What buzzwords? The post was straightforward in its vagueness.

SR said...

@Chas,

Thanks for the reply, and the pointer (which I will have to read more carefully than the cursory glance I just gave it). My initial thought, though, is why not see the ratio as subform: form :: form : esse?
All examples of form/matter composites (rubber balls, marble statues, etc.) have forms actualizing subforms (rubber molecules or whatever). The lowest level, then are just forms that are actualized but do not actualize. To postulate prime matter seems to me to be unnecessary.

SR said...

@djindra,

You might as well say we can't establish that memory resides in combinations transistors.

Surely you aren't comparing computer storage (so misleadingly called 'memory') with human memory? You might as well say that my linen closet has a memory of towels, because it has towels stored in it.

We know with great confidence that brain damage destroys memory.

We also know that breaking a TV destroys its ability to show programs. That does not imply that the programs originate in the TV. And that is my point. No scientific experiment that shows correlation between mental events and neural events can establish reducibility of the mental to the neural. One can always interpret the correlation as the loss of an ability to transmit, or tune, rather than interpret as production.

I guess a large part of the population had better skip church and start preparing for their future through mathematic studies.

Plato, Plotinus, and I agree, though there is time enough for both. Maybe skip watching TV.

Josh said...

Don,

You roped me in again, you naughty boy! Well, fool me twice...

StoneTop said...

Surely you aren't comparing computer storage (so misleadingly called 'memory') with human memory? You might as well say that my linen closet has a memory of towels, because it has towels stored in it.

Why not? All a memory has to do is store a record of the sensations experienced and the emotional triggers associated with it... similar to a relational database.

No scientific experiment that shows correlation between mental events and neural events can establish reducibility of the mental to the neural. One can always interpret the correlation as the loss of an ability to transmit, or tune, rather than interpret as production.

Unless you can show that such a transfer is taking place that interpretation has no standing. It would be like saying that a DVD doesn't store information because any damage to the DVD can be interpreted as damage to the DVDs ability to receive information.

Anonymous said...

LOL hard at djindra's massive trolling ITT.

Keep going, champ.

Anonymous said...

Why not? All a memory has to do is store a record of the sensations experienced and the emotional triggers associated with it... similar to a relational database.

There's a considerable difference between storing third person data and first person data. If information objectively "resides in" the material in this way, materialism is false.

Unless you can show that such a transfer is taking place that interpretation has no standing. It would be like saying that a DVD doesn't store information because any damage to the DVD can be interpreted as damage to the DVDs ability to receive information.

The interpretation has plenty of standing, because the question is going beyond the limits of science. Like it or not, SR is right: All we get are correlations. Science does not establish the reducibility, nor can it.

Science is a useful thing, but very limited.

djindra said...

SR,

"Surely you aren't comparing computer storage (so misleadingly called 'memory') with human memory?"

Yes I am. It appears the main difference is that human memory is content addressable. When CAM becomes cheap, computer memory will probably compete with human memory.

"We also know that breaking a TV destroys its ability to show programs. That does not imply that the programs originate in the TV. And that is my point."

We know the program does not originate in the TV. We are fairly confident our memories do come from our senses and take root in the brain -- that is, they are stored there. If you want to call memories "towels", fine. What other linen closet would they be in?

"One can always interpret the correlation as the loss of an ability to transmit, or tune, rather than interpret as production."

I guess one *could* assume our memories are being transmitted through us from an alien spacecraft.

djindra said...

Anonymous,

"There's a considerable difference between storing third person data and first person data."

So what is the difference? Data is data as far as I can tell.

"If information objectively "resides in" the material in this way, materialism is false."

How so? Computer RAM stores information. It has a material basis.

"The interpretation has plenty of standing, because the question is going beyond the limits of science."

That's nonsense. We can easily demonstrate how transistors store information. It appears like you want to mystify something because you want it to remain mysterious.

StoneTop said...

There's a considerable difference between storing third person data and first person data.

In what way? There is certainly a question of the volume... but really we only remember a small part of what is going on around us.

The interpretation has plenty of standing, because the question is going beyond the limits of science.

In what way is that beyond Science? We can certainly see the areas of the brain lighting up as memories are triggered... so if that is somehow being caused by something external to the brain that that cause can be isolated and studied.

Anonymous said...

So what is the difference? Data is data as far as I can tell.

Call me when science can even make sense of first person data. If you want to make subjectivity fundamental to the world, welcome to the world of panpsychism, baby!

How so? Computer RAM stores information. It has a material basis.

Computer RAM stores things we subjectively view as a pattern relative to our interests. RAM is no more intrinsically "about" chess programs than anything else on materialism.

We can easily demonstrate how transistors store information. It appears like you want to mystify something because you want it to remain mysterious.

We can easily demonstrate how transistors, relative to our interests, can be considered to doing one thing or another. If you think your hard drive with the chess program on it is "about chess", then you my friend are an ignoramus. l2think.

In what way? There is certainly a question of the volume... but really we only remember a small part of what is going on around us.

Volume? Are you serious? Because the only problem with making sense of first person data on materialism is storage?

C'mon. Think this through. Subjectivity has no place in materialism. And if we make a place for it and say that some forms of matter are irreducibly subjective, we're done with materialism anyway.

QED.

We can certainly see the areas of the brain lighting up as memories are triggered... so if that is somehow being caused by something external to the brain that that cause can be isolated and studied.

Uh, maybe if the "something external" is physical itself. But what guarantee is there of that? "If there's a cause, science can find it"? That's not true for even mundane causes, much less potentially non-physical ones.

Even something being physical does not necessitate that it can be discoverable, anymore than The Sims can ferret out that they live in a simulation just in case the simulation is on a material computer.

StoneTop said...

Call me when science can even make sense of first person data. If you want to make subjectivity fundamental to the world, welcome to the world of panpsychism, baby!

You've yet to define how first person data differs from third person data.

Computer RAM stores things we subjectively view as a pattern relative to our interests.

Do do our brains... where "relative to our interests" is defined by what appears, to the information processing portions of our brain, to be relevant (a determination made by past experiences and evolution).

Because the only problem with making sense of first person data on materialism is storage?

Not following you there.

Subjectivity has no place in materialism.

Sure it does. Subjectivity arises from the sum of our personal experiences. My life is different from yours, so my brain has developed processing patterns that are different from yours.

Uh, maybe if the "something external" is physical itself. But what guarantee is there of that? "If there's a cause, science can find it"? That's not true for even mundane causes, much less potentially non-physical ones.

If it is not physical then how is it interacting with the physical world?

Even something being physical does not necessitate that it can be discoverable, anymore than The Sims can ferret out that they live in a simulation just in case the simulation is on a material computer.

But couldn't the sims do so? After all things just materialize in their world.

It is also important to note that all the cognition for the Sims takes place inside the computer... all their memories and thought processes are so stored, and thus exist within their material world.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Anonymous at 1:03am should try to explain this in simpler terms. I think StoneTop and djindra keep on failing to understand the explanation and you guys talk past each other.

As for this:
"If it is not physical then how is it interacting with the physical world?"

Isn't this an a priori assumption? The mind has to reduce to its physical parts because only the physical can interact with the physical.

Perhaps the Sims is a poor analogy because the Sims characters are not thinking and are not aware that they are thinking. No computer simulation or AI is aware that it is thinking, they're all philosophical zombies.

As for things popping in and out of existence, in QED we have photons which pop in and out of existence and we haven't drawn a conclusion that God makes them do so, nor that we are part of a simulation.

StoneTop said...

Isn't this an a priori assumption? The mind has to reduce to its physical parts because only the physical can interact with the physical.

Not at all, I'm not saying that non-physical things cannot interact with physical world I am asking how a non-physical object interacts with the physical world.

Let's take my memory of how to make a pot of coffee... if that memory is stored somewhere outside my physical brain then at some point that is going to have to translate into physical action (pouring water into the coffee machine, etc...).

No computer simulation or AI is aware that it is thinking, they're all philosophical zombies.

Yet.... but then can you show that you are not a P-Zombie?

As for things popping in and out of existence, in QED we have photons which pop in and out of existence and we haven't drawn a conclusion that God makes them do so, nor that we are part of a simulation.

Yep, because those particles "pop" in and out of existence due to physical processes, not due to a non-physical process.

djindra said...

Anonymous,

Computer RAM stores things we subjectively view as a pattern relative to our interests.

And neurons store data relative to our interests. There is no difference. This issue is about where the data is stored not how we interpret it.

Subjectivity has no place in materialism. And if we make a place for it and say that some forms of matter are irreducibly subjective, we're done with materialism anyway.

I am a subjective being.
I am a material being.
Therefore material beings can be subjective beings.

Now you can say I'm begging the question. And it's true. But you are too. This shows we haven't really gotten to the fundamental questions yet.

"If there's a cause, science can find it"? That's not true for even mundane causes, much less potentially non-physical ones.

Well, science does find causes quite often. Contrast that with people around here who find first cause in a mysterious, unknowable Prime Gluer.

"But what guarantee is there...?"

None. A quest for certainty is irrational. It's the stuff of theologians, philosophers, politicians and the insane.

djindra said...

StoneTop,

It is also important to note that all the cognition for the Sims takes place inside the computer.

A very good point. Dualists seem to be quite fond of this theoretical example. Actually it's an admission that I, as a purely material, computer generated Sim, can be cognitive. So it's evidence against dualism generously provided by dualists themselves.

Anonymous said...

StoneTop said... It is also important to note that all the cognition for the Sims takes place inside the computer... all their memories and thought processes are so stored, and thus exist within their material world.

No, you've got that backwards. "Physics" in the simulated world would correspond (roughly) with what appears on screen. There is all sorts of data in the simulation that never appears in simulated physical form. They are materially stored in OUR world, because we exist on a higher plane. Inside the simulation, they exist "beyond physics". Despite the comment of a previous poster that "it's evidence against dualism", such simulations are in fact thoroughly dualistic. Interestingly enough, the simulation could carry on with some of its processing even if you took out the parts for the simulated material world. In other words, if the simulated people really could "think", they would turn out to have subsistent immaterial souls.

djindra said...

Anonymous,

Either everything is simulated or nothing is. You cannot have it both ways.

Mr. Green said...

SR: Which sounds to me like saying that prime matter is God, or at least acts of God.


Well, prime matter is opposite to God in that it's pure potential instead of pure act. But 'existence' has the potential to be joined to any essence. I've pondered the same point you raise as to why we need prime matter once we have Aquinas's concept of acts of existence. Plato needed matter to be imperfect, corruptible stuff, and Aristotle needed it because forms had to be in something (in a mind or in matter). But in a Thomistic vein, the material world isn't something bad, and forms can be supported by acts of existence. A system without prime matter wouldn't actually be Thomism, but I want to find out how such a system plays out.

djindra said...

Anonymous,

Despite the comment of a previous poster that "it's evidence against dualism", such simulations are in fact thoroughly dualistic.

That's nonsense. Computer simulations are thoroughly materialistic. Everything about them can be explained in materialistic fashion. So if you grant that I *could* be a computer simulation that thinks and feels in what appears to me to be subjective experience, you are in fact granting that mind is thoroughly material.

Anonymous said...

djindra said... Computer simulations are thoroughly materialistic. Everything about them can be explained in materialistic fashion.

Once again, you utterly miss the point. Let's gloss over for the moment your ignoring of formal causes and seeming confusion of Thomistic souls with quasi-Cartesian ones. "Dual", you will be surprised to learn, just means "two". There are two different levels in the simulation, the level with simulated objects of which the simulated characters can make simulated observations via their simulated senses. This level makes up the simulated physics. But there is more than that going on, there are realities in the simulation which cannot be observed via its simulated physics, and that makes up a simulated metaphysics. Now from the perspective of the creators of the simulation, it is all part of a single ("materialistic") system. They can look into simulated minds and have them persist without simulated bodies, they can tamper with the simulated physics to cause simulated miracles and so on. The point is that for the characters inside that system, they will need to distinguish between the two levels in order to accurately describe their simluated reality. Now if you want to apply that to the real world and say that from God's point of view it's all just one "natural" system, well then great, because you agree with Aquinas.

Jinzang said...

When CAM becomes cheap, computer memory will probably compete with human memory.

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

Heb 11:1

StoneTop said...

"Physics" in the simulated world would correspond (roughly) with what appears on screen.

Well what we see through the screen is only a small part of the simulation, but for an intelligence within the simulation it would be possible for it to investigate the physics (rules) of the simulation itself.

There is all sorts of data in the simulation that never appears in simulated physical form

They do not appear on the screen, but they are still part of the simulation... and investigateable by an intelligence within the simulation.

Interestingly enough, the simulation could carry on with some of its processing even if you took out the parts for the simulated material world. In other words, if the simulated people really could "think", they would turn out to have subsistent immaterial souls.

Their 'souls' would still be part of the simulation, by virtue of their interaction with that simulation... After all if they are not making changes to the simulation then how are they impacting that simulation, and if they are making changes to the simulation then those changes could be investigated within the simulation... and count as evidence that there was a large world.

StoneTop said...

"Physics" in the simulated world would correspond (roughly) with what appears on screen.

Well what we see through the screen is only a small part of the simulation, but for an intelligence within the simulation it would be possible for it to investigate the physics (rules) of the simulation itself.

There is all sorts of data in the simulation that never appears in simulated physical form

They do not appear on the screen, but they are still part of the simulation... and investigateable by an intelligence within the simulation.

Interestingly enough, the simulation could carry on with some of its processing even if you took out the parts for the simulated material world. In other words, if the simulated people really could "think", they would turn out to have subsistent immaterial souls.

Their 'souls' would still be part of the simulation, by virtue of their interaction with that simulation... After all if they are not making changes to the simulation then how are they impacting that simulation, and if they are making changes to the simulation then those changes could be investigated within the simulation... and count as evidence that there was a large world.

StoneTop said...

But there is more than that going on, there are realities in the simulation which cannot be observed via its simulated physics, and that makes up a simulated metaphysics

What "realities" are those? The underlying operating system, the physical hardware?

An aspect of the system is either transparent to those inside the simulation, or are a part of the simulation itself (either it is irrelevant to those inside or it is part of the simulations "material universe"

Mark said...

Prof. Feser,

Are hylemorphic dualism and ideas of efficient, formal and final causes be compatible with action-at-a-distance?

Can these notions go beyond explaining mind/brain interaction to explaining the phenomena talked about in this video?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrKVQVr3p04&feature=player_embedded

Could you elaborate in either case why they can or can't?

djindra said...

Anonymous,

"But there is more than that going on, there are realities in the simulation which cannot be observed via its simulated physics, and that makes up a simulated metaphysics."

I'm a software engineer. You're spouting off nonsense. You're trying to mystify something that cannot be mystified.

djindra said...

Anonymous,

OTOH, you've given me a new perspective on this issue. The "soul" is nothing more than an hardware abstraction layer. It's meant to hide the real hardware of the mind from those who don't want to know the details or cannot be trusted to know. But the bottom line for hylemorphic dualism is this: it sweeps the details under a rug. It posits a homunculus that resides in this soul. The hope is that 1) the homunculus helps portability, and 2) the naive will not look into the inner workings of the homunculus.

James said...

I'm a software engineer.

I too find claims of a “simulated metaphysics” deeply dubious, but I don’t think that’s a proposition the truth of which rises or falls on one’s applied knowledge of software construction.

It's meant to hide the real hardware of the mind from those who don't want to know the details or cannot be trusted to know

“Can’t be trusted”? Anyway. I don’t think you’ve made any arguments in this thread that would convince someone, at least one who did not believe that an entity dwelling within The Sims (sequel 17 or 18, one might suppose, before the requisite computational sophistication is reached) could be “cognitive”.

Anonymous said...

djindra said... I'm a software engineer.

Then it's very worrying that you cannot understand this fairly straightforward example. As for thinking that I'm "trying to mystify something", that is revealing. It is not mystifying at all, and in fact, hylemorphic dualism is about as unmystifying as you can get to explain this stuff, but that you consider it so might explain why you get it so wrong time after time. It's as if you start with the conviction that "metaphysics = mystifying" and when you get a clear simple answer that isn't mystifying you cannot accept it because it does not fit your preconceived notions, and so you misinterpret it to make it fit.

The "soul" is nothing more than an hardware abstraction layer. It's meant to hide the real hardware of the mind from those who don't want to know the details or cannot be trusted to know.

If anything, the soul is more like the OS, a HAL is not only too specific but indicates yet again that you can't tell the difference between Aristotelianism and a post-Cartesian caricature. Your "homunculus" crack is really bizarre. Thomists insist on looking over, under, and at the rug, but your caricature is parodying the exact opposite view from what Thomism actually says.

Anonymous said...

StoneTop said...Well what we see through the screen is only a small part of the simulation, but for an intelligence within the simulation it would be possible for it to investigate the physics (rules) of the simulation itself.

The physics of the simulation is only a subset of the rules. You might have a simulation where all of the programming is accessible through its "physics", but that is not required. In fact, typical video games work with restricted "senses". (Characters cannot see through walls, even though the simulation contains data about what is behind the wall. There is a simulated fact about what is behind the wall that the character does not have access to, unless it follows the "physics" by making a hole in the wall or going around it.) An intelligent character can certainly investigate the rules, but only some of the rules can be investigated "scientifically", i.e. the ones where the data is accessible through simulated seeing/hearing/etc. The other rules can be investigated by reasoning, i.e. by doing philosophy, though to what extent this is possible depends on what those other rules are and how they work.

Their 'souls' would still be part of the simulation, by virtue of their interaction with that simulation...

Sure, although I would not call it "interaction" because "inter" means "between" and the action is not between the simulation and something else. The simulated souls are part of the simulation. But they can be programmed to perform in ways that are not (wholly) accessible via simulated sensory perception, that's all. So to the simulated characters, they live in a dualistic world, one with two levels. There are things that they can investigate with reason + (simulated) experiments, and things that they can investigate with only reason.

What "realities" are those? The underlying operating system, the physical hardware?

The line between the simulation software, the OS, and the outside world are somewhat arbitrary, but yes, those are realities which need not be exposed in any way inside the simulation. You can say they're irrelevant, but they're still truths, and of course they are relevant to the simulation in that what it is and how it works depends on the nature of the world in which the simulation is running. What you can't say is that everything is part of the simulation's "material universe" because the simulation can easily have parts that it does not represent in any "material" way. The point for us is that even if we assumed that the "real" world was all physics-only, it turns out that that physics itself can be used to create a two-level subreality, and since we cannot know that we aren't inside such a subreality, we can never rule out that we live in a dualistic system, although we might be able to deduce that we do live in one. (And of course Thomism states then when we examine some of the assumptions we made for the sake of this example, it turns out that reality must indeed be dualistic in that informational way.)

djindra said...

James,

"I don’t think you’ve made any arguments in this thread that would convince someone, at least one who did not believe that an entity dwelling within The Sims ... could be 'cognitive'."

Of course I haven't. I didn't bring up the example. Anonymous wrote: "Even something being physical does not necessitate that it can be discoverable, anymore than The Sims can ferret out that they live in a simulation just in case the simulation is on a material computer." This was in relation to his claim that human memory is immaterial. So we got off on this tangent. Later Anonymous backed away from the Sim example. This simulation example reminded me of the "brain in a jar" and "evil spirit" examples in Philosophy of Mind. They all have similar problems. They all make certain assumptions that ruin the purpose of the arguments themselves.

Now, returning to the issue, I can understand someone being skeptical of a cognitive and self-aware computer. It's still Sci-fi and it's still mysterious. But I have a hard time believing someone could claim human memory is fundamentally different than computer memory. And I have a hard time believing someone would imply human memory is in the soul and not in the brain cells.

djindra said...

Anonymous,

"It is not mystifying at all, and in fact, hylemorphic dualism is about as unmystifying as you can get to explain this stuff,"

HD presumes the human mind cannot ever be explained. It tries to hide intentionality and higher brain functions in a mysterious thing called a soul. That is mystification. You go so far as to include memory in this mystification. The last thing HD would accept is demystification of the mind.

SR said...

djindra,

The mind only becomes mysterious when one thinks that it must be explainable in non-mental terms. This need for objective explanation of the subjective arises from the assumption that mentality is something that came into existence from a universe without it. Drop that assumption and there is no mystery.

Ryan said...

I'd like us to pause amid this discussion, so that we might relish in shared recognition of the fact that this entire back-n-forth series of posts has been a wonderful and quite enjoyable Godsend. My two favorite bloggers, civilly, productively, throwing down in dialectical fisticuffs, sans polemics, sans ego-investment. It's just... It's lovely.

OK; that is all. Anyway, proceed.

StoneTop said...

Characters cannot see through walls, even though the simulation contains data about what is behind the wall. There is a simulated fact about what is behind the wall that the character does not have access to, unless it follows the "physics" by making a hole in the wall or going around it

just like in our world... where what is behind the wall can be investigated empirically.

An intelligent character can certainly investigate the rules, but only some of the rules can be investigated "scientifically", i.e. the ones where the data is accessible through simulated seeing/hearing/etc.

If those rules truly impact the simulated world then they would be detectable based on that impact on the simulated world (and would be subject to empirical investigation), if the rule does not impact the simulated world then it's existence cannot be deduced, only guessed at (and never verified, as that would require the rule to interact in a verifiable way with the simulation).

But they can be programmed to perform in ways that are not (wholly) accessible via simulated sensory perception, that's all.

Can be... but that inaccessibility can in turn be detected from within the simulation. Further that would require a programmer who made the deliberate choice to deceive the simulated intelligences by intentionally hiding aspects of the world from them.

You can say they're irrelevant, but they're still truths, and of course they are relevant to the simulation in that what it is and how it works depends on the nature of the world in which the simulation is running.

They are irrelevant, as they do not truly impact the simulation. Simulated philosophers could endlessly debate that their program was running on an AMD or an Intel processor... but they would just be guessing as the program could just as easily be running on a clockwork machine, or a lines of rocks in an infinite sandy expanse... they are the same thing (Turing Complete).

What you can't say is that everything is part of the simulation's "material universe" because the simulation can easily have parts that it does not represent in any "material" way.

True, there could be billions of invisible, intangible goblins running about.

we can never rule out that we live in a dualistic system,

Again, true... but there are many things that we can never rule out (invisible dragons in our garages for example). And we can endlessly speculate about such things (is the dragon blue or burnt umber?) but in the end we are really just guessing.

we can never rule out that we live in a dualistic system, although we might be able to deduce that we do live in one.

But then the system wouldn't truly be dualistic, it would just be made to appear dualistic.

And of course Thomism states then when we examine some of the assumptions we made for the sake of this example, it turns out that reality must indeed be dualistic in that informational way.

But then if you are able to deduce that the universe is dualistic it cannot then be dualistic, it can only appear to be dualistic due to rules that prevent intelligent agents within the universe from seeing the whole universe.

One Brow said...

Anonymous said...
There's a considerable difference between storing third person data and first person data. If information objectively "resides in" the material in this way, materialism is false.

Why? Using the examples of DVDs, each circuit in a DVD is either on or off, and there is a specific sequence of circuits. What definition of materialism does not recognize this? Or, perhaps you think there is more to the information being stored than the sequence of circuits? Whyat else would that be?

One Brow said...

Going back to the original post...

I can't help but feel as if Dr. Feser is pulling something resembling a subtle con on Dr. Vallicella, quite possibly unintentionally. Dr. Feser likes to emphasize that he and Dr. Vallicella both agree that men’s souls carry out immaterial operations. However, this point of agreement is based on very different notions, and it is a mistake to conflate the two.

Dr. Vallicella seems to believe that the soul carries out immaterial operations because the soul is at all times immaterial, and therefore that is the only type of operation it can carry out (he doesn't really seem to answer the issue of how an immaterial objects puts the physical energy into the universe to change the flow of neural currents in the brain, but that's more of a tangent). So, for Dr. Vallicella, the basis of the soul is an immaterial essence, and that is the substrate over which all activities are performed.

By contrast, Dr. Feser seems to believe that the basis of the soul is physical, and that the physical substrate is the location for its activities. He makes a special exception for a subset of these activities, but this exception seems to be derived from the need to have such activities rather than an empirical suggestion or a formal deduction of their existence. To really make his argument, Dr. Feser needs to offer a reason to consider why the soul, when still in the body and thinking about these purely immaterial objects (the example of mathematics has been offered), is not using the physical substrate of the brain upon which to perform its processes? Or, if it is using the brain, why there should be reason to think the brain will not be required at a later time?

Anonymous said...

StoneTop said...if the rule does not impact the simulated world then it's existence cannot be deduced, only guessed at (and never verified, as that would require the rule to interact in a verifiable way with the simulation).

You seem to be assuming that empirical knowledge is the only knowledge, but it's not. Our hypothetical simulated beings could still do mathematics.

Further that would require a programmer who made the deliberate choice to deceive the simulated intelligences by intentionally hiding aspects of the world from them.

Not actively revealing is not the same as hiding, and hiding is not the same as deceiving.

Again, true... but there are many things that we can never rule out (invisible dragons in our garages for example). And we can endlessly speculate about such things (is the dragon blue or burnt umber?) but in the end we are really just guessing.

Even there, we can distinguish what can be figured out metaphyiscally from what can be only speculated. We can eliminate speculation that is not logically coherent: an invisible dragon cannot be blue or umber, because blue and umber are visible qualities and then the dragon wouldn't be invisible. It turns out there are many interesting things you can figure out without "empirical evidence". It's called philosophy.

But then the system wouldn't truly be dualistic, it would just be made to appear dualistic.

Actually, the system really is dualistic. It's just not Cartesian dualism, but we are talking about hylemorphic dualism. If you don't understand matter and form then of course the example won't make sense, and you won't understand Thomistic philosophy at all. It's fundamental. And once again, if you try to extrapolate from the example to the real world, the result is not that "the universe can only appear to be dualistic" -- it is that the universe is a single nature from the outside and genuinely "dualistic" on the inside, in exactly the way that Thomism claims it is.

Geoffrey said...

For the reductionist jokers:

What do I mean when I refer to my brain? Am I referring to me or my brain? When I have an itch, is it really my brain that has an itch? If I am in pain, is my brain feeling something?

As Peter Hacker has aptly noted, "the only feelings in your brain are headaches." You are either you or a part of you. Obviously, the statement 'you are reducible to a part of you' is complete nonsense. And this is what the reductionist wants to say.

So the MRI shows 'brain activity' when I am asked to recall something, but it is showing neither my intention to recall it (which means I must intend to remember something by making use of my organ the brain), nor is it showing the image of the sandwich I had for lunch or, for that matter, the potato I hope to have for dinner.

For the Thomists:

I do dislike the moniker 'Hylemorphic Dualism.' 'Dualism' does not seem to be adding anything helpful. Why not just say 'hylemorphic holism' or some such thing. Thomas' account of the soul is superior to Aristotle's because it is less ambiguous and takes into consideration an act of existence. Thomas is still using Aristotle's principles but provides a development that is superior to other commentators for the fact that hic homo intelligit. But this is only possible by emphasizing that it is properly speaking the whole human being who understands, not the intellect alone. Hence, it is the holism that should be stressed over the dualism. Incidentally, the knowledge of the separated soul is only recognizable as different in mode precisely because the separated soul does not have a full nature or essence. It is actually very difficult to describe a separated soul in any other way.

One Brow said...

Geoffrey said...
What do I mean when I refer to my brain? Am I referring to me or my brain?

Is this supposed to be a puzzle? Rhetorical? A legitimate question? By "brain", are you refering to just the matter, or the conficurations that the matter is in and the processes it undergoes?

When I have an itch, is it really my brain that has an itch? If I am in pain, is my brain feeling something?

Absent a brain, do you itch or feel pain?

As Peter Hacker has aptly noted, "the only feelings in your brain are headaches."

Headaches originate in the tissues arouind the brain, not the brain itself. The brain has no pain nerves.

You are either you or a part of you. Obviously, the statement 'you are reducible to a part of you' is complete nonsense. And this is what the reductionist wants to say.

Which reductionist in particular?

So the MRI shows ...

Is that the lack of information within the physical or the lack of ability to get existing information from the physical?

ONe more question, non-rhetorical: when an embodied soul performs immaterial opertions, suchy as mathematics, does it perform processes on the the brain to which it is ensouled in order to perform mathematics? If yes, why does it not require a another such substrate after being disembodied? If no, is not the soul more than just the form of the body?

Geoffrey said...

One Brow,

My initial question is a legitimate one. Either I am identical to my brain (including all of its processes, contents etc.)or I am identical to the entirety of a human person: that is, I am a whole.

I fail to see the relevance of your second question. Obviously without a brain I do not feel an itch. I could, however, 'feel' psychic pain. Later in my post I idenitified the brain as an organ that is made use of by a human being.

Hacker's quip is not meant to be physiologically precise. His point is that you feel pain not your brain. The brain and nervous system facilitate your capacity to feel pain.

The reductionist in question is of the brain/self identity type.

One brow asked,

"Is that the lack of information within the physical or the lack of ability to get existing information from the physical?"

If the first part of this supposed disjunction is true then the second part follows as a conclusion. If there is a lack of [the relevant?] information in the physical, then there is a lack in [the relevant] ability to get information from the physical.

One brow asked (non-rhetorically),

"when an embodied soul performs immaterial opertions, suchy as mathematics, does it perform processes on the the brain to which it is ensouled in order to perform mathematics? If yes, why does it not require a another such substrate after being disembodied? If no, is not the soul more than just the form of the body?"

Strictly speaking to do things like Euclidean geometry one does not need to make any per se use of the brain. We might engage powers that make use of the brain. For example, imagining a particular triangle to represent the concept "three-sided planer figure" but this is an accessory to the immaterial process in which one is engaged.

I suspect the separated soul can still do things like Euclidean Geometry. There is not a different 'substrate' there is simply a different mode of knowing. The sep. soul (absent divine illumination) can only know universals instead of its natural state where universals are known by way of particulars and usually resovle in them. The human soul is a kind of intellectual soul, namely, one that belongs in an animal body. But due to its both being immaterial and having a proper operation it is logically possible that it subsists after the corruption of the body.

StoneTop said...

Our hypothetical simulated beings could still do mathematics.

And? They could also write works of fiction.

It is important to remember that mathematics is a construct based on its underlying axioms, so anything that is consistent with a set of axioms is "mathematically true". So saying "3+7=10" may be mathematically true, but it is not an underlying rule of their world.

Not actively revealing is not the same as hiding, and hiding is not the same as deceiving.

It is a program, the designer has full control over every aspect of the simulated environment... so yes, anything that is/is not revealed is due to a deliberate choice by the designer of the simulation (or an oversight)

and yes, hiding something from an intelligent agent is deceiving that agent.

We can eliminate speculation that is not logically coherent: an invisible dragon cannot be blue or umber, because blue and umber are visible qualities and then the dragon wouldn't be invisible.

Invisible to us perhaps, but not to the other dragons!

it is that the universe is a single nature from the outside and genuinely "dualistic" on the inside, in exactly the way that Thomism claims it is.

Even from within the universe cannot be dualistic... because then you just have two universes occupying the same "space". If the two interact then they compose the whole universe, and thus the universe is not dualistic... it just appears so because some of the rules are structured as to make it appear so.

StoneTop said...

What do I mean when I refer to my brain? Am I referring to me or my brain? When I have an itch, is it really my brain that has an itch? If I am in pain, is my brain feeling something?

Since you are the one saying it, you are the one who has to say what you mean. For me "my brain" refers to a subset of "me": the cells, enzymes, hormones, and such that make up the biological structure of the brain. While "me" is that physical structure + the ongoing electro-chemical reaction that is my consciousness (somewhat like software and hardware).

As to itching... since itching is a result of stimuli on the skin (or misfiring of neural clusters that usually respond to such stimuli) the brain itself cannot have an itch. However "you" can have an itch... in that those neurons can be firing, leading to a response we define as itching in the rest of "you". The same goes for pain, which is largely based on pain receptors (which the brain does not poses) triggering.

So the MRI shows 'brain activity' when I am asked to recall something, but it is showing neither my intention to recall it (which means I must intend to remember something by making use of my organ the brain),

Actually it can, it can show the activity in the auditory processing portions of the brain, and the subsequent cascade through the neural network that stimulates the memory centers of your brain.

nor is it showing the image of the sandwich I had for lunch or, for that matter, the potato I hope to have for dinner.

That is akin to looking at the signals going through a CPU and saying you don't see any humorously captioned pictures of cats.

djindra said...

Geoffrey,

"When I have an itch, is it really my brain that has an itch?"

I guess that depends. When your elbow itches, do you scratch your brain?

"Obviously, the statement 'you are reducible to a part of you' is complete nonsense."

Obviously. So who says I am reducible to part of me?

"So the MRI shows 'brain activity' when I am asked to recall something, but it is showing neither my intention to recall it (which means I must intend to remember something by making use of my organ the brain), nor is it showing the image of the sandwich I had for lunch or, for that matter, the potato I hope to have for dinner."

Or maybe you don't understand what to look for or how to find it -- like traveling back in time and handing Aristotle a dvd and expecting him to believe moving pictures are on it.

UncleMeat said...

on the limits of brain science, the ...dualists/catholics/ghost-ians have a point. the MRI doesn't reproduce/show qualia--memories, associations, thoughts, etc. Nor does neurology. They associate areas with certain functions--but hardly show...syntax or equations functioning. Cog.sci has, like behaviorism before it, essentially...failed, at least in terms of mapping out human consciousness.

That doesn't mean however that we return to Aquinas. It does mean that consciousness remains a bit mysterious, and non-reductive

djindra said...

UncleMeat,

Consciousness does remain mysterious. It does not follow that reductionist tools are useless in the investigation. MRIs are crude. They aren't proper tools for showing qualia, etc. But you are mistaken if you think neurology cannot be used to help explain these things. There is certainly no reason to think a neurological explanation must be anything like behaviorism.

Anonymous said...

StoneTop said... So saying "3+7=10" may be mathematically true, but it is not an underlying rule of their world.

It's true but not a "rule"? Fine, they have knowledge which is non-empirical and "non-ruled".



and yes, hiding something from an intelligent agent is deceiving that agent.

You have a bizarre definition of "deceiving".



Even from within the universe cannot be dualistic... because then you just have two universes occupying the same "space".

Ah, ok, you don't understand what "dualism" means, certainly as it applies to Thomism or Aristotelianism. The duality is simply a reference to the formal and material realities that make up the world, and it's impossible to understand anything Aristotelian without grasping form and matter.

djindra said...

Anonymous,

From:

"...the [sim] universe is a single nature from the outside and genuinely 'dualistic' on the inside, in exactly the way that Thomism claims it is.

To:

"The duality is simply a reference to the formal and material realities that make up the world, and it's impossible to understand anything Aristotelian without grasping form and matter."

It looks like you consider dualism to be nothing more than a particular frame of reference, and that 'dualisn' applies equally to the real world and a simulated world. IOW, 'dualism' is conceptual and that's all. In this case the dispute is over nothing.

trudom22 said...

Do you wish to honour the body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad. He who said: "This is my body" is the same who said: "You saw me hungry and you gave me no food", and "Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me"... What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger and then what is left you may adorn the altar as well
"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." Ephesians 6:11-13
Antichrist is the adversary of Christ; an adversary really, a friend pretendedly: So then, Antichrist is one that is against Christ; one that is for Christ, and one that is contrary to him: (And this is that mystery of iniquity (2 Thess 2:7). Against him in deed ; for him in word , and contrary to him in practice . Antichrist is so proud as to go before Christ; so humble as to pretend to come after him, and so audacious as to say that himself is he . Antichrist will cry up Christ; Antichrist will cry down Christ: Antichrist will proclaim that himself is one above Christ. Antichrist is the man of sin , the son of perdition; a beast, [that] hath two horns like a lamb, but speaks as a dragon (Rev 13:11).

Christ is the Son of God; Antichrist is the son of Hell.

Christ is holy, meek, and forbearing: Antichrist is wicked, outrageous, and exacting.

Christ seeketh the good of the soul: Antichrist seeks his own avarice and revenge.

Christ is content to rule by his word: Antichrist saith, The word is not sufficient.

Christ preferreth his Father's will above heaven and earth: Antichrist preferreth himself and his traditions above all that is written, or that is called God, or worshiped.

Christ has given us such laws and rules as are helpful and healthful to the soul: Antichrist seeketh to abuse those rules to our hurt and destruction.

Antichrist may be considered either more particularly, or more generally. 1. More particularly: And so there are many Antichrists (1 John 2:18). 2. More generally: And so the many maketh but one great Antichrist, one man of sin, one enemy, one great whore, one son of perdition (2 Thess 2:3; Rev 19:2

machinephilosophy said...

How can the assumptions and criteria used to determine the ontological status of objects have the authority to determine that status without -themselves- being held to be exempt from such ontological indeterminacy in the process?

Anonymous said...

djindra said... It looks like you consider dualism to be nothing more than a particular frame of reference, and that 'dualisn' applies equally to the real world and a simulated world. IOW, 'dualism' is conceptual and that's all.

I don't know what you might mean by "frame of reference", but I wouldn't put it that way. You might say it's "conceptual" in that Form is necessary to explain concepts, at either a real or a simulated level. And since even simulations participate in real forms, in some sense hylemorphic dualism applies in the same way to both. It also applies in an analogical way (depending on how you flesh out the details). But no, once you understand what Form and Matter are all about, there is nothing to dispute.

djindra said...

Anonymous,

By "frame of reference" I was noting your dual perspective on the sim example. The same reality (the simulation) was both dualistic inside but non-dualistic outside. So your understanding of dualism is based on perspective. It's not grounded in a sense of dual being. There is no "being" in your forms. There's not even a necessity for form other than framing an understanding from your own perspective. This is not a dualism that could give "being" to a soul. So this is not the dualism of Descart or Aquinas or probably Feser.

StoneTop said...

It's true but not a "rule"? Fine, they have knowledge which is non-empirical and "non-ruled".



How exactly are you using the term "rule" in this case? If by "rule" you mean that it is not a product of observed phenomena then yes, but it certainly revolves around rules, even if those rules are constructed by humans.

You have a bizarre definition of "deceiving".

So deliberately constructing a reality to hide key parts of that reality from sentient entities within that reality isn't deceitful?

The duality is simply a reference to the formal and material realities that make up the world, and it's impossible to understand anything Aristotelian without grasping form and matter.

Yet those forms are just abstractions that we have created in our own mind as part of how we model the world we experience... they have no independent existence outside of our own mind.

Anonymous said...

djindra said... There's not even a necessity for form other than framing an understanding from your own perspective. This is not a dualism that could give "being" to a soul. So this is not the dualism of Descart or Aquinas or probably Feser.

Now you've gone from it being a mysterious cover-up to being an obvious figure of speech. One might almost think that you've missed the whole point.

Anonymous said...

StoneTop said... So deliberately constructing a reality to hide key parts of that reality from sentient entities within that reality isn't deceitful?

Closing your curtains isn't deceitful either, but you've introduced "key" parts, whatever they are (and possibly ignoring philosophical knowledge).

Yet those forms are just abstractions that we have created in our own mind as part of how we model the world we experience... they have no independent existence outside of our own mind.

No. That would be the nominalist claim, which doesn't work in the simulation analogy, and doesn't apply to the question of what the soul is like in Thomistic terms, which was the whole point of the original article. Which brings us back to needing to understand form and matter to get anywhere with Aristotelian philosophy.

StoneTop said...

Closing your curtains isn't deceitful either, but you've introduced "key" parts, whatever they are (and possibly ignoring philosophical knowledge).

There is quite a bit of difference in me not wanting my neighbors to see me in my underoos, and hiding key parts of reality from sentient beings.

Philosophical knowledge doesn't add up to much when dealing with empirical matters, as all philosophical knowledge requires is that it is consistent with its initial axioms... with no way to test if those initial axioms are just assumptions.

That would be the nominalist claim, which doesn't work in the simulation analogy,

Sure it does. Those in the simulation may conceive the "form" triangle, but that form would exist within the thought/memory patterns of the simulated intelligences.

and doesn't apply to the question of what the soul is like in Thomistic terms,

Sure it does. Afterall if the "Thomistic" soul doesn't exist outside of the minds that imagine them then the whole question is moot.

djindra said...

Anonymous,

"Now you've gone from it being a mysterious cover-up to being an obvious figure of speech. One might almost think that you've missed the whole point."

Is it a figure of speech or not? You want it both ways.

djindra said...

Anonymous,

"That would be the nominalist claim, which doesn't work in the simulation analogy,"

If course it works in the simulation analogy. That simulation is 100% nominalist and 100% materialist. Magic stops when you enter the computer science domain. Computer scientists are not shamans.

djindra said...

Anonymous

"Which brings us back to needing to understand form and matter to get anywhere with Aristotelian philosophy."

You make it abundantly clear that not even Thomists understand form and matter. That is the whole point. It's not meant to be understood.

One Brow said...

Geoffrey said...
If the first part of this supposed disjunction is true then the second part follows as a conclusion.

Sure, but the reverse is not true.

If there is a lack of [the relevant?] information in the physical, then there is a lack in [the relevant] ability to get information from the physical.

On the ohter hand, given the roughness of the information that can be derived, the current inability to retrieve the relevant information is not an idicator that it does not exist.

Strictly speaking to do things like Euclidean geometry one does not need to make any per se use of the brain.

That's fine by me. but you have basically granted that the soul is not identical to the form of the body, and adopted a version of compound substance dualism.

There is not a different 'substrate' there is simply a different mode of knowing.

Forms are processes, and processes need to be acting on something, a substrate upon which the processes perform.

But due to its both being immaterial and having a proper operation it is logically possible that it subsists after the corruption of the body.

Again, this implies the soul is not simply the form of the body.

One Brow said...

UncleMeat said...
Cog.sci has, like behaviorism before it, essentially...failed, at least in terms of mapping out human consciousness.

Many sciences fail for decades, even centuries, before succeeding.