Friday, May 12, 2006

Immaterial agency

“That is an awfully ‘backwoods’ approach, compared to Steve's far more modern and sophisticated ‘an immaterial agent inside me, somehow, somewhere, does it...or something’".

This was part of Danny’s reply to me, but it’s really a separate issue from the relation between cosmology and Gen 1. So I’ll briefly respond to it in a separate post.

As usual, Danny has no concernment of the position he’s opposing. By definition, an immaterial agent is not “inside” a material compartment.

Being immaterial, it has no dimensions. Being immaterial, it occupies no volume of space.

Rather, a soul has a body, and a body has a soul.

Likewise, the soul uses the body.

If I were to give Danny a ring on his cell phone, I would not be inside his cell phone. Not even my voice would be inside his cell phone.

I would be outside his cell phone, but I would be using his cell phone to communicate with him. He would hear a simulated voice. And the signal would encode my words, while the words would encode my thoughts.

And although I had no direct, physical contact with him, I could make him do something.

Say I were to impersonate his chemistry professor. Suppose I told Danny that I wanted to see him in my office.

My mind would reach out to Danny through this indirect material medium and thereby make something happen.

1 comment:

  1. Steve,

    I don't want to get too deep into this, as I'm ill-equipped to argue the philosophy of the mind. I'd love to hear your thoughts on two particular aspects thereof, though:
    1) Why does brain alteration/damage/drug-induced biochemical changes cause distinct personality, behavior, and thinking changes, if the basis of these things is an immaterial agent? Just a short answer would be great.
    2) Why are personality/behavior/thinking so well correlated to specific parts of the brain, and this can be verified by observing specific changes (eg those listed in (1)) to those particular loci, if the immaterial agent occupies no particular part of the brain?

    I suppose in your cell phone analogy, I would just point to the fact that we're still dealing with clear material causality, energy transferred via radio waves to a receiver, which has algorithms that "translate" the signals into particular frequencies and tones. In the mind, I would say, the same occurs -- material interactions among different parts of the brain (as outlined in #2). What good reason is there to suppose that a soul is sending a "call" to your physical brain, and how is it transmitted, and how does this not violate the laws of thermodynamics? How can an immaterial "energy source" initiate the cascade of electrochemical changes to your brain, undetected? We can account for the "energy in = energy out", so whatever "spark" that comes from the soul to the mind, it apparently has no energy...therefore, how does something with no energy (or matter) interact with matter/energy, without affecting the total sum of matter/energy of the system?

    I really don't see myself as a dogmatic materialist here, I just see no evidence to suppose that there is a necessity for [superfluous] immaterial causality. Furthermore, it appears that this immaterial cause would violate the closed system of thermodynamic energy exchange inside the brain.

    We have to take some point in the cascade of neurological activity as the "cell phone call" from the soul, right? Where is it? Which point in the cascade? Which synapse? Are some chemical reactions "non-immaterially induced"? All in the brain are, but some in the body aren't? Or are all in your body?