Saturday, June 02, 2007

Well Said

In the comments to this post:

Brian Killian wrote:

Victor said:

…elementary particles do not behave like matter.

That really is the question isn't it?

Not "what is mind?"; but "what is matter?"


Other questions that readily spring to mind are:

What is Energy?

What is Space?

What is Time?

What is Causation?

It never ceases to amaze me that materialists seem to think that these are any less mysterious than Mind, Consciousness, Reason, or Value. The latter set of phenomena is experientially accessible to us directly (Cogito ergo sum and all that). But the former are not, as such, so directly experienced as our own mental states.

Indeed, it is arguably that lack of experiential immediacy with regard to physical stuff which is one central motive for doing physical science.

But, as I've asked before, why hold that mindstuff is more mysterious than matterstuff?

It strikes me that our conscious mental lives are the most obvious, matter-of-fact, taken-for-granted, intuitively indubitably self-evident realities there are; and that it's things like curved spacetime, energy fields, quarks, and suchlike that are the really 'mysterious' things.

1 comment:

Michael Poole said...

Energy, space, time and causation have pretty good definitions. We also (think we) largely understand the processes that give rise to them. There is a lot of fascinating research going on about the levels below those, but there are consistent and well demonstrated rules that explain how a few simple rules give rise to -- except for gravity -- all the physical behaviors we can observe in the world around us. The fact that the visible behaviors emerge is interesting and even wonderful on its own, but the steps are understood.

Consciousness is mysterious and wonderful for a different reason. It is an emergent behavior, like mass or color, but we have only a rudimentary understanding of what is necessary or sufficient for it. It is also less well-defined. I would say the two are closely related: we do not understand its composition, so we cannot draw a line around it and say "this is a mind".

It never ceases to amaze me that creationists seem to think that their understanding, knowledge and perspective is a superset of that of scientists. This gives rise to most of the stupid arguments in intelligent design. It also leads to confusion over why scientific research pays little attention to the wonder of things that are well-understood.