A brood comb

….philosophical and other notes….

Resolving The Mind-Body Issue, Part 2

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on April 23, 2008

The first step into resolving the issue was returning to the world the things which we, in our wish for clean picture of the world, removed from the world and pushed under the rug of mental. And also reconsidering the “mind” as referring to different abilities of the subjects in that world, part of which are abilities to perceive all those things which we know return to the world (so colors, sounds, smells, movements, and so on…)

This, along with some motivations and considerations related to this step was discussed in the previous post.

I think one almost instinctive negative response to this move will be related to a metaphysical assumption of atomism/constructivism. According to this outlook, what we actually have in the world are large amount of entities of few basic kinds, and every other phenomenon we encounter is constructed from those entities. When this phenomenon is constructed, what makes the phenomenon what it is, is the specific configuration and dynamics of those parts.

Related to this kind of outlook (be it that we are aware of it explicitly, or we just took it for granted as part of how people talk about things), it is hard to make sense of the “returning of things from mind to world” of which I was talked . We need an alternative to atomism/constructivism, for the proposal to make sense.

The alternative is this. Instead of thinking of the world in terms of atoms (the basic “constituents”) and construction, we think of it in terms of actual things, and their aspects. What is central in this, is moving of the “source of actuality” away from the atoms. They are not now the basic stuff which is actual, and every phenomenon lends its actuality from atoms. Instead we move what is actual towards the whole – towards the whole world. It is the world that is actual, and anything within the world is actual AS a part of this whole world which includes the other things, their relations, and so on. So, in this change of the metaphysics, we can come to see atoms, also configurations of atoms, but also other things as aspects of what is actually happening in the world.

So, let’s see how this would work on some examples.

1. We can say that some things have color as their aspect. But also that they have a chemical composition as their aspect. In turn one of the aspects of the chemical composition is its reflectance characteristic. That is, which frequencies it reflects, and which it doesn’t.

2. We have events where we are seeing colors of things. One of the aspects of this seeing, is where we ‘pick-out’ the color of the thing, this aspect that we “returned” into the world. But also we can analyze the other aspect of the same phenomenon. That is the aspect where photons fall on the surface of the object, those with certain frequencies get reflected, are focused by the lens of the eye onto the retina, where eye cells react to those photons, and send signals through the optic nerve, etc…

So, we changed the atomistic/constructionalist picture to this… there is something actually happening in the world. And we can approach certain aspects of what is actually happening. But we don’t take those aspects to be self-subsistent (that is, we don’t take them as existing by itself, so that it would be logical for there to be just things from the aspect such as they are, but nothing else), instead we see their existence only as dependent on what is actually going on.

With this changed picture, we have two things…

1.We can now handle how in the same world there could be a) those “nasty” things that we returned – we can see them as more complex aspects which we can perceive, and b) the entities and properties from physics, which are now related to this aspect which is determined with the specific approach towards the world (measurements in form of comparing of one magnitude with other taken as a unit).

and 2. We get for free the explanation for the correlation between the aspects. Namely, as the “returned properties” and the physical properties are both aspects of the same actual thing, it is logical that we will see correlation. That is because the aspects are not self-subsistent, so that each aspect has separate existence (as with the constituents in the case of atomism/constructivism), instead they “get” their existence and their nature from the actuality whose aspects they are. So, multiple aspects of the same thing will necessarily be more or less correlated. In the example with color, the color of the thing and the reflectance characteristic of the object (and in turn its chemical composition) are correlated to a large extent.

This change of view is very important for making sense of the body-mind issue. We are having only one thing that is actually going on, and further we have multiplicity of aspects of whatever is actually going on. And we don’t have problem of why there is correspondence between the physical aspect of what is going on, and the mental aspect of it, without assuming that any of those is reducible to the other.

This concludes the second part of these posts. The two main steps made so far were:
1.Returning the content which was pushed under the “rug of the mental” back into the world.
2.Moving away from atomism/constructivism towards seeing the world in terms of what is actually going on, and aspects of what is actually going on, and taking both what appears in physical laws, and what we returned into the world as aspects of the world.

I noted that the correlation between aspects is something normal in this view, but this requires that those aspects are not self-subsistent. How to deal with this then, when the physical entities and their properties are apparently self-subsistent? I will discuss this in the next post

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3 Responses to “Resolving The Mind-Body Issue, Part 2”

  1. An event ontology helps versus an ontology of atoms or objects. We can take different perspectives on the aspects and attributes of events. I look forward to the next post.

  2. John Valley said

    Event ontology goes under the name of “Process Philosophy” of which Alfred North Whitehead (q.v. wiki) is probably the most famous proponent. But I give a simple view of what process philosophy is all about at http://johnguru.wordpress.com/2008/04/24/even-more-dots-process-philosophy/

  3. Hi Steve,

    Yes, the idea is that we need to leave the metaphysics where everything depends on its existence on the atoms, and instead see them as aspects of whatever is actually going on in the world. Now, ‘whatever is actually going on’ probably is more an event than an entity (more becoming than being so to say), but it might be even that ‘whatever is actually going on’ be something whose category goes beyond event category too. Maybe it is of a category that goes beyond things that we are or could be aware of.

    And thanks for the support!

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