A brood comb

….philosophical and other notes….

Resolving The Mind-Body Issue, Part 3

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on April 25, 2008

The first two steps took were:
1.Returning the content which was previously pushed under the “rug of the mental” back into the world. What is left to the mind are the abilities to perceive, imagine, plan, etc…
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 which appears in the physical picture and what we returned into the world as aspects of the world.

While in the last post I wrote about how seeing those things as aspects helps us make sense of the mind-body issue, in this post I will analyze if the proposal of seeing the physical as an aspect has merits on its own (so independently of how it makes sense as part of solving the issue).

When we talk about some X being an aspect, that means that X doesn’t exist on itself, but that it ‘lends’ its existence from the actual thing whose aspect it is. So, we say that X isn’t self-subsistent. Also, it means that if we are seeing some facts about X, these facts are ‘backed up’ by a)what is actually going on and b)the kind of aspect X is. An analogy of seeing same person from different sides might be helpful here. There are facts about the person seen from a certain side, but those facts are not facts about something self-subsistent. They are fully reducible to facts about the person, and the facts about how the person is rotated in relation to us for example.

Does it make sense to talk about physical events to be this kind of not-self-subsistent aspect of what is actually going on?

I think it does.
Firstly, we don’t see today the ‘elementary particles’ as something indestructible. They appear and disappear (from and to photons), get into interactions in which other types of particles appear and so on. And on lower level it is hard to make sense of quarks as self-subsistent when they are not even supposed to be able to exist isolated by themselves.
Secondly, within quantum statistics in some systems of which we are thinking as ‘constructed’ from multiple elementary particles of same type, permutations of these particles are not counted, pointing that our ‘classical’ atomistic/constructionist thinking can not be applied.
Thridly, it is i think recognized that in the context of Special Relativity, space and time are not seen as self-subsistent, but only as aspects of one space-time thing. Also given this theory, seems to me it makes lot of sense to think of mass and energy as two highly correlated aspects, and finally in General Relativity, similar relation appears between space/time and mass/energy.
Fourthly, in quantum mechanics we have pairs of conjugate variables, which can’t be seen as self-subsistent, but appear to only behave as aspects of one and the same thing. Also, phenomena like quantum entanglement, where what we think of as two particles, seem to be ‘entangled’ also seem to point to the failure of the atomistic metaphysics, and that in those cases what we can talk about are just aspects of whatever is going on.

In order to be clear in what I say next, let me first define here (vaguely) what I mean by ‘physical entities and properties’. Those would be the entities belonging to the types and properties of those entities that also belonging to certain types, that appear in the physical laws through which physics explains the phenomena in this world.

So given those few things I pointed to, it seems to me that there are pretty good reasons to prefer seeing physical entities and properties as aspects of what is actually going on, instead of taking them as self-subsistent entities (and properties) from which everything else is built.

So, so much about plausibility of the proposal that physical is an aspect of whatever is going on. This really doesn’t seem very problematic. But the proposal is not out of the woods yet. The laws of physics seem to hold in absolute way. That is surely not what we would expect about an aspect! In the nature of the aspect is to lack something, so when we analyze an aspect we should have clear sense that we are missing something. But, it doesn’t seem that we are missing something. So, yes, you may agree, those four reasons might be a hints to consider that specific entities and properties within the physical world as aspects, but those are no reason to think that what is actually going on is not of physical nature. We can just talk about what is going on in the context of space/time/matter/energy complex, and in the context of complex quantum mechanical equations, without taking particles or their properties as self-subsistent. And it is reasonable to say those still belong to what we call “physical”, and hence we could say that what is actually going on is just what physics says, and nothing more (so physical is not an aspect)!

There is one thing that the laws of physics doesn’t seem to determine in absolute way though – the collapse which is related to quantum mechanical measurements. Namely, though quantum mechanics includes a deterministic equation which tell us about the behavior of the quantum system, it only tell us that we can discuss only a probability of a different values our measurements of this or that property might give us (and physicists mostly agree, from what I know, that this is not epistemic, but ontological limit). Now, we can accept that there is no reason for collapse happening and this and not in that way, but it also makes sense to say that this is that part where the aspect is showing itself as an aspect, what we are seeing is that it is lacking something.

This doesn’t seem very promising though. If physical is merely an aspect, we would expected for it to be correlated to the rest of the what is going on in more “organic” way. What we have instead are bunch of deterministic laws, and just one place where whatever is actually going on might go beyond the physical aspect. A biggest part of truths in the physical seem independent from anything else. So, even if we allow that there might be some “otherness”, the whole thing seems more as a construction of physical + that otherness, than an aspect. So, how can we get out of this weirdness?

To be continued…

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