The End of
Metaphysical & Neuro-Philosophical Arguments
© Wim van den Dungen
must therefore assume that no true contradiction will be found between freedom
and natural necessity in the same human actions, for it cannot give up the idea
of nature any more than that of freedom." - Kant, I.
: Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals, 1785.
"A few good arguments are better than a thousand
TABLE OF CONTENTS
: The Epistemology of Materialism
1.1 The Reduction of the
Subject of Knowledge.
1.2 The Naive Inflation
of the Real.
The Metaphysics of Materialism
III : Materialism and the
Platonic Dualism &
Analytical Behaviourism and Identity or Central
A Triadic Model of What Works.
How Brain-Mind Interaction Happens.
The Endlessness of Brain and Mind ?
IV : The Criticism of
4.1 Criticism of
4.2 Criticism of Common
4.3 Criticism of
Physical theory is
valid insofar as matter and material objects go. Despite the grand advances made
in physics, chemistry, biology etc., the methodology of physics is not
necessarily applicable to the rest of science. Physics is about the laws
governing the executive, transmitting, displaying, materializing aspect of
what exists. This efficient, material vector is a conditio sine qua non when
lawful determinations and conditions of energy (i.e. 12 elementary particles
and 4 forces) are at hand. Physicalism, the view only objects
defined by physics exist, is wrong. Materialism, the view all of existence
solely consists of material stuff, is wrong. Both their epistemology &
metaphysics are defunct. Physicalism cannot explain how knowledge and its
advancement are possible, nor can it formulate a comprehensive, totalizing
view of the world. On the contrary, it has either to reduce all
non-material agencies to matter or to eliminate them. It is bound to
develop a disdain for the human sciences. In these efforts it
does not succeed. Besides material hardware, information (code,
architecture, software) and consciousness (participant observation,
userware) exists. As individualized domains of actual occasions (sharing a
dominant actual occasion), these three cosmic operators are irreducible.
Materialism and physicalism teach the world lacks an active, conscious
observer. And if indeed acknowledged (as a kind of emergent property of
matter), then any downward causation is
denied ; the mind, emerging out of matter, cannot alter matter. In doing
so, this bleak view robs humanity of its core assets, freedom and creative advance.
The operators of the world, namely matter, information and consciousness
share a common ontological principal : the actual occasion. This basic
unit of existence is both efficient (material) as scalar (information &
consciousness). This triune panexperientialism
affirms all three are involved in
By claiming the mind is
produced by the brain (and not merely displayed by it), materialism downgrades
the autonomy of the spirit of humanity, reducing it to an epiphenomenon or
eliminating it altogether. Here, an interactionism is defended. The material &
informational brain interacts with the mind. The latter exists in a separate
domain of actual occasions, one in which the dominant actual occasion is related
to meaning, sense, participant observation and creativity. Because this
interaction happens by manipulating probabilities, no energy conservation law is
broken. Brain and mind are distinct, not different. Both upward & downward
causality are possible. When the brain dies, the mind it used to display does
not end. The autonomy of the mind is not rooted in the brain, but depends on
"The problem, therefore, is not merely that science
is being used illegitimately to promote a materialistic worldview, but
that this worldview is actively undermining scientific inquiry, leading to
incorrect and unsupported conclusions about biological and cosmological
Beauregard, M. & O'Leary, D. : The Spiritual Brain,
HarperOne - New York, 2007, p.27.
Materialism is not
the view material things alone make us happy. Many things can make us
so, including material things. In the popular mind, materialists only
love money and everything it buys. To them, money is the best thing
there is. Such convictions & behaviours are mostly coupled
with the idea matter is the only thing in existence, the only thing
that really works. If so, matter is the only reality. At this point,
the sphere of opinions is left and
philosophy enters to define, clarify, contextualize and expand.
one claims matter is the sole existing thing, one commits to
the view only a single fundamental thing or
ontological principal exists, in casu, matter. This is, as will
become clear, a specific metaphysical, in casu, ontological
position called "materialist monism". Adhered to by Greek
like Thales of Milete (ca. 624 - 546 BCE), it explains the world
without dependence on anything except matter ("physis").
In the West, a more systematic underpinning of materialism was given
by atomists like Leucippus of Miletus (ca. 490 - ? BCE) and Democritus
of Abdera (ca. 460 - 380/370 BCE). The latter conjectured
the origin of knowledge is
given with the undeniable evidence put forward by the senses, the material conditions. Becoming, movement and change are fundamental.
occupied space, a plenum. Not a closed unity or
continuum, a single Being or Oneness, this fullness is an infinite variety of indivisible particles
called "atoms" ("atomos" or "indivisible") ; all
things are composed of these corpuscles, infinite in number, tiny,
invisible, indivisible, and in perpetual motion. They all
consist of the same kind of
matter and only differ from each other in terms of their quantitative
properties, like extension, weight, form and order. Remarkably, for
Democritus, our perceptions, derived from collisions between the atoms
making up perceived objects and those constituting the perceiving
subject, do not give us an idea of reality itself, but merely of
what we perceive of it. Hence, in this critical stance avant la
lettre "appearance" is more certain than "reality" ... clearly a
weakness in the argument supporting the real world.
rediscovered Greek materialism, in particular regarding the
self-movement of matter and the self-sufficiency of Nature. During the
Middle Ages materialism had been outlawed. Christianity embraced
ontological idealism, the view a Supreme Spiritual Being created the
world "ex nihilo". In this view, matter is a kind of "prison"
(cf. Plotinus' "soma sema"). Bruno (1548 - 1600), the
martyr for science, pointed to the ceaseless lifelike inner activity
of all material things. In the minds of these men of science, there
was no doubt : matter is substantial. For Spinoza (1632 - 1677),
restating the Brunian thesis, substance is self-subsistent,
self-existent, self-moving and self-caused, for "substantia est
causa sui". The influence of Spinoza on both Newton (1643 - 1727)
& Einstein (1879 - 1955) may not come as a surprise. Einstein's
"problems" with quantum theory may well be rooted in his adherence to
a single substance à la Spinoza.
Also the East produced its materialists. In the
Pāli Canon (Brahmajala Sūtra), we read how the Buddha
conversed with smaller groups of materialists (Ajita Keshakambalin) &
sceptics (Sañjayī Vairatiputra). He deemed materialism annihilationist,
implying their view on what exists verged to either a confused view
lacking one fundamental principle or the idea nothing really exists (as
in forms of scepticism). Scepticism he saw as an evasive stance akin to
eel-wriggling, constantly responding -to keep a wrong peace of mind- to the welter
of conflicting views and their arguments, avoiding commitment to any
kind of view.
When materialism became empiricist and this trust in the substance
offered by the senses
needed exegesis, an apparatus of arguments emerged. At this point,
materialism developed a specific epistemology, the
rudiments of which can be found in the Peripatetic distinction between
passive & active intellect ("intellectus agens").
Eventually, materialists included abstracts in their description of matter,
thereby inviting contradictions. Since the
middle of the 19th century, concomitant with the successes of
technology, materialism became fashionable in the physical sciences. It
mostly took the form of a monism of matter, considering all non-physical
objects as either non-existent, illusionary or simply not there at all.
The first rector of the university of Geneva, Carl Vogt, categorically
claimed the brain produces thoughts as physical materials in the same
way as the kidneys produce urine and the liver bile ...
As quantum & relativity entered, so did chaos & information. A new
physical paradigm became necessary, but the 20th century was unable to
come up with a coherent view. Quantum & relativity did turn
Newtonianism upside down. Absolute became relative. Certainty became
probability. Time, space, matter & energy were interconnected and the
world became quantum-based, not continuous as in the old days. The schism
in physics between relativity and quantum was not bridged. Chaos, the
mathematical theory on non-linear process, changed the definition of
life, but also covered non-physical entities such as coast-lines,
meteorological phenomena and open, dissipative thermodynamical systems.
Information theory revolutionized all knowledge by laying bare the
source-code of efficient action, in other words, the structure, code
or natural architecture of the material world.
Materialist tried to
incorporate these "abstracts" into their definition of matter, but how,
given matter & information functionally differ, can this not lead to
problems ? Related to this is the question whether logical &
mathematical objects exist as relatively independent entities or
depend on the material substratum carrying them.
In his Tractatus, Wittgenstein clearly
distinguished between form and matter.
"2.021 Objects form the substance of the world.
Therefore they cannot
2.024 Substance is what exists independently of what is the case.
2.025 It is form and content." -
Wittgenstein : Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus,
Matter is devoid of form. Form is devoid of matter. The "abstracts"
or natural architectures at work in Nature point to the operator of information, in casu
the software of Nature, already present -ex hypothesi- when this universe started.
Matter, the hardware, is then merely :
"a collection of relatively independent and
unstructured events" -
Feyerabend, P. : Problems of Empiricism,
1981, vol.2, chapter 9, § 6.
For materialists, such a definition is too restrictive. They realize
form needs to be incorporated into their ontological principal. If not,
monism is in danger and the concept of matter no longer covers enough
phenomena. Of course, by assimilating form into matter, they blend two
different operators, extending the definition of matter beyond mere
elementary particles and forces.
At the end of the 19th century, and the beginning of the
20th, materialism became physicalism, the view
all entities, properties & relations (facts) are those studied by
physics and other physical sciences, in particular chemistry, biology
& neurology, but not psychology, sociology & economics. This
view is historically
derived from materialism, the tenet everything is matter, nothing more.
This opinion became prevalent in the 19th century, not in the least
because it teamed up with the mentality of the Industrial Revolution,
considering the Newtonian paradigm as the complete & final
articulation of the laws of physics and of the world at large. To be scientific was conforming
to the methods of the physical sciences. The mind was deemed an
epiphenomenon, no longer an entity in its own right.
Officially, the current scientific paradigm is physicalist, although
the cracks in the wall are becoming wider. Positivism,
logical-positivism & scientism, variations on the theme of
physicalism, have tried to banish the subject of
knowledge, erecting the edifice of science on inductivism & naive realism
But this crude approach has failed. Even a hard core realist like Popper
acknowledges the theory-ladenness of observation and rejects
inductivism in favour of falsificationism (a scientific theory
identifies how it can be rejected or falsified). Refined versions of this novel
approach (Lakatos, Kuhn, Feyerabend) have brought the intersubjective,
historical & perspectivisitic nature of knowledge to the fore. Object
& subject of knowledge are both an integral part of the scientific
project, and they cannot be reduced to one another without crippling
the possibility & development of rational knowledge. What Husserl
identified as the crisis of Western civilization (a one-sided
inflation of either the object or the subject of knowledge) ends by
confirming all knowledge is relative and historical.
Moreover, due to the explosion of the digital medium, three
independent functional domains can be identified, clearly breaking away from the
dichotomization of old, rooted in Greek substantialist &
concept-realist distinctions :
(1) hardware or "matter" : the quasi
unstructured and relatively independent set of 12 elementary particles
& 4 forces ruling physical Nature ;
(2) software or "information" : the
highly structured and relatively independent set of codes,
architectures, organizations and expert-systems ruled by binary logic
and manifesting as the elementary order of "dead" matter (like the
structure of atoms, fields and associated forces), the architecture of
living matter (like DNA) & the laws found in logic, mathematics
and all physical and human
(3) userware or "consciousness" : the
meaning given to MI-systems, their use based on choice (in terms of
various degrees of liberty) and the first-person experience of Nature
or "scalar" impact on themselves (autopoiesis) and the whole
(teleological determination). In an operational sense, consciousness
acts as an interphase, and refers to the power of active imagination,
the ability of invent, make up and generate fictitious objects.
It may be conjectured (Metaphysics,
2012) these three functional operators were present when the universe
began, while the ontogenesis of the universe may have individualized
them sequentially : starting with matter (giving rise to
stars), information individualized (as life) and then living systems
individualized consciousness (on Earth various degrees of liberty can
be identified, ranging from simple organisms to humans). In the human,
these three functional operators (or ontological domains of specific
functional activity) come together in a way allowing for the highest
degree of freedom (of choice).
Physicalism (considering information as a part of matter, which, given
their different properties, is obviously wrong) has the
mental as its main target. To underpin materialist monism, it must be
able to deprive the human sciences of the ontological authority
granted to physics, chemistry and biology. Hence, it is called to
demonstrate mental events or mentality, the activity of the mind, and the
mind itself, are not genuine, independent features (aspects,
functionalities) of the world. So we are made to believe the crown of the mind, freedom, is
basically (fundamentally) a kind of hallucination, an illusion
("māyā"), play ("līlā") or sublime intelligent concoction of an
electro-magnetically wired lump of wondrously coded fat weighing about 3 pounds.
The case of physicalism is hopeless if the mind cannot be reduced to
some material event, or better, eliminated altogether.
It will be
shown such an exorcism of the mind is impossible without introducing
unacceptable fallacies and problems. The view held here states matter,
information & consciousness are the three fundamental operators of all
what exists ; they are irreducible, relatively independent and
irreversibly interdependent. They share a common ontological base,
namely the actual occasion.
Reducing or eliminating the mental (in casu consciousness to
MI-systems) can only be backed if and only if
one can make a strong case the mental is nothing more than matter-information or
another form or emergent property of such matter-information. Such a strong case cannot
be made. Why ? The text, restricting itself to philosophical arguments
a priori & a posteriori, identifies logical, epistemological &
ontological reasons. Logically, physicalism operates a contradiction in the act.
Epistemologically, the resulting "perversa ratio" (Kant) cuts
short reason by introducing antinomies. Ontologically, this view
causes the ontological illusion the object of knowledge exists from
its own side, independent & self-powered. As some of the logical & epistemological
arguments against physicalist reductionism or eliminativism are a priori, they cannot
be taken out by "future" empirical discoveries of the physicalists
(the prospectivist counter-argument physical science will
eventually solve outstanding problems in the future fails in principle).
Remark physicalism is as strong (or as weak) as spiritualism (mentalism).
Indeed, the rejection of realist physicalism and its monistic
ontological materialism is not an endorsement of mentalism and its
monist ontological idealism. It is not the case of trying to defend
idealism by rejecting realism. Nor should one attempt to end idealism
(and its subjectivism) by proclaiming the triumph of realism (and its
objectivism). Both are extremes, and what is proposed here is a middle
way, a third path. The play of dichotomies, in fact the old Greek
difference between idealists like Plato and realists like Aristotle,
is no longer accommodated. Instead, a triadism is at hand. The stuff
(matter), its form (information) and its meaning (consciousness) are
not ontologically different domains, but three distinct functional
entities. Process metaphysics identifies an ontological principal
shared by all three. This is not matter (or information) as physicalism
claims, nor consciousness as mentalism would have it. As will become
clear, the actual occasion is what is shared by all things and
therefore the conjectured foundation of ontology.
"Time and time again, materialists and
spiritualists, realists and nominalists reach back into some sphere of
being when they attempt to ascertain and hold sight into the symbolic
content either of language or of knowledge, for this insight is that
no being is tangible or accessible except through meaning. Hence if we
wish to conceive of the concept itself, we must not attempt to clutch
it like an object." -
Cassirer, E. : The Philosophy of Symbolic
Forms, 1957, volume 3, part III, chapter 1, § 2.
Both realist & idealist positions need to be superseded. This can not be done by a
descriptive approach, as it were trying to "step outside" the act of
knowledge and its subject/object dichotomy and assume a "punctum Archimedis", or
hypothetical vantage point from which an observer can objectively
perceive the subject of inquiry, in casu, the act of knowledge
itself. This was the dream of both physicalism & mentalism. It turns out to be a
nightmare. Moreover, it fails on logical, epistemological &
ontological grounds. The ground of knowledge is not found outside
knowledge. This groundless ground of knowledge is to be found
within knowledge itself. It is "delved" by way of a specific kind of
reflection, called "transcendental analysis", probing knowledge so it
may reveal the conditions making it possible and allowing it to
Very often, the approach of realists & physicalists
(and to a lesser degree that of intelligent idealists & mentalists)
the excesses of spiritualism, and mostly for very good reasons.
They do so to show how far knowledge may drift away from truth and how
dangerous it is to uphold silly tenets and backward systems of faith. Indeed, in the dogmatic religions ("of the book"), i.e. in Judaism,
Christianity & Islam, a brontosauric "ideal" object was
invented and dogmatically sanctified.
This is the substantialist "God" introduced by the Torah, the
New Testament and the Koran, a Caesar of sorts.
"The notion of God as the 'unmoved mover' is
derived from Aristotle, at least so far as Western thought is
concerned. The notion of God as 'eminently real' is a favourite
doctrine of Christian theology. The combination of the two into the
doctrine of an aboriginal, eminently real, transcendent creator, at
whose fiat the world came into being, and whose imposed will it obeys,
is the fallacy which has infused tragedy into the histories of
Christianity and of Mahometanism. (...) the deeper idolatry, of the
fashioning of God in the image of the Egyptian, Persian, and Roman
imperial rulers, was retained." -
Whitehead, A.N. : Process & Reality, 1929, §§ 519-520.
invention did not fall out of the sky, but was "de manu militari"
Akhenaten (Amenophis IV) on New Kingdom Egyptians (and recuperated
by Moses and the Judeo-Christian tradition after him). Later, this view of a singular God
granting, as a Caesar, but a limited access to his being, was formalized by Greek
thought (also stressing the ontological difference between mortals and
the Olympians). With Philo of Alexandria (25 BCE - 50 CE), this "Deus
absconditus" or absent God was given a theo-ontological format
influencing the development of Judaism (after the destruction of the
Second Temple), Early Christianity (in particular Paul) and later
Islam (with the rise of the philosophical tradition, the "faylasuf"). In this view, God's essence is
exclusively for God to experience (and
so he is at the core alone & isolated from creation). His creatures
only experience his existence. In Judaism, this is the "shekinah" or
"Divine presence" accompanying Israel (and, eventually, the Messiah).
In Christianity, these are the "Divine energies" of the Holy Spirit.
In Islam, this is the Koran (and, in a lesser sense, the "mahdi",
the prophesied redeemer of Shia Islam). To implement this view on
so-called "Pagan" thought, monotheism and militarism have always
worked together. Why is that ? Could it be this concept of God is so
wrong it needs violence & brutality to be upheld ?
centuries, this autarchic Supreme Being has been intellectually "explained" in terms of the Greek substantialist philosophies of Plato
and Aristotle and their multiple derivations & variations, and, as
Willem of Ockham rightly claimed, thus misunderstood. How can a living
God be essentially thus far removed from his creatures ? The fact
Greek thought became the standard of intellectualism played an
important role in this.
One cannot avoid
identifying this God as a self-contained, self-powered and essentially
isolated Supreme Being, i.e. as a substance-God. As such, this entity
(essentially isolated from its own creation), cannot truly communicate
with anything outside itself, thereby condemning the world to the
status of a quasi non-entity only able to celebrate this God's Glory.
Indeed, in Islam, only Allah exists. Creation is a kind of non-entity,
an illusion veiling the necessarily existent ("wajib al-wujud"),
or Allah. Although the Deity has been approached as a substantial
entity called "God", perhaps process philosophy is better equipped to
identify God* for who He is (Does the Divine exist ?,
2005) ? This God* is then remote but also close, transcendent but also
immanent, invisible but also visible ... Lord of Possibilities and
God-with-us ... He and She.
The fundamental theologies of the dogmatic God of the theist
religions, called into existence to convert and then to control &
indoctrinate, led, as "militant atheists" (like Dawkins and
C°) and materialist atheism
alike cannot stop to point out, to a vast number of intellectual
absurdities, moral atrocities, truth-concealing strategies and a
socio-pedagogic catastrophe. They rightly do so. But as physicalism is their main weapon, atheism and materialism
get confounded (as if one could not criticize the dogmatic religions on
the basis of a sane idealist position). The silliness of the dogmatic
religions does not back materialism or physicalism. It merely shows
the defects of a hypertrophy of backward spiritualism. Process
thought evidences one can embrace the truth-ideal of science and at the
same time accept a process-theology devoid of the dogmatic trappings
of fundamental theology, be it Hindu, Jain, Judaic, Christian or Muslim.
Buddhism evidences non-theism and a trans-theist religious
mysticism (based on ethics, meditation & wisdom). This is not necessarily divorced from a scientific
perspective, quite on the contrary. It offers a science of mind and
holds views more or less in harmony with contemporary psychology,
cosmology and physics (quantum theory). The logic of its view on
consciousness is open enough to accommodate rebirth (while materialism
excludes this in principle).
Atheists & physicalists alike have good reasons to attack
irrationality as long as they also criticize the irrational way they
themselves at times have approached peripheral subjects such as
parapsychology, astrology, magic, alchemy, homeopathy, mystical
experience, altered states of consciousness and the like. Some for
example study "self-realization", but beforehand explicitly affirm not
to have experienced any altered state of consciousness. They practice
no yoga, do not meditate, never pray and have "humanist" and "secular"
lives. Such absence is then called "objectivity", as if one would be
able to write a really serious book about fine wines without ever
tasting wine. Or astrology is ridiculed without giving proper
arguments. Only seldom are these matters treated with serenity &
dignity. In this way, these so-called critics unmask themselves to be
sceptics, dogmatics or cynics and hardly serve reason at all.
"The evidence for Extra Sensoric Perception (ESP) and
Psychokinesis (PK) -and I have presented only brief summaries of a few examples
of it- seems to be adequate. Serious attention to the evidence should be
convincing to all except those who are irreversibly committed to the worldview
of materialism and sensationalism, according to which ESP and PK are impossible
Griffin, D.R. : Parapsychology,
Philosophy and Spirituality : a Postmodern Exploration, State University of
New York Press - New York, 1997, p.89.
Meta-studies in parapsychology (evidencing paranormal phenomena like
telepathy, precognition, telekinesis etc.) are deemed irrelevant
because no explicative theory exists, but such an abstract framework
is not sought, nor are young scientists informed about wide gaps in
the paradigm ... Why ? Because all available experiential evidence at
least suggests such a theory would imply causality and other forms of
lawful determination between events not only to exist between
material stuff, but also between the mind and matter (undermining the
materialist dogma of upward determination only). This evidence also
points to the very distinct characteristics of both operators,
making it unclear how mind can be an emergent property of
matter, and unlikely that the mind can be reduced to the brain.
Here the sociology of scientific practice outweighs the epistemology
of scientific methodology.
"The evidence summarised in this chapter
represents what must be the most convincing case that can be made for
the basic astrological premise, that there is a connection between the
affairs of man and the positions of the planets at the time of birth."
Eysenck, H.J. & Nias, D.K.B. : Astrology. Science
or Superstition ?, St.Martin's Press - New York, 1982, p.209.
To seriously & freely study the periphery of the current paradigm, and
this with an open, critical mind (which is not dogmatic, nor sceptical
and certainly not disdaining) is sometimes understood as opening
Pandora's box, inviting irrationalism, and this while the whole stance
taken is an epitome of irrationality, displaying the fear of paradigm-conflicting
discoveries. Contemporary atheists & materialists manifest the same
symptoms as Galileo's cardinals. They suffer from the
Bellarmine-effect, draining reason from the impulse to freely continue
to investigate & speculate beyond the border of the conventional, the
accepted and the common.
At times the Bellarmine-effect is also at work within the domain of
science itself. In biology, neo-Darwinism has recently been challenged. Indeed, the notion
of "variation" as "random mutation" is consistent with the
denial of purposeful design, making natural patterns without inherent plan (Monod,
1970). Recently, a progressive metamorphosis, with the emergence of
increasingly complex and intelligent species in a step-wise, sequential pattern
was proposed (Joseph, 2002). Indeed, large-scale protein innovation
2001), so-called "silent genes" (Henikoff, 1986,
Watson, 1992), the
precise regulatory control of genome novelty (Courseaux &
Nahon, 2001) and
the overall genetically predetermined "molecular clockwise" fashion of
the enfoldment of the human being (Denton, 1998),
metamorphosis theory of life and intelligent design (weak anthropic principle).
According to Darwin's evolutionary theory, phenotypic variation
originates from random mutations independent of any outside selective
pressure. This independence is a crucial theoretical condition, dividing
Darwin from Lamarck.
"However, recent findings suggest organisms have evolved
mechanisms to influence the timing or genomic location of heritable
variability. Hypervariable contingency loci and epigenetic switches increase
the variability of specific phenotypes ; error-prone DNA replicases produce
bursts of variability in times of stress. Interestingly, these mechanisms
seem to tune the variability of a given phenotype to match the variability
of the acting selective pressure. Although these observations do not
undermine Darwin’s theory, they suggest that selection and variability are
less independent than once thought." -
Rando, O.J. & Verstrepen, K.J. : "Timescales of
Genetic and Epigenetic Inheritance", in Cell, vol 128, 655-668, 23,
2007, my italics.
Do famous evolutionary biologists regularly and with the same bravado
with which they attack irrational beliefs put to the fore this
evidence contradicting the independence of selection & variability ?
They do not. They affirm they do not seek a Darwinian society, but
find evidence backing the actual freedom of humans difficult to
propagate if it conflicts with their own theoretical dada's. Indeed,
rhetoric tactics forbids them to discuss the frailties of their own
position in the debate, while this is precisely what, according to
Popper, authentic science should be doing. The sociology of science
differs from the philosophy of science.
In previous studies (Clearings,
The Book of Lemmas, 2014), both idealist & realist ontologies were
rejected. Unavoidably, they ground reason in something outside it. The
fundamental antinomy of reason between the mental & the extra-mental
cannot be superseded in an Olympic descriptive approach of the
questions of being & knowing, be it in terms of sense-data (as in the
project of physicalism & scientism) and/or mental events (as given by
the languages of all participating sign-interpreters with their
theories, hypothesis & opinions). Both "the real" and "the ideal" are
necessary regulative ideas of formal & critical reason, and so
are constantly at work in philosophy & science. However, they do not
constitute reason. As one cannot step outside the duality of
object & subject, in a normative approach to these matters, one probes
to find the unavoidable conditions in logic, epistemology, ethics (Behaviours,
2006) & aesthetics (Sensations,
What are the objects of such a normative approach ?
Transcendental logic unearths the principles of thought we cannot reject without
using them in the act of rejection itself. Theoretical epistemology,
reflecting on the act of knowledge,
discovers the norms organizing it. If these are
taken out, one cannot longer explain, without introducing antinomies,
how conceptual knowledge is possible or expandable. Hence, science
would have no organizing set of rules. Moreover,
rejecting these norms is not possible without using them ; they
are a priori. Practical
epistemology finds the maxims of the production of knowledge used by
the members of a
given research-cell. Contrary to logic & theoretical epistemology,
these maxims are not only a priori, but also a posteriori,
reflecting the opportunistic logic of researchers in a given
From a neo-Kantian perspective, the three
disciplines of normative philosophy are theory of knowledge, ethics
and aesthetics. Logic, theoretical epistemology and practical
epistemology answer the question : What can I know ? Critical ethics
seeks out the constituents of good behaviour (What must I do ?),
whereas critical aesthetics unveils the unavoidable (in terms of the
excellent and the exemplary) in beauty (What can I hope for ?).
Normative philosophy unveils the necessary rules of reason. Breaking
these handicaps both (descriptive) philosophy (metaphysics), as well as
science. If one does not clearly define reason, irrationality cannot
be identified and avoided.
Because the tenets of physicalism have bearing on the question of the
relationship between the brain and the mind, the neurophilosophical
ramifications of a materialist approach of the brain are
scrutinized and found problematic. The various positions are criticized and arguments
developed to back an interactionist & pan-experiential model. Only
interactionism is able to sustain a non-reductionist & non-eliminative
view enabling the harmony between all possible scientific endeavours
in general and between the physical and the human sciences in particular.
The Epistemology of Materialism.
The ideal epistemology of materialism is a realist theory of knowledge devoid
of a subject of knowledge actually adding something to what is known. It
presupposes a "real" world "out there", i.e. independent from the mind
and so existing from its own side. It is believed this real world
primarily informs the mind by way of the evidence of sense-data. This
empiricism accepts our senses to actually represent the world as it is.
By trial-and-error (experimentation) science is able -on the basis of
inductive reasoning- to theoretically describe this world in an
objective language. Scientific method is a proven way to describe the
real world as it is. Only what this method has shown to "exist" does
actually exist, for only then can it be said to be based on evidence.
Devoid of this "positive" evidence, claims of existence cannot be backed
Popper, K. : The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 1959, chapter V,
§ 30, note 3.
Although, to undermine this view, strong counter-arguments may be
presented on every step of the way, let us focus the
attack on the main point of contention to be raised against this
Baconian ideal : the supposed passivity of the subject of
knowledge, i.e. the idea the observations made by scientists are not
theory-laden, or (as a lesser variant), that this theoretical
constructedness of knowledge has no bearing on the objective certainty
of the knowledge materialists claim to acquire. And why ? Because it can
"... observations, and even more so observation
statements and statements of experimental results, are always
interpretations of the facts observed (...) they are
interpretations in the light of theories. This is one of the
main reasons why it is always deceptively easy to find verifications
of a theory, and why we have to adopt a highly critical attitude
towards our theories if we do not wish to argue in circles : the
attitude of trying to refute them. " -
The epistemology of materialism, looking at the possibility of knowledge
from an ontological vantage point outside knowledge, is the story of how the conditions on the side of the
object of knowledge are reified (substantialized) into "real" objects
existing with inhering properties in a "real" world "out there". This
supposed reality becomes the exclusive ground of
knowledge, justifying concept-realism (the idea our scientific concepts
are merely the representations of reality). The facts, the something
at hand, is substantialized, reified, "eternalized" and inflated
into a real, objective world "out there" effectuating change by way of
physical laws, and this independent of the subject of knowledge. So the
latter can merely
act as a passive (empirical) registrar of these facts. If however the
subject of knowledge is not found to be passive but active (as is indeed
the case), then the pivot of conventional materialist epistemology is out of joint.
And it is.
One may try to recuperate it by allowing the subject to be active, but
claiming the scientific method is a special procedure resulting
in an objective description of the world (logical-positivism). Such claims are all very well
possible, but is their backing strong enough to survive criticism ? How
such a special "objective" language can be arrived at on the basis of an
intersubjective scientific discourse changing over time (and so
historical) is not clear. Both in logic and fact the claim is unfounded.
Materialist epistemology will be analyzed in terms of how the subject of
knowledge is treated, how the real is ontologized and how materialism
intends to solve all present & future problems.
1.1 The Reduction of the
Subject of Knowledge.
To be able to explain the world as a system of physical objects,
ontological materialism has to either eliminate the subject of knowledge
or reduce it to a passivity unable to infringe upon the supposed
monarchic objectivity of the real world. Both options run into so many
problems, materialist scientists often accept one of both ad hoc. In doing
so, do they fare any better than Galileo's cardinals ? I think not.
Most serious materialists
understand one cannot eliminate the subject of knowledge without
violating the logic of the transcendental subject of all possible
thought. This logic states one cannot think thought without a thinker
(someone actually thinking) and without what this thinker possesses (an
actual object of his or her thought). Subject & object are called
"transcendental" (not "transcendent") because, as
Kant stipulated, they make thought
possible, are necessary conditions to make it happen.
Suppose we say thoughts are not thought by someone, then who is uttering
this supposition ? Clearly someone ! Suppose we say thought is never not
about something extra-mental, then even this thought (affirming thought
has no genuine object) has an object and so a logical fallacy is at
hand, in particular the contradictio in actu exercito (like
somebody saying "This door is closed." while actually opening it).
Such a fallacy is self-defeating, for the argument establishes the non-existence of the
object of the argument.
Only those less trained in these logical & epistemological subtleties
make bold statements to the effect that because everything is material
the subject of knowledge does not "really" exist, but is merely an
illusionary appearance or epiphenomenon. These people are not at all careful,
nor do they realize their statement undermines itself, for how to take
serious someone making the claim the speaker is illusionary ?
subject from the act of knowledge (reducing it to some extra-mental
object of knowledge), makes valid knowledge impossible. The discourse of
reason ends, for there is no longer any subject ! As in fact the
presence of the subject of knowledge is always the case, the attempt at
elimination is absurd. Most
materialists "solve" the issue by not eliminating the subject,
but by claiming it is primarily passive.
It exists, but does not add anything to the act of knowledge and merely
turns the passively received sense-data in an objective, theoretical
language. This is a reduction of the actual epistemic capacity of the
subject of knowledge. Scientific language is then a representation of the real world ("adequatio
intellectus ad rem"), i.e. there exists a definite correspondence
between objective theory and facts (reality). If not one-to-one, then in
"To the materialist trend of empiricism, the inner
world of sensations merely reflects the external world, without adding
anything of its own, save the eventual distortion of the image."
Bunge, M. : Causality and Modern Science, 1959, 6.1.6.
Wittgenstein wrote :
Wittgenstein, L. : Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 5.5423,
"To perceive a complex means to perceive that its constituents are combined in
such and such a way. This perhaps explains that the figure can be seen in two
ways as a cube ; and all similar phenomena. For we really see two different
facts. (If I fix my eyes first on the corners a and only glance at b, a
appears in front and b behind, and vice versa.)"
Naive realism, in which the existence of the world is prior in time
to the existence of ideas about the world, calls
for inductivism, the idea a limited number of crucial observations
allows for a generalization. Logically impossible (one can never justify
the jump from a per definition finite set of particular observations to
the infinite set given by a universal like a law), it implies, in terms of the
practice or method of science, theory results from experimentation.
"On the contrary, the theoretician must long
before have done his work, or at least what is the most important part
of his work : he must have formulated the question as sharply as
possible. This it is he who shows the experimenter the way. But even the
experimenter is not in the main engaged in making exact observations ;
his work, too, is largely of a theoretical kind. Theory dominates the
experimental work from its initial planning up to the finishing touches
in the laboratory." -
Popper, K. : Op.cit., 1959, chapter V, § 30.
The elegance of this view is shattered when we realize a totally passive
Lockean subject of knowledge is
unable to abstract anything (even Aristotle had to introduce an "active intellect").
Indeed, to "abstract" is a mental activity and theories do not just
"pop-up" from sense-data. Moreover, to say this-or-that event is a
"sense-datum" and something else is not, calls for theoretical constructs and the latter are
definitely not sense-data ... A logical circularity undermines the
argument, and we are back at realizing a purely passive subject of
knowledge cannot be found. Therefore, a reduction of the subject to the
object causes more problems than it solves. Together with the view
eliminating it altogether, it leaves the question how knowledge is
possible open ... and if we do not know how knowledge is possible, then
how can we demarcate valid from invalid knowledge ? We cannot.
Materialist epistemology, and descriptive epistemologies in general,
have a foundational intent. They seek a self-sufficient ground for the
validity or truth of propositions. They do not develop enough critical
sense to grasp this postulate of foundation runs into unavoidable
According to Sextus Empiricus, it was the sceptic Pyrrho of Elis (ca.
365 - 275 BCE) who taught conflicts between two (or more) criteria of
truth automatically lead to an apory or an antinomy, i.e. a
contradiction posed by a group of individually plausible, but
collectively inconsistent propositions. The truth of a given criterion
can only be argued using true propositions. But, whenever a given
criterion is justified, a petitio principii or circular argument
is involved. Discussions about the criterion of truth are therefore
thought to be unending and without solution.
Much later, the problems of foundational thinking were summarized by the
1976). Its logic proves how every possible kind of foundational strategy
is necessarily flawed. The trilemma was named after the Baron von
Münchhausen, a fictional German nobleman who tried to get out of a swamp by
pulling at his own hair !
Every time a theory of knowledge accommodates the postulate of
foundation, three equally unacceptable situations may occur. A justification
of proposition P implies a deductive chain A of arguments A', A", etc.
with P as conclusion. The question before us is how extended must A be in order to justify P ?
• regressus ad infinitum : there is no end to the justification,
and so no foundation is found (A', A", etc. does not lead to P) ;
• petitio principii : the end P is implied by the beginning, for
P is part of the deductive chain A. Circularity is a valid deduction but
no justification of P, hence no foundation is found ;
• abrogation ad hoc : justification is ended ad hoc, the
postulate of justification is abrogated, and the unjustified sufficient
ground (A' or A" or ...) is accepted as certain because, seeming
certain, it needs no more justification. Scientists often do not realize
their affirmations are indeed ad hoc, and backed by nothing else
than their authority or the institutional power they hold. As such, they are not doing
better than the religious authorities of old they so much despise ... It
is not the case that because the positions of some protagonist is silly,
one's own view is valid.
The Münchhausen-trilemma is avoided by stopping to seek an absolute,
self-sufficient ground for knowledge and science. This happens when one
accepts, as Ockham already had noted, genuine science is terministic. In
mathematics and physics, major changes have happened since Newton, and
who is able to disprove the revolutions of tomorrow ? Hence, the
categorical system cannot be absolute, although some of its general
features are necessary in a normative way (for we use them when we
As the subject of knowledge is not passive but active, the Kantian
distinction between objects-for-me ("Ding-an-sich") and
objects-as-they-are ("Ding-für-uns"), i.e. between phenomena and
is pertinent. The theory-ladenness of observation makes impossible a
direct, one-to-one relationship between our senses and our mental
picture of the world based on it. Our knowledge is also the result of
our own theories and these are inevitably and irreducibly embedded in our history, culture &
civilization, in other words, they are relative and reflect a certain
perspective, but never an Archimedean vantage point, i.e. an absolutely
correct view. Pure objectivity (subjectivity) is non-existent. The
incompleteness of our theories bars us against making pretentious,
definitive statements of fact about anything. Just as the spirit of the
Renaissance taught, scientific knowledge remains open ... there is
always something new to learn. A new perspective is always possible and
what we deem "evidence" is not absolute, but relative.
Naive Inflation of the Real.
The object of knowledge, identified with the real-as-such, is directly
accessible. The outer world informs our senses unambiguously. This is
the core of the epistemology of physicalism, a materialist positivism. Take away obvious errors in
observation (like optical illusions and the like) and direct empirical
access to the real world is given.
This take is called "naive" because no critical study of the conditions
allowing knowledge to rise is made. It is simply assumed sense-data
correspond with a reality characterized by inherent properties existing
from its own side and independent of the mind observing it. Naive
realists cling to this mistaken belief because they fear the relativism
of scepticism. Emotionally, they need a firm ground and consider science
and objectivity to equal absolutely certain knowledge. Hence, all mental
factors need to be eliminated or reduced to material factors. Their view
on science is Newtonian, and so they believe universal, complete,
consistent and absolutely certain knowledge is possible. Properties
(like space & time) are always the same and exist outside the mind. Were
this not the case, science, so they conjecture, would be plunged in the
swamps of the many subjectivism. Doubt in the "hard data" of the senses
is to them pathological. Theoretical connotations, theories,
metaphysical backgrounds, ideas, notions, values etc. are not considered
as co-constitutive of facts. Facts are monolithic and in all ways
"The hardest of hard data are of two sorts : the
particular facts of sense, and the general truths of logic. (...) Real
doubt, in these two cases, would, I think, be pathological. At any rate,
to me they seem quite certain, and I shall assume that you agree with me
on this. Without this assumption, we are in danger of falling into that
universal scepticism which, as we saw, is as barren as it is
Russell, B. : Our Knowledge of the External World,
Mentor - New York, 1956, p.60.
Naive realism and the inductivism to which it is coupled, leads to untenable logical problems.
Logically, the view is self-defeating, for the naive realist is unable to
explain how he is able to validate naive realism. How would he or she
proceed to do so ? Which sense-datum would be advanced to "prove" the
tenet ? There is none. The validation of the view is based on mental
factors and as all science is deemed to be based on extra-mental factors, the
validation is impossible. By its own account, naive realism fails and
adhering to it is a form of belief, not a valid epistemological stance.
Epistemologically, subject (theory) and object (fact) always walk hand
in hand. This implies that what we call "a fact" is not a monolith but a
hybrid, consisting of a theory-dependent and, so must we assume, a
theory-independent aspect. The sense-data of the naive realists cannot
be found. What is found are facts the community of sign-interpreters for
the moment hold for true. They do so on the basis of theoretical
(argumentative) and experimental reasons appearing in the cultural
context they are working in. There is no "universal scientific
language", only a shared intellectual discourse prone to change over
time. This scientific discourse not only depends on mental factors, but
also on facts bearing -so must we assume- the letters of
recommendation of reality-as-it-is. We must assume this for we have
always done so and without this assumption objective knowledge is
impossible. Is it not remarkable these materialists seek a foundation as
solid as the dogmatic foundations of the faiths they seek to reject ?
Let us be clear critical thought does not endorse ontological idealism.
Despite the fact one cannot eclipse the subject of knowledge (the mental
factor), all knowledge is always about some thing and this object
of knowledge must be extra-mental if this "some thing" actually means
what it means, i.e. something definitely not defined by our
mentalities. In other words, the object of knowledge requires there must
exist properties not requiring "the expression of
the fact that they are thought about" (Whitehead, A.N. : The
Concept of Nature, 1920, chapter 1). That we must think this shields
criticism from a metaphysical idealism à la Berkeley in which the object is
factually constituted by a
solitary (super)self or by intersubjectivity, thereby eliminating any genuine
sense of objectivity, thereby plunging epistemology in a comparable
In critical thought, the truth or validity of knowledge is not its
"correspondence" with the real, but the coherence between all possible
theories and experiments concerning it. Not a realist correspondence
between real facts and passive mind, nor an idealist "consensus
omnium" between an active mind and facts constituted by mind are
valid theories of scientific truth. The latter is the product of two
processes acting simultaneously : argumentation & experimentation.
"The imaginal, heuristic point of intersection
between the Ideas reality & ideality is a knowledge-leading &
knowledge-regulating fiction which guarantees the progress of knowledge
without ever constituting knowledge itself. If it does, then it misleads
knowledge, thus curtailing its unity & progress."
Rules, 1999, 30.
Observational psychology evidences how in every observation the facts
observed rise simultaneous with or happen within the theoretical
connotation allowing the observer to identify them. The sense-data
theory makes no sense. Take away the intersubjective framework (or
fundamentally change it) and other facts may emerge. Of course, some
facts do exhibit strong tenacity and their firm grip defies too much
theoretical variation. These strong facts define the core of the current
scientific paradigm. Today, the Big Bang (cosmology), the predictive
power of Schrödinger's equation (quantum physics) and evolution
(biology) are such strong facts. But the predictive power of these
does not preclude the possibility of a better future explanation
(another theory) opening new horizons revealing facts of the same or
with a stronger
profile. In no way do these strong facts allow us to draw conclusions
beyond their explanatory horizon.
Compared to the authoritarian & magisterial dogmatism of Scholasticism
the method of science was revolutionary. From the Renaissance onward,
human thinking slowly emancipated and liberated itself from the shackles
of religious-based thought. The Newtonian paradigm was the grand outcome
of a total change of perspective. Understandably, Newtonian scientists
were not without pride. For Lord Kelvin physics was complete ... But
these sociologies of science, prompting emotional elation and pride, are
bad councillors. They give rise to unwarranted expectations, and
precisely these projections hinder the open and critical approach of
what happens at the periphery of the current paradigm.
In a superinflation of ontological materialism, the proposed success of
the view is promoted well over its possible expiration date. For
although one may posit a naive access to the real, one cannot therefore
possibly know what future research & experiment will discover. Perhaps
matter is not the sole substance after all ? Perhaps there are no
substances at all ? And what if no substance at all can be found, but
only processes ? Perhaps matter is merely one of the operators,
factors or elements running the system proposed by naturalism ? etc. Of
course, if physical objects are viewed as solely determined by their
initial position and momentum, then -theoretically at least- all that
can possibly be known about these objects will eventually be known. For
then, all possible futures only depend on what is known on the basis of
the initial condition, the momentum and its differential equation. But
how many systems operate like that ? Can the initial position be truly
known ? Do systems not always work in concert or togetherness with
others ? The
logic of prospective materialism works because it is a gross reduction
of contributing factors. At this point, so engrossed in their
materialism, scientists become prophets ...
"Promissory materialism is a peculiar theory. It
consists, essentially, of a historical (or historicist) prophecy about
the future results of brain research and of their impact. This prophesy
Eccles, 1981, p.97.
Prospective (promissory or prophetic) materialism also claims all problems facing
materialism today (like validation, intentionality, conscious
experience, free choice etc.) will surely be solve in the future. And this
only by positing a self-sufficient physical ground. As this, per definition,
cannot be demonstrated today, why bother ?
The Metaphysics of Materialism.
"The doctrine of the philosophy
of organism is that, however far the sphere of efficient causation be
pushed in the determination of components of a concrescence -its data,
its emotions, its appreciations, its purposes, its phases of subjective
aim- beyond the determination of these components there always remains
the final reaction of the self-creative unity of the universe. This
final reaction completes the self-creative act by putting the decisive
stamp of creative emphasis upon the determinations of efficient cause."
Whitehead, A.N. : Op.cit., 1929, § 75.
Metaphysics (2012) and
Book of Lemmas (2014), an elaborate analysis of what critical
metaphysics is all about was made. Earlier studies were in Dutch,
Clearings (2006). Earlier, in
Rules (1999) the following succinct description can be found.
"42. Metaphysics is speculative & theoretical knowledge on being
(ontology), the cosmos (philosophical cosmology), man (philosophical
anthropology) & God (philosophical theology). Metaphysics may be divided
- valid metaphysics : arguable ;
- invalid metaphysics : unarguable.
43. Distinguish normative philosophy from theoretical metaphysics using
the coercive necessity of the rules of the game fixed by the former by
reflecting on the conditions of the possibility of the logical
(correct), the epistemological (true), the esthetical (beautiful) & the
ethical (good) conduct of humanity. Together, normative philosophy &
valid metaphysics make out the field of philosophy.
44. Metaphysics can never be completely driven out from the field of
knowledge. This means that the field of the paradigm of knowledge equals
the sum of scientific statements and valid metaphysics.
45. Valid metaphysics inspires the sciences (heuristics & "ars
inveniendi"), promotes openness & pluralism (it is better to think
more possibilities than only a few) and hence stimulates a critical
46. An invalid metaphysics is characterised by :
(a) an incorrect, inefficient & contradictory formal language or syntax,
(b) the unilateral hypertrophy of object and/or subject or semantics,
(c) the impossibility to judge done statements (pragmatics).
47. These characteristics are also valid for our understanding of
"irrationality". Hence, all invalid metaphysics are irrational."
Rules, 1999, rules 42 to 47.
Critical metaphysics depends on the work of normative philosophy. Knowledge is grounded in knowledge itself. Truth, goodness &
beauty are defined in a normative way. Contrary to pre-critical
metaphysics, normative philosophy does not provide a self-sufficient
ground for knowledge, behaviour and esthetical appreciation. Divided in
immanent & transcendent metaphysics, the former argues and has "totality"
as its leading, regulative idea. It stays within the boundaries of what
science considers to be "the world". The latter is beyond argumentation
and has "infinity" as aim. One may ask whether it can be called
"philosophy" at all ...
The metaphysics of materialism is a series of untestable but arguable
statements affirming matter (or physical objects as described by
physics) is the fundamental "stuff" of Nature. This matter-stuff is
described as a substance existing from its own side, independent of the
Can materialism be coupled with non-substantiality,
i.e. with the process-nature of all things ? Or, does singling out
matter (or physical objects) as the only ontological principal (as in
materialist monism) always lead to the notion this "stuff"
defining matter exists from its own side, self-powered, i.e. autarchic
and with an inhering nature, i.e. in Newton’s words, "massy, hard, and
impenetrable" ? Suppose criticism prompts
materialism to divorce such essentialism, is process-materialism then possible ?
This would be a view embracing non-substantiality hand in hand with the primacy of
matter. This would imply matter does not consist of an independent,
self-contained "core" or "stuff".
Historically, materialism never
explained itself in that way. In the West, and this until the quantum, physical objects were always viewed to
be substantial, and therefore exist from their own side (cf.
Spinoza's definition of "substantia"). They exist "on their own" and
inherently possess the reason for their existence (their "mass"
determined by the Higgs-boson). In this view, science merely
characterizes its basic entities (12 elementary particles and 4 forces) extrinsically, in terms of their
relations to other entities. It does not tell us what the ultimate units
of Nature are like in themselves (as Searle claims). It merely reveals
those aspects of those entities its methods have been suited to
reveal, but these may well be (and no doubt are) abstractions from the full reality of
For process metaphysics, material process is "merely efficient".
Even if we include abstractions (like the laws governing the structure
of the atom, for example the Pauli-exclusion principle) into the
definition of matter (turning physical objects into matter-information
aggregates), then this is deemed to only represent the vector of
efficiency or horizontal impulse (explaining the trajectory in time of
these physico-informational systems). However, this vector is material,
not informational. Information has different properties altogether.
In process thought, like
Wittgenstein in his Tractatus, matter and form are clearly
differentiated. Matter is a relatively independent and largely
unstructured totality of particles, fields & forces. Information is
already an "intelligent" structure imposed on this. The atom itself is
already a highly organized aggregate, a matter-information system
(MI-system). In such a system, the efficient vector is the material
"stuff" (the elementary particles like electrons, neutron and
positrons), whereas their organization already reveals the activity of
information (architecture). This information is not physical and moves
beyond the mere horizontal impulse, it manifests a certain finality (an
aim instantiated as a general organization). But what about the 12
elementary particles ?
Indeed, for process metaphysics, this horizontal vector alone is
insufficient to explain the overall organisation of these aggregates,
certainly not when they turn into societies by becoming aware of their
own organic organization and relative autonomy (which of course only
happens in very complex systems). As societies, they even move beyond
the information giving them their form, for with a conscious choice they
are able to transform both their material & informational operators.
The horizontal vector involves matter and matter only.
For Whitehead, without "finality", matter would be "vacuous", without
real novelty. To accept novelty and its creative advance by increased
togetherness, is to understand experience, and the latter is always a
fusion of efficiency & finality. Whitehead does not attribute to
efficiency (or matter) alone the capacity to generate new forms, and
this even if we consider small changes over a period of millions of
years (as evolutionary biologists claim). Efficiency alone is not
responsible for evolution. The latter is a creative advance resulting
from efficiency & finality walking together. Without finality, matter is
a "vacuous actuality", totally devoid of experience. But such a
situation is a non-existent abstraction (like square circles or married
bachelors), for in actuality, all aggregates exhibit matter (the
efficient vector) as well as information (form) and consciousness
(meaning, choice). The last two operators constitute the scalar vector,
at work on a vertical plane (perpendicular to the horizontal momentum).
These metaphysical speculations are in tune with the observations made by Prigogine about the activity of negentropy in complex,
chaotic dissipative systems, be they atoms or human societies. His work suggests another type of
also be present and at work in Nature.
"Dans le contexte nouveau de la physique des processus irréversibles,
les résultats de la biologie ont évidemment une signification et des
implications très différentes. Certes, les seules lois macroscopiques
universelles sont bien les lois qui décrivent l'évolution vers le
désordre, vers les états d'équilibre ou les états stationnaires proches
de l'équilibre ; mais ces lois physiques ne constituent pas le contexte
par rapport auquel le vivant doit se définir : non pas parce qu'il est
vivant mais parce que, physiquement, il ne remplit pas les conditions
sous lesquelles ces lois sont pertinentes. (...) l'alternative dressée
par Monod entre un monde animiste, qui depuis toujours attendait
l'apparition de l'homme, fin et clef de son évolution, et le monde
silencieux où l'homme est étranger, n'est plus nécessaire. L'homme dans
sa singularité n'était certainement pas appelé, ni attendu par le monde
; en revanche, si nous assimilons la vie à un phénomène
d'auto-organisation de la matière évoluant vers des états de plus en
plus complexes, alors, dans des circonstances bien déterminées et qui ne
semblent pas d'une rareté exceptionelle, la vie, elle, est prévisible
dans l'Univers, y constitue un phénomène aussi 'naturel' que la chut des
corps graves." -
Prigogine, I. & Stengers, I. : La Nouvelle Alliance, Gallimard -
Paris, 1979, p.193.
Is this finality physical, informational & mental instead of physical tout court
? In this
mentality is not supervenient as is the case in reductive or eliminative physicalism.
Because of downward causation, final causes enter efficient causes,
and thanks to upward causation, efficient causes change the impact of
"The panexperientialist version of physicalism can
affirm this belief because its 'physical entities' are
physical-mental entities, and because there are various levels of
such entities, one level of which is that of the dominant occasions of
experience constituting the human mind."
Since the Age of Enlightenment, materialism has based its metaphysics on
three pillars : atomism, empirical objectivism & Newtonianism. From the
end of the 19th century onwards, these three ideals have been eroded.
But again, take heed, the downfall of materialism is not the advent of a
new kind of mentalism or spiritualism.
The fact objects can be split into smaller objects and the latter can be
divided up again, etc. forces one into considering the ultimate
division, i.e. one leading to an object no longer divisible. This
is the "atom". Visualized as an inert, solid, impenetrable object
existing from its own side, i.e. as a substance. All things are then
said to be made up of atoms. All objects are merely aggregates of
colliding atoms ; the view of Democritus and his school.
Greek atomism was assimilated to Newtonian physics. Only at the end of
the 19th century became it clear atoms had to be divisible. Moreover,
as the radiation of dark objects showed, the continuity-hypothesis
associated with the Newtonian approach of radiation could not be
maintained. This lead Planck to reluctantly introduce the "quantum". The
framework of classical physics (the equations of Newton and those of
Maxwell) could not be reconciled with a planetary view on the atom (a
nucleus, composed of neutrons & protons, around which electrons
revolve). Indeed, the speed necessary for an electron to stay in a
stable orbit around the nucleus (like a planet around its Sun) would
cause it to radiate and so loose energy, triggering the collapse of the
orbit, making the electron crash against the nucleus. In classical
physics, electrons would be stable only for only a billionth of a second
When quantum theory saw the light, the atom was further divided into
electrons, protons & neutrons. It took only a few decades to discover
these could be further split too. Today, 12 elementary
particles adorn the equations of physics. They are so elusive and
transient, one cannot longer visualize them. They spring out, interact
and then return to the quantum vacuum field. Indeed, before they are
observed, they are in a state of quantum superposition (eliminating any
possibility to grasp them conventionally), and depending on how they are
measured, they manifest different properties ... the traditional (common
sense) split between an object and is observer no longer holds (the
so-called "quantum enigma").
Despite these recent developments, matter -viewed as stuff which kicks
and kick back- remains the cornerstone of materialism, albeit not in its
atomic form. All atoms are impermanent.
Besides atomism and/or the focus on material events, materialism
embraces objectivity at the expense of the subject and is mostly (if not
always) essentialist, considering material events as possessing their
properties from their own side, isolated from (but interacting with) all
These isolated material objects with their inhering properties
constitute reality and this reality is objective, i.e. not influenced by
subjective considerations. Moreover, a direct access to this reality is
provided by our senses, delivering data to the mental objects of the
categorical scheme of cognition, producing its empirico-formal statements
of fact (propositions).
The truth or validity of statements of fact is organized by way of the
correspondence theory of truth according to which valid knowledge
corresponds with reality-as-it-is. Verification is inductive or
falsificationist, but in both cases facts are extra-mental, bearing
nowhere the seal of our theories, theoretical connotations, ideas or
notions. The subject of knowledge is either illusionary or reduced to a
passive registrator & organiser (as in neo-positivism).
Although realist objectivism has been comprehensively criticized
elsewhere, let us consider the case of the sense-data theory,
claiming all valid knowledge is based on the "hard data" given by
the "facts of sense" (cf.
A Neurophilosophy of Sensation,
2003). Empirical justificationism posits these
"sense-data" as "certain, context-independent & neutral". However,
claiming something is certain involves a valuation which can never be a
sense datum. The same can be said of the so-called "neutrality" of the
"sense-data" and their supposed "context-independence". How can this be
known ? Not by way of sense-data and so the justification of knowledge
on the basis of sense-data alone can not be accomplished. As
there are no context-independent sense-data, this form of
justificationism (based on naive realism) is self-defeating.
In Newton's system, materialism, realism and objectivity come together.
With his idea of absolute time and absolute space, Newton's observer has
no impact on the flow of time or the structure of space. Moreover,
matter, time & space were independent factors. The world is an
object "out there" in which the observer operates as a "ghost in the
machine". The gigantic clockwork of this mechanism is independent from
the observer and the physical conditions defining him or her (like mass
& momentum). The reference-system is absolute.
With special relativity, absolute space and absolute time were
abolished. Energy (matter) and spacetime are joined. With the quantum, continuity had to be relinquished, for
Nature jumps. With chaos theory, high-order determinism emerged, and
non-linear systems were discovered everywhere. In fact, linear systems,
insensitive to small changes, are the exception. Recent physical
theories predict even protons, after a very long time, eventually decay,
eliminating the idea of material stability. All material processes are
Applied to psychology, the Newtonian view can do no more than search for
ways to explain mental objects in terms of physical ones. The brain
secretes thoughts like the kidneys urine ... This reduction leads to an
impoverished view on subjectivity, as shown in Freudianism and
behaviourism (to mention two conflicting materialist theories of mind). Although the
scientific study of conscious experience is still in its infancy, a few
important points are clear : (a) material events are public
whereas mental events are private, (b) material events define
a manifold whereas mental events emerge as part of an experience
of conscious unity, and (c) objectivity & subjectivity are necessarily
linked, causing contradictions in any system trying to operate only
one (reducing or eliminating the other).
If physical and mental events are characterized by a different semantic
field and are not symmetrical, it may be the case they cannot be reduced
to one another. This is the point made by panexperientialism, positing
an occasion-monism, but attributing to each occasion three
irreducible ontological operators : matter, information &
consciousness. The first operator makes out the efficient vector, the
last two the scalar vector. Insofar as information is
related to the structure of matter (and thus not wholly abstract), a kind of hylemorphism pertains.
Glyphs (signs in the form of signals, icons & symbols) can be defined as
well-formed states of matter.
But this functional approach is not an exhaustive definition of
information, leaving out the existence of purely abstract objects, like
those pertaining to mathematical spaces (extensively used in quantum
theory). Taken together and viewed functionally, matter & information
constitute the "insentient" side of all actual occasions. Panexperientialism needs to
explain how this aspect interacts with sentience, with consciousness. This
leads to an interactionist explanation of the communication between, on
the one hand, consciousness, and, on the other hand, matter and
information. This is not an interaction between two different kinds of
things (or substances), as in Cartesian ontological dualism, but merely two
distinct aspects of a shared substratum, as in ontological monism.
Let us analyze this in terms of the relationships between the brain and
: Materialism and the Mind/Body Problem.
"Mentality is a real and autonomous feature of our world". -
Putnam, H. : "Philosophy and our Mental
Life.", in :
Moser & Trout, 1995, p.122.
In general philosophy, the "mind/body problem"
refers to the relationship between the human brain and the human mind.
This is deemed "a problem" because mental phenomena (occasion, events, entities,
objects) seem to be sui generis, unique in their characteristics,
irreducible and not explicable in terms of physical phenomena only.
Moreover, both phenomena seem to interact causally, nomologically and
explanatorily. Clearly some do not agree and consider mental events
fundamentally material and just another way to describe phenomena
exclusively dependent on physical objects.
Carnap (1891 - 1970) and others argue the problem does not exist, for the human mind is nothing
else than the human brain. So discussing the
relationship is a priori unnecessary. The same logic applies if
one argues the brain is merely a reflection of the (ideal) mind, but
this position, although logically possible, is deemed untenable. The
advances in physics, biology & neurology seem to rule it out.
The "mind/body problem" must be situated in the context of the preciousness of human life. The complexity
of the operational domains explaining the human being is extraordinary.
To try to explain the facts of this individualized entity is not an easy
task, if at all possible. In any case, process philosophy has a very
subtle, deep & extended view on this. In what follows, each time the
words "mind" and "brain" are used, the case of the human mind and the
human brain is at hand. In a panexperiential view, designating finative
considerations to all actual occasions, this distinction is not unimportant.
We are not looking at an ontological difference between mind and brain
à la Descartes,
but wish to understand their distinctness in the ongoing world-process. Both
individualized societies forming explicatory domains to grasp the human
being as an organic whole, namely matter (hardware), information
(software) & consciousness (userware). The human being is an individualized society
of individual objects, events & actual occasions. As a single entity,
each human is a "world" consisting of material, informational and
sentient events. As each actual occasion has two modes or vectors of existence, so
has the human being : an objective, physical existence processing efficient
lawfulness (matter) and a subjective, mental existence, dealing with
principles of intersubjective validation & knowledge
(information) and conscious subjective experience (consciousness), i.e. the power
to produce changes in itself and let these enter the existence of
other occasions. Matter is the efficient vector, information &
consciousness the scalar, finative vector.
The "brain" is the name for the efficient, complex physico-informational object
displaying (transmitting) the activity of human consciousness.
It is more than just "matter", but a compound object, as much (if not
more) defined by the information (architecture) it exhibits than the
atoms, fields & forces at work in it. The "mind" is the name
for the final decision taken on the basis of all available knowledge
made by a percipient participative self, a focus of consciousness existing in its own inner,
private, cognitive & conscious life. This free choice individualizes the
non-physical (finative) actual occasion needed to grasp what human life
is all about, namely the "mind". As subjective focus, it refers to something more
than just matter & information (intersubjectively shared knowledge).
Unlike the latter, outer operators, it is an inner operator generating
meaning (moving beyond shared intersubjective knowledge, for basically
personal, intimate and first-person defined). Consciousness is a First
Person Perspective, intersubjectivity a Second or Third Person
As brain and mind are both societies of actual occasions, the
interaction between both is not an interaction between two different
substances, but merely a mutual exchange between distinct operational
domains, encompassing the physical (matter) and
non-physical (information & consciousness) modes of occasions. The notion
"information" includes the regulative idea of a super-system of
natural & artificial
expert-systems (all possible knowledge) and a weighting of possible
choices. The notion "consciousness" calls for an actual choice
favouring the actual possibility with the highest probability in terms of
reinforcement of the experience of conscious unity and (b) the greatest harmony for as
many societies of individuals as possible.
Before elaborating upon this panexperiential interactionism, let us
summarize & discuss the various other, in my opinion, wrong positions in this
important debate. But as in a ladder of tenets, they elucidate the
3.1 Ancient Egyptian Shamanism :
The ante-rational stance of Ancient Egyptian
cognition makes it impossible to rationally explain their view on the body
and the spiritual elements caught in its "net". In various texts they mention
elements such as the "ka" (double), "ba" (soul), "ib" (heart), "khaibit"
(shadow), "akh" (spirit) and the like. In the
Pyramid Texts they play an important role in the process of transformation &
ascension of the divine king. In the
Amduat, the "ba" of Re travels through the Duat to seek replenishment (in
the 6th Hour of the night). One interesting text explains how a mad Egyptian
viewed his "ba". This is the "Discourse of a Man with his Ba", a
manuscript from the Middle Kingdom (XIIth Dynasty, ca. 1938 - 1759 BCE),
translated & discussed
Especially the "ka", "ba" and "akh" are crucial elements. While the body is
alive, the "ka" and "ba" are "caught" in its net, but when it dies, they are
released. During life, a man makes sure his "ka" was "pleased", for this element
would become the crucial object of offering after death. While alive, it is
content when one lives "in accord with Maat", the principle of cosmic harmony
Ptahhotep and the
sapiental literature). As soon as the physical body is shed, the "ka"
escapes and can be satisfied by mummification, funerary offerings and (voice)
offerings made in front of the "false door" by those alive. When the "ka" is
thus replenished, the "ba" is gratified and its dynamic task of reconnecting the
deceased with his or her spiritual core ("akh") can commence. But before this
happens, the "mind" (will, intention, consciousness) of the deceased, its
"heart" ("ib") must be weighed against the Feather of Maat. If found heavier, it
is devoured and the process of transformation can not begin. Helped by the
"negative confession" (enumerating the faults not done by the deceased)
and protective magic (placing a scarab beetle over the heart left in the mummy),
this balance is found perfect, and the deceased may regain its divine states as
a spirit ("akh"). This luminous spirit either abides -in the case of a commoner-
in the Lunar heaven of
Osiris (the highest state in the Duat) or, for royalty, in the Solar heaven
of Re (the circumpolar stars).
In this scheme, the distinction between the physical body and what could be
called "spiritual principles" is apparent. The afterlife depends on the latter.
But even during life on Earth, these register ("ib") and sustain ("ka") the
moral psychological and spiritual activities of the human being. It cannot be
said the "ka", "ba" and "akh" are non-corporeal or immaterial. Rather, a
hierarchy of states prevails, each being composed of intermingled physical and
"spiritual" stuff. Ante-rational
hylic pluralism, also found in Shamanism, is at hand. While a rational
discourse on these elements is absent, it is clear the functional distinction
between, on the one hand, the physical body, and, on the other hand, the "ka",
"ib", "ba" and "akh" is acknowledged. The impact of a "heavy heart" and a
revolted "ka" on this-life too.
influence of Ancient Egyptian funerary anthropology on Greek
religion and philosophy has, in the Hellenocentric approach of the
academia, been sidetracked. But as the Greeks themselves acknowledged,
3.2 Platonic Dualism &
The doctrine of Plato (428 - 348 BCE)
defines a strict ontological divide ("chorismos") between two separate
worlds, namely a perfect word of being and an imperfect world of becoming.
Material processes belong to the latter, and the soul of man to the former.
Knowledge is remembering ("anamnesis") what was encountered before being
embodied. In this ontological dualism, the relationships between mind and body
far from ideal, for the body is the "prison" of the mind or soul, the true,
immortal person (a view elaborated upon by Plotinus and the neo-Platonists as "soma
death, mind and body, made of ontologically different stuff, separate. The latter decomposes into its original elements,
but the mind or soul, not being a material compound, does not. This provides
hope for survival of the person after the death of the body.
Although Plato gave
dualism an extended treatment, it was Pythagoras who was the first to posit the
transmigration of the soul, i.e. the view the soul is immortal and only
temporarily bound up with the body. Purified after its separation from this
transient physical dwelling, the soul returns to its heavenly abode or
transmigrates into another body. Here, the
ontic distinctness of body & mind is affirmed hand in hand with their ontological
The impact of Platonism on Late Hellenism and the Judeo-Christian
tradition was tremendous. It also influenced Islamic philosophy
considerably. In later phase, it was replaced by Peripatetic thought.
For the purposes of understanding the psychology of Aristotle (384 - 322
BCE), his hylemorphism is crucial. From its inception, it exploits
two distinct but related notions of form : in the first, "form" is the essence
material compound whose form it is, and in the second, it is the accident of its subject. The soul
is an essential form, whereas perception involves the acquisition of accidental
forms. Entelechy ("entelécheia") is then a fullness of actualization requiring
an ongoing or standing investment of effort in order to persist. It is opposed
to energy ("energeia") which is the activity of actualization not necessarily
completed. Entelechy is associated with fullness of form, and potency is
associated with material stuff which potentially has the form.
Hylemorphism (or "matter-formism") is a compound word composed of the Greek for
matter ("hulê") and form or shape ("morphê"). The notions of "form" and
"matter" are developed within the context of a general theory of causation and
explanation. When we wish to explain what there is to know, for example, about a
bronze statue of Hermes, a complete account necessarily alludes to at least four
factors : the matter of the statue, its form or structure, the agent responsible
for that matter manifesting its form or structure, and the purpose for which the
matter was made to realize that form or structure. These four factors are the
four causes ("aitiai") :
● the material cause (causa materialis)
: that from which something is generated and out of which it is made,
e.g. the bronze of the statue ;
● the formal cause (causa formalis) :
the structure realized by the matter, in terms of which it becomes something
determinate, e.g. the Hermes shape by virtue of which this quantity of bronze is
said to be a statue of Hermes ;
● the efficient cause (causa efficiens)
: the agent responsible for a quantity of matter receiving form, e.g. the
sculptor who shaped the quantity of bronze into its current Hermes shape ;
● the final cause (causa finalis) :
the purpose or goal of the compound of form and matter, e.g. the statue created
for the purpose of honouring Hermes.
When introducing the soul as the form of the body, which in turn is said to be
the matter of the soul, Aristotle treats soul-body relations as a special case
of a more general relationship existing between the components of all generated
compounds, natural or artificial.
Aristotle regards the body as the matter of a human being in the way the bronze
is held to be the matter of a statue of Hermes. The following analogies run
through his psychology : soul / body = form / matter = Hermes-shaped statue /
bronze. But it is difficult to fully appreciate this analogy. Indeed, while bronze can
exist as an indeterminate lump, being potentially but not actually the statue of
a Deity, the body is not so much stuff lying about waiting to be informed or
by a soul. Rather, human bodies become human bodies by being ensouled.
"It is not necessary to ask whether soul and body are one, just as it is
not necessary to ask whether the wax and its shape are one, nor generally
whether the matter of each thing and that of which it is the matter are one. For
even if one and being are spoken of in several ways, what is properly so spoken
of is the actuality." -
Aristotles : De Anima, ii 1, 412b6-9.
not eschew questions concerning the unity of soul and body as meaningless ;
rather, he suggests they are readily answered or somehow unimportant. If we do
not spend time asking whether the wax of a candle and its shape are one, then we
should not exercise ourselves over the question of whether the soul and body are
It should be emphasized, however, Aristotle does not decide
the question by insisting the soul and body are identical, or even
"one" in some weaker sense. This he denies. He rejects materialism. The
form of the body is not material, just like the candle is not the wax.
Instead, just as one might well say the wax of a candle and its
shape are distinct, on the grounds the wax could easily exist when
the particular shape is no more, or, less obviously, the particular
shape of the candle may survive the replenishment of its material basis, so one
might equally deny the soul and body to be identical, i.e. of the same
nature or made of the same "stuff". So hylemorfism is not a form of
Another way of appreciating this is to consider the question of the
separability of the soul from the body at death, a possibility embraced by
ante-rational thought (cf. supra), Pythagorism and substance dualists from the time of Plato onward.
Aristotle answers : if we do not think
the Hermes-shape of this particular statue persists after its bronze is melted and recast, we
should not think the soul survives the demise of the body. Hence :
"It is not unclear that the soul -or certain parts
of it, if it naturally has parts- is not separable from the body." (De
Anima, ii 1, 413a3-5). So, unless we are prepared to treat forms in
general as capable of existing without their material bases, as does
Plato and ontological dualism with him, we should
not be inclined to treat souls as exceptional cases. Hylemorphism gives us no reason to treat souls as separable from bodies, even
if we think of them as distinct from their material bases. So
must we conclude the afterlife is impossible ?
Aristotle does not appear to think his hylemorphism somehow
refutes all possible dualism. For he appends to this denial of
the soul's separability from the body the observation some parts of
the soul may
in the end be separable after all, since they are not the actualities of
any part of the body (De Anima, ii 1, 413a6-7).
prefigures his complex attitude toward mind ("nous"), a faculty
he repeatedly describes as exceptional among capacities of the soul. It
is this faculty which, in his theory of knowledge, is linked with the "intellectus
agens", the active intellect "abstracting" the essence of an object, and
this by using the manifold gathered by the passive intellect on the basis of the
But in general, the Hermes-form is the actuality of the bronze statue, since its
presence explains why this particular quantity of matter comes to be
a bronze statue of Hermes as opposed to some other kind of artefact. Looking at soul-body relations as a special case
of form-matter relations references the soul as an integral
part of any complete explanation of living beings in general. So Plato and other dualists are right to
stress the importance of the soul in explanations of living beings. But their commitment to the separability of the soul
from the body is unjustified merely by appeal to formal causation.
Aristotle allows the soul to be distinct from the body, namely as its
actuality, but this does not
provide the ground for supposing the soul can exist without the
body, neither does it justify the ontological difference between
body & mind. His hylemorphism embraces neither reductive materialism, nor
Platonic ontological dualism. Instead, it seeks to steer a middle course between
these alternatives by pointing out these
are not exhaustive options. This introduced many complexities ...
When Thomism integrated the Peripatetic view, the notion the soul came
to its end with the demise of the body had, in view of survivalist
Christian theology, to be "corrected". This was done by supposing that
after death the soul became the form of a subtle, spiritual body (the
same is proposed in Hindu & Buddhist Tantra). Thus
hylic pluralism saved the day. During the Middle Ages, variants of
Platonism are Peripatism were developed, but basically nothing new was
added to the discussion. We have to wait for the Renaissance for this, a
new spirit of inquiry giving rise to Modernism.
René Descartes (1595 - 1650), the first modern
philosopher, shaped the current understanding of the mind/body problem. He
clearly & distinctly conceived his mind to exist without body and his body
without mind, and concluded they must be separable, different, irreducible
"natures" or substances. Matter was extended, mind not. Mind was
non-physical and so different from matter.
As the body, like a clock, was a complex mechanical device of sorts, the mind
became a kind of "ghost in the machine".
For Descartes in Le Monde, a rational view on how body & soul,
the spatio-temporally extended and the merely temporally extended, indeed form a unity can be arrived at by
studying both independently. He wrote : "and finally, that I show You how these two
Natures have to be joined and united in order to compose humans who resemble
us." - Adam & Tannery,
1964-1974, XI, p.120.
Cartesius seeks the interaction between the physically extended ("res extensa")
and the non-physical ("res cogitans") in the pineal gland. But
as in this crucial argument, the presumed interactions, like a Deus ex
machina, happened by way of a special ontological category acting as their
justifiable bridge, the reasoning was flawed (logically, because of Ockham's
Razor, and scientifically because the pineal gland houses no "spirit-beings").
Often ridiculed because of this weak conjecture to back a central question,
Cartesian interactionism became a bad start for interactionism as a whole. Later
rationalists like Spinoza (1632 - 1677) & Leibniz (1646 - 1716) avoided
interactionist strategies ... In this way, they did not need to explain how
non-extended substance contacts extended substance (and this in the context of a
mechanistic physics in which causation is by contact).
Popper (1981) tried to clarify why rationalism
& materialism are
incompatible, for the distinction between the extended thing ("res
extensa") and the thinking thing ("res cogitans")
is fundamental to science.
Recently, the question of how body and mind interact is replaced by asking how
interaction is possible without energy ? As the laws of thermodynamics apply,
the non-physical, to have impact, is supposed to expend energy and so add energy,
violating its principle of conservation. Although this problem has been
addressed without violating energy-conservation, a definitive solution, no doubt
inspired by the Copenhagen interpretation of the Schrödinger equation of quantum
theory, identifies the "activity" of mind as a mere weighting of
propensities, making certain outcomes more likely than others.
a rearrangement of the physical order by a change in its underlying
propensity-structure of possible outcomes, not by any actual physical occasions
(always in need of energy). Hence, this phenomenon can only occur in large
populations driven by statistical laws and a chaotic phase-space allowing for
the Butterfly-effect (small causes, large effects). What happens in neurons and
at their synapses being a very suitable candidate for this conjectured
propensity-bridge or immaterial "liaison" between the brain and the mind.
But other, even more subtle neuronal structures have been proposed. The
mind "scans" the brain, makes a choice and alters by making certain outcomes more
likely. It interacts with the propensity-field (cf. Popper) of the brain at any
given moment. So likelihood is the occasion allowing mental and physical
entities to interact (cf. Panexperientialism).
Occasionalism, using the three Cartesian substances "matter", "mind" and "God",
elaborates upon the consequences of ontological dualism, oddly claiming finite
things can have no efficient causality of their own. Substances cannot
be the efficient causes of events. In ontological monism, the question
how two or more substances relate is a non-issue, for only one substance
prevails. But as soon as the numerical singularity of the fundamental
principle (the monad) is relinquished for dualism (the dyad), thinking change and interrelatedness brings on the question how
different kind of things relate ? Occasionalism rejects the possibility of
any kind of relation whatsoever. Different substances can a priori never
bridge their natures. This is a strong point (also found in Buddhist
Madhyamaka). As long as we try to think
interaction to occur between different substances, logic fails. If
all physical & mental phenomena are merely "occasions" or
substances acting on their own, devoid of any interconnectedness and efficient power,
then they cannot interact with other thus isolated phenomena.
Physical "stuff" cannot act as cause of other physical "stuff", for no
necessary connection can be observed between physical causes and their
physical effects (a view returning in the writings of David Hume, for whom
causality and other lawful determinations are merely psychological habits).
Moreover, mind and brain are so utterly different, the one cannot affect the
other. Hence, a person's mind cannot be the true cause of his hand's moving. The
mental cannot cause the physical and vice versa.
Ergo, as events do exist, they must be caused directly by God Himself.
For what God wills has to be taken to be necessary.
This remarkable view, first propounded by the tenth-century Muslim thinker
al-Ash'are, can be found in the writings of Cartesians Johannes Clauberg (1622 -
1665), Arnold Geulincx (1624 -
1669) and Nicolas Malebranche (1638 - 1715). It shows the difficulties of
substantialism as well as the need to explain away the difficulties with
a phantasm. And who in those days would have dared to question God's
3.5 Psycho-Physical Parallelism and
In Spinoza's Short Treatise on God, Man and his Well-Being, the
ontological dualism of Descartes is rejected and replaced by a single
substance in its various states or modes. Nature (or God), possessing and
infinite number of attributes, is "seen" by human beings as a unity of what is
extended (matter) and what thinks. Of the infinite attributes of God, humans are
only able to grasp two ... Understanding interactionism cannot be
explained in the context of essentialism, Spinoza writes :
"if there were different beings in nature, the one could not possibly unite with
the other" (Short Treatise, I, 2). True indeed. Substances are distinguished by
their attributes. As no substance can be constituted by any attribute unless
constituted by every attribute there is, there can only be one substance and it
must be "absolutely infinite".
Matter has an
"inside" aspect with a consciousness-like "quality", in other words, both run
parallel like the outside & inside of an eggshell. Matter and soul are the
outside and inside aspects, or attributes, of one and the same unique & singular
substance, i.e. "Nature", which is the same as "God".
"... all things are animate in various degrees."
Spinoza : Ethica, II, XIII Scholium.
Psycho-physical parallelism (or dual aspect theory) regulates the world of
attributes, both in the Divine substance and in its derived modes. The
attributes of thought and extension are irreducible and so any transition from
one to the other is impossible. Still, the series of phenomena manifesting
themselves in thought coincides perfectly with the series of phenomena of
extension. So the order of ideas coincides with the order of bodies. This
coincidence is rooted in the unity of substance of which such phenomena are the
modes, appearances or manifestation. Given the irreducibility of thought to
extension, no interaction between soul and body is possible, nor is it
psycho-physical coincidence or agreement, every manner of being and of operation
of thought finds its equivalent in the being and operation of extension.
Spinozistic parallelism is a panpsychism, for amorph aggregates like a rock are
also in some way "conscious". Mind is the idea associated with a body, and all
bodies have a mental aspect.
So with this parallelism, an identity of order or correspondence between modes
of different attributes is at hand. These modes of different attributes have not
only the same order and the same connection, but the same being ; they are the
same things, namely modes of the one substance, Nature (God). Attributes are
really distinct, parallel series that have no causal action between them. There
is no causal connection between the modes of one attribute upon modes of
another. There is identity of order and connection between modes of different
attributes. Because attributes constitute one substance, corresponding modes
differing in attribute form one modification.
In Leibniz' Monadology we find the following passage :
"Thus the organic body of each living being is a kind of
Divine machine or natural automaton, which infinitely surpasses all artificial
automata. For a machine made by the skill of man is not a machine in each of its
parts. For instance, the tooth of a brass wheel has parts or fragments which for
us are not artificial products, and which do not have the special
characteristics of the machine, for they give no indication of the use for which
the wheel was intended. But the machines of nature, namely, living bodies, are
still machines in their smallest parts ad infinitum. It is this that constitutes
the difference between nature and art, that is to say, between the Divine art
Leibniz, G.W. : Monadology, § 64.
Breaking away from monism (Spinoza, focusing on God), dualism (Descartes,
focusing on the "res cogitans"), Leibniz's strikingly systematic
metaphysics posits a pluralism of substances. Inspired by physics, he focused on
the "res extensa". For Leibniz, "monads" (mentioned for the first time in
a letter to Fardella in 1696) are singular, partless substances. There are an
infinite number of monads or "points", and they are all substantially identical
(pluralism) and non-extended intensities or "souls". But in terms of quality and
force, each monad is unique (having its own unique logical combination). In the
"first monad" (or God) are found all possible "letters" in all possible logical
combinations. Although inspired by physical atomism (dividing matter in smaller
and smaller parts to arrive at the "atom"), Leibniz does not -contrary to
Hobbesian materialism- designate a final term to this series of divisions of
matter. The continuity among existing things is not based on indivisible
material quantities, but on indivisible non-material monads.
In the Lehsätze über die Monadologie published in 1720 by Köhler (based
on Leibniz's Opus Magnum, his Essay on Theodicy of 1710), these
immaterial monads are independent, unique, singular, all-comprehensive and
imperishable. Each monad remains what it is, nothing can be added to it or taken
away from it. It has no "windows" (§ 7), meaning nothing can enter it or go out
from it. Each is unique because each possesses a rich qualitative structure
of accidents giving it its own nature, and this by a unique combination of
properties and its own logical sequence of development. Hence, each monad is
a living being permanently actualizing in itself a unique structure,
lawfulness, active force or design (§ 11). This uniqueness of each monad is not a
universal or "essence" of a species (as in the "causa materialis" of
Scholasticism), but the result of an active force attributed to each monad. This
vitalism is associated -not with Cartesian mechanistic linear impulse-, but with
a higher "kinetic" force (cf. Huygens E = m.v²). Matter is dynamical &
So in this monadic immaterial sufficient ground of empirical reality a dynamical
"force active" is present. Not quantity is what changes all the time, but
quality, in other words, this vital force. This force serves a double purpose :
(a) the realization of increasingly complex forms of material organization
(the evolution of matter) and (b) an urge towards apperception, i.e. the
reflective knowledge of the monad of its own inner conditions. Each monad is
constantly changing from one state to the other, and this by virtue of the
alteration of its inner properties and relationships with the other monads. This
interconnection with other monads is happens by virtue of the immanent law
within each monad (regulating series or "series operationum"), for each
monad is a mirror of the whole world ("esse partes totales").
The substantial form is a teleological principle, in that every substance
"sings" its part in the universal harmony by knowing & intentionally following
its part of the universal "score". This part corresponds to its complete
individual concept, built into its substantial form. Hence, each monad is
self-referential, lonely and without any real connection with other monads. None
of them acts on another, and so all substances are causally independent from
each other. Only the first monad acts on the monads, causing their existence,
though their actual states are produced by their own natures. The first
monad created an infinite set of monads whose natures are so harmonious each
successive state of a monad (though determined by the nature of each individual
monad alone), mirrors the corresponding states of all other monads.
Monads are imperishable because something without parts cannot be destroyed.
They appear and disappear "in one piece", while all other entities do so in
pieces (§§ 4 - 5). Monads are literally "automatons", i.e. something moving
on its own accord. Appearing realities are merely phenomena of the spiritual
monads. These divisible bodies are organic wholes animated by monads. They are
the outer side of the implicate "plenum" constituted by these immaterial
monads. This leads to hylozoism. All things are alive, for in all things
immaterial, spiritual monads enter. And vice versa, for the indivisible
appears as divisible. This outer, divisible side is not substantial (as
Descartes & Spinoza thought). Divisible matter is reduced to being a mere
representation (§ 61) of the indivisible, spiritual monads. Matter is unable to
think itself, and so materialism is self-defeating.
"If there is no other principle of identity in a material
body than the properties just named (i.e. extension, form & movement), then not
a single body would exist longer than a moment."
Leibniz, G.W. : Metaphysical Treatise, 1686, § 12.
As a function of their qualitative ability to "perceive", i.e. move from one
situation of properties & combination to another, and "apperceive", i.e. know by
way of reflection their inner conditions, a hierarchy of monads can be defined
(starting with totally unclear to more or less clear, ending in absolutely
clear). This hierarchy of being has six tiers : (1) inorganical aggregates
(unconscious perceptions), (2) sleeping monads like plants (unconscious
perceptions), (3) dreaming monads like animals (sensation & memory), (4)
perceptive monads like humans (little conscious or very unconscious), (5)
apperceptive monads like humans (rational souls & spirits) and (6) God the "monad
monadum" or "primitive monad" (§ 47), the sufficient ground of everything,
possessing a completely clear concept of all the actual and all the
possible (§ 43), a monad able to oversee in a single thought all
possibilities in all possible combinations.
Rather than by way of the hand of God and His "continuing miracle", as in
Occasionalism, mental and bodily processes correspond not because they interact,
but because they are fortuitous, having no cause. Agreement exists just as two
clocks would be in agreement if they had been started at the same time and
were accurate enough. The perfect correlation between mind and body was
ensured by God at the beginning of time in a "pre-established harmony".
A modern version of parallelism is "neutral monism", found in Hume (1711 -
1776), Mach (1838 - 1916) and Russell (1872 - 1970). There is only a physical
ordering of "neutral" things or events and a mental ordering of the same things
or events. The things or events considered "physical" or "mental" are in fact
named as a function of the context in which they are conceived. There is only an
epistemological difference, not an ontological one. "Physical" means something
coming within the scope of physics and "mental" is explained with the help of
psychology and human activity. There are only two realms of theories, two
systems of ordering things. Every element belongs to both orderings, but it is
possible an element belonging to the body does not belong to the mind. The main
point claims the physical world and the mental world are merely theoretical
constructions of the fundamental "stuff" : "the given".
criticize the former position by observing these allegedly neutral "given" is only
called "neutral", for in truth they are "mental", i.e. procedures, constructions
or theoretical manipulations of physical objects.
The doctrine of panpsychism or hylozoism is very old. Plato & Aristotle reports
Thales taught "Everything is full of gods" (Laws, 899b, De Anima,
417a7). Even Democritus regarded the psyche as a very special kind of matter.
With the moral theory of the soul, hylozoism became discredited. Nevertheless,
Plato calls the universe "a living body endowed with a soul" (Timaeus,
30b/c). Widespread among Renaissance thinkers like Campanella & Bruno,
panpsychism received its classical form by Spinoza & Leibniz (cf.
We should distinguish between classical hylozoism or panpsychism, attributing life, mind and
consciousness to all material objects, and a contemporary form accepting
a single actual
occasion possesses a mental mode (the scalar vector of information &
consciousness), while aggregates of occasions, as mere
collections of occasions, do not. This allows one to say a rock as rock is insentient,
while atoms, molecules, plants, animals & humans have, in varying degrees, the
ability of self-organize, trigger novelty and experience unity. This
distinction is crucial to understand the panexperientialism of process
3.6 Physicalism : Analytical Behaviourism and Identity or Central
"... a physicalist has only two genuine options,
eliminativism and reductionism." -
Kim, J. : "The Myth of Nonreductive Materialism.", in :
Moser & Trout,
The following positions (3.6 - 3.9), in one form or another, embrace materialism
(physical behaviour), and so reject, render passive or reduce sentience (mental
As explained above, physicalism, as a revised form of materialism, replaces "matter" by "all objects
covered by physical theory", either in actuality (incomplete) or prospectively
(complete). Applied to the issue at hand, it says mental phenomena are just a
special case of physical phenomena.
Human beings are physical organisms with two distinctive kinds of states :
physical and mental, the latter depending on the former. The two mainstream versions of physicalism in terms of the
body/mind-problem are Analytical Behaviourism and the
• In Analytical Behaviourism, mind is seen as merely (actual or
potential) behaviour of body, and so mind = physical behaviour.
Behavioural analysis should not contain unanalyzed mental items.
However, this ideal condition can not be met, for a residue of such
items will always be left, causing more behavioural analysis (infinite
regression). This cripples the argument. Moreover, insistence on
reducing mental states to behavioural patterns or dispositions to engage
in such, makes one deny the existence of an "inner" subjective state, as
well as first person knowledge regarding mental states. This results in
an anthropology & psychology unable to encompass free choice, freedom
and other crucial human values. Denying black swans exist, Analytical
Behaviourism is blind to what is obvious.
Each mentalistic statement is equivalent in
meaning to a statement referring to patterns of behaviour or dispositions to
behave. This view rejects mental events and properties are involved in causal
explanations of other mental events and physical events. It considers it "a
category mistake" to say mental events "causes" behaviour, since mentalistic
statements do not describe the neural happenings causing the behaviour. They
merely describe either patterns of behaviour or dispositions to behave (Ryle,
This implausible, crude form of Analytical Behaviourism eliminates
the importance of consciousness, intention and inner life. It cannot explain the
presence of these central phenomena. Neither does it explain how neuronal
statements are able to solve problems involving mentalistic statements. The fact
these problems also involve the conscious interpretation of neuronal statements
the whole exercise hardly convincing and somewhat circular & self-defeating
(by way of a contradictio in actu exercito).
The position has been left by psychologists & philosophers
Central State Theory is a physicalist modification of parallelism :
there exists an "identity" between mental processes and certain
brain processes. Every mental state is identical with some physical state,
in particular various sorts of neural states (Smart, 1962). This is not a logical identity, but a
single class of material properties describable by means of
two different vocabularies,
just as the planet Venus is both "evening star" and
"morning star", two different appearances of the same material
object (linguistic parallelism). In other words, while mental predicates
differ in meaning from behavioural and physical predicates, they merely refer to
neurophysiological properties, and so descriptions of mental events refer to
neurophysiological events. By finding the crucial "bridge laws", mental and physical
predicates can be connected. Mental events (just another set of words for
physical factors) may therefore cause material events, for
neurophysiological events cause behaviour. Mental properties enter into the laws
explaining behaviour because they are neurophysiological properties and these
enter into laws ...
This leads to a problem about the properties of mental states. Suppose pain P is
identical with a certain firing N in the brain. Although P is the very same
state as the firing N, we identify P in two different ways : as the actual pain
P and as the neural firing N. Regarding the mental state P, two sets of
properties emerge : mental properties when identified as P and physical
properties when identified as N. A kind of dualism at the level of the
properties of mental states arises. So identifying mental states with physical
states does not eliminate the fact mental states have mental and physical
properties ! In other words, the two vocabularies do point to different
Mental states can be divided in propositional attitudes having
content ("I have the thought that it will rain.), intentionality and
sensations. The above problem is most pressing for sensations, for even if
mental states are all identical with physical states, the former appear to have
non-physical properties. For Smart the distinctive properties of sensations are
"neutral" as between being mental or physical. However, since thoughts and
sensations are distinctively mental states, it perforce has some
characteristically mental property and this is lost if we construe these
properties as "topic-neutral". Although one may construe intentional properties
as wholly physical, it is unlikely some properties will not turn out to be
non-physical, even if we recast the identity theory as asserting mental states are
identical with bodily states.
Another problematic consequence of the strong Central State Theory is that
members of different species do not share mental properties. This can be solved
by weakening the identity claim. Instead, every instance of a mental state is
identical with an instance of some bodily state, of some type or other.
Instances of a single mental state might then be identical with tokens of
distinct bodily types (the token Identity Theory - Armstrong, 1968 & Lewis,
1972). However, if physical-state types do not correspond to mental-state types,
this theory is false. For Davidson (1970), an event token only belongs to a
mental type relative to background assumptions about mentality, whereas tokens
of physical events are independent of such a background, a claim easily
criticized (for even experiments have metaphysical backgrounds).
If mental events are just brain processes, then they must have the
physical properties brain events have. Given the binding problem (the
conscious experience of unity versus the manifold of neuronal happenings,
free choice versus determinacy) and a-symmetry (the privacy of consciousness &
intention versus the public nature of neurophysiological properties) this is
not the case. Indeed, if this supposed identity would be the case, then brain events must have mental properties by
virtue of which the mental events with which they are identical are the
kinds of events they are. Then no differences could in any case be
Another problem is the absence of the supposed bridge-laws after many decades of
central state conjectures. The theory also fails to explain how neurological
events & properties exemplify consciousness and intentionality. A complete
understanding of neurophysiology (by itself a very difficult goal to achieve),
leaves the qualitative character of both unexplained (cf. Nagel, 1974 & Jackson,
1986). And precisely this inner, private conscious life is the one individuals
directly experience. So one fails short in addressing the most important fact :
reality-for-us is impossible without reality-for-me. Finally, how to explain
intentional states neurophysiologically ? A concept of something, say X, refers
to a semantic field defined by the person thinking the concept and the various
features of his or her environment. Two people could be exactly alike in terms
of their neurophysiology and nevertheless think, believe and so on different
concepts, for these are causally connected to different semantic fields (cf.
3.7 Eliminativism, Epiphenomenalism and Behaviourism.
Eliminativism (Rorty, 1979) bluntly denies mental events & properties are
instantiated. There are no such properties at all. Mentalistic statements are
like mythical, fantastic & fictional statements. Like statements designating
supernatural powers, they are false. Nothing has mental properties, for all
things are merely physical. Hence, identity cannot be established, for "mental"
and "physical" are incompatible terms. This proposal depends solely on whether
or not one holds the mental as non-physical. This can be avoided by saying
current "folk psychology" is a mistaken & defective conception of the mental
(Churchland, 1981). Of course, this does not show mental states do not exist,
nor that a better psychology cannot be found. Eliminative arguments always
require some special way to define the mental, one not in line with what is
commonly understood by them. Without this, it turns into an Identity Theory.
Moreover, by denying inner life, Eliminativism works with nothing more than
physical behaviour. But logically, it fails to show its truth-value. For to
justify itself, Eliminativism must appeal to mental principles, norms & maxims
of validation. So to prove itself correct, it must use what it denies. A
completely self-defeating strategy. Of course, the wrong view has the merit to
invoke a radical revision in our habitual conception of ourselves.
In Epiphenomenalism, one does not wish to move to the extreme of eliminating the
mental, avoiding being ridiculed by any self-defeating mental slapstick. The
mental is a necessary by-product of the physical. Accepted as real, it is made
totally passive and trivial. Mental events and states figure in causal relations
as effects only, ever as causes. It is never the case, for example, that a state
causally results in a happy mood in virtue of falling in love ...
Behaviourism, the psychological version of Physicalism, claims there is nothing
to the mind but the subject's behaviour and dispositions to behave (cf. the
stimulus-response model, leaving out internal process). This total repudiation
of the inner leaves out something real and important. Even behaviourists
themselves agree an "intractable residue" of conscious mental items, bearing no
clear relations to behaviour of any particular sort, abide. Finally, it is
possible two people to differ psychologically despite total similarity of their
actual and counterfactual behaviour ...
3.8 Anomalous Monism, Supervenient Emergentism.
For Anomalous Monism (or Supervenient Emergentism), there are only material substances, but they possess
physical properties and mental properties (Davidson, 1970). It accepts
materialism, but rejects the type-identities assumed by the Identity Theory,
i.e. mental versus behaviour types. Mental events are token-identical to
physical events, i.e. individual instances. They are therefore subsumable under
Mental events depend on the
physical, but are not reduced to it. Mental properties supervene on (come
on top of) a more basic physical, subvenient, basal, ultimately physical phenomenon.
There can be changes in the supervenient mental phenomena if and only if
there are corresponding changes in the basal phenomena, and not vice
versa. Supervenient phenomena emerge from, and are asymmetrically
dependent for their existence upon the basal structure. There is upward
causality, no downward (hence, mind does not change brain).
phenomena, which differ from physical ones, can emerge from the basal
material reality remains however unclear. Again, the distinction between first
and third person perspectives yields an unsatisfactory view on
consciousness. But there is more.
Although mental events are not reduced to material events (but viewed as
so-called "emergent properties" of matter) and this tenet endorses the
irreducible nature of mental properties, these properties or predicates
have no role in laws, so they must be epiphenomenal ! Perhaps this view is incompatible
with there being no account of the physical basis of intentionality. Whatever
the case, none is provide. If supervenience is accepted, then how come there is
no physical account of intentionality ? How can one posit that changes in
consciousness are only possible if and only if there are neuronal changes and
not explain the physicality of intentionality ? The reason seems evident : both
are distinct operators and consciousness, just like matter and
information, explains its own operations.
In Functionalism, the notion of the mind as an entity,
as a substance, is rejected. The mind is a function of the
physical brain. The function y = f(x) =
x² allows one to derive values of y with any given x. A function is not
physical in nature (for it can be specified abstractly), neither is it
non-physical, for it resists classification. In order to explain mental states,
they are reduced to input/output structures. However, genuine thoughts have
meaning and intentionality, whereas the words displayed on a screen as I type
this out have meaning to us as userware, but not to the "functional" computer,
who merely uses software running on hardware.
This is the problem of Machine Functionalism, describing human brains at three
levels : (a) neurophysiological, (b) machine-program or computational and (c)
everyday mental (folk-psychological).
Functionalism is compatible with Physicalism, but, unlike Behaviourism and the
Identity Theory, it does not necessarily entail the physical nature of minds,
for it might be the case minds are non-physical and functional (as long as they
realize the relevant programs). In a physicalist view, functional states (the
mental) are always realized in physical mechanisms. Different physical states
may realize the same functional state (solving one of the problems of the
Identity Theory). If mental events are functional properties, then unless there
are some "special" considerations to be made about them, then in terms of
causation they are at the same level of non-mental functional properties, say,
being an eye. Insofar as mental properties are functions of physical entities,
then Physicalist Functionalism works. But consciousness and intention do not
seem to be functional properties. They seem not instantiated
by matter (cannot be found as a material entity) and so cannot be a functional
Regarding intentionality, the question is how physical states can be sensitive
to the semantic sensitivity of intentional states in a way conceptual thought
clearly is ? Moreover, as the process of reasoning from evidence has (so far)
resisted computational commands (and some claim consciousness will never be
computed), and changes of mind involve changes in the relevance relations among
mental events (the weighting of probabilities), Physicalist Functionalism steers
in troubled waters.
If the restrictions imposed by Machine Functionalism are lifted, and mental
states are accepted as non-physical and not always realized in physical
mechanisms (but possessing their own psychic mechanism), then physical states
can be functions of mental states (downward causation) and mental states can be
functions of physical states (upward causation). With mind = f(body), the
influence of the brain on the mind is restricted to causal efficiency by way of
changes in executional (computational) and so energetic capacity. With body =
f(mind), the mind relates to the brain via final causality, weighting
possibilities and deciding for the most likely outcome (free choice). This does
not involve any energy, for the process only entails a change in the valuation
of possible outcomes in large populations of neuronal events. The mind
influences the brain without adding or taking away energy from it, but merely
makes certain physical outcomes more likely than others. This psychophysical
Panexperiential Functionalism can be integrated in a process-based approach of Nature.
The "I" is merey designated on the basis of ever-changing material &
If brain and mind are two distinct domains of causation (on the on hand physical
efficient and on the other hand mental & finative), i.e. distinct not
different actual occasions, then the
organic organization of the human being as a whole, its unity, is a Functional
Interactionism, beginning with conception and ending with the demise of the
physical body. The end of this mutual functionality between brain and mind is
not the end of the distinctness of these actual occasions.
The "end" of the
physical body is an "entry" into the stream of efficient causation of new
material occasions (recycling). The endlessness of matter & information is the recurrent return of the
same (eternity). Cosmologically, the latter leads to the hypothesis of an
eternal multiverse. The moment the mind stops being a function of this brain and the
latter a function of this mind, that moment of consciousness is followed by
another moment of consciousness, one in which the mind enters it own
beginningless stream of consciousness, a continuous stream of final causation. The endlessness
of the mind is everlastingness. This
entry is not necessarily disembodied, for one may assume it enters a functional
relationship with more subtle forms of support (as in hylic pluralism). Physical
death is then a gate, leaving a gross material support for a subtle one.
"Each portion of matter may be conceived as like a garden full of plants and
like a pond full of fishes. But each branch of every plant, each member of every
animal, each drop of its liquid parts is also some such garden or pond. And
though the Earth and the air which are between the plants of the garden, or the
water which is between the fish of the pond, be neither plant nor fish ; yet
they also contain plants and fishes, but mostly so minute as to be imperceptible
to us." -
Leibniz, G.W. : Monadology, §§ 67-68.
Panexperientalism embraces process metaphysics ; processes rather than
represent the phenomena encountered in Nature. Process has primacy and priority
over things. Relations have primacy over what is related. Existing things are
basically happenings, not static "material points" or substances
existing from their own side (be they material, informational or
sentient). Hence, as all things change, all things are impermanent and
caught in continuous becoming with others (togetherness).
Process ontology rejects substances and so is not
essentialist. For substantialist, the principle "Operari sequitur esse"
holds. This means every process is owned by some substance. Here one
thinks substance first and then views change & relationships with other things as accidental to it. Process
thought inverses the principle : "Esse sequitur operari" ; things are
constituted out of the flow of process. So things are what they do.
Change is thought first and things are momentary arisings, abidings & ceasings
of dynamical units always interwoven with others (i.e. other-powered instead of
process is an integrated series of connected developments coordinated by an open
program of efficient & final determinations. It is not a mere collection of sequential presents or moments, but
exhibits a structure allowing a construction made from materials of the past
to be passed on to the future. This transition is not one-to-one, not merely
efficient, for the
internal make-up of its occasions shapes a new particular concretion, bears
finality allowing for creative advance or novelty. This thanks to the
scalar vector at work in every single actual occasion. Not matter,
information or consciousness are fundamental. The actual occasion, the
unit of process, is the ontological principal shared by all existing
Actual occasions, as explained, are Janus-faced : they take matter from the past and, on the basis of an
inner, finative structure composed of information & sentience, transform states of affairs, paving the way for further
processes. They are not merely product-productive, manufacturing things, but
state-transformative. Although indivisible, actual occasions are not "little
things", but a differential change "dt" explained in terms of efficient & final
Heraclitus, thinking process first & foremost, avoids the fallacy of substantializing Nature into
things like substances. Fundamentally, everything flows ("panta rhei") and
although Plato disliked this principle ("like leaky pots" - Cratylus,
440c), he accepted it insofar as the "world of becoming" goes. Aristotle
too saw the natural (sublunar) world exhibit a collective, chaotic dynamism.
Change is fundamental, and the
latter is the transit from mere possibility (potency) to the realization (act)
of this potential, and this to the point of perfection ("entelécheia"). This
makes Peripatetic thought pervasively process-like. Of course, both Plato &
Aristotle accepted the presence of substance, either as a fundamental transcendent reality
or as inherently natural & biological (cf. hylemorphism). And both, although in
a different way, accept the Greek prejudice for Olympic states (cf. Plato's
"world of ideas" and Aristotle's view on contemplative knowledge/life, the
"active intellect", the "Unmoved Mover" and the "actus
The standard bearer of process metaphysics in modern times is of course
Gottfried Wilhelm Freiherr
von Leibniz. The fundamental units of Nature are punctiform,
non-extended, "spiritual" processes called "monads", filling space completely
and thus constituting a "plenum" (cf. supra). These monads or "incorporeal automata"
are bundles of activity, endowed with an inner force (appetition), ongoingly
destabilizing them and providing for a processual course of unending change.
It was in the writings of Leibniz that Alfred North Whitehead (1861 - 1947), the
dominant figure in recent process thought, found inspiration. Like Leibniz, he
considered physical processes as of first importance and other sorts of processes as
superengrafted upon them. The concept of an all-integrating physical field being
pivotal in his view on matter (cf. the influence of Maxwell's field equations,
in particular the "scalar", part of the wave). But unlike Leibniz,
the units of process are not substantial spiritual "monads", but
psycho-physical "actual occasions".
Indeed, Whitehead is not a materialist, for although matter first
individualized, with information individualizing out of it (and
consciousness out of matter and information), particles, fields & forces
are not the ontological principal. The primordial plasma at work seconds
after the Big Bang was
already a complex phenomenon, not a simple building-block. Taken on its
own, it is a set of actual occasions determined by a dominant efficient
vector, but nevertheless also characterized by information (quasi
latent) and sentience (latent), i.e. a certain (lowest possible degree
of) finality. With the Big Bang, all three operators came into
existence, matter being dominant, soon followed by information (the
first architectures in the "primordial plasma") and much much later by
consciousness. It took stars like our Sun (ca.5
billion years a old)
to bring about the first chemical structures preparing life (ca.3.5
billion years ago Sun-worshipping single-celled organisms
came about) and the individualization of information into a relatively
independent & irreducible functional domain. On planet Earth, the
stand-alone cycle of human consciousness began relatively late (ca.2.5
million years ago we find the earliest samples of chipped pebbles, the
work of Homo habilis, but we have to wait untill ca. 600.000
years. to see proto-Neanderthal traits).
Actual occasions, unlike monads, are not closed (not self-sufficient
like substances), but fundamentally
open to other occasions, by which they are entered and in which they enter.
Thus their perpetual perishing is matched by their perpetual (re)emergence in the
"concrescence" of new occasions. Like Leibniz however, these occasions "prehend"
(Leibniz spoke of "perception" and "apperception") their environment and this
implies a low-grade mode of sentience (spontaneity, self-determination and
purpose). They are living & interacting units of elemental
experience. They are part of the organic organization of Nature as a whole,
but constitute themselves an organism of sorts, with a constitution of its own.
Nature is a manifold of diffused processes spread out, but forming an organic,
integrated whole. As was the case in the ontology of Leibniz, macrocosm and microcosm are coordinated. Not
because each actual occasion mirrors the whole, but because they reach out and
touch other occasions, forming, by way of complexification, aggregates and
individualized societies of occasions.
Panexperientialism is not a panpsychism. Everything is not alive. While individual occasions, which are not
substantial, thing-like, but the common unit of process, possess, besides a
physical, objective mode (efficient causation in terms of matter), also a mental, subjective, experiential mode
(final causation in terms of information & consciousness), non-individualized aggregates or
mere compounds of these occasions do
not and are
therefore insentient (like rocks). The presence of these rules out panpsychism,
i.e. the claim all things are alive.
Moreover, the mental mode of a single actual occasion has the
lowest possible degree of freedom. This low-order experience
should not be compared with the activity of societies of occasions like
the high-order conscious experience of human beings, nor even with atoms
or molecules. Only when an actual occasion, by entering into another actual occasions
(adding its concretion or internal make-up to others), helps bringing actual
occasions together, can the creativity of the sea of process eventually bring
about individualized societies consciously experiencing their own unity (as in
atoms, molecules, minerals, plants, animals, humans, ...). Here the process of
evolution is at work, producing more complex organizations of actual occasions,
interpenetrating each other. But this evolution is not only ruled by laws of
efficiency, but also by finality.
Even at the level of quanta, a strict
division between matter and the other two operators is pertinent.
"... every quantum event is associated with an element
that cannot be adequately conceptualized in terms of the precepts of classical
physics, but that resides in a realm of realities that are not describable in
terms of the concepts of classical physics, but that include our
conscious thoughts, ideas, and feeling." -
Stapp, 2007, p.98.
This does not imply mind determines what kind of reality we perceive.
"Although our minds may be essential to the
realization of a particular reality, we cannot know or decide in advance
what the result of a quantum measurement will be. We cannot choose what
kind of reality we could like to perceive beyond choosing the measurement
eigenstates. In this interpretation of quantum measurement, our only
influence over matter is to make it real." -
2004, p.256, my italics.
For Panexperientialism, "physical entities" are always physico-mental
(or, what comes down to the same, psycho-physical). Focusing on efficient
causation, and the emergence of an independent mental out of the physical,
actual occasions are physico-mental. But insofar as final causation is
concerned, and because of the downward causation effectuated by high-order minds
on physical processes, actual occasions are psycho-physical.
The organic togetherness of actual occasions has various levels, ranging from a
single actual occasion,
to events, entities, insentient
compounds and individualized societies with varying degrees of freedom. On
Earth, the highest
level is the dominant occasion of sentient experience constituting the human mind. As
even a single actual occasion, with at least an iota of self-determination, provides the
lowest-level example of the emergence of a higher-level actuality (namely the
creativity resulting from the incorporation of the decision characterizing its
mental mode in the efficient causality entering another actual occasion,
appropriating data from its vicinity), we may understand, in comparison, brain cells as
centres of experiential creativity.
So in terms of efficient causation, we
may say the mind emerged from the brain. But in terms of final causation, we may
say the possibilities offered by the brain are "weighed" and then chosen by the
mind (emerged from the brain). Moreover, the emergent property (the mind as an
actual entity in its own right), is able to exert a causal influence
(final & efficient) of its own. Mental causation is not epiphenomenal, for
besides the upward causation from the body to the mind, there is the
self-determination by the mind, and on the basis of this, downward causation
from the mind to the body. This is possible because mind and body are not two
different kind of things, but both highly complex individualized and
distinct societies of
actual occasions, linked in a functional and interactionist way. All what exists
(all what works) shares the actual occasion, the ontological principal
3.11 Functional Interactionism.
As Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860), in his The World as Will and Representation, Whitehead understands human
experience as constituting the model or ideal type of the processes
characterizing Nature in general. The full subjective immediacy of the
human living experience is taken as the starting-point. We then entertain an ontological
hierarchy, stretching from a single actual occasion, and its extremely
low-grade subjective mode, to the full-blown conscious & living
experience of a human being. This makes it easier to postulate
experience beyond the human, not ending evolution with human actuality.
Of course, in terms of the relation between mind and body, human
experience remains fundamental. The mind/body problem has to be
addressed in anthropocentric terms, for on our planet, humans are the
only ones evidencing the conscious experience of an inner life.
In a panexperiential approach, mind (consciousness) and brain (matter &
information) constitute distinct
societies of individuals. On a neurophysiological level, the brain is a
highly complex & creative organism dominantly constituted by matter &
information. On a cognitive level, the mind too
is such a living organization, dominantly constituted by the inner,
intentional life of consciousness. Although the mind emerged from the brain,
it also realizes its independence from it. Maybe physical death, the
perishing of the brain, makes the mind enter another stage of its
constant evolution ... But at conception, the opposite is at hand, for
brain & mind are temporarily fused. And just as a child grows up,
becoming an individual, so the mind emancipates or emerges from the
living brain. Both are not made out of different stuff, but exhibit the
bi-modality typical for all actual occasions. Both are only distinct
entities, each with their own functional processes.
The evolution of the human mind is highly determined by memory just as
the individualization of a child is determined by language & knowledge.
As ontogenesis mimics phylogenesis, at first, in the mythical state of
cognitive development, the mind and the body intimately cohabit.
Body-awareness and consciousness of self form a unity. The awakening of
an individual sense of identity, crucial in the process of
individualizing "my" human mind, is not determined by the coordination
of bodily movements (only offering a dim, reflex-bound, opaque sense of
selfhood, as found in animals), but by the introduction of semiotic
factors. Signals, icons and symbols, i.e. meaningful glyphs or embodied
information, "awaken" the sense of selfhood and trigger the start of an
actual living conscious experience (cf. the stage of the mirror -
Lacan). Because the human body, with its dormant, potential sense of
selfhood, is spoken to as an "I", the crucial factor enabling the
individuation of the mind to start is actualized. By giving me "a name",
mental coordination is no longer solely defined by bodily coordination, but individualize as a function of the presence of
language in the direct environment. The surplus of neurons can be
brought down and their inner interdependence increased.
Out of the
living brain the mind emerges and immediately starts its downward
causation, reorganizing the brain. The child is also the teacher of his
parents. Insofar as the child is not spoken to, is not given a name, the
brain solidifies its efficient causations, and the mind is not given the
tools to emerge & emancipate and so cannot enter its final causations in
the stream of experience of the brain. As a result, the brain remains
primitive and the mind "locked" up in and by it ... Only its physical
demise may allow this mind to enter another stream, but then without
having profited from individualized mental experiences.
The challenge is to understand
the brain as a whole as the "matrix" or executive, transmitting,
displaying apparatus of the mind and the neocortex as executing human consciousness. On this new
cortex, there is -at
birth- lots of "empty space" to be filled in by our
parents, peers and teachers. These influences allow the mind to form an
individualized society of actual occasions dominated by a single actual
occasion, namely selfhood, a first person perspective. All mental
occasions "happen" in the field of which this ego is the
individualized (at the age of 12 when the "corpus callosum" is
finished and formal reasoning is possible), the mind starts to change
the brain by way of downward causation. Then, by ourselves, we realize the
"freedom" to "think for ourselves" ... Usually, lots of changes have to be made
to allow our brain to be the proper conduit for who we are (in the C-domain). The
individualized mind, by virtue of its subjective mode, introduces new
actual occasions not present in the "matrix" of the brain.
Crisis, catastrophe and turbulence force the brain to face these "new aspects"
of how we shape ourselves.
Each time, we force our brain to act according to our conscious choices (just as
our brain forces our muscles with efferent enervation). This process only ends
with physical death. At every age, the brain is reorganized by the
downward causation effectuated by the mind, and the mind adapts to the
upward causation stemming from the brain. This is a functional
interactionism, for during life, the mind is a function of the brain
(upward causation) and the brain is a function of the mind (downward
The crucial factor in downward causation is the emancipation of the mind
by open semiotic factors. Thanks to language subjectivity turns into
intersubjectivity. Insofar as the mind is given no view or the
wrong view, it cannot by itself emerge as an individualized society of
actual occasions, for it cannot compensate for processes of efficient
causation inherent in the brain. Our mother needs to feed her child
properly for it to develop a strong immunity and a high intelligence (or
ability to trigger creative advance). Although the brain is also
involved in final causation, this mainly leads to the integrity of the
physical. And so the mind is necessary to trigger change (downward
causation by way of final causation). Likewise, although the mind is
also involved in efficient causation, this mainly leads to the integrity
of the particular "stream of consciousness" of which a given mind is the
momentary caretaker. And so the brain is necessary to consolidate the
executive functions (upward causation by way of efficient causation).
This mutual, functional interactionism between body & mind is at work
from the moment of conception, until the demise of the physical body.
Under "open" semiotic factors is understood the correct view allowing
for the emergence of an individualized mind. This view is one teaching
process instead of substance, i.e. dynamic interdependence instead of
static isolation. Insofar as educational systems do not provide this,
but nurture an essentialist view, the mind is kept engrossed in the
brain and its ability to develop a strong grip on its final causation
and so be very creative is crippled, resulting in more suffering. The
importance of a good education can therefore not be stressed enough.
This is however not like acquiring the antics of a social class, but
learning to emancipate from the forces that nurture us and this in a way
teaching the mind how to use its inner force to be creative (i.e. make
use of its ability to self-determinate novelty). Such depends, not on a
university degree or a high IQ or EQ, but on
an awareness of how things truly are, i.e. empty of inherent
existence (void of substance) and universally interdependent.
The emergence of the mind from the brain does not necessarily imply the
brain "happens" first and is the sole efficient cause of the mind
(as in Supervenient Emergentism). As if
the mind has to be constructed ab ovo. The mind, as a separate,
individualized mindstream has its own causalities, both efficient &
final. The moment the mind "enters" or "connects" with the fertilized ovum, was indeed
preceded by another moment of its own, individualized stream.
Apparently, entry into a new physical vehicle, in casu, a very
small and still undeveloped one, (temporarily) disables the mind of accessing these
previous memories. Although not spatial, any connection the mind makes
with a physical object, has an impact of its grip on the history of its
own temporal extensiveness. Becoming embodied again brings about a
darkening, one covering certain past memories and pushing them into the
depths. They are however not lost, and can be retrieved by adapted
spiritual exercises like meditation (Yoga) and certain guided
Anchoring the mind in a gross physical
vehicle is not meant to allow it to have an overview of these previous
instantiations of mind. So it seems the mind is a kind of "tabula
rasa", influenced by nature (body) and nurture (environment) only.
This reduction allows it to really identify with what happens to it
while interacting with the growing body, temporarily unencumbered by
previous histories. A similar process happens with dream-recall. Only by
training the mind to store in the body what happens to it in dreams is
such recall as well as lucid dreaming possible. Like with altered
states of consciousness, the physical body acts as a valve, reducing
the total available input to what is necessary on the physical plane of
reality, limiting what comes through the "doors of perception" (Huxley).
If this were not the case, a cacophony of memories would ensue and
building a "fresh" empirical ego would be impossible.
The experience of great meditators does however shed another light. In
the East, with a collective mindset not a priori rejecting the
possibility of previous moments of consciousness before conception (not
limited by a materialist metaphysical background viewing the soul as created at
conception), the recovery of these memories sometimes happens
spontaneously and/or can be trained, as in the case of the Buddha, who's
awakening went hand in hand with him remembering all his "previous
lives", i.e. the memories of all the moments of consciousness of his
For monists like logical positivists, materialists, physicalists etc.,
there is no mind/body problem, for there is no mind or it is irrelevant.
The problem is "solved" by eliminating or incapacitating the mind. This
is merely a dogmatic ad hoc solution, a way to more problems.
For dualists, accepting the ontological difference between both, any
solution will pose a fundamental problem, for how can two different
kinds of stuff or substances work together without a "tertium comparationis" ?
How to introduce the excluded third ? This must be a kind of "mixture"
of both "mental" and "physical" and so the problem of how these two
components of the mixture "work together" returns. A new mixture can be
proposed, etc. Here we have a regressus ad infinitum. So if
"solving" the problem means explaining how two different substances work
together, then we may safely regard it as unsolvable. This is the nugget
of truth physicalists have correctly identified.
In general, monists are right in claiming a single fundamental category
suits the unity of science best. Logically, monism also offers the most
elegant form for a possible ontology. But they are wrong in eliminating,
reducing or crippling the mind. Although it dispenses them from the need
to explain how body & mind communicate, it also impoverishes their
explanation of the world, in particular the exceptional nature -at least
in this Solar system- of the human phenomenon. The mind is to be
considered as factual as the brain. Its distinct features, namely
intimacy, privacy, first person perspective, unity of conscious
experience, percipient participation etc. cannot be found in the brain
and its overt, public, third person perspective, manifold of neuronal
events and computational features. This is the nugget of truth
mentalists have correctly identified.
We seek logical elegance, lack of prejudices, no dogma's and a critical
openness & flexibility integrating, by way of argument, as many
phenomena as possible, including those disciplines existing at the
periphery of the current scientific paradigm (like astrology, magic &
alchemy), as well as those phenomena science cannot presently explain
(like acupuncture, homoeopathy, etc. & parapsychology, in particular
telepathy & telekinesis, but also poltergeist, out-of-the-body,
near-death-experience and the like). If metaphysics has to banish
possibilities ab initio, then one better stops speculating. Of
course, accepting to critically study these phenomena with an open mind
is not the same as endorsing any multiplication of entities a priori.
To understand how Process Philosophy addresses the interaction between
brain & mind, three points have to be made clear : (a) fundamentally,
all things are the outcome of process, (b) body and mind are both "in
process" and so not ontologically different, but only
ontically distinct, (c) all things, besides exerting efficient
causation, also have an "inside", capable of internal relatedness (final
causation). Accepting process as fundamental can be assisted by the
paradox of essentialism or substance metaphysics. Indeed, it is
impossible to specify exactly what a substance is without having
recourse to process. Substances are individualized by two kinds of
properties, namely primary properties describing substance as it is
in and by itself and secondary properties, explaining the impact of
substance upon others as well as the response invoked from them. The
problem is one cannot explain what primary properties are over and
above what substances do in terms of their discernable effects. What
remains when we eliminate all processes, everything related to actions ?
Is there a "thing" in and by itself left over ? Or are all things
merely the products of what happens ? Process thought simplifies matters
by a one-tier ontology. The designated identities are the outcome of
process and there is no mysterious "essence" over and above these
processes. While it is possible to conceive "unowned" process (like in
the phrase "it is getting warmer"), it is not possible to think
substance without relying on processes, to designate a thing detached
from process ...
Hence, both brain and mind are merely process and so both do not
possess, as ontological dualism proposes, an essence from their own
side, independent from what they do. In this way, Process Philosophy
joins what the
Buddhadharma proposed a few millennia ago, namely the
emptiness of all phenomena and the
ultimate logic making this clear.
Furthermore, the presence of final causation is crucial. Suppose it is rejected, as in
physicalism, then the "stuff" out of which the world is made is, in
Whitehead's words "vacuous". Then it becomes inconceivable how
evolution could bring about higher-level actualities, for
"there is nothing to evolve, because one set of
external relations is a good as any other set of external relations"
(Whitehead, A.N. : Science and the Modern World, § 107). Final
causation brings in creativity, the ability of actual occasions to add
the result of their own self-determination & spontaneity to the sea of
process, and so creatively enter later occasions. Without it, there is
only a set of external structures, but never a hierarchy with dominant
occasions or individualized societies of actual occasions.
As most, if not all, recent scientific research has a materialist or
research program working in the background (influencing the "ceteris
paribus" clause), consciousness is, at best, accepted but regarded as a
by-product of the
brain (i.e. caused, generated, produced, made, constructed, secreted, invented
by the CNS, something merely supervenient). As nowhere in the brain a "central control ganglion"
has been found, indeed current neurological research rather points to the model
of multiple plastic neuronal networks, the "binding problem" remains and
clearly is the fundamental practical problem facing physicalist neurology.
Where in the brain is the "I think", the unity of apperception,
a logical, transcendental and phenomenological approach of the
first person perspective, produced ? Why is there unity rather than constant
and overall variety ? This conscious experience of unity is not found in the
brain because it is not part of the brain. It is the main feature of the
individualized society "mind", instantiating a string of moments, a
stream of states of consciousness.
Like naive realism, materialism and physicalism repress the fact
observation is theory-laden. Subjectivity can not be eclipsed without
eliminating the possibility of knowledge itself. Eliminating subjectivity
entails the end of
freedom, change and ethics. Is materialism
not refuted by the
subjective energy invested by materialists in materialism (cf. the
"contradictio in actu exercito") ? The mere presence of cultural forms
(the fact they are designated or posited as such by the subject)
refutes the theory (i.e. a cultural form itself) saying only physical forms
exist. Again the self-defeating streak of this kind of reductionism.
A Triadic Model of What Works.
General process ontology (Metaphysics,
2012) posits the bi-modal actual occasion (with both its efficient & scalar
vectors) with their subsequent
three functional domains of actual occasions (each with its own dominant
occasion) as the ground of all possible
phenomena, existing things, objects, entities or items : matter,
information & consciousness. Each actual
occasion has a physical (efficient, objective) and a mental (finative,
subjective) mode. Matter is objective (outer), information
intersubjective (natural & artificial) and consciousness subjective
(inner). The arising of actual occasions is caused by previous
actual occasions, and this direct, horizontal, efficient entry of past actual occasions in what
happens hic et nunc is by way of efficient causation. The abiding
of each actual occasion is its internal, vertical, finative structure, implying information
facilitating conscious choice,
decision or self-determination and finally entry into another actual
occasion. When this happens, the actual occasion
ceases, but this perishing brings about an efficient influence on the
next actual occasion, and this influence has integrated the work of
Each actual occasion has -ex hypothesis- three
distinct operators, encompassing the physical (matter) and the
non-physical (information & consciousness) modes of actual occasions.
These explain the operation of three functionally different societies of
actual occasions, each with its own dominant actual occasion, namely
matter, information and consciousness.
The domain of "matter" (the executive, displaying,
transmitting function) calls for efficient causation entering each
actual occasion from past actual occasions, acting as its initial
condition. The domain of
"information" (the judicial function) is the totality of choices available to each
actual occasion, i.e. all weighed, possible knowledge or information this and no other
actual occasion can choose from. Finally, the domain of "consciousness"
(the legislative function) calls for an actual choice
favouring the actual possibility with the highest probability in terms of
reinforcement of the experience of unity and (b) the greatest harmony
with other actual occasions.
Specific process ontology applies the schema of general process ontology
on non-individualized compounds or aggregates of actual occasions and
individualized societies of actual occasions. In terms of the
neurophilosophy of process, three
irreducible domains are constantly at work
in the individualized societies at hand, namely the brain (matter &
information) and the
mind (consciousness). These are derived from cybernetics, information-theory and
artificial intelligence :
the mature, healthy, triune human brain is able, as a physical object
dominantly ruled by efficient causation, to process, compute, execute,
transmit and display complex
natural (innate) & artificial (learned) algorhythms and integrate all kinds of neuronal activity - the developed,
individualized mind is able to be open to the efficient causation
resulting from previous moments of consciousness ;
information : the
inherent and acquired software (wiring) of the brain, its memory &
processing speed (in this "programming phase", the first five years are
crucial) - the individualized mind is an expert-system containing codes or
knowledge to choose from when solving problems ;
the mature brain works according to its own final causation, making
choices to guarantee its organic functioning as a manifold and affect necessary changes
in its environment (it has, so to speak, "a mind of its own") - individualized consciousness or mind instantiates
unified states of consciousness
(moment to moment intentional awareness) as a percipient participator interacting meaningfully with
its brain and
the physical world.
How Brain-Mind Interaction Happens.
"Thus contemporary physical theory annuls the
claims of mechanical determinism. In a profound reversal of the
classical physical principles, its laws make your conscious choices
causally effective in the physical world, while failing to determine,
even statistically, what those choices will be." -
The neocortex is a plane of ca.11 m² filled with ca. 20 billion neurons (of a
total of ca. 100 billion neurons),
forming ca. 240 trillion synapses,
with lots of
association areas to be used for higher-order functions such as abstract thought
and melodic synthesis. We know the neocortex is also involved with critical,
creative and unitive modes of thought. Are these part of the "liaison
brain" (Popper & Eccles, 1981), the neural machinery
responsible for the interaction with consciousness, and its mental and
intentional states ? It seems unlikely consciousness is in liaison with
single neurons (Barlow,
1972), because these are too unstable (cf. the statistical, population-bound, "democratic"
dynamics of the neuron).
hemispheral interaction - sensory
system- liaison brain
Popper & Eccles, 1983, p.375 - Popper's
worlds are : world 1 = physical objects world 2 = conscious information -
world 3 = mental objects or :
world 1 = matter -
world 2 = consciousness - world 3 = information
"In our present understanding of the mode of
operation of neural machinery we emphasize ensembles of neurons (many hundreds)
acting in some collusive patterned array. Only in such assemblages can there be
reliability and effectiveness (...) The modules of the cerebral cortex are such
ensembles of neurons. The module has to some degree a collective life on its own
with as many as 10.000 neurons of diverse types and with a functional
arrangement of feed-forward and feedback excitation and inhibition. (...) By
definition there would be restriction to the modules of the liaison brain, and
only then when they are in the correct level of activity. Each module may be
likened to a radio transmitter-receiver unit. (...) It can be conjectured that
the self-conscious mind scans this modular array, being able to receive from and
give to only those modules that have some degree of openness." -
Eccles, 1981, pp.366-367.
Interactionists conjecture the mind is
actively engaged in reading out from the multitude of active centres at the
higher order levels of the CNS, namely special "liaison" areas of the
neocortex, i.e. neurons characterized by a special property (to be defined in
terms of electro-magnetism or the superimposition of probability-fields with no
mass). According to conscious intention, the mind selects and integrates its
selection from moment to moment. This means
the mind has a superior
interpretative and steering role upon the neural events. Because of the
"binding problem" (multiple regions of the brain are simultaneously
combined into a single experience), the unity of conscious experience is
not provided by the neural machinery, neither by the liaison areas of the
neocortex, but fabricated by the mind itself.
To affirm the irreducible nature of consciousness, its status as "logico-functional
primitive" (like matter & information), one needs to consider freedom, or the ability of an individual to
behave in a creative, purposeful, non-random way, which is not determined by
physical law, and, mutatis mutandis, without neurophysiological constraints.
Materialism is unable to explain freedom, downgrading
its crucial importance in sociology, politics, economics, law, ethics, etc.
Freedom falls outside the closed, finite "black box" of the physical
categories of determination used by physics. Just like matter & information, consciousness
exists in its own "world", "domain" or "realm", in this case, as a
spatially non-extended and abstract temporal field (mind-set or mind-map) able to influence, and
this in an ongoing way, major neurological processes.
The principle of the conservation of energy, a consequence of the homogeneity
of spacetime, implies any change requires an expenditure of energy.
Causal effect implies the event must make a difference every time it
occurs. This difference is the "material" or efficient factor relaying the effect. If matter acts on mind, energy would disappear.
If mind would act on matter, energy would be added. An immaterial mind can
only move matter by creating energy, i.e. adding energy to the whole.
Popper & Eccles (1981) were not impressed by this
line of argumentation against interactionism, because their argument relied on quantum-mechanical indeterminism to
allow non-material events to act on matter. This loophole, of a kind of
"one-to-one" interaction is however
"It is shown that the magnitude of the disturbance
required is significantly greater than allowed for under quantum-mechanical
uncertainty. It is concluded that violations of fundamental physical laws,
such as energy conservation, would occur were a non-physical mind able to
influence brain and behaviour." -
Wilson, 1999, p.185.
Beck and Eccles (1992) recently proposed mental intentions act through a
quantum probability field, altering the probabilities and thus the material
outcome. In fact, it was
Eddington (1935) who first speculated the mind
may influence the body by affecting quantum events within the brain, in
particular an influence on the probability of their outcome.
Mohrhoff (1999) questions whether Heisenberg's indeterminacy will suffice
to back interactionism and
conjectures electromagnetism to be a more likely candidate because such a
field is a summary representation of effects on the motion of particles.
"There is no reason whatever for having
probabilities determined twice over, once during their deterministic evolution
by the physically determined vector potential, and once at the end through a
superimposed probability field generated by the self."
Mohrhoff, 1999, p.182,
As quantum nonlocality manifests in very small and cold artificial worlds,
nobody considered it possible non-local interactions possible in the relatively
large and hot brain.
"The strange superpositions of quantum theory, that
would allow simultaneous 'occurring' and 'not occurring' - with
complex-number weighting factors- would, accordingly, be considered to play no
significant role." -
In the 1970s, nanometre-sized cylindrical structures called "cytoskeletal
microtubules" were discovered in brain neurons. In 1994, the
Hameroff proposed they could be involved in quantum effects.
"If it turns out that this is even partly correct, or if
this proposal merely helps others think about how quantum processes in the
nervous system may be related to consciousness, it opens the theoretical door
for explaining how nonlocal effects may manifest in consciousness. And if it
turns out that nonlocality does play a role in the workings of the brain,
then something like 'quantum telepathy' would no longer be such a strange
Popper (1982) speculated about propensity fields
(cf. his propensity interpretation of the equation of Schrödinger, called in
to solve the particle/wave paradox) and considered these to be as
real as particles, gravity or electromagnetic fields, i.e. to be
"kickable" (by changing experimental arrangements) and "kick
back" (by changing the outcome of what eventuates : particle or wave).
These fields, like the photon, have no mass and so there is no possible violation of
If consciousness itself is a set of propensities (virtualities,
potentialities or possible meaning) existing as a "field" in a
non-spatial complex "realm", then interactionism proposes mental
states, in particular by way of their final causation, calculate (intent) certain probabilities and co-determine, through the
ongoing "superimposition" of the likelihood of an intended design &
architecture, the overall parameters of the activity of the "liaison brain"
(causally open to non-material shifts in valuations, propensities or
probabilities). The non-material mind becomes physically effective by
modifying the electromagnetic interactions between constituents of the
"liaison brain", and this at the end of every vector.
mind & brain interacting
Popper & Eccles, 1983, p.360.
Eccles rejects the idea the interface between mind and brain is the field
potential generated by all neural events. In his modular view, specific
ensembles of neurons (modules with as many as 10.000 neurons), each act as a
radio transmitter/receiver unit. The mind's attention works on these cortical
modules with slight deviations. The mind scans the cortex for "open"
modules and modifies its behaviour by these slight deviations. If probability
fields are taken in, these deviations are then caused by recalculating the
chances and superimposing this probability field at the end of each vector
eventuating a physical potential in deterministic evolution.
Popper & Eccles, 1983, p.373.
"It is proposed that the
self-conscious mind is actively engaged in searching for brain events that are
if its present interest, the operation of attention, but it also is the
integrating agent, building the unity of conscious experience from all the
diversity of the brain events. Even more importantly it is given the role of
actively modifying the brain events according to its interest or desire, and
the scanning operation by which it searches can be envisages as having an
active role in selection."
The second question, namely Where does the interaction happen ?, kept
Descartes busy for many years, and he found no satisfactory solution. One was to conjecture the soul operated through the pineal
gland, found in the limbic system ! The soul supposedly gave this gland a tiny
push, which was thought to be magnified by a chain of physical causes and
effects. The nerves were small tubes in which "animal spirits"
moved. They were physical in nature, composed of highly "rarefied blood".
Descartes choose this gland because it is very light and mobile, hence a
suitable sensitive instrument responsive to the minute pushes of the soul.
Besides the notion small deviations are necessary, Descartes'
solution failed because the pineal gland is occupied with another task (namely
with the production of hormones).
The mode of interaction
proposed by Eccles is based on the idea a degree of correspondence (not
identity) exists between the experiences of the mind and the events in the
"liaison brain", the area of the brain actually interacting with
The active role of consciousness (of subjectivity) is acknowledged. The mind
selects & integrates the modules of interest (attention) and integrates all
neuronal activity to provide for the unity of conscious experience. For
Eccles, the "liaison brain" is the dominant hemisphere of the
neocortex, in particular the linguistic areas, as well as a large area of the
prefrontal cortex. Some modules are "open" to the world of mind and
it is through them the mind influences the probability field
determining their activity. A change in attention will make some activities
less probable and put others to the fore. Because "closed" modules
can be influenced by "open" ones, they may be opened by means of
impulse discharges along the association fibbers from the "open"
modules. Again, small changes may cause large shifts in the total activity of
the neuronal networks at hand (cf. Chaostheory). As consciousness may also direct its attention
to parts of the "old cortex" (such as the limbic lobes, or more
deeper, the ganglia in the brainstem), conjecture the mind may directly
influence the three levels of the brain. The older the structure, the less
likely this influence will be unmixed with other, purely neuronal mechanisms.
From a panexperientialist view, the interaction between the brain and the mind
is a large-scale example of what happens when the final causation at work
within a single actual occasion enters the stream of efficient causation of
another actual occasion. The crucial factor is the assignment of a coefficient
to elements of a frequency distribution in order to represent their relative
importance, in this case a series of possibilities defining a propensity-field. In
large statistical populations, this favours the outcome of some,
and this is the "influence" sought. Although not infringing on the First Law
of Thermodynamics, is nevertheless plays a crucial role in what happens in the
Although panexperientialist interactionism
offers a wide range of ontic possibilities, stays within the confines of a
well-formed logical monism, an immanent metaphysics and the fundamental
concerns of science, in particular regarding producing facts
about physical (sensate) objects
and formulating empirico-formal propositions, it still has to answer what
kind of processes drive the distinct characteristics of the actual societies
of occasions called "brain" and "mind" ?
The Endlessness of Brain and Mind ?
"Un point vivant... Non je
me trompe. Rien d'abord, puis un point vivant ... A ce point vivant, il s'en
applique un autre, encore un autre ; et par ces applications successives il
résulte un être un, car je suis bien un, je n'en saurais douter (En visant
cela, il se tâtait partout). Mais comment cette unité s'est-elle faite ...
Tenez, philosophe, je vois bien un agrégat, un tissu de petits êtres
sensibles, mais un animal ... un tout ... ayant la conscience de son unité. Je
ne le vois pas, non je ne le vois pas." -
Diderot, D. : Le Rêve de d'Alembert, Paris -
Gallimard, 1935, p.677.
Traditional materialism à la Monod envisions a bleak nature morte, a view of the
universe ending in the dissolution of its "disjecta membra".
Either the universe ends with a Big Crunch or a Very Long Evaporation. This
bleak "vacuous", disconnectedness of things can already be found in the parallel
trajectories of the primordial atoms proposed by the Greek atomists. But the same
problem arises. Lucretius (99 - 55 BCE)
speaks of a mysterious "clinamen", a minimal
indeterminacy in the motions of atoms (!) necessary to understand how they
coagulate into objects.
"The atoms, as their own weight bears them down
Plumb through the void, at scarce determined times,
In scarce determined places, from their course
Decline a little- call it, so to speak,
Mere changed trend. For were it not their wont
Thus wise to swerve, down would they fall, each one,
Like drops of rain, through the unbottomed void ;
And then collisions ne'er could be nor blows
Among the primal elements ; and thus
Nature would never have created aught."
Lucretius : On the Nature of Things, Book II, Poem (Leonard).
This "swerve" causes the parallelisms (given by the weight of the atoms) to be
broken, triggering collisions of atoms and from there the formation of
aggregates and finally the whole of Nature. Contemporary physics faces the
problem : how to explain complexification without hierarchy (or operational
distinctness) and the latter without a final causation, introducing a
subjective "mode" in the metaphysics of physical objects ? The
argument from time may be invoked (take enough time and complexification is
understood), but it is not a strong one. How did the natural constants emerge
Why avoiding the
indispensable category of final determination besides efficient causation ? The
physical, as an individualized society of actual occasions with matter as
dominant occasion, is entered by
efficient causation (arises), confronts internal knowledge and experience
and weighs possibilities (abides) and then perishes after having made
efficient causation more complex, richer, more creative (ceases). This novelty enters the
subsequent actual occasion, in this case, the physical society of occasions,
the sea of material process. This vast field interconnecting all actual
physical occasions happening in the universe at a given instant, is not a void
filled with pockets of energy, but a vast process instantiating physical
objects. Insofar as this process as a whole is concerned, both efficient &
final causation are at work in each instance of this ongoing symphony of
material happenings. So each "end" of an occasion (each perishing) enters the
"beginning" of another. The universe is an organic "plenum", for there
is not a thing not touching (entering) another thing. Because of final
causation, this new beginning is not only a quantitative integral of
the horizontal efficient energy differentials, but also a qualitative,
vertical scalar reorganization
of the probabilities involved with each energy differential at any given
moment, making some outcomes more likely and thus, over time, actual and so
entering the sea of efficient causation ... The same analysis can be made for
information, the individualized society of actual occasions with information
as dominant occasion and consciousness, an individualized society of actual occasions
with sentience as dominant occasion.
Before discussing the end of the brain and the mind, let us focus on the end
of each instance of process in the body and the end of each instantiation of a
state of consciousness.
First the mind. Although, due to the unity of conscious experience, we
have the impression our state of mind is an unbroken continuum, this is
actually not the case. The "I" designated a moment ago is not the same "I"
designated now. And although, due to memory and habitual processes (of
identification, disidentification and designating inherent existence of object
& subject), our identities do seem to possess stable structures, when we look
closer these are merely the result of rapidly overlaying discrete moments,
creating the illusion of continuity. Just as 24 frames per second
generate the illusion of continuous motion in a movie, the rapid succession of
moments of consciousness produce the same fabricated sense of a stable
identity. Between two consecutive moments of instantiated states, a "gap" or
"interval" is present. As only advanced introspection is able to reveal this,
most of the time this "void" is not observed.
Although sensate experience is a "stream" and not a sequence of static frames,
direct observation hic et nunc is ephemeral & anecdotal (individuum
est ineffabile). One cannot conceptually hold on to it, it comes, stays a
few moments and ceases. By fast repetition, the steady illusion of an
identical object is created. In fact, conscious sensation (experience,
observation) and its conceptualization (form) are fabricated. In conscious
sensation, conceptual frames and perceptions are simultaneous (so
they cannot be isolated). But while this unity is fabricated,
it happens based on consciousness itself, and is not generated by the
Likewise, due to the organic integrity of the body, resulting from its
efficient & final causations, the life of our cells, tissues, organs &
physiological processes also seems stable and in "one piece", while -even on
the most fundamental level of our physical reality- physical operations are
quantized and in every cell of our body countless physical, chemical and
biological changes happen all the time. So both body and mind only seem
stable, self-identical continua, while in reality they are like continua of
successive, ever-changing moments, with millions of cells perishing and coming
So both body & mind "end" and are "reborn" constantly. This happens so fast
nothing of it is actually realized. Physical death is only a privileged
ending, one severing the functional interaction between the body & its mind.
For we constantly die and are constantly reborn. The beginning of each moment
contains the efficient causation of the previous moment. This is its "matter".
Each moment, as an actual occasion, has an internal structure composed of a
set of data weighed as a function of possible outcomes. This is its
"information". Then a decision is made in terms of the most likely outcome.
This self-determination is its "consciousness". With this choice, the internal
structure of final causation perishes, but as this choice singles out one
possible outcome among a large number of possibilities, the transient
structure of final causation enters the next moment as its "matter" or
efficient causation, making this moment richer and more complex, allowing for
novelty. Between this perishing and the (re)emergence in the "concrescence" of
new occasions, i.e. between these two moments an interval occurs. This "gap"
is not a mere nothingness, but the link between these moments and the absolute
continuum of all phenomena, the primordial field or set of
all possibilities. This situation at the level of two actual occasions also
holds true for more complex individualized societies of actual occasions.
The end of the brain is the point the efficient causation of that given
physical object, having emerged from the (micro-level) universal energy field
and having abided for some time (a lifespan on the meso-level), enters the
individualized society of material actual occasions. The brain is "returned to
the elements", its component factors being diffused, recycled and made useful
to similar material societies of actual occasions, including minerals, plants
and animals. But the end of the brain is also the point a life-span of final
causation (of this brain and of this mind with this mind), creating novelty, a unique mental view
(based on lived knowledge) and a unity of conscious experience based on
decision-making are passed on to the physical domain. Of course not as
individualized conscious experience of selfhood, for this kind of inner
structure was never the case for the brain, a physical manifold, but only for
the mind, a (fabricated) mental unity. The final causation of matter results in an
increased creative capacity of "elemental" matter to embody, execute and
compute information & consciousness more efficiently in the future. This fertilization
matter is, captured in a metaphor, the "spiritual" survival of the material
brain (cf. the Stoic "pneuma") ! The endlessness of the brain is the
recurrent process of recycling. In a very large sense, this happens with the
universe as a whole, returning to the multiverse while informing it about what
has happened, enabling it to manifest a better universe in the future.
Does the mind have a beginning ? Has it an end ? When the efficient & final
causations of the brain end, the efficient causation of instances, durations,
moments of consciousness, the thrust of one instantiation of mind following
another instantiation of mind, no longer happens in interaction with this and
brain. But this thrust is not dependent of this. Perhaps the interaction with
the brain slowed the mind down, making it adapt to the sluggish nature of
inertia ? When the functional relationship between both ends, mind as it were
"steps out of the vehicle", is liberated out of the "net of
the body" and follows the thrust of its own domain of actual
occasions, its own individualized mindstream. If this is the case, then there
is no first moment of mind and no last moment of mind. As on a line, both
beginning and end stretch into infinity, and only a series of moments on a
line pertain. The line becomes a circle.
"Surely, an awareness of our immortality changes our
concept of who we are, and what the world is. This is a major change, a
veritable transformation, since the still dominant materialist view does not
allow for the existence of an immortal mind. But if that view were correct,
consciousness could not persist beyond the body, and evidence that is does
would be an enigma. But the evidence is robust, and the dominant view is
likely to be mistaken. Our consciousness does not dissapear when we die."
- Laszlo, E. &
Peake, A. : The Immortal Mind, Inner Traditions - Rochester, 2014.
The end of the mind's communication with its brain, is like an adult departing
from a parent or a grandparent. A lifespan of intimacy with the brain and its
body is "collected". It became part of the information giving form & order to
the inner structure of the mind. Could it be that having lost its physical
body, consciousness "projects" an ideal body (based on the gathered
information) as an imaginal body, with (subtle) physical, emotional, volitional &
mental features ? Is this dream-body serving as vehicle for the disembodied
mind ? This conjecture leads to the "material" survival of the mind. As
the fabrication of the unity
of conscious experience is the core business of the mind, this survival
implies an individualized stream of consciousness, no longer an empirical ego,
the mere "earthly" caretaker of moments of volatile mind/brain interaction,
but a spiritual self surviving the demise of the body.
Criticism of Materialism.
"The principal argument against
materialism is not that illustrated in the last two sections : that it
is incompatible with quantum theory. The principal argument is that
thought processes and consciousness are the primary concepts, that our
knowledge of the external world is the content of our consciousness and
that the consciousness, therefore, cannot be denied." -
In a general sense, "criticism" is a philosophical
approach of epistemology focusing on putting down proper divisions,
frontiers & limitations. This can be between the two sides of what transcendental logic
defines as the a priori principles governing the possibilities of
conceptual thought, namely the (transcendental) object & subject of
knowledge. The subject of knowledge is an object-possessor. Without it,
no knowledge is possible. But neither is an object without a subject
knowledge, as materialism (physicalism) maintains (reductively or
eliminative). Criticism puts down the decisive dividing characteristic
& metaphysics, namely testability. Science is always based on both
argumentation (defining theory-formation) & observation
(experimentation, testing). Metaphysics is based on argumentation only,
it lacks testability.
But even within metaphysics itself, criticism distinguished between
immanent metaphysics (the totality of the world only) and transcendent
metaphysics (the world and the beyond of the world, the infinite).
Criticism, unlike dogmatism and scepticism, avoids affirming one principle
at hoc at the expense of another (as in dogmatism), and avoids negating
all principles (as in scepticism). Avoiding the extremes of dogma &
scepsis, criticism proposes a three-tiered model of the possibilities of
knowledge : (a) principles of correct conceptual thought
(transcendental logic), (b) norms of valid knowledge (theoretical
epistemology) and (c) maxims of effective knowledge-production (applied
epistemology). Given epistemology is not a descriptive but a normative
discipline, throughout this model, ontological illusion is avoided. In
other words, these principles, norms & maxims are never considered as
the sufficient ontological ground of knowledge. Not reified, approached
and developed along strict nominalist lines, they are
merely discovered by thought while reflecting on its own conditions &
possibilities. Criticism also argues such a three-tiered model for the
other two normative disciplines : ethics & aesthetics.
A crucial argument against the reduction of all events to the
physical, is the resulting impossibility to posit principles of valid
inference, for the latter
a forteriori do not belong to the domain of the material, but to the
realm of logic, theory or information, implying consciousness, an active
observer possessing and object. So how can we say materialism is valid
if its validation is not material ? In a way this relates to the age-old
conflict between mathematics and physics, between, on the one hand, a
conscious invention of mathematical objects and their relationships,
and, on the other hand, material objects (molecules, particles,
subatomic objects, fields, forces, etc.) behaving in regular way. The
activity of inventing new architecture (new code, better information,
more precise expert-systems, upgraded software, more valid theories, etc.)
refers to the non-extended, first-person perspective of the mind of the
inventor. The information itself refers to the second-person (the
research-cell, the common language) and third-person perspective (the
The point here is that physicalism is self-defeating. If all things are
merely composed of matter, then the validation of the statement "all
things only consist of matter and/or are based on matter" should be so
too. But this is not the case. Without the presence of a subject of
knowledge, an observer, no one is there to validate materialism. And
this observer cannot be material, for consciousness is not extended, nor
spatial, whereas matter is both. They do not share common functional
ground (although they are both communities or domains of actual
occasions). To state the observer is an emergent property of matter is
not helpful either, for how the extended causes the non-extended to
emerge is unclear (if not a priori impossible to explain).
Physicalism cannot claim to be supported
by definitive arguments, for the latter -if materialism were true- could not
exist. The transcendental object is extended and spatio-temporal. The
transcendental subject is non-extended, non-spatial but temporal. Indeed,
molecules, particles, waves, fields & forces do not deal with validity. This is
a stronger version of the weaker argument, already formulated by the Greek
philosophers, namely that the claim all things are merely material cannot be
made by a purely material entity (for sentience, reflection, the act of
cognition etc. do not belong to what matter does). Making such a claim involves a "contradiction in actu
Hence, either one accepts materialism and then one has to
refute strong arguments based on logic & principles of
validation, or one has to accept materialism as such cannot be true and so
incomplete, calling for another aspect covering its own validation. This
means matter or hardware is the executive aspect of
reality, one working hand in hand with a "logos" distinct from material
conditions which it displays, transmits or materializes. This information is a set
of algorithms, the architectonic aspect of reality. It represents the
activity of private first-person subjects (consciousnesses, inventors)
"frozen" in the expert-systems of software. It contains natural &
cultural codation. Conjunct with the observer (userware), it allows for
validation. This validator is the sentient aspect of reality, of all
what is. So materialism per se is indeed wrong, but the importance of matter
to execute, display, compute, transmit or materialize anything is not.
4.1 Criticism of
"Quantum theory has observation creating the
properties of microscopic objects. And physicists generally accept
quantum theory applies universally. If so, wider reality is also created
by our observation. Going all the way, this strong
anthropic principle asserts the universe is hospitable to us because we
could not create a universe in which we could not exist. While the weak
anthropic principle involves a backward-in-time reasoning, this strong
anthropic principle involves a forms of backward-in-time action."
Kuttner, 2006, p.206.
In the XXth century, observational psychology, linguistics, cultural
anthropology, comparative studies, but also (transcendental) logic &
theoretical epistemology discovered the subject of knowledge cannot be
eclipsed. Observation happens in the framework of theories, theoretical
connotations, ideas & notions. Both are simultaneous. It is not the case
sensoric data are first and theories later. The subject of knowledge is
a sign-interpreter, and the community of sign-interpreters co-define
what is consider a fact and what not (for example, parapsychological
phenomena are considered by some as of no importance not because these
things do not exist, they definitely do, but because they cannot yet be
understood within the available theories). Hence, facts are not exclusively
extra-mental, but hybrids with two facets : one theoretical, and
another, so we must assume, extra-mental. Besides experiments, testing
and observation, scientific research also calls for theoretical work,
argumentation and a provisional consensus. Especially in quantum physics
this is the case, for without the theoretical twists and turns of
mathematics, a lot of particles & relationships between particles would
never have been discovered.
So we cannot say knowledge is possible without an observer. Nor can we
say the observer is merely passive, registering reality. Nor is the
observer a kind of emergent epiphenomenon. And obviously knowledge is
impossible without an object. Like matter, information and consciousness
are definite domains of actual occasions, each with its own dominant
actual occasion, defined by specific logical & functional properties and
typical relationships. For matter, this dominant occasion is energy
(particles, waves, fields, forces). For information, it is binary logic
as the basis of all architecture or code. For consciousness, it is the
complex (paradoxical) choice for meaning and sense on the basis of
These three operators of reality are irreducible and distinct (not
different), but share the same common ontological principal : the
Janus-faced actual occasion, simultaneously efficient and scalar, both
objective (energy-based) as well as subjective (information-based,
public and mind-based, private). These three factors : energy, code and
mind are present in all things all the time. Moreover, they have always
been there, even in the eternal multiverse (as the mere possibility of
The criticism of observation is simply this : materialism cannot accept
and take serious the act of observing without somehow contradicting
itself, for observation, and the validation based on it, do not share
the properties all other material events share. A demarcation must be
drawn between saying all observation is material and saying observation
is impossible without matter. The former is not true, the latter is.
4.2 Criticism of Common
Common sense realism presupposed a direct access to reality-as-such. However,
this is a metaphysical claim, not a scientific one. Moreover, it cannot
be properly argued. It is metaphysical because it can only be backed by
arguments, not by factual evidence. There is no "Archimedean point" or
ideal vantage point "outside" the dialectic between object & subject.
All what happens takes place as an occasion part of the field of
consciousness. So nobody is able to directly observe the subject of
knowledge while it has this assumed direct access to reality-as-such. How could
this be observed without this being the observation of a particular
subject ? Moreover, how to argue this ? In order to identify this "direct
access", the distinction between "direct" and "indirect" must be made,
and this is not based on empirical observation but on logic.
Firstly, transcendental logic shows one cannot
eclipse the subject of thought without introducing contradictions. The
reduction itself shows the presence of an active subject, not a mere
passive registrator. Secondly, theoretical epistemology discovers how
facts are co-determined by theories and so are not monoliths but
hybrids. Thirdly, applied epistemology finds how the production of
knowledge is co-defined by the opportunistic, local rules-of-thumb of the
research-cell competing with other researcher facilities.
"The etymology of the word 'fact' reveals a fact
as 'that which has been made' in accord with its root in Latin facere,
to make." -
Knorr-Cetina, K. : The Manifacture of Knowledge.
An Essay on the Constructivist and Contextual Nature of Science,
Pergamon Press -Oxford, 1981, p.3.
"It appears that there exists only one concept the
reality of which is not only a convenience but absolute : the content of
my consciousness, including my sensations." -
The neurological study of perception clarifies the distinction between
pre-thalamic perception and post-thalamic sensation. All perceptions
have to be multiplied by a wide array of interpretations before they can
be identified by the subject of knowledge as sensations. Hence, a direct
access between the subject and "its" perceptions does not exist. While
the sense organs themselves alter the impulses they receive into
perceptions, the latter are again altered and pre-processed by the
relays to the neocortex. Finally, when projected in the neocortex by the
thalamus, these pre-processed afferent impulses are computed by primary
& secondary sensory areas before being named, labelled and identified by
the subject of knowledge. Naive realism is therefore to be abolished.
The criticism of common sense realism draws a line between claiming our
senses do register reality as it is and affirming we must assume
the sensitive areas of our senses get stimulated by reality as it is. We
cannot directly observe whether the latter is the case or not, but we
know without object of knowledge, all knowledge would be mental and we
would then contradict ourselves (for according to transcendental logic,
knowledge always happens between a knower and a known). In other words,
we have no other option than to accept universal illusion could be the
case. Gross common sense realism is wrong, critical realism is not.
4.3 Criticism of
Rejecting the fundamental argument against materialism (the fact it
eliminates the possibility of validating itself, i.e. is self-defeating)
leads to dogmatism. This is affirming the position ad hoc,
without any good reasons, quite on the contrary. Often this
dogmatism is fed by promissory materialism, the view all problems will be
solved by future materialist research anyway. Clearly a rational person
has to refute this prophetic position thoroughly. It is based on bad
argumentations, rejects clear normative principles, norms & maxims and
runs against what is known from observational psychology and the
neurology of perception. It can only be maintained by coupling it with
authoritarianism, and this is exactly what has happened (cf. the role of
the materialist "thought-police" in the academia). In that case,
the difference between materialist science (scientism) and fideist
religion is small. Both adhere to their positions without any evidence
and reject good arguments because they cannot accommodate the cherished
ideas. As such, both exemplify they own weakness, herald of their final
The criticism of materialist dogmatism distinguished between an ad
hoc statement about the sole importance of matter and the view
matter, together with information & consciousness, is always an irreducible part of the equation of reality. The
absence of materialist dogma does not call for idealist dogma. It is not
the case only two solutions are at hand : materialism or mentalism. This
old dualism needs to be superseded by triadism. Rejecting materialism
does not turn criticism into an idealist system. Criticism rejects
materialism and accepts matter. It rejects idealism and accepts
information and consciousness. It does not reduce or eliminate any
crucial operator, but proposes continuous and multiple interactions between
While it is true that
formulating a single ontological principal serves parsimony, materialism is not a
viable philosophical position. Mentalism, the opposite, is not a tenable either. Like
epistemological realism and epistemological idealism (rooting the
possibility of knowledge in reality or ideality respectively), both define an
ontological antinomy, to be avoided by a common ground. In this case, both
materialism and spiritualism share the actual occasion,
characterized by efficiency & finality.
The singular, momentary actual occasion x has differential extension. Every possible property, attribute or aspect
characterizing it represents a process,
not a substance or ¬
is to be written as xΔ,with
Δ representing, for all possible properties ∫p of this instance
x of the set of all actual occasions, the totality of its differential
extensions. If time is the only property of
x, then x.Δdt
Efficiency refers to matter.
Finality to information and consciousness. These are the three fundamental
domains of actual occasions operating the cosmos. Each of the cosmic
operators has one dominant type of actual occasion. Material actual
occasions emphasize energy and so hardware (12 elementary particles, waves, fields &
information deals with order, code, architecture, law and so software,
whereas consciousness is mainly about cognition, meaning, choice,
participation, observation or userware. Note that in this definition, matter does not include order
or code. The reason this is not the case is simple : information does not
share the same properties as matter.
Physical theory is correct insofar as material actual occasions go. But
physics should not be extended to all of science. Physics
refers to the efficient, executive, precipitating, transmitting,
displaying, materializing aspect of
what exists. This vector is a conditio sine qua non when the actual
material & efficient determinations (like causes, interactions, etc.)
and conditions are at hand.
Information, while possibly expressed by states of matter (glyphs, or signs)
and as such part of physics, is
itself not material, but a form, code or software. And the properties of
software are not identical to those of hardware. Software is an expert-system
which, when encoded in hardware, enables a given user to solve problems when necessary. It is the result
of (cosmo)biological evolution (natural code) and cultural development
Consciousness is a cognitive process using free choice.
The end of physicalism and materialism is not the end of physics or
physical inquiry, quite on the contrary. Ending physicalism is ceasing
the hold of a wrong metaphysical view on scientific inquiry. By having a framework to
understand possible interactions between the cosmic operators, what
happens at the
periphery of each operator can be investigated (interactions between matter &
information, between matter & consciousness and between information &
consciousness). Consciousness can be approached in
a sane and to-the-point way. Its unique features can be acknowledged and
studied without being problematic or worse, reduced or eliminated.
In this way, science, freed from materialism & physicalism, is able to
take the human fact serious.