Neuroscience and the Soul, Conference Panel Discussion 1
Dr. Richard Swinburne and Dr. Timothy O’Connor respond to the comments made on their assertions. Afterwards, the panel of six philosophers respond to questions from their audience and offer deeper insight into their ideas.
Thanks to both of my commentators. My responses are very brief. First, to Jason who suggested that my account of intentional action as, barring considerations from open phenomenalism, intentional action as intentions causing bodily movements was a mistaken one and there weren’t such events as intentions or interact normally, but it was the case that the subject is aware of certain things and responding in a certain way to them.
Action, as it were, for example, avoiding a puddle as you walk along the road, I suppose might be an example, was a matter of being guided by seeing the puddle and walking accordingly. Well, that might be right for, might be right for some sorts of intentional actions. It clearly isn’t right for the sort of thing where we decide on our future way of life and then put it into action.
This is clearly a mental event which then leads to something we do subsequently. In any case, it won’t make any difference to my basic point, because awareness is clearly a mental property. If what the subjects of the experiments are reporting is that they think they’re reporting the time at which they’ve formed an intention, but really they’re reporting the time at which they become aware of something. Well, that won’t make any difference to the basic point that we only believe what they say because we think that awareness is the cause of what they say. So the basic argument remains.
My thanks to Dan for pointing out that the title of my paper had been advertised in various ways in various places, and I apologize for that. The paper which I was in fact giving was [laughing] the impossibility of proving that human behavior is determined, it was a thesis about human behavior, but of course if what I have said is correct, then it would follow that it was impossible to prove that determinism as such was true.
But I wasn’t concerned merely with physical determinism and I’m sorry that my title got advertised in that way in certain places, and I think that was my fault because I think changed my mind about what I was going to talk about, and I apologize for that. What I purport to have shown is that we are never justified in believing that our actions are determined, but of course it might be the case that they are. Justification for believing these things, I was assuming, Dan pointed out, was a matter of having scientific evidence for it.
But he also pointed out that we might have certain other sorts of evidence, and I agree with that. Perhaps I should have said that, but then one wonders what the other kind of evidence might be. Well, some strict Calvinists claim that the Bible says this and they believe everything that the Bible says, so that might be a reason. It might be a well reason, that is to say, we might have theological reasons for supposing this to be true.
I’m very happy with that suggestion, and I don’t think there are theological reasons for believing it to be true, but that is certainly a possibility. But I was making the point that there couldn’t be scientific reasons of the normal kind for believing that our actions are, all of them, determined either by our brain states or by our brain and mental states.
Thank you, Professor Swinburne. Professor O’Connor.
I too wanna thank both Emily and Eric for really good comments. Emily focused just right in on a very basic methodological question, which is about priority of theological considerations versus philosophical and/or scientific considerations. Can everyone hear me? No.
No, we lost you.
All right, so she asked the priority question, methodologically of theological versus scientific philosophical considerations. Well, it seems to me, I don’t know that I even have to face this question. You do face a priority question where there’s outright conflict, right?
So if there was outright conflict between something taught theologically and something that seemed to be indicated defeasibly by other evidence, then how you prioritize would make a big difference to what conclusion you ended up drawing in the face of that conflict. But I see the situation when it comes to thinking about the nature of human persons as this. We have simultaneously three sources of data.
We have our introspective data of being subjects of experience and knowing what it’s like to be a conscious agent. That all by itself leads me to a variety of dualism already, at minimum, a property dualism. Then we have theological data, what the Bible tells us about the value of human persons and the nature of human persons and also the fate of human persons. Then we’ve got increasingly scientific information, especially since the 1950s onward, about the functioning of our brains and how intimately tied up our cognitive capacities are with the specific functionings of specific regions of the brain in a way that Eric was alluding to in perceptual cases.
So it’s not clear to me that even if I just focused foremost or even primarily just on the theological, say I just ignored any kind of scientific considerations, this would most naturally lead to a mind/body dualist view, because even for the dualist, my survival of death depends on God acting in a way that just doesn’t fall out of natural nature. Christians are not Platonists about the soul. We don’t believe the soul is naturally immortal, right? It exists if it continues to exist because God wills it to continue to exist.
Long before science came along, it was quite evident that conscious experience depends on our bodies being intact in reasonable ways. If Greg hits me over the head with his microphone because he’s so outraged at things he hears me saying, I might quickly lose conscious experience, right? This is a familiar ordinary fact. So I know there’s some kind of causal dependency going on there with what’s going on in my head and my ordinarily having conscious experience. So then we theorize, right? It’s clear that God’s going to be involved in our survival of death. It’s going to be a gift of God. We could think of it as God just preserving the soul in existence, miraculously or contrary to the way things happen now, or we can think of it in my funky kind of way of God’s giving the constituents of our bodies the capacities to sustain the processes in a certain sort of way. So I don’t know that that makes much difference.
So I don’t really think of myself as prioritizing, but I do wanna accommodate the full range of data. Eric raised questions about objectual unity, what he called the object property binding problem, the fact that different regions of our brain are involved in detecting features of our environment and yet somehow they all come together in experience. When I look over at these folks over here, I don’t just see colors. I have experience of color, experience of shapes, experience of sounds and so forth, they all come together in a single conscious experience, perceptual experience. And also he said there’s subjective unity, that I experience myself as a single thinking, willing, acting agent, even though I’ve got all these physical component systems that are quite separated from one another that in some sense physically subserve those capacities.
I guess I don’t see here why this pushes, taking the seriously the phenomena of unity, unity of experience, unity of the perceiving subject, pushes us to suppose that I am a simple mental substance, as the dualists supposes. It’s important to see that my view is not a version of physicalism, okay? That is I believe that conscious experiences are not identical to, are wholly distinct from, states of physical systems, the physical subsystems of my brain. That’s why I emphasize strong, strong emergence, right?
So it’s I, the whole organism, that am the bearer of psychological states. It’s not constituent systems of my brain that are the bearers of psychological states. I am, right? These subsystems cause or causally contribute to my having these states of awareness, various kinds of experiential states that I have. But again they’re not constituted by complex physical states. So then the unity that I have and the unity of my experience, it’s sui generis, it’s part of the experience itself. Conscious psychological experiences for me are nonphysical experiences. They’re not physically constituted at all, they’re caused by.
So then the empirical question, which I leave that for the scientists happily, is how does it come to be, that physical, specialized physical subsystems can give rise to, causally generate wholly distinct psychological states of whole organisms? That’s an interesting question, but it’s not a philosophical question.
Okay, well, we’ve got plenty on the table. Why don’t we open it up for a time of Q&A from the audience?
Man: Hi, my remarks are directed to Professor O’Connor. I was delighted by your paper, partly because I think if you include some of the insights of Professor LaRock, you are a Thomist. [laughing] Essentially, it seems to me, your paper is reinterpreting in modern philosophical emergenist jargon Aristotle’s Physics, okay?
The distinctions you make are in Aristotle’s Physics, the distinctive between artifacts and living organisms, unity across the substantial form that creates the unity across time of living organisms and so on. Essentially, you are a Thomist. You’re setting aside this platonic Augustinian mind/body dualism, and you’re accepting a Thomistic vision that man is not his soul, that there’s the soul, which is immaterial, and that there’s the body, and that these together form consciousness, and that is what Saint Thomas basically points out in his Summa Contra Gentiles and also the Summa Theologica.
It permits you to address some of the concerns of Professor LaRock, because Saint Thomas does say that once the individual dies, he is given a specific grace by God, that substantial form that has powers that are exercised through a body continue through a special grace that God gives the soul or the substantial form, continues at least in intellect and will, but then at the resurrection, the full gamut of conscious experience returns, so that you have memories, you have wit, you have all the sorts of things that we have, but even more so because we will have a glorified body, a body that is imperishable and immortal and so on, distinctly different than the body that we have now. So I’m very delighted by your paper. I think I’ll go out and buy your book afterwards. [laughing] Would you comment, I’m sorry.
Okay, yeah, so just briefly, I’d be delighted to have Aquinas as an ally. A former graduate teacher of mine, he said here’s the way to become known as a great philosopher in the history of philosophy. The first condition, which is the difficult condition to me, just be obviously very smart and creative and write all kinds of interesting things that people see that you’re really a deep thinking philosopher, but then the second important condition is that you be systematically ambiguous on all the great conditions of philosophy. [laughing]
You think about Aristotle, Aquinas, Leibniz, it’s just really seen, oh, Kant, they’re all this way, right? Then people will forever debate about how to interpret them. I agree with you that some of what Aquinas can sound like is something in the neighborhood of what I’m saying, but then there are also modern day interpreters of Aquinas who read him as basically a mind/body dualist. He lends himself to multiple interpretations. But some of what he says, I agree, I resonate with. He does want to see the soul as intimately bound up with the body and not just in a temporary causal unity.
Mark: Yeah, I have a slightly technical cognitive science-y question for Swinburne, et cetera, and a very simplistic question for O’Connor, et cetera. So first for Swinburne, about the Libet experiments, I wonder if there isn’t a more direct way to question their relevance to free will from a cognitive science perspective?
If you think about what the sub-processing that must be going on to the subjects in the experiment, I think it has to be more complicated than what we think, if you just do it. So they’re supposed to be looking at the time, at the clock, and reporting when they do it, and the idea is that that’s something very simple that you can do almost instantaneously.
But I sort of doubt it. First they have to form the intention, then they have to recognize that they have the intention, this is maybe Jason’s awareness, then they have to attend to the clock, then they have to perceive what the clock says, then they have to understand what the clock says maybe and record it in memory, and I don’t see any reason to think why any of these things should be instantaneous.
Now suppose all of those steps add up to .5 seconds or maybe .7 seconds, then the ability to report the time will lag the formation of the intention by this measurable time, and we have no reason to believe in epiphenomenalism from that layer. So I’d be curious to see if you all think that that works and if that contributes to the discussion. And my very simple question for O’Connor and company is you made the assumption that the soul is simple, and that seemed like a basic assumption, and I realize that there is some history to that from Descartes and others and maybe that addresses the unity of consciousness problem.
But it seems to me like whatever we know from psychology now and so on is that the soul isn’t that simple. Why couldn’t we take that from a substance dualism perspective, think, okay, maybe souls have parts, not material parts, but parts and part whole relationships and complicated relationships and so on. Then we could have an idea of development and so on within that. It wouldn’t be such a static thing from that perspective.
There would of course still be the question of why that kind of development goes along with the physical development, but there’s good chances I think that we could say something about that.
I think it’s good.
Yes, you are right. All the subjects were required to do was to report after the event, that’s to say it might have taken them several hundred milliseconds to put it all together, but they were only required after the particular experiment was over, after they’d moved their hand, then to report on when they formed the intention.
But there were all sorts of detailed things were muddled in that experiment and in subsequent experiments, that’s to say sometimes subjects were asked when the formed an intention, sometimes they were asked when they formed a desire, sometimes they were asked when they formed a wish, et cetera and they confused some very different terminology. It has been questioned how reliable after the event they would be dating the time of the intention. All of those problems are there, but my point was even if these detailed problems can be overcome in some way, the basic point remains.
That is to say that we can only trust anything they say if we believe that they are moved, they are intending that their report of their belief, and the intending and the belief are both mental states, they are intending that the word should have come out of their mouth reporting them, and therefore they are affirming. We can only believe them if we believe there’s this causal link, so only if your many problems, which certainly exist. Various experimenters have done different kinds of experiments which have tried to get over these difficulties and maybe they will.
That is to say it has been suggested you can do the experiment by the moment the chap thinks he’s formed an intention he presses a button rather than reports afterwards, and all sort of things like that, which might help but the basic point will remain.
I just wanna say I found your suggestion really interesting. I interpret it this way. You might say I’ve been equating that which is spatial, which occupies space, as that which is physical, right? What your suggestion perhaps could be this, what we call the physical is tied to physical science, the kinds of properties that physical science structs in, but maybe alongside the physical science, extended bodies of that physical science streets, you have extended entities but whose properties are nonphysical, but they’re extended because they have parts, so they’re extended in space, presumably somewhere within our brain or brain and nervous system, and they develop over time as the body develops.
There’s a dynamic interaction so that you can tell kind of an emergentist story, you get a primitive nonphysical kind of substance that comes along at the beginning of biological maturation and it develops and grows in tandem.
Yeah, I guess if I wanted to be a mind/body dualist, I think this would be a better way to go, ’cause it would at least address the kind of concern I have, and I guess you could say, well, look, it’s only been, what has it been, 10, 15 years that physicists now at least take seriously the idea that much of the matter of our universe has been hitherto unknown, so called dark matter energy, that may actually be the majority of the matter composing our universe.
So something vaguely analogous to this, we have localized in association with living bodies of the right kind, capable of giving rise to thinking subjects. But the idea is they give rise to it, you might say in a very general sense of the term body, a kind of body, I don’t know if you’d like to use that term. It’s a kind of thing that occupies space, I take it your view, your suggestion, that we can think of the soul ’cause it has parts, it can become differentiated over time that correlates with its increasing psychological complexity.
Mark] I don’t know that logical parts have to be spatial parts.
Okay, all right.
Mark: So we could have one set contains another set, but it’s not spatial.
But that’s an abstract relationship, but okay, all right, thanks.
But just to say there are whole relationships that aren’t spatial.
So further questions from the audience, but let me also invite panelists if at some point you feel an urge, jump in.
To speak to the control aspect of the Libet experiment, they’ve done some of those controls where they’ve timed, they’ve had them time the actual action and they’ve seen that there’s about a 200 millisecond lag, and so that’s not enough to account for the lag between the readiness potential, which leads to bodily movement, and the conscious event of willing or intent, whatever they call that, and then there’s been some further FMRI functional studies the last couple of years that have shown several seconds before they can use brain activity to predict when the mental event of intending is going to occur, as well as that the action will occur as well.
I believe we have a question on this side, yeah.
Jeff: This follows the point that you were making and that Mark is making. It’s just a clarification and then a question for Professor Swinburne. The Libet experiment is over 30 years old, and as you’re pointing out, there has now been a lot of followup to it. The simple point that I wanna make is a factual point. Libet’s name is now very well-known and there’s no question that his name tend to be bandied about as though he believed that the readiness potential predicted the movement of the hand.
He did not do that, he assertively did not do that, and he wrote some very, very good papers, especially near the end of his life, so Benjamin Libet as a human being, as a person, assertively did not believe that the readiness potential determined the movement of the hand. This is where philosophers I think have a big contribution to make because we can now talk about, as Professor Swinburne is pointing out, we can talk about the readiness potential being related to a wish, a desire, an urge, those things make sense, and as you were pointing out, they are not the same thing as will, and that’s a point where I think philosophers can say something that scientists might actually hear, which is not an easy thing to do. [laughing] Now the question for Professor Swinburne.
While I sympathize entirely with your position and the results of your paper I agree with and share, and I am extremely sympathetic to the stress that you made in your argumentation about the importance of the individual as an individual. I would also like to point out that there is a very robust field in psychological science called psychometrics.
So the issue of measuring psychological states is something that psychology as a science or as a purported science takes extremely seriously. So let’s not use the fact that mental states are quote, unquote “not measurable” as some dispositive argument, but rather say, look, they’re trying very hard and I am very supportive of the fact that as scientists they are making very good faith serious attempts to measure and put numbers on and quantitate psychological states.
All I say is now what our role as theologians, philosophers, and scientists who are sympathetic to these kinds of views could be, is to stop getting the scientists to say that the material states of the brain are causing all of these measurements, and rather say that these psychological measurements enhance our capacity to make the case that you are making that psychological states have downward causation on the brain and we now have measurements to demonstrate that.
If you’re saying that really some of these mental states as I call them can be measured, I’m afraid I don’t agree. Nor do I agree that any psychological investigators are getting anywhere near saying that. With regard to sensations, for example, in my book I’ve got a quotation which is a quotation from the Oxford Companion to the Mind edited by Gregory, and I think it was someone called Layman who wrote the article on psychophysics.
Psychophysics has been at work for 150 years trying to measure the strength of a sensation, and the author of this article within the last few years says no one has ever given any sense to a pain being twice as severe as any other pain. I think that’s just where we are with sensations. The same applies to the other things we’re dealing with. They can all be assessed as one greater or less, but in order to assess how much greater or less, you have to have some sort of ruler to put against them. That’s what can’t be done. It applies to beliefs, too.
There has been great energy over the past 100 years to try to measure the strength of a belief in the sense of how probable one believes the belief to be. It’s easy enough to rank beliefs, but people’s behavior is quite compatible with the belief being twice as strong or three times as strong, so long as one allows that something else, for example their desires are weaker by a third or a half or whatever. What I’m getting at, sorry by those somewhat enigmatic remarks is the way of measuring the, in this sense, strength of a belief was by somebody’s betting habits.
If you are offered a bet on a horse two to one, that’s to say if you pay 10 pounds and if the horse wins, you get back your original 10 pounds plus, if it’s a two to one, 20 pounds, so you get back 30 pounds, and if you are prepared to take the bet at that amount, that shows that you believe that it is at least the probability that the horse will win is, sorry, can’t do it all in my head, the probably that the horse will win is greater than a third. But that will only be the case with regard to say a bet of 10 pounds. If you are, on the other hand, not prepared to invest 20 pounds at the same odds, then the conclusion might be drawn that in fact you don’t hold that belief.
So the mere fact that you would bet on something at certain odds isn’t enough to show how strongly you believe it. It’s a matter of how much you value what you would lose as opposed to what you would gain. Therefore, as it were, and of course some people don’t think betting is moral anyway, [laughing] but that doesn’t mean to say that they don’t believe there are probabilities that the horse will win. So a mere study of public betting behavior isn’t gonna get you the answer.
A mere study of public betting behavior even if you’re facing the odds, the amount that you bet won’t give you the answer because there are still considerations of whether you think this is a good thing to do anyway. All you can get out of this is comparative things, that is to say if somebody is prepared to bet at certain odds, but not at other odds, for any of his investments, then it follows that they do have a certain belief about the horse being more probable than it’s a certain amount to win if you assume that money can assess their value 20 pounds twice as much as they value 10 pounds. But that’s very unlikely.
So, all of these things come in, but they will give you nothing more than comparative ratings, and that’s not surprising. The reason for that is the things we can measure are public spatially occupying things, and the reason we can measure them is because rulers stay at the same length in the sense that you take the ruler away and you put it back again and it will mark the same point on the thing you are measuring.
Anyone can do the measuring, and you can measure by putting the ruler a number of times along, and that will say that this is five times as long as that. But that sort of thing can’t be done with the mental. There aren’t mental rulers. That’s all there is to it. There aren’t public things–
Jeff: These are things that clinicians need measurements, and psychological states are part of clinical medicine and clinical psychology. Clinicians need measurements, so saying it’s impossible doesn’t solve a very pragmatic problem in dealing with pathological states that clinicians need measurements.
Yes, but some people think they need things that can’t be had. [laughing] That’s how it is. I’m not denying that they can say that this pain is very intense or something like that. What I am saying is they can’t say it has an intensity of .9 as opposed to .8, and that’s what it does.
Okay, thanks, Jeff. Over, yeah.
Man: In Dr. O’Connor’s very stimulating talk, I was waiting for a differentiation between a human soul or a human emergent individual and possibly a car’s emergent individual as being a composed object which only has certain emergent properties because of its arrangement. I was wondering if a car would fit that categorization, and if not, I mean, if so, how you would differentiate what you believe from a basic physicalism, if a car has a soul that is qualitatively the same thing as a human.
Good, yeah, I don’t think we have any good reason to think that cars have overall emergent properties that are in some strong sense irreducible to the properties of and relation among their parts. But it is an empirical question. The way I think about emergence, it’s always an open question whenever you get what looks like a stable interestingly organized system, physical system of any kind, are the properties that we observe, macroscopic properties, are any of these properties kind of emergent overall properties or not, right?
Prior to the 19th/20th century advances in science, one might have thought a lot of properties of all kinds of emergent systems, sorry, all kinds of complex systems in the world exhibited emergent properties. People used to think chemistry or life itself was a simple quality, they’d say, “Just look, “living things are just fundamentally different “from nonliving things, it must have some simple quality “which is life,” right?
We now know that’s not true, that life is a highly complex biochemical phenomena. That doesn’t show that there might not be subtly emergent aspects to life per se, but we’ve come to learn to be cautious about that. The mere fact that a composed system exhibits a pattern of activity that seems strikingly novel is no proof for some things being an emergent system in my sense.
If you’ve ever played around with the Game of Life, the mathematician John Conway, you can go online, google the Game of Life, he describes a simple two-dimensional world with grids that obey very simple laws. Cells have properties, live, dead, and they evolve, they transition moment-to-moment in accordance with simple, you might say fundamental physical laws, but certain kinds of complexes form in life worlds that then exhibit behavior of their own that you can begin to study without even knowing what the underlying laws of the system are, but they wouldn’t be emergent in my sense, right, because all the action is being fundamentally fixed by what goes on below. So it’s an open question.
It’s interesting that scientists, there are whole fields now since the ’50s, complex systems theories, either in specialized field like biology or just very abstract complex systems theory that use terms like emergence a lot, and they wanna say the wholes constrain the movement of parts when they’re bound up in these sorts of things. I think there’s a lot of confusion going on there, if I can step on some scientists’ toes, by the way they’re using this term emergence.
I think for some of them, all they mean is there’s an interesting pattern going on at a high level of description that it can be useful to describe this system in terms of, but they’re not really saying that it’s making a fundamental causal difference to how the object behaves.
So then you say, well, where do we have evidence for emergence? I would say the only positive evidence that I’m aware of that’s to me compelling is conscious mental states, for familiar Cartesian introspective reasons, I think we have good reasons to say that conscious mental states cannot be identified, individual token mental states. We have complex physical states.
So I think we have direct evidence of it in our own case, but it’s possible that there are non-mental emergent systems, those would be physical systems because they don’t involve mentality, and yet they would be irreducible wholes. So the idea of emergence doesn’t automatically mean non-physicalism, right? So mental emergentism is a special case of potentially a broader category.
Tim, sometimes people talk about hives or other kinds of tightly integrated collectives as displaying emergent behavior. Do you think that’s not strictly speaking truth, that the behavior of hives and ant colonies and so forth really is reducible to the causal powers of its component parts?
Well, the fundamental thing is I think it’s an empirical question. The mere fact that we do get striking organized forms of behavior, I don’t take it to be sufficient for emergence, not even good defeasible evidence. It might be a necessary condition, but it’s not very strong defeasible evidence because we again are aware, either in these simulated little mathematical models, but also in certain low level phenomena of organized systems that we have good reason to think are the properties of the whole.
Basic chemistry, right, basic chemical atoms have a characteristic pattern of activity that can be described in quantum mechanical terms. So there’s good reason to think even though the behavior of whole atoms looks rather different than the behavior of isolated subatomic particles, that it’s wholly fixed by the subatomic laws governing them. In the cases you raise, I say it’s an open question. It would depend on the… It’s a rather audacious claim I think.
At least in philosophy circles, I guess it depends on what circles you’re running around in, but philosophers often take it as just kind of a breezy reductionist few, “Well, of course, in principle, “in principle all this is fixed by…” I think it’s an audacious claim to suppose that laws that apply to fundamental isolated particles in vacuum chambers and such are… The behavior we discern there is sufficient to fix the behavior of everything, no matter how complex and structured the context in which they behave, that’s a huge generalization.
It may be true for much of the world we observe. I’m not strongly opposed to supposing it’s true, but it’s very difficult to determine that because we can’t after all apply fundamental quantum mechanics even to something like this lectern and monitor, each of the billions of subatomic particles in and around the lectern and show that you could give a complete description of how… You just can’t do that. We don’t have that computational power and the measurement capacity.
Okay, others, we’ve got a bit more time for audience.
Man: Just a quick question. This is for both Dr. Swinburne and Dr. O’Connor, which of your books would you recommend to begin with on this topic? [laughing]
I’d recommend Richard’s book, the one that has been flying off the table out there. It’s a very good book.
Man: My next question is for Dr. O’Connor. If mental properties supervene on physical properties, does that mean that we can make humans like us?
I’m sorry, I missed the last. Does that mean we can make humans…
Man: If mental properties supervene on physical properties, can we make human persons?
In the lab, so to speak? I guess, yeah, I mean in principle because I do believe I don’t think of the coming to be of a human person, and maybe here’s where I depart, here’s one point where I depart from Thomas Aquinas–
Man: [muffled speaking]
Okay, but I don’t think of it as a special act of creation, that God at a certain point, whether at conception or some other point early in development as infusing a soul miraculously, not in accordance with natural physical law, but I think of it as our mental properties and our identity as a causal outcome of the behavior of our parts, right? So in principle, if we had the capacity to put together pre-biological kinds of materials and arrange them, then, right, we could recreate in principle those sufficient conditions.
How about one more question from this side of the room here?
Man: Hey, Tim, let me push back a little bit on behalf of Eric to see what you’d do with this. I think that emergence supervenist is best understood as causal, so to say that some emergent property supervenes is to say the subvenient base causes it.
It would seem to me then that emergence would be local and not global, so that what we would have would be that an emergent property would emerge on that part of the base that’s causing it directly to come about. It would follow from that if that’s right that there just would be no global capacity for this general consciousness. If Eric is right, then there would seem to be empirical evidence for this, that there are different capacities for consciousness that emerge on different regions of the brain.
Let’s suppose then that when that happens you get your story that there’s an bare particular that comes to be and there’s a conferral of a whole individual that emerges there. It would seem to me that the evidence Eric’s citing would better be suited by saying that there are many cells inside the brain. I have a color self, an emotion self, rather than there being one self. So it would seem like your view would lend more naturally to a multiplicity of emergent individuals. Any thoughts on that?
Thanks, yeah, that’s a good question. I just see it as pointing to the incompleteness of what I said, that is I told a toy story even by philosophical standards, a highly abstract story, and right, if something like an emergentist view is true, it’s going to have to be consistent with the idea that not only do I have a visual perceptual experience, which as you say is going to be most directly associated with a certain region of my brain in the visual cortex, and the audio perceptual experience, cognitive thoughts in my cerebral cortex, and so forth.
But they’re coming together and so one’s going to have to postulate if you go the emergentist route, a kind of more general emergent property of awareness that somehow they come together in that. I don’t have a lot to say about that, but I grant there’s a hole that needs to be filled. I don’t see that it can’t be filled in principle, but we’re gonna have to have some kind of notion of structured types of emergent features. That’s why I talked about the need for some kind of overall capacities that’s the property of the whole conscious system.
Well, we are at lunchtime, and I think I’ll call it a conclusion. So thanks to our speakers, thank the audience. [audience clapping]