Thursday, January 31, 2008

An argument against materialism

  1. The best physics tells us that material reality consists of one or more non-local fields. (Premise)
  2. Therefore, material reality consists of one or more non-local fields. (Probabilistic inference from 1)
  3. I do not consist of one or more non-local fields. (Premise)
  4. I am a substance. (Premise)
  5. A substance does not exist in virtue of one or more other things having certain properties. (Premise)
  6. If x is a material entity, and material reality consists of one or more Fs, then x either consists of one or more Fs, or exists in virtue of one or more Fs having certain properties. (Premise)
  7. I exist and have a mind. (Premise)
  8. If I am a material entity, then I consist of one or more non-local fields, or exist in virtue of one or more non-local fields having certain properties. (By 2 and 6)
  9. If I am a material entity, then I exist in virtue of one or more non-local having certain properties. (By 3 and 8)
  10. If I am a material entity, then I am not a substance. (By 3, 5 and 9)
  11. I am not a material entity. (By 4 and 10)
  12. Therefore, I am an existent being who is not a material entity and yet has a mind. (By 7 and 11)

5 comments:

MG said...

Alex--

This is a very interesting argument. Is it original?

Also, what do you anticipate are the problems that come with denying premise 4. (which I would expect some materialists to be entirely comfortable with)?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Spinoza denies 4.

One problem with 4 is the general problem with denying paradigm cases of something. We are paradigm cases of substances. We are the only things that we can see from the inside.

Actually, I wonder if one can't make the argument work with "entity" in place of "substance" in 4, just with more ontological work.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I meant: "One problem with DENYING 4 is the..."

MG said...

Oh right, I remember Spinoza denying that. I spent much time trying to understand his arguments for pantheism in my modern philosophy class for test prep, and if I remember correctly he would say that I am a mode. (does that sound right?)

Is there any chance you could explain the concept of "field"? If its too much work then I'd appreciate it if you could direct me to a contemporary physics discussion of this.

I would probably see the force of the argument a lot better (and the plausibility of 3.) if I knew what a field was.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I don't know what ontologically a field is. But mathematically, for a good example, think of a nice (e.g., infinitely differentiable) function that assigns a number or vector to every point in space (e.g., one might think of an electric field as assigning a vector to every point in space pointing towards concentrations of charges).