Friday, December 4, 2015

Physicalism, swollen heads, heaven and recurrence

Assuming physicalism, for any fixed volume V, there are only finitely many internalistically-distinct mental states that a human brain of volume less than or equal to V can exhibit. (There may be infinitely many brain states, space and time perhaps being continuous, but brain states that are close enough together will not yield mentally relevant differences. There may also be infinitely many externalistically-distinct states given semantic externalism.) Therefore, given physicalism and a robust supervenience of the mental on the physical, in heaven either the volume of the human head will swell beyond all bounds, or else eventually we will only have reruns of the internalistically-same mental states. Neither option is acceptable. So, Christians should reject physicalism.

11 comments:

Walter Van den Acker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alexander R Pruss said...

No, resurrection doesn't have the same consequences. For if physicalism is not true, then there are two possibilities:
(a) mental states do not supervene on brain states
(b) the brain is a made of a new kind of matter capable of holding ever growing amounts of information.

Logically speaking, (b) is available to the physicalist as well. However, given physicalism, the nature of human beings seems to be sufficiently closely tied to our brains that if you replace the matter in our brain with a radically different kind of matter, it is unlikely that the result is a *human* being. On the other hand, given dualism, it could be that the nature of human beings is largely given by the human soul, and that as long as the soul is kept fixed, a greater variation in the bodily constitution is possible while remaining fully human.

Walter Van den Acker said...

Dr pruss

I realized just after I had published my comment that I had made a mistake, and that's why I deleted it.
However, I am not sure that if you replace the matter in our brain with a radically different kind of matter, it is unlikely that the result is a *human* being. What exactly consititutes a human being is far from clear and I don't think we are in any position to claim one way or the other with a decent amount of certainty.
(a) on the other hand, seems to raise the question which function a brain could possible have. I mean it's one thing to believe that mental states have a non-physical as well as a physical aspect, but claiming that there is absolutely no physical component to mental states is quite a different matter.

entirelyuseless said...

Perhaps the volume of the heads will increase indefinitely, but the volume of everything else will increase proportionately as well, to make sure that no incongruity results, but you will still be able to store an increasing amount of information in the brain.

Richard Davis said...

"There may be infinitely many brain states, space and time perhaps being continuous, but brain states that are close enough together will not yield mentally relevant differences."

Why won't they?

Alexander R Pruss said...

entirelyuseless:

That's an option, but it doesn't seem to be a *human* kind of flourishing. Note, too, that the physics would need to change as well, or else our thinking would slow down due to the speed of light limit.

Mr Davis:

Think of how we can't tell colors apart when the spectral profiles are really close. This isn't, I think, just due to the eyes. After all, the eyes are an analog system and so even a small difference in inputs should make a difference in signals sent to the brain. And I suspect that there are small differences in potentials in the brain associated with close-by colors, but to consciousness they look the same.

Richard Davis said...

Alex:

My concern is that if physicalism were true, the laws by which mental states depend on brain states might gradually change over time. They might become increasingly more sensitive to smaller variations in brain states. Two brain states which currently are too close to one another to correspond to any appreciable difference in mental states could, after the laws have changed for one hundred thousand years in heaven, correspond to two very different mental states.

If the relationship between mental states and brain states is anything like the relationship between meanings and morphemes, this seems plausible to me. I expect that in heaven, language (or whatever we have that's analogous to lanaguage) will permit increasingly significant semantic differences to result from increasingly small intrinsic differences among morphemes.

Alexander R Pruss said...

That's an interesting suggestion, well worth thinking about.

Richard Davis said...

:-) I think so too!

Dagmara Lizlovs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dagmara Lizlovs said...

Alex:

After looking at the picture of your previous post - Heaven and Materialism: The Swollen Head Problem; I think a good decongestant can solve that. :-)