Thursday, June 22, 2023

Berkeley and authority over bodies

A friend asked me how Berkeley can be refuted. I am fond of ethical insights as epistemically primary. Here is an ethical insight: I have a special authority over my body. But on Berkeley’s view, my body is co-constituted by my ideas and everybody else’s ideas. My ideas are a part of me, yours are a part of you, and so my body is partly constituted by my parts and partly by your parts, Now it is difficult to see why I have special authority over it.

One might say that I have more in the way of perceptions of my body than you do, because I have kinesthetic sensation, introspection, etc. While that is typically true, it is only typically true. If you are doing neurosurgery on me, and I am unconscious, then my body is not constituted at all by my ideas at the time, and you have a lot of perceptions of my body that I never do.


verily said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wesley C. said...

About neurosurgery, what are your thoughts on Libet-like experiments (not Libet's, but some similar to his) where, by measuring brainwaves, scientists were able to predict a few seconds in advance whether a person would push one of two buttons, before the person was even aware they would do so? Now the machine didn't determine which button specifically would be pushed, just whether one would actually go to push one of them, and the buttons were connected to the wave measuring device such that they would light up before one could push anything.

The principle behind it was that the machine measures the subconscious activity that precedes the conscious decision to push or not to push. It then predicts from this a specific time that would elapse before you manage to push the button, so it always lights up before you can touch anything - as the subconscious knows what you were going to do before you became consciously aware of doing it.

Do you know of a libertarian account or explanation of experiments like this?

Alexander R Pruss said...

How good is the prediction? It's not 100% I assume. It is not surprising that as one makes a decision, one slowly becomes more and more inclined in one direction, and then one does it.

I also don't think that a free choice needs to be conscious.

Wesley C. said...

Here's a video with the experiment in question:

It starts at 14:10 and lasts until 20:10. The video explains it in more detail. Hope you find it interesting!