Friday, August 29, 2008

Of minds, livers and the Incarnation

There is nothing absurd about that liver remaining a proper part of me while gaining a conscious mind. (Certainly this is true if materialism is true—cf. this post.) Then I would have two conscious minds as proper parts of me—the liver's mind and the one with which I now think. Plausibly, however, I would not be aware of what the liver is thinking. I can kind of imagine my liver being a homunculus of whose thoughts I am quite unaware. But, it seems, the liver's mind would be a part of me, and hence would be a mind of mine. And, surely, I should be conscious of what a mind of mine thinks.

So we have problem: if my liver gained a mind, it seems I would both be and not be conscious of what the liver was thinking. Now there is a way of embracing this paradox. I might distinguish as follows. In the hypothetical situation, I would have two minds, A and B. I would be aware of what both are thinking. But I would not be aware with A of what I am thinking with B, and I would not be aware with B of what I am thinking with A.

What is kind of fun is that the above considerations yield an argument for the disjunction of two controversial views, both of which I hold. Suppose you think it is absurd that I should gain a second mind and be unaware with this mind of what that mind is thinking. Then, I think, you need to stop my thought experiment from going through. I think your best bet for stopping my thought experiment from going through is to deny that my liver and my mind are parts of me. Maybe the best way to do this is to insist that I do not have proper parts. (Of course I also have a liver. But it does not follow that livers exist, just as it does not follow from my having had a fright that a fright existed.) If so, then the rejection of where my thought experiment leads to gives a plausible argument for the controversial thesis that I don't have proper parts.

But suppose one embraces the conclusion. Then, one accepts something else controversial that I hold, namely that it is possible for one person to have two minds, and to be unaware with one of what he is thinking with the other. The case I am interested in is that of Christ. He has a human mind and a divine mind. And with his human mind he, probably, cannot be aware of everything that he is divinely thinking. Of course, this may force a denial of the transcendental unity of apperception.


Heath White said...

I am not sure I follow all this, but it seems like the "disjunction of views" is an exclusive 'or'. Either the thought experiment goes through, or not; if it doesn't, we have no proper parts, and if it does, then you can have two minds not mutually aware. But if you believe *both* of these, are you not in trouble?

Alexander R Pruss said...


I'm in trouble if I believe both on the grounds of this thought experiment. Here's my position. I believe p and q. I give a thought experiment E, and argue:

1. If E fails, then p.
2. If E doesn't fail, then q.

This yields an argument for p-or-q, not for p-xor-q.

Speaker for the Dead said...

So this is how we would reconcile statements Jesus made that limit his knowledge ("No one knows the day and the hour, not the angels nor the Son...") with God's alleged omniscience.

Alexander R Pruss said...

That's indeed one way of doing it. (Interestingly, though, the opinion of some of the Church Fathers was, I think, that this line from Jesus was not to be taken literally--that, rather, it was a polite way of saying: "I can't tell you.")

Speaker for the Dead said...

Wait, we can't take all of what Jesus says literally? CRAP.

Martin Cooke said...

that it is possible for one person to have two minds, and to be unaware with one of what he is thinking with the other

Is that the common sense way to interpret the results of the famous Split Brain experiments? It also seems to me like the Freudian and Jungian ideas of our having subconscious and unconscious minds, which may surface in our dreams.

Both of those are controversial, but we are often unaware of ourselves as dreamers as we dream, yet we identify with the first person in our dreams, whilst finding it strangely difficult to recall our dreams (especially as first person experiences)... so I find myself drawn to that latter conclusion of your argument.

I like the idea of Jesus having the soul of God in the brain of a man, and of that being like dreaming (of God being to Creation much as an author is to her fiction)... but I don't see following from a materialistic possibility as further evidence for that idea.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Orthodox Christianity insists that Christ has a fully human soul, in addition to being divine. It would not do to have the divinity play the role of a soul. Then he would not be fully human, not having a human soul.

Martin Cooke said...

Yeees... but I suspect that we're talking about two different things here. For me, a soul is what we really are, much as the dreamer is what the first-person personality or character in one's dream really is. For all I know, human souls are sparks of divinity, put into these human bodies when God breathed life into Adam. That is, I'm not sure how ex nihilo the creation of souls is (maybe a bit less so than the creation of matter, which still is creation from the possibilities known by God, of course)... But I think this is a grey area, and that we are unlikely even to clearly grasp where we have drawn our different divisions. (My own approach is very intuitive, analogical, open-ended, since I think that all linguistic terms are a bit indefinite.)