Monday, April 26, 2021

If presentism is true, materialism is false

  1. If the xs compose y, then y cannot have caused all of the xs.

  2. I caused all my present cells.

  3. If presentism is true, then all my cells are present cells.

  4. So, if presentism is true, then I caused all my cells. (2, 3)

  5. If materialism is true, then I am composed of my cells.

  6. If materialism is true, then I did not cause all of my cells. (1, 5)

  7. So, if presentism is true, materialism is not true. (4, 6)

19 comments:

TaylorBear said...

Lately I have been thinking about essence and existence in regards to sexuality. If sexuality and other personal traits compose me, then I cannot have caused them. So, is it correct to first introduce oneself with a compositional identifier, i.e. "I am gay"?

Alexander R Pruss said...

By "compose", I meant "wholly compose". It is very plausible that a thing can cause things that partially compose them. Thus, a tree causes its branches. But it is not wholly composed of its branches. Indeed, it is not wholly composed of its cells. For it has to have a form, which it is not the cause of.

ASBB said...

Should one have the xs universally quantified instead of existentially quantified? There is a level of decomposition of me on materialism (all my quarks) where it’s false to say that I caused all the xs. This, on present own there’s no counter example to 1. If the xs are universally quantified

ASBB said...

^ autocorrect typos. “Thus on presentism there is no counter example...”

ASBB said...

^ autocorrect typos. “Thus on presentism there is no counter example...”

Anon said...
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Alexander R Pruss said...

My understanding of (1) was:

For all xs and for all y, if the xs compose y, then y cannot have caused all of the xs.

It's pretty usual for unbound variables in a conditional sentence to be implicitly universally quantified. For instance "If x is a nondefective adult horse, then x has four legs" is shorthand for: "For all x, if x is a nondefective adult horse, then x has four legs."

ASBB said...

You're right and I was sloppy. What I want to say is: I think (1) should be replaced with a principle which states that it is NOT the case that for EVERY way a thing Y is decomposed, then Y is the cause of all the elements of that decomposition. I think this satisfies the intuition behind (1).

Consider a case where some physical simples compose an alien, but those simples do not compose anything else - no arms, no legs, no heads or necks - just simples arranged alien-arm-wise, simples arranged alien-head-wise and the alien itself. Then the conscious alien causes the simples to compose alien arms, alien legs etc. This is odd, but seems to generate nothing explanatorily loopy. In such a scenario, there will be a decomposition of the alien (head, arms legs etc) where the alien caused all the parts, but another decomposition (simples s1 ... sn) where he did not

(I take it that some may want to say that in such a case, whilst the head, arms and legs now exist, they are not parts of the alien? But that seems even odder to me).

Alexander R Pruss said...

That's a really, really nice point now that I see it.

And your point also reminds me that the van Inwagen view would be another way to get out of the argument: there are people and there are simples but there are no cells, so we didn't cause our cells. (And of course we didn't cause our simples.)

I think your modified principle may be trivially true if we're not careful in how we understand "decomposed". For one way for Y to be decomposed is to be decomposed into Y. And then the principle follows immediately from the fact that nothing is its own cause. One solution is to say if a thing has a decomposition into PROPER parts, it has a decomposition into proper parts at least one of which is not caused by the thing.

I think I can still salvage the argument.

Plausibly, if I cause all my simples, then I cause all my parts on every decomposition. But I can imagine myself causing all my particles as follows. I build a machine that replaces a simple particle with a newly created clone (e.g., if you put an electron in the machine, it collides it with a positron to create a photon, and then uses the photon and pair-production to produce an electron-positron pair, and then outputs the resulting electron which, intuitively, is numerically distinct from the old one). Then I run every simple particle in me through that machine, gradually one-by-one in a way that is no challenge to diachronic personal identity. As a result, I am the cause of all the simples in me, and very plausibly I am therefore the cause of all the elements of all my decompositions into proper parts.

If one doesn't grant the last sentence, then I can modify the composition principle into yet another very plausible one: If I am composed of my simple parts, then I am not the cause of all my simple parts.

(The antecedent rules out two scenarios: first, that I am gunky, and, second, that I have simple proper parts but I am not composed of them. Whether the second scenario has to be ruled out depends on one's mereological axioms and how exactly one defines composition.)

swaggerswaggmann said...

1 is wrong. You are made of your cells, and you made your cells. Simply the earliest ones were replaced after time.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Well, obviously I think the thing to say is that 1 is obviously true, so "You are made of your cells, and you made your cells" must be false.

swaggerswaggmann said...

Sadly it is what happen in Nature, you are made of the cells you make. A cat is made of cat cells made by the cat. When they were embryo, only one cell was made by the parents , all others were made by this, by itself, then the cell dispeared, only the cells made by itself remains at adulthood.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Well, first of all, that argument assumes three-dimensionalism. For given four-dimensionalism, that initial cell is still a part of our four-dimensional selves. Second, that argument assumes materialism. If all living things have forms or souls, then it is false that we are made solely of cells.

swaggerswaggmann said...

But it disappear, my child... then even upon your special pleading note that 99.999% of the cells and time refute you... four dimensional selves...and for your imaginary eternal guy, there is no first cell to special plead, so then it is 100% wrong. This is what happens when theist axioms clash with reality.

Yes, it assume what is already shown by neuroscience experiments and what the vast majority of scientists argue. You point being ?

Note your unwarranted assumption that it is not the body that create the soul.

swaggerswaggmann said...

If biology is too hard search about self assemblage in Nature, and autocatalysis : chloride atom that corrode alumina that concentrate chloride that corrode more, a pit digging a pit.
Same with nacl, two atoms going together forming a crystal that shape itself and attract and organise others atoms to be a bigger crystal.
Now 5 dimentional pit corrosion or special pleading chloride has a soul ?

Alexander R Pruss said...

You can certainly take a crystal to be a four-dimensional entity, extended through time, having initial particles.

That said, I don't think there are any crystals. There are only the particles or fields that the alleged crystals are made of.

swaggerswaggmann said...

And the initial particles where not a crystal, only the crystal made a crystal. Before crystallising only atoms where here.

So the material crystal that I can touch do not exist but your invisible Allah in the sky do ,and your soul probably too...wow.

swaggerswaggmann said...
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swaggerswaggmann said...

Another empirical counterpoint is electromagnetism, where a electric field produces a magnetic one that make the first one, and others quantum looping funny things...

Funny that you argue against presentism already assuming 4 d entities! Way to beg the question....