Thursday, December 16, 2010

Philosophy to Ponder

If you divided your brain in two, placed one half each in two separate heads and then filled in the other half of each head with other people's brain halves, which one of the two is you? The answer must be either one of them, Both of them or Neither of them. But how are ANY of these possibilities consistent with the fact that you are your brain? If only one of them is you, why that one and not the other? Experiments have demonstrated that people maintain their selfhood and consciousness after one of their entire brain hemispheres is removed. So what if both of them are you? But the key and defining property of a self is surely unity and singularity; but how is this even possible if you are two people at the same time? Are you somehow conscious of being in two places at once even though this seems clearly impossible as there is no physical link left between the hemispheres? So that must mean neither of them are you... but why not? Surely if your mind is your brain you should still be somewhere as your entire original brain is still operational! It seems to be that this thought experiment demonstrates the necessity of some unitary principle that exists apart from physical matter.

If you had a Star Trek transporter, which disassembled every atom of your body and reassembled it somewhere else, is that person still you? After all you have been destroyed and a completely new material version has been constructed. Again, both possibilities seem to demonstrate the falsity of materialism. If that person is still you, under materialism it really shouldn't be, because the entire physical constituents of your original body has been removed, at that point under materialism you should have ceased to exist. If that person isn't still you, however materialism suggests it should be, because the new version is in all respects identical to the first. So materialism is left in the precarious position of seeming to make paradoxical predictions. And an idea that contradicts itself cant really be true can it? It's like the concept of a married bachelor, which is clearly impossible.

Finally, strict forms of materialism (excluding things like epiphenomenalism, which holds that the mind is not strictly matter but is a useless, causally ineffectual byproduct of matter. Epiphenomenalism is wrong for a whole host of OTHER reasons ;)) hold that the mind and the brain are identical. However, applying Leibniz's law of identicalities to this issue leads to utter ridiculousness. Leibniz's law (which is a philosophically complicates way of saying 'common sense' it seems) states that if two things are identical then if one thing has a certain property, the other must have the same property. This seems obvious. Now apply this to the materialist statement 'Your consciousness is your brain'. Your brain is a physical object that exists inside your skull, it has mass, location in space and objective properties. Does your consciousness have WEIGHT?? Uh... WRONG. Saying your thoughts and awareness have weight seems obviously absurd. Plus, your consciousness has SUBJECTIVE properties when it seems your brain is purely objective. Oh this ain't looking good for materialism. Now let's apply things the other way. Your consciousness has CONTENT. For example, your belief that there is a tree in your backyard is ABOUT the tree. Now how exactly can a set of neurons be ABOUT something? How can physical objects such as neurons contain references to things outside of themselves? I've yet to hear any good reason why they can or should. So there's another point of difference. It seems obvious that this proposition monumentally fails the test. Maybe if you disagree you can weigh your consciousness for me.

Alright I am done. Go here for a refutation of epiphenomenalism: http://www.emergentmind.org/rivas-vandongen.htm

Yes, obviously I have been moving away from the levity and humour of senseless topics lately, but have no fear... I shall be returning to them soon when I present the next entry: Scott's list of his greatest Mancrushes. Keep it real, and dont be a materialist. ;)

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