Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Emergent Materialism

Been reading up on (strong) emergence. Trying to figure out why this is even called 'materialism' - the impression of "because if they admit it's not materialism most of the people they want to convince will drop it like a rabid squirrel" is hard to shake.

As ever, Fodor provides the convenient essential summary.

Maybe the hard problem shows that not all basic laws are laws of physics. Maybe it shows that some of them are laws of emergence. If that’s so, then it’s not true after all that if Y emerges from X there must be something about X in virtue of which Y emerges from it. Rather, in some cases, there wouldn’t be any way of accounting for what emerges from what. Consciousness might emerge from matter because matter is the sort of stuff from which consciousness emerges. Full stop.

It would then have turned out that the hard problem is literally intractable, and that would be pretty shocking.


Well, points to Fodor for noting that emergent materialism does not offer some 'materialistic explanation' of (for example) the hard problem of consciousness, but is in fact the positing of a limit of explanation. One problem I have is: In what way does "Y emerge from X" if we're admitting that there's nothing "about X" which is the reason Y emerges from it? It's those laws of strong emergence which is responsible for Y, not X itself, which makes the use of the word "emergence" seem like some sleight of hand.

Not to mention, emergent materialism re: mind in any way seems like a suicidal for any would-be naturalist. So there exist these special laws that "kick in" for certain configurations of matter, and suddenly you have these irreducible and novel properties/traits? This is starting to sound like formal and final causality, but more muddy. Worse, the idea that there are these laws of strong emergence directly related to minds, just waiting around for the right configurations of matter to show up?

Nah. If you want to be a proper naturalist, reductive materialism is the only game in town. Pity it's downright incoherent.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Angry at God?

Maybe you are.

Or maybe not. Of interest:

According to Exline's findings, Protestants, African Americans, and older people tend to report less anger at God; people who do not believe in God may still harbor anger; and anger toward God is most distressing when it is frequent, intense, or chronic.

So, that 'atheists are angry at God' thing actually does have some scientific evidence to back it up now.

Huh.