Thursday, June 09, 2005

Paper presentation at Oxbridge 2005

Just to let all of you know that I am going to be giving a paper updating discussion on the Argument from Reason at the Oxbridge Conference on Aug 1. They don't have me on the program yet, but I fly out on Jul 30 and come back Aug 3. Blog entries devoted to the trip are promised.


Mike Wiest said...

The "On the concept of physicalism" post doesn't seem to accept comments, but since you asked for them, I'll put one here.

I just want to warn you that modern physical theory is not "mechanistic" and it's not "causally closed." It's not always easy to get even physicists to say this explicitly although it's been known for decades. Quantum theory is usually described as containing irreducible randomness, so most physicists will tell you that quantum randomness is incompatible with "rationality" or "free will" and such. But it is possible to see the randomness as arising out of the irreducible non-locality, or holism, of the theory. In that picture, measurements appear random because they are influenced by non-local causal connections.

So, without having read your book, I tend to think that your arguments WILL successfully rule out classical physicalism, but not quantum physicalism.

In this context I find it hard to imagine how to define physicalism in a non-trivial way, because if something has a causal effect on a physical variable, why can't I call it physical? I mean, even if it's straight from God, if it's moving physical objects, then isn't it a physical...aspect of God? It may be unnaccounted for by present-day physics, but then I would tend to call it "new physics" rather than "non-physics."

What do you think? If "non-mechanical" or "holistic" are no longer valid criteria for "non-physical," what other distinctions might we use?

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