Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Hasker, sensible naturalism, and causal closure
What would the naturalist have to accept, in order to accommodate the demands of reason at this point? At minimum, the naturalist must accept the existence of emergent laws—laws which manifest themselves in complex organic situations, and which result in behavior of the fundamental particles of nature different from the behavior predicted on the basis of the physical laws alone. To admit this is to reject the “causal closure of the physical domain” that is so dear to the hearts of many, perhaps most, contemporary naturalists. The naturalist will have to acknowledge that new causal powers emerge in suitably complex configurations of organic chemicals.—powers that are not evident in simpler situations, and are not deducible from any laws that operate in simpler situations. It will have to be true that, given a particular sort of brain-state, there supervenes, say, a desire to hear a performance of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” and that, in virtue of this desire, certain actions, and certain bodily movements occur that could not be predicted merely on the basis of the physical laws that apply to the elementary particles making up the nervous system. A view that countenances the emergence of such causal powers might provide the basis for understanding mental states that could be effective in virtue of their propositional content. Many naturalists, however, will be extremely reluctant to abandon causal closure; if they do so, their status as naturalists in good standing could plummet alarmingly.