Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Materialism and Hyper-Freudianism

I think there may be some limits on what questions can reasonably be considered to be empirical questions. Let’s take the Freudian view of religious belief as an example. According to Freudians, (and many other atheists as well) even those who think they believe in religious beliefs for reasons are really believing them for emotional reasons, and the “arguments” they provide are merely rationalizations. But why stop with religious beliefs? Isn’t it possible that we don’t believe any of our beliefs for reasons, but rather, we believe them for other reasons. If we looked at how we actually form beliefs, couldn’t we discover that, in fact, we never believe anything for the reasons we think we do? Is the statement “No one ever believes anything for a reason” at least possible? I like to refer to this position as hyper-Freudianism.
Unfortunately, such a position involves what Lynne Rudder Baker calls cognitive suicide. If a hyper-Freudian is asked why she believes in hyper-Freudianism, and she offers evidence for her belief, then by offering such evidence she falsifies hyper-Freudianism.
Now, I actually think that if categories are not fudged, and the material is defined, as it often is, in terms of the absence of the mental, then materialist theories of mind actually entail hyper-
Freudianism. It results in a proof that there are no proofs, which has to be nonsense.
It follows that no account of the universe can be true I unless that account leaves it possible for our thinking to be a real insight. A theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it impossible to believe that our thinking was valid, would be utterly out of court. For that theory would itself have been reached by thinking, [22] and if thinking is not valid that theory would, of course, be itself demolished. It would have destroyed its own credentials. It would be an argument which proved that no argument was sound–a proof that there are no such things as proofs–which is nonsense.-C. S. Lewis: Miracles, chapter 3. 


entirelyuseless said...

This confuses efficient and final causes. A reason is a kind of final cause: for the sake of the truth in the reason, I assent to the conclusion. But a final cause and an efficient cause are not mutually exclusive, and consequently the existence of a reason for my assent does not mean there is not also an efficient cause of my assent. This efficient cause is distinct from the reason, because efficient and final causes are not one and the same.

Victor Reppert said...

Final and efficient causes are not mutually exclusive, unless you are a materialist. Then all the fundamental causes have to be non-final.

brownmamba said...

1."Nothing that goes on in the brain violates the predictions of physical science.”
2. "If there were an immaterial soul affecting the brain, this would lead to a violation of physical formulas".
3.Therefore, there is no immaterial soul.

If the first premise could be empirically verified and the second premise is true, then the conclusion about the soul's existence can be empirically verified. I agree that "No one believes anything for a reason" is not empirical. HOWEVER, it seems to me that the first premise IS empirical and that the second premise is true. Therefore it seems to me that the soul's existence is an empirical question.

Moreover, if the soul is empirically falsified, then the proposition "If there is no immaterial soul, then no one believes anything for a reason" would also be falsified, since the proposition "No one believes anything for a reason" is false for transcendental reasons.

Victor Reppert said...

It seems to be that quantum mechanics refutes premise 2. If previous physical causes underdetermine all physical events, as QM teaches, then we should expect to find some underdetermination in brain events. The materialist is free to characterize these as brute quantum chance, and the anti-materialist can, of course attribute say that the soul is acting within the interstices of quantum-mechanical indeterminacy. But no refutation of the soul theory is available if there are quantum causal gaps.

brownmamba said...

My understanding of quantum mechanics isn't strong enough to really engage with this idea, but I'm still skeptical about it. First, I don't think its a widely held view that all physical events are physically under-determined (I know there are deterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics). Second, I think it's reasonable to expect that if the soul existed, the impact would be strong enough to exist outside the gaps. (I may be confused here, but if I'm identical to my soul, then the proposition that the soul acts within the gaps of quantum mechanics seems to be phenomenologically false).

Honestly, however, I think someone with more knowledge on QM than me should engage with this point.

Victor Reppert said...

There is still another problem. Science is oriented in such a way as to attribute gaps in physics to our ignorance rather than a gap in reality. So, if there is a causal gap, science wouldn't recognize it as such automatically, or even at all. Under no circumstances are they willing to admit irreducible complexity.

Jon Dewey said...

brownmamba's syllogism is important, bc it shows one of the ways that in theory the existence of a soul could be proven if we had sufficient tech to answer premise 1.

The crux of the matter lies in premise 1. The truth is, at our current technology level we simply don't have sufficient sensor and computing power to predict the motions of every particle, atom, subatomic quarks, quantum effect etc that goes on in a grain of sand let alone a human brain. The kind of tech required for this isn't even imagined in most sci-fi shows. It isn't like we have the ability to make a quantum map of the brain or even an easier classical atomic map of the brain and predict all the interactions. And if we did, I'm not sure how we could attain such knowledge ethically in a manner that is non-destructive to the brain.