Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Ambiguities of Emergentism

Emergentism is an ambiguous idea. Does it mean that a radically different kind of causation emerges, If the laws of physics are complete (except for maybe a chance factor), and no other kind of causation is considered physicalistically acceptable, then thought that occurs in the world occurs because there is good evidence that is is true. Only blind causes, the work of the blind watchmaker, are considered scientifically acceptable. But if that's really true, then we can never, for example, believe that evolution is true because the evidence for it is good. We can only believe in evolution, or not believe in it, depending on whether the atoms in our brain happen (blindly) to put us in the positions they need to be in to believe in evolution, or whether they put us in the positions they need to be in so that we will not believe in evolution. Only physical laws an facts, not logical relationships, can be relevant to where the atoms go, and our beliefs are functions of where the atoms in our brain are at any one time. This is a description of chance-and-necessity physicalism, from Taner Edis: 

Physical explanations combine rules and randomness, both of which are mindless…Hence quantum mechanics has an important role in formulating chance-and-necessity physicalism, according to which everything is physical, a combination of rule-bound and random processes, regardless of whether the most fundamental physical theory has yet been formulated…Religions usually take a top-down view, starting with an irreducible mind to shape the material world from above. Physicalism, whatever form it takes, supports a bottom-up understanding of the world, where life and mind are the results of complex interactions of fundamentally mindless components.

Taner Edis, “Arguments Involving Cosmology and Quantum Physics,” in Joseph M. Koterski and Graham Oppy ed., Theism and Atheism: Opposing Arguments in Philosophy (New York: Macmillan, 2019), pp. 599-600.

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