Tuesday, January 27, 2009 The Brain, the Mind, and Metaphysics The original doc. at http://freeassemblage.

blogspot.com/2009/01/brain-mind-andmetaphysics.html contains live links to references. >To suggest that somehow the mind is independent of the organ that gives it its existence is nonsense.< In the January-February newsletter from the Center for Naturalism, the case is made for the rise of physicalism, the doctrine"calling into question the notion that we need appeal to anything beyond or above the brain and body – an immaterial soul, for instance – to explain behavior and experience, whether normal or abnormal. [ ] "This isn’t to say that physicalist explanations are anywhere near complete," the newsletter goes on, "nor does it conclusively disprove the existence of the soul or some other immaterial aspect of ourselves – nothing could do that. But it is to say that as physicalism makes headway, the dualist hypothesis that the mind is categorically independent of the brain in some respect has less and less going for it." Inherent in scientific naturalism, that form of naturalism that seems to be prevalent in today's moral marketplace, is the idea that others somehow believe the mind is independent of the brain. I wish to set something straight here and now: the mind is a process of the brain, just as digestion is a process of the bowels. Without the bowels there would be no ability to digest. Without the brain there would be no ability to have a mind. No one disputes the scientific idea that neurons firing in the brain, that chemicals and electricity must be active in the brain, that synapses must be created, and that other processes must be in effect for the mind to work properly, or to work at all. To suggest that somehow the mind is independent of the organ that gives it its existence is nonsense. But when scientism suggests that the organ and its functions were "once considered categorically immaterial mental phenomena [but] are now shown to have a material basis in the nervous system," a straw man is being set up. Scientific naturalism loves that straw man. They use it against the immaterialism of the soul. The sum of the parts is greater than the parts alone. Ink, paper, and glue alone do not make a postage stamp. But the idea that when properly put together those things are not an immaterial metaphysical phenomena is wrong. A postage stamp, or anything else that is metaphysical and therefore greater than the sum of its parts, is definitively immaterial. The material is the ink, paper,

and glue. The immaterial is the "idea" that when properly put together those things can create a postage stamp. Ideas are immaterial. Yet no one disputes that a postage stamp is made of material. Objectively, however, a "stamp" is immaterial when it is considered to be the idea of an object made legal only by the production and acceptance of its existence by the proper authority. No such stamp ever has to be produced. A stamp not produced yet definable is metaphysical, not physical. What is metaphysical is immaterial. The mind is the metaphysical description of the events of the brain which, when analyzed, are greater than the sum of the physical parts that make it. The "idea" of a light bulb, for instance, or of that postage stamp, is greater than the forces which create the synapse. It takes the metaphysical mind to put concepts together in the proper order in order to make sense of existence, to create stamps and light bulbs and space shuttles. It isn't the physical workings of the brain that do that. It is the mental workings of the mind, which of course do not and cannot exist without the brain, any more than sight can exist without the eyes. But the recognition that what the eyes see is a tree or a bird or a newborn human being is greater than the sight unrecognized. The "notion that we need appeal to anything beyond or above the brain and body" is not the straw man scientific naturalism makes it out to be. Instead, it is a notion that metaphysical naturalism takes for granted, because metaphysical existence is properly a matter of the mind, not of the brain.

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