Sunday, July 31, 2011

Composing the Mind

William Seager, of the University of Toronto, has written a number of interesting papers over the years on the mind, with panpsychism and emergence/reduction included as frequent topics. I’m grateful for his contributions on panpsychism, which remains a neglected option in philosophy of mind.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Causal Regularity is not Universal but Rare

The picture of our universe as a machine governed by deterministic laws is hard to shake. Physics has profoundly undermined this vision of course, but even before this was known, it is a bit surprising that philosophers and scientists were inspired by everyday macroscopic experience to form such a conception. Was Hume so talented at billiards that he experienced constant conjunction? I can’t come close! Certainly to build and maintain a machine which achieves any determined outcome with regularity takes a lot of human effort.

This last point was made by philosopher John Dupré in a 1995 paper called “A Solution to the Problem of the Freedom of the Will” (hat tip: tweet by Rani Lill Anjum). This paper has a number of thought-provoking insights: contrary to the title, it’s doesn’t put forth a full theory of free will, but argues that the way the world works makes human autonomy unsurprising. (Dupré, a philosopher of biology among other research interests, took part in an interesting debate regarding reduction and emergence on Philosophy TV here). Most assume the world is governed by global microphysical laws, such that autonomy would require an exception to these laws. Dupré argues that we actually have no reason to think the world is governed by such globally applicable laws. Using his terminology, the world is far from causally complete.