Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Physicalism and Metaphysicalism

Man is not a deterministic puppet dangling on the strings of the butterfly effect.

Yesterday I wrote that physicalism is 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.”

It is not my authorship that gives physicalism its definition. It came from the newsletter of the Center for Naturalism, which has physicalism as its metaphysical basis.

Physicalism differs with naturalistic metaphysicalism in at least one specific concept. Physicalism holds that nothing is greater than the sum of its parts. When it comes to humans, physicalism, (also called scientific naturalism, or SN), the Center specifically states: “Naturalism holds that everything we are and do is connected to the rest of the world...”

This is the butterfly effect. There is no reason to discount or deny this butterfly effect. While a butterfly that flaps its wings in China may actually cause a tornado in Kansas is beside the point. The point is that whatever the truth of anything is, for example whether or not the bufferly effect is real or not, that truth is the proof of existence.

SN holds that because we are connected to the rest of the world through existence, we are “fully caused creatures.” For the adherents of SN, this means every minute detail of existence is part of us and, therefore, we cannot claim to be “self-made” creatures.

Such SN believes the idea of being “self-made” is pretty egotistical.

“Our bodies and minds are shaped in their entirety by conditions that precede us and surround us,” states the Center's website. [emphasis added]

Physicalism discounts and denies any metaphysical significance to the idea that men's minds are capable of creating themselves from these preceding conditions. In other words, unlike our ability to make bricks from clay, then mortaring them together into a desired shape such a house, our brains are incapable of taking these preceding conditions and making bricks if that if what we desire to make, rather than accepting whatever it is that the preceding conditions have determined our minds will make of those conditions.

That is one reason that physicalism and scientific naturalism define themselves as deterministic. [Wikipedia]

Determinism is “The doctrine that every fact in the universe is guided entirely by law [ ] and thus allow[s] only for mechanical causation,” i.e., the butterfly effect. [Dictionary of Philosophy; Runes; 1942]

The one law of the universe that determinism, physicalism, SN, and other doctrines fail to take into account is the law that man's mind is free to think or not. This is a position of egoism, not of egotism, and is part of the law of man's mind.

If man's mind is free to think when it wants to think, then the act of thinking denotes something willful. Willful thinking determines which “preceding conditions of the butterfly effect” that have been placed squarely in our paths by mechanical causation will be acted upon.

SN would have us believe that even though we are free to pick and choose, in most instances, which preceding effects we will think about, nevertheless we did not create those butterflys, and therefore we cannot call ourselves “self-made,” but must apply the metaphysical conclusion that we are, instead, “fully caused creatures” of deterministic nature.

The truth is, if men are free to pick and choose which facts of existence they act on, they are free not to act on the most important conditions that will determine their life-and-death situations.

Determinism and physicalism cannot accertain why one person chooses to remain in the path of a hurricane while everyone else leaves. Perhaps that person knowingly stays for all the reasons which even to him or herself are the wrong ones. Does a meteorolical storm chaser chase tornadoes only for the science? Can it not be that some choose to overcome the fear of tornadoes by chasing them, as one might hope to overcome the fear of spiders by holding a tarantula? Could it be that some storm chasers have a death wish? Could it be that some are facinated by the very fact of existence itself and wish to understand the mechanical laws of nature?

It is the law of the nature of Man himself that he needs to “appeal” to something beyond physicalism. It is this law of the nature of man that give proof to the fact of existence that Man is not deterministic and is not a puppet on the strings of butterflys.

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