Sunday, April 02, 2006

Barbara Montero on Conservation

Here is a paper by Barbara Montero arguing against the argument from conservation for physicalism. HT: Joe Markus.


42 said...

Before me is a Christmas tree. Its lights are not switched on. It has an explosive belt strapped to its trunk.

My hand rests on a three-way switch, at present in the neutral position. It will require an equal amount of my energy to move it to position A, which will switch the lights on, or position B, which will detonate the belt and reduce the tree to matchwood.

I have three choices - light it up, blow it up, or do nothing.

Whichever I do the total energy of the system will be conserved, though the physical outcomes will be very different (chemical enegy to heat, gas expansion - electrical energy to light etc.) The PC outcomes will also be very different (enrage the Dendrophobes, enrage the Illuminati, or annoy everybody).

Physically, what determines my course of action?

Perhaps there's a neuron in my brain that can have two states ...

ON - Christmas trees good.
OFF - Christmas trees bad.

But ON = Good and OFF = Bad are arbitrary designations.
I could equally well designate ON = Bad, OFF = Good. Thus identical energy states would produce different outcomes depending upon my 'view' of Good and Bad.

What is this 'view' - a quale, or some sort of semantic contruct? Do qualia and semantics have energy states or are they totally different types of causative phenomena?

Blue Devil Knight said...

It looks like a very interesting article. Because of arguments with you and others here, I no longer use the COE (cons. of energy) argument against dualism.

Since then I realized I would need to combine the first (COE) and second (entropy increases) laws of thermodynamics to push through the arguments I previously tried to push using only COE. The first and second laws, when combined, predict the which reactions in biochemical systems will happen spontaneously (more accurately, the probability that it will happen). Just using COE, you can't get these predictions. Hence, I would expect that dualism would imply a violation of these predictions based on the first and second laws.

I'd rather pose the thing in terms of predictions scientists actual make than with general philosophical claims about causality. But if that is your game, her article looks like an interesting contribution.