Dialog with a Materialist
Part of an ongoing conversation:
Jordan 176 (quoting me) writes:
1. If reductionist materialism is true, all reality is unselfaware matter in motion.
Self-awareness is a property of sufficiently complex information-processing systems. The system as a whole is self-aware, though this property does not inhere in the elements. This is called an "emergent property." Emergent properties were unknown to the Ancients, but they are common to many sorts of complex systems; for instance, the physics of gas molecules drives the weather even though individual gas molecules have no "weather" themselves.
Hence your deduction
2. If all reality is unselfware matter in motion, I do not exist
fails to follow.
I beg your pardon. You are correct. As stated, the one sentence does not necessarily follow from the other. The link between the two statements had been argued before, both in this and other places, but I did not draw it out here. Let me amend that.
The missing minor premise is that "I" properly so called exist when and only when I have conceptual existence, including such properties as free will, self-awareness, the ability to tell true and false, the ability to think, to make symbols, to manipulate symbols, and so on. A symbol is a thing which has a the property of truth when it corresponds to its alleged subject, the thing it is trying to correspond to, and false otherwise. Marks on pages and pressure-waves issuing from mouths and speakers can serve as the material substrate for symbols, much as neural activity can serve as a material substrate or reflection of thought, but the thought itself cannot be merely the material substrate because it has non-material properties, such as truth-value.
Bits of matter, merely by being set in motion, cannot take upon itself non-material properties, such as true-false, just-unjust, beautiful-ugly, selfaware-nonselfaware.
Bits of matter, merely by aggregating, cannot take upon itself symbolic meaning, for this is again a non-material property.
Indeed, non-material properties do not "come from" anywhere in the material sense, since they are controlled by final causation and formal causation, that is, by intent and by logic, and not caused by mechanical causation. We can say that twice two is four ergo twice four is eight. We can give a formal cause for the truth of that proposition. We cannot say twice two is four because a cog of four ounces in Adding Machine R1047 was moved by lever of four inches to click over a tab of half an inch square on which a mark was written that represents to an observer the number that observer's father called taught him stood for the number "4". That neither accounts for why twice two is four nor even makes any relevant statement about it. Twice two is not four "because" a given adding machine, or even all of them together, were constructed so to say. The reverse is true. The adding machine was constructed with the gears and levers in their places because the marks made on the wheels and tabs held a symbolic meaning to the makers, who, in turn, perceived that twice two is four and always has been and always shall be. No historical event, had it gone differently, could have somehow "caused" twice two to equal five. ( Collapse )