That’s So Second Millennium

Episode 013 - Human Mind and Physicalism (Society of Catholic Scientists Conference 2018)

June 25, 2018

Overview of the conference - schedule
Edward Feser & connections to Bishop Barron
Theme: Human Mind & Physicalism
Development of the problem and the amazing change in intellectual climate since the 19th century
Laplace and absolute determinism - 19th century consensus

Quantum mechanics demolished this intellectual basis for determinism, although it is clung to fiercely down to the present day, including the profoundly horrifying "many worlds" hypothesis

Bell inequality and the talk by Valerio Scarani about the closing of the loopholes that would allow a "hidden variables" interpretation of quantum mechanics (which would also save determinism, in a much saner way than the "many worlds" hypothesis)

Materialism and "spiritualism" (if you will) are on an equal logical footing, even if cultural issues continue to propel many scientists and intellectual citizens of the contemporary world away from belief in extramaterial beings

Society of Catholic Scientists as a place of refuge from this social pressure toward materialism

The gap between spiritual and material in ancient thought versus modern thought

The problem of qualia, choice, and consciousness and the lack of an actual materialist model for these, as opposed to evasive and reductionist language

On the other hand, the reality of a physical manifestation of all (or nearly all) mental phenomena, the dignity of matter in this detailed participation, and the absolute need for human souls to have bodies in order to be complete human beings (in contrast to Manichean, Platonic, or Cartesian dualism)

The scholastic notion of the human soul as form of the body
The Aristotelian soul / souls
Are vegetative (and animal) souls the forms of those bodies...are those essentially their genetic structure?
This ties back to our existing discussions about "hylomorphism for the third millennium" (so to speak)

The need for a new metaphysics and philosophy in general to rise up and deal with the strange new world that modern science has brought to our attention.

The scholastics, Aquinas of course being the one we remember, had a philosophy that was capable of being constructive...Chesterton's comment that modern philosophers ask us to accept some crazy thing in order to found their system, while Aquinas' starting point was common sense.

The difficulty of thinking and doing interdisciplinary scholarship in the modern world, despite decades of recognizing that we need to do it, due to the volume of human knowledge today and also the whole economic and sociological apparatus that depends on measuring scholars' output somehow...which is tremendously easier for single-focus scholars to maximize.

There is a unique joy that we can have as scientists of faith...both in our subject matter and in our fellowship with each other.

Our next few episodes will look at the subject matter of specific talks at the conference.