Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Physicalism and some alternatives

A strange alignment of related ideas inspired me to some interesting ideas against Physicalism. Before I begin discussing these ideas, I think it is wise to briefly mention the ideas that gave rise to my thoughts, as well as some simple description of Physicalism.

The "alignment of related ideas" was Wikipedia's Featured Article of the Day, on the Philosophy of Mind , Pandemonium's new post on Free Will (as well as his older post) , and finally my own post on thinking rocks. These are all related in some way to monism and its opposite, mind-matter dualism.

With the pseudo-citations out of the way, I can begin to describe Physicalism. Physicalism is one of the many monist stands, which simply put is the position that everything is physical, and that there are no kinds of things other than physical things. Hence, Physicalism means that the mind does not exist, or more correctly, there is no independent and separable mind distinct from the body (eg, brain).

It is probably arguable that many people are Physicalists (especially, if I might add, scientists) . I consider myself a Physicalist. Yet, there exists other possibilities.

An alternative is that the body and everything physical does not exist. Instead, the only thing which exists is a disembodied mind. All things physical are merely the figments of imagination of the disembodied mind. In a sense, the disembodied mind is like a god (or THE god). The god does not exist in the universe, but rather, the universe exists in the god. I admit that this seems rather metaphysical and theoretical, but it is a distinct possibility which cannot be discounted. I imaged this concept out of my idea of thinking rocks .

Another monist possibility is that both the mind and the body do not exist (as we know it), but rather are formed from some other material. In simpler words, both matter and mind are emergent properties of some yet unknown non-thing. This idea was gleaned from the vast tomes of wikipedia.

An elaboration (one among many) of the previous theory is that both mind and matter do not exist, but are illusions. The entire universe, and time itself, does not exist as we percieve it, but is akin to a photograph or hologram. All our memories and perceptions are unreal. We are frozen but we think we are active. In fact, "we" are nonexistent.

Both theories are somewhat less substantial than Physicalism. But their strength is that they cannot be actively disproven, much like we cannot know whether we are trapped inside the matrix. Besides, they might allow the romantic possibility of the immortal human soul, which is so brutally slaughtered by the harsh and inhuman Physicalism.

1 comment:

Jackson Tan said...

I've been thinking about what you wrote... as I've mentioned in my tag-board, I've been introduced to this idea whereby I can accept physicalism, but still allow an independent mental state to exist. Okay, that's not physicalism, but dualism... whatever it is, this argument allows me to apply physical rules to physical things yet argue that there exists the concept of "reason" that is independent of physical laws. The argument for it is rather convincing. I'll probably write something about it soon.