Of Minds, Spirits, and Bodies

January 11, 2009    By: Jacob J @ 7:01 pm   Category: spirit birth,Spirits/Intelligences

What is a spirit? Joseph Smith talked a good deal about spirits and minds, but he never clearly articulated his view of what constitutes a spirit. This leaves us in an unfortunate position of trying to piece together what he must have believed about spirits from other things he said. On one hand, he was clear and consistent in asserting that spirits are co-eternal with God and have existed from all eternity. On the other hand, he used language that suggests an ontological dualism in which mind is a different sort of thing than matter.

The Book of Mormon divides reality into “things to act” and “things to be acted upon.” This bifurcation is found again in modern revelation where it contrasts “element” with “spirit” and “intelligence” (D&C 93:29-36). The language in these passages goes beyond compatibility with dualism and actually suggests it. That is, these texts represent an obstacle for those arguing against an ontological dualism in Joseph Smith’s theology.

Complications

Things are complicated by the vagueness and imprecision of the language in the writings of Joseph Smith. Notice that in D&C 93 “element” (i.e. matter) stands in contrast to “spirit.” But, in D&C 131:7 Joseph tells us that “all spirit is matter” (with spirit matter being more pure/fine/elastic/refined than coarse (regular) matter). If spirit is ultimately a form of matter, where does this leave for mind to fit into the equation? Does this suggest an ontological trialism of mind, spirit matter, and coarse matter? The original divide seemed to be between mind and matter. D&C 131:7 simply divides matter into two kinds (spirit matter and regular matter), thus leaving us with some statements equating mind and spirit and others putting an ontological divide between them. This is not a small problem.

Trying to sort this problem out leads quickly to a bunch of related questions: Must mind be distinct from matter, or could it ultimately be a product of spirit and/or coarse matter? Is “a spirit” the same as “spirit”? Is “intelligence” equivalent to “spirit,” a property of it, or something distinct? In D&C 93, the eternal part of man is “intelligence,” which cannot be created and is “independent …to act for itself.” Is intelligence equivalent to spirit (and therefore a form of matter) or if not, how is it related to spirit? Joseph Smith did not answer these questions and we are left to make our best guesses.

These problems, it should be noted, arise naturally from the theology of Joseph Smith without regard to the ideas of later figures or ideas that sprang up after the life of Joseph Smith. Thus, attempts to marginalize one or another position by explaining them as attempts to harmonize Joseph Smith with the ideas of other people are not persuasive.

Since it is unclear how Joseph Smith would have answered these questions, let’s explore the space a bit.

Eternal Spirits

First, let’s consider the position taken by several people in these parts (Blake, Geoff, J. Stapley) that spirit bodies are eternal. This position rejects the tripartite model in which it is suggested that an uncreated “intelligence” at some point receives a spirit body and then later a physical body. Rather, it suggests that the spirit body is, in fact, uncreated. By rejecting the existence of minds apart from spirit bodies, this position seems to require that mind arises from a spirit body.

In other contexts, Blake (Ostler) has argued that free will radically emerges from a physical brain. This would be one attractive way to solve the mind-body problem with respect to spirits and would fit well with the idea that there is no intelligence separate from a spirit. However, it also introduces some interesting questions.

Intelligence is uncreatable?

D&C 93:29 says (or seems to say) that the intelligent part of man has always existed and is, in principle, uncreatable. “Intelligence …was not created or made, neither indeed can be.” If intelligence is emergent from spirit brains, then this seems to suggest that it is creatable. After all, spirit can take various shapes and the concept of emergence seems to require that in some shapes spirit matter would not be intelligent but in others intelligence would emerge (and thus be created).

A second problem under this heading is that it seems a spirit brain can be destroyed if it is just matter in a certain configuration. One presumes that a spirit hammer could make quick work of a spirit brain. This makes intelligence appear somewhat more fleeting and contingent than what is described by Joseph Smith in the King Follett Discourse.

What is the form of a spirit?

In order for intelligence to be emergent, it seems we are tied to the idea of something like a spirit brain from which the intelligence can emerge. This raises the question of what a spirit looks like. Mark D. has often asked if an uncreated spirit is presumed to have ten fingers and ten toes? If so, we are left to wonder why this human shape has existed from all eternity. Is the human form something of a Platonic ideal?

But there are worse problems here. It becomes extremely problematic to hold to the idea that spirits take a definite form. For example, animals are said to have spirits and evolution has created all sorts of crazy bodily forms, most of which have become extinct. Does this require a pre-existence in which there were spirits that looks like all the extinct species? Furthermore, our physical appearance is largely determined by (1) genetic influences of our parents and (2) our history on earth (accidents, eating habits, etc.). It becomes untenable to hold to the idea that a spirit must match the physical body exactly. Luckily, we can draw on the idea that spirit matter is “elastic” to account for this. Perhaps spirits can stretch to virtually any shape necessary. If this is the case, the idea of a spirit brain with emergent intelligence becomes a thorny issue because emergent intelligence requires a definite shape for our spirit brain. An amorphous blob does not appear to fit our needs.

Wrapping Up This Post

The argument about eternal spirits vs. eternal intelligences who acquire a spirit body is often framed as a battle of Joseph Smith’s ideas vs. later LDS theologians. I believe this framing is both inadequate and ultimately unhelpful, as it avoids the real questions that lie at the heart of this issue.

This post begins a discussion by raising some questions in the context of the “eternal spirit” model. I plan to follow this up with a similar analysis of the “eternal intelligences” model. In the comments, I hope we can discuss the pros and cons of this model with respect to the kinds of issues I have raised in the post. I am hoping we can save the problems with the “eternal intelligences” model for the subsequent thread.1


1. Because I find it an unfortunate stacking of the deck to talk about Joseph Smith’s model vs. B.H. Robert’s model, I am calling them the “eternal spirits” vs. the “eternal intelligences,” both of which come from the language of Joseph Smith’s writings and revelations. I think this is a much more fair-minded way to approach the issue. Maybe if these catch on we will end up referring to the ES model vs. the EI model who knows.

308 Comments »

  1. Jacob: If intelligence is emergent from spirit brains, then this seems to suggest that it is creatable.

    Your error here is assuming that “spirit bodies” are reducible to smaller parts. But for the eternal spirit model to work the eternal spirit must be irreducible (else it would not really be eternal). We have discussed the “whole cloth” model of spirits vs. the particles model in the past here.

    It seems to me that we could say intelligence is emergent even if we go for the “whole cloth” irreducible spirit model.

    But I agree that claiming that beginningless human spirits are eternally in the form of human bodies makes no sense.

    believe this framing is both inadequate and ultimately unhelpful

    Ah but it is helpful depending on one’s purposes. For instance it is a pretty useful rhetorical tool in arguing for the irreducible spirits model in debates. To frame the question as JS vs BY works wonders with lots of people!

    Comment by Geoff J — January 11, 2009 @ 7:57 pm

  2. Geoff,

    I’m going to have to ask a couple of questions. First, in your “whole cloth” model of spirits, is the spirit body made of spirit matter? Tell me more about what constitutes a spirit body on your view. Second, how can there be emergent intelligence from a basic constituent of the universe (your whole cloth spirit)? That seems to defy the basic meaning of the word emergence since this generally refers to properties that arise due to the interactions between component parts of the whole (see wikipedia).

    Comment by Jacob J — January 11, 2009 @ 9:37 pm

  3. First, in your “whole cloth” model of spirits, is the spirit body made of spirit matter?

    Sure, that works. In that model it is spirit in an irreducible and indestructible and eternal state.

    Second, how can there be emergent intelligence from a basic constituent of the universe (your whole cloth spirit)?

    If intelligence were emergent (and I am certainly not selling that idea) in this whole cloth model it would be moot since the spirit from which it emerges is irreducible and unchangeable.

    In my mind, spirits in the whole cloth model simply replace intelligences in the tripartite model. They just are.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 11, 2009 @ 9:50 pm

  4. They just are.

    I think that would work out just fine if it were not for the concept of a spirit body. You say above that whole cloth spirits are made of spirit matter, but apparently not lots of little bits of spirit matter the way our physical bodies are made of lots of little bits of physical matter.

    So, when we break down matter we get molecules, which break down to constituent atoms, which break down to protons, neutrons, and electrons and so forth. It seems that in your model, the fundamental particle in spirit matter is a “spirit body.” Do I have that right?

    Emergence is just one way to account for intelligence. If spirit bodies are material and “whole cloth,” you have to come up with some way to account for them being intelligent. Either intelligence is material (think determinism) or intelligence emerges from spirit matter in some configuration, or …what other options can you think of here?

    Comment by Jacob J — January 11, 2009 @ 10:33 pm

  5. Either intelligence is material (think determinism) or intelligence emerges from spirit matter in some configuration, or …what other options can you think of here?

    How do you account for intelligence in the triparite model? In that model “intelligences” are not material at all and they aren’t don’t emerge from spirit matter.

    I am sort of assuming something similar to intelligences exist. Only they aren’t immaterial cartesian minds, they are irreducible spirits of some kind.

    It seems that in your model, the fundamental particle in spirit matter is a “spirit body.” Do I have that right?

    Well I think we are left to assume that human spirits are irreducible if they are beginningless and eternal. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be other variations on spirit.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 11, 2009 @ 10:50 pm

  6. One option that has not been mentioned yet is panpsychism. Orson Pratt’s is one variation. A more contemporary alternative might propose that all matter (or all spirit matter) has a little bit of intelligence – albeit rather more primitive than what Pratt suggested.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 11, 2009 @ 11:04 pm

  7. Geoff,

    I think our exchange so far may be illustrating the point of this post. First, the motivations to explain things in a tripartite type of model come directly from making sense of the things Joseph Smith said. Full stop. No need to bring in Brigham and B.H. Roberts and spirit birth over-belief and the rest. If this post can get you to rethink your last sentence of this comment I will consider it a success.

    Second, your position is between a rock and a hard place because you reject a three part person, but of the three things we all agree we have (mind/spirit body/physical body) no two of them are easily reducible to one. The tripartite model solves the problem by suggesting that they are all three different and distinct. The eternal spirits model requires that mind and spirit body be inseparable, uncreatable, and eternal. So far, your explanations for how this can be have been less than persuasive. Saying that they are “irreducible spirits of some kind” rather than cartesian minds makes a distinction but does not seem to offer a difference. I am really at a loss to understand where a spirit body fits in your formulation.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 11, 2009 @ 11:36 pm

  8. Mark, I didn’t even attempt to mention the various options, which is why panpsychism has not come up. I tried to summarize and frame a problem and then probe into one commonly held (for this blog) solution. By the way, do you subscribe to panpsychism?

    Comment by Jacob J — January 11, 2009 @ 11:38 pm

  9. Well said, Jacob.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 11, 2009 @ 11:40 pm

  10. Subscribe to panpsychism?: No, I prefer a tri-partite model. I consider panpsychism, however, immensely superior to any suggestion of radical emergence.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 11, 2009 @ 11:46 pm

  11. Nice post Jacob.

    I do take a bit of issue with #7. I think the tripartite model (which I prefer – being one of the idiot over believers) is a reconciliation tool. It seems it’s purpose is to reconcile some of JS statements with other authoritative statements.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — January 12, 2009 @ 5:32 am

  12. Jacob J: from our discussions here, I’d say what is necessitated is proving that the state “spirit body” exists. Scripturally, I am not sure it can be proven. From my discussions with J. Stapley, I am let to understand that he holds to an idea of us being irreducible spirits, and then we are put into a physical body without any intermediate step.

    This is one of the reasons that to me a 3 step model and a 2 step model are just not that different from each other, because you have the same beginning and end, when you get down to it.

    Personally, I probably hold to an idea that at some point in time we went from being eternal spirits outside of a relationship with Heavenly Father to eternal spirits inside of a relationship with Heavenly Father, to mortal persons. I think of that as “tripartite” but others would say it isn’t.

    I guess what I am saying is I am entirely unsure of the “doctrinality” of a spirit body.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 12, 2009 @ 8:10 am

  13. My personal view of it is that all things are made from similar matter: physical, spirit, mind. This matter is called by a variety of names: Intelligence, Light of Christ, light and truth, etc.

    As particles of light/intelligence are organized together into higher spheres, we get new creation from matter that has always existed. Even the mind/intellect can be developed via such light. Jesus told us that when the eye is full of light, so is the whole body; otherwise there is darkness. The light of Christ permeates all of space, inspiring mankind. Why not also give mankind the ability to develop mind/intellect, just like any other body part develops?

    We say that God has always been God, but then most of us give caveats (excepting Blake, perhaps). We see Jesus as eternal, and co-eternal with God, yet also know that he has evolved as we are evolving. There is an eternal sense to all of us, yet the sum of the parts are not equal to the whole.

    Comment by Rameumptom — January 12, 2009 @ 8:34 am

  14. Yes, what Matt said. Basically, there is no reason to say that spirit and mind are different. The whole idea of a spirit body is question-begging.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 12, 2009 @ 8:51 am

  15. Jacob: First, the motivations to explain things in a tripartite type of model come directly from making sense of the things Joseph Smith said. Full stop.

    Well I do think it is an attempt to try to attempt to harmonize the things Joseph said earlier vs. what he said later. The problem is that it seems clear to me that Joseph’s opinions changed over time and some of what he said in the 40’s cannot be harmonized with what he said in the 30’s. Rather, it looks to me like he replaced some of what he said in the 30’s with entirely new ideas.

    We all do the same thing over time I think. For some time at this blog I argued for the Orson Pratt model of spirits/intelligences but now I have changed my mind and argue against it.

    I think that the problem is that the concept of truly beginningless human-level minds/intelligences/spirits changes the theological underpinnings of a religion significantly — more significantly that Joseph even realized perhaps. In fact it seems to me that it tends to lead to the ideas I talked about in this post.

    However, since you are fishing for a concession from me I will concede that while the tripartite model still pits BY and Roberts against 1844 Joseph, we also are stuck pitting earlier Joseph against 1844 Joseph on that count.

    our position is between a rock and a hard place because you reject a three part person

    I don’t see how a two part position is any tougher than the three part position when it comes to explaining the source of intelligence. Why do you say it is so? It is as easy to assume that a mind is the result of a unique kind of irreducible spirit as it is to assume minds simply eternally float through space after all. In fact, the former seems more intuitive than the latter to me.

    I am really at a loss to understand where a spirit body fits in your formulation.

    I haven’t argued for a spirit body. In fact I argue a spirit body that looks/behaves like human bodies makes little sense at all. That is the problem with the tripartite model — it seems to introduce an entirely superfluous component to the model.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 12, 2009 @ 8:53 am

  16. So, what do you guys make of the spirit body of Christ being shown to the brother of Jared?

    I also side with a tripartite model because it at least keeps something along the lines of spirit birth open as an option, where eternal spirits put an end to all that.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — January 12, 2009 @ 9:38 am

  17. Eric:

    I think the response I got when I asked the same question of J. was that it was a special revelation. It is a good question though, and is a good argument for the case of spirit bodies, but it is not, of itself, indefatigable.

    I think eternal spirits has “something along the lines of spirit birth” open to it, it just is a matter of how far “along the lines” one is willing to go, figuratively and literally. You and I have already discussed spirit adoption as an alternative here, for example.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 12, 2009 @ 9:50 am

  18. That is a good point, Eric. Our metaphysics here are a bit odd. We believe that spirits are material; but they are not material in any way that makes sense to our modern empiricism. I think that what Joseph was getting at is the idea that spirits are real. (this is a problem with the Cartesian mind – there is no such thing as immaterial mater – grin). So we all agree that spirits exist and that some appear in the form of a person. But to say that there is a spiritual physiology that arises from some sort of organization is simply making stuff up.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 12, 2009 @ 9:54 am

  19. However, since you are fishing for a concession from me I will concede that while the tripartite model still pits BY and Roberts against 1844 Joseph, we also are stuck pitting earlier Joseph against 1844 Joseph on that count.

    Dude, you rock. Very magnanimous of you.

    It is as easy to assume that a mind is the result of a unique kind of irreducible spirit as it is to assume minds simply eternally float through space after all.

    Yes, these seem equivalent to me, unless you can give me some idea how a “unique kind of irreducible spirit” is different than the “floating mind.”

    That is the problem with the tripartite model — it seems to introduce an entirely superfluous component to the model.

    Interesting. This is the first time I’ve heard you argue against the tripartite model in this fashion (that I can remember). This is apparently the J. Stapley route as well. I actually had a post started about the possibility of rejecting the idea of a spirit body before I wrote this one, but I didn’t think anyone held that view, so I was holding off until I could gather opinions on the topic and present the problem. I do think there are some problems rejecting the notion of a spirit body, but I’ll try to gather these for a different post.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 12, 2009 @ 9:57 am

  20. J,

    But to say that there is a spiritual physiology that arises from some sort of organization is simply making stuff up.

    Yes, but to say something is material but has none of the characteristics or properties of matter is worse than making stuff up, it seems to be rather disingenuous on its face. Do you see what I mean?

    Comment by Jacob J — January 12, 2009 @ 10:01 am

  21. Jacob:
    I do think there are some problems rejecting the notion of a spirit body, but I’ll try to gather these for a different post.

    Awesome, I’m looking forward to it (crossing it off my lift of posts to write)

    Comment by Matt W. — January 12, 2009 @ 10:03 am

  22. Eric (#16),

    In addition to the excellent responses already which I agreed with, I will say that when I searched for “spirit body” in gospel link I got a remarkably high number of references to that scripture. I’ll go on record that if this is our best evidence for a spirit body I don’t think it is much to go on.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 12, 2009 @ 10:06 am

  23. (crossing it off my lift of posts to write)

    Should we collaborate? Do you have some stuff gathered already? I’d hate to botch it.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 12, 2009 @ 10:07 am

  24. There are numerous problems with the idea that spirits have a form but no physiology. The first problem is what purpose is served by a form that has no function? Eyes that cannot see, ears that cannot hear?

    The second problem is that a form without structure is unstable. Atomic bonds have structural memory – they do not have to be “told” to remain in position. Should we suppose that by contrast a spirit maintains its shape by continuous mental effort?

    A third problem is mental memory. Where is a spirit going to keep long term storage of the things it learns except in some sort of brain? What about instincts, habits, and the like? One might wonder why we have a brain at all, if we could so easily get along without one.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 12, 2009 @ 11:32 am

  25. Mark, the problem is that you are simply arguing analogically. This is how some of our most silly ideas come (T K Smoothie, anyone?). We simply don’t know about the physical nature of spirits. If you want to make something up about them, I will bet every time that you will be wrong.

    Joseph used interchangeably intelligence, spirit and mind. There isn’t much we can realiably say beyond that without adopting some of the post Joseph Smith innovations (which I would mostly classify as analogical stuff-making up).

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 12, 2009 @ 11:37 am

  26. T K Smoothie, anyone?

    No thanks, I just ate.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 12, 2009 @ 11:40 am

  27. For those who are unfamiliar, behold: The TK Smoothie Rule.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 12, 2009 @ 12:00 pm

  28. J. Stapley, You are equally making things up when you assert the contrary. If, on the other hand, you are arguing that we have no rational basis for speculation, we might as well pack up and go home.

    The point is to argue for what most likely to be the case, not to pretend we can come to a definite conclusion. If you would prefer to think that spirits are sui generis magical stretchy stuff that has nothing to do with any of the laws that govern the physical world, that is certainly a viable position.

    You haven’t said a word, however, about why we should think such a state of being is likely, or – more to the point – given us an answer to such basic questions as why we have a body at all.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 12, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

  29. Mark,

    J. Stapley, You are equally making things up when you assert the contrary.

    I think Stapley is simply saying we have good scriptural and textual evidence for an eternal mind, but not for a quasi-material spirit body. Thus, he is arguing his position from the evidence of what has been revealed rather than from a logical argument of the kind you are advancing in #24.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 12, 2009 @ 12:15 pm

  30. Mark, I am a chemist. There is no evidence of which I am aware that spirits have any relation to the “laws that govern the physical world.” Are you aware of any?

    I’m not sure why having a physical body is so much better than not having one, except to say that it is revealed that only with one is there a fullness of joy. Do you know why that is?

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 12, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

  31. Jacob #22:

    I thought of another one. We usually think of the personage who gave Nephi the tour of Lehi’s dream as the Holy Ghost (right?), so this might be another glimpse of pre mortal spirit bodies.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — January 12, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

  32. J.Stapley,

    Direct evidence, no. In the absence of direct evidence, I will take anything I can get that allows me to rank various possibilities. And there is plenty of indirect and suggestive evidence in both science and scripture.

    First, by some means or another spirits and ordinary matter interact with each other. Otherwise the spirit would (1) not be able to control the body and (2) would not have any perception of what is going on in the outside world. That means that it is a foregone conclusion that the laws that govern spirit “matter” are not totally distinct from those that govern ordinary matter, but rather form a tightly coupled set, as tightly coupled as say, electricity and magnetism.

    Joseph Smith said (paraphrasing) said that power comes in having a body, and that spirits that had bodies had power over those that did not. I take that to imply that a body actually has a useful function over and above whatever remains when there is no body. Thus if there is a spirit body, it must do something, or it would have no reason to exist (be maintained, etc). at all. The law of parsimony in other words…

    Comment by Mark D. — January 12, 2009 @ 12:44 pm

  33. Also, is not D&C 77:2 relevant here.

    I think we have much more to go on than you are giving credit.

    Also see the definition of spirit in True to the Faith.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — January 12, 2009 @ 12:45 pm

  34. Mark, it seems to me that the body has significant amount of control on what it is we are and how we behave. I’m not sure there is any way to distinguish. So if you want to create a non-testable cosmology, that is fine; but it isn’t particularly based in reality. Orson Pratt did it. Widtsoe did it. I like both those guys a lot. They were also significantly wrong.

    Eric, I agree that spirits appear in the form that they existed on earth. Not sure what you mean by more than I’m giving credit.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 12, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

  35. J. Stapley, How do you know that Pratt and Widstoe were wrong?

    Comment by Mark D. — January 12, 2009 @ 1:01 pm

  36. The universal ether didn’t work so well, it turned out.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 12, 2009 @ 1:30 pm

  37. Just in defense of Widtsoe and his Universal Ether, see this excellent lecture by David Miles.

    He notes:

    taught that there is a power which permeates the universe and governs everything, and that like light it becomes part of everything with which it interacts. This is similar to saying that it follows E=Mc2 (Einstein Out 112-115). In 1908, Brother Widtsoe likened this light to the so-called “universal ether” which was a “certainty of science” and which scientists had hypothesized to explain how light traveled through space (Joseph 19-29). Because of properties they ascribed to this “ether” and the inability to find these properties, the universal ether theory was discarded, based largely on experiments done as far back as 1887, but not fully comprehended until the relativity theory of Einstein (1917). The fact still remains that light does permeate the universe, at a constant speed, and that we detect radio waves (a form of light) from outer space, and though universal ether is gone, the fact of light still exists. Of this, Brother Widtsoe later wrote, “a fact remains unchanged throughout all time; an inference changes as facts accumulate. A straight stick in a pool appears bent, an unchanging fact, all the conditions remaining the same; the theory of light explaining the ‘bent’ stick has already been changed several times, and is subject to more change.” (Search 111)

    Just as we probably shouldn’t dismiss B.H. Roberts for some of his bad science of the time, I think we could forgive Widsoe for things he wrote 15 years before he was an apostle.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 12, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

  38. J.Stapley, You say that we have no rational basis to believe anything about the structure or properties of spirit matter. So on what basis do you conclude that the “universal ether” is not a viable description of the same?

    Comment by Mark D. — January 12, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

  39. I don’t think one criticizes Widstoe on that. (I certainly do) I just think it demonstrates the danger of tying contemporary science and religion. Which is not to say we shouldn’t do it nor can we simply dismiss science (as I think far too many are want to do). The issue of the speed of light is a profound one in LDS theology yet one not at all grappled with by most thinkers. Give Widstoe credit for trying given the understanding of his time.

    Comment by Clark — January 12, 2009 @ 2:11 pm

  40. J. Stapley, while I’m sympathetic to the points you raise it seems Mark’s point is an apt one. Spirits (whatever they are) and matter have to interact. There are fairly significant implications of that.

    Now I reject the common view that we think with our spirit and not our body. I think that the “filter” view of brain just doesn’t work on a whole slew of levels. It is possible to accept only by being ignorant of a whole slew of cognitive science and neurology. So I favor a view in which “mind” is an emergent phenomena somehow out of brain and spirit.

    Given that we don’t know what a spirit is though there are lots of options.

    As to Pratt and Widsoe being wrong while they were wrong on some points (such as the aether) I think we should be careful not to discount too much. That is while I tend to think Pratt’s intelligent atoms is ridiculous I am more sympathetic to spirits being something with property dualism inherent to matter in general.

    Comment by Clark — January 12, 2009 @ 2:21 pm

  41. To add the passage that we must deal with is D&C 131:7. However I’d caution that how to take it isn’t clear. (Perhaps J. Stapley’s unstated point) For instance Quinn, in passing, mentions neoPlatonism which I’ve long thought an intriguing way of interpreting the passage.

    One should also note the obvious – that such a view of spirits was remarkably common through time. i.e. that they were phenomenologically material – only fine. This is still a very common way to present ghosts.

    So I’m not sure one should read D&C 131 as implying too much ontologically. It might just reflect a view that spirits are in the world without saying much about what that means.

    Comment by Clark — January 12, 2009 @ 2:25 pm

  42. If the ionization rate for all ectoplazmic entities is constant, we could really bust some heads.

    In a spiritual sense.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — January 12, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

  43. Forgive me if I’m not up to speed on any past topical conversations, but I’ve always had some lingereing questions or thoughts about the relationship between the “soul/mind/consciousness” and the “physical body”.

    Example: When I had surgery I was put under and the last thing I remember was counting down and then blank – no dreams, nothing. All I remember is waking up doped up.

    Comment by Riley — January 12, 2009 @ 2:51 pm

  44. Clark, I don’t believe in a universal ether either. However, I think it would be instructive for you to tell us how you know (or even have reason to believe) that a universal ether does not accurately describe spirit matter.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 12, 2009 @ 2:57 pm

  45. So when my physical bodies consciousness goes, like it did in surgery, then why doesn’t my spirit consciousness kick in separately? (similar to what people have described with near death experiences).

    Comment by Riley — January 12, 2009 @ 3:47 pm

  46. Riley, I would say that as long as your physical body is viable, your spirit is tightly bound to it – conscious or not. I mean, I haven’t had any out of body experiences lately. Have you?

    Comment by Mark D. — January 12, 2009 @ 3:54 pm

  47. Riley, see this article RE NDEs. My friend Kevin lays it out pretty well here.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 12, 2009 @ 4:06 pm

  48. Yes, I think Clark and I are getting at the same issues and are largely in agreement.

    Mark, I simply don’t think there is enough data, revealed or empiric, to have any sort of confidence about a given theory of spirit physiology. If you want to argue for one, that is fine, but like I said, I will bet you are wrong.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 12, 2009 @ 4:50 pm

  49. What do you mean by universal aether? The obvious problem with such a scenario (which wasn’t what Pratt/Widstoe asserted – they were talking about The Spirit rather than merely spirit matter) is individuality.

    Comment by Clark — January 12, 2009 @ 5:06 pm

  50. Clark,

    I am more sympathetic to spirits being something with property dualism inherent to matter in general.

    Cool, that sounds more like the sort of theory I talked about in the post. Any take on the problems I laid out?

    Comment by Jacob J — January 12, 2009 @ 5:11 pm

  51. J.,

    I simply don’t think there is enough data, revealed or empiric, to have any sort of confidence about a given theory of spirit physiology.

    I am a bit annoyed that you are suddenly the one urging caution when you have made fairly [edit: confident] remarks in the past about people who accept a tripartite model. If things are really as uncertain as you are saying, why not give more leeway for various solutions to these problems we are discussing. Certainly the idea of spirit bodies is implicit in early scriptures and writings, so given the problems with equating mind and spirit body, why isn’t the tripartite model a reasonable working theory in the absence of revelation? I don’t think I saw any response to my #20, did I miss it?

    Comment by Jacob J — January 12, 2009 @ 5:17 pm

  52. No I haven’t either luckily, but why would loss of consciousness of the physical body stop by mind from continuing on? Does that make sense? It seems to me that our physical bodies have great influence over our spirits in such a way that it can stop conscious awareness.

    Comment by Riley — January 12, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

  53. Sorry, that was for Mark D

    Comment by Riley — January 12, 2009 @ 5:22 pm

  54. I don’t think your lack of memory of that event should be taken as evidence one way or the other Riley. Lots of people can’t remember their dreams or don’t dream at all. Yet that is hardly evidence one way or the other about the existence of spirits/intelligences/minds separate from bodies.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 12, 2009 @ 5:43 pm

  55. Riley, Yes, that is what I mean by “tightly bound”, i.e. the spirit is so tightly coupled to the body that it does not operate independently of it.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 12, 2009 @ 5:46 pm

  56. Prior to death-like trauma of course…

    Comment by Mark D. — January 12, 2009 @ 5:47 pm

  57. Hm. I guess I missread your #20, Jacob. I’ll start off by saying that I think that analogical reasioning requires essentially a contained system. I.e., the same rules apply. So for example, if I get spectra from an excited atom this will be the same spectra from the same type of atom in a star a billion years old. I think you would agree that this doesn’t hold for non-mortal reasoning. E.g., humans have sex to reproduce, therefor resurrected beings create spirits by having sex.

    So for understanding human nature outside of mortality, we are stuck with different modes of reasoning. I presume that we all to a greater or less extent accept teachings by various church leaders as authoritative. Does not everyone agree that Joseph Smith taught and revealed (Abraham) that spirits “have no beginning” and that he referred to the spirit, mind and intelligence interchangeably during the last year of his life? That coupled with the development of BY, OP and BHR’s ideas on the matter lead me to believe in a strictly JS perspective. I don’t see how such a belief is in anyway contradicted by a desire to not just make stuff up. In fact, it specifically rejects BHR on those very grounds.

    The truth is that we don’t have much data on spirit ontology (or resurected being ontology, for that matter – what does it mean to have flesh and bone and yet travel through walls?). If you would like to make a case for a certain physiology of spirit, the burden is on you to supply the data, either revelatory or empiric in nature, to back it up. I think you will have a hard row to hoe.

    Relating to the ether, I realize that Pratt and Widtsoe were not the same, but I think my reading of Widtsoe in particular differs from yours Clark. E.g.:

    The kind of matter which impresses our mortal senses, is [not] the kind of matter which is associated with heavenly beings. The distinction between matter known to man and the spirit matter is very great; but no greater than is the difference between the matter of the known elements and that of the universal ether which forms one of the accepted dogmas of science (Joseph Smith as Scientist, 12-13).

    Matter may act upon the ether and the ether upon matter; but ether acts most effectively on ether, and matter upon matter. The original man, in whom intelligence and other forces acted through a purely spiritual or ether body could impress matter and be impressed only in part …for man’s perfection therefore it became necessary that his spiritual body should be clothed with a material one, and that he should become as familiar with the world of matter, as he had become with the world of spirit (Ibid., 116)

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 12, 2009 @ 6:13 pm

  58. Geoff J,
    Sorry, maybe I wasnt clear. I didnt mean conscious of dreaming when I go to bed or pass out, I meant it when someone is put under anesthesia.

    Comment by Riley — January 12, 2009 @ 7:40 pm

  59. J,

    When Joseph says that “all spirit is matter,” this must means something. However, you seem to be using your “limits of analogical reasoning” argument to say that we can’t derive any meaning from this statement, since we know nothing about “spirit matter.” While I sympathetic to your point, I think you are taking it too far. Certainly we are justified in assuming that there must be some basic similarities between spirit matter and physical matter. In fact, Joseph gave us some caveats which give us some sense of scope as to the differences between physical and spirit matter:

    7 There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes;
    8 We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter.

    The content and tone of the italicized parts give the clear impression that spirit matter is mostly the same kind of stuff that physical matter is. He says it is more fine and invisible to our eyes, but once we see it we’ll realize it is basically the same thing we are already familiar with.

    If I understand your argument, it is that “spirit” is a synonym of “mind” (citing Joseph’s using these terms interchangeably). The burden of theology is then on you to make sense of the fact that mind is fundamentally material. This is something that you do not seem ready to do.

    Despite your efforts to say you are sticking to a “strictly JS perspective,” I don’t see how you account for the fact that the notion of a spirit body comes directly from the perspective of JS? How do you account for the fact that spirits pretty much uniformly appear in human form (HG in the form of a dove possible exception)? Whatever your answer, it almost certainly qualifies as “making stuff up” in the way you’ve been using that term.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 12, 2009 @ 7:52 pm

  60. …give the clear impression that spirit matter is mostly the same kind of stuff that physical matter is. He says it is more fine and invisible to our eyes, but once we see it we’ll realize it is basically the same thing we are already familiar with.

    I don’t follow. I think if such a statement were true, then there would be some sort of empirical evidence. Now, it could be that we just don’t have the physics down pat and that when we untangle string theory, we will find the calculations that describe spirit matter. Or maybe not. I tend to think not. I don’t think Joseph had any real scientific ideas about what matter was when he made that statement, except to say that it is real and that it exists.

    The burden of theology is then on you to make sense of the fact that mind is fundamentally material. This is something that you do not seem ready to do.

    I don’t disagree that our mind now is apparently physical. Are you saying that conscious existence didn’t exist before mortality? It seems like everyone agrees that spirits are conscious, self aware, thinking beings. So what exactly do I have to do? I don’t think that there is any question that the nature of our existence was radically transformed upon entering mortality. Do you disagree with that? I agree that spirits exist and are real, and is some form are material, though we have no clue in what way.

    I don’t see how you account for the fact that the notion of a spirit body comes directly from the perspective of JS? How do you account for the fact that spirits pretty much uniformly appear in human form (HG in the form of a dove possible exception)?

    I’m not certain that I need to explain why spirits appear in the form of humans. We have revelatory data that they do. I don’t see the question that you seem to be asserting as self evident. However, were I to posit the mutability of spirit form, I would point to the reality that post mortal spirits tend to resemble their mortal incarnation (at least colloquially). Lest we forsake all semblances of free will, then the pre-mortal spirit and post-mortal spirit look different (to those with pure eyes, of course). Thus logically, spirits can change form (not to mention the splendid case of the liger). But I don’t really see that as being all that important to Mormon cosmology.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 12, 2009 @ 8:47 pm

  61. Riley,

    What makes unconsciousness under anesthesia different? I think my point holds. It is not like your spirit leaves your body while under anesthesia.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 12, 2009 @ 11:01 pm

  62. Jacob,

    I am not clear what your position is on “intelligences”. Do you think they are totally independent of matter? If so I think the key question is how does a totally immaterial intelligence interact with a material spirit?

    That is one of the main issues I have with the tripartite model. It seems to me to try to avoid sticky questions but in reality just ends up trying to weep them under the rug by pushing the same hard questions back one level. So it doesn’t really solve the important questions at all in my opinion.

    I think the really important question is the one Clark called out earlier: How do spirits interact with bodies? Too bad we have nearly no data to base our speculations about that upon.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 12, 2009 @ 11:31 pm

  63. Here is Joseph Smith, from an editorial in Times and Seasons during the period when he was editor:

    In tracing the thing to the foundation, and looking at it philosophically we shall find a very material difference between the body and the spirit: the body is supposed to be organized matter, and the spirit by many is thought to be immaterial, without substance. With this latter statement we should beg leave to differ-and state that spirit is a substance; that it is material, but that it is more pure, elastic, and refined matter than the body;-that it existed before the body, can exist in the body, and will exist separate from the body, when the body will be mouldering in the dust; and will in the resurrection be again united with it (Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, editorial, April 1, 1842)

    Note that he says here that “spirit is a substance” – not “a spirit” is something, but “spirit” is something, and a substance at that. And not just that spirit is “material”, but that it is “more, pure, elastic, and refined matter than the body”. i.e. not some je ne sais quoi, but more or less an analog of ordinary matter.

    It is worth mentioning that the atomic theory of matter gained renewed currency with the work of John Dalton in 1803. I find it difficult to believe that there was any confusion about the common understanding of the term “matter” in 1842. As evidence, I quote from an 1840 publication of Parley Pratt’s:

    Hence we conclude that matter as well as spirit is eternal, uncreated, self-existing. However infinite the variety of its changes, forms and shapes;- However vast and varying the parts it has to act in the great theatre of the universe; – whatever sphere its several parts may be destined to fill in the boundless organization of infinite wisdom. yet it is there, durable as the throne of Jehovah. And ETERNITY is inscribed in indelible characters on every particle.

    Revolution may succeed revolution, … element may war against element in awful majesty, while thunders roll from sky to sky, and arrows of lightning break the mountains asunder – scatter the rocks like hailstones – set worlds on fire, and melt the elements with fervent heat, and yet not one grain can be lost – not one particle can be annihilated.

    (“The Regeneration and Eternal Duration of Matter”, Parley P. Pratt, 1840, emphasis added).

    It is certainly possible that Joseph Smith thought that spirit was amorphous gelatin all the way down, but his own writing and that of his contemporaries implies that he much more likely thought it was a substance composed of fine particles like ordinary matter.

    Given his other statements about the eternality of “spirits”, one might well conclude that the seeds of the tripartite model were in his own writing, if not already an explicit mental distinction. How else are we supposed to account for his dual use of “spirit” as both a countable and an uncountable noun?

    Comment by Mark D. — January 13, 2009 @ 12:50 am

  64. First off, are we really certain that JS wrote that editorial? I’m willing to consider your argument regardless, but I would be fairly shocked if he actually wrote it. Either way, I think you are misreading what the editorial says. It does not say that as our physical bodies are made up of molecules, so are our are our spirit bodies made of the spirit molecules. I take it as what it says, that the author believed that spirits have substance and are material in some way.

    If it is an analogue to ordinary matter, I would love, again, some sort of empiric evidence that it exists. That being said, the assertion that spirits are material does not preclude the idea of spiritual atomism; it just does not necessitate it…leads me to another area of confusion. Both amorphous and gelatin are descriptors of physical matter.

    I will also agree that most people believed in some form of particle theory of matter, though rudimentary. I will also agree that people used spirit and intelligence in differing ways throughout the restoration. What is key, however, is how Joseph Smith used them when he revealed his ultimate theology in his last years. Joseph constantly upgraded the meaning of terms (e.g., sealing, new and everlasting covenant, intelligence, etc.).

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 13, 2009 @ 8:25 am

  65. Mark: one might well conclude that the seeds of the tripartite model were in his own writing, if not already an explicit mental distinction.

    Really? I hear explicit arguments against the tripartite model in those quotes. It seems to rail against the idea of immaterial spirits yet that is precisely what the so-called intelligences are in the tripartite model — immaterial spirits.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2009 @ 9:02 am

  66. Excellent point, Geoff.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 13, 2009 @ 9:05 am

  67. J. Stapley I was more thinking of Pratt. I have some comments on Widstoe but I don’t have time to make them right now. I’ll put it on my increasingly long list of “things to do.”

    Geoff, I tend to agree with Mark that the seeds of the tripartite model can be found in Smith’s comments even if they aren’t there explicitly. Chaulk an other up to my list.

    J. Stapley, your point about Joseph “upgrading” his terms is important. I think we have to keep that in mind when looking at his discussion of spirits.

    Comment by clark — January 13, 2009 @ 9:14 am

  68. BTW – Geoff, while Robert’s tripartite model has intelligences as Cartesian minds there’s no particular reason one has to have that ontology in the tripartite model. Pratt’s doesn’t, for instance. For him intelligences are matter yet I see Pratt’s model as effectively tripartite. Indeed I think Roberts largely lifted the model from Pratt combined with the philosophy he was reading on mind which was substance dualist rather than property dualist.

    Comment by clark — January 13, 2009 @ 9:18 am

  69. Geoff (#62),

    Difficulties solving the mind-body problem are at the top of the list for the “eternal intelligences” model, but I was saving those for a later thread as I said in the last paragraph. However, given that you and J. are describing “spirits” as being indistinguishable from immaterial intelligences, you have the same problem with your whole cloth spirit. I keep trying to get you two to engage the problem of what it means for your mind to be fundamentally material (and offered what I think is the best possibility (emergence) in the post) but so far all I get is that you have denied all the implications of it being material while holding that it is material. Basically you are trying to have it both ways on the issue of minds being material.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 13, 2009 @ 9:25 am

  70. Geoff, who says that intelligences are immaterial?

    Intelligences are spirits without an extended spirit body – that is the only reason for the distinction. They must be material in the broad sense of the term in order to have any interaction with the outside world.

    If one manages to dispense with the existence of the spirit body, I agree the distinction is entirely superfluous.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 13, 2009 @ 9:29 am

  71. Jacob, I don’t see it that way. It seems to me that you want spirits to be material without resolving the fact that there is no physical evidence for spirits. While I assert that spirits are without beginning, as the scripture says, I have no problem with the idea that they are also material in some way that we don’t understand in the least bit. Seriously, how is that trying have it both ways? Just because I think that your analogical reasoning is faulty doesn’t mean that I am not engaging the issue.

    If the question is how can spirits be material (though in a way we don’t understand) and have a mind, I must confess that I don’t understand what you are getting at.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 13, 2009 @ 9:33 am

  72. Mark (#63), Precisely.

    Stapley (#64), Of course we are not certain that JS wrote that article for TS, but he was talking about that subject in Jan of that year (according to his journal) and it was a year later that he made the statement recorded as D&C 131:7, which does not differ substantively. Hence, I’d say we have fairly good reason to suppose that what is in that TS article reflects ideas JS had been teaching that year. (I’m sure you know all this and more without me saying it, so I’m not sure why this is a sticking point.)

    (#60) Even without the TS article, Mark’s comment relies entirely on a concept of spirit stated explicitly in D&C 131:7 which is that spirit matter is basically the same kind of thing regular matter is, the primary difference being in that it is more fine and invisible to our eyes. To this point, you said:

    I don’t follow. I think if such a statement were true, then there would be some sort of empirical evidence.

    I find this totally inadequate. You are simply rejecting what was revealed by JS in D&C 131 based on a requirement that the spiritual world be scientifically observable. That is just making stuff up. If you are going to stick to the JS perspective, stick to it. If you are going to reject parts of it because they don’t match your expectation for the spiritual world, then you are doing the same thing you keep preaching against (vis a vis making stuff up).

    I don’t disagree that our mind now is apparently physical. Are you saying that conscious existence didn’t exist before mortality?

    No, that’s not what I’m saying. I am saying that in claiming the mind is material there are some obvious problems which must be dealt with. First, we have the basic problem of determinism and free-will (I know you accept determinism, but Geoff doesn’t). Material things obey the laws of physics. Joseph said spirit is material. If you are positing that spiritual matter shares nothing of similarity with physical matter in its basic mode of being, then you are simply making stuff up. D&C 131 is fairly clear as to Joseph’s intention, as I already pointed out.

    I’m not certain that I need to explain why spirits appear in the form of humans.

    You don’t have to, but ignoring any part of the theology that seems on its face to go against your theory of spirits will not help your case. You have said that spirits don’t have a form, they are basically floating minds (I’m waiting for the description of how they differ from floating minds). Yet, they consistently show up as humans, D&C 77 speaks of the human spirit being in likeness of the physical body, JS talks about offering your hand to shake with a spirit (D&C 129), and in Ether Christ tells the brother of Jared that he is showing him the body of his spirit. Your position that all of this explains itself is somewhat perplexing.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 13, 2009 @ 9:42 am

  73. Geoff (#65), this doesn’t seem like a great point to me. Rather, it appears you are missing Mark’s point.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 13, 2009 @ 9:43 am

  74. Yes Geoff (re70) I do not think that tripartite models require immaterial intelligences.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — January 13, 2009 @ 9:43 am

  75. J.

    …without resolving the fact that there is no physical evidence for spirits.

    I also have not resolved the fact that there is no physical evidence for God, heaven, or the spirit world. Your demand for physical evidence before we accept the revelations of JS is just blowing my brain.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 13, 2009 @ 9:48 am

  76. Eric (#74), drive by comment. Say more. (like why)

    Comment by Jacob J — January 13, 2009 @ 9:49 am

  77. I also have not resolved the fact that there is no physical evidence for God, heaven, or the spirit world. Your demand for physical evidence before we accept the revelations of JS is just blowing my brain.

    Think this is were we are getting down to the core issues. I’m not saying that we need evidence to accept the revelations. I have already and repeatedly stated that I believe that spirits are material. I have no problem entertaining the idea that spirits are both material and sensient. I’m just saying that your line of reasoning is faulty.

    I find this totally inadequate. You are simply rejecting what was revealed by JS in D&C 131 based on a requirement that the spiritual world be scientifically observable. That is just making stuff up. If you are going to stick to the JS perspective, stick to it.

    Look, I accept D&C 131. What I am saying is that the nature of spirit materiality is beyond the comprehension of science for know and the foreseeable future. Any attempts to integrate spirit materiality into science have failed. I submit that any attempt to describe the materiality of spirits in the terms of our science is making stuff up, because there is simply no evidence. I defy you to show me where I have made anything up or deviated from Smithian cosmology.

    You don’t have to, but ignoring any part of the theology that seems on its face to go against your theory of spirits will not help your case. You have said that spirits don’t have a form, they are basically floating minds (I’m waiting for the description of how they differ from floating minds).

    I have never asserted that spirits were floating minds, only that they have a degree of malleability to their form; which I presume, you accept as well. I don’t see how I have ignored any theology; I affirm that spirits typically appear in the form of humans.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 13, 2009 @ 10:19 am

  78. should have been: “I’m not saying that we need scientific evidence to accept the revelations.”

    To further amplify the thought, what I am saying is that in order to make scientific conclusions about spirits, you need scientific data.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 13, 2009 @ 10:25 am

  79. …also, I have never taken an absolute determinist position. I have just criticized libertarian free will as having insignificant evidential basis.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 13, 2009 @ 10:29 am

  80. Mark (#70): Geoff, who says that intelligences are immaterial?

    BH Roberts does.

    But Clark has a good point that while the Roberts version of the tripartite model is most popular one could come up with other variations. One model that could work would be a variation on Pratt’s panpsychism where an “intelligence” is just a particularly smart/powerful spirit atom. So if a “spirit body” was a single smart spirit atom at the center of a bunch of other atoms that might be effectively a tripartite model I suppose.

    What do you have in mind with material intelligences? (This same question applies to Eric BTW)

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2009 @ 10:48 am

  81. Geoff, I think the idea that intelligences are immaterial is untenable for exactly the same reason the idea that spirit is immaterial is – namely that if an intelligence has nothing in common with matter it is hard to see how it could have any effect on it. It would be a causal non-entity.

    In Pratt’s model, all particles are intelligences, and potentially first class intelligences at that. In the model I am suggesting, there is only one intelligence per spirit. All other particles, spirit and conventional matter both, are dumb by comparison.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 13, 2009 @ 11:29 am

  82. Rather, it appears you are missing Mark’s point.

    I simply was calling out what I thought was a more important point that quote of his showed.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2009 @ 11:34 am

  83. Mark,

    Yeah, that was sort of what I was implying in #80. I think there is room to interpret Pratt that way too. BTW — Orson Scott Card wrote about just that with his fictional Enderverse.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2009 @ 11:44 am

  84. Geoff, I know Clark claims that Roberts held strictly to Cartesian minds, but this does not seem to be evident from his later works, such as “The immortality of man”, on this subject. It was the Immortality of man that he was allowed to put forth as official church doctrine, and near as I can recall, it does not push for cartesian minds as intelligences. Is it possible that like we have discussed Smith here, Roberts also adjusted his model as information became available.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 13, 2009 @ 11:56 am

  85. I have taken it as a given that Roberts preached immaterial intelligences. Do you know of any places where he preached that intelligences are made of matter Matt?

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2009 @ 12:02 pm

  86. WE know Roberts said this

    Let it be observed that I say nothing as to the mode of the existence of these intelligences, beyond the fact of their eternity. But of their form, or the manner of their subsistence nothing, so far as I know, has been revealed, and hence we are without means of knowing anything about the modes of their existence beyond the fact of it, and the essential qualities they possess, which already have been pointed out.

    Which amounts to him say he didn’t know whether they were or were not material or immaterial.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 13, 2009 @ 12:24 pm

  87. Geoff,

    In my model a spirit body is a composite structure with some sort of physiology (or why have one at all?). Asserting that a spirit body is composed of only one particle is practically the same as saying spirits don’t have a body at all.

    In contrast to Orson Pratt, I don’t think that a spirit body is remotely elastic enough to transfer across the point of conception. I suggest rather that an embryo grows a new spirit body in parallel with its physical one, that the loss of the prior spirit body accounts for the loss of memory of the pre-mortal state, and the preservation of the spirit body post mortem accounts for the post mortal persistence of the same. This all on the proposition that an intelligence plus a body has far greater capacity than an intelligence in and of itself. (Or again, why have a body at all?)

    Comment by Mark D. — January 13, 2009 @ 12:33 pm

  88. JacobJ (74)

    Matt W. beat me to it in his comment in 86. I do not think Roberts took a stand on the substance of what he would call intelligences. And I do not either. I just think it is fair to say that those who favor the tripartate model do not necessarily have to take a stand on intelligences being material or immaterial. I suppose some could go either way. I could.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — January 13, 2009 @ 12:39 pm

  89. Mark: Asserting that a spirit body is composed of only one particle is practically the same as saying spirits don’t have a body at all.

    Right. See comment #1 here. The size of the irreducible spirit is moot. Whether you call the irreducible spirit’s form a “body” or not is semantics.

    Also, on a side note that has been discussed in this thread — since people almost invariably see spirits in visions the fact that they see them in human form doesn’t prove anything.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2009 @ 12:46 pm

  90. K, this took a bit of digging, but here:

    Intelligence is material. But it isalso conscious. Matter is not. This is the ultimate dualism

    -comments in the Deseret News, 29 August 1901

    (hattip Truman Madsen here)

    Comment by Matt W. — January 13, 2009 @ 12:53 pm

  91. I don’t know how one would explain an immaterial intelligence interaction with matter so it looks like Roberts was smart enough to be non-committal on that front. But if intelligences are made of matter it looks to me like Mark has the only theory here as to how it might work.

    I still think some complex “spirit body” would be totally superfluous. I also don’t see much evidence for the existence of such a thing. The body quotes we have seen in this thread look like they apply to physical bodies to me.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2009 @ 12:56 pm

  92. Intelligence is material. But it isalso conscious. Matter is not. This is the ultimate dualism

    Umm, sounds like the ultimate contradiction to me.

    “Intelligence is conscious matter
    Matter is not conscious”

    Uh huh…

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2009 @ 12:59 pm

  93. Dog gone it. An opportunity to follow a conversation on this topic from the start foiled again. Dang rickets.

    Comment by BHodges — January 13, 2009 @ 1:04 pm

  94. Geoff:

    To take Roberts words and push them around a bit:

    There are two kinds of fundamental material substance. Both are material. One is conscious, the other is not. One we will call intelligence, the other we will call matter.

    Unless you were just being funny, then I feel stupid :)

    Comment by Matt W. — January 13, 2009 @ 1:05 pm

  95. Geoff: If a spirit in actuality has a spatially extended form, with eyes, hands and feet, etc. we can certainly unambiguously say it has a body.

    My position on spirit bodies is three fold: (1) If they exist, they have a purpose (2) If they have a (non-trivial) form, they are composite in structure. (3) If they exist, is better to have a spirit body than not to have one.

    I think that it is extremely unlikely that an intelligence can exercise any significant mental capacity (logic, memory, reason) without a brain of some sort. If we need a brain to function temporally, it is hard to imagine we can exercise the same functions as a spirit without something comparable.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 13, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

  96. If they exist

    That is the key question — do spirit bodies exist? Or more accurately, do they exist in some form that is remotely like mortal bodies. I’d say no. Our mortal bodies as designed exactly for this planet with this atmosphere and this amount of gravity with the food sources we have here etc. I don’t see why spirits would need the same.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

  97. Geoff: I think the capacity argument (from #95), plus the necessary capacity of spirits between the time of death and resurrection is the best argument for the existence of the spirit body.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 13, 2009 @ 2:04 pm

  98. J,

    I have read your comments again in trying to piece them all together to get a better idea of your view. It seems your approach is to affirm everything: you affirm that spirit is equivalent to mind (#14), that spirits have form (#77), that Joseph almost surely had in mind a particle theory of matter when he stated D&C 131:7 (#64), that spirits are material (but in a way we don’t understand in the least bit) (#71), and that spirits typically appear in human form (#77).

    But, when it comes to pointing out inconsistencies between these positions, or parts that require more explanation to make sense, you say that any solution is “making stuff up” since it goes beyond the bare facts of what has been revealed. It is fine, as far as it goes, but if the statements don’t obviously go together, some theorizing as to how they might fit best seems to me to be in order. If you prefer to hold that there are no inconsistencies to be resolved, that is okay I guess.

    The idea that D&C 131:7-8 merely means that spirits are real is untenable in my estimation. I can’t possibly convince myself that Joseph meant no more than to tell his listeners that his entire revelatory history with angels and open visions were not lies. The reality of spirits (that they exist) was 100% accepted and taken for granted in the context of D&C 131:7-8 so your reading (#60) is not persuasive to me. No one would take the slightest notice of the statement if all that was conveyed was that spirits exist in the real world.

    Lastly, it appears that you are genuinely unclear on what I see as the problem with a material mind. If I’ve been unclear on this, I apologize. What I have in mind is basically the arguments that arise in the philosophy of mind. The view that there are “things to act” and “things to be acted upon” sounds suspiciously like substance dualism (mind is a different kind of thing than matter). See the “other forms of dualism” section of that link for views of mind that try to be something between substance dualism and monism. The view that the only things in existence are physical (physicalism, used to be called materialism in the old days) also has many variations, one of which is emergentism, which I talked about in the post since it has found favor with some people who comment at this blog. My point is that all these mind-body issues are highly relevant to the intelligence-spirit body debate. For those who take one or the other position on intelligences, I am interested to see if their views are in sync with their philosophy of mind. Physicalism often results in a reductionist view of mind which I would have a hard time squaring with Mormonism. Since you seem to be taking a physicalist view, I was hoping you could tell me how you avoid that.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 13, 2009 @ 2:25 pm

  99. BHodges, it’s not to late, we are only at #99!

    Comment by Jacob J — January 13, 2009 @ 2:32 pm

  100. But, when it comes to pointing out inconsistencies between these positions, or parts that require more explanation to make sense, you say that any solution is “making stuff up” since it goes beyond the bare facts of what has been revealed. It is fine, as far as it goes, but if the statements don’t obviously go together, some theorizing as to how they might fit best seems to me to be in order. If you prefer to hold that there are no inconsistencies to be resolved, that is okay I guess.

    Your last sentence there hits it on the head. We have so little revelatory data that drawing hard and fast inconsistencies seem unwarranted. As to your next point, I simply don’t believe that Joseph Smith was trying to teach that there were spirit atoms. I’ll grant that he might have been trying to do that, but I don’t see such assertions as persuasive.

    As to the how the mind works, I’ll readily admit that I am unresolved. I take a similar approach to that topic as when vacillating between Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. They are mutually inconsistent, yet do an excellent job of describing the data in their respective spheres. I have yet to hear a theory of the mind that incorporates the scientific data and revealed data together. Further, as analogical reasoning has no place in describing Mormon ontology; so I see attempts at trying to describe the spirit mind as completely flawed. The use scientific theory and data to describe non-scientifically observable phenomena or ideas is ultimately incomprehensible. If you want to make analogies between our materiality and the materiality of the spirit you have to show that continuity between them. With the absence of all empirical data on spirits, I submit that there is discontinuity.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 13, 2009 @ 2:53 pm

  101. Sorry I’ve not had time for more rigorous comments. As I said, hopefully later. Here are some short quips.

    Jacob (#72) I think the problem is that there is an unstated assumption that “more fine” simply means “smaller.” I don’t think that necessarily is true. Thus the question of indirect neoPlatonic influences at the time and the notion of base matter and intellectual matter.

    To assume they were thinking “scientifically observable” seems implausible. Now I think it makes a ton of sense outside of the texts to ask about this. But I’m not sure one can make the text in terms of Joseph’s understanding. Of course the other issue is what counts as scientific. Many would say that so long as it interacts in a normative way that’s all you need. The question of what one means by matter ends up being more complex than it first appears.

    But I think we should be open to Joseph simply thinking in terms of a paradigm we wouldn’t find as useful. If so then any “translation” into a scientific worldview might get tricky.

    Mark (81) The assumption that something has to be matter to interact seems odd. Is gravity matter? There are a slew of issues here that are more complex than it appears at first glance. Perhaps in the 19th century it would have made sense, ala Pratt to think of an ontology on Newtonian terms. (Pratt added some variations but it was basically Newtonian) Thus matter is “stuff” that is extended in space. Today such a view seems very quaint given our view of fields or even a more Leibnizean view of space and time being more emergent.

    I’d also add that technically there is no more problem explaining how immaterial and material stuff interact than it is explaining how material stuff interacts with each other. That is the problem is no worse than the “spooky action at a difference” of gravity in the 19th century. Einstein perhaps made things more explainable but quantum mechanics and potential non-locality made it far worse.

    Matt (84) What about “The Immortality of Man” do you see problematic? Sounds Cartesian to me. The best you could say is that he adds the caveat “But of their form, or the manner of their subsistence nothing, so far as I know, has been revealed, and hence we are without means of knowing anything about the modes of their existence beyond the fact of it, and the essential qualities they possess, which already have been pointed out.” But he still talks like they are Cartesian. (i.e. this caveat is at best lip service)

    Comment by Clark — January 13, 2009 @ 4:18 pm

  102. I see Matt quoted the section I did since I typed the above (86) but I think the problem is one of distinction between knowledge through revelation and how he thinks of them. Folks with strong beliefs are quite willing to accept that their positions are speculation. However it’s quite clear in his prior writings that he personally accepts a Cartesian view. And even in this document via his use of mind he equates mind and intelligence.

    Comment by Clark — January 13, 2009 @ 4:27 pm

  103. A couple of difficult issues that no one has raised here: Granting that pre-mortal spirits have a body (1) what is the ultimate origin of the form of that body? (2) why should that form closely resemble the physical body (if in fact it does)?

    As to (1) I don’t have an opinion other than to immediately rule out Platonic forms, and allow evolution (broadly conceived) and viviparous spirit birth (in the small cardinality variety) as a reasonable possibility.

    As to (2) I suggest that the only way that the form of the physical body can resemble the form of the spirit body is evolutionary interference. The alternatives are either pre-mortal spirits don’t have spirit bodies, or those pre-mortal bodies (horror of horrors) don’t necessarily resemble mortal ones, or a combination of both. I don’t see any reason to have the same degree of concern about the form of post-mortal spirit bodies.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 13, 2009 @ 4:28 pm

  104. Clark: As a rule, when I say “matter”, I mean “matter / energy”. By that standard, light, heat, the electromagnetic field, and gravity are all “matter”.

    How does any field work (so far as we know)? By the exchange of field particles. Little bits of matter.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 13, 2009 @ 4:34 pm

  105. Clark, see my #90. I think B H Roberts changed his opinion over time.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 13, 2009 @ 4:47 pm

  106. We have so little revelatory data that drawing hard and fast inconsistencies seem unwarranted.

    So, does this mean we should leave open the possibility of a tripartite model as a straightforward reading of all the texts? Clearly we have minds which existed forever. These minds seem to have spirit bodies whenever they appear. We know that in mortality a physical body is added to that. Voila, the tripartite model is not a form of making stuff up, but rather, just taking at face value three things that seem to be true on their face and saying that people have all three. In this sense the argument that the spirit body is superfluous is the part that is unwarranted. Why not just accept that we have spirit bodies as revelatory experience indicates and leave it at that?

    Comment by Jacob J — January 13, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

  107. Jacob, the problem with that is that it both excludes data and adds unverified data.

    Joseph Smith did not just say that minds were eternal. He said (and revealed in Abraham) that spirits are eternal. Further all we know is that spirits appear in human form. We have no data about the details of that form. Consequently the tripartite models both ignore and exceed the data.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 13, 2009 @ 4:54 pm

  108. These minds seem to have spirit bodies whenever they appear.

    They have spirit bodies that look like human beings whenever they appear to human beings. That is all we know. We have no idea what they look like to each other or if they were to appear to some alien race on another planet. I would venture to guess than their appearance changes based on the culture and expectations of the human too but we have so little data on this I would just be guessing.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2009 @ 5:21 pm

  109. Matt (90, 94) I think by “material” in the quote Roberts simply means substance. That is there is an intelligent substance and a matter substance. This is Cartesian dualism.

    To make this say he saw two kinds of physical matter seems really twisting the quote not to mention ignoring the context of other works like The Way, the Truth, the Light which is unabashedly Cartesian. Admittedly it wasn’t published during his lifetime. But then the essay in question was part of the Seventy’s course and he has to be less committed to personal ideas.

    I will say that in some writings Roberts is less Cartesian than he is substance dualist. Consider Defense of the Faith and the Saints (much of which ended up in his 70’s Course). This is from 1912.

    “Eternalism” I should select as the word best suited for its philosophic conceptions. It is dualistic, but not in the sense that it breaks up the universe into two entirely distinct substances–the material world and an “immaterial God,”–as the Christian philosophy, in the main does. It is also monistic, but not in the sense that in the last analysis of things it recognizes no distinctions in matter, or that matter–gross material–and spirit, or mind, a finer and thinking kind of material, are fused into one inseparable sole substance which is at once “God and nature,” as the monists claim. Its dualism is that which, while recognizing an infinitely extended substance, the universe, unbounded and empty in no part, but everywhere filled with substance–it holds, nevertheless, that such substance exists in two principle modes, having some qualities in common, and in others being distinct; first, gross material, usually recognized as matter, pure and simple; and, second, a finer, thinking substance, usually regarded by other systems of thought as “spirit,” i.e., “immaterial substance”–if one may use terms so contradictory. These two kinds of matter have existed from all eternity and will exist to eternity, in intimate relations. Neither produces the other, they are eternal existences–“things to act and things to be acted upon.” The monism of Mormonism, alluded to a moment since, while recognizing the universe as infinitely extended substance and all substance as material–and hence, in this respect, monistic; yet it also recognizes the world substance as being of two kinds: one gross material; the other a finer, or thinking material; having some qualities in common with gross matter, and in others being distinct. “All spirit is matter,” said our Prophet, “but it is more fine or pure [i.e., than gross matter tangible to our ordinary senses] and can only be discerned by purer eyes. We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter.”

    However it seems to me he moves away from this and bifurcates intelligence and spirit.

    Comment by Clark — January 13, 2009 @ 5:21 pm

  110. Whoops. That should read “than he is property dualist.” That is he sounds more like Spinoza than Descartes.

    Comment by Clark — January 13, 2009 @ 5:22 pm

  111. In this sense the argument that the spirit body is superfluous is the part that is unwarranted. Why not just accept that we have spirit bodies as revelatory experience indicates and leave it at that?

    The problem I have is there is no good evidence I know of to assume the mind that inhabits the spirits that have appeared to humans can be separated from that spirit. It seems to me that the humans are very likely just projecting their own circumstance onto the spirit. As in “My mind can exist separately from my physical body so that spirit must have a mind that can be extracted from the form I see”.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2009 @ 5:24 pm

  112. Matt (105) – I agree his views changed over time. My position simply is he became more Cartesian and less Spinozist.

    However the tripartite view, as I mentioned, is just a distinction between raw intelligence and spirit which even in this earlier phase he accepts. One need not see the tripartite view as entailing substance dualism.

    Comment by Clark — January 13, 2009 @ 5:27 pm

  113. Geoff (111) wouldn’t it be funny if our existence as spirits was as thinking but unconscious beings? And that matter gave us consciousness? Sort of the inverse of how it is typically conceived with consciousness being tied to the non-material aspects.

    Mark D (104) Seeing fields as working by exchanging field particles is one interpretation among many. i.e. by treating virtual particles in Feynman diagrams as “real existent.” At one time I favored that view. I’m more skeptical of it now thinking that fields are an irreducible feature of the universe.

    My point being that there’s more questions to the ontology of matter than first appears.

    Comment by Clark — January 13, 2009 @ 5:30 pm

  114. Actually Matt, thinking more carefully I see the date of that quote is 1901 so could represent Roberts in his property dualist phase. So perhaps we’re closer than I thought. (For some reason I was thinking 1933 as the date rather than what you wrote — sorry about that)

    Comment by Clark — January 13, 2009 @ 5:36 pm

  115. Geoff: Why are people smarter than nematodes? Is it not largely due to the size of the brain?

    So then why are human spirits smarter than nematode spirits?

    Comment by Mark D. — January 13, 2009 @ 5:57 pm

  116. #115: perfect example of faulty analogical reasoning.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 13, 2009 @ 6:01 pm

  117. Hehe. I guess that means that the evangelicals are right when they say “God is bigger than (insert something big here)” then right Mark? I can hardly imagine the size of his noggin based on your logic.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2009 @ 6:15 pm

  118. J. Stapley, #115 is not an argument, it is a question. You are certainly free to answer that the intelligence of spirits is an immutable cosmic accident, or provide some other contingent explanation for why human spirits are superior to nematode spirits, let alone how they magically acquired their respective forms.

    In any case, brain size is a perfectly rational (if hardly conclusive) explanation. You insist on criticizing hypotheses based on the absence of conclusive evidence. Conclusive evidence is not a valid criterion for a hypothesis, and I can’t imagine where in the world you got the idea that it is.

    Geoff #117, You well know that I understand the superior intelligence of God in terms of a divine concert. As far as we have any reason to believe, if a divine person were stripped of his resurrected body, he would indeed revert to the relative intelligence of a nematode or worse.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 13, 2009 @ 6:42 pm

  119. Some movie quotes suddenly came to mind…

    Stuart Mackenzie: Look at the size of that boy’s heed.
    Tony Giardino: Shhh!
    Stuart Mackenzie: I’m not kidding, it’s like an orange on a toothpick.
    Tony Giardino: Shhh, you’re going to give the boy a complex.
    Stuart Mackenzie: Well, that’s a huge noggin. That’s a virtual planetoid.
    Tony Giardino: Shh!
    Stuart Mackenzie: Has it’s own weather system.
    Tony Giardino: Sh, sh, shh.
    Stuart Mackenzie: HEAD! MOVE!

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2009 @ 6:45 pm

  120. I might add that the suggestion that analogical reasoning is out of bounds when generating hypotheses is irrational, counter-productive, and self-defeating. It is called “abduction”, or “inference to the best explanation”.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 13, 2009 @ 6:46 pm

  121. But more seriously, Mark. If we can pack gobs of information and processing power into very small places imagine what God can do. (Not to mention the exponentially greater storage networking brings) This “bigger brain = smarter being” line of yours is just begging to be made fun of.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2009 @ 6:47 pm

  122. Geoff, that answer won’t work here, namely because it doesn’t explain the superiority of brain-less human spirits to brain-less nematode spirits.

    In my position (that of a composite spirit body), I am free to allow the alternative explanation that you suggest – namely that some spirits, in addition to having a larger brain, have greater brain function per unit volume.

    But in J.Stapley’s and your apparent position, neither size nor complexity is relevant, because a spirit either doesn’t have a body, or its body is amorphous and function free. In short, your positions lack explanatory power. A plausible theory, however crude, is superior to that.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 13, 2009 @ 7:02 pm

  123. might add that the suggestion that analogical reasoning is out of bounds when generating hypotheses is irrational, counter-productive, and self-defeating.

    Actually, it is rational. And hypotheses are testable.

    But in J.Stapley’s and your apparent position, neither size nor complexity is relevant, because a spirit either doesn’t have a body, or its body is amorphous and function free. In short, your positions lack explanatory power. A plausible theory, however crude, is superior to that.

    Just because you can make up a theory doesn’t mean that it is superior. I think I am done here.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 13, 2009 @ 7:24 pm

  124. Mark: brain-less nematode spirits

    Why should I believe nematodes even have pre-earth spirits again? Is there some definitive scripture on that general subject I have forgotten about?

    But in J.Stapley’s and your apparent position neither size nor complexity is relevant, because a spirit either doesn’t have a body, or its body is amorphous and function free

    Have no fear Mark. You’re not the only one who can pull theories out of his… ear…. around here. So here you go:

    Since I am inclined the believe Joseph Smith when he said spirits have no beginning (and presumably no end) I will say that said spirits are

    (a) A size that is jusssst right
    (b) Complexity that is also jusssst right
    (c) A spirit body that does all the functions required of spirits and has a form that is also jussst right

    In short I propose the Baby Bear Theory of beginningless spirits!

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2009 @ 7:27 pm

  125. J. Stapley, Any plausible theory I can devise is superior to no theory at all. Suppose we take the theory of evolution for example. Anyone ever tested it yet? On a macro scale? No? I suppose it must not be a hypothesis then.

    Geoff: That is certainly a consistent theory, but it violates several time honored principles. It explains nothing. It violates the principle of sufficient reason and the law of parsimony. Why not just propose that God waved his magic wand and worlds popped into existence while you are at it?

    Comment by Mark D. — January 13, 2009 @ 8:15 pm

  126. Clark I have looked at TWL in a while, I’ll have to dig into it.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 13, 2009 @ 8:22 pm

  127. Mark (122), why assume spirits don’t have something like a brain? But I think J. Stapley’s point is more that we have no idea how to deal with any of this. While I consider myself a materialist of some sort of stripe I think there are tons of alternatives without even considering the possibility of non-materialist ontologies. Consider say spirits being in extra dimensions we don’t have a good grip on.

    Yeah, highly, highly speculative. But that’s J’s point. We don’t have enough data to really narrow our theories much. So let’s say spirits increase in capabilities by expanding the size of the extra dimensional nodule. God has infinite knowledge and mental capacity simply because he has an unbounded space in which to encode memory and processing. It’s not a brain but is something analogous to it in that it is a symbolic processing system.

    Do I think this the case? Not particularly although I can’t argue against it.

    To say that any plausible theory is superior to no theory is debatable. Some would say that independent of data we should remain silent and being silent is superior to speculation since silence will keep in mind our ignorance whereas theorizing before we have data will twist our thinking towards the assumptions of our speculations.

    As Sherlock Holmes put it,

    It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. (A Scandal in Bohemia)

    Comment by Clark — January 13, 2009 @ 9:29 pm

  128. J,

    Jacob, the problem with that is that it both excludes data and adds unverified data.

    The tripartite model no more excluding the data than what you are proposing. You read D&C 131 and see as little as you want to see. I say you are excluding that data, you say you are taking it no farther than is warranted. If you want to use caution there, why not when reading the KFD? You are now hanging a lot of weight on the precision of language used by Joseph on a few occasions. Did he talk about spirits as minds because they are really equivalent, or because the aspect of the spirit that mattered for his context was the mind of man.

    You strike me on this a bit like a person who thinks they are reading only what is in the text while everyone else is interpreting the text. But, I think I get your position now and I don’t see us making much more headway, so thanks for the lively and informative exchange.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 13, 2009 @ 9:38 pm

  129. Geoff (#111),

    The problem I have is there is no good evidence I know of to assume the mind that inhabits the spirits that have appeared to humans can be separated from that spirit.

    As has been pointed out, there is no good evidence to assume that mind is material either. Look, to pretend that one of these views is free from inference and assumption while the other is full of those things is just wishful thinking.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 13, 2009 @ 9:48 pm

  130. Matt (#94), That is as reasonable as anything else being theorized here.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 13, 2009 @ 9:54 pm

  131. Mark: It explains nothing.

    Ya think?

    Why not just propose that God waved his magic wand and worlds popped into existence while you are at it?

    Well when I reached in my ear and pulled that one didn’t come out. You are free to take that one if you want.

    Ok, so we know JS said spirits are beginningless and eternal. We know the D&C says spirit is matter. So it seems to me that anything that is beginningless is probably not reducible to smaller parts (else it likely would be something other than eternal).

    So if I read you right Mark, you are proposing a single smart atom that is us. This single spirit atom has free will and is beginningless and irreducible. But apparently you think we are really dumb in our most basic state. So you propose that we somehow builds ourselves a vehicle to drive you call a spirit body (or maybe somebody else gives us that spirit body to drive) and that vehicle has a spirit brain so we go from being really dumb to smart. Is that right? And further I take it you assume this spirit body looks and functions just like the human body we have now (useless appendix and all). Am I getting close to your theory? (I hope not…)

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2009 @ 10:04 pm

  132. Jacob: there is no good evidence to assume that mind is material either

    True dat

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2009 @ 10:08 pm

  133. Clark (127), I do believe that spirits have something like a brain. My statement is in the context of criticizing the suggestion that a spirit could be capable of advanced thought and action without one.

    Geoff (124), One more thing – I feel guilt when crushing a spider precisely because I do believe that in some sense it has an immortal soul as do I, and that its moment of anguish is more than a figment of my imagination.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 13, 2009 @ 10:13 pm

  134. Geoff (131), I don’t suppose you have heard of the theory of evolution. And it is easy to ridicule the theory of others when you don’t present your own for comparison. Let me try:

    You are proposing that spirits are atomic self existent entities whose capacity for language, thought and action is a metaphysical accident, that somehow are engaged in a grand conspiracy to inhabit bodies that do them absolutely no good whatsoever. In short, you are a Platonist who believes that the most complex features of the universe never evolved, have no cause, but rather have just always been there for no reason at all.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 13, 2009 @ 10:22 pm

  135. Yeah it looks like you got my current theory basically right Mark. Did I basically get yours right?

    PS — I personally don’t feel guilt when I swat a fly or crush a spider. To each his own I guess.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2009 @ 10:56 pm

  136. BTW Mark — In your theory isn’t the existence of the beginningless and eternal dumb spirit-atom that is us also just a metaphysical accident?

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2009 @ 11:04 pm

  137. Geoff: Metaphysical accidents cannot be entirely avoided. It is, however, a generally recognized principle that they should be minimized.

    Suppose I stated a theory that inscribed on the surface of every electron were the complete works “of” Shakespeare, and the playwright was just inspired enough to commit them to paper. That would violate the principle of sufficient reason, because there is no reason for the those works to be inscribed on the surface of every electron. In addition it would violate the law of parsimony, also known as Ockham’s razor, by multiplying entities (or complexity) unnecessarily.

    When I suggest that intelligences are self-existent, but of relatively low intrinsic capacity, the sufficient reason for the first part is theological – as we have often discussed.

    There is however no sufficient reason that I can see for an intelligence to be intrinsically capable of advanced thought, language, and action. Therefore given another plausible explanation for the contingent acquisition of such capacity, I reject the proposition that advanced capacities are intrinsic, in accordance with the law of parsimony.

    BTW, I follow the rule that if a spider bites me, he is fair game. Otherwise, I try to capture and release. Flies are rather more intransigent, unfortunately.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 13, 2009 @ 11:27 pm

  138. For the record I think there is evidence that the mind is material. Most specifically everything we encounter is material and can be explained as material. Is this an argument from silence? Yes. But if you’ve taken a few million black marbles from a bag and never found a white one you have good reason to think there are no white ones.

    Also, to say something’s properties are an accident requires at least some argument. One could easy say that anything which always exists with the same properties has those properties necessarily.

    To say this leads one to be a Platonist is also incorrect. I’m not sure how one could even metaphorically make that claim. One can be a materialist yet argue that mechanistic causality is not only not all there is but not even fundamental. That’s not platonism in the least. Indeed it’s a major interpretation of the Hamiltonian form of quantum mechanics.

    Likewise if there is more than we see now in the universe (which I take to be necessary if there was indeed an infinite past as Joseph taught) then given an infinite past in what sense can we say things evolved? Likewise something must be the substance with which things evolve but that can’t itself evolve, can it? (Ironically there is a strain of platonism wherein everything does evolve out of the One – but such a conception seems at odds with materialism) That is there has to be something with fundamental properties, doesn’t there?

    Comment by Clark — January 13, 2009 @ 11:31 pm

  139. Geoff: Yes, your representation of my position is relatively accurate. However, I am ambivalent about the proposition that pre-mortal spirit bodies have the same form as we do, and indeed about the proposition that the vast majority of us had pre-mortal spirit bodies at all.

    I have trouble with the proposition that a self-existent atomic entity can remember. Memory represents a state change, and requires structure to be preserved. Where has there ever been a self-existent entity with a non-trivial structure?

    Mathematically speaking, the bits have to go somewhere, that normally takes energy, and one might wonder how many bits an atomic intelligence can hold. In my naivete, I assume that we have a brain in part to store the memories that our intelligence cannot.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 13, 2009 @ 11:55 pm

  140. “One could [easily] say that anything which always exists with the same properties has those properties necessarily”

    I don’t think so Clark. For a property to be metaphysically necessary, it must be necessary in all possible worlds. 2 + 2 = 4 is arguably necessary, the mass of an electron is not.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 14, 2009 @ 12:03 am

  141. Mark: There is however no sufficient reason that I can see for an intelligence to be intrinsically capable of advanced thought

    Here is where we read the words of Joseph Smith differently then. When I see that he believed the “mind of man” as well as our spirits are eternal I read that to mean our minds and spirits in some capacity not too different than current capacity are eternal.

    Back when I was trying to defend spirit atomism I tried to explain those comments from JS away by saying things like “sure the mind of man might be eternal — as in men have always existed somewhere in the the infinite eternal round of time — but that does not mean the mind of each current person is eternal”. It worked for me at the time but I have since changed my, er, mind on that subject.

    Your law of parsimony technique is as good of an excuse as any to limbo around those comments from JS I suppose.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 14, 2009 @ 8:50 am

  142. Eric’s Comment 33 brought a scripture to my attention I was not previously aware of.

    “the spirit of man [is] in the likeness of his person, as also the spirit of the beast; and every other creature which God has created” (D&C 77:2)

    However, it does say it is in reference to “heaven, the paradise of God” from which we could infer that post-mortal spirits maintain the form they received from their bodies in this life. I am not sure if it can be used to reference pre-mortal spirits.

    In any case, good find Eric!

    Comment by Matt W. — January 14, 2009 @ 9:18 am

  143. The mass of the electron historically has not always existed. Thinking spirits, per Joseph Smith, have.

    Comment by clark — January 14, 2009 @ 9:20 am

  144. Geoff: I agree that what you suggest is rather more likely to be what Joseph Smith intended. The problem is we don’t have a clear exposition from him on the whole subject at hand.

    However, he did say that power consists in having a body. Birth, death, resurrection, etc. seems like an awful amount of trouble to go through and to administer unless there is a compelling advantage to a properly embodied state.

    My position, to be clear, is that the identity and awareness (ability to feel pain, pleasure, etc.) of individuals is eternal, but that our more advanced capacities are contingent on acquiring a body of some sort. That satisfies the theological motivation for the eternality of spirits, I believe (a motivation which I find compelling).

    Comment by Mark D. — January 14, 2009 @ 9:39 am

  145. Clark: I am not sure that you can persuade me that the mass of an electron isn’t a manifest constant of our present universe (or closely derived therefrom), whether there was a time prior to the existence of electrons or not. In any case, if it really were a contingent value, that would place it further from (not closer to) the realm of metaphysical necessity, the point being that it is not metaphysically necessary at all.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 14, 2009 @ 9:58 am

  146. Mark, that’s pretty standard cosmology. I’m surprised you reject it. Structures we take for granted originated as the universe cooled and expanded and symmetry breaking took place. However exactly how the symmetries broke is largely random. Rewind the universe and its conceivable you get very different structures. This is taught in pretty much every textbook on cosmology.

    Comment by Clark — January 14, 2009 @ 11:55 am

  147. Mark, why is identity and awareness able to be eternal but more “advanced” features isn’t? Exactly how do you distinguish them and why? Seems pretty ad hoc to me.

    BTW – the main reason to consider eternal spirits necessary beings is the same reason an eternal god is traditional considered a necessary being. In a way Joseph just expands the ontological category of god to all spirits.

    Comment by Clark — January 14, 2009 @ 11:56 am

  148. Clark, I confess that I know relatively little about symmetry breaking and big bang style cosmology, following my long time skepticism that there ever was such an event in the first place.

    As far as which features of eternal spirits should be considered necessary, I would say it is a judgment call based on the severity of the theological consequences.

    Suppose identity was contingent. If an individual dies in this life, the configuration of his spirit might indeed preserve his identity. But if a pre-mortal spirit with a contingent identity “dies”, then it really is gone, with no hope of recovery. No more identity, no more individual.

    Here Joseph Smith and Brigham Young are divided, and I think Joseph Smith makes more sense. That doesn’t mean I don’t think an alternative model with contingent identity is worth pursuing, just
    that it is convenient to deal with only one at a time, and I really haven’t thought through the consequences of the latter.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 14, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

  149. unless there is a compelling advantage to a properly embodied state

    It seems to me that basic boredom alleviation would be a massive motivation for a truly immortal being. If mortalities and veils achieved that end then that would be more than a sufficient explanation for our lives/bodies here.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 14, 2009 @ 6:40 pm

  150. Mark: Suppose identity was contingent.

    I don’t understand how this argument explains why you insist pre-body spirits must be basically stupid… What am I missing?

    Comment by Geoff J — January 14, 2009 @ 6:48 pm

  151. Geoff, 150 is an argument in favor of intrinsic identity. Granting intrinsic identity, 137 is an argument against intrinsic advanced capacity.

    In short, there appear to be solid theological reasons to accept intrinsic identity, and no similarly compelling reasons to accept intrinsic advanced capacity, so I reject intrinsic advanced capacity in accordance with the law of parsimony.

    Brigham Young may indeed have gone one step further and rejected intrinsic identity for the same reason. Theological considerations aside, Brigham Young’s position is superior (read: simpler and thus more likely) precisely because it doesn’t require sui generis metaphysical necessities like “individuals with identity” let alone “individuals with advanced mental capacity”.

    To me, it doesn’t matter how unlikely something is if it appears to be theologically necessary. But what argument can be made for the theological necessity of intrinsic advanced mental capacity of individuals?

    Comment by Mark D. — January 14, 2009 @ 7:14 pm

  152. Mark, whether you accept the big bang or not it seems to me that most of the interesting symmetry breaking took place after the Planck time. But if you’re skeptical of physics exactly what grounds your speculations? It seems like you are just making it up as you go along.

    I can understand a criticism wherein physics is privileged. (I’m very partial to such theologies myself) But if we have an anything goes theology why on earth should anyone accept your speculations or even give them the time of day? Am I missing something?

    Comment by Clark — January 14, 2009 @ 7:41 pm

  153. Just to clarify, that’s not a slam. Just an honest question on what you see as placing limits on your speculations. There must be something going on here beyond just personal preferences. (At least one hopes so)

    Comment by Clark — January 14, 2009 @ 7:43 pm

  154. Clark, your question presumes that accepting “physics” is an all or nothing proposition. I disagree. Aware of any experimental proofs of string theory lately?

    Your question further implies that a plausible model must take detailed account of physical theories for which there is little or no experimental confirmation. I think not.

    The rationale I have given has only touched on physics on occasion. That is unless you consider the law of parsimony and the principle of sufficient reason to be part of physics.

    The only notable physical assumption I have made is that if spirits have a form, and there is such a thing as spirit matter, then that form is likely to serve similar purposes and have composite structure similar to the form we have now. Why in the world would a spirit have eyes except to see with? The proposition that spirits have eyes that cannot see is ridiculous on its face.

    Instead of defending my tired little model, I would be interested to hear someone propose and defend a different one. LDS theology without two kinds of matter for example. LDS theology with no pre-mortal life. LDS theology without spirits. LDS theology where God is a metaphysical necessity. LDS theology where godhood doesn’t require a body. LDS theology where a body is a metaphysical appendage.

    The reason being that one cannot really appreciate the merits of a model without considering the plausible alternatives.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 14, 2009 @ 9:02 pm

  155. Clark, I must say that I get the impression that you are not paying attention. Preferences are irrelevant, the only thing that matters are the reasons given for those preferences. I have given plenty.

    Since you’re so smart, it might be nice if you critiqued those reasons instead of suggesting that there aren’t any. There are only a small handful of generally doctrinally consistent alternatives here. I don’t think explaining the advantages of one of them amounts to “making things up”, or being reduced to hoping that I have any rationality at all.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 14, 2009 @ 9:42 pm

  156. Mark, I was paying attention, I was speaking more of the bigger picture of what grounds your approach in general.

    Consider you consideration of spirits having eyes. Why do we assume a pre-mortal spirit has eyes? That is how do we distinguish what is a vision from what is a physical appearance? Likewise the only pre-mortal spirit we have any record of is Jesus who may well be a special case. But even ignoring that, why couldn’t a spirit’s form be virtual and simply appear humanoid because they are after the image of God who has a physical body?

    It’s the question of deciding in those choices that counts.

    However if you do see physics as somewhat binding it certainly is useful to know what physics you accept. I’m not arguing with you regarding what physics I think folks should accept. Clearly there is a large portion of theoretical physics as yet un-empirical.

    Comment by Clark — January 14, 2009 @ 9:58 pm

  157. Clark, I don’t assume that a pre-mortal spirit has eyes. What I do assume is that if a pre-mortal spirit has eyes, they are for seeing.

    In addition, I assert that the proposition that a pre-mortal spirit has optical acuity without the benefit of eyes is an unnecessary violation of the law of parsimony.

    If you suggest that pre-mortal spirits neither have eyes nor see I have no complaint – not a logical complaint at any rate. If you say that they (contingently) have eyes and do see, I have no complaint. But if you say they have eyes and don’t see, or see and don’t have eyes, or necessarily have eyes, I will ask for a sufficient reason.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 14, 2009 @ 11:04 pm

  158. “Listen to the silence, let it ring out.”

    Comment by Hiram — January 15, 2009 @ 7:06 am

  159. Um… OK. I guess I’m still pretty confused. So the bit about eyes was just an aside, an analogy, or a counterfactual consideration? I guess I don’t understand the approach here.

    Comment by Clark — January 15, 2009 @ 8:11 am

  160. Despite your protests Mark, your approach sounds as painfully ad hoc as anyone elses around here.

    Why do your beginnningless spirit atoms reduce to something much less intelligent that mortal humans? Why not more intelligent that mortal humans? There seems to be nothing like this elusive “sufficient reason” to explain that. So it boils down to your preference and little more as far as I can tell.

    Further, Joseph Smith claimed the mind of man is eternal. You are effectively claiming JS was out to lunch because the mind of human spirits is basically the mind of a worm when reduced to its rudimentary level. That is a problem I think.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 15, 2009 @ 8:48 am

  161. the mind of human spirits is basically the mind of a worm when reduced to its rudimentary level

    While I agree with your sentiment of Mark’s concept being ad hoc (as are all our speculations), I am not sure I can take this leap. After all, the mind of man being eternal could be a babies mind, or a fully develop adult mind. Am I misreading you on this, that all the knowledge must be in place from the get go? If not, then It seems you are putting words into JS’s mouth.

    Also, not being too aware of evolution, but isn’t there some amount of self-awareness in a worm?

    Comment by Matt W. — January 15, 2009 @ 9:21 am

  162. Also, not being too aware of evolution, but isn’t there some amount of self-awareness in a worm?

    Being aware of evolution doesn’t really help here. Being able to ask a worm about its experience would help, but they keep not answering. One of the interesting things is trying to think of what test you could do to see if something has self-awareness in the way that we do. One trick that has been done is to put a white mark on an animal and then show it to them in a mirror. The animals that try to fight the guy in the mirror are argued to have less self-awareness than the ones that try to clean the white mark off of themselves. Of course, studies like this have been criticized on various grounds, and in the end, we really have no way to be sure if something is self-aware or not. Even agreeing on a solid definition of self-awareness is tricky business.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 15, 2009 @ 10:08 am

  163. Geoff, I have offered one major argument for that conclusion. Much better than crying “ad hoc”, you might try attacking the legitimacy that argument. Namely:

    Assume a spirit can think without a brain. Humans have spirits. Humans have brains. Humans cannot think without a brain.

    (1) Why not? Per assumption, they have spirits that are fully capable of brain-less thinking.
    (2) Why do humans have brains at all? What purpose do they serve?

    The same goes for eyes:

    Assume a spirit can see without eyes. Humans have spirits. Humans have eyes. Humans cannot see without eyes.

    (1) Why not? Per assumption, they have spirits that are fully capable of eye-less seeing.
    (2) Why do humans have eyes at all? What purpose do they serve?

    The proposition that spirits have all sorts of human comparable or exceeding capacities raises the fundamental question of why do we have bodies at all? Are they just training wheels? An impediment to drag us down? To teach us humility? Strategic spirit impairment?

    Comment by Mark D. — January 15, 2009 @ 11:06 am

  164. Unembodied spirits, that is.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 15, 2009 @ 11:08 am

  165. Jacob J: That’s exactly the type of answer I’d expect an non self-aware automaton to give.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 15, 2009 @ 11:34 am

  166. The proposition that spirits have all sorts of human comparable or exceeding capacities raises the fundamental question of why do we have bodies at all?

    Right. And I’ve provided a very plausible answer to that question already. (See #149) I think “Strategic spirit impairment” is a decent way of saying it.

    If you want to assert that spirits have spirit bodies that look and function like human bodies (as opposed to just appearing that way to humans when humans have visions of them) you would need to explain why. Do they breath spirit air and eat spirit food and use spirit toilets and lift spirit weights to strengthen their spirit muscles? Do they have spirit gravity that holds them down to their spirit planet? What are you assuming about these alleged spirit bodies?

    Comment by Geoff J — January 15, 2009 @ 11:43 am

  167. Geoff: Boredom elimination? So getting a resurrected body is basically slumming then?

    I have argued that spirits with advanced capacities have those capacities by virtue of embodiment. That argument does not extend to what form those bodies take, except to suggest that form follows function.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 15, 2009 @ 12:18 pm

  168. So it sounds like you are saying the spirit body could be in most any form as long as that form is functional. Why not assume spirits start in that form then? What is the value to the extra step except to try to force some semblance of progress onto the model? (While at the same time eviscerating the idea you are trying to accommodate — namely that the mind of man is eternal).

    Regarding resurrected bodies; in a MMP model it is rather moot.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 15, 2009 @ 12:33 pm

  169. Clark:

    My link did not work to the Truman Madsen piece I sighted. Here is his full take on intellignence in TWL:

    Similar reflections apply to matter. Roberts’ analysis makes the “mate-rialism” of the new dispensation all-pervasive. There is no such thing asimmaterial substance. (This is more than saying there is no such thingas immaterial matter, which is a tautology.) He wants to insist that every-thing that really is, is material. Subtler realities such as “thought,” “love,”“grace,” are actually materiate, though of a finer quality than we can per-ceive with our five senses.In his last years, Roberts clarified this extended position to include“radiant energy” and, partly through the work of Orson and Parley P. Prattand John A. Widtsoe, compiled much data to support the thesis that mindas a form of matter is indeed the master power of the universe. Many of theconfusions in Western thought that arise from the assumed radical separa-tion of thought and matter—the so-called “mind-body problem”—aredissolved by Roberts summary statement, “Intelligence is material. But it isalso conscious. Matter is not. This is the ultimate dualism.”

    from here

    Comment by Matt W. — January 15, 2009 @ 1:03 pm

  170. Geoff,

    If you want to assert that spirits have spirit bodies that look and function like human bodies (as opposed to just appearing that way to humans when humans have visions of them) you would need to explain why.

    This is exactly the kind of reasoning that is bewildering me. Apparently if I want to take D&C 131:7-8 at face value as saying that spirit is matter, the burden is on me since the word “matter” has no discernible meaning. But, if I want to assume that spirits have bodies because they always do have bodies whenever they appear, then burden is again on me to show that this is not just the way they appear rather than the way they are? You guys have your “burden of proof” meters out of whack, I think.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 15, 2009 @ 2:33 pm

  171. Frankly, Matt, I don’t believe you exist.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 15, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

  172. Well I was focusing more on the “function like” aspect of spirits than on the “look like” in that sentence Jacob. There is no question that spirits looked like humans in the few cases when humans have reported seeing them in the revelations. The question is what do the look like to each other. A bigger question I was focusing on is why we should assume these alleged spirit bodies function just like human bodies because that is ever-implicit in these discussions as far as I can tell.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 15, 2009 @ 2:54 pm

  173. 171: Let the “Banner of Heaven”-esque conspiracy theories begin. You heard it hear first folks. Matt W. is really a fake personality Jacob J uses when he wants to sound stupid.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 15, 2009 @ 2:59 pm

  174. So it sounds like you are saying the spirit body could be in most any form as long as that form is functional. Why not assume spirits start in that form then? What is the value to the extra step except to try to force some semblance of progress onto the model?

    Per my model, I don’t think spirits “start” with a non-trivial body at all, but in the beginning are more or less particles of consciousness, and that whatever form they acquire after that is the result of some sort of quasi-evolutionary process, where “evolutionary” is understood here to include agent causation in addition to the more conventional factors.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 15, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

  175. Geoff,

    Fair enough. I agree about caution in assuming a physiology, but on the basic existence of a material body, I would think the revelatory history coupled with 131 would put the burden of proof on people who reject the idea of a material spirit body. Once we accept a material spirit body, we need to either deal with mind being material, adopt a tripartite model, or explain why spirit was described as “matter” when it shares no characteristics or properties with regular matter (as understood by Joseph when he said spirit was matter). To me, that is an interesting list of choices, every one.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 15, 2009 @ 3:15 pm

  176. Matt W: There is a millennia old confusion about matter vs substance. In the Aristolelian philosophy the substance of a “material substance” is not material at all, rather it is a form or arrangement of the material.

    Contemporary language loses this distinction. If I say hydrogen peroxide today, no one distinguishes between “material + form” and the form itself.

    It seems as irrational to suppose that form is material as it is to suggest that the number three is. So I would say that the suggestion that everything is material is both misleading and incomplete.

    The substance of matter isn’t material. The wonder of the human body is not as a pile of atoms, but rather the arrangement those atoms take.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 15, 2009 @ 3:25 pm

  177. Jacob: 131 would put the burden of proof on people who reject the idea of a material spirit body.

    As far as I can tell no one here is disputing that spirits are matter. The dispute is whether spirits are eternal or if only their parts are eternal. (Sound familiar?) Mark is arguing that parts are eternal (just like I used to argue) and I and others are arguing that the whole is eternal.

    The second and related dispute is whether there is such a thing as an immaterial eternal mind that can exist in absence of a spirit. No one has ‘fessed up to believing in immaterial minds that exist independent of spirits in this thread as far as I can tell.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 15, 2009 @ 3:25 pm

  178. Geoff, The difference between the position I have defended here and the more common one of Brigham Young with regard to “parts”, is that I don’t think that all parts are sensate. I remain thoroughly unconvinced that the particles composing a nail feel anything when I pound on them with a hammer.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 15, 2009 @ 4:03 pm

  179. Matt, thanks for the link to the Madsen piece. I’ll probably comment on it later.

    Comment by Clark — January 15, 2009 @ 6:00 pm

  180. It’s probably debatable whether even Orson Pratt thought all matter atoms were sentient or not. There’s also a question whether a mind is emergent or not for him.

    Jacob makes the point I was going to in (175). So I’ll not add much.

    Geoff, (177), I’d say that one could be a substance dualist without accepting that mind-substance can exist in the absence of spirit-substance. To use an other physics analogy it might be akin to asking about naked quarks. The problem is that in such a case one obviously has to ask what the real difference between this and property dualism is. I don’t think there is a real difference. (Which probably has some bearing on the debate about B. H. Roberts)

    Comment by Clark — January 15, 2009 @ 6:06 pm

  181. Geoff (#177),

    I don’t have a firm commitment to either the EI or ES model, but have long held that both seem like reasonable positions which could be reconciled to the Smithian corpus (contrary to those who thing Joseph was perfectly clear on the matter, {sniff}). Given that caveat, I will freely fess up to considering the substance dualism position. I have said earlier that I suspect the tripartite model doesn’t makes much sense without it (maybe Matt’s #94 demonstrates that there options down that road as well).

    Given that we know so little, I am more interested in exploring the implications of the different positions, but this unfortunately played out as a pitched battle between different camps. Some camps won’t budge an inch on acknowledging the other position, which makes it hard.

    I don’t really see the conversation as you have summarized it, though. I don’t think Mark’s argument is that it is only parts that are eternal. He is arguing that the mind is eternal AND that the parts (matter) of the spirit body are eternal (if I understand him correctly). That is much different than the parts verses whole argument. I am personally putting on the table the idea of non-material minds (and have since at least the first two paragraphs of the post). If most of us here think minds are material, however, I’d love to see a discussion of what that means, beyond following it with “and the word ‘material’ in that sentence has no meaning we can discern.” See my last paragraph of #98.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 15, 2009 @ 6:47 pm

  182. Jacob: On the issue of materiality, the first question is what would it mean for an intelligence to be material. Presumably it would mean that it has mass, energy, momentum, and other physical properties in addition to its mental properties.

    Provided we are talking about something truly atomic (irreducible), I don’t see what the downside is. The upside is a basis for integration with the material world.

    On the other hand, if one supposes that the mind is immaterial, how do we distinguish such a suggestion from the idea that the mind is an epiphenomenon of material processes? Or the similar idea that the mind is nothing more than form, not much different from a computer program?

    Comment by Mark D. — January 15, 2009 @ 9:42 pm

  183. I am personally putting on the table the idea of non-material minds

    Yes but are you positing they exist independent of matter? (See my #177) A mind that emerges from a brain is not composed of matter I would presume, but it emerges from matter.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 15, 2009 @ 10:57 pm

  184. Geoff,

    Yes but are you positing they exist independent of matter?

    Yes. That is not “my position” but it is absolutely one of the options I am considering.

    Mark,

    On the other hand, if one supposes that the mind is immaterial, how do we distinguish such a suggestion from the idea that the mind is an epiphenomenon of material processes?

    Epiphenomenalism is the view that mental events are just a byproduct of physical events and have no causal influence. This would be distinguished from that view by totally disagreeing with it.

    Presumably it would mean that it has mass, energy, momentum, and other physical properties in addition to its mental properties.

    But, if it is just “in addition” to mental properties, the question is what the relationship is between the matter and the mental properties. Do the mental properties rely on the mass in some way? If not, it just seems like we are tacking on some matter artificially to help with the problem of mind-matter interaction. It doesn’t really solve the problem though, it pushes it down one level so that I can ask how the mental properties are related to the matter. The reason I think emergentism is one of the most promising avenues for a materialist is that it at least posits a dependence and relation between the mental and the physical.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 16, 2009 @ 12:09 am

  185. Jacob, I don’t think (though I am sure some may disagree) that anyone can demonstrate a hard and fast distinction between emergentism and epiphenomenalism.

    The apparent virtue of emergentism is that it does not require any new laws at the microscopic level. But if that is the case, it is trivial to demonstrate that “downward causation” is a mathematical nullity, and that everything that happens is exactly the same as in the equivalent physicalist model, reducing the mind to an epiphenomenon in precisely the same way.

    If it is not the case, one wonders exactly how, where, and when the conventional laws of causation do not apply. In LFW an agent is more or less a causative singularity. In emergentism, where do the causal exceptions originate, and why should the composition and arrangement of “dumb” matter have anything to do with causal exceptions at all?

    Comment by Mark D. — January 16, 2009 @ 12:47 am

  186. Mark,

    I can understand disagreeing with emergentism, but saying there is no hard and fast distinction between it and epiphenomenalism is strange. As theories, they differ on key points. You may think that the idea of downward causation is untenable, which, if true, would disprove emergentism, but even then it would not change the fact that as theories, there are absolutely hard and fast distinctions between it and epiphenomenalism.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 16, 2009 @ 1:01 am

  187. Jacob, I am not saying the sense of the terms “emergentism” and “epiphenomenalism” are identical – clearly emergentists advocate propositions that epiphenomenalists disagree with.

    What I am saying is that the propositions that emergentists do hold appear to trivially reduce to either epiphenomenalism or contradiction, so much so that a undergraduate level acquaintance with statistical and quantum mechanics ought to cure them of the confusion.

    That said, I would be greatly interested if anyone can make an argument or point me to one that can persuade me that my suspicion is not in actuality so trivially justified.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 16, 2009 @ 1:16 am

  188. We should probably distinguish between different sorts of emergentism. I think what you say applies to some but not all. For instance my view of emergence out of proto minds in a property dualist ontology desnt reduce in the fashion you outline. Of course Searle famously claims he doesn’t fall prey to what you outline – I’m pretty unconvinced though.

    Comment by Clark — January 16, 2009 @ 5:17 pm

  189. Mark: How about this for a hard and fast distinction. Emergentism asserts that there is downward causation from the emergent properties and epiphenomenalism does not. In the epiphenomenalist view, there is upward causation to create a merely phenomenal consciousness, but such phenomena are causally inert. ‘m not sure what contradiction you have in mind, but it is traditional in philosophy to demonstrate a contradiction rather than to merely assert one.

    Comment by Blake — January 16, 2009 @ 10:21 pm

  190. Blake, The argument is against the apparently dominant variety of emergentism that holds that the microscopic laws of physics are of the same kind as are now known, i.e. deterministic or statistically deterministic.

    Systems governed by such rules have future states (or statistical distributions of future states) that are a strict mathematical function of the initial state and the time elapsed, so much so that that they exhibit a Poincare recurrence time where the system or system wave function is guaranteed to return arbitrarily close to the initial state.

    Per this dominant variety of emergentism, the microscopic laws of motion (differential equations) are the same, so given any initial state, the future states for all times are either strictly identical or statistically identical.

    In other words, there is no macroscopic nor microscopic difference between the results predicted by strict physicalism and an emergentism that asserts that the microscopic laws of motion are identical. As such, downward causation in such a system is a metaphysical nullity, an epiphenomenon, of no consequence whatsoever.

    Now, as I said I would be interested in hearing or being pointed to a defense of a variety of emergentism that can be so distinguished, which necessarily entails a hypothesis about why, where, and how the laws of motion depart from the standard physicalist variety.

    Again, an LFW-style substance dualism posits a causal singularity at each site of an LFW bearing entity. That attribute is why there is a departure from the conventional rules at each such location.

    A variety of emergentism that poses a similar departure due to composition must at the very least suggest why a composition of “ordinary” matter should lead to any departure at all, and suggest what sort of compositions lead to what sort of departures, i.e. exhibit non-epiphenomenal downward causation. I have yet to hear any such theory – for all I know no emergentist has actually advocated one.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 17, 2009 @ 12:35 am

  191. Mark: First, your argument goes nowhere near incoherence, but merely an assertion of how some scientific limitation based on assumptions of the ways laws must work (which isn’t scientific but philosophical).

    Further, it assumes that we are dealing with a reductionism which begs the question — there are no properties of material states that are not just a manifestation of the microscopic properties of its constituents. That is precisely the kind of reductionist physicalist view assumes micro-causal determination either by a determinant non-conscious substrate or by in indeterminate non-conscious substrate. Either way, the existence of consciousness and free will isn’t explained by the substrate given your model. The easiest way to show that this argument (which I am not taking you to endorse but to merely raise) is bankrupt is to simply notice that it commit the logical fallacy of composition. The properties of a collection are not the same as those of constituents.

    Note carefully that if you basic premise is correct, that the microphysical properties are determinative of the properties of organisms and vast collections of such microphysical things, then there is absolutely no way to even account for the epiphenomenal qualities since none of these microphysical determinants have such epiphenomenal consciousness — much less LFW. Your model thus fails to account for even what you say it must.

    Look at the articles of Teed Rockwell, one found here: http://users.sfo.com/~mcmf/causeweb.html

    Check out the papers by George Ellis based on mathematics and physics here: http://www.mth.uct.ac.za/~ellis/ (check out especially the paper on “Notes on reductionism and the emergence of complexity.”

    Check out also this paper which argues that a process view works much better with emergence than a substance view: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/archive/00004006/

    Check out this paper by Jeremy Koons also: http://www.utexas.edu/cola/depts/philosophy/faculty/koons/idemergence.pdf

    Finally, there is the Dialogue article of Steven Peck that argues that a process view makes most sense of consciousness for Mormons: http://www.sciencebysteve.net/wp-content/papers/Dialogue%20Peck%20Consciousness.pdf

    Comment by Blake — January 17, 2009 @ 11:07 am

  192. Mark, I don’t think you’re arguing against the kinds of emergentism that most people are bringing to play.

    Comment by clark — January 17, 2009 @ 11:20 am

  193. Blake, As I said, the argument is only against those varieties of emergentism that hold that standard physical laws apply without modification. According to the SEP, the emergentism of Samuel Alexander is prototypical, and most contemporary emergentists follow after him.

    Now you suggest, contrary to Alexander, that physical laws are not followed in detail. For the purposes of emergentism, why, where, when, and how? If perturbations are random, one certainly cannot have persistent non-reductive emergent properties.

    Are there “configurational” forces or “trans-ordinal laws” as J.S. Mill and C.D. Broad suggested? If so, where is the barest hypothesis as to what even one such trans-ordinal law might be in practice? Where do these trans-ordinal laws come from? Are they accidental or immutable laws of nature? How do the non-reductive higher level entities posited come into existence by mere composition? A bunch of particles come together – at what point do new, non reductive properties appear?

    I raise these questions not because I think physical reductionism is correct, but rather because I cannot yet even begin to imagine how an emergentist non-reductive physicalism would work.

    BTW, There is summary of a causal exclusion argument made against emergent properties by Jaegwon Kim in the SEP article on emergent properties that is worth reading for those who have not seen it before.

    Clark: Counterexample, please?

    Comment by Mark D. — January 17, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

  194. 133: “[a spider's] moment of anguish…”

    161: “isn’t there some amount of self-awareness in a worm?”

    There is considerable debate on this question among scientists (and others). Here’s an interesting article; unfortunately for Mark D, there’s no mention of nematodes, but there is a discussion of annelids—hopefully that doesn’t get me accused of an analogically false argument. {grin}

    Other than that, I have nothing to add to this very interesting discussion!

    Comment by BrianJ — January 17, 2009 @ 3:22 pm

  195. BrianJ,

    Nice.

    I didn’t real the entire article, but the parts I skimmed were interesting. I like this part on insect pain:

    Pain in insects

    On the question of pain in insects, Eisener et al. (1984) pointed out that it is not possible to give a conclusive answer since the subjective experienced of an organisms cannot be registered. Still, from considerations of the insect nervous systems and their behaviour there does not appear to be any support to the occurrence of pain. Several examples are known in which insects continue with normal activities even after severe injury (Eisener et al. 1984, Smith 1991). An insect walking with a crushed foot will apply it to the substrate with undiminished force. Locusts [vandregresshopper] have been seen to continue feeding whilst being eaten themselves by preying mantis [kneler], and aphids continue to feed when eaten by coccinelid beetles [marihøner]. A male mantis continues to mate although eaten by his partner, and a tsetse fly will try to suck blood although half dissected during an experiment. Many adult insects and larvae continue to develop whilst being eaten by large internal parasitoids. It appears that there is no evidence of conscious experience in insects, since natural selection of a capacity for pain would also result in corresponding capacity for adaptive responses.

    Love that part about the mantis continuing to mate although eaten by his partner. I feel there must be a metaphor lurking in there somewhere.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 17, 2009 @ 4:34 pm

  196. Blake, I read through most of the papers you so kindly pointed me to. Of the three I looked at, I thought the Jeremy Koons paper was the most valuable, in terms of providing a reasonable conjecture for the compatibility of “teleological propensity” with known physical laws via the integral form of the least action principle.

    The Ellis paper, on the other hand, does not appear to contain a trace of an argument for the irreducibility of the properties of the physical systems he describes. Most of the “emergent” properties he describes appear to be completely “innocent”, i.e. reducible in operation. Rockwell has a short argument in favor of the irreducibility of the Rayleigh-Bernard instability, but it is very weak. Lots of other interesting stuff though.

    There appears to be a fundamental confusion about what “emergent” means or should mean in this context. I take it to mean a property of an existing system whose causal efficacy cannot be derived in terms of lower level physical entities or the relations between them, i.e. irreducible properties.

    Some writers (Koons, for example) however seem to be using the term to describe “innocent” (reducible) properties whose origin is difficult to explain by virtue of low level physicalist processes. It is difficult to explain the origin of many a complex mechanism whose actual operation once constructed is innocent and reducible in every respect.

    Most of these papers attempt to create logical or nomological space for extensions to raw physicalism. I think they generally do a pretty good job in that regard. What none of them do is give any account of non-reductive emergent properties.

    The key question is starting with material with primary properties A,B, and C how does a new ontologically primary property D emerge? A miracle? Any physicist who could demonstrate such emergence in controlled conditions would become world renowned overnight.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 17, 2009 @ 5:11 pm

  197. While I definitely share your skepticism of ontological emergence and for pretty much the same reasons. That said the person who believes in such emergence (like Blake) need only say that our notions of free will, consciousness and so forth are unexplainable by reduction to physics. Therefore the things we experience everyday and take for granted are the demonstration of such emergence.

    Comment by Clark — January 17, 2009 @ 8:51 pm

  198. The argument about whether such emergence needs demonstrated ends up being a burden of proof argument. Once again while I share your skepticism I also think there are compelling arguments against reductionism. The obvious one is it seemingly logically in ability to move from 1st person accounts to 3rd person.

    Now there are ways to deal with this. Simply deny free will and the mind. But that’s implausible to many. (Blake will make scriptural arguments as well such that he feels such realities are demanded)

    The other is the Searle move, but I find that as implausible as ontological emergence.

    The final one is just to say something with a 1st person aspect is an inherent feature of matter. Which is what I favor. (It’s not the same as saying it has mind of course)

    Comment by Clark — January 17, 2009 @ 8:55 pm

  199. Blake: One more thing – Koons starts out his paper talking about the difficulty of explaining the origin of information (or complexity) from “blind, purposeless” processes. That is a completely different question.

    I grant that it is trivially true that the properties of complex systems cannot be explained in terms of the properties of the component materials, if all information about the relationships between the component parts is discarded, and that in addition it is extremely difficult (as an epistemological question) to explain where that information came from in many cases.

    My point is that there doesn’t appear to be any valid argument in favor of irreducible emergent properties of complex physical systems when both the properties of the components and the relationships between them are fully considered after the fact.

    The upshot is that it seems that a mind requires something with ontologically primary mental properties. Leibnizian monads as Clark suggests for example. It is not apparent that any such mind, however complex, requires irreducible emergent properties. Higher level mental properties may rather reduce to a base level description that is richer than run of the mill physicalism. This is the straightforward way out of the reductionist conundrum, and the ultimate position I am defending here.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 17, 2009 @ 9:09 pm

  200. Clark, I am not saying that such emergence needs to be demonstrated, I am saying that it seems to be borderline metaphysically impossible. As such, the simplest possible example of how it might work in the real world seems like a practical requirement to give the idea any utility.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 17, 2009 @ 9:17 pm

  201. Mark: The point of emergence is that the laws which apply to complex systems cannot be generated a prior based upon a knowledge of properties of the base constituents. For example, consciousness cannot be explained as a result of base constituents and it isn’t predictable at all based upon such explanations. So we act like real scientists and develop the laws of emergent properties a posteriori based on our observations of the regularities of behavior — if there are any. The whole point of LFW is that there aren’t lawlike regularities predictable in terms of base properties or explanations reducible to physics or physical systems. That isn’t to say that emergence doesn’t require a physical base; it only means that the kinds of predictions assumed to be the sine qua non of scientific explanation may not even be available for such emergent processes. Neither consciousness nor acts that are truly free are predictable in terms of the base microphysical constituents. That means that the kind of explanation you are looking for is not available in principle.

    Comment by Blake — January 17, 2009 @ 9:20 pm

  202. Mrk D. “Higher level mental properties may rather reduce to a base level description that is richer than run of the mill physicalism. This is the straightforward way out of the reductionist conundrum”

    Just what you mean by “richer” is vague indeed. So is what you mean by “run of the mill physicalism.” Do you mean some form of panpsychism like leibniz? Of course, such panpsychism entails that properties of mind are already inherent at the subatomic level and so there is no emergence, but merely an expression of the subatomic base. The problem is empirical — where is the evidence for such properties of mind at that level? Certainly, if there were such properties, they would be more pronounced with greater organization, thus amounting to a form of properties of mind emerging with greater physical complexity. Yet such a thesis amounts to emergence once again.

    I submit that for it to deliver what you seek, the properties of the base constituents will have to be such as to generate truly novel solutions that are not merely a causal result of the lower level base constituents and will amount to genuine ontological emergence. Explain to me how the “mind” or a “person” could act freely if his or her behavior is fully explained by the properties of microphysical constituents over which the person has no control of which the person has no operative knowledge.

    Worse, just what are the properties of subatomic particles that have properties of consciousness and mind that give rise to such properties of “richness” that could account for consciousness? I’m afraid that your project is reductionistic for the very reasons Kim and Teed Rockwell explain very well. The base constituents do all of the explaining so there is nothing left for mind or consciousness to explain. Worse, such a view couldn’t even explain epiphenomenal consciousness. Worse than that still, it seems clear that there is no downward causation on such a view and so it ends up being a form of materialistic epiphenomenalism that doesn’t explain how the epiphenomena arise.

    Comment by Blake — January 17, 2009 @ 9:35 pm

  203. Blake, I agree that LFW entails that law-like regularities may not be available for mental processes. Where I disagree is that LFW entails that law-like regularities cannot be available for descriptions of mental states.

    Suppose there is a LFW monad at a position of unstable equilibrium, and the slightest inclination will lead it to move in one direction instead of another. It exercises the inclination, and duly moves in that general direction. Such a process is non-deterministic and LFW based. However, at no point does a description of the state of the system require anything other than law-like reduction, in this case no reduction at all, because all properties are explicitly fundamental, ontologically primary, and non-emergent.

    It is worth mentioning that I have been defending the position here that there is only one such monad per individual, and that all other particles are inanimate by comparison.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 17, 2009 @ 10:09 pm

  204. Here is a typical perspective about strong emergence, which is what is in dispute here:

    Although strong emergence is logically possible, it is uncomfortably like magic. How does an irreducible but supervenient downward causal power arise, since by definition it cannot be due to the aggregation of the micro-level potentialities? Such causal powers would be quite unlike anything within our scientific ken. This not only indicates how they will discomfort reasonable forms of materialism. Their mysteriousness will only heighten the traditional worry that emergence entails illegitimately getting something from nothing. (Mark A. Bedau, Weak Emergence, 1997)

    In short, asserting strong emergence seems to be akin to ending an argument with “And then a miracle occurs!”. Mental properties are intractable enough when considered to be fundamental, having them appear out of nowhere for no apparent reason and according to no apparent pattern defies credulity.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 17, 2009 @ 10:26 pm

  205. Clark, I am not saying that such emergence needs to be demonstrated, I am saying that it seems to be borderline metaphysically impossible.

    I definitely agree with you there. Although I think that true of many demonstrations. I’m a Quinean in that sense.

    Blake, I think many agree that the laws of a complex system can’t be take from the component parts. But then even folks who accept largescale reductionism accept that… No one would argue for instance of deriving biology from physics. If only on practical methadological grounds.

    So this is a difference without a difference.

    As for what proto-consciousness consists of, I’m not sure. Peirce liked to say that chance from the insides was consciousness. I’ve facilitated on that. But then I’m not sure we have to say the matter we see is conscious or even proto-conscious. I think Mark made that point earlier on in the discussion. We needn’t be Leibnizean in that sense.

    My inclination is to first divorce discussions of mind from discussions of consciousness. It’s an error since Descartes to equate them. One thing Peirce does is separate them.

    Regarding law-like regularities I don’t think one need turn to LFW to reject them for the mental. I think Davidson in his anomalous monism gives a pretty compelling reason that they can’t be true due to the normative nature of mental descriptions. Put an other way this is a fact about the language we use to describe the mental versus the physical rather than anything mysterious or metaphysical.

    Comment by Clark — January 17, 2009 @ 11:05 pm

  206. Just to clarify for readers who aren’t posting who may be confused about terminology. There are three terms in the literature which all mean the same thing. Roughly the idea of the emergence of new properties by a whole that are unexplainable by the parts and natural law. That is, the kind of emergence Blake espouses.

    This position is called radical emergence, strong emergence or ontological emergence. I favor the latter, Searle the former, although a lot of literature favoring reductionist views of emergence use the term “strong” versus “weak.”

    Comment by Clark — January 17, 2009 @ 11:06 pm

  207. Mark: defies credulity

    Oh come on Mark, are you really going to use that comlpaint against strong/radical emergence of mind here in this discussion? While that the same time you are basically positing that that the core of “us” — the eternal mind of man that JS preached about — amounts to a barely-intelligent LFW’d monad that like some nanobot went and mysteriously built itself a high-functioning spirit brain over eons of time? You don’t think your theory defies credulity too?

    Blake — I basically understand your ideas on our minds being emergent; what is your assumption about the hardware of our spirits? Do you think there are spirit brains that are irreducible or something else?

    Comment by Geoff J — January 17, 2009 @ 11:16 pm

  208. Geoff:”I basically understand your ideas on our minds being emergent; what is your assumption about the hardware of our spirits? Do you think there are spirit brains that are irreducible or something else?”

    As I understand Jacob’s concern, the problem is that spirits must be composed of bits of spirit-matter so that spirits are not simple and can be dissolved or decomposed and thus cannot be the necessarily existent basic realities which Joseph Smith called eternal intelligences. The problem is that our “intelligence” goes away every time we sleep or get hit on the head. Our consciousness is clearly dependent on a functioning brain-nervous system in some sense.

    I don’t believe that an intelligence is a physically “simple” thing (not composed of any material constituents). It seems that the intelligence must be an integrated field of force of information (like a magnetic field that arises from a piece of iron but can persist even after the iron is no longer present). Such a field need not be destructible but is still a physical base for emergent properties.

    Mark D. — “borderline metaphysically impossible.”

    What does it mean to be “metaphysically impossible”? I know what it means to be “borderline metaphysically impossible” since it could only mean “metaphysically possible”.

    Comment by Blake — January 17, 2009 @ 11:45 pm

  209. Geoff, The problem with the theory of strong emergence is that by ordinary standards it is not even a theory, it is rather a radically underspecified metaphysical hypothesis. Magic has no scientific credibility for exactly the same reason – radical underspecification means that it virtually impossible to falsify, even in principle.

    My theory here, on the other hand, you find credulous not because it is underspecified, but rather because you find it overspecified. It is no more unlikely than the theory of evolution and the theory of LFW. Admittedly, if you reject biological evolution or LFW it may seem infeasible.

    For the record, your caricature presumes features of my theory which are not there, such as only one isolated monad, no monad-monad interactions, no evolution, and so on.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 17, 2009 @ 11:49 pm

  210. Mark D. “In short, asserting strong emergence seems to be akin to ending an argument with “And then a miracle occurs!”

    Mark, I cited all of these papers above in # 191 because they give all kinds of legitimate candidates for strong or ontological emergence and downward causation in physical and biologically complex systems.

    Instead of Dennett’s cute and trite phrase that simply doubles as an ad hominem , why don’t we get scientific about it and grow up to say: “and we observe something that we don’t fully understand so we must study it to determine what can be known about it”. Physicists are maddening to me because they assume we already know everything in principle and we just have to find which physical laws we’ve already mastered and a good mathematical model and we’ve explained everything. To that I say — not quite. The physicists often end up explaining everything except for the fact that there is a person that exists that can explain at all.

    Comment by Blake — January 17, 2009 @ 11:51 pm

  211. Blake, By “borderline metaphysically impossible”, I mean of the same level of metaphysical plausibility as ex nihilo creation without a creator.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 17, 2009 @ 11:52 pm

  212. Blake, I read most of those papers looking for any candidate for strong emergence in a physical system and found none. None of the examples demonstrate downward causation in any strong sense.

    Rockwell mentions the Rayleigh-Bernard instability, but there is nothing strongly emergent about the properties of any such system. Nothing more than sensitivity to initial conditions, which is fully reducible. Ellis mentions half a dozen physical examples which exhibit no strongly emergent properties either. All these examples have weakly emergent properties, but that is not what is in dispute.

    I agree that study is necessary, I am just pointing out that so far no one seems to have the slightest suggestion for a strongly emergent property simple enough for its emergence to be studied. As you say, if strong emergence is common, it ought to be empirically observable everywhere.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 18, 2009 @ 12:15 am

  213. Blake,

    From #208, I get the impression that you would favor the view that our pre-mortal intelligence was emergent in a similar way to our current intelligence. Is that right? If so, I took a stab at raising some problems for this theory in the original post under the heading “Eternal Spirits”. After 200 comments the questions there are still pretty much virgin ground in this discussion. I’d be interested in getting your take.

    #210 is dead on by the way. I love physics (I get the sense you do too) but I agree with your comments following “Physicists are maddening to me because…”

    Comment by Jacob J — January 18, 2009 @ 12:20 am

  214. Blake,

    Along with Jacob I would love a little more information on your theory. It sounds like you are saying that the eternal Blake can emerge from different “hardware” at different times. Like your eternal mind might have emerged from a premortal (reducible?) spirit brain but now your mind is emerging from a mortal brain and when you die your mind will emerge from a spirit brain again. Is that basically right? If so, what is it that transfers between these brains that ensures it is Blake emerging? Is there some sort of software that stores memories and is the core of you? I don’t understand what your theory is on this.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 18, 2009 @ 9:46 am

  215. Jacob and Geoff: I acknowledge the problems with emergence theory and both underlying physical explanations in general and eternal intelligences in particular. I don’t regard the emergence theory as essential to either Mormonism or to mind-body theories. If someone has a better view that accounts for the fact that we have consciousness and that we are morally responsible agents rather than machines, then I’d love to hear it. To date, I haven’t heard anything remotely plausible and emergence is the best candidate I’ve seen to date. But I’d change at once if I saw something better. So I’m not committed to it; just intrigued by it.

    With respect to physics and physical explanation, of course consciousness and every act of LFW are miracles on Mark D’s terms because he takes the notion of explanation to be explanation by properties of an underlying microphysical base in a deterministic sense — in the sense that the microphysical base is the complete explanation to the extent there is an explanation. In terms of LFW and consciousness, I assert that consciousness is a miracle in Mormon terms since we don’t presently understand how consciousness and intentionality can exist and we cannot explain them. That just is a miracle in Mormon terms.

    It is also a miracle in terms of classical views of miracles since it is not within explanation in terms of laws and the underlying microphysical substrata. The fact of consciousness thus resists explanation in terms physicists assume in their explanations and in this sense is beyond or outside the realm of physical law. It seems to me that anyone that asserts that the past physical states of the universe conjoined with a complete description of laws do not fully explain a free action just has asserted that free will is a sort of miracle — it resists explanation in terms of scientific assumptions. But I don’t believe that either God knows what you’ll do or a scientist could predict what you’ll freely choose in principle. You as a person or agent are the explanation and not your neurons of which you have no consciousness or knowledge. That doesn’t mean that you could choose if your neurons were properly functioning, it just means that they give rise to a person or agent that isn’t reducible to mere neurons.

    With respect to explanation, it is simply obvious on its face that consciousness as we know it requires a certain level of physical complexity. It is obvious on its face that consciousness as we know it is dependent on a functioning brain/neural system that can be disrupted by a hard knock on the head. It is obvious on its face that as we move up the phylogenetic scale we have greater consciousness precisely because of the moral complex neural systems involved, e.g., ants are more conscious than rocks and monkeys are more conscious than ants. Thus, I don’t believe that the notion that consciousness as we know requires a complex neural substrate is really open to question. It is a simple fact.

    There are those who deny that there is such a thing as what it is like to experience something (there something about Mary). They deny that we experience qualia of consciousness and in effect deny that there is any consciousness. Such eliminativists are usually neurobiologists who explain everything in terms of underlying biological functions and leave out precisely what must be explained — the fact that we are conscious of being aware of our experience and can reflect on our experience and have intentionality. They simply deny the obvious in terms of human experience because it doesn’t fit their assumptions about what science can explain and anything not within the scope of such explanations cannot be real — hence a form of epiphenomenalism that denies that there are even mental epiphenomena. They return to psychological behaviorism a la Skinner where only outward behavior is real because it is all that science can study. I say they miss everything valuable about human life in such an approach.

    I don’t believe that the non-reductive materialists explain anything either. Such a view I believe demonstrably reduces to physicalism — which explains nothing. Indeed, that is Jagwon Kim’s primary argument which I believe is successful. I think that the only real alternatives that explain our experience are emergence and panpsychism (to which I am somewhat open but find difficult to believe because it just doesn’t seem accurate to say that subatomic particles have properties of consciousness and mind).

    In terms of an intelligence, I think that it is useful to think of the intelligence a self-unifying field of force in which the identity of the intelligence is precisely the characteristic way(s) it organizes information and data into an experience of self-consciousness. Such fields are not materially simple, but if they are self-unifying “information” (in terms of information theory as the most basic reality) then they are also potentially eternal. That isn’t to say that a spirit’s consciousness couldn’t be disrupted if the information processing were disrupted or the field were disordered. In this respect it is important to keep in mind my theory of concurrence in which our consciousness requires the light of Christ (or the life of the Godhead if you will) for us to about as conscious individuals. We are never merely a mind; we are always conscious of something and we always have a co-consciousness in which God’s offer of light is always a part of the data we organize in the moment of free decision to co-create our experience. This point of co-creativity is where process philosophy comes in.

    I also emphasize that I don’t believe that emergence works at all in terms of a substance metaphysic (e.g., of the type assumed by Mark D and Clark). It works only in terms of process thought where the process is an essential component of the consciousness and thus consciousness is always more than the mere sum of the parts since it also always necessarily includes the process itself and the relations of the parts as they are constantly in the process of being configured in new relations. It is the process itself that is the ontologically emergent reality over and above the sum of the parts and it is the process itself that constitutes the basis for consciousness.

    I obviously could (and must) say much more, but that is a bare bones outline.

    Comment by Blake — January 18, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

  216. Blake,

    While I appreciate the answer you gave, I don’t think you answered my question. I am not suggesting you have to defend the strong emergence idea. Rather, I am wondering if you have any speculative ideas at all on how an identity/mind could possibly persist when transferring from one material base (body?) to another. In other words, if we accept an emergence theory of mind and we accept Mormonism do you have any speculations how the mind that currently emerges from your body’s physical hardware and is Blake now could have existed as you before you got this body?

    My problem is that I have trouble seeing how a mind/identity could persist in such a situation.

    Not that the alternatives provide satisfactory answers to this question either. Mark’s theory doesn’t address the problem of separating minds/identities from our physical brain either as far as I can tell.

    I don’t have a decent alternative theory to offer yet either. Maybe some day…

    Comment by Geoff J — January 18, 2009 @ 4:44 pm

  217. Blake,

    I agree that from a physicalist perspective, LFW and consciousness are both miracles. However, as both properties appear to be both necessary and irreducible, it seems most likely to me that there are fundamental entities that have both properties fundamentally.

    The problem that I have with strong emergence, is that the theory appears to try to have it both ways – somehow consciousness arises due to composition, but then the reverse process (“reduction”) is inadequate to explain what composition caused to exist in the first place.

    It further appears to posit that every such composition is potentially a one of a kind entity with its own rules, properties, and metaphysics such that every composite object in the universe is potentially fundamental, with its own quirks and idiosyncrasies, and that the study of such objects may be not be able to advance past the stage of enumeration of characteristics, much like chemistry and biology two and three hundred years ago.

    My last objection is theological. Monads may be eternal. Emergent properties, by definition, are not. The problem that I have with all theories that do not have self-existent intelligences is that they seem to make Moses 1:39 difficult to explain.

    Instead of helping eternal individuals proceed step by step to higher levels of glory and happiness, acquiring a character that is ultimately theirs, a mind that is a contingency of material composition seems to be best created as an artifact of a body already in a saved, glorified state. In short, it seems that celestial beings would be manufacturable.

    Admittedly, that is a potential weakness of many Mormon theologies, including my view, but it seems to deserve serious consideration.

    [BTW, if I knew that Dennett made that cartoon famous, I would have thought twice before alluding to it. I am not a fan of the Dennett / Dawkins approach.]

    Comment by Mark D. — January 18, 2009 @ 5:17 pm

  218. Geoff, I too have no way to account for the preservation of character and memory from the previous life to this one. Fortunately we don’t seem to bring any memories with us. Character is a tougher problem.

    Preservation post mortem is an easier problem, in principle. I maintain that post mortal spirits look like us, more or less, and that the acquired capacities and memories of this life are preserved in the state of the spirit body (brain) that rises with us, necessary modifications allowing.

    The alternative is to say that eternal intelligences are irreducibly complex and are potentially capable of preserving character and memory in an essentially unembodied state.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 18, 2009 @ 5:30 pm

  219. Well Mark, your idea works pretty well to permanently preserve our earth identity. The problem is it permanently obliterates whatever identity we had over the infinity of time prior to this life. That hardly seems like a good thing.

    I have blogged about this before. I think this is a huge issue that no one seems to talk about. We had an identity before, and we have a new identity here. If we retain this new identity the old one is obliterated. If we remember our previous history/self then our current mortal identity is subsumed in that infinitely deeper identity. The latter seems most likely to me but that means this life and the identity/relationships we currently have end up being something like the identity/relationships of a short, passing stint as an amnesiac.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 18, 2009 @ 6:15 pm

  220. Geoff, It doesn’t implicate

    identity

    at all. If you want to identify a person through time, you follow the monad, which is the ultimate seat of consciousness in my view.

    It certainly does implicate character, because I have no way to account for the character of an unembodied monad, and consider it infeasible for a pre-mortal spirit body to adopt a mortal one. I have no logical way to rule that possibility out, however.

    For example the pre-mortal spirit might influence the development of a new body prior to departure from one to the other. Or perhaps spirit bodies really are elastic enough to successfully reconfigure to a much smaller form.

    Theologically speaking, I don’t think it is necessary for us to have had extended pre-mortal bodies at all. Perhaps mortal birth is the first major step in eternal progression, reasonable exceptions allowing.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 18, 2009 @ 7:17 pm

  221. Geoff: Of course the best we can do is speculate. Perhaps the conferral of identity is similar to the nature of a magnetic field that passes magnetism to objects so that they become magnetized and the magnetic field can continue to exist even without the underlying ferrous materials that gave rise to it.

    Here is what I suspect. Intelligence is at base a characteristic self-organization of information, The most basic reality is the “intelligence,” the data-as-organized. Such data can give rise to form because it can be an organizing principle or basis for organization. So the self-organizing data center is just eternally an entity that gives rise to form in various media of matter with which it interacts.

    The spirit is a self-organizing pattern of energy-data that can then pass on the self-organizing form to new forms of matter, including our bodies. So when the spirit enters the body, our identity (the unique pattern of organizing information) is impressed onto the matter that composes our bodies (much in the way DNA does it) and our identity is preserved.

    Mark D.: “Monads may be eternal. Emergent properties, by definition, are not.”

    This comment misses the point since eternal identity isn’t based on some substrate of emergent properties, but on the unique patterns of organizing information and data that characterize a given intelligence on the view I am advocating. It is like saying that a person doesn’t persist through time because all of the cells of the body turn over every few years. What is essential isn’t these particular particles of matter, or emergent properties, but the form in which matter is organized. I am the same person because the same characteristic ways of acting and memory persist despite the change in matter that makes up my body. Indeed, it is event the same body I had when I was a kid (I have the scars to prove it) because it retains a form — not because it retains the same matter.

    It is the same with emergent properties. The properties emerge from a way of organizing data and relationships. The identity isn’t found in the emergent properties but in the form of the organized data.

    Comment by Blake — January 18, 2009 @ 7:43 pm

  222. Well I don’t begrudge you your attempts at this, Mark. I suspect these things boil down to priorities. If we think that progression must be preserved then I suspect you are on the right track in gutting the idea that the “mind of man” is eternal as your theories do. If we want to preserve the idea that the mind of man is eternal in a more robust sense we likely need to jettison much to the idea of eternal progression with its metaphysic of becoming and replace it with a metaphysic of being.

    I think you have a hard row to hoe if you want to call a microscopic-worm-level intelligence of a single monad our eternal identity though.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 18, 2009 @ 7:47 pm

  223. Wow. 222 comments. I was taken to task once (perhaps correctly) for not following all the ins and outs when I replied. I don’t think it’s possible in a thread this long. So perhaps a few more then I’ll bow out.

    Mark D (199): My point is that there doesn’t appear to be any valid argument in favor of irreducible emergent properties of complex physical systems when both the properties of the components and the relationships between them are fully considered after the fact.

    I’m very sympathetic to this view. I think though that in an LDS context Blake has a slightly stronger hand. He can argue that robust (in his sense) senses of libertarian free will and consciousness are necessary for LDS theology. (He goes through the scriptures in his books, especially the first volume) While there are opposing views I think his argument from responsibility is a reasonably strong argument. That leads to agent-libertarianism which demands an ontological agent. You then end up with a monad, a Cartesian mind, or an ontologically emergent mind. If you can provide arguments against the first two then you’re left with an argument for ontological emergence out of necessity.

    BTW – while I bring up monads I mean to be vaguer than a Leibnizean monad which has all sorts of properties I find problematic. Let’s just say an atom of consciousness. For the record I’m not sure I buy that either but that’s neither here nor there.

    Mark D. (200) I am saying that it seems to be borderline metaphysically impossible.

    I don’t think you’ve come close to establishing this. While we may find some metaphysics implausible I think metaphysical impossibility arises only out of an outright contradiction. Yet many contradictions can be avoiding by simply creating a new difference. (This tradition goes back at least to Duns Scotus but I think it ends up a position in Quine as well) That’s all I think that ontological emergence has done. It’s created by creating a difference a half-way place between Cartesianism and Materialism.

    I find it terribly implausible but I understand the logic of it.

    Geoff, (207) You don’t think your theory defies credulity too?

    I think any system of thought we’re not used to strains credulity. I think the whole issue becomes one of burdens of proof. When something works, why reject it? At best one can appeal to intuitions (which I distrust) or what gives the simplest explanation to the empirical data (which is what I favor) But even simplicity is hardly something folks agree on when applied.

    Mark D. (209): The problem with the theory of strong emergence is that by ordinary standards it is not even a theory, it is rather a radically underspecified metaphysical hypothesis.

    This seems a bit fairer a criticism. That is shouldn’t we expect there to be at least some explanation of why some configurations of matter generate an novel ontological property while others don’t? Without that isn’t it just trying to have your cake (Cartesian-like consciousness and freedom) and eat it too (materialism).

    I’ve long thought this. At least saying that there is some unknown substance with properties necessary for explanation is simpler and provides a full explanation. It may be no less speculative. But I do think it simpler.

    Blake (210) Physicists are maddening to me because they assume we already know everything in principle and we just have to find which physical laws we’ve already mastered and a good mathematical model and we’ve explained everything.

    I’ve never said that. I don’t know of any physicist who thinks we know everything in principle. Far from it. Indeed my criticism of materialism is that it is a moving target precisely because we don’t know that.

    I do think it illegitimate to postulate something that goes against all known physics. Which isn’t the same thing. In which case I’ll entertain counterclaims in terms of the empirical understanding. (And heaven knows sometimes I’m wrong – as one can see in past threads here) But I think out metaphysical speculation ought tie with our empirical knowledge. It’s tentative, of course, but I think it provides a methadological constrain on metaphysical speculation which often is already weakly hinged to argument. (I ought write a post on this)

    Blake (215)) If someone has a better view that accounts for the fact that we have consciousness and that we are morally responsible agents rather than machines, then I’d love to hear it. To date, I haven’t heard anything remotely plausible and emergence is the best candidate I’ve seen to date.

    I’ve never really been clear why you reject Cartesian dualism or various kinds of property dualisms. To make the above claim you obviously find them faulty, but it seems to me that they have all the same strengths and fewer weaknesses.

    BTW – I think the people raising the question of the material base make a good point. Shouldn’t it be possible to dissolve the consciousness by moving the elements in the base? It seems that ought be a big problem for an eternal spirit. Likewise the very question of the relation of base to spirit is an important one. It seems like this kind of emergence argument works better for someone who thinks the brain is all there is than someone defending eternal spirits.

    Comment by Clark — January 18, 2009 @ 8:42 pm

  224. Clark: It seems like this kind of emergence argument works better for someone who thinks the brain is all there is than someone defending eternal spirits.

    My thoughts exactly. That is why I think the strong emergence model of mind works best in Mormonism if we assume there is some kind of irreducible spirit hardware/brain from which our eternal minds could emerge.

    Blake’s comment that the spirit might be a “self-organizing pattern of energy-data” is an interesting twist on this though. Maybe we could get the benefits of the Cartesian mind model while still calling this energy/data “matter” going down that path…

    Comment by Geoff J — January 18, 2009 @ 8:57 pm

  225. But if you have some sort of irreducible and indestructible brain exactly what need is there for ontological emergence? Property dualism will explain everything and explain it better. You only need emergence if you also have consciousness arising independent of spirits. That is you have eternal spirits and “mortal” spirits.

    My guess is that Blake’s taxonomy doesn’t offer that. (I don’t know, maybe it does)

    Comment by Clark — January 18, 2009 @ 9:16 pm

  226. BTW – I need to go back to your first volume Blake. Maybe you do make an argument against substance dualism or property dualism in it. I don’t have my copy handy here so I can’t double check.

    Comment by Clark — January 18, 2009 @ 9:21 pm

  227. Clark: I reject dualism of the Cartesian type because I cannot see any reason to believe that if I get hit on the head the “thinking stuff” or substance would be affected. But our consciousness is clearly dependent on a functioning neurosystem and I don’t see any basis in Cartesian mind-body dualism to explain this very simple fact.

    My view is that consciousness of any sort is a process and it depends on a material substrate of some sort that is in process and the ad extra is defined by the relations that are surely more than the mere parts because the parts in themselves don’t have such relations.

    Comment by Blake — January 18, 2009 @ 10:23 pm

  228. Clark: “BTW – I think the people raising the question of the material base make a good point. Shouldn’t it be possible to dissolve the consciousness by moving the elements in the base? It seems that ought be a big problem for an eternal spirit. Likewise the very question of the relation of base to spirit is an important one. It seems like this kind of emergence argument works better for someone who thinks the brain is all there is than someone defending eternal spirits.”

    No one could assert consciousness based on the belief that the brain is all there is because there is a difference between a living brain and dead one. On my view — tentative as it is — the basic reality is the formal relations of the material substrate as “information” or data that are the basis of consciousness or consciousness of something.

    Comment by Blake — January 18, 2009 @ 10:25 pm

  229. With regard to unconsciousness, I have a hypothesis. Perhaps a monad (or whatever) does not intrinisically perceive time to increase in a regular fashion. Perhaps rather it requires an external impulse to advance from one phenomenological state to the next, such that if receives no such impulses, time appears from its perspective to stop.

    Then sleep would be accomplished by arranging the disconnection or mitigation of external impulses, causing perceived time to stop, and sufficiently severe interruptions or normal homeostasis would cause the connection to be restored, and the individual becomes conscious again.

    A severe jolt might then accomplish the same effect that an attempt to sleep normally requires, essentially knocking the monad / nervous system connection out of whack.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 18, 2009 @ 10:59 pm

  230. Blake (#227), while I can see that approach, as I said to Geoff, it seems to only work for someone who thinks the brain is all there is. For someone espousing Eternal spirits that logic makes zero sense. Unless you don’t think spirits are conscious. (A point I joked to Geoff about back in 113) If spirits are conscious then you have zero argument for ontological dualism. You’re in no better position than the property or substance dualist.

    I’d add that there are additional problems in the logic. I discussed them over at my blog though so as to not generate a long tangent in an already long thread.

    Comment by Clark — January 18, 2009 @ 11:08 pm

  231. Mark, I suspect that if there is something like a monad (and I’m far from convinced there is) then I’d be surprised if it has memory. As I said in the thread I linked to I think a lot of the phenomena we include with part of consciousness is tied to memory. And our body clearly gives us a certain kind of function (albeit poorly) memory system. Which affects our consciousness.

    If we consider the monad to be just the window though then it can’t perceive time since it has no memory to compare things with.

    Comment by Clark — January 18, 2009 @ 11:10 pm

  232. Clark, I don’t think a monad has memory either. I make a distinction between low order consciousness – the type that an unembodied monad would experience, and high order consciousness, the type that a monad would experience when coupled with a functioning brain.

    Low order consciousness would be sort of like life in a daze, or after a severe head injury, with unordered sensations passing by, and no reliable perception of time.

    High order consciousness – by virtue of the monad / brain interaction – would include the ability to recall memories and associations, reason, perceive time more reliably, form perceptions and so on.

    I maintain that most of what is considered a mental state is materialized in the brain, and the monad is intrinsically “single threaded” and only aware of a very small part of what is going in in the brain at time , normally as it chooses to direct or recall – all with the extensive aid of subsystems in the brain to have any high order consciousness at all – even to be make a choice and know that it has made a choice, for example.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 18, 2009 @ 11:42 pm

  233. Clark,

    I was taken to task once (perhaps correctly) for not following all the ins and outs when I replied.

    I must not be following closely enough. Who took you to task? A thread this big is pretty tough to keep up with, I hope you don’t bow out. Your comments are always welcome on my threads.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 19, 2009 @ 11:35 am

  234. That was me. I said that Clark didn’t seem to be paying attention after he implied that he didn’t see anything beyond personal preference in what I had said. Obviously a hypothesis has to hang together rationally, be consistent with empirical data, and generally rank near the top of reasonably likely alternatives to avoid such an accusation. And here “reasonably likely” includes theological considerations.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 19, 2009 @ 11:52 am

  235. I must say this thread has taken a turn for the better over the last 30 comments, probably because I have not been commenting. Let me call out a couple of things:

    Clark: I think any system of thought we’re not used to strains credulity.

    It is on an orthogonal topic, but I love this point.

    Blake: I reject dualism of the Cartesian type because I cannot see any reason to believe that if I get hit on the head the “thinking stuff” or substance would be affected.

    I feel like this is a tractable problem. Obviously, in our current situation our thoughts depend on our brains. However, a dependence in our current state between our spirit and body need not reflect a fundamental dependence. Near death and out of body visions/experiences all seem to suggest the idea that when freed from the body the spirit starts to function on its own, even though it was “chained,” so to speak, to the body beforehand. Obviously the mystery of the connection between ontologically distinct mind and body is the root difficulty with Cartesian dualism, but I have not yet been convinced there is some contradiction in asserting such a connection.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 19, 2009 @ 11:53 am

  236. Jacob, I don’t remember who took me to task. My problem is that a thread that’s gone on for a long time with nearly 250 comments it’s hard to remember who said what and who holds what position. And it’s too long to go back and read who said what. So eventually one feels like one is dancing on broken glass when one attempts to represent other people’s views.

    Comment by Clark — January 19, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

  237. To add, I’m not saying I won’t keep commenting. Just that comments that depend upon keeping straight who said what are a lost cause for me.

    Comment by Clark — January 19, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

  238. Yeah, well Clark, at least you can make sense of what people are saying, even if you can’t remember who said it!

    Comment by BrianJ — January 19, 2009 @ 3:54 pm

  239. The problem is more when I conflate who says what and then mangle what people actually believe! LOL. Even with people I follow closely, like Blake, I get confused at times.

    Comment by Clark — January 19, 2009 @ 6:06 pm

  240. Jacob: Why is the spirit affected by a bump on the noggin? I don’t feel that there is any problem with a material spirit body acting on a mortal body. But if the spirit is truly eternal and self-existent thinking material-stuff, then I can understand how it is affected by not how it wouldn’t be similarly affected as a spirit. Indeed, I understood that to be the point of your initial post.

    On the other hand, if an intelligence is immaterial thinking stuff, then I cannot see how it could possibly be affected by material states like a bump on the noggin or how it interacts at all.

    Comment by Blake — January 19, 2009 @ 8:43 pm

  241. Clark: “If spirits are conscious then you have zero argument for ontological dualism. You’re in no better position than the property or substance dualist.”

    I don’t see how. Process emergence rather easily explains how a disruption in the underlying material process would affect or even inhibit the emergent properties not identical to mere matter. In other words, emergence explains very easily how a bump on the noggin could affect the emergent properties that are not mere matter because such properties depend upon the proper relations-in-process to function properly. If spirits are matter, then the problem is the hard problem of how we explain matter thinking, intending, grasping meaning and being conscious at all. Dualism just has no answer to the bump on the noggin problem as I see it.

    Comment by Blake — January 19, 2009 @ 8:47 pm

  242. Mark D. I’m having a hard time distinguishing your view from that of Plato who argued for a simple (non-composed) reality as the basis of mind. If you have some material monad, then I think it is much less scientifically tenable than emergence theory. If it is an immaterial monad, then it suffers from the problems of substance dualism in addition to being unintelligible. Am I missing something about your view?

    Comment by Blake — January 19, 2009 @ 8:53 pm

  243. Blake, I’ll have a more comprehensive answer comparing the three 1st person ontologies later.

    I’d just say that a property or substance dualist could just say a bump on the noggin either (1) stops higher brain processing such that there is nothing to be conscious of or (2) stops memory such that you have no memory of being conscious of anything. So I don’t see how that’s a problem in the least.

    The theological problem for the ontological emergentist is to explain what happens to the spirit when the fetus is quickened and what happens when the body dies. If there is some other substance then what does the brain do and why is it necessary?

    I don’t see the ontological emergentist offering anything more than the property dualist offers except for the opportunity of changing the underlying substrate. Yet if the underlying substrate can be changed then consciousness can be destroyed simply by the bits of matter not staying in place. Spirits become not eternal but rather transitory dangerous things. There would be some danger to a spirit akin to my having my brain mashed. Which seems quite at odds with the notion of an Eternal spirit. (This was my point earlier when I brought up the problem of eternity, but I guess you missed it)

    The solution is some miracle by which God ensures that the matter stays in place. But then you effectively have a property dualist system just with the substrate being sustained by a miracle of God rather than being “naturally” whole. Which may fill a narrative need you have for God to sustain everything but raises an other logical problem if we are all co-eternal with God. (Since in that case I don’t see how we could be said to be co-eternal)

    Comment by clark — January 19, 2009 @ 11:43 pm

  244. Blake, In my model, each individual has a monad with both material and psychic properties, and this monad is the ultimate root of consciousness, perception, will, and identity. I maintain that this monad is as simple as possible, but no simpler.

    On that basis, I exclude memory, high level perception, reasoning, and so on. I include identity and the barest essentials of subjectivity, LFW, and external interaction.

    I try to avoid claims of the form “monads have capability X”, in favor of claims of the form “monads have the lowest level capabilities necessary to explain capability X when a monad is augmented with a functioning brain.”

    Comment by Mark D. — January 19, 2009 @ 11:49 pm

  245. Clark: I won’t belabor the obvious. Emergence provides an explanation of why affecting the underlying base constituents (like a bump on the noggin) has an effect on our consciousness. No form of dualism provides any such explanation. Of course a dualist could make the assertion that a bump on the noggin affect brain processing. However, that just leaves a huge gap in explain why that would be — especially given that the underlying properties or substance is a thinking substance or conscious in some sense quite independently of material states. Not only do we have no explanation or even any sense for why a bump on the noggin would have an effect, we have no basis for asserting interaction at all. For emergence, the dependence relations provide a full explanation. So they are not on par at all.

    Mark D. — what you describe just isn’t anything like what I believe the scriptures and Joseph Smith meant by the spirit/intelligence. Thus, what you explain, even if it explained anything, doesn’t explain what needs to be explained. Worse, just what kind of entity is this? Just how simple is the most simple possible? You claim to provide identity and things like subjectivity and LFW, but I don’t see how you being to provide anything like what is necessary for such concepts with a simple monad. For Leibniz, monads are merely constituents. I have no idea what you mean by “monad”.

    Comment by Blake — January 20, 2009 @ 10:51 am

  246. Blake, I just gave a fairly compelling explanation. So I’m surprised you don’t see it as valid. A dualist doesn’t need think that all thinking is outside the brain. (Some might, and I’d agree they are wrong, but it’s attacking a strawman to think that the only view)

    Comment by Clark — January 20, 2009 @ 10:59 am

  247. Clark: I don’t see any explanation at all but a mere assertion. What am I missing? Of course a dualist doesn’t need to think that all thinking is outside the brain, only that the brain isn’t necessary to thinking. That is all that is required. Surely the dualist has to explain how interaction occurs. If the brain isn’t necessary to thinking, then why does a knock on the noggin affect what can think without the brain?

    Comment by Blake — January 20, 2009 @ 11:04 am

  248. Blake, Admittedly it is a hard problem. My position is any mental property that must be intrinsic, is indeed singular and intrinsic. Anything that does not need to be intrinsic I assume barring a better explanation is handled by ordinary brain physiology.

    You claim that my theory doesn’t explain anything. I claim that your theory (as so far explicated) explains even less. I find it ironic that you criticize my position on the basis of weaknesses that your position appears to have rather more severely.

    The essential part of the mind I describe is eternal and self existent. Yours is essentially a contingent accident. Other than that you haven’t said anything why the mind you describe should have any features beyond that of its physical substrate, other than the assertion that it does.

    I say the same thing, except that any features not reducible to the properties of the physical substrate are necessary instead of accidental. That is the fundamental difference. Other than that, we are largely in the same boat.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 20, 2009 @ 11:21 am

  249. Blake, My position is any mental property that must be intrinsic, is indeed intrinsic (and singular). Anything that does not need to be intrinsic I assume mutatis mutandis is handled by ordinary brain physiology.

    You claim that my theory doesn’t explain anything. I claim that your theory (as so far explicated) appears to explain even less. I find it ironic that you criticize my position on the basis of weaknesses that your position appears to have rather more severely.

    The essential part of the mind I describe is eternal and self existent. Yours is essentially a contingent accident. You haven’t said anything about how the mind you describe emerges with any features beyond that of its physical substrate, other than the assertion that it does.

    I say the same thing, except that any features not reducible to the properties of the physical substrate are necessary instead of accidental. That is the fundamental difference. Other than that, we are largely in the same boat.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 20, 2009 @ 11:50 am

  250. Admin: My messages appear to be being eaten by some sort of a filter. Please recover.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 20, 2009 @ 11:53 am

  251. A dualist could simply say that there is perception and what it perceives is the thinking of the brain.

    As for the interaction that seems no less mysterious than “downwards causation” from an ontologically emergent entity. So that strikes me as quite odd. If anything dualist interactions are no less mysterious than physical interactions. (Why and how do two bodies interact without colliding?) So if you’re going down that road it strikes me as odd since your position is far more mysterious than anything the dualist has to offer.

    Surely we don’t want to solve the mysterious by invoking the even more mysterious.

    Comment by Clark — January 20, 2009 @ 11:59 am

  252. To add, given property dualism rather than substance dualism we needn’t even have any mystery about causation.

    Comment by Clark — January 20, 2009 @ 11:59 am

  253. Clark: “So if you’re going down that road it strikes me as odd since your position is far more mysterious than anything the dualist has to offer.”

    Hardly. A magnetic field can magnetize ferrous material, the ferrous material can be moved and then cause another magnetic field and then the underlying matter can cease to be present or be destroyed and yet the magnetic field continues and causes changes in the behavior of ferrous materials. That is simple downward causation not caused by the underlying constituents. A person is not just neurons and cells. Persons can cause immoral acts and be held accountable; neurons and cells cannot. So persons have properties and can cause acts that mere neurons and cells cannot. Again, very simple downward causation because a person is more than the sum of the material parts. We know that because none of the parts is morally responsible for an action but a person is. None of the parts could impart moral properties that they don’t have. So properties can arise from parts that are not possessed by the parts and the whole can cause things the parts cannot. Again, simple downward causation.

    It is not mysterious how a person can cause what the mere parts of a person cannot — so an emergent reality can cause what the mere parts cannot. What is mysterious is how an immaterial substance causes matter to act in any way.

    Comment by Blake — January 20, 2009 @ 12:44 pm

  254. Blake, A magnetic field is not an example of irreducible downward causation. The properties of a magnetic field are fully reducible to the the properties of the moving charges which generate it. If the charges quit moving, the magnetic field will dissipate nearly instantaneously. No charge will exhibit any magnetic influence that is not a strict function of the motions of other charges.

    – Mark D.

    Comment by Otherwise Mark D — January 20, 2009 @ 2:08 pm

  255. In addition, the example you have given of a person does not demonstrate downward causation in the sense used by strong emergentists. It is a simple argument against reductive physicalism. None of us here are reductive physicalists, and none of the models we propose are physically reductive in the contemporary sense of the term.

    Comment by Otherwise Mark D. — January 20, 2009 @ 2:16 pm

  256. Mark: You didn’t pay attention. The magnetic field can be created around specific ferrous materials. Those materials can be destroyed and the field continues without the underlying ferrous materials. I am not pointing to underlying charges since a field is by definition the charge so that if the charges cease to exist, then by definition so does the field. But that is not the basis of my example — the underlying ferrous materials are the basis of my example. Further, you’ve got to deal with the example of a morally responsible person none of whose parts are morally responsible.

    Comment by Blake — January 20, 2009 @ 2:19 pm

  257. Otherwise: “It is a simple argument against reductive physicalism. None of us here are reductive physicalists, and none of the models we propose are physically reductive in the contemporary sense of the term.”

    Actually, if the monad proposed by alter-ego Mark is material, then it does reduce to physicalism. Further, the argument isn’t aimed at reductive physicalism at all, but at Clark’s argument that explanation of downward causation of emergent properties is just as mysterious as for dualism. In this example, there are emergent properties (moral actions), downward causation (a person does a moral act) and it is not at all mysterious how a person causes moral actions. Thus, Clark’s assertion is not well-taken — and your comment is wide of the mark.

    Comment by Blake — January 20, 2009 @ 2:27 pm

  258. Blake, First of all, the only cause of (net) magnetic field generation in stationary materials is the spin alignment of electrons. The only thing special about ferromagnetic materials is that the spin alignment of nearby unpaired electrons exhibits persistent quantum hysteresis. The spin alignment domains of these electrons are normally quasi-crystalline and random.

    There is a local magnetic field within and nearby these domains at all times. Applying a sufficiently strong external magnetic field causes the local magnetic domain boundaries to shift as individual electrons along the boundary are flipped to join the domain that is aligned with the prevailing magnetic field, until the prevailing magnetic domains outnumber the others, causing a net endogeneous magnetic field.

    The electron spins in many materials (liquid oxygen, for example) will align temporarily with a external magnetic field. This is called diamagnetism. Alignment hysteresis is the quantum effect that allows ferromagnetic materials to retain a global alignment, and thus produce a stable macroscopic magnetic field without any externally applied current. Without such hysteresis, the micro-magnetic fields produced by each unpaired electron essentially cancel out.

    Many physical systems exhibit hysteresis or memory. Batteries, capacitors, and digital flip flops are common examples. However, in order to demonstrate strong emergence, you must demonstrate macroscopic effects in a system that are neither derivable by ideal Laplacian calculator nor statistically random, and in addition demonstrate that these macroscopic deviations are caused by a strongly emergent entity.

    I don’t appear understand to the logic of your example except to say that a Laplacian calculator is fully capable of deriving the effect that you describe, which entails full physical reduction, and thus no evidence of non-reductive entities (let alone strong emergence) in ferromagnetic materials.

    Comment by Otherwise Mark D. — January 20, 2009 @ 2:58 pm

  259. Actually, if the monad proposed by alter-ego Mark is material, then it does reduce to physicalism

    On the contrary. It is a variety of “property dualism“.

    [Note: "Mark D." == "Mark D.." == "Otherwise Mark D." The system is filtering posts signed as "Mark D." at the moment]

    Comment by Mark D.. — January 20, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

  260. Blake the downward causation in an ontologically emergent system is completely unlike the downward causality in a physically emergent system which is quite comprehensible. You keep bringing up those analogies (your other example being water) but you seem to miss the fundamental disanalogy of them. Put an other way that’s like me saying Cartesian dualism isn’t causally mysterious at all since planets attract each other with gravity.

    Comment by Clark — January 20, 2009 @ 3:13 pm

  261. Hey Mark, I haven’t even caught up on the thread yet, but I see you’ve had some comment problems. I checked the spam filter and the moderation queue and can’t find anything there. I’ll look again when I get more time tonight. Sorry for the trouble.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 20, 2009 @ 7:03 pm

  262. Mark: You’re still missing the point. The ferrous materials sustain the magnetic field and they are not necessary to its continuance. Second, your claim of a Laplacian determinism is false since there are quantum effects at the subatomic level and thus on the relevant non-deterministic construals of quantum mechanics such systems are not deterministic. Look, I don’t claim to be a physicist, but it is quite clear that you’re missing the point. The underlying cause of the field, the ferrous materials, don’t need to continue.

    Clark: You just failed to address the fact that in emergence (whether it can be proven or not!) the fact that the emergent properties are dependent on the underlying constituents is easily explainable whereas for dualists the notion of interaction and why a disparate stuff or properties should be affected by a physical cause remains totally unexplainable. That was my only point. I was not attempting to prove emergence — though I believe there are good examples in terms of properties that wholes have that constituents don’t have and thus the constituents don’t give rise the properties of the whole.

    Comment by Blake — January 20, 2009 @ 9:26 pm

  263. Mark D – Property dualism is still a dualism. Just how a monad could have dualistic properties remains a total mystery to me.

    Comment by Blake — January 20, 2009 @ 9:28 pm

  264. Blake, it is not an established fact that quantum mechanics is non-deterministic. See David Bohm’s formulation for example. However, supposing that QM is intrinsically stochastic (a proposition I happen to find ridiculous) a radically emergent entity cannot be reflected by any process which is stochastically neutral (such as a fair coin toss). Minds, we agree, are macroscopically non-reductive. Quantum “randomness” is far too even handed for that.

    Now as far as your original point goes, I suggest you kindly make your argument in somewhat more formal terms, because I have no idea how you conclude radical emergence in a system that every physicist on the planet (including those who believe in strong emergence) will tell you exhibits none.

    The magnetic field is a secondary effect of charge in motion (where motion is understood to include spin). If the motion stops, the magnetic field stops (or more precisely it dissipates to infinity at the speed of light).

    Ferromagnetism, however, is nothing more than a weakly emergent alignment of iron atoms. Iron atoms generate a magnetic field all the time (due to the spin of unpaired electrons). It is not like the magnetic field appears out of nowhere, it is just becomes macroscopically measurable when all the atoms point the same way.

    There is not the slightest trace of anything strongly emergent about atoms that exhibit crystalline alignment hysteresis. Weakly emergent in spades, but not strongly emergent. Nothing new has been created. There are no new entities. Just pre-existing micro-magnetic fields lining up in the same direction.

    Comment by Otherwise Mark D. — January 20, 2009 @ 10:27 pm

  265. Blake, I might add that the reason why an electron with mass, spin, and charge doesn’t immediately fly apart is a complete mystery to science. However, that doesn’t keep science from predicting the behavior of ensembles of electrons with greater accuracy than anything has ever been predicted, ever.

    The reason why I adopted the term “monad” is that it is the only common noun that has dualistic properties, by definition. If you don’t like the term, think “primal intelligence”. Again, non-reductive mental properties have to reside somewhere, I just maintain they (the non-reductive ones that is) reside singularly and necessarily. If you think that is unlikely or impossible, please make an argument.

    Finally, if like William Hasker, you maintain that the mind is actually a noun, and not just a collection of properties, your theory is (like Hasker’s) a form of emergent dualism.

    Comment by Otherwise Mark D. — January 20, 2009 @ 10:39 pm

  266. Mark: Look, the sole point of the example is that the underlying ferrous material that gave rise to a field need not continue for the field to continue. I wasn’t using this example as an argument for strong emergence, but as an analogy to how we explain the dependence relation in emergent properties. So you’ve missed the point.

    further, I have no idea what you mean by primal intelligence. A monad does not have dualistic properties. A monad has at most one property and thus only one type of property.

    Finally, I don’t follow Hasker because I believe that what emerges is physical and the underlying base is physical — but the properties of the emergent are based on relations of constituents and not intrinsic properties of the constituents. By definition, the relations are not something that the constituents could have and thus the only possibility is that the properties of relations are emergent.

    Comment by Blake — January 20, 2009 @ 11:18 pm

  267. I quote from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    Leibniz thus distinguishes four types of monads: [those in] humans, animals, plants, and matter. All have perceptions, in the sense that they have internal properties that “express” external relations; the first three have substantial forms, and thus appetition; the first two have memory; but only the first has reason (see Monadology §§18-19 & 29).

    As far as a “primal intelligence” goes, start with a B.H. Roberts style intelligence, remove any physically reducible capacities or physical extensions of irreducible capacities and you have what I call a “primal intelligence”.

    That is a definition. I can speculate about exactly what is physically reducible and what is not, but for present purposes speculation about where to draw the dividing line between reducible and irreducible functions for each manifestly requisite mental capacity is relatively insignificant. If there is such a thing as a primal intelligence, it only requires the non-reductive properties of the mind. So for practical purposes I define it that way.

    From empirical considerations, it seems likely that memory is reducible. All unconscious phenomena appear to be reducible as well. Most mental phenomena are manifestly hybrids of reducible and irreducible functions. One cannot see without a visual cortex, but qualia are not physically reducible. At some point the boundary is crossed.

    Comment by Otherwise Mark D. — January 21, 2009 @ 12:40 am

  268. Still haven’t caught up (hopefully I’ll have time today), but one thing I was thinking about last night was the idea of demonic possession. For starters, I am not sure how many people here believe in demonic possession, but assuming the various accounts in the scriptures and early church history are correct, it is interesting to consider how such a thing could be possible on the theories of mind presented here. Emergentism, for example, seems like it would have no way to account for possession.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 21, 2009 @ 9:53 am

  269. Mark: given your view, there isn’t anything that isn’t physically reducible except the monad itself which already has the properties you want to reduce. It appears to me that we end up with exactly nothing when we’re through reducing.

    Comment by Blake — January 21, 2009 @ 10:15 am

  270. Jacob: Just why couldn’t emergentism account for possession?

    Comment by Blake — January 21, 2009 @ 11:09 am

  271. Blake: That quote was just to demonstrate that Leibniz’s monads had dualistic properties. His also have all sorts of properties that I think are either superfluous or partly reducible. Since the use of the term seems to cause more confusion than its worth, I have adopted the term “primal intelligence” instead, which I have defined above.

    As far as reducibility is concerned, I gave you a handful of examples above. However, the same question applies to you. You are not a reductive physicalist, so where do you draw the line between the reducible, the partly reducible, and the irreducible?

    If something is partially reducible, how do you go about partitioning the reducible part from the irreducible part? Unless you deny that there are partially reducible (hybrid) mental capacities, is seems you face the same challenge as I do.

    Comment by Otherwise Mark D. — January 21, 2009 @ 11:18 am

  272. Jacob: My first instinct is to suggest that demonic possession is just an external perception of flat out insanity. However, I don’t see any metaphysical reasons why a second intelligence could not compete for control of the same body. How practical that might be is another story.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 21, 2009 @ 11:26 am

  273. Mark: I think that you are right that emergentism must explain why the emergent properties don’t reduce. However, that is just the point of genuinely emergent properties in emergence theory: they are not reducible. That is the essence of the theory. You have appropriately questioned whether there are such genuinely novel properties in the physical world. My claim is that there are such properties, they are not reducible or fully explainable by the properties of the underlying base, and that there is downward causation based on the properties of the whole as opposed to the mere parts acting separately and expressing their own individual properties. In fact, the claim of process thought is that God, humans, organisms, and other highly organized aggregates are all such emergent realities. The emergent properties arise largely with life and the processes of life rather than merely physical realities.

    In fact, among the primary theories of neuroscience are those that assert that the brain is a chaotic quantum system that provides novel feedback loops and downward causation all over the place with respect to biofeedback and conscious control of brain function. So I don’t really expect to find genuinely emergent properties in the physical world using the technique of physical explanation by explaining the behavior of constituent parts.

    When we act as conscious persons, we don’t act as merely a collection of neurons or merely bodily cells. We act as a responsible agent. My cells are not responsible, I am.

    Comment by Blake — January 21, 2009 @ 11:59 am

  274. Just why couldn’t emergentism account for possession?

    I am not sure, which is why I throw it out there. My thought was that if intelligence is an emergent property of the physical brain, it seems like a problem to say that someone else can “take over.” Somehow the demon must exist independent of the brain (spirit brain?), but how is it able to force it’s identity to emerge from the brain while the identity and intelligence of the possessed person seems to continue on at the same time from the same physical brain? This sort of highlights the seemingly fleeting nature of identity on the emergent theory (as far as I have been able to understand it).

    Comment by Jacob J — January 21, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

  275. Blake, I don’t expect any emergentist theory to fully explain (reduce) what is going on. That would defeat the point. I certainly expect any reasonable theory to have a hypothesis about how to partition reducible and irreducible functions.

    The neuropsychology folks are likely to advance the domain and understanding of reducible brain functions significantly over the next century or so. The primary function of a metaphysical hypothesis about the mind seems to me to be the ability to make defensible claims about where the reductionist program will not be able to succeed and why.

    So unless one takes the position that all mental functions are irreducible tout court, a useful theory of the mind seems to require a demarcation hypothesis about the reducibility of mental functions, in particular with regard to the manifest hybrids.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 21, 2009 @ 5:13 pm

  276. I was going to make some comments here but at 275 messages I decided to post over at my blog an extended set of comments.

    I’ll try and read through the past 50 messages to see if there was anything new I missed.

    Comment by Clark — January 22, 2009 @ 6:43 pm

  277. Blake,

    what you [Mark D] describe just isn’t anything like what I believe the scriptures and Joseph Smith meant by the spirit/intelligence. Thus, what you explain, even if it explained anything, doesn’t explain what needs to be explained.

    Just what did Joseph Smith say that doesn’t fit with what Mark has proposed? If anything, I’d say your theory is in more peril of this criticism than Mark’s. As I mentioned in the post, we have at least these two points Joseph Smith:

    1. Language from Lehi and D&C 93 which suggests some form of dualism.
    2. The idea that our intelligence is fundamentally uncreatable and indestructible.

    Neither of these seems to fit the theory of emergence.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 23, 2009 @ 6:44 pm

  278. Jacob: Joseph Smith never spoke of a monad. He never spoke of monads. He never spoke of a simple material or immaterial thing as a spirit or intelligence.

    He spoke of intelligences that are uncreated, that have capacities for growth and making choices. The capacity to make a choice requires some sort of ability to think and deliberate. The intelligences exist in an eternal sociality where God desires their growth. They appear to be aware of their own identity and their accountability.

    Here is the problem with what you seem to demand. You want a “simple” thing — something that cannot be de-composed because it is not composed of parts. But the only simple reality of this type is an immaterial ideal, a simple non-material reality. I’m not aware of anything that meets this demand except the Austinian/Thomistic tradition of the classical God or a Platonic Ideal. But the intelligence is certainly not like these concepts.

    Any material reality is subject to decomposition because when we get to the smallest bits of matter we don’t have bits of matter any more, we have merely fuzzy wave-particle information. However, we have no idea what the properties of spirit matter may be. Perhaps composed spirit matter is not subject to decomposition. I would that a resurrected body is certainly composed; but it also seems to be indestructible. All that is required is that the organization that gives rise to the emergent properties is self-organized (the principles of organization or internal to the intelligence) and no power could de-organize it. Why do you believe there cannot be such an intelligence that meets these requirements — unless it is just the notion that whatever is composed of parts can be decomposed at least logically (though perhaps not physically)?

    You’ll have to spell out for me how Lehi and D&C 93 support some sort of dualism –and what sort of dualism is it? Certainly not substance dualism because spirit is a form of matter and thus not a disparate substance. I don’t see any mention of properties or anything precise enough to speak of property dualism in the scriptures anywhere. It is true that we have things that act and things that are acted upon in 2 Ne. 2, but any agent causal view of a person or mind could accommodate that view with an emergent agent.

    As I understand your concern, if the physical brain is the source of emergent mind for the physical body, then the “spirit brain” is the source of emergent properties for the spirit body. Further, you fear that there is something that could de-compose the spirit brain just like the physical brain. Well, unless we have a non-material, simple reality at the core of our identity (which is just unintelligible as far as I can see), you’re going to have to go with some sort of organized material spirit or intelligence.

    Now I don’t know what the properties of the eternal intelligence/spirit are. However, it seems fairly clear that they are not the simple monads of which Mark speaks and they are not the logically simple realities of which Plato and Aquinas speak.

    Comment by Blake — January 24, 2009 @ 4:26 pm

  279. Blake,

    Yes, you have captured my concerns pretty well. In addition to dissolution of the spirit brain, I am not at all clear on how the spirit brain interacts with the physical brain. I know you gave this problem a stab in #221. If I understood your suggestion there, you are saying that the emergent intelligence moves from a spirit brain to a physical brain. It seems like you are trying to define an intelligence as having a unique identity apart from the various brains from which it can emerge, and I am having a hard time seeing how this could be. Also, the spirit brain surely lives on even when we are embodied on earth, but I don’t know what it is doing or how it could possibly be related to our physical brain during this time.

    For you it is clear that eternal intelligence/spirits are not simple monads, but to me it is not clear. The part I most like about Mark’s guess is that it offers a way to account for
    the eternal nature of identity while at the same time offering a reason for why gaining a brain would be an advantage and an important part of progression.

    Perhaps composed spirit matter is not subject to decomposition.

    Certainly if the spirit is capable of progression then the spirit brain is subject to change and reconfiguration. If so, I don’t know how it could be, in principle, indestructible. It may be that God guarantees that it won’t be destroyed through his power, but this leads to the problem Clark pointed out in #243.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 24, 2009 @ 6:48 pm

  280. Jacob: the properties of mind are not disparate from the underlying matter, but arise from the organization and relations of the processes that constitute the brain. Figuring out how mind arises in the physical body is enough of a challenge for me.

    It is clear to me that a spirit/intelligence is not a monad because it can enter into relations and be further organized — monads cannot do that. Monads always remain monads. If you want to say that the body is a bunch of monads, that’s fine except it is just either panpsychism or emergence from the collection of monads at that point and the monad of itself ceases to be relevant except as a constituent.

    Comment by Blake — January 24, 2009 @ 10:38 pm

  281. I have to agree with Blake. Why the emphasis for a single monad, Jacob?

    Also, I don’t see dualism in D&C 93. (If anything I see an idealist monism)

    Comment by clark — January 24, 2009 @ 11:10 pm

  282. I think Jacob brings up a very good point.

    JS said that spirit/minds are eternal. If we take that seriously then it seems to me that the most straightforward theory would be to assume that spirits are simple and irreducible. As Clark mentioned, a straightforward theory of mind for these simple/irreducible spirits would be a property dualism theory.

    The problem with an emergence theory is that it means that minds aren’t really eternal. If the material from which the mind emerges is deconstructed then the mind goes away, right? (Even if there is a “backup disk” or something)

    In Mark’s theory human spirits are not eternal and the minds of human spirits aren’t really eternal either. Rather, there is some seed of mind — an irreducible monad — than is eternal.

    I don’t want to argue for any of these ideas, but it seems to me that all of these theories have problems.

    The biggest problem of all is figuring out how a spirit mind interacts with a mortal brain at all. Or, more importantly, figuring out what part of us now persists after we die.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 24, 2009 @ 11:23 pm

  283. In Mark’s theory human spirits are not eternal and the minds of human spirits aren’t really eternal either. Rather, there is some seed of mind — an irreducible monad — [that] is eternal.

    A spirit is not necessarily the same thing as a spirit body. If someone lost an arm in an accident, would we say that he was now only 7/8 of a person?

    Suppose rather that a person suffers severe amnesia. In what sense do we say that he is the same person that he was before? Or to use a more pertinent example, none of us (presumably) can remember anything about our pre-mortal existence.

    To what degree can we associate the mind that we have today with the mind that we had then? Unless our pre-mortal mind / spirit had a direct influence on both the genetic combination we received from our parents and the post-conception formation of the brain, it isn’t exactly obvious how something as fundamental as character would be preserved.

    So I admit that my theory does not explain anything beyond preservation of identity and (proto-) consciousness. However, for all multi-entity dualist and emergentist theories the problem is considerably worse. In such theories both personal identity and consciousness are intrinsically contingent and non-eternal.

    Brigham Young’s variation is typical – there is no eternal “you” – everyone is potentially subject to the “second death” where he or she ceases to exist. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 25, 2009 @ 2:24 am

  284. It is clear to me that a spirit/intelligence is not a monad because it can enter into relations and be further organized — monads cannot do that.

    You’ll have to spell it out for me. Why can’t a monad do enter into relations? The whole point of the theory is that a single monad with the basic properties of mind can be connected to a brain and thereby gain new capabilities made possible by the hardware of the brain. When you assert that monads can’t enter into relations, it seems you simply deny the essence of the theory, much as you said Mark was doing of emergentism #273. If you put me in front of google, I can take advantage of a big infrastructure of data storage and search algorithms. I can do new things I couldn’t do before. I don’t have to emerge from google to do that.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 25, 2009 @ 10:31 am

  285. Jacob: Note carefully: what you’re after is some sort of indestructible eternal. If your view is that only a simple and irreducible reality can do that and that such a reality is immaterial (as it must be) then we have simple Platonism. Such a view isn’t tenable to me — indeed I believe it is incoherent.

    A monad cannot enter into relations because it is monadic — it doesn’t have any properties that are distinct because it is simple. It requires distinct temporal properties to enter into relations. If there are distinct temporal properties then there can be change, such as entering into relations. But a simple reality cannot change, it cannot gain a property it doesn’t have intrinsically and it cannot have differing properties at all. So just how a monad could be an eternal intelligence that has capacity for growth and learning is beyond me.

    An emergent reality can fit the bill if it meets two conditions: (1) it is self-organizing in the sense that its eternal intrinsic properties entail organization of information and data and (2) the self-organizing power is such that nothing can disorganize it. Why couldn’t an intelligence have such basic and primal powers of self-organization from which greater intelligence emerges from greater complexity? Your entire argument rests on the assumption that such basic powers are not possible, but I don’t see anything that you offer that even begins to suggest why such conditions could not be met.

    Comment by Blake — January 25, 2009 @ 12:21 pm

  286. Blake, I think everyone has been clear that by monad they don’t mean the windowless monads of Leibniz.

    Comment by Clark — January 25, 2009 @ 7:50 pm

  287. Clark (#281),

    As to dualism in D&C 93, I had in mind the fact that it seems to speak of spirit and element as two fundamental constituents of the universe. Couple this with the KFD that says “intelligence exists on a self-existent principle.” If intelligence depends on a brain, I am not sure it can strictly be self-existing, but obviously we should use caution when we try to parse out metaphysical distinctions from Joseph’s words. Of course I don’t by any stretch think the scriptures require dualism.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 26, 2009 @ 12:53 am

  288. I’m not sure you could say those only could be taken in an ontological fashion. Put an other way I don’t see why Orson Pratt’s monism isn’t just as compatible with both D&C 93 and the KFD. Certainly it can be read dualistically but I don’t think it can function as evidence for dualism.

    Comment by Clark — January 26, 2009 @ 9:54 am

  289. Clark: “Blake, I think everyone has been clear that by monad they don’t mean the windowless monads of Leibniz.:

    Yeah, the notion of monads suggested is even less clear and just how they constitute a monad at all is the clear question. Just how something that has capacity for growth could be something other than a metaphysically simple monad is precisely the issue.

    Comment by Blake — January 27, 2009 @ 9:37 am

  290. I’m afraid I don’t quite follow your argument then.

    Comment by Clark — January 27, 2009 @ 10:57 am

  291. Blake, I mentioned a dozen or more messages ago that I have discarded the term “monad” as misleading. Lacking a better term, I call it a “primal intelligence” instead.

    A primal intelligence is defined as the only, self-existent, and singular part of a person that intrinsically has first person properties. And that in addition, it does not intrinsically or in isolation have capacities that empirically require the augmentation of a brain.

    The only difference between this position and more conventional property dualism is the proposition that only one entity per person intrinsically has mental and first person properties, on the grounds that something must have first person properties and more than one entity per person having intrinsically mental and first person properties is excessive.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 27, 2009 @ 1:05 pm

  292. To be clear, if we changed the term to “atom” rather than “monad”, would your argument change?

    Comment by Clark — January 27, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

  293. Mark: Changing the name doesn’t change the problem. What is it that is intrinsically simple and uncomposed that fills the bill of a necessarily eternal reality? Further, your first person criterion won’t do the job because our composed and emergent consciousness in this body is also first-person and yet you reject it as adequate for some reason. What is the reason?

    Clark: To be clear, changing what we call it changes nothing at all. The question of how a metaphysically simple reality could have multiple properties and the capacity to change by ceasing to have some properties and gaining others is just the problem that metaphysically simple reality face. Such simple things are simple also in the sense that they don’t have distinct or differing properties.

    Comment by Blake — January 27, 2009 @ 6:00 pm

  294. Blake, I have made it quite clear that I don’t have any reason to believe that a primal intelligence can so much as remember without a brain.

    As far as emergence theories go, I have yet to hear any explanation of how or why one first-person consciousness emerges inside a brain instead of two or a dozen or a hundred.

    In addition, I don’t see how emergence explains the uniqueness or the eternality of individuality. It reduces the soul in all its aspects to the logical equivalent of a computer program. Not that one would be as deterministic as a computer program, but that if one cloned a person, it would not just be practically impossible, but be logically impossible to tell which was the clone and which was the original.

    That seems to reduce the worth of souls to little more than a question of capital preservation. If an incalcitrant soul goes to sleep and never wakes up again in all eternity, who is the wiser?

    Ultimately, I don’t know any way to ground ethics in any form of physicalism, non-reductive or otherwise. That goes doubly for the plan of salvation.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 27, 2009 @ 10:08 pm

  295. So you find the very notion of atoms metaphysically problematic? (Ignoring the mind issues) So an atom that changes properties (say velocity, position, etc.) is problematic? I just don’t see the metaphysical problem.

    Now I favor continuity for various reasons I won’t go into rather than atomism. But I just don’t see the argument.

    Comment by Clark — January 28, 2009 @ 11:16 am

  296. Clark: Changes in position or velocity are external relations and not intrinsic properties, and thus misses my entire point. Growth in something is a change in intrinsic properties and not merely in relations.

    Mark: If an intelligences has the two properties I’ve repeatedly outlined, then your questions are answered. The point that we have a unified consciousness arises from the fact that the brain acts as a population of neurons in temporal conjunction to collectively give rise to a new emergent that is a whole or a person or agent on a new level of analysis. No neuron is conscious — but it is certain that consciousness as we know it is always and only present when there are population of functioning neurons. So the evidence demonstrates that we need populations of functioning neurons for consciousness. It is an empirical and not a deductive claim.

    Further, as I said before, i don’t see any reason that the self-organizing principles of information processing cannot be indestructible by outside physical forces. My claim is that such a view is conceptually possible, there is nothing incoherent about it. I would add, you certainly haven’t suggested anything to the contrary. Perhaps there are composed realities that no physical force that actually obtains could decompose. I am not claiming that it is logically necessary or follows from some logically necessary principles. But you are the one asserting it isn’t possible, and that you haven’t done.

    I of course admit that any composed is logically decomposible — I simply deny that it is necessary that such a composed reality is physically subject to decomposition given the realities that actually exist.

    Comment by Blake — January 28, 2009 @ 6:07 pm

  297. Blake, The evidence suggests that we do indeed need a population of functioning neurons for high level consciousness. It does not entail the impossibility of low level consciousness in the absence of such a population.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 28, 2009 @ 6:34 pm

  298. Blake, is acceleration an intrinsic or extrinsic property?

    I suspect I can select several subatomic properties that seem to change in fundamental particles. Of course one could always say they aren’t really fundamental. But the question then becomes how to present your position without it merely being a tautology?

    Put an other way, what is the argument for your view of properties?

    Comment by Clark — January 28, 2009 @ 8:51 pm

  299. Growth in something is a change in intrinsic properties and not merely in relations.

    What it growth is possible precisely because the conscious atom is capable of being joined to a body?

    Comment by Jacob J — January 28, 2009 @ 10:40 pm

  300. I don’t think the idea that velocity is strictly an extrinsic property is tenable. Physical velocity entails both momentum and kinetic energy, conserved quantities of considerable significance, even in “massless” particles.

    In any case, I agree that if something is sufficiently atomic, durable changes in intrinsic properties are unprecedented. So I tend to take the position that Jacob suggests, namely that durable growth requires a body, and persists and is reflected in the structure thereof.

    And in addition that the permanent loss of body (spiritual and temporal) would indeed return an intelligence to ground zero, without even a memory of its past history.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 29, 2009 @ 9:56 pm

  301. Mark D. Your view of a not-quite conscious intelligence without agency and personality just doesn’t seem to me to be what Joseph Smith was talking about, i.e., an uncreated spirit from age to age that has the powers of choice and growth. Of course it goes fine with some things we could imply from Pratt’s views, but I don’t give them much weight.

    Comment by Blake — January 29, 2009 @ 10:44 pm

  302. Blake: So what? Does it make a difference if my nomenclature is different than his?

    Comment by Mark D. — January 29, 2009 @ 11:00 pm

  303. Or to put it more accurately is there a disadvantage to my view being closer to Joseph Smith’s than Brigham Young’s, Orson Pratt’s, or (apparently) yours, even if it doesn’t share all the properties we might reasonably derive from his final discourses?

    Comment by Mark D. — January 29, 2009 @ 11:11 pm

  304. Mark: What a Mormon ought to do, it seems to me, is make most sense of the scriptures and of Joseph Smith’s revelations. It doesn’t matter what you call the eternal intelligence if it ain’t eternal, isn’t conscious and doesn’t eternally have choice then it ain’t what these scriptures and Joseph Smith describe no matter what you call it.

    Now if you believe that BY or OP had some independent revelation then perhaps what they think has some weight; but I’m not aware of any such basis for crediting their views.

    Comment by Blake — January 30, 2009 @ 6:15 pm

  305. Blake: That is a reasonable principle, one which I support. However, there are many different ways of resolving the implicit inconsistencies, and I count my suggestion among them.

    As we discussed earlier in this thread, the issue revolves around what spirit matter is needed for if not to compose a spirit body, and in addition the purpose of a body at all, if not to augment the capacity of the spirit/intelligence. I believe I am taking LDS doctrine about the purpose of bodies to its logical conclusion.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 30, 2009 @ 6:46 pm

  306. Blake,

    It doesn’t matter what you call the eternal intelligence if it ain’t eternal

    This is precisely the problem I have accepting emergentism. You said the following in #285:

    An emergent reality can fit the bill if it meets two conditions: (1) it is self-organizing in the sense that its eternal intrinsic properties entail organization of information and data and (2) the self-organizing power is such that nothing can disorganize it. Why couldn’t an intelligence have such basic and primal powers of self-organization from which greater intelligence emerges from greater complexity?

    I think it is incoherent to call something an “intrinsic property” if that property is wholly dependent on a specific organization of matter and that matter is fundamentally malleable. In #278 you suggested that “Perhaps composed spirit matter is not subject to decomposition,” but that is just a baseless and ad hoc suggestion which flies in the face of everything we know about matter. If it is subject to enlargement, then it must be subject to re-organization. If it is possible to re-organize for the better, then why not for the worse? Certainly there is a logical possibility of decomposition, but further, it seems to me that we have every reason to believe in intelligence can be snuffed out if it is emergent.

    It doesn’t matter what you call the eternal intelligence if it …isn’t conscious and doesn’t eternally have choice then it ain’t what these scriptures and Joseph Smith describe no matter what you call it.

    How did you leap to the conclusion that it isn’t conscious and doesn’t eternally have choice? I would think consciousness and agency are precisely the intrinsic properties of the atom being proposed. Neither of these requires an ability to store memories as far as I can tell (thus, no need for a body).

    Comment by Jacob J — February 2, 2009 @ 12:33 pm

  307. Comment by web page — December 29, 2012 @ 5:05 pm

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