An account of the basis of Physicalism (III)

Suppose we tried using the principle of causal closure to critique a very basic non-naturalist claim:

1.) All physical effects can only have physical causes

2.) The motion of fundamental particles is a physical effect

3.) God is not a physical cause

4.) Therefore, God cannot move fundamental particles.

Here, it’s hard to give a briefer response than Plantinga’s: conservation laws presuppose closed systems, but if God acts on a system, it’s by definition not causally closed. If one is basing hos account of closure not on conservation laws but on Einstein’s solid block universe, that too presupposes that all agents are natural (i.e. unable to send information or move faster than light, etc.)

So what if we took this even more fundamental application of the principle of causal closure?

1.) All physical effects have physical causes.

2.) The existence of fundamental particles is a physical effect.

3.) God is not a physical cause.

4.) Therefore, God does not cause the existence of fundamental particles.

Voilà – physicalism proves creation is impossible. The problem is that 2.) is false by the very definition of causal closure. One cannot find existence treated in the enumeration of fundamental particles (for all the problems existence has caused metaphysics, the particle physicist ought to be happy he doesn’t study it). One can, of course, simply stipulate as an axiom that  only fundamental particles exist, but then the whole argument becomes question begging and superfluous.

But what if we ran the first argument through using soul instead of “God”? Here again, soul simply does not fall under the causal closure principle. Soul explains actions so far as a thing is responsible, is a self, can act in light of principles not given to it by nature etc..  Positing soul does not explain physical action in relation to another physical action, simply because any physical action is an object for soul and thus distinct from it.

1 Comment

  1. One said,

    May 25, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Assume I slap your face. You can detect my hand moving at 5m/s ,or , sensations pointing towards this . Thus , the motion of my hand appears as a physical action for you, and object for you , and distinct for you. However, from my perspective, I am the cause of ‘my hand slapping your face’ . Thus it would appear that I cause the ‘physical action’. However , how can soul impart motion on matter,given that they appear as distinct substances?As the great Leibniz showed long ago , this is a wrong way of looking at the problem . Physicists take matter to be the fundamental substance, and try to reduce mind to it. What if we were to take the opposite approach? An attempt at this is the monadology. If we take the soul to be fundamental instead of matter, I can’t really say ‘I cause “the hand” to slap your face’ . At most I can say ‘I cause you to experience the feeling of “my hand slapping your face”‘. Mater disappears , all that is left is ‘the correlation between souls’ that is identical to ‘the experience of matter’ , and other souls , insofar as they manifest themselves to our experience, by “matter” , or other means. One can thus attain causal closure . All one needs is an infinitude of souls , and a common point/space upon which they act or perceive . Any ‘physical action deemed as objective’ is a correlation in the perceptions of all souls (its similarity in their perceptions makes it ‘objective’ ) . It is either caused by an individual soul, or is an aggregate resulting (if one were to follow the great causal chains backward ) from the causal actions of a multitude of souls .A cause that follows ‘directly’ from the soul is experienced by it as its will.


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