Why sciences can’t distinguish mental and physical

-Chomsky, Russell, and Strawson all defend the claim that the sciences don’t tell us enough about  mind and the physical to know whether they are the same or different.  They not only draw different conclusions from this but make the claim itself for different reasons. I disagree with all their reasons and think there is a better one on offer.

-“Mind” and “the physical” are both substance terms, making them claims about what something is beyond its functional role. This means that no functional definition can divide mind from matter since this posits a superfluous “substance” beyond the functional interaction. Snow made in a snowmaker is formed intentionally while snow formed in clouds isn’t, and the entropy made by a refrigerator is intentional while entropy from a rock cooling off in the forest isn’t, but the functional account of crystal formation and entropy is the same in both cases. So long as we’re defining things functionally they aren’t physical or mental, and (this being the most important point) this isn’t a bug but a feature: the whole point is to define things occurring from non-intelligent secondary causes on a platform that will allow them to occur by intelligent secondary causes. Us, that is.

-So it’s right that the physical sciences don’t allow us to distinguish mental from physical, but this is not because they are at some incomplete stage of development and we need to role up our sleeves and get to work (Strawson) or because the nature of things is mysterious and forced us to give up looking for what things are and accept more humble descriptions (Chomsky) but because the sciences deliberately define subjects of study in a way that is indifferent to whether they arise from physical or mental secondary causes. Without this, the sciences could never be the handmaidens of engineering.  

-Suppose you stipulate that any functional definition is a physical one. But then “physical” means what is designed to unify the mental and physical, which is guaranteed to cause bewilderment and sophistry as soon as we try to use scientific findings to distinguish the two, i.e. to say anything about them as separate.

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