Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Physical and Mental Substances: what are the stuffs of nature?

Here is a potted summary of a non-reductive 'propensity account' of physical and mental substances:

Quantum theory must deal with substance, but just not substance of the classical material or atomistic kind.  Rather, something that perseveres through time without existing in a actualized form at every moment. The substance would be something like the 'potentiality' or 'propensity' for acting, and that acting occurs with non-zero time steps, not continuously. This is the 'propensity interpretation' of quantum mechanics, initiated by Heisenberg and Popper. Because of the finite time steps, propensities exist and persist from one event to another actualization. Between events, therefore, they are the substances of quantum things.

We talk about mental information, and ask "what property of substance, makes it amenable to human cognition". You (like many others) are asking, 'what is the stuff of mind?'. My answer is an extrapolation of what I said above for quantum physics. It is 'potentiality' or 'propensity' but now of mental kinds. What is that, you ask? Do I know it? Yes: I say. It is the 'love' or 'desire' that make a person. For loves and desires are what in us persons that does persist. Again we make actualizing decisions intermittently. Between those decisions it is our love which persist. Love is our mental/personal substance. Just (certainly not!) material substance!

Quantum objects are propensity-substances in various forms. Those forms are the wave functions of quantum theory.
Mental objects are love-substances in various forms. Those forms are the information of mental kind, a.k.a thoughts and perceptions. The actions of love (a.k.a. decisions) have physical effects.

These ideas are based on the ideas of the kind Aristotle might have had without much effort, though in fact he did not. Just remember that there are two kinds of substances (at least), and the kinds are not reduced to another, or aggregates of other kinds. It is the job of physicists and psychologists to determine how the two kinds of substances actually cause things, and hence what they actually do.

There are functional correspondences between the way physical and mental things exist and operate, even though the substances involved are completely different and can never be transformed one into another.

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