Grey matters

We may feel that we can get to know a thing better by explaining it in terms of something else, indeed science depends upon this philosophy, but there is also a sense in which it doesn’t make sense – and the best example is ourselves.

Consider the perceived difference between our thoughts and the brain.  First we must recognise a difference in order to talk about a cause, otherwise there is nothing to talk about.  Then we suppose that the cause must explain things – especially if there is nothing else to see.  Yet something else remains evident in the change, now perceived as an effect.  However, saying that the cause has changed to create that difference leaves the fact of the change unexplained and renders the effect redundant.  Typically, we diminish the reality of the difference in order to explain it by attributing the emergent properties of the effect to the cause – as if ‘causality shows us’ that change doesn’t really occasion a shift in reality.  Thereby we conclude that new events, such as thought or consciousness, are really superficialities that cannot amount to changes in the nature of nature.  In other words, we concede, for the sake of explanation, that change is not all it seems – as if a talking nature is really not so different in kind from one that never did, now seen as the cause.

Moreover, the mind and the body amount to differences in reality which we can’t explain by supposing that reality must be a singular ‘thing’.  Indeed we are no more able to explain reality in terms of ‘things real’ than we can explain the existence of existence.  In fact, we can’t pin the ‘it’ down.  And perhaps reality is a fact we cannot define because it can also be seen to define us – in more ways than one.  So when people say that mind and body are one and the same thing, they are calling them the same in the name of an incomplete explanation – as if causality is a thing in existence that explains the origin of things in existence and automatically clears-up the problem of change.  Also, we are looking at ‘the reality’ retrospectively by leaving out of the analysis the significance of the looking – as if the change to observation can be seen as a subsidiary effect.  But we have yet to explain the change to perception, together with the evidence, of itself, of the effect that occupies an additional reality to the cause – a difference that cannot be accounted for by saying that there is no real change, as if the fact of change is subsidiary to the cause instead of the other way round.

Mike Laidler

 

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