Saturday, December 1, 2007


Continuing from the post below...

Review the propositions:

(1) M thinks.
(2) M’s mental properties are deducible from M’s physical properties.
(3) There is a true description P of M’s real essence qua fitly disposed matter.
(4) Q.
(5) Therefore, M thinks.

Now on to more...

Ayers grants that Q can make reference also to God’s agency, so long as his agency is only a manipulation of the physical (primary) properties of M, such that mental properties are realized in virtue of the arrangements of the physical properties. God, as it were, simply places the physical properties in such an arrangement that their activation potentials for mental properties is exceeded. He does not institute new laws of nature, nor does he forge new and miraculous psychophysical connections. What must not be the case is that God annexes sui generis causal or occult powers to the physical properties or fitly disposed material system in order to secure the mental properties. The mental properties must follow from M qua fitly disposed material system. Hence, Q might read:

(4) God “superadds” mental properties to the fitly disposed material system M.

The challenge thus far has been to secure (2), assuming (1). In order to secure (2), however, inferences involving (4) must be like working with axioms of geometry, as was noted in the previous post. The axioms of geometry and their implications, presumably, are not voluntaristic, even on God’s part. (4) therefore cannot involve some new and miraculous activity on God’s part to forge and uphold a new law of nature. (4), however, with the frightening language of “superadds,” does sound quite voluntaristic. At any rate, it sounds sufficiently voluntaristic to rule out any comparison between the way one would deduce mental from physical properties with the way one reasons axiomatically in the exact sciences. If axiomatic forms of reasoning in this case are ruled out, then the sort of deducibility required in (2) appears out of reach.

Everything depends on how one analyzes God’s activity of superaddition, and Ayers pays special attention to this point. It is tempting to conflate God’s activity in superaddition with a standing miracle. According to Ayers, it is a mistake to conceive of superaddition as implying either a standing miracle or an ex nihilo invocation of a foreign, sui generis causal propensity annexed to parcels of fitly disposed matter whereby some new law of nature is put into effect by sole fiat. Instead, Locke is simply using “superaddition” against a background of well-behaved theoretical terms including “essence of matter,” “natural,” and “flowing from the essence of matter.”

The “essence of matter” simply signifies those features of material substances in virtue of which they are material. The particular instantiations of the primary qualities of a material substance, however, are particular modes of the qualities referred to in “essence of matter.”

A quality, then, is “natural” if it flows from the “essence of matter” proper—viz., a quality “flowing from the essence of matter.” Such a quality would be deducible from a description of the attributes which qualify matter qua matter; it would be included in the very concept.

For example, two material bodies are both extended and solid. They may, however, exemplify extension and solidity in different ways. Extension “flows” from solidity. Extension is “natural” to solidity and matter qua matter. This is not so for the particular modes of matter. The particular primary qualities of each body, then, would neither flow from the essence of matter nor qualify as natural. Certainly, their failure to count as either natural or flowing from the essence of matter, in these technical senses, does not imply either a standing miracle or sui generis causal propensities annexed to matter qua matter. No new laws of nature are forged by God in these very ordinary cases. In fact, with respect to these technical senses, hardly anything counts as natural or flowing from the essence of matter.

Everything else falls under the rubric of superaddition, including motion, gravitation, and particular colors of bodies. To say of a quality that it is superadded is only to say that bodies differ in their particulars. Differences in particulars, furthermore, can be explained, in principle, by reference solely and completely to the varying arrangements in the primary qualities with no need to invoke God’s forging new laws of nature or creating new causal propensities.

Clearly, in these examples of superaddition, there is no reason to think that there are exceptions to the rule of explanation. In the same vein, there are no reasons to think there are exceptions to the rule when the context is the superaddition of mental properties to fitly disposed material systems. The mental properties, though they may not qualify as “natural” in the narrow sense, may nevertheless arise by dint of mechanical necessity from bodies suitably arranged—viz., fitly disposed. In claiming that mental properties are superadded to fitly disposed material systems, Locke is noting only that mental properties are not contained in the essence of matter qua matter (extension and solidity). He is not claiming that God adds any real constituents or forges any sui generis laws of nature. Therefore, the entailment between (3) and (5) is secured, thereby securing (2).

If this story is correct (and this is a point of contention in the literature), then Locke was very carefully laying the groundwork for a thoroughgoing materialism/physicalism that is really astonishing given the philosophical climate of his times.

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