Determinism and the mind-body problem

The Scientific Nature of the Mind-Body Problem

Prigogine on the elementary entities of contemporary physics

These texts are rather old (1999) and the basic idea is that we cannot solve the mind-body problem as long as we have determinism (at the physical - atomic - level, which implies the causal closure of the physical). Of course there is a catch in this (a Catch 22?), because the definition I give of mind-body problem is epiphenomenalism. Therefore it is a rather trivial argument. It runs: (a) determinism -> epiphenomenalism. (b) epiphen. = mbp. therefore (c) if we want to avoid the mind-body problem we should avoid determinism. I've learned afterwards that the attempt to use the indeterminacy of quantum mechanics to attribute causal powers to consciousness is rather old. It was present in the first developments of quantum mechanics, but it is not entirely clear that the argument disappeared because it was flawed.

One of the main objectors to this argument was Philipp Frank (from the Vienna Circle). But when we read his arguments, we see that, in the end, they rest more on fears of political fanaticism and religious uprising rather than in than in pointing out errors or internal inconsistencies.

So, if you think that the argument is flawed, please drop me a line. Notice that I'm not saying that we cannot achieve an epiphenomenalist account of the mind. That has been done, and, I think, in a rather professional and sophisticated way. But although the epiphenomenalist account may be coherent, it cannot, I claim, explain why or how consciousness exists in some physical systems. Consciousness, in these approaches, appears as something brute and unexplained, something completely mysterious. (For instance, we do not attribute consciousness to computers simulating human behavior because we 'know' that they are conscious, but because we do not know what causes consciousness.)

My hope is not to show that epiphenomenalism is wrong, but that we can do better. That we can be in the way of actually 'naturalising consciousness' if we remove the mysterious garments with which epiphenomenalism has dressed her.

Consciousness is mysterious as long as we can't find a place for it in the world. That would happen with anything at all, even epiphenomenal electrons wouldn't have a chance of being non-mysterious. It's as simple as that.