Since my last musing, I have changed my plans somewhat. I brought up Harris' "Free Will" on Amazon with the intention of buying the book. But before I composed the order, I read quite a few reviews of the book. The net result was that I changed my mind and decided not to read it after all.
One reviewer, named "dcieve", wrote the following:
"His thesis, summarized, is that:
* human action can be either caused or random, and neither allows for free will
* therefore our perception of our free will is delusional
* supporting evidence for this is that neuroscientists see evidence of our actions seconds before we decide we will act
* therefore we reach decisions independently of our "will".
Every bit of this argument is problematic, and a thinker of Harris's depth should have punctured it, not EXPOUNDED it."
Since I have heard these same arguments from Sam on videos, and since I share the reviewer's objections to them, I have decided that I don't need to read the book in order to understand Sam's views on the subject nor to formulate my counter-arguments.
I found it fascinating to read more reviews, not only of this book, but of others of Sam's books as well as those of other authors. It became clear to me that any prospective audience for me among these review discussions is widely diverse and far more learned in the subject matter than I am. I can also see that my views are so unorthodox that it is unlikely that I would engage the interest of many, if any, readers on those forums.
So I faced the question, for whom am I musing? I can imagine someone picking up these thoughts and getting interested in them, but aside from Dave, I don't think it is likely. On further reflection, it seems that I am musing strictly for myself. It helps me organize and collect my thoughts and that as a result, they may be more likely to congeal into a more logical speculation of what might be going on in the world. And, like the billions of people who have gone before me, these speculations are likely to follow me into the grave. So be it.
So I will keep on musing.
Yesterday I listened with interest to Sam Harris read his essay titled "Drugs and the Meaning of Life". I was surprised to learn that as a result of a drug-induced state of mind, Sam became convinced that there is more to the universe than we normally observe in our normal state of mind. He said that this conviction has faded somewhat, but the underlying belief is still there. I think this presents an opening where, if I had the chance, I might be able to persuade him to change his views on free will and mind/body dualism. Those two are at the root of my disagreements with Sam.
Sam tossed out a challenge in footnote 3 to his essay:
"The fact that dualists can never say what would count as evidence against their views makes this ancient philosophical position very difficult to distinguish from religious faith."
If indeed his premise is true, then his conclusion would also be true. But the same could be said for virtually all positions taken on what passes for explanations for reality. Evolutionists, for example, never say what would count as evidence against their views. And, I think Sam would have difficulty saying what would count as evidence against his drug-induced view that there is a greater reality out there somewhere. So I think this challenge to dualism is vacuous. I will stick to my dualism (or even treblism, or greater, as I have written about elsewhere.)
My argument for mind/body dualism goes like this: When we introspect and try to observe our consciousness, we frequently experience phenomena that science has not, and seemingly cannot, explain.
For example, my earliest recollection of this observation was when I was 4 or 5 years old and I observed that I could recollect memories at will, that I could freely direct my attention to whatever I chose, that I could experience the "greenness" of grass, among other wonders. Ever since that day, I have been eagerly waiting for someone to explain the phenomena, and I have been consistently disappointed for the past 70 years that neither science, nor religion, nor any other institution or person has been able to do so satisfactorily.
Other examples include the arguments made by John Searle which he claimed that there is "something else" involved in mentality; the arguments made by David Chalmers which he characterized as "the Hard Problem" of experiencing qualia: the arguments made by Sir Roger Penrose that minds perform tasks that in principle cannot be performed by machines; and the observations made by Sam himself in his drug-induced state.
So we have these phenomena which seem to lie outside the purview of science. And, since the purview of science is the natural world, these phenomena are commonly, and rightfully, dubbed super-natural phenomena, and therefore are anathema to science and to serious scientists.
But to me, that is merely a semantic problem. What we choose to call these phenomena, or how we choose to categorize them, does not bear on the profound mystery they represent. We need to face the fact that they exist. I can definitely experience greenness whether philosophers deny it or whether a machine can be made to parrot the same assertion, or not. And that experience is unexplained.
Once we admit that there is "something more", or something "super-natural", then we have established the reality of mind/body dualism. And, to round out an idea I just mentioned, we could extend the dualism of mind and body to include a third "world", as Penrose did, by adding the Platonic world of forms. As Penrose pointed out, this world contains things like mathematical forms including those that make up the known laws of Physics. And, with a little reflection, it is clear that this Platonic world exists neither in the physical world of the body nor in the mental world in its entirety, even though for relatively brief periods, a subset of it appears in both.
Penrose points out a paradoxical mutual dependency among these three worlds:
To begin with, the laws of Physics of the Platonic world somehow seem to be responsible for the establishment of the physical world, evidently beginning with the Big Bang.
This physical world, in turn, produced life forms including human bodies with their remarkable brains. These brains undoubtedly house, or otherwise facilitate, the thoughts that comprise mentality, or "Mind".
The mind in turn conceives out of whole cloth, at least some of the contents of the Platonic world. Or, if it didn't originate them, then mind at least discovers them. This is still a controversy among some mathematicians.
So this is Penrose's paradoxical Rock/Paper/Scissors loop: mind leads to ideas; ideas lead to physical worlds; physical worlds lead to brains; brains lead to minds.
Just for completeness, I'll toss another possible fourth world into the mix. This world is usually not considered by science or philosophy, but it has been talked about and believed by billions of people throughout history, so it should at least be mentioned. That world is the Spiritual World. This is viewed by many to be separate and distinct from each of Penrose's three worlds. So, in the interest of completeness, I think it should be included as a possibility just in case some of those billions of opinions might have been right.
At this point in the logical development of my world view, all I ask is that you concede that there is "something else" to explain that is not part of the physical world.
Notice that I did not say "natural world". That is because science claims to speak for the natural world, but at the moment nearly all scientific opinion excludes three out of the four of the worlds I have identified. The usual scientific claim is that the physical world comprises the entire natural world. If it is not part of the physical world, i.e. the Einstein-de Sitter 4-D space-time continuum with its energetic, particular, and informational contents, then it is supernatural and does not exist.
A common first-response from scientists when I ask that they consider that there is "something else" outside of the physical world is the question, "Well then, where is it?"
If, for example, Heaven exists, then where is it? This question is currently asked of people like Eben Alexander, who claims to have seen Heaven. It was also asked by Christopher Columbus who believed that it existed somewhere on earth and he just might be the man to find it. He became convinced, and I think all the way to his death, that Heaven was up at the headwaters of the Orinoco River. So answering this question is the next logical step for my development.
Where is this "something else"? My answer is that it is in higher dimensions of space and time.
This idea is not new with me; it has been considered ever since Plato introduced the idea in his allegory of the cave in "The Republic". It was made more respectable by Edwin Abbott in his "Flatland", and it was suggested to Einstein by Theodor Kaluza.
Rather than lean on such august authorities, let me make the case just from my own experience. There are two components to my argument for the real existence of extra dimensions: A mathematical idea and a conclusion from General Relativity.
©2015 Paul R. Martin, All rights reserved.