Sunday, 25 May 2008


"Supervenience holds that any change in the higher level properties, states and
processes of a composite system, must correspond to a change in the lower level
properties, states and processes. All functionalist accounts accept that the
mind supervenes on the brain, but they reject the idea that the higher-level
structure can be defined in terms of the lower-level structure."

Readers of this startling piece of information may wish to know that it originated with the current post of a blog entitled: The Duality of the Universe. Thinkers with very large brains, let alone with a verifiable education, sometimes struggle to distinguish concepts of mathematical category theory from the mathematical concept of a dual but - call me unrefined - in the very opening minutes of looking at those concepts, I had an experience reminiscent of my very first overdose of a very large amount, of very potent moonshine.

I took one fearful look and fled!

The tone is very much that of an obituary. Indeed, I am reluctant to quarrel with Gordon’s mournful thesis, but that is because I've never heard of the representational theory of the mind (RTM), so my reservations about the mind-brain relationship which falls under the umbrella of functionalism. are wholly untarnished by familiarity. Indeed, among the various epistemological propositions that Dr McCabe offers the reader, one decisively rejects the removal of an entire discipline: plain human understanding. Nor can the phenomenon of inaccessible ideas be explained by physiological changes in the cortex, let alone be “reduced to any of the structures which characterise the brain.” For whereas Freud spent some considerable time on the subliminal impulses of the human mind, the very esteemed Gordon McCabe devotes this particular lecture to the elaboration of the physical universe as an instance of a mathematical structure.

Something, one feels, is going on here. But what?

Gordon, no doubt, understands exactly the mathematical quality the subject requires and, with impeccable academic analysis, reproduces the corresponding duality both epistemologically and metaphysically (- or so I gather). But like Jung, who purged Freud's doctrines of their obscene preoccupation with the hysterical manifestations of unconscious mental states - and unless, which cannot be proved, all experience is ultimately mathematical - I, too, would suggest that Gordon’s Supervenience somewhat overstates its own intellectual contribution to the wisdom of our time and may in fact prove to be a far more hypothetical field than the natural sciences of which it claims to be a part.

But then, this is physics, not philosophy!

Philosophy always has a discernible meaning, and may strictly be called a motive-force. Its articles alert its readers to the dangers of abstraction, and of overestimating the conjectural components of the human quest for knowledge at the expense of the common instincts. This may, indeed, involve intellectual salvation, for my own emphasis is on the peace and harmony that enlightenment may bring to all who strive for it, and - on a much more personal level - on the ardent hope that a sensuous woman in need of awakening is not the kind of challenge that Gordon is going to ignore.



mutleythedog said...

I have a litre of Pomagne on ice and some Cheese straws... I wonder if you are busy this evening at all?

Selena Dreamy said...

Mutley, I find it much harder to cope with your Pomagne on ice than your charming persistence. I would however love to attend to some Dom PĂ©rignon 1996 champagne, and will certainly do so if my duties here permit...


Gordon McCabe said...

In a similar vein:

The Sheila Johansson Inadequacy