I'm going to eat your soul!

So I don't know how much you think about metaphysics. Probably not that much, which is all right. Me, I think about metaphysics quite a bit.

Specifically, the implications of the laws of physics on reality (old-skool "meta" physics). And some neurobiology, and cognitive psychology, and other good stuff, but it all follows necessarily from physics. Unless you're some weird spiritualist (one who believes in the spirit, or incorporeal soul, or whatever) and you think that there's something out there that doesn't obey the laws of physics. Let's deal with that now, actually, looking at two alternatives:

1a) everything in the universe obeys the laws of physics (including quantum physics)

1b) there are some things in the universe to which the laws of physics need not apply (like the Irish, only weirder)

Now, you know, I'd tend to go with 1a). But I really don't know. Maybe everything we know about the universality of physics is a sham. Maybe the universe doesn't really exist outside of the imagination of some supreme (or lowly, even) being, and maybe it is constantly being reconfigured (including our memories) according to his whims. There are an infinite number of skeptical arguments to be made, and it's not difficult to formulate them to include the possibility of 1b). The best way of addressing the skeptical argument against the nature of reality is to close one's eyes and will the doubter out of existence; this works more often than you'd think.

But let's humour 1b) for a bit, and explore the metaphysical implications. Let's say that there is some essential essence to man, a soul, that lies outside of the physical world. The thing is, this soul must supervene on the physical mind--all neurobiological research out there suggests that individual cognitive reactions map to specific physical structures in the brain. If someone undergoes physical brain damage, they lose cognitive (or motor) function; there's a direct relationship there. As far as I know, there are no instances of phenomena taking place on the neurological level that violate the laws of physics. So even if there is a soul, and it exists outside of the physical realm, it is only able to act on the mind in such a way that is consistent with the laws of physics. And this isn't a very interesting distinction to be made from case 1a). It's possible to make the skeptical argument that the fact we haven't yet observed any neurological behavior that violates physical law doesn't mean that it could never happen, but again, people who say things like that don't really exist.

So I think that 1a) is a reasonable assumption, and despite the fact that most people kind of like the idea of having some non-corporeal soul that defines our essence, most people also like the laws of physics. Well, they don't like like them, but they acknowledge that they're kind of important. If you could swing the cognitive dissonance necessary to reconcile the two mutually exclusive possibilities, and you're happy with that, more power to you; I'm not the sort of person who's able to do that, though.

So given 1a), and a general acceptance that modern neurobiology implies something like

2) all human behavior and thought and action supervenes on impulses in the brain/spinal cord/nerves elsewhere in the body (I'm obviously not a neurobiologist)

you get the conclusion that all human behavior and thought and action is dictated by the laws of physics.

Which isn't an unreasonable conclusion--hopefully not too controversial for anyone alive in the past 50 years who's willing to accept scientific fact.

That's a starting point at least. It's getting late and I'm fated to go to sleep soon, so I'll continue at some other point, since it's my blog and I can write about anything I damn well please. In the meantime, here's a paper I wrote about much of the same topic back in college. I only got a B on it, mainly because I don't come to any sort of conclusion at all. But I'll come to a conclusion on 34.


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