Flamming LIPS!

So I just got back from the Long Island Philosophical Society meeting, where I presented Language, Thought, Logic, and Existence (the virtual version is here if you missed it, which considering that there was 10 people there, you probably did) it was early but I had a good time…in the afternoon I commented on a paper by Glan Statile called ‘Mind, Matter, and Religious Experience’ which argued that materialism about the mind was empirically false as shown by the near death experience of Pam Reynolds.

I argued that there was no evidence that she had had any experience during the one hour time that she was actually brainsead and that the details of her experience suggest that she had experience before and after the time she was literally dead. During the discussion I was asked if she was brain dead for the whole seven hours and had had some experience would I be convinced that materialism was false. I said that I thought I would and he said that I had conceeded too much.

So suppose that Pam had no electrical activity in her brain at time T1 and that later when she is awake she is able to recount details from T1 that she would only be able to know if she had experienced the events she described at T1. Glen was arguing that this would be empirical evidence that materialism was false, and I had been agreeing with this premise. But the suggestion was, why wouldn’t this instead be evidence that there was some other (physical) property of the brain, which we weren’t monitoring and which was responsible for generating experience. So, maybe electricity is just an accidental feature of the brain, and something else is responsible for generating experience (maybe spin, or whatever). So, if materialism is an empirical hypothesis, how could it ever be falsified?

I also had a very interesting discussion with Jonathan Adler about my claim that most moral truths are analytic, but I plan a seperate post for that.

4 thoughts on “Flamming LIPS!

  1. This seems to me a little similar to the scene in the movie Contact with Jodie Foster. The movie potrays a secdtion of time if I recall, of seeming lost time when Foster’s character appears to be off the radar.

  2. Yeah that’s right, except this is real 🙂 and I don’t think that Jodie Foster’s character died in the movie did she? She just had some experience during a period of time that no one else lives through…

  3. Hi Richard Brown,
    Perusing the LIPS files I was glad to see your apt brief on the exchange between yourself and Glenn on the out of body experience. I am the unnamed individual who thought you had conceded too much. If a person describes having experiences when there is no brain activity, then a certain electro-neural-chemical theory is false. Nothing unfalsifiable here.

    Keep in touch. Hope to see you at other area philosophy events.

    Lowell Kleiman

  4. Hi Lowell!

    Thanks for the comment! Sorry I could recall your name when I was writing the post!!

    I agree with your point…but then my worry is what then would count as falsifying phsyicalism? The physicalist could always claim that there was some physical property which accounted for the phenomena and which we weren’t keeping track of…So given the state of the science isn’t it a safe bet to say that if the electro-chemical theory turns out to be false, then physicalism is false (or at least we don’t have any reason to believe it)?

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