IUBio Biosequences .. Software .. Molbio soft .. Network News .. FTP


Mark Zarella zarellam at nospam.twcny.nospam.rr.com
Sat Nov 22 00:47:39 EST 2003

> I'm sorry, I thought you understood. The concept of substance is not
> restricted to things that are made of matter & energy. That is, think
> of Cartesian dualism, a dualism between mind & matter (unfortunately,
> Descartes wasn't able to bridge that matter-consciousness gap, so
> close, yet so far--pineal gland? He should have thought in terms of
> what designs a body...)
>   Only things that are made of matter occupy space, have mass, etc.
> Such properties do not hold for "non-physical" substances. How do you
> know such substances exist? Well, take your own existence for example.
> That thing that's conscious of the world around it, that's what you
> are. Are you made of matter (see my extensive post on philosophy).

Yes, I'm made of matter.  These other things you refer to are merely 
abstractions.  Like "you" and "me".

> The
> answer quite clearly is no, for the following reasons
> 1)The cells that make up your body are continuously being replaced.
> That is, you might think that that hand you're typing with, well,
> that's a part of you, however 10 years ago or so, not one of the cells
> making up your body was there.

So?  We consider Miami beach to be made of matter, correct?  I suppose 
one could define it as the region of sand within a given area.  Yet I 
doubt any of the grains of sand were there, say, 1000 years ago.  Things 
change, yet that doesn't mean that the abstraction we use to describe 
Miami beach isn't representative of Miami beach.

The United States government is another example of an abstraction.  The 
government does not consist of the same cells (ie. people) that it was 
composed of 100 years ago.

Similarly, although "you" may not be made up of much of the same cells 
you were made up of 10 years ago, they've maintained the properties 
necessary to continue to represent "you", just like the government.

> So, scientists and philosophers alike are stumped over this problem of
> "personal identity" through time. Well, if they thought of an
> individual as a non-material soul in a body, then you could have the
> cells in that body replaced, and the person's still there!
> 2)All the matter in my body is present in a corpse,

No it isn't.  The physical makeup of the living and dead body are very 
different at the molecular and even cellular level.

> however quite
> clearly, I am not.  What am I composed of? Again, this must be
> something non-physical so we can account for the presence of some sort
> of life force in a living body, and the lack thereof in a dead body.
> 3)Matter is determinate!! This is fairly obvious. Any physical
> substance mechanically obeys physical laws. It has no capability to
> desire or choose. You, quite clearly, are capable of doing so. Thus
> you are distinct from matter.

What makes you think that "conciousness" does not obey physical laws?

> 4)Matter can't experience.

Sure it can.  If you saw my last car, you'd realize it had experienced a 

> You're capable of experiencing,

No, the only difference between humans "experiencing" and inanimate 
objects "experiencing" is that humans can recall such experiences.

> but the
> cells and molecules and what-not that make up your body are no
> different from the matter found in the external world (indeed they
> actually do come from the food i eat). No part of my body is not
> capable of feeling/knowing/etc., however I am (that is, that
> non-physical substance is called a soul).

The sum is greater than the individual components.  That is, neurons 
have a limited amount of information that can be stored, but networks of 
neurons don't have the same limitations.

> So, I suppose I could go into a more in depth analysis of this, but
> essentially what you have to do is think about this distinction I'm
> making between body (what's studied in a science book) and soul (the
> lifeforce in a body--non-physical, not something you _have_ but what
> you are).
>    Because a lot of scientists don't understand that, they try to do
> all kinds of weird things, like for example, they see the brain
> functioning and producing electricity

The brain doesn't produce electricity.

> and imagine how the brain can
> "store" knowledge, or "produce" consciousness.

There are known mechanisms by which networks of neurons in the brain can 
"store knowledge".

> Yes, changes to the
> brain result in me(the soul) experiencing, and my desires cause the
> brain to send signals to certain parts of the body. So there's an
> obvious interconnection, which is the topic of much debate in
> philosophy, but don't brush aside the concept of consciousness as a
> substance without sufficient analysis

Based on reading your opinions, I've come to the conclusion that you're 
misrepresenting the "neural" aspect of the issue because you don't 
understand the basics of the nervous system.  That is clear.  I suggest 
you learn a little more about it so that, at the very least, you can 
adequately refute the position you're attempting to refute.

More information about the Neur-sci mailing list

Send comments to us at biosci-help [At] net.bio.net