Re: Epiphenomenalism (was: more, briefly)

Glenn Morton (
Mon, 13 Apr 1998 19:13:41 -0500

At 04:56 PM 4/13/98 -0600, Garry DeWeese wrote:

>I hope, Glenn, you are not implying that if a concept cannot be given a
>definition in mathematical terms, then it is a subjective concept!

Hmmmmm. I see I got myself in trouble here. :-) I would agree that not
everything must be defined in mathematical terms. I would have been better
served to say "objective definition" instead of "mathematical definition"

>Epiphenomenalism is generally in disfavor as a theory of mind, as it fails
>to explain much of anything. It wants to retain certain mental entities,
>but it robs those entities of any causal power. Hence, there is no agency
>and no free will.

As I mentioned in my other post tonight, this is one of my concerns. It is
as explanatory as are vitalistic terms like soul. I believe in souls, but I
can't totally define it. In that sense it is somewhat subjective.

>IMHO, an excellent case can be made (pace Massimo) that mental entities are
>sui generis first order things which have causal powers; that is, that no
>reduction of the mental to the physical is or can be successful.

I remember an example given by Penfield of a woman whose brain he was
stimulating during surgery. Her arm would move up in response to the
stimuli. Penfield told her to try not to let her arm move. She used her
other hand to hold the arm down! some have interpreted this as an example
of where will acted as a causative agent to override the mechanism of the
brain arm circuitry. In otherwords, we couldn't be reduced to a mechanism.


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