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"Rational Scientific Theories from Theism"


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25.3 Correspondences

We next ask (d) what is it about our body that makes it able to influence minds by selection? Is it something in our brains which does this, or does all of our body influence the content of our minds? Are things outside our bodies also related to minds? How do bodily diseases affect the operation of the mind?

We have to consider the spatial and time organizations of minds and bodies, which is not something considered yet in this book in much detail. There was some preliminary discussion in Section 20.6, where it was stated (in anticipation of a full theory) that our bodies are physical systems whose purpose within theism is to provide an overall container or enduring structure that can persistently select a rather complicated set of internal dispositions. We must now think about how this works and how details of ‘enduring structure’ of complex organic bodies could be important and be part of our answer to question (d).

Let us revisit the argument of Section 20.3 to consider the mental and physical degrees. Each has its own detailed set of constituent events. Because of all these microscopic events, there will be successive influx from the mental degree reciprocating with sequential constraints by previous events in the physical degree. I claim that this alternation will repeat itself longest if the patterns of the constituent events are most similar in the two degrees, and if they do not get out of step. By a ‘survival of the fittest’, the patterns remaining after a long time will be those that are common to both the mental and physical degrees. This commonality is not of shape or substance but of the ‘network of events’. The two degrees in this case will be undergoing processes which execute similar overall functions because the pattern of internal events will be quite similar. In the long term this gives rise to correspondences of function between adjacent degrees.

In the arguments in the previous two chapters we often used the similarity of overall functions of sets of sub-sub-degrees that were in the same relative place within their own degrees. This was called a correspondence of function. Now we have something a little more general. There can be correspondences of function within two adjacent levels where the function is that of the complex organic and spatial structures in the two levels, in particular of the functional patterns of their events.

Thus we will have ‘correspondences of function’ between the mental and physical degrees. Our minds and brains will sustain each other by influx and constraint when psychological and neural processes are most nearly isomorphic to each other in their functional description, as Fingelkurts et al. (2010) have for other reasons suggested. Thus the mind predisposes the brain to carry out those functions which ‘mirror’ or ‘correspond to’ the mind’s own functions.

The answer to question (d) is that our bodies (as physical structures) are best able to influence minds (by selection) when they have a detailed internal pattern of events and functions which are most similar to the internal pattern of events and functions that go on within the mind. This is apparently much more likely within living bodies, and especially within brains, though the reasons for this are not yet fully clear.

There still remains the question of neurological diseases and their effects on the mind. There is the well-known example of Phineas Gage, whose personality was altered when a large steel bar went through his brain in a railroad-building accident. For many people, the very existence of such effects is taken as evidence for materialism: that the mind depends on the brain. In theistic science, we agree that the mind does in part depend on the brain. How else could perception function at all? Though we do not have complete dependence or supervenience of all details of the mind on brain function, the brain does still have a significant role in the formation of the mind. Throughout this book, especially in Section 20.6, we have seen how the physical actions we perform are the basis for our having our own independent life. Our physical brains are intermediate steps in the operation of this basis. If this is true, then it is to be expected that neurological (and, in fact, all other physiological) diseases will have some effects in the development of our minds.

There is much to be learned by derivation and observation about the details here, not just in mind-brain functioning but throughout living organisms. Discrete degrees are never of a continuous substance with each other. Yet, we now see, they have functional relations that make them ‘contiguously intertwined’ at all stages and at all levels of detail at each stage.

The mind and brain thus fit together by approximate analogy with hand and glove, or, better, with subcutaneous tissue and its outer skin. The analogy is most precisely with the functions of tissue and skin and not so much with their material shape. The mind provides all the directed activity of the brain just as the tissue of the hand provides all the directed activity of the skin of the hand. When we look inside the physical head we see only the brain, just as we only see skin when we look at the hand. It appears that the skin of the hand does all the work, but we don’t assume that that is all there is. It appears that the skin has life, but we know that all but the simplest life comes from the underlying tissue. The skin (like the brain) has simple capacities for action and reactions, but it is a mistake to imagine that all capacities for activity and information processing belong to the skin (or the brain).

This theory of mind and brain connection establishes an intimate relation between them. It is not a relation of identity or a relation of aspects or points of view. It is more a relation of inner and outer or of cause and effect. Propensities in the brain are the causal product of mental actions. We now understand better the claim of Bawden (1947) that we wrote of in Section 4.8: “the role of the psychical in relation to the physical (in the living organism) is essentially the relation of the potential or incipient to kinetic or overt action.” Admittedly, Bawden was thinking only of physical potentials, but we now see that his claim is true in theistic science once mental dispositions are allowed to exist.

Previous: 25.2 Mind-body connections Up: 25. Mind-body Connections Next: 25.4 Distinct minds and bodies

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