Continuing the discussion from What are the best philosophical arguments for God?:
I´ll drop the rest of your reply. The discussion has long left the original topic and you have touched on a very interesting issue. However I also think that your example of emergence is inadequate. Not only does it not fit the way it is normally defined, but it also fails to be a case of emergence. And I think I can show why.
This is the only other part I will reply to. If “physicalist” is restricted to the philosophy of mind, then no, it doesn´t exclude God (though it is a strong argument against him). But what I was concerned with in the passage was ontological physicalism, a position entailed by the definition of naturalism from Armstrong. This positively makes the existence of God impossible, since God meaningfully can´t be a physical object in the space-time system, which exhausts reality.
Remember the argument from Quentin Smith that the universe came into existence, because it caused itself to exists internally? This for example is an argument which seeks to prove, that an external cause is impossible. It´s based on the physicalistic-naturalistic picture of nature.
Now to your passages about emergence.
Let´s take three examples of emergence to illustrate:
- The rules in the game of chess
- The property of wetness after 6 H2O molecules are aggregated
- The mind above the brain
In the example of the chess game we have the hardware, the playing field and the figures. I could read you now as thinking that it is an emergent property, since it causally interacts with the game, in the way that it sets the boundaries, while not being reducible to the hardware.
Objection 1: To identify an emergent property, we need to have a closed system. In your example the mind of the players is the origin of the rules imposed upon the hardware, to set the boundaries (rules of the game). If we only focus on the game itself, it is not a case of emergence, since the rules were imposed by an external cause.
We can include the players into the system to avoid this case. This will only change the scenario slightly.
However we can raise an additional Objection 1.1. The problem is, that if we assume the mind to be emergent, the emergence has to be similar to the case of the rules and the game. But here what is called emergent, is merely imposed. So we´d be led to assume that consciousness, as being a comparible case of emergence, is imposed, too. But that can´t be for two reasons. First, we´d be let into a regress where we´d either go on for eternity, leaving consciousness as a brute fact or we´d terminate with a necessary being from which consciousness is derived. But this, my second point, is incompatible with a physicalist understanding of mind and resembles more cartesian dualism.
I won´t press the issue too deep in this comment and will now just assume your scenario being a superficially adequate presentation. But this goes into my reasoning to think that “non-reductive/emergent physicalism” is no less of an oxymoron than a squared circle.
Objection 2: The rules are not reducible to the physics governing the hardware. However if the mind is physical, as you accept, and the rules imposed upon the game come from the minds of the players, then we reach a point where the rules have to be identified with the physical, after we pushed a step back. Modus Ponens:
- The mind is physical
- The rules are ideas within the mind
- Therefor the rules are physical
So after we have taken a step back and looked at the whole scenario, we reach a point at which the rules reduce to the physical constituents, albeit now not in the hardware of the game itself, but in the minds of the players creating it.
Objection 3: The scenario described is a case of derived intentionality, and not of genuine emergence. The problem could be that the terms are not clearly defined but, as with the example of “literal nothing”, is often used differently in different context and thus leads to conceptual confusion. Further more, in recent years it has become a kind of buzz-word, an intelligent way to say “I have no idea” or “Then a miracle happens”. But lets have a look at the definition by Wikipedia:
In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence occurs when an entity is observed to have properties its parts do not have on their own. These properties or behaviors emerge only when the parts interact in a wider whole.
The possiblity of the arising of new properties, after interaction of the parts (Translation from the german page)
Your scenario differs from the example with the appearance of “wetness” after the aggregation of 6 H2O molecules, because the latter has the arising of a new property within its closed system. There is a dependence; it is within the nature of water to be wet after enough molecules are aggregated and the wetness can´t exist/be instantiated without the molecules being aggregated.
The scenario of the game however has no such dependence. There is nothing within the physical constituents/hardware of the game that makes the rules necessary. At the same time the rules could be applied to all kinds of other objects, e.g. a pile of rocks. This indeterminancy of meaning within the physical can be seen if we recognize the different kinds of a chess game. Is this a classic game or Armageddon? Or are we playing something completely different, that we just made up?
If it isn´t totally clear: The fact that the rules aren´t reducible to the parts is only one demand satisfied to count as emergent. But because that the rules and the physical constituents have no intrinsic relationship whatsoever albeit from contingent external restrictions from the player, it refutes your passage
things composed of those parts can make up their own rules having absolutely nothing to do with the laws which govern those parts.
So this is not a case of emergence, but one of imposition. The game is an artifact.
Objection 4: Time for a reductio ad absurdum. I have alredy stated above that there are obvious problems if we should assume that the supposed emergence of your example is comparable with the emergence of the mind. But we can also see that with different examples. In one of our discussions on the topic of intentionality I once gave the example of a hammers ability to hit a nail into the wall. This once again applies here. The physical chess figures and the hammer are both artifacts, they are both created by humans to satisfy a certain demand. In the case of the hammer to hit a nail into the wall, in the case of the figures, to play chess. But if you want to count the chess game as an emergent property of the figures, we´d be forced to count the ability of the hammer to be used to hit a nail into the wall as an emergent property of the hammer.
As another example, the letters I wrote on a paper would become an emergent property of said paper.
I conclude that your example is an inadequate example of emergence and if it should be a vicarious example of how you imagine emergence, then the problems only get bigger, and we haven´t even treated the mental causation or other aspects.