"We are bodies. We don't have bodies"

Neurologist and co-author of the book "Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?," Warren Brown, provides an overview of a position to which I'm drawn, non-reductive physicalism, in this lecture (Quicktime) at The Faraday Institute at Cambridge. 

Broadly understood, non-reductive physicalism fits conceptually very well with a variety of knowledge, including the kinds of body knowing reported by skilled dancers and craftspeople, leaves room for first-person experience, which the philosophy of experience is skillfully exploiting, and avoids the problem, as Brown points out, of building a convincing ethics should a reductive or eliminativist position prevail.

If does not require a choice between faith-based (broadly construed) or scientifically informed views of the world.

His discussion of the differences in brain anatomy between human and other animals is likewise interesting and leads to a discussion of human uniqueness, where he concludes that it - the uniqueness - is an emergent property of human interaction in a psychosocial environment, the outcome, in other words, of a dynamical system. Such systems magnify change in unpredictable ways; the difference, however, is that people, unlike generative or computational systems, cannot be fully understood by fully understanding lower level functions.

This notion is opposed to a dualist conceptions of human being, which suggest that two kinds of stuff - the material and the immaterial - are to be found in us. Brown sums up his thinking during the lecture with a slide that says we are bodies, we don't have bodies. That notion, as I said, will satisfy science. For those who take seriously the role of belief and faith (again, broadly construed), ample conceptual room is left. Saying that ultimately there is nothing but physical stuff is not the same as saying that everything must be explainable using physical law. One might, as I did last September, counter the physicalist view using the knowledge argument.

Thanks, Kevin, for turning me on to ListeningtoWords, which, if IFblog readers don't know - hey, I didn't - is a web-based lecture exchange for nerds. And it's where I found Brown's lecture.

Wayne