Book Review: The Room Where It Happened by John Bolton

Once again, for consistency sake (there being little of additional philosophical import) I include this review of John Bolton’s memoir of 18 months working as National Security Advisor from April 2018 to September 2019 for the Trump administration. It would I think be unfair of me to criticize Bolton on the basis of my politics compared to his. In point of fact I do not disagree with some of his assessment of threat situations. Iran and North Korea will never give up development/possession/proliferation of “weapons of mass destruction” (nuclear or otherwise). Bolton is quite right I think to believe that the only way to stop these developments is with overwhelming military force, but he is far to sanguine about assessments that, in response, millions of people (especially South Koreans) would die.

Is there any other option? India and Pakistan (bitter enemies for 72 years) possess nuclear weapons (Pakistan also a known proliferator) for some decades now and neither have used them (the potential collapse of the Pakistani State being another kind of problem). Perhaps there are sensible means of preventing N. Korea or Iran from ever using their weapons? In this respect, not sanctions, but trade and economic engagement make more sense. Why? Because when you tighten economic and diplomatic screws to the point where a people figure they have “nothing else to lose”, you provoke war rather than prevent it. Bolton knows history well enough to know this. He also knows what happened to Qaddafi in Libya after he gave up his weapons programs, yet dismisses this history as though it mattered not to Iranian, and especially to N. Korean calculations.

So I differ from Bolton on these matters, but I am not sure enough about my own views to say Bolton must be wrong. In any case this chasm between us does not take away from his observations and criticism of Trump’s administration concerning both substance and (more importantly) its lack of consistency, not to mention Trump’s self-serving, ego-maniacal fixations.

Like the other books reviewed in this series (“Fire and Fury”, “Fear”, “A Warning” “Devil’s Bargain”, “A Very Stable Genius”,  and “The Despot’s Apprentice”), this is a frightening book and the only one of the six reviewed focused on foreign policy.

The Room where it Happened (2020) by John Bolton

People mostly either like or dislike John Bolton based on their alignment with his politics. I do not see him that way. I have had jobs (never in government) where my role was to highlight and advocate for some specific aspect of a corporate hardware and software infrastructure. Bolton’s job was to advocate for the national security interests of the United States, and of course the recommendations he made (like mine) flowed from his background, experience, and yes, politics.

His experience is the key here, for Bolton has consummate knowledge of the workings of international institutions and also the governments they serve. He has also an appreciation for geopolitical history and isn’t afraid to call out a pointless exercise when he sees it. In part his politics is informed by his historical knowledge, for example the duplicity of nations like Iran, North Korea, and yes also China and Russia, with regard to respecting treaty obligations. But if anything makes Bolton more angry than Trump’s waffling and sometime expressed admiration for tyrants, it is his treatment of our own allies, the EU (NATO), Japan, and South Korea in particular. All this is revealed!

This book is about what Bolton found himself facing from April 2018 until September 2019, Eighteen short (must have seemed very long to him) months in the middle of Donald Trump’s administration. Reorganization of the NSA early in his tenure, the book touches on every new and on-going global threat of the time stemming from North Korea, Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Russia, China, and others. Each of these regions is a fount of over-lapping threats.

Bolton is in a unique position to appreciate the complexity of these situations. He castigates the Obama administration on a few matters, but points out, with some irony, that Trump’s instincts sometimes paralleled Obama! With regard to North Korea he is fair enough to note that none of the past four administrations (two Republican and two Democratic) have accomplished anything useful. When he alludes to differences in procedural style between Trump and former administrations, he mentions only the prior Republican administrations for whom he worked.

Very much this book is a detailed account of the operation of the Trump administration as concerns foreign national security issues with an occasional domestic matter (the Mexican border, Russia’s 2016 election interference) crossing the line. Although the NSA is involved in these matters, Bolton does his best to minimize his role in them, preferring the more global threats whether immediate or more temporally distant. As with my own some-time role in corporations, Bolton does not expect his boss to agree with his every recommendation. He notes that as goes national security, Trump’s instincts are often like his own. The problems threaded throughout the book are concerned with Trump’s flip-flopping almost constantly on matters where waffling, with mixed signals sent via tweets to the world, is universally detrimental to the outcome we want, that is a more, and not less, secure United States. There are a even a few examples, (to my politics not Bolton’s) where the President made the right call (even if for the wrong reasons) over Bolton’s recommendation as when Trump chose not to risk Iranian lives (Iranian body bags would make him look bad) in exchange for an American drone!

The bigger problem, as Bolton sees it, is that the decisions Trump does make, whether coming out right or wrong for national security, are made only on the basis of what Trump thinks makes him look good in the press, helps him in the 2020 election, or furthers the enrichment of his family! Along with all of this come also problems with the bureaucracy surrounding Trump. Bolton is an astute critic of bureaucracies in general (see his “Surrender is not an Option” also reviewed) and where warranted, individuals who do little to serve the organization’s purpose. In this regard the Trump administration is no different than others except for the extraordinary number of musical chair events and as consequence the style and substance variations already and still passing through this administration — including of course now Bolton himself.

In only a couple of places in the body of the book does Bolton call attention to what his government book reviewers forced him to remove. In an epilogue he describes a little more of this process but on the whole does not seem too unhappy with its results. He also offers a critique of the House impeachment process that got going after he left the NSA. This short analysis is among the most telling of Bolton’s real feelings about his time as National Security Advisor. He does not say that Trump should not have been impeached. The Ukraine matter over which the House obsessed was, in Bolton’s opinion, only one, and a lesser one at that, of Trump’s potentially impeachable offenses! The House should have taken more time, let the court processes (for documents) complete themselves at their own pace, and evidence of more serious malfeasance would have turned up! By rushing the job for political reasons, the Democrats shot themselves in the foot, and left Trump more unconstrained than he was before. No one, after all, is going to try to impeach him again!

Review: The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells

Some months ago I reviewed Slavoj Zizek’s “The Courage of Hopelessness”. I suggested that Zizek’s political projections would have little chance of materializing because economic collapse precipitated by climate mitigation efforts in the rich world would overwhelm everything else in but a few short decades. Next I came across G. Gaul’s “Geography of Risk” which, though focusing on storms and sea-level effects on the U.S. East and Gulf coasts, supported my prediction. Now this, “The Uninhabitable Earth” (review & link below), comes along amplifying everything in the Gaul book and laying down an even more frightening picture not only about where present trends are taking us, but the almost certain inevitability of vast tracts of the equatorial and presently-temperate Earth becoming uninhabitable by 2100.

Most of the cascades described by Wallace-Wells have already been triggered and will not stop (though they would slow a bit) even if we ceased all industry-related atmospheric carbon production tomorrow, something that is obviously not going to happen. Technology (as he points out) is not going to save us this time. We do know how to pull carbon out of the air yes, but as Wallace-Wells shows, we cannot afford to deploy enough of it fast enough to block a two to three degree (celsius) rise in average global temperatures over the next 75 years.

Wallace-Wells is (non-optimistically) hopeful that humanity will wake up in time to stop carbon output at least soon enough to halt future warming at three degrees. In fact I believe human industrial carbon output (most of it, globally) will cease in another ten or twenty years, roughly when we are close to two degrees of warming (as of 2018 we were at one degree and some change with atmospheric carbon rising faster now, year on year, than it has ever before). But it won’t stop because humans wake up and do something about the problem. It will stop because all of the economies of the world will have collapsed. Over a few decades, people will starve (or die from disease and war) in such vast numbers that few will be left to put any substantial carbon into the atmosphere more than the cooking fires that could be found dotting the Earth ten thousand years ago. The human population will be about where it was ten thousand years ago. That might be by 2100, likely sooner than that.

Still all of the cascades, devastating forest fires and melting permafrost will yet be releasing billions of tons of carbon even in the absence of human industry, and of course ocean levels will continue to rise utterly changing the geography of the world. By 2200 there will be very few places on Earth where food can be grown or hunted and the human race may be reduced to levels barely able to avoid extinction, if even that. If this isn’t frightening enough, the news gets worse from here. Even if the temperature rise tops out at three or four degrees, the planet will not again return to a cooler, human-comfortable climate regime, for thousands, possibly tens-of-thousands, of years!

Uninhabitable Earth  by David Wallace-Wells 2018

This book opens with what, for me, was a surprise. I know that carbon emissions have, world-wide, steadily increased even since the first international “climate mitigation agreements” of thirty years ago. What I did not know is that since 1990, the world, collectively, has pumped twice as much carbon into the atmosphere as it did in the thirty years from 1960 to 1990. There are other surprises: Bitcoin anyone? Sure there’s some electricity involved but how much could that be? It turns out to be about as much, per year, as one million international jet flights! Our own industrial activity is only a part (albeit still a large part) of the problem now. Other, cascading effects, are now adding their impact. Global wild-fires now consume, on average, ten times as much forest every year as they did thirty years ago. That’s a lot of extra carbon. Even worse, the world’s permafrost is beginning to melt releasing carbon in the form of methane which, depending on whether we are speaking of low or high altitude, has between four and eighty times the warming effect of carbon dioxide.

The title of the book is prescient. Think of the climatologically worst environments on the Earth today (having warmed a bit more than one degree Celsius since the beginning of the industrial revolution in 1800. We are on track to hit two degrees by 2050 or so), perhaps the middle of the Sahara, or someplace where it never stops being hot and raining. These are today’s most inhospitable climate environments. By 2100, that sort of place will be among the best and most livable we have on Earth. Large parts of our world will be largely and literally uninhabitable, places where humans die because their bodies cannot cool themselves by sweating unless immersed in cool water, or because there is no water the glaciers being gone, and this at only three degrees of warming (2100).

The first third of the book is about various cascades, most already triggered, some on the verge. Effects of warming that add up both by directly making things worse, and by degrading the planet’s ability to absorb carbon and mitigate the other effects. Wallace’s picture here is very dire. In the rest of the book Wallace deals with the economic, political, social, and psychological future. Here I do not think he is dire enough. He speaks of refugees in the tens of millions (try hundreds), extremist movements on both the right and left, of wars, pandemics, crop failures, of collapsing economies unable to sustain the cost of climate mitigation, and that only the economies that can afford any mitigation to begin with. The rest will have since joined the refugees. Wallace touches on all of this, but I do not think he fully appreciates how quickly and thoroughly human beings can (and will) turn on one another long before this all becomes as bad as it’s going to get!

Technology will not save us. Wallace covers that too. We can desalinate water and even pull carbon out of the air. There will never be enough of either that the world can afford. Besides, both are energy intensive processes and even if powered with renewable energy, that is not easy to do as concerns the chain of activities that must be powered to build and maintain that technology. Rare-Earth mining is a very dirty business.

In the end, Wallace is hopeful, though not optimistic, that the global polity will wake up and de-carbonize the global economy, not in time to halt two to three degrees of warming, it is already too late for that, but in time to prevent it going to four degrees or more. I think he is over-optimistic here too. It is simply not possible, politically, and this for economic reasons, for soon-to-be nine-billion humans to de-carbonize as quickly as needed to hold the line at two to three degrees. What will force the race to de-carbonize will be economic collapse, leading to socio-political collapse, leading to mass death (over some decades) from starvation, disease, or war. I think Wallace sees this grim possibility. He hopes it isn’t inevitable.

This a good and timely book though I doubt it will have much effect on the carbon trajectory of our so-called civilization. It is good to see the ground covered as much as Wallace covers it. He does a good job of showing how the climatological and the political go together (alas perversely). I think he fails to draw some obvious conclusions from his own well-made points. Perhaps it’s for the better. He would be accused of doom saying. I am a doomsayer! Feel free to accuse me! Meanwhile, the book is frightening enough as it is!

Process Theology in the Urantia Book

“Process Theology” is a term The Urantia Book (UB from here on out, good e-book editions about $4 here) does not use. Yet is does speak much about the subject. Indeed one could argue that more than half the book is about process theology whether directly or (mostly) indirectly.

In the philosophy of the 20th Century, there emerged “process philosophy” (though as with everything else this had its roots in Ancient Greece, in this case Heraclitus). The fundamental idea in Process Philosophy is that, as goes the basic ontology of the universe, it isn’t “the stuff” that comes first and then undergoes transformation and change. Rather transformation and change itself, movement in time, is the fundamental, and “the stuff” is what it is because it is the outcome of change and time. But what can change if there’s no stuff? This a vexing question for process, and the appearance of quantum mechanics in the early decades of the 20th century is what gave to process its present cache. No one can say of what “the stuff” of the quantum world is, or even that it is. But we can identify process taking place and we believe that all of “the stuff” in the macroscopic universe comes through it!

Process Theologians took this idea from Process Philosophers and applied it to God. We live, obviously in a changing and imperfect universe. Perhaps God is not the existential, changeless, infinite person, outside of time, but instead comes to exist inside time when the universe finally reaches its perfect state, a direction (extracted from Christian theology) they take it to be going. There may be process theologians associated with non-Christian religions (Buddhism especially comes to mind) I do not know their work. Christian-derived process theology at least is very parochial, a mistake the UB takes pains to correct.

What is the nature of this projected perfection? According to Teilhard de Chardin the collective mental life of all the people of the Earth, something he called “the Noosphere”, the “mental” arena consisting of all the people of the planet, reaches (some day) an “Omega Point” when the minds of all humans became unified. In a sense God emerges as collectively us. This would serve to detach our collective mentality from the biosphere (how exactly Teilhard doesn’t say) and this unified collective mind would become the God of Time.

Unification in Teilhard’s sense involves all facets of the mental. God cannot be unified if parts of him hold contrary opinions about something. The UB affirms a part of this. We do, collectively, become integral to the functioning in time of God made manifest in time, but that manifestation of God is his own person, and our individuality, our personal subjective viewpoints, remain. It is not, for the UB, a unification of minds that achieves this, but a unification of wills about a single point. Every individual on the world (in fact on every world everywhere, more on this below) comes to freely will “to do the Father’s will”.

What is the Father’s will? However it is described, it comes out to love for others, one’s brothers and sisters, the spiritual family of a world. What is love? “Love is the desire to do good to others” [UB 56:10.21], and this is the sum and substance of the unity we are supposed to achieve. Love however, this “desire to do good” is also a product of value (truth, beauty, goodness) discrimination, something of which only humans, and not animals, are capable. It is this power that constitutes a discriminating moral capacity. Even animals can love and do good, but they cannot think about these things in the abstract. They can act “out of love”, but not abstractly “because it is good”. There is much more to be said about this subject, but apart from the requirement that we achieve universal love, the details are not pertinent to the process theology story. For more detail on the relation between the values and human free will see “Why Free Will?” As concerns the values themselves, see “What are Truth, Beauty, and Goodness?”

The unification criteria come out to the free choice of each individual to do “the Father’s will” however one looks at it. The people unified around this choice remain individuals rooted in their biology. They don’t think alike, They still have contrary opinions, they still make mistakes. The one thing they unify on is the individual desire to do the will of God. Not until a world reaches this stage of social evolution is it considered a finished product, what the UB calls a “settled world”.

Process theology then is a tidy solution to the problem of God’s interaction with the universe. We are the instruments of that action. But Teilhard’s idea is beset with tricky problems. Does the Omega Point arise purely out of the collective will of living persons, or does it also include those who have died (and in some sense and place survive) over the history of our world? If the former, the whole of the scheme doesn’t seem very fair. If the latter, what has constructed the survival mechanism prior to God’s manifestation? Who or what created the universe and put such potentials as an “evolving God” (not to mention mind) into it? Teilhard had to equivocate about these questions. Like other process theologians, he was mostly, but not entirely, committed to the idea that the “process God” was The God. This either-or bias, derived from process philosophy, has colored all of process theology.

What does the UB say about this? The Process God, who the UB calls “The Supreme” is the manifestation of The God in timespace. The God is existential and eternal. It is this God, The “Father Infinite”, along with two co-eternal coordinates, The Son and The Spirit whom we will meet again below, who has set up all the mechanisms underlying the spiritual, mindal, and physical ontology of the universe. That God, The Father, is not, presently, manifest personally in timespace. The Supreme is to become that manifestation. The Supreme becomes “fully manifest”, recognizable to all timespace persons, possessing within the limitations of time the powers God the Father would manifest if personally present in time, when all the persons in the timespace universe freely will to do the existential God’s will, to love one another.

THE PEOPLES OF THE UNIVERSE

To flesh this out a bit, a short digression into a broad brush description of the “who” mentioned above. Who are “all the persons in the timespace universe”? There are two broad categories. The first, descendant persons, are those created directly by the Gods (the Father, Son, or Spirit, singularly or in any combination). Really there are two broad levels of descending personalities (more on this below) but for now, we can consider both classes together. They have their divine origin in common. There are trillions upon trillions of such persons serving in the physical universes. These beings are not material. We cannot, in our present estate, see or otherwise detect them. But they do live and work (whatever constitutes their work) on physical worlds. “Physical worlds” in the UB include more than the evolutionary sorts of planets with which we are familiar. They include also what the UB calls “architectural spheres”, purpose-built worlds.

Among the duties, by no means exclusively, of this vast descendant host, is the shepherding, the teaching, of the second great group, the ascendant beings from the status of biological creatures to “perfected ascenders”. The evolution of biological creatures whose minds are sensitive to the values (again see “What are Truth, Beauty, and Goodness”) are always persons, and they can, potentially, know God and do their best to freely do what they take (however imperfectly) to be his will. All of these evolved mortals have souls. This term, as used in the UB, has little resemblance with the term as used, to mean almost anything, by the philosophers of this planet theist or atheist (see “What is The Soul?”). Mortals on evolutionary worlds are born physical, biological, beings. During their relatively short lives they nurture a soul, something unknown to any direct experience of the creature, but which serves as what amounts to the life-boat with which we escape biological existence and become “ascendant mortals”. I will not get into more of the details here, see the aforementioned “Soul” article.

This group, ascendant mortals consists of everyone who has died (mostly, there are a few timing details but they are not important over-all) on all the inhabited worlds of space (a growing number as the universe evolves). The universe is, a gigantic school dedicated to perfecting these ascenders who begin on day one of their survival, no different in spiritual status than on the day they died. What follows is a multi-billion year education until individuals reach levels of spiritual attainment and perfection enabling them to stand before God the Father in direct person to person communion. The details are not so important to our concern in this paper. What is important is to recognize that there are trillions of worlds from which such ascenders have come now for a few billions of years, for we are not by far the oldest inhabited world in the universe. That means this ascendant group, from rank beginners to the most advanced students, exist in numbers measured in trillions of trillions.

Where do all these people live? On the “purpose-built worlds” mentioned above. There is a lot of discussion of this in the UB. The details are not particularly pertinent to process theology as such.

We have then, broadly three groups of beings of personal status in the universe. Descenders, ascenders who have ascended, and future-ascenders, beings who have not finished out their biological life on evolutionary worlds. To bring the finite physical world to completion, all of these beings, literally every single individual, must have dedicated himself or herself to the doing of the Father’s will and actually love one another. Now it so happens that all of the descendant personalities, with but the fewest of exceptions I address a little later, are already on board with the program. So are, as it turns out, the vast majority of the ascendant beings, the few exceptions restricted to some of those at the very beginning stages of their post-mortal education. Ninety-nine-point-nine-nine percent of all these beings are already “with the program”. All have freely dedicated their lives to the doing of God’s will. Who remain? We do, those yet living in their original biological form on the evolutionary worlds of space.

It is the material people living on the evolutionary worlds who are, mostly, holding up the program. I am being a bit facetious here, because the evolution of such grossly imperfect beings for the purpose of perfecting them is one of (not the only) the main purposes of the whole creation. As concerns the individuals born on such worlds, that perfecting process takes place in the long educational career following material death. But in order for the “God of Time” to become manifest the peoples of the material worlds must also, universally, get with the program. This means that in some generation, the living people of a given world must all choose, must freely will, to do God’s will and love one another. As good as this may seem, it isn’t enough. A world that achieves this status for a few years, even a few generations, can still revert. To become a “settled world” by universe standards, a culture of universal will-to-love must obtain, unbroken, for ten thousand planetary years!

Now to put the final point to the scope of this effort, consider two things. First, when humans first appear on evolutionary worlds, they live brutal lives for many thousands of years. Humanity on Earth may be about one million years old. We are by no means the oldest world in the universe, but nor are we the youngest. There are planets in all stages of their geophysical or biological evolution. But for the entire universe to be settled, for the God of Time to fully manifest, all these worlds must be finished. There will, in other words, come a time when no new unsettled planets exist and no new (yet to be inhabited) worlds emerge. This completion amounts to the fixation of moral intention. While many sorts of change in time continue (babies continue to be born on the worlds of space, stars and planets continue to change), change ceases as concerns the moral intention of every personality in the universe. In this one way, temporal change ceases throughout the timespace universe. This stasis is one of the pillars of the Supreme’s power.

A second thing to note is that this planet, our Earth, is an exception to the norm in that its culture remains only semi-civilized a million years after the evolution of the first persons. This unusual and very rare situation is the result of historical events going back two-hundred-thousand years in our history. These events have no direct bearing on the “process theology” story over-all (the requirement that all planets settle, including Earth, still stands), but because they so dramatically effect delay in this planet’s social evolution I will address them briefly later in the essay.

GOD THE SEVENFOLD

“The people of the universe” are the tips of the fingers of the Supreme, the God of time. It is through us (descendant and ascendant persons), that the Supreme interacts with the physical world. But behind the fingertips there are hands, arms, and a head. There is much more to process theology in the UB than the union of the noosphere, which is, however, its end point. All of these people are not just milling about. Those ascending are being guided, and those doing the guiding have been trained. They have functional roles related to the ascendant economy, the gigantic university and much else that goes on in parallel with it. Those roles include an extensive hierarchy of authority and jobs extending from, under normal circumstances, evolutionary worlds up to the Father. If this sounds, to Christian Theologians, vaguely like Arianism, it is. But like the mutually compatible reality of an existential and and evolving “God of Time”, in the UB, Triuneism (the Trinity) and parts of what the Arians asserted, are both true.

At top of this hierarchy is what might be analogous to the corporate board and the collection of senior management. The UB calls it “God the Sevenfold”. It is not a person, but it does consist of persons. The first three of these persons, the first three levels of God the Sevenfold, are God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. All three are eternal, all three are infinite (the Father unqualifiedly, the Son and Spirit qualifiedly, see “Prolegomena to a Future Theology”). I should note that while these first three persons happen to be the three persons of the Trinity, they are not The Trinity in their role as part of God the Sevenfold, but rather three individuals. The UB’s view of the Trinity is more nuanced than Christianity’s. I include a note about it at the end of this essay as The Trinity as such is not directly a part of the process theology story.

The fourth level of God the Sevenfold is The Supreme himself. How is this possible? It is possible because the person of the Supreme is eternal, created by God the Father “from the beginning”. But he is not infinite and he is incomplete in his domain, the finite universe of time. Nevertheless, he is already known as a person to the Father, Son, and Spirit, though he will not be knowable to the rest of us until the finite universe has achieved its endpoint.

From this midpoint, the seven-fold hierarchy continues into timespace. Level five are the Master Spirits. There are seven of them, one for each super-universe. They are responsible for the presence, in time, of Cosmic Mind (see “From What Comes Mind?”). I will not have more to say about them here. I have not spoken of super-universes, nor local-universes. The relation here between the UB’s description of what constitutes the “universes of time” is quite problematic and the subject of a future paper. I shall leave this subject alone, except to say that super-universes are very big places each divided into one hundred thousand local-universes I address below.

The “Ancients of Days” are level six. There are three in each super-universe, so twenty-one total. They are the top of the administrative arm of the Super-universes. Think of them as a trio of very large division managers in a large corporation consisting of many divisions. If this all begins to seem like a giant bureaucracy, that is exactly what the UB describes and the Arian Heresy envisioned! But pause to consider this is an idealized bureaucracy! Remember that virtually all of the descendant persons (exceptions addressed below) and also the ascendant persons-in-training are all, already, with God’s program and there is no limitation here on training, nor lack of motivation in any role. Each, from the highest to the lowest, functions in their role with virtual (certainly from our viewpoint) perfection.

The seventh and last layer of God the Sevenfold is the most important as concerns the God of Time and certainly for ourselves as we presently are. The UB calls these beings Creator Sons. There are seven-hundred-thousand of them, one for each local universe, and their existence represents the boldest insight of the Arian Heresy.

The Arians believed there was a hierarchy of being that added up to a God of time. Though they didn’t put it this way, they were proto-process theologians, and the UB affirms this insight with modifications. Among other things the Arians accepted an eternal existential Father, but not an eternal Son or Spirit. The Arians reasoned that if the Father “begot the Son and the Spirit”, these two persons could not be eternal because the begetting relation entails time. The UB denies this. What “entails time” is our thinking process. We are creatures fully soaked in time and cannot conceive of any “precedent relation” in a creation process that isn’t intrinsically temporal.

Although it is true to say that The Father begot the Son and together they begot the Spirit “…there never was a time when the I AM was not the Father of the Son and with him of the Spirit” [UB 0:3.16]. All three are fully eternal. Such eternal precedent relations, while not possible in the temporal realm, are possible (along with much more, see note on the Trinity following) at the Deity level. The Father, Son, and Spirit are all unqualifiedly eternal. They are also infinite, the Father unqualifiedly, the Son and Spirit each in one dimension.

The Son is the “first and infinite person”, personality being the sine qua non of spirit reality. The Spirit, the first conjoined thought of The Father and The Son, is infinite in mind. [Personality] “..is one thing which can be added to spirit, thus illustrating the primacy of the Father in relation to the Son. (Mind does not have to be added to spirit)” [UB 112:0.14]. Notice the beginning of a pattern here. The Father creates the Son and with the Son the Spirit. The whole of UB theology rests on shared power and responsibility from top to bottom.

Yet there was something correct about this Arian insight. An infinite eternal being cannot personally appear in the physical universe. There cannot be a past-eternal-infinity, even “for a time”, in the temporal-finite. “It is not possible for [the Eternal Son], an absolute being, to suspend consciousness of personality…” [UB 7:5.6]. One might add, as Jesus had to do by being born. Jesus, the God-man who lived on Earth is not past-eternal. He is a being created in time. Jesus is the Creator Son of our local universe. In case this diminution to the status of what amounts to a demi-God seems disappointing, the UB’s explication of the role of this class of Sons portrays them as far more powerful than most Biblical interpretations of Jesus’ life picture him. A local universe, when finished, consists of some ten million inhabited evolutionary worlds, and “To our universe and all its inhabited worlds the Sovereign Son is, to all practical intents and purposes, God” [UB 33:1.4].

LOCAL UNIVERSES, CREATOR SONS, AND HOLY SPIRITS

The super-universes are administered at various levels, the Ancients of Days, being but the top of the administrative chain. But the entirety of a super universe is composed of local universes in a way analogous to how the entire nation of the United States is composed of states. God The Father (in the UB telling, through the Spirit) sets the basic conditions and physical laws (an over-simplification, but will do here). Once these conditions result in sufficient development (proto-galaxies, galactic clusters, and so on, the beginnings of large scale organization of the temporal realms), the Creator Sons are dispatched to deal with the details. “…the local universes are the real laboratories in which are worked out the mind experiments, … divinity unfoldings, and personality progressions which when cosmically totaled, constitute the actual foundation upon which the Supreme is achireving deity evolution in and by experience” [UB 116:4.7]. This includes not only the physical details of their respective realms, but also the creation of a second set, a local universe set, of descendant personalities, and ultimately also the evolution (yes evolution) of bio-physical beings on evolutionary worlds leading to the appearance of brains (and therefore minds) able to recognize Spirit through the values (see “What are Truth, Beauty, and Goodness?”) and thereby worthy of personality status bestowed directly by The Father (see “Why Personality?”).

There is also a reflection at the local universe level of the relationship between the three infinite deities and God The Supreme. The Creator Sons are children of both the Infinite Father and the Eternal Son. The Infinite Spirit also is involved. Each Creator Son is paired with a companion created by the Spirit, a local universe child of the Spirit who is, like the Son, a person the book calls “The Holy Spirit”. There are a few interesting parallels here. The Creator son is an individual person. He is not infinite and he is a time-constrained being. While he isn’t physical (except in special circumstances I come to below), he cannot be in two places at once. By contrast the Holy Spirit is everywhere in her local universe at the same time. The geographic extent of her presence is the local universe, and outside her boundary is another, other, local universe, the domain of another Holy Spirit.

Further, while the Holy Spirit is a person, until certain milestones in the evolution of a local universe are reached, only the Creator Son recognizes her as a person, parallel to the way in which the original three Deity persons alone know the person of the Supreme prior to the completion of the timespace realms. As it turns out, in our local universe, the one the UB calls “Nebadon”, those milestones have been reached. Since all of this process bears directly on the eventual completion of the Supreme I must briefly review it.

As the three Infinite Deities both singly and in any combination create various super-universe descending orders, the Creator Sons and their consorts (singly and together) create local universe orders of being. I return to these in a moment. Through the earlier stages of local universe evolution a Creator Son rules that universe only as a proxy for the Infinite Father. The Son must earn full sovereignty of his own universe, and he does this by bestowing himself on, literally becoming one of, the various orders of being he and the Holy Spirit have created (like the TV show “Undercover Boss”). There are always seven such bestowals, each one illustrating some aspect of the relationship between the three Infinite Deities (distinctions we cannot recognize in our present estate). The bestowals begin illustrating the Father-Son-Spirit combination, then successively, the Son-Spirit, Father-Spirit, Father-Son, Spirit, Son, and lastly, on the lowest order of all, ascendant humans on an evolutionary world, the Father himself! That bestowal, the seventh of the Creator Son of our local universe was on Earth, the bestowal of Jesus. The bestowal rules require the Son to live “the full life of the creature”. If, as it does on an evolutionary world, that entails both birth and death, the Son must go through those too.

“Joshua ben Joseph [Jesus], the Jewish baby, was conceived and was born into the world just as all other babies before and since except that this particular baby was the incarnation of Michael of Nebadon, a divine son … and the creator of all this local universe of things and beings” [UB 119:7.5]. How does the Creator Son manage to be born a fully human baby and yet be the person of the Creator Son of the local universe? The book tells us that this is a mystery none know other than the Father, Infinite Son, and those that go through it, the Creator Sons themselves. But why, of nearly ten million inhabited worlds of the local universe, did our Creator Son choose Earth for the scene of his final bestowal? To explain that, I must sketch the administrative levels of the local universe.

There are three broad levels of local universe administration, the universe itself (think state government), the constellations (think county governments, one hundred give or take in every local universe), and the systems (think city government, one hundred give or take in each constellation). Each system administers roughly (eventually at completion) one thousand inhabited evolutionary worlds like Urantia (our world, Earth, hence the eponymous name of the book). The systems are the first level of contact between a world’s population and the “celestial administration”. It is to the system headquarters (a collection of “architectural worlds”) our souls are taken and awakened at some point (usually many years) after mortal death. The systems are also responsible for what is supposed to be routine, long term, contact with the early peoples of these worlds.

Sometime after the evolution of humans on a given world, the system headquarters sends a delegation to the planet, a revelatory mission. The delegation consists of a descendant being called a “planetary prince” and one hundred early-ascenders from other worlds in the system who volunteer for a long-term assignment to a newly populated (humans having evolved) planet. The planetary prince is not visible to the inhabitants of the planet, but the one-hundred ex-mortals are materialized (50 men, 50 women) as beings of that world, using the human genetics of the planet. Mortals of the world can interact with them, talk with them, learn from them. This mission began on Earth some 500,000 years ago, about 500,000 years after the first humans evolved on Earth (the UB definition of human has to do with the capacity of individual mind to sense the values, and not morphology as we must define it from our perspective). Caligastia was the name of our planetary prince. His boss, the system sovereign’s name was Lucifer, and our system (still) is named Satania after Satan, Lucifer’s ambassador to all the planetary prince missions on the system’s worlds.

The UB says that, in our local universe, there is an unusual degree of freedom accorded the administration of the systems. There is much rich detail in the UB about events that occurred some two-hundred-thousand years ago in the system of Satania, one of only three such events to ever occur in the local universe of 10,000 systems (three of these is a lot by UB standards). There is detail in the description of the administrative relation between the local universe and the systems. Of the inhabited planets in Satania (some number between six-hundred and a thousand), thirty seven of the Planetary Princes sided with Lucifer in what amounted to a revolt against the authority of the Creator Son. thirty seven out of at least 600, and this was the “worst” such rebellion (of three) in the local universe!

There is also considerable detail about how this rebellion, now two-hundred-thousand-years past affected the historical and social trajectory of the peoples of the Earth. I am not going to reprise those details here, but suffice it to say that this event, and a later, more recent (thirty-eight-thousand years) second failure related to the first, made Earth an exceptionally rare “double failure”. Both of these missions took place in what is now the middle east, the first somewhere now under the north end of the Persian Gulf, the second ended up (I blur many details) a few miles north between what are now, and were then, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Importantly to our story, the double failure, especially the later one, had further and more profound impact on our history, making Earth one of, if not the, spiritually darkest worlds in the local universe. It is for this reason, that the Creator Son of this local universe, chose this world as the site of his final bestowal at the end of which he had completed the bestowal requirements and “all power on Earth and in heaven has been given to him”.

Jesus chose this world, the darkest of his universe, to exhibit the nature of The Father himself. That was the main mission. Everything else that happened, while important in its way, was (and remains) incidental to that mission. Did that mission fail? It seems that for subsequent generations on Earth it did, for there is still a great deal of confusion and “fake news” concerning the nature of the Father. But Christianity, nevertheless, managed to retain some part of Jesus teachings and life. The nature of the Father can be threaded out from the life of Jesus as portrayed in the New Testament, but it is a difficult task (see “Prolegomena to a Future Theology”). Meanwhile, humans on Earth were not the only audience. According to the UB, the entire (local universe) descendant hierarchy of beings, and all (local universe) ascendant post-mortal beings, were enthralled by the 33 year spectacle of Jesus’ Earth life. They all got the point, and it was for them, mainly and not us, that the universe-wide public bestowal was intended!

The UB’s historical story gets more detailed as it approaches the time of Jesus’ bestowal. For example among the rules of such bestowals (apparently) is that a Creator Son must appear among a people who believe in one God (even if not exactly “the Father” he came to illuminate). By two thousand years prior to the bestowal, the monotheistic idea on Earth (taught by both system-sponsored missions prior to their failure) had disappeared. How did a particular people become “the Jews” who satisfied (if less than ideally) that bestowal requirement? This is a fascinating story but not directly relevant to process theology. What is relevant is what happened when it ended. We return to the “God of Time”, the Supreme.

THE ALMIGHTY SUPREME

Why have I digressed in this, even over simplified, explication of Earth history? It answers the question “why Earth”, both explaining why this planet is so atypically evil, and why, for that very reason, Jesus chose this world. But regardless of his choice, the completion of his bestowal on Earth changed his status, allowing him to assume the rule of his local universe “in his own name”. This, in turn, fits into place, a piece of the puzzle that is the power of the God of Time to whom I now return.

The God of Time, the Supreme, is the fourth level of God the Sevenfold, its center. The being of the Supreme, his person, is existential, supplied by the first three levels, the Father, Son, and Spirit. The last three levels, the Master Spirits, Ancients of Days, and the Creator Sons represent the skeleton, and in the case of the Creator Sons also much of the muscle, the power potential, of the Supreme’s capacity to act.

If we (humans and ascendant humans along with all the descendant hosts) are the fingers of the Supreme, the Creator Sons are the hands which make the fingers possible. Completing his bestowal requirements does not complete in the sense of “fully settle” the local universe. Ultimately, that is the task of all its inhabitants, including us. But the Creator Son’s bestowals, all of them but in particular the last illuminating “The Father Himself”, sets a pattern in the local universe, foreshadowing the outcome. When once the person of the Supreme comes together with a timespace universe of beings all dedicated to the doing of the Father’s will, the person now known only to the three Deities becomes the “Almighty Supreme”, the personal manifestation of God the Father in and to the finite.

To the point of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus lived his life in virtually perfect connection with and understanding of the nature of God’s will — its love-directedness. But this was a purely human life. Prior to his baptism, Jesus’ awareness of his Father was no different from that which any human being could, in potential, achieve. In any given circumstances Jesus had to figure out what God’s will might be, how God himself might express love, and how best to apply it to the given situation. This almost always amounts to finding some compromise between an ideal of action, and what might actually be done (by some particular individual) faced with a real decision.

It is this standard (and not what followed after that baptism when Jesus’ being the Creator Son was fully revealed to him), this ever-present connection to figuring out how best to do God’s will on Earth (and in the rest of the universe career) we must all achieve. As Jesus grew from childhood to adulthood he became the consummate master of this process. In one short life he grew from “best ever for a kid”, to “best there ever was expressed on Earth” and for that matter in the entire local universe! None of the rest of us, indeed not even immortal descendant beings, are expected to achieve this mastery in a few decades, and for us not even in a one-hundred year human lifetime. We are, however, expected to make progress. For ordinary humans progress means being better at “doing good” (both in discernment of opportunity and the act) this year compared to last. Such progress, at least in the present life, does not entail any particular intellectual religious beliefs, or for that matter any belief in God at all (see “What is the Soul?”).

The Supreme’s power to act depends on the dedication (freely doing the Father’s will) of his actor-agents, literally every personal being in the inhabited universe, to being “agents of the Supreme”. It also depends, as with anything else we or any person might do, on the skill of the actor. The actor’s skill, in turn, develops with practice (literally trying, “doing one’s best” to discern God’s will in a given situation and act constructively to express it). Skill also improves when appropriately motivated students are taught by a master, literally shown what such an ideal of discernment and action might look like.

By living a life dedicated to the doing of God’s will on this darkest of worlds, Jesus delivered a demonstration like no other (perhaps very few others) ever delivered in all the inhabited universes of space. Literally trillions of beings were apprised of what it means for a life to be dedicated to God’s will even under the most trying of circumstances. Although Jesus’ final bestowal did not complete his universe (in the sense of settling it) it did enhance both the dedication and skills of all beings (see note on “advanced worlds” below) inhabiting it. When a single human (or other) being makes that dedication for herself the Supreme grows by one more fingertip. When Jesus finished his bestowal, the Supreme’s power grew by trillions of fingertips.

The God of time as envisioned by human theologians emerges out of the the homogeneous union of earthly minds. This idea does parallel the UB in that nothing short of universal (on Earth) achievement as concerns the desire to do God’s will will do to finish the job. Human process theology is not clear about the existence of an existential infinite metaphysically underlying this process. Only the humans of the Earth (with few exceptions) are accorded a role in this process, and there is also vagueness about the role of those who have passed on (even from the Earth).

By contrast, in the UB, The Supreme fits into a structure of support that makes him and his eventual unification His origin grounded by the Father, Son, and Spirit, while supported, his proxy power, by the Master Spirits, the Ancients of Days, the Creator Sons, and all the persons of the inhabited universes who are already on board with the program. Within this structure, the Supreme eventually becomes the manifestation of the perfect existential Father as far as this is possible from within time. But while much of his supporting power is already operational, the Supreme cannot personally act in his own name as that manifestation as long as there are persons remaining in the time domain who are not yet with the program. A perfect representation of God in time cannot exist until the universe itself has reached a certain fixed state. Not perfection in all phases and certainly not absence of further change except for one change. No one in the finite universe ever again rejects the program!

What happens to free will? In effect nothing. There are still choices to be made, decisions and “courses of action” to take, learning goes on, and eventually a new class of ascenders (see below) to help shepherd on their way to perfection. There is still error (ascending mortals are not yet perfect in all phases as they become at the apex of their personal careers). If error is possible, then potential evil remains real (see “Theodicy in the Urantia Book”). But while the potential remains, there is no actual evil. Persons can still, theoretically, commit error deliberately (actual evil) but it would never occur to anyone to do so.

How then can this work? Imagine Earth is literally the last planet in the inhabited universe on which every living decision-capable person (not demented or too young) has not decided to try, always, to do the will of God. Imagine there is only one such person on the whole world. At some point, that person changes his mind, and freely decides, after all, that he does want to do God’s will. Does the Supreme suddenly pop into the universe and become manifest to all where before he was manifest to none but the Father, Son, and Spirit? Suppose further that a day, or a year, from this time, a child is born who, upon growing to his age of choosing, freely decides that he does not wish to do God’s will. Does the Supreme’s action-presence (capacity to act and be known) in the universe vanish? Can the Supreme flicker in and out like this, depending on the whim of the last few holdouts in the universe?

The answer is surely no. Given the administrative structure from God the Seven Fold, and especially the Creator Sons, suggests the Supreme’s integration, his person and his capacity to act and interact with the beings from which his power emerges likely in the perfection of entire local universes. When an entire local universe is “settled” in this sense, I suspect the Supreme’s power, if not complete and integrated throughout all of the inhabited creation is effectively present throughout such a settled local universe, or would be had such an event taken place. The UB notes that no local universe in all the wide inhabited creation has yet completely settled, though the older ones are much farther along the path than the younger ones.

CONCLUSION

The UB moves us from a process God appearing out of a mystical unification of earthly minds to one who represents the completion of a multi-billion year project backed and founded by an existential God who projected the God of Time from before time was. The future power of this “manifestation of the Father” in timespace is supported by a hierarchy ranging from just “plain old spiritual folks” to the personalities of God the Sevenfold. The emergence of the Supreme the bringing together of his person, known to The Father from the beginning, and his capacity to act, a function of personality throughout the universe unified on the desire to do The Father’s will, is the completion, the fruition intended from the beginning, of the timespace domain. They are the same event.

So what happens at that point in time? For one thing persons, all persons in timespace recognize the person of the supreme. He becomes contactable. The UB says that many changes occur in the timespace realm, but says little about what they are. It does tell us that “…since all creature experiencing registers in, and is a part of, the Supreme, when all creatures attain the final level of finite existence, and after total universe development makes possible their attainment of God the Supreme as an actual divinity presence, then inherent in the fact of such contact, is contact with total experience” [UB 117:5.14]. Being a manifestation of the perfect Father in the then-perfected timespace universe, the Supreme would have to be omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent within the finite. The UB does not tell us if these qualities are constituted solely by our power to act in accord with the Father’s will (persons are everywhere, everything that can be known in the finite at that future time is known by someone), or if the person of the Supreme comes to exercise power of himself. I suspect, the answer is both.

Being creatures of time, the UB says that we cannot really comprehend anything beyond the level of the Supreme, meaning anything that is prior to or follows from timespace and his completion. At least not now in our present estate, and for that matter through our entire ascension career until, at graduation, we achieve the full measure of eternal spirituality. We can discover and comprehend the physics of the time universe because it is of timespace. We can know something of God The Father because he is represented in timespace, especially by the Creator Sons, but also by the values discriminated in human mind. In our present estate, we have no epistemological access to what lies beyond the Supreme, but such things can at least be named. As we live today in time, there is a domain the book calls the absonite which is “…characterized by things and beings without beginnings or endings and by the transcendence of time and space” [UB 0:1.12]. In that domain, as yet uninhabited, persons are not evolved as they are in time but “eventuated”. What does this mean? We cannot know, but are told that it is in this absonite, a domain tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of times larger than the finite, that the next phase of God’s manifestation to reality begins (has already begun) to take shape. What God the Supreme is to the finite, God the Ultimate is to the absonite. God is infinite. Process never ceases.


[Note on the Trinity]  Like its process theology, the UB Trinity is an expanded version of the Christian version. In Christianity, the “three persons” are the Trinity and the Trinity is the three persons, end of story. In the UB, they come apart. As analogy, think of a small corporation with a three-member board: president, treasurer, secretary. These are three individuals who can act and interact in seven different ways that are, nevertheless, not the board of directors.

1. The president alone
2. The treasurer alone
3. The secretary alone
4. The presidenbt and the treasurer
5. The president and the secretary
6. The secretary and the treasurer
7. The president, secretary, and treasurer together.

One is tempted to say that the last, the seventh, is the board-of-directors, our trinity, but this is not so. All three, for example, might be attending a barbq and interact without being the board. Now from time to time, these three persons do come together in a metaphorically fused form as the board-of-directors. When this group, as the board, issues a policy statement, they are, metaphorically, speaking with “one voice”. The analogy stops here. At the human level, each of the seven individual combinations and the metaphorically “fused board” are all sequential. Only one of the seven possible individual interactions can take place at one time, and the same is true of the board speaking “as the corporation”.

The existential deities are infinite and eternal. To them, seen from our viewpoint, every possible relationship is both simultaneous and forever. Not only do the three persons relate in seven ways and act as the fused Trinity simultaneously, the three, as individuals or in any combination, can also interact with the Trinity! It is because of this that the Father, Son, and Spirit, but not the Trinity as such, can be the first three levels of God the Sevenfold. It is also another reason why Jesus of Nazareth cannot be the Eternal Son, second person of Deity. There cannot be a time at which the Son is not always in association with the Father, Spirit, and Trinity.

[Note on advanced worlds] As noted in the text, Earth suffered twin failures in the first two system-sponsored-missions to this planet. This is very rare. ninty-nine-point-nine-nine percent of evolutionary worlds suffer no such failures. Once a people has advanced far enough in their civilization (the criteria of this is political, social, and spiritual, not technological) there are literally places one can go on the world to meet and speak with the system representatives to the planet. Such beings, if they are not already materialized, can be made visible and audible to humans. Not only is individual communication possible, but events of the system, constellation, and local universe, analogous to news broadcasts, are available to the inhabitants. So it happens, that on some worlds, even the material mortals were enabled to follow the life of Jesus as he lived it out on this world.

 

 

Mental Cause

In several essays on the broad subject of free will I have said that there are three types of causation in our physical universe: micro-physical indeterminism, macro-physical determinism, and agent-volition, the last subjectively experienced as the willful exercise of one’s mind’s causal capacity, “mental cause”. I refer to what Aristotle called “efficient cause”, that is the immediate forerunner (or forerunners) of a particular event or outcome taken to mean “that which physically brings that particular event about.” Aristotle defined four types of causes, three of which could be said, sometimes, to have “mental” aspects. A simple example here, a fire in a fire-place, will serve to illustrate Aristotle’s distinctions.

1. The “material cause” of the fire is that out of which it could be made. Wood or paper might work. Water would not. There also has to be some oxygen (or other oxidizer) present and so on.

2. “Formal cause” has to do not with the fire’s material substrate but its shape. Not all arrangements of even qualified materials will successfully light. To make a nice fire place fire, the wood and paper have to be arranged in certain ways. Many but not all possible arrangements will serve.

3. “Efficient cause” is that which physically brings the fire about. It might be a lit match set to paper for example. When physics talks about causes, it is this they are talking about. Importantly, there can be chains of efficient causes. To set my wood pile alight with a match I must first strike the match and light it, then hold its flame under my paper kindling. That last step is commonly called also the “proximate cause” and it is mostly this that this essay is about.

4. Aristotle’s fourth cause, the “final cause” is the reason we have built and lit our fire. We want to get warm. Notice that this cause is only indirectly connected to our fire. Besides starting a fire we might get warm in other ways. We could do physical exercise or put on a coat. The entire set up of the fire from the material (wood and paper), its arrangement, to its ignition, are merely means to this end.

Under normal circumstances, we would always attribute “final cause”, to a desire, aim, or objective (purposeful intention) of the agent to get warm. If “mental cause” (of any sort) even exists, final causes would always, by definition, be mental. “Material causes” (that wood and paper in the presence of oxygen can burn) are not typically thought of as mental. Formal causes (the arrangement of the wood and paper in the fire place) might or might not be mental. The wood and paper in their pre-light configuration is not mental per-se, but the arrangement-design might or might not be. In the case of our fire place an agent is involved, but for example in a natural forest (arrangement of trees) ignited by lightening, it is not. As with formal cause, efficient cause might or might not involve mentality. In the case of our fire place, an agent lights the fire, but in the forest fire, lightening does the job.

Notice that from a third-party viewpoint, efficient (causal) agency remains always a physical object. What lights our fire place is a body with arms and hands that strike matches, and so on. There is no need to assume mental cause is real from an outside perspective. When we get to an inside perspective however the situation is quite different.

WHY DO WE NEED MENTAL CAUSE

What we need is some justification for believing mental cause exists, that it belongs in our ontology and “is real” by virtue of being one of the causes (somewhere in the chain of efficient cause) of [some] physical event. When we observe what we take to be a minded agent (human or animal) we see that the physical effects they engender are always products of a body’s motion. No one disputes the physical connection between the body and the rest of the world. The issue comes down to “what moved the body”? The answer is muscles of course, nerves, and more nerves comprising some part of the brain. The question is, was there something that isn’t a nerve as such (though a nerve would be involved) but something quintessentially mental, perhaps a desire or something like that lying at the beginning of the chain of efficient-causes?

Most people would say that it “seems as though” this is the case. Physics says this seeming must be an illusion because it discovers only two kinds of causes in the universe, the indeterminate and the determinate. To be sure, discovered here means measured. Physics detects, with physical instruments, only two types of causes. Speculation about mental cause goes back as far as the earliest recorded philosophy, but physics has never been able to detect it!

If however there is no mental cause when we seem so strongly to sense that there is, all sorts of philosophical problems arise. Mental cause is not the same as free will, but free will entails mental cause. Physics of course denies free will is real But if I am not warranted in believing my agency can be a cause, at least of my own body’s motion, how am I warranted in believing anything? Belief itself (causal or not) is a quintessential mental phenomenon. If my causal capacity is an illusion why not also my agency, and why not anything I might happen to believe or desire?

We can be deluded about our beliefs being true, but it is difficult to believe we are deluded about having beliefs, and doubly so for desires. The debate isn’t usually about having (subjectively experiencing) beliefs, but rather about their being anything “over and above” brain states. If physics calls my very agency into question (not the illusion of it, but its being something more than brain states) what is it then that has beliefs and desires? Can “brains” be an answer? How do brains, qua brains, come to have beliefs and desires? Do the mechanisms of a clock know the time of day in the sense that a human knows it when she looks at the clock? To deny brain states beneath (the foundation) of our mental states would in this day be absurd. The issue is always ultimately the ontological status of what appears, the subjective, as a result of their presence, and what (if any) downward causal powers the appearance has.

These sorts of issues are but the tip of the iceberg. If mental cause (and so by extension free will) is an illusion then a radical skepticism about everything would seem to be warranted. At the same time, even skepticism, since we must be skeptical of our very agency, is not warranted either. There is a long literature here, but as John Searle put it (The Construction of Social Reality [1995]) nothing about the human experience nor all of human history makes any sense without presupposing free will.

WHY IS MENTAL “EFFICIENT CAUSE” CONTROVERSIAL?

I have given some answer to this above: because physics cannot measure it. It would seem unproblematic to take for granted that physics doesn’t cover everything; it is, as the matter is put, incomplete. But the problem is more subtle than that. The two types of causes that physics can measure (strictly speaking physics cannot measure quantum phenomena directly, but only when these interact with the macroscopic world) have qualities, characteristics, that mental causes lack. These qualities are what explain in the sense of “reveal the mechanism for” physical causation. There is no mathematics in physics, no observation or experiment that would suggest that anything other than prior-physics can be a cause in physics. Even not-directly-observable quantum phenomena are readily observed via these same qualities when they interact with the macroscopic world. Purportedly “mental causes”, by contrast, do not appear to share these qualities. As a result, they cannot be observed from a third party viewpoint, and so no path exists to an explanation of the mechanism of their effect on physics.

Rather than accepting that some mysterious sort of cause that cannot be observed must be real, physicists and most philosophers instead move to strike “mental cause” from the list of causal possibilities in our universe. This is a philosophical move, an induction based on evidence from the only sort of detection or measurement instruments, physical instruments, that exist. The anti-physicalist might respond by claiming that while physical instruments can not in principle measure mental cause, subjective consciousness, literally our phenomenal arena detects them, and this arena is, after all, also a part of the universe along with everything else.

At this point we are thrown back upon the brain which is indisputably physical. We know that the movement of my arm is preceded by nerve impulses in my arm and brain that are themselves indisputably physical. If at the top of this chain of efficient cause there was a mental event that set the chain in motion it behooves the proponent of mental cause to say how, that is by what mechanism, the mental event effects (that is trigger) the first indisputably physical (nerve) process in the chain?

CHARACTERISTICS OF MATERIAL and MENTAL CAUSES

According to Phil Dowe (Physical Causation [2000]) material cause is all about transferring some [physically] conserved quantity momentum, mass-energy, or electric charge. If one billiard ball strikes another momentum is transferred from one to the other. This results in two other observations important in this context. First physical cause is temporal. Causes precede their effects. The transfer of a conserved quantity cannot take place faster than the speed of light. Second, there is a reciprocal impact of the effect on the cause. If one billiard ball gains momentum, the other loses it.

Both of these qualities are absent from mental cause. In this context, distinctions made by Nicholas Rescher (“Free Will: A Philosophical Reappraisal” [2008]) will be helpful. Rescher is aware of the overall relation between consciousness (including mental cause) and brain states. He claims that there never can be any instance of mental cause without the simultaneous existence of some correlated brain state. If we look for a mental event that brings about a brain state, but isn’t itself associated simultaneously with some other brain state, we will never find it. “Mental causes”, in Rescher’s terms are not causes in Dowe’s physical sense.

Mental causes are not, in Rescher’s view, temporal. They are literally (metaphysically) simultaneous with their effect, some brain state. He distinguishes this sort of a temporal cause by calling it “initiation”. Initiation (often intentional but not necessarily so) need not evoke a neurological correlate ex nihilo. It need only slightly modify an existing state. From a third party viewpoint, that modified state would appear a perfectly natural evolution from its own prior state. Nothing would be found to suggest that anything non-physical was responsible for it.

This “a temporal initiation” is possible because in mental cause, no conserved quantity is transferred, and consequently there is no reciprocity. If I elect to pick up a rock and throw it at a window, I can feel the momentum transfer between my arm and the rock, and of course the throw is temporal. But the initiation of the event was simultaneous with the physical brain state that lies at the top of the physically [efficient] causal chain. The evidence that this is so is our experience that there is no reciprocal effect of my choice to initiate a rock-throw back on that initiator. Nothing about the initiation impacts back on the mental cause itself. Of course I may, this being a directed (intentional) initiation, immediately regret having done so. But that is a different, subsequent, thought, not a modification of the original one.

If Rescher is correct about initiation, how can we tell if the choice (mental cause) results (simultaneity being granted) in a correlated brain state or the other way around? We cannot tell based on any physical measurement. Physicalists would say there is no reason not to suppose that the physical is logically (if not temporally) prior. But if Rescher is correct, what then of the mechanism problem?

With regard to mechanism, many speculations seem to orbit about some interaction at the quantum level. The a temporal nature of initiation coupled with a lack of conserved quantity transfer and so lack of reciprocity, are suggestive of quantum entanglement where, on some views (see Ruth Kastner “Understanding our Unseen Reality” [2015]), the same qualities (or lack of them) characterize quantum phenomena. Since we cannot measure quantum phenomena directly, as far as we know, prior to some manifestation in the macro world (the exchange of a conserved quantity) the same qualities as characterize “mental cause” (initiation) might characterize “quantum cause”. The most detailed speculation with regard to mind might be Henry Stapp’s (“Quantum Theory and Free Will [2017]) Quantum Zeno Effect (QZE), mind’s ability to hold or otherwise modify subtle quantum indeterminacy within the anatomical and physiological processes of the brain. True, even QZE does not say exactly how this power of the mental connects up to the physical, but in this case, neither side of the transaction can be directly measured and there are reasons to believe (see the aforementioned Kastner book) that quantum phenomena are also initiations in Rescher’s sense.

WHAT IS MENTAL CAUSE

Above I have looked at mental cause from the physical side. What does it look like from the mental side? Some philosophers have characterized mental cause in terms of beliefs or desires. But beliefs and desires are not mental causes in Aristotle’s efficient sense. They are Aristotelian “final causes” and clearly mental, but not our issue here.  Being a reason is of course mental, but not all of what is mental is also causal. I might want to get warm (my reason for lighting a fire) but not move a muscle to do anything about it. The quintessential efficient mental cause is a volitional act, an exercise of will on the part of a minded agent. In our experience, only mind, the subjective consciousness of an individual, has this ability to act volitionally, for a purpose, and not either indeterminate or determined by prior physics.

Purposeful cause is mental and only mental, and it is causal, that is itself determining of subsequent physics, for example my throwing a rock. As much as I disagree with Schopenhauer, I do believe he was correct in locating will and representation at the core of phenomenal experience, or as we would put these in more modern terms, intention and qualia. Mental cause, in particular our capacity to control intent and by extension a body, is an intrinsic component of our “what is it like to be…” experience.

Qualia are the mental effects of physical (brains) causes (an over simplification but for purposes of this essay I leave it at that, see “From What Comes Mind”). Intention is a mental cause (initiation) of a physical effect. Throwing a rock begins with an intention, but this is also true for subjective states that exhibit no gross physical effects. Suppose on a nature walk you come upon a beautiful flower. You attend to it, visually, perhaps also aromatically at the same time. Suddenly you become aware of a buzzing sound from behind or above your head somewhere. You cannot see what is causing the sound, but without moving your gaze from the flower you have become aware of it. Becoming aware is clearly a mental event which in this case may be comfortably attributed to prior physics (brain states, bearing in mind Rescher’s initiation can work in both directions). Only subsequently do we volitionally attend to the sound, perhaps to identify it. The volitional element entails agent purposeful-direction and so mental cause even if no muscle has moved.

Under normal circumstances, when we are conscious, we are never without both qualia and intention about something. Is it possible one can be conscious without intention, qualia, or both? Advanced Buddhist monks, masters at meditation, claim to achieve the first, but even this being so, they maintain this special state only while meditating. Sensory deprivation might suggest the possibility of a qualia-free consciousness, but people report made-up qualia, images and sounds brains generate (and to which we attend as we do in a dream state) in the absence of external stimulation. Perhaps we cannot be conscious in the absence of qualia.

MENTAL CAUSE AND FREE WILL

Mental cause is necessary but not sufficient for free will. In addition, free will demands agency, a subject whose will it is. An exercise of free willed choice is a volitional act of an agent. It is not either prior-determined, though often influenced, by physics, nor random. It is mental cause directed by agent-purposeful volition, itself quintessentially mental and unique to minded-agency in the universe. To get free will, mental cause must be real, and also subjective agency. The action of the body-agent of a physical event (throwing the rock) is willful only by extension from the [presumptive] mental-agent who is the initiator of that act. A body can sometimes act in the absence of agent consciousness. Such acts are not willful, and typically we do not claim that they are.

The connection between intention (willfulness) and subjective agency is built-in to human language. To speak of intention always implies subjective agency. So free will and mental cause are doubly linked. Free will rests on mental cause, but if free will is not real, there is nothing interesting left for mental cause to do. It is possible there are, for example, subconscious mental causes of which we are not aware (conscious of) and so not willed as such. But if in fact free will (not to mention agency as such) can be subsumed by brain states, there is no reason why subconscious mental cause could not be also.

An exercise of will (volition) by an agent is the quintessential “mental cause”. If free will is an illusion it is hard to understand the point of working to save mental cause. If all of our choices, our behaviors (including purely subjective sorts like “attending to”), are prior-determined by our brains what is left for mental cause to do? When Sean Carroll denies the possibility of free will because “If free will were real it would mean that mind causes physics” (The Big Picture [2016]) he is aiming, really, at mental cause. Free will goes along for the ride because it is the volitional exercise of the causal potential of mind that matters.

Agent volition then, and not beliefs or desires, is the epitome of mental cause. But if volition itself is prior-determined by brain states, and not a non-material (mental) agent, then there is no point to mental cause, the brain can do it all. In turn, mental cause, apart from the free will issue, is usually defended (or challenged) with reference to free will. The possibility of free will is grounded on the reality of mental cause and in addition the reality of the volitional agent able to utilize it. Both of these, in turn, rest on the reality of mind with the “power to cause physics”.

Cigar Review: Caldwell Long Live the King Mad MoFo

Cigar Review: Caldwell Long Live the King Mad MoFo

This vitola, a 5.75″ x 43 corona called the “Mad Mofo”. As usual these are above my budget these days, but occasionally a deal comes along (from $10+ to $8). Having smoked other sticks in Caldwell’s “kingly” line, I figured it would be good, so for a box of 10 I splurged. Not disappointed…

Wrapper: Corojo
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican & Nicaraguan

Cold smnell: Mild barnyard, dirt, manure, some flowers. Not the strongest cold smell ever but lots of nice aromas in there.

Construction: A medium brown wrapper. A few cigars in the box had slight defects in the wrappers, a few places where they were slightly crushed. I suspect this was a problem in the packing of the box. Of the ten sticks, only two were like this and the defects are pretty small. You can see one of them near the cap in one of the pictures.

Otherwise, the wrapper is a little oily and toothy with visible small veins and seams. The pack is medium dense and even all the way along the cigar, but the whole looks rough. Not that this is a bad thing. Small veins are where the flavor is, and some of my favorite sticks have this sort of rough finish.

I’ve smoked 4 of these so far. Two had perfect draws all the way along, the other two were a little tough at the beginning, but loosened up in their second half. Smoke output varied with the draw, good but not great when the draw was tight, superb when it wasn’t. The burn line on these has been exceptional, even the few with tight draws. They smoke slowly giving me about an hour and twenty per stick.

Flavors: On first light, the cigar is woody with a cedar sweetness on the retrohale. No pepper at this stage. A few puffs in a little roasted almond makes an appearance followedG by a sweet flower (honeysuckle?) and leather come to play. All of this is very smooth. A third of the way in the pepper rises, but well balanced with all of those other flavors. I get some mint or wintergreen in here (the sweet flower again), and lots of sweet woods.

As the stick smokes the various flavors mix and trade places. One hit big on nut, the next on wood, sweet floral and leather make appearances as does something of a burnt nut. In the second half the tight sticks loosened up. Smoke output increases, the burn line is still straight. Pepper comes up gradually until by the end of the stick it is pretty much up front, but the other flavors are there all the way to the nub..

Other than a few mildly tight draws (I never had to use a tool to loosen them) the construction of these is great and the flavors superb! Strength a solid medium, maybe a little on the fuller side. Good stick!

Here’s a review from The Busted Wallet, and another, a video review, from Cigar Obsession.

 

Review: Plantation Single Barrel Multi-Island XO

Review: Plantation Single Barrel Multi-Island XO

This is another of the new Plantation single-cask offerings. The Plantation web page on this has a lot of information. A blend of both column and pot-still Jamaica and Barbados distilates, then aged in three different barrel types, oak (tropics), Ferrand (continental), and a year in Côteaux du Layon wine casks, bottled at 46.5% ABV. There is much more there as well.. Of course they find much more in the flavor profile than I, but this is still pretty rich and tropical. Indeed, I can taste the tropics in this one. The sort of rum I picture drinking with a little ice (I usually drink neat) at a pool-side bar somewhere, really anywhere, in the Caribbean!

Color: Pale yellow amber with flashes of yellow and a little red.

Legs: Thin, fast legs drop from the bottom of the swirl line.

Aroma: I get vanilla, fruity notes of apricot, banana, some pine apple, nutmeg, and coconut. There is also a little alcohol on the nose. The over-all effect is very rich, and melds later into a deep caramel.

Flavor: Very clean medium creamy body.  A light touch of raw sugar and sweet light fruit, delicate with some fire on a long sugar-sweet aftertaste. The flavors include some raisin, light caramel, and a hint of tobacco too, all very delicately dancing on fruits like apricot, grape, pineapple, and apple. Despite the Jamaican heritage here I don’t detect any funk. The Plantation site linked above gives even the ester content, 176 g/hL, that’s grams per hundred liters, so very low. Very high ester rums can have 1000 g/hl or more. No surprise I don’t sense any funk, but even this low ester content certainly adds to the depth of both aroma and flavor.

So far I have liked every one of these Plantation offerings. The collection can be seen here, and this link will take you to a few comments about the Multi Island on Rum Ratings.

 

Rum Review: Foursquare-Velier SAGACITY 12-year

Rum Review: Foursquare-Velier SAGACITY 12-year

When this rum came across my local B&M’s path I thought $65 is a steal for any Foursquare, and this proves to be the case here. Sagacity is a blend of two different rums. From the back label, both begin with distillate from a double retort copper pot still and a double column [continuous] coffey still (Aeneas Coffey the inventor of this type of still). The mixed distillate is then split into two parts with half aging 12 years in ex-bourbon casks and the other half aged 12 years in ex-madeira casks. The two are then blended and adjusted to 48% ABV. The label also says there are no sweeteners or other additives in this rum.

Color is a beautiful medium copper red with lots of fiery flashes. The label also says the rum is not chill filtered and so may be a little cloudy. No such effect at the start of a bottle though. I have noticed some cloudiness creep into rums toward the end of their bottles though.

Legs are beautifully distinct. Thin to medium dropping at a leisurely pace from the back of the swirled edge.

Aroma, that’s where the real magic begins. Dark fruit, prune, raisin, chocolate, apricot, pear, coffee, coconut, and something warm like cinnamon. There is but a little alcohol on the nose and no young-rum acetone notes anywhere. To put it mildly, the aroma here is amazing!

Flavor, after all… My vendor tells me there is more of the pot still than usual in Foursquare offerings. There is the barest hint of fruity pot still funk to my taste. Not something I like when too strong, the hint of it (like that in El Dorado 15) fits perfectly, enhancing the flavor profile which is otherwise quite sweet. The first taste is creamy, and unexpectedly sweet, There is maple, dark brown sugar, the dark fruits, apricot, a little orange, and that bare hint of over-ripe fruit. Coffee gets a nod, as do oak, and even chocolate. The aftertaste is long, smooth with nice warmth, and tickles of raw sugar sweetness. All of these flavors are very subtle in a smooth clean background with no strong alcoholic notes. The most distinct thing about the flavor is the light dancing sweetness of many sources. Perchance there was some madeira sloshing around in those barrels?

This is a very good cigar pairing rum. There are so many flavors here. The sugar sweetness accentuates some cigars while the oak or coffee do it for others. For $65 I can only highly recommend this one!

Here is a look from the Black Parrot Bar in London, and here another review from my most knowledgeable rum friend the Fat Rum Pirate!

Cigar Review: Roma Craft Intemperance Whiskey Rebellion 1794

Cigar Review: Roma Craft Intemperance Whiskey Rebellion 1794

Roma Craft puts out a lot of good cigars, many reviewed on this blog. The Intemperance Whiskey Rebellion 1794 is another. Lets get right to it.

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano

Binder: Indonesian Bezuki

Filler: Nicaraguan and Dominican

Each of the five vitolas of this cigar is named after a key player in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. The stick I’m reviewing is the smallest of them, a 4″ x 46 petit corona “Hamilton” (yeah the guy from the musical). Official retail on these is $6. I found them for $4.75 in a 30 count bundle with common discounts from the Cigar and Pipes website linked here. I recommend getting on their mailing list. The other vitolas are the 4.5″ x 50 “Jefferson”, the 5″ x 50 “McFarlane” (commander of the militia that supressed the rebellion), a 5.5″ x 54 “Washington”, and the 5″ x 56 “Bradford” (the leader of the rebellion). Each vitola retails for a bit more than the one before it. The last is $8, still a decent price for what turns out to be a very good blend!

The cold aroma is rich with black tea, barnyard, flowers, and even a dry chocolate off the foot!

Construction has been mostly excellent. A medium-dense pack, firm all the way around. Wrapper a beautiful moderately oily dark brown. Seams are almost invisible, and there are no veins showing through. I’ve smoked four of these now. Three had superb draws all the way along. One was a little tight, especially in the second half. I had to open it up a little. Burn lines have been straight all along the smoke except that tight one required some correction in the last inch and a half. Smoke output was excellent on all four. Mostly A+ on the construction. Burn time on these is 50-55 minutes down to the nub. Very satisfying for a petit corona.

On first light the flavor is earthy tobacco, fall leaves, and sweet woods. Leather comes up shortly, the pepper is light at the beginning. After a while there is some sweet flower and roasted nut. In the second half the sweet flavors dial back in favor of the earthy again and the pepper comes up strongly. The strength stays medium throughout. This is not a very sweet cigar except for the occasional hits of flowers and roasted nuts, I don’t get any of the chocolate I sensed in the cold smell. Cedar is there though. Not really a sweet-note cigar though there are a few here and there, but an excellent smoke nonetheless.

The Cigar Dojo review linked here is of the 5″ x 50 McFarlane vitola. This one here from Stogie Guys covers the whole line.

I’ve tried this cigar with sweeter rums like the Plantation Barbados and El Dorado 15 (a very good contrast in flavor), also the 2008 Guyana (no particular effect), and last, my new Foursquare Sagacity (review forthcoming) which, so far, brought out the most sweetness in the cigar. Roma Craft makes a lot of fine cigars. This is yet another added to their oeuvre!

Cigar Review: Juarez Shots by Crowned Heads

Cigar Review: Juarez Shots by Crowned Heads

Not exactly the “new cigar” I thought, but the vitola is new and alas only 500 boxes of 50 cigars were made! There are three other vitolas in regular production, more expensive than these shots. This page at Famous Smoke will show you the rest. As of this writing they are still available at Famous and also at Atlantic Cigar. The “Shots” listed originally for $6 in these boxes. You find boxes commonly for $5.50 and with some discounts and specials I found mine for $4.50, but I expect this one box will be the only one I will ever have. Too bad! These are delicious! Let’s have a look..

The Shots are a 4″ x 50 “petit robusto” rolled at Tabacalera Pichardo in Estelí, Nicaragua

Wrapper: Mexican San Andres
Binder: Ecuadorian Sumatra
Filler: Dominican and Nicaraguan

The wrapper is a maduro dark chocolate brown, slight oily sheen. A few veins show up along the wrapper in most of the sticks. Did you know the little veins carry a disproportionate amount of cigar flavor? The pack is firm all the way along. Pretty dense, heavy stick for its size.

Cold smell: Heady mix of black tea, manure, barnyard. Very rich. I love it already!

Construction: Have had 6 so far and the draws/burn-line on all have been great. Smoke output excellent. Burn is slow, 1 hour to smoke, a couple went 70 minutes! A+ on construction, something you don’t find on many sub-$6 sticks. Kudos to Crowned Heads!

Flavors: Initial light and first half, very light on the pepper. Brown sugar, toffee roasted nut, peanut butter, sweet wood, leather. The retrohale on this stick is rich with sweet aromas and pepper is minimal, so go for it! In the second half there is a bit more pepper all the way around, but the sweetness is still there, the leather, maybe a little dry chocolate in it too. Towards the last 1.5″ there is more woodiness, more pepper, but the sweet smells and flavors are still there, if dialed back a bit, all the way to the nub. This stick goes all the way! I am impressed!

These sticks pair great with coffee and they don’t get to more than a medium strength so they make a great morning smoke. I’ve been drinking mostly Plantation rums lately (see latest rum reviews) and they all pair well here too, but nothing really pops out at me yet. So far this is a coffee cigar!

Highly recommended! Get them while they’re still available! Here some more about them from Halfwheel….

For Every Theist there are One Hundred Materialists

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As concerns philosophy of mind, for every theist, there are one hundred materialists in the present-day philosophical community. Theism, purportedly has many problems, but it does do a nice job explaining the seemingly qualitative difference between subjective experience (that is, mind) and the perceived (and purportedly) mind-independent world. I will return to theism at the end.

Among materialists, for every eliminative materialist (as concerns mind) there are five pure property dualists. For every property dualist, there are ten Russellian monists of one stripe or another and a like number of panpsychists. These last two categories often overlap with some versions of Russellian monism (sometimes called dual-aspect monism) becoming panpsychism at larger scales. There are also monisms that do not become panpsychism, and panpsychisms that do not rest on monisms. While materialist philosophers (the materialism often amounting to little more than stipulation) of these various philosophies of mind talk to one another about the differences in their theories (each intended to overcome specific problems seen in their competitors), none of them ever mention their over-arching issues, problems that all of these various theories have in common. This essay is the result of my attempts to discuss these common problems with several of these philosophers all of which have been met with stony silence.

Each of these materialist approaches to mind is supposed to solve the “problem of mind” without reference to a Deity who would, should he exist, obviously have the power to create both the physical universe and mind within it. The starting point for all materialist solutions is the physical universe which must (again often coming down to stipulation) be the only source of everything  else and the physical  is founded on “causal closure”. This fundamental principle comes down to the idea there is only physics in the universe and all the physics that now exists came from physics and nothing else. There is another axiom and a few corollaries to the causal closure principle. The other axiom is that physics (besides being produced by only physics) itself produces only [more] physics. The corollaries are (1) nothing of physical mechanism is purposeful, or “there is no teleology in physics”, and (2) there is reciprocity in physical mechanism. A cause is always in someway changed by its effect. Physics recognizes two sorts of causes in the universe: macro-physical determinism, and micro-physical indeterminism. Both types of cause fully comply with causal closure, axioms and corollaries.

The central problem addressed in all of these theories of mind (except eliminative materialism) is that consciousness, in particular human mind (though applies also to the higher animals), does not appear on its surface to be material at all. Yet mind does very much appear to be a cause productive of physical effects; the manipulation of some associated individual body. If mind emerges purely from physics, is nonmaterial in some sense, and a cause in the physical, then the causal closure principle as it stands is false. One or both of the axioms cannot be true.

ELIMINATIVE MATERIALISM

Eliminative materialism is the only PoM that does not entail some change to causal closure. Indeed, it does not suffer from any metaphysical origin issue (there being nothing needing any metaphysical ground), nor any problem with property specification or interaction, one or more of which, as we will see, plague every other theory including theism. The problem with eliminative materialism is that it achieves all of this by denying consciousness exists. It saves all of causal closure by claiming that consciousness does not belong in the list of real phenomena (ontology) filling our universe, making itself prima facia absurd! It is to overcome this absurdity (and at the same time avoid supposing an existential intentional source of mind) that all the other PoMs were invented!

PROPERTY DUALISM and EPIPHENOMENALISM

Property Dualism is almost always a basis of the other theories except for theism and even here there are sensible interpretations that are largely property-dualistic and not Cartesian substance or Thomistic hylomorphic dualism. Both monisms and panpsychism, at least in many of their interpretations, come out to mind of our sort being a not-material phenomenon having certain properties emerging from brains. In pure property dualism, there is nothing other than the physics and biology of brains involved, that is causally closed physics as understood by most physicists. Yet in this view, the second axiom of physics, that physics produces only physics is seemingly violated. In one special case, the case of brains, physics produces something that while yet supervening on physical properties displays novel properties, a seemingly nonmaterial subjectivity, and with this the power to cause physics, to cause a physical change in the brain that results in the uncontroversially physical control of a body. This breaks the first causal closure axiom, and amounts to proposing a third kind of cause in the universe, mental-cause.

As with all of these theories there are variations. Some property dualists avoid proposing a third cause with a variation called epiphenomenalism. Here the idea is that consciousness, our subjective, seems real enough from within it, but as concerns the external world, its powers are purely illusory. Brains do produce consciousness, but consciousness does not “cause physics” (Sean Carroll “The Big Picture” 2016). Epiphenomenalism, however, while preserving the first causal closure axiom doesn’t save the second.

Pure property dualism doesn’t suffer from any particular metaphysical or property specification problem. Since mind comes only from brains there is no need for further metaphysical grounding and since only these brain-based minds are at all mental there is nothing to discriminate or specify as concerns the mental properties of anything other than brain-minds. Property dualism does have an “interaction problem”. As noted above causal closure is violated in at least one (epiphenomenalism), and often two directions. The problem how mind interacts with physics (even if only for physics to manifest it)  is not resolved.

How exactly does the new dualistic entity emerge from pure physics (we have found no other example of such an emergence), and how, by what means exactly, in its bi-directional variation, does it “cause physics” in turn? No one can say. Henry Stapp’s Quantum Zeno Effect is an interesting speculation (mind can partly-constrain wave function collapse in special micro-structures of the brain). QZE only pushes the problem up one level. It is a suggestion regarding what mind does to brains, not how it accomplishes this feat.

RUSSELLIAN MONISM and PANPSYCHISM

Both Russellian monisms (of various sorts) and panpsychism (also of various sorts) are, conceptually, advanced to suggest solutions to this mystery in pure property dualism. How does ordinary physics under causal closure come to have the extraordinary ability to produce something nonphysical and how does that entity come to have causal effect on the manifestly physical brain? Maybe physics isn’t as purely physical as physicists think. Maybe all they can detect and measure is the physical, but physical law has psychic or proto-psychic (I use these terms interchangeably throughout) qualities built into it? Whenever we measure the physical, we are measuring combined physical and proto-psychic qualities.

When brains come along, they produce mind as we know it because these psychic qualities somehow sum up in brains in a way that expresses them in what we experience as subjective consciousness. Supposedly this avoids violating causal closure because what physics calls causal closure already has the psychic built into it. Brains evoking minds are merely the culminating expression of these qualities.

This is, in essence, the core of both the monisms and panpsychism. One-way or another, either at the micro-level or the universe taken as a totality, psychic-potentials in the form of something positive attached to physics, add up to consciousness as we know it when brains come along. These qualities have to be positive. If they are merely potentials, possibilities, then they are no different from all other phenomena presently in the universe including galaxies, stars, life, and so on. All of them were obviously possible, made that way by the conditions of the Big Bang and the cosmological settings.

Yet while monisms or panpsychisms seem to resolve one issue, and not even that very well as we will see, they raise more than one of their own. Where do they come from? How is it “psychic-properties” pervade physics (or cosmology)? What is their origin? Physics, cosmology, itself has the quantum vacuum. There is all this material stuff and process in the universe because the quantum vacuum is unstable and the macroscopic universe, the Big Bang, is the result (see “A Universe From Nothing” Lawrence Krauss 2012). Importantly, the resulting galaxies, stars, planets, and all cosmological evolution at least up to the appearance of life, fall out of our physical equations given the measured cosmological settings. Getting all this requires no extra-influence, no psychic-qualities. Significantly, there are no extra [psychic] terms in the mathematical equations describing any of this.

Monists and panpsychists say the proto-psychic properties are brute, built-in to physics at the micro (monism) or cosmological (panpsychism) scale and what we measure as such in physical measurements already includes the proto-psychic properties. Yet, no psychic-placeholders are needed to represent physical phenomena in our equations. For cosmology, the properties of the big bang, including the values of the cosmological settings, are sufficient to ground (make possible), all of physical reality as we find it, including life. Life’s origin perhaps presents a special problem, but not a topic I will address here (See “Answering Five Questions: The Relation between Science and Religion”). Only mind seems to need something more. Something more that is than the possibilities inherent in pure physics. Other than this, the psychic properties, at any other level, are explanatorily redundant.

Another problem raised by panpsychism and Russellian monism are the properties of the proto-psychic. We can say something about what “psychic qualities” are for our own minds. They are the substance of our experience, our “what is it like to be” and include qualia and intentionality (our free capacity to direct our attention) among other properties. Yet except for a negative characterization “it isn’t that”, none can say anything positive about what these micro or cosmological psychic properties actually are. They are not consciousness. So what are they? Nor can anyone answer the related question: what do these psychic qualities do exactly to physics? How would physics be different if they weren’t there?

The retort here is that these qualities are what they are such that when material organization becomes dynamic and complex enough, subjectivity, mind, emerges. This is after all the reason these speculations exist. But if these psychic properties have no effect on physics until complex brains evolve, this solution becomes ad hoc. If brains are utterly contingent (as pure physics has to claim) then they might not have ever evolved. That being the case, psychic properties in the micro physical or cosmological would have had no purpose what-so-ever, more explanatory redundancy.

On the other hand, perhaps the psychic qualities we cannot describe do something long before life and brains come about. What? They would act in such a way as to push physical evolution towards strengthening the likelihood of otherwise contingent evolution to produce life and eventually brains! If this is the case, then to be clear, teleology, purpose, is put back into physics, the purpose, in this case, of evolving minds! Now we are face-to-face with some purposeful mind behind all of this, or we must accept that, purely by accident, there is attached to physics that which cannot be detected, comes from nowhere (the Quantum Vacuum doesn’t help here), and happens by sheer chance to push cosmological and biological evolution towards mind.

All of this though begs again the question of the mechanism of this influence. A self-respecting chemist will scoff at the notion that any process, even one as finely tuned as a living being or a brain does anything, on the purely physical level, but satisfy the physical equations. Any influence the psychic has would have to be invisible to what pure physical theory addresses perfectly well, for example selecting mutation X over the equally likely mutation Y. Since no such influence can be detected, we face again, although the devoted will object, a manifestly nonphysical phenomenon (except by stipulation that it must be physical because there is nothing else) that has some effect in (and on) the physical. We have, in short, an “interaction problem!”

In short, philosophers put up a placeholder that supposedly explains the capacity of the material world (at the micro or cosmological level) to invoke consciousness from brains, but can say nothing positive about this placeholder. They cannot say how it happens to exist or where it comes from. They cannot describe any of its properties, they cannot say how it manages to work, how it interacts with physics. On top of all this the theoretical edifice must either add teleology back into physics and cosmology or it is explanatorily redundant until brains happen, contingently, to arrive on the scene!

THEISM

Theism is the notion that some minded and purposeful entity, God, exists and has the power to spawn the physical universe by some mechanism (perhaps the big bang), and purposefully direct its evolution towards life and mind. Under theism, there must be a purpose to otherwise purposeless physical mechanism. Since God is purportedly infinite (eternal) and uncaused-cause (unique in the universe [of which the physical is but a part] having no prior-cause), postulating him puts a stop to infinite-recursion of causes.

Theism has an inverse counterpart to Eliminative Materialism, Berkeley-ian style “pure idealism”. The idea is that nothing is real except mind, our individual mental arenas. What “appears to mind” as the external world from the inanimate to other persons, even our own bodies, is put into our minds by God. This idea is not as prima facea absurd as eliminative materialism. It accepts mind, at least my own mind (idealism can drift towards the solipsistic), as obvious and since God is infinite he has the capacity to do exactly what idealism claims he does.

Idealism is even less popular than eliminative materialism because God is needed to make it work. But it has other problems. For example, why should this mind of ours find, what amounts to a simulated mind-independent world, so complicated? It is one thing for God to put a virtual tree outside my virtual window, but as I further explore the tree I discover incredible complications. Not only the tree’s cells their macroscopic (deterministic) intricacies, but all the rest down to quarks and the Schrödinger wave equation. Doesn’t all of this amount to God deluding us about what seems to be a reality independent of mind even if recognized only from within it? For these reasons the preponderance of evidence favors a genuine, mind-independent, world whose properties we discover through application of mind.

A good God would not be in the business of deluding us. If there seems to be a mind-independent world, and if, with mind we appear capable of grasping its intricacies, then evidential experience suggests the mind-independent world is real. At least at middle size scales (roughly dust motes to mountains) there is a remarkable correspondence between the world and its representation in mind.

Besides idealism there are two well-known theistic PoMs, Cartesian-style substance dualism and Thomistic (Aquinas) hylomorphism, the first being much better known than the second. I do not believe either is satisfactory. Hylomorphism is vague about what exactly is formed, or what mind is a form of or in. Cartesian substance dualism has never given enough credit to brains. For Descartes, mind, being immaterial, should in theory be able to float free of any particular instantiation. Why is mind associated always and only with brains?

My own view is closely related to materialistic property dualism adding a catalyst that evokes the nonmaterial mind from the activity of brains. The catalyst (Cosmic Mind, perhaps a poor choice of names) is not mind as such and combining the two (brains and catalyst) is required. For more on this and how it differs from Cartesian dualism see “From What Comes Mind”. My interest here is how theism in general compares with the materialistic theories as concerns their metaphysical issues: origins, teleology, psychic qualities, and the interaction problem.

Regarding origins, brains are physical and come up an evolutionary chain. The catalyst comes, in one-way or another by some direct of indirect route, from God as does the physical universe within which evolution occurs. God, being eternal-uncaused-omnipotent, has no particular metaphysical problems of his own granting his existence for the sake of argument. The question “from whence comes God?” is answered. God comes from God.

The relation between the teleological and causal closure, a problem for panpsychism and Russellian monisms is also solved. Causal closure in physics is true. Mechanisms in the physical are well and truly purposeless. At the same time God has, seemingly, a purpose for purposeless physical mechanism. Universe physical outcomes, governed by the conditions of the big bang and the cosmological settings, do not merely allow for life and later mind, but were intended, deliberately, to deliver them over time. Even if Cosmic Mind has no teleological role before the appearance of brains (I do not assert this to be true, but my argument does not hang on its truth) it is not redundant (as are proto-psychic properties with no teleological impact) because the eventual appearance of brains is not, under a theistic view, contingent.

The description or properties problem, acute for panpsychism and the various monisms, is not an issue for theism because there are no proto-psychic qualities to describe! Stars, rocks, and thermostats have no proto-psychic qualities, nor does the physical universe as a [physical] totality. The equations of physics need no proto-psychic term because there are none to apply. Nothing is psychic until brains evolve and then the interaction between Cosmic Mind and brains evokes subjective consciousness. Notice that this not only includes animal brains, but supports exactly the hierarchy of consciousness that we find on Earth. Lower-order brains have lower-order consciousness. There is something it is like to be a bat, and something less to be a lizard, and less still a fish, and so on. Cosmic mind, uniform throughout the universe, invokes mind only to that level the underlying brain makes possible.

This then brings us to the interaction problem. Theism does little better here than panpsychism, Russellian monism, or for that matter both two-way property dualism and one-way epiphenomenalism. Every PoM apart from eliminative materialism suffers from the same interaction problem! Even so, theism does a little better than the others. Nobody can say how any of these theories (their implied ontologies) work to evoke mind from brains, but theists can say, at least, there is someone who knows the trick. Further we have no reason to suppose that this trick of God’s is comprehensible to the minds invoked by it.

It does no-good for the Russellian monists or panpsychists to argue that they have no interaction problem because the claimed “proto-psychic” properties are built-in to physics and so physical by stipulation. This move is part of the whole point of these theories but it is disingenuous, merely pushing the lump to another part of the rug. The proto-psychic presumably has some impact on what would happen in the physical. Physics would presumably come out differently in its absence. Without being able to say what this impact is, how physics differs thanks to these properties, and merely stipulating that they are physical without distinguishing them from a physics without them, makes them explanatorily redundant.

Of the three problems, metaphysical ground, property specification, and interaction, theism resolves two and makes sense of our epistemic incapacity to resolve the third — God’s powers are beyond our ken. The gap between mind and the doings of the physical brain is intrinsic to the nonmaterial character of mind and the causally closed qualities of physics. Mind cannot be directly probed from the third person perspective, and from the first person, its own origin is phenomenally transparent.

Theism gives something additional that all the various alternative solutions never address directly, free will! Free will is the elephant in the consciousness room (see “All Will is Free”). Pure property dualism can only scratch its head about its appearance, its power, seemingly automatically embedded in mind. Panpsychism and the monisms do accommodate its possibility, but offer no clue as concerns its origin or mechanism. Theism grounds free will.  A free intentionality is possible and exists because a free intentionality with the relevant power put it there, the integral facet of our subjective experience (a truth ironically recognized by atheistic Schopenhauer). It turns out there is a point to everything after all (see “Why Free Will”)

Meanwhile, the PoM consequences of theism fit experience. Why does the evolution of mind in the universe seem to be something more than purely contingent? The intuition is true, mind was intended. Why is mind alone, within a teleology-free physical mechanism, purposeful (intentional)? Because the source of both mind and physics is intentional, minded.  Why does consciousness appear nonmaterial from its own viewpoint and invisible from the viewpoint third parties? Because the catalyst (Cosmic Mind) is not material, but in mind of the biological type, the nonmaterial is grounded in all three of the “fundamental joints” in reality (see “Prolegomena to a Future Theology” and “Why ‘One Size Fits All’ Ontologies Never Work”).

I could go on and others of my papers explore some of this from different perspectives. The point here is that Theism answers questions and resolves ontological and epistemic mysteries much better than do any of the non-theistic PoMs. In fact, these theories leave everything out! Their only reason for existence is to reject theistic explanations. There cannot be a God, so what then supports mind? Is it mysterious proto-psychic properties that have no discernible origin or metaphysical ground that we can find or even speculate about, no properties we can say anything about, and suffer from the interaction problem they were stipulated to avoid?

Of course philosophy must be free to speculate about experiential phenomena from any perspective whether theistic or atheistic. My problem with the atheists in PoM is not that they advocate for their ideas, but in my extensive reading not a single one acknowledges any of the fundamental problems I have here raised.

What happens if the proto-psychic is subtracted from physics? Materialists can say only that, while the cosmos would look much the same, mind would never appear. Even if brains evolved, the creatures animated by them would be David Chalmers’ P-Zombies! By contrast, if God were subtracted from the universe, there wouldn’t be any universe at all, but rather nothing. This outcome is philosophically advantageous. It is this common origin of both mind and physics that grounds the metaphysical possibility of their interaction. No, we cannot fathom the interaction mechanism, but under materialist PoMs even the possibility of the proto-psychic is left unexplained.

In the end there is no stable position in the philosophy of mind between eliminative materialism and theism. Eliminative materialism is stable because it claims there is nothing what-so-ever to explain. Theism is stable because it self-grounding (God comes from God) and because it has the resources to do the job (explain why the universe is the way it is including mind and free will), even if the matter of how exactly that job gets done remains forever beyond our pay grade.