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The Mind-Body Problem and Conservation Laws: The Growth of Physical Understanding?

Pitts, J. Brian (2019) The Mind-Body Problem and Conservation Laws: The Growth of Physical Understanding? [Preprint]

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Abstract

The success of science, especially physics, is often invoked as contrasting with the degeneration of world-views involving immaterial persons. A popular question from the 17th century to the 21st is how human minds/souls could interact with bodies in light of physical conservation laws. Leibniz invented this objection and wielded it to motivate his novel non-interactionist dualism, pre-established harmony.

A historical treatment of how this objection has been made over the centuries vis-a-vis the growth of knowledge of physics and logical persuasiveness is desirable. Given the massive amount of material, selectivity is necessary. This paper covers the period until Euler. While physics has of course advanced subsequently, most of these advances are either irrelevant or perhaps even harmful to Leibniz's objection (except General Relativity). Many of the most important advances, such as the connection between symmetries and conservation laws (known to Lagrange in the early 19th century), were in any case unknown to philosophers. The 18th century debate involved leading figures in an era when physics and philosophy were less separated. Thus the 18th century debate, normatively construed, is instructive for today.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Pitts, J. Brianjbp25@cam.ac.uk0000-0002-7299-5137
Keywords: vis viva, conservation laws, mind-body problem, Euler, Cartesianism
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Anthropology
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Consciousness
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
General Issues > Laws of Nature
Specific Sciences > Neuroscience
Specific Sciences > Medicine > Psychiatry
General Issues > Science and Religion
General Issues > Science and Society
General Issues > Science Education
Specific Sciences > Physics > Symmetries/Invariances
Depositing User: Dr. Dr. J. Brian Pitts
Date Deposited: 28 Aug 2019 03:12
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2019 03:12
Item ID: 16380
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Anthropology
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Consciousness
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
General Issues > Laws of Nature
Specific Sciences > Neuroscience
Specific Sciences > Medicine > Psychiatry
General Issues > Science and Religion
General Issues > Science and Society
General Issues > Science Education
Specific Sciences > Physics > Symmetries/Invariances
Date: August 2019
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/16380

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