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The Thomist 64 (2000): 301-8 REDUCTIONISM IN METAPHYSICS: A MISTAKE IN LOGIC? JOHN PETERSON University ofRhode Island Kingston, Rhode Island ome philosophers say that all is G where G stands for either matter, mind, or some neutral being. They thus make G the highest or widest genus. These are materialists, idealists, and neutral monists, respectively. Despite their differences, these metaphysical reductionists succumb to the same dilemma. They must either forego all difference in their worlds or else abandon their worlds altogethero In the first section of this paper I explain the dilemma and show how it is solved. Then I raise and answer four objections to the solution in the second section. I Materialists say that all is matter, idealists say that all is mind, and neutral monists say that matter and mind are appearances of some more basic stuff into the definition of which neither matter nor mind enters. But any philosopher who says that all is G, regardless of what G stands for, identifies G with the highest genus. Otherwise he says that G falls under a wider genus, H. And then he countenances the possibility that H has some species besides G. When Thales says that all is water he makes water the highest genus. Otherwise he says that water is a species of a higher genus, H. And then he implies that possibly not all is water. 301 302 JOHN PETERSON Put generally, if it is true that all is G then all difference within G must be due to something besides G. No genus explains its own differences, because difference is outside the definition of genus and anything that is implied by genus. No sooner, then, do philosophers who say that all is G recognize difference in their worlds than they admit features about the world that fall outside of G. Hegel once complained that Schelling's philosophy was a night in which all cows were black.1 Schelling might have replied that that is the price all must pay who say with consistency that all is G. Materialists, then, make matter the highest genus. Otherwise they countenance the possibility that what in fact is the highest genus includes nonmatter as one of its species. But that is just what they wish to exclude. In any case, if they recognize difference in the world, materialists then swallow the contradiction that all difference in matter is due to nonmatter. They must therefore choose between denying all difference in their world and abandoning their world entirely. Seeing this fork, Descartes placed motion, the proximate cause of all difference in the world, outside the definition of matter. And for him motion, in turn, is introduced into the world by God. It might be going too far to say that Descartes used God only to serve physics. But that the father of modern philosophy left himself open to that charge explains Pascal's quip that Descartes only needed God to cause motion in the world. Materialists cannot say that mind explains the differences among material things without admitting something besides matter-for example, mind. And then they are dualists and not materialists. Nor can they say that a type (or types) of matter explains those differences. Otherwise difference in matter explains difference in matter. By definition, any type or species includes a difference. If, then, a type (or types) of matter explains difference in matter and that same type (or types) of matter includes a difference, then we come to the circular argument that difference in matter explains difference in matter. 1 G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology ofMind, trans.J. B. Baillie (London: Allen and Unwin, 1955), 79. REDUCTIONISM IN METAPHYSICS 303 Similarly, idealists cannot say that matter explains differences among mental things without admitting something besides mind, (i.e., matter). They then abandon idealism in favor of dualism. But for the same reason as we saw before, they cannot say that a type (or types) of mind explains difference within mind either. Otherwise difference in mind explains difference in mind. If a type (or types) of mind or mental activity explains difference in the domain of mind and that same type (or types) of mind includes a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 301-308
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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