restricted access 10. The Emergence of Persons
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10 The Emergence of Persons Within classical metaphysical frameworks, there doesn’t seem to be much that persons could be other than some sort of substance or entity. Entity-based metaphysics, however, encounter fatal problems, certainly for minds, and arguably for persons as well. Furthermore, although entity-based metaphysics, in the form of particle-based frameworks, still dominate in philosophy, they are arguably not coherent (Bickhard 2009; Seibt 2009, 2010), and they are demonstrably inconsistent with contemporary physics (which is based on quantum field processes, not particles; Bickhard 2009). The ontology of persons is thus doubly problematic: not only is there a question of what that ontology might be, but there is a background question of what kind of an ontology is even plausible. Does this entail that persons don’t exist, or are epiphenomenal? Not necessarily, and certainly no such entailment exists if metaphysics that offer alternatives to entity-based frameworks are considered. I will be arguing that persons are emergent kinds of phenomena, developing this point within a process metaphysics, not an entity metaphysics. 1 Process The model that I will be developing requires genuine ontological emergence, and that, so I argue, requires a process metaphysics. In particular, a particle framework makes emergence not possible, while a process framework makes emergence almost quotidian (Bickhard 2009, 2015a). First, how does a particle metaphysics preclude emergence? Emergence is a property of organization: new organization is supposed to yield new (causally efficacious) properties. But within a particle framework, organization is neither a substance nor an entity and thus is not even a candidate for having any causal efficacy (Bickhard 2000, 2009; Campbell 2015). This background assumption manifests itself in multiple arguments against emergence. One of Kim’s arguments, for example, is that new organization might produce new causal regularities, but those are just the result of the basic causal interactions among those particles in that configuration (Kim 1991; Campbell 2015); all the genuine causality is at the level of Mark H. Bickhard 202 M. H. Bickhard the particles. The assumption that “configuration” is not even a candidate is clear.1 Furthermore , so long as the fundamental metaphysics of the world is assumed to be constituted solely by substances and particles, then configuration should not be a candidate for having causal power. But what is wrong with a particle metaphysics? Even if it precludes emergence, perhaps the world is in fact constituted out of particles. A particle model, however, suffers from fatal problems. First, in a world of nothing but point particles, nothing would happen: point particles have a zero probability of hitting one another.2 Second, our best physics entails that particles do not exist: the world is composed of quantum fields—processes—and all that is left of a particle framework is that field interactions are quantized. But that quantization is the same kind of quantization as is found in a guitar string: a whole (quantized) number of wavelengths in the guitar string oscillations (and there are no guitar sound particles). A hybrid framework of point particles interacting via fields (a frequent contemporary assumption ) is not consistent with contemporary physics, but it already involves fields—processes— and that is the crucial step (Bickhard 2009). Nevertheless, it is appropriate to ask what support there is for a process metaphysics. If a process framework is incoherent or false in itself, then it does not matter if it might enable a metaphysics of emergence. First is the argument by elimination: entity or particle metaphysics are incoherent. Second is the physics of the world as quantum fields. Fields are processes, and quantum fields are in process even in “empty” space. These processes cannot be modeled in terms of particles (though, again, they will be quantized). One of many empirical manifestations of such quantum field activity, even in a vacuum, is the Casimir effect. The vacuum is filled with excitations with oscillatory properties that are ephemeral but nevertheless have consequences; the vacuum is not “empty.” If two very flat metal plates are brought close together, the oscillatory processes between the plates are constrained in the wavelengths that can occur, just as the guitar string being pinned at two points constrains the wavelengths of the guitar string oscillations. But the activity outside the plates is not so constrained, so there is more vacuum activity outside the plates than there is between them, and there is a net force pushing the plates toward each other (Mostepanenko , Trunov, and Znajek 1997; Sciama 1991). This and many other phenomena...