Ancient Greek Psychology and Modern Mind-Body Debate by E. Ostenfeld

By E. Ostenfeld

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Since, however, mechanism requires individuated objects, but leaves their individuation independently determined, the door is open for material things to have further aspects that, although incorporating matter, cannot be limited to mechanistic motion. Chemical process already exhibits this irreducible supervenience in a most minimal way. Chemical interaction is just as external as mechanical interaction. In both cases, objects are determined from without, independently of any imposition of form or purpose.

Since mechanism precludes self-activity, mind as mechanism can only act upon something else and can only do so by being determined to so act by something else in turn. 46 A nature that produces artifacts, however, is not a nature that involves the self-activity distinguishing life from inorganic mechanisms. To operate like an artisan, such a nature must work upon a material distinct from its own agency, imposing a form given antecedently to the informing act and its recipient matter. If natural selection functioned as an artisan, living things would be produced artifacts with a general form detachable from its multiple embodiments, a form lacking the power to realize itself in any individual and to reproduce itself in the species it unites.

For this reason, mechanical and chemical processes can be subsumed under further processes, which may depend upon them as enabling conditions, but utilize them to realize objective relationships irreducible to mechanism or chemism. This susceptibility to further determination is not merely a matter of indeterminism or openness to chance. 18 Similarly, the “absolute” chance invoked by quantum mechanics, where quantum jumps occur unpredictably, still remains governed by probabilistic laws that apply to matter with indifference to kind and import.

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