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Parsimony – The Fourth Substance

Uploaded by palma on Oct 12, 2000

Sam Vaknin's Psychology, Philosophy, Economics and Foreign Affairs Web Sites


Occasionalism is a variation upon Cartesian metaphysics. The latter is the most notorious case of dualism (mind and body, for instance). The mind is a “mental substance”. The body – a “material substance”. What permits the complex interactions which happen between these two disparate “substances”? The “unextended mind” and the “extended body” surely cannot interact without a mediating agency, God. The appearance is that of direct interaction but this is an illusion maintained by Him. He moves the body when the mind is willing and places ideas in the mind when the body comes across other bodies. Descartes postulated that the mind is an active, unextended, thought while the body is a passive, unthinking extension. The First Substance and the Second Substance combine to form the Third Substance, Man. God – the Fourth, uncreated Substance – facilitates the direct interaction among the two within the third. Foucher raised the question: how can God – a mental substance – interact with a material substance, the body. The answer offered was that God created the body (probably so that He will be able to interact with it). Leibnitz carried this further: his Monads, the units of reality, do not really react and interact. They just seem to be doing so because God created them with a pre-established harmony. The constant divine mediation was, thus, reduced to a one-time act of creation. This was considered to be both a logical result of occasionalism and its refutation by a reductio ad absurdum argument.

But, was the fourth substance necessary at all? Could not an explanation to all the known facts be provided without it? The ratio between the number of known facts (the outcomes of observations) and the number of theory elements and entities employed in order to explain them – is the parsimony ratio. Every newly discovered fact either reinforces the existing worldview – or forces the introduction of a new one, through a “crisis” or a “revolution” (a “paradigm shift” in Kuhn’s abandoned phrase). The new worldview need not necessarily be more parsimonious. It could be that a single new fact precipitates the introduction of a dozen new theoretical entities, axioms and functions (curves between data points). The very delineation of the field of study serves to limit the number of facts, which could exercise such an influence upon the existing worldview...

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Uploaded by:   palma

Date:   10/12/2000

Category:   Science And Technology

Length:   15 pages (3,286 words)

Views:   2171

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