Essays, Analyses and Meditations

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Matter is as Inscrutable as Mind

  • It is often said that the mind is inscrutable (we have no access to other people's minds and even to most of what our own brain does) whereas matter is "scrutable" because we can somehow "observe" molecules, atoms, quarks, etc.
  • This is obviously incorrect because, if 20th-century science has taught us anything, it is that we will probably never know how matter looks like.
  • The moment we think that we have discovered a law of nature, we start studying what causes that particular law of nature to exist rather than something else, and we know as much as we knew at the beginning about the ultimate reason of why matter is what it is and does what it does: matter is inscrutable to us the same way that other minds are.
  • We cannot perceive particle spins and quark colors: we can only infer them from the "behavior" of the "objects" that they operate. Similarly, we cannot perceive the thoughts and feelings of other people: we can only infer them from the "behavior" of the "bodies" that they operate.
  • Other people's thoughts belong to the same category of inscrutable objects just like the fundamental constituents of matter
  • We can measure both behavior of minds and behavior of matter
  • We can predict the behavior of minds statistically and, says Quantum Mechanics, we can predict the behavior of matter probabilistically, which is the same thing
  • The distinction between matter and mind is less obvious than we have been made to think by centuries of philosophy