The mind-body problem - a book review

July 22, 2020 11:27am

This is a commentary on The Mind-Body Problem book by Jonathan Westphal.

It offers a good overview of some of the more prominent theories concering the mind-body problem (except the very latests development happened after the book was published obviously, i.e. post 2016), and the first part of the book is dedicated to disecting what the problem actually is and why it exists at all.

I found it useful in getting a basic understanding of each of the theories and just getting a summation of the attempts made, and their relations to the core problem and where each one fails. It is a time well spent for someone interested in qualia such as myself, although I guess some parts could be shorter.

My personal conclusions from the book haven't altered my prior views in the slightest - all of the theories discussed are ultimately unscientific in a sense that do not provide a final model or precise description of the solution, but depend and stumble on vaguness and imperfections of wording and lingustics, never addressing core issues that obviously plague the field - logical consistency and completeness in general, causality as a fundamental (computational) binding force of all the processes, roles and capabilities of a natural and mathematical language used to defined the problem in the first place, discussion about alternative physical building blocks etc.

I did find my prior thinking and arguments as parts of the mentioned existing theories and was surprised how poorly they have been carried out, none of them with applicable solutions. Ultimately, they all eliminate something in order to successfully escape the paradox, and to me that was quite unsatisfying. Formalism and strictness aren't there, no testable predictions (there probably are for some of them, I'd have to go deeper in the literature to confirm that, yet the fact that we still don't have any one of them proved verifies that any tests are either nonexisting or really hard)...

It would be good for myself to express my stance even with the vaguness of the natural language, because a more formal description is probably not possible at this point, but basically, it still stands on the same premise that core mathematical objects are imperfect, that new advances in computational models and computational meta-science are required in order for us to move leaps forward, and probably some modifications to the scientific principle in general.

So, overall, the book is a good summary of the ideas and attempts so far, but nothing more than that, and lacks a more systematic, scientific approach to disecting the core of the problem beyond its immediately recognizable structure.