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The physics of interactionism

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Physics has been invoked both to refute and to support psycho-physical interactionism, the view that mind and matter are two mutually irreducible, interacting domains. Thus it has been held against interactionism that it implies violations of the laws of physics, notably the law of energy conservation. I examine the meaning of conservation laws in physics and show that in fact no valid argument against the interactionist theory can be drawn from them. In defence of interactionism it has been argued that mind can act on matter through an apparent loophole in physical determinism, without violating physical laws. I show that this argument is equally fallacious. This leads to the conclusion that the indeterminism of quantum mechanics cannot be the physical correlate of free will; if there is a causally efficacious non-material mind, then the behaviour of matter cannot be fully governed by physical laws. I show that the best (if not the only) way of formulating departures from the ‘normal', physically determined behaviour of matter is in terms of modifications of the electromagnetic interactions between particles. I also show that mental states and events are non-spatial, and that departures from the ‘normal’ behaviour of matter, when caused by mental events, are not amenable to mathematical description.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry 605 002, India.

Publication date: August 1, 1999


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