Hume on Homogeneity, The Mind Body Problem and Emergent Properties by William Uzgalis (Oregon State University)
Date: October 18 2013 3:30pm - 5:00pm Location: JRHH 202
In the Clarke Collins Correspondence of 1707-08 an important part of the debate involves what has come to be called the Homogeneity Principle. That Principle says in effect that the properties of matter such as extension, bulk, figure and shape can only produce properties of the same kind – hence homogeneity. Because they can only cause properties of the same kind, they cannot produce either the properties of life or mental properties, properties of a different kind. In part what this means is that that there are no real emergent properties, such as life or mind arising from matter. This was one of the main pillars of dualism and in the Correspondence Samuel Clarke, the dualist, maintains the principle while Anthony Collins, the materialist, denies it. Scholars are in some disagreement about how well Collins does in showing that real, emergent properties – the properties of life and mind – arise from material properties. However, Hume in his chapter on the immateriality of the soul in his Treatise of Human Nature, while rejecting substance claims from both sides, refutes dualist arguments from the Homogeneity Principle on the basis of his new theory of causality thus destroying one of the main props of dualism. He thus bolsters materialist solutions to the mind body problem and the reality of emergent properties.