During lunch this week I watched this discussion between Wright and Greene. It’s mostly harmless stuff, and it’s a good primer for dilettantes like me who want to hear about issues in physics without doing maths.

It only gets really frustrating at the end when an audience member asks about consciousness. Greene clearly doesn’t understand the issue and tries for an epiphenomenal approach through evolutionary biology. It’s a way of thinking that eludes me. It always seems like they’re saying, “Water boils because we have pots.”

Wright at least has read enough Thomas Nagel to know the seriousness of the problem, but he makes a false dichotomy by suggesting the only way out is the inadequate explanations that the physicalists give (epiphenomenalism, eliminativism, pan-psychism) or Cartesian dualism. The mysterious “ghost in the machine” which is made of we know not what.

I’m only saying that they should give some equal time for those parts of our tradition who don’t believe the cloth of spirit and flesh is so easily untangled. It is a significant part of the intellectual heritage of the West — albeit one that is not so popular any more. I’m not a Thomist, but that’s at least a good place to start for a more wholistic perspective on the mind-brain problem.