Aren’t immaterial things caused by material things?

Aren’t immaterial things caused by material things?

Like thought is dependent on the brain and speed is dependent on the object moving. Also there can’t be numbers unless there are objects that can be counted.


If your question is simply, “Can material things cause immaterial things?” then the answer seems obviously yes.  Two parents have a child, and that child has a mind.  The obvious implication is that the parents through their physical union have brought about an immaterial reality (the mind of their child).  Their physical union is the instrumental cause by which the child’s mind is brought about.

Perhaps you have a slightly different question in mind.  Perhaps you would rather ask, “Can immaterial things cause effects in material things?”  I think we can answer yes to this, and we have a firsthand experience that would give us reason to think so.  Consider the following argument:

1) If immaterial things cannot cause effects in material things, then we have no free will.
2) We do have free will.
3) Therefore, immaterial things can cause effects in material things.

So why should we think that premise 1 is true?  If immaterial things cannot cause effects in material things, then our minds cannot cause effects in our brains.  It seems, rather, that our brains cause effects in the mind but not the other way around.  In that case our physical brain states will cause our mental states.  Since our physical brain states follow the laws of physics and chemistry, and we are ruling out any interference from the mind, then it follows that our brain states are fully determined (they are not free).  Our mental states will also be determined by the laws of physics and chemistry since they are caused by these brain states.  Thus if our mind cannot cause effects in our brains then our mental states are not free, they are fully determined by the laws of physics and chemistry.

In premise 2 we recognize our firsthand experience of free will.  Since it seems to us that we have free will, we are justified in believing we have free will unless and until we have some reason to think otherwise.

Premise 3 just follows from these two premises.

Sincerely,
Matt Bilyeu