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I have just finished all three of the Edward Feser books that I own, Philosophy of Mind, Aquinas, and The Last Superstition.  I must admit, I like what I’ve read, but my recent attempt at explaining free will under hylemorphic dualism (in a post that has been retracted until such time as I have corrected its flaws) demonstrated that there are a few (big) pieces of the puzzle I have not get gotten.  I have one of two options.  Either I can go back and re-read them and pay more attention to the parts I didn’t understand, or I can get another book from a different author, perhaps resulting in a different perspective that can fill in the gaps in my knowledge.  Any advice to this effect would be happily received.

While I think that Feser has done a great job explaining how hylemorphic dualism is superior to Cartesian dualism and materialism, I still think there are things that he either didn’t explain, or I didn’t get.  He showed how the problem of qualia (which has always puzzled me) is actually a subset of the problem of intentionality, and how intentionality is basically resolved by an appeal to a correct understanding of final causality, teleology in matter, and philosophical realism, which resolves quite a bit of my concerns about consciousness.  He also showed  how the “interaction problem” is less of a problem under hylemorphic dualism as opposed to Cartesian dualism.  However, I don’t feel like I completely understand certain elements of free will on hylemorphic dualism.  Two things jump out at me:

  1. Humans don’t (and really can’t) change their final cause, or the final causes of their constituent parts on hylemorphic dualism.  But when a builder plans on building a house, he is changing the plan in his mind that he will soon carry out freely.  Therefore, there is still a kind of change in causality somewhere.  I (rather ignorantly) first thought that people were changing their own final causes, but a wiser man in Thomism told me that this is very much off and very foreign to Thomism, since man’s final cause is knowledge of God.  If it’s not final causality that is changing, then what?  Obviously I’m missing something important here.
  2. There is still the issue of the Law of Conservation of Energy whether or not hylemorphic dualism is true.  A person who freely decides with his rational intellect to do one thing rather than another shifts the distribution of energy in his brain and body.  Something’s gotta give, either freedom of will or the Law.  I don’t think Feser ever really made the case of how exactly this happens, though I could be missing something important.  The Encyclopedia of Catholicism mentions this controversy and does mention Thomistic philosophy, but the writing is around 100 years old, I believe, and a bit dense.  It seems to be advocating the idea that energy can be redirected without changing its quantity or violating the Law of Conservation of Energy.  In fact, it seems to make the very reasonable point that under hylemorphic dualism, the soul is very much beholden to its constituent material parts (including “energy” in its various forms), unlike Cartesian dualism which gives the idea that this spirit is sending little jolts of energy into the brain.  I’m wondering what a modern, post-Quantum Mechanics hylemorphic dualist would say about this, however.

As an experimental psychology student both of these are important to me.  However, it’s very possible that Feser addressed both of these points, and, due to one thing or another (perhaps my kid was crying or I was driving*) I may have skimmed that part without really reading it like I should have.  Since Feser’s books aren’t very long, I might go ahead and pick up Aquinas again and see if I can find what I’m looking for.

*just kidding!

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