Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Nugget View

One "picture" of how objects last over time is by having a special part: a "nugget" or Chisholm object. In 'What Physical Thing am I?' Roderick Chisholm provides a brief defence of this view. (Just scroll down a bit after hitting the link to get to the relevant part. It's a meager three pages.)


  1. Only a meager 3 pages if you ignore Chisholm's response to potential objections, which actually help to explain his view.

    So Chisholm is trying to say that there is an incorruptible microscopic particle that may be in the brain, where the particle is the person and is a proper part of the body. It's an interesting view but he doesn't fully explain why it should be believed (perhaps he does elsewhere in the book). Why should a person be thought of as a microscopic particle? What makes it incorruptible and what happens to this particle once the body dies and decomposes? Chisholm suggests that the particle is incorruptible only as long as the body survives - what makes it so? And, since this particle is a nonsuccessive entity, how does this view explain the fact that persons change over time?

  2. Well I suppose with this view it would be that persons don't change over time. Aspects of our behavior and personality (from our brain), as well as our body may change, but these are characteristics that do not have any effect on the "actual" person.
    So by this definition would that mean that persons are quite ordinary and mundane, without much difference between any two persons? The only difference then would be in the "vessel" that persons navigate the world in, the same as the metaphor mentioned by Plato? I suppose it does make sense to view the body as only a tool, and not part of the person, but this doesn't really lead me to any understanding to the definition of what a person is.

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  4. Pardon my wild and maybe crazy reasoning. But if I am to not be this body which others identify me with, and I am something using the body as a tool for mobility, thoughts etc and also have an incorruptible organ that doesn't change, shouldn't determinism be considered true if this were true? Because I can physically grow but I the person inside the growing body is incorruptible (unchangeable?) Then shouldn't actions be predetermined or does this microscopic particle act base on experience and reasoning? If the microscopic particle which is me acts based on experience and reasoning to be incorruptible must also mean that my experience and reasoning are both predetermine. But it is not the case that I have the ability to type since birth so it is more plausible to say that based on experience, I learned how to type. Remember the microscopic particle (mp) which I am suppose to be is incorruptible (Unchangeable). If it is true that mp is unchangeable, shouldn't it be true that I was born 6f 3" tall and know how to drive from birth etc.. Or were all this abilities predetermined? and by who or what? ..

    I know someone will say I am not my body, I am the tiny particle which gives the body instructions through the brain and I am limited to the body because the reason I couldn't drive from birth is because the particle had to wait for the body to grow to be able to give it driving instructions. But then, if I have never seen a car, then I can't drive. So the microscopic particle needs the experience of seeing a car through it's tool of sight to be able to drive a car.

  5. for those thinking that the "vessel" analogy isn't so unintuitive, I would like to point out that this isn't a dualism argument. the nugget isn't a non-physical mind. it's just a particle, i would think one would still hold here that the brain is still "making the decisions". it's just that you aren't identified with that thing. rather, the thing that learns and grows is a thing "next to me".
    as for motivation for the view, i don't think it's any more than belief that we persist through time, and a rejection of the other solutions to the growing argument (and dualism, incidentally).

  6. Ifaronti,

    My understanding of the term 'incorruptible' is that an incorruptible object is one that cannot decay or die - this doesn't mean that the object cannot change. So if the microscopic particle is incorruptible it will never be destroyed (unless the body dies in this view), but that doesn't mean the particle can't change. Chisholm's microscopic particle seems to be a physical version of what might be termed the 'soul' of a person. You are identical with your own microscopic particle. You can learn and gain experiences, but you will always be microscopic so 'growth' is not likely to be physical and your actions do not have to be predetermined.

  7. Justin,

    Chisholm isn't very clear on what relationship the microscopic particle has to the body other than that it is a proper part of the body, but he does suggest that the body (which would include the brain) is merely a tool of the particle. I'm not sure this would mean the brain is "making the decisions" - the particle could exert some sort of control over the brain. You're right that the view doesn't really say anything other than that we exist through time until our bodies die.