:: Article

Bad Coop Eleatics

By Richard Marshall.

‘’The losse of a nayle, the losse of an army’. The want of a nayle looseth the shooe, the losse of shooe troubles the horse, the horse indangereth the rider, the rider breaking his ranke molests the company, so farre as to hazard the whole Army”. (1629 Thomas Adams)

Causes operate via causal mechanisms; so they should be where the mechanisms are, specifically, where they are set into motion.’ (Stephen Yablo ‘Causal Relevance’)

Eleatics – Of or characteristic of the tradition of philosophy founded by Zeno of Elea and Parmenides and holding the belief that there is one indivisible and unchanging reality.

So far there are three Dale Cooper’s. One has been destroyed. The original Agent Cooper has been in a catatonic state until episode 16. Bad Coop has been series three’s central protagonist. What’s this all about?

Bad Coop Epiphenomenalism

Seeking the causes of Bad Coop we become Eleatic, for whom only causes are real properties. In a certain mood, like Democritus, we assume a bedrock atomism, the smallest end point of reduction, the realest real. So too with causes: we suppose somewhere some final property. Or a legion of such points. Lynch’s universe may be dualistic, where mind and body are fundamentally seperate. In such a universe epiphenomenalism threatens. In such a universe we suppose non-natural minds and they are causally inert with respect to nature. Lynch’s universe may be totally materialist, but again, epiphenomenalism looms. To suppose natural minds is to suppose they are subject to antecedent physical causes, not mental states or acts. Epiphenomenalism places us in the hands of deterministic fate. Remove nature so everything is a mind locks onto Lynch’s surrealist fabric even if the Eleatic can’t believe that Bad Coop is all in the mind.

Following philosopher Yablo on everything that follows, suppose causes must be proportional to their effects. This move blocks epiphenomenalism. A cause must be the property that makes a difference. If I will only kiss Audrey’s red lips, I will kiss Audrey’s scarlet lips, but scarlet isn’t the cause because I would have kissed the lips if they had been crimson or burgundy. ‘Red is a determinable of scarlet.’ The scarlet determines the red, hence the kiss. This prevents the kiss being caused via double-counting – caused by, say, a disjunctive such as ‘burgundy or scarlet’. Determination relations are relative. Red is a determinable of scarlet, but a determinate of colour. Colour is a determinable of red. Because I wouldn’t have kissed any coloured lips, red is where the colour cause bottoms out. Red is the final determinate, the cause the Eleatic seeks.

Tim Crane calls final determinates ‘superdeterminates’. Following the Eleatic principle that only causal properties are real properties, the conclusion is that only superdeterminate properties are real properties. Of Bad Coop our Eleatic spirits hunt for the superdeterminate. We need to know what caused this. And we want to be clear about what is real and what isn’t. Ontology is the study of Being. So our Eleatics are ontologists. Epistemology is the study of beliefs and knowledge, and so they are epistemologists also. Mental acts and states can be superdeterminates. Bob’s, Laura’s and ghost woodsmen’s mental acts and states can be superdeterminates. The Eleatic is looking to attach these to their proper target.

Bad Coop Perceived Absence

The Idealist denies dualism but rather than suppose minds natural they suppose there is no nature. Everything is mind. That Lynch’s universe suggests the logic of nightmares, and in this case most likely Audrey’s, then perhaps Lynch’s universe is not dualistic after all but an exercise in Berkeley’s motto: ‘To be is to be perceived.’ It is a vast and elaborate dream. Our Eleatics are suspicious of a Berkeley culture. Philosopher of shadows, holes and absences Roy Sorensen shows that such Berkelean idealism runs aground on counterfactuals of perception. He shows that counterfactuals of perception are made true by mind-independent facts. This is as true of the perception of absences as it is of perception generally. Were it not then the distinction between perceiving an absence and the absence of perception could not be made. The distinction is empirically supported: we see the absence of light when we stand and see the darkness in a pitch black cave, we look at a shadow, we hear silence and feel cold. A blind person in such a cave perceives the absence of perception, the deaf person and the numb person also with regard to silence and cold respectively. When we look at the Bad Coop we perceive an absence rather than an absence of perception. He is the absence left after being removed. Each week we mournfully return to perceive that hellish absence – just as visitors in New York go to perceive the absence of the Twin Towers. The absence we perceive moves us. Terror and horror rip through as the absence piles up. The strange woodsmen, the cabin, the lodges are all perceived absences. The metaphysical Idealist is rebuffed because ‘To be is to be perceived’ fails when we note the influence of mind-independent facts.

Bad Coop Bad Fate

De Sade wrote of fate thus: ‘The very masterpiece of philosophy would be to develop the means Providence employs to arrive at the ends she designs for man, and from this construction to deduce some rules of conduct acquainting this wretched two-footed individual with the manner wherein he must proceed along life’s thorny way, forewarned of the strange caprices of that fatality they denominate by twenty different titles, and all unavailingly, for it has not yet been scanned nor defined.’

Fate makes all Being good. The Twin Peaks Eleatic rejects fate because she can’t accept that . Bad Coop is bad, therefore fate is wrongheaded. A fated life is where the life lived is necessary. It is the same life in all possible worlds. So for the fated there is just one possible world. If being is good and non-being evil then the fated life determines an ethical system that says that the impossible is evil and the possible good. It follows that everything we do is good. This is both an austere and indulgent ethics. Utilitarianism is austere but it allows choices. It gives us leeway to choose between equally happiness-maximising actions, but the fated-life ethic is harsher – there is never a choice. Weighed against this harshness is the indulgent fact that whatever the fated do is right. The Eleatic rejects this ethic. Minds hold counterfactuals that are impossible in the fated universe. Mental counterfactuals are therefore evil from the perspective of the fated. Bad Coop embroils a strange convergence of Idealism, epiphenomenalism and fate. The Twin Peaks Eleatic battles them all.

Bad Coop Epiphenomenalism 2

A new dualism escapes the old epiphenomenalist challenge. The newly adapted dualism is no longer about immaterial minds, but now is about mental phenomena – facts, properties, events – physically realised and necessitated but not identical with physical bases. But this new dualism has spawned a new epiphenomenalism . Epiphenomenalist’s ‘exclusion argument’ renounces mental phenomena: ‘If every physical outcome is causally assured by preexisting physical circumstances then mental antecedents have nothing to contribute.’ Many philosophers have their versions of this argument. If any event, including a mental event, is metaphysically necessitated by underlying physical events whose physical antecedents are sufficient to causally produce the underlying events, then mental antecedents – be they properties, states or events – are causally inert. If states, such as desire, are identified as physical then their properties have no causal role, even if the desire does.

But the exclusion argument’s notion of identity doesn’t seem right: properties are identical only if they necessitate each other, and there aren’t physical properties specific enough that a mental property necessitates a physical property.

Q: What makes properties identical?
A: When it is impossible for a thing to possess either without the other.

This sits happily with Leibniz’s Law, the ‘indiscernibility of identicals’. And this modality (ie what’s possible or necessary) should be read metaphysically (as what happens to be the case) not conceptually or as an a priori truth. (Concede a relative distinction between determinate and determinable: crimson is a determinate of red; red a determinate of coloured etc. A symmetric identity then is dependent on a metaphysical relation happening in a certain way even though an asymmetric entailment follows conceptually. Kripke’s discovery of a posteriori necessities breaks the assumption that conceptual and metaphysical necessities track each other. For example, it’s analytic that water is H2O, but this can’t be known a priori. It is an analytic truth we discover empirically.Is it analytic that Cooper is good, but unknowable a priori?)

When do we say the mental state – such as evil craziness – was the cause? Maybe when the effect is insensitive to the finer details of the antecedent physical state. The mental is ‘supervenient on’ (fixed by) the physical and is so in multiple realisable ways. Mental properties are determinables of their physical properties. So if brain states can have various fine-grained descriptions for any mental state then the brain can’t be the cause. The multi-realisability idea concedes a causal role for the brain but denies it the superdeterminate one. Just like scarlet has a causal role for the determinate colour, brain states have a causal role for the determinate evil mental state, but red, all things being equal, is the superdeterminate, as is the evil mental state. So mental properties stand to their physical realisations as rectangularity does to squareness or colour to their shades except that redness doesn’t result from it being scarlet in the way that minds result from bodies. If we think that a decision (an evil supernatural one even) caused Bad Coop then we must imagine that it would have done in a close possible world where the exact physical properties were different.

Bad Coop Essence

For this determination to work we need to know what properties a thing can’t do without to be that thing! We need its essence – Coop’s essence. Explaining determination by essence has 3 advantages: it fits intuitive examples; supports analogy with property determination; and it predicts the principle that p determines q only if for p to occur is for q to occur in a certain way. What properties can we include? All of them? But then we can’t have the divide between essential and accidental properties that essence is supposed to facilitate. And we wont be able to measure what is required to be that thing. So we need to include only the one that makes a difference. Bad Coop’s’ evil thought is a better candidate for raping Diane than the brain state he was in which fixed his evil thought. The multi-realisability of the physical does the work here: the relation is defeasible – Bad Coop could have his evil thought and be in a different brain state than the actual one he happened to be in. So the evil thought here does better causal work than the brain state, just like red does better causal work than any hue of red (crimson, scarlet etc) as a cause of why I’m kissing the lips I kiss. This is why an evil supernatural Bob mind may well be better candidates for the causes of Bad Coop’s bad doings than anything physical. The distinction between causal necessitation and causality is subtle but enough. Wherever common sense finds mental causation we need look no further than the story the distinction tells.

Bad Coop Gunk Universe

Gunk threatens any picture involving super determinate properties: analogous with atoms, what lies beyond atoms may be ‘no atoms but more than nothing’, as philosopher of the real world Ted Sider puts it. If objects can be composed of gunk, then there is bottomless determination and this would eliminate superdeterminate properties. Ancient Greek philosopher Anaxagoras proposed a gunky ontology in opposition to the atomism of Democritus. A gunky ontology is one of mereological composition, endlessly divided instances of causal powers which are omnipresent in the universe. Contemporary metaphysicians are beginning to look again at the advantages of gunk over atomism. But gunk removes superdeterminates and therefore threatens any proportionality thesis about causation. In so doing, epiphenomenalism rears its ugly head again.

We can save the proportionality thesis from the gunky universe. In Lynch’s weird gunky universe there can still be a super-determinables. For example, in a beginningless sequence ‘… being less than .01 Agent Cooper, being less than .1 Agent Cooper, being less than 1 Agent Cooper… etc’’ we can have a super-determinable i.e. ‘Being an Agent Cooper’ is the super-determinable.

So how then do we have causes in the bottomless world? By crediting determinables as causes. Causes must be difference makers and should be decided as soon as possible to fulfil this role, using intuition, common sense etc. Can omissions be causes like a Sartrean case of ‘To not act is to act’?’ Omission looks like a case of a disjunction of possible acts. The Eleatic principle implies omissions are unreal. But if the omissions are to positive actions as determinables standing to determinates then the omissions satisfying proportionality can be causes. If the domain is bottomless then causal explanation may progress endlessly. In the context of this bottomless determination an omission can be a cause.

In a gunk universe where there is no final bottoming out of relations then we might recommend acting like the Platonic, omniscient God – as soon as we can. If God is good, omnipotent and a Platonist then God thinks non-being is evil and being is good. God creates the world immediately because procrastination would prolong nonbeing and thus prolong evil. An infinite past is therefore impossible for such a God, as is forethought and prior design. Creation is immediate. Is afterthought also impossible for such a God? Afterthought would imply that God didn’t foresee something and had to make a correction. But forethought is impossible. If afterthought depends on a bad forethought, and forethought is impossible, then afterthought is also impossible. The idea here is to suggest an analogy between immediate creation and the ‘soon as we can’ condition of causal decision making in the gunk universe.

Bad Coop Hanslickean

Perhaps the Eleatic should dial down her need. Perhaps with bad Coop what is required is understanding without understanding what it’s about. Eduard Hanslick founded formalism about music, claiming that understanding music doesn’t require understanding what it’s about. Bob Dylan approaches song writing in the same formalistic way. He composes songs by understanding sounds and other songs, tropes and images, words and phrases without understanding what they’re about. Listening to music and listening to Dylan’s songs is like looking through a kaleidoscope. In John Searles’s Chinese Room thought experiment Searle purported to show that merely manipulating Chinese symbols successfully would not be enough to show that the person doing that understood Chinese, and therefore the Turing Test was a bad test for human understanding. However, Roy Sorensen argues that the person manipulating sounds and words like a formalist musician and song writer does all that is required for getting music. For this person, according to Sorensen, ‘the Turing Test is an appropriate criterion of musical understanding.’ Perhaps our responses to Bad Coop, to all of Twin Peaks, should be Hanslickean. We may suspect that this is better than endless speculative forays.

Twin Peaks acknowledges a certain heroism and nobility in being average. Lynch populates his strangeness with the strangeness of characters who we best resemble, our average mystic neighbour. We place in them our own beliefs and desires so that what comes out are the beliefs, desires and hypothetical actions that follow from this simulation. The closer we assume they were to us in the first place, the greater the degree of predictability, dependability and precision that follows from this isomorphism. The victims and heroes of Twin Peaks‘ horror have been predictable and dependable because we recognise them as being, all in all, like us. The weird terrors of the plot are beyond understanding and exist as uncanny manifestations of our own endless, inescapable dread.

Bad Coop Anti-Eleatic

Bad Coop denies Eleatic urges. He comes to us as a nightmare of epiphenomenalist fate. He exists where perceiving is Being. He is the absence at the other side of average. He is pure uncanny dread. We don’t believe any of this is impossible even if it is.

Richard Marshall is still biding his time.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, August 31st, 2017.