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Epiphenomenal Realmatics


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I'm going to start by defining some terms here to help everyone follow my thoughts. In the western philosophical tradition, dualism is generally defined as follows:

Dualism - the belief that there are two types of things, mental things and physical things. (for more, see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dualism/)

In more common terms, this is a belief in a soul that is separate from the body. Sanderson's cosmere is an interesting spin on dualism, in which there are actually three sorts of things, physical things, mental things, and spiritual things. A common real-world form of dualist belief is a belief that is often called "Cartesian Dualism" (after Descartes).

Cartesian Dualism - The belief that each person has a body and a soul, and the two are connected such that they affect each other.


Cartesian dualism is a pretty normal, intuitive way of looking at dualism. In Cartesian dualism, a normal interaction would be something like: the body is pricked by a needle, causing the soul to feel a sensation of pain. Then the soul would send a message back to the body, causing it to behave a certain way.


In modern discussion, very few people who investigate these things believe in traditional Cartesian dualism. There are various reasons why this is, but I don't want to get into it right now. Another view of dualism that is a little less intuitive, but to many people is thought to be more consistent, is a view called epiphenomenalism.


Epiphenomenalism - The belief that each person has a body and a soul, and the two are connected such that the body affects the soul, but the soul does not affect the body. (for more, see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epiphenomenalism/)


The key difference here is whether or not the soul can have an impact on the physical world (or physical realm, to use the cosmere term). An epiphenomenalist views the soul as a product of what happens in the physical world, but doesn't believe there is any sort of causality running in the opposite direction from the soul to the world. An epiphenomenalist view of the needle pricking situation would be something like this: the body is pricked by a needle, causing the soul to experience pain. The physical brain kicks in and prompts the reaction of jumping, causing the soul to experience the feeling of reflexively jumping away. In this view, the soul doesn't play a role in any choices made by the brain. The actual thinking happens in the physical world, and the experience of thinking is a sort of byproduct of the physical process.


The epiphenomenalist view is popular among certain modern dualists because it doesn't contradict the modern scientific view that the physical world is a closed causal system, while still allowing for the existence of a non-physical soul that has experiences and feels things. The relevance of all this to the cosmere is this: I think that realmatic interaction is best understood as being mostly, with an important exception, epiphenomenal. The physical realm is the base, and what happens in it ripples upwards, first into the cognitive realm, then the spritual realm. In this view, cognition itself does not occur in the cognitive realm. Instead, cognition is a physical process that creates effects in the cognitive realm, and then those congitive effects continue on to create effects in the spritual realm.


I also think that the basic role of investiture is it breaks epiphenomenalism. Investiture can create changes directly on the cognitive or spiritual realm, and then the investiture allows those changes to flow backwards into the physical realm. Investiture also allows entities to exist in non-physical realms without being caused by a physical thing.

Cognitive shadows and spren both take advantage of investiture to exist in a way that would otherwise be impossible under epiphenomenal realmatics. Investiture is also what allows spren to use their connection to certain types of things (or people) to manifest in the physical realm. 

Right now, this theory has helped me think about realmatics in a way that doesn't break my brain, but I'm only starting to think on the implications.


Thanks for reading!

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The way I view it, all of the realms have impact on all of the other realms. The spiritual aspect is the general essence of an object, so it generalizes what, inherently, the object is. The cognitive realm is sort of a prism that modulates the spiritual information to fill in the specifics of an object. Metaphorically speaking, the cognitive realm is a prism that reflects the light of the Spiritual realm. It has to be close enough to the original that it doesn't simply diffuse all of the light and must be able to catch the light in the first place, but if it can do that it can transform it in a variety of ways. It also serves as sort of a communication line between each realm. The physical realm is the manifestation of the object put forward by the cognitive realm. Impressions of an object by conscious minds alter the cognitive aspect of an object, causing it to see itself in a specific way (eg seeing itself as a table rather than a bunch of wood). Because these impressions are formed due to interpretations of the physical aspect, it doesn't really modulate the appearance in the physical realm. These cognitive changes can, however, be 'uploaded' to the long-term storage of the spiritual aspect that defines what the object is, providing guidelines for the cognitive aspect itself.

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In my understanding, Identity is the process by which anything is connected to a spiritual aspect. This would mean changing Identity would cause a disconnect with the basic parameters that define you. I also see aluminum as simply lacking a cognitive aspect, which explains the fact that it cannot be manipulated on a cognitive level nor recognized by investiture

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Not sure on that aspect, it could be possible that because investiture is unable to recognize what made the wound, it cannot detect the wound either. It could also be that a disconnect between the physical and spiritual means that the investiture, which works on a spiritual level, doesn't recognize the wound and the process must happen physically

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This (the presumption of Dualism) is actually the thing I most disagree with/dislike about Realmatics, as it implies that you have a brain but you are a soul.


To pervert Lewis Caroll slightly, you don't have a brain, you are a brain. :) Mental phenomena arise out of physical phenomena. (that is, concepts, sense of self, and memories have physical analogues in pathways and chemicals in my brain) This is actually a provable phenomena in reality, and is the reason why stroke and brain damage victims often undergo changes in personalities after their injury, something you would not expect under dualism.


Epiphenomenalism is more reasonable, (although completely unfalsifiable and thus worse than useless as a scientific hypothesis, the same way intelligent design is, but hey, philosophy is rife with those sorts of theories unfortunately) but doesn't actually seem to be how the Cosmere actually works based on that WoB about Cosmere souls being composed of investiture that a being gains upon conception. (as from a physical standpoint conception isn't really where you'd expect anything soul-like to fully develop, because if the soul is a result mirroring physical phenomena, you would expect a soul to be something that would develop well after an infant is born, as its personality starts becoming more complex, because cognitive development arguably doesn't stop until you're about 21, depending on your definitions of adolescence)

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