If you haven’t heard, the newest Marvel movie, Doctor Strange, released this weekend. I had a group of guys from work that wanted to go see it and so I joined them on Friday night. Now, I’m not much of a Marvel guy, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I have seen most of the Marvel movies, but I wouldn’t really say I’m a huge fan which is why I didn’t know anything about this movie going into it.
What amazed me the most about this movie is the clash between worldviews. This year in my high school class, I’m teaching comparative worldviews and religions. I have spent weeks with my students teaching different worldviews like Secularism, Marxism, Postmodernism, New Spirituality, Islam, and Christianity. When some of my students came to class today, I was excited to hear that they did some worldview analysis on the movie. It feels good to know that they have been listening and saw the clash between Secularism and New Spirituality while enjoying a movie over the weekend.
Back to the point, today in class, I showed them this clip from the movie and asked them two questions. I asked, “How does Stephen Strange’s Worldview determine how he interprets reality? Explain. Do you think we should be open to having our Worldview changed? Why or why not?” I want you to watch the clip and evaluate it for yourself. Hint: Stephen Strange is a naturalistic materialist (physicalist). This means that he believes that only the physical world exists (matter) and that there is a natural explanation for everything.
Don’t worry, there are no spoilers in this clip.
Notice a few things from this clip.
Only the physical world exists.
After hearing that his understanding of reality can grow in ways he never imagined, he rejects it not because of good evidence, but because he doesn’t believe in fairy tales, energy, or the power of belief. There is no such thing as spirit and the only thing that exists is matter. It’s interesting that there are no reasons given as to why these things don’t exist. Now, you may be thinking that I’m analyzing this too much, and that’s possible, but it is interesting to think about. This is what many Secularists do. When presented with reasons to believe in the supernatural, they respond with something like, “Those things don’t exist.” My response is, how did you come to that conclusion? Responding with an unsupported statement doesn’t answer the original question. Reasons need to be given to support statements like that.
What’s in that tea?
Notice how after his soul is pushed out of his body he returns and ask, “What’s in that tea?” This is the naturalism coming out. Naturalism is the belief that everything can be explained by natural causes. The soul can’t exist, that’s immaterial, so there must be a natural cause to explain what just happened to him. His first thought is that he was drugged and something was in the tea. I see this relating in many ways to conversations I have with atheists. They ask me for evidence, and when presented with evidence, they come up with some way to explain it away. If we are not open to the supernatural, then we will always find an alternative.
Do you think we should be open to having our worldview changed?
This leads me to my final point with my class. It seemed like Doctor Strange was so convinced of his worldview that even seeing his own soul didn’t convince him that he was wrong. I have heard some atheists admit that even if God spoke to them, they would think it was a dream or hallucination. I think this shows that no amount of evidence would change some people’s minds. Instead, as one student said, “Not being open-minded may cause us to miss certain truths.” I think he was right on! Open minded doesn’t mean that we change our worldview with every argument. It simply means that we are willing to objectively evaluate all the evidence. It also takes a humble attitude to admit that it’s possible that our views may be wrong. I realize that I don’t know everything, and it’s possible that I’m wrong, so that is why I spend the time I do researching. I want to be confident that I am following the truth.
Do you think it’s important to be open to having our worldview changed? Can being close-minded cause us to miss truth at times?
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November 8, 2016 at 4:38 am
I think you have it slightly wrong. Nothing in that clip argues against physicalism regarding mind. Supervenience still holds, for instance.
Though, it’s a troublesome moment for physicists, it’s a shrug for physicalists.
People’s worldviews are always changing. It’s just a matter of whether they acknowledge it or not.
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November 8, 2016 at 5:40 am
The fact that he has a soul doesn’t argue against physicalism? She was showing him that the physical universe is not the only thing that exists.
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November 8, 2016 at 6:11 am
Nope. She shows him that he is mistaken about the composition of the universe, not that the universe lacks a composition.
It is a lovely example of the interaction problem in substance dualism, and illustrates why that problem is a fatal one.
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November 8, 2016 at 6:22 am
That is what my point was, that his worldview was mistaken. He believed in only physical matter and she showed him that there is more.
Now I’m confused as to how this is an example of the interaction problem in substance dualism. Can you explain what you mean?
November 8, 2016 at 7:10 am
The mistake is one of extent rather than nature. A good analogy would be the advent of quantum mechanics in physics. It is undoubtedly weird and it is difficult to theoretically reduce classical mechanics to quantum mechanics. But they are nonetheless about the same phenomena.
It is hard to maintain that what happens in the clip demonstrates two separate substances at work without defining the notion of a substance into irrelevance.
After all, there are not two separate causal schema in action. Temporal/spatial causes explain subsequent astral events, and astral events occur in some sequence, such that they explain events in the temporal/spatial world.
So, what we are faced with a distinction without a difference, in the end. One world which is stranger (yuk!) than we knew, rather than two worlds.
Peninsular rather than insular – which is just how we experience ‘mundane’ causes and events.
This is the interaction problem: How do you craft an explanation for the workings of two, self-explanatory realms without begging the question (i.e. resorting to explanatory monism)?
It does not appear to be possible.
November 8, 2016 at 7:37 am
I think that’s a misunderstanding of what is being shown in this movie, and what I meant in my writing. Classical mechanics and quantum mechanics both deal with physical matter. So yes, they are about the same phenomena.
I don’t know if you have seen the movie, but the point of the clip is for him to understand that there is more than the physical world. That is why he stressed the fact that he doesn’t believe in faith, fairy tales, or spirit; only matter. He was taken back because show showed him his spirit/soul. You can argue that it wasn’t really a spirit and it was something else, but I think that goes against the clip and my point in using it.
That’s why my main question was, if a different worldview is true (two substances or one), are we open to changing?
November 8, 2016 at 8:20 am
I don’t agree, obviously. What is purported does not comport with what is depicted.
Again, worldviews are under constant revision…
November 8, 2016 at 8:21 am
Would you agree that if the immaterial/supernatural world exists, then naturalistic materialism would be false?
November 8, 2016 at 8:26 am
Can you define your terms?
What do you think would make something supernatural?
What constitutes naturalism, in your estimation?
November 8, 2016 at 5:46 pm
I gave definitions throughout my blog. I defined naturalism as believing that there is a natural explanation for everything. This goes together with physicalism or materialism in that only the physical or material world exists. Therefore, supernatural would be something that is beyond natural like an immaterial being or substance.
November 8, 2016 at 7:16 pm
“I defined naturalism as believing that there is a natural explanation for everything.”
OK, but this is like saying, “I told you how opium induces sleep; it does so by means of a dormative property.”
It kind of begs the question, which is: What do you think makes something natural or physical?
I can provide you with an answer to that question, but it would be my answer.
I am interested in your answer, and I don’t mean that in a snarky way.
I really am interested to hear what you think about this.
November 8, 2016 at 8:02 pm
Are you really confused by what I mean by physical matter?
November 9, 2016 at 4:24 am
You seem to be a little unclear on the matter. Your phrasing leads me to believe that you don’t really know what physicalism or substance dualism mean when it comes to philosophy of mind.
If it is so plain what you mean by material or physical, surely you should be able to explain, almost as easily as you can express your incredulity.
November 9, 2016 at 5:45 am
I’m. It sure why you are still not sure what I mean. If you would like to continue this discussion, please go to the Facebook page and message me there.
November 9, 2016 at 5:50 am
Here’s the definition from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Maybe this will help you out. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/physicalism/
November 9, 2016 at 6:46 pm
Nope, don’t do facebook. But I do find this interesting, so I will put something together in my own space.
November 9, 2016 at 6:52 pm
Feel free to shoot me an email. Contact@coffeehousequestions.com