Pitts, J. Brian (2019) General Relativity, Mental Causation, and Energy Conservation. [Preprint]

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Abstract
The conservation of energy and momentum have been viewed as undermining Cartesian mental causation since the 1690s. Modern discussions of the topic tend to use mid19th century physics, neglecting both locality and Noether’s theorem and its converse. The relevance of General Relativity (GR) has rarely been considered. But a few authors have proposed that the nonlocalizability of gravitational energy and consequent lack of physically meaningful local conservation laws answers the conservation objection to mental causation: conservation already fails in GR, so there is nothing for
minds to violate.
This paper is motivated by two ideas. First, one might take seriously the fact that GR formally has an infinity of rigid symmetries of the action and hence, by Noether’s first theorem, an infinity of conserved energiesmomenta (thus answering Schrödinger’s 1918 falsenegative objection). Second, Sean Carroll has asked (rhetorically) how one should modify the DiracMaxwellEinstein equations to describe mental causation. This paper uses the generalized Bianchi identities to show that General Relativity tends to exclude, not facilitate, such Cartesian mental causation. In the simplest case, Cartesian mental influence must be spatiotemporally constant, and hence 0. The difficulty may diminish for more complicated models. Its persuasiveness is also affected by larger worldview considerations.
The new general relativistic objection provides some support for realism about gravitational energymomentum in GR (taking pseudotensor laws seriously). Such realism also answers an objection to theories of causation involving conserved quantities, because energiesmomenta would be conserved even in GR.
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