Edward Feser, in a podcast discussion with Michael Egnor, offers this illustration:
Michael Egnor: How are humans able to reason, use logic, and think abstractly? Neuroscientists presuppose that our minds are entirely material things. But do you think it is possible to have abstract thought that has an entirely material basis?
Edward Feser: No, I don’t think it is… For example, we have the general abstract idea of triangularity, of being a triangle. And it’s one that we convey in words, like the words of a definition like “a triangle is a closed plane figure with three straight sides.”
When we grasp that formal nature of being a triangle, we are grasping something that is totally abstract. It applies to every single triangle that has existed, does exist, will exist or, for that matter, could exist, whether it is a triangle drawn in ink, whether it is a triangle drawn in sand, whether it is a triangle you construct by putting three sticks together, whether it is a triangle formed by the side of a pyramid, the idea or the concept is entirely abstract.
And part of the problem of identifying that with something going on in the brain is that anything that is taking place in a material object, let’s say, a symbol or a material representation encoded in the neural firing pattern of the brain, anything like that is always concrete or specific, or individual, as opposed to abstract or completely general, the way that a concept is.“A simple triangle can disprove materialism” at Mind Matters News
See also: Why Abstract Thoughts Cannot Arise From Material Things (Michael Egnor) Consider the chiliagon.
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