Mind, Brain, Monism, Dualism
"The Empty Universe" in Present Concerns, W. Hopper, ed. (Harcourt Brace: 1986), pp. 81-2.
The process whereby man has come to know the universe is from one point of view extremely complicated; from another it is alarmingly simple. We can observe a single one-way progression. At the outset, the universe appears packed with will, intelligence, life, and positive qualities; every tree is a nymph and every planet a god. Man himself is akin to the gods. The advance gradually empties this rich and genial universe, first of its gods, then of it colours, smells, sounds and tastes, finally of solidity itself as solidity was originally imagined. As these items are taken from the world, they are transferred to the subjective side of the account: classified as our sensations, thoughts, images or emotions. The Subject becomes gorged, inflated, at the expense of the Object. But the matter does not rest there. The same method which has emptied the world now proceeds to empty ourselves. The masters of the method soon announce that we were just mistaken (and mistaken in much the same way) when we attributed "souls" or "selves" or "minds" to human organisms, as when we attributed Dryads to the trees. Animism, apparently, begins at home. We, who have personified all other things, turn out to be ourselves mere personifications. Man is indeed akin to the gods, that is, he is no less phantasmal than they. Just as the Dryad is a "ghost," an abbreviated symbol for certain verifiable facts about his behaviour: a symbol mistaken for a thing. And just as we have been broken of our bad habit of personifying tees, so we must now be broken of our habit of personifying men; a reform already effected in the political field. There never was a Subjective account into which we could transfer the items which the Subject had lost. There is no "consciousness" to contain, as images or private experiences, all the lost gods, colours, and concepts. Consciousness is "not the sort of noun that can be used that way."
Miracles: A Preliminary Study (MacMillan: 1978), pp. 19, 22-3.
Once, then, our thoughts were not rational. That is, all our thoughts once were, as many of our thoughts still are, merely subjective events, not apprehensions of objective truth. Those which had a cause external to ourselves at all were (like our pains) responses to stimuli. Now natural selection could operate only by eliminating responses that were biologically hurtful and multiplying those which tended to survival. But it is not conceivable that any improvement of responses could ever turn them into acts of insight, or even remotely tend to do so. The relation between response and stimulus is utterly different from that between knowledge and the truth known. Our physical vision is a far more useful response to light than that of the cruder organisms which have only a photo-sensitive spot. But neither this improvement nor any possible improvements we can suppose could bring it an inch nearer to being a knowledge of light. It is admittedly something without which we could not have had that knowledge. But the knowledge is achieved by experiments and inferences from them, not by refinement of the response. It is not men with specially good eyes who know about light, but men who have studied the relevant sciences. In the same way our psychological responses to our environment — our curiosities, aversions, delights, expectations — could be indefinitely improved (from the biological point of view) without becoming anything more than responses. Such perfection of the non-rational responses, far from amounting to their conversion into valid inferences, might be conceived as a different method of achieving survival — an alternative to reason. A conditioning which secured that we never felt delight except in the useful nor aversion save from the dangerous, and that the degrees of both were exquisitely proportional to the degree of real utility or danger in the object, might serve us as well as reason or in some circumstances better.
"De Futilitate" in Christian Reflections (Eerdmans: 1967), pp. 63-4.
We are compelled to admit between the thoughts of a terrestrial astronomer and the behaviour of matter several light-years away that particular relation which we call truth. But this relation has no meaning at all if we try to make it exist between the matter of the star and the astronomer's brain, considered as a lump of matter. The brain may be in all sorts of relations to the star no doubt: it is in a spatial relation, and a time relation, and a quantitative relation. But to talk of one bit of matter as being true about another bit of matter seems to me to be nonsense.
Carol Zaleski on Dualism said...
First Things 105 (August/September 2000): 36-42.
As for dualism, much has been said of the violence it does to our unity as psycho-physical creatures, but this is questionable. Multiplicity and disunity are as strong a feature of our existence as psychosomatic unity. We are legion, as the demons say. It is a marvel that all our different parts work together. At best, we are a symphony; but the second violins have quarreled with the wind section, and as we age these quarrels increase. Why should it surprise us if at death the soul separates from the body? Separating is the order of our lives as we tend toward death. If a man's jowls can sink down while his brow stays up, why can't his soul rise up when his body sinks down? All of our flesh is being pulled downward by the gravity of the grave; every day our skin is sloughing off cell by cell; at each stage of life we slough off the skin of a previous stage; and at death we lose what was left of those skins. Perhaps that will be the chance to emerge as the person one was meant to be.
Associate Professor of Philosophy at St Olaf College
Charles Taliaferro is Associate Professor of Philosophy at St Olaf College, Minnesota. He was Visiting Scholar at Oriel College, Oxford, and has taught at Brown University, the University of Massachusetts, and the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. He is the author of Consciousness and the Mind of God (1994) and Contemporary Philosophy of Religion (Blackwell Publishers, 1997), and numerous papers in philosophy of religion, metaphysics, and ethics.
"Naturalism and the Mind" in Naturalism: A Critical Appraisal, Craig/Moreland, eds. (Routledge: 2002), p. 135.
Eliminative materialism is not as popular as it was some decades ago. A major problem has been the task of developing a version of eliminative materialism that is not self-refuting or self-contradictory. Some eliminativists appear to be in the unenviable position of claiming to believe that there are no beliefs. Another difficulty is the problem of being able to accommodate human reasoning. A further worry still is that eliminativism is flatly refuted by experience.
Bernard J. Baars and Nicole M. Gage (Elsevier Science: March 2010), 672 pages.
Written by two leading experts in the field, this fully updated textbook takes a unique approach to introducing concepts of cognitive neurosciences. Many educational fields now require a basic understanding of cognitive neuroscience but other textbooks on the market are written for biology audiences, rather than for psychology and related majors. This text takes a thematic approach that is clear and understandable to those with or without a background in biology or neuroscience. New to this edition are Frontiers in Cognitive Neuroscience text boxes; each one focuses on a leading researcher and their topic of expertise. There is a new chapter on Genes and Molecules of Cognition, and all other chapters have been thoroughly revised, based on the most recent discoveries. New material has been added on the latest advances in brain imaging. ~ Product Description
The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds in a Material World (Basic Books: 2000), pp. 13-4.
But in the case of consciousness the Darwinian explanation does not tell us what we need to know, for the simple reason that it is unclear how matter can be so organized as to create a conscious being. The problem is in the raw materials. It looks as if with consciousness a new kind of reality has been injected into the universe, instead of just a recombination of the old realities. Even if minds showed no hint of design, the same old problem would exist: How can mere matter originate consciousness? How did evolution convert the water of biological tissue into the wine of consciousness? Consciousness seems like a radical novelty in the universe, not prefigured by the after-effects of the Big Bang, so how did it contrive to spring into being from what preceded it.
The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds in a Material World (Basic Books: 2000), p. 56.
Can we gain any deeper insight into what makes the problem of consciousness run against the grain of our thinking? Are our modes of theorizing about the world of the wrong shape to extend to the nature of the mind? I think we can discern a characteristic structure possessed by successful theories, a structure that is unsuitable for explaining consciousness. ... It there a "grammar" to science that fits the physical world but becomes shaky when applied to the mental world? ¶ Perhaps the most basic aspect of thought is the operation of combination. This is the way in which we think of complex entities as resulting from the arrangement of simpler parts. There are three aspects to this basic idea: the atoms we start with, the laws we use to combine them, and the resulting complexes ... I think it is clear that this mode of understanding is central to what we think of as scientific theory; our scientific faculty involves representing the world in this combinatorial style.
Christopher S. Hill (Cambridge University Press: December 2009), 274 pages.
This book provides a comprehensive and novel theory of consciousness. In clear and non-technical language, Christopher Hill provides interrelated accounts of six main forms of consciousness — agent consciousness, propositional consciousness (consciousness that), introspective consciousness, relational consciousness (consciousness of), experiential consciousness, and phenomenal consciousness. He develops the representational theory of mind in new directions, showing in detail how it can be used to undercut dualistic accounts of mental states. In addition he offers original and stimulating discussions of a range of psychological phenomena, including visual awareness, pain, emotional qualia, and introspection. His important book will interest a wide readership of students and scholars in philosophy of mind and cognitive science. ~ Product Description
J.P. Moreland (Routledge: Jun 24, 2008), 242 pages.
In Consciousness and the Existence of God, J.P. Moreland argues that the existence of finite, irreducible consciousness (or its regular, law-like correlation with physical states) provides evidence for the existence of God. Moreover, he analyzes and criticizes the top representative of rival approaches to explaining the origin of consciousness, including John Searle's contingent correlation, Timothy O’Connor's emergent necessitation, Colin McGinn's mysterian "‘naturalism," David Skrbina's panpsychism and Philip Clayton's pluralistic emergentist monism. Moreland concludes that these approaches should be rejected in favor of what he calls "‘the Argument from Consciousness." ~ Product Description
Charles C. Taliaferro (Cambridge University Press: June 2005), 357 pages.
Contemporary materialist accounts of consciousness and subjectivity challenge how we think of ourselves and of ultimate reality. This book defends a nonmaterialistic view of persons and subjectivity and the intelligibility of thinking of God as a nonphysical, spiritual reality. It endeavors to articulate in a related way the integral relationship between ourselves and our material bodies and between God and the cosmos. Different versions of materialism are assessed, as are alternative, post-dualist concepts of God. • "What we have here, then, is a serious constructive project in philosophical theology. It is carried through with energy, care, and precision; it shows acquaintance with the best recent work in philosophy of mind (and its close materialist cousin, cognitive science), and in philosophical theology; and it is marked throughout by a care for and attention ro the strictly philosophical (principally ontological and metaphysical) import of traditional Christian claims about the matters with which it deals. These are considerable virtues. Taliaferro's work provides more evidence that the most interesting work in philosophical theology today is being done by those with philosophical rather than theological training.... this is a very important book that deserves close and careful reading by philosophers and theologians and that ought to provoke much discussion." ~ Paul Griffiths, Journal of Religion
Owen J. Flanagan (Bradford Books: December 1993), 250 pages.
This is one of the early philosophy books that started to make sense on the issue of consciousness. Comming from a decade where Joe Levine told us there was a gap, Frank Jackson that materialism left something out, McGuinn told us we could not understand it, the Churchlands wanted to get rid of the thing, this book is a great relief. Consciousness, according to Flanagan, is a natural phenomenon, rooted in the brain. It is real, capable of being defined, it evolved, and tractable scientifically. We need not despair, nor look in wrong and exotic places like quantum mechanics. Psychology, phenomenology, neurobiology and cognitive science will do. ... This is good philosophy indeed. Consicousness is portrayed simply, as a natural phenomentol being understood through science. There are some objections one could make, but in all, considering the philosophical views of consicousness, this one is science friendly and informative. This is the kind of constructivism that one should expect from philosophers. ~ Carlos Camara at Amazon.com
"The Conceivability of Naturalism", in Conceivability and Possibility, Tamar Szabo and John Hawthorne, eds. (Clarendon: 2002), p. 401.
A central dilemma in contemporary metaphysics is to find a place for certain anthropocentric subject-matters — for instance, semantic, moral, and psychological — in a world as conceived by modern naturalism: a stance which inflates the concepts and categories deployed by (finished) physical science into a metaphysics of the kind of thing the real world essentially and exhaustively is. On one horn, if we embrace this naturalism, it seems we are committed either to reductionism: that is, to a construal of the reference of, for example, semantic, moral and psychological vocabulary as somehow being within the physical domain — or to disputing that the discourses in question involve reference to what is real at all. On the other horn, if we reject this naturalism, then we accept that there is more to the world than can be embraced within a physicalist ontology — and so take on a commitment, it can seem, to a kind of eerie supernaturalism.