While I tend to see materialism, or any ism really, as misguided attempts to to translate the epic poem of reality into a language of limits, the universe to an Upanishad, the unknown and unexpected cuisine of eternity into bite sized morsels of processed food by-product. Ultimately, I think isms, including materialism narrow the minds of the porters stuck with the baggage. Like a person forced to wear a hat two sizes too small, like a fundamentalist’s child taught to feel shame at the first whiff of curiosity about something potentially interesting, isms discourage freestyle boogie on the cranial dance floor. They attempt to definitively answer the important question, “Why?”*. At least, that is my general attitude. I can and occasionally do trot out tome lubricant for my neurons in order to formulate a logical support for the idea, but I just ran across a printed copy of this paper in a file folder which accidentally traveled with me this week.
I was delighted to discover it. One because I’m kinda bored sitting in a hotel room trying to distract myself, and two, because it makes a formal argument which is similar to my perhaps more…, I like to call it lyrical, statement and the piggybacking saves me on the brain lubricant bill.
I will post a short excerpt but it’s worth a real read if you think the topic is worth discussion. I know that many of our members are anti materialist, and, though I prefer to simply note the point of view of materialism and consider it information rather than truth, I notice that I have been drawn to materialistic statements lately for some reason, and I universally find myself equating the materialist position with a theistic position.The structure intuits the same way in my mind.
I’m reasonably sure this paper rattled around in my brain for a while and probably colored my views on some things but I haven’t adopted the arguments, preferring to stop at the far easier point of, “That is a simple assertion and your warrant is also a simple assertion. However, most people don’t seem satisfied with this line of argument. It turns out though, that this paper basically says the same thing but makes a formal statement about it to satisfy the logic buffs and philosophers. And I know I am delighted to see that he doesn’t try to attach an ontology outside of the straightforward argument for monism. To that end, :
Towards a Proper Monism
Dept. of Philosophy, Göteborg University
Poster presentation at:
Toward a Science of Consciousness, Tucson III
April 27-May 2, 1998, Tucson, Arizona, USA
My analysis of the mind-body problem suggests that the mind-body problem is a “problem” because:
• There are discrepancies in use between scientific notions like “physical” and philosophical notions like “phenomenal character”.
• Phenomenological conceptions of the mind are primarily used as contrast-terms in arguments against metaphysical physicalism.
• “Qualia” and similar terms – properly analysed – reveal that they do not, as often claimed, have a “folk-psychological” origin. Rather these terms should be described as highly sophisticated technical terms and should not be confused with non-philosophical notions expressing experiential content.
Dualists are obliged to offer us a positive, thus substantive, account of what they mean by “subjective experience” and similar idioms. This is, as I shall point out, a very hard task, mainly due to the strong contrast-mode in which these terms are used. When disconnected from the paradigmatic contrast-context these terms appear more or less out of place. But when faced with a hard-core reductionism the appeal to “phenomenal qualities” seems very appropriate. In my analysis, terms like “what it is like” and “experiential character” are concept that, as such, make perfect sense, but only in a limited context. The strong contrast mode in which these terms are used, I think, also explains why it is so hard to give a satisfactory semantic account for these terms.
And here is the TOC so you can navigate the idea from here:
3. False and proper monism
4. A note on Descartes´ demarcation of the mental and the physical
5. “Phenomenal experience” as a complementary contrast term
6. The exaggerated emphasis on the subjective character of mind
7. The assumed status of “qualia” as a folk-psychological notion
8. Can we solve the mind-body problem?
*I adapted this first paragraph from something I wrote somewhere else so you might feel a weird familiarity but it is just the halcyon talking. Pay no attention.