KARL JASPERS FORUM
by Paul Roberts
30 September 2009, posted 3 October 2009
I enjoy reading the recent exchanges on the KJ Forum and I admire the philosophical erudition of Dr.s Muller, Lothane and Adams. Yet there is an undercurrent of hostility to the common sense belief in mind-independent reality, to a physical world that is independent of "mind". It flares up whenever the name or ideas of that apostle of common sense, Richard Dawkins, are mentioned or discussed. Considering that there is no evidence at all (especially since Darwin accounted evolutionarily for organic "design") for the existence of a transcendental mind or god or gods, what is wrong with criticizing people who insist that such Beings exist and must be attended to--or, in much of the world, must be <obeyed>? Think of the crusades and jihads (and consequent slaughters) that would likely have been prevented if "The God Delusion" had been written and seriously attended to centuries earlier. Even today few really consider Dawkins's cogent argumants--or attempt to refute them.
If Dawkins had been in a philosophical mood rather than concerned primarily with issues of truth and the disgraceful worldwide suppression of Darwinism in schools, he might have called his book, "The Mind Delusion." It is easy to assume mind is spiritual if one is unaware of or discounts the physical evidence accumulated since the time of La Mettrie. In the eighteenth century, he pointed out in his book, "Man a Mechanism" that alcohol, drugs, fever derange "mind" and that Cartesian spiritual dualism must be wrong. Now we find that genes, if mutated, degrade mind--hence that genes, collectively, must encode the neuronal substrate of mind: Brain imaging (fMRI) currently explores the (physical) workings of some ten billion neurons and their numerous modules that give rise to thought. If one ignores all this machinery of mind, it is easy enough to project <our> mind onto the cosmos--and assume that a like mind -- spiritual, cosmic -- somehow antedates matter. Do any of you believe that the widely touted Cosmic Mind is anything more than a projection outward of our "mind"? If so, why?
This brings me to Dr Muller's favorite conundrum (which seems to refer solely to a human mind): "If reality is in fact mind-independent how can anyone write and think about it? Either you know about it and then it is in your mind and not mind-independent or you dont know about it and then you cannot think about it ... therefore mind-independent reality is impossible." I do not think the conclusion follows. Surely one can make a detailed <model> of mind-independent reality in a human brain (or "mind") without making most of the vast realm of physical (or mentphysical) reality in any way mental (if that is what is implied by the conundrum). In other words, MIR is not only possible but <likely> considering the evolutionary, physiological and genetic evidence: evolution by natural selection (not conscious design), the vast stretches of space devoid of life; the aeons of time before the evolution of humans.
e-mail <Robertsp (at)science.oregonstate.edu>