Conscius Will Repeat: (previous message in plain text now)
karey at charter.net
Fri Apr 26 17:30:55 EDT 2002
As one of my many elective courses for the philosophy minor, I had to take
"Philosophy of Mind." Just think, a whole semester of reading philosophers
asking (and receiving various answers to) the very questions you ask below.
There was no final conclusion, but to greatly simplify a complex topic, the
views, if I can pull them up from my enfeebled absent-minded professor
memory, were concerned with how MIND related to BODY: what is the action and
relation of mind to our physical selves (are they one or separate? does one
exist and not the other?), what is the substance of "mind" (must it be of
biological origin or can an incredibly advanced computer mimic our brain
processes to the extent that it gains "consciousness"?) and so forth (can
"zombies" who look and act exactly like humans, but do not have
consciousness, be considered "human"? also, various kinds of "robots" and
"aliens" and "bats" (Nagel) and "qualia" (our perceptions) are hypothesized
to refine and clarify their thoughts -- these philosopher of mind guys had
great imaginations.) The views run the gamut from:
**physicalism: (physical reductionist) Soul/spirit is reduced to psychology
which is reduced to biology which is reduced to physico-chemical brain
reactions. IE: Depression is just "C-fibers" firing in the brain or some
such -- take a pill for it (Prozac solves all our problems). The logical
positivists cited earlier said something of this sort...though they didn't
necessarily do away with psychology, etc., just said it was "meaningless."
**materialism (various kinds)
**functionalism (various kinds)
**dualism (various types) but basically: Mind and Body both exist but are
completely separate substances (Descartes is the father of this...but it is
largely "out" today in philosophical circles)
**idealism: opposite of physicalism -- the only real substance is mind, or
ideals, and physical manifestations are an illusion (Plato) Again, this is
largely "out" today.
You may wonder why I chose not to elucidate some of the views
above...simply, I don't know the exact explanation (this course was two
years ago and I made a (ahem) "C" in it...) I basically learned enough to
know this is a really hard topic and I need to study it more. Perhaps some
others of you can help out here?
However, all of this is a very prominent topic of Percy's. I have just
finished reading all of Percy's fiction, and it was quite clear from each of
his novels that he is most certainly against the first: Physical
reductionism -- and that this is a major theme of his. He laments our
current postmodern society's tendency to physicalism, at the sacrifice and
neglect of our spirit and soul. This is a handicap of the residents of the
20th (and 21st) century that those in centuries before us did not have to
face. It is not good for any of us...in other words, while we live in the
"best of times" (having a wonderful life on a physical level), we also live
in the "worst of times" (spiritually --little acknowledgement or attention
to this very real side of us is given in our society).
But, what I didn't pick up until I started on his non-fiction (which is
slower going than the fiction, I'm still on "Signposts in a Strange Land"
and haven't made it to the others yet), is that he is also NOT a dualist!
Of course it's obvious after the fact (Love in the Ruins and Tom More's
lapsometer measuring the physical/spiritual split; the "San Andreas
fault"...). This also relates to our immanence/transcendence discussion --
what Percy's saying is he's not a dualist.
So what is he?
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