Skip to Content.
Sympa Menu

percy-l - Re: Reading list in order...

percy-l AT

Subject: Percy-L: Literary, Religious, Scientific, and Philosophical Discussion on Walker Percy

List archive

Chronological Thread  
  • From: Nikkibar AT
  • To: percy-l AT
  • Subject: Re: Reading list in order...
  • Date: Sun, 28 Apr 2002 13:50:28 EDT

In a message dated 4/26/02 2:21:11 PM Central Daylight Time, karey AT writes:

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.  What fun.

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 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?


-----Original Message-----
From: James Piat [mailto:piat1 AT]
Sent: Friday, April 26, 2002 6:09 AM
To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
Subject: [percy-l] Re: Conscious Will

Dear Folks-

Seems to me that the drive to be conscious is the strongest drive of all. Consciousness is like going to the movies only better  --it's our own life that is being shown.  Being conscious of our motives and actions does not in my view necessarily mean we are freely choosing them.  Nor do I understand how consciousness would be necessary for free choice to occur. 

I'm not even sure what consciousness is. How does consciousness differ from mere responding? I think consciousness may depend upon the ability to represent experience.  That perhaps the two are somehow intimately connected and responsible for producing the sense of life occurring on two levels  --the mental spiritual and the physical material.  What can a conscious person do that an unconscious person can not do?  Is language the answer?  Is there such a thing as unconscious language?  I suppose there is such a thing as mindless chatter --and perhaps this is an example of it. 
But my question is could we have the word (as representation) without consciousness and/or vice versa.  Perhaps it is true that in the beginning (of aware life) was the word and it occurred in the garden of Eden.

Jim Piat
An archive of all list discussion is available at <>.
Visit the Walker Percy Project at <>. --
An archive of all list discussion is available at <>.

Dear Karey,

If you have finished the fiction and want to go to the non fiction, I would suggest putting Signposts by for the moment and reading Lost in the Cosmos and Message in a Bottle. You will I think find the order in which you do these readings almost as important at the readings themselves. i would then (once more before going back to Signposts) get A Thief of Peirce and read the Appendix first. After finishing this go on to Singposts and and the two volumes of Conversations with Walker Percy. Finish up by reading Ken Ketner's His Glassy Essence. If you are still enthused about Percy you mingt then (but only then) fo on to the Biographies starting with Tolson's.


Archive powered by MHonArc 2.6.24.

Top of Page