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materialism and all that

Ray Scanlon rscanlon at wsg.net
Tue Apr 6 12:02:12 EST 1999

How is the soul (mind) related to the body (brain)? That is the central
question of materialism at the end of this century. Either the soul (mind)
is shown to be entailed by the brain or materialism fails as an all
encompassing explanation of existence. References to word usage do not
satisfy. We reject suggestions that all will be well if we handle language

Molecular biology has explained life as the production of proteins by the
DNA-RNA complex. There is no longer any room for word spinning. Molecular
biology is well on its way to explaining the brain as an agglomeration of
neurons. Here lies the difficulty. How are we to understand and criticize
this work without a basic knowledge of molecular biology. But this sounds
like a lot of dreary laboratory drudgery, pure dog work.

The holists argue that we must look at the whole man. They argue that we can
never extrapolate from the characteristics of the neuron to the reality of
the whole man and the society in which he lives. They use beautiful words to
disguise their inability or unwillingness to master the details.

These are the two main rearguard actions being fought these days by the
freethinkers. They cannot live with the notion that their materialism is
only an empty shell. Materialism in this day requires an understanding of
physics and of molecular biology, neither of which they have. The physicists
and the biologists have rejected them as philosophical babblers. This hurts.
They want to be scientific and science has left them behind.

The argument from language is based on a misunderstanding of what language
is and why we use it. We experience the world and the emotions that arise
from it. We use language to attempt to produce similar experiences and
emotions in others. We will use words or hand movements or body movements
and expressions. We will use anything we can. But in all this we should
remember that it is the experience or the emotion that comes first. Without
such a basis there is nothing. The language men deny this and attempt to
analyze language by itself, that is ridiculous.

The argument from holism is an argument from ignorance. It is plain that if
the philosopher were competent in molecular biology he would find employment
in the laboratory and would not feel a need to babble in public. There is
little doubt that there are far too many philosophers for the civic good.

Searle says: the computer manipulations are purely formal, they are
completely devoid of content. Has he thought this out? The brain described
by the neuroscientists is composed of neurons whose activities are purely
formal. If this brain is not aware then materialism fails.

This frog and mouse battle between the materialists and the dualists is
interesting since it shows how the DNA has constructed a brain in the human
species that thinks to much. Thinking of this type is pathological.

Those interested in how the brain works might look at

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