Previous: 26.The New Promissory Materialism Up: Chapter P3 Materialism Criticized Next: Chapter P3 Materialism Criticized

27. Results and Conclusion

It appears then from our analysis that, in the present Darwinian climate, a consistent materialist view of the world is only possible if it is combined with a denial of the existence of consciousness.

However, as John Beloff says at the end of his excellent book ([1962], p. 258), "A doctrine which can sustain itself only by elaborate evasions is little better than humbug."26

It appears, further, that if we adopt a Darwinian point of view (see section 20) and admit the existence of an evolved consciousness, we are led to interactionism.

What I call the Darwinian point of view appears to be part of our present scientific outlook, and also an integral part of any materialist or physicalist creed.

On the other hand, if separated from the Darwinian point of view, the identity theory seems to me consistent. Yet apart from its incompatibility with Darwinian principles, it does not seem to me to be empirically testable, as Feigl ([1967], p. 160 and passim) suggests, by any prospective results of neurophysiology. Such results can, at best, show a close parallelism between brain processes and mental processes. But this would not support the identity theory any more than parallelism (for example, epiphenomenalism) or even interactionism.

I may perhaps show this in a little more detail for interactionism.

According to interactionism, an intense brain activity is the necessary condition for mental processes. Thus brain processes will go on contemporaneously with any mental processes, and being necessary conditions, may be said to "cause" them, or to "act" upon them. Take a simple example, like looking at a tree and closing and opening your eyes. The causal effect of the nervous changes upon your experiences is obvious. Or look at one of the figures illustrating Gestalt switch — either initiated by yourself or by your nervous system. This illustrates the action of the nervous system on consciousness and the — voluntary — effect of "concentration".27 Owing to the constant goings on of brain processes on all levels it does not seem possible to distinguish interaction from, say, the alleged identity empirically, nor have any serious suggestions been made how this could be done, although it has often been asserted that it can be done (as we have seen).

To sum up, it appears that Darwinian theory, together with the fact that conscious processes exist, lead beyond physicalism; another example of the self-transcendence of materialism, and one quite independent of World 3.

26  Where I do not follow Beloff is in his attitude towards "the paranormal" as he calls it. I believe that radical physicalism can be regarded as refuted, quite independently of the paranormal.

27  A good example is the following well-known figure, called "double cross" by Wittgenstein [1953], p. 207. One can operate it by "concentrating" either on the white cross or on the black cross; either voluntarily, or withholding our volition.

Previous: 26.The New Promissory Materialism Up: Chapter P3 Materialism Criticized Next: Chapter P3 Materialism Criticized