Naturalism and Agnosticism: The Gifford Lectures Delivered before the University of Aberdeen in the Years 1896-1898 - Vol. 2

Naturalism and Agnosticism: The Gifford Lectures Delivered before the University of Aberdeen in the Years 1896-1898 - Vol. 2

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Naturalism and Agnosticism: The Gifford Lectures Delivered before the University of Aberdeen in the Years 1896-1898 - Vol. 2

Naturalism and Agnosticism: The Gifford Lectures Delivered before the University of Aberdeen in the Years 1896-1898 - Vol. 2

Read FREE!

Excerpt

Doctrine of Conscious Automatism or Psychical Epiphenomenalism
examined. It is maintained (1) that there can be no causal connexion
between the psychical and the physical series, and yet (2) that the
psychical is a 'collateral product' or epiphenomenon of the physical .
The very statement is thus self-contradictory .

Mind thus becomes impotent to control matter. In accepting this
position Naturalism is really at variance with itself . For (1) it else
where assumes that mind is an efficient factor in biological evolution,
and (2) the physicist proper declares that the laws of matter alone will
not explain life .

However, taking the doctrine as it stands, there are these two articles
specially to consider : (a) the primacy and independence of the autom
aton, and (b) the illusory character of psychical activity. The latter to
be discussed first .

Huxley's endeavour to save himself from the charge of fatalism only
results in substituting a blind necessity for a logical one. Again, he
urges that we are free, "inasmuch as in many respects we can do as we
like." But how so, if "volitions do not enter into the chain of causation
of the action at all"? Turning now to the mechanical world, of which
the automaton is a part, we find no activity within that .

There is thus activity nowhere! How then do we come to be talking
of it even as illusory? And if conscious automatism is true, how is
illusion or error possible? The ground on which Descartes called man
a conscious automaton -- because of his intellectual and voluntary activity
-- is ignored by Huxley and others. On their premisses Descartes would
have called man a mere automaton. Huxley turned against himself.
The psychical series will not resolve into a series of feelings, and "voli
tion counts for something as a condition of the course of events . . . ."

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