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

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

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

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

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Doctrine of Conscious Automatism or Psychical Epiphenmenalism 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 elsewhere 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 automaton, 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 autontaton -- 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 "volition counts for something as a condition of the course of events. . . ."

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