More Study Notes

Bultmann continues to be very interesting to read – though Torrance seems to have some pretty powerful criticisms in ‘Incarnation’, – he characterizes Bultmann’s position and reductionist and scientism-ist. Both of these seem to me to be largely correct – but in spite of that Bultmann makes some powerful points regarding God’s action in the world and a general critique of the classical metaphysical picture the world that Christianity generally adheres to. Also interesting is his concept of myth – I’m going to re-read Tolkien and Lewis on the idea of mythology and see how the three views compare.

I just received John Searle’s ‘Mind, Language and Society’, and I can’t praise it enough. Brilliant writer and philosopher, and his critiques of the classical positions in philosophy of mind are powerful if limited – he seems to only see Cartesian dualism and materialism as viable positions to hold. What i find most interesting is his position that it’s largely the language we use – mind, soul, mental, etc – that are causing so many of the issues in philosophy and the study of consciousness today. Searle seems to largely be unaware of the more subtle and sophisticated forms of dualism – say, the Aristotelean hylemoprhic (sp?) flavour. I also am not so convinced by his argument for biological naturalism even if I do think that his brand of naturalism is the most coherent available. I don’t think consciousness can be reduced to brain functions, though, in any coherent way. David Bentley Hart has a lot to say about this in ‘Being, Consciousness, Bliss’, so at some point I’ll probably do a small comparative study between the two.


9 thoughts on “More Study Notes

  1. guymax December 6, 2013 / 7:50 am

    “he seems to only see Cartesian dualism and materialism as viable positions to hold.”

    And thus he makes no progress.


    • whitefrozen December 6, 2013 / 12:52 pm

      I think he makes progress – his account of consciousness is pretty tight, and makes biological sesne.


  2. guymax December 6, 2013 / 2:29 pm

    He could have the same ideas twenty centuries ago and they didn’t work then. Neither of these ideas is a solution for the problem of consciousness, they are the cause of it. They have been tried a million times and they do not work. They can be refuted in logic. They solve no problems.

    Interestingly, well, I think it is interesting, Descartes saw mind and body as a unity as well as a duality, for he saw that dualism was not a satisfactory solution. ‘Cartesian dualism’ is a less subtle view and I doubt he would have endorsed it. .

    By the way, if you’re looking into myth and Christianity, I’d definitely recommend the writings of Joseph Campbell.


    • whitefrozen December 6, 2013 / 4:31 pm

      I’ve read some of Campbell, and I have to say, I’ve not been too impressed. But I haven’t studied his writing in any depth. I would personally consider Christianity myth in the Tolkien-Lewis sense of the word. RE consciousness, what is the specific ‘problem of consciousness,’ you’re referring to? (I must also disagree with your interpretation of Descartes)


  3. guymax December 6, 2013 / 6:17 pm

    I’ll quote from Descartes if you like. He is perfectly clear in what he says. It is not an optional interpretation.

    You could google for the problem of consciousness, For many people it would be the most important problem in the sciences, If you are not aware of it you may have no reason to take Campbell seriously.


    • whitefrozen December 6, 2013 / 7:25 pm

      I’d be quite interested in seeing Descartes thoughts on the matter – I am aware that there is a passage where Descartes describes being united to his body – but that’s in reference to his trying to describe sense perception while trying to hold together his dualism (the question being whether or not the self could feel heat without the body, and his own dualism led him to a conclusion in which his dualism broke down) – I see this as proof of his flawed methodology than embracing a holistic view of man. “When Descartes defines “what I am” as a “thing which thinks” he makes no mention of the body, for everything is included in “thinking”, a thinking thing is a “thing which doubts, understands, affirms, denies, wills, refuses, and which also imagines and *feels*”. Presumably the self could feel heat without a body. But here Descartes cannot, apparently, accept his own dualism, for he admits that “nature also teaches me by these sensations of pain, hunger, thirst, etc., that I am not lodged in my body as a pilot on a ship, but that I am very closely united to it, and, so to speak, so intermingled with it that I seem to compose with it one whole.” He even tried to locate the mind in the pineal gland, though even there the technical problem of interaction remains, for if there is interaction, there would have to be contact, and so mind would have to be extended. On this problem, his rules of method did not lead him to any clear and distinct conclusion.’ (Samuel Enoch Stumpf, ‘Socrates to Sartre: A History of Philosophy’, p. 247) RE consciousness, I was asking for your definition – I personally don’t have or see any reason to think there’s a problem of conciousness, though if one takes the road that modern philosophy has provided then you may end up with one.


  4. guymax December 7, 2013 / 7:08 am

    Exactly! He reached no clear conclusion, and he was aware of this. Everyone then went on to assume that did reach a clear conclusion.

    I’d agree that the problem of consciousness is not a problem if you have a solution, but scientific consciousness studies is currently stuck while they look for one.


    • whitefrozen December 7, 2013 / 7:42 am

      While his system of thought did fail to yield a clear and distinct conclusion, he continued to hold to substance dualism – though even if he didn’t, his process of abstraction and reification of secondary qualities and consciousness itself is more or less responsible for the ‘problem’ of consciousness – say no to substance dualism, or Cartesian abstractions, and I don’t see the same problem emerging. ‘ He explicitly denies that “I” am in my body the way a pilot is in a ship, as if the body were an inessential excrescence. On the contrary, he believed that soul and body form a kind of organic unity, that a human being was an irreducible composite of the two, having attributes (namely appetites, emotions, and sensations) which cannot be predicated of either the soul alone or the body alone. The trouble is that, having abandoned the Aristotelian idea that the soul is the form of the body, and emphasizing as he does that it is the ego itself (and not just some part of the person) which is distinct from the body, he had a devil of a time explaining just how such an organic unity was possible. Hence it is no surprise that the “ghost in the machine” conception of human nature came to be seen as paradigmatically Cartesian, whatever Descartes’ own intentions.’ – Edward Feser


      • guymax December 7, 2013 / 8:31 am

        Thanks. Yes, that seems a good summary, a couple of niggles notwithstanding. However, it would not be correct to blame Descartes for the problem of consciousness (as it is defined in consciousness studies). It would be the same problem if he’d never lived. Poor chap gets a lot of stick for things that aren’t his fault.


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