Monday, 18 August 2014

A.E. Taylor on Soul and Body


This citation from A.E. Taylor on The Problem of Soul and Body (Bk.IV.ch.2 Elements of Metaphysics) is so perspicuous and stated with such clarity that I feel that it ought to be quoted in full. Henri Bergson in his Matter and Memory likewise disputes the mind/body dichotomy and with his particular usage of the concept of representation and image attempts to navigate the straits of Realism and Idealism. He's like the Mylesian Dublin tradesman when shown a Georgian dining room with its magnificent plasterwork says:
all this will have to come down, yis' are lucky if the joyces (joists) aren't rotten. His views will be treated in a further post.

I will conclude this chapter with some considerations on the bearing of our result upon the special problems of Metaphysics. We have explicitly defended Interaction as being no statement of actual experienced fact, but a working hypothesis for the convenient correlation of two scientific constructions, neither of which directly corresponds to the actualities of experience. This means, of course, that Interaction cannot possibly be the final truth for Metaphysics. It cannot ultimately be the " fact" that " mind " and " body " are things which react upon each other, because, as we have seen, neither "mind" nor "body" is an actual datum of experience; for direct experience and its social relations, the duality subsequently created by the construction of a physical order simply has no existence. Nor can it be maintained that this duality, though not directly given as a datum, is a concept which has to be assumed in order to make experience consistent with itself, and is therefore the truth. For the concept of Interaction manifestly reposes upon the logically prior conception of the physical as a rigidly mechanical system. It is because we have first constructed the notion of the " body " on rigidly mechanical lines that we have subsequently to devise the concept of " mind " or " soul" as a means of recognising and symbolising in our science the non-mechanical character of actual human life. And since we have already seen that the mechanical, as such, cannot be real, this whole scheme of a mechanical and a non-mechanical system in causal relation with one another can only be an imperfect substitute for the Reality it is intended to symbolise.
In fact, we might have drawn the same conclusion from the very fact that the psychophysical hypothesis we have adopted is couched in terms of Transeunt Causality, since we have already satisfied ourselves that all forms of the causal postulate are more or less defective appearance.
The proposition that the psychophysical theory of the " connection " of " body " and " mind " is an artificial transformation, due to the needs of empirical science, of the actual teleological unity of human experience, is sometimes expressed by the statement that mind and body are really one and the same thing. In its insistence upon the absence of the psychophysical duality from actual experience, this saying is correct enough, but it perhaps fails to express the truth with sufficient precision. For, as it stands, the saying conveys no hint of the very different levels on which the two concepts stand in respect to the degree of truth with which they reproduce the purposive teleological character of real human experience. It would perhaps be nearer the mark to say that, while the physiologist's object, the "body," and the psychologist's object, the " mind," are alike conceptual symbols, substituted, from special causes, for the single subject of actual life, and may both be therefore said to " mean " or " stand for " the same thing, their actual content is different. For what in the language of physiology I call my " body " includes only those processes of actual life which approximate to the mechanical ideal sufficiently closely to be capable of being successfully treated as merely mechanical, and therefore brought under a scheme of general" laws " of nature. Whereas what, as a psychologist, I call my "mind" or "soul," though it includes processes of an approximately mechanical type, includes them only as subordinate to the initiation of fresh individual reactions against environment which can only be adequately expressed by teleological categories. Thus, though " mind " and " body " in a sense mean the same actual thing, the one stands for a fuller and clearer view of its true nature than the other. In Dr. Stout's terminology their intent may be the same, but their content is different.



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