and Berkeley's Metaphysics by Peter B. Lloyd
Modern science has no explanation for consciousness. In
this book, the author claims that this is because the conscious mind is
simply not physical. To understand consciousness, we must therefore go
beyond physical science and into metaphysics. Rigorous philosophical
arguments are given by the author to show that the metaphysical theory
called 'mental monism' provides the only correct understanding of
consciousness. Mental monism turns conventional wisdom on its head.
According to this theory, consciousness itself is the primary reality, and
the physical world is a derived construct - a convenient fiction that
helps us to deal with our experiences of the world. Although this theory
may seem paradoxical at first, compelling arguments are given by the
author to establish that this is the correct view.
The theory of mental monism was first given a clear
statement in Western philosophy by George Berkeley, an eighteenth-century
Irish philosopher. Berkeley put forward mental monism as a reaction to the
rising tide of mechanistic Newtonian metaphysics, which had gained
popularity by riding on the back of the scientific revolution. The
stranglehold of materialism has lasted three hundred years, but there is
now a growing awareness of the inability of physical science to address
the problem of consciousness. Burgeoning interest in consciousness studies
makes this an ideal time to revisit mental monism and reassess its value.
The hegemony of the Newtonian world-view has been so
powerful that the Berkeleian approach has been almost totally excluded
from curricula of teaching and research in academic philosophy. Outside
academia, remnants of Berkeley's vision have been transmitted only in the
'New Thought' religious groups of the United States, such as Christian
Science and Science of Mind. Ironically, the immaterialism of traditional
Hindu and Buddhism philosophies is now more widely known in the West than
its own indigenous form of idealism. The author seeks to redress this
balance, by presenting Berkeleian thinking as a strong candidate for the
best way to understand reality.
The reigning orthodoxy in neuroscience is that the
conscious mind is reducible to information processing in the brain.
Versions of this orthodox view range from crude mind-brain identity to the
seemingly sophisticated notions of functionalism and of the conscious mind
as an emergent property. Those versions, however, share basic flaws that
undermine any physicalist account of the mind. The author carries out a
sustained and detailed critique of this orthodoxy, showing that it is not
a tenable position. At the very least, we can conclude that the conscious
mind is part of a mental world, distinct from the physical world.
Part of the critique rests on thought-experiments that
involve surgical modifications of a conscious brain. In one experiment,
the physical substrate of a single experience within the subject's mind is
removed from the subject's brain. It is then shown that interfering with
that corpus yields contradictory predictions according to physicalism. In
another experiment (following Pylyshyn and Chalmers), the cells of a
conscious brain are progressively replaced by artificial components that
have the same in-vitro functional behavior.
The author then presents a second, and more subtle, line
of argument. This shows that the conscious must, in fact, be the primary
reality. The physical world is relegated to a fiction that conveniently
lets us handle our conscious experiences more easily. Essentially, this
argument is a modernized form of Berkeley's semantic argument. The author
has taken on board the more recent insights into the philosophy of
language offered by Wittgenstein, and makes use of the idea of a hierarchy
of language-games. For example, the discourse of physical science is
regarded as a subsidiary language-game to that of phenomenal experience.
This approach enables us to avoid the paradoxes of saying that everyday
objects, such as tables, exist in one sense but not in another.
Given the radical nature of mental monism, the author recognizes
that any presentation of the theory raises questions about the purpose of
philosophical argumentation. It is implausible to suppose that anybody
would revise their fundamental notion of reality just on the basis of a
piece of reasoning. Revising one's beliefs and concepts at such a deep
level can be achieved only by apprehending a new perspective: the world
must be seen anew. Whilst the philosophical arguments must be given, and
must be rigorous, nevertheless it they are impotent to change people's
fundamental view of reality. That insight, that new vision, can be
achieved only by contemplation of one's personal encounter with reality.
The author hopes that this book will help to steer the reader's
contemplation in that direction.
Whilst mental monism solves the philosophical mind-body
problem at a stroke, it nonetheless encounters substantial technical
problems, because it must give an explanatory account of the structure and
function of the natural world, including the mind itself. The author
outlines an approach to modeling the mind purely in the mental domain,
without any physical substrate to fall back on.
This book is an exciting and stimulating contribution to
the modern debate on the nature of the conscious mind. The author adheres
to rigorous philosophical reasoning, whilst presenting the issues and
arguments clearly with a minimum of technical terminology. Advocating a
position that is highly unorthodox, the author expects his views to
receive strong opposition. Nevertheless, the book has the merit of giving
a clear and forceful statement of one possible solution to an entrenched
here for more information about Consciousness
and Berkeley's Metaphysics
author's companion book, Paranormal
Phenomena and Berkeley's Metaphysics explores the relevance of
mental monism to providing a coherent explanatory account of psi
About the Author
Peter Lloyd took a mathematics degree at Cardiff
University in 1981. After graduating, he remained at the university for
six years, carrying out research in solar engineering, combined with
developing computer for engineering research. He then moved to Oxford for
six years, where he developed software for a clinical trials research
group in Oxford University. During that time, he studied philosophy in
evening classes under Dr Michael Lockwood. After leaving academia, he has
been working as a freelance software developer, and studying and writing
philosophy in his spare time. He shares a house with his girlfriend in
West Hampstead, London, England.
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