THE MIND IS NOT AN EPIPHENOMENON
MIND IS NOT AN EPIPHENOMENON
D. R. Khashaba
Scientists found no evidence of the existence of such a thing as the mind.
Naturally, since the mind is not of such a nature as to be weighed or detected by any physical means.
Consequently scientists denied there is such a thing as the mind.
But people speak of having a mind: to explain this some scientists (and philosophers) speak of an ego illusion. Others, a bit more generous, speak of an epiphenomenon. Others yet speak of a phosphorescence of the brain.
What is an epiphenomenon? It is an accompaniment of a physical process which in itself is nothing. Perhaps we can call a mirage an epiphenomenon. But what we see in a mirage is actual light, but it is misinterpreted. Perhaps we can call a rainbow an epiphenomenon. Yet a rainbow is something we actually see, but it is not something that you can collect and carry to a laboratory to examine, yet you can reproduce it in a laboratory. So the mind epiphenomenon is not as good as a mirage or a rainbow: these we may be told are not epiphenomena but natural phenomena.
Be that as it may. Admittedly scientists have not and will not ever find evidence for the existence of a mind. To scientists (and science-oriented philosophers) the mind is not an existent and in my own terminology the mind does NOT exist.
So what is the quarrel?
To the Empiricists’ and the Analysts’ denial of the mind I have two answers on two different planes.
On tha practical level I say that it is of the mind that we have all that is of value in human life. Love and honour and justice are things of the mind.
Suppose a certain person has a miserable life but at night when he goes to sleep he regularly has blissful dreams. I say that person would be justified if he insisted that his night life is his real life and it is for that life that he tolerates the misery of his day life.
Kant laboured to catch what he called the transcendental unity of apperception. He laboured in vain, because it is not in the nature of the transcendental unity of apperception (the ‘I’, subjectivity, consciousness) to be objectified in any observation, image, or conceptual formulation.
Yet Kant would not give up. Why? Because he knew that that uncatchabke thing is what we truly are.
All that comes within the answer on the practical or moral level. It concedes to the scientist that the mind has no objective existence. On this plane the mind is a ‘no-thing’ that is yet important for the idealist and the moralist.
On the metaphysical level I say: All right, you say that physical reality is all the reality there is. In my terminology I have a different usage but let us not haggle about words. Let the natural world, the mountains, the galaxies be the sum of ‘reality’. But in that reality there is nothing fixed, nothing constant, and I add, nothing grounded. Poets and sages long ago knew that “this too too solid flesh (will) melt”. Come to scientists. You search for the ultimate origin, the ultimate ground of things and you end up with the ‘singularity’ of the Big Bang which, begging your pardon, I translate as the absurdity of the Big Bang. (See “Stephen Hawking’s Bad Metaphysics”.) Your reality, the galaxaxies and the whole physical universe are no more than a fleeting shadow. You deal with hard things, hard facts, so long as you deal with determinate finite things; when you seek the ultimate ground of things you gape into a bottomless abyss.
I say, what is really real, what is ultimately real, is not a thing but the activity that brings about the things, and I see that activity, that creativity, as intelligent, as pure creative intelligence. Ultimate Reality is not a thing, not an existing God, not a Creator, but sheer creativity. That ultimate non-existent Reality Eckhart called Nothingness; that ultimate non-existent Reality I call Creative Eternity.
Call that a fancy, call it a myth, yet it is a myth that makes the mystery of the world intelligible to my mind.
August 20, 2016.
Posted to http://philosophia937.wordpress.com
and to http://khashaba.blogspot.com