Monday, October 30, 2006

The doglike mind

I have tried to stress throughout the inevitableness of the error made about every transposition by one who approaches it from the lower medium only. The strength of the critic lies in the words "merely" or "nothing but. He sees all the facts but not the meaning. Quite truly, therefore, he claims to have seen all the facts. there is nothing else there, except the meaning. He is therefore, as regards the matter at hand, in the position of an animal. You will have noticed that most dogs cannot understand pointing. You point to a bit of food on the floor; the dog, instead of looking at the floor, sniffs at your finger. A finger is a finger to him, and that is all. His world is all afct and no meaning. And in a period in when factual realism is dominant we shall find people deliberately inducing upon themselves this doglike mind. A man who has experienced love from within will deliberately go about to inspect in analytically from outside and regard the results of this analysis as truer than his experience. The extreme limits of this self-binding is seen in those who, like the rest of us, have consciousness, yet go about the study of the human organism as if they did not know it was conscious. As long as this deliberate refusal to understand things from above, even where such understanding is possible, continues, it is idle to talk of any final victory over materialism. The critique of every experience from below, the voluntary ignoring of meaning and concentration on fact, will always have the same plausibility. There will always be evidence, and every month fresh evidence, to show that religion is only psychological, justice only self-protection, politics only economics, love only lust, and thought itself only cerebral bio-chemistry.

From "Transposition" in The Weight of Glory, pp. 71-72.

11 comments:

Steven Carr said...

Can anybody ever be pleased by the love shown to them by a dog, when a dog is all act and no meaning?

Or must love be the result of a free choice to be meaningful to anybody?

Victor Reppert said...

We can enjoy and appreciate the affection of dogs, of course. and I would add that the affection of my dogs for me is not fully and completely determined by my own actions. While I enjoy my dogs, they certainly don't replace other relationships with free moral agents.

JD Walters said...

I think C.S. Lewis is right on the money here, but I think what he has in mind as materialism is a very crude sort. For instance, I think that Nancey Murphy's non-reductive physicalism or Phil Clayton's emergentism does not face the problems of the materialism which Lewis is arguing against. These metaphysical systems might be called 'materialism with a human face' and I'm sure that C.S. Lewis would endorse them if he were still around. I never saw anything in his writings to suggest dualism in mind/body, apart from a brief aside in "Miracles". His main target was the kind of materialism which trivializes or eliminates important aspects of human experience.

Steven Carr said...

How can we appreciate the affection of beings with no free will to choose whether or not to love?

'In order for the choice to love to be meaningful, the choice not to love must also be given.'

But perhaps such love, while not meaningful, would perhaps not be meaningless?

Victor Reppert said...

JD: I have a test for positions that the AFR is an argument against. There must be mechanism on the basic level of analysis, cauasl closure, and the superveniencd of all states that are not physical on the physical. I was under the impression that Murphy's position did fall into this category. See the exchange between Hasker and Murphy in Philosophia Christiin 2000. I think Hasker effectively showed Murphy's weaknesses in that response.

Victor Reppert said...

Actually, the test is derived from Hasker's The Emergent Self. I think you do have to deny either mechanism or causal closure to have an adequate theory of reason. Whether what you have at the end can be called materialism in some sense is not so critical to me, so long as one of those these is denied.

My review of Corcoran's book on mind and body for Faith and Philosophy should help here as well.

Anonymous said...

Where's the review? I'd like to read it!

Deuce said...

I'd go even further than Lewis did here, for the dog doesn't even understand all the facts. To start with, the dog doesn't understand the facts about meaning. To give an example, it's a fact that you mean something when you point - a fact that the dog doesn't understand.

Anonymous said...

Why should the fact that it is chemical changes in the body which enable me to feel love, or neuro-chemical activity which enables thought to be such a threat to Christians like Lewis?
The scientific understanding of these phenomena poses no threat to Christianity.

Victor Reppert said...

I don't know if Christians are threatened by scientific explanations of these things, unless they entail either that humans do not survive death, or that they do not have free will in the libertarian sense. At least I would find either of these implications to raise a problem for my Christian beliefs, although some Christian deny libertarian free will. (I think that gets them into trouble when they try to answer the problem of evil, but they are still Christians.)

The Faith and Philosophy review appeared in 2004. I don't have the issue with me to give more detail.

JD Walters said...

How about this:

http://mechanism.ucsd.edu/~bill/research/mercier/6thlecture.pdf

Now, this may or may not still be vulnerable to the AFR, but I do think it's closer to a humanistic understanding of the mind, and more easily integrated with Christian beliefs about the person.