I Authored 30 Books, So I Must Be Right!

If the smart answer makes you look wrong, then give the stupid one. This is what Mr. Grayling, in his response to a questioner, opted for.

He was asked:

“Why would anyone wish to believe that he or she is a combination of a body and a disembodied mind or soul? “

And this was his response:

“One should never underestimate human ingenuity in search of support for implausible views. The idea that human beings (not, usually, dogs or newts) consist of a body and a mind or soul is older than history, but the reasons for the belief are not empirical. Dualists remain in the majority in today’s world, if only because almost all religions involve belief in an afterlife. There are even a few philosophers who are dualists, protecting the reputation of their profession to provide representatives of every view, mad or sane, invented by mankind.”

In other words, for a lot of people, they’d rather believe souls exist because it validates their theological convictions.

That’s from a philosopher who has authored 30 books.

He then takes a jab at theists in the subsequent paragraph –nevermind that it neither demonstrates his case nor does it have anything to do with the question being asked– with this line:

“[R]eligions promote belief in an afterlife variously to keep control of people with the prospect of posthumous reward and punishment, simultaneously solving the problem of religion’s inefficacies in this life (petitioning the gods so rarely works; the bad seem to flourish; promising a just afterlife pre-empts disaffection); and so on.”

Which nicely evidences what I’ve been suspecting all along about these “brights”; to them, there’s no sense in letting an opportunity to take pot-shots at religion go to waste.

What’s incredible is that Mr. Grayling very well knows the answer he gave isn’t the case. If he was sincere in it, then it’s reasonable to conclude he was a product of a very parochial education. Since it can’t possibly be that, I’m thinking he’s employing some “human ingenuity in search of support for implausible views.”

The real reason why people believe in some form of dualism or another (or believe in a soul, if you prefer) is because of the mind-body problem. There cannot be a materialistic account of properties that are exclusive to the mind. Intentionality, for instance, is a feature of the mind for which a materialistic account is impossible. Brain processes, unlike thoughts and intentions, are devoid of any meaning. It’s  impossible to establish causal linkages between an electro-chemical event in the brain and the thought or intentionality itself. And the only way to get around this rut is to be an eliminativist –which is just a more sophisticated term for people who don’t believe mental- states like intentionality are real. Needless to say, eliminative materialism is incoherent and self-refuting since people holding this view will scarcely be able to show, through their own mental states, that mental states aren’t real.

There is a mind-body problem. And that’s what undergirds dualism.

Ofcourse, Mr. Grayling, towards the last part of his response, acknowledges this by saying:

“More reflective prompts to dualism turn on considerations about the essentially different nature of material and mental phenomena..” [blah blah blah].

But in doing so, puts the cart before the horse. Because it is more logically the case that the philosophical reflections seed the belief (“Mind-body problem? Hmmm.. Maybe souls exist!”) and not the other way around (“Well, I really have to believe in souls or I’ll go to hell, so what philosophical mumbo-jumbo can I possibly contrive?!”)

Funny thing that “human ingenuity” is, eh? Mr. Grayling?

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Posted on December 17, 2011, in apologetics, philosophy and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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