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Mind, Brain and Reason – Why Physicalism Does not Support Reason
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Matthew Dickerson
The Mind and the Machine:  What it means to be Human and Why it Matters (Grand Rapids:  BrazosPress, 2011.  230p.)

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Dickerson discusses the concept of computers and self-consciousness, in the broader context of the mind-matter question.  He reviews the physicalist (or materialist) argument that nothing exists except physical and biological processes, and a brain that has developed as a biological machine, with no mind or identity behind or within it.

He discusses common arguments of physicalists, who deny any mental or spiritual reality, thus bringing into question the concept of individuality or personality.  Dickerson goes beyond the logic of experience, which contradicts the suggestoin that we are nothing more than the firing of synapses.

He points out the logical fallacies and circular reasoning of materialist reduction of self to the physical brain, analyzing ample examples from all the major proponents.  This is a clear and detailed philosophical dicussion, with practical implications for daily personal and social life.

The moral implications and rational conclusions he draws from this analysis indicate that if all that exists is the physical, then we have no reason to trust reason.  Physicalism with its attendant theories to explain how everything came to be through random processes, is based on the assumtion that there is no order in the universe, only random processes.  Dickerson discusses the claims and consequences of this view that there is no guiding intelligence or free will, only predetermined nerve impulses and physical action.

The common human experience contradicts this, and the idea of a free society and a right to safety and peace have no foundation.  With the whole basis of science that things can be systematically investigated precisely because there is a consistent pattern to the way things happen and the chain of repeatable and demonstrable cause and effect.

He concludes that physicalism is an insufficient philosophy to acocunt for reality and is in fact self-contradictory.  On the other hand if we do believe that the mind or personal consciousness is more than just random nerve and synapse energy, there is a basis for personal responsiblity, moral and legal accountability and social rules or patterns for the good of society and humanity as a whole.

If there exists only the physical, then whatever happens is indeed natural, including the irresponsible destruction of  the world and our environment.  He demonstrates the absurdity of the determinist claim of materialism.  He points out that the radical physicalists, like Dawson, act like they are free and that their actions and ideas do make some difference in teh reality of the universe.

And in fact they are quite arrogant about it, heaping approbrium and disdain upon those who disagree with them.  Why?  If it is all predetermined by previous actions and conditions?  What is the basis of one view being better than another?  Who can be right or wrong?  Why assign blame?

And where is the basis for any expectation of how things ought to be.  Where then is the basis for social expectation for "good" and any basis of distinction between right and wrong.

If, on the other hand, in each person there is a personal identity that can be held responsible, and if there is an individual identity operating within the body and brain, we can make decisions that make a difference.  We can decide and be held responsible for our decisions, as society does in fact operate in reality.

We can hold each other accountable for what we decide and we can expect acts that are "good" and "positive" instead of being at the mercy orf a random universe where whatever happens is whatever must be.  If only the random physical and its current state exist, then there is no rational basis for "should" or "must," and no reason to trust reason.

If there is an order and pattern, or even intelligence, then we have a basis to trust our reasoning and discernment, which is lacking in the physicalist concept.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[review] Integrating Mind and Spirit with Body and Emotion
[review] Mind and Will in Psychology and Neurology

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Initial reading notes written 5 July 2012
Reviewed on Amazon 9 July 2012
This review posted on Thoughts and Resources 10 August 2012

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2012 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Please give credit and link back.  Other rights reserved.

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