MIND, LIFE AND BODY

by     Reginald O. Kapp

PART III - THE PROBLEM IN TERMS OF DIATHETICS

Chapter XV - THE PROBLEM EXISTS EQUALLY FOR THOSE WHO DENY AND FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN FREE WILL


I SUSPECT, though perhaps unjustly, that in spite of what I have just been saying, many will still not find the distinction between causation and control as significant as I think it is. And the reason may not be a disinclination to face irksome questions. It may be that the meaning of the question, short and simple though it is, has not become perfectly plain. It happens, after all, that people often hear one thing and think that they hear something quite different. What their ears hear bears no resemblance to what their minds make of it. It has, indeed, been known to be the exact opposite. And this happens most often in a field where certain questions have become stock ones, somewhat stereotyped by tradition. Then there is a tendency to assume without close scrutiny that every question propounded is such a one.

So it may be with the question by what and how a primary relay is controlled. For there is a stock question in this field: Is there such a thing as Free Will? I want to make sure that no one shall think I am asking this question in a disguised form. I do not want to let it be thought that a decision in the controversy about Free Will depends on whether the control of a primary relay is effected by a material or a non-material influence. And I believe there is a real risk that this may be thought. For it seems to be very common to identify belief in Free Will with belief in non-material reality. "If the primary relays in the craneman's brain are controlled by his non-material mind", many will conclude, I fear, "then he has Free Will; he is master of his actions. But if the primary relays are controlled by material means, then determinism is the correct doctrine and the craneman is not master of his actions." And thus a question that ought to be considered in the cool light of science may be dragged into the heated atmosphere of religion and ethics, where those who believe and those who disbelieve in Free Will argue with passionate conviction against each other. I do not think that I am being unduly cautious in drawing attention to this possible misapprehension. For I have met it repeatedly.

Let me point out, therefore, that the two questions have nothing to do with each other. One question is: Is the controlling mind free or bound? The other is: Is the controlling mind material or non-material? The answer to the one does not depend in any way on the answer to the other. The controlling mind may be free and material or free and non-material. It may be bound and material or bound and non-material.

The last of these possibilities is the one that many would reject before giving much thought to it. The reason seems to lie in the notion that only material things can be determinate. But there is no logical justification whatever for such a notion. It is equally arguable that a non-material mind is subject to a rigid determinism. The characteristics that alone describe a non-material influence neither include nor imply Free Will. We have, be it remembered, so far found three such characteristics; all negative; lack of location, inability to transmit energy, inability to be observed by physical means. If the mind has these three characteristics it need not have the further one that its activity is free. It may be that the non-material mind has no free choice whatever but is bound to act exactly as it does. It is not my concern either to support or to dispute this possibility.

Be there Free Will or Determinism, there is causation without control on the afferent side and causation with control on the efferent side. And when the control is conscious we know from observing ourselves that it is exercised by the mind. This leads one to regard the mind as a link in the chain of causation. What happens in the mind is caused by events that are brought to it as stimuli through the afferent system and what happens on the efferent side is thereupon caused by the mind. The activity of this link may be wholly determined by the sum of the stimuli that it receives. If so, Determinism is the correct doctrine. Or it may be only partially determined by the sum of the stimuli. And in this case Free Will is the correct doctrine. But, free or fully determined, the particular link in the chain of causation called mind does something that the other links do not. It introduces diathesis. It does so by selecting from an uncoordinated mass of sense data those that make up an appropriate stimulus for a given response; by exercising guidance, control; by introducing specified order into the course of events. The distinction that we have noted between the afferent and the efferent sides reveals the mind as a source of diathesis.

As a primary relay cannot, by definition, be controlled by any material object, the controlling mind must be non-material, lacking location, unable to transmit energy, not observable by physical means. This is a conclusion that any one would like to reject who may find the notion of a non-material influence unattractive. But can one find any alternative conclusion? If an alternative can be found, and if it can be formulated in clear and precise terms, then it must be considered very carefully. But no one has so far succeeded in suggesting a tenable alternative to the conclusion that the mind does influence our actions and that it is literally non-material. And this is hardly surprising. For any interpretation of the facts that assign location to the controlling mind leads to absurdities, as becomes apparent as soon as one makes the assumption that a controlling mind has been located and observed as a material device of some kind. "This device", one would then be able to say, "controls the primary relays, and thereby events in the outer world, just as a switch controls the flow of electric current." But one could not leave it at that. "What further material device", one would be obliged to continue, "controls this one that is being called mind?" To say that mind is a material controlling device is merely to say it is a primary relay and to find oneself in the dilemma mentioned already at the beginning of this chapter.

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