WORKS OF REGINALD O. KAPP

REVIEWS

R. O. KAPP - AN ALTERNATIVE VIEW

from     G. Mees to R. Cretchley


Well, as you no doubt expect, I think that Kapp is justifiably neglected, though I see why you as an intuitive dualist like him. He seems drawn by our use of both mechanistic and intentional descriptions of the world into an unnecessarily elaborate ontology, so that his 'explanations' make difficult topics more obscure than they need he. The brief comments on your paper that follow use your numbering system.

2. Hurrah for Occam, hut we don't value hypotheses by the test of minimal assumptions alone. Explanatory and predictive power are at least as important. Kapp seems to have mislaid his razor since he multiplies assumptions unnecessarily.

3, As here. Why are organic forms (whatever this phrase means) not accepted as material? To say it is because they are purposive reveals a basic confusion of thought. it is we humans who attribute purposes to them. We are able to do so because we are conscious, and what we have difficulty explaining is how this has come about. The origin of living things per se can be thought about in mechanistic terms without violating current theories of matter, but it may not be possible to think of conscious forms in the same way.

4, 5. I am attracted to dual aspect theories as a way to think about the mind/brain dichotomy, but these don't separate matter and something else in the way that Kapp does. Kapp's theory suffers from Descarte's problem: how to account for the interaction of the material and non-material. By postulating a determinate immaterial pathway parallel to the material pathway, he also lands himself with the double task of explaining the nature of each. It is obviously not good enough just to say that it is in the nature of a diathete to make things happen in a certain way, or to invoke Maxwell's demon. That is giving up on explanation.

5, 6. I don't understand the reason for the remarks on emergent properties. The last sentence of the quote from Polanyi fits my understanding of emergence, if, for example, 20 tons of gold placed in a vacuum was found to turn into lead, we should have to accept the change as an emergent property of matter unless some way could be found of modifying current physical theory to explain it. In the same way we might accept consciousness as an emergent property of very complex configurations of matter. But perhaps we should modify physics instead, for instance by postulating the existence of 'quanta' of consciousness along side quanta of energy. This raises the spectre of pan-psychism, so it would be an unpopular move, but I imagine that it would be more in line with Kapp's thought than emergence, in any case emergent explanations look ad hoc.

8. You might be interested to read The Origins of Order by Stuart Kauffman, or the somewhat easier At Home in the Universe as an antidote to Kapp.

11 Epilogue. Biologists and philosophers at least present the problems and arguments clearly and in a way that invites constructive dissent (as approved by Popper). One touchstone of a good theory is that it generates ideas. I think Edelman's theories do this. His suggestion that the biases to be expected in any organism capable of surviving in a hostile environment, but interpreted from our perspective as values, are essential to the development of mentality has been fruitful. Kapp's theory looks insufficiently well formulated to serve the same purpose.

Top of Page

Title Page            Contents