Abstract by John Kapp


by Reginald Kapp (1885-1966)
213 page book published by Constable in 1951.

Abstract by his son, John Kapp, 22, Saxon Rd, Hove, BN3 4LE
Tel: 01273 417997,           Email: johnkapp@btinternet.com

The title of this book suggests a variety of problems. Some of them are of interest to scientists, some to theologians, some to philosophers. It is my aim here to isolate those that are of interest only to scientists and that can be tackled only by the application of scientific method. They are among the most fundamental that scientists can ever have to consider, for they are concerned with the nature of reality.

I shall not claim to have a solution for any of these problems. Only a charlatan would do that. In science, one must expect a long and weary trail between the first attempt to formulate a problem and the final achievement of solving it. If I succeed in following the trail for only a very short distance I shall have accomplished what I have set out to do.

It may be thought that this theme would have found a place in science long ago. But strange though it may seem the work done by scientists has been slight and has never been co-ordinated. Those scientists who could contribute most fruitfully have hitherto stood aside. Many become impatient, even a little shocked at the bare suggestion that these problems should be subjected to scientific method…..They deprecate even a passing interest in any of them; they seem to believe, quite unjustifiably, that such problems belong, not to science, but to metaphysics. And metaphysician is, oddly enough, sometimes employed as a term of abuse. ….People prefer fields of study that have been approved by the most censorious as fit for scientists to work in.

This theme bristles with prejudices. And they are not held only by one side among those who argue for or against the reality of non-material influences. The idealists would rather not contemplate the very great difficulty of reconciling their belief with elementary physics. And the materialists are so sure of support from science that they consider it a waste of time even to examine the very great difficulties of reconciling many facts of common experience with their belief.

It is the difficulties on both sides that I propose to present as clearly as I can here. If only more scientists would face them instead of following the fashion by ignoring them they might expect to bring science forward with a great bound.

It should cause no surprise if any subject that has been dealt with so superficially in the past should now be thoroughly discredited with all serious minded scientists. The more a person who takes problems seriously examines the theories of those who have attempted to solve the riddles that have baffled scholars for many centuries, the more he must be put off. The failure of these amateur philosophers even to formulate clearly the problems that they claim to have solved, their failure to examine the most obvious difficulties in the way of their theories, their bland assumptions about the laws of physics and the nature of matter, their lack of self-criticism, the arrogance and dogmatism of some of them, do not encourage anyone with a sense of responsibility to join their company.

Let the problems be formulated with the same care and precision as is usual in recognised fields of study; let every difficulty be honestly expressed and fully appreciated; let more questions be asked, and fewer theories spun; let every conclusion reached be tested by the criterion of truth.

Definition 1 According to monism (the belief that matter, defined as everything with location, is the only reality, see section 4) both the behaviour and the structure of living bodies depend only on the unaided action of matter on matter. According to the opposed dualist school, both the behaviour and the structure of living bodies depend partly on the action of matter on matter, and partly also on the action of non-material influences (which he called ‘diathetes’ see section 4) on matter.’

Definition 2 Diatheme: any structure or configuration that comes into existence as the combined result of the action of material forces and of a diathete. eg a poem, a machine.

Definition 3 Diathesis: process by which a diatheme is produced.

Definition 4 Adiathetous configuration: structure resulting from mere chance eg spread of pebbles on sea shore, crystal

Q1 Do things that lack location ever act on things that have location?
Q2 Are mind and life distinct from the body?
Q3 Do our non-material minds control our material bodies?
Q4 Are all causes physical forces?
Q5 Do diathetes have a real existence distinct from matter?
Q6 Is it in the nature of matter to accomplish everything that we observe and experience?
Q7 Is it compatible with what is known of the laws of physics to assume that any physical system can be so constructed that it can plan for the future? Or have the delusion of planning for the future?
Q8 Is the brain the originator of our thoughts or is it the instrument by which our thoughts are made effective?
Q9 Is a brain necessary for the accomplishment of a plan, or the delusion of one?
Q10 Are any events in the organic world indeterminate?
Q11 Can one localise any events in living substance and prove them to be incompletely caused by all the physical forces that contribute to them?

He suggested that living organisms are like a cascade of relays, and that diathetes work on the primary relay by controlling the moment in time when a specific atom in a large organic molecule acquires the minimum energy to activate the vital process. He concludes that he has made a prima facie case for a new field of study of diathetics. (A better name than the so called new science of consciousness, which is based on a materialistic paradigm)

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