domingo, setembro 12, 2010

# 69

«The materialist thesis has never yet been proved or particularized. The materialists have brought forward no more than analogies and metaphors. They have compared the working of the human mind with the operation of a machine or with physiological processes. Both analogies are insignificant and do not explain anything.

A machine is a device made by man. It is the realization of a design and it runs precisely according to the plan of its authors. What produces the product of its operation is not something within it but the purpose the constructor wanted to realize by means of its construction. It is the constructor and the operator who create the product, not the machine. To ascribe to a machine any activity is anthropomorphism and animism. The machine has no control over its running. It does not move; it is put into motion and kept in motion by men. It is a dead tool which is employed by men and comes to a standstill as soon as the effects of the operator's impulse cease. What the materialist who resorts to the machine metaphor would have to explain first of all is: Who constructed this human machine and who operates it? In whose hands does it serve as a tool? It is difficult to see how any other answer could be given to this question than: It is the Creator.

It is customary to call an automatic contrivance selfacting. This idiom too is a metaphor. It is not the calculating machine that calculates, but the operator by means of a tool ingeniously devised by an inventor. The machine has no intelligence; it neither thinks nor chooses ends nor resorts to means for the realization of the ends sought. This is always done by men.

The physiological analogy is more sensible than the mechanistic analogy. Thinking is inseparably tied up with a physiological process. As far as the physiological thesis merely stresses this fact, it is not metaphorical; but it says very little. For the problem is precisely this, that we do not know anything about the physiological phenomena constituting the process that produces poems, theories, and plans. Pathology provides abundant information about the impairment or total annihilation of mental faculties resulting from injuries of the brain. Anatomy provides no less abundant information about the chemical structure of the brain cells and their physiological behavior. But notwithstanding the advance in physiological knowledge, we do not know more about the mind-body problem than the old philosophers who first began to ponder it. None of the doctrines they advanced has been either proved or disproved by newly won physiological knowledge.

Thoughts and ideas are not phantoms. They are real things. Although intangible and immaterial, they are factors in bringing about changes in the realm of tangible and material things. They are generated by some unknown process going on in a human being's body and can be perceived only by the same kind of process going on in the body of their author or in other human beings' bodies. They can be called creative and original insofar as the impulse they give and the changes they bring about depend on their emergence. We can ascertain what we wish to about the life of an idea and the effects of its existence. About its birth we know only that it was engendered by an individual. We cannot trace its history further back. The emergence of an idea is an innovation, a new fact added to the world. It is, because of the deficiency of our knowledge, for human minds the origin of something new that did not exist before.» (p. 94, 95, 96)


Ludwig von Mises, Theory and History.