Dumb intuitions

Thinking about what it means to be human is like weaving a vast tapestry. My mind is full of so many strands, a great skein of different ideas, and I cannot see how to weave them together. The key is the material/spiritual interface – the human mind. Many deny that there is a spiritual dimension. Reality is what can be detected and measured. Others are dualists and hold that the two dimensions are different orders of being. For them the problem is the interface – how is it possible for the two to interact? Others are monists and hold that the two dimensions are two aspects of the same order of being. For monists and dualists empirical investigation is confined to the material dimension. Perception of the spiritual is a purely subjective experience and not open to objective verification. Such is the grip that science has on our minds that, although subjective experience has been accepted as valid basis for belief for practically the whole of human history, only objective verification can carry the weight of certainty – it is said. This in spite of anomalies – religious experience, ESP, OBE, NDE, premonitions, etc. Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic resonance falls into the same category. Those who try to explain the mind purely in terms of brain activity do so out of context. It is like trying to explain the dramas that appear on the TV screen in terms of electronics alone. Both exist in a social context and owe their origin and function to this context. We need to take account of the reciprocal relationship between self and others which shapes and is shaped by the mind. Although this relationship may be mediated by photons, sound (words), physical contact, pheromones, etc., the relationship itself is not a physical entity open to empirical examination. 

Perhaps, the scientist might say, I am being too hypothetical, by adding an unnecessary, abstract (non-physical) complication. The physical links are the relationship, they might say. Any changes in the two poles of the relationship are due to this physical link between them. I remain unconvinced, partly for the reasons James spelled out in his critique of Rationalism

… if we look on man’s whole mental life as it exists, on the life of men that lies in them apart from their learning and science, and that they inwardly and privately follow, we have to confess that the part of it of which rationalism can give an account is relatively superficial.  It is the part that has the prestige undoubtedly, for it has the loquacity, it can challenge you for proofs, and chop logic, and put you down with words.  But it will fail to convince or convert you all the same, if your dumb intuitions are opposed to its conclusions.  If you have intuitions at all, they come from a deeper level of your nature than the loquacious level which rationalism inhabits.  Your whole subconscious life, your impulses, your faiths, your needs, your divinations, have prepared the premises, of which your consciousness now feels the weight of the result; and something in you absolutely KNOWS that that result must be truer than any logic-chopping rationalistic talk, however clever, that may contradict it.  This inferiority of the rationalistic level in founding belief is just as manifest when rationalism argues for religion as when it argues against it. [James W.; The Varieties of Religious Experience, Longman, Green and Co., London, 1916  p. 73]

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