A Materialist Rejection of the View that the Mind is Merely Reactive

A Materialist Rejection of the View that the Mind is Merely Reactive

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A Materialist Rejection of the View that the Mind is Merely Reactive

What we believe today is that everything is physical, our minds are
chemicals and electrons whizzing round.

One of the implications of this materialist view of the mind is that
our minds only react to outside stimuli.

This is because of cause and effect. The two basics of cause and
effect are that every effect (or occurrence) has a cause. Nothing just
happens. The second is that cause and effect have a predictable
relationship. Given the same causes, the same effect will follow.
Basically because effect follows cause (like chicken and egg), we can
in theory keep following back and identify the big bang as the cause
of me writing this sentence. Dave discusses cause and effect in the
essay (Can we have free will? - Dave's theory of destiny / choice
duality)

However, the theory of destiny / choice duality is still a materialist
theory, and surely the tenant that we make no intentional thoughts,
but merely respond to experience stands?

Two points stand against this position. Firstly, we do not experience
the world directly. By the time the qualia caused by the outside world
reach our consciousness, they have been filtered through our minds,
and in a sense shaped by our experience, prejudices, culture and
language, etc.

This is to say that what we consciously experience is filtered and
altered by our unconscious minds. My identity is contained in my
conscious, higher mind, but information can only reach this part of
the brain from the unconscious, reactive animalistic (i.e. evolved
longer ago), lower parts of the brain. What I perceive is not what
reaches my brain.

As such what we experience is at least partly of our own creation, the
connections and thoughts that our sense impressions generate also form
part of our experience. At least part of the experience that reaches
the conscious mind is only indirectly caused by the external world.
Thus what we are responding to is in effect unknowable as a

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significant proportion of it is generated from the mind itself which
no one else can have perfect access to.

Thus, it must logically follow that the mind cannot be said to be
reactive as the theory cannot be proved or disproved if the inputs to
the mind are unknowable.

Secondly, the output of the mind is not predictable based on knowledge
of the inputs (even assuming that knowing the inputs was possible).
The system is very complex and largely self-referential so that it is
not possible to replicate the same set of inputs to the mind, even
with identical external inputs or sense data.

If a system is unpredictable, how can it be said that it reacts to the
external world? It might be true to say that the external world
initiates the system to do something, but even the principle of cause
and effect breaks down in a system of this complexity, so the system
does not just merely react, but is self-organising. This leads to a
whole host of further implications, which may or may not be explained
by chaos theory, complexity theory, emergent systems and the potential
for quantum to have an control.

Using this argument it is possible to take a materialist stance whilst
rejecting the implication of materialist monism that our minds are
purely reactive. However please note that this is not an argument for
intentionality merely a rejection of the determinism implied by being
purely reactive.
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