Good Materialism: Essay Example
The Problem Between Mind and Body
Human beings are, like all other living things, constantly evolving through discovery, continual research, and the subsequent studies that are concocted based upon such gathered information. Yet for all that it seems that the issue of what is real and what is no more than a product of the mind is still a highly debatable issue that has yet to be resolved. Is the human body a series of tissues and cells that is no more and no less the sum of its parts, or is it the product of both materialism and something else that is not as easily defined, a part of the human experience that thus far defies the scientific method? Humanity is not solely dependent upon the physical aspects of the body, but cannot exist without recordable physical function, whereas it can exist without the intangible experiences, such as faith and imagination, that are thought to be so important.
Throughout history it has been seen that every action from the smallest to the greatest can be recorded by brainwave activity, thereby eliminating the need for faith, imagination, or any other intangible feeling that is not directly linked to the physical well-being of the human body. To argue against this point however, the statement must be made that without faith, imagination, or any other unobservable factor it is quite reasonable to believe that humanity would be very different in its current state, and would function in an entirely different manner. The counterargument to this would be that humanity is entirely dependent upon the physical
functions that are necessary for life, and barring any fraudulent, fantastical claims it would continue as normal, with adaptation taking the place of what is called imagination and faith.
Among the reasons that this counterargument would be unsuccessful is the simple fact that the unseen and the undocumented are still very real and that adaptation will only carry an organism so far before it reaches a plateau. If human beings had only ever adapted to their surroundings such great works as the many artistic renditions and expressions that are the product of imagination and whimsy would never have existed. Human beings are among the only living beings in the world that are capable of abstract thought and its many applications, and as such are more than just the sum of their physical parts.
Physicalism, or materialism, is the belief that everything in the world is made up of a vast collection of atoms that make up matter and are in a constant state of motion. This is a very true idea, as it has been researched, tested, and documented throughout human history as science and its many techniques have evolved. Yet for all that physicalism brings the belief that humanity is little more than a working, living machine made up of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to maintain a smoothly running system, it cannot adequately explain the full workings of the mind outside of the physical function that can be observed. Nor can it fully grasp the concept of how the mind changes in accordance to the intangible forces such as thoughts, emotion, or even imagination. As has been written by authors Richard J. Campbell and Mark H. Bickhard, “So, it was proposed, mental phenomena can be identical with states and processes in the brain, even though psychological descriptions have meanings different from physical descriptions.” (Campbell, Bickhard, 2001).
For every last thing just listed there is a corresponding reaction within the human brain, an easily observed response to stimuli that might cause emotions, stimulate the imagination, or even random thoughts about one aspect of life or another. This is all testable and easy to manipulate, but there is still the question as to why humans think of the things they do, why the imagination takes on such interesting twists and turns as can be seen in the workings of mankind
and the manner of creativity that is produced. How did Michelangelo know to paint the Sistine Chapel in such a manner? Where did the idea for the Iliad come from? How did the Holy Bible reach so many and become such an iconic text that has lasted throughout the centuries? There is more to humanity than the simple mechanics by which survival is made possible, and the proof lies in the very tangible sources that are a product of those intangible processes.
Physically the human body is never fully at rest. At a molecular level and upward there is never a moment when the human body is not in motion of some sort. This goes the same for the human mind, which is constructed in such a manner that even while asleep it is constantly churning, always thinking, always bringing to mind matters that might have happened during the day, or remembrances from further back, or irrational images that at some point during the day might have made sense. The subconscious is always working, though it is mostly inaccessible other than by certain methods, a sort of backup for the human mind to prevent overload and to store information that may or may not be pertinent later on.
Human thought is continually changing and adapting to the environment that surrounds it, taking the needed input and filtering into the many processes that have to do with reasoning, survival, and the many biological needs that help to facilitate the means by which to survive. Yet for all that, for all that the recordable and observable functions that are needed for daily life, the intangibles are just as necessary as those are the means by which humanity has been allowed to grow, to discover new avenues of thought and new methods by which to live and adapt to an ever-changing environment.
Imagination, even in its simplest form, is not recordable by any measure of scientific method to date, as it is an ideal and not a physical presence. With that statement it is then safe to assume that imaginations only true measure is the biological phenomena that occur in the human brain when abstract thought is observed by taking note of which parts of the brain show increased activity and which are dormant.
Physicalism shows the “what” and “how” of the imaginative process, not the “why”. To date there is no documented, acceptable test that can describe the physical nature of imagination, what it is and what definitive classification it would fall under in regards to physicalism. It is an intangible, a quality of humanity that, like faith, cannot possibly be recorded with any instrument currently in use by researchers. An intangible phenomena is best represented by the end product, as this is the only way that such a thing can be observed and theorized about, though this is of little more value than any in-depth, physical research might be, as it measures the end result of an imaginative thought, not the process.
Pain is another intangible that unlike imagination and free thought is at least measurable in relation to the physical nature of the human body. Unfortunately it carries more than one aspect as, like thought, it too can evolve and become more of a mental aspect than a physical one. When pain takes this type of form, that of being “all in a person’s head”, it becomes yet another abstract idea that cannot be adequately measured and is thus classified as an intangible, an idea that is in constant need of interpretation. Physical pain is measurable, as it implies that something within the body is not working correctly, and must be fixed, removed, or otherwise mended. In this manner pain is a very tangible idea that can be used to describe the functionality of the human body, even though the idea of pain is still largely a cerebral matter, as the brain is the hub of the human body that relays such signals to the injured area in an attempt to convey to
the rest of the body that something is wrong and must be repaired.
Science is still evolving as the years go on, and there is no doubt that one day there will be a scientific method that will be able to understand the inner workings of the human mind and why imagination is as much a part of the human body as the organ from which it stems. Currently there is no true way to measure imagination, as it remains to date a faculty that relies on senses other than the physical array that human beings are born with. To state that physicalism is the only truth of humanity is not only horrendously false, but it is foolish to think that humanity could do without its sense of imagination. The folly lies in thinking that human kind would be no better or worse off if the idea that physical function is all that matters were to remain the driving force behind the species.
The levels to which humanity has risen to date would not have been possible with only the idea that physical function is the one and only means of human kind’s place in the world. Without the constant thought processes and conflicting ideals of imagination, faith, and even idealism humanity would no doubt still be a very simple race, without much hope of ascension other than by simplistic and very fundamental methods. Long ago the idea that humanity was anything but the sum of the body’s many parts was hotly contested, just as it is today. The idea of a soul, or spirit, that lends each human being their uniqueness has been greatly debated by theologians and scientists alike, and remains to this day a very controversial subject among scholars of both fields.
It is true that to exist in the physical sense that humans need the physical form to which they are born, not so much a soul. The heart and mind do not require imagination to function, but in the same breath the lives of human beings are greatly enriched and advanced only by the imaginative methods that are devised and implemented as society and civilization have proven.
Campbell, Richard J.; Bickhard, Mark H. “PHYSICALISM, EMERGENCE AND
DOWNWARD CAUSATION.” Lehigh University. 2001. Web. 23 April. 2015. <http://www.lehigh.edu/~mhb0/physicalemergence.pdf>.