Back Goldfinch looking backwards

Argument 1 Mind is as real as matter.

(So there is no obvious reason why either needs the other to exist.)

Definition: mind, whatever it is, is more than consciousness. We infer the presence of mind when we see purposeful or problem-solving activity. Mind as an entity would be the agent of such activity.

  1. Clear and distinct images in my consciousness are more real to me than anything else. This is the case despite illusions, hallucinations and the like.
  2. I recognize the reality of things that are not images in my consciousness. Typically, I distinguish between the book on the table and the images of it in my consciousness. I attribute to the book properties of which I am not aware at this moment and may never be. Like a certain approximate mass and composition and history of construction.
  3. But these properties are secondary to the reality of clear and distinct images in my consciousness. They are less real.

3.1  For instance, I realize that I may find in my consciousness an image of a book on a table and yet subsequently discover that some trick has been played on me, and the book I thought was there was not. It was an illusion. Perhaps it was something from

3.2 Furthermore, even in normal circumstances, I realize that the attribution of properties like mass is based on some indefinite and unspecifiable sequence of past experiences I have had with language and books and people. And I know that by picking the book up and feeling the heft of it, I will experience a primary reality rather than the inferential, secondary reality there was before I picked it up.

3.3 In general, I realize that for many real things I think do exist, there is a longer and more complex chain of inferences and assumptions about conformity with my past experiences that separates these real things from the primary images of my consciousness. These things are less real to me than the book on the table.

4. Mass, matter and mind are all secondary realities to me. They are all three inferences from a complex personal history with words and people. But mind appears to me to be much closer to my primary realities than the other two —

4.1  I infer the existence of mind from any problem-solving sequence of image events in my consciousness. This image sequence does not include the agent of the problem solving. I also infer the existence of mind when I notice another being solving a problem. In those cases the other being appears to be the problem solver. This happens very frequently in my experience, and I feel very confident about the real existence of mind all around me.

4.2 For me mind is more real than matter and mass simply because the line of inferences and experience between my primary images and it is shorter and less complicated. Surely it is no less real.

It is convenient to include events like the heft of a book in the class of images present to consciousness. The word “idea” is sometimes used to include all such events in consciousness. I follow Bergson in using “images” this way.

It may be thought that an entity which cannot be seen or felt, but only inferred is of a much lower rank in the scale of reality than, say, matter. This is not the case.  See endnote 1 for an elaboration.

See endnote 2 for support of the reasonableness of consciousness not including mind in the sense of 4.1.

I say “images” b/c I want to recognize successive changes in consciousness such as come from the passage of time and changes in my viewpoint.

Since writing this I have come across a real philosopher’s article in the Journal of Consciousness Studies from 2006 that makes an argument to the same effect as my naive one here, but, evidently, from a vastly more sophisticated and experienced perspective: Galen Strawson, “Realistic Monism (Why Physicalism Entails Panpsychism).”  On 3-21-2012 it was still available online for a Phil 352 course at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. Link. Should it no longer be available, interested readers my contact me by email. As Strawson explains in his first footnote, he used to use the word “materialism” where now he has chosen “physicalism,” a word that requires quite a bit of clarification in his text. Basically, then, the article may be taken to argue that being a materialist entails being a panpsychist. The Stanford University Encyclopedia of Philosophy states, “Panpsychism is the doctrine that mind is a fundamental feature of the world which exists throughout the universe.”

Like almost everyone else I read, I’ll occasionally use mind in the sense of consciousness.  This is just one of its accepted meanings. However, I don’t think I ever use consciousness to include mind in the narrower sense of problem-solver, the agent that solves problems. And this also appears to be normal usage in the larger world.