Promissory Materialism and Second Coming Messianism?

This struck me as a provocative way to frame materialism v. dualism. It comes from a 2003 paper in NeuroQuantology, and it was written by Donald Watson and Bernard Wilson:

The “psychophysical identity” proposition is today’s most popular model for working around the classical mind-body problem. It replaces dualism with material monism. Under the psychophysical identity proposition, mind is an unnecessary concept because mind states are actually brain states. Noting that Popper (Popper and Eccles, 1977) characterizes the psychophysical identity model as “promissory materialism,” [Sir John] Eccles attacked this proposition thus:

“I regard this theory as being without foundation. The more we discover scientifically about the brain the more clearly do we distinguish between the brain events and the mental phenomena and the more wonderful do the mental phenomena become. Promissory materialism is simply a superstition held by dogmatic materialists. It has all the features of a Messianic prophecy, with the promise of a future freed of all problems—a kind of Nirvana for our unfortunate successors.” (1994)

[Sir John] Eccles didn’t need to stop with characterizing promissory materialism as dogma. He could have used a scientific argument. Unlike the parallel-dualism premise, material monism implies a testable hypothesis, namely that local brain operations are necessary for all mental events. Had Eccles included nonlocal parapsychological findings among our “wonderful mental phenomena,” he could have shown that material monism’s essential implication has been falsified. The brain is not necessary for valid empirical data pointing to what Dossey labeled the “nonlocal mind” (1997), including telepathy (Bem and Honorton, 1994), psychokinesis (Jahn, et al, 1987), remote viewing (Targ, 1996), and many other nonlocal parapsychological phenomena (Radin, 1997). . . . “Does the self survive death?” The Theory of Enformed Systems predicts that Sir John’s discarnate SELF has now answered that question empirically, i.e., from his own experience.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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