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Posted by Aurino Souza on July 26, 2001 17:27:57 UTC

Dick,

There is a fundamental problem in the way you present your argument. It's not a problem with the argument itself, it's the emotional reaction it provokes in people. Check if this makes sense:

As a gross generalization, most people in this world fall in one of two categories: those who think that you need a brain to have a mind, and those who think that you need a mind to be able to experience a brain. It's a classic chicken-and-egg problem, and just as meaningless. The problem is that it's very difficult to see the meaninglessness, and even more difficult to deal with the consequences. So don't be surprised when people avoid the issue altogether and just choose to keep whatever position they have.

Let's call the first group the 'physicalists' and the second group the 'mentalists'. You'll find interest traits among them. Most physicalists have a passion for science and more often than not are atheists. Alex, Mario, and Harv are physicalists. Mentalists, on the other hand, usually embrace some form of spirituality which becomes the central intellectual concern in their lives.

Now, when a physicalist reads what you write, guess what goes on in their minds (I mean, brains). "This guy is trying to use reason to trick me into a mentalist position, I just won't let him do it". I know that is not what you are trying to do, or so I think. In my view you think the physicalist/mentalist dichotomy is meaningless, but that's not the impression most people get from you, and I know it's not your fault, it's just their emotional reaction. They are afraid of being swayed to what they perceive to be a mentalist position against their will, because deep down they know that their physicalist position is not rationally sustainable.

I think the problem can be overcome, and the solution must necessarily involve demonstrating how the physicalist-mentalist thing is nonsense. In other words, provide assurance that you're not somehow trying to convert a rational person into a new age devotee. Before you can do that, you will only find supporters among mentalists, who are unfortunately not the best kind of people to examine the scientific aspect of your work.

Hope that helps.

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