The Enigma Of The Universe : I. The Methodological Argument

Published: 29.12.2014
Updated: 13.01.2015

"The assumption of an immaterial psychical substance which is persistent, independent and distinct from the body is prescientific and unscientific. Whoever holds such view is still on the level of the nature-peoples, who conceive every process as the act of an invisible demon. Experience reveals nothing more than the body and its organs. Everything which this organism does, and which transpires within it, must be conceived as the function of its organs. The assumption of a psychical substance is a metaphysical dogma which is at once superfluous and untenable, and which exact science must eliminate entirely."[1]

This argument readily wilts upon examining from epistemological and psychological points of view. For the assertion that knowledge is essentially a characteristic of soul (or a psychical reality) is not a metaphysical dogma but an epistemological fact. That only "living beings" are capable of "knowing" is an empirical fact and at once serves as a criterion for distinguishing "life" from "matter". The whole process of "knowledge" cannot be fully explained merely on physiological basis. Hence, a "psychical reality" is an empirical necessity. Also, all the psychical processes such as thinking, experiencing, remembering, feeling and willing are unexplainable on mere physiological or material definitions. Thus, we have to assume a psychical substance distinct from the body, and as such, this assumption is neither unscientific nor contradictory to experience, as alleged by the above argument.

The materialists try to endorse the methodological argument on the following line of reasoning:

"At any rate, experience never reveals any psychical substance distinct from the psychical processes, which must be regarded as substrate of our thinking, feelings, and willing. It is characteristic of psychical processes that they always appear to us only as occurrences, as effects in which there are no room for a substantial substrate. If, however, in spite of this fact we speak of a soul or mind, our authority for this mode of speech really lies in what we have previously described as fundamental apperception. The function of judgment, once evolved, can only appropriate a thought content in the form of subject and predicate. So long as psychology uses this soul-concept in the same manner as the physicist speaks of magnetism and electricity, where magnetic and electric phenomena are most certainly all that is really given, so long as the soul is only regarded as the subject of psychical processes and is not considered as a self-existent substance, this form of expression cannot be called unscientific. As soon, however, as we assume a psychical substance apart from the body, having independent existence and even continuity of existence after death, we are then going beyond the evidence given in psychical experience. Every substance, however, no matter how thoroughly everything materializes, is eliminated from it, is still always represented to the mind under a material aspect. Everything which persists must, by the very necessity of our ways of thinking, occupy space and hence be material. The assumption of a soul-substance, which materialism so strenuously and indeed so justly rejects, therefore, finally leads to materialism."[2]

This reasoning is, however, erroneous in itself. It follows from the above statement that the materialist is at least ready to reckon the existence of psychical processes. Now it is as simple as anything to deduce the existence of a psychical reality from the psychical processes. For the modern physics has shown that experience never reveals any physical substances distinct from the physical processes,[3] and still it is only these processes which give the materialists (and other realists) a clue to the objectively real existence of matter. In the same way, if psychical reality is deduced from the physical processes, which are otherwise unexplainable, how it becomes unscientific and contrary to experience?

There is another flaw in the above reasoning. It is argued that everything which persists must, by the very necessity of our ways of thinking, occupy space and hence be material. This statement can be divided into two parts: (a) that, which persists must occupy space, (b) that which occupies space is material. Deduction of (a) is based on very necessity of our ways of thinking. This is acceptable.[4] But how (b) is deduced? Extension in space does not necessarily mean materiality. Hence it would be wrong to conclude that psychical reality is material. The fact is that psychical reality does occupy space, but it is not material.

Further, materialism is, in the words of W. Jerusalem, proved to be unscientific thus; "Strict scientific method, which aims to confine itself to the description of facts, teaches us that there is something given in our ordinary experiences as well as in our most profound emotions, which is essentially distinct from everything perceivable by sense, from everything material, method to which materialism appeals accordingly decides against this world theory."[5]

Again it may be added here that the materialism is insufficient to explain the phenomena of extra-sensory perception, clairvoyance, telepathy, memory of previous births, etc. Numerous instances of such phenomena have certainly been known to have taken place and the parapsychologists all over the world are busy now-a-days with their investigations on these events. Especially the cases of memory of previous lives which is termed as extra-cerebral-memory avowedly confirm the existence of the psychical reality distinct from body having independent existence and even continuing to exist after death.[6]

Thus the methodological argument completely falls to the grounds.

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Sources

Title: The Enigma Of The Universe

Publisher: JVB University Ladnun

English Edition: 2010

HN4U Online Edition: 2014

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Body
  2. Clairvoyance
  3. Jain Philosophy
  4. Science
  5. Soul
  6. Space
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