Who You Gonna Believe? Materialism, or Your Lying Thoughts?

thinkerIf introspection is right about the self, then it’s easy to show that it must be immortal and can outlive our body. (Alex Rosenburg, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, p. 223)

Rosenberg makes no secret of the fact that this is the motivation for his attacks on introspection. He sees clearly that any trust that our basic experience of our inner lives, even so much as belief that our thoughts and consciousness really exist, will show belief in materialism to be false.

I’ve discussed the reasons for this elsewhere, but the thing to note here is that there is no good reason to doubt our introspection. If all that we know about anything is based on experience, then it would take a powerful argument indeed to contradict something so basic as the idea that we actually have thoughts.

Rosenberg thinks he has this, of course, in pointing out that we are sometimes wrong about our inner lives. This, of course, is no more reason to conclude that thought doesn’t exist than the fact that our senses are sometimes wrong is a reason to conclude that the physical universe doesn’t exist. 

But the only alternative, accepting that we do indeed have thoughts about things, leads us inevitably to the conclusion that thought is something more than physical processes in the brain. And this would mean the rejection of a materialist view.

And, for all I disagree with Rosenberg, he’s right about this. If our own thought life is even remotely reliable in telling us what a mind is like, then materialism is false.

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2 responses to “Who You Gonna Believe? Materialism, or Your Lying Thoughts?

  • Keith Pinster

    “If introspection is right about the self, then it’s easy to show that it must be immortal and can outlive our body.”

    This is one of the more ridiculously absurd statements I’ve ever heard. How can one possibly jump from “self aware” to “immortal”? Talk about a leap of stupidity. That’s like saying my Check Engine light isn’t on so I can assume that I will never run out of gas. Self-awareness is a function of the mind, which is a function of the brain. Therefore, when the brain dies, the mind dies. There is no evidence to support any other conclusion. Anything else is just superstition.

    • Debilis

      This seems a very closed comment.

      Rosenberg didn’t simply jump to this point. He spilled quite a bit of ink walking through the details (I’ve covered sections of that in previous posts, actually).

      Rather, this was simply his summary. A concluding remark at the end of a very long argument. Simply calling it absurd without knowing what his reasons actually are is halting one’s inquiry.

      Assuming that one is interested in the truth, his argument addressed the idea that consciousness is simply a function of the brain. In fact, that is what he spends the bulk of his time on.

      This realization led Rosenberg (a passionate atheist) to the conclusion that the mind doesn’t actually exist. Needless to say, that he agrees with you that the mind doesn’t survive the death of the body.

      But, if you’re interested in defending the materialist account of the mind you’ve just claimed to be true, let me know. I’d love to discuss the matter.

      Okay, I think this is the last one for the night. So, have a great night.

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