THE GHOST IN THE MACHINE I

 

Introduced by Geoff Catchpole on 23 May 1997

In this second talk of a series of three on body, mind and consciousness, the speaker began by
noting that developing knowledge through improving scientific techniques tends to change our frames of
reference. In reviewing his first talk, given in 1996, he traced the changing views of his topic from Grecian to
modern times, when Cartesian separation of body and mind is being closely examined. There is a myriad of
possible approaches to what is now a "hot" topic, but on this occasion the views of the two major theorists
Gerald Edelman and Daniel Dennett were considered.
Both centre their views on accounts of evolution from unthinking inorganic molecules through
early animates and animals to man, who has developed language, memory, emotions
and thought etc. in order to cope more effectively with both internal and external environments. Dennett
claims that "every human mind is a product not of just natural selection but of cultural redesign of enormous
proportions". Since it is possible to give a persuasive account of such integrated development, he sees no
need for dualism or any vitalistic accounts of our nature.
In discussion it was suggested that such views are essentially behaviouristic in nature, merely
providing description rather than explanation and also that individuality is undervalued. The speaker
promised to review alternative views in his final talk.
Geoff Catchpole