Russell, Hayek, and the Mind-Body Problem

Dissertation, University of California, Santa Barbara (1999)
Consciousness, intentionality, and rationality are all features of the mind that philosophers have thought it difficult to account for in naturalistic terms, but it is consciousness that is often considered the most problematic. In particular, how precisely to explain the relationship of qualia, the subjective, first-person features of conscious experience, to the brain is regarded as the central part of the mind-body problem. I argue that materialism and dualism in all their forms have Wed to explain this relationship, and that their future indicates a need to rethink the conceptions of mind and matter typically presupposed by both common sense and philosophical reflection. As Bertrand Russell suggested in some neglected writings, our knowledge of the material world external to the mind is indirect, mediated by our direct awareness of qualia themselves; and what we know of that external world is really only its causal structure rather than its intrinsic nature. The common assumption that matter as it is in itself is utterly unlike mind as revealed in introspection is thus unfounded; in fact, in our introspection of qualia we are directly aware of features of the brain. Dualism thus errors in assuming the mind to exist over and above the brain, but materialism also errors, in assuming that physics and neurophysiology give us a surer grasp of the nature of the brain than does introspection. Despite its insights, the Russellian view also errors, though, in supposing that in our awareness of qualia, at least, we have a grasp of some of the intrinsic qualities of the material world. Following some leads suggested in the work of F. A. Hayek, I argue that even what we know of the internal world of the mind/brain, the sensory order of qualia, is only its structure. In the fight of the facts about the nature of our knowledge of the natures of mind and matter, the qualia problem dissolves. Ironically, however, the Hayekian position I defend also implies that the other, on the surface less problematic, features of mind, namely intentionality and rationality, are ultimately inscrutable
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