Can Matter Think? The Mind-Body Problem in the Clarke-Collins Correspondence

In Jon Miller (ed.), Topics in Early Modern Philosophy of Mind. Springer (2009)
Marleen Rozemond
University of Toronto, St. George
The Clarke-Collins correspondence was widely read and frequently printed during the 18th century. Its central topic is the question whether matter can think. Samuel Clarke defends the immateriality of the human soul against Anthony Collins’ materialism. Clarke argues that consciousness must belong to an indivisible entity, and matter is divisible. Collins contends that consciousness could belong to a composite subject by emerging from material qualities that belong to its parts. While many early modern thinkers assumed that this is not possible, this correspondence offers an unusually detailed discussion of this issue. Clarke rejects emergentism because real qualities of a composite must be homogeneous with the qualities of the parts. This rejection is based on considerations about the nature of causation. In addition, the disagreement derives in part from a disagreement between Clarke and Collins about the limits of our knowledge.
Keywords mind-body problem  Achilles Argument  simplicity
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