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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/157

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153
IS MAN AN AUTOMATION

be like this, and can play such an important part in his life, he should get over his repugnance to materialism, or at any rate to some sorts of materialism; and he may go on thinking and talking about himself and his neighbors much as he has thought and talked in the past. It is not worth while to be frightened by a mere word; a cold in the head is not made worse when it is given a Latin name.

It may be said, it is a waste of time to try to protect men against the fear that interactionism may be proved true, for men have no dread of this result, as it is. This I think we must admit. Those who are familiar with the history of psychology and philosophy know that there was a time when it was not repugnant to men to conceive the mind as literally a kind of matter, having its place in the body just as any other kind of matter has its place. Gradually it came to be felt that this was a misconception, and various curious attempts were made to describe the mind as immaterial. To-day nearly every one is willing to say that the mind is immaterial—the conception has become common property. Nevertheless, he who is clear-sighted can see that most men have not wholly stripped away materialistic suggestions inherited from the past; and he finds these embodied in the interactionist doctrine. As, however, interactionism does not ask the plain man to be more materialistic than he is naturally inclined to be—every one can find a comfortable seat in so roomy a place as a 'somehow'—it does not arouse his apprehensions. So I shall not spend more time in allaying fears which do not arise in most minds, but shall turn to the 'parallelist' doctrine. Its supposed terrors constitute our proper theme.

Let us suppose that the parallelist is right. Then ideas and motions in matter must be regarded as belonging to two distinct series, and they must not be made links in the one chain. Thus, a pin is thrust into my leg; I reach down to it and pull it out with my fingers. A series of changes has taken place in my body. Some message has been sent from my leg, along certain nerves, to the brain, and a message has been sent along other nerves to the muscles of my arm and hand. But this does not say everything. I have felt a pain; I have been conscious of the injury done my leg; I have wished to remove the pin; I have resolved to do so, and am conscious that I do it. The physical series is an unbroken one; the mental phenomena are concomitants of brain changes, but fill no gaps between them.

Now, if we admit all this, must we sadly accept the following doleful results?

1. Man must be regarded as an automaton.

2. Man's mind is insignificant; as his body does all that is to be done, we may say that the result would have been the same had he had no mind.