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Mind as a Living Process

Nature volume 131, page 579 (22 April 1933) | Download Citation

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THE second of the L. T. Hobhouse Memorial Trust lectures was given by Dr. Charles S. Myers on May 19, 1932, and has been published under the title of “The Absurdity of any Mind-Body Relation” (Oxford University Press. 2s. net). Dr. Myers maintains the view that any relation between mind and body is absurd because mental activity and living bodily activity are identical. The mechanical principles of the natural sciences are only an abstraction from the quasidual set of principles—direction and mechanism—that govern the entire universe. Each is an abstraction from the whole activity. Mind and life are identical properties of living matter, which differs from lifeless matter in its inherent, purposive, self-directive, and finally purposeful struggle for existence. From this point of view then, the hypotheses of psycho-physical parallelism, of interactionism, and of either form of monism are untenable. Dr. Myers quotes with approval from Hobhouse to the effect that life arose not from dead elements, but from pre-material elements which also gave rise to inanimate matter, so that all life contains a germ of mind. Mind is thus to be regarded as the expression of the directive activity of living matter. This directive activity is to be regarded as the highest unitary activity of the nervous system: the lower directive activities may not always be in harmony with the highest and hence the mental conflicts, conscious and unconscious. Dr. Myers discusses the relation of the cognitive, affective and conative aspects of experience and the part played by instinct and intelligence. The point of view is most lucidly expressed and raises interesting questions for philosophy, psychology, biology and physical science. It is worthy of note that ancient and medieval thought realised the problem also, and that only from the context in many writings can one know whether the word ‘anima’ is to be translated life or mind.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/131579b0

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