chapter  5
16 Pages

Mentalism and Mechanism: The Twin Modes of Human Cognition

Much of the difficulty that people have had in the past with evolutionary approaches to human psychology and behavior arose from the tendency of 20th-century evolutionists to ignore the mind and concentrate wholly on genes and/or behavior. According to Williams (1985), one of the most important of 20th-century Darwinists:

only confusion can arise from the use of an animal-mind concept in any explanatory role in biological studies of behaviour…. Mind may be self evident to most people, but I see only a remote possibility of its being made logically or empirically evident…. I feel intuitively that my daughter’s horse has a mind. I am even more convinced that my daughter has. Neither conclusion is supported by reason or evidence, Only if it violates physical laws would mind be a factor that biologists would have to deal with…. There is no such evidence for mind as an entity that interferes with physical processes, and therefore there can be no physical or biological science of mind…. No kind of material reductionism can approach any mental phenomenon. (pp. I, 21-22)

Williams concluded that the “solution to the non-objectivity of mind” is “to exclude mind from all biological discussion.” Elsewhere, Williams castigated what he called “lubricious slides into discussions of pleasure and anxiety and other concepts proper to the mental domain” as nothing other than “flights of unreason” on the part of authors who “claim to have provided a physical explanation of mental phenomena” (Williams, 1996, p. 169).