If this is true then mind is all that exists, raising the question, if we are not there to perceive something does it really exist? Idealism, whilst it is difficult to disprove, is largely rejected as most believe there is a real material world out there that can be known. The philosopher Gilbert Ryle, a materialist, takes a reductionist view of the mind body approach. Ryle, in his book The Concept of Mind (1949) described the dualist theory of the mind as a category mistake. This would be like visiting Old Trafford and asking where Manchester United Football Club is, the club is not simply the ground but the team, the staff etc.Order now
The ‘club’ is a sum total of all these things and does not exist as a separate entity. Ryle here uses the example of a university. In the same way there is no ‘mind’ that exists above and beyond the sum of total mental activities. Like Ryle, John Hick is a materialist believing that person is a ‘psycho-somatic unity’ and rejects the view that the soul is separate from the body. However, Hick does not abandon belief in life after death, but believes in ‘replica theory’ that God is held to create in another space an exact copy of the person who died on earth (Hick illustrates this with the example of ‘John Smith’).
The advantage of this is that it bypasses the complexities of asking how soul and body relates. The person who survived death would be recognised as the one who died and would have the same memories as the deceased. However Hick has been criticised for not taking into account the difference between being the same person and being an identical person. The former implies one to one copies, the latter the possibility of more than one copy. Richard Dawkins might be described as a biological materialist, believing that any evidence of ‘divine activity’ is nothing more than an illusion.
As a biological materialist, Dawkins holds the view that life amounts to bytes of digital information contained in DNA. He holds that the ‘soul’ is nothing more than a mythological conception, invented by primitive people for and believed in by the weak-minded, stifling creative endeavour. Rather than being enfleshed souls, Dawkins believes that there is simply no such thing as a soul ‘there is no spirit driven life force…. life is just bytes and bytes of digital information’ Dawkins River out of Eden. Dawkins view, rather depressingly, is that living creatures are nothing more than ‘survival machines’ with a program to replicate.
It could be argued here that this replaces the spiritual concept of the soul with a more modern myth as. It could be said that the evolutionary drive to ‘propagate the digital database that did the programming’ could be called the life force that drives the universe; Aquinas might simply add the phrase ‘this is what everyone understands to be God’. The body-soul distinction was first “formulated as philosophical doctrine in ancient Greece” it was “baptised into Christianity, ran through the medieval period, and entered the modern world with the public status of a self-evident truth” when it was refined by Descartes in the 17th century.
“Since World War 2, however the Cartesian mind-matter dualism, having been taken for granted for many centuries, has been strongly criticised” (John Hick). However whilst, the mind body distinction, first doctrined by Plato and revised by Descartes has been widely criticised in modern times, it can be claimed that it is no more a myth than the theories of the likes of Hick and Dawkins, that have attempted to displace it.