A Social Interpretation of the Philosophy of Mind and Religion: The Concept of God Through Memory and Collective Consciousness
As the problems of the philosophy of religion, the existence of God is discussed in the first place. Whether the existence of God can be reached through mental activities brings with it many different interpretations. Along with this, it may be understandable to talk about the body-mind problem. While discussing the existence of God in certain contexts, criticism of the Identity Problem, afterlife problem, realism-anti-realism and materialist view will also be made. This point, where philosophy of religion and philosophy of mind are discussed together, is suitable for examining on the basis of social phenomena, memory and collective consciousness. First we need to explain what we mean by God. Then, while interpreting the relationship between memory, experience, consciousness and God, it is important for us not to stray from the social ground. In this article, certain concepts that come to mind when the mind is mentioned within the framework of certain problems of the philosophy of religion will be combined and subject to a special definition. While making these definitions, sociology will be used as well as philosophy.
Although the foundations of the philosophy of mind were laid much earlier, it has become one of the favorite topics of contemporary philosophical discussions. Mind has certain roles and qualities as a carrier of consciousness and self-awareness. Mind can be categorized, we can divide it into certain elements. Considering many disciplines, at this point, mind has been evaluated from different contexts, and concepts such as memory, self-state, perception and consciousness, which can be defined as the components of the mind, have been interpreted on different grounds. This study will deal with the concepts that come to mind when we say “mind”, sometimes from an individual perspective and sometimes from a collective perspective. While discussing these terms, we will focus on problems of philosophy of religion. Also mind and reality concept will be discussed in one part of this article. We will also benefit from sociology without moving away from the philosophical ground. The reason for this is that the mental processes need a certain time and experience while talking about this subject. In this direction, this article aims to examine the contribution of two different disciplines to each other or various perspectives on the concepts mentioned. What is the place of memory in an individual’s life? What components does the relationship between consciousness and memory need? How we image God? If the individual adopts the norms of the society in time, can the development and formation of memory be evaluated independently of the society? How we interpret the body mind problem? How we relate memory and consciousness with social facts? In this research project, we will seek answers to these questions.
Aims And Objectives (Hypothesis)
The main purpose of this research project is to draw a map of the mind in general and to talk about the individual and social reflections of the mind’s memory, consciousness, and more specifically on philosophy of religion. Memory is evaluated philosophically as time-oriented. Sociologists, on the other hand, deal with memory entirely in its social dimensions. And our main question is: What are the effects of memory and collective consciousness on God image and religious perspective? Can mind- included concepts bring us to the God image as experience? In addition, do the effects of experiences in the intellectual process leave the body? This research aims to interpret the answers to these questions with a multidisciplinary approach. Our hypothesis is that problems of philosophy of religion can be discussed in the context of memory and consciousness.
This research project will take place in the form of a literature review and will be completed by making use of the works written on the philosophy of mind and philosophy of religion, then the basic sources that shape sociology’s view of memory, and finally social psychology books.
Brian Davies’s “An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion” is one of the main works in this research. The unique approach in this book is important because we understand the main logic of religious belief. At the same time, this book is original in terms of making an epistemological evaluation. For our sociological analyses, we will conduct our collective memory analysis with Maurice Halbwachs’ book, On Collective Memory. Contrary to philosophy and psychology, Halbwachs, who looks at memory more socially, also touches on history and the effect of memory on mind-process. Also we will benefit from many articles and other books take place in bibliography, which include different problems of philosophy of religion such as body- mind problem, realism- anti- realism, identity problem, materialism and purpose-design argument.
This research thesis will consist of five main topics. In the first part, the definition and imagination of God will be mentioned. Problems of philosophy of religion will be discussed with mind concept. Here, the terms in philosophy of mind will be analyzed. Then as an essential discussion on reality- anti realism interpretation will be analyzed on God image. From the general to the specific, in the other part, an analysis will be made about memory and the contexts in which memory is evaluated in sociological and philosophical terms. In other parts, the problems of the philosophy of religion will be used for the construction of the relationship between consciousness and collective consciousness. Lastly, we will construct a structure that both social and individual experiences on memory and consiousness balance each other.
1) God Concept
The image of God in our minds often remains in its “highest” state. Knowing that there are limits to our actions as human beings and our ability to create allows God’s attributes to point as high as possible(Davies, Brian 1983). God must be different from the created. But does this difference have a clear line between God and man? Or can a similarity be drawn between God and creatures? Aquinas’ analogy says that the terms for man and God cannot be wholly different(McInerny, Ralph 1996). If this is possible, there is no question of the creature talking about God. However, the similarity and difference relationship between God and the creature is not clear due to the limits of language expression. If we speak of God, who is in many ways more powerful than the creature, transcendent, and the supreme of all known, it is only thanks to the language made possible for the creatures. Since speaking openly about God is to bestow infinite knowledge on the creature, the language issue prioritizes the difference between God and the creature. Is it possible to think of a creature who has all the knowledge about God’s appearance and existence? This circle of knowledge means the destruction of the hierarchy between God and man. From this, it is clear that talking about God has limits for the creature. In the sense that we are talking about, language needs someone other than itself in the imagination of God.
We can say that the perception of religion, which has taken a place in the collective memory of societies, has strengthened its foundation with symbols. If we admit that there are limits to language in the depiction of God, we can consider symbols as analogical elements produced by societies. Due to symbols, we make definitions about the predicates of the created. Likewise, symbols represent the observable part of the relationship between the creator and the creature. The problem here is that symbols consist entirely of experience. Can any example be given of a symbol that is a true representation of the transcendent being? The answer to this question would probably be no. Consider any leaf that represents a religion. This leaf is a symbol in terms of reminding God. But it does not correspond to any value about God himself. At this point, it may be useful to go down to the origins of collective consciousness. Just as the creation story in many parts of the world is similar, not the symbols themselves, but the reasons for their emergence are important in understanding the God-created relationship. If we consider the names Adam and Eve as terms, the rooting of creation with phonetically similar names in different cultures does not answer the question of what God is, but carries clues about his existence.
When we say that the part of the human mind that can think for God is limited, we cannot go behind a limited capacity. Here, the limit in the actions that the creature can do on earth indicates that the image of God cannot be drawn with sharp lines(Attfield, R. 1973). It can be difficult for us to feel close to a God about whom we can learn nothing. But thanks to the “most” beautiful attributes we attribute to him, we accept his power. In addition to being a merciful, powerful, deceased, omnipotent being, God is the one with the “most” punishment. At this point, the question of what is God includes the possibility of God being to be feared or loved. The concepts of good and bad and the positive and negative reflections of all the phenomena experienced by the human mind are very important in shaping God vision. When we say what is God, we can get the answer that rewards, in the same way, the answer that punishes can be considered valid. Like a double-edged rope, our approaches to God often do not go beyond his might.
As a result, we can say that making definite statements about God will impair the power of the imagined God(Davies, Brian 1983). One must consider the possibility that a creature with a very ready-made answer about God will damage His image in the human mind. Defining God perfectly undermines His authority and the absolute hierarchy between God and creation, as we have stated before. It is not possible to reach a definite judgment about what God is, since a creature that can make a completely correct and true definition of God will be in the position of adjudicating about Him.
2) What is Philosophy of Mind?
Philosophy of mind is an important field that examines a subjective form and process in which certain concepts are involved. We can say that definitions such as memory, thought and consciousness enliven a process in the mind(Maslin, K.T. (2001). It is therefore the task of the philosophy of mind to ask questions about this process. In order to understand the relationship between intellectual activities and the mind, it may be necessary to distinguish between these concepts that make up the mind. As stated in the introduction, where our study will represent an interdisciplinary perspective, it can be said that while using certain concepts, we will also consider interpretations between different fields. For example, memory can be described as a kind of “world experience framework” when viewed in a philosophical context, and of course it is in a subjective and private circle. But when we look at it from a sociological perspective, memory comes to life in experience with the combination of all social elements(Halbwachs M. & Coser L.A, 1992). In fact, these two definitions are in constant communication with each other. Although the idea that memory exists entirely with subjective consciousness excludes social facts, the existence of a memory created by social reality can be observed. To give an example here, we obtain the “apple” image that exists in our minds directly from the data in the memory. The apple dreamed by person A and the apple dreamed by person B begin to resemble each other as their experiences become common. On the contrary, the apple image that appears in the minds of two people living in different geographies cannot be the same. From this, we can conclude that the importance of memory in mental activities is determined by social experiences. Although memory is evaluated subjectively by the definition of philosophy, the autonomy that the individual gains with the objects and people around him-her from the moment s/he is born and grows cannot be completely separated from the society. Based on this, if the philosophy of mind is approached from a completely individual point of view, it becomes necessary to move away from the social circle. Of course, the human experience as a whole is unique to each individual(Rosenthal, D. M.1980). Although we consider the mental activities of two people born in the same house and living in the same places to be similar in terms of world experiences, both experiences are essentially unique. However, what is meant here is not about the uniqueness and individuality of the lived experiences. The aim here is to add the thought that memory and consciousness, which experience itself feeds, originate from social phenomena, to the mental expression in philosophy, and thus to evaluate the mind in a multi-faceted way.
3) Design, Purpose And The Universe
Human being’s purpose of making sense of the universe is sometimes revealed through induction and sometimes through deduction. When we want to go from particular to the whole, we attribute a purpose or a reason to whatever was created. Achieving the whole part associates God’s existence with the creation of the universe. Both methods of thinking have different arguments. The teleological argument refers to the nature of the thing with a purpose rather than a cause(Mayr, E. 1998). The elements that make up the entity are different from the whole being. However we disassemble a chair, if it has different components, the chair as a whole is independent of its parts. If we make sense of existence in this way, we can impose the meaning of uniqueness on each being. But whether there is a purpose to the existence, as well as this issue, is a different question. Why does a mountain retain its existence as a mountain, as well as the components that make it up? What’s the point of being a mountain? If the universe was created in order, what exactly does a mountain contribute to it? Can a mountain be mentioned for any purpose other than to maintain its existence as a mountain? It is important to place a purpose on the beings that are housed in the universe, to give meaning to what man has created by God. If the answer to ontological questions is satisfied, another step that comes our way raises the question “why?” This question brings with it the purpose. In the same way, questioning why we exist depends on the basis that what we experience has a purpose. The idea that God created the universe is therefore often based on a cause or purpose. But is it imperative to attribute a purpose to every asset we have experienced?
The universe is complex, but it can resemble a machine with a complex structure. Those of us involved in the universe accept that there is no way to understand it except through our experience. Paley’s watch argument is a kind of analogy(Shapiro, A. R. 2009). But one of the questions that need to be asked here is: If we had the opportunity to look at the universe from the outside, could we still compare the beings in the world we are in to the universe? Just as we can’t know about the sun outside the cave without leaving the cave, it’s impossible to make a solid comparison between the universe and complex machines without looking at the universe from the outside. At the same time, not being able to get out of the cave means not knowing exactly what the cave is. As a result, this is not sufficient evidence to achieve the existence of God. Because ultimately, we can argue that what we’re experiencing isn’t adaptive to the universe. From here, it is a compelling way to reach the existence of a creator.
At this point, it may be more reasonable to consider the universe as a purpose rather than attributing a purpose to the universe from parts to the whole. Thus, it is out of necessary to attribute different purposes to the essence of every being in the universe. What does God mean by the universe? Just as the example of a watch requires a mind, it can be accepted that the universe was shaped by a being who has knowledge of design. But the watch will be weak against the universe in all respects. This is not only valid for the watch, we can make this analogy for the point where artificial intelligence has reached today. Today, a robot designed as a state-of-the-art product can look like a human. In fact, this robot can have almost the same features as a human. Likewise, it can be associated with the universe in terms of its design and purpose in its structure. But by whatever means the comparison is made, directly likening the part to the universe will be weak in proving the existence of God. In addition, if the existence of God is evaluated in a demonstrable perspective with simple beings, a stronger proof can be mentioned. The complex has a designer, so let’s accept that thought. What about a simple being? Can we say that God does not create the simple? Otherwise, this path may imply another creator of simple beings. In addition, it may undermine the authority of God and his oneness.
As a result, we may not be able to reach a definitive judgment that God created the universe by claiming that the particulars of the order in the universe have a purpose. Rather than assigning a purpose to beings, we can consider the universe as a purpose. If we ask the question of whether we can reach the designer from the design, we can say that this is a helpful way for us, but we can also interpret that this analogy contains deficiencies.)
4) On Collective Memory
Subjective interpretation of memory due to personal experiences can lead to some problems, as mentioned earlier. The issue of believing with reason, which is one of the problems of the philosophy of religion, may remain as a weak argument after the social impact that will be mentioned in this section. However, it should not be forgotten that a statement such as “There is no subjective aspect of a mental activity that has a social effect or even formed with the society itself” does not fully comply with what we want to explain. The main issue here is that the phenomena described as social memory, social consciousness or collective consciousness should not be in the background when examining the mind. While we make sociological generalizations, we do not say that all experiences of the individual are a reflection of his social life, but that the share of this social life is quite large(Némedi, D. 1995). In this respect, rather than looking at the mind as a machine with memories and perception of time, we bring it to a more social ground. This is why collective consciousness plays a very important role in examining the mind. For example, let’s start with a striking question. How can we explain the fact that we have a similar creation story with a person living anywhere in the world, who we do not speak the same language? It cannot be said that we have a common memory culture, we cannot say that we have a common language, experience, or even a common world, how can we believe in the same creation story as a person living at the other end of the world? Let’s not forget that when we talk about these two people here, we are dealing with two people who do not belong to the same religion. This is explained by historians and sociologists with the concept of collective consciousness(Némedi, D. 1995). How does this rhetoric of faith carried by generations become the subject of philosophy of religion? With this question we can summarize the collective consciousness. In the same way, exhibiting the same behaviors that group psychology gives is also in the field of social psychology and sociology(Smith K. 2014). This is why it is critical to look at the expression of the mind interdisciplinary.
5) The Existence of God And The Philosophy of Mind: A Critique of Anti- realism
“Is what is real independent of our understanding, or is it a reflection of it(Trigg, R. , 2010)?” The question is the most decisive question about realism- anti realism. It is possible for our understanding of reality to be associated with human science or discussed in a completely different social context. Can what we call truth be related to human language and actions? Anti realists can answer yes to that. Realists, on the other hand, claim that reality exists in a dimension other than what we can perceive. Let’s start discussing these views. First of all, let’s say that realism accepts that unobservable phenomena also exist. We can talk about the existence of black holes in response to the fact that science points to a perception of reality about observable entities. No scientist has ever seen a black hole, but theory confirms their existence(Trigg, R. 2010).
The anti realist point of view, on the other hand, is far from seeing a theory as truth(Young, J. O. 1992). Likewise, they say that acknowledging the existence of God will not cause any change in our lives. According to them, the existence of something is not related to what true religion is. Realists, on the other hand, think that the existence of God should be completely independent of contingent beings like us. Here we can agree with that transcendent being is grounded beyond our perception. Because if the depiction of God should preserve the quality of exaltation in my mind, having a clear knowledge of Him can become a situation that will shake the god-slave relationship. If God has all the knowledge about himself and about other beings, and I have all the knowledge about God, then God becomes a being reducible to man. Thus, we live with a “not-so-strong” model of God in the universe. As Wittgenstein put it, “The question of God is quite different from all the people and things I’ve heard before.” From this point of view, the existence of a reality beyond our understanding is possible. Perceiving everything, saying that everything can be measured by human knowledge is nothing but reducing reality to the human mind. For example, let’s consider the universe. If we had the knowledge of everything that exists in the universe, if we could answer all the questions, where would we reach as a result? From this point of view, the history, social roles and concepts that the anti realist perspective tries to protect cannot be “sufficient reasons to explain human reality”. Reaching the knowledge of everything is not sufficient evidence to deny the existence of God, and the limitedness of human knowledge does not contradict the idea that God exists.
Because the interposition of a transcendent being in attaining knowledge is quite reasonable in terms of the order of the universe. Even if a transcendent being is not placed between knowledge and man, the idea that knowledge is limited leads us to the idea of God. We can say that God and religion are different things. The justifications about God do not directly answer the question of whether religion is rational proof. Although the construction of religion with the mind is possible up to a certain point, its transformation into a social phenomenon in a context is among the criticisms. Let’s call religion truth and now discuss it. Let’s think about the name given to us from the day we were born, the clothes we wear, the parents we did not choose, the house we grew up in, the foods we eat, our movements, the geography, the schools we go to, the language, understanding, perception, intelligence, knowledge and all other concepts. Let’s also think about the religious understanding and faith that progress in parallel with these. We had previously assumed religious truth. All these factors may seem like purely human experience. But what we call religion (truth) is definitely located in a different place from the house we grew up in or the school we went to. If religion is an entity like experiences and does not point to any reality, why don’t I live the house where I was born for a lifetime with my inner and practical actions? Since religion is a concept that includes faith in this respect, I do not agree with the claim that everything shows an empirical truth. In addition, those who consider the life experience we are talking about as the truth itself mention that everyone can perceive reality differently, so is there any reality? While this may sound reasonable in some respects, it is a problematic point in general. When we think of this as the imagination of God, although the vision of God is very similar in some people, it is never the same. Because the mentioned experiences are variable and special for each person. Changeable conceptions of God do not mean that reality changes form and imagination. In summary, grounding the truth in various ways does not cause any necessary change in His existence.
When anti realists speak of different worlds or understandings constructed by different societies, they mean that there is no reality(Young, J. O. 1992). They say that belief is not related to any truth. They see these phenomena as the usual differences that exist in the context of history and sociology. This understanding, on the other hand, is a weak-based approach, we can talk about it a little bit. If we consider religion only as a sociological element, we will of course break its relationship with the truth. The main issue here is the way of truth and belief in religion. Putting everything aside, how correct would it be to consider religion, which has always existed in the process of human existence, only as a social phenomenon? It’s just the relegation of an idea (religion or truth, no matter how it’s called) that can create a reality for people. In this respect, the idea that different religions that have had different interpretations in history do not have a reality remains rather weak. A life in which all truth is confined to human experience is contradictory in terms of what we cannot perceive, know and discover. If life is limited to my capacity and I deny the existence of any other dimension, who can talk about the difference between my first-born personality and my death personality? Exactly for this reason, knowing that there is a reality beyond human understanding leads to a more harmonious perspective with the universe.
6) Identity Problem Criticism in the Context of Body-Mind Problem: Possibility of Afterlife on Mind Basis
The body-mind problem seeks answers to questions about how people’s physical and mental activities are related to each other(Kneale, M. 1949). According to some, there is no relationship between the body and the mind, while others interpret the body and mind as an inseparable component. The key question here is if both are in a relationship, is one dependent on the other? Or by what boundaries are they separated from each other? Can the body pass to the limits of the mind in worldly experience? Or is it possible to talk about any experience where the mind enters the realm of the body? What are the limits of this interaction(Kneale, M. 1949)?
According to materialists, everything is limited to physical space. All that exists is motion in the atom(Stern, E. 2018). We can say that this approach leads us to a problematic afterlife, memory and world experience. The idea that everything consists of physicality leads to the complete disregard of memory, sense of community, and collective consciousness.
Can any event that had a great impact on the person in the past determine the mental process of the individual in today’s history, can it be explained only as brain activity? Suppose we agree to explain the memory carrying of our past experiences as mere brain activity. However, the fact that these events are located in the memory does not prevent us from seeing its effects. We can understand that this out-of-body entity (the denied reality) exists in an experience from the limited bodily effects of memory. Just as the change in the mental process of a person after a life-threatening experience is proof that every movement in the world does not consist of the movement of atoms, it is possible to talk about the existence of out of body experiences. Let’s examine this on a propositional basis.
- Some of our information is certain.
- Some experience is certain.
- Death is absolute reality and carries certainty.
- It is possible to speak of a dimension outside the physical world.
- Some of the experiences are outside the physical dimension.
- Therefore, the existence of the hereafter is possible.
If we look at this approach from a materialist point of view, let’s accept that every one of the events we experience in the world, such as dreams, the out-of-body effect of memory, near death experiences, and deja vu, are all illusions. Or suppose it’s all just individual brain fallacy. So why does this physical world, which we call the motion of atoms, allow us to have these experiences-wrong or true-, -illusion or reality-? So, can we say that there is an “idea” or “truth”?
As for identity theory, according to this understanding, all mental processes and events are brain activities and at the same time they have no purpose(Davis, Stephen T. 1989). If we make a criticism at this point, when we evaluate the individual and the world experience as the subject of the physical dimension, we always have to connect the events in nature and the system in the human body to a cause and effect. For example, “our heart beats faster when we get excited” or “when it rains, the ground gets wet”, all of the relationships that contain cause and effect support the physical view. So, does it make sense that these mental processes should not be brought to a conclusion? Or can mental experience being stuck in its own existence lead us to a correct conclusion? Why can’t a result or purpose be attributed to the mental? This is a way of easily denying the existence of the hereafter.
At the same time, attributing mental activities only to the brain can cause problems in many ways. For example, when we have deep information about the brain, we should be able to know the decisions, dreams and thoughts of the person in front of us without expressing them. Let’s say that dreaming is just a pattern of the brain. Well, is it possible to imagine a being that has never been seen before? This question can also open the door to a phenomenon outside the physical world. Because if we arrive at the existence of our experiences only empirically, we deny the existence of anything we have not experienced before. If we want to arrive at the understanding of the hereafter, not having experienced the hereafter does not mean that it does not exist. This is analogous in one respect to allowing other possible worlds to exist. It is impossible for a view based on our physical experience or by finding the physicality of everything sufficient to accept other possible worlds. As a result, the theory of identity and the mental and physical load attributed to the brain are considered as opposite arguments for the existence of the hereafter in every respect. But it has weak propositions on many points.
As a result, we can say that if we approach the problems of philosophy of religion by looking at memory and consciousness from social and individual aspects, we can produce answers to certain arguments from a mind-oriented perspective. Memory plays an important role in the construction of beliefs and religious propositions as well as experiences. Since it is not possible on a philosophical basis to distinguish between social and individual phenomena, a reasonable compromise can be achieved at some points. At this stage, it is very important how philosophy of mind defines consciousness, perception and thought. As stated before, it is necessary to draw a human profile in the society in order to understand the development and change in the mind of the individual, especially when making explanations about the philosophy of religion – although philosophy does not deal with social phenomena as a whole.
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