Metaphysical Personalism – Why the Mind Comes First (Part 5: The Argument from the Disharmony of Epistemological and Metaphysical Priority)

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Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that studies knowledge, whereas metaphysics is the branch that studies the nature of existence and reality. Now, it is an unavoidable fact that for epistemology, mind comes always first. A person is most intimately acquainted with his/her own mind. Via introspection, one can have a direct access to one’s mental states, and everything that one knows about the external world is received to and processed by the mind. Therefore, mind is epistemologically fundamental. But if materialism is true, the mind is not metaphysically fundamental in any way. Rather, what is fundamental to reality is a collection of impersonal, physical entities. The existence of a personal mind is simply a result of long and purposeless processes that did not have it in mind. The idea that such a mind could have the kind of deep and rational grasp of the way that the world really is, is problematic to say the least. One may try to invoke evolution as an explanation for how a mind would adapt to an environment and eventually, via the workings of natural selection, reach a level of accuracy that would allow a deep rational grasp of reality. But aside from the problems for the existence and evolution of the mind that I have already pointed out above, it is far from obvious that (even on the questionable assumption of mental causation in a materialist worldview) accurate representation is the only or even the probable way with which the mind could enhance the organism in its survival. What is required is some kind of consistent response to the environment, but there are various ways in which this can be brought about. And in any case, it is quite hard to make sense of the idea that such evolutionary formation of the mind would easily lead to a mind that could get a grasp on such abstract concepts as modalities and high-level mathematics, as well as various other theoretical matters that are crucial for any comprehensive, rational understanding of the world, such as metaphysical materialism itself. On the other hand, if the mind of the personal creator is the most fundamental reality, this can bring about the harmony between epistemology and metaphysics. The mind exists first, and thus everything else that exists can be made to be comprehensible to the mind (even finite, created minds, if the creator so chooses – and arguably, there are rational grounds for such choice). In short, metaphysical personalism can plausibly ground that which can be known (the epistemological) to that which is (the metaphysical).

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