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Matter over Mind

In response to:

The Bakke Case: An Exchange from the January 26, 1978 issue

To the Editors:

The exchange (NYR, January 25) between Professors Seidel and Quine concerning Quine’s review of my Ways of Worldmaking (NYR, November 23) prompts a further remark. Consider Quine’s doctrine “…nothing happens in the world, not the flutter of an eyelid, not the flicker of a thought, without some redistribution of microphysical states” in comparison with “not the minutest redistribution of microphysical states without some perception or conception.” As articles of faith, these pronouncements, claiming unspecified correlations, are loose enough to be equally plausible and sweeping enough to be equally implausible. As vague policies of inquiry, they are entirely compatible.

Perhaps the claim is that matter is not a product of mind but that mind is a product of matter. But is being-a-product-of a matter of matter or a matter of mind? Or does it matter?

Nelson Goodman

Department of Philosophy

Harvard University

Cambridge, Massachusetts

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