ESSAYS ON MIND AND SENTIMENT
By Edmund Karani
A reader’s commentary:
Essentially, we’re in the realm of philosophy. Specifically, the very lively area of mind, emotion and religion.
By profession the author is a lawyer, with a track record of publication of legal articles. He studied philosophy and theology at university, and says that he has retained his interest in those subjects. Hence we have the manuscript submitted here, which he describes as having ‘a strong personal flavour’. That is indeed the defining characteristic of the manuscript: it is a personal (rather than an academic) exploration of its subject.
The manuscript comprises three main parts: ‘Part I: On Matters of Mind’, ‘Part II: On Matters of Sentiment and Morality’, plus an epilogue. Each of the two main parts is essentially a more or less informal sequence of essays that comprise phases in an overall thesis. In other words, the individual essays are not quite as discretely self-contained as the name would imply, and the manuscript is therefore more cohesive and unified, with a linear thread running through it.
It begins a short preamble, introducing the reader to the Essays, proper. In fact, this is my one criticism of it: the very first page kicks off with Part I and the first essay.
As soon as we get into the essays themselves, I found myself on almost immediately agreeable ground. The first essay is on one of the cornerstones of philosophy and theology: the issue of human free will. Does it exist? This essay questions the existence of free will, deals with the issue of antecedence, and comes to the conclusion that free will does exist. The argument is that no meaningful decision can happen without antecedence, and that therefore decisions are in that sense free – the presence of antecedents (whether you see it as the chemical composition of the brain, or as ‘personality’) does not negate the freedom of choice.
So, I enjoyed this opening essay, and found myself looking forward with happy anticipation to the rest. I wasn’t disappointed.
The second essay is, I think, the longest in the collection, having required breaking into several subsections. It’s on language, reification, inference and causation. It’s a very lively, entertaining breakdown of the key problems, giving some nice insights into the relation between language, thought and logic, and gives way to further examination of causation, which is the subject of the succeeding essay, which in turn gives way to a short essay on time. This is where you see the thematic cohesion I referred to earlier, which makes this collection of essays flow in the manner of a continuous thesis.
That, at least, is the case for Part I. The second part of the manuscript turns to the subject of morality, which in turn has its own structural integrity. In a way, the whole manuscript comprises two extended essays, Part I and Part II, each comprised of smaller component essays.
Part II is less linear than the first part. It deals with morality, the difference between religious dogma and religious thought (the author rejects the former), identity and heritage. In the middle, we are given a short sequence of essays which become deeply personal and even a little troubling.
The manuscript ends with a grave but satisfying epilogue which establishes the moral foundation of altruism, independent of whether there is a god or not.
In conclusion, I’ve variously enjoyed and been enthralled by this little collection of essays. It is cogent, written fluidly and with friendly accessibility (even where it is dark and troubling, it’s still accessible and compelling).
by Oliver Morias
Edward Allbless was schooled in the natural sciences and holds a degree in Philosophy from Magdalen College, Oxford.
He is a solicitor by profession.