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More Than Matter?: Is There More to Life Than Molecules? Paperback – 24 Sep 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 226 pages
  • Publisher: Lion Books (24 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745962475
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745962474
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.9 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 457,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Keith Ward is Regius Professor of Divinity Emeritus at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of the British Academy. A well-known broadcaster and presenter, his work straddles the boundaries between science, religion and philosophy, while his career has addressed topics from materialism to medical ethics.  His work in these fields is internationally respected, and he is today known as one of Britain's foremost philosopher-theologians.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By pauljimmyn on 23 Jan 2011
Format: Paperback
I will put my cards on the table, I am a fan of Ward's books, he invariably has something unique to contribute to any debate and this is no exception but.....
The book is written in response to a book written by an Oxford fellow which challenged Descarte's dualism. This is all well and good, but if you haven't read Ryle (as I hadn't) you may find it puzzling in places.
The basis assertion Ward makes is to the primacy of consciousness, he makes numerous references to Quantum theory - in too little depth for my liking- and suggests that reality is mind-like.
The arguments in places seem skirt around appealing to the God of the gaps, but Ward makes a coherent argument based on knowledge - although sometimes lack of - of physics and quantum theory. Personally, I would like to see Ward read Jung as there seems to be a lot of parallels in what they say.
If you are studying or interested in philosophy of mind, this is an informative read.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By bargee's wife on 20 May 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My husband read it and thought it was an interesting read. Keith Ward is a well respected writer. Others may find it a good book too.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Christine Hacklett on 18 July 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although I haven't finished reading this book, I must say how well it is written. It is clear and very detailed. I feel I may not agree with his final conclusion (whatever it turns out to be) but the arguments are lucid and his style aimed at non-professional readers.
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1 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Dr Keith on 15 Sep 2011
Format: Paperback
Unfortunately, this book is sold as a philosophical argument, which it most certainly is not. What it contains is a description of The Reverend Professor Ward's personal explanation for his religious faith.

This would be fine if he did not persist in presenting it as a philosophically valid argument. Indeed, he starts off lulling the reader into thinking that he has something useful to say about the philosophy of mind and ontology, with a little review of ideas arising from Descartes's famous thought. From there, he descends deeper and deeper into his personal journey; a description littered with factual errors and misunderstandings (especially where he ventures into science); all written in a flippant but condescending style. I don't know whether I was more annoyed at the misrepresentation and simple factual errors, pompously presented as truth, or the utterly unsupported and unjustified fanciful meta-physics, presented as deeper reality: both were a disgrace to professional academia in my view. I found this book a thorough let down.
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Amazon.com: 3 reviews
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
In defence of Dualism & Idealism (materialists beware!) 5 Aug 2011
By M. Hameer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I used to be a materialistic atheist for 6 plus years being heavily charmed by popular books like those of Richard Dawkins (books like 'The Blind Watchmaker' and the more recent 'The God Delusion'). Before the New Atheist movement was even born, I was already an atheist familiar with most atheistic arguments.

Of course, the winds have changed and currently I have an Idealistic-Dualistic view of life. Why the 180 degree change in direction? Well, I realized after much reading and reflection that what the New Atheists portray as "science" is not really science but actually materialistic philosophy. And there is a big difference right there.

Science deals with postulating hypotheses and looking for data from the physical universe around us to back them up. If successful, hypotheses become scientific theories. Philosophy, on the other hand, deals with taking the scientific findings and making sense of it all. Its about having a framework of the big picture, a framework of reality. It is totally distinct from science and yet it has the ability to encapsulate science as a whole.

In the world of philosophy, materialism is just ONE out of numerous competing philosophical view points available. And as Professor Keith Ward beautifully demonstrates in this book, it is the weakest of them all. Weakest because it fails miserably in addressing all our mental events that make us humans. Its not as simple as the current media-popular atheists portray.

If you are seriously interested in matters concerning the grandest of all questions, questions that have traditionally been (and continue to be) in the beautiful realm of philosophy, do yourself a favor and get this book. It is nothing less than a first-class work of philosophy written by a first-class philosopher.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Essential reading for those interested in ultimate questions 5 Aug 2011
By Dean, London - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I have been an admirer of Keith Ward's writings since I read his classic defence of theism, 'God, Chance and Necessity', in the late 1990s. Since then he has written a number of equally engaging books on related themes. At the centre of his writing is a concern to explore the question of ultimate origins from the perspective of natural theology - a perspective that accepts the Big Bang theory of cosmology and advances in molecular biology but seeks to reconcile belief in a divine creator with the insights of contemporary science. Ward's ultimate goal is a unified account of creation and man's place in the natural world which explains the existence of value and purpose as well as matter and energy, something physical reductionism seems unable to do. In this sense, his intellectual quest is similar to that of contemporary physicists such as Paul Davies and Roger Penrose, whose books explore the question of cosmic origin from a more empirically-based scientific perspective. There is an interesting and fruitful debate underway between theologians and scientists who are willing to consider with an open mind the possibility that the universe may have a divine origin. It is a pity that this debate has been drowned out in media coverage by the writings of militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins, who are contemptuous of philosophical and religious perspectives.

Unlike some of Ward's previous books, `More than matter' is not primarily concerned with the question of God's existence. Instead, it is a defence of philosophical dualism from an explicitly idealist perspective. In this respect, `More than matter' builds on the arguments set out in Ward's earlier book 'In defence of the soul'. Ward's writing style is quite polemical, and he exposes very effectively the flawed metaphysical assumptions underpinning physical reductionism. It is undoubtedly poor philosophy to argue, as Stephen Hawking does in his recent book `The Grand Design', that a divine creator is unnecessary because the law of gravity allows the universe to come into being spontaneously. All this does is push the question of ultimate origins further back (who created the law of gravity?). Since this regress achieves nothing, it is reasonable for Ward to characterise it as a basic intellectual error.

`More than matter' is a highly effective critique of physical reductionism. It is less clear whether the author has set out a compelling case for philosophical idealism. Although Ward states early on in the book that his defence of idealism is independent of arguments about the existence of God, it transpires that the argument is in fact critically dependent on a prior commitment to theism. This is because Ward accepts the scientific evidence that the operations of the human mind are causally dependent on physical processes in the brain. Since this is the case, and we have no other reliable evidence of mental events occurring independently of physical events, the case for idealism can only be made by positing the existence of a cosmic `mind' which conceives all possibilities and then, through an act of will, realises a sub-set of these possibilities in order to bring into existence a world containing consciousness and values. This is a perfectly respectable metaphysical position, but it is unlikely to persuade anyone who is already sceptical about the existence of God.

If the argument for dualism / idealism is dependent on a prior commitment to belief in a personal God, it becomes relevant to ask whether there are in fact compelling grounds to believe that such a God exists. Ward has tackled this question in other books but, in my view, he has never really got to grips with the problem of evil, which remains the key obstacle to belief in God for many people. Here I am thinking not so much about evil committed by human beings, as this can be rationalised in Christian theodicy as the quid pro quo for the existence of free will. I am thinking instead of natural evil, the apparently unnecessary and arbitrary suffering caused by illness and famine, for example.

The standard theistic response is to argue that the existence of evil may be inevitable and unavoidable in a universe created in order to actualise great and distinctive values. This is the argument Ward makes, very eloquently, in his other books. But sceptics are entitled to ask whether this argument really does justice to the intellectual and moral challenge posed by the problem of evil. Since Ward does not address this question in `More than matter', some readers may feel short changed by the arguments presented in the book.

There is also a strong sense in which Christian theodicy highlights the metaphysical difficulties inherent in a dualistic world view. Ward argues that God may have been constrained in the types of universe he could have created, not by pre-existing physical laws but by logical necessity. Dualism leads naturally to this conclusion because it posits the existence of at least two separate substances - one of which is God (the creator, an infinite mind), the other the universe (the physical world created by God, made up of matter and energy, space and time). On this view, it seems reasonable to argue that God may have been constrained to create a world containing the possibility of evil, because the world exists separately from God, as one of many possible worlds, with its own determinate relations, rather than being - as it is for example in some monistic belief systems - a unique and necessary expression of God's infinite being. In principle, an omnipotent God should have the power to create, by an act of will, a perfect world containing no evil and requiring no fine tuning of physical laws or fundamental constants. This is what it means to say that God is omnipotent. The fact that this is not the world we observe around us therefore requires an explanation, and the explanation offered by theists is that God is constrained by logical possibility, such that certain goods can only exist if the possibility of evil also exists. But this argument contains a hidden premise, which is that the world is radically separate from God, even though its continued existence is, at any point in time, entirely contingent on God's will. So it would appear that belief in a benevolent personal God logically implies a commitment to some form of substance dualism.

However, as soon as one posits the existence of at least two substances, the question arises of how these substances interact, and - more importantly - whether one is causally dependent on the other. Although Ward touches briefly on this issue in `More than matter', he seems to favour some version of interactionism and provides no hard evidence to support the claim that reality is ultimately `mind like'. In general, he seems to under-estimate the strength of the challenge posed by materialism. (As an aside, he also ignores monist alternatives to idealism, but I will come to that later.) A materialist has no difficulty believing that mind is dependent on matter, because the entire history of scientific observation and experiment supports this conclusion, unequivocally. When you cut a man's head off, his mental activity ceases immediately, and this conclusion holds irrespective of whether one believes in the possibility of free will. Despite his apparent commitment to a version of philosophical idealism, Ward seems to accept that the human mind is causally dependent on the physical activity of the brain. But in order to avoid the obvious implication - which is that materialism provides a reasonably accurate account of causal relations between mind and matter in the physical world of our everyday experience - he has to provide other grounds for believing that mind is not dependent on matter, and in practice only two arguments are available. First, he can point out that there is no scientific proof that minds cannot exist independently of matter. Whilst true, this does not negate the force of the materialist objection that we have yet to observe this empirically. Secondly, Ward can argue the case for the existence of a cosmic mind which conceives all possibilities and actualises a sub-set of these in order to realise distinctive values. A committed atheist will, of course, reject this argument on other grounds. For example, it is open to the atheist to argue that the stance adopted by Ward is a `God of the gaps' argument which will become superfluous once we have a better understanding of brain-mind interaction.

In general, whilst I found `More than matter' very thought provoking, I would have found Ward's defence of dualism, and the primacy of mind, more convincing if he had addressed this issue of causal dependence in a more satisfactory way. His argument that mind is ontologically prior to matter would appear to rely on a hidden theistic premise which sceptics are unlikely to find convincing. The problem is compounded by Ward's failure to address the problem of evil in a serious way.

Although `More than matter' is not a study in comparative religion, it is perhaps worth making the point that there are alternatives to both materialism and philosophical idealism which are not considered in Ward's book, but which avoid most of the problems that undermine substance dualism. It is possible to argue - as Spinoza did - that God and Nature are ontologically identical. On this view, God exists necessarily, but is immanent in his creation rather than transcendental to it. If this is true, the question of how mind and matter interact falls away because they are two aspects of a single substance and there is no need to see one as being causally prior to the other. Likewise, the problem of evil doesn't really arise because the world is necessarily as it is, not something that was created by an act of divine will or with specific purposes or goals in mind. A plausible corollary of this argument is that it is the infinite power of God that makes the evolution of consciousness and values inevitable, not a goal-directed divine choice between alternative possibilities.

Although Ward briefly discusses monism in a few places, he doesn't provide any independent reasons for thinking that substance dualism is philosophically superior. He just takes it as a given that the main philosophical battle is between materialism and idealism, so that monist alternatives can be safely ignored. This would be fine if the purpose of the book were merely to expose the intellectual flaws of materialism. But since it purports to offer a positive argument for dualism, Ward's failure to address monism in any detail detracts from his overall case.

As always with Keith Ward's books, `More than matter' is accessible, well written and an absorbing read. Ultimately, however, it seems unlikely to convert anyone who is already sceptical about substance dualism or the view that reality is fundamentally `mind like'. Indeed, on close analysis, it turns out that the version of dualism presented in the book depends on a prior belief in theism, since Ward appears to accept that the human mind is dependent on physical brain functioning, which leaves only the universal mind of God as a satisfactory basis for ontological dualism. As it happens, I agree that this cosmic mind exists - Ward's `God, Chance and Necessity' convinced me of this many years ago. But like Spinoza I don't believe the cosmic mind is made in man's image, or that it creates the world as an act of will in order to actualise certain values. It seems more plausible to me to see nature as a necessarily existing, unitary whole beyond which one need not look for explanation. However, it has to be acknowledged that a philosophical commitment to Spinozan monism comes at a heavy price - it is difficult, for example, to reconcile with the idea of a benevolent creator or the power of prayer. This may be why Ward appears to reject it without serious examination. However, we should be guided in our beliefs by what appears to be true, rather than by what we find most comforting.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Strong Argument for Idealism over Materialism 28 Mar 2012
By bronx book nerd - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I recently read and reviewed another book by Keith Ward, God: A Guide For the Perplexed. I found that book engaging, accessible and even inspirational. Ward is both a philosopher and a theologian; in fact, he is an ordained minister in the Anglican Church. As such, I am sure that some who read his commentaries on philosophy that cross over into matters of religion view him somewhat carefully, as he may perhaps be infiltrating religious dogma secretly into his philosophical forays. I am sure some will accuse him (not I) of doing that here.

In this work, Ward makes the case that idealism is the philosophy that best explains what it is to be human, and therefore is the best philosophy to adopt. Now, unlike his other work, this one is not as easy for the layperson to follow, so I will not pretend or attempt to explain all the nuances of Ward's conclusion. It will need a few re-reads for full comprehension. At minimum, though, I can say that he refutes materialism, or the notion of who we are, what we think, etc., are all simple by-products of neuroscience, not necessarily with any purpose, and that our mind is nothing more than a reflection of the same; i.e. there is no mind separate from the physical structure of the brain, as much as it may appear to be otherwise. Ward mostly argues against Gilbert Ryle's notions as expressed in the latter's The Concept Of Mind. What was perhaps most satisfying in this book was how often Ward approaches his hypothetical arguments with Ryle with humor such that I found myself laughing (and thinking to myself that I did not think it was possible to laugh so much reading a philosophy book, much less one on the mind-body debate).

To conclude, Ward argues persuasively (at least to me, for now) that minds are in many ways more real than the things that minds perceive and relate to, as they are primary in the acknowledgment of the rest of reality. He goes on to argue that if one accepts his thinking, then their is a strong case for a larger mind organizing and directing the rest of reality. He mentions God only in passing initially, and then directly at the end, but claims that his arguments are still valid and sound without reference to God. My one quibble with the book is that near the end as he wraps us his case with the possibility of a cosmic mind, he starts to sound too much like an Eastern mystic rip-off, kind of like Deepak Chopra. Fortunately, Wards arguments remain coherent (unlike Chopra's sometimes indecipherable nonsense).
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