It was 1960, I was attending a week long seminar at Piaget and Inhelder’s laboratory in Geneva. I heard that John Eccles was visiting Richard Jung in Freiburg – not so far away. Arrangements were made for a visit: I had long wanted to meet Eccles and to have an opportunity to discuss with Jung his micro-electrode work at the same time was irresistible. Jung and Eccles were cordial and we had a most productive meeting during which many of my questions were answered.
For the evening we went to the Schwartzwald for beer and dinner. After a sufficient number of beers, I asked Eccles: “You have written such a marvelous book on neurophysiology (Eccles 1952) – how could you end it with a really horrible chapter espousing dualism? Eccles straightened his lanky frame and we spent the remainder of the evening discussing the merits of dualism (as opposed to my monism which Eccles wrongly interpreted to mean that I was a materialist reductionist).
I had thought that Eccles’ dualism was merely that his Catholicism was showing. Although this was a correct assessment, he convinced me that he had a thoroughly-thought-through sophisticated position. From then on, he sent me every philosophical paper that he delivered and/or published. We discussed in some detail the chapters of his book with Karl Popper “The Self and its Brain” (1977) before it was published. I remained an ontological monist but was convinced that there is a place for an epistemological dualism – or as Popper preferred, for a pluralism (Pribram 1986). The current paper provides the philosophical capstone of the “argument” that developed over the 40 years of discourse.
Before I detail this philosophical point of view, one anecdote is worth recording. Eccles, Roger Sperry and I were at a conference on consciousness (Globus et al 1976) representing the brain scientists while the rest of the group were philosophers. Eccles presented his most recent data and noted that he had entered the field of brain science in order to tackle the mind/brain issue. I always admired his enthusiasm and willingness to point out what the deeper problems were and how his beautiful data addressed these fundamental issues. He was in fine form that morning. The philosopher who discussed Eccles paper was, from my point of view, a disaster. He stated: “there is nothing that experimentalists can do in the laboratory that has any bearing on the philosophical problem. That has to be solved by philosophers.” I never saw Eccles so angry. It was lunch-time; he took me by the hand and said: “Karl we must do our own philosophy.”