[lit-ideas] Re: Logical Corpuscularism

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" for DMARC)
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  • Date: Wed, 9 Sep 2015 07:31:51 -0400

In a message dated 9/9/2015 5:33:42 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:
Popper was not against human freedom being "probabilistic" - in fact, he
makes clear human freedom depends on a "probabilistic" set-up as opposed to
a deterministic one (where outcomes have a probability of 1) - but he
argues that it cannot be merely "probabilistic" in a quantum mechanical sense.
In other words, we cannot adequately defend human freedom and rational
decision-making merely by appealing to quantum mechanical "probabilistic"
effects. Second, this point is not "minor".

I like that. It's what I call the minor-major distinction. Grice made great
use of this. And we don't mean corpuscules. Grice was concerned about
'meaning' and in "Meaning Revisited" he speaks of a major problem and a minor
problem. He tackles the minor problem first (whether meaning involves a
regressus ad infinitum) and the major problem second (whether meaning is c
onceptually linked with value).

Perhaps if I wrote 'minor' and I meant 'not subtle'. I love Boyle and I
love Doyle. Doyle studied and teaches physics and is based in the Boston area,
and he is a physician with a strong interest in the history of philosophy
as it touches on problems of free-will, and perhaps when I wrote 'minor' I
meant to say 'not subtle'. That is Doyle's mot. Let me see if I find the
exact source and quote, because Doyle, like me, likes a quotation:

Doyle's site is cross-referential, in that it has links to links to links
to links, which is lovely. In:


he refers to the lack of subtlety in Popper.

Doyle considers "two-stage" models of free-will: one stage is the
assumption of chance; the other is the construction of 'freedom': he may use
phrases. Doyle is thus considering Popper as rightly assuming a

"two-stage" model. Doyle adds:

"[Popper] also solves the problem of indeterminism directly causing our

I love Doyle's prose, because Witters would say that Popper at most
dissolves a pseudo-problem, or worse, pseudo-dissolves a pseudo-problem. As if
Witters were to converse with Popper:

Witters: I have a toothache.
Popper: Go to the dentist!
Witters (grabbing a fire poke): Dentist?
Popper: Yes: a doctor who deals with teeth. From the Latin, 'dens'.
Witters: Are you making fun of me? I have no intention of seeing a dentist.
I'm not USING "I have a tootache"; I'm "merely" MENTIONING: it's an
example of a private language.
Popper: Not private to me: you've been telling THE WORLD you have a
toothache, and there ARE scientific ways to deal with it, not all of them
Witters: Are you talking extraction of the bad tooth? I have decided, and
promised my dear mother so, that I will never have a tooth extracted.
Popper: So that's your final decision?
Witters: Yes.
Popper: And what causes that decision?
Witters: As I tell you: I promised my mother that I had decided never to
have a tooth extracted.
Popper: One of your own, you meant, I hope.
Witters: My mother was clever enough to catch the implicature (He places
the poke back in a safe position)

It is perhaps after conversations with this that Popper felt that a
philosopher has to supply a response to the issue as to how INDETERMINISM can
consistent with our decisions being caused by that, without 'inheriting'
most of.

(If I mentioned Hampshire/Hart vs. Grice on that in a previous it was not
gratuitious, because Hart and Hampshire argue indeed that one is CERTAIN
about one's decisions and intentions, whether Grice in "Intention and
UNCERTAINTY" argues the contrary. The Hart/Hampshire essay was reprinted in
and Hart, who was perhaps a lawyer more than a philosopher apparently was
never too happy with it, and I don't think he reprinted in any of his
collections. Hampshire could care less because he was a prolific writer

So we have a couple of terms of art: INDETERMINISM causing a DECISION (not
to go to the dentist, say, or not to have a tooth extracted).

This relates to consciousness, because if Witters FORGETS about the
promise, and Ramsey is adamant that the tooth (Witters's tooth) NEEDS to be
extracted, Witters may end up with the tooth extracted -- after deciding so.
INDETERMINISM causes two decisions: in the Witters that recalls the promise
to his mother never to have a tooth extracted, the decision NOT to have
the tooth extracted; in the Witters who becomes unconscious of that
particular episode in his life, the decision to follow Ramsey's advice and
have his
tooth extracted.

So, we have Doyle saying that Popper is proposing a "two-stage" model and
"solv[ing] the problem of indeterminism directly causing our decisions."

It is here that Doyle (not Boyle) refers to Popper not being too subtle.

Doyle writes:

"Note Popper's not so subtle shift of the realm of chance to the material
body (his "World 1") and the realm of determination to the mind (his "World

The shift (which Doyle sees as no subtle) is from Popper's W1 -- the realm
of chance (one of the stages in the two-stage model) -- which belongs to
the corpuscular level if one wishes -- or "matter" and BODY -- Witters's
brain, say -- to Popper's W2 -- that Doyle paraphrases, rightly, as, in this
case in point, to "the realm of DETERMINATION" in one's decision -- as per
Hart's and Hampshire's essay


-- In January 1958, S. N. Hampshire and H. L. A. Hart published in "Mind"
"Decision, Intention and Certainty." Though Hampshire's name comes first,
perhaps as alphabetically prior, it is certain that H. L. A. Hart fully
owned the essay's argument.

While in Harvard the previous academic year, 1957, Hart had not only
worked on the essay, but spoken at a philosophy seminar on "KNOWING what you
doing," which is the essay's theme and thesis.

That thesis is:

One has a knowledge of, and CERTAINTY about, what one is doing, one's own
voluntary actions, which is not an observer's knowledge, and is NOT based
like the observer/spectator's on EMPIRICAL evidence or on the observation of
one's own (the acting person's) movements.

It is, loosely, practical knowledge.

First-person statements about an action have the same meaning (AND SENSE)
as third-person statements, but as with

"many concepts involving reference to states of consciousness"

there is an "asymmetry between first-person and third-person statements"

about actions (and decisions), corresponding to the radical difference
between the "means of verification" of the respective statements, the kind of
"knowledge" they articulate.

For the same reason, the essay contends, there is a "necessary connexion'
between intending and deciding to do something and CERTAINTY about what
one WILL do -- where the certainty here is based not on reflection upon and
INDUCTION from the EVIDENCE of one's experience (as might be the case with
one's more or less involuntary behaviour), but instead on one's having
reasons for doing what one has DECIDED to do: a "PRACTICAL certainty about
to do."

It was enough to have Grice say: "Next time I'm at the British Academy I
refudiate these two" (meaning Hart and Hampshire). Grice was particularly
interested that Hart was quoting Grice from unpublications (Hart had done so
in "Philosophical Quarterly" (1952) where he refers to Grice's essay on
"Meaning" (written in 1948), and in this case, Grice had written a paper on
"Intention" where he deals with this specific point about the evidence for
one's decisions which seems to be the source for Hart's counter-arguments.

It might be different with Popper.


So we have Doyle noting that Popper is

-- proposing a "two-stage" model
-- allegedly solving the problem of INDETERMINISM as being consistent with
it directly CAUSING a decision.
-- making a "not so subtle shift" from w1 (the indeterminism of the
physical world of corpuscules) to w2 (the realm of practical decisions by Hart
his DETERMINATION in deciding to remain maried to a Russian spy, for
example) --

Doyle adds by way of historical exegesis: this is not too subtle" since,
"the traditional dualism" (and Poper is a practising dualist, not a closet
one -- "I never knew you had to practise to be one" -- these are NOT Popper's
words) "from the ancients to Kant", Doyle adds, "made the material body
the realm of phenomenal determinism and the mind or spirit the noumenal realm
of freedom [...]".

As I say, Doyle's site is cross-referential, and by clicking on Popper one
gets a more complete picture of Popper's contributions to the free-will
'problem' or pseudo-problem.

Grice perhaps found it a pseudo-problem in that it incorrectly gave fame to
one of his first tutees at St. John's. A. G. N. Flew. Fresh from St.
John's (where he had had Grice as tutor) Flew moved to Keele (of all places)
wrote about the paradigm-case argument as applied to the 'will' being
'free': "If we do use 'free will', free will exists."

Doyle's site notes the divergences between Popper and Eccles:


-- if divergence it was -- the thing is indeed (c) Popper and Eccles.
Popper replying to John Eccles:

Doyle quotes from Popper and Eccles, "The Self and Its Brain" (which is of
course the source for that thesis about downward causation allegedly being
inconsistent with atomism or corpuscularism that had been brought up by

Doyle provides two quotes worth examining:


"First of all, I do of course agree that quantum theoretical indeterminacy
in a sense cannot help, because this leads merely to probabilistic laws,
and we do not wish to say that such things as free decisions are just
probabilistic affairs."

Second quote:

"The trouble with quantum mechanical indeterminacy is twofold. First, it
is probabilistic, and this doesn't help us much with the free-will problem,
which is not just a chance affair. Second, it only gives us indeterminism,
not openness to World 2 [Popper's Mind World]. However, in a roundabout way
I do think that one may make use of quantum theoretical indeterminacy
without committing oneself to the thesis that free-will decisions are
probabilistic affairs."

This was written in 1977 -- the p. in 540. And Popper was so happy with it
that in later work he would just freely decide to let his reader know that
on this point of 'free will' he has "changed his mind" and refer the reader
to this publication. Thus, as Doyle notes, he does so in the lecture
Popper gave at Darwin (Nancy Mitford says that to add 'college' is non-U).

Popper writes:

"The selection of a kind of behavior out of a randomly offered repertoire
may be an act of choice, even an act of free will. I am an indeterminist;
and in discussing indeterminism I have often regretfully pointed out that
quantum indeterminacy does not seem to help us [...]."

"For the amplification of something like, say, radioactive disintegration
processes would not lead to human action or even animal action, but only to
random movements."

"I have changed my mind on this issue (See p. 540 of J. C. Eccles and K. R.
Popper, The Self and Its Brain (Berlin, Heidelberg, London, New York:
Springer-Verlag, 1977).

"A choice process may be a selection process, and the selection may be from
some repertoire of random events, without being random in its turn. This
seems to me to offer a promising solution to one of our most vexing
problems, and one by downward causation."

"A choice process may be a selection process, and the selection may be from
some repertoire of random events, without being random in its turn. This
seems to me to offer a promising solution to one of our most vexing
problems, and one by downward causation."

Note that when Popper writes: "see page 540" he IMPLICATES "and read it".
This follows from Griceian maxims of conversation: for what would be the
point of seeing that page and NOT reading it? Also, if Popper had wanted the
reader to see a picture, say, on that page, he should have provided more
information than the one he does provide ("See the picture on p. 540"). Alice
Hargreaves might disagree. She claims that books need to have illustrations
which can be seen And not read, but I disgress*.



*Alice Hargreaves was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister
on the bank of the river (not the financial institution) and of having
nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was
reading, but it had no pictures in it. Its title was "The Self and its Brain"--

"and what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures one can

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