[Wittrs] Re: Dancing Dualisms: Searlean Moves and Cartesian Moves

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 26 Mar 2010 19:38:47 -0000

--- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Gordon Swobe <wittrsamr@...> wrote:

> Stuart,
> > I have not aimed to show you that Dennett proves anything.
> You have pointed out that Dennett suggests that to accept the conclusion of 
> the CRA one must have a Cartesian conception of mind, and I want to get to 
> the bottom of that.

That's fine and I'm pleased to clarify, add or whatever. Let's just be clear 
whether it is Dennett's statements you are reacting to or mine.

I do think that my argument merely formalizes his statements and that, at 
bottom, my view is generally the same as his on this. But you should just be 
clear whose claims you are taking on here because, while the conclusions may be 
the same, the arguments may not be and I don't want to be in the position of 
imputing to Dennett things that I have said (recall that my argument is that 
the CRA requires an implicit presumption that consciousness is an irreducible, 
an ontological basic [in a causal sense], because there is no other ground, 
FROM THE CASE OF THE CR ALONE, for assuming computational processes running on 
computers can't do what brain processes happening in brains do).

> If Dennett truly considers Searle a closet dualist of some sort then I want 
> to know exactly what he means.

I have called Searle a "closet dualist". I don't think Dennett used those 
terms. However, his case is made pretty well in that text of his I transcribed 

> I want to know if Dennett believes the CRA makes sense only if one considers 
> mental phenomena as evidence of NON-physical substances of properties. Does 
> he?

My view is yes, based on his text though, again, he does not lay out a formal 
argument as I have done. But I think the text of his informal argument pretty 
much makes the same point.

> I do not take seriously any definition of dualism that does not entail 
> non-physical properties or substances.

I am inclined to agree but then the concept of "non-physical" needs to be 
explicated because I would say that mind, consciousness, thought, or however 
you want to characterize mental phenomena, are both "non-physical", in the 
sense of not being physical objects or entities in the world, but "physical" in 
the sense of being part of the full panoply of a fundamentally physical 
universe, i.e., that they are physically caused as in physically derived.

This distinction has led to a slew of difficulties in communication here on 
this list and elsewhere because I am taken by some to be saying consciousness 
is "physical" and "non-physical" simultaneously. I am inclined to think that 
Searle is right that our language serves us poorly here (a Wittgensteinian 
insight actually), and that we have to get past the physical/non-physical 
dichotomy. But the terms do serve some useful purposes in that they do 
designate distinctions which are meaningful for us. It's just that the uses are 
not really mutually exclusive since they refer, I would suggest, to different 
aspects of the world. Thus, understood in this way, there is nothing odd about 
understanding consciousness to be both physical and non-physical simultaneously 
because of the different contexts of use.

But in these discussions we seem to have a hard time getting past this apparent 
contradiction in terms. It is, I would suggest, more apparent than real though.

> > Where have you seen [Dennett's] argument
> > against "Cartesian materialism"? We could take a look if
> > it's accessible on-line and come to some opinions on that.
> "Cartesian materialism is the view that there is a crucial finish line or 
> boundary somewhere in the brain, marking a place where the order of arrival 
> equals the order of "presentation" in experience because what happens there 
> is what you are conscious of. [...] Many theorists would insist that they 
> have explicitly rejected such an obviously bad idea. But [...] the persuasive 
> imagery of the Cartesian Theater keeps coming back to haunt usâ?"laypeople 
> and scientists alikeâ?"even after its ghostly dualism has been denounced and 
> exorcized."
> - Dennett quoted in the following wikipedia article:
> Multiple Drafts Model
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_Drafts_Model#cite_note-dandk-1
> -gts

Ah, thanks. I'm not sure I fully understand his point here so I'll try to put 
some time in reading the fuller material in the article.

I find a notion of "Cartesian materialism" odd but then Dennett famously coins 
some rather odd neologisms as part of his somewhat polemical style. It should 
be interesting to see where this goes.


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