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

  • From: "gabuddabout" <gabuddabout@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 31 Mar 2010 19:27:23 -0000

--- In WittrsAMR@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "Cayuse" <wittrsamr@...> wrote:

> [snip] ... how on earth does Feser justify his claim that "Certainly it is no
> revelation to be told that brain processes cause mental processes -
> something everyone concerned with this question has known for decades
> if not centuries"?
> No causal relationship has yet been established, but only a correlation.

And Searle's biol. nat. is supposed to start with those and seek causal 
mechanisms in the only way we know how, by looking and looking and getting 
closer and closer.

OTOH, Feser seems to think that Searle's biol. nat. is no different from 
property dualism because property dualism holds the same research project to be 

On the contrary, what distinguishes Searle's view is precisely the thesis that 
brains cause consciousness but without consciousness being something 

Feser seems to think that Searle's view amounts to epiphenomenalism, as surely 
property dualism does a priori ("mental causes do no work if not cashed as 
physical causes, so why call them mental?" so the eliminativists and _some_ 
nonproperty dualists may maintain.

Searle's biol. nat. is supposed to avoid any a priori commitment to 
epiphenomenalism or eliminativism or computationalism in the sense that when he 
says there are mental events, he means that there are higher level features of 

Feser wants to conflate any talk of the mental with nonphysical properties 
(property dualism).  Searle wants to disabuse us (and that's why Feser thinks 
it is all wordplay) of that via biol. naturalism.

There is a mind-body problem left over for science but not all philosophical 
problems amount to possible solutions.  That doesn't mean, hard as it may be to 
conceptualize inductive brain research amounting to a theory of how the brain 
causes consciousness and allows for semantics/Intentionality, that Searle's 
biol. nat. is incoherent or in principle not viable.

Only property dualists and select eliminativists might opine that the thesis of 
Searle's biol. naturalism is neither a viable research program nor perhaps a 
coherent thesis.  Dennett would do so by saying that all science is about 
objective properties and consciousness is simply beyond its scope, even if 
would write a book about how consciousness is explained..

Feser and Hacker try to do a conceptual analysis of mind such that Searle's 
biol. nat. is either ruled out or explained as involving the same upshot as 
property dualism.

But I don't think they are necessarily right in thinking this.  Indeed, I 
believe they both acknowledge Searle's meaning behind biol. nat. as not a 
property dualism while maintaining that he's not allowed to have it because his 
thesis is not coherent given the inherent conceptual dualism of the mind-body 

But Searle starts with the facts, not a conceptual analysis which can only make 
clear the intuitions with which we started (any criteriological point of view 
goes nowhere for Searle and makes him want to argue against deciding the issues 
a priori as some conceptual dualists try to do when mainting his biol. nat. is 

1.  Incoherent,

2.  Not allowing for a really viable research problem given the explanatory gap 
(for Searle we can't have impossible expectations via computational theory 
producing causal mechanisms if the computational theory's leg work is fleshed 
as necessarily involving second-order properties to do the computational 
work--his biol. nat. is neither a priori epiphenomenalism, eliminativism, nor 
is it property dualism, nor computationalism with seasonings of conflation with 
brute, mindless physics), or

3.  Property dualism dressed up in language that in the end appears as property 
dualism anyway, despite what Searle might say, think, or want to maintain (they 
can speak for him they think because they have done a conceptual analysis that 
no one can confute).

Here are the main ways I've seen for arguing with Searle:

1.  His use of certain terms is idiosyncratic and he better conform to the 
status quo or be held to playing word games.

Response:  An interesting charge given the lucidity of Searle's prose.

2.  His CR is not equivalent to a UTM because no UTM has an humunculus inside 
it and no human-like humunculus could possibly go fast enough to implement any 
(or some) complex programs.

An interesting way of defining computation in terms of speed, of, er, physics 
only or "computational physics," whatever that causally reduces to (or not!).

3.  He can't have both a causal reduction and an ontological nonreduction of 
consciousness.  But think about it.  There has to some way of explaining the 
fact of consciousness via brain processes while explaining the power of mind to 
construct computer programs capable of simulating this or that.  How can that 
be without both causal reduction and intrinsic Intentionality operating as a 
system-level (which as system-level is non reducible ontologically) feature of 

I suppose it comes not down to intuitions from a Cartesian meditation, but to 
possible research programs.  Searle's program is dismissed by conceptual 
dualists (property dualists) while it is embraced as the best we can do (given 
troubles with functionalism) from Searle's alternate, nonquietistic point of 
biologically natural view.

Any charge of Searle's noneliminativism, along with nonontological reductionism 
but with causal reduction all the same, as a property dualism just misdescribes 
his position.

We get closer to the causal mechanisms by starting with NCCs, period.

Any other view is either eliminativist or property dualist.

These are the big three which some want to define as two in Searle's one world 
which incudes a vast pluralism of properties.  There are many properties of 
physical things, including mind in some cases.

Computational theories sometimes end up in principle unable to distinguish 
between those things with minds and those without.  Property dualist theories 
make it impossible to see mind as efficacious.

Again, I don't think I've proved anything.  Some will go on to think Searle a 
property dualist no matter what and others will see Searle as a physicalist who 
really can't account for mind by looking at correlations to get at causal 
mechanisms.  The latter might think that there is an a priori conceptual 
dualism inherent in any discussion, let alone solution, to the mind-body 
problem, whether a philosophical solution or, say, what some to think 
unintelligible, as a biological one.

Do note that nobody can rightly understand Searle's scientific proposal as one 
of property dualism unless they have already defined it that way from the start.

Searle's idea may sound like Spinoza's:  The mind is the idea of the body.  
Good night and good luck.

A puzzle.

1.  Do we dissolve the puzzle via eliminativism?

2.  Do we solve it in partial steps of noting correlations?

3.  Do we redefine mind as computation?

All three have been suggested.  Some claim that 2. is incoherent.  If so, and 
property dualism IS coherent, then Searle is not rightly thought a property 
dualist..  Or ... everyone is a property dualist because mind names a 
nonphysical property--deny one and you deny the other.  But that would seem to 
rule out 2. a priori.  Some aren't having any of that, though the other side 
feels quite cozy with the mental gymnastics which occur a priori with 
conceptual analysis of what is meant by mind, even if what is meant is behavior 
of a sort..

Searle, like Schopenhauer, attempts a tertiam:

Neither behaviorism nor property dualism.

And that courts disfavor on more than one side at a time.  It is as if he is in 
the center of a circular firing squad who routinely miss him and end up picking 
each other off.  And sometimes they're not even aiming at him, property 
dualists aiming at eliminativists and vice versa.


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