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

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 26 Mar 2010 13:46:15 -0000

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

> Feser, in his article below, offers a reasonable argument that Searle's view 
> amounts to a kind of dualism, specifically a kind of property dualism. I 
> think his argument fails.

> Feser writs:
> "If [on Searle's view] what all uncontroversially physical properties have in 
> common is precisely their objective or third-person character, it is 
> reasonable too to regard that character as what is essential to being 
> physical â?" in which case mental properties, being essentially subjective, 
> would necessarily count as non-physical."

> Feser, a committed Thomist, seems unable to fathom the possibility that 
> mental properties have physical reality. That they should not seems 
> "reasonable" to Feser, I think, only because of his own dualistic bias.
> -gts

I know nothing of Feser beyond that article (not even whether he is a 
"committed Thomist" as you put it). But it strikes me that he makes a very 
strong case, showing how, in every variation, Searle's position is not 
distinct, except in terminology, from the claims of property dualism.

Now I have to admit that "property dualism" looks to me to be a very odd kind 
of duck since it can be taken to mean that subjectness is a property of a 
special sort and that such a property can never be reduced to anything more 
ontologically basic than itself which has the look of its older brother, 
so-called "substance dualism". Searle argues that finally "property dualism" 
just comes down to the older, less philosophically respected "substance 
dualism" because, in the end, it maintains that there are two kinds of 
fundamental properties in the world.

But others (Walter on the Analytic list for one and Feser in that paper) have 
claimed that it ought not to be construed that way and that all "property 
dualism" mean is that subjectness is an aspect or feature of some physical 
events. I think, after reading that Feser piece, that, if he is right, then 
Walter was actually wrong in his claim that there is no presumption of 
ontological basicness in "property dualism" and that Searle is right, i.e., 
there is. Certainly Feser is insistent that "property dualists" think that 
there is an ontological irreducibility. But then Searle is a "property dualist" 
since he just expresses the same notion differently, i.e., in his claim that 
consciousness has a first person ontology that is irreducible to the third 
person ontology of so-called physical things.

However, since my view is that Searle is guilty of ontological dualism (the 
kind some call "substance dualism") because of what is embedded in his CRA 
there is no difference of any import here. If Searle really is a "property 
dualist" (contra his own claims) then he would be in the same place, finally, 
as any "substance dualist" and I have argued that his CRA DOES entail an 
underlying ontological dualism with which even "property dualism" as described 
by Feser would be consistent. Thus the point is to parse the CRA and other of 
his claims, rather than to rely on his explicit denials.

By the way, thanks for posting the two articles. (I had seen and read the 
Searle piece before but I hadn't bothered to read Feser. Doing so gave me a 
better sense of what people may mean by "property dualism" and why Searle's 
position seems to be undifferentiated from it except in terms of his choice of 
terminology and his explicit denials.) But I don't think you can argue against 
Feser by referencing his "dualistic bias". If he is a dualist (of any sort) for 
particular reasons then that is a legitimate philosophical position and, of 
course, his criticisms of other views will reflect that. It's not "bias" to 
have a position and defend it or to criticize other positions in light of it. 
"Bias" is when you won't look at the other side and there is no evidence of 
that in Feser's piece.


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