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

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 26 Mar 2010 14:57:20 -0000

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

> As I've written to Joe, it seems to me that we can characterize a view as
> dualistic iff it entails a view of the mental as non-physical/immaterial.
> Searle's philosophy does not meet that criterion and you have not shown me
> that Dennett proves otherwise. In fact you have not shown me that Dennett
> even claims otherwise.

I have not aimed to show you that Dennett proves anything. I have aimed to lay 
out my own argument for the claim, not Dennett's. There is an important 
difference here. The issue with Dennett only arose because I said that 
Dennett's argument recognizes the same kind of dualism in Searle's CRA as I 
have suggested is there.

Joe challenged me to show that Dennett ever said anything like that and I did. 
Somehow this has become an argument over whether Dennett proved it. Obviously, 
I find Dennett's case compelling since it tracks the claim I have been making 
(though he doesn't give the same reasons I do -- though I believe he would 
agree with those reasons if called upon to).

Now, as to Searle's philosophy: I agree with you that Searle DOES NOT 
articulate a philosophy of dualism. He is quite clear in explicitly denying it, 
in fact. There is no argument between us on this score. The dispute we seem to 
be having hinges on my claim that his CRA implies dualism because, based on its 
three premises alone, it takes a dualist idea of mind to reach the conclusion 
the CRA reaches.

My argument about Searle's views is that, because he is implicitly dualist in 
THIS way, while being explicitly non-dualist in his claims about brains, AND 
because he elides the idea of first and third person "ontologies" with the the 
idea of ontological reduction (I note that Feser alludes to this kind of 
reduction, by the way, as well as that he uses the same kind of term I have 
been using, "ontologically basic", thereby suggesting my usage is not nearly so 
idiosyncratic as some here would have it), Searle is in serious 
self-contradiction. His CRA can only be true if understanding is a bottom-line 
(irreducible) property while the physicalist account of brains he gives must 
have understanding construed as a system (not bottom-line) property -- or else 
it falls into dualism in brains, too.

If Searle is right that "property dualism" is really just another gloss on the 
old fashioned "substance dualism", then it doesn't matter if he accepts the 
"property dualist" label or not since his CRA already relies on the older 
fashioned kind of dualism, even if he hasn't noticed it. But if he is wrong, 
and "property dualism" is nothing more than to speak of a certain class of 
properties belonging to some, but not all, physical things with causal 
reducibility of things like understanding is accepted, then calling him a 
"property dualist" is unimportant because it's a difference without a 
difference (in that I think Feser is correct). After all, as Feser notes, both 
"property dualists" and Searle accept that brain activity causes consciousness 
(including understanding).

> I understand Dennett argues against what he calls Cartesian *materialism*, a
> position distinct from both Cartesian substance dualism and property
> dualism. I wonder if Dennett considers Searle's view an example of Cartesian
> materialism.
> -gts

I don't know, off-hand. Where have you seen his argument against "Cartesian 
materialism"? We could take a look if it's accessible on-line and come to some 
opinions on that.

Note that I am not a Dennett expert or acolyte. I merely think Dennett had it 
right about consciousness in his Consciousness Explained and that Searle had 
this wrong in Minds, Brains and Science; Language, Mind and Society; Language 
and Consciousness; and The Mystery of Consciousness.


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