[Wittrs] Re: Dualism Cooties: Dennett Explicitly Accuses Searle of Implicit Cartesianism

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 12 Mar 2010 02:00:10 -0000

--- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Joseph Polanik <jPolanik@...> wrote:


> Stuart,
> listen carefully.

Hmmm, you usually like to say to your interlocutors (rather peremptorily I 
might add) "focus" instead of the more genial "listen carefully". I guess 
you're amending your vocabulary for the moment and trying a slightly less 
condescending locution?

> I am not attributing a fallacious argument to Dennett. I am attributing
> it to you.
> let me repeat that.

> I am claiming that you, Stuart W Mirsky, are a perpetrating a fallacy;
> specifically, the fallacy known as affirming the consequent.
> how, you ask? where, you ask? well, I'll tell you.

Yes, thank you for asking what is now the obvious question.

> in the context of Dennett's critique of the CRA in _Consciousness
> Explained_, he makes a claim that reduces to the logical form:
    C -> -U;
> meaning, Cartesian Dualism implies believing that there is no
> Understanding in the chinese Room

He does.

> you (not Dennett) then note that Searle denies that the chinese room
> understands chinese;

You think Dennett is unaware of that in his response to the CRA? If he were, 
what would he have been responding to in terms of that argument then?

Moreover, as I recall, Dennett explicitly mentions, in that text, Searle's 
insistence that nothing in the CR understands Chinese and then proceeds to tell 
us that Searle, in focusing on the components of the CR, forgets about their 
combination, i.e., the system (which, Dennett is at pains to point, out IS the 
proper response to the CRA). But don't take my word for it. Go back and re-read 
his text.

So while I do point out that Searle says the CR doesn't understand Chinese, so 
does Dennett, contra your statement above. You are simply wrong on the fact 

> and, you conclude that Searle is a Cartesian style
> substance dualist.

I do and so did Dennett. He says it in that text, remember?

>  >You can go back and read my arguments about the CRA (they're all over
>  >these lists). I have always maintained that there is a PRESUMPTION of
>  >ontological basicness for consciousness (i.e., dualism) implicit in the
>  >CRA or Searle could not draw the conclusion he draws from it. When
>  >Dennett says it takes a "Cartesian dualist" to credit the CRA's
>  >conclusion as Searle presents it, he is saying the same thing!

> Dennett *does not say* "it takes a 'Cartesian dualist' to credit the
> CRA's conclusion". [would believe -U]

He does not use those words but he most certainly does claim that a Cartesian 
dualist thinks in this way. Read the text. THAT is his point when he asks: who 
would believe that "more of the same" would not be enough to produce 
understanding just because a little bit of it isn't, and then answers his own 
question by noting that a Cartesian dualist would.

However, contrary to what you also seem to be saying, Dennett doesn't say 
anything about "only a Cartesian dualist" nor did I say he did. Whether there 
are other bases for thinking that more of a certain type of constituent would 
not be enough is a completely different question (and, in fact, there are 
certainly other reasons to think it might not be as given by Hawkins and even 
Edelman, but these reasons are driven by empirical claims, subject to testing, 
about how brains actually operate, not about the logic of what we mean by 
"consciousness", which is what Searle AND Dennett are addressing.

> he says "Cartesian dualists would think so" [would believe -U]

> the difference is that saying 'it takes a cartesian to think so' is
> quite a bit like 'only a Cartesian would think so' [would believe -U]

But I never said anything about "only" nor did I say Dennett did.

For the record, the argument which I have made before and with which I think 
Dennett is in accord based on that text, goes rather like this:

1) If you think consciousness cannot be broken down to non-conscious
constituents, then you are a Cartesian Dualist.

2) The only way to think that the CR implies that no similarly constituted 
system can be conscious is to think that consciousness cannot be broken down to 
non-conscious constituents.

3) Searle thinks that the CR implies that no system with the same kind of 
consitutents as the CR can be conscious.

4) Therefore Searle is a Cartesian Dualist.


> the two statements have different logical properties.

Yet you seem to think that I am imputing the exclusivizing version of the 
statement (including "only") to him or that I am claiming it myself. But I am 
not doing either.

> Dennett make be the intellectual equivalent of a shyster, a street
> hustler or a con artist; but, like the promoter of get rich schemes,
> while he's trolling for individuals who can't or won't think clearly, he
> does not himself invest any money in the scheme.

That kind of claim you have just made is classic ad hominem, Joe, and unworthy 
of someone who claims to be relying on logical rigor to make his case. (Note 
that it involves demeaning Dennett as a "shyster", etc., and me as someone "who 
can't or won't think clearly". And you have the temerity to accuse others of 
committing logical fallacies? Is there a logical fallacy associated with having 
a lot of gall?)

> Dennett does not himself commit the fallacy I am attributing to you.

Your attribution is based on a version of the claim I have never made and have 
repeatedly told you I did not make (while giving you the argument I actually do 
make -- see above). Apparently you either don't get what I am saying or are 
unwilling to attend to it in your eagerness to demonstrate a fallacy in what I 
have said. But a fallacy can only be ascribed to someone if they have made the 
argument that contains it and I haven't nor have you shown that I have.

> perhaps you make an honest mistake; or, perhaps you were suckered.

Lots of possibilities, however you may want to bear in mind that my position is 
not premised on Dennett's claims since I came to it after reading Searle, but 
before reading Dennett. Thus your allegation that Dennett has "suckered" me 
into accepting his claims is as empty as it is insulting. On the other hand, it 
seems consistent with your resort to ad hominems.

> but, it is you who perpetrates the fallacy --- not Dennett.
> are we clear on this point? I attribute the fallacy to you, Stuart W
> Mirsky --- not to Daniel C Dennett.
> Joe

You can "attribute" anything you like but if you can't demonstrate it, and you 
haven't thus far, then it's just an empty attribution.

Above I reproduced the actual argument I have made (here and many times in the 
past on this and other lists). It is an argument with which I believe Dennett 
is in accord. To demonstrate your claim that I have committed a fallacy, all 
you have to do is go back to it and show where the fallacy is.

Making up your own version of what I am arguing, which doesn't match what I've 
said, isn't a valid way to proceed -- indeed it partakes of another classic 
fallacy: the strawman.

So now you are two for two, having 1) fallaciously argued against Dennett, the 
man, and against me -- for having been "suckered" -- rather than against the 
argument, and then 2) by imputing to me, again fallaciously, a claim I never 
made in order to argue that I am wrong for having made it.


P.S. I don't know why I am bothering here since you never seem to attend to 
anything I have actually said anyway, not unlike our earlier debate in which 
you claimed the collapse of the quantum wave function implies dualism. There 
the terminology you used sounded impressive initially, until we unpacked it and 
discovered that all that was meant was that uncertainty about quantum positions 
(which aren't observable in any case) disappears ("collapses") when an actual 
observation occurs! On this rarified edifice you wanted to rear a structure 
that demonstrates the case for dualism and to that end you argued about how von 
Neumann's categories into which he assigned things (I,II, and III) had been 
converted by you into your own categories of 1,2,3 which, you insisted, 
clarified the dualist implications. But nothing of the kind was clarified. In 
the end, Joe, obscurantism is not argument, nor is it philosophy -- not serious 
philosophy anyway! Well, I'll await your addressing what I actually said in the 
current discussion if you do finally decide to get round to it after all this 
ongoing hemming and hawing. (For convenience sake, please see my repeat of the 
argument, in four steps, above).

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