[Wittrs] Re: Dualism Cooties: Is Stuart a Property Dualist?

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 28 Mar 2010 23:00:34 -0000

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

> SWM wrote:
>  >Joseph Polanik wrote:
>  >>okay so physical objects have process properties and system
>  >>properties; and, only the latter can explain under explain/constitute
>  >>understanding.

>  >>that claim qualifies as property dualism according to the criteria for
>  >>EPD that I've previously posted.

>  >>therefore, Stuart, you are a property dualist.
>  >You are obsessed with categories Joe.
> that's a laugh. you are the one who has droned on for years that Searle
> is really a closet Cartesian dualist.

No, I've "droned on for years" that Searle's CRA is mistaken though I only go 
on about it when others press the matter. Frankly, I'm just as content to talk 
about other things and for a long time kept away from the issue on this list. 
But when people bring it up and I think they are wrong on the CRA, I say why I 
think so. If they think I have it wrong, I defend my position. But it's driven 
by what others write since I don't bring the subject up.

>  >I never denied being a "property dualist" if all it means is that some
>  >physical events produce/have a subjective aspect.
> that some physical events produce/have a subjective aspect is the fact
> that is to be explained by neuroscience and philosophy of consciousness.

> property dualism is more than just this one fact. it is one type of
> explanation of this fact.

Insofar as it doesn't posit uniquely mental properties (ontologically distinct 
in derivation from other kinds of properties) I'm fine with it. But if it does, 
then it's no different than ontological dualism and then I'm not.

>  >With Searle, I don't take that to be "property dualism" however there
>  >is a good argument out there that that really is all that "property
>  >dualists" mean. If that is so then Searle's position IS no different
>  >from "property dualism" despite his disclaimers and I would have no
>  >problem with it as well.
> yes, PD is innocuous and EPD is extremely innocuous.

It's only "innocuous" if it doesn't have implications that are ontologically 
dualist in nature.

>  >In the sense that is important it doesn't strike me as really being
>  >dualist because the only issue as far as I can see with real dualism is
>  >whether it implies that we need more than one ontological basic in the
>  >universe to explain the occurrence of minds.
> Searle, although very likely a property dualist, does in fact argue for
> two ontological basics; but, only for one ontologically basic substance;
> meaning, kind of 'stuff'. the other, the first-person phenomenology that
> has an experiencer dependent mode of existence, is an ontologically
> basic phenomenon - subjectivity/experience.

Insofar as by "ontological basics" he means only different ways of describing 
or speaking about, that would not, on my view be a question of ontological 
basics. However, Searle is very entangled in these terms and hasn't sorted them 
out, as far as I can see, the claims of some of his partisans to the contrary 
notwithstanding. He speaks of different ontologies for first and third person 
phenomena and then agrees that causality all tracks back to the physical. Is it 
any wonder Dennett thinks him confused?

>  >With Searle I think that "property dualism", even when claimed
>  >otherwise, often seems to be expressed in terms of ontological basics,
>  >i.e., that the properties of some physical events which are what we
>  >mean by "consciousness" are brought into the universe
> precisely.
> of the two ontological basics that Searle acknowledges, one (physical
> 'stuff' or physical objects) has been present since the big bang.
> billions of years passed before conditions were right for the emergence
> of life and billions more passed before conditions were right for the
> first appearance of consciousness within the universe.

If Searle's view is as you put it, then that is not the innocuous kind of 
"property dualism" which some have accused him of and which I would agree he is 
guilty of, notwithstanding his denials. Rather, it is a case of ontological 
dualism which means that he is in contradiction with his denial of being a 
dualist and would surely explain his CRA which presumes that consciousness is 
irreducible to anything that isn't, itself, conscious.

> at some point in time, something extraordinary happened; and, there was
> consciousness for the first time in our universe.

But is it a system feature or a basic feature that just kind of popped into 
existence because of some unfathomable thing that certain kinds of physical 
events (in brains) do?

One can say that at some point in time consciousness happened when the right 
kind of system came into operation, too.

So the fact that the occurrence is late in the history of the universe isn't 
the issue. Rather it's what does consciousness amount to, what is it?

>  >in some ultimately unfathomable way as a new entry to the universe.
> new entry? as a new phenomenon, yes. but Searle is no mysterian. he
> thinks we'll eventually know how it happened that there is
> subjectivity/experience in what was at first an insensate universe.

I'm not convinced he is "no mysterian". He has, after all, said it's possible 
we will some day figure it out and possible we won't. But as to his account, he 
offers nothing to explain what physical events in brains do while denying that 
physical events in computers could do it, all the while seemingly oblivious to 
the fact that he is denying something's capacity without knowing what it needs 
to have that capacity.

>  >That strikes me as old fashioned dualism in a different set of clothes,
>  >that's all.
> it only counts as old-fashioned, hard-core, Cartesian-style interactive
> substance dualism if there are two ontological basic types of stuff.

If one thinks that whatever it is that consciousness is is irreducible to 
anything more basic than itself then "stuff" is like "substance", an 
unnecessary word. The issue is what is ontologically basic, not what substance 
or stuff is.

> read your Dennett, he speaks of physical stuff:
> "The prevailing wisdom, variously expressed and argued for, is
> materialism: there is only one sort of stuff, namely matter --- the
> physical stuff of physics, chemistry and physiology --- and the mind is
> somehow a physical phenomenon. in short, the mind is the brain."
> [_Consciousness Explained_, p. 33]
> and mind stuff:
> he illustrates the problem of explaining the interaction of mind stuff
> and physical stuff using the 'Casper' argument, where Casper, The
> Friendly Ghost represents mind stuff. "how can Casper both elude all
> physical measurement and control the body?" he asks rhetorically.

He certainly lays out the issues in Consciousness Explained. And then he 
proceeds to develop his solution which relies on the idea that brains are like 
massively parallel processors and mental phenomena are like the programs 
running on them.

>  >But let's be very clear here, again. I AM NOT ACCUSING SEARLE OF BEING
> in the three years of this argument that I know about, I don't recall a
> single person who accused you of accusing Searle of property dualism.

You did. On this list in fact, as I recall.

>  >My claim is that Searle is implicitly an onotological dualist while
>  >denying it.
> unless you can prove that Searle postulates a second kind of 'stuff',
> you can't prove he is a substance dualist (what you've called 'Cartesian
> dualist', 'real dualist' or 'ontological dualist').
> Joe

Since the claim is that Searle is implicitly this, he doesn't postulate it 
because he doesn't express it. So that's irrelevant. As to "stuff", note that 
the word is not really different than "substance", just the latter in another 

The issue is not stuffs or substances but ontological basicness. The physical 
universe consists of a vast array of atomic level phenomena in the form of 
atomic "particles" and behaviors and the energies that describe these 
behaviors. Reducing the observable physical world to that kind of description 
does not imply anything about a basic stuff or substance.

Similarly, one can speak of the mental without reference to an idea of stuff or 
substance but, rather, in terms that parallel the way we now explain the 
observable world in terms of physics. Again, no stuff or substance need apply.

My claim that Searle is an ontological dualist rests on the point that one 
cannot assume the CR has any implications for any other R with the same kinds 
of constituents unless one assumes that consciousness (whatever features it 
consists of) is not reducible to something more basic than itself which isn't, 
itself, conscious. That is, to think that consciousness is a basic property 
that is either found or not found with certain physical events, is to presume 
it is ontologically basic and THAT is the condition of being an ontological 
dualist (at the least -- since one might conceivable be an ontological 
tri-alist or multiplist, as well).


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