[Wittrs] Re: Dualism Cooties: Ontologically Basic Ambiguity

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 19 Mar 2010 14:21:01 -0000

Will try to reply as much as possible though today is shaping up as very tight.

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

> SWM wrote:
>  >Joseph Polanik wrote:
>  >>I call the fallacy in question the Fallacy of Untyped Dualism, FUD.
>  >>your version, Mirsky's FUD has these steps
>  >>1. classify any basic phenomenon, property or substance as a 'basic'.
>  >>2. insist that all basics are basic substances
>  >>3. count the substances found by this procedure. if there are two,
>  >>attribute substance dualism

>  >Note, as well, that you wrongly impute the above three premised
>  >argument to me since I grant there are many kinds of "basic", depending
>  >on context, etc. Therefore, I cannot be classifying "all basics" as
>  >"substances" as you wrongly put it.
> the claim is that you recognize many different types of 'basics' as
> 'ontological basics' and then you classify all 'ontological basics' as
> basic substances for purposes of deciding whether to attribute substance
> dualism.

An ontological basic is just whatever is bottom line in a causal way, i.e., 
that which is responsible for something else. The universe is very diverse but 
all that diversity is associated with what we call "physical" (either because 
it is made up of it or manifests it, etc.). That includes atoms and energy and 
forces and whatever else underlies the world we experience. The question is 
whether our experience, itself, (an undeniable phenomenon in the universe along 
with rocks and trees and rivers and rubber balls) is also underlain by the same 
amalgam of "things" (the physical), or whether a second line of appearance, 
tracing to something that isn't part of what's physical, must be presumed in 
order to account for the occurrence of experience.

This isn't about whether there is observer (consciousness) and what is 
observed. That is assumed to be the case and is beyond question. So it isn't 
about whether there are ideas and after images. It's about whether the fact of 
experience can be explained in terms of the same constituents we use to explain 
what is physical.

Now you say "the claim is that you recognize many different types of 'basics' 
as 'ontological basics'". I have no idea what THIS means. By definition, I 
don't recognize anything that we can point to, have experience of, as 
ontologically basic because the term, itself, is an abstract one. THAT's why I 
don't use a term like "substance" which implies some kind of material (after 
all, materials are really just more of what we experience). We never experience 
what is ontologically basic. It's just a way of talking about a relation 
between things we encounter and whatever lies beneath them. The question is 
whether what is physical is enough to give us what is mental or do we need to 
expand the idea of the universe to include something more?

>  >First, I do not recognize a useful application of "substance" in this
>  >context at all ... but, second, I clearly do not classify "all basics"
>  >this way since I have consistently spoken of the referent I have in
>  >mind as an "ontological basic".
> you also consistently avoid the question '*ontologically basic what?*'.

That's because there is no ontologically basic anything in our experience. 
There is only whatever underlies what we experience. The universe is physical 
(everything that makes that up) or it is physical AND something else. The 
latter view is at least dualism.

The question I have asked is why presume this last, absent reason to do so? 
And, of course, I have pointed out that we have no such reason in terms of 
affirmative evidence. The only other reason would be if there is no other way 
to explain the presence of consciousness in the universe. But I have concluded 
Dennett's way is an adequate way, at least given our current level of knowledge.

> perhaps, if I restored some redundant uses of 'ontological', this would
> me more clear. Mirsky's FUD has these steps:

> 1. classify a basic phenomenon, property or substance as an 'ontological
> basic'.

What basic phenomenon, property or substance? The idea of "ontologically basic" 
has no particular to which it refers. It's a reference to a theoretical.

> 2. insist that all ontological basics are ontologically basic substances

The idea of "substance" in this context is outmoded and inconsistent with 
current ways of explaining the universe.

> 3. count the substances found by this procedure. if there are two,
> attribute Cartesian dualism (aka interactive substance dualism).

The are no substances to be found since the idea is flawed but supposing you 
only mean "count the onotlogical basics to be found" there are none found that 
way either, only a theoretical idea that there is one or more than one 
underlying cause of whatever actually exists in the universe.

>  >>there are two 'basics' you can observe in Searle, the two types of
>  >>phenomena. he says that these have different ontologies, which to him
>  >>means that each has a different mode of existence.
>  >I am saying they are not two "basics" in the same way therefore he is
>  >making a mistake in treating them as if they are.
> he is treating them both as being ontological basics; but, not being
> ontologically basic in the same way. one is an ontologically basic
> substance (an experiencer independent kind of object) and the other is
> an ontologically basic phenomenon (an experiencer dependent kind of
> phenomenon).

And I am saying that Searle is treating this in a confused way. Of course there 
are different modes of being in the universe. Of course there is subjectness as 
well as the objects of particular subjects. But that doesn't imply anything 
about what causes the occurrence of subjectness in and of itself. The question 
is whether certain types of brains are enough to account for the occurrence of 
minds in the universe. Searle, along with most moderns, says yes, but then he 
argues against computer programs running on computers doing it in a way that 
implies brains are not enough after all. Hence he is implicitly dualist in his 
conception of mind and in self-contradiction.

>  >And, indeed, when it comes to claims of causality, even he agrees that
>  >one can causally reduce the features of consciousness to whatever it is
>  >brains do. However, he stumbles when he makes a distinction by
>  >confusing causal reduction (which possibility he affirms) with what he
>  >calls ontology when, in fact, the very issue at hand, causal reduction,
>  >IS one of ontological reduction.
> in this case, causal reducibility is precisely what gives ontological
> irreducibility.
> Searle says that the brain causes consciousness.

He does. But he argues that computers can't on the grounds that there is 
nothing in the CR that's conscious. But you can't draw the general conclusion 
that computers (i.e., any kind of R) can't be conscious just because the CR's 
constituents aren't conscious UNLESS you think that consciousness cannot be 
constituted by what isn't.

But Searle already grants that consciousness is a product of brain events. If 
so, it is either brought into existence as a new entry into the universe or it 
IS a product of physical processes in brains. But if the latter, then there is 
nothing in principle to tell us that it cannot be a product of computer events, 
as well.

This is the crux of my point about Searle's argument and why I say he is 
implicitly dualist while denying being that.

> by the Law of Indiscernibility of Identicals, the afterimage can not be
> identical to the brain which causes it.

We've already been all over this identicals stuff in earlier posts. And I've 
told you why that isn't relevant.

> since the afterimage is not itself a physical object, it must have a
> different mode of existence --- it is an experiencer dependent
> phenomenon.

Different modes of existence have nothing to do with different causes or lines 
of descent.

> if the brain and the afterimage have different modes of existence, they
> are each ontologically basic --- but in different ways.

The only way that counts in the discussion about dualism is the one that asks 
whether we can ascribe all phenomenon to the same physical universe or must 
presume there is at least one more source for certain phenomena to be 

> the fallacy of Mirsky's FUD consists in taking these two ontological
> basics that are of different types to indicate interactive substance
> dualism --- a belief system with two ontologically basic kinds of
> objects.

This again completely misses the point since it has nothing to do with the 
claim I've made. It also misapplies the notion of what I mean by an 
"ontological basic". The fact that there is subjectness and objects, the fact 
that there is awareness and that of which we are aware, does not mean that we 
have two ontological basics. Indeed, THAT is the question before us, i.e., we 
are discussing here whether this fact implies an explanation of how things are 
that presumes two distinct lines of causal descent or not.

You are simply assuming that the fact that there are different modes of 
existence, different aspects of things in the universe, is proof that there are 
different ontological basics. But that is the question, not the answer.

>  >I would say two "ontological basics" (note, again, the modifying
>  >adjective).
> noting that 'ontological' is an adjective is just a cheap distraction.

No, it's an essential usage to make the point. But you are free to tell us 
what's cheap about it or why it is merely distracting!

> my claim is that, in the phrase 'ontological basics', 'basics' is
> functioning syntactically as a noun; but, that this is misleading.
> semantically, 'basics' is an adjective.

"Basic" is an adjective. "A basic" is a noun.

> when we ask 'ontologically basic
> what?' we can recover the implicit noun subject of the phrase
> 'ontologically basic [noun here]'.

Whatever underlies what we encounter in our experience and what we encounter in 
our experience is very broad. So the question is whether some of what we 
encounter is traceable to one source and other things we encounter are 
traceable to another. Or whether everything can be explained in terms of the 
same source. Do we need to posit one or two sources for the full range of 
phenomena (including minds) that we encounter in the universe?

>  >The issue remains whether recognition of these two "basics" is a claim
>  >that one cannot be reduced to the other, i.e., that one is
>  >"ontologically basic" while the other isn't, or that both are?
> they are each ontologically basic --- in different ways.

There is only one way that's relevant. The fact that there are different types 
of things, different modes of being, different aspects, is not evidence that 
what is ontologically basic must be different for each or for each particular 
class of things. Indeed, THAT is the question we are asking. You can't just 
assume your answer and say that proves it because that's circular (another 
fallacy, by the way, which ought to be something you would be paying attention 

>  >This is about the reduction, i.e., about ontological basicness, not
>  >about being basic in any other sense which is why there is no point in
>  >confusing talk of "basics" in one sense with talk of "ontological
>  >basics"
> concerning your claim that Searle is an interactive substance dualist,
> the question is whether one may reasonable classify a philosopher as an
> interactive substance dualist without showing that the philosophy in
> question is based on having two ontologically basic substances (kinds of
> objects).
> Joe

Look at my actual argument about what is implied in the CRA.


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