[Wittrs] Re: Dualism Cooties: Ontologically Basic Ambiguity

  • From: "jrstern" <jrstern@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 19 Mar 2010 21:02:34 -0000

--- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Gordon Swobe <wittrsamr@...> wrote:
> If we embrace the view in which we reduce mental phenomena to nothing but 
> third-person objective physical facts, ...

What is third person about physical facts?

> ... both epistemically and ontologically, then we embrace a position like 
> type physicalism or its close cousin token physicalism.

Type physicalism and token physicalism are not close.

In fact, I'm not sure "type physicalism" is even coherent, except as some kind 
of essentialist theory of material causation.

> ... The type physicalist identifies mental states with their third-person 
> descriptions.

Not at all.  Type "physicalism" identifies mental states with "types", which 
are typically abstract, but I suppose might also include magical theories of 
unknown (or at least unreduced) physical principles.

>In the neurology of pain, for example, stimulation of C-fibers correlate with 
>the experience of pain. The type physicalist reduces pain both epistemically 
>and ontologically and declares that C-fiber stimulation IS pain.

The whole pain discussion gives me a pain.

One can be a type "physicalist" and still hold any of a wide range of opinions 
as to where the type becomes a first-person quale.

> But common sense tells us that the word "pain" means something that we 
> experience in the first-person.

Any appeal to common sense preceeds nonsense.

> Third-person stories about C-fibers do not explain or capture what we mean by 
> the word.

This is not apparent.  I believe it is false.

> In effect we lose the concept of pain -- the very thing that interests us in 
> this case -- when we reduce it philosophically to nothing but its objective 
> third-person description. Type physicalism defies common sense, literally.

Some may hold all these positions, but most hold only one or another aspect.

> One might ask why anyone should want to embrace type or token physicalism.

Because two millenia of scientific progress find that that's how the world 
works - everything we understand, follows some kind of type/token rules.

> It seems to me that many philosophers of the materialist persuasion (e.g., 
> Dennett) cannot see that as materialists we can reduce mental phenomena 
> scientifically to third-person descriptions while preserving their subjective 
> reality -- and that we can do this *without* embracing dualism.

Of course Dennett and everyone sees this, but it doesn't fit with what we see 
as science.  Still, tell any story about irreducible properties, and if it has 
predictive power and is disconfirmable, it can be accepted for what it's worth.

> Following Searle, we can reduce mental phenomena to third-person causal 
> descriptions without reducing them ontologically. In this case, we can tell a 
> complete scientific story about the neurology of pain while recognizing that 
> our epistemic reduction to objective scientific facts does not entail an 
> ontological reduction.

You can have a quite nice behaviorist theory, actually.

If you like that sort of thing.

> Though causally reducible to third-person descriptions, mental phenomena also 
> have an irreducible first-person ontology. And we can accept this brute fact 
> of existence without adding any metaphysical baggage about non-physical 
> properties or substances!

I don't accept it as a brute fact at all.

I see the issues of qualia as one more topic in need of reduction, or something 
like that.

But the "hard" problems remain, for the moment, hard.

The "easy" problems are tough enough for me.

At least, the hard problems are harder than the easy problems, and I don't see 
that the easy problems have yet been handled very well.  The CR doesn't appeal 
to qualia at all, that's why it has some traction.  Well, OK, it pretends not 
to appeal to qualia, one might debate whether or not it actually does.  Anyway, 
I'm happy dealing with nothing but language, semantics, and "truth", in regards 
to computational systems.


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