[Wittrs] Re: Dualism Cooties: Ontologically Basic Ambiguity: Cartesianism

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 25 Mar 2010 12:57:23 -0000

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

> SWM wrote:

>  >... my view is that Searle's position on consciousness implies dualism
>  >of the Cartesian variety (but not that he is a subscriber to Descarte's
>  >complete philosophical doctrine[s]).

> as usual, there are unanswered questions:
> what, specifically, is the position that Searle explicitly takes that
> tells you that Searle is implicitly (not explicitly) a Cartesian
> dualist? is it the claim that understanding of syntax does not produce
> semantic understanding? is it the claim that the causal reduction of
> consciousness to the brain is not also an ontological reduction? if it
> is something else, then what is it?

You have been reading what I've been writing, right? You're not new to any of 
these threads by your own admission!

The dualist implication is in the claim that the CR demonstrates that 
computational processes running on computers can't cause consciousness BECAUSE 
there is no understanding to be found in the CR, despite its "behavior". 
(Searle's third premise in the iteration of the CRA we have been considering on 
this list.)

The only reason that THAT would be the case is if we presume that understanding 
must be a bottom line property, i.e., it must be found in the constituents 
themselves and not as a function of some of them in some possible combination 
(which the CR just may not be specked to provide). The dualism is grounded in 
the idea that understanding is irreducible to anything not like itself, that 
it's an irreducible property of certain things.

This implicitly dualist idea also shows up in the notion, implied in the CRA, 
that the constituent elements of the CR (computational processes) can't do in 
any other configuration what they can't do in the CR (because the understanding 
we are looking for must somehow exist as a property of those elements in 
themselves rather than as a property of some combination of them).

> what does 'implies' mean today? are you saying that Searle's position
> presumes Cartesian dualism; or, are you saying that Cartesian dualism
> follows (can be deduced) from Searle's position?

I have used the term "presumes" numerous times by now so why do you even think 
you have to ask? A presumption is also an implication if we reverse the line of 
reasoning. That is, if a conclusion DEPENDS on a presumption, then, if the 
conclusion is true, it follows that the presumption is.

> and what exactly does 'Cartesian dualism' mean when you use that phrase?
> does it mean something other than interactive substance dualist?

I don't use either phrase. I use "ontological basicness" or, more recently, 
"ontological dualism" and do not address the specifics of how the two presumed 
basics interact (though it is to be assumed that there is some relation).

You wanted to cast my use as "substance dualism" and I agreed that the meaning 
is basically the same but noted that the term you were insisting on 
("substance") had too many adverse connotations (and some adverse implications) 
and so I preferred to dump the "substance" part. But by explanation, we agreed 
(or so I thought) that these were basically the same positions.

Then you equated that view with Descartes, to which I also agreed, i.e., this 
kind of bottom line dualism is associated with Descartes who first articulated 
it clearly in the Western philosophical tradition (as part, as we have since 
discussed, of his broader philosophical doctrines).

In the course of our discussions, I mentioned that the view that Searle was 
implicitly dualist in this way was not mine alone, that it underlay Dennett's 
critique of Searle's CRA, too. You then wrote on this list that you had read 
Dennett's Consciousness Explained (the book to which I had been referring) and 
could find no evidence of Dennett's ever saying anything like that. You 
challenged me to cite evidence for my claim.

I went back and found Dennett saying that it took a Cartesian dualist to think 
that more of the same (a more robustly specked CR) could not do what fewer of 
the same could not do (which was the implication of the CRA). Thus, he was, 
indeed, on record as citing this kind of dualism as implicit in the CRA's 
conclusion. Since the CRA is Searle's argument, which he both formulated and 
defends (and therefore presumably agrees with), Dennett's statement is clear 
indication that he, too, considers that dualism of the type we have been 
talking about underlies Searle's argument.

>  >NO ONE, NOT DENNETT AND NOT ME, is saying that Searle subscribes to
>  >all the philosophical doctrines of Descartes.
> I understand that. I'm just trying to understand how much or how little
> of Descartes' philosophy of interactive substance dualism a person would
> have to accept in order to be classified *by you* as a Cartesian
> dualist.

Again, I have accused Searle of thinking of consciousness as ontologically 
basic and have equated that with what has historically been called "substance 
dualism" and have noted that that way of thinking about mind is associated with 
Descartes who first articulated this in the Western Philosophical tradition and 
so is sometimes also called Cartesian dualism. How many more times do you think 
I need to repeat this for you to accept that I am not saying Searle is an 
explicit follower, disciple or acolyte of Descartes or that he implicitly 
subscribes to the full range of Descartes' doctrines?

My point is that Searle conceives of consciousness as being ontologically basic 
(irreducible to anything other than itself) and that this IS dualism. And by 
"dualism" I do not mean "property dualism" though we have debated here what 
that means as well. I mean "ontologically basic" dualism which is the same as 
what YOU call "substance dualism" but without any imputation that the universe 
consists of substances at bottom.

> does a person have to be a substance dualist to be a Cartesian dualist
> as you use the phrase, "Cartesian dualist"?
> Joe

See above.


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