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

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 23 Mar 2010 12:59:48 -0000

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

> SWM wrote:

> I have no idea what you mean by 'ontological causal reduction'. would
> you care to explain this newly introduced phrase?

It's not newly introduced. I've used the term many times before on this and 
earlier lists. It means a reduction of X to Y such that Y is the bottom line 
thing to which X can be reduced because no further reduction to anything else 
is possible.

>  >... or it's questionable that consciousness reduces to brains and
>  >Searle denies it?
> your claim (that the causal reduction of consciousness to brain (which
> Searle accepts) is necessarily an ontological reduction of consciousness
> to brain (which Searle rejects)) is questionable because you've not
> supported it.

It's a use of language whose meaning I have explained (and not just above). 
I've noted that Searle speaks both of first person vs. third person ontologies 
and of causal reductions of minds to brains and that he separates the two 
issues. And I have noted that this separation is a mistake since the 
possibility of causal reduction (which Searle grants) introduces the question 
of where we stop and where we stop can also be ontological and, in a case like 
this, it is. Why? Because the point is to ask whether what we call mind can be 
reduced to something that isn't like itself. If it can, then the role of brains 
(which are physical) in relation to minds is understandable within a model that 
does not posit two underlying ontological basics. If it cannot, then that model 
is questionable and we must, at least, consider that something has been left 
out of our picture of the universe.

>  >>what makes you assume that a causal reduction is necessarily an
>  >>ontological reduction?
>  >It involves reducing one thing to another thing (saying X is just Y);
> does it involve saying that "X is whatever causes X"?
> do you tell your wife that your love for her is causally reduced to the
> functionality of hormones and brain chemicals?

That's irrelevant. How we speak at one level has nothing to do with how we 
speak at another. Different subjects, different concerns, different issues 
involve different language games. A descriptive language is appropriate for the 
study of how things work in the world. An emotive/expressive language (which 
may also involve some descriptions but on a different level, e.g., this is how 
I am feeling now beause . . .) is appropriate for interpersonal relations.

This isn't an argument over whether our linguistic behavior consists of 
multiple (and often interlocking but sometimes quite distinct) language games. 
It's an argument over whether a particular language game, that of describing 
the physical phenomena of the world, is adequate for explaining how minds occur 
in the physical world.

>  >it's ontological when you reach a point "below" which you can find no
>  >more "things" to reduce it to, i.e., when you're scraping the
>  >explanatory bottom and your down to whatever "things" exist without
>  >anywhere further to reduce.
> a causal explanation of first-person phenomenology (the experiencing I
> and its experiences) will link experienceable phenomena to the
> properties of some metaphenomenal object(s); and, Searle generously
> stipulates that you may call such an explanation a causal 'reduction' of
> consciousness to brain.

He "generously stipulates" it, does he? What makes you think he is doing it out 
of generosity or that it is merely his stipulation? Perhaps he is just 
recognizing how we do speak and think in relation to such things? Can you back 
up your editorial remark above about his being generous and stipulative?

> nevertheless, on the day that scientists discover the true causal
> explanation of consciousness, what we get from that causal reduction is
> an explanation of how consciousness emerges from insensate matter.

Dennett's already proposed how that happens. It's just that some, like you, 
don't want to accept it. Of course, Dennett's approach is, at this stage, 
merely a theory. It cannot be shown to have the results he predicts for it so 
no one can prove his theory's usefulness at this point. But then I haven't 
argued that it's true, only that it's viable, contra Searle's CRA that denies 
its possibillity.

So Dennett's theory is, indeed, a causal reduction, even if it's not an 
established one (beyond question by the overall scientific community and those 
of us who grant credence to scientific consensuses).

> in the case of consciousness and brain, causal reducibility explains
> ontological emergence.
> Joe

If there is an X and it is really just a Y then the ontology of Y explains and 
accounts for the appearance of the X. Hence ontological causal reductions.


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