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

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 24 Mar 2010 12:39:04 -0000

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


> 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.
> you are still begging the question as to whether there is any reduction
> of any kind.
> how did you decide or come to know that a causal account of the
> origin of consciousness explains how consciousness is reduced to the
> brain rather than explaining how consciousness emerges from the brain.

Now you've made it a matter of word usage. There is no difference. I will again 
stress, however, that I don't consider the term "emerge" in this context to be 
a term for anything magical, miraculous or inherently mysterious (because it's 
beyond understanding). Thus if X can be reduced to Y, we can also say Y emerges 
from X when conditions are right. (If the temperature is too cold, for 
instance, the H2O molecules that constitute water will slow down to such an 
extent that the mass of molecules becomes solid and the water is said to have 
frozen, losing its wetness. If the temperature is too hot, the molecules speed 
up and you get steam, and so forth.)

If wetness can be explained as being caused by a certain kind of molecular 
configuration and behavior, it can be said to be an emergent quality or feature 
on the macro-level from such micro-level constituents and behaviors. (This is 
all quites Searlean, by the way, i.e., the water molecules on a micro level 
cause and constitute what we mean by the wetness phenomena on the macro level, 
as he puts 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.

>  >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.
> again, your argument presupposes that a causal explanation is a causal
> reduction.

It's all that I mean by "causal reduction", i.e., we explain X as being the 
result of Y. If you mean something else tell us what. I don't see any reason to 
think my usage here is odd, anomalous, out of the ordinary, etc. But if you 
have a different meaning in mind, put it on the table and let's consider it.

>  >>>>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"?
> no answer to such a simple question?

It didn't seem worth answering separately but if you insist: Sometimes, 
depending on context.

In the matter of water's wetness -

Question: "Why is water wet, where wetness is this feature and this feature and 
this feature?"

Answer: "Water is wet (has these features that we encounter on our level of 
observation) because of the behavior of water's molecular constituents in 
relation to other molecules they come into contact with under certain 

Question: "Well, is that all that wetness is?"

Answer: "Yes."

Question: "But the eight ball's rolling into the corner pocket on a pool table, 
because of the impact of the cue ball against it as a result of the cure ball's 
movement along a certain trajectory, has been caused by that cue ball and its 
movement, but that eight ball isn't that cue ball on its trajectory -- it isn't 
whatever causes it."

Answer: "Different use of 'cause'."

Question: "Aren't you just making up your own uses for the word?"

Answer: "No, because we speak like this in ordinary English. What causes water 
to be wet? The behavior of water's constituents, that is, water is wet because 
of its molecular structure, etc., etc."

Question: "Why should I accept that use if I don't speak that way?"

Answer: "Because that's how English speakers do speak and we are speaking 
English. If you want a specialized use that only reflects your own way of 
thinking, you have to specify it but that still doesn't empower you to alter 
the uses of other speakers unilaterally."

Question: "But if my specification reduces what you say to certain logical 
forms, aren't I showing you the underlying meaning of what you are really 

Answer: "Not if you are saying something in logical form or notation that I 
wasn't saying in English."

>  >>do you tell your wife that your love for her is causally reduced to
>  >>the functionality of hormones and brain chemicals?
>  >That's irrelevant.
> if you're not willing to live your own philosophy, why should anyone
> else take it seriously?

What has this to do with "living" one's philosophy??? I am talking here about 
ways of speaking about different phenomena in different contexts. What makes 
you think I am obliged to mix phenomena, contexts, etc.?

>  >>>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.
> the question is whether a causal account of consciousness explains the
> reduction of consciousness to the brain or the emergence of
> consciousness from the brain.

If the question is how do we get subjectness in an apparently objective 
universe and the answer is the brain does it by doing such and such, which can 
then be replicated by doing the same on this other platform, etc., then that is 
an explanation.

> your argument, such as it is, presumes that there is a reduction and
> then tries to justify classifying that reduction as causal and/or
> ontological.

My argument, such as it is, recognizes that it is a reduction that's needed and 
proceeds to look at the possibility of reducing what we call mind to what we 
call brain via an explanatory process. While there is no guarantee that we will 
achieve a successful reduction, that, in itself, is no reason not to proceed. 
If we cannot, that would be evidence that something else, maybe a revised 
account of the universe that includes something dualistic, would be needed. If 
we can succeed, on the other hand, then why bother making up a dualistic 
account when a non-dualist one can work?

> I'm challenging your implicit presumption that there is a reduction.

I know what you're "challenging". But your challenge hinges on a presumption of 
dualism, i.e., that consciousness cannot be accounted for in a non-dualist way, 
therefore no reduction is possible.

We have already been over this in past discussions. If you think Dennett (or 
any thesis like his) is wrong you have to show that it fails because:

1) It is logically incoherent (unintelligible); or

2) It is logically invalid (leads to a false conclusion because of flaws in the 
premises); or

3) It is incomplete in that it leaves out some key feature of consciousness 
which must be included to give a full and adequate account.

You can't simply deny Dennett's thesis on the grounds that it doesn't account 
for the presumed duality of the universe which is grounded in the notionn that 
mind is, by its very nature, irreducible. So far you haven't shown any of the 
three possibilities above to be the case while you have certainly continued to 
exhaust a lot of rhetorical energy in trying to challenge the possibility that 
what we mean by consciousness or mind can be reductively accounted for in terms 
of the physicality of brains and such.

>  >>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? ...
>  >Can you back up your editorial remark above about his being generous
>  >and stipulative?
> yes.
> I will suspend the stipulation. you may now present your argument that a
> causal account of consciousness explains a reduction rather than an
> emergence.
> Joe

Why "suspend"? Back up what you claim you can back up.

As noted above, you are playing with words vis a vis "reduction" vs. 
"emergence". See my initial comments at the top of this response.


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