[Wittrs] Re: Dualism Cooties: Ontologically Basic Ambiguity: The Problem

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 22 Mar 2010 13:15:32 -0000

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

> SWM wrote:
>  >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.
> I agree that the fact that, besides physical objects such as mountains
> and mole hills, there is the experiencing I and its experiences does not
> necessarily mean that there are two ontologically basic *substances*.
> would you agree that Searl only recognizes one ontologically basic
> substance?

I would say that Searle doesn't address this because he doesn't speak in these 
terms however I would agree that Searle is at least a de facto physicalist in 
that he thinks the world is largely explainable in physical terms. He even 
thinks we can say that brains cause minds. But then he gets into this idea of 
minds representing a first-person ontology rather than the third-person 
ontology of the observable physical world. Here I think he stumbles into 
confusion, for all the reasons I've previously given.

> if so, then the issue at hand can be stated very simply,
> thus:

> [1] you classify Searle as a Cartesian dualist despite acknowledging
> that he recognizes only one ontologically basic substance.

I classify him as someone who is ontologically a dualist despite his denials. 
And I consider being an ontological dualist to involve thinking the same way 
about minds as classical substance dualists of whom Descartes is the paradigm 
in the Western philosophical tradition, making Searle a dualist in the 
Cartesian way -- despite his denials. And I say this because of the 
implications of his Chinese Room Argument (the CRA), not because of his own 
affirmative claims, of course.

> [2] a Cartesian dualist is an interactive substance dualist; meaning,
> that the human individual is composed of a mortal physical body and an
> immortal non-physical soul which interact.

Descartes was an ontological dualist (what you call, with traditional 
philosophy, a "substance dualist") and, indeed, was the first thinker in 
Western philosophical tradition to explicitly espouse and defend this position. 
As such this kind of dualism is generally ascribed to him though it has 
antecedents that precede him and it developed separately in other cultural 

For the record, AGAIN, I do not suggest that in being ontologically dualist, 
Searle is an avowed follower of Descartes or that he subscribes to the full 
panoply of Descartes' various doctrines. I only say that he shares with 
Descartes a certain understanding of mind.

> [3] no one on any of the mailing lists on which you have peddled this
> nonsense has ever been able to understand how the CRA exposes the
> presumption of or demonstrate a conclusion that there is an immortal
> non-physical soul within the human individual.

Even if no one in the world understood it, that would be no evidence it is 
wrong. Nevertheless, I'm certain there are some who have grasped it, either in 
whole or part. However, when I went back to find that text from Dennett to meet 
your earlier challenge, I was gratified to see that, in fact, he is making the 
very points I've made, albeit in different language and with less attention to 
the logic of the claims. But in the end, what he says amounts to the same as 
what I've said on the matter, namely that the CR is underspecked and dualism is 
implicit in the CRA because it takes someone with that way of thinking about 
mind to agree with the argument's conclusions.   

> do you even understand the problem?
> Joe

Well if you don't get my argument, you obviously don't understand it. And if my 
argument is right, it addresses "the problem", in which case you don't 
understand it. If you don't, you wouldn't be much of a judge of whether I 
understand it.

I don't think your failure to understand, therefore, provides much in the way 
of evidence for its being wrong or even incomprehensible.


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