[Wittrs] Re: Dualism Cooties: The Argument About What the Argument is About

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 11 Mar 2010 06:37:48 -0000

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


> okay. let's look at the actual argument.

So you are arguing Dennett's position then? Okay, let's proceed.

> the only part of Dennett's
> critique of the CRA contains the following (which you only partially
> quoted):

That's right, I quoted as much as I needed to get to the explicit assertion by 
Dennett. I had already done quite enough transcription but as you seem to have 
noticed, I provided you the source and pages I took the text from. Nothing is 
being hidden from you, Joe.

> Cartesian dualists would think so, because they think that even human
> brains are unable to accomplish understanding all by themselves;
> according to the Cartesian view, it takes an immortal soul to pull off
> the miracle of understanding.

> this is a quite reasonable claim to make; and, IMO it's actually true.
> Cartesian dualists (interactive substance dualists) do in fact belief
> this. Descartes did, in fact, claim that he'd proven that he was a soul
> not a body and that he (as soul) would continue to exist even without
> his body (ie after its death).

Yes. And Dennett's point is that Searle is infected with that kind of thinking. 
But no, he is not saying Searle is himself explicitly a Cartesian dualist. We 
all know Searle denies that. Indeed Searle, I'm certain, genuinely believes 
that he is not and he certainly doesn't subscribe to certain of Descartes' 
conclusions, such as the religious stuff. Nor does anyone assert he does.

I have said Searle is an IMPLICIT dualist, i.e., that his claims depend on THAT 
kind of picture of mind. And now we have seen that Dennett says the same of 

> now, I'm not saying that Descartes actually proved all this; only that
> he thought he'd proven this.

No one suggests you are.

> I am also saying that, as shown by the full quote of the sentence above,
> Dennett understands what substance dualism is about.

And he ascribes it to the CRA. As I do.

> so, if you want to pursue the question of Searle's implicit and/or
> explicit substance dualism, just point to the passage where Searle says
> that some part of the human individual survives the death of its body.

You confuse the issue of the Cartesian picture of mind, a dualist one, with the 
Cartesian doctrine (the theory he constructed based on that picture). Dennett 
does not accuse Searle of subscribing to Descartes' metaphysical theories, only 
to being under the spell of the same idea that held Descartes (and you, I 
suspect) in thrall.

> it doesn't matter whether Searle calls this immortal part of the human
> the soul or the ontological basic.

That's the problem for Searle's account. It is stuck in contradictions because 
of his confused claims about first and third person ontologies vs. causal 
explanations and his fixation on the idea of consciousness being irreducible 
except when it's reducible (in brains) . . . except, as he says repeatedly, 
that we don't know how brains do it but we know they do, so there must be some 
mechanism in brains that we don't know about which must be different than what 
computers can do because we know computers can't produce consciousness because 
there is nothing in the CR that understands Chinese! It all hinges on this 
notion that consciousness cannot be constituted by what isn't conscious, that 
understanding (of Chinese or anything else) cannot be produced by a complex 
interplay of processes none of which, individually, understands Chinese.

Dennett, in the text I transcribed, spells out exactly why the CRA collapses, 
i.e., it suppresses a key premise while distracting us from the obvious answer, 
that the CR isn't robust enough to accomplish what we are looking for it to 

> just point to the passage where Searle makes the claim.

But Joe, I did not say that Searle speaks of immortal souls or anything like 
that so why would you expect me to point to a passage supporting something I 
did not claim? Indeed, I have said repeatedly that Searle is a CLOSET dualist 
which means, of course, that he does not make the claim!

The problem for Searle is that his CRA depends, for the efficacy of its 
conclusion, on a picture of mind that is shared with Descartes and many others, 
though Decartes gave his name to it in Western philosophy.

> the bottom line, Stuart, is that, to prove that Searle is a substance
> dualist, you need to put him in the same camp as Descartes.
> Joe

That's false, Joe. I don't have to claim Searle subscribes to Descartes' 
complete philosophy to assert that he is wedded to the same picture of mind 
that Descartes was (and which has the name of Cartesian dualism in the western 
philosophical tradition). Nor does Dennett, who makes the same point I have 
been making. Recall that the issue is not whether Searle calls himself a 
dualist but whether his views are driven by dualist presumptions.

And I have made the argument for that on these lists countless times now.

If you want to address my arguments, please feel free to do so. Offer a 
demonstration that they are logically unsound. But don't set up the classic 
strawman by asserting that I am claiming Searle espouses Descartes' philosophy 
or his conclusions. Or that Dennett is making such a claim.

As to your assertion that Dennett did not claim that Searle's CRA is driven by 
a Cartesian dualist picture, we have already seen that you are wrong on that 
based on Dennett's own words.


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