[Wittrs] Dueling Dualisms

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 16 Mar 2010 13:38:56 -0000

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

> few would deny that there are two types of phenomena, those having a
> first-person 'ontology' (experienceable) and those having a third person
> 'ontology' (measurable); but that only describes the phenomenological
> dualism that is to be explained.

> in a recent post, you've explained how Searle does this.
>  >if Searle says brains cause consciousness (as he does), then there is
>  >no reason computers cannot do so, as well, UNLESS consciousness is some
>  >kind of special phenomenon, something different from all other outcomes
>  >of physical processes in the universe such that only brains (or
>  >something capable of the unknown thing brains do) can do it. And Searle
>  >does say this when he argues that brains have some unknown (but
>  >possibly discoverable) causal capacity that computers lack.
> how is that not property dualism?

We have already discussed the fact that there are divergent opinions re: what 
"property dualism" is and I have addressed this many times by now. I agree with 
Searle that the only thing that matters with dualism is if the existence of two 
ontologicaly basics is being asserted (but I disagree with him that he is not 
asserting that there are two, albeit implicitly).

Here's wikipedia on this:


Property dualism

Property dualism asserts that an ontological distinction lies in the 
differences between properties of mind and matter, and that consciousness is 
ontologically irreducible to neurobiology and physics. It asserts that when 
matter is organized in the appropriate way (i.e., in the way that living human 
bodies are organized), mental properties emerge. Hence, it is a sub-branch of 
emergent materialism. What views properly fall under the property dualism 
rubric is itself a matter of dispute. There are different versions of property 
dualism, some of which claim independent categorisation.[13]

If no "ontological distinction" at a basic level is being made, then "property 
dualism" is just a matter of different types of features or phenomena in the 
world. In that case, it has no implications for Searle's argument. But my point 
is that Searle is unclear, himself, about what he means as seen repeatedly in 
his failure to explicate his claims about how the brain allegedly does what a 
computer cannot do.

> there are the brain properties that produce all outcomes other than
> consciousness; and, there is the set of properties (yet to be
> discovered) that produce consciousness.

If one thinks there are such "properties" then they are either reducible to 
something else or not. If not, they are ontologically basic and, in that sense, 
no different than a claim of two ontologically basic substances underlying what 
is. But if they are reducible, then the only issue is how, and if one wants to 
say that computational processes cannot do the same job, one has to demonstrate 
that there is something essentially different about the brain "properties". But 
if one doesn't know what they are, one cannot demonstrate there is a difference.

> since both of these property sets are attributed to the brain, it is
> S1/P2 - substance monism / property dualism
> Joe

Since no one knows what it is in brains that does it, it is specious to argue 
about the nature of what it is in brains in any but a strictly hypothetical 
sense (i.e., to say it is X and test to see if the ascription of X works).

You can draw no conclusions about X until you figure out what X is, which is 
why neither you nor Searle nor anyone can say that the processes in computers 
can't do what X processes (or "properties") do.


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