[Wittrs] Ontologically Basic Ambiguity: Cartesianism

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 21 Mar 2010 01:38:31 -0000

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

> SWM wrote:

>  >Joseph Polanik wrote:
>  >>Searle says that the brain causes consciousness.

>  >But Searle already grants that consciousness is a product of brain
>  >events. If so, it is either brought into existence as a new entry into
>  >the universe or it IS a product of physical processes in brains. But if
>  >the latter, then there is nothing in principle to tell us that it
>  >cannot be a product of computer events, as well.
>  >This is the crux of my point about Searle's argument and why I say he
>  >is implicitly dualist while denying being that.

> yes, we've known for some time that the crux of this point is the apex
> of your thinking; so, get on with it. refine your diagnosis. does Searle
> have dualism cooties of the Cartesian strain or dualism cooties of the
> Chalmersian strain; and, (more importantly) how do you justify that
> diagnosis?

No one has "dualism cooties". That is a ridiculous locution since we're talking 
about having ideas not having entities, even little buggy ones.

As to Searle's implicit dualism, what kind of question is this? I have already 
told you that my view is that Searle's position on consciousness implies 
dualism of the Cartesian variety (but not that he is a subscriber to Descarte's 
complete philosophical doctrine[s]).

As to Chalmers, Searle himself, in The Mystery of Consciousness, accuses him of 
dualism and panpsychism to boot. In that article we read on Analytic we saw 
that Searle doesn't think dualism has any significant implication for the 
issues connected with mind unless it equates to what you and he call "substance 
dualism". And I tend to agree with that.

I am not prepared to pronounce on Chalmers because I haven't read enough of 
him. I know that he denied Searle's allegations in his response but then Searle 
denies others' allegations concerning his arguments. It's just the business 
these guys are in. From what I have read of Chalmers he is dualistic in an 
ontological sense (he calls himself a naturalistic dualist or some such) but 
achieves this by proposing not a parallel line of causal descent with physical 
phenomena but, rather, expanding the idea we have of the natural universe to 
include a fifth bottom line unexplained principle to go along with the four 
physics currently posits: gravity, electromagnetism, strong nuclear attraction, 
weak nuclear attraction. Chalmers argues that the only way to explain the 
occurrence of consciousness in the universe is to suppose there is at least one 
more principle or force.

It's a move that is roughly the same is ontological dualism except that it 
places the cause of consciousness within the physical universe but separate 
from all that we already know so there is still two lines of descent as it 
were: the principles or forces that underlie physical reality and the principle 
or force that underlies consciousness.

Although nothing supernatural or mysterian in some special way (beyond the 
equivalent mysteries of the forces of physics proper) is proposed, something 
more is posited which involves violating Occam's Razor in the same way as other 
kinds of ontological dualism do this. The same point applies: if consciousness 
CAN be explained without adding anything, why presume to add it. Chalmers, of 
course, argues that it cannot be so we must take this step. But a thesis like 
Dennett's does the job pretty well, at least in theory, so until it is shown to 
be flawed in terms of its logic or a failure after some serious efforts (which, 
as with anything scientific, will take time), there seems no more reason, to 
me, to embrace Chalmers' thesis than any other form of ontological dualism.

However, there is no reason people cannot formulate all sorts of theories and 
see if they'll lead to something real in the world or to explain why nothing 
seems to be working so far. My only beef is with a claim that one can logically 
shut this door on the basis of Searle's CRA which I have said is grounded on an 
implicit dualism.

I have no beef with dualism except to note that it doesn't seem necessary and 
is therefore, at this juncture at least, likely to prove a blind alley. So it's 
no good invoking it, either implicitly or explicitly, in order to prove a 
thesis like Dennett's wrong.

>  >Look at my actual argument about what is implied in the CRA.
> I'm trying to clarify the basis for your claims; but, there's a problem.
> you alleged that Dennett agreed with you about the CRA; and, for
> supporting evidence, you directed us to a passage in Dennett's
> _Consciousness Explained_ where Dennett says "Cartesian dualists ...
> 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."

> you told us about the Mirsky System for identifying Cartesian dualists:
> someone who thinks that consciousness cannot be broken down to
> non-conscious constituents is a Cartesian Dualist. however, when I
> pointed out that there was no evidence that Searle believes that a human
> is/has an immortal soul, you admitted that someone may be designated a
> Cartesian dualist by the Mirsky System even though they do not postulate
> that the human is/has an immortal soul.

This is nonsense Joe but I suppose I have to deal with it again. NO ONE, NOT 
DENNETT AND NOT ME, is saying that Searle subscribes to all the philosophical 
doctrines of Descartes. We (I shouldn't really speak for Dennett because I 
don't know him and he's not here though it's pretty clear where he stands on 
this!) are saying that Searle's argument hinges on a way of thinking about 
consciousness that is found in (and was first articulated in Western 
philosophy) by Decartes. The issue is NOT a claim that Searle is a disciple of 
Descartes (implicit OR explicit). It's a claim that Searle's implicit view of 
consciousness is consistent with the way Descartes understood consciousness 
based on his writings.

Now I am not going to reply to this same silly point again, Joe.

> you even hinted that there might
> be other key principles of Descartes' brand of interactive substance
> dualism that someone could reject and still be designated a Cartesian
> Dualist by the Mirsky System.

See above.

> however, you've declined my request for clarification as to what is
> essential to being classified as a Cartesian Dualist by the Mirsky
> System. so being/having a soul is not necessary, is that what you're
> saying? can a person still be designated a Cartesian Dualist without
> showing that the person hold interactive substance dualism?

See above.

> in any event, there is a tremendous contradiction between your view and
> Dennett's. he seems to 'get' Cartesian dualism. there's an immortal soul
> involved.

Then is it your view that Dennett is accusing Searle of belief in immortality 
of souls (since he is on record as saying it takes a Cartesian dualist to make 
the mistake the CRA requires to think it's conclusion valid)?

> you admit that there's no evidence of this in Searle's case,
> but the Mirsky System for outing Cartesian dualists designates him as
> such anyway.

See above.

> so your claim that Dennett agrees with you is dubious.
> Joe

I told you, in the course of these discussions, that Dennett's argument against 
the CRA hinges on the same view I had articulated, i.e., that it takes a belief 
in consciousness as an ontological basic (irreducible to anything unlike 
itself) to buy into the CRA. You equated that with "substance dualism" which 
you informed us (not incorrectly) was Cartesian. Dennett frequently notes it, 
too, in the book with his frequent references to Cartesianism, the Cartesian 
theater, etc.

After I had made my point, you informed this list that you had read 
Consciousness Explained and could find nothing in it to support what I said. 
You challenged me to tell you where in the book it was to be found.

I went back, read a relevant section and, lo and behold, found Dennett 
explicitly saying it takes a Cartesian dualist to believe the CRA's conclusion 
and I transcribed the relevant text onto this list. (I had actually forgotten 
he had been that explicit but was glad to find it since it should have put paid 
to your claim that he never said it.)

Now you are pestering me about whether Searle can really be called a "Cartesian 
dualist" because Searle doesn't subscribe to the full panoply of Descartes' 
doctrines. Well, in speaking of the perspective of a Cartesian dualist in that 
text Dennett doesn't say he does -- and neither do I, nor does anyone have to 
to be in the same place as Descartes on his broader philosophy to share a way 
with him of how to think about mind. For more, see above.

I am going to refuse, from here on, to be sucked into these smoke tunnels you 
like to blow with such faux logic maneuvers. Note that you have changed the 
meaning of terms here (the logical fallacy of equivocation) since it's clear 
enough from what Dennett said that he means a way of thinking about mind, not a 
full court philosophical doctrine. And if it isn't, I have made it clear in my 
responses to you. Now either make some new point or we can't move forward in 
this discussion.


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