[Wittrs] Re: Ontologically Basic Ambiguity: Mode of Existence

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 22 Mar 2010 13:57:07 -0000

--- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Gordon Swobe <wittrsamr@...> wrote:

> --- On Sun, 3/21/10, SWM <wittrsamr@...> wrote:
> > Since the CRA is Searle's argument and no one else's, and
> > Searle defends it and obviously finds it convincing, it's
> > pretty clear that Dennett is saying that Searle shares the
> > Cartesian dualist conception of mind
> Yes clearly Dennett wants his readers to conclude that Searle believes in
> ghosts, but notice that he does not actually say it. He *insinuates* it in
> a rather under-handed manner.

He doesn't say Searle believes in ghosts because that's not his position. He 
says Searle's argument requires a Cartesian dualist's conception of mind to be 
considered valid in its conclusion.

He is not being underhanded, as you put it, to make that case. He is merely 
doing what philosophers do, noting what he sees as a problem in another's 
argument. You should not personalize this or try to cast aspersions on someone 
merely because they are arguing against a position you support, especially 
since you accuse others (Dennett) of doing just that!

> > because that's what it takes to swallow the argument.
> Dennett seems to have convinced you of such,

I will repeat what I have said here many times before: I did not come to my 
position from reading Dennett. I came to it after reading several books by 
Searle and mulling over his CRA. Only then did I finally read Dennett's 
Consciousness Explained and realized that he was seeing the same problems I saw 
in Searle's argument.

So my argument does not depend on Dennett though I generally defer to him 

1) He got there first;

2) He said more about it and probably said it better; and

3) He has more credibility in the philosophical community and so his opinion 
counts for more than mine.

But my arguments are my own and often depart from Dennett's positions. For 
instance, I think he overstates the case for opposing the idea of qualia.

> but once again, we should
> consider the CRA as a simple logical argument independent of any
> considerations about philosophy or even about consciousness:

> Because A1) programs are formal (syntactic) and because A2) minds have
> mental contents (semantics) and because A3) syntax by itself does not give
> semantics, it follows that C1) programs don't cause minds.

Except that your A3 is not so simple as it seems nor is it trivially true as 
Searle has sometimes claimed. Because A3 fails, the conclusions fail. And A3's 
failure is traceable to a conceptual mistake in the construction of the CR 
which leads to its being underspecked.

> Simple, clean, straightforward. The conclusion follows from the premises,
> and I see no hidden premises.

That doesn't mean it's not there. After all, if it's "hidden", it wouldn't be 
easy to spot. The point, again, has to do with WHY Searle asserts that the CR 
demonstrates that syntax is not sufficient for semantics.

> As Budd pointed out, Searle observes that Dennett denies A2).

But Dennett doesn't deny thoughts, ideas, emotions, feelings, beliefs, 
memories, knowledge, etc., so Searle is wrong to think that Dennett denies 
mental contacts. He does deny certain ways of thinking about these things but 
we (and Searle) should not confuse a denial of the efficacy of certain terms 
with a denial of the phenomena.

> As an
> eliminativist, Dennett denies the reality of mental contents, and here I
> think we see the *true* reason he rejects the CRA.

Can you construct and offer here for consideration his "true" argument then?

> This also explains why
> he sees no important difference between Kasparov and Deep Blue.
> Intentionality has no objective reality in Dennett's philosophy, so Deep
> Blue's lack of it does not matter.

Intentionality is not a thing in the brain in Dennett's philosophy, no. That is 
quite right. Does that mean it has "no objective reality"? Well, if having that 
kind of reality means only things we can point to somewhere, then I guess it 
does. But I wouldn't put it the way you have and I don't recall Dennett ever 
doing so. On the other hand I recall extensive textual material in 
Consciousness Explained in which Dennett addresses the reality of his 
subjectivity in terms of particular experiences he has.

Your comment above, however, on the question of intentionality and Deep Blue 
misses the point I've repeatedly made about this in related posts. I can't tell 
if you are simply ignoring my comments on the subject or have forgotten or 
failed to see them. In any of these cases, I don't see a value in repeating 
them again. However, note that everything you say above about the 
intentionality question has already been dealt with in my prior responses.

> Like all eliminativists and many other materialists, Dennett seems to
> believe, wrongly, that he must deny the reality of mental states to avoid
> the stigma of Cartesian dualism.

He does not deny their reality. That is a total misreading of him. He explains 
their occurrence in terms that go beyond their immediate appearance to us.

> He does not realize that his denial of
> the mental in favor of the physical presupposes an acceptance of the false
> Cartesian mind/matter dichotomy. He accepts the false Cartesian world-view
> in order to oppose it, and then calls Searle the dualist.
> -gts

I thought you said, above, that he only "insinuates it", lacking the courage or 
whatever to say it outright?

First, he does not deny the mental, he offers a way of accounting for it in 
terms that are physical.

Second, by doing so he eliminates the need to presume dualism (two ontological 
basics) to explain the occurrence of minds in the universe.

Third, to think one cannot account for consciousness in physical terms, that 
one needs something beyond the physical to explain its occurrence IS dualism.

So, fourth, you cannot say that by denying a need for dualism he is affirming 
dualism. Or, rather, you can say it because you can say anything you like I 
suppose, but just saying it 'don't make it so.'


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