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

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 21 Mar 2010 23:20:09 -0000

--- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Gordon Swobe <wittrsamr@...> wrote:
> I see talk here of Searle's supposed different 'ontological basics',
> whatever that could mean.

I've said what it means many times here.

> But on Searle's view, subjective mental phenomena (pains, tickles and
> itches) and objective physical facts (mountains, planets and gumball
> machines) share the SAME ontology.

Searle speaks of first person ontology and third person ontology and declares 
that aspects of our subjective experience are known in a different way than 
things we know THROUGH experience, i.e., by observation (so far so good!), and 
agrees that experience can be causally reduced to something else, brains (or 
whatever it is brains do -- he's unclear on which he has in mind).

But then he falls into the confusion of the CRA as already discussed which 
confusion hinges on an implicit dualism. It is implicit, of course, because he 
doesn't acknowledge it. So pointing out that he doesn't acknowledge it doesn't 
vitiate the claim that it is there.

> For some reason people here don't understand that simple fact about
> Searle's philosophy, so I will repeat it in different words:
> Searle does not posit the existence of anything we might call different
> ontological modes of existence (different 'ontological basics'). Nor does
> he posit the existence of two substances, one physical and one
> non-physical (Cartesian dualism). Nor does he posit the existence of
> non-physical properties of matter (property dualism).

As I said: "It is implicit, of course, because he doesn't acknowledge it. So 
pointing out that he doesn't acknowledge it doesn't vitiate the claim that it 
is there."

> When Searle writes of the "irreducible first-person ontology of mental
> phenomena", he means that although subjective and objective phenomena
> share one ontology, we cannot reduce the subjective to the objective
> without losing the concept of consciousness.

If the issue is causal reduction and he reduces consciousness to brains (or 
what they do), then that is enough to suppose that consciousness could be 
reduced to other types of matter and other types of physical events, e.g., what 
happens in computers.

This is not an argument that it is an empirical fact that computers can cause 
consciousness. It is just to say that you cannot dismiss the possibility that 
computers can based on the CR which is what Searle, of course, does. And in so 
doing, he depends on an idea of consciousness that is implicitly dualist though 
he doesn't acknowledge it and, presumably, doesn't notice it.

> Some of his fellow materialists (e.g., Dennett) go too far in their
> knee-jerk reaction to Cartesian dualism. Wrongly fearing any association
> with substance dualism, they actually *embrace* the false vocabulary of
> Descartes.

How so? Can you show where Dennett does that?

> Under the spell of the Cartesian vocabulary, and in a misguided attempt to
> deny the reality of any supposed non-physical mental substance, they
> mistakenly reduce the subjective to the objective.

Can you give an example of this so we can consider whether yoru claim is a 
right one?

> In so doing they
> discard the real subjective nature of mental phenomena, and defy common
> sense. They throw the baby out with the bathwater.
> -gts

No, they don't. You have consistently misstated Dennett's positions on this 
kind of thing, and have acknowledged you haven't read much of him, so I would 
have to say you are not a reliable commentator on Dennett. However, if you can 
provide a basis for this generalization you have made, I will certainly 
consider it.



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