[Wittrs] Property Dualism and Searle

  • From: Gordon Swobe <gts_2000@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 27 Mar 2010 16:10:02 -0700 (PDT)

Joe asked me to check the SEP entry on property dualism. It confirms my
definition of property dualism as pertaining to non-physical properties:

"Genuine property dualism occurs when, even at the individual level, the 
ontology of physics is not sufficient to constitute what is there."


Searle agrees with the property dualist that we ought to refrain from doing 
an ontological reduction of mental phenomena, i.e., that we ought not 
completely reduce such common sense notions as thoughts, beliefs, desires, 
pains, semantic understandings of Chinese symbols, and so on. Such 
intentional states really can exist in their own right.

But unlike the property dualist who sees such phenomena as non-physical and 
somehow over and above the brain processes that realize them, Searle sees 
them as having a *physical* ontology, where physical does not imply non-
mental. The arise as higher order physical features of the physical brain.

Because these phenomena have a physical ontology, (even if a first-person 
one), neuroscience can reduce them epistemically to their neurological 
causes even while we also preserve them ontologically.

Some materialists, especially eliminativists like Dennett, seem to accept 
the dualistic mind/matter dichotomy of Descartes in order to argue for the 
physical nature of the mental. They hope in so doing to exorcise the 
unwanted Cartesian non-physical ghost from the physical machine, not 
realizing that they accept the false Cartesian categories in the process. 

I think Searle sees the problem rightly: he consciously and completely 
rejects the failed mind/matter dichotomy of Descartes and affirms both the 
mental and the physical. 



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