[Wittrs] Re: Property Dualism and Searle

  • From: "gabuddabout" <gabuddabout@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 29 Mar 2010 21:53:12 -0000

Nice job Gordon.  One minor correction:

You write:

"Because these phenomena have a physical ontology, (even if a first-person 
one), neuroscience can reduce them epistemically [not epistemically but 
_causally_--Budd] to their neurological causes even while we also preserve them 

I used brackets above for the correction.

Indeed, Dennett's position, along with Hacker's and Feser's as it turns out, is 
motivated epistemically--the idea is that the subjective can't be studied 
scientifically.  Hence the charge of mysterianism since any inductive account 
of how the brain causes consciousness will involve an explanatory gap.  Searle 
is simply not worried about this from a conceptual point of view.  It is the 
best we can do.

Notice that Feser pulls a sort of Hacker (I'll explain) when claiming that 
Searle's philosophical solution to the mind-body problem (in the form of 
restating it as a problem of biology (neurobiology)) is just an arbitrary 
restatement of the problem and not a solution.

He pulls a Hacker when claiming that, and I quote from the paper you referenced 
(about which, thanks):

"I say "arbitrarily" because there is no reason whatever to believe that the 
methods of biology are any more likely to be able to deal with the 
objective/subjective divide than those of philosophy."

Here's Feser's agreement with Hacker.  And more agreement immediately follows 
at the end of Feser's paper:

"Indeed, given the inherently _conceptual_ nature of the problem, they [the 
methods of biology--Budd] are SURELY [my yelling emphatic emphasis--Budd] 
_less_ [sic] likely to be able to do so."

And now I'll end with his last two sentences such that Searle gets lumped with 
the status quo no matter what he actually writes, as if some simply don't grasp 
his meanings or humility in the inductive face of an area in fact most likely 
to be where to look.  Where else is the mind?  Partly in an iphone?  Anyway, 
the last two sentences from the pot making sure Searle is the kettle when not a 
property dualist no matter what Feser thinks he proved in his paper:

"In any case, the problem remains, and remains just as difficult as it ever 
was, however we decide to label it.  Once again, Searle's position appears to 
rest on little more than wordplay."

Well, it may seem so to Feser, who am I to contradict him?

But there is a difference:

Searle's position is that the brain causes consciousness somehow.  And that 
system exists already.  Prolly should look somewhere in that vicinity even if 
finding NCCs and looking for causal mechanisms will be a matter of induction 
which will forever involve an explanatory gap since induction doesn't guarantee 
certainty (overwhelmingly persuasive suggestions as to the brain's involvement 
is all we're gonna get).

But note that Feser's lumping of Searle with the property dualists doesn't fly 
just from the epistemic premise of human bondage to induction in this matter.

What Searle emphatically doesn't believe is exactly what Hacker and Feser think 
Searle must believe, namely, that the very idea that the brain causes 
consciousness is incoherent.  I don't think they can prove that.  They can only 
stipulate it, just like they (Feser at least) may stipulate that Searle is a 
property dualist because everyone has to be by definition of the result of 
their conceptual analysis of the mind-body problem.

Their position is conceptual dualism, sometimes taken by some to be property 
dualism--science doesn't net us conceptual dualism if conceptual dualism is the 
product of conceptual analysis minus science; and property dualism is useless 
for explaining how minds can be caused, much less how minds can cause traffic 
signals to be meaningful.

So upshot:

Searle wants to let weak AI possibly inform us about what can be done by 
computational methods--simulation can be enlightening.

He also wants a science of mind to be neurobiologically based.

The conceptual dualists don't think Searle's biological naturalism is a 
coherent research program.

And when they (at least Feser) accuse(s) him of wordplay, they are trying to 
make you forget the difference between Searle's nonproperty dualist approach to 
mind which amounts to the search for NCCs and then causal mechanisms.  Just 
look!  But not in Feser's paper!  Or look at Feser's paper to see that he lumps 
Searle in with the property dualists while tacitly having to assume that 
Searle's position is different in that Searle really means what he says about 
consciousness, though ontologically subjective, being as much a product of our 
biology as digestion.  Feser just, like Hacker, disagrees on conceptual grounds.

The following is supposed to rule out (a priori?) the success of Searle's 
nonproperty dualism:

1.  Looking for NCCs using biological methods is unlikely to succeed (I believe 
Neil echoed this earlier along with saying weak AI also is unlikely to 
succeed).  I don't believe they have a good argument for that.

2.  It is conceptually incoherent to be a nonproperty dualist given that minds 
are real.

Searle simply disagrees.  He disagrees precisely because he is not a property 
dualist.  The other side maintains he is a property dualist because everybody 
that has a mind has to be on conceptual grounds.  But I'm not so sure that the 
other side speaks adequately of what Searle has in mind.

I was absolutely unmoved by Feser's paper.  Searle is not, and never was, part 
of their status quo of property dualists (which has to include eliminativists 
as you pointed out, Gordon.  Their only argument is that he has to be because 
they say so.  But I don't want to listen to conceptual analyses that pronounce 
on venerable research projects as if it is incoherent to look at the very thing 
we already know causes consciousness.

So what that it is a matter of induction?  You have to start somewhere!  Should 
we start with behavior only?  Or behavior only computationally described?  Or 
with real brains?  How about all three, compared to less than all three if 
Hacker, Feser, and other Wittgensteinians have their (property-dualist) way?

So, am I going to find out why there is no such thing as induction?  I'll 
attempt to reply to Neil now..


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