[Wittrs] Re: Searle's CRA and its Implications

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 16 Mar 2010 20:18:57 -0000

--- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Gordon Swobe <wittrsamr@...> wrote:
> I did not want to get caught up in the debate about what Dennett thinks about 
> what Searle thinks about what Dennett thinks and so on, but here we go...

Well really it's not about Dennett per se. I hold my position independent of 
Dennett but, because he got there first and probably said it better than I 
have, he is generally, but not always, a convenient proxy for my views which 
are largely formulated as a critique of Searle's CRA.

> I'll start by mentioning that while I have not read Dennett's consciousness 
> book, I know from other discussions on the net and from online sources that 
> he completely misses the point of what most philosophers of mind mean by 
> intentionality. Dennett essentially dismisses the concept as false. I don't 
> know what he calls his philosophy, but I consider it eliminative materialism, 
> a position I find absurd.

Dennett doesn't say we have no intentionality, he redefines what we mean by it. 
His point is that there is no special thing called intentionality, it's just a 
way of thinking about the way we and others like us relate to the world around 
us. That is, it's a way of relating that we call "intentional".

> According to his own theory of mind, Dennett has no conscious intentionality 
> of the kind that Searle affirms, i.e., he has no
> mental contents. (Hard to disagree with that!)

That is absolutely not so. I have seen some react to his claims by supposing 
that but it's just not true. He recognizes that we have experience and 
sensation and feeling and thought and everything else everyone else who thinks 
about it recognizes. His dispute is with those who then elaborate from this to 
a claim that there are some special "mental properties" that ARE these things. 
He says sensation is sensation, not qualia of sensations that are somehow 
distinct from the physical signals we receive and process within our 
neurological systems to become our experiences. His dispute is with those who 
want to posit an extra something that is entirely mental and, therefore, 
separate from the physical events that underlie them. He argues that that is an 
unnecessary step.

I think he goes too far vis a vis qualia, for instance, but in an earlier 
debate on the Analytic list we saw how "qualia" has more than one meaning among 
philosophers. Sometimes the term is taken to mean a special class of purely 
mental properties (as Dennett uses the term) and sometime it is just taken to 
mean the subjective aspect of the neurological processes that our brains run. 
Insofar as Dennett does not deny subjective experience, though he refuses to 
call them "qualia", he is not denying THAT sort of phenomenon.

> He considers such things as qualities of consciousness (aka qualia) illusory. 
> I suppose if Dennett had a toothache, he would take an illusory aspirin to 
> kill the illusory pain.

No, he considers it unnecessary to posit an added entity beyond experience 
itself that we call "qualia".

> Dennett writes: "Then comes the suppressed premise: Surely more of the same, 
> no matter how much more, would never add up to genuine understanding. But why 
> should anyone think this is true? Cartesian dualists..."
> Instead of showing us an actual refutation of Searle's third axiom -- a 
> logical argument of some sort to show that more of the same would in fact 
> give the computer genuine understanding -- Dennett just launches into name 
> calling.

Is it name calling to note that a presumption of dualism is involved? I have 
offered numerous logical arguments to demonstrate this very point but they fall 
on deaf ears (or are read on this list by, perhaps, blind eyes, to stretch the 

However, as I have already pointed out, what you are referring to as the "third 
axiom" (which Searle used to call a premise in earlier iterations) is, insofar 
as it is taken as an axiom, beyond argument because that's what axioms are. You 
either accept it or you don't. So what kind of argument do you think should be 
marshalled against it?

Well why should we accept it then because Searle has called it an axiom? Searle 
has often made the point that his CR shows the truth of this on the grounds 
that, if we look inside, we see nothing we would call understanding of Chinese 
going on. So this isn't really an "axiom" and it's a misleading move to claim 
it is. In fact it's a premise based on something we are supposed to discover by 
considering the CR "thought experiment". But that is only "shown" if we already 
think of consciousness in a certain way that precludes the possibility that 
understanding could be a function of many (as Dennett puts it) 
"quasi-understandings". I actually don't like that way of putting it but I know 
what he means, I believe, and that is the same as what I mean when I say that 
the idea of consciousness being a feature of a system rather than of a 
constituent of the system is what is important.

So, because I can conceive of consciousness as a feature of a system rather 
than a process that is only a constituent of the system, the third premise is 
not supported, in my view, by the concept of the CR and what it can and cannot 

> Looks to me like he supports his assertion with a bit of hand-waving and then 
> plays the dualism card to distract attention. Searle at least has an argument.
> -gts

"Hand waving" is a very popular indictment on these lists but I think it's a 
little too easy a response. What is hand-wavy about pointing out that "more of 
the same" is NOT precluded as an answer, IF consciousness is thought of as a 
system feature rather than as a process feature? If it's a system feature as he 
suggests, then the CR cannot produce it because it's an inadequate system, not 
because it's made up of inadequate "parts".


Need Something? Check here: http://ludwig.squarespace.com/wittrslinks/

Other related posts: