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

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 16 Mar 2010 21:27:06 -0000

--- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "jrstern" <jrstern@...> wrote:

> > We KNOW that brains cause consciousness (Searle's use of "cause").
> Does not make it a meaningful statement.
> Buicks don't "cause" trips to Macdonalds, in any sense I can see.
> Aristotle offers us formal, material, efficient, and final causations.  Which 
> of these is Searle's usage?  Perhaps something like material.  However, I 
> suggest only efficient causation is valid in anything like modern terms, it 
> is certainly the only one I use for anything at all.
> Josh

Hmmm, I don't see how buicks equate to brains or even automobiles (if we want 
to name the generic entity rather than the brand). Elsewhere someone on this 
list (you?) suggested that cars cause motion. Well they do and they don't. I 
guess if I rammed my car into a telephone pole and caused it to shake or snap 
in two, the car would be said to have caused the motion (Aristotle's efficient 
cause). But generally when I get in start my car (not a Buick) no one would say 
it was causing the motion as it moved forward. On the other hand, I, as the 
driver, could be labeled as the cause of that motion. The behavior of the 
engine in burning fuel and turning the crankshaft and gears could also be 
implicated as causes of the motion. It would depend what we were looking for.

Well, in what sense does Searle mean that brains cause consciousness? We've 
been over this before of course. He means it in the same sense that molecules 
of H2O cause the feature we recognize as wetness in water. Or, better, the 
behavior of those molecules under certain ambient conditions. That is, the 
wetness just IS those molecules behaving as they do under the right conditions. 
As PJ once argued, that just means that the wetness just IS the molecules doing 
their thing, etc., etc. So is this claim of causation really just a masked form 
of an identity claim?

Well, it all depends on the usage, no? There is an identity between certain 
physical constituents AND their actions on the one hand and certain sensations 
and occurrences on our level of observation on the other (we see the wet spot 
on the ground, we feel that it's wet to the touch, we watch it dissolve 
something, etc.) But this isn't just a claim of logical identity because the 
features on the macro level and the micro are different, i.e., the molecules 
aren't what we would call "wet". Wetness is not to be found in any of the 
constituents but only in the aggregate and on a certain level of observation.

Do we need Aristotle's classifications here? Didn't Wittgenstein show us that 
words have many uses and there is no essential meaning? Ought we to conclude 
that Aristotle's four uses are the only ones possible? Or, perhaps, we can 
subsume this Searlean usage within one of the classical ones described by 

At the least the notion is clear enough because Searle (and I) have explicated 
it. Moreover, it is, indeed, consistent with how we actually speak. "Why is 
water wet?" "Well, because of the way its constituent parts interact." "You 
mean they cause the phenomena we call 'wetness' when we observe and have 
contact with it?" "Precisely!"

Why is that kind of answer to such a question any less valid than saying the 
telephone pole moved because I slammed into it with my car?


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