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

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 17 Mar 2010 00:54:23 -0000

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

> --- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "SWM" <SWMirsky@> wrote:
> >
> > Hmmm, I don't see how buicks equate to brains or even automobiles
> The question is whether a token of a physical class can "cause" a complex 
> diachronic event.
> Does a golf ball "cause" a hole in one?
> No, the whole idea is gibberish.

Sometimes one event precipitates a complex of other events though, no, I don't 
think this is entirely relevant to the issue of the role of a physical agent in 
a causal sequence.

> >Elsewhere someone on this list (you?) suggested that cars cause motion.
> Not me.
> > Well, in what sense does Searle mean that brains cause consciousness?
> Can't parse gibberish.

I don't agree it's gibberish. It seems perfectly sensible to me.

> > Well, it all depends on the usage, no?
> Sure, but some uses are wrong, or incoherent, and Wittgenstein's motto 
> doesn't make them valid.

Any usage is valid if it is understandable and used. But yes, there can 
certainly be wrong usages.

> >There is an identity between certain physical constituents AND their actions 
> >on the one hand ...
> Identity?  No.  I suggest not.  I assert not.

Depends what we mean by "identity". Elsewhere I have proposed that there are 
many kinds of "identity" just as "cause" has a range of meanings.

> > 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.
> Unclear what you mean.  Is the wetness a physical behavior of the water?  
> That might be in the water, though I'd quibble about saying it was by 
> "identity".  If you mean the feel of the water, that's in the agent, and even 
> though we tend to use the same word for it, we
> are using it there in a totally different way.

Yes different and yet all tied together. A pool of water will feel wet to us 
and its wetness will interact with various physical things in different ways. 
For instance, it may allow mold to grow or it may cause rot or it may produce a 
foul odor, etc., etc.

>  The red of the apple is one thing, the perception of the red another, the 
> red of the picture of the apple perhaps yet another.

Yes and no. Though I would tend to agree with that I think Dennett would 
ultimately argue that they are one and the same. I think there are nuances of 
meaning here.

> One of my points is that we must be exceedingly more careful than most 
> arguments go, in moving from one of these things to another, to make any kind 
> of solid arguments.  Which is a basic Wittgensteinian notion, that things are 
> exactly what they are, particulars, and picture representations, and our 
> notions and theories about them, are very particular, and any change in an 
> element is a new theory, a new thing.  Post-Wittgenstein this sort of morphed 
> into the modal logics and Kripkean what-is-real-is-necessary, but I suppose 
> that is also pre-Wittgenstein in how Russell went on about how false 
> statements are not even statements.  OK, I rambled a bit here, but I suggest 
> it's all unfortunately relevant.

I'm not sure where you're headed with this.

> > Do we need Aristotle's classifications here? Didn't Wittgenstein show us 
> > that words have many uses and there is no essential meaning?
> Yes, but that is not a license for gibberish.

I think Searle's usage partakes of ordinary usage and is, in that, quite 
intelligible. One man's gibberish, I suppose!

> >Ought we to conclude that Aristotle's four uses are the only ones possible?
> One is making a rather strong claim if you pretend to go beyond or otherwise 
> avoid them.
> >Or, perhaps, we can subsume this Searlean usage within one of the classical 
> >ones described by Aristotle?
> Well, that's what I did, it's worth a try, to see what one gets at least.

> > At the least the notion is clear enough because Searle (and I) have 
> > explicated it.
> Nosir, I suggest it is not clear, unless it is clearly nonsense.

Where's the nonsense, clear or not? We know what's meant because Searle has 
told us what he means and I have often explicated that here.

> > 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?
> Because a couple of thousand years of science have supported the idea of 
> efficient causation, like that, and dissolved the other Aristotelian 
> varieties.

Or Aristotle's usages are, like claims of "predicate dualism", about ways of 
speaking, i.e., different language games.

> Oh, there are a few who still like to play with teleological theories.  And 
> frankly, Fodor spends so much time arguing against an oversimplified version 
> of material causation, that I wonder if perhaps someone, somewhere is still 
> trying to use that.  As I suggest is the best match of Searle's usage to 
> Aristotle's categories.

> It is not anything unique to computation that "multiple realization" is a 
> feature, I recently realized.  That is only the same thing very broadly used 
> in philosophy, and outside of it, as the type/token distinction.  You have a 
> Mac, I have a PC, we both run tokens of Internet Explorer, which we say are 
> of the same type nonetheless.  And even that is not new.  You have a black 
> cat, I have > a white cat, they are tokens of the type cat, with token 
> variations.

I hope you're not arguing now for something platonic here! It would be very 
much out of character!

>  And even that is not news.  The alphabet we use to write about these, has 
> tokens of the letter "a" that appear in this material and that, in various 
> fonts and sizes and colors, and we do not have any trouble saying these are 
> all of a class, and the materiality of their instances is of no importance.  
> It does not mean that since the letter 'a' is an abstraction, that it cannot 
> be used to realize a physical token of the letter, and cannot be used to 
> compose a word like 'cat' that has yet another meaning, insofar as words have 
> meanings, and please don't make me go on about the positive reasons why 'cat' 
> might mean cat and not dog, in spite of what we all know which is that the 
> string of marks does not have an essential meaning, if it did not suffice to 
> carry a meaning under good circumstances we would not have language, and then 
> a valid question is not how it might NOT mean cat, but in exactly what manner 
> does it ever *succeed* in meaning cat.

Well that's better . . . I guess!

> Feeling a bit verbose today,
> Josh

I've noticed. So what's nonsensical about Searle's claim that we can speak of 
brains (or whatever it is they do) as being causal (causally responsible) for 
whatever it is we mean by consciousness? What else could be the causal agent? 
Our kidneys. Our pinkie toes?


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