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

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 17 Mar 2010 12:34:33 -0000

--- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "jrstern" <jrstern@...> wrote:
> --- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "SWM" <SWMirsky@> wrote:
> >
> > > 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.
> Are you calling a golf ball an event?

In some senses I suppose. But, actually, I was thinking more along the lines of 
a golf ball in motion, which, of course, would be an event in the usual sense. 
Of course, at some level every object is also a combination of many events 
(mostly beyond our ken if not our intellectual reckonining).

> > 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?
> Objects are not causal.

Ah, I see what you're getting at. Well notice that I included a relevant 
parenthesis, intended, of course, to cover that contingency, too. That is, I 
don't think Searle means brains as in objects when he makes his claim but, 
rather, brains as in organic mechanisms (in which events are happening).

> >What else could be the causal agent? Our kidneys. Our pinkie toes?
> Objects are not causal.
> You may have heard of Aristotle's discussion of this, and the last couple of 
> millenia of discussion of it, all causes defer back to a First Cause, if one 
> is not careful, and perhaps even if one is.
> It is a challenge to make sense out of even efficient causality, given that, 
> and given the opposite, things like Humean skepticism.
> However, in nobody's ontology are objects causes.

See my point above.

> Now, the terminology is often abused, I might even do so myself, so that a 
> hammer is "causal" in driving a nail, but only in the context of an agent 
> picking it up and attempting to drive a nail.

Or in the sense of being the proximate cause (the source of the impact when 
we're considering what drove that nail (rather than who drove it). For 
instance, the hammerer couldn't have done it with a wad of butter or simply by 

>  You get a lot of this abuse in and about Fodor, what he calls "procedural 
> semantics", that a word has meaning by its "causal roles".  Fodor *hates* 
> procedural semantics, though I wonder if he does anythng different.  But 
> nobody really thinks a word is a cause ... I don't think.
> Josh

I expect he is using "causal" in some other sense. When people speak of the 
causal role of sensory stimuli in meaning I don't think they are thinking so 
much about impacts as in billiard balls but, rather, as in information 
processing and here we can say that, insofar as there are direct links via 
signals passed up and down a conduit to an information processor, there is a 
causal relation between the input and the understanding, the getting of the 

But I am inclined to think that language really starts to break down here or to 
act in unusual ways and that these kinds of usages, the referring to such 
referents adds a lot of difficulty for those seeking to clearly convey what 
they mean.

I think that fellow I linked to in an earlier post had a point about language 
and referents of a mental sort though I thought he also missed the more 
important Wittgensteinian point that this is unavoidable because of the nature 
of language itself (it being of a public rather than private provenance).


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