[Wittrs] Re: Searle's CRA vs his Biological Naturalism

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 22 Mar 2010 14:24:09 -0000

--- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Gordon Swobe <wittrsamr@...> wrote:

> --- On Sun, 3/21/10, SWM <wittrsamr@...> wrote:
> > But the CRA is drawing conclusions about what causes
> > understanding (as in 'brains cause consciousness' - Searle),
> No, I think you/Dennett conflate Searle's CRA with his argument for 
> biological naturalism.
> The CRA tells us almost nothing about what actually causes  
> semantics/consciousness/intentionality. We must consider the CRA as a 
> *negative* argument: it shows simply that formal programs do not and cannot 
> cause minds. Period, end of argument.

The CRA conclusion is about what can't cause consciousness, you're right on 
that. I was using "what causes" more generally, as a way of referring to the 
question of causation.

Since Searle DOES take the position that brains cause consciousness IN RELATION 
to his argument that computer programs cannot BECAUSE of what they are, as seen 
in the fact that they don't cause it in the CR, he is clearly addressing 
questions of causation here, which is the point I was making. That is, the CRA 
is about the causal question insofar as it's about what can't cause it.

Finally, the CRA fails for a number of reasons (already laid out) but the main 
problem lies in the failure to distinguish between what can be called a system 
property and what can be called a process property. That is, just because the 
constituent elements in the CR are not, in themselves, conscious (give no 
evidence of being conscious) doesn't mean that some combination of them cannot 

> Now then after we accept the conclusion of the CRA then Searle has
> something interesting to say about brains and consciousness. The
> conclusion of the CRA acts as a premise in that new and different
> *positive* argument for biological naturalism.
> -gts

But the CRA is wrong, so we cannot accept its conclusion.

And what he has to say about brains and consciousness is not interesting 
because he really says nothing more than what most of us already think we know, 
namely that brains are the source of consciousness in some as yet unidentified 
way. He makes no effort to suggest how (rightfully noting that's the job of 
science, of course) or to consider the implications of ascribing a causal role 
to one physical platform, the brain, while denying it to another, the computer.

Searle does try to get around this by arguing that what happens on computers is 
merely abstract and so without causal power. But that's absurd since it is 
physical events that implement abstract programming just as it's physical 
events in brains that implement the DNA coding that underlies them. Searle's 
claims about abstractions are the real distraction.



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