[Wittrs] Searlian reductions

  • From: Gordon Swobe <gts_2000@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 23 Mar 2010 06:14:00 -0700 (PDT)

Stuart wrote:

> However, [Searle] stumbles when he makes a distinction by confusing 
> causal reduction (which possibility he affirms) with what he calls 
> ontology when, in fact, the very issue at hand, causal reduction, IS one
> of ontological reduction.

When we do a causal reduction, we say:

"A's are caused by B's." 

When we do an ontological reduction, we say: 

"A's are nothing but B's." 

Normally we reduce A's to B's both causally and ontologically. We say "A's
are caused by B's and are nothing but B's." For this reason most 
philosophers do not recognize the distinction between causal (epistemic) 
reduction and ontological reduction, and it seems to me this causes a lot 
of confusion.

On Searle's view, in the case of mental phenomena we can do the first kind 
of reduction but not the second. 

For example we can causally reduce pain this way:

"Pain is caused by C-fiber stimulation in the nervous system." 

But we cannot (sensibly) reduce pain ontologically this way: 

"Pain is nothing but C-fiber stimulation in the nervous system." 

Identity theorists do this sort of reduction above, but not sensibly. 
We all understand "pain" to mean something qualitative and subjective!

It think it important to understand that Searle recognizes the logical 
possibility of ontological reductions on mental phenomena. Unlike a 
Cartesian dualist, Searle agrees with identity theorists that we can 
reduce mental phenomena to third-person physical descriptions. We can say, 
if we really want to, that pain is nothing but C-fiber stimulations. 

But why would we want to? Searle notes, wisely I think, that we lose something 
important when do ontological reductions on mental phenomena. We lose the 
subjective nature of their ontology. We would need then to find other words for 
the phenomena we reduced. 



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