[Wittrs] Re: Strawson on Experience and Experiencers

  • From: "gabuddabout" <gabuddabout@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 27 Feb 2010 20:56:50 -0000

--- In WittrsAMR@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "SWM" <wittrsamr@...> wrote:
> --- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "BruceD" <blroadies@> wrote:
> <snip>
> >
> > --- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "SWM" <SWMirsky@> wrote:
> >
> > > We are in agreement on the necessity of an experiencer in the above 
> > > formulation. Where we have disagreed is over what it means to be an 
> > > "experiencer". -- SWM
> >
> > Just what does it mean by your lights? I'll look around and see if you 
> > specify elsewhere.
> >
> > bruce
> >
> > =========================================
> I don't even know how to begin answering this question after all the 
> discussions we've had to date. What do you think I've been writing, on this 
> and all the other lists, all this time? What have we been arguing about??? -- 

Hi Bruce and Stuart,

The reason why this issue will be around forever, at least according to Colin 
McGinn, is that conceptual dualism is not amenable to elimination.  Or is it?

Eliminative materialism a la Dennett simply denies that something like 
ontological subjectivity can be a matter of science.  It is eliminative in the 
sense that science is supposed to be helpless in discussing how ontological 
subjectivity can happen in a world consisting entirely of physical events.  The 
premise at issue here is whether science can only be about third-person events 
(Dennett) or rather if it can also be about what Searle calls "ontological 
subjectivity."   But is not as if Dennett denies he's conscious enough to write 
a book on how to explain consciousness without explaining ontological 

Hacker, like Wittgenstein exactly or not (there was only one Christian too), 
will say that the thesis that the brain causes ontological subjectivity doesn't 
have a sense--it is nonsense.  I think he's all wet but McGinn's point will 
forever stand.

Here's how.  Let's, for starters, agree with Searle that we may after all find 
out exactly how the brain causes consciousness on the model, say, of 
discovering the germ theory of disease.  We find what look to be correlates of 
consciousness first.  Then we determine whether they are actually causal and 
just what mechanisms are involved.

Even if we get all the way, we will have an explanation that still leaves us 
distinguishing those things which have minds and those things which don't.

Further, it will be left open to anybody to say that no matter how confident we 
feel about the above explanation, it is still based on induction and subject to 
possible falsification (or not if it is a computational theory...scattered 
snickers).  Maybe God's voice comes out of the sky at the moment of 
informational singularity and says we got our explanation all wrong and the 
correct explanation takes into account quantum gravity on an infinitely 
dimensional plane.

Then we say, "Oh!"

The point is that it may in principle be possible for there to be an 
explanation of how consciousness is caused while that explanation is simply too 
deep for any human mind (and maybe even nonhuman mind except God's and maybe 
even God come to think of it, for all _anybody_ knows).

So let us submit that we find it in principle scientifically responsible to aim 
at a theory arrived at by induction which may simply look overwhelmingly 

And the debate can go on forever.  Or we can see limits to the debate by 
understanding what we mean.  Then we need a theory of meaning.  But 
Wittgenstein railed against philosophy toying with theories.

But once you have speech acts, it is actually encumbent upon a philosopher to 
come up with a bare-bones sketch of how speech acts are part of the real world. 
 This eventually is supposed to lead to a biological account of how the brain 
causes consciousness for Searle and he mentions that this is where he probably 
parts company with Wittgenstein, what with his theoretical account about why it 
is senseless to come up with theories if one is merely describing language use.

Well, Wittgenstein is right if one is merely going to describe how language is 

It's just that one can go deeper.

Well, so what?  Go as deep as you want and any possible theory of consciousness 
is going to appear to be yet another case of consceptual dualism.

Once you got your explanation, you still have two categories in the real world: 
 Those things which have minds (sufficient causal processes which allow 
ontological subjectivity while being merely physical processes) and those 
things that don't.

And who in the world would think that a denial of computation would be a denial 
of physical processes?

Well, simply one who could distinguish enough senses!

So, back to Wittgenstein and how people, especially philosophers with their 
sometimes crazy and tempting idiosyncratic linguistic usages, say the simplest 
things as well as the darndest things.

A puzzle for puzzlers a la Wittgenstein.

Is the following argument nonsense?

1.  The most complete scientific account of all of nature would come in the 
form of a series of statements.

2.  It is often possible to express the same propositional content with two or 
more differently worded propositions.

Ergo, 3.  There is a shortest way to express all the propositions necessary for 
the most complete scientific account of all of nature, as compared to longer 
ways using longer sentences.

So, it would appear that if one is going to focus on describing the uses of 
language, one is thereby committed to focussing on science as well as on 
nonsense, one example of which might be "nonsense includes different types as 
in the statement that pictorial art is a different kind of nonsense than the 
musical art, since only statements can have senses, if you know what I mean by 
senses as meanings, art not being about senses of statemsents, ergo...".  If 
you know what I mean.

Perhaps I'm speaking idiosyncratically, if you know what I mean or if you 
don't, or some other possibility.

I won't say I've proved anything if all the conceptual dualists won't either!


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