[Wittrs] Re: The Alleged 4th Premise

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 01 Apr 2010 02:34:52 -0000

I'd like to adhere to Sean's rule of snipping but that strikes me as difficult 
in this case (as it has been becoming increasingly difficult in recent posts). 
Therefore I'll try to reply by inserting breaks to avoid the 25 line rule and 
so preserve the information on which Joe is making his case:

--- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Joseph Polanik <jPolanik@...> wrote:

> Gordon Swobe wrote:
>  >Here we see the logical structure of Searle's formal argument as given
>  >in his article in Scientific American that I referenced earlier.
>  >(A1) Programs are formal (syntactic).
>  >(A2) Minds have mental contents (semantics).
>  >(A3) Syntax by itself is neither constitutive of nor sufficient for
>  >semantics. (This is what the Chinese room experiment shows.)
>  >(C1) Programs are neither constitutive of nor sufficient for minds.

>  >(This conclusion should follow without controversy from the first three
>  >axioms.)

> C1 *does* follow from the first three axioms alone.

> the controversy that Stuart is promoting does not concern the validity
> of the argument. it concerns the grounds for thinking that A3 is true.

Let me congratulate you Joe for accurately parsing the argument this time 
although I think you overstate the case when you say my point does not concern 
the validity of the argument since it actually does with regard to the fallacy 
of equivocation that I have said I've detected in the third premise. However, 
the more important issue has to do with the idea of consciousness itself which 
provides the basis of the fourth (suppressed) premise so it is certainly more 
appropriate to address that primarily here.

> Stuart writes [2010-03-27 - 09:49 PM]:
>  >My point is that there's a fourth, suppressed premise, that Searle
>  >doesn't notice, i.e., that the only way the third premise (the one
>  >about not being constitutive of nor sufficient for) can be true,
>  >Hawkins thinking or Edelman's), is if we think consciousness has a
>  >certain characteristic, namely that it must be a process property and
>  >therefore irreducible to constituents that are qualitatively different
>  >than itself.

> this statement alleges that the third premise would be true if and only
> consciousness is a process property; and, therefore, irreducible to
> constituents qualitatively different from itself

It alleges it if, and only if, the argument is based on nothing more than the 
evidence of the CR thought experiment which, I assert, IS what Searle is doing. 
That is, he is NOT making any empirical claims about the nature of 
consciousness, offering evidence that it is this or that, etc. He is simply 
relying on a particular conception of consciousness, and I am pointing out that 
that conception is 1) not necessarily true and that 2) there is at least as 
good a case for thinking of consciousness in a different way, a way that allows 
for an alternative explanation of how the constituent processes of the CR COULD 
produce understanding. If this is so, then the claim that the third premise is 
trivially true is not sustained.

(The equivocal reading implicit in the premise's terms further mask this 

> this so called '4th premise' is logically equivalent to an argument
> consisting of two premises and a conclusion.
> [S1]: consciousness is a process property (of the brain)
> [S2]: a process property is irreducible to constituents that are
> qualitatively different from itself
> [S3]: (therefore) consciousness is irreducible to constituents that are
> qualitatively different from itself

> controversy follows in a number of ways, including (but not limited to):
> * from the suggestion that the so-called 4th premise is required to make
> the CRA logically valid

The third premise has to be shown to be indisputably true for the conclusion in 
question to be taken as true and, if the conception of mind relied on by Searle 
is not indisputably true then the third premise, which supposedly exemplifies 
it, cannot be true.

> * from Stuart's claim that something about the allegedly necessary 4th
> premise means that Searle is a Cartesian style interactive Substance
> Dualist, ISD.

An ontological dualist.

> * from Stuart's claim that something about the allegedly necessary 4th
> premise means that Searle contradicts himself or is otherwise confused
> (or both).

Yes. See the claims that brains can do it via their processes vs. the denial 
that computer processes can do it, as well as the implicit dualism of the claim 
with regard to computer processes compared to Searle's denial of being dualist.

> * from the claim that there is one and only one way that Searle's third
> premise can be true.
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> Stuart,
> I challenge the last point, the claim that there is one and only one way
> that Searle's third premise can be true.

Okay. I hope you are challenging it solely with regard to the terms of Searle's 
argument and not by invoking external factors which Searle does not rely on.

> I pointed out a few days ago that "there are grounds unrelated to the
> CRA Presumption for believing that syntax does not constitute and is not
> sufficient for semantics".
> you replied, "I have NEVER, EVER denied that there are other grounds for
> claiming the CRA's conclusion is true".

> the bulk of your argument (eg that Searle is a closet Cartesian,

Closet dualist (meaning an ontological, not a mere property, dualist).

> that
> Searle contradicts himself) hinges on the claim that there is only one
> way that the third premise could be true.

Yes, if the we are reyling on Searle's own argument which entirely relies on 
the CR thought experiment. (Recall that I have repeatedly agreed that there 
MIGHT be empirical reasons to think of consciousness in a dualist way and/or 
for believing that computer processes were just the wrong sort to produce 
consciousness, either of which would have the effect of sustaining the CRA's 

> if there are alternate grounds for believing that Searle's third premise
> is true; then, you have contradicted yourself.
> you're argument self-destructs.
> Joe

I'm disappointed Joe. I thought you were about to deliver the coup de gras here 
by showing that Searle's CR and CRA do lend themselves to an alternative ground 
for believing the third premise true. But all you've done is said what we 
already know and which I have never argued against, namely that there may be 
other perfectly empirical reasons for thinking the CRA valid. Well, of course 
there could. I have never said Dennett's thesis is true, only that Searle's is 
false based on the CR and the claims he takes from it for the reasons already 


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