[Wittrs] Re: Understanding "Understanding" in Searle

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 15 Mar 2010 16:04:36 -0000

--- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "jrstern" <jrstern@...> wrote:

> My point is even a rock "behaves".

Yes, but the meaning of "behaves" changes with reference to rocks.

> > However, this still leaves open the question of what is the "mental"? 
> > Dennett's approach is to say it is a certain kind of process based system 
> > while Searle, I believe, fails to adequately explicate or even attempt to 
> > offer a description of what it is beyond asserting what he takes to be the 
> > significance of so-called "first person ontology" to its description.

> In alternate paragraphs Searle agrees it is a physical process, he just seems 
> to have some magical knowledge that the physical process involved is not one 
> that a computer can do.  Which is pretty much the old Penrose position.

I think Searle is mesmerized by this "first person ontology" he claims. Yes, 
there is a subjective ("first person") aspect to talk about experience, 
consciousness. But that doesn't say anything about what it takes for experience 
or consciousness to occur in the world which is what the CR is about.

> I just see all of this as a failure of nerve, more than a failure of theory, 
> and of course the rampant remnant Platonism that assumes and insists that 
> things like understanding can be reified.  And the tradition in philosophy 
> that a good rationalization is a good argument, whether it constitutes a 
> verifiable physical theory in scientific terms or not.  I'd say such things 
> are interesting, but have to be kept as games or grammars or therapy or 
> poetry, and not anything to be called a "theory" at all.
> Josh
> =========================================

We are not very far apart here, I think, though I do sense that you are more 
radical about this than I am. I have no problem talking and musing about the 
quality of having experiences or of particular experiences and sticking with 
the importance of first person descriptions in referencing this sort of thing. 
I just see that as having no relevance for talk concerning causes of this 
phenomenon of subjectness in the world. And yet I think people are constantly 
confusing the two issues, as Searle apparently does.

But I think he has made an interesting, if ultimately mistaken, argument with 
the CRA.


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