[Wittrs] Re: reducing your toothache

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 24 Mar 2010 18:05:21 -0000

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

> --- On Wed, 3/24/10, SWM <wittrsamr@...> wrote:
> > You see Dennett's frequent mentions of, and discussions
> > about, our experiences as "paying lip service" whereas I do
> > not. How is it to "pay lip service" to talk about things
> If he did not merely pay lip-service to the idea of intentionality then he 
> would grant, as does Searle, that people actually have
> something called intentionality.

He doesn't deny that we call some actions intentional and that we know ABOUT 
things (the philosophical meaning of "intentionality"). He just denies that we 
need to posit something in the mind or brain that counts as this 
"intentionality". That is he offers a different way of talking about it, of 
saying what we mean. A different explanation for the sense we have that the 
things we know are always ABOUT something. That's not "lip service", that's a 
different account.

> Likewise, instead of attempting to "quine qualia" he would grant
> that people actually have direct contact with their experiences.

He is saying that experiences aren't something separate and apart from 
experience itself. We can have "direct contact" with things we experience but 
what does it mean to speak of having "direct contact" with our experience or 

I suppose there's the Zen idea of being aware (or more fully aware) of each 
individual instant of experience, of paying attention to the here and now. But 
surely that isn't what you have in mind, nor would Dennett deny such 
experiences. What he is denying, rather, is the implicit idea in your 
formulation that we have "direct contact" with our experiences, as though they 
were, themselves, objects of experience, as though they were like the things we 
experience through our senses.

Again, his denial of "qualia" is NOT a denial of experience (read that text in 
the article YOU cited for us!). It's a denial that we have to think of 
experience as consisting of a range of mental phenomena that exist (as you seem 
to want to put it) between what we are and what we encounter through our senses!

> Dennett runs away from these ideas. Apparently the subjective aspect of 
> reality scares the dickens out of him.

That's not an argument. First you have got him wrong and second, speculating 
about his motivations says nothing about the merits of what he is saying (not 
least because your misstatement of his argument undermines your speculations 
about his alleged fears).

> Like many materialists, he's afraid of the mental because he's inherited the 
> Cartesian categories and can't see past them. Nor can you, as your argument 
> below illustrates.

Again, this isn't an argument or even a fair assessment of his position -- 
we'll see below if it's a fair one of mine.

> >> Searle, by contrast, preserves the subjective ontology
> > of mental phenomena and does only a causal reduction. He
> > isn't afraid to affirm  the ontological reality of the
> > > mental qua mental.
> >
> >
> > A Cartesian move, for sure, while you think Dennett's
> > denial of the special and  separate nature of the
> > "mental" to be an affirmation of what it denies!
> >
> >
> > >He understands that only a dualist would recognize that
> > category as distinct from the material in the first place.
> > >
> >
> > And Searle thereby falls into self-contradiction
> No, it is absolutely not a "cartesian move" to affirm the ontological reality 
> of the subjective! Only someone who accepted the Cartesian categories would 
> think so.

Can you prove that or can you at least explicate why you would say it? After 
all, it is Descartes' classic position that mind is different ontologically, at 
its most basic level, from matter -- and here we have Searle saying much the 
same thing.

Of course, Searle also affirms the brain's causal role in consciousness in 
nearly the same breath. But then we find him denying the necessary corollary of 
this affirmation in the CRA. So his fuzziness on the ontological issue leads 
him directly into his self-contradiction.

> > (the CRA implies what he expressly denies when discussing brains)
> Perhaps you should pay attention what he actually says.
> -gts

If he is confused then he will say things that are contradictory so it will be 
possible to pick and choose, I suppose.

All you seem to be doing here is running with certain of his explicit 
statements, when they seem to be in accord with what you believe, while 
disregarding those of his statements that represent a contradictory view, e.g., 
the CRA's conclusions which rest on the supposition that understanding can only 
be a feature of underlying processes rather than of overarching systems.

Now above you said: "Like many materialists, [Dennett's] afraid of the mental 
because he's inherited the Cartesian categories and can't see past them. Nor 
can you, as your argument below illustrates."

But you haven't shown where my argument demonstrates that I have "inherited the 
Cartesian categories and can't see past them" as you appeared to promise when 
you said this.

We know, of course, that you've asserted that that is my problem (and 
Dennnett's). But assertions are easy. How can you demonstrate the truth of this 

Again I want to note that Dennett argues that experience, subjectness, can be 
explained as being physically derived. Of course Descartes famously held that 
mind wasn't physically derived, that it co-existed with the body (the brain) 
and (as Joe likes to remind us) interacted with it (at the locus of the pineal 
gland, I believe). Thus, any fairminded assessment of the relative positions of 
Descartes and Dennett would be hardpressed, I think, to find a way to claim 
that Dennett is locked into Cartesian categories.

First you claim Dennett denies the reality of experience (which presumably 
reflects your view that he is an eliminative materialist and which is hardly 
Cartesian!) and then you assert that he is relying on distinct categories of 
mental and physical which imply (or derive from?) the age old belief that minds 
and bodies are different, albeit co-existing, substances. But if he is an 
eliminative materialist (which he actually says, in a sense, he is) then how 
could he be a Cartesian or be mired in Cartesian categories as you have claimed?

As I've said, assertions are easy. The real challenge is often to back up what 
we've said. Can you make the case for this allegation, either against Dennett 
or against me?


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