Monday, March 02, 2009

The Lippard Blog: Daniel Dennett at ASU

The Lippard Blog: Daniel Dennett at ASU

This is Jim Lippard's account of a Daniel Dennett presentation at ASU. I fear that whenever I read Dennett I get a lot of pro-science and pro-materialism bravado, a lot of interesting examples, but when I go looking for the argument, half the time I can't find it.

It is interesting that Dennett uses the term mind-creationists, and applies that term not to people like me (whose existence I am sure he would not be willing to recognize), but to Fodor and Searle, both of whom are atheists, and neither of whom would dare draw the conclusion that a creator need apply. Of course Dennett is delighted to lump Turing resistant philosophers of mind, including atheists like Fodor and Searle, in with "creationists," which is a blanket term for those benighted enemies of reason who are blinkered by their religious fundamentalism into a literal interpretation of Genesis. So you get Fundamentalist Bible-thumpers and Young Earth Creationists = People who attribute anything to a Creator = People who think the mind isn't purely physical = People who think the mind has original intentionality. So Dennett's foes in the philosophy of mind are just like all those other creationists. If I were Fodor or Searle I would have a fit.

Lippard writes;

A few of the "mind-creationists" Dennett pointed out were Jerry Fodor and John Searle. Another is Victor Reppert, author of C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason, the main argument of which I criticized in a short paper ("Historical But Indistinguishable Differences: Some Notes on Victor Reppert's Paper," Philo vol. 2, no. 1, 1999, pp. 45-47). Reppert's position is that Turing machines don't actually do arithmetic, because they have no semantics, only syntax, and that you only get meaning through original intentionality of the sort that John Searle argues is an irreducible feature of the world. Computers only have semantics when we impute it to them. My argument was that if you have two possible worlds that are exactly alike, except that one was created by a top-down designer and one evolved, there's no reason to say that one has semantics and the other one doesn't--how they got to the point at which they have creatures with internal representations that stand in the right causal relationships to the external world doesn't make a difference to whether or not those representations actually refer and have meaning.

Contrary to this, I maintain that reference and meaning have to be reference and meaning for some conscious agent who perceives and understands that meaning, and that a complete description of causal relations is going to leave the semantic states indeterminate.

42 comments:

Rob G said...

"whenever I read Dennett I get a lot of pro-science and pro-materialism bravado, a lot of interesting examples, but when I go looking for the argument, half the time I can't find it."

David Bentley Hart thinks the same thing:

http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=5394

Perezoso said...

Though Dennett supposedly opposes "greedy reductionism," he often sounds as greedily reductionist as any of the filosophes out there. He seems closer in terms of content and rhetoric to Skinner than he might admit (of course, few in philosophy business have bothered reading, say, Chomsky's thoughts on behaviorism).

It's not Dennett's anti-religious perspective that we should protest (he makes some important points against fundamentalism). We should oppose Dennett's insistence that humans be viewed as just another primate--though, admittedly, even DD's mentor WVO Quine seemed to suggest as much. Even if we are nothing but Uncle Meat, some meat's more equal more than others.

Blip said...

I agree with you Victor, causal relationships are hopeless candidates for determining the semantics of any given syntactical arrangement.

Perezoso said...

Depends on what you mean by semantics: meanings only? or something like denotation AND connotation? In terms of denotation, and acquisition of language--learning what specific objects in the world words denote-- there is a causal relationship.

How did Jr. learn what the adjective "orange" refers to? He had to correlate the word with his perception of the world--his teacher pointed it out--and that perception involves the causal relationships of vision and neurology. Language acquisition (including aquirinng semantic knowledge) does involve observation--even Chomsky, a cartesian for the most part, agrees to a "triggering experience" (the extent of that experience remains in question). Language may be anomalous to humans, but anomaly not in itself proof of dualism, at least of a metaphysical sort.

Baboons have neither syntax or semantics, but humans don't have 2 inch long incisors or rainbow colored buttocks.

Gordon Knight said...

"Contrary to this, I maintain that reference and meaning have to be reference and meaning for some conscious agent who perceives and understands that meaning, and that a complete description of causal relations is going to leave the semantic states indeterminate."

It amazes me that so many philosophers have failed to grasp the intrinsic character of intentionality. Even those who resist materialism (e.g. Chalmers) seem to think the main problem is simply "qualia" (though there is a felt character to intentional states).
This is what happens when one assumes the material world is primary and tries to fit "mind" somewhere in it--you end up with views that either deny the reality of the mental or turn the mind into some sort of bizzare metaphysical parasite.

Gordon Knight said...

also, unless we agree with Descartes' most noxious view, non-human primates (and indeed, dogs and cats) are very likely also in intentional states similiar to ours.

Perezoso said...

Is Maria's sensation of hunger and subsequent decision to head to Taco Hut for lunch strictly a matter of intentionality? Ich denke nicht. Even granting something like voluntary choice, the choice has parameters, and was brought about by physical needs and requirements. You can't choose not to eat, or consume H20 (unless you want to die--that itself perhaps determined).

For that matter, Maria can't choose not to, uh, excrete her lunch a few hours later :-] ---nasty, but bodily functions do demonstrate something like a physical cause, even necessity in a limited sense, leading to mental acts.

Filosophers need to find a path between reductionist determinism and the complete freedom and intentionality dreamt of of theologians. (Compatibilism, formerly known as--tho' the scale should still weigh a bit more towards determinist camp).

Shackleman said...

Perezoso,

I like reading your entries. I almost always disagree, but you bring up strong points that frequently cause me to look deeper into the things you're bringing to the discussions.

However, your attempts at wit, humor, and cuteness are frequently rather distracting and take away from your overall message and arguments. In addition, I find your use of nicknames and intentional misspellings of surnames and screenames to be disrespectful. Even if your intentions are to be playful, they too detract from your message.

You may find that you'll reach more people if you toned that down.

Perezoso said...

Actually there's a reason for the avoidance of the usual academic sludge-speak: for one, I consider the Professoriat part of the Oppressoriat. (though no more cute than say Nietzsche, or Veblen was cute--though the Neetch. could have used another stats class). One should read first for content: rhetorical style an add-on (though important add-on: Russell's elegant prose says something that Dennett's nursey tone doesn't).

Anyway I was sort of agreeing with Doc Reppert Re Searle's semantics against the Quine school (not sure Fodor). Searle is no theist however, and even granting his ideas on intentionality, still a physicalist (and not sure Searle holds to same views on Int. that he did 20 years ago).

Blue Devil Knight said...

I agree about Dennett, but not that the natural underdetermines the mental.

Gordon Knight said:
"This is what happens when one assumes the material world is primary and tries to fit "mind" somewhere in it--you end up with views that either deny the reality of the mental or turn the mind into some sort of bizzare metaphysical parasite."

Is the kidney a bizzare metaphysical parasite? What about nervous systems?

Seems you have a false dichotomy there. Of course as a naturalist I think the material world is (temporally) primary--there was a physical universe before there were mental properties. There was also a physical universe before there were kidneys and photosynthesis. Of course as a naturalist I will try to explain how these things and properties came about.

That doesn't mean anything is bizaar.

Shackleman said...

Blue Devil Knight: "Of course as a naturalist I will try to explain how these things and properties came about.

That doesn't mean anything is bizaar."


It seems rather bizarre to me that a uniquely arranged grouping of several trillion carbon atoms can declare themselves a singular "naturalist" and then go on about trying to "explain" how it came to 'possess' certain of other uniquely arranged groupings of carbon that have specified functionality (aka kidneys).

Given Naturalism, there can hardly be anything *more* bizarre to imagine. At least for me. The mere fact that you (aka, a unique grouping of carbon atoms) are communicating via black marks through a light emitting black square (your computer monitor) to another uniquely arranged grouping of carbon atoms (me and other readers) seems patently absurd given naturalism.

Further, why should I take seriously anything a grouping of carbon atoms has to say on the matter anyway? They are, after all, just being carbon atoms. Nothing more, nothing less. How *is* it that mere carbon can come to declare truth statements, anyway?

But then again, that *is* the AfR in a nutshell, is it not?

Gordon Knight said...

ah but the Kidney is not thinking. I think this all depends on how seriously one takes introspection. I think we have much better evidence of the existence of our consciousness than we have of anything. As Descartes knew, its the mind independent material world that is problematic, not the mind.

Blip said...

Gordon is right.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Gordon: Descartes got it backwards, but I am a Sellarsian in spirit and you seem Cartesian so we will never agree.

Someone else who didn't argue for his view, but basically kept repeating his incredulity that mind is part of nature said 'Further, why should I take seriously anything a grouping of carbon atoms has to say on the matter anyway?'

Interesting it often comes down to these types of "arguments."

Why would you treat a pile of atoms that is a kidney any differently than you would a pile of cat turds? Are all configurations of atoms metaphysically equivalent? Or are some brains, kidneys, mountains, rainbows, and perhaps even minds?

I'm not gonna argue about this here, as I've spelled out my view on theory of intentional states here. I motivate a bionaturalistic approach more generally (introductory remarks) here if you are new to the field, and I have just started a long series of posts on the related, but different, subject of consciousness, first one is here).

I think many of you weren't here for some of those fireworks, and my best thoughts are on those pages so if it seems you have read them I'll engage more on this topic. Not to be a jerk, I'm just super busy and don't have time to repeat crap over and over which tends to happen at this blog. (No offense Victor it isn't your fault).

My point is, your incredulous stares are not arguments, and don't move me.

Shackleman said...

Yikes, Blue Devil Knight! I'm not sure what prompted your response to be so visceral. I'm sorry if I offended.

And please, feel free to call me Shackleman rather than "someone" since you're obviously addressing me. Proper etiquette can go a long way in raising the level of discourse and keeping things from becoming a mud slinging contest.

I wasn't offering an argument---just a quick note, expressing my objeciton to the idea that minds are not bizarre given a positon of naturalism.

I find your posts almost universally helpful and constructive (save maybe for your latest) and I look forward to reading your links. (And researching the term 'Sellarsian' which I'm unfamiliar with---I'm just a layperson here---I assume there's room for an interested non-expert to post their thoughts on this blog, no? Or must I have a PhD to avoid future visceral responses from you and others?).

I'll leave Dr. Reppert's work on the AfR (and Hasker's too for that matter) to stand in place of any "argument" I would offer. I couldn't possibly bring anything new to the table on that front. I'm certain you're familiar with them, which is why my post wasn't meant to be a seminal work of argumentation and instead was a quick objection instead.

"My point is, your incredulous stares are not arguments, and don't move me."

Relax, man. I meant no harm.

Shackleman said...

**Slaps own forehead**

Sellarsian as in Sellars, of course. Silly me.

Anyway, I've had trouble understanding him. What little I've been exposed to and read anyway. It strikes me a little like an unstable marriage between reductionism and some form of dualism. But then, I certainly need to read a lot more of him.

I'm still at the stage of my arm-chair philosophy where I'm making category errors. In my note to BDK I should have framed my objection against "reductionism" instead of "naturalism". I need to try to understand "naturalism" better it seems, specifically as it contrasts with reductionism.

Maybe if "someone" here (you possible BDK?) would take a position of being helpful instead of attacking my ignorance, I could find some works that will help me understand better. I'm not hopeful for this though--not here. People here are just rude.

Shackleman said...

"Why would you treat a pile of atoms that is a kidney any differently than you would a pile of cat turds?

Given reductionism, I wouldn't. And at this point, naturalism doesn't seem any different to me, but I admit my ignorance here.

"Are all configurations of atoms metaphysically equivalent?"

Given reductionism, the answer is *necessarily* yes, they are equivalent.

"Or are some brains, kidneys, mountains, rainbows, and perhaps even minds?"

How would one define "mind" given reductionism? How would that differ given naturalism? It seems to me there can be no such thing as "mind" (under any definition) given either.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Shackelman: I hope I didn't come off haughty, I meant to come off as impatient.

Yes, you are right it is Wilfrid Sellars whom I idolize to a degree (only to a degree). A wonderful expression of my anti-Cartesian views in epistemology (and metaphysics) can be found in Penelope Maddy's book Second Philosophy (link is to a review I wrote of it with some extensive quotes).

Maddy nailed it.

Victor Reppert said...

In fairness to BDK, he has defended his views on the mind et al rather extensively in exchanges with myself, Darek Barefoot, and Doctor Logic. Most of it can be found in the combox of various Dangerous Idea 2 posts. And he does manage to avoid some of the pitfalls that, for example Carrier, tends to fall into. So it is understandable that he references, rather than re-presents, his overall position.

Shackleman said...

Thanks for the very helpful link, BDK. I will plan on picking this up. Right now I'm working my way through the initial paper that prompted your first linked-to blog entry. (That paper: "Killing the Observer" by Thomas Clark). Then I'll have to read through the blog thread. By that time this thread will be dead. Oh well, maybe next time then.

Dr. Reppert, I tend to think valuable dialogue is possible without taking extended breaks to familiarize oneself with all of the relevant literature. BDK may not have the patience for that however, and I'll respect that. A simple synopsis or summary with links to the fully fleshed out versions would have sufficed (rather than his smug reply), and frankly I don't think asking for that is unfair or unwarranted, unless you, BDK and others are keeping an exclusive club here for expert eyes only.

In the meantime, I still think naturalism is a cop-out. It's very "Zen-ish" to me. Here's my understanding of it at this point in my studies:

"All that is real can be measured, by the empirical sciences. If a thing cannot be measured by the empirical sciences then it either doesn't exist or is irrelevant".

If I'm in the ballpark there, then that seems it has potential to be trivially true, but isn't worth much.

But again, I readily admit I'm probably missing something---or the *whole* thing for that matter.

Anyway, thanks again, BDK for the reply and the link. I'm sure it will broaden my horizons.

Perezoso said...

It's not merely an either/or (thinking soul, or unthinking machine). A human brain machine could still think--indeed they do. Volitionism was the older term, I believe.

Even taking a naturalist position, one could say there are some bio-physical entities (like human brains, and associated nervous system) that think, intend, conceptualize. Matter Thinks, in a few very limited sections of reality.

Other higher-order primates show signs of sentience. Dogs and cats might have a very limited consciousness, and that doesn't mean they have a dog-soul.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Shackleman: don't worry about reading the original article unless you are really interested. The comment thread, as usual, took on a life of its own and was largely not germane to that article. I just consider it my best articulation of an outline of a naturalistic theory of intentional states.

I don't have a very good theory of conscious states, frankly, but am building up to that at my non-chess-name blog.

Shackleman said...

Blue Devil Knight,

Thanks for that tidbit. It will help knowing the meat of what you're intending is in the comments section. For now then, I'll skip the original article.

If I have anything relevant to contribute after having read it (not certain, considering my amateur status here) I'll reply back. If not, please consider this as my thanks to you for your helpful links.

One thing, if you have the time and wouldn't mind. Can you give me a brief description of the difference between intentional states and consciousness? Beyond semantics is there a difference? (if you flesh that out in the comment section of your previous link, don't bother as I fully intend to read it this evening).

Thanks.

Shackleman said...

Perezoso,

Don't you have to first define "think" before you claim machines can do it? After all, isn't "thinking" the very thing that separates a machine from a sentient being?

There are certainly parts of the human being that are machine-like or even fully a machine, but if you're countering the claims of a Cartesian dualist (which I currently would consider myself to be, and I gather Gordon Knight is too) It seems you're begging the question by declaring machines can do just that.

I'm off for now...thanks to all who took the time to humor me, an amateur, with a response. I appreciate it.

Perezoso said...

I'm not going to go through Phil of Mind chestnuts again. Take it from me: Descartes famously begged the question (contra-Cogito in brief: thinking -> thinker-> thinkers exist -> existence implies corporeality (care to disprove that?); thinkers are corporeal).

I take thinking to be self-evident. Writing is a type of thinking, or demonstration of it. Playing chess requires thinking. So does doing calculus. That's not just following procedures. Now, what the term thinking describes is another matter. Obviously it's far more likely that relates to corporeal brain functions than to immortal souls.

So, I don't agree with the strict eliminative types who deny thinking and Mind, belief, conceptualization, etc, but, instead uphold Mind, yet without transcendence. That's not unknown in philo-business: say Schopenhauer, without any mystical BS. Some more hegelian-marxists suggest as much (though that raises other issues). Marx in fact claimed Matter Thinks at one point in his early writing.

Even WM James/Peirce tended to affirm an embedded consciousness, or shall we say material idealism at times----or better, physical idealism. No theological claims--at least of monotheistic type--, other than perhaps anomaly of human thinking).

Shackleman said...

Perezoso,

I agree (along the lines of what Hasker argues in his work Emergent-Self) that thinking is self evident. My objection is to your assertion that machines do it. I don't think it's at *all* evident that they do, let alone self evident. Therefore what is your definition of thinking that would elucidate your claim that machines do it?


The rest of your post, to be honest, I couldn't really decipher, sorry.

And now, really this time, I'm off for now. [smile]

Perezoso said...

I believe I said "human-brain machines" could think: so brain as a type of conscious machine. Obviously some brain functions are strictly determined, but not all of them are. I object to the strict determinism of Dennett or churchlands, but agree to the physicalism (that seems most likely at this stage. Maybe there exists some strange vector-qualia-mind. I rather doubt it)

Dennett may prattle away, but Cogsci has not all established many basic types of thinking, say inference, conception, or language functions. Algorithmic functions did not appear in our minds: it took YEARS of work to codify knowledge. That seems to suggest a certain constructive, and reflective aspect to thinking (even dare we say Kantian understanding) that the bottlewashers have yet to decipher.

Im not making some AI type claim, though given the Kurzweil-type research, I suspect in a few decades there will be conscious bots. Replicants, man.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Shackleman: it isn't obvious what I mean stop putting yourself down---anyone who acts like they have the answers and is arrogant about it at this point in time is either ignorant or a liar.

By 'intentional states' I mean roughly propositionally structured mental representations. Things that can have truth values, can stand in inferential and evidentiary relations with other such representations. So something we would describe as the thought 'Snow is white.' It has a truth value (and that truth value depends on the referent of the term 'snow' and 'white' and the syntax of predication).

By consciousness I mean qualia, raw experiences, like what you experience visually when you look at a sunset. I don't think my visual experience is propositionally structured, so it seems we have two different types of representational formats. (Or one, as some thing there exist no propositional representations outside of public human language).

They may be related, but I think it is useful to keep them separate as each poses different challenges for the naturalist.

Normal people are obsessed with consciousness. Philosophers in the 20th century anyway were obsessed with propositional attitudes because it dovetails so neatly with logic so it is more neat and can be treated with airs of being formal.

Perezoso said...

Miss Maddy has the Quinean reductionist aspect as well: which is to say, starting with strict determinism and eliminative materialism, and making no allowances for the uniqueness of Mind (including higher order thinking--logic, mathematics, language, etc.), humans seem to be nothing but CPUs--, or bio-CPUs, perhaps a bit more sophisticated than your HP---but more or less following procedures (as in Dennett's somewhat trivial example).


For a determinist, Maddy seems fairly interested in values as well: note her insistent feminism, and the normative quality to her writing. Determinism means, like, never having to say you're sorry, whether you're a stalinist academic, or riding with the Wehrmacht: a point lost on some of the neo-atheist crew (why be concerned with any normative issue, given strict determinism? so religion just happened).

That we object to Miss Maddy/Quine/churchlands does not imply we have to join up with biblethumpers (determinists of a different sort), OR agree to Cartesian views (except perhaps in the sense that humans do obviously assume they exist, are reasonable, that life has meaning/value, etc.) It means opposing reductionism of various forms (the Darwinist form perhaps most prevalent). Most humans do value something like Liberty, however troubling that may be to the UC professoriat.


Really, the Maddy-Quine people have little of worth to say about Meaning, both in semantic sense and broader sense (the "meaning" of Moby Dick). Quine the logician deserved some respect. Quine the crony of Skinner, was not so deserving--Skinner also wanted to eliminate all talk of mind, consciousness, meaning, etc.

Shackleman said...

Blue Devil Knight,

I read through your first link---the one where you give your interpretation and conclusions drawn from your reading of the study of the bee nectar dance.

I think you bring up some really cool things (sorry for the vernacular, but really, they're COOL, man) but there's an implicit assumption that runs throughout that I think is a fatal flaw in what you presented.

If I'm understanding you correctly, your argument hinges on the assumption that bees do not have internal states similar to ours---that they're just operating on autopilot, that they're automatons, that their behavior is predictable purely on physical grounds.

But if you remove that assumption, your entire argument breaks down.

What if the bees *do* have internal states, and that those bees 'listening' to the "nectar location dance" internalize and do their best to interpret and make a 'mental map', based on the 'language' used in the dance? What if instead of the autopilot implicit in your argument, instead they set about the goal of finding the nectar and following the dance-version of mapquest in the same way you and I do?

If I'm in a strange town, looking for the nearest gas station I might ask a passerby. At that point the passerby goes about building an internal representation of a map and then, through language, tries to communicate their internal state to me. I then have to interpret their attempt at expressing their internal state and build an internal state of my own that matches theirs. Sadly, there's plenty of opportunity there to get it wrong. The passerby might not have built their internal map correctly. They may have remembered wrong and thought the turn I needed was right instead of left. Or, they may have made a mistake in the language they used when trying to express their *accurate* internal map. I do it all the time. "Oh, did I say left? I meant right!". Or, they might have built their internal map perfectly, and perfectly expressed it through language, and while I was trying to map it in my head, I mapped left when they said right! Any of those things could have caused me to get lost on the way to the gas station, and it would *not* be because my neurons got it wrong, or their neurons got it wrong, it might be because *I* got it wrong, and when my neurons went about following my orders to build for me an internal map, they did just what I told them to do! (No doubt I'm a Cartesian dualist, eh?). As an aside, this entire transaction between me and the passerby seems positivley MAGIC to me, given reductive materialism.

There's a direct parallel in my gas station directions request example, to the dance of your bees, but you seem to assume the bees are all just computers blindly receiving input from another bee that's blindly producing output. Why? How do you justify this assumption? Unless you're a bee, how do you know they aren't doing the same thing you and I would do when engaging in a conversation with the goal of getting me to a destination I've never been to before?

Another objection I have: you seem to siphon off a lot to the magic of neurons. I seem to remember a post made by Dr. Reppert where he talks about siphoning things off to Mr. Brain, but that once you get to the brain, there's no where left to siphon things off to. I wish I could find it--but my search turned up empty. I'm hopeful you read it and know what I'm referring to so we can avoid the formality of my doing the legwork. If you're unfamiliar with that post however, I'll try again to go find it.

Anyway, this goes back to my incredulity previously. It seems to me that one cannot justify saying "the neurons did it" without explaining how they do. Then, since the neurons can be reduced down to carbon, what then? How *does* carbon do it, dammit? {grin}

As a disclaimer, I realize I'm not making a positive claim and I'm not arguing for a position. Instead I'm offering a skeptical threat to *your* arguments, (at least I think I am---isn't that what a trained philosopher would call it?), and I think skeptical threats are fair to make, without making a positive claim of my own, no?

philip m said...

shackleman,

Victor reposted it on this blog, but I can't find it either. But I did find this on his other blog:

http://dangerousidea2.blogspot.com/
2006/12/swinburne-of-siphoning-off.html

Shackleman said...

Blue Devil Knight: "By 'intentional states' I mean roughly propositionally structured mental representations. Things that can have truth values, can stand in inferential and evidentiary relations with other such representations. So something we would describe as the thought 'Snow is white.' It has a truth value (and that truth value depends on the referent of the term 'snow' and 'white' and the syntax of predication).

By consciousness I mean qualia, raw experiences, like what you experience visually when you look at a sunset. "


Thanks for the explanation. I have too much legwork to do, unfortunately to comment much, because I take the term "intentional state" very differently than you do. I see intentional states as being an internal state that preexists any physical state. For example, in Derek Barefoot's response to you he uses an example where water could be said to have a "goal" of getting down the cliff in the easiest manner possible. But he remarks that the water doesn't have any intention to do so. It's just following the predictable laws of physics.

I would add though that we can have an *internal* intentional state to get down the cliff in the most *difficult* manner possible (just to sort of challenge ourselves, say), and in fact go out of our way to *avoid* what we would naturally do if we were just following natural law. If an observer knew that internal intentional state, then an observer might be able to accurately predict some parts of the path that would be taken. Otherwise, the observer would fail miserably at any prediction.

Also, even if I accept and understood your definition of intentional states (which I'm not entirely sure that I do understand it), could you describe something that can have an intentional state that is *not* conscious? I can't imagine one.

Shackleman said...

Thanks, philip m. That's very helpful.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Thanks Shackelman. You said:
"If I'm understanding you correctly, your argument hinges on the assumption that bees do not have internal states similar to ours---that they're just operating on autopilot, that they're automatons, that their behavior is predictable purely on physical grounds."

I don't assume we have nothing in common with bees. Indeed, we both have internal neuronal states that do the representing of what is going on in the world. It is ultimately an empirical question how similar we are, and whether bees are conscious or not is a whole question I cannot answer.

Shackleman said...

But then, BDK, if we use your points about bees and relate them to humans, at best we have a naturalistic model for how a zombie would behave, not a real conscious person. Would you agree?

Why not go with Hasker, and just abandon our bees altogether? After all, we *know* we are conscious. We *know* we have internal states. We don't need empirical evidence to know these things about ourselves.

This goes directly to the point of Gordon Knight's post. We have more evidence for our own consciousness and internal states than we have of anything else. We can and should therefore put our trust in *it* above all other things.

So, we can leave the bees alone to stand as an interesting curiosity, but the real work can begin and will end ultimately with our *selves*. After all, it's the *only* thing that I *know* really exists! {smile}

Anyway, thanks for the dialogue. I'll step out and let the experts take their rightful places in this thread.

Wakefield Tolbert said...

Perezoso said, in part:

(or at least the only part in the symposium that really interests me, but did a darn good job on this particular precis of DD!)

It's not Dennett's anti-religious perspective that we should protest (he makes some important points against fundamentalism). We should oppose Dennett's insistence that humans be viewed as just another primate--though, admittedly, even DD's mentor WVO Quine seemed to suggest as much. Even if we are nothing but Uncle Meat, some meat's more equal more than others.

Well, good point.

But why not? Wasn't it Desmond Morris who named us "the Naked Ape?
Well--that's just another primate for Mr. Webster.

If you've noticed, the notion of separate but equal magisteria (Gould's phrase) is all but.....extinct.

DD's notion is quite common these days.

The problem here is that for DD and some others, "meat" is just meat. How do we get around this? In DD's cosmology, value is what we make of it, it evolved, along with the mechanics of all our mental attributes, and thus the value you get from we fleshly machines is what you claim.

And, why make any kind of demarcation line in a materialist notion of human origins that would separate us from other beings?

How so?

What is the methodology for that?

No, we don't have to follow PETA's prescription for morals in that meat is a boy is a pig is a roach is a gopher, etc.

But we don't have to--because for all practical purposes, in evolutionary terms, that is the case regardless.

I.E.--If all is evolved through incremental changes over vast eons of time, why are humans more valuable just because we are one putatively more advanced branch on the Tree of Life? Gould once reminded his readers in any event that evolution is NOT a ladder; it is a "copiously branching network" of adaptation. Human brains are no more meaningful--and thus our thoughts and rights and actions--than the fact that just as we use our head meat for advantage of this or that, likewise dogs and bees and roaches and certainly rats have a better claim to fame and survivability than WE do.

Like Carl Sagan said in one of his very entertaining Cosmos shows, we are just "leaky bags of amino acids."

That's about it. DD would firmly tell you, as would William Provine, that the notion we are "just another primate" (and I think Peter Singer is close to this notion) flows quite naturally from the "facts of the matter" of delelopment of life on this planet. So powerful is this idea (DD calls it Darwin's "Universal Acid", that melts away all notions of...well....just about all notions of this fiction--per DD--called "mind"), that the notion can spill over into legal norms.

Famous justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said that he saw no more reason to assign any more value to a human than to a baboon, and that law should flow from that idea.

Holmes' idea, "Positive law", that is, rather than "Normative law" (based on old fuddy duddy things from superstion--presumably Christianity fits this bill for DD and his ilk too) is indeed the norm now.

In a purely mechanistic tale of the tape, DD is actually being very consistent about the logical consequences of an unguided process that unfolds with no forethought.

That's my two cents worth.

(But hey, I didnt' take it from the current Bailout!) :)

Signed,

Uncle Wakefield's Meaty Paunch

Wakefield Tolbert said...

Perezoso said, in part:

Other higher-order primates show signs of sentience. Dogs and cats might have a very limited consciousness, and that doesn't mean they have a dog-soul.




Yep. And, on "down" the line the crocodilains are the "smartest" of the reptiles, tiny as their puzzled little nuts are that served them well for so long.

I agree, there DOES seem to be differing levels of awareness among our animal pals (well, those you'd keep in your house anyhow), and this can be both interesting and also be a problem.

The problem: What is the organization that gives this sentience? Obviously some component MUST by physical. In traditional morality, in turn traditionally pulled from traditional religions, animals DO count for something. The Scriptures tell us good men regard their beasts kindly, and are to be humane, for example. And there does seem to be a grade level for each type. (insects and annoying ants at picnics are still liable for a good spritz of Raid). But my question here would be, what is the thinking on the soul for such creatures, if you think humans have this and that's your inclination--are the animals left out in the lurch of just turning into daisy food?

Some religions offer this, but in traditional faiths for the most part the texts make no mention of animal souls per se. We CAN extrapolate from the Bible that animals have limited "rights", and that since the afterlife is probably a superior version of what earth has, animals will be represented there as well. Maybe.
Francis of Assisi certainly felt the Creation was deserving of more respect due to the creative nature of the Author.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Shackelman: that post was aimed at representational states with certain properties (internal states that refer, can be true or false, can stand in evidentiary relations to one another). I find these things very interesting, even if they don't require consciousness. If all you are interested in is consciousness then of course it will be less interested to you. Part of my point was that not all mental representations are the same, so some mental representations will be easier to relate to neural states than others.

And note, if I've given a naturalistic account of propositional representations, then I'm halfway to blocking the argument from reason, at least if you have the typical view of reason as some kind of transformation among propositional states. If I could give an account of said transformations among these perfectly natural propositional states, then I've killed the argument from reason.

And that is why I think the argument from reason is so weak, as compared with the problem of consciousness.

Victor tries to tie them together by saying an organism can't reason unless it is also conscious.

And again, I never said bees aren't conscious, but as I said previously I can avoid that whole question but still give an account that captures many features of the mental.

Rob G said...

"Francis of Assisi certainly felt the Creation was deserving of more respect due to the creative nature of the Author."

As did many of the early Church Fathers, both East and West (although it seems to me that the Eastern fathers have a bit more prominent 'green streak' about them).

Perezoso said...

Some of the neo-atheists have a nearly Franciscan approach to nature (paraphrasing one of Gould's essays). They might discuss altruism, toolmaking, memes, fossils, maybe those sexxay bonobos, etc.

They rarely discuss say great white sharks, orcas, wolf packs,other predators or plagues, insects, invasive species, and so forth. Sort of Disneyland Darwinism.

Watching dozens of sharks gnawing on the corpse of a blue whale [a few hundred yards from ventura piers--including a few wild lunges by a great white) one obtains a better understanding of the Darwinian ethos (Herman Melville might be a better guide than Nurse Dennett is to some of these issues--and I say that as one who read The Origin of Species, and completed some biology years ago).

Wakefield Tolbert said...

Disneyland Darwinism.



I would agree, and at that, since nature is, per Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "Red in Tooth and Claw",
it seems that while the Serengheti is about sex, sin, savagery, and sun, it still ain't no Las Vegas, baby.

This is the Big Leagues, where nasty things happen as often as the charming butterflies landing ever so softly on meditating monks.

However, within all that, and the "sanitized for your safety" types of both the Bible (take a GOOD gander at the Song of Solomon) and the Secularists as well (The Wonderful Tree of Life--kiddie tales for the kids of atheists), we have a cover of the real things.

To their credit, however, some take Darwinism to the logical step of saying that this "universal acid" eats away not just notions of the supernature, but notions of what erstwhile we felt was simply "natural" laws as well.

Anything goes.

Anonymous said...

Dennett is as much of a fanatic as any mid-western creationist! The tragedy is that this brand of materialism has such a wide appeal because of the limits of high school science. There is a critique of this brutish materialism at Materialists should read this first