Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Clayton and Doctor Logic on Reduction

Clayton: Here's a standard view for materialists to take. Arguments against materialism in mind fail because they fail to take account of non-reductive forms of materialism.

Doctor Logic: I'm gonna say that non-reductionist emergence is, indeed, poofy. It's no better than dualism because it says that mental properties are inexplicable.

But Arrington is attacking a straw man if he's going after the mainstream consensus. The mainstream view is reductionist, not poofy emergentism.

VR: I find problems with non=reductive materialism because it has serious difficulties accounting for mental causation. Also, it posits a supervenience relationship between the physical and mental, but everything is supposed to supervene on the physical, and the supervenience relation, which has to be real, doesn't supervene on the physical. I don't accept the reductivist position because attempted reductions simply slide over the logical distinction between the mental and the physical. All the physical information in the world is insufficient to logically guarantee that a thought is about P and not about Q.

16 comments:

Ilíon said...

There is no such thing as "physical information;" all information is created by, and exists only within (for lack of better term), minds.

Clayton said...

"Also, it posits a supervenience relationship between the physical and mental, but everything is supposed to supervene on the physical, and the supervenience relation, which has to be real, doesn't supervene on the physical."

Why doesn't the supervenience relation supervene on the physical? One formulation of the supervenience view: the mental properties supervene upon the physical properties in the sense that there cannot be a mental difference between worlds without some physical difference between these worlds. Suppose the mental properties do supervene upon the physical properties in this sense. You say, "the supervenience relation ... does not supervene on the physical". If the mental properties supervene on the physical properties, you get for free the property of the mental supervening upon the physical. If your objection has any bite, you've really just asserted without argument that the mental doesn't supervene upon the physical.

"All the physical information in the world is insufficient to logically guarantee that a thought is about P and not about Q."

Can you spell that out? You might think that you can't _deduce_ or _infer_ that a thought is about something rather than another, but the materialist or physicalist view is that the mental facts are _entailed_ by the physical facts. It's not obvious that a necessary condition on P's entailing Q is that Q is deducible from P. Obvious example: you can't deduce an ought from an is but the is-facts entail the ought-facts.

Shackleman said...

How does a non-reductive materialist define what a "thought" is?

(Sounds like the start of a joke, but it's a serious question)

Clayton said...

The non-reductive materialist has the same conception of what a thought is as everyone else does.

Ilíon said...

Shackleman, it is indeed a serious question. And it shows us, does it not, that there is no such actual thing as "non-reductive materialism?"

Shackleman said...

Clayton, please define it. Your response seems more like a punt, rather than a serious answer to my serious question.

Assume I don't know anything about the topic from a non-reductive materialist standpoint. (which I don't, really). How would you get me to understand it? What would be the definition?

If you're going to say things like "mental facts are _entailed_ by the physical facts" , then I need to understand what you could possibly mean by "mental facts" and (by association) 'thoughts'.


Off topic: my word verification for this post was "pooton". That strikes me as funny, but I don't know why.

Ilíon said...

OT, I know what you mean. There are times I've been so amused by the word verification (generally because it coincidentally seemed apropos to the subject matter) that I'd thought about mentioning it.

Clayton said...

Shackelman,

The non-reductive materialist defines thought, belief, desire, experience, etc... the same way everyone else does so go ask them what these mental terms mean.

The non-reductive materialist works with the same definition about what a thought is and then argues about the metaphysics of that which fits this common conception. If they didn't, they wouldn't be disagreeing with reductive materialists, dualists, idealists, etc...

Shackleman said...

Clayton,

So let me get this straight. You're going to argue the metaphysics associated with "thoughts" but are unwilling to define the subject of your argumentation?

Um, okay. But for forgive me if I stop taking you seriously.

"Everyone" does not have the same conception of what a thought is. A substance dualist, by necessity and by definition, would define it very differently than a reductive materialist would.

Since you claim to be a non-reductive materialist, I would like to know from *you*, or someone who shares your view, to give me your definition. I'm not playing a game of gotcha here. I'm asking because I don't "get" it. You should be all too eager to try to help me to "get" it. Isn't that why you come here? To share your knowledge and ideas with others?

If you can't do it, fine. Maybe someone else can. But then it might be advisable for you to try to shore up your own justifications for being a non-reductive materialist. At least when it comes to consciousness. And *especially* when you're communicating your "thoughts" on a message board about "thoughts".

Shackleman said...

Ilíon,

I was going to comment on your last, but then my word verification was "Whemism", which threw me off track entirely.

(Seriously. "whemism". That's gotta be something real, doesn't it?)

Ilíon said...

"Whemism" is clearly an ideology or philosophy or some sort; it's probably of utmost importance and utterly obscure.

Clayton said...

Shackelman,

The dualist and the materialist _define_ belief the same way. They offer different accounts of what fits that definition. If they didn't, they wouldn't be disagreeing about what beliefs are, they would be talking past one another. Either look up 'belief' or look up something on non-reductive materialism. Check out the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Ilíon said...

Clayton: "The dualist and the materialist _define_ belief the same way. They offer different accounts of what fits that definition."

Translation: they do *not* "_define_ belief the same way."

Also, was Shackleman really asking about a definition for 'belief?' I was sure he was asking about someting else, namely what so-called non-reductive materialists say that 'thoughts' (and, by extension 'minds') are, such that one can see that there really is a difference between them and regular materialists.

Clayton said...

NRM: All mental states and events are in fact physical states and events but the terms that pick out these events cannot be analyzed or defined in terms of descriptions of brain processes.

Science will tell us what events and states in the nervous system turn out to be beliefs.

Ilíon said...

So, there is, after all, no difference. Well, other than the woo-woo factor.

Ilíon said...

Promissory materialism is still materialism. Scientism is still a self-refuting belief-system.