Saturday, June 20, 2009

The argument from intentionality

I consider the first-person essential to a full description of our mental life, including those states essential to reasoning. There is something that it is like to be in those states. Properly physicalistic descriptions are invariably third-person. Pile up third-person descriptions until doomsday, give me more and more science that has by definition has to be third-person, and the first person content simply won't make it in. It can't. "Ah, but this is just an appeal to ignorance. Once we get more sophisticated third-person accounts, the problem will disappear." No. Your commitment to third person, truly naturalistic accounts of mental states is going to make it impossible for you to produce an adequate account of intentional states, and all the science in the world is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

6 comments:

normajean said...

And all the honest people said, Amen!

Steven Carr said...

Science can never give a first-person description of what it feels like to rape a 2 year old boy.

All such descriptions would be in the third person.

God can give a first-person description of what it feels like to rape a 2 year old boy. God is not limited to a third person description of such a feeling.

Therefore, there is a God.

Anonymous said...

Steven Carr,
You're an idiot.

SteveK said...

There's always an idiot lurking by, waiting to make himself know. Hello, Steven Carr.

Aaron said...

"Ah, but this is just an appeal to ignorance. Once we get more sophisticated third-person accounts, the problem will disappear."

This reminds me of Nagel's famous article "What is it like to be a Bat?", and his contention that we don't necessarily need to abandon physicalistic theories of mind; rather we simply need to reformulate our concepts of "subjective" and "objective."

When I first read the article, I couldn't help but think that this seemed to be a very convenient way of dealing with one of physicalism's major problems. If the physicalist can get around one of his theory's problems just by appealing to a need to re-examine and reformulate concepts, I see no reason why a dualist can't do the same with the interaction problem. In other words, "There's no interaction problem, we just need to reformulate our concepts of causation which would allow for causality without acual physical contact."

Great post Dr.Reppert.

Clayton said...

VR,

Suppose the dualist and the physicalist square off. The dualist believes in mental substances and the modes, attributes, properties of such substsances along with physical substances and their modes and attributes. The physicalist believes in only physical substances. The dualist says that no description of the physical substance will allow us to work out 'what it's like' to taste chocolate or see red. The physicalist response is that no description of the mental substance will allow us to work it out either.

Doesn't that mean that there's something wrong with the suggestion that to determine the ontology of the mental, we try to see what can be worked out from descriptions of the relevant substances?