Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Austin Cline Critiques the Argument from Consciousness

This rebuttal strikes me as a little too quick and easy. See what you think. HT: Ed Babinski

15 comments:

The Family said...

"
In any debate or discussion, there are a few basic presuppositions which all must share: the validity of logic, the existence of other minds, the existence of a common world, and the stability of that common world.

All of these premises are naturalistic, not supernaturalistic
...
"

Austin Cline here starts with a some very debatable premises-- that the validity of logic and the existence of other minds are naturalistic and not supernaturalistic.

This is very very question begging. If the existence of other minds is part of naturalism, then so is consciousness. Of course :).

Chad McIntosh said...

Cline is massively uninformed of the details of this argument, its various forms, and its defenders.

He quotes a Swineburne. I am not familiar with Swineburne’s work.

But he also simply misstates the argument. It is not one from ignorance, but category. It’s not that we do not know how x and y are correlated and so attempt to plug it up with a theistic explanation. It’s that we know x and y are not the kinds of things than can be naturally correlated.

Swinburne, Adams, Moreland, Taliaferro, and other proponents of the argument are quick to make this one of their first points.

Aaron said...

I'm pretty tired at the moment but how does one go from "rational discussion requires certain presuppositions that just happen to be naturalistic" to "therefore the worldview naturalism must be assumed for rational discussion to take place."

Am I missing something? It seems like his argument is...

Rational discussion can take place iff the discussion requires some naturalistic presuppositions.

The validity of logic, the existence of other minds, the existence of a common world, and the stability of that common world are all naturalistic presuppositions required for rational discussion.

Therefore, naturalism must be assumed in order for a rational discussion to take place.

Well, there's a big difference between a few naturalistic presuppositions and the worldview of naturalism, so the above argument is invalid.

Unless the above argument is a strawman and I interpreted Cline's argument incorrectly. As I said, I can barely keep my eyes open, so it wouldn't surprise me.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I haven't looked at the original article in detail but I agree it seems inadequate, but not necessarily for reasons people think here.

Chad said:
"It’s that we know x and y are not the kinds of things than can be naturally correlated. "

Clearly conscious states and brain states are correlated. Just for one example, see this article on binocular rivalry, and section nine on its neuronal correlates.

I am writing up a bunch of posts on consciousness, table of contents here. I will be talking about binocular rivalry quite a bit, probably in my next post which will be within a week.

Chand, since your claim, as stated, is literally false, you must mean something like 'x cannot be explained in terms of y' or something. That is a lot less contentious, at least if you add the 'presently' qualifier.

To just baldly state that 'moving atoms around doesn't get you thoughts' is not an argument, but a statement of what needs to be established. Perhaps the article at about.com didn't do Swinburne justice, but if he did, then Swinburne can't be said to have provided an argument at all.

Chad McIntosh said...

BDK,

I don’t never said they weren't correlated. Your charge is misdirected. In fact, it seems that have to be.

What I was doing was stating, roughly, the conclusion of the argument from consciousness: that x and y are not the kinds of things that can, in principle, be naturally correlated. But because they are correlated, naturalism is false.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Chad, what is the difference between correlation and "natural" correlation?

Chad McIntosh said...

A natural correlation is one where at least the entities involved are similar in kind (hence, subject to the same laws).

Correlation is a neutral term. We could get into stickier issues by spelling out the nature of such a relation (some sort of dependency relation? One-way or two? Which way is primary?)

To say the only correlations that exist are natural ones is to beg the question in favor of naturalism.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Chad said:
A natural correlation is one where at least the entities involved are similar in kind (hence, subject to the same laws).

[...]

To say the only correlations that exist are natural ones is to beg the question in favor of naturalism.


I never made that claim, and neither did Cline. In fact, you are the one that brought this up by saying you 'know that the two things cannot be naturally correlated'. So I agree that question-begging is going on.

While I can imagine a world where water and H20 are different kinds, that doesn't mean they are. With something as complicated as mind, and things as complicated as brains, it seems we need to do some research to find out how plausible all these claims are.

Just stating they can't be naturally correlated as if that settles things is a mistake.

Hence, if you are right when you say that "Swinburne, Adams, Moreland, Taliaferro, and other proponents of the argument are quick to make this one of their first points" then you have just shown they are all question-beggars.

Chad McIntosh said...

BDK,

It's only question begging if the conclusion "x and y are not the kinds of things than can be naturally correlated" is a premise in the argument." Likewise, to say that it's false without argument is also question begging.

As my first post made clear, this is not a premise, but the conclusion.

You seem eager to pick a comment fight (out of such little to go off of, no less).

Blue Devil Knight said...

Chad:

"As my first post made clear, this is not a premise, but the conclusion."

Actually, no, you clarified in your second post because you used some weird term 'natural correlation' that you had to explain.

I didn't say I know x and y are the same kind of thing, but only that bald claims that we know they aren't are unfounded. The two aren't equivalent.

At any rate, as I said if Cline quoted Swinburne's actual argument, then it is just weak. If not, then Cline killed a straw man. Either way this thread is a waste of my time, so have a good weekend.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Chad said:
"You seem eager to pick a comment fight (out of such little to go off of, no less)."

I was just arguing, there is a difference. For goodness sake man I didn't even take off my gloves.

The Family said...

The existence of the subjective viewpoint of entities (intentionality) is indeed categorically outside of any reasonable extrapolation of current neuroscience. It requires a materialistic mental filter to not understand this, given a reasonable scientific education.


There must exist entities not currently even discussable within a physicalist neuroscience which would adequately explain intentionality. If we re-define naturalism as including these as an extension of physicalism, then I'm okay with that.

I think that such an inclusively vague re-definition of naturalism is exactly what Cline is doing in his writing above.

But I wonder if such a naturalism would not in some future reality include some of what is currently derided by many neuroscientists as the supernatural as a one of its subcategories :).

Blue Devil Knight said...

The Family: Insert 'Life' for 'intentionality' and you are repeating arguments for vitalism from the early 1900s.

The Family said...

Daniel Dennett must not think much of Chinese medicine. Its practitioners still use vitalism :).

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