Sunday, May 02, 2010

Menuge's Dennett Denied

24 comments:

AMC said...

Thanks, this is it.

Thinking Eternally said...

Thanks for posting all the articles about intentionality. It will help with my research on this topic.

Clayton said...

"Naturalism claims that all genuine properties and relations are in some way reducible to the categories that are studied, or that could, in principle, be studied, by the natural sciences. The main objection to naturalism is that it cannot account for the existence and character of the normative, including rational and moral qualities."

The author is free to define "naturalism" as he sees fit, but consider "supernaturalism", the view that the normative and the mental cannot be reduced to the natural but _can_ be reduced to the supernatural. I've never seen a good response to the Euthyphro objection to supernaturalism so-defined, but I've seen lots of people who are critical of naturalism opt for a non-reductive form of supernaturalism. Why isn't there a non-reductive form of naturalism about the right, the good, and the intentional?

I don't know what the author's view on this is. In a recent thread, Vic suggested that one reason to think that we cannot possibly reduce the mental to the natural/material/physical is that the intentional is normative and the normative is not reducible. I agree that the normative is not reducible, I just think that means that it's not reducible to any non-normative statements about the natural or supernatural. (I also registered disagreement with Vic about the claim that the intentional is normative, but I don't know what his response was.)

Anonymous said...

Why isn't there a non-reductive form of naturalism about the right, the good, and the intentional?

Probably because it would likely look identical to "supernaturalism", just with the name changed.

You may as well ask why there's no non-reductive form of naturalism about Islam. Hey, just accept Allah in your ontology, call Him natural, and voila. Done.

(And to be fair to Menuge, quite a lot of the people insisting that you can't really accept goodness, intentionality, norms, etc and be a naturalist, are naturalists. Does the word "naturalism" mean anything anymore?)

Clayton said...

"Probably because it would likely look identical to "supernaturalism", just with the name changed."

Really? The view would deny that ought/good could be reduced to anything, whether it's natural or supernatural. Apart from rhetoric, what's the reason that supernaturalists can either be reductivists or non-reductivists, but opponents to supernaturalism have such a limited range of options?

Victor Reppert said...

Because to call something natural puts constraints on what kinds of causal powers can be operative. If you go "super" that, you don't have those constraints.

Anonymous said...

Nah, you're just conflating materialism with naturalism again.

Victor Reppert said...

OK, let's have some real constraints here that

a) allow for non-materialist forms of naturalism and

b) actually exclude what we would traditionally call a soul, or God, or the sorts of things that naturalism is supposed to exclude. And let's not do it by fiat, but rather by principle. I have never seen anyone do that successfully, ever.

Anonymous said...

Um, Spinoza, anyone? Chalmersian panprotopsychism? Russellian monism?

These are all epistemic possibilities at least as plausible as theism, and they steer between straight physicalism and theism. So there ya' go.

Anonymous said...

Just because something is not out and out theism, doesn't make it naturalism.

Or does it? Is that what it's finally come down to after all these years? That's the one and only sign to get one into the "naturalist" club? "Whatever you believe in, it can't be God"?

At this rate, it sounds like scientologists are naturalists. They just have an esoteric theory.

Anonymous said...

Abuse isn't a refutation. Thanks for playing.

Anonymous said...

I'm showing how inane your definition of naturalism is AND whipping out some abuse.

COMBO MOVE! +500 POINTS!

Anonymous said...

Calling a position names and associating it with a disreputable view is one thing; showing that it's implausible is another. Thanks for playing, though.

I wonder if Victor shares the same sentiments. He makes a big stink of how dualism' ridiculed in academia, yet doesn't mind dismissive ridicule toward views he can't refute with an actual argument. I guess it's only a vice if you're on the receiving end of it...

Clayton said...

Okay, okay, okay. So, let's say that supernaturalism is consistent with atheism. Supernaturalism will be true if everything there is, at bottom, is particles and void and the normative and mental properties strongly supervene upon these. (I'd call that naturalism, but I don't think we should get bogged down in some sort of semantic quibble.) It's nice being a supernaturalist because the theists cannot reduce the normative or the mental, which I guess means that all the problems that arose for naturalism arise for theism. Theism just tacks on some extra entities over and above those countenanced by supernaturalism and they do no work.

Blue Devil Knight said...

The assumption that naturalism implies reduction is questionable. There isn't a lower level theory such as biochemistry from which you can derive general facts about digestion (in animals as diverse as paramecia, venus fly traps, and humans). That is, digestion is (arguably) not reducible to biochemistry. Does that mean digestion is a nonphysical process?

Note I am sympathetic to reductive views of the mental, but realize my nonreductive materialist foes such as Fodor aren't just being idiots.

Jaegwon Kim had some interesting arguments about this (in favor of the naturalism-->reduction view), but again not conclusive.

Menuge seems just incredibly confused. There are better, much better, ways to go about refuting Dennett. For instance Menuge says "If hearts are designed in order to pump blood, that means that Mother Nature selected them for that reason and consequently that Mother Nature represented
pumping blood as an advantage of certain heart designs. If anything is literally designed, then a
design must exist as a representation before the product of the design."

I frankly don't understand how someone Victor apparently respects could say something so obviously wrong.

Anonymouse 3.2.1 said previously that Dretske's theory isn't naturalistic, I'm curious to what specifically he/she was referring.

Speaking of which, the anonymous posting is getting ridiculous now.

Anon: Screw you!
Anon: You suck.
Anon: I agree with Anon.
Anon: So do I!
Anon: But what about Z.
Anon: No way, I was right above you just can't take it!

Blue Devil Knight said...

Test for sixth grade biology. What is wrong with this phrase:
"in animals as diverse as paramecia, venus fly traps, and humans"

POM said...

Menuge seems just incredibly confused. There are better, much better, ways to go about refuting Dennett.

I agree with you that there are better ways to refute Dennett and some of it was not as clear as it could have been. But he did clear up some of Dennetts ambiguities really well and a lot better than many other philosophers who deal with Dennett. This alone is a respectable contribution to the discussion. I definately wouldn't call him "incredibly confused".

Gordon Knight said...

Intentionality is a problem for naturalism because the intentional relation is not one that is found in nature as studied by the natural sciences. It is not a causal relation. For me to think of a dog is not for me to have some causal relationship to a dog.
If you think this is in error, consider the fact taht you can think of things that don't exist (does Pegasus have a causal relationship to your mind when you think of Pegasus)

Theism/atheism, again, are not the competitors. Russell and Moore were not theists but they sure as hell were not naturalists either. Nor was Ayer. Nor was Heidegger or Sartre.

Naturalism as now understood is a recent phenomenom. Except maybe for goofballs like Hobbes and Greek/Roman Atomists, its been held by hardly any philosophers before 1950.

Of course it all depends on what you mean by naturalism. I think Spinoza can be read as a naturalist of sorts, but his ontology is much richer than,e.g. Daniel Dennett.

Galen Strawson likes to call himself a naturalist, a materialist even.. yet again, the underlying view of the universe (panpsychsm, anyone?, selves? is much richer and truer to the phenomenom than the typical naturalism

If we want to figure out the mind, nay, reality itself, we need to step back, do some phenomenology and go from there.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Gordon is right. Most of my buds in philosophy grad school were antinaturalistic atheists. They tended to be sympathetic to Kantian idealism or Husserlian phenomenology.

Victor Reppert said...

Again, I go back to Lewis on this. Lewis accepted the AFR against naturalism, and then accepted Absolute Idealism, which was extremely popular in his time. Then he found fault with Idealism and became a theist, and then finally a Christian. His argument against naturalism was a step on the way to theism, eliminating one of the major options. But he didn't take step into theism until later.

I am primarily concerned with what I would call the "great divide" between world-views for whom the mental is a basic cause, and world-views in which the mental is not a basic cause. If the AFR shows problems for the latter type of position, then I think the epistemic likelihood of theism becomes enhanced, as do all other "mentalistic" options.

I understand "naturalism" to encompass those world-views that are, at bottom, anti-mentalistic.

So we can distinguish two propositions:

A) The basic causes of the universe are mental in nature. They are inheretly perspectival, having a subject. They are inherently normative. Something being good or bad, or thought good or bad, has something to do with what goes on. They are intentional. What something is about makes a basic difference as to what happens in the world. They are also purposive. Purposes in human thought and action are not "skyhooks" that have to be analyzed out in favor of cranes. They are ground-level reasons why things happen.

b) What is fundamentally real is not inherently perspectival, is not inherently intentional, is not inherently normative, and is not inherently purposive. The appearance that these mental realities are operative in our world is a byproduct of biological evolution, and at the end of the day the skyhooks have to be replaced by cranes.

I have never said that you get theism automatically if the AFR is an effective argumetn for preferring A to B. When people point out non-theistic alternatives that are compatible with A, I have to say, with C. S. Lewis, "How many times does a man have to say something before he is safe from the accusation of having said exactly the opposite?"

Clayton said...

"If you think this is in error, consider the fact taht you can think of things that don't exist (does Pegasus have a causal relationship to your mind when you think of Pegasus)"

I don't think you can refute causal theories of content that easily. Suppose I introduce 'Mic' as the older brother of Vic. I stand in causal contact with Vic. Suppose it turns out that Vic has no twin brother. If _empty_ names are the real problem for the naturalist, can't we take care of them relatively easily by taking the content of such a name to be determined by some description associated with the name by the speaker (e.g., 'Mic' just refers to whoever it is that is the brother of Vic)? Causal relations provide the conceptual ingredients that allow us to grasp descriptive thoughts and from there it seems the problem of empty names is easily dealt with. That is, if the real problem is empty names and not intentionality/aboutness.

Gordon Knight said...

Clayton:

I was gesturing towards an argument, not giving it.

But the problem is most vividly seen when we consider that phenomenologically the non-existent is just as much an object of consciousness as anything else. Indeed, there is no mark that distinguishes the existent from the non-existent. Yet we are in each case aware of an object.

I am thinking of King Arthur

Suppose he existed. ON the causal theory, my thought gets its directedness from some causal relation KA has to me. Suppose he does not, then some other ad hoc story is given.

Yet the phenomenom is the same.

What is missing in the causal account is that intentionality is something we are aware of from the inside, its not a matter of third person attribution.

I think that what seperates the naturalists from non-naturalists is how seriously they take the first person perspective.

Clayton said...

"But the problem is most vividly seen when we consider that phenomenologically the non-existent is just as much an object of consciousness as anything else. Indeed, there is no mark that distinguishes the existent from the non-existent. Yet we are in each case aware of an object."

It doesn't follow from a causal theory that there is a mark that distinguishes the existent from the non-existent in consciousness. So, it's not an argument against a causal theory that there is no such mark. The causal relations determine the content of concepts that figure in descriptive thoughts that then pick out individuals. The content of the singular thoughts are the same whether there exists a suitable referent or not. Just think of a simple descriptive theory of names. Just think about Russell's theory of descriptions or think about a Fregean theory of singular thought. Once you give your opponent aboutness, they can do a lot more than you seem to think they can. Illustrated by the earliest work in analytic philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Popper's got some wonderful things to say about causal theories of the mind. Should be required reading, really.