Friday, January 28, 2011

The Waning of Materialism

Edited by Koons and Bealer.

206 comments:

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Thomas said...

This is a good anti-materialist anthology. My favourite (and not too technical so that I can read it) is the first chapter "Against Materialism" from Laurence Bon Jour.

awatkins69 said...

Low's paper there is pretty interesting; this would have been a good place for your paper Doc!

Blue Devil Knight said...

Apply the following to Bonjour's horrible Mary argument (and all the antinaturalistic uses of Mary):
Pick any antineuroscientific theory (substance dualism, panpsychism, etc) of consciousness and assume it is true. Let colorblind Mary be an expert in said theory, for instance an expert in the mechanics and experiences of mindplasm (that nonphysical stuff that is the true basis of experience) and how it interacts with brains. Will Mary suddenly have the experience of a technicolor sunset? No. She’ll still be colorblind Mary who is able to predict other people’s experiences of color, but not have them herself. This limitation holds no matter where you ontological sympathies lie. No theory of experience will give you the experiences: this is a general limitation of theorizing about consciousness, whether that theorizing be from a dualist, panpsychist, or materialistic perspective.

It's an excerpt from the rough draft of a ms on consciousness I'm writing.

OK, back to writing not blogging. COuldn't resist this one.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Incidentally, I think Paul Churchland made the above argument against Jackson, so it isn't original with me.

Thomas said...

BDK,

BonJour´s "horrible" Mary-argument? I find it pretty convincing. And Bon Jour isn´t a substance dualist nor panphychisist, he just thinks that materialism is false. That´s it.

By the way, the claim that substance dualism or panpsychism is "antineuroscientific" is just silly. Is, say, Galen Strawson "antineuroscientific"? These are antimaterialistic views. The assertion that everything antimaterialistic is also antiscientific is just unjustified scientism and begging the question, or so it seems to me.

Chruchland´s arguments that the knowledge argument undermines also dualism is an interesting one, but I haven´t studied it, so I´ll refrain from saying anything. Does anyone have some info on this one? Can, say, a substance dualist use the knowledge argument consistently?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Thomas: the argument cuts against every theory of consciousness, not just materialism. Substitute any nonmaterialist theory in the argument and everything flows the same way. It's awful, not even an improvement over the original Jackson argument (which also fails).

I'm not saying there aren't some interesting arguments to be made against materialism wrt consciousness (some are more interesting than others, I've compiled a list here).


Not only is his argument derivative, I think it is actually weaker than the original, as in this case Mary could have access to her own brain state to help make the decision.

I have a lot about these scenarios in the ms I'm writing will let Victor know when it is read, and solicit comments. Still a few months away.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Thomas just think through my argument I originally posted you don't need others to tell you what to think. Give Mary any nonmaterialistic theory. Will that somehow give her the ability to see color, or choose correctly in the derivative Bonjour case?

Of course by 'antineuroscientific' I was being glib, I meant any antimaterialist theory (the ms I'm writing is from the perpective of a neuronal theory, where neuronal processes are sufficient for conscious experience).

And yes of course I'd put property dualism and panpsychism in that camp.

Blue Devil Knight said...

OK now for real I'll stop posting. Will come back in a few months when I'm done writing this ms. It's the result of 16 years thinking about Chalmers' argument (and what I see as the much less problematic, for the physicalist, Mary type arguments) so is taking a bit of time to put it all together.

It's not knock-down like this stuff against the Mary argument, but it does block the main currents in all of the conceivability arguments against naturalizing consciousness. Chalmers' book is the pinnacle of such arguments, IMO.

Thomas said...

BDK,

yes it seems to me right now that you are right. But many things have "seemed" to me right until further studies showed that I was wrong. So that´s why I want "other" (experts that are not materialists themselves) to help me. But thanks for giving me some serious thought. I've always liked the knowledge argument, so I really have to think about this one. But as it stands, I´m still sceptical about yours/Churchland´s argument.

Victor, maybe if you can you could tell what you think about this? Do you, as a substance dualist, like the knowledge argument?

And yes, Chalmers' book is tour de force. The problem I have with "naturalistic" property dualism is that (given the causal closure) it seems to imply ephiphenomenalism.

Victor Reppert said...

I remember looking at some responses to Churchland on the Knowledge Argument, and thought that those responses were pretty strong.

Blue Devil Knight said...

When will I learn to never say I will not post again? This thread, though, will be my last for a while :) That is something I can stick to.

Thomas: yes zombies imply epiphenomnalism, which is a big problem. you have obviously studied this some.

I'd like to see any theory in which Mary doesn't "learn something" in Jackson's sense. Learn all the substance dualist facts, or property dualism facts, or hylemorphic dualistic facts, or panpsychist facts, and you still ain't gonna see color!

That's the problem with Mary: if she kills one, she kills everyone! As I said in my original argument:
No theory of experience will give you the experience: this is a general limitation of theorizing about consciousness...

(Note also that it is a limit of theorizing about photosynthesis: you don't photosynthesize by studying photostynthesis: way too much is made of this vanilla Mary idea it's just not very radical).

Bobcat said...

BDK, is the moral of your response that we shouldn't have any theories about the ontology of consciousness? And if so, is that supposed to be a reductio against the knowledge argument? If so, why think that? Maybe we just shouldn't accept any ontology of consciousness.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Bobcat: not at all: the Mary argument in particular is ontologically moot and can't be used to draw metaphysical conclusions. There are plenty of other arguments, though.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Note if you want to sidestep the ontology and just do phenomenology that's fine. That's pretty much what Husserl (some iteration anyway) did: the bracketing of ontology in favor of describing the things themselves...

Thomas said...

Victor:
"I remember looking at some responses to Churchland on the Knowledge Argument, and thought that those responses were pretty strong."

Yes, I thought that there would be some strong answers to this.

BDK, I probably can´t come up with anything that hasn´t already been said somewhere, so are you aware of these "pretty strong" responses? And why you don´t find these responses convincing? (Obviously you don´t think that there really are strong responses, because you feel comfortable calling versions of this argument "horrible".)

I will certainly look on to this issue as soon as I can.

And of course once you give up the closure, the threat of ephiphenomenalism is gone. Maybe this is why physicalists or naturalists (who are committed to the closure) shouldn´t be dualists. On the other hand, if there is something about dualism, then this seems to give evidence against naturalism.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I have seen no good responses to this argument. If anyone has one, let me know. There are better reasons to be a dualist, and I think nobody became a dualist (or panpsychist or whatever) because of Mary.

People are dualists because they believe deep down that no matter how much causal or structural or dynamic or chemical or physical details are filled in, it will always remain to be asked 'Why is this process conscious'? This trades on people's trouble conceiving how you can get from one set of facts to the other.

All arguments are basically an attempt to show that you cannot get from one set of facts to the other (or that the consciousness facts don't supervene on the physical facts). But it seems to me that this guiding intuition is much older, more ingrained, and persistent than any of these particular arguments like Mary or zombie.

What I want to go after is the root intuition that drives all of this stuff. That's what I do in my ms.


I look at zombie arguments essentially as re-expressing the core intuition above, just in very vivid terms.

My favorite argument against Chalmers' zombie conceivability argument is from Frankish here. I take that to pretty much annihilate (in the sense of positron-electron) Chalmers (see last para of paper to see why I say that). It is very clever, and I can't see an easy way out for Chalmers. He basically needs to say that physicalism about consciousness is itself inconceivable. Which is too strong. Especially given that I think I can conceive of this.
Don't forget the words of Inigo Montoya on inconceivability "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

William said...

BDK:

I'm confused by the issue of you apparently thinking it is relevant to be teaching Mary philosophy, or theories about her mind. What has any of these to do with knowing what it is like to see red, something that most young children and probably many nonhuman animals know well? The argument was that teaching anything at all (verbally) about color does not give the person the memory of experienced quale (what-it-is-likeness) in their consciousness, and on this we all agree.

Philosophy and neuroscience are mostly propositional knowledge, and knowing "what it is like to see color" is a bit of non-propositional knowledge, and neither knowledge type has to be physical or non-physical, of course.

It is the _experience of redness_ (the conscious quale) which many intuit to be nonphysical, and which Jackson's argument was supposed to bracket for us. You could have some type of physical storage for the memory, and that really would not force any issue over the nature of the what-it-is-likeness, right?

William said...

BDK:

Thinking further, I do think that your excerpt does capture the limits of the knowledge argument well. It is about the _epistemic_ gap, not the ontological gap, as you say.

Your saying that "This trades on people's trouble conceiving how you can get from one set of facts to the other" is also true, but why shouldn't people use the shape of their knowledge as a guide to their ontology?

Must all the subjectively existent things somehow reduce to things that either do not actually exist, or that are subsumed in the set of objectively observable things?

Given an apparently irreducible epistemic gap, why believe that there cannot be a homologous ontological gap?

POM said...

@BDK:
the argument cuts against every theory of consciousness, not just materialism.

I don't understand this. What the Mary thought-experiment is supposed to show is that mental facts are not logically entailed by physical facts. We can call this the phenomenon of the gap.

Now every theory of mind has to explain this gap. Physicalism seems to have an extremely hard time doing so. Dualism on the other hand has a very easy answer: facts about a are not facts about b if a is not the same as b, therefore facts about a do not logically entail facts about b.

Therefore mary seems (at least on the face of it) to favour some sort of dualism.

Anonymous said...

Pick any antineuroscientific theory (substance dualism, panpsychism, etc) of consciousness and assume it is true. Let colorblind Mary be an expert in said theory, for instance an expert in the mechanics and experiences of mindplasm (that nonphysical stuff that is the true basis of experience) and how it interacts with brains.

...

Give Mary any nonmaterialistic theory. Will that somehow give her the ability to see color, or choose correctly in the derivative Bonjour case?

Something doesn't seem right here.

The classic materialist position is that once you have total knowledge of the third-person physical facts, you have total knowledge, period. But if you don't have total knowledge - if complete knowledge of the third-person still leaves some facts/data/information out - then this would have to be something beyond the material. And Mary is supposed to illustrate (I think "argue" is too strong. It's just a thought experiment.) that yes, you can learn every third person fact, and there are still facts (first person ones, subjective ones) left out. And if there is "something left over" after learning all the third person facts, then we have data that transcends/goes beyond materialism, therefore materialism is false.

Now, you seem to claim that this is moot because you can 'pick any non-materialist theory of consciousness, assume its true, let Mary be an expert in that theory. She's still going to learn something new!' But this seems deeply mistaken.

But what is this "theory" talk? Substance dualism, panpsychism... these are metaphysical positions. Not theories. And by talking about "theories" you seem to be saddling them with what was previously a distinct claim (and by these other views, failing) of materialist metaphysics: By suggesting that the 'point' of these metaphysics is to provide a different way to get first-person facts from completely third-person data, pointing out it can't be done, then saying "See, Mary wipes out everyone!"

But it seems the panpsychist, the substance dualist, and the rest are going to object to that move as a caricature of their position. You're basically turning them into materialists. If Mary accepted substance dualism, or panpsychism, or the rest, her "theory" could amount to, "Well, I've learned every third-person fact. But there's still more to life than third-person facts and what can be derived from them." And then she'll have the experience and say, "See that? I was correct." (Or if she was previously a materialist, "Crap. I was wrong.")

Talking about panpsychism, substance dualism, and more in terms of "theory" seems to miss the mark wildly. It's like the ectoplasm objection to substance dualism (which you hint at with "mindplasm"), where the substance dualist is treated as supposing that the mind is made out of some kind of stuff that's just like matter, but more spooky and ghostly, and then they're demanded to explain what this ghostly, weird matter has that regular matter doesn't. But the substance dualist isn't appealing to "some kind of weird, spooky matter the mind is made out of". For the SD, the mind is non-composite, simple, immaterial. Ectoplasm is a caricature.

Thomas said...

BDK,

I think there came some good responses, especially from anonymous.

It seems to me too correct to say that according to the non-materialists, the fact that Mary doesn´t learn the quale of color-seeing from the 3rd person perspective (from examination of, say, "mindplasm"), isn´t a problem for the substance dualist, because he doesn´t claim in the first place that you can capture what-it-is-likeness from the 3rd person perspective. You need direct 1st person awareness to know what it is like to see red, the intrinsic nature of experience. This is what the dualist is saying. But the materialist claims that you can reduce experience to 3rd person, extrinsic and relational features. But this can´t be done. That´s why Mary is a big problem for materialists but not for dualists. Or so it seems to me when I think about it now.

Also, like anonymous said, talk about "mindplasms" and "ectoplasms" is definetily a caricature. One doesn´t get a fair hearing of substance dualism by reading Dennett and co.

I agree with you when you say that "People are dualists because they believe deep down that no matter how much causal or structural or dynamic or chemical or physical details are filled in, it will always remain to be asked 'Why is this process conscious'?" I just (still) happen to think that the knowledge argument is a persuasive way of articulating this intuition.

By the way, if the explanatory gap is ontological and not merely epistemological, then I think that physicalism is in big trouble. Here I agree with Strawson that "physicSalism" is a crazy view if it denies experience and "real physicalism" leads very close to something like panpsychism.

Thomas said...

So when you say that

"Let colorblind Mary be an expert in said theory, for instance an expert in the mechanics and experiences of mindplasm (that nonphysical stuff that is the true basis of experience) and how it interacts with brains. Will Mary suddenly have the experience of a technicolor sunset? No. She’ll still be colorblind."

I answer that this isn´t surprising given dualism, because what Mary knows in the room are the extrinsic, relational featurs of "mindplasm". Mary is still studying "the nonphysical stuff" from the 3rd person perspective. She doesn´t get to the intrinsic nature of experience from the 3rd person perspective. In order to know what is it like to see color, Mary needs to go out of the room and get access to the intrinsic nature of experience, and this can only be done by experiencing the experience herself from the 1st person point of view.

Thomas said...

Jackson himself made this point against Chuchland in "What Mary didn´t know" (1986). He said,

To obtain a good argument against dualism (attribute dualism; ectoplasm is a bit of fun), the premise in the knowledge argument that Mary has a full story according to physicalism before her release, has to be replaced by a premise that she has the full story according to dualism. The former is plausible, the latter is not. Hence, there is no 'parity of reasons' trouble for dualists who use the knowledge argument. (295, my italics)

Like I said, Mary does not have the full story according to dualism because you cannot get the full story about qualia by watching black-and-white lectures in a black-and-white room. But physicalism just means that you should get the full story from exhaustive knowledge of physical/neurophysiological/functional facts. Hence the argument is a problem for physicalists but not for dualists.

Also Edward Feser has some good thoughts about this here: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/06/churchland-on-dualism-part-iv.html. Feser thinks that Churhland´s version of dualism is a "ludicrous caricature". Also I think he is spot on about the "ectoplasm" nonsense.

Blue Devil Knight said...

The stuff about mindplasm being a straw man is not convincing: substitute any nonmaterialist theory there, that's what it is a stand-in for. Add any level of sophistication you like. Though in my experience, dualists aren't much more sophisticated than this usually offer negative arguments not much by way of positive theory.

Thomas:
answer that this isn´t surprising given dualism, because what Mary knows in the room are the extrinsic, relational featurs of "mindplasm". Mary is still studying "the nonphysical stuff" from the 3rd person perspective. She doesn´t get to the intrinsic nature of experience from the 3rd person perspective. In order to know what is it like to see color, Mary needs to go out of the room and get access to the intrinsic nature of experience, and this can only be done by experiencing the experience herself from the 1st person point of view.

The same applies to neuronal theories, so there you go. Whatever you say about one you can say about the other. When Mary the omniscient atimaterialist theorist sees color for the first time, she learns something, she learns what it is like to see red.

For neuronal Mary, part of her theory is that neuronal process xyz is conscious experience of red, so she doesn't have a conceptual gap (any more than mindplasm process xyz is conscious experience of red). Mary has an experience gap, not an explanatory gap (To avoid arguing about that, I could just say that a conceptual gap is not evidence of ontological gap (water-h20 type considerations) but I believe that Mary will not have a conceptual, just an experience, gap, so don't need to draw on that).

word verification word is 'scram'

Blue Devil Knight said...

Thomas that doesn't seem to push at all on the argument, I'm not even sure what the argument is. Why can't Mary get the "full story" from a nonmaterialist perspective? Even if that were true, then it is in the exact same boat as materialist Mary as far as this argument goes. It does nothing to show an asymmetry.

And note my original argument was against Bonjour, you should see better now why I think his argument is not only derivative, but a step backwards, from Jackson's original argument.

Much too much ado about Mary. It's a great thought experiment, just the wrong conclusion.

Thomas said...

BDK,

So you don´t think that "mindplasm" isn´t just a rhetorical way to make dualism sound stupid before even giving it a fair hearing? Come on...

The same applies to neuronal theories, so there you go. Whatever you say about one you can say about the other. When Mary the omniscient atimaterialist theorist sees color for the first time, she learns something, she learns what it is like to see red.

Maybe I´m wrong here, but to me the Jackson quote above deals with this. According to physicalism, the "omniscient antimaterialist" already has the full story in the room. But then she learns something new. But according to dualism, Mary hasn´t got the full story in the room. There´s the difference.

Mary has an experience gap, not an explanatory gap...

In the "horrible" Against Materialism paper Bon Jour says that some responses to the knowledge argument are akin to theological faith that no matter what is the case, materialism must explain this somehow because materialism must be true. To me this sounds a bit like that.

Thomas said...

Why can't Mary get the "full story" from a nonmaterialist perspective?

Because from the nonmaterialist perspective you can´t get the full story from a third person point of view.

Even if that were true, then it is in the exact same boat as materialist Mary as far as this argument goes. It does nothing to show an asymmetry.

No they aren´t in the same boat. Again, according to materialism you should get the full story from the 3rd person perspective (in the room). But according to dualism, this is not the case.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Feser is overstating things, acts as if every dualist is ultrasophisticated, and that it is "incompetent" or naive to suggest otherwise (when in fact Jackson admitted in his first response to Churchland that his original argument falls to Churchland's objection! What is the opposite of a straw man: building up your allies as if they were better than they actually are? Ultraman?).

What I said in my previous comment applies to his response to Churchland. Even in the materialist story, Mary doesn't have the experience of redness, and she knows this, this falls out of her neuronal theory of experience.

Let's say Feser is right that you can't have the concept 'experience of x' unless you have had that experience. (NB This seems wrong. I have the concept 'pain of childbirth' but I have never given birth. Actually experiencing the pain is not to acquire a new concept, but to undergo the experience that I already conceived of. But set that aside for now.)

Materialists can believe that too, so again, we have an ontologically moot argument. For instance, if you argue with me that you have to have the experience to have the concept of the experience, there is a whole materialist track the 'phenomenal concept strategy' that argues the same thing. Why should the materialist not allow a conceptual gap too (that's not the same as an ontological gap)? And this gap is filled in with a new experience, that is itself a neuronal process? This is the whole thrust of Papineau's interesting book Thinking About Consciousness.

It's not like materialists aren't allowed to think that Mary doesn't gain a new concept when she has experience: they only have to say that this doesn't imply an expansion of her ontology. (Note I can say this without saying Feser is incompetent or ignorant of the most elementary materialist philosophy of mind--such vitriole is unecessary for the arguments).

In general, any route available to the dualist is available to the materialist when it comes to Mary. The argument strategy just doesn't cut well against any ontology.

Again, has anyone actually become an antimaterialist b/c of Mary? Why the attachment to Mary as an ontological, rather than epistemic, case study?

Incidentally, Churchland responds to Jackson's response to Churchland in 'Knowing Qualia: A response to Jackson.' Not much new in the back and forth between them, Churchland's original point holds.


I don't take the phenomenal concepts approach usually, but I have recently become more sympathetic after reading Papineau.

Thomas said...

Also the assumption that the non-physical stuff is almost something like a material stuff is a strawman. Like Feser points out,

"Churchland’s description of dualism is a ludicrous caricature. He makes it sound as if the dualist were committed to the existence of an object which is just like a material object in having various parts arranged in a certain way so as to behave according to law-like regularities, only one made out of some ghostly kind of stuff rather than of matter. But that is precisely the opposite of what a Plato, an Aquinas, or a Descartes actually held. For them, as for philosophical dualists generally, the soul is necessarily something simple or non-composite, and thus without parts of either a material or a quasi-material sort. Hence it has no “hidden constitution” or “nomic intricacies” of the sort Churchland has in mind. It is not a kind of ghostly mechanism because it is not a “mechanism” at all."

Blue Devil Knight said...

THomas my last response got at what you are asking about. The materialist can agree, and take the phenomenal concepts strategy. I tend to not agree, but if you want to argue that to have the concept you have to have the experience, then the materialist can agree if he wants.

I believe, however, I have the concept 'pain of childbirth'. But to avoid quibbling about such things, the phenomenal concept strategy is available to me as a materialist.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Thomas that straw man accusation doesn't apply to anything I've said. I use 'mindplasm' as a stand in for any theory of any complexity. It won't give you the experience of red. And it's not as if dualists have given a whole lot of positive, substantive theory to work with as a foil.

There are better arguments than Mary, especially Bonjour's version of Mary. Still not sure why people are so attached here.

People need to think through more carefully, with each iteration of the Mary argument, the obvious materialist response. There are always parallel arguments in response from pretty much any perspective. Except perhaps eliminativism about conscious experience, in which case I would have nothing to say as that is ludicrous.

Thomas said...

BDK,

I´m sure you know the criticisms of the phenomenal concept strategy. For those reasons I think it fails, but probably this is not the place to start arguing about it.

Well, like I have said, I haven´t studied Churchland´s argument against Jackson too much, so this all I can say right now. I´m not convinced about this reply to Mary, but certainly you have given me something to think about.

I´ll come back if I find something new and interesting. But now I don´t have anything else to say.

Thanks

Blue Devil Knight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blue Devil Knight said...

It's not crazy to say that when you see red for the first time, that you acquire a new concept. I happen to not agree with this, but I also don't think there are very good arguments against the phenomenal concept approach from the materialist.

I tend to not take that approach because I just think that as a contingent fact Mary will have an experience, but not conceptual gap.

However that debate falls out doesn't pull on me ontologically at all. I do feel the pull of the epistemic considerations that Mary brings up, it is a useful thought experiment to think about how we think about experience. But as an argument about ontology, it fails.

But it is good that people pointed out what is essentially the phenomenal concept strategy, as I ignored it b/c I am not very sympathetic to it (note that strategy is not peculiar to materialism: that's the strategy of the class of dualists you are talking about here! Any theory in which you must have experience x to have the concept of experience x is the phenomenal concept strategy! It is available to materialist and dualist).

At any rate, if the argument is supposed to actually convince someone that materialism is wrong (preferably not aimed only at someoen who already believes it), I personally find it fairly easy to respond to, it is not compelling at all. Chalmers is much more of a challenge, the biggest out there IMO.

Blue Devil Knight said...

The bonjour piece is heavy on good rhetoric I'll give you that. Surprised he didn't pull out the 'promissory materialism' line from Popper. There was a lot of that from the vitalists too in the 19th century. Getting beneath the rhetoric to the argument, though, there are obvious weaknesses.

For those not following this thread, my main argument about Mary is this: everyone needs a response, as nobody can get to experience from theories of experience. Mary the brain scientist versus Mary the dualist: both realize they won't have the experience until they go out into the world. Both have theories of experience that predict this. Both can have theories of 'phenomenal concepts' that they will acquire upon entering the world.

Until I see a reason to split up dualist Mary and neural Mary in terms of the problems that beset them, I just don't see the pull of this argument one way or the other. Like most antimaterialist arguments go, it is a wash, and comes down to intuition pie throwing. What I call 'The Why Argument' in my ms (the intuition that no matter how far science goes, we will still wonder 'Why is this neural/physical/chemical process conscious?').

Blue Devil Knight said...

Note I'm a bit confused about Feser, as he sometimes acts as if dualism isn't required for qualia, but only abstract conceptual thought. That indeed was a seeming consensus at the thread on hylemorphic dualism. I looked at this as a strength of his view, but am now wondering what's up. Perhaps he doesn't realize Mary is only about experience, not abstract conceptual thought, or he doesn't actually believe that experience doesn't require dualism.

Blue Devil Knight said...

One thing this thread has done is got me rethinking phenomenal concepts. I usually think that to have the concept of experience X, we don't have to have that experience. 'I never want to experience drowning', 'The pain of childbirth is horrible, but I have never undergone it', 'The bat experienced sonar ping x when hunting moths.'

I have concepts of these experiences, even though I don't have the experiences.

But on the other hand, the concepts do seem "thin" in an undeniable sense. Is my concept of 'red experience' not transformed at all when I have the experience of red? That seems sort of anemic, doesn't it?

I bring this up not to argue about ontology, but this is an interesting epistemic debate in its own right. When I argued that Mary doesn't lack the concepts of experience, I could have qualified it by 'thin concepts' of experience, but only upon entering the world do those concepts thicken up.

Steve Lovell said...

Since we're in the area ... I reckon Lewis's excellent "looking at / looking along" distinction is something which can help clarify this discussion. See his paper Meditation in a Toolshed.

Once you've read the paper, ask yourself whether the materialist can accomodate the looking-at/looking-along distinction.

If they can, then I think the Mary argument will fail. If they can't, why can't they?

William said...

BDK:

But on the other hand, the concepts do seem "thin" in an undeniable sense. Is my concept of 'red experience' not transformed at all when I have the experience of red? That seems sort of anemic, doesn't it?

--

Ramachandran (a neutral monist afaik) wrote that if you made a 'neuronal cable' from a person with the experiential knowledge and ran it to the brain of to Mary you could provide her with that knowledge. It would do so by providing the nonverbal experience or memory of such a quale, of course. There is reason to believe the brain processes nonverbal memories as simulations that produce their own kind of qualia, qualia that are probably tagged as memories rather than as real somehow. Theories about deja vu may suggest that it is a mistaken tagging process, but that is another topic

Anonymous said...

BDK,

For those not following this thread, my main argument about Mary is this: everyone needs a response, as nobody can get to experience from theories of experience. Mary the brain scientist versus Mary the dualist: both realize they won't have the experience until they go out into the world. Both have theories of experience that predict this. Both can have theories of 'phenomenal concepts' that they will acquire upon entering the world.

But the materialist is unique in that they are the only ones who for whom complete knowledge of the third-person physical is supposed to be complete knowledge, period. The panpsychist isn't claiming this because the panpsychist thinks there are fundamental *first-person* facts about matter. The substance dualist isn't claiming this because they don't believe that experience is 'made up of' some distinct, material thing with special ectoplasmic third person properties that somehow "create experience". And so on, and so on. What harms the materialist here harms the materialist uniquely - and saying 'Well, the materialist can admit that total knowledge of the third-person still leaves knowledge out' doesn't ring true. It's a concession, a fallback strategy, and possibly a game of calling "materialist" or "physicalist" while changing some once-fundamental commitments. (For instance, anyone saying "There's still a physicalist description of mind possible! Look at Searle! He calls himself a physicalist!" will have to grapple with the fact that other people call Searle a property dualist or otherwise.)

Your response hinges on making everyone into a materialist, in essence, by insisting that the name of the Mary game is to have a "theory" whereby exhaustive knowledge of the third person physical data leads to complete knowledge of the mind - the only difference is you change "physical" to "ectoplasmic" (why not use "dark matter"?) This is like arguing against an anti-reductionist who comes up with a thought experiment illustrating why reduction won't work in some phenomena's case... by turning around and saying "Well they don't have a reductive explanation of the phenomena either so they're in the same boat!"

Everyone needs a response to Mary. But not everyone needs a "theory", particularly a "theory" as you seem to be using the word here (going from purely third-person data to first-person facts). Materialists, however, do need a "theory". They don't have one. That puts them in a pretty bad position. And saying "well, no, materialists can admit there's knowledge, specifically first-person knowledge, left out by complete third-person knowledge" is starting you on the road, or possibly putting you at the destination, of saying "materialism is wrong, or needs to be/has been radically revised".

Note I'm a bit confused about Feser, as he sometimes acts as if dualism isn't required for qualia, but only abstract conceptual thought.

Maybe it's because Feser stresses that for the hylemorphic dualist, the distinction between themselves and materialists isn't limited to mind alone, but also matter. (In his books he stresses that for hylemorphists, animals were always envisioned as having qualia, consciousness, intention, and so on. It was from the materialist and Cartesian perspectives (with the latter basically having "a materialist attitude towards animals") that the lack of these things was claimed.) From a certain perspective dualism isn't "required" for panpsychism either - in fact, going by the SEP, it's considered a kind of physicalism/materialism now.

Anonymous said...

Thomas,

So you don´t think that "mindplasm" isn´t just a rhetorical way to make dualism sound stupid before even giving it a fair hearing? Come on...

Just to note something here: The problem with "mindplasm" or "ectoplasm" goes far beyond cute names meant to denigrate the ideas before they're considered. It's that it gets the ideas offered wrong, period, to suggest there's this ectoplasm/mindplasm - this ghostly material (again, why not call it "dark matter"?) - that has special, spooky third-person properties from which we can derive first-person knowledge. It doesn't get the panpsychist right (There is no 'distinct stuff' out there for the panpsychist - "normal" matter has these properties fundamentally), it doesn't get the substance dualist right (there is no 'weird third person stuff that makes up the first person' for them), and so on.

Anonymous said...

William,

I believe this approach to consciousness will take us a long way toward answering the riddle of what consciousness buys you and why it evolved. My own philosophical position about consciousness accords with the view proposed by the first Reith lecturer, Bertrand Russell, there is no separate "mind stuff" and "physical stuff" in the universe, the two are one in the same, the formal term for this is neutral monism.

From here.

I believe that's by Ramachandran, and if so, it looks like your view is correct. Funny if so, because I've heard Ramachandran offered up as a materialist more than once, and fairly recently.

Maybe Ramachandran reversed himself, but I haven't found that. And if not, it seems like more evidence that "materialism" has expanded to not only cover "panpsychism", but "neutral monism" too. You may as well call David Chalmers a particular variety of materialist at that point.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon: Its not that simple because the materialist can hold to a pluralist theory of concepts but ontological monism. Water/H20 are two concepts that apply to the same set of properties.

So also the phenomenological/first-person and the neuronal/scientific conceptions of experience are two ways of describing the same underlying properties. It's an epistemic pluralism with ontological monism.

Every naturalist realizes that Mary will have new experiences, and most (including me) realize she will gain a new "direct" route to activating her conceptions of experience. Whether these concepts are different or the same doesn't matter, there are two branches of naturalistic approaches here and not enough evidence now to decide which is right. (Phenomenal concepts strategy, versus same concept different route strategy).

The Mary argument tries to turn an epistemic (conceptual) difference into an ontological difference. Doesn't work. You keep talking about knowledge, but I am talking about the way the world is structured. There can be a bifurcation at one level, but not the other.

The dualist has to deal with this too. They can argue about whether Mary acquires new concepts when she sees red (so can the materialist). This would be the phenomenal concept strategy. But dualists don't have to believe this. Some do because of Mary because otherwise Mary more obviously falls flat on her face, as Jackson saw. But even when propped up with phenomenal concepts (which the materialist can help himself to) the ontological argument still doesn't work. Conceptual differences do not imply ontological differences. It's Frege 101, and the Mary argument can't get around it.

Again, you (dualists) can do better.

Anonymous said...

But even when propped up with phenomenal concepts (which the materialist can help himself to) the ontological argument still doesn't work. Conceptual differences do not imply ontological differences. It's Frege 101, and the Mary argument can't get around it.

The materialist can help himself to quite a lot. He'll just lose his materialism in the process, or upon pressing have it revealed that what he was helping himself too was "meant metaphorically" or the like, and he wasn't helping himself to such at all. Or he can just embrace panpsychism, neutral monism, or something else and just call that "materialism". Seems popular.

Mary's Room helps to illustrate the problem confronting the materialist: No, complete third person knowledge does not mean complete knowledge period. Something is missing. It's not going to convince everyone on the spot, but it doesn't have to to pack a punch. "Well, *I* am not compelled by the argument!" is irrelevant.

Again, you (dualists) can do better.

Probably. But it's worth noting how far non-materialists (you don't have to be a dualist to be a non-materialist) can get even with one of the weaker arguments. ;)

That you want to frame this as materialists versus dualists may indicate a deeper problem here, so let me stress that: Not every non-materialist is a dualist. Someone could conceivably take the lesson from Mary's room that our conception of matter itself is flawed, and therefore needs revising to include qualia and so on, or to have properties and aspects previously "left out" of our monism. But to do that is to move in the direction of neutral monism, or panpsychism, or even idealism... and materialism, they ain't. (Or, if they ARE materialism, then who isn't a materialist anymore? You can then frame Mary's Room as a thought experiment deployed by some materialists against other materialists.)

Rolf said...

BDK,

You say:

"the materialist can hold to a pluralist theory of concepts but ontological monism. Water/H20 are two concepts that apply to the same set of properties."

and

"You keep talking about knowledge, but I am talking about the way the world is structured. There can be a bifurcation at one level, but not the other."

What I don't get is why this doesn't engender a radical skepticism. You claim there is a (conceptual) bifurcation between knowledge and the world, but who knows? Maybe they are the same thing. Maybe everything is the same thing! The game's up. All things are one.

Anonymous said...

4:10 reply should precede the 3:47. I wonder when blogger will fix this.

Anonymous said...

BDK,

Anon: Its not that simple because the materialist can hold to a pluralist theory of concepts but ontological monism. Water/H20 are two concepts that apply to the same set of properties.

The distinction between "water" and "H2O" still comes down to talk of third-person properties entirely. When it comes to consciousness, we're dealing with the first-person. Considering quite a lot in the Mary case hinges on that distinction between the first and third person, it can't be brushed aside.

Every naturalist realizes that Mary will have new experiences, and most (including me) realize she will gain a new "direct" route to activating her conceptions of experience.

Every naturalist? Really? That seems doubtful. Dennett explicitly denies that Mary would learn anything new and gives an argument (which is in turn accused of sneaking in qualia through the back door due to how he conceives of it taking place.) He's not alone.

But by all means, humor me. Tell me that your position is that you can learn all the third-person data completely, and there will still be knowledge (in this case, qualia, subjectivity, the first person experience) left out. That would indicate a surrender of materialism, or a redefining of materialism to include things which it previously eschewed.

Or you can say that no, learn all the third-person data and you've learned everything, period. But then you're illustrating a problem Mary's Room helps to draw out.

Or you can try a middle of the road path and object that it's unfair to maintain a divide between "first person" and "third person" data, and perhaps the former is just an aspect of the other. But that's just another way of leaving materialism behind, and reminds me of Polkinghorne's double-aspect take.

The Mary argument tries to turn an epistemic (conceptual) difference into an ontological difference. Doesn't work. You keep talking about knowledge, but I am talking about the way the world is structured. There can be a bifurcation at one level, but not the other.

Again: Mary's room isn't offered as a complete argument, but a thought experiment. Arguments and explanations make reference to it, it's a way to draw out intuitions. Further, rendering what Mary learns as "concepts" is not part of the example, but a reply to it.

If you learn all the third-person data exhaustively, is there any knowledge left out?

Blue Devil Knight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blue Devil Knight said...

If you learn all the third-person data exhaustively, is there any knowledge left out?

There are no propeties left out of the description of the universe, but there may be ways of accessing and interacting with those same properties that are left out. I'm an epistemic pluralist, I think phenomenology is fine even with zero neuroscience. Ultimately they are describing properties of brains, but there are lots of ways to access such properties.

I would ask the more relevant, ontological question. What new properties of the world does Mary learn about that she didn't know about before? How is her ontology expanded when she sees color for the first time?

That's the relevant question, if your goal is to undermine the ontological claim of physicalism. Posing it in terms of knowledge invites confusion over clarity.

Anonymous said...

BDK,

Again, you keep talking in epistemic terms, as if that makes the ontological point.

And you keep talking about "making ontological points" as if Mary's Room either deconverts every existing self-described materialist on the spot, or it fails completely as the argument I deny it is. Doubly so since you seemed to take the "point" as establishing dualism, when in reality just giving additional credence to non-materialism (and taking credence away from materialism) is a more reasonable goal, and well within reach.

Given all the good reasons to think that conscious experience is a brain process, I need actual compelling arguments to go in the other direction. Not argments based on conceptual differences that have plenty of parallels in science and have never been a good guide to ontology.

No, there are good reasons to think the human mind has intimate connections with the brain and brain processes. One can still acknowledge an intimate connection between mind and brain while still rejecting materialism, and again, you can reject materialism and still not embrace dualism. Mary's Room may well help push people in the direction of realizing that there's something wrong with the materialist concept of matter. Maybe our monism needs to be changed. Of course, maybe monism itself is flawed too. A lot of things happen when materialism's deficiencies are highlighted.

As for what you need to go in this or that direction, I'm not trying to convince you personally. Just offering up arguments. I know better than to try to win an argument on der internets, at least that way.

I see lots of 'first person' and 'third person' (some might throw out 'subjective' and 'objective') talk, that is well and good. Nice way to state the conclusion you are trying to establish, that Mary refutes physicalism.

Except I've expressly noted more than once that "physicalism" nowadays has been expanded to include panpsychism, neutral monism, and likely more, so that can't be right. Yes, I do think Mary's Room steals credence from materialism, and at the very least gives credence to alternative views - including ones which suggest that a certain popular monism is incorrect and we have to go back to the drawing board on it.

And really, if you're going to suggest that talk of first-person experience or subjective knowledge is some kind of weird cheat on my part, come on. Why not play the card where you demand I show you 'qualia' under a microscope, and if I can't do that then that's a good reason to believe it doesn't exist?

Beyond intuitions and illicit inferences from concepts to ontology, what is there here that should impress me?

Again: Who's trying to impress you? Trying to make this into a game of "Unless you can get me to admit I'm wrong, you lose" isn't bait I'll bite. Walk away from here with your convictions intact - I won't lose sleep.

I don't think the inferences that are fleshed out from the thought experiment are illicit, and I think the effect it has on intuitions are strong and favor anti-materialists. Will it force every self-named materialist philosopher to admit defeat? No, but so what? As always, I think VanInwagen's take on the decisiveness of philosophical argument is apt.

You are right that some materialists think Mary would already have the experience,

And some take positions that are tantamount to denying "having experience" at all. And on and on it goes.

Blue Devil Knight said...

What we need is the argument that these two ways of conceiving of experience point to an ontological difference. Just saying "first person facts" versus "third person facts" (a grammatical difference, perhaps a conceptual difference, but not an obvious ontological difference) is not an argument. Talk of 'objective' versus 'subjective' is fine too. Good way to state the distinction that we are discussion, and the topic being discussed: whether subjectivity itself is a complex biological process.

Given all the good reasons to think that conscious experience is a brain process (from neuroscientific and broadly evolutionary considerations), I need actual compelling arguments to go in the other direction. Not argments based on conceptual differences that have never been a good guide to ontology. Beyond intuitions and illicit inferences from concepts/knowledge to ontology, what is there here that should impress me? The argument is supposed to refute physicalism (not epistemic pluralism), but fails in obvious ways.

Sure, use the thought experiment to fluff your personal intuitions, impress your friends, but that is a bit of a let-down after the hype that it shows physicalism is false.

I stand by my original point: any problem posed for physicalist Mary can be posed for antiphysicalist Mary (once the clear difference between semantics and ontology is appreciated). Any solution for one can be posed by the other (e.g., antimaterialists acting as if they have a corner on the view that she acquires new concepts is crazy, as it is the cornerstone of empiricism and is just another epistemic, not ontological, consideration).

Incidentally, you are right that some materialists think Mary would already have the experience, but they are far and away the exceptions to most who think that having the brain in the right state for color vision important. As for whether she would have the appropriate concept of the experience, there isn't a consensus, but that isn't ontology.

(Swamp Mary is an interesting wrinkle, though, from Dennett: Mary_2 gets hit by lightning and ends up in the same state as Mary_1, where Mary_1 is the usual Jackson subject who saw color for real for a week after leaving the cave. Question for you dualist lovers: does Mary_2 know what it is like to see red, even though she has never seen it? She is in the exact same state as Mary_1, who has been experiencing color for a week...what does Mary_2 learn, and how does she learn it? Does she have knowledge? Interesting case, I admit.).

Anonymous said...

There are no propeties left out of the description of the universe, but there may be ways of accessing and interacting with those same properties that are left out. I'm an epistemic pluralist, I think phenomenology is fine even with zero neuroscience. Ultimately they are describing properties of brains, but there are lots of ways to access such properties.

So nothing is left out, but something is left out. We have complete physical knowledge, and therefore knowledge with no remainder, but perhaps there's a way to get at that same knowledge a different way with a different feeling, experience, and understanding.

That's not a materialist reply. It's a waffle.

I would ask the more relevant, ontological question. What new properties of the world does Mary learn about that she didn't know about before? How is her ontology expanded when she sees color for the first time?

It's enough to point out that her complete knowledge of the third person properties was not enough to give her all knowledge. What's happening when she, in fact, acquires new knowledge? The dualists (substance, property, hylemorphic, and more) and the panpsychists and the neutral-monists (in all their flavors) can argue about that. But the materialists will be left out of the conversation as materialists. They can remain in the next room, denying that there was new knowledge, or insisting that something must be going wrong (they know not what), or trying to figure out how they can slip into panpsychist or neutral monist or other clothes but still kinda-sorta look like materialists when they walk into the room.

That's the relevant question, if your goal is to undermine the ontological claim of physicalism. Posing it in terms of knowledge invites confusion over clarity.

I think there's plenty of clarity present when we discuss knowledge and what's left out from only a third-person physical set of facts/data. It's just inconvenient clarity.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon: if there are new concepts used to describe the same thing, is that new knowledge?

If so, fine, she has new knowledge. But that doesn't undermine materialist ontology, which was the goal of the argument.

As I have already said, I'm fine if she learns something new (she learns to deploy these concepts in new ways in response to these properties her brain has never been in).

My point, that you keep sidestepping, is that this doesn't make an ontological difference. You keep trying to bring it back to knowledge, but the argument's conclusion was supposed to be 'Therefore, physicalism is false.'

If you can't address that, then you are done. The argument fails.

Blue Devil Knight said...

anon 528 responded to something I deleted, which I reposted in clearer terms at 539. Sorry about that.

Subjective/object first/third person are fine ways to express the distinction. What I was trying to say was, and did in my edit, was:
Just saying "first person facts" versus "third person facts" (a grammatical difference, perhaps a conceptual difference, but not an obvious ontological difference) is not an argument. Talk of 'objective' versus 'subjective' is fine too. Good way to state the distinction that we are discussion, and the topic being discussed: whether subjectivity itself is a complex biological process.

Anonymous said...

BDK,

If so, fine, she has new knowledge. But that doesn't undermine materialist ontology, which was the goal of the argument.

You've reduced "materialist ontology"/"physicalism" to little more than "anything that can conceivably called a monism". But I've expressly rejected the depiction of Mary's Room as trying to establish, much less conclusively establish, the truth of dualism as opposed to the falsity of materialism. Again: Not the falsity of monism full stop, but materialism.

Your claim that Mary's Room wiped out non-materialists on the grounds that they too are unable to give Mary some kind of theory of how third-person stuff about consciousness was shown as decisively flawed. Your suggesting that Mary's Room is supposed to establish dualism was rejected as a red herring, rightly. And at this point you're pretty much backed into endorsing something that looks and smells an awful lot like Polkinghorne's dual-aspect monism or neutral monism, with one kind of 'stuff' but two ways to approach it.

So when you say...

If you can't address that, then you are done. The argument fails.

..All I can do is look back at the concessions you've made, the reasoning you've retreated from, just how heavily modified the "physicalism" you now hold is, and amaze myself at how much failure looks like success.

Wait, let me guess: Even though all the third person data indicates you've failed on this front, there may be ways of looking at or interacting with the data that are compatible with you not having failed. Epistemic failure does not imply ontological failure. ;)

Eric said...

"Pick any antineuroscientific theory (substance dualism, panpsychism, etc) of consciousness and assume it is true. Let colorblind Mary be an expert in said theory, for instance an expert in the mechanics and experiences of mindplasm (that nonphysical stuff that is the true basis of experience) and how it interacts with brains. Will Mary suddenly have the experience of a technicolor sunset? No. She’ll still be colorblind Mary who is able to predict other people’s experiences of color, but not have them herself. This limitation holds no matter where you ontological sympathies lie. No theory of experience will give you the experiences: this is a general limitation of theorizing about consciousness, whether that theorizing be from a dualist, panpsychist, or materialistic perspective."

Hi BDK

I might be missing something obvious here, but it seems to me that the problem with this response is that there's no reason to think that dualism is reductionistic in the sense some materialistic theories of mind are.

In other words, whereas we might have reasons to think that if some physicalist accounts would entail that Mary's complete knowledge would result in knowing what an experience of 'red' is like, we have, it seems to me, no reason to think that complete knowledge of some dualist account would result in that kind of knowledge.

Am I missing something here?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon: if you think that me saying that consciousness is a brain process, full stop, that conscious experiences are properties of brains, is a major concession that I have backed into, and is indistinguishable from your view otherwise, then the only thing we disagree upon is a semantic quibbles about what we will call this wonderful view, and your psychanalysis of how I reached it that view. And neither topic particularly interest me.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Eric you said:
whereas we might have reasons to think that if some physicalist accounts would entail that Mary's complete knowledge would result in knowing what an experience of 'red' is like, we have, it seems to me, no reason to think that complete knowledge of some dualist account would result in that kind of knowledge.

That is a good point, I probably should have included more than that one paragraph as we have been waltzing around similar issues.

Neither materialist nor nonmaterialist has to think that. Both can believe that Mary gains new concepts, directly activated by this novel state that her brain is put in, that she could not have before she had the experience. For the materialist, the new concepts pick out the same underlying reality as the brain concepts, just from a different route and using a (perhaps) different vocabulary.

The parallel I drew in my original paragraph cut/paste is only one prong in the overall argument that there are no unique problems for the materialist in the Mary argument, and no unique solutions available to the antimaterialist. Everyone has to deal with Mary, and the antimaterialist doesn't have a unique advantage here.

The antimaterialist wants to say she gains new concepts, that she didn't truly have the concept 'red' before seeing red? Fine, that's available to the materialist too (as in Papineau). That's no problem for the materialist, as different concept does not imply different thing in the world (water/h20 and all that). This is the point anonymous kept getting tripped up on.

Anonymous said...

BDK,

Anon: if you think that me saying that consciousness is a brain process, full stop, that conscious experiences are properties of brains, is a major concession that I have backed into, and is indistinguishable from your view otherwise, then the only thing we disagree upon is a semantic quibbles about what we will call this wonderful view, and your psychanalysis of how I reached it that view. And neither topic particularly interest me.

I haven't discussed "my view" about consciousness at all, so who knows what you're talking about there. And when you maintain that "consciousness is a property of brains", I again note that the meaningfulness of that statement only applies if one frames this discussion as "every kind of possible monism versus dualism". Even Chalmers would concede that there are some kinds of monism (neutral-monism, panpsychism, perhaps idealism, and more) which can handle Mary's Room without hassle. The thought experiment isn't meant to take down monism, period.

But when it's "materialism versus dualisms, non-materialist monisms, and other non-materialisms", that changes and the distinction is hardly helpful. A neutral monist, even an Aristotilean, is going to be able to talk about consciousness being a property of brains in some way - but they aren't materialists.

Anonymous said...

BDK,

The antimaterialist wants to say she gains new concepts, that she didn't truly have the concept 'red' before seeing red? Fine, that's available to the materialist too (as in Papineau). That's no problem for the materialist, as different concept does not imply different thing in the world (water/h20 and all that). This is the point anonymous kept getting tripped up on.

What I've pointed out is that "materialism" is not the same as "monism". Neutral-monism, panpsychism, even idealism are all monisms - but they remain distinct from materialism due to how they conceive of that underlying monistic "stuff". The mistake you're making is to view Mary's Room as being directed at proving dualism true, such that a failure to decisively establish dualism means it failed. I think A) Mary's Room is a thought experiment, something that can be attached to an argument, but not a stand-alone argument itself, B) The reasoning expressed by the experiment (Important: This is distinct from the experiment itself, which I think people end up hopelessly overthinking) goes a long way towards putting problems of materialism in sight, C) Among the possible reactions one could have to the argument is to shift to a monism that, while monistic, is not materialism, and D) one is moving in this general direction (towards neutral monism, dual aspect monism, etc) by talking about 'different ways of knowing' and 'knowing the same thing but in some different way' and so on.

When someone replies to considerations of consciousness, qualia, and mind generally by tinkering with monism and allowing for these alternate aspects or ways of knowing, I think it's clear they're not so much defending materialism as quietly sacrificing it.

Here's Chalmers on Type-B materialism from Consciousness and its Place in Nature:

Even if type-B materialism is true, we cannot give consciousness the same sort of explanation that we give genes and like, in purely physical terms. Rather, our explanation will always require explanatorily primitive principles to bridge the gap from the physical to the phenomenal. The explanatory structure of a theory of consciousness, on such a view, will be very much unlike that of a materialist theory in other domains, and very much like the explanatory structure of the nonreductive theories described below. By labeling these principles identities or necessities rather than laws, the view may preserve the letter of materialism; but by requiring primitive bridging principles, it sacrifices much of materialism's spirit.

funnyatheists said...

Feser has a few interesting posts with regards to the knowledge argument:
When Frank jilted Mary
Churchland on dualism, Part IV

Thomas said...

Anon made a much better job of articulating the point that I was trying to do earlier. Thanks to both of you, anon and BDK, I at least have benefited from this discussion a lot!

Also, anon, your point about "ectoplasm" was very good.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Perhaps the second most personally helpful thread I have been engaged in in Victor's blogs (most helpful was here in 2007).

Anon one person's "primitive bridging principle" is another's hypothesis about the basis of consciousness. It's not like it's some dangling evidence-free postulate that does no work. I just recently used a similar quote from Chalmers (I am a type B materialist most days if pushed to classify myself):
"I think it makes far more sense to regard such primitive principles as laws, but if someone insists on using the term "identity", after a while I will stop arguing with them. In the search for a theory of consciousness - the truly interesting question - their theories will have the same shape as mine. The epistemology will be the same, the methodology will be the same, the explanatory relations between principles and data will be the same, and all will be quite unlike those on standard materialist theories in other domains. The names may be different, but for all explanatory purposes, consciousness might as well be irreducible. "

I look at this as a concession on his part.

At any rate, this will force me to clarify and clean up that section of my ms where I was probably a bit glib. I still think Mary is one of the awful arguments, but it capture's people's imagination so is here to stay. Hell, when talking to people outside of academia, Mary is the best way to help them see why there is a "problem" of consciousness. Usually they are happy to say it is a brain process and just take my word on some kind of authority. But when I bring up Mary they see that things are actually sort of puzzling.

As an argument against a particular ontology, though, I find it awful. But I should clean up my exposition, even in the parts of the ms that I didn't paste here.

Anonymous said...

BDK,

Anon one person's "primitive bridging principle" is another's hypothesis about the basis of consciousness.

Amusingly enough, I mailed Chalmers about this last night on the off chance he'd be gracious enough to reply. Without my bringing up the name, he mentioned Papineau specifically as saying type-B materialism and type-F monism come to the same point at the end of the day. Of course, Papineau claims this is because type-F monism or Chalmer's "naturalistic dualism" is 'really materialism', basically. I think that backs up my points about just what's happening to materialism.

I look at this as a concession on his part.

Chalmers is saying that the type-B materialist is so close to dualism and/or type-F monism, so unlike (what once was) standard materialism, and in essence committed to the irreducibility of consciousness, that he has trouble even motivating himself to argue with them. I think that says far less about Chalmers than about, well.. the waning of materialism.

As I said previously, I don't view Mary's Room as a stand-alone argument (much less an argument meant to prove dualism) so much as a thought experiment that helps highlight relevant issues - and I think it has tremendous utility for the non-materialist. If this is one of the least desirable plays in the anti-materialists book, they're in great shape.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon: I said they could do better, not that there weren't much worse. For even worse, check out the list.

The problem for Chalmers is that the two views are quite different. One says that experience is a property of brains, another says that it is a basic new ingredient in the universe, perhaps even of light switches and hubcaps. Which is more plausible? Where is the only evidence that we have for consciousness? (Not to mention coming up with a theory of how these separate micro-conscious bits of nature are supposed to combine into our personal subjective experience).

I know which universe I think we are living in.

Anonymous said...

I said they could do better, not that there weren't much worse. For even worse, check out the list.

Ten short sentences poorly summarizing ideas and just tagged with "I think these are bad". The rendition of Leibniz is particularly poor, especially putting "neuronal processes" into his mouth. As with Mary, if this is supposed to be the 'poor' anti-materialist arguments, the a-m's are in great shape.

One says that experience is a property of brains, another says that it is a basic new ingredient in the universe, perhaps even of light switches and hubcaps. Which is more plausible? Where is the only evidence that we have for consciousness?

Both admit (one more forthrightly than the other) that consciousness is irreducible. Both are monistic and view consciousness stemming from their monism. Neither regard consciousness as a 'new ingredient' that is somehow 'added' to the monism like a distinct substance - for one consciousness just shows up sometimes, full stop. For the other, it (or the broadly mental and/or quasi-mental) is there from the beginning. Both are engaged in redefining what's otherwise known as the 'physical', but only one really cops to it. And the 'evidence we have for consciousness' is a murky area. When Chalmers says (in essence) this is materialism in name only, he's right. That Papineau makes the move of trying to insist that type-F monism 'is just materialism', that just underscores it all.

And once you make the type-B move in the attribution of consciousness to neurons/brains (perhaps even bacteria, somehow), scoffing at light switches having experience becomes far more of a pot-kettle situation. The handy "primitive bridging principle" tool can work for thermometers too in principle.

William said...

anon:
"
And once you make the type-B move in the attribution of consciousness to neurons/brains (perhaps even bacteria, somehow), scoffing at light switches having experience becomes far more of a pot-kettle situation. The handy "primitive bridging principle" tool can work for thermometers too in principle.
"

I'm not so sure about this. I'm speculating about autonomous self-organization as the deciding factor, and thermometers do not do this. In fact, depending on what we mean by 'autonomous' even computers would not fit that requirement.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon, for Chalmers experience is a new ingredient. That's the whole point: the supervenience base provided by physics isn't enough. A novel property, must be superadded to the physical (a property that is causally inefficicious, as is proved by his zombie argument).

I don't think hubcaps are conscious, I guess that is one fundamental difference between us. When restricted to our pearticular individual conscious experiences in brains, there isn't a lot of methodological difference with chalmers panpsychism/property dualism. So he was relatively safe there in his analysis of Type B materialism.

However, step outside of brains, and the differences blow up. Add to the 'consicous hubcap' problem the epiphemonenalism problem that plagues panpsychism/property dualism, and there's another weakness to Chalmers.

Incidentally, that list is obviously a list of bumper stickers, expecting familiarity with the actual full arguments they point to. "Mary learns something" is not an argument, obviously. They are all claims I have encountered with real people (the first is the most common).

I have yet to encounter a compelling argument against physicalist theories of consciousness that don't somehow sneak in the unargued intuition that consciousness is somehow ontologically special. I view them as exercises in confabulation by people who share the Hard Problem Intuition (the HPI: that no matter what you say about the physics, chemistry, biology, that will never suffice to explain the experience itself). The HPI is the core of the consciousness debate, and ultimately it is not a divide that argument can conclusively force someone to cross (as Chalmers admits multiple times in his book). But it can nudge people in one direction or another: that's what I'm going for in my ms.

I do think the actual arguments and evidence favor the physicalist over the HPI pusher, and ultimately this will appear as clear as in the case of the vitalists versus the mechanists.

Anonymous said...

William,

I'm not so sure about this. I'm speculating about autonomous self-organization as the deciding factor, and thermometers do not do this. In fact, depending on what we mean by 'autonomous' even computers would not fit that requirement.

Maybe not even humans!

I'm certainly not saying that Type-B materialism forces a commitment to the belief that thermometers are conscious (neutral monism, even panpsychism, don't necessarily need to make this move either), but it's embracing a way of reasoning about consciousness and mind that brings the live possibility of such into greater relief. Those primitive bridging principles can bridge more than brains.

That said, if by 'autonomous self-organization' you're talking about strong emergence, well. Different topic, similar problems.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I should say most not all...unity argument trades on content/vehicle confusion.

Anonymous said...

BDK,

Anon, for Chalmers experience is a new ingredient. That's the whole point: the supervenience base provided by physics isn't enough.

Ingredient is misleading, because that implies a second substance. But Chalmers openly considers monism as being able to face up to these challenges - the difference is that it's a monism which differs from materialism. It's misleading to say 'physics isn't enough' when what comprises physics fundamentally is part of what he's addressing.

When restricted to our pearticular individual conscious experiences in brains, there isn't a lot of methodological difference with chalmers panpsychism/property dualism. So he was relatively safe there in his analysis of Type B materialism.

Yep. As I said, that says quite a lot about type B materialism. Well, "materialism".

However, step outside of brains, and the differences blow up. Add to the 'consicous hubcap' problem the epiphemonenalism problem that plagues panpsychism/property dualism, and there's another weakness to Chalmers.

The 'conscious hubcap problem' isn't necessarily a problem for the view, 'primitive bridging principles' are in principle applicable to hubcaps for all we know, and epiphenomenamalism is a concern that goes beyond panpsychism/property dualism. I think when you put the weaknesses of Chalmers' (and similar) views side by side with the type-B weaknesses, they're either very similar (no surprise, they're similar views) or type-B ends up in a worse position. But hey, that's my judgment.

I have yet to encounter a compelling argument against physicalist theories of consciousness that don't somehow sneak in the unargued intuition that consciousness is somehow ontologically special.

I have trouble believing that, in light of your embrace of type-B over type-A. It's easy to say 'consciousness isn't special' when you're comparing it with a monism that's been made more 'special' in order to accommodate it. Strawson's a flat-out panpsychist, and he takes the tack that it's everyone but the panpsychist who thinks consciousness is "special".

I do think the actual arguments and evidence favor the physicalist over the HPI pusher, and ultimately this will appear as clear as in the case of the vitalists versus the mechanists.

If the mechanists needed to rely on the very particular, special ways of approaching the vitalism question as we see with the a posteriori physicalism approach to consciousness, the vitalist-mechanist case would be far from clear to say the least. Likewise, even in the vitalist case part of the problem came down to just what the 'mechanist' world was envisioned as ultimately - even if they succeeded against the vitalists, the mechanists of the time went on to have the rug pulled out from under them.

I can imagine, just over a century ago, a physicist looking at some lingering phenomena that theretofore was resisting incorporation into a Newtonian framework and reasoning 'Pff, this concern is meager. It's just a matter of time until classical mechanics is vindicated once and for all.'

William said...

19th century vitalism failed because it claimed that the chemistry of biology was fundamentally different from inorganic chemistry. It isn't.

But the intuition that life is fundamentally different in some way from nonlife turned out to be correct. They just totally missed the location of the difference. It was in genomic based cellular organization that vital principles (properties) existed. The property of life's functions determining life's structure is NOT explainable purely by the properties of the elements, but is due to their organization and by the encoding and use of their inherent information.

So life itself would not be in a basic material "Type A" ontology. It is a property we see in living material things, and as such looks a lot like consciousness to me.

Is the above property vitalism? I have no problem with that.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon by 'additional ingredient' I meant anything: properties, substances, whatever. Substance dualists do exists, after all.

Blue Devil Knight said...

William vitalists claimed it wasn't in the organization either, but that the vital force controlled the spatiotemporal organization of ordinary chemicals.

I have been marinating in the history of vitalism for about four months now, am presently incorporating results of my research into this ms I keep talking about.

OK thanks for the talk guys I am going to block this site for a while from my browser so I can focus on priorities...

William said...

I'm glad that you have that view on what vitalism is and is not, since it seems to me that among bloggers it has been too often used as a "strawman stand-in" to support reductivist rhetoric.

Anonymous said...

William,

Since BDK's closing down to work on other things, I was wondering if you could tell me just what you're getting at re: vitalism? Are you saying vitalism is true, but that previous vitalists were off-target in where they were, for lack of a better phrase, 'locating the vitalism'?

William said...

Anon,

vitalism was the doctrine that living things had a spirit (elan vital) made them alive, and that without it they were dead. The spitit enabled basic biochemistry.

Because the basic biochemistry turned out to be chemistry, vitalism ended as a scientific theory.

Life itself continues to show strong emergent properties, though purely reductive physicalism would deny such, i think. It's much easier on the surface to deny strong emergence in biology than in psychology, though; Descartes was a reductivist about biology. Ironically, it ought to be easier to test strong emergence in biology, hence my interest.

Anonymous said...

William,

Thanks for the rundown. Are you aware of the debate about whether chemistry itself can be reduced? If not, google for "Siris: The Manifest Image of Chemistry (LFPA)" and have a look for a summary. You may find it interesting.

Anonymous said...

From BonJour to BDK:

As you probably know, this is more or less the response to the Mary case suggested by Paul Churchland and David Lewis (possibly among others). I would respond with two main points:

First, the basic materialist claim is that the physical account of the world is complete, that it leaves nothing out. The point of my version of the Mary example is to show that there are clearly facts that the physical account leaves out. If that is right, the materialist claim is simply false, and nothing about other kinds of views can change that. (Churchland and Lewis in fact use this sort of objection as an indirect way of suggesting that there are no such facts, but they weren't responding to my specific version of the argument, which makes clear--it seems to me--that such facts clearly exist.)

Second, Jackson, responding to Churchland, says that the objection shows only that a complete account of qualia can't be given in a way that could be learned in the way that Mary learns the physical account. He doesn't really say why, and of course there are no actual such accounts to examine. But what he may have had in mind is that there are concepts required for a complete account of qualia that can't be learned in black-and-white terms, but instead require actually having the relevant experiences. This seems to me a plausible enough thing to say, and I don't see how the materialist can defend himself in any analogous way: there is just no plausible reason why a complete physicalist account should require having such experiences.

Edward T. Babinski said...

The book's discussion of split-brain patients can be read via the Look Inside feature at amazon.com.

One author posits that each hemisphere in split-brain patients has different "access consciousness" but the same "phenomenological consciousness," without ever explaining exactly what "phenomenological consciousness" is, except to presume that it's true of both separate hemispheres at once when they are looking at exactly the same things and not having different images flashed to each separate hemisphere. So it's only "united phenominologically" in the sense of both eyes being focused on the same image at the same time but we don't know exactly how each hemisphere is perceiving each image since each hemisphere is known to have certain advantages over the other, especially noticable when examined in split-brain patients--but since one hemisphere cannot verbalize or write down what it's seeing, the philosopher thinks it's alright to just assume a "unity of phenominological consciousness."

As I said they don't consider cases in which each hemisphere is NOT looking at the same image but seeing different images and responding to each image simultaneously and separately.

Edward T. Babinski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edward T. Babinski said...

All interested in this topic should read Prior Prejudices and the Argument from Reason. I exchange comments with Vic there as well:

http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2011/01/prior-prejudices-and-argument-from.html

Consciousness may remain a "metaphysical problem" but the natural urge to sleep each night and spend a third of one's life unconscious means what?

Neuroscientists and cognitive scientists consider "problems" challenges and inducements to study and experimentation.

And what about people with separated cerebral hemispheres, and the ways their hands and half-brains respond to different questions simultaneously? (And the way the speaking half of the brain fabricates excuses for why its other hand responded as it did, without knowing the actual question that that other side of the brain was busy answering.)

I liked the video I saw of one hand being unable to assemble a simple puzzle on the table, while the other hand did it with ease. Then when the split-brain patient was asked to use both hands at the same time to solve the puzzle, the hand that could do the puzzle the non-speaking part of the brain had to keep pushing away the other hand, frustrated with its incompetancy. Check youtube for videos on split-brain experiments. The non-speaking part of the brain cannot verbalize but it understands speech and can also point to reply to questions. One patient had the speech part on the opposite cerebral hemisphere, and another patient's non-speaking side could respond with simple one word answers. But most times that hemisphere can only point to things in reply to question.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Ramanchandran mentions the case of a split-brain patient that was asked whether he believed in God or not. One hemisphere replied, yes, the other, no.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFJPtVRlI64

Alex Dalton said...

BDK - can you tell me why #4. in your list of arguments against physicalism is bad? I have not really gotten into philosophy of mind but have seen dualists advance versions of this argument. I've always wondered how a materialist would respond.

William said...

anon:

If it is chemistry that is emergent (dualistic in properties and laws) and biology is a mechanistic riff on emergent chemistry, that would make understanding why plastics and crystals are not alive really hard.

If you mean that salt is different in properties from chlorine and sodium, I agree.

Anonymous said...

William,

I merely meant to point out that even chemistry is arguably "emergent". Not that chemistry is "really" emergent and biology reduces to chemistry.

As for Ramanchandran, it's worth noting again he describes himself as a neutral monist. Not a materialist.

William said...

Ed:

If the existing descriptions of multiple personality disorder are correct, you don't need corpus callosum section to have a split brain containing parts with different beliefs. What is a belief itself, though? Not a mere physical thing, surely.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Thanks someone emailed me that Bonjour responded. I appreciate him taking the time to respond he has done some very interesting work in epistemology. I'll respond sometime later to his post when I get the time.

Anonymous said...

Do you guys ever think about what nerds we are? We, the .0005% of the population, who actually care whether or not some grand metaphysical scheme like naturalism or theism is true?

Seriously, anyone?

Anonymous said...

We, the .0005% of the population, who actually care whether or not some grand metaphysical scheme like naturalism or theism is true?

Seriously, anyone?


I think vastly more people than that care whether theism is true. How many people are willing to get into hairsplitting philosophical arguments at length? Yeah, probably closer to that segment of the population.

And there is something to be said for giving up on debate and simply living according to one's principles.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Part I
My original claim was that Mary applies to any view, so all ontologies are equally damaged (or not damaged) by the thought experiment. I belive none are damaged, because the argment tries to trade in an epistemic/semantic difference for an ontological difference.

In the argument, it says that Mary "gains new knoweldge" above and beyond the knowledge gained as a neuroscientist (or property dualist, or substance dualist, or panpsychist). But what really happens is that when her brain enters this new color-experiencing state (or dualist property is instantiated, or her nonphysical mind receives the right signal from her visual cortex). Subsequently, she gains a new (direct) way to activate the color concepts she only applied in an indirect theoretical fashion.

Why would this be surprising to anyone? She couldn't see color before, now she can, so she gains an ability to deploy her color concepts in response to this new experience (after a period of calibration and amazement at her new experience).

So she doesn't gain new knowledge in the sense of acquiring concepts about a fundamentally different substance or property. She acquires conceptual abilities with respect to the same properties she was studying the whole time.

This applies to any ontological view. They are all in the same boat: no theory gives her the ability to see color, and in each scenario she gains the ability to deploy concepts in a direct way that she couldn't before. (Dennett and a couple of other physicalists might be an exception, but they are just that).

That's the background. Next up I'll respond to Bonjour.

Blue Devil Knight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blue Devil Knight said...

Part II

Bonjour replied:
First, the basic materialist claim is that the physical account of the world is complete, that it leaves nothing out. The point of my version of the Mary example is to show that there are clearly facts that the physical account leaves out.

The phrase "physical account of the world," which the materialist thinks is complete, is unclear. Is that an ontological claim or an epistemic claim?

As an ontological claim, I'm fine with it. I think all properties supervene on the physical. However, as an epistemic pluralist, I do not think that science is the only route to knowledge of the world.

I take it that phenomenological conceptions of experience are a source of knowledge about conscious experience: neuroscience is not a prerequisite to good phenomenology. I believe that I love my daughter, and that I can precisely describe what it is like to see the Necker cube oscillate back and forth. In neither case am I using concepts from neuroscience.

That said, because I believe consciousness supervenes on neuronal processes at an ontological level (in normal humans), phenomenology is not possible without brains.

Bonjour continued:
Second, Jackson...says that the objection shows only that a complete account of qualia can't be given in a way that could be learned in the way that Mary learns the physical account. He doesn't really say why, and of course there are no actual such accounts to examine. But what he may have had in mind is that there are concepts required for a complete account of qualia that can't be learned in black-and-white terms, but instead require actually having the relevant experiences. This seems to me a plausible enough thing to say, and I don't see how the materialist can defend himself in any analogous way: there is just no plausible reason why a complete physicalist account should require having such experiences.

But there is an entire subfield of materialist thinking devoted to just this view, the 'phenomenal concepts' approach. They believe that concepts directly applied to experiences can only be acquired by having the experiences. This is a substantive hypothesis about the interface between experience and our conceptions of experience, favored by people like Papineau, Aydede, and many other materialists. It's what Chalmers, at his blog, said he thought was the most promising materialist response to his arguments (though he does not endorse it).

Why would it be plausible? Because it seems plausible to think that acquiring the concept 'red experience' requires having a red experience. Materialists realize this, and a sizeable chunk of them have gone down this route with an epistemology of experience to incorporate this intuition (I frankly am agnostic on this choice point: I have the concept 'pain of childbirth' but I am a man).

Sch materialists realize, though, that novel concept doesn't imply novel ontology (otherwise Samuel Clemens, meet Mark Twain, as you are different people). By contrast, the Mary cult in philosophy trades loose and fast by smearing such epistemic differences into ontological differences. It doesn't work.

Everyone needs to deal with Mary, and everyone has the same choices available to them. (The phenomenal concept strategy is available to nonmaterialists also, obviously, as that is exactly what Bonjour suggested as a route for the nonmaterialist).

To repeat, I find Mary completely uncompelling as an argument against physicalism, but she is useful for getting across something about the mysteriousness and weirdness of consciousness. I have about 20 pages in my ms on these issues, and Mary features fairly heavily in there to help make certain conceptual and epistemic points.

Thanks again for responding.

Anonymous said...

BDK wrote:

In the argument, it says that Mary "gains new knoweldge" above and beyond the knowledge gained as a neuroscientist (or property dualist, or substance dualist, or panpsychist). But what really happens is that when her brain enters this new color-experiencing state (or dualist property is instantiated, or her nonphysical mind receives the right signal from her visual cortex). Subsequently, she gains a new (direct) way to activate the color concepts she only applied in an indirect theoretical fashion.

Anon: It seems obvious that she gains the knowledge of what it is like to have the experience though. If she "gains a new (direct) way to activate color concepts", the knowledge of how to do this is at least new knowledge. Indirect theoretical knowledge is clearly different from the knowledge of what it is like to have an experience. We all know what it usually feels like to get punched in the arm. A theoretical description of getting punched in the arm will not give that experiential knowledge. If you are training a pilot on how to fly a plane, you'd probably prefer that he get some first-hand experience under his belt, and not send him off to fly a commercial airliner with merely a brain full of theoretical knowledge.

Anonymous said...

BDK: This applies to any ontological view. They are all in the same boat: no theory gives her the ability to see color, and in each scenario she gains the ability to deploy concepts in a direct way that she couldn't before.

Anon: This misses the point. The point is that, on materialism, the hypothetically complete sciences should be able to give a full account of consciousness. Forget dualism or any other scenario. These other scenarios don't assume that consciousness *should* be completely describable in physicalist or any terms. We shouldn't be surprised that they could not give such an account. We should be surprised with materialism though, as it seems conscious experience cannot be exhaustively described even with full knowledge of the physical system it allegedly happens to be (the brain). Full knowledge of the physical system should exhaust all knowledge of the conscious experience, because they are the same thing.

Anonymous said...

BDK - how does talking about "concepts" in place of knowledge help you?

A concept would seem to be yet another thing that you cannot even in principle, give a physical description of, in knowing every thing there is to know about the human brain.

Anonymous said...

BDK,

This applies to any ontological view. They are all in the same boat: no theory gives her the ability to see color, and in each scenario she gains the ability to deploy concepts in a direct way that she couldn't before. (Dennett and a couple of other physicalists might be an exception, but they are just that).

You keep saying this, and you keep missing the point: Mary's Room is illustrating that you can have complete knowledge of the third person data, and there is still data (first person data) left out. You're downplaying the fact that according to materialism this shouldn't be the case, and you're blatantly ignoring the fact that according to non-materialists this *should* be the case.

The boat of "there is data left out if all you consider is the third person" is a boat that most anti-materialists *want* to be in, and materialists do *not* want to be in. You know why "Dennett and some of the other physicalists" are the exception? Because considerations like these force most materialists to retreat to a far more complicated, awkward type-B materialist scenario.

Further, you're making it sound as if the point of the argument had something to do with Mary's physical sight. No, the question is about data going beyond the third-person data, and there being first-person data. Not that "believing in substance dualism gives you the power to see red in a black and white room" or some nonsense.

Come on. At least you can come to grips with the distinct boat the materialist is in, and what the example is attempting to illustrate.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon I have addressed your criticism extensively in my second response to Bonjour, and previously in the thread. Again, it's an illicit attempt to transform an epistemic/conceptual difference into an ontological difference. The antimaterialists should not accept this argument either, because it is just a crappy argument.

Other quibbles are about details I mentioned to reinforce that the materialist and the nonmaterialist are in the same boat with all the main phenomena (e.g., will she or won't she see red) and epistemically (to take, or not take, a phenomenal concepts strategy). I'm not making a point just about the fact that she wont' have color vision, but other points too (though that is important for the antimaterialists to remember: in practice when they bring it up they typically haven't thought the extensive parallels through and only think of Mary as a physicalist instead of thinking through what would happen if she was a panpsychist or whatever so it is important to stress the parallels).

The argument fails in its ontological conclusion, points to epistemic or methodological considerations. As I've said a million times (and not once have you given an analysis of knowledge (justified true belief?), what it entails to have new knowledge, when does new knowledge imply ontological versus epistemic difference, and I've been pushing that this entire thread and you keep just repeating the same stuff).

Anonymous said...

BDK - it seems like you just don't understand the knowledge argument. It hypothesizes an epistemically complete materialist account, and shows that this would still leave out relevant information. If we know all of the physical things there *are* to know - not just what we *can* know given the current state of knowledge - and there is other knowledge still left out, then materialism fails ontologically. That's the whole point - a complete epistemic account should give us the ontological account *on materialism*.

Blue Devil Knight said...

You are saddling materialists with a view that they not only do not have to believe, but most do not in fact adhere to. If you want to see a real, not straw, materialist view (besides my own in my second response to Bonjour above) read Papineau's book on consciousness that should help clear up your confusion. He discusses these issues very clearly.

New belief, new concepts, is not new ontology. That's like saying learning water boils at 100 degrees requires a new ontology after already knowing that H20 boils at 100 degrees. Without an argument that concepts about experience are unique in this regard, that somehow with this one class of concepts we can say that they imply a new ontology, the argument is an obvious fail, an obvious instance of the intensional fallacy.

Again, you have given no detailed rebuttal to this obvious freshman analytical philosophy point. To do would involve doing the following:
a. Describe what you mean by knowledge.
b. Show that Mary gains knowledge in that sense.
c. Show that this gained knowledge implies that her previous knowledge left out something at an ontological level.

You have done none of the above, while I have extracted one aspect of knowledge (belief/the application of concepts) that changes in Mary, and shown why this is ontologically moot.

Until you address this concern, you have not addressed my argument.

William said...

I think Lewis' distinction between scientia and sapientia applies here, BDK:

‘I am Ramandu. But I see that you stare at one another and have not heard this name. And no wonder, for the days when I was a star had ceased long before any of you knew this world, and all the constellations have changed.’
‘Golly,’ said Edmund under his breath. ‘He’s a retired star.’
…’In our world,’ said Eustace, ‘a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.’
‘Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of…’
--C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, 1955. (good movie BTW)

Anon1 said...

BDK,

First anon here.

You are saddling materialists with a view that they not only do not have to believe, but most do not in fact adhere to.

And as I've said, most (not all) materialists don't adhere to it precisely because of the force of examples like these. They conceded, they drew back, they've changed their approach. That 'other strategy' is one that even Chalmers suggests (heck, even Papineau strongly implies) looks so much like non-materialism that it's practically down to wordplay.

Why not say that illustrations like Mary's Room have force against or strongly imply the untenability of 'some types of materialism', but you think that there are others which evade it?

Now, you mentioned before how Chalmers thinks type-B materialism is promising. Let's see what else he says about it with emphasis added:

But even if type-B materialism is accepted, the explanatory picture one ends up with looks far more like my naturalistic dualism than a standard materialism. One will have given up on trying to explain consciousness in terms of physical processes alone, and will instead be relying on primitive bridging principles. One will have to infer these bridging principles from systematic regularities between physical processes and phenomenological data, where the latter play an ineliminable role. One will presumably want to systematize and simplify these bridging principles as much as possible. (If there are to be brute identities in the metaphysics of the world, one hopes they are at least simple!) The only difference will be that these primitive principles will be called "identities" rather than "laws".

Again, one reason Chalmers says he has some sympathy for the type-B position is that it's so close to non-materialism (and more importantly, so far away from what he calls 'standard materialism') that it's hard to get too worked up over.

I'm not making a point just about the fact that she wont' have color vision, but other points too (though that is important for the antimaterialists to remember: in practice when they bring it up they typically haven't thought the extensive parallels through and only think of Mary as a physicalist instead of thinking through what would happen if she was a panpsychist or whatever so it is important to stress the parallels).

They don't even need to think of Mary 'as a physicalist'. They just need to think of Mary, period - and from that point they're able to see that what happens with Mary indicates that there is trouble uniquely for the materialist account of the world but not for non-materialist accounts. Until you start explaining why Mary should be able to "see color" just by virtue of being a non-materialist, or why those who reject that third person data offers complete knowledge of the world should be surprised when third person data fails to offer complete knowledge of the world, my point stands: Mary weighs against the materialist uniquely.

Without an argument that concepts about experience are unique in this regard, that somehow with this one class of concepts we can say that they imply a new ontology, the argument is an obvious fail, an obvious instance of the intensional fallacy.

How about the fact that this 'one class of concepts' has materialists who go the type-B route treating it in ways that are radically specific to the 'class of concepts' in question? Exactly how many epicycles have to be drawn before the inadequacy of the current system is at the very least implied, as you say?

You say 'epistemic failure does not imply ontological failure'. I wonder if epistemic successes implies ontological success?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon you are not answering my questions. I've repeated the same claims enough now (e.g., one person's "primitive bridge" is another's substantive scientific hypothesis that can be thrown against actual data), so not even going to bother again.

For those that aren't following the thread, my considered opinion is here.

Anonymous the 2nd said...

"Without an argument that concepts about experience are unique in this regard..."

Not hard to come by: 'Water' and 'H20' are both concepts which permit a 'hidden nature', while 'yellow' clearly doesn't - it is just what it is.

Anonymous the 2nd said...

I agree with BDK's criticisms of that other anon. That guy should put a sock in it.

Anon1 said...

BDK,

(e.g., one person's "primitive bridge" is another's substantive scientific hypothesis that can be thrown against actual data),

And one person's thoughtful way of accounting for data and experience is another person's desperate bandaid for a failing perspective, I suppose.

As for your questions, they've already been answered: There is subjectivity, first person experience, qualia. This is data. An exhaustive, complete investigation of the third person data still leaves that first person data untouched - there is something left over. Saying "the data left over is just the third person data in a new way" is a muddle.

Anon 2,

That guy should put a sock in it.

Relax, Sparky. Plenty of internet for everyone here.

Anonymous said...

BDK - thanks for your patience.

"a. Describe what you mean by knowledge."

I don't think we even need to give an account of knowledge. This seems like a huge sidetrack. I think we can both agree that the neurosciences provide knowledge of the brain, and that a conscious experience provides at least the knowledge that one is having a conscious experience. To be conscious is to be aware of an experience, hence, to have knowledge that it *is* occuring, in addition to knowing what the experience is *like*.

Putting quibbles about epistemology completely aside, if the hypothetical epistemically complete account of all physical aspects of the brain leaves anything out, then it is in trouble. But it just so happens that this account leaves *everything* out. That is the real problem. It doesn't describe conscious experience at all, without reffering to what it cannot *physically* describe. Not only is materialism leaving something out, it is not describing anything about consciousness, in a physical way.

"b. Show that Mary gains knowledge in that sense."

See above. Doesn't seem necessary.

"c. Show that this gained knowledge implies that her previous knowledge left out something at an ontological level."

If we have conscious experiences, then conscious experiences have an ontological status, whatever that status actually is. If a complete physicalist account of conscious experience can't actually describe conscious experience at all, then it seems very obvious that something is left out at the ontological level.

Anon1 said...

Three anons here now, it seems. Fun!

Anonymous said...

Anon1 said: You say 'epistemic failure does not imply ontological failure'. I wonder if epistemic successes implies ontological success?

Anon3: Indeed BDK seems to believe that the epistemic successes of the natural sciences are indicative of a thoroughgoing naturalistic ontology.

Anonymous the 2nd said...

"Relax, Sparky. Plenty of internet for everyone here."

Yes, but your tiresome waffle doesn't help anyone. I am ashamed that you sired me.

Look at what you write:

"An exhaustive, complete investigation of the third person data still leaves that first person data untouched - there is something left over."

Everyone agrees with that. The question is whether or not that new thing is merely conceptual or has ontological implications. Calling the former view a 'muddle' isn't an argument.

Now eat that sock.

Anon1 said...

Everyone agrees with that. The question is whether or not that new thing is merely conceptual or has ontological implications. Calling the former view a 'muddle' isn't an argument.

No, not "everyone agrees with that", as BDK acknowledged eventually. And saying "it's a muddle" may not be an argument - I didn't present it as one - but it's every bit as much of one as saying, in effect, "the subjective experience of red is nothing but the exclusively third-person data of red, acquired in some new way". If someone says that red is just the number 3 experienced in a different way, "that's ridiculous" isn't an argument. But it's wholly apt.

Deal with it.

Anonymous the 2nd said...

"If someone says that red is just the number 3 experienced in a different way, "that's ridiculous" isn't an argument. But it's wholly apt."

I agree with this. You are saying what I say - that there are some concepts for which it is just absurd to claim any a posteriori identity.

Anonymous said...

Anon the 2nd: The question is whether or not that new thing is merely conceptual or has ontological implications.

Anon3: No, that is not the question. If it is conceptual, it has ontological implications. Is a concept *something*? Then it has an ontology.

Anon1 said...

I agree with this. You are saying what I say - that there are some concepts for which it is just absurd to claim any a posteriori identity.

I'm saying a bit more than this, but sure, we're on that page at least.

Anonymous the 2nd said...

"No, that is not the question. If it is conceptual, it has ontological implications. Is a concept *something*? Then it has an ontology."

Well, yes. I meant ontological implications of the relevant sort (irreducible mental properties/substances/facts), not just any old ontological implication.

Anonymous said...

Anon2 (the snarky Anon): Well, yes. I meant ontological implications of the relevant sort (irreducible mental properties/substances/facts), not just any old ontological implication.

Anon3: Concepts seem to have all these problems as well. Are they abstract objects, mental representations (composed of what exactly?), etc.?

BenYachov said...

Alright which one of you Smegheads stole my sock?

;-)

Anonymous the 2nd said...

"Concepts seem to have all these problems as well. Are they abstract objects, mental representations (composed of what exactly?), etc.?"

The sort of implications that are under discussion here are those which are supposed to be seen to hold upon consideration of Mary's new experiences, not from the consideration of concepts in general.

Only a pedantic poltroon of the first order could fail to see this.

Mr Veale said...

Sheesh....which anonymous is which????
Interesting stuff BDK. I can't say that you've convinced me; given your very impressive academic credentials I doubt you'll lose any sleep over that.
But I'm very impressed with your clarity, and your generosity to opposing views, and I've enjoyed reading your posts.

Graham

Mr Veale said...

Will the MS be available online?

Anonymous said...

Right - but trading out one enigmatic concept for another (knowledge for concepts) doesn't seem to get us anywhere. Whether we use concept or knowledge, there is obviously new knowledge gained by Mary in having the conscious experience, if concepts are coceived as a representational system that requires a prior *knowledge* of an internal system of symbols with syntactic structure and symantecs. Even on such a conceptual account, there is the new awareness of the representation of this particular arrangement of symbols, and the awareness of what it is *like* to be represented to thusly.

pedantic poltroon

Anon1 said...

Right - but trading out one enigmatic concept for another (knowledge for concepts) doesn't seem to get us anywhere.

Are you asking, basically, for the materialist to give an explanation of what a "phenomenal concept" is, in entirely materialist terms? And that if this is unavailable, then you question the use of employing it as part of an explanation for a materialist? Just trying to understand where you're coming from here.

Anonymous said...

Anon1 - partly. And I'm saying that Mary gaining "a new (direct) way to activate the color concepts she only applied in an indirect theoretical fashion" still gives her a new awareness of the fact that she is having such an "activation", and an awareness of what it is like. So BDK's use of color concepts doesn't seem to affect the argument much.

Anonymous the 2nd said...

"still gives her a new awareness of the fact that she is having such an "activation", and an awareness of what it is like."

But that will also receive a conceptualist analysis.

Anonymous said...

"But that will also receive a conceptualist analysis."

Since concepts are not equivalent to knowledge, will always require knowledge, and add to knowledge, that really isn't a problem for anyone but the materialist.

Mr Veale said...

Oh, for pities sake use pseudonyms!

Mr Veale said...

Anon 1 agrees with Anon 3 on point 2 but with Anon 2 on point 3 and with himself when he's Anon 4...

can you guys remember your own positions, never mind each others???

Mr Veale said...

And I'm still not convinced that you're not one person winding yourself up...

Pseudonym said...

"Since concepts are not equivalent to knowledge, will always require knowledge, and add to knowledge, that really isn't a problem for anyone but the materialist."

Eh? This is jibber-jabber.

Mr Veale said...

Yip...it's a wind-up.

How dull.

Still nice that whoever it is has a hobby that keeps him indoors.

Anon1 said...

Mr Veale,

As funny as it is to have multiple 'anonymous' guys now showing up, I think it's gotten easier to track. Anon1 and Anonymous the 2nd are pseudonyms. I switched the moment it seemed there was another anon in here discussing things.

Yeah, it looks like at this point someone else is having fun with the whole thing (that's a danger of any long thread on the internet) but it's only gotten easier to track.

Anonymous said...

Folks - who the heck cares what peoples' names are? Let's just deal with the information and the arguments.

Pseudonym2 said...

"Folks - who the heck cares what peoples' names are? Let's just deal with the information and the arguments."

Hear, hear.

Blue Devil Knight said...
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Anonymous said...

BDK: Subsequently, she gains a new (direct) way to activate the color concepts she only applied in an indirect theoretical fashion.

Why would this be surprising to anyone? She couldn't see color before, now she can, so she gains an ability to deploy her color concepts in response to this new experience (after a period of calibration and amazement at her new experience).

Anon: If anything is jibber-jabber, it is this. What is a "color concept" prior to seeing a color? Are we to believe that a causal story containing a physical/chemical description of the properties of light, its interaction with the external world, and the human sensory apparatus are supposed to give anyone a "concept" of what the conscious experience of color is? And then when we ultimately *experience* the color, we are somehow activating *these* concepts in a new way?

I'm not sure I've ever encountered anything so obviously false.

Maybe BDK can actually unpack what he means by concept when it comes to color experience.

Anonymous said...

More from BDK:

I have the concept 'pain of childbirth' but I am a man

Anonymous: That's not the concept of pain of childbirth that you have. That's the concept of extreme pain, which you've experienced, projected on to some other circumstance which you have not. To have a real specific concept of childbirth pain, it seems obvious that you'd have to experience it.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon: I also have a concept of a bat having an experience of pinging moths with its sonar skills (in addition to the concept of pain of childbirth). Haven't been in either state. I have the concept of photosynthesis, but have never photosynthesized. I'd like to see a non question-begging argument that I don't have these concepts, that I believe that I do have, about experiences I have never had? I have concepts about all sorts of properties that I don't instantiate. Sun spots, dog barks, etc..


Also consider that blind people use words for color, can conceive of the metric relations that hold among color experiences in sighted people (that red is closer to purple than to green). So in that thin sense at least they conceive of color experiences.

Howevever, I often take a 2-D view of such phenomenological concepts. We can have a 'thin' conception of experiences we have never had, and whatever is added to that concept once we have the experience is the 'thick' conception of the experience. Whether it is a new concept formed when she has the experience, or new skills/dimensions of applicability added to her old concept, is ultimately an empirical question about cognitive architecture, and I am technically agnostic. THis is what I stated in the post that I already said was my considered response (i.e., less sloppy than these quick and dirty responses) here) that nobody has adequately replied to.

OK just dropping in looks like not much new in this thread. As I said, previous para has link to more clearly stated conclusion, and my ms has a much bigger picture view of all this. Seems same points being pushed, just not compelling reasons to give up materialism, which is what the Mary argument was meant to do.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I'll drop in tomorrow to see if anything new is here.

Anonymous said...

BDK - Firstly, we can put all of your examples of non-mental things (photosynthesis, sun spots, etc.) aside, because they are irrelevant. You have concepts about those processes or things to the extent that anyone can. Presumably the physical facts are all there is to know. What is at issue is whether our concepts about conscious experience - what it is like to experience something as a subject - are worth anything (even worth being called concepts) without actually doing the experiencing. It seems obvious that they are not, because we simply have nothing to speak of (nothing that is represented to us, no Fodorian 'language of thought' to form into a concept) that even vaguely resembles conscious experience, without having the conscious experience.

And still, I don't really even know what you mean by concept. If you're using "concept" in some super vague sense to mean "an idea of what that might be like", then this seems trivial. Sure, you have an idea of what it might be like to give birth. You have no real concept that maps to anything accurately though. Like I said it is just projected from past experience of vaguely similar sense-data. Not to be crass, but do you really think you have an accurate concept of what it is like to have a vagina because you know what parts it consists of, let alone a concept of what it feels like to have something very large passing through it and stretching it? Obviously you do not, as without first-person reports of the experience, we would never even know that it was painful.

Anonymous said...

BDK:
Also consider that blind people use words for color, can conceive of the metric relations that hold among color experiences in sighted people (that red is closer to purple than to green). So in that thin sense at least they conceive of color experiences.

Anon: All of that "conceiving" that they do is simply the result of fact-reporting from conscious experience. No suprises there. They still have absolutely no concept whatsoever of what it is like to have the basic conscious experience of redness.

Anonymous said...

BDK: Howevever, I often take a 2-D view of such phenomenological concepts. We can have a 'thin' conception of experiences we have never had, and whatever is added to that concept once we have the experience is the 'thick' conception of the experience.

Anon: The problem I see is that the thin conception has nothing within it that maps to what the experience is actually like. This would seem to be simply too thin to be a concept about consciousness in any important sense.

I will take the time to read through your more thorough posts and see if things are cleared up.

Mr Veale said...

BDK

I'd like to get the chance to discuss your responses to Bonjour, but I'm not convinced that there isn't a wind up taking place on DI at the moment.

I think any conversation would be ruined by "anon" and his puerile sense of humour. But hopefully I'll catch up with you on this topic sooner rather than later. (Maybe on a different thread, when the opportunity arises)

As you say, I think this thread has run its course.

Graham

Anonymous said...

Graham - if you're referring to me. I've posted simply as "Anonymous" or "Anonymous 3" since I got on the thread. Anonymous 1 & 2 are different people. I am not trying to pose as anyone else. Your posts are actually the least substantive in this thread, as apparently you'd rather discuss use of pseudonyms than the knowledge argument.

Blue Devil Knight said...
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Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon: I'll break up my response.

Concepts
I consider three aspects to having the concept of X, any one of which is sufficient to count as having the concept of X:
i) Classify or recognize instances: I can classify instances of 'tree' in a reliable way.
ii) Causal or nomic role: Understand what laws it figures in: If X is 'mass' I understand F=ma.In biology, understand its function and how it works.
iii) Inferential role: I can use X correctly in inferences (inferential role)--similar to but not the same as b. If something is a tree, I understand it is a living thing (I understand how it fits in the heirarchy of categories, and what categories are subordinate (pine, birch) and superordinate (living thing)).

Mary (or a blind person) can have a concept of color experience in all of these ways (whether you are a naturalist or not). Having experience of color will add to skill i (Mary gains the ability to directly recognize experiences happening in herself as opposed to others' brains). It isn't clear she gains anything in senses ii or iii, which she knows better than any person in the world. Blind people can classify color experience if given an auditory or braille description of someone's brain state.

Anon said:
The problem I see is that the thin conception has nothing within it that maps to what the experience is actually like. This would seem to be simply too thin to be a concept about consciousness in any important sense.

How thin is thin? I think it is pretty thick. Inferential role, knowing the rules and constitution, being able to classify instances (observed in others). This is pretty impressive. But Mary is admittedly impoverished phenomenologically, doesn't have the experience of red, or the conceptual capacities that would come along with this experience (whatever they are).

What capacities would be added in your view, and do any of them fall outside of i-iii in my list above? (This is the crucial question for you to answer in this topic).


Photosynthesis
To just say that photosynthesis is irrelevant is to beg the question: that's the issue we are arguing about. My claim is that every conscious experience is a brain process (in normal humans). That means we can scientifically study conscious experience in people having experiences that we don't have, just as we can study photosynthesis.

I don't expect the scientific study of the experience of red to put Mary's brain in a red-experiencing state any more than I expect the study of photosynthesis to make her photosynthesize. So in that sense, Mary is obviously missing out on something important: the actual experience of red!

But she knows more about the ontology of experience than any person that does see red. Phenomenology is ontologically opaque, doesn't show us anything about its basis: to find its basis we need to go to evidence outside of experience itself. Bumper sticker is that phenomenology is ontologically malnourished, while Mary is phenomenologically malnourished.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Two hypotheses
I look at the antimaterialist hypothesis as just that, a hypothesis. It's not going to be settled by armchair pilots speculating about what an omniscient color-blind neuroscientist might know. The antinaturalists tend to be very confident in their predictions about such scenarios, while I take the catastrophic historical precedent from vitalism as a forceful cautionary tale against such predictions.

It isn't irrational to be an antimaterialist about consciousness. After all, if you have the strong intuition, then don't deny it! Work on your alternate theory of consciousness, see how far it takes you, see if it makes any different predictions about the distribution of consciousness in the universe. Perhaps you are right. I look forward to comparing notes in 50 years to see which view has fared better. I'm putting just about all my money on the science (with 0.1% on property dualism).

I am not arguing for materialism in this thread, just blocking what I take to be a really bad argument against materialism. One that doesn'take into account the obvious physicalist rejoinders that are available. Even if I weren't a materialist, I wouldn't join the Mary cult.

Blue Devil Knight said...

As usual, will check in tomorrow for anything interesting....

William said...
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Anonymous said...

BonJour's response to BDK, part I:

First, some of his remarks seem to me to reflect dogmatic materialism and nothing more. You might ask him what it would take to refute his view--I suspect that nothing could, which to me means that it doesn't have any very substantive content.

Second, I take materialism to be an ontological thesis: that the material includes everything there is, that all the facts are material. On that view, if there is a fact that Mary doesn't know despite knowing all the material facts, then materialism is false. This isn't some kind of confusion of ontological with "epistemic/semantic", but just an insistence that "all" does mean all. (Thus the only possible materialist defense is to claim that Mary really does know the facts in question, albeit under some different "guise". Perhaps that's your friend's view--I can't tell--but it's hard to overstate how implausible it is.)

Third, I am very suspicious of the frequent appeals to "supervenience." I understand supervenience in valuational areas like ethics, and I understand it where it amounts to reducibility. If the facts that Mary doesn't know were reducible to material facts, then I don't see why Mary couldn't know this and this know them as well (not under some other "guise", but simply as they facts they are). But some people, and your friend may be one, believe in a "non-reductive supervenience", and that is something that I don't really understand and think makes no good sense. I don't see what blocks reduction unless the facts in question really are distinct, in which case materialism is false and we have some sort of weird epiphenomenalism or emergence. (Some materialists seem to say that they care only about supervenience, but I think they have to care about why it is supposed to hold, or else we don't have a clear ontological materialism.)

Anonymous said...

BonJour's response to BDK, part II:

Fourth, the "phenomenal concepts" stuff is answered, albeit briefly, in my paper. Usually this is understood as showing that what Mary lacks isn't factual knowledge, but rather something else--roughly some kind of ability. My response is that we can give her the relevant abilities--by showing her (unidentified) color samples in the black and white room--and she still won't know the facts at issue: still won't know how to apply those concepts to the people whose physical makeup she has been studying or recognize them in that account.

Fifth, at a different level, one great problem with materialism is that it has no explanation at all for what your friend refers to as "the mysteriousness and weirdness of consciousness." If materialism were true, then enough physical knowledge should remove all of the mystery and make consciousness entirely intelligible, and part of the point of the Mary example is that it's hard to see how any amount of purely physical knowledge could do that.

Sixth, I should also note that mulling all this has made me less happy about my response to your original question about the hypothetical dualist view. It seems to me that even if we show Mary the color samples and let her use them in developing a purely mentalist account (that is, an account of the non-physical properties and/or substance), she still won't be able to know on that basis alone what people experience in situations like looking at freshly mowed grass. I'm not as sure about this as with the analogous point about materialism (because I have no idea what the supposed mentalist account would actually look like), but it still seems right. What a dualist should say about this, I now see, is that this sort of knowledge depends on connections, presumably causal, between the two realms--and thus won't be included in an account that focuses on either of them alone. I think that a dualist can plausibly say that these connections just have to be discovered by observing the actual correlations between the two realms; whereas a materialist can't say anything like that, since on his view there just aren't two realms to be correlated.

Blue Devil Knight said...
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Blue Devil Knight said...

So someone is posting on behalf of Bonjour. Interesting.

In answer to his first question, there are plenty of things that would make me give up materialism about consciousness. The most obvious is good evidence of experience in the absence of brain activity. His rhetoric of 'dogmatic materialism' is misplaced and a distraction from the argument.

I'll look his response over closer later and respond when I have time.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Bonjour comments in italics, responses in nonitalics.

First, some of his remarks seem to me to reflect dogmatic materialism and nothing more. You might ask him what it would take to refute his view--I suspect that nothing could, which to me means that it doesn't have any very substantive content.

For one, that is flat-out ad hominem. If my counterarguments are good, saying I'm a dogmatic materialist won't make them bad. Even if I were a substance dualist, I would not propagate the Mary argument as a refutation of physicalism. Because it is a bad argument. I'm can't refute Mary by calling its advocates dogmatic antimaterialists, but only by addressing the argument. And as I said, good evidence for consciousness without brain activity would convince me.

Second, I take materialism to be an ontological thesis: that the material includes everything there is, that all the facts are material.

First clause is fine, but "all the facts" is ambiguous between propositions/concepts and states of the world. If I learn that water is H20, this is a new fact, but I haven't actually learned about any new property of the world. I have learned new ways to think about the same properties in the world. Using the word "facts" is a way to be slippery with the ontological/epistemic distinctions representative of the Mary argument advocates. Be more clear, and a lot of these arguments will become a lot easier to have.

Thus the only possible materialist defense is to claim that Mary really does know the facts in question, albeit under some different "guise". Perhaps that's your friend's view--I can't tell--but it's hard to overstate how implausible it is.)

I've stated that view consistently here, and I fail to see the argument in the oracular pronouncement that it is "hard to overstate how implausible it is." I am arguing with a philosopher with very strong intuitons about what an omniscient neuroscientist would know: it is hard to overstate how unimpressed I am by such intuition-guided predictions, especially given the obvious responses that I've pointed out that are more than just unargued verdicts.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Part II
the "phenomenal concepts" stuff is answered, albeit briefly, in my paper. Usually this is understood as showing that what Mary lacks isn't factual knowledge, but rather something else--roughly some kind of ability. My response is that we can give her the relevant abilities--by showing her (unidentified) color samples in the black and white room--and she still won't know the facts at issue: still won't know how to apply those concepts to the people whose physical makeup she has been studying or recognize them in that account.

Three responses. First, she can look at her own brain states and immediately know which concepts apply to which experiences. But that is a sneaky way out, an obvious loophole in Bonjour's original article.

Again, he is explicitly talking about concepts, and without an argument that he can infer an ontological difference, then this is the same old Frege 101 error of mistaking a difference in intension for a difference in extension. It's the latter that needs to be established, is the whole point of this argument.

Third, I have given more detailed argument about the fact that Mary would have a concept 'experience of red' here. Sure, she doens't have the experience of red, and she knows this, but that doesn't mean she can't conceive of its structural features, classify instances of the experience in others, or be able to make inferences about other experiences (e.g., not experiencing green).

What a dualist should say about this, I now see, is that this sort of knowledge depends on connections, presumably causal, between the two realms--and thus won't be included in an account that focuses on either of them alone. I think that a dualist can plausibly say that these connections just have to be discovered by observing the actual correlations between the two realms; whereas a materialist can't say anything like that, since on his view there just aren't two realms to be correlated.

Materialist can say the same. There are two realms, but to the naturalist jsut not two ontologically distinct realms. When Mary goes out into the world, her brain is launched into a radically new state, her entire visual system is going crazy, the rest of her brain that is responsible for modelling what is happening out in the world has just gone haywire making sense of this new information. The brain is pushed into a distinct region of its overall information processing space, one it has never been in before. That realm, and the realm of her dry, experience-free, conception of those same brain state are what will come into alignment during an amazing period of calibration as Mary learns to see color (which is in fact what she would likely have to do).

Blue Devil Knight said...

Indeed good luck accounting for the connection between the two realms in an antimaterialist worldview....

Anonymous said...

BDK - On your view of concepts, I'd agree obviously that Mary can have a "concept" of color experience in all of those ways. Since you're arguing that Mary gains new concepts with the experience (as opposed to new knowledge), all that would be relevant here would be the ways in which Mary indeed gains something new. You concede that the red experience does not furnish us with a new concept via ii. or iii.

So your whole counter to the knowledge argument depends on Mary gaining a new concept via i. Now to your defintion of i., according to which you think Mary does gain a new concept, you write: "Mary gains the ability to directly recognize experiences happening in herself as opposed to others' brains." This is very weak for multiple reasons (the first below being the strongest).

1. The first problem here is that nothing in the experience is really a gain in this sense. Mary actually very obviously *already* has this ability of recognition from her previous knowledge as, when she experiences red, she knows it is red. The experience of red itself does not convey anything to her about how to *recognize* that it is her having the experience or distinguish between her own personal experience of red and others'. Indeed, on a very basic level, it is already known to Mary that *every* experience she has will be solely her own experience.

2. This allegedly new concept that Mary gains hardly captures all that is new about the experience, even if we granted that there indeed is a new concept or ability gained. In addition to the new concept, Mary still now clearly knows what it is *like* to have the experience -- that red looks like *this*. Being able to "classify" or "recognize" obviously does not fully *capture* this new experiential knowledge. We can obviously classify or recognize conscious states without direct experience of a conscious state. If you argue that this *just* gives us a new way to do it, this leaves out the fact that in *this* way to do it, we now know what it is *like* to experience red - the very issue at hand.

I can think of a few other reasons why your counter fails, but we'll leave it at that for now.

I think, given these fatal problems with your argument, we can bypass all discussion of thin/thick for the moment (reminiscent of the "fine-grain" and "coarse-grain" modes in Robert van Gulick's "new concept" response to Jackson).

Anonymous said...

BDK - FYI - I am conveying BonJour's responses with his permission. After sending me the last, he said he'd have to duck out as it is really awkward to argue with someone in such an indirect manner. I apologize if you've been offended by the "dogmatic materialist" comments. I don't share his sentiments.

You write: In answer to his first question, there are plenty of things that would make me give up materialism about consciousness. The most obvious is good evidence of experience in the absence of brain activity. His rhetoric of 'dogmatic materialism' is misplaced and a distraction from the argument.

Anonymous: Ah, but there lies the problem. I doubt you would be convinced by such evidence. Firstly, evidence for consciousness without brain activity can only come from *testimony* about consciousness, as we cannot measure it. I suspect you wouldn't be comfortable with that from the start.

Secondly - how would you pin-point the exact time of a conscious experience? We've got loads of testimony from cardiac arrest victims, to the effect that they have left their bodies, seen the operation from the ceiling (even some who have convinced doctors of this), floated down a dark tunnel where they were greeted by an angelic being who showed them a timeless view of every instant of their life, and ushered into a bright light that, was obviously conscious, and gave them the most palpable sense of unconditional love they have ever experienced, often in the presence of relatives, who then inform them they must go back to their body. Of course the materialist will always say: "These are just hallucinations happening somewhere along Jacob's ladder, in the going out of, and coming into consciousness."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A292PF-bseA

Since there is no *possible* objective way to tie our actual measurements of time into when the person is having the experience without correlating our clocks to their brain activity, it seems the skeptic can never be satisfied here.

In short, bad answer.

William said...

------
We've got loads of testimony from cardiac arrest victims, to the effect that they have left their bodies, seen the operation from the ceiling (even some who have convinced doctors of this)
------

I know of a hospital where there was once a high shelf in the cardiology ward rooms where a floating spirit could see objects a patient would not.

The trouble is Hume's old one (discussed here before) of having a sufficiently permissive ontology to believe that such testimony and evidence is true, not that there is no testimony.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon I'm actually agnostic about whether Mary gains a new concept, or adds something to concepts she already had. Either way it is ontologically moot. Your post is getting into specifics that I believe will be empirically decided once we learn more about how we think about our own experiences.

That said I imagine a complicated scenario when Mary's brain is thrown off the cliff, so to speak, into this amazing new state of experiencing color for the first time. She would likely have to learn to map the experiences onto the brain states that are doing the experiencing (at least for a core set of colors such as red/green). This is like learning to map chemical facts onto macroscopic water facts once you learn chemistry. Wow, I've been drinking H20 the whole time!

Overall, when the argument is posed more clearly, taking away the equivocations possible when you talk about 'facts' and 'knowledge', it just dissolves as an antimaterialist argument. It becomes a set of very interesting choice points about the epistemology of beliefs about experience, with choices available to all ontological perspectives (even Bonjour's seemingly antimaterialist "two worlds mapping" view can easily be incorporated into materialism in ways I stated above).

As for the stuff about whether this or that evidence could convince me, that is getting a bit ridiculous. I would be convinced by clear evidence, and clear evidence is not hard to imagine. So far we don't have any (there are some anecdotes, but few good studies: see Keith Augustine's work on NDEs it is decent).

I appreciate Bonjour responding. My opinion is largely the same of his argument, it doesn't push me against materialism as it was intended. But I do respect the work he has done in epistemology, especially his older work on coherence theories of justification.

William said...

This is like learning to map chemical facts onto macroscopic water facts once you learn chemistry. Wow, I've been drinking H20 the whole time!

---

I believe that we know the laws that map water to H2O.

What law(s) map qualia to brain states? Some kind of rule that makes consciousness epiphenomenal? Are tropes inherently dualistic?

Blue Devil Knight said...

William, there is no law explaining an identity. Why are you identical to yourself? Why is Mark Twain identical to Samuel Clemens? We can cite evidence for such identities, but not sure what would explain something like an identity. My belief is that it will just come out of the wash as the best hypothesis available about consciousness. I think this is already happening.

William said...

"In postulating an explanatorily primitive "identity", one is trying to get something for nothing: all of the explanatory work of a fundamental law, at none of the ontological cost."

--Chalmers, "Moving Forward on the Problem of Consciousness", J Consc Studies

Blue Devil Knight said...

It wouldn't be explanatorily primitive, but have to be earned as the best hypothesis, not just some arbitrary bridging postulate. Is saying Mark Twain is Samuel Clemens trying to get something for nothing? How about water and H20? We deal in identities all the time I don't see anything cheap there. Not sure what gives him license to say this when it comes to consciousness in particular.


At any rate, my view seems to fit better with the biology, common sense, and the evidence. He ends up with conscious light switches and flirting intensely with epiphenomenalism. I have placed my bet.

Billy Bumpkin said...

BDK - did my brain really create me (me, the self-deluded consciousness that thinks it exists over and above the brain)? If so, that kinda sucks...Is there any hope on that story?

Billy Bumpkin said...

My brain creates me and I look back at my brain trying to understand it. Hahahah...Now, that is funny....What an odd predicament.....Poof, we're trapped in existence, trying to figure out why we're here....finding this deep highly intelligible mathematically describable complexity underneath it all.

Billy Bumpkin said...

Isn't it odd that our brains are making our consciousness come here on this blog, and play this tug of war with one another over what information we designate "truth"? Poor brain - so desperate to survive, so needy for accurate information about the nature of reality...so frightened - so in need of a good story to make it feel safe...Good thing my consciousness thinks God exists....That comforts my brain alot.

Anonymous said...

Here's BDK's original objection to the Knowledge Argument:

"Pick any antineuroscientific theory (substance dualism, panpsychism, etc) of consciousness and assume it is true. Let colorblind Mary be an expert in said theory, for instance an expert in the mechanics and experiences of mindplasm (that nonphysical stuff that is the true basis of experience) and how it interacts with brains. Will Mary suddenly have the experience of a technicolor sunset? No. She’ll still be colorblind Mary who is able to predict other people’s experiences of color, but not have them herself. This limitation holds no matter where you ontological sympathies lie. No theory of experience will give you the experiences: this is a general limitation of theorizing about consciousness, whether that theorizing be from a dualist, panpsychist, or materialistic perspective."

David Chalmers' response:

Regarding the objection to Mary, the obvious response is that Mary couldn't know the relevant nonphysical facts from inside her black and white room. e.g. on some versions of dualism, states such as experience-of-red will themselves be primitive nonphysical states, and Mary in her room won't be able to know the facts involving those states. That's not a problem for dualism. It's only a problem for a theory such as physical that holds that the fundamental facts of the theory are objectively graspable from any perspective.

Regarding frankish's objections (due originally to Peter Marton), there's a discussion of this in "The Two-dimensional Argument against Materialism" (under "the conceivability of materialism") on my website or in my recent book "The Character of Consciousness".

I do agree that the explanatory gap intuition is in certain respects more fundamental than the mary and zombie intuitions, though.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon thanks for soliciting that, assuming David isn't here responding, that we have another transmitter type situation going on. He brings up things we've already discussed, but I'll comment anyway because I respect him and his arguments more than those from any other living antimaterialist...

Regarding the objection to Mary, the obvious response is that Mary couldn't know the relevant nonphysical facts from inside her black and white room. e.g. on some versions of dualism, states such as experience-of-red will themselves be primitive nonphysical states, and Mary in her room won't be able to know the facts involving those states.

One instance of this would be the dualist phenomenal concepts strategy, which is available to the materialist too. As I've said my main point, not drawn out in the single para I pulled, was that any epistemic choice point available to the dualist is available to the materialist. For reasons I spelled out above I am not strongly sympathetic to this phenomenal concepts strategy, but see it available to both. Each side has the same choice epistemic points.

So Chalmers is technically right, and just hasn't seen the rest of this long and tortured thread where we've been through this option ad nauseum.

Finally, notice how Chalmers talks about "facts": again that slippery word that invites people to confound epistemic and ontological concerns. Just something to be aware of in these debates. Why do the Mary-philes tend to do that so consistently?

Regarding frankish's objections (due originally to Peter Marton), there's a discussion of this in "The Two-dimensional Argument against Materialism" (under "the conceivability of materialism")

As I already pointed out, he is forced to conclude that materialism is literally inconceivable. This is what he accepts in that paper he cites. Too strong. I conceive of it. Right now I am thinking/conceiving that consciousness is a brain state, for instance.

One nice thing about Chalmers is his intellectually honesty; he is also a clear writer, which is helpful for pinpointing the problems or points of disagreement.

I do agree that the explanatory gap intuition is in certain respects more fundamental than the mary and zombie intuitions, though.

We agree there. I don't know anyone who became an antimaterialist because of Mary, zombies, etc.. Unlike Chalmers, I see these arguments as basically post-hoc rationalizations for a pre-existing Hard Problem Intuition (as I mentioned already in this thread here).

As I said, I don't think much new here, but a useful summary of the amount of ground we have covered in this thread.

Anonymous 1.0.3.10 you are so much better when you aren't droning on about the definition of science. :P

Blue Devil Knight said...

I've been happy to be on the defensive here, responding to critiques of materialism. But this can be turned around. Lightning Mary poses serious problems for the antimaterialist. Nobody has responded.

Compare Mary1 and Mary2. Mary1 is the usual Jackson Mary after a week out in the world seeing colors and mapping these experiences to her pre-existing knowledge of brain states.

Mary_2 is in the lab during this week, but right before leaving gets hit by lightning and ends up with her brain in the same state as Mary1. She stays in the black and white lab to recuperate, Mary1 comes in to visit (that is, Mary2 hasn't been out in the world to see red yet, but she now has the same brain (synaptic weights, neuronal organization) as Mary1).

Does Mary1 know what it is like to see red, but Mary2 does not? When shown a red color chip, will Mary1 know what color it is? Will Mary2?

Answers: no, yes, and yes. This is problematic for the antimaterialists. Especially those that push Mary. Especially^2 for Bonjour's derivative Mary argument.

And don't even say it is just an outlandish thought experiment if you have been pushing the Mary argument.

At any rate, Ligntning Mary is a nice wrinkle in this dialectic that nobody has addressed which I brought up early in this thread.

It is not my idea, but adapted from Dennett's book Sweet Dreams.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I should say it poses problems for the antimaterialist use of Mary.

But as I've said, even if I were an antimaterialist about consciousness, I wouldn't use the Mary argument as a reason. Because it's a bad argument.

Anonymous said...

BDK - I will respond to your latest on the knowledge argument when I have more time.

In the meantime, you are scorning my attempts to narrow down what would convince you (BonJour’s suggestion as well). I want to assure you that I am by no means trying to pester you, or get into a demarcation argument, in pursuing this line. I find that this is a very touchy issue for alot of naturalists.

You say your “clear evidence” of consciousness without the brain would convince you and is easy to imagine, but you give no examples.

I mean – don’t you think you’re being a little vague? "Clear evidence"? What exactly would that be? I know you aren’t talking about something you’d simply find psychologically persuasive, so there must be specifics. LOL - for someone as scientifically/philosophically informed as yourself, I have a hard time not expecting you to have a specific neuroscientific experiment in mind where you will be able to pin-point the exact neuronal firings that will occur in your brain, should you attain such "clear evidence"! Joking, but seriously, it doesn't seem like you've even thought through in principle falsification of your view. Again, I'm not trying to get into a demarcation argument. It is just obviously not a good situation when we cannot clearly define what "clear evidence" would be.

Do you agree with my statements to the effect that your "clear evidence" could never come from anything but anecdotal evidence of conscious experience when the brain is seemingly inactive? If so, then you’d have to agree that we already have that. The point is not that I think NDE’s should convince you. The point is that, if they don’t, then nothing will. The same back doors that skeptics take now, will always be available as far as I can see, for the reasons I stated. NDEs are still exactly what we would expect to see were people actually having conscious experience without brain activity.

For the record, I’ve been studying them for a decade, find them convincing for many reasons, and yes I’ve read Augustine and his critiques are among the best, pointing out some of the problems with a lot of the evidence. I prefer Bruce Greyson’s work (Greyson actually informed me about Augustine’s work, also thinks it is good, and invited Augustine to publish in the Journal of Near Death Studies, in vol. 26).

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon clear evidence would be if we could verify consistently the type of things we find claimed in NDEs. People's consciousness travelling across the world outside of brains. Finding verifiable data. That's not mere testimony, but something that can be verified.

At any rate this is way outside the scope of this Mary stuff, and am not interesting in persuing this offshoot of Bonjour's ad hominem.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough. I won't touch on the issue any longer - except for this one last post..hahaha.

The "clear evidence" that you're looking for - "verifiable" paranormal data - would seem to always be subject to dismissal of the testimony of all people involved (usually just the NDEr, family/friends, and the doctors involved), the same way it has been (and there is alot more of this kind of testimony than discussed by Augustine). Naturalists will always have that backdoor it seems.

William said...

On near death (NDE) / out of body experiences:

1. I agree with BDK that convincing evidence of people demonstrating the gaining of knowledge of the ordinary world through disembodied consciousness has not been prospectively demonstrated. This means that definitive proof is lacking and the altered brain state dream explanation is probable, though the disembodies consciousness explanation remains possible.

2. I would be convinced that NDE's are only the product of dreaming in an altered brain state if and when these experiences can be reproduced reliably via non-harmful physical manipulations, such as a magnetic stimulator or phamacology. At the moment we still cannot explain the consistent characteristics of the contents of NDE's by pathologically induced dreams alone.

Anonymous said...

William - I'm pretty close to your views actually. With 1., when understood in terms of "demonstration" or "proof", I'd agree, but I think that's because of the circumstances of these kinds of experiences. For now, in alot of them we have to rely on testimony. Just the other day I was watching a video recording of a teenage girl who had an NDE after a car accident. She experienced floating into the hospital cafeteria during her OBE, and observed/overheard conversatiosn betw. her grandparents and parents. Her dad, who smoked, announced that he was going out for a cigarette. Her grandmother, in her stressed state, said "I think I will come with you and have one too" - a woman who had not smoked for the last 40 or so yrs and was strongly against it. When the girl awoke, she said "Grandma, you don't smoke!" and recounted what she had observed. They interviewed the family members and they confirmed the details. I suppose they could all just be lying though or mistaken. These anecdotal accounts are common though, and what we'd expect if such things are happening. Perhaps there will be more convincing cases forthcoming.

NDEs in blind people are also intriguing.

As to 2., the consistency of the "core" experience is what first caught my attention. But there is alot in the internal detail of the actual phenomenological accounts that would slant me towards believing in the veridicality of these experiences, even as a "vision" or altered state of consciousness. One aspect is that the NDEers are often wanting to stay in the light/paradise/etc., and are told that they must go back by relatives/the Light/angels, and express disappointment. Suddenly they are thrust back into their hospital bed and quite upset about it. For many of the details like this, IMO it just strains belief that brain chemistry weaves such a consistent narrative tapestry.

Anonymous said...

I also took the liberty of e-mailing Gilbert Ryle, and he was kind enough to respond:

Your good friend, BDK, has it all wrong. His confabulation of ergonomic principles suggests a preoccupation with gerundive analyzes of metaphysical parthood, but I have rebutted in several of my papers the idea that any such analysis can survive the dissimulation of synthetic ideas. The only reasonable conclusion to draw is that, while disenfranchising to the sublation of mind and matter, it is nevertheless necessary to posit a renewal of self-conscious apprehension, though nuanced by reference to notional axioms.

Anonymous said...

That's a different "Anonymous"...

Anonymous said...

Yours by jingo!

Gilly Ryle

Anonymous said...

I'm Descartes, and I think that you're all wrong. The fact that I can post from the afterlife proves this.

(Funny thing - it turns out that the demon is a brain in a vat! Who would have imagined it was possible?)

Blue Devil Knight said...

LOL that is awesome. I will only respond to Gilbert, because I respect him so much, but it will take a week and a half to carefully consider and construct a thoughtful response.

Edward T. Babinski said...
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Edward T. Babinski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edward T. Babinski said...

Williams wrote, "what is a belief, not a purely physical thing surely."

ED'S RESPONSE: Williams, you miss the point about split brain patients. Two brain-minds each answer different questions simultaneously.

Moreover, what is a "belief?" How do we arrive at consciousness itself prior to a brain and sensory input?

If you reduce your argument to "beliefs are not physical," then what are they if not dependent in some way on sensory input, and the acquisition of language via culture which also helps us focus on "what we believe."

I don't have to have a complete theory of how the brain-mind functions to note very broadly how it does appear to function.

Deprive a brain-mind of sensory input like in a sensory deprivation chamber, and it can even go mad. Simply deprive it of REM sleep and it can die.

We spend a third or so of our lives unconscious, and most of the rest of our lives and thoughts running on automatic, even when arguing, we are mostly reacting based on past ideas and opinions, in a relatively automatic fashion. The brain-mind is a conservative instrument once it has some "mental" grooves worn in it, it doesn't change that easily.

So what are "beliefs?" And why do you think they are beyond physics? Physics is strange enough all by itself, so physicalism must include some rather weird stuff itself.

Not that any of us have the cosmos figured out. I'm agnostic. But the idea that "Christian" beliefs are the only true ones and everyone else is damned eternally, makes even less sense to me than brain-mind substance dualism.

And metaphysical and religious "beliefs" run a tremendous theological and cultural gamut.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Deprive a brain-mind of sensory input like in a sensory deprivation chamber, and it can even go mad. Simply deprive it of REM sleep and it can die.

No.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Indidentally, it seems Jackson rejects his argument now, paper here, largely for reasons like those I said.

Bam!

But you shouldn't reject his argument because he does, but because it is a crappy argument for the many reasons I already mentioned in this thread.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Incidentally, ask Bonjour what would make him give up his antimaterialism about consciousness. If nothing, then it isn't clear there is anything of substance in anything he has ever written.

Mr Veale said...

BDK

I was following this thread - until the various anonymous posters arrived. I couldn't keep track of which you were responding to, when and why.

Is there any chance that you could summarise why you feel Jackson's argument failed? A quick click, copy paste of the highlights would suffice...(but if you've grown tired of the whole thing I'll understand).
You seem to be arguing that the argument commits the fallacy of equivocation. Have I read you correctly?

Graham

Mr Veale said...

I just note that the objection that you began with in #3 didn't work as stated; you seemed to nuance and supplement that argument rather than abandoning it. Which is cool. There's no problem with that. I just want to make sure that I've read you correctly.

Graham

Blue Devil Knight said...

Mr veals I already did summarize my main points...like two times now. Not equivocation but intensional fallacy. Yes I added to my original point...a lot. See resp 2 to bonjour and subsequent for main pts...it will not work unless I add the phenomenal concept wrinkle, didn't have originally bc don't take it too seriously...should have mentioned it. See resp 2 Chalmers 2 4 another overview of main pts..on cellphone...

Mr Veale said...

BDK

I appreciate that...and I know its frustrating to have to repeat yourself. But there is a lot of detritus on this thread, and it's been a bit difficult to keep up with the flow of discussion.

Graham

Anonymous said...

BDK - I'm a bit shocked that you didn't already know that Jackson rejects his argument. This is very old news and not sufficient grounds for a "Bam!". It shows that you're more than a little bit out of the loop. Here's an article by Torin Alter from _Phenomenal Concepts and Phenomenal Knowledge_, that seeks to demonstrate that Jackson has not answered the Knowledge Argument adequately:

http://faculty.unlv.edu/beiseckd/Courses/PHIL-352/Dave%20-%20Consciousness%20PDFs/Alter%20-%20Does%20representationalism%20undermine%20the%20knowledge%20argument.pdf

The "horrible" knowledge argument is, nonetheless, still accepted by many prominent philosophers of mind who are *not* substance dualists.

I considered responding to your latest response to me in detail, but in looking over the thread, there is really no point. We are saying the same thing over and over again.

All this confusion about how we get from epistemic considerations to ontological ones. Well, that is really always the case in general, but putting that aside, since Mary is omniscient with regards to all the physical facts, her newly gained experience is of an aspect of reality - namely, the most relevant and essential condition for understanding consciousness - she was not formerly acquainted with by knowing all of the neural correlates of consciousness.

You concede that she gains something new, we just obviously disagree about what that something is, and its relevance. No surprise there.

For the record, I am not even a big fan of the Knowledge Argument, and were I in need of further convincing in order to accept substance dualism, I doubt it would do much for me. With me, that goes for any philosophical thought experiment like this though. Intuitively, I just find it hard to believe that such matters can be settled in these ways. Regardless, I still don't think you're properly understanding the argument, and I think your rebuttal fails - *particulary* your very first post in this thread.

But, I think its good that we got some interaction going between yourself, BonJour, Chalmers, etc. Good luck with your writing and I look forward to reading it when it is ready.

Mr Veale said...

Thanks for the article anonymous. My complaints were aimed at several of the other anonymous's (!) and not you.

(Is there any way to confirm that you really were relaying BonJour's comments?)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Veale - not that I can think of, without revealing my identity (which I would rather not do). I can give you my word (whatever an anonymous word is worth).

You could always email BonJour and ask him, though I'd prefer it if you kept my identity out of it.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon that comment about Jackson and my comment about Bonjour were both jokes.

I understand the argument perfectly well, that's pretty much lame for you to end with such a pot shot. I get it, it's not particularly complicated or hard to get. I just don't buy it because I think it is a weak argument (Jackson rejects it for similar reasons, and I presume he understands the argument).

My initial counter defeats a certain type of antimaterialist reading of Mary (the most common I run into in practice with people that throw Mary out there, people who have simply not thought it through). But you are right there are additional wrinkles the dualist or materialist can add that need a different response (phenomenal concepts).

Incidentally, I am indeed a bit out of the loop in the latest philosophy of consciousness. I don't know who has said what. I do try to keep up with the latest trends in thought, though. Luckily the progress in philosophy is so slow that it isn't that difficult to stay apprised of the latest "developments" coming from the armchair pilots.

Oh I almost forgot: nobody replied about Lightning Mary, so I win. Physicalism is true. If you disagree, you just don't get it.

Anonymous said...

BDK: Anon that comment about Jackson and my comment about Bonjour were both jokes.

Anon: I apologize for not picking up on that and I really did not intend to take a pot shot; I was perhaps being too blunt and insensitive. Perhaps I am just the one who cannot grasp your rebuttal to the Knowledge Argument then.

Regarding the slow progress of philosophy, what do you think is needed to remedy that situation? Do we just need more intelligent philosophers? Or should we just give up philosophy altogether and all do neuroscience in order to answer the deep questions about consciousness. It seems if we took the latter route, you wouldn't have had much to say on the matter in this thread.

On Lightning Mary, when I get over this flu in a couple dys, I'll need to take a few hours and sift through this book of a thread to find her, and then see if I understand your rebuttal adequaetely enough to respond.

Anyway, again, I apologize for offending you. I've learned *alot* on this thread and have you to thank for that.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon no worries.

I like to get digs in at philosophy every now and then but obviously I find it entertaining.

I think philosophers should keep doing what they do. Philosophy can't move all that quickly. It's too hard to do well, and too hard to creatively push human thinking in directions it has never been before.

But every fifty years or so it seems to happen: Russell, Sellars, ...unfortunately I'm not sure if we'll have another Kant or Hume type in this age of incredible overspecialization.

The most impressed I've been by a philosopher recently (other than Dretske) is Peter Koellner at Harvard. That guy is in a league of his own with mathematical logic, and he gave a great talk about Godel, mind, and Penrose here last Friday. But he's a great example of the type of genius hyperspecialization you have to have to really push forward. He was able to integrate Godel, Tarski (that's old news, been done) and 'epistemic arithmetic' (basically a logical system with a 'knows that' operator) into a really interesting charitable reconstruction of Penrose's argument (Penrose's argument fails in this charitable logical reconstruction but it was a ridiculous tour de force)...wait for the paper it will be a nice crank of the dialectic. The guy is just a genius.

Tempted to put Putnam up there as great modern thinker, for Twin Earth alone, but he has never created a more synoptic vision that holds together in a nice way (not to mention he constantly is revising his views so you never know what version of Putnam you will get).

There are plenty of greats out there with more narrow foci. By my lights, Dretske rises way up there.

Anyway, I did find philosophy extremely tedious personally when it was my only focus in life in grad school, but as a hobby it is great. I enjoy reading, and contributing, to philosophyofbrains.com. That may be my main source (aside from this site) of philosophical contact with the world outside of lab.

Lightning Mary is here. She is an ingenious crank of the Mary dialectic, inspired from Dennett.

Anonymous said...

Well, despite my "pot shot", it is honestly amazing that you have as good of a grasp of the philosphical material as you do, though that is not your profession. And, being a neuroscientist, you're in such a great position to discuss the mind-body stuff. So I hope you continue to think about these things and eventually publish on it. Obviously your debate partners should be more along the lines of some of the guest appearances on this thread.

I hear you on the tediousness. I was taking an external course for my B.A. in philosophy several years back. Having a daughter and then going through a divorce ultimately caused me to cave, but even prior to that I was having second thoughts. I personally had to come to the realization that I wasn't *really* bright enough to make any major/original contributions to the field, and to be honest, I had a very hard time even grasping some of the concepts in my course on Philosophic Logic.

I read when I can though, I guess just for fun as well.

Gibbering Loon said...

"Does Mary1 know what it is like to see red, but Mary2 does not? When shown a red color chip, will Mary1 know what color it is? Will Mary2?"

I don't see the force of this argument.

The dualist can surely consistently defend either

yes, yes, no

or like you

no, yes, yes.

The former if change in a brain state isn't sufficient for a change in soul state, and the latter if it is.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Loon the point is Mary2 has never seen red, but has the same concepts as Mary1, she knows what it is like to see red. She will, at the very least, be able to pick out the correct color chip. She should be behaviorally indistinguishable from Mary1 (though the argument wouldn't work for versions of dualism in which that is not the case: certain strong versions of substance dualism, though the view defended in such a case would end up looking very strange--some versions would have to say that Mary2 is a color zombie).

Gibbering Loon said...

"She will, at the very least, be able to pick out the correct color chip. She should be behaviorally indistinguishable from Mary1"

But the dualist can deny that this is possible to do via lightning strikes or anything else - you can't, by zapping the brain, give her full-blooded color concepts (unless the lightning places the brain in the same state as it is in when it is actually seeing a color, but why would a dualist deny that that would prompt a genuine experience of red?).

I think the only other way do this is by adding new psychophysical laws to the effect that when the brain is in this lighting-state then full-blooded color concepts follow. Or alternatively, you change the brain such that it forces actions from the subject in a way behaviorally indistinguishable from someone who has the whole hog color-wise. (A color zombie.) But then it is no surprise that this is odd - you have radically changed the way the brain works!

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