Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Is the mental on the ground floor?


BI asked: How does supernaturalism solve the problem of consciousness?
To respond to this, I am transferring in some material I posted on Dangerous Idea 2, which eventually became part of my essay in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Here's the general idea: when we call something material, or even natural, we are presuming that, at the basic level of analysis, mental characteristics are not present. If, on the other hand, the basic building blocks of the universe are not restricted to the non-mental, then the mental is already present at the basic level of analysis. With naturalistic views, as I am understanding them, we start with a supervenience base that is mental-free, and then we have to account for the existence of mind. With "supernaturalistic" views (and I don't really like the term here, but OK, though Lewis had no problem with it), you start with the mental on the ground floor, so it is far less difficult to see how the mental could arise. It is not to be completely explained in terms of the non-mental. 

There are four features of the mental which someone who denies the ultimacy of mind maintain must not be found on the rock bottom level of the universe. The first mark of the mental is purpose. If there is purpose in the world, it betokens the existence of a mind that has that purpose. So for anyone who denies the ultimacy of the mind, an explanation in terms of purposes requires a further non-purposive explanation to account for the purpose explanation. The second mark of the mental is intentionality or about-ness. Genuinely non-mental states are not about anything at all. The third mark of the mental is normativity. If there is normativity, there has to be a mind for which something is normative. A normative explanation must be explained further in terms of the non-normative. Finally, the fourth mark of the mental is subjectivity. If there is a perspective from which something is viewed, that means, once again, that a mind is present. A genuinely non-mental account of a state of affairs will leave out of account anything that indicates what it is like to be in that state.
If the mind is not ultimate, then any explanation that is given in terms of any of these four marks must be given a further explanation in which these marks are washed out of the equation.
IV. Minimal Materialism
There seem to be three minimal characteristics of a world-view which affirms that the mind is not ultimate. First, the “basic level” must be mechanistic, and by that I mean that it is free of purpose, free of intentionality, free of normativity, and free of subjectivity. It is not implied here that a naturalistic world must be deterministic. However, whatever is not deterministic in such a world is brute chance and nothing more.
Second, “basic level” must be causally closed. Nothing that exists independently from the physical world can cause anything to occur in the physical world. Second, the level of basic physics must be causally closed. That is, if a physical event has a cause at time t, then it has a physical cause at time t. Even that cause is not a determining cause; there cannot be something non-physical that plays a role in producing a physical event. If you knew everything about the physical level (the laws and the facts) before an event occurred, you could add nothing to your ability to predict where the particles will be in the future by knowing anything about anything outside of basic physics.
Third, whatever is not physical, at least if it is in space and time, must supervene on the physical. Given the physical, everything else is a necessary consequence. In short, what the world is at bottom is a mindless system of events at the level of fundamental particles, and everything else that exists must exist in virtue of what is going on at that basic level. This understanding of a broadly materialist world-view is not a tendentiously defined form of reductionism; it is what most people who would regard themselves as being in the broadly materialist camp would agree with, a sort of “minimal materialism.” Not only that, but I maintain that any world-view that could reasonably be called “naturalistic” is going to have these features, and the difficulties that I will be advancing against a “broadly materialist” world-view thus defined will be a difficulty that will exist for any kind of naturalism that I can think of.

150 comments:

BeingItself said...

You are begging the question.

ingx24 said...

See, usually, when you say "you are begging the question", you're supposed to EXPLAIN HOW THEY ARE BEGGING THE QUESTION. Why don't you try that instead of making blind accusations?

BeingItself said...

He is assuming what he was asked to explain.

What explains consciousness? Consciousness.

That won't work.

Most of the OP was just a explication of his understanding naturalism. At no point do I see an argument for how supernaturalism better explains consciousness.

ingx24 said...

What explains the laws of physics?

If something explains the laws of physics, then what explains that?

Explanations have to stop somewhere, otherwise we have an infinite regress. Victor's proposal is that consciousness doesn't need an explanation because it is fundamental. He is not begging the question.

BeingItself said...

"What explains the laws of physics?"

I have no idea. I don't pretend to know things I don't know.

Offering up consciousness as a brute fact is not an explanation. The naturalist likewise could just assert consciousness as a brute inexplicable fact of nature. But you would not let the naturalist get away with that.

I agree though, either we have an infinite regress of explanations or we have some brute fact(s). How will we ever know which?

Martin said...

>At no point do I see an argument for how supernaturalism better explains consciousness.

The whole blog is centered around his book which does just that. And the article in the Blackwell Companion.

Briefly, it's the argument from reason.

If naturalism is true, then everything is a physical cause.

Mental events are therefore physical causes.

Physical causes are non rational.

Therefore, if naturalism is true, all mental events are non rational.

BeingItself said...

"Physical causes are non rational."

What does that mean?

im-skeptical said...

"What does that mean?"

We had a discussion about this some time ago. I think they use the term 'non rational' as a synonym for 'material' because it allows them to equivocate between 'non rational' and 'irrational'. That constitutes their 'proof' (in the argument from rationality) that a purely physical brain cannot be the source of rational thought. Check out the argument for yourself.

Martin said...

I wonder why you hang out on these blogs if you don't read the material that they are centered around....?

Physical causes include:

Rock rolling down hill and hitting tree

Atoms being split by other atoms.

Electrons moving to a higher orbit.

These are all non-rational. They don't have minds. They don't think. They don't do it because it is more logical to do X instead of Y. The just happen.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

>I think they use the term 'non rational' as a synonym for 'material' because it allows them to equivocate between 'non rational' and 'irrational'.

Atoms don't split, lightning doesn't start fires, and rivers don't run downhill because they are consciously trying to do so and think that this is the most logical course of action.

Unless you want to think that mind is everywhere, which I know you don't.

A rock falls into the river not because it is "rational" for it to do so, but because gravity pulled it that way.

Steven Carr said...

' Nothing that exists independently from the physical world can cause anything to occur in the physical world.'

So the rules of chess have no effect whatever on what a chess-playing computer does?

Steven Carr said...

'Victor's proposal is that consciousness doesn't need an explanation because it is fundamental. '

So Victor's claim is that he has no need to explain how an unconscious person becomes conscious?

And he does not need to explain why a rock is not conscious?

Surely it is a cop-out on a huge scale to duck the need to explain why some things are conscious and others aren't.

But Victor does have an explanation....

'God did it'.

Mr Veale said...

"I think they use the term 'non rational' as a synonym for 'material' because it allows them to equivocate between 'non rational' and 'irrational'."

they????Who is they? Do you think these concepts have been conjured up by Christian apologists?

Look, read Dale Jacquette or Tim Crane or John Searle. They all draw attention to the differences between the physical and the mental.

And Vic has a book which discusses and addresses the charge of equivocation...

Mr Veale said...

Steve

As always you're boasting because the argument has sailed over your head.

A few hints:

Fundamental = basic property

Like "charge" or "spin" if you're a physicalist

And in this case it isn't "God-did-it". It's "God-is-it"

Graham

Hal said...
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Hal said...
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Hal said...

I don't understand.
If consciousness is simply a brute fact why should that pose a threat to a world-view that rejects theism?

BeingItself said...

So, I have become convinced that naturalism cannot explain consciousness. However, I am uncomfortable with the promiscuous ontology of orthodox Christianity with all its angels, demons, gods, ghosts, heavens, hells, devils and the like.

Instead I think the true metaphysical story is naturalism plus. Plus what?

Mind Fairies.

Naturalism + Mind Fairies is just like naturalism as described by Vic except for every particle in the universe there is an immaterial Mind Fairy that rides herd on it, giving it a smidgen of subjective experience. So with extremely complex systems, like humans brains, all the smidgens add up or bolster each other or something. Maybe it's exponential.

I'm still ironing out the kinks.

So, consciousness explained. Amirite?

Martin said...

BeingItself,

Panpsychism.

Bertrand Russell advocated a form of it. So does David Chalmers.

BeingItself said...

Panpsychism holds a kind of property dualism for all particles.

Naturalism + Mind Fairies is explicitly substance dualistic. It has the advantage that the Mind Fairies riding herd on your brain can maintain their pattern of interaction when your brain dies.

ingx24 said...

I think we should take BeingItself's resort to sarcasm and ridicule as a sign of defeat on his part and a victory on our part, since he obviously has no real arguments left.

All in favor?

Martin said...

Aye. "When you have no basis for argument, abuse the plaintiff" - Cicero

BeingItself said...

ingx24,

I have offered neither sarcasm nor ridicule. Rather, I am showing that when you permit yourself unbridled ontology, then any problem can be "solved".

Martin said...

The difference is that dualisms have arguments for their position and not just assertions.

Another difference is that dualism is not an inference to the best explanation, but rather is deductive and demonstrative (although could still have false premises), unlike your fairy example.

BeingItself said...

Explain how Victors argument in this post is better than my own?

Martin said...

He didn't make an argument.

He simply described physicalism, as most physicalists would agree with it: no dualism, no teleology, causal closure of the physical.

Zach said...

Victor I don't think this quite gets you to supernatural, it just gets you to a rejection of vulgar materialism. That is fine with me, but also a bit easy. But given that, I could easily be an atheist dualist like Chalmers and other panpsychists. That said, they have problems with epiphenomenalism, but the interactionist dualist libertarian does not. And the best way to make that work is to step outside of the causal fabric of nature, into the realm of souls and such.

Zach said...

That is, once you introduce freedom on the ground floor (or at least one floor up from The Ground), it gets much harder to be a naturalist of any type.

Hal said...

"The difference is that dualisms have arguments for their position and not just assertions.

Another difference is that dualism is not an inference to the best explanation, but rather is deductive and demonstrative (although could still have false premises), unlike your fairy example."

Claiming that consciousness is a brute fact in no need of explanation is hardly an argument for accepting a theistic world view. It is quite compatible with atheism.

Papalinton said...

At base Victor, one would be given to think that Christian Theism is the natural and only legitimate rival to Metaphysical Naturalism.
That is either (1) a highly presumptuous a priori viewpoint or (2) a largely insular and ignorant position.

If Metaphysical Naturalism is indeed the antithesis, the alternative of Christian Theism as a world view [as Plantinga, Feser, NT Wright et al most assuredly believe], how do the precepts of Christian Theism account for the belief systems and worldviews of the other 5 billion people on this planet? It seems to me such a philosophical perspective is tantamount to either assuming Christian Theism is the default alternative representing all other faiths and religious traditions and customs, or, it dismisses out of hand the thousands of other faiths, Islam, Hindu, Buddhism, Tao, Scientology, not least the tens of thousands of traditional religions and theistic traditions extant.

I would say, a tad arrogant and immodest, no?

Metaphysical Naturalism as the basic driver of modern philosophy has not grown over the past couple centuries without good reason. It has grown because Christian Theism, supernaturalism, is increasingly becoming untenable as a worldview. So much reliance on supernaturalism is a stultifying condition which too easily concedes the hard questions and challenges to an amorphous [putative] realm of supernatural agents that are supposedly the engineers and maintenance crew of the immaterial. This is not an explanation. It is an excuse. And another reason is that it is a universal stance, not constrained by the prescriptive and proscriptive imperatives of parochial cultural interests as is Christian Theism, because Christian Theism is not a universally acknowledged worldview. Indeed far from it. It is at best a peculiarly Christian and western sectional interest.

You say, "Not only that, but I maintain that any world-view that could reasonably be called “naturalistic” is going to have these features, and the difficulties that I will be advancing against a “broadly materialist” world-view thus defined will be a difficulty that will exist for any kind of naturalism that I can think of."

The three features you earlier mention are those that largely outline Metaphysical Naturalism. Will your about-to-be-identified difficulties with naturalism, also be consistent with and representative of the Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and traditional religions worldviews? Or will it be a largely Christian-centric perspective?

At bottom, whatever Christian Theism might say about Metaphysical Naturalism will be constrained by, and can only be viewed within the context of it being a non-representative alternative to naturalism. If one does not believe in Christian Theism, as do 5 billion people, then whatever about-to-be-identified difficulties with naturalism you propose is moot. Modern philosophy has moved on from the rearguard activities of religious philosophers and Metaphysical Naturalism increasingly becomes the paradigm that best meets the challenges of explanation going forward, despite some acknowledged areas of fuzziness. That fuzziness, however, does not seem to be an impediment to the whole enterprise. Whereas, supernaturalism is increasingly becoming problematical and difficult to defend.

Hal said...

"I have offered neither sarcasm nor ridicule. Rather, I am showing that when you permit yourself unbridled ontology, then any problem can be "solved"."

And that is only one of the problems with Victor's "argument".

There is also the begging the question of what "causation" is and what "mental" is, for example. There is much philosophical disagreement over the meaning of those concepts.

Martin said...

Hal,

>There is also the begging the question of what "causation" is and what "mental" is, for example.

Most physicalists would agree with Dr Reppert's explication of their position. Physicalists say there is no dualism, there is no teleology, and the physical world is causally closed.

Hal said...

"Most physicalists would agree with Dr Reppert's explication of their position. Physicalists say there is no dualism, there is no teleology, and the physical world is causally closed."

That still doesn't explain what a "cause" really is.
It could very well be that physicalists and supernaturalists are both mistaken in that regard.

I do agree that many of the views that physicalists hold are rather crude and unpersuasive. But to imply that such physicalism is the only legitimate view that a non-theist (or a non-supernaturalist) can hold strikes me as rather silly. There is much more diversity in the naturalist camp than Victor is allowing for. For example, take a look at some of John Dupré's writings.


BeingItself said...

Martin said:

"He didn't make an argument."

Bingo.

"He simply described physicalism, as most physicalists would agree with it: no dualism, no teleology, causal closure of the physical."

Right. The OP is merely a critique of physicalism. And it seems to me, this is all Victor ever does. He raises issues he thinks that make naturalism and or physicalism implausible.

Fine.

But what I have been asking and asking for is an argument for Christian Theism that shows how it solves the problems he raises.

But as others have pointed out, Christian Theism is not some default position that is shown true simply by showing naturalism is false. Someone on another thread claimed that if naturalism is false, then Aristotle's metaphysics must be true! I kid you not.

Martin said...

BeingItself,

>But as others have pointed out, Christian Theism is not some default position that is shown true simply by showing naturalism is false

Right, but Victor does not intend to argue for that in these types of articles. The Blackwell Companion has a chapter devoted to the resurrection written by the McGrews, but most of the other chapters, including Dr Reppert's, have only generic monotheism as their conclusions and that is all they intend.

>Someone on another thread claimed that if naturalism is false, then Aristotle's metaphysics must be true!

>Someone on another thread claimed that if naturalism is false, then Aristotle's metaphysics must be true!

What I said was that one way of arguing would be like this:

1. Aristotelianism says there are final and formal causes
2. Aristotelianism, via Thomas Aquinas, is inherently theistic
3. The mechanistic philosophy inherent in physicalism says that there are no final and formal causes; there are only material and efficient causes
4. If it can be shown that final and formal causes are real, then Aristotelianism is true and mechanistic philosophy is false
5. Therefore, if it can be shown that final and formal causes are real, generic monotheism is true

That is a sketch, not a full argument. I never said that if naturalism is false, then Aristotelianism must be true. I said that if final and formal causes are real, then Aristotelianism must be true.

Zach said...

BeingItself wrote:
"Christian Theism is not some default position that is shown true simply by showing naturalism is false."

But it gains in probability by showing naturalism is false. That's just math. Ask Doctor Logic. :)

BeingItself said...

"I never said that if naturalism is false, then Aristotelianism must be true."

I'm pretty sure you did. What thread was that?

"But it gains in probability by showing naturalism is false."

No, it does not. There are infinite wrong answers to a question. Dr Logic must be bad at math.

BeingItself said...

"only generic monotheism as their conclusions and that is all they intend"

OK. But asserting that the mental is "on the ground floor" as a brute fact does not get you to theism, mono or otherwise.

Martin said...

BeingItself,

What I said was: "The worldview that opposes Aristotelianism (mechanistic philosophy) reduces to absurdity, and therefore Aristotelianism must be true, and theism is tied with it."

That is a brief sketch, which unpacked means:

1. If mechanistic philosophy is true, then final and formal causes do not exist
2. If final and formal causes do not exist, then this reduces to absurdity
3. If this reduces to absurdity, then final and formal causes are real
4. If final and formal causes are real, then Aristotelianism is true
5. If Aristotelianism is true, then generic monotheism is true

Martin said...

>But asserting that the mental is "on the ground floor" as a brute fact does not get you to theism, mono or otherwise.

And Victor never said it does. He said that it increases the probability of theism. It gives one point to theism over naturalism. The case in the Blackwell Companion is cumulative. Another chapter in the book on Leibnizian cosmological arguments also does not get to theism, but only to an explanation of the universe that is necessarily existent. Not even a personal or intelligent being.

But they are all pieces of the puzzle, each individual piece contributing a small piece of the picture but not the whole thing.

BeingItself said...

Thanks for the clarification. You did originally say what I thought you said.

BeingItself said...

"He said that it increases the probability of theism. It gives one point to theism over naturalism."

How so?

Subtracting a point from naturalism does not give theism a point. Maybe the point should be awarded to Buddhism or Scientology.



Martin said...

>You did originally say what I thought you said.

But I didn't. You thought I said, "If naturalism is false, then Aristotelianism is true", which I did not. I said, "If the denial of final and formal causes reduces to absurdity, then final and formal causes exist" and "If final and formal causes exist, then Aristotelianism is true."

>Subtracting a point from naturalism does not give theism a point. Maybe the point should be awarded to Buddhism or Scientology.

The case in the Blackwell Companion is cumulative. Another chapter in the book on Leibnizian cosmological arguments also does not get to theism, but only to an explanation of the universe that is necessarily existent. Not even a personal or intelligent being.

But they are all pieces of the puzzle, each individual piece contributing a small piece of the picture but not the whole thing.

Hal said...

"And Victor never said it does. He said that it increases the probability of theism."

I don't see how. A brute fact is simply a brute fact.

If consciousness is a brute fact it simply means that a naturalist need not provide an explanation for it.



Victor Reppert said...

Martin: On a side note, I sent your powerpoints to William Hasker, and he sent me back some feedback that you might find to be of some use.

E-mail me at vreppert @ hotmail . com

Martin said...

Hal,

>If consciousness is a brute fact it simply means that a naturalist need not provide an explanation for it.

What they are getting at is that it is a fundamental element of the universe, if the arguments work.

Of course you are right. David Chalmers is an atheist and naturalist who postulates that mind is a fundamental element alongside matter.

But in an overall, cumulative case for Christian theism, one of those puzzle pieces would be to show that mind is somehow fundamental, both because that's what God is, and because humans are supposed to have an immortal soul.

So showing that mind is fundamental is a necessary but not sufficient piece of the puzzle for the Christian theist to argue.

Hal said...

Martin,

Why are you equating mind with consciousness?

I would agree that we can attribute minds to a small subset of the conscious substances we encounter on this planet, but I don't think they are the same thing.

Are you now claiming it is a brute fact that the universe has a mind?

I am not sure you are really taking into account the vastly different coneptions that philosophers have of such things as "cause" or "mind" or "consciousness".



Martin said...

I'm not claiming anything.

The arguments purport to show that mind cannot be accounted for in terms of physics, and therefore must be somehow fundamental.

That is, as I said, necessary but insufficient for making a case for Christian theism.

Whether they do so successfully or not is not something I'm taking a side on either way.

BeingItself said...

Can someone point me to a resource that explicitly argues for how supernaturalism explains consciousness? There must be an argument out there.

I'm not looking merely for more arguments about the alleged problems consciousness poses for naturalism or physicalism.

Thanks.

Martin said...

BeingItself,

Yes. Dr Reppert's book CS Lewis' Dangerous Idea, and his article in the Blackwell Companion, and his article on Infidels: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/victor_reppert/reason.html



BeingItself said...

Martin,

The word "consciousness" does not appear in that article on infidels.

Anyone else?

Martin said...

>The word "consciousness" does not appear in that article on infidels.

Then try J.P. Moreland in the Blackwell Companion. He has a whole book on this as well.

BeingItself said...

Martin,

Thanks, but I have good evidence that you are unreliable. There must be something online.

Martin said...

I don't know what my reliability or lack thereof has to do with the established fact that J.P. Moreland has an article and a book concerning arguing God from consciousness, which is exactly what you asked for.

Whether there is or is not something online by Moreland, I do not know, but I'm sure some Googling will reveal the answer.

Aha! Here you go. Bill Vallicella nicely summarizes it:

http://prosblogion.ektopos.com/archives/2010/01/j-p-moreland-on.html

BeingItself said...

Thanks Martin. Vallicella points out exactly the criticism I have been making. Moreland, like Reppert, simply begs the question. From the review:

"You demand an explanation for the existence of mental states, and you argue that this explanation cannot be natural-scientific. This leads you to posit God as explanatory of mental states in us. But God is a mind and presumably enjoys mental states. What then explains the divine mental states? If the divine mental states do not require explanation, then why do ours?"

Exactly.

I think what might be at the heart of the dispute is what constitutes an explanation. In my view, no part of an explanation can contain what is being explained. If I was to explain digestion, I would talk of absorption and enzymes and chemical bonds and the like. The word "digestion" could be no part of my explanation.

And so the consciousness of God can not be legitimately used as an explanation of consciousness itself.

The response might be, well, such an explanation can't be had. Consciousness is irreducible.

And that may be true. And if it is, then theism is in no better position to explain consciousness than is naturalism.

Papalinton said...

From BeingItself:
"And so the consciousness of God can not be legitimately used as an explanation of consciousness itself.
The response might be, well, such an explanation can't be had. Consciousness is irreducible.
And that may be true. And if it is, then theism is in no better position to explain consciousness than is naturalism."


Re Consciousness. In part:

"Science would indeed be incapable of explaining consciousness if mental experiences were the properties of non-material souls, whose operations would have to remain totally mysterious from the perspective of the mechanisms that physicists, chemists, biologists, and psychologists use to explain what happens. But there is scant evidence for the view that minds are anything more than brains, so non-materialism does not seem to generate a barrier for explaining consciousness. Another possibility is that consciousness is just too complicated to be understood by human minds that evolved to find food, water, shelter, and mates in simple environments. But these minds have been able to create marvelous cultural tools such as written language, mathematics, and scientific instruments from telescopes to brain scanning machines. So it would be premature by centuries to give up on the attempt to find scientific explanations of mental processes including consciousness.

In fact, major progress is being made both experimentally and theoretically in unraveling the mysteries of consciousness. Skeptics should check out the web sites of some of the major researchers on consciousness, including: ...."
Read it HERE

So the question to ask is: Do we look through the windscreen of science facing forward or do we look in the rear-view mirror of theology for the answers?

It seems to me that naturalism has the greater potential for discovering the truths supported by the evidence.









ingx24 said...

But there is scant evidence for the view that minds are anything more than brains

Scientism at some of its finest. If science can't observe irreducible mental states, then dammit, they just ain't real. Mental states must be nothing more than electrochemical reactions or they are nothing at all. So says the great and powerful authority of Science(TM).

Hal said...

BeingItself,
"I think what might be at the heart of the dispute is what constitutes an explanation. In my view, no part of an explanation can contain what is being explained. If I was to explain digestion, I would talk of absorption and enzymes and chemical bonds and the like. The word "digestion" could be no part of my explanation."

I think you have hit on it.

What is interesting is that this also appears to be the argument Victor is making against physical reductionism: that it is incapable of providing such an explanation without somehow sneaking in what it is trying to explain.

But one can be a physicalist without being committed to reductionism.

Martin said...

>But there is scant evidence for the view that minds are anything more than brains

There is some evidence. Materialism is divided into three: reduction, non-reduction, and eliminativism. Reduction says that the mind IS the brain, in the way your article says. But this form of materialism is dead and buried, and has been so since the 1970s. Look up Hilary Putnam and "multiple realizability" if you don't believe me.

Briefly, to take the stock example, if pain IS the firing of C fibers, then anyone who doesn't have C fibers (aliens? robots?) cannot, by definition, feel pain. We would have to rule out a priori the possibility of aliens and robots being able to feel pain. But surely the scientismist wants to say that we need to discover these things empirically, not decide the truth based on armchair philosophizing. In fact, this theory has already been disproved empirically. We can witness brain cells "picking up the slack" and taking over the duties of other brain cells when they are damaged.

No, I'm sorry. Reductive physicalism is long dead.

One down, two to go!

Non-reductive physicalism says, to stick with the example, that pain is an algorithm that can be implemented on different physical substrates. "Input tissue damage, process, and output screaming." That algorithm can be realized by C fibers in humans, or perhaps gamma fibers in aliens, and silicon circuits in robots. Many different physical systems can realize the algorithm we call "pain". This is the obvious solution to the problem with reductive physicalism.

But now you have more problems. Could a system be running the pain program but not be mental, or consious? Could it input tissue damage, and output screaming, and yet...not be conscious at all? Clearly, yes. Any robot could be programmed to do that. Per non-reductive physicalism then, we would have to say that the robot is in pain. Even though it is "dark upstairs" and doesn't have any first person experience.

Secondly, non-reductive physicalism faces the problem of making the mind epiphenomenal: completely devoid of any causal effect at all. If the brain realizes the mind (the feel of pain), and the brain causes the action (running away and screaming), then the brain is the only active player. The feel of pain did not cause you to scream and run away. So the mind becomes a dangler and utterly without effect. The scientist did not publish his research in the journal Nature because he believed it to be sound, or because he desired to advance human knowledge. No, he published his research because electrons pulled his hand one way, and then the other. And ions caused a charge in a certain region of his brain, which caused his hand to move. That's right. The research was done entirely by his brain, and not his mind. The scientist is just along for the ride. "Whoa! I wonder which journal my brain is going to publish in next! Will it be Science? Or maybe a follow-up in Nature! I can't wait to find out!"

This is clearly not what we see when we observe the scientist.

So two down, and one to go!

And eliminativism isn't really taken seriously by very many materialists, since it simply denies that there is a mind. See above for the problems with denying that mental events play any role in the scientist publishing his research in a journal. Also, see "A Particularly Compelling Argument against Eliminative Materialism", by William Lycan (google it).

So there you go. All three forms of materialism seem to be severely lacking if not downright incoherent.

So, no, I'm afraid that your article, Papalinton, is severely overconfident. As are all who lack awareness. Awareness brings doubt. Lack of awareness brings unjustified confidence.



Hal said...

Victor,
"Not only that, but I maintain that any world-view that could reasonably be called “naturalistic” is going to have these features, and the difficulties that I will be advancing against a “broadly materialist” world-view thus defined will be a difficulty that will exist for any kind of naturalism that I can think of."

I don't think that to be true.

You seem to me to be equating naturalism with physicalist reductionism, but I think many if not most naturalists would consider themselves to be physicalist anti-reductionists. Leastways if one is talking about professional philosophers, not just those amateurs like myself who post their speculations online.

There is an online discussion between John Dupré and Alex Rosenberg which can be found here:

http://www.philostv.com/john-dupr-and-alex-rosenberg/

Here is the description of that discussion:
According to physicalism, there is no non-physical stuff. According to reductionism, all facts can be captured by some purely physical description of the world. Nowadays, physicalist anti-reductionism is orthodox among philosophers. In this debate, Dupré defends that orthodoxy, while Rosenberg defends a considerably less popular view: physicalist reductionism.

Hal said...

Martin,
Interesting post. I agree with much of it.

I consider myself a physicalist of the non-reductive variety. I find the view that the mind is an agent that can act on things to be quite mistaken. It is the person who has a mind that acts and refrains from acting.

My views are much closer to Aristotelian and Wittgensteinian monism.




WMF said...

"You demand an explanation for the existence of mental states, and you argue that this explanation cannot be natural-scientific. This leads you to posit God as explanatory of mental states in us. But God is a mind and presumably enjoys mental states. What then explains the divine mental states? If the divine mental states do not require explanation, then why do ours?"

The following argument is valid:
(1) We have mental states
(2) All mental states require explanation
(3) Only divine mental states can explain our mental states
(4) Therefore, a divine being exists

And of course the conjunction of (2) and (4) imply that we now have introduced new mental states that require explanation. However, unless we have reason to believe that there can be no explanation for the mental states of divine beings, this can not be turned into an objection to the above argument.

Papalinton said...

Martin, you are talking through your halo again.

"But this form of materialism is dead and buried, and has been so since the 1970s. Look up Hilary Putnam and "multiple realizability" if you don't believe me."

Silly statement really, full of wish fulfilling and fingers crossed behind one back with eyes tightly closed.

Putnam is a professed Jewish theist and a self-acknowledged believer in God. But not a personal God [Ben Yachov will be pleased to hear] of the type professed by Alvin Plantinga. At best, Putnam is an accommodationist that mistakenly thinks God and religion still have a role to play in society however peripheral that might be. So it is hardly surprising he would imagine materialism is dead. Far from it of course as you well know. You only have to read of Dr Feser's utter frustration at the prospect of materialism/naturalism gaining significant ground in contemporary philosophy into which supernaturalism and theism are increasingly losing territory.

But as a salve against the encroaching materialists, I have included for your delectation the following VIDEO of Putnam and Plantinga.

Happy viewing.

Papalinton said...

ingX24

Then what is the scantless evidence for separate minds and bodies other than 'feeling' it?

BeingItself said...

The following argument is valid:
(1) We have mental states
(2) All mental states require explanation
(3) Only Mind Fairy mental states can explain our mental states
(4) Therefore, Mind Fairies exist

Hal said...

Papalinton,
"Putnam is a professed Jewish theist and a self-acknowledged believer in God."

It would be nice if you could restrain yourself from the constant ad hom attacks.

Martin said...

Papalinton,

>Putnam is a professed Jewish theist and a self-acknowledged believer in God.

I'm confused. What does Putnam's status as a theist have to do with the soundness/unsoundness of his argument?

I explained why reductive physicalism is dead and you did not address it: "Briefly, to take the stock example, if pain IS the firing of C fibers, then anyone who doesn't have C fibers (aliens? robots?) cannot, by definition, feel pain. We would have to rule out a priori the possibility of aliens and robots being able to feel pain. But surely the scientismist wants to say that we need to discover these things empirically, not decide the truth based on armchair philosophizing. In fact, this theory has already been disproved empirically. We can witness brain cells "picking up the slack" and taking over the duties of other brain cells when they are damaged. "


WMF said...

The following argument is valid

Exactly. And the fact that no one can has an explanation for the mental states of mind faeries does not pose an objection to the argument.

The "mind faeries"-objection is a completely different issue. Even if the argument I sketched fails for the same reasons the "mind faeries"-argument fails, it does not help you advance your initial objection, because both arguments are immune to it.

Martin said...

Papalinton,

>Then what is the scantless evidence for separate minds and bodies other than 'feeling' it?

I don't think there are any arguments for dualism that consist of "feeling it".

One argument is that dualism is actually entailed by the materialist conception of matter. The materialists, following the footsteps of the early modern philosophers like Descartes and Locke, say that primary qualities like extension, mass, motion, etc are all real properties of matter. But secondary properties, like color, do not really exist out there in the world. They are just the way they appear to us, but are not "really there".

So matter is devoid of secondary properties, and conscious experience has secondary properties, and so therefore consciousness cannot be described in physical terms.

As Edward Feser explains, dualism follows from the materialists own conception of matter. Everything that didn't fall under "matter and motion" was defined as being "only in the mind": abstract objects, purpose and meaning, secondary properties, etc. Feser says it is like cleaning a house by sweeping all the dirt in it under a particular rug, and then claiming you are going to get rid of the rug the same way. But of course, the reality is that you are stuck with the rug now, and all that dirt under it.

Martin said...

BeingItself,

>Only Mind Fairy mental states can explain our mental states

This premise is false, or at least undefended. So the argument is unsound. In contrast, look at an argument for dualism:

1. According to materialism, matter is devoid of final causality and thus matter cannot "point" or "aim" at an end target or goal
2. The mind "points" and "aims" at targets and goals, as when it thinks about things, plans, intends, and so forth
3. Therefore, the mind is not matter

Premise 1 is true: per materialists, there is no teleology. Any materialist will tell you that.

Premise 2 is true: you are thinking about my comment right now, and intending to respond. You have goals and ends that you aim at and drive towards.

Notice the difference between these two arguments? Yours is an inference to the best explanation. The argument for dualism above is not. Rather, to escape the conclusion, you would have to figure out which premise is false.

Hal said...

Martin,
"1. According to materialism, matter is devoid of final causality and thus matter cannot "point" or "aim" at an end target or goal"

I'm having trouble following your argument. It is obvious that some forms of matter cannot be said to act for a reason, or to have a goal or aim. Why should that imply that no forms of matter can do so?

Depending on how matter is organized it can exhibit different properties. Because of the complexity (and the relationships that result from that complexity) of the physical substance we call humans it has those mental properties we refer to with the word "mind".

It is the physical form of a human being that gives her the capacity to act for a reason, to have goals and to think about things.

Martin said...

>It is obvious that some forms of matter cannot be said to act for a reason, or to have a goal or aim. Why should that imply that no forms of matter can do so?

The purpose of the argument was not to argue for dualism, but to illustrate why BeingItself's criticisms of dualism are aimed at something dualism does not argue.

The form of the arguments for dualism are NOT:

1. X is Y
2. Z is the best explanation for Y
3. Therefore, the explanation for Y is Z

They ARE:

1. No X is Y
2. All A is Y
3. Therefore, no A is X

That said, the reason why matter can't point to ends and goals is because there is no teleology, according to materialists. Reality is, at bottom, just particles bopping around and occasionally clumping together. None of the particles aim or target specific ends.

Hal said...

Martin,
"That said, the reason why matter can't point to ends and goals is because there is no teleology, according to materialists. Reality is, at bottom, just particles bopping around and occasionally clumping together. None of the particles aim or target specific ends."

I don't see you addressing my point.

The fact that some forms of matter do not act with a goal does not imply that no forms of matter can act with a goal.

Zach said...

Systematic tendency to instantiate fallacy of composition in this thread. Just because lower-level things don't have property X doesn't mean higher-level doesn't. Individual carbon atoms don't photosynthesize. It isn't enough to say the ground floor doesn't have property X. Even with my 'freedom' based argument above I cannot make this move, obviously.

im-skeptical said...

"1. According to materialism, matter is devoid of final causality and thus matter cannot "point" or "aim" at an end target or goal
2. The mind "points" and "aims" at targets and goals, as when it thinks about things, plans, intends, and so forth
3. Therefore, the mind is not matter"

Equivocation. The final causality of #1 is your conception of divine purpose, which does not exist. The aboutness of #2 is not at all the same thing. It is merely objectiveness, which can and does exist. The argument is not valid.

Martin said...

Zach,

>Just because lower-level things don't have property X doesn't mean higher-level doesn't.

The problem is that if the lower levels "pass teleology up" or whatever, then the very act of "passing teleology" is itself teleological. The materialist needs to say that the lower levels are completely and utterly devoid of teleology. In which case they can't pass anything anywhere. In which case they can't pass teleology up to the higher levels. In which case the higher levels can't have teleology either.

Martin said...

Hal,

>The fact that some forms of matter do not act with a goal does not imply that no forms of matter can act with a goal.

You can read more here.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

I never said anything about divine anything. By "final cause" I mean that something aims or points at a specific end effect or target.

An A-Tist would say that "reproduction" is the final cause of life. It is the effect towards which life "points" or "aims" in a way it does NOT point or aim at making earthquakes or draining the highlands.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

It is divine purpose that materialists deny. If you were to say "Matter is devoid of objectiveness" my reply would be "Thoughts are about things, and thoughts are material in nature. Books are about things, too." So if you want to assert that there can be no objectiveness in a materialist view of things, you will need to provide some substantiation for that. Otherwise it is nothing more than a bald assertion, and is is inconsistent with what we observe.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

>It is divine purpose that materialists deny

Not only that, but purpose in anything, divine or not. Any purpose is purpose we create, but there is no purpose "out there".

>"Thoughts are about things, and thoughts are material in nature. Books are about things, too."

Whether thoughts are material or not is precisely the view in question, so it is no good to just assert it.

Books are only about things because we apply meaning to them. Their aboutness is derived, not original. I've gone over this with you before so this will be the last time: the ink marks in a book, the pixels on a computer screen, and so on are devoid of aboutness in virtue of just their physical properties. They have aboutness only because intelligent creatures chose to assign meaning (arbitrarily) to them.

This is no better than pointing to a pebble, saying that the pebble represents the Battle of Ypres in the First World War, and then saying, "See? There is no problem. That pebble is entirely material and yet it represents the Battle of Ypres!"

im-skeptical said...

"Books are only about things because we apply meaning to them. Their aboutness is derived, not original."

There are apparently two different kinds of 'aboutness' that you are talking about. Yes, we did discuss this before, and I pointed out that there is something called information, which is physical. Books contain information, and when we read them, our minds assign meaning to the words. But the information itself is 'about' something in the sense that is references real things independently of any mental process. Thoughts themselves are the same. The physical states of the brain contain information about things in the same manner as a book does. When we experience a thought we are invoking that stored information, and then we may or may not perform another mental activity, which is assigning meaning to the thoughts. So the first kind of 'aboutness' is informational and devoid of meaning (in its own right). The second kind of 'aboutness' is meaning itself, which by definition only happens in a cognizant mind. But the first kind of aboutness exists in a book or a thought.

Martin said...

>information, which is physical.

Whether information is physical or not is precisely the view in question, so it does no good to just assert that it is.

>But the information itself is 'about' something in the sense that is references real things independently of any mental process.

A book isn't independent of mental processes. That's the point I've been trying (in vain) to make with you. A book contains ink marks. Those ink marks are not about anything outside of the world of the English language and our decision to assign aboutness to those ink marks. Considered in virtue of just it's physical properties, the following markings are not about anything at all: battle. They have a certain charge, spin, length, width, height, density, and so on. But only because we humans have decided to assign a certain aboutness to them do they refer to conflicts between two groups of humans.

Again, this is no better than pointing to a pebble, saying that the pebble represents the Battle of Ypres in the First World War, and then saying, "See? There is no problem. That pebble is entirely material and yet it represents the Battle of Ypres!"

The only difference is that your ancestors assigned the aboutness to the pebble rather than you, but the point remains. Physical objects are only about something when intelligent agents assign that aboutness to them.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

Again, there are two senses of the word 'aboutness' as I described. Information is indeed physical, and I think I previously provided some links that included real physicists discussing the physical nature of information. So this is not just a bald assertion.

A book contains ink marks. Those ink marks contain information, and the information is about something in the first sense of the word that I described. This is independent of mind.

Meaning doesn't come into the picture until AFTER a mind has fetched some information and begin to perform higher-level cognitive processes with that information. That is the 'aboutness' you refer to in the second sense of the word.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

No, I am not talking about two different versions of meaning. It is you who is interpreting me this way, but it is not something I said in any way.

What I mean by "meaning" or "aboutness" is: X points to, aims at, or represents, something beyond itself (in other words, something not X).

>Those ink marks contain information, and the information is about something in the first sense of the word that I described.

This is the sense in which I mean it. And the ink marks only mean something because intelligent beings have assigned that meaning to them. Again, like a pebble that we have decided means "the Battle of Ypres". But in virture of just its physical properties (height, length, width, density, charge, spin) it doesn't mean anything at all.

>Meaning doesn't come into the picture until AFTER a mind has fetched some information and begin to perform higher-level cognitive processes with that information

I don't know what this means, nor did I ever say or intend anything like it. Nor is it relevant to the current point: books cannot provide a counterexample of physical information, because the fact that the ink marks are about anything at all is only because intelligent beings have come along and assigned that aboutness to otherwise meaningless marks of ink.

You seem to be defining "meaning" as "when information means something to someone in a larger context", as when it has a personal or contextual meaning to someone, but that is not what I mean by meaning at all.

I mean by "meaning" or "aboutness" or "intentionality": X points to, aims at, or represents, something beyond itself (in other words, something not X).

im-skeptical said...

"What I mean by "meaning" or "aboutness" is: X points to, aims at, or represents, something beyond itself (in other words, something not X)."

I disagree with this. "Pointing" is merely referential - it is objectiveness. It is not meaning. A thought (like a book) can refer to something without necessarily having any meaning attached to it. The two things are not the same.

Martin said...

>A thought (like a book) can refer to something without necessarily having any meaning attached to it.

Then label it what you want. What I mean by "meaning" is "refer to something". If you like to use the term "meaning" to mean that it means something in a larger context, go right ahead. But that's not how I'm using the term.

im-skeptical said...

"What I mean by "meaning" is "refer to something".

OK, Fine. Then a physical object can have meaning independent of any mind, if we use your definition of meaning. I don't think it's a good definition, because it loses the distinction between mere reference and real meaning.

Martin said...

>Then a physical object can have meaning independent of any mind

I've explained to you numerous times above why it can't.

im-skeptical said...

"I've explained to you numerous times above why it can't"

And I've objected to your explanation. Your definition allows you to 'prove' something that isn't true. What that tells me is that your definition is bogus. It doesn't reflect reality.

WMF said...

Or you don't philosophy of mind at all.

Martin said...

>And I've objected to your explanation.

You haven't objected at all. You got very confused over a personal defintion of the word "meaning", in which it means "has meaning in a larger context", and then went off on a huge tangent about that. But you never once addressed the point:

Ink marks only "point to" a referent because intelligent beings (us) say they do. So they cannot be used as a counterexample to the claim that no physical matter can point to a referent.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

I'm trying to think of an example that would clarify what I'm talking about.

Let's say there was a computer program that chooses the winner of a prize. It does so by generating random numbers. For each number that it produces, it checks a database to determine whether that number is a valid SSN for a person. When it finds on that is, it stops, having selected the winner of the prize. Now the computer doesn't know who the winner is. Because it is only a computer, is attaches no meaning to the number. But the number definitely refers to a winner, even though no human being has ever seen it or attached any kind of meaning to it. When people read the number, they can give it some meaning like "uncle Charlie is the winner".

Now you say that computer-selected number has no aboutness. I say it does. It clearly refers to one unique individual. What the number lacks is meaning - until someone associates it in their mind with uncle Charlie. So referring to something and meaning something are two separate concepts.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

Yeah, you're not understanding the problem at all.

>It does so by generating random numbers

Stop right there. In what format are these numbers?

Like this: 12345....

Or like this: I, II, III, IV...

Or like this: 01,11,010,011...

???

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

Is the format of the numbers somehow relevant to the discussion? Computers use binary representations internally. When they print the numbers out for people to see, they transform them into something readable, like a base ten number, which is then converted into ASCII characters for the printer. But what difference does it make?

Martin said...

>Is the format of the numbers somehow relevant to the discussion?

It's not only relevant, it just is the very point I've been trying so hard to get across.

>Computers use binary representations internally.

OK. So I presume that inside the computer an electron pulse means "1", and the lack of an electron pulse means "0".

So to create:

1011101

The computer makes an electron pulse, then an absence of electrons, then three electron pulses, then an absence, then a single electron pulse.

Right?

im-skeptical said...

Well, not really, but do go on.

Martin said...

That's not how a computer works? Perhaps you could explain the process to me. How are these 1s and 0s represented internally?

im-skeptical said...

CMOS transistor pairs. There's a little gush of current when it switches to either a 1 or a 0. What's different is the voltage of the common drain between them. If you're not an engineer, don't worry - it's just physical stuff that happens. But I still don't see the relevance.

Martin said...

> What's different is the voltage of the common drain between them.

The point remains no matter whether I get the details right or not.

So the difference between "1" and "0" is voltage.

So why does voltage state A mean "1", and voltage state B mean "0", rather than the other way around. Why does the voltage state in a computer circuit mean anything at all?

im-skeptical said...

"So why does voltage state A mean "1", and voltage state B mean "0", rather than the other way around."

The fact is, it isn't until they are interpreted somehow that they can be associated with something meaningful.

Now I think I know what you are trying to get at. But I chose this example for a reason. The computer uses some unknown process (as far as we are concerned) to come up with a number that is random. That number has absolutely no meaning at first. Then, the computer does a check to see if the number matches some criteria. Only then does it become possible to attach some meaning to the number. But the computer still does not do so. It isn't until the number is printed and someone reads it that there is any inkling of who that number refers to, yet it does refer to someone, despite the fact that no person ever assigned that reference.

Martin said...

> That number has absolutely no meaning at first.

You keep falling back on this "meaning in a larger context" definition, which I am not talking about (and neither is anybody else in philosophy of mind).

By "meaning" I mean SOLELY the way I used it when I asked "why does voltage state A MEAN 1 rather than 0?"

I still need an answer.

Why does voltage state A mean "1" rather than "0"? Why does voltage state A MEAN anything at all?

im-skeptical said...

"Why does voltage state A mean "1" rather than "0"? Why does voltage state A MEAN anything at all?"

It doesn't. An individual transistor pair could be in state A or state B and you still don't know whether that might represent a 1 or a 0. It's dependent on the state of the machine and where those transistors are in the circuitry of the computer. Nobody is assigning meaning at this level.

Martin said...

>Nobody is assigning meaning at this level.

When computers were first designed, somebody had to decide to use binary, and had to decide that a binary logic gate would represent 1s and 0s.

Like this marble adding machine. This is a very simple computer, but a computer nonetheless. Notice the guy has to say "when the rocker is to the left, that represents the zero."

So the left-tipped rocker only means "0" because an external intelligence decided to assign that meaning to it.

ingx24 said...

I don't think im-skeptical is capable of understanding any type of philosophical argument. I wouldn't bother trying to argue with him because he won't understand a single word you're saying.

im-skeptical said...

"Notice the guy has to say "when the rocker is to the left, that represents the zero.""

Yes, because he designed it that way. Cute. Modern electronic computers are a bit more complex, though.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

>Yes, because he designed it that way. Cute. Modern electronic computers are a bit more complex, though.

They are more complex, but the principle is the same: the rocker (logic circuit, etc) only means "1" when tipped to the left (voltage state A) because the designer designed it that way.

It's meaning is derived from an external intelligence. Do you see now? Please, please tell me you do. I don't have much more gas in me.

ingx24,

No doubt. I don't know what possesses me to keep trying.

im-skeptical said...

OK, let's grant that electrical state A means 0 and electrical state B means 1. So what's the meaning of the random number that has supposedly been "derived from an external intelligence"? Remember it was chosen by a purely mechanistic process, and no human could possibly predict what that number would be.

Martin said...

>So what's the meaning of the random number that has supposedly been "derived from an external intelligence"?

I told you, at least five times now, that I'm not talking about "meaning in a larger context."

I'm ONLY talking about how the rocker (or logic gate) can have the meaning "1" rather than "0". How it can have any meaning at all.

And the answer is: because a designer assigned that meaning to the rocker.

im-skeptical said...

"I'm ONLY talking about how the rocker (or logic gate) can have the meaning "1" rather than "0". How it can have any meaning at all."

And that wasn't even relevant to my refutation, as I repeatedly pointed out. I was talking about the meaning (or lack of meaning) of a random number, and the fact that that number refers to something. So just keep babbling about the electrical state of transistors. You aren't even beginning to address the issue I have raised. A reasonable person might even get the impression that you don't understand it.

Martin said...

>And that wasn't even relevant to my refutation

You didn't make a refutation because you never even understood the basic point.

The rocker only means "1" or "0" because the outside intelligence assigned that meaning to an otherwise meaningless hunk of wood, or logic gate.

So it does no good to point to computers as an example of a physical mind, because the circuits inside of them do not refer to anything (such as "1" or "0") in virtue of just their physical properties. They require users to assign the meaning of "1" or "0" to them when they first designed them.

>I repeatedly pointed out. I was talking about the meaning (or lack of meaning) of a random number, and the fact that that number refers to something.

Numbers do not refer to things. Symbols (such as "4") refer to numbers, but numbers themselves don't refer to anything. Your point here doesn't even make sense.

>So just keep babbling about the electrical state of transistors.

It's extremely relevant to the point. Electrical circuits are just that: electrical. Electrons move this and that, but they don't mean anything unless someone says "Hey, these electrons over here will mean '1', and these electrons over here will mean '0'".

So by accusing me of "babbling", you are in fact ignoring and obfuscating the point.

>You aren't even beginning to address the issue I have raised.

You haven't raised any issue at all. You keep mixing up the word "meaning" to think that it means "meaning in a larger context". You don't even understand the simplest and most basic point: that physical matter only has meaning (in the sense that it is a symbol, or representation, of something else; like when a logic circuit means 1) if someone assigns that meaning to it.

>A reasonable person might even get the impression that you don't understand it.

You don't understand anything I've said so far.

im-skeptical said...

Sorry I tried.

Martin said...

You didn't try at all. You failed to understand the simplest philosophy 101 problem. And the thing is, I wasn't even trying to get you to believe that physicalism is wrong. I was just trying to describe the basic puzzle that ALL physicalist philosophers accept and try to solve through various means. Dan Dennet, Jaegwon Kim, you name it. If they are a professional in philosophy of mind, they are aware of the problem of intentionality and as a result offer up their own solutions.

But I couldn't even get you to understand even the problem. I don't know why.

Why do you participate on these blogs if you are incapable of even understanding the simplest ideas?

im-skeptical said...

"But I couldn't even get you to understand even the problem. I don't know why."

I couldn't get you to understand what I had to say about it. And I think I know why.

William said...

im: the random number has no meaning (beyond its value) except when the meaning is assigned by a mind. I would add that the generation of the random number was probably arranged by a mind, so even then the number's being a value within certain parameters is dependent on a mind or minds. The computer has no meaning except as designed or assigned by a mind.

Hal said...

Martin,
"The problem is that if the lower levels "pass teleology up" or whatever, then the very act of "passing teleology" is itself teleological. The materialist needs to say that the lower levels are completely and utterly devoid of teleology. In which case they can't pass anything anywhere. In which case they can't pass teleology up to the higher levels. In which case the higher levels can't have teleology either."

I'm sorry Martin but I fail to see how what you say can be true.

I'm a physicalist. I don't believe that there is any consciousness or teleology or intentionality at the subatomic level. Why should there be?

It is only complex forms of matter that have the capacity of consciousness. And a substance such as the human being can only reason and act for a reason because she has such a complex form.

Hal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BeingItself said...

Hal,

Martin's statement is just a blatant case of the fallacy of composition.

I, or my dog, can act with a purpose. But that does not mean that my atoms are acting with a purpose.

Hal said...

Martin,

Thanks for the link to Mr. Feser's post.

I do agree with him that some of the problems in the philosophy of mind are conceptual ones.

I don't share his view that the mark of the mental is intentionality. You might want to read this article to see why.

Will have to get back to you later regarding the view of teleology raised in Mr. Feser's post. Hopefully, after work today.

Hal said...

BeingItself,
I agree completely.
I do wish I could understand more why he thinks such a thing is necessary.

Martin said...

>Why should there be?

Well, I just gave one example: if there is no teleology at all on the lower levels, then they can't pass any intentionality "up". And so the higher levels don't have it either.

See here.

"The point is quite simple. If the regress terminates with base entities utterly devoid of intentonality, then no higher level entities will be intentional. For the higher-ups get their intentionality only from the ones lower down in the hierarchy. If the ones at the very bottom have no intentionality, then they can't transmit it up. But if, on the other hand, the ones at the very bottom possess intentionality, then it is false that all intentionality is derived."

Hal said...

Martin,
That just looks like question begging to me.

You still have not addressed my point that when matter takes on new forms and relationships it also exhibits new capacities or properties.

I see no need to posit intentionality at the subatomic level because at the macro level some substances have the capacity to speak a language and talk about other things in the world.



Martin said...

>You still have not addressed my point that when matter takes on new forms and relationships it also exhibits new capacities or properties.

That sounds like you are talking about emergence, which is property dualism, and that would be thus to concede the argument.

Hal said...

Martin,
I'm sorry, but I don't understand.

What is it that I am conceding?

Martin said...

If entirely novel properties are produced by the brain (properties that are not described by physical science), then this is property dualism, by definition.

And the argument from intentionality is an attempt to show that physicalism is false. If property dualism is true, then physicalism is false, by definition.

Hal said...

How does this show physicalism is false?

Physicalism is simply the belief that that the only substance that exists is what we commonly refer to as "matter". In other words, it is a negative position: it is ant-supernatualism.

Also, if you take a look at my earlier posts in this thread, you'll see that I deny that the mind is identical to the brain. The mind is not a substance nor any kind of thing at all. It is not an agent. Persons have minds, but a mind is not a person.

Martin said...

The options are:

A. Physicalism
1. Reductive (Identity theory, behaviorism)
2. Non-reductive (Functionalism, anomalous monism, supervenience)
3. Eliminativism

B. Dualism
1. Substance Dualism
2. Property Dualism (Emergence, epiphenomenalism)

C. Non-Standard
1. Hylomorphism
2. Pessimism
3. Instrumentalism

If you accept emergence (non-physical properties arise out of an arrangement of physical matter), then you fall under category B2, not anything in A.

See here for my blog with more details on physicalism, and here for more details on dualism.

Hal said...

Martin,
I'm sorry but there is a greater diversity of belief regarding the mind than your categorization implies.

Not all physicalists agree on what physicalism is. Just as not all Christians agree about how to interpret the Bible. To be honest, so far in this discussion I feel a little like a Catholic might feel when an atheist assumes she agrees with Young Earth Creationists.

You can take a look at this video to see some divergent positions regarding physicalism.

If you wish to get a good grasp of where I actually stand on the issue of consciousness this article provides a very good summary.

Martin said...

I don't know what to tell you. Those are right out of (several) philosophy of mind textbooks. I didn't make up those categorizations. I'm just repeating them here. If you have a problem, take it up with the field, not me.

The video you linked to doesn't seem to dispute it. Reduction vs non-reduction.

Hal said...

Martin,

Apparently you didn't watch the video because Dupré explicitly states the position I am holding here. He doesn't believe that the mind is a function of the brain.

If you go to about the 40 minute mark in the video you will be able to hear his views on the mind.

Also in his NDPR review of Nagel's book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False he states the following:

"Suppose, again counterfactually, that we accept Nagel's accounts of consciousness, cognition, and value, what would it take to show that beings with these capacities could not have evolved in the "neo-Darwinian" manner? How, for instance, can a collection of molecules evolve the ability to feel like something? I'll offer just one more diagnosis of what has gone wrong. Nagel is very impressed, like many before him and since, with the oddity of material stuff having experiences. But the explanation of mind does not, of course, lie in matter but in form. Of course matter must have the capacity to embody complex forms, as for instance the properties of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and a few other elements that allow them to form complex organic polymers. It is then the relations that these forms make possible with other molecules and then up the scale of increasing complexity that underlie the emergence of the capacities that so impress us."

Do you deny that he is a physicalist?

Simply because some physicalists hold erroneous views is not justification for denying all forms of physicalism.

I actually agree that Victor's augment is effective against the sort of physicalism that Rosenberg holds, but his is the minority view among philosophers nowadays.

Martin said...

>Do you deny that he is a physicalist?

Yes. In fact, he explicitly states it right here: "But the explanation of mind does not, of course, lie in matter but in form."

If he believes in matter + form, then he is, by definition, a hylomorphist (hyle means "matter", and morph means "form"). This is Aristotle's viewpoint, and so he parts ways with both dualists and materialists. Materialists deny the existence of form/structure above the level of what physical science tells us exists (Higgs field, quarks, etc).

This is what Feser is always saying. The only way to make the physicalist viewpoint even remotely plausible is to surreptitiously pull from the Aristotelian side of the fence, without naming it of course.

Or, alternatively, he is a property dualist because he specifically states this as well: "It is then the relations that these forms make possible with other molecules and then up the scale of increasing complexity that underlie the emergence of the capacities that so impress us."

I could not have described property dualism better myself. The structure or form of the brain gives rise to new properties that are not the properties of matter or physical science (such as qualia, intentionality, etc).

He may label himself a physicalist, but the words he speaks makes it clear he is either an Aristotelian or a property dualist.

Hal said...

Martin,
Physiclists can adopt and use concepts that are employed by non-physicalists.

Take a look at that description of the video again:
"According to physicalism, there is no non-physical stuff. According to reductionism, all facts can be captured by some purely physical description of the world. Nowadays, physicalist anti-reductionism is orthodox among philosophers. In this debate, Dupré defends that orthodoxy, while Rosenberg defends a considerably less popular view: physicalist reductionism."

All it takes to be a physicalist is the acceptance of the claim that there is no non-physical substances. Some physicalist's like Rosenberg also believe in reductionism or eliminativism.

Martin said...

Then their definition of physicalism is very broad. So broad as to be almost meaningless. According to my textbook (several of them, in fact), physicalism means that everything is describable in terms of the concepts and terms used by the physical sciences.

If one accepts the real existence of forms above and beyond those described by physical sciences, then one is not a physicalist. If one accepts the real existence of properties above and beyond those described by the physical sciences, then one is not a physicalist.

This not per me, this is per several of my philosophy of mind textbooks I have at home.

By accepting form, Dupre is falling under either the property dualist or the hylomorphist point of view, whether he realizes and accepts that or not.

According to the definition given in the video, it seems like it is the usual misunderstanding of dualism and other theories, where they thing that dualists are saying that there is another kind of very thin stuff, like ectoplasm or something. Which is not accurate, and is really just another form of materialism (ectoplasm being just another kind of unusual matter). The materialists are transforming dualism into a kind-of materialism, because they can't think outside the box that everything must be made of "stuff", whether quarks or ectoplasm.

Hal said...

Martin,
Looks like you are making the true Scotsman fallacy.

And it certainly is not meaningless to be an anti-supernaturalist which is the type of physicalism that Dupre (and myself and many others) think is warranted. For then one can reject the claim that "the mental is on the ground floor."

You really need to take a look at that article I linked to on consciousness above if you wish to address my position and not a strawman version of it.

By the way, I made it quite clear earlier in our discussion that I agreed with some aspects of the Aristotelian concept of mind.

Here is a copy of that post:


"Martin,
Interesting post. I agree with much of it.

I consider myself a physicalist of the non-reductive variety. I find the view that the mind is an agent that can act on things to be quite mistaken. It is the person who has a mind that acts and refrains from acting.

My views are much closer to Aristotelian and Wittgensteinian monism.

April 03, 2013 8:28 PM"



Martin said...

>Looks like you are making the true Scotsman fallacy.

By "me" you of course mean "every philosophy of mind textbook I have", because as I said, nothing here is from me.

>And it certainly is not meaningless to be an anti-supernaturalist which is the type of physicalism that Dupre (and myself and many others) think is warranted. For then one can reject the claim that "the mental is on the ground floor."

It's far from clear what these terms naturalism and supernaturalism even mean. David Chalmers accepts that the mental is on the ground floor, as a kind of "element" alongside quarks and electrons and other elements. He thinks it's just one more thing alongside others that science can study. Yet, he is a non-theist and rejects personal immortality. Is he a "supernaturalist?" I have no idea. The terms are so vague that I don't think anyone's been able to give a good definition of them.

>You really need to take a look at that article I linked to on consciousness above if you wish to address my position and not a strawman version of it.

I'm not really addressing your position so much as I am simplifying what, according to my textbooks, physicalism means and what, again according to my textbooks, the position you and Dupre describe fits with.

If my books say that one form of property dualism is "emergence", and that this positions says that non-physical properties of the mind rise up out of the structure of the brain, then that is how all my books describe property dualism.

If you don't like that, then take it up with the field. Not me. Nothing I've said here is even slightly original to me.

Hal said...

Marin,
"'m not really addressing your position so much as I am simplifying what, according to my textbooks, physicalism means and what, again according to my textbooks, the position you and Dupre describe fits with."

Well thanks for making that clear.

I was under the mistaken impression that we were having an actual discussion in which our ideas and beliefs were being shared and critiqued.

Do you not believe and agree with the views you have been expressing? If you do, then how can you not take intellectual responsibility for them?

B. Prokop said...

Am I the only one here who thinks that the No True Scotsman Fallacy is not a fallacy? After all, the old man was right. No "True" Scotsman would have done such a deed.

Can't argue with that!

Hal said...

Well, I'm not a professional logician so I think it is outside my job-title to make a ruling on that.

It is rather a shame that the Scots got tagged with it although understandable since it originated with a British philosopher.

Martin said...

>Do you not believe and agree with the views you have been expressing? If you do, then how can you not take intellectual responsibility for them?

I believe and agree with the classifications of the various positions, because I defer to the expertise of professional in the field. I have no way of knowing that elephants and hyraxes are related, but I accept that they are because biologists, experts in the field, tell me they are.

Which one of these is correct? I have no idea. If I were forced to give an answer, I'd say some form of hylomorphism is most plausible to me.

Hal said...

Martin,
"Which one of these is correct? I have no idea. If I were forced to give an answer, I'd say some form of hylomorphism is most plausible to me."

Then perhaps our concepts of the mental and mind are not quite as disparate as it might at first appear. For my conception is much closer to your view than to the dualism embraced by many materialists and supernaturalists.

Would you mind listing some of these "experts" you are placing your trust in? I don't think a philosophical expert is quite the same as an expert in biology or chemistry.

For example, I think rather poorly of Chalmer's, the Churchlands' and Dennet's work in the philosophy of mind. They are considered to be experts by many.

Hal said...

Martin,
Just wanted to add that one of the reasons why the term "property dualism" is a mislabeling of my views is its close identification with neural tissue (the brain). Mental properties are not properties of the brain. The mind is not something the brain does. That is a merelogical fallacy.

As Aristotle pointed out: "To say, then, that the soul is angry is as if one were to say that the soul is weaving or building a house. For it would seem to be better not to say that the soul pities or learns or thinks, but that the human being is doing this in virtue of the soul."

Also, I see no real difference between the emergence of physical properties and mental properties. That a particular substance (the human being) has the capacity to think is no more amazing or incredible than a substance (water) having the capacity to extinguish a fire. They are both quite amazing.

Zach said...

Martin wrote:
Reduction says that the mind IS the brain, in the way your article says. But this form of materialism is dead and buried, and has been so since the 1970s. Look up Hilary Putnam and "multiple realizability" if you don't believe me.

Martin, such arguments have been long refuted, so no. It is not dead. It is quite alive. Even if it is wrong, it is alive. A cursory Google search should be sufficient. Or look up Polgar, Bickle, etc..

Bringing up old 1970s rejected arguments...not very impressive my old friend from the West.

c emerson said...

I arrive late to many parades, as I have here. I found it very interesting to see diverge or converge. Can anyone tell me at what point(s), if any, VR and Nagel disagree or diverge as to the notion that the 'mental' may have non-materialist but reductionist properties all to itself? That's my take on Mind and Cosmos, but I'm not sure Dr. Reppert reduces consciousness or the mental to more fundamental components?

Meanwhile, Prof. Oerter has just raised a different possible take on dividing the supernatural into two possible categories (overnatural and transnatural) - Supernatural Times Two:
http://somewhatabnormal.blogspot.com/2013/04/supernatural-times-two.html

c emerson said...

Errata: insert "the arguments" between 'see' and 'diverge' in the 2nd sentence; and insert "immaterial" between 'fundamental' and 'components?' At the end of the first paragraph.

Martin said...

Zach,

>such arguments have been long refuted

I'm sorry, but this is just completely false. Most physicalists are now non-reductive physicalists, due partially to Hilary Putnam's argument.

See here for an Oxford University seminar on reductive physicalism and it's failure. Marianne Talbot calls it one of the shortest lived theories in philosophy.

Hal said...


From the Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy:

"The assumption that multiple realizability “seals the deal” against reductive physicalism and the type identity theory of mind was misplaced initially, and is now even more misplaced after the second wave of recent criticisms. Proponents of the standard argument need to follow Aizawa's and Gillett's recent leads, and offer new defenses and counter-responses. What is at stake here should not be underemphasized: nothing less than one of the most influential arguments from late-20th century Anglo-American philosophy, one that impacts not only the philosophical mind-body problem but also the relationship between sciences addressing higher and lower levels of the universe's organization."


Why would anyone think Marianne Talbot is an expert in this subject? She's written hardly anything on this topic. Found a book she wrote on dementia on Amazon's site.

Martin said...

Not based on authority of Talbot, but on the arguments against it. Multiple realizability has been empirically confirmed (brain cells can pick up the slack left when other brain cells are damaged; different brain cells are found to play the same role in different species; etc). If you think its reasonable to believe, before empirically confirming it, that aliens and A.I. can never have mental events, that only humans can, then go right ahead and be a reductive physicalist. You'll be an outlier, but have fun.

Also, see Kripke's argument against it, in the Oxford seminar. Talbot doesn't even make mention of multiple realizability in her seminar.

Hal said...

Martin,
Read the Stanford article.

As much as I disagree with physical reductionism, it is factually incorrect to say or imply that the theory is dead.



Martin said...

It doesn't say anything that contradicts anything I've said. There are a few defenders of reductive physicalism, but in philosophy, nothing is ever truly dead in the way it is in science. But as far as philosophy goes, identity theory is dead. And with good reason. Do you really think it plausible that only human beings can have minds, and nothing else can? Does that even seem prima facie plausible at all?

And see Kripke's argument that actually logically refutes it, without multiple realizability. Double shot to the head.

Hal said...

Martin,
"It doesn't say anything that contradicts anything I've said."

Of course it does.

You wrote:
“See here for an Oxford University seminar on reductive physicalism and it's failure. Marianne Talbot calls it one of the shortest lived theories in philosophy.”

The section from the article I quoted above explicitly rejects that view:

“The assumption that multiple realizability “seals the deal” against reductive physicalism and the type identity theory of mind was misplaced initially, and is now even more misplaced after the second wave of recent criticisms.”

By the way, that article was updated at the beginning of this year, so it covers some of the latest arguments made on this topic.


Again, I am in agreement with you that I believe physical reductionism to be mistaken. But I see little point in crowing over its putative death when it is still alive and addressing the arguments that have been made against it.





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