Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Lovejoy on Behaviorism

This is a 1920s precursor to the argument from reason.

HT: Steve Hays.

8 comments:

Hal said...

Victor,
From the site you linked to:
"That man is a real agent -- and that the distinctive quality of his agency consists in the part played therein by the imaginative recovery and analysis of a physically non-existent past and the imaginative prevision of a physically non-existent future -- these are the first articles of any consistently pragmatic creed."

Yes. The man (person) is the agent. He is the one acting. And he will, if he is rational, take into consideration the reasons for his action.

The mind is not an agent, the person who has a mind is a rational agent, he is capable of acting for a reason. And that agent has free will, he can act or refrain from acting.

A belief does play a role in the agent's behavior in the sense that a rational being will take his beliefs into consideration when deciding how to act.

A belief is not an agent. It can't act upon a patient. It has no powers to change the behavior of the human body.


ingx24 said...

Hal,

You seem to be very confused regarding what mental causation actually means.

No one is saying that a belief is an "agent" on its own. I completely agree with you when you say "A belief does play a role in the agent's behavior in the sense that a rational being will take his beliefs into consideration when deciding how to act". That is the DEFINITION of mental causation - mental states playing a role in an agent's behavior. The alternative is epiphenomenalism, where a person behaves according to the laws of physics with their mental states being absolutely irrelevant to their behavior.

Hal said...

Inx24,
I think mental causation is a misconception. The mind is not an agent. It is the person who has a mind that can play the role of agent.

Once you make the assumption that that mental causation is true then you are trapped in the quagmire of mind body dualism. How do you explain the interactions between the mind and the body? Good luck with that one.

Also, I see little reason to suppose that a belief is a mental state. Mental states such as being in pain or depressed have duration, can be interrupted if one is distracted and come to an end if one becomes unconscious.

If I have a belief I don't stop having that belief when I go to sleep or stop thinking about it. I may forget that belief and recall it later, but that doesn't mean I've stopped believing it for the time I forgot about it.

We have very different conceptions of the mind.

Hal said...

Inx24,

You've been insisting in other threads how completely different the mental is from the physical.
Yet your conception of the mind seems very similar to the functioning of a physical device: it is some sort of mental realm in which mental objects and mental states interact causally and produce not only mental changes but physical ones as well.

ingx24 said...

Hal,

I think that's because I see the mind as a concrete thing while you see it as more of an abstract concept we use to decribe abilities people have. Just because something is not physical does not mean that it is abstract and causally impotent.


Once you make the assumption that that mental causation is true then you are trapped in the quagmire of mind body dualism. How do you explain the interactions between the mind and the body? Good luck with that one.


I see no problem with mind-body interaction at all. As William Hasker said, the interaction problem is probably the single most overrated objection to a philosophical position of all time - it may have been applicable in a time when causation was seen as requiring physical contact, but that problem no longer exists. Conservation of energy is also an obsolete objection - conservation of energy has not been a universal "law" for almost 100 years. The more we learn from physics, the less mysterious mind-body interaction seems - how is it any more "unintelligible" than two particles instantaneously affecting each other from opposite ends of the universe without any type of contact whatsoever?

Hal said...

ingx24,
"The more we learn from physics, the less mysterious mind-body interaction seems - how is it any more "unintelligible" than two particles instantaneously affecting each other from opposite ends of the universe without any type of contact whatsoever?"

So are you now claiming that the mind does have physical properties like those found at the subatomic level?

ingx24 said...

That depends on whether you consider the ability to cause things in the physical world a "physical property" by definition. However, mental causation should not be modeled after physical causation in the sense of billiard balls bouncing off each other - the mind-brain interaction is best seen on my view as analogous to quantum entanglement (i.e. one of them changing causes the other to change correspondingly without there necessarily being physical contact).

Hal said...

imgx24,
But isn't quantam entanglement part of physics?

If you are going to rely on physics to explain how the mind works you might as well be a physicalist.

In any case, I'm going to bow out of this particular discussion. I think our conceptions of the mind are too different to really engage in a substantive discussion. We both are spending too much time just trying to explain what we mean.