Friday, July 12, 2013

How do you solve Hempel's Dilemma?

Here.  How you solve it is important  because it affects the strength of the argument from past explanatory successes, which Danaher dealt with first. The reason for this we need to give an account of what it is for something to be a success for physicalistic explanations. It would have been thought, prior to the discovery of quantum mechanics, that physicalistic explanation means deterministic explanation, but that got abandoned when quantum mechanics came along. So, not everything turned out to be physicalistically explicable if pre-quantum expectations are presupposed. Similarly, the discovery of a beginning of the universe would have been thought to have been an explanatory failure for physicalistic explanation from the point of view of the people prior to the discovery of Big Bang cosmology. What this suggests is that we ought to be rather cautious as to what exactly we are claiming when we say that the mind-body problem will have a physicalistic explanation. What might turn out to be the case is everything that the dualist thinks is true of the mind really is true, but since neuroscience discovers this, the "soul" gets built into physics, and physicalism "triumphs" after all.

9 comments:

ingx24 said...

I've always understood "physical" as being whatever is (in principle) publically observable, either directly (in the case of things like particles and light) or by its effects (in the case of things like gravitational fields, which are defined by their effects). In other words, the physical is "the stuff you can see and touch".

Heuristics said...

ingx24:

But you can publicly see that an apple is red yet the redness of an apple is not a physical property of the apple. Instead the physical property is how it changes the wavelength of photons that bounces off it's surface (and red is relocated into the mind and is said to correlate with one particular wavelength).

ingx24 said...

I'm not confident in the judgment that colors, sounds, etc. don't exist in the physical world itself, for reasons I've gone into here. I don't think the existence of sensory qualities in the physical world itself does anything to "solve" the problem of consciousness (contra Feser and crew), but I do have my doubts about the coherence of an external world that has no sensory qualities whatsoever.

Heuristics said...

Well, this is the thing. Who is it we must ask about with regards to comfort about what is included in the word physical? Does the word physical include only positional data or does it not, does it also include other properties? If it is this fluid that people can just include whatever they want in it then what use does it have since noone ever bothers to define what they mean with it when they use the word?

I never appear to find myself understanding what the word physical means when I read texts where the word is used.

(That we never make the relocation of properties into the mind in the first place surely does SomeThing to the problem of consciousness. At the very least it raises the question about what the problem actually is)

William said...

It would seem that Hempel's dilemma is a dilemma for a realist who must admit that past realists (analagous to them) were not correct about what they thought was real. It also seems that a physicalist is committed to some degree of realism about the physical.

Some questions that arise: what is the physical, and about what parts of the physical must the physicalist be a realist?

Someone who is not a committed realist about theories of the physical might escape both horns of the dilemma.

John Mitchell said...

"(i) It cannot be obviously false : This seems like a straightforward constraint. Anyone who commits themselves to a thesis cannot also be committed to its falsity, can they?"

This is too restrictive. It may just be the case that, even thought current theories of physics are in the end wrong they are still accurate enough to be a reliable fundament for physicalist theories of the mind.
Now im not a physicalist but it seems to me if an engineer where to calculate the structural integrity of a building he would base his calculations on physical theories we know to be obviously false but they still would be accurate enough for his calculations.
So the physicalist might argue that we have good reasons for believing that even though current physics may very well be objectively wrong it may still be accurate enough to base a physicalist theory of the mind on it.

Crude said...

Now im not a physicalist but it seems to me if an engineer where to calculate the structural integrity of a building he would base his calculations on physical theories we know to be obviously false but they still would be accurate enough for his calculations.

I don't think a physicalist would be satisfied with the conclusion that their models were wrong or possibly wrong, but pragmatically useful enough.

B. Prokop said...

"I don't think a physicalist would be satisfied with the conclusion that their models were wrong or possibly wrong, but pragmatically useful enough."

Mr. Wilson (Papalinton) seems to be satisfied with such. He's repeatedly posted that he assumes the "march of science" will eventually disprove most or all of what we believe today.

Crude said...

Mr. Wilson (Papalinton) seems to be satisfied with such. He's repeatedly posted that he assumes the "march of science" will eventually disprove most or all of what we believe today.

Well, that would be evidence for the point - that it's the 'actual truth', not the pragmatic utility, that the physicalist is after. Except you're quoting someone who can't grasp materialist arguments, much less anti-materialist, so he's pretty inconsequential.

Anyway, I agree with the OP, and think the problem is even bigger than Victor portrays it. But he illustrates a major pothole in that particular road.