Sunday, October 06, 2013

Parsons responds to the AFR

Here. 

9 comments:

Pseudo-Augustine said...

Not sure how this responds to the argument from reason. It still confuses 'reasons as causes' with 'physical causation' which seem to be different forms of "cause". I could be wrong. I am not a professional philosopher after all.

William said...

Physicalist causal theories of rationality, asserted by Parsons etc, are a subtype of theories of physical causes of intentionality. They share the same weaknesses, more or less.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/content-causal/

Dan Gillson said...

Pseudo-Augustine,

Part of Parsons' response is meant to challenge the premise that a mental event isn't physically realizable. He does so by (or rather, he tries to do so) by identifying mental states and brain states, and by explaining mental tokens such as, "the street is wet" in terms of neural causes. In my opinion, his response doesn't sidestep epiphenomenalism.

Martin said...

But isn't Parsons just pulling identity theory back in? And all the problems associated with it?

Dan Gillson said...

Martin,

Is that a general query, or were you asking me specifically? Parsons is touting functionalism and identity theory:

"PRM first defines the mind in functional terms; a mind is anything that does mental stuff. It then identifies the human brain (or, technically, certain physical subsystems of the brain) as the object that, for human beings, performs the function of doing mental stuff (including rational thought). At bottom, then, PRM is a theory about how we think; we do it with our brains.

End quote, emphases mine.

Martin said...

But isn't that incoherent? Non-reductive physicalism (functionalism) identifies the mind with abstract functions which can then be realized by multiple physical systems. Whereas identity theory identifies the mind with brain activity, rather than abstract functions.

I'm not clear on what exactly he is espousing....

Crude said...

I think William is right that this is really nothing new / nothing that hasn't been said before.

But I'll ask the same thing here that I asked in Parsons' thread. He said that 'a mind is whatever does mental stuff'. Alright - then my question is, does brain state X have an intrinsic meaning? Say, of 'There are bears in Russia.'? Or is that meaning derived under the view he's espousing?

Dan Gillson said...

I'm not either, Martin. It seems to me that in Parsons' account the token mental event either survives as an epiphenomenon, or it's reduced to the physical The mental event at time T1, being caused by a brain event at T1, and not vice versa, is the product of a physical cause, which is just part of the definition of Epiphenomenalism, according to Paul Churchland. But in his essay Parsons maintains that the physical realization of the mental yields no epiphenomena, which means that in order to be causally efficacious, the mental must be reduced to the physical. I don't know. Parsons is equivocating.

William said...

Martin,

the idea with functionalism is that a given function that [magically] causes mental content is multiply realizable by different brains, computers, etc.

So identity theory fits properly with functionalism when we assert that our brains are identified with a particular realization or example of those functional states.

It still requires a leap of faith because the connection to create the identity of brain or function with intentionality has to be snuck in implicitly, via hand waving in Parson's case.

There is no known causal mechanism! It's just magic! See section 4.6 of the encyclopedia article.