Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dogmatism in the philosophy of mind

In a good deal of philosophy of mind over the last 50 years or so, physicalism seems to have been taken as a kind of absolute presupposition. A good example would be Daniel Dennett, who says “before I could trust any of my intuitions about the mind, I had to figure out how the brain could possibly do the mind’s work.” This leads him to treat the brain as a “syntactic engine” that mimics the competence of semantic engines (though where Dennett thinks semantic engines can be found to mimic is, to say the least, very unclear). This strikes me as dogmatic, and leads me to think that, for the most part, materialist philosophers have not so much solved the problems posed by anti-materialist argument such as the argument from reason, but rather have presupposed that there has to be a materialistic solution to such problems. But what if these assumptions are questioned? If they are questioned, then the problems posed by arguments of the kind I have been presenting seem to me to expose a deep incoherence in philosophical naturalism.


28 comments:

im-skeptical said...

"materialist philosophers have not so much solved the problems posed by anti-materialist argument such as the argument from reason, but rather have presupposed that there has to be a materialistic solution to such problems."

Gee, Victor. This might sound almost reasonable if it weren't for the fact that the AFR is entirely based on a blatant presupposition that rationality can't be material in nature.

Victor Reppert said...

It presupposes that in defining the material, you have to exclude the mental from the basic level of analysis. But for the most part, materialists accept this conception of materiality.

im-skeptical said...

"It presupposes that in defining the material, you have to exclude the mental from the basic level of analysis."

And so you have to exclude "the mental" from every level of analysis, since there is no "ground" for rational inference. Victor, this is simply begging the question. It's a false argument based on your own dogmatic presuppositions.

Yes. we all agree that "at the basic level" there is no rationality - there are no 'mentons'. But we also understand the higher levels of analysis and functionality are derived from the basic. This is what we observe. What we don't observe is some non-material mentality that serves as the 'ground' for our rationality. That's where your dogmatic presumptions come into the picture.

Victor Reppert said...

That would assume that a complete listing of non-mental facts can entail a mental fact. But it doesn't add up, the "mental" result is always underdetemined by the physical database. The base is logically consistent with various mental states, or no mental state at all.

Papalinton said...

How serendipitous. Talking of religious dogma:

"G. K. Chesterton, one of the Catholic faithful, sought to discomfort non-religious folk by saying 'there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogmas and know it, and those who accept dogmas and don't know it'. He is wrong: there are three kinds of people; these two, and those who know a dogma when it barks, when it bites, and when it should be put down." A C Grayling, philosopher.

im-skeptical said...

"But it doesn't add up, the "mental" result is always underdetemined by the physical database."

And this is the result of your deep understanding of physics, or perhaps biology, or cognitive science? No, I think it's just blowing smoke.

Victor Reppert said...

OK, show me the entailment from nonmental and nonnormative facts to mental and normative facts. I've never seen this done.

im-skeptical said...

Victor, you are making the unjustified assertion: "the "mental" result is always underdetemined by the physical database." Now you want to shift the burden of proof to those who claim your assertion is unjustified (except, of course, for the theistic assumption that the mental MUST come from something other than a material source - whatever that something might be).

But if you are really interested in learning something about it, there are a number of books that go a long way toward closing the explanatory gap. This one does not present a theory of mind, but explains from a thermodynamic perspective the emergence of higher orders of complex organization and functionality that lead to biological mental function. There are many more. But if you just stick to your simplistic theistic assumptions, you'll never have even a rudimentary understanding of reality.

Victor Reppert said...

It looks like to buy in on what you are arguing here you have to be prepared to accept functionalism. I think that what we mean by mental states cannot be exhausted by their function.

http://www.iep.utm.edu/functism/

im-skeptical said...

"I think that what we mean by mental states cannot be exhausted by their function."

So what do you mean by mental states?

Dan Gillson said...

"This strikes me as dogmatic, and leads me to think that, for the most part, materialist philosophers have not so much solved the problems posed by anti-materialist argument such as the argument from reason, but rather have presupposed that there has to be a materialistic solution to such problems." ... While I think that physicalism, or something near enough, is rightfully the status quo amongst professional philosophers, I don't think it achieved its place because philosophers just presuppose it so. In part it's probably due to the fact that philosophers have failed to demonstrate methodologically that the substrate of the mental exists, but I think it's mostly due to the fact that philosophy (through Wittgenstein, the pragmatists, and others) began to understand that the reasons/causes of mental states are completely immanent, and we, I think, discovered that immanent explanations of things like pain behavior, or wanting to raise my right arm, explained us better to ourselves than transcedental ones. Put another way, philosophy started to take us back down to earth, instead of leading us out into the abyss. Stanley Cavell has an interesting essay on this topic. It's called "Declining Decline."

PhysicistDave said...

im-skeptical wrote:
>Victor, you are making the unjustified assertion: "the "mental" result is always underdetemined by the physical database." Now you want to shift the burden of proof to those who claim your assertion is unjustified...

But it is the physicalists that are making a positive assertion, aren't they? I.e., that mind can be explained by the laws of physics.

It is reasonable for the rest of us to ask them for evidence for that assertion.

Lots of us who are experts on the laws of physics (i.e., Ph.D. physicists like myself, and including physicists as prominent as Schrodinger and Penrose) have given a lot of thought to this issue, and none of us has come up with a means by which the laws of physics can explain consciousness.

So, if you want us to take you seriously, you need to show us what we are missing.

Otherwise, we are justified in suspecting that you are just making up your claims out of thin air, with no evidence at all.

Dave Miller in Sacramento

PhysicistDave said...

im-skeptical wrote to Vic:
>But if you are really interested in learning something about it, there are a number of books that go a long way toward closing the explanatory gap. This one does not present a theory of mind, but explains from a thermodynamic perspective the emergence of higher orders of complex organization and functionality that lead to biological mental function. There are many more. But if you just stick to your simplistic theistic assumptions, you'll never have even a rudimentary understanding of reality.

Here is the author:
>Terrence W. Deacon is... the chair of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Not exactly an expert on thermodynamics, eh?

And you accuse Vic of lacking "even a rudimentary understanding of reality"!!

I do have to admire your style, im-skpetical!

Dave

PhysicistDave said...

If anyone is tempted to consider seriously the book im-skeptical recommends, here is a quote from the book (courtesy of one of the reviewers at amazon):

>Take a look at pages 190-195. On page 192: [quote 1] "This is because the concept of constraint does not treat organization as though it is something added to a process or to an ensemble of elements. It is not something over and above these constituents and their relationships to one another. And yet it neither demotes organization to mere descriptive status nor does it confuse organization with the specifics of components and their particular singular relationship to one another. Constraints are what is not there but could have been, irrespective of whether this is registered by any act of observation."

Not exactly legitimate science!

The book allows amazon's "Look Inside!" feature so that anyone can peruse this strange little thing for himself if he is in search of a few good laughs.

Nonsense upon stilts.

Dave

im-skeptical said...

DoctorDave,

"But it is the physicalists that are making a positive assertion, aren't they? I.e., that mind can be explained by the laws of physics."
- No positive claims from me, except that the preponderance of available evidence leads us to postulate that there is nothing else (besides the physical world and it "laws") that leads to consciousness and cognition. You, on the other hand, have made a positive assertion: that mind CAN NOT, even in principle, be explained by physical laws.

"It is reasonable for the rest of us to ask them for evidence for that assertion"
- So where's your evidence? You are playing the same dishonest game that theists do - turn it around and place the burden on those who don't believe what you claim.

"Not exactly an expert on thermodynamics, eh?"
- Now we can see what a BS artist you really are. Unlike you, Deacon is a REAL scientist.
Here is his curriculum vitae. Here are his citations. Almost anyone can get a PhD. Having one does not make you anything special, but it can turn some people into pompous assholes, which appears to be the case with you.

"Nonsense upon stilts."
- I seriously doubt you even know what that passage was about, given the lack of context. You have merely copied something from some theist who doesn't like what he says. Theists hate Deacon, because he refutes their dogmatic assumptions. It's not surprising that you dismiss Deacon, too, given your own dogmatic beliefs.

PhysicistDave said...

im-okay wrote to me:
>Now we can see what a BS artist you really are. Unlike you, Deacon is a REAL scientist. Here is his curriculum vitae.

Great Darwin!!! Deacon's Ph.D. is in anthropology. He had a master's from an "Education School," in "Cognitive Development," and his B.A. is "B.A. Fairhaven College, Western Washington University (Interdisciplinary.)"

Enough already! I don't want to publicly embarrass the man further by quoting more!

I'll just say that I visited UC Berkeley recently and what I had heard from numerous people turned out to be true: Cal ain't what it used to be, sad to say. But, I'm sure it's not all Deacon's fault.

im-okay also wrote:
> I seriously doubt you even know what that passage was about, given the lack of context. You have merely copied something from some theist who doesn't like what he says.

As I pointed out, amazon's "Look Inside!" feature lets you look through the book at length. I did. BS. All BS. Anyone who cannot see that this book is all BS is ignorant of science.

Cal should be ashamed that this guy has not been fired.

im-okay also wrote:
>No positive claims from me, except that the preponderance of available evidence leads us to postulate that there is nothing else (besides the physical world and it "laws") that leads to consciousness and cognition.

But, that is a positive claim -- you say "the preponderance of available evidence." What evidence??? If you claim there is a "preponderance of available evidence," you are making a positive claim and are not offering us that evidence.

My primary claim is that in fact no one has offered a successful physicalist explanation of consciousness: neither you nor anyone else has shown that anyone has done so. (People have certainly tried.)

And, there is a simple meta-theorem in first-order predicate calculus that explains why no one ever will succeed, just as no one will ever solve Hume's is/ought conundrum. Vic has made a similar point (without directly alluding to the meta-theorem).

You seem to think you know a lot about cognitive science -- the meta-theorem should be obvious to you. If it really is not, I will try to spell it out in the next few days, if I have time.

Dave



PhysicistDave said...

im-okay wrote to me:
>Now we can see what a BS artist you really are
AND
>Almost anyone can get a PhD. Having one does not make you anything special, but it can turn some people into pompous assholes, which appears to be the case with you
AND
(from the sister thread)
>Oh and Dave: what an arrogant snob you are. [Dave: emphases added]

I have not complained because I think you are showing everyone your manner of thought, such as it is.

If I really were arrogant, wouldn't I be touting the importance of physicists such as myself, claiming that physics really is sufficient to explain consciousness? In fact, I am pointing out that physics is not sufficient to explain everything in the real world. Pointing out the limitations of my own chosen field of endeavor is not what is usually meant by "arrogance."

Before I came onto this thread, you sarcastically wrote to Vic:
>But,l you know, this sort of damages your own case.
>And this is the result of your deep understanding of physics, or perhaps biology, or cognitive science? No, I think it's just blowing smoke.

Well, I am what you accused Vic of not being: I really do know a great deal, evidently enormously more than you, about some of the relevant fields -- physics as well as information theory. And, my claim to knowledge is not just based on my Ph.D. -- I have built systems based on my knowledge that actually work and I have corresponding patents. You may actually have had a hard-disk drive on your PC a few years ago that embodied some of my inventions (if you had an Adaptec hard-disk drive: Adaptec was one of several firms that hired me to consult with them).

You sarcastically express contempt for Vic because he does not have, in your opinion, a "deep understanding of physics," and then when someone comes on to this thread who has proven expertise -- I have actually designed, built, and patented numerous devices based on my knowledge of physics and information theory -- you refer to me as a BS artist, pompous asshole,, and arrogant snob.

As a cognitive scientist, how do you evaluate your behavior?

Really?

Dave

im-skeptical said...

DoctorDave,

"Enough already! I don't want to publicly embarrass the man further by quoting more!"
- No, you don't want to include all the other stuff. Like the part about his PhD from Harvard,his research in evolutionary biology and neuroscience, and his many scientific publications, with thousands of citations. You simply dismiss this man as an anthropologist? As if someone with a degree in anthropology couldn't possibly know anything about thermodynamics? What a joke indeed. How much scientific research have you done? How many publications?

"Anyone who cannot see that this book is all BS is ignorant of science."
- That's a bold statement from someone who hasn't read it. And that's precisely why I call you a BS artist. You don't even know what he says.

"What evidence??? If you claim there is a "preponderance of available evidence," you are making a positive claim and are not offering us that evidence."
- What evidence indeed? Have you ever observed this mysterious "something else" that you think must exist as the cause of cognition? No? That's the evidence. There are exactly ZERO empirical observations to support your unsubstantiated assumption.

"My primary claim is that in fact no one has offered a successful physicalist explanation of consciousness"
- You keep saying that over and over. Why don't you make your argument FOR what you claim: that physical laws CAN'T produce consciousness? You allude to a meta-theorem that Victor supposedly agrees with. What Victor believes, if I'm not mistaken, is the bald assertion that nothing rational can come from non-rational matter. As far as I know, that's the only relevant "theorem" that he applies to this argument.

"I really do know a great deal, evidently enormously more than you, about some of the relevant fields -- physics as well as information theory."
- Prove it. I haven't heard you say anything other than "I know more than you do." Your work that resulted in patents for hard disk technology hardly seems relevant to cognitive science. And I haven't heard anything at all that indicates you have any significant knowledge about that. Yet you claim to know something about it that the whole field of cognitive science is evidently unaware of.

"As a cognitive scientist, how do you evaluate your behavior?"
From the very first post you made, you have made an extraordinary effort to impress everyone with your credentials. You made a claim that I believe disagrees with the understanding of the vast majority of scientists (including physicists). When I asked you to provide some substantiation for it, instead of making some kind of reasonable explanation, you replied with a tirade about how you know so much more than me, and about my scientific ignorance, and you have repeatedly attributed things to me that I didn't say. And after asking you several times to justify your claim, you persist with your "I know more than you" defense, and try to shift the burden of proof to me. From my perspective, I know very well how much education and professional experience I have, and it is not obvious to me that you know more than I do. So naturally, I see you as an arrogant snob. That is certainly what you appear to be. So what's your excuse for the way you behave?

PhysicistDave said...

im-skpetical wrote to me:
>[Dave]"I really do know a great deal, evidently enormously more than you, about some of the relevant fields -- physics as well as information theory."
>[im-skeptical] Prove it. I haven't heard you say anything other than "I know more than you do." Your work that resulted in patents for hard disk technology hardly seems relevant to cognitive science.

I am not trying> to show my knowledge is relevant to cognitive "science." I do not view cognitive "science" as science. I do not take it seriously.

But, my patents on error-correction-and-detection systems for hard-disk drives and satellite-communication systems did make use of information theory. If you do not understand that, well, people who know information theory do understand the connection.

im-skeptical also wrote to me:
> And after asking you several times to justify your claim, you persist with your "I know more than you" defense, and try to shift the burden of proof to me.

I have no need to shift any burden: you are sure that you and, you think, the majority of scientists have evidence that consciousness is physical. I am just curious as to what that evidence is.

I very much doubt such evidence exists. But, if you would share the evidence with us all, we could see.

No burden of proof, just curiosity about whether the evidence that you claim exists really does exist.

I think anyone reading this now knows the answer!

Dave

PhysicistDave said...

im-skeptical also wrote:
>[Dave]"Enough already! I don't want to publicly embarrass the man [Terry Deacon] further by quoting more!"
>[im-skeptical] No, you don't want to include all the other stuff. Like the part about his PhD from Harvard, his research in evolutionary biology and neuroscience, and his many scientific publications, with thousands of citations.

I do not see any scientific publications: perhaps you could give us all an example of one you see. I see a bunch of publications by an anthropologist: they do not look to me as if they are even very solid work in anthropology, but perhaps I should let anthropologists make that judgment, rather than a physicist.

im-skpetical also wrote:
>[Dave]"Anyone who cannot see that this book is all BS is ignorant of science."
>[im-skeptical]That's a bold statement from someone who hasn't read it.

You're simply wrong -- as I said above, amazon's "Look Inside!" feature allows readers to read chunks of the book, and I have done so. I am bright enough to detect obvious crack-pottery without reading it cover-to-cover: if I were not, I'd spend my entire life reading moronic books like this!

One of the tell-tales for crack-pottery is claiming to have created an entirely new approach to understanding reality, without actually having done detailed experiments or calculations, and presenting this supposed radically new approach in florid, poetic prose that will sound impressive to the general public but that is hard to pin down in terms of the exact technical meaning.

In short, Terry Deacon's book, in a nutshell.

Deacon belongs on the same bookshelf with Dianetics, and the collected works of Immanuel Velikovsky.

You seem to think that I owe Deacon's obviously crack-pot "work" respect for some reason.

I don't. No one does. You think you see some real science in Deacon's book? Tell us what it is -- and, no, vague speculations about how it is "absence" that leads to "complexity" is not science; it is (very bad) poetry.

Since you are so eager to insult me, question my expertise, and use crude language in addressing me, why don't you at least extend to all of us the courtesy of telling us your real name, your field of expertise, and the extent of your education or lack thereof?

If you refuse to do so, I am afraid I have now had enough.

I may or may not post further on this thread, but given your boorish behavior towards me, no further posts from me will address you courteously.

Everyone can see what you are -- and you do all this hiding behind a pseudonym.

You are not a very pleasant person. I strongly suspect that you are several decades younger than I, and, in all honesty, my patience with ill-behaved children is not great.

Dave

Dan Gillson said...

Dave,

"You are not a very pleasant person. I strongly suspect that you are several decades younger than I, and, in all honesty, my patience with ill-behaved children is not great." ... Many of the commentators here have already told Skep the exact same things you've been telling to him. He finally got to the point when he pitched a fit and told us all that he'd never come back here again, because we were all in some crusade against him. He started a blog in which he would respond to what Dr Reppert and other commentators were saying here. He has some strange obsession with commenting here, and he starts acting childish when he's wrong or ignorant. It probably isn't worth your time to try to engage him in productive conversation, because he's uncapable of behaving like and adult, but he's fun to snipe at when you have a few extra minutes to kill.

im-skeptical said...

"Since you are so eager to insult me ..."

I didn't call you an arrogant snob until AFTER I had endured numerous insults from you. But I agree I can be an unpleasant person. especially when my bullshit meter spikes. And I've heard plenty of it from you.

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

PhysicistDave, are you a christian?

im-skeptical said...

PhysicistDave says he's an atheist. But he speaks as if he were either a theist or a Republican.

Victor Reppert said...

Apparently you think the atheism of people who fail to satisfy the requirement of being a materialist are suspect. That tells me a lot----about you. It reminds me of Christians I know who question whether you are born again unless you accept a young earth and six literal days of creation. We call people like that fundamentalists.

im-skeptical said...

"Apparently you think the atheism of people who fail to satisfy the requirement of being a materialist are suspect. "

You got it wrong, Victor. I am well aware there are self-described atheists who still believe in some kind of supernatural fluff. The common thread between these people and theists and Republicans, is that they are typically supremely confident in their beliefs, have no evidence to back up those beliefs, and disparage anyone who dares to question them.

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