Wednesday, May 18, 2005

memeplexes and rational inference

Ahab on Internet Infidels Discussion Board wrote: So this really seems to boil down to your definition of what the self is. Unless someone agrees with your definition of the self they don’t believe in consciousness. According to you.
Sorry, but you'll need to do better than that if you hope to show that naturalism denies the existence of consciousness.

Since I'm not even sure what you mean by 'unified consciousness', I see no need to bother denying it. I will say that I believe firmly in the reality of human consciousness. So I fail to understand why I should see your syllogism as a valid argument against my naturalistic philosophy.

If you are so concerned about the possible undermining of the natural sciences, you might do better spending more time supporting and learning what neuroscience has to show us about the brain (that wonderful biological mechanism which is able to produce consciousness) and less time trying to make science fit into your predetermined world view.

I replied: Ok, Ahab, my question is quite simple. If you claim to be firm in believing that consciousness is real, tell me what you think is conscious. I don't think the idea of free-floating consciousness makes any sense (though perhaps you do). If I have the thought "All men are mortal" and you have the thought "Socrates is a man" and Carrier has the thought "Socrates is mortal," then no one has perfomed an inference. There has to be an entity that does the inferring. What is it. Is the brain an entity? Or is it a conglomeration of entities that we call an entity for the sake of convenience? If that's the case then we have nothing metaphysically real that does the inferring.

Neuroscience is, of course, worth learning about, though it is always difficult to distinguish between genuine scientific discovery and philosophical presupposition. What I am saying is that if these scientists are right about what the mind would be like if it were a physical system, and they are themselves scientists, then the physical story cannot be the whole story about their own activities. If they are right then there are no scientists per se, just overpaid conglomerations of memeplexes that make no real rational inferences.

To say that I ought to support the results of neuroscience assumes what you are trying to prove, thus begging the question and assuming that there are no metaphysical issues (issues that go beyond science) to be considered. Of course we can broaden the concept of science so that it includes so-called supernatural entities, (or just entities for whom teleological explanations can be basic explanations) and if we did that I wouldn't have any problem with it. But if scientists keep saying that we have to be naturalistic in order to be doing science, then a scientific account will, on my view, always have to be incomplete.

1 comment:

Brandon said...

Joe at evangelical outpost had a post on the physicalist's positions on the mind/conciousness that might contribute to Ahab's understanding. Epiphenominalism and eliminativism.