Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hasker's "How Not to Be a Reductivist"

Can't recommend this one enough.

1 comment:

Mark Frank said...

I enjoyed reading this paper but I think it is wrong at two levels. First I think dualism is wrong. But that is far too long a story for a comment on a blog.

Second, even if some form of dualism made sense, then Hasker's argument doesn't work. The key sentence is this one:

A more complete answer would be, “how physical processes in the brain give rise to subjective experience in such a way that subjective experience reliably corresponds to the way things really are in the world.”

The model that Hasker is working to proposes three things:

The "outside" world

The physical processes in the brain that react to that outside world.

Mental processes that also react to that outside world.

His assumption is that the physical processes in some sense mostly "correspond" to the outside world and the mental processes have to do the same.

But in what sense are the mental processes "reliably corresponding"? Epiphenomenalism proposes that there are mental processes that take place at the same time, perhaps are caused by, physical processes. But they don't have to be any more than "what happens when the physical processes take place". There is no other sense in which they correspond to the outside world. One person's mental processes could be utterly different from another. Setting aside private language problems for a moment, what you see as red might be utterly ifferent from what I see as red. In fact vision might be a totally different experience. As long as the associated physical processes work - it doesn't matter. If epiphenomenalism were true then there would be no meaning to saying that mental processes correspond to the outside world and so need to explain how they got to be that way!