Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hasker on Dennett's Dangerous Dogmatic Presupposition

A redated post. 

William Hasker, in the preface to The Emergent Self,(Cornell, 1999) x, wrote:

But there is one kind of approach to these issues that is unlikely to be affected by the views and arguments contained in this book. As an example of this approach, (though by no means not the only one) we may take Daniel Dennett, as he presents himself in his essay in A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind (Blackwell, 1995). He tells us that, having come to distrust the methods employed by other philosophers, he decided that "before I could trust my intuitions about the mind, I had to figure out how the brain could possibly accomplish the mind's work." This means accepting, right from the outset that the brain is a "syntactic engine" that mimics the competence of "semantic engines. (How we mere syntactic engines could ever know what a semantic engine might be is not addressed). All this is dictated by an "initial the physical sciences and the third-person point of view," an allegiance which in turn is justified by appeal to an evolutionary perspective. The foundational commitment to mechanistic materialism is unmistakable. This commitment is subsequently refined and elaborated, but it is never subjected to a fundamental re-evaluation; rather, data that conflict with it are dismissed as illusory. ("This conviction that I, on the inside, deal directly with meanings turns out to be something rather like a benign 'user illusion.'") In view of this, it seems appropriate to characterize Dennett's physicalism as a dogmatic presupposition--and such dogmatism is hardly rendered benign by the fact that it is fairly widespread in the philosophy-of-mind community.


mattghg said...

Too right.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I've ever seen a philosopher as scornful of philosophy as Dennett

Shackleman said...

Hasker's Emergent Self is a wonderful book. The conclusion to it leaves much to be desired, but all the meat leading up to it is outstanding.

I would highly recommend it to any fellow layperson. It's very readable.

finney said...

Agreed with Shackleman. Hasker writes well.

Anonymous said...

Let me give you an argument made to me by one of Dennett's long time associates when I confronted him about better theories of communication than the theory of memetics:

Meaning spreads, QED
Evolution is never wrong and encompasses everything
Memetics is true

I don't know if it hasn't occurred to him that the failure of memetics as a predictive theory could mean anything for the claim that evolution encompasses everything.

rank sophist said...

Absolutely brutal.

Jim S. said...

I think you may have misquoted. "How we mere semantic engines..." looks like it should be "How we mere syntactic engines...").

Victor Reppert said...

Thanks, Jim.

Victor Reppert said...

Nobody wants to stick up for Dennett here?

Papalinton said...

"Nobody wants to stick up for Dennett here?"

Like red rag to a bull, isn't it Victor? :o)

A couple of things and thoughts.
I have not read Hasker's book, but I do have Dennett's book on Consciousness Explained. So my comments are general in caharcter on the notion of 'emergent dualism'.

The term 'emergent dualism' resides deeply within the theologized philosophical construct. It is a perennial weed that occasionally needs a dose of herbicide to keep it in check. This is expressed as much in the following comment found here at Plato Stanford Philosophy:
"William Hasker (1999) goes one step further in arguing for the existence of the mind conceived as a non-composite substance which ‘emerges’ from the brain at a certain point in its development. He dubs his position ‘emergent dualism,’ and claims for it all the philosophical advantages of traditional, Cartesian substance dualism while being able to overcome a central difficulty, viz., explaining how individual brains and mental substances come to be linked in a persistent, ‘monogamous’ relationship. Here, Hasker, is using the term to express a view structurally like one (vitalism) that the British emergentists were anxious to disavow, thus proving that the term is capable of evoking all manner of ideas for metaphysicians." [my bolding]

Marc Cortez has a nice encapsulation of emergent dualism here.

And Scott Young expresses my perspective rather nicely about the notion of 'emergent dualism'. And that is, it is but the easiest, least resistant and laziest route in the search of an explanation about the 'relationship' of mind and body. Young says, "I just finished a great book written by philosopher Daniel Dennett entitled, Consciousness Explained. The title is ambitious but not misleading, as Dennett forms a theory for how consciousness might actually happen. If you’re like me, then thinking about how it’s possible for you to experience a sunset or enjoy a symphony isn’t easy. Dennett argues that many of our intuitions about consciousness trick us into how it actually works. The book is challenging because our intuitions about our inner experiences are so strong that it’s difficult to wrap your head around any possible alternative." [my bolding] The article can be found here. Very interesting.


Papalinton said...

For those incapable of appreciating that my reference to Marc Cortez does not support my view and may imagine my Cortez reference as something that I have not read. Let me spell it out for you. Cortez is a believer. He believes in dualism. But Cortez does not think Hasker's perspective brings anything more to the table that doesn't already satisfy him:

I personally don’t see what this Emergent Dualism has to offer that substance dualism or even traditional dualism can’t offer me."