Friday, September 28, 2007

Why only mentalistic monism or dualism will do

Exapologist: Do you think Hasker is fair to Chalmers? Has he not read carefully? I strongly recommend Hasker's essay to anyone interested in retaining a common-sense view of the mental while remaining in any sense a naturalist.

It seems to me that these two options are just plain exhaustive:

1) The having of reasons, and other mental states are amongst the fundamental causes of the universe. The causal role cannot be explained in terms of the causal activities of more fundamental stuff.

2) Reasons and other mental states are system byproducts. They do not occur at the most basic level, but arise in virtue of the physical being a certain way.

It seems to me that if you accept 2) you have to live with three possibilities: elimination, conservative reduction, or epiphenomenalism. 1 seems to me to be self-refuting, 2 seems wildly implausible given the logical disparity between the mental and the physical, and 3 is also self-refuting since if it is true no one ever believes anything for a reason, including epiphenomenalism. Richard Carrier, Doctor Logic and Blue Devil Knight will give me an argument on this.

If you agree with me that these won't work, you have to accept a world-view in which reasons are on the ground floor. Theism is one of those alternatives. And if there is honest-to-goodness matter in the world (a mechanistic order of causes) then, in order for the mental to play a causal role in the physical world, you have to accept some kind of substance dualism. That's why I think substance dualism is a better account of the mind than any view, whether we call it physicalism or neutral monism, that says there is a physical realm in which reasons don't play a role, and that everything else supervenes on that.

So the question that one has to ask of any view of the mind is "What think ye of the causal closure of a realm in which reasons play no role?" Are reasons on the ground floor in your world-view, or not. There are alternatives to theism that do this, but those world-views strike me as forms of idealism. There just doesn't seem to be a way to be "neutral" on the question of whether reasons are basic to the universe. The only monism that will work, on my view and given my arguments, is is a mentalistic monism.

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At 9/28/2007 02:59:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Epiphenomenalism is a special case of reduction. Just because X is epiphenomenal, doesn't mean it isn't reducible to lower-level bits (e.g. your shadow is epiphenomenal wrt your movement along the street, but it's still reducible).

At 9/30/2007 03:34:00 PM , Blogger exapologist said...

This seems like a false dilemma to me. You could have *representational* states and properties on the *ground* floor that are not (yet) *reasons*.

At 9/30/2007 03:56:00 PM , Blogger properly basic said...

exa: Do these *states* have content?

At 9/30/2007 04:02:00 PM , Blogger exapologist said...

I guess it depends on what you mean by 'content'. Do bare qualia have content? Do the representational states of bats have content?

At 9/30/2007 07:19:00 PM , Blogger properly basic said...

Those are my questions as well?

At 9/30/2007 07:31:00 PM , Blogger properly basic said...

Help me understand this...I'm here to learn. I read this blog almost every day- da Reppert is kinda cool.

The naturalists, materialists, whatever you like are pretty stinkin sharp too =)

At 9/30/2007 10:17:00 PM , Blogger exapologist said...

Hi PB,

Yep, Reppert is a smart guy. I find his argument from reason fascinating. I've only read the Phil. Christi symposium on his book. His book is on my "to read after I finish my dissertation" list!

At 10/01/2007 07:54:00 AM , Blogger Rino said...

Hi Exapologist,

I'm curious about your answers to your questions. I would tend to follow Davidson (and others) in thinking that bare qualia doesn't have content. I would, however, disagree with Davidson (and others) that this implies that we must be externalists about mental content. To me, externalism leads to the unfortunate conclusion that we can never know our own beliefs. Thus, I would argue that other beliefs make up the content of a particular belief. Would you agree?

At 10/01/2007 12:10:00 PM , Blogger exapologist said...

Hi rino,

I don't have a settled view on this, but I'm inclined to agree with the semantic externalists.

Gareth Evans and David Lewis have similar accounts that seem to get around the data advanced via externalists. On their views (at least so far as I can make out) reference is determined by descriptive content alone (as Fregeans believe), but the descriptive content includes the causal history of the term in the actual world). I've heard people call this sort of view 'causal descriptivism' and 'historical descriptivism'. This seems to be Searle's view as well (or close to it) in his book, Intentionality.

Another interesting neo-Fregean version of descriptivism is the two-dimensionalist account advanced by, e.g., David Chalmers, Frank Jackson, and Robert Stalnaker. According to them, each sentence is associated with two intentions (construed as functions from worlds to truth-values): a primary intension and a secondary intension. The primary intension is more or less extensionally equivalent to "narrow content", and the secondary intension is more or less extensionally equivalent to "broad content". On this account, the answer to the question "do I know what I'm thinking about?" is complicated: yes and no. Yes, in that one knows the primary intension associated with the token sentence in question, but (maybe) no, in that one may not know sufficiently the secondary intension.

At 10/01/2007 12:12:00 PM , Blogger exapologist said...

Whoops! "Broad content" should be "wide content".

At 10/02/2007 06:10:00 AM , Blogger Rino said...

Hi exapologist,

Nice response. As a narrow content guy myself, I would need to be persuaded that there are good reasons to turn to some sort of an externalism. I have many reasons against externalism in my mind, but can think of few good reasons to consider externalism. Perhaps you could mention some of the appeal you have towards externalism?

At 10/02/2007 11:20:00 AM , Blogger exapologist said...

Hi rino,

The ones I know of are just the standard ones in the literature. E.g., Kripke's arguments in Naming and Necessity, Putnam's arguments in "The Meaning of 'Meaning'", and Burge's "Individualism and the Mental".

One that I think is interesting and powerful is one from Kripke. He grantst that one could make a definite description function as a rigid designator by messing around with the scope of the quantifiers and modal operators, but still, names and natural kind terms are de jure rigid, while descriptions are only de facto rigid.

I would also take a look at two recent books by Scott Soames, if you haven't already:

-Beyond Rigidity: The Unfinished Semantic Agenda of Naming and Necessity
-Reference and Description: The Case Against Two-Dimensionalism

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