The Richard Carrier Fallacy
NormaJean: I agree that I have been away from a lot of these discussions. I don't know if I could call it "getting off scot-free." Sometimes if you aren't in a debate which goes on for awhile it's a little difficult to pick up the thread deep in the discussion.
But I think the discussion didn't exactly go in the direction that I would have taken it. The following is a discussion from Doctor Logic's first reply, to which I want to push him a little.
Suppose I consider the proposition "My dog is on the porch."How do I know what this proposition is about? If I see the neighbor's cat on the porch instead of my dog, how do I know that the proposition is false? And how can I assert the proposition in advance of actually making the observation?There's a simple and elegant (and natural) solution. Intentionality is about my own cognitive abilities, and my cognitive abilities are in a physical brain that does exist as the thought is processed. A proposition has meaning in light of me knowing (approximately) what experiences would increase or decrease my confidence in the truth of that proposition. That is, the proposition isn't a physical reference to actual dogs and porches (which may not exist), but is about my presently-existing faculties for recognizing dogs on porches if those things existed. Rocks and CD-ROMs lack intentionality because they lack thought and recognition. Deep Blue lacks intentionality because Deep Blue does not formulate propositions about its abilities to recognize states of affairs. It just recognizes them. For example, Deep Blue does not ponder the proposition that it will lose the game (in some abstract way), even though it is capable of recognizing a great many specific ways of losing a match. Deep Blue's intelligence is fish-like or insect-like. It does not have ability to recognize its own mental states.So the argument that we cannot see how one lump of matter could be about another just doesn't hold up under scrutiny. If the first lump has recognition and expectation, and the ability to recurse those abilities on its own faculties, then that lump can have intentional thought.
What I am failing to see here is that this is an account of intentionality in non-intentional terms. Intentionality is "about my cognitive abilities," you say. If these cognitive abilities presuppose intentionality, then we are shuffling intentional concepts around and calling it an explanation of intentionality. OK, you mention the brain, but that doesn't make it a physicalist explanation. Meaning no disrespect to you or Richard, I would have to call this the Richard Carrier Fallacy. (OK, I'm asking for someone to come up with a Victor Reppert fallacy. I know that.)
DL: A proposition has meaning in light of me knowing (approximately) what experiences would increase or decrease my confidence in the truth of that proposition.
This seems to me just backwards. Meaning is determined by what experiences would increase or decrease confidence in the truth of the proposition?? You have to know what the proposition means before you can figure out what experiences would make it more or less likely to be true.
Further, it is naturalists like BDK who insist most firmly that the presence of intentionality. doesn't require the entertaining of propositions. Indeed, nothing can entertain propositions unless it possesses intentionality to begin with. Deep Blue doesn't recognize it's own mental states, it doesn't ponder propositions, but these capacity are exactly what you are trying to offer a non-intentional explanation.
Here's the problem I am getting at with the numbered premise argument. Add up all the physical, non-intentional states you want, don't help yourself to any states that are intentional, and see if it is possible that these non-intentional states can entail some intentional state or propositional attitude. It looks to me that whatever physical information you give me, I can deny the existence of any propositional attitude, or affirm the existence of alternative propositional attitude, without contradicting myself. Hence, if there is a truth about what the propositional attitude, the explanation of it in terms of a physical, non-intentional substrate is incomplete.
Again, you introduce terms like recognition and expectation. If those terms mean "recognizing that p" or "expecting that p", then you aren't explaining the propositional state, you are slipping the propositional state in through the back door and calling it an explanation. Otherwise, what do you mean by "recognition" and "expectation?"