Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Lovell's treatment of the AFR

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131 Comments:

At 9/25/2008 06:39:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

BDK

>>It is obviously coherent to not be a behaviorist but to believe that mental events supervene<<

"Not obviously incoherent" would be better to say. Supervenience theory is hardly a slam dunk solution to the "hard problem," or above criticism. Behavior is activity that is observable in principle. The activity of neurons is observable in principle.

 
At 9/25/2008 06:41:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Randy

>>One is a copy of the other. We can only say some behavior is mimicked if we already know what the original is. We know what it is to act with sentience. And that is why we can design a machine to copy such behavior.<<

You say, "we know what it is to act with sentience." We also know what it is to walk. So if I designed a robot that could walk, would you say, "That robot is not really walking, it is just mimicking walking. We know it is not really walking because it has just been made to imitate animals that really walk." Would anyone take your argument seriously?

>>What do you think “makes a mind”?<<

Capability of consciousness and rationality would be a requirement, as I noted somewhere earlier up the thread.

 
At 9/25/2008 06:49:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

All

Let me seed the discussion with another thought. What would you say about the following propositions:

"That which occurs without purpose, intention or foresight is accidental."

"That which is solely the result of a process that is purely accidental must itself be purely accidental."

What do y'all think?

 
At 9/25/2008 09:36:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

DB: In a sleight of hand you switched from a discussion of behaviorism in psychology to "behavior" of the nervous system, and acted as if that changes nothing. You are still in that corner where you painted yourself.

I'll end by basically repeating myself. You are not making an argument. You are making a prediction about what reasonable people will think once neuroscience has advanced over the next couple of centuries. Your prediction is that after such advances, the "hard" problem of consciousness will still appear impenetrable to neuronal explanation. No matter if neuroscience explains human behavior down to the millisecond precision, no matter how much neuropsychology continues to reveal about the functioning of the mind, the mind is still not a part of nature.

However, as I've said, it is possible you are right. But to act like you have come up with some grand conceptual confusions or obvious devastating problems with naturalism is incorrect. Develop your positive theory, as your destructive arguments do not work. Repeating Leibniz's mill over and over doesn't make it true.

This question will be decided by evidence, not by armchair bloggers, and there isn't enough relevant evidence or conceptual clarity right now for either of us to be dogmatic that the other is wrong. Give us your positive theory. You aren't going to kill naturalism.

I'm not interested in Lovell, but was simply finishing up the thread from the previous post.

 
At 9/25/2008 09:43:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

If this is the last thing I post on consciousness at this blog, that would let me blog-die happy:

This question will be decided by evidence, not by armchair bloggers, and there isn't enough relevant evidence or conceptual clarity right now for either of us to be dogmatic that the other is wrong. Give us your positive theory. You aren't going to kill naturalism.

If I don't post for a while, just insert that in discussions of consciousness (unless someone is actually giving a positive theory).

 
At 9/25/2008 11:49:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

BDK

My further post, addressed to all, does not invoke consciousness issues or qualia (at least not directly).

Do you have any opinions about the two statements I floated?

 
At 9/25/2008 11:58:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

DB: no time for a new topic. :)

 
At 9/25/2008 12:07:00 PM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Darek,

Continuing from our last thread...

There seemed to be a consensus that behavior, no matter how complex or sophisticated, does not a mind make. Patterns of behavior, no matter how complex, do not constitute beliefs or experiences. Behaviorism is passe, naive, a dead end, right?

I disagree with this line of argument because you are conflating external behavior with behavior in general. Thinking is a kind of behavior (even if it were non-physical behavior). And the question we are looking at is whether a physical system can exhibit that behavior.

There are forms of behaviorism that don't work or which place needless restrictions on scientific models. I reject them, as do most others. I see nothing unscientific about modeling internal states of minds at higher levels of abstraction. Such modeling does not in any way imply that minds aren't physical systems.

So if I designed a robot that could walk, would you say, "That robot is not really walking, it is just mimicking walking. We know it is not really walking because it has just been made to imitate animals that really walk." Would anyone take your argument seriously?

If I roll a crate down a steep cliff, I could say "That crate is abseiling!" However, I would be wrong. Abseiling is not simply equivalent to getting you down a mountainside.

Similarly, Deep Blue does not think. It doesn't have concepts, it doesn't learn patterns, it doesn't recognize patterns, it doesn't predict, it has no emotions, and it cannot (and was never designed to) think "about" chess.

Deep Blue can mimic the external appearance of some trajectories of thought, but we know that what is happening internally is nothing like general intelligence. No one holds up Deep Blue as an example of general intelligence.

So it will do no good to point to inanimate or non-thinking devices and argue from them that material minds cannot exist. That would be like me saying (in 1850) that bird flight is supernatural because physical darts can't fly like birds.

"That which is solely the result of a process that is purely accidental must itself be purely accidental."

No, this is question-begging and equivocal.

An outcome is labeled as non-accidental when that outcome was foreseen by a mind, and action was taken by that mind to facilitate the outcome, i.e., when that mind imagined the outcome as a result of an action, preferred that outcome, and took the relevant action. Nothing in this definition prohibits the minds from being composed of smaller components that are accidental.

 
At 9/25/2008 04:18:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

DL

>>That would be like me saying (in 1850) that bird flight is supernatural because physical darts can't fly like birds.<<

This is a poor example for you to use. Flight is a behavior, a mechanical function.

Suppose we both agree that the bird has a somewhat mysterious attribute, and you say that it needs this attribute to fly. And that because the attribute is needed for flight, it must be natural.

So I point out that all the bird needs to fly is the right mechanics. In principle the dart and the bird are doing similar things, the difference being a matter of degree only.

The "mysterious attribute" in this case is consciousness. You say that the computer doesn't need to be conscious to play a mean game of chess, but it would need it to play chess, plus take out the garbage, plus spend way to much time blogging on the internet.

To go on . . .

DB: "That which is solely the result of a process that is purely accidental must itself be purely accidental."

DL: No, this is question-begging and equivocal.

An outcome is labeled as non-accidental when that outcome was foreseen by a mind, and action was taken by that mind to facilitate the outcome, . . .

DB: You say "No," then you make a statement that agrees with me!

I think you are getting way ahead of me, trying to anticipate where I'm going. Just read the statement carefully as it is. Do you agree or not? You seem to. You can always disagree with some further claim when I go on to make it.

 
At 9/25/2008 05:50:00 PM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Darek,

Sorry. My bad. I was indeed anticipating your argument.

I think I can agree with your second statement. (The first one is a bit squirrely because I could foresee an accident without purposely causing it.)

But let's clarify something. Does your statement define what it means for something to be accidental, or are you assuming we know what accidental means independently?

 
At 9/25/2008 06:07:00 PM , Blogger Randy said...

Darek,

You say, "we know what it is to act with sentience." We also know what it is to walk. So if I designed a robot that could walk, would you say, "That robot is not really walking, it is just mimicking walking. We know it is not really walking because it has just been made to imitate animals that really walk." Would anyone take your argument seriously?


That is not what I am attempting to say.

What I’m claiming is that we would need to know what it means for a human to walk before we could design a robot to walk like a human.
If you have an original you can copy it. You can’t make a copy without an original.

I don’t really care how you then go on to describe what the robot is doing. You can choose to call it “real walking” (whatever that means) or walking like a human or a simulation of the way humans walk.

If you make a copy of a ten dollar bill and find that you can’t use it to buy a five dollar toy in the toy store, you can’t then go on to claim that the original ten dollar bill will not buy the same item in the toy store.

Nor, if it turns out that the robot designed to mimic or copy sentient behavior does not have sentience, can you use that to deny that humans and other creatures have sentience.


Now I think it should be noted here that I think we are a long ways from actually making a machine that can behave like a human. Human behavior takes place within a stream of life. The same behavior can be interpreted in many different ways and express many different intentions. For instance, the simple raising of an arm could be the hailing of a taxi, or the greeting of a friend or a reaching or a stretching. To understand behavior one needs to know the environment within which it occurs.
I’m not going to argue against the possibility of someday designing an artificial creature that behaves like us, but as far as I’ve been able to ascertain the best we’ve been able to do so far is design machines that can only accomplish some of the tasks that we do.

 
At 9/25/2008 07:07:00 PM , Blogger Randy said...

Darek,
"That which occurs without purpose, intention or foresight is accidental."

"That which is solely the result of a process that is purely accidental must itself be purely accidental."


Why don't you simply provide a few examples of what you mean?

I'm not sure how you are distinguishing "purely accidental" from "accidental".

 
At 9/26/2008 06:22:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Randy

>>Nor, if it turns out that the robot designed to mimic or copy sentient behavior does not have sentience, can you use that to deny that humans and other creatures have sentience.<<

"Sentient behavior" is a behavior. It fits the description, "behavior of type X." Natural selection cannot distinguish "behavior of type X" from "an imitation of behavior of type X." It all buys the same groceries in terms of consequences within nature.

True, we have no robot that can fully imitate human behavior. But we do find that machines can approach human (or animal) behavior more closely the more mechanical (electronic) complexity is added to their design. It appears that with enough mechanical complexity, the complexity of human behavior could be achieved. After all, human behavior, while complex, is not infinitely so.

So either consciousness designates a certain type of complexity, or humans possess something special that they do not strictly "need" simply to
compete on the chess board of the natural world.

>>Why don't you simply provide a few examples of what you mean?

I'm not sure how you are distinguishing "purely accidental" from "accidental".<<

"No one planted that tree in my back yard. A seed happened to fall there. Its presence there is accidental."

By "purely accidental" I'm simply emphasizing that it is in no way intended or foreseen.

 
At 9/26/2008 06:36:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

DL

>>The first one is a bit squirrely because I could foresee an accident without purposely causing it.<<

Good point. Let me ammend it:

"That which occurs without purpose, intention or foresight is accidental."

Now it's more descriptive than definitional, but it is more restrictive as well.

>>Does your statement define what it means for something to be accidental, or are you assuming we know what accidental means independently?<<

I'm trying to capture, what we mean in the broad sense by "accident." It's an event that no one intended, that was not the foreseen outcome of anyone's purpose.

Naturalism says that the universe as a whole was not foreseen or intended. In that sense it is an accident. Fair enough?

 
At 9/26/2008 07:18:00 AM , Blogger Randy said...

Darek,

"Sentient behavior" is a behavior. It fits the description, "behavior of type X." Natural selection cannot distinguish "behavior of type X" from "an imitation of behavior of type X." It all buys the same groceries in terms of consequences within nature.


How did we get onto evolution? BDK nailed it on the head with his earlier comment that you are using the word “behavior” in very different contexts without distinguishing the differences in meaning of "behavior".



If you wish to talk about behavior in evolution then you need to talk about random variation, the environment within which substances evolve, the composition of those substance, the nature of sexual reproduction, etc.

If you could manufacture a substance that was identical in all respects to a human being and that substance told me that it was sentient, then I would believe it.


Also, if you use "behavior" in a physical description then you've stripped it of any association with concepts like sentience or intentionality. But that is simply due to the nature of a physical description.
I don't think you are doing this deliberately. But it does have the appearence of semantic trickery.

 
At 9/26/2008 07:19:00 AM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Darek,

Naturalism says that the universe as a whole was not foreseen or intended. In that sense it is an accident. Fair enough?

Well, no. Naturalism concludes that the universe started out with no non-accidental (deliberate) events, but after minds accidentally arose, then there were deliberate events.

The universe goes from being purely accidental to partially deliberate, in the same way it goes from having no heavy nuclei to having heavy nuclei (via fusion in the cores of stars). The universe is initially free of heavy nuclei, but is later a mixture of light particles and heavy nuclei.

Under naturalism, minds can evolve accidentally, and then deliberate events follow.

 
At 9/26/2008 11:55:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

DL

>>Well, no. Naturalism concludes that the universe started out with no non-accidental (deliberate) events, <<

Again, your "no" seems to be followed up by agreement with my statement.

Let me put it this way, the initial formation of nucleii in the expanding universe was accidental according to a definition both of us accept (I think). Same with the events in the formation of the solar system and the earth. Same with the beginng of life. Same with evolution. All accidental events according to our definition. This is not just according to me, but seems to be supported by to the "Tenets of Naturalism" at naturalism.org.

Just as far as the above is concerned, are we agreed?

 
At 9/26/2008 04:01:00 PM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Darek,

Sorry. When you said "the universe as a whole was not foreseen or intended" I took that to mean that the universe is thoroughly accidental. If you mean that it started out entirely accidental, then I agree.

I'll reiterate that 'accident' is defined as the absence of deliberation. 'Accidental' isn't defined independently of deliberation.

 
At 9/26/2008 09:29:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Randy

>>How did we get onto evolution? BDK nailed it on the head with his earlier comment that you are using the word “behavior” in very different contexts without distinguishing the differences in meaning of "behavior".<<

"Behavior" has the same basic meaning across many fields. Chemists refer to the behavior of compounds, for example. You can do your own web search to verify that.

"Behavior" whether of clouds or waves, particles or proteins, organelles or organisms, means what an object does, its activity. In principle, that activity can be measured/observed in a way that internal conscious states cannot be.

I referred to natural selection because adaptation or survival is naturalism's basic value when it comes to the behavior of organisms.

>>Also, if you use "behavior" in a physical description then you've stripped it of any association with concepts like sentience or intentionality.<<

Those things involve a "why" account of behavior that is irrelevant to nature's supposed bottom line valuation. Nature doesn't distinguish sentient and non-sentient behavior, only adaptive and maladaptive behavior.

So proponents of naturalism must try to claim that at some level behavior cannot be adaptive without being sentient in the bargain.

Daniel Dennett says that calling an organism "conscious" is like referring to an object has having a "center of gravity." "Center of gravity" gives us a convenient way to think of the average mass distribution of an object just as "conscious" (and related terms) gives us a handle on certain types of complex behavior. That's one type of naturalistic solution, but I think it has a big problem.

 
At 9/26/2008 09:38:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

DL

>>I'll reiterate that 'accident' is defined as the absence of deliberation.<<

OK, we're agreed that the state of the universe shortly after the big bang was purely accidental. The processes of galaxy-formation, star-formation, and planet-formation were purely accidental. The emergence of life through chemical interaction was thoroughly accidental, too.

We seem to be on the same page to here.

Now, you may recall my second statement:

"That which is solely the result of a process that is purely accidental must itself be purely accidental."

You expressed initial agreement with it. Have you changed your mind? If so, fine. If not, tell me why.

 
At 9/26/2008 09:41:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

DL

Whoops! Sorry. I meant to say that if you still agreed with my second statement, well and good. If you have changed your mind, please tell my why you have.

 
At 9/27/2008 05:20:00 AM , Blogger Randy said...

Darek,

"No one planted that tree in my back yard. A seed happened to fall there. Its presence there is accidental."

By "purely accidental" I'm simply emphasizing that it is in no way intended or foreseen.



Thanks for the explanation.

So I understand you to be stipulating that “accidental” should only be used in those situations where it also makes sense to say something was intended. As in your example, it makes sense to say I intended to plant that tree in my back yard.

 
At 9/27/2008 05:47:00 AM , Blogger Randy said...

Darek,
”Behavior" has the same basic meaning across many fields. Chemists refer to the behavior of compounds, for example. You can do your own web search to verify that.

Yes, I know that “behavior” can be used in a variety of contexts. But what we mean by use of that word can vary significantly depending on its context. You are insisting on one determinate meaning for “behavior” regardless of context and I don’t think language works that way.
When we talk about human behavior we are often talking about their intentions, feelings, sensations, etc. A human howling in pain is expressing the pain he feels.
The chemist would never describe bonding behavior of two chemicals as an act of love, whereas we could do that meaningfully with human behavior.




"Behavior" whether of clouds or waves, particles or proteins, organelles or organisms, means what an object does, its activity. In principle, that activity can be measured/observed in a way that internal conscious states cannot be.


I don’t think we would agree on what counts as a conscious or mental state. If someone is in a state of depression or rage it is normally quite easy for other people to observe that.




I referred to natural selection because adaptation or survival is naturalism's basic value when it comes to the behavior of organisms.


I do believe the theory of evolution to be true. Because humans have the capacity to use language and develop culture, evolutionary explanations of human behavior are of limited value.


Daniel Dennett says that calling an organism "conscious" is like referring to an object has having a "center of gravity."

I am no fan of D. Dennett. You should never assume that I share his views on these matters.

 
At 9/27/2008 06:23:00 AM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Darek,

"That which is solely the result of a process that is purely accidental must itself be purely accidental."

I've said all along that if you mean to say that

"That which is solely the result of a process that has no deliberation must be purely accidental."

then I agree because this is by definition. Otherwise, you are begging the question.

Note that this is in agreement with what I have been saying about the early universe. There was no deliberation there, so it was accidental. But as soon as there is deliberation, even if that deliberating mind formed accidentally, then there is deliberation and there are some non-accidental events.

 
At 9/27/2008 02:45:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Randy

>>When we talk about human behavior we are often talking about their intentions, feelings, sensations, etc.<<

Are you saying that behavior is a feeling and that a feeling is a behavior? Are you literally identifying behavior with intentions, feelings and sensations?

Most of us, I think, see behavior as putative evidence of feelings and sensations.

>>A human howling in pain is expressing the pain he feels.<<

Yes, but are you saying that the howling IS the feeling of pain? Or that the howling is the result of an invisible cause, the cause being the feeling of pain?

>>I am no fan of D. Dennett. You should never assume that I share his views on these matters.<<

I didn't assume you were. I was citing his view to help clarify the issue. But if you are actually identifying behavior with intentions and feelings then you are, in fact, very close to Dennett in your views.

 
At 9/27/2008 03:00:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

DL

>>I've said all along that if you mean to say that

"That which is solely the result of a process that has no deliberation must be purely accidental."

then I agree because this is by definition. Otherwise, you are begging the question.<<

Well, to me this seems inevitably to follow but I wanted to make sure it did for you, too.

To continue . . . Presumably, the characteristic structures and processes of organisms are adaptive. But since they are the result of purely accidental processes, then they too must be accidental. Being adaptive and being accidental are by no means mutually exclusive.

For example, the shape of a bird's wing is adaptive; but being the result solely of accidental processes, it is necessarily accidental as well. Likewise, the processes of respiration and digestion in organisms, being the result of nothing but accidental processes, are likewise entirely accidental.

Does this sound objectionable so far, or correct?

 
At 9/27/2008 04:30:00 PM , Blogger Randy said...

Darek,

Likewise, the processes of respiration and digestion in organisms, being the result of nothing but accidental processes, are likewise entirely accidental.


I don't believe this accords with the sense of "accidental" you used in the example of the tree in the yard.
I could have intended to plant the tree in the yard, but I didn't. And so its presence there is accidental.

But I can't intend to digest the food in my intestinal tract. Or intend the chemical activity that takes place in respiration.

Not to mention that it sounds strange to me to think of highly organized and complex chemical processes as being accidental.

 
At 9/27/2008 07:31:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Randy

>>I don't believe this accords with the sense of "accidental" you used in the example of the tree in the yard.<<

The tree ended up at the spot it did, not because anyone intended it to, but because of complex processes of weather, distribution of plant species, soil conditions, etc. All of these were governed by physical laws, of course.

Now the physical conditions that gave rise to the solar system, and the physical circumstances of the earth are from a naturalistic perspective entirely accidental, although entirely in accordance with the laws of nature. They were not intended, took place according to no purpose.

Similarly, what was the cause of the evolution of life (again, from a naturalistic point of view) other than those very physical circumstances--circumstances that were unintended and therefore accidental?

And because resulting solely from accidental circumstances and processes, the consequent evolution of species must also be entirely accidental.

The website naturalism.org refers to "the evolved products of natural selection, which operates without intention, foresight or purpose." A similar claim by Bertrand Russell is to be found in the Steve Lovell piece that this thread is pegged to.

 
At 9/28/2008 06:57:00 AM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Darek,

To continue . . . Presumably, the characteristic structures and processes of organisms are adaptive. But since they are the result of purely accidental processes, then they too must be accidental. Being adaptive and being accidental are by no means mutually exclusive.

It's hard to tell what you are saying in the bolded sentence. If you are saying that, before minds evolved, all processes of organisms were accidental, then that is fine with me, and follows from the definition of accidental. If you are saying that everything that follows from accidental processes must be accidental, then I disagree. I'll assume you mean it in the first sense, i.e., that in the period before minds evolved, everything was accidental, including many adaptive behaviors.

I agree that being adaptive and being accidental are not mutually exclusive.

 
At 9/28/2008 07:06:00 AM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Darek,

In naturalism, thinking is a kind of behavior (whether or not it is purely physical). If we could see inside a person's head and see how they were reasoning, then their thinking would be a behavior, and we would have a complete understanding.

By analogy, someone might say that cars are magical, and that knowing the behavior of a car is not the same as knowing the "thoughts" of a car. The car's external state may not always be a good predictor of what the car will do next. In reality, we know that the external behavior of a car is controlled by the internal behavior of its computer systems and mechanisms. And that if we knew the behavior of those mechanisms, we would have a complete understanding of the car.

 
At 9/28/2008 09:52:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

But since they are the result of purely accidental processes, then they too must be accidental.

Intentional systems evolved, so are "accidental" (this language seems strange and anachronistic and I wouldn't use it but as long as you are consistent in your convention I'll go along).

Said intentional systems create things like staplers, which are not accidental. Hence the quoted claim is false in a naturalistic view.

 
At 9/28/2008 02:46:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

I think even in a nonnaturalist world your claim is wrong.

God's intentional states are accidental (I assume you think God was not created by some intentional agent, even himself). But say creationism is true. Then the entire physical universe is nonaccidental.

I guess you could say that God sustains himself somehow, so that His will paradoxically sustains his existence. Since he is eternal, there is no problem of the "time" at which this happened. (I just googled this idea and many skeptics have said that a self-creating God is a contradiction as it implies there was a time when he didn't exist, but this is not a good objection).

I would say God 'sustains' himself, not that God created (past tense) himself.

So, either you believe God sustains himself (in eternity), or your claim is wrong.

I think this actually isn't all that crazy a theological view (that God sustains himself).

 
At 9/28/2008 06:34:00 PM , Blogger Randy said...

Darek,
>>When we talk about human behavior we are often talking about their intentions, feelings, sensations, etc.<<

Are you saying that behavior is a feeling and that a feeling is a behavior? Are you literally identifying behavior with intentions, feelings and sensations?


Not at all. Behavior is a criterion for ascribing psychological predicates to humans.



>>A human howling in pain is expressing the pain he feels.<<

Yes, but are you saying that the howling IS the feeling of pain? Or that the howling is the result of an invisible cause, the cause being the feeling of pain?



The classical picture of 1st person psychological utterances such as “I have a pain.” conceives of this as beginning with the sensation which the sufferer observes internally, identifies, and then represents in a description which communicates to others what is directly accessible only to her.

I think this is mistaken. You need to begin by looking at the natural expressive behavior within its context. When we injure ourselves we cry out, we groan and scream; we grimace and grab the part that hurts. It’s in these primitive, instinctual forms of pre-linguistic behavior that our linguistic expressions of pain are rooted. Not in observations of private objects in an ethereal realm.

A child learns to express his pain linguistically. And then that linguistic behavior becomes a new pain behavior. So a child in pain can groan and then go on to say “I have a pain.” or “My head hurts.” Those sayings are not descriptions but avowals. They are sort of a replacement for the natural groans and whimpers we make.

Of course it is possible for someone in pain not to express their pain. Or one can pretend to be in pain. This makes it seem as if pain and its manifestations are logically independent. But that’s not the case: if injury and illness were not associated with pain behavior, we should have no use for the concept of pain. Pain-behavior is logically connected with pain, not, of course, because it entails pain, but rather by pain behavior constituting a criterion for a person being in pain. While pretence is possible, it is absurd to think that all pain-behavior might be pretence.

 
At 9/28/2008 09:03:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

DL

>>If you are saying that everything that follows from accidental processes must be accidental, then I disagree.<<

Earlier you said, >>I think I can agree with your second statement.<<
My second statement, again is:

"That which is solely the result of a process that is purely accidental must itself be purely accidental."

I'm not playing gotcha. If you've changed your mind, you've changed your mind. But there was a reason for your initial agreement with my statement, and that reason points to the difficulty with naturalism.

Near my home in western Colorado are high sandstone rock faces that have been polished into smooth, elegant surfaces by thousands of years of the sand blasting of wind erosion. These shapes are beautiful but accidental, given naturalism, just as the bird's wing, shaped by uncounted generations of selection pressure, is elegant but accidental. What is true of the bird's wing must be equally true of its brain. What is true of its wing and brain must be true of its behavior. All the causal circumstances of the anatomy, physiology and behavior of the bird are purely accidental. And by the rule that I think we universally apply (when we're not defending naturalism) that makes the bird's anatomy, physiology and behavior accidental as well.

Since accidental behavior can be adaptive, we have no problem following this line of reasoning in the case of every adaptive structure, process and behavior in animal and plant species. Natural structures/processes are nowhere proven to be non-accidental by virtue of being adaptive--until we get to human beings. Then we suddenly make an exception because of an internal experience we have of "mind," including such things as intentions and reasons. But our original naturalist decreee that the causal states in the formation of the universe were solely accidental, combined with the conceptual judgment we otherwise make that accidental causes beget only accidental results, is irreconcileable with such an egregious exception.

 
At 9/28/2008 09:14:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Randy

Earlier you said:

>>When we talk about human behavior we are often talking about their intentions, feelings, sensations, etc.<<

You can hardly blame me for taking this as a claim on your part that behavior "often" is to be identified with intentions, feelings and sensations.

Now you say:

>>Not at all. Behavior is a criterion for ascribing psychological predicates to humans.<<

So I take this as a "no." The sensations are not behaviors.

Your subsequent claim that the two are logically inseparable is not an easy one to make. Take a person that is "locked in" by a brain injury so that they have no voluntary muscle control. Is it impossible to imagine that such a person could feel pain?

Anyway, if we agree that internal states are not literally to be identified with behavior then we have little to argue about.

 
At 9/28/2008 09:25:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

BDK

>>God's intentional states are accidental (I assume you think God was not created by some intentional agent, even himself).<<

Here, again, are my two original propositions:

"That which occurs without purpose, intention or foresight is accidental."

"That which is solely the result of a process that is purely accidental must itself be purely accidental."

I don't think it's obvious from these that God's own intentions are accidental, unless it is somehow unavoidable that God's intentions are are solely the result of accidental processes. God may well have eternal or timeless intentions, for one thing.

>>But say creationism is true. Then the entire physical universe is nonaccidental.<<

True, but that only means that every event that is not intended by creatures endowed with rational minds is intended, either directly or indirectly, by God. And that is not such a high conceptual hurdle.

 
At 9/28/2008 10:05:00 PM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Darek,

You spent this whole thread assuring me that accidental was defined to be the absence of forethought and intention. Now you're going back on that assurance.

What is true of its wing and brain must be true of its behavior.

No. This is question-begging.

Accidental refers to the absence of a particular kind of behavior.

Look at this analogy. Suppose that we classify events according to whether they involve flight powered by a beating wing. Events not caused by flight powered by a beating wing we'll call "wing-accidental". Events caused by a beating wing we'll call "wing-deliberate".

Now look back at the story again. The history of the universe up to the development of beating wings is completely wing-accidental.

After wings develop, we see some wing-deliberate events. There's nothing here that prohibits wing-accidental events leading to wing-deliberate events.

This is precisely analogous with the naturalistic picture of mind.

If deliberation is a mechanism, then events leading to the development of that mechanism are accidental, but some events after that development are deliberate.

So it seems that your second statement is equivocal. It can be interpreted as saying that "State N+1 is defined to be 'accidental' when prior states through N have no deliberation in them." This is the definition I was happy with, and that I thought you were agreeing to.

But, as I suspected, that's not what you meant. What you meant was that "Accidents will never lead to deliberate events", or, more precisely, "Deliberating mechanisms cannot appear by accident." Well, that's begging the question. You are assuming your conclusion from the start.

 
At 9/28/2008 11:09:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

The question is, is the existence of God accidental?

Your second claim is false for the reasons I stated--intentional systems evolve and then create artifacts.

 
At 9/29/2008 06:31:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

DL

>>If deliberation is a mechanism, then events leading to the development of that mechanism are accidental, but some events after that development are deliberate.<<

You assume that deliberation can be a mechanism. I am pointing out why this assumption makes no sense.

The critical point is the transition from accidental events to intended ones.

In your view, at some point an intention was the result of pure accident--basically, that something happened on purpose accidentally.

My original statements have no such equivocation as you claim. Simply read them.

 
At 9/29/2008 06:42:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

BDK

>>The question is, is the existence of God accidental?<<

Going back to my own two propositions (yet again) the first one says

"That which occurs without purpose, intention or foresight is accidental."

I don't see how it makes sense to say that "God occurs" or "God's existence occurs." God is by definition eternal.

>>Your second claim is false for the reasons I stated--intentional systems evolve and then create artifacts.<<

Sure, it's false IF subjectivity, intention, and internal mental states in general can be shoehorned into a naturalistic, purely mechanistic account of evolution. Which is just the question.

 
At 9/29/2008 06:58:00 AM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Darek,

In your view, at some point an intention was the result of pure accident--basically, that something happened on purpose accidentally.

You haven't addressed my analogy.

There is no constraint that says that accidental events cannot lead to intentional states which then produce intentional events.

Let's zoom in on the transition once more.

Accidental events lead to an intentional mental state. That mental state is still accidental (accidental = not the result of intention). However, as soon as that mental state takes a deliberate action, said action is non-accidental by definition.

There's never a contradiction.

Your argument is based only on your intuition that accidents don't lead to intentional events, i.e., your intuition that your ultimate conclusion is true. But you haven't justified that premise, and it does not follow from accident's formal definition as the absence of intention.

 
At 9/29/2008 12:00:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

DL

>>Your argument is based only on your intuition that accidents don't lead to intentional events<<

That's true as far as it goes, but this is not just my intuition. I think this is our common intuition when naturalism is not seen to be at stake.

I think all of us see the results of pure accident as themselves being, necessarily, purely accidental. Given naturalism, the structure of a hominid brain was accidental. The processes of that brain were determined entirely by its accidental structures. And the behavior of that hominid was determined wholely by those processes.

If naturalism were not hanging in the balance, I think we would in common feel forced to conclude that that which was entirely the result of accident must itself of necessity be accidental.

 
At 9/29/2008 01:21:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Maybe it's because I'm a neuroscientist DB, but I don't share your intuition at all. I see in the firing of populations of neurons the roots of intentionality. I see the roots in the memories of honey bees flying back to their brehtheren to communicate to them where the nectar lies.

It doesn't seem unnatural or forced or strange at all to me. We've discussed this a lot (e.g., my magnum opus starting here).

I think the horn belongs in the other shoe. This wouldn't seem strange at all if someone's didn't have an antecedent commitment to naturalism being false.

But intuitions aren't arguments. We'll see in 50 years, once we actually have a better understanding of the relevant science. In the meantime, have fun mocking the confused and biased naturalists. :)

 
At 9/29/2008 01:43:00 PM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Darek,

That's true as far as it goes, but this is not just my intuition. I think this is our common intuition when naturalism is not seen to be at stake.

Why should I value an intuition above reason?

Besides, I don't think the typical human intuition relates to accident versus deliberation in the sense we are discussing it here. I think the intuition you're referring to relates to blame and responsibility, and that's a different kettle of fish.

The intuition you're referring to is the intuition that if we could a person's intuitions could be traced to mechanistic forces, then there would be no absolute, objective moral responsibility for that person's actions.

Psychologically, most people can't face this possibility. It's easier for them to deny the possibility of naturalism that accept the consequences. If the intuition were wrong, we could only decide on a subjective/aesthetic basis whether to hold that person responsible for their actions. This scares many people.

However, this intuition is logically incoherent. The logical complement of determinism is utter randomness (randomness = determination by nothing whatsoever).

So even if I were receptive to intuitions in the face of rational argument to the contrary (which I am not), the moral responsibility intuition is incoherent for other reasons.

[BTW, I think this is the real reason that these debates come up in the first place. The central motivation for attacking naturalism is that naturalism denies the kind of absolute moral responsibility that people find appealing in Christianity, i.e., universal justice, and the kind of responsibility that makes punishment (even eternal punishment) absolutely justifiable.]

 
At 9/29/2008 09:28:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

DL

>>I think the intuition you're referring to relates to blame and responsibility, and that's a different kettle of fish.<<

Moral responsibility is a related issue, but I don't need to bring that in. You seem to acknowledge the reality of the distinction between accidental and intentional, and that alone will do the job.

>>Why should I value an intuition above reason?<<

You should only to the extent that reason itself is intuitive. I'm talking about the direction that analysis leads.

When it comes to many other categories, we can distinguish between the nature of the cause and that of the effect. That which is chemically caused is not necessarily chemical, for example.

But when it comes to accident, it turns out to be impossible to disentangle "accidental" from "accidentally caused." When we want to determine whether an event was accidental, we try to determine whether and to what extent the cause of that event was accidental.

This process leads us progressively back up the causal chain looking for some contribution from intention. If we go far enough without finding such a contribution, we're content to label the event accidental.

This means of analysis allows us to encounter intention moving backward from effects to causes, but if we begin with a hypothetical circumstances empty of all intention and move forward from cause to effect there is never room for intention to enter. Effects are necessarily accidentally caused in every single case, relentlessly.

What gives this more bite is the coincident prima facie problem making room for intention or volition ("free will") in a mechanical system. It is not only dualists who have seen difficulties in that area.

 
At 9/30/2008 05:41:00 AM , Blogger Randy said...

Darek,

This means of analysis allows us to encounter intention moving backward from effects to causes, but if we begin with a hypothetical circumstances empty of all intention and move forward from cause to effect there is never room for intention to enter. Effects are necessarily accidentally caused in every single case, relentlessly.



I believe this has already been pointed out to you by BDK and DL, but I’ll try again.

We determine whether or not something was an intentional effect by ruling out any intentional causes. We look backwards in time when we do that. But now you are claiming that we can look forward in time to perform a similar analysis: that the unintentional effect has to itself cause an unintentional effect.

An unintentional effect is not the same thing as an unintentional cause.

For you argument to be successful you need to demonstrate why an unintentional effect is necessarily an unintentional cause.

 
At 9/30/2008 05:54:00 AM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Darek,

What Randy said. :)

I could not have put it better myself. I would have put it this way:

When we want to determine whether an event was accidental, we try to determine whether and to what extent the cause of that event was accidental.

This is fine, but (as Randy says) we work backwards, and if we find an intentional agent deliberately caused the event, then we say the event was not accidental. If a series of prior accidental events led to the creation of the intentional agent, that doesn't change the analysis.

 
At 9/30/2008 02:05:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

DL & Randy

Perhaps the point will be clearer from the following illustrative statement:

"Unintentionally, she programmed the computer for such complex behavior that the behavior required or entailed intentions."

Do you see a problem with it? The behavior of the computer was entirely generated and limited by the sophistication of the programming. If the behavior of the computer was so such that it necessarily entailed intentions, how could the programming on which the behavior was based have been accomplished without them? The programming itself was a behavior. On the other hand, if the progamming could be accomplished without intentions, why would the resulting behavior require or entail them?

The "she" in the above statement is nature--the entire complex web of natural laws and physical circumstances of the unfolding universe.

 
At 9/30/2008 03:24:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

DB: you have restated your view many times, but I'm not sure there is anything new here. You keep saying, in different ways, that intentionality didn't emerge during the course of evolution. We are saying we want an argument.

It isn't that I don't get it. I just don't buy it.

I think this whole thread is pretty much a garden path.

 
At 9/30/2008 05:28:00 PM , Blogger Randy said...

Darek,
"Unintentionally, she programmed the computer for such complex behavior that the behavior required or entailed intentions."

I do agree with BDK that you seem to be beating a dead horse here.

But I am interested in how you are determing that the behavior entailed intentions. This sounds like the opposite of what you were arguing before: that behavior could be completely divorced from sentience.

I have to admit that I can be quite slow to catch on at times, so maybe an elaboration of what you have written in you last post will at least help me to understand your point of view even if I don't agree with it.

 
At 9/30/2008 08:30:00 PM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Darek,

Your new approach is not making your argument any clearer, but I think it does tell me something about your thinking.

You seem to believe that an intentional system cannot form accidentally. (Some sort of 'conservation of intentionality'?) Or perhaps it might be closer to your ideal to say that, if an apparently intentional system is discovered to have an accidental origin, then the apparently intentional system isn't intentional after all.

If this is your position, do you have an argument for this?

Under naturalism, a system is intentional iff it recognizes and anticipates/simulates the outcomes of its actions, decides on an action based on its preferences, and then executes the preferred action. Nowhere in this definition is there any limitation on the origin of the system.

Dualism may use some alternative definition for 'intentional system' that does place a restriction on the origins of the system, but if you're going to claim naturalism is internally flawed, you need to use naturalism's definition. Otherwise, you would be assuming dualism in order to prove dualism is true.

Besides, I'm not so sure dualism's definition of 'intentional system' places any restrictions on the origin of the system, either.

 
At 10/01/2008 06:08:00 AM , Blogger Randy said...

Darek,

If the behavior of the computer was so such that it necessarily entailed intentions.

As I briefly mentioned above, this does not sit will with your earlier argument that it was possible for evolved creatures to behave as if they were sentient, to behave as if they were in pain but not really be sentient or not really be in pain because all natural selection had to work on was the outward behavior: you claimed there was no logical connection between such behavior and what that behavior expressed or manifested.

I do find it interesting that you are willing to go so far as to make this logical connection between behavior and intentionality one of entailment. I wouldn’t go so far. Behaviors are criteria by which we identify the pain someone has or the intentions someone has. But they are defeasible, they do not entail that a person really has a pain. These criteria are partly constitutive of what it means to be in pain or to intend to do something.

 
At 10/01/2008 06:43:00 AM , Blogger Randy said...

Correction on my last post:

"sit will" should be "sit well"

"But they are defeasible, they do not entail that a person really has a pain."

should be:

"But they are defeasible, they do not entail that a person really has a pain or really has the intention we think she has.

 
At 10/01/2008 08:43:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Randy

>>But I am interested in how you are determing that the behavior entailed intentions. This sounds like the opposite of what you were arguing before: that behavior could be completely divorced from sentience.<<

This is not that complicated. There is (I think) a fairly obvious question that arises in naturalism: How do we account for an 'internal' mental life, including such things as subjective experiences, intentions, logical reasoning.

Simple mechanism would seem to be able to account for responses (behavior) without obviously entailing or requiring an "internal" mental life. That was the point I was pushing earlier.

The most common naturalistic response I've encountered is to say that while "simple" behaviors (those of thermostats, chess-playing computers) do not demand an internal mental life, the more complex patterns of human behavior must somehow require it or entail it. Otherwise, given naturalism, why would we have it?

My last post assumed for the sake of argument that the very complex pattern of human behavior does somehow require or entail such things as intentions.

But the pattern of human behavior simply realizes or derives from the complexity of the brain. And the compexity of the brain realizes or derives from the complexity of the environment under the influence of laws of nature. The natural environment, in other words, needed no intentions to generate the complexity of the brain, but naturalism turns around and claims that the brain needs intentions to generate the compexity of human behavior. This is inconsistent.

I'm still skeptical of the claim that internal states have a "natural" place in a naturalistic universe. For example, to understand what "walking" is, a person needs to know that it is something done by "legs" (or the linguistic equivalent of legs). If you have no idea how "walking" is physically performed, I just don't see that you know in any meaningful sense what "walking" is. But someone can know what "thinking" is without even knowing that the brain is the physical organ of thought.

 
At 10/01/2008 09:53:00 AM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Darek,

Now, in your response to Randy, you're arguing that natural laws cannot create something more complex from something less complex. You say that to do so would be inconsistent.

Why do you say this is inconsistent? Not only is it consistent, but we know for a fact that simple natural laws can lead to very complex solutions. Genetic algorithms prove this.

Maybe it will help if we examine the difference between evolutionary and human problem solving.

In human problem solving, we generate candidate solutions by blending random ideas with ideas that have worked in the past. After this brainstorming, we simulate the outcome of each idea, selecting those we think will be successful. Then we execute only the solution we think will be most successful.

In evolutionary problem solving, candidate solutions are generated by blending random mutations with genetic solutions that worked in the past. Of these solutions, all are implemented, and natural selection weeds out the solutions that do not work.

So the distinction between design and evolution is two-fold. First, evolution does not do simulations. Second, because of the first limitation, evolution cannot imagine/simulate an ideal "goal". That means that evolutionary problem solving can only solve one kind of problem: survival. Human thinking can solve a multitude of problems. In particular, human thinking can solve many survival problems far more efficiently than evolution can.

So what's wrong with the idea that evolution developed thinking minds (for their survival advantages)?

 
At 10/01/2008 10:49:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

DB:

The natural environment, in other words, needed no intentions to generate the complexity of the brain, but naturalism turns around and claims that the brain needs intentions to generate the compexity of human behavior. This is inconsistent.

Nobody says that complexity is sufficient for intentions. If it were, then we would need intentionality to explain global weather patterns.

It is the specific properties of animal behavior that makes theories with internal content-bearing states credible (plus the predictive power of such models). For instance, linguistic behavior, foraging behavior, communicative behavior.

But someone can know what "thinking" is without even knowing that the brain is the physical organ of thought.

Someone can also know what water is without even knowing that H20 is the physical realization of water. They can know what lightning is without knowing Maxwell's equations. You once again are trying to draw ontological conclusions from semantic claims. Different meaning doesn't imply different ontology. This is probably the single most pervasive confusion in lay philosophy of mind.

I think all this behavior stuff is a red herring. Logically, behavior is neither necessary nor sufficient for mind.

 
At 10/01/2008 11:10:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

P.S. Do you really know what thinking is? I don't.

 
At 10/01/2008 12:59:00 PM , Anonymous Steve Lovell said...

Hi BDK,

Jumping in not having read the whole 57 comments or the 100+ on the previous thread so apologies if I have missing something ...

You say: I think all this behavior stuff is a red herring. Logically, behavior is neither necessary nor sufficient for mind.

I think Darek agrees. Indeed I think he agrees very strongly. But then evolution is only interested in behaviour. As a result evolution can't select for intentionality and its existence becomes a mystery looked at only from an evolutionary perspective. This is why I think Darek believes you are, as naturalists, really committed to something like behavourism/functionalism/eliminativism (or in place of the last of these Dennett's "intentional stance".

Steve

 
At 10/01/2008 01:34:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

But then evolution is only interested in behaviour. As a result evolution can't select for intentionality and its existence becomes a mystery looked at only from an evolutionary perspective.

So evolution can't select for creatures with more efficient hearts, because it only cares about survival (and reproduction) of the organism.

Even if behavior ultimately determines fitness, that doesn't make there can't be selection of genes that create more efficient internal neuronal hardware, just as it can select for genes that create hearts.

I see no reason to think that our sensory systems, for instance, didn't evolve. Their ability to reflect what is happening in the world and the body doesn't seem at all surprising evolutionarily. Using the above argument this shouldn't even be possible.

Fodor discussed this point a few years ago, perhaps someone reading remembers which essay.

 
At 10/01/2008 01:36:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

PS I was not talking about evolution of mind when I said behavior wasn't necessary/sufficient. I was referring to occurrent mental states. Dreaming, for instance, is a case of mind with no behavior. But that doesn't imply that the neuronal machinery for mind wasn't selected because of its influence on behavior.

I tend to avoid these evolutionary arguments, as we don't even understand the proximate basis of mind yet, so high-quality comparative molecular studies are only on the horizon.

 
At 10/01/2008 02:01:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Just found a wonderful paper just out on speciation in Cichlid fish based on 'sensory drive.' It is a type of sexual selection of the visual system of fish based on mate preference.

It isn't the evolution of "intentionality", but the principles are the same--you could have argued that sensory systems of fish can't be selected for b/c evolution only cares about behavior (in this case, reproductive behavior). The Cichlid fish in Africa are a wonderful natural resource for empirical studies of speciation.

 
At 10/01/2008 07:17:00 PM , Blogger Randy said...

Darek,

For example, to understand what "walking" is, a person needs to know that it is something done by "legs" (or the linguistic equivalent of legs). If you have no idea how "walking" is physically performed, I just don't see that you know in any meaningful sense what "walking" is.

I agree very much with what you are saying here.


But someone can know what "thinking" is without even knowing that the brain is the physical organ of thought.

But the brain isn’t the organ of thought. There are no behavioral criteria of identity by which we can ascribe thinking to the brain.

It is the human being that thinks, not the brain. As in your example of walking, we have well known behavioral criteria which justifies our ascription of thinking to another person. Those criteria are partly constitutive of what “thinking” means.

And that is why your attempt to undercut the theory of evolution by denying any logical connection between thinking and behavior fails, for if you do deny it then the word “thinking” will no longer mean the same thing.

 
At 10/01/2008 07:35:00 PM , Blogger Randy said...

BDK,
I think all this behavior stuff is a red herring. Logically, behavior is neither necessary nor sufficient for mind.


If all you are saying here is that the mind and behavior should not be conflated, that they are not the same thing, then I agree.

I don't think either of us are behaviorists.

But it only makes sense to ascribe a psychological attribute P to a human being if it makes sense describe it as behaving in a mannner that exhibits P.

 
At 10/01/2008 07:57:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

DL

>>Now, in your response to Randy, you're arguing that natural laws cannot create something more complex from something less complex.<<

I was arguing that naturalism entails that natural laws can generate complexity without intentions.

>>Maybe it will help if we examine the difference between evolutionary and human problem solving.<<

Termite mounds are generated by evolution. So are ant hills, bee hives and prairie dog colonies. Ants maintain a social order, construct living quarters, forage, even carry on agriculture and domestication in the case of some species. Ants cooperatively solve problems, overcome obstacles, and adapt to variations in their environment. What distinguishes an ant colony from a human city? Objectively speaking, it comes down to complexity.

You gave me an admirable introspective, subjective account of how the complexity of, say, a human city is generated: by intentions, conscious reasoning, etc. But that is just the inside view of the "how"--how the generation took place. Objectively, "what" was generated was simply a higher level of complexity.

Look, what generates a termite mound? Termite behavior. What generates termite behavior? Termite anatomy. What generates termite anatomy? Selection pressure. Now, the same goes for human constructions, considered objectively. Why are human cities more complex than termite mounds? Because of the complexity of human behavior compared with termite behavior. Why is human behavior more complex? Because human anatomy is more complex. What generated the added complexity of human anatomy? Selection pressure.

Selection pressure is trial-and-error, true enough. But must humans have intentions and resort to reasoning in order to construct a system that generates complexity by a trial-and-error algorithm? It sure seems so. We can build a computer and program it to generate complex patterns through simple either/or programming commands, but only by employing higher reasoning.

On the other hand, if nature is accidentally (no intentions, no reasoning) programmed to generate dizzyingly complex structures through simple physical principles (simple being relative--take the "simplicity" of quantum equations) then perhaps our own impression that we must employ intentions and reasoning to do the same is mistaken. Not that I buy that.

 
At 10/01/2008 09:02:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

BDK

>>Someone can also know what water is without even knowing that H20 is the physical realization of water.<<

The water analogy is flawed. Someone can be ignorant of the chemistry of water and still have sense-based images of water to call upon--as a clear, fluid substance at room temperature, drinkable, etc. And the statement "water is H20" would mean little to someone who has lacks any such sense-based knowledge.

Whatever "thought" is, we don't have a sense-based image of it, unless you count a man sitting crouched with forehead-on-fist.

>>P.S. Do you really know what thinking is? I don't.<<

If we really have no idea what "thinking" is, then cognitive and neuro sciences will be unable to tell us much, because we have no way to pick out its neural correlates!

 
At 10/01/2008 09:03:00 PM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Darek,

I was arguing that naturalism entails that natural laws can generate complexity without intentions.

Genetic algorithms prove this, so the facts entail it, even in a dualist picture.

What distinguishes an ant colony from a human city? Objectively speaking, it comes down to complexity.

No, it cannot be complexity. Consider the body of a chimpanzee, at the molecular level. I expect such biology is a lot more complex than a human city, while at the same time being generated by natural laws that lack foresight. So the difference cannot be in the level of complexity.

We know what the difference is. The difference is in efficiency, not complexity. Genetic algorithms require many generations to solve problems (although only a few generations to implement pre-existing solutions), whereas minds can solve problems within a single generation. Indeed, minds can solve problems within a single minute.

This is reflected in our artifacts. Human artifacts are invented very rapidly, and they are often designed to react to situations we are anticipating. We do not invent all possible artifacts, and then select out the useful ones. We invent the ones we expect to be useful.

Your argument is that if naturalism can create the complexity of a mind, then it doesn't need minds to do what minds are credited with doing. And you credit minds merely with creating complexity. However, as I've explained here, that's not the case. Evolutionary, non-intentional algorithms are much less efficient at solving problems than intentional algorithms. Consequently, we cannot explain the efficiency of human behavior and invention without foresight.

However, the invention of minds by accidental forces has no such efficiency constraint. The invention of minds by evolution took a very large number of generations.

Selection pressure is trial-and-error, true enough.

Just a small correction here. Mostly, selection pressure is the non-random part.

 
At 10/01/2008 09:26:00 PM , Blogger Randy said...

Darek,
What distinguishes an ant colony from a human city?

Humans were able to draw up plans and talk about how they were going to build the city and what kind of city it was going to be.

You really think you can give an account for those types of human behavior and leave out intentionality, imagination, the capacity to represent, etc.?

 
At 10/01/2008 09:34:00 PM , Blogger Randy said...

Darek,
If we really have no idea what "thinking" is, then cognitive and neuro sciences will be unable to tell us much, because we have no way to pick out its neural correlates!


That is almost correct.
An inductive correlation presupposes a non-inductive correlation of the phenomena being correlated.
So we have to have criteria for non-inductively identifying the neural processes.
And we have to have a non-inductive identification of say pain or thinking of the color red. And we make that non-inductive identification with the behavioral criteria we use to ascribe psychological predicates.

 
At 10/01/2008 09:36:00 PM , Blogger Randy said...

Oops! Needed to replace 'correlation' with 'identification'. So am reposting the corrected version. Sorry!

Darek,
If we really have no idea what "thinking" is, then cognitive and neuro sciences will be unable to tell us much, because we have no way to pick out its neural correlates!


That is almost correct.
An inductive correlation presupposes a non-inductive identification of the phenomena being correlated.
So we have to have criteria for non-inductively identifying the neural processes.
And we have to have a non-inductive identification of say pain or thinking of the color red. And we make that non-inductive identification with the behavioral criteria we use to ascribe psychological predicates.

 
At 10/01/2008 10:05:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

The water analogy is flawed. Someone can be ignorant of the chemistry of water and still have sense-based images of water to call upon--as a clear, fluid substance at room temperature, drinkable, etc. And the statement "water is H20" would mean little to someone who has lacks any such sense-based knowledge.

Whatever "thought" is, we don't have a sense-based image of it, unless you count a man sitting crouched with forehead-on-fist.


The disanalogies don't kill the analogies. We have a prescientific understanding of mental states (e.g., pains, hungers, illusions, hallucinations) that can be obtained with zero understanding of neuroscience. This doesn't imply that mental states are not brain states any more than the fact that we can have a prescientific understanding of water (colorless liquid we drink) precludes its being H20.


If we really have no idea what "thinking" is, then cognitive and neuro sciences will be unable to tell us much, because we have no way to pick out its neural correlates!

I didn't say I had no idea what it is. I can give examples, and think I know it when I see it, and think I can recognize my own mental states with the help of my theory of mind. But that isn't knowing what it is any more than pointing to examples of language tells you what language is.

We don't typically know what something really is until the science is well developed. We can use our prescientific understanding to bootstrap us into useful scientific experiments, and eventually science will reveal the essence of the phenomenon.

The nice thing about science is its concreteness and data-mindedness. They don't aim to establish a set of necessary and sufficient conditions for something to count as X. Those come as the science progresses. Prematurely precise definitions are the bane of philosophy. In science we pick specific examples that capture what we are interested in, poke and prod, study the hell out of it, and see what comes out and how well it will generalize to other systems that putatively have that property.

Unless you care to define mind without using synonyms?

I am not all that in tune with Randy's Wittgensteinian Rylian view of mind. His conceptual approach is antithetical to my scientific way of thinking. He would probably like the horrible book 'Conceptual foundations of neuroscience', which was discussed here, where I made severely critical comments using my real name. I don't really care what ordinary language says. I care what the best science says, and want to understand the phenomenon not the concepts and don't get all in a knot when people say that brains think, discriminate, read, etc..

If ordinary language turns out to be correct sometimes, fine, but I don't do anthropology of folk concepts to find the truth.

I'm sure Randy isn't all that bad with this, but I try to steer clear of getting entangled with the Wittgensteinians. :)

 
At 10/02/2008 04:40:00 AM , Blogger Randy said...

Darek,

Whatever "thought" is, we don't have a sense-based image of it, unless you count a man sitting crouched with forehead-on-fist.

I would count it. I would also count seeing a person playing a game of chess or solving a complex mathematical problem. Of if someone were to say:"I am thinking."

 
At 10/02/2008 05:05:00 AM , Blogger Randy said...

BDK,
I care what the best science says, and want to understand the phenomenon not the concepts and don't get all in a knot when people say that brains think, discriminate, read, etc..

How can you understand the phenomenon if you don't understand the concepts you are using?
I don't get all in knots when someone says a brain thinks, but I do admit to having trouble understanding what they mean by that statement. If they mean that a person needs a properly functioning brain in order to think properly then that sounds quite sensible to me. Usually they don't. They are ascrbing thinking to a brain when they have no criteria of identity for justifying that ascription.
It is like when they dualist ascribes thinking to some mental substance. There are no criteria of identity for a mental substance.

If ordinary language turns out to be correct sometimes, fine, but I don't do anthropology of folk concepts to find the truth.

The only way in which language is "correct" is when it makes sense. If what you say doesn't make sense, then how can you describe what is true?

 
At 10/02/2008 06:35:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

DL

>>DB: What distinguishes an ant colony from a human city? Objectively speaking, it comes down to complexity.

DL: No, it cannot be complexity.<<

Are you really denying the functional analogy between the ant hill and the city? And denying that the city is more complex than the anthill? Come on.

>>Consider the body of a chimpanzee, at the molecular level. I expect such biology is a lot more complex than a human city<<

This is an escape by means of a reductio. I can do that too. A city is more complex because it contains many human bodies all of them more complex than the chimp body. But that doesn't confront the point.

We know that chimp behavior is less complex that human behavior. Why? Because the chimp brain is less complex than the human brain.

>>We know what the difference is. The difference is in efficiency, not complexity.<<

Efficiency is one of the fruits of complexity! Sure, I'll grant that it's not just any kind of complexity. But once a given level of complexity is maximized, you need more complexity to get more efficiency.

>>I expect such biology is a lot more complex than a human city, while at the same time being generated by natural laws that lack foresight.<<

Well, this may come as a surprise to you, but naturalism implies that human cities are as much evolutionary products as are chimp brains, and therefore the products of natural laws that lack foresight.

You seem to propose that intentions and reasoning are a kind of transitional magic by which the otherwise blind working of natural laws shifts into a higher gear. You are drifting toward a kind of atheistic dualism.

In any case, you did not address my last point. Nature seems to be programmed to assemble complex (and therefore efficient) biological machines from "simple" algorithms (simple on the surface anyway). Yet humans seem to need advanced reasoning to create programmed systems that do the same thing--generate complex constructs by means of simple computational rules.
Any thoughts on that?

 
At 10/02/2008 06:44:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Randy

>>You really think you can give an account for those types of human behavior and leave out intentionality, imagination, the capacity to represent, etc.?<<

You mean, can we give solely an objective account? Sure, to some degree at least. And the objective account is that ant hills and human cities are functionally similar but dinstinguishable by their levels of complexity.

Is a solely objective account a complete account? No. But evolution tends to lead toward a solely objective account.

Sort of like ethics. The evolultionary account of ethics, I think, tends to discount our subjective experience of the irreducibility of right and wrong. But that doesn't mean that I reject the reality of moral categories.

 
At 10/02/2008 06:52:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

BDK

>>The disanalogies don't kill the analogies. We have a prescientific understanding of mental states (e.g., pains, hungers, illusions, hallucinations) that can be obtained with zero understanding of neuroscience.<<

Are you saying that the prescientific understanding of mental states is not qualitatively different than the prescientific understanding of physical substances and relations??
There are no sense-based images of the former, whereas there are of the latter. Surely you acknowledge some kind of difference.

 
At 10/02/2008 07:00:00 AM , Blogger Randy said...

Darek,
But evolution tends to lead toward a solely objective account.

I don't know what you mean by this.

 
At 10/02/2008 07:12:00 AM , Blogger Randy said...

Darek,
Are you saying that the prescientific understanding of mental states is not qualitatively different than the prescientific understanding of physical substances and relations??
There are no sense-based images of the former, whereas there are of the latter. Surely you acknowledge some kind of difference.


If there were no sense-based images (as you put it) expressing such things as pain, or intentions, or beliefs then we would not have the concepts of pain, intentionality, belief that we do.

In order to support your claim that evolution cannot produce sentient behavior you are going to have to demonstrate that private ostensive definitions are coherent.

 
At 10/02/2008 10:23:00 AM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Darek,

Your complexity claim doesn't hold up. Whales and elephants have bigger (more complex) brains than humans do. Chimp bodies (even frog bodies) are far more complex than human cities.

We know that chimp behavior is less complex that human behavior. Why? Because the chimp brain is less complex than the human brain.

Is it less complex? That's far from obvious. Whale and elephant brains are several times larger than human brains. So why are we smarter and more efficient than they are?

Efficiency is one of the fruits of complexity! Sure, I'll grant that it's not just any kind of complexity. But once a given level of complexity is maximized, you need more complexity to get more efficiency.

Again, I don't see this at all. Obviously, being more efficient enables us to generate more useful complexity, but I don't see the converse. It is true that you need a minimum level of complexity before thinking is possible and before the corresponding efficiency gains are possible. However, the arrow points in the other direction. It is efficiency that gives rise to an acceleration in useful complexity. One can increase complexity without gaining any efficiency in creating new useful complexity.

Other species are no less evolved than we are, and many species are more complex. Yet humans are more efficient at creating new useful complexity than the other species.

Well, this may come as a surprise to you, but naturalism implies that human cities are as much evolutionary products as are chimp brains, and therefore the products of natural laws that lack foresight.

This is wrong, or, at least, very misleading. The process by which cities were created is not the same process by which chimp brains evolved.

Here's an analogy. What are the origins of a sand dune on a beach? Most people would say "erosion". However, we can look back in history. There was nuclear fusion, supernova, gravitational attraction, cooling, ocean formation, and eventually erosion.

What if I say this: "a sand dune is the result of nuclear processes, and so there are no pertinent differences between a sand dune and, say, a nebula or an ocean."

This would plainly be wrong. Just because oceans and sand dunes can trace origins back to nuclear fusion, doesn't mean that erosion doesn't exist, or erosion isn't important, or erosion doesn't give sand unique properties.

But this is analogous to your statement. You keep saying that intentional inventions are accidental if the process by which humans formed was accidental. But that's exactly like saying that sand dunes are nuclear (as opposed to eroded) because they can trace their ultimate origins back to a time before there was erosion.

Also, you keep trying to pretend that there's no objective difference between evolutionary processes and thinking processes. There are obvious objective differences that I spelled out earlier. Evolution uses randomization, instantiation, and selection. Thinking uses randomization, simulation, selection, and then instantiation. That's an objective difference, is it not?

You seem to propose that intentions and reasoning are a kind of transitional magic by which the otherwise blind working of natural laws shifts into a higher gear. You are drifting toward a kind of atheistic dualism.

In this picture, thinking is a process conducted by a machine, and evolution evolved the machine without forethought. There's no magic here. It's just science and reason.

Nature seems to be programmed to assemble complex (and therefore efficient) biological machines from "simple" algorithms (simple on the surface anyway). Yet humans seem to need advanced reasoning to create programmed systems that do the same thing--generate complex constructs by means of simple computational rules.
Any thoughts on that?


There's no question of need, Darek. Humans could create (and are creating) programmed systems the same way that nature does. It simply takes extremely long to do things this way, e.g., evolving domesticating animals, evolving human diseases, etc.

However, humans CAN do things that nature has not done to date. So what?

Nature creates complexity. Eventually complex states exist that have greater efficiency for creating complexity. This happened with the first life, with genetics, with sex, and then with brains. In the first three cases, the increase in efficiency came from increasing the efficiency of the original evolutionary algorithm, e.g., improving the ability to pass on effective solutions. In the case of minds, the efficiency arrives by significantly changing the algorithm, by selecting simulations before implementing them.

 
At 10/02/2008 10:45:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

DB: the analogy is a good one. Just because we don't identify them in the same way, we do have prescientific theories of both of them. That is the point of the analogy. You can focus on the disanalogy but it's missing the point.

Bush's presidency is like a lame duck. Well, Bush doesn't have wings so it's a horrible analogy! That would also miss the point.

 
At 10/02/2008 10:47:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Randy: read the post that I linked to to see my response to what you said and probably more things you would say if we continued this thread, under the name Eric Thomson. I'd rather base any discussion on that, but I consider what I said there to be right.

 
At 10/02/2008 12:27:00 PM , Anonymous Steve Lovell said...

BDK, Randy, DL, DB

There's no way I can keep up with the rate at which you guys are posting.

BDK,

In your response to me you are then assuming that thought is among the causes of action, I think. If there's no logical relation, but evolution is still interested in thought as it relates to behaviour. By the way, I don't see why evolution should be less interested by the "inner behaviour" of our hearts than with the outer behaviour of more visible parts of our bodies. All I meant when I said that evolution is only interested in behaviour, was that it was only interested in that which can have naturalistically acceptable causal efficacy. My previous post certainly didn't put that very well.

Do you think that no entailment relation holds between intentionality and any physical story at all? Or do you want to keep that as a thesis about "easily observable" or "big bodily" behaviour?

If the latter, I don't see a principled difference between the inner and outer physical events. If the former, then how can mental categories impinge on evolution at all? Is the relation causal?

But if it's causal then aren't you either rejecting the closure of the physical or identifying the mental with something physical? If you are indentifying the mental and the physical then why are there no entailment relations? Obviously the identity could only be "a posteriori" like the old Kripe stuff about the morning and the evening star (Venus). But then you need some empirical criteria for the identity and I can't imagine anything but functionalism or behaviourism fitting the bill.

Perhaps that's just the paucity of my imagination.

Probably by the time I get to check back, there'll have been another fifty posts ... but I'll do my best.

Steve

 
At 10/02/2008 02:37:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Steve:
All I meant when I said that evolution is only interested in behaviour, was that it was only interested in that which can have naturalistically acceptable causal efficacy. My previous post certainly didn't put that very well.

Neurons have such efficacy.

Do you think that no entailment relation holds between intentionality and any physical story at all? Or do you want to keep that as a thesis about "easily observable" or "big bodily" behaviour?

Behavior provides evidence for mental states, but since mental states are neuronal states, the ultimate direct evidence will be neuronal. Consider digestion--we can make theories of digestion based on inputs and outputs of the digestive system, but it will be woefully inadequate until we go under the hood. Historically, there were very intricate theories of digestion based on inputs (food) and outputs (waste products) that turned out completely wrong as they didn't have the right ideas about the sorts of operations could be performed by the digestive system.

This is not to say psychology is useless or bull. Our psychological theories/data and neuronal theories/data coevolve and constrain one another as both sciences develop. Until recently they developed fairly independently (especially b/c of the hegemony of behaviorism), but now psychology has grown out of that stupid fad and realizes that what is happening inside the organism is relevant for what the organism is doing!

 
At 10/02/2008 08:17:00 PM , Blogger Randy said...

BDK,
Randy: read the post that I linked to to see my response to what you said and probably more things you would say if we continued this thread, under the name Eric Thomson. I'd rather base any discussion on that, but I consider what I said there to be right.

Thanks for the link. I hadn’t read the posts that continued the thread after I dropped out of the discussion. They were very interesting. And am also grateful for the link I found in one of N.N.’s posts to his blogsite, “Methods of Projection”.

We obviously come to this issue with very basic disagreements. But that seems to be quite common in online discussions like this. I see no problem with that as long as we treat each other’s arguments with respect and respond as best we can to the issues being raised here. And it looks to me like that is exactly what has been going on here.


In response to one of Darek’s posts you wrote:

You once again are trying to draw ontological conclusions from semantic claims. Different meaning doesn't imply different ontology. This is probably the single most pervasive confusion in lay philosophy of mind.

That is an important and legitimate critique. I think it results from the all too common misconception that the meaning of a word is the object it stands for. And when one is working under that conception of language it is all too easy too fall into the trap you’ve mentioned.

 
At 10/03/2008 05:40:00 AM , Blogger Randy said...

Darek,

Randy
>>You really think you can give an account for those types of human behavior and leave out intentionality, imagination, the capacity to represent, etc.?<<

You mean, can we give solely an objective account? Sure, to some degree at least. And the objective account is that ant hills and human cities are functionally similar but dinstinguishable by their levels of complexity.

Is a solely objective account a complete account? No.



And that illustrates why I don’t buy your evolution produces philosophical zombies argument.
Even granting that evolution works in the way you are claiming, that it only selects for behavior, the kinds of behaviors that have been selected for can’t be understood without the ascription of sentience to the living beings behaving thusly.

If we build a robot to behave as a dog do we then turn around and claim that dogs really aren’t living beings because the robot is obviously not alive and yet it is still able to function like a living dog?
Perhaps it is the illusion that consciousness is some mysterious substance that can exist independently of the body that makes it seem sensible to claim that a computer playing chess is evidence that humans can behave as they do without sentience?

 
At 10/03/2008 11:39:00 AM , Anonymous Steve Lovell said...

Hi BDK

You write: Behavior provides evidence for mental states, but since mental states are neuronal states, the ultimate direct evidence will be neuronal.

Okay, I can see that ... though I'm a little worried about the problem of other minds. But that's a problem for all of us, so I can't press too hard without expecting a legitimate "tu coque" response.

I like the analogy about digestive systems. It's very helpful. Even with poor theories of digestion we could discern from the effects whether the digestion was working well or badly, but just not how it did it. However, I'm not convinced that the cases are sufficiently analogous. My basic issue is that your position, so far as I understand it, seems to commit you to the existence of a "reduction" and I with the eliminativists think that that is wildly improbable. Do you believe that folk-psychology, or something very like it, could be reduced to some future set of neurological categories?

Having hung around on VR's site a while I know you don't like predicting things and admit that we don't know what a future neuroscience might look like, but you seem confident that a "we know not what" will someday come from neuroscience to fill this gap in our current understanding. If that's what you think, it seems like a neuroscience-of the-gaps position to me.

Moreover, I still can't see how the categories can be brought together. A VR pointed out in a recent post, there's a conceptual gap here similar to the gap between ought and is, and unless science itself changes (Lewis's Abolition of Man has some interesting speculations about the possibility of future non-reductive sciences) it's approach, I can't see any bridge being built between these "two worlds" (at least not, to mix metaphors a "bottom-up" bridge, only top-down). But if science has to undergo such radical changes for the rapproachment to be possible, then there's no guarantee that the science we will end up with will be naturalistic in any sense which sits well with what we currently call "naturalism". Again, to think otherwise is another kind of "naturalism-of-the-gaps".

Thoughts?

Steve

 
At 10/03/2008 01:31:00 PM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Steve,

You addressed your question about "naturalism-of-the-gaps" to BDK, but I can't resist responding. My response is something that I've given before on various blogs, and it usually gets ignored, but I'll keep plugging away. :)

Suppose the year is 1700. We contemplate whether human minds can be reduced to simple chemistry, or whether minds contain some sort of magic spark that's not chemical. In the case of dualism, there are very many dualistic possibilities. If the body is just a radio for a non-material soul, there are all sorts of things a physical body does not need. We don't need a central nervous system because the soul can communicate directly with the limbs. We don't need a brain that can recognize things because the senses can transmit their data to the soul without pre-processing. And we don't need a brain with computational power because the soul can do all our computing for us. Of course, if dualism is true, it could be that one-in-a-billion kind of dualism that looks exactly like naturalism, but, a priori, that would be highly improbable.

As science reveals, we have central nervous systems, and brains with immense computing capacity. We know that pretty much every function of mind can be selectively disabled by disabling a corresponding part of the brain (e.g., Capgras Delusion).

So, by rights, dualism should be dead as a doornail by now. Dualism is a conspiracy theory that flies in the face of volumes of scientific evidence that show that mind is a machine.

It's not naturalism-of-the-gaps. It's dualism-of-the-gaps. Dualism is seizing on gaps in our knowledge, and claiming that's where dualism lives. But in order to do this, dualists ignore all the evidence to date and fine-tune their theory incessantly.

I'll give you the law and order analogy. Suppose we have a suspect in a murder case. If the suspect is guilty, we expect to find his fingerprints, DNA, and footprints at the crime scene. Investigators find the suspect's fingerprints at the scene. The conspiracy theorists claim the suspect was framed, but cannot find any evidence to back up the assertion. More evidence rolls in, showing the suspect was at the scene on the night of the murder, and that the suspect has the victim's blood on his clothing. Still, the conspiracy theorists claim the suspect was framed, but fail to produce any predictions. It's possible the suspect was framed, but it's extremely unlikely. The only way the conspiracy theorists can win is by supplying very strong evidence of an actual conspiracy. They need to make predictions and get them confirmed, e.g., the suspect was framed by his brother, and his brother will have paid-off the DNA lab, and we'll find the withdrawals and deposits, etc.

Of course, some details of the story may not yet be known by prosecutors. Maybe we don't know which bus or train the killer took to get to the murder scene. Maybe we don't know what events in the killer's past led him to decide to kill the victim. However, this is not a murder-of-the-gaps theory on the part of the prosecution. The fact that the prosecution cannot answer every question does not work against the prosecution. Rather, it is a conspiracy-of-the-gaps theory on the part of the conspiracy theorists who have zero evidence to back up their claims.

Naturalism has been convicted of operating the mind with a mountain of evidence. Dualism has not one shred of evidence. Dualism relies on the gaps in our knowledge, not upon knowledge of its own.

The typical response I get to this argument is the claim that "Dualists don't predict that we won't have central nervous systems, or that we won't have neural correlates, etc." But they should! The only reason they don't do so is that they know what science has already discovered, and they're pretending that the evidence of physical minds is neutral to their thesis. Under dualism, a priori, there's a 50/50 chance that any given mental function cannot be traced to a physical mechanism. Yet, after flipping the coin and getting heads 10,000 times in a row, dualists still refuse to believe they're working with a 2-headed coin. Why do naturalists get accused of naturalism-of-the-gaps for predicting the next coin flip will be heads?

 
At 10/03/2008 02:01:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

To add to what DL said:
Do you believe that folk-psychology, or something very like it, could be reduced to some future set of neurological categories?

Ultimately I do think psychology will be reduced to neuroscience. As for the relation of that final psychology to folk psychology, I am officially agnostic, but leaning atheist about the folk.

Having hung around on VR's site a while I know you don't like predicting things and admit that we don't know what a future neuroscience might look like, but you seem confident that a "we know not what" will someday come from neuroscience to fill this gap in our current understanding. If that's what you think, it seems like a neuroscience-of the-gaps position to me.

You could have said that about digestion in the 1900s. I don't have a good reason to believe that biology will fail here, and just as we could see indigestion before understanding digestion, we do already have disorders of the mind (and these are related to specific regions of the brain), we know that neurons cause behavior, and we are developing a more complete story in simple organisms like the bee and leech. It isn't exactly controversial to say that the brain is the biological seat of the mind, any more than before detailed digestive biology they knew that the stomach and intestines were the seat of digestion.

Moreover, I still can't see how the categories can be brought together. A VR pointed out in a recent post, there's a conceptual gap here similar to the gap between ought and is, and unless science itself changes (Lewis's Abolition of Man has some interesting speculations about the possibility of future non-reductive sciences) it's approach, I can't see any bridge being built between these "two worlds" (at least not, to mix metaphors a "bottom-up" bridge, only top-down).

Conceptual gaps don't imply ontological gaps (see above stuff in bold in previous comments). 'Lightning' and 'electrostatic discharge' are identical, even though semantically different. But I also think that some conceptual revision will take place, both in our understanding of the mind and the brain (we went over this in comments to previous post).

Intrascience transitions don't lead to nonnaturalism. Newton to Schroedinger, for instance. I suppose that is possible, but has it ever happend with any of the major conceptual revolutions in physics? The contrast class is supernaturalism, and that is unlikely to infect neuroscience. If it does, then it will not be naturalistic anymore.

 
At 10/03/2008 03:10:00 PM , Blogger Randy said...

Steve,

Moreover, I still can't see how the categories can be brought together. A VR pointed out in a recent post, there's a conceptual gap here similar to the gap between ought and is, and unless science itself changes (Lewis's Abolition of Man has some interesting speculations about the possibility of future non-reductive sciences) it's approach, I can't see any bridge being built between these "two worlds" (at least not, to mix metaphors a "bottom-up" bridge, only top-down). But if science has to undergo such radical changes for the rapproachment to be possible, then there's no guarantee that the science we will end up with will be naturalistic in any sense which sits well with what we currently call "naturalism". Again, to think otherwise is another kind of "naturalism-of-the-gaps".

I pretty much agree with your analysis. There are no bridge priciples we can use to make reduction of our psychological concepts to neuronal activities possible. Best we can do is correlate neuronal activity with our psychological behavior.


Actually, reductionism as a metaphysical doctrine has fared rather poorly with science in general.

 
At 10/03/2008 03:18:00 PM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Randy,

Actually, reductionism as a metaphysical doctrine has fared rather poorly with science in general.

Huh? I must be missing something. Scientific reductionism has been wildly successful, so "reductionism as a metaphysical doctrine" must be refer to something completely different.

 
At 10/03/2008 03:20:00 PM , Blogger Randy said...

DL,
It's not naturalism-of-the-gaps. It's dualism-of-the-gaps. Dualism is seizing on gaps in our knowledge, and claiming that's where dualism lives. But in order to do this, dualists ignore all the evidence to date and fine-tune their theory incessantly.

Unfortunately, it has been my experience interacting with fellow naturalists on the net that most of them are as much dualists as Darek or Steve. The main thing differentiating the two camps seems to be what substance to identify the mind with: either the physical stuff of the brain or the mental stuff of the soul.

The naturalist looks inward for the mind and stops at the brain while the supernaturalist goes inward one more step and stops at the soul (or mind or mental stuff, depending on the terminology employed.)
The duality of naturalism is that of brain/body, that of supernaturalism is mind/body.
I think both are deeply flawed conceptions of the mind.

 
At 10/03/2008 03:23:00 PM , Blogger Randy said...

DL,
Scientific reductionism has been wildly successful, so "reductionism as a metaphysical doctrine" must be refer to something completely different.

Then why are there so many different sciences?
Do you really believe that we are any closer to reducing everything to physics?

 
At 10/03/2008 03:37:00 PM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Randy,

Then why are there so many different sciences?

Tractability. Kitchen cookery at the scale of quantum fields, or atoms, or statistical mechanics, or chemistry is intractable. But that doesn't mean there's not a beautiful chain of reduction from cooking to quantum fields. Cupcakes are still made of quarks and leptons, even if my recipe book doesn't have any Lagrangians in it.

Do you really believe that we are any closer to reducing everything to physics?

I think it's obvious that we are, in the sense that every year we reduce more and more stuff to physics. (If you mean your question in the trivial sense of "are we closer to proving all ravens are black" then no, but I assume that's not what you mean.)

With regard to your argument about mind/brain dualism, I can appreciate the fact that we cannot consider brains as isolated entities. There are feedback loops, e.g. in the spinal cord, in the endocrine system, etc., that are important for cognition. But are you really arguing that if we understood the function of each cell in the body, we would not have a perfectly predictive model of human cognition? Are you arguing that a perfect simulation of the atoms in the body and brain would not give us a predictive model of thinking and behavior?

 
At 10/03/2008 04:40:00 PM , Blogger Randy said...

DL,

But that doesn't mean there's not a beautiful chain of reduction from cooking to quantum fields. Cupcakes are still made of quarks and leptons, even if my recipe book doesn't have any.

Yes, every substance is composed of quarks and leptons and whatever other sub-atomic particles are discovered in the future. I don’t see how that validates reductionism.


But are you really arguing that if we understood the function of each cell in the body, we would not have a perfectly predictive model of human cognition?

Yes, I am. You can’t understand human cognition and behavior without also understanding the environment in which it takes place.
You should check out E. Mayr’s excellent book: “What Makes Biology Unique”.


Are you arguing that a perfect simulation of the atoms in the body and brain would not give us a predictive model of thinking and behavior?

A perfect simulation of the atoms of the human body would just be another human body, wouldn’t it?

I don’t quite see how you could differentiate a perfect simulation of a human being from a human being.

 
At 10/03/2008 05:58:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

DL

>>Chimp bodies (even frog bodies) are far more complex than human cities.<<

>>Is it less complex? That's far from obvious. Whale and elephant brains are several times larger than human brains.<<

You're arguing with yourself here. Frogs are smaller than cities, yet you say they are more complex. So that which is larger is not necessarily more complex, yet increased complexity may at some point require increased size.

Don't you think that even a high school level biology course is enough to demonstrate a strong general correlation between the complexity of an animal's central nervous system and the complexity of its behavior. Should I really have to argue for this? Anyway, substituting "efficiency" for "complexity" probably doesn't change much.

>>This is wrong, or, at least, very misleading. The process by which cities were created is not the same process by which chimp brains evolved.

Here's an analogy. What are the origins of a sand dune on a beach? Most people would say "erosion". However, we can look back in history. There was nuclear fusion, supernova, gravitational attraction<<

It is fair to make distinctions among natural processes. I should clarify that when I say cities are the products of evolution, I mean evolution in the broad sense of the outworking of natural laws. Same broad sense that stars and galaxies "evolve." Most statements of naturalism make some claim to the effect that what we see around us is the result of blind natural laws or forces (blind meaning ungoverned by intentions or purposes). Except that when we come to the human brain, the natural laws that otherwise work "blindly" begin to work "sightedly." By any stretch that is a remarkable shift in the way nature operates.

>>In this picture, thinking is a process conducted by a machine, and evolution evolved the machine without forethought.<<

As I say above, natural laws worked unintentionally to make the "thinking machine," but then within that machine those same laws begin to work intentionally according to you. As I say, that's a pretty fundamental shift in the way the laws operate--from "blindly" to "sightedly."

>>There's no question of need, Darek. Humans could create (and are creating) programmed systems the same way that nature does. It simply takes extremely long to do things this way, e.g., evolving domesticating animals.<<

The problem with that explanation is that wherever we see products being generated unintentionally, those products are being generated by the background programming of nature (consisting of natural laws acting on matter-energy constituents). Unless we assume that nature's own programming is accidental, we have no examples of programmed systems or other products being generated accidentally within nature to apply back to nature as a whole. It begs the question.

We know that human minds through intention and reason create programmed systems. Nature appears to be just such a system. As I've shown, we have no analogues for such a system being accidentally programmed, because putative analogues are just subroutines of nature's programming.

Does this "prove" an originating mind--God--who transcends nature and whose image we bear as rational creators? Not formally, but it does point in that direction independently of revelation, morality, and other sources of belief in God. It's not simply ad hoc, in other words.

I have to start winding up this thread (for myself), so I'll give you the last word as far as the two of us are concerned.

 
At 10/03/2008 06:26:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Randy:

There are no bridge priciples we can use to make reduction of our psychological concepts to neuronal activities possible. Best we can do is correlate neuronal activity with our psychological behavior.

What about in organisms like the leech, the bee, the jellyfish. There are pretty decent neuronal explanations of behavior for those animals. Are you saying it will be different for animals with more complicated nervous systems? That, beyond a certain threshold, behavior won't be explicable in terms of the activity of populations of neurons? Upon what basis?

Not that psychology is all about behavior. Behavior provides the evidence for their theories of the mind. Other than behaviorists, they realize that the insides of an organism are important for explaining what the animal does.

Focusing on behavior leaves out things like dreams. I could sit in a theatre and watch two different movies, be in the same behavioral state. My mental states will be quite different. What will explain that difference? Some science of the internal goings on.

The main thing differentiating the two camps seems to be what substance to identify the mind with: either the physical stuff of the brain or the mental stuff of the soul.

See the above. Would you say we can't identify digestion with the internal goings on of the digestive system?

I frankly don't understand your aversion to discussing internal factors in explaining behavior. What else would explain the different behaviors people have in identical circumstances?

Actually, reductionism as a metaphysical doctrine has fared rather poorly with science in general.

Except the reductive explanations of heartbeats (in terms of muscle cell action potentials), digestion, respiration, hair growth, etc etc..

We reduce to levels that are useful to reduce to. We typically stop at enzymes, lipids, etc.. Not all reductions are all the way down to physics. Sometimes they are, as when someone wants to explain the activity of an individual enzyme they go down to the amino-acid level, and even sometimes quantum mechanical descriptions of the shape of the enzyme.

 
At 10/03/2008 07:55:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

BDK

Perhaps this relates peripherally to the current exchange with Steve.

Somewhere way up above, we had an exchange in which I said that we know what thought is apart from sense-based images. I claimed that this told us that thought and other mental processes enjoy a special status.

You used the analogy with water being H2O, and I replied that water was known through sense-based images. You said that the imperfection of the analogy was beside the point.

You implied that the distinction between sense-based knowledge and mental acquaintance was trivial, if I take you correctly. Perhaps this is a judgment. To me it seems obvious that the distinction is fundamental and that the water analogy fails on that basis. In any case, epistemology cannot be divorced from ontology. How we know about something (and how we can know about it) invevitably has to do with the kind of thing it is. So the fact that we cannot know what thought and reason are the same way we know what water and sunlight are is an indication of a critical difference in their ontological categories.

To put it another way, when we analyze water at the molecular level we can then say, "Aha, now I understand why water expands when it freezes!" But I cannot imagine that an analysis of brain chemistry will prompt someone to say, "Oh, yes, now I see why modus ponens is a valid principle" or "Now it's clear why the Socrates syllogism is sound!" For one thing, we must have faith in certain principles of logical thought in order to trust the findings of cognitive science and neuroscience.

And with that I will happily let you get in the last shot.

 
At 10/03/2008 08:12:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

You implied that the distinction between sense-based knowledge and mental acquaintance was trivial, if I take you correctly.

Nothing that esoteric. My point was that we have pre-theoretic understanding of both, and that was the extent of the analogy.

Also, comments on previous post are relevant about the supposed special status of the 'first person' perspective and its implications for naturalism.

 
At 10/04/2008 02:56:00 AM , Anonymous Steve Lovell said...

Darek,

You write: To put it another way, when we analyze water at the molecular level we can then say, "Aha, now I understand why water expands when it freezes!" But I cannot imagine that an analysis of brain chemistry will prompt someone to say, "Oh, yes, now I see why modus ponens is a valid principle" or "Now it's clear why the Socrates syllogism is sound!"

I think this is true, but doesn't show what you intend as the examples of Water expanding and the validity of modus-ponens are only analogous if we assume psychologism. That is, the fact of the validity of modus-ponens is not really a psychological fact unless psychologism is true. I think there are reasons why no-one should be a psychologicist (well I can't say "psychologist" can I? And I don't know any other term for the people who endorse psychologism), but there are also strong pulls towards psychologism for the naturalist. Supposing the naturalist endorses psychologism, then I'll the cases are analogous, but then the naturalist might well say we could discover why modus-ponens is valid by looking at neuro-science. Afternatively, if they reject psychologism, then they'll think that you couldn't see this by looking at the brain, but that you could perhaps see, by looking at the brain, how we come to know that modus-ponens is valid and that affirming the consequent is not. I think this latter task is still a very difficult one, and that it's difficulty is among the attractions of psychologism.

Also when you write: For one thing, we must have faith in certain principles of logical thought in order to trust the findings of cognitive science and neuroscience.

You seem to be confusing ontology and epistemology. It's perfectly possible for the "order of being" to run in the opposite direction to the "order of knowing". Good job too or simple things like map reading would be impossible ... the layout of a town is ontologically prior to the map, but out knowledge of the map's layout can be prior to our knowledge of the town's layout.

Steve

 
At 10/04/2008 03:29:00 AM , Anonymous Steve Lovell said...

Randy and BDK

I think Randy is right in many ways in your response to me on BDK's behalf. The spectre of Flew's gardner doesn't only affect theism but dualism too. There was something manly, even if rather mad, about Descarte's instance that the soul interacted with the brain at the pineal gland.

Whether or not dualists should be particularly concerned about this will depend on the species of dualism in play. Some varieties of dualism are "crude" enough to endorse a genuine causal interaction between matter and mind. These days the hope here seems to be in hiding this interaction in the brain's quantum indeterminacy. Flew's garder and Popper's falsification principle loom, and while I think that these theories aren't just mad, they do make me rather uneasy.
However, other dualists (Thomistic dualists and certain emergentists) don't think of the mind on the "ghost in the machine" model and think the mind influences the behaviour of the brain in much the way that the structure of a bridge causes the strength of the bridge, but without being reducible to the "matter" of the bridge. This also makes me a little nervous, as I'm never that sure why the reduction wouldn't be possible on this model. In short, while I'm not happy with naturalism (indeed I reject it), I don't have a worked out dualistic alternative that I'd be comfortable to advertise.

I agree also with BDK's (repeated) point about the conceptual gap between the mental and the physical being just that: conceptual as opposed to ontological. However my worries are not merely that there is a conceptual gap but that the concepts of "folk-psychology" are organised and motivated by completely different principles than those of neuroscience; the two sets of categories are orthogonal to one another, making reduction seem terribly unlikely (to me).

That's my take on things, anyway.

Steve

 
At 10/04/2008 05:19:00 AM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Randy,

You can’t understand human cognition and behavior without also understanding the environment in which it takes place.

I could see that argument with regard to evolution of mind, but not of mind itself.

Do you also hold that this is true of rocks? We can't understand the formation of diamond without considering the environment. But that doesn't mean that I can't take diamond out of that environment, and know its present properties. I can still hold a lump of diamond in my hand and isolate it from its environment while I study it. And I will find that the properties of my diamond are predicted by the motions of the quarks and leptons inside it, that it will decay to less hard forms of carbon over time, etc.

In order to speak of all the properties of diamond, I have to speak about them relative to an environment. For example, in the environment of a drill press. Are you saying that the properties of my diamond are not determined by the physical properties of its constituent particles?

It's true that I cannot properly understand how a mind/person got to be in its present state without considering the history of that mind, but I don't see what relevance that has to reductionism. Can't I ask what will happen to a person when I move them into a new environment (e.g., a sensory deprivation chamber)?

(BTW, I appreciate that the mind and body are one system and that the meanings of words and concepts are tied up with our motor control systems etc. IOW, I'm not talking about minds being nothing but brains. I just don't see any conflict with reductionism.)

 
At 10/04/2008 07:59:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Steve: very good point in your second-to-last comment.

I forgot about this thing Randy said:
You can’t understand human cognition and behavior without also understanding the environment in which it takes place.

That is why to understand the function of neurons, what they are representing in the world, we study how the two interact. We don't understand the brain by studying just the brain, but the way it works as the organism runs about and does things.

 
At 10/04/2008 09:14:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Steve

>>You seem to be confusing ontology and epistemology ... the layout of a town is ontologically prior to the map, but out knowledge of the map's layout can be prior to our knowledge of the town's layout.<<

Actually, I'm saying that epistemology and ontology are inevitably interrelated. To take your example, the analogy would be if our knowledge of the map's layout were necessarily prior to our knowledge of the town's layout.

 
At 10/04/2008 11:06:00 AM , Anonymous Steve Lovell said...

Darek,

I'm going to have to think about your last comment. It seems like the point should be logically related to discussions of "What Mary Didn't Know". Lots of people have thought that Qualia can yield a "knowledge argument" against materialism, but I've never been especially convinced by that line of argument. Mostly this is because I'm not sure that there is anything that Mary doesn't know, propositionally speaking.

Well, perhaps that's not quite true. In other moods I'm more receptive, mostly when I think about the Swinburne "siphoning off" line (or Lewis's "Empty Universe") which VR has posted on before.

Do you think that your point is logically equivalent to the knowledge argument from Qualia (and/or siphoning off argument) and stands and falls with that argument?

Steve

 
At 10/04/2008 02:05:00 PM , Blogger Randy said...

BDK,
Sorry, I’m having trouble finding time to reply to all the points you raised in your earlier post.



Focusing on behavior leaves out things like dreams. I could sit in a theatre and watch two different movies, be in the same behavioral state. My mental states will be quite different. What will explain that difference? Some science of the internal goings on.


I’m not sure I understand I’m not sure I understand what you mean by ‘behavioral state’. I would think that behavioral states manifested or expressed mental states.
If I watch a comedy I would probably laugh frequently during the movie (assuming it is a good comedy) or if it is a drama I could spend much of the time crying. If I find both movies to be boring my mental state could be the same: that of boredom. That mental state of boredom could be manifested by yawns or sighs of boredom or the impatient tapping of a foot or the drumming of my fingers. Or I could simply say: “What a darn boring movie. This drama is as boring as the romantic comedy I watched earlier today.”

I should also mention here that I use “mental state” in a much more restrictive way than is common among philosophers of mind. For example, I don’t think that believing and knowing should be characterized as mental states. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think people really do believe and know things. But ultimately the conception of a mental state of belief is incoherent.


I frankly don't understand your aversion to discussing internal factors in explaining behavior.

If by ‘internal factors’ you mean the neural correlates of our behavior or the physiology of the brain, I don’t feel I have anything positive or new I could add to that discussion. I’m approaching this as a philosopher and not a scientist. And I think the primary method of philosophy is to describe and the goal of philosophy to attain understanding. If I tried to play scientist and offered up a theory regarding neuronal activity I would simply make a total ass of myself.

And I do firmly believe that we could not plan, intend, think, feel, etc. without the activity that takes place in a properly functioning brain.

However, I do have an aversion to the common conception that the mind is an inner realm which can be apprehended by means of introspection, similar to the way we perceive the world around us; that this introspection is the only reliable indicator of what goes on in this inner realm – of what is called ‘conscious experience’; that this conscious experience is private and directly accessible only to the subject of the experience; and, finally, that psychological predicates are names of inner entities (objects, states, events and processes).
The conception one has of the mind can have a dramatic effect on how one interprets the data collected by neuroscientists. If one starts out with assumption that the metaphysical doctrine of representationalism is true then that will be the lens through which they view that data.

What else would explain the different behaviors people have in identical circumstances?

I am not adverse to any physical explanations (whether inner or outer) that could be used to help explain one’s behavior. Leastways, I hope not. Self-deception is always a possibility one needs to take into account.


You also wrote this in another post:
Also, comments on previous post are relevant about the supposed special status of the 'first person' perspective and its implications for naturalism.

As I understand it the difference between the 1st person and 3rd person perspectives is that in the 1st person no behavioral criteria are needed to identify the pain one is feeling or the thinking one is engaged in. In the 3rd person, those behavioral criteria are needed to attribute those psychological predicates to another person.

There is the misconception that because it is possible to hide ones feelings or thoughts that the person feeling the pain or thinking the thought has direct access to some sort of inner mental realm.

 
At 10/04/2008 02:08:00 PM , Blogger Randy said...

One obvious correction to what I wrote above:

I’m not sure I understand I’m not sure I understand what you mean by ‘behavioral state’.

should be:

I’m not sure I understand what you mean by ‘behavioral state'.

 
At 10/04/2008 06:50:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

However, I do have an aversion to the common conception that the mind is an inner realm which can be apprehended by means of introspection, similar to the way we perceive the world around us; that this introspection is the only reliable indicator of what goes on in this inner realm – of what is called ‘conscious experience’; that this conscious experience is private and directly accessible only to the subject of the experience; and, finally, that psychological predicates are names of inner entities (objects, states, events and processes).

I tentatively agree with the beginning of what you said. I am not a big fan of anybody who thinks that we directly introspect mental states. But this doesn't imply that mental states are not implemented by/mediated by neuronal states.

Watching two movies, injected with a paralytic agent, I will still have different mental states. The movies are different, so my visual experience will be different. Dreaming of course is also a problem for behavioral analyses of mental states.

But I am talking about scientific psychology, not folk psychology, and in folk psychology all we have to go on (at least with others) is behavior. In the lab, we see signatures other than behavior as we can directly observe the brain when someone is in different mental states, can stimulate the brain to create different mental states, and the brain constructs a virtual reality when it is dreaming.

I am familiar with the antirepresentationalist arguments but I don't see how they can handle dreams, hallucinations, Stephen Hawking, phantom limbs, and the like. Briefly in graduate school I tried to be an antirepresentationalist but it just didn't sit well with such data. I think those data pretty much kill antirepresentationalist theories, theories that deny that the mind is internally generated (neuronally generated).

Plus 'representation' is a useful concept in neuroscience which at this point is pretty much operationalized. I discuss how we use the term in neuroscience here, and start to fill out the promissory note from the end of the post here.

But that would take us far afield. We are obviously operating from very different perspectives.

 
At 10/04/2008 07:13:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Steve

>>Do you think that your point is logically equivalent to the knowledge argument from Qualia (and/or siphoning off argument) and stands and falls with that argument?<<

I would view it as more of a normativity argument, and so better compared with moral categories. It is hard to conceive of neurological facts that would enlighten us as to why certain actions are morally right and wrong. (This must be distinguished from physical facts that purport to explain why we believe there are moral qualities.)

The irreducibility of logical relations, besides being strongly intuitive, has a demonstration from recursion. If we are presented with any kind of case about the role of neurological correlates, we necessarily must assume (I think) the validity of sound reasoning simply to make a judgment about that case. C. S. Lewis once referred to it as trying to pull your eyes out of their sockets so that you could look at them (can't give the reference though).

 
At 10/04/2008 10:07:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Logic and meaning aren't reducible to neural states IMO, because they are partly defined by external events.

In the case of logic, I think it is parasitic on public symbolic languages, a refinement and grooming of our language abilities, the grooming taking place according to which symbol strings tend to lead to things that are not true.

Imagine a million random little computer agents that spit out sequences of sentences that referred to their environment. Selection acts not at the genetic level, but they are able to remember which inter-sentence transitions lead to sentences that are false about their environment. How long would it take (how many iterations) before their 'logic' (i.e., allowable inter-sentence transitions) resembled our rudimentary symbolic logic? Or would this be in principle not possible?

This would be a very interesting study, and probably not that hard to implement. The hard part would be coding the language they used, but in a smallish simulated environment it would be pretty easy to have their language be statements of predicate logic (with and, if, or, all, not, and there exists in addition to labels for objects and predicates).

If we had empty predicates in the world, maybe a little subcluster of agents would sit there spitting out statements about predicates with no extensions. They would be called the philosopher theologians. :)

 
At 10/05/2008 03:08:00 AM , Anonymous Steve Lovell said...

BDK,

I like your little story, but if this is supposed to simulate the origin of our own ideas about logic, I don't think it will do. It leaves out any role for necessity, and is still a form of psychologism, only at the societal level rather than at the individual level. To be honest, though, if I were a naturalist, I probably wouldn't worry about those things as I really can't see any way you can avoid such conclusions without something more like Platonism.

Darek,

At least of of us is confused. It may be me, but I can't get why are saying:

It is hard to conceive of neurological facts that would enlighten us as to why certain actions are morally right and wrong. (This must be distinguished from physical facts that purport to explain why we believe there are moral qualities.)

The bracketed part doesn't look too bad for the naturalist, and the unbracketed part is not something the naturalist is committed to unless they are also a subjectivist (equvialent to psychologism in the ethical realm). In short you still seem, to me, to be confusing epistemological and ontological matters.

Why should the naturalist think that all knowledge should, in principle, be obtainable via the natural sciences independant of any particular "first person" experience we might bring to those scientific investigations? And if we suppose they are committed to that, then they will simply endorse subjectivism and/or psyschologism and then they won't think it is impossible to see why things are right/wrong/valid/invalid by examing our brains or (if they go to a societal level rather than the individual) by doing experiments like the one BDK describes.

To come at it another way, the normativity seems a red-herring. If the normativity is objective, then the naturalist shouldn't be worried that he can't find it inside our heads, but he might be able to look in our heads to see how we discover that objective normativity. If the normativity is subjective, then he can look in our heads and explain where it comes from.

This takes me back to your point about the order of knowing necessarily being first person to third person and not the other way about. But then given the above, I can't see why this is different for our experience of normativity than for subjective experience in general.

Is this your point?:
When siphoning off, if normativity is siphoned into the subject, it ceases to be objectivity normative, but if qualia are siphoned into the subject it's not so obvious that anything is lost.

I can agree with that. But not if "normativity" is replaced with "our apprehension/experience of normativity". I think that many naturalists are understandably siphoning both normativity and our experience of it into the subject, which may mean the arguments from the expierence of normativity have a strength that arguments from qualia do not.

Steve

 
At 10/05/2008 07:05:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Steve: Platonism, of course, is unacceptable for me. But it isn't really psychologism either. Sensitivity to empirical constraints is not the same as psychologism. I don't see logic as descriptive of our psychology at all, in fact.

Here is where I adumbrated my positive view in some detail.

 
At 10/05/2008 09:21:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Incidentally, a pattern in all these long threads. People try to shoot down naturalism, other people defend against it, often providing positive theories in the process.

I see very little positive story from the antinaturalists. It is sort of boring (indeed I left philosophy as I got bored with defending naturalism as it is much more productive to actually create a positive story rather than always try to tear down stories).

 
At 10/05/2008 10:00:00 AM , Anonymous Steve Lovell said...

BDK,

In similar vein, I made some comments on alternative logics here. Most especially in this comment (the bit in reply to Anon).

In short, I'm a fan on classical logic and don't buy the other ones at all.

Steve

 
At 10/05/2008 10:30:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Your arguments seem to presuppose that one classical logic is best. Is there an argument for that? And is there really just one classical logic? Upon what logical basis do you decide from among different logical systems? Or different proof schemes, as in constructivism? Or different interpretations of the connectives (e.g., the conditional from relevance logics rather than the material conditional as in boolean logic)? How many truth values are allowed for a proposition? Two, three, four? There are different possibilities here. How do you choose?

The answer, I think, is that there are extralogical factors we have to use to decide such things, as I argue extensively in the post I linked above.

At any rate, I am not advocating psychologism. Actual humans are bad inferers, especially with classical logical forms such as the conditional. Formal logic applies to public symbols, and I'm not sure if it applies well at all to thought (which may not be propositionally structured at all).

The stuff I linked to is quite rich, so I won't discuss this topic more unless there's something someone says that is new relative to that thread.

 
At 10/05/2008 11:06:00 AM , Anonymous Steve Lovell said...

BDK,

I don't think I ever chose classical logic. I think that is where everyone starts and that people leave because they find alternative logics either fit better with their metaphysics or they mistakenly (in my view) think that those logics cope better with things like vagueness or paradox.

The only arguments for logic would always either assume what they attempt to prove or be "extralogical", which seems mostly to mean "empirical/pragmatic", which in the case of classical logic would be rather absurd. I take it that when you say you don't know what classical logic is, this is really pretence. Does the content of "Logic 101" really vary that much from one campus to the next? I think not.

Steve

 
At 10/05/2008 02:35:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Steve

Steve

>>Is this your point?:
When siphoning off, if normativity is siphoned into the subject, it ceases to be objectivity normative, but if qualia are siphoned into the subject it's not so obvious that anything is lost.<<

Yes, that would be one way to put it. I admit that I did not express myself very clearly in the last post.

Suppose we were to investigate neurology in order to determine whether (or confirm that) "morality" is objectively real. Obviously, if we had to assume that morality were objectively real in order to begin the investigation, it could not be an "investigation" in the ordinary sense of the word. But if "morality" somehow designates certain neurological functions in response to environment, then it could be investigated. Now this may not be precisely the situation we actually have with morality, but it does seem to be with logic or rationality.

 
At 10/05/2008 05:06:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Steve: is Aristotelian, boolean, or first-order logic classical logic? Or all of the above? We teach all of them in logic 101.

I think people do not naturally gravitate to any particular logic, but have to go through an intensive grooming process. It's nontrivial to convince undergrads that the material implication isn't nonsense (because of things like 'If two is odd, then the Earth is flat' being true and similar paradoxes of relevance).

It comes to feel natural as you work within its definitions, though. But there are lots of studies showing people make lots of mistakes. If this were simply a matter of translating our inborn natural logic I think we'd have no such troubles.

Plus, dealing with paradoxes about sets, liars, and such is nontrivial, and provides the impetus for some "deviant" logics.

And is it intuitively obvious that a sentence can only have two truth values? What of the liars paradox, what is its truth value? Using standard classical proof techniques you can prove it is both true and false.

If T, then F, so F (proof by contradiction).

If F, then T, so F (proof by contradiction).

Therefore, it is both T and F.

So even if I granted for argument (and against the evidence) that there was an intuitive classical logical core that we all somehow intuited, that wouldn't mean there weren't problems with it as revealed by thinking about it more deeply.

 
At 10/05/2008 05:09:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

PS In most contexts the classical logics work fine. But that is not the same thing as saying we have to pick one of them as somehow being the one necessarily true logic. I look at necessity as relative to a logical system, not as defined absolutely.

 
At 10/05/2008 09:03:00 PM , Blogger Randy said...

BDK,
I am familiar with the antirepresentationalist arguments but I don't see how they can handle dreams, hallucinations, Stephen Hawking, phantom limbs, and the like. Briefly in graduate school I tried to be an antirepresentationalist but it just didn't sit well with such data. I think those data pretty much kill antirepresentationalist theories, theories that deny that the mind is internally generated (neuronally generated).

A representation for it to be a representation must have representational properties and non-representational properties. A mental image or thought has no non-representational properties, it is all message and no medium. If one has a mental image of a red poppy the redness is of the poppy, not of any pigments (a non-representational property).

Do any of us know how this neuronal activity internally generates the mind? Is internally generate even a correct way to conceptualize what is happening when we correlate neural activity with mental activity?


Thanks for the link on representaions. A couple brief comments follow:

Namely, representations are internal states that figure in the explanation of animal behavior. They are the 'Internal maps by means of which we steer.' Obviously they aren't maps in the traditional sense, but more abstractly they are things that indicate what is happening in the world and that are reliable enough to use to make decisions about how to adaptively interact with that world. The neuronal populations that decide which muscles to contract don't have direct access to the world, but must make due with other neurons that are tightly linked to what is happening in the world. They are like a person stuck with a map trying to find their way around in Boston.

Isn’t the first bolded statement contradicted by the second? It looks to me from you description that you are using the term “internal map” just as we would use a map in the world.



For the record, I don't think using a term in science needs defense: we use terms that are close to the meaning we want that already exists in ordinary language, and this helps us think about the phenomenon (we don't think much about words or concepts, but are much more interested in the thing we are studying), and to communicate our theories to nonscientists. However, I'll defend it nonetheless.

I am having trouble understanding how one can properly describe and explain the phenomenon they are studying without have regard for the words and concepts that are employed in such descriptions and explanations.

 
At 10/05/2008 09:12:00 PM , Blogger Randy said...

BDK,
But I am talking about scientific psychology, not folk psychology, and in folk psychology all we have to go on (at least with others) is behavior.

We have a broad and rich psychological vocabulary which we employ to explain our behavior and the behavior of others.

Unless you understand those psychological concepts you are not going to be able to correctly correlate neuronal activity with mental activity. Inductive correlation presupposes the non-inductive identification of the phenomenon being correlated.

 
At 10/05/2008 09:46:00 PM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Darek,

In your comment, you suggested that when accidental events lead to a brain that "works intentionally", as if there's some sort of contradiction:

As I say above, natural laws worked unintentionally to make the "thinking machine," but then within that machine those same laws begin to work intentionally according to you.

However, the brain is not thinking intentionally (for the most part). It is thinking accidentally, and causing intentional events in the process.

Let's go back to the definition of accidental versus intentional events. An intentional event was foreseen and intended by an entity. Yet, generally, our thinking (the foreseeing and selecting) was neither foreseen nor intended.

I do not will myself to think or foresee or intend. I just do it intuitively. I can't help it. Of course, there are a few thoughts that I have intended, and those thoughts are partially intentional. However, we're not in the position you suggest in which natural laws get overridden by "intentional laws".

Basically, you are stumbling over terminology. Per the definition, events may be labeled intentional or accidental. A mind is not an event. A mind is "being intentional" when it results in intentional events, not when it's function is itself intended.

Most statements of naturalism make some claim to the effect that what we see around us is the result of blind natural laws or forces (blind meaning ungoverned by intentions or purposes). Except that when we come to the human brain, the natural laws that otherwise work "blindly" begin to work "sightedly." By any stretch that is a remarkable shift in the way nature operates.

Being "sighted" isn't fundamental or supernatural. It's a mechanism that I've described more than once on recent threads.

In lawful universes, new mechanisms (regional, but less-stringent laws) naturally evolve. If foresight is a mechanism, it too can evolve. So this is not a problem for naturalism.

I know you disagree with the premise, but just suppose for sake of argument that foresight is a mechanism. In that case, you'll see that naturalism has no flaw. This isn't a proof of naturalism. It merely shows that naturalism is not inconsistent (i.e., it's not question-begging).

What you are doing in your argument against naturalism is assuming that forethought is supernatural, and then arguing that naturalism is inconsistent or unworkable under that assumption (and that is question-begging).

 
At 10/06/2008 05:57:00 AM , Blogger Randy said...

BDK,
Watching two movies, injected with a paralytic agent, I will still have different mental states. The movies are different, so my visual experience will be different.

One needs to know the context in which behavior occurs to understand it.

We individuate our visual experiences by what they are experiences of. I know that the paralyzed subject is having a visual experience and I even know what that experience is by knowing what movie he is watching. I can sit down next to him and have the same visual experience.
Now it may turn out that he found the movie to be boring and I found it to be entertaining. After he regains the ability to talk, he can express his displeasure with the movie and then I can understand what sort of subjective experience he had while watching the movie.

As I've already mentioned, it is only because we already know these things that we can correlate them with neuronal activity.


Dreaming of course is also a problem for behavioral analyses of mental states.


All a person need do is to tell me of their dream and then I know that they dreamed and what the dream was about. Language use is also a behavior.

We normally use our mental concepts to explain behavior. But since behavior is a criterion of identity for our mental concepts we can normally quite easily identify what mental state someone is in or what they are thinking about by what they do or say.

 
At 10/06/2008 07:02:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Randy: Even if you don't tell me about the dream, you still had the dream. That is what needs to be explained, the dream, not your later explanation. The different visual experiences, not my descriptions of them.

Your response reminds me of that old joke...

What did one behaviorist say to the other after having sex?

"Was it good for me?"

 
At 10/06/2008 07:16:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Randy:
Isn’t the first bolded statement contradicted by the second? It looks to me from you description that you are using the term “internal map” just as we would use a map in the world.

It was an analogy, and I was referring to the representational vehicle not content. The content may be human-map-like, but the vehicle is nothing like a road map, but a more strange neuronal thing as I discussed.

I am having trouble understanding how one can properly describe and explain the phenomenon they are studying without have regard for the words and concepts that are employed in such descriptions and explanations.

As I said before at the link I made where I said I probably would have discussed any obvious objection you would have:
If I want to understand digestion, I’ll direct my attention to the digestive system, and only minimally to the language we use to describe it, other than as a pointer to the thing out there I’m trying to understand. Similarly with brains: the best way to understand them is to focus on them, not the language used to describe them, especially given that we are in our infancy in the brain sciences. If I wanted to understand how folk understand brains, I’d certainly be doing the wrong thing by studying brains.

And this:
Stepping back a bit, it’s not like scientists aren’t people. We always try to be logical, precise, clear in our terms. We worry about terminology. But the ratio of such worry to other practices like data collection, data analysis, mathematical analysis of data, should be extremely low. Maybe 1:100 or less. Such worry is maximized around the time of paper writing, when we are concerned with expression of ideas, clarity, and the like. By then we already know the results in the data and the math. Then the new concepts tend to come in natural language, new concepts must be generated to deal with the data/math and communicate it to others. Until then we get along with ‘just enough’ clarity to be able to talk about it to ourselves, to other people in the lab, to understand the data and its potential implications.

And just to cut off a silly objection I wouldn't be surprised to see:
It isn’t an equivocation, but a co-option of the term purposely because it is close in meaning. People in developmental neuroscience will talk about a neurite ‘reaching’ toward the target cell. Are they equivocating? Only if equivocating means ‘providing helpful clarifications.’ This language of reaching could become part of the standard terminology of neuronal development. And it would be very helpful. Perhaps they should clarify that the neurites don’t have actual hands. Typically such modifications aren’t necessary.

Stepping back, I also think this is freaking awesome that the Eric Thomson guy said:
I guess this is just one of the big divisions in philosophy. Philosophy as analysis versus philosophy as generative and continuous with science.

Quine versus Wittgenstein, and I'm with Quine.

OK, I'm done. I hate when I repeat myself. I beat this topic to death at Pete's blog

 
At 10/06/2008 07:30:00 AM , Blogger Randy said...

BDK,
Randy: Even if you don't tell me about the dream, you still had the dream. That is what needs to be explained, the dream, not your later explanation. The different visual experiences, not my descriptions of them.

Your response reminds me of that old joke...

What did one behaviorist say to the other after having sex?

"Was it good for me?"


I'm not a behaviorist. I don't quite understand why you keep attaching that label to me. Behavior is a criteria for the attribution of psychological predicates to a person.

If a truth condition of someone having a dream is someone having a dream then it should be obvious that the dreaming and the behavior expressing the dreaming are not identical.

You have to already know that a person is dreaming if you are going to correlate that with the neural activity which gives us the capacity to dream.

 
At 10/06/2008 08:18:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

I know you aren't a behaviorist, but you talk like one a lot.

You have to already know that a person is dreaming if you are going to correlate that with the neural activity which gives us the capacity to dream.

And you have to already know a person is digesting if you are going to correlate that with the gastrointestinal activity which gives us the capacity to digest.

Sure. But that doesn't mean we have to have a super-precise definition of what digestion is before we do the science. A simple pointer toward the phenomenon is enough (though of course nobody wants to be opaque or unclear, but an obsession with the words rather than the thing being studied is what I'm criticizing). The best definitions typically come after the science is done, not before.

 
At 10/06/2008 12:12:00 PM , Anonymous Steve Lovell said...

BDK,

Going back to our discussion of logic, I'm not sure why you think that logic is an attempt to capture our day to day inferential talk. I agree that if we are trying to analyse our common-sense use of "if-then" words, then there are many possible interpretations. I'm not talking about analysis. I'm talking about logic as it is in itself. I didn't need persuading of that material implication is the "correct interpretation" because it's not a matter of interpretation. Material implication captures the way truth values work.

If we were analysing our normal methods of reasoning, I'd be with you, but my conception of logic is broadly Platonist. As useful as it can be, I don't think analysis is the only (and perhaps not even the primary) function of philosophy. Classical logic is a discovery and not an invention.

This isn't my area of expertise so I'm quickly running out of things to say, but I think it's this difference our basic conceptions of logic that prevents us from having a particularly meaningful dialog.

Interestingly, or perhaps not, the anonymous poster never replied to my comment about the role of the LNC in arguing to unknown truths and how acceptance of paraconsistent logics undermine our practice. (Though that's an "extra-logical/analytical" point of course.)

Steve

 
At 10/06/2008 10:48:00 PM , Blogger Randy said...

BDK,

Randy:
You have to already know that a person is dreaming if you are going to correlate that with the neural activity which gives us the capacity to dream.

BDK:
And you have to already know a person is digesting if you are going to correlate that with the gastrointestinal activity which gives us the capacity to digest.

Sure. But that doesn't mean we have to have a super-precise definition of what digestion is before we do the science. A simple pointer toward the phenomenon is enough (though of course nobody wants to be opaque or unclear, but an obsession with the words rather than the thing being studied is what I'm criticizing).


I’m afraid you missed my point. I wasn’t trying to make a case for a super-precise definition, but responding to your implication that I am a behaviorist.
You have to be able to identify a dreaming experience if you wish to correlate that experience with neural activity. We identify the dreaming of others by their behavior: behavior is a criterion of identity for psychological predicates that we attribute to humans. In the case of dreaming it can be quite simply provided by a statement like: “I had a dream of a black unicorn.”



The best definitions typically come after the science is done, not before.


As I pointed out in a separate post there is already a very complex, varied and nuanced vocabulary that has developed over the centuries to describe and explain our mental life. I really doubt that any scientific definition is going to come close to that.

 
At 10/07/2008 12:56:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

As I pointed out in a separate post there is already a very complex, varied and nuanced vocabulary that has developed over the centuries to describe and explain our mental life. I really doubt that any scientific definition is going to come close to that.

It isn't very helpful for Parkinson's and other neuronal diseases, data from patients with brain damage (e.g., phantom limbs). If we want to understand the underlying mechanisms of behavior and mind, we'll need more than folk psychology. Ultimately folk psychology will either be reduced to, or eliminated by, neuroscience. But it won't happen soon, at least for most mental states.

And what about the behavior of simpler organisms? Bees, leeches, sea slugs? Folk psychology is useless. We are building toward a more comprehensive theoretical framework with more powerful explanatory scope than this one species that happens to have language (and it is no coincidence that folk psychological models of the mind use public language as their source of inspiration, important contentful strings of symbols into the head as a model). You might say the problem with this is that there is some mysterious "inner" realm. That isn't the problem. THe problem is that the general representational format of the posited internal states doesn't seem very useful in general when trying to explain the neuronal basis of behavior in critters.

 
At 10/07/2008 01:06:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

I said "important" but I meant to say "imported." My main point is that we want projectible theories whose explanatory resources apply to more than just one species. Because folk psychology applies to a small number of species, it doesn't fit the bill.

This is one of those things that it is sort of silly to argue about, as we will see much more conclusively in a few tens of decades who seems more reasonable. I left philosophy because I think we should just do the science as philosophy has little (if anything) to contribute to the project of explaining behavior and mind.

 
At 10/07/2008 07:04:00 AM , Blogger Randy said...

BDK,

1. It (folk psychology) isn't very helpful for Parkinson's and other neuronal diseases, data from patients with brain damage (e.g., phantom limbs).
2. If we want to understand the underlying mechanisms of behavior and mind, we'll need more than folk psychology.
3. Ultimately folk psychology will either be reduced to, or eliminated by, neuroscience. But it won't happen soon, at least for most mental states.


I know you didn’t write this out as a syllogism. But putting it in this format highlights a problem with your position.

Numbers 1 and 2 are positions that I think everyone here agrees with regardless of whether they are substance dualists, monists, physicalists, etc. But I don’t see how the truth of the first two sentences provides any support for accepting #3.

Our psychological concepts and words are deeply interwoven into our way of life. The concept of pain includes various forms of behavior and relates to our concepts of health and happiness and disease. The concept of love not only refers to a feeling but is embedded in our concepts of marriage and friendship. Etc.

The scientific findings of neuroscience will help us to understand how we have our mental capacities I don’t see it contributing much understanding to what we do with those capacities.

 
At 10/28/2008 07:01:00 AM , Blogger Chris Byrnes said...

this has got nothing to do with this discussion; but it is brilliant for fans of the AFR;

http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=-M-vnmejwXo

I hope VR gets to see this top quality comedy.

 

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