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Victor M.
user 12752879
Seattle, WA
Post #: 147
Gene, I've moved my responses to your comments here.

...

The main targets of my criticism are "interactionist" dualists and "insincere" monists.

Interactionist dualists include Cartesian dualism and property dualism of the epiphenomenal sort, i.e., those who think the mental/physical interaction is either two way or one way.

My quarrel with them is the misuse of (or Wittgensteinian bewitchment by) language that happens when the terms "substance," "matter," "cause," and "interaction" are used out of their native conceptual context. As these terms are used today, they have nothing to do with the mental---except very metaphorically. They are natively physicalist terms.

Those I call "insincere" monists are those who combine naturalism with physicalism. These two -isms separated may escape my criticism. As long as naturalism is modest and sticks to a limited or technical notion of "explanation" to describe physical entities and their interactions, that is, sticks to physics and stays out of ontology (which I take to be about "what is"--not what is scientifically--but "what is" full stop, and that to mean what we ultimately have to contend with phenomenologically: such as tables, cats, socks, praise, blame, truth, desire, believe, etc.) I have no problem with it. There is also a certain type of purist "naturalistically non-explanatory" physicalism that also escapes my criticism. (I suspect it is akin to panpsychism and that's why the latter intrigues me.)

Here's my charge against the "insincere" monist: if you are a monist physicalist, you must be unbearably quiet about it because normativity inderwrites the ability to argue and normativity is not even conceptually physical. (This latter claim has been challenged and I would like to explore it as a future topic since, I think, a lot rides on it.)

I mention ethical theories in this ontological context because I think that's where we most often encounter explicit normativity, but normativity pervades rationality, logic, mathematics, semantics, and aesthetics as well. The realm of normativity is self-contained vis-as-vis the physical. That's why it implies a certain kind of dualism for me. It is, in my interpretation, what has always--or always *should* have motivated (to be a little normative) dualism. Otherwise, I am not sure what is at stake. I don't think that the true dualist has any concern with, except mistakenly, showing how mental events "cause" physical ones. Or that the monist physicalist would gain knowledge about the mental by showing causation in the other direction. My targets are those presumptions. If a dualist thinks otherwise, as some property dualists seem to, they have bought into physicalist talk of causal interaction. If a monist physicalist thinks otherwise, they are misconstruing the mental as physical. What we may learn by physicalists methods is, of course, physical. Nothing truly mental enters the picture. Certainly, one may simply deny the mental is anything at all or anything worth studying beyond the physical associations we seem to find with mental talk. That is a real option. Apparently, it may be unpalatable, but I think it has intellectual integrity. So, no, I don't think I am saying something uncontentious or that most philosophers would agree with.

It may be more accurate to call my dualism "non-interactionist" or, better, "normative dualism." It is only "minimalist" in the sense that it drops assumptions made by both sides of the traditional debate about causality. I am guessing dualists have grown *too* respectful of science and fear *not* engaging their naturalistic opponents on that level and that naturalists are really committed (but sometimes with inexplicable discomfort) to eliminative or reductive materialism. And so there is tension and debate.

There's, I know, a lot more I have to explain to make this view plausible. I'm working on it. In particular, I need to say more about the "appearance" of mental/physical interaction or dependency. What about the undeniable physical correlates of mental events?...

...

As for how my view relates to moral realism, again I am going to quarrel with the term "real." I am a "phenomenological realist" if that makes any sense. The standard definition of moral realism is that moral claims might, like physical claims, be true or false in virtue of mirroring some reality. I am going to say that "realism" has a normative cast to it, and that judgments of "truth" and "falsity" are expressive of approval or disapproval and, hence, as normative as anything gets. The motivation for saying something is "real" is to grant it significance: we are saying something is important. Even to judge a statement a candidate for bearing truth or falsity is already being normative. To then further say it is true or false is icing on the cake (or to refuse to eat it). Things float into and out of reality as we find them significant.

If by "real" we mean something else, what could that be? The only other thing I can think of now is that real things hold their significance stably: they are important and that doesn't change (much). They hold still, it seems. (I think that's what impresses the physicalist about material things in relation to mental things.) If that's all it takes to be real, then I think that at least our propensity to normatively orient ourselves toward experience is real.
Gene L
user 19640341
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 464
Gene, I've moved my responses to your comments here.

...

My quarrel with them is the misuse of (or Wittgensteinian bewitchment by) language that happens when the terms "substance," "matter," "cause," and "interaction" are used out of their native conceptual context. As these terms are used today, they have nothing to do with the mental---except very metaphorically. They are natively physicalist terms.

.

Our everyday language, and "folk psychology", seems committed to mental states such as beliefs and desires causing behavior.

You seem to be saying that the issue should be dissolved because it involves a confusion about the use of language. I think that issue has substance. I used that last word on purpose :).
Gene L
user 19640341
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 465
Gene, I've moved my responses to your comments here.


Those I call "insincere" monists are those who combine naturalism with physicalism. These two -isms separated may escape my criticism. As long as naturalism is modest and sticks to a limited or technical notion of "explanation" to describe physical entities and their interactions, that is, sticks to physics and stays out of ontology (which I take to be about "what is"--not what is scientifically--but "what is" full stop, and that to mean what we ultimately have to contend with phenomenologically: such as tables, cats, socks, praise, blame, truth, desire, believe, etc.) I have no problem with it. There is also a certain type of purist "naturalistically non-explanatory" physicalism that also escapes my criticism. (I suspect it is akin to panpsychism and that's why the latter intrigues me.)

l.

Everyone agrees, even the most ardent anti-naturalist, that natural explanations clearly apply in some domains. The naturalist says they apply, at least in principle, in all domains. This has to be the case if naturaliism is a defined position at all. The position you describe seems to be a straightforward form of anti-naturalism.

I'm not sure why you use the term "insincere"? The reason naturalism is conjoined with physicalism is simple. There doesn't seem any point to being a naturalist if you don't conjoin it with physicalism.
Gene L
user 19640341
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 466
Gene, I've moved my responses to your comments here.

There's, I know, a lot more I have to explain to make this view plausible. I'm working on it. In particular, I need to say more about the "appearance" of mental/physical interaction or dependency. What about the undeniable physical correlates of mental events?...

...

As for how my view relates to moral realism, again I am going to quarrel with the term "real." I am a "phenomenological realist" if that makes any sense. The standard definition of moral realism is that moral claims might, like physical claims, be true or false in virtue of mirroring some reality. I am going to say that "realism" has a normative cast to it, and that judgments of "truth" and "falsity" are expressive of approval or disapproval and, hence, as normative as anything gets. The motivation for saying something is "real" is to grant it significance: we are saying something is important. Even to judge a statement a candidate for bearing truth or falsity is already being normative. To then further say it is true or false is icing on the cake (or to refuse to eat it). Things float into and out of reality as we find them significant.

If by "real" we mean something else, what could that be? The only other thing I can think of now is that real things hold their significance stably: they are important and that doesn't change (much). They hold still, it seems. (I think that's what impresses the physicalist about material things in relation to mental things.) If that's all it takes to be real, then I think that at least our propensity to normatively orient ourselves toward experience is real.

I think the term "real" at least as used in philosophy, typically has this sense: a comparable status to the ontological status we attribute to the entities postulated in our best scientiific theories. So electrons are real, and magic is not. If one is going to apply the term in other areas, then I think that one should hold the same sort of attitude to mentality and morality as one does to electrons.

Now you might argue that the term "real" was not meant to apply to mentality and morality to begin with. But then I'm not too sure what the debate is about. An eliiminative materialist might also agree with that: the term "real" doesn't apply because these entities are not worthy of consideration to begin with. But I think that is not what you want to say :).
Jon C.
JonCohen
Mercer Island, WA
Post #: 162
Victor, I don't understand why you consider normativity to be fundamental. It seems to be that normativity can be derived from logic and the biological desire for pleasure over pain, where pain comes somehow from evolution. Concepts like fairness come from reasoning about how best to reduce pain and increase pleasure. Other people appear to think differently about their relations with other people and consequently are sociopaths. But in the end it appears to me that the behavior aspects of normativity come from the physical, and the phenomenal aspects of normativity are mysterious like all experience is. That mystery doesn't mean it is fundamental, any more than is say humor.

The normative aspect of truth and falsity come from their utility, and in some case a false statement is morally preferable to a true one, for example when someone needs to protect another person.
Victor M.
user 12752879
Seattle, WA
Post #: 148
Gene,

Our everyday language, and "folk psychology", seems committed to mental states such as beliefs and desires causing behavior.

You seem to be saying that the issue should be dissolved because it involves a confusion about the use of language. I think that issue has substance. I used that last word on purpose :).


Everyday language and folk psychology

I don't hear people who are not philosophers or psychologists or others with a reason to have a scientific audience in mind going about their ordinary business ever saying that their mental states or beliefs or desires "cause" their behavior. You ask an ordinary person in an ordinary context why they did something. They say something like, "I wanted to," or "circumstances forced me." What they do preface their answer with sometimes is the word "because" (which has the word "cause" in it), but that word usually prefaces--in ordinary human contexts---a reason, not a cause. "Responsibility" is more often the point of inquiry here rather than "cause." In contrast, to say that one colliding billiard ball is "responsible" for the motion of another is slightly anthropomorphizing the billiard ball. Causal talk in the case of billiard balls flows more naturally.

There is a human context where moral precision about mental state and cause is sometimes literally a matter of life and death: in criminal law proceedings. A critical distinction in the philosophy of law is that between the mental state (mens rea) of an alleged perpetrator and what actually happened, was done, that can be traced back to his person (actus reus). The former which relates to responsibility is notoriously hard to "prove" even by the vastly less rigorous standards of the courtroom (compared to those of philosophers and scientists, with all the time in the world). Determination of causality is of concern in courtrooms when it pertains to the act done (the thing that might have been witnessed or forensically determined) not to the mental state of the accused. Regarding the mental state of the accused where cause is relevant to that extent mental state ceases to matter--as in the case of plain mental incompetence. When talk of causes takes center stage, talk of mental states ceases to be significant. It makes no sense to ask for the motive (desires, beliefs, reasons) of an insane person. As far as the law is concerned, such a person's mental states are beside the point precisely because we can substitute talk of causes to explain their behavior.

I bring up law here because it has a huge body of theory on the differences between causes and reasons. The philosophy of law is considerably more sophisticated than folk psychology. Folk psychology is in my view a wilderness of ideas that more or less work for the loose purpose of survival and so long as the stakes are not too high for any given individual. When they are high, we have to at least consult experts in the precise use of responsibility-attributing terms who take (and are expected to take) the concepts of folk psychology more seriously than the folk do. (We may also choose to ignore the experts, but at least we consult them.)

It is not my point that because people on the street don't use "cause" the way some philosophers do (to talk of beliefs and desires "causing" behavior except when they are trying to be funny or sound impressive or have a more local agenda). I am not saying that philosophers should defer to people on the street. Philosophers are doing something quite different than people on the street. Ordinary language is comfortable with metaphor, hyperbole, ambiguity, and equivocation. Philosophers, at least analytic ones, are usually not. So if we are going to import language from one domain of discourse to talk about things in another (which ordinary language does all the time with gusto and a certain amount of entertaining carelessness--attitudes analytic philosophers deliberately try to avoid) we should be alert to what we are doing. My claim is that it seems interactionists on mind/body are not alert when they treat mental events as interacting in causal ways with physical ones. In folk psychology, if someone says their beliefs and desires "cause" their behavior, they mean that they are giving more details on the part of themselves that is responsible for the behavior and either owning up to the fact that the beliefs and desires are *theirs*--or the talk of causality is a refusal to take responsibility, to shift responsibility elsewhere. Either way, it is responsibility they are talking about--taking it or shirking it, but they are not talking about causality at all in the more billiard-ball way interactionists do.
Victor M.
user 12752879
Seattle, WA
Post #: 149
Gene,


Everyone agrees, even the most ardent anti-naturalist, that natural explanations clearly apply in some domains. The naturalist says they apply, at least in principle, in all domains. This has to be the case if naturaliism is a defined position at all. The position you describe seems to be a straightforward form of anti-naturalism.

I'm not sure why you use the term "insincere"? The reason naturalism is conjoined with physicalism is simple. There doesn't seem any point to being a naturalist if you don't conjoin it with physicalism.

Naturalism

Papineau introduces naturalism in the SEP this way: "The term ‘naturalism’ has no very precise meaning in contemporary philosophy. Its current usage derives from debates in America in the first half of the last century. The self-proclaimed ‘naturalists’ from that period included John Dewey, Ernest Nagel, Sidney Hook and Roy Wood Sellars. These philosophers aimed to ally philosophy more closely with science. They urged that reality is exhausted by nature, containing nothing ‘supernatural’, and that the scientific method should be used to investigate all areas of reality, including the ‘human spirit’ (Krikorian 1944, Kim 2003)."

I see daylight between naturalism and physicalism. While naturalism and nature go together, more or less, by definition, naturalism and physicalism do not *have* to go together. When they have gone together as has usually been the case, but only since the mid twentieth century, you have a controversial position that I am suggesting is untenable, hence insincere. It is untenable, again, because of the required normativity involved in holding this (or any) position. Normativity is outside the realm of scientifically accessible nature.

A thorough-going eliminative/reductionist materialist can be a naturalist while not being insincere by simply eliminating from ontology any element of normativiy that isn't identical with some evolutionary survival tactic. What the eliminative/reductive materialism cannot do, on pain of insincerity, is *recommend* survival beyond merely describing it. Collective or individual suicide are matters of indifference. "Given the data, neither is likely," is about all that can be said from this point of view. Species or individuals don't quit the scene of their own choosing so there is no point to recommendations. If we recommend, we are being compulsive.

This is a logically conceivable position, just not one which is very humanly convincing. And if the point is that one *ought* to be convinced, whence the ought?

On the other hand, physicalism can be anti-naturalistic. It can--not by introducing the supernatural but rather something like a "subnatural." That's what is interesting about panpsychism which I am planning to explore later...
Victor M.
user 12752879
Seattle, WA
Post #: 150
Gene,

I think the term "real" at least as used in philosophy, typically has this sense: a comparable status to the ontological status we attribute to the entities postulated in our best scientiific theories. So electrons are real, and magic is not. If one is going to apply the term in other areas, then I think that one should hold the same sort of attitude to mentality and morality as one does to electrons.

Now you might argue that the term "real" was not meant to apply to mentality and morality to begin with. But then I'm not too sure what the debate is about. An eliiminative materialist might also agree with that: the term "real" doesn't apply because these entities are not worthy of consideration to begin with. But I think that is not what you want to say :).

"Real"

The description in the first paragraph of "real" sounds like the standard naturalist-cum-physicalist program. It states that the existence and independence conditions of generic realism are met with regard to matter--and not anything else. The normative, non-interactionist dualism I argue for is quietist about the existence and independence of electromagnetic or normative forces. What makes it irreducibly dualist is that it claims, as far as human experience goes, that whatever "realness" one has the other has, too. But it would be equally content if neither had it. (That would mean that nothing meaningful attaches to the idea of "realness.") If there is a convincing argument for excluding one force but not the other from a "significance" condition for realness, it is still waiting to be heard.

I am more aligned with a thorough-going eliminativist than you might think. The more thorough-going, the more total quietism becomes the eliminativist on mind/body.
Victor M.
user 12752879
Seattle, WA
Post #: 151
Jon writes,

Victor, I don't understand why you consider normativity to be fundamental. It seems to be that normativity can be derived from logic and the biological desire for pleasure over pain, where pain comes somehow from evolution. Concepts like fairness come from reasoning about how best to reduce pain and increase pleasure. Other people appear to think differently about their relations with other people and consequently are sociopaths. But in the end it appears to me that the behavior aspects of normativity come from the physical, and the phenomenal aspects of normativity are mysterious like all experience is. That mystery doesn't mean it is fundamental, any more than is say humor.

The normative aspect of truth and falsity come from their utility, and in some case a false statement is morally preferable to a true one, for example when someone needs to protect another person.



Jon, thanks for the comment. Logic or its basic rules are paradigm cases of normativity in action. Why should I accept the rules of classical logic? Why should I not simply refuse to buy that a statement may not be both true and not true at once? Logic is the "morality" of rational play. (Classical logic is one particular such "morality" among others.) Why should I be moral? There are excellent but, unfortunately, circular responses one may give to these basic questions. To break out of the circle you have to tell a different story, one that steps out of logic and morality both, to something even more basic than either.

The suggestion that the story might have something to do with pain and pleasure: that's one consequentialist theory of ethics: namely, utilitarianism, but it doesn't capture the normativity essential to ethics.

And on this score, at least, my distrust of consequentialism, apparently, is not a minority position among philosophers: to me the most interesting finding in the Bourget/Chalmers survey was that more philosophers lean toward deontology than consequentialism, and the metasurvey suggests this finding was surprising even to deontologists, themselves, who, prior to the results, seemed to think they were in the minority. Along with them, I myself would have guessed the other way, too. I am definitely not a consequentialist on the question of sourcing normativity. Deontology comes closer to addressing the normativity issue--though still incompletely (in what way would take us far afield). One thing I can say about utilitarianism (or consequentialism, generally) is that it is not even on the radar screen as a source of normativity. Given that normativity exists, that certain things have been accepted as valuable, utilitarianism may be, in some contexts, useful. But it is a far cry from explaining the initial valuation.

Pain and pleasure are undeniably forces to contend with. But why should we value or disvalue them? And, by the way, is it always clear which valuation goes with which? As I mention above in my response to Gene about naturalism, what has survival value doesn't explain normativity. The living things that exist now obviously survived. The question is *should* they have? And *ought* they to continue? Those are not naturalistic questions. To respond that living things will (or will attempt) survival because that is how they are put together is an informed prediction. But why should we care? To be told "care" is built into us is going in explanatory circles. Such circles at some point are inevitable with philosophical "why" questions, but some paths to those circles pass through more interesting places than others--or maybe, better, more ample circles are better than tight ones because of what they may reveal about those who travel in them. Utility is a pretty tight circle.

Grist for future topics...
Jon C.
JonCohen
Mercer Island, WA
Post #: 163
Why should I accept the rules of classical logic? Why should I not simply refuse to buy that a statement may not be both true and not true at once?

You can refuse if you want, but your refusal does not change what logically holds.

One thing I can say about utilitarianism (or consequentialism, generally) is that it is not even on the radar screen as a source of normativity.

Non-atheists were a small minority in that survey, but I think they would generally say that God has arranged the world so that we can understand good vs evil by its effects in this world. From that perspective, pleasure and pain are merely created sensations for us to be able to start to grasp more general truths, i.e. truths that hold regardless of the specifics of this world. From that perspective, normativity is simply a logical relation among possible outcomes.

Even if you don't agree with that, how can you even discuss normativity without assuming logic and/or reasoning?
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