Gene L
user 19640341
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 476
Gene and Victor, I find Victor's account of "what is" a far more satisfying theory than the physicalist account, maybe because Victor is so eloquent (though Gene is no slouch to be sure), or maybe because my mind won't give up (yet... I am open to argument) on the idea-experience-interpretation that there are "mental" entities that are not reducible to physical things. It seems that the physicalist position is trying too hard to shoe-horn the mental into the physical. Gene is fond of pointing out the "success of science..." as a defense of naturalism and physicalism ( I think).. but science can be perfectly successful (whatever that means) and there still be non-physical things. Anyway, look forward to hearing more tonight!

Jeff,

I was not arguing for or against naturalism. I was simply saying that Victor's argument has nothing to do with dualism of the MIND.
John
user 87563592
Minneapolis, MN
Post #: 8
Victor, I haven't spent a lot of time reading through all the comments and responses, so feel free to ignore what's already been addressed.

First, your definition of 'truth': statement phi is true if and only if phi is expressive of approval or disapproval; saying 'phi is true' is expressive of that approval of phi, of phi's significance

I'd like to suggest that this theory of truth may be compatible with a correspondence theory of truth, or a deflationary theory of truth, or others. It strikes me as ambiguous in that respect.

Second, it's unclear why you think that terms like 'substance' and 'cause' are natively physicalist. It's possible that these terms have changed in their meaning over time, but historically they are not physicalist. In Aristotle, for example, he has all those different types of cause, some of which are not physicalist (or at least not obviously so).

The upshot of this worry is twofold: (1) if the terms are not natively physicalist, the motivation to take 'non-interactionist' as a rival to 'interactionist' dualism is lost; (2) a main motivation for the view is to justify the claim that dualists shouldn't be interactionists, but the argument does so by trading on idiosyncratic views on the native meaning of the terms and thereby leading to the conclusion that only dualists who define 'cause' in purely physicalist terms should avoid being interactionists. Dualist interactionists who don't define 'cause' or 'substance' in physicalist terms needn't give up interactionism (as I think you acknowledge).

Third, I'm wondering what the general metaphysical virtues of your view are. I can't tell for sure if it is ontologically simpler than, say a universe composed of simples and everything composed by them. Or if it is simpler than, say, a world in which there are plethora kinds of things (persons, objects, propositions, properties, etc.). Or if it is simpler than, say a eliminative materialist view that allows for fictionalism about artifacts, math, etc.

Fourth, I take you to be making something like the following argument about normativity:

(A1) if monist physicalism is true, then normativity does not exist (whatever 'exists' means, or your suitable substitute)
(A2) if normativity does not exist, then arguments cannot be used and the term 'normativity' is meaningless (since it is conceptually non-physical)
(A3) so, if monist physicalism is true, then arguments cannot be used and the term 'normativity' is meaningless
(A4) arguments can be used and the term 'normativity' is not meaningless
(A5) so, monist physicalism is false

I'd like to say both that this is a clever argument strategy and that it is overly complicated. I think the crux of the issue may simply be whether you think normativity is possibly reducible or explainable in terms of non-normative whatevers (e.g., things, causes, concepts, terms, etc.).

You think it is not so reducible or explainable, and so monist physicalists don't get access to normativity. You even have an argument to restrict their access:
(B1) 'normative' applies to approval; 'judgment of truth' is synonymous with 'expresses approval'
(B2) no terms that refer only to physical things also refer to the same thing that 'normative' can refer to
(B3) so, no language that includes only physical terms refers to anything normative
(B4) a monist physicalist language refers only to physical terms
(B5) so, a monist physicalist language cannot include normative terms

Badass. However, the relevance of the argument depends on whether (B2) is true, and whether (B2) is true depends on whether argument (A) is sound. That makes argument (A) carry the full weight of everything.
Gene L
user 19640341
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 496
John,

Good post. But before you and Victor go any further (and this applies to your binding thread on Drunken Philosophy) as well, I would suggest that you both agree on a common definition of "physicalism". In particular the term "monist physicalism" as the term "monist' typically refers to the ontology of mental states and properties rather than whether or not there are non-reducible normative properties. It would be my recommendation to avoid these terms altogether and just discuss, as you aptly put it:

"the crux of the issue may simply be whether you think normativity is possibly reducible or explainable in terms of non-normative whatevers (e.g., things, causes, concepts, terms, etc.)."

But this isn't my discussion so I will stop here.
John
user 87563592
Minneapolis, MN
Post #: 9
Thanks Gene. I had been assuming that by 'monist' Victor refers to a person with the view that there is only one irreducible kind of thing, and that by 'monist physicalist' he refers to a person holding the view that the only type of thing is the irreducibly physical type of thing. And I take it for granted that we're using a cluster concept of what 'physical' means, like that it has spatiotemporal location, or that it is composed only of physical simples, etc.

Victor, am I getting it right?

I suspect that Victor needn't defend arguments that normativity is irreducible or even present such arguments for his argument to be successful. He need only (as he already does) say 'this argument takes as it's target audience only those people who hold all of these two views: (i) normativity cannot be reduced or eliminated, and (ii) 'substance', 'cause', etc. refer to physical things. That catches both the interactionist dualist who defines 'substance', 'cause', in physical terms, and the physicalist who doesn't have a strategy for reducing normativity to physical stuff.

In my opinion, his argument can be a successful one, and what it lacks in its ability to convince people who think normativity is reducible, it makes up for by convincing those who think it's irreducible. A different argument is needed to convince people that normativity is irreducible. I am very tempted to attempt such an argument in another thread...
Victor M.
user 12752879
Seattle, WA
Post #: 157
Thanks, John, for your insightful remarks,

Victor, I haven't spent a lot of time reading through all the comments and responses, so feel free to ignore what's already been addressed.

First, your definition of 'truth': statement phi is true if and only if phi is expressive of approval or disapproval; saying 'phi is true' is expressive of that approval of phi, of phi's significance

I'd like to suggest that this theory of truth may be compatible with a correspondence theory of truth, or a deflationary theory of truth, or others. It strikes me as ambiguous in that respect.


I don't adhere to any precise theory of truth. I could go with any of those you listed (and a few others) in different circumstances. Very broadly, you could say that my theory is that truth is what squares with experience. But, without saying more, that sounds uselessly vague, so I will wait to see what context you have in mind.


Second, it's unclear why you think that terms like 'substance' and 'cause' are natively physicalist. It's possible that these terms have changed in their meaning over time, but historically they are not physicalist. In Aristotle, for example, he has all those different types of cause, some of which are not physicalist (or at least not obviously so).

You are right about Aristotle. The sense of substance commonly in play today I don't think goes back much further than Descartes. (There is much more controversy as to what substance really meant in Aristotle's time--whether and to what extent he was using it as we usually do.) I think Descartes is responsible for the sharp mind/body cleft we are familiar with, and he took interaction for granted, seemingly, extending his mechanistic view of the physical world to the mental as well: Real players in the world make stuff happen. Physical stuff undeniably makes stuff happen. Because (a priori) he took the mental to be a real player it must make stuff happen, too, i.e., it must causally interact. But notice that the inference was *to* causal interaction not *from* it. Since then, it seems, most philosophers who are inclined to take a non-reductive attitude toward the mental have assumed Descartes was right in assuming interaction and then go on to try to explain how.

So yes, I think, as used today, substance and causality apply natively (if they apply anywhere) among material objects or physical events and Descartes has a lot to do with this. I think when the concepts are used to talk about non-material things we are risking poetry: insisting that something *less* clear to us is like something that is supposed to be more. But the standard of clarity here is visual. Eyes don't see immaterial things.


The upshot of this worry is twofold: (1) if the terms are not natively physicalist, the motivation to take 'non-interactionist' as a rival to 'interactionist' dualism is lost; (2) a main motivation for the view is to justify the claim that dualists shouldn't be interactionists, but the argument does so by trading on idiosyncratic views on the native meaning of the terms and thereby leading to the conclusion that only dualists who define 'cause' in purely physicalist terms should avoid being interactionists. Dualist interactionists who don't define 'cause' or 'substance' in physicalist terms needn't give up interactionism (as I think you acknowledge).

Almost, but not quite: I am saying that even the term "interaction" is saturated with physicalist connotations, never mind what kind of interaction (causal, etc.). I prefer the term "relation" because it is even more non-committal about what it is we are relating. I do think there are relations between mind and body. Mind notices body. Body sometimes grabs the attention of mind. "Noticing" is mental. "Grabbing" is physical (but also less likely to be taken in any way but metaphorical: you can't literally grab ideas with your hands). I am trying to wipe the slate clean of any assumptions about interaction of any kind. Cars at an intersection may interact. It is stretching things to say that ideas "interact," more naturally they "relate" to things or one another.
Victor M.
user 12752879
Seattle, WA
Post #: 158
Continued...

John:

Third, I'm wondering what the general metaphysical virtues of your view are. I can't tell for sure if it is ontologically simpler than, say a universe composed of simples and everything composed by them. Or if it is simpler than, say, a world in which there are plethora kinds of things (persons, objects, propositions, properties, etc.). Or if it is simpler than, say a eliminative materialist view that allows for fictionalism about artifacts, math, etc.

I don't have an opinion about the metaphysical virtue of my way of looking at this. Simplicity is a virtue. But not the only one. It has to contend with adequacy. I am keenly aware that I am really just moving mystery around. If I am right, we don't have to waste time trying to explain mind/body interaction because there isn't any. But we are left with having to explain why we might have thought there was and, of course, the mystery of dualism in the first place.


Fourth, I take you to be making something like the following argument about normativity:

(A1) if monist physicalism is true, then normativity does not exist (whatever 'exists' means, or your suitable substitute)

Not quite: I am saying that physicalism as theory, as judgment about what there is, is simply incoherent, not false. Judgment is a clear manifestation of normativity. A thoroughgoing physicalism has no room for judgment. And if we say no physicalist is *that* thoroughgoing, that seems to suggest that no physicalist really believes that EVERYTHING is physical. If so, physicalism (though perhaps correct) becomes a less distinct and interesting position. (There is, in fact, a peculiar non-exclusive form of physicalism that may escape this charge: it claims that everything is indeed physical BUT ALSO mental. It's called panpsychism and it will be the next topic I plan to take up. It's an ancient view that is experiencing a bit of a resurgence of late.)

(A2) if normativity does not exist, then arguments cannot be used and the term 'normativity' is meaningless (since it is conceptually non-physical)
(A3) so, if monist physicalism is true, then arguments cannot be used and the term 'normativity' is meaningless
(A4) arguments can be used and the term 'normativity' is not meaningless
(A5) so, monist physicalism is false

I'd like to say both that this is a clever argument strategy and that it is overly complicated. I think the crux of the issue may simply be whether you think normativity is possibly reducible or explainable in terms of non-normative whatevers (e.g., things, causes, concepts, terms, etc.).

Yes, there is an interesting attempt to explain normativity in evolutionary terms called teleosemantics. This is, briefly, the idea that the functional patterns connected with normative or semantic behavior are what they are because they have "worked" to get us this far. This is a worthy view and topic all by itself.

You think it is not so reducible or explainable, and so monist physicalists don't get access to normativity. You even have an argument to restrict their access:
(B1) 'normative' applies to approval; 'judgment of truth' is synonymous with 'expresses approval'

Actually, the normative mental state enters the picture before we ever get to considerations of truth value. Merely to select for evaluation implies something has significance for a mental agent. The significance is a mental event. Being significant, having meaning, or being worthy of wasting time on, etc. is already a normative event. Judgment about that is made before we get to judgments of truth or falsity.

(B2) no terms that refer only to physical things also refer to the same thing that 'normative' can refer to
(B3) so, no language that includes only physical terms refers to anything normative
(B4) a monist physicalist language refers only to physical terms
(B5) so, a monist physicalist language cannot include normative terms

Badass. However, the relevance of the argument depends on whether (B2) is true, and whether (B2) is true depends on whether argument (A) is sound. That makes argument (A) carry the full weight of everything.


I agree with your analysis here. It all does come down to whether the normative can be convincingly reduced to some material entity or property of such, or to a relation among such entities or properties thereof. Will we find a "normatron" or "semanticon" sub-atomic particle that lends significance to the particles around it as one of its properties or does every particle of matter already have this property as the panpsychists believe? Or does significance "emerge" at a certain level of physical complexity? Emergence and its problems will come up when we get to panpsychism--the other view that I am somewhat partial to.

My real targets are interactionist dualism and non-neutral monisms such as rigorous forms of physicalism (and idealism).
Victor M.
user 12752879
Seattle, WA
Post #: 159
John Writes:

...I had been assuming that by 'monist' Victor refers to a person with the view that there is only one irreducible kind of thing, and that by 'monist physicalist' he refers to a person holding the view that the only type of thing is the irreducibly physical type of thing. And I take it for granted that we're using a cluster concept of what 'physical' means, like that it has spatiotemporal location, or that it is composed only of physical simples, etc.

Victor, am I getting it right?


Yes, that sounds right.


I suspect that Victor needn't defend arguments that normativity is irreducible or even present such arguments for his argument to be successful. He need only (as he already does) say 'this argument takes as it's target audience only those people who hold all of these two views: (i) normativity cannot be reduced or eliminated, and (ii) 'substance', 'cause', etc. refer to physical things. That catches both the interactionist dualist who defines 'substance', 'cause', in physical terms, and the physicalist who doesn't have a strategy for reducing normativity to physical stuff.

In my opinion, his argument can be a successful one, and what it lacks in its ability to convince people who think normativity is reducible, it makes up for by convincing those who think it's irreducible. A different argument is needed to convince people that normativity is irreducible. I am very tempted to attempt such an argument in another thread...

Again, I think you are getting me right on this.

If someone believes that normativity is reducible to the physical, I have said nothing to argue against them--at least not here. I have implicitly assumed they are wrong, but that's no argument.

I do think, however, that, even leaving normative reductionism aside, I have still to explain the "appearance" of mind/body interaction. I think there is more to be addressed there which I haven't done. I don't think my argument will begin to be plausible to the interactionists until I do that.

And here I especially mean epiphenomenalists who think the mental a side-effect of the physical. I think I have my work cut out explaining to them that the mental is not causally dependent on the physical. That is a major controversial fall out of my view. I say it isn't so for largely the same reason the mental does not cause the physical. The two simply do not mess with each other at all--at least not on common terms. Causation is not a common term. I think of epiphenomenalists as closet physicalists. I think they miss the point of being a dualist in the first place.

John
user 87563592
Minneapolis, MN
Post #: 19
Sorry for my delayed reply. I've been chewing on what you've said. It's sort of a lot to square myself up to and interpret. Hopefully I'll have a good idea of what to say later today or tomorrow.
John
user 87563592
Minneapolis, MN
Post #: 27
Ok here are a couple things.

First, when someone says something that is incoherent, I don't think that means the need to give anything up just yet. S'pose I hold P is true, and Q is true, and that P and Q are inconsistent. But, I have independent reasons to hold P from the reasons I have to hold Q, and I can't see any advantage of one over the other. I think in this situation, the person whose view doesn't allow for normativity can shrug and say, 'meh, I don't know what to do, I use normativity all the time and don't see how to rid myself of it, but admit that it doesn't jive with my other views.'

I guess that's just an epistemic theory, so maybe doesn't really hit a nerve in what you're saying, since you're doing metaphysics here.

Second, I'm still sort of bewildered about the dualist who has those key physicalist terms in his theory. That's just crazy, isn't it? Is it bad form to say everyone since Descartes who does that can just easily adapt their notions of cause, etc., to something more consistent with their theory?
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