• jjAmEs
    184
    But what eliminative materialism wants to eliminate or deny or describe as 'folk psychology' is in fact the fundamental nature of being itself. TO which the materialist reply is invariably: TOSH. There is no such 'fundamental nature'. If there were, you would be able to demonstrate it empirically'.

    Do you see my point?
    Wayfarer

    Yes, I see your point. And I agree with you against the position that denies consciousness. I wonder if Dennett is half-trolling. No bad publicity, etc.
  • jjAmEs
    184
    The reason I'm saying that mind is not objective, is to undercut the presumption that it is a subject for the objective sciences at all.Wayfarer

    But what about psychology? And even Husserl's phenomenology aimed at objectivity and freedom from bias. If we emphasize that aspect of mind that is most distant from any kind of peer review or experiment, then indeed we take the mind out of serious conversation altogether. Even metaphysicians have no choice but to employ metaphors. I can't say the phenomenal redness of the rose. I can never know that others see red as I see red (or hear the same middle C.) I can say that grass is not red and that stop signs are. I have to enter the public sign system. And yet we all understand something like qualia if we can't compare them. Which is why Dennett will probably sound like a half-troll or clever moist robot himself to most of us.
    I'm sure you've seen this, but for others....
    To put it as clearly as I can: in his book, Consciousness Explained, Dennett denies the existence of consciousness. He continues to use the word, but he means something different by it. For him, it refers only to third-person phenomena, not to the first-person conscious feelings and experiences we all have. For Dennett there is no difference between us humans and complex zombies who lack any inner feelings, because we are all just complex zombies. ...I regard his view as self-refuting because it denies the existence of the data which a theory of consciousness is supposed to explain...Here is the paradox of this exchange: I am a conscious reviewer consciously answering the objections of an author who gives every indication of being consciously and puzzlingly angry. I do this for a readership that I assume is conscious. How then can I take seriously his claim that consciousness does not really exist? — Searle
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    But what about psychology?jjAmEs

    Yeah what about it? I studied undergrad psych and it was abundantly obvious that the whole field was philosophically fractured. (The only essay I ever failed was my first psych essay, about intelligence testing. On the upside, met my future wife in psych tutorials.)

    Husserl's epoche was not aimed exactly at objectivity, but at detachment. They're close, but not the same. Actually comparisons have been made between Husserl's epoche and the Buddhist sunyata, in that both philosophies are concerned with cultivating close awareness of the texture and nature of experience without a sense of attachment. (There’s an essay out there somewhere called Epoche and Śūnyatā).


    But isn't your description precisely the eye seeing itself? The hand grasping itself? The mind is the meaning-grasper, the meaning-hand. Or the mind is sense organ for the otherwise invisible conceptual realm. The mind is a special kind of hand or a special kind of eye. Both metaphors are great.jjAmEs

    But you can't! That's the point! Hence the role and importance of not knowing! And I mean that in the fully Socratic sense.

    You asked me what an explanation is, in philosophy. One answer would be: an explanation of why we’re tied in knots. That’s close to Wittgenstein’s attitude, isn’t it? The ladder and the discarding of it. But first we have to climb it, and it’s more than just a verbal matter.

    You mentioned Crisis - see if you can find the passage on Descartes. It’s a very perceptive critique. I am meaning to get another copy of that book, it’s kind of a core book.

    Have I mentioned Michel Bitbol to you? I was alerted to him by Pierre Normand on this forum.
  • Andrew M
    1.1k
    In short, the folk metaphysics of dualism seems to be not absurd but only blissfully unaware of how the beetle in the box cannot ground the talk about the beetle. Perhaps denying the beetle is also saying too much?jjAmEs

    What Wittgenstein's thought experiment shows is that if there were such a beetle, then we wouldn't be able to talk about it. Now we can talk about pain, colors and meaning - they have a place in the language game. Whereas the beetle - a hypothetical entity that can't be referenced or talked about - drops out as irrelevant.

    So I think its reasonable to talk about pains, colors, etc., as we ordinarily do, and deny the ghostly entities.

    Metaphysically the hard problem is just a sub-problem of 'why is there is anything at all'? Certain philosophers gesture at the limitations of explanatory discourse. That there is a world in the first place cannot be explained as a matter of principle.jjAmEs

    It seems to me that there should be explanations for these things. I'm not sure how not having satisfactory answers given our present state of knowledge should ever imply that there are no explanations to be had.

    But I see Chalmers as articulating a very real and profound philosophical problem, which is that no matter how much knowledge we accumulate about the objective domain - and after all, this is what science is in the business of - that the nature of the knowing subject will always elude this analysis.Wayfarer

    You frame the problem in terms of a subject/object dualism which, as jjAmEs has also noted, makes it insoluble by definition. So the point at issue is really a conceptual one of naturalism versus dualism.
  • Mww
    1.8k
    if the deterministic natural forces are expressed through a stochastic system then there's no reason at all to suppose a deterministic method will result.Isaac

    True enough. Still, in the compendium of practical matters in which humans can agree with each other on an arbitrary set of empirical determinations in accordance with their respective communicative means (if I ask every rational English-speaking body in NYC to point to his foot, they will all point to the same place), there would seem to indeed be a singular deterministic method in place that supports practical matters in general.

    Nahhhh......if all humans didn’t have a common thinking method intrinsic to themselves alone, they’d be mere primates.

    Anyway....thanks for the perspective.
  • Isaac
    3k
    (if I ask every rational English-speaking body in NYC to point to his foot, they will all point to the same place)Mww

    I doubt that. Some would disobey on principle, some would absentmindedly point elsewhere because they weren't paying attention (not weren't listening, just reacting on instinct), some would point to their hand (thinking they're making a joke), etc...

    The more complex you make the instruction, the more challenging the environment you make it in the more varied the results.

    Try telling a soldier on active duty to point to his foot, he'll tell you to shut up without even registering what you said. Try telling a person to point to their foot after they've been primed to respond to all commands by pointing to their hand (behavioural priming), they'll point to their hand. I mean, all these experiments have been done, there's tonnes in the literature. People do not consistently respond in a 'rational' manner and the manner in which they do respond differs from 'rational' in predictable ways. You might not like that, maybe it makes us a bit more 'mere primate-like' than you'd prefer, but that's the empirical data. Ignore it if you like, but that would be irrational, wouldn't it?
  • Andrew M
    1.1k
    I'm finding it difficult to keep my reply short! However I think we may be finding some points of agreement (or at least better understanding our disagreements!)

    Understood. One can’t reject mind-related terminology yet still talk about mind-like things. Still, because minds, in and of themselves, would seem to be irrefutably private, it seems odd...or self-contradictory....to reject radical privacy in the mental sense, which is what we’re discussing here.Mww

    I would say irrefutably not private (per the PLA). Or, to take a broader perspective, we have different ways of conceptualizing mind:

    Talk of the mind, one might say, is merely a convenient facon de parler, a way of speaking about certain human faculties and their exercise. Of course that does not mean that people do not have minds of their own, which would be true only if they were pathologically indecisive. Nor does it mean that people are mindless, which would be true only if they were stupid or thoughtless. For a creature to have a mind is for it to have a distinctive range of capacities of intellect and will, in particular the conceptual powers of a language-user that make self-awareness and self-reflection possible. [bold mine] — Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience - Bennett and Hacker

    On my view, to interpret a figurative expression as a Cartesian-style mind is a conceptual mistake.

    To say interest in cogitation, not credence: is self-defeating, for credence IS cogitation, as opposed to arriving at cogitation, by means of “pondering or trying to solve a problem”, which is, of course, what le penseur is actually doing when he thinks.Mww

    The difference is between task and achievement words (which Ryle describes in The Concept of Mind, p131-p135). Cogitation is a task word (which is Ryle's interest in his essay), credence (as with knowledge) is what is acquired or achieved as a result of cogitation. Consider the difference between running a race and winning a race. Winning entails that a race was run. But winning is not reducible to running. Neither is winning an additional task performed to the running. It is instead a logical condition that depends on specific criteria, such as that the runner crossed the finish line before the other runners, followed the rules, etc. So context matters here.

    In a similar vein, thinking is a task word. Whereas to have made up one's mind is an achievement phrase.

    Now, one may perhaps interject that Ryles is not talking about cognition when he uses the term cogitation. If that is the case.....I give up. Anybody can say whatever they want if they also invent the terms to justify it. Just going to be mighty difficult to find common ground, though.Mww

    So Ryle's usage here (as an ordinary language philosopher) matches ordinary use.

    Cognition: The mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.

    Cogitation: The action of thinking deeply about something; contemplation.

    Note how cogitation describes a task - that of thinking about something. Whereas cognition describes an achievement - the knowledge and understanding acquired as the result of thinking about something.

    For Alice to cogitate about the tree (Are its leaves really green? Is it an illusion?) is one thing, to cognize that its leaves are green is a (logically) different thing.

    ....all possible, yet all reducible to........go ahead, take a guess.Mww

    As you may have also guessed by now, for Ryle (and in ordinary use), understanding denotes an achievement, not a task (nor a faculty or capability).

    Alice might not understand why the tree's leaves are green, or what it means for them to be green at a deeper level. But she at least understands that they are green.

    [Note that this is from my perspective, of course. Others may dispute that she understands that at all if they think such things are illusions, appearances or secondary qualities. But that is a difference over what is understood, not with how the term understanding is ordinarily used.

    A discussion of dualism/naturalism is particularly challenging because there is a whole web of language that is interpreted according to one philosophical premise or the other (and sometimes an entangling mixture of both).]

    If there are some mental activities in which language has no play, yet mental activities are completely comprehensible, the whole intentionality thing is rather worthless, at least from a radical private perspective.Mww

    Note that Ryle explicitly rejects the "thought is language" slogan, which belongs to behaviorism. Where language comes in is that we need language to identify thinking at all, which means that it is a public term.

    That Le Penseur can think without visible indication is mundane privacy. And in those cases, we might sometimes be mistaken about what he's doing (perhaps he's fallen asleep). But radical privacy would be invisible even to scientists investigating brain activity or physicists describing particle movements. That's the interaction problem of the Cartesian model and why Ryle's ghost in the machine metaphor is apt.

    Anyway, thanks for the reference showing me the ground of your arguments so far. Rest assured I don’t necessarily disagree with them entirely, even if I find such grounding both insufficient for theoretical completeness, and misguided in theoretical derivation.Mww

    And thank you for taking the time to articulate your position and objections. I think we both agree on the importance of a sound philosophical grounding for one's position.

    ...Our Reductionist had begun by assailing Cartesian and Platonic extravagances on the basis of what can be, in an ordinary way, observed. But now he reduces, in its turn, observation itself to Nothing But some oddly stingy minimum. However, this stinginess of the empiricist must not soften us towards the lavishness of the transcendentalist. For though he properly acknowledges the differences between kicking and scoring, or between just presenting arms and obeying the order to present arms, yet he goes on to make these differences occult ones. For since they are not to be the earthly or muscular differences demanded in vain by the empiricist, they will have instead to be unearthly, nonmuscular differences that transcend the referee's and the sergeant's powers of perception... — Gilbert Ryle - Thinking and Saying

    In the immortal words of Herr Pauli......That is not only not right, it is not even wrong!Mww

    On the contrary, Ryle gets it right! And it's such a clear distillation of Ryle's view that I had to requote it. :-)

    One has no business qualifying the transcendental with the transcendent, and neither are necessarily occult in nature. Ryles may have been nodding toward Steiner, re: “The Outline of Occult Science”, 1909, but Steiner was no proper transcendentalist, but rather a mere mystic, or spiritualist, a la Swedenborg.Mww

    It has nothing to do with Steiner and "occult" in that sense, but his description is apt nonetheless. Note that Ryle's reference is to Descartes (mind/body) and Plato (ideal Forms/natural world).

    The transcendentalist - of whom Descartes and Plato are examples for Ryle - frame things in terms of a ghostly other-world and a mechanical or cave-like world of the senses. The reductionist, who Ryle also criticizes there, dismisses the ghost but retains the machine and/or cave metaphor.

    Ryle's broader argument is that by rectifying the logical geography here (i.e., rejecting both the ghost and the machine and reallocating the facts marshalled by the transcendentalist and reductionist), the natural world becomes intelligible.

    My model: as you put it, is pretty much the case, yes.Mww

    Thanks.

    I balk at “her beliefs”, however, because if she knows the object as a tree, she has no need to merely believe in the properties that cause it to be a tree in the first place. This is a reflection on my thesis that we attribute properties to objects, as opposed to your thesis that objects are necessarily in possession of intrinsic properties belonging to them irrespective of the perception of them.Mww

    OK. But isn't that open to the problem of Crusoe attributing bentness to the (straight) stick? Does he "know" it is bent at the time?

    Also note that I deny that an object has intrinsic properties. I instead say that the object has form in relation to Alice.

    Anyway, my guess is that we're saying the same thing here in our respective terminologies. We can sometimes be mistaken about what we think we know but, in general, need not be.

    I shall take that as saying we still agree language always presupposes experience.Mww

    No, I don't agree with that! Though I accept that we sometimes retroactively change the language used to describe a prior experience. For example, Crusoe's experience always involved a straight stick, not a bent stick, even if he had described it as bent at the earlier time.

    Besides, realization can be considered really nothing other than a change in subjective condition, and all change takes time, so......Mww

    I regard realization there as a logical condition, not a process in time. As an analogy, when Bob crossed the finish line, what was the time lapse between the states of "has not yet won the race" to "has won the race"? The question doesn't really apply since to win is the logical condition of having crossed the finish line first, not a process in time.

    I know what you’re trying to say, and at first glimpse there is force to the argument. But the argument doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, because no explanation sufficient to facilitate it has as much power as an explanation that refutes it. The only reasonable recourse such argument has going for it, is to deny the theoretical reality of what Ryles calls “....any catalogue of simple qualities and simple relations, whether rude or refined...”. Which is tantamount to denying reason itself, because reason is exactly that catalogue.Mww

    He's denying a stamp-collecting approach to thinking and saying, either as a catalog of bodily movements or as a catalog of mental activities. Ryle brings in reason in the completion of that sentence where he includes the logical conditions under which thinking and saying occur, "... but some nexus of statable because statement-shaped conditions."

    By analogy, we don't find Bob's race win either in his bodily movements or in his or others' private thoughts. It's instead a logical condition that obtains in that scenario (with the context being that a competitive race is being run, there's a start and finish line, there are rules of conduct, etc.).

    As I'm reading you, there are surface similarities here to a Kantian-style transendentalism (just as Plato's Forms have surface similarities to Aristotle's forms). The issue is whether reason is apart from nature or a part of nature (suitably expanded to incorporate intentions and purposes).

    We understand this, because the very first instance of naming anything, is never conditioned by what the object is, but only as how we wish to know it.Mww

    OK, thanks. I take you to be saying that we can conceptualize things however we like (as long as its coherent). If I want to define chairs as having backs and you don't then that's fine. The thing we're looking at doesn't care what we call it or how we categorize it.

    So that's fair enough. But I also think there is a give-and-take - some conceptual schemes are natural and well-motivated, others not so much. If I call a tail a leg, how many legs does a horse have?

    (And note that it's Ryle - see, naming matters!)
  • Mww
    1.8k


    All of which validates the premise that method is a systematic procedure according to rules, but not according to laws. Because there is no promise all humans think about things the same way makes explicit the systematic procedure cannot be predicated on laws, even while a logically deterministic method under which the procedure operates, certainly does not have that restriction.
    ———————

    The more complex you make the instruction, the more challenging the environment you make it in the more varied the results.Isaac

    Agreed, in principle. Which is why the exemplary instruction is as simple as possible. Point-to-foot. Subject/copula/predicate. Unencumbered by manufactured conditionals.


    The empirical psychologist will inform me as to the myriad of reasons why the guy won’t point to his foot, but all I want to know is how he understood me when I asked him to.
  • Isaac
    3k
    all I want to know is how he understood me when I asked him to.Mww

    Crikey, is that all! You know entire textbooks have been written just on the subject of how language is processed? Just distinguishing speech from non-speech involves a complicated feedback mechanism between areas in the auditory cortex. At least five other regions are involved in distinguishing phonemes and breaking out tonal variation. This is all before the message even gets out of the auditory cortex for the first time (yes - the first time, the message gets checked and modified by other feedback mechanisms before it even gets to the temporal cortex where the first stage of syntactic processing takes place)....

    The point is, there is a complicated process, it's probably a Bayesian inference model. It's almost certainly not deterministic and it definitely changes depending on the state other areas of the brain are in.

    "Point to foot" is definitely not "unencumbered by manufactured conditionals". The words don't even get to the point of being recognised as such without passing through several predictive models, each of which alters the message about what is heard so that it reaches the temporal cortex as the best estimate of what was said, given the context, and that's only if the filtering algorithm from the vorbis even determines that any of it is going to get any of the temporal cortex's precious bandwidth.


    If you want to call the whole thing 'rational' thinking without distinguishing any finer category, be my guest, but I'm not sure I see the advantage.
  • jjAmEs
    184
    What Wittgenstein's thought experiment shows is that if there were such a beetle, then we wouldn't be able to talk about it. Now we can talk about pain, colors and meaning - they have a place in the language game. Whereas the beetle - a hypothetical entity that can't be referenced or talked about - drops out as irrelevant.Andrew M

    I mostly agree with you. Note however that we are talking about the beetle. To me qualia serve that kind of goal. Maybe what I call 'red' is what you call 'green.' No way to check! And yet I think our language game includes this phenomenal redness. I do see that the sign 'red' has to function independently of this beetle, this pure redness. And I agree that we need an entire sign system and form of life in order to gesture toward it. And we have that system! Which allows us to say that it drops out as irrelevant, which it is for the functioning of the sign.

    It seems to me that there should be explanations for these things. I'm not sure how not having satisfactory answers given our present state of knowledge should ever imply that there are no explanations to be had.Andrew M

    The point I was trying to make is perhaps a little strange. I understand explanation to be relational. The world as the entire system of entities and their relationships cannot be put into relation to something outside of it, for there is nothing outside of it by definition.

    Sartre wrote on this in Nausea. He's very dramatic about what can also be contemplated coolly.
    I was like the others, like the ones walking along the seashore, wearing their spring clothes. I said, like them, "The sea is green; that white speck up there is a seagull," but I didn't feel that it existed or that the seagull was an "existing seagull"; usually existence conceals itself. It is there, around us, in us, it is us, you can't say two words without mentioning it, but you can never touch it. When I believed I was thinking about it, I was thinking nothing, my head was empty, or there was just one word in my head, the word "being." Or else I was thinking — how can I put it? I was thinking of properties. I was telling myself that the sea belonged to the class of green objects, or that green was one of the qualities of the sea. Even when I looked at things, I was miles from dreaming that they existed: they looked like scenery to me. I picked them up in my hands, they served me as tools, I foresaw their resistance. But that all happened on the surface. If anyone had asked me what existence was, I would have answered in good faith, that it was nothing, simply an empty form added to things from the outside, without changing any thing in their nature.
    ...
    The word Absurdity is emerging under my pen; a little while ago, in the garden, I couldn't find it, but neither was I looking for it, I didn't need it: I thought without words, on things, with things. Absurdity was not an idea in my head, or the breath of a voice, only this long serpent dead at my feet, this serpent of wood. Serpent or claw or root or vulture's talon, what difference does it make? And without formulating anything clearly, I understood that I had found the clue to existence, the clue to my nauseas, to my own life. In fact, all I could grasp beyond that comes down to this fundamental absurdity. Absurdity: another word. I struggle against words; beneath me there I touched the thing. But I wanted to fix the absolute character of this absurdity. A movement, an event in the tiny colored world of men is only relatively absurd — in relation to the accompanying circumstances. A madman's ravings, for example, are absurd in relation to the situation in which he is, but not in relation to his own delirium. But a little while ago I made an experiment with the absolute or the absurd. This root — there was nothing in relation to which it was absurd. How can I pin it down with words? Absurd: in relation to the stones, the tufts of yellow grass, the dry mud, the tree, the sky, the green benches. Absurd, irreducible; nothing — not even a profound, secret delirium of nature could explain it. Obviously I did not know everything, I had not seen the seeds sprout, or the tree grow. But faced with this great wrinkled paw, neither ignorance nor knowledge was important: the world of explanations and reasons is not the world of existence. A circle is not absurd, it is clearly explained by the rotation of the segment of a straight line around one of its extremities. But neither does a circle exist. This root, in contrast, existed in such a way that I could not explain it. Knotty, inert, nameless, it fascinated me, filled my eyes, brought me back unceasingly to its own existence. In vain I repeated, "This is a root" — it didn't take hold any more. I saw clearly that you could not pass from its function as a root, as a suction pump, to that, to that hard and thick skin of a sea lion, to this oily, callous; stubborn look. The function explained nothing: it allowed you to understand in general what a root was, but not at all that one there. That root with its color, shape, its congealed movement, was beneath all explanation.
    ...
    This moment was extraordinary. I was there, motionless, paralyzed, plunged in a horrible ecstasy. But at the heart of this ecstasy, something new had just appeared; I understood the nausea, I possessed it. To tell the truth, I did not formulate my discoveries to myself. But I think it would be easy for me to put them in words now. The essential point is contingency. I mean that by definition existence is not [logical] necessity. To exist is simply ... to be there; existences appear, let themselves be encountered, but you can never deduce them. Some people, I think, have understood this. Only they tried to overcome this contingency by inventing a being that was necessary and self-caused. But no necessary being [i.e., God] can explain existence: contingency is not a delusion, an appearance which can be dissipated; it is the absolute, and, therefore, perfectly gratuitous. Everything is gratuitous, this park, this city, and myself. When you realize this, your heart turns over and everything begins to float....
    — Sartre
    http://twren.sites.luc.edu/phil120/ch10/nausea.htm
  • Mww
    1.8k
    Part One:

    better understanding our disagreementsAndrew M

    Absolutely. No meaningful discourse when the parties all agree with each other. Still, in Ryle, as you say.......
    understanding denotes an achievement, not a task (nor a faculty or capability).Andrew M
    ......to better understand our disagreements is an achievement, which we can then say only evolves by the faculty of understanding being tasked to achieve it.

    Such would be a semantic quibble if it weren’t already a theoretical tenet.
    —————-

    Still, because minds, in and of themselves, would seem to be irrefutably private....
    — Mww

    I would say irrefutably not private (per the PLA). Or, to take a broader perspective, we have different ways of conceptualizing mind:
    Andrew M

    Agreed, not private (per the PLA), because there is no such thing as a PLA anyway. I meant private insofar as inaccessible except as the necessarily abstract ground for transcendental philosophy. Therein, the mind is conceived as the irreducible condition for all that pure reason seeks for itself.

    Commonly, I suppose, and granting the complementary nature of human rationality, that which is ultimately real, and possibly knowable, the object, is incomprehensible without logical juxtaposition to the ultimately not-real, hence only thinkable, the mind.

    More commonly, I suppose, mind is what the brain does, which is just about as empty a conception as there could ever be.

    On my view, to interpret a figurative expression as a Cartesian-style mind is a conceptual mistake.Andrew M

    Given this highlighted section: “...Talk of the mind, one might say, is merely a convenient facon de parler, a way of speaking about certain human faculties and their exercise...”, I suppose this to be a figurative expression, and if it is, I agree such talk is a conceptual mistake. I don’t talk about or of the mind per se, but rather talk about certain human faculties and their exercise on their own validity and merits alone.

    And your different way of conceptualizing mind would be......? Which I take as a different concept of mind, in as much as I think we all conceptualize, as a task, the same way.
    ————————-

    On ordinary language: thanks for the explanations; things are clearer for me with them, with respect to Ryle.
    On theoretical terminology: understood, even if I maintain that hardly any of it is necessary. I mean...thinking and thinking deeply being two different things? I don’t see the theoretical benefit in that fine a distinction.
    ————————-

    In the immortal words of Herr Pauli......That is not only not right, it is not even wrong!
    — Mww

    On the contrary, Ryle gets it right! And it's such a clear distillation of Ryle's view that I had to requote it.
    Andrew M

    The minor objection: the passage itself may be a clear distillation of Ryle, but I don’t get where he thinks Descartes and Plato are transcendentalists.
    The major objection: for those I do see as Transcendentalists, or, more properly, transcendental idealists, it must be granted that the “lavishness of the transcendentalist” means the invocation of a priori cognitions and knowledge, and calling such invocation occult-ish and “transcending powers of perception”, is what is not even wrong.

    Can you show what the lavishness of the transcendentalist is, that isn’t the advocacy of the a priori, to show what I thought Ryle meant, is incorrect?

    Ryle's broader argument is that by rectifying the logical geography here (i.e., rejecting both the ghost and the machine and reallocating the facts marshalled by the transcendentalist and reductionists), the natural world becomes intelligible.Andrew M

    On the other hand, rejecting the alleged ghost and the machine the ghost supposedly lives in, seems to be rejecting the a priori aspect of human reason, and by association, the faculties in which the a priori resides. The intelligibility of the natural world is not the same as knowledge of the natural world, however, and because of that, I reject the notion that the latter is even possible without the former.
  • jjAmEs
    184
    Yeah what about it? I studied undergrad psych and it was abundantly obvious that the whole field was philosophically fractured.Wayfarer

    You said that the mind was not objective. I'm saying that psychology is a objective-unbiased science of behavior and mind, including 'conscious and unconscious phenomena.' Perhaps you mean that the mind is not an object like a rock or a cloud. Of course I agree. But it is a noun that's tangled up in our sayings and doings. We know things about it and apply that knowledge. It's included in a (probabilistic) causal nexus.

    Husserl's epoche was not aimed exactly at objectivity, but at detachment. They're close, but not the same. Actually comparisons have been made between Husserl's epoche and the Buddhist sunyata, in that both philosophies are concerned with cultivating close awareness of the texture and nature of experience without a sense of attachment. (There’s an essay out there somewhere called Epoche and Śūnyatā).Wayfarer

    I don't claim that bracketing == objectivity. I read Husserl as trying to do a supremely scientific kind of philosophy, an ur-science that grounds the others. Objectivity is baked in to this approach. Detachment is of course related to objectivity. Bias is interest. Unbiasedness (objectivity) is disinterestedness. Or we might that the the objective approach is interested in what's 'really' there apart from biased or subjectivity-tainted distortions. Of course we need a subject to experience in the object in the first place. So the scientist is ideally an objective subject, an unbiased subject, who reports things as they are, who sacrifices hypotheses that don't survive testing or criticism. We seem to agree that the phenomenologist cultivates 'close awareness of the texture and nature of experience without a sense of attachment,' and therefore without a bias that distorts the objective.

    The greatness of the natural sciences consists in their refusal to be content with an observational empiricism, since for them all descriptions of nature are but methodical procedures for arriving at exact explanations, ultimately physico-chemical explanations. They are of the opinion that 'merely descriptive' sciences tie us to the finitudes of our earthly environing world.4 Mathematically exact natural science, however, embraces with its method the infinites contained in its actualities and real possibilities. It sees in the intuitively given a merely subjective appearance, and it teaches how to investigate intersubjective ('objective') nature itself with systematic approximation on the basis of elements and laws that are unconditionally universal. At the same time, such exact science teaches how to explain all intuitively pre-given concretions, whether men, or animals, or heavenly bodies, by an appeal to what is ultimate, i.e., how to induce from the appearances, which are the data in any factual case, future possibilities and probabilities, and to do this with a universality and exactitude that surpasses any empiricism limited to intuition. The consistent development of exact sciences in modern times has been a true revolution in the technical mastery of nature.

    In the humanistic sciences the methodological situation (in the sense already quite intelligible to us) is unfortunately quite different, and this for internal reasons. Human spirituality is, it is true, based on the human physis, each individually human soul-life is founded on corporeality, and thus too each community on the bodies of the individual human beings who are its members. If, then, as is done in the sphere of nature, a really exact explanation and consequently a similarly extensive scientific practical application is to become possible for the phenomena belonging to the humanistic sciences, then must the practitioners of the humanistic sciences consider not only the spirit as spirit but must also go back to its bodily foundations, and by employing the exact sciences of physics and chemistry, carry through their explanations. The attempt to do this, however, has been unsuccessful (and in the foreseeable future there is no remedy to be had) due to the complexity of the exact psycho-physical research needed in the case of individual human beings, to say nothing of the great historical communities.

    If the world were constructed of two, so to speak, equal spheres of reality - nature and spirit - neither with a preferential position methodologically and factually, the situation would be different. But only nature can be handled as a self-contained world; only natural science can with complete consistency abstract from all that is spirit and consider nature purely as nature. On the other side such a consistent abstraction from nature does not, for the practitioner of humanistic science who is interested purely in the spiritual, lead to a self-contained 'world', a world whose interrelationships are purely spiritual, that could be the theme of a pure and universal humanistic science, parallel to pure natural science. Animal spirituality, that of the human and animal 'souls', to which all other spirituality is referred, is in each individual instance causally based on corporeality. It is thus understandable that the practitioner of humanistic science, interested solely in the spiritual as such, gets no further than the descriptive, than a historical record of spirit, and thus remains tied to intuitive finitudes. Every example manifests this. A historian, for example, cannot, after all, treat the history of ancient Greece without taking into consideration the physical geography of ancient Greece; he cannot treat its architecture without considering the materiality of its buildings, etc., etc. That seems clear enough.
    — Husserl

    While we can and have abstract a mechanical nature from the total human situation (the early materialists were especially impressive in this regard), we can't abstract pure spirit from the total situation and leave behind the brain and the environment. 'Spirit' or culture is at the top and depends on everything below it. Whatever your misgivings about psychology, the mind and consciousness are already understood practically-technologically in a nexus that includes nature. Certain molecules change consciousness. We give the dying as much morphine as they want, for their comfort, which we gauge indirectly via expression and conversation. Violence, accident, and disease apparent end consciousness altogether, at least in the usual sense. We bury and cremate corpses.

    To switch themes, we have

    This rough sketch will gain in completeness and intelligibility as we examine more closely the historical origin of philosophical and scientific man and thereby clarify the sense of Europe and, consequently, the new type of historicity that through this sort of development distinguishes itself from history in general.23

    First, let us elucidate the remarkable character of philosophy as it unfolds in ever-new special sciences. Let us contrast it with other forms of culture already present in prescientific man, in his artefacts, his agriculture, his architecture, etc. All manifest classes of cultural products along with the proper methods for insuring their successful production. Still, they have a transitory existence in their environing world. Scientific achievements, on the other hand, once the method of insuring their successful creation has been attained, have an entirely different mode of being, an entirely different temporality. They do not wear out, they are imperishable. Repeated creation does not produce something similar, at best something similarly useful. Rather, no matter how many times the same person or any number of persons repeat these achievements, they remain exactly identical, identical in sense and in value. Persons united together in actual mutual understanding can only experience what their respective fellows have produced in the same manner as identical with what they have produced themselves. In a word, what scientific activity achieves is not real but ideal.
    — Husserl

    We see that the ideal realm depends upon the possibility of perfect iteration. This is its atemporality. Generations come and go like leaves, but certain cognitions are imperishable because each new generation can enjoy them. The flame leaps from melting candle to melting candle. This is the realm of the forms, the book of the forms that can even be extended by works of genius/revelation. This is a 'god' that mortals can incarnate or participate in through science/philosophy.

    This last quote echos what you said earlier, I think.

    In the focus on the environing world, a constantly objective attitude, everything spiritual appeared to be based on physical corporeality. Thus an application of the mode of thought proper to natural science was obvious. For this reason we already find in the early stages Democritean materialism and determinism.47 However, the greatest minds recoiled from this and also from any newer style of psychophysics (Psychophysik). Since Socrates, man is made thematic precisely as human, man with his spiritual life in society. Man retains an orientation to the objective world, but with the advent of Plato and Aristotle this world becomes the great theme of investigations. At this point a remarkable cleavage makes itself felt: the human belongs to the universe of objective facts, but as persons, as egos, men have goals, aims. They have norms for tradition, truth norms - eternal norms. Though the development proceeded haltingly in ancient times, still it was not lost. Let us make the leap to so-called 'modern' times. With glowing enthusiasm the infinite task of a mathematical knowledge of nature and in general of a world knowledge is undertaken. The extraordinary successes of natural knowledge are now to be extended to knowledge of the spirit. Reason had proved its power in nature. 'As the sun is one all-illuminating and warming sun, so too is reason one' (Descartes). The method of natural science must also embrace the mysteries of spirit. The spirit is real and objectively in the world, founded as such in corporeality. With this the interpretation of the world immediately takes on a predominantly dualistic, i.e., psychophysical, form. The same causality -only split in two- embraces the one world; the sense of rational explanation is everywhere the same, but in such a way that all explanation of spirit, in the only way in which it can be universal, involves the physical. There can be no pure, self-contained search for an explanation of the spiritual, no purely inneroriented psychology or theory of spirit beginning with the ego in psychical self-experience and extending to the other psyche. The way that must be traveled is the external one, the path of physics and chemistry. All the fond talk of common spirit, of the common will of a people, of nations' ideal political goals, and the like, are romanticism and mythology, derived from an analogous application of concepts that have a proper sense only in the individual personal sphere. Spiritual being is fragmentary. To the question regarding the source of all these difficulties the following answer is to be given: this objectivism or this psychophysical interpretation of the world, despite its seeming self-evidence, is a naïve one-sidedness that never was understood to be such. To speak of the spirit as reality (Realitat), presumably a real (realen) annex to bodies and having its supposedly spatiotemporal being within nature, is an absurdity. — Husserl

    All quotes from here: http://www.users.cloud9.net/~bradmcc/husserl_philcris.html

    This also sounds like Heidegger. The 'subject' should not be treated like a present-at-hand piece of nature. While this may be a good approach for curing cancer, it's inferior approach for figuring out who-not-what we are and who-not-what we should be.
  • jjAmEs
    184
    You asked me what an explanation is, in philosophy. One answer would be: an explanation of why we’re tied in knots. That’s close to Wittgenstein’s attitude, isn’t it? The ladder and the discarding of it. But first we have to climb it, and it’s more than just a verbal matter.Wayfarer

    Perhaps you mean that a philosophical explanation unties knots. Or helps the fly out of the bottle. I like that. And a related idea is that philosophy offers and criticizes general frameworks (like what counts as science and philosophy in the first place.) The ladder metaphor is great, too. Flies in bottles, disposable ladders...these metaphors are 20th century theology ur-science.

    On the issue of the subject, it seems that isolating some strictly metaphysical or non-empirical subject is equivalent to saving philosophy as metaphysics. To me the 'I' has its meaning within an entire system of signs and conventions for their use. That's why Husserl/Derrida on repetition are so important. Plato's realm of forms can be naturalized. Sharing in language is sharing in norms of intelligibility. To me this embodied sign-system is an operating system that we can't get behind, an abyssal ground. 'It is there, like the world.' The intuition is that pure literal meaning is grasped by the subject as a sense-organ meaning-eye. This meaning-eye is the same in all of us, and it allows us all to grasp the same set of pure, literal meaning. If we talk to ourselves, the phonemes don't matter. Such words might be ambiguous to those who overhear us or read our diary, but in the moment of speaking we know exactly what we mean. Of course such pure literal meaning must be translatable in principle. Eternal, universal knowledge cannot be trapped in English or French, etc. Is this not the non-empirical object of philosophy? This immaterial meaning-organ and its immaterial meanings? (Or are there just immaterial meanings among which the meaning-organ is an explanatory posit, a convenient noun to tie a bundle of thoughts to a body and the word 'I' which must correspond to a spiritual object?)

    The experimental practice presupposes a certain pre-scientific practice of description, which establishes the norm for experimental measurement apparatus, and consequently what counts as scientific experience. — Bohr

    The investigator of nature, however, does not make it clear to himself that the constant foundation of his admittedly subjective thinking activity is the environing world of life. This latter is constantly presupposed as the basic working area, in which alone his questions and his methodology make sense.
    ...
    In so far as the intuitive environing world, purely subjective as it is, is forgotten in the scientific thematic, the working subject is also forgotten, and the scientist is not studied.
    ...
    It is true, of course, that since Kant we have a special theory of knowledge, and on the other hand there is psychology, which with its claims to scientific exactitude wants to be the universal fundamental science of the spirit. Still, our hope for real rationality, i.e., for real insight, is disappointed here as elsewhere.
    — Husserl

    What counts as real insight? If certain knots are untied, if prediction and control is increased, then progress is made. But there is an itch for something ultimate, it seems. To plug directly into the mystical Logos. And yet I agree with Derrida that we don't know exactly what we are talking about, or at least that the perfect presence (here before me and now) of clear literal meaning is a or the central myth of philosophy, which isn't to deny it a certain truth or worth.
  • Janus
    9.4k
    Dennett is constantly mischaracterized by @Wayfarer; he doesn't deny the reality of consciousness, he just says that it is not what we think it is.

    See this
  • jjAmEs
    184


    Thanks for the link. It encouraged me to find a pdf of Consciousness Explained --easily foundvia googling.

    Here are some clarifying quotes:

    There is the lurking suspicion that the most attractive feature of mind stuff is its promise of being so mysterious that it keeps science at bay forever.

    This fundamentally antiscientific stance of dualism is, to my mind, its most disqualifying features and is the reason why in this book I adopt the apparently dogmatic rule that dualism is to be avoided at all costs. It is not that I think I can give a knock-down proof that dualism, in all its forms, is false or incoherent, but that, given the way dualism wallows in mystery, accepting dualism is giving up (as in Figure 2.4, page 38).
    — Dennett

    On this point I side more with Dennet, While I think there is a certain necessary contingency with respect to the world as a whole, in all other cases we can and do look for useful relationships. Inasmuch as dualism 'smells' like a god-of-the-gaps strategy, it is offputting to those who want more insight and power, which is to say knowledge. Dualism also connects perhaps to preserving philosophy as an armchair science of the spiritual, just as Kant 'had to deny knowledge to make room for faith.

    This quote makes it clear that Dennett does after all believe in consciousness.

    So let's take a brief tour of the phenomenological garden, just to satisfy ourselves that we know what we are talking about (even if we don't yet know the ultimate nature of these things). It will be a deliberately superficial introductory tour, a matter of pointing and saying a few informative words, and raising a few questions, before we get down to serious theorizing in the rest of the book. Since I will soon be mounting radical challenges to everyday thinking, I wouldn't want anyone to think I was simply ignorant of all the wonderful things that inhabit other people's minds. Our phenom is divided into three parts: (1) experiences of the "external" world, such as sights, sounds, smells, slippery and scratchy feelings, feelings of heat and cold, and of the positions of our limbs; (2) experiences of the purely "internal' world, such as fantasy images, the inner sights and sounds of daydreaming and talking to yourself, recollections, bright ideas, and sudden hunches; and (3) experiences of emotion or "affect" (to use the awkward term favored by psychologists), ranging from bodily pains, tickles, and "sensations" of hunger and thirst, through intermediate emotional storms of anger, joy, hatred, embarrassment, lust, astonishment, to the least corporeal visitations of pride, anxiety, regret, ironic detachment, rue, awe, icy calm. — Dennett

    But Dennett asks for trouble.
    The prevailing wisdom, variously expressed and argued for, is materialism: there is only one sort of stuff, namely matter — the physical stuff of physics, chemistry, and physiology — and the mind is somehow nothing but a physical phenomenon. In short, the mind is the brain. According to the materialists, we can (in principle!) account for every mental phenomenon using the same physical principles, laws, and raw materials that suffice to explain radioactivity, continental drift, photosynthesis, reproduction, nutrition, and growth. It is one of the main burdens of this book to explain consciousness without ever giving in to the siren song of dualism. — Dennett

    This is a monistic materialism, it seems to me. I find it just as metaphysical as dualism. The 'physical' is just as slippery and caught up in a system of signs as the 'mental.' The physical/mental distinction and an everyday loose dualism are both quite useful. They prove their value as instruments. But I agree with Dennett that science and philosophy should generally seek knowledge and pierce that which seems mysterious and sacred.
  • Mww
    1.8k
    Part Two:

    I balk at “her beliefs”, however, because if she knows the object as a tree, she has no need to merely believe in the properties that cause it to be a tree in the first place.
    — Mww

    OK. But isn't that open to the problem of Crusoe attributing bentness to the (straight) stick? Does he "know" it is bent at the time?
    Andrew M

    Nahhh...., Robbie has experience of sticks on the ground and branches in trees, so he knows normally sticks aren’t bent in the way they seem when half i/half out of the water. He’ll just think that’s the weirdest stick he’s ever seen. Upon perceiving the stick without its illusory appearance, he’ll understand why it looked so weird. The bent stick isn’t a very good example anyway, because their illusion are so easily remedied, and anything easily remedied isn’t really a problem. The illusion of sunrise is much better, because it took so long to remedy, and because we thought of the sun as actually rising/setting for so long, we still use the terminology for it in common understandings.
    ——————

    Also note that I deny that an object has intrinsic properties. I instead say that the object has form in relation to Alice.

    Anyway, my guess is that we're saying the same thing here in our respective terminologies.
    Andrew M

    Not so sure, myself. I don’t know what it means for an object to have form in relation to a perceiver. What is the relationship between your form and my properties?
    ——————-

    I shall take that as saying we still agree language always presupposes experience.
    — Mww

    No, I don't agree with that!
    Andrew M

    Then you are forced to admit to naming things, or at least to admit it is not a problem to name things, about which you know nothing whatsoever. In addition, you’ll find yourself unable to explain how it is that, sittin’ ‘round the dinner table as a kid, you didn’t understand what it meant when your parents talked about balancing the checkbook.

    You’re talking about language in the sense of stringing symbols together to form a communication. I’m talking about the relation between a conception we think and the symbolism assigned that makes language possible. Because the same thing can be said in many different languages across cultures, and because the same thing can be said in exactly the same language regardless of culture, re: mathematics, and....as if that wasn’t enough...the same symbolism across cultures can indicate very different things, re: football, then it is readily apparent that experience of the thing being talked about, grounds the symbolism for talking about it.

    Disclaimer: I detest language philosophy; its what professionals do because all the cool stuff’s been done already and they can’t think of a way to improve on it.
    ——————-

    I regard realization there as a logical condition, not a process in time.Andrew M

    Understood, and I can see that as a logical condition. What would you say to this: all human thought is singular and successive. If such should be the case, then change in subjective condition (Bob racing, Bob winning) is necessarily a process in time.
    ——————-

    He's denying a stamp-collecting approach to thinking and saying, either as a catalog of bodily movements or as a catalog of mental activities. Ryle brings in reason in the completion of that sentence where he includes the logical conditions under which thinking and saying occur, "... but some nexus of statable because statement-shaped conditions."Andrew M

    See....I didn’t catch any of that from the passage. And I couldn’t unpack that last part at all. And I don’t understand “stamp-collecting”.
    ——————

    But I also think there is a give-and-take - some conceptual schemes are natural and well-motivated, others not so much. If I call a tail a leg, how many legs does a horse have?Andrew M

    No fair. We already know tails from legs. But if the very first naming of that wispy thing hanging off the south end of a north-bound horse was “leg”, or whatever.....that’s what we’d be calling it today, and all horses would have but one leg.

    What is a conceptual scheme?

    Sorry about pluralizing your buddy.
  • Janus
    9.4k
    This is a monistic materialism, it seems to me. I find it just as metaphysical as dualism. The 'physical' is just as slippery and caught up in a system of signs as the 'mental.' The physical/mental distinction and an everyday loose dualism are both quite useful. They prove their value as instruments. But I agree with Dennett that science and philosophy should generally seek knowledge and pierce that which seems mysterious and sacred.jjAmEs

    OK, but if you are not going to support any claim that there are two radically different substances or realms or dimensions, or whatever term you want to use, to reality, then you are pretty much left with some kind of monism, no?

    And if what science can deal with is, by definition, only the physical, and there is no other substance, realm or dimension, then a monistic materialism would seem to logically follow.

    Of course we can do the Kantian move and say that we don't, and can't, know what that which appears to us as the physical "really is in itself"; but since that can never be known it is irrelevant to our inquiries, unless we want to illegitimately use it to reify our spiritualist fantasias (in other words practice traditional metaphysics and theology which are the very things Kant is working against).

    (I am aware that Kant offers what he sees as practical reasons for believing in God, Freedom and Immortality, but that is a separate entirely ethical issue and has nothing to do with what we are justified in thinking regarding either ontology or metaphysics).

    I also acknowledge that there can be a profound aesthetic dimension to "spiritualist fantasias", but again that fact says nothing about what we ought to believe regarding metaphysics or ontology.
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    The problem with Cartesianism is that it posits 'res cogitans;' as a literal substance in an objective sense - something which objectively exists. And that leads to the intractable problem of how this 'ghost in the machine' can pull levers or do anything (which is Ryle's criticism).
    — Wayfarer

    Perhaps you can expand on your distance from this Cartesianism.
    jjAmEs

    Because, as Husserl explains in Crisis of European Sciences, Descartes' depiction of 'res cogitans' leads to it being characterised as a literal substance, something that objectively exists (or doesn't exist). Whereas I say that because you can never get outside consciousness, then it is never amongst the things that exist. It doesn't exist anywhere at all, certainly not 'in' brains or 'in' minds.

    That is why I keep referring back to the passage in the Upanisad about the 'unknowability of Brahman'. 'The eye cannot see itself, it can only see another'. This is also at the basis of an article by Michel Bitbol, 'It is not known but it is the knower'. This requires a radical re-orientation in order to grasp it, something like a gestalt shift (and I'm sure the inventors of gestalt had just this kind of perspective in mind.

    Dennett is constantly mischaracterized by Wayfarer; he doesn't deny the reality of consciousness, he just says that it is not what we think it is.Janus

    Take it up with John Searle, then.

    To put it as clearly as I can: in his book, Consciousness Explained, Dennett denies the existence of consciousness. He continues to use the word, but he means something different by it. For him, it refers only to third-person phenomena, not to the first-person conscious feelings and experiences we all have. For Dennett there is no difference between us humans and complex zombies who lack any inner feelings, because we are all just complex zombies. ...I regard his view as self-refuting because it denies the existence of the data which a theory of consciousness is supposed to explain...Here is the paradox of this exchange: I am a conscious reviewer consciously answering the objections of an author who gives every indication of being consciously and puzzlingly angry. I do this for a readership that I assume is conscious. How then can I take seriously his claim that consciousness does not really exist? — John Searle
  • Janus
    9.4k
    There is no point quoting Searle's opinion of Dennett's views on consciousness; you should quote Dennett himself. Have you actually read Dennett or even listened to any of his interviews?

    Dennett is not an eliminativist (listen to the interview with Sean Carroll I linked) and nor does he deny that we have what we call "first person experiences"; he's not that stupid. What he says is that those experiences are not what we think they are.

    I find it incredible that after all these years you are still indulging in this kind of ignorant Dennett-bashing, while continuing to fail to provide a shred of evidence from Dennett's own words to support what you are claiming.
  • StreetlightX
    6.3k
    Lol you think Wayfarer reads books and not blurbs.
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    Dennett is not an eliminativistJanus

    :grin:
  • jjAmEs
    184
    Because, as Husserl explains in Crisis of European Sciences, Descartes' depiction of 'res cogitans' leads to it being characterised as a literal substance, something that objectively exists (or doesn't exist). Whereas I say that because you can never get outside consciousness, then it is never amongst the things that exist. It doesn't exist anywhere at all, certainly not 'in' brains or 'in' minds.Wayfarer

    Consciousness understood in this way is like being itself. As someone once muttered, being is not itself an entity. Human existence is its there.

    Knotty, inert, nameless, it fascinated me, filled my eyes, brought me back unceasingly to its own existence. In vain I repeated, "This is a root" — it didn't take hold any more. I saw clearly that you could not pass from its function as a root, as a suction pump, to that, to that hard and thick skin of a sea lion, to this oily, callous; stubborn look. The function explained nothing: it allowed you to understand in general what a root was, but not at all that one there. That root with its color, shape, its congealed movement, was beneath all explanation. — Sartre

    Or (this is more what you are saying, I think) Wittgenstein:

    https://ia801901.us.archive.org/4/items/jstor-2011942/2011942.pdf


    In fact what solipsism means, is quite correct, only it cannot be said, but it shows itself. That the world is my world, shows itself in the fact that the limits of the language (the language which only I understand) mean the limits of my world.

    The world and life are one.

    I am my world. (The microcosm.)

    The thinking, presenting subject; there is no such thing. If I wrote a book “The world as I found it”, I should also have therein to report on my body and say which members obey my will and which do not, etc. This then would be a method of isolating the subject or rather of showing that in an important sense there is no subject: that is to say, of it alone in this book mention could not be made.

    The subject does not belong to the world but it is a limit of the world.

    Where in the world is a metaphysical subject to be noted? You say that this case is altogether like that of the eye and the field of sight. But you do not really see the eye. And from nothing in the field of sight can it be concluded that it is seen from an eye.



    This is connected with the fact that no part of our experience is also a priori. Everything we see could also be otherwise. Everything we can describe at all could also be otherwise. There is no order of things a priori.

    Here we see that solipsism strictly carried out coincides with pure realism. The I in solipsism shrinks to an extensionless point and there remains the reality co-ordinated with it.

    There is therefore really a sense in which in philosophy we can talk of a non-psychological I. The I occurs in philosophy through the fact that the “world is my world”. The philosophical I is not the man, not the human body or the human soul of which psychology treats, but the metaphysical subject, the limit—not a part of the world.
    — Wittgenstein TLP 5.62 on

    'I am my world.' 'Limit' is harder to parse. Consciousness is just being. Except we have reasons to use it in more practical ways. My headache is not your headache, etc. Where I am, death is not. Where death is, I am not. In other words, we have good reasons to treat consciousness as a kind of object in a brain, which can be soothed with aspirin or kind words. We have reasons to bring consciousness into the causal nexus, even if a more metaphysical approach would shrink it to a dimensionless point or go all the way and see that it's completely transparent and in fact just being, the 'there' itself.
  • jjAmEs
    184
    This requires a radical re-orientation in order to grasp it, something like a gestalt shift (and I'm sure the inventors of gestalt had just this kind of perspective in mind.Wayfarer

    Personally I don't find it that hard to grasp, but, like you, I've been reading crazy philosophers for a long time.

    In some ways, you yourself as saying consciousness doesn't exist (as an object), which echoes William James.

    I like his approach:

    “As ‘subjective’ we say that the experience represents; as ‘objective’ it is represented. What represents and what is represented is here numerically the same; but we must remember that no dualism of being represented and representing resides in the experience per se. In its pure state, or when isolated, there is not self-splintering of it into consciousness and what the consciousness if ‘of.’ Its subjectivity and objectivity are functional attributes solely, realized only when the experience is ‘taken.’ i.e., talked of twice, considered along with its two differing contexts respectively but anew retrospective experience, of which that whole past complication now forms the fresh content.”

    — W James

    More generally, I like how Richard Bernstein interprets him:

    [James believes that philosophers] misunderstood their own conceptual distinctions. They have mistaken distinctions, which are useful and important for particular purposes, for the concrete reality of experience itself. They have been guilty of what Whitehead calls “the fallacy of misplaced concreteness” and James calls “vicious intellectualism.” It is a fallacy that occurs when we mistake some abstraction or conceptual distinction (which is important for specific intellectual purposes) for the concrete reality of experience itself. It is a fallacy that according to Whitehead, James, and Bergson has had disastrous consequences for a philosophic understanding of the world. Abstractions are important; we cannot think without them. But abstractions are abstractions from a concrete reality. — Bernstein

    The mental/physical distinction is useful and sensible in many contexts. And in these useful contexts there is no chasm. The surgery didn't hurt because I was giving general anesthesia. We constantly invoke a causal nexus that includes both the mental and the physical. Meta-physicians who insist on making these distinctions absolute and foundational rather than instrumental and subject to revision create new, unnecessary problems.

    Both quotes from:
    http://faculty.fiu.edu/~hauptli/James'DoesConsciousnessExistandTheContinuityofExperience.htm
  • Wayfarer
    10.1k
    Consciousness understood in this way is like being itself.jjAmEs

    Right! Precisely! I've been trying to make this point. Very good sources and quotes, I will spend some time on that last one in particular. Thanks.
  • jjAmEs
    184
    OK, but if you are not going to support any claim that there are two radically different substances or realms or dimensions, or whatever term you want to use, to reality, then you are pretty much left with some kind of monism, no?Janus

    I understand why someone might see it that way, but I don't. My dodge is to not insist on treating various useful distinctions as absolute. No need to officially be a dualist or a monist. Instead we operate in concrete contexts, employing our linguistic knowhow in particular situations. I'm impressed by Saussure's notion of relational identity. Derrida took it and ran with it, but much of what I love in Derrida is also in Saussure.

    Saussure argued that signs only make sense as part of a formal, generalized and abstract system. His conception of meaning was purely structural and relational rather than referential: primacy is given to relationships rather than to things (the meaning of signs was seen as lying in their systematic relation to each other rather than deriving from any inherent features of signifiers or any reference to material things). Saussure did not define signs in terms of some essential or intrinsic nature. For Saussure, signs refer primarily to each other. Within the language system, ‘everything depends on relations’ (Saussure 1983, 121). No sign makes sense on its own but only in relation to other signs. Both signifier and signified are purely relational entities (ibid., 118). This notion can be hard to understand since we may feel that an individual word such as ‘tree’ does have some meaning for us, but Saussure’s argument is that its meaning depends on its relation to other words within the system (such as ‘bush’).
    ...
    Saussure emphasized in particular negative, oppositional differences between signs. He argued that ‘concepts . . . are defined not positively, in terms of their content, but negatively by contrast with other items in the same system. What characterizes each most exactly is being whatever the others are not’ (Saussure 1983, 115; my emphasis).
    — link
    https://slavicgf.sitehost.iu.edu/assignments/Chandler_ch1_pt1.pdf

    The notion of value . . . shows us that it is a great mistake to consider a sign as nothing more than the combination of a certain sound and a certain concept. To think of a sign as nothing more would be to isolate it from the system to which it belongs. It would be to suppose that a start could be made with individual signs, and a system constructed by putting them together. On the contrary, the system as a united whole is the starting point, from which it becomes possible, by a process of analysis, to identify its constituent elements. — Saussure

    For Saussure, there are no objects (words/texts/others) that carry inherent, autonomous, "positive" meaning: there are only points of view whose meanings depend on their interrelatedness: Saussure states that "in language there are only differences without positive terms" (LT 88). Signifiers (sound images) and signifieds (concepts/meanings) are not fixed and universal and do not simply reflect or represent prior categories (the world/ideas/forms): language articulates or makes such categories and concepts possible. Because there is no necessary or inherent relation between words and objects, the relation between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary (e.g., similar meanings correspond in practice rather than in some natural or essential way to different words across languages or across time as words change). Yet because the sign's structure is arbitrary, it is subject both to history and to a synchronic study of its relational function within a signifying system (la langue) that is not arbitrary but conventional and socially constructed. To explain a signifying action (individual utterance, speech act, parole) is therefore to relate it to the underlying system of norms (conventions/practices) that makes it possible: hence, a structural rather than a strictly causal explanation (synchronic rather than diachronic/historical). — Flores
    https://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/~sflores/saussure.html

    I suppose I'm guilty of a kind of structural holism, but I'm not at all against ten thousand less metaphysical and scientific attempts to explain consciousness, etc. From an instrumentalist point of view, we want prediction, control, and of course the criticism, construction, and destruction of stragetic frameworks within which such is possible. And of course we want the technology of morale (orienting myths, etc.)
  • jjAmEs
    184
    Right! Precisely! I've been trying to make this point. Very good sources and quotes, I will spend some time on that last one in particular. Thanks.Wayfarer

    Awesome! I'm glad to understand you and to have provided helpful links.
  • jjAmEs
    184
    And if what science can deal with is, by definition, only the physical, and there is no other substance, realm or dimension, then a monistic materialism would seem to logically follow.Janus

    If one insists on identifying what science deals with as the physical, then perhaps. I still find that too metaphysical, though I guess the 'physical' is a codeword for an anti-metaphysical attitude that I can relate to.

    35. But can’t it be imagined that there should be no physical objects? I don’t know. And yet “there are physical objects” is nonsense. Is it supposed to be an empirical proposition?—And is this an empirical proposition: “There seem to be physical objects”?

    36. “A is a physical object” is a piece of instruction which we give only to someone who doesn’t yet understand either what “A” means, or what “physical object” means. Thus it is instruction about the use of words, and “physical object” is a logical concept. (Like colour, quantity, …) And that is why no such proposition as: “There are physical objects” can be formulated. Yet we encounter such unsuccessful shots at every turn.
    ...
    476. Children do not learn that books exist, that armchairs exist, etc.,etc. - they learn to fetch books,
    sit in armchairs, etc.,etc.

    Later, questions about the existence of things do of course arise, "Is there such a thing as a
    unicorn?" and so on. But such a question is possible only because as a rule no corresponding
    question presents itself. For how does one know how to set about satisfying oneself of the existence
    of unicorns? How did one learn the method for determining whether something exists or not?

    477. "So one must know that the objects whose names one teaches a child by an ostensive definition
    exist." - Why must one know they do? Isn't it enough that experience doesn't later show the
    opposite?

    For why should the language-game rest on some kind of knowledge?

    478. Does a child believe that milk exists? Or does it know that milk exists? Does a cat know that a
    mouse exists?

    479. Are we to say that the knowledge that there are physical objects comes very early or very late?
    — Wittgenstein On Certainty
    https://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/files/wittgenstein-on-certainty.pdf

    I'm tempted to say that metaphysics believes and traffics in the fantasy of context-independent meanings, as if 'mental' or 'physical' out of all context were much worth talking about.

    'The mind is [just] the brain' is a nice aphorism if the point is to explain the mind as much as possible in terms of the brain, but it's also a bit trollish. Exaggeration, click-bait?

    Of course we can do the Kantian move and say that we don't, and can't, know what that which appears to us as the physical "really is in itself"; but since that can never be known it is irrelevant to our inquiries, unless we want to illegitimately use it to reify our spiritualist fantasias (in other words practice traditional metaphysics and theology which are the very things Kant is working against).

    (I am aware that Kant offers what he sees as practical reasons for believing in God, Freedom and Immortality, but that is a separate entirely ethical issue and has nothing to do with what we are justified in thinking regarding either ontology or metaphysics).

    I also acknowledge that there can be a profound aesthetic dimension to "spiritualist fantasias", but again that fact says nothing about what we ought to believe regarding metaphysics or ontology.
    Janus

    I like that you mention Kant's belief in God, Freedom, and Immortality. Perhaps such beliefs motivated to some degree his distance from Locke. I also agree that Kant was working against traditional metaphysics and theology. My own POV is maybe a kind of naturalized and socialized post-Kantianism. For me, the spiritual dimension is also roughly aesthetic. At the same time, that is in my view a kind of ontological-metaphysical commitment. 'Spirituality is [just] thoughts, metaphors, feelings, rituals.' I mostly agree, but that 'just' is not some neutral judgment. As I see it, my atheism is not perfectly justified or justifiable. Top-level frameworks are perhaps always leaps to some degree. And the 'we' of science tacitly involves some commitment to a rationality that is something like a spiritual project. (I embrace this project, but that too could be worked into a causal nexus or metaphorical top-level vision of reality.)
  • Janus
    9.4k
    If one insists on identifying what science deals with as the physical, then perhaps. I still find that too metaphysical, though I guess the 'physical' is a codeword for an anti-metaphysical attitude that I can relate to.jjAmEs

    Surely science deals with the material or physical world, though; the world as revealed to us by the senses (or augmented senses)? What else could it deal with?
  • Mww
    1.8k
    If you want to call the whole thing 'rational' thinking without distinguishing any finer category, be my guest, but I'm not sure I see the advantage.Isaac

    I walk up to a guy, show him a Rorschach, ask him.....what’s going on in your brain right now?
    Or, I walk up to a guy, show him a Rorschach, ask him.....what does this look like to you.

    Which question will he answer?

    Humans don’t express thought in terms of brain mechanics. Even though natural law is its ground, the human does not think in terms of charge, spin, quantum number, activation potential and such. So the advantage to calling the whole thing rational thought, is the absolute impossibility of individual comprehensions in particular and thereby meaningful communication in general given from it, in any other terms.
  • Isaac
    3k
    walk up to a guy, show him a Rorschach, ask him.....what’s going on in your brain right now?
    Or, I walk up to a guy, show him a Rorschach, ask him.....what does this look like to you.

    Which question will he answer?
    Mww

    Either. It depends on whether they know the answer to the first. A neuroscientist or a psychologist might answer the first. A student would certainly answer the first if it was asked in a lecture about computational neuroscience.

    It's still contextual.

    the advantage to calling the whole thing rational thought, is the absolute impossibility of individual comprehensions in particular and thereby meaningful communication in general given from it, in any other terms.Mww

    I have tried several times, honestly, but I'm afraid I still don't know what you're saying here, sorry.
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