Saturday, March 23, 2013

EvolutionBlog needs better Nagel critics


EvolutionBlog’s Jason Rosenhouse tells us in a recent post that he hasn’t read philosopher Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos.  And it seems obvious enough from his remarks that he also hasn’t read the commentary of any of the professional philosophers and theologians who have written about Nagel sympathetically -- such as my own series of posts on Nagel and his critics, or Bill Vallicella’s, or Alvin Plantinga’s review of Nagel, or Alva Noë’s, or John Haldane’s, or William Carroll’s, or J. P. Moreland’s.  What he has read is a critical review of Nagel’s book written by a non-philosopher, and a couple of sympathetic journalistic pieces about Nagel and some of his defenders.  And on that basis he concludes that “Nagel needs better defenders.”

This is like failing to read serious, detailed defenses of Darwinism like Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker, Coyne’s Why Evolution is True, or Kitcher’s Abusing Science -- and then, on the sole basis of what some non-biologist has said in criticism of Darwinism, together with a journalistic article summarizing the views of some Darwinians, concluding that “Darwinism needs better defenders.” 

But never mind Nagel’s defenders.  Not having read Mind and Cosmos doesn’t stop Rosenhouse from criticizing it too.  He writes:

[H]ere is part of a quote from Nagel, as presented by [reviewer H. Allen] Orr:

I would like to defend the untutored reaction of incredulity to the reductionist neo-Darwinian account of the origin and evolution of life.  It is prima facie highly implausible that life as we know it is the result of a sequence of physical accidents together with the mechanism of natural selection.  We are expected to abandon this naïve response, not in favor of a fully worked out physical/chemical explanation but in favor of an alternative that is really a schema for explanation, supported by some examples.

From what I understand, the level of argument in the book never gets much beyond this. But these sentences are absurd.  On what possible basis does Nagel decide that it is “prima facie” highly implausible that life as we know it is the result of a sequence of physical accidents?

End quote.  Now Rosenhouse says that “from what [he] understand[s], the level of argument in the book never gets much beyond this.”  But Nagel isn’t giving any argument in the passage in question in the first place; he’s just telling the reader, in the book’s Introduction, what he will argue for in the book.  (That’s what book Introductions are for.)  Nor does Nagel simply assert in the book that the materialist neo-Darwinian account of the world is prima facie implausible, full stop.  He holds that it is implausible as an explanation of certain specific aspects of the world, such as consciousness, rationality, and moral value; and he gives reasons for thinking it cannot account for these phenomena.  Nor does Nagel claim that the materialist neo-Darwinian account of the world is false merely because it seems prima facie implausible as an explanation of these phenomena.  He isn’t using the claim about what is prima facie implausible as a premise.  He isn’t saying: “It’s prima facie implausible, therefore it is wrong.”  Rather, he’s saying: “It’s wrong for these independent reasons that I will spell out in the book; and it turns out that these independent reasons vindicate the judgment of common sense about what is prima facie plausible.”  What are these independent reasons?  What is the “possible basis” Rosenhouse demands to know?  Well, you need to, you know, actually read the book to find out, which is why Nagel wrote it.  Awful luck for guys like Rosenhouse, who apparently thinks you should be able to say everything in a single short paragraph in the Introduction to a book, but there it is.

Rosenhouse goes on to cite Andrew Ferguson’s citation of me in Ferguson’s Weekly Standard article on Nagel.  Here is how he responds:

Almost all of that is wrong, starting with Feser’s caricature of materialist thinking. What materialists actually say is that if you are going to hypothesize into existence something immaterial, it is on you to provide evidence for your hypothesis.  Of course it’s possible that there are immaterial entities that influence matter in ways that are undetectable by science, but can you do anything more that [sic] just assert their possible existence?  Given some phenomenon you assert to be incomprehensible under materialism, can you show how it becomes comprehensible under immaterialism?  Ferguson tells us that science just ignores “everything else” beyond the material aspects of reality, but the very point at issue is whether there is anything else to ignore.

It seems like all the immaterialists ever do is make assertions!

End quote.  Well, yes, I suppose it could well “seem” that way if you don’t bother to read what they actually wrote.  For starters, what Rosenhouse dismisses as a “caricature of materialist thinking” was not directed at materialists in general in the first place, but rather at a certain specific line of argument put forward by Nagel critics Brian Leiter and Michael Weisberg -- as Rosenhouse would have known had he bothered to read the post of mine that Ferguson was citing.

For another thing, the suggestion that the difference between materialists and their critics is that the former give arguments and the latter merely make assertions is, well, simply too preposterous for words, and cannot possibly have been made by someone who both (a) has a shred of intellectual honesty, and (b) knows what the hell he is talking about.  Say what you will about books like John Foster’s The Immaterial Self, W. D. Hart’s The Engines of the Soul, David Chalmers’ The Conscious Mind, William Hasker’s The Emergent Self, Robert Koons’ and George Bealer’s The Waning of Materialism, or Richard Swinburne’s The Evolution of the Soul, to name only the first few things that happen to pop into my mind -- not to mention my own books, articles, and blog posts -- they are absolutely brimming with arguments.  You may or may not agree with those arguments, but they are there. 

Some of Nagel’s critics have criticized him without reading him charitably.  Rosenhouse goes them one better: He’s happy to criticize Nagel and his defenders without reading them.  And he has the brass to go on to accuse others of “intellectual silliness”!

But Rosenhouse is a paragon of scholarship compared to Prof. Jeffrey Shallit, who makes the following remark in Rosenhouse’s combox:

The funniest part [of Ferguson’s article] was the bit about Feser’s “dazzling six-part tour de force”.  I almost spit out my coffee when I read that part.

And what, exactly, is the reason for Shallit’s nearly self-soiling merriment?  We are not told, but we can be morally certain that it had nothing to do with his having actually read the six-part series of posts in question, at least if history is any guide.  Consider some previous remarks Shallit made about me not too long ago at his blog Recursivity.  Commenting on a colloquium to which he was calling his readers’ attention, Shallit says:

One thing I can guarantee you won't hear [at the colloquium] is nonsense like this, from Ed Feser:

"Thoughts and the like possess inherent meaning or intentionality; brain processes, like ink marks, sound waves, and the like, are utterly devoid of any inherent meaning or intentionality; so thoughts and the like cannot possibly be identified with brain processes."

Only a creationist could be so utterly moronic.  While Feser and his friends are declaring it impossible, real neuroscientists and neurophilosophers are busy figuring it out.

End quote.  Now I know what my longtime readers are thinking: “Creationist?  What the hell is Shallit talking about?”  But you haven’t plumbed the subtleties of Shallit’s reasoning.  For you see, Shallit was quoting from a website devoted to Intelligent Design, which had in turn quoted something I had written in a blog post.  “Hence,” Shallit seems to have inferred, “since Feser was quoted favorably by an ID website, therefore he is an ID proponent, and therefore he is a Creationist!”

Never mind that I am in fact not only not a Creationist, but have been (rather famously, for anyone who’s read this blog for ten minutes) extremely critical of ID.  And never mind that Shallit has provided a textbook example of the fallacy of guilt by association.

And what exactly was “moronic” or “nonsensical” about what I had written, anyway?  It was, after all, part of an argument -- to which Shallit offers no response at all.  But here again we see Prof. Shallit’s unique intellect in action.  His implicit counter-argument seems to be:

1. Here is a sentence quoted, without any context whatsoever, from a blog post, which quoted it from a blog post written by someone else, which blog post summarized an actual line of argument, which line of argument was in turn defended at greater length elsewhere -- almost none of which I have bothered to read.

2. I disagree with that sentence and I know all three of my readers can be relied upon to disagree with it too.

3. Therefore it is moronic.  Q.E.D.

Shallit, as you’ll see from his post, is the sort of guy who likes to accuse others of ignorance.  Well, there’s ignorance -- you know, the sort of thing you exhibit when you don’t know what someone has actually written.  Then there’s meta-ignorance -- ignorance of your ignorance.  And then there’s what we might call, in Prof. Shallit’s honor, recursive meta-ignorance -- the sort of thing on regular display in the posts and comboxes at sites like Coyne’s blog, EvolutionBlog, Recursivity, Dawkins Foundation discussion boards, etc.  The argumentational thrust of every “criticism” of non-materialist writers that you’ll find at these intellectual slums goes something like this:

I know it’s not worth reading because its conclusions are so moronic; and I know it’s moronic because the arguments for it are too silly to be worth reading; and I know the arguments for it are too silly to be worth reading because the conclusion itself is so moronic; and I know it’s moronic because the arguments for it are, of course, too silly to be worth reading…

Repeat as desired, click “Publish,” and begin a round of combox mutual self-congratulation!

205 comments:

1 – 200 of 205   Newer›   Newest»
Glenn said...

This is a thing of beauty. And just why I like reading here.

Thomas said...

Great post, again, Dr. Feser!

Just a side note, Swinburne has recently published an updated defense of substance dualism: Mind, Brain, and Free Will (OUP, 2013). Well worth a read. You probably know this, I just point it out since you mentioned his The Evolution of the Soul...

Kolmogorov said...

Shallit is not mentally challenged at all. He's actually very clever. Look at how clever he is:


''1. That doesn’t look like Kalam to me; Kalam’s conclusion is that “God exists”, not that “materialism is false”.

Nevertheless, if your summary represents Craig’s argument, it’s not so convincing.

2. For example, you can define T to be “the set of all sets”, but that doesn’t mean it is a meaningful definition — see Russell’s paradox. In the same way, defining U to be “the totality of all that exists” doesn’t mean this is a meaningful definition.''

http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/of-nothing/

You see the KCA is wrong because the 'totality of all that exists' is a meaningless statement. And Russell's paradox proves it! He was
probably rolling around in laughter at your posts for reasons like this. In this respect he's similar to another one of your critics. University of Toronto biochemist and free 'thinker' Larry Moran writes of theistic argument:

''Every single argument that I've encountered seems flawed. Many of them are stupid and nonsensical.''
http://sandwalk.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/challenge-to-theists-and-their.html


Why? Well take the cosmological argument for instance. This is why it's stupid:

''But if everything has a cause, what is the cause of god? And if god is infinite, then aren't you admitting that some things can be infinite?''
http://sandwalk.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/what-do-philosophers-really-think-about.html#more


Perhaps it is wise of Shallit and his ilk to dismiss anti-naturalistic arguments without arguments. Their dismissals already make them look ignorant and quotations like the above already give us reason to doubt their competence. Who knows what kind of stupidities they will unleash on the world if they ever try to justify their position.

Eduardo said...

Well out the entire post Kolmogorov did, just the Russell paradox is interesting, the last part of the comment was, very uninformed and stupid, and the last paragraph, is just an attempt of joining as many fallacies as possible in as few words as possible.

So Kolmogorov, to save your worthless comment, talk more of the consenquneces of Russell's paradox to the issue at hand..

Scott said...

@Kolmogorov:

"Who knows what kind of stupidities they will unleash on the world if they ever try to justify their position."

That's a good point. If they ever offered even a superficially competent argument, there might be a danger they might actually persuade someone who didn't already agree with them.

@Eduardo:

Kolmogorov is being sarcastic about the quality of Shallit's arguments.

Eduardo said...

I have noticed RIIIIIIGHT after I read one of his links and found well, someone mowing down Krauss to bits and dust XD.

sorry, I have this ability of not noticing sarcasm.... Is a genetical thing....

Eduardo said...

But.... I remember Russell's paradox slighlty, couldn't Kolmogorov have unwantedly created an argument?

rank sophist said...

For example, you can define T to be “the set of all sets”, but that doesn’t mean it is a meaningful definition — see Russell’s paradox. In the same way, defining U to be “the totality of all that exists” doesn’t mean this is a meaningful definition.

Even granting (for the sake of argument) that logical positivism is true, I don't think guy comprehends what he's saying.

rank sophist said...

Pardon me: "I don't think this guy".

Danielius said...

@Eduardo: It's been a while since I had my Set Theory class, but I think Russell's Paradox was about that you can't have a set of all sets. From the context the guy wants to connect that to some version of the Cosmological Argument. It's a definite stroke of genius, but I do not know how it's in any shape or form connected to the relevant metaphysics. Overall pretty good, but the first point has it beat, it's a thing of beauty. In another stroke of genius the guy explicitly notices that they seem to be arguing about different things. But instead of actually bothering to look up and read the argument he prefers to assign ignorance to the other party. Aww!


I sometimes wonder how is Prof. Feser still sane? I'd bet that at least half of the feedback he gets is of this kind. I'd be a Trappist by now!

Scott said...

Apparently Rosenhouse can't even deal with arguments he has read, or even recognize them as arguments.

Here's an excerpt from Andrew Ferguson's article (from a slightly longer excerpt that Rosenhouse quotes):

Evolution easily accounts for rudimentary kinds of awareness. Hundreds of thousands of years ago on the African savannah, where the earliest humans evolved the unique characteristics of our species, the ability to sense danger or to read signals from a potential mate would clearly help an organism survive.

So far, so good. But the human brain can do much more than this. It can perform calculus, hypothesize metaphysics, compose music—even develop a theory of evolution. None of these higher capacities has any evident survival value, certainly not hundreds of thousands of years ago when the chief aim of mental life was to avoid getting eaten. Could our brain have developed and sustained such nonadaptive abilities by the trial and error of natural selection, as neo-Darwinism insists? It’s possible, but the odds, Nagel says, are "vanishingly small."


And here, in pertinent part, is Rosenhouse's response:

More assertion. The odds are vanishingly small that our big brains are the result of natural selection? Really? I'd like to see the calculation that supports that conclusion.

No calculation is required—only an argument, and Rosenhouse has just read a brief version of it. Natural selection selects, by definition, for adaptive traits; the abilities to do calculus or develop a theory of evolution don't appear to have any adaptive value; so on the face of it, there doesn't appear to be any selection pressure in their favor, at least as far as natural selection is concerned.

Now, I suppose Ferguson could have broken out his (or Nagel's) argument further if he were writing an essay or a book—for example, by pointing out expressly that it isn't obvious why even sexual selection should favor the development of brains that can compose music or do metaphysics. (Even at that, though, he does allude to sexual selection in his remark about reading signals from a potential mate.)

But Rosenhouse isn't objecting that Ferguson's argument isn't as full and thorough as it might be had he been writing for another medium (or even drawing a firm conclusion rather than giving a cursory summary and brief defense of the prima facie importance of Nagel's argument); he's saying Ferguson doesn't present an argument at all. He says so explicitly in his closing paragraph:

Ferguson’s essay is quite long, and it is chock full of dubious assertions about how scientists think and about what materialism entails. Go wade through it if you feel the urge. If you encounter an actual argument then please point it out to me, because I couldn't find one. [Emphasis mine.]

So Rosenhouse "couldn't find" a simple and obvious syllogism in the passage he himself expressly selected, reproduced, and (so he thinks) answered. Tells ya somethin'.

Joe K. said...

"self-soiling merriment"

Heh

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see Shallit vs Rosenberg on intentionality.

Anonymous said...

There are two types of New Atheists:

Crude warthogs like Myers and Dawkins, and slippery weasels like Rosenhouse and Coyne.

Anonz said...

Only atheists have the temerity and skin-thickness to "review" a book without reading it. Never has ignorance and smugness mix so well together in a group of people. To think some of those people are professors is very unfortunate,who knows what the hell they are really doing when they publish their research paper.

Dr. Feser, I think it is better for you to focus on answering criticism by bona fide critics rather than dealing with these group of people.

Edward Feser said...

Dr. Feser, I think it is better for you to focus on answering criticism by bona fide critics rather than dealing with these group of people.

I usually do, and usually I ignore this low-rent stuff. And I am well aware that ideological hacks like Shallit, Coyne, Krauss, Myers, et al. are impervious to rational discussion.

But occasionally it is worthwhile to respond to them anyway, for two reasons. First of all, when the people in question have some stature -- Ph.D.'s, positions in academia, best-selling books, blogs associated with National Geographic, etc. -- it is important for well-meaning but unwary readers who come across their crap, and are impressed by it because of their credentials, to see just how intellectually worthless it really is.

Second, it is important to hammer home occasionally that high intelligence -- which these people often have -- does not by any means entail greater wisdom, intellectual honesty, or decency. A fool with a Ph.D. remains a fool.

(To which one of these yutzes it sure now to reply: "Yeah, you prove it by example, Feser!" and think he's scored a major hit. Really, their stuff virtually writes itself...)

Eduardo said...

Doctor Feser, are you implying that a Ph.D has no special powers O_O??? That it doesn't automatically grant you powers beyond those of mere mortals???

isn't that Heresy in some places?

Anonymous said...

Rosenhouse is an utter embarrassment.

Smoking Frog said...

The argument that there's no selective pressure for ability to do metaphysics, calculus, etc. seems to me to be pretty weak, though not necessarily fatally so.

1. Once the species gets to depending on even weak reasoning, and even weak communication, there must be pressure to improve these things.

2. The ability to do metaphysics etc. might be a side effect of abilities which were developed under selective pressure.

NoshPartitas said...

The mix of 'musts', 'mights', 'seems', and 'maybes' and other such qualifiers always invokes confidence in me. I don't know about yall...

Seriously though, it really is difficult not to get slightly depressed. Being as a large number of people are now parroting the droll and tired scientism of Rosenhouse, Shallit and others as zealously as any fundamentalist. That's why I'll say: God bless you Dr. Feser (and others) for doing what you do. I can't comprehend how you have the energy for it. I almost want to say we're dealing with a cultural wave or force which would be futile to combat (not that we shouldn't try).

Roy IV said...

Professor Feser responds to critics with the flair and destructive force of a face suplexing a heel. But, unlike professional wrestling, the devastation is real.

ingx24 said...

That's why I'll say: God bless you Dr. Feser (and others) for doing what you do. I can't comprehend how you have the energy for it. I almost want to say we're dealing with a cultural wave or force which would be futile to combat (not that we shouldn't try).

Even though I don't agree with many of Dr. Feser's positive conclusions (my philosophy is far more Cartesian than Aristotelian, mostly due to concerns in philosophy of mind), he is an excellent critic of materialism and scientism, probably the best I've ever seen.

RD Miksa said...

Dear Smoking Frog:

You said:

“1. Once the species gets to depending on even weak reasoning, and even weak communication, there must be pressure to improve these things.”

Given blind, unguided evolution, nothing “must” be the case. In fact, it is just as likely that selection pressure would retrograde reasoning and communication given its evolutionary cost, or that the reasoning ability / communication would just stay the same and would never develop further. Indeed, nothing “must” happen.


You said:

“2. The ability to do metaphysics etc. might be a side effect of abilities which were developed under selective pressure.”

Super…so let’s see some evidence for this that rises above and beyond the realm of a “might” or a “just-so” story. Till then, consider me unimpressed.

Take care,

RD Miksa

Scott said...

@Smoking Frog:

"The argument that there's no selective pressure for ability to do metaphysics, calculus, etc. seems to me to be pretty weak, though not necessarily fatally so."

But it is an argument, and Rosenhouse not only failed to engage it but claimed not to see it at all. He might have replied in any number of ways, including yours. Instead he either pretended it didn't exist or failed to understand it. He's either engaging in cheap rhetoric or or being sheerly obtuse; I see no third alternative.

"1. Once the species gets to depending on even weak reasoning, and even weak communication, there must be pressure to improve these things.

2. The ability to do metaphysics etc. might be a side effect of abilities which were developed under selective pressure."

Those are pertinent responses, of course, and if Rosenhouse were intellectually serious, he might have replied along those lines himself.

The argument could have been strengthened (and for all I know, in Nagel's book may well be strengthened; I haven't read it yet) by observing that natural selection is, after all, selection. Selective pressure can't come to bear at all on traits that don't already exist, and therefore can't account for the initial appearance of even weak reasoning -- or, for that matter, of consciousness itself.

Strictly speaking, selection itself doesn't account even for the "random" genetic mutations that sometimes result in new, selectable traits; it just accounts for their spread (or otherwise) through the relevant population once they do appear. And of course that's not a failure or flaw of the theory; that's all it's supposed to do. Expecting selective pressure to account for consciousness is like expecting it to account for gravitation or chemistry: it's not intended to do any such thing, and anyone who expects it to do so is applying it outside of its scope—probably committing some bad metaphysics in the process.

Scott said...

Also, I think RD Miksa is right that some evidence is required for the claim that selective pressure actually does exist toward the "improvement" of rational faculties (once they appear) to the point of being able to do metaphysics. For the purpose of Rosenhouse's argument, at least, it's not enough to say that it might; a proper reply to Ferguson (and Nagel) would have to show that it was pretty danged plausible.

RD Miksa said...

As an aside, and in the spirit of this discussion, let me provide my hopefully humorous but accurate cultural definition of evolution.


“Neo-Darwinian Evolution: An essentially unfalsifiable creation narrative which…

1) …materialists routinely twist to fit almost any facts, no matter how counter-intuitive under the evolutionary paradigm;

2) …is often assumed as true by self-described “skeptics” and “free”-thinkers the world over prior to an examination of the actual evidence for it;

3) …though littered with a myriad of “just-so” stories, wide explanatory gaps, weak historical inferences, and extreme extrapolations of marginal evidence, is simultaneously accepted unquestionably by legions of naturalists who in any other field demand rock-solid tangible “let-me-see-it-with-my-own-eyes” empirical evidence before believing something as true;

4) …numerous physicalist philosophers claim is a “universal acid” chewing away at a vast amount of common-sense and religious beliefs but which somehow always manages to completely avoid eating away at their own ideas, reasoning abilities, and at the very belief that evolution is true in the first place;

5) …is professed by its purpose-avoiding supporters to be utterly devoid of teleology even though it is essentially impossible, even for them, to speak of the evolutionary process and its outcomes without speaking in teleological terms;

6) …is claimed by the enemies of design to be a completely un-designed process and that any believer of design in evolution is irrational, even as those same enemies of design admit that the appearance of design is overwhelming;

7) …many self-proclaimed champions of rationality constantly assert shows that God does not exist even though it is rationally clear that evolution is entirely compatible with theism;

8) …many unbelievers defend to the death because, by making them feel “intellectually fulfilled”, evolution ensures that they can go to bed at night without having any nightmares of a divine foot being pushed through the unbelieving door of their minds.

Take care,

RD Miksa

Eduardo said...

Watch it Miksa, you are stepping in dangerous territory hahahaha.

You know some of them don't like this kind of behavior, and they also happen to be the angry type hahahaha.

RD Miksa said...

Just two more, if I may:

Neo-Darwinian Evolution: An essentially unfalsifiable creation narrative which…

9) …the self-proclaimed “followers-of-the-evidence-wherever-it-leads” crowd immediately use to paint critics of evolution as heretics worthy of complete intellectual banishment whenever those critics use their own reason to follow the evidence where they believe it leads.

10) …if a prominent and respected thinker believes it, then he is a paradigm of rationality, but if that same thinker comes to be critical of it, then the very evolutionists that championed him as hyper-rational moments ago suddenly come to realize that he is deluded, demented, and just a unintelligent hack.

Take care,

RD Miksa

rank sophist said...

Smoking Frog,

Any argument that explains reason by making reference to evolutionary processes begs the question. Watch:

1. (I reason that) if humans evolved, then reason evolved.
2. (I reason that) humans evolved.
3. Therefore, (I reason that) reason evolved.

Your explanations of the origin of reason presuppose reason at every level. To the untrained eye, they might look like demonstrations, but they're really just meaningless gibberish.

Then, as Miksa said, you are committing the post hoc fallacy. Watch, again:

1. Humans evolved.
2. Humans have reason.
3. Therefore, reason evolved.

3 does not necessarily follow from 2, and so you haven't demonstrated anything. All you know is that humans evolved and that they now have reason. The only conclusion that you can deduce from those premises is a fallacious one.

Scott said...

@rank sophist:

"1. Humans evolved.
2. Humans have reason.
3. Therefore, reason evolved.

3 does not necessarily follow from 2, and so you haven't demonstrated anything. All you know is that humans evolved and that they now have reason."

Right. And just to tie this in to my own post, consider the following variant:

1. Humans evolved.
2. Humans have gravitational mass.
3. Therefore, gravitational mass evolved.

Surely it's even more obvious here that 3 doesn't follow from 2. On the contrary, all evolution has done is to generate beings who "participate" in something (in this case, basic physics) that already existed before they evolved.

As I've already indicated, I have no issues with the neo-Darwinian synthesis itself, i.e., the theory of genetic evolution by natural selection. But I have tremendous problems with its (mis)application to matters to which it was simply never intended to apply. It doesn't, can't, and needn't account for the initial appearance of the traits being selected for/against (and therefore isn't, pace RD Miksa, any sort of "creation narrative") but already presumes a "background universe" in which those traits can become available for selection through other means. In particular it tells us exactly nothing about the (even physical, never mind metaphysical) origins of reason, rationality, and consciousness—only about how, to whatever extent they have a genetic basis, selective pressure may have helped them to spread once they appeared.

If it's possible for matter to support consciousness, it isn't and can't be natural selection that made it so.

Eduardo said...

Well, although Miksa is being acid about his critique, if not a bit exaggerated, some people do follow what he says, and I know this from experience.

Discussing evolution in the net may be worst than discussing religion XD. Well maybe this fetiche with evolution is a new form of religion, or some kind of philosophy of human life... maybe...

Scott said...

@Eduardo:

"Well, although Miksa is being acid about his critique, if not a bit exaggerated, some people do follow what he says, and I know this from experience."

If you mean that some people do regard the neo-Darwinian synthesis as a "creation narrative," then of course you're right. But they're quite wrong to do so.

Eduardo said...

I surely hope that this will become a paradigm XD...

No seriously, discussing evolution is scary, so many crazy people...

RD Miksa said...

Of course, my points are exaggerated for effect, but the sad thing is, those points are also very often shown to be true when discussing the issue of evolution with the die-hard evolutionists—especially on the internet.

Now, as a type of theistic evolutionist, I really have no problem with evolution itself, but, like Scott, I do have a serious problem both when it is misapplied and when it is defended as if it were a Sacred Cow that cannot be criticized.

RD Miksa

Anonymous said...

Btw, I loved this comment from that post of Shallit's:

"I await the day when someone explains to me what "meaning" is, over and above a complex network of interrelationships. Apparently there is some deep, perhaps Platonic, meaning database somewhere to which we have access. Computers, apparently, don't have the same privilege.

No matter how often I ask, I never get a coherent description of this deep meaning."

You just couldn't make this stuff up, could you.

Eduardo said...

That is fucked up... he seems to be going for something like this:

Meaning is just interrelationship of symbols (but not just symbols I suppose)

The brain has meaning above the complex wiring interrelationship.

So therefor there must some kind of a Database that store ALL meaning in humans that is immaterial.


I mean it of course makes sense for him to say so, since he has already make a dogma out of one of the propositions, that meaning is just interrelationship... you know, like the sun means green... quite literally, the Burning Rock* is meant to mean green that is for real yall... pills pills, I need my pills!

*(it is not a rock but a super heat gas creating nuclear reactions, but is so much more fun say it is a burning rock XD.)

Anonymous said...

What he means is that when he says, "Please don't punch me in the face", that is just an interrelationship devoid of intrinsic meaning and therefore we should ignore it.

Right hooks on 3, gentlemen.

BLS said...

"No matter how often I ask, I never get a coherent description of this deep meaning."

Lol, all Shallit has to do is search for "intentionality" at Stanford's Philosophy Encyclopedia. Maybe then he'll realize why it's a big deal.

Anonymous said...

It isn't Shallit himself would wrote that; rather, it was in the combox of the post Dr.Feser quoted linked to.

I should, perhaps, have been more clear.

Scott said...

Shallit doesn't strike me as the sharpest bulb in the ocean either: "While Feser and his friends are declaring it impossible, real neuroscientists and neurophilosophers are busy figuring it out."

Figuring what out? In order for his point to make any sense here at all, he has to mean that they're figuring out how thought is related to brain processes. But in order for two things to be "related," they have to be two things.

There's no neuroscientist or neurophilosopher in the world who has any realistic hope of showing thought and brain activity to be simply identical—even if they unreflectively suppose themselves to be doing just that. Thought and brain activity can't even be positively correlated unless they differ.

Smoking Frog said...

Noshpartitas: I wonder how you manage to put me, with my "mights" and "maybes," together with those who "parrot the droll and tired scientism ... as zealously as any fundamentalist."

Smoking Frog said...

Rank sophist:

"Any argument that explains reason by making reference to evolutionary processes begs the question."

That may be true of reason as such, but I didn't try to explain reason as such. I tried to explain human reasoning ability.

There's nothing wrong with "presupposing reason at every step" (which is not to say that I agree with the syllogism you've imputed to me - I don't, and I'll get to that). What you call "presupposing reason at every step" is merely a presupposition that I can reason. It does not force the conclusion that human reasoning ability evolved.

I do not agree with "1. If humans evolved, then reason evolved." I say that the argument of "no selective pressure" is faulty; it does not exclude the possibility that human reasoning ability evolved.

For all I know, there may be a version of it that succeeds. My own "eye" is "untrained." But I'm responding to what I see posted here. I think your own counter-argument "might look like a demonstration to the untrained eye," whereas actually it is terribly faulty. I guess I'm not deeply enough untrained to mistake it for a demonstration.

Smoking Frog said...

ScittL

I agree with you that Rosenhouse's comment is not intellectually serious, and that actually it's very stupid and arrogant.

I took mutation, random or other, for granted. I merely didn't think it was necessary to mention it.

However, even without mutation, novel traits or improvement of existing traits might be possible; the conjunction of two or more traits might be novel or an improvement. What we in ordinary language call a trait is not necessarily due to a single gene or even a single small number of genes; it is not even necessarily due to a change in a single part of the body; e.g., suppose a change in absorption of nutrients leads to a change in brain efficiency or function.

Let me add something that is not terribly relevant to your criticism. We all know that there are people who reason very well, and people who can't reason their way out of a paper bag. This makes it hard to argue that human reasoning ability did not evolve.

Smoking Frog said...

Scott: I apologize for the typo of calling you "Scittl." I don't know how that happened.

Anonymous said...

Smoking Frog,

Firstly, the argument from reason makes it hard to argue that human reasoning did evole.

Secondly, what do you mean by reason?

Anonymous said...

Dr.Feser has given a very good refuation of the very dubious appeal to the successes of materialistic science. However, there is still far more that could be mentioned against such claims. For a start we could invoke Chesterton and note that the term success means little if it strict criteria, and an in depth explanation of how these are met, are not provided. Those who talk about the success of materialistic science rarely give any in depth notion of what is succeeds in doing and how it succeeds in doing it.

By the way, I may be wrong, but in the past it has seemed as if Dr.Feser is rather anti-Chesterton. I hope this is not true. Chesterton could have done with a slightly larger systematic, philosophical support for his writings, but otherwise hus imaginative grasp of many central truths is dazzling. Even in politics and economics, although he was far from perfect, he made many important points that so called conservatives, who yet seem to take far too much from Friedman or Mises, would do well to heed.

Smoking Frog said...

Miksa:

Maybe I should not have said "must," but:

"Retrograde" is only just as likely in circumstances that make it just as likely, or, alternatively, it is only just as likely if we know nothing of circumstances. (Probability is a measure of what one knows.)

Given that a species has intelligence and communication of some degree, as many species have, and that it strongly depends on these abilities for survival, and that the evolutionary cost of improving is not overwhelming, improvement is more likely than "retrograde."

We have good reason to believe that we have ancestors who were less intelligent than we are. How does the theory of evolution fail to explain the improvement? I don't mean that it explains it perfectly well. I mean that it does not suffer from the defect that you seem to think it suffers from.

James said...

“Scott: I apologize for the typo of calling you ‘Scittl.’”

I wouldn’t worry about it — I believe you’ve stumbled upon his true name, in the language of his people. Just don’t say it twice more or I think you’ll banish him.

Smoking Frog said...

Anonymous:

Firstly, the argument from reason makes it hard to argue that human reasoning did evole?

I don't know what you mean by "argument from reason."

Secondly, what do you mean by reason?

My argument is about reasoning ability, not reason as such, but if that's understood, then let me say, I'm no expert, but by "reason," I would mean concepts and the process of logically manipulating them.

Someone said that an animal is not reasoning unless he can explain why he does what he does. I disagree with that, but only in a partial, minor way. I would say that an animal is not reasoning unless he knows why he does what he does.



Scott said...

@Smoking Frog:

"[E]ven without mutation, novel traits or improvement of existing traits might be possible; the conjunction of two or more traits might be novel or an improvement. What we in ordinary language call a trait is not necessarily due to a single gene or even a single small number of genes; it is not even necessarily due to a change in a single part of the body; e.g., suppose a change in absorption of nutrients leads to a change in brain efficiency or function."

This is true, of course; I could probably give further examples myself, and I'm not even a professional biologist.

But the appearance of something for the first time doesn't constitute "emergence" in any metaphysically meaningful sense—at least not in any sense relevant to an argument that's supposed to show us how consciousness (or, really, anything else) "emerges" from the process of natural selection even though it didn't already exist in any manner whatsoever. If some combination of genes results in a phenotype that hasn't previously been produced, the potency or causal power to produce that phenotype must still have "been there already" in the underlying chemistry; if not, it would be meaningless to say that the combination of genes was its cause. (And if we weren't saying that, what would we be saying?)

"I apologize for the typo of calling you 'Scittl.' I don't know how that happened."

No problem. As James has surmised, you have happened across my true name in the language of my people, but that's sheer coincidence; I can tell you exactly how it happened. For the o and the colon you accidentally hit an adjacent key, in the second instance while also holding down the shift key (to get the colon rather than the semicolon); that's why the L was capitalized.

At any rate you can say it as many more times as you like; the only way to banish me is to make me say it backwards. ;-)

rank sophist said...

Smoking Frog,

That may be true of reason as such, but I didn't try to explain reason as such. I tried to explain human reasoning ability.

This seems like a clever and relevant distinction until one realizes that it isn't. It's a distinction without a difference.

There's nothing wrong with "presupposing reason at every step" (which is not to say that I agree with the syllogism you've imputed to me - I don't, and I'll get to that). What you call "presupposing reason at every step" is merely a presupposition that I can reason. It does not force the conclusion that human reasoning ability evolved.

Considering that "forcing" this conclusion was never my point, I'm not sure what you're talking about.

To suggest that reason evolved is to suggest that there was a time when reason did not exist. But you can't do that without presupposing reason. Any statement like "at time T there was no reason" is based on reason, and so it's a statement that fundamentally cannot be comprehended. You've gone beyond the limits of knowledge. Even if you say that reason-as-such pre-existed humans, and so the evolution of "human reasoning ability" (an impossibility, but let's go with it) was a participation in reason, you still haven't endorsed the existence of T (= time prior to reason). Even if T had ever occurred (it hasn't), we could never know it or speak about it, because in doing so we would presuppose reason.

I do not agree with "1. If humans evolved, then reason evolved." I say that the argument of "no selective pressure" is faulty; it does not exclude the possibility that human reasoning ability evolved.

I think that any argument about the possibility of reason evolving is idiocy from the start. As such, I agree that reason having no selective pressure is stupid--just as stupid as saying that it had selective pressure.

I'm attacking your more fundamental presupposition here, which is the possibility of human reason evolving at all. It is a post hoc fallacy and an epistemological (even ontological) impossibility. The proposition "there was a time before reason" cannot in principle have any meaning, because it gets its meaning by presupposing reason. Without reason, the proposition has no truth conditions. Let me put it technically: if there was a time T when the proposition "reason does not exist" was true, then that proposition would not have been true. We can only suggest that T occurred by presupposing reason (i.e. by giving the proposition truth conditions) in the present. This means that T-in-itself is incomprehensible, and so it cannot be counted as knowledge at all. If T occurred--which it didn't--, it would be outside of the knowable or discussable.

If you suggested, on the other hand, that reason pre-existed humanity, then you would be endorsing some form of theism (or "feral spirit" natural selection). This kind of removes the point of trying to argue for the evolution of reason in humans.

Anonymous said...

Rosenhouse has responded, and has crisply refuted Feser.

BLS said...

Rank, what if one argues that the capacity to discover reason evolved? Would that put the person in the situation you mentioned?

"If you suggested, on the other hand, that reason pre-existed humanity, then you would be endorsing some form of theism (or "feral spirit" natural selection). This kind of removes the point of trying to argue for the evolution of reason in humans."

Anonymous said...

Relevant part of Rosenhouse's response:

"Plainly, I had two objections to what Nagel wrote. The first was his use of the term “prima facie.” To say that something is “prima facie highly implausible” is precisely to say that you don’t need a book-length argument to explain why it’s implausible. It says that the burden of proof lies with those who would deny that it is implausible. That’s what I was describing as absurd. There is nothing nontrivial about human evolution that can reasonably be described as obvious prima facie.

My second objection was to Nagel’s caricature of the evidence for evolution. It is, yes, absurd to say that evolution is just a schema for an explanation, coupled with a few examples."

Anonymous said...

Another relevant part of the reply:

"It is tautological to say that if there are aspects of reality that are not amenable to scientific investigation, then scientific investigation will not reveal them. That, however, is nonresponsive to Leiter and Weisberg’s point. As I see it, Leiter and Weisberg were making an argument about the burden of proof. When a particular point of view has been proven wrong in case after case; the centrality of teleology and the supernatural in our understanding of the natural world, for example; the burden shifts to the people defending that point of view. A better analogy than Feser’s metal detector would be to the boy who cried wolf. Every time previously that the boy had cried wolf there was no wolf. So the people concluded that when he cried wolf this time there also was no wolf. Does anyone think the people’s reasoning was utterly fallacious? Were they wrong to think that the boy’s consistent track record of lying gave them a good reason for thinking he was lying this time?

Of course, in the story, there really was a wolf at the end. That’s why Leiter and Weisberg are very measured in their conclusions. They say only that the extraordinary, consistent success of mechanistic explanations give us some reason for thinking that they will continue to be successful, and then go on to state clearly that this conclusion could well be wrong. By contrast, it is Nagel and his defenders who make the most audacious, confident pronouncements about what they have shown, and then never back them up with anything more than dubious armchair argument. Nagel was the one who subtitled his book, “Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False.” Leiter and Weisberg are simply saying that in light of the enormous past success of Nagel’s foil, he will need a mighty good argument to meet his burden. Casual invocations of common sense and popularizations of science do not cut it.

Nor does it help to argue that Nagel was doing philosophy, and therefore does not need anything more than a rudimentary (indeed, if he even needs that much) understanding of science. Surely it is obvious that philosophical argument alone cannot possibly get you to dramatic conclusions about what matter can and cannot do. Arguments for the nonphysicality of the brain typically take the general form: The brain can do X; Physical processes cannot account for X; Therefore there is a nonphysical component to the brain. Can you spot the premise about which science has rather a lot to say?"

Though one should probably read the original post first:

http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2013/03/25/a-reply-to-edward-feser/

rank sophist said...

BLS,

Rank, what if one argues that the capacity to discover reason evolved? Would that put the person in the situation you mentioned?

I'm not entirely sure what the capacity to discover reason is supposed to be. How do we discover reason? To say that one has discovered reason is to say that one has A) discovered reason instead of not discovering it; B) discovered the thing called "reason"; and C) discovered reason rather than some state between "reason" and "not-reason". This is to say that in the recognition that reason has been discovered, the law of non-contradiction, the law of identity and the law of the excluded middle have been presupposed. Reason is always already present.

So, even if you allow that reason pre-existed humans (which I think every Christian is required to believe), I don't think it's coherent to talk about humans "discovering" reason over time. In order to discover it, it has to be present already. However, you could say without contradiction that pre-rational humans were infused with reason, since you aren't talking about an unknowable state of existence or presupposing human reason. This can't be cashed out in naturalistic terms, though. At best, you might be able to use Nagel's argument from natural teleology to explain it--but that argument already gives away the naturalist's entire game.

Anonymous said...

And I see a problem with Rosenhouse's Wolf analogy. The boy who cried wolf did so to entertain himself, to "troll" the people who came to his rescue. I don't think that is what Nagel is doing. Rosenhouse doesn't refute the metal detector analogy, he merely makes up another absurd analogy to take it it's place. The problem is that the new analogy is not parallel to the Feser's, nor is it better.

rank sophist said...

I should add that arguments like Nagel's have a chance of success because they take a neutral monist or panpsychist bent. They distribute reason (and consciousness, and other uniquely human qualities) throughout the natural world, which makes the difference between humans and animals a difference in degree rather than in kind. This is totally incompatible with Thomism, but I think it's viable despite its bizarre and possibly mystical conclusions. Obviously, though, naturalism cannot survive in this environment.

BLS said...

"Arguments for the nonphysicality of the brain typically take the general form: The brain can do X; Physical processes cannot account for X; Therefore there is a nonphysical component to the brain. Can you spot the premise about which science has rather a lot to say?"

I think he means "the premise about which [scientists and materialist philosophers have] rather a lot to say."

But IIRC, don't arguments like Reppert's AfR, the Knowledge argument, etc start from materialist/physical premises?

Scott said...

"Arguments for the nonphysicality of the brain typically take the general form: The brain can do X; Physical processes cannot account for X; Therefore there is a nonphysical component to the brain. Can you spot the premise about which science has rather a lot to say?"

Yes, I can: it's "The brain can do X."

He probably wants us to think it's "Physical processes cannot account for X." But given the current state of physics at any given time, what that physics is able to account for at that time is a question not of science but of the philosophy of science, and scientists have no special expertise in it. (Indeed, in some cases there may be a déformation professionnelle that positively renders them less fit to issue pronunciamentos on such matters than those who take a broader view and don't spend all their time listening only to each other.)

And if Rosenhouse means that he expects that some day the science of physics will expand its scope to include mental phenomena without reducing them to something else—well, when that bold new age arrives, do let us know.

His hissy face-slaps at Feser are so childish, petulant, and off-target that I don't see any point in bothering to reply to them.

FZ said...

In all fairness, I think Feser went a little overboard when he blasted away at Rosenhouse, after reading Rosenhouse's response. However, I also think that Rosenhouse's "refutation" of the metal detector analogy failed. The problem is that if indeed "physical processes cannot account for X" then naturalism fails, and the only way out is eliminativism (which is game over). However, if "matter can account for X," for example intentionality, then that is essentially conceding that matter can have intrinsic intentionality (intrinsically directed at something outside of itself in some non-physical way), which essentially turns "naturalism" into something closer to Nagel's formulation. (Which is also game over for naturalism as it is currently understood).

Scott said...

"Plainly, I had two objections to what Nagel wrote."

And both of them were based on what appears to be a misunderstanding of Nagel's point. As Nagel himself "plainly" states in the passage Rosenhouse quotes, Nagel is not denying that there's a great deal of evidence for evolution by genetic natural selection; he's denying that it's sufficient to account for (his phrase, my emphasis) "life as we know it," which in context surely means "including consciousness."

Having not read Nagel's book yet myself either, I don't know that that's what he means—but it's certainly the reading at which I arrive in reading that passage charitably and with attention to Nagel's own words. If Rosenhouse had read it likewise, his (self-admitted) exasperation and frustration might not so readily have found expression on his blog.

Scott said...

@FZ:

"However, if 'matter can account for X,' for example intentionality, then that is essentially conceding that matter can have intrinsic intentionality (intrinsically directed at something outside of itself in some non-physical way), which essentially turns 'naturalism' into something closer to Nagel's formulation. (Which is also game over for naturalism as it is currently understood)."

Precisely. And if that had been Rosenhouse's point, he should have been jumping up and down for joy, agreeing with Nagel, and pointing out that science is already in the very process of doing exactly what Nagel wants it to do.

Eduardo said...

Rosemhouse seem to pressupose that whatever science can study is therefore physical. So physical to him is whatever science can get information about, for instance, at a given time scientists believe that the only way to study something is by visual detection, they spent a lot of time studying a chair, when one of tzhem realizes that only the part he sees is physical while the other side is non-physical, well this throws the scientists into a argument war, after all to some other scientists, that non-physical part was physical to them, or at least it seemed physical to them. So something went pretty bad in all this scientific investigation, so after 100 liters of beer they come to the conclusion that science must include the concept of an entire obkect, and voilá, the chair all of sudden is entirely physical...

BLS said...

It seems like most of the resistance to dualism from the commenters at the other blog comes in a similar form to Churchland’s following objections:
“1. The argument from Ockham’s razor: Postulating two basic kinds of substance, material and immaterial, needlessly complicates our ontology if mental phenomena can be adequately explained in terms of material substance alone. That they can be so explained is indicated by the next two arguments:
2. The argument from the explanatory impotence of dualism: Materialist explanations can appeal to the many details of the brain’s structure and function revealed by modern neuroscience, while dualists have yet to provide a comparable account of the structure and function of immaterial substance.”

BLS said...

But then we have Feser’s replies.

“Keep in mind first of all that, as I have emphasized in the earlier posts in this series, the chief proponents of dualism historically have not defended their position as an “explanatory hypothesis” put forward as the “best explanation” of the “empirical data.” That just isn’t what they are up to, any more than geometers or logicians are. They are attempting instead to provide a strict demonstration of the immateriality of the mind, to show that it is metaphysically and conceptually impossible for the mind to be something material. Their attempts may or may not succeed – again, that is another question. But that is what they are trying to do, and thus it simply misses the point to evaluate their arguments the way one might evaluate an empirical hypothesis.”

“It is obvious, then, why Churchland’s first two arguments have no force, for they simply misconstrue the nature of the case for dualism. If any of the dualist arguments just mentioned works, then the immateriality of the mind will have been demonstrated, and asking “But do we really need to postulate immaterial substance?” or “How much can we really know about such substances?” would not be to the point. For we would not in that case be hypothetically “postulating” anything in the first place, but directly establishing its existence; and its existence will have been no less established even if we could not say much about its nature.

But this brings us to an additional problem with Churchland’s second argument, which further underlines just how embarrassingly uninformed he is about what dualists have actually said. In developing his “explanatory impotence” objection, Churchland complains that dualists have told us very little about the nature of “spiritual matter” or the “internal constitution of mind-stuff,” about the “nonmaterial elements that make it up” and the “laws that govern their behavior.” This is, for anyone familiar with the thought of a Plato, an Aquinas, a Descartes, or a Leibniz, simply cringe-making. The soul is not taken by these writers to be “made up” out of anything, precisely because it is metaphysically simple or non-composite. It is not a kind of “stuff,” it is not made out of “spiritual matter” (whatever that is), and it is not “constituted” out of “elements” which are related by “laws.” Nor is this some incidental or little-known aspect of their position – it is absolutely central to the traditional philosophical understanding of the soul. As is so often the case with naturalistic criticisms of dualism, theism, etc., Churchland’s argument is directed at a breathtakingly crude straw man.”

BLS said...

For guests coming over from Rosenhouse’s blog, it is better to read the original post in its entirety:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/12/churchland-on-dualism-part-iii.html

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/05/mind-body-problem-roundup.html

Eduardo said...

Gentlemen, and anon-ladies... What is the evidence that the town's folk needed to know that the lying/trolling kid was telling the truth? Well just needed to see the wolf, or signs that the wolf was there. Now the town's folk know these two class of evidences because they are used to wolfs so when someone screams wolf, they come running guns at ready to kill the beast.

Now, do the materialist is used to teleology, a concept discussed throughout the ages... Well no. The only thing he knows about Telos is Paley's work and that is about it really. So when you scream Telos, they have no reason to come out running to check it out, because they KNOW ALL ABOUT Telos already, and that is not dangerous, is just like the kid in the story screaming Fly! Fly! Then what, we know all about flies, they are not dangerous! (well for real, they do present some danger, but flies don't eat babies...)

You see the problem is that Rosy, like so many other people, I am pretty sure I fall in this worthless category too, is that he is reallllllly not interested in studying or researching stuff he finds moronic. So he doesn't like immaterial, non-physical, Telos, so on and so forth. So he declares all these concepts worthless and if anyone wants to convince him, bring some really hardcore evidence or argument to him... Now does Rosy knows what is a good argument.... Well nope. If those concepts are worthless there is no reason for him to study them, hence Rosy is just like a town folk that doesn't believe in wolfs and after having his dick chew off by a wolf he says: "Damn that is some WEIRD Rabbit!"

Crude said...

There's another way in which Rosenhouse's 'crying wolf' response fails: it relies on the idea that 'materialism' has been consistent throughout history, and each time a challenge was overcome, it was a challenge directed that same, static materialism.

But that's not just false, it's wildly false. When it was objected that gravity was 'spooky and occult' - that it didn't fit in with the then-conception of the material world - the result wasn't that the materialist objectors were shown to be right. The definition of matter changed. When quantum physics was revealing results about matter that were difficult to square with a classical view of matter, the result was the classical view of matter was chucked. The fact is, materialism has taken a supreme beating throughout the history of science, and philosophy generally - the boy who cried wolf actually turned out to have a wolf onhand more than once.

Anonymous said...


But that's not just false, it's wildly false. When it was objected that gravity was 'spooky and occult' - that it didn't fit in with the then-conception of the material world - the result wasn't that the materialist objectors were shown to be right. The definition of matter changed.


I cannot begin to fathom how you seem to be spinning this as a series of defeats for materialism, rather than stunning victories. Yes, our concept of the material has changed, so it is now much stronger, and able to accomodate more phenomena, than it could in the past.

Crude said...

I cannot begin to fathom how you seem to be spinning this as a series of defeats for materialism, rather than stunning victories. Yes, our concept of the material has changed, so it is now much stronger, and able to accomodate more phenomena, than it could in the past.

Yes, it has been changed - because those past materialists were wrong. They were wrong repeatedly. And, here's the painful one: we have every reason to believe they will be wrong yet again.

It means that over and over throughout the history of science, the then-materialists have been challenged, they've been told that matter as they conceived it simply could not accommodate various aspects of the world - and the critics were right. They couldn't. The success of science has come through multiple defeats of materialism.

So when Nagel, Feser and others launch an attack on materialism as is currently conceived, it does no good to try and appeal to the history of science with the claim that 'time and again people said materialism was inadequate, and yet science marched on!' Science marched on by admitting that the critics were right, in many cases, and modifying materialism thusly. The track record there supports Nagel - not Rosenhouse.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it has been changed - because those past materialists were wrong. They were wrong repeatedly. And, here's the painful one: we have every reason to believe they will be wrong yet again

Yes, that's how science works. Sorry if you have a problem with it.

When your theories are capable of being checked against empirical data, they can be proved wrong, and replaced with something better. Einstein replaced Newton. This does not mean that Newton was an idiot, because his theory was the best at the time.

On the other hand, if your theories are not grounded in data, they can never be proved wrong and so can persist forever.

Take your pick.

Anonymous said...

"On the other hand, if your theories are not grounded in data, they can never be proved wrong and so can persist forever."

You are talking about scientific theories like evolution, and not philosophical theories right? Because philosophical theories that don't depend on data can be refuted or shown to be untenable, like what happened to logical positivism.

BLS said...

Anon, I think this is the main thrust of Crude's post:

"The success of science has come through multiple defeats of materialism."

Crude is not arguing against science. Regardless of whether Crude is right or wrong, you missed the point.

Anonymous said...

I could be accused of partisanship, but having read the combox discussions here and for Rosehouse's articles, and many other gnu combx discussions, am I the only one struck by the sheer gulf in intelligence and knowledge displayed by those in the combox discussions here over the gnus?

Scott, Rank Sophist, and several others here constantly make very insightful and intelligent comments. In Gnu comboxes, on the other hand, like Rosehouse's, you just get a lot of people who are ignorant of even basic philosophical distinctions or arguments and who have such a happy for the abstraction of 'science' (defined naturalistically) that they cannot comprehend anything except on scientistic terms.

These people are really only fit for satire.

Crude said...

Yes, that's how science works. Sorry if you have a problem with it.

Have a problem with it? I love it and celebrate it. Especially in this scenario, since it completely undercuts Rosenhouse's charge, while supporting Nagel and company.

When your theories are capable of being checked against empirical data, they can be proved wrong, and replaced with something better. Einstein replaced Newton. This does not mean that Newton was an idiot, because his theory was the best at the time.

I never accused anyone of being an idiot. I simply said they were wrong - and they were. Einstein was wrong too. That doesn't mean he was stupid. Not by a longshot.

Materialists of the past were wrong. Yay science, yay progress. But that also means we can't pretend that the history of science is one long authentication of materialism's views. Instead, it's a long string of defeats that required 'matter' to be redefined - so when another criticism is made that suggests our current understanding of matter is inadequate, it won't do any good to point at the history of science and materialism. Nagel only gets support there.

On the other hand, if your theories are not grounded in data, they can never be proved wrong and so can persist forever.

Empirical data? Sure they can be proved wrong. Hence the fall of various philosophical schools, such as logical positivism. You didn't need to perform a science experiment to prove it wrong - you needed to rely on logic and argumentation.

Look, I know you're trying to defend science here and think you're dealing with a detractor. But you're wrong on both counts. Rosenhouse made an error. I'm not launching some attack on science by pointing out that materialists of the past were wrong repeatedly - that's just how things turned out. Rosenhouse is wrong for various other reasons, but I wanted to focus on that point because it was being overlooked.

You're not defending science by getting angry when someone points out the failures of past theories. Quite the opposite.

Anonymous said...

Crude is not arguing against science. Regardless of whether Crude is right or wrong, you missed the point.

Sure he is. "Materialism" has never been proved wrong, insofar as it is philosophy and not science. The only thing that has been proven wrong are particular scientific theories about the structure and behavior of the material world.

If all Feser and Nagel want to do is continue this process, then more power to them and may they get a Nobel prize. But that's not what they say they are doing, since they aim their weapons at materialism itself, not at current scientific understanding.

Anonymous said...

You'll notice the materialist and naturalist are often loath to properly define matter or nature. But clearly, any meaningful materialism is the search for a purely quantitative building block for reality, one that reduces all quality to quantity. Now, as Rene Guenon pointed out, the only, ultimate contender for this building block is pure, discontinuous, quantitative (as opposed to Pythagorean ideal or qualitative) number. But it is immediately obvious that this number cannot explain all that exists. It doesn't even exist in itself in our realm of being (being the materia secunda of it) and even such qualities as shape or direction have an irreducibly qualitative element that cannot be reduced to pure quantity.

So, the materialist is forced either to define matter as being partially qualitative, which undermines his whole entreprise and ultimately leads to a philosophy like that of Aquinas or Plato, or he is forced to hunt the snark of pure quantity. No wonder the materialist doesn't usually define matter.

Crude said...

Sure he is. "Materialism" has never been proved wrong, insofar as it is philosophy and not science. The only thing that has been proven wrong are particular scientific theories about the structure and behavior of the material world.

Sure materialism has been proven wrong, largely because materialists of the past - even philosophical ones - relied heavily on the science of their day to support their philosophy. And if you don't think that particular tune is being played again (or you don't think many materialists equate their positions with scientific theories and models), then you haven't been listening to many materialists.

If all Feser and Nagel want to do is continue this process, then more power to them and may they get a Nobel prize. But that's not what they say they are doing, since they aim their weapons at materialism itself, not at current scientific understanding.

If you don't think Nagel is questioning 'current scientific understanding', all I can say is 'read what he wrote.' Feser, actually, goes through great effort to distinguish between science and metaphysics/philosophy - but various materialists do their best to blur those distinctions. What's more, scientists also operate with metaphysical commitments, some explicit, some not - and insofar as they attempt to justify their current materialism based on the current and past successes of science, they're open to my reply.

You can see review after review of Nagel (negative ones, even) pointing out he has materialism, particularly 'reductive materialism', in his crosshairs.

Scott said...

@one of the Anons:

"Sure he is. 'Materialism' has never been proved wrong, insofar as it is philosophy and not science. The only thing that has been proven wrong are particular scientific theories about the structure and behavior of the material world."

No, Crude is not arguing against science. He's merely pointing out that the current scientific understanding of matter is almost poles apart from the understanding of just a few hundred years ago, and noting that that fact represents both an advance in science and a vindication of those philosophers who argued that prior understandings of matter were incomplete.

If physicists now go on to expand their definition of matter to include intentionality, they'll essentially be proving Nagel (and for that matter Aristotle) right, so it's not clear why anyone with a genuinely scientific outlook/temperament wants to argue with him so vehemently. It's fairly easy to suspect that Rosenhouse just has an axe to grind.

Scott said...

@another Anon:

"Scott, Rank Sophist, and several others here constantly make very insightful and intelligent comments."

On my own behalf I thank you, and with regard to the others I agree with you.

Crude said...

BLS had me right as well, but Scott's latest is straight on target:

No, Crude is not arguing against science. He's merely pointing out that the current scientific understanding of matter is almost poles apart from the understanding of just a few hundred years ago, and noting that that fact represents both an advance in science and a vindication of those philosophers who argued that prior understandings of matter were incomplete.

Bingo.

I see this myth perpetrated a lot - where 'materialism' has been vindicated again and again by science - and it simply falls apart once you actually look at the history of science. That's what I'm targeting.

Anonymous said...

@Scott
a vindication of those philosophers who argued that prior understandings of matter were incomplete.

To repeat myself – Feser (I haven’t read Nagel so maybe this doesn’t apply to him) is not “arguing that our current understanding of matter is incomplete”, with the aim of replacing it with a better but still naturalistic one. He is arguing that no understanding of matter can be complete and we have to introduce the supernatural (although he usually is careful to not call it that).

If physicists now go on to expand their definition of matter to include intentionality,

There have been perfectly workable scientific theories of intentionality ever since the cybernetic era. So matter already “includes” intentionality; there is no requirement to revise basic physics raised by that particular bugbear.

Eduardo said...

Anon, your definition of material seems to me just what you conclude matter is, given Scientism.

Your position is morphless, "matter is whatever current scientific knowledge tells me, so it can never be proved wrong", cool, why not call it scientism, or material scientism, something more fitting, then declaring all there is is this class of objects, or this unifyng principle of nature, or this intuitive knowledge, you know instead of talking about what is real or not real, why not talk about what follows from your method? Makes much more sense, no actually this makes sense

BLS said...

"There have been perfectly workable scientific theories of intentionality ever since the cybernetic era."

Such as?

Eduardo said...

Let me explain to you anon, what is Nagel's overall view. You have a definition of what material is,or what naural is. Nagels thinks and argues that these definition can not emcompass the whole of reality, so you need to step outside this definition to do it.... hence, it must be not material or not natural as defined by these philosophies. We have to read the book to understand just what is that thing he is talking about

You are missing the point about intentionality, intentionality would be part of the fabric of reality, you are just saying: "oh matter includes intention because there are theories in cybernetics that include intentional behavior..."
Really really out of the subject here, pressuposing too much to the point it become obvious you are not quite sure what people are talking about.

Crude said...

To repeat myself – Feser (I haven’t read Nagel so maybe this doesn’t apply to him) is not “arguing that our current understanding of matter is incomplete”, with the aim of replacing it with a better but still naturalistic one. He is arguing that no understanding of matter can be complete and we have to introduce the supernatural (although he usually is careful to not call it that).

Where does Feser say this? Do you realize Ed's spoken positively - even if he disagrees - about Nagel himself (who still considers himself a 'naturalist'), about thinkers like Bertrand Russell, etc? Russell also thought, apparently, that our understanding of matter - as far as science can take us - will be incomplete.

And you say 'he's careful not to call it that'. What does the word matter? Gravity was considered an 'occult poewr' until it was thought that science couldn't go further without integrating it - so in it came. The quantum world has aspects that would be easy to call 'supernatural' a hundred years ago.

I think your motivation - insofar as it seems to be to never introduce anything that someone may consider 'supernatural' at any cost - is shortsighted. And again, if you look at the history of science, this hasn't worked out well. (See Einstein's criticisms of quantum theory.)

There have been perfectly workable scientific theories of intentionality ever since the cybernetic era. So matter already “includes” intentionality; there is no requirement to revise basic physics raised by that particular bugbear.

And this just is not the case. By all means, feel free to provide them - picking claims like this apart is the hobby of the regulars in this site's comments sections.

It will be interesting.

ingx24 said...

I find it funny when materialists act like there's "no need" to "postulate" anything immaterial to "explain" the mind, and say that the burden of proof is on the dualist to prove that something immaterial or "supernatural" is needed to "explain" the mind. It just goes to show the kind of mental damage that scientism can do.

The average person, uncorrupted by scientism, will find materialism (at least of the reductive or eliminative sort) to be just obviously false. The average person just doesn't see the mind from the perspective of cognitive science or neuroscience - they see it from their own perspective, as making up what makes them who they are and what they experience every day. To suggest that the mind is really just chemical reactions in the brain (or the causal roles played thereby) would strike most people as incoherent, possibly even insulting or degrading. And this has nothing to do with "corruption" by "religious dogma" of a "soul" (which materialists normally see as this ghostly invisible matter that inhabits the body and is conveniently undetectable by science). It's just a basic belief of all human beings that they have thoughts, feelings, imaginings, beliefs, and a sense of personal identity, and that these things are not "actually something else" (to borrow a phrase from John Searle).

This is a similar reason to why I see the Aristotelian conception of the mind to be unappealing. Aristotelianism separates imagination (and, from my understanding, emotions and memory) from intellect, taking the former to be dependent on material organs and the latter not to be. The problem is that, since the intellect alone is said to survive bodily death, A-T implicitly seems to be identifying the intellect with the self, making other mental phenomena, such as imagination, emotions, and memory not really part of the self at all. The implication seems to be that imagination, emotions, and memory are not really things that "we" do - but rather things that our animal bodies do for us. And this flatly contradicts everyday experience.

This critique is probably based on a gross misunderstanding of A-T philosophy of nature, and is probably a result of my Cartesian instinct (probably shared by most ordinary people today) to identify the mind with the self, but the assimilation of every part of the mind except pure intellect to the body doesn't sit right with me and is the biggest reason why I find A-T philosophy difficult to accept.

Eduardo said...

Okay while searching for cybernetics related theories Irealized the obvious.

What do we mean by intention, now I would love to answer this one mysef, but it would be one fo those too long to bother posts hahhaa.

Does anon mean intention as desire, the wish for something. Or is it a premeditated state, like a doctor intentionally cuts someone. Or is it the ability to choose something, like the windows OS chooses to piss me off XD.

Don't know... This doesn't seem like a cybernetics theory would help, at least not in this early stage.

Scott said...

@one of the Anons:

"He is arguing that no understanding of matter can be complete and we have to introduce the supernatural (although he usually is careful to not call it that)."

Not at all. He's arguing that any purely quantitative/structural understanding of the natural world must be incomplete because by definition such an understanding doesn't include the world's purely qualitative features, and that in particular there isn't any way to account for the qualitative nature of consciousness in purely quantitative terms. As others have noted, he even has Bertrand Russell on his side here. Where do you get "supernatural" from?

It's pretty central to Thomism that the natural world can be studied and understood on its own terms, without reference to a deity or anything else "supernatural" (even though the existence of a deity, indeed the God of classical theism, can be proven from the natural world). Why in the world do you think Feser disagrees? It's not as though he hasn't posted repeatedly on the subject.

Scott said...

@Crude: Thanks for confirming that I was reading you correctly.

Scott said...

@the same Anon:

"There have been perfectly workable scientific theories of intentionality ever since the cybernetic era."

Like others, I'll be interested to hear what those are. I'm not aware of any that don't try (and fail) to reduce intentionality to something else or characterize it as (in effect) illusory. And again, if there are any that don't, then they count as victories for Nagel (and Aristotle, and Aquinas).

Anonymous said...

@Scott –
Not at all. He's arguing that any purely quantitative/structural understanding of the natural world must be incomplete because by definition such an understanding doesn't include the world's purely qualitative features

Sez who? There’s absolutely nothing in scientific materialism to rule out “qualitative features”. Perhaps you mean subjective features?

and that in particular there isn't any way to account for the qualitative nature of consciousness in purely quantitative terms

Yes I guess that is what you mean. You are confusing yourself with imprecise language.

Anyway, while I will grant that it is not easy to grasp how a materialistic theory of consciousness and subjectivity can work, that is a long long way from your assertion that it is impossible by definition.

Where do you get "supernatural" from?

If he isn’t arguing for supernatural explanations, then he is a naturalist and there’s no argument for me. But he obviously is not a naturalist, and his entire shtick is an attempt to prop up a supernatural belief system.

I must admit that the tack people are taking here is a new one on me, although I’ve been browisng this blog for awhile. You seem to be saying that Feser is just a misunderstood naturalist who is simply dissatisfied with the current definition of “matter” and is trying to come up with a new one (or possibly an old one). I’d like to see a pointer where he says that explicitly, if possible. It smells of strawman to me, based on a cartoonish idea of what the current scientific picture of the material world includes, but I’d like to see his own take on it to be sure.

dover_beach said...

"Yes I guess that is what you mean. You are confusing yourself with imprecise language."

Dear oh dear.

Crude said...

Sez who? There’s absolutely nothing in scientific materialism to rule out “qualitative features”. Perhaps you mean subjective features?

Do you know what qualitative features are?

If he isn’t arguing for supernatural explanations, then he is a naturalist and there’s no argument for me. But he obviously is not a naturalist, and his entire shtick is an attempt to prop up a supernatural belief system.

What is "supernatural" according to you? And what is "natural"?

No, Ed is not a naturalist. That does not mean that everything he argues or endorses is therefore 'supernatural'. Specifically Feser argues for a different conception of the 'natural' world than materialist. So does Nagel. And Galen Strawson, and David Chalmers, and more.

I must admit that the tack people are taking here is a new one on me, although I’ve been browisng this blog for awhile. You seem to be saying that Feser is just a misunderstood naturalist who is simply dissatisfied with the current definition of “matter” and is trying to come up with a new one (or possibly an old one). I’d like to see a pointer where he says that explicitly, if possible. It smells of strawman to me, based on a cartoonish idea of what the current scientific picture of the material world includes, but I’d like to see his own take on it to be sure.

No, the only strawman is this quote. It was argued that Nagel is not advocating the 'supernatural' (he's not), and that Ed's view of nature doesn't simply fall back to 'supernatural'. As Scott said, Thomists have no problem with 'natural' explanations and understandings.

Do you understand what Ed means by 'Naturalism'? You say you've been browsing this site for a while, after all. So: Bertrand Russell. Naturalist or not, by Ed's standard? (And before you question his standard, I suggest you take a look at the SEP entry for naturalism to understand the difficulty of defining 'natural' or 'supernatural', from a source other than myself.)

Eduardo said...

Anon -
There’s absolutely nothing in scientific materialism to rule out “qualitative features”.

Me -
Well considering that materialism has no freaking definition, that might be so.


Anon -
Perhaps you mean subjective features?

Me -
No he means that whatever thing that has qualitive features, can not be accounted by a quantitative system, he is saying something akin to: you can not explain why something goes left, while pressuposing that all possible causes for the phenomena must go right.


Anon -
that is a long long way from your assertion that it is impossible by definition.

Me -
Anon's morphless nature/matter attacks again, hey in 2000 years a scienific experiment can be interpreted or a theory may be formulated that will explain X, so you have no reason to say that in principle materialism, which has no definition, can not account to something. Which I agree, you can not tell me my modelling clay can't turn into Y shape because after all I can shape in any way I want it, so you will in principle never have a reason to believe in principle my clay can not take a certain shape! It also means my position is non existent, since I don't have any idea what I am defending...


Anon -
his entire shtick is an attempt to prop up a supernatural belief system.

Me -
Or to mix naturalism with intentionality or teleology, which is taken by naturalists and materialists to be well... Supernatural or immaterial. Saying that he is just trying to prop us a belief system in supernatural, is well... Strawmen-ish.


Anon -
You seem to be saying that Feser is just a misunderstood naturalist who is simply dissatisfied with the current definition of “matter” and is trying to come up with a new one (or possibly an old one).

Me -
Basically naturalist is anyone who believes that nature doesn't need anything outside to understand nature.... This is Anon's definition at least. He is not trying to come up, he is offering a different one, with a different metaphysics from Naturalism as defined by philosophers.


Anon -
It smells of strawman to me

Me -
Considering that the following phrase only makes sense if you equate science to materialism, then yeah must a strawman alright... After all if he refutes anything just say that is not really materialism! Damn why didn't I use to do this when I failed tests, on no professor that is not really a 5 is a 7!

Anonymous said...

Computers and robots only have derived intentionality.

Scott said...

@one of the Anons:

Crude has already given you essentially the replies that I'd have given you on most of your main points, so I'll just respond to one point he hasn't addressed:

"Anyway, while I will grant that it is not easy to grasp how a materialistic theory of consciousness and subjectivity can work, that is a long long way from your assertion that it is impossible by definition."

Neither I nor Feser have/has asserted that a "materialist" theory of consciousness is impossible "by definition." What he asserts (and as it happens, I agree, but that's irrelevant to my point that it's what he's asserting) is that any understanding of matter that gives any responsible account of intentionality is going to have to acknowledge that the natural universe includes teleology and final causation, much as Aristotle's and Aquinas's understandings of matter do.

I don't know what you find mysterious or hard to understand about this; Feser has been very clear and precise in all his discussions of this subject.

Eduardo said...

Scott...

Just think a little... Anon is either guessing or trying figure out a way to interpret Feser's speech into his view of supernatural, is hard for him to understand because he doesn't really care to understand anything, he is not analising anything, he is simply contextualizing anything that we or any one says into what he believes we are saying, and everytime the contextualizing works, is because we mean exactly what he thinks we are trying to say and this is certain... Since you guys ended up using key words that he didn't expect, the contextualizing is not going as smooth as he wants so he is confused, trying to figure out a way to create coherence between his initial hypothesis and his method, you know, everything will work out if Feser is a naturalist, or they must be confused somehow...

Of course this is especulation XD

Crude said...

I think people tend to be generally thrown off when it comes to discussing Thomism, because there's this unspoken assumption that we all agree what 'matter' and 'nature' is to begin with - so all that's left over to talk about is everything that isn't matter or nature. But with Thomism (among other views), a whole lot of the central interest is in discussing the natural and 'material' part of the world, not just anything divine.

Crude said...

Actually, to build on that last point - my anecdotal experience has been that when you inform people the modern conception of matter (not mind, but matter) was heavily influenced by Descartes, their minds are a little blown. Descartes is the ghost-soul guy! All he wrote about was ghosts and dualism! Why would he have anything to say about matter, except to criticize it? Matter is the Enemy!

Anonymous said...

I don't think the radical and essentially incoherent nature of materialism is being highlighted enough.

Forget consciousness, forget mind. Shape, direction, and extension, cannot be explained in purely quantitative terms; and materialism is surely the pursuit of purely quantitative building blocks whose mechanistic relationships and combinations account for all reality. The idea that the burden of proof is in favour materialism, therefore, is absurd.

Naturalism is vague and ambiguous. It basically seems to refer to some sort of vision in which the corporeal world, interpreted in a very quantitative and limited way, is said to be all that exists. It is ambiguous as it must be either quasi-materialist, and basically incoherent, or it must admit some obviously qualitative and intellectual aspects of reality and seem arbitrary and limited.

The use of the term supernatural is just rhetoric, here. It is just meant to conjure up images of ghosts or miracles, when what is really be referred to is basic qualitative and intellectual features of reality, that can't coherently be explained away, from shape to consciousness.


Anonymous said...

@Scott
You said:
Not at all. He's arguing that any purely quantitative/structural understanding of the natural world must be incomplete because by definition such an understanding doesn't include the world's purely qualitative features, and that in particular there isn't any way to account for the qualitative nature of consciousness in purely quantitative terms.

And then:
Neither I nor Feser have/has asserted that a "materialist" theory of consciousness is impossible "by definition."

OK, these aren’t exactly contradictory, but close.

... any understanding of matter that gives any responsible account of intentionality is going to have to acknowledge that the natural universe includes teleology and final causation, much as Aristotle's and Aquinas's understandings of matter do.

Any materialistic picture of the universe has to include blueberries and woodpeckers, because those are things we can observe in the world. Purpose is also something we can observe in the world, so that too has to be included. It doesn’t mean that blueberries, woodpeckers, or purpose has to be baked in at some fundamental metaphysical level.

And as it happens, we have a very good theory for how blueberries, woodpeckers, or purpose can arise from a physics that does not include any of them as primitives, it’s called natural selection and I’m sure you’ve heard of it.

Anonymous said...

I loved this quote from Rosehouse's combox.

“but I think Socrates/Plato would blush if he were given a modern 12th-grade science education.”

Again, you couldn't make this stuff up.

Anonymous said...

Materialist Anon,

If things were not ordered for the Good, that is they were not end or telos driven, then there is no reason for any effect to regularly and orderly follow any cause. It is only because teleology is basic to creation that we can understand any orderly and regular process of cause and effect at all.

Crude said...

Any materialistic picture of the universe has to include blueberries and woodpeckers, because those are things we can observe in the world. Purpose is also something we can observe in the world, so that too has to be included. It doesn’t mean that blueberries, woodpeckers, or purpose has to be baked in at some fundamental metaphysical level.

You may as well be saying that any materialist theory will also have to include 'selves' and 'intrinsic intentionality' and 'subjectivity' and the like. If you read some Alex Rosenberg or Churchlands, you may be surprised at just what views are actually out there.

And as it happens, we have a very good theory for how blueberries, woodpeckers, or purpose can arise from a physics that does not include any of them as primitives, it’s called natural selection and I’m sure you’ve heard of it.

What, exactly, have you read about natural selection? Do you understand that this isn't even a gesture in the direction of an explanation for what Nagel, Feser and others are criticizing?

Also, where is that " perfectly workable scientific theories of intentionality ever since the cybernetic era" we were promised? Please tell me this is not it.

Eduardo said...

Let me rephrase Anon's point.

He believes that science will someday explain consciousness, full stop.

He has no idea what materialism means to us, so he believes that materialism is just you know... Science or some class of scientific theory.

So nasically he has no idea how to defend what we are attacking.

Scott said...

"Purpose is also something we can observe in the world, so that too has to be included. It doesn't mean that blueberries, woodpeckers, or purpose has to be baked in at some fundamental metaphysical level."

However, the potency to produce them does, at least on any responsible understanding of causation. I hardly think you're suggesting that blueberries and woodpeckers can be caused to exist by a physical universe that has no power to generate them; in fact you specifically propose natural selection as (part of) the causal process by which they are produced. So yes, your physical universe does have them "baked in" as causal potentials.

Now, because blueberries and woodpeckers are complex and made up of parts, you're right that blueberries and woodpeckers don't themselves have to be baked in at a fundamental physical level. The question you need to address is whether you're entitled to throw intentionality, purpose, consciousness, and so forth onto the same list—and airy references to "natural selection" won't do the job for you, since the very question at issue here is whether natural selection can explain how that stuff is "produced" in a world from which they're initially absent.

For intentionality, unlike blueberries and woodpeckers, doesn't seem to be made up of "parts," i.e., seems to be simple rather than complex, and therefore, unlike blueberries and woodpeckers, apparently isn't the sort of thing that can be built up out of simpler components. If it were, there wouldn't be a great deal of question that, given the existence of its components, it could be built up through a process of natural selection. But in fact, accounts based on natural selection already assume that teleology and final causation are built in to the underlying physics—and can't help doing so, because those things are primitive, i.e., not reducible to something else. Final causation isn't produced by natural selection; it's part of the "background universe" in which natural selection takes place.

Now, we all know you disagree. But in order to stake a viable counterclaim here, it isn't enough for you to remark that there have been "perfectly workable scientific theories of intentionality ever since the cybernetic era." I'm afraid you're actually going to have to produce them.

I said in another thread that I was pretty well done arguing with anonymous posters, and I'm making an exception for you largely because I can tell which posts are yours and which aren't. But if I don't see something solid in your next post in defense of those "perfectly workable scientific theories of intentionality," then I'm done here. Your misunderstandings of the arguments of Feser, Nagel, et al. are starting to look like deliberate misrepresentations, and your posts are starting to look like trolling. Show your cards or fold.

Scott said...

Oh, and one more thing:

"OK, these aren't exactly contradictory, but close."

No, they're not. I said that neither Feser nor I was arguing that a "materialist" account of consciousness was impossible by definition. My point, which I'm happy to clarify, is that it may be impossible under some definition(s) of "materialism," but that (as Crude has helpfully emphasized several times) there's no single monolithic conception of "matter" that has been held throughout the history of philosophy and science. It's perfectly possible that there could be a form of "materialism" based on a different definition/understanding of "matter" that might do the job. It's just that this definition/understanding would have to differ from both that of Thomism and that of modern physics (which, it again bears emphasizing, are not even remotely the same).

Anonymous said...

I hope its not the Roomba thing from the previous discussion. The explanation that was given for the robot's "internal representation" depended on intentional terms, and was thus problematic.

Scott said...

"I hope its not the Roomba thing from the previous discussion. The explanation that was given for the robot's 'internal representation' depended on intentional terms, and was thus problematic."

Yeah. In general, trying to conjure intentionality out of a universe that initially lacks it is a bit like trying to attack logic without implicitly relying on the law of non-contradiction.

Anonymous said...

For intentionality, unlike blueberries and woodpeckers, doesn't seem to be made up of "parts," i.e., seems to be simple rather than complex, and therefore, unlike blueberries and woodpeckers, apparently isn't the sort of thing that can be built up out of simpler components.
br/>
Well, that is wrong.



Autonomous robots (not the Roomba, but others, eg here), have intentionality made out of parts. Their intentionality is a function of the relationship between their parts and the world. Some parts are representational, others interpret those representations to generate action, other parts update the representation based on sensory information. We can build this and we know what the necessary parts are.



I don’t know why this is so hard to accept. Consciousness may be hard to explain this way, but intentionality is quite easy.



It may also be the case that the representations and intentionality in an autonomous robot differ in some ways from human intentionality. Obviously they are implemented in silicon rather than neurons. The people who built the Roomba thought there were enough problems associated with internal representations of the world that they designed it to work without them. Thinking about this seems to me to be a very fruitful area, in that it generates better thinking about the nature of mental representation, but thinking of intentionality as an ontological primitive does not seem fruitful, it seems like giving up.

Eduardo said...

... Thinking of intentionality as something primitive is to give up.... Right... Argument for it?

Anonymous said...

"Representation," "interpret," "information." Yup, no intentional content sneaking in here...

dguller said...

Anonymous:

Autonomous robots (not the Roomba, but others, eg here), have intentionality made out of parts. Their intentionality is a function of the relationship between their parts and the world. Some parts are representational, others interpret those representations to generate action, other parts update the representation based on sensory information. We can build this and we know what the necessary parts are.

Can you provide an example of a robotic part that represents something else?

Scott said...

@one of the Anons:

"Their intentionality is a function of the relationship between their parts and the world."

No, I'm afraid that's not going to cut it. What function of what relationship?

In order to support the point you're trying to make, you need to tell us, not necessarily in great detail but at least without handwaving, what it is that "represents" something else and how it does so (and it had better be something more than isomorphism or resemblance)—and you need to do it in a way that doesn't already presuppose any more primitive sort of (nonderived) intentionality or final causation.

As another Anon has already pointed out, even your brief summary has already imported some intentional concepts and therefore doesn't show us where intentionality ultimately "comes from." Until and unless you or someone else can do that, Nagel's (and Feser's) point stands.

Also, by the way, if you plan to argue that intentionality itself isn't simple, you're going to have to do better than point out that robots are made out of parts. Of course they are; that's no more relevant or interesting than the fact that human beings (who have non-derived intentionality) are made out of parts.

What we're supposed to be talking about here is the simplicity (or complexity) of intentionality itself, not of things that have it. The color (quale) "this precise shade of blue" isn't itself composed of parts just because the painting in which it appears is, and intentionality isn't made out of parts just because humans or allegedly intentional robots are.

Care to try again, this time with your pistol loaded and your eyes open and pointed at the target?

fanatic699 said...

Could someone from the dualist camp please explain to me why, if the truth of your position is as self-evident as most of you seem to be regarding it here, thousands of scientists, philosophers, and so on around the world do not find your position convincing?

I'm not saying you're wrong, and I'm not trying to use the fact that a plurality (nearly half) of philosophers are naturalists (that percentage is no doubt higher among scientists)as proof of naturalism being true. Or the fact that a majority of philosophers appear to believe the mind is physical. So do not accuse me of argumentum ad populum. But you guys sure seemed convinced of the truth of an immaterial consciousness. How is it that all these other people are not if there are really some awesome arguments for it?

Are thousands of neuroscientists who do work finding that the mind is a product of the material brain all fools who just happen to be deluded by the constant results that keep coming in? Are all those naturalists in philosophy departments idiots who have never stopped to consider the obvious truth that you alone possess? Do all those other scientists really have no good reason for their lack of belief in the supernatural? Are they simply ignorant of the self-evident truth of the immaterial mind, or are they just that dumb/deluded?

Please explain how it is you account for this.

(Survey results here: http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl)

Anonymous said...

Fanatic, see the link for a start. I'm afraid your request is kind of massive, so it will be hard to summarize the reasons/arguments/terminology here.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/05/mind-body-problem-roundup.html

BenYachov said...

So you make an argumentum ad populum then by special pleading turn around and beg us to not accuse you of it why making it?

WTF?

Crude said...

But you guys sure seemed convinced of the truth of an immaterial consciousness. How is it that all these other people are not if there are really some awesome arguments for it?

You may be confusing a few different claims.

To claim that materialism is false is not the same thing as claiming 'consciousness is immaterial'. I know that seems counterintuitive, but part of the problem is related to the fact that materialism isn't just a claim that (put loosely, I'm sure someone could quibble) 'matter is all that exists' - it's also a claim about what matter itself is. Unless you take neutral monism, panpsychism, etc to be forms of immaterialism (some would agree, some would dispute), then it's not quite a stark choice.

Second, not everyone is motivated by arguments - not even philosophers. Nagel cops to the picture of the world that he wants to be true, for example. You can also see some of that in the reactions to Nagel. He's not merely wrong about something, he's downright dangerous because he's saying things that give aid and comfort to 'the enemy', and it is very, very important that 'the enemy' not only be wrong, but that they never even have a point.

Third, not everyone even encounters these arguments, or thinks about them deeply - again, not even philosophers or neuroscientists.

Are thousands of neuroscientists who do work finding that the mind is a product of the material brain all fools who just happen to be deluded by the constant results that keep coming in?

They're ignorant if those results are irrelevant to the claim in question, yes. Nor do they ever 'find that mind is the product of the material brain' in the relevant sense. What they find is that the brain and the mind are deeply related. But that's not something hylemorphic dualists, or even Cartesian dualists - hell, even idealists - doubt.

Are all those naturalists in philosophy departments idiots who have never stopped to consider the obvious truth that you alone possess?

They may not have naturally considered it, yeah. In fact that's pretty common - how many people say 'yay evolution' or 'boo evolution' without knowing much of anything ABOUT evolution? This doesn't change just because someone ends up as a philosopher of economics.

Not to mention, by the philpapers survey, there is a sizable (Majority, I think) number of defectors from naturalism. Add in that 'naturalism' is so elastic that even Nagel still calls himself an adherent and your survey case is actually undermined.

Do all those other scientists really have no good reason for their lack of belief in the supernatural?

They may have some good reasons. Others, maybe not. 'The supernatural' is a different question than the one you're discussing.

And, outside of the NAS survey, you actually have around a majority of working scientists who believe in God or the God-like.

Are they simply ignorant of the self-evident truth of the immaterial mind, or are they just that dumb/deluded?

How is it a self-evident truth, considering the proponents of this idea tend to spend a whole lot of time arguing for their position?

Crude said...

Just to add on something.

You kind of give the impression that, here we are, these Thomists or critics of materialism in this corner... but way, way over in that corner are the materialists and atheists, etc. And we're so sure of ourselves, despite never interacting with those materialists and atheists.

But that's not true. Ed himself has engaged arguments from Dennett, from the Churchlands, from Dawkins, from Coyne, etc. Scientific discoveries are discussed, and so on. What people believe here, at least on this sight, is not arrived at in some kind of bubble secluded from atheist and materialist arguments.

I don't think you'll find the same to be the case with many atheist and materialists and their sites.

Scott said...

@fanatic699:

That's a pretty wide-ranging post, and as others have already replied to some of it I'll limit myself to one point here:

"Do all those other scientists really have no good reason for their lack of belief in the supernatural? Are they simply ignorant of the self-evident truth of the immaterial mind . .&nbs;. ?"

What in the world possesses you to think an immaterial mind must be "supernatural," or even that anyone here thinks it is?

Scott said...

(Oops. Obviously that &nbs; was supposed to be a non-breaking space. Sorry; should have previewed.)

Eduardo said...

Please explain how it is you account for this.
--------------

Well, ignorance can account to bias in one side.

Bias... People simply picture the world in a different way and have no desire to criticize their own position.

Peer pressure, could be that this large group were people forced by social pressure to choose sides.

Well I think this can cover all possibilities I found plausible

Anonymous said...

@Scott

In order to support the point you're trying to make, you need to tell us, not necessarily in great detail but at least without handwaving, what it is that "represents" something else and how it does so (and it had better be something more than isomorphism or resemblance)

Oh for god’s sake. I thought you were a computer person, presumably you know perfectly well how a data structure in a digital memory can represent something in the outside world, and it has nothing to do with isomorphism or resemblance.

Also, by the way, if you plan to argue that intentionality itself isn't simple, you're going to have to do better than point out that robots are made out of parts. Of course they are; that's no more relevant or interesting than the fact that human beings (who have non-derived intentionality) are made out of parts.

Uh, that supports my point, smart guy. A human and an autonomous robot are very different, but they are both made up of physical parts and they both can demonstrate intentionality that is a product of their systematic organization, rather than some magic fluid contained in their parts.

What we're supposed to be talking about here is the simplicity (or complexity) of intentionality itself

Sez who? Tell you what, you talk about intentionality the way you want and I’ll talk about it the way I want, and we’ll see who makes more sense.

Crude said...

Oh for god’s sake. I thought you were a computer person, presumably you know perfectly well how a data structure in a digital memory can represent something in the outside world, and it has nothing to do with isomorphism or resemblance.

It has everything to do with a human mind drawing the comparison, however. Or are you going to say that a given data structure displays intrinsic intentionality, and represents what it does regardless of the derivations of an outside observer?

Please, do that. That would be even better than your attempt to prove an existing and thorough science of intentionality. (Still waiting on that one.)

A human and an autonomous robot are very different, but they are both made up of physical parts and they both can demonstrate intentionality that is a product of their systematic organization, rather than some magic fluid contained in their parts.

Magic fluid? We're not Dennett or the typical materialists - we don't need hocus pocus like that.

So, intentionality is a product of systematic organization. So, is it derived or is it intrinsic? Say it's derived and you've only pushed the problem back a stage. You can't possibly be saying it's intrinsic, can you?

Tell you what, you talk about intentionality the way you want and I’ll talk about it the way I want, and we’ll see who makes more sense.

I have some bad news about your sense-making, so far...

Really man - relax. Believe it or not, getting worked up and angry doesn't translate into fixing the holes in your argument, or exposing holes in others. Stay nice and calm, and deal with matters as they come. It's all about being rational.

Eduardo said...

Anon -
presumably you know perfectly well how a data structure in a digital memory can represent something in the outside world, and it has nothing to do with isomorphism or resemblance.

Me -
He does, but that of course represents something in the outside because we humans says it does... Does it really represent the room on it's own? All those 0's and 1's demonstrate by themselves that we are talking about a room? That would be pretty interesting argument, if you bothered to argue a bit more.


Anon -
both can demonstrate intentionality that is a product of their systematic organization

Me -
On you mean they seem to have purpose to you, becuase they are sistematically organized, oh you can talk about their organization without having any purpose just straight shit happens and this is what we got, and this is the materialist position. Second your concept of intentionality seems to be a vit off, why do you think the robot has any intention? What action shows intention precisely?


Anon -
magic fluid contained in their parts.

Me -
Well they never siad it was a fluid, actually I haven't heard anyone here saying it is a fluid of some sort, but even if it was a fluid why would the fluid have any intentionality?
You are obvious not someone serious, so I think it would be best if Scott just ignore you from now on, as it is a total waste of time discussing with you... Dear Magic Fluid Anon.

Eduardo said...

Scott wins in the making sense department... He actually knows what is going on XD.

Anonymous said...

@Another anonymous:
"Representation," "interpret," "information." Yup, no intentional content sneaking in here

No idea what you mean by “sneaking”. I am quite deliberately using intentional language, the whole point is that mechanical systems can display intentional qualities. How are you supposed to state that without using intentional language?

If you understand computers (and I’m starting to believe that the people here who claim they are experts don’t really understand them), then you have a good model for how a physical system can produce intentionality and other mindlike properties. That is what von Neumann and others managed to do when the computer was being invented (a period treated in George Dyson’s excellent book Turing’s Cathedral, btw). They had a theory of computation and engineered a physical device that would realize it. The result is both a mechanical system and a computational system.

Now, human thought is not exactly the same thing as computation, so the computer as a model for the mind only goes so far. But it goes far enough to let us see how intentionality is not magic, but can be produced by physical systems of non-intentional parts.

Anonymous said...

"No idea what you mean by “sneaking”. I am quite deliberately using intentional language, the whole point is that mechanical systems can display intentional qualities. How are you supposed to state that without using intentional language?"

This is what you said:

"Autonomous robots (not the Roomba, but others, eg here), have intentionality made out of parts. Their intentionality is a function of the relationship between their parts and the world. Some parts are representational, others interpret those representations to generate action, other parts update the representation based on sensory information. We can build this and we know what the necessary parts are."

You didn't even show how the parts in question have intrinsic intentional qualities. You just asserted that they do.

Eduardo said...

Magic Fluid Anon -
No idea what you mean by “sneaking”. I am quite deliberately using intentional language, the whole point is that mechanical systems can display intentional qualities. How are you supposed to state that without using intentional language?

Me -
And they agree with you, they agree that mechanical parts have intentionality, is not a fluid like you think in your head but they would agree to that.
Second, in materialism there is no intentionality, so people were challenging you to show how to get intention out of a universe devoid of it, that is why you are sneaking things in, but since you don't even seem to be a full-fledged materialist, just a confused person who doesn't quite know where you fall in relation to the line, I think we could apologize for an ill formulated challenge.


Magic Fluid Anon -
(and I’m starting to believe that the people here who claim they are experts don’t really understand them)

Me -
LOL, nope you don't understand what we are talking about, and you seem unaware of what you yourself are doing while talking and thinking about a computer.


Magic Fluid Anon -
If you understand computers, then you have a good model for how a physical system can produce intentionality and other mindlike properties.

Me -
Right... so basically if it behaves like us it must have a mind like behavior... that is as shitty conclusion as any other shitty conclusion. Is that what you mean by perfectly workable theories of intentionality, we can build material that seem to us to have a purpose so therefore they have... wow I mean, wow... you should really waste more time thinking about those propositions you still too crude. (no pun intended...)


Magic Fluid Anon -
But it goes far enough to let us see how intentionality is not magic, but can be produced by physical systems of non-intentional parts.

Me -
Magic = something spooky to Magic Fluid Anon!
I know that you rely heavily on pragmatic arguments, but really, it doesn't matter if you think that a shoe is the best hammer in town, it still not a hammer XD
Nope... you are simply relying on your interpretation, other interpretations are possible so you can not conclude what you just concluded. So that is why you need to demonstrate how a non-intentional parts create intentionality, and of course there is a lot of argument that try to show that it can't... guess what... this particular part is what everybody here is talking about, after a few days you finally found the game field...

ingx24 said...

No, what is happening in a computer is that complex patterns of electricity occur in the circuit boards, and depending on how these electrical patterns are affected by outside causes ("inputs", they will, by the laws of electrodynamics, change in certain ways as to produce, say, certain streams of photons out of the monitor ("outputs"). (This is far from a detailed account, but will do fine for our purposes). We take advantage of these electrical properties to design the system in such a way that it can produce useful outputs and simulate activities such as thinking and memory (even though, physically, it is only a system of causes and effects based on laws of physics and electrodynamics).

Eduardo said...

ingx is correct...

The computer replace us just as long as it has meaning outputs for US.

I mean a blind guy has no use for a common calculator, he needs a special calculator that offers input to him that is meaningful.

So basically the computer's intention is derived from us, but it by itself in theory has no intention, no desire of any sort to talk to you... sorry for all those folks having virtual sex with an avatar, but they don't really like you XD.

Anonymous said...

And I'd like to see your answer to dguller's question, for the sake of clarifying your position:

"Autonomous robots (not the Roomba, but others, eg here), have intentionality made out of parts. Their intentionality is a function of the relationship between their parts and the world. Some parts are representational, others interpret those representations to generate action, other parts update the representation based on sensory information. We can build this and we know what the necessary parts are."

"Can you provide an example of a robotic part that represents something else?"

Anonymous said...

You didn't even show how the parts in question have intrinsic intentional qualities. You just asserted that they do.

Oh for SF's sake, at least make a minimal effort to try to understand what I am saying (which is the opposite of what you seem to think).

Scott said...

@Magic Fluid Anon:

"If you understand computers . . . "

[sigh] "Understanding computers" is not even remotely the same thing as understanding/believing that intentionality can arise from one in a way that doesn't derive from or otherwise presuppose any ontologically, logically, or temporally prior non-derived intentionality.

When you want to explain that, let me know—and if you want to earn back some of the face you've lost, you might possibly also at last deign to elaborate, as Crude, I, and others have repeatedly invited you to do, on those "perfectly workable scientific theories of intentionality" that you say have been with us "ever since the cybernetic era."

Until then, Eduardo's right about the value of discussing things with you.

Eduardo said...

Anon above me...

What do you think he will answer... come on you guys are smarter than that, of course he is going to say that patterns in the memory represent something...

And we will say that it does because we humans say it does...

Then he will reply by saying that this makes no sense...

Then we will reply by saying that he seems to be taking a Aristotelean position...

Then he will say that his position is that of scientific materialism...

Then we will explain that it isn't, that he is not really acquainted with materialism per se.

Then he will ignore and say that we make no sense, that we are all ignorants...

We will ask for clarification...

He will ignore, since people as stupid as us, can't understand clarifications.

We will ultimato him again...

He will tell us to read a cybernetics book to get a real education.

We will say he is missing the point of the whole discussion

He will say that the discussion is presposterous and that he is obvious correct because he is the only one that makes sense to himself.

We will try to correct him one more time, asking for clarifications and trying to go step by step.

He will ignore the request and simply assert his position again, claiming to be correct...

We will get slowly tired of this bullshit.

He will simply pity us for being ignorants that can't understand things the way he does which is the correct way.

We... might start thinking about ignoring the guy while some hopeful people still try to make him understand...

He will be untouched and unmoved...

We will waste too much time in a wild goose chase XD.

---------------------------------

Well that is my prediction, placeyour bets gentlemen... Damn spaguetti westerns always me laugh.

Eduardo said...

Magic Fluid Anon seems to be saying that no part has intrinsic intentionality but it arrises from it's context with the environment and other parts...

See basically he is saying that intention is a non-reducible to parts but thoroughly created by physical parts sort of feature. He is taking a sort of Holistic Scientific Materialism position... although I doubt he thinks so.

It is finally starting to sound like a defense of some position... But of course, you could make fun and say that water has the intention to dig rivers due to it's context in the environment and the relation among the molecules of the substance... and yeah this is sort of crude form of finalism that once again materialists say it is not real.

Anonymous said...

@ingx24
No, what is happening in a computer is that complex patterns of electricity occur in the circuit boards

The trick with computers, and brains, is that they are both complex patterns of physical activity, and capable of intentionality, reactivity, semantics, and all that other mental good stuff (brains are a good deal better at it, at least for now).

Apparently the idea that something can be described accurately in two different ways is too big a stretch for some people. Maybe they’ve never been to a doctor – the good ones are adept at treating a patient as both a human being with hopes and dreams and personality and as a malfunctioning physical system.

Eduardo said...

Magicly Missing the Point Anon

once again, he is not talking about pragmatic models, let go of the damn shoe! I know it does the job but nobody is asking if a shoe can hit the nail, but whether if the shoe is a hammer...

You seem hell bent on thinking that we are trying to somehow disqualify a computationalist model as useful... no we are trying to prove it wrong. Is just like a billard ball atom model, it is very fruitful and useful, but it is wrong.

My goodness even the gods get lost with you young man!.

Anonymous said...

@Eduardo
Magic Fluid Anon seems to be saying that no part has intrinsic intentionality but it arrises from it's context with the environment and other parts...

See basically he is saying that intention is a non-reducible to parts but thoroughly created by physical parts sort of feature. He is taking a sort of Holistic Scientific Materialism position... although I doubt he thinks so.


Actually, that's pretty much it. I wouldn't use the phrase "holistic scientific materialism" though.

Here's Dennett and Searle circling around the same issue, they are much better philosophers than anybody here and they can't manage to make a dent in the other's worldview.

Eduardo said...

Dude are you serious that it took you days to say something you could have cooked up in an HOUR...

HOLY SHIT!!!

Well great, your position is not very far from the one of your opponents

Yeah I agree both men are more suited philosophers then me, and maybe better then most posters here... SURELY BETTER THAN YOU! better than Feser... dunno, I think Feser maybe be above Dennett and Below Searle, or they are just different, I like to think every philosopher is different. But even though yeah they are of course better thinkers than me. The fact they couldn't put a dent on each other's view... really? or they never admitted that they got hurt??? Because that shit even you can say: "oh I went there and they couldn't put a dent on my ideas!!!"
If you think so, so be it XD.

Eduardo said...

So anon procceed, for the first time it has been a delight reading your crap...

Show how intention arises from non-intentional parts...

Eduardo said...

You know Anon, not gonna pretend I am a saint, but you really are ignorant of the position you are criticizing, you are too stuck to your materialistic concept, so when people propose something you sneak in, and yeah you do, you sneak in your suppositions, this is fine in a pragmatic talk about something we gotta build to achieve an objective, but when it comes to ontology, doing that is missing the point, and I am not talking like you are in the wrong side of game field... I am saying you got the address, the city, the date and the team wrong... basically is a pretty bad mistake, if you atually intend to have a fruitful conversation.

Anonymous said...

"Oh for SF's sake, at least make a minimal effort to try to understand what I am saying (which is the opposite of what you seem to think)."

"Some parts are representational, others interpret those representations to generate action, other parts update the representation based on sensory information."

This is the problem. Instead of addressing how robots (the whole) can have intrinsic intentionality, you simply "push" the intentionality to the "parts." But the same question arises, how does intrinsic intentionality arise in these parts?

Eduardo said...

Anon above me.

I can pretty much explain with Magic Fluid Anon means... because I am that bad ass!!! Ò_Ó

Let me pick a example, like a bycicle.

Now the wheel by itself has no Telos. if you attach it to the rest of the bike you knew it has purpose because it takes people somewhere. No check this, his idea concentrates on Context and Parts.
But context is a major player, because things only have purpose at a given context, like the bike only has purpose when someone is using it.

Hence he believes that purpose arises from the parts and the context.

Eduardo said...

Sorry for the multiply typos XD, my friend was talking trash with me XD.

Eduardo said...

Now another thing don't try labelling Magic Fluid, he has no idea what he is, so we gotta stick to the basics.

So if there is still a living creature out there that is willing to answer, here we go.

1 - Purpose depends on context. Yes or No and Why!

I will give my answer later.... because I like to see my name repeated multiply times.

Anonymous said...

Eduardo,

"But context is a major player, because things only have purpose at a given context, like the bike only has purpose when someone is using it."

But that means that whatever intentionality the bike possesses is derived, not intrinsic. This whole context thing is exactly the point of Dennett's two-bitser thesis, which leads him to claim that all intentionality is derived. The problem with Dennett's position is that it leads to a vicious regress, and can only be reconciled via eliminativism (no real intentionality whatsoever).

Eduardo said...

But that means that whatever intentionality the bike possesses is derived, not intrinsic. This whole context thing is exactly the point of Dennett's two-bitser thesis, which leads him to claim that all intentionality is derived. The problem with Dennett's position is that it leads to a vicious regress, and can only be reconciled via eliminativism (no real intentionality whatsoever).

----------------------------------

Well it could be reconciled by cracking reality by individual, you know solipsism XD.

But yeah I suppose the intentionality would have to be derived if it is a dependant on context, and in return living things only have purpose under a context.

It seems that Dennett has crazily created a dualistic worldview, where the mind of the beholder is especial when it comes to intentionality, or intentionality is an illusion, just as real as the feeling of pain, or despair...

This seems fucked up XD.

So what if we rephrase it, try to eliminate the objective consideration of intention and turn detection of intention as something merely subjective... I mean putting a bit of solipsism in the blender.

you could in theory save that intentionality depends of context and parts, but it adds the beholder.

Eduardo said...

I hate about these talks is that all sorts of ideas come to my head, each more fun and interesting than the next XD.

But yeah for now I will try to escape with a semi-solipicistic move, to save the theory that Intention is something like a function of Context, Parts, Beholder/Interpreter.

Would this model fly???

Eduardo said...

Well this model is dualistic in nature of course, since the beholder is part of the context, apparently in monism you end up with no choice but to believe that intentionality is non existent, or that materialism is wrong...

materialism is monistic btw, for all those who suck more than me at philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of Rosenberg's eliminativist stance on intentionality via physics. According to physics, there's no property of "representing" or "being represented," and since "physical facts fix all the facts" there's no room in nature for real intentionality.

Eduardo said...

Yeah, but this kind of inference is really weird in my opinion I mean XD. For instance imagine two nutcrackers (read philosophers) on top of a mountain and they are looking at the horizon.

One of them says that all there is of this world is as far as he can see, and that there is nothing else beyond it.

The second can barely wait to discover what secrets lie beyond the horizon!

You see philosophies like naturalism and materialism are the type that look at the horizon and deems it the universe, there is nothing beyond what my eyes can see, that is why they rely so much on scientism, because it is at our time the best "eyes" we have. but that take is made on the context of the first philosopher that infers things from his gut feeling he induces it because it is at that time sound to say it is so, so he has to return and explain rationally why he believes there is nothing beyond the horizon:"Is the best idea we got so far about our world", "We have no evidence to believe there is something out there" the other possibilities start to creep in and set foot on his worried mind. but he is not worried in looking at the horizon from the top of that mountain and think: "what exactly can you tell me?" Maybe the horizon is the evidence that there is something more... Maybe yes maybe no... and think and think...

But no, the world is just what my eyes can see, and there is nothing more...

We are perhaps too used to dictate limits to the world as the limits of ourselves and we limit ourselves through our methods, so we never really care to criticize our ideas, after all they are all I can see and there is nothing beyond them isn't that right?

Of course ironically many other religions, philosophies, ideologies and whatever do the same XD...

The problem is knowing the limit of a group in reality I mean.

Anonymous said...

The way I see it, a naturalist account of intentionality has to be “cashed out” in terms of physical properties and/or physical cause and effect. Otherwise, it can hardly count as a physicalist or materialist explanation. That is why naturalist theories of intentionality, such as Dretske’s and Hayek’s, involve physical cause and effect. It’s no good to say (for example) “when matter is arranged in a certain way, you get a liquid.” That is not an explanation. In order for it to actually be an explanation, you have to bring in physical properties and physical cause and effect, for example “average kinetic energy” and the physical interactions (bonds forming, bonds breaking, bond vibrations, etc) between and within the molecules. Similarly, we need a more detailed account of how “complex organizations of matter” produce intentionality. Because the question at hand is precisely “how can matter, complex or not, produce intentionality?” Thus, it’s no explanation to assert that “complex networks of matter and physical reactions produce intentionality.” It’s just question begging. And of course, you need to explain the production of intentionality without presupposing it along the way, or else the account fails. Also, don’t make this mistake:

“I’ll leave this one to the philosophers, except to say that “meaning” seem [sic] to pose no problem, either physically or evolutionarily, to me: our brain-modules have evolved to make sense of what we take in from the environment.

The fallacy Coyne commits here should be cringe-makingly obvious to anyone who’s taken a philosophy of mind course. Coyne “explains” intentionality by telling us that “brain-modules” have evolved to “make sense” of our environment. But to “make sense” of something is, of course, to apply concepts to it, to affirm certain propositions about it, and so forth. In other words, the capacity to “make sense” of something itself presupposes meaning or intentionality. Hence, if what Coyne means to say is that an individual “brain-module” operating at the subpersonal level “makes sense” of some aspect of the environment, then his position is just a textbook instance of the homunculus fallacy: It amounts to the claim that we have intentionality because our parts have intentionality, which merely relocates the problem rather than solving it.”

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/05/coyne-on-intentionality.html

Anonymous said...

I would recommend Vehicles: Experiments in Synthetic Psychology by Braitenberg as an introduction as to how extremely simple mechanisms can display intelligent behavior.

Eduardo said...

Errr... okay no one is saying that a machine can't act as to solve a problem, which is one of the signs of some form of intelligence.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, intentionality is a different beast.

Eduardo said...

u_u just to poke fun, don't this so serious, but water can also show to be intelligent, water can go around rocks to go to lower grounds, that is obvious a sign of intelligence on the part of the water, or of any fluid that meats a solid of some sort on a ramp.

Eduardo said...

errr... that MEETS a solid XD...

I am hungry guys I am sorry.

E.H. Munro said...

I will admit that I am just going from the reviews, because I'm not plunking down my hard earned money on this, but it seems to me that even the intelligent behaviour from the examples the gushing reviewers are citing involve the interpretation of the observer. Which begs the question that book purports to answer (i.e. that complex mental systems can arise mechanistically).

Anonymous said...

Well, all of this depends on some objective, non-question begging definitions of "behavior" and "intelligent behavior."

Eduardo said...

Behavior could be just whatever a certain body or object do...
So yeah everything has a behavior.

Intelligent behavior is tricky. Real tricky XD>

Anonymous said...

I've never seen people so resistant to understanding as you lot.

Re Vehicles, instead of reading it as a proof or disproof of some stale metaphysics, it should be read as set of intriguing and instructive models of how mechanism and life might be connected. Try to learn something instead of confirming your certainties.

Anonymous said...

Obviously life, efficient causes and material causes are connected in some way.

I can't speak for everyone here, but the discussion is about intentionality, not intelligent behavior or life.

E.H. Munro said...

The problem is that we do understand. Sometimes more than people than those who would correct us. The magic trick, so far as I can see it, is that observers can mistake the actions, as performed by the vehicles, for deeper meaning (e.g. light sensors hitting the vehicle causing the vehicle to move having meaning beyond that of the vehicle's designer/programmer). And therefore the deeper meaning that we're seeing in others is somewhat illusory and that derived intentionality is all we need.

But, if there's no observer to assign said meaning, where does that leave us? His entire argument as I understand it presupposes the observer and the intrinsic intentionality he's purporting to prove doesn't exist. (And, again, I'm not spending $18 on this, if he wants to release a $3 eBook I'd consider buying it, so take everything I say with a grain of salt.)

BLS said...

Popper's criticisms of causal theories are still relevant, in regards to getting intentionality out of physical causes and effects.

Eduardo said...

Anon -
I've never seen people so resistant to understanding as you lot.

Me -
The same can be said about you Anon XD, and what exactly we are not understanding??? that we don't understand how a computer works, or that we are not willing to allow into the discussion a certain interpretation of what a machine is doing, a anthropomorphic interpretation to begin with...

Anon -
instead of reading it as a proof or disproof of some stale metaphysics,

Me -
People wanna discuss metaphysics if you have nothing to offer, stay shut or be gone, is it really hard for you to accept other people's wishes XD?


Anon -
it should be read as set of intriguing and instructive models of how mechanism and life might be connected.

Me -
Oh... you mean how we humans can interpret robots to be doing what we humans do... thanks I do that all the time man, I even had a virtual pet once and cried when he died XD. If you mean to say: "Look at ho machine works and behave like us!!!"
Thanks XD, but we are not much interested in that, you see because for a long time the conversation have been past that, so similarity in behavior is not incredibly interesting to us as it is to you XD.


Anon -
Try to learn something instead of confirming your certainties.

Me -
Same goes to you dude, tell me, how hard are you trying to understand us??? so far it isn't hard enough.

-----------------------------------
Oh and is it me, or is he doing exactly what I said he would do XD??? It seems that my stupid prediction wasn't so bad after all!

Anonymous said...

Bennett and Hacker should author a book titled "Philosophical Foundations of Computer Science."

Would you read that?

Eduardo said...

Dunno, you might be trying to do something like this.

1 - You read the book
2 - The book shows experiments with machines
3 - The machines act in a way that we interpret as mind-guided action
4 - Therefore this reveals in part how minds work!

Basically you are infering from similarity in behavior human/machine, by using analogous behavior.

If we break the inference, reading the book becomes just an act in having fun while reading about robots experiments, but it is irrelevant to the discussion.

Of course if we can not break the inference, then the book becomes valuable source XD, it is all in details really.

Scott said...

@E.H. Munro:

"And, again, I'm not spending $18 on this . . . "

You can read it for free here.

@Eduardo:

"Oh and is it me, or is he doing exactly what I said he would do XD??? It seems that my stupid prediction wasn't so bad after all!"

You were spot on.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Scott. Like it says "Let the problem of mind dissolve in your mind" (also, relax and float downstream).

Eduardo said...

Is this Munro XD?

Eduardo said...

the chapter (introduction) in question seems to agree with us, and the argument seems to be shaping exactly as I have imagined it would be shaped.

But it seems like a cool book to built simple machines ... hmmm .... interesting reading indeed XD.

Anonymous said...

The book seems like it would function nicely as in intro to evolution/natural selection, or an intro to "origins of behavior" But as a proposed solution to the mind-body problem? Not so much. The "temptation to use psychological terms" that he talks about in the intro is indeed just a temptation. But not a requirement. The author might not have intended for his work to be a full explanation, but I can already see aspects (such as his discussion of vehicle 5) that run straight into Popper and Putnam's criticisms regarding causal chains and intentionality. Might go in depth some time later if this discussion is still alive.

Eduardo said...

What discussion XD? ...

it was dead when it was born XD...

U_U and I blame you Magic Fluid.

E.H. Munro said...

Are you off your meds, Eduardo? I'm not anonymous and don't ever post that way. I'm easily findable using the power of the google. I am also no sort of materialist and a hardened veteran of the Internet Wars of Religion™.

Eduardo said...

Yeah, my hands have been shaking lately ... XD

Not really, I thought we were joking around and thanking for providing a better link than Anon, later I realized it was Anon XD. Magic anon.

Mr. Green said...

Anonymous: I've never seen people so resistant to understanding as you lot.

Your misapprehension is easily explained: you have all the intellectual prowess of the offspring from a lobotomised echinoderm and a piece of kelp. Which, really, is a point in your favour, because it not only explains why you have failed to understand the answer, but provides an incontrovertible excuse for failing to grasp the actual question at hand in the first place.

US: ... and that's why you can't square the circle.
ANON: Hey, guys, what's up?
US: We're just explaining why you can't square a circle.
ANON: Oh, c'mon, I bet science will figure it out someday. It's figured out stuff before!
US: Um, yeah. But the problem as given is impossible to solve in principle.
ANON: Pfft. Look, here's some round paper... <chop chop chop> Look! Now it's square!
US: OK, that's a pretty sloppy square. But it doesn't matter, because that's not what we're talking about.
ANON: All right, it's not perfectly square, but Science™ is making better scissors every day! That proves that it's only a matter of time!
US: All it proves is that you've missed the point. Nobody disputes that cutting-edge technology will continue to improve. But "squaring the circle" has a specific geometrical meaning: the problem of the quadrature of the circle goes back to the ancient Greeks—
ANON: Geez, how outdated! You'll never understand how simple the cybernetic solution is if you can't get over these ancient superstitions. Magical "geometry" indeed!
US: It's logic. And it doesn't wear out over time.
ANON: You're a bunch of science-hating science-haters!!!
US: Sigh.
ANON: [doing a little dance] Go Science! Go Science! Go Science!

BLS said...

The thing about computer science and robotics is that these fields are permeated with intentional terms. Physics is less likely to appended with such intentional aspects, and is thus the necessary avenue for physicalist explanations of intentionality. I suppose neuroscience might work too, if you can avoid intentional language and the mereological fallacy.

Anonymous said...

@Green - you give your arguments the authority of mathematics, which is risible. And dangerous, since even Euclid, who was doing actual mathematics, turns out to have made assumptions that were not always true.

@BLS The thing about computer science and robotics is that these fields are permeated with intentional terms.

This is true, and points to valid criticisms of some AI work. CS and robotics are capable of grounding out their intentional terms with physical mechanisms. They don’t always do this in a productive or intellectually honest way. Just because you have a subroutine called THINK doesn’t mean you’ve implemented thinking. But, the best work in the field can create models of cognition that reveal something about it. And yes, they use intentional language because they are explaining intentional phenomenon. That’s what they do, relate intentionality to mechanism.

grodrigues said...

@Anonymous:

"And dangerous, since even Euclid, who was doing actual mathematics, turns out to have made assumptions that were not always true."

There is no such thing as "assumptions that were not always true". What you probably want to say is that the geometry Euclid described is not the geometry of space, but that is a different thing altogether.

"And yes, they use intentional language because they are explaining intentional phenomenon. That’s what they do, relate intentionality to mechanism."

"Relating it" to mechanism is not reducing it, or explaining in purely naturalistic (that is, material) terms. If they use "intentional language" to explain "intentional phenomenon", then they have not explained anything because the explanation is circular, being formulated in terms of what is to be explained. People have been saying this for about 180 comments, and you still do not get it.

BLS said...

"And yes, they use intentional language because they are explaining intentional phenomenon."

But that raises the question, is the phenomenon really intentional? Or are we just reading intentionality into the matter like Putnam warned us not to?

Another thing about CS and robotics is that they rely on symbols and syntax, which do not exist objectively in nature.

E.H. Munro said...

At this point, I think we can accurately state that our anonymous friend, at the least, is an artificial intelligence.

Anonymous said...


But that raises the question, is the phenomenon really intentional? Or are we just reading intentionality into the matter like Putnam warned us not to?


I'd go with Turing on this one. If it acts intelligent (intentional), it is intelligent (intentional). Thinking otherwise leads to absurdities like Searle's Chinese Room or philosophical zombies. Ending up in stupid places like that should be an indication of bad assumptions.

Anonymous said...


But that raises the question, is the phenomenon really intentional? Or are we just reading intentionality into the matter like Putnam warned us not to?


I'd go with Turing on this one. If it acts intelligent (intentional), it is intelligent (intentional). Thinking otherwise leads to absurdities like Searle's Chinese Room or philosophical zombies. Ending up in stupid places like that should be an indication of bad assumptions.

Eduardo said...

Bad assumption = materialism or naturalism.

I absolutely agree with you Anon!

Mr. Green said...

Anonymous: @Green - you give your arguments the authority of mathematics, which is risible.

Are you relying on the condescension in your tone to come through strongly enough to convince anyone? I guess that's your only option, seeing as you have clearly demonstrated yourself — like so many other clueless anons before you — to be wholly ignorant about the actual argument under discussion.


And dangerous, since even Euclid, who was doing actual mathematics, turns out to have made assumptions that were not always true.

Good grief. I hope that's not your way of telling us that you think you have found a way square the circle.

Anonymous said...

Hypothetical example:

"If it acts like it has a concept of meat, then it does have a concept of meat."

Putnam showed that we aren't justified in making the above claim.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/02/putnam-on-causation-intentionality-and.html

Glenn said...

1. Mr. Green, your skits are islands of sanity in a sea of irrationality.

2. On The Infallibility and Efficaciousness of Insightful Extrapolation: Someone once told me he had a stomach virus, and that he was going to the doctor. When I next spoke with him about a week later, I asked how he was. "I feel worse than last week," he said. "What happened?" I asked. "I thought you were going to the doctor?" "I did go to the doctor." "Okay. So what happened?" "He gave me some pills, and said I should take two every four hours. I figured if two every four hours would make me well, four every two hours would make me well twice as fast. Instead, I got twice as sick."

Anyway...

3. "ANTHROPOMORPHISM is a powerful tendency in human thinking--we ascribe personalities and emotions to all kinds of animate and inanimate objects. Thus, it is not surprising that we should do the same with computers, or even that we should reverse the terms of the equation and describe ourselves in terms reserved for the machine. This is not a new trend--it certainly predates the electronic computer (e.g., the Futurists around 1910 extolled the virtues of the machine in their manifestos)--but the comparison between man and machine is particularly compelling in the case of the computer. However, there is no science and no subtlety in the broad, unqualified claim that we behave like computers or vice versa[.]" – Cohen, Paul R, and Feigenbaum, Edward A., 1982, The Handbook of Artificial Intelligence, Vol 3, p. 3.

4. "Most considerations of the computer describe it as rational, uniform, constrained by logic. I look at the computer in a different light, not in terms of its nature as an 'analytic engine,' but in terms of its 'second nature' as an evocative object, an object that fascinates, disturbs equanimity, and precipitates thought." -- Turkle, Sherry, 1984, The Second Self: Computers and The Human Spirit, p. 13.

5. "In addition to thought, the evocative object precipitates equivocation." -- Glenn, 2013, In A Comment On A Blog.

(cont)

Glenn said...

6. "If now some particular machine can be described as a brain we have only to programme our digital computer to imitate it and it [i.e., the imitation of the description] will also be a brain." Turing, Alan, 1951, Can Digital Computers Think. [My emphases and bracketed clarification.]

- - - - -

Now, ladies and gentleman--and all camera-bearing robots not presently suffering from either conjunctivitis or myopia (though a special waiver has been issued for a certain Anonymous)--follow the bouncing ball, if you will...

- - - - -

7. "[The] third stance, with its assumption of rationality, is the intentional stance; the predictions one makes from it are intentional predictions; one is viewing the computer as an intentional system. One predicts behavior in such a case by ascribing to the system the possession of certain information and supposing it to be directed by certain goals, and then by working out the most reasonable or appropriate action on the basis of these ascriptions and suppositions. It is a small step to calling the information possessed the computer's beliefs, its goals and subgoals its desires... Lingering doubts about whether the chess-playing computer really has beliefs and desires are misplaced; for the definition of intentional systems I have given does not say that intentional systems really have beliefs and desires, but that one can explain and predict their behavior by ascribing beliefs and desires to them, and whether one calls what one ascribes to the computer beliefs or belief-analogues or information complexes or intentional whatnots makes no difference to the nature of the calculation one makes on the basis of the ascriptions." -- Dennett, Daniel C., 1978, Brainstorms: Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology pp. 6-7. [All emphases are Dennett's.]

8. "By placing the burden on the observer, Dennett ducks the ontological issues of what really constitutes an intentional system. Intentionality is in the eye of the beholder." – Deutsch, Robert D. and Llinas, James, 2000, Intentional Systems, Intentional Stance, and Explanations of Intentional Behavior. (Here.)

(As an aside, let it be noted that no record has been found of Dennett responding to Deutsch and Llinas with something along the lines of, "How childish. How petty. Of all the stupid, idiotic, moronic things to say. That I avoid the issue does not make me a quack.")

9. Interviewer: "Sure, you could ask the robot question, observe its behaviour, and ascribe it intentionality, as you wrote in your paper. But to ascribe intentionality does not mean that it really has intentionality."

Dennett: "That is an interesting claim. I have argued, of course, that that, in the limit, is all there is. There is not any original, intrinsic intentionality. The intentionality that gets ascribed to complex intentional systems is all there is. It is an illusion that there is something more intrinsic or real."

-- Baumgartner, Peter and Payr, Sabine, 1995, Speaking Minds: Interviews With Twenty Eminent Cognitive Scientists, p. 66.

(cont)

Glenn said...

10. The Anonymous for whom a special waiver had been issued will (want to) respond with an objection to 9. As his objection is obvious (the gist of it is at least), there is no need to articulate it. That it shall not be articulated, however, is not a reason to not respond to it.

"Within the traditional framework, the Christian notion of loss-of-self is generally regarded as the transformation or loss of the ego (lower self) as it attains to the higher or true self in its union with God. In this union, however, self retains its individual uniqueness and never loses its ontological sense of personal self-hood. Thus being lost to myself meant, at the same time, being found in God as the sharer of a divine life. From here on, the deepest sense of being and life is equally the sense of God's being and life. Thus there is no longer any sense of 'my' life, but rather 'our' life--God and self. In this abiding state God, the 'still-point' at the center of being, is ever accessible to the contemplative gaze--a point from which the life of self arises and into which it sometimes disappears. But that latter experience of loss-of-self is only transient, it does not constitute a permanent state, nor did it occur to me that it could ever do so in this life.

"Prior to this present journey, I had given little thought to self, its perimeters or definitions. I took for granted the self was the totality of being, body and soul, mind and feelings; a being centered in God, its power-axis and still-point. Thus, because self at its deepest center is a run-on with the divine, I had never found any true-self apart from God, for to find the One is to find the other.

"Because this was the limit of my expectations, I was all the more surprised and bewildered when many years later I came upon a permanent state in which there was no self, no higher self, true self, or anything that could be called a self. Clearly, I had fallen outside my own, as well as the traditional frame of reference, when I came upon a path that seemed to begin where the writers on the contemplative life had left off. But with the clear certitude of the self's disappearance, there automatically arose the question of what had fallen away--what was the self? What, exactly, had it been? Then, too, there was the all-important question: what remained in its absence? This journey was the gradual revelation of the answers to these questions, answers that had to be derived solely from personal experience since no outside explanation was forthcoming."

"I must re-emphasize that the following experiences do not belong to the first contemplative movement or the soul's establishment in a state of union with God. I have written elsewhere of this first journey and feel that enough has been said of it already, since this movement is inevitably the exclusive concern of contemplative writers. Thus it is only where these writers leave off that I propose to begin."

"With the exception of the little I could find by Meister Eckhart, I was left without a way to account for this experience, and even when I turned to books in the Eastern traditions, I encountered the same deficit of accounts--at least accounts that were available to me through the local channels. Though the Buddhist notion of no-self struck me as true, its failure to acknowledge, or first come upon the wholeness of the self in its union with God, naturally left the Christian experience of no-self unaccounted for. Quite possibly, the extent to which the individual first discovers this union is the extent to which its falling away will appear all the more inexplicable and bewildering. It is only when this transition is over, or when we have become acclimated to a new life, that the relative difference between self and no-self recedes beyond reach; but by this time, we have already seen what is down the road and the need for clarification no longer exists...
-- Roberts, Bernadette, 1993, The Experience of No-Self, pp. 9-11.

Glenn said...

(I suppose I ought to mention that Bernadette Roberts spent 10 years as a Carmelite num.)

Glenn said...

(Also, the penultimate para in 10. is out of order; it actually occurs later in Roberts' intro, and I had meant to remove it from the comment, but failed to do so.)

Anonymous said...

grodrigues gets it.

""Relating it" to mechanism is not reducing it, or explaining in purely naturalistic (that is, material) terms."

That's what I was talking about in my March 27, 2013 at 11:11 AM comment.

And remember, we are talking about the intentional aspects of thought, which has some odd quirks.

"Stoljar then suggests that the reason intentionality is philosophically problematic is that it is supposed to involve a relation that might hold between a thinker and something else, and yet lacks three key features one would expect such a relation to have. First, if I bear a relation to something else, one would expect that that something else exists; and yet I can think about something that does not exist (e.g. Valhalla). Second, if I bear a relation to something else, one would expect that there is some particular thing I bear it to; but I can think about a man without there being some man in particular I am thinking of. Third, if I bear a relation to some thing A and A = B, then one would expect that I thereby bear that relation to B; but if I am thinking about Vienna, then even though Vienna is the birthplace of Schubert, it doesn’t follow that I am thinking about the birthplace of Schubert, about whom I may know nothing."

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/06/stoljar-on-intentionality.html

Anonymous said...

@Glenn – re your point 8. That paper appeared on a military website, in “National Symposium on Sensor and Data Fusion (NSSDF2000)”, sponsored by the NSA and something called WARGODDESS (!). I think it’s not very likely that Dennett would have read or responded to it this, any more than he’d be reading and ressponding to these random blog comments.

And a quick skim of the paper suggests that the authors are more or less in sympathy with Dennett’s pragmatic viewpoint, despite their use of the term “ducks”. That would be in keeping with their funding source, who I doubt is interested in results saying that intentionality is magic unamenable to mechanizing and weaponizing.

Glenn said...

@Glenn – re your point 8. That paper appeared on a military website, in “National Symposium on Sensor and Data Fusion (NSSDF2000)”, sponsored by the NSA and something called WARGODDESS (!). I think it’s not very likely that Dennett would have read or responded to it this,

Re 1st statement: Yes, that's true; I did link to a paper appearing on a military website.

Re 2nd statement: Surely the allusion isn't that oblique...

:-)

Eduardo said...

err.... you don't need intentionality to weaponize something, you just need to make it efficient and deadly XD the philosophical question is not really central to war. Really how the fuck xD you don't seem to get this.

Well I guess I know how, you have a idiossincratic definition of what intention is, and you believe deep in your neuron that we have THE EXACT SAME definition.

Seriously Magic Fluid Anon, you suck dude XD.

BLS said...

"The reason is this. As already indicated, any materialistic explanation of intentionality is bound to be a causal explanation. That is to say, it is going to be an attempt to show that the intentionality of a mental state somehow derives from its causal relations. The causal relations in question might be internal to the brain (as they are according to “internalist” theories of meaning); they might extend beyond the brain to objects and events in a person’s environment (as they do according to “externalist” theories); they may even extend backwards in time millions of years to the environment in which our ancestors evolved (as they do according to “biosemantic” theories). An adequate description of the relevant causal relations may require any number of technical qualifications (such as an appeal to Fodor’s notion of “asymmetric dependence”)."

This is Feser's characterization of materialist explanations of intentionality. Yea or Nay?

Eduardo said...

Do you think Anon knows? XD

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