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Key Misstep For Philosophers

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Posted by Luis Hamburgh on September 11, 2002 22:38:10 UTC

Hello Harv,

A couple objections:

>>>”Therefore, there should be some rules (called 'bridge rules') which perfectly determine our thoughts.”

Considering how little we know about ‘mind’ I don’t think this is a completely evenhanded position – specifically, the requirement that any physical model of 'mind' be a portrait of “perfect determination.” At this early stage of neuro/physio/psych understanding it seems more than fair to allow the possibility that some of the processes that constitute ‘mind’ might conform to physical rules still unrecognized or misunderstood.

I think our ‘self-important’ biases tend to blind us from seeing the “Big Picture.” If one cannot keep this bias in check he might overestimate the conclusiveness of current scientific progress. But science is more progression, and less conclusion -- many seem to miss this crucial point.

Instead of recognizing the magnitude of our limitations we might marvel at our latest discoveries and dismiss any recent stumblings as mere exceptions. But this fallibility is the rule, not the exception, in my opinion (a disclaimer I've found I have to make forty-three times every time I address Harv).

By way of example, some would happily paraphrase Uncertainty thus: “at a given point, infinitesimal processes are beyond exact, mechanistic descriptions. . . but everything else is perfectly deterministic.” This approach should not hope to achieve much, scientifically.

>>>”such an explanation is counterintuitive since this is not how it feels at all. . . I do think that some type of holist answer is required in order to rescue a physicalist project.”

If such a thing as “emotional syllogism” existed, I think you might be right on the money here. However, it seems you’re appealing to logic, and I cannot see how you can hope to rationally press the point that “what feels right is right.” The requirement "in order to rescue a physicalist project" is not the condition in which "physicalists" find their ideas; this is a problem you perceive with “physicalism.” It doesn't feel good to Harv. . . but why should this concern anybody but Harv?

Some form of self-preservation has allowed humans to thrive/excel/evolve. Now that we recognize our own mortality, this self-preservation has become a desire for holism.

>>>”Yet, we cannot reduce such things as language to atomism” (etc.)

I think that we are so far from understanding thought that arguing against a physical model for it by enlisting known physical laws is a bit like Neanderthal Man arguing the moon doesn’t exist because no one could ever jump that high.

Science builds from its own toolbox, but it also continuously improves and adds to this toolbox. Forgetting this point may confine the otherwise sharp mind to the throes of philosophical indulgence.

(Kidding!)

-LH

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