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The materialist shell game

Don't be taken in! Some more philosophy of mind, over at my personal blog.

Comments (2)

I'm in some sympathy with your post.

One little thought and a minor quibble. 1. A commitment to mechanistic explanation needn't involve defining 'matter' as inherently lacking qualia. There is an independent characterization of a mechanism that abstracts away from the materials of its components. Whatever the history of mechanistic accounts of mind, I think of current functional and mechanistic explanations as structural in nature.

2. Including Fodor in a list of people who have "come to doubt that naturalistic models of the mind really can succeed" is a little weird. I'm vaguely aware that he's said some off-color things in an article or two at the LRB about qualia, but basically he hasn't objected to cognitive models for their inability to capture them. As I read him, he's given a 'diagnosis of a problem' -- vs. anything like an in principle objection -- to the best naturalistic mental theory we have at present, the Computational Theory of Mind. And this diagnosis is in terms of 'global properties of thought', where there's no 'sweeping' of qualia at issue.

Hello Catchy,

1. Not sure how that is at odds with what I said, since a structural description of the natural world is precisely one which leaves out qualia (among other things). It's true that one could go on to take the Russellian view that qualia are what "flesh out" this structure, but since this would, if true, be a contingent fact about the structure, the resulting view would be a kind of dualism (of material-world-as-structure + non-material qualia -- which is why Chalmers, in entertaining this view, thinks of it as being a variation on dualism).

2. Fodor does think we have a good naturalistic theory of cognitive processes (i.e. CTM), but he is less confident that naturalistic theories of intentional content tell the whole story (though he has himself defended such theories, of course) and he is pessimistic about a naturalistic theory of consciousness. It was this latter fact that I had in mind in saying what I did, which I thought was evident given that I focused on qualia, but perhaps I should have made it clearer.

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