A Conversation for Gilbert Ryle's Philosophical Behaviourism
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Soothsaya Started conversation Feb 3, 2002
Well, hello, and this was a very interesting entry! I hate behaviourism with a passionate hatred ... I mean the kind that says there isn't such a thing as inner mental states! For instance, if there weren't, how could I possibly hate this philosophy? It would be meaningless ... I assert though that I *do* feel a deepseated internal emotion, that I characterise as hatred, and that only I fully know what it feels like. By hating Ryle's behaviourism, I refute it.
If it was only about a theory it wouldn't be so bad, but a lot of evil has been done, and is done, and will still be done, by people who ignore the inner thoughts and beliefs and feelings and wills of other people and other living creatures. It goes along with the kind of mechanistic vision that I abhor, that sees everybody and everything as 'objects' that could be investigated, only from the outside, and manipulated with no reference to their inner natures.
Anyways, you did a good job of setting forth the theory as well as objections to it.
Smiley Ben Posted Feb 3, 2002
Soothsaya Posted Feb 3, 2002
No, I never said that! I am most assuredly not a Cartesian dualist. I think mind is a phenomenon that is either an integral aspect of, or arises from, the activity of matter. But it is not matter! It is something that exists in its own right as well. Like energy. Though energy is tied to matter, it can be said to exist in its own right as well, and cannot be reduced to matter. So too my inner thoughts and emotions are real, and they cannot be reduced to mere externally-observable actions, either of myself, or of my brain, or of the cells of my brain, or of the components of cells of my brain. When I imagine the color red, it has the quality of redness, whereas there is no way in which the firing pattern of neurons can be said to have the quality of redness. Or consider computer software. The pattern of bits that constitute a graphical image does not contain the image. The image is only formed when that pattern of ones and zeros is translated by a device, or series of devices, into a visual image. So too in our minds the firing patterns of neurons get translated into images and other concepts. The question is not *whether* these images and concepts exist ... they do, that we know by introspection. The question is, *where* do they exist, and what is their nature, and how does the process of translation work? Rather than saying there exists no answer to that question, or that the question is meaningless, I would merely say that our current level of scientific know-how does not allow us to find an answer, but future generations might. When we can observe thoughts as thoughts, and interpret them correctly as well, with all of their subjective qualities intact, by means of mechanical devices, we'll understand the phenomenon of mind as it relates to matter - not before then.
Soothsaya Posted Feb 3, 2002
Using the terminology of the article, we need to know what 'qualia' really are.
Smiley Ben Posted Feb 3, 2002
You've perfectly explained what it means to be a Cartesian dualist: namely to believe that there are two types of stuff - the physical, matter etc. and the mental, which cannot be reduced to the physical!
And, to respond to your suggestion about Qualia - the instinct that Qualia are real, separate and irreducible is currently the thing that convinces most of the contemporary dualists that they are correct.
Soothsaya Posted Feb 3, 2002
I did not actually say that mind cannot be reduced to matter - I said that energy cannot be reduced to matter. I said mind cannot be reduced to externally-observable actions. That does not mean it cannot be reduced to properties that are intrinsic to matter itself ... not in its externally observable properties, but in its fundamental nature. I do in fact suspect that mind may be a general property of matter. That still means that it is not the same thing as matter ... a property of something is not the thing itself. A ball may be red but redness is not the same thing as a ball.
Whether mind and matter are separate or different from each other, or not, may depend more on the way words are used than on any underlying reality. So too with other dualities. It depends on our definitions. There's matter, and there's energy for example. Matter can perhaps be reduced to energy ... for instance, by describing matter as organised energy. It still pays to talk about matter as being something other than energy. Energy can similarly be reduced to matter. Science knows nothing really about which of the two is more absolute. Then there is the wave/particle duality. 'Things' like photons, electrons and so on display particle-nature if they are 'questioned' in a way that looks for particles, or display wave-nature if they are questioned in a way that looks for waves. What *are* they, really? They are both, and also neither. Still we find it convenient to think either in terms of waves, or in terms of particles. What about mind and matter? I do not believe they are completely separate, different kinds of 'stuff'. I think they are intimately related. But by the *definitions* we use, mind *is not* matter or reducible to it. Matter for instance has some properties that differ from the properties of mental phenomena. Matter has mass. Does a thought, a concept, an emotion, have mass? None that we can measure. Any particle of matter has a position as well as a momentum in space. Does any mental phenomenon have this? We can't tell at the moment. Intuitively though it doesn't seem likely. Yet I allow for the possibility that one day we might be able to measure mental phenomena. The thing is, there is nothing to 'debate' about the issue. We either *know* what mental phenomena are, or we don't. At the moment we don't. I think it's pointless to argue whether mind and matter are two things or one thing. I'd rather find out more about mind, in and of itself. If while trying to find out more about mind, I discover its link to, or ground in, matter, well good. Most probably I will not. I only assert, for now, that mind *does exist* in its internal, subjective aspects. Whether those are derived, ultimately, from its objective, material aspects, I can't say. Whether it does or not makes no difference to what I believe about the nature of mind.
Smiley Ben Posted Feb 4, 2002
Again, this perfectly describes a Cartesian position. To be a Cartesian, you simply have to believe that mental states cannot be reduced to facts about the physical - that is what it means. This is incompatible with the belief that mental states supervene on physical states - so if you believe that there is any part of talk of the mind that cannot simply be re-expressed in terms of the physical, then you can't be a physicalist (effectively the alternative to Dualism).
Having said that, I'm not a behaviourist, I'm a functionalist - I don't think the mental /is/ the way it is expressed (i.e. behaviour), but I do think there is nothing more that can be said about the mental but that it is the cause of the physical...
DTI April Posted Apr 24, 2002
i don't particularly agree with either of the theories, but if you're interested elimintaive materialism, functionalism, and the mind-brain identity theory have good attempts at finding a middle ground. i have to say i'd go for the latter, Dualism and behaviourism both go too far with their theories in my opinion, but don't forget to check out the entry i put in on cartesian dualism thank you.
Noggin the Nog Posted Jun 25, 2002
This is quite a tricky one, so I'm just going to think out loud for a bit.
Cartesian dualism can be dismissed by a swift application of Occam's Razor, since an additional entity is postulated that does nothing to explain the issues.
Ryle is certainly right to say that activities like attentive listening are one activity, not two, since I can perform them without being aware that I'm performing them. However, if I become aware that I'm listening attentively is "being aware that I'm listening attentively as well as doing it" to be counted as one item or two?
He is also right to say that linguistic rules must be testable in public (although not necessarily tested on a given occassion). Although cognitive, and to a lesser extent, emotional states can be concealed, if this was the norm rather than the exception we could not learn the meanings (uses) of emotion/mental state language, or validate them.
To say that Mary can do intelligent things because she is intelligent is indeed uninformative in the way Ryle suggests.
The question of privileged access is much more interesting and complex. There is an obvious sense in which it is true that we have privileged access (my mental states are mine, and yours are yours), but there is nothing particularly mysterious about this.
I think that Ryle is basically right about feedback, but probably oversimplistic. This is because human beings are embodied; our emotional states ARE bodily states, interpreted by our socially constructed cognitive concepts. Of course we have privileged acess to many of those states because the informational pathways that tell us about, for instance, the tingling of our skin, are internal to the body in question. On the other hand, you may know what I'm feeling because you can see my expression when I can't, and can take a more detached view of my circumstances than I can.
We can never be sure about each others' qualia, of course, for obvious reasons, but we can only establish a common language, for colours for example, if we carve nature pretty much at the same joints. I can't know, and don't need to, whether your red is the same as mine, so long as we can agree as to what, out there, is red, and what blue.
And I know what jealousy feels like to me when I find myself behaving jealously, and say "so this is what jealousy feels like."
None of this is to say that our mental states are not real, by any reasonable usage of the word, only that they are not in some mysterious sense "disembodied"; some of our behaviour is internal, but it is never truly disconnected from our outer behaviour, however complex and difficult to discern that connection may sometimes be.
TheCriss Posted Sep 24, 2006
I think that the position being stated here is NOT Cartesian Dualism. It is property dualism.
Though at first I thought it might have been non-reductive materialism. Some of the language suggests this, such as talking about mental states being supervenient on, but not reducible to physical states(paraphrasing here...). Or did I misundertsand?
This forum is useful, and I'm glad I found it.
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