Friday, December 6, 2013

Scientism and Bertrand Russell's neutral monism



In philosophy of the mind, most of the debate during the past century has turned on the materialist and the dualist perspectives. Materialists have argued that physical things are really the only things that exist, and that the mind is a physical thing, and dualists have argued that the mind and body are immaterial and material things, respectively. Both materialism and dualism have their well-trod problems-- materialism seems to explain away, rather than explain, mental states, and dualism notoriously suffers from the interaction problem-- how does an immaterial mind interact with a material brain?

I believe that materialism has more problems than dualism, as you might have guessed, but neither is satisfactory and there are other ways to understand the mind.

Idealism is the view that everything is immaterial mind and physical things qua physical don't actually exist. It has had venerable defenders, but is hard to take seriously. Famously, Dr. Samuel Johnson, when asked how he could refute Berkeley's idealism, said "I refute it thus" and kicked a rock.

Another explanation for the mind is provided by Thomistic dualism, which presupposes Aristotelian and Thomist metaphysics and proposes that the mind bears the same relation to the body that form bears to matter. I believe that it is the most satisfactory explanation for the mind.

A fifth approach to understanding the mind is neutral monism, championed by Bertrand Russell. Russell was, as you probably know, an atheist, but not a materialist. His observations on philosophy of the mind are cogent, are of surprising relevance to our modern debate on scientism.

Russell began with affirmation of indirect realism. He posited that our sensory perceptions do not necessarily present us with the world as it is. We have no reason to think that red things have "redness" in them. Atoms have no intrinsic color. We perceive red because of the way our perceptive system processes light of a certain frequency. We perceive phenomena- things as they appear, not noumena-- things as they are.

But Russell pointed out that the scientific investigation of the natural world-- which would seem to present us with a much more secure picture of reality-- has its own problem. It's a serious problem. Russell pointed out that scientific knowledge of the physical world entails causal explanations of particles-- electrons and protons and photons are described in terms of how they interact with other particles. Substances are described by science according to what they do. Science does not describe substances-- electrons, protons, photons and aggregates composed of them-- by what the are.

Russell holds to structural realism-- the view that science tells about the causal relations (the causal structure) of real things, but does not tell us exactly what those things are, in themselves. For example, the brain is understood under scientific investigation as matter related by a complex simulacrum of causal events-- atoms and molecules and action potentials. But science is silent-- must be silent-- on what the brain is in itself. Science describes relations we understand in nature, just as perceptions describe sensations we have of nature. Neither perceptions nor scientific understanding provide us with an understanding of nature as it actually is.

Is our quest for direct reliable knowledge of nature-- nature as it really is-- hopeless? Russell says no, and he makes a remarkable observation. Perception and scientific investigation do not exhaust our ways of knowing. We can also use introspection to know certain things. And unlike perception and scientific investigation of natural things like mental states, introspection is direct knowledge of mental states. It is the only kind of knowledge we have that is not mediated by sensory organs or conjured from scientific study of causal relations. By introspection we know our mental states as they are.

Russell argues that, in philosophy of the mind, the materialists have it exactly backwards. Materialists reduce the mind to the brain, trying to explain the mind in terms of appearances and causal relations of brain tissue. But the reality is that it is the mind that we directly experience-- the brain is reducible to the mind, so to speak, not the mind to the brain.

By neutral monism, Russell means that there is one kind of substance and it is neutral, in the sense that it is neither wholly mental nor wholly physical. This one kind of substance-- he called it qualia-- can be introspected, and can be perceived, and can be understood via scientific investigation of causal relations. But only introspection lets us know this monist substance (our mind/brain) as it actually is. Perception and scientific study merely give us indirect knowledge of our mind/brain.

Russell observes that if you want to know what the brain is like intrinsically, in itself, neuroscience won't help you. You can know what the brain is like intrinsically only by contemplating your own thoughts. In a very real sense, you know more about your brain than any neuroscientist knows about it, because you know your brain (mind/brain) first-hand, not in a perceptual or abstract scientific way.

Russell proposed that qualia are the ultimate substance of which everything is composed. Qualia are neither intrinsically mental or physical. When organized into neural structures, qualia are mental. When organized into non-neural structures (rocks, chairs, etc) qualia are physical.

Russellian identity theory-- neutral monism-- has obvious strengths. In my view, its greatest strength is that it flips materialists' arguments. It is the mind, not the brain, that is known directly and with certainty, and materialist theories that try to reduce the mind to the brain or eliminate the mind altogether (eliminative materialism) are fundamental errors.

The obvious weakness of Russellian neutral monism is the implication of pan-psychism-- the notion that there is or at least can be a little bit of "mind" in everything, including inanimate objects. That seems to me to be a bit too much to accept as is, despite the significant strengths of the viewpoint.

In addition to refuting materialism, as Russell's theory nicely and decisively does, neutral monism makes scientism, which is the view that scientific investigation is the ultimate arbitrator of our understanding of nature, a difficult proposition to defend. The scientific endeavor, laudable and effective as it undoubtedly is in some circumstances, is sharply limited. Science can only investigate causal relations between things, not the things in themselves.

And the only things we can know directly, in themselves, are our own mental states.

Introspection, not perception nor science, provides the only direct kind of knowledge.


(NB: Ed Feser's Philosophy of Mind--a Beginner's Guide is an excellent introduction to these philosophical conundrums. He provides a balanced discussion of the broad range of philosophical approaches to the mind-brain question.)

Cross-posted at Evolution News and Views

62 comments:

  1. The scientific endeavor, laudable and effective as it undoubtedly is in some circumstances, is sharply limited. Science can only investigate causal relations between things, not the things in themselves.

    Philosophy, meanwhile, tries to investigate things in themselves. And although it sets a lofty goal, the achievements are puny.

    As to the only things we can know directly, in themselves, are our own mental states, this boils down to a tautology If I feel a pain, I feel a pain.

    Hoo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hoo:

      Said like a typical half-educated science dupe.

      All advances in knowledge are philosophical. The concept of "scientist" didn't even exist until the early 19th century. The traditional meaning of science (scientia), from Plato to the 1820's, was organized knowledge. Theology was the queen of science. Science included metaphysics, ethics, logic, mathematics, arts, natural science, etc.

      All of the enlightenment "scientists" were natural philosophers-- PHILOSOPHERS. Mathematicians were philosophers (Pythagoras was the founder of a school of philosophy, which included his mathematical investigations) Plato believed that mathematics was indispensable to a good philosopher.

      All organized knowledge (scientia) was the domain of philosophy, and still is. When a specific sub-discipline of philosophy-- logic, mathematics or natural philosophy-- gains sufficient knowledge and prominence, it calves off and forms a discipline that is organizationally separate from philosophy as generally understood.

      All organized knowledge is philosophical knowledge. Some disciplines of philosophy-- natural philosophy for example-- have recently split off from the real source of their success.

      The consequence of that split is that natural philosophers have largely become half-educated technicians who impose their own ignorant metaphysics on their natural philosophy, without even a clue about what they are doing.

      Delete
    2. This half-educated science dupe doesn't care what mathematicians and scientists were called in the past. Science is distinct from philosophy in its reliance on empirical verification of its theories. Philosophy is distinct from both science and mathematics. It's a toothless tiger as far as production of knowledge is concerned.

      Hoo

      Delete
    3. Hoo:

      [Science is distinct from philosophy in its reliance on empirical verification of its theories.]

      Science is the study of causal relations of empirical things, so it's no surprise that it relies on empirical relations. It's the same as asserting that the study of art history relies on the history of art.

      Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Kepler, and all enlightenment students of nature (until the 182's) self-identified as natural philosophers. If you called Newton a "scientist", he wouldn't have known whether you meant his study theological scientia or his study of natural scientia.

      The concept of a professional "scientist" as one who studies nature using the scientific method is a new concept, and it describes a sub-discipline of philosophy, as "natural philosopher" always did.

      You're a good example of a natural philosopher who's too poorly educated to understand what he is really doing.

      Consider this blog your resource room.

      Delete
    4. It doesn't matter what things are called. It matters how they are done. Galileo and Newton's method of investigating nature was radically distinct from philosophy in that it was empirically grounded. That is what distinguishes science from philosophy. It used to be called natural philosophy, but that's a semantic difference, Egnor. Whether you call it natural philosophy or science, the damn thing is as distinct from philosophy proper as night from day.

      Hoo

      Delete
    5. Hoo:

      The decision to empirically ground the study of nature was a philosophical decision, moron.

      And the correlation of natural causation with mathematics-- which is the most important advance of science since Newton-- is a profound philosophical advance.

      Aristotle used empirical investigation to invent the field of biology-- the Tree of Life is his idea. Neither he nor any of the ancient natural scientists applied mathematical knowledge to the study of causes in nature.

      That was Newton's triumph, and it was a philosophical, not "empirical", triumph.

      Delete
    6. So Newton switched from the wrong path (philosophy proper) to the right one (natural philosophy). That is Newton's achievement.

      Hoo

      Delete
    7. Hoo,

      The best scholastic philosophers did take empirical observation very seriously. The armchair cogitating tends to be a bit of a caricature. The difference is that natural philosophy considers general experience, science considers particular experience - usually under experimental conditions.

      The best, and I mean best, explanation I've ever read is Glen Coughlin's introduction to his own translation of Aristotle's Physics.

      http://www.amazon.com/Physics-Natural-Hearing-Moerbeke-Translation/dp/1587316293

      Worth every penny.

      Delete
    8. - Curio, not that anyone cares, though we've had a few back-n-forths already. I liked that article on EPR and Quantum Mechanics btw

      Delete
    9. Glad you liked Mermin's article, Curio.

      I will take a look at Coughlin's introduction to Aristotle. However, my expectations are low. Let me explain why.

      You don't need to read Newton's Principia in order to learn classical physics. In fact, I emphatically do not recommend doing that. Almost no university subjects its students to such cruel and unusual punishment. (A notable exception is St. John's College in Annapolis and Santa Fe with its Great Books curriculum.) The book is tedious. It relies on the math that was available to the scholars of the time (no calculus). It's an awful read. Nor do I recommend reading Einstein's original papers on relativity, unless you are interested in learning the history of the subject, rather than the subject itself.

      That's how things are in science. The theoretical arguments advanced by some genius is internalized and improved by his contemporaries. Their output is internalized by the next generation and reformulated again. Distant generations of scientists never even see the original form of the theory. Nor should they suffer doing that: more often than not, the next generations put the theory in a much clearer form.

      Newtonian mechanics is only Newtonian in name. Lots of Newton's successors have worked to bring it to the current form. Newton had no idea about the principle of least action or a Lagrangian or a Hamiltonian. Potential energy and angular momentum were all greek to him.

      The idea that one must go and study entire works of a great master is completely foreign to science. Philosophers have to suffer through reading Aristotle's Physics. Biologists don't ever need to read Darwin's Origin.

      Big difference.

      Hoo

      Delete
    10. Hoo,

      That's valid. A BA in physics would take a decade if you had to read through the history of western civilization.

      I've known students in "great books" colleges who read Einstein's papers, Darwin's Origins, and Newtons Principia as part of a liberal arts degree. And they loved it, believe it or not. But I agree, if you're studying one of the sciences it's probably something you can pursue on your own time.

      However all of those examples you gave - Newton, Einstein, Lagrange, etc. - are in the domain of science. Modern science. The Physics, despite its name, bares little resemblance to today's method of making mathematical models to describe and predict the behaviors of things like particles or planets.

      Coughlin's argument is that modern science presupposes, rather than discards, the foundation laid by Aristotle. It's controversial to modern ears, but I found it convincing and astounding really. Changed the way I looked at science.

      - Curio

      Delete
    11. Curio:

      I'll have to read Couglin. I would certainly agree that Aristotle is presupposed in much of science today, even if it is very truncated hylemorphism.

      Regarding taking 10 years to get a science BA, acquaintance with the abysmal metaphysics of half-educated scientists like Hawking and Krause and Dawkins suggests that several years of education in the classics, and especially in philosophy, would be a huge improvement. I strongly believe that all college education should start with 2 full years of general education, focused on the classics and Great Books, before specialization. If college takes a year or two longer, so be it.

      My oldest daughter had 2 years of classics and general education at a special program at NYU (she was a bio major and did her bio in the last two years). It was wonderful. My youngest daughter is a sophomore and has heavy general requirements (including-- theology!) at a Jesuit college, and it's great as well.

      I had a core curriculum in college, which included the classics, art and music humanities, literature humanities. I use that stuff in my life more than I use the biochem I majored in.

      Delete
    12. Considering the costs of college, taking a year or two longer is not trivial. I completely agree with your support of liberal education don't get me wrong but college and education in general are in a sense workforce training and must be economically viable

      Delete
  2. The intrinsic knowledge of our brain that we get from contemplating our thoughts is paltry indeed. So you know your own mental states, so what? You know you like ice cream, you know you love your children, you know you hate liberals, and you know that sometimes you are sad, big deal. Until relatively recently some would argue that that it was intrinsic knowledge of the heart. Without some scientific investigation you can’t even identify in what organ these mental states arise, never mind figure out how that organ works.

    -KW

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. KW:

      I don't understand the point of your argument. Russell made the obviously correct point that our mind is the only thing we know directly, infallibly. Our other kinds of knowing-- by perception and by scientific investigation, are indirect. That does not mean of course that they are unimportant. Inability to perceive and inability to do science are catastrophic handicaps.

      But direct knowledge of our own mental states is the bulk of our experience-- is all of our experience in a sense. Even our experience of perception and science is mediated via our directly-known mental states.

      The point of Russell's argument was that the materialist understanding of the mind has the truth backward. A physical understanding of the brain is necessarily incomplete, and what we are trying to physically understand is capable of being directly known by examining our own minds.

      Practical knowledge is a composite of introspection, perception, and scientific investigation. The attempt to reduce the mind to an object of scientific inquiry is deeply misguided, and scientism itself is a delusion.

      Delete
    2. @KW:

      [Without some scientific investigation you can’t even identify in what organ these mental states arise, never mind figure out how that organ works.]

      Without knowledge of your own mental states you would be an inanimate robot, incapable of any science at all. Your mind is the "organ" through which you understand anything, including your brain.

      That was Russell's point-- we are fools to think that the scientific description of the mind/brain is a more profound kind of knowledge than our direct knowledge of the mind\brain.

      That doesn't denigrate the real value of neuroscience. But we must not be so stupid as to think that neuroscience is a deeper level of reality. The actual experience of your mind is the deepest reality, and is indispensable to all other kinds of knowledge.

      Delete
    3. Egnor: But we must not be so stupid as to think that neuroscience is a deeper level of reality.

      How about understanding reality at a basic level? That's what science is up to. Anyone can mentally masturbate about "deeper levels."

      Hoo

      Delete
    4. Hoo:

      Science deals with causal relations-- particles are defined according to what they do in relation to forces and other particles, forces are defined according to what cause particles to do.

      Science does not tell us what particles or forces are in themselves. That is what to "understand reality at a basic level" really is-- understanding what things are, not just what they cause.

      The understanding of what things really are is metaphysics, defined (by Aristotle) as the study of being itself.

      You have so much to learn, Hoo.

      Delete
    5. You said “Russell observes that if you want to know what the brain is like intrinsically, in itself, neuroscience won't help you.” I am confident that the practical knowledge of the brain you bring to bear when preforming brain surgery isn’t informed by anything you learned from introspection.

      Beyond banal explanations of why you hold particular opinions or feel particular emotions what can you tell me you have learned about the mind from introspection? I expect that whatever answer you give will be little more than a rationalization supporting your religious belief.

      -KW

      Delete
    6. Indeed, science does not tell us what particle are. It tells us what they do. Metaphysics would like to tell us what particles are, but it can't.

      Take the electron. Science tells us that it is a particle with a mass of 511 keV and spin 1/2 of Planck's constant. What does metaphysics tell us about it? Well, nothing.

      Hoo

      Delete
    7. Hoo:

      [Beyond banal explanations of why you hold particular opinions or feel particular emotions what can you tell me you have learned about the mind from introspection?]

      Self-knowledge isn't "banal". Understanding why we hold opinions and understanding the nature of our thoughts, emotions and beliefs is perhaps our most important task.

      All of our knowledge is filtered through our knowledge of our own mental states. The way in which we understand our own motives and beliefs taints the way we understand science.

      Can you name one scientific insight that is not known to you via your own mental states? Do you honestly believe that your mental states are unimportant?

      Delete
    8. Egnor: Self-knowledge isn't "banal".

      Earlier Egnor: If I feel pain, I feel pain.

      Banal may not be the right word. Tautological is.

      Hoo

      Delete
    9. Hoo:

      It is a tautology. That's the point. Knowledge of our own mental states is direct knowledge. We can't be wrong about it.

      The fact that affirming our mental states is tautological makes my point, Einstein.

      Delete
    10. hoo:

      [Take the electron. Science tells us that it is a particle with a mass of 511 keV and spin 1/2 of Planck's constant. What does metaphysics tell us about it?]

      As Werner Heisenberg observed, quantum mechanics itself is remarkably Aristotelian. The ensemble of possible quantum states is just a restatement of Aristotle's potentia, and the collapse of the waveform is Aristotle's act. Quantum waveform collapse is the reduction of potency to act, which Aristotle described in the 4th century BC.

      Aristotle described his theory of potency and act in his book Metaphysics.

      2300 years later, scientists caught up with him.

      This might be helpful to you: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/09/feser_on_heisenberg_on_act_and025451.html

      Delete
    11. The self-knowledge you describe is banal in the sense that what you could describe to me is utterly familiar and unremarkable. Your holding opinions and feeling emotions is easily understood by all people that have opinions and feel emotions. What have you or anyone else learned about the mind from introspection that is remarkable in any way?

      -KW

      Delete
    12. KW:

      [What have you or anyone else learned about the mind from introspection that is remarkable in any way?]

      Everything. Introspection itself is remarkable.

      Delete
    13. Egnor: It is a tautology. That's the point. Knowledge of our own mental states is direct knowledge. We can't be wrong about it.

      Doc, you've said many silly things on this blog, but this one really stands out.

      If you hold tautology in such high esteem (as a form of knowledge), what the fuck were you complaining about when you referred to natural selection as a tautology? Was that a compliment? LOL

      Creationists say the darndest things.

      Hoo

      Delete
    14. Egnor: As Werner Heisenberg observed, quantum mechanics itself is remarkably Aristotelian.

      Cut the crap and tell us what philosophy has added to our knowledge of the electron.

      Hoo

      Delete
    15. The history of quantum mechanics is essentially the history of mathematical physicists struggling with the metaphysical implications of their mathematics and their physics. Einstein's and Bohr's profound and enduring debates were metaphysical-- questions of indeterminacy and potentia and the fundamental nature of reality. Pure metaphysics.

      Entire schools within quantum mechanics self-sorted according to metaphysical disagreements-- the EPR paper is a classic example.

      Metaphysical conundrums have been at the core of research in quantum mechanics, and still are, and metaphysical viewpoints have determined much of the direction of the research.

      Delete
    16. Tell us exactly how the EPR paradox was resolved, Egnor. Did Bohr win or did Einstein? And which experiment settled the dispute?

      Hoo

      Delete
    17. Hoo:

      [Cut the crap and tell us what philosophy has added to our knowledge of the electron.]

      Einstein and Bohr and Heisenberg and Schrodinger and Dirac would be amazed to learn that philosophy is "crap". They would find your Luddism amusing.

      My how scientists have changed in the past century.

      Delete
    18. Hoo:

      Aspect's experiments, based on Bell's Theorem, have probably settled the EPR paradox.

      There are no local deterministic hidden variables, which is an important metaphysical insight, held by a century ago by Bohr and Hesienberg and many others, confirmed by experiment.

      Aristotle proposed this 2300 years ago, in his metaphysical theory of motion as a reduction of potency to act.

      Philosophy is a powerful thing. It is a beautiful interplay of logic and intuition and esthetics and experiment.

      It's sad you don't understand it.

      Delete
    19. Hoo:

      [Tell us exactly how the EPR paradox was resolved, Egnor. Did Bohr win or did Einstein? And which experiment settled the dispute?]

      An what would have led Bell and Aspect to do their work, without the metaphysical insights?

      You seem to forget that they were specifically addressing a metaphysical question that is central to quantum mechanics.

      How is it that you deny the importance of metaphysics in their work, when metaphysics-- are there local deterministic hidden variables?-- was the basis for their work.

      Delete
    20. Both Bohr and Einstein had excellent metaphysical arguments. Yet in the end the dispute had to be resolved empirically. Experimental tests by Aspect and others have settled the matter in favor of Bohr.

      See, Michael, this is what distinguishes science from philosophy. You can have a perfectly good philosophical argument (as Einstein had). At the end of the day, however, it is empirical verification that judges its usefulness. Philosophy—pure thought—can't do it alone.

      Hoo

      Delete
    21. Egnor: Einstein and Bohr and Heisenberg and Schrodinger and Dirac would be amazed to learn that philosophy is "crap". They would find your Luddism amusing.

      You dither. Cut the crap and tell us what philosophy has added to our knowledge of the electron.

      Hoo

      Delete
    22. Hoo:

      [See, Michael, this is what distinguishes science from philosophy. You can have a perfectly good philosophical argument (as Einstein had). At the end of the day, however, it is empirical verification that judges its usefulness. Philosophy—pure thought—can't do it alone.]

      My favorite professor in college-- Bob Pollack, in whose lab I did cancer research-- told me the most important principle of scientific research: "The most important aspect of research is not the result you get, but the question you ask. Your result is meaningful only if your question is meaningful."

      How would the Empiricists know what experiment to do and what it meant, if not for the philosophical (metaphysical) questions?

      Delete
    23. Asking good questions is important in any discipline, be it philosophy, science, economics, or literature. This is a sideshow.

      We are talking about different ways of acquiring knowledge. Philosophy attempts to do that through pure thought. Science through a combination of pure thought and empirical testing. You are arguing that science (which includes thought!) is not a superior way of learning about the world. I disagree with that.

      Hoo

      Delete
    24. Hoo:

      [You are arguing that science (which includes thought!) is not a superior way of learning about the world. I disagree with that.]

      What do you mean by "the world"? If you mean the aspects of nature that can be studied empirically, according to causal relations, then yes science is a very effective (yet still limited) way to understand nature. Science needs metaphysics, epistemology, logic, mathematics, even ethics and other areas of philosophy-- science is dependent on many things that are not themselves part of science.

      If you define "the world" to include the mind, art, literature, history, politics and a whole host of things that involve first person experience and human thoughts and motives, then science is woefully inadequate.

      Science has its place.

      Delete
  3. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyDecember 6, 2013 at 7:46 AM

    The achievements of philosophy are huge. Unfortunately, over the last two-plus centuries (following the "Enlightenment", a philosophical movement well-represented by philosophers Spinoza, Locke, and Voltaire) they have mostly been destructive.

    For example, consider the case of utilitarianism from the field of normative ethics. A wide acceptance of utilitarian tenets among Progressives (in particular, lawyers) has yielded the following unfortunate effects:
    (1) the deaths of millions of innocents around the world
    (2) the subjection of the rights of the individual to the control of the State
    (3) the potential crippling of biological and medical science due to the animal rights movement
    (4) the objectification of human beings as things (e.g., livestock to be managed rather than persons with dignity)

    Another achievement of philosophy comes from the work of two philosophers, Karl Marx and Frederich Engels, who expanded their philosophical musings into the fields of science, economics, history, sociology, art, literature, etc., etc. It is not necessary to elaborate on the impact of those two philosophers; their achievements are best measured by the dimensions of the mass graves that resulted from their work.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Adm:

    Philosophy is all the organized knowledge we have, and it is very much a mixed bag. Just like humanity.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyDecember 6, 2013 at 8:48 AM

      Doc: "Philosophy is all the organized knowledge we have..."

      I don't disagree with that at all. But when materialism animates the zeitgeist, one necessarily substitutes positive law for natural law and utilitarianism for Blackstonian "rights of Englishmen". That puts the wolves in the same bag with the sheep, and the result is predictable; somebody's gonna get fleeced.

      As Americans, we inherited a beautiful thing from our British forebears:

      [L]iberty was tied up with something that the non-Anglosphere] could only marvel at: the miracle of the common law. Laws weren't written down in the abstract and then applied to particular disputes; they built up, like a coral reef, case by case. They came not from the state but from the people. The common law wasn't a tool of government but an ally of liberty...
      --- Daniel Hannan

      It's sad to see it go.

      Delete
    2. Adm.
      "It's sad to see it go."
      Indeed it is.

      Delete
    3. Adm.

      Is it just me, or is there something distinctly Orwellian about this back and forth?
      I get the impression the reductionism and resultant eliminative materialism of scientism has similar connotations to Orwell's 'newspeak'.
      I would posit that scientism cripples scientific inquiry in an almost identical fashion to that described by Orwell's modified language crippled the ability to express ideas.
      Your thoughts on the parallel?

      Delete
    4. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyDecember 6, 2013 at 2:59 PM

      C-Rex: "I get the impression the reductionism and resultant eliminative materialism of scientism has similar connotations to Orwell's 'newspeak'."

      I hadn't thought of it that way, but a moment of reflection suggests to me that you are right.

      Orwell's Newspeak was a linguistic tool designed to eliminate freedom of thought. Eliminative materialism seeks to negate the need for a tool.

      Eliminate the need for a tool, and scientism, by default and the process of elimination, emerges as the last man standing.

      This worries Austin Hughes (Carolina Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences - USC), who notes

      [S]cientism appears to have as much in common with superstition as it does with properly conducted scientific research. Scientism claims that science has already resolved questions that are inherently beyond its ability to answer.

      Of all the fads and foibles in the long history of human credulity, scientism in all its varied guises — from fanciful cosmology [e.g. multiverse] to evolutionary epistemology and ethics — seems among the more dangerous, both because it pretends to be something very different from what it really is and because it has been accorded widespread and uncritical adherence.





      --- The New Atlantis (#37, 2012)

      Delete
    5. Adm.

      Thanks for the response. I thought you might have an interesting take on the correlation.
      I think the comparison perhaps gives us a window into the motives of those influences that promote scientism consciously. I suspect that most people are subject to it. That is to say, most adherents of scientism are unwittingly accepting the dogmas associated with it as 'fact', and once it is successfully absorbed into the world view, it is not something that even occurs to them. Hence all the denial.
      But, there are those influences that actively promote it.
      I suspect a socio-political motive and goal similar to that described in Orwell's work.

      Delete
  5. Mike,
    Your posts are often interesting and engaging. But, once in a while they really hit home. This is one of those.
    The best term I could equate the sensation to is 'synchronicity'.
    Eliminative materialism has co-opted entire steams of thought. It is a damn shame. Literally, a damned shame.
    Your post has really got the wheels spinning. Allow me some time for reflection, and I'll add my customary tuppence.
    Thanks, Mike.
    I will cross post this one to the Faustian.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, right. He thinks that tautology is a great form of knowledge. That made my day.

      Hoo

      Delete
    2. Hoo:

      Knowledge of one's own mental states are inherently tautological. They are true in themselves. That's Russell's point.

      Scientific investigation is of the opposite of tautological, because the point of science is to uncover causal relations that are not self-evident. 'Heat is Hot' is not good science. The First Law of Thermodynamics is good science.

      You're still trying to apply science's non-tautological methods to the mind. You really can't detach your self from your scientism,even for a moment.

      Delete
    3. Heh. Perhaps the prevalence of tautologies is the prime reason for the lack of progress in philosophy of mind.

      Hoo

      Delete
    4. Hoo,
      With all due respect - and I do think you are among the most clear thinkers among your set, that is no platitude nor meant as flattery - you are missing the point. The idea has been lost to argument and invective.
      Have a look at my response below.

      Delete
  6. Okay...
    I am still formulating a response to the concepts discussed in the post with regards to Russell's ideas on mind in matter.
    But, I have had a very distractionary look at the comments, and I feel the need to point something very elementary out that seems to be eluding the materialists (I know: 'NO!! You don't say??') who post on here.
    You folks are making a reductionist, simplistic argument against complex nested systems of thought. You have brought the proverbial knife to a gun fight. Scratch that. You have brought a flint axe to a tactical nuclear exchange.
    Perception, metaphysics, and philosophy are all foundations of scientific study. Without the application of these more basic mental tools, science is IMPOSSIBLE.
    The cart must be propelled, ladies and gentleman. Whether is the horse, the man, or the machine pushing or pulling the vehicle a force is required to propel it. The reason for that propulsion is far more important than the method. It is the very impetus for the carts movement. In this analogy, science is the means to understand and increase the effectiveness of propulsion. It is, indeed, greatly useful. The concept begins in the thoughts and perceptions of the mind, then the ideas are shared and judged, those ideas are subject to inquiry and discovery, finally those results are engineered into some form of useful (or deadly) physical tool.
    But, it is not the reason or rational behind the propulsion itself.
    Carrying a wounded colleague for kilometres is far less effective than taking by carriage, which is less so that by ambulance, which is less so than by air. But the carriage, ambulance, and airlift are useless without the will to carry the colleague.
    In the same way, science is driven. The reason behind the science is far more important than the science itself.
    Consider: Will be split the atom to power cities, or to incinerate them? The science is almost identical.
    The philosophy is entirely different. Both the science and it's foundational properties rely on the introspection of the minds behind them.
    I promised a nuke, and you got it.
    At least, I hope you get it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. crus: You folks are making a reductionist, simplistic argument against complex nested systems of thought.

      In a word, no.

      Hoo

      Delete
    2. crus: Perception, metaphysics, and philosophy are all foundations of scientific study. Without the application of these more basic mental tools, science is IMPOSSIBLE.

      Agreed.

      That said, these tools are used in many fields, including philosophy, science, literature, you name it.

      What distinguishes science from philosophy is not whether you use employ hard thinking. You do that in both of these fields. The distinction is that one relies on empirical testing of its theories and the other doesn't.

      Hoo

      Delete
    3. Hoo,

      "What distinguishes science from philosophy is not whether you use employ hard thinking. You do that in both of these fields. The distinction is that one relies on empirical testing of its theories and the other doesn't. "

      Two sided coin, my friend.
      Philosophy (just as science does) requires a metaphysical foundation. A series of assumptions about external reality. This is true. But the difference you illustrate is not just a strength of the sciences, it is also a limit.
      Philosophy (other than natural - science) does not entirely rely on methods of empirical testing, and is thus not limited by it. In fact, philosophy can both direct and limit it's offshoots. It can drive inquiry, and it can restrict it.
      In simplified terms: Just because we can do something, does not mean we should.
      It is not science that prevents us from doing certain 'unethical' things within science, nor does it tell us what we should do; it is sense of morality that guides these effort.
      The philosophical foundation.

      Sometimes those directions and limits are bad, sometimes they are very good. But, they are always inherit.
      Science relies on philosophy. Philosophy, on the other hand, finds science extremely useful.
      This is precisely why both disciplines compliment each other.
      Philosophers that deny the value of science are muted, ignored, Luddites. In doing so, they limit their ability to see their ideas tested. They are harmless, uninteresting fools, for the most part.
      Scientists who deny philosophy are rudderless tools. They are driven by philosophies they have no idea even exist or that they hold them, and are quite probably not even their own. These people are far more dangerous and susceptible to being duped or inclined to potentially destructive and downright evil behaviour than a philosopher of an anti-scientific bent.
      They are also a lot more common.

      Like it or not, Philosophy plays a HUGE role in all efforts of inquiry. That includes those of science.
      Let's use some of my airy analogies, shall we?
      (You know you love them! ;)

      Science is not some capsule that has reached orbit and can now discard philosophy like some booster section of a Saturn rocket system. It never will reach such a height.
      Rather science is like the hand on the arm of philosophy. That is to say: They are integral. If the hand of science is severed it is without direction. It is dead flesh and will rot.
      Without the hand, the arm of philosophy is a bleeding stump. Even if cauterized and tended to, it is crippled. Only together can they work with efficacy and purpose.
      Only with the system intact can the hand function at all.
      Only with the hand in place can the arm truly grasp what it reaches for, and the arm reach for what it can grasp.
      This arm, of course, must be attached to a body and mind - which we could call the 'metaphysical' core of inquiry.
      So we move from the mental, to the abstract, to the practical and physical in that order. Remove one link... and the consequences should be quite obvious.
      You see my meaning? (pun intended, that time)

      Delete
    4. **Only with the hand in place can the arm truly grasp what it reaches for, and the hand reach for what it can grasp. **

      I really have to try this sleeping thing. I hear it does wonders.

      Delete
  7. "Both materialism and dualism have their well-trod problems-- materialism seems to explain away, rather than explain, mental states, and dualism notoriously suffers from the interaction problem-- how does an immaterial mind interact with a material brain?"

    But (as you no doubt understand ... and some of your commenters will never admit), there is a world of difference in these two sets of problems.

    Being unable to "explain" how the immaterial mind interacts with -- and, in context, *controls* -- the material body does not falsify the observation that the immaterial mind does just that.

    But having to deny readily observable entities and phenomena in order to preserve your metaphysic shows the metaphysic to be not only incomplete, but false.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree that materialism is a catastrophe, and dualism is certainly not. Materialism is just ideologically motivated lying, basically, and hardly even a theory.

      Dualism comes in all sorts of flavors. Substance dualism has its learned adherents, including JP Moreland and William Land Craig, both of whom I hold in very high esteem. My problem with substance dualism is that it is originally Cartesian, and Descartes' metaphysics is so jumbled that it infects the rest of his philosophy.

      Property dualism is held by many others, including Ben Libet and David Chalmers. It is a respectable view, although I think that it inevitably reduces to epiphenominalism, which is not tenable.

      I adhere to Thomistic dualism, which describes the mind as a power of the soul, which is the substantial form of the body. It is a rigorous consistent metaphysical system, and is deeply Christian (after St. Thomas baptized Aristotle.)

      Delete
    2. 'After St Thomas baptized Aristotle'.

      LOL. So Thomas Aquinas was an early Mormon?

      Delete
  8. "Russell was, as you probably know, an atheist, but not a materialist."

    I disagree. He may not have admitted, even to himself, that he was a materialist, but he was. The only atheists who are not materialists are the sort (such as Buddhists) who deny that anything at all is real.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The thing about materialism -- and the thing that throws off so many people's understanding about it -- is not that it is so much about matter, as it is about mechanical necessity or determinism.

      The *reason* that so-called "eliminative materialism" (*) denies the reality of the immaterial mind is not because the mind is immaterial, but because the mind is not determined by mechanical necessity: it is the freedom of the mind that offends materialists, not its immateriality.

      (*) All materialism is eliminative -- there is no other kind. The materialists who claim to be non-eliminativists are simply materialists who refuse to *admit* the eliminativism that is inescapably inherent in materialism.

      Delete
    2. Ilion:

      I share your distrust of Russell, but neutral monism is a powerful argument against both materialism and scientism.

      Russell was wrong in many things (eg his atheism), and he was a libertine to say the least, but I think that he was a rather effective critic of materialism.

      Delete
    3. Ilion:

      Your point about materialism and determinism is an excellent one, and I agree with it. Materialism is such an incoherent stance that there must be some other doctrine underlying it, and mechanism and determinism is likely the preference of most materialists.

      Searle, a philosopher of the mind who is an atheist and can be quite annoying, did comment on materialists that engaging their arguments was very difficult and ultimately futile, because they disregard coherence and logic and will basically say anything to buttress their metaphysics.

      Delete