Re: Olympia's Beautiful and Profound Mind

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Mon, 16 May 2005 16:36:53 +1000

Dear Stephen,

The Pratt quote below shows disdain for historical solutions to the
mind-body problem, such as Descartes' theory that the two interact through
the pineal gland, but goes on to say that this is no reason to throw out
dualism altogether. Now, I have to admit, despite spending my adolescence in
the thrall of logical positivism (I still think A.J. Ayer's "Language, Truth
and Logic" is one of the great masterpieces of 20th century English
nonfictional prose), that there is something irreducible about 1st person
experience, forever beyond 3rd person verification or falsification; a blind
man might learn everything about visual perception, but still have no idea
what it is like to see. However, what reason is there to extrapolate from
this that there must be some special explanation for the interaction between
body and mind? What do you lose if you simply accept, as per Gilbert Ryle,
that the mind is what the brain does? Otherwise, you could seek a special
explanation for an electronic calculator's matter/mathematics dualism, or a
falling stone's matter/energy dualism, or any number of similar examples.
Occam's razor would suggest that such complications are unnecessary.

--Stathis Papaioannou

>Dear Bruno,
> As for your showng of "necessity" of a 1st personviewpoint , I still do
>not understand your argument and that is a failure on my part. ;-) As to
>Pratt's ideas, let me quote directly from one of his papers:
> "Some of the questions however remain philosophically challenging even
>today. A central tenet of Cartesianism is mind-body dualism, the principle
>that mind and body are the two basic substances of which reality is
>constituted. Each can exist separately, body as realized in inanimate
>objects and lower forms of life, mind as realized in abstract concepts and
>mathematical certainties. According to Descartes the two come together only
>in humans, where they undergo causal interaction, the mind reflecting on
>sensory perceptions while orchestrating the physical motions of the limbs
>and other organs of the body.
> The crucial problem for the causal interaction theory of mind and body
>was its mechanism: how did it work?
> Descartes hypothesized the pineal gland, near the center of the brain,
>as the seat of causal interaction. The objection was raised that the mental
>and physical planes were of such a fundamentally dissimilar character as to
>preclude any ordinary notion of causal interaction. But the part about a
>separate yet joint reality of mind and body seemed less objectionable, and
>various commentators offered their own explanations for the undeniably
>strong correlations of mental and physical phenomena.
> Malebranche insisted that these were only correlations and not true
>interactions, whose appearance of interaction was arranged in every detail
>by God by divine intervention on every occasion of correlation, a theory
>that naturally enough came to be called occasionalism. Spinoza freed God
>from this demanding schedule by organizing the parallel behavior of mind
>and matter as a preordained apartheid emanating from God as the source of
>everything. Leibniz postulated monads, cosmic chronometers miraculously
>keeping perfect time with each other yet not interacting.
> These patently untestable answers only served to give dualism a bad
>name, and it gave way in due course to one or another form of monism:
>either mind or matter but not both as distinct real substances. Berkeley
>opined that matter did not exist and that the universe consisted solely of
>ideas. Hobbes ventured the opposite: mind did not exist except as an
>artifact of matter. Russell [Rus27] embraced neutral monism, which
>reconciled Berkeley's and Hobbes' viewpoints as compatible dual accounts of
>a common neutral Leibnizian monad.
> This much of the history of mind-body dualism will suffice as a
>convenient point of reference for the sequel. R. Watson's Britannica
>article [Wat86] is a conveniently accessible starting point for further
>reading. The thesis of this paper is that mind-body dualism can be made to
>work via a theory that we greatly prefer to its monist competitors.
>Reflecting an era of reduced expectations for the superiority of humans, we
>have implemented causal interaction not with the pineal gland but with
>machinery freely available to all classical entities, whether newt, pet
>rock, electron, or theorem (but not quantum mechanical wavefunction, which
>is sibling to if not an actual instance of our machinery)."
> "We have advanced a mechanism for the causal interaction of mind and
>body, and argued that separate additional mechanisms for body-body and
>mind-mind interaction can be dispensed with; mind-body interaction is all
>that is needed. This is a very different outcome from that contemplated by
>17th century Cartesianists, who took body-body and mind-mind interaction as
>given and who could find no satisfactory passage from these to mind-body
>interaction. Even had they found a technically plausible solution to their
>puzzle, mind-body interaction would presumably still have been regarded as
>secondary to body-body interaction. We have reversed that priority.
> One might not expect mind-body duality as a mere philosophical problem
>to address any urgent need outside of philosophy. Nevertheless we have
>offered solutions to the following practical problems that could be
>construed as particular applications of our general solution to Descartes'
>mind-body problem, broadly construed to allow scarecrows and everything
>else to have minds."
> There are his own words!
>----- Original Message ----- From: "Bruno Marchal" <>
>To: "Stephen Paul King" <>
>Cc: "Stathis Papaioannou" <>;
>Sent: Sunday, May 15, 2005 10:18 AM
>Subject: Re: Olympia's Beautiful and Profound Mind
>Le 15-mai-05, à 15:40, Stephen Paul King a écrit :
>> Two points: I am pointing out that the "non-interactional" idea of
>>computation and any form of monism will fail to account for the
>>"necessity" of 1st person viewpoints.
>You know that the "necessity" of 1st person viewpoints is what I
>consider the most easily explained (through the translation of the
>Theaetetus in arithmetic or in any language of a lobian machine).
>You refer to paper as hard and technical as my thesis. You should
>explain why you still believe the 1 person is dismissed in comp or any
>Also, Pratt seems to me monist, and its mathematical dualism does not
>address the main question in philosphy of mind/cognitive science. Its
>paper is interesting but could hardly be refer as an authority on those
>question at this stage.

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Received on Mon May 16 2005 - 02:49:53 PDT

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