[Serious Phil] [analytic] Re: The Causal Closure of the Physical
SWMirsky at aol.com
Sun Mar 4 09:01:25 CST 2012
--- In Phil-Sci-Mind at yahoogroups.com, "andy_kappa" <Philscimind at ...> wrote:
> > "andy_kappa" <Philscimind@> wrote:
> > > What is gained from understanding this particular use of the word 'consciousness' is that certain commonly held default views might be recognized for the unnecessary and sterile speculation that they are (physicalism being a case in point). But regarding our respective memberships to these two opposing groups, never the twain shall meet.
> "SWM" <Philscimind@> replied:
> > Except that I WAS once in your camp and thought as you do. So the twain met! -- SWM
> Strange... I was once in your camp and thought as you do, but when the blinkers came off I could see where I had been going wrong. In either case, the transition from one camp to the other doesn't amount to a meeting (ie to a view that both camps can agree on).
Well, perhaps you're right about switching camps and all. But my sense of it is that, having once held the sort of view you seem to hold, I can see where you're coming from so that IS a meeting of sorts. As I've written here before, my initial attraction to (and reading of) Wittgenstein's works reflected my fascintion with his earlier Tractarian view and I never quite shook that in my initial exposure to his later work Philosophical Investigations (despite his expressly articulating his rejection of certain unspecified "grave mistakes" he came to believe he had made in the Tractatus).
The earlier work suggests, among other things, that there is a deeper truth to be apprehended that goes beyond words, beyond our capacity to speak coherently about it at all (much as you claim that "consciousness" has a sense in which it denotes something that cannot be specified or even conceptualized). The Tractatus ends with the statement that (and this is not an exact quote as I don't have the text before me!) 'those things whereof we cannot know, thereof we should not speak'. It tells its readers to treat the preceding material in the book they have just finished as a ladder by which they have climbed to a height that will give them a better view of things but that they should not cling to the ladder but kick it away, now that they have attained the necessary height. (Very Zen, actually.)
Mystics and those of a mystical bent (myself included, in the latter category at least) have found that fascinating and a sort of license to favor a kind of rejection of language in affecting to understand the world, i.e., to treat the process as something we must do at a deeper level. We dispel certain narratives, certain expectations which language seems to thrust us toward thereby.
But the later Wittgenstein, in the Investigations, offers a remedy for this view when he moves away from seeing language as a kind of limitation that keeps us inside (by being unable to depict all the really important truths about which nothing can be said, as he puts it) to language as multi-dimensional (it does way more things than merely picture some otherwise inaccessible external world, hence his toolbox metaphor) and constitutive of what we think about the world.
As such, he points out in the later work that many of the ideas we have that seem to have metaphysical import are really just a function of language gone "on holiday" as he puts it, our words unmoored from their proper venues and set adrift in places they don't quite belong, where they cannot do their job and instead suggest problems in understanding which don't really exist at all. Such, I think, is this problem you are pointing up vis a vis "consciousness".
You want to say (no, you have said) that "consciousness" in the sense you want to talk about it (since, in fact, we are here talking about it!) cannot be talked about and everything I have tried to say about "consciousness" you have dismissed as not being about what you mean by "consciousness". But by your own admission, you don't think there is anything to mean!
Your view is thus akin to the sort of thing we find in the Wittgenstein of the Tractatus, a supposition that talking about this is useful, perhaps as a ladder to a better vantage point, but is not in fact as what it purports to be, a means of referring to something that is comprehensible, a referent.
So are our divergent viewpoints really just an instance of your "never the 'twain shall meet" claim? Or is this just the refusal of one of us to meet the other in this particular bit of discourse?
Or perhaps you do have a point in this way:
We cannot meet because, to do so, one of us will have to recognize the potency (and thus the predominance) of the other's claim.
After all, if you're right, then I have to give up my view that all these problems with words like "consciousness" are linguistically driven (because of the nature of language and how it shapes our thinking) -- or you would have to give up your view that there is a domain (of sorts) that is off-limits to language but which, as the early Wittgenstein had it, really contains all the important stuff.
So maybe yes, there is no possibility of meeting here. Either one or the other way of looking at this will be correct. I don't see how both can be.
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