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Monday, March 25, 2013

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Bill,

I am somewhat puzzled by your claim that there is an asymmetry between materialism regarding the mind, which you claim collapses into eliminativism, but Berkeleyan idealism does not collapse into eliminativism about physical objects. You argue for the former on the grounds that identifying felt pains with brain states ends up eliminating the former because felt pains have properties that brains states do not. But I should think the same holds for an identification of physical objects with ideas. For instance, physical objects have mass whereas ideas do not; physical objects have spatial location, whereas ideas do not (provided they are not identical to brain states).

but an identification of physical objects with a cluster of ideas does not collapse into eliminativism about physical objects.

because mental state, such as felt pain, have properties brain states do not and therefore such identifications "...a felt pain simply cannot be identical to a brain state: it has properties no brain state could possibly have.

Peter,

The idea is not that a physical object is a mental act or even a collection of mental acts, but that a physical object is a system of ontological guises (Castaneda) or noemata (Husserl). These thin intentional objects are not mental acts but accusatives of acts. I see no reason why a maximal system of such objects could not have mass and spatial location.

Bill,
Sorry about the two dangling phrases; forgot to delete them.

You argue that the reason why an identification of physical objects with any mind-dependent items (such as Berkeleyan ideas) does not collapse into eliminativism is because “there is nothing in the nature of physical objects as we experience them that requires that such objects exist in splendid independence of any mind.” (my emphasis)

But surely prior to any such theory of identification we distinguish between physical object and the experience of a physical object. I am not arguing that an identification of an experience of a physical object with mind-dependent items reduces to eliminativism, for an experience must be conscious and hence mental. I am arguing against conflating physical objects with our experience of physical objects and then claiming that since the later can be identified with some mind-dependent items, so can the former.

Peter,

I am not conflating the experience of a physical object with the physical object experienced. Every theory must respect that distinction. As I said above, "These thin intentional objects are not mental acts but accusatives of acts."

Bill,

I am not sure what difference does it make whether they are accusatives of acts or some other mental aspect. The central issue, as I understand it, is that you maintain that a theory which identifies physical objects with something mental or a cluster of such, does not collapse into an eliminativist theory of physical objects. The question is whether the argument you give for this claim is sound.

The argument, so far as I understand it, is that our experience of physical object does not require us to think of physical objects as mind independent. It is this claim that I fail to understand. After all, I could say the same about the mind: i.e., that our experience of mental events does not as such preclude them from being physical processes. The reason such identity theories fail is because we recognize that the mental has properties that physical objects cannot have and this last claim is not based on the fact that we do not experience physical objects as having consciousness, for instance.

Similarly, I should think, we begin with a certain conception that physical objects are mind independent and have properties that no mental items can have. That is why Berkelyan idealism is so counter-intuitive; it defies our pre-philosophical concept of what a physical object is.

Maybe this post will help: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2009/12/of-berkeleys-stones-and-the-eliminativists-beliefs.html

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