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Wednesday, August 03, 2022

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"The coffee is hot and The coffee is not hot"

And by the same token it is possible that this hot coffee could become cold coffee.

But it is not possible that a physical item could become a mental item, or vice versa.

You didn't read my post with any care at all. Typical.

Likewise, you did not understand my objection, which is also typical.

Let's start with the logic.

A. This thing is a physical object.

B. A physical object could not possibly be a mental item. (Mental items and physical objects are in different categories).

C. This thing could be a mental item.

Do you agree that these three propositions are mutually inconsistent?

I don't see how the 'intentional object' is relevant. If it is, please explain how it is.


I made a further attempt to understand the difficult para beginning "If the intentional object is real ...", but I am none the wiser.

But in any case, you say the answer to the title question, namely "Could the Visible Surface of a Physical Thing be a Mental Item?" is 'yes'. If so, then it is possible that the visible surface of a physical thing could be a mental item.

But that contradicts (4) above. So how can you say "I have shown how the members of the tetrad could all be true" if (4) is false?

Something has to give, Bill.

I had yet another look at the problematic paragraph (beginning “If the intentional object is real, ..”). I still cannot see how it engages with the logic of the aporia.

Suppose (2) is true. (2) states that it is possible that this is not the visible surface of a desk. Now (3) states if that were so, this would be a mental item. Putting (2) and (3) together, we get the proposition that this could be a mental item, i.e. that its being a mental item is possible. But (4) says that it is impossible that the visible surface of a desk could ever be a mental item, thus putting (2), (3) and (4) together entails that this is not the visible surface of a desk. Can you point me to any flaw in the logic of the argument, given the truth of the premisses? If not, how is the problematic para relevant? What do intentional objects have to do with it?

What shapes do this and the visible surface of a desk have? Can we assume they are quadrilaterals? If so, are they also rectangles?

Ed, it seems to me you have missed the essential distinctions Bill is making, that between a mental act and that which is presented (my word) in mente. But I want to come at it from a different (naïve?) direction.

"But it is not possible that a physical item could become a mental item, or vice versa."

As a strict ontological proposition, I agree; a physical item and a mental item are not the same things, by definition, no more than our previous discussion of oranges and mental perceptions of oranges are the same things. But …

Is a red light a physical item? I would say so. And a red light will excite the optic nerve in a certain way, which in turn will cause chemical and electrical changes in the brain that are commonly understood to be the event of the mental perception of a red light.

You can say that the ontological being of a mental perception of a red light is not the same as the red light, or even of the physical changes in the optic nerve and the brain, but this seems to glom over the main point: it is hard, I think, to argue that the obvious correlation of the two events, physical and mental, is not causative in the natural sense of that term. Therefore, a physical item cannot be a mental item, but it can be a direct (sufficient?) cause of a mental item, and does so quite often in our experience (albeit with the possibility of error in perception as noted in #2 & 3).

And this, I think, is the central philosophic issue that your strict ontological formulation seems to distract from. What is the relationship between two ontologically different species? Bill phenomenolizes the two in mente substituting for the hard ontological distinction a distinction between two different mental phenomena. And this answers your question directly if not definitively. But I want to hold onto the ontological distinction and say the relationship is directly causative, without, of course, being able to specify the exact nature of the cause involved. But for me, the correlation itself is sufficient evidence of the connection.

To sum up and get back on the point: my thesis seems to account for 1-3, with 4 being an incomplete thought and nearly a non-sequitur. Given the posited ontological distinction, what does that mean for the first 3? My thesis explains the relations in 1-3 without annulling the hard distinctions in 4.

Tom,

Yes, Ed is ignoring a distinction I made between mental items that are contents of consciousness and mental items that are objects of consciousness. He says that there is a categorial difference between the mental and the physical which implies that, necessarily, no physical item is mental, and conversely. There is a clear sense in which that is true: his desk with all its properties and parts and relations, his desk in its mind-independent external reality, is surely no content of -- not contained in -- anyone's consciousness, not even Ed's despite his intimate familiarity with his desk. But when he looks at his desk at a given time, what is given to him at that time , what is pheneomenologically present to him at that time, is not the desk itself in external reality, with all its properties, parts, etc. What is given, what is *in mente* in what I take to be your sense, is an incomplete object, what I am calling the noema, which cannot exist on its own in external reality because it is incomplete and because it is the correlate of the mental act. Now this distinction will give rise to problems of its own, as I have said. But if you make the distinction then you can reasonably maintain that Ed's disk-noema is at once both mental and physical. How physical? Well, it is an ontological part of the desk itself in external reality. Husserl, Castaneda, and Butchvarov are three distinguished philosophers who have proposed theories along these lines.

Tom,

You are bringing in a different issue.

>>Is a red light a physical item? I would say so. And a red light will excite the optic nerve in a certain way, which in turn will cause chemical and electrical changes in the brain that are commonly understood to be the event of the mental perception of a red light.<<

Are you suggesting that the mental act of perceiving a red light is identical to a brain event? Are you advocating a token-token identity theory according to which each mental event is numerically identical to some brain event? I hope not. Here is a simple argument contra:

a. If x, y are identical, than x, y share all properties.
Therefore
b. If an act of outer perception is identical to a brain event, then they share all properties.
But
c. They do not share all properties: the act of outer perception is object-directed whereas the brain event is not.
Therefore
d. The act of outer perception is not identical to a brain event.

Try running the argument in reverse. Negate the conclusion. Which premise will you negate?

There are some good points made here, and I am not ignoring them. But again, do we agree that the three statements below cannot all be true?

A. This thing is a physical object.

B. A physical object could not possibly be a mental item. (Mental items and physical objects are in different categories).

C. This thing could be a mental item.

If so, which is false?

So, two questions. Are the statements inconsistent or not? Second, if inconsistent, which one is false?

This should not be too hard to answer.

>He [Ed] says that there is a categorial difference between the mental and the physical which implies that, necessarily, no physical item is mental, and conversely.

Correct. This suggests you disagree with my 4) “It is impossible that the visible surface of a desk could ever be a mental item.”

But in your post above, you say “I have shown how the members of the tetrad could all be true.” Something has to give.

Separate question. Which book of Husserl's do you recommend that deals with the issues raised here?

I remember trying to read Logical Investigations as a student, but not getting very far. I might also have looked at Cartesian Meditations, with the same result.

I have found online Logical Investigations, and Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology. The noema is defined in the latter.

Let me reply to Bill's 8/7 Q to me first:

Identity? Certainly not. I go on to argue explicitly that the two - brain events and mental act of perceiving - are ontologically distinct, but are connected via a natural notion of causation (i.e., my loose way of saying that event B happened because of A without going into more precise detail). My point was to flesh out an explanation in which Ed's hard distinction b/t mental items and physical items in #4 is retained, and his #'s 1-3 are not violated.

Ed: "But in your post above, you say “I have shown how the members of the tetrad could all be true.” Something has to give."

I believe the crux of Bill's argument is contained in these concluding statements to me: "But if you make the distinction then you can reasonably maintain that Ed's desk-noema is at once both mental and physical. How physical? Well, it is an ontological part of the desk itself in external reality."

I don't have a good background in Husserl and don't know any more about "noema" than Bill presents here, but it appears to be a conception that 'bridges' the gap between the mental and the physical, partaking of both. In this, it sounds eerily similar to what Kierkegaard says in the Postscript (Hong, page 314) in regards to actuality: "Actuality is an interesse [intermediate being] between thinking and being in the hypothetical unity of abstraction." The context and argument advanced by K are quite different than our context, but the quote for our purposes seems to suggest something that functions like the noema Bill speaks of:

When actuality (the desk) presents itself, what is presented to consciousness is a hypothetical unity of thought/consciousness and the being of the desk. This hypothetical unity thereby encompasses both a mental phenomena and an intentionality towards the external actuality of the desk. In this way, consciousness' hypothetical unity is both a mental item and an ontological part of the desk.

Now, I am going to anticipate your response if I may: the noema or hypothetical unity are mental and cannot be 'an ontological part of the desk' because the desk is not a mental item and cannot be one. But you actually are playing right into K's point: the hypothetical unity is not of a mental construct of the desk and the concept of an external object; the hypothetical unity is of a mental apprehension of the desk and the actual, factually existent desk. As such, this hypothetical unity is both mental and ontologically part of the desk in all its external reality.

This is actually a key point in Kierkegaard's overall argument, but all of that is beside the point. If Bill's noema functions anything like K's hypothetical unity as I have described it, then I think his argument plausibly holds: the desk you believe you are so familiar with is actually a noema/hypothetical unity in conscious experience that is both mental and physical. Therefore, all 4 statements are satisfied.

Tom,

You well understand what I was driving at. The noema bridges the gap between the mind on the one hand and the external thing on the other. It is not a representation of the thing, nor is it the thing itself. You could say that it is a facet of the thing. It is where the finite mind meets the infinitely propertied thing.

Now I would like to read the SK passage, but I don't have the Hong trans, only the Lowrie and Swenson trans. So could you reproduce that quotation here?

You speak of a "hypothetical unity of thought/consciousness and the being of the desk." Why hypothetical? I'd say that the noema is the actual, not hypothetical, point of contact of mind and thing.

I am thinking in terms of the following schema which is of course questionable at every point:

Ego-cogito-cogitatum qua cogitatum - ens reale

OR

Subject -- intentional experience (mental act or noesis) -- intentional object as such (noema) -- real thing.

Question: is the real external thing identifiable with a complete cluster of noemata? If yes, then you get Husserl's transcendental idealism. Or is the real external thing radically transcendent of consciousness?

>The noema bridges the gap between the mind on the one hand and the external thing on the other.

I'm sure that's true. But you still haven't resolved the problem of the logic. Are you and Tom saying that "This could possibly be a mental item" and "This could not possibly be a mental item" could both be true at the same time, with 'this' referring to the same thing in both cases? The two statements are contradictory.

Oz,

I explained that the noema (as I am using the term here in line with the 'East Coast' interpretation of the noema in Husserl) is the intentional object as correlate of the noesis or mental act. It is in this sense a mental item, but not a mental content. This item, the noema, is at once both mental in the sense I have just explained, and physical if it forms together with other noemata a complete system of noemata, which system is identical to an external physical thing such as your desk.

The noema is mental in one respect but physical in a different respect. There is no contradiction because there is a difference in respects. Compare: Is the rubber ball red or not-red? It is red in respect of its surface, but not-red (because it is gray) in respect of its interior. Can the surface of a ball be both red and not-red? Yes, it can be red in respect of its northern hemisphere and green in respect of its southern hemisphere.

And so, without contradiction, the noema can be both mental in respect of being the necessary correlate of a noesis and physical in respect of being an ontological part of a desk. No contradiction!

Oz,

It occurs to me now that what I am urging in defense of the 'East Coast' noema is structurally analogous to what a Thomist will say in defense of common natures. There is felinity in the cat, and there is felinity in the mind that knows the cat. One and the same common nature exists in the mind with esse intentionale and in the cat with esse realeesse.

The common nature is both mental and physical, but there is no contradiction because of the difference between the two modes of being/esse. The common nature for Thomas bridges the gap between mind and thing as the noema does for Husserl.

Now there are all sorts of further questions and problems here, but you can't blow these doctrines out of the water with a cheap logical objection.

You seem to be assuming a radical mutual externality of mind and thing. But then you will have the problem of explaining how a mind can know a thing. What would your man Ockham say?

Bill, you asked for the SK passage on Tuesday. My quote on actuality and the hypothetical unity comes from within a typical SK tour de force of an argument that circles and circles for pages. So I can't send you all of it, but I can send you the paragraph it was embedded within (which I omitted because it introduced things that were not on point with Ed's concerns). So here it is, from the Postscript (Hong, page 314):

"What actuality is cannot be rendered in the language of abstraction. Actuality is an interesse [intermediate being] between thinking and being in the hypothetical unity of abstraction. Abstraction deals with possibility and actuality, but its conception of actuality is a false rendition, since the medium is not actuality but possibility. Only by annulling actuality can abstraction grasp it, but to annul it is precisely to change it into possibility."

You say "that the noema is the actual, not hypothetical, point of contact of mind and thing." However, from this quote, I think its obvious why it’s a hypothetical unity rather than an actuality. For SK, thoughts modal being is possibility as opposed to the actuality of factual being. As such, any unity posited of thought and the factual being of actuality can only be as a possibility, a hypothetical.

I would also point out that you also say that the noema "is a facet of the thing. It is where the finite mind meets the infinitely propertied thing." But that is similar to what SK is getting at, and at least one reason why he refers to the intersection of mind and factual being as a hypothetical unity: actuality, factual being, always withholds something, leaves something left over from the minds attempt to encompass it in a unity. You describe the object as an infinitely propertied thing; those infinite properties are the actuality of the object which can never be encompassed by thought and therefore any unity posited by thought will only ever be a possibility. SK actually refers to thought and thoughts being not only as possible and hypothetical, but also as an approximation, which squares nicely with your finite-infinitely propertied nexus point.

As to your final question, SK is definitely in the radically transcendent camp, if I understand that phrase. As I said before, I don't have a good background in Husserl, but I do think I have a feel for what phenomenalism is trying to do. And that feel comes from my reading of Kierkegaard, whom I consider to be a kind of proto-phenomenalist in his argumentation. It helped me in following his arguments when I realized that he was in some form or manner elucidating the content or structures of the first person qualitative experience of consciousness. And in this, his lodestar for the content of consciousness is the irreducible, non-theoretical nature of the external factual being of actuality - i.e., factual being is radically transcendent (or "Other") to thought and conceptualization. Something exists for us, but not as a concept of existence, but as a "this-ness" before us (a term I picked up from your blog pages).

So, let me run through it again: confronted with the sheer "this-ness" of an external object, the mind simultaneously and immediately forms a hypothetical unity of its thought and this external factual object, and it is this unity which we commonly take to be an experience of a desk, a turtle, or a shooting star.

So, all that said, here is the schema I would propose:

Subject ---> Actuality (immediate raw experience/confrontation) ----> Hypothetical Unity (Intentional object) ----> the thing (subject to revision in time and experience).

It should be noted that SK would have hated and denounced this schema, and the previous schematic of SK's philosophy, as a banal rendition of his work. But I enjoy it all nonetheless.

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