Re: MD Mysticism and the appearance/reality distinction

From: Matt the Enraged Endorphin (
Date: Thu Apr 03 2003 - 06:13:27 BST

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    For a while now, Scott has been making his critiques of Rorty known and
    I've mainly been evasive. I honestly don't have a lot to say because I
    don't really find Scott's criticisms that persuasive as I've made known in
    the past. But I'll set them out again.

    Scott has been accusing Rorty of adhering to a materialist
    metaphysics. This puts Rorty in an awkward position because Rorty wants to
    get rid of metaphysics. I find the notion that Rorty is operating under
    any kind of metaphysics to beg the question. Scott does not. I don't know
    what else to say.

    To say that Rorty spends "a considerable amount of Philosophy and the
    Mirror of Nature trying to to [sic] show that the appearance of a
    non-spatial somewhat (our minds) is 'really' no more than neural activity
    (the mind-brain identity hypothesis)" is a misconstrual. Rorty spends part
    of his time attempting to show that we could have just as easily spoken a
    language that spoke of "neural processes" rather than "mind." He
    constructs a hypothetical race called the Antipodeans and suggests that,
    even though they speak only of neural processes rather than mind,
    "C-fibers" rather than pain, and "G-14 quivers" rather than wonder, they
    can both say and do the same things we do when we speak of mind, pain, and
    wonder. Rorty says, "the materialist should stop reacting to stories such
    as that about the Antipodeans by saying metaphysical things, and confine
    himself to such claims as 'No predictive or explanatory or descriptive
    power would be lost if we had spoken Antipodean all our lives.'" (PMN, p.
    120) Rorty calls himself a materialist, but this is misleading if it is
    thought of as a metaphysical position. "Only a philosopher with a lot
    invested in the notion of 'ontological status' would need to worry about
    whether a corrigibly reportable pain was 'really' a pain or rather a
    stimulated C-fiber."

    I take the moral of PMN and his post-PMN non-use of the word "materialism"
    to be that Rorty takes the attempt to say that one way of describing
    reality is _really_ the vocabulary Reality wants to be described as is
    pointless and uninteresting and that he really doesn't want to get caught
    up in it. So I don't think Rorty is guilty of falling into an
    appearance/reality distinction. Only if you construe all Darwinisms as
    falling into a metaphysical materialism, does he fall on that count and I
    think that is a misconstrual, too. Rorty states on many occasions that he
    sees "natural science in general, and Darwin in particular, as simply one
    more image of the world to be placed alongside others, rather than as
    offering the _one_ image that corresponds to reality." ("Dewey Between
    Hegel and Darwin") He considers Darwinism to be a narrative in which to
    contextualize human development, not a piercing beyond the veil of
    appearance to True Reality.

    So, I still see Scott as begging the question. Scott either assumes a
    definition of metaphysics that includes Rorty and makes his repudiation of
    metaphysics look silly, or he misconstrues Rorty's stance as being
    metaphysical under his own terms. Either way, I'm unconvinced by the
    persuasiveness of the critique.


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