Re: MD Mysticism and the appearance/reality distinction

From: Matt the Enraged Endorphin (
Date: Fri Apr 04 2003 - 19:10:47 BST

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    Scott said:
    I accuse him of espousing Darwinism and the mind-brain identity hypothesis.
    These are hallmarks of materialism, and non-materialists deny them. Since
    there is no convincing scientific evidence for either, and reasons to doubt
    both (and reasons to affirm both), why is this espousal not metaphysical?

    It is not metaphysical because Rorty does not say, "What is really behind
    evolution and the mind are Darwinian chance mutations and the brain." He
    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) I see a big
    difference between the two i.e. the first says that it has found what is
    _really_ working in evolution and the mind and the second simply suggests
    what is working behind the mind. As I see it, the first is metaphysical
    and the second is pragmatic, the first a metanarrative and the second a
    local narrative.

    This is why I think you are assuming a different definition of metaphysics
    and then making Rorty look silly by slipping it underneath him. I see you
    not making the above distinction and claiming that all narratives make
    claims to meta- status.

    Scott said:
    Rorty assumes that thorough knowledge of neural activity will show that our
    mental vocabulary is replacable by a physical vocabulary. This is a
    metaphysical assumption. What if a thorough knowledge of neural activity
    showed that neural activity by itself could *not* account for feeling pain?
    Rorty doesn't consider that possibility.

    True, Rorty does not consider that possibility, but he also doesn't rule it
    out of court or say that one could never be shown that neural activity
    could not account for feeling pain. If it can be shown that, then we can
    move on from there with a different vocabulary. (And its true, I don't
    think you've shown this.) It is true, Rorty places his bets with a
    thorough-going naturalistic vocabulary. But this is not a metaphysical
    assumption, again for the same reasons as above. As you say, Rorty only
    says that a mental vocabulary is replaceable by a physical one, which is to
    say that a physical vocabulary is replaceable by a mental one. They are
    both reducible to each other. The reason Rorty chooses the physical
    vocabulary is because he thinks we've been toiling around with the mental
    one for 2500 years and its about time we tried something new.

    It would appear that he feels that *his* assumptions, or if you like,
    narratives, are more useful than, say, mine. I say mine are more useful.
    Our difference is a metaphysical one, in that we both assume a *different*
    reality behind the appearance of mind/body dualism.

    This is the crux of the issue (I think). The first part I agree completely
    with, the second part I deny. The first part I think describes best what
    is going on between you and Rorty. The second part I think slips in your
    definition of metaphysics. As I see it, because neither you nor Rorty
    makes any claims for what _really_ is the reality behind the appearance of
    mind/body dualism (given both of your claims of irony), a less misleading
    way of putting your differences would be that both of you assume a
    different _appearance_ in place of the appearance of mind/body
    dualism. Still misleading, but less so, I think.

    I say you are begging the question over Rorty because by Rorty's lights
    your differences are metaphilosophical, a realm where its impossible not to
    beg the question over someone else, and by your lights your differences are
    metaphysical, which begs the question over Rorty's status as a
    metaphysician or an ironist.

    Scott said:
    I'm not sure what you mean by "all Darwinisms". I take Darwinism to be the
    assumption that species come into existence through a mechanical means,
    namely chance mutations and natural selection. The appearance is
    evolution. The Reality that Rorty adds to that is the idea that Darwinism
    explains evolution. Intelligent Designers add a different Reality to
    explain evolution. It is true that Rorty is theoretically open to the
    notion that Darwinism could some day be seen as a bad narrative, that is,
    that any narrative can and likely will be replaced. My point though is that
    right now, the Darwinist narrative is one that is part of metaphysical
    view that the world is "really" just material, not material and mental. It
    requires metaphysics to deny that apparent duality.

    I said "all Darwinisms" because I don't want to place Rortyan and Deweyan
    Darwinists in the same bucket as Dawkinian Darwinists. I take Dawkins to
    be one of those materialists who reacts to the story about the Antipodeans
    by saying metaphysical things. Saying that "evolution is an appearance"
    and that "Darwinism is a Reality" is, once again, a misleading way of
    putting things. Rorty simply takes the Darwin narrative to be the best way
    to explain evolution at the moment. It is true, the Designers are
    exploring a different narrative. Maybe Michael Behe will turn out to be
    the next Darwin, the next Dynamic, creative genius who will turn the tide
    of a culture, a kulturbarer. But that simply means history will show Rorty
    and Darwin to be on the losing side, just as Rorty hopes history will show
    Plato and Kant to be on the losing side. Being on the losing side doesn't
    mean that the losers got reality wrong, it simply means that the narrative
    they were using was found to be less useful than the winners, the narrative
    that replaced the old one. I see Rorty not as a creative genius, but as
    performing the function of philosophy that Hegel set forth: "holding one's
    time in thought." Our time and our culture is making strides to be
    naturalistic and Rorty and others are simply trying to tease out its
    consequences and make the naturalism as thorough-going as possible. As
    time marches on, others will do the same thing to Rorty and the naturalists.


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