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On The Warrior Prophet posted 30 June 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionOn The Warrior Prophet by TakLoufer, Candidate

Very interesting response! Though I'm not sure you addressed my worries, Tak. You never actually addressed my intentionality question (which is simply a version of the perspective question). What are out experiences of?


Perhaps I'm not understanding by what you mean by "intentionality", so let me explain what I think you are referring to.

Here is what I think you mean:

In the materialist metaphysic, when one looks at an object, their experience is "about" an ontologically distinct substance composed of matter. So, to a materialist, intentionality is the mental representation of something in the objective world composed of matter. Right?

To a mental monist, when one looks at an object, their experience is of a metamental object within a metamind. So to a mental monist, intentionality is the mental construction of a metamental object within a metamind (and the metamental object is in turn "intended" or "about" a combination of eternal objects/archetypes)

If I strip off all of the odd jargon and concepts, and really compare materialism and mental monism, I think the main difference between the two ontologies is this:

1) The basic units or "building blocks" in materialism: Atoms, electrons, mass, "spin", forces, etc. These objects intrinsically contain no experience and have no "internal" existence. They exist, to use a term used by Griffin, as en soi, or in themselves, but not for themselves. They only have an "outside" This is what Whitehead called a "vacuous entity"

2) The basic units or "building blocks" of mental monism are eternal objects and archetypes. This includes the experience of seeing red, blue, the smell of fish, the concept of extensions in space, time, pain, etc . . . . even, I would assume, the laws of mathematics and abstractions such as love, hate, freedom (I may be getting ahead of myself now). Unlike the "vacuous entities," that make up reality in the materialist metaphysic, these objects are what experiences are composed of.

Given these two different types of building blocks, only the second is intrinsically capable of subjectivity. The first kind can only allow for subjectivity provided some outside agency "bridges the gap" and attaches experience to the insentient units. With the second type, there is no gap to bridge.

You seem to agree with that the 'nothing response' is unpalatable (because it simply does away with the very intentionality you're trying to save).


Well, by nothing, I mean nothing physically. Nonphysical does not necessarily entail nonexistence. Numbers, algorithms, eternal objects, minds, etc. are all nonphysical. They are "outside" space. They have no "where". If you mean that the objects of the intention do not exist (physically or otherwise), then I would agree that that premise is unpalatable. Irrealism is in the same boat as solipsism.

You admit the mental construct response is unpalatable to common sense (which you seem to need), but you never actually say what our experiences are about.


Mental monism conflicts with "soft core" common sense, much in the way that a person from ancient times could conceive that the world is, in fact, not resting on the back of a tortoise, or that leeches are bad for you, or lightning does not come from the gods . . . even though these beliefs are part of the worldview he has raised with. OTOH, this same person could not conceive that he does not exist, or that his is not conscious, or that he does not have volition.

Mental monism conflicts with the current world view, but it does not violate the hard-core notions that all people employ by necessity.

The metamind? You have to admit that prima facie, this smacks far more of 'fiction' and 'unexplained explainer' than good old fashioned matter.


Well, it depends on how one was raised. In a different culture (Hindu, perhaps), the idea of independent and ontologically distinct and insentient matter may strike some as absurd..

Moreover, there's a sense in which saying our experiences are on 'meta-experiences' seems a horribly ad hoc way of saving intentionality, particularly when you want to say that intentionality is not only the fundamental feature of experience, but your primary basis for abandoning materialism!


Well, it wasn't my primary reason. Intentionality aside, the very existence of experience is enough to cripple mainstream materialism. In order for materialism to account for consciousness, it would have to either 1) allow matter to intrinsically have experience or 2) allow an outside agent to bridge the gap.

Just think of all the questions: So if experiences are about meta-experiences, then what are those 'meta-experiences' about? After-all, they are EXPERIENCES, aren't they? Or are we talking about 'intentionless experiences' at this level? If this is the case, and intentionality is an essential characteristic of experience, then it no longer seems like we're talking about experiences, but rather about something more inert... more, matter like?


But matter just makes the problem even more complicated; or at least the matter of mainstream materialism. This matter is devoid of experience, and yet we have experience. Given the limited and insentient nature of this materialistic matter, the best one could hope for is an en soi automation. Experience from insentience requires "something extra" to bridge the gap.

I really think that idealism renders intentionality unintelligible. You have to show me where I'm wrong.


Okay, I see what you are getting at. Allow me to explain. Let me start from the beginning - or at the rock bottom of reality - and work my way up, justifying each "level":

Level 1: The Platonic Realm - This is where is all starts. It is at this "level" (a poor choose of words - this is not an actual "place") that eternal objects and archetypes "reside" (another meaningless word). The existence of these objects, unlike the existence of matter, is irrefutable. The experience of colors, sounds, smells, sensations, tastes, extensions in space, time, mathematics, abstractions - these exist, and are irreducible. They have no spatial location, but are objects "outside" the universe; though they can be manifested in various forms. These eternal objects are what consciousness is made of. Bear in mind that when I refer to the color red, I refer to the experience of the color red; a non-experienced red has no color. Even in a materialist metaphysic, these objects must be accounted for; and in order to make materialism coherent, one must find a way for these qualia to exist in world where they don't intrinsically exist. The existence of this "Realm" (once again, not a place, but a catch all term for all of the eternal objects) is, IMO, as indisputable as consciousness itself.

Level 2: The Metamind - The metamind is, in effect, the buffer that rest between our minds and the eternal objects. The necessity of the metamind is that something is required to explain how the paint of eternal objects could produce the portrait of our universe. The metamind is a sort of organizer of all of the eternal objects. It is from the metamind in which the natural laws are maintained, objects remain stable, and experiences remain where they should. As to what the metamind's experiences are about, well, they are about the eternal objects (and the eternal objects don't have intentionality, as they are "the experience of _____"). This has more explanatory value than materialism because it doesn't have the "unbridgeable gap" that comes with insentient matter.

As to the metamind's nature . . . ? I doubt it has an anthropomorphic personality, or characteristics as we know it. The metamind may be our "higher selves" or whatever. I don't know. Peter B. Lloyd has a number of theories.

Level 3: Our minds - Our minds are "within" the metamind and all of our intentionality and perceptions are "about" meta-mental objects in the metamind, which in turn are "about" combinations of eternal objects.

A way to simplify this (as I realize the "metamind" sounds a bit silly) is to say that our intentionality is of structures of eternal objects (which is all the metamind really is: a collection and structure of archetypes and eternal objects)

So there you have it.

Material intentionality = "about" material objects.

Immaterial intentionality = "about" constructs of eternal objects. ("Actual Entities" according to Whitehead)

For example: An apple has color, taste, mass, volume. It has duration and it will change with time. If one were to take a piece of it and put it under a microscope, they will see more of its structure: cells, molecules, etc. All of these will be experiences (or Berkeley's "Ideas") and will be composed of manifested eternal objects. The metamind maintains the apple's archetypes, much the same way we maintain an object in a dream.

The same applies with materialism, except that materialism has to concede the existence of an ontologically different, insentient world for the experiences of the apple to supervene on and then has to explain how this experience can be come from the dead matter. By necessity they have to use an (sometimes unspoken) outside agency or allow matter to posses experience.

Basically, materialism just adds an unnecessary step.

Another point: the 'limits of science' (which I take as a given) comes up all the time in debates like this, and I can't help but think it simply misses the point. No one I know of argues the completeness or infallibility of science. They only argue that when it comes to the generation of reliable theoretical truth-claims, it really seems to be the only game in town. I'm open to considering competitors, but the field looks pretty bleak.


Well, science can produce reliable truth-claims within its limitations, but outside of this it is useless. The shadows have been described, predicted, and utilized - what's casting them eludes us.

There are ways, BTW, of materially explaining why science can't crack intentionality - they just seem to lead to unpalatable conclusions. Colin McGinn has an interesting take on this. I have my own 'blind brain hypothesis.'


IIRC, McGinn's position is that we simply cannot know (though he maintains that the solution must be within a materialistic metaphysic). I'll get back to his argument later. I've read of your "blind brain hypothesis" and I agree with it to a large extent (we are simply cognitively limited in self-reflection), but I feel that this metaphysical blind spot can be, while not exposed entirely, be partially circumvented and we can at least have a good idea of what the unknown metaphysic should involve. Your hypothesis (along with many other theories) seems to work with the unspoken assumption of an "observer" somehow reading data from within the brain (unless you are maintaining the foundational reality of experience). I say this based on how you say the brain is adept at tracking changes in the outside world. Who's reading the data? If the brain is "just another object in the world" (and I'm sure it is) then, according to the limitations of the materialist metaphysic, the brain should be nothing more than an automation - bouncing deterministic billiard balls. For the brain to even be able to think that it is separate, it requires some aspect beyond what materialism can offer.

This "unspoken observer" found in so many theories may be the "nothing" Replay mentioned in that thread.

We may intrinsically see ourselves as separate from the rest of the world (and I don't think we are, we are part of it as much as anything else), and I no doubt believe that we are limited in our cognitive abilities to really understand what's going on (our main limitation is the reliance on spatial coordiences to understand something - "nonphysical" just confuses us), but that doesn't mean we can make a good educated guess.

We know we have consciousness.

We know eternal objects exist.

We know we have intentionality and volition.

While we may be blind to the whole picture, we know that an adequate metaphysic should account for these phenomena. Mainstream materialism relies on either emergentism (which is only correlative and has no explanatory value) or an unspoken homunculus observing neural activity in the brain. So, despite McGinn's despair on the issue, we know what the metaphysic should account for, which allows for educated guesses. And taking into account the fallacies of mainstream materialism, I feel it's a safe bet that experience (not necessarily consciousness) is a fundamental part of reality. In fact, the whole materialist paradigm really got started when Descartes split the world into "mind" and "matter". Over the centuries, scientist have slowly excised themselves from “mind” until they left themselves with an ontology with lacked the tools to account for their own experience.

And lastly, I'm not sure how giving up on metaphysical commitments (and after over two thousands years, no less!) bears in any way on truth... Such resignation comes, I would argue, when you recognize the truth of metaphysical commitments!


Well, when I find out the truth, I'll let you know. <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) --> view post


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