Eliminative Materialism and Zombies

Is the mind the same as the body? What is consciousness? Can machines have it?

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Gary Childress
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Eliminative Materialism and Zombies

Post by Gary Childress » Fri May 22, 2015 10:29 am

Is there anyone here who can adequately explain what Patricia Churchland means by "folk psychology"? I remember studying it in my philosophy of mind class but never really getting a sense of it being able to fully account for empirical phenomena. But perhaps I just misunderstood what "folk psychology" means. My "layman's" understanding is that "folk psychology" wants to say that me experiencing qualia is just some kind of "myth" or "story" that I tell myself but that in some strange way I really don't experience qualia. If that is accurate of what Churchland calls "Folk psychology" then it seems to deny my most fundamental experiences. So I must either be wrong about what Churchland means or maybe she is some kind of a zombie (as David Chalmers might say)?

Thanks.

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Re: Eliminative Materialism and Zombies

Post by HexHammer » Fri May 22, 2015 11:24 am

Have you actually tried google the answer or do you just want a cozy chat?

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Gary Childress
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Re: Eliminative Materialism and Zombies

Post by Gary Childress » Fri May 22, 2015 11:35 am

HexHammer wrote:Have you actually tried google the answer or do you just want a cozy chat?
Just looking for a cozy chat. Why? Don't you want to chat?

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Re: Eliminative Materialism and Zombies

Post by HexHammer » Fri May 22, 2015 12:49 pm

Gary Childress wrote:
HexHammer wrote:Have you actually tried google the answer or do you just want a cozy chat?
Just looking for a cozy chat. Why? Don't you want to chat?
Cozy chats are usually based on ignorance, and therefore doesn't lead to wisdom, you know ..philosophy = love of wisdom.

So what you really is inviting other glaringly ignorant people to exchange useless information with, like it has always been and always will be.
..which is why I accuse various philosophy forums for not promoting philosophy, but merely cozy chat.

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Re: Eliminative Materialism and Zombies

Post by DesolationRow » Fri May 22, 2015 5:26 pm

Gary Childress wrote:Is there anyone here who can adequately explain what Patricia Churchland means by "folk psychology"? I remember studying it in my philosophy of mind class but never really getting a sense of it being able to fully account for empirical phenomena. But perhaps I just misunderstood what "folk psychology" means. My "layman's" understanding is that "folk psychology" wants to say that me experiencing qualia is just some kind of "myth" or "story" that I tell myself but that in some strange way I really don't experience qualia. If that is accurate of what Churchland calls "Folk psychology" then it seems to deny my most fundamental experiences. So I must either be wrong about what Churchland means or maybe she is some kind of a zombie (as David Chalmers might say)?

Thanks.
I haven't read anything from Churchland. But whatever you do, don't listen to Hex Hammer. He's an unadulterated jackass.

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Re: Eliminative Materialism and Zombies

Post by hammock » Fri May 22, 2015 6:46 pm

Gary Childress wrote:Is there anyone here who can adequately explain what Patricia Churchland means by "folk psychology"?

Folk psychology is the everyday language used by a [West-influenced] general population when their communications pertain to mental affairs (like beliefs, desires, the shown or manifested content of sensory receptions, etc); and any commonsense collection of assumptions about mind which the former reflects or potentially stems from.

Eliminative materialism is a movement descended from arguments of Sellars and Quine, which provoked some philosophers to reject the previously popular idea that the properties of our mental states are directly given to us. This combined with Kuhn's supposed historical revelation that new concepts in science are revolutionary rather than evolutionary. That is, new theories lack connections to old ones; the latter are simply eliminated, like phlogiston. Another example: There are no bridging relationships between alchemical essences and chemical elements, because today it is accepted that there are no alchemical essences.

From this prior work, Rorty and Feyerabend inferred that if scientific progress was eventually to sort-out the relationship between brain states and mental states, then actually this notion of establishing identities between the two was in error. When science proceeded far enough, it could merely assert that there are no mental states. "The differences between identity and causal correlation were no longer of significance, because we were now talking about only one entity--the brain state-- the mental state having been consigned to the ontological trash heap." [Teed Rockwell]

In regard to that era's fixation: The identity theory of PoM was en vogue back then. Science research did uncover correlations between brain states and mental states which could construe the former as the cause of the latter; but such causal connections did not in themselves establish the identity philosophers desired. The first eliminativists deemed that the identity route would inevitably collapse into physical events or brain processes having non-physical features (mental), which either corrupted or contradicted what physical "stuff" was supposed to be. Only eliminativism of the mental would make physical circumstances pure again, as well as nullifying the other option of brain states having to be cause of something for which there were only personal reports and prevalent usage in language as evidence of.

Today's eliminativists variously claim that the folk psychology system is incorrect for yata reasons; either FP's concepts or definitions for its terms will be replaced by more scientific accounts for yata reasons; or more radically, that FP nomenclature refers in even its misconceptions or mis-descriptions to nothing at all that is real or is the case (even an appearance / illusion of _X_ somehow lacks instantiation or any degree of existential status).

Some EM-ists assert that FP must be discarded before the future's alternative is complete because it obstructs thinkers from considering new evidence and better explanations. Others take the view that "Like dualists, eliminative materialists insist that ordinary mental states can not in any way be reduced to or identified with neurological events or processes. However, unlike dualists, eliminativists claim there is nothing more to the mind than what occurs in the brain. The reason mental states are irreducible is not because they are non-physical; rather, it is because mental states, as described by common-sense psychology, do not really exist." [William Ramsey]
My "layman's" understanding is that "folk psychology" wants to say that me experiencing qualia is just some kind of "myth" or "story" that I tell myself but that in some strange way I really don't experience qualia. If that is accurate of what Churchland calls "Folk psychology" then it seems to deny my most fundamental experiences. So I must either be wrong about what Churchland means or maybe she is some kind of a zombie (as David Chalmers might say)?

The possibility of philosophical zombies is is a potential consequence of epiphenomenalism. Since the latter concerns a dualism with an asymmetrical causal relationship between mental and physical affairs, p-zombies are usually rejected as absurd by suspected eliminativists like Daniel Dennett.

I don't remember the particular idiosyncrasies of Churchland's take, but Dennett "seems" to reject the definition of qualia being "ineffable, private, etc" rather than necessarily that to which the term refers for other people (i.e., our common distinguishing of properties in experience, of experience having discernable characteristics). Accordingly, he wants to discard the word / concept (and other FP symbols) if its traditional usage prevents / obstructs meaning revisions.

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Gary Childress
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Re: Eliminative Materialism and Zombies

Post by Gary Childress » Sat May 23, 2015 4:02 am

hammock wrote:
Gary Childress wrote:Is there anyone here who can adequately explain what Patricia Churchland means by "folk psychology"?

Folk psychology is the everyday language used by a [West-influenced] general population when their communications pertain to mental affairs (like beliefs, desires, the shown or manifested content of sensory receptions, etc); and any commonsense collection of assumptions about mind which the former reflects or potentially stems from.

Eliminative materialism is a movement descended from arguments of Sellars and Quine, which provoked some philosophers to reject the previously popular idea that the properties of our mental states are directly given to us. This combined with Kuhn's supposed historical revelation that new concepts in science are revolutionary rather than evolutionary. That is, new theories lack connections to old ones; the latter are simply eliminated, like phlogiston. Another example: There are no bridging relationships between alchemical essences and chemical elements, because today it is accepted that there are no alchemical essences.

From this prior work, Rorty and Feyerabend inferred that if scientific progress was eventually to sort-out the relationship between brain states and mental states, then actually this notion of establishing identities between the two was in error. When science proceeded far enough, it could merely assert that there are no mental states. "The differences between identity and causal correlation were no longer of significance, because we were now talking about only one entity--the brain state-- the mental state having been consigned to the ontological trash heap." [Teed Rockwell]

In regard to that era's fixation: The identity theory of PoM was en vogue back then. Science research did uncover correlations between brain states and mental states which could construe the former as the cause of the latter; but such causal connections did not in themselves establish the identity philosophers desired. The first eliminativists deemed that the identity route would inevitably collapse into physical events or brain processes having non-physical features (mental), which either corrupted or contradicted what physical "stuff" was supposed to be. Only eliminativism of the mental would make physical circumstances pure again, as well as nullifying the other option of brain states having to be cause of something for which there were only personal reports and prevalent usage in language as evidence of.

Today's eliminativists variously claim that the folk psychology system is incorrect for yata reasons; either FP's concepts or definitions for its terms will be replaced by more scientific accounts for yata reasons; or more radically, that FP nomenclature refers in even its misconceptions or mis-descriptions to nothing at all that is real or is the case (even an appearance / illusion of _X_ somehow lacks instantiation or any degree of existential status).

Some EM-ists assert that FP must be discarded before the future's alternative is complete because it obstructs thinkers from considering new evidence and better explanations. Others take the view that "Like dualists, eliminative materialists insist that ordinary mental states can not in any way be reduced to or identified with neurological events or processes. However, unlike dualists, eliminativists claim there is nothing more to the mind than what occurs in the brain. The reason mental states are irreducible is not because they are non-physical; rather, it is because mental states, as described by common-sense psychology, do not really exist." [William Ramsey]
My "layman's" understanding is that "folk psychology" wants to say that me experiencing qualia is just some kind of "myth" or "story" that I tell myself but that in some strange way I really don't experience qualia. If that is accurate of what Churchland calls "Folk psychology" then it seems to deny my most fundamental experiences. So I must either be wrong about what Churchland means or maybe she is some kind of a zombie (as David Chalmers might say)?

The possibility of philosophical zombies is is a potential consequence of epiphenomenalism. Since the latter concerns a dualism with an asymmetrical causal relationship between mental and physical affairs, p-zombies are usually rejected as absurd by suspected eliminativists like Daniel Dennett.

I don't remember the particular idiosyncrasies of Churchland's take, but Dennett "seems" to reject the definition of qualia being "ineffable, private, etc" rather than necessarily that to which the term refers for other people (i.e., our common distinguishing of properties in experience, of experience having discernable characteristics). Accordingly, he wants to discard the word / concept (and other FP symbols) if its traditional usage prevents / obstructs meaning revisions.
Thanks for brining me "up to speed" to some extent. Very well written from what I was able to follow. So it sounds like the concept of "folk psychology" is itself being superseded by maybe more nuanced formulations of eliminative materialism? Is that an accurate "take away" from reading your passage above?

You say that p-zombies are a potential consequence of epiphenomenalism. Can you unpack that a little further? I seem to remember Chalmers mentioning the possibility of zombies (beings which don't have qualia but which have every observable trait of "consciousness"). in reference to the notion of eliminative materialism. For example, only a zombie would believe in eliminative materialism--I think was sort of hinted at by Chalmers. Not to say that Chalmers was necessarily accusing eliminative materialists of being "zombies" maybe but that perhaps one could possibly make that assertion of eliminative materialism. In other words only a zombie could maybe truly believe in eliminative materialism. But it's been awhile since I saw the Chalmers interview video. So I could be misrepresenting what he said. In any case I do find Chalmers (so far) to be a very exciting philosopher in the mind/brain field.

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Re: Eliminative Materialism and Zombies

Post by hammock » Sat May 23, 2015 7:49 am

Gary Childress wrote:Thanks for brining me "up to speed" to some extent. Very well written from what I was able to follow. So it sounds like the concept of "folk psychology" is itself being superseded by maybe more nuanced formulations of eliminative materialism? Is that an accurate "take away" from reading your passage above?
Eliminative materialism itself offers no specific advancements; it only prescribes and prognosticates. It's an extremist view in philosophy of mind, and AFAIK, still a minority one. Scientific psychology and even neuroscience retain some traditional concepts. So while a few areas of folk psychology may fall to the wayside or be augmented and heavily re-interpreted in the future, the bulk of FP will probably continue to endure in the population at large. In turn pressuring scientists and philosophers to retain a semblance of commonsense reasoning and proximate connection to humanity, as opposed to departing entirely to space-alien judgements and robot mannerisms.
Gary Childress wrote:You say that p-zombies are a potential consequence of epiphenomenalism. Can you unpack that a little further?
Since epiphenomenalism contends that mental affairs are causally impotent (or at least have no return influence upon physical processes), experiences could therefore be absent and the brain-body would still exhibit the same behaviors / reports. That's the strict gist of a p-zombie. Such a copy of Vladimir Putin would be "dark inside" -- have no "what it is like to be Putin", and yet still act just like the original non-zombie. Including claiming that old milk manifested a sour taste and the odor of rotten eggs was more than his outer facial reaction and his verbal claim about an unpleasant smell.

Another way to put this is that epiphenomenalism offers an explanation for why a p-zombie would still behave exactly the same. IF to begin with, one could buy into the eccentric situation which the hypothesis proposes: That a brain could "know" about an impotent product it generates even though said product lacks a reciprocal effect upon the brain for making that organ aware of what it engendered. Epiphenomenalists do have a response to this glaring problem, but its maze-like approach may rely much on just baffling a critic into passivity. Vaguely reminiscent of the classic obscurantisme terroriste method of evasion which Searle / Foucault accused Derrida of practicing: "You didn't understand me; you're an idiot."
Gary Childress wrote:I seem to remember Chalmers mentioning the possibility of zombies (beings which don't have qualia but which have every observable trait of "consciousness"). in reference to the notion of eliminative materialism. For example, only a zombie would believe in eliminative materialism--I think was sort of hinted at by Chalmers. Not to say that Chalmers was necessarily accusing eliminative materialists of being "zombies" maybe but that perhaps one could possibly make that assertion of eliminative materialism. In other words only a zombie could maybe truly believe in eliminative materialism. But it's been awhile since I saw the Chalmers interview video. So I could be misrepresenting what he said. In any case I do find Chalmers (so far) to be a very exciting philosopher in the mind/brain field.
It is tempting to suspect the most radical eliminative materialist of being SOME kind of zombie (a variant species or definition); but his/her [supposed] assertion of not having experiences would go against what the typical p-zombie versions of other people would admit. OTOH, s/he would still be in character. But because an eliminativist (from her POV) would not deem that there was a difference between herself and a perfect physical duplicate (i.e., neither possessed thoughts and perceptions instantiated by phenomenal events), this would go against a strict p-zombie concept. Which does seem to stipulate a difference between original and copy.
Last edited by hammock on Sat May 23, 2015 4:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Eliminative Materialism and Zombies

Post by Ginkgo » Sat May 23, 2015 11:05 am

Gary Childress wrote:Is there anyone here who can adequately explain what Patricia Churchland means by "folk psychology"? I remember studying it in my philosophy of mind class but never really getting a sense of it being able to fully account for empirical phenomena. But perhaps I just misunderstood what "folk psychology" means. My "layman's" understanding is that "folk psychology" wants to say that me experiencing qualia is just some kind of "myth" or "story" that I tell myself but that in some strange way I really don't experience qualia. If that is accurate of what Churchland calls "Folk psychology" then it seems to deny my most fundamental experiences. So I must either be wrong about what Churchland means or maybe she is some kind of a zombie (as David Chalmers might say)?

Thanks.
I think you are asking two questions:

(a) Is it possible for folk psychology to save qualia. In other words, can folk psychology provide us with a suitable qualitative explanation.

(b) can folk psychology embrace a functionalist explanation.

It all depends on how you are prepared to interpret the argument.

Functionalism allows us to imagine philosophical zombies.

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