Philosophical Trends

Colin Caret over at Inconsistent Thoughts has some interesting reflections on the recent zombie wars and the influence of philosophical trends here. In the comments Richard Chappell displays his usual strident lack of understanding, myopic focus on minutia, and veiled ‘threats’ not to engage in dialogue (ohh! I feel so punished!).

At any rate, he claims that the debate between us was

over higher order issues such as alleged misunderstandings of a proffered argument, whether an alleged parody was really analogous to the proffered argument, etc. In other words, it was a matter of basic philosophical understanding, concerning the state of the dialectic (in abstraction from whether one actually accepts any given premise or argument), rather than a first-order dispute in which people might reasonably disagree.

When I countered that the debate was in fact a first-order dispute about whether or not zombies were conceivable RC accuses me of further showing my misunderstanding of what he has been arguing and claims that that was not a debate in which he was an active participant. Oh, my bad, I guess I really did miss the point of all those posts, like The Inconceivability of Zombies, where I was arguing that the first premise of the zombie argument was false; I guess RC wasn’t an active participant in that debate…To show how silly RC’s assertion-without-argument that he could REALLY conceive of the zombie world was, I introduced the non-physical zombies (here, here and here). Of course RC disagreed that the reverse-zombie argument worked, but he was wrong about that. So, the issue here, as I have said all along, was whether or not the zombie argument was a good argument against materialism; um, it isn’t. The accusations of misunderstanding against me are just more of the usual argument dodging from a fanatical property dualist. Sad, really.

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8 thoughts on “Philosophical Trends

  1. I honestly am curious if anyone else besides Richard C could actually read all exchanges between the two of you and leave with the impression that Richard C seems to have of what happened.

  2. I guess I really did miss the point of all those posts, like The Inconceivability of Zombies, where I was arguing that the first premise of the zombie argument was false; I guess RC wasn’t an active participant in that debate…

    I, like Colin, was talking about the “heated” dispute, i.e. from non-physical zombies onwards. After all, you accused me of saying, “gee, isn’t this guy stupid; he can’t see that my intuitions are right

    But in fact I have never once criticized you for having “wrong intuitions”. I have only ever criticized you for those higher order issues I mentioned: misunderstanding my argument, constructing a bad analogy, etc. That is, only issues of “basic philosophical understanding”, not intuition, as I said.

    I’m baffled by your sentence: “Of course RC disagreed that the reverse-zombie argument worked, but he was wrong about that.” Follow your last link; you admitted yourself that you had misunderstood my argument and the attempted analogy did not apply. We agreed on that, and were merely left with the question whether the zombie argument (as I present it) is question-begging on other grounds. Here I show that it is not.

    Case closed.

  3. See, that’s where you are (and have been, and I guess, will continue to be) confused. I was NEVER trying to parody your argument. I was trying to parody your unargued for assertion about what is and isn’t conceivable by asserting without argument that non-physical zombies are conceivable. The point was/is that one is just as conceivable as the other and that shows that the zombie argument is question begging. You have never responded to this point, which I take to show that you are unable to do so.

    I never admitted that I misunderstood your argument; what I admitted was that my parody did not capture the way you (question beggingly) set set the argument up by insisting that qualia are non-physical to begin with. But, as I pointed out, that is uninteresting in the extreme. All that shows is that you have an intuition that a completed physics will not entail qualitative facts, but so what? That’s not an argument. What is interesting is that I can conceive of non-physical zombies and so dualism must be false; or you must admit that it is question begging. I really don’t know how to make this any clearer to you.

    Now the case is closed.

  4. I never “insist[ed] that qualia are non-physical to begin with”; what I insisted is that we can give an exhaustive specification of the fundamental (micro-)physical truths P without any explicit mention of qualia. Many materialists grant this point (and indeed the zombie argument’s first premise: that P & ~Q is a priori coherent), so it isn’t question-begging. Your corresponding NP premise is different, because no property dualist would ever grant that you can specify the fundamental non-physical truths NP without explicit mention of qualia. So no dualist would ever grant that (NP & ~Q) is conceivable in the appropriate sense.

    But we’ve been through all this before (I’ve shown why they are not “just as conceivable” as each other), so there’s no point continuing this old debate since you’re clearly incapable of understanding what makes for a philosophically sound analogy.

    Back to the present issue: I take your silence to indicate that you acknowledge my point that I never criticized you for a disagreement over “intuitions”, but only for these higher-order issues, as per my quote which you mistakenly criticize in you main post above.

    That is, your accusation re: “gee, isn’t this guy stupid; he can’t see that my intuitions are right”, was a gross misrepresentation.

  5. **Sigh** I’m too tired to go through all of the things which are wrong with this comment…But since I can’t help bashing my head against the same wall over and over again I’ll walk you through it tomorrow; since you are clearly incapable of seeing it on your own.

  6. “never “insist[ed] that qualia are non-physical to begin with”; what I insisted is that we can give an exhaustive specification of the fundamental (micro-)physical truths P without any explicit mention of qualia.”

    Yes, and that is entirely uninteresting unless you assume that qualitative facts don’t follow from P

    “Many materialists grant this point (and indeed the zombie argument’s first premise: that P & ~Q is a priori coherent), so it isn’t question-begging.”

    Right, and so the argument does not beg the question AGAINST them. But I don’t grant the point, nor do many other physicalists, so it you need an argument that shows why someone OUGHT to accept the first premise. You are, evidently, incapable of producing one…

    “Your corresponding NP premise is different, because no property dualist would ever grant that you can specify the fundamental non-physical truths NP without explicit mention of qualia. So no dualist would ever grant that (NP & ~Q) is conceivable in the appropriate sense.”

    Yeah, no shit. But that is the whole point! Of course no property dualists would admit that….that is because the argument is begging the question against them, which is what I designed it to do. The reason I did that was to highlight how ridiculous and question begging these kinds of arguments are…your response just proves the point. The more irate you get, the more you know what materialists of my ilk feel when they hear the zombie argument. I want to shout ‘zombies are inconceivable because the qualitative facts will follow from a completed micro-physics since physicalism is true!’ You want to shout ‘NP is not a complete non-physical description of us because it leaves out qualia!’ I agree that my parody argument is not question begging in the same way as the original argument, but so what? That was NEVER the point.

    “But we’ve been through all this before (I’ve shown why they are not “just as conceivable” as each other), so there’s no point continuing this old debate since you’re clearly incapable of understanding what makes for a philosophically sound analogy.”

    You are right that we have been through all of that before, but you still don’t get it, and instead of trying you just resort to philosophical name calling. Gee, I guess anyone who doesn’t agree with you is incapable of having any philosophical understanding…must be lonely being such a tortured savant.

    “Back to the present issue: I take your silence to indicate that you acknowledge my point that I never criticized you for a disagreement over “intuitions”, but only for these higher-order issues, as per my quote which you mistakenly criticize in you main post above.”

    No, I don’t acknowledge that point. What you critisize me for is not seeing that qualitative facts don’t follow from a complete physical specification of our world and for not agreeing that this is the best way to frame the zombie argument. How can you have the nerve to claim that I don’t understand your lame argument? You are REALLY in the grip of a theory, my friend.

    “That is, your accusation re: “gee, isn’t this guy stupid; he can’t see that my intuitions are right”, was a gross misrepresentation.”

    The only thing that is gross around here is your demenour

  7. I only “need” to argue for the disputed premise if I am committed to swaying those (like yourself) who don’t accept it. But I am not; I quite explicitly excused myself from that project. It simply isn’t a dispute I’m interested in getting into. I’m quite happy to acknowledge that not everyone will be swayed by the zombie argument. But that doesn’t make it question-begging. So it’s this point I’ve been defending it on. To be question-begging (or “rotten”, “crappy”, etc.) it must be that it wouldn’t rationally persuade any materialists. But it does, so it’s fine, and your criticisms of it are absurdly solipsistic. Not every argument you personally don’t accept is thereby question-begging! The target is not you alone, but materialists in general. So, given this broader aim, the argument does a perfectly decent job.

    There are disanalogies in the NP case which mean that it could never be a rationally persuasive argument against any dualist. (It wouldn’t even persuade them by a degree.) That is why I can say that it is a crappy argument, but the original zombie one is not. The NP argument is question-begging in the strongest sense, such that the reasoning is wholly vacuous. The same simply isn’t true of the original zombie argument.

    Finally, I do criticize you for framing the argument in a misleading way that lead you to think the NP analogy was rationally equivalent to the original argument. That showed that you didn’t really understand the original argument, since properly understood it isn’t subject to any such analogy. It doesn’t take “nerve” to recognize misunderstandings; one need simply look through our past exchanges. Anyway. I don’t believe that I ever criticized you for “not seeing that qualitative facts don’t follow from a complete physical specification of our world“. That just sounds like a statement of the first premise of the zombie argument, which I’m quite happy to concede that reasonable people may disagree about. So I think you’re misrepresenting me again. It’s only the meta stuff (NP analogy, understanding the zombie argument, charges of question begging, etc.) where I think you’re being irrational.

  8. ” The target is not you alone, but materialists in general.”

    There is no such things as ‘materialists in general’ there are only individual materialists, some of whom accept the premises of the argument and others who do not. The argument begs the question against those, like me, who do not accept the premises. And, just in case you have forgotten, I do not simply reject it for the hell of it, I gave an argument which starts from premises that you accept and concludes that zombies are not conceivable. Your inability to respond to this argument is evidence that the zombie arguement is question begging.

    Notice also that the zombie argument is not rationally persuasive to any materialists. Even as you yourself admit, it is only persuasive to ‘de facto’ materialists who secretly or ‘implicitly’ (whatever that means) harbor dualists commitments. So, again, as I haver said repeatedly elsewhere, the zombie argument is useful for making certain intuitions vivid and so you may notice that you have intuitions that you did not realize that you had, but it fails miserably to be an argument against the materialist (i.e. to force them to accept it on pain of irrationality).

    On another note your view of what makes an argument good seems obviously absurd. According to you every argument that rationally persuades someone, even by degrees, is a good argument. So, the ontological argument, by your own lights is a good argument. Recall Russell’s famous anecdote that he was walking home one day and threw his pipe in the air and exclaimed ‘the ontological argument is sound!’ Even though he was an avowed agnostic (like myself) he adjusted his belief by a degree. But you have yourself denounced that argument on several occasions…you can’t have it both ways. In general the problem is that many bad arguments have been rationally persuasive (for instance the argument from design)…so according to you every argument is a good argument, but that is ridiculous!

    As for the rest of your comment, I have already dealt with those points repeatedly and at this point I guess we will just have to leave it to posterity.

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