piątek, 7 września 2012

Reading Thomas Metzinger -- metaphysics


Metzinger's metaphysical argument against the existence of mental
notions such as the self is weak. It is mostly a proof by assumption
of the thesis, as Metzinger starts on materialistic
grounds. Metzinger's position is roughly that of eliminativist
materialism, as in Richard Rorty's "Philosophy and the Mirror of
Nature" (chapter 2) I'm just reading. Metzinger seems to employ the
developed theory to provide what Rorty calls "criteria for the
identity of reference". Rorty moves past eliminativist materialism:
"But since I think that the reductive and eliminative versions of
the identity theory are both merely awkward attempts to throw into
current philosophical jargon our natural reaction to an encounter
with the Antipodeans, I do not think that the difference between the
two should be pressed. Rather, they should both be abandoned, and with
them the notion of "mind-body identity." The proper reaction to the
Antipodean story is to adopt a materialism which is not an identity
theory in any sense, and which thus avoids the artificial notion that
we must wait upon "an adequate theory of meaning (or reference)"
before deciding issues in the philosophy of mind."

To see why Metzinger's eliminativist argument is weak, it is helpful
to consider the effect of Metzinger's "identity criteria" on the
Antipodeans scenario. Antipodeans are people just like humans, only
they do not use mental terms at all. At the point of cultural
development when they started to feel the need to talk about their
thoughts and perceptions rather than directly about things in the
world, their biological sciences were already developed well enough
that they could employ terms referring to brain states. Having
appropriate medical instruments, they taught themselves to name their
states such as "pain" by what they are, e.g. "activations of
C-fibers". For Rorty, the scenario is fully plausible, and in the
scenario there is really no difference between Antipodeans and humans
outside of their "folk psychology". For Metzinger, the scenario is
implausible, for the Antipodean terminology is indicative that their
phenomenal life is much different than in the human case, Antipodeans
probably are system-conscious. So large shift in their phenomenal
experience would project on the rest of their culture.

The point of eliminativism in Richar Rorty's words is: "Some
statements of the form "I just had a sensation of pain" are as
properly taken as true as "The sky is overcast" and "The sun is
rising," but none of them is true." The identity of reference criteria
that Metzinger sets out to provide are like the theory explaining how
"The sky is a blue dome" is false, by explaining what the sentece
speaks about, and how the facts of the matter differ from facts the
sentence postulates. But once Metzinger is done building the referents
of "pain", instead of saying "and here is how the talk about
sensations and selves gets things wrong", he claims "and since we can
now see that sensations and selves are complex processes rather than
simple substances, they do not exist" -- wait, what?