On the Mysteries of Existence

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On the Mysteries of Existence 

Michael Huemer 

Quote:ABSTRACT: Philosophers often argue, "Unless P, X is mysterious; therefore, P" or "The theory that P solves the problem of X; therefore, P." But their arguments are commonly vitiated by the failure to provide any substantive explanation of the alleged problem invoked in the premise. This kind of poor methodology has done untold harm to philosophy. I show this with three well-known examples: Kant's problem of the synthetic a priori, Mackie's "argument from queerness", and the problem of mind/body interaction. I then provide two examples (using the mind/body problem and the problem of memory knowledge) to show what a genuine exposition of a philosophical problem would look like.

Quote:But some will say at this point that I have been unfair to Dennett, because Dennett does have more to say later on about the mystery of consciousness than what I have so far quoted. Or rather, he has something to say about why dualism is mysterious. Dennett makes it explicit that his reason for avoiding dualism 'at all costs' is that, if dualism is true, then consciousness is 'mysterious' and impossible to understand scientifically(18) -- a classic argument from mystery. Why does he think dualism entails mystery? At one point, he sounds as though he wants, uninterestingly, to stipulatively define dualism as the view which makes consciousness mysterious.(19) But there is one substantive argument. It is based on the problem of mental causation. In the interests of fairness, then, let us examine this argument:

Quote:[Responding to Descartes.] How, precisely, does the information get transmitted from pineal gland to mind? Since we don't have the faintest idea (yet) what properties mind stuff has, we can't even guess (yet) how it might be affected by physical processes emanating somehow from the brain, so let's ignore those upbound signals for the time being, and concentrate on the return signals, the directives from mind to brain.(20)

We have to pause here. On the Cartesian dualist view that Dennett is considering, 'mind stuff' just means 'the mind'. So what Dennett has just asserted is that, if Cartesian dualism is true, then we haven't the faintest idea what properties the mind has. This, if true, would certainly be enough to establish that dualism renders the mind mysterious. Indeed, since the transparency of mental phenomena is one of the better-known elements of Cartesian philosophy, if Dennett could support his claim, he would have the strongest possible grounds for rejecting Descartes' view of the mind: namely, that it is self-contradictory. Unfortunately, Dennett gives us no hint as to how he arrived at that startling claim...
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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(2023-12-22, 05:48 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: On the Mysteries of Existence 
Michael Huemer 
.....................................

We have to pause here. On the Cartesian dualist view that Dennett is considering, 'mind stuff' just means 'the mind'. So what Dennett has just asserted is that, if Cartesian dualism is true, then we haven't the faintest idea what properties the mind has. This, if true, would certainly be enough to establish that dualism renders the mind mysterious. Indeed, since the transparency of mental phenomena is one of the better-known elements of Cartesian philosophy, if Dennett could support his claim, he would have the strongest possible grounds for rejecting Descartes' view of the mind: namely, that it is self-contradictory. Unfortunately, Dennett gives us no hint as to how he arrived at that startling claim...

 This quote is opaque to me.

Properties are the qualities and characteristics of something that describe and identify it. Physical properties are those characteristics that can be observed or measured. Mind or metaphysical "mind stuff" has no such properties, no physically measurable and observable properties such as size, weight, mass, shape, color, texture, density, smell, phase, velocity, physical energy, temperature, etc. 

Dennett apparently asserts that if Cartesian dualism is true, we haven't the faintest idea what properties the mind has. Implying that we do have some idea in certain other philosophical systems. But mind does have properties or qualities in Dualism, albeit nonphysical ones: they are diverse, including subjectivity, consciousness, intentionality, agency, perception, pain/pleasure experience, belief, desire, intention, emotion, and memory. These immaterial properties and more can't be physically observed or accurately measured except to some extent by self-examination, but they are still exist, are extremely real, because they are constantly experienced.

It seems to me that the construction or composition or inner true nature of these nonphysical properties of mind are totally mysterious for any and all theories of mind-matter relation, not just dualism. This fact of universal mysteriousness in all philosophical systems of mind-matter relation and nature doesn't appear at all to make dualism self-contradictory. Therefore Dennett must be wrong in this assertion.

From first principles, mind seems in fact mysterious, whatever the philosophical consequences may be. Whether or not Dualism is true, for any and all competing theories of mind. Perhaps this is related to there being inherent limitations to the process of a sentient being trying to observe, experience, and contemplate itself.
(This post was last modified: 2023-12-24, 04:41 PM by nbtruthman. Edited 4 times in total.)
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