Wednesday, August 4, 2010

You say refutation...

...I say refutahtion.

Doc Feser's latest post (as of this writing) is about "Fodor's trinity" of problems facing a materialist theory mind. As Feser writes:

What is the mind-body problem? In an article summarizing his work, which he wrote for Samuel Guttenplan's A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind, Jerry Fodor answers as follows:

[S]ome of the most pervasive properties of minds seem so mysterious as to raise the Kantian-sounding question how a materialistic psychology is even possible. Lots of mental states are conscious, lots of mental states are intentional, and lots of mental processes are rational, and the question does rather suggest itself how anything that is material could be any of these.

For Fodor, then, there are really three mind-body problems: the problem of consciousness, the problem of intentionality, and the problem of rationality. Why are the phenomena in question problematic?

Feser then proceeds to "flex nuts" philosophically in his typical fashion, but what I want to focus on is a comment left by an Anonymous reader in that combox:

What observation or experiment could be carried out that would potentially falsify this Aristotelian-Scholastic model of the mind? Thanks.

My hunch is that this is actually unBeguiled, an old sparring partner at FCA last year, but who seems to have shaken the dust off his proverbial shoes and does not, by my reckoning show up very often anymore on da Internets. Or maybe it's not him and merely someone of the same materialist-falsificationist mindset. In any event, I want to record my riposte to him for posterity, since it has ignited a flame of cogitation in me about what "good" 'falsification' and 'evidence' do in serious philosophical discussions. I've written on and off for years about reason, evidence, proof, veracity, faith, and the like, so it's all of a piece with my mental career so far, but the significance of this riposte is that it may have shown me in the simplest fashion just how hollow a charge it is to level against, say, Christianity, that it is "unfalsifiable" (which is not true even in Christian terms).

So, in a fairly crude tu quoque, I asked Anonymous:

What observation or experiment could be carried out that would falsify a materialist model of the mind? Thanks.

And, for me, the question lingers.

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