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TA 110 (Mind and Metaphysics)

 

Commentary 15 (to C14, Moodey)

 

 

THE BODY AS MENTAL CONSTRUCT

by William A. Adams

5 February 2009, posted 14 February 2009

 

 

<1>

Richard Moodey responded to remarks made by Herbert Muller and me about Mark Johnson's "The Meaning of the Body, 2007."  No doubt Muller will have his own reply but I will comment briefly on Moodey's response to Muller's and to my remarks. 

 

Moodey on Muller on Johnson:

 

<2>

Moodey <2> disagrees with Johnson's contention that the search for truth has been up to now disembodied, but Moodey does not explain his disagreement.  In what way, for example, is the computational theory of mind not "disembodied"?  It explicitly asserts that a human mind could be implemented in a computer (e.g., Edelman, 2008, Putnam, 1961). We could ask the same of Plato's Forms, Chomsky's transformational linguistics, and so on.  Are they not all conceptualizations of a disembodied  of reality?

 

<3>

Moodey: <4> reacts to Muller's distinction between experienced pain and described pain by saying they are "different perspectives" on something. For that point of view to be more than metaphor, Moodey should elaborate (1) who or what agent enjoys these two perspectives (and from what point of view); and (2) what is the unitary reality beneath the two perspectives (and how would anyone know)?  I don't think double-aspectism is a viable reframing of Muller's distinction, but perhaps I am under-informed.

 

<4>

Moodey <5> does not reject metaphysics and ontology because as a critical realist, he would like to use them to make truer statements about mind and world. That is a reasonable strategy, as long as the statements are taken as true only in the sense of having internal validity. Like a chess game, as long as each move is conducted within the rules, it is valid.  However it seems that Moodey wants to make True (or Truer) statements about the world that go beyond the arbitrary or hypothetical, to statements with genuine external validity. What justification is there for thinking that could be possible?  

 

<5>

Moodey <6> concurs with Muller that subjectivity cannot be omitted from an account of reality, and says that if someone denies "I" as organizer of experience, he or she should not use the pronoun.  However, there are some well-trodden paths around that conundrum.  Dennett's (1991) notion of the narrative self is one.  Still, I wonder how Moodey accounts for experienced subjectivity in his "double aspect" view of mind and body.  Does the inclusion of subjectivity actually make it a triple aspect?

 

Moodey on Adams on Johnson:

 

<6>

Moodey <2> agrees that the brain is not the subject of experience, not a homunculus, but reminds us that learning does modify the brain, thus endorsing interactionism, am I right?  I agree there is no universally accepted solution to the mind-brain problem, but that does not acquit each person of coming to terms with it.

 

<7>

Moodey <3> does not find Johnson's main thesis that "the purpose of the body is artistic expression" useful.  I found it useful for implying that since artistic expression is social, the purpose of the body would therefore be social. Why isn't that a useful insight about embodiment?  Moodey does not elaborate his dismissal of the idea. 

 

<8>

Moodey <3> asks what it means to say the body is an expression of the mind.  I was suggesting that the body is constituted as a mental construct, as opposed to a biological - material entity that exists in-itself regardless of mentality. This is an idea that has been suggested by several authors, such as Merleau-Ponty (1945/1962).  

 

<9>

Moodey <4> is skeptical, but kindly not reactionary, to my proposal that the purposes of the body are (1) to keep us apart, and (2) to bring us together.  I suggested that Johnson's thesis is compatible with the second of these.  Moodey asks, who is the subject that "performs" the purpose of the body? Why, it is me, of course, in the case of my own body. Each person has introspective access to the fact of their own subjectivity. Have I misunderstood the question?

 

<10>

Moodey <4> asks if my proposed purposes of the body are compatible with the theory of evolution.  I believe so, although the explanation would need a more capacious venue than this.  But we should not forget that the theory of evolution is a theory of biology for the purpose of accounting for biological data.  It has nothing at all to say about subjectivity, consciousness, or the mind, because as a scientific theory, it simply cannot.

 

<11>

Moodey <4> asks if I equate purpose to function, and if purpose implies an intelligent designer.  It does, and that designer is me, and the community in which I am embedded and from which I arose.  Individually and together we collaboratively have projected (and reified into free-standing biology), the human body (Adams, unpublished, 2008).  Nothing supernatural is involved however. "Purpose" implies intentionality, whereas "function" need not.

 

<12>

I thank Richard Moodey for thoughtful and challenging comments and questions, and I hope I have not put words into Herbert Muller's mouth.

 

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REFERENCES:

 

Adams, W.A. (unpublished, 2008 revision). The Three-In-One Mind, Chapters 6 and 8.  Available as of this date at

http://www.waadams.net/manuscripts/Three%20in%20One/06%20The%20Body.pdf  and http://www.waadams.net/manuscripts/Three%20in%20One/08%20Purpose%20of%20the% 20Body.pdf

 

Dennett, D. C. (1991) Consciousness Explained. Boston:  Little Brown and Company

 

Edelman, S. (2008). Computing the Mind: How the Mind Really Works. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

 

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962). Phenomenology of Perception. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. (Original published in 1945).

 

Putnam, H. (1961). Brains and Behavior.  Presented at a conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, December 27, 1961.  Reprinted in Block, N. (Ed.) (1980). Readings in Philosophy of Psychology, Vol. 1. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 24-36.

 

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Bill Adams

     e-mail <bill.adams(at)waadams.net>