KARL  JASPERS  FORUM

 

TA 110 (Mind and Metaphysics)

 

Commentary 20 (to C15, Adams)

 

 

THE BODY AS MENTAL CONSTRUCT

by Richard Moodey

13 February 2009, posted 21 February 2009

 

[The new remarks by Moodey are in capitals   -   HFJM]

 

<1>

[Adams] 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?

 

[MOODEY:]  TO CLAIM THAT THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH HAS BEEN UP TO NOW DISEMBODIED IS TO MAKE A HISTORICAL ASSERTION.  I CONTEND THAT THE ONLY WAY THAT ASSERTION COULD BE TRUE IS IF ALL THOSE IN THE PAST WHO HAD SEARCHED FOR TRUTH HAD BEEN DISEMBODIED SPIRITS.  PERHAPS WHAT JOHNSON MEANS IS THAT UP TO NOW ALL THOSE WHO HAD EXPOUNDED THEORIES ABOUT THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH HAD DESCRIBED THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH AS AN ACTIVITY OF DISEMBODIED MINDS.  I DON’T THINK THAT’S TRUE, EITHER.  THERE HAVE BEEN THEORIES OF KNOWING IN THE PAST THAT HAVE ACKNOWLEDGED THE PART OUR BODIES PLAY IN THE KNOWING PROCESS.  PERHAPS THIS IS JUST JOHNSON’S WAY OF DISTANCING HIMSELF FROM CLAIMS TO ABSOLUTE TRUTH.  IF SO, I THINK HE SHOULD SAY SO, RATHER THAN MAKE FALSE HISTORICAL ASSERTIONS.

 

<3>

[Adams] 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.

 

[MOODEY:] I AM NOT SURE WHAT ADAMS MEANS BY "MORE THAN METAPHOR."  I AM UNABLE TO SAY ANYTHING ABOUT KNOWING WITHOUT USING METAPHORS.  THE METAPHOR WE MOST FREQUENTLY USE IS: "KNOWING IS SEEING."  "PERSPECTIVE" AND "POINT OF VIEW" BOTH DRAW UPON THAT METAPHOR.  I BELIEVE THAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO WRITE, TALK, OR EVEN THINK ABOUT A “POINT OF VIEW” WITHOUT USING THE VISUAL METAPHOR FOR KNOWING.  IN RESPONSE TO #1, I THINK HUMANS CAN AND DO SWITCH FROM ONE PERSPECTIVE TO ANOTHER, AND THAT WE ARE NOT LIMITED TO JUST TWO.  IF I AM IN A CONVERSATION WITH THREE PEOPLE, I ATTEMPT TO IMAGINE THE PERSPECTIVES BOTH OF THEM SEEM TO BE TAKING, AS WELL AS BEING SOMEWHAT AWARE OF MY OWN PERSPECTIVE.  IF I AM READING SEVERAL DIFFERENT ARTICLES ABOUT A TOPIC, I TRY TO UNDERSTAND THE PERSPECTIVES OF THE DIFFERENT WRITERS.  IF I AM WRITING, TALKING, OR THINKING ABOUT KNOWING, I TRY TO USE OTHER METAPHORS AS WELL AS THE VISUAL ONE, SUCH AS "KNOWING IS GRASPING" OR "KNOWING IS TOOL USE."  IN RESPONSE TO #2, I HAVE TO GO BACK TO THE EXAMPLE OF PAIN, AND WOULD SAY THAT EXPERIENCED PAIN IS THE EXPERIENTIAL BASIS FOR ANY DESCRIPTION OF PAIN.  BUT I REALLY DON’T KNOW HOW TO ANSWER THE QUESTION ABOUT “THE UNITARY REALITY BENEATH THE TWO PERSPECTIVES.”  IN THE LIGHT OF WHAT I HAVE SAID ABOVE, I THINK MY POSITION MIGHT BETTER BE CHARACTERIZED AS MULTIPLE-ASPECTISM THAN AS DOUBLE-ASPECTISM.  I AM NOT SO MUCH SEEKING TO “REFRAME” MULLER’S DISTINCTION AS I AM SEEKING TO CLARIFY AND STATE MY OWN THINKING ON THE ISSUE HE RAISES.

 

[Adams]  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?  

 

[MOODEY:]  I HAVE SOME ONTOLOGICAL BELIEFS, AND BECAUSE I BELIEVE THEM I ASSERT THEM TO BE TRUE.  BUT I DON’T REALLY THINK OF MYSELF AS “USING” MY BELIEFS TO MAKE STATEMENTS ABOUT MIND AND WORLD.   YES, I DO INTEND MY STATEMENTS ABOUT THE WORLD TO HAVE EXTERNAL VALIDITY.  FOR EXAMPLE, I DO NOT THINK IT ARBITRARY OR MERELY HYPOTHETICAL TO ASSERT THAT THE WORLD FOLLOWS AN ELLIPTICAL PATH AROUND THE SUN, OR THAT IT REVOLVES ABOUT ITS AXIS, RESULTING IN CYCLES OF NIGHT AND DAY.  I REALIZE THAT SOME FUTURE SCIENTIST MAY PROVE THESE CLAIMS TO BE FALSE, SO IN THAT SENSE THEY HAVE SOMETHING OF THE HYPOTHETICAL ABOUT THEM.  BUT PERSONALLY, I DO NOT ASSERT THEM HYPOTHETICALLY.  MOREOVER, I CLAIM THAT THEY WERE TRUE EVEN IN THE PAST, EVEN IN THOSE TIMES WHEN THE EDUCATED CONSENSUS WAS THAT THE SUN CIRCLED THE EARTH.  I REALLY DO BELIEVE THAT MANY OF OUR STATEMENTS ABOUT REALITY ARE CLOSER TO THE TRUTH THAN WERE MANY OF THE STATEMENTS MADE IN THE PAST (CF. POLANYI 1958).

 

<5>

[Adams]  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:]  IF I SAID THAT I HOLD A “DOUBLE ASPECT VIEW OF MIND AND BODY,” I AM GUILTY OF HAVING EXPRESSED MYSELF POORLY.  I APOLOGIZE FOR SAYING THAT THOSE WHO DENY THAT “I” IS THE ORGANIZER OF HIS OR HER EXPERIENCE DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO USE THE PRONOUN.  I HAVE NO RIGHT TO SAY THAT TO ANYONE.  DOES DENNETT CLAIM THAT HIS NOTION OF THE NARRATIVE SELF IS AN “ABOLUTE TRUTH,” THE ONE AND ONLY TRUE WAY OF MAKING ASSERTIONS ABOUT THE SELF?  OR DOES HE ALLOW THAT OTHER WAYS OF TALKING ABOUT THE SELF MIGHT HAVE SOME MERIT?  PERSONALLY, I FIND NO CONTRADICTION BETWEEN THINKING AND TALKING ABOUT “I” AS REFERRING TO THE ORGANIZER OF MY EXPERIENCE AND THINKING AND TALKING ABOUT “I” AS THE STORY I TELL TO MYSELF AND MY ASSOCIATES.  

 

[Adams]  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.

 

[MOODEY:]  PERHAPS WHAT I SAY CAN BE CONSTRUED AS A TACIT ENDORSEMENT OF “MIND-BRAIN INTERACTIONISM.”   EXPLICITLY, HOWEVER, I DON’T ENDORSE THAT POSITION, BECAUSE IT IMPLIES THAT BOTH THE MIND AND THE BRAIN ARE “ACTORS” THAT CAN “INTERACT.”  I WANT TO STICK WITH THE NOTION THAT PEOPLE ARE THE ACTORS, NOT THEIR MINDS OR THEIR BRAINS.  FOR ME, THE MIND-BRAIN PROBLEM IS NOT A “PRACTICAL PROBLEM,” SOMETHING THAT LEAVES ME INDECISIVE ABOUT HOW TO ACT IN PRACTICAL SITUATIONS, SUCH AS GETTING DINNER ON THE TABLE.  I CAN’T THINK OF ANY PRACTICAL SITUATIONS IN WHICH I HAVE EVER WONDER JUST HOW TO USE MY MIND OR MY BRAIN.  I AGREE THAT THERE IS A CONSTELLATION OF THEORETICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT WHAT WE MEAN BY “MIND” AND “BRAIN,” BUT I DON’T THINK PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT PARTICULARLY INTERESTED IN THOSE THEORETICAL QUESTIONS ARE “GUILTY” AND IN NEED OF “ACQUITTAL.”

 

ADAMS <7>, <8>, <9>, <10>, AND <11> DISCUSSES THE PURPOSE OF THE BODY.  I INCLUDE ONLY PART OF<9> HERE, AND THEN GO TO <11>:

 

[Adams]  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?

 

[MOODEY:]  I HAVE AGAIN BEEN GUILTY OF EXPRESSING MYSELF POORLY.  I OUGHT NOT TO HAVE ASKED WHO “PERFORMS” THE PURPOSE OF THE BODY, BUT WHO “INTENDS” THE PURPOSE OF THE BODY.  I SEE MYSELF AS HAVE INTENTIONS OR PURPOSES, AND THEN AS ACTING IN WAYS THAT I BELIEVE ARE LIKELY TO INCREASE THE PROBABILITY OF THESE BEING REALIZED.  IF I WANT TO COOK A GOOD OMELET, BREAKING EGGS INTO A BOWL INCREASES THE PROBABILITY OF MY INTENTION BEING REALIZED.  BUT I DON’T FIND IT USEFUL TO SAY I AM “PERFORMING” MY PURPOSE EITHER BY BREAKING EGGS OR BY THE WHOLE SEQUENCE OF OVERT ACTIONS I ENGAGE IN WHEN I COOK AN OMELET. 

 

<11>

[Adams] 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.

 

[MOODEY:]  THIS IS A VERY CLEAR STATEMENT OF WHAT YOU MEAN IN THE SUBJECT HEADING OF YOUR POST: “THE BODY AS MENTAL CONSTRUCT.”  YOU AFFIRM THAT YOU AND YOUR COMMUNITY ARE TOGETHER THE DESIGNER OF YOUR BODY, AND, PRESUMABLY, THE BODIES OF THE OTHER MEMBERS OF YOUR COMMUNITY.  AND YOU ASSERT THAT THERE IS NOTHING SUPERNATURAL ABOUT THIS.  THE “BOTTOM-LINE” OF OUR DIFFERENCES IS TWOFOLD: (1) I AM A THEIST, AND ARGUE THAT IF THE HUMAN BODY HAS A PURPOSE, IT MUST BE GOD’S PURPOSE IN CREATING US.  (2) I AM AN EVOLUTIONIST, AND ARGUE THAT THE BODIES OF PLANTS AND ANIMALS HAVE BEEN "SOCIALLY" CONSTRUCTED EVER SINCE THE LIFE FORMS BEGAN TO REPRODUCE SEXUALLY. THAT IS, REPRODUCTION HAS INVOLVED, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, INTERACTIONS BETWEEN A MALE AND A FEMALE.   I DON’T BELIEVE MY BODY IS A MENTAL CONSTRUCT ANY MORE THAN IS THE BODY OF A FROG.  I DO, HOWEVER, AGREE THAT OUR DIFFERENT THEORIES ABOUT THE BODY ARE MENTALLY, AND EVEN SOCIALLY, CONSTRUCTED.

 

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MOODEY'S REFERENCES: 

 

Berger, Peter and Thomas Luckmann. 1967.  The Social Construction of Reality.  Doubleday.

 

Lonergan, Bernard.  1957.  Insight.  Philosophical Library.

 

Polanyi, Michael.  1958.  Personal Knowledge.  University of Chicago Press.

 

Searle, John.  1995.  The Construction of Social Reality.  Free Press.

 

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Richard Moodey

     e-mail <MOODEY001 (at) @gannon.edu>