The following is the prologue of an essay that can be read in full at Preliminary Argument:
We are like sailors who on the open sea must reconstruct their ship but are never able to start afresh from the bottom. Where a beam is taken away a new one must at once be put there, and for this the rest of the ship is used as support. In this way, by using the old beams and driftwood the ship can be shaped entirely anew, but only by gradual reconstruction. — Quine, W.V. Word and Object. Martino Publishing: Mansfield Centre, Connecticut (2013) at Epigram. Original in Neurath, Otto. “Protocol Sentences”. Reprinted in Ayer (ed.) Logical Positivism. The Free Press: NY, NY (1959).
I. Prologue / The Nature of the Concepts in Philosophy of Mind that Make No Sense.
This essay is a beginning attempt to synthesize and to make sense of the inconsistencies and outright absurdities present in many writings in the philosophy of mind that have led me to conclude there is a basic conceptual misunderstanding in modern philosophy of mind as to what it is contemplating just as there are equally absurd conceptual misunderstandings in the work calling itself scientific study of the mind. The conceptual errors are so foundationally basic to the arguments being made that it makes it impossible to take seriously many of the arguments presented in the readings and their conclusions. Yet, these errors are completely ignored and the arguments and their conclusions are taken seriously both by many philosophers and by many neuroscientists who seemingly believe them on faith or argument by authority. This only makes matters worse. These conceptual errors seem to be related but I am still unclear of how or why. Much of it appears to be due to an archaic realist view of scientific theory that romanticizes it.
Conceptually, for example, arguing whether there exists both unconscious perception and conscious perception is equivalent to arguing whether there exists √1 and √-1 (imaginary number i). Of course they exist; here they are in the previous sentence, I just wrote them down. These concepts exist as meaningful words if you can find a use for them or if they are useful in some wordgame but such existence does not mean they are in the same wordgame. Even if their only use is in the aesthetics of using them, this aesthetics exists and is their meaning in the same way that good fiction exists and is meaningful. According to the German mathematician Leopold Kronecker, “God made the integers; all else is the work of man.” This is a statement by a mathematician of a philosophical problem not a mathematical one. Mathematicians and scientists using the imaginary number i do not, need not, and probably should not care who made it as long as it solves the problem they are trying to solve. However, the confusing of or treatment of √1 and √-1 as the same wordgame or type of number simply because they are both square roots is a conceptual error as mathematicians know and not an empirical error. The difference between these number types and the concept of a square root cannot be decided empirically — other than nominally by how they are written as numerals. Without doubt, there is some descriptive and instrumental or predictive values to the concepts of conscious perception and unconscious perception as there are both to √1 and √-1, this does not require the conclusion that these concepts are of the same type or meaning or even exist in the same wordgame so that they can be compared as if they were — in the same way that 1 and -1 are not the same when used under a √ sign or even that √1 and √-1 are the same simply because they are square roots.
Matters are made worse when such conceptual confusion found everywhere in philosophy of mind is then routinely and seemingly unknowingly used by so-called cognitive science in cargo-cult science experiments to confirm the conceptual bias of those running the experiments. The basic path of scientific reasoning is as follows: 1) to hypothesize — for example, that all swans are white; 2) observe — all available swans; 3) predicate the property — all available swans are white; and 4) conclusion — all swans are white. This reasoning presents well-known conceptual problems of induction and the logical nature of cause and effect explanation as part of the pragmatic value these observations may have, however this reasoning is scientific reasoning. However, the following reasoning under no empirical conditions is science or even valid reasoning: 1) hypothesizing that all swans are white; 2) deciding to observe only white swans; 3) intentionally and knowingly observing only white swans; and 4) concluding from these observations that all swans are white. Such knowing and intentional reasoning is not even cargo-cult science because at least cargo-cult science can be falsified by the cargo planes not showing up. It may still achieve pragmatic value by coincidence due to the rarity of black swans and for aesthetic and propaganda meaning and has the advantage of avoiding conceptual problems of induction and the nature of cause and effect explanation but does so at the expense of not being induction, science, nor explanation of anything except confirmation bias.
Examples of this pseudoscience at work in philosophy of mind are the experiments done on persons who have gone through a commissurotomy or brain surgery that resulting in blind sight. As with any surgery, the surgery leads to observed behavior by the patient that is different from before the surgery. Just as after surgically removing a patient’s arm or making a white swan black a scientist should not expect the patient to behave as a two-armed person nor for the cosmetically created black swan to be white, a scientist should not expect the patient after brain surgery to behave the same as before. Brain surgery patients that are allowed to use the entirety of their available abilities — such as moving their head and eyes as necessary to have full perception of their acts and the things around them — behave as a conscious individual perceiving their actions and the things around them in the same way a person with one arm will get by in life by using other aspects of their humanity in ways two-armed persons do not. An example of this state of affairs is the blind psychologist Donald Kish, the founder and director of the nonprofit World Access for the Blind, and other blind persons who use their other abilities such as human echolocation (orally created sonar) and their sense of hearing to make up for their blindness and thus know what it is like to be a bat without becoming a bat.
The patient in these experiments is one conscious person despite their disabilities until so-called cognitive scientists come along to say differently by invalid reasoning from predetermined conclusions. With the aid of neuroscience, they intentionally choose patients who have had a commissurotomy or other surgery because they know of the resulting blindsight or other effects of brain surgery and then knowingly and intentionally experiment on these unfortunate souls by: 1) intentionally not allowing the patient to move their head or eyes as necessary to perceive fully their acts and the things around them; 2) intentionally restrict what the patient can perceive to specified objects in the intentionally restricted field of vision; 3) intentionally restrict the patient’s language ability to say and understand an infinite number of words they have never heard before by restricting them to answering only specific questions asked in order to observe the answers the experimenters expect and want to hear; and 4) then observe the blindsight and other effects of brain surgery they knew would occur thus confirming what they already knew would occur. Why did the experiments restrict the patients’ eye and head movements, what objects to observe, and what questions they could answer? These restrictions occur in order to assure positive results. This is equivalent to throwing a one-armed person in a swimming pool with their legs tied together and then observing and concluding that a one-armed person is not a very good swimmer. The reason for tying their legs together is to assure the result of not being a good swimmer.
The most sophist and pompous aspect of these experiments is when the experimenters go beyond the confirmation of their bias not only to the invalid conclusion (actually, just the fabricated conclusion) that the commissurotomy patient is now not one consciousness but two (left and right side of the brain) and that the blindside individual has a defective link between some type of mental monitoring system in the brain and visual sense perception (an example of the homunculus fallacy) but then actually to tell the patients these conclusions. It is bad enough the patients must suffer with the disabilities they have, they now are told they are not one consciousness but two and that there is a homunculus in their brain deciding what they will or will not see. Might as well tell a blind Mr. Kish that he is a bat. What incredible pompous arrogance. Having like gods created a fictional Adam and Eve in the brain, these pseudo-scientists unlike the God of Genesis skip creation of the Garden of Eden to go directly to create suffering for the lives of their creations. (Given that such arrogance is considered ethical further proves my belief that ethics is simply ruling class ideology). Philosophers and cargo-cult leaders and followers calling themselves scientists are not even able to define what consciousness and perception are for themselves or any one person; they have no basis to separate the unknown into two unknowns other than for the aesthetics of being gods.
A. Summary of My Preliminary Argument