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Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Modes of Presentation of Mental/Brain Events?



It seems hard to accept that to Donald Davidson "talk about minds" is just an "idiom" or "mode of portrayal". One is tempted to think that there must be more to it than that. That is, then, that minds are different from brains; it's not only that we use different modes of portrayal for what is essentially the same thing.

Can we even say that mind-talk is a ‘mode of presentation’ and brain-talk or physical-talk is a mode of presentation of the same thing? What thing? The mind or the brain?

We can also say that the words ‘brain’ and ‘mind’ have different ‘senses’; though the same ‘referent’. What is that shared referent - mind or brain?

Surely we can't capture the mental events as they are described as physical events according to "strict and deterministic physical laws". Even if they are physical, the difficulty would be correlating them with specific mental events such as the perception of a red ball or saying ‘There’s a red ball’. The physical aspects of the brain can easily be determined in principle. What can't be done is to capture the correlations between specific mental events and specific physical events or brain-events. That is, if the physical correlations of mental events are in any way specific rather than holist, ‘distributed’ or even externalist!

The brain-events are law-governed. The mental events are norm-governed. What's the difference, then, between norms and laws? Norms are human creations. Laws are not. Norms are accountable to features such as the agent’s general - and supposed - rationality and conformity to epistemic principles. Thus a background of detail is required to interpret mental events which includes the normative.

Of course if the mental is intentional, then it has a feature - that of aboutness - that nothing physical, qua the physical, has. Mental events must take into consideration what they're about or other semantic features. Brain-events, on the other hand, aren't about anything. They have no semantic features whatsoever. It's precisely because ‘intentional psychology’ is intentional - or has aboutness - that it's classed as ‘folk psychology’ and not real psychology or genuine science. Real or genuine science doesn't concern itself with aboutness or semantics. That's why, essentially, the eliminativists what to eliminate intentional psychology because of its semantic commitments. That's why they want to eliminate folk psychology.

Richard Rorty, for example, once endorsed this ‘dual-aspect theory’:

"… Rorty’s view that ‘neuronal states’ and ‘mental states’ are names from two vocabularies for talking about the same items." (266)
Can two things that are so unlike really be the same thing? Is it really just about "two vocabularies for talking about the same items" (266)? Or is it really two vocabularies for talking about different items? Perhaps there's another reason for the different vocabularies – that the two sets of items are actually not the same thing.

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