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Dennett, a functionalists, has an intricate theory to explain why some people believe in the existence of qualia; essentially, he argues that qualia is an illusion played on us by the brain, and he goes to great length to justify this position with neurology, psychology, etc...

In fact a lot of his 1993 book Consciousness Explained is devoted to explaining this illusion.

Has any notable dualist made a similar kind of effort to explain the fact that so many people insist that there is nothing in their mind that cannot be explained in terms of a sufficiently complex arrangement of cogwheels [*]?

Note, that I am not interested in a home-grown explanation, nor in a quote or a paragraph-long hand-waved explanation by a philosopher, since I aware of some such quotes, or can come up with all kind of explanations by myself, such as our strong dogmatic belief in objective science, conceptual limitations, perhaps Dennett is a zombie, the parable of fish swimming in water, the invisible keys on the table, etc...

I am interested in an explanation of a breadth and scope comparable to that of Dennett's, say at least a chapter worth of discussion.

Can you refer me to such an explanation or discussion of the problem?

Notes

[*] @JoWehler objected in a comment, that people do not subscribe to explaining the mind as an arrangement of cogwheels; while I do not wish to turn this into an back and forth exchange of arguments, I would like to explain my statement; a lot of people subscribe to explaining the mind as a form of computation (e.g. Dennett); but computation, as we understand it since Turing, is a mechanical process; any computation may be carried out by a Universal Turing Machine, and in turn, a Universal Turing Machine may be physically implemented as a "purely" mechanical machine, for example one made of cogwheels, and other such mechanical parts.

Therefore, people who subscribe to explaining the mind as a computation, also subscribe as a consequence to explaining the mind as a sufficiently complex arrangement of cogwheels - which brings us to another out-of-my-sleeve explanation, namely that at least some of these people don't know what they are talking about.

btw, you can compare the statement about explaining the mind by ... cogwheels, to the mill argument of Leibniz - http://home.datacomm.ch/kerguelen/monadology/printable.html#17

Also, I disagree that this is equivalent to saying that the mind can be explained in terms of neurological processes, since it is not clear what people mean by that, that statement can be stretched until it becomes vacuous; even Searle says that if we view the brain as a machine then machines can trivially have a mind; dualists do not generally disagree that qualia is a natural phenomenon generated by the brain.

Here is the quote by searle from Minds, Brains, and Science (1984, p. 35): "in one sense, of course, we are all machines. We can construe the stuff inside our heads as a meat machine. And of course, we can all think. So, in one sense of 'machine', namely that sense in which a machine is just a physical system which is capable of performing certain kinds of operations, in that sense, we are all machines, and we can think. So, trivially, there are machines that can think."

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    I do not quite understand your question: I doubt that today anyone tries to explain the mind by referring to cogwheels. Hence I replace your term cogwheel by the term neurobiological process. Then the most simple explanation, why so many people expect that the mind will be explained by the working of neurobiological processes, is the monism of science: Determinism is the only heuristic which has been proven successfull in science above the level of quantum mechanics. – Jo Wehler Sep 21 '15 at 10:59
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    I don't currently have a strong view, one way or the other. However I do agree with @JoWehler that the cogwheel metaphor is not appropriate here. For example, observations indicate that the brain's functioning is massively parallel. While it is possible to simulate parallel processing with a UTM - for example, using a time slice technique - that is different than saying that a UTM is massively parallel. Having said that, my understanding of the philosophy of mind is still very much at an introductory level. – Nick R Sep 21 '15 at 17:00
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    I guess the point I was trying to get at was that logical equivalence is not the same as equivalence. A UTM and a massively parallel computer can compute the same set of functions (the computable functions). The point is that they do it in a different way - they operate differently. – Nick R Sep 21 '15 at 19:13
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    Sorry, in to reply I have just posted I should not have used the word "equivalence". I meant to say that logical equivalence is not the same as being identical. – Nick R Sep 21 '15 at 19:22
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    @Dave, no. suppose you ask someone what the color of the clear noon sky is, and that he looks up, and reports that the color of the sky is pitch black; would you not consider this phenomena puzzling and worth explaining? (btw, it is a real phenomenon that has been studied). I believe it is analogous to a "qualophile" trying to come to terms with the world view of functionalists; for a "qualophile" the thought that a system of cogwheels may experience qualia is completely absurd; how do they explain the fact that so many people consider it perfectly natural? am I making myself clear now? – nir Sep 22 '15 at 15:09
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I cannot refer you to a paragraph-plus-long dualist response. I can only refer you to the very opposite. An endless-paragraph nightmare: Hegel.

In my own view, Hegel sort of put to rest the "dualisms" arising from Descartes and surviving through Kant. But in a most unsatisfactory and unresolved way.

Anything within the grasp "consciousness" is monist. After all, it is self-evidently within the single medium of "consciousness," however defined. One can always ask: if these concepts are truly incommensurable, how do you know?

All subsequent"dualisms" are not dualist in the Cartesian sense, where some primitive, otherworldly appeal to God is still available. Alas, that idea has forsaken us.

Modern "dualism" is a matter of degree. It may be posed as: "entropy" versus "life," and thus about what is "reversible" in mathematics or "non-reversible" in, for example, friction.

But it is implicitly in the same spatial-temporal, material-energetic context. This is why the fundamental issues raised by Kant and perhaps resolved by Fichte, Hegel, et al., remain relevant, but sluggish.

Short answer: there is no modern "dualism," though there are radical attempts to revive this "empirical" stance.

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Dennett, a functionalists, has an intricate theory to explain why some people believe in the existence of qualia; essentially, he argues that qualia is an illusion played on us by the brain, and he goes to great length to justify this position with neurology, psychology, etc...

I haven't read anything by Dennet, so I can't comment directly; but it might be worth noting that an illusion exists: it exists as an illusion; but what is of course being implied here is that it is not the most basic level of reality.

For example, Kant has Objects impress themselves on the Sensibility as Sensation; this Sensation is what is called Qualia, and notably Objects are ontologically more basic here than the Sensation they cause; in that ontological relation one could call Sensation illusionary - but that gives, I would suggest the wrong impression ie they are not real.

Has any notable dualist made a similar kind of effort to explain the fact that so many people insist that there is nothing in their mind that cannot be explained in terms of a sufficiently complex arrangement of cogwheels?

I'm not sure what the question is here: A dualist or an idealist may have objections to the materialist account; but does this mean too he has to explain why materialists still remain materialists? I'm not sure that this is what you are intending to ask, given that:

I am interested in an explanation of a breadth and scope comparable to that of Dennett's, say at least a chapter worth of discussion. Can you refer me to such an explanation or discussion of the problem?

Again I'm not sure what you are asking an explanation of.

You can compare the statement about explaining the mind by ... cogwheels, to the mill argument of Leibniz

Liebniz Mill Argument in the Monadology is to demonstrate that a mechanical explanation cannot possibly explain perception or consciousness as the SEP notes; the opening paragraph of section 17 goes:

One is obliged to admit that perception and what depends on it is inexplicable on mechanical principles.

The translation is a little unfortunate in that on is not the best preposition to use here - it's not how this preposition is used in English - at least not now; it's better changed to by; and then we get:

...inexplicable by mechanical principles

And this reading is supported by reading this section to the end:

...Thus it is in the simple substance, and not in the composite or the machine that one must look for perception.

ie Liebniz, in at least this section, and contra Dennett cannot concieve perception mechanically.

  • you wrote "I'm not sure what the question is here: A dualist or an idealist may have objections to the materialist account; but does this mean too he has to explain why materialists still remain materialists?" - I did not claim that a dualist HAS to explain why functionalists (not materialists) believe what they do; if they were under an obligation to provide such explanations I would not have any problem finding them; but I am indeed asking for references to such explanations. – nir Sep 21 '15 at 19:14
  • as for Leibniz, he is clearly saying that by examining the mechanical machine we will never find "anything by which to explain a perception"; I put his text for comparison, but not as support for functionalism. – nir Sep 21 '15 at 19:19

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