Wednesday, April 02, 2008

one last ass-kicking from Alan Cook

Alan Cook holds my feet to the fire again, this time in his blistering critique of my essay on philosophy of mind. While I reject some of his criticisms, I think many (and there are many!) of them are valid and deserve to be addressed, but this blog is going dormant as of tonight (dormant isn't dead-- occasional posts will appear here over the coming year or two), so I doubt I'll be responding anytime soon.

Of note is one critique Alan made about my qualia/Taoism association. Sperwer made almost exactly the same critique long ago, and this is indeed a point that needs fixing. In Alan's case, the critique runs thus:

Here, it seems to me that Kevin commits an elementary logical error: from the facts that a is F and b is F, it does not follow that a=b. Just because the Dao is ineffable and must be directly experienced to be known, and the same can be said about qualia, it does not follow that the two terms refer to the same thing.

I don't think I actually equated the Tao with qualia, so I'm not sure I'm guilty of the fallacy described above. What I was doing was trying to point out a thematic resemblance. I may have failed in the attempt, however, and for that reason I might have to leave the Taoism illustration aside since it seems to muddy the waters rather than clarify them. Sperwer's own remarks were similar in spirit to Alan's, which leads me to believe that, as written, the passage to which Alan is referring can easily be read as committing the "a-b-F" fallacy. That alone is reason enough for a rewrite.

(NB: A second edition of Water from a Skull-- perhaps one in which the essay on philosophy of mind is an actual paper and not merely a superficial meditation-- won't be appearing for a long, long while.)


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