Dennett's own explanation of heterophenomenology.
Tell me what you think.
Hey, I just read that the other day. It actually got me thinking of Sleeth, to be honest. Dennett's major defense of heterophenomenology is that no philosopher that opposes it has ever been able to propose an experiment that couldn't be conducted using its methodology. It made me think of that Empirical Inductionist Panexperientialism thread from a while back. Of course, I never read that thread in detail, so I have idea whether or not it even proposes an experimental technique that could not be conducted using heterophenomenology. I know that Les believes it is best to trust as accurate the impressions he gets when he conducts his meditations, but I personally wouldn't be so trusting.
How true! How familiar!
Forgive me...what exactly is the relation?
Well, as stated, I never actually read Sleeth's method, but I get the impression that he was advocating a first-person scientific method that he believes could not be conducted using heterophenomenology, which would be a taking up of Dennett's challenge, at least if he were to present Dennett with his method.
Forgive me, but wasn't that obvious?
All he's basically saying is that we should assume no more about what a person is saying than "that is how it seems to them." Of course, the obvious application of this is that when people say things like "Isn't it amazing how roses smell the way they do?" or "I am a conscious being", once we have a neurocognitive explanation of why these things are said, we will have nothing more to explain.
Although I disagree with him, there is clearly nothing anyone can say to argue against such a stance (except the standard appeals to your own experience), since we can only give the kind of third person evidence he can explain away. However, I will say that until we do have a theory of why we make such second and third order judgements about conscisouness, the two ideologies (eg, Dennett's and Chalmers') will happily coexist, as far as experiments are concerned. The distinction comes when we finally reach this point, and concerns whether or not we'll say "OK, we're done." But once we're there, where we know the exact neural mechanisms responsible for the words "intrinsic properties of color", I think the choice will become much clearer.
Still, we'll have to reconcile the paradoxes each view seems to carry along with it, at least at present. In the Dennett view, we are denying what in a very important sense is the only thing we know is real. And in the Chalmers view, we have to face the fact that any theory we can possibly come up with will only be able to explain the "third person consciousness" Dennett already concedes to. Again, these are both only how it seems, and for that matter, only how it seems to me, which may be enough for Dennett, but please correct me if I'm missing something. The more I think about it, the more I wonder about mysterianism (we'll never know) and the possibility of a godellian type proof that it's beyond our reasoning abilities.
Strawman? I was recalling just that very same argument about music, directed at me in these forums a month or two ago. And fall on my knees? How insulting!
In the text you quoted, Dennett paints antiphysicalists as impassioned dolts who sacrifice reason for the sake of emotion. In actuality, antiphysicalist arguments typically use rather bland and uninspiring perceptual experiences as case studies, e.g. a pain or a shade of red. The substance of their arguments proceeds from careful reasoning about observations of the properties of these experiences and the properties of physical phenomena, not from some overblown emotional response. I apologize if my words were insulting, but hopefully you can appreciate my consternation at your enthusiasm for Dennett's insulting and derisive characterization. (If anyone is a master of arrogance and derision, it is Dennett.)
I don't necessarily expect you to be swayed by the antiphysicalist stance, but can we at least recognize that there is more substance to the arguments than the naive wonderment of some emotional sop? If you truly believe that someone presented you with an argument along the lines of the one Dennett cites in your quoted text, then either a) this person did not understand the substance of the antiphysicalist argument, or b) you did not understand the substance of this person's argument.
The antiphysicalist arguments all take off from taking our inner perceptions as not only real (which I agree they are), but realer than any outside investigation could show. I say that our inner perceptions are inter alia caused by a long and variable chain of physical reactions, and that these separate us from the outside world, so that we have to use special equipment and comparison of different third party views, to achieve any reliable understanding of that world. Inner thought fom Plato to Husserl to Sartre has yielded nothing certain or reproducable. By reproducable I do not mean imitative. Dennett's epiphenomenalism is simply a careful description of the techniques we have to use if we are going to arrive at reproducable, falsifiable conclusions about consciousness.
I'm a little slow, bear with me .
Anyway, I don't know that we could ever test a first-person scientific method, nor that such a thing could really exist. After all, the current scientific method (post-Popper) is quite dependent on disprovability. What would be the criteria for "disproof" (or "consensus", for that matter; "consensus" being another important aspect of scientific method) in a first-person, meditative method?
Note: I'm not asking you to defend it, I know it's not a position that you were holding. I'm just curious to see if this idea could be developed further.
Well, claims that anyone using the right techniques to turn their attention inward and still all thought will have the same experience and come to the same conclusions. If he were being intellectually honest, then I suppose he would have to admit that a person having a different experience or coming to a different conclusion would be a falsifying instance. He doesn't seem to think it's ever happened, though.
Hypnagogue, if you have something to say about (specifically) Dennett's approach, as explained in my link, then go ahead. As it is, you are countering "naive anti-physicalist arguments" in general, and that is not the purpose of this thread.
Which would mean that subjective experiences, found through meditation, are unfalsifiable, and thus unscientific. Dennett's heterophenomenology, on the other hand, is scientific specifically because it itself is falsifiable, and it makes our reports falsifiable (thus eliminating any concept of an aspect of cosnciousness that is "beyond" science).
Nonetheless, naive arguments were introduced, and their naivete needed to be pointed out.
In any case, I read this piece by Dennett some time ago, and my reaction is basically similar to StatusX's. On the face of it, it looks as though heterophenomenology may be as much of an account of consciousness as an objective scientific method could afford. However, I do not think that this implies that heterophenomenology is a complete account of consciousness. If we commit ourselves a priori to the notion that all that is knowable is knowable via third person methods, then it would indeed logically follow that HP tells us all there is to know. But I believe there are good reasons for thinking that phenomenal consciousness is an instance of something that cannot be known from the third person, and I prefer to abandon a commitment to the completeness of third person methods rather than abandon what is apparent to me from first person observation.
Hmm, let's not be too hasty here, re 'falsifiability'; in the 'post-Popper' world, that's not at all the shiboleth! So what is? Probably extent to which it's a part of a 'research program' (Lakatos); falsifiability may be a helpful heuristic, but it hasn't stopped vast numbers of person-years of effort being devoted, for example, to String Theory/M-Theory (pray tell, is it 'falsifiable'?)
SelfAdjoint was simply making the (accurate) point that many Chalmerean, qualia-thumpin' philosophers of mind do indeed make such statements as echoed by Dennett in his quote.
So your saying that you couldn't possibly be wrong about your consciousness, and so there's no point in listening to someone who tells you that you might be?
I was just reading that account yesterday, so it's particularly funny to me.
First off, I didn't mean to say that falsifiability is an ultimate proof of something being scientific (though I guess that's how it came off). It's more that something that isn't falsifiable is clearly not worth testing, and thus doesn't fall into the realm of the scientific method.
And, yes, I think M-theory is somewhat falsifiable....After all, if we could see a fundamental particle, and it weren't a string...well, I guess it'd be disproven...or, maybe, if we could disprove supersymmetry...or, maybe, I just really like the theory :shy:.
Is string theory science though? Any theoretic undertaking shouldn't qualify as science simply because it's done by scientists. It's certainly mathematical, but if it produces no predictions that can be tested that might falsify its hypotheses, then I'd say string theory is very elaborate and rigorous philosophy. Many scientists agree with me on that.
Falsifiability is the standard for traditional, objective science, but it is clear that this kind of science won't be able to account for subjective experience. So yes, we may need to adopt a method that isn't necessarily falsifiable. Perhaps it's only evidence will be it's compelling simplicity or symmetry with the physical.
Perhaps the only answer is to find evidence that is unfalsifiable because it is self-evident.
If one read's Dennett's book carefully and dispassionately it soon becomes clear that his main arguments don't hold water. That doesn't in itself make heterophenomenology wrong, but he fails to make a good case for it.
"The challenge is to construct a theory of mental events, using the data that scientific method permits"(p. 71)
I pick this because it shows the way in which Dennett tries to have his cake and eat it. It is true that this is the challenge. However one wonders what scientific data he refers to. So far scientists have been unable to prove that mental events exists, so the data is a little thin on the ground. In order to collect such data we would have to show first that mental events exist. If they exist, as distinct from brain-events, then consciousness is not brain.
Someone equated heterophenomenology with epiphenominalism earlier. This seems incorrect. Dennett says -
" ince heterophenomenology is a way of interpreting behaviour (including the internal behaviour of brains, etc.), it will arrive at exactly the same heterophenomenological world for Zoe and for Zombie-Zoe, her unconscious twin." (95)
As zombies do not have consciousness we can see that heterophenomenology works as a theory whether or not mental events exist. It is therefore more akin to eliminativism than epiphenomenalism.
This statement asserts that hetero-phenomenology is not an explanation of consciousness but rather of behaviour, and that it is therefore just as useful for explaining zombie behaviour as it is for explaining human behaviour. Thus it is made clear that his theory does not acknowledge the existence of mental events, and is not a theory of consciousness so much as a theory of non-consciousness. To me it seems no more than a rehash of Lyle in the spirit of Watson and Skinner with added sophistry and longer words.
How can that be "clear" in light of heterophenomenology? The whole point of the endeavor is that it is not clear that subjectivity is outside of traditional science.
Maybe we should start a thread on this assertion. I'll get a copy of Consciousness Explained and you do too, and point out where you think the arguments fail and why. And I'll try to respond. And anyone who wants to play along can do so.
Descartes tried that, it doesn't work.
I agree with selfAdjoint on this, we should have a separate thread on Dennett's book (I assume you were referring to Consciousness Explained). I already have the book, and have read it twice.
This is too early in the book. He is still accustoming the lay-reader to the problems of consciousness as they currently stand in philosophy of mind. Later, he speaks in a much more eliminativist way.
If you have read the book, you should also recall that he tackled mind-body dichotomies (and homunculi) very early in the book. He explained that, for there to be mental events there would need to be something "in there" to perceive them. Since "perception" is what is being explained in terms of mental events and inner observers, then that inner observer must also have an inner observer, et cetera ad infinitum.
That is not perfectly accurate. First off, "zombies" (pace Chalmers and co.) do indeed have consciousness, just not "p-consciousness". However, I will grant you that Dennett's approach is not epiphenomenalist, in that he sees no need to try and explain "mental events" (in terms of brain events or otherwise), merely the reports thereof. As explained in my link, heterophenomenology treats the report as the raw data.
You are assuming that there is something to consciousness besides behavior. This may not be warranted, as a definition of consciousness, in terms of eliminativism and heterophenomenology has nothing at all to do with mental events, but is nonetheless a definition of consciousness.
This is substantially true, at least as far as the notion of ‘COMMUNICATION AND UNDERSTANDING’ each other is concerned. Unless I am misunderstanding what he means here, this suggests substantially that the visual contents of what we explain to each other by means of physical noises, corporeal interactions, oral and written communications do to some degree of measure approximate to something ‘Subjective’. It is subjectively objective! Subjectively, ‘What it is like’ is objectively ‘What it is like’!
Well, Churchland actually called these ‘Numerical Attitudes’ and declared them analogically equivalent to ‘Propositional Attitudes’ (Matter and Consciousness’, 1997, pp 63-66. He grounded this with the maxim: “Where folk psychology displays propositional attitudes, mathematical physics displays numerical attitudes.” (p. 64) Dennett dose have a point here in observing that these numerical and propositional attitudes ought to convey not only visual data that are objective but also those that are subjective in scope and in substance.
But is this a hindrance or a blessing? I think it’s more a blessing than hindrance even though reports do not necessarily capture in it entirety the visual contents of subjective experience in the First-person’s heterophenomenological world. It does predict substantially a great deal of things otherwise it would be completely impossible for us humans to understand each other at all, let alone react to each other’s utterances and noises in an intelligent and rewarding way.
Yes, these rules maybe neutral and substantially viable as Dennett claims, but does he also accept that other competing rules or theories may have certain senses or angles of view in which they are equally viable? I am not in anyway trying to play down this heterophenomenological methodology at all. People, including myself, would live by this method, provided there is enough researched data and information to warrant this, and provided there are no ‘EXPLANATORY DEFICITS by other competing methodologies to counterbalance what the ‘H-Rules’ or ‘H-Methodology’ throws at us.
So can you think of an experiment or line of research that cannot be conducted using heterophenomenology, or that would better be conducted by treating one's own reports as incorrigible? Try us first, and if we agree with you, you can e-mail Dennett. I know from experience that he responds rather quickly.
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