Removing the Head, or Destroying the Brain: Part V

To provide a further example of philosophical incompetence, I present the following exchange between Chalmers and John Searle (he of the infamous Chinese Room).

I am no fan of Searle’s so-called arguments, but there is no denying that he demolishes Chalmers’s points in the exchange.


13 Responses to “Removing the Head, or Destroying the Brain: Part V”

  1. How is one philosopher winning against another philosopher an example of philosophical incompetence? Watch Dennett vs anybody and you’ll get an even better show.

  2. It’s not that Searle beat Chalmers, it’s that Chalmers’ arguments were not compatible with the assertion that he is competent at logical argument.

    His assertions were circular and his arguments invalid.

    Are we even reading the same exchange?

  3. The exchange doesn’t provide much of the background to their arguments; indeed, there was a time when it might have seemed more plausible that Searle would have taken the side of Chalmers. I don’t think his competence at logical argument should be called into question here – Searle pointed out that Chalmers had an implicit assumption that led to him begging the question, and Chalmers should either provide an argument showing that Searle’s analysis is flawed, or admit that his argument was question-begging. Not noticing an implicit assumption is hardly evidence that one is bad at logic. For example, many of Searle’s arguments about the lack of multiple instantiability of consciousness make more sense if you posit that Searle thinks brains are magic. This invisible assumption does not prevent Searle from correctly demolishing the arguments of Chalmers.

  4. Thom, what about the panpsychism bit? Weren’t you at least a little embarrassed for him?

  5. Honestly, I’m more embarrassed for Searle. I don’t think he gives any good arguments for rejecting panpsychism, though I agree that the burden of proof might be on Chalmers..

  6. The arguments that Chalmers offered are more than enough to conclude that he’s not competent.

  7. Seriously, people. You’re talking about a man who seriously argues that his being able to imagine something makes it logically possible, and you’re not either laughing or recoiling in disgust?

  8. It’s a fairly common assertion. It’s usually thought that anything logically possible can’t even be imagined. Think of a contradiction and then try to visualize it – for most people, this is enough of a thought experiment to demonstrate the point.

  9. “It’s a fairly common assertion.”


    I think you mean ‘logically impossible’. Proceeding on that assumption, there’s a lethal flaw in the procedure you describe.

  10. Correct – I meant ‘logically impossible’. I don’t see any flaws in that procedure that I’d describe as lethal.

    Perhaps I should’ve specified better – it’s an assertion commonly held by those considered competent at logical discourse. It should therefore not be taken as an obvious sign that he’s incompetent.

  11. No, it should be taken as an obvious sign that there’s something seriously wrong with the general standards of competence.

    Are you actually telling me that you don’t see anything wrong with that test of the hypothesis? Specifically, trying to imagine something you know is impossible and seeing if you fail?

  12. Nope – it seems to invite skewed results and might fall prey to the problem of induction, but it seems to be fine in terms of evaluating hypotheses about what can be imagined, in a practical sense. If it helps, you can refer to the uncountably many times you’ve imagined things in the past without ever noticing a contradiction.

  13. This deserves its own post.

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