Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ross's Double Standard

Another problem with Ross's argument is the double standard he employs. It's obvious that humans are not nearly as accurate as machines when it comes to computations. But Ross doesn't take this as evidence that humans are not carrying out a pure function. On the contrary, he suggests that mistakes could be evidence that the human is carrying out the function. He writes:

This is not a claim about how many states we can be in. This is a claim about the ability exercised in a single case, the ability to think in a form that is sum-giving for every sum, a definite thought form distinct from every other. When a person has acquired such an ability is not always transparent from successful answers, and it can be exhibited even by mistakes. [Emphasis added.]

But when he talks about machine addition, he counts any error, even a potential error many years in the future, as evidence that the machine doesn't truly add.

This is a blatant double standard. Logically, if a mistake is evidence that X is not performing the function, then that is true whether X is a human or a machine.


  1. This precise point positively screamed out at me reading the previous post.

    Can Ross produce a single example of a "determinate thought process" and explain how he knows it is determinate in a non-question-begging way that would not also conclude certain physical computations are determinate?

    It's the same blatant error that runs through so much anti-naturalist argumentation. "Science/materialism/naturalism cannot explain X, therefore religion/dualism/supernaturalism can". Why should anyone believe that Ross's ectoplasmic goo can do what (he claims) brain goo cannot?

  2. Exactly. I went over to Feser's blog and pointed out his reasoning in support of Ross also destroys the A-T school of philosophy at its foundation. The response: We're exempt. Why? Because "hylemorphism" gives them, and them alone, the ability to connect the dots of physical fact. This is how one true meaning (final cause) is revealed to them. Of course this begs the question, where did they get this vaulted "hylemorphism?" Well, they deduced it very tediously from first assuming their ability to connect the dots of physical facts. So they permit themselves circularity while blaming the same on the physicalist. They can destroy the foundation of both themselves and the physicalist one day yet clinging to it the next. It's ironic. It's a rootless philosophy that decries our lack of roots. I bump up against this double standard quite frequently with the A-T crowd.

  3. 1. My friend Joe is fat, white, and short
    2. The current President of the U.S. is tall, black and thin
    3. Therefore, my friend Joe is not the current president of the U.S.

    Objection of the Staircaseghost/djindra variety: "How does postulating 'ectoplasm' explain any better who Joe is? It's much more parsimonious to just say that Joe is the President."

    The retort to this strange objection does not need to be anything more than: "Huh?"

    1. "Huh?" is right. You're going to have to respond to something I actually wrote.

  4. I did, via parody. Nobody is postulating ectoplasm here. In fact, nobody is postulating anything. The argument is that given that mind has X feature, and no matter can have feature X, it follows deductively that no mind is matter. . If you disagree, you will need to say that mind does not, despite appearances, have feature X, or that matter, despite appearances, does. Talking about how "ectoplasm" does not explain anything any better than matter is to respond to a strawman: no one postulated ectoplasm or anything else.

    1. I hit these points in another thread. Ectoplasm is the least of your worries..

      And, yes, things are being postulated here. That's what "no matter can have feature x" is. In this case x is far from indisputable. It's question-begging.