[ExI] Semiotics and Computability

Gordon Swobe gts_2000 at yahoo.com
Tue Feb 9 17:04:21 UTC 2010

--- On Mon, 2/8/10, Spencer Campbell <lacertilian at gmail.com> wrote:

> Right. That would invoke the second sense: my dentist's
> belief is inaccessible to an outside observer, but perfectly obvious
> to the dentist herself. She has empirical evidence for her own
> belief; that is, she can experience it whenever she likes.

I want to get at the idea here that to both you and to your dentist, your toothache exists as an empirical fact of reality. Your dentist may have no interest in philosophy but she will operate on that philosophical assumption: she might ask you, "Where does it hurt, Spencer? Does it hurt more when I press here?" and so on. 

Your dentist, presumably an educated woman of science, approaches the subject of your toothache as she would any other empirical fact of reality. She does this even though neither she nor anyone else can feel the pain of your toothache. 

We should, I think, emulate that approach to the subjective mental states of others in general. Mental states really do exist as empirical facts. They differ from other empirical facts as superbowl games and gumball machines only in so much as they have subjective ontologies; instead of existing in the public domain, as it were, someone in particular must "have" them.
> This is all rather far away from the thread subject. 

I think it relates to the subject in that some people seem philosophically inclined to reduce the first-person mental to the third-person physical. Fearing any association with mind/matter dualism, they reject the notion of consciousness and try to explain subjective first-person facts in objective third-person terms. They imagine that if only they could derive a complete objective scientific description of a toothache, they would then know everything one can know about the subject of toothaches. But nothing in their descriptions will capture what it feels like to have one.



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