Monday, May 14, 2007

Fun with Neural Grounding

It's amazing what brains can do (if we assume that they "ground" every subject that we think about):
Because Homo sapiens is the only species to construct complex moral systems, morality has to be grounded in some distinctive property of the human brain

Reader challenge: On the assumption that this is a valid argument form, what's the most outlandish reductio you can come up with? (E.g. "Because Homo sapiens is the only species to construct complex electrical systems, electricity has to be grounded in some distinctive property of the human brain." Zap!)

9 comments:

  1. "Because Homo sapiens is the only species to construct complex mathematical theories/models/algorithms/etc., mathematics has to be grounded in some distinctive property of the human brain."

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  2. "Because Homo sapiens is the only species to construct complex fruitcake recipes, fruitcake has to be grounded in some distinctive property of the human brain."

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  3. Because Homo sapiens is the only species to construct complex sciences of the brain, the brain has to be grounded in some distinctive property of the human brain.

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  4. Because Homo sapiens is the only species to construct complex concepts of grounding, the concept of grounding has to be grounded in some distinctive property of the human brain.

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  5. Because Homo Sapiens is the only species to develop complex systems for the management of human waste, ...

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  6. Wait, what's the justification for saying that Homo Sapiens is the only species with a moral system of some sort or another?

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  7. "Homo Sapiens is the only species to develop human waste"

    and I agree wth DP - Im als concerned about hte use of the word "complex" what does that mean in this context?

    GNZ

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  8. What kinds of things are grounded in some distinctive property of the human brain? Anything?

    Say, poetry? I don't think there are poetic facts for us to discover. What are ppl who think morality is exactly (only) moral judgements missing?

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  9. Paul, I wouldn't mind so much if subjectivism ("the facts are whatever we think they are") was one's considered meta-ethical view.* My real complaint here is that popular writers don't seem to even recognize that there are possible alternatives; that there's a question here to be asked.

    * = Well, okay, I don't think all that highly of explicit subjectivism either. See here.

    "What kinds of things are grounded in some distinctive property of the human brain?"

    Distinctive human psychology and behaviour. That could include moral behaviour and creative behaviour, of course. But insofar as we believe in moral or creative ideals that outstrip our actual practice, these ideals are not directly reducible to anything in our actual, non-ideal state.

    DP - arguably, we're the only species capable of moral (or other) reflection. But the comment is odd, in light of its anti-rationalist context. If "morality" is purely behavioural, e.g. a set of social norms to enforce co-operation, then some other primates might be said to have that. (I guess they're leaning on the "complexity" condition, as GNZ notes.)

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