[hist-analytic] Mind/Body Asymmetrries and Verificationism Old Style

steve bayne baynesrb at yahoo.com
Fri Feb 13 13:58:42 EST 2009

Both good and bad ideas come in a flash. Here is a "flash." I
don't really know how to regard this. I thought it while asking
myself: How do I know what I'm trying to do, and how do I 
know what you are trying to do when we are trying to do the
same things.

Suppose I want to know the temperature on a planet called Sigma 6.
It is too far to measure it with a thermometer and so I infer it
from reading off my instruments here on earth, based on laws of
refraction, spectral distributions etc. Where the comparisons
have already been made with earth's properties associated with
temperature. Suppose this is all pretty much not controversial.

Now suppose I want to get the temperature on earth. I go to the
thermometer and take the reading. I surmise that earth's temperature
is less than that of Sigma 6. Now if we take a very strict
operationalist line, 'temperature' may mean something different in
each case. Let's overlook this issue. But how do we relate the two
values in arriving at the true comparative sentence regarding 
temperatures. It seems that there must be something - I will
call it a "causal line" (following Russell) - that connects the
temperature of earth and my earthly instrument, the thermometer, and
a causal line linking Sigma 6 and my earthly instruments. Assuming
the temperature on Sigma 6 is comparable to that of earth's, I might
even be able to justify a couterfactual that if I were on Sigma
6 I could directly (observing a thermometer as on earth) get the
temperature. Suppose I make a generalization: wherever comparatives
of this sort are possible the only asymmetry in the methods of
verification (direct vs. indirect) are owing to a difference in
"causal lines," and that the property, temperature, on earth and
that on Sigma 6 can be expressed in terms of causal properties
that are fundamentally the same, i.e. we are talking about temperature
in both cases. In other words, the asymmetry is eliminable under
counterfactual circumstances. Here is my claim:

The aysmmetry of first and third person attribution of psychological
properties is not of that sort, and there is no counterfactual which
if true would sustain the claim that the asymmetry could be overcome.
If so, then, the strong claims of physicalists like Rorty, say, could
not be justified. There would remain something different. We might want
to say: "If I were you I would feel pain." But justifying this will
involve third and not first person attributions. So there is a difference
between attributions which are physically impossible, merely, and 
attributions made by first person reports that are neither physically
possible nor logically impossible. This is the philosophically relevant


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