Episode 42

#42 (C&R, Chap 12+13) - Language and the Body-Mind Problem


July 20th, 2022

50 mins 39 secs

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About this Episode

Ben and Vaden sit down to discuss what is possibly Popper's most confusing essay ever: Language and the Body-Mind Problem: A restatement of Interactionism. Determinism, causality, language, bodies, minds, and Ferris Buhler. What's not to like! Except for the terrible writing, spanning the entire essay. And before we get to that, we revolutionize the peer-review system in less than 10 minutes.

We discuss

  • Problems with the current peer-review system and how to improve it
  • The Mind-Body Problem
  • How chaos theory relates to determinism
  • The four functions of language
  • Why you don't argue with thermometers
  • Whether Popper thinks we can build AGI
  • Why causality occurs at the level of ideas, not just of atoms



This, I think, solves the so-called problem of 'other minds'. If we talk to other people, and especially if we argue
with them, then we assume (sometimes mistakenly) that they also argue: that they speak intentionally about
things, seriously wishing to solve a problem, and not merely behaving as if they were doing so. It has often been seen
that language is a social affair and that solipsism, and doubts about the existence of other minds, become
selfcontradictory if formulated in a language. We can put this now more clearly. In arguing with other people (a thing
which we have learnt from other people), for example about other minds, we cannot but attribute to them intentions,
and this means, mental states. We do not argue with a thermometer.

- C&R, Chap 13

Once we understand the causal behaviour of the machine, we realize that its behaviour is purely expressive or
symptomatic. For amusement we may continue to ask the machine questions, but we shall not seriously argue with it--
unless we believe that it transmits the arguments, both from a person and back to a person.

- C&R, Chap 13

If the behaviour of such a machine becomes very much like that of a man, then we may mistakenly believe that
the machine describes and argues; just as a man"who does not know the working of a phonograph or radio may
mistakenly think that it describes and argues. Yet an analysis of its mechanism teaches us that nothing of this kind
happens. The radio does not argue, although it expresses and signals.

- C&R, Chap 13

It is true that the presence of Mike in my environment may be one of the physical 'causes' of my saying, 'Here is
Mike'. But if I say, 'Should this be your argument, then it is contradictory', because I have grasped or realized that it is
so, then there was no physical 'cause' analogous to Mike; I do not need to hear or see your words in order to realize
that a certain theory (it does not matter whose) is contradictory. The analogy is not to Mike, but rather to my
realization that Mike is here.

- C&R, Chap 13

The fear of obscurantism (or of being judged an obscurantist) has prevented most anti-obscurantists from saying
such things as these. But this fear has produced, in the end, only obscurantism of another kind.

- C&R, Chap 13

When's the last time you argued with your thermometer? Tell us over at incrementspodcast@gmail.com

Image Credit: http://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/modernlanguages/research/groups/linguistics/