Academic journal article Behavior and Philosophy (Online)

Methodological Dualism and Multi-Explanation Framework: Replies to Criticisms and Further Developments

Academic journal article Behavior and Philosophy (Online)

Methodological Dualism and Multi-Explanation Framework: Replies to Criticisms and Further Developments

Article excerpt

I am indebted to the commentators for their thought-provoking reviews. For different reasons, they do not accept my plea for including mentalistic explanations under the umbrella of the scientific methodology (except perhaps Foxall, 2011/2012, who welcomes my methodological pluralism approach). I will attempt to show that their arguments against my approach are incorrect.

The paper is organized in the following way: first I comment on the reasons that motivated me to develop the approach of Methodological Dualism (MD) and Multi-Explanation Framework (MEF) and present a brief summary of its main ideas; second, I respond to the commentators' criticisms; and finally, I present further developments.

MD and MEF: Motivation and Brief Summary

In Rakover (2011/2012) I reviewed the literature and reached the following conclusions: (a) there is not yet any theory of the mind/body relationship [T(m/b)], (b) it is hard to conceive mentalistic explanations in terms of mechanistic explanations, and (c) it is hard to provide a complete account of behavior by appeal to mechanistic explanations only. These conclusions motivated me to develop an alternative approach: MD, which leads to the construction of MEF for developing specific theories in psychology. This approach does not suggest a new way to solve the consciousness/brain problem, but attempts to circumvent it by taking a methodological route that provides a comprehensive and coherent explanation of behavior by appeal to two kinds of explanations: mechanistic (e.g., neurophysiological, cognitive-computational processes) and mentalistic (e.g., will, belief, purpose, intention).

The present article provides me with an opportunity to say something more (perhaps something more personal) about the reasons that motivated me to develop MD and MEF.1 A major reason for developing MD and MEF is my cumulative impression that the attempts to solve the mind/body problem, after all these years, seem to be going nowhere. We are going in circles, or perhaps more accurately, oscillating between two opposing pulls: one pull is our certainty in our conscious experiences, and the other is our certainty in the knowledge provided by science. Apparently we are unable to reconcile these two pulls because their several implications contradict. Let me illustrate this with the following line of thought (based on Kim, 2011).

Many philosophers and psychologists are committed to the view that understanding of the world and of behavior is achieved by appeal to physical and neurophysiological events. Furthermore, these researchers believe that these phenomena cannot be explained or affected by appeal to events that do not belonging to the physical and neurophysiological domain. Since it seems that mental states, conscious experience (will, belief, etc) do not belong to this domain (and the attempts to conceive them neurophysiologically encounter impassable obstacles), it follows that consciousness cannot affect the events in this domain- our brain and behavior (i.e., they are epiphenomenal). If this is true, it is impossible for one to report on one's own conscious experience. But this conclusion seems self-contradictory, as the very fact that we are trying to understand consciousness attests that conscious experience does have an effect on behavior. Otherwise, how could we report on our conscious experience? This situation strikes me as a paradox, call it the "consciousness paradox," and it reminds me of Zeno's famous paradox of Achilles and the turtle. The two run a race, with the turtle starting to run ahead of the Greek warrior. The argument ingeniously convinces us that Achilles will never overtake the turtle! But we all know what really happened: the truth. Apparently, something is wrong with this argument. Apparently, something is wrong with the consciousness paradox, with the argument that consciousness is epiphenomenal.2

In fact, I was so impressed by the knowledge that the T(m/b) has not yet been discovered that I begin to conceive of psychology as an associational science. …

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