This probably emerges in some way out of an earlier Nagel discussion but honestly I forget how this came up.
Gene Callahan has apparently closed up shop on this question, and for a very unfortunate reason: he doesn't know how to respond to people that think he makes extremely unusual claims.
I haven't been talking about neurons as much in his comment section because I don't feel like I know enough about brains to go into detail about that. So I've mostly tried to stick to using clunky phrases like "what brains do" or "what brains perceive".
My only question is why Gene leaps from the fact that we have ideas in our brains (we agree on that) to the assertion that those ideas have some kind of independent reality aside from being just the way our brains have organzied the regularities in reality.
And if he can't answer that question and gets frustrated by it I have no idea why he's so decidedly anti-materialist and not more of an agnostic on the issue like me.
Gene writes: "In any case, faced with such manifest irrationality as the claim that animal species are really just patterns of firings of human neurons"
No Gene. That is not the claim (at least not mine). There are regularities in reality. Animal species are one of those regularities. But the way we talk about and classify those regularities is a product of our brains. There are regularities in nature - nobody is saying there aren't. We come up with ideas to help us navigate nature using those regularities. What you have not been able to accomplish is to explain why those ideas about the regularities have any ontological significance to speak of. We all agree the regularities in nature that those ideas are describing have such ontological signifcance. He concludes: "I find myself at a total loss as to how I might proceed without a total waste of my time. Therefore, if I happen to post on metaphysics in the future, I probably will post with comments closed."
That's fine, but recognize what the problem is here: legitimate questions were raised that you get frustrated answering. As far as I know no one's been insulting you (the impetus for me closing comments on military posts, for example). We're just interested in the complete argument.
If we can just change the words…
24 minutes ago