Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Jarrod Cochran's dialogue with Focus on the Family

I have not blogged on political matters as yet. I don’t consider myself to be either far on the right or on the left, but I do have serious reservations about the wisdom of our President’s policies, and am particularly suspicious of any attempt to make the Christian faith serve the ends of partisan politics. Jarrod Cochran is a Christian whose cyber-acquaintance I have recently made, and who is the nephew of atheist philosopher Keith Parsons. He was kind enough to send me this exchange between himself and a Focus on the Family office representative. I do believe that FOTF has done some good work, but I think it tends to identify the Christian gospel with certain political positions which have to be distinguished from the central claims of Christianity.
Someone interested in the issue between religion and politics should begin my reading C. S. Lewis’s brilliant essay “Meditation on the Third Commandment,” from God in the Dock, where he warns about the dangers of attempting to form a “Christian Party.”
Dear Mr. Cochran,
Thank you for writing to Dr. Dobson (e-mail, April 24, 2005). He would have preferred to send a personal reply if circumstances had allowed. Unfortunately, with several thousand pieces of mail arriving at Focus headquarters every day, it’s rare that he is able to become directly involved with ministry-related correspondence. I’m sure you can understand why he has asked me to respond on his behalf. It’s a pleasure to serve you as his representative.
It was good of you to take a few moments to share your thoughts on a number of issues related to Dr. Dobson’s involvement in matters of public policy, including the “Justice Sunday” telecast (April 24), Focus on the Family’s position on the Senate filibuster against President Bush’s judicial candidates, the war in Iraq, and the recent “SpongeBob controversy.” Honest feedback like yours is always welcome here at Focus headquarters.
In response to the concerns you’ve raised, we want to make it very clear that the Doctor’s participation in “Justice Sunday” had nothing to do with any desire on his part to impose his own moral views or religious convictions on anyone else. Nor is he inferring that those who disagree with Focus on the Family’s stance are not true Christians or people of faith. Above all, he is not trying to say that God is a Republican or a Democrat or that true spirituality can be defined in terms of one’s political affiliations. Far from it! It’s all well and good to say that “God is above political affiliation,” but this does not excuse us as believers from our obligation to stand up for morality and righteousness in the public square. For Dr. Dobson, the issues you refer to as “political” are profoundly moral in nature. They lie at the heart of who he is what he feels called to do. In order to stay completely “out of politics” as you’ve exhorted him to do, he would have to abandon the preborn child, acquiesce to the distribution of condoms and the dispensation of immoral advice to teenagers in the public schools, close his eyes to child pornography and adult obscenity, ignore the confiscatory tax structure that weakens the family, and remain silent regarding the anti-family agenda of gay and lesbian activists. This he cannot and will not do. His conscience will not permit it.
With respect to your assertion that Dr. Dobson’s supportive attitude toward the war in Iraq is inconsistent with his strong pro-life principles, we’d like to suggest that killing within the context of warfare (and this includes the kind of killing that falls under the heading of so-called “collateral damage”) is something very different from the deliberate termination of the lives of innocent preborn babies. Something similar can be said with respect to the death penalty, which involves the execution by legitimate state authorities of criminals who have been duly convicted of capital crimes. This theme could be expanded at great length, of course; whether or not you would agree with the arguments we might advance depends to a great extent upon your interpretation of Scripture passages like Romans 13:1-4. In this connection, you need to understand that Dr. Dobson and Focus on the Family generally subscribe to the classic Augustinian “just war” theory. Applying the principles of that theory, the Doctor has concluded that the campaign in Iraq is a case where the biblical and theological justifications for the use of force are fairly obvious -- as a matter of fact, he sees it as a component element of the much larger War on Terror. Nothing of the kind can be said with respect to the murder of innocent infants.
As for your reminder that “being pro-life doesn’t end with abortion” and the concerns you’ve expressed regarding our attitude toward the homeless and poverty-stricken, there is a sense in which we can’t help feeling that you are oversimplifying a highly complicated subject. If it seems to you that we have not taken it upon ourselves to address economic issues as intensively as you might prefer, we would propose that there are a couple of very good reasons for this, neither of which have anything to do with lack of concern for the poor. The first centers around the technical complexity of the problem. When it comes to economics, everybody has a different idea about the best way to end poverty, put people to work, and fix the social problems that beset us. Some believe in federal “hand-outs” -- i.e., welfare programs -- while others claim that tax breaks for big corporations will eventually have a beneficial “trickle down” effect upon workers at the low end of the income scale. These are matters we do not feel competent to analyze. In the meantime, Focus on the Family has other priorities. In a world as complex and multifaceted as ours it is crucial to learn how to choose your political battles carefully. In our view, issues such as the defense of innocent preborn life and the defense of marriage, which involve clear-cut absolute moral and spiritual values, simply HAVE to take precedence over all other social and political concerns.
More could be said -- for example, with regard to your reference to the “SpongeBob” debate, the point of which seems to have eluded you (Dr. Dobson’s statements were NOT directed at SpongeBob himself, but at the We Are Family Foundation, an organization that USED SpongeBob in a song and music video to promote an agenda of “tolerance and diversity” that includes homosexual advocacy). But perhaps it would be best to close this message with the reflection that there is a huge difference between “judging” (an activity of which you feel our ministry is guilty) and taking a stand for our convictions in the midst of an increasingly ant-Christian social environment. As we see it, Christians have as much right as anyone else to inject their values into the political process and to fight for what they think is right. Our love for our country and for our fellow human beings will not allow us to do anything less.
We hope this reply has clarified our perspective for you, Mr. Cochran. Thanks again for caring enough to get in touch. God bless you.

Dear Brother Masters,
I greatly appreciated your well-written response to my letter. I can see that we have differing views on many things. Though I do not wish to start a debate with you or cause you to anger, I would like to touch on a few things in your reply back to me.
I understand your stance that "Justice Sunday" had nothing to do with aligning politics with religion. It is my prayer that it did not; unfortunately it is apparent that it was very much about meshing religion with politics - a view that is shared by many. I agree with you that even though God is above political affiliation, I believe we have an obligation to praise our leaders when they make a good decision and to speak out against all policies and agendas that is contrary to Scripture. But Brother Masters, that means speaking out against all issues that are unjust – not just focusing on only one or two. There are unjust actions that this administration has committed, (just like all administrations), but I have not heard Dr. Dobson speak out against these issues. Our president's intentional ignorance of the poor, the environment, and Bush's raising those who justify the torture of others to higher positions (Gonzales and Rumsfeld) is a complete disregard of God’s Word. Have you looked at this administration's proposed budget? I view this as a far more urgent matter to rally against than the filibustering of judges that will interpret the law in their own fashion (just like those who fill the seats now). I'm not suggesting that Dr. Dobson remove himself from the political arena. What I and others of like-mind are suggesting is that Dr. Dobson amends his error of appearing so blatantly partisan. Claiming that one political party is wrong while ignoring the immoralities in the other is exactly what Christ was speaking of when He shared with us to remove the plank from our own eye before pointing out the splinter in another's.
As for your responses to the war in Iraq and the just-war criteria of St. Augustine, I recommend that you perform a further reading of his criteria as well as Thomas Aquinas' criteria. I believe a careful examination would prove that our pre-emptive war with Iraq was and is unjust. I believe we have gravely missed the mark of the criteria by the following:
- Right Intention: force may be used only in a truly just cause and solely for that purpose. The ultimate goal or intention of the use of force is to re-establish peace; specifically a peace that is preferable to the peace that would have prevailed had the war not been fought.
- Proportionality: the overall destruction expected from the use of force must be outweighed by the good to be achieved; a nation cannot go to war without considering the effect of its action upon others and on the international community.
- Last Resort: force may be used only after all peaceful alternatives have been seriously tried and exhausted.
We were misled as a nation to the reasons we were going to war. This goes against the right intention criteria. There is still chaos and terrorism in Iraq even after Saddam's regime has been toppled; this is another strike against right intention criteria as well as the criteria of proportionality. This war was not a last resort. We did not wait for the inspectors to finish there job. We did not listen to the other less-drastic and destructive options that were on the table. This is in opposition to the last resort section of the just-war criteria. To claim this war is justifiable is to either bend the criteria given to us by St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas or to ignore it all together.
On another issue of this war, I do not believe that a pre-emptive strike – the idea of “getting them before they get us” – is an ideology that Christ approves of. Nowhere in His teachings do we find Jesus, the Prince of Peace, sharing with His followers to harm others before they can do harm to us. As a matter of fact, Christ tells us to turn the other cheek and to bless and pray for those who plot against you and do you harm. If we are to follow Christ, we have to attempt to follow all of His examples; we cannot pick and choose those that seem easier than the rest of His teachings.
Regarding your responses to the abortion issue, I completely agree that abortion is murder. But I will continue to stand behind my statement that the pro-life stance does not end with abortion. When abortion is the only topic of your pro-life stance, it is you who are over-simplifying the issue. There are those who die unjustly due to poverty, being wrongfully accused by our courts and those in other countries who are murdered for what they believe; yet by your statements in your response to me have made it seem that you believe that to follow Christ's command to care for the poor and vulnerable is too complicated an issue for one to become involved with. As you put it, there are "other priorities". That rationalization is inconsistent and incompatible with God's Word. According to our bible, God's views one life just as precious as another, be it an unborn baby or an impoverished person who received no help from Christians or their government. Do you realize that defending the poor and vulnerable is the second most dominant theme in the Old Testament after idolatry? And did you know that helping the poor and vulnerable surfaces in one of every sixteen verses in the New Testament? If this issue comes up in God’s Word as much as it does, how can any of us view this as too complicated an issue to become involved with? How can we as Christians believe that there are other priorities? We cannot get around this fact no matter what kind of rationalizations we make. There's no way to justify standing up for one of God’s stances and not for the others.
Referring to your reply that I do not understand the full issue of the We Are Family Foundation video. Let me assure that I understand the “Spongebob Debate”, as you called it, quite well. I can accept your statement that Dr. Dobson’s comments were not directed at a specific cartoon character. The problem I have is why does your organization have a problem with others teaching respect for another’s convictions? I do not believe that when we allow tolerance of others to be taught that we are endorsing their sin. I do believe that when God created mankind, He gave us all free will – the ability to choose good from evil. Many choose evil; we all stumble in sin every day. God never forced anyone to follow Him or His laws; He left that up to us. Jesus Christ never bullied anyone into His beliefs. He shared the truth that is found in following Him and He allowed those that did not want to listen to ignore Him. If we are called to be imitators of Christ and to follow His example, shouldn’t we respect another's right to have their own beliefs and views? We are called to preach/witness to the Gospel and live a life of Christian example - nothing more. The conversion of other's who hear our words is up to God and the individual that hears the truth we speak and the example we try to live out daily.
By the way, the We Are Family Foundation promoted respect of many other things besides homosexuality in that video. I and others believe that they were sharing with us that even if we do not agree with another’s opinion, belief, or lifestyle, we will respect their right to have it. I did not realize that it was wrong to respect and allow another to exercise their right as an American to believe what they want. Like I said we can disagree and share with them the truth that is in Christ, but it is still their right – not just as an American, but as a human being – to agree with what we say and act accordingly or to ignore our words and to continue in their current lifestlye.
You stated in your reply that we have to take a stand for our beliefs “in the midst of an increasingly anti-Chrsitian social environment”. I want to point out that we have a President who claims to be a Christian and was voted for a second term by many evangelicals who claim that he’s the “Christian President”, we have the majority in both the House and the Senate that listen intensely to conservative evangelicals, we have movies and television shows that deal with Christian issues (i.e. - “The Passion of the Christ”, "Joan of Arcadia”, “Kingdom of Heave”, etc.), and your organization’s leader, Dr. Dobson along with several others recently hosted a nationally televised event called “Justice Sunday” with the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist. In lieu of all this evidence, I am very curious as to what exactly you believe is so “anti-Christian” about this nation?
I believe what is truly anti-Christian in America is the “Christianity” that is portrayed by the many evangelicals who agree with pre-emptive wars, believe in protecting the baby in the womb while ignoring the needs and injustices of those who are already born, who believe that homosexuality is some “ultimate sin” surpassing all others, and who believe that being a good witness of the Gospel of Christ with our words and actions is not enough – that we must enforce our beliefs and values upon others.
I agree that we as Christians have every right to voice our values and beliefs in our politics and speak out for what we think is right. Where we stumble is when we attempt to force our values and beliefs upon others in the political arena and in our neighborhoods. When we cross that line, we do a disservice to our nation - the land of the free - and to God Himself.
Thank you again for replying to my message. I hope that this final letter I have written has further clarified my thoughts to you, brother Masters. Thank you again for caring enough about my thoughts to write me back. While we may disagree on many issues, we still can agree that we have the joy in worshipping a resurrected Savior. I can see that we both agree that a right to life and a right to freely express our religious beliefs is not a negotiable issue. I think the major difference between myself and your organization is that I believe that non-negotiable right to life continues after birth and that non-negotiable right to freedom of religion is given to all regardless of race, religion, or creed. Take care and God bless.
Your brother in Christ,
Jarrod Cochran

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Geoffrey Madell on Indexicals

This is from Geoffrey Madell's Mind and Materialism (Edinburgh: Edinbugh University Press, 1988) "It has been clearly recognized by some that the fact of indexical thought presents a special problem for physicalism. The problem is seen most clearly in in relation to the first person. Thomas Nagel put his finger on it in his paper 'Physicalism" (Journal of Philosophy, 1965). Let us envisage the most complete objective description of the world and everyone in it which it is possible to have, couched in the objective terminology of the physical sciences. However complete we make this description, "there remains one thing I cannot say in this fashion--namely, whcih of the various persons in the world I am'. No amount of information non-indexically expressed can be equivalent to the first-person assertion "I am G. M.' How can one accomodate the existence of the first person perspective in a wholly material world? A complete objective description of a particular person is one thing, the assertion, The person thus described is me is something in addition. But this information isn't of a character whcih physical science could recognize. If reality comprises (of) assemblies of physical entities only, it apperas utterly mysterious that some arbitrary element of that objective order should be me. (p. 103).

Madell spends an entire chapter defending this claim.

Dialogue with Lippard on Neurophysiology

My previous post on neurophysiology was a response to an e-mail sent to me by Jim Lippard. I thought I should ask his permission before sharing his comments, so I responded to them rather than reproducing them. Lippard originally wrote:

I've been out of academia for 11 years now, and a lot has happened in
cognitive science (and neuroscience in particular) since I've been
actively keeping track, as I learned last weekend while attending the
Skeptics Society's conference on Brain, Mind, and Consciousness at

There were fascinating presentations by Christof Koch on neural
correlates of consciousness, by Paul Zak on neural correlates of
economic transactions (the hormone oxytocin is correlated with trust),
and many others (see http://www.skeptic.com/conf/speakers.html).

I was struck repeatedly by how much the evidence is growing in favor
of a completely physical explanation of mind--and how little room is
left for a dualist one. (Frankly, I think dualism for anything more
then epiphenomenal qualia has been dead for decades already, and is
certainly scientifically moribund.)

One speaker who was unable to attend due to a family emergency in
India was V.S. Ramachandran, but I purchased his short book, _A Brief
Tour of Human Consciousness_, and read it on the plane home from
Pasadena. In that book, I learned of "mirror neurons"--there are
specific neurons which activate when we perform certain actions, and
which also activate when we see others perform the same actions.
Ramachandran has some very interesting speculations about how these
structures may have enabled the origin of language. I've just found
he has an article on the same subject (accompanied by commentaries
from other luminaries--a feature of the journal Behavioral and Brain
Sciences that I always loved) here:


http://www.edge.org/discourse/mirror_neurons.html (I particularly
recommend Raul Nunez's for a critical view)

I believe it's quite likely that many of the philosophical problems
about the mind will evaporate with scientific advances.

Meanwhile, Plantinga's proposal for a new paradigm of theistic
science--along with the "intelligent design" hypothesis--is still
barren of any empirical fruit, so far as I know (and I'd like to
hear of any evidence to the contrary).

As I have indicated, my previous blog entry on neurophysiology was in response to Lippard's e-mail. He answered:

I don't see what evidence there is for causal interaction from a
nonphysical substance, or what functions are present in nonphysical

Surely you're not suggesting a "radio receiver" or "remote control"
model of the brain.

The evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of not just visual awareness
being localized in the brain, but pain processing, emotional
processing, face recognition, the storage of memory, and everything
else that makes us who we are. Who we are is clearly deeply causally
connected to our brains, and when the brain is damaged or
deteriorates, we have mental deficits, lose capacities, lose
awareness, and cease to be. I don't see how the phenomena that are
actually observed can be made sense of with a model in which the brain
is just a body control center for a disembodied mind. Perhaps that's
not what you have in mind (pun intended)--but if you are offering
something other than, say, Chalmers' nonreductive property dualism, I
don't know what it is. If memories are stored in the brain, then of
what value is an immortal soul that survives when everything I know,
my ability to recognize people, my language capacities, my stored
emotional connections to memories, all goes away? (I take it the
only possible answer there is a physical, bodily resurrection, including
all of the neural connections.)

Where is the spirit model that explains Capgras' syndrome, where a
person becomes convinced that those he knows best have been replaced
with exact duplicates who are impostors? A physical explanation is a
severing of the neural connections between the visual
processing/facial recognition on the one hand, and the emotional
processing on the other. (Ramachandran's book gives an example of a
patient with Capgras who still has the appropriate emotional reaction
to a parent's voice on the telephone, and doesn't consider them an
impostor, but seeing them in person yields the imposter result.)

Where is the spirit model that explains both blindsight (no conscious
awareness of seeing, but when asked to "guess" where objects are, a
patient points accurately), neglect (patient claims to be consciously
aware of seeing, with no gaps, but is clearly not seeing part of their
visual field, usually an entire hemifield), and denial (e.g., where a
patient's left side is paralyzed, but the patient insists that nothing
is wrong and that he can, for instance, move his arm)? These are
explainable on a physical model, and the mirror neurons mentioned
earlier can explain an even more bizarre phenomenon, where a patient
with denial will deny that *another* patient is paralyzed.

Where is the spirit model that explains the mapping of amputated
limbs to other body parts that are physically proximate in brain
maps (but not on the body)--e.g., an amputated left arm maps
the fingers of the missing hand to the left cheek? The neural
model involves the physical connections between the neurons
processing the face stimuli and the immediately proximate neurons
that used to process the hand stimuli.

Where is the spirit model that explains motion-induced blindness,
where objects disappear from the visual field as a result of other
moving objects in the visual field (yet still produce afterimage

Have any dualist neuroscientists written commentaries on the works of
Oliver Sacks, A.N. Luria, V.S. Ramachandran, or others?

Your response, Victor, seems to be an attempt to completely isolate
the mental from the physical--that seems to me essential
in order to avoid empirical refutation, but not very productive or
useful in gaining knowledge or understanding.

And I replied:

I thought my point was that sophisticated dualists like Bill Hasker have never denied the extensive reliance of the mind upon the brain. So we would not be appealing to soul theory to explain the Capgras problem, for example, or blindsight. In fact, Hasker specifically appeals to these things to argue that a more traditional, Cartesian form of dualism is inadequate, in favor of an emergent kind of dualism in which the soul emerges from the activity of the brain. It's substance dualism not because the soul that thus emerges does not occupy space (I never try to argue for that) but rather the activities of the emerging item are teleological at the ground level and can exercise libertarian free will. That would be to commit "skyhookery" according to people like Dennett, though, as I have argued, we could even call this a nonstandard form of materialism. If "material" means "occupies space" then I think I am a materialist about the mind. It's what the thing does that matters (no pun originally intended, but now that it's there...), not whether we call it matter or not. Even Charles Taliaferro, a more traditional Cartesian dualist, believes in "integrative" dualism; there is an extensive dependence of the soul upon the brain. I don't see how the sort of dualism Hasker has in mind is refuted by these sorts of phenomenon. If I am right a lot of anti-dualist arguments attack a straw man.

One move I like to make at this point is to grant, for the sake of argument, that materialism is true, that whatever it is that we are talking about should be referred to as matter, but then to argue that that "matter," which is found in the "brain" has some rather weird, teleological, "soulish" properties. That has the effect of taking away the illusion that the "soul" is something radically separate from the brain. It's matter all right, it just doesn't obey the normal laws of matter.

Now if standard materialism accounts for all the stuff that I appeal to, then I suppose you have an Ockham's razor argument not only for accepting standard materialism not only over dualism but over nonstandard materialism. But I think the interthoeretic reductions that would permit you to do that invariably go awry. But that's the other big debate.

The radio receiver analogy looks, on its face, like a good one. When I started this e-mail, my computer crashed, and I had to start over. Clearly, deficits and enhancements in my computer result in defecits and enhancements of the message I received. So can we argue that the computer I am using is sufficient to itself, and that there is no Lippard who sent me the message? You should hope not.

References for the Unity of Consciousness

David asked where the Kant and Hasker passages came from with respect to the unity of consciousness argument, and I realized that I had forgotten to reference this. The Kant passage is from the Second Paralogism of the Critique of Pure Reason (Kemp Smith translation, St. Martin's) p. 335. The formal argument was generated by Paul Draper (who I think does not endorse it) but it encapsulates the argument as Hasker develops it in The Emergent Self, (New York: Cornell Universitiy Press, 1999), pp. 122-146.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Does neurophysiology prove physicalism?

Does the evidence and success of the science of neurophysiology provide overwhelming evidence that the mind is physical? I have some doubts. Now neurophysiology could do two things.

1) It might provide knowledge of correlations between mental states and physical states. It can tell us that while we are dreaming a certain type of neurophysiological activity is going on, and when we are playing chess, another. But a sophisticated dualist like Hasker can say "Of course the ghost needs the machine. Tell me something I didn't know." It seems as if a dualist can easily acknowledge a heavy dependence of the mind upon the brain.

2) Or, it might provide an intertheoretic reduction of mental activity to physical states. This is a much dicier operation, and while I wouldn't want to argue against a neurophysiologist about what mental states are correlated with what brain states (that would be real armchair science, to use Richard Carrier's term) I think that a presumptive case can be made that attempts to analyze the mental in terms of the physical are going to fail; they will end up doing a behind-the-back skyhook, slipping the mental in through the back door and calling it physical, or else it will end up explaining the mental away, explaining it in such a way that it cannot serve as the inferential foundation for the very science of neurophysiology on which the reduction is based. Even though I am not myself a neurophysologist, it seeems that I am competent to raise questions concerning the coherence of intertheoretic reductions.

Do I fail to understand how the neurphysiological argment works?

Also an ionteresting disucssion is going on the Internet Infidels Discussion Board; www.infidels.org. Just click on "forum" and find "philosophy" and the "Richard Carrier's Sense and Goodness Without God." The atheists who have been disucssion with me have been courteous.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Why indexicals can't be eliminated

Can science know everything? I have my doubts, at least if certain kinds of truths are excluded from science.
Well, the concept of the first person, to begin with. Scientific facts are supposed to be objective and third-personal, true from no point of view in particular. But there are important truths that end up being lost. Consider the following story. During the height of the Watergate scandal President Nixon takes a nasty fall and loses his memory. He stumbles into the White House tape room, listens to some of the tapes, and concludes that the President must be a crook. He rushes across the street to Impeach Nixon headquarters, and asks to join. Startled, the impeachment supporters say "It would be easy for you to get Nixon out of office. All you have to do is resign. You are Richard Nixon." But instead, of course, he went back to the White House and continued to try to stay in office.What did Nixon learn to change his behavior so drastically, and how could it be described from a third-person perspective? The truth, "I am Richard Nixon" has an indexical in it. You can't change the statement and eliminate the indexicals without eliminating the meaning. So not all truths are accessible from a "neutral" perspective, and if science requires a "neutral" perspective, there are truths that science cannot know.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

memeplexes and rational inference

Ahab on Internet Infidels Discussion Board wrote: So this really seems to boil down to your definition of what the self is. Unless someone agrees with your definition of the self they don’t believe in consciousness. According to you.
Sorry, but you'll need to do better than that if you hope to show that naturalism denies the existence of consciousness.

Since I'm not even sure what you mean by 'unified consciousness', I see no need to bother denying it. I will say that I believe firmly in the reality of human consciousness. So I fail to understand why I should see your syllogism as a valid argument against my naturalistic philosophy.

If you are so concerned about the possible undermining of the natural sciences, you might do better spending more time supporting and learning what neuroscience has to show us about the brain (that wonderful biological mechanism which is able to produce consciousness) and less time trying to make science fit into your predetermined world view.

I replied: Ok, Ahab, my question is quite simple. If you claim to be firm in believing that consciousness is real, tell me what you think is conscious. I don't think the idea of free-floating consciousness makes any sense (though perhaps you do). If I have the thought "All men are mortal" and you have the thought "Socrates is a man" and Carrier has the thought "Socrates is mortal," then no one has perfomed an inference. There has to be an entity that does the inferring. What is it. Is the brain an entity? Or is it a conglomeration of entities that we call an entity for the sake of convenience? If that's the case then we have nothing metaphysically real that does the inferring.

Neuroscience is, of course, worth learning about, though it is always difficult to distinguish between genuine scientific discovery and philosophical presupposition. What I am saying is that if these scientists are right about what the mind would be like if it were a physical system, and they are themselves scientists, then the physical story cannot be the whole story about their own activities. If they are right then there are no scientists per se, just overpaid conglomerations of memeplexes that make no real rational inferences.

To say that I ought to support the results of neuroscience assumes what you are trying to prove, thus begging the question and assuming that there are no metaphysical issues (issues that go beyond science) to be considered. Of course we can broaden the concept of science so that it includes so-called supernatural entities, (or just entities for whom teleological explanations can be basic explanations) and if we did that I wouldn't have any problem with it. But if scientists keep saying that we have to be naturalistic in order to be doing science, then a scientific account will, on my view, always have to be incomplete.

the argument from computers

Perhaps one of the most frequently used arguments against the various arguments from reason is that computers are undeniably physical systems, computers reason, and therefore physical systems reason. Now it is not enough to respond to this argument by saying that human beings, who according to the arguments, are not purely physical systems, created the computers. Of course they did, but the naturalist might respond by saying that regardless of how the computers got there, they reason. But it isn't just that humans made the computers, they also provide the framework of meaning in which the activity of the computer can be regarded as "reasoning." The intentionality found in the computer is derived intentionality, not original intentionality.

Consider the following. Imagine a possible world just like ours, except that in that world chess is never invented. Along with my fellow card-carrying members of the Guild of Chess-Playing Philosophers I call this world I for Impovershed. In I, a pair of computers, connected to one another, miraculously appears in the Gobi desert and goes through all the physical states which, in our world, occurred in a chess game between Fritz and Shredder in the World Computer Championship. The question is, did these computers play chess? Since chess was never invented in I, since no terms in the world refer to "rook," "bishop," "king" "exchange sac" "en passant" or "Dragon Variation," I suggest that these "computers" did not play a chess game.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

More on Pullman and Lewis

This is a site that discussion Pullman's attacks on Lewis.