Thursday, February 16, 2006

Reply to Randy

Randy said...
Looks to me like you've missed Mr. Carr's point completely.
Non-rational causes are quite capable of generating rational effects.
Ergo, simply because the brain is a physical entity, one cannot in principle exclude it's ability to reason.
You seem to have a phobia of physicality. What difference, other than apologetical, does it make if the mind is based on physical processes?

By the way, you analogy of the scrambled sentence is not at all to the point.
An alien who had no idea of the rules of chess would, after watching a computer chess program, come to recognize the patterns inherent in it. She might give different names to the chess pieces and their moves, but she would have a pretty good idea of what a knight or a rook was capable of doing, for example.

And it seems sort of meaningless to point out the obvious fact that the computer is not aware it is playing chess. Is anyone here really arguing for that silly claim?

Also, if you can find a chance to respond to the question I posted just before Mr. Carr's, regarding reason and basic explanations, I'd much appreciate it. I still am unable to make heads or tails of it. Thanks.

4:56 PM

It all depends on what you mean by "physical." If all something has to do to be physical is to occupy space, then I have no argument against the existence of a "physical" mind in that sense. If what is required for something to be physical is that reasons explanations cannot be fundamental explanations, then I think there is a problem, because I don't think the idea of ratiomality emerging from a system of events which is non-rational at its core is, on my view, incoherent.

The non-rational properties of matter, on the materialist view, are sufficient to guarantee that the atoms and molecules in the brain go where they go. (Unless there's brute chance involved, and that's not rationality either).

The computer story really doesn't help because we really don't look at a computer as a computer unless we presuppose that it was designed by someone, and if some rational being provides a context of meaning in which the activities of the computer make sense.

The point about the computer is that meaning is only meaning for someone. An alien might conclude that there was a game going on in the computer on the assumption that there was someone for whom that pieces in the game had meaning. And the alien would be wrong about that. What the alien took to be meaningful would in fact lack meaning, except for the meaning that the alien would invent for himself.

Even if we explain the mental in terms of the biological, the biological in terms of the chemcial, and the chemical in terms of the physical, we have to wonder why the laws of physics are the way they are and not some other way. And a materialist will have to answer that this is an ultimate brute fact about the way things are. It is a brute fact, however, that is completely non-mental. There are no intentions at the bottom of everything. That is, I take it, what Dennett means when he says "no skyhooks." It's my argument that there have to be intentions at the bottom of everything in order for reasoning to be possible.

The letter I posted from Darek Barefoot a few posts back might be helpful in this regard.


Jason Pratt said...

Randy wrote:

"Non-rational causes are quite capable of generating rational effects."

Do you claim this to be a rational belief of yours?

Anonymous said...

There are no intentions at the bottom of everything.
That is just silly. There are no banana splits at the bottom of everything. Yet I had a delicious one just the other night. For that matter, there aren't any tastes at the bottom of everything.

That is, I take it, what Dennett means when he says "no skyhooks."
Wasn't Dennett the one who also warned of the fallacy of greedy reductionism?

It's my argument that there have to be intentions at the bottom of everything in order for reasoning to be possible.

Seems you're a greedy reductionist.

Victor Reppert said...

You might want to look at Darek's post here.

Jason Pratt said...

I'll be gone until Monday (possibly later, depending on weather); but I think my question is worth answering in conjunction with the basic claim being made.

A consideration of the question and related answers, would go a _long_ way toward getting to the bottom line of the AfR. (It will also help clarify why theistic presuppositionalists think they can make a legitimate use of a variant of the AfR; _and_ help clarify why classical apologists reject their attempt to do so. Thus linking up handily with another recent topical thrust. {g})

Jason Pratt

Steven Carr said...

'There are no intentions at the bottom of everything.'

What does this mean? Did God create intentions? Victor can't mean that God created Victor's intention to play the Dragon at every opportunity. So what did God create?

Can intentions be created by something which lacks intentions, such as an unconscious person?

How then can an unconscious person bootstrap himself into consciousness if intentions can only be created by other intensions?