Friday, April 19, 2013

Bulverism and the AFR

A redated post. (It's time to redate it one more time).

Pat Parks, who is working on a master's thesis on the AFR at Cal State Long Beach, sent a question about the relation between the AFR and Lewis's critique of Bulverism. If Bulverizing is a bad thing, then doesn't that imply that what causes our beliefs is irrelevant to the justification of those beliefs, and if that is so then doesn't Anscombe's critique of Lewis go through. Steve Lovell, who has written a dissertation on Lewis and philosophy, responded to this query by mentioning that he had covered the same issue in the conclusion of his dissertation. Steve's comments are in bold, followed by mine.

Bulverism and the Reasons/Causes Distinction
There was a method of ‘refutation’ that Lewis encountered so frequently that he felt he ought to give it a name. Bulverism, named after its fictional inventor Ezekiel Bulver, consists in dismissing a person’s claims as psychologically tainted at source, as in “Oh, you say that because you’re a man” (1941a: 181). The Bulverist’s thought is that if a person’s convictions can be fully explained as a result of non-rational factors then we need not bother about those convictions. Lewis deplored this sort of attack on our beliefs, seeing it as an illegitimate tactic which shortcuts the reasoning process. I argued in Chapter 5 that such ‘genetic arguments’ are often, but not always, fallacious. In general, we should find out whether or not a person is wrong before we start explaining how they came to be wrong. And of course the Bulverist’s game is very easy to play. If illicit motives may operate on one side of a debate, they may equally operate on the other. We do not (at least not always) clarify an issue by delving into psychology or personal history but rather by reasoning about the subject in hand.
If you try to find out which [thoughts] are tainted by speculating about the wishes of the thinkers, you are merely making a fool of yourself. You must find out on purely logical grounds which of them do, in fact, break down as arguments. Afterwards, if you like, [you may] go on and discover the psychological causes of the error.
 In other words, you must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly. … [Y]ou can only find out the rights and wrongs by reasoning – never by being rude about your opponent’s psychology. (1941a: 180-1)



In attacking Bulverism, Lewis distinguished between reasons and causes:
Causes are mindless events which can produce other results than beliefs. Reasons arise from axioms and inferences and affect only beliefs. Bulversism tries to show that the other man has causes and not reasons and that we have reasons and not causes. A belief which can be accounted for entirely in terms of causes is worthless. (1941a: 182)
It is unclear how this last quote fits with the general critique of Bulverism. On the one hand we have Lewis saying that we can only find out the rights and wrong by reasoning and not by explaining (away) our opponents beliefs as the product of non-rational causes, and on the other Lewis appears to claim that the presence of such causes is incompatible with the presence of reasons. Is the problem with Bulverism that it fails to distinguish between reasons and causes and so presumes that one must exclude the other? Or is it that Bulverism is too quick to attribute beliefs to non-rational causes in the first place?
 The question is interesting in its own right, but it is also interesting for the light it may (or may not) cast upon Lewis’ argument against naturalism. For if the presence of a non-rational cause for a belief does not exclude the presence of reasons, it is hard to see how the naturalist’s commitment to the presence of such causes can discredit the naturalist’s beliefs. On the other hand, if these two kinds of explanation are really incompatible, we cannot claim that the Freudian critique of religious belief commits the genetic fallacy but merely that it assumes too easily that religious belief is brought about by non-rational factors. If religious belief may have non-rational determinants (may be ‘desire based’) and yet still be warranted, then surely the naturalist’s general commitment to the presence of such determinants cannot undermine his claims to knowledge. In terms of the reasoning presented in Chapter 5, we may wonder whether Lewis’ argument against naturalism cannot be rejected on the same grounds as we rejected the Freudian critique of religious belief, that it commits the genetic fallacy. If the one argument commits this fallacy, then so too does the other. Or so it would appear.
 But to commit the genetic fallacy is to take the origin of a belief to be relevant to its evaluation and then illegitimately fault the belief because of its origin. A clear entailment is that if any arguments commit this fallacy, there must be a meaningful distinction between the causal origins of a belief and the grounds of that belief. But it is at just this point that Lewis attacks naturalism. To argue that a worldview cannot accommodate the reasons/causes distinction is not to commit the genetic fallacy but to contend that within that worldview the accusation of making that fallacy would cease to have meaning. Lewis is not only not committing the fallacy, he is arguing against a view which (if his argument is correct) entails that there is no such fallacy to commit. Alan Gerwith puts the point in strikingly Lewisian terms.
[The naturalist] thesis is unable to account for the difference between the relation of physical or psychological cause and effect and the relation of logical or evidential ground and consequent. (1978: 36)
Bulverism also connects with several other aspects of Lewis’ work. In The Personal Heresy (Lewis and Tillyard 1939), Lewis argues against E.M.W. Tillyard’s view that poetry, and literature more generally, is first and foremost the “expression of the poet’s personality”, that “All Poetry is about the poet’s state of mind” and that, therefore, “the end we are supposed to pursue in reading … is a certain contact with the poet’s soul” (quoted in Schultz and West Jr. 1998: 318). According to Lewis, to read a poem as it should be read “I must look where he [the author] looks and not turn around to face him; I must make of him not a spectacle but a pair of spectacles” (quoted in Duriez 2000: 162).
I look with his eyes, not at him. He, for the moment, will be precisely what I do not see; for you can see any eyes rather than the pair you see with, and if you want to examine your own glasses you must take them off your own nose. The poet is not a man who asks me to look at him; he is a man who says ‘look at that’ and points; the more I follow the pointing of his finger the less I can possibly see of him. (Quoted in Hooper 1997: 599)
If we are to treat a person’s opinions fairly we cannot treat them as facts to be explained merely as episodes in their biography, we must consider the belief in question on its own merits. This in turn means thinking about the content of the belief and not about the belief itself. In a similar manner, to read a poem ‘fairly’ we cannot treat it merely as an expression of the poet’s personality, we must attempt to see what the poet sees and not merely to see the poet.
 Lewis’ assault on Bulverism is noted by Como (1998: 170), by Hooper (1997: 552) and by Burson and Walls (1998: 160-1) as among Lewis’ most important ideas, and its relevance to Lewis’ rejection of the Freudian critique of religious belief is obvious. As demonstrated in Chapter 5, that attempt to discredit religious belief is no more (and is perhaps less) convincing than the attempt to discredit atheistic belief in the same manner.


Steve and Pat: This is a little bit related to the internalism/externalism issue that was explored between my blog and John DePoe's. Something I have to keep emphasizing is that science depends crucially on some beliefs being *rationally inferred*. This entails a claim about how the belief was produced. If I say some people form beliefs because they perceive a logical relationship between the premises and the conclusion. That requires a nonaccidental confluence between cause and effect relations and ground-consequent relations which is prima facie very tough to square with the mechanism and causal closure of the physical. The AFR says that if physicalism is true, then this never occurs.

Contrast this with a case of Bulverizing. I offer a rational reason for believing in God, say, the AFR. You reply that I can't possibly believe in God because of the argument, I must believe because of wish-fulfillment. Then there are two problems. One arises if I claim that I came to believe in God as a result of reasoning. If I'm making that claim, then we have to ask what kind of evidence could show that this wasn't true. A brain scan maybe? Prolonged observation of my behavior? Even if I have a wish to believe, this doesn't show that the wish, and not the reasoning, caused the belief.

But what if I don't say that I myself came to believe in God because of the AFR. I don't make that kind of autobiographical claim myself, even though I have been inviting people for years to be able to make that autobiographical claim. For me, of course, it's one of a number of reasons I believe in God. Even if I am a theist because of wish-fulfilment and the AFR is an attempt on my part to rationalize my beliefs, nevertheless the argument is "out there" and has to be considered on its argumentative merits. Of course, this all presupposes that we live in a world in which at least some people at some times make rational inferences, and change their beliefs on that basis.

One can criticize Bulverism without committing oneself to Anscombe's implausible thesis that how a belief is formed is irrelevant to how the belief is justified.

I provide a link to Lovell's dissertation here:

26 comments:

Edward T. Babinski said...

REASONING WORKS FOR ATHEISTS TOO

VIC wrote:
If I claim that I came to believe in God as a result of reasoning...what kind of evidence could show that this wasn't true?

ED's reply:
Then neither can you deny that an atheist came to their beliefs as a result of reasoning.

Steve Locks has been conducting a study of the ASYMMETRY OF CONVERSION.

++++++++++++++

AFR IS NOT AN ARGUMENT BUT MERELY A PRESUPPOSITION TO TRY AND FORESTALL ADMITTING THAT PHILOSOPHY CONTAINS NO SOLUTION

VIC wrote:
People form beliefs because they perceive a logical relationship between the premises and the conclusion. That requires a nonaccidental confluence between cause and effect relations and ground-consequent relations which is prima facie very tough to square with the mechanism and causal closure of the physical. The AFR says that if physicalism is true, then this never occurs.

ED's reply:
Vic, just because people can converse using higher generalized categories of thought all bunched together into a form of communiation known as language, only proves that brain/minds can exchange information at a certain higher level that both brain/minds accept as recognizable input.

As for "logical relationships" I doubt any brain/mind could perceive such relationships if we didn't have sensory apparatuses, memories, and brain/minds that stored information regarding zillions of comparisons, both spoken and unspoken. Exactly how the mind stores and compares information is not known in the details, but the fact that it does, and is able to draw increasingly broader generalizations based on such comparisons, is not necessarily a problem for the naturalist at all.

Physicalism as you define it questions whether any lower order phenomena might be linked directly and naturally to higher order phenomena. You deny such direct natural links and substitute "supernature" as your philosophical explanation of choice.

But really Vic, that proves nothing. I mean, where do "colors" come from? Individiual atoms have no colors. You might as well start denying that any lower order phenomena have direct natural links to higher order phenomena.

Where do molecules come from? Atoms. But atoms behave atomically, on a lower order of phenomena. But join atoms into molecules and the entire range of their abilities grows exponentially, unexpectedly.

And why is it that each cell is part of a whole range of cells in each organism whose cellular behaviors are not isolated but inter-connected, and hence each cell depends upon the behaviors of many other cells around it, the overall dynamics of each whole organ, indeed the dynamics of all the bodily systems working togethter as a whole, help determine how each cell reacts--the entire sensing organism's body and all of its cells being moved about by the organism as a whole which continues receiving input from its new surroundings.

In other words, YOUR DEFINITION of "physicalism" is your "argument" against physicalism. Physicalism as YOU define and understand it necessarily leaves NO ROOM for organisms as a whole being more than the sum of their parts. You keep looking down at the lowly atom, and beginning and ENDING there you can't see anything else BUT the lowly atom on that level of phenomena. You make no exceptions for holism or dynamism at higher levels, but keeping coming back to "atoms, accidentally rubbing against each other." Jesus christ, Vic, I see atoms dancing in unison, giving and taking, and building unexpected surprising dynamic unions as they fondle each other as molecules, that are part of cells that are parts of tissues and organs and whole organisms that interact and sense their environments.

If that's physicalism it's not so bad, not for physicalists. Or as Raymond Smullyan once put it, "If you tell some philosophers that 'man is a machine' they grow sad, based on their particular philosophy. But if you tell other philosophers with a different philosophy that 'man is a machine' they may marvel and consider that they never before thought machines could be capable of such amazing things."

AFR is not an argument, but a presuupposition that makes the naturalistic alternative vanish BEFORE any argument even begins.

See HERE and HERE


++++++++++++++

THE "SOME PEOPLE" ARGUMENT

VIC wrote:
Of course, this all presupposes that we live in a world in which at least some people at some times make rational inferences, and change their beliefs on that basis.

ED's reply:
What exactly are you claiming by your "some people" argument That "some people" have acquired a faith in all of the invisible supernatural beliefs of Christianity based on rational inferences ALONE? I'm sure "some people" believe they have. And "some people" also believe they have argued themselves OUT of believing in Christianity based on rational inferences ALONE.

The MAJORITY of people however, appear more cocksure than even the most highly trained philosophers that THEIR beliefs are the "true" ones, no matter how odd their beliefs happen to appear to either you or I. (That alone should make one question what the heck Lewis's alleged "Divine Wisdom" is "up to.")

And reasoning about the big questions even among the most highly trained philosophers on earth has never settled the big questions, not even since the days of the pre-Socratics. Even the Society of Christian philosophers published a debate book a few years ago in which they argued amongst themselves whether dualism or monism best explains how the human brain/mind functions!

Philosophers appears to be far from close to agreeing on the big questions, mere words hanging in their brain/minds, clutched as cudgiles to ward off uncertainties, or ward off the approach of other cudgle-like terms loaded with presuppositions--even among theistic philosophers debating other theistic philosophers!

And here's the scoop from Christians who have studied conversions to Evangelicalism over the centuries. They have remarked that the odds of conversion to Evangelical Christianity grow increasingly smaller with age. Therefore Evangelicals MUST continue to seek out YOUNG minds--which coincidentally is when the mind is relatively less completely formed, more susceptible to emotionality, when the mind's emotional control--needs--desires, and regulations are less well formed, less interconnections probably overall between parts of the brain, and greater malleability. (For instance if you learn a foreign language at a young age you can learn to speak it without a detectible accent as an adult, but that's usually only if you pick it up while young.)

Here's the word straight from the horses's mouth, Christianity Today:

In the late 1800s, Edwin Starbuck conducted ground-breaking studies on conversion to Christianity. Ever since then, scholars, attempting either to verify or disprove his findings, have repeatedly demonstrated them to be accurate. Most observers agree that what Starbuck observed is to a large extent still valid. From these studies we learn two significant things: the age at which conversion to Christianity most often occurs, and the motivational factors involved in conversion.

Starbuck noted that the average age of a person experiencing a religious conversion was 15.6 years. Other studies have produced similar results; as recently as 1979, Virgil Gillespie wrote that the average age of conversion in America is 16 years.

Starbuck listed eight primary motivating factors: (1) fears, (2) other self-regarding motives, (3) altruistic motives, (4) following out a moral ideal, (5) remorse for and conviction of sin, (6) response to teaching, (7) example and imitation, and (8) urging and social pressure. Recent studies reveal that people still become Christians mainly for these same reasons.

What conclusions can be drawn from this information? First, the average age of conversion is quite young. Postadolescent persons do not seem to find Christianity as attractive as do persons in their teens. Indeed, for every year the non-Christian grows older than 25, the odds increase exponentially against his or her ever becoming a Christian.

Second, the reasons people become Christians appear to have at least as much to do with sociological factors as with purely "religious" factors (for example, conviction of sin).

ED's final comment: My own fundamentalist beliefs died a long painful death via "a thousand qualifications" and only after reading and contemplating many works of a more moderate/liberal sort over a period of 5-10 years.

Don Jr. said...

Ed: "Then neither can you [Dr. Reppert] deny that an atheist came to their beliefs as a result of reasoning."

Where did Dr. Reppert deny that?

Ed: "AFR IS NOT AN ARGUMENT . . ."

1. If naturalism is true, then logical laws either do not exist or are irrelevant to the formation of beliefs.
2. But logical laws are relevant to the formation of beliefs. (Implied by the existence of rational inference.)
3. Therefore, naturalism is false.

is not an argument? Note that I'm not asking if it is a sound argument (although I believe it is). I'm merely asking if it's an argument. (The above argument was taken from Dr. Reppert's C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea book.)

Anonymous said...

It is an argument, but not at all persuasive.
Number 1 is an invalid assumption.

Steven Carr said...

What beliefs do we have that are formed by logical reasoning?

On this very blog, Christian philosophers have denied that the following reasoning is logically valid :-

1) My memory and senses tell me that almost everybody has two legs

2) Therefore I can logically conclude that almost everybody has two legs.

If such basic reasoning cannot be logically justified (because 2 does not necessarily follow from 1), how does Victor justify his beliefs about the world?

Don Jr. said...

You don't use logical reasoning, Steven, in forming your beliefs? (Also, could you provide the link supporting what you asserted in your last comment?)

Steven Carr said...

As a general point, are people justified in beleiving things they have reached through fallacious reasons?

If we are going to apply a strict rule that the only beliefs which are justified are those reached through a logically valid chain of reasoning, then many cherished beliefs will be in danger.

----------------------------
Links for Don :-

http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2005/08/carr-on-plantinga.html

A comment there :-

'Any argument that claimed to be able to deduce from you're having seen people with two legs that it was a logical contradiction for people to have one leg fails easily.'

So there is nothing to prevent somebody forming a belief that people only have one leg. They would not be entertaining a logical contradiction.

'It's that you can't complain that they're being irrational on the basis of an argument that only proposes a logical inconsistency.'

Perhaps Victor or Don could supply a logically valid argument that deduces that we have two legs.

Does rational reasoning have to include only logically valid arguments to be 'rational' and 'reasoning'?

I would say no.

This is one reason that I don't understand the Argument from Reason.

I have yet to see a definition of 'rational reasoning'.

Steven Carr said...

Victor writes ' If I say some people form beliefs because they perceive a logical relationship between the premises and the conclusion.'

Some people see a logical relationship between these premises (a and b) and the conclusion (c)

a) a loving Heavenly father would not let his children suffer hunger and thirst

b) Children are suffering through hunger and thirst

c) Therefore, there is no Heavenly father.

*Is* there a logical relationship between the premises and the conclusion?

How can we tell whether or not there is a logical relationship between a set of premises and a conclusion? Only when the premises *necessarily* entail the conclusion?

In which case, Victor would have very few justified beliefs.

Don Jr. said...

Steven, if you have comments you want to make specifically concerning that August 2005 blog entry then I suggest you either post them there or email the individual with which you were discussing them. (Also, you have a blog. Make a post there and I'm sure the issue will get cleared up.)

If your not understanding the AFR is because you don't know what "rational reasoning" is, then, to be frank, if you don't understand it at this point I'm not sure I can say anything to help. More importantly, if that is the case—that is, if you don't know what "rational reasoning" is—then it seems that you have more serious issues to resolve. If your not sure whether you've been using rational reasoning your entire life or not then maybe you should resolve that issue before you engage in rational debate.

(Also, how do manage to drag an argument from evil/suffering into a discussion about the AFR? That takes skill. Admittingly, I'm envious.)

Steven Carr said...

Please explain 'rational reasoning' to me.

Here is an example of rational reasoning.

The logical argument from evil is an inductive argument, rather than a deductive one.


We see many people try hard to whatever suffering they can, and being called good when they do that (and bad when they do not try to reduce whatever suffering they can).



We induce that a very good being would also reduce whatever suffering it could.



We also see that often it is quite possible for puny humans to reduce suffering.



We induce that an omnipotent being would also find it possible to reduce suffering.


Is this not perfectly rational reasoning, of the sort that Victor claims it was is needed to justify beliefs?

My main point is that almost all our beliefs about the world are formed by induction, not deduction (including the belief that most people have 2 legs).


That is one reason why many people have so many wrong beliefs.

Inductive logic is notoriously fallible, as anybody who has bet on racehorses can testify.

But inductive reasoning does work a lot of the time, as well as sometimes failing to work.



How does theism explain why inductive reasoning works when it works, and also explain why inductive reasoning fails when it fails?


I don’t think it does, which is one reason why Victor’s argument from reason fails for me. It fails to explain the reasoning most of us use almost all the time.

If Victor's claim is that only theism can explain rational reasoning, then it is incumbent on him to explain what rational reasoning is, and why the problem of evil (as I outlined it) does not fall into the category of rational reasoning.

Tim said...

don jr.,
I'd be interested in seeing your definition of "rational reasoning".

I think Steven has made a very good point in distinguishing inductive from deducive reasoning.

Don Jr. said...

Note that none of your remarks have anything to do with the original post, Steven. (How do you manage to pull that off so consistently?) The only similarity is that you mention the word "reasoning."

Steven: ". . . which is one reason why Victor's argument from reason fails for me."

And exactly what is Victor's argument from reason? (Hint: He doesn't have an argument from reason. He develops a general concept—that rational inference is fundamental to human reasoning as we know it—into several AFRs.)

Steven: "It [i.e., "Victor's argument from reason"] fails to explain the reasoning most of us use almost all the time."

Do you fault atheistic arguments from evil for not explaining the existence of evil? (I can tell you that 83 squared doesn't equal 4 without telling you what it does equal.) And it isn't the function of an argument to explain anything. Arguments prove or disprove. If you're looking for an explanation then read a book, and I highly recommend Dr. Reppert's C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea.

Also, I've never seen Dr. Reppert say that the problem of evil doesn't fall into the category of rational reasoning. (The category of rational reasoning has several sub-categories, two of which are "valid" and "invalid." There's also "sound" and "unsound.")

(Of course, I am not meaning to speak for Dr. Reppert here. I'm merely reporting what I view to be the case based on reading some of his work. If you have questions specifically for Dr. Reppert, Steven, I suggest you email him.)

Don Jr. said...

Tim, I'm not meaning to be condescending at all but I have no other answer than to tell you to look up "rational," then look up "reasoning," and put the two together. Nothing fancy. The only point that needs to be made is that rational reasoning, as is commonly understood, cannot be accounted for mechanistically. Dr. Reppert's various AFRs argue this point. If you or Steven (or anybody) offers a definition of "rational reasoning" I'll probably gladly accept it. The definition of rational reasoning isn't the issue; so don't get hung up on that. It's the accounting for rational reasoning that is the issue. (One can either account for it or explain it away.)

Don Jr. said...

Tim, to add to my last comment, it is hard to provide a concrete definition of "rational reasoning" (I'll just refer to it as "reasoning") because reasoning—or the use of reason—is such an abstract concept. This, in fact, is what gives the AFR its thrust. Reason doesn't seem, at least prima facie, to be reducible, especially not to any sort of physical description. Dr. Reppert's various AFRs attempt to prove this point (beyond the prima facie region).

Steven Carr said...

Rational Reasoning can't be explained by materialism.

What is rational reasoning? Don can't explain.

Nor can theism explain why inductive arguments work when they do, and why they don't work when they don't.

I gave an example of what I consider to be perfectly rational reasoning. Don fails to say why it is incorrect reasoning.

Of course, if such reasoning really was logically invalid, then many of our everyday beliefs could also be shown to be equally invalid.

After all, the argument from evil uses just the same sorts of reasoning as used when we form other logical conclusions.

The conclusions may not *necessarily* follow from the conclusions, but I hope Don will agree that many examples of 'rational reasoning' have conclusions which do not necessarily follow from the premises.

(Does Don believe the sun will rise tomorrow? Can he give a logically watertight case for that belief?)

Steven Carr said...

don writes ' (The category of rational reasoning has several sub-categories, two of which are "valid" and "invalid." There's also "sound" and "unsound.")'

What does Don mean by 'invalid' rational reasoning?

Why does he expect naturalism to be able to explain 'invalid' rational reasoning?

Surely only theism can explain invalid rational reasoning :-)

People do make mistakes in reasoning.

What causes such things? Victor seems to talk as though rational causes cannot produce mistakes. It is one more thing I don't understand about his ideas.

Victor writes ' That requires a nonaccidental confluence between cause and effect relations and ground-consequent relations which is prima facie very tough to square with the mechanism and causal closure of the physical.'

How can a 'cause and effect relation' produce an effect which is false?

Don Jr. said...

What is rational reasoning? Don says that if you don't know you need more help than he can offer.

Don does not engage in discussing topics that are beside the point. Don is not fascinated by red herrings.

Don knows of numerous arguments that have conclusions which don't necessarily follow from the premises. Don is not aware of the significance of this knowledge.

Don will not define what he means by "invalid" because (1) that information is easily assessable to anyone and (2) Don feels it is feeble to engage in rational debate with someone who does not know what "invalid" means, or with someone who needs to have "rational reasoning" defined.

Tim said...

don jr.,
If it is so easy to define what rational reasoning really means in the context of the AFR, why not do so?
Sorry, but it is beginning to appear that you are dodging some very legitimate questions here.
t.

Don Jr. said...

Tim, if you honestly don't know what rational reasoning is then look it up. Or, better yet, get Dr. Reppert's book, C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea. If you feel that I am dodging then so be it; you're certainly free to feel that way.

Anonymous said...

"Tim, if you honestly don't know what rational reasoning is then look it up. Or, better yet, get Dr. Reppert's book, C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea. If you feel that I am dodging then so be it; you're certainly free to feel that way."

I have to agree with Tim here. Not sure why you spend so much time giving reasons for not providing an explanation for "rational reasoning". It would cerrtainly take less time to simply provide an explanation if it is so easy to understand.

Anonymous said...

Victor, your blog deserves better than the trolls you attract.

Eddie T, the difference between your composition fallacy examples and the AFR is that in all the cases you mention, there is a readily available and fully adequate PHYSICAL EXPLANATION for how the aggregate comes to have properties that it's constituent members do not have. We have a physical explanation of color. Large collections of atoms have color because they reflect a certain wavelength of light in the visible spectrum. Atoms don't have color because they aren't much bigger than the photons we need to bounce off them to enable us to see them.

(But that's assuming that "color" is a property of the object rather than a property of the perceptive apparatus of the perceiver. But you're probably confused enough already so I won't pursue that.)

What Victors arguments (note the plural) propose is that no such reductionist explanation is possible when it comes to rationality, which seems to be a wholly non-physical phenomenon. It's easy to see how a group of atoms could come together to create the phenomenon of redness, or how atoms could come together to fofrm molecules, or how cells could form organisms.

It is, however, damned impossible to see how atoms could come together and form truth. In fact, it seems like a wholly different kind of question. How many molecules does it take, and in what form must they congregate, to form the law of non-contradiction?

In the cases you mention, it's clear that if the atoms or cells formed in different ways, then the properties created on a larger scale would be different. If explanation of rational laws is analogously physical, then are you arguing that if the atoms of our brains were constituted differently, the law of noncontradiction would not hold?

These are problems with the physicalist thesis itself, not with Reppert's definition of it.

Mike Darus said...

It is a shame that that much insight is anonymous!

Steve Lovell said...

Steven Carr,

Ah, the redating of this post has brought with it so many comments that you really shouldn't have made.

Firstly the argument

1) My memory and senses tell me that almost everybody has two legs
2) Therefore I can logically conclude that almost everybody has two legs.

Is invalid. I'm not saying that it's a bad argument. I'm merely saying that it's invalid, and I'm right, so was whoever said that first time around.

Second,

I quite agree that not all good reasoning is logically valid. Many of our beliefs are formed by non-deductive reasoning processes, and are non the worse for that. However, Victor has mainly focussed on deductive reasoning. Do you think that deductive reasoning doesn't occur? Do you think that the naturalist can jetison deductive reasoning without damaging his own position? If there is a single phenomenon from which we can deduce the falsehood of naturalism then naturalism is false. The presence or even omnipresence of other phenomena that naturalism may be able to explain is beside the point.

Your argument from experience to "an omnipotent being would be able to reduce suffering" seems okay as far as it goes. It doesn't go very far. You rightly grant that it isn't a valid argument. Why should we comment any further than this? The topic at hand is the relation between bulverism and the AfR.
You've also raised the relevance of inductive reasoning. You don't need to give examples of inductive reasoning to prove that inductive reasoning can be perfectly accetable reasoning: we all agree about that. But then the only reasons I can see for you're raising the topic of inductive reasoning are as follows:

1. Naturalists can cope with only inductive reasoning and don't need to worry about deductive arguments.
2. VRs account is incomplete if it doesn't encompass inductive reasoning.

The first appears false, the second is true but doesn't materially affect the AfR.

What are you actually trying to say?

Steve

Mike Darus said...

How does ed get away with using the term brain/mind? This sounds like the Mr. Mind trick.

Ze Apologist Nerd said...

Atheists cannot trust their reasoning because they don't know if they just randomly evolved wrong, or such. The laws of logic are above humans, reflecting a deity, thus Atheists when using reasoning are being self-refuting. It takes much more faith to be an Atheist.

im-skeptical said...

Understanding a person's beliefs can be an important part of understanding their argument. There are all kinds of assumptions that go into any argument. The argument thus hinges upon those assumptions. Understanding a person's beliefs provides the context needed in most cases.

Steve Lovell said...

The original link to my thesis seems to have gone missing in the redating. You can find it here. The quoted section appears at pp.168ff, where you'll also find it easier to distinguish which words are mine and which are Lewis's.