Friday, November 30, 2007

Reply to Anonymous on Lewis and Anscombe

Anscombe's final comments are the beginning point of my discussions of the argument. Anscombe thought that there were flaws in the revised formulation of the argument, she also thought that Lewis asked a question "Even if grounds do exist, what have they got to do with the actual occurrence of belief as a psychological event," to which she said "we haven't got an answer." These are not the words of someone who thinks they have slam-dunked their opponent.

I've often wished that the Anscombe original critique, and the Anscombe final comments. I wrote a brief review of the volume for Amazon. Getting the appropriate permission, in this case, might be difficult. I tried to get a volume together of Lewis-related philosophical essay along with another Lewis scholar, but was not able to pull together such a complex project. One of my plans was to include all the original texts from the Anscombe exchange (though there is a new volume of Lewis essays coming out edited by Walls, Habermas, and Baggett--unfortunately no Anscombe appendix).

As an attempt to show difficulties with Lewis's original argument, the critique works nicely, as Lewis surely admitted. That's a good day's work for a philosopher. If that's all you mean by winning, the Anscombe won. If winning means getting the better of the session at the Socratic, then that's probably right, though reports are mixed. But invariably, "winning" is thought to be a good deal more than that; it is thought to be showing the argument to be fundamentally mistaken and misguided. But in order to hold that Anscombe achieved this, you would have to agree with her that reason-explanations not only can be distinguished between causal explanations, they can be divorced completely, and therefore a "S believes P for reason R" can be answered in a way that leaves completely out of account how the belief is produced and sustained in S. That was popular amongst Wittgensteinians, and I sometimes hear it being defended, but even naturalistic philosophers from Davidson to Dretske to Jaegwon Kim don't want to go that way, and I think (for reasons I give in some detail in my book), they have good reason for so doing.

But yes, I would love to include an appendix to my book with the original documents in it, or make it available online. But it isn't the sort of thing you can include in a monograph without a lot of hassle. I understand that even the Lewis estate can be difficult to deal with for permissions.

Does anyone think that I failed to give an adequate summary of the relevant arguments?

I am linking to the Amazon page on Anscombe's book, which may be out of print but it's still available.

5 comments:

SlagleRock said...

I think you would have to include too much. You would have to start with chapter 3 of the first edition of Miracles, and maybe include "De Futilitate" and "Bulverism" as well, if not more. Then Anscombe's essay, and Lewis's revamped version of chapter 3. That's starting to look like a separate book by itself.

Anonymous said...

"But in order to hold that Anscombe achieved this, you would have to agree with her that reason-explanations not only can be distinguished between causal explanations, they can be divorced completely, and therefore a "S believes P for reason R" can be answered in a way that leaves completely out of account how the belief is produced and sustained in S."

Perhaps you can elaborate on what you mean by the bolded text.
Sounds to me as though you are saying that one is not actually producing a valid account of their reasons unless they also describe the mental processes that were involved in that reasoning.
But that requirement appears absurd to me.
If I were to ask you why you have taken the time and effort to set up a blog site to discuss Lewis' writings and you told me that you find much of value in those writings and wish to share them with other people, etc., etc., then you have completely satisfied my request. You have fully answered my question.
Even if I were to disagree with your positive assesment of Lewis, I would still be justified in concluding that you are behaving in a rational manner: that you have given good reasons for your behavior. Whatever mental processes might or might not be going on inside of your mind is totally irrelevant to what I was requesting.

Victor Reppert said...

But suppose a psychological study of me suggested that my real reasons had nothing to do with these ordinary desires, but in fact I was fulfilling some Freudian motivation distinct from that, and that the ordinary motive was a rationalization. Then the account I gave, however sincere it might have been, would be in error.

Anonymous said...

Humans do make mistakes. Sometimes we are self-deluded and think we are acting for one reason while it is really for another. Or we lie to others and give one reason while it is really for another that we take the actions we do.

If I were to learn that you had a compulsion to start blog sites then I would question the rationality of your actions.

I don't see how this weakens Anscombe's critique at all. In fact she discusses this very point in her reply:

"It appears to me that if a man has reasons, and they are good reasons, and they are genuinely his reasons, for thinking something - then his thought is rational, whatever causal statements we make about him. Even though he give good reasons, however, we may detect in him such passions or such motives of self-interest in saying what he does that we say that it is not really 'for these reasons’: these ‘real reasons’ being the kind of thing that I admitted as ‘irrational causes’. And we rightly suspect and scrutinize carefully the reasoning that he offers. Or we may think him so dominated by ‘irrational causes’ that it is not worthwhile to look at his reasoning at all: though the mere fact that he is actuated purely by these motives does not necessarily mean that he will not in fact be able to reason well.”

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I should also clarify that when I wrote:

Whatever mental processes might or might not be going on inside of your mind is totally irrelevant to what I was requesting.

it was in the context of what counts as a full explanation of your behavior in this particular circumstance.

After all, when asking people for the reasons why they acted in the way they did, we don't typically ask for a report from a psychologist to help us determine whether were not they were the real reasons for their action. In fact such a request would appear to be very unreasonable to most people.