Friday, February 15, 2008

Beversluis, Lewis, and Jaegwon Kim on causal closure

Here is an interesting passage in Beversluis chapter on the argument from reason:

JB: Naturalists believe that everything that happens within the total system is caused by something internal to it, so that nothing is independent in a way that enables it to escape this vast interlocking causal web. In short, nature is a self-contained and closed system. By "closed" Lewis means causally closed. So defined, naturalism is a form of determinism--the philosophical theory that everything that happens, happens necessarily as a result of antecedent causes given which nothing could else could have happened. So by naturalism, Lewis means deterministic naturalism. thus, he declares, "no thoroughgoing naturalist believes in freee will (M1, 17). It is important to notice that his argument depends on the assumption that there are ony two alternatives: deterministic naturalism and supernaturalism. If other choices exist, the refutation of the former would not entail the truth of hte latter, as Lewis claims it does.

VR: So in this passage Beversluis commits Lewis to understanding naturalism as deterministic, with the implication that forms of naturalism that deny determinism are not naturalistic. Intereesing Lewis does discuss the denial of determinism through quantum-mechanical indeterminism and says that this would be a rejection of strict natruralism but not an affirmation of supernaturalism, since it would admit a Subnatural realm rather than a supernatural realm. I have discussed this in a couple of posts, but what I had not seen before was the fact that Beversluis seems to think that causal closure entails determinsm.

As defined by contemporary philosophers such as Jaegwon Kim, closure does not entail determinism. Kim writes:


JK: The first of these is the principle that the physical world constitutes a causally closed domain. For our purposes we may state it as follows:The causal closure of the physical domain. If a physical event has a cause at t, then it has a physical cause at t.
There is also an explanatory analogue of this principle (but we will make no explicit use of it here): If a physical event has a causal explanation (in terms of an event occurring at t), it has a physical causal explanation (in terms of a physical event at t).8 According to this principle, physics is causally and explanatorily self-sufficient: there is no need to go outside the physical domain to find a cause, or a causal explanation, of a physical event. It is plain that physical causal closure is entirely consistent with mind-body dualism and does not beg the question against dualism as such; it does not say that physical events and entities are all that there are in this world, or that physical causation is all the causation that there is. As far as physical causal closure goes, there may well be entities and events outside the physical domain, and causal relations might hold between these nonphysical items. There could even be sciences that investigate these nonphysical things and events. Physical causal closure, therefore, does not rule out mind-body dualism--in fact, not even substance dualism; for all it cares, there might be immaterial souls outside the spacetime physical world. If there were such things, the only constraint that the closure principle lays down is that they not causally meddle with physical events--that is, there can be no causal influences injected into the physical domain from outside. Descartes's interactionist dualism, therefore, is precluded by physical causal closure; however, Leibniz's doctrine of preestablished harmony and mind-body parallelism, like Spinoza's double-aspect theory,9 are perfectly consistent with it. Notice that neither the mental nor the biological domain is causally closed; there are mental and biological events whose causes are not themselves mental or biological events. A trauma to the head can cause the loss of consciousness and exposure to intense radiation can cause cells to mutate.

VR: In short, the causal closure principle doesn't imply that there are determining physical causes for every event, only that there are no non-physical causes for any event. The argument from reason, on the other hand, if successful, intends to show that there are non-physical causes for the mental states involved in rational inference. The causal closure principle that Kim presents is sufficient to generate argument from reason. If Lewis had had Kim's definition of causal closure to work with, he would not have saddled the naturalist with determinism, but the argument from reason would not have been effected, since if the AFR works, it requires not merely the denial of physical determinism but also of the causal closure principle as defined by Kim.

7 comments:

Ilíon said...

VR: "In short, the causal closure principle ..."

In short, the 'causal closure principle' as you've quoted or attributed to Jaegwon Kim is slap-your-knees laughably self-contradictory.

What *is* it with the over-educated (if I may be forgiven for misusing that word) persons who comprise your prefession?

Robert said...

I would like to comment on some of these comments.

”JB: Naturalists believe that everything that happens within the total system is caused by something internal to it, so that nothing is independent in a way that enables it to escape this vast interlocking causal web. In short, nature is a self-contained and closed system. By "closed" Lewis means causally closed. So defined, naturalism is a form of determinism--the philosophical theory that everything that happens, happens necessarily as a result of antecedent causes given which nothing could else could have happened.”

If only the physical exists, and if the physical is completely determined by the laws of nature, then exhaustive determinism seems to follow.

“So by naturalism, Lewis means deterministic naturalism. thus, he declares, "no thoroughgoing naturalist believes in free will (M1, 17). It is important to notice that his argument depends on the assumption that there are only two alternatives: deterministic naturalism and supernaturalism. If other choices exist, the refutation of the former would not entail the truth of the latter, as Lewis claims it does.”

I believe that Lewis as quoted here was right: if you believe that only the physical exists and that the physical is completely determined by the laws of nature, then exhaustive determinism follows and free will as ordinarily understood (i.e., you can choose between different possibilities in the same situation, the same circumstances, PAP, the available possibilities are accessible to you when making your selection) does not/cannot exist. It is similar to the theological determinist/calvinist who wants to believe that every event is predetermined by God (if so, then no calvinist can believe in free will, and they do not, they carefully define “acting freely” as doing what you want to do though your wants have all been predetermined with every thing else).


”JK: The first of these is the principle that the physical world constitutes a causally closed domain. For our purposes we may state it as follows:The causal closure of the physical domain. If a physical event has a cause at t, then it has a physical cause at t.
There is also an explanatory analogue of this principle (but we will make no explicit use of it here): If a physical event has a causal explanation (in terms of an event occurring at t), it has a physical causal explanation (in terms of a physical event at t).8 According to this principle, physics is causally and explanatorily self-sufficient: there is no need to go outside the physical domain to find a cause, or a causal explanation, of a physical event.”

And what justifies the principle “that the physical world constitutes a causally closed domain”???

This reminds me of the verification principle that was used to try to wipe out metaphysics. Until someone asked the question and how is the verification principle itself justified? OOPS, by its own criterion it fails. It seems to me that the closure principle of Kim is just the modern version of what was being attempted with the verification principle (i.e., the elimination of metaphysics). By what standard is the closure principle of Kim shown to be true?

“It is plain that physical causal closure is entirely consistent with mind-body dualism and does not beg the question against dualism as such; it does not say that physical events and entities are all that there are in this world, or that physical causation is all the causation that there is.”

What?

A mind interacting with a physical body resulting in effects or events in the world is not consistent with physical causal closure. Take God for instance, if He is an immaterial spirit interacting with the world which he created, according to Kim this interaction would be precluded by the causal closure principle. Now if you grant that God can interact with the world that He created, then you will also grant that an immaterial soul can interact with the physical world by means of its body. And if one is precluded so is the other.

“As far as physical causal closure goes, there may well be entities and events outside the physical domain, and causal relations might hold between these nonphysical items. There could even be sciences that investigate these nonphysical things and events.”

Oh I get it, there are two parallel worlds existing side by side but not interacting with each other in any way (the physical world and the non-physical world). So the physical entities interact with other physical entities in their domain, and the nonphysical entities interact with the other nonphysical entities in their separate but equal domain? These remind me of David Lewis’ modal realism view of possible worlds, they all exist and they all exist independently of each other. At least Kim’s view only leads to two possible worlds (the physical world and the nonphysical world) And this view is just as implausible and false as Lewis’ conception was. And both deserve or should be met with what Lewis himself called “the incredulous stare”! :-)

“Physical causal closure, therefore, does not rule out mind-body dualism—“

Yes it does if different entities belong in and operate in different and completely independent worlds.

“in fact, not even substance dualism; for all it cares, there might be immaterial souls outside the spacetime physical world. If there were such things, the only constraint that the closure principle lays down is that they not causally meddle with physical events--that is, there can be no causal influences injected into the physical domain from outside.”

Whoops there it is!

Note especially the last line:”the only constraint . . .is that they not causally meddle with physical events . . . there can be no causal influences injected into the physical domain from outside.”

This is laughable and completely a priori rejection of God or other immaterial beings ever interacting with the physical world. At least in deism God creates everything and though he can interact with the world he created, chooses not to do so. In Kim’s world God cannot even interact with the world that he created because God is subject to the physical causal closure principle of Kim! With the verification principle if something did not meet its criteria it was deemed nonsense; here if someone is immaterial then by definition they cannot interact with the physical world in any way.

“Descartes's interactionist dualism, therefore, is precluded by physical causal closure; however, Leibniz's doctrine of preestablished harmony and mind-body parallelism, like Spinoza's double-aspect theory,9 are perfectly consistent with it.”

Oh that’s nice, we can’t have Cartesian dualism but we can have Leibnizian or Spinozian versions. How kind of Kim!



”VR: In short, the causal closure principle doesn't imply that there are determining physical causes for every event, only that there are no non-physical causes for any event.”

No non-physical causes for any event would include God and immaterial souls would it not?

“The argument from reason, on the other hand, if successful, intends to show that there are non-physical causes for the mental states involved in rational inference.”

So then you better be able to wipe out Kim’s closure principle.

“The causal closure principle that Kim presents is sufficient to generate argument from reason. If Lewis had had Kim's definition of causal closure to work with, he would not have saddled the naturalist with determinism,”

Actually I think Lewis would still have saddled physicalism with determinism.

“but the argument from reason would not have been effected, since if the AFR works, it requires not merely the denial of physical determinism but also of the causal closure principle as defined by Kim.”

So both physical determinism and the causal closure principle are false? How is the causal closure principle shown to be false? Obviously it is easy to assert, but how is it shown to be false? And is the demonstration of its falsity similar to the way in which the infamous verification principle was shown to be false?

Robert

Ilíon said...

Robert, you've pretty much summed up [if I took the time to add my own critique, I don't think anything I'd say would contradict what you've said] what was behind the exasperation expressed in my post.

Rino said...

Hi Robert

You said: "So then you better be able to wipe out Kim’s closure principle"

That is a key question. If closure is true, then Kim is probably right. Why would closure be true? It is an assumption. Kim would say it is based on what we have learned of science so far. However, the brain has not been figured out well enough to know that every action has only a physical origin. However, for a physicalist, it is easy to presume this to be the case (not saying that is a good argument).

What are some arguments against closure? Other than the obvious: it gives no room for the mental, there are people who have been challenging Kim lately about what they call the generalizing problem. Ie, if microphysics determines everything, then no other special science (biology, chemistry, psychology, economics, etc...) has any causal power either. Also, Block has been saying that the way microphysics is going, there may be no bottom level physics where all the causal power is located, so causation drains away. Thoughts?

Robert said...

Hello Rino,

You wrote:

“That is a key question. If closure is true, then Kim is probably right. Why would closure be true? It is an assumption. Kim would say it is based on what we have learned of science so far.”

Sounds like scientism to me (i.e., only science gives us reliable knowledge, science gives us reliable knowledge only of physical realities, since science has been so successful in giving us truth about the physical world, and drum roll please, because here comes the completely unwarranted leap in logic - so therefore the worldview known as materialism is true). The unwarranted jump, a jump lots of very intelligent people make is to leap from the success of scientific explanations of physical phenomena to the conclusion that materialism, only the physical exists is true. I happen to love science see it as a fantastic discipline and have friends who are practicing scientists (significantly some of these folks are extremely smart individuals, such as the friend who was involved in designing the space shuttle engines, and yet they do not find science posing any threat to Christianity nor do they hold the closure principle). What this indicates to me is that the closure principle is just another atheistic method, trick, and technique, to eliminate metaphysics and specifically Christianity.

That is why I drew parallels to the infamous attempt to use the verification principle against Christians. It was a club some had developed to eradicate metaphysics, except that it failed. Kim’s closure principle is just another such attempt, winning by definition (define something out of contention by mere assumption and semantics; reminds me of those under 6 ft. Basketball leagues; those of us who are over 6 ft. Tall are not allowed to play by definition, does that mean that the best under 6 ft. Players and teams are the best basketball teams? Likewise, merely declaring the closure principle and assuming it to be true, does not lead to materialism winning by definition but it does exclude the competition by verbal definition).

“However, the brain has not been figured out well enough to know that every action has only a physical origin. However, for a physicalist, it is easy to presume this to be the case (not saying that is a good argument).”

We know very, very little about how the brain functions. And regarding the claim that every action has only a physical origin I find this laughable especially in consideration of the reality of ordinary language use. When we engage in languages, we are necessarily involved in all sorts of non-physical realities that are intimately involved with our actions. Take one simple example: in nature there is no such thing as negation (it is what it is, whatever is out there, observable exists). But negation while it does not exist in nature, does exist in our minds and in our language use (“I am not going to go to work tomorrow”, a simple statement of negation that most of us understand instantly and yet this proposition presents a negation, there is no such thing out there in the real physical world known as “I am not going to work tomorrow”). Or if you don’t like language use as an example take mathematics and the concept of zero. Where is zero in the material world of space and time? Yet zero is functional and real in the realm of mathematics.

“What are some arguments against closure? Other than the obvious: it gives no room for the mental, there are people who have been challenging Kim lately about what they call the generalizing problem. Ie, if microphysics determines everything, then no other special science (biology, chemistry, psychology, economics, etc...) has any causal power either.”

Interesting that in listing examples you include psychology and economics which are not “hard sciences” and involve factors that are not physical like minds and incentives. The fact is that the evidence for two different realms of reality, the physical and the mental is overwhelming no matter how many times Kim wants to proclaim his closure principle. I happen to like Popper who in my opinion knew a lot more about science and reality than Kim does. And Popper confronted with the reality of the mental developed his three worlds philosophy. Rino have you ever read Popper or checked out his three world philosophy? Seems to me that either Kim and his closure principle or Popper and his three worlds is correct with the other being out to lunch.

Robert

One Brow said...

Ie, if microphysics determines everything, then no other special science (biology, chemistry, psychology, economics, etc...) has any causal power either.
It seems to me this confuses science (the study of the natural world) with the subject of study. No science has causal power, period. The causal power of the underlying subjects of study if not reduced simply by virtue of them being aggregates objects instead of atomic objects. Population dynamics are not fundamentaly different when you treat the organism as an aggregate of 10^26 atoms as opposed to a single thing.

Also, Block has been saying that the way microphysics is going, there may be no bottom level physics where all the causal power is located, so causation drains away. Thoughts?
The nature of science seems to be that after every "How?" is answered, the answer engenders two more questions.

One Brow said...

Sounds like scientism to me (i.e., only science gives us reliable knowledge, science gives us reliable knowledge only of physical realities, since science has been so successful in giving us truth about the physical world, and drum roll please, because here comes the completely unwarranted leap in logic - so therefore the worldview known as materialism is true). The unwarranted jump, a jump lots of very intelligent people make is to leap from the success of scientific explanations of physical phenomena to the conclusion that materialism, only the physical exists is true.
While I agree the jump is unevidence, I am not aware that any alternative is evidenced, either. In that regard, all the jumps are unwarranted.