Monday, February 16, 2009

Wikipedia's version of the Argument from Reason

(1) For an assertion to be capable of truth or falsehood it must come from a rational source (see explanation below).
(2) No merely physical material or combination of merely physical materials constitute a rational source.
(3) Therefore, no assertion that is true or false can come from a merely physical source.
(4) The assertions of human minds are capable of truth or falsehood
Conclusion: Therefore, human minds are not a merely physical source (see explanation below).
The argument for the existence of God holds:
(5) A being requires a rational process to assess the truth or falsehood of a claim (hereinafter, to be convinced by argument).
(6) Therefore, if humans are able to be convinced by argument, their reasoning processes must have a rational source.
(7) Therefore, considering element two above, if humans are able to be convinced by argument, their reasoning processes must have a non-physical (as well as rational) source.
(8) Rationality cannot arise out of non-rationality. That is, no arrangement of non-rational materials creates a rational thing.
(9) No being that begins to exist can be rational except through reliance, ultimately, on a rational being that did not begin to exist. That is, rationality does not arise spontaneously from out of nothing but only from another rationality.
(10) All humans began to exist at some point in time.
(11) Therefore, if humans are able to be convinced by argument, there must be a necessary and rational being on which their rationality ultimately relies.
Conclusion: This being we call God.

16 comments:

Andrew T. said...

My guess is that premise (2) is probably the most difficult to defend, with premises (8) and (9) fighting it out for second place.

Gordon Knight said...

Premise 8 does seem to need justification. Its really just the problem of emergence. If you think it is possible for consciousness to be caused by biological processes, then you should not have a problem with rationality, which is after all just the ability to be aware of rational prinicples, e.g. modus ponens etc, at least on my moderately platonistic assumptions.

(why would theists, of all people, be relunctant to accept platonism? I once told Bill Craig that I thought moral properties were part of the furniture of the world--he did not just disagree, but thought I was not being serious!)

Bert Power said...

I think 2 & 8 are the same assertion. They strike me as axiomatic, which is essentially what the page says later:

"One cannot form a combination of one thing to create another which is different in kind from it. For example, say we definitively found that there exists two and only two kinds of irreducible physical particles A and B. One could not combine A with itself to produce B. B is different in kind than A. Similarly, Hume teaches that you cannot reach a conclusion in the imperative mood from premises in the indicative mood (i.e. you can't get an ought from an is). Assertions in the one mood are different in kind from assertions in the other. Therefore, likewise the rational ability to control matter cannot arise from mere matter itself (i.e. element eight).

Therefore, even if the universe has always existed and is uncreated, this argument holds that it would not be possible for non-rational materials to arrange themselves in such a way that rationality would arise. Therefore, a rational being that did not begin to exist is required for the assumption that humans can be convinced by argument to be upheld.

There is a problem with denying element nine. If rationality could spontaneously enter our experience, where would it come from? That is, the denial of element nine implies existence springing forth from non existence, which is impossible (See Aristotle, Metaphysics III, 4, 999b, 8; Arguing that the impossibility that generation should take place from nothing is self-evident)."

Andrew T. said...

Bert: I understand the formulation of the argument; I just think the premises I've highlighted are unfounded assertion. Consider 2' and 8', for example:

(2') No merely physical material or combination of merely physical materials constitute a house.

(8') Houses cannot arise out of non-houses. That is, no arrangement of non-house materials creates a house.

I think this shows why premise (8), even if it were true, would not retroactively validate premise (2).

Bert Power said...

I think the falsehood of your assertions masks their issues.

Say there are two base elements of all physical things A and B.

(2'') No merely A thing or combination of merely A things constitute B.

(8'') B cannot arise out of non-B. That is, no arrangement of non-B materials creates B.

The reason 8 validates 2 is because the only non-B thing there is is A

So 8'' = 8'''

(8''') B cannot arise out of A. That is, no arrangement of A materials creates B.


Which validates 2''

And so if we can posit that there is only the material and the rational realm (perhaps we can't?), 8 validates 2.

Merlijn de Smit said...

I wonder if it might not be possible to get around premise 8) by supposing an emergence of rationality from some pre-rational but not physical level. There's a possible analogy with language here: the rules of grammar are normative (right/wrong instead of is/is-not) yet social and largely conventional in nature. A number of linguists have recently defended the idea that grammar as a system of rules emerges from a more basic discourse level - which is still teleological in nature (we communicate for a purpose) as well as valuating (a communication can be successful or not). Likewise, perhaps it would be possible to regard rationality as normative and social, and emerging from some pre-rational, yet valuating level - so the is/ought divide is not crossed, but one may be able to get away from positing a fully-blown rational source for human rationality.

Obvious problem is that it is rather more easy to see the conventional nature of language than the conventional nature of mathematics: it's extremely difficult (for me at least) to not be a Platonist about mathematical objects. And arguably rationality might be closer to the latter than the former.

Perezoso said...

Premise 2 only holds assuming an immaterial basis for mind: in other words, the argument depends on a subtle assumption ( one might say Cartesian) that brains and mental events (thinking) are not identical or even related. So that needs to be established. Buena Suerte.

The law upholds physicalism, for the most part: say in regards to DUIs and operating a vehicle. 3 or 4 shots of cuervo and so much for the cartesian ghost.

Additionally, the uniqueness of human thinking (obviously, baboons don't play chess, or write symphonies--) does not imply ghost-ness (or a G*d), though many theists seem to operate on that assumption. The masterminds of the KGB and gestapo were gifted with rational powers as well.

Andrew T. said...

Bert: I like your response; however, the crucial step appears to be the claim that "the only non-B thing is A," and I don't see a warrant -- even an intuitive one -- for that assertion.

I'm working on a longer post on this subject on my blog, and I'll let you know when that's up.

Perezoso: exactly.

Bert Power said...

Perez:

Do you deny premise 1?

Perezoso said...

The wording seems a bit slanted. One could argue that logical knowledge, like all human knowledge, developed over centuries--consider geometry. Geometry had many architectural, agricultural and military applications, and that predated the greeks and Euclid by centuries. Euclid merely codifies the geometric relationships (based on the circle) which builders had used for centuries.

Logic may be a bit more abstruse, but most likely followed the same pattern: Aristotelian syllogistic arrives after a few centuries of chants, or war prayers, Homeric bards. etc. For that matter, deductive logic has limitations (and often prevented the advance of knowledge).

The "baboons don't play chess meme" has a certain force, but it's not all sufficient proof of a transcedent mind, or G*d.

Gregory said...

I don't think premise 2 and 8 are hard to defend at all.

I assume Leibnitz's "indescernability of identicals" as an apodictic and axiomatic principle: that whatever is true of A is also true of B. In the present context, I will refer to this as "conceptual synonymy".

If matter and physical causation were the "whole show", then "reason" would merely be a different way to linguistically express the "material" or the "physical"; except, unlike linguistic synonyms, there is no variant in implied meaning. For instance, I can say that "I am upset", "I am angry" and "I hate...". Each phrase has similar meanings, but there exists differing degrees of intention, mood and implication that differ in each case; and each mode of expression will be used relative to the context of which it arises and is also applied to.

If we want to explain any given "physical" event (the explanandum), then "scientific" or "observational" language provides the necessary and sufficient condition qua explanans. This is especially true if all events are merely physical events. And science, alone, provides the soil in which explanations might be harvested.

However, no one really believes that "reason" is identical to a "physical" event, ipso facto, by the very existence of the term itself; but also because there is a conceptual difference between "inference" and "causation". We do not evaluate a chain of reasoning, determinations of truth values and sound/unsound conclusions in the same way we evaluate empirical phenomena, extrapolating laws from repeated observations and revising or abandoning theories in light of newer discoveries/observations.

Indeed, "science" uses "reason"; but that is only because scientists are irrevocably endowed with it [reason]. Kant's argument that a priori interpretive categories must exist as necessary preconditions for observation is hard to deny, since observation would not begin to be coherent without them. There would be no connectedness between the mind and the world if the mind were not already disposed to understanding it [world]. And if the mind were just a blank canvas that passively receives sensations, the "ideas" of the mind would be victim to the ever changing circumstances of experience.

But suppose that brain events are the locus of "reason". Then given what I said about "conceptual synonymy", evaluating the truth/validity of an argument that arose within a particular brain simply requires observing a chain of causal events that lead to it's [brain] particular brain-state. And so "truth" really turns out to be something historic, biographical and brain-state relative, rather than epistemic and ontological.

The upshot of that would be that "scientists", themselves, are not communicating truths about the material cosmos; instead, they are merely emoting/expressing their own particular biological inheritance.

The only way that "science" and "reason" can make any sense is if we are able to step outside our biological/causal flux and impermanence, in order that we might recognize, utilize and appreciate those things which are permanent.

Ironically, naturalism is a garden that can't yield any plant life.

Andrew T. said...

Gregory: I can't make any sense of your reply at all. How does your chain of assumptions justify premise (2)?

Gregory said...

Andrew T.:

I think I was fairly clear. What part of my response did you not understand? Or are you just saying that your "assumptions" don't agree with mine?

I think my main point was that "inference" is categorically different than gravitational attraction, cell replication, biological evolution, nuclear fission, or any number of physical/material events.

The principle of bivalence governs propositions and ideas. We assign truth values to statements alone. And bivalence is normative.

Neurophysiology, and related "sciences", study the operations of the brain qua mechanism. They do not assign truth values to the operations of the limbic system. Instead, they observe the operations of specific brains with the primary aim of discovering how they work; not how they oughtto work. At best, neuroscience is descriptive.

If physical causation explains the "whole show", including "reason", then bivalence, inference and reason are irrelevant as explanatory options, period. If my beliefs arose from pre-existing physical conditions/states, then it's irrelevant to assess my beliefs as being true or false. We need only observe the physical chain of events that led to my having X belief.

So, your disagreement and befuddlement over my statements are not because they are false; it's because your causal history wires you to not understand and/or disagree with me. Truth or falsehood are irrelevant with respect to physical/material determination.

Or to put it another way: what does it mean for us to say, as good physicalists, that an error has occurred in the "knowing process"? If we are Platonists, then it makes sense to speak about "ideal" functions and conformity with some "idealized" realm and what not. We might even speak of epistemic responsibilities and the kinds of choices that could make us truth-conducive agents. Perhaps neuroscience can broaden it's scope to being "dualistic" and include other things besides...I don't have a problem with that.

Emergence of consciousness isn't problematic. It's "naturalistic" emergence that is. And part of the problem is that the criterion and logic for evaluating the world of the senses (i.e. science) and the world of reason (i.e. logic), from a naturalistic perspective, is every bit as capricious as the material from which it arose. Water doesn't rise above it's source. But I suppose the naturalist will say that it can.

As one person said:

The law upholds physicalism, for the most part: say in regards to DUIs and operating a vehicle. 3 or 4 shots of cuervo and so much for the cartesian ghost.

This underscores the argument from reason. If the brain is that malleable with these sorts of physical tweeks, then reason is also. But this is a denial of reason, classically understood. On this assumption, "reason" is just the way a particular brain operates...it's not about how it ought to operate.

As to the Laws regarding DUI's: they were instituted to protect people. But we protect people because it's the morally right thing to do. We don't exonerate drunk drivers by saying "well, the victim just wasn't fit to survive your reckless behavior...but besides that, your altered state of consciousness and reason made it difficult to avoid plowing into that family of 4. Not guilt. Your are excused and free to go, sir."

Fine, well and good.

So, as a naturalist, you need to suck it up and face the fact that there is no "reason"; everything is just some state/event arising arbitrarily (i.e. non-purposefully) from prior conditions of the cosmos....that is, up until the primal cosmic singularity.

But now you're left with no foundation upon which to criticize religious folk. Such criterion of evaluation, having sprung from the random, non-purposeful process of nature, is neither objective, normative nor binding....it's completely capricious. It can be easily bent, reframed and twisted with drugs or a hard hit to the head.

In fact, perhaps Christians need to give skeptics dope and alcohol to get them in the religious frame of mind....or vice versa.
Or, perhaps the skeptic, serendipitously, will naturally evolve into a Christian or a theist.

Why not? Such is the nature of things.

More power to the peop....wait second, I almost slipped there....more power to the process.

Perezoso said...

This underscores the argument from reason. If the brain is that malleable with these sorts of physical tweeks, then reason is also. But this is a denial of reason, classically understood.

Ah classically. Say it trippingly on the tongue! Technically, it's a denial of a priori reason. Not the same as a denial of reason. Had you never been exposed to Aristotle, you wouldn't know a syllogism from a salt lick.


Anyways, those who take Descartes seriously should stop eating, and consuming H20, or maybe cut off an arm: you could be deceived about your starving to death or dying of dehydration too!. Exist in pure spirit, St. Gregorius.

Andrew T. said...

Gregory -- I am sincerely doing my best to understand your argument. I'm going to highlight a few areas where I think we go off the rails.

G: I think my main point was that "inference" is categorically different than gravitational attraction, cell replication, biological evolution, nuclear fission, or any number of physical/material events.

1. As far as I can tell, this simply begs the question. Yes, if dualism is true, premise (2) is probably justified. But we do not have good evidence that dualism is true, and we have pretty good evidence that it's false. Asserting that it's so doesn't seem to me to meet the goal of your first post, which was to actually defend premise (2).

G: The principle of bivalence governs propositions and ideas. We assign truth values to statements alone. And bivalence is normative.

2. I honestly cannot comprehend this claim. The principle of bivalence states that propositions are either true or false. To claim that the principle is normative is then to claim that propositions ought to be either true or false. That makes no sense, because it isn't the proposition that's doing the choosing. Have I missed something?

G: If the brain is that malleable with these sorts of physical tweeks, then reason is also. But this is a denial of reason, classically understood. On this assumption, "reason" is just the way a particular brain operates...it's not about how it ought to operate.

3. Only if you presume that, say, a brain with a hatchet through it is equivalent to one without it. I think you've unwittingly undermined your central claim, actually, because physicians predictively use deviations from reason as a diagnostic tool to infer physical defects in our brains (e.g., in the DSM IV).

Clayton said...

Gregory,

The assumption of Leibniz's Law won't get you as far as you need to go. There are no conceptual/linguistic connections between different sciences, but there are intertheoretic reductions that are possible. Or, if you prefer comics, it doesn't follow from:

(1) Clark Kent is Superman.
and
(2) Lois Lane appreciates that CK wears glasses at noon.
that:
(3) LL appreciates that Superman wears glasses at noon.