Friday, April 17, 2009

An online Meynell paper on rational theism

5 comments:

Finney said...

I just came across this in a John Searle essay, it connects free-will and rationality:

"Rationality presupposes free-will. the reason is that rationality must be able to make a difference. there must be a difference between rational and irrational behavior but this is only possible if there is a space in which rationality can operate. In short, the presupposition of rationality is that not all of our actions have antecedent conditions that are causally sufficient to determine the action. Unless we presuppose a certain room for maneuver, we cannot make sense of the notion of obligations, speech acts, and a whole lot of other things..."

Searle doesn't himself make an attempt to rationalize free-will with naturalism. But he sternly hopes that one day naturalism will explain the apparent logical contradiction. (laughs to himself)

IlĂ­on said...

Rationality and free-will each imply the other, do they not?

Finney: "(laughs to himself)"

Yes, there will always be people who refuse to admit that God-denial is necessarily irrational and illogical and thus seen to be false.

Finney said...

Well free-will may not be a sufficient precondition for human beings to be rational (all of us, though we have free-will, irrationally hold some belief), but it's a necessary pre-condition for rationality.

There are those (on both sides) who won't acknowledge a contradiction if it smacks them in the face.

Eric Koski said...

“…careful attention to the nature of reality and of our knowledge of it reveals that reality is ineluctably for mind; and the theist adds that this is best explained if there is something that is at least analogous to mind which ultimately accounts for it.”

This non sequitur is the crux of Meynell’s argument. In fact, the possibility of our knowledge of the universe is best explained by the fact that the human mind evolved within this universe. (Having no idea what it would mean to explain the fact that the universe is governed by natural laws, I’m not prepared to allow that it needs an explanation, theist or otherwise.) Meynell needs something like Plantinga’s EAAN here. But that's for another day.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Meynell's argument can be formalized and developed further. But evolution alone isn't much of a counter-argument to what he's saying - in fact he expressly puts aside design/evolution questions for the sake of the argument, since even if someone can rationalize an evolutionary explanation for why humans can grasp the universe, we're still left with a universe that was intelligible to begin with.

The EAAN and similar arguments are concerned with how we can count ourselves as rational given certain philosophical commitments. Meynell's focus seems to be on why the universe itself is intelligible, what happens when the intelligibility of the universe is denied, and what all this means for theism. Another relevant part of the paper:

"It may be concluded that empiricist principles, when clarified, lead to atheism, but also to scepticism; but that when they are modified to avoid scepticism, it is by no means certain that they do not accommodate theism, or even lead to it."