Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Reply to Hallq on the AFR

Hallq: Vic: Just because you're a nice guy doesn't mean we have to take what you say seriously, on pain of being considered mean and nasty bigots. I thought your book on the Argument from Reason was an OK critique of materialism, but your attempt to link the materialism debate to the God debate was hasty and flimsy, only a slight improvement over people who fail to realize there's a distinction at all.

As for Wilson, if the fizzing argument was presented the same way he presented the argument here:

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/douglas_wilson/drange-wilson/wilson1.html

then it was a truly idiotic argument, for the reasons Blue Devil Knight said, and deserving of ridicule.


I think I have a fairly well-developed idea of how the arguments against materialism relate to the question of God, though I think I have developed them perhaps a little more in some subsequent work than I do in the book.

I start with the question: "Is "the mental" permissible in basic explanations, or not?" If the mental is banned from basic explanations, then the argument from reason challenges those position. Whether matter is the supervenience base, or some mechanistic substrate that somehow isn't matter, is irrelevant. What I find implausible is the emergence of mind either synchronically or diachronically from a purely non-mental supervenience base, and my arguments are designed to show why this is so.

I don't see how you can have a "naturalistic" supervenience base which contains elements of the mental in it. If you have mental and physical causes, though, then the "physical" is not closed and something nonphysical is either interacting with it, or else what we thought was physical (that is, mechanistic and non-mental in nature) was really mental after all.

If materialism/naturalism is defeated by the argument from reason, then perhaps the most popular alternative to traditional theism goes by the wayside. There are alternatives to theism, such as panpsychism, or absolute idealism, or pantheism, which still stand, but all the alternatives, including theism increase in probability if the big heavyweight champion of the non-theistic positions, materialistic naturalism, goes down.

10 comments:

Ilíon said...

VR: "If materialism/naturalism is defeated by the argument from reason, then perhaps the most popular alternative to traditional theism goes by the wayside. There are alternatives to theism, ..."

As, of course, it does. Those alternatives are so transparently ad hoc.

Also, I'm *still* missing the fair question in Hallq's post which ought to be answered.

The Uncredible Hallq said...

Vic: Your problem here is that you seem to think that if a certain combination of views happens to be popular, that means we can act as if there's something like a logical relation between the two views.

Ilion: Uh... really? Your argument is really that you're just going to dismiss large philosophical traditions as "ad hoc"? Do you know anything about the history of these ideas, or the reasons that have been given for them? Can you really still not understand why people like you set me off on rants?

Ilíon said...

Unbelievable Hallq, can you not understand that I don't give a rat's ass what sets off irrational and/or illogical persons?

"Uh... really? Your argument is really that you're just going to dismiss large philosophical traditions as "ad hoc"?"

Priceless!

Victor Reppert said...

After C. S. Lewis accepted the argument from reason and rejected naturalism, he became, not a theist, but an Absolute Idealist. It isn't popular these days, but it was a major force, maybe even the major force, on the philosophical stage in the 1920s. Lewis took it seriously and found reasons to reject it.

However, if we knock naturalism out, then all the alternatives to naturalism have their probabilities increased. If the Cavaliers lose in the playoffs, it enhances the likelihood that the Lakers will win, even if the Lakers don't themselves defeat the Cavaliers.

Ilíon said...

"However, if we knock naturalism out, then all the alternatives to naturalism have their probabilities increased."

The probability (and numbers) of some human beings taking these alternatives seriously may certainly increase, but the probability of any metaphysic actually being true remains exactly as it always was.

The Uncredible Hallq said...

Vic: eliminating materialistic views of the mind does not automatically raise the probability of theism, because, in addition to eliminating various atheistic views, it also eliminates Peter van Inwagen's view that, while there is an immaterial God, human beings are material beings. Your probability approach could work if you assume the right ratio of prior probabilities, but what's the basis for such an assumption?

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic,

Just because "thinking" exists, how do you get from asserting "thoughts exist" to asserting that a whole "supernatural" world must exist?

Your AFR argument fails to impress because your assumptions about what may and may not arise in this cosmos of matter/energy are mere assumptions.

And because your assumptions regarding the "non-natural" nature of "reasoning" also fail to impress. Certainly a naturalist views the rise of consciousness and making "rational" distinctions among things as to their sameness or differences, as evolving among brain-body systems.

So tell me Vic, what exactly are "thoughts?" Passing the question along to naturalists and then complaining that you'd sooner believe in supernatural explanations for the way your brain-mind functions and makes distinctions of sameness or difference, stores the information, compares and recompares what it knows as more data is added, does not suggest to me that the brain-mind is necessarily doing so "supernaturally."

Ilíon said...

E.T.Babinski (apparently in materialistic eliminative reductionist mode): "So tell me Vic, what exactly are "thoughts?""

Sheeseh! You people!

Thoughts are thoughts; they don't reduce to anything which is non-thought, nor to anything which is non-mental; they are themselves.

As CS Lewis, among others, has noted: "All explanations come to an end."

Victor Reppert said...

Hallq: I think for many, many people the apparent plausibility of scientific naturalism is a major deterrent to even taking belief in God seriously. Naturalism claims to tie everything together in one ontology and make God unnecessary. Ultimate reality is either ultimately mental, or else the mental is an accidental by-product. Theism, including van Inwagen's theism (and there are actually versions of the AFR which do not require that the mind be non-material, just so long as it is, in the last analysis, intelligently designed), say that the Ultimate Fact that you cannot go behind is mental. The theists have this point right, and the materialistic atheists have it wrong, if my argument is right.

In Lewis's case the argument led to theism not directly but indirectly, because he embraced Absolute Idealism as a "halfway house" before becoming a theist. It isn't a very popular halfway house these days, but I have seen people, like Daniel Hutto of the University of Hertfordshire, who hold this kind of position.

Let's face it, scientific naturalism is the chief rival to theism at the present time. It's evangelists, like Dawkins are influential, and if you go on the Secular Web you will find it is explicitly dedicated to the defense of naturalism. If it is defeated, the naturalists won't automatically turn to theism (maybe we'll have a revival of Absolute Idealism), but theism will gain in epistemic stature if naturalism collapses.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Ilion:
"The probability (and numbers) of some human beings taking these alternatives seriously may certainly increase, but the probability of any metaphysic actually being true remains exactly as it always was."

Study the monty hall problem. Victor is right.