Monday, May 24, 2010

A positive argument from reason

I'll have to give this some more thought.

6 comments:

finney said...

i think he needs to revamp his articulation of the argument. a fork serves a function that is derived from minds. its analogous to the derived intentionality of a written word. but if the fork were to determine its own functions, it seems it would be a bearer of "intrinsic function" (not sure if that's coherent) - it's analogous to mental states that serve no external "function" or "interpretation", but are meaningful independent of any Imposer of Meaning. so it seems that it would be a good fate to fall to if our minds were unlike that derived fork and had to rely on its own to generate its reasoning capabilities.

amtheomusings said...

Oh. My.

It is an honor, Dr. Reppert, for you to stumble upon my humble blog. Enjoy yourself and do not think too poorly of me for thinking that I could improve upon your argument.

Gregory said...

Hmmm....here's how I would put it:

Biological and material structures, composed of microscopic particles called "molecules", being bound by fixed "laws" that regulate their behavior, find their "telos"--qua physical structures--within this physico-nomological matrix. For instance, by combining an Oxygen molecule with 2 Hydrogen molecules in a covalent bond, water is formed. And, of course, Hydrogen and Oxygen, as individual particles, serve many other functions besides the production of water (i.e. air and explosives). Yet, all relationships between individual particles involve physical quantities, geometric placements and "lawful" regulations that determine the course and function of those particles. So, whatever relationship they hold to each other in the production of water, or to anything else, is purely coincidental/accidental from the standpoint of a "naturalized" ontology.

Contra the configurations of particles by quantity, geometric placement and "natural law" stands the uncanny world of intellectual abstraction, logical categorization, inferential reasoning and mathematical certainty....in other words, the reality of the "mind". It is through the operations of the mind that we discover, and/or hypothesize about, sub-atomic reality. It is not molecular reactions that inform the mind about their reality. Instead, it is the mind that informs itself about what the physical world is made of and how the world really operates.

But the mind does more than that. It is in the business of discerning logical relationships between symbols. The proposition "1+1=2" denotes a logically necessary relationship between each symbol that results in an apodictic conclusion derived from the meanings of those symbols. While the symbols of a math equation might be "conventional", the veracity of the inference contained therein is not.

But this does not hold true for the meaning of H2O. In this case, the idea of atomic identification, molecular quantity and covalent bonding is not a "logical" relationship at all. Rather, the configuration "H2O" is something we discover, being something regarded as a "matter of fact" (i.e. an empirical observation). Or to put it another way: "H20" is descriptive, while "1+1=2" is normative/prescriptive. I mean....suppose we were to restate "H20" mathematically in this way: "H+H+O=W". It's quite clear that there is no logical relationship between these terms. In other words, it's not possible to logically infer "water" from just the meanings of those terms in the way we can logically infer "2" from "1+1".

But in a naturalized metaphysic, mathematics supervenes upon the sub-atomic arrangements of molecules, just as "water" does....whatever that configuration might happen to be. But if that's true, then we must demote the logical status of the proposition "1+1=2" down to the level of molecular vagary. At the very least, supervenience implies that the foundation of mathematics is physics and chemistry, and not logic/rationality.

But human beings do more than simply compute. They also relate and communicate with other minds. In fact, there is no human flourishing without community. The true goals and aims of scientific discovery and logical/philosophical reasoning is the inclusion and participation in community. If we were to point to a specific goal/telos towards which the mind directs itself, then we can only say "self-disclosure". Computers can compute, but only humans can communicate.

I find that the most appropriate foundation of communication, in terms of communal self-disclosure via "reason", is in the Incarnational theology of Orthodox Christianity. I find the prologue to the "Gospel of St. John" to embody the meaning and signification of reason.

Gregory said...

I said:

"But in a naturalized metaphysic, mathematics supervenes upon the sub-atomic arrangements of molecules, just as "water" does....whatever that configuration might happen to be. But if that's true, then we must demote the logical status of the proposition "1+1=2" down to the level of molecular vagary. At the very least, supervenience implies that the foundation of mathematics is physics and chemistry, and not logic/rationality."

What I meant here was that the supervenience of logic/mathematics upon the physical would end up making all arguments non-starters because of the happenstance of an individual's biological and chemical makeup.

JS Allen said...

Does Dennett's assertion that "mother nature" serves as the "intentionality" which created our intentionality, provide a possible refutation for this "positive argument from reason"?

That is, why do we need to assert that mind can only be created by mind? I know it seems common-sense, but it seems like a leap of faith as well.

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