Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cleaning Up an Old Paper of Mine

My Infidels Argument from Reason paper, which started the ball rolling back in 1998 toward C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea, (though I did write my Anscombe paper in 1989 and wrote a dissertation on the argument at the University of Illinois), had several typos in it, but Tim McGrew has done me the service of cleaning it up and putting it on his site. Thanks, Tim.

Though that paper doesn't really have the definitional analysis of naturalism/materialism that I developed later.
A slightly different version appeared in Philo in 1999.


David Parker said...

Do you use 'physicalism' and 'materialism' synonymously?

I noticed that in the Philosophia Christi essay you tended to use physicalism.

My understanding is that the two terms have a unique history, but modern usage conflates them.

Victor Reppert said...

I do use those terms synonymously, but, most importantly, I argue that any naturalistic view will be similar to materialism in every sense relevant to the argument from reason.

Clayton said...

Vic, you wrote:
"It does not follow from the fact that compatible explanations can sometimes be given for the same one and the same event that a brain process in a purely material universe can be given both a true physical explanation and a true explanation as a rational inference."

Do you think Anscombe thought that it did follow? I thought her point was that it didn't follow from the fact that something can be described in physical terms that it cannot also be described in mental terms. This passage makes it sound as if Anscombe is trying to establish that materialism is true by pointing out that the same event can fall under different descriptions.

I'm getting lost in the burden shifting here, but I can't put my finger on the point where you've shown that there cannot be rational inference in a purely material world.

Victor Reppert said...

Anscombe, at the end of her essay writes: I do not think that there is sufficiently good reason for maintaining the “naturalist”
hypothesis about human behaviour and thought. But someone who does maintain it cannot be refuted as you try to refute him, by saying that it is inconsistent to
maintain it and to believe that human reasoning is valid and that human reasoning sometimes produces human opinion.

At this point Anscombe goes beyond just saying that Lewis has failed to show the incompatibility between naturalism and rational inference, and actually says that the argument can't be made. And in the course of her essay, she implies that reasons-explanations are not causal explanation, but are rather explanation of a radically different type, and therefore need not be in competition, relying on a piece of Wittgensteinian doctrine that would be denied, I believe, by most naturalists. That would sidestep the problem of mental causation, but, as the debate surrounding Jaegwon Kim shows, the issue of mental causation seems to be alive and well.

To actually argue that an argument like this can't be made, you have to argue that even in a universe which is fully naturalistic, rational inference is still possible. Even the Wittgensteinian argument doesn't establish that, because if there is a mentalistic explanation, you still have to account of the terms of the explanation ontologically. If there is a physical explanation of my being in brain state X, and a mental explanation, then even if the mental explanation isn't a causal explanation, the terms of that explanation (reasons), have to exist.

I probably need to put up the appendices so people can see what the sides actually argued.

Clayton said...

"To actually argue that an argument like this can't be made, you have to argue that even in a universe which is fully naturalistic, rational inference is still possible."

No you don't, you could hold the view that argument and reason cannot settle this issue by determining what necessitation relations there are between matter and the mind (or God and the mind, if you want to est. some connection between God and the mind).

David Parker said...

Suppose property dualism is correct. It seems to me that epiphenomenalism is the best candidate for expressing the causal relations that hold for PD.

Are you saying the issue can't be settled as to whether rational inference is possible given this account of mind/body?

Victor Reppert said...

There is a recourse in mysterianism in response to any argument, but the defender of the argument can say that mental causation in a materialistic universe looks impossible, and it is surely more likely given theism than given naturalism, in any event.

Edward T. Babinski said...

All interested in this topic should read Prior Prejudices and the Argument from Reason. I exchange comments with Vic there as well:

Consciousness may remain a "metaphysical problem" but the natural urge to sleep each night and spend a third of one's life unconscious means what?

Neuroscientists and cognitive scientists consider "problems" challenges and inducements to study and experimentation.

John Loftus repeated basic questions that dualists have had "problems" with for centuries in this blog entry:

And what about people with separated cerebral hemispheres, and the ways their hands and half-brains respond to different questions simultaneously? (And the way the speaking half of the brain fabricates excuses for why its other hand responded as it did, without knowing the actual question that that other side of the brain was busy answering.)

I liked the video I saw of one hand being unable to assemble a simple puzzle on the table, while the other hand did it with ease. Then when the split-brain patient was asked to use both hands at the same time to solve the puzzle, the hand that could do the puzzle the non-speaking part of the brain had to keep pushing away the other hand, frustrated with its incompetancy. Check youtube for videos on split-brain experiments. The non-speaking part of the brain cannot verbalize but it understands speech and can also point to reply to questions. One patient had the speech part on the opposite cerebral hemisphere, and another patient's non-speaking side could respond with simple one word answers. But most times that hemisphere can only point to things in reply to question.

Ramanchandran mentions the case of a split-brain patient that was asked whether he believed in God or not. One hemisphere replied, yes, the other, no.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, Naturalism and Supernaturalism are words. Do you know the exact limits of each? You only presuppose you do, and that's why your argument appears to work in your own eyes, because you presuppose that nature can never include consciousness. So, your definition and proclamation of certainty as to what nature can or cannot include is your whole argument, presupposed from the start. You also appear to presuppose things concerning logic and language: