Monday, September 17, 2012

Al Moritz's AFR

Here.

58 comments:

im-skeptical said...

Moritz has hubris, but it is misdirected.

He calls himself a scientist, but he is unaware if the indeterminate nature of the world at a sub-atomic level, which can impact the course of events at the macro level. On the other hand, if an omniscient God created us and knows exactly what we will do at every moment of our lives, that must logically be seen as determinism.

Moritz seems to be making the argument that rational thought is possible only in a materialistic world.

ozero91 said...

"Such a violation would have to occur if free thought could be the result of purely physical processes, which are either deterministic or, at the quantum level, random on a probabilistic basis (yet significant quantum level influence on thought is not feasible under naturalism, since it would just produce random thoughts)."

Is this what you are refering to?

As for the omnicient thing, I'll leave that to someone who can articulate the doctrine of divine middle knowledge.

"Moritz seems to be making the argument that rational thought is possible only in a materialistic world."

The way I see it, he is arguing that we cannot be sure that our thoughts are rational on pure naturalism. And what hubris do you speak of?

im-skeptical said...

I think he's saying that if events are deterministic, the function of the mind is purely mechanical, and thus not rational. He maintains that quantum mechanics does not allow for non-deterministic thought (or if it does, it would be purely random).

However, I believe that non-deterministic events at the subatomic level can and do influence things in our world such that the course of events that we experience is not deterministic. Take, for example, an atomic decay event, which cannot be predicted by any known physical law. It occurs at just the right time and place to produce a genetic modification in a cell that goes on to produce a cancer. Events like that occur all the time, and alter our world in a non-deterministic way. So the flow of events in our world is not deterministic, even though the function of physical objects such as the human brain is largely mechanical. There is always a degree of uncertainty in exactly what outcome will be realized.

Contrast that with the omniscience of God. To him, there is no uncertainty, even if you come up with some doctrine to explain it away. Either he knows or he doesn't. In my view, an omniscient God does not allow for any uncertainty in the course of events.

So now we come to the hubris. This is just like the theistic argument that boldly declares that morality is not possible unless there is a God to give it to us. Yet I "know" that there is no God and still I have morality, just like I have rational thought. If Moritz insists on making this claim, he needs to provide a rational proof that God exists.

Syllabus said...

"Contrast that with the omniscience of God. To him, there is no uncertainty, even if you come up with some doctrine to explain it away.Either he knows or he doesn't. In my view, an omniscient God does not allow for any uncertainty in the course of events."

Uncertainty? Certainly not, but that doesn't dictate determinism.

As ozero indicated, middle knowledge and its parent system Molinism has an interesting answer to this question. Many systems of divine foreknowledge, particularly those that follow in the Augustinian pattern, assert the logical necessity of "if God foreknows T, then necessarily T" from "God foreknows T". However, the Molinist will frame foreknowledge thusly: if I were to do action A, God would have foreknown that I would do A. The converse is equally true.

God can, from that formulation of foreknowledge, infallibly know that I would do A, but it would not follow from that knowledge that I didn't have the ability to do otherwise (this of course assumes a framework of incompatibalistic or libertarian freedom, e.g. power of contrary choice.) And middle knowledge asserts that God, knowing any and all truths (a fairly standard and orthodox formulation of the doctrine of omniscience), will now the truths of these counter factuals from eternity past, which preserves a thoroughly orthodox understanding of divine providence quite nicely.

(On a side note, this may sound a little like the open view of the future, but it most certainly is not. Open views assert that future events are ontologically unknowable - that is, they have no truth value. Therefore, in their view, God does not know certain things about the future because there is nothing there to be known, much in the same way that God does not know what the weight of red, or the circumference of a round square. The Molinist will say that God does indeed know the truth of all future contingent events, but that His knowledge is composed of the so-called "counterfactuals of freedom".)

Another way to look at foreknowledge (which to me seems one of the better ones out there) is to say something like this: just because I observe you eating a hamburger, say, at this moment, that does not mean that my act of observation has at all causally determined you to eat that hamburger. In much the same way, God observes all times as present to Him - that is, His knowledge of both the impact of an asteroid in the Yucatan 65 million years ago and the final teams of the UEFA Cup and me typing this message are of the same - or at lest an analogous - type as my knowledge of you eating a hamburger. That also ties into what I said to you elsewhere about assuming that God experiences time in the same way we do.

im-skeptical said...

Syllabus,

I appreciate the explanation, but I can't escape the idea that he's in complete control of his own creation, being omnipotent and all. If he can plant morality and rational thought in our minds, he can make his creatures a little more receptive to those things, so that we behave in a way that is pleasing to him. Giving us free will and an inclination to disobey his commands doesn't make sense. Giving us free will along with the intellectual capacity to see our world in a rational way, and then obscuring or obliterating the evidence of his existence makes even less sense.

The whole idea of free will in the context of Christian dogma, as I understand it, is to provide us a means by which we can destroy or discard our souls. What is the point of that? Why wouldn't he just avoid creating the ones who would turn out to be duds? Better yet, why wouldn't he want to design a better model so there are no duds?

I know, there's dogma to explain all this. But it's all just trying to explain away things that don't make sense if you examine them critically. The idea of Molinism for example, is something that nobody would ever think up unless they were trying to rationalize things that don't make sense.

Daniel Anderson said...

im-skeptical,

I can see your points.

However, can't it be argued that many people are "inclined" to do God's will?

You wrote, "Why wouldn't he just avoid creating the ones who would turn out to be duds? Better yet, why wouldn't he want to design a better model so there are no duds?"

For one, I am not sold that God literally, by direct cause, 'creates' each individual. Secondly, it seems that keeping someone from being created, because of the choices they "will make," would be an interference with free will. In other words, if you are to truly grant free will, you have to grant that ability for someone to "will" their own decisions. In other words, the allowance of free will comes with potential "duds."

Daniel Anderson said...

In terms of God "fixing" humanity to make the "correct" model. Well, that is part of the Christian view which can be found in the resurrection to come.

Even so, God has made a way to become a more complete model, through sanctification. Over time through spiritual renewal we develop closer to the "right type" of person. We can use our free will to choose Christ and allow God to do his work in us. God in a sense, as a result of our will, begins the process of fixing us, which is fully realized in the resurrection. At least, that's how the Christian view goes.

Daniel Anderson said...

I'm skeptical, a few more things.

You wrote, "However, I believe that non-deterministic events at the subatomic level can and do influence things in our world such that the course of events that we experience is not deterministic."

Yes, but are we subject to such processes or are any such processes subject to the a "self?" If the former, then in a sense we are the product of determinism but the outcome is not "certain," yet. Our activity and thoughts, based on what "will happen," will be determined based on the random happenings.

Daniel Anderson said...

Personally, I think the AFR is a strong argument. For me, however, it provides reason to doubt a materialistic view assuming the validity of reasoning.

Mr. Moritz wrote, "Yet evolution is a physical, material process, and the question that this article addresses is whether rationality and recognition of truth are possible as a purely physical phenomenon, or if the human mind requires, in addition to the brain, a component that allows it to transcend physical determinism."

That's the heart of the issue right there.

im-skeptical said...

Daniel,

Thank you for your comments.

"keeping someone from being created, because of the choices they "will make," would be an interference with free will."

- It sounds to me like it would be better to never have existed than to throw away your soul if you choose not to act in accordance with God's wishes.

"Over time through spiritual renewal we develop closer to the "right type" of person."

- It's a shame we couldn't be closer to that ideal from the beginning. So many lost souls.

"Our activity and thoughts, based on what "will happen," will be determined based on the random happenings."

- That's exactly true, and that's why we have developed rational thought processes in the natural world. It enables us to respond to events in a way that is advantageous for adaptation and survival.

Daniel Anderson said...

im-skeptical,

Good thoughts. I will be back on later to add a few things.

One thing for now.

"It sounds to me like it would be better to never have existed than to throw away your soul if you choose not to act in accordance with God's wishes."

Your soul is part of your existence. That's like saying, "it would be better not to have existed than to have existed and thrown away your existence." This brings up the whole, "it is better to have loved and lost" debate. :)

Maybe I should first ask what do you mean by "loose your soul." Like, potentially go to hell?

You wrote, "That's exactly true, and that's why we have developed rational thought processes in the natural world. It enables us to respond to events in a way that is advantageous for adaptation and survival."

Hmm...I really don't see how this helps with providing an ontological base for the validity of reasoning. It only really provides a base for how certain reasoning faculties have helped us survive, not whether such faculties lead us to conclusions based on truth value.

ozero91 said...

It's like this, say you have caveman A and caveman B. Let's say they live near a forest full of deadly predators. Both A and B believe the forest is evil, though for different reasons. A believes that the predators will attack anyone who ventures inside. B believes that the forest itself is evil, he knows not to venture inside, but doesn't necessarily know why. Caveman C has no such beliefs, wanders inside and gets eaten, thereby failing to pass on his genes and beliefs. A and B do survive and pass on there genes/beliefs. Though in the case of B, his offspring will survive due to insufficient reasoning, as opposed to A.

I get that the scenario is really simple compared to what might actually have happened in our evolutionary history, but the idea is that humans do not need perfect reasoning, or even good reasoning to survive. Imagine this compounding over generations.

And skeptical, do you believe in human free will? If so where do you believe it arises from? A quantum mind?

Syllabus said...

" If he can plant morality and rational thought in our minds, he can make his creatures a little more receptive to those things, so that we behave in a way that is pleasing to him."

Which would work very well if this were all about God pleasing Himself. Outside of Calvinism, no Christian theological framework gives this explanation.

"Giving us free will and an inclination to disobey his commands doesn't make sense."

He gave us the first, and with it we gave ourselves the second. That's just baseline Christian anthropology.

"Giving us free will along with the intellectual capacity to see our world in a rational way, and then obscuring or obliterating the evidence of his existence makes even less sense."

Well, to a large extent the whole principle of Deus absconditus is a result of what I mentioned earlier. Also, I think there are pointers within the natural world - the starry heavens above and the moral law within, to take two examples from Kant - which suggest some sort of mind/intelligence/something behind it all. Doesn't tell us very much about whatever it is, but it gets us looking - for which action, BTW, I think you are to be commended - and that's where we start using logic and philosophy and historical analysis and other things.

"The whole idea of free will in the context of Christian dogma, as I understand it, is to provide us a means by which we can destroy or discard our souls."

Not precisely. It exists to make love - the highest valued thing in the universe - possible. And because we are made in the image of God, and thus bear a sort of mirror of His image. Free will, in some sense, is an element of that.

"What is the point of that? Why wouldn't he just avoid creating the ones who would turn out to be duds?"

That may not - indeed, I think is not - feasible. Once you set the parameters of a product - say, a laptop - you have to start making concessions in some areas - more or less RAM, a certain graphics card versus another, 17.1 inch screen or a 15.7 inch one, and so on. To an extent, I think that this is part of what's going on in this world.

"Better yet, why wouldn't he want to design a better model so there are no duds?"

Not possible, in a libertarian framework. I don't think that this is the best of all possible world, but the best of all possible ways to the best of all possible worlds (yeah, I didn't make that one up, but it's useful).

But this gets one into the issue of theodicy, which is an obscure, difficult and long-winded subject that would take books - indeed, has taken books - to unwind. So I won't say any more on the subject for now.

"But it's all just trying to explain away things that don't make sense if you examine them critically. The idea of Molinism for example, is something that nobody would ever think up unless they were trying to rationalize things that don't make sense."

I'd take issue with the words "don't make sense". It may indeed be a paradox, as we have two pieces of data - the freedom, in a sense, of man and the sovereignty of God - that we take to be factual and more or less non-negotiable. Either we have to abandon one bit or the other of data, or else we have to find some way of reconciling the two. Molinism is one way of doing so.

And there are precedents for this in the natural sciences as well, like Feynman's double slit experiment, or Einstein introducing the cosmological constant into general relativity.

I understand that before one accepts certain other preconceptions - the existence of God, the deity of Christ, etc. - these things might seem very odd indeed. However, I think it's a mistake to dismiss these sorts of things as nonsensical without first examining the first principles and determining whether they're true or false, if you take my meaning.

Daniel Anderson said...

ozero,

Interesting point. Before I address it: Do you believe in free will? If not, then Caveman A didn't, by volition, believe one way or the other. He was determined to believe and respond the way he did.

Once again, this means evolution is working to survival value which may have truth value only where it applies. This doesn't mean reasoning is validated, it just means in certain areas we "landed" on the right mark while other areas we are perhaps being ignorantly determined to believe otherwise, for survival value.

Take the placebo effect for example. One can literally "believe" in a sugar pill or a fake knee surgery and yet still have favorable results, yet there is obviously no literal "truth" value in the belief.

Daniel Anderson said...

Obviously, there is some "truth" value in survival value - it was better to avoid the forest for the cavemen. That doesn't mean our rationale is based on truth value, or that it is ontologically justified by naturalism or materialism.

In other words, our rationale is determinate - sometimes true and sometimes false within the framework of survival value.

Daniel Anderson said...

One more thing, perhaps the forest was evil. That's the problem, the survival value of the belief only validates the truth value of the belief in relation to the survival value. Naturalistically, and deterministically, all the beliefs by all the cavemen are equal. The beliefs that continue from A and B are equal in a different way - they continue on.

Was there evil in the forest? We don't know.

im-skeptical said...

Daniel,

Regarding the lost soul, I guess this gets back to a recent topic of discussion. People say that being deprived of God's presence, or the Beatific Vision, is a bad thing that results in eternal anguish, but it's better than not existing. I say that non-existence isn't bad at all. As far as I know, I wasn't in anguish before I was born, and I certainly won't feel any pain or deprivation if I don't exist. It sounds preferable to any view of hell.

As for the ontological basis for the validity of reasoning, I'm not sure what you are looking for. I think it would be appropriate to examine our capacity for reasoning from an empirical standpoint. Are we able to construct mental models that agree with reality? Are we able to solve problems and predict outcomes? I think we can answer in the affirmative. So how did we acquire these capabilities? Well you might think that they came from God, but I still think it is hubris to say that it couldn't possibly be natural.

im-skeptical said...

Do I believe in free will?

That's a very difficult question. It certainly seem like I am able to make choices. But is it true? I don't really know.

I think that most of what the brain does is essentially mechanical. We see something with our eyes, and our brain constructs a model of the object. That's mechanical. What if we play a game of rock, paper, scissors? How do we decide what our next move will be? I think that while it may seem to us that we make a choice at random, in reality our brain is going through some process that gives the illusion of making a random choice.

How do I decide what to say as I write these words? Maybe my will is the product of all my past experiences, both mental and physical. So when I make a choice, I think I'm doing what I will, but really I'm being guided and influenced by all those things as encoded in the circuitry of my brain. I don't know for sure. I want to believe as much as anyone that I have free will. I just don't know if it's true.

Syllabus said...

"Are we able to construct mental models that agree with reality? Are we able to solve problems and predict outcomes? I think we can answer in the affirmative."

So essentially, we can rely upon our reasoning as accurate because we can use our reason to construct models that agree with reality? Surely you see the problem.

im-skeptical said...

"Surely you see the problem."

Yes, I see the problem. But I can say that at least in some respects, our view of reality is not strictly subjective. It can be tested and verified by some relatively objective means. I'm not saying that we see reality in the raw, but that we have a model that agrees with reality. I sense objects around me. Can I be sure they exist? Fairly sure. If I see a tree falling toward me, I'm not going to take the chance that it's just a figment of my imagination. I can use instruments to detect and measure things, and they serve to corroborate what my own senses tell me. An astronomer can calculate the trajectory of a planet, point his telescope, and find it at the right place and time.

Not everybody has the same reasoning capacity, or the same view of reality. But that's not to say that we have no ability to test and verify our beliefs in an empirical manner.

Daniel Anderson said...

im-skeptical,

A few things.

First, on hell. I think we could have a very interesting conversation about this in the future. For now, suffice it to say that hell is exclusion from God and his blessings based on someone's choice. It may be "torment" but I don't think the torment is the "Dante's view." In the gospels we do not see particular punishments of hell. We see "outer darkness" and "weeping and gnashing of teeth" not being burned in fire for all eternity. I can see such "weeping and gnashing of teeth" from addicts, yet they aren't willing to do what is necessary to get rid of that which they know is destroying them. Is there a better life they can clearly recognize? Yup. Do they want to do what is necessary to make the change? Nope. Hell may be locked from the inside.

Daniel Anderson said...

im-skeptical,

You wrote, "As for the ontological basis for the validity of reasoning, I'm not sure what you are looking for. I think it would be appropriate to examine our capacity for reasoning from an empirical standpoint...So how did we acquire these capabilities? Well you might think that they came from God, but I still think it is hubris to say that it couldn't possibly be natural."

And you wrote, "How do I decide what to say as I write these words? Maybe my will is the product of all my past experiences, both mental and physical. So when I make a choice, I think I'm doing what I will, but really I'm being guided and influenced by all those things as encoded in the circuitry of my brain. I don't know for sure. I want to believe as much as anyone that I have free will. I just don't know if it's true."

Hmmm...Its kind of interesting that you admit the validity of reasoning from an empirical standpoint and then have trouble accepting free will.

For me, the validity of reasoning, the epistemological observation of free will (because I can clearly see that I can do other than what I do) and mathematical truths do not necessarily lead me to say that "God exists." However, it certainly leads me to less doubt in relation the existence of God or a "super-intellect" than a materialistic or naturalistic view. In other words, I have less reason to accept materialism or naturalism.

Daniel Anderson said...

I can admit that we are "successful" creatures due to our reasoning. However, does this assumption actually make sense from a purely naturalistic viewpoint - a world of completely non-rational causes?

In the naturalistic viewpoint our reasoning is only successful so far as it has truth value. It doesn't necessarily validate truth statements outside of the realm of survival value and even then it is not necessarily validated.

im-skeptical said...

Daniel,

"you admit the validity of reasoning from an empirical standpoint and then have trouble accepting free will."

That's true. I don't think there's any contradiction there. I think it's entirely possible to be able to reason without having truly free will. I don't understand why free will should be a requisite for reasoning. Perhaps you can elaborate on that.

"In the naturalistic viewpoint our reasoning is only successful so far as it has truth value. It doesn't necessarily validate truth statements outside of the realm of survival value and even then it is not necessarily validated."

I think you are saying that if our capacity for reasoning is purely material in origin, then we can't validate the truth of statements about things outside the material realm. This points out that we may not have the same thing in mind when we speak of reasoning in general. I admit that I focus more on the material world, because that's where I live. You may not have the same concerns in mind. So the question is, can a material mind reason successfully about non-material things? Why not? If we take the position that our intellect developed naturally from a need to survive, there is no reason to suppose that that intellect is so limited that we can't appreciate art or think about God. It's like saying that you have a knife designed and honed for a certain cutting task, and that knife can't possibly be used to cut anything else.

Daniel Anderson said...

im-skeptical,

Thanks for the response.

You wrote, "That's true. I don't think there's any contradiction there. I think it's entirely possible to be able to reason without having truly free will. I don't understand why free will should be a requisite for reasoning. Perhaps you can elaborate on that."

That's not the way I meant it. Though it is tough to accept that someone really "saw" the truth value in something if they did not have the free will to do so.

Still, I didn't necessarily think it was a contradiction to accept one and not the other. It sounds more like you are cherry picking your standards - your willing to accept empirical observation to save reason but then doubt your own empirical observation for free will. Do you have a standard to doubt one and not the other?

I apologize. I made an error in your last quote from me. I meant to write, "In the naturalistic viewpoint our reasoning is only successful so far as it has survival value. It doesn't necessarily validate truth statements outside of the realm of survival value and even then it is not necessarily validated."

im-skeptical said...

"In the naturalistic viewpoint our reasoning is only successful so far as it has survival value."

Let's suppose that I have been given a non-material reasoning capacity, and I can then successfully see the truth about the non-material realm. I'm a Tibetan monk and I see the truth. Or I live in a small tribe in the Amazon. Or I have a Baptist preacher who teaches me about the fire and brimstone that awaits me if I fall out of line. Whatever my circumstances and background, I know what the truth is, and nobody can convince me that I'm wrong. The only problem is that my truth doesn't agree with the majority of humanity. Do I have a reliable means of assessing the validity of my beliefs?

Daniel Anderson said...

im-skeptical,

Hmm...I am not sure how your points relate to the AFR.

Daniel Anderson said...

Are you essentially asking if we have a means to assess what concept of the divine reality (whether is be monotheistic YHWH or Hedonistic Brahman) is correct or mostly correct?

im-skeptical said...

I thought you were asking about the validity of our reasoning as it relates to non-material matters. I was attempting to point out that people use reason to arrive at vastly different "truths", but none of them can be empirically verified.

Daniel Anderson said...

Hmm...Sorry for the confusion. I don't see where I have written something like that. I quoted Moritz earlier, the author of the subject post.

Mr. Moritz wrote, "Yet evolution is a physical, material process, and the question that this article addresses is whether rationality and recognition of truth are possible as a purely physical phenomenon, or if the human mind requires, in addition to the brain, a component that allows it to transcend physical determinism."

This is the heart of the issue in relation to the AFR. Victor wrote that no belief is rationally inferred if it can be reduced to purely non-rational causes. So, I'm not referring to our reasoning solely in relation to material things, but reasoning faculty.

Once again, in a purely naturalistic viewpoint, a universe of completely non-rational causes, there is no reason to assume validity of our own reasoning except in relation to survival value. Is there?

Like I said, I don't see that the AFR brings me straight to theism or supernaturalism. That all depends on whether you define naturalism in way where potential naturalistic defeaters, like failed naturalistic explanations for rational inference, lead syllogistically to supernaturalistic explanations. Some people don't see it so clearly.

Personally, I try to avoid the term "naturalism." What does it mean exactly? I've heard many definitions.

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy - "The term ‘naturalism’ has no very precise meaning in contemporary philosophy...The great majority of contemporary philosophers would happily accept naturalism as just characterized—that is, they would both reject ‘supernatural’ entities, and allow that science is a possible route (if not necessarily the only one) to important truths about the ‘human spirit’."

It's very vague and mongrel term that essentially dismisses supernaturalistic explanations in the a-priori spirit of Hume. It's hard to see how such a view has any explanatory power at all - anything that is observed which seems "natural" has a naturalistic explanation. Any current "state of things" can be explained by a natural process. If the state of things had been different, it could be explained by the same process. Hard to think such a view has any explanatory power. It sounds more like a faith in the future of science - science of the gaps - without following the arguments and evidence wherever it leads.




im-skeptical said...

Daniel,

I'm sorry I didn't get what you were saying. I have used the term 'naturalistic' or 'material' to mean something that is not supernatural in origin. In other words, if we are referring to the human mind or intellect, I mean that which is a product of the physical brain and not including anything that may be added by a supernatural force.

So, getting back to your question: "there is no reason to assume validity of our own reasoning except in relation to survival value. Is there?"

I will change what I already said slightly: So the question is, can a material mind reason successfully about non-survival-related things? Why not? If we take the position that our intellect developed naturally from a need to survive, there is no reason to suppose that that intellect is so limited that we can't appreciate art or think about God. It's like saying that you have a knife designed and honed for a certain cutting task, and that knife can't possibly be used to cut anything else.

The caveat is that if we are reasoning about non-material things, we can't empirically validate our reasoning like we can for other things. But that's true whether or not our reasoning is enhanced by some non-material external power.

I hope that clarifies my thoughts on the issue.

Daniel Anderson said...

im-skeptical,

I can see your points, but I don't think I am doing a good job communicating my position. Sorry.

In discussing the term naturalism I was trying to demonstrate that even if the assumption of valid rational inference was a defeater for naturalism, it may not necessarily bring someone to believe in God depending on their subjective definition of naturalism.

You wrote, "I will change what I already said slightly: So the question is, can a material mind reason successfully about non-survival-related things? Why not? If we take the position that our intellect developed naturally from a need to survive, there is no reason to suppose that that intellect is so limited that we can't appreciate art or think about God. It's like saying that you have a knife designed and honed for a certain cutting task, and that knife can't possibly be used to cut anything else"

First, we can both agree with the assumption that we have valid rational inference. The question is; are any thoughts rationally inferred in a universe of purely non-rational causes? In his book Victor Reppert used an analogy of a boulder rolling down a hill. This is a "non rational" event. The boulder will not rationalize whether there are people at the bottom or not. It is just a result of the laws of physics and causation from some other effect within those laws.

Now, if our mental processes are completely non-rational, like the boulder, then how can our thoughts be rationally inferred? It is just one boulder hitting into another within our brains. All of which are subject to the laws of physics and causation from some other object or effect which is also subject to those same laws.

The point is that views like naturalism do not seem compatible with the assumption of valid rational inference. Obviously, denying rational inference is self-undermining to any view. So, metaphysical views like materialism, naturalism, or physicalism are subject to skepticism, doubt, and perhaps rejection (depending on how you define those terms).

In answer to this problem you essentially say, "why not" and then give your analogy of a knife. The knife analogy misses the point though. Let's think of it this way. The view of naturalism is consistent with caveman clubs! Naturalism gave us the club, and the club is consistent with naturalism. However, we see that we have knives (valid rational inference) that we can do all sorts of things with. Should the existence of knives mean that naturalism is not a powerful explanatory view? I think so.

Even so, the burden this time is on the naturalist. They have to validate rational inference, from purely non-rational causes, without denying rational inference - which would undermine the view that there are no supernaturalistic explanations.





Daniel Anderson said...

By the way, I am still curious how you can accept rational inference upon empirical observation but then deny free will despite empirical observation.

im-skeptical said...

Daniel,

"Even so, the burden this time is on the naturalist. They have to validate rational inference, from purely non-rational causes, without denying rational inference - which would undermine the view that there are no supernaturalistic explanations."

So you make the claim that a naturally developed mind can't be capable of rational thought, and then say if I disagree with that, it's up to me to show that it can. I always thought it was up to the one making an assertion to prove it. How about if I make the claim that a non-material mind isn't capable of rational thought. Now it's up to you to prove that it can. So you need to show me a non-material mind, and then show me that it is rational. Good luck with that.

How can I deny free will despite empirical observation? I don't. I said that I wasn't sure, because it seems like we have free will, but it could be my brain going through some mechanical process. I don't know if we can ever be sure if our will is truly free. One thing that might decide the issue is if we can build a machine that is capable of rational processes of reasoning. Don't rule it out. I think we may be closer than you realize.

Daniel Anderson said...

im-skeptical,

You wrote, So you make the claim that a naturally developed mind can't be capable of rational thought, and then say if I disagree with that, it's up to me to show that it can. I always thought it was up to the one making an assertion to prove it. How about if I make the claim that a non-material mind isn't capable of rational thought. Now it's up to you to prove that it can. So you need to show me a non-material mind, and then show me that it is rational. Good luck with that.

My statement of burden was only in relation to what the naturalist claims and that valid rational inference seems outside of that scope. Like I said, if naturalism is the type of system to provide us with clubs, but we find that we have knives, then does naturalism lack explanatory power? That's why I say it is up to the naturalist, their view seems incompatible with the assumption that valid rational inference takes place.

As far as an immaterial mind. I actually think we are much closer than you think to dispelling completely materialistic views of the human mind. Even so, a non-material mind which is not bound solely to non-rational causes within a physical system of physical laws and causation would seem to be a more valid view or grounding of rational inference. Even more so, it seems that the assumption of valid rational inference is best explained from an original rational cause of a will and intellect outside of the physical universe. I await your thoughts on that one.

There are other reasons I have to doubt materialistic views. Rational inference and free will are two of them. If I am led to doubt such views then I am more open to potential non-material or supernaturalistic explanations.

Daniel Anderson said...

You wrote, "How can I deny free will despite empirical observation? I don't. I said that I wasn't sure, because it seems like we have free will, but it could be my brain going through some mechanical process."

Ok, so why admit valid rational inference? It seems like we have valid rational inference but really it is the result of mechanical processes just helping us to survive. Implications of scientific findings should therefore be disregarded.

What I am saying is, that if you admit valid rational inference based on empiracle observation, which I find wanting compared to epistemological observations of free will, then why deny free will? The reasons you give to doubt free will can be the same reasons given to doubt valid rational inference.

This goes back to my point, that it does not seem like rational inference can be explained by the naturalistic philosophical view. In fact, it seems better explained from a more theistic view.

Your thoughts?

im-skeptical said...

Daniel,

"Like I said, if naturalism is the type of system to provide us with clubs, but we find that we have knives, then does naturalism lack explanatory power?"

- I was trying to make an analogy. Our mind, that developed naturally through evolution, I likened to a knife that was made for a specific task. I asked, is that the only task you can do with the knife? Clearly it is not. Likewise with our minds. Developed for survival, but also capable of thinking rationally about things beyond survival.

"That's why I say it is up to the naturalist, their view seems incompatible with the assumption that valid rational inference takes place."

- There's no dispute (I don't think) that rational inference does take place. The question is, does our mind have a component the is not material?

"I actually think we are much closer than you think to dispelling completely materialistic views of the human mind."

- I haven't heard about that. Are there any scientific findings to that effect?

"it seems that the assumption of valid rational inference is best explained from an original rational cause of a will and intellect outside of the physical universe."

- I don't know the definition of "rational cause". I think you mean a non-material cause, and the implication is that any physical cause cannot result in rational thought processes. I have no evidence to lead me to such a conclusion. As far as I know, the only mind we have is physical. Scientific investigation still has a long way to go, but I'm not aware that there is anything that indicates there must be a non-material component. You have to look to philosophers to find arguments in favor of the non-material mind. Given the track record, I'll stick with science, at least for the time being.

As for free will, I still don't see how it bears on the question. Let's say we have a computer that we can program to make rational inferences. The computer has no free will. But it still goes through the processes that result in valid rational inferences. Why should that be impossible in principle?

Daniel Anderson said...

im-skeptical,

I will respond further later. One thing for now.

I am simply saying that you accept one thing on empirical investigation (rational inference) and have doubts about another despite empirical observation. I am not saying that, "if one then the other." I am wondering what your standard is to say, "I accept X based on Y but deny Z even though Y.

im-skeptical said...

"I am wondering what your standard is to say, "I accept X based on Y but deny Z even though Y."

Y is making an empirical observation. I think I have observed that minds can make rational inferences. I can't say for sure that I have observed minds acting out of free will. How would you know if it is really free will? All I'm saying is that I can't say that we definitely have free will, because I don't know enough about how the mind works.

im-skeptical said...

"I am wondering what your standard is to say, "I accept X based on Y but deny Z even though Y."

Y is making an empirical observation. I think I have observed that minds can make rational inferences. I can't say for sure that I have observed minds acting out of free will. How would you know if it is really free will? All I'm saying is that I can't say that we definitely have free will, because I don't know enough about how the mind works.

Daniel Anderson said...

im-skeptical,

You wrote, " Likewise with our minds. Developed for survival, but also capable of thinking rationally about things beyond survival."

Ok, but why? It's one thing to point out that some of our thoughts are rationally inferred and that evolution happened. It is quite another to say that evolution is responsible for something which seems outside of its explanatory scope. This is why I provided an alternate analogy to yours. Evolution working as a non-rational physical process is the type of thing to provide us with clubs, and because of that you say that you see no reason why it didn't provide us with knives too? But why?

Evolution is just a mindless non-rational process. Yet, we have minds and rationality. That's part of the point of this argument - I can recognize evolution, I can recognize the non-rational causal physical processes, and I can admit rational inference. What I am saying is that those things are not properly explained from a purely materialistic or naturalistic philosophical viewpoint (only material / naturalistic explanations).

I think your difficulty is recognizing the difference between the ability to form "correct thoughts" or corresponding thoughts vs. thoughts that are rationally inferred. Even if evolution and non-rational processes provided us with "correct thoughts" or corresponding thoughts, it would not infer that our thoughts are rationally inferred.

Here is another line of similar logic from Doug Benscoter's blog.

Fides et Ratio

Daniel Anderson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel Anderson said...

I wrote, "I actually think we are much closer than you think to dispelling completely materialistic views of the human mind."

You wrote,"I haven't heard about that. Are there any scientific findings to that effect?"

Brain Wars is a pretty good start. Just came out recently too. It was written by Dr. Mario Beauregard who works in Psychology, radiology, and neuroscience. He brings up certain mental phenemona that do not seem to work with strictly material conceptions of the brain like the placebo effect, neroplasticity, neurofeedback etc etc. It gives a pretty good intro to the subjects and provides a lot of scientific documented examples.

Here is the amazon link Brain Wars

PatrickH said...

oiMan, what a credibility suck is his employment of the useless and jarring solecisms "his/her" and "s/he". I wonder at guys who squander the respect of readers by twisting the language into feminist-derived "inclusive" deformations that serve only to make reading more difficult.

Does it not occur to these guys that mistreating the English language as they do, simply does not help their argument? What could they be thinking?

im-skeptical said...

Daniel,

Sorry, I don't have time to respond right now. Maybe later today or tomorrow.

Daniel Anderson said...

im-skeptical,

Thanks for letting me know but don't rush. I will be busy for the rest of this week anyway. :)

Zach said...

". He brings up certain mental phenemona that do not seem to work with strictly material conceptions of the brain like the placebo effect, neroplasticity, neurofeedback etc etc."

The materialist handles these things easily they only seem odd if you assume some kind of dualism. For example, placebo could be the brain influencing itself. This obviously isn't to show materialism is true, only to suggest that these phenomena are not a surprise or hard for materialist.

I am a dualist because conscious experience cannot be explained by physics/biology.

Crude said...

For example, placebo could be the brain influencing itself. This obviously isn't to show materialism is true, only to suggest that these phenomena are not a surprise or hard for materialist.

The trick is to get a materialist explanation for the placebo effect that either eradicates any notion of intentionality, naturalizes it without collapsing into dualism of some flavor anyway, and still sounds more credible than the alternatives.

What makes the placebo effect particularly difficult is that it's a physiological effect that seems tied to intentional states / 'beliefs'.

Daniel Anderson said...

Crude, that goes even further when considering the nocebo effect.

im-skeptical said...

"Beauregard has published his ideas in peer-reviewed journals. These publications can be divided into two categories. The first is his actual science, involving mostly neuroimaging studies on the regulation of emotion. These studies have been published in standard science journals and are of adequate quality and can be referred to as legitimate scientific peer-reviewed studies.[12][13][14] However, none of these works detail his dualistic philosophy; they are not peer-reviewed papers on the science behind dualism, but instead rather straightforward neuroscience studies grounded in methodological naturalism (except for a few odd sentences here and there about "mind processes" and "psychological space").[15] The second set of papers actually do address his dualistic philosophy but these are not published in any science peer-reviewed journals, but rather philosophy journals.[16] Beauregard makes an interesting leap in his philosophy papers that somehow his science papers justify dualism and cites them accordingly."

- http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Non-materialist_neuroscience

"Proponents of the author's new-age beliefs will be intrigued; others will be more skeptical."

- https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/mario-beauregard/brain-wars/

Daniel Anderson said...

im-skeptical,

Is there something particular about that which undermines his findings? When you start making certain implications based on scientific findings you find yourself more in philosophical territory.

However, none of these works detail his dualistic philosophy; they are not peer-reviewed papers on the science behind dualism, but instead rather straightforward neuroscience studies grounded in methodological naturalism (except for a few odd sentences here and there about "mind processes" and "psychological space").

Uhm...grounded in methodological naturalism? Wow! To give the straight science on certain findings in relation to mental phenomena does not mean his paper is grounded in methodological naturalism. That's like saying, "it's scientific therefore it is naturalism." Quite an assumption there, it assumes the science is pointing toward a philosophical viewpoint because it is science.

I recommend you read a few of his papers or his book to decide for yourself. Even if you disagree that his conclusions lead to a sort of dualism I think you will find more reason to doubt strictly materialistic philosophy.

im-skeptical said...

"Is there something particular about that which undermines his findings?"

Well, yes. When you refer to "Implications of scientific findings", I assume you are talking about peer-reviewed science. Brain Wars is not that. Beauregard's theories of dualism are part of a movement among some of the same people who advocate Intelligent Design as a scientific theory. If they want to claim this stuff is science, they need to adopt real scientific methodology and publish their findings in peer-reviewed science journals. Until they do that, it ain't science.

Daniel Anderson said...

im-skeptical,

You haven't read Brain Wars, or found a good review that doesn't assume naturalism in relation to science from the start, which denies any science (on philosophical grounds) which might imply otherwise.

I have read the book. The majority of the chapters are just the science and the findings. The latter chapters give potential implications for these findings.

You are welcome to read and apply your skepticism from there.

im-skeptical said...

Daniel,

"You are welcome to read and apply your skepticism from there."

OK. I'm reading it. I recommend you follow your advice, too.

Daniel Anderson said...

im-skeptical,

That's awesome! Tell me what you think. Like I said, I don't necessarily think it will lead you to be a dualist, but at the same time it does give some compelling reasons to be suspicious of philosophical materialistic views of the mind. I will let you be the judge of that though. Let me know your thoughts, seriously! :)

I do have a few skeptical issues in relation to the book. Like I said, it doesn't necessarily lead me to say, "dualism." Still, the findings are quite interesting and even self-empowering to some extant.

Daniel Anderson said...

I also have to take more time and reflect on some of the findings and take a deeper look at some other views in relation to them.

Like I said, I will let you decide for yourself. You seem very equipped to do so.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

The second set of papers actually do address his dualistic philosophy but these are not published in any science peer-reviewed journals, but rather philosophy journals.

Dualism IS philosophy, not science. And so it would be published in philosophy journals. The same goes for materialism. Materialism of the mind is a philosophy, not a science. No scientific paper will end with "therefore, the mind is just matter and only matter."

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

I agree with what you said. But there was discussion about whether the mind is physical (a function of the brain) or not.

I finished reading Brain Wars, which was written by a neuroscientist, and he attempts to make his case by presenting empirical evidence, including lab research, that the mind is not physical, but is somehow connected to things outside the body. It's a bit strange to read. Throughout the first half of the book, he presents plenty of evidence of a strong physical connection between mind and brain, but then he concludes (at the end of chapter 4) that the mind is not material. That wasn't based on anything he had presented up to that point.

He did try to show that there are may things about the mind that are not understood. He continued that theme as he got into areas that are more controversial in the scientific arena, but never escapes the fact that there are real correlations between mental experiences and physical activity or causation in the brain, for example that a mystical experience can be induced by drugs. Still, he insists that it is the mind that induces physical changes in the brain, not the other way around, and the mind controls the body, not the brain.

Sure, there are many things we don't understand. But I was looking for evidence that the mind is separate from the brain and I didn't see it.