Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Naturalism thread redone



I am trying to get rid of an unsightly mess this post caused, so I am redoing it, with the comments included

But if naturalism is true, then this type of causation, according to Lewis, is impossible. Events in nature are determined by theprevious position of material particles, the laws of nature, and (perhaps) a chance factor. In that situation, according to Lewis, the object that is known determines the positive character of the act of knowing. But in rational inference what we know is a logical connection, and a logical connection is not in any particular spatio-temporal location.

C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea, p. 64. 


Zach said: 

But in rational inference what we know is a logical connection, and a logical connection is not in any particular spatio-temporal location.

Unless a logical connection is partly constituted by the operations of the mind of a rational agent, not of something outside of space and time (after all, you cannot assume rational thought is outside of spacetime without begging the question, and you cannot assume that logical connections are nonnaturalistic without begging the question--if this is meant to be an argument against naturalism anyway).

If drawing a logical connection is a pattern of thought, and the latter is some material process, then to say a logical connection is not in any particular spatio-temporal location is like saying a particular utterance has no particular spatio-temporal location.

Now, I am no naturalist wrt mind, mind you, but this argument begs too many questions against the naturalist to be of use against him. It might be a nice binky for those who are already antinaturalists about all these different things.
Hal said...
Zach,
Not to mention that the form of Naturalism that Lewis was apparently attacking is only one kind. It is sort of analogous to an atheist attacking an old-fashioned fundamentalist and thinking he had demolished Christianity.

Dan said:

The AfR is funny to me because it assumes that the universe is superlatively deterministic if naturalism is true: "the object that is known determines ... the act of knowing." I can only guess that the sort of determination spoken of here is that of non-rational causation, because the Naturalist is bound to assume, so his opponent thinks, that that's the only sort of causation that exists. As Hal implies, other species of Naturalism exist. Not every naturalist is a materioeliminatipositiviatheist.

Hal:

Dan,
Good point.

Anscombe mentioned Lewis was working with that deterministic conception of causation in his argument.
I don't have the exact quote at hand but it is located in the into to her collection of essays on metaphisics.
She was sympathetic to Lewis' efforts to improve his argument, by the way.

I think this argument can be helpful for those naturalists who think reductionism is flawed.

Anscombe is considered to be one of the top British philosophers of the last century and was also a very devout Catholics. I think anyone interested in these issues would do well to read her writings on action and intention.

BeingItself said...
And supernaturalism solves this alleged mystery how?

Victor Reppert said...
Actually brute chance is not going to help defend against the AFR. The problem is that if we know an object, we know the object. At the basic level of analysis, all causation is physical, that is blind, causation according to a naturalist, unless that naturalism can include something like panpsychism.

125 comments:

Dan Gillson said...

Dr Reppert:

We aren't talking about brute chance. (I'll amend that: I'm not talking about brute chance.) I am talking about a sort of causation that isn't natural to naturalism. Knowing an object on the scale of physicalism or naturalism is only a problem if we assume that a proper physical or natural explanation must describe the causation of knowledge in terms not unlike those we'd use to describe a billiard ball causing another to shoot off into the pocket. Naturalism doesn't necessarily entail such a restrictive notion of causation; if one's picture of nature or the physical also includes regions of our subjectivity, i.e., if the supposed boundary between subject and object is permeable, then there's no reason to deny the reality of the mind.

Somewhat off topic but still relevant: Galen Strawson argues that Physicalism entails Panpsychism.

Victor Reppert said...

But in what sense would this be naturalistic? If we allow naturalism or physicalism to be defined too widely, then I qualify, which is a problem for naturalism.

Dan Gillson said...

It would be naturalistic in the sense that the reasons that we give to explain causes bottom out at nature's level, and in the sense that such reasons don't transcend nature's boundaries.

ingx24 said...

Dan,

Would you consider substance dualism "naturalistic" provided it could be spelled out in terms that made no appeal to God (i.e. it explained how minds and bodies get associated without having to appeal to divine intervention)? If not, then why not? Where do you draw the line?

Hal said...

Victor,
I'm not a reductionist. So I reject the assumption that everything can be explained at what you call "the basic level of analysis." Of course I could be misunderstanding what you mean by that expression. So it might be helpful if you elaborate on that.

I also don't accept the concept of the mind being an agent.
And I think we also differ on our conception of consciousness. The mind is not identical with consciousness. There are a myriad of life forms on this planet which are conscious but don't have minds.

Regarding your last reply to Dan: I think anything short of including the supernatural could properly be included under naturalism. Although I believe the only substance that exists is what we commonly refer to with the word "matter" I also believe many other non-material things exist as well such as numbers, rules, ideas, concepts, traffic laws, etc.

In any case, I'm not all that attached to the terms naturalist or physicalist. I mainly employ them because it is easier than saying I'm an anti-supernaturalist. I don't believe there to be a good reason for accepting supernatural entities or substances.

Papalinton said...

And in follow-up to Hal's comment, it seems much of the disagreement about naturalism and immaterialism etc etc is in the main largely dependent on how the definition is structured, and what is ruled in and what is ruled out. The decision is largely a matter of personal preference and seems to change according to the dictates of the argument one is seeking to prosecute.

I take for an example at one time ingX24 characterized me as a property dualist. [ing, this is not for one moment a criticism of your stance on what you are perfectly entitled to and justly hold] The intent seems to have been to separate my position and mark me as an equivocator. But of course the result is a little consequence outside the proscribing definition he used.

I fall somewhere in the naturalist, physicalist, philosophical naturalist, metaphysical naturalist, realist, methodological naturalist, scientific-realist, non-dualist camp. I don't think there is room in there to accommodate supernaturalism.

Dan Gillson said...

ingx24

I'm inclined to say that substance dualism can't be naturalistic because it seems to me that in substance dualism the location of the mind is located beyond the boundaries of nature. However, I don't outright deny that it's possible to conceive substance dualism naturalistically. I'd be curious to see what shape such an argument would take.

Hal said...

Victor,

I'd like to retract the last statement I made in my post:
"I don't believe there to be a good reason for accepting supernatural entities or substances."

I clearly overstated my case with that statement. Many people have good reasons for believing in God.

B. Prokop said...

Hal,

Perhaps you meant to write "there is no universally compelling reason for accepting"? In that case, as I have expressed in previous postings, we would be in proximate agreement.

Victor Reppert said...

Well, what are the boundaries of the natural? In theory we could expand them to include God, souls and angels, couldn't we? And, if not, why not?

Hal said...

Bob,
That is certainly an acceptable correction to what I originally wrote. Thanks for that.

As to what I originally meant to write, I'm afraid that is shrouded in mystery as my memory seems to be rapidly failing me as I age. :-(

Hal said...

Victor,
Are you asking for a necessary and sufficient definition of "natural"?

I'm afraid I don't have one.

I would think that God, souls and angels are supernatural entities because their existence does not depend on the existence of the natural realm. This universe and all other universes (if there is such a thing as a multi-verse) could cease to exist and those entities would still exist in that realm we call supernatural.

There is certainly a lot of disagreement between theists regarding theism. Is it so surprising that naturalists should disagree over naturalism also?

im-skeptical said...

Perhaps a reasonable definition of 'natural' is anything whose existence is based on empirical evidence.

B. Prokop said...

"Perhaps a reasonable definition of 'natural' is anything whose existence is based on empirical evidence."

I would reverse the order. "Whatever can be determined by empirical evidence is of the natural world."

I was about to suggest an equation between "natural" and "created" but then remembered that angels (and demons) are also supernatural, although very much created. So that won't work.

BeingItself said...

Richard Carrier does a decent job of coming up with a coherent distinction between natural and supernatural.

But we should never expect universal agreement on such matters of language, as that would be to mistake the map for the territory.

Hal said...

I see no reason in principle why supernatural agents should be excluded from empirical investigation.

If a demon were to walk into my room and grabbed me I would still consider it to be a supernatural being.

Dan Gillson said...

Dr Reppert:

You're right, we could expand the boundaries to include God, angels, souls, demons, etc. What nature is is a picture, and it holds our experiences captive. God, angels, demons, etc. clearly don't belong in our picture of nature, or so we've decided. We've admitted as much when we banished them from our experience to the supernatural. If we wanted to be shamanists, we could try to repopulate our conception of natures with beings from the supernatural, but that would be living consciously in a myth we created, a way of repressing what we already know to be true.

Papalinton said...

IIRC science has never ruled out the supernatural. There has never been any evidence to suggest that one exists. But if there were to be any such hint scientists would be all over it like maggots to road kill.

If one accepts the logic the supernatural is above or beyond the natural, as metaphysics is above or beyond physics, then for suprenatural to have any useful or applicable meaning, there must be or it must have some form of relationship to the natural. In other words the supernatural must supervene on the natural. In other words again, the supernatural is likely to be grounded in the reductive reality at the lower level of supervenience, that is, the natural. And that I think is what we are seeing.

It seems to me the supernatural as we understand it today is a bit of a grab-bag for the inexplicable, an unattached realm into which we traditionally have assigned things we don't understand. Historically, there is overwhelming evidence that what used to be categorized as supernatural has in fact been demonstrated to be natural occurrences or events or things waiting for a satisfactory explanation to come along. Indeed this street of investigation is ubiquitously one way.

There may well be evidence down the track for the existence of gods and the supernatural. By then the realm of the gods will become a verifiable link with but clearly different to, to the natural. But if and until that time arrives supernatural as it now presents itself, is speculation.

Papalinton said...

Just as an aside comment HERE is the results of an international poll as to who were the most influential thinkers of 2013. The most influential thinker voted was Richard dawkins and Steven Pinker, third. It also goes on and lists the 50 greatest thinkers in 2013.

;o)

B. Prokop said...

Saw that list of thinkers. I've been a Prospect subscriber since 2001, and it remains one of my favorite magazines.

HOWEVER, all such on-line polls are unscientific in the extreme. First off, the respondents are self selecting, and not indicative of any societal trend. These surveys have all the statistical accuracy of a Cosmo readers poll, i.e., zero. They're for fun only. Secondly, such polls are vulnerable to "stuffing the ballot box". Of note, a few fears back, Time Magazine conducted a readers poll to find the "Person of the [20th] Century" and Ataturk won by a significant margin. Ataturk? Surely relevant to Turks, but "Person of the Century"? Turns out his partisans had conducted a very sophisticated computer operation to basically create robo-votes in large, but not implausibly large, numbers for Ataturk in hopes of getting his face on the coveted cover. In the end, Time simply ignored the results and picked Einstein (I personally voted for H.G. Wells).

Hal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hal said...

Wow. This thread has really wandered off-topic quickly.
Hope Victor has the time to respond to some of the comments posted.

In the meantime, I see that there is a new book out on Lewis: The Intellectual World of C. S. Lewis. Is available in paperback and ebook formats.

Papalinton said...

Bob
Yes. It was a bit of fun.
I didn't think you would take it so seriously.

;o)

B. Prokop said...

I still think H.G. Wells should have been Time's Man of the Century! Whether you agree with him or not (and I mostly disagree), he certainly epitomized the spirit of the last century more than anyone else I can think of.

Crude said...

Dan,

God, angels, demons, etc. clearly don't belong in our picture of nature, or so we've decided. We've admitted as much when we banished them from our experience to the supernatural.

But who's "we" here? When did we decide this, and on what grounds?

I don't even think it's clear. If I started talking about extraordinarily powerful extra-dimensional beings that like to meddle in our affairs out of a sense of mischief, a lot of people's "supernatural!" bells would start going off until I started giving links.

Hal,

If a demon were to walk into my room and grabbed me I would still consider it to be a supernatural being.

Doesn't that seem a little like saying 'if a being I had already determined to be supernatural did (x), I would consider it a supernatural being'? How do you determine it's supernatural to begin with? And if you say that 'walking in and grabbing you' is no disqualification of being supernatural, you've said that entirely corporeal beings can be supernatural. That's quite a thing.

You earlier said "I think anything short of including the supernatural could properly be included under naturalism." Well, sure. But here's the problem: what counts as 'natural' is itself in a pretty wild state of flux. And insofar as you have that flux, what counts as 'supernatural' is in flux too. I don't think it helps much to defend a given definition of naturalism on the grounds that the explanation 'bottoms out at nature's level and doesn't transcend nature's boundaries', when what's being questioned is the decision to include such and such as being part of those natures and boundaries.

Hal said...

Crude,

As far as I can see, I am simply using the word "supernatural" according to how it is standardly used.
Wouldn't you call a demon a supernatural being?

I mentioned earlier that I can't give a sufficient and necessary explanation for "natural". Most if not all of the concepts we use are in some state of flux and changeable over time. I actually think that is a good thing as I don't see how language would be of much use unless it could change.


Crude said...

Hal,

As far as I can see, I am simply using the word "supernatural" according to how it is standardly used.

The standard use is a pretty non-reflective one that says more about habit than anything else, really.

Wouldn't you call a demon a supernatural being?

Rather depends on the demon and the standard. Here's a quote from Ed Feser: "From a Scholastic point of view, “natural” does not entail “material” – angels and demons are immaterial, but still part of the natural, created order."

That's only going to get more dicey once we realize that 'material' is subject to a lot of the problems 'natural' is. Paul Davies said materialism is dead - killed by quantum mechanics. I have a feeling a whole lot of materialists will disagree.

I mentioned earlier that I can't give a sufficient and necessary explanation for "natural". Most if not all of the concepts we use are in some state of flux and changeable over time. I actually think that is a good thing as I don't see how language would be of much use unless it could change.

I'm not saying it isn't a good thing in some sense. Language is great. But as Victor noted, you can also change definitions in such a way that a word becomes near meaningless, or in a way that's less than forthcoming.

You said that you're not attached to the terms naturalist or physicalist, but then you go on to suggest that you're pretty attached to being anti-supernaturalist. Well, why? Why not just say 'I suppose by some standards I believe in the supernatural'? It's not like that would automatically entail theism.

Hal said...

Crude,
"The standard use is a pretty non-reflective one that says more about habit than anything else, really."

Why would you think that? Do you think words are simply made up without any reflection on how they are to be used?

"Language is great. But as Victor noted, you can also change definitions in such a way that a word becomes near meaningless, or in a way that's less than forthcoming."

That is why I think it important to start with standard usage. If you wish to extend or change the usage of a word then you need to be able to explain that to others or you run the risk of speaking nonsense.

By the way, I think your example in which Ed Feser explains the usage of the term within scholasticism illustrates nicely the way words can be used differently in different contexts.


Crude said...

Hal,

Why would you think that? Do you think words are simply made up without any reflection on how they are to be used?

Are they originally made up without reflection? Not usually, no. Now, do people *use* words without much reflection? Constantly. I'd be surprised if you didn't think this was the case, often. This kind of thing is exaggerated, but the core sentiment isn't all that farfetched.

It's anecdotal, but I've had many conversations where I've asked someone what supernatural is, and they say 'that which isn't natural'. I ask them what natural is and they either say 'things that aren't supernatural' or 'I don't know, really.'

So no, I don't think standard usage automatically helps here. It's usually little more than a tag: call it a god and it's supernatural. Call it an alien and it's natural. What does supernatural and natural mean? Well, things like gods and aliens.

By the way, I think your example in which Ed Feser explains the usage of the term within scholasticism illustrates nicely the way words can be used differently in different contexts.

The problem is that I don't see how the context affects the reply to your query. No, demons and angels aren't automatically supernatural. And if we go by Carrier's standard, Zeus can be considered as natural a being as any (which is probably one reason why no one's going to be going by Carrier's standard anytime soon.)

I go further than Victor - I don't think natural and supernatural are useful terms, certainly not in the sense they're commonly employed. I think even Victor would say, if you're going to allow normative, subjective, etc qualities to count as natural, and if immateriality is no barrier to being natural, then lo and behold - Victor's a naturalist. So's the Pope.

Hal said...

Crude,
"I go further than Victor - I don't think natural and supernatural are useful terms, certainly not in the sense they're commonly employed. I think even Victor would say, if you're going to allow normative, subjective, etc qualities to count as natural, and if immateriality is no barrier to being natural, then lo and behold - Victor's a naturalist. So's the Pope."

Then it looks like you are the one re-defining words simply in order to prove your point.

im-skeptical said...

It's pretty simple, really. Things that exist in the physical world by empirical determination) are natural. Things that don't exist in the physical world are supernatural. We think of demons as supernatural. However, if we should discover that there really are demons and they can be detected, they would have to be redefined as natural beings.

Crude said...

Hal,

Then it looks like you are the one re-defining words simply in order to prove your point.

No, I'm pointing out what's going to follow if you allow for that much elasticity in your terms. I haven't been arguing for that elasticity, or even for the terms. I think the situation at this point is such that 'natural' and 'supernatural' - and 'naturalist' along with it - can and should just go into the trash as terms.

And why would you object to my reasoning anyway? Why is it that a definition of naturalism that is inclusive of what you think exists is fair and great, but if it includes something I think exists, well now that's a bridge too far and an abuse of language?

Meanwhile, there's im-skeptical. Can you detect a demon? Well, then the demon is natural. In fact, anything you detect is natural, period, apparently by definition. So if God, demons, angels, whatever, are something you can empirically encounter in principle, they are all in principle natural anyway.

(Putting aside for the moment that what counts as 'physical world' is yet another mess. Maybe quantum superposition is supernatural. I have the feeling many people will fight tooth and nail before they admit that.)

Crude said...

Actually, if this is true...

It's pretty simple, really. Things that exist in the physical world by empirical determination) are natural. Things that don't exist in the physical world are supernatural.

..then there's a good chance you're already a believer in the supernatural, Hal. Welcome to the club. I'll get you your honorary hat.

im-skeptical said...

Crude,

"Maybe quantum superposition is supernatural."

That's what we observe in nature. Why would you call it supernatural?

Crude said...

im-skeptical,

That's what we observe in nature. Why would you call it supernatural?

Here is the wiki entry for quantum superposition.

I leave it to you to tell me why the very claim that we observe them is wrongheaded.

im-skeptical said...

Crude,

I'm well aware of this phenomenon. From the article you cited: "An example of a directly observable effect of superposition is interference peaks from an electron wave in a double-slit experiment. Another example is a quantum logical qubit state"

Why don't you tell us how it's not observable?

Crude said...

Why don't you tell us how it's not observable?

Do you understand the difference between observing an effect, and observing the origin/cause of the effect? Observing an effect of quantum superposition is not the same as observing quantum superposition.

If you want to quote the article, here's a great selection:

Quantum superposition is a fundamental principle of quantum mechanics that holds that a physical system—such as an electron—exists partly in all its particular, theoretically possible states (or, configuration of its properties) simultaneously; but, when measured or observed, it gives a result corresponding to only one of the possible configurations (as described in interpretation of quantum mechanics).

Tell me how to observe quantum superposition, skep. If you switch topics, don't reply, or throw back questions at me in an attempt to deflect, I'll take that as you conceding you can't do it.

im-skeptical said...

"Tell me how to observe quantum superposition, skep."

As soon as you tell me how a photon is directly observed. Or a quark. The fact is we only observe the effects of these things. We infer their existence from the observations of their effects.

Crude said...

As soon as you tell me how a photon is directly observed. Or a quark. The fact is we only observe the effects of these things. We infer their existence from the observations of their effects.

Why should I have to tell you that? I've never contended otherwise. I brought up quantum superposition, and you said:

That's what we observe in nature.

No, we don't. We never observe superposition, and we never will. So hey, thank you - concession noted.

Really, skep, I don't have time for this anymore. Dan and Hal I'll reply to - they're skeptics, but they're pretty reasonable and civil. Even if I disagree with Hal, he's capable of frankly admitting to some difficulties and problems in this area. But you're sure the whole problem is simple, and say so with zero hesitation. That's a problem, but it's not one I'm going to be able to solve for you.

im-skeptical said...

Fine,

But I'll still call you out on your pseudo-scientific bullshit when I see it. Moron.

Zach said...

im-skeptical never said we directly observe superpositions. To say we observe them is often shorthand for 'observing their effects.' Leave it to Crud to derail a comment thread by being uncharitably literal and then digging in his heels and acting like he has actually scored a point.

I'm skeptical, don't you know: you don't know what you meant when you wrote what you did, it is up to someone else to tell you, and then to claim you are backpedaling just because you are clarifying things for amyloid-ridden brain.

Then Crud beats his same old drum that there is no difference between natural and supernatural so we should throw away the terms. OK, then you stop using them, but those of us that understand linguistic conventions and find them useful can continue to have civil conversations and you can go back to your hidey-hole.

On the positive side, thanks for the brief respite from your antics, Crude, that was much appreciated. Took too much of a beating by McGrew and Co eh? lol

Zach said...

Note Crude is right that it is hard to give an exhaustive list of necessary and sufficient conditions to demarcate the natural from the supernatural, a list that everyone would agree upon. But to suggest we should therefore throw away the terms is as silly as saying we should not use the terms 'male' and 'female' because it is hard to categorize people born with mixed genitalia. It is truly sad how many threads have been derailed by this simple, obvious, innocuous, easily circumvented, unoriginal (outside of the pseudointelligentsia), semantic point that does nothing to move the original conversation forward.

With that, the focus of the original post was Victor's argument about logical relations not being part of the spatiotemporal web of relations described in physics. What about that?

Crude said...

Goodness. My mere appearance drums up this much hostility? I'm flattered.

Like with skep, Zach, I don't have time for you in a discussion like this. But I do want to let everyone know what you're referring to with this quip: On the positive side, thanks for the brief respite from your antics, Crude, that was much appreciated. Took too much of a beating by McGrew and Co eh? lol

See, Zach reads my blog. There, I linked my engagement in a pretty long conversation over at What's Wrong With the World, where I defended a few propositions.

* I opposed firing homosexuals on the basis of their sexual orientation.
* I opposed demanding homosexual Christians stay quiet about their sexuality.
* I opposed regarding people as 'perverts' simply on the basis of their sexual orientation.
* I supported gay Christians publicly identifying as such, and their arguing for celibacy, natural law, etc.

Apparently, Zach thinks that's all nonsense. He's welcome to that - I stand by my arguments given. And I stand by what I've said in this thread: this isn't about the ability to give an exhaustive list. It really is possible for a term to be obscured to the point of uselessness, or to end up with very little intellectual utility. I think that point has been reached with naturalism, but it's clung to for narrative purposes.

Victor, you're a great guy, and I enjoy reading what you write - even though we disagree about a number of things. But take a good look at this thread - the arguments I offered, the tone I presented. Now, take a good look not only at skep's retort, but Zach's behavior. You now run a blog where Papalinton is someone whose comments you regularly regard as important enough to devote posts to. Run this place as you choose, but I think you may eventually want to reconsider what choices you've made.

That said, Zach, you made one thing supremely clear: something about my mere presence makes you panic. I'm going to make you an offer - if you'd like to work out exactly what your problem is with me, you can feel free to leave another comment on my blog. (I approved the last one, by the by - nice to know I have some regular readers.) This is a sincere offer, yours to take if you like. Or, you can keep right on being inordinately hostile to utter strangers on the internet. Whichever you like, I suppose.

For now, since apparently my simply making an on-topic argument suffices to derail an entire thread, I'll bow out of the conversation. And I'll be waiting for your comment, Zach.

Heuristics said...

Crude: I agree with you here.

I would say that the terms natural, physical, material etc in these types of discussions are literally meaningless. The people using them do not actually have any meaning attached to them. This is the only conclusion I can draw after having several discussions with people using the terms without being able to provide a definition for them. it is a shame really since they could have perfectly good definitions. For example the physical aspect of something being the position it has in space. The natural aspect of something being what it typically does according to it's inherent aiming. Material being the conception that all things are little indivisible balls floating in space.

But this is not what the people using the words say that they mean when I ask them... so what can you do. I just state that naturalism, physicalism and materialism is dead, there are no such things.

Zach said...

Crude overreacting and not addressing the issues. Yawn. Maybe some people will not notice.

Heuristics: they are not "literally meaningless" that is literally a stupid thing to write.

im-skeptical said...

Zach,

"... Victor's argument about logical relations not being part of the spatiotemporal web of relations described in physics."

I think that's one of those cases where its debatable whether logic is outside of the physical (spatiotemporal) world. There are different views about the existence of universals, whether thinking occurs in the brain or an immaterial soul, etc. A nominalist like me would say 'objects' of the mind have no existence apart from the physical brain. Therefore, logic, being a process that the brain uses in making decisions, is in the realm of nature.

Hal said...

Crude,
“No, I'm pointing out what's going to follow if you allow for that much elasticity in your terms. I haven't been arguing for that elasticity, or even for the terms. I think the situation at this point is such that 'natural' and 'supernatural' - and 'naturalist' along with it - can and should just go into the trash as terms.”

I see no need to do that. Simply because concepts are more fuzzy or open-ended than you might like, does not entail that they are meaningless.
Look at the concept of “games”. That covers a wie variety of activities from physical sporst like football to computer role-playing games to board-games and card-games. Any such category concept is going to have to be elastic to be of any use.

“And why would you object to my reasoning anyway? Why is it that a definition of naturalism that is inclusive of what you think exists is fair and great, but if it includes something I think exists, well now that's a bridge too far and an abuse of language?

I don’t. If you wish to include God, angels, ghosts, etc. under the category of what is natural that is ok with me as long as you are able to explain how you are using the word “natural.” I’m sorry if I gave you the impression that I was prohibiting you from doing so.

As I tried to indicate above, Feser’s use of the word “natural” is fine with me. You've explained how it is being used in that context and I understand what you have explained.

What I am rejecting to is the restriction of the use of the word “naturalism” to reductive-physicalism as if you and Victor know the one true meaning of that word. Not all naturalists accept reductive-physicalism.

In the same way liberal Christians would reject the claim that they have to believe the same thing as a YEC in order to be a Christian.

ingx24 said...

I always saw "physical" or "material" as being whatever is empirically observable (in principle - obviously subatomic particles are too small to be seen by naked eyes, but they are observable in principle). I know the argument from the privacy of mental states uses "publically observable" as the definition of "physical" or "material", so that's what I've stuck with.

"Natural" is a different story. I always saw a "naturalistic" worldview as one that did not appeal to God or a grand cosmic purpose of any kind. In this way, I see dualism as perfectly compatible with a naturalistic worldview - maybe the brain acts as a "receiver" for minds/souls, or maybe minds/souls "emerge" in the way William Hasker suggests (although I have issues with the idea of emergence - I haven't read Hasker's book so I don't know if he outlines a way for minds/souls to emerge without it being a brute fact with no explanation), or maybe "information" is a real objective thing and is associated with conscious experience by its very nature (as David Chalmers has speculated).

Hal said...

Zach,
"With that, the focus of the original post was Victor's argument about logical relations not being part of the spatiotemporal web of relations described in physics. What about that?"

Unless one holds to the view that the only thing that exists is what can be completely described in physics, I fail to see why anyone should be troubled by that argument.

Hal said...

Zach,
I forgot to add: Thanks for trying to get this thread back on track.

Hal said...

ingx24,

I'm glad we are both posting here as naturalists because we illustrate nicely the wider divergence of beliefs that fall under that concept.

It would be much easier for me to accept the existence of God and a supernatural realm than to accept you concept of the mind.:-)

Heuristics said...

ingx24: My problem with this kind of definition is that you are not actually saying anything _basic_ about the material/physical. What you are doing is shifting the chain up a notch to the concept of empirical observability but this creates an infinite regress since that which emperically observes is (or at least I guess is, it is your definition and you have not said this) material/physical.

So you get: x is y, y is x. And I have learned nothing about what x and y is.

What I am looking for is something with a language like (but not necessarily content): Materialism is the view that all things that exist are indivisible spheres of a certain extension and position in space and lacking all kinds of properties like color, taste and intentionality etc.

Regarding naturalism, are you not here just saying that naturalism is identical to atheism? If so then naturalism would exist but it would just be a synonym for atheism.

ingx24 said...

Heuristics,

I kind of see naturalism (by my definition) as compatible with a more "deistic" kind of God, similar to what Einstein believed in if that makes any sense. I kind of see naturalism as a "no cheating" system - as in, no invoking divine intervention to explain anything. I would qualify as a "naturalist" only in the sense that I think appeals to divine intervention to explain things should be an absolute last resort. If you can just say "God did it" for anything, why do we even have science? It's a similar reason why I don't like the idea of formal and final causes - they essentially allow you to "explain" anything by just saying "that's how it is".

However, I don't like to call myself a naturalist because naturalism is usually associated with materialism, a doctrine that I think is obviously false given my own personal experience of my own mind.

Heuristics said...

ingx24:

Ok, lets run with this for a while and see if it can be done.

Naturalism = atheism or deism(ish).

Atheism = God does not exist.
Deism(ish) = God exists but never did anything that would form a part of an explanation for anything else that exists.

It appears for me that what is called God here did not create the universe and has absolutely nothing todo with me, morals or the afterlife etc. I am having a hard time seeing in what way this entity is God, could you clarify? Is not deism typically of the form that God created but then backed away?

Papalinton said...

In introducing quantum superposition and quantum mechanics into the discussion does indeed raise questions that have yet to be answered, being an area still in its infancy as far as scientific research is concerned. But to suggest that QM is a mark against naturalism or materialism is a bit of a stretch.

To suggest that direct observation is not the same as observing the effects, is at base a very silly demarcation. A good deal of science is predicated on observing the effects to establish the fact or evidence of the existence of such a state or situation.

What supports the positive naturalistic perspective in observing the effects of quantum states is that the effects are duplicative, they are consistent and one observes the same effect every time that experiment is conducted. Change the experiment slightly and the observable effects, while different, remain consistent and repeatable under the conditions of the changes introduced; so much so that scientist can infer and predict with certainty an outcome in orders of magnitude that far exceeds random observation. Whether the quantum phenomenon is observed as a wave or corpuscular is a matter of the experimental approach used. The most important aspect of quantum research is the predictability of the observed effects of the quantum activity investigated. The confirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson is one such recent event.

As time passes there is little doubt the supernatural will be as outlandish and idiosyncratic as it has ever been, a grab-bag of inexplicables that await an eventual naturalistic explanation. History has confirmed this process, the ineluctable transition from the unknown to the known.

ingx24 said...

Sorry, I should have been more clear: When I say a kind of deistic God, what I mean is a force that created the universe out of nothing but doesn't actually interfere in the universe. Although at this point it's hard to say whether it should even be called naturalism at all - I was just kind of trying to offer a possible way to differentiate naturalism from just atheism.

But again, I'm just talking about my own personal idea of what I would consider "natural" or a "naturalistic" worldview, independent of any formal, agreed-upon definitions. If the actual definition of naturalism is the belief that the universe is a closed system where everything is either physical or supervenes on the physical, then I wouldn't consider myself a naturalist in any sense of the word.

im-skeptical said...

ingx24,

"... then I wouldn't consider myself a naturalist in any sense of the word."

You are not a naturalist in any sense of the word. You believe in an immaterial mind - something that does not exist in the physical world. That is not a naturalist view.

Heuristics said...

ingx24:

I don't mind at all if you are only referencing yourself, getting some kind of agreement among everyone would without a doubt be an impossibility.

Thanks for the clarification. Do we for this deistic concept have any more properties for God other then being a force? For me the word force means non-teleological or without-mind but I do not know if this is all that you mean. If that is all then this would appear to me to only be a somewhat more specific form of atheism, meaning the term atheism would already capture it. A minimal form of God (in how I think of the word) would be something that intentionally is the ultimate reason for the existence of the universe. Meaning that there was a creation by God according to something that is at least kindof sortof like a thought or a plan.

ingx24 said...

You are not a naturalist in any sense of the word. You believe in an immaterial mind - something that does not exist in the physical world. That is not a naturalist view.

How do you know it doesn't exist in the physical world? I don't really have a stance on that one way or the other, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out. If positing that the mind is located somewhere becomes necessary to make interaction intelligible, then that's no problem for me.

Hal said...
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Hal said...

Heuristics,
Perhaps God's only goal or plan was to create a universe and let it run on its own.

ingx24 said...

Heuristics:

To clarify a bit further: I am only a "naturalist" (in my sense of the term meaning that I don't believe in appeals to divine intervention) tentatively - I'm certainly open to the idea of theism, but I would probably need to have my own personal revelation or an extremely strong historical argument for, say, the Resurrection. I just don't think God should be appealed to to explain anything unless we're absolutely sure that no natural (i.e. non-divine) explanation is plausible.

Heuristics said...

Hal:

Ok.

If we allow in naturalism that God created according to some intention then it strikes me as plausible that the truth regarding nature could be for example these sorts of things:

1. The reason why this or that particular thing is the way it is is because of the intention God had for it when it was created.

2. Objects have natures, the clear regularity in their behavior shows us this, that they were created not randomly and without reason but to behave according to Gods will.

Meaning that the true answer to some questions would need to be a reference to the intention of God. So it seams that we from this basis could recreate a very large chunk of classical theism (and develop concepts such as natures/essences etc).

Victor Reppert said...

Are the only things that are in nature material things? Could there be something that isn't material but is still natural? I think that is the central issue here?

Hal said...

Heuristics,

That could be.
But as I said, it could also be that this hypothetical God had no plans or goals for anything that might actually come into existence after the universe began.

im-skeptical said...

ingx24,

"How do you know it doesn't exist in the physical world?"

I'm only stating what I think you said. To me immaterial means not part of the physical world. You may have a different idea about it.

Hal said...

Victor,
Ideas, promises, rules, concepts, etc. are not material objects. I believe they exist.

Why would that belief entail that I have to accept the existence of supernatural substances or entities such as God?

Heuristics said...

Hal:

Well, that's fine then. Naturalism as a synonym for atheism or as a synonym for some classical theism where miracles are banned is indeed something.

Hal said...

Heuristics,
What do you think supernaturalism is?

Victor Reppert said...

Hal, let me ask you this. Do promises cause things to happen in the world? I would say that they do. The promises I made to Anne when we got married cause all sorts of things to happen. Indeed, my promise to Anne caused all sorts of things to happen in the physical world. If my promise is not physical, then the physical isn't a closed system. Something non-physical can cause events in the physical world.

Heuristics said...

Hal: I do not know what supernaturalism is, the name strikes my intuition as incoherent.

Hal said...

Victor,

I think promises (beliefs, ideas, etc.) are conceptually connected to our behavior, not causally connected.

As I said earlier, I think the conception of the mind being an agent and acting upon things in the world is mistaken.
It is the human being who has a mind, that human is the agent. He can act and he can refrain from acting. And he can give reasons for he actions.

Hal said...

Sorry, that last sentence should read:
"And he can give reasons for his actions."

Hal said...

Heuristics,
Ok. Thanks for answering my question.

ingx24 said...

Hal,

Can you explain your view on the mind very briefly? It sounds like your view is kind of like a pseudo-behaviorism, where the mind is seen to be a construct based on linguistic errors and our mental terms actually refer to behaviors, dispositions, or abilities.

Victor Reppert said...

If you have a definition of what is natural that is equivalent to something like Dennett's "no skyhooks" rule, then I think you can have a consistent account of it. But if you widen it to just everything except what religion talks about, then I think it is an arbitrary distinction.

B. Prokop said...

Along the same lines as Victor's promises causing things to happen, how about this one? A policeman walks up to a man and says, "You're under arrest!" Now nothing physical has occurred, but the man's status has nevertheless changed from free to under arrest.

Hal said...

ingx24,

For many of our mental concepts behavior is partly constitutive of what they mean. So there is a logical connection between the behavior and the concept.

Take our concept of pain. When we experience pain we typically behave in certain ways. We may scream, moan or grab or rub the area that is in pain. Because we are language users, we may describe the pain as excruciating, burning or mild. Those behaviors are part of what we mean by "pain". If there was never any change to human behavior when they experienced pain it is difficult to see how our concept of pain ever could have taken the form it has.

Of course one can sometimes refrain from expressing their pain. Not that difficult to do if it is a mild pain. Or one can pretend to be in pain. But the concept of a fake pain is parasitic upon the concet of pain. It would simply make no sense to fake pain unless humans really felt pain.

So when we see someone in a fire screaming and rolling around in pain we can ascribe pain to them. We are seeing them in pain. That ascription is based on the logical connection between our concept of pain and their behavior because that behavior is partly constitutive of what it means to be in pain.

Does any of that make sense to you?

Hal said...

Bob,
Of course something physical has occurred: the policeman spoke. And the policeman will then go on to put handcuffs on the man.

In this example, the policeman is the agent and the man is the patient. And we can understand what is happening if we understand what it means to be arrested.

Hal said...
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ingx24 said...

Hal,

Can you define pain for me? This will help me more than anything else in pinpointing what your position is.

Victor Reppert said...

But here it looks like a mental event (the policeman believes that Smith has committed a crime), causes a physical event (the policeman puts handcuffs on Smith.) How does this fit in with the causal closure of the physical.

Zach said...

That's all well and good, Hal, but please tell me you aren't endorsing a behaviorist view of mental-state terms. Even if behavior is often the main evidenciary base we have used for application of such terms, this doesn't imply that the essence of pain is to be behaving in such-and-such a way. Such behavioristic Wittgensteinian Rylian nonsense is long dead, no? That's...so 1950s :)

Hal said...

Victor,
You are assuming the standard account of action. There are, as you well know, other accounts that don't accept mental causation as a given.

Hal said...

Zach,

You are mistaken if you think Wittgenstein was a behaviorist. And what does it matter when he lived?

Where did I say the essence of pain is to be behaving in such-and-such a way? I said that pain behavior is partly constitutive of our concept of pain.

And I understand our basis for attributing pain to another as a logical one.

Hal said...

ingx24,

Pain is an uncomfortable sensation. It can be very mild or excruciating. We normally express that sensation by our behavior.

Hal said...

Victor,

Sorry, my previous reply to you was too brief. Will try to give you a fuller response in the next day or two.

Just don't have time right now to address your point adequately.

ingx24 said...

Hal,

OK. What do you think the mind is, then, if not a substance?

Hal said...

Zach,
Not sure I understand what you mean by mental state terms.
I think psychological predicates can only logically be attributed to the person who has a mind, not to the mind.

Zach said...

Hal regardless of its origins you are bringing us into outdated waters with this Bennett/Hacker horse that has been dead for 50 years. The fact that it is so old isn't what is wrong with it, but that it was conclusively abandoned, for good reasons, 50 years ago, and only lives on in some philosophers because of a couple of silly British cults of personality.

It is so trivial to refute these lines of thought in this century that I won't even bother, but leave it to Victor. Heck, even Crude could do this for me.

Hal said...

ingx25,

"Mind" is a term we apply to those conscious substances that display an array of mental abilities. Such as the ability to reason, remember, use a language, etc.

Sorry I don't have more time right now. Have to sign off for the night.

Hal said...

Zach,
Wow, have to say I'm surprised by your outburst.

Of course you are free not to respond to the points I was making. But it does strike me as strange that you would think so poorly of Bennett and Hacker. After all they make a rather convincing case in their book that it is a mistake to identify the brain with the mind, that reductionism is flawed and that it is crucial for philosophers to work on clarifying our concepts regarding the mind and our mental life. All of which I would think you'd welcome since you clearly also share their view that reductive physicalism is deeply flawed.

Your claim that Wittgenstein was a behaviorist is controversial. Even if you could prove it, it doesn't follow that a philosopher like Hacker, who has been deeply influenced by Wittgenstein, is a behaviorist for he clearly rejects it in his writings.

Waht makes it true that a person is in pain is that she is in pain. And as I indicated earlier, one can be in pain without any associated pain behavior.

Dan Gillson said...

Holy buckets! This thread ballooned in my absence. I'm sorry to have missed the action. Hal, way to hold down the fort while I was gone. Zach may think that he's too good for Hacker, but I'm glad that you cite him.

Zach said...

Hal I didn't mean that Wittgenstein was a behaviorist (depending on which version of W we are talking about, my hunch is he was not), but simply this strand of thought in his work that resonates with behaviorism, a strand of neo-behaviorism that is making a resurgence among philosophers for some reason. They like to say the brain doesn't do X, the whole person does, or whatever, by which they typically just mean behavior.

B. Prokop said...
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B. Prokop said...

My personal favorite example of the objective existence of the non-material (other than personal consciousness, which seems to cause way too much debate) is, of all things, The Brothers Karamazov.

Let's think about this for a minute. Now we should all be in agreement that such a thing as The Brothers Karamazov exists. But what exactly is it? Is it the physical copy of the book one can hold in his hands? If so, then there is not one Karamazov, but millions. An obvious absurdity. Would the book still exist if every paper copy in the world were burned, a la Fahrenheit 541? Well... What if were maintained in some data file somewhere? So then are we talking about information here? Possibly. But does information have objective existence, outside of a tangible physical structure? Apparently so. The database could exist in multiple programming languages, and be stored on differing platforms. The book itself can (and of course does) exist in multiple translations, but all are still The Brothers Karamazov.

What if somehow every last physical and virtual copy of the book in the world were to be destroyed, but it remained as an oral tradition, similar to how The Iliad was transmitted in its first few centuries of existence? Even if you regarded peoples' memories as just another form of database, you still have the problem of there being one Brothers Karamazov and multiple people knowing it.

Ergo, The Brothers Karamazov exists independently of the physical and/or virtual expressions of it, and remains a singular entity regardless of how many copies exist. It is a non-material reality.

Hal said...

Dan,
Thanks for the supporting words.


Zach,

Well I hope you also don't believe the brain is doing X.
I see Hacker and company as basically attacking the crypto-Cartesianism that has pervaded so much of neuroscience.

Hacker is also quite concerned about the effects scientism and growing tendency to see the mind as just a machine has on our concept of personhood. Late last year he gave a speech at a conference held by the The Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion expressing those concerns.

Even though you have some serious disagreements with his position, I think you might find some of his arguments of use when critiquing such things the view that a person is just an organic computer (the brain) in the body. I would hope that we can agree on how misconceived a view of personhood that is.

Hal said...

Bob,
I agree with you. Stories, plays, the rules of chess, ideas, etc. are not-physical but they do exist.

Papalinton said...

Bob
"Ergo, The Brothers Karamazov exists independently of the physical and/or virtual expressions of it, and remains a singular entity regardless of how many copies exist. It is a non-material reality."

That would hold if materialism is synonymous with physicalism. But I do know that 'information' we might have is also said to be 'material', e.g. We say, "I have a fair amount of material on that." The meaning here refers to information rather than a book or some such physical object. So I think it depends on how one defines 'material' and whether information, as in the case with the The Brothers Karamazov for which there is nothing physical of its presence. For me I rule 'information' in as an element of materialism.

B. Prokop said...

"For me I rule 'information' in as an element of materialism."

That still leaves you with the problem of identity.

Also, if information exists independently of the platform on which it is stored, then it is something other than the stored copy of it. That "something other" is non-material, even if for no other reason than it is not identified with its medium of storage.

And if you do so identify it, then you will have to assert that my CD of Barber's Violin concerto is not the same thing as my MP3 download, and is again different than my memory of a live performance of it at Merriweather. Absurd!

Hal said...

Victor,
"But here it looks like a mental event (the policeman believes that Smith has committed a crime), causes a physical event (the policeman puts handcuffs on Smith.)"

It appears to me that you are starting with the assumption that a belief is some sort of mental state. I would question that assumption.

There are such things as mental states but their character seems quite different from having a belief. Some examples of a mental state would include the various moods one can experience or being in pain. Such states are only present when one is awake but cease when one is sleeping or unconscious. They can also be interrupted by distractions. And one can be in such a state for a long or short time: states have duration.

But a person doesn't cease to believe something when he falls asleep or if he is thinking about something else.

And it is difficult for me to see how something like the belief Smith has committed a crime can causally interact with a physical object. What is your explanation for how this can happen?

Crude said...

Zach,

My offer stands. You have a deep personal, emotional problem with me. Hit my blog, we can sort it out. I try to avoid namecalling and other such antics entirely nowadays, so if you're hoping for a bit of that kind of sparring - not interested.

Relax.

Heuristics,

Well, I agree in large part. I think the real issue where the 'meaningless aspect comes up is when we're talking about the historical development of scientific explanations and their relation to the 'supernatural'. We may disagree at some points - I plan on writing more about this over at my blog sometime, maybe it will be of interest to you.

Hal,

First off, thanks for the calm conversation. It's welcome.

Look at the concept of “games”. That covers a wie variety of activities from physical sporst like football to computer role-playing games to board-games and card-games. Any such category concept is going to have to be elastic to be of any use.

Sure, but it's also possible to hit a point where the elasticity renders a word rather useless. If 'card-games' is now covering football, Tony Hawk Pro Skater, and the act of cooking soft-boiled eggs, we have a term which is no longer very useful. At the very least, it's going to be confusing, maybe even worthless, in some old contexts.

I think something like this has happened with 'naturalism' and, to a degree, 'materialism'.

What I am rejecting to is the restriction of the use of the word “naturalism” to reductive-physicalism as if you and Victor know the one true meaning of that word. Not all naturalists accept reductive-physicalism.

See, this doesn't seem to square with what you told me before. You say on the one hand that you have no problem with including 'God, angels, ghosts' etc under the natural category. But then why is it a problem for you if Victor says he's arguing against naturalism, and points out how he's defining it? Likewise, by Feser's view, you're not a naturalist (if I understand your thoughts on mind and nature correctly) - you're something closer to Bertrand Russell, maybe an atheist non-naturalist.

Now, I don't deny that you can use the letters arranged in the form 'naturalist', slap a tag on it, and get use out of it that way. 'Naturalist, noun, A person who enjoys italian sausage'. But I don't think the words have much meaning in the way they expect them to. Back to the extra-dimensional supremely powerful mischief-making being. Is that being supernatural? In any other age he likely would be called that. At this point, no. And I think that illustrates a major problem with those terms, just one of many.

Anyway, a quick comment on your philosophy of mind views.

But a person doesn't cease to believe something when he falls asleep or if he is thinking about something else.

When DOES someone cease to believe something on your view? I take it you do accept that beliefs exist, right?

Victor Reppert said...

But don't counterfactuals hold concerning his beliefs about Smith and his arresting Smith. If he didn't believe Smith was guilty, he wouldn't arrest him. If whether he believes Smith was guilty has nothing to do with whether he arrests Smith, he should be fired immediately.

Hal said...

Crude,
Hal,

First off, thanks for the calm conversation. It's welcome.

Thanks. I see little point in having a conversation like this unless it can remain calm and reasonable.
I’v quoted your postings and placed an “H” in front of my remarks and a “C” in front of your replies.

“H-Look at the concept of “games”. That covers a wide variety of activities from physical sports like football to computer role-playing games to board-games and card-games. Any such category concept is going to have to be elastic to be of any use.

C-Sure, but it's also possible to hit a point where the elasticity renders a word rather useless. If 'card-games' is now covering football, Tony Hawk Pro Skater, and the act of cooking soft-boiled eggs, we have a term which is no longer very useful. At the very least, it's going to be confusing, maybe even worthless, in some old contexts.”

I would agree that words can be used improperly or nonsensically. As you suggested, the context in which the words are being used is important and should be considered. For example, suppose I and Darlene wanted to have a contest to see who could cook those soft-boiled eggs in the fastest time while camping in the wilderness. We would both have to start our own fires and use our own pots. I wouldn't object to someone calling that a game.

“H-What I am rejecting to is the restriction of the use of the word “naturalism” to reductive-physicalism as if you and Victor know the one true meaning of that word. Not all naturalists accept reductive-physicalism.

C-See, this doesn't seem to square with what you told me before. You say on the one hand that you have no problem with including 'God, angels, ghosts' etc under the natural category. But then why is it a problem for you if Victor says he's arguing against naturalism, and points out how he's defining it? Likewise, by Feser's view, you're not a naturalist (if I understand your thoughts on mind and nature correctly) - you're something closer to Bertrand Russell, maybe an atheist non-naturalist.”

Ok. Thanks for that explanation. I would have no objection to Victor’s use as long as he or others recognize that I or Feser cans use the word differently.

After all I think Victor and have a strong disagreement over our conceptions of the mind. Even if I were to convert and become a theist, I would still think my conception is the correct one and his mistaken.

“C-Now, I don't deny that you can use the letters arranged in the form 'naturalist', slap a tag on it, and get use out of it that way. 'Naturalist, noun, A person who enjoys italian sausage'. But I don't think the words have much meaning in the way they expect them to. Back to the extra-dimensional supremely powerful mischief-making being. Is that being supernatural? In any other age he likely would be called that. At this point, no. And I think that illustrates a major problem with those terms, just one of many.”

I think most people consider the Christian God to be a supernatural being. Certainly Lewis saw supernaturalism as being an essential part of Christianity.
If you accept that Victor can have a legitimate use for the term “natural” and I don't think you can then turn around and claim “supernaturalism” can’t have any. Especially because they are contrasting terms. If one has a use then the other one does as well.

Hal said...

Crude,
"When DOES someone cease to believe something on your view?"

If they come to think the belief is mistaken. For example, If I believed that the American Civil War started in 1862 and then learned that it started in 1861 I would then abandon my original belief.
Suppose I learned that true belief when I was eleven and then never thought about the Civil War or its beginning for the rest of my life. One could still truly claim when I was fifty that I believed that the Civil War started in 1861.


"I take it you do accept that beliefs exist, right?"

Yes. You and I can have exactly the same belief: that the American Civil War started in 1861.

We can share that belief with others.

I don't think a belief is a substance. I don't think it is an object that can interact causally with other objects like a stone or neural tissue. I don't think it is a mental state.

But, yes, I do believe that there really are such things as beliefs. Some of them are true and some false.


Victor,
Am not ignoring your post. Should be able to respond this evening after work.

Crude said...

Hal,

After all I think Victor and have a strong disagreement over our conceptions of the mind. Even if I were to convert and become a theist, I would still think my conception is the correct one and his mistaken.

Sure, I don't doubt that. Are you saying that you think rejecting naturalism automatically entails theism?

I think most people consider the Christian God to be a supernatural being. Certainly Lewis saw supernaturalism as being an essential part of Christianity.

I think most people consider God/gods/X 'supernatural' in a way that is little more than a largely useless tag. Like I said, one experience I've had repeatedly is conversations going this way: 'What is supernatural?' -> "Things that aren't natural." -> 'What is natural?' -> "Things that aren't supernatural." I've seen attempts like "anything made of matter". Despite that having obvious problems, it ends up making Zeus and the Mormon deities natural.

I think Lewis' defense of the supernatural turns critically on 'natural' not having a certain amount of elasticity.

If you accept that Victor can have a legitimate use for the term “natural” and I don't think you can then turn around and claim “supernaturalism” can’t have any.

My accepting that Victor could legitimately use the term 'natural' turned on what I thought was your view that any use of the terms 'natural' or 'supernatural' were okay so long as the person using them subjectively defined their terms when asked. So sure, Victor could define natural and include God, various kinds of dualisms, angels, etc in the definition. He could also define supernatural to mean 'the fourth season of ALF'.

If they come to think the belief is mistaken. For example, If I believed that the American Civil War started in 1862 and then learned that it started in 1861 I would then abandon my original belief.

Okay. Let me ask something slightly trickier (this isn't some setup - I am just figuring out your thoughts here.)

What about in cases where you just forget information? Either the belief itself, or information relevant to the belief?

ingx24 said...

Hal,

I'm still not sure what your conception of the mind is (I still can't help but think of you as a pseudo-behaviorist), but let me clarify mine (what I believe to be the "common-sense" position) and I'll let you tell me what part you think is mistaken.

Basically: Things like thoughts, sensations, emotions, and the like seem to be events occuring within the same object. One thought does not disappear and become replaced by another; there is a temporal unity between conscious experiences that seems to imply that they are simply events or properties of one thing. This one thing is what we call the mind. However, this is not to say that the mind is this disconnected entity that interacts with the brain by "pulling levers" - at least under normal circumstances, mind and body work as a unit, combining to form a unified person.

Hal said...

ingx24,
"Things like thoughts, sensations, emotions, and the like seem to be events occuring within the same object. One thought does not disappear and become replaced by another; there is a temporal unity between conscious experiences that seems to imply that they are simply events or properties of one thing."

I'm sorry but I don't really understand what the heck you are talking about here. What is this "same object"? What does "one thought does not disappear and become replaced by another" mean?

The best I can make out from what you've written is that you identify the mind with consciousness.
I don't.
Do I lose my mind when I am sleeping?

There are billions of non-human animals on this planet that are conscious. Do you think they have minds? Why wouldn't they if consciousness is identical with the mind?

Hal said...

Crude,
“H-After all I think Victor and have a strong disagreement over our conceptions of the mind. Even if I were to convert and become a theist, I would still think my conception is the correct one and his mistaken.
C-Sure, I don't doubt that. Are you saying that you think rejecting naturalism automatically entails theism?”

If I were to believe that God exists then I would no longer consider myself to be a naturalist. My conception of the mind would remain unchanged: The mind is not an entity that can exist apart from the body. Nor is the mind an agent that can cause things to happen.

Does that answer your question?

“C-I think most people consider God/gods/X 'supernatural' in a way that is little more than a largely useless tag. Like I said, one experience I've had repeatedly is conversations going this way: 'What is supernatural?' -> "Things that aren't natural." -> 'What is natural?' -> "Things that aren't supernatural." I've seen attempts like "anything made of matter". Despite that having obvious problems, it ends up making Zeus and the Mormon deities natural.”

Every word in the English language has been misused at some time or another. Unless you can demonstrate that because a term or word is misused by someone that entails that the word can never be used meaningfully, I don't see much point in continuing this particular portion of the discussion.
If you are unhappy about my use of the term “naturalism” to represent my basic outlook on reality feel free to substitute another. It is not going to hurt my feelings.:-)

“C-Okay. Let me ask something slightly trickier (this isn't some setup - I am just figuring out your thoughts here.)

What about in cases where you just forget information? Either the belief itself, or information relevant to the belief?”

Well I’ve forgotten things at times and then later remembered them. Seems to keep happening more and more as I age. I see little reason to deny someone has a belief they've claimed to believe simply because they are unable to remember it.
Do you have any thoughts on the matter?

ingx24 said...

Hal,

What is the mind to you then?

Hal said...

Victor,
“But don't counterfactuals hold concerning his beliefs about Smith and his arresting Smith. If he didn't believe Smith was guilty, he wouldn't arrest him. If whether he believes Smith was guilty has nothing to do with whether he arrests Smith, he should be fired immediately.”

I think there are some problems with counterfactual theories of causation. So you will probably have to come up with other types of explanation to persuade me that a belief such as Smith is guilty can actually bring about a physical change in a physical object by interacting with it.

In any case, I don’t see why a lack of that belief would prevent Jones (might as well give the cop a name if the arrestee has one) from arresting Smith. How could it?

Let us suppose a belief really can cause a change in behavior. I learn there is going to be a special episode of one of my favorite tv shows tomorrow at 6 pm. I will have to turn on the tv to watch that episode and I believe that I can do that by using the tv’s remote control. So I decide I will use the remote to turn on the tv at 5:55 in order to ensure I miss none of the episode. At 5:55 the following day I am sitting on the sofa next to the remote. Should I now just wait patiently for my arm to move towards the remote? After all, if my beliefs are causes of my behavior shouldn't I be able sit back and let it move my arm?

Crude said...

Hal,

If I were to believe that God exists then I would no longer consider myself to be a naturalist. My conception of the mind would remain unchanged: The mind is not an entity that can exist apart from the body. Nor is the mind an agent that can cause things to happen.

Does that answer your question?


No, actually. I'm not trying to be difficult here, but I asked you if you think rejecting naturalism entails theism. Do you not allow for non-theistic non-naturalism?

Unless you can demonstrate that because a term or word is misused by someone that entails that the word can never be used meaningfully, I don't see much point in continuing this particular portion of the discussion.

But I haven't said a word can never be used meaningfully. In fact, I said outright that's possible to do - in fact, it's damn easy. 'Naturalist: Noun. A person who likes italian sausage.' It really is as easy as that.

Now, my contending that naturalism and natural are poorly defined? I can marshal a good amount of evidence right there, from the SEP entry to Richard Carrier's own admission. In fact, I think the very act of Carrier admitting 'well, we better actually define this term meaningfully' is evidence that, you know... it ain't meaningful as it stands. And I think there are clear historical reasons why that's the case. There's also largely rhetorical reasons why a lot of people are vested in pretending otherwise.

That's not some slight directed at you.

Well I’ve forgotten things at times and then later remembered them. Seems to keep happening more and more as I age. I see little reason to deny someone has a belief they've claimed to believe simply because they are unable to remember it.
Do you have any thoughts on the matter?


Honest to God, not at the moment. I really was just curious. Your views on the mind are saner than most, as near as I've been able to decipher them. Are they materialist? Physicalist? Naturalist? That's another story. (One we probably won't get into much more. I'm more interested in that subject than many are, as important as I regard it.)

Crude said...

So I decide I will use the remote to turn on the tv at 5:55 in order to ensure I miss none of the episode. At 5:55 the following day I am sitting on the sofa next to the remote. Should I now just wait patiently for my arm to move towards the remote? After all, if my beliefs are causes of my behavior shouldn't I be able sit back and let it move my arm?

I don't see how you'd take that from what Victor said. Why would a belief playing a causal role in behavior cash out to 'you don't have to do anything, your belief will do the job for you'?

Let's say you do, after all, pick up the remote and turn on the TV. You did so because you believed your favorite show was on. Are you saying this makes no sense?

Hal said...

Crude,
"Let's say you do, after all, pick up the remote and turn on the TV. You did so because you believed your favorite show was on. Are you saying this makes no sense?"

Of course not. But I don't see that entailing the view that a belief is a cause.

Hal said...

Crude,
"No, actually. I'm not trying to be difficult here, but I asked you if you think rejecting naturalism entails theism. Do you not allow for non-theistic non-naturalism?"

I'm sorry but you've lost me here.

Maybe it would help if you provide an example of a "non-theistic non-naturalism".

Crude said...

Hal,

I'm sorry but you've lost me here.

Maybe it would help if you provide an example of a "non-theistic non-naturalism".


'An atheist who believes in the supernatural and/or who rejects naturalism, but does not believe God exists.'

I'd try to give more specific examples, but I'm trying to figure out your views of natural/naturalism and supernatural rather than give mine, for obvious reasons.

On your view, is it impossible to be both an atheist yet reject naturalism or believe in the supernatural? You said if you encountered a demon, you'd regard that as an encounter with the supernatural. Are you saying demons - whatever they are - can't exist without God existing?

Of course not. But I don't see that entailing the view that a belief is a cause.

Alright, something's not being communicated well here. That's fine though - just trying to learn your views.

Hal said...

Crude,
Thanks for the clarification.

I don't know whether or not demons can exist without God. How could one determine such a thing?

If one is a Christian then clearly the answer would be no since demons are angels that have fallen from grace. I suppose there have been other religions in which demons abound without any need for a God.

I would think the existence of any supernatural entity would entail that naturalism is false.




Crude said...

Hal,

I don't know whether or not demons can exist without God. How could one determine such a thing?

Arguably the existence of anything at all without God is up in the air. Is everything therefore possibly supernatural?

I would think the existence of any supernatural entity would entail that naturalism is false.

Right. So are you saying that one can be an atheist yet believe in the supernatural? This is a possible consistent state of beliefs?

Hal said...

Crude,
"Arguably the existence of anything at all without God is up in the air. Is everything therefore possibly supernatural?"

Anything that is not logically impossible is a possibility. But the existence of a possibility does not imply the existence of an actuality.

So instead of going through all these questions regarding what is possible, wouldn't it be more productive to lay out what you think is actually the case?

I've already specified what I think is actually the case: the only substance that exists is what we commonly refer to with the word "material", this substance is not the only thing that exists and no supernatural substances (or entities) exist.

Crude said...

Hal,

Anything that is not logically impossible is a possibility. But the existence of a possibility does not imply the existence of an actuality.

I don't need it to to make the point I'm making with that question. If the answer is 'yes, everything is possibly supernatural because if everything requires God's existence to actually exist, then all things are supernatural by measure', well, that's going to have some very interesting results.

I've already specified what I think is actually the case: the only substance that exists is what we commonly refer to with the word "material", this substance is not the only thing that exists and no supernatural substances (or entities) exist.

Except I'm sure you're going to amend that what we commonly refer to as "material" is not what we think it is - folk physics is severely busted. If you're going to tell me that 'material' is whatever 'physics' tells us exists, then the problems with that mode are going to be self-evident. And I'm still sitting here wondering what you even regard as supernatural. Demons at first seemed to qualify, but demons in a world where God doesn't exist seems up in the air.

I'm not sure why you're sidestepping the atheist supernaturalist question. It's pretty straightforward.

Hal said...

Crude,
Not sure why you think I've sidestepped any question. I've tried to point out that if we are only going to talk about possibilities than anything that is not logically impossible is possible.

It should be clear from that what my answer will be to anything you ask regarding something being possible.

But the existence of a possibility does not imply an actuality.

I'd rather deal with what we think is actually the case.

As to the "material". I'm not a reductionist. I really think it irrelevant what happens at the atomic or subatomic level when it comes to understanding the substances we encounter in the world around us.

Crude said...

Hal,

Not sure why you think I've sidestepped any question. I've tried to point out that if we are only going to talk about possibilities than anything that is not logically impossible is possible.

So you'd agree that an atheist can believe in the supernatural or reject naturalism, and have a consistent position? Not 'believe in the supernatural by accident', like they believe X and X turns out to be supernatural but they think X is natural. But literally hold, 'I am an atheist. I do not believe in God's existence. I reject naturalism and believe supernatural things exist.'?

It should be clear from that what my answer will be to anything you ask regarding something being possible.

Excellent, that should make answers to my questions straightforward.

As to the "material". I'm not a reductionist. I really think it irrelevant what happens at the atomic or subatomic level when it comes to understanding the substances we encounter in the world around us.

You're saying that 'naturalism' has nothing to do with the atomic or subatomic levels? Really? So (say) quantum physics is neither natural nor supernatural?

Hal said...

Crude,
"You're saying that 'naturalism' has nothing to do with the atomic or subatomic levels? Really? So (say) quantum physics is neither natural nor supernatural?"

No, I'm saying that if I want to understand something like why Tom arrested Jones what is happening at the subatomic level is irrelevant to obtaining that understanding.

Crude said...

Hal,

No, I'm saying that if I want to understand something like why Tom arrested Jones what is happening at the subatomic level is irrelevant to obtaining that understanding.

And I'm saying that if I want to understand if 'naturalism' is true, I'm going to have to know what 'natural' and 'nature' and therefore 'supernatural' are, at all levels of investigated and discussed reality.

I'm repeating it, I know, but I still want to know about the atheist who believes in the supernatural. Or hell, if you just don't know, tell me that much.

Hal said...

Crude,
"And I'm saying that if I want to understand if 'naturalism' is true, I'm going to have to know what 'natural' and 'nature' and therefore 'supernatural' are, at all levels of investigated and discussed reality."

As I indicated earlier, even if I were to belief in God I would still hold to the same conception of the mind.

And I've already told you that if a supernatural entity or substance were shown to exist I would have to abandon naturalism.

If an atheist only believes that demons exist then I would consider him to be a supernaturalist.

Guess I'm just too dense. You appear to think there is something gravely wrong with my conception of naturalism but I don't understand what the fault is.