Sunday, June 30, 2013

Some AFR stuff I'm working on

The argument from reason is a name applied to an argument, or a group of arguments, which attempt to make a case against a naturalistic philosophy by pointing out that such a philosophy undercuts the claim to hold rational beliefs. The argument is best-known in the writings of C. S. Lewis, but is considerably older. Some have actually found this line of argumentation as far back as Plato, and a version of it is found in Kant.
What these arguments invariably target are doctrines known as naturalism, materialism, or physicalism. All of these concepts are notoriously difficult to define. What seems to be common to all of them is the idea that at the basis of reality are elements which are entirely non-mental in nature. We can begin thinking about this by contrasting two different types of explanation. One type of explanation is what might be provided by how we might explain the movement of rocks down a mountain in an avalanche. If I am standing down at the bottom of the mountain, we can expect the rocks to move where they do without regard to whether my head is in their path or not. They will not deliberately move to hit my head, neither will they move to avoid it. They will do what the laws of physics require that they do, and if my head is in the wrong place at the wrong time, it will be hit, and otherwise it will not be hit. The process is an inherently blind one.
Consider, by contrast, how we might explain what happens when I decide to vote for a certain candidate for President. I weigh the options, and choose the candidate who is most likely to do what I want to see done in the country for the next four years. The action of voting for Obama or Romney is one filled with intention and purpose. I know what the choice is about, I have a goal in mind when voting, and I perform the act of voting with the intent to achieve a certain result.
If we look at the world from a naturalistic perspective, we are always looking to find non-mental explanation even behind the mental explanations that we offer. Take, for example, Einstein developing his theory of relativity. If a naturalistic view of the world is correct, then we can, and must explain the development of Einstein’s theory in mental terms, in terms of certain mathematical relationships obtaining, and so forth. But, Einstein’s brain is, according to the naturalist, entirely the result of a purely non-intention process of random variation and natural selection. The appearance of intention and design is explained by an underlying blind process that not only produced Einstein’s brain, but also, the processes in his brain are the result of particles in his brain operating as blindly as the rocks falling down the avalanche and either hitting or not hitting my head at the bottom of the mountain.
Contrast this with a theistic view.  On such a view, there may be particles the follow the laws of physics, but those laws are in place because they were built into creation by God. Presumably, if God had wanted there to be other laws of physics, he could have made a world with laws of physics very different than the ones that we see. So, on the theistic view we see the opposite of naturalism. Even what seems on one level to be completely explained in terms of the non-mental has a mental explanation.
The argument from reason tries to show that if the world were as the naturalist, or materialist, or physicalist, says that it is, then no one can be rational in believing that it is so. Rational beliefs must, according to the argument, must have rational causes, but naturalism holds that, in the final analysis, all causes are non-rational causes. But if this is so, then human beings really don’t reason, and if they don’t reason, they don’t do science either. So, the very naturalistic world-view which is supposed to be based on science, is actually the very view that render science impossible.
In the original 1947 edition of his book Miracles: A Preliminary Study, Lewis presented a version of the argument from reason which can be formalized as follows.
1)      If naturalism is true, then all thoughts including the thought “naturalism is true,” can be fully explained as the result of irrational causes.
2)      If all thoughts that are the result of irrational causes, then all thoughts are invalid, and science is impossible.
3)      If all thoughts are invalid, and science is impossible, then no one is justified in believing that naturalism is true.
4)      Therefore naturalism should be rejected.

In 1948, the Roman Catholic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe argued that against Lewis’s argument in a paper at the Oxford Socratic Club. She argued, first that one has to distinguish between irrational causes on the one hand, and non-rational causes on the other. Irrational causes for a belief would be such things as wishful thinking or mental illness, or unreasonable fears. Irrational causes always interfere with the possibility of believing  rationally. Non-rational causes would by physical events which, while not rational, don’t necessarily make rationality impossible. While naturalists hold that all thoughts are the result of nonrational causes, they need not hold that they are the result of irrational cases.

Second, she argued that when we say that something or other makes a thought invalid, we are presuming a contrast between valid and invalid thoughts. Hence, the very existence of the distinction entails that some thoughts are valid and others are not, and so it cannot be the conclusion of an argument that no thoughts are valid.

Third, she argued that there is an ambiguity in the terms “why,” “because” and “explanation” conceal the possibilities that a naturalistic explanation and a rational explanation might not actually turn out to be compatible. Thus, when we are asking “why” in the context of identifying a cause for a certain event, we are asking a radically different question from when we are asking “why” when we are asking why someone believes something. Thus, we could simultaneously give “because such and such brain event caused it,” and “because there is good evidence to think it true” as explanations without contradicting ourselves.

Now, in response to these arguments by Anscombe, some responses can be made on Lewis’s behalf. First, with respect to Anscombe’s first argument, Lewis had already drawn the distinction between nonrational and irrational causes, when he distinguished between two types of irrational causes. He wrote:
“Now the emotion, thus considered by itself, cannot be in agreement or disagreement with Reason. It is irrational not as a paralogism is irrational, but as a physical event is irrational: it does not rise even to the dignity of error.”
                With both nonrational causes, in Anscombe’s sense, and irrational causes, reason is absent from the causal process. Yet, in paradigmatic cases reasoning that a naturalist cannot deny ever occur, such as the reasoning process that led Darwin to explain the variation in beak sizes on the Galapagos islands in terms of natural selection, reasoning is definitely present. Naturalistic thinkers frequently insist that people require evidence for their beliefs as opposed to believing on blind faith, but this implies that reasons can and do play a critical role in the production of many beliefs. If this were not so, there would be no science.
                Second, while  it might be unsound to argue that there no thoughts are valid, the conclusion of Lewis’s argument is the conditional statement, “If naturalism is true, then no thoughts are valid.” So, even though Anscombe’s  paradigm case argument might show that there must be a contrast between rational and irrational thoughts, Lewis can affirm that there is indeed such a contrast, but existence of such a contrast can exist only if naturalism is false.  
                Third, although causal relationships are different from evidential relationships, when we think about being persuaded to believe something, we are inclined to suppose that somehow the fact that an evidential relationship obtains is causally relevant to the actual occurrence of belief as a psychological event. Anscombe actually says “It appears to me that if a man has reasons, and they are good reasons, and they genuinely are his reasons, for thinking something, then his thought is rational, whatever causal statements may be said about him.” (Anscombe, 1981, p.299.) But it seems to me that part of what it is for something to be someone’s reasons for believing something has to do with the role those reasons play not only in producing, but also sustaining that belief. If someone gives a reason for believing something, but it turns out that the presence or absence of that reason would have absolutely nothing to do with whether or not a person continued to believe what he does, then it is questionable whether these reasons are operative at all.

                If you were to meet a person, call him Steve, who could argue with great cogency for every position he held, you might be inclined to consider him a very rational person. But if you were to discover that he rolled dice to fix permanently all his beliefs, you might on that account be inclined to withdraw from him the honorific title “rational.” We sometimes consider persons who continue to hold the positions they hold regardless of the evidence against such positions impervious to reason. But if naturalism true, it might be argued that everyone is impervious to reason, because, in the final analysis, because the existence of reasons is irrelevant to how beliefs are produced and sustained. In the last analysis, all beliefs are caused, not by mental, but rather by physical, and therefore nonmental causes. 

89 comments:

John Moore said...

I want to just quibble about wording. Instead of saying "mental" you should say "spiritual." That's the crux of the argument, after all. Naturalists think the mental is physical, whereas religious people think the mental is spiritual.

Same thing with "rational." Naturalists think the rational is physical, but religious people think the rational must be spiritual.

You write: "Naturalism holds that, in the final analysis, all causes are non-rational causes." Just change "non-rational" to "material."

Later you write: "If naturalism is true, then no thoughts are valid." You should go ahead and add "because thoughts are spiritual."

Victor Reppert said...

No, I think this is part of the problem. The problem is when you try to offer a base-level explanation, and you use purposes, intentionality, etc. A consistent naturalist is going to say "No, that's a skyhook. In other words you can't say the purpose of the heart is to pump blood in the human body unless you are going to put a non-mentalistic explanation for how that could have arisen through the blind forces of natural selection and nondirected mutation.

John Moore said...

Naturalists think intentionality is physical, like the rocks rolling down the mountain. Rocks don't think about what they're doing, but when people think, that's also just a more complicated form of rolling down the mountain. This is what naturalists really think.

Therefore, when you say naturalism is "the idea that at the basis of reality are elements which are entirely non-mental in nature," the naturalist will say, "No, the mental is physical, and therefore part of nature."

It's just a confusion over words. Why don't you go ahead and admit that your view is spiritual? As a dualist, you see both the material and spiritual in the world, right?

Victor Reppert said...

If intentionality is the basic explanation but is also physical, then you would have a radical change in physics than what we normally see. But if you go that way, then, as Feser would say, Aristotle gets his revenge.

John Moore said...

This is what I don't understand. I'm going to read up some more and keep following your posts, as well as Edward Feser. How would physics look different? I need to find out.

Crude said...

I want to just quibble about wording. Instead of saying "mental" you should say "spiritual." That's the crux of the argument, after all. Naturalists think the mental is physical, whereas religious people think the mental is spiritual.

Same thing with "rational." Naturalists think the rational is physical, but religious people think the rational must be spiritual.


If you think that the only people who object to naturalism/materialism are 'religious people', you are sorely uninformed about the state of the debate.

Why don't you go ahead and admit that your view is spiritual?

Why don't you go ahead and admit that naturalism doesn't allow for the mental, like Alex Rosenberg states?

Really, you should think twice before saying that someone you disagree with is failing to 'admit' something. Your understanding may well be flawed.

How would physics look different? I need to find out.

Victor is talking about mental qualities/aspects being taken as 'basic'. If you're under the impression that naturalists historically are A-OK with the idea of making intentionality, experience, etc fundamental to nature, again - you're quite misinformed.

How about you start with defining 'physical'? Here's a hint: "Not spiritual" won't cut it.

John Moore said...

When I hear the word "mental," I think it means "what's really going on in our brains."

Obviously naturalism "allows for the mental" because naturalists do think something is happening in our brains. You and I seem to be using different definitions of "mental." That's what my original comment was about.

You might point out that lots of philosophers use "mental" in the same way you do, but I'm suggesting we should change, because it's confusing. If naturalists and non-naturalists use the word differently, then the whole discussion is confused.

----

When I hear the word "physical," I think of matter and energy as well as the forces of nature, space-time and inertia. Something non-physical isn't made of these things and doesn't depend for its existence on these things. God is not physical.

Maybe you and I actually agree on this definition of "physical," and in that case we probably agree on everything! Our only disagreement is in the use of words.

Crude said...

Obviously naturalism "allows for the mental" because naturalists do think something is happening in our brains.

No, it's not obvious. Not until we discuss not only what 'mental' is, but what 'something is happening in our brains' means. If what's happening in our brains is 'such and such a brain pattern is formed, intrinsically having meaning X', that's something happening in our brains. It's also not naturalism - it's some form of Aristotileanism.

You might point out that lots of philosophers use "mental" in the same way you do, but I'm suggesting we should change, because it's confusing.

Well, you're the only one who seems confused here. Have you thought that maybe the problem isn't with 'lots of philosophers' but with you?

When I hear the word "physical," I think of matter and energy as well as the forces of nature, space-time and inertia. Something non-physical isn't made of these things and doesn't depend for its existence on these things. God is not physical.

Great - and what's matter again? What's energy? What are the forces of nature? Do people who believe in the existence of universals and abstract objects believe in 'the spiritual'? If so, the number of naturalists out there has been greatly reduced.

And no, plenty of gods are physical. Some god/God may not be, given a particular understanding of physical - others damn well will be.

Maybe you and I actually agree on this definition of "physical," and in that case we probably agree on everything!

You hardly gave one. 'Matter' for the Aristotilean is vastly different than 'Matter' for the Cartesian or what used to be known as materialism. Which in turn is pretty different from the 'matter' of the panpsychist, or the strong emergentist, or the neutral monist, or otherwise.

The opposite of material is not 'spiritual', thank you.

John Moore said...

You know what matter and energy are, at least at a practical level. If you want to go into deep cosmology, then nobody knows. It's a waste of time.

The interesting part of my definition is where I said something non-physical "doesn't depend for its existence on these things." This would be a good discussion to have.

If you think I'm the only one confused, then I'll bow out. No point in communicating if I'm the only one.

Crude said...

You know what matter and energy are, at least at a practical level. If you want to go into deep cosmology, then nobody knows. It's a waste of time.

No, in this context it's a metaphysical question. Yes, no one knows with rapt certainty - such is philosophy. But there are different schools of thought, and it's those schools of thought that draw the lines of distinction.

It's not like you can go 'matter is, you know - whatever that stuff is over there!' and get very far. What 'that stuff over there' is is part of the dispute.

The interesting part of my definition is where I said something non-physical "doesn't depend for its existence on these things." This would be a good discussion to have.

It's not going to be a good discussion unless we define what we mean by the key terms.

No point in communicating if I'm the only one.

Why not try to learn what you seem to be missing or misunderstanding? Or was the whole point to fight for Team Naturalism to begin with, without even really understanding the actual philosophical and metaphysical concepts under discussion?

John Moore said...

This is me trying to understand. It's not my native language - sorry. I'm not fighting for anything.

I just had this idea that Platonic forms depend for their existence on space-time, for example.

In this blog, you guys are pretty deep, so it's hard for newcomers to join in. I don't mean to intrude, but maybe it's good to have a fresh voice now and then. Actually, I've been lurking for a year or so. I'm not stupid, just different.

B. Prokop said...

I remember a conversation we were having on this website several months (years?) ago, in which we were discussing quantum mechanics. I posed a question which I now know to have been based on some entirely erroneous conceptions I then had about sub-atomic particles. I asked, "When we get down to fundamental particles (those which cannot be further divided into yet smaller entities), where is the information encoded that allows such to act in one way and not in another? If there is no sub-structure to these particles, then there is no place to store this information."

Well... I took my question to some honest-to-God real life physicists over at Johns Hopkins, and they patiently explained to me that I had it all backwards. When we get down to fundamental particles, it appears that "information" is all that we are really dealing with. What we commonly think of as "matter" doesn't even exist at that level - it's all information.

And if information ain't non-material, then I guess I don't know what is!

Heuristics said...

B. Prokop:

"And if information ain't non-material, then I guess I don't know what is!"

The old aristotelian division of things into form and matter strikes again! Information.... in-form-ation.

B. Prokop said...

"The old [A]ristotelian division of things into form and matter strikes again!"

I guess so.

Dan Gillson said...

Believe me when I say that I generally sympathize with anti-naturalist sentiments. To invoke Sellars, I think that the manifest image of the world logically precedes the scientific image of the world, but here is where my sympathies end. Unlike anti-naturalists, I don't think that the logical foundations for the scientific image, which the manifest image provides, are ontological (as someone like Martin does); I think that they are epistemological. (Basically, I scale down Martin's claim that the methodology of the sciences assumes the ontology of Aristotle; what I think the methodology of the sciences assume is a sophisticated, methodological empiricism.) When it comes to causes and their effects, the account which we provide for them implicitly include the relation in which we stand to them. Vis-à-vis the manifest image of the world, causes and effects are rational, because rational agents can provide reasons for causes and effects.

Getting on to the AfR, one of my problems with it is that it tries to account for too much. In my view, in order to account for the rationality of causes and effects, all we need to do is account for the rationality of agents who stand in relation to them. (I have sort of articulated my version of naturalism, which tries to accommodate the way that subjectivity partly determines what's real.) What the AfR wants is for the causes themselves to be rational, thereby bestowing upon them the status of a truncated persons. (Insofar as causes manifest intent and purpose, they can be said to be persons, sort of.) I'm going to blaze through a bunch of argument to say that I have problem seeing nature expressing agency, insofar as seeing such things is a reflection of ourselves. I see a problem with the way the AfR animizes nature, in order to explain the rationality of causes and effects.

Dan Gillson said...

Welcome, John Moore. Don't worry about not knowing the lingo; it isn't necessary to having an informed opinion. (Some commentators here think that it is, but I disagree with them.) I'm glad that you have finally decided to join in.

Dan Gillson said...

Ugh ... I should have added a "no" before "problem" in the penultimate sentence of my first comment. It should read "I have [no] problem seeing nature expressing agency."

ingx24 said...

Dan,

I don't think the AFR is necessarily trying to establish that the physical world has built-in rationality or teleology. That's one way you can take it, but I take it more as an argument that the mind is not physical: if the physical world doesn't have built-in rationality or teleology, then the mind cannot be physical.

Dan Gillson said...

ing,

The AfR takes for granted the supposed built-in rationality of the world to account for the existence of non-natural minds. The very supposition animizes nature. Even if we give nature the status of a truncated person, we are, by all accounts, making a dubious metaphysical claim. (I understand why this argument would appeal to theists, but then why not just appeal to God to explain non-natural minds? Why this appeal to causation?)

ingx24 said...

Dan,

I'm not sure which version of the AFR you're talking about, but the one I endorse only goes as far as substance dualism - I don't think it entails a theistic conclusion or even the conclusion that nature as a whole is "rational". It just entails that rational inquiry presupposes that our minds are not subject to the laws of physics.

Dan Gillson said...

ing,

It would seem to me that in positing the existence of mental substance, a substance out of which we get rational causation, you are taking for granted the existence of a rational, animistic force that causes the existence of minds. That's my take on it, anyways. Perhaps you can explain to me why why that isn't the case.

ingx24 said...


It would seem to me that in positing the existence of mental substance, a substance out of which we get rational causation, you are taking for granted the existence of a rational, animistic force that causes the existence of minds. That's my take on it, anyways. Perhaps you can explain to me why why that isn't the case.


I think this is the biggest problem for substance dualism: explaining how and why some physical substances are associated with minds. I think that substance dualism offers strong inductive support for theism because of this, although I'm very wary of invoking theistic explanations for anything given their bad track record. William Hasker appeals to the idea of emergence in this case, but my understanding is that this is a kind of brute-fact emergence with no explanation, so I'm very skeptical of that theory. (Perhaps actually reading Hasker's book will make things more clear to me - I should pick that up sometime.)

Dan Gillson said...

If you'll allow me the freedom to speculate about the organization of your psychology, I'd like to point something out: if you're resisting the strong, inductive evidence for theism that substance dualism entails because theistic explanations have a bad track record, then it sounds to me like you're repressing what you really believe (that, provisionally, god or God exists) to save face. I could be very, very wrong about this, but I was once eighteen, and I felt the pressure to exemplify the beliefs and traits of the people whom I looked up to. Take it from me, though: you don't need anyone's permission to believe what you believe, and quite frankly, there are many intellectually respectable people who believe in God either provisionally or fully, being either deist or Christian. But no matter what you end up believing, you'll always find people who are intellectually respectable, even if their beliefs differ from yours.

(I'm sorry for the sermon. I just felt like it needed to be said.)

ingx24 said...

Dan,

I think you're probably right about that, at least partially. My gut intuition is that theistic explanations in general are unacceptable, mostly because of the ridicule heaped on the ID movement (a movement I was sympathetic to at one point). Another reason is probably that, if I were to be openly theistic, it would destroy the credibility of my arguments for dualism (I think the biggest, and perhaps only, reason substance dualism isn't taken seriously is because most of its most prominent defenders are Christians, giving the impression that dualism is only motivated by religious dogma).

William said...

Dan: "I see a problem with the way the AfR animizes nature, in order to explain the rationality of causes and effects."

Are people (and animals) part of nature? If so, let's restrict rational causes to the rational causes that are due to those things/persons, and the above becomes:

...the way the AfR animizes the nature of animals and humans, in order to explain the rationality of the causes and effects of animal or human actions.

Not a problem to animize animals, is it?

B. Prokop said...

I think this thread needs some lightening up, so here goes:

A logician's wife is having a baby. The doctor immediately hands the newborn to the father. The wife asks, "Is it a boy or a girl?" He answers, "Yes."

Three logicians walk into a bar. The bartender asks, "Do all of you want a drink?" The first logician answers, "I don't know," as does the second. The third answers, "Yes."

Jean-Paul Sarte is sitting at a café, revising his draft of Being and Nothingness. He orders a cup of coffee with no cream. The waitress responds, "I'm sorry, but we're all out of cream. Will no milk do as well?"

Dan Gillson said...

ing,

Your indulging in an ad hominem fallacy, viz., that the credibility of your arguments depends on the credibility of your personal beliefs. Your arguments for substance dualism stand or fall on their own.

Dan Gillson said...

Geez. "Your" should be "You're". The sun is getting to me.

William said...

The otologist goes to a bar and orders a beer.

After he has drunk the beer, the bartender "Would you like the same again?"

The ontologist replies "I would, but since that's impossible, please give me something very similar."

ingx24 said...

ing,

[You're] indulging in an ad hominem fallacy, viz., that the credibility of your arguments depends on the credibility of your personal beliefs. Your arguments for substance dualism stand or fall on their own.


It's unfortunate, yes, but my understanding is that dualist arguments coming from theists are seen as suspect, as they are seen as purely theologically motivated: "oh, this guy is only a dualist because of his religion and is trying to justify it using bad arguments" or "this guy is just arguing for dualism as part of a Christian apologetic scheme to argue for the existence of God". It's a textbook example of circumstantial ad hominem, but it happens all the time. The book The Soul Hypothesis (probably the single best defense of substance dualism I've ever read) keeps the contributors' religious affiliations secret until the very end, precisely so that atheistically-inclined readers would not dismiss their arguments as theologically-motivated.

B. Prokop said...

Well, thanks for the no Spoiler Alert, xing24!

Martin said...

>precisely so that atheistically-inclined readers would not dismiss their arguments as theologically-motivated.

What a sad state of affairs.

ingx24 said...

Well, thanks for the no Spoiler Alert, [ingx24]!

;)

ingx24 said...

For anyone interested, here is the relevant excerpt from The Soul Hypothesis.

kilo papa said...

"Children, the Son of Man has just witnessed Beyonce' in a bikini.

My rod and my staff are hardeth as a fucking rock!!"

-----Jesus H. Christ, from Uranus

ingx24 said...

I recently got done reading the first 5 chapters of The Conscious Mind (the chapters relevant to the mind-body debate), and I ran across what seems like a *huge* problem for *any* non-reductive theory of the mind. Basically, if zombies are conceivable, then mental properties are explanatorily irrelevant: even states of a mental substance can have their mental qualities abstracted away, leaving only their causal relations. If this is so, then the internal content of a mental state is necessarily epiphenomenal unless it can be reduced to causal relations. In other words, it's analytic functionalism or epiphenomenalism; there are no alternatives.

I'm wondering if Vic or anyone else has encountered this issue before, and if so what can be done about it.

William said...

Chalmers theorizes zombies as beings that think and have intentional mental states but lack the what-it-is-like states of qualia,

He skirts, in my opinion, the issue of whether zombies can have intentional states about qualia, as we can. Instead, he says that they would behave as if they had such states. But why would they do so? Just because it is conceivable, so it is possible that they would do so, according to Chambers, I guess.

So, zombies might not logically behave identically to us, if a behavior in us is dependent on the consequences of an intentional state about qualia, which the zombie would not have.

The stipulation that the zombies act as if they had an intentional state about qualia implies that they would not be acting rationally in that instance. This is where the zombie argument links to the AfR, IMO.

ingx24 said...

Chalmers theorizes zombies as beings that think and have intentional mental states but lack the what-it-is-like states of qualia,

I think that needs to be qualified: Chalmers thinks intentionality can be analyzed in terms of causal relations (or at least did, when he wrote TCM - his views have changed rather dramatically since then, becoming less and less "naturalistic" over the years). So zombies will "think" only in the sense that they behave as if they are thinking: actual thinking (in the common-sense meaning of the term) is essentially conscious.

I re-read William Hasker's paper "How Not To Be A Reductivist", which focuses on Chalmers's pseudo-epiphenomenalism presented in TCM, and it seems like Hasker advocates the idea that mental causes, unlike physical causes, are essentially teleological: an explanation of why a mental state causes something will be unintelligible without invoking that mental state's content, as the mind does not behave according to blind physical laws. I think this is essentially correct: if interactionist dualism is correct, an explanation of (say) why I raise my arm will be unintelligible without invoking the content of my decision to raise my arm (it will simply seem random and uncaused otherwise).

Martin said...

> mental causes, unlike physical causes, are essentially teleological

OK, so here is a problem. You seem to not believe in teleology (as witnessed on your latest blog posts), but you agree that the mind is essentially teleological (as witnessed in your comment here).

So then it seems you would have to agree that teleology must "emerge" from non-teleological processes. But how is that possible? If these non-teleological processes cause teleology, then "causing teleology" is their end, and hence they are teleological after all.

In other words, if they are not teleological, then they cannot "pass it up" and so nothing at a higher level would be teleological. If they can "pass it up", then they are teleological.

ingx24 said...

Martin,

I never said that teleological processes "emerge" from non-teleological processes. I never even implied it - I've always been very clear that I don't believe in the idea of mental properties "emerging" from physical ones. To me, the mind is a separate entity from the body altogether, not a set of emergent properties or emergent behaviors. When did I ever imply otherwise?

Martin said...

Ah, duh, of course. Substance dualism. Sorry. I forgot. :)

I'm so used to emergent dualism.

William said...

" If these non-teleological processes cause teleology, then "causing teleology" is their end, and hence they are teleological after all. "

I wonder how that would work in practice?

Wouldn't that imply backwards-in-time causation, or would this just be a re-classification of the past after things changed?

Martin said...

Hey ingx24,

How come you respond to comments on other people's blogs, but not your own?

ingx24 said...

Hey ingx24,

How come you respond to comments on other people's blogs, but not your own?


The natural law series is going to have its own post responding to the comments. I'm waiting for there to be enough of them for me to do a whole post on it, honestly.

Other than that, I normally do respond to comments on my blog, but some of them are so ridiculous that it would be a waste of time for me to even try to figure out what they're saying (look at my very first couple posts' comments to see what I mean).

Steve Lovell said...

I had a long dialogue with Victor and William Hasker on zombies some years ago. I'm sympathetic to the zombie argument as presented by ingx24, but I'm not sure that the naturalist should be persuaded.

In particular I argued that the naturalist should say that the properties of matter that generate their obviously "natural" causal interactions are the same ones as generate their less obviously natural features of mind. As such when you imagine zombies, you are not imagining creatures just like us except without qualia. You are imagining creatures made of "zombie matter". Hasker agreed that this was the case but still thought it was enough for the argument to go through.

I don't see it that way myself.

ingx24 said...

Steve,

I think what you're describing is what David Chalmers calls "Type-F monism", or Russellian monism, where consciousness is composed of the hidden intrinsic properties of matter. He admits that the zombie argument leaves this option open, and is actually sympathetic with the view himself, but I've argued that it ultimately ends up being a form of epiphenomenalism and thus falls victim to the AFR.

William said...

ingx24:


The part of Chalmer's zombies that always seemed to me hard to conceive was the idea that they would behave as we do with regard to their discussion of things like consciousness.

Could Chalmer's stipulation that the zombies behave exactly as we do (when they don't rationally need to do so) create that behaviourist version of epiphenominalism when we compare them to ourselves?

ingx24 said...

The part of Chalmer's zombies that always seemed to me hard to conceive was the idea that they would behave as we do with regard to their discussion of things like consciousness.

Could Chalmer's stipulation that the zombies behave exactly as we do (when they don't rationally need to do so) create that behaviourist version of epiphenominalism when we compare them to ourselves?


Yeah, that's what I was talking about earlier. It seems like the idea that zombies behave identically to us makes consciousness epiphenomenal regardless of whether causal closure holds. My solution, which I think is William Hasker's solution as well, is to attribute a kind of final causality to mental states where the content of the mental state is what determines the effects it will have: Aristotelians, of course, will want to attribute this kind of final causality to physical entities as well (which I am sympathetic to at the level of basic physics - microphysical entities seem to be "directed toward" behaving in the ways that the laws of physics describes - but I would deny that this has any interesting consequences for ethics or the mind-body problem).

Ilíon said...

Procip: "Well... I took my question to some honest-to-God real life physicists over at Johns Hopkins, and they patiently explained to me that I had it all backwards. When we get down to fundamental particles, it appears that "information" is all that we are really dealing with. What we commonly think of as "matter" doesn't even exist at that level - it's all information."

Just keep in mind, though, that by its very nature, modern science does not deal in truth -- whether any particular scientific statement is or is not actually true cannot be determined scientifically.

For that matter, it wouldn't shock me to learn that whether any particular statement is or is not scientific cannot be determined scientifically.

Ilíon said...

I can imagine square circles ... and they're still a contradiction in terms. Similarly, imagining philosophical zombies doesn't make them logically possible.

ingx24 said...

Ilion,

The fact that a square circle is logically impossible means that you cannot actually conceive of one. Any attempt to do so will ultimately end up conceiving of either square misdescribed as a circle or a circle misdescribed as a square.

Either way, it seems painfully obvious to me that a philosophical zombie is logically possible - you just need a being with the same brain activity as me but with no inner mental states. If materialism is true, we should all be zombies - the fact that we're not disproves materialism.

Dan Gillson said...

I wonder why looking inside settles the question of whether or not this humanoid is a person or a zombie. How would you show someone that its brain activity doesn't correspond to any inner mental states? Would you, brandishing a knife, threaten to cut it open--experiment on it? Could you convince me that cutting open a humanoid-like thing, something whose brain activities doesn't correspond to any inner mental states, in order to prove that this thing isn't human, isn't monstrous? If it protests, if it claims to feel pain, would you deny it its experience, on the basis of it not having inner mental states? "You don't actually feel the pain," you would say, "its an illusion that your brain is creating." If when you plunged your knife in it, it screamed--shrieked--would you yield to it? Would you allow yourself to be fooled by its façade? Or have you already fooled yourself into thinking that the difference between being human and being merely humanoid can be discovered by looking inside?

(This is a recapitulation of a portion of Stanley Cavell's book The Claim of Reason. This portion is sort of about the relationship of science fiction to philosophy, but I thought it was relevant to the discussion of zombies.)

ingx24 said...

Dan,

The whole point is that you *can't* tell whether someone is a zombie by looking inside. If you could, zombies wouldn't be physically identical to conscious people.

Ilíon said...

Ilíon: "I can *imagine* square circles ... and they're still a contradiction in terms. Similarly, imagining philosophical zombies doesn't make them logically possible."

silly, childish fool: "The fact that a square circle is logically impossible means that you cannot actually *conceive* of one. Any attempt to do so will ultimately end up conceiving of either square misdescribed as a circle or a circle misdescribed as a square. ... "

A philosophical zombie is imagined as being "a person/agent that is not a person/agent"; it is thus no more logically possible than is a square circle.

silly, childish fool, who refuses to reason: "Either way, it seems painfully obvious to me that a philosophical zombie is logically possible - you just need a being with the same brain activity as me but with no inner mental states."

What is painfully obvious is that you *will not* reason, you *will not* correct your false beliefs ... for you need to protect God-denial from rational critical evaluation.

It not *merely* that philosophical zombies are proposed as having "the same brain activity as [you] but with no inner mental states"; rather, they are proposed as being indistinguishable -- in form, action, behavious or any other regard -- from persons/agents while simultaneously being mindless.

That is, philosophical zombies are proposed as being utterly indistinguishable by persons/agents from other persons/agents while being not at all persons/agents. But, that seems to be a contradiction in terms -- or, if it isn't quite so low as all that, it is nonetheless tendentious: "I propose that there can exist admittedly mindless entities that you, as a presumably minded entity, cannot ever *identify*, by any means in any amount of time, as being mindless."

Really? Who said I can't distinguish a not-mind from a mind? By what rational principle can there exist a not-mind that no mind can *ever* distinguish as such from both himself and from other minds?

Philosophical zombies are simply a needless elaboration of the (silly and tendentious) Turing Test.


silly, childish fool, who refuses to reason: "If materialism is true, we should all be zombies - the fact that we're not disproves materialism."

... and (Western-style) atheism.

ingx24 said...

Ilion,

You are the most irrational and hypocritical person I've ever had the displeasure of talking to. Despite your dogmatic assertions (without argument) to the contrary, atheism does NOT entail either materialism or the denial that anything at all exists: there is no contradiction in not being a theist while also admitting that non-physical things exist. What bewilders me even more is that, despite the fact that the zombie argument is an argument FOR DUALISM, which you take to entail theism, you accuse me of using it to protect my "God-denial" (nevermind that I'm agnostic, not an atheist) from critical examination. I have absolutely no goddamn clue what your reasoning is here (I assume there was none). Interestingly enough, you seem to be making the *exact same argument* against the inconceivability of zombies as Dennett does, meaning that you're identifying consciousness with abilities and behaviors (leading directly to materialism by inference to the best explanation).

Ilíon said...

Whinging hypocrite: "You are the most irrational and hypocritical person I've ever had the displeasure of talking to."

Pathetic liar, it is *your* choice that I have now taken to pointing out that you are intellectually dishonest, which is to say, that you are a fool.

I *said* that you'd play the hurt ingénue ... "Sniff, sniff! That mean ol' Ilíon is picking on me!"

Steve Lovell said...

Hi ingx24,

I'm not especially well read in terms of Philosophy of Mind, so I don't know the Chalmers typology.

However, my intution, for what it's worth, is that this still is a form of epiphenomalism, so I think we agree.

The difficulty is in spelling that out or explaining what is objectionable about it. Hasker wants to say that naturalism about mind doesn't support various counter-factuals betweeen mental events and either actions or reasons ... but the epiphenomenalism we are imagining seems (to me) to support those counterfactuals (unless we are keeping Zombie-matter in play), so it either doesn't get the 'ephiphenomenalism' label after all, or turns out not to be objectionable despite the label (on Hasker's grounds).

But Hasker always thought I was missing something, and perhaps I was (and still am). Can you help?

Steve Lovell said...

Ilion and ingx24,

I think I agree with both of you and that the two of you are actually on the same side of this debate without realising it.

The point of the "zombie argument" isn't so much that zombies are possible as that naturalism has no principled way to rule out the possibility of zombies, and that their possibility would (for reasons we won't go into here) undermine rationality. As such if zombies are possible on naturalism, then naturalism entails that no view can be rationally held, including naturalism.

So, I don't think ingx24 is actually saying that zombies are possible, he's saying that naturalists ought to say that they are possible (or that if they don't say that, they fall victim to some other branch of the argument).

Hope this helps.

ingx24 said...

Steve,

You're partially right. The point of the zombie argument is that there is no logical contradiction in the idea that there could be a creature physically identical to a normal human being but with no conscious experience at all. Since this is not a logical contradiction, it follows that the facts about consciousness are something over and above the physical facts, and materialism is false. There's more to it than that (there's an extra step needed to jump from conceivability to the ontological conclusion), but that's the basic gist of it. I made a post about this recently where I try to spell this out as clearly as possible and actually use a second thought experiment to drive home the conceivability of zombies.

Ilíon said...

"The point of the zombie argument is that there is no logical contradiction in the idea that there could be a creature physically identical to a normal human being but with no conscious experience at all."

The philosophical zombie isn't merely an (hypothetical) entity that is *simply* "physically identical to a normal human [person] but with no conscious experience at all".

Rather, it is proposed as non-person [i.e. an entity "with no conscious experience at all"] that is indistinguishable, in all physically observable ways, from a (human) person. That is: it gets up in the morning, brushes its teeth, affectionately kisses its wife and children good-bye for the day, reads the morning paper while taking the bus to the office, checks and answers its email, submits its vacation request to the administrative assistant, explains to its boss why the work for the Wickens account isn't complete yet, and so on ad nauseam.

"Since this is not a logical contradiction, it follows that the facts about consciousness are something over and above the physical facts, and materialism is false."

The reason that the philosophical zombie can function as a reductio ad absurdum of atheism/materialism is precisely because the idea *is* a logical contradiction -- you can't generate a reductio ad absurdum for a concept or proposition which isn't already a self-contradiction; the whole point of a reductio is to make plain the contradiction.

ingx24 said...

Ilion,

You do not understand the zombie argument at all. And I am not going to help you understand, because (to use your own words against you) you refuse to understand. You will not reason.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Hi Vic, Saw this new book advertised and thought of you.

If A, Then B: How the World Discovered Logic

http://www.amazon.com/books/dp/0231161050

While logical principles seem timeless, placeless, and eternal, their discovery is a story of personal accidents, political tragedies, and broad social change.

If A, Then B begins with logic's emergence twenty-three centuries ago and tracks its expansion as a discipline ever since.

Edward T. Babinski said...

John Danaher’s Blog Series on Mind-Body Physicalism

Overview:

Part 1: The Argument from Past Explanatory Success

Part 2: Hempel’s Dilemma

Part 3: The Knowledge Argument

Part 4: Absent and Inverted Qualia

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2013/07/08/john-danahers-blog-series-on-mind-body-physicalism/

Edward T. Babinski said...

Prior Prejudices and the Argument from Reason

http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2011/01/prior-prejudices-and-argument-from.html

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, Also just read through these titles on "logic" at amazon.com. Philosophy still seems filled with plenty of questions:

If A, Then B: How the World Discovered Logic by Michael Shenefelt, Heidi White

The Evolution of Logic (The Evolution of Modern Philosophy) by W. D. Hart

An Introduction to Non-Classical Logic: From If to Is (Cambridge Introductions to Philosophy) by Graham Priest

Logical Pluralism by Greg Restall, J. C. Beall

I Am Right You Are Wrong: From This to the New Renaissance: From Rock Logic to Water Logic by Edward De Bono

The Law of Non-Contradiction: New Philosophical Essays by Graham Priest (Editor), et al.

Problems of Knowledge: A Critical Introduction to Epistemology by Michael Williams

Labyrinths of Reason: Paradox, Puzzles, and the Frailty of Knowledge by William Poundstone

Knowledge and Its Limits by Timothy Williamson

The Evolution of Reason: Logic as a Branch of Biology (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Biology) by William S. Cooper

The Roots of Reason: Philosophical Essays on Rationality, Evolution, and Probability by David Papineau

Walking the Tightrope of Reason: The Precarious Life of a Rational Animal by Robert J. Fogelin

Vagueness (Problems of Philosophy) by Timothy Williamson

Not Exactly: In Praise of Vagueness by Kees van Deemter

Vagueness and Degrees of Truth by Nicholas J. J. Smith

Theories of Vagueness (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy) by Rosanna Keefe

Holes and Other Superficialities (Bradford Books) by Roberto Casati

Shadows: Unlocking Their Secrets, from Plato to Our Time by Roberto Casati

The Shadow Club: The Greatest Mystery in the Universe--Shadows--and the Thinkers Who Unlocked Their Secrets by Roberto Casati

Possibilities and Paradox: An Introduction to Modal and Many-Valued Logic by J. C. Beall

A Brief History of the Paradox: Philosophy and the Labyrinths of the Mind by Roy A. Sorensen

Fiction and Metaphysics (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy) by Amie L. Thomasson

Fiction and Fictionalism (New Problems of Philosophy) by R. M. Sainsbury

Theories of Truth: A Critical Introduction by Richard L. Kirkham

New Waves in Truth (New Waves in Philosophy) by Nikolaj J.L.L. Pedersen (Editor), Cory Wright (Editor)

Truth as One and Many by Michael P. Lynch

Disagreement by Richard Feldman, Ted A. Warfield

To view a longer list visit
http://amzn.com/w/3UHOTPR7A2NU0

Bugmethx said...

1) If naturalism is true, then all calculators can be fully explained as the result of irrational (natural) causes.
2) If all calculations that are the result of irrational (natural) causes, then all calculations produced by a calculator, including "2+2 yielding 4", are invalid, and science is impossible.

It's obviously silly to declare that the natural processes underlying a calculator are INCAPABLE of producing correct results. The "argument from reason" is plainly invalid from step 2 onwards.

Ilíon said...

Bugmethx,
It seems that you have grasped neither:
1) the AfR;
2) the underlying theoretical basis of simple arithmetic;
3) what computers actually do, how they actually work.

Ilíon said...

ing(énue)24: "You do not understand the zombie argument at all. And I am not going to help you understand, because (to use your own words against you) you refuse to understand. You will not reason."

Isn't it just so cute when children, or (as in this case) fools, try ... without understanding ... to imitate their elders and/or betters? Of course, I have shoes that are older, and wiser -- for they know to keep their tongues still when they have nothing to say -- than this fool.

It's also mordantly amusing that the fools who like to condemn me for "incivility" so often behave exactly as they falsely accuse me of behaving. For example, the lying fools like to falsely accuse me of imperiousness, falsely claiming that I merely assert, and then condemn anyone who dares to disagree with me, irrespective of why or the manner in which they convey it. Yet this is not how things actually play out. Ever. For, I present reasons to justify what I say.

Ilíon said...

... and it is my "critics" who invariably hand-wave all that away and decree me wrong! Wrong! WRONG! for having to temerity to disagree with what they want to believe (but for which thay can offer little to no reason or justification).

Dan Gillson said...

Ilíon:

I don't think that philosophical zombies are a logical contradiction. On ing's account, a person is thing who is animated by inner mental life, a zombie is a thing that's animated by pure physical force. They maybe physically identical, all the way down to their brain states, but they aren't mentally identical. There's a clear delineation between 'zombies' and 'persons'. Imagining philosophical zombies is nothing like imagining a square circle, which isn't a logical contradiction, in the sense provided by formal logical, but contradictions in terms.

(You'll note the lack of snarking--or "shrieking", as you have it--in this reply.)

Bugmethx said...

Ilíon said...
It seems that you have grasped neither:
1) the AfR;
2) the underlying theoretical basis of simple arithmetic;
3) what computers actually do, how they actually work.


You're funny. Lets start from #3. Not only am I a programmer, I have such in-depth knowledge of how computers work that I am fully capable of building a working computer from scratch using little more than transistors and wire. As for #2, my knowledge of math ranges from being able to build a working calculator from scratch, up to fields of mathematics that you've likely never even heard of. I am such a math geek that I've literally had times I've dreamt in mathematics and woken up having solved problems in my sleep.

That just leaves #1, how well did I understand the Argument From Reason. I think I understood it just fine, but feel free to correct me here. It seems to me that the original post contained a rather concise 4-step formalization of the Argument from reason. We need only address the first two steps here:

1) If naturalism is true, then all thoughts including the thought “naturalism is true,” can be fully explained as the result of irrational causes.
2)If all thoughts that are the result of irrational causes, then all thoughts are invalid, and science is impossible.


I'm not thrilled with the phrasing "irrational" causes, but I won't quibble if he wants to use "irrational" as a synonym for non-intelligent mechanistic natural processes.

As I understand it, step 1 basically says that if naturalism is true then the human brain operates based on nothing more than mechanistic non-intelligent natural processes..... physics and chemistry. And therefore all thoughts are the product of nothing more than mechanistic non-intelligent natural processes.... physics and chemistry. And I agree, step 1 of the argument is perfectly sound logic.

Then we get to step 2, where it makes the claim that "all thoughts that are the result of [mechanistic non-intelligent natural processes]... are invalid". That logic doesn't hold up. I simply substituted "calculator" in place of "brain" and blatantly demonstrated that "mechanistic non-intelligent natural processes" are perfectly capable of correctly processing logic. My calculator example cited a trivial example "2+2 = 4" of valid arithmetic logic processing, but computers have demonstrated the capacity to process virtually all forms of logic short of consciousness, and to produce perfectly valid logical conclusions. In fact there's one particularly notable example of a computer that was given ZERO programming on what the laws of physics are, and connected to an experimental physics apparatus to observe experimental observations. Starting from a completely blank slate the computer created hypotheses of what some of the laws of physics might be, and over time it tested and revised those hypotheses. In less than a day it was able to correctly deduce several laws of physics such as conservation of momentum, Newton's laws of motions, and conservation of energy laws. Laws of physics that humans only deduced a little over 400 years ago. Starting with zero knowledge of physics the computer CORRECTLY and independently deduced those laws in a matter of hours based on nothing more than observations of the world.

Feel free to correct me here, but as I understand it one of the key steps of the Argument From Reason (specifically step 2 as identified in the original blog entry) is that any reasoning and conclusions derived from purely naturalistic-mechanistic-"irrational" processes are inherently invalid. It seems blindingly clear to me that that bald assertion is false, and that any advocate of Argument From Reason is unaware and mistaken about the capability of "irrational" mechanisms to correctly process logic and to generate correct deductions about the world. From step 2 forwards the argument is invalid.

grodrigues said...

@Bugmethx:

"You're funny. Lets start from #3. Not only am I a programmer, I have such in-depth knowledge of how computers work that I am fully capable of building a working computer from scratch using little more than transistors and wire. As for #2, my knowledge of math ranges from being able to build a working calculator from scratch, up to fields of mathematics that you've likely never even heard of. I am such a math geek that I've literally had times I've dreamt in mathematics and woken up having solved problems in my sleep."

And yet, Illion is correct, if not entirely, at least for the most part.

hint: you can have Hennessy and Patterson's volume on Computer Architecture on your shelf, or be able to juggle mathematical abstractions right there with Grothendieck, and still show glaring misunderstandings of what computers do or of what mathematics is about.

Bugmethx said...

grodrigues,
proof by hollow assertion is a persuasive argument indeed.
It's doubly persuasive when you assert "glaring misunderstandings" of computers and mathematics, without managing to identify a single one.

grodrigues said...

@Bugmethx:

"proof by hollow assertion is a persuasive argument indeed."

Ah but before such a knowledgeable person that makes a point of listing all his many accomplishments in the start of his post and yet makes no idea what thinking is (no, computers do not think, or make arguments or logical inferences) what would be the point of making an argument?

Bugmethx said...

grodrigues said...
makes no idea what thinking is

I'm sorry, I thought that I was clear. If you have questions I'll do my best to answer them, and in the absence of a specific question the best I can do is guess at what it is that you need clarified. However I would like to note that "you could not find my point", or "you could not follow my point" are very very different than your previous assertion that I have "glaring misunderstandings" of computers or mathematics.

Ok, I'll try to be more clear. The Naturalistic position is that a there is noting mystical, magical, or spiritual about a conscious mind..... that the mechanism of a conscious mind can be fully explained as he product of natural processes exactly as the mechanism of a computer can be explained as the product of natural processes.

Step 2 of the argument from reason was "If all thoughts that are the result of irrational causes, then all thoughts are invalid".
The logic here is of the form "If all A are B, and all B are C, then all A are C". A = thoughts. B = products of natural causes. C = invalid logic.
This argument implicitly involves the statement "IF all B are C", and the logic is only valid IF all B are indeed C. In this case "if all B are C" equals "if all products of natural causes are invalid logic".

This is where the Argument From Reason falls down. I believe it is indisputed that computers operate based on Natural mechanisms, and as I have indicated computers are perfectly capable of correctly processing logic and generating statements of logic which are valid. If the Natural mechanisms by which computers operate are capable of correctly processing logic and capable of generating valid statements of logic in a computer, then obviously those same Natural processes are equally capable doing the exact same thing in a human brain.

From the original post:
"The argument from reason is a name applied to an argument, or a group of arguments, which attempt to make a case against a naturalistic philosophy by pointing out that such a philosophy undercuts the claim to hold rational beliefs."

If natural processes are entirely capable of correctly processing logic and generating valid statements of logic, then there is absolutely nothing "undercut" in saying that one's own logic and reasoning operate via Natural mechanisms.

The argument [argument from reason] is best-known in the writings of C. S. Lewis, but is considerably older. Some have actually found this line of argumentation as far back as Plato, and a version of it is found in Kant.

Back in the time of Plato and Kant computers were unheard of, and it's entirely understandable that they completely missed the capability of natural processes to support logic and reasoning. In the time of C.S. Lewis computers were a relatively obscure new invention, their capabilities were still being explored, and it's entirely understandable that C.S. Lewis knew little or nothing about them. However today we have computers which generate formal mathematical proofs, computers which capable of recognizing speech and answering questions, and even a computer which went on the TV show Jeopardy answering questions and beating the two biggest human-winners in Jeopardy history. Computers have demonstrated essentially every capability of the human mind short of consciousness. And at this point in time there is no clear reason to expect computers are incapable of implementing consciousness in the future.

ingx24 said...

Bugmethx:

You seem to have fallen victim to the fallacy of reifying abstractions. Rather than take the time to explain this once again, I will copy and paste an explanation I've written before in a blog post:

"In computer science, a causal chain is set up so that, when the first "domino" in the series is hit, the rest are consequently hit, resulting in an output that we interpret as meaningful. We can then add more causal chains to the system so that, depending on what "domino" is initially knocked down, a different causal chain will start, resulting in a different output. We can even add causal chains that do not create any outputs directly at all: rather, they change the state of the system so that other causal chains will proceed differently, resulting in different outputs. For example, if causal chain A has a branching path such that one path is blocked by a switch, we can make it so that activating causal chain B serves to change the position of the switch, forcing causal chain A to proceed down the other path instead and cause a different output as a result. When this setup has been created, we can assign meaning to the inputs and outputs. For example, we can make it so that causal chain B is activated by a button labeled "B", and causal chain A is activated by a button labeled "Has button B been pressed?". The output from the first branch of causal chain A can be labeled "no", while the other can be labeled "yes". Once this is all done, we can say that we have created a computer program that remembers whether or not a button has been pressed, and can tell you whether or not the button has indeed been pressed.

Of course, the computer doesn't literally "remember" whether the button has been pressed, nor does it literally "tell" you whether it has been pressed or not. These are intentional actions, and the intentionality of them is only an abstraction. To see this, let us modify the program: rather than having the button be labeled "B", let us label it "You are now a cow". Rather than "no" or "yes", let us label the outputs "quack" and "moo". And rather than "Has button B been pressed?", let us label the input button "Make an animal noise". We now have a program with the exact same physical structure and causal relations, but with a completely different meaning ascribed to it: rather than remembering whether a button has been pressed and telling you whether it has been pressed when asked, the program now believes it is a duck until the cow button is pressed, and makes the noise of whatever animal it believes it is when the noise button is pressed. There is no ascription of memory or knowledge of a button being pressed in this new program, and there was no ascription of belief or animals in the original program. Again, this meaning is only ascribed: it is an abstraction, and the inputs and outputs are only meaningful insofar as we consider them to be so. Objectively, all that's happening is that certain causal chains are being activated in a pile of metal parts.

The brain, if we assume causal closure, is just a more complicated version of the above program realized in organic tissue rather than metal chips. Objectively, all that's going on is that electrical impulses from the sensory organs start up causal chains of electrical impulses between neurons, and these causal chains will proceed in certain ways depending on the state of the brain at that time, resulting in movements of the body. We can say that the brain is "processing information", or "representing" the environment, or "using" environmental information in the "control" of behavior. But just as in the case of the computer, this is nothing more than an anthropomorphic abstraction."

grodrigues said...

@Bugmethx:

"If the Natural mechanisms by which computers operate are capable of correctly processing logic and capable of generating valid statements of logic in a computer, then obviously those same Natural processes are equally capable doing the exact same thing in a human brain."

Sigh.

You keep saying that computers "are capable of correctly processing logic and capable of generating valid statements of logic in a computer", but this is simply an anthropomorphic fallacy. A computer neither thinks, nor follows deductive rules, nor does arithmetic, etc.

*We*, human beings endowed with a capacity of reason, which involves not only the grasping and formulation of abstract concepts but their "manipulation" qua abstract concepts, encode a wff of a formal language as a certain sequence of bytes, and then encode a deductive rule like modus ponens as a transformation of certain sequences of bytes, and then build machines, commonly called computers, that apply these mechanical transformations to sequences of bytes that we interpret as "apply the deductive rule modus ponens". But the *computer itself* is certainly *NOT* applying modus ponens, just as it is not performing arithmetic when the central CPU reads from the code stream the assembler instruction add r3 r1 r2 and then a cascade of physical processes ensues that has the effect of changing some bits in memory (in the register r3 to be precise) that *we* human beings interpret as addition of 32-bit integers in the 2-complement representation.

This is a fairly elementary *conceptual* distinction; and yet you fail to grasp it. I mean, doesn't it strike you as odd that your purported example of "thinking" and "processing logic" is an artifact *designed* and *constructed* by us, human beings?

Bugmethx said...

grodrigues,
Ok, that clears up for me the difficulty we were having. The things you said are very worthy of further discussion. However first I want to make sure you also understand why we were miscommunicating, and then we we can decide which discussion we want to have.

The original blog post was on the subject of Argument From Reason (AFR). I was specifically addressing AFR. And if you look you'll see step 1 of AFR begins with "If naturalism is true...". So the very first step of AFR is to hypothetically assume that Naturalism is true, to assume that human brains do indeed operate based on on naturalistic principals just like computers do. AFR then takes that hypothetical assumptions and attempts to draw conclusions that would follow from it. Specifically, it attempts to draw a conclusion that If naturalism is true... then no one is justified in believing that naturalism is true, therefore naturalism should be rejected.

As I said, the points you raised are worthy of further discussion. However I was discussing AFR, and absolutely nothing you said applies to the discussion of AFR. The first step of AFR effectively assumes that human brains do operate on naturalistic principals, completely mooting every argument you made. AFR grants me uncontested victory on every argument you made and AFR claims it can still prove "no one is justified in believing that naturalism is true, therefore naturalism should be rejected".

That is why my discussion silently jumped past every issue you just raised. I was discussing AFR, I assumed *we* were discussing AFR. When you thought I had "glaring misunderstandings of computers/mathematics" it was because you and I were engaged in two completely disconnected conversations.

If you want to toss AFR out the window and discuss the points you raised, we can do that. It appears that you're a programmer, and if so that raises potentially interesting avenues of discussion.

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

Bugmthx: "I was specifically addressing AFR. And if you look you'll see step 1 of AFR begins with "If naturalism is true...". So the very first step of AFR is to hypothetically assume that Naturalism is true, to assume that human brains do indeed operate based on on naturalistic principals just like computers do. AFR then takes that hypothetical assumptions and attempts to draw conclusions that would follow from it. Specifically, it attempts to draw a conclusion that If naturalism is true... then no one is justified in believing that naturalism is true, therefore naturalism should be rejected."

Ah!
So, apparently, this fellow seems not only to have hailed to grasp:
1) the AfR;
2) the underlying theoretical basis of simple arithmetic;
3) what computers actually do, how they actually work;
but also:
4) how one goes about building a logically valid 'reductio ad absurdum' or 'proof by contradiction'

Well, of course he fails to grasp these things -- he's a materialist: "So the very first step of AFR is to hypothetically assume ... that human brains do indeed operate based on on naturalistic principals just like computers do."

Look, it's *impossible* to undertake a "rational discussion" -- it's impossible to get at the truth -- with someone who does not desire to get at the truth. It was clear from Mr X's first post that protecting materialism from rational critical scrutiny, rather than getting at the truth, is his priority.

grodrigues said...

@Bugmethx:

"That is why my discussion silently jumped past every issue you just raised. I was discussing AFR, I assumed *we* were discussing AFR. When you thought I had "glaring misunderstandings of computers/mathematics" it was because you and I were engaged in two completely disconnected conversations."

From July 12, 2013 11:22 AM:

"Then we get to step 2, where it makes the claim that "all thoughts that are the result of [mechanistic non-intelligent natural processes]... are invalid". That logic doesn't hold up. I simply substituted "calculator" in place of "brain" and blatantly demonstrated that "mechanistic non-intelligent natural processes" are perfectly capable of correctly processing logic. My calculator example cited a trivial example "2+2 = 4" of valid arithmetic logic processing, but computers have demonstrated the capacity to process virtually all forms of logic short of consciousness, and to produce perfectly valid logical conclusions. In fact there's one particularly notable example of a computer that was given ZERO programming on what the laws of physics are, and connected to an experimental physics apparatus to observe experimental observations. Starting from a completely blank slate the computer created hypotheses of what some of the laws of physics might be, and over time it tested and revised those hypotheses. In less than a day it was able to correctly deduce several laws of physics such as conservation of momentum, Newton's laws of motions, and conservation of energy laws. Laws of physics that humans only deduced a little over 400 years ago. Starting with zero knowledge of physics the computer CORRECTLY and independently deduced those laws in a matter of hours based on nothing more than observations of the world."

You are explicit here. Step 2 does not work because "computers have demonstrated the capacity to process virtually all forms of logic short of consciousness". So if we are having a "disconnected conversation", I am not the sole responsible.

Bugmethx said...

Ilíon, grodrigues is engaging in a reasonable rational discussion. YOU are not. You made an unsubstantiated claim that it is "apparent" to you that I do not grasp AFR, you made an unsubstantiated claim that it is "apparent" to you that I do not grasp a the theoretical basis of arithmetic, you made an unsubstantiated claim that it is "apparent" to you that I do not grasp computers, and you made an unsubstantiated claim that it is "apparent" to you that I do not grasp logical argument.

You have never once identified an error on my part, not an actual error and not even a claimed or imagined error. You have never once attempted to engage in productive discussion. Never once made any effort to pursue mutual understanding and agreement. You have never once made any effort to show me where you think I'm wrong. Never once made any effort to cooperatively determine who is right and why.

So long as you make posts devoid of productive content I am not going to waste my time replying to you, except to the extent it amuses me to mock you.

If you do raise reasonable point in one of you posts, I might reasonably address it if I'm feeling charitable. However at this point it would be foolish to expect anything reasonable or productive with you.

Look, it's *impossible* to undertake a "rational discussion" -- it's impossible to get at the truth -- with someone who does not desire to get at the truth.

Oh, I certainly agree with you there!
It is an utter waste of time, except to the extent that it is entertaining to mock such a person.

You're the one sticking your fingers in your ears and chanting "you're wrong" without presenting anything remotely resembling an argument that I actually am wrong.

he's a materialist: "So the very first step of AFR is to hypothetically assume ... that human brains do indeed operate based on on naturalistic principals just like computers do."

Yo, numbskull. *I* am not the one making the AFR argument, so *I* am not the one presenting an argument with a first step of "let's assume that human brains operate materialistically like computers". *I* am the one arguing AFR is wrong.

Bugmethx said...

grodrigues said...
You are explicit here. Step 2 does not work because "computers have demonstrated the capacity to process virtually all forms of logic short of consciousness". So if we are having a "disconnected conversation", I am not the sole responsible.

I think you misinterpreted that. You quoted it out of context, and probably read it out of context. The entire point was the part you cut off:
"Computers have demonstrated the capacity [] to produce perfectly valid logical conclusions."

That is the heart of the whole issue. Mechanistic means are capable of producing valid results.

Quoting the original blog post's explanation of AFR:
"If naturalism is true [] then one is justified in believing that naturalism is true."

The very heart of that argument comes down to an unsupported and invalid implied claim that it's unreasonable to believe anything produced by mechanistic means.

If brains operate on naturalistic mechanistic principals, you cannot claim it's unreasonable to believe brain-produced-arguments merely for being mechanistically-produced arguments. Mechanistically produced results are perfectly believable. That's like saying it's unreasonable to believe results generated via calculator.

The blog author used the word "irrational" rather than "mechanistic" to try and paint any argument produced by mechanistic means as inherently irrational believe.

Bugmethx said...

ingx24, rather than copy-paste respond to your copy-paste post, I'll merely direct you to everything I wrote to grodrigues. In short, the original blog post presented Argument From Reason and I posted explaining why THAT argument is invalid. You presented a completely unrelated argument. It's an argument worthy of discussion, however it has zero relation to anything I've discussed so far. If you're clear on that, we can either discuss AFR and my argument against it, or we can pursue the issues you raised. (Note: the latter discussion would be much more limited and difficult if you're not a programmer.)

Bugmethx said...

CORRECTION.

Above I said:
Quoting the original blog post's explanation of AFR:
"If naturalism is true [] then one is justified in believing that naturalism is true."


It should have read:
Quoting the original blog post's explanation of AFR:
"If naturalism is true [] then then no one is justified in believing that naturalism is true."

grodrigues said...

@Bugmethx:

"The entire point was the part you cut off:

Computers have demonstrated the capacity [] to produce perfectly valid logical conclusions.

That is the heart of the whole issue. Mechanistic means are capable of producing valid results."

I responded to this; you responded saying we were having a disconnected conversation. I quoted you to the effect that if we were having a disconnected conversation, then I was not the sole responsible. Now you answer by repeating *exactly* the same objection I have already answered to? Can you read? Or you are just pulling my leg?

This was *precisely* what I pointed out is wrong, not wrong as in false, but wrong as in Pauli's "Not even wrong": it is a conceptual mistake, a category error. The point is not whether computers "produce perfectly valid logical conclusions", the point is that outside of human interests, the sentence is *meaningless*.

"If brains operate on naturalistic mechanistic principals, you cannot claim it's unreasonable to believe brain-produced-arguments merely for being mechanistically-produced arguments. Mechanistically produced results are perfectly believable. That's like saying it's unreasonable to believe results generated via calculator."

You are misunderstanding the thrust of argument. The first sentence is indeed a premise of the argument, but the sentence following the comma is the *conclusion* (although it is not quite correctly formulated), an *argued-for* conclusion, ergo you have a contradiction, ergo the premise is false. This is a simple *reductio ad absurdum*. The point of the argument is *NOT* that it is unreasonable to believe in the output spitted by say, a calculator, there is a crucial bit you are missing. And the reason you misunderstand the argument is *exactly* the same reason pointed out in my first post: you fail to grasp a quite elementary distinction.

Ilíon said...

"Now you answer by repeating *exactly* the same objection I have already answered to? Can you read? Or you are just pulling my leg?"

His problem is that he's intellectually dishonest. You're trying the logically impossible: arguing with an intellectually dishonest man.

Bugmethx said...

Lets say the blog author had presented "Argument from Rising". And the argument starts with "If heavier than air things can fly..." and proceeds with the logic that birds must raise their wings and repeatedly flap to raise their body, and planes don't flap therefore they can only go forwards-and-down, to "prove" that airplanes can't fly. I then prove AFR is invalid by pointing out that birds can and do go forwards-and-rise without flapping. Birds can do this utilizing thermals, or by using rising air when wind hits a mountain, or by harnessing different wind velocities at different altitudes. Therefore Argument From Raising is invalid. Birds and planes can rise without flapping.

I did not address aerodynamics, I did not address how propellers or jet engines produce thrust, just as I did not attempt to address the issue of how mechanistic processes can make a mind. I simply demonstrated that Argument From Rising is an invalid "proof" that airplanes can't fly. I didn't prove planes can fly. Whether heavier-than-air things actually can fly is an independent issue.

If someone then comes along and presents an argument directly or indirectly based on the argument "heavier than air things can't fly", that has no applicability to the the original AFR argument (which BEGINS with "If heavier than air things can fly"), and it has no applicability to the argument I made refuting AFR.

AFR here says "(1)If Naturalism is true" and (2) "If all thoughts that are the result of [mechanistic processes]".

Now, correct me if I'm misunderstanding you, but as far as I understand it your argument is directly or indirectly premised on an argument that human thought *is not* and *cannot* be produced by mechanistic processes. Which directly contradicts the starting point of AFR. I'm seeing this exact problem right here:

"The point is not whether computers 'produce perfectly valid logical conclusions', the point is that outside of human interests, the sentence is *meaningless*."

The starting point of AFR is to accept the premise that human thought *is* a product of mechanistic processes. So AFR is directly equating human thought with "mechanistically produced logical conclusions", which obviously places "mechanistically produced logical conclusions" *inside* human interests. You could say you think that makes AFR meaningless, which doesn't really contradict my argument that AFR is invalid.

Latenter said...

Heres a just published rendition of the afr that draws heavily on reppert's: http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-single-best-argument-against.html

Critiques?