Monday, March 31, 2014

A nice AFR discussion from Shameless Popery


The central idea is that if materialism is true, then subjective experience is explanatorily irrelevant. But, if anyone reasons, then the subjective experience is explanatorily relevant. Therefore, materialism is false. 

29 comments:

Legion of Logic said...

This subject has always fascinated me regarding the hoops atheists go through to maintain philosophical naturalism while acting like PN isn't true. If PN is true, then morality is nothing but electrical impulses in the brain and which group of these brains happens to hold the majority of a given population in order to enforce their own "morality" onto others.

If PN is true, then atheists literally have zero justification for mocking theists, since, you know, we can't help it. No free will, after all, means that a combination of genetics and environmental pressure led theists to where they are. They have no choice. Yet atheists feel justified in mocking them? What does that say about atheists?

im-skeptical said...

"If PN is true, then atheists literally have zero justification for mocking theists, since, you know, we can't help it. No free will, after all, means that a combination of genetics and environmental pressure led theists to where they are. They have no choice. Yet atheists feel justified in mocking them? What does that say about atheists?"

False assumptions. False conclusions. Sheer ignorance.

Marcus said...

Wow, what confusion in the the linked piece. To take just one issue, it endorses a version of Plantinga's evolutionary argument against naturalism.

That argument centrally depends on not understanding evolution.

Creatures with the ability to learn and who have accurate models of the world, including the world relationship to it's own bodily actions, simply would not be beat by creatures dependent on dumb luck selections for beliefs which produce life-saving actions totally unconnected to their beliefs.

It's far easier and more efficient for evolution to create the former kind of brain than it would be the latter. The ability to learn is nothing compared to a brain born with an complete set of reflexes for all life contingencies. To use an analogy, it's as if Plantinga and Heschmeyer are suggesting people with accurate maps and a good understanding of navigation would lose treasure hunts to people with inaccurate maps and who count on a lucky guesses to determine their movements.

Legion of Logic said...

Okay. So there is free will under philosophical naturalism, according to you?

Legion of Logic said...

Would also be curious, Skep, on your position regarding morality under philosophical naturalism.

im-skeptical said...

Legion of Logic,

Free will is an illusion. That does not imply that we should not take responsibility for our actions in most cases.

Morality is naturally evolved. It's a survival mechanism.

im-skeptical said...

Since you asked, Heschmeyer's first false assumption: premise 2 of the Dilemma for Materialists.

"There may be an arrow from a physical state of affairs to the mental state of desiring an apple, but there could never be an arrow from that or any other mental state to a physical result."

Chalmers may swallow this false line of reasoning, but he's not a materialist, is he? The problem is that the mental IS physical. Yet the assumption is that the mental is somehow separate from the physical. Obviously, if you're not a materialist, you buy that assumption. But no materialist would buy it. So basically, you're assuming the falsity of materialism in order to make the argument that materialism is absurd.

Typical theistic reasoning.

Glad I could clear that up.

Victor Reppert said...

Chalmers is not a theist and he is a naturalist. But, if the mental is the physical, why when we try to define the physical, we invariably do it by excluding mental properties at the base level.

im-skeptical said...

"Chalmers is not a theist and he is a naturalist."

I'm well aware that Chalmers is an atheist. Nevertheless, he is not a materialist. The theistic reasoning I refer to is Heschmeyer's. It was his argument, and he referred to Chalmers.

"But, if the mental is the physical, why when we try to define the physical, we invariably do it by excluding mental properties at the base level."

That means nothing. There are few things in our experience that we define in terms of the most fundamental physical elements. But they're still physical.

planks length said...

"Free will is an illusion. That does not imply that we should not take responsibility for our actions"

This makes no sense whatsoever. In the absence of free will, there is no such thing as personal responsibility. One might as well blame a rock for falling when you let go of it.

Papalinton said...

The theist's notion that God gave us free will simply doesn't square with the reasoning and apparent logic of the other great Christian theistic pronouncement, the veridicality of prophecy. Theists really need to explain why Biblical prophecies (supposedly there are thousands of fulfilled prophecies) are compatible with free will. If events can be prophesied, along with the omniscience of god who knows everything you do, say or think, even before you do, and can intervene at will at any time, doesn't it mean that they are predetermined? Doesn't it mean that everything is predetermined?
Is there a contradiction here? How do theist's reconcile the philosophy of free will with the determinism of prophecies?

It just seems to me that theism as an explanatory tool is little more than a willy-nilly mash of silliness.

Legion of Logic said...

Free will is an illusion. That does not imply that we should not take responsibility for our actions in most cases.

Wow, have your cake and eat it too. You're saying here that you can hold people responsible, even though you really can't. Unless I completely misunderstand your point.

How do theist's reconcile the philosophy of free will with the determinism of prophecies?

Knowing that someone did something does not invalidate their choice to do so. Knowing that someone is doing something does not invalidate their choice. Knowing that someone is going to do something also does not invalidate it.

It just seems to me that theism as an explanatory tool is little more than a willy-nilly mash of silliness.

Fair enough, but I'm unaware of any philosophical position that isn't at some point. Naturalism and scientism included. Every philosophy rests upon an unprovable and assumed premise.

im-skeptical said...

"Wow, have your cake and eat it too. You're saying here that you can hold people responsible, even though you really can't. Unless I completely misunderstand your point."

I think what you misunderstand is how determinism affects our behavior. You could adopt the attitude that anything goes, and then enjoy your time in prison, or if your brain functions a little better than that, it will likely lead you to conclude that that attitude is not the best way to live.

Marcus said...

"In the absence of free will, there is no such thing as personal responsibility. One might as well blame a rock for falling when you let go of it."

All that is needed for personal responsibility to matter is for agents to know the consequences of their actions and to be able to consider their options (at least to some degree). This does not disappear once we eliminate contra-causal free will as a viable option.

Worse still for this libertarian free will or bust position is making choices is actually dependent on determinism. An ideal reasoner would be completely deterministic and adding indeterminacy to that decision-making process can only produce sub-optimal results.

So even if we assume libertarian free will is a coherent option and real, it can't get us anything worth having in our actual decision-making process.

William said...

Marcus said:

"An ideal reasoner would be completely deterministic and adding indeterminacy to that decision-making process can only produce sub-optimal results."

No. Consider a fly which needs to evade a flycatcher. If the fly evolves as an ideal reasoner, the flycatcher, with its larger bird brain, can simulate the deterministic reasoning of the fly, anticipate,and the ideal reasoner fly gets eaten.

No, INdeterministic agency has likely been much more selected for than ideal reasoning. There needs to be a balance in the game.

Papalinton said...

LOL [Legion of logic]
"Fair enough, but I'm unaware of any philosophical position that isn't at some point. Naturalism and scientism included. Every philosophy rests upon an unprovable and assumed premise. "

There is scientifically-informed philosophy and there is scientifically-uninformed philosophy. Scientifically uninformed philosophy is just .... well, theology. In the Aristotelian sense, even he [Aristotle] understood the nexus between 'physics' as he saw it and his subsequent treatise in metaphysics [though the man himself never coined or used the word 'metaphysics].

Of the competing 'isms', theism and scientism, it is well to appreciate that that which does not ground its metaphysics in the physical world; or, put another way, its metaphysics does not supervene onto physics, such metaphysics is largely rendered rudderless, anchorless, and susceptible to the vagaries of meandering, no matter how logical or reasoned the argument. " A common feature is the requirement that non-physical properties should metaphysically supervene on physical properties, in the sense that any two beings who share all physical properties will necessarily share the same non-physical properties, even though the physical properties which so realize the non-physical ones can be different in different beings. " [Naturalism, Stanford SEP]

A very good no-nonsense overview of naturalism can be found HERE

Despite the concerted efforts of the advocates for theism and theo-philosophy to shoot it down, the concept and philosophy of naturalism, notwithstanding all its thorny and grizzled bits, remains steadfast and muscularly sturdy, a veritable competitor in the culture wars over which is the greater and more epistemologically grounded explanatory tool going forward, the reality of naturalism or the ineffability of unseen and undetectable supernaturalism.

Marcus said...

William,

Consider a fly which needs to evade a flycatcher. If the fly evolves as an ideal reasoner, the flycatcher, with its larger bird brain, can simulate the deterministic reasoning of the fly, anticipate,and the ideal reasoner fly gets eaten.

What you described is not an agent with non-deterministic abilities defeating one that is purely deterministic but a smarter deterministic agent defeating a dumber one.

However, consider how the fly catcher would have simulated the brain of the lesser fly and decided to eat it. It needs to see and predict the fly's movement and use that information to direct its own actions. More basically, it also also needs to now that it needs to feed itself and be able to do so. At what point could indeterminacy help it act on this on this vital survival information? I see none.

INdeterministic agency has likely been much more selected for than ideal reasoning. There needs to be a balance in the game.

I'm not at all suggesting actual ideal reasoners have been selected for by evolution, I'm saying indeterminacy can not be an advantage in making decisions. One could argue pseudo-randomness in behavior may be a good defense mechanism in certain situations but it's definitely not the ideal solution to any problem of decision-making.

As for their needing to be be "balance in the game," may I remind you that 99% of species that have ever existed have gone extinct. The dodo bird doesn't find a way to survive strictly because it would be unsportsmanlike other animals to hunt it to extinction.

im-skeptical said...

William,

"No, INdeterministic agency has likely been much more selected for than ideal reasoning. There needs to be a balance in the game."

1. How can indeterminacy be "selected for". Either things are determinate or they are not. This is not a matter of selection.

2. Nothing is really "selected for". That's not how natural evolution works. A mutation occurs, and it is propagated to subsequent generations, or it isn't. That's it. There is no goal or objective in evolutionary processes. It would be fair to say that certain traits are select for in artificial selection (ie. breeding). In that case, there an agent with a goal who is driving the evolutionary process.

William said...

" Either things are determinate or they are not. "

Either the coin falls heads or it falls tails. Yes, this is determinate, by your view? The issue is predictability by others in the ecosystem.

"Nothing is really "selected for". That's not how natural evolution works. "

Evolution is genetic drift ONLY unless we add natural selection.

Either natural selection "selects for" or it does not.

This is where Jerry Fodor disagreed with Darwinists, and I see you take Fodor's side in that dispute. That's ok, but it's not what Darwin wrote.

William said...

Marcus:

Consider a fly which needs to evade a flycatcher. If the fly evolves as an ideal reasoner, the flycatcher, with its larger bird brain, can simulate the deterministic reasoning of the fly, anticipate,and the ideal reasoner fly gets eaten.

What you described is not an agent with non-deterministic abilities defeating one that is purely deterministic but a smarter deterministic agent defeating a dumber one.

--------------------------------

I left out the dumb but indeterministic fly. This one is not an ideal reasoner about hoe=w to dodge, but incorporates an unpredictable, nonrational element in the direction of its evasion. The ideal fly reasoner always dodges as far from the predator as it can, and the predator simulates and predicts that. The indeterminate extra angle added by the dumber, pseudo-free-willed fly does not dodge as far, but causes the predator to miss 3/4 of the time (and catch the fly faster 1/8 of the time). See my drift now?

im-skeptical said...

William,

You misunderstand the mechanism of natural selection. (The only thing that get selected is survivability of the genome. Traits associated with changes to the genome can enhance or degrade survivability, but the only thing that matters is survival of the genome.)

You misunderstand what Fodor said about "selection for" (Fodor is confused, too. He seems to see some kind of teleology in natural evolution. Dembski is in his camp. I am not.)

You misunderstand my statement about it. (I am very much in the Darwinist camp.)

Marcus said...

William,

"The ideal fly reasoner always dodges as far from the predator as it can, and the predator simulates and predicts that."

No, the ideal fly reasoner dodges to the place where it is least likely to be killed given the information currently available to it. That information can include "When facing a predator enter subroutine 2 which moves down, left, right, and up with 25% probability each. Vary distance traveled from 10 cm to 1500cm with equal probability. Etc." None of this would introduce actual indeterminacy because the inputs, the information the fly has, would directly produce the outputs, where the fly moves even if, at the level of external observation, it doesn't make the same movement every time it sees a predator.

"See my drift now?"

I believe so. But I don't think you understand what I mean by randomness, which is my fault as I didn't define it or determinism, and hence I think you are missing my point.

An event is determinstic if it is caused directly and necessarily by past events and/or timeless forces like gravity. A random event, by contrast, is something totally uncaused by previous temporal events and timeless constants. So, when it comes to an ideal agent that knows exactly how to turn information input A to desired output B adding such indeterminacy can't improve it's decision-making but can hinder it from reaching its goal through a corruption of this reasoning process.

William said...

Marcus:

"A random event, by contrast, is something totally uncaused by previous temporal events and timeless constants."

So in this way you define randomness out of human existence. I understand why you might want to do this. But I do not define it that way, but by predictability.

William said...

im-skeptical: I suggest you re-read the _Origin of Species_ and look for what Darwin says about the genome :-) :-) :-)

Karl Grant said...

William,

I am willing to bet good money that Skeppy has not actually read On the Origin of Species; much less heard of the term Pangenesis.

im-skeptical said...

William,

" I suggest you re-read the _Origin of Species_ and look for what Darwin says about the genome :-) :-) :-)"

I suggest you read what I said and look for what I said about _Origin of Species_ :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

William said...

As Gene Rodenberry was fond of pointing out in Star Trek, in many conflicted situations, the most effective actions may contain non-rational components. That does not make them irrational, just randomly better at times than logic alone can do. Of course, such choices are also apt to fail badly at times. A TV show can avoid showing the failures :).

This also sometimes occurs in computer simulations of competitions between simulated agents: there is a literature on this.

So no, evolution does not push toward an ideal rationality when it comes to a biological agent's actions. Internal human logic is another matter, but selection would not work on that, I think.

Papalinton said...

William
You talk through your hat.
"A TV show can avoid showing the failures"

So does religion on miracles. Miracles are only possible because the countless misses are never recorded or acknowledged against the hits. If one were to attribute a survivor in a plane crash to the intervention of a god as believers are always want to do, then how is it that believers never recognise or acknowledge that that same God permitted the deaths of the other four hundred passengers?

Can anyone see a contradiction here?

William said...

Linton:

I was talking, a bit tangentially, about evolution as it applies to our cognition.

Surely you don't mean to add that you think the survival of the fittest is a miraculous thing to some believers? :)