Friday, May 27, 2016

Kelly Clark on Irrationality Charges against Atheists

Here.  I am inclined to throw irrationality charges around like manhole covers. They inflame discussion unnecessarily and are harder to prove than the claims you are trying to defend. It's easier to argue "P is true," than to argue "P is true, and every one who believes not-P is guilty of such and such and intellectual failure.

86 comments:

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "I am inclined to throw irrationality charges around like manhole covers."

Of course you are.

VR: "They inflame discussion unnecessarily and are harder to prove than the claims you are trying to defend."

I agree that pointing out someone's irrationality seldom encourages them to correct their thinking. What's the alternative?

Because it seems to me that pointing out someone's irrationality doesn't usually help those afflicted with the irrationality, but it does have an affect on those observing the exchange. Have you thought much about that?

VR: " It's easier to argue "P is true," than to argue "P is true, and every one who believes not-P is guilty of such and such and intellectual failure."

Also, no one ever (as far as I know) makes the second conjunctive argument. I suppose it just seems that way to you.

John Moore said...

But how could an atheist possibly be rational? Most atheists believe the world is a deterministic mechanism, so the human mind works just like a bunch of dominoes that fall down this way and that to make pretty patterns, but it's still all just deterministic mechanism! That can't be rational, can it?

An atheist would have to have some kind of explanation for how reason can still exist in a deterministic (or random) universe. And then, before a Christian accuses an atheist of being irrational, that Christian would have to find out what the atheist explanations are, and to debunk them.

Joe Hinman said...

that's the kind of reasoning that marks all internet argument, that's one big advantage to organized debate, you don't have time for personal BS you have to answer the arguments. at least the kind of organized debate that takes up college debater's week ends.

Joe Hinman said...

I agree that pointing out someone's irrationality seldom encourages them to correct their thinking. What's the alternative?

don't do it. that is something it took me years to learn and unlearn and I still do it, but at least I get the drift, just take the personal accusation off the end of the argument, don't try to indict them "YOU do X." say "X is a mistake."

Cal Metzger said...

Moore: "But how could an atheist possibly be rational?"

Define what you mean by rational.

John Moore said...

That's just it - the Christian definition of rationality seems to assume that rationality requires an immaterial spirit with free will. The Argument from Reason is just assuming what it's trying to prove.

It sounds plausible because an inanimate object can't be rational, right? Reason requires personhood. And how can you be a person without having an immortal soul and free will? So if atheism denies the soul and free will, it must also deny rationality.

As I said above, I'm sure the atheists have a different definition of rationality. Atheists must have an explanation for how personhood still exists without souls or free will. I wonder if my Christian friends know this explanation.

B. Prokop said...

"I wonder if my Christian friends know this explanation."

OK then, what is the atheist explanation for how personhood can exist without souls or free will?

To save confusion, let's go with Aristotle's definition of a soul: "The soul (psyche, ψυχή) is the form, or essence of any living thing; that it is not a distinct substance from the body that it is in. That it is the possession of soul (of a specific kind) that makes an organism an organism at all, and thus that the notion of a body without a soul, or of a soul in the wrong kind of body, is simply unintelligible."

The above is a Wikipedia summation of Aristotle's incredibly lengthy definition in his On the Soul, which you can read at your leisure at the link.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Bilbo said...

Vic, I think you might have inadvertently left the impression that Clark was arguing that atheism was caused by irrational thought processes. He does not. His conclusion:

"Is atheism’s connection with autism the silver bullet that proves once and for all that atheists are irrational? Given the complexities of both the human mind and human culture, it is impossible to tell.

So when a (philosophically reflective) atheist claims herself to be rational because she believes that the arguments for theism are bad and the arguments against theism are good, I suggest we take her at her word.
"

Cal Metzger said...

Moore: "That's just it - the Christian definition of rationality seems to assume that rationality requires an immaterial spirit with free will. The Argument from Reason is just assuming what it's trying to prove."

I agree.

Moore: "It sounds plausible because an inanimate object can't be rational, right?"

A physical explanation for a reasoning being seems to require organic structures. But under the notion of something like an immaterial soul, I see no reason why an inanimate object couldn't be rational. If rationality is based on something other than physical structures, I would expect inanimate objects to be just as rational as animate ones. After all, if rationality is supposed to be impossible based on mechanistic structures, then it makes no sense to me that inanimate objects (that do not have mechanistic structures) would be able to reason. So why don't they, and how do we know that they don't?

Moore: "Reason requires personhood."

Depends on your definition of reason, I suppose. If you assume that only a person can reason, then, well, no surprises, only a person can reason. But if we alter the definition of reason to include, say, purpose-driven behaviors that are enacted in response to the environment, then we'd see that primitive life forms reason, as do self-driving cars.

So, not surprising, all of this discussion hinges on definitions, and something like a motte and bailey routine.

Moore: "And how can you be a person without having an immortal soul and free will?"

If one must have an immortal soul and free will (depending on that definition) to be a person, then it would seem that there are no persons. I would suggest that if your definitions require you to deny the existence of real things for those things for which there is no evidence, you should probably re-evaluate your definitions.

Moore: "So if atheism denies the soul and free will, it must also deny rationality."

Yeah, this kind of claptrap is just a casserole of nonsense. Tautologies, no evidence, and denial of real things. It's all just kind of sad.

Victor Reppert said...

My point about Clark is that he, too avoids irrationality charges.

I have no problem with atheists being rational. I just don't think rationality could emerge in an atheistic universe. But since I don't think the universe is atheistic, so atheists can be rational.

B. Prokop said...

Yikes! I failed to link correctly to Aristotle's On the Soul. Here it is.

B. Prokop said...

"But if we alter the definition of reason to include, say, purpose-driven behaviors that are enacted in response to the environment, then we'd see that primitive life forms reason, as do self-driving cars." (emphasis added)

Halt the presses! Is Cal acceding to the concept of teleology?!?

John Moore said...

Professor Reppert doesn't think rationality could emerge in an atheistic universe. This is the crux of the disagreement for me, because I think rationality is tightly associated with evolution. Evolution is emergence, and Professor Reppert doesn't think rationality can evolve. I think there's no rationality without evolution.

Cal Metzger mentions purpose-driven behaviors, and indeed I think you can't really talk about rationality without goal pursuit. Rationality is what really does help you achieve your goal. Without a goal, there is no rationality.

That's where evolution comes in, because evolution is what gives us our goal, the goal of survival.

This explains why the typical inanimate object isn't rational - because inanimate objects are not pursuing goals. Cal Metzger suggests that self-driving cars exercise reason, and they certainly seem to, but we know that they just follow their programming, which means they are just pursuing their programmers' goals, not their own. After all, the self-driving car does not decide for itself where to drive.

I think a computer could some day be alive and exercise reason, if it is a neural network that evolves by natural selection. Natural selection forces things to pursue their own personal goal of survival, which is where rationality comes in.

Legion of Logic said...

"Rationality is what really does help you achieve your goal. Without a goal, there is no rationality."

Which is why I've always been curious why atheists hold up rationality as a virtue. If the goal is evil, then science and rationality will both serve evil just as much as they will support virtuous behavior.

"Natural selection forces things to pursue their own personal goal of survival, which is where rationality comes in."

And if religious belief provided a survival advantage (a common evolutionary explanation for the emergence of religious belief), does that then make religious belief rational even if it's untrue?

Miguel said...

What is going on here?

Why on earth would you expect inanimate objects to be just as rational as animate ones if reason is non-physical? That makes absolutely no sense.

1- Having something like a brain could be necessary for reasoning, although not sufficient. I'm not defending that, but you could still consider that possibility and accept arguments from reason;

2- More importantly, from the fact that reasoning is an immaterial process it doesn't follow that just about everything has it, be it animated or not. There's just no reason to believe that inanimate beings can make rational inferences. It simply doesn't follow. You don't even need specific positive reasons to hold that such and such inanimate beings *do not* reason; you just don't have any reason to think they do. And in most dualist accounts it would make absolutely no sense to talk of "inanimate beings reasoning" anyway, since a rational soul or form (which is some kind of anima) would make any thinking being "animated".

That just seems really confused to me.

Miguel said...

"Rationality is what really does help you achieve your goal"

That's a bizarre definition. Rationality isn't a pragmatic means to an end, otherwise we could not really talk of invalid argument forms etc in any relevant sense. Are we going way back to the sophists now?

Fallacies help us reach many goals, don't they? Would that mean that someone who's thinking and arguing through fallacies is being perfectly rational? Would that mean that accepting fallacious arguments is what a rational person should do? Of course not. And if you say that fallacies don't actually achieve their goals in arguments (hence why they're fallacies) you can only show that by appealing to *exactly what makes them fallacies*, that is, their forms. The fact that in fallacious reasoning one proposition does not actually entail another by virtue of its content, or that some propositional content is irrelevant or not about a given fact, etc. But these are just the standard facts about reason that the AfR works on.

Ilíon said...

"So when a (philosophically reflective) atheist claims herself to be rational because she ..."

*That* tells you all you need to know about Clark -- either: he's an open leftist, or he's suffering Stockholm Syndrome with respect to leftism ... and will defend (*) many (or even most) leftist assertions as rabidly as an open leftist will.

Look people: when you encounter someone who uses "she" in cases where English grammar demands "he", you have encountered a fool who will be using "xe" and "xir" next year.

(*) "defend", in the sense of shrieking hysterically

Ilíon said...

VR: "I am inclined to throw irrationality charges around like manhole covers."

Perhaps part of that inclination lies in your habit of using sloppy language ... which *may* be indicative of sloppy thinking.

VR: "I have no problem with atheists being rational. I just don't think rationality could emerge in an atheistic universe. But since I don't think the universe is atheistic, so atheists can be rational."

Of course so-called atheists can be rational -- they are, after all, made in the image of God just as every other man is. Or, as Aristotle might put it, they are as possessed of a "rational soul" as any other man.

But that isn't the issue; and for that matter, that isn't even the title question of the foolish [as, see above] person's linked piece.

Of course so-called atheists can be rational -- HOWEVER, they simply *cannot* be rational with respect to God or "God questions", because God-denial *is* irrational, and is the font of *all* irrationality. The shadow of God spooks 'atheists' individually at different points, but soon or late, every single one of them will retreat into irrationality so as to protect her (*) irrational desire that God be not.



(*) do you see what I did there? Stockholmed fools like Kelly J. Clark deliberately use "she" when the language demands "he" -- but only in positive connotations: you will never see a generic murderer ... or plumber ... referred to as "she".

grodrigues said...

@John Moore:

"That's just it - the Christian definition of rationality seems to assume that rationality requires an immaterial spirit with free will. The Argument from Reason is just assuming what it's trying to prove."

The argument assumes no such thing.

Ilíon said...

^ That is a minor illustration of my claim that soon or late, *every* God-denier will retreat into irrationality so as to protect his God-denial from rational critical evaliation.

As GRodrigues says, "The [Argument from Reason] assumes no such thing." Rather, it is a conclusion of the AfR that the existence of "rationality requires an immaterial spirit [who is a] free will".

This is one of the favorite irrational dodges of so-called atheists.

B. Prokop said...

"Rationality is what really does help you achieve your goal. Without a goal, there is no rationality. That's where evolution comes in, because evolution is what gives us our goal, the goal of survival."

Oh, Great God in Heaven! (And I do not take the Lord's name in vain here, but with full intent and good reason.) How many times do we have to hear this nonsense? If we are supposedly "given our goal" by something called evolution, and that goal is survival, then why didn't evolution stop with the cockroach? It is, after all, the most successful organism ever as regards survival. There have been cockroaches around about as far back as there has been multicellular life. And they say that cockroaches are the likeliest things to survive a thermonuclear war or a giant asteroid impact. Yet it achieved this exalted status without the least bit of anything we could call rationality.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "Which is why I've always been curious why atheists hold up rationality as a virtue. If the goal is evil, then science and rationality will both serve evil just as much as they will support virtuous behavior."

Like I've been saying, it all depends on the definition of rationality that one is using. Using Moore's definition, one could expect rationality to consider moral questions as well -- is it rational to blow up the world if my goal is to survive and have children who survive?

Who do you suppose is more rational? A religious fundamentalist who encourages conflict and the end of days so that he can hasten the rapture, or a rational sociopath who enjoys causing human misery? And aren't they one in the same?



Cal Metzger said...

Miguel: "Why on earth would you expect inanimate objects to be just as rational as animate ones if reason is non-physical? That makes absolutely no sense."

What? If reason doesn't emerge from physical structures, and can't be detected, then why shouldn't inanimate objects have the ability to reason? Either reason has physical manifestations, or it doesn't. If it does, then we have no use for a soul. If it doesn't, then we have no way of knowing in what other things souls reside, reasoning in their stony silence.

Miguel: "More importantly, from the fact that reasoning is an immaterial process it doesn't follow that just about everything has it, be it animated or not. There's just no reason to believe that inanimate beings can make rational inferences. It simply doesn't follow. You don't even need specific positive reasons to hold that such and such inanimate beings *do not* reason; you just don't have any reason to think they do."

I agree there's no reason to think that a rock reasons. That's because we have no evidence that those physical structures and events that we observe in reasoning creatures exist in rocks.

I also agree that there's no reason to think that an immaterial thing called "reasoning" exists, and that's because we have no evidence that an immaterial thing called reasoning operates on the physical structures that produce reasoning.

I would think that consistency should require you to agree with both statements above.

Miguel: "And in most dualist accounts it would make absolutely no sense to talk of "inanimate beings reasoning" anyway, since a rational soul or form (which is some kind of anima) would make any thinking being "animated".

So why don't souls animate rocks? And how is it that you know that souls don't reside in rocks?

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "If we are supposedly "given our goal" by something called evolution, and that goal is survival, then why didn't evolution stop with the cockroach?"

If Christians are supposedly rational, and they are capable of reason, then why do so many seem incapable of understanding even the most basic concepts around evolutionary theory?

Legion of Logic said...

"Like I've been saying, it all depends on the definition of rationality that one is using."

I'm unaware of any definition of rationality that is only relevant in virtuous or morally neutral situations.

"Who do you suppose is more rational? A religious fundamentalist who encourages conflict and the end of days so that he can hasten the rapture, or a rational sociopath who enjoys causing human misery? And aren't they one in the same?"

In the case of the former - and let's even assume that his rapture event is utterly baseless beyond being told it was so - his actions are rational in the sense that he is behaving in accordance with his starting assumption. However, since his starting assumption is not based in reality, then it becomes more like logically sound constructs based off of false premises. The logic holds yet is still invalid.

In the case of the latter, the only real irrationality of such a person would be the consequences of causing suffering - getting imprisoned, which would end all pleasure. In that sense, it would be rational not to do it and avoid imprisonment, or run for office and cause all the suffering he wants. Deriving pleasure from causing suffering is not actually irrational in of itself by any definition I know.

Cal Metzger said...

@Legion, not sure what you mean by, "I'm unaware of any definition of rationality that is only relevant in virtuous or morally neutral situations."

Also, agree with the rest of your comment.

Miguel said...

Cal, there is no reason to think that a rock may reason if reasoning is immaterial. From

1) Reasoning is an immaterial process

it doesn't necessarily follow that

2) Any being, be it animate or inanimate, is capable of reasoning

and it also doesn't follow that

3) Inanimate objects are actually reasoning.

That is to say, even if 2 followed from 1 (it doesn't, there is no necessary connection there), we would still not be able to draw 3. There's simply no reason to believe that rocks can or are reasoning if reasoning is an immaterial process. And besides that, even if reasoning is ultimately an immaterial process, it might be that something like a brain is necessary for such a process to actually happen, at least for material beings that have to naurally deal with sense data. Your post simply didn't answer my points.

"I also agree that there's no reason to think that an immaterial thing called "reasoning" exists, and that's because we have no evidence that an immaterial thing called reasoning operates on the physical structures that produce reasoning. I would think that consistency should require you to agree with both statements"

Why? That simply begs the question against my position, Cal. It's not inconsistent for me to deny that statement because contrary to what you say, I DO think we have positive reasons to think that reasoning is an immaterial process. That's thhe whole point of the argument from reason, after all! When I reason, I'm making operations no purely material being could ever make. My reasoning operations cannot be reduced to matter or purely physical causation. I draw conclusions and other statements from propositions by virtue of their propositional content, not simply the firing of neurons. I also know from experience that I think about universal and determinate concepts that are not the same as particular and indeterminate mental images or other physical things. Etc etc.

"How is it that you know souls don't animate rocks?"

In my view "soul" is just a name we give for the form of living beings -- plants, animals, and humans like us. It's the *anima* which separates us from *inanimate* objects. It just so happens that the human soul is capable of carrying on an operation that is completely immaterial and in itself independent of the body, which therefore makes it immortal. Hence it makes no sense to talk of any souls animating rocks, unless you already believe that what you call "rocks" are actually living things.



B. Prokop said...

"Why do so many [Christians] seem incapable of understanding even the most basic concepts around evolutionary theory?"

Ah, that's where you're wrong, Cal.
The problem is... we understand them all too well.

Miguel said...

Since we're discussing arguments from reason, what's the jury on the evolutionary argument against naturalism?

I consider it to be less fundamental and strong than classical formulations that focus on our grasp of universal concepts, or mental causation and logical laws etc., which are very different arguments, but I still find it interesting, and the fact that I have yet to see a good response to it makes me suspect that it deserves more credit.

For those who don't know it, it's (in a very basic summary) the argument that if both evolution and naturalism are true, then we would have no reason to expect our cognitive faculties to be reliable in tracking truth, but only in helping us survive ghrough a reality that we map in a way tat may not directly correspond to what it actually is. Thtat is, if beliefs are selected for their usefulness in helping us survive (through natural selection) instead of truth values, then for every useful true belief there could be a host of different false but still useful beliefs that would do the job and thus be selected. Therefore the probability that we'd have reliable cognitive faculties is low, which could constitute a defeater for pretty much every belief the naturalist might hold, and therefore the evolutionary story would be better understood in non-naturalistic terms.

The standard objection is that true beliefs would be more useful and that natutal selection *does* select for true beliefs. But I don't see how that could be the case when, as I said, we can just come up with any random false-but-useful belief for pretty much every single true belief we may think of.

Thoughts? Maybe Plantinga's argument requires some specific epistemological commitments, but I'm not sure of that.

Legion of Logic said...

When reasoning is being performed, areas of the brain light up. Scientists can observe it happening. And damage to the brain can impair cognitive function.

I think it's a rather long reach to infer that reasoning is immaterial simply because the functioning of the brain is not even close to being fully understood.

Legion of Logic said...

"Since we're discussing arguments from reason, what's the jury on the evolutionary argument against naturalism?"

I believe that philosophical beliefs are abstract equivalents of physical survival situations - figuring out how to sharpen a rock, build a fire, design a trap, etc. It's the ability to take information and process it in a manner that produces useful solutions. Animals do this, too, though to a lesser extent. Humans are able to perform the same process with abstract concepts and subjects on which little concrete information is known, unlike animals. The process is the same, only the material being used is different. And if a process is able to produce a neurological method of manipulating physical information in order to solve problems for survival purposes, I see no reason why that same process could not continue beyond the physical.

I believe what really separates humans from all other animals is not our reasoning, not our memory or our ability to learn, but our imaginaton - the ability to look past what we see and hear and feel, and think about what might be, what should be, what OUGHT. To detect patterns from seemingly unrelated events, to connect premises, to conceive of things that require no physical manifestation in order to react to them.

Of course, as I am neither a psychologist nor a neuroscientist, everything I just said may be completely false. So there is that.

Miguel said...

"I think it's a rather long reach to infer that reasoning is immaterial simply because the functioning of the brain is not even close to being fully understood."

Who's doing that? The data you mentioned is perfectly compatible with the fact that reasoning is immaterial, or, more specifically, that it involves operations that are wholly irreducible to material objecs and physical efficient causes. And it's especially compatible with hylomorphic dualism.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "I think it's a rather long reach to infer that reasoning is immaterial simply because the functioning of the brain is not even close to being fully understood."

I feel like I don't even know you anymore.

Legion of Logic said...

"I feel like I don't even know you anymore."

Dang hackers. Gotta change my password again.

SteveK said...

"That's where evolution comes in, because evolution is what gives us our goal, the goal of survival."

Huh? Prior to any life forms, evolution didn't exist as a force acting on living beings. It only potentially existed. Something else caused evolution to begin to exist and have a goal. That is where you need to look.

Talon said...

On Naturalism, evolution doesn't have a goal, it's a blind material process. Evolution is simply a description of biological change in living populations over time, and natural selection amounts to a kind of purposeless filter, those that survive and reproduce, survive and reproduce, all accidentally, no end or goal required. It happened because it happened, if it hadn't happened as it did, one supposes we wouldn't be here to notice the difference. Talk of "goals" in evolution is superfluous and misleading.

Some Christian schools of thought, such as Thomism (Edward Feser promotes and defends it on his philosophy blog) can accommodate a theistic evolution with purpose, ends and formal, material, final causes etc. but this is not what Dawkins and other Naturalists are promoting, the point is to formulate the process is such a way as to remove intentionality or goals and thus the need for a goal-maker.

Joe Hinman said...

LL:I believe what really separates humans from all other animals is not our reasoning, not our memory or our ability to learn, but our imaginaton - the ability to look past what we see and hear and feel, and think about what might be, what should be, what OUGHT. To detect patterns from seemingly unrelated events, to connect premises, to conceive of things that require no physical manifestation in order to react to them.

I would not venture to say that my dog had no 9maginatiom. One dog faked injury so we wouldn't go on vacation, who taught him that? takes imagination, Another dog by his behavior had an understanding of performance and putting on a show. the first dog put on a show faking.

No offense but I think your description of philosophy is really underrating both philosophy and human thought.

Joe Hinman said...

To save confusion, let's go with Aristotle's definition of a soul: "The soul (psyche, ψυχή) is the form, or essence of any living thing; that it is not a distinct substance from the body that it is in. That it is the possession of soul (of a specific kind) that makes an organism an organism at all, and thus that the notion of a body without a soul, or of a soul in the wrong kind of body, is simply unintelligible

"no form without essence" the Aristotelian slogan. As opposed to the Platonic, form proceeds essence. I don't think any of that answers the issues that animate atheist arguments today. Most of them want a physiological account that loses the phenomena of consciousness by reducing to brain chemistry; although not all of them think that way.

I think as Christians we could agree that mind is produced by brain function in biological organisms, (not in God of course) but doesn't mean it can't live on or that it doesn't have an immaterial aspect. The immaterial is they can't accept even though I think it's harder to grasp than dark matter. That's not real physicalism friendly.

Legion of Logic said...

"One dog faked injury so we wouldn't go on vacation, who taught him that? takes imagination, Another dog by his behavior had an understanding of performance and putting on a show. the first dog put on a show faking."

That's more sophisticated than any dog I've ever had or been around.

Joe Hinman said...

I respond to coumnter apologoist attack o moral argumemt

I debate atheists on my experience arguments for God from my book

Joe Hinman said...

Cal: What? If reason doesn't emerge from physical structures, and can't be detected, then why shouldn't inanimate objects have the ability to reason? Either reason has physical manifestations, or it doesn't. If it does, then we have no use for a soul. If it doesn't, then we have no way of knowing in what other things souls reside, reasoning in their stony silence.

Speaking of atheist irrationality...While it may be that inanimate objects reason and we don[t know it that doesn't not mean that the evidence reason though physical consequences can be taken as proof that reasoning is a wholly physical process. That is argument from sign.

We are warranted in assuming rocks can't reason because see no evidence of it, although it's not proof, we can't prove it but our assumption is warranted.

we can see fruits of reason behavior and awareness in all sorts of human activity barring presidential campaigns!

Joe Hinman said...

"One dog faked injury so we wouldn't go on vacation, who taught him that? takes imagination, Another dog by his behavior had an understanding of performance and putting on a show. the first dog put on a show faking."

That's more sophisticated than any dog I've ever had or been around.

that's nothing you should have the two them go at over Hegel vs Kierkegaard. dialectic this and zient guiest that,. Retrievers love the dialectic.

that second dog, Coon hound "Arnie," my parents would go on the patio and sit in chairs in front of a certain space he would then tear things up, run , do back flips while they laughed and applauded. When they would go in the house he would just lay there. Go back out ,the show's back on. Go back in he's just lying there.

B. Prokop said...

As for animals being capable of imagining things, I offer as evidence cats playing with various objects, treating them as though they were mice or some other prey. That looks like imagination to me.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Miguel said...

As I've stated in my very first post here, having something like a brain may be necessary for reasoning, although not sufficient. This may very well be the case with human beings, as we naturally gather information from the outside world through sense data and internal senses (such as imagination, memory, etc) which, on some views (such as the aristotelean-thomistic one) are wholly material. But the problem for naturalism is that just having a brain is not in itself sufficient for reasoning. And this is not an "assumption" or a conclusion stemming from a "lack of understanding" of how the brain works. If that were the case, McGinn's mysterianism would be an appropriate way to answer the notorious problems reason and consciousness pose to the naturalist/materialist. It is not.

(For those who don't know, mysterianism is, in a nutshell, the position that we simply are not able to explain *how* our brain works, that we may not be evolves enough to even make sense or comprehend how consciousness or reason or other feature X of the human mind works through purely material processes. It is, in one sense, an acknowledgement of the very, very serious problems materialism faces in the philosophy of mind, and some kind of retreat, albeit not as bizarre and extreme as, say, eliminativism is).

Mysterianism is not an appropriate answer because the majority of arguments from reason (and also consciousness, intention, etc) do not arue or conclude that we don't know *how* to explain a feature X, or that it is hard to explain *how* something works. On the contrary, the arguments conclude that it is in principle impossible to account for such things in materialistic terms without fudging categories -- what we have is a logico-conceptual gap, as Chalmers puts it with relation to consciousness, and not a scientific one. We can know that we entertain universal and determinate concepts that by heir very nature (universal and determinate towards meaning) cannot possibly be material (particular and indeterminate), we know we grasp universal concepts that are different from mental images or other particular sense data (even if they're always accompanied by such sense data); we can abstract these universal forms from particular material objects. We can know that from introspection -- and if we don't actually do that, we can't reason at all. We know that our understanding and reasoning is not entirely comparable to a rule-following material operation -- and if it was, then we wouldn't be validly reasoning at all. We know that our determinate thoughgts can be combined by virtue of their meanings to form propositions, and we know that we can abstract new propositions and conclusions from other propositions by virtue of their propositional content, and not simply the physical efficient causes involved in neurons firing (and again if that wasn't the case, we wouldn't be validly reasoning). We also know that we make all these operations while following, or attempting to follow, universal laws of logic that by definition are not reducible to laws of nature concerning efficient and material causes in basic physics. And if that weren't the case, once again we would not be able to validly reason. .

Miguel said...

These are all claims that are established by arguments from reason. They constitute positive reasons to hold that reasoning cannot even in principle be wholly reducible to physical material and efficient causes, to the mere firing of neurons, etc. We do not infer that there is an immaterial soul capable of carrying operations that are not reducible to physicla processes just because we don't fully understand how the brain works; rather, we infer such a thing because we have positive reasons ti believe it's impossible for said operations to be wholly reducible to material and physical processes without radically fudging categories in a way that contradicts experience AND destroys valid reasoning.

And then there's the problem with accepting both naturalism and evolution at the same time that seems to lead to a low probability of our cognitive faculties being reliable. And I'm starting to think that this argument also works.

grodrigues said...

@Legion of Logic:

"I think it's a rather long reach to infer that reasoning is immaterial simply because the functioning of the brain is not even close to being fully understood."

And I think that people who make these types of claims, that boil down to a charge that their opponents are making an argument from ignorance, should just shut their claptrap because it is quite obvious that they do not have the faintest clue about the *actual* arguments being advanced.

One charges the AfR with non-existent circularity, another reduces the arguments to an (obviously invalid) argument from ignorance. Ignorance is bliss and all that, but this is just ridiculous.

Legion of Logic said...

"And I think that people who make these types of claims, that boil down to a charge that their opponents are making an argument from ignorance, should just shut their claptrap because it is quite obvious that they do not have the faintest clue about the *actual* arguments being advanced."

You make bold assertions here - in an unhelpfully aggressive manner, mind you - without providing a single bit of information in this thread that doesn't boil down to "nuh uh", which does not even remotely prove your point. So, if you want me to "shut my claptrap" because I "do not have the faintest clue", why don't you identify the "actual" arguments being made that I have no clue about?

Joe Hinman said...

"I think it's a rather long reach to infer that reasoning is immaterial simply because the functioning of the brain is not even close to being fully understood."

reasoning is not immaterial. It's carried on through an immaterial medium so to speak, although supervenes upon a physical process. My metaphor for it is the brain is the filament in the incandescent bulb and mind is the light shining out.

I say supervenes because unlike the metaphor I don[t see the light going out all the way when the bulb burns out.

grodrigues said...

@Legion of Logic:

"You make bold assertions here - in an unhelpfully aggressive manner, mind you - without providing a single bit of information in this thread that doesn't boil down to "nuh uh", which does not even remotely prove your point. So, if you want me to "shut my claptrap" because I "do not have the faintest clue", why don't you identify the "actual" arguments being made that I have no clue about?"

Your claim, the one I responded to, was and I quote:

"I think it's a rather long reach to infer that reasoning is immaterial simply because the functioning of the brain is not even close to being fully understood."

So your claim is that it is "a rather long reach" that just because we do not know how the brain works, to conclude that reasoning is immaterial. And I add that not only it is "a rather long reach", it is actually an invalid argument. So your claim, as I said, boils down to claiming that people are making an argument from ignorance. The only problem is that no serious philosopher has ever made this godawful argument, and the only thing your claim evinces is ignorance. In fact, has anyone here in this thread made such an argument? Thus, the conclusion that maybe you ought to inform yourself before opening your mouth. Now is that clearer or still too hard for you that I would have to explain yet again?

Legion of Logic said...

Are you in a bad mood, or is this how you treat everyone that doesn't agree with you?

Instead of snark, why don't you identify the ACTUAL argument that I should respond to? Explain it yourself, link to your favorite site, however you would like it to be. Or keep acting like a New Atheist and throw out snark with no substance. Your call.

grodrigues said...

@Legion of Logic:

"Instead of snark, why don't you identify the ACTUAL argument that I should respond to? Explain it yourself, link to your favorite site, however you would like it to be."

The actual arguments you should respond to are the actual arguments that people, or at any rate, serious philosophers, make, not the straw man you identified. Since there is no single such argument, and since it seems clear you know of not a single example, I would not know where to start -- although the argument defended by the host of the blog is as good a place as any.

Legion of Logic said...

Mm. Well when I find time I suppose I will Google it and see if their defense of it is compelling enough that I can't ascribe it to ignorance of neurological function.

Miguel said...

Not to get in any fight here, but I think I already gave a brief exposition here of how the AfR actually works and why they're not arguments from ignorance. So people could try responding to that.

If you want a reading list to better understand the AfR:

-Lewis's revised chapter 3 of "Miracles";

-Reppert's "C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea" and his article on the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology;

-Aquinas's arguments for the immateriality and immortality of the soul in, say the SCG;

-Ed Feser's book "Aquinas", chapter on psychology, for a defense of Aquinas's arguments (also read the whole book if you haven't);

-Searle's Chinese Room argument. Although not officially an "argume from reason", it is related to it in some sense and can help;

-James Francis Ross's article "Immaterial Aspects of Thought" or Ed Feser's article "Kripke, Ross and the Immaterial Aspects of Thought" (available in his book Neo-Scholastic Essays);

-John Haldane's parts in "Atheism and Theism" (by Haldane and Smart). I don't recall the exact parts, but Haldane gives an interesting modern defense of how concepts cannot be accomodated in a naturalistic worldview and cannot be explained by causal theories, and also presents his "First Thinker" argument;

-For a defense of the evolutionary arment against naturalism, read Plantinga's article "Naturalism Defeated".

And more. If I recall, Popper also defended one version of it in his book with John Eccles ("The Self and its Brain"); Hasker also seems to have written some good stuff on it, although I haven't read him. There are many different arguments from reason, and different ways to present them. Universal and determinate concepts as irreducible to matter; basic intentionality; mental causation and the role of propositional content in it; the psychological relevance of logical laws; rule-following paradox and reason; the reliability of our cognitive faculties, etc.

Miguel said...

I suppose I could also recommend the Churchland's works in general. All you have to do is make a moorean shift with eliminativist positions. Instead of "materialism and my bizarre naturalist view of science implies that there is NO reason, NO real semantic content (even this sentence is meaningless, I'm contradicting myself and I don't care, m8), NO truth, none of that. These are all confused concepts of folk psychology that will be replaced by our (cough self-refuting cough) future understanding of completed neuroscience. Since naturalism is true, then it follows that there is no truth, no meaning, no reason (in other words, I can't be right, but who cares? Science!)" just turn it into a modus tollens. There is (and must be if we are to be consistent) truth, meaning, reason, etc., therefore naturalism is false.

So I guess you could read eliminativists, too.

Cal Metzger said...

Miguel: "Not to get in any fight here, but I think I already gave a brief exposition here of how the AfR actually works and why they're not arguments from ignorance."

Could you please copy and paste it? I don't see what you're referring to.

Miguel said...

I did not defend any of the arguments in any depth (space doesn't even allow it, of course), but I briefly exposed some of them. Pasting:

As I've stated in my very first post here, having something like a brain may be necessary for reasoning, although not sufficient. This may very well be the case with human beings, as we naturally gather information from the outside world through sense data and internal senses (such as imagination, memory, etc) which, on some views (such as the aristotelean-thomistic one) are wholly material. But the problem for naturalism is that just having a brain is not in itself sufficient for reasoning. And this is not an "assumption" or a conclusion stemming from a "lack of understanding" of how the brain works. If that were the case, McGinn's mysterianism would be an appropriate way to answer the notorious problems reason and consciousness pose to the naturalist/materialist. It is not.

(For those who don't know, mysterianism is, in a nutshell, the position that we simply are not able to explain *how* our brain works, that we may not be evolves enough to even make sense or comprehend how consciousness or reason or other feature X of the human mind works through purely material processes. It is, in one sense, an acknowledgement of the very, very serious problems materialism faces in the philosophy of mind, and some kind of retreat, albeit not as bizarre and extreme as, say, eliminativism is).

Mysterianism is not an appropriate answer because the majority of arguments from reason (and also consciousness, intention, etc) do not arue or conclude that we don't know *how* to explain a feature X, or that it is hard to explain *how* something works. On the contrary, the arguments conclude that it is in principle impossible to account for such things in materialistic terms without fudging categories -- what we have is a logico-conceptual gap, as Chalmers puts it with relation to consciousness, and not a scientific one. We can know that we entertain universal and determinate concepts that by heir very nature (universal and determinate towards meaning) cannot possibly be material (particular and indeterminate), we know we grasp universal concepts that are different from mental images or other particular sense data (even if they're always accompanied by such sense data); we can abstract these universal forms from particular material objects. We can know that from introspection -- and if we don't actually do that, we can't reason at all. We know that our understanding and reasoning is not entirely comparable to a rule-following material operation -- and if it was, then we wouldn't be validly reasoning at all. We know that our determinate thoughgts can be combined by virtue of their meanings to form propositions, and we know that we can abstract new propositions and conclusions from other propositions by virtue of their propositional content, and not simply the physical efficient causes involved in neurons firing (and again if that wasn't the case, we wouldn't be validly reasoning). We also know that we make all these operations while following, or attempting to follow, universal laws of logic that by definition are not reducible to laws of nature concerning efficient and material causes in basic physics. And if that weren't the case, once again we would not be able to validly reason. .

Cal Metzger said...

So, to all those whom Grodriquez refers to (himself included) on this thread who understand the AFR and are definitely NOT making an argument from ignorance with regard to it, is Miguel's comment above what you consider to be the AFR?

Miguel said...

As I explained in yet another post, there are different arguments from reason. I am particularly fond of versions that emphasize the universal and determinate characteristics of concepts, because these are characteristics that material things cannot possibly have, insofar as everything material is particular and indeterminate. Good modern defenses of this sort of argument can be found in the articles by Ross and Feser that I mentioned. Other arguments from reason that I really like (and that I've mentioned in that post) are the argument from mental causation in virtue of propositional content and the argument from he psychological relevance of logical laws. If we ever make rstional inferences, our thoughts must be caused by other thoughts not merely by physical cause-and-effect relations, but logical ground-and-consequent relations. Thoughts must be caused by other thoughts in virtue of their propositional content (and such content also involves the aforementioned question of universals, and more generally the problem of intentionality in phil. of mind), and in such a way that is in accordance with universal laws of logic that cannot possibly be reduced to physical laws of cause and effect. The host of this blog (Reppert) has ably defended these points (see my reading recommendations).

Those are the arguments I (very briefly) exposed in my previous post. Other arguments from reason would include Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (I mentioned that in another post too), which focuses on the reliability of our cognitive faculties, the argument from the unity of consciousness, and even arguments from free will (free will is necessary for reason; free will is incompatible with materialism; therefore materialism is incompatible with reason). I'd recommend you to read the authors I've mentioned.

That being said, the AfR is not an argument from ignorance, as should be clear by now. None of te arguments I mentioned appeal to some kind of ignorance of neuroscience or argue that it's merely hard to explain such things now. On the contrary, the AfR establishes a logico-conceptual gap (to use Chalmers's expression when he talks about the hard problem of consc), not a scientific one.

Cal Metzger said...

Miguel: "That being said, the AfR is not an argument from ignorance, as should be clear by now. None of te arguments I mentioned appeal to some kind of ignorance of neuroscience or argue that it's merely hard to explain such things now. "

While I wait for the others to confirm that what you've written is the correct understanding of the AFR, is there a syllogism you can write that explicitly lays out the basic premises and argument? I'm still not following what the AFR is supposed to be, let alone whether or not it's even valid, at which point we can look at the premises.

Miguel said...

Sure.

Here's one of Reppert's formulations of arguments from reason against naturalism:

1- If naturalism is true, then there is no fact of the matter as to what someone's thought or statement is about
2- But there are facts about what someone's thought is about (implied by the existence of rational inference)
3- Therefore. naturalism is false.

This is the argument from intentionality as Reppert presents it in his book. Additionally, you could make arguments based on our grasp of universals, and determinate thoughts (like Ross's argument). For instance:

1- The operations of the intellect involve the grasp and manipulation of universals
2- Every physical representation is particular (and not a universal), nothing physical can be a universal; no purely physical process can involve manipulation of universals
3- Therefore, the operations of the intellect are not purely material

1- All formal thinking is determinate
2- No physical process is determinate
3- Therefore, no formal thinking is a physical process

(This one is Ross's basic argument)

Then there's the arguments from mental causation and logical laws. Here's how Reppert presents them jn his book:

1- If naturalism is true, then no event can cause another event in virtue of its propositional content
2- But some events do cause other events in virtue of their propositional content (implied by the existence of rational inference)
3- Therefore naturalism is false

1- If nauralism is true, then logical laws eiher do not exist or are irrelevant to the formation of beliefs
2- But logical laws are relevant to the formation of beliefs (implied...)
3- Therefore, naturalism is false

John Moore said...

I think Miguel sums up many AfR points quite well, although I admit I don't understand all his terminology.

One point I would zero in on is where Miguel says "universal laws of logic" are "by definition are not reducible to laws of nature concerning efficient and material causes in basic physics."

When Miguel says "by definition," it suggests to me he is just assuming this instead of concluding it from arguments. This is an example of why I think the AfR ends up being circular.

Miguel said...

I hope it's clear that the AfR is not an argument from ignorance, The relevant points in the arguments are not contested gaps or current mysteries in neuroscience. Rather, the arguments consider the implications and presuppositions of naturalist and materialistic worldviews (mechanism, no teleology in naure; causal closure of the physical; etc) and show how they are incompatible with things and facts that must actually be the case in order for us to reason and make logically valid arguments and inferences Or, in some versions, they show how thinking involves the grasp of universals which by their very nature cannot be material, or how formal thinking is determinate while no physical process can possibly be determinate, etc. They establish logico-conceptual gaps, not scientific ones; they're philosophical arguments that show how reason cannot even in principle emerge or exist in a naturalist or materialist worldview. They're not based on ignorance of neuroscience and cannot be refuted by "scientific developments" -- the problem is the metaphysics of naturalism.

Moore, that logical laws are not reducible to natural laws concerning physical causation is not something that is merely assumed. It is argued for. If you turn logical laws (which govern rules of thought and necessarily determine that certain propositions follow from others in virtue of their content) into physical laws (which are descriptions of contingent regularities in nature), they'll cease to be logical laws. That your argument or inference is a valid one will be meaningless, it will be just an effect of antecedent contingent physical causes which happened to produce such. And then there's the fact that physical laws are restricted to certain possible worlds, while logical laws apply in all possible worlds (and we can't even make sense of physical laws or any other natural regularities without stuff like the principle of identity and principle of non-contradiction to guide our thoughts... we can't reduce laws of logic to physical laws, it makes no sense). All of this is defended in more depth in different treatments of the AfR.

Ilíon said...

^^ The problem isn't in the various AfR arguments disproving atheism. The problem is that *all* 'atheists' and 'agnostics' are intellectually dishonest with respect to the question of God -- they *will not* acknowledge that the AfR not only shows "theism" to be "intellectually respectable" (many won't admit even that), but that the AfR in fact shows God-denial to be the false view of reality.

John Moore said...

Again, I think you have simply defined logic to be something separate from the laws of nature. On the other hand, why can't logic just be our mental summary of how things always work? The laws of logic are the laws of nature.

You can say nature is contingent while logic is eternal and necessary, but I would again ask why you think logic must be eternal and necessary.

If there are parallel universes, how can you be sure the laws of logic are not different in those universes? The quick answer is that you can't be sure.

The definition of logic has to be part of any philosopher's basic foundational assumptions.

grodrigues said...

@Cal Metzger:

"So, to all those whom Grodriquez refers to (himself included) on this thread"

There is no poster in this thread named Grodriquez. Is he your imaginary friend?

grodrigues said...

@Legion of Logic:

"Well when I find time I suppose I will Google it and see if their defense of it is compelling enough that I can't ascribe it to ignorance of neurological function."

If the argument(s) fail(s) is not because of any "ignorance of neurological function"; to maintain this, is once again, to be ignorant of the *logical structure* of the arguments themselves.

And by the way, at this point there is *no* explanation of human reason in purely physical terms. Period, end of story. Now, you may have reasons to imagine that somewhere in the future such an explanation will be hit upon, maybe based on past successes of science, but as a matter of fact it does not exist at the moment of this writing. One could almost dub it a case of wishful thinking, or naturalism of the gaps, but what really matters, e.g. whether those reasons themselves are any good, is itself another story.

grodrigues said...

"On the other hand, why can't logic just be our mental summary of how things always work? The laws of logic are the laws of nature."

With the caveat that "law" is a misnomer, and a potential source of conceptual error, it is quite obvious why this does not work -- but one would have to have actually read the relevant arguments. But here is one reason: the laws of nature are contingent, the laws of logic are not. If the laws of logic were contingent, there would be no necessities or any entailment relation between propositions (a logical necessity) and deductive reasoning would not be possible. But deductive reasoning is possible, etc. and etc.

The laws of logic are the formal, intelligible aspect of the laws of being, any being, whatever particular nature it has (that is, whatever natural laws it obeys). The laws of logic are the necessary precondition for the intelligibility of the universe. We could not even experience such a universe or know that it exists, were it to exist, for experience, sense experience, already presupposes the unity of being. etc. and etc.

Miguel said...

The point of the argument is that if you reject such a definition (which is incompatible with naturalism, as is argued and you seem to concede) you will also be rejecting something that is vital to reasoning. If you simply redefine the laws of logic into contingent regularities that are reducible to events like, say, a billiard ball hittig another one, then you'll end up with something that will not really be the laws of logic (or, if you still really want to call them that, such "laws" would not imply any necessary entailment relations between propositions in virtue of content, for instance. And therefore such "laws" would not be enough to account for reason). That being the case, if there are no universal laws of logic that determine necessary entailments and govern how propositions proceed from one another in virtue of propositional content or adequate modus ponens or modus tollens forms (for instance), instead of only in virtue of physical events causing one another, then you cannot say that you really draw conclusions from arguments in virtue of logical entailment, ground-and-consequent relations, valid logical forms, etc. And if you don't do that, then obviously you cannot ever make valid inferences.

The very fact that you are contesting that the AfR "assumes what it is supposed to prove" shows how you are already implicitly commited to thinking that arguments should not assume what they are supposed to prove. You're presupposing the universal and necessary character of logical laws, and their psychological relevance, in evaluation of this argument. How else would you evaluate any argument? By sayin that it was caused by neuronal chain A instead of neuronal chain B? And what in the physical structure of neuronal chain B could possibly make the argument conform to universal and necessary rules of entailment, modus ponens etc. that neuronal chain A lacks? Rational inference involves (and should involve) things that cannot even in principle be reduced to physical structures or basic physical causes and effects. Unless you expand the understanding of matter to include teleology, meaning, propositional content, etc., reject the causal closure of basic physics, etc. But if you do such things, you won't be a naturalist anymore. You'll be saying that naturalism is false.

"How can you be sure the laws of logic are not different in those universes?" That makes no sense. How could the law of non-contradiction ever possibly be false or not hold in a parallell universe or any other possible world? Are you implying that we could have such a thing as a square circle or a married bachelor in a different universe? That's not merely improbable, but outright impossible. A square circle is a contradiction, it would be meaningless for it to "exist". How would you even differentiate one world from another if the LNC did not necessarily hold? The laws of logic are universal and necessary, they apply in all possible worlds. Necessary facts hold in all possible worlds, that's not something anyone contests in modal logic.

Ilíon said...

"And by the way, at this point there is *no* explanation of human reason in purely physical terms. Period, end of story. Now, you may have reasons [sic] to imagine that somewhere in the future such an explanation will be hit upon, maybe based on past successes of science [in "explaining" physical events solely in terms of Aristotle's "material causes"], but as a matter of fact it does not exist at the moment of this writing. One could almost dub it a case of wishful thinking, or naturalism of the gaps ..."

... or promissory materialism.

Chris said...

This thread is fleshing out what I find to be so frustrating about "scientific rationalism". This view is neither consistently empirical as the Asian nondualist nor as consistently rational as the classical theist.

I think you might be on to something Ilion- this really does looks like nothing other than the dogmatic rejection of the Absolute (or "promissory materialism).

John Moore said...

Grodrigues said there's no physicalist explanation of human reason "Period, end of story," but I myself have a detailed and well-developed explanation. It all makes perfect sense. What grodrigues means is that there's no such explanation that has yet built up a consensus or has achieved widespread public acceptance.

Do you want to have a physicalist explanation of human reason? See, if you want one, you can probably figure it out for yourself. I guess you think such an explanation is simply impossible, and that's fine. We'll see what happens in the coming years, as artificial intelligence research continues making progress.




Cal Metzger said...

@Miguel, thanks for taking the time to formalize the arguments.

I'll go through some quick objections:

Miguel:
"1- If naturalism is true, then there is no fact of the matter as to what someone's thought or statement is about
2- But there are facts about what someone's thought is about (implied by the existence of rational inference)
3- Therefore. naturalism is false."

I don't think that your first premise is valid. A rational explanation built on naturalism (as I understand it) recognizes that reality is consistent with itself, and proposes that thoughts or statements are abstractions of reality. An abstraction based on reality is 'about' reality, so 1 seems obviously flawed to me.

Miguel:
"1- The operations of the intellect involve the grasp and manipulation of universals
2- Every physical representation is particular (and not a universal), nothing physical can be a universal; no purely physical process can involve manipulation of universals
3- Therefore, the operations of the intellect are not purely material"

I don't see the above as making much of an argument. Are abstractions material? No, but that doesn't mean that an abstraction cannot be derived from a material process.

MIguel:
"1- All formal thinking is determinate
2- No physical process is determinate
3- Therefore, no formal thinking is a physical process"

Same as above.

Miguel:
"1- If naturalism is true, then no event can cause another event in virtue of its propositional content
2- But some events do cause other events in virtue of their propositional content (implied by the existence of rational inference)
3- Therefore naturalism is false"

I don't understand 1 above, or if I do it's obviously false. I suspect that it's not obviously false, but I think 1 has to be really unpacked.

Miguel:
"1- If nauralism is true, then logical laws eiher do not exist or are irrelevant to the formation of beliefs
2- But logical laws are relevant to the formation of beliefs (implied...)
3- Therefore, naturalism is false"

1 is obviously false.

-------

Regarding an argument from ignorance, I'm not even sure what any of the arguments offered above are even supposed to demonstrate. If they're not arguments for some kind of religious belief (and they usually are only offered in relation to religious belief) in a typical argument from ignorance (if we eliminate naturalism (or some similar variety), therefore god!), then what do you think they are they arguments for?


Miguel said...

I have to ask you to develop your objections. As they are right now, they are simply confused and/or unargumentative. How are some of the premises "obviously false"? You have to support such claims.

1- The problem of intentionality is one of the huge, classical problems in philosophy of mind. How exactly are you proposing to solve it? You say that e abstractions based on reality are about reality, but how can they be *about* reality in the sense that my thought about a certain thing is really about it? I suppose you are saying thoughhts are physical. How, then, can something physical be "about" something else, wihout endorsing some teleological view of reality?

2- If thought is a purely material process, then the abstractions involved in it must be reduced to physical representations (think of computation). The problem is that physical things are always particular, and not universal. How could the process of isolating the purely immaterial universal from the concrete particulars be anything material? If it were material, it would just involve the manipulation of particular representations. But my intellect grasps the immaterial, universal concepts themselves, and not simply their particular instantiations in thhe universe. Which is why I am able to differentiate between the universal "circle" and particular representantions of circles. You must elaborate.

3- Again, you have to elaborate. If formal thinking is determinate and physical processes are not determinate, then formal thinking cannot be a physical process. When we do math or make valid logical inferences, we are manipulating determinate concepts. Our intellect grasps the determinate concepts themselves, not just their physical "representations".

4- I think I've written quite a bit on that throughout this thread. But really, if naturalism is true, then how could you say that your thoughts are being caused by other thoughts in virtue of their propositional content? The only causation involved would be that which involves salts and electricity inside your head. Why and how did you reach a certain conclusion? If the level of basic physics is causally closed, as naturalism defends, then ultimately changes in your brain states would just be caused by other brain events in virtue of their physical properties. Your beliefs were caused by non-rational electrical charges.

5- How so? I'd ask you to read my other posts in this thread.

Miguel said...

"What are they arguments for?"

As I mentioned, there's different versions and they can be used to establish different conclusions. They've been defended in different ways by thinkers like Aristotle, Aquinas, Leibniz, Kant, and a host of different 20h century philosophers.

Aquinas defended his version based on universals to prove that the human intellect (the "rational soul" which abstracts immaterial universals from material particulars) was immaterial (and, coupled with another one of his arguments, establishes that the soul is immortal).

Needless to say, the existence of immaterial souls is something interesting and important in itself (especially if immortality is involved), and is at the heart of many issues in the philosophy of mind. It's also important in the philosophy of religion. In relation to theism, it provides an argument for the existence of God based on the existence of the soul (that must be explained, etc. etc., one can develop arguments for theism based on the existence of the soul, as some contemporary philosophers like Swinburne and Moreland have done).

You may also defend some ofher versions and just claim less for it. After all, even if the argument somehow didn't establish such a robust dualism and the existence of the soul, it would still be a refutation of naturalism. That's how Reppert tends to defend it, for instance: as a general argument against metaphysical naturalism. It's also how C. S. Lewis defended it. Even its more modest versions would still be relevant to philosophy of religion in the following ways:

-it raises the epistemic status of theism against naturalism. It can serve as an argument in a case for theism because theism can actually account for reason, instead of atheistic naturalism, since theism is a worldview that has reason as fundamental (along with idealism, for instance). Its conclusion is compatible with theism, but not naturalism.
-if it refutes naturalism, then it also helps raise prior probabilities in arguments from miracles (like the Resurrection, for instance). You don't even have to prove God exists before giving arguments from miracles provided that naturalism is not presupposed (and if it's false, the prior in AfM are higher)
-it helps to show the personal/rational nature of God. After studying cosmological arguments, some people accept the idea that there is a necessary being that created the universe, however, they find it difficult to see how such a being woukd be "intelligent", "personal", or more like the "God of religious believers", etc. There are numerous ways to argue for the personal nature of the First Cause, and the AfR is one of them, because it shows that reason is something fundamental in the universe.

grodrigues said...

@John Moore:

"Grodrigues said there's no physicalist explanation of human reason "Period, end of story," but I myself have a detailed and well-developed explanation. It all makes perfect sense."

What you have, besides delusions of knowledge, is exactly nothing. And since it is quite obvious by the objections you have posed that you do not even know the arguments on the other side that highlight quite precisely what the difficulties here, much less have grasped, refuted them or even handled the difficulties, you have less than nothing.

But let us suppose that I am wrong. Then what the hell are you doing here? Your "discovery" is Nobel-prize worthy, so write those papers, submit them, collect the fame, the money and the chicks.

Cal Metzger said...

Miguel: "I have to ask you to develop your objections. As they are right now, they are simply confused and/or unargumentative. How are some of the premises "obviously false"? You have to support such claims."

I did give explanations for where I saw the problems, not calling them simply "obviously false." Honestly, I really don't care much to argue about the AFR, which seems like one of the most shapeless arguments in the apologist canon. In my experience, discussing the AFR always seems like being told that the reason I can't hang jello to the wall is because I'm not doing it right. Meanwhile, I can't help but notice that those who want to instruct me on jello hanging haven't actually hung any jello on their walls.

I was hoping for a single, simple, explication of the AFR. Honestly, your posts about it (except for the one I most recently responded to, which I thought was much better) mostly read like a kind of word salad.

Miguel: "As I mentioned, there's different versions and they can be used to establish different conclusions. They've been defended in different ways by thinkers like Aristotle, Aquinas, Leibniz, Kant, and a host of different 20h century philosophers. "

A review of millennia of philosophy reveals that some longstanding, perplexing problems are very often a result of approaching the question in the wrong manner. I suspect that the AFR, in as much as it has been around and hasn't been resolved to the satisfaction of some, stems from just that.

Miguel said...

Where did you give such explanations? If you did that, then perhaps I didn't understand them. Which is why I'm asking you to elaborate.

I didn't write a word salad. Granted, some versions of the argument I've defended involve specific concepts I haven't had the time to develop here -- in particular that of universal forms and determinate thinking. The first is to be understood in an aristotelian-thomistic context. The second is based on Ross's argument and his point that we can never find a truly determinate or perfect instantiation of triangularity or other determinate forms we use to reason; he employs Kripke's wittgensteinian skeptical argument of plus and quus to show how material processes cannot really perform addition instead of quaddition, etc. These are technical arguments and I would encourage you to read some of the authors and works I mentioned to understand them better. This is not simply an "apologist thing"; while the arguments have their place in philosophy of religion (as I explained), they also tackle deep (indeed I would say the deepest) issues in philosophy of mind and philosophy of language.

As for the others, like the argument from logical laws and mental causation, I think I (and also otthers here, like rodriguez) have explained them quite well already, considering the combox limits. And I don't really see what your objections are. Considering the causal closure of the physical, and the mind as a purely physical process reducible to the brain, or a process that is supervenient on the brain, it would follow that what really causes mental states would really just be brain states. It would follow that you wouldn't be concluding that "Socrates is mortal" from the classic sylogism in virtue of the meanings of "man", "mortal", "Socrates" and the full propositions, but only in virtue of electrical charges and salts among neurons. The immaterial meaning or propositional content, if it even exists under naturalism, is causally ineffective, and thus propositions and beliefs would be caused not in virtue of what they mean, but in viruue of the mere physical firing of neurons. How, then, can you say that you conclude something "because" of the content or meaning of other propositions? As for logical laws, they are universal and necessary, differing from physical laws (as was explained already); how can you say that the electrical charges in neuronal chain A, which have the same basic physical constitution as the charges in neuronal chain B, somehow allow for relation and accordance with the rules of modus ponens, modus tollens etc. while neuronal chain B doesn't?

What are your objections?

I think you really should care more about the AfR. I'd recommend you to read some of the works I've mentioned. The AfR is thhe main reason for my belief in souls, and in turn is also one of the main reasons for my belief in God. It is a thoughtful argument that comes in many different forms, deals with several important issues and has a prestigious history in philosophy.

Cal Metzger said...

Miguel: "Where did you give such explanations?"

My reply to your first syllogism: "I don't think that your first premise is valid. A rational explanation built on naturalism (as I understand it) recognizes that reality is consistent with itself, and proposes that thoughts or statements are abstractions of reality. An abstraction based on reality is 'about' reality, so 1 seems obviously flawed to me."

Much of what you write seem to reify abstractions. Like I said, I'm just not that interested in debating the AFR -- it just all seems like a pretty confused and meaningless set of arguments to me.

Victor Reppert said...

In addition to religious believers who defend the AFR, there is Thomas Nagel, who uses arguments that are basically the same as the AFR to defend the view that reason is fundamental to the universe, against standard issue naturalism, but thinks that there is a non-theistic alternative to naturalism. The idea that it is based on religious motives (and therefore suspect) is just mistaken.

Legion of Logic said...

Having read the series of logical constructs Miguel was gracious enough to supply, my opinion of the argument really isnt any different.

Of all the apologetic tools I have seen, the Argument from Reason is one of the least compelling to me and thus one I have never bothered using. I have no real motivation to dive in amd shoot it down per se, since it is an apologetic tool and not necessarily a bad one. I just personally remain unimpressed with it.

grodrigues said...

@Miguel:

"What are your objections?"

It is quite obvious that the challengers have no objections. How could they? Honestly, did you expected anything more besides "it just all seems like a pretty confused and meaningless set of arguments to me"? Just a mere labeling based on some vague apprehension, not on any actual knowledge, without a *single* counter-argument being given, or even the slightest indication that they have the faintest clue of what the issues are.

But alas, this is what much (not all) of modern atheism (or "counter-apologists") is: utterly ignorant, desperately vulgar, and quite frankly, just plain *dumb*.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "Having read the series of logical constructs Miguel was gracious enough to supply, my opinion of the argument really isnt any different."

I was thinking you and I should start a blog together.

Miguel said...

Victor,

Jerry Fodor is also another very influential atheist philosopher of mind who seems to hold that materialist attempts to explain reason are very problematic. And as I said, I guess we could count many eliminativists as being in agreement with the fundamental claims of the AFR. They recognize that materialism and a thoroughly naturalist view of physics cannot even in principle deal with things like meaning, truth, semantical content, etc. (even reliable cognitive faculties in some cases); they just take the conclusion that such things should be eliminated as "folk psychology". Of course they end up with a bizarre and self-refuting position, and tend to get a lot of criticism from other philosophers, but I think you could say that they see the problems pointed by arguments from reason -- they just go with the wrong and bizarre conclusion that turns "reason" into purposeless physical firings in the brain with no truh, no semantical content, etc.

Cal,

How exactly are you defining abstractions? Are they material or immaterial? If they're immaterial, are they supervenient on the physical? If they are, is such intentionality built into the physical structures, or are they just akin to subjective perceptions that we apply to the world, ultimately derivig from us? If they're built into the physical structure, how is it that these physical structures carry semantic content in them, without assuming a teleological view of reality with final causes etc.? If somehow they're found in the physical structures hemselves, how is it that numerically different, but materially indistinguishable (or very similar) basic physical structures like electric charges can have different semantical contents from each other? And if the content is supervenient on the physical and all our mental states are caused by brain states, can you really say that you're reaching a certain conclusion on proposition because of their meanings, instead of having the beliefs accidentslly caused by simple physical structures?

Those are a lot of questions that I think you should answer before pressing what you said. If you think it's too much for you to answer, okay, but I'd still recommend you to give more attention to the AFR.

Legion,

If somehow you personally remain unimpressed with the arguments, I at least hope that you now understand that the AFR is not an argument from reason? The arguments are valid and are based on the metaphysical presuppositions of naturalism, not the lack of data from neuroscience. The point of the arguments is precisely that all the possible data neuroscience can ever give us about how brain processes works won't be enough to accomodate reasoning, because reasoning involves features X that cannot simply be found in basic brain structure, function and whatnot -- and therefore there must be more to reasoning than what a purely material neuroscience can show us, even in its completed form. And if somehow these features X do end up showing up in neuroscience, then naturalism will be refuted and we'll have a non-naturalistic neuroscience, because what is defined as "naturalism" is a series of propositions that are incompatible with the features X. So it's not an argument from ignorance,

Miguel said...

is not an argument from ignorance*

Legion of Logic said...

"I was thinking you and I should start a blog together."

Come join us on the blog that argues against itself 90 percent of the time!! That might actually be good marketing.

"If somehow you personally remain unimpressed with the arguments, I at least hope that you now understand that the AFR is not an argument from reason?"

I'm aware of that. However, given that the AfR has been expressed in multiple fashions (or perhaps I should say, there are multiple facets of the argument), there are some forms/facets of the argument that are in fact along the lines of what I was talking about. This is a quote from Tom Gilson, over on the Thinking Christian blog:

"Fourth, there is the problem of how safe it is to conclude that physical laws in physical brains could have any reliable effect of producing truth in response to their causal predecessors. There is no known mechanism whereby mere physical processes could reliably produce truth-related outputs."

And then a bit later:

"Further, it’s really quite a fantastic conjecture to suppose that in its producing humans who could survive in the bush and the caves, it produced a brain capable of non-Euclidean geometry, algebra with imaginary numbers (which turn out to be quite useful in electronics), and a whole huge host of other abstract ideas of which I have no clue, and yet which turn out to be classifiable in their contexts as true or false."

That was the part I was primarily addressing. This reads to me as a "there is no way the brain can do this on a strictly biological basis" type argument, and I disagree.

"Considering the causal closure of the physical, and the mind as a purely physical process reducible to the brain, or a process that is supervenient on the brain, it would follow that what really causes mental states would really just be brain states. It would follow that you wouldn't be concluding that "Socrates is mortal" from the classic sylogism in virtue of the meanings of "man", "mortal", "Socrates" and the full propositions, but only in virtue of electrical charges and salts among neurons."

Or

"The immaterial meaning or propositional content, if it even exists under naturalism, is causally ineffective, and thus propositions and beliefs would be caused not in virtue of what they mean, but in viruue of the mere physical firing of neurons. How, then, can you say that you conclude something "because" of the content or meaning of other propositions?"

To me, I see no categorical difference between the processing of a syllogistic expression in one's brain, and the physical manifestation of that process - electrical charges and salts among neurons. I see no inherent separation between the consideration of a proposition or belief and the firing of neurons that are the physical mechanics of that consideration. My ability to read your posts is dependent upon the firing of neurons that, based upon their firing, enable the processing of light, the recognition of symbols, and the understanding of language. It seems rather likely that the final component of that process - the consideration and acceptance/rejection of the ideas read - is also dependent upon the firing of neurons to an equal extent as the other steps of the process.

Heretofore I considered the AfR privately, so this is the first time I have discussed it with proponents. If I'm missing something or misunderstanding something, please let me know. It's entirely possible that grodrigues' rather sassy interpretation of my thoughts is completely accurate.

C'mon VR, hurry and post something else so Cal and I can argue again.

Legion of Logic said...

For clarity, the first two quotes in my last post were from Tom Gilson at Thinking Christian. The latter two quotes are from Miguel. Sorry for the sloppiness.