Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Exchange with Keith Parsons on the mind

KP: Victor,
I would like to resume this conversation after this long gap. I was out of my office for the eclipse (wonderful!) and for the hurricane (horrific!).
The meaning of "physical" I am presuming is simply the physical universe as it is presently understood by fundamental physics. There is nothing in postulating the physical realization of the mental that requires new laws or "emergence" in any mysterious sense. Why should it? Why is thinking in principle any different from any other physical activity? Why can it not be something we do with our brains just as we sing or dance with our physical components? Does a brain have mental properties? No. Just as a larynx does not have musical properties while it is engaged in the act of singing, so brains do not have mental properties when engaged in the act of thinking. The sensation of redness, for instance, is an adverbial property describing how I see something. I see "redly." It is not a property of my brain or the physical components of my brain. Perceiving, redly or otherwise, is something I accomplish with my brain. The redness pertains to the doing, not the doer. The whole point of realization physicalism is that the mental is an accomplishment or performance, just as singing is a performance. The musicality is in the performance, not the hardware that does the performing. A mind is defined functionally as whatever it is that performs mental actions such as thinking, feeling, imagining, etc. For human beings the brain is the mind since it is what performs the mental functions for us.
Frankly, your objections puzzle me. I do not see how they are relevant. You seem to be drawing conclusions not implied by anything I have said or by anything entailed by what I have said. Once again, I cannot help but get the impression that what is operating here is a highly recalcitrant intuition or set of intuitions that I simply reject. I do not see "the mental" as a set of properties mutually excluded by "the physical" any more than than I see "the musical" as being excluded by "the physical." Being musical is something that (some) physical things can do, as is being logical.
Or maybe I am the one badly confused. If so, please be so kind as to point out exactly why and how.


VR: The musicality, I am afraid, is a function of its connection to minds. That is how, in the first place, modern physics avoided the claim that their understanding of the world removed everything interesting from it. Heat is the mean kinetic energy of gases. But that has nothing to do with the feeling of hotness. So what is the feeling of hotness? It is in your mind. A physical description of Sam Cooke's singing of "Wonderful World" doesn't, on the face of things, entail that it sounds a lot better to me than today's gangsta rap, but it does sound a whole lot better.
What makes something singing as opposed to sound? It is the intentions of the singer and the understanding of the listener that makes the difference. It is the same as the economic and the physical.
Consider heat. From the physical side, heat is the mean kinetic energy of gases. But what that tells you nothing about the feeling of heat, which can make you want to stay inside, or fear like virtually nothing else (if you live in the Phoenix area) the breakdown of your air conditioning system. That's not in the physics, because it was "siphoned off" to the mind. Base-level physics leaves out the mental. The sound waves that make up the sound of Sam Cooke's voice are physical, and can be described without any reference to mental states. But my understanding and appreciation of the music requires a mind, and part of my appreciation involves my appreciation of the minds of the singer and the songwriter.
Physical phenomena in the world can be of two types. One type of physical phenomenon are mind-independent realities, things that would be the way they are whether or not there minds reacting with them. They have certain characteristics which are described by basic physics, or by "grouping" A planet's going around the sun is not mind-dependent. But my computer program that is running a chess program isn't playing chess in and of itself, it is playing chess relative to programmers and players who recognize it as such. I happen to have the Komodo chess program running on my computer as we speak. It is a far better chessplayer than I am. But its strength as a player exists as an extension of the playing and programming abilities of human beings with minds. Its output, in and of itself, is not playing chess in and of itself. When I play chess, I play chess from my own perspective. Komodo doesn't play chess from its own perspective. When it clobbers me, it does so from my perspective, not its.
Adverbs modify verbs, and verbs describe what persons, places, and things do. And what physical things do has to be in accordance with physical, not logical, law.
KP: I do not see "the mental" as a set of properties mutually excluded by "the physical" any more than than I see "the musical" as being excluded by "the physical." Being musical is something that (some) physical things can do, as is being logical.
VR: The musical is mind-dependent, and a purely physicalist world, there would be no music, even if the sound waves identical to those coming over my radio when "Wonderful World" comes on.
To be logical is not merely to think in accordance with reason, it is to think "from reason." Evidence and reason have to actually make a difference in what we think. Otherwise, we are not reasoning. The brain states not only have to "realize" a rational process, they have to be what they are because of the relevant logical relationships. Those logical relationships have to make a difference. But since logical relationships do not have particular locations in space and time, and since they make a difference in what we think, the causal closure of the physical has to be thrown out, or else the physical is mental at the basic level. This is what Nagel has been arguing, and orthodox naturalists have been reading him out of their camp for so arguing.

88 comments:

Hal said...

Victor,
That is how, in the first place, modern physics avoided the claim that their understanding of the world removed everything interesting from it.

Could you explain what you meant by this sentence?


Heat is the mean kinetic energy of gases. But that has nothing to do with the feeling of hotness.

They are two different descriptions of what happens when you are exposed to something warm. The mean kinetic energy will increase as you feel an increase in warmth. Neither negates the truth of the other.

So what is the feeling of hotness? It is in your mind.

I don't believe so. If I touch a warm plate I feel the warmth in my hand. It is not in my mind. When talking about sensations we would normally say "It's in your mind" if we thought the person was hallucinating or imagining it.

When someone exclaims how hot they feel we don't tell them to go cool their mind.

The feeling of hotness is one of many sensations we can have. That is because we are sentient beings. There are many other types of sentient beings. Some of them do not have minds at all, but they can still experience sensations.

Hal said...

To be logical is not merely to think in accordance with reason, it is to think "from reason." Evidence and reason have to actually make a difference in what we think. Otherwise, we are not reasoning. The brain states not only have to "realize" a rational process, they have to be what they are because of the relevant logical relationships. Those logical relationships have to make a difference. But since logical relationships do not have particular locations in space and time, and since they make a difference in what we think, the causal closure of the physical has to be thrown out, or else the physical is mental at the basic level. This is what Nagel has been arguing, and orthodox naturalists have been reading him out of their camp for so arguing.

This looks confusing to me. I believe some false assumptions are being made that are leading to wrong conclusions. One being the assumption that logical relationships are causally efficacious.
Afraid I don't have time to try and unpack it now.
Just want to add that one need not be an "orthodox naturalist" in order to reject Nagel's arguments.

Joe Hinman said...

I have not seen anyone rejecting Negal for any reasons but that he doesn't go along with the party line

speaking of mind, I present an argumemt om my blog about mind, ontological idealism The world as a thought in the mid of God.

Hal said...

Joe, what is this 'party line'?

Hal said...

"Adverbs modify verbs, and verbs describe what persons, places, and things do. And what physical things do has to be in accordance with physical, not logical, law."

Why can't a physical substance such as ourselves act in accordance with physical and logical laws at the same time? When a chess player moves a piece of chess for a reason that doesn't entail the violation of physical laws.

Why should acting in accordance with physical laws somehow prevent one from acting in accordance with laws of logic?

Victor Reppert said...

Because, we have to ask which system is really in charge. If it is the logical system, then it should prevail every time. If it is physics, physics should prevail every time. If physicalism is true, physics prevails every time, and logic only when physics permits.

Hal said...

I don’t share your assumption that we have two different systems vying for control. But granting that, why would you assume one is always prevailing over the other? After all, don’t people sometimes act rationally and at other times irrationally?

From my perspective, we are living substances with the capacity to reason and act rationally based on our reasoning. Since we are living substances we change over time. As infants and young children we have little if any reasoning capacity. Normally as we mature we learn to speak and express our thoughts. Our capacity to reason grows. We can even learn how to improve our reasoning abilities by studying logic. We can also weaken them by doing things like consuming too much alcohol. As with all living substances our capacities may deteriorate due to injury or aging.

I guess, to put it in your terms, physics gives us the capacity to reason. It can also take away that capacity.

Nick said...

"Joe, what is this 'party line'?"...It's in the subtitle of Nagel's book: "the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature".

Hal said...

Nick,

As John Dupré points out in his NDPR review of this book, Nagel's target no longer is the "orthodox" view of naturalists.

Hal said...

Nick,
Just to follow up, here is a quote from the linked review:

I found this book frustrating and unconvincing. Much of the frustration derives from a difficulty in knowing what exactly its target is and, when this is clear, why. The subtitle offers us materialism and the neo-Darwinian conception of nature. Starting with the latter, I would have doubted that, except perhaps in the hands of Daniel Dennett, neo-Darwinism is as central to a conception of nature as the title suggests. Darwinism, neo- or otherwise, is an account of the relations between living things past and present and of their ultimate origins, full of fascinating problems in detail, but beyond any serious doubt in general outline.

Hugo Pelland said...

Victor said:
"And what physical things do has to be in accordance with physical, not logical, law."
This assumes that logical laws exist, regardless of the physical.

"The musical is mind-dependent, and a purely physicalist world, there would be no music, even if the sound waves identical to those coming over my radio when "Wonderful World" comes on."
This assumes that minds cannot even possibly exist in a purely physical world.

"But since logical relationships do not have particular locations in space and time, and since they make a difference in what we think, the causal closure of the physical has to be thrown out, or else the physical is mental at the basic level."
This assumes that the mental exists, regardless of the physical. It

Therefore, all 3 examples assumes the conclusion you are supporting: the mental exists regardless of the physical. But this is merely assumed, never justified.

Hal said...

Hugo,
I don't see how those 3 points undercut Victor's philosophical claims.
Do you agree that the mental, logical laws and the mind exist?

If so, the question comes down to what it means to say these exist. I suspect you, Victor and myself would have differences over what it means. In other words, we would have different conceptions of what the mind or the mental is.

Based on those differing conceptions there is likely to be a different understanding regarding the relationship of the mind or mental or logical laws to the physical.

Hugo Pelland said...

Hi Hal,

Yes I agree the mental, logical laws and the mind exist, but only because the physical exist first. I cannot talk about them without having something physical to refer to. That's how I see existence as meaningful.

Victor disagrees with this approach, as we have discuss a few times before, and assumes the mental exists independently of the physical, regardless of the physical existing. This leads to critiques of physicalism that I see as invalid, as they simply assume the mental to exist first and then conclude that the physical cannot explain the mental.

But that's circular in my opinion, since it's obvious that the mental cannot be explained by the physical if you start by assuming the mental exists no matter what. It's not even possible for the physical to explain the mental; the mental just is, and any physical objects can do nothing more than try to be similar to the mental.

In other words, I am always trying to explain that I see the mental/logic/minds/etc... not as physical things, but as dependent on the physical to make any sense whatsoever. It seems that the critiques of such position always try to show that the physical cannot explain them, but that's besides the point, as they are emerging from the fact that the physical exist. They exist only because the physical exist first. I assume the physical and derive everything else from it. Nothing is inconsistent as far as I can tell; everything can be explained, from logic to math to feelings and emotions, etc... so I think this is the view of 'Existence' that is most likely correct, and renders purely non-physical existence meaningless.

I am not great at explaining this so I am happy to try to clarify, and it will be interesting to hear your views as well!

Joe Hinman said...

Hal said...
Joe, what is this 'party line'?

atheists seem convened that they have to deny consciousnesses,at least the ones I find to argue with to this point have. their party line is reductionist and physicalist.

Joe Hinman said...

As John Dupré points out in his NDPR review of this book, Nagel's target no longer is the "orthodox" view of naturalists.

someone needs to tell the new atheists that.

Joe Hinman said...


Blogger Hugo Pelland said...
Hi Hal,

Yes I agree the mental, logical laws and the mind exist, but only because the physical exist first. I cannot talk about them without having something physical to refer to. That's how I see existence as meaningful.

that is not proof of anything, that's merely an existential observation has nothing to do with the truth of the universe,

Victor disagrees with this approach, as we have discuss a few times before, and assumes the mental exists independently of the physical, regardless of the physical existing. This leads to critiques of physicalism that I see as invalid, as they simply assume the mental to exist first and then conclude that the physical cannot explain the mental.


you are merely gainsaying the argument, the argument intrudes a valid reason to think otherwise you have not answered that. just saying you think differently does not do the trick,

But that's circular in my opinion, since it's obvious that the mental cannot be explained by the physical if you start by assuming the mental exists no matter what. It's not even possible for the physical to explain the mental; the mental just is, and any physical objects can do nothing more than try to be similar to the mental.


An idea is not made circular merely because it challenges your presupposition.

In other words, I am always trying to explain that I see the mental/logic/minds/etc... not as physical things, but as dependent on the physical to make any sense whatsoever. It seems that the critiques of such position always try to show that the physical cannot explain them, but that's besides the point, as they are emerging from the fact that the physical exist. They exist only because the physical exist first. I assume the physical and derive everything else from it. Nothing is inconsistent as far as I can tell; everything can be explained, from logic to math to feelings and emotions, etc... so I think this is the view of 'Existence' that is most likely correct, and renders purely non-physical existence meaningless.

I am not great at explaining this so I am happy to try to clarify, and it will be interesting to hear your views as well!

I think you begin to see the arbitrary nature of your assumption, no? you should

September 07, 2017 1:26 PM

Joe Hinman said...

you should have read my thing on "a Thought in the mind of God" I limned to at the top, It gives a thumb nail on the development of ontological idealism,I point out that the disgrace into which that view has fallen since 19th century is Langley based upon Russell and Moore's attack om Berekely BTU there are non Berkeleian reasons to assume me it,that give a reason to assume the priority of mind over matter,

Om Metacrock's blog

Hal said...

Joe,

As I understand it, the truth or falsity of the metaphysical view that all is a Thought in the mind of God is irrelevant to the conception of the mind (the mental, the material, consciousness, laws of logic, etc.) in this universe. I am and have been for many years an atheist though of the weaker variety. I do think it possible that God does exist. But even if I were to move over into the theism camp, I don't see why that should lead me to modify those conceptions.

I believe science is the best tool for gaining knowledge of our world and philosophy is the best tool for understanding that world.

Hal said...

atheists seem convened that they have to deny consciousnesses,at least the ones I find to argue with to this point have. their party line is reductionist and physicalist.

I would agree there are some atheists who hold to reductionistic physicalism. My impression has been that there has been a move away from reductionism.

Reductionism is not only practiced by atheists. I think Victor's basic position is a reductionistic one. He appears to claim that the only things that really exist are those found at the basic level. Otherwise why deny the truth of emergence?

Joe Hinman said...

emergence is part of holism, so is anti reductuon.

Hugo Pelland said...

Hal, you said:
"Reductionism is not only practiced by atheists. I think Victor's basic position is a reductionistic one. He appears to claim that the only things that really exist are those found at the basic level. Otherwise why deny the truth of emergence?"

Reductionism seems to mean many things. On the one hand, it's used as a kind of insult, where people will claim that it's silly to pretend that we can explain things like 'love' or 'classical music' or 'multiples of 3' using physical description. What is the weight of a symphony? How many meters of love does a couple experience? This attempts to ridicule the notion that all of these may be dependent on the physical for their existence.

So there's a second type of reductionism, which states that existence of all the non-physical things we talk about can actually be traced back to physical existence, at the basic level. Or, it could be the other way around, where existence of physical things is actually traced back to non-physical existence. In either case, we need to make an assumption. Which is the basic level?

What's your take one that?

Hal said...

Hugo,
It is the reductionism you mention in your 2nd paragraph that is usually 'ridiculed' (to use your terminology).

I think you need to differentiate reduction from reductionism.
Reduction is very useful as a part of scientific analysis. Reductionism is a metaphysical claim.

Hugo Pelland said...

So what do you think of Reductionism as a metaphysical claim? You mentioned it's mostly rejected now, why, why not?

Hal said...

Hugo,
Simple answer: it hasn't worked very well in science. If physical reductionism was true all the various types of sciences we currently have could have been reduced to physics.

Hal said...

Hugo,
Just to add: it is unfortunate that in these sorts of discussion so much emphasis is placed on physics. When one looks at the biological and social sciences it becomes fairly obvious that the concepts used to explain that phenomena simply can't be reduced to physics without losing too much information.

Joe Hinman said...

al said...
Joe,

As I understand it, the truth or falsity of the metaphysical view that all is a Thought in the mind of God is irrelevant to the conception of the mind (the mental, the material, consciousness, laws of logic, etc.) in this universe. I am and have been for many years an atheist though of the weaker variety. I do think it possible that God does exist. But even if I were to move over into the theism camp, I don't see why that should lead me to modify those conceptions.

Not at all irrelevant. The point was ontological idealism is not so dead as people think and it is an alternative to the dogma that can is produced by matter,

I believe science is the best tool for gaining knowledge of our world and philosophy is the best tool for understanding that world.

ontological misdirection is not science it's ideology. Holism is science and idealism can be backed by science just as physicalism is, questions about consciousness are largely philosophical.

Hal said...

Joe,
Whether you call the substances that inhabit this world material things or immaterial thoughts makes no difference as far as I can see. What is important is that the some of those substances have the capacity to reason and act for reasons.

Many life forms are conscious yet do not have minds. Consciousness is not the mark of the mental. It is a pre-condition for having a mind.

Hugo Pelland said...

Hal said:
"...If physical reductionism was true all the various types of sciences we currently have could have been reduced to physics. [...] When one looks at the biological and social sciences it becomes fairly obvious that the concepts used to explain that phenomena simply can't be reduced to physics without losing too much information."
Right that all makes sense, but that's not really what I am trying to understand. Because all of these phenomena that we can't reduced to physics, without losing too much information, are still dependent on some form of physical existence to be defined. They don't have an existence of their own... except if we start by assuming that there is such a thing as a purely non-physical realm of existence detached from the physical.

Basically, at best, what we get from the non-physicalist camp is an argument about how certain phenomena are not completely explained by physics alone. But that's not the point, as it may just be out of ignorance and, more importantly, it does not mean that these phenomena are not dependent on the physical world to exist in the first place.

So where's the problem with that kind of 'reductionism' for lack of a better word? And is there a better label actually?

bmiller said...

@Hugo Pelland,

Right that all makes sense, but that's not really what I am trying to understand. Because all of these phenomena that we can't reduced to physics, without losing too much information, are still dependent on some form of physical existence to be defined. They don't have an existence of their own... except if we start by assuming that there is such a thing as a purely non-physical realm of existence detached from the physical.

Why does the the non-physical have to be detached from the physical? Why can't the material universe be a composite of both?

Hugo Pelland said...

Hum, I am saying it is non-detached from the physical actually; I see the mental as attached to the physical actually. What's mental, if not our mental capacity to conceptualize?

To the 2nd point, it thus makes no sense to talk about the universe beinhg made of mental stuff. By that definition. What's yours?

Joe Hinman said...

ugo Pelland said...
Hum, I am saying it is non-detached from the physical actually; I see the mental as attached to the physical actually. What's mental, if not our mental capacity to conceptualize?

To the 2nd point, it thus makes no sense to talk about the universe beinhg made of mental stuff. By that definition. What's yours?

sure but the bottom line is we don't known rough to say.for all wee know the basis of mind could be the same as basis of energy. the same problem of language that hunt our discussion of mental also haunt our discussion of energy, we don't really what it is,

Joe Hinman said...

Hal said...
Joe,
Whether you call the substances that inhabit this world material things or immaterial thoughts makes no difference as far as I can see. What is important is that the some of those substances have the capacity to reason and act for reasons.

Many life forms are conscious yet do not have minds. Consciousness is not the mark of the mental. It is a pre-condition for having a mind.

and that changes anything I said how?

Hal said...

Joe,
It shouldn't if it is irrelevant to what I stated previously. That's what I was trying to point out to you.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Joe Hinman said.. September 07, 2017 6:40 PM.
" their party line is reductionist and physicalist."
--You are invited to join the party, it's where the cool people have all the fun because we are all high on reality.

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said... September 08, 2017 8:56 PM

" Why does the the non-physical have to be detached from the physical? Why can't the material universe be a composite of both?
--Because the non-physical is a figment of human imagination.

Stardusty Psyche said...


Blogger Hal said.. September 08, 2017 1:41 PM.

" Just to add: it is unfortunate that in these sorts of discussion so much emphasis is placed on physics. When one looks at the biological and social sciences it becomes fairly obvious that the concepts used to explain that phenomena simply can't be reduced to physics without losing too much information."
--Only "obvious" to those who allow themselves to become overwhelmed by complexity to the extent that they begin to make up imaginary concepts such as "non-physical" or "spirit" or "mind" or "god".

How much information information loss is "too much"? Either reductionism loses something or it doesn't, I don't think it is a matter of some acceptable degree of loss. There simply is no loss.

Phenomena are composed of fundamental physics.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Hal said... September 08, 2017 1:36 PM

" If physical reductionism was true all the various types of sciences we currently have could have been reduced to physics."
--Why do you suppose that? There are some 10^29 particles of the standard model in a single human body. Why would you suppose present day analytical capacity could solve a 10^29 body problem? We don't even have deterministic transfer functions available, only probabilistic models of an as yet unknown underlying mechanism.

That doesn't make reductionism false, it makes our level of knowledge and computing capacity inadequate to perform an analysis of a biological system.

You have an unjustified expectation of what our present computational capabilities should be able to demonstrate if reductionsim is the case, therefore your conclusion that reductionism is not the case is unjustified.

Hal said...

Where in fundamental physics can you find love or friendship or honesty or fear or humor?

Hal said...

That doesn't make reductionism false, it makes our level of knowledge and computing capacity inadequate to perform an analysis of a biological system.

You have an unjustified expectation of what our present computational capabilities should be able to demonstrate if reductionsim is the case, therefore your conclusion that reductionism is not the case is unjustified.


But you've just given me good reasons why I need not accept it as true. Looks like you are simply taking the truth of reductionism on faith.

Hugo Pelland said...

Is it possible that love or friendship or honesty or fear or humor exist without fundamental physics as base existence? How could we even talk about them, conceptualize them?

Hal said...

Hugo,
Of course you are correct. That doesn't entail the truth of reductionism.

Hugo Pelland said...

Hal,
What I described is what I thought reductionism is, so how do you call such position?
Also, I often talk about Primacy of Consciousness VS Primacy of Material Existence; same thing, you have better labels?

Hal said...

Hugo,
As far as I can tell you are simply listing some preconditions for the capacity to reason or to feel love. Sort of like someone saying that a person needs to have a tongue before they can speak a language.

Not sure I understand why you need to use the labels you are using. What does "primacy" have to do with this?

Hugo Pelland said...

It's a response to the post.

VR: The musical is mind-dependent, and a purely physicalist world, there would be no music, even if the sound waves identical to those coming over my radio when "Wonderful World" comes on.

I claim that this implies that minds exist first, regardless of physical existence. But I think physical existence is more basic and does explain minds.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Hal said... September 09, 2017 10:39 AM

" Where in fundamental physics can you find love or friendship or honesty or fear or humor?"
--What are you looking for, a love particle?

Stardusty Psyche said...

Hal said... September 09, 2017 10:44 AM

" But you've just given me good reasons why I need not accept it as true. Looks like you are simply taking the truth of reductionism on faith."
--It's called reasoning. You did not apply sound reasoning in considering that present day sciences should be unified if reductionism is the case.

Hal said...

Hugo,
I claim that this implies that minds exist first, regardless of physical existence. But I think physical existence is more basic and does explain minds.

Ok. Thanks for the explanation.

Hal said...

Joe,
emergence is part of holism, so is anti reductuon.

As I understand it, you are referring to epistemological emergence. It is ontological emergence that I am talking about. In other words, there is nothing in principle excluding the explanation of a new emergent thing by its parts. So it is not anti-reduction.

Victor Reppert said...

My argument is an attempt to show, not assume, that minds exist first, on the grounds that if they don't exist first, they cannot emerge. Mental states have to be a complexity-fact about the physical world if physicalism is true. But let's take the claim that "I am Victor Reppert" and the claim "I am Hugo Pelland." It seems perfectly conceivable that there is a world physically identical to this one in which you are me and I am you. If you say that such a world is impossible, you need to prove it, since it is conceivable. There is nothing about the physical world that guarantees that I will be me and you will be you. So physicalism cannot be true.

Timothy McCabe said...

Dr. Reppert,

Could the argument from reason be developed to eliminate more than just naturalism or atheism? Let me lay out my own two syllogisms to demonstrate. Defining "god" as "a rational or reasoning creator of the universe, a personal uncaused first cause, an ultimate authority", here is my arrangement of the argument:

P1. Any belief ultimately formed by non-reasoning causes is ultimately believed without reason.

P2. If there is no god, every belief is ultimately formed by non-reasoning causes.

C1. Therefore, if there is no god, every belief is ultimately believed without reason.

The result is that there must be more than zero gods or there is ultimately no reason for any human belief. Then we look at the possibility of multiple gods ("god" as defined above).

Imagine that we have 2 gods creating the universe. Both are uncaused. Both are personal. Neither is therefore sovereign over the other in an ontological sense. This means that neither can guarantee the behavior of the other with any authority. This means that neither will necessarily behave in the way the other wants or expects. This means that they may contradict one another. This means, for us humans, that noncontradiction is no longer a viable test of truth. With the presupposition of noncontradiction thus rationally unjustified, this means rational thought cannot exist for humans.

So a syllogism ultimately demonstrating that there are not multiple gods could perhaps go something like this:

P3. If anyone is not the author of every aspect of creation, then his authority is insufficient to rationally guarantee the behavior of creation.

P4. Under polytheism, no one is the author of every aspect of creation.

C2. Therefore, under polytheism, no one has the authority to rationally guarantee the behavior of creation.

Further, If I am not completely loony, I think it could be applied to deism and open theism as well.

Defining "deism" as "any philosophy or worldview which claims that there is a supreme creator of the universe who has no ongoing involvement with what is created apart from the initial act of creation itself," we can see that the deistic god is within time rather than the creator of time. This means that time has been created by someone or something else, something not subject to the author of our "rational thought", the deistic god. Otherwise, time is eternally uncreated, and the exact same problem applies -- it isn't subject to the "rational" deistic god. If he has no authority over time, he cannot guarantee that the present will not behave in a way that contradicts the principles he has programmed us with, like universal, invariant noncontradiction. Again, noncontradiction ceases to be a viable test of truth. Again, rational thought cannot exist for humans.

The same could be said for the god of open theism. He exists within time and does not have a clear view of what the future holds. Thus, he cannot guarantee invariant noncontradiction.

P5. If the ultimate rational authority behind our thoughts is not the ultimate rational authority behind time, then our thoughts about time (including thoughts about the present) are not ultimately rational.

P6. Under deism and open theism, there is no ultimate rational authority behind time.

C3. Therefore, under deism and open theism, our thoughts about time are not ultimately rational.

Do you think these arguments hold up? If not, why not? I would love your thoughts! Feel free to contact me, if you would like a more in-depth conversation on this topic, here:
https://presuppositions.org/contact

You can also see several other syllogisms, notably one against unitarianism, here:
https://presuppositions.org/philosophy

Hal said...

Victor,
It seems perfectly conceivable that there is a world physically identical to this one in which you are me and I am you. If you say that such a world is impossible, you need to prove it, since it is conceivable. There is nothing about the physical world that guarantees that I will be me and you will be you. So physicalism cannot be true.

What about the law of identity?

It is possible to conceive things that are impossible. Am curious to know why you would think otherwise.

Hugo Pelland said...

Timothy McCabe said...
"Defining "god" as "a rational or reasoning creator of the universe, a personal uncaused first cause, an ultimate authority""
Can you justify the existence, or even just the possibility, of an uncause first cause?

"P1. Any belief ultimately formed by non-reasoning causes is ultimately believed without reason."
What are ' non-reasoning causes' ?
Does P1 simply means that beliefs formed without reasoning are believed without reason. It sounds like a tautology...

"P2. If there is no god, every belief is ultimately formed by non-reasoning causes."
Given that I am not sure what you meant in P1, I'll re-phrase the question; here it sounds like:
If there is no god, nobody can reason.
Why?

" C1. Therefore, if there is no god, every belief is ultimately believed without reason. "
That's just stating P2 again basically. Unless, again, you can clarify what ' non-reasoning causes' are...

I am under the impression though that this is just a long way of saying that purely physical beings could not possibly reason. And because reason is presupposed to be non-physical, there must be some other non-physical thing that created us. Therefore, God exists.

Timothy McCabe said...

Hugo, Thanks for the feedback!

"Can you justify the existence, or even just the possibility, of an uncaused first cause?"

I believe so. Without a first cause for something, there is no ultimate cause of that something. Without an ultimate cause, there can be no ultimate reason for that something. Without an ultimate reason, that something is ultimately without reason. Thus, to avoid utter irrationality, there must be a first cause for at least some of our conclusions.

"What are 'non-reasoning causes'?"

Another word for non-reasoning causes could be nonrational causes. Take the big bang as an example. It is nonrational in that it does not have reasons (intents, goals, hopes) for what it causes. It likewise is non-reasoning in that it does not have reasons for what it causes. If it did, everyone who sees the big bang as the uncaused first cause would also be a theist, since the big bang would be a reasoning cause, thus a god.

I chose non-reasoning instead of nonrational (though in my mind they can mean the same thing) because in terms of readability I thought it flowed better in the argument. Consider this grouping: reasoning, non-reasoning, having a reason. Now consider this alternative grouping of supposedly the same concepts: rational, nonrational, having a reason. The first grouping seems better to me on two counts.

First, if I say "a cause doesn't reason", to me, the meaning is plain. If I say "a cause isn't rational", to me, the meaning is not plain. Am I saying that a person claiming that the cause exists is insane? No -- I am saying the cause, if it exists, doesn't have reasons in its mind for what it does. But, to me, that is not clear when using the word "rational".

Second, the consistent use of the word "reason" makes it plain that we are in fact discussing the same thing with each phrase. When we use the word "rational" or "nonrational", even though it still means "having a reason" or "not having a reason", the differences in the letters of the words from the root concept of "reason" sufficiently obfuscates the fact of consistency as to provide mild confusion. I chose a consistent usage of phrases with the word "reason" in them so that the genuine consistency of meaning would be absolutely undeniable.

That was the intent with using that particular word. I have also had others ask me what it means. I would rather have to explain the meaning of an unfamiliar word than have people assume they know what I mean, when they don't, and be permanently unable to comprehend the argument at all as a result. Which has also happened to me when I used other words.

[continued]

Timothy McCabe said...

[continued]

"Does P1 simply mean that beliefs formed without reasoning are believed without reason? It sounds like a tautology..."

P1 also points to ultimacy. Some would argue that because I have a reason for my belief (I am a non-ultimate cause of the belief) that therefore the belief has a reason. However, this misses the greater point that the belief itself is founded upon other things that are not conclusions I drew because of my own reason, such as a presupposition of universal invariant noncontradiction, which is foundational for every conclusion we ever draw. I personally have no reason for my first principles or initial presuppositions (and neither do you for yours). But to say that they are therefore without reason would render every conclusion I derive from them to be based on a non-rational belief. To side-step this entire dispute incorrectly focusing on immediate causes, I simply point to the ultimacy of the reason or belief. Once ultimacy is in the head of the reader, we can talk about presuppositions and so forth, like I am now. But we can do so without the baggage of the reader already thinking in terms of their own immediate reasons, which really have nothing to do with the discussion.

You suggested P1 was a tautology. I'm glad it comes across as one. In my mind, P1 is merely a definition of reason. P2 is merely a definition of atheism. The conclusion then demonstrates that by definition, these two are mutually exclusive. If there is no reason for anything, there is no reason for anything. That is the disproof of atheism. If the argument is truly as simple as I think it can be, atheism ought to come across as being tautologically absurd. Atheism = logical absurdity, effectively by definition.

[continued]

Timothy McCabe said...

[continued]

In P2 "it sounds like: If there is no god, nobody can reason. Why?"

Again, ultimacy. Given the example above of the big bang, and granting for the moment that I have demonstrated the need of a first cause, then if the big bang caused everything, then the big bang caused your beliefs. So, what was the big bang's reason for causing you to believe that the entire universe, and everything in it, is, was, and always will be, noncontradictory? Our first principle, or initial presupposition, of universal invariant noncontradiction is believed by us for what reason? If there is no reason for our holding that belief, then that belief is held without reason. If the big bang caused us to have that belief, yet the big bang had no reason in its mind (since it has no mind) for us to have that belief, then, in the ultimate sense, we hold that belief without reason. But then all our beliefs are based upon this completely irrational presupposition, making all our beliefs, ultimately, without reason. Thus, if there is no god, there is ultimately no reason for our beliefs.

On the other hand, if God, who made the universe and our thoughts, caused us to believe in universal invariant noncontradiction for a reason, then there is a reason for our belief. The only way there can ultimately be a *good* reason for any belief, is if there is ultimately a reason for that belief to begin with. There can only be an ultimate reason if there is a reasoning cause behind both the-thought and the-thing-the-thought-is-about. Both my-conclusions and the-universe-about-which-I-conclude, must ultimately be crafted by the same rational entity to avoid ultimate irrationality.

"I am under the impression though that this is just a long way of saying that purely physical beings could not possibly reason. And because reason is presupposed to be non-physical, there must be some other non-physical thing that created us. Therefore, God exists."

In my mind, it has nothing whatsoever to do with physicality or lack thereof. To bring physicality into it, to me, is to painfully obfuscate what is being discussed. The presence of a desire, intent, goal, hope or dream -- a reason -- is what must exist in the uncaused-first-cause. Discussing physicality just seems irrelevant to me. Let's say that intents can be physical. Fine. Let's say the big bang, being physical, had an intent. Fine. That gives it a personality. Even if we say personality is merely physical, who cares? If we agree that something with a personality caused absolutely everything else, we are theists.

Essentially, if there is no god, there is ultimately no reason for anything. If there is ultimately no reason for anything, there is ultimately no reason for your conclusions.

Does any of that shed any light on what I was attempting to communicate?

Hugo Pelland said...

Hi Timothy,

Thanks for the detailed answer. Mine will be much shorter as I rarely have time to be as detailed (like I did last night on another thread) so I am not ignoring everything else you wrote.

Regarding uncaused causes, the answer just uses different word, so I still have the same question:
"Can you justify the existence, or even just the possibility, of an 'ultimate' uncaused first cause?"
i.e. why accept that there must be some ultimate causes for anything?
To clarify why I ask: my own answer is that I don't know whether it's even possible to have ultimate/first cause(s), or possible to have no ultimate cause(s) at all.

Timothy McCabe said...

Hugo,

I didn't understand your clarification at the end. I mean, I understood the words, but not what you were trying to communicate.

It sounded like you are unsure whether or not either a first-cause or a lack-of-first-cause are possible. It seems clear to me that it must be one or the other, or else we have a true contradiction, so I am not confident that I understood you right. But if I did understand you correctly, then which is true? Well, I think reason demands an uncaused first cause.

And, I feel I already answered your question as to why. But I will try again with a different emphasis, since I suspect the importance of the conclusion is what was missed. But let me know if that was not what you are now asking about.

If there is no first or ultimate cause, then every human belief is irrational. So, an uncaused first cause is a prerequisite for human rationality.

If you are okay with everything and everyone being irrational, then why ask people for reasons for what they say? Basically, reason demands an uncaused first cause that reasons. Deny the latter and you logically lose the former. And if you lose the former, all discussion and debate is irrational, because there is no ultimate reason for it.

Does that make sense? Did I miss what you were asking me about?

Hugo Pelland said...

Yes, it must be one or the other, either there's a first cause, or not. But it doesn't mean we are justified in claiming that it must be either. You stated what you think is correct: reason demands an uncaused first cause.

Why?

Why not no first cause at all? Why is an uncaused first cause possible? How can we even talk about something causing things to be without itself being caused by something else?

Note that these questions, and more, can also be asked about a lack of cause. How can we have an infinite chain of causes?

Timothy McCabe said...

Hugo,

"Why not no first cause at all?"

If there is no first cause, then there is no ultimate cause. Which means no ultimate reason. Which means our beliefs are ultimately irrational. This is a logical defeater to the idea of no ultimate cause.


"Why is an uncaused first cause possible?"

Why would it not be? What are the apparent difficulties?


"How can we even talk about something causing things to be without itself being caused by something else?"

Existence does not seem to necessitate cause in my mind. Why should it? Indeed, in the ultimate sense, mere existence cannot necessitate cause, because without something that exists there would be no cause to generate something that exists. Thus, existence itself (or the first existing thing) cannot be caused, which means that something simply is -- and it is in an uncaused manner.


"How can we have an infinite chain of causes?"

If we could, there would be no ultimate reason for anything, rendering everything ultimately without reason, or ultimately irrational. This is again a logical defeater for infinite regress. Either infinite regress, or logic. But not both.

Have I answered your questions? Or am I still not providing you with what you're looking for from me?

Hugo Pelland said...

Timothy,

There are 2 major issues with the argument you presented and I am asking these questions to expose the flaws. Note that this does not mean that the opposite is true; it just means that the conclusion you are reaching is not supported by the argument. As I said, I don't think we can know the answers one way or the other.

1) Everything we see around us right now has causes for their existence, and these causes have causes too. So we cannot justify a sudden break in that causation line. At the same time, there is a paradox here, as we also don't have examples of things that have existed forever, so we cannot assume that anything has existed forever. It has to be one or the other, but we cannot tell. Moreover, the universe itself is not part of these observations, given that the observations are done within the universe. So we know even less about whether the universe was caused, or not, or whether it always existed.

2) Even if I were to grant you that there was in fact some kind of first cause for everything that exists, there is a giant jump in your argument from that cause to us. You are basically using the conclusion you want to prove to justify that same conclusion. We are able to reason because that first cause had reasons to create us, and if that cause had no reason we would not be able to reason. It's just stating what you believe, not explaining why. It could be that we are able to reason even if created by causes that had no reason to do so. I understand that you 'think' this is impossible, but that's because of that conclusion: you believe we must have been caused for a reason. Note that I also see some equivocation fallacy here, where 'reason' is used for different purposes and the word changes meaning throughout your argument.

Timothy McCabe said...

"Everything we see around us right now has causes for their existence, and these causes have causes too. So we cannot justify a sudden break in that causation line."

What we cannot justify is an epistemology based 100% on absolute empiricism. The assertion you made here depends upon such an epistemology. Empirical observations are only *one way* of determining truth. They are not the only way. Your statement mandates that they are the only way, but such a statement is self-defeating, as the statement itself presupposes universal invariant noncontradiction (otherwise the statement is meaningless), and universal invariant noncontradiction cannot be discovered empirically, since empirical reasoning presupposes it to begin with.

The existence of "the smell of the number purple" is something I have never observed. The absolute nonexistence of "the smell of the number purple" is also something I have never observed. However, since purple is not a number by definition, and numbers have no scent, again by definition, and colors have no scent either, again by definition, I can tell you that the statement of nonexistence is true, and the statement of existence is false. Claiming that "a complete lack of empirically observable evidence for either of these claims renders both of them dubious to the same degree" seems wholly unjustified to me.

Since there is nothing inherent in the idea of "existence" that logically mandates that "all things that exist have a cause", and there is in fact something in the idea of "existence" that logically mandates that "it is not the case that all things that exist have a cause", we do not need to observe a thing with no cause to have absolute and certain knowledge of its existence. It must be one or the other, and one of the two options is logically incoherent. Therefore, regardless of a supposed lack of empirical support, the logically incoherent option must be false, and its negation must be true. Unless we want to throw logic out the window.

However, it should also be noted that empirical reasoning itself depends upon the existence of a rational uncaused first cause. As I have pointed out, there is ultimately no reason for anything without one. Thus, our observations of the very existence of empirical reasoning provides us with evidence to justify belief in a rational uncaused first cause.

[continued]

Timothy McCabe said...

[continued]

"It could be that we are able to reason even if created by causes that had no reason to do so."

If I am not mistaken, that simply cannot be, as that would entail a true contradiction.

For me to be able to reason, this means that there is a justified reason for some conclusion I have come to. This is what it means to be able to reason, at least insofar as I am speaking about reason. Reasoning necessitates the presence of a reason -- a reason that justifies the conclusion. For there to be a justified reason for a conclusion I have come to, there must be a justified reason for each premise that led to my conclusion. If the premises are unjustified, then so is the conclusion based upon them.

One of the root premises of every conclusion is universal, invariant noncontradiction. This is a first principle -- not a conclusion. Since it is not my own conclusion, but rather my own first principle, then for it to be rationally justified, it cannot be rationally justified by my own reasoning processes. Otherwise it would be a conclusion, which it is not. If it is rationally justified -- and it must be in order for those conclusions based on it to be rationally justified -- then it must be rationally justified by someone else's reason. If there is a reason for it, it cannot be my own.

Who's reason justifies my own first principle of universal invariant noncontradiction?

If my first principle is rationally justified, then whoever it is who's reason it is that justifies it must also have caused me to hold to it, otherwise his reason does not justify my first principle, as he and his reason did not in any way bring it about. That same personal entity must have also caused my first principle to be true (it must have caused both time and the universe). Otherwise, he is either merely giving me his own first principle, and then rational justification still has not been established... or else he is merely giving me a belief he himself has no reason to believe, and then rational justification still has not been established.

Rational justification for our first principles about the universe must be established by the rational author of our first principles and also the rational author of the universe. That would be God. It seems to me that there can be no other option. As far as I can tell, all other options -- 100% of them -- entail true logical contradictions and are therefore necessarily false.

[continued]

Timothy McCabe said...

[continued]

"I understand that you 'think' this is impossible, but that's because of that conclusion: you believe we must have been caused for a reason."

I believe if our beliefs have not ultimately been caused for a reason, then they are ultimately without reason. You believe the same thing. You even called it a tautology. This is simply the first premise of the syllogism, not the conclusion.

Further, if our beliefs have ultimately been caused for a reason, then yes, we also have ultimately been caused for a reason, even if that reason is only to hold the beliefs that we hold, since "me" must exist in order for "me" to have a belief.

[continued]

Timothy McCabe said...

[continued]

"Note that I also see some equivocation fallacy here, where 'reason' is used for different purposes and the word changes meaning throughout your argument."

The word always means the same thing throughout the syllogism -- the ultimate reason for any given belief. It never means anything else.

Many critics of the syllogism suggest that they themselves can genuinely have a reason for a belief without there being an ultimate reason for it. I refer to this kind of "reason" that they assert as "immediate reason". Perhaps there is another name for it. I don't know. It is closer in the reasoning chain to the conclusion -- more immediate -- than the ultimate reason would be, hence the name. The critics seem to think that I am discussing this concept of "immediate reason" in my syllogism, when I am in fact not. I only ever bring up the concept of "immediate reason" in discussions like this -- to dispell the notion that "immediate reason" can even be called reason if there is no ultimate reason.

It seems to me that it cannot.

This is because a given conclusion is only as rational as its premises. If the premises are without reason, then so is the conclusion. And our very first premises, absent God, have no reason.

In sum, I don't think you have demonstrated any problems with the argument. I think all supposed alternatives entail logical contradictions and are therefore false. That makes the existence of God true.

Please let me know if I am still missing something in your mind. Thanks again for your thoughts!

Hugo Pelland said...

Timothy,
Let's focus here: I am not saying that empiricism is the only way to know things, to discover truths. I don't know why you would infer that. This was in response to this claim:
1) Everything we see around us right now has causes for their existence, and these causes have causes too. So we cannot justify a sudden break in that causation line[...]

I am specifically talking about the physical world around us. That's where I see causes.

Does a cause mean something else to you?

Timothy McCabe said...

It seems I have misunderstood you. I apologize.

"Everything we see around us right now has causes for their existence, and these causes have causes too. So we cannot justify a sudden break in that causation line."

The only way I can see the second sentence above, "So we cannot justify a sudden break in that causation line," being warranted by the first sentence above, "Everything we see around us right now has causes for their existence, and these causes have causes too," is if empirical data is absolutely the only way to justify conclusions. Otherwise, the first sentence does not warrant the second sentence.

The second sentence could maybe be rewritten like:

"So mere observation cannot justify a sudden break in that causation."

or

"So we cannot justify a sudden break in that causation through empirical means, and therefore a claim that the causal line breaks somewhere would have to be justified by other means."

If you meant something like that, then I believe I have in fact rationally justified the claim of a causal break through other means, namely, the logical impossibility of the contrary.

Does this answer your concern at all? If not, I must have missed it -- again!

Hal said...

Timothy,
I don't understand P1. Can you explain how beliefs are formed?

Hugo Pelland said...

Timothy,

No need to apologize. We disagree on many items so we'll have to clarify several things to understand each other. That's why I like to discuss these topics actually, rather than just read about them.

So, the answer is no, you have not answered my question:
I am specifically talking about the physical world around us. That's where I see causes. But you imply that it's something else for you. What does 'cause' mean to you?

i.e. I am not saying that "empirical data is absolutely the only way to justify conclusions." That statement is way too broad and vague. We can do things like math, for instance, where we reach conclusion through non-empirical means.

Timothy McCabe said...

Hugo,

For the purposes of the first syllogism, the only "causes" I am referring to (call them whatever you like if "causes" doesn't work for you) are whatever ultimately brought about the existence of our first principles (such as a belief in universal invariant noncontradiction). If our first principles ultimately exist without reason, then the conclusions based on them are also ultimately without reason. Which effectively means all our beliefs without exception.

Am I still missing your concern?

Timothy McCabe said...

Hal,

Human beliefs seem to be formed in various ways as far as I can tell. All human conclusions are ultimately based upon human first principles in some way though. It seems to me those first principles are either rationally "programmed", like an operating system, by a rational "programmer", or they are not -- in which case, they are without reason.

Does that make sense? If not, what have I suggested that doesn't make sense and why does it not seem to make sense from your perspective?

Thanks for the feedback, Hal!

Hugo Pelland said...

Timothy McCabe said...
"For the purposes of the first syllogism, the only "causes" I am referring to (call them whatever you like if "causes" doesn't work for you) are whatever ultimately brought about the existence of our first principles (such as a belief in universal invariant noncontradiction)."

You say 'our' first principles here, and 'belief' in the law of non-contradiction. But what you really mean is the existence of the law of non-contradiction itself, right? So let me know whether re-phrasing it that way makes sense:

"I am referring to whatever ultimately brought about the law of non-contradiction, or the laws of logic in general."

Correct me if that's wrong,

But if not, here is the problem: this assumes the law of non-contradiction did not exist at some point. I don't accept that assumption, it's possible the laws of logic always existed.

Hal said...

Timothy,
Does that make sense? If not, what have I suggested that doesn't make sense and why does it not seem to make sense from your perspective?

I'm afraid it doesn't make much sense to me. Are you talking about what gives humans the capacity to reason?

I think the question as to what gives us the capacity to reason is distinct from the question of whether or not we have good (rational) reasons for making a decision or taking an action.

Timothy McCabe said...

Hugo,

"But what you really mean is the existence of the law of non-contradiction itself, right?"

No. In the syllogism I mean *our belief* in the law of noncontradiction. I mean our presupposition that things do not contradict within our own universal context. Where did *our belief* come from, and is it rationally justified?

"It's possible the laws of logic always existed."

Conceptually, sure, from an objectively removed standpoint we could posit this as a logical hypothetical. But if that's the case, there could never be rational justification for holding to the laws of logic, and thus, we could never hypothesize about their eternal existence logically. So the idea seems self-defeating.

In our own universal context, the laws of logic had to ultimately be created (or caused, or whatever word you want) by the same thing that ultimately created (or caused, or whatever) *our belief* in them. Otherwise, our belief in them has no rational foundation. Additionally, that single Creator needs to be rational, or, yet again, our belief in the laws of logic has no rational foundation.

How does one *discover* the law of noncontradiction, for example? What premises allow for

Does this clear up what I am trying to communicate?

Timothy McCabe said...

Hal,

"I think the question as to what gives us the capacity to reason is distinct from the question of whether or not we have good (rational) reasons for making a decision or taking an action."

It seems to me that "the capacity to reason" necessitates the existence of *good* reasons. If there are no *good* reasons, then no one has "the capacity to reason" at all -- all conclusions are irrational.

I agree that the existence of good reasons does not in-itself give us the capacity to use them. But the capacity to use them is certainly built on (dependent upon) their existence, and can only exist (at least in-part) because of the existence of the good reasons themselves.

What's more, discovering the good reasons requires pre-existent intellectual buy-in to a process of discovery: you have to believe in the law of noncontradiction to discover anything at all. At the root level, belief in the reason (belief that contradictions are false), and the capacity to reason (understanding how to use the belief in noncontradiction to arrive at conclusions) are both pre-programmed into us. Neither can be discovered. We start life with both of them working together.

Do you disagree?

Hal said...

Timothy,

I agree that it would make no sense to talk of a capacity to reason without there being reasons. There is an internal relationship between a capacity and what it is a capacity of.

But I am not really talking about the capacity to reason. I am referring to the vehicle that enables that capacity. I think it a basic mistake to equate the vehicle with its power (the power in this case being the capacity to reason). For example, it would be quite mistaken to think one could look under the hood of an auto for the horsepower generated by the engine.

If I am understanding you correctly, I think we are in danger of talking past each other. You are talking about the capacity and I am talking about the vehicle.

Timothy McCabe said...

Hal,

Would you mind elaborating? I'm not sure I follow you. Thanks!

Hal said...

Timothy,

No problem. Will give you some more examples that illustrate what I am talking about.

Time keeping devices are the vehicle we can use to tell the time. A sun-dial, a cuckoo-clock, an Apple watch, etc. are the vehicles. Time is not identical with those devices, is it?

A normal human being has the power to visually perceive his surroundings. It is the eyes and internal neural structure of the human that is the vehicle of that power (that capacity).

Many living things have the capacity to move. But the vehicles that enable that capacity are quite varied: snakes, fish,horses, humans, birds, etc. all have the power to move on their own.

In some of the examples I gave, there were many types of vehicles that were linked with a particular capacity or power. One lesson to take from this is that you can't reduce a power to its vehicle.

Does that help to clarify what I am talking about?

Timothy McCabe said...

Hal,

I apologize -- I was apparently not clear. I understood that the engine and the horsepower are not the same thing. I was unable to see the point of your analogy to the discussion. Could you elaborate on the point you were trying to make by means of the analogy, and how it pertains to P1 of the syllogism I posted?

Thanks!

Hal said...

Timothy,

P1. Any belief ultimately formed by non-reasoning causes is ultimately believed without reason.

Am sorry, but you will need to elaborate on what you mean by P1 then. I had asked you earlier and you did respond but based on that response I assumed P1 was trying to establish how we have the capacity to reason.

It is the "ultimately formed by non-reasoning causes" that I find especially unclear.

Timothy McCabe said...

Hal,

Perhaps an example will assist.

Humans start off with first principles -- baked-in beliefs. One of these is universal, invariant noncontradiction.

What ultimately made it so that humans believe this? The big bang? Gravity? God? Something else?

1. If it was gravity, what was gravity's reason for causing this belief to exist in us?

2. If it was the big bang, what was the big bang's reason for causing this belief to exist in us?

3. If it was God, what was God's reason for causing this belief to exist in us?

While the actual answers to those three questions are really not important for my argument, what is important is that only one of the questions could actually *have* an answer. The other two cannot be directly answered. Instead of saying what the big bang's reason was (for example), we would have to back up and say "hang on there -- the big bang didn't have any reasons for anything, so asking what its reason was is like asking 'when did you stop beating your wife?'."

If there is no reason for our belief, then our belief is held without reason. It is then irrational.

Does that clarify anything? If not, where is the confusion?

Hal said...

Timothy,

The vehicle for the power of reasoning is what makes it possible for humans to have beliefs and form beliefs from reasons and act for reasons. The vehicle itself does not have a reason for you cannot equate the vehicle with its power.

That seems to me to be the obvious explanation for why we are able to reason. You've already indicated you aren't happy with that answer. I'm not sure why you aren't.

Timothy McCabe said...

Hal,

"The vehicle for the power of reasoning is what makes it possible for humans to have beliefs and form beliefs from reasons and act for reasons."

If you are saying, "God is what makes it possible for humans to have beliefs and form beliefs from reasons and act for reasons," then I agree. That's what I was saying.

If you are saying, "Gravity is what makes it possible for humans to have beliefs and form beliefs from reasons and act for reasons," then I disagree. Our first principles are not formed from our own reasons or beliefs. Instead, our own reasons and beliefs are formed from our first principles. Our first principles act much like initial premises in an argument. If the premises are without reason, the conclusion is irrational. Our first principles are without reason if they are generated without reason. Gravity would generate them without reason.

Informing me that gravity or God (the engine) is not a belief in noncontradiction (the horsepower) seems irrelevant to me. I never said that it was. That was why I did not (and still do not) follow your analogy.

What engine generated your own first premises? Was it something rational? If your first premises are without reason, then all your conclusions are as well.

Are we still talking past one another?

Hal said...

Timothy,
I hope we are getting closer to having an actual exchange.

My position is neutral when it comes to the existence of God. I believe one could be an atheist or a theist and still accept my understanding of vehicles and their powers and how that helps us to conceptualize our capacity to reason.

As far as I understand it, any first principles would be part of our capacity to reason. So one could not identify them with the vehicle. It seems apparent to me that the vehicle that enable us to reason is the brain. Since the brain is the vehicle it is mistaken to think (like some physical reductionists) that we can identify our power to reason with the brain itself.

We know that we have evolved from other life forms. Some theists think that evolutionary process was guided by God. I don't personally subscribe to that view but nothing that I am positing in regard to our capacity to reason negates the theistic conception.


Once it is recognized that the vehicle of our capacity to reason should not be identified with that capacity, then questions of what causal forces helped to produce the brain seem to me to be irrelevant to questions regarding the validity of our reasoning powers.

Hopefully you have a better understanding of my position even if you happen to disagree with it.

Timothy McCabe said...

Hal,

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but it feels like you are ignoring my fairly simple argument about "why" in order to discuss the complexities of "how". But even the lunatic's beliefs have a "how" behind them. That doesn't make them rational. Is there no possible answer to "why" in your view? If there can be no reason for your first beliefs, every conclusion you've built on them is irrational.

"We know that we have evolved from other life forms."

I completely disagree. But I believe that's an entirely different conversation.

Thanks again for interacting.

Hugo Pelland said...

Timothy:
"I mean *our belief* in the law of noncontradiction. I mean our presupposition that things do not contradict within our own universal context. Where did *our belief* come from, and is it rationally justified?"

I don't agree that we have a 'belief' in the law of noncontradiction, or in logic in general. Logic is a set of self-evident axioms, which I argue we get from observing the natural world. It's something we understand and use, more like a process or are ruler, to assess the veracity of statements. Beliefs are very different from our 'understanding' or 'knowledge' of the laws of logic. We cannot not believe in the laws of logic.

"Conceptually, sure, from an objectively removed standpoint we could posit this as a logical hypothetical. But if that's the case, there could never be rational justification for holding to the laws of logic, and thus, we could never hypothesize about their eternal existence logically. So the idea seems self-defeating."

You agree that they 'could' be eternal, but you also think that they 'cannot' be eternal. Seems like a contradiction already. Either something is possible or not. You cannot have it both ways. So your point is really that yes, it's possible, but you don't think it's the case. The reason you give: because we would not have reasons to believe in them if they were; this is wrong for at least 2 reasons.

First, I don't think it's a belief at all, as I just mentioned.

Second, even if I grant you that it's a belief, just in the context of that quote, you are stating that there could never be any rational justification if they are eternal. And the only reason mentioned is precisely that, because they are eternal. So are you trying to say that we cannot believe in eternal things? That would be weird coming from someone who believes in an eternal god...

" In our own universal context, the laws of logic had to ultimately be created (or caused, or whatever word you want) by the same thing that ultimately created (or caused, or whatever) *our belief* in them."

No, I offered an alternative above.

"Otherwise, our belief in them has no rational foundation"

Let's unpack that last statement alongside the other statements above:
- The laws of logic had to be created
- The thing that created them has to have created (or caused, or whatever) *our belief* in them.
- Otherwise, our beliefs would not be rational.
Correct?

" Does this clear up what I am trying to communicate?"

No.

But I think I know what the real problem is here. You believe that a mind has to be behind everything; the laws of logic, the world we live in, what's in it, you, me, everybody we know, etc... Everything, literally everything, thus depends on that mind for its existence. Without that mind, nothing would exist, because that mind created everything. And it's only because there was a mind, a rational mind, behind all of this that we can also be rational. Because without a rational mind behind everything, we would not have rational beliefs in anything.

Hal said...

Timothy,
If there can be no reason for your first beliefs, every conclusion you've built on them is irrational.

You apparently want the vehicle of the power to reason to be reason itself. That is confusing the vehicle with its power.



Timothy McCabe said...

Hugo,

"You believe that a mind has to be behind everything; the laws of logic, the world we live in, what's in it, you, me, everybody we know, etc... Everything, literally everything, thus depends on that mind for its existence. Without that mind, nothing would exist, because that mind created everything. And it's only because there was a mind, a rational mind, behind all of this that we can also be rational. Because without a rational mind behind everything, we would not have rational beliefs in anything."

Yes. Thanks for summarizing your understanding of my assertions. I believe you get what I am trying to communicate.

"You agree that they 'could' be eternal, but you also think that they 'cannot' be eternal. Seems like a contradiction already. Either something is possible or not. You cannot have it both ways."

They could be uncreated, but there could be no reason behind our use of them if they were. Our use of them would be without reason -- or, illogical.

"I don't agree that we have a 'belief' in the law of noncontradiction, or in logic in general. Logic is a set of self-evident axioms, which I argue we get from observing the natural world. It's something we understand and use, more like a process or are ruler, to assess the veracity of statements. Beliefs are very different from our 'understanding' or 'knowledge' of the laws of logic. We cannot not believe in the laws of logic."

Is it true that rocks "cannot not believe in the laws of logic"? Is logic "a set of self-evident axioms" to a rock?

If logic comes "from observing the natural world", with what premises or first principles do we interpret our observations, since obviously we are not using the laws of logic to interpret them? Observations would be utterly meaningless without pre-programmed first principles with which to process them.

Please give me an example -- just one hypothetical -- of how a new human would observe and learn that contradictions are false, without first understanding and believing that contradictions are false.

Thanks!

Hugo Pelland said...

Timothy McCabe said...
"Yes. Thanks for summarizing your understanding of my assertions. I believe you get what I am trying to communicate."
Great! I have no more questions for you then, as I am engaging in such discussions in order to understand others' point of view, and figure out whether mine is correct. But if you are curious to continue reading my comments on your posts here, let me know...