Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The opening chapter of C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea

Here. 

24 comments:

Hal said...

Looks like one has to subscribe to Christianity Today to read it.

Here's a link to book preview on google:
Click Here

Miguel said...

Victor,

Do you have any plans to revisit the argument and write more about it? Or do you feel like you're done with the AfR?

Victor Reppert said...

I have a new paper in the works in response to the debate I had with David Kyle Johnson that is in Gregory Bassham ed. C. S. Lewis's Christian Apologetics (Brill/Rodopi) 2015. In that volume, I thought that Wielenberg/Baggett exchange on the moral argument really got to down to the basic differences between them pretty well, but our debate I thought didn't, so I am sending a further response to Philosophia Christi to extend the debate.

Bilbo said...

If you don't want to subscribe to Christianity Today, you could just buy the book.

Hal said...

Bilbo,
Yes. There's also link to purchase the book on the google books page.

Hal said...

Victor,
have a new paper in the works in response to the debate I had with David Kyle Johnson...

Well, in my studied opinion, you are both wrong.:-)

Hal said...

Victor,
Whoever was responsible for preparing the kindle version of your book did you no favors.

Victor Reppert said...

I'll sue the bastard.

Hal said...

Victor,
Good luck with that.

Perhaps you could further expand on or explain the following claim:
For our purposes a worldview counts as naturalistic if it posits a causally closed "basic level of analysis" and if all the other levels have the characteristics they have in virtue of those the basic level has. This is from ch. 3.
(Sorry I can't give the page number due to poor formatting of the kindle version.)

I can understand a system being causally closed. But what is a causally closed analysis? Can't a causally closed system be analysed in many different ways depending on the reason for the analysis?

Also, is this "basic level of analysis" meant to apply to all worldviews? And why the assumption that there is a basic level of analysis?

Miguel said...

By the way, Victor, have you read "The Waning of Materialism" (edited by Robert Koons)? They have a whole section discussing how issues of mental causation undermine materialism. Koons himself has an article there in which he argues (among other points) that the Gettier problem (the one about knowledge not being just "justified true belief") points to the necessity of some kind of causal nexus between ontological facts and beliefs, and that materialism can't accomodate that. The article is actually much more complex and features different arguments, so I hope I'm not oversimplifying or misrepresenting it here. But thought it would be interesting to you and your formulation of the argument from reason.

Hal said...

Victor,
Have been enjoying re-reading this book. It has been at least a decade since I first read it. At that time I was pretty much a full blown reductive materialist. Now have come to the position that reductionism is false and materialism is only true in regard to the denial of supernatural and mental substances. Is it ironic that change has mainly come about through the philosophical tradition so ably represented by Anscombe whose critique of Lewis’ argument is well known?

In any case I think the main reason I find the argument lacking is due to differing conceptions of the mind. I think this is well illustrated in the following claim by Lewis:
Even if grounds do exist, what have they got to do with the actual occurrence of belief as a psychological event? If it is an event if must be caused.

Here we see Lewis making an assumption that Wittgenstein warned against in his Philosophical Investigations:
306. Why ever should I deny that there is a mental process? It is only that “There has just taken place in me the mental process of remembering….” Means nothing more than “I have just remembered…”
And:
308. How does the philosophical problem about mental processes and states and about behaviourism arise? – The first step is the one that altogether escapes notice. We talk of processes and states, and leave their nature undecided. Sometime perhaps we’ll know more about them – we think. But that’s just what commits us to a particular way of looking at the matter. For we have a certain conception of what it means to learn to know a process better. (The decisive movement in the conjuring trick has been made, and it was the very one that seemed to us quite innocent.)

As Lewis notes, events have causes. He mistakenly assumes that reasoning is a mental event that works in the same way as the physical causes (or processes) that bring about an event. It is as if the mind were a mechanical device but one that is mental rather than physical.

Reasons, thoughts, ideas are causally inert. The mind is not an agent causing changes in a patient. It is the person to whom we attribute a mind that is the agent.

Hal said...

Just ran across this article while consuming my morning coffee. Here is a section from it that elaborates on what I just posted above:

A guiding theme is Wittgenstein’s attempt to wean us from the conception of intrinsically representational, intrinsically meaningful, psychological states or processes and their non-psychological analogue in the form of meaning rules.
Central to this conception are two pictures or collections of pictures. One is a way of conceiving of the inner and the outer: our subjective inner lives and our outer behaviour in a world of others. We think of our inner lives as being like an internal space in which there exist various things, states and processes: thoughts, emotions, sensations. What we do is merely the outward sign of this inner reality: behaviour.
The other picture or set of pictures is a way of conceiving of how language works. We think that language is primarily a matter of naming things. And that all the other diverse uses to which we put language – detailed at length through the text – are trivial compared to the primal, foundational act of naming things.
Wittgenstein shows how these two sets of pictures mutually reinforce each other in myriad ways. One way is this: because we think language is fundamentally about naming things, we think that psychological concepts must also be names of things, but of things in an inner space. So we model the reality of the inner on the existence of physical things with the peculiar property that these mental objects are only visible to and nameable by their owner. But we are also puzzled about how words can function as names at all. How they can reach out to what they name? Words are, after all, just arbitrary sounds or squiggles. We think then that it must be something special indeed which enables words to have meaning. It must be some special set of the psychological states and processes, a picture of which we already have. Our words mean because we mean. And we can mean because we are in possession of inner, essentially private psychological states that can intrinsically reach out to the world. Language is really a collection of private, inner acts of meaning and naming, a collection of private languages that happen, more or less imperfectly, to overlap.
In this way, Wittgenstein seeks to trace the deep connections between our mistaken conceptions of mind and meaning. In their place, he offers an entirely different vision. He insists that intrinsic meaning, on which representational capacities depend, only gets going in and through the shared practices and interactions of living, embodied beings and is only visible in and through the lives and activity of such beings. These activities operate in and through language – in what Wittgenstein calls “language-games”. In the beginning is not the word at all. But the deed. A consequence of that position is that we no longer think of the inner versus the outer in the same way. The idea of public language as rooted in a prior private language is demonstrated to be an illusion. One that fails to recognize that we are social, communicating beings and that we are so all the way down.

Hal said...

The last paragraph from the article quoted above:

Wittgenstein was hostile to modern philosophy as he found it. He thought it the product of a culture that had come to model everything that matters about our lives on scientific explanation. In its ever-extending observance of the idea that knowledge, not wisdom, is our goal, that what matters is information rather than insight, and that we best address the problems that beset us, not with changes in our heart and spirit but with more data and better theories, our culture is pretty much exactly as Wittgenstein feared it would become. He sought to uncover the deep undercurrents of thought that had produced this attitude. He feared it would lead not to a better world but the demise of our civilization. That perhaps explains his deep unpopularity today. It is for the same reason that Ludwig Wittgenstein is the most important philosopher of modern times.

Hal said...

Victor,
I didn't realize when I first read this book how central the conception of mental causation was to justification of the argument from reason. Maybe because I was, like a fish, swimming in the same waters as those on the pro-Lewis side. After all most materialists have adopted the same conception of the mind that dualists rely on. It is a brain-body dualism rather than a mind-body dualism.


You claimed that Wittgenstein was an anti-realist. I think most scholars of Wittgenstein would disagree with you. As with many -isms, Wittgenstein would have been more concerned with pointing out the misconceptions that the realism and anti-realism camps shared than in trying to enlist in one or the other of the camps.

Miguel said...

Hal,

I wouldn't say Lewis assumes the mind works like a "mental mechanical device". It is not that he assumes "mental events" work in the same manner as physical events, only mental. The issue with the argument from mental causation goes much deeper than this: one way or another, there *is* some form of causation that is going on in our "mind" when we come to know things and make inferences. If you deny this, then you suddenly affirm the possibility that our thoughs and beliefs (however you take them to be, metaphysically) could all (indeed, *are all*) be occurring without any relation whatsoever to the world and propositional facts. The "evidence" has to, in one way or another, be responsible for bringing about changes in our understanding and behavior. Indeed, it has to be a "cause" of our understanding and our thoughts and conclusions, and this is how the word "cause" is used in language. This has to happen, as it does happen, and as we ourselves understand and talk about it -- as members of the linguistic community -- how certain facts caused us to consider a certain idea, how two misunderstood bits of evidence put together ended up causing us to incorrectly infer a wrong conclusion, etc.

And once this gets off the ground, it must then be said that it is apparent that "physical causality" and mechanistic explanations will not salvage our ways of talking about these things, and will end up invalidating our reasoning capacities.

I'm always interested in what Wittgenstein has to say about a number of things, but I don't really think his points undermine any argument from mental causation.


PS: Since you're interested in Wittgenstein and in the argument from reason, I have to recommend you to read Herbert McCabe's work -- the ones that deal with metaphysics and philosophy of mind, like "On Aquinas", for esample. McCabe was a "Wittgensteinian Thomist"; he was deeply influenced by Wittgenstein and used it in his own interpretation of Aquinas. In particular, McCabe actually makes an "argument from reason" with a wittgensteinian bent; he argues that the act of creating and understanding language -- words whose meanings are their use -- transcends any bodily organ, and as such that the human intellect is immaterial.

David Braine, another very interesting philosopher who was also heavily influenced by Wittgenstein, also argues that the use of language (true human language, with "grammar") cannot be accomplished by anything material.

Also, Peter Geach (himself a close student of Wittgenstein, married to G. E. M. Anscombe) has his own version of an argument from reason: he contends that "thinking", as humans do, is an activity that cannot have a determinate position in a physical temporal series, and therefore can't be carried away merely by bodily organs (ergo the human intellect is immaterial). His argument is quite complex and is presented in the article "What do we think with?", available in the book "God and the Soul"

Miguel said...

I must also say that all the authors mentioned above -- McCabe, Braine, Geach -- were all fierce critics of any sort of "dualism". They all favored towards a more "unified" Aristotelean position, just as they all held that human thinking could not be fully explained by the operations of any bodily organs. There are many different arguments from reason, and many of their defenders do not consider themselves "dualists".

I'd also say that Lewis's argument does not really pressuppose anything like a Cartesian or semi-Cartesian dualism, though.

Hal said...

Miguel,
Thanks for the interesting response and the suggested reading. Am not familiar with McCabe or Braine. Have, of course, heard of Geach but have not read any of his works. Will try and look into the writings you have suggested.

The Wittgensteinian philosophers whose works I've been greatly influenced by would include Bede Rundle ("Mind in Action", "Why There is Something Rather than Nothing"), Hans-Johann Glock ("Quine and Davidson on Language, Thought and Reality", "A Wittgenstein Dictionary"), Anthony Kenny, and Alan R. White PMS Hacker. Hacker has been the most influential. Am still working through his and Baker's multi-volume commentary on "Philisophical Investigations". I would highly recommend his and Bennet's "Philisophical Foundations of Neuroscience".

Though I've read widely, I wouldn't claim to understand Wittgenstein better than you. You may wish to check Hacker's two books: "Human Nature:The Categorial Framework" and "The Intellectual Powers: A Study of Human Nature" They give the most complete explication of the concept of mind I have been trying to present.

I agree with your statement that Lewis does not assume the mind works like a "mental mechanical device". It is his assumption that there are psychological events causally interacting with each other in the mind that can all too easily feed into a picture of the inner workings of the mind that mirrors the outer workings of physical events and processes and physical states.

Certainly there are logical relationships between our beliefs and the reasons for those beliefs. Many of those reasons can be events that take place in the world. For example, if I believed that I have invented a glass that is unbreakable but find out through testing that it can be broken then, if I were a rational being, I would no longer cling to that belief since I now have a reason for thinking it false. But I conceive of that change in belief to be a logical relationship between ground and consequent, not a causal relationship. The causal relationship is in the object breaking the glass, not in the changing of my mind.

I also should mention, that I don't conceive of the mind as a thing at all. It is not an agent. Rather it is the human being who can be said to have a mind that is the agent. Therefore it simply makes no sense to think that there is a causal relationship between the mind and the body.

I'm not denying that we have minds, rather we attribute minds to creatures that have a specific array of mental capacities such as memory, language-use, reasoning and free will.

I don't know how you can negate the claim that the argument of reason doesn't entail dualism of some form. It is certainly presented that way in Victor's book.


I assume that we agree that reductive materialism is false and that it is a mistake to identify the mind with the brain. It may turn out that we can at least come to a better understanding of our disagreements. In a forum such as this it is very difficult to deal with these sorts of issues in any great depth, but if you wish to continue the discussion I would look forward to it.

Hal said...

Miguel,
must also say that all the authors mentioned above -- McCabe, Braine, Geach -- were all fierce critics of any sort of "dualism". They all favored towards a more "unified" Aristotelean position, just as they all held that human thinking could not be fully explained by the operations of any bodily organs. There are many different arguments from reason, and many of their defenders do not consider themselves "dualists".

I believe my conception falls into the tradition of Aristotle, Aquinas and Wittgenstein. Since it has led me to abandon reductive materialism I guess one could claim that I also accept the argument from reason, but (as you say it is a different one from Lewis). To be honest I hadn't really looked at it that way.

In that case my disagreement with Lewis' argument would amount to a suggestion meant to improve his argument rather than abandon it completely.:-)

Miguel said...

Hal,
Thanks for naming all these authors; I haven't read some of them. I think a good name to add to the list would be Fogelin (his treatment of Wittgenstein's arguments is quite clear and interesting), and the previously mentioned McCabe and Geach. I also would not claim to understand Wittgenstein better than you, however, I still think his points do not undermine "lewisian-style" arguments from mental causation, at the very least if they are reformulated a bit.

I think Wittgenstein's legacy has been unfortunately tarnished by a confused association with people like Ryle and behaviorists in general, when Witt was clearly not a behaviorist.

The big issue, I would say, is that we cannot treat our changes of behavior in relation to what we call "evidence" as a mere game of correlations. For it is the evidence (and in particular, our understanding of that evidence) that has to somehow be responsible for our change in beliefs and behavior. There is something of a causal relationship in that, as the word cause is not limited to physical causation. After all, we say that we inferred X *because* (notice the "cause" embedded in the word "because"; curious etymology) of Y. We infer that "Socrates is mortal" *because* he is a man and all men are mortal. There is a causal relationship here, and we are somehow part of a causal relation with propositions and facts. However, as you yourself is willing to admit, we cannot make sense of it in terms of a physical relation of causes. Whatever it is, it is not what we can describe as "physical", and it is therefore not something that we can make sense of by reference to brain states alone. But that's pretty much Lewis's conclusion, and we cannot therefore treat human beings as what we'd call "chunks of matter"; in particular, there are immaterial aspects of human thought inasmuch as we come to conclude certain propositions because of certain facts and propositions, and not merely from physical causes and effects in our brains or anywhere else. I don't see how we can avoid this conclusion.

I am also inclined to agree that our mind is not properly the agent, but the human being is the agent. But the human person has this special power, this faculty of thought that is wholly immaterial and intrinsically (not extrinsically) independent of material organs. I think that would be Aquinas and Aristotle's position, as well. But this faculty implies that the human form (our "active inttellect" or "soul") does not cease to be in bodily death, but rather subsists. That would be taking it in the direction of Aquinas's argument for immortality, briefly.

Miguel said...

As far as "dualism" goes, it depends on how we understand the word. We could very well say that hylemorphism is some sort of dualism, as David Oderberg does, because after all, a hylemorphist is denying that there is just one kind of "thing" in the world (matter, or "res extensa" or whatever); instead, the hylemorphist argues that there are two different "things" (taken in the broadest sense of the word, *not* meaning "substances"): matter and form; a principle of individuation and a principle of structure. I count myself as a hylemorphic dualist, in this case. Indeed, McCabe was a hylemorphist himself, and his argument from language is given in the context of an exposition of (his reading of) Aquinas's argument for immortality of the soul. David Braine was also a hylemorphist, he titled his book "The Human Person: Animal and Spirit" and provided his argument not only to show immaterial aspects of our thought, but also as a way to arue for the possibility of life after death. Geach gives his argument in the same book in which he's investigating different conceptions of immortality, etc.

So I think hylemorphism can be taken as some form of "dualism". The problem is that the word "dualism" is so closely associated with cartesian substance dualism, property dualism etc. that it can sometimes be unhelpful to describe a view like Aristotle's or Aquinas's, which were very different from those of Descartes's and many confemporary philosophers. But that's on the word.

As far as Reppert's argument goes, I think what he means by "explanatory dualism" is something that is noncommital, except for excluding materialism and its different (epiphenomenalist) iterations. That is, it could include both a cartesian dualism and the aristotelean-thomistic hylemorphism that has attracted many wittgensteinians over the years (such as the ones mentioned above)

Hal said...

Miguel,

Afraid the following is all I have time for tonight. As is my usual method, I bolded all of your remarks.

The big issue, I would say, is that we cannot treat our changes of behavior in relation to what we call "evidence" as a mere game of correlations. For it is the evidence (and in particular, our understanding of that evidence) that has to somehow be responsible for our change in beliefs and behavior.
Agreed. If we are rational creatures then we should be able to give an account for why we voluntarily made the choice we did.


There is something of a causal relationship in that, as the word cause is not limited to physical causation. After all, we say that we inferred X *because* (notice the "cause" embedded in the word "because"; curious etymology) of Y. We infer that "Socrates is mortal" *because* he is a man and all men are mortal. There is a causal relationship here, and we are somehow part of a causal relation with propositions and facts. However, as you yourself is willing to admit, we cannot make sense of it in terms of a physical relation of causes.

The inferences we make are logical relationships. Logic provides us with “norms of representation”, rules for transforming symbols enabling us to move from premises to conclusions. I’m having trouble understanding the need for also characterizing them as causal relationships. The word “because” does not entail a causal relationship, it entails that we have a reason for a belief or a choice.
As I understand it, Lewis did not believe that a merely physical cause could result in a rational decision. He replaces that physical cause with a mental cause. He wishes to disrupt that physical chain of causes extending back to the creation of the world by adding mental causal links to that chain. If that mental cause results in a physical effect, it seems to me that he is using the word “cause” in a way that is difficult to distinguish from its typical use in describing physical changes. But there is no need for taking the step he did. The mind is not acting here, it is the human being. Any effects are brought about by the actions of the thinker.
I believe Wittgenstein turned away from mental causation not because he was a behaviorist (as we both agree) but simply because he saw no use for it. And it can mislead one into accepting that false picture of the inner workings of the mind that I mentioned above.
I quoted it earlier, but here it is again because I think it nicely illustrates W.’s point:
“Why ever should I deny that there is a mental process? It is only that “There has just taken place in me the mental process of remembering….” Means nothing more than “I have just remembered…”

Hal said...

Miguel,
I think we both agree that numbers exist. And that there are mathematical rules for multiplication, division, addition, etc.

So 12x12=144.

Would you also think that 144 was caused by 12x12?

My answer would be no. We know that 144 is the result of multiplying 12x12 because we understand the rules for multiplication.

I would have trouble understanding the reason for characterizing that mathematical relationship as a causal relationship.

Miguel said...

Hal,

I would like to continue this discussion another day. Recently I've gotten busy with other things so I won'r be able to give a satisfactory answer here, but maybe we can just continue the discussion some other day and in another one of Victor's post. I will say, however, that while I find your critique to be reasonable, I still think that we need to understand the relation between evidence, propositions and our thoughts through some kind of causal relation -- it seems quite inevitable to me, as causation is precisely the sort of concept that explains how E could not have occurred without C, and this seems to me to reflect pretty well the process of drawing conclusions based on arguments and evidences while we're engaged in the activity of thinking. I also think that the "cause" in "because" is not there as a mere coincidence, just as in Portuguese we often literally say that "eu pensei isso por causa disso" ("I thought this because of that", but literally something like "I thought this since it was caused by that"), the association is even stronger. Somehow there is a way in which our thoughts are being caused by other thoughts, and that this causation cannot be mechanistic is what this AfR states. It doesn't have to be in the sense thar 144 was caused by 12x12 itself, but somehow our reaching the conclusion of 144 was caused by our thoughts of math. I don't think Wittgenstein's remarks would contradict the argument from mental causation, at least not if we reformulate it a bit.

Anyway, I'd recommend you to read David Braine, McCabe, and also Geach's argument, I think you will enjoy them. We can resume this discussion on another day if you want. I thank you for the interesting thoughts and posts.

Hal said...

Miguel,

No problem.
I think I just purchased the last decent used copy of D. Braine's book. A new copy was going for over $400!!!

I think I will try and write one more response in a day or two. Give you something more to think of while we take a break. Can't write more today as I'm getting ready to head up to Berkeley to hear Dr. Feser's talk on scientism.

It has been a pleasure discussing these issues with you. Take care.