Thursday, November 16, 2017

Van Inwagen's Critique of Lewis's Revised Argument in Miracles

Here. 

35 comments:

Joe Hinman said...

Say Doc no way my understanding of Lewis is honing to rival your's.I want to see you write a paper about this. What do you say about VIW's?

ficino4ml said...

I learned from the article, thanks for linking.

Bilbo said...

Vic, I see he lists your book in his references. Now I'll have to go back and read your book, which I haven't done in a few years.

Bilbo said...

I just looked over Chapter Four of your book, "Several Formulations of the Argumrent from Reason." From what I can tell, Van Inwagen did not address any of your formulations. So he lists your book in his references, but doesn't address anything you have to say. Rather disappointing.

Dan Gillson said...

Lewis's argument fails the "So What?" test, which is to say that it fails to be relevant to practical reason. Even if Lewis is right, human beings will continue to act as though they possess reason or rationality; we aren't anyways able to adjust our conduct or our thinking to the purported truth of Lewis's argument. Our commitments to our nature to act in ways we believe are reasonable or rational are too strong to abandon in the face of an irrelevant metaphysics, the veracity or falsity of which have no bearing on our interpersonal lives.

Victor Reppert said...

Rather disappointing in that doesn't develop the idea, present in Lewis's chapter, that nature isn't supposed to be rational, and therefore reasons can't play any causal role in the events that occur within nature. This is developed in Hasker's argument that any materialistic view needs to say that the material world is mechanistic and nonteleolgical, that it is causally closed, and that whatever else there is has to supervene on that. If all the causes are nonrational, then van Inwagen, at least on the face of things, can't say the reasons for the most recent causes. That would be to commit a skyhook, and Daniel Dennett's skyhook police will arrest you if you say that.

Bilbo said...

Vic, why would such a celebrated philosopher offer such a superficial analysis of the argument from reason?

Miguel said...

Dan Gilson,

It doesn't fail the "so what" test. Lewis's argument EXPECTS us to continue acting as though we have reason, indeed it expects us to continue believing we are rational and reasonable. This is why it can be framed as a transcendental argument, a reductio ad absurdum, or an argument to the best explanation. Lewis's argument shows precisely that naturalism is false because it denies something that we know to be true, and something that we cannot even deny to be true. What belief should someone give up on -- rationality or the 20th century superstition called "naturalism"? Naturalism. And so the non-naturalist can be coherent and rational in his beliefs. The naturalist must deny reason in order to believe his savage superstition of irrational thoughts and brute facts.

Miguel said...

Dan,

Lewis's arment does not fail the "so what" test. It EXPECTS us to continue acting as though we have rationality. In fact it expects us to continue believing we are rational and reasonable. Hence why it can be used as a transcendental argument, a reductio ad absurdum, or as an appeal to the best explanation. Lewis's argument shows that naturalism denies what we know to be true, and what we can't even coherently doubt. Lewis's argument shows that naturalism is incompatible with the true fact that human beings have determinate immaterial thoughts and can reason and follow conclusions in ground and consequent relations that could never be captured in terms of physical cause and effect relations. Faced with this, what belief should we give up on: the belief that human beings are rational and can reason validly, or belief in the 20th century superstition called naturalism?

The non-naturalist can be coherent in his beliefs and hold the obvious and necessary truh that we have reason. The naturalist must give up belief in reason in order to (irrationally) accept his savage superstition of brute facts and chaos.

Hal said...

Victor,
Thanks for link. Interesting article.
I especially liked the the closing paragraph:

I close with a simple question. If it is permissible for someone to believe,in the absence of a proof, that human beings have free will or that there is an external world, why is it not permissible for someone to believe, in the absence of a proof, that Naturalism is consistent with some of our beliefs being grounded in reasoning?

Hal said...

Miguel,
The naturalist must give up belief in reason in order to (irrationally) accept his savage superstition of brute facts and chaos.

That strikes me as rather harsh. How do you expect to engage in rational discourse with those you disagree with when you take that sort of attitude?

Hal said...

Victor,
That would be to commit a skyhook, and Daniel Dennett's skyhook police will arrest you if you say that.

Hate to break it to you, but Dennett is not the spokesperson for naturalism.:-) He has a rather peculiar approach toward intentionality. And though I haven't taken a poll, I do know that at least some serious thinkers in the naturalistic camp find much to criticize in his positions.

There are many other philosophers besides Dennett and Dawkins who might disagree with your philosophical positions. It is too bad that you devote so much time to these two guys.

Victor Reppert said...

Here is Dennett's description of a skyhook.

Let us understand that a skyhook is a "mind-first" force or power or process, an exception to the principle that all design, and apparent design, is ultimately the result of mindless, motiveless mechanicity. A crane, in contrast, is a subprocess or special feature of a design process that can be demonstrated to permit the local speeding up of the basic, slow process of natural selection, and that can be demonstrated to be itself the predictable (or retrospectively explicable) product of the basic process.

Can a naturalist say that there is an exception to the principle that all design, and apparent design, is ultimately the result of mindless, motiveless mechanicity? If so then could I join the naturalist club?

William said...

I think that Van Inwangen winds up saying, in the key passage on pp 19-20, that if we allow subjective, rational "because" reasons as __another kind of physical reasons__, and thus put those subjective items into the category of physical things included within Lewis' Naturalism, then Lewis' argument fails.

Of course, that kind of Van Inwangen style physicalism is one that neither Lewis nor you, Victor, would consider to be the Naturalism the argument was about.


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

Victor,

This is only a problem for a naturalist if one denies that as new things emerged through evolution new properties also emerged. Also, with the emergence of living organisms teleological explanations are needed to describe and explain their activities. However, Darwin did show that cosmic teleology is not required to explain the variety of living organisms. So in that respect Dennett is correct.

I understand that there are naturalists who take positions that are threatened by Lewis' argument, but that does not entail that naturalism is false. In the same way, the fact that the error of the fundamentalistic Early Earth Creationists' position does not entail that Christianity is false.

Victor Reppert said...

Thomas Nagel is an atheist who doesn't think there's a God, But thinks that somehow rationality is on the ground floor of the universe, and is not a recent evolutionary byproduct. He is getting holy hell from orthodox naturalists. Not just Dennett, but people like Pinker and Blackburn.

Hal said...

Victor,
Wish that being an atheist shielded one from making philosophical mistakes and having misconceptions about the mind and evolution and various other sundry issues such as what it is like to be a bat.:-)

Even though I don't have much respect for the positions that Dennett and Pinker hold (I don't know enough about Blackburn to have any opinion of his work) the mere fact that they disagree with Nagel does not add legitimacy to his views. From where I stand they are all equally mistaken.

I find philosophers such as John Dupré, P.M.S. Hacker, Bede Rundle or Mario Bunge provide a better understanding of the natural world than those you've listed.

Victor Reppert said...

OK, what makes natural natural?

Hal said...

Victor,
The word "natural" has many different uses. In the context of our present discussion I would take it's use to be mainly to distinguish it from the realm of the supernatural. So the world that was created by God in Genesis would be the natural world while God could be said to exist apart from the world in a supernatural realm.

As we've gained more knowledge of the universe our concept of what is natural has of course changed. And our concept of the supernatural or the spiritual has also changed accordingly.

Hal said...

An interesting quote from a REVIEW of Nagel’s book:

Nagel opposes two main components of the “materialist” view inspired by Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. The first is what we will call theoretical reductionism, the view that there is an order of priority among the sciences, with all theories ultimately derivable from physics and all phenomena ultimately explicable in physical terms. We believe, along with most philosophers, that Nagel is right to reject theoretical reductionism, because the sciences have not progressed in a way consistent with it. We have not witnessed the reduction of psychology to biology, biology to chemistry, and chemistry to physics, but rather the proliferation of fields like neuroscience and evolutionary biology that explain psychological and biological phenomena in terms unrecognizable by physics. As the philosopher of biology Philip Kitcher pointed out some thirty years ago, even classical genetics has not been fully reduced to molecular genetics, and that reduction would have been wholly within one field. We simply do not see any serious attempts to reduce all the “higher” sciences to the laws of physics.
Yet Nagel argues in his book as if this kind of reductive materialism really were driving the scientific community. The only named target is the Nobel Prize–winning physicist Steven Weinberg, famous for his defense of the primacy of physics in such popular works as Dreams of a Final Theory (1992). Here is what Nagel writes in describing Weinberg’s view:

My target is a comprehensive, speculative world picture that is reached by extrapolation from some of the discoveries of biology, chemistry, and physics—a particular naturalistic Weltanschauung that postulates a hierarchical relation among the subjects of those sciences, and the completeness in principle of an explanation of everything in the universe through their unification. Such a world view is not a necessary condition of the practice of any of those sciences, and its acceptance or nonacceptance would have no effect on most scientific research.

Nagel here aligns himself, as best we can tell, with the majority view among both philosophers and practicing scientists. Just to take one obvious example, very little of the actual work in biology inspired by Darwin depends on reductive materialism of this sort; evolutionary explanations do not typically appeal to Newton’s laws or general relativity. Given this general consensus (the rhetoric of some popular science writing by Weinberg and others aside), it is puzzling that Nagel thinks he needs to bother attacking theoretical reductionism.

David Brightly said...

We have wandered off the topic of PVI's critique of Lewis. He concludes, bottom of p122, It seems therefore that Lewis has not shown that a belief fact that has a 'type C explanation' cannot also have a 'type A explanation'. This strikes me as the obvious lacuna in Lewis's argument. He assumes without justification that ground-consequent explanations and cause-effect explanations are exclusive. Here is an argument to the effect that they are not.

We don't know the nature of beliefs. But we do know that they can be expressed in sentences that have a physical realisation. So let's suppose that there can be a cause-effect relation between beliefs and sentences and also between sentences and beliefs. Then ground beliefs G1,...,Gn can cause sentences SG1,...,SGn. The latter may cause the consequent sentence SC. This is a matter of pattern matching and substitution over physical symbols. Sentence SC may then cause the consequent belief C. So there can be a cause-effect path from ground beliefs to a consequent belief that goes via physically realised sentences. The point here is that the ground-consequent relation between beliefs, like beliefs themselves, is mysterious and possibly other-worldly. But the ground-consequent relation over sentences is simple and physically realisable.

William said...

David,

Are cultural artifacts "merely" physical objects? The answer seems to be no: see

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.296.1210&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Hal said...

William,
Was the name of the paper you linked to "Why property dualists must reject substance physicalism"?

I don't understand what that has to do with cultural artifacts.

William said...

Hal,
If the paper (yes that one) is correct, it implies that something such as a book containing sentences which represent reasoning (which is the connection of that paper with the argument for reason) cannot be a purely physical substance if its meaning is one of its properties.

William said...

^^^ sorry that was ** "argument from reason" not argument for reason

Hal said...

William,
Thanks for the clarification.

Do you think the argument of the paper caries through if the mind is not a substance (or, for that matter, not a thing)?

William said...

Hal,

I'm rather loose with the substance term, since I think most but not all substances are made of substances. You seem much more conservative about what a substance is it seems. So, yes.

David Brightly said...

William, I take you to be saying that it's a corollary of Schneider's argument that if a book has its meaning as a property then the book cannot be wholly physical? One might see this as a reductio ad absurdum of the premises: either Schneider's argument is unsound or meanings are not properties. I find the latter plausible. To say a book's meaning is one of its properties is rather like saying that the flame produced when it's struck is one of the properties of a match.

William said...

Aren't virtual properties like "burning if lit" properties? If not, what are they?

David Brightly said...

I think they are called 'dispositional' properties. But the match's flammability is not the flame it gives rise to. Likewise, a book's meaningfulness is not the meaning it engenders in a reader.

William said...

I'm not sure how to categorize your "dispositional properties." Perhaps they are properties of both a thing and its potential contexts, seen together?

Bout anyway. Is the above "meaningfulness" of a book a property of the book? Is that property physical?


David Brightly said...

I think it would be stretching the notion of 'property' beyond breaking point to ascribe a property to a thing and a possible context in which it might find itself, in conjunction, as it were. Does the property vanish when the context is removed, for example? But context is clearly important and taken into account through conditionals. The flammability of the match manifests itself when the match is struck. The fragility of a wine glass becomes apparent if the glass is dropped, and so on.

Perhaps the meaningfulness of a text is an extreme example of this phenomenon, where the context plays as important a role, if not more so, as the thing itself. The meaningfulness of an English text is apparent only to readers of English, and sometimes only to specifically educated readers. I can't make much sense of Judith Butler, for example. And the 'interiority' of meanings makes a difference. We can all 'see' the fragility of a glass when it smashes on the floor. But I don't see the meaning that others say they find in Butler. I'm unchanged by it.

So I'm inclined to see meaning as a phenomenon that occurs in suitably prepared persons when exposed to texts. The relation between text and meaning is more one of cause and effect than one of object and property, I think. Certainly, the text itself is entirely physical. But if the text can cause such meanings then we ascribe to it the property of 'meaningfulness'.

William said...

This seems a little like the discussions of what color is, and whether it is only in the eye of the person or is also in some way in the colored thing. I guess I see color as being in things in some way, just as I see meaning as being in things in some way, and you do not, at least with the meaning in things part.

I don't see any real proofs of what is correct in these things, just varying intuitions of what makes sense.

David Brightly said...

Yes, this might be one of those strange inversions that occur when we move from explanations and understandings within the manifest image to explanations and understandings within the scientific image. But there are puzzles even with the manifest image. If meaning lies in an English text how come a non-English speaker cannot see it? What is going on in the lengthy period it takes to learn a language and subsequently to read it and write it? Why can't I make any sense of Butler?

But in any case, my argument against Lewis does not involve meaning. It says that sentences are syntactic entities---patterns of physical symbols---and that logic is mere syntactic substitution and rearrangement.