Sunday, March 19, 2006

A clarificatory question about the AFR

Dear Dr. Reppert,

I am a grad student at Texas Tech and very interested in Lewis's AFR and your versions of it. I am writing a paper and hoping to get others in the department interested as well.

Would you take a brief moment to help me with an interpretation difficulty?

I interpret Lewis as wanting to take rational inference out of the causal nexus of the "interlocked system" of Nature because such a system is governed by blind, mechanistic laws and therefore beliefs caused in this way are unable to underwrite rational inference (as we normally understand it). Thus, for Lewis a rationally inferred belief is never caused in the normal (mechanistic) sense of the word. Rather, a rationally inferred belief comes about in a subject by the logical relation that a subject grasps. That is, subjects form beliefs in light of the reasons they have for those beliefs. A belief is rationally inferred only if it is “caused” in this unique sense of the word cause (that is not really a causal relation?)

From reading your work, however, it seems that you think Lewis only meant that rationally inferred beliefs must have nonphysical causes. (Where cause is not the issue but the type of cause.) This is how you set up your AFR from mental causation, right? A rationally inferred belief must be caused by a mental event qua mental. And of course, non-reductive materialists cannot achieve this (running the normal Kim arguments.)

But your argument seems to be at odds with Lewis's argument if Lewis really wants to remove rationaly inference from the causal order. Where have I gone wrong?

I hope I have been brief but clear.


Timothy Linehan

Timothy: Remember once again that while Lewis has one argument, I have drawn strands out of Lewis's ideas to generate six arguments, and there can be more as well. If caused means produced, providing necessary of sufficient conditions for its existence, then rational inference requires mental causation and not the lack of causation. In one essay Lewis refers to reasons as special kinds of causes. However, these causes are not mechanistic, as physicalists are bound to say that they are. If an avalanche falls down a mountain the physical causes will neither favor hitting my head nor missing my head. The rocks will go where gravtational and other forces require that they go, and if my head is in the way, then it will be hit, and if it isn't in the way it will not. What anything means what what anyone wants will have nothing to do with what happens.

No comments: