Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Here's an Argument from Reason Wikipedia stub

Hey, Richard Carrier has a Wikipedia entry, so why not the AFR?


Anonymous said...

What are your thoughts on its accuracy and/or clarity?

Victor Reppert said...

The C. S. Lewis entry, at least, is pretty good and one I used when I did a C. S. Lewis overview for a SS class a year or so ago. But I suspect, of course, that it is a little uneven.

Latenter said...


I think he meant--or at least I would ask--what you think of the summary in that stub on the AfR in particular, not of wikipedia in general.

Does it fairly, accurately, and fully summarize the AfR in your opinion?

Especially on potentially controversial comments like "as thoroughgoing naturalism entails" or the self referentially incoherency business.

Darek Barefoot said...

A note here.

The incoherency examples seem to be drawn from my Sec Web reply to Richard Carrier's review of Victor's book. However, those examples were not in a section of my essay that was defending the AfR. They were from a section in which I attempted to argue that the denial of will entailed by epiphenomenalism was incoherent.

The AfR does argue that naturalism is self-refuting, but the illustrative statements given in the stub did not occur in a defense of the AfR per se.

Aldus Shrugs said...

Derek et al:

That's a good point and, per wikipedia's standards (as I understand them), it probably puts the article on dubious grounds as a legitimate article, given that they rely on a standard of "verifiability, not truth".

Nevertheless, as an academic discussion it raises the question of the point's veracity in my mind. So, would you agree academically with: By [the AfR's] logic, the statement "I have reason to believe naturalism is valid" is self-referentially incoherent in the same manner as the sentence "One of the words of this sentence does not have the meaning that it appears to have." or the statement "I never tell the truth"?

In my mind it truthfully illustrates the incoherency of naturalism in the same way that it does for epiphenomenalism and ties in nicely with Lewis's Haldane quotation. But I readily admit that I may be wrong, which is why I ask the question.

Aldus Shrugs said...

To streamline my earlier question I should say that I suppose it could coherently be argued that "I have reason to believe naturalism is valid" is not self-referentially incoherent insomuch as an effect of a cause is not necessarily irrational.

But what if we substituted "naturalism is a consequent that follows from rational grounds"? From my understanding, if naturalism is assumed true, nothing follows at all from rational grounds. Nothing follows from anything but physical causes. And then only in specific instances, yet the present tense phrase “follows” as used in the substitute phrase implies an eternal truth. Admittedly, it seems possible that a physical cause might, by mere coincidence, lead one to a consequent that had rational grounds, but it would not be true that the consequent follows from those grounds, only that it possesses them.

How we could ever know that it possessed them, I don’t know. And if we don’t know, why should it be given any more weight than any worldview whatsoever is an impossible argument. That, to me, is the ‘cardinal difficulty of naturalism’ and why I think that the Wikipedia argument more or less works.

Am I setting up a straw man here?

Darek Barefoot said...


>>From my understanding, if naturalism is assumed true, nothing follows at all from rational grounds.<<

That is exactly what Lewis argues, but naturalists heartily disagree. Lewis relied in part on cases in which we know that irrational beliefs are generated by causes--drunkenness or a blow to the head that results in delusions or unjustified conclusions.

Some naturalists would retort that causes must be sorted according to the kinds of beliefs they produce. Not all chemical processes are photosynthetic, to pick another category, but some are, and naturalism is not refuted by the distinction.

Naturalists (or again, some of them) tend to think that logical relationships between propositions, for example, can exist as complex relations among objects/states/events that lack intentionality and normativity at the constituent level. Lewis rejects this possibility in principle; in some contexts he treats it as self-evidently absurd.

So, yes, if intentionality, rational normativity and the rest cannot exist as relations among constituents that in isolation lack these properties, then the assertion of naturalism is self-refuting or incoherent. In developing the AfR the trick, I think, is to demonstrate in clear steps why these properties cannot be construed as relations among non-rational constitutive elements. The intuition that they cannot is insufficient by itself.