Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A priori arguments and materialism

This begins a series of responses to Keith Parsons on the Argument from Reason, found here

Parsons' first critical response to the argument is this: 

First, note that Goetz and Taliafero’s arguments, and practically all arguments against the MTB thesis, are a priori in nature, whereas the arguments for MTB are mostly empirical. Historically, a priori arguments have fared very poorly when opposed to empirical arguments. Philosophers will draw an a priori line in the sand and scientists will gleefully jump over it. The dismal track record of a priori claims against empirical ones provides some reason to doubt the cogency of arguments like those of Goetz and Taliafero.

Are all a priori arguments bad? Really? What about Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, for crying out loud? Or the entire edifice of mathematics, on which the entire operation of science is based? That's ALL a priori. 

It might be helpful to see some examples of what Parsons is talking about. 


Dan Gillson said...

Parsons' first critical response is just the genetic fallacy. That other a priori arguments have faired poorly against scientific evidence isn't relevant to the Goetz and Taliafero's argument. Besides which, Parsons is trying to stack the deck; he claims that the evidence is in his favor, but he doesn't furnish it, and even if he did, his case would necessarily omit the evidence to the contrary, hence the charge of stacking the deck.

I don't know, I'm really just doing some mental calisthenics.

Ilíon said...

"It might be helpful to see some examples of what Parsons is talking about."

But you don't really expect to, now do you?

Look at it this way: Parsons is attempting an a priori "argument" against a priori arguments ... he just needs his readers to not notice the nature of what he's trying to pull off.