Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ed Feser on the Argument from Intentionality

Originally dated Nov. 21 2006
The following is from Philosophy of Mind: an Introduction, by Edward Feser. Hat tip: Joe Markus from the Internet Infidels Discussion board.

When you draw your mother, you are creating a kind of representation of her. But notice that it is not the particular physical features of the drawing itself - the form of the lines you make, the chemicals in the ink you use, and so forth - which make it a representation of her.........Someone looking over your shoulder as you draw might later on produce an exact copy of the drawing you were making. Perhaps the person admires your craftsmanship and wants to see if he or she can do as well. But in doing so the person would not, strictly speaking, be drawing a respresentation of your mother - he or she may have no idea, nor any interest in, who it was that you were drawing - but rather a representation of your representation. And, in general, the very same image could count either as a drawing of an X, or as a drawing of a drawing of X - or indeed (supposing there's someone looking over the shoulder of the second artist and copying what he or she was drawing) as a drawing of a drawing of a drawing of an X, and so on ad infinitum.......Even if we count something as a drawing, and therefore as possessing some intentionality or other, exactly what it is a drawing of is still indeterminate from its physical properties alone. The same is true not just of drawings, but also of written and spoken words (for to say or write "cat" could be to represent cats, but it could also be to represent the word "cat") and indeed any material representation, including purported representations encoded in neural firing patterns in the brain. There seems in general to be nothing about the physical properties of a material representation that make it a material representation of an X as opposed to a material representation of a material representation of an X.......Sometimes, however, you are determinately thinking about a particular thing or person, such as your mother. Your thought about your mother is about your mother - it represents your mother, and doesn't represent a representation of your mother (representations, pictures, and the like might be the furthest thing from your mind). But then your thought, whatever it is, cannot be entirely material. Given that there's nothing about a material representation per se that could make it a representation of an X as opposed to a representation of a representation of an X, if your thought was entirely material then there would be no fact of the matter about whether your thought represented your mother as opposed to a representation of your mother. Your thought is determinate; purely material representations are not; so your thought is not purely material.

posted by Victor Reppert @ 3:49 PM


At 5:47 PM, Jim Lippard said…

"There seems in general to be nothing about the physical properties of a material representation that make it a material representation of an X as opposed to a material representation of a material representation of an X."

This seems patently false. What makes an image of my mother an image of my mother is the fact that it resembles my mother--the images on my retina, the images in my visual brain maps cause stimulation of the neurons associated with my mother due to that similarity; and those associated with my mother are there as a result of my visual experiences with my mother (and are linked to other neurons as a result of my memories of experiences and thoughts about my mother).

Likewise even for stipulated/dubbed representations--they only are recognized as representations because of the appropriate neural connections in my brain, which are there because of past experiences and memories.

Without the appropriate connections in somebody's neural systems (or equivalent memory stores causally connected up in the right way to the world), there's no representation.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Political Action by Atheists: Why Gnus are Different

Apparently, it is having an impact over in England. For example, Christian couples have been denied the right to adopt on grounds that the children might be brainwashed. Here. 

Being told you can't adopt a child because of what you believe about religions strikes me as an extreme form of anti-religious discrimination.  Jim Crow returns in the name of reason and science.

One would have to wonder what would happen if Richard Dawkins had a son or daughter who, say, decided to be received into the Catholic Church. Would he say "Well, we taught you to think for yourself, and this is what you have decided. I don't agree personally, but far be it from me to brainwash you and make your decision for you."


A lot of Christians on this site respond differently to New Atheists than they do to other atheists, I think there is a reason for this. New Atheism is socially divisive in a way that Old Atheism is not. Even in discussions with some passionate atheists, I always had the feeling that there was a common purpose underlying the exchange, a desire to understand our differences better. I think that common purpose is lost with New Atheism.

Even strongly atheistic philosophy professors would tell me that the presence of Christians like Plantinga, Swinburne, and Robert and Marilyn Adams were good for philosophy.

I think that New Atheists have contributed nothing of substance to argumentation for and against the existence of God. So, in one sense, a successful critique of New Atheist arguments shouldn't be confused with a successful critique of atheist arguments in general. But New Atheism has to be recognized for what it is as a social phenomenon, and I find very harmful.

If I stopped believing in God tomorrow.....

I would certainly NOT become a humanist. 

I think I'd probably agree with Albert Camus, when he said 

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest — whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories — comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer. And if it is true, as Nietzsche claims, that a philosopher, to deserve our respect, must preach by example, you can appreciate the importance of that reply, for it will precede the definitive act. These are facts the heart can feel; yet they call for careful study before they become clear to the intellect.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

On the suppression of religion

What I implied, I-S, is that Stenger has a motivation for using force to suppress religious belief, not that he has an advocated using it. Christianity doesn't teach that violence should be used to suppress opposing beliefs, but it is quite true that people who think that there is a great deal of stake in maintaining a particular religion have a motive for using force if the opportunity presents itself. 

Christianity also, it seems to me provides the basis for arguments against using force on its behalf. 

Of course, I can't be sure what people would do in a situation that they do not in fact find themselves in. Stenger seems to think unbelief is winning, so violence won't be necessary, as it was not necessary in the European countries that serve as his example. But I hear from people like him a kind of urgency about winning people for unbelief that goes like this: 

"We are on the cusp of history. We can either abandon faith and embrace science, or we can hold on to faith and retreat to a new dark age. Everything depends on which way we turn at this critical time in history. That is why we have to work hard to achieve the end of faith, so the new Golden Age can be inaugurated, as opposed to a retreat into the benighted past."

When someone talks like this, I have to wonder what they would NOT do to make sure we turn the right way, if they were given the opportunity. On what basis would they refuse to use whatever power they had at their disposal to make sure we abandon faith. It seems to me that such people have the motive in spades. What would happen if they had the means and opportunity, to become the atheist equivalents of Grand Inquisitors? The fact that they don't advocate the use of force is not very comforting, since they don't have the means to use force if they wanted to. The fact that some of them already advocate treating those they disagree with in ways that remind me a lot of the schoolyard bullies I dealt with in grade school is even less reassuring. If the end is so important, what means will not be justified? 

Monday, October 06, 2014

Plantinga Reviews Dennett

Isn't that what we're all waiting for? Well, he hasn't reviewed the new one yet, but here is a Plantinga "golden oldie" while you wait.

Here's the interesting part of the paper, concerning Dennett's rebuttal to the fine tuning argument.

Dennett's rejoinder to the argument is that possibly, "there has been an evolution of worlds (in the sense of whole universes) and the world we find ourselves in is simply one among countless others that have existed throughout all eternity." And given infinitely many universes, Dennett thinks, all the possible distributions of values over the cosmological constants would have been tried out; [ 7 ] as it happens, we find ourselves in one of those universes where the constants are such as to allow for the development of intelligent life (where else?).

Well, perhaps all this is logically possible (and then again perhaps not). As a response to a probabilistic argument, however, it's pretty anemic. How would this kind of reply play in Tombstone, or Dodge City? "Waal, shore, Tex, I know it's a leetle mite suspicious that every time I deal I git four aces and a wild card, but have you considered the following? Possibly there is an infinite succession of universes, so that for any possible distribution of possible poker hands, there is a universe in which that possibility is realized; we just happen to find ourselves in one where someone like me always deals himself only aces and wild cards without ever cheating. So put up that shootin' arn and set down 'n shet yore yap, ya dumb galoot." Dennett's reply shows at most ('at most', because that story about infinitely many universes is doubtfully coherent) what was never in question: that the premises of this argument from apparent design do not entail its conclusion. But of course that was conceded from the beginning: it is presented as a probabilistic argument, not one that is deductive valid. Furthermore, since an argument can be good even if it is not deductively valid, you can't refute it just by pointing out that it isn't deductively valid. You might as well reject the argument for evolution by pointing out that the evidence for evolution doesn't entail that it ever took place, but only makes that fact likely. You might as well reject the evidence for the earth's being round by pointing out that there are possible worlds in which we have all the evidence we do have for the earth's being round, but in fact the earth is flat. Whatever the worth of this argument from design, Dennett really fails to address it.