Saturday, May 08, 2021

On the definition of naturalism

Here is a DI2 post on the definition of naturalism. 

Friday, May 07, 2021

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

An interview on the AFR

 An interview of me on the AFR. 


Saturday, May 01, 2021

Materialism and morally motivated actions

1. No act is morally motivated if it can be fully explained in terms of nonmoral causes.
2. If materialistic atheism is true, then all actions can be fully explained in terms of nonmoral causes.
3. But some actions are morally motivated.
Therefore, materialistic atheism is false.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Abortion and stigma

 Supporters of abortion are concerned about women being stigmatized for getting abortions. I wonder if women who refuse abortions and have children under difficult circumstances now run the risk of being themselves stigmatized, i. e., women who choose to carry Down's Syndrome babies to term.

Quite apart from pro-choice, there is a pro-abortion movement that really does encourage people to get abortions. I think pro-lifers put too much emphasis on winning a political battle over abortion laws and even abortion funding. The real abortion battle takes place in the minds and hearts of women making choices about difficult pregnancies. I think the mainstream position at Planned Parenthood is to push the idea that women should never be stigmatized for getting an abortion. In this way they minimize the serious moral decision that has to be made, and I think it's going to have the effect of stigmatizing people who DON'T get abortions when other people think they should. "Well, you had a choice. You knew this was going to be difficult. Why do you go ahead and have the baby?"

This article, by a pro-choice philosopher, illustrates the problem.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

What would happen if you vaporized Planned Parenthood?

 Planned Parenthood does more than abort babies. If you defunded it, or vaporized it, would the abortion rate go up or down? I think Hillary Clinton talked about a county in Texas the defunded Planned Parenthood, and the abortion rate went up. 

Of course, these consequential issues remind me of another question. Is the point of murder laws to prevent murder? What if we lived in a possible world in which murder laws actually resulted in there being more murders than there would otherwise be. Should murder be illegal if that were true? 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

A debate on the argument from reason

 Between Max Baker-Hytch and the Cosmic Skeptic. 


Friday, April 09, 2021

Chesterton on determinism may say, if you like, that the bold determinist speculator is free to disbelieve in the reality of the will. But it is a much more massive and important fact that he is not free to raise, to curse, to thank, to justify, to urge, to punish, to resist temptations, to incite mobs, to make New Year resolutions, to pardon sinners, to rebuke tyrants, or even to say "thank you" for the mustard.

Orthodoxy CW1:228

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

J. R. Lucas on the Philosophical Climate at Oxford

 The philosophical climate in which I grew up in Oxford was one of extreme aridity. The ability not to be convinced was the most powerful part of a young Philosopher’s armory: a competent tutor could disbelieve any proposition, no matter how true it was, and the more sophisticated could not even understand the meaning of what was being asserted. In consequence, concern was concentrated on the basic questions of epistemology almost to the exclusion of other questions of larger import but less easy to argue in black and white terms. The undergraduate who wanted to write essays on the meaning of existence was told to confine himself to the logical grammar of ‘is,’ and was not even allowed to ask what truth was, or how one ought to live one’s life.

Lucas, J.R. (1976), Freedom and Grace, London: SPCK, ix. 

Lucas passed away a year ago yesterday. 

Saturday, April 03, 2021

The least needed Lewis book?

 For Easter.

Christopher Derrick wrote: "Of all C. S. Lewis's books, I suggest the one the world needed least is Miracles." I find this statement strange. Miracles seems to be aimed not at the philosophical community, but at lay people trying to deal with modern biblical scholarship. There you find people committed to evaluating miracle claims with an explicit (in the case of Rudolf Bultmann), or an implicit methodological naturalism, and given the fact that Christianity is founded at its core on certain miracle claims being the case, Lewis, responding to a suggestion by Dorothy Sayers, was making a case against evaluating biblical accounts with a bias against the supernatural. The argument against naturalism fits in in that he is arguing that even the reasoning processes we use to reason about matters such as the miracle claims in Scripture presuppose the falsity of what would eventually be known as the causal closure of the physical, so why assume closure in biblical studies? This is an ongoing issue in biblical studies, and is has come up in Derrick’s Catholic Church, so I find Derrick’s remarks puzzling. However, the argument is also of considerable interest from the standpoint of philosophy, given the widespread presumption of materialism or naturalism in the philosophy of mind.

Lewis on retribution, revenge, and mercy

 For Lewis punishment is about retribution,  which is different from revenge. Revenge is not limited by what someone deserves, and typically when people take revenge, the do more to them than what they did to the other person. When you give someone what they deserve, you can't hurt them more than they deserve, and Lewis is open to saying that courts can be merciful and, for a good reason, give people less than they deserve. 

See here. 

Two Australian penologists responded, here, as did Australian philosopher J. J. C. Smart, here, who in spite of famously becoming an act utilitarian, seems to have been a rule utilitarian at this point. Lewis responded here. 

Friday, April 02, 2021

Materialism and determinism

If we are simply material beings, aren't our actions determined by the laws of  physics? Particles in the brain are governed by the laws of physics, and if this is so, doesn't that mean that the brain is determined by the laws of physics? 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

The Catholic Church, Dawkins, and the sexual abuse of minors

 The Catholic Church clearly teaches that sexual abuse of children is a grave sin. They may have failed to penalize and remove offenders the way they should have and failed to protect their parishioners as they should have, but they do teach that this is very wrong. Atheist Richard Dawkins, on the other hand, has said that being molested as a child was not such a big deal

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Does universal causation entail determinism?

 If you mean by a cause something that contributes to the occurrence of an event, then the statement "every event has a cause" does NOT entail determinism. This is why I object strongly to the textbook's definition of determinism, when the text says that if every event has a cause, then determinism is true. Now you can define a cause as a guarantor of a subsequent event, and if you do that, you can go from universal causation to determinism. But only if you do that. 

This is the textbook, if anyone is interested. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Dawkins on science informing morality

 He seems to think anti-abortionists are misguided absolutists. 


Saturday, March 20, 2021

America first?

 It's hard to argue against the idea that you should care for you own family before others, although this goes against utilitarianism. What interests me are the people who say we should care for Americans before we spend any money trying to help people in foreign countries. Is that just national prejudice, or is there a reason for saying "America first?" 

Friday, March 19, 2021

How can you argue for universal human dignity without religious premises--if you are facing a skeptic on the issue?

Are there any "tribal" or "status"  limits to who deserves to be treated as a real human being. Cultures develop strong rules for how you treat someone, but there are all sorts of limits on who gets treated as a real person. Human inequality was thought to be a basic fact of existence. Good citizens of Greece and Rome treated boys of low birth as sexual objects, and dumped them when they were no longer desirable. Christianity played a role in changing this, in that Christians saw every person as someone for whom Christ died, so would it really make sense to believe that Christ died for human garbage? But Christians have not absorbed this message consistently, as some of them owned slaves and treated them like human garbage. We've become convinced, in theory, that every human being is worth of respect, in society as a whole, but if someone needed to be persuaded that all humans deserve respect and there is no human garbage, I am not sure how you'd argue it without religious premises. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Is scientism self-refuting?

"Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know."

― Bertrand Russell, Religion and Science

Isn't this self-refuting? Unless of course you can devise a scientific experiment that can test the claim, that "Whatever knowledge is attainable must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know." 

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Relativism vs. Objectivism

 If one person says "McDonald's hamburgers are tasty" and another person says "No, they taste awful," arguably the statements have a "for me" clause implied, which makes them not really contradictory (I like them, you don't, where's the contradiction). Moral relativists think that moral statements are statements about what an individual, or a society , prefers. And if you see it that way, the contradiction evaporates and the Law of Noncontradiction does not apply. 

Moral objectivists think that there is a real right and wrong that our moral judgments can either match or fail to match. The law of noncontradiction does apply. 


Thursday, March 04, 2021

On what it is to be a skeptical inquirer: Not enough evidence, or a mind not open enough?

Here is an argument from an essay in psychology on psychic phenomenon. 

We did not examine the data for psi, to the consternation of the parapsychologist who was one of the reviewers. Our reason was simple: The data are irrelevant. We used a classic, rhetorical device, adynaton, a form of hyperbole so extreme it is, in effect, impossible. Ours was “pigs cannot fly”— hence data that show they can are the result of flawed methodology, weak controls, inappropriate data analysis, or fraud. (Reber & Alcock, 2019b, p. 8)

Reber, A. S., & Alcock, J. E. (2019b). Why parapsychological claims cannot be true. Skeptical Inquirer, 43(4), 8–10. 

 I once wrote this in a paper on Hume on miracles. 

Bertrand Russell was reportedly once asked what he would say to God if he were to find himself confronted by the Almighty about why he had not believed in God's existence. He said that he would tell God "Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence!"[1] But perhaps, if God failed to give Russell enough evidence, it was not God's fault. We are inclined to suppose that God could satisfy Russell by performing a spectacular miracle for Russell's benefit. But if the reasoning in David Hume's epistemological argument against belief in miracles [2] is correct, then no matter how hard God tries, God cannot give Russell an evidentially justified belief in Himself by performing miracles. According to Hume, no matter what miracles God performs, it is always more reasonable to believe that the event in question has a natural cause and is not miraculous. Hence, if Russell needs a miracle to believe reasonably in God, then Russell is out of luck. Russell cannot complain about God's failure to provide evidence, since none would be sufficient. But God cannot complain about Russell's failure to believe.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Atheist philosopher Jonathan M. S. Pearce maintains that materialism is an article of faith (compared to idealism)

 Idealism was the position that C. S. Lewis adopted (not Christian theism) when he was persuaded by the argument from reason. 


As for the role of idealism in Lewis's history, see here. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021


Obama: “Like if I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself. ‘Cause, ‘Man, you see how woke I was? I called you out’.” “That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change.”
RWCC: Sorry, Barack, you’re cancelled. You are part of the Left, and the Left supports cancel culture.
Biden: Black Lives Matter protestors have a concern about systemic racism that is well taken. But property crimes or acts of violence in support of BLM is still criminal, and should be punished by law.
RWCC: Sorry, Joe, you’re cancelled. You are part of the Left, and the Left excuses violence and looting on behalf of the causes it supports. It is only crimes on behalf of Donald Trump that are inexcusable.
Biden: I oppose Medicare for All. I defended my opposition to it in the primary campaign against its leading advocate, Bernie Sanders.
RWCC: Sorry, Joe, you’re cancelled. You are part of the Left, and the Left supports Medicare for All.
Biden: I oppose defunding the police. We need to fund the police more in order to better equip them to handle sensitive and difficult racial situations.
RWCC: Sorry, Joe, you’re cancelled. You are part of the Left, and the Left wants to defund the police.
Biden: Even though I support a woman’s right to choose abortion as a matter of law, as a Catholic I nevertheless believe abortion to be morally wrong.
RWCC: Sorry Joe, you’re cancelled. You are part of the left, and the left loves abortion, and wants women to shout their abortions.
Etc. Etc. Etc.
I keep hearing Biden (and Obama, and other Democrats) attacked for what they don't believe, and have said they don't believe, because we know they're on THE LEFT and hence if you vote for one of them, you must somehow support everything THE LEFT supports, even if you don't support it and the don't support it. Why?

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Pro-choice vs. Pro-abortion: does it matter

Apparently there is a split in the pro-choice camp. Some reject the idea that they are pro-abortion, others embrace it.  Apparently to be truly pro-abortion, it implies that you see the fetus as outside the range of moral consideration, so that abortions are morally equivalent to other kinds of medical procedures.  Someone who is merely pro-choice, I take it, opposes efforts on the part of the state to outlaw abortion, but believe that nonetheless, the fetus's life is valuable and that abortions can certainly take place of immoral reasons. I heard of a case in which a woman got an abortion because she didn't want to appear fat in her wedding pictures. To refrain from disapproving of that, you would really have to be pro-abortion and hold an strict interests view of the value of the fetus's life (the fetus is not valuable because it is not well-enough developed to have an interest in its own survival). 

One could make the case that the President and Vice-President are split on this matter, although Harris has never, to my knowledge, indicated whether she considers some abortion to be immoral, or not. Biden I know thinks they are pretty much all morally unacceptable, in spite of his pro-choice politics. Harris just throws out pro-choice rhetoric when the issue comes up. 

For those who are pro-life, should this matter? Pro-choice or pro-abortion, the legal outcome is the same. But there is another abortion debate, the debate occurring in the minds of pregnant women who have to decide whether to get an abortion. And the difference comes there.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Space, Time, and Logic

 Causal and sorting processes seem to me to be qualitatively different processes from reasoning. Reasoning involves the knowledge of logical truths and the capacity to be affected by logical truths. Naturalistic processes have causes that are restricted to entities within space and time. But logical truths are not located in space and time. If you believe something because you perceive an entailment, this implies that a) there are entailments, and b) we can perceive them. But since these entailments do not exist in space and time, something other than nature has to exist to enable us to perceive them.

Unless, of course, we recollect perceiving those entailments ina past life, as suggested by Plato. I suppose that's possible, too. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Taner Edis on chance-and-necessity physicalism-a bottom-up understanding of the world

 This is from atheist Taner Edis: 

Physical explanations combine rules and randomness, both of which are mindless…Hence quantum mechanics has an important role in formulating chance-and-necessity physicalism, according to which everything is physical, a combination of rule-bound and random processes, regardless of whether the most fundamental physical theory has yet been formulated…Religions usually take a top-down view, starting with an irreducible mind to shape the material world from above. Physicalism, whatever form it takes, supports a bottom-up understanding of the world, where life and mind are the results of complex interactions of fundamentally mindless components.

If this is true, how could it be possible, at the same time, to say that you believe this because the evidence is good. If everything that happens in the world is, in the final analysis, the result of mindless causes, then your belikef that this is so is also the result of mindless causes, and is therefore unjustified. 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

An exercise in political science

 Here's an exercise for people. Provide definitions of liberalism and conservatism, or definitions of socialism and capitalism, in such a way that no one will be able to tell after you are done what position on these matters you yourself hold. And while you're at it, do the same thing for pro-life and pro-choice.