Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Owen Barfield persuades Lewis to reject "realism"

 In the second place he convinced me that the positions we had hitherto held left no room for any satisfactory theory of knowledge. We had been, in the technical sense of the term, "realists"; that is, we accepted as rock-bottom reality the universe revealed by the senses. But at the same time we continued to make for certain phenomena of consciousness all the claims that really went with a theistic or idealistic view. We maintained that abstract thought (if obedient to logical rules) gave indisputable truth, that our moral judgment was "valid", and our aesthetic experience not merely pleasing but "valuable". The view was, I think, common at the time; it runs through Bridges' Testament of Beauty, the work of Gilbert Murray, and Lord Russell's "Worship of a Free Man". Barfield convinced me that it was inconsistent. If thought were a purely subjective event, these claims for it would have to be abandoned. If one kept (as rock-bottom reality) the universe of the senses, aided by instruments and co-ordinated so as to form "science", then one would have to go much further--as many have since gone--and adopt a Behaviouristic theory of logic, ethics, and aesthetics. But such a theory was, and is, unbelievable to me. I am using the word "unbelievable", which many use to mean "improbable" or even "undesirable", in a quite literal sense. I mean that the act of believing what the behaviourist believes is one that my mind simply will not perform. I cannot force my thought into that shape any more than I can scratch my ear with my big toe or pour wine out of a bottle into the cavity at the base of that same bottle. It is as final as a physical impossibility. I was therefore compelled to give up realism. I had been trying to defend it ever since I began reading philosophy. Partly, no doubt, this was mere "cussedness". Idealism was then the dominant philosophy at Oxford and I was by nature "against Government". But partly, too, realism satisfied an emotional need. I wanted Nature to be quite independent of our observation; something other, indifferent, self-existing. (This went with the Jenkinian zest for rubbing one's nose in the mere quiddity.) But now, it seemed to me, I had to give that up. Unless I were to accept an unbelievable alternative, I must admit that mind was no late-come epiphenomenon; that the whole universe was, in the last resort, mental; that our logic was participation in a cosmic Logos.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Left and right on abortion

 Left wing argument for outlawing abortion: 

1. Fetuses are an oppressed class, like blacks, Hispanics, women, gays, and lesbians. They must be protected in the name of social justice (and Critical Birth Theory). 

Right-wing argument for abortion choice:

If abortion is outlawed, then a lot of babies that would otherwise be aborted will be born under difficult economic circumstances. These will have to be cared for through an expanison of the social welfare system. It will motivate such socialist proposal as paid family leave. In order to protect capitalism, we mut affirm a woman's right to choose abortion. 

So why are all the pro-lifers on the right, and all the pro-choicers on the left? 

Physicalism and the illusion of reasoning

 But at the base level of analysis we can form expectations of where every atom in the universe will be indepenent of any meaning or purpose. It can look as if meaning and purposes have results as to where atoms in the universe will be at some time (such as why I am choosing just these words to put iinto this post) but if materialism is true the location of every atom in this computer can be best predicted without reference to anything I mean to say here. This includes not only the physically determined but intelligently designed computer, but also my brain which chooses my words at this very moment. which ex hypothesi was not inteligently designed. If determinism is true, then a Laplacian Physicist could, given the state of the atoms (and yes, you could write the laws of physics into the state of the the atoms rather than making the laws independent of it, but that would not change my argument) perfectly wihtout reference to anything mental. There would then still be truths of supervenience which indicate what pattens of physical states exist, if physical states are arranged a certain way, but these fact exist without intelligent content. If physicalism is true, the appearnce of believing something for a reason is just that--appearance. An opera singer can appear to cause a window to break by singing the words "Shatter now." but we know that itis physical causes, not intelligible content, that causes the window to shatter. In the same way, given physicalism, a philosopher may have the illusion that he has inferred the nonexistence of God from the evil in the world, but what the physicalist believes, once the logical implicationa of physicalism are drawn, entails he the philosopher has done no such thing. The blind physical processes of physics have caused his "conclusion," and the claim to have inferred anything is an illusion.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

How to commit the fallacy of composition and get away wtih it

 Transference between parts and wholes is tricky. But if there is no teleology in the parts, there is no teleology in the whole. A brick wall is six feet tall because the bricks add up to six feet. But nonteleological activity on the part of basic particles means no real telelogy at the higher levels. The explanation at the basic level provides a sufficient cause, so the mental explanation is otiose.

Sometimes the fallacy of composition isn't a fallacy.

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

C. S. Lewis and the milk jug


“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It's like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can't trust my own thinking, of course I can't trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

― c s lewis

My response: Any naturalist who sees this is going to point out that the evolutionary process can't be compared to the upsetting of a milk jug. True enough, but it isn't mental causation either, it's just trial and error mimicing what we would have thought was mental causation. But science as an activity cannot exist unless there is real mental causation--one mental event is produced in the mind as the result of evidence and logic supporting iit. But, if naturalism is true, it looks as if this never happens. Every event in the universe, according to them, is produced by the previous positions of the atoms, the laws of physics, and, if quantum mechanics is true, a chance factor. Reasons don't literally produce anything in such a world. including the beliefs that naturalists inssts are based on evidence.