Clarifications for Doctor Logic
DL: First, you equivocate between function and purpose when you relate arguments regarding purpose to irreducible complexity. I'll add that I think that design is inferred by utility, which might be considered purpose. However, ID pseudoscience eschews consideration of utility because that would require the introduction of theology. IC is not about utility to the designer, but about function.
VR: There’s supposed to be no purpose at the basic level, but Darwinist explanations claim that there is reducible teleology in virtue of the existence of function. Therefore, a design argument needs to argue based on irreducible complexity. Are the kinds of purpose that are out there in the world reducible to function generated by random variation and natural selection? That’s what the debate is about where design arguments are concerned. All I was doing was explaining how such arguments go. As I pointed out, (and said commentators take note) I said I wasn’t defending those arguments, only explaining how those arguments go.
DL: Second, you equivocate between the different meanings of subjectivity. Subjectivity has at least 3 meanings. It can mean personal belief, personal taste, or something inherently supernatural. Materialism happily admits the first two, but not the third. Reductionism does not imply that I don't have tastes that are subjective in the first two senses of the term. Only greedy reductionism would say that, and I think greedy reductionism is rather silly.
VR: Of course, where the existence of the mental states that give rise to tastes can be accounted for naturalistically is what is at issue between naturalists and their opponents. However, what I mean by subjective is that states exist from the point of view of one person but not from the point of view of someone else. Let’s take the statement ‘I am Victor Reppert.” It is a truth that I know, but if we take the indexical content out of it, it turns into “Victor Reppert is Victor Reppert,” a miserable tautology. Hence, there seem to be truths for me that are not truths for other persons, in virtue of my being who I am.
That kind of subjectivity is going to be a problem for a world-view that says that physical facts entail all the other facts.
Another argument against materialism that appeals to subjectivity would be arguments of the “What Mary Didn’t know” variety. Again, this is not a kind of argument I am defending, but what I am doing is producing a typology of arguments.
DL: Third, it is not true that morality is absent at the physical level. It is more accurate to say that morality is a matter of taste, just like there is gastronomic taste. Yet, should we determine that gastronomic taste is subjective; we would not declare that gastronomic taste was an illusion or did not really exist. Of course it exists, but it is a feature of large assemblies of matter, not of individual particles. (IOW, you equivocate between morality and absolute morality.)
VR: One, this assumes that propositional states can be states of conglomerations of matter. I have trouble with this idea, because I think you can add up and conglomerate physical states until the cows come home, and you will never reach the conclusion that some particular propositional attitude obtains. This is not an argument made up by rabid Christian apologists; this is the essential point of Quine’s indeterminacy of translation argument and Davidson’s argument against psychophysical laws.
I am not talking about absolute morality; I am talking about objective morality. I think these need to be distinguished. I think you agree with me that if materialism is true, then there are no objective moral truths. Again, I am not endorsing these arguments; I am putting these arguments into a typology. Even subjective morality doesn’t exist at the basic level; it has to be a “system feature.”
DL: As for the argument about rational faculties, that is still quite susceptible to what you refer to as inadequacy objections. The fact is that you cannot have a rational argument for the axioms of rationality because you would need to invoke those axioms in the process. So there is no guarantee that rationality is valid in a mentalistic world.
VR: Again, I am sketching the arguments at this point. Details later. However, I don’t claim that theists have a proof of the axioms of logic while atheists don’t. That would be a skeptical threat argument, a type of argument that I have always criticized. There are inadequacy objections to arguments from reason, and I am planning to answer them.
VR: There cannot be a scientific proof that scientists do not exist; that would undermine the scientific enterprise which constitutes the very foundation of materialism.
And what I am arguing there is that it is going to be difficult to give an Error response to arguments from reason. You agree with that.
Yet, materialism does not imply that rationality does not or cannot exist. If it did, then you would have a case.As it stands, you at best have the case that you don't yet know how materialism can explain some facet of rationality. And I really think you don't have that much because there are quite conceivable explanations for physical, rational machines.
VR: I think it’s more serious than that. The building blocks of the universe exclude rational characteristics, and adding these blocks up into conglomerations is not going to entail the existence of propositional states. And if you get propositional states, you still don’t have mental causation in virtue of logical connections.