Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A further response to Guminski on naturalism: Must naturalists accept causal closure?

So so long as the entities in question are embodied, we are still within the real of naturalism?
What that means is so long as there is a material base of some sort, objects can do all sorts of things that contradict the laws which ordinarily govern those same entities, and we are still good naturalists?
I should add that certainly the gods of Greece were no doubt embodied beings (they, for example, could literally mate with humans). The Mormon god is a physical being. Does naturalism exclude LDS theology? Some more orthodox theists accept the idea of an embodied God. Are they naturalists?
To my mind physicalness requires being governed by physical laws. Can you still call something an electron if it starts not acting like an electron.
We also don't have a definition of embodiedness. What is it for something to be embodied? Does it mean "having a location in space and time" or does it mean something else.
But really, this is a question for naturalists. Can you be a naturalist without accepting a causal closure principle of some kind? There is a sense in which I shouldn't be telling a naturalist that he is not a naturalist. I can say what I mean by naturalist and then argue against the doctrine so defined.

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At 8/28/2007 09:55:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Can you be a naturalist without accepting a causal closure principle of some kind?

I wonder if supervenience implies causal closure. I guess someone could say that everything supervenes on the physical, but things at the physical level can be caused by things outside the physical. E.g., something nonphysical causes the quark to do this or that, but all properties supervene on the physical.

But in this case the physical wouldn't supervene on the physical: it would supervene on the physical plus this extra ingredient, so if supervenience is transitive (I think it is), then the higher-level things wouldn't supervene on the physical either.

At 8/29/2007 11:14:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

I am very confused that Arnold calls himself an interactionist property dualist and a naturalist. What exactly is interactionist property dualism? Did I miss Arnold's description of this? I'd really like more details about the 'property dualism' aspect of his view, and then we'd be better posed to ask about naturalism, interactions, etc.. He clearly contrasts it with Hasker's emergent dualism but I didn't see any specifics.

At 8/29/2007 09:05:00 PM , Blogger Arnold Guminski said...

It is a good thing that Dr. Reppert presses me about the definition of supernaturalism/naturalism. I think, however, that to define these terms to everyone’s satisfaction is an impossible task. What I had hoped to do was to have captured their meaning in a practical way for those interested in issues of philosophy of religion, and who also hold sufficiently many views in common so that we may nevertheless differ profitably on others. So, to tell the truth, my practical definition of the terms in question was not intended to be complete because it would involve writing an extended essay in terminological casuistry.

Nevertheless, I had hoped to delimit the sense of the term "embodied" by including the following proviso in my inaugural blog: “The term disembodied person is qualified by a parenthesized “physically” so that the term supernatural person embraces persons who animate bodies (i.e., spatially extended substances) [which] are imperceptible (via ordinary sense perception) to humans or animals” [“but” replaced by “which”]. This proviso at least was directed to such readers who believe that there are so-called astral, spiritual, celestial, or ethereal bodies that are not (at least ordinarily) detectible by sense-perception. The proviso entails that such corporeal entities do not (at least ordinarily) interact by virtue of their corporeal properties with the physical entities which are empirically detectible (e.g., humans and other animals, trees, rocks, etc. and their constituent parts) and which constitute part of the furniture of our familiar physical universe. These entities are corporeal in the sense that each is essentially a spatially extended stuff with nonmental properties. (Mental properties pertain to phenomenal states (i.e., qualia) or to intentional states (e,g.,) purposes, beliefs, desires). These corporeal but nonphysical entities are not causally interactive with the physical substances (and their components), which are empirically detectible via sense perception, by virtue of their nonmental properties. (However, according to the views of some, some supernatural persons with nonphysical bodies may nevertheless manifest their presence to, or interact with, humans by possessing or taking on a physical body, or appearing to do so.

So I answer Reppert’s question: “So long as the entities in question are embodied, we are still within the real[m] of naturalism?” with a “No.” And surely, Dr. Reppert, who I think is a theologically conservative Christian, believes that the resurrection of the body when the trumpet shall sound refers to a spiritual, and not a physical (or natural) body. But I speak subject to correction.

The allegedly embodied gods of Greece and Rome, and also the Mormon god, do not have physical bodies, in the sense that these bodies are capable of being (ordinarily) perceived via sense perception by humans and that, moreover, these bodies by virtue of their nonmental properties are capable of being causally interactive with physical bodies which constitute this universe within which humans inhabit. To be sure if any god of Greece and Rome is physically embodied in the strict sense, then that god is a natural being in my philosophical lexicon.

Reppert declaims: “What that means is as long as there is a material base of some sort, objects can do all sorts of things that contradict the laws which ordinarily govern these same entities, and we are still good naturalists?” Well, preferring to speak of good naturalism instead of good naturalists, I would say: (1) yes, there conceivably can be natural gods (i.e., superhuman persons with very great powers) which essentially are or have physical bodies. (2) yes, this is an instance of very bad naturalism because there are no natural gods, or it is very much more antecedently improbable than not that there are no such beings and that the available plausible evidence is insufficient to warrant the discharge of that antecedent improbability.

But perhaps I am missing something; or maybe Reppert is missing something. He refers to “[s]ome more orthodox theists accept the idea of an embodied God?” He asks: “Are they naturalists?” Doubtless he is referring to the doctrine of the incarnation of the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity. But this doctrine must be understood in the light of the fundamental doctrine that God neither is nor has a body—not even a so-called spiritual body. My answer in any case is: “No.” Christian theists who accept the doctrine of the incarnation are not naturalists because the God of traditionally orthodox Christianity is (or has not) essentially any body whatsoever. Let them be anathema who say anything to the contrary.

Reppert also complains that “[w]e also don’t have a definition of embodiedness.” I think I have said enough on this point. But if he has any further questions about this matter I refer him to the very lucid explanation of his brother Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne. (See, e.g., his The Coherence of Theism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993 rev’d ed.), pp, 104-108.)

Reppert asks: “Can you be a naturalist without accepting a causal closure principle of some kind?” My answer is: “Yes.” For those naturalists who (erroneously) accept a causal closure principle, I am doubtless a bad naturalist. But I am nevertheless a naturalist; and I think those naturalists who accept the physical closure principle adhere to a bad naturalism--which moreover makes for easy polemenical pickings by Reppert and company. But then, on the other hand, Reppert must certainly think that there are adherents, respectively, of good Christian theological systems and bad Christian theological systems.

Finally, Blue Devil Knight tells us that he is “very confused” when I call myself an interactionist property dualist. He asks: “What exactly is interactionist property dualism? Did I miss something?” Yes, Blue Devil Knight, you have missed something. Interactionist property dualism is constituted by the affirmation that: (1) phenomenal (i.e., qualia) and intentional mental states and events (i.e., those with an aboutness quality) are irreducibly ontologically different from nonmental states characteristic of physical bodies. (2) Necessarily, mental states and events can be and frequently are causally efficacious both with respect to other mental states or events and to nonmental states or events, as the case may be. (3) Necessarily, mental states or events are states or events of a physical body—a spatially extended stuff with nonmental properties. The too neglected philosopher C. D. Broad had provisionally supported epiphenomenalism in his excellent Mind and Its Place in Nature (Paterson NJ: Littlefield, Adams & Co., 1960), a position which he repudiated in later writings. Nevertheless, his discussion at pp. 625-629 in the just cited book of the compatability of mental and material properties with respect to the one and the same substance remains a classic. And so I heartily recommend Broad’s exposition to Blue Devil Knight, as well as to Victor Reppert, for their consideration.

At 8/30/2007 12:06:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Arnold: thanks for finally laying it out explicitly. I'm focusing on property dualism rather than interactions for now. I'd really like to understand what you mean by property dualism.

Is someone who believes in brittleness a property dualist? E.g., my window is brittle, but individual silicon atoms that make up the window are not brittle: indeed brittleness will not show up in physical theories that limit themselves to individual particles. If by property dualism you just mean that there are properties that organized physical stuff has, properties that its constituents do not have, then we are all property dualists.

My hunch is that by 'property dualism' you mean that there exist properties which are 'irreducible ontologically' to the physical.

What do you mean when you say 'ontologically irreducible' (please don't just cite Searle, as he is very unclear on this)? Is brittleness ontologically irreducible? How about a bacterium?

And if mental states are just states of a physical body, as you say in 3, why say they are ontologically irreducible? Why carve this set of physical states out as somehow special rather than just another species of biological properties?

I like Broad. His book is online here. Too bad he wasted so much time thinking about parapsychological research, which was taken quite seriously back then (Feigl's treatise even has a bit on it...very strange).

At any rate I'd be very interested in a bit more on what you mean by property dualism, and ontological irreducibility.

PS I know I suck I posted and deleted three comments. This is it!

At 8/30/2007 09:27:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Note I picked brittleness because it is multiply realizable (many different types of things, carbon, silicon, etc can be brittle), so in that sense brittleness is not reducible to any particular material description. However, brittleness is real. It is physical. Is it ontologically irreducible?


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