Monday, August 27, 2007

The Secular Outpost: A Metaphysical Naturalist Manifesto

The Secular Outpost: A Metaphysical Naturalist Manifesto

This is Arnold Guminski's defense of commonsense naturalism. I'd like to pose a couple of questions. First, what is Guminski's criterion for supernatural as opposed to natural? Is spatiotemporal location all that is needed or do we need something more.


At 8/27/2007 07:18:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

It seems silly to me. Only Searle can get away with writing like that and get away with it.

I have read Hasker once, and his emergent dualism seems a bit silly too, and equivocates between naturalistic and nonnaturalistic readings. I'll write with more detail in an email to you later once I've read it more closely.

Seems this new breed of christian materialist really wants to have his cake and eat it. Unfortunately, they end up with something that doesn't look very Christian or materalistic.

At 8/27/2007 07:19:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

The most brilliant sentence I've ever penned: "Only Searle can get away with writing like that and get away with it." Copyright 2007.

At 8/27/2007 08:48:00 PM , Blogger Victor Reppert said...

Be careful. You may get a roomful of Chinese chasing you down.

At 8/28/2007 12:53:00 PM , Blogger Victor Reppert said...

There have been some exchanges between me and Guminski on DI,which might intereset you, BDK.

At 8/28/2007 04:48:00 PM , Blogger Arnold Guminski said...

I am amazed by Victor Reppert's query as to what is my criteria for determining what is supernatural. I thought I had given a fairly clear account of my meaning in the following passage from my inaugural blog on the Secular Outpost. I wrote:
"By metaphysical naturalist I mean someone who holds either that supernatural agents do not exist, or that their existence is antecedently improbable and that this antecedent improbability has not yet been satisfactorily overridden or discharged by available plausible evidences and arguments. What is a supernatural agent? It is any (physically) disembodied personal being such as God (as conceived in traditional theism), demi-gods, angels, and disembodied souls (i.e. spiritual substances which at one time animated human bodies). [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) but are imperceptible (via ordinary sense perception) to humans or animals.]"

So emergent substance dualism is compatible with metaphysical naturalism, as I use the term, provided the emergent spiritual substance is held to depend for its origin and continued existence upon a living and appropriately configured organism.

While not a precise definition, I have sufficiently shown that I use the term "supernatural" in the sense that people have generally used it to refer to God, angels, ghosts, and physically disembodied minds.

However, although emergent substance dualism (purged of any theistic pinnings) is somewhat probable, I think that a robust interactionist property dualism is more probable than not. Given that I adhere to a robust interactionist property dualism, I reject the physical closure principle and epiphenomenalism (assumign there is any difference). Phenomenal and intentional mental states (e.g., intentions, desires, beliefs) are ontologically irreducible but are nevertheless states of living physical substances.

As I use the term, metaphysical naturalism does not pertain to issues concerning the ontological status of uninstantiated abstract entities, such as universals, sets, numbers, etc.

I am not sure as to what is on blue devil knight's mind. Although I am a metaphysical naturalist, who adheres to a robust interactionist property dualism, I shall perhaps put blue devil knight's mind in a tizzy by now affirming that whereas I think an emergent substance dualism (of a kind compatible with metaphysical dualism) is only somewhat probable, the physical closure principle is false in excelsis. But I shall readily concede that his remark about Searle is perhaps the most brilliant sentence he has ever penned.

At 8/28/2007 09:11:00 PM , Blogger Victor Reppert said...

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.

At 8/31/2007 07:04:00 AM , Blogger Arnold Guminski said...

[The last entry by Reppert as to the instant thread ("The Secular Outpost: A Metaphysical Naturalist Manifesto") also appears as an entry for the thread for 28 August 2007, "A further response to Guminski on naturalism: Must naturalists accept causal closure?" I repost here my comment to the immediately cited blog by Reppert in order to preserve continuity.]

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.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home