Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My question for Paul Draper

They let you submit questions, so here's mine for him:

My question for Paul Draper in the God or Blind Nature debate with Alvin Plantinga:

In your reply to Plantinga, you maintain that a “sensible naturalism” can provide an adequate response to Plantinga’s EAAN. I would like to take a closer look at that “sensible naturalism.”

Surely you must know who invented the term “sensible naturalism.” It comes from William Hasker’s generally friendly response to my presentation of the Argument from Reason, entitled “What About a Sensible Naturalism: A Response to Victor Reppert," Philosophia Christi 5 (2003), at 53-62.

In your essay you define a set of beliefs that Hasker would accept as part of what a sensible naturalist must accept:

S: Beliefs exist, they affect behavior by virtue of their contents, and a belief's having a particular content is not the same as its displaying a certain set of third-person properties.

I quite agree. But I wonder if you are willing to accept the next step in Hasker’s argument, the claim that a sensible naturalist ought to deny the causal closure of the physical. Do you accept that, or not?

The problem here is that orthodox physics does not import first-person properties to its descriptions. It must be admitted that before living things ever came to exist, there was nothing that had a first-person perspective. Yet, if naturalism is true, all the causes were in place within the physical world to produce everything that has been produced since. So how does third-person physical stuff give rise to first-person entities?

If the physical is closed, the every particle’s being where it is can be fully accounted for in terms of physics. If you were physically omniscient, then nothing from the world of the mental could possibly give you any information about where a particle was going to be. You are familiar, surely with the difficulties Jaegwon Kim has raised for mental causation in a physicalistic world, or the argument from mental causation found in Hasker’s The Emergent Self (Ithaca: NY: Cornell University Press, 1999), ch. 3, or in my book, C. S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason (Inter-Varsity Press, 2003).

If you say that the universe started out as a physicalistic system with no mental causes in place, how did it create a distinct, irreducible mental realm that interacts with it?

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