Monday, September 10, 2007

Reforumulating the argument from reason

A version of the argument from reason.

1. If naturalism is true, then propositional attitudes are eliminable, reducible, or epiphenomenal.
2. Propositional attitudes are not eliminable.
3. Propositional attitudes are not reducible.
4. Propositional attitudeesa re not epiphenomenal.
5. Therefore, naturalism is false.

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At 9/10/2007 04:08:00 PM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...


In your view, are water waves eliminable, reducible or epiphenomenal?

At 9/11/2007 01:57:00 AM , Blogger exapologist said...

Hey Victor,

I'm not sure why we're supposed to accept (1). It seems to entail that neutral monist accounts of matter (e.g. Type-F monism) aren't forms of naturalism. Of course, you could define 'naturalism' in such a way as to preclude neutral monism, but I'm not sure how interesting that would be.

Dan Stoljar has a couple of papers defending Type-F monism -- they're worth checking out!

In any case, since I think neutral monist theories are naturalistic theories are naturalistic theories (at least some versions of it -- Spinoza's version is borderline), I think premise (1) is false, rendering the argument unsound.


At 9/11/2007 05:14:00 PM , Anonymous Tom Gilson said...


Either reducible to the interactions of the individual atoms, or epiphenomenal upon them. Take your choice. Either could be argued for.

At 9/11/2007 07:07:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

This doesn't seem to be a reformulation of the argument from reason, but just a different argument against naturalism, a discussion of which will result in many table-thumping intuitions about what can explain what.

At 9/12/2007 07:34:00 PM , Blogger Rino said...

Hi Doctor Logic and Tom Gilson,

I have always considered reduction to violate the law of non-contradiction. Ie, it states that an object both does and does not exist at the same time (And of course, the object does exist when it is most convenient for the physicalist, and doesn't exist when that is convenient for the physicalist, but that is another story). I assume you would both disagree. Would you please explain to me whether the object being reduced does or does not exist?

At 9/12/2007 09:02:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Rino: you seem to be conflating reduction and elimination.

Strands of hair exist even though they are nothing but complicated arrangements of keratin molecules, i.e., hair is reducible to keratin-in-such-and-such arrangement.

You could replace 'hair strand' talk with complicated talk of keratin molecules. But that is just to say that hair is identical to the keratin arrangement, not that the hair doesn't exist.

There is also the convenience aspect. It is easier to talk about a strand of hair than it is to talk about the detailed configuration of a bunch of keratin molecules.

At 9/12/2007 09:15:00 PM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...


Why would you think that a thing doesn't exist if it reduces? If billiard balls reduce to atoms, billiard balls still exist.

How about the total weight of a crowd of people in an elevator? The crowd reduces to a collection of people, and the total weight reduces to an aggregate property of the weight of the individuals in the crowd. Does that mean the crowd, or the total weight does not exist? Or have no causal effect?

I think maybe there's an idiom of language that some take too far. If we were to say that "we have discovered that a metal block is really a lattice of atoms," there's a subtle psychological implication that a metal block isn't really a metal block anymore. But, of course, it still is. That's how it was defined. It doesn't get undefined by reduction, nor does it cease to have all the properties it once had.


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