Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hasker on skeptical threats, best explanations, and transcendental arguments

A redated post.

William Hasker, however, while previously endorsing the gist of my claim that the argument should be a best explanation argument rather than a skeptical threat argument, offered another suggestion in his mostly friendly response to me in Philosophia Christi. He wrote:

However, if the Skeptical Threat strategy claims too much for the Argument from Reason, there is a danger that the Best Explanation strategy may claim too little. On the face of it, this strategy seems to invite the following kind of response: “It may be true that we naturalists have not, so far, produced a satisfying explanation for the process of rational inference. But there is nothing especially surprising or alarming about this fact. Finding good scientific explanations is hard work and often takes considerable time, and the relevant sciences are still in their infancy. We must simply be prepared to wait a bit longer, until we reach the stage where the desired explanations can be developed.

He then makes the following recommendation:

The objection is not merely that naturalism has not yet produced an explanation of rational inference and the like, as though this were a deficiency that could be remedied by another decade or so of scientific research. The problem is that the naturalist is committed to certain assumptions that preclude in principle any explanation of the sort required. The key assumptions are three in number: mechanism (the view that fundamental physical explanations are nonteleological), the causal closure of the physical domain, and the supervenience of the mental on the physical. So long as these assumptions remain, no amount of ingenious computer modeling can possibly fill the explanatory gap. In order to bring out this feature of the situation, I propose that the first two stages of the Argument from Reason are best viewed as a transcendental argument in roughly the Kantian sense: They specify the conditions which are required for experience of a certain sort to be possible—in this case the kind of experience found in the performance of rational inference. .

I have already discussed the transcendental impact of the arguments from reason, and I think Hasker’s suggestion is a good one.

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At 11/28/2007 10:52:00 PM , Blogger Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Curious. I had always assumed that the arguments from reason were transcendental. They are more specific than many such arguments, but they nonetheless do seem to be transcendental in their essence. I'm not sure what else one might call them?

At 11/29/2007 03:00:00 PM , Blogger Wakefield Tolbert. said...

Speaking of "skeptical threats", is it my understanding that that science has now thorwn out the whole realm of "induction."?

Notice, for example, one recent posting on a skeptic site:

The induction point is irrelevant and has been solved by falsificationism - I say "solved" because it's been thrown out the window and a new paradigm brought to fore. You're right that the issue of free will is as yet unsolved. It's more correct to say that it is unknown. We don't know whether free will exists. We can take the path of the religionist and just make stuff up or we can say we don't know. I go with "we don't know."

and so on...

At 11/29/2007 03:52:00 PM , Blogger Wakefield Tolbert. said...

forgot to add:

There is no issue with Induction. It's not a logical belief. There is no logical basis and it could be wrong. This is why modern science has rejected verificationism and accepted falsificationism. (Some dense philosophers with reading comprehension problems have asserted that falsificationism merely moves the induction. They make this assertion for one reason - they fail to understand falsificationism and attribute reasoning to its adherents which they do not hold.)

With all of the bluster about brain research, we nevertheless have made amazing strides in that arena. I recently attended a talk by Jim Olds (from GMU's Krasnow Institute) at the Smithsonian Castle where he updated us on where he sees the technology going. We don't have all the answers, but we're getting there.

Free will is a separate issue from falsification and induction. At this point it is a mystery. But it has nothing whatever to do with evolution. If it makes you feel better, you can believe that a god imbued some sufficiently evolved forms with free will. That's got nothing to do with what science can tell us, but beliefs don't have to be scientific.

At 11/29/2007 03:58:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Those people touting the end of induction in science are likely not scientists. Popper's falsificationism can be looked at as a specific instance of a more general probabilistic perspective on scientific inference (Popper fought hard against this, but unsuccessfully in my opinion).

According to Popper all scientific inference is deductive, in which case his falsificationism might gain a little more traction. This is just wrong. Pick up any scientific journal for all the statistical probabilistic methods employed in arguing for conclusions.

At 11/29/2007 08:41:00 PM , Anonymous Wake said...

Now see, that's just the blistering thing. Everyone SO FAR that I've come into contact with claims to be in this field. I freely admit to not having the discernment as to the quality of their statements and what these individuals know. But still

At 4/30/2008 09:41:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...


For a brief history and analysis, you could do worse than the online Stanford encylopedia article on the problem of induction:

At 5/06/2008 03:18:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


The Argument From Reason has been wikified:



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