Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Subdividing the AFR

I. Subdividing the Argument
One aspect of my own discussion of the argument that has, I think, influenced the discussion of the argument the most is my subdivision of the argument from reason into six subarguments. In examining the argument I found that the argument focused on different elements of the reasoning process, and that one could find difficulties for naturalism at more than one step along the way.
Perhaps Lewis himself also noticed that there are different elements to the process of rational inference. Consider this description of inference, which, interestingly enough, occurs in a critique of pacifism, not in a presentation of the argument from reason:
Now any concrete train of reasoning involves three elements: Firstly, there is the reception of facts to reason about. These facts are received either from our own senses, or from the report of other minds; that is, either experience or authority supplies us with our material. But each man’s experience is so limited that the second source is the more usual; of every hundred facts upon which to reason, ninety-nine depend on authority. Secondly, there is the direct, simple act of the mind perceiving self-evident truth, as when we see that if A and B both equal C, then they equal each other. This act I call intuition. Thirdly, there is an art or skill of arranging the facts so as to yield a series of such intuitions, which linked together produce, a proof of the truth of the propositions we are considering. This in a geometrical proof each step is seen by intuition, and to fail to see it is to be not a bad geometrician but an idiot. The skill comes in arranging the material into a series of intuitable “steps”. Failure to do this does not mean idiocy, but only lack of ingenuity or invention. Failure to follow it need not mean idiocy, but either inattention or a defect of memory which forbids us to hold all the intuitions together.”4
So Lewis isolates three steps in the reasoning process: 1) The reception of facts to think about, 2) The perception of a self-evident truth of rule that permits the inference, and 3) Arranging the fact to prove a conclusion. Sometimes in developing the argument from reason, advocates point out the difficulty the naturalist has in giving an account of how it is a thought can be about something. This aspect of thought, which philosophers since Brentano have called intentionality, has often been thought to be profoundly problematic for the philosophical naturalist. The next step in the process seems problematic as well, How is that that purely natural creatures completely embedded in the space-time continuum, could possibly not only know something that is true, but also must be true. Our physical senses might perceive what is, but how could physical beings know what aspects of what they experienced could not be otherwise? And then, finally what happens when we arrange statements to prove a conclusion? It seems that our understanding of the propositional content of one statement has to be the deciding factor in our being able to conclude the conclusion. As Lewis asked in his revised chapter, “Even if grounds do exist, what exactly have the got to do with the actual occurrence of belief as a psychological event?” Hence it looks as if the naturalist, in order to affirm the existence of rational inference, must accept the existence of mental causation in which the state of accepting the content of one statements causes the acceptance of the content of another statement. But how mental causation can fit into a naturalistic world has been widely regarded as a problem
In order to keep the strands of the argument straight, I divided the argument from reason into the following six subarguments:
(1) The argument from intentionality.
(2) The argument from truth.
(3) The argument from mental causation in virtue of propositional content.
(4) The argument from the psychological relevance of logical laws.
(5) The argument from the unity of consciousness.
(6) The argument from the reliability of our rational faculties.
I will analyze each of these arguments in turn.



At 11/14/2007 05:32:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi victor, i was just wondering - according to steve lovell in his AFR article he suggests you could probably add a certain type of freedom too which a materialist/naturalist would have trouble accounting for due to the causal closure thesis.. he doesnt mention what type of freedom it would be but i assume he means libertarian.. would you go along with this sub-division also? and would it have to be libertarian freedom, could a calvinist chip in with compatibalism? or does inclination of the will (as opposed to strict determinism) rule out the kind of freedom needed for rational inference..
thanks, dave

At 11/14/2007 08:23:00 AM , Blogger Victor Reppert said...

Dave: The reason I wouldn't want to go this way is that when I think about believing that 2 + 2 = 4, it looks as if the truth determines my belief, that the evidence is such that I have no choice but to believe it. So whatever free will is, it doesn't look as if my having free will in the libertarian sense is going to do anything for rational inference. Lewis's formula is this:

The Theist is not committed to the view that reason is a comparatively recent development moulded by a process of selection which can select only the biologically useful. For him, reason--the reason of God--is older than Nature, and from it the orderliness of Nature, which alone enables us to know her, is derived. For him the human mind in the act of knowing is illuminated by the Divine Reason. It is set free, in the measure required, from the huge nexus of nonrational causation; free from this to be determined by the truth known.

See, it's still determined, it's just determined by non-physical causes, since it is determined by the truth known.

But maybe Steve has some reflections on this.

At 11/14/2007 01:35:00 PM , Anonymous Steve Lovell said...


I presume, when you say I suggest this, that you're referring to my comment in the footnotes. (If not, I'm curious to say the least.)

Like Victor, I'd be a little suspicious of basing the AfR on naturalism's denial of libertarian freedom, and for very much the reasons Victor has given.

For attempts to defend a deterministic version of the argument, you're probably best looking elsewhere. However, I strongly suspect that when you do so you'll find some serious conflations of mechanism and determinism. This doesn't mean those arguments are bad ones, just that they are really arguments for the incompatibility of mechanism and reason(ing) not the incompatibility of determinism and reason(ing).

One version of the argument which wouldn't make such a conflation, but which for other reasons wouldn't be especially persuasive would run roughly:

(1) Epistemic rationality requires epistemic agency (responsibility).
(2) Epistemic agency (responsibility) requires epistemic freedom.
(3) Epistemic freedom requires the falsehood of determinism.
(4) Therefore epistemic rationality requires the falsehood of determinism.

The version of the argument presented (not defended) in the Chris Hookway paper I reference in my article is also interesting. It runs roughly:

(1) If determinism is true, then my epistemic situation is beyond my control. (The evidence I am presented with is like a "guided tour".)
(2) My epistemic situation is the main determinant of my resulting beliefs.
(3) Therefore, if determinism is true, then the main determinant of my beliefs is beyond my control.
(4) If the main determinant of my beliefs is beyond my control, then I cannot trust my own beliefs.
(5) Therefore, if determinism is true, I cannot trust my own beliefs.

Without actually digging out the Hookway paper, I'm not sure how faithful this is, but I don't think it's too far off.


At 11/15/2007 10:53:00 PM , Blogger Edward T. Babinski said...

(1) The argument from intentionality.
(2) The argument from truth.
(3) The argument from mental causation in virtue of propositional content.
(4) The argument from the psychological relevance of logical laws.
(5) The argument from the unity of consciousness.
(6) The argument from the reliability of our rational faculties.



At 11/21/2007 07:09:00 AM , Anonymous dave said...

hi vic,
just to say i did get this idea in steve lovell's article notes..
i basically meant not we aren't free to see such obvious things as 2 + 2 = 4 - of course any sane person would agree with that and say the premises necessitate your belief in the answer.. but maybe for things that arent so obvious yet carry a lot of weight like 'atheism is true because i infer this and this' or 'christianity is true because i see the strength of its arguments' - surely you could find both of these statements convincing or compelling and yet decide not to become a full blown atheist or theist because the arguments arent quite as obvious as 2 + 2 = 4 - youre still free to accept or reject atheism or theism or by extension naturalism or dualism as a theory in philosophy of mind despite the weight of its arguments one way or the other? but perhaps the weight of the arguments/evidence and social pressure would make you're believing it something thats not in your free choice like 2 + 2 = 4 above i.e. 'the world is round not flat' but surely its not quite like that for something like naturalism or dualism in philosophy of mind - both positions might have good evidence for them yet youre still free to not believe them.. presumably if naturalism is true though and some kind of determinism follows then you would have no such choice to believe it or not because the closure of the physical will determine that for you.. hope this makes sense? forgive me if not im still an undergrad..
ive been reading kim's mind in a physical world for my philosophy of mind course - so im familiar with the problem of mental causation, but i was wondering if there are any books or articles you could recommend regarding the whole thing to do with laws of logic and how we could apprehend them?
thanks again, dave

At 11/21/2007 08:04:00 AM , Anonymous dave said...

yeah, so basically i think what im saying is you dont believe a proposition because its explanatory power convinced you of the argument or inclined your will to choose it as a belief, but you believe it just because it was physically necessary that you did so

At 11/21/2007 12:00:00 PM , Anonymous Steve Lovell said...

Dave and Vic,

Another way of thinking of the AfR from determinism might go like this ...

(1) In order to be rational in one's beliefs, one must be able to take a critical standpoint "outside" them in order to evaluate them.
(2) If determinism is true, any "outside" standpoint we take, and any views that we form from this perspective could not be other than they actually are.
(3) An "outside" standpoint which is determined in this way, could never be sufficient to make one's beliefs rational.
(4) So, if determinism is true, no beliefs are rationally held.

I think this argument has some intuitive weight, but I can't see how it could be made rigorous.



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