Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What is a computation

Chris Eliasmith suggests that there are several meanings for the term, each with problems. Yet it's one of the most used terms in the philosophy of mind/cognitive science.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bill Vallicella's argument from truth against naturalism

Monday, January 29, 2007

Redated post from Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Vallicella on The Argument from Truth
In CSLDI I attempt to develop six arguments against philosophical naturalism. These arguments are
1) The argument from intentionality
2) The argument from truth
3) The argument from mental causation
4) The argument from the psychological relevance of logical laws
5) The argument from the unity of consciousness in rational inference
6) The argument from the reliability of our rational faculties

In a post found in October's archives at Maverick Philosopher, we find a response to my argument from truth. Is there a Place for Truth in the Naturalist's World. I wrote a response to Vallicella which I would like to include here:

You present an argument that a "sophisticated naturalist" ought to opt for the idea that truths are abstract states rather than mental states, something like Fregean Gedanken. Otherwise, the truth that P would fail to exist unless there were someone thinking P. If this argument goes through, then it severely cuts down the naturalist's options. Carrier, for example, will not be pleased; he really does think of truth as a correspondence between the brain and objects in the world. In Hasker's reply to me he claims that the naturalist should not be too worried about the AFT because of a Tarskian reply "P is true if and only if P" seems to be naturalistically acceptable. Perhaps Drange's argument on pp. 40-1 of the issue of Philosophia Christi is along the lines you are suggesting. He says

a) Only propositions can be true or false.
b) No propositions are states of a person.
c) Hence no states of a person can be true or false.

If this is true, then truth can exist in a naturalistic world, but, how those naturalistically conceived "truths" can possibly be relevant to the production of, say, states of the brain is going to be a serious problem for the naturalist. As I put it on p. 81 of my reply

"However, what this means is that whether or not those mental acts occur has nothing to do with the propositional content of the acts themselves, since those acts are governed by natural law, and what the laws of nature dictate has nothing to do with the propostional content of mental states (I should have added, especially if those propositional contents are conceived of as abstract states with no particular spatial location). so even if this is a possible reconciliation of propositional attitudes with naturalism, it has the disadvantage of making those mental states (I should have said the contents of those mental states) epiphenomenal, that is, without causal influence."

Hence the Drange-Vallicella response to the argument from truth, even if it works, is a poisoned pawn. It brings truth into a naturalistic universe, but makes it irrelevant to the actual occurrence of belief. This is going to be a serious problem if you are trying to argue, as naturalists are going to have to argue, that a creature's having true beliefs makes it more likely to survive and pass on its genes than those who believe falsehoods. Truth becomes irrelevant to the actual production of brain states, and hence invisible to evolutionary selection pressures.

Naturalists, therefore, may try to resist this analysis of truth-bearer in such a way as to make brain-states primary truth-bearers. Or come up with reductionist or redundancy analyses of truth that are not so ontologically expensive.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Arguments from reason and arguments from consciousness

One fundamental issue between myself and Richard Carrier (and his is not alone in this by any stretch of the imagination) is the difference between arguments from reason, which people like Lewis, Hasker, and myself have developed, and arguments from consciousness, such as we find in people like Swinburne and R. M. Adams. Here is the central difference. Suppose we look at an anti-naturalist argument from, say, objective moral values. The argument goes like this:

1. Probably, if there are objective moral values, the naturalism is false.
2. There are objective moral values.
3. Therefore, (probably) naturalism is false.

In J. L. Mackie's the Miracle of Theism he pretty much agrees with 1, on grounds that objective moral values do not fit well within a naturalistic world view. But he rejects 2, and says that he thinks objective moral values do not exist. Now, I have here argued that rejecting 2 would be a prett y costly move. You would, for example, have to accept the idea that we don't have the kinds of inalienable rights that the Declaration of Independence says we have; and that statements like "It is wrong to inflict pain on little children for your own amusement' are not objectively true. But moral subjectivism isn't incoherent; it's not inconsistent with the possibility of science, or the possibility of argument.

Now let's try a plain vanilla argument from consciousness.

1. Probably, if naturalism is true, there is no consciousness.
2. There is consciousness.
3. Threfore (probably) naturalism is false.

Now, on the face of things, it looks as if the naturalist can respond by denying 2. Ah yes, what you think of as consciousness really doesn't exist. Or perhaps they will give you a definition of consciousness which eliminates salient features of what we common-sensically think of as concsiousness, while retaining the name. I take it that's what's going on in Dennett's Conscoiusness Explained, and that is why some have suggested the title should have been Consciousness Explained Away.

But we can make the AFC into a species of the AFR if we can use the following orgument:

1. If consciousness does not exist, then reason does not exist either.
2. Reason does exist.
3. Therefore, consciousness exists.

Now there is a "transcendental justification' for 2. The sciences, and the very process of argument that, say, Carrier and I are engaging in, presupposes that what we are really doing is supporting claims, instead of doing something that perhaps has the grammatical form of rational inference but is really not rational inference.

All arguments that block denial moves by using an argument like the above are arguments from reason. This is a strength that arguments from reason have that other arguments against naturalism do not have. Some things can't be eliminated without eliminating science and reasoning,

I wouldn't exactly call them transcendental arguments themselves; as I am thinking about it the various AFRs are straightforward arguments, but if the opponent wants to say that the object that I am claiming fails to fit in with a naturalistic view doesn't exist, then there is a transcendental argument saying that it does.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Bulverism and the AFR

Bulverism and the AFR
Pat Parks, who is working on a master's thesis on the AFR at Cal State Long Beach, sent a question about the relation between the AFR and Lewis's critique of Bulverism. If Bulverizing is a bad thing, then doesn't that imply that what causes our beliefs is irrelevant to the justification of those beliefs, and if that is so then doesn't Anscombe's critique of Lewis go through. Steve Lovell, who has written a dissertation on Lewis and philosophy, responded to this query by mentioning that he had covered the same issue in the conclusion of his dissertation. Steve's comments are in red, followed by mine.
Bulverism and the Reasons/Causes Distinction
There was a method of ‘refutation’ that Lewis encountered so frequently that he felt he ought to give it a name. Bulverism, named after its fictional inventor Ezekiel Bulver, consists in dismissing a person’s claims as psychologically tainted at source, as in “Oh, you say that because you’re a man” (1941a: 181). The Bulverist’s thought is that if a person’s convictions can be fully explained as a result of non-rational factors then we need not bother about those convictions. Lewis deplored this sort of attack on our beliefs, seeing it as an illegitimate tactic which shortcuts the reasoning process. I argued in Chapter 5 that such ‘genetic arguments’ are often, but not always, fallacious. In general, we should find out whether or not a person is wrong before we start explaining how they came to be wrong. And of course the Bulverist’s game is very easy to play. If illicit motives may operate on one side of a debate, they may equally operate on the other. We do not (at least not always) clarify an issue by delving into psychology or personal history but rather by reasoning about the subject in hand.If you try to find out which [thoughts] are tainted by speculating about the wishes of the thinkers, you are merely making a fool of yourself. You must find out on purely logical grounds which of them do, in fact, break down as arguments. Afterwards, if you like, [you may] go on and discover the psychological causes of the error.  In other words, you must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly. … [Y]ou can only find out the rights and wrongs by reasoning – never by being rude about your opponent’s psychology. (1941a: 180-1)In attacking Bulverism, Lewis distinguished between reasons and causes: Causes are mindless events which can produce other results than beliefs. Reasons arise from axioms and inferences and affect only beliefs. Bulversism tries to show that the other man has causes and not reasons and that we have reasons and not causes. A belief which can be accounted for entirely in terms of causes is worthless. (1941a: 182)It is unclear how this last quote fits with the general critique of Bulverism. On the one hand we have Lewis saying that we can only find out the rights and wrong by reasoning and not by explaining (away) our opponents beliefs as the product of non-rational causes, and on the other Lewis appears to claim that the presence of such causes is incompatible with the presence of reasons. Is the problem with Bulverism that it fails to distinguish between reasons and causes and so presumes that one must exclude the other? Or is it that Bulverism is too quick to attribute beliefs to non-rational causes in the first place?  The question is interesting in its own right, but it is also interesting for the light it may (or may not) cast upon Lewis’ argument against naturalism. For if the presence of a non-rational cause for a belief does not exclude the presence of reasons, it is hard to see how the naturalist’s commitment to the presence of such causes can discredit the naturalist’s beliefs. On the other hand, if these two kinds of explanation are really incompatible, we cannot claim that the Freudian critique of religious belief commits the genetic fallacy but merely that it assumes too easily that religious belief is brought about by non-rational factors. If religious belief may have non-rational determinants (may be ‘desire based’) and yet still be warranted, then surely the naturalist’s general commitment to the presence of such determinants cannot undermine his claims to knowledge. In terms of the reasoning presented in Chapter 5, we may wonder whether Lewis’ argument against naturalism cannot be rejected on the same grounds as we rejected the Freudian critique of religious belief, that it commits the genetic fallacy. If the one argument commits this fallacy, then so too does the other. Or so it would appear.  But to commit the genetic fallacy is to take the origin of a belief to be relevant to its evaluation and then illegitimately fault the belief because of its origin. A clear entailment is that if any arguments commit this fallacy, there must be a meaningful distinction between the causal origins of a belief and the grounds of that belief. But it is at just this point that Lewis attacks naturalism. To argue that a worldview cannot accommodate the reasons/causes distinction is not to commit the genetic fallacy but to contend that within that worldview the accusation of making that fallacy would cease to have meaning. Lewis is not only not committing the fallacy, he is arguing against a view which (if his argument is correct) entails that there is no such fallacy to commit. Alan Gerwith puts the point in strikingly Lewisian terms.[The naturalist] thesis is unable to account for the difference between the relation of physical or psychological cause and effect and the relation of logical or evidential ground and consequent. (1978: 36) Bulverism also connects with several other aspects of Lewis’ work. In The Personal Heresy (Lewis and Tillyard 1939), Lewis argues against E.M.W. Tillyard’s view that poetry, and literature more generally, is first and foremost the “expression of the poet’s personality”, that “All Poetry is about the poet’s state of mind” and that, therefore, “the end we are supposed to pursue in reading … is a certain contact with the poet’s soul” (quoted in Schultz and West Jr. 1998: 318). According to Lewis, to read a poem as it should be read “I must look where he [the author] looks and not turn around to face him; I must make of him not a spectacle but a pair of spectacles” (quoted in Duriez 2000: 162).I look with his eyes, not at him. He, for the moment, will be precisely what I do not see; for you can see any eyes rather than the pair you see with, and if you want to examine your own glasses you must take them off your own nose. The poet is not a man who asks me to look at him; he is a man who says ‘look at that’ and points; the more I follow the pointing of his finger the less I can possibly see of him. (Quoted in Hooper 1997: 599)If we are to treat a person’s opinions fairly we cannot treat them as facts to be explained merely as episodes in their biography, we must consider the belief in question on its own merits. This in turn means thinking about the content of the belief and not about the belief itself. In a similar manner, to read a poem ‘fairly’ we cannot treat it merely as an expression of the poet’s personality, we must attempt to see what the poet sees and not merely to see the poet.  Lewis’ assault on Bulverism is noted by Como (1998: 170), by Hooper (1997: 552) and by Burson and Walls (1998: 160-1) as among Lewis’ most important ideas, and its relevance to Lewis’ rejection of the Freudian critique of religious belief is obvious. As demonstrated in Chapter 5, that attempt to discredit religious belief is no more (and is perhaps less) convincing than the attempt to discredit atheistic belief in the same manner.

Steve and Pat: This is a little bit related to the internalism/externalism issue that was explored between my blog and John DePoe's. Something I have to keep emphasizing is that science depends crucially on some beliefs being *rationally inferred*. This entails a claim about how the belief was produced. If I say some people form beliefs because they perceive a logical relationship between the premises and the conclusion. That requires a nonaccidental confluence between cause and effect relations and ground-consequent relations which is prima facie very tough to square with the mechanism and causal closure of the physical. The AFR says that if physicalism is true, then this never occurs. Contrast this with a case of Bulverizing. I offer a rational reason for believing in God, say, the AFR. You reply that I can't possibly believe in God because of the argument, I must believe because of wish-fulfillment. Then there are two problems. One arises if I claim that I came to believe in God as a result of reasoning. If I'm making that claim, then we have to ask what kind of evidence could show that this wasn't true. A brain scan maybe? Prolonged observation of my behavior? Even if I have a wish to believe, this doesn't show that the wish, and not the reasoning, caused the belief. But what if I don't say that I myself came to believe in God because of the AFR. I don't make that kind of autobiographical claim myself, even though I have been inviting people for years to be able to make that autobiographical claim. For me, of course, it's one of a number of reasons I believe in God. Even if I am a theist because of wish-fulfilment and the AFR is an attempt on my part to rationalize my beliefs, nevertheless the argument is "out there" and has to be considered on its argumentative merits. Of course, this all presupposes that we live in a world in which at least some people at some times make rational inferences, and change their beliefs on that basis. One can criticize Bulverism without committing oneself to Anscombe's implausible thesis that how a belief is formed is irrelevant to how the belief is justified. I provide a link to Lovell's dissertation here:
posted by Victor Reppert @ 8:16 PM


At 11:43 PM, Edward T. Babinski said…
REASONING WORKS FOR ATHEISTS TOO VIC wrote: If I claim that I came to believe in God as a result of reasoning...what kind of evidence could show that this wasn't true?ED's reply: Then neither can you deny that an atheist came to their beliefs as a result of reasoning. Steve Locks has been conducting a study of the ASYMMETRY OF CONVERSION.++++++++++++++AFR IS NOT AN ARGUMENT BUT MERELY A PRESUPPOSITION TO TRY AND FORESTALL ADMITTING THAT PHILOSOPHY CONTAINS NO SOLUTIONVIC wrote:People form beliefs because they perceive a logical relationship between the premises and the conclusion. That requires a nonaccidental confluence between cause and effect relations and ground-consequent relations which is prima facie very tough to square with the mechanism and causal closure of the physical. The AFR says that if physicalism is true, then this never occurs. ED's reply:Vic, just because people can converse using higher generalized categories of thought all bunched together into a form of communiation known as language, only proves that brain/minds can exchange information at a certain higher level that both brain/minds accept as recognizable input.As for "logical relationships" I doubt any brain/mind could perceive such relationships if we didn't have sensory apparatuses, memories, and brain/minds that stored information regarding zillions of comparisons, both spoken and unspoken. Exactly how the mind stores and compares information is not known in the details, but the fact that it does, and is able to draw increasingly broader generalizations based on such comparisons, is not necessarily a problem for the naturalist at all. Physicalism as you define it questions whether any lower order phenomena might be linked directly and naturally to higher order phenomena. You deny such direct natural links and substitute "supernature" as your philosophical explanation of choice. But really Vic, that proves nothing. I mean, where do "colors" come from? Individiual atoms have no colors. You might as well start denying that any lower order phenomena have direct natural links to higher order phenomena.Where do molecules come from? Atoms. But atoms behave atomically, on a lower order of phenomena. But join atoms into molecules and the entire range of their abilities grows exponentially, unexpectedly. And why is it that each cell is part of a whole range of cells in each organism whose cellular behaviors are not isolated but inter-connected, and hence each cell depends upon the behaviors of many other cells around it, the overall dynamics of each whole organ, indeed the dynamics of all the bodily systems working togethter as a whole, help determine how each cell reacts--the entire sensing organism's body and all of its cells being moved about by the organism as a whole which continues receiving input from its new surroundings. In other words, YOUR DEFINITION of "physicalism" is your "argument" against physicalism. Physicalism as YOU define and understand it necessarily leaves NO ROOM for organisms as a whole being more than the sum of their parts. You keep looking down at the lowly atom, and beginning and ENDING there you can't see anything else BUT the lowly atom on that level of phenomena. You make no exceptions for holism or dynamism at higher levels, but keeping coming back to "atoms, accidentally rubbing against each other." Jesus christ, Vic, I see atoms dancing in unison, giving and taking, and building unexpected surprising dynamic unions as they fondle each other as molecules, that are part of cells that are parts of tissues and organs and whole organisms that interact and sense their environments. If that's physicalism it's not so bad, not for physicalists. Or as Raymond Smullyan once put it, "If you tell some philosophers that 'man is a machine' they grow sad, based on their particular philosophy. But if you tell other philosophers with a different philosophy that 'man is a machine' they may marvel and consider that they never before thought machines could be capable of such amazing things."AFR is not an argument, but a presuupposition that makes the naturalistic alternative vanish BEFORE any argument even begins. See HERE and HERE++++++++++++++THE "SOME PEOPLE" ARGUMENTVIC wrote:Of course, this all presupposes that we live in a world in which at least some people at some times make rational inferences, and change their beliefs on that basis. ED's reply: What exactly are you claiming by your "some people" argument That "some people" have acquired a faith in all of the invisible supernatural beliefs of Christianity based on rational inferences ALONE? I'm sure "some people" believe they have. And "some people" also believe they have argued themselves OUT of believing in Christianity based on rational inferences ALONE.The MAJORITY of people however, appear more cocksure than even the most highly trained philosophers that THEIR beliefs are the "true" ones, no matter how odd their beliefs happen to appear to either you or I. (That alone should make one question what the heck Lewis's alleged "Divine Wisdom" is "up to.") And reasoning about the big questions even among the most highly trained philosophers on earth has never settled the big questions, not even since the days of the pre-Socratics. Even the Society of Christian philosophers published a debate book a few years ago in which they argued amongst themselves whether dualism or monism best explains how the human brain/mind functions! Philosophers appears to be far from close to agreeing on the big questions, mere words hanging in their brain/minds, clutched as cudgiles to ward off uncertainties, or ward off the approach of other cudgle-like terms loaded with presuppositions--even among theistic philosophers debating other theistic philosophers! And here's the scoop from Christians who have studied conversions to Evangelicalism over the centuries. They have remarked that the odds of conversion to Evangelical Christianity grow increasingly smaller with age. Therefore Evangelicals MUST continue to seek out YOUNG minds--which coincidentally is when the mind is relatively less completely formed, more susceptible to emotionality, when the mind's emotional control--needs--desires, and regulations are less well formed, less interconnections probably overall between parts of the brain, and greater malleability. (For instance if you learn a foreign language at a young age you can learn to speak it without a detectible accent as an adult, but that's usually only if you pick it up while young.) Here's the word straight from the horses's mouth, Christianity Today: In the late 1800s, Edwin Starbuck conducted ground-breaking studies on conversion to Christianity. Ever since then, scholars, attempting either to verify or disprove his findings, have repeatedly demonstrated them to be accurate. Most observers agree that what Starbuck observed is to a large extent still valid. From these studies we learn two significant things: the age at which conversion to Christianity most often occurs, and the motivational factors involved in conversion.Starbuck noted that the average age of a person experiencing a religious conversion was 15.6 years. Other studies have produced similar results; as recently as 1979, Virgil Gillespie wrote that the average age of conversion in America is 16 years.Starbuck listed eight primary motivating factors: (1) fears, (2) other self-regarding motives, (3) altruistic motives, (4) following out a moral ideal, (5) remorse for and conviction of sin, (6) response to teaching, (7) example and imitation, and (8) urging and social pressure. Recent studies reveal that people still become Christians mainly for these same reasons.What conclusions can be drawn from this information? First, the average age of conversion is quite young. Postadolescent persons do not seem to find Christianity as attractive as do persons in their teens. Indeed, for every year the non-Christian grows older than 25, the odds increase exponentially against his or her ever becoming a Christian.Second, the reasons people become Christians appear to have at least as much to do with sociological factors as with purely "religious" factors (for example, conviction of sin). ED's final comment: My own fundamentalist beliefs died a long painful death via "a thousand qualifications" and only after reading and contemplating many works of a more moderate/liberal sort over a period of 5-10 years.

At 9:52 AM, Don Jr. said…
Ed: "Then neither can you [Dr. Reppert] deny that an atheist came to their beliefs as a result of reasoning."Where did Dr. Reppert deny that?Ed: "AFR IS NOT AN ARGUMENT . . ."1. If naturalism is true, then logical laws either do not exist or are irrelevant to the formation of beliefs.2. But logical laws are relevant to the formation of beliefs. (Implied by the existence of rational inference.)3. Therefore, naturalism is not an argument? Note that I'm not asking if it is a sound argument (although I believe it is). I'm merely asking if it's an argument. (The above argument was taken from Dr. Reppert's C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea book.)

At 2:17 PM, Anonymous said…
It is an argument, but not at all persuasive.Number 1 is an invalid assumption.

At 10:47 PM, Steven Carr said…
What beliefs do we have that are formed by logical reasoning?On this very blog, Christian philosophers have denied that the following reasoning is logically valid :-1) My memory and senses tell me that almost everybody has two legs2) Therefore I can logically conclude that almost everybody has two legs.If such basic reasoning cannot be logically justified (because 2 does not necessarily follow from 1), how does Victor justify his beliefs about the world?

At 12:20 AM, Don Jr. said…
You don't use logical reasoning, Steven, in forming your beliefs? (Also, could you provide the link supporting what you asserted in your last comment?)

At 4:22 AM, Steven Carr said…
As a general point, are people justified in beleiving things they have reached through fallacious reasons?If we are going to apply a strict rule that the only beliefs which are justified are those reached through a logically valid chain of reasoning, then many cherished beliefs will be in danger.----------------------------Links for Don :- comment there :-'Any argument that claimed to be able to deduce from you're having seen people with two legs that it was a logical contradiction for people to have one leg fails easily.'So there is nothing to prevent somebody forming a belief that people only have one leg. They would not be entertaining a logical contradiction.'It's that you can't complain that they're being irrational on the basis of an argument that only proposes a logical inconsistency.'Perhaps Victor or Don could supply a logically valid argument that deduces that we have two legs.Does rational reasoning have to include only logically valid arguments to be 'rational' and 'reasoning'?I would say no.This is one reason that I don't understand the Argument from Reason.I have yet to see a definition of 'rational reasoning'.

At 4:30 AM, Steven Carr said…
Victor writes ' If I say some people form beliefs because they perceive a logical relationship between the premises and the conclusion.'Some people see a logical relationship between these premises (a and b) and the conclusion (c)a) a loving Heavenly father would not let his children suffer hunger and thirstb) Children are suffering through hunger and thirstc) Therefore, there is no Heavenly father.*Is* there a logical relationship between the premises and the conclusion?How can we tell whether or not there is a logical relationship between a set of premises and a conclusion? Only when the premises *necessarily* entail the conclusion?In which case, Victor would have very few justified beliefs.

At 6:37 AM, Don Jr. said…
Steven, if you have comments you want to make specifically concerning that August 2005 blog entry then I suggest you either post them there or email the individual with which you were discussing them. (Also, you have a blog. Make a post there and I'm sure the issue will get cleared up.)If your not understanding the AFR is because you don't know what "rational reasoning" is, then, to be frank, if you don't understand it at this point I'm not sure I can say anything to help. More importantly, if that is the case—that is, if you don't know what "rational reasoning" is—then it seems that you have more serious issues to resolve. If your not sure whether you've been using rational reasoning your entire life or not then maybe you should resolve that issue before you engage in rational debate.(Also, how do manage to drag an argument from evil/suffering into a discussion about the AFR? That takes skill. Admittingly, I'm envious.)

At 8:36 AM, Steven Carr said…
Please explain 'rational reasoning' to me.Here is an example of rational reasoning.The logical argument from evil is an inductive argument, rather than a deductive one.We see many people try hard to whatever suffering they can, and being called good when they do that (and bad when they do not try to reduce whatever suffering they can).We induce that a very good being would also reduce whatever suffering it could.We also see that often it is quite possible for puny humans to reduce suffering.We induce that an omnipotent being would also find it possible to reduce suffering. Is this not perfectly rational reasoning, of the sort that Victor claims it was is needed to justify beliefs? My main point is that almost all our beliefs about the world are formed by induction, not deduction (including the belief that most people have 2 legs).That is one reason why many people have so many wrong beliefs. Inductive logic is notoriously fallible, as anybody who has bet on racehorses can testify.But inductive reasoning does work a lot of the time, as well as sometimes failing to work.How does theism explain why inductive reasoning works when it works, and also explain why inductive reasoning fails when it fails?I don’t think it does, which is one reason why Victor’s argument from reason fails for me. It fails to explain the reasoning most of us use almost all the time.If Victor's claim is that only theism can explain rational reasoning, then it is incumbent on him to explain what rational reasoning is, and why the problem of evil (as I outlined it) does not fall into the category of rational reasoning.

At 11:03 AM, Tim said…
don jr., I'd be interested in seeing your definition of "rational reasoning".I think Steven has made a very good point in distinguishing inductive from deducive reasoning.

At 11:19 AM, Don Jr. said…
Note that none of your remarks have anything to do with the original post, Steven. (How do you manage to pull that off so consistently?) The only similarity is that you mention the word "reasoning."Steven: ". . . which is one reason why Victor's argument from reason fails for me."And exactly what is Victor's argument from reason? (Hint: He doesn't have an argument from reason. He develops a general concept—that rational inference is fundamental to human reasoning as we know it—into several AFRs.)Steven: "It [i.e., "Victor's argument from reason"] fails to explain the reasoning most of us use almost all the time."Do you fault atheistic arguments from evil for not explaining the existence of evil? (I can tell you that 83 squared doesn't equal 4 without telling you what it does equal.) And it isn't the function of an argument to explain anything. Arguments prove or disprove. If you're looking for an explanation then read a book, and I highly recommend Dr. Reppert's C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea.Also, I've never seen Dr. Reppert say that the problem of evil doesn't fall into the category of rational reasoning. (The category of rational reasoning has several sub-categories, two of which are "valid" and "invalid." There's also "sound" and "unsound.")(Of course, I am not meaning to speak for Dr. Reppert here. I'm merely reporting what I view to be the case based on reading some of his work. If you have questions specifically for Dr. Reppert, Steven, I suggest you email him.)

At 11:39 AM, Don Jr. said…
Tim, I'm not meaning to be condescending at all but I have no other answer than to tell you to look up "rational," then look up "reasoning," and put the two together. Nothing fancy. The only point that needs to be made is that rational reasoning, as is commonly understood, cannot be accounted for mechanistically. Dr. Reppert's various AFRs argue this point. If you or Steven (or anybody) offers a definition of "rational reasoning" I'll probably gladly accept it. The definition of rational reasoning isn't the issue; so don't get hung up on that. It's the accounting for rational reasoning that is the issue. (One can either account for it or explain it away.)

At 11:50 AM, Don Jr. said…
Tim, to add to my last comment, it is hard to provide a concrete definition of "rational reasoning" (I'll just refer to it as "reasoning") because reasoning—or the use of reason—is such an abstract concept. This, in fact, is what gives the AFR its thrust. Reason doesn't seem, at least prima facie, to be reducible, especially not to any sort of physical description. Dr. Reppert's various AFRs attempt to prove this point (beyond the prima facie region).

At 1:05 PM, Steven Carr said…
Rational Reasoning can't be explained by materialism.What is rational reasoning? Don can't explain.Nor can theism explain why inductive arguments work when they do, and why they don't work when they don't.I gave an example of what I consider to be perfectly rational reasoning. Don fails to say why it is incorrect reasoning.Of course, if such reasoning really was logically invalid, then many of our everyday beliefs could also be shown to be equally invalid. After all, the argument from evil uses just the same sorts of reasoning as used when we form other logical conclusions. The conclusions may not *necessarily* follow from the conclusions, but I hope Don will agree that many examples of 'rational reasoning' have conclusions which do not necessarily follow from the premises.(Does Don believe the sun will rise tomorrow? Can he give a logically watertight case for that belief?)

At 1:15 PM, Steven Carr said…
don writes ' (The category of rational reasoning has several sub-categories, two of which are "valid" and "invalid." There's also "sound" and "unsound.")'What does Don mean by 'invalid' rational reasoning?Why does he expect naturalism to be able to explain 'invalid' rational reasoning?Surely only theism can explain invalid rational reasoning :-)People do make mistakes in reasoning.What causes such things? Victor seems to talk as though rational causes cannot produce mistakes. It is one more thing I don't understand about his ideas.Victor writes ' That requires a nonaccidental confluence between cause and effect relations and ground-consequent relations which is prima facie very tough to square with the mechanism and causal closure of the physical.'How can a 'cause and effect relation' produce an effect which is false?

At 2:25 PM, Don Jr. said…
What is rational reasoning? Don says that if you don't know you need more help than he can offer.Don does not engage in discussing topics that are beside the point. Don is not fascinated by red herrings.Don knows of numerous arguments that have conclusions which don't necessarily follow from the premises. Don is not aware of the significance of this knowledge.Don will not define what he means by "invalid" because (1) that information is easily assessable to anyone and (2) Don feels it is feeble to engage in rational debate with someone who does not know what "invalid" means, or with someone who needs to have "rational reasoning" defined.

At 5:06 PM, Tim said…
don jr.,If it is so easy to define what rational reasoning really means in the context of the AFR, why not do so?Sorry, but it is beginning to appear that you are dodging some very legitimate questions here.t.

At 8:22 AM, Don Jr. said…
Tim, if you honestly don't know what rational reasoning is then look it up. Or, better yet, get Dr. Reppert's book, C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea. If you feel that I am dodging then so be it; you're certainly free to feel that way.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

On the significance of functionalism

BDK wrote: I just don't feel the same confidence in your a priori claims about what the sciences of the mind will end up with. I think we need to get an empirical grasp on cognitive systems before making pronouncements. That's largely why I'm a scientist and not a philosopher (and it isn't just the antinaturalists that are guilty of premature proclamations about the metaphysical implications of any future science of the mind).

VR: I think this has a lot to do with how these mental states are defined. If functionalist analysis of those states are plausible, then whether these functionally defined mental states are physically realized or not becomes an empirical question. However, if the arguments against functionalism work, then there seems to be to be a fundamental logical barrier to a materialist understanding of the relevant phenomena. That is why the debate of functionalism is so important.

William Hasker writes:

Once the pieces are assembled, the argument given here seems fairly obvious, and it has been overlooked until now. I am not sure of the reason for this, but a possible explanation is the following: When they write about rational processes, physialists typically deal with them cybernetically, using notions of "information," "representation" and the like that can be treated within the scheme of physical explanation.39 We thus become accustomed to the idea that these notions are at home within a physicalistic scheme--though to be sure, difficulties are encountered in the details of such accounts. If the physicalists in question are thoroughgoing functionalists, the issue of concsious experience is never addressed, so of course the question of the correspondence of experience to reality never emerges. If on the other hand consciousness is brought into the picutre, it is taken for granted that the mental experience supervenes on the physical state in such a way that (for instance) the cybernetically defined state identified witht he belief that there is a cow in the pasture is accompanied by the kind of conscious awarenesswe would associate with assenting to that belief. What the present argument brings out is that the correspondence between subjective experience and objective reality is an enormously important fact that needs explanation. But on the assumptions of physicalism, no explanation can be given--this correspondence, which we all assume to exist, has the appearance of a sheer miracle.

39. The work of Dretske is a good example of this.

From The Emergent Self (Ithaca: Cornell University Press) pp. 79-80.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Jason Pratt on Lewis

This is by frequent commenter Jason Pratt, on what I am missing in Lewis's argument from reason.

....... C. S. Lewis' (most?) Dangerous Idea.......

When Professor Victor Reppert wrote his detailed analysis of variants of
the Argument from Reason (especially in connection to the work of C. S.
Lewis), a few years ago, I opined more-or-less steadily through various
drafts and into the finished copy (and beyond in occasional comments since
then), that despite his book's title (_C. S. Lewis' Dangerous Idea_, wryly
riffing on the title of Daniel Dennett's _Darwin's Dangerous Idea_) Victor
was downplaying the most "dangerous" application of Lewis' argument: the
application Lewis himself culminates his chapter with.

I recently mentioned this again in a private critique of some potential
encyclopedia entries; and while collating discussion on the theistic
Argument from Reason, Victor has publicly opened the debate here on his
second DangIdea site. (To which initial comments Victor will probably link
this letter for prior reference, below.)

The discussion between us, is on the value of the portion of Lewis' 3rd
chapter from the 2nd edition of _Miracles: A Preliminary Study_, which (for
quick reference sake) begins "'But,' it will be said, 'it is incontestable
that we do in fact reach truths by inferences.'", and which (for our
purposes) ends at roughly the place where Lewis writes, "On these terms the
Theist's position must be a chimera nearly as outrageous as the
Naturalist's." Victor has posted a bit more than half of this in his
initial remarks (opening the public debate). Of course, none of us should
be reading and analyzing this apart from the progression and development of
Lewis' argument up to the beginning of that climactic section; so for
reference sake I encourage readers unfamiliar with the work to please refer
(if a copy isn't handy) to the page Victor linked several days earlier,
containing a text of MaPS Chp 3 (2nd edition). This page can be found at (That's CSL 3, not
CS thirteen, for readers with some kinds of fonting...)

As usual, I will caution that there is a prevalent tendency to conflate
between the category of atheism/theism and the category of
naturalism/supernaturalism. While I find Lewis was actually better about
avoiding category error switches on this topic than the average (especially
in MaPS 2nd ed), his presentation is still worded with this conflation in
view, and there are times when (in acceding to the popular use of the term
Naturalism) he verges hard on category error. Between this, and the fact
that most subsequent commentators are in the habit of conflating the
categories (not infrequently in convenience to whatever argument they're
trying to make), figuring out what Lewis was primarily attempting in this
chapter can become (even?) more difficult.

In opening his recent public comments on the topic, Victor contended, or
seemed to contend, that Lewis was disagreeing with Darwinians that
evolutionary development could lead to effective mental behaviors in
relation to true facts. Lewis does have something to say about the
difficulty of evolutionarily developed expectations being proposed as
leading to a power to recognize truths; and this can be found beginning at
the very top of page 30 (paginated according to the hyperlinked text
referenced above) down to roughly the first sentence completion at the top
of page 31 (with some commentary and explication afterward leading into the
portion I have identified as the climactic summary; this can be found
beginning at the bottom of page 32.)

However: if we go back to the beginning of the first full paragraph on page
28, down to the bottom of page 29, we will find Lewis nevertheless
_agreeing_ with the notion that evolutionary processes could plausibly
result in the development of effective mental reactions (the phrase
"responses to stimuli" is how Lewis puts it) which, in the consequent
accuracy of connecting behaviors to true facts of reality, Lewis admits,
"might serve us as well as reason or in some circumstances better."

I contend that in making this concession, Lewis is actually agreeing with
the sort of notion represented by Victor's quotation of Antony Flew; not
disagreeing with it. (Not so far as that quote itself goes anyway, aside
from whatever Flew does with the notion elsewhere.)

Victor finds the portion of Chp 3 which I call the climactic summary, to be
dissatisfactory as a way of ending-and-illustrating Lewis' disagreement
with (specifically) Darwinian claims of effective process development. I
agree that this portion would in fact be dissatisfactory as such an
ending-and-illustration; _if_ Lewis intended for it to be used that way.

I believe he did not intend for the climactic summary to be used that way.
He is not primarily aiming at critiquing this or that particular Darwinian
explanation for the rise of effective epistemic behavior. He isn't aiming
at various fish; but for Leviathan itself.

(In passing, let me add that I may have misread Victor originally to be
trying to say that one part of this climactic portion was Lewis presenting
"the Darwinian objection to his argument from reason", instead of pointing
to a different subsequent portion where this objection would be better
located instead, which Victor did go on to give after some interspersed
commentary. In retrospect, I expect that when Victor wrote "Here Lewis
presents the Darwinian objection..." he was thinking in terms of what he
would quote from Lewis _next_, after a commentary digression, instead of
what he _had just quoted_. If so, I readily retract an incidental criticism
I made in a preliminary comment, with apologies.)

My contention is that in MaPS chapter 3, Lewis is carefully building up to
a tactical deduction of atheism out of the pool of philosophical options.
Whether or not he succeeds or fails at this, _this_ is his "dangerous
idea". He is going for the heart; not against various fingers and toes or
even arms and legs. He intends this argument to be a deadly (if polite)
threat to atheism across the board, at the very root of any person's ground
for choosing to believe atheism or not.

In order to trace and demonstrate this most fully, I would (of course) be
required to analyze the progression of Lewis' argument point for point;
something that would require far more length from me than chapter 3 itself!
As a quick-n-dirty illustration, though, I can combine (a) Lewis' treatment
of the word "Naturalism" in chp 3, in topical connection with (b) his
treatment of the words 'rational' and 'non/not/sub-rational' (which
not-incidentally begin on page 28), in conjunction with (c) his original
title for the chapter ("The Self-Refutation of the Naturalist", or
"Self-Contradiction", my sources differ--either of which in itself ought to
be sufficient evidence for his original intention at least!); along with
(d) Lewis' removal of the term 'irrational' from his original 1st edition
of the chapter, substituting for it in the 2nd edition the _stronger_
negative terms mentioned at (b). (Terms insisted upon by Anscombe and,
ironically, Flew.)

Lewis did not gear down chapter 3, after his loss to Anscombe, his more
cautious title notwithstanding. He took Anscombe's critiques, incorporated
them, revised his argument, and _ramped up_ at least the apparent (I would
say actual) strength of his argument thereby.

Leaving aside even a fast summary of _how_ Lewis is getting there, his
final aim may (I believe) be accurately described thus: Lewis intends to
demonstrate that the claim of atheism sooner or later _requires_ the
atheist to have to do one or the other of two logically illegitimate
moves--justify that our justification abilities can be possibly accurate,
or justify that our mental behaviors can be possibly accurate even if we
don't (in fact) have justification abilities. Ultimately there is no other
option (once the topic turns to epistemology) under rigorous atheism. We
can see that non-rational causation frequently produces non-rational
effects, and atheism requires that our own apparently rational behaviors
must be ultimately produced and maintained by non-rational behaviors.

In order to fully appreciate the problem, rational behavior must be
discussed in context of intentional actions while avoiding various pitfalls
(e.g. the externalistic fallacy), in comparison to and distinction from
non-intentive purely automatic reactive behaviors.

At which point, two basic paths emerge: either true action capability (and
not merely the illusion thereof) is produced somehow by-and-only-by
reactions and counterreactions; or else only non-intentive reactions and
counterreactions exist. The latter directly calls into question any claims
we ourselves may make to personal cogency, but in either case it is readily
apparent from experience that usually non-rational causation only causes
non-rational effects. _Why then_ should we insist that our own real
reasoning is _not_ only knee-jerk reaction to stimulus? Or, alternately, if
our own ostensible reasoning is in fact only knee-jerk reaction to stimulus
_why then_ should we insist on being taken seriously?

The potential answers for 'why then' in either case, however, are
irrelevant, for in _any_ case they will require necessarily presuming what
they are hoping to defend.

Lewis doesn't present his argument in quite these terms and fashions, but I
find that this is the dichotomy he is trying to set up. If the proposition
of atheism necessarily requires that we end up having to justify that our
real-or-apparent justification abilities can in fact possibly be effective,
then dichomatic fallacies necessarily follow from proposing atheism.
Consequently, atheism should be removed from the list and not-atheism
(naturalistic or otherwise) should be believed instead. Formality aside,
not-atheism, of course, effectively equals theism.

Among other things, the argument recognizes that our effective reasoning
capability be a (if not _the_) necessary presumption for _any_ argument.
This means we cannot prove thereby that our reason exists; we can only
demonstrate and follow out what happens when we presume otherwise in a
self-reflexive fashion, observing along the way, not-incidentally, that
even to try to presume otherwise and operate on that presumption, we
essentially still must presume _not_-otherwise!

This is why Lewis writes (near the top of page 33), "If the value of our
reasoning is in doubt, you cannot try to establish it by reasoning. [...]
Reason is our starting point. There can be no question either of attacking
or defending it." Lewis' aim is to demonstrate that atheism necessarily
leads sooner or later to having to explain _why_ our justificational
ability (more specifically our own, _my own_--not some hypostatized
"humanity's") should be accepted as being possibly accurate. One way or
another, the atheist cannot get around this without begging the question.

(In passing, I will here note that the argument cannot be considered
finished at this point, for theism would have to be tested too for a
similar failure!--something Lewis, so far as I have ever been able to tell,
completely misses. Nor does Victor discuss it, so far as I recall.)

It will (and should) be noted that this is a soft deduction, even if it is
successful. In effect, by using Lewis' most dangerous argument (or a
refined variant of it), I am discovering that so long as I insist on taking
my own intellectual claims seriously, I ought to believe God exists, and I
ought not to believe that God doesn't exist. What I find I must necessarily
believe to be true about myself, for purposes of making _any_ argument, I
find I must doubt without any way to legitimately escape the doubt, so long
as I also propose atheism to be true.

The extent to which this may be considered to be a hard proof of God's
existence could be easily critiqued (and I expect rebutted). That it leads
deductively to a conclusion that I _should believe_ God exists, with the
action of that choice (to believe or not to believe) still to follow, is I
think less debatable--if the argument actually holds, of course.

Let me also say that this is only a barest rendering of the argument, and
that I do not even remotely expect it to be fleshed out sufficiently for
acceptance by an opponent yet. I can think of many topical considerations
still needing discussion in regard to the argument, myself. My main purpose
here is not to argue exhaustively for the position, but to contend that
this is ultimately what Lewis is trying to accomplish in his argument: the
deductive removal of a position by demonstrating that a necessarily fatal
dilemma necessarily follows from treating the position as being true. This
is also reflected, though more crudely, in practically every reference by
Lewis to what we now would call the theistic AfR (keeping in mind Lewis
never referred to it by this title), outside of MaPS, either edition. It is
also reflected in Lewis' move to become an absolute idealist upon
acceptance of the argument's conclusion: he precisely rejected _atheism_
and accepted _not-atheism_ instead, making the minimal move necessarily
implied by the conclusion.

Steve Lovell seems to think that Lewis only sees a _possibility_ of the
atheist making such a question-begging response--which is surprising given
Steve's own thorough analysis of the argument. I contend that Lewis
(rightly or wrongly) sees the eventual _necessity_ of the atheist making a
question-begging response; and _not_ to an argument by Lewis from reason to
not-atheism (an argument which, it should be observed, _Lewis hasn't
already given_ at the point Steve is commenting on!--though Lewis is in the
process of giving the concluding elements there), but to the challenge
posed by atheism's own first implications in regard to human epistemology:
_from_ nothing, comes _nothing_. From no-reason comes... reason? Or just
more no-reason? Either claim requires a subsequent follow-up that can only
beg the question in regard to the epistemic claims we ourselves are making
right that moment _in order to_ follow-up on either claim. This is
completely reflected in the quotes, from outside MaPS, with which Steve
begins his own analysis of the argument's history and implications, btw. It
will also be noticed that this is completely reflected in the title (and
contents?) of John Lucas' new debate with Elizabeth Anscombe, held several
years after Lewis' death, with Lucas taking the role of defending Lewis'
argument: "Is Mechanism Self-Refuting?"

(It would be a mistake to infer from this title that Lewis ended up only
aiming at a particular kind of determinism, by the way; as most of his 2nd
edition chp 3 is explicitly presented in discussion of a 'naturalism' that
need not even be purely materialistic! This explicit announcement occurs
right after the quote from Haldane, on page 20, which tends to lead some
critics, who couldn't be bothered to read a sentence or two further, to
think Lewis only has mechanistic determinism in view.)

Steve also claims (in relation to the quote from Flew presented by Victor
in his opening statement) that Flew "is not trying to remove doubts about
our cognitive faculties, he is attempting to stop those doubts from arising
in the first place."

It looks to me, from the quote given, like the doubt has already been
established, and Flew is trying to defend against it. (i.e. Ernest Gellner
writes, "If [naturalism] is true, then it is always _a mere coincidence_
that what we believe is also true." [my emphasis] To which Flew is, by
Steve's report, responding.)

But supposing Steve is correct instead, this still raises a portentous
question: why should Flew have to attempt to stop those doubts from arising
in the first place? Is he _having to_ attempt to stop those doubts from
arising? If so, and if he is appealing to the effectiveness of a process in
order to prevent those doubts, then he is still falling afoul of what Lewis
is actually attempting. For Lewis' ultimate point is that Flew, from the
presumption of atheism, _will have to_ make a defense (whether that
involves stopping doubts from arising in the first place, or whatever.)
Flew's doubt prevention strategy cannot possibly be successful at avoiding
begging what Lewis says is being questioned--which is why Lewis (in his 2nd
edition) answers Flew (in effect) the way that he does.

Put another way, Flew wants to succeed at keeping the possible reliability
of his cognitive faculties from being called into question, and proposes to
do so by using his presumably possibly reliable cognitive faculties to
explain why ancestors of his who had possibly reliable cognitive faculties
were more likely to survive to pass any improvements (accidental ones per
atheism, of course) in those possibly reliable cognitive faculties along,
etc. It doesn't matter what his defense attempt is, though. He has already
shot himself in the foot. (Which, I expect, is why Lewis can seem ambiguous
about whether he accepts or rejects portions of Flew's defense. It's a
secondary matter, and he isn't primarily concerned about it.)

BDK, in commenting on perhaps the key statement of the climactic summary
(where Lewis writes, "If the value of our reasoning is in doubt, you cannot
try to establish it by reasoning."), notes that if we accept this, we kill
epistemology. To the extent that epistemology currently involves justifying
our justification capabilities, that would indeed be true!--but that
doesn't make the statement less correct. It would just mean epistemology
has gone badly off the tracks somewhere (or numerous somewheres.)

In any case, Lewis can be said to proceed by assuming BDK's (1) ("That
human reasoning is epistemically valuable"); but Lewis is _not_ actually
proceeding by going on to BDK's (2) ("Argue that this skill couldn't have
evolved via natural processes.") That would be a variant of the argument
from reason, certainly, and a popular variant, too--Victor, for example,
frequently appeals to it in various ways (as do I on occasion. So does
Steve in the article Victor links to.) But it is not what Lewis is doing.

Also, for Lewis to make the claim quoted above ("If the value of our
reasoning is in doubt..."), manifestly does _NOT_ undercut the first of the
steps listed by BDK. To observe that we cannot reasonably reestablish the
value of our reasoning once that value is doubted, is not the same as
actually _doubting_ the value of our reasoning. (BDK's further comments are
not inappropriate, but Victor is handling those elsewhere.)

I have an expectation that Victor's denigration of Lewis' efforts in what I
am calling the climactic summary portion of MaPS chp 3, hinges on Victor's
preference for Best Explanation variants of the AfR instead of Sceptical
Threat variants; and be he right or wrong, Lewis in _that_ portion is
certainly making a type of Sceptical Threat AfR. But I don't believe Lewis
is making quite the same kind of ST-AfR that Victor nominally rejects.

What Victor objects to (as Steve in his own analysis rightly summarizes
from Victor's work), is the kind of argument that proceeds by raising
sceptical doubts about the validity of reasoning and then goes on to argue
that such doubts can be resolved only if 'naturalism' (more specifically
atheism) is denied. Victor correctly observes that no absolute security
against such doubts is available from any quarter. Of course not!--if we
appeal to theism (or not-atheism) in order to reestablish our security on
this, then we are only doing what Lewis is excoriating the atheists for
doing. But that is not the point of the Lewisian AfR; or anyway that is not
the point of its 'gist', so to speak, for as Lewis presents it the argument
does need better phrasing in order to clarify its proper implications. (I
am especially but not exclusively thinking here of the chp 3 material
subsequent to the climactic summary, which if read out of context can
easily seem to be appealing to theism in order to justifiably restore our
confidence in the possible reliability of our justification ability. I
don't believe Lewis is actually doing this even here, any more than he does
on a similar application later in chapter 13 "On Probability", but it could
be misunderstood that way.)

Properly presented, though, the most dangerous version of the Lewisian AfR
needs no such re-establishment. It proceeds by beginning from Reason, just
as Lewis says, and by looking to see whether one of a dichomatic group
itself necessarily raises questions about reasoning which necessarily need
answering but can only be answered by begging the question. At a more basic
level, the Lewisian AfR isn't even really about deducting away a threat to
the _validity of reasoning_ per se; a phrase that is probably a non
sequitur anyway (though used by Lewis in his presentation.) Lewis is not
assuming validity (or whatever may be considered most important about our
reasoning for purposes of presenting our own arguments) is a fact and then
asking whether in an atheistic reality one can account for the assumed
fact. He is demonstrating that under the proposition of atheism, we have to
try to account for something otherwise necessarily presumed to be factual.
This is subtly but crucially different as a tactic.

We may, if we wish, reduce Lewis' point down to this: _from_ the necessary
presumption of our reasoning ability, for sake of argument, we can consider
atheism or not-atheism. Does either of these require us to try to
subsequently account for the existence of something we are already
necessarily presuming to be factual? Since, under atheism, our reasoning
behaviors must depend upon non-rational behaviors, this necessarily
requires us to try to subsequently account for the existence of a type of
behavior which we are already presuming to factually exist, even in order
to try making that account. The distinction between theism and atheism is
precisely a distinction about the existence of that type of behavior.
Atheism denies that behavior's existence at a fundamental level; requiring
it to be produced or substituted in derivation. Theism at least doesn't
involve the denial of that behavior's existence, and so doesn't introduce
an immediate disparity in regard to our own derivative reasoning claims.

Does atheism involve introducing conflicts with the character and quality
we ourselves claim for our own reasoning when making any argument? Lewis
demonstrates (or at least aims at demonstrating) the answer is yes; and
then effectively assumes without further evaluation that the answer would
necessarily be no for not-atheism (i.e. for theism.)

If Lewis' demonstration is properly accurate, though; _and_ if an
evaluation of theism's implications does not reveal necessary introduction
of conflicts with the character and quality we ourselves claim for our own
reasoning when making any argument; then we will have deduced, not strictly
that atheism is false, but that so long as we take our own reasoning
seriously we ought to reject atheism as false--and accept not-atheism as

Which, in a cruder but equivalent fashion, is how and why Lewis the atheist
eventually decided to believe theism to be true instead. (While, at first,
_keeping_ his philosophical _naturalism_.)

Jason Pratt

Addendum: it may be asked if this means no Best Explanation AfR can be
derived from Lewis' work. I believe Victor and others have amply
demonstrated that various kinds of BE-AfR may be derived from, or
illustrated by, Lewis' work as well. I also believe, however, that Lewis
was not primarily aiming at this, which explains why in his own climactic
summary he is clearly not making that kind of argument. Efforts to try to
demonstrate that the primary importance of Lewis' AfR is in providing a
BE-AfR instead, are always going to be unable to account for that climactic
portion, and must at best simply wave it aside as being a peculiar

Thursday, January 18, 2007

dialogue with Blue Devil Knight

BDK: How much do the Balfour-philes focus on studies of common mistakes in human cognition that are typically weeded out only after the study of formal logic or mathematics? Such results suggest that what is especially unique about humans is not an innate ability to reason well, but our ability to use external symbol systems in a feedback loop which modifies our cognitive practices. This feedback loop allows us to escape some of our natural tendencies in reasoning (e.g., while it is common for humans to commit the fallacy of denying the antecedent, once this inference is made public and subject to empirical scrutiny, it becomes eliminated as an acceptable inference rule: it isn't built into our nervous systems).

VR: The feedback loop may be helpful for us in accessing what we know about reasoning, but I still have a problem. What we seem to be aware of when we reason is a truth that is not local, either spatially or temporally. How is that that we spatio-temporal creatures can be aware of something, like the law of non-contradiction, that is not local to space or time? Do feedback loops go up to Plato's heaven?

BDK: Most importantly, these arguments are sort of a tempest in a teapot in the absence of a good theory of animal cognition: if we don't know the basic architecture(s) of animal cognition, it is hard to argue about whether it could have evolved. Psychology has been building serious models of animal cognition for about 50 years, neuroscience has been studying it about the same amount of time, and we are nowhere close to having an accepted theory of such things. My bet is that in 100 years this debate will be approachable from a more empirically informed viewpoint, as there will be a naturalistic consensus based on solid data.

VR: It just seems as if the terms we use to describe our lives as cognizers, and I think, must use if we are to think of ourselves as rational cognizers, are terms that have to be left out if we are to follow the dictates of a genuinely naturalistic methodology. Getting specific mental content from physicalistically acceptable data, having genuinely normative logical norms, having truth and falsity, having mental states that are causally efficaceous in virtue of their content, are all things that, if you stick to the "rules" of methodological naturalism, you're never goiing to get.

BDK: There will still remain philosophical questions then, I'm sure, but they will be better posed (right now it's like philosophers arguing about the nature of space before Newton).

VR: But it looks to me as if the best models are going to be ones that break the methodological rules of science as we now know it. An account that is naturalistic in the full sense just does not seem to me to be a coherent possibility.

Some questions about explanatory exclusion from the philosophy of mind blog Brainpains

The argument from mental causation maintains that if there is a causal explanation of a person's belief in terms of physical causes, then that explanation excludes another explanation in terms of good reasons.

Take the syllogism

1. All men are mortal.
2. Socrates is a man.
Therefore Socrates is mortal.

If physicalism is true, is it possible that someone comes to believe the conclusion in virtue of the content of the premises. After all, there is a comprehensive physical explanation for each state of that person's brain in terms of physical causes. Could there, however, also be a co-existing explanation in terms of mental states, given the constraints of physicalism.

This blog entry, based on a paper by Karen Bennett, argues that the principle of explanatory exclusion should not apply to this case.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A part of Lewis's "locus classicus" I tend to avoid discussing

This is from the third chapter of Miracles.

CSL: But', it will be said, 'it is incontestable that we do in fact reach truths by inferences'. Certainly. The Naturalist and I both admit this. We could not discuss anything unless we did. The difference I am submitting is that he gives, and I do not, a history of the evolution of reason which is inconsistent with the claims that he and I both have to make for [32]inference as we actually practise it. For his history is, and from the nature of the case can only be, an account, in Cause and Effect terms, of how people came to think the way they do. And this of course leaves in the air the quite different question of how they could possibly be justified in so thinking. This imposes on him the very embarrassing task of trying to show how the evolutionary product which he has described could also be a power of 'seeing' truths.

VR: Here Lewis presents the Darwinian objection to his argument from reason. Antony Flew's statement of this response is here:

Flew: A]ll other things being equal and in the long run and with many dramatic exceptions, true beliefs about our environment tend to have some survival value. So it looks as if evolutionary biology and human history could provide some reasons for saying that it need no be a mere coincidence if a significant proportion of men’s beliefs about their environment are in face true. Simply because if that were not so they could not have survived long in that environment. As an analysis of the meaning of ‘truth’ the pragmatist idea that a true belief is one which is somehow advantageous to have will not do at all. Yet there is at least some contingent and non-coincidental connection between true beliefs, on the one hand, and the advantage, if it be an advantage, of survival, on the other.

VR: Lewis replies in this way. I have de-emphasized this line of response because I am inclined to suppose that this response begs the question. Can he be defended here?

But the very attempt is absurd. This is best seen if we consider the humblest and almost the most despairing form in which it could be made. The Naturalist might say, 'Well, perhaps we cannot exactly see--not yet--how natural selection would turn sub-rational mental behaviour into inferences that reach truth. But we are certain that this in fact has happened. For natural selection is bound to preserve and increase useful behaviour. And we also find that our habits of inference are in fact useful. And if they are useful they must reach truth'. But notice what we are doing. Inference itself is on trial: that is, the Naturalist has given an account of what we thought to be our inferences which suggests that they are not real insights at all. We, and he, want to be reassured. And the reassurance turns out to be one more inference (if useful, then true)--as if this inference were not, once we accept his evolutionary picture, [33] under the same suspicion as all the rest. If the value of our reasoning is in doubt, you cannot try to establish it by reasoning. If, as I said above, a proof that there are no proofs is nonsensical, so is a proof that there are proofs. Reason is our starting point. There can be no question either of attacking or defending it. If by treating it as a mere phenomenon you put yourself outside it, there is then no way, except by begging the question, of getting inside again.

Steve Lovell responds: Lewis evidently saw the possibility of such a response, but thought that it begged the question. He claimed that it amounted to the naturalist arguing for the reliability of his cognitive faculties, and that if those faculties really are in doubt such an argument should not persuade us. But this seems like a poor response to Flew. Flew is not trying to remove doubts about our cognitive faculties, he is attempting to stop those doubts from arising in the first place.

Well, that's what I would have thought, and that is why I have not emphasized this aspect of Lewis's argument. Have I missed something here? I believe Jason Pratt thinks that I am.

I am linking to Lovell's excellent discussion of the AFR.

Hutto on absolute idealism and consciousness

Daniel Hutto of the University of Hertfordshire, claims that idealism is the solution to the problem of consciousness.

John Beloff's dualism page

Absolute Idealism

An encycolpedia reference to Absolute Idealism, which Lewis accepted instead of theism when he was persuaded by the argument from reason to reject naturalism.

Hasker's Critique of Functionalism

From The Emergent Self, pp. 29-30.

Oceans of ink have been spilled in the debate over functionalism, and there is little prospect that anything said here can add much to the accumulated wisdom on the subject. We have already noted John Searle’s dictum “If you are tempted to functionalism, I believe you do not need refutation, you need help.”1 For a more moderate response, we may consider Jaegwon Kim’s remark that “qualia are intrinsic properties if anything is, and to functionalize them is to eliminate them as intrinsic properties.”2 Eminent authorities could of course be quoted on either side. As a very minor contribution to the discussion, I pose the following problem: consider the mental state (one that each of us has been in at one time or another) of being embarrassed about one’s appearance. Let’s suppose for the sake of the argument, that the functionalist can successfully pick out this state by a causal-functional description. My question is this: Is the state picked out by the functionalist such that, in standard cases, there is a qualitative “feel” to it—that there is “something it is like to be in” such a state? If not, then the reply seems obvious: a kind of state that does not, in ordinary cases, possess that qualitative “feel” cannot possibly be the state of being embarrassed about one’s appearance. It seems possible, to be sure, to be embarrassed about one’s appearance but be unaware of that fact, having either s suppressed the awareness or been distracted by other stimuli as not to attend to it. But that I might be embarrassed about my appearance without there being any feeling of embarrassment involved, or any tendency or potential whatever for the embarrassment to be felt in that characteristic way, is something that I at least find quite unintelligible.3 So we would have in this case another instance of a ploy that is, unfortunately, all to common in the philosophy of mind: familiar terminology is retained, but is redefined in such a way that we are no longer talking about the original subject matter.4
Suppose, on the other hand, the answer to my question is Yes. Suppose, that is, that the state that fulfils the causal-functional role of embarrassment about one’s appearance also characteristically involves (at least the potential of) feeling embarrassed. If so, then the causal-functional state identified by functionalism might well be the state of embarrassment we all experience from time to time. (It certainly is not part of the concept of embarrassment that such a state does not fulfill any causal-functional role). In this case, however, the functionalists doctrine will have hardly fulfilled its intended purpose of naturalizing, or “materializing--the mental. For it will then be the case that the functionally defined mental states characteristically involve phenomenal properties, but the functionalist theory tells us nothing at all useful about how to understand these properties or how they can be incorporated into a materialistic worldview. 5

1 John Searle, Rediscovery of the Mind, (Cambridge, MIT Press, 1992).
2 Jaegwon Kim, “Making Sense of Emergence,” Philosophical Studies (forthcoming)
3 Since the feeling of embarrassment might at a given time fade from awareness to the point of being unnoticed it seems plausible that, strictly speaking, the potential for such a feeling, rather than the actual feeling, that is essential to being embarrassed, rather than the actual feeling.
4 This seems to be the right place to classify Daniel Dennett’s views about these matters. He identifies his theory of content as functionalist: “all attributes of content are founded on an appreciation of the functional roles of the items in question in the biological economy of the organism (or the engineering of the robot))” (Dennett, Daniel C.,” in Samuel Guttenplan, ed. A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind (London: Blackwell, 1995), p.239). And he rejects consciousness as a requirement for intentionality, as is shown by the reference to robots in the quotation. Presumably, then, he would hold that a robot, if sufficiently complex, could be embarrassed about its appearance without being in any way conscious or even potentially conscious.
5 That is, of course, a version of the much-discussed phenomenal property or “qualia” objection to functionalism; readers are invited to supplement it with their own favorite versions of the objection.

Is the AFR a transcendental argument

This is another redated post from 2005, on the relation between the AFR and transcendental arguments. I'm including a trackback to the original discussion where you can read the comments that were made at that time.

This is another redated post to answer a question that was asked my by Mr. Sabatino, and which gets asked from time to time. See also my response to Don Jones a few weeks back.

I got a note from Robert Larmer asking me if I thought the Argument from Reason was a teleological argument or a transcendental argument. This is a very interesting question. I personally prefer to just call it the argument from reason and not try to put it into any of Kant's classifications (ontological, cosmological, teleological, moral, etc.) Richard Purtill, in C. S. Lewis's Case for the Christian Faith, identifies it as a teleological argument.

I think the argument has a transcendental character to it that is absent, from, let's say, the argument from consciousness. The straightforward argument from consciousness is sometimes answered simply by denying that there is consciousness is the sense that the arguer means to suggest that there is consciousness. But if you deny that there is reason, but still try to reason, if is like writing a book to prove that books don't exist.

On the other hand, the terms Transcendental Argument has been hijacked by presuppositional apologists like Van Til and Bahnsen, and I want to maintain that there is a fundamental difference between Lewis's and my argument on the one hand, and theirs. Just for starters, the AFR is an argument in support of the claim that the universe, or what caused the universe, is mental rather than physical. In C. S. Lewis's Miracles we find it used to attack naturalism, but when Lewis gets to his chapter on Pantheism/Absolute Idealism we find him using other arguments. He does not argue that these positions, which are positions distinct from theism but which nonetheless claim that what is fundamental to the universe is rational but not nonrational, are false because they are inconsistent with the validity of reasoning. TAG, on the other hand, seems to be an argument against everything except Christianity. Its claim seems to be that we have to accept Christian Theism as an absolute presupposition, (and I think they mean by that Calvinistic Christian theism) because all other views lead to incoherence. I wouldn't say that, and neither would Lewis, Dick Purtill, William Hasker, and other AFR defenders.

Years ago I did listen to the debate between Greg Bahnsen and Gordon Stein and I did think that Bahnsen posed some embarrassing questions to Stein. But Stein was not a philosopher. When you see a TAG defender going up against a real philosopher like Michael Martin or Theodore Drange, these philosophers seem to be able to expose serious weaknesses in the TAG methodology. Still, I would agree with Bahnsen that the question "What are laws of logic and how do they fit into a naturalistic world view" is an embarrassing question for a materialistic or naturalistic atheist.

Explanatory Compatibility and the Argument from Reason

This is a post I did last summer on explanatory compatibility.

Explanatory Compatibility and the Argument from Reason
VIII. Unlimited Explanatory Compatibility and the Noncausal View of Reasons
This is a point at which Anscombe, in her brief response to Lewis’s revised argument objects, claiming that Lewis did not examine the concept of “full explanation” that he was using. Anscombe had expounded a “question relative” conception of what a “full explanation” is; a full explanation gives a person everything they want to know about something. John Beversluis explicates this idea as follows, using the string quartets of Beethoven as his example:

JB: Fully means “exhaustively” only from a particular point of view. Hence the psychologist who claims to have fully explicated the quartets from a psychological point of view is not open to the charge of self-contradiction if he announces his plans to attend a musicologist’s lecture on them. In music, as in psychology, the presence of non-rational causes does not preclude reasons. In fact, there is no limit to the number of explanations, both rational and non-rational, that can be given why Beethoven composed his string quartets…All of these “fully explicate: the composition of his string quartets. But they are not mutually exclusive. They are not even in competition.39

This is an explication of the idea of an unlimited explanatory compatibilism. It is further supported if one accepts, as Anscombe did when she wrote her original response to Lewis, the Wittgensteinian doctrine that reasons-explanations are not causal explanations at all. They are rather what sincere responses that are elicited from a person when he is asked what his reasons are. As Anscombe puts it:

EA: It appears to me that if a man has reasons, and they are good reasons, and they genuinely are his reasons, for thinking something--then his thought is rational, whatever causal statements can be made about him.40

Keith Parsons adopted essentially the same position in response to my version of the argument from reason when he wrote:

KP: My own (internalist) view is that if I can adduce reasons sufficient for the conclusion Q, then my belief that Q is rational. The causal history of the mental states of being aware of Q and the justifying grounds strike me was quite irrelevant. Whether those mental states are caused by other mental states, or caused by other physical staets, or just pop into existence uncaused, the grounds still justify the claim.41

But the claim that reasons-explanations are not causal explanations at all seems to me to be completely implausible. As Lewis puts it,

CSL: Even if grounds do exist, what have they got to do with the actual occurrence of belief as a psychological event? If it is an event it must be caused. It must in fact be simply one link in a causal chain which stretched back to the beginning and forward to the end of time. How could such a trifle as lack of logical grounds prevent the belief’s occurrence and how could the existence of grounds promote it?42

If you were to meet a person, call him Steve, who could argue with great cogency for every position he held, you might on that account be inclined to consider him a very rational person. But suppose that on all disputed questions Steve rolled dice to fix his positions permanently and then used his reasoning abilities only to generate the best-available arguments for those beliefs selected in the above-mentioned random method. I think that such a discovery would prompt you to withdraw from him the honorific title “rational.” Clearly the question of whether a person is rational cannot be answered in a manner that leaves entirely out of account the question of how his or her beliefs are produced and sustained.

As for the question of explanatory compatibility, the issues related to the question of whether one causal explanation can exclude one another or whether they can be compatible is rather complex. But in the case of the string quartets of Beethoven, surely the example is a flawed one, because what is being discussed here is different aspects of the composition. The urge to compose them requires a different explanation from the decisions Beethoven made about what melody to compose, how to put the harmony together, and so on. If Beethoven was obsessed with writing for string instruments, we still do not know why he chose quartets as opposed to, say, cello solos.

Second, it seems clear that there have to be some limits on explanatory compatibility. Consider how we explain how present came to appear under the Christmas tree. If we accept the explanation that, in spite of the tags on the presents that say Santa Claus, the presents were in fact put there by Mom and Dad, this would of course conflict with the explanation in terms of the activity of Santa Claus. An explanation of disease in terms of microorganisms is incompatible with an explanation in terms of a voodoo curse. In fact, naturalists are the first to say, “We have no need of that hypothesis” if a naturalistic explanation can be given where a supernatural explanation had previously been accepted.

Further, explanations, causal or noncausal, involve ontological commitments. That which plays an explanatory role is supposed to exist. So if we explain the existence of the presents under the Christmas tree in terms of Santa Claus I take it that means that Santa Claus exists in more than just a non-realist “Yes, Virginia,” sense.

Even the most non-reductivist forms of materialism maintain that there can be only one kind of causation in a physicalist world, and that is physical causation. It is not enough simply to point out that we can give different “full” explanations for the same event. Of course they can. But given the causal closure thesis of naturalism there cannot be causal explanations that require non-materialist ontological commitments. The question that is still open is whether the kinds of mental explanations required for rational inference are compatible with the limitations placed on causal explanations by naturalism. If not, then we are forced to choose between saying that there are no rational inferences and accepting naturalism. But naturalism is invariably presented as the logical conclusion of a rational argument. Therefore the choice will have to be to reject naturalism.

Lewis maintains that if we acquired the capability for rational inference in a naturalistic world it would have to have arisen either through the process of evolution or as a result of experience. However, he says that evolution will always select for improved responses to the environment, evolution could do this without actually providing us with inferential knowledge. In addition, while experience might cause us to expect one event to follow another, to logically deduce that we should expect one effect to follow another is not something that could be given in experience.

39 Beversluis, Search, 73-74.
40 Anscombe, Metaphysics, 229.
41 Parsons, “Further Reflections” 101.
42 Lewis, Miracles, p. 16.
posted by Victor Reppert @ 7:16 PM 0 comments