Friday, September 28, 2007

Is non-reductive materialism an oxymoron

BDK: Epiphenomenalism is a special case of reduction. Just because X is epiphenomenal, doesn't mean it isn't reducible to lower-level bits (e.g. your shadow is epiphenomenal wrt your movement along the street, but it's still reducible).

VR: If so, doesn't it follow that the phrase "non-reductive materialism" is an oxymoron in a class with jumbo shrimp and compassionate conservatism? If that's what you think I'm inclined to agree.


Why only mentalistic monism or dualism will do

Exapologist: Do you think Hasker is fair to Chalmers? Has he not read carefully? I strongly recommend Hasker's essay to anyone interested in retaining a common-sense view of the mental while remaining in any sense a naturalist.

It seems to me that these two options are just plain exhaustive:

1) The having of reasons, and other mental states are amongst the fundamental causes of the universe. The causal role cannot be explained in terms of the causal activities of more fundamental stuff.

2) Reasons and other mental states are system byproducts. They do not occur at the most basic level, but arise in virtue of the physical being a certain way.

It seems to me that if you accept 2) you have to live with three possibilities: elimination, conservative reduction, or epiphenomenalism. 1 seems to me to be self-refuting, 2 seems wildly implausible given the logical disparity between the mental and the physical, and 3 is also self-refuting since if it is true no one ever believes anything for a reason, including epiphenomenalism. Richard Carrier, Doctor Logic and Blue Devil Knight will give me an argument on this.

If you agree with me that these won't work, you have to accept a world-view in which reasons are on the ground floor. Theism is one of those alternatives. And if there is honest-to-goodness matter in the world (a mechanistic order of causes) then, in order for the mental to play a causal role in the physical world, you have to accept some kind of substance dualism. That's why I think substance dualism is a better account of the mind than any view, whether we call it physicalism or neutral monism, that says there is a physical realm in which reasons don't play a role, and that everything else supervenes on that.

So the question that one has to ask of any view of the mind is "What think ye of the causal closure of a realm in which reasons play no role?" Are reasons on the ground floor in your world-view, or not. There are alternatives to theism that do this, but those world-views strike me as forms of idealism. There just doesn't seem to be a way to be "neutral" on the question of whether reasons are basic to the universe. The only monism that will work, on my view and given my arguments, is is a mentalistic monism.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Leopold Steubenberg's Stanford Encyclopedia entry on Neutral Monism

I still don't see how it can really be neutral.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

An Obsevation I made on Rational Perspectives

I find it hard to believe that in a naturalistic world brand new laws suddenly show up just in time to bring free moral agents into existence.


Hasker on how not to be a reductivist

This is Hasker's critique of Chalmers.

Abstract—Some current positions in the philosophy of mind, while ostensibly non-reductive, are in fact reductivist in ways that are seriously problematic. An example is found in the “naturalistic dualism” of David Chalmers: by maintaining the causal closure of the physical domain, Chalmers makes the rationality of conscious experience inexplicable. This can only be remedied by abandoning causal closure and acknowledging that micro processes in the brain go differently in the presence of conscious experience than they would without it. But this move has startling consequences: once it has been made, major objections to mind-body dualism disappear, and determinism is seen to be a theory that is completely lacking in empirical support. Thomas Nagel and John Searle are cited as examples of philosophers who make a serious effort to face up to the consequences of not being reductivists.

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Some further responses to exapologist

When I meant "avoiding theism" I wasn't making a statement about your motives, I was making a statement about what one needs in order to define naturalism. One goal of a good definition of X is that it excludes paradigm cases of non-X. But surely there has to be more to naturalism than avoiding theism.

You had written:

So why isn't this sort of proposal naturalistically acceptable? Granted, it may not me *materialistically* acceptable, but who cares? Why must a non-theist be wedded to *materialism*? Of course, they need not.

This passage makes it sound as if in order for something to be naturalistically acceptable it has to be acceptable for a non-theist. Of course, absolute idealists are not theists per se.

I'm waiting for Absolute Idealism to make a comeback. If it happens, you heard it here first.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

What makes arguments from reason argument from reason

BDK wrote: It seems every argument against naturalism you see is a reformulation of the argument from reason. :p

VR: Not exactly. What distinguishes arguments from reason from other types of arguments is that there is a built-in block against denying the existence of what the argument says that naturalism can't explain. The threat to undermine reason, and therefore the entire scientific enterprise is the heart of the argument. Naturalists have to love science, therefore they can't go subjectivist about epistemic values without cutting their own throats.

What makes all of this so complex is that the existence of the scientific enterprise has lots of components. If there weren't any intentionality, there would be no science. If there were not propositional attitudes, there would be no science (OK, you'll argue with me on that). If truth and falsity did not exist there would be no science. If mental causation did not exist, there would be no science. If the unity of consciousness did not exist, there would be no science. If there were no objectively binding epistemic norms there could be no science. If the laws of logic had no absolute legitimacy there could be no science.

It works kind of like a Kantian transcendental argument. What are the conditions necessary for the possibility of the discovery of scientific truth?


Reply to exapologist on neutral monism

Exapologist wrote:

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

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

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

The problem here is that in the way I have drawn the distinction between mentalistic and materialistic world-views. A world-view counts as mentalistic if "mental" type explanations can be basic explanations. A materialistic world-view is one in which mental-type explanations cannot be basic explanations. I can't figure out how to be neutral about that.

The argument from objective cognitive values

This is another version of the argument from reason which occurs to me.

1. Probably, if naturalism is true, there are no objective epistemic values.
2. There are objective epistemic values.
3. Therefore, probably, naturalism is false.

The idea here is that there is a problem in the area of cognitive values similar to the problem of moral values. Only, in the case of moral values, a subjectivist response seems plausible. In the case of cognitive values, a subjectivist response doesn't seem available.

Thomas Nagel wrote:

Reason, if there is such a thing, can serve as a court of appeal not only against the received opinions and habits of our community, but also against the peculiarities of our personal perspective. It is something each individual can find within himself, but at the same time has universal authority. Reason provides, mysteriously, a way of distancing oneself from common opinion and received practices that is not a mere elevation of individuality—not a determination to express one’s idiosyncratic self rather than go along with everyone else. Whoever appeals to reason purports to discover a source of authority within himself that is not merely personal, societal, but universal, and that should persuade others who are willing to listen to it.

Consider this statement, from the Talkorigins website.

Science is wedded, at least in principle, to the evidence. Creationism is unabashedly wedded to doctrine, as evidenced by the statements of belief required by various creationist organizations and the professions of faith made by individual creationists. Because creationism is first and foremost a matter of Biblical faith, evidence from the natural world can only be of secondary importance. Authoritarian systems like creationism tend to instill in their adherents a peculiar view of truth.

Now this is not something that someone can say who is a subjectivist about epistemic value. If some social group, such as a creationist organization, says that their goal is to reconcile whatever scientific evidence there is to the Word of God, and that is considered a worthwhile goal in that society (as it most certainly is), then all ground for complaining about it is removed. All you can say is "This language game is played."

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Friday, September 14, 2007

My new way of putting the argument from reason together

I reformulated the argument from reason as follows:

A version of the argument from reason.

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

Philosophopickle wrote: Very interesting. I wonder, though, if one is able to reply that propositions supervene naturally on a certain state or set of relations (specifically in the brain). Hopefully we see more on this.

VR: Yes, but would those states be causally effective, or would they, as I suspect, be epiphenomenal. This argument plan attempts to combine the argument from propositional attitudes with the argument from mental causation. It seems to me that if you are arguing with a reductionist, the argument from intentional/propositional states is effective, since I think there are good anti-reductionist arguments. However, if you are dealing with a non-reductivist, the mental causation argument is the way to make your case. So I'm combining them.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

On confusing reduction with elimination

This summary I wrote from an old post helps explain the relation between reduction and elimination, since that came up in a discussion here.

The Churchlands wrote an essay entitled “Intertheoretic Reduction: A Neuroscientist’s Field Guide,” in On the Contrary: Critical Essays 1987-1997 (Cambridge, MIT Press, 1998) in which they distinguish three types of intertheoretic reductions: conservative, reforming, and eliminiative. The reduction of temperature in a gas to the mean kinetic energy of the gas’s molecules was a conservative reduction, in that it doesn’t require us to reconceive temperature in any radical way in order to view it as the MKE of the molecules. The secondary qualities of temperature, how it feels, are not denied, they are simply pronounced to be the way we react to temperature rather than something in temperature itself. If the concept of temperature was essential to the meaning of our lives, this type of reduction would not threaten us in any way.

The second type is a reforming reduction, which shows that an earlier theory had significantly misconceived the phenomena it covered. Newtonian mass is replaced in relativity theory with mass relative to a frame of reference, but we were not just dead wrong when we used the concept of mass.

The most radical is an eliminative reduction. In this, the old idea is so wide of the mark that it is simply deleted by the new theory. No single has does the work of phlogiston, but phlogiston is replaced by a theory that distinguishes between oxygen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ross's "Immaterial Aspects of Thought

Unfortunately, you have to have a library that subscribes to JSTOR in order to read this one.

Is this where philosophical naturalism leads?

If so, in the last analysis it ends up denying that reason really exists.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Reforumulating the argument from reason

A version of the argument from reason.

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

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Lewis and computers

C. S. Lewis lived before computers became the major force that they are now. I think he would not be impressed by the argument that
1) We know that computers are purely material systems.
2) We know that computers reason.
3) Therefore we know that material systems are capable of reasoning.

The reason he would not be impressed is that while computers do the "ratio" part of rational inference very well, the "intellectus" aspect is not to be found in the computer system itself, but is rather a "put in" by human programmers and builders.

He wrote:

"We are enjoying intellectus when we ‘just see’ a self-evident [basic] truth; we are exercising ratio when we proceed step by step to prove a truth which is not self-evident. A cognitive life in which all truth can be simply ‘seen’ would be the life of an intelligentia, an angel. A life of unmitigated ratio where nothing was simply ‘seen’ and all had to be proved, would presumably be impossible; for nothing can be proved if nothing is self-evident. Man’s mental life is spent labouriously connecting those frequent, but momentary, flashes of intelligentia which constitute intelluctus."

Can a computer "just see" that a truth is self-evident, like we do? Or does it accept those "truths" because we humans perceive those truths and get it to act as if it did as well? Isn't the latter obviously true? How can intellectus be possible for computers, even jazzy neural nets?

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Extreme naturalism or consistent naturalism?

Paul Draper wrote: "Extreme naturalism" is the conjunction of naturalism with the thesis that

X: Either (i) beliefs don't exist (eliminativism) or (ii) they exist but they don't affect behavior at all (epiphenomenalism) or (iii) they exist and they affect behavior but not by virtue of their content (semantic epiphenomenalism) or (iv) they exist and they affect behavior by virtue of their content, but to have a certain content just is to display a certain set of third-person properties (reductive materialism).

Now is this extreme naturalism, as Draper seems to think, or is this just consistent naturalism, as I think. I think that the causal closure of the physical leads to this conclusion, while the denial of the causal closure of the physical results in an inconsistent naturalism.

Draper adds: Sensible naturalism is just naturalism conjoined with the denial of X. In other words, it conjoins naturalism with

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

In which case the physical isn't causally closed, and from the point of view of the physical, miracles are occurring. It looks tempting to go there given the difficulties for each of the other types of naturalism, but it isn't going to work. If all the naturalist is trying to do is avoid traditional theism, yeah maybe. If what you are trying to do is maintain a position consistent with the views traditionally ascribed to natuarlists, I don't think so.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Is God a precondition for knowledge

Yes, according to this blogger.

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Hasker, sensible naturalism, and causal closure

From his essay "What About a Sensible Naturalism"

What would the naturalist have to accept, in order to accommodate the demands of reason at this point? At minimum, the naturalist must accept the existence of emergent laws—laws which manifest themselves in complex organic situations, and which result in behavior of the fundamental particles of nature different from the behavior predicted on the basis of the physical laws alone. To admit this is to reject the “causal closure of the physical domain” that is so dear to the hearts of many, perhaps most, contemporary naturalists. The naturalist will have to acknowledge that new causal powers emerge in suitably complex configurations of organic chemicals.—powers that are not evident in simpler situations, and are not deducible from any laws that operate in simpler situations. It will have to be true that, given a particular sort of brain-state, there supervenes, say, a desire to hear a performance of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” and that, in virtue of this desire, certain actions, and certain bodily movements occur that could not be predicted merely on the basis of the physical laws that apply to the elementary particles making up the nervous system. A view that countenances the emergence of such causal powers might provide the basis for understanding mental states that could be effective in virtue of their propositional content. Many naturalists, however, will be extremely reluctant to abandon causal closure; if they do so, their status as naturalists in good standing could plummet alarmingly.

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My question for Paul Draper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Plantinga and the argument from intentionality

From "Two Dozen or so Theistic Arguments"
The Argument from Intentionality (or Aboutness)

Consider propositions: the things that are true or false, that are capable of being believed, and that stand in logical relations to one another. They also have another property: aboutness or intentionality. (not intensionality, and not thinking of contexts in which coreferential terms are not substitutable salva veritate) Represent reality or some part of it as being thus and so. This crucially connected with their being true or false. Diff from, e.g., sets, (which is the real reason a proposition would not be a set of possible worlds, or of any other objects.)

Many have thought it incredible that propositions should exist apart from the activity of minds. How could they just be there, if never thought of? (Sellars, Rescher, Husserl, many others; probably no real Platonists besides Plato before Frege, if indeed Plato and Frege were Platonists.) (and Frege, that alleged arch-Platonist, referred to propositions as gedanken.) Connected with intentionality. Representing things as being thus and so, being about something or other--this seems to be a property or activity of minds or perhaps thoughts . So extremely tempting to think of propositions as ontologically dependent upon mental or intellectual activity in such a way that either they just are thoughts, or else at any rate couldn't exist if not thought of. (According to the idealistic tradition beginning with Kant, propositions are essentially judgments.) But if we are thinking of human thinkers, then there are far to many propositions: at least, for example, one for every real number that is distinct from the Taj Mahal. On the other hand, if they were divine thoughts, no problem here. So perhaps we should think of propositions as divine thoughts. Then in our thinking we would literally be thinking God's thoughts after him.

(Aquinas, De Veritate "Even if there were no human intellects, there could be truths because of their relation to the divine intellect. But if, per impossibile, there were no intellects at all, but things continued to exist, then there would be no such reality as truth.")

This argument will appeal to those who think that intentionality is a characteristic of propositions, that there are a lot of propositions, and that intentionality or aboutness is dependent upon mind in such a way that there are a lot of propositions, and that intentionality or aboutness is dependent upon mind in such a way that there couldn't be something p about something where p had never been thought of.

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