A response to some people on Debunking Christianity
I was explaining the structure of the argument, not attempting to defend the premises. I was making the rather narrow point that Parsons had the structure wrong. At least the argument I have endeavored to defend does not have that kind of structure, and I don't think Lewis's did either.
I dislike using terms like "magical" or "supernatural." I prefer to argue that if there is to be reason in the world, intentional explanations must be basic explanations. Nor am I denying that physical states can be correlated with mental states, or that physical changes can cause mental changes. What I am saying is that when you add up all the truths about how physical states are arranged, they don't entail any unique truths about what the mental states are. Physical states don't, and can't entail mental states, in much the way they don't and can't entail moral truths. Naturalists like Quine and Dennett agree with me on this. Do you think they are wrong?
Physical states, including states of a computer, are indeterminate with respect to mental states. This includes states of a computer playing chess. The programmers create a physical system which mimics proper chess-playing given a framework of meaning provided by humans. The move Rf6 on my computer screen, played by Fritz (who kicks my butt on a daily basis, in case anyone is wondering) has a meaning relative to my understanding of chess, which it itself lacks. It is only by anthropomorphizing the silicon monster do we get determinate meanings for its moves. The laws of chess have nothing to do with what the computer does, but human programmers give it the physical motions of a computer a context of meaning that allows is to see those moves as chess moves.
But if physical states are indeterminate with respect to meaning, can it be that we have no determinate mental states or proposotional attitudes? If so, then it is never literally true that we add, subtract, multiply or divide. Ever read Kripke on Wittgenstein? If we literally perform the operation 2 + 2 = 4, then we understand the meanings of 2, +, and 4. What are thoughts are about must be exactly those meanings. But the physical is indeterminate with respect to mental content. This means that determinacy of meaning must come from someplace other than the physical.
Or maybe we don't literally add, subtract, multiply and divide. We only simulate it. But how do we know what we're simulating, if that's the case.
Labels: The Argument from Reason