Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Why Determinism is irrelevant to the argument from reason

Lewis's account of naturalism seems to imply that it does, although he mentions quantum-mechanical theories suggesting it does not. John Beversluis, in his treatment of Lewis's argument from reason, points out that Lewis does not consider or refute indeterministic forms of naturalism.

However, in dealing with more recent versions of the argument from reason the question of determinism is irrelevant, as I argued in a recent essay:

Exactly what does Lewis mean by naturalism? Very often the terms Naturalism and Materialism are used interchangeably, but at other times it is insisted that the two terms have different meanings. Lewis says,

“What the naturalist believes is that the ultimate Fact, the thing you can’t go behind, is a vast process of time and space which is going on of its own accord. Inside that total system every event (such as your sitting reading this book) happens because some other event has happened; in the long run, because the Total Event is happening. Each particular thing (such as this page) is what it is because other things are what they are; and so, eventually, because the whole system is what it is.”

As a presentation of naturalism, however, this might be regarded as inadequate by contemporary naturalists, because it saddles the naturalist with a deterministic position. The mainstream position in contemporary physics involves an indeterminism at the quantum-mechanical level. Lewis himself thought that this kind of indeterminism was really a break with naturalism, admitting the existence of a lawless Subnature as opposed to Nature, but most naturalists today are prepared to accept quantum-mechanical indeterminism as part of physics and do not see it as a threat to naturalism as they understand it. Some critics of Lewis have suggested that his somewhat deficient understanding of naturalism undermines his argument. Lewis, however, insisted on “making no argument” out of quantum mechanics and expressed a healthy skepticism about making too much of particular developments in science that might be helpful to the cause of apologetics.
However, contemporary defenders of the Argument from Reason such as William Hasker and myself have developed accounts of materialism and naturalism that are neutral as to whether or not physics is deterministic or not. Whatever Lewis might have said about quantum-mechanical indeterminacy, the problems he poses for naturalism arise whether determinism at the quantum-mechanical level is true or not.
Materialism or naturalism, as we understand it, is committed to three fundamental theses.
1) The basic elements of the material or physical universe function blindly, without purpose. Man is the product, says Bertrand Russell, of forces that had no prevision of the end they were achieving. Richard Dawkins’ exposition and defense of the naturalistic world view is called The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a World Without Design not because no one ever designs anything in a naturalistic world, but because, explanations in terms of design must be reduced out in the final analysis. Explanation always proceeds bottom-up, not top-down.
2) The physical order is causally closed. There is nothing transcendent to the physical universe that exercises any causal influence on it.
3) Whatever does not occur on the physical level supervenes on the physical. Given the state of the physical, there is only one way the other levels can be.

These three claims can be true if "the physical" is deterministic or not. Even if there are no determining physical causes, if all that makes it undetermined and is nothing but brute chance, this hardly introduces libertarian free will or reason.

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38 Comments:

At 1/23/2008 10:03:00 PM , Blogger Wakefield Tolbert. said...

How on EARTH can it be irrelevant?

"Determinism", IF by this word you mean "that which is predetermined" certainly spells death for the AFR if.....IF.....matter is deterministic and thus what we commonly called physical "laws" of the Universe and the interaction of matter, gravitational force, and energy are set in motion without being able to posit or need to posit a Lawgiver, or recognize that Reason is but an emergent property of mechanistic evolution, then Lewis falls apart.

Notice how this is taken from the point of view of one athiest blogger:

"Baloney theological "Argument from Reason Claim" Subset 50:

'The universe is governed by natural laws. Laws require a lawgiver.'

CS Lewis gets blown right out of the water due to sloppy verbiage here.

This is essentially a misinterpretation of what a law actually is. It's pardonable - most people don't know. A law is a description of how things usually happen, which has been so well observed and documented that there is virtually no doubt that if Event X happens in Situation Y, Effect Z will be the result. For example, if you drop something, it will hit the floor. If it doesn't, you're either in space, or the law of gravity has spontaneously vanished, in which case you'll shortly be in space anyway. And you might suddenly stop existing as a coherent entity.

Natural laws are descriptions of behaviour: they do NOT regulate anything. They're simply human PERCEPTIONS of how the Universe normally reacts. The confusion probably arises because of the confusion between the laws which society uses to mandate or forbid specific behaviour and physical laws. The reason they're called "laws" is because they are so universally applicable that they might as well mandate physical events. They do not, however, do so. Laws, like Theories, are subject to change if new evidence arises which may contradict them or alter our knowledge.

 
At 1/24/2008 10:22:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Wekefield: I think he just means indeterminism in physics doesn't kill the argument from reason. Read the post.

 
At 1/24/2008 10:58:00 AM , Anonymous Jim said...

I think there is a connection between the AFR and determinism: namely, that the AFR can be framed (and often is) as an argument against determinism. Non-Lewisian forms of the argument often take this form.

 
At 1/24/2008 01:19:00 PM , Blogger Victor Reppert said...

William Hasker wrote an essay entitled "The Transcendental Refutation of Determinism," but it turns out that the kind of determinism he is talking about is physical determinism, and it also turns out that he specifically mentions the fact that the introduction of mere indeterminism to a physicalist world-view won't do any good.

There is an old essay from many years ago entitled "Truth's Debt to Freedom," by, I think Warner Wick.

Of course libertarian theories of free will typically require a good deal more than the denial of determinism.

 
At 1/24/2008 07:41:00 PM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Victor,

So there's no difference between naturalism and physicalism, by your definition?

 
At 1/25/2008 06:44:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Wake

Besides being irrelevant, your point about laws of nature is wrong. We take natural laws to be prescriptive enough to underwrite prediction. But descriptions are not prescriptive at all. Pick up just about any general treatment of philosophy of science and look under "induction" and related topics.

 
At 1/25/2008 07:54:00 AM , Blogger Bill Snedden said...

darek barefoot: "Besides being irrelevant, your point about laws of nature is wrong. We take natural laws to be prescriptive enough to underwrite prediction. But descriptions are not prescriptive at all. Pick up just about any general treatment of philosophy of science and look under "induction" and related topics."

While I'm unsure whether or not wakefield's point was "irrelevant", his point about "natural laws" wasn't wrong at all. Natural laws are prescriptive about predictions yes, but they aren't prescriptive of reality. It's not the existence of a law (which is a description or a model of reality) that constrains reality, but rather the fact that reality itself exists in such a way as to render the law veridical.

Natural laws are descriptions of prescriptive states of nature.

 
At 1/25/2008 12:00:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Bill

>>It's not the existence of a law (which is a description or a model of reality) that constrains reality, but rather the fact that reality itself exists in such a way as to render the law veridical.<<

How reality so exists is exactly what the existence of the law explains. Laws must be assumed, Einstein correctly said. Their particular properties must be inferred. This adds up to lack of observability of laws of nature, but not unreality. Otherwise we have to deny altogether that there are laws of nature.

Physical events do not transcend time and space, but the rules that condition them must in order for them to give us a window on events that have yet to occur. There are at least two mental processes that are capable of transcending time and space: imagination and intention. When it comes to human minds, imagination can and does outrun intention. But we have to resort to mental processes to get beyond the here and now. The transcendance of space-time by laws of nature is therefore best explained by a mental process with greater resources than our own.

 
At 1/25/2008 03:37:00 PM , Blogger Bill Snedden said...

darek barefoot: "How reality so exists is exactly what the existence of the law explains. Laws must be assumed, Einstein correctly said. Their particular properties must be inferred."

So far, so good. Nothing here contradicts anything I've said.

db: "This adds up to lack of observability of laws of nature, but not unreality. Otherwise we have to deny altogether that there are laws of nature."

Um....what? Why should laws of nature be "unobservable?" That simply makes no sense. We observe the behavior of existents and make inferences about their nature from such observations. That leads directly to the inference of natural laws.

db: "Physical events do not transcend time and space, but the rules that condition them must in order for them to give us a window on events that have yet to occur."

Ummm...again, what? There's simply no need for natural laws to transcend nature itself. That seems incoherent.

db: "There are at least two mental processes that are capable of transcending time and space: imagination and intention. When it comes to human minds, imagination can and does outrun intention. But we have to resort to mental processes to get beyond the here and now. The transcendance of space-time by laws of nature is therefore best explained by a mental process with greater resources than our own."

Uh huh...um...?? Well, since laws of nature don't need to transcend nature there's no problem or need to posit "mental processes with greater resources than our own".

I believe your argument commits the fallacy of reification. You appear to be confusing abstract concepts with concrete reality. I'm guessing this is sort of a Platonic view, but in truth there's just no need for it. Reality isn't true or false; it just IS. There's not some great "book of rules" out there that controls how the universe works nor does there need to be. Existence behaves as it is its nature to behave. So-called "laws of nature" are our attempts to model that behavior so that we might understand it.

Further, I would argue that this view is really quite consistent with Orthodox Christian theology. God doesn't behave according to some transcend set of rules; God IS that transcendent Reality our rules attempt to describe.

 
At 1/26/2008 09:14:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Bill

>>Um....what? Why should laws of nature be "unobservable?" That simply makes no sense. We observe the behavior of existents and make inferences about their nature from such observations. That leads directly to the inference of natural laws.<<

To make an inference to an existent from an observation is not necessarily the same as observing the existent. We infer past events from evidence, but the inference is not an observation of those past events. We infer other minds from the evidence of behavior, but we don't observe the minds themselves.

Laws of nature are not things that can be observed, which is exactly why Einstein said they are assumed. You don't assume that which is observed.

>>Existence behaves as it is its nature to behave. So-called "laws of nature" are our attempts to model that behavior so that we might understand it.<<

Here you seem to be arguing that laws of nature have no objective reality, since you identify them with "our attempts" to model behavior. Perhaps you are referring to scientific laws. Scientific laws are useful approximations of the laws of nature. But using an approximate weight, for example, does not mean that there is no more precise weight than the approximation. Likewise, the approximate nature of scientific laws does not mean that laws of nature are products of our own fancy.

Newton did not make observations of the Law of Universal Gravitation. He made observations of events confined to particular times and places and then inferred something--a law--that is not so confined. And it is just because it is not so confined that it must be inferred rather than observed. But the flip side is that because it is not so confined, it allows us to predict how objects are likely to behave at times and places beyond our observation, such as next month here on earth or a billion light years distant.

There are some laws--or "rules," to use a more general term--that we infer much the same way we do the laws of nature. These are rules invented by human beings. But human rules only order a tiny portion of external reality because humans are tiny and weak.

Since the Bible explicitly says that the heavenly bodies obey ordinances and statutes fixed by God (Job 38:33; Jer 31:35), I think it hard to argue that Christian theology is compatible with an absence of laws of nature.

 
At 1/27/2008 11:40:00 AM , Blogger Bill Snedden said...

darek barefoot: "To make an inference to an existent from an observation is not necessarily the same as observing the existent. We infer past events from evidence, but the inference is not an observation of those past events. We infer other minds from the evidence of behavior, but we don't observe the minds themselves."

You've misunderstood what I said. I said we make inferences from the behavior of existents that leads us to knowledge of natural laws. I didn't say we observe natural laws; that would indeed be impossible.

darek barefoot: "Laws of nature are not things that can be observed, which is exactly why Einstein said they are assumed. You don't assume that which is observed."

Again, I didn't say that we infer the existence of natural laws. We draw inferences about how reality operates and use laws to organize and codify the content of our inferences.

darek barefoot: "Here you seem to be arguing that laws of nature have no objective reality, since you identify them with "our attempts" to model behavior."

Well, yes of course. Laws can have no objective existence by definition. Laws are propositions, which are and can only be products of the mind. Products of the mind are subjective by definition. Therefore laws are of necessity subjective.

darek barefoot: "Perhaps you are referring to scientific laws. Scientific laws are useful approximations of the laws of nature. But using an approximate weight, for example, does not mean that there is no more precise weight than the approximation. Likewise, the approximate nature of scientific laws does not mean that laws of nature are products of our own fancy."

I never argued or implied that conclusion. The necessary subjectivity of laws does not necessarily render them arbitrary (although that appears to be a common misconception). If the laws we use to describe reality are grounded through analytic truth or scientific induction (which in turn is grounded through analytic truth), they are grounded in that which is objective: reality. In this fashion, they are not arbitrary at all.

darek barefoot: "Newton did not make observations of the Law of Universal Gravitation. He made observations of events confined to particular times and places and then inferred something--a law--that is not so confined. And it is just because it is not so confined that it must be inferred rather than observed. But the flip side is that because it is not so confined, it allows us to predict how objects are likely to behave at times and places beyond our observation, such as next month here on earth or a billion light years distant."

Well, sure. Natural laws, as such, are abstractions and are therefore not necessarily bound to any one particular or set of particulars. But that doesn't necessitate that they themselves have existence transcendent to time/space, only that the reality they represent does.

darek barefoot: "There are some laws--or "rules," to use a more general term--that we infer much the same way we do the laws of nature. These are rules invented by human beings. But human rules only order a tiny portion of external reality because humans are tiny and weak."

This is where I believe it's clear that you are engaging in the fallacy of reification. You are taking a concept, like the law of non-contradiction, and arguing that it isn't a concept, but an objectively existing "thing". But it isn't, and it cannot be. The reality of that of which it is a representation surely does have objective existence, but the sentence, "It is impossible that the same thing can at the same time both belong and not belong to the same object and in the same respect." (which is Aristotle's exposition) cannot have objective existence as it is the product of mind. Do you see the difference?

darek barefoot: "Since the Bible explicitly says that the heavenly bodies obey ordinances and statutes fixed by God (Job 38:33; Jer 31:35), I think it hard to argue that Christian theology is compatible with an absence of laws of nature."

I'm not arguing that. God certainly knows the laws of nature and these laws are certainly veridical representations of reality. But what ultimately grounds reality? It cannot be God's mind for then natural laws would exist as subjective propositions, without objective referents. Orthodox Christian theology must hold that reality is grounded in God's nature, which can be described by natural laws, but which itself exists objectively and therefore is logically prior to them.

As I noted before, God doesn't have some "book of rules" to which He needed to refer before He could exist or take any action. God's nature (and thus the nature of reality) can be described by propositions or laws, but there do not exist any propositions or laws that constrain God's nature or behavior. God's nature simply IS. The requirement that natural laws exist objectively would necessitate that such existence be logically prior to God's existence and that is certainly inconsistent with Christian theology.

Moreover, it seems to me that such a belief would necessitate an infinite regress of minds to contain such laws, which is logically incoherent.

 
At 1/28/2008 06:57:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Bill

We are at (or near) the intersection of the problem of universals and the problem of induction, two of the thorniest issues in all of philsophy. Since great minds have been wrestling with them for centuries, it is improbable that we will settle them here in a few paragraphs. Nevertheless, a few more comments.

I was not referring to logical "laws" such as the principle of non-contradiction, but laws of nature such as the laws of electromagnetism and gravitation. Perhaps we can at least agree that there is a prima facie case to be made that the latter are contingent whereas the former are necessary. And if the latter are contingent they may be compared in certain respects to rules invented by humans, such as the rules of chess or of architecture.

>>As I noted before, God doesn't have some "book of rules" to which He needed to refer before He could exist or take any action.<<

I don't believe I ever argued for this. I was arguing that if physical reality conforms to rules, the rules must come from a mind and that that mind must be more powerful than our own. God fixes or invents the laws of nature, he doesn't receive them from anywhere.

>>I'm not arguing that. God certainly knows the laws of nature and these laws are certainly veridical representations of reality. But what ultimately grounds reality? It cannot be God's mind for then natural laws would exist as subjective propositions, without objective referents. Orthodox Christian theology must hold that reality is grounded in God's nature, which can be described by natural laws, but which itself exists objectively and therefore is logically prior to them.<<

We could argue long about the extent to which God's "mind" and his "nature" can be separated. In any case, you seem here to accept some generative connection between God and the laws of nature. Remember, this discussion started because Wake implied that it was naive to argue from laws of nature to a lawgiver. I used to believe that myself, but I have since come to realize that it was I who was naive. The argument to a universal lawgiver is not philosophically naive, whatever the countervailing arguments may be. For an in-depth treatment, I recommend _The Divine Lawmaker: Essays on Induction, Laws of Nature and the Existence of God_ by Oxford philosopher John Foster.

 
At 1/29/2008 02:16:00 PM , Blogger Wakefield Tolbert. said...

HI Darek.

Good to hear from you again.

Looks like I not only got something wrong--but got it wrongly placed?

Mea culpa--however, I was not aware of the other usage of this term.

I hear "lawnmower" and assume a device for cutting the lawn.
I hear determinism and assume "that which is predetermined."

Like matter. And thus the mind, of course. Possibly there is more relevance here than most of us would like to admit.

How this might relate to human relations or the mind might actually fall into this category also, albeit in a more complicated way
than just observing rocks getting knocked down hill. It does seem some things are set to an autopilot materially. Gravity is the
explanation of why kicked rocks always end up tumbling downward and not upward. On the sociological level, biological imperatives
explain why, say, the so-called "abstinence" movement for teens is laughable at best across the board for most humans who's pulses are normal.

I realize that if the Laws or Matter, so called, are really not instructive but descriptive, then saying this means they simply are
is a flip answer. OK. Nevertheless we have to draw dark lines somewhere. The power behind these "rules" or patterns is an unknown,
and is unknowable. There is no giant obelisk floating around in space like in 2001--A Space Odyssey saying "behold, this is how things are to be regarding matter." Here the nontheist is simply arguing that you can't argue from unknowns, unknowables, and that in any case even if we don't like non-answers to why matter "is" the way it "is" we have to recognize that unless you invoke multiple universes, there is no evidence that things could be some other way---the sample size of the Cosmos does not exceed ONE. Etc.

Using the definition that those items that can't be demonstrated, cannot be said to exist, it seems the explanation that "that's just the way things are" is fine until better information comes along.

Disclaimer: This was not my observation, as it came from a blogger named the Evil Tuef, though I believe he might have
gotten it from some other place.

 
At 1/29/2008 07:10:00 PM , Blogger Bill Snedden said...

darek barefoot: "I was not referring to logical "laws" such as the principle of non-contradiction, but laws of nature such as the laws of electromagnetism and gravitation. Perhaps we can at least agree that there is a prima facie case to be made that the latter are contingent whereas the former are necessary. And if the latter are contingent they may be compared in certain respects to rules invented by humans, such as the rules of chess or of architecture."

Tentatively I'll agree, but also point out that contingency in now way necessitates arbitrariness. The context that informs the content of natural laws is contingent only on the nature of existence and existents. Within this context, they are necessary and absolute.

But I should also ask, "what's the difference?" If one admits that the former do not require a mind to instantiate, why should the latter? IOW, if laws of logic don't depend upon a lawgiver, why must laws of nature? The reasoning you are using applies to both...

darek barefoot: "I don't believe I ever argued for this. I was arguing that if physical reality conforms to rules, the rules must come from a mind and that that mind must be more powerful than our own. God fixes or invents the laws of nature, he doesn't receive them from anywhere."

This is a non-sequitur. A law is a proposition, just like any other sentence. Propositions require minds for instantiation, but that doesn't mean that the referents of a proposition are necessarily subjective as well.

darek barefoot: "We could argue long about the extent to which God's "mind" and his "nature" can be separated. In any case, you seem here to accept some generative connection between God and the laws of nature."

I accept that such a connection is possible, but not that it could be grounded in God's will.

darek barefoot: "Remember, this discussion started because Wake implied that it was naive to argue from laws of nature to a lawgiver. I used to believe that myself, but I have since come to realize that it was I who was naive. The argument to a universal lawgiver is not philosophically naive, whatever the countervailing arguments may be. For an in-depth treatment, I recommend _The Divine Lawmaker: Essays on Induction, Laws of Nature and the Existence of God_ by Oxford philosopher John Foster."

I don't know whether or not it's "naive", but it certainly seems rather...well, wrong. As I noted above, the conclusion doesn't necessarily follow from the premises. Besides which, how does an inanimate object "obey" a law? Why does a billiard ball need a "law" to roll down a hill? Objects lack the cognitive abilities to comprehend or understand laws. By what causal mechanism would a proposition determine the motion of a billiard ball?

 
At 1/30/2008 06:45:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Wake

Thanks for the additional comments.

Bill

>>Besides which, how does an inanimate object "obey" a law? Why does a billiard ball need a "law" to roll down a hill? Objects lack the cognitive abilities to comprehend or understand laws. By what causal mechanism would a proposition determine the motion of a billiard ball?<<

How does a chess piece obey the rules of chess during a chess game? Because a human being moves it in accordance with the rules of chess. But where in the physiological account (neurons firing, muscles twitching) do we find a causal role for the rules of chess? I don't think we need rules of chess in the physiological story at all. So are rules of chess and/or their causal role in the movement of chess pieces illusory? To say they are illusory leads to incoherence. Rules of chess exist because human beings invented them. Rules of chess play a causal role in the physical movements of chess players and consequently of chess pieces. But that role cannot be detected in observations of physiology during chess play. Likewise, the rules constituting the laws of nature play a causal role in the behavior of material and energetic objects, but we cannot observe that role--we infer it. Infering it, we infer a mind as surely as we infer mind(s) behind the (contingent) rules of chess. But the universe-governing mind has more and greater resources than the minds who govern the movement of chess pieces.

 
At 1/30/2008 07:55:00 AM , Blogger Wakefield Tolbert. said...

That's an interesting analogy, Darek.

We could stipulate a Law Giver moving in at every point of material movement, or having preset "rules" meted out ahead of time.
Someone told me that one place in Scripture in point of fact implies God sustains the Cosmos at each moment continually.
But we're back to the same problem. I don't know Bill or his background but I think he chomping on the same issue here.
We are STILL arguing for a causation where the Cause cannot be known for certain. In Chess the hand can be seen. I used to joke with my sons that its not nice to change the rules after the game is started and to not let me see (in some role playing game like Heroscape, for example) that "giant hand from the sky" come in and make changes for any reason not pre-approved. The Giant hand in the sky is not even seen, however, in Bill's thorny question about rocks and billiard balls,etc.

 
At 1/30/2008 11:35:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Wake

>>Someone told me that one place in Scripture in point of fact implies God sustains the Cosmos at each moment continually.<<

Heb 1:3 is probably the passage. But even more to the point are scriptures which attribute to God's command processes which we know are governed by laws of nature. This tells us that God causes some events by instantiating natural laws.

>>But we're back to the same problem. I don't know Bill or his background but I think he chomping on the same issue here.
We are STILL arguing for a causation where the Cause cannot be known for certain. In Chess the hand can be seen.<<

The hand can be seen, true, but the mind and the rules cannot. Search back up the physical causal chain through the muscles, nerves and into the brain. You will never sense or detect either the mind of the player or his intentions or the rules he is following. You will just find electrochemical dominoes falling.

But we simply cannot deny that the mind and purposes of the chess player and the rules he is employing are playing a causal role in the movement of the pieces. In some mysterious fashion the intentions and rules are causing the physical movement--we just can't find the juncture or interface between mental and physical.

There is an alternative to a transcendant mind instantiating laws of nature. The alternative is that natural events just happen to occur in a pattern that mimics the pattern that would be generated by laws. This is a live alternative, but it denies that we have any predictive ability. Our ability to project events into the future would turn out to be an illusion. All is chance--including whether the sun will rise tomorrow. Because David Hume rejected the Divine Lawmaker idea, he actually said that we have no logical reason to believe that the sun will rise tomorrow or that in the next moment apples will not start falling up instead of down.

 
At 1/30/2008 07:02:00 PM , Blogger Bill Snedden said...

darek, with respect you've not really answered the question I asked; all you've done is pushed it back a step.

I'm perfectly willing to grant the reality of agent causation and the accompanying difficulties inherent in determining the exact point of connection between intention and the physical world. However, billiard balls (and rocks, trees, atoms, quarks, etc) are not agents. They have no will or intention. So your analogy is inapt and the question still remains: how does a billiard ball "obey" a law? Why does the motion of non-sentient objects require propositions to prescribe it?

Perhaps you're arguing, as wakefield alludes, that God moves billiard balls, quarks, rocks, etc.? That whenever a table tilts, God reaches down and pushes the billiard ball down the slope or that angels support planes as they fly through the air, etc? It seems doubtful to me that this is what you meant but I suppose it's possible.

And there's still another difficulty from my previous comment that you haven't addressed: that your construction would seem to necessitate an infinite regress of minds. Assume arguendo that it is reasonable to argue as you do that our recognition of so-called "laws of nature" does lead us to infer a mind as necessary to instantiate them. That mind would necessarily have certain characteristics, a nature of its own that could therefore be modeled and described using a set of laws that would then lead us to infer a mind to instantiate them and so on ad infinitum.

When I earlier used the "law of non contradiction" in an example, you made a remark alluding to a difference between "necessary" and "contingent" laws. I noted that I agreed with the distinction, but that I didn't see that it made a difference to the reasoning that you were using and I still don't. Is the "law of non contradiction" descriptive or prescriptive? If prescriptive, then you're left with a need to explain how a necessary truth can be contingent and how it can originate from a mind whose existence requires it to be true as a prerequisite for its own existence. If it's descriptive, then you're left with a need to explain why, if we can't reason from the existence of this law to a lawgiver, we can nevertheless reason from the existence of other natural laws to a lawgiver.

Finally, in your last response to wakefield, you wrote the following:

"There is an alternative to a transcendant mind instantiating laws of nature. The alternative is that natural events just happen to occur in a pattern that mimics the pattern that would be generated by laws. This is a live alternative, but it denies that we have any predictive ability. Our ability to project events into the future would turn out to be an illusion. All is chance--including whether the sun will rise tomorrow. Because David Hume rejected the Divine Lawmaker idea, he actually said that we have no logical reason to believe that the sun will rise tomorrow or that in the next moment apples will not start falling up instead of down."

I'm not sure that's exactly what Hume meant. Regardless, however, his argument was that induction cannot prove induction. Too true; there is no empirical proof of empiricism. However, if it is the case that existence has a nature which can be veridically modeled by laws, then induction is not a problem. Of course, this cannot be demonstrated inductively, but the "lawgiver theorist" is in the same boat (neither can the divine lawgiver's nature be demonstrated inductively).

 
At 1/31/2008 05:48:00 AM , Blogger fakethefunk said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 1/31/2008 06:12:00 AM , Blogger normajean said...

Bill wrote: "there's still another difficulty from my previous comment that you haven't addressed: that your construction would seem to necessitate an infinite regress of minds."

Bill, I see no need for infinite minds. As Euthyphro is resolved (I think) by appealing to laws that flow from a nature which breaths goodness; I think we can simply say that laws flow from the nature of a being that has these very laws—thus it seems muddleheaded to think that other minds would need to confer anything upon the mind that grounds such aspects of reality.

 
At 1/31/2008 06:50:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Bill

>>I noted that I agreed with the distinction, but that I didn't see that it made a difference to the reasoning that you were using and I still don't. Is the "law of non contradiction" descriptive or prescriptive? If prescriptive, then you're left with a need to explain how a necessary truth can be contingent and how it can originate from a mind whose existence requires it to be true as a prerequisite for its own existence.<<

The principle of non-contradiction is necessarily prescriptive simply by being necessary. The Law of Universal Gravitation is not necessarily prescriptive, yet we take it to be so in fact. It is precisely because the LUG is not necessary that we have to explain why it is prescriptive. The only way we know of that contingent rules can be prescriptive is through the intentions of an agent.
Why do billiard balls go where they do under various circumstances? Part of the explanation is the rules of billiards. Why are the rules of billiards of some predictive value in determining the behavior of billard balls? Because agents instantiate them. The other rules that predict the behavior of billard balls are the laws of physics. The rules of billiards are contingent. The laws of physics are contingent. The rules of billiards did not always exist; the laws of physics quite possibly did not always exist. Mutatis mutandum. Connect the dots.

>>That mind would necessarily have certain characteristics, a nature of its own that could therefore be modeled and described using a set of laws that would then lead us to infer a mind to instantiate them and so on ad infinitum.<<

Only if all minds depend upon physical brains conditioned by physical laws. Our minds do, but we don't know that all minds do. The mind that conditions the universe cannot depend upon a physical brain conditioned by contingent physical laws. That mind must be self-existent in a way ours are not. An imaginative stretch? Of course. Incoherent? I don't think so, but clearly I'm not going to persuade you.

>>That whenever a table tilts, God reaches down and pushes the billiard ball down the slope or that angels support planes as they fly through the air, etc? It seems doubtful to me that this is what you meant but I suppose it's possible.<<

Sort of, minus the angels part. You have described occasionalism. Except that occasionalism implies that God separately deliberates a decision about the outcome of each quantum event, which I doubt is the case. I tend to think that he decides and instantiates the rules for the entirety of space-time in some kind of integrated manner.

>>I'm not sure that's exactly what Hume meant. Regardless, however, his argument was that induction cannot prove induction.<<

Actually, his argument was that induction cannot prove anything--all genuine proofs are deductive or analytical. In any case, we are just as unlikely to agree about that as about the rest of this.

 
At 2/01/2008 03:20:00 PM , Blogger Bill Snedden said...

normajean: "Bill, I see no need for infinite minds. As Euthyphro is resolved (I think) by appealing to laws that flow from a nature which breaths goodness; I think we can simply say that laws flow from the nature of a being that has these very laws—thus it seems muddleheaded to think that other minds would need to confer anything upon the mind that grounds such aspects of reality."
If you're saying that the infinite regress of minds is stopped by a being in whose nature the existence of "natural laws" is grounded, I'm pretty much in agreement. But that is not the argument Darek is making. Darek is arguing that the law itself existed before the nature from which the law flows (to use your wording). That is an argument whose premise leads directly to an infinite regress of minds...

 
At 2/01/2008 04:04:00 PM , Blogger Bill Snedden said...

darek: "The principle of non-contradiction is necessarily prescriptive simply by being necessary."

darek, with respect this is largely non-responsive to the meat of the question I posed. Let me repeat it (in terms of prescription as that is what you're arguing WRT the LoNC): If prescriptive, then you're left with a need to explain how a necessary truth can be contingent and how it can originate from a mind whose existence requires it to be true as a prerequisite for its own existence.

IOW, how can the LoNC originate in a mind when the existence of that mind is dependent upon the existence of the LoNC? In order for a proposition to be prescriptive, it must be logically prior to that which it prescribes. This cannot be the case with the the propositional LoNC as it cannot be logically prior to itself (as a proposition).

Therefore, the LoNC can only be descriptive. And it follows then since we have reason to believe that the nature of existence can be described using propositional "laws", without the need for a lawgiver, the argument from "laws" to "lawgiver" is undercut.

darek: "The Law of Universal Gravitation is not necessarily prescriptive, yet we take it to be so in fact. It is precisely because the LUG is not necessary that we have to explain why it is prescriptive. The only way we know of that contingent rules can be prescriptive is through the intentions of an agent."

It is you who are arguing that it is prescriptive, so I bear no such burden. I don't need to explain the existence of contingent laws by appealing to agency as I'm not positing them as prescriptive. If it's possible for the propositional content of a law to depend upon the nature of existence, it's also reasonable to propose that it could depend, in much the same way, on the nature of existents. So while the existents themselves may be contingent, the laws which describe how they behave are only contingent on the existence of the particular existents.

darek: "Only if all minds depend upon physical brains conditioned by physical laws. Our minds do, but we don't know that all minds do. The mind that conditions the universe cannot depend upon a physical brain conditioned by contingent physical laws. That mind must be self-existent in a way ours are not. An imaginative stretch? Of course. Incoherent? I don't think so, but clearly I'm not going to persuade you."

I have little difficulty positing a mind that doesn't depend upon physicality (although I do consider it a stretch), but I do have difficulty with one that is also free of the basic laws of logic. I fail to see how such a mind is possible, let alone how anything could exist! If the nature of such a mind doesn't require the truth of the LoNC, it both exists and doesn't exist at the same time, and that is incoherent.

Besides that, the proposed non-physicality of a mind doesn't somehow exempt it from the possibility of being described using propositions, even ones constructed as "laws". God is described as "regular", "constant", "rational", and a host of other terms that imply law-like behavior. If laws can only be prescriptive, that clearly points to laws that are prescribing God's characteristics and behavior, physical or not.

darek: "Sort of, minus the angels part. You have described occasionalism. Except that occasionalism implies that God separately deliberates a decision about the outcome of each quantum event, which I doubt is the case. I tend to think that he decides and instantiates the rules for the entirety of space-time in some kind of integrated manner."

Ah, so it's possible that God "baked-in" the laws when he created things? That objective creation (not the subjects in it) is sort of like a giant automaton that's built to the specifications of natural laws?

That seems reasonable to me, but it necessitates, of course, that it be possible to express the content of law through non-propositional means. IOW, through the physical construction of existents. That God designed the nature of each existent such that it would behave in a certain way. But if that's true, why do we need propositions to prescribe behavior? God surely didn't need to think up a law to determine how he was going to create, did he?

And if this "building-in" is possible, then it's equally possible that there wasn't any "building-in" and that existents just have the nature that they do in such a manner as to render them amenable to being described propositionally as behaving in accord with sets of rules.

darek: "Actually, his argument was that induction cannot prove anything--all genuine proofs are deductive or analytical. In any case, we are just as unlikely to agree about that as about the rest of this."

It depends upon what you mean by "prove". Certainly Hume would have agreed that certainty can only be conveyed through deductive proof, but the way you state it seems like you are arguing that Hume was arguing that inductive logic was worthless and that's certainly not the case. As I noted, Hume agreed that inductive logic could be justified based on the uniformity of nature, but he couldn't see any way to use induction to justify the assumption of the uniformity of nature. And about that he was right. But that's where the foundationalist (Christian or otherwise) differs from Hume: the foundationalist sees a non-inductive (metaphysical) means of justifying induction. On that I'm fairly certain we can both agree.

 
At 2/01/2008 10:40:00 PM , Blogger normajean said...

Bill, Reppert dropped Thomas Nagel once: “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.” In this way, perhaps LNC is a prescriptive objective epistemic value similar to the objective moral values we know so well?

 
At 2/01/2008 10:54:00 PM , Blogger normajean said...

Bill, your first four paragraphs assume minds are physical but I’m not convinced you deserve that default position just yet. I'm still wondering what LNC and necessity have to do with a contingent universe. I wonder why LNC necessarily holds if it depends upon physical brains and subjective human imaginations. Perhaps you can flesh this out a little more.

 
At 2/02/2008 01:29:00 PM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Bill

>>If prescriptive, then you're left with a need to explain how a necessary truth can be contingent and how it can originate from a mind whose existence requires it to be true as a prerequisite for its own existence.<<

Huh? you seem to be assuming that I am arguing, "If prescriptive, then contingent and therefore dependent upon agent intention." I did not argue that. I argued, "If prescriptive and contingent, then dependent upon agent intention."

In any case, the PNC is prescriptive in a different way than laws of nature precisely because it is not contingent.

 
At 2/03/2008 09:58:00 AM , Blogger Bill Snedden said...

normajean: "In this way, perhaps LNC is a prescriptive objective epistemic value similar to the objective moral values we know so well?"

Well, to begin with, there's simply no such thing as an "objective value". It's a logical impossibility, like a square circle or a married bachelor. Values presuppose a valuer; they are mind-dependent, and are therefore subjective by definition.

In the same fashion, laws cannot be objective as they are (as are all propositions) products of minds and are therefore also subjective by definition.

That does not mean that moral values and laws cannot be objectively grounded, in an ontological sense. The referents of propositions can have objective existence and I would argue that when we can speak of "objective morality" what we really mean is morality that is grounded in objective reality, rather than the incoherence of "objective values".

Again I would argue that the LoNC cannot be prescriptive because the proposition that instantiates it ("It is impossible that the same thing can at the same time both belong and not belong to the same object and in the same respect.") depends logically upon the LoNC being true. IOW, it must be true before the proposition (indeed, any proposition) can even exist. The proposition cannot prescribe something that precedes it logically; that's as incoherent as suggesting God creates Himself.

That is why, as I've suggested, the LoNC (and other "natural laws") can receive their ontological grounding in God's nature. The LoNC can be seen as a description of the perfectly logical and rational nature of God. The proposition describes God's nature, it does not prescribe it. Indeed, given orthodox Christian theology, nothing could possibly prescribe God's nature.

normajean: Bill, your first four paragraphs assume minds are physical but I’m not convinced you deserve that default position just yet. I'm still wondering what LNC and necessity have to do with a contingent universe. I wonder why LNC necessarily holds if it depends upon physical brains and subjective human imaginations. Perhaps you can flesh this out a little more."

Well, this confuses me a bit as I'm unable to see where I've made that assumption. The LoNC as a proposition is a product of the mind. It is a model of reality, but it is it's correspondence with objective reality that makes it true. By itself, the proposition is a product of the mind, but the referent of the proposition (reality) exists objectively. It is that correspondent relationship to reality (veridical representation) that renders the LoNC true.

I don't know whether the ground of all being (what I've termed as "existence") is physical or not, but it doesn't matter to the argument I'm making. In order for anything at all to exist (including the propositional LoNC), it must be the case that the LoNC is true. The proposition cannot pre-exist itself, therefore it is existence and not the proposition that is logically primary and therefore the proposition cannot be prescriptive.

 
At 2/03/2008 10:08:00 AM , Blogger Bill Snedden said...

darek barefoot: "Huh? you seem to be assuming that I am arguing, "If prescriptive, then contingent and therefore dependent upon agent intention." I did not argue that. I argued, "If prescriptive and contingent, then dependent upon agent intention.""

Umm...no, I am not assuming that to be your argument. However it does seem to me that a prescriptive proposition (indeed, any proposition) is necessarily dependent upon agent intention. How else do propositions arise if not through the intentions of agents?

darek barefoot: "In any case, the PNC is prescriptive in a different way than laws of nature precisely because it is not contingent."

Contingency is irrelevant to the issue of the LoNC. We both agree that the truth of the LoNC is not and cannot be contingent. The issue is that in order for the LoNC as a proposition to be prescriptive it must be logically prior to itself, and that seems incoherent.

In order for the propositional LoNC to exist, it must be the case that the LoNC is true. But how can a proposition prescribe its own truth? IOW if prescriptive, it's the existence of the propositional LoNC that renders the LoNC true, yet the very existence of a proposition (indeed, anything at all) requires that the LoNC be a veridical representation of existence.

How can a proposition pre-exist and thus prescribe its own existence?

 
At 2/03/2008 12:04:00 PM , Blogger normajean said...

Bill wrote: “there's simply no such thing as an "objective value". It's a logical impossibility, like a square circle or a married bachelor. Values presuppose a valuer; they are mind-dependent, and are therefore subjective by definition”…. “laws cannot be objective as they are (as are all propositions) products of minds and are therefore also subjective by definition.”

Your submission that the existence of objective moral values is a logically impossibility is not at all clear. That objective moral values (to us) presuppose a law giver in no clear way precludes that God is the fundamental locus of goodness who is in need of no independent conferrer of goodness to ratify His good nature. I’ve heard McGinn say the same thing you’re arguing and can’t make sense of it. Perhaps moral values are subjective to God but that only means that He is goodness! I’m off to a super bowl party—I’ll try and say more later. Go Giants!

 
At 2/03/2008 12:20:00 PM , Blogger normajean said...

One last comment before the game.

Bill wrote: "The LoNC (and other "natural laws") can receive their ontological grounding in God's nature. The LoNC can be seen as a description of the perfectly logical and rational nature of God. The proposition describes God's nature, it does not prescribe it. Indeed, given orthodox Christian theology, nothing could possibly prescribe God's nature."

But now you’re speaking Christianeeze! This is exactly what I just said about moral values. They are descriptive in the sense that they describe the nature of God, but from Him they flow to us as prescriptive divine commands. IOW, normative moral or epistemic values are subjective to God in the sense that He is the subject if their existence but also objective to us in that they are true independent of our human subjective imagination.

 
At 2/04/2008 06:30:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Bill

>>In order for the propositional LoNC to exist, it must be the case that the LoNC is true. But how can a proposition prescribe its own truth?<<

Inncoherence would occur if it prescribed its own falsehood, not its own truth. In any case, I fail to see the relevance. I gave the example that the pattern of movements of chess pieces during chess play (or the pattern of arm and hand movements of chess players during chess play, if you prefer) can be explained by rules, but that these rules are necessarily mental objects that are somehow conditioning the physical pattern of movement. I drew an analogy with laws of nature conditioning the physical behavior of matter/energy.

The status of rules of mental processes (distinguished from physical brain processes) does not directly bear on this. The normativity of the physical must be mentally based. The questions, "Must the normativity of the mental be based on the mental? Can it be so based without infinite regress? etc.," are perhaps interesting questions but hardly undercut my point.

 
At 2/05/2008 07:39:00 PM , Blogger Bill Snedden said...

normajean: I trust that the outcome of the game met with your satisfaction? On to the discussion: "Your submission that the existence of objective moral values is a logically impossibility is not at all clear."

I'm not sure what's unclear. It follows directly from the definitions of "objective" and "value". Values are mind-dependent and objectivity requires mind independence. QED.

Note that this does not mean that values are necessarily arbitrary or that a moral system cannot be objectively grounded, only that values themselves are not and cannot be objective.

normajean: "That objective moral values (to us) presuppose a law giver in no clear way precludes that God is the fundamental locus of goodness who is in need of no independent conferrer of goodness to ratify His good nature."

Well, I don't believe that the existence of moral values needs a lawgiver, but I would say that nothing I've argued precludes that God could be (is, from your perspective) the "fundamental locus of goodness &c..."

normajean: "I’ve heard McGinn say the same thing you’re arguing and can’t make sense of it. Perhaps moral values are subjective to God but that only means that He is goodness!"

Precisely. That is how a moral system can be objectively grounded. Morality flows from God's nature, not His commands or values or will or any other mind-dependent means.

normajean: "But now you’re speaking Christianeeze! This is exactly what I just said about moral values. They are descriptive in the sense that they describe the nature of God, but from Him they flow to us as prescriptive divine commands."

"Christianeeze"...hehehe

One of the points I've tried to convey in my discussion here is that laws or rules can only be prescriptive in the case of agents, as only agents possess the means of understanding and complying with them. So I have no difficulty with the idea of moral laws being both prescriptive (to us) and descriptive (of God's nature).
normajean: " IOW, normative moral or epistemic values are subjective to God in the sense that He is the subject if their existence but also objective to us in that they are true independent of our human subjective imagination."

Well, by that usage, any statement I utter is objective as well as it's also independent of your subjective imagination. I find such usage unnecessarily confusing. As far as normativity is concerned, the only relevant issue is that subjective rules be objectively grounded. That avoids arbitrariness and guarantees universality.

 
At 2/06/2008 07:34:00 AM , Blogger Bill Snedden said...

darek: "Inncoherence would occur if it prescribed its own falsehood, not its own truth. In any case, I fail to see the relevance."

Yes, I see that. I feel like Strother Martin in Cool Hand Luke: "What we've got here is a failure to communicate". Either I'm not explaining myself well, or I'm not understanding what you're saying. Let's try once more.

If A is said to prescribe B, then B is contingent upon A to the extent of the content of the prescription, yes?

So if A contains patterns or rules that prescribe whether or not it's possible for B to exist, B cannot exist without A, yes?

Given the above, we would say that A is logically prior to B. Or that A must exist before B can exist.

Now we've already agreed that laws are the products of minds, so we have a similar situation with those. The existence of a law is contingent upon the existence of a mind. So a mind C is a necessary prerequisite for the existence of a law D. So again we have a situation where C is logically prior to D. C must exist before D can exist.

Finally, the LoNC is primary in an absolute sense. Unless it represents a veridical description of reality, NOTHING whatever can possibly exist.

Now take our current discussion. Let M = Mind and L = LoNC.

From the relation of mind to laws, we get the order M --> L. From the primacy of L and the relation of prescription to existents, we get the order L --> M.

There appears to be a problem here. The LoNC is contingent upon mind, yet the existence of mind is contingent upon the LoNC. How can this be?

There is a phrase commonly heard in English used to describe someone who sets their life right after a setback: "She picked himself up and got on with her life". It's a metaphor of course for in reality it's impossible for someone to "pick themselves up". They would have no leverage to do so. Literally taken, this phrase is physically impossible. Yet this seems to be what you're attempting to argue, here.

Nothing can exist unless the LoNC is true and yet you're arguing that it takes a mind to make it true. How can that be if the existence of a mind is impossible unless the LoNC is already true?

This isn't a question of physical v. mental or any alleged difference between physical and mental processes. The necessity of the LoNC applies to both the mental and the physical. Your chess analogy seems to me wholly inapt because chess isn't necessary; the rules of chess essentially created chess. The "rules of existence" didn't "create" existence because they themselves (the rules) cannot exist without them. A thing cannot create or pre-exist itself!

It seems to me that your argument is one of the following:

1) God created order out of chaos. He took an existence where things were both existing and not existing and quelled that by thinking up the LoNC. But this seems absurd. Chaos, as a putative state of affairs, is an impossibility. Because the content of the LoNC is necessary, order is and must be the only possible state of actualized existence.

2) The LoNC is an eternal thought in an eternal mind. This has what seem to me some unusual consequences. God (assuming that's the mind we have in...er...mind) would necessarily be prescribing His own existence. In a sense, His mind would contain a rule that determines whether or not He is able to exist. It also seems that it would have God's will prescribe His own nature in that God would have to obey His own laws in order to be God. IOW, if the LoNC prescribes the nature of God, it could be the case that the nature of God, before prescription, was chaotic. Besides yielding a logical contradiction, this seems theologically suspect (at least from the Christian perspective).

darek barefoot: "The normativity of the physical must be mentally based."

Well, I would say this is both right and wrong.

Firstly, I would argue that in order to exist, an existent must be something; it must have a nature and any "oughtness" about that existent comes directly from that. Oxygen atoms combine with hydrogen atoms to form H2O not because of some mental rule that they must do so, but simply because it is their nature to do so.

Secondly, "normativity" is a mental concept and there is no "normativity" in the purely physical world. Any "oughtness" we see in the purely physical world is our inference from the law we created to codify our observations. Atoms don't obey rules, they just do what they do. If we observe an existent acting contrary to a so-called "law of nature", it doesn't mean that the existent disobeyed the law, it means that we've either measured incorrectly or that our description of nature (the law) is inaccurate.

And remember, "mentally based" needn't mean "without objective referent". My value of oxygen may be mentally based, but it's objectively grounded in my biology.

darek barefoot: "The questions, "Must the normativity of the mental be based on the mental? Can it be so based without infinite regress? etc.," are perhaps interesting questions but hardly undercut my point."

On the contrary, if it's simply not possible for the mental to ground the mental without an infinite regress, your argument that laws require lawgivers is directly undercut as it leads to the absurdity of an infinite regress.

 
At 2/08/2008 06:59:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Bill

>>Given the above, we would say that A is logically prior to B. Or that A must exist before B can exist.<<

Logically priority does not necessitate chronological priority. Logically, matter can have always existed and can always have been dependent upon the conditioning provided by God's intention. That's not the content of revelation, but it's logically possible.

>>Nothing can exist unless the LoNC is true and yet you're arguing that it takes a mind to make it true.<<

Quote back to me the place where I argued that it takes a mind to make the PNC true. I argued that it takes a mind to instantiate contingent rules. The PNC is not a contingent rule. At least arguably, the laws of nature are contingent rules. Can it be that hard to understand the difference between a logically necessary rule and a logically contingent one?

>>Your chess analogy seems to me wholly inapt because chess isn't necessary;<<

Not logically necessary, you mean? Bill, it is the general consensus in philosophy of science is that the laws of nature are not logically necessary either. Since it is at least arguably the case that laws of nature are not logically necessary, it is at least arguable that my chess analogy has pertinence.

>>the rules of chess essentially created chess. The "rules of existence" didn't "create" existence because they themselves (the rules) cannot exist without them. A thing cannot create or pre-exist itself!<<

If the rules of chess essentially created chess, why couldn't God invent rules that essentially created other things, such as nature. Obviously (to me) the rules of nature are not the "rules of existence" except to the extent that they are the rules for the existence of nature as we find it.

>>Firstly, I would argue that in order to exist, an existent must be something; it must have a nature and any "oughtness" about that existent comes directly from that. Oxygen atoms combine with hydrogen atoms to form H2O not because of some mental rule that they must do so, but simply because it is their nature to do so.

Secondly, "normativity" is a mental concept and there is no "normativity" in the purely physical world.<<

I agree with the second statement above, but it is contradicted by the immediately preceding one. Either "oughtness" comes from the physical nature of physical things or it does not. Make up your mind.

>>1) God created order out of chaos.<<

Amen. He shaped an orderly universe out of chaotic potentiality. Our sole scientific window on this creative process is the inference to the resolution of indeterminate quantum states into orderly physical processes.<<

>>He took an existence where things were both existing and not existing and quelled that by thinking up the LoNC.<<

No, he thought up the laws of nature, the approximations of which are scientific laws.

I think we are both just repeating ourselves, so you may have the last repetition if you like. For those readers who want to delve into the subject further
I recommend Richard Swinburne's essay, "Relations between Universals or Divine Laws?" and Nancy Cartwright's "No God, No Laws," both available on the web. (Cartwright is not a realist about laws of nature, she just points out that if you are a realist about them, you need God to instantiate them.)

 
At 2/08/2008 08:22:00 AM , Blogger Bill Snedden said...

darek barefoot: "Quote back to me the place where I argued that it takes a mind to make the PNC true."

You haven't argued that directly, it's true. However, the argument that "laws require a lawgiver" (as wakefield originally quoted) can be undercut if it can be shown that there is at least one law that doesn't require a lawgiver. I contend that the LoNC is an example of this. Your continuation of the debate past that point led me to assume that you were in disagreement. IOW, that you believed that the LoNC required a lawgiver in order to exist. Now, in light of your comments here, I see that's (laws require a lawgiver) NOT what you're saying at all. Mea culpa.

darek barefoot: I argued that it takes a mind to instantiate contingent rules. The PNC is not a contingent rule. At least arguably, the laws of nature are contingent rules. Can it be that hard to understand the difference between a logically necessary rule and a logically contingent one?"

Certainly not, but please understand that when I began this discussion by referring to "natural laws", I was thinking specifically of the LoNC and other logical laws. Those are, to me, every bit "laws of nature" as the law of universal gravitation and thermodynamics. Contingency/necessity appeared to me to be irrelevant to the point I was making. At the time, of course, I didn't realize that you construed "laws of nature" to mean specifically "contingent laws of nature".

darek barefoot: "Not logically necessary, you mean? Bill, it is the general consensus in philosophy of science is that the laws of nature are not logically necessary either. Since it is at least arguably the case that laws of nature are not logically necessary, it is at least arguable that my chess analogy has pertinence."

Now that I realize the disconnect, I can see why you believe it to be pertinent.

darek barefoot: "I agree with the second statement above, but it is contradicted by the immediately preceding one. Either "oughtness" comes from the physical nature of physical things or it does not. Make up your mind."

There's no contradiction. The "oughtness" that we infer from the nature of an existent is our perception, not anything inherent to the existent. Existents just are and they behave as they behave. Any "should behave" is our utilization of prediction in an effort to confirm our description of the nature of the existent.

That's what I meant by "both right and wrong". Right in that we see "oughtness" as flowing from our description of a natural law which comes directly from our inference of the nature of existents. IOW, that we observe that an existent appears to have a certain nature and behave in a certain manner as a result. From our observations we construct a model of the existent and predict its future behavior. But the "oughtness" comes from the model, not the existent.

Wrong in that such "oughtness" isn't actually inherent to the existent.

darek barefoot: "I recommend Richard Swinburne's essay, "Relations between Universals or Divine Laws?" and Nancy Cartwright's "No God, No Laws," both available on the web. (Cartwright is not a realist about laws of nature, she just points out that if you are a realist about them, you need God to instantiate them.)"

Thanks. The Cartwright was indeed interesting. In fact, the "Aristotleianism" she advocates sounds very much like the view I espouse

 
At 2/13/2008 07:01:00 AM , Blogger Wakefield Tolbert said...

Darek said, in part:

But we simply cannot deny that the mind and purposes of the chess player and the rules he is employing are playing a causal role in the movement of the pieces. In some mysterious fashion the intentions and rules are causing the physical movement--we just can't find the juncture or interface between mental and physical.

Aye--that IS a problem for pure materialist notions of intentionality. And yet without this term--intention--the descriptions we are used to breaking down to the purely biochemical level becomes utterly impossible to flesh out.

Though I don't know how to approach the "intentions" problem anyh other way and it sounds unscientific to say "an intellence higher than us ordained the cosmos in X-manner", even if that turns out to be the only reasonable explanation so far.

Then again science is not necessarily limited to the physical level, and can operate on observation and deduction about what must surely be going on.

Also, Darek, I wanted your input on whether God might have ordained the rules ahead of time or using the Heb. passage it can be implied that He sustains along and along at every junction.

If you're a Star Trek fan, you know that the potentialities of all quantum level events is unnervingly large just in a bowl of water.

--Wake

 
At 2/18/2008 06:27:00 AM , Blogger Darek Barefoot said...

Wake

Sorry to be so long in getting to your question. I thought the thread had run its course. In Job 36:24ff we have a poetic meditation on divine creation that indicates a prior intention combined with instantiation. And God is presented in Scripture as a whole as having conceived the shape of creation long ago but as continuing to uphold and energize it toward the end he has in mind.

There is also a suggestion of the unleashing and then ordering of chaos, as if the raw material must come forth as, well, raw material in need of ordering according to thought (Gen 1:2).

Quantum theory has helped us to better understand--perhaps "accept" is a better word than "understand"--that the raw stuff of physical reality comes out of some absolutely chaotic and unintelligible substrate and then is mysteriously sculpted before our eyes into an intelligible scheme of nature.

We have an analog of the process of physical creation in the process of spiritual creation or redemption. God seems to have had to unleash the chaos entailed by creating creatures with genuine wills of their own, then undertake to refine out the evil by-products of will and shape the whole toward a pleasing end product.

 
At 2/19/2008 08:57:00 PM , Blogger Wakefield Tolbert said...

Not a problem, Darek. I've been ill lately and not able to snap to it at the computer as fast.

I'll officially put this thread in the ground.

I WAS going to be taken aback by this notion of God given each state of matter or object (combos of matter, etc, in whatever permutation) and energy its of "nature" as some kind of animism as in what the ancients held but got thrown away by modern science.

But then it struck me that matter DOES have its apparent own set of "natures", in a way. Thus the regularity of what we call those "laws."

--W

 

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