Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A simple statement of the argument from reason

You take all the physical descriptions and put them in the left-hand side of the equation. On that side, there can be no intentionality, normativity, subjectivity, or teleology. Add them together, and it looks as if they can't entail anything on the right hand side, the "mental" side of the equation, where we do find intentionality, normativity, subjectivity, and teleology. There is always room for indeterminacy, or, for that matter, room for zombies. The physical works just fine, but there's just no there there. 

Yet the naturalist cannot deny that there is determinate reference. The arguments of the philosophers, the observational reports of the sciences, and the equations of the mathematicians must have determinate meanings. Otherwise, science is impossible, and the case for naturalism collapses. 

Therefore, if naturalism is true, the very things that are supposed to support it, such as argument and reason, aren't real. Only in a universe where the marks of the mental are metaphysically fundamental are these things possible. 



At 10/14/2009 03:39:00 AM , Anonymous Mark said...


if (Reductive/Eliminative) Physicalism is true, then the mental isnt real.
Then mental characteristics like intentionality are not real.
As any argument for (R/E) Physicalism relies apon belief in the reality of the Mental therefore any argument for (R/E) Physicalism must ultimately undermines itself.
therefore we ought not believe (R/E) Physicalism.

Victor. Ive just read your book, and I am interested to know if there is anything within your book that you believe has been refuted?

At 10/14/2009 02:14:00 PM , Blogger Victor Reppert said...

I don't know if refuted is quite the word one wants here. No, I don't think the argument has been refuted, although there are ways in which I thought I should improve it. The latest versions are in the Blackwell Compainion to Natural Theology and Contending with Christianity's Critics.

At 10/15/2009 09:21:00 PM , Blogger Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, you're trying to smuggle in something "more than natural" by predefining what "nature" can and cannot do. In your opinion electro-chemical reactions in a complex assemblage of neurons connected with acute sensory apparatus and plenty of memory (and self-reflective recursive overlays) cannot explain consciousness. But in the opinion of naturalists, it can.

You use the "nothing buttery" argument when you discuss "atoms and equations" as if they represented "nothing" but themselves, and you use the thought that "that is all there is" according to naturalists. So you cannot even imagine how a naturalist might get a "mind" out of such things. Of COURSE looking at a single atom isolated and alone, and looking at an equation is incomplete. But that has nothing to do with whether or not consciousness is natural.

Vic, ask yourself how do you get ANYTHING out of atoms and equations? Molecules? Organs? Colors? Sounds? Reproducing organisms with teeny brains and then larger and more complex and faster brains? None of that is inherent in atoms and equations if you want to press your initial premise. But naturalism does not begin and END with that premise of yours, naturalism may also include concepts like emergence in their philosophy.

WHAT YOU SHOULD ATTEMPT TO DO IS LOCATE AN UNCROSSABLE BOUNDARY BETWEEN TWO SPECIES EVOLUTIONARY RELATED ALONG A SPECTRUM OF DESCENDANTS, ON ONE SIDE OF WHICH THE BRAIN IS NATURAL, AND ON THE OTHER SIDE OF WHICH IT IS "BEYOND NATURE." Have fun attempting to discover such an inviolable boundary. I'd thought at one time that perhaps the ability of a species to recognize itself in a mirror might do. But that raises other questions, since that type of consciousness exists in some monkeys, but not all monkeys, and also in species that have evolved larger more complex brain-minds along separate evolutionary lines of descent, like dolphins and elephants.

At 10/16/2009 07:20:00 PM , Anonymous Mark said...

Edward, (can i call you Ed?)

I think you've got to be carefull.
As far as I can see there is a rather large line within the Naturalists between Reductive (R) and Non-Reductive (NR) ones.

it is the Rs ones who believe nothing but 'nothing buttery', and the NRs who joke about the R's thesis as 'nothing buttery'.

note also that there is two senses of the word 'emergent', strong and weak, Rs endorse only weak, and NRs endorse strong.

A weak emergent property is a property that simply arises from the sum of the behavior of its parts, and A strong emergent property is a property that is not tracable to the its individual parts.

the catch cry of Rs is: "the Whole is EQUAL to the sum of its parts" and the catch cry of NRs is: "the Whole is MORE than the sum of its parts"

the examples you have refered to (Molecules? Organs? Colors? Sounds? ...) are examples that seem to be typically used by NRs as examples of things which demonstrate Strong Emergence. (and I am VERY unconvinced by thoes examples!)

Now I can see that Victor's AFR isnt water tight against the NR's thesis because the beginning statement: "No beleif is rationally inferred if it can be fully accounted for in terms of Non-Rational causes" can be rejected by NRs who claim that the property of being 'rationally inferred' is a Strong Emergent property of neural states (and therefore cannot be explained in terms of the behavior of Non-Rational particles).

however I am absolutely sure that a very large proportion of Naturalists are R, and if Victors argument successfully holds agains them then that is HUGE!

So i dont think Victor needs to heed what you say: "WHAT YOU SHOULD ATTEMPT TO DO IS LOCATE AN UNCROSSABLE .... ... ."

At 10/17/2009 11:14:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Mark you are wrong about reduction implying something isn't real. We can reduce temperature to kinetic energy, but that doesn't mean temperature isn't real. Reducing something is preserving it, but explaining it. It is the opposite of elimination. This is Churchland 101.

At 10/19/2009 06:34:00 AM , Anonymous Mark said...


yes, I do talk of Reduction as if it were Elimination dont I.

As someone studying physics I would just love to jump in and simply say "Temperature isnt Real" - and I would mean it too! - but I know that I cannot be so presumptive.

this may sound like a Heresy, but I think it is about what we mean by 'Real' and over what things we designate as 'Real'.

So yes, i concede.

At 10/21/2009 01:28:00 PM , Blogger Rino said...


How do you sort between entities fit for conservative reduction and entitites fit for elimination? For example, when William Odling identifies dephlogisticated air with oxygen, thus conserving the concept of phlogiston, how do you respond?

At 10/23/2009 09:27:00 PM , Anonymous Mark said...


Rino, well done.

At 11/18/2009 07:13:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Rino: That would be a great case study in science studies for people to pick examples and find the criteria the scientists use in practice. It isn't a philosophical question as much as a question for the history of science. De-aetherized space, de-phlogisticated air, de-souled brains, seem pretty easy to handle as making no positive contributions unless there is also aetherized space, phlogisticated air, or souled brains.

On the other hand, things are fairly complicated when terms are used as part of a substantive theory. Those terms or concepts that seem silly now may actually have had a reference that the speaker didn't intend or understand (e.g., when a caveman said 'gold' he was referring to a certain molecular structure without knowing anything about it).

Philip Kither in 'Advancement of Science' actually has some wonderful analysis of the concept of phlogiston, and argues convincingly that its use was not always empty when it was part of a substantive theory of heat/combustion (this pretty much falls out of any causal or informational theory of reference, think of the gold-H20 case).

For another instance, the concept of 'witch' could have referred to a certain type of mental illness (e.g., perhaps women were labeled 'witch' when they were actually manic depressive). So we have eliminated 'witches' from our ontology, but it turns into a fairly interesting and complicated topic for the history of ideas and science.

At 11/18/2009 07:14:00 AM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Replace uses of the term 'gold' with 'water' in the previous. Brain slip.

At 12/05/2009 06:36:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Those terms or concepts that seem silly now may actually have had a reference that the speaker didn't intend or understand (e.g., when a caveman said 'gold' he was referring to a certain molecular structure without knowing anything about it)."

It is silly to think that a caveman was referring to a molecular structure when he said "gold".
Of course we can now use the word 'gold' to refer to a particular molecular structure. But the cavemena could not.

At 12/09/2009 01:01:00 PM , Blogger Brother Theophilus said...

Hi Dr. Reppert,

Forgive me for commenting irrelevantly here, but I do not know of another way to get ahold of you.

I was curious if you had any thoughts on Dretske -- specifically, right now, I am trying to think through his claim that a compass is an instance of non-derived intentionality (and that therefore intentionality as such is fair game (i.e. an "eligible ingredient") for an analysis of thought.

If you have a moment/thought, I'd love to hear from you. If you don't, I surely understand.


At 12/30/2009 03:39:00 AM , Anonymous Mark said...


thats very intersting.
so if I understand you correctly your answer to Rino's Question:

"How do you sort between entities fit for conservative reduction and entitites fit for elimination?"

Is to state that we should eliminate entities that make no positive contribution.

What do you mean by a positive contribution?

one of the tings ive been thinking about is Mereological Nihilism.
so if we consider the Wheelbarrow.

What basis do we have to say that the wheelbarrow does exist as opposed to a collection of bits arranged wheelbarrow-wise?
and if a wheelbarrow does exist, then what 'positive contribution' does it make that we should not eliminate it.

For evidently we cant measure the existance of the wheelbarrow, and I'm not at all sure that we could make any measurement that would directly infer the existance of the wheelbarrow.

Perhaps if the the wheelbarrow had Emergent properties, then we may want to believe in the wheelbarrows existance as the simplest explanation of the Emergent behavior.
But I doubt this actually provides any grounded reason to think that the wheelbarrow does actually exist.
So I dont see how science has anything to do with it.

and surely if this all works for wheelbarrows, then it must also work for bodies, brains and perhaps Minds.

surely we should eliminate reference to things that we believe dont exist, and conserve things that we believe do.

so should we Reductively conserve the Wheelbarrow, or Eliminate it?

certainly this seems to be a philosophical question, and hardly related to the process or results of science.

At 10/25/2010 07:57:00 PM , Blogger machinephilosophy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 10/25/2010 08:02:00 PM , Blogger machinephilosophy said...

Seems like criterial assumptions are taken as god-level already, and get a free ride prior to the issue of God's existence.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home