Saturday, April 24, 2010

Reply to some questions from J on the AFR

Why can't matter...think, or possess intentionality of some type, to varying degrees ? (widely varying).

The problem is that something can count as material only if, at the basic level, there is no intentionality, no purpose, no normativity, and no subjectivity. If you want to tamper with that definition of matter, be my guest, but that seems to be built into the very idea. Remember Dennett's "no skyhooks" rule? Yet, somehow the truths about thinking have to follow necessarily from truths about what by definition MUST be nonmental. Such entailments, in my view, are bound to break down logically. We can hide the breakdown in pages and pages of neuroscientific analysis, but at the end of the day there is no entailment, no metaphysical glue that binds the mental and the physical together. Whatever glue we come up with, if we analyze it closely enough, has to come from a mind of some sort, and materialism fails.

In comparison to say, ants, rats seem nearly conscious.

Which of the four relevant properties do they have, or do they lack them all?

Does a rose bush think? It does know when to bloom... At least a rose follows a routine (even if genetically determined).

Does the thermostat in my house know how hot or cold it is?

either way the mere fact of intentional processes--or consciousness-- does not suffice as proof of monotheism...

Monotheism is one of a few options left over once naturalism is eliminated. As Lewis recognized, it is not the only one.


Friday, April 23, 2010

On The Necessity of Mental Causation

This is from my reply to Keith Parsons in essay "Some Supernatural Reasons Why My Critics are Wrong" (a title that was given to my essay by someone else), in Philosophia Christi (Volume 5, no. 1, 2003).

But think for a moment about what it is to be persuaded by an argument. If we are thinking in common-sense terms, we would hve to say that what goes one when we are persuaded by Parsons's argument that Arizona State will not be in the BCS this year is that we conisder the epistemic strength of the premises, the grounding relation between the premises and the conclusion, and then accept the conclusion as a result of conisdering the evidence presented in the argument. To be convinced by an argument is for the reasons presented in the to play a causal role in the production of the belief. If the argument is causally irrelevant to the belief, then we cannot say that the argument was persuasive. This can often be cashed out counterfactually: If I really am persuaded by Parsons's arugment, then it cannot be the case that I am such a partisan of the Arizona Wildcats that I would think the worst of the Sun Devils' prospects even if the Sun Devils had a Heisman trophy candidate at quarterback, oustanding and experienced running backs and wide receivers, a rock-solid offensive line, and was returning everyone from what had been the stingiest defense in the Pac-10 the previous year.

On the one hand, the reasons have to persuade me in virtue of their being reasons. The logical force of the argument has to have a causal impact on belief. It has to make a difference as to whether I form the belief or fail to form the belief in question. And that, by the way, is bound to make a difference as to what I do with my body. I am going to behave differently if I think the Devils have a good chance to take the Pac-10 title than if I don't. And that is going to affect what the particles in the physical world do. But if the physical is causally closed, that means that only the physical can affect where the particles in the physical world go, and, the physical is defined as lacking, at the basic level of analysis, the central features of the mental. So the only way this kind of causal relation could possibly exist, would be if we could analyze the mental in physical terms as a kind of macro-state of the physical. Just as the word "planet" is absent from physical vocabulary, but a whole bunch of particle-states add up to there being a planet, perhaps "S's belief that P" can be added up from a set of physical states. But that seems to me to be just impossible. Add up the physical all you like, and you aren't going to get "S's belief that P." The physical leaves the mental indeterminate. Yet, if science is to be possible, is has to be determinate whether, for example, Einstein is plussing or quussing when he is adding numbers in the course of developing his theory.

So, I argue that you need mental causation for the possibility of science, but you can't get that without affirming what seems to be an implausible reductionism, that conflicts with the indeterminacy of the physical.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

J. P. Moreland on Supervenient physicalism

Perhaps the supervenience theorist can simply accept the supervenience relation as an unexplained brute fact. However, as J. P. Moreland argues, this is also deeply problematic for the supervenience theorist: First, he highlights the claim made by supervenience theorist Terence Horgan that in a broadly materialist the truths of supervenience must be explainable rather than sui generis. As Horgan points out, if there are going to be any brute unexplainable givens in a materialist universe it must be the the physical facts themselves, not some fact concerning inter-level supervenience.70 Second, the truth of supervenience does not look like something science could possibly have discovered, and so to accept supervenience as a brute fact would be to accept the idea that there are truths about the world that can be figured out by philosophical, rather than scietnfic means, and this is anathema to most contemporary naturalists.71 Also, this position begs the question against people like Swinburne and Robert Adams, who maintain that the supervenience of the mind stands in need of a theistic explanation.72

Second, debate about just what kind of supervenience holds between physical and mental states is not a scientific question, and cannot be settle by scientific theorizing. Further, supervenience theory involves terms and concepts that are not the terms and concepts of natural science. As Moreland puts it:

Naturalists criticize Cartesian dualism and its problem of interaction between radically different sorts of entities. In my view, the dualist has the resources to answer this problem because of her commitment to entities, relatiosn, and causation that go beyond those in the physical sciences. But the same cannot be said for naturalism, and what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Naturalists have the very same kind of problem that they claim as a difficulty for the Cartesian. And given the philosophical constraints that follow from accepting the naturalist epistemology, etiology, and ontolgy, it is more difficult to see how a naturalist could accept menta;/physical supervenience than it is to understand how a Cartesian without those constraints could accept mental/physical interaction.73
VR: This is based on J. P. Moreland's essay "Should a Naturalist be a Supervenient Physicalist?"

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