Saturday, December 16, 2017

Roy Moore's Defeat

Does anyone see great irony that Roy Moore lost a safe Republican Senate seat by violating one of the commandments that he so ostentatiously put on his famous courthouse monument?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sunday, December 10, 2017

William Alston's Return to Faith

HT: Steve Hays. 

The main bar to faith was rather the Freudian idea that religious faith is a wish fulfillment–more specifically, an attempt to cling to childish modes of relating to the world, with the omnipotent daddy there presiding over everything. A powerful case can be made for the view, which is not necessarily tied to the complete Freudian package, that the most important psychological root of religious belief is the need that everyone has for such a childish relationship with a father figure. Be that as it may, I had been psyched into feeling that I was chickening out, was betraying my adult status, if I sought God in Christ, or sought to relate myself to an ultimate source and disposer of things in any way whatever. The crucial moment in my return to the faith came quite early in that year’s leave, before I had reexposed myself to the church or the Bible, or even thought seriously about the possibility of becoming a Christian. I was walking one afternoon in the country outside Oxford, wrestling with the problem, when I suddenly said to myself, "Why should I allow myself to be cribbed, cabined, and confined by these Freudian ghosts? Why should I be so afraid of not being adult? What am I trying to prove? Whom am I trying to impress?

Whose approval am I trying to secure? What is more important: to struggle to conform my life to the tenets of some highly speculative system of psychology or to recognize and come to terms with my own real needs? Why should I hold back from opening myself to a transcendent dimension of reality, if such there be, just from fear of being branded as childish in some quarters?" (Or words to that effect.) These questions answered themselves as soon as they were squarely posed. I had, by the grace of God, finally found the courage to look the specter in the face and tell him to go away. I had been given the courage to face the human situation, with its radical need for a proper relation to the source of all being. William P. Alston, "A Philosophers Way Back to the Faith." God and the Philosophers: The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason, ed. T.V. Morris (New York: Oxford, 1994).

Monday, November 27, 2017

Chesterton on arguments against miracles

The historic case against miracles is also rather simple. It consists of calling miracles impossible, then saying that no one but a fool believes impossibilities: then declaring that there is no wise evidence on behalf of the miraculous. The whole trick is done by means of leaning alternately on the philosophical and historical objection. If we say miracles are theoretically possible, they say, “Yes, but there is no evidence for them.” When we take all the records of the human race and say, “Here is your evidence,” they say, “But these people were superstitious, they believed in impossible things."
--G.K. Chesterton
This is essentially the same argument that C.S. Lewis later urged against Hume in MIRACLES to the effect that Hume's famous argument is circular.-Linville

And I thought there were new ways of arguing against miracles.-VR

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Three quotes from Peter Geach's The Virtues

For medieval thought the gulf that could be bridged only by Divine intervention came not between life and the inanimate, nor between consciousness and lack of consciousness, but between rational and irrational creatures. I think there is no reason now to think otherwise -- only fashion.
.... 

"Life must originate, we are told, wherever the physical conditions for life are favourable: and there must be so many planets on which life has originated that on millions of them rational beings will have evolved by natural selection. But rational beings cannot so come to be: the coming to be of a rational creature is strictly miraculous -- it exceeds all the powers of sub-rational nature. 

When we hear of some new attempt to explain reasoning or language or choice naturalistically, we ought to react as if we were told that someone had squared the circle or proved the square root of 2 to be rational: only the mildest curiosity is in order-how well has the fallacy been concealed?

You gotta wonder what the Mrs thought of these arguments. I understand she was rather critical when some guy in the Medieval and Renaissance Lit department tried to argue for the same conclusion.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Linville on Dennett

Another one from Mark Linville, on Dennett: 
Daniel Dennett thinks there is no such thing as "what-it-is-like" to be in pain, i.e., the "ouchiness" of pain. There are only the observable and measurable causes and effects of pain, such as the firing of c-fibers and the person's body hollering "OUCH!"
I think there is such a thing as "what-it-is-like" to be astonished at the claim that there is no such thing as "what-it-is-like" to be in pain.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Mark Linville on an atheist retort to religious morality

A common atheist retort: "Would you rape, pillage, and plunder if you did not have the Bible to tell you not to?"
The implication is that this would be a superficial morality. And it would indeed.
Reply: Theists and atheists alike refrain from such acts because conscience tells them that it is wrong. The question is whether they have equally good explanations for why we should suppose that conscience is a reliable guide to truth.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Price of Evangelical Support for Trump

Here. 

Ortega y Gasset on science and its limits

“Scientific truth is characterized by its precision and the certainty of its predictions. But science achieves these admirable qualities at the cost of remaining on the level of secondary concerns, leaving ultimate and decisive questions untouched.”


José Ortega y Gasset, “El origen deportivo del estado.” Citius, Altius, Fortius 9, no. 1-4 (1967): 259-76.
I guess that makes him a darned science denier. 

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Hinman on the fine-tuning argument

Here.

A fundamentalist after all? Dawkins on what would change his mind

"Passion for passion, an evangelical Christian and I may be evenly matched. But we are not equally fundamentalist. The true scientist, however passionately he may 'believe', in evolution for example, knows exactly what would change his mind: evidence! The fundamentalist knows that nothing will."
- Richard Dawkins, "How dare you call me a fundamentalist" (2007) 

From 2015: 


Boghossian: What would it take for you to believe in God?
Dawkins: I used to say it would be very simple. It would be the Second Coming of Jesus or a great, big, deep, booming, bass voice saying “I am God.” But I was persuaded, mostly by Steve Zara, who is a regular contributor to my website. He more or less persuaded me that even if there was this booming voice in the Second Coming with clouds of glory, the probable explanation is that it is a hallucination or a conjuring trick by David Copperfield. He made the point that a supernatural explanation for anything is incoherent. It doesn’t add up to an explanation for anything. A non-supernatural Second Coming could be aliens from outer space.
https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/4-dawkins-admits-nothing-can-persuade-him-god-exists/

Was the Texas shooter motivated by atheism?

Here. 

Well, why couldn't atheist hatred and fanaticism lead someone to violence? Would anyone have any trouble believing it of Muslim or anti-abortion fanatics? And atheist leaders do spew real hatred.

When ideology develops into hatred, it opens the door to the possibility of violence. It doesn't matter what the ideology is.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

The real point: C. S. Lewis and the Question of Truth

Here. 

The real question is whether Christianity is true, not if it is useful or good for people to have.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Monday, October 30, 2017

Feser on the argument from indeterminacy

Here.  Please also follow the link to his essay in the American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly.

Here. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Why mental states are not emergent the way solidity is

Are mental states emergent in the same sense that solid states are, or that living states are? Hal and David have been arguing this.

Solidity is not written into the laws of physics, yet, if the particles are configured in a certain way, we have something solid. Similarly, if certain configurations of the physical obtain, an object can be said to be living, even if life is not part of basic physics.

So similarly, "Believes that P" or even "infers P from Q"  are not part of physics, but given certain configurations of the physical, these can still be true of wholly physical human beings.

I think there is a critical difference.In the first cases, someone who knew enough physics could close the question of whether something was solid or not. If I move, am capable of reproduction, if I have a DNA code, etc. if my physics fits all these descriptions, then it becomes simply incoherent to suggest that I'm really not alive.


But in the case of minds it is different. Someone can have no outward behavioral criteria for, say, dreaming that Trump won the election (when election day hadn't happened yet). This happened to me. No one looking at me could have surmised that that was what I was dreaming about, but that was.my inner state, and my memory of that, tells me I was dreaming about Trump winning.

Given the physical, the mental is indeterminate. But we are in determinate mental states, otherwise logic would not work. Therefore the mental is something over and above the physical.




Saturday, October 21, 2017

Sure, I'm a materialist!: On defining the supernatural

Suppose I said this: 

Sure, I'll accept that the mind is a physical thing. What I find unreasonable is to suppose that laws of physics presently understood account for the activity of reasoning, because the laws of physics make no reference to reasons and logic. The laws of physics as we currently understand them do not include these in the fundamental laws of physics. There must be some laws that physics has not yet discovered which account for the activity of the mind. 

Eventually we may find out the laws of physics that govern the activity of God. We just don't know what those are yet. But it's only supernatural from the point of view of present physics, in much the way that relativity is supernatural from the point of view of Newtonian mechanics. 

I'm not putting an artificial wall up and say what science may or may not someday discover. If you want to say that in order to call something physical it has to be such and such, and what you are describing cannot be physical, then you have defined the supernatural for me.

Friday, October 20, 2017

C. S. Lewis on homosexuality at his public school

It is interesting that Lewis doesn't think that the main source of what would now be called homophobia is Christian at all. 

The Wyvernians seem to me in retrospect to have been the least spontaneous, in that sense the least boyish, society I have ever known. It would perhaps not be too much to say that in some boys’ lives everything was calculated to the great end of advancement. For this games were played; for this clothes, friends, amusements, and vices were chosen.
And that is why I cannot give pederasty anything like a first place among the evils of the Coll. There is much hypocrisy on this theme. People commonly talk as if every other evil were more tolerable than this. But why? Because those of us who do not share the vice feel for it a certain nausea, as we do, say, for necrophily? I think that of very little relevance to moral judgment. Because it produces permanent perversion? But there is very little evidence that it does. The Bloods would have preferred girls to boys if they could have come by them; when, at a later age, girls were obtainable, they probably took them. Is it then on Christian grounds? But how many of those who fulminate on the matter are in fact Christians? And what Christian, in a society as worldly and cruel as that of Wyvern, would pick out the carnal sins for special reprobation? Cruelty is surely more evil than lust and the World at least as dangerous as the Flesh. The real reason for all the pother is, in my opinion, neither Christian nor ethical. We attack this vice not because it is the worst but because it is, by adult standards, the most disreputable and unmentionable, and happens also to be a crime in English law. The world may lead you only to Hell; but sodomy may lead you to jail and creat a scandal, and lose you your job. The World, to do it justice, seldom does that.
If those of us who have known a school like Wyvern dared to speak the truth, we should have to say that pederasty, however great an evil in itself, was, in that time and place, the only foothold or cranny left for certain good things. It was the only counterpoise to the social struggle; the one oasis (though green only with weeds and moist only with fetid water) in the burning desert of competitive ambition. In his unnatural love affairs, and perhaps only there, the Blood went a little out of himself, forgot for a few hours that he was One of the Most Important People There Are. It softens the picture. A perversion was the only chink left through which something spontaneous and uncalculating could creep in. Plato was right after all. Eros, turned upside down, blackened, distorted, and filthy, still bore the traces of his divinity.

Gardens, Fairies, gardeners and owners

Also from John Lennox's God's Undertaker, p. 40.

Richard Dawkins makes this point in dedicating his book The God
Delusion to the memory of Douglas Adams with a quote: ‘Isn’t it enough
to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are
fairies at the bottom of it?’

The fact that you can think about fairies and be enchanted or terrified
by them does not mean that they exist. The scientists of whom we are
speaking, therefore, are (often, but not always, as we have seen) happy to
let people go on thinking about God and religion if they want to, as long
as they do not claim that God has any objective existence, or that religious
belief constitutes knowledge. In other words, science and religion can
peacefully co-exist as long as religion does not invade the realm of science.
For only science can tell us what is objectively true; only science can
deliver knowledge. The bottom line is: science deals with reality, religion
does not.

Certain elements of these assumptions and claims are so outlandish that
they call for immediate comment. Take the Douglas Adams quote cited by
Dawkins above. It gives the game away. For it shows that Dawkins is guilty
of committing the error of proposing false alternatives by suggesting that
it is either fairies or nothing. Fairies at the bottom of the garden may well
be a delusion, but what about a gardener, to say nothing about an owner?
The possibility of their existence cannot be so summarily dismissed – in
fact, most gardens have both.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The argument from DNA

Here.  Oh, and can we skip the "Flew didn't write his book" discussion? This is an argument, so focus on that, not the personalities.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

William Hasker's Principle C

In William Hasker’s essay, “Transcendental Refutation of Determinism,” he presents principle C, which says
            C) For a person to be justified in accepting a conclusion, the reasoning process must be guided by rational insight based on the principles of sound reasoning.
But if naturalism is true, physical laws govern the world, and people will think and conclude in accordance with the principles of sound reasoning only if physical law (or physical law combined with quantum chance), determine that they will reason soundly. Therefore, Hasker concludes, in a physicalist world, the principles of sound reasoning are inoperative, and condition C is not satisfied.20
Brain processes are physical events. They occur in accordance with the laws of physics, and the laws of reason and evidence do not explain brain processes as physical events. Our brains follow the laws of physics automatically, we obey the laws of logic or laws of evidence, when we do, only when the laws of physics (together with the prior facts) dictate that they do so. We may possibly act in accordance with reason, but never, as Kant would say, from reason. Given this, William Hasker's conclusion principle C applies: the laws of logic and evidence, or as he puts it, the principles of sound reasoning, are inoperative.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Reductionism provably fails in mathematics. Can it succeed in science?

From John Lennox's God's  Undertaker, 52-53. 

The great mathematician David Hilbert, spurred on by the singular
achievements of mathematical compression, thought that the reductionist
programme of mathematics could be carried out to such an extent that in
the end all of mathematics could be compressed into a collection of formal
statements in a finite set of symbols together with a finite set of axioms and
rules of inference. It was a seductive thought with the ultimate in ‘bottom-up’
explanation as the glittering prize. Mathematics, if Hilbert’s Programme
were to succeed, would henceforth be reduced to a set of written marks
that could be manipulated according to prescribed rules without any
attention being paid to the applications that would give ‘significance’ to
those marks. In particular, the truth or falsity of any given string of symbols
would be decided by some general algorithmic process. The hunt was
on to solve the so-called Entscheidungsproblem by finding that general
decision procedure.

Experience suggested to Hilbert and others that the Entscheidungsproblem
would be solved positively. But their intuition proved wrong. In 1931
the Austrian mathematician Kurt Godel published a paper entitled ‘On
Formally Undecidable Propositions of Principia Mathematica and Related
Systems’. His paper, though only twenty-five pages long, caused the
mathematical equivalent of an earthquake whose reverberations are still
palpable. For Godel had actually proved that Hilbert’s Programme was
doomed in that it was unrealizable. In a piece of mathematics that stands
as an intellectual tour-de-force of the first magnitude, Godel demonstrated
that the arithmetic with which we are all familiar is incomplete: that is,
in any system that has a finite set of axioms and rules of inference and
which is large enough to contain ordinary arithmetic, there are always true
statements of the system that cannot be proved on the basis of that set of
axioms and those rules of inference. This result is known as Godel’s First
Incompleteness Theorem.

Now Hilbert’s Programme also aimed to prove the essential consistency
of his formulation of mathematics as a formal system. Godel, in his
Second Incompleteness Theorem, shattered that hope as well. He proved
that one of the statements that cannot be proved in a sufficiently strong
formal system is the consistency of the system itself. In other words, if
arithmetic is consistent then that fact is one of the things that cannot be
proved in the system. It is something that we can only believe on the basis
of the evidence, or by appeal to higher axioms. This has been succinctly
summarized by saying that if a religion is something whose foundations
are based on faith, then mathematics is the only religion that can prove it
is a religion!

In informal terms, as the British-born American physicist and
mathematician Freeman Dyson puts it, ‘Godel proved that in mathematics
the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts’.10 Thus there is a limit
to reductionism. Therefore, Peter Atkins’ statement, cited earlier, that ‘the
only grounds for supposing that reductionism will fail are pessimism in
the minds of the scientists and fear in the minds of the religious’ is simply

incorrect.

The testability of scientism

What science cannot discover, mankind cannot know?

No chance. 

The statement I quoted from Russell above is obviously self-refuting. It is not a scientifically testable claim, so if it is true, it cannot be known to be true.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

An atheist opposes gay marriage

Here.

Though I read one comment that doubted that then author was an atheist.

One argument for gay marriage

Historically, people in society depended upon successful reproduction. Hence, barren women were considered cursed (though in the Bible they ended up getting pregnant eventually, starting with Sarah). Think about how people were taken care of in their old age before Social Security. An underpopulated country would be less able to defend itself in a war, for example. But now, this isn't the case. We don't feel that reproductive success is necessary for our happiness, and the world is getting overpopulated. It doesn't bother me that I have only stepchildren, not children. We now choose our own mates (something that most people didn't do through most of the history of the world), and so nowadays we ought to be able to choose our mates in accordance with our sexual orientation, since we are no longer motivated by the need for successful reproduction.

It's something to think about.

Is this discrimination?

Oozielionel: It seems that there is an attempt at a distinction between refusing service to a person and declining to perform a specific service. Masterpiece will sell any cake to any person. However, he will not create certain cakes (Halloween, erotic, same sex weddings). Refusing to sell specific products is different than refusing to serve specific people. On the face it is defensible. However, it may be possible to orient your product offerings in such a way that effectively and purposely eliminates a specific clientele. In most cases this is simple market segmentation. It may break across protected class lines. A clothing store may select product lines specific to ethnic or religious preferences. A book store can select titles favorable to one religion and refuse to care those contrary. Masterpiece Bakery has a viable argument.


VR: That is just the point I was trying to make when I presented the Bar Mitzvah argument. Does Lifeway stores discriminate against atheists by not selling The God Delusion? Of course they will sell a copy of Mere Christianity to any atheist who walks in the door. If a Masterpiece were to tell the gay couple "Sure, we'll bake you a cake. We just refuse to put anything on the cake that indicates that you are a same-sex couple That is not a product we provide." are they discriminating? 

In some cases I think wedding service providers can begin not with refusal but by unrecommending themselves, such as in the case of wedding photography. "It's not that we won't do it, it's just that we need to let you know we're against gay marriage, and think that someone who believes in gay marriage would do a better job." Is THAT discrimination, or just honesty?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The opening chapter of C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea

Here. 

When did gay marriage become legal?

The first gay wedding in America took place in 1969 at the Metropolitan Community Church in Huntington Beach, CA. Nobody went to jail because of it, so I take it that means that gay marriage was legal in 1969. 46 years before Obergfell.

Some Christians may not be too pleased about this, but it looks as if Christians invented gay marriage.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Bar Mitzvah Catering Services, and the Cake debate

 What if I set up a catering service to provide catering to Bar Mitzvahs. Would I be discriminating against non-Jews if I did that? After all, I would be willing to cater anyone's Bar Mitzvah, whether or not they were Jewish. 

Are Christian bookstores discriminating against nonbelievers because their stores carry only Christian-oriented books? Could an atheist sue Lifeway Christian Stores because they refused to special-order The God Delusion?

If one were to open up a Christian bake shop, or a Christian flower shop, could one then refuse to serve a gay wedding? If you define your product sufficiently, could you avoid the discrimination charge? What we sell, you might state, are Christian-compatible flower arrangements or wedding cakes. Anyone, gay or not, can get a Christian-compatible flower arrangement or wedding cake. How is this different from having a Christian bookstore or a Bar Mitzvah catering service. 

Apparently you can define your product as something that appeals only to one group without being accused of discrimination. 

The Christian Response to gay marriage? C. S. Lewis says R-E-L-A-X. Or was that Aaron Rodgers?

Should Christians react about gay marriage? Jonty Langley, appealing to C. S. Lewis, thinks so. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Mr. Putin, stop messing with our elections!

I also find it severely troubling that he doesn't treat Russian tampering with the election process as anything other than a national security threat aimed at undermining confidence in our election process. If someone had hacked into the RNC and gotten all of the e-mails people had sent one another there, I think we would have seen a lot of worry on the part of Republican leaders about Trump going public, and it would have hurt him. The fact that the Democratic committee e-mails were publicized but the Republican e-mails were  not  is manifestly unfair. The problem is that, as Lindsay Graham points out, even if Trump benefited from Russia this time, they could easily throw their support behind the Democrats next time. This should be neutral territory between liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats. This has to stop, and Trump is more concerned about protecting his own people than to putting a stop to this threat. If shutting down the investigation of Russia was his motive for firing Comey (He could have numerous failings, but we have to ask what the real reason for the firing was), and Trump said exactly that, then he is at the very least failing to protect our country against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

It isn't even a question of collusion, it's the refusal on the part of the Trump  people to treat this as what it is, a threat to our democratic process.  Can you imagine Ronald Reagan not doing everything he could to make sure this kind of hacking never, ever happens again? Mr. Putin, stop messing with our elections!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Is belief in moral realism properly basic?

Yes, you can argue that belief in moral facts is properly basic, and use something like Plantinga's Reformed epistemology to justify moral beliefs. But if you object to Reformed epistemology for God, then why accept it for morality?

Also the existence of a moral fact doesn't seem to follow logically from anything we know or can know scientifically. Bertrand Russell makes this argument:

I conclude that, while it is true that science cannot decide questions of values, that is because they cannot be intellectually decided at all, and lie outside the realm of truth and falsehood. Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know.

Making moral beliefs properly basic is difficult to square with a science-based epistemology.

Furthermore, this kind of moral realism is also hard to square with ontological naturalism, at least as I understand it. The naturalism I am concerned about holds that physics is causally closed, physics is non-normative, and everything else supervenes upon and is determined by the physical.

I'm inclined to think that basic moral beliefs are properly basic. But when the ontological and epistemological implications of this are spelled out, this "fits" well with a theistic world-view, and does not fit well with a naturalistic one.

Friday, September 22, 2017

When religion ruled the world, they called it the dark ages

This is a popular meme, and its a pile of manure. It trades on

a) identifying the entire Middle Ages are the Dark Ages

b) presuming that religion (that is, the Catholic Church) had power over everyone during that time.

First, dark meant originally dark to historical knowledge. Thus, Darkest Africa isn't dark because it was a bad place, or because the people had dark skin, it was dark because we were in the dark about it.

Second, the Catholic Church as an institution was so weak during the early middle ages that the papacy was often sold to the highest bidder. Secular political leaders exercised a great deal of power over the church, not vice versa. The Investiture Controversy, one of the great issues of the 11th and 12th Centuries, was generated when a pope decided to put a stop to the installation of bishops and other church leaders by monarch. Is this religion ruling the world?

Yes, in the early 13th Century, Pope Innocent III could tell King Henry of France to take his wife back, or else. In the 14th Century, the king of France kidnapped the pope and forced the relocation of the papal palace to Avignon.

Third, there was considerable technological advance throughout the Middle Ages, as recounted here. 
The university system was developed in medieval times, and the university system is the reason why a global scientific community developed. That is why science didn't get off the ground in ancient Greece, but did get off the ground in Christian Europe.



If assisted suicide is legalized, will vlunerable people be less protected

I can understand the case for legalizing assisted suicide. I can. But will suicide be put forward as the preferable option not to save those who are dying from suffering, but for the convenience of the rest of us? It is easy to imagine, for example, insurance companies refusing payment for end of life care because, well, you had the right to commit suicide, and if you don't avail yourself of that, we shouldn't have to make any more payments.

(My trust in insurance companies is extremely limited).

Margaret Battin did a study where she claimed that vulnerable persons are not at risk in assisted suicide. But not everyone is convinced.

Moreland's Defense of Dualism

Here.

Lydia McGrew on the Naturalistic Induction

The naturalistic induction goes something like this:

Science has made and continues to make such great progress throughout history, gradually whittling away at the set of things that were previously not scientifically understood, that whatever it is that you are presently bringing forth as evidence against naturalism, I am sure that science will eventually get to that in time and explain it, as well, as entirely the product of natural causes.

McGrew is not impressed. 

Are we conquering nature?

Or is nature conquering us?

HT: Helen Flaherty-Hammond.

From Lewis's The Abolition of Man.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Was there a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam? I doubt it

In assessing whether the war in Iraq was justified, some argue that there was a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda, and therefore there was a 9/11 justification of the war. So far as I have been able to tell, the evidence for that is not very good. But if you think otherwise, feel free to provide some counter-argumentation.

Here. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Outsider Test for Human Rights, or OTHR

We might ask what evidence there is that rights exist. You have a feeling that everyone ought to be treated equally. Isn't that just your social conditioning? If you grew up in India, and were raised to believe that people occupy different positions in the caste system based on the Law of Karma, wouldn't you think that the idea that everyone was created (or evolved?) equal was slightly ridiculous?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Why physicalism isn't true

My argument is an attempt to show, not assume, that minds exist first, on the grounds that if they don't exist first, they cannot emerge. Mental states have to be a complexity-fact about the physical world if physicalism is true. But let's take the claim that "I am Victor Reppert" and the claim "I am Hugo Pelland." It seems perfectly conceivable that there is a world physically identical to this one in which you are me and I am you. If you say that such a world is impossible, you need to prove it, since it is conceivable. There is nothing about the physical world that guarantees that I will be me and you will be you. So physicalism cannot be true.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Exchange with Keith Parsons on the mind

KP: Victor,
I would like to resume this conversation after this long gap. I was out of my office for the eclipse (wonderful!) and for the hurricane (horrific!).
The meaning of "physical" I am presuming is simply the physical universe as it is presently understood by fundamental physics. There is nothing in postulating the physical realization of the mental that requires new laws or "emergence" in any mysterious sense. Why should it? Why is thinking in principle any different from any other physical activity? Why can it not be something we do with our brains just as we sing or dance with our physical components? Does a brain have mental properties? No. Just as a larynx does not have musical properties while it is engaged in the act of singing, so brains do not have mental properties when engaged in the act of thinking. The sensation of redness, for instance, is an adverbial property describing how I see something. I see "redly." It is not a property of my brain or the physical components of my brain. Perceiving, redly or otherwise, is something I accomplish with my brain. The redness pertains to the doing, not the doer. The whole point of realization physicalism is that the mental is an accomplishment or performance, just as singing is a performance. The musicality is in the performance, not the hardware that does the performing. A mind is defined functionally as whatever it is that performs mental actions such as thinking, feeling, imagining, etc. For human beings the brain is the mind since it is what performs the mental functions for us.
Frankly, your objections puzzle me. I do not see how they are relevant. You seem to be drawing conclusions not implied by anything I have said or by anything entailed by what I have said. Once again, I cannot help but get the impression that what is operating here is a highly recalcitrant intuition or set of intuitions that I simply reject. I do not see "the mental" as a set of properties mutually excluded by "the physical" any more than than I see "the musical" as being excluded by "the physical." Being musical is something that (some) physical things can do, as is being logical.
Or maybe I am the one badly confused. If so, please be so kind as to point out exactly why and how.


VR: The musicality, I am afraid, is a function of its connection to minds. That is how, in the first place, modern physics avoided the claim that their understanding of the world removed everything interesting from it. Heat is the mean kinetic energy of gases. But that has nothing to do with the feeling of hotness. So what is the feeling of hotness? It is in your mind. A physical description of Sam Cooke's singing of "Wonderful World" doesn't, on the face of things, entail that it sounds a lot better to me than today's gangsta rap, but it does sound a whole lot better.
What makes something singing as opposed to sound? It is the intentions of the singer and the understanding of the listener that makes the difference. It is the same as the economic and the physical.
Consider heat. From the physical side, heat is the mean kinetic energy of gases. But what that tells you nothing about the feeling of heat, which can make you want to stay inside, or fear like virtually nothing else (if you live in the Phoenix area) the breakdown of your air conditioning system. That's not in the physics, because it was "siphoned off" to the mind. Base-level physics leaves out the mental. The sound waves that make up the sound of Sam Cooke's voice are physical, and can be described without any reference to mental states. But my understanding and appreciation of the music requires a mind, and part of my appreciation involves my appreciation of the minds of the singer and the songwriter.
Physical phenomena in the world can be of two types. One type of physical phenomenon are mind-independent realities, things that would be the way they are whether or not there minds reacting with them. They have certain characteristics which are described by basic physics, or by "grouping" A planet's going around the sun is not mind-dependent. But my computer program that is running a chess program isn't playing chess in and of itself, it is playing chess relative to programmers and players who recognize it as such. I happen to have the Komodo chess program running on my computer as we speak. It is a far better chessplayer than I am. But its strength as a player exists as an extension of the playing and programming abilities of human beings with minds. Its output, in and of itself, is not playing chess in and of itself. When I play chess, I play chess from my own perspective. Komodo doesn't play chess from its own perspective. When it clobbers me, it does so from my perspective, not its.
Adverbs modify verbs, and verbs describe what persons, places, and things do. And what physical things do has to be in accordance with physical, not logical, law.
KP: I do not see "the mental" as a set of properties mutually excluded by "the physical" any more than than I see "the musical" as being excluded by "the physical." Being musical is something that (some) physical things can do, as is being logical.
VR: The musical is mind-dependent, and a purely physicalist world, there would be no music, even if the sound waves identical to those coming over my radio when "Wonderful World" comes on.
To be logical is not merely to think in accordance with reason, it is to think "from reason." Evidence and reason have to actually make a difference in what we think. Otherwise, we are not reasoning. The brain states not only have to "realize" a rational process, they have to be what they are because of the relevant logical relationships. Those logical relationships have to make a difference. But since logical relationships do not have particular locations in space and time, and since they make a difference in what we think, the causal closure of the physical has to be thrown out, or else the physical is mental at the basic level. This is what Nagel has been arguing, and orthodox naturalists have been reading him out of their camp for so arguing.

Reply from Keith Parsons

Victor,

                Thanks for checking in! We are OK. My immediate neighborhood did not flood, though areas less than a mile from me were completely inundated. The Marines were using huge amphibious vehicles to rescue people from their roofs. Fifty inches of rain in three days defies comprehension. The university just reopened today, so this is the first I could get back to my e-mail. Thanks much for checking in!

Keith

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Keith Parsons

Keith Parsons, a longtime personal friend of some 40 years, and teaches at the University of Houston at Clear Lake. Because of Harvey, I am concerned, since he has not responded to my e-mail. Jeff Lowder thinks he is in a shelter somewhere without internet access.

He may be an atheist, but he is in my prayers.

Reply to Johnson on nonmental reasoning

Johnson also says I missed the relevance of non-mental forms of reasoning.38 He says that “His argument explicitly claims that purely physical, nonmental processes—the kind he says naturalism insists are ultimately explanatory—cannot reliably produce true beliefs.”39 I wish he had quoted me on this, because I can’t find a statement to that effect in my own essays myself.  I replied that what is needed for my argument is that we sometimes go through explicit mental reasoning processes, and that this is critical for the kind of knowledge on which naturalism is grounded. Perhaps I did not make that as clear as I might have in the debate, but that is the point I want to make. There can be noninferential forms of knowledge, such as my direct awareness that I am in front of a computer screen right now. As a long-time, though intermittent, tournament chessplayer, I can agree with Kasparov that not every step in a chessplayer’s mind is an explicit rational inference, and this is even more the case in something like basketball. If LeBron were to rely on explicit reasoning to decide whether to shoot or pass the ball to Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers would never get into the NBA playoffs, much less reach the Finals. Whether these processes are purely physical or not probably depends upon your theory of mind, but we can come to some true beliefs without explicit, premise-to-conclusion reasoning. He also mentions computers, but he misses my central point that computers are by necessity products of intelligent design, and their reasoning processes are dependent upon the thoughts of their builders, programmers and users. The template of meaning that makes a computer’s process mean rook to f6 can only exist if there are humans who invest the computer’s activity with the meanings associated with chess. Now, once we do that, certainly the computer can slaughter me in a chess game. But what computers have is what philosophers call derived intentionality, not original intentionality. 

Bob Prokop's Eclipse Experience

The first comment here. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Is there anti-white racism?

 Is there anti-white racism? Some have argued that there can't be anti-white racism because whites are privileged in society as a whole.

I have never understood this. We don't just live in society as a whole. we live in subgroups, and within some subgroups, whites can be discriminated against. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Skeptical Threats and Best Explanations


Let me explain the difference between a Skeptical Threat argument and a Best Explanation Argument.  If I were giving an STA I would be saying that a non-naturalist position allows you to refute the skeptic but a naturalist position does not. I don’t like this kind of argument because I am not sure you can refute the skeptic in any event. In fact when I first read Plantinga’s EAAN I thought his argument was a skeptical threat argument.
A BEA says that both we and our opponents depend upon the existence of certain mental states. In particular, we believe some things because the evidence is good. Let’s take a statement that is typical of atheists:
Next time somebody tells you something that sounds important, think to yourself: ‘Is this the kind of thing that people probably know because of evidence? Or is it the kind of thing that people only believe because of tradition, authority or revelation?’ And, next time somebody tells you that something is true, why not say to them: ‘What kind of evidence is there for that?’ And if they can’t give you a good answer, I hope you’ll think very carefully before you believe a word they say. –Dawkins
http://jdstone.org/cr/files/richard-dawkins-letter-to-his-10-year-old-daughter.html
Here he presupposes that some people, unlike those religious people who believe based on tradition, authority, and revelation, some people believe things based on evidence. Every atheist I know is going to accept as an agreed upon datum that some people form beliefs based on the evidence. If Dawkins says he believes in evolution by natural selection based on the evidence, he is implying that he believes because the evidence for it is present and wouldn’t believe it if it were absent. Hence coming believe something based on evidence is something both sides are going to have to explain, not explain away. On pp. 64-65 of CSLDI I argue that statements that a belief is based on evidence entails claims about how those beliefs were caused. The existence of mental causation, the fact of someone coming to believe something because the evidence for it is good, is something both sides are going to have to be able to explain.
Lewis’s theistic solution to the problem is this:

On these terms the Theist's position must be a chimera nearly as outrageous as the Naturalist's. (Nearly, not quite; it abstains from the crowning audacity of a huge negative). But the Theist need not, and does not, grant these terms. He is not committed to the view that reason is a comparatively recent development moulded by a process of selection which can select only the biologically useful. For him, reason--the reason of God--is older than Nature, and from it the orderliness of Nature, which alone enables us to know her, is derived. For him, the human mind in the act of knowing is illuminated by the Divine reason. It is set free, in the measure required, from the huge nexus of non-rational causation; free from this to be determined by the truth known.  And the preliminary processes within Nature which led up to this liberation, if there were any, were designed to do so.

http://www.philosophy.uncc.edu/mleldrid/intro/csl3.html
Accusing Lewis’s argument of the genetic fallacy seems to be a mistake. The genetic fallacy occurs when I say a belief has to be wrong based on how it was produced. Not every belief has to be rationally inferred in order to be justified. But a belief which is based on evidence, (and you atheists insist that you have some of those), needs to have evidence amongst its causes. But if the physical world is causally closed and mechanistic, then the use of evidence, which involves the logical relationship between the evidence and the evidenced proposition, never happens.
So, this is how I would rebut the two strategies you offer the naturalist. The high price of naturalism, or part of it, is that you have to give up science as a means to truth, and give up the claim that you believe anything based on evidence. I suppose there are some naturalists out there willing to pay that price. I don’t think I’ve met one, however.