Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Hasker, sensible naturalism, and causal closure

What would the naturalist have to accept, in order to accommodate the demands of reason at this point? At minimum, the naturalist must accept the existence of emergent laws—laws which manifest themselves in complex organic situations, and which result in behavior of the fundamental particles of nature different from the behavior predicted on the basis of the physical laws alone. To admit this is to reject the “causal closure of the physical domain” that is so dear to the hearts of many, perhaps most, contemporary naturalists. The naturalist will have to acknowledge that new causal powers emerge in suitably complex configurations of organic chemicals.—powers that are not evident in simpler situations, and are not deducible from any laws that operate in simpler situations. It will have to be true that, given a particular sort of brain-state, there supervenes, say, a desire to hear a performance of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” and that, in virtue of this desire, certain actions, and certain bodily movements occur that could not be predicted merely on the basis of the physical laws that apply to the elementary particles making up the nervous system. A view that countenances the emergence of such causal powers might provide the basis for understanding mental states that could be effective in virtue of their propositional content. Many naturalists, however, will be extremely reluctant to abandon causal closure; if they do so, their status as naturalists in good standing could plummet alarmingly.

8 comments:

Blue Devil Knight said...

I discussed this over at DI2.

Quick summary: supervenience implies causal closure. Therefore, Hasker needs to either renounce supervenience (and hence naturalism) or his denial of causal closure.

Anonymous said...

'At minimum, the naturalist must accept the existence of emergent laws—laws which manifest themselves in complex organic situations, and which result in behavior of the fundamental particles of nature different from the behavior predicted on the basis of the physical laws alone.'

Do the rules of backgammon cause the particles in a computer programmed to play backgammon, to behave differently from the the way that physical laws alone would predict?

If not, are the rules of backgammon then irrelevant when it comes to predicting the output from a backgammon playing machine?

Victor Reppert said...

Hasker is a critic of supervenience theory. He's a substance dualist, even though not of the traditional Cartesian sort. What he tries to do in his essay on "sensible naturalism" is to try to give the naturalist their best shot, try to find what he thinks are the best moves FOR THEM, and then hopes to show that even this will get them into trouble. He is not a naturalist, he's a Christian theist and emergent dualist.

Blue Devil Knight said...

If that's the case, then he's not done a very good job.

Replace 'Hasker' in my posts with 'Hasker's naturalist'. What a waste of my time.

Victor Reppert said...

BDK: I apologize for not clarifying this sooner. However, a read of his whole book, or event the whole paper from which I am quoting here, would be enough to clarify the matter.

What is interesting is that not only Guminski, but now also Draper, are using the term "sensible naturalist" in what appears to be Hasker's sense. Read Draper's "In Defense of Sensible Naturalism" and have a look at what he calls extreme naturalism.

Attacking this stuff is hardly a waste of time. You just aren't attacking Hasker here.

properly basic said...

I'm confused! If substance dualists are willing to grant it a possibility that parts can think, why is it insurmountable to envision a part thinking freely?

Rino said...

Hi Anonymous,

The rules of backgammon are structured into hardware by an intelligent designer (humans), so they have a structural cause while simultaneously obeying physics. In order to achieve a harmony of the rules of backgammon with the laws of physics, however, we needed to postulate an intelligent designer who structured the device. I don't think a physicalist would like to admit to such a creature.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I think my argument above is enough to show that the position is incoherent. Appeals to common sense with lots of jargon that amounts to philosophy lite. Their writings make Searle's talk of 'ontological irreducibility' seem a Russellian model of clarity by comparison. I'd love to see the reviewer comments if they try to get published in a peer-reviewed top-tier journal.