Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My question for Paul Draper

My question for Paul Draper on the Internet Infidels God or Blind Nature debate

In your reply to Plantinga, you maintain that a “sensible naturalism” can provide an adequate response to Plantinga’s EAAN. I would like to take a closer look at that “sensible naturalism.”

Surely you must know who invented the term “sensible naturalism.” It comes from William Hasker’s generally friendly response to my presentation of the Argument from Reason, entitled “What About a Sensible Naturalism: A Response to Victor Reppert," Philosophia Christi 5 (2003), at 53-62.

In your essay you define a set of beliefs that Hasker would accept as part of what a sensible naturalist must accept:

S: Beliefs exist, they affect behavior by virtue of their contents, and a belief's having a particular content is not the same as its displaying a certain set of third-person properties.

I quite agree. But I wonder if you are willing to accept the next step in Hasker’s argument, the claim that a sensible naturalist ought to deny the causal closure of the physical. Do you accept that, or not?

The problem here is that orthodox physics does not import first-person properties to its descriptions. It must be admitted that before living things ever came to exist, there was nothing that had a first-person perspective. Yet, if naturalism is true, all the causes were in place within the physical world to produce everything that has been produced since. So how does third-person physical stuff give rise to first-person entities?

If the physical is closed, the every particle’s being where it is can be fully accounted for in terms of physics. If you were physically omniscient, then nothing from the world of the mental could possibly give you any information about where a particle was going to be. You are familiar, surely with the difficulties Jaegwon Kim has raised for mental causation in a physicalistic world, or the argument from mental causation found in Hasker’s The Emergent Self (Ithaca: NY: Cornell University Press, 1999), ch. 3, or in my book, C. S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason (Inter-Varsity Press, 2003).

If you say that the universe started out as a physicalistic system with no mental causes in place, how did it create a distinct, irreducible mental realm that interacts with it?

Hasker, of course, argues that sensible naturalist should set the causal closure of the physical aside, even though many of you fellow naturalists will wonder whether you’re still a naturalist. But it seems to me that one must do more than that, one must admit that there are basic, irreducible causes in the universe that are mental in nature. Now you can do that without accepting theism per se: pantheism and absolute idealism are OK also. Admitted this is not supernaturalism, in the sense these world-views do not posit a separate, supernatural realm. But it does so at the cost of maintaining that the physical world is quite different from what orthodox physics says that it is.


w said...

Why can't Draper simply respond that beliefs affect behavior because beliefs are physical events (e.g. neurons firing)? This is typical identity theory. Here, physical events cause physical events. No one has a problem with that.

Is this not a better answer than the mental (a non-physical substance) affecting the physical? Maybe you have a good explanation of mental causation. The non-physical mind, what, pulls some small levers in the physical brain to affect behavior?

Victor, why not give us an account of mental causation. Explain the process by which the mental affects the physical.

It is one thing to criticize a position (e.g. materialism), but until you give your account of mental causation, I don't see that you're criticisms are of interest at all.

Victor Reppert said...

Because he denies rejects reductionism. What is your "typical" identity theory. Is it a type identity theory of a token identity theory. If it's a token identity theory, then the casual relevance of the mental characteristic is not guaranteed.

Also, you make a gratuitous assumption by implying that all causation has to be something like "pulling levers," either in the brain or elsewhere. Hume showed that causation is conceptually opaque. Even when you see the levers, the necessary connection between cause and effect is not given in experience.

Physical states are defined in nontelological terms. Reasoning requires, on my view, an essentially teleological kind of causation.

Anyway, Draper apparently acceps arguments against reductionism,

Rino said...

Hi W,

In support of Reppert's response, Barry Loewer puts it well in his critique of Kim: “but the generation/production conception of causation fits ill with contemporary physics. Bertrand Russell famously said that causation so understood ‘is a relic of a bygone age, surviving, like a monarchy, only because it erroneously is supposed to do no harm’ (Loewer, 2001).

Perhaps we should understand causation as influence, rather than as a push/pull relationship.