Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Explanatory parity

***QUOTE***

At 3:27 PM, interlocutor said…

What [AFR] does is insist that both sides in the dispute agree that there is rational inference, but while one side is trying to explain the rational in terms of the non-rational, our side is not. --From your previous post on this argument.

It seems that there are two very different notions of "explain" at work in this question. Would I be correct in saying that your "explanation" of rational inference wouldn't entail much more than: "God imposed his reason on his creation"? [This sounds more snide than I mean it to sound, but I can't think of any other way to put it.]

What I'm trying to get at is that your "explanation" would not be an explanation of the exact process of how a God would create a rational universe, but rather, a reference to the possibility of a god-like being capable of doing so. Is this correct?

Contrast this with what would be involved in "explaining" rational inference for a materialist. It would involve describing the exact processes by which rationality could (or necessarily must) supervene on the purely physical.

This would be quite the project even if materialism was the case, don't you think? In fact, isn't it reasonable to conclude that if materialism were actually the case, answering this question would be one of the most difficult undertakings imaginable and that it would not be surprising to find that humans have not yet figured out how to explain it?

There seems to be an imbalance here in the request for an "explanation." I can't shake the feeling that it is just "unfair." It seems that both parties should be held to a similar burden.

If a theist wants a materialist to "explain" how rational inference is possible in terms of the exact processes by which the rational can supervene on the physical, then the theist should, in turn, be willing to "explain" the exact processes by which a God can create a rational universe.

Or, if a theist is allowed simply to say that rational inference is possible because a God imposes reason on the universe without having to explain the exact processes of his/her view, then the materialist should be allowed to simply respond that the rational supervenes on the physical without having to explain the exact processes of his/her view.

Does this make sense?

Please forgive me if I have given an insulting caricature of your "explanation" of the possibility of rational inference. I have not actually read your extended works on this argument. Perhaps, you have put a lot into your "explanation" that I am not aware of.

From other experiences with theists, however, I have seen this disparity between what is being asked for in any "explanation."

***END-QUOTE***

The interlocutor is confusing the argument for dualism with dualism as an argument for God. But these are separate arguments. The argument for dualism (i.e., abstract objects, substance dualism) does not depend on the explanatory role of God. That's the next stage of the argument.

You would have a preliminary argument for the existence of abstract objects or substance dualism.

Indeed, this could well involve two different lines of evidence: (i) positive arguments for dualism, and (ii) counterarguments against physicalism.

This would establish THAT dualism is true. It would not establish HOW dualism can be true.

The how-question is where God would come into the picture.

So the interlocutor is committing a level-confusion.

4 comments:

  1. Hi Steve,

    My hope was to address Victor's AFR (which I, admittedly, know little about). I began by quoting Vic's statement:

    What [AFR] does is insist that both sides in the dispute agree that there is rational inference, but while one side is trying to explain the rational in terms of the non-rational, our side is not.

    I identified his "both sides" to mean the theist side and the materialist side respectively; I did not take him to mean the dualist side and the physicalist side as you suggest I should have. I took this stage of his argument to be an argument for a God, not dualism.

    Perhaps, I don't understand his argument well and I have made the mistake that you indicate. Or, maybe, this is a mistake the argument itself makes. I couldn't say either way. I think the "error" depends on what Victor means by "both sides"--i.e. does he mean dualism verses physicalism or theism verses physicalism.

    From what you know of the AFR, is that the track that it takes--viz. that the theist (a) argues for dualism and then (b) argues that a God is the "best explanation" of dualism? In other words, does that mean that the theist using the AFR to prove the existence of God would be required (1) to refute physicalism, (2) prove dualism to be the case (as opposed to something other than physicalism and dualism), and (3) demonstrate that a God is the best explanation of dualism?

    That sounds like a fairer burden for both sides (though it still sounds like a lot of work). It's definitely fairer than having one side attempt to give a full explanation of the process of rationality's supervention on the physical while allowing the other side to simply state, "God does it."

    Still, though, Victor asks the materialist to "explain the rational in terms of the non-rational [i.e. the physical]." To do this, the materialist would need to (1) know a lot about the nature of matter and (2) know a lot about the nature of supervenience.

    Isn't it possible that, at this stage of our scientific/philosophical development, humans do not know enough about the nature of matter to answer this question, but that some discovery (or a collection of them) would give that knowledge? In other words, might it be possible that there is a way to "explain" rational inference in terms of the physical that is not yet known?

    I'm not attempting to argue for materialism. I don't know that materialism is the case or dualism is the case or a God is the case or something else entirely is the case. I don't know if laws of logic (and, thereby, rational inference) are "laws" in the truest sense of the word or if they are, in Quine's words, "revisable" (or applicable in only certain conditions as the dilatheists hold).

    I am interested in arguments, however, and always enjoy seeing how people make and support them.

    Thanks for interacting with my questions.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Steve,

    For someone who spends so much time writing, it would only take two seconds of your time to copy & paste the URL of the comment (or even better, activate the hyperlink to it), and this would help me immensely in trying to follow a dialogue.

    Interlocuter,

    In other words, might it be possible that there is a way to "explain" rational inference in terms of the physical that is not yet known?

    Yes.

    And they will usually admit this, after saying, "Now you have faith in physicalism..."

    Of course, since beliefs are justified by lots of evidence, and when the only "falsification" of physicalism is an undeveloped TAG, largely an appeal to ignorance, then belief in physicalism as cogent in all areas (even in transcendentals and the AFR) is not unjustified.

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  3. interlocutor said...

    "Isn't it possible that, at this stage of our scientific/philosophical development, humans do not know enough about the nature of matter to answer this question, but that some discovery (or a collection of them) would give that knowledge? In other words, might it be possible that there is a way to "explain" rational inference in terms of the physical that is not yet known?"

    I'm not going to attempt an exposition of Reppert. I'll leave that to Reppert.

    As to the above:

    1.Appealing to an unknown hypothetical is hardly an argument.

    2.A future scientific discovery would only solve the problem under the prior assumption that this is a scientific problem to begin with.

    But standard arguments for dualism (e.g. privacy, intentionality, subjectivity) simply belong to a different domain.

    That's been the problem all along. This categorical difference.

    3. And the status of abstract objects is even more metaphysical. So invoking science (not even real science, but some pseudoscientific hypothetical) begs the question.

    Anonymous said...

    "Of course, since beliefs are justified by lots of evidence, and when the only 'falsification' of physicalism is an undeveloped TAG, largely an appeal to ignorance, then belief in physicalism as cogent in all areas (even in transcendentals and the AFR) is not unjustified."

    TAG is by no means the only undercutter or defeater for physicalism.

    ReplyDelete
  4. 1.Appealing to an unknown hypothetical is hardly an argument.

    I agree. If someone says he or she is a physicalist, then they should have some kind of answer to the questions the AFR raises.

    It seems, however, that the AFR is attempting to make the case that physicalism is not the case. So, the proponent makes the strong claim, "Physicalism is not the case." If the process of proving this statement is eliminative, then, the possibility of an unknown hypothetical is a defeator of their project, right?

    ReplyDelete