Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The virtues of military history

I've complained before about how military history is not taught that much nowadays. Here's a fascinating article that makes a better case for it than I ever could.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Another glorious package came today. First and foremost it contained Brainchildren by Daniel Dennett, a collection of essays. I'm currently reading another of his collections, Brainstorms (and I didn't realize that The Intentional Stance is largely an essay collection as well). As prolific as the guy is, I don't understand why he doesn't just release such a collection every few years, he certainly publishes enough to do it. Unless some of the essays don't contain enough original material to justify it.

Speaking of essay collections, the package also had two by Willard Van Orman Quine: From a Logical Point of View and Selected Logic Papers (an earlier edition that lacks some later additions). My interest in Quine is mainly with his epistemology, but several of these essays are relevant or have interest of their own (like "Two Dogmas of Empiricism").

Then comes the sci-fi. A book I've been wanting for a long time is A Short, Sharp Shock by Kim Stanley Robinson, whose writings, as I wrote here, I have a love/hate relationship with. Then I have Gardner Dozois's 12th annual collection of short stories, The Year's Best Science Fiction. So I guess that makes another "essay" collection.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A terrible anniversary

Everyone will be focused on the fact that today is the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination. A few lesser people will focus instead on the fact that it's also the 50th anniversary of the death of Aldous Huxley, who wrote Brave New World -- remember Sheryl Crow's song "Run Baby Run"? "She was born in November, 1963, the day Aldous Huxley died..."

I'll pitch my tent with the even lesser people who will focus on the fact that today is also the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis's death. That's right, JFK, Aldous Huxley, and C.S. Lewis all died on November 22, 1963. Peter Kreeft even wrote a book where the three of them meet up in a kind of limbo and debate what's going to happen next (spoiler: Lewis wins). Here, I'll just point out some of my posts with the C.S. Lewis label.

First, I just completed a ridiculously long series on Lewis's argument from reason -- this argues that naturalism is self-defeating, naturalism being the view that there is no supernatural. This was actually a thesis I wrote for one of my Master's degrees. You can see part 1part 2part 3part 4part 5, part 6, and part 7. You can also read a post I wrote on how Lewis expresses the argument from reason in his Space Trilogy, and a post where I suggest that Lewis's formulation of the argument was influenced by G.K. Chesterton. Or, if you just want to read what Lewis wrote instead of what I wrote, I brought together all of his shorter statements on the argument from reason here.

Other than this argument, my main post on Lewis was a summary of his fiction for adults, i.e. not the Chronicles of Narnia (although I still haven't read The Dark Tower and Other Stories). If you want to get an idea of which Lewis book you should read if you've never tried him, read that post.

The other main post, one of the earliest ones I wrote on this blog, is a short summary of his book The Discarded Image. This is about the premodern cosmology and the many misconceptions people have of it. For example, they did think the earth was at the center of the universe, but they also thought the center was the worst possible place to be -- the least prestigious, least honorable location. Another example: they certainly thought the universe was orders of magnitude smaller than we have discovered it to be, but they were starting from an unfathomably large universe and an earth that was, for all practical purposes, infinitely small. Still another example: they were well aware that the earth is round, despite claims to the contrary. The Discarded Image is a good book to show that the alleged history of conflict between science and religion is more bluster than anything else.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Here is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry for Paraconsistent Logic. I think you probably need to embrace some form of paraconsistency if you're going to reject J.R. Lucas's Gödelian Argument against physical determinism, in order to avoid explosion. In fact, I think Douglas Hofstadter does precisely that.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

C.S. Lewis's Argument against Naturalism, part 7

Further Objections and Influences
In addition to objections made specifically against C.S. Lewis’s argument, other objections have been made to similar arguments that have relevance to it. I will now go over those I have encountered.

Computers process information, and yet are completely physical in nature. Their processing functions are entirely cause-effect rather than ground-consequent, but they still give the right answers.{1} Therefore, this shows that we need not posit something more than the physical world with its cause-effect relations in order to account for the validity of our reasoning processes.

While Lewis did not directly address this objection, he did present an argument that can be seen as relevant to it: his claim that a news broadcast cannot be reduced to the functioning of the television set. If a broadcast were entirely produced by the functioning of the set, we would not ascribe any degree of validity to it.{2} This holds true of computers as well. The reason why we ascribe validity to the functioning of a computer is precisely because there is something “behind” it; namely a programmer, an intelligent agent, who designed it. If we thought the computer’s programming was the result of some random, non-intelligent process, we would not trust its results. Even if the results turned out to be true, it would not have reached those results because they are true. As William Hasker writes,

Computers function as they do because they have been constructed by human beings endowed with rational insight. And the results of their computations are accepted because they are evaluated by rational human beings as conforming to rational norms. A computer, in other words, is merely an extension of the rationality of its designers and users; it is no more an independent source of rational thought than a television set is an independent source of news and entertainment.{3}

Appealing to computers as purely physical processors of information begs the question. The only reason they can process information is because of the human being standing behind it, who organizes it in such a way that the computer’s cause-effect processes correspond to the programmer’s ground-consequent processes. And whether that human being’s capacity to process information can be reduced to purely cause-effect physical processes is precisely the question under discussion.

Perhaps a related objection could be made at this point. The naturalist might say that the supernaturalist view of God endowing us with the capacity to reason is exactly parallel to our endowing computers with the capacity to process information. Thus, any claim that computers do not really reason applies equally to us, and so there must be something wrong with such claims. Again, Lewis makes a point that is directly applicable: “to talk thus is, in my opinion, to forget what reasoning is like. … Reasoning doesn’t ‘happen to’ us: we do it. … human thought is not God’s but God-kindled.”{4}

Self-reference as nonsensical
Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell argue in Principia Mathematica that self-reference leads to contradictions, and is therefore nonsensical.{5} If we allow it, it leads to Russell’s paradox: we can think of classes that belong to themselves; for example, the class of concepts is a concept itself. We can also think of classes that do not belong to themselves; for example, the class of blue things is not itself blue. The problem comes in when we ask this about the class of classes that do not belong to themselves. If this class belongs to itself, then it does not belong to itself; and if it does not belong to itself, then it does belong to itself. This creates a vicious circle from which there is no escape.

The only way to avoid this, Russell and Whitehead argue, is to disallow all self-reference. This would make the concepts of classes that do or do not belong to themselves incoherent, and so the paradox is avoided. They apply this to a common refutation of skepticism: a man says we cannot know anything, and a detractor then asks him whether he knows that we cannot know anything. If he does, then his statement is false, and if he does not, then it remains possible for us to know something. Yet the question, “do you know that we cannot know anything?” is self-referential, and therefore nonsensical. “Hence any significant scepticism is not open to the above form of refutation.”{6}

Now go back to Lewis’s argument: if all of our beliefs are caused by nonrational processes, this would include the belief that all of our beliefs are caused by nonrational processes. Therefore, such a belief would not be rational, and is thus self-refuting. However, according to Russell and Whitehead, such an argument is incoherent because it refers to itself.

The first problem to note here is that self-reference is unavoidable. If we say, “no proposition can be self-referential,” then this would either apply to this proposition itself, or it would not. If it does not apply to itself, then it is false, since there remains a proposition that can be self-referential; that is, the ban on self-referential propositions does not apply to it, in which case it would remain possible for that proposition to refer to itself. On the other hand, if it does apply to itself, then it refers to itself; which leads to contradiction, since the statement that propositions are not self-referential is a self-referential proposition. So the ban on self-referential statements is either false or contradictory; regardless, in either case, we end up with self-reference.

Another problem is that many self-referential statements seem perfectly coherent. Semantic paradoxes, such as “this statement is false,” can be incoherent, but this is “neither due to the fact that they arise in self-referential statements nor to the fact that the self-reference is semantic. The precise difficulty is that there are no propositions expressed in these supposed statements; there is nothing definite to which the referring terms might refer. Like a mirage, the supposed referent continually recedes.”{7} What this demonstrates is that there are different types of self-reference, and not all of them are problematic.{8} “Russell and Whitehead regard as identical in kind the self-reference of the application of formal notions to themselves, the self-reference of the semantical paradoxes, and the performative self-reference of skepticism. These are clearly different, as are the paradoxes which arise in each case.”{9}

So what of Russell’s class of all classes that do not belong to themselves? One can simply deny that such a class exists without thereby discounting all examples of self-reference. The class of all classes that do not belong to themselves is incoherent, but it does not lead to a genuine antinomy, like the liar paradox.{10} On the other hand, the skeptic who says we cannot know anything is making a performative self-referential statement. Such statements “imply certain propositions about their speaker, their audience, and so on. If the implied propositions are false, then the utterance is irrational. … There is nothing formally wrong with the circularity involved in this fallacy. The fallacy arises because the circularity makes impossible the successful achievement of the purpose of the argument.”{11} Thus, the skeptic is refuted by the detractor who says that if we cannot know anything, we cannot know that we cannot know anything: “We are always prevented from accepting total scepticism because it can be formulated only by making a tacit exception in favour of the thought we are thinking at the moment.”{12} Similarly, Lewis’s argument, that if naturalism is true, we could have no reason to think it is true, still stands.

Begging the question
Eliminative materialists argue that all mental properties, such as beliefs, can be reduced to non-intentional content, and explained in purely physical terms of the brain’s biochemistry. Moreover, the brain’s function is derived from the struggle for survival, so the pursuit of truth is irrelevant to it. Such concepts (“belief,” “truth”) amount to “folk psychology,” the popular way of thinking about our minds that is no more valid than folk religion. “Looked at from an evolutionary point of view … a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four F’s: feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing. The principal chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. … Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost.”{13}

There are, of course, many possible objections one could raise to this position -- for example, whether folk psychology constitutes a hypothesis. However, when Paul Churchland presented this thesis, one of the first questions put to him was whether this applied to his own beliefs regarding eliminative materialism.{14} This is very similar to Lewis’s argument from reason. It seems as though the eliminativists are asking us to believe that there are no beliefs. In order to be consistent, they would have to say that they are not asking us to believe their thesis, that they do not even believe it themselves, and that, at any rate, eliminative materialism is not true (or has no truth-value). But then it becomes exceedingly difficult to continue paying attention to them.

The response has been that such objections beg the question. It assumes that the tenets of folk psychology are the only way to explain how our minds work. However, if these tenets can be reduced to the physical -- which is, after all, the premise of eliminative materialism -- then there is another way to explain how our minds work. Once we have achieved a complete cognitive science, “truth” and “belief” will be replaced with “successor concepts.”{15} We may not have fully achieved it yet, but it’s coming. Thus, charging eliminative materialism with self-refutation is analogous to charging the denial of vitalism with self-refutation. After all, the anti-vitalist would not be alive to deny vitalism if he did not have a vital spirit.{16}

Many remain unconvinced. For one thing, the analogy is a poor one. The appropriate parallel would be an anti-vitalist who argues that he is not alive.{17} However, the anti-vitalist is not denying that he is alive; he just has a different conception of what “being alive” means. The eliminativist, on the other hand, does not merely have a different conception of what “having a belief” means; he is denying that we have beliefs at all. Beliefs are to be “eliminated,” they are to be evacuated of any intentional content. Insofar as he appeals to these successor concepts, the eliminativist is not merely giving a different definition of belief; he is denying it altogether.

Another problem is that these successor concepts are empty: we literally have no idea what they might entail; if this were not the case, it would be incumbent upon the eliminativist to produce them. This means, however, that the eliminative materialist cannot employ them in explaining his theory. Say the successor concept for “believe” is “believesuc.” When asked if he believes that there are no beliefs, he can respond, “No, I do not believe that there are no beliefs; however, I believesuc that there are no beliefs.” Unfortunately, as Hasker writes,

It is important to realize that this option is not available. We simply have no grasp of these successor concepts, and cannot use them to make any assertions, no matter how they are named. Indeed, we have no assurance (as Churchland’s scenario makes clear) that the roles played by the successor concepts will be even “remotely analogous” to those occupied by the concepts of our present scheme. No. The concepts involved … the only concepts available to him, are precisely the concepts of the commonsense conception renounced by eliminativism. The charge of falsehood and contradiction remains. And if a theory which admittedly contains self-contradiction and massive falsehood is not self-refuting, what more does it take?{18}

Or to put it another way, I very much doubt an eliminativist would be willing to grant to his opponent the use of terms that have no meaning in order to argue that eliminativism is false -- especially if the argument’s validity hinges on those terms.

Yet another problem is that there is no evidence that these successor concepts can ever be developed; indeed, the evidence available to us seems to indicate that they cannot.{19} The eliminativist may respond that thousands of years ago, there was insufficient evidence that the sun is the center of the solar system; so the absence of evidence today does not prove that such concepts will never be developed. However, there are two problems with this: first, simply pointing out that true things are not always accepted does not do much to advance one’s claims in the face of contrary evidence. After all, thousands of years ago there was no evidence that fire is cold, or stones fall upward, or two plus two is five either.

Second, while the available evidence did not support the heliocentric model thousands of years ago, such a model would have been completely understandable in the terms employed by geocentrists. They understood what the terms “sun,” “earth,” “center,” and “revolve” mean, and could therefore comprehend the claim that the sun is the center of the solar system, although they would have denied it. This is true of all modern science; we might have to introduce new concepts and terminology, but we would still ultimately be able to explain it to a pre-modern. The claim of the eliminativist, however, is that these successor concepts are completely beyond our imagining; again, if they were not beyond our imagining, it would be incumbent upon him to produce them.

Moreover, the appeal to a future science that would dispel all appearance of inconsistency would be available to any self-refuting statement; in which case, self-consistency would no longer be needed nor desired. In this scenario, self-refuting statements only appear to be contradictions within the limitations of the tenets of the folk psychology that we use to express ourselves. When cognitive science has advanced sufficiently so as to provide us with successor concepts for these tenets, however, the apparent inconsistencies will disappear.

What this demonstrates is that this scenario amounts to a deus ex machina: anything can be explained by it. Of course, the eliminativist might counter that our displeasure with deus ex machina solutions is just another aspect of folk psychology, and will be eliminated along with everything else when the revolution comes -- and that is precisely the point: any conceivable objection could be dismissed on the grounds that it will no longer hold once it is reduced to the successor concepts.

Finally, by denying the concept of truth, eliminativists take away the only advantage they have in their corner. Any plausibility they may have is due to naïve scientific realism, “the view that science aspires to show us the real structure of the objective world, and our best present-day science is at least roughly successful in doing this.”{20} Eliminative materialism, however, is radically inconsistent with naïve scientific realism, since it holds that the brain’s function is not to pursue truth but to enable the organism to survive long enough to produce progeny. As Churchland writes, “Truth, as currently conceived, might cease to be an aim of science.”{21} Insofar as such a realism is unacceptable to eliminativists, whatever credibility they had is lost: if naïve scientific realism is false, “why be materialists at all, let alone eliminativists?”{22}

So it seems as though the eliminative materialist is unable to escape from “the threat of cognitive suicide.”{23} Lewis’s argument still holds.

Similar arguments and influences
Arguments similar to Lewis’s have played a significant role in philosophy. As the flipside of the computer objection mentioned above, J.R. Lucas writes that his Gödelian argument against strong AI (the theory that a computer can completely duplicate the processes of the human brain) is based on the same intuition as Lewis’s argument against naturalism.{24} Kurt Gödel proved that any mathematical system must assume the truth of statements that cannot be proved within the confines of the system itself; “truth is more than provability.”{25} Yet the human mind with its reasoning processes can transcend this limitation. Therefore, the human mind is more than just a computer, and no computer system will be able to completely duplicate it.{26} This argument has amassed a huge amount of literature, both for and against it, and there are hints of it in Bishop Berkeley’s 44th Query in The Analyst: “Whether the Difference between a mere Computer and a Man of Science be not, that the one computes on Principles clearly conceived, and by Rules evidently demonstrated, whereas the other doth not.”{27}

Alvin Plantinga’s argument against naturalism bears a striking resemblance to Lewis’s. According to Plantinga, if naturalism were true, the likelihood that we could form valid beliefs would be either improbable or inscrutable. Obviously, science depends upon our capacities to form valid beliefs; for example, for our belief in evolution to be valid, our abilities to perceive and assess the available evidence must be reliable. Thus, either evolution is true or naturalism is true. Not both.{28} Plantinga’s argument has also created its own literature,{29} with some explicitly linking it to Lewis’s.{30} The argument from reason also bears some similarity to the Transcendental Argument for God (TAG) employed by Christian presuppositionalist theologians.{31}

In 1985, John Beversluis wrote a critique of Lewis’s entire apologetic, with one chapter which deals with the argument from reason. In 2007 he published a significantly reworked second edition. Beversluis is something of an iconoclast, having also criticized Socrates and defended his interlocutors.{32} There is a tension in his critique of the argument from reason, insofar as he approves of G.E.M. Anscombe’s critique of it, but decries the “Wittgensteinian fideists” in general.{33} However, it is uncertain whether Anscombe’s critique still carries as much weight when divorced from its Wittgensteinian framework.

Victor Reppert, in addition to commenting on the argument against eliminative materialism mentioned above,{34} has defended Lewis’s argument against the criticisms of Anscombe and Beversluis, both in his book C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea and in philosophical journals,{35} receiving criticism from Keith Parsons,{36} William Hasker,{37} and others.{38} Reppert has derived a family of arguments from Lewis, which can be summarized as follows:

1. If naturalism is true,
     a. “There is no fact of the matter as to what someone’s thought or statement is about.”
     b. “No states of the person can be either true or false.”
     c. “No event can cause another event in virtue of its propositional content.”
     d. “Logical laws either do not exist or are irrelevant to the formation of beliefs.”
     e. “There is no single metaphysically unified entity that accepts the premises, perceives the logical connection between them and draws the conclusion.”
     f. Our faculties are not “reliable indicators of the nonapparent character of the world.”
2. None of these statements is true.
3. Therefore, naturalism is not true.{39}

Conclusions and prospect
C.S. Lewis’s argument from reason has a great deal of relevance for the philosophy of mind, the contemporary status of which seems to be, largely, the attempt to explain the properties of mind in terms of naturalism. In fact, I would argue that in order for the argument from reason to be thorough today, it must address the issues of the philosophy of mind. William Hasker, for example, has done precisely this: the first chapter of his book, The Emergent Self, deals with eliminative materialism, the second with theories of supervenience, and the third presents his version of the argument from reason, employing possible worlds.{40} Other issues in the philosophy of mind, such as artificial intelligence, dualism, and mind-brain identity, will also be affected by Lewis’s argument.

In part 1 of this series, I wrote that Lewis’s argument is less ambitious than similar arguments from consciousness.{41} This is because if beliefs are determined by what is known, then they are true, epistemically justified, and hence valid, and we need not appeal to anything beyond this. However, if naturalism is true, beliefs are not determined by what is known. Even if, for the sake of argument, we granted that naturalism allows beliefs to be so determined, it does not demand it. As long as this is the case, naturalism cannot account for knowledge. In other words, in order for determinism to be compatible with knowledge, it would have to be a determinism in which every belief is caused solely by what is known.

Here's an example: if some of my beliefs may be false or unjustified, how will I decide whether a particular belief is? Any belief I draw about that belief may itself be false or unjustified, and so would require its own justification; and so on, ad infinitum. This can be applied, for example, to the claim that religious beliefs are a sort of evolutionary holdover that should be rejected now that they no longer play a role in our survival. The obvious response is, why couldn’t a similar argument be used to dismiss these beliefs about religious beliefs? What makes them immune to the same criticism? The simplest way to avoid this is to allow for all of our beliefs to be true and justified, so this scenario never arises.

But of course, this is not the world we live in. People have contradictory beliefs. When beliefs are caused by what is known, innumerable other factors play a role in their occurrence as well. Therefore, in order to be able to distinguish between beliefs determined by what is known from beliefs not so determined, it is necessary to posit a “space” where we can step back from these beliefs and assess them independently of how they occurred in the individual’s mental life. This roughly lines up with what people mean by “consciousness.” Moreover, this means that we have to posit some sort of free will. The only determinism we can accept is one in which all beliefs are solely determined by that which makes them true, because then the belief that determinism is true could be trusted. Any other kind of determinism would lead to the infinite regress problem noted above.

I have been analyzing Lewis’s argument only insofar as it relates to whether naturalism is true or false, but of course, Lewis did not leave it at that. He argued that, since naturalism cannot be true, we have to posit a supernaturalist worldview in order to account for our reasoning processes. Note that he is not presenting a false dichotomy between naturalism and supernaturalism: he discusses another possibility, namely, the sub-natural or indeterminism. However, something less that naturalism does not solve the problem. We need something more than naturalism. In order for us to have any knowledge, including scientific knowledge, we have to presuppose that there is more than just the natural world of cause-effect events. Science presupposes supernaturalism.

Thus, Lewis’s argument also has drastic repercussions for the philosophy of science. Science is usually thought to presuppose naturalism, and there is an intuitive appeal to this. We observe natural cause-effect events in a natural world, so obviously the systematic study of these natural effects must begin by trying to find their natural causes. If we allowed ourselves to explain natural effects by positing unobservable supernatural agencies, further investigation would be stultified: “the only way that any sort of science can proceed is to assume that there is no divine intervention and to see how far one can get with this assumption.”{42} The more natural causes science discovers, the less room there is for supernatural causes.

But according to the argument from reason, since our formulation of scientific hypotheses and assessment of evidence must be rational acts in order for the hypotheses and assessments to be valid, and since naturalism precludes the potential for any belief to be valid, science is incompatible with naturalism. Some might object that the intuitive appeal of the claim that science must presuppose naturalism overwhelms any abstract argument to the contrary. I would argue, however, that the argument from reason is at least as, if not more, intuitive. When one claims that the mechanical processes of nature wholly determine our beliefs, the question that immediately presents itself is, what about that belief? What about the belief that “the mechanical processes of nature wholly determine our beliefs”? It seems that the arguer is making an exception for the belief he is holding at the moment.

Lewis is sometimes accused of being hostile to science, but this is incorrect. He is hostile to scientism, the claim that science can explain everything,{43} and he sees the argument from reason as a chink in the armor of this view. He is not trying to suggest that the world science has revealed is wrong so much as that it is incomplete: “Science is a good servant but a bad master, a good method for investigating and manipulating the material world, but no method at all for deciding what to do with the knowledge and power acquired thereby.”{44} We need to supplement scientific knowledge with knowledge of a different kind, and from a different source, in order to achieve the full life.

We were told it all long ago by Plato. As the king governs by his executive, so Reason in man must rule the mere appetites by means of the ‘spirited element.’ The head rules the belly through the chest -- the seat, as Alanus tells us, of Magnanimity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments. The Chest -- Magnanimity -- Sentiment -- these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal.{45}

Those who seek to explain everything in terms of science or physics or nature are essentially trying to remove this middle (and hence, central) element. Lewis thinks such attempts amount to “The Abolition of Man.”

It is an outrage that they should be commonly spoken of as Intellectuals. This gives them the chance to say that he who attacks them attacks Intelligence. It is not so. They are not distinguished from other men by any unusual skill in finding truth nor any virginal ardour to pursue her. … It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out. Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so.{46}

Probably the most significant contribution the argument from reason makes is to the relationship between science and religion. Since science is often equated with naturalism and the denial of supernaturalism, it is often seen as the antithesis of religion. However, the argument from reason resolves this tension: science does not and indeed cannot presuppose naturalism. For those who respect both science and religion, this conclusion is very encouraging. Unfortunately, some people’s interest in science seems to be due to its perceived iconoclasm. For them, building a bridge between the two would be anathema.

The argument from reason essentially pokes a hole in the façade of ontological naturalism. However, it is primarily a negative argument, arguing against a position rather than arguing for one. It does not provide any criteria on how we should proceed on a practical level. The issues it raises for the philosophy of science make this particularly evident. How can science function without presupposing naturalism? How can that which is teleological and non-mechanistic form a part of the prediction and falsification upon which science relies? How can we systematically observe that which is inherently unsystematic? These are the objections that most naturalists will pose in response to the argument from reason, and it seems to me that detailed responses are lacking.

{1} Ignoring, for the sake of argument, that computers can be programmed to give the wrong answers.
{2} C.S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study, 1st ed. (London: Bles, 1947), 50; 2nd ed. (London: Collins, Fontana Paperbacks, 1960), 43-44.
{3} William Hasker, Metaphysics: Constructing a World View (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1983), 49, italics in original.
{4} Lewis, Miracles, 1st ed., 37; 2nd ed., 32-33.
{5} Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell, Principia Mathematica, vol. 1, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1927), 37-38, 60-65.
{6} Ibid., 38.
{7} Joseph M. Boyle, Jr., Germain Grisez, and Olaf Tollefsen, Free Choice: A Self-Referential Argument (Notre Dame, IN: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1976), 129.
{8} Ibid., 122-38.
{9} Ibid., 128.
{10} Ibid., 127-30.
{11} Ibid., 124.
{12} C.S. Lewis, “De Futilitate,” in Christian Reflections, ed. Walter Hooper (1967; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977), 61.
{13} Patricia Smith Churchland, “Epistemology in the Age of Neuroscience.” The Journal of Philosophy 84 (1987): 548-49.
{14} Paul Churchland, “Postscript: Evaluating Our Self Conception,” in Paul K. Moser and J.D. Trout (eds.) Contemporary Materialism: A Reader (London: Routledge, 1995), 170-72.
{15} William Hasker, The Emergent Self (Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press, 1999), 7-8.
{16} Patricia Smith Churchland, “Is Determinism Self-refuting?” Mind 90 (1981): 99-101; idem, Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind-Brain (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1986), 397-99; Paul Churchland, “Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes,” in A Neurocomputational Perspective: The Nature of Mind and the Structure of Science (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989), 21-22; idem, Matter and Consciousness: A Contemporary Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984), 47-48; Andrew D. Cling, “Eliminative Materialism and Self-Referential Inconsistency,” Philosophical Studies 56 (1989): 53-75; William Ramsey, “Where Does the Self-Refutation Objection Take Us?” Inquiry 33 (1990): 453-65.
{17} Lynn Rudder Baker, Saving Belief: A Critique of Physicalism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1987), 139.
{18} Hasker, Emergent Self, 18-9, italics in original.
{19} Ibid., 13.
{20} Ibid., 15, italics in original.
{21} Paul Churchland, “The Ontological Status of Observables: In Praise of the Superempirical Virtues,” in Neurocomputational Perspective, 150.
{22} Hasker, Emergent Self, 15.
{23} Baker, Saving Belief, 134-48; Victor Reppert, “Eliminative Materialism, Cognitive Suicide, and Begging the Question,” Metaphilosophy 23 (1992): 378-92.
{24} J.R. Lucas, “The Restoration of Man,” Theology 98 (1995): 453-55.
{25} Ibid., 455.
{26} J.R. Lucas, “Minds, Machines, and Gödel,” Philosophy 36 (1961): 112-27; idem, The Freedom of the Will (Oxford: Clarendon, 1970), 115-72.
{27} George Berkeley, De Motu and The Analyst: A Modern Edition, with Introductions and Commentary, ed. and trans. Douglas M. Jesseph (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1992), 218. J.R. Lucas’s Web site contains most of his contributions, as well as an extensive bibliography . Etica e Politica, an online journal, republished some of the more important essays in 2003 . Michael Harris brought the Berkeley quote to Lucas’s attention .
{28} Alvin Plantinga, Warrant and Proper Function (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1993), 216-37; idem, “Naturalism Defeated” (1994), online; idem, Warranted Christian Belief (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2000), 227-40, 281-85.
{29} James Beilby, ed., Naturalism Defeated? Essays on Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press, 2002).
{30} N.M.L. Nathan, “Naturalism and Self-Defeat: Plantinga’s Version,” Religious Studies 33 (1997): 135; Angus J.L. Menuge, “Beyond Skinnerian Creatures: A Defense of the Lewis and Plantinga Critiques of Evolutionary Naturalism,” Philosophia Christi 5 (2003): 143-65.
{31} Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (Philadelphia: P & R, 1955), 116-22, 282-88.
{32} John Beversluis, Cross-examining Socrates: A Defense of the Interlocutors in Plato’s Early Dialogues (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000).
{33} John Beversluis, C.S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985), 127-34. My comments here are based on the first edition, as the second edition had yet to be published when I originally wrote this.
{34} Reppert, “Eliminative Materialism, Cognitive Suicide, and Begging the Question”; idem, “Ramsey on Eliminativism and Self-refutation,” Inquiry 34 (1991): 499-508.
{35} Victor Reppert, ““The Lewis-Anscombe Controversy: A Discussion of the Issues,” Christian Scholar’s Review 19 (1989): 32-48; idem, “The Argument from Reason,” Philo 2 (1999): 33-45; idem, “Reply to Parsons and Lippard on the Argument from Reason,” Philo 3 (2000): 76-89; idem, “Several Formulations of the Argument from Reason,” Philosophia Christi 5 (2003): 9-33; idem, “Some Supernatural Reasons Why My Critics Are Wrong: A Reply to Drange, Parsons, and Hasker,” Philosophia Christi 5 (2003): 77-89.
{36} Keith Parsons, “Defending Objectivity,” Philo 2 (1999): 87-9 n. 7; idem, “Further Reflections on the Argument from Reason,” Philo 3 (2000): 90-102; idem, “Need Reasons Be Causes?” Philosophia Christi 5 (2003): 63-76.
{37} William Hasker, “What About a Sensible Naturalism?” Philosophia Christi 5 (2003): 53-62.
{38} Jim Lippard, “Historical but Indistinguishable Differences: Some Notes on Victor Reppert’s Paper,” Philo 2 (1999): 47-49; Theodore M. Drange, “Several Unsuccessful Formulations of the Argument from Reason: A Response to Victor Reppert,” Philosophia Christi 5 (2003): 35-52.
{39} Reppert, “Several Formulations of the Argument from Reason” 9-23; idem, C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003), 72-85. Bibliographies of arguments similar to Lewis’s, both for and against, can be found in James Jordan, “Determinism’s Dilemma.” Review of Metaphysics 23 (1969): 48 n. 1; William Hasker, “The Transcendental Refutation of Determinism,” Southern Journal of Philosophy 11 (1973): 175 n. 3; Boyle, et al., Free Choice, 181 n. 41-42; and Ted Honderich, A Theory of Determinism, vol. 1: Mind and Brain (Oxford: Clarendon, 1990), 361. In addition to the works referenced there, and thus far in the present work, I would also point to Joseph M. Boyle, Jr., Germain Grisez, and Olaf Tollefsen, “Determinism, Freedom, and Self-Referential Arguments,” Review of Metaphysics 26 (1972-73): 3-37; Robert Young, “A Sound Self-Referential Argument?” Review of Metaphysics 27 (1973-74): 112-19; Barbara Wootton, Testament for Social Science: An Essay in the Application of Scientific Method to Human Problems (London: Allen & Unwin, 1950), 92; George Trumbull Ladd, Philosophy of Mind: An Essay in the Metaphysics of Psychology (London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1895), 233-34; Boyd H. Bode, “Consciousness and Psychology,” in John Dewey, et al., Creative Intelligence: Essays in the Pragmatic Attitude (1917; New York: Octagon, 1970), 253-54; James Bissett Pratt, Matter and Spirit: A Study of Mind and Body in Their Relation to the Spiritual Life (New York: MacMillan, 1922), 18-21, 156-66, 187-93; idem, “The New Materialism,” The Journal of Philosophy 19 (1922): 338; Richard Purtill, Reason to Believe (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974), 43-47; Huw P. Owen, Christian Theism: A Study in Its Basic Principles (Edinburgh: Clark, 1984), 118; William Hasker, “Can Action Be Explained Mechanistically,” University of Dayton Review (1972): 53-61; A.C. Ewing, Value and Reality: The Philosophical Case for Theism (London: George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 1973), 77-78, 177-78; Jonathan Bennett, Rationality: An Essay Towards an Analysis (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1964), 16-17; Hans Jonas, On Faith, Reason, and Responsibility (Claremont, CA: The Institute of Antiquity and Christianity, 1981), 43; and William Desmond, “On the Betrayals of Reverence,” in Is There a Sabbath for Thought? Between Religion and Philosophy (New York: Fordham Univ. Press, 2005), 265, 273-75. Several of the essays in Craig and Moreland, Naturalism: A Critical Analysis (London: Routledge, 2000) are also relevant. Arthur O. Lovejoy drew similar conclusions regarding Behaviorism as Lewis did regarding Freudianism and Marxism (“The Paradox of the Thinking Behaviorist,” The Philosophical Review 31 [1922]: 135-47; idem, “Pragmatism as Interactionism,” The Journal of Philosophy 17 [1920]: 592, 630-32). Antony Flew (“The Third Maxim,” The Rationalist Annual 72 [1955]: 63) refers to C.E.M. Joad as a proponent of the argument from reason, but does not cite a specific text.
{40} Hasker, Emergent Self, 1-80.
{41} Although he does sometimes state the argument in terms of consciousness (C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (1961; San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989), 41; idem, That Hideous Strength [1946; New York: Macmillan Paperback, 1965], 357-58).
{42} Steven Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory (New York: Pantheon, 1992), 247.
{43} C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (1943; New York: Macmillan, 1947), 86-91; Michael D. Aeschliman, The Restitution of Man: C.S. Lewis and the Case against Scientism (1983; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998).
{44} Aeschliman, Restitution of Man, 33.
{45} Lewis, Abolition of Man, 34.
{46} Ibid., 34-35; cf. idem, That Hideous Strength, 357-58.

(see also part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, and part 6)

(cross-posted at Quodlibeta)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

David Lewis on religion

I've been wanting to read more of David Lewis, and I recently learned via his entry on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy that he wrote a handful of essays on philosophy of religion, despite the fact that he didn't have a religious bone in his body. Here are links to them, courtesy of Andrew Bailey's Lewis page:

"Anselm and Actuality" (with a postscript from Lewis's Philosophical Papers, vol. 1)
"Evil for Freedom's Sake"
"Do We Believe in Penal Substitution?"
"Divine Evil"

The only one I've read so far, and only part of it at that, is "Divine Evil". Thus far I am underwhelmed and disappointed. Lewis first states his support of the logical problem of evil, something most philosophers have rejected since Plantinga wrang it through the wringer about four decades ago (contemporary arguments tend to be probabilistic arguments from evil). Then he goes on to say he won't be addressing the philosophically sophisticated concepts of God but the simple concept as held by the common religious practitioner. In other words he is self-consciously attacking a straw man. The simplistic concept of God that he addresses is that God sends people to hell for not guessing correctly as to which religion is correct, if any. But I very much doubt that even a simple-minded Christian would agree with this picture. Part of the concept of God in Judaism and Christianity -- in both the simplistic and sophisticated pictures -- is that God is just. He wouldn't send people to hell for failing to respond properly to an alternative he never really presents to them. Pascal wrote that God has given evidence which is sufficiently clear to convince those whose hearts and minds are open to him, but which is sufficiently vague so as not to compel those whose hearts and minds are closed to him. With all due respect to Lewis, I think he fell in the latter camp.

Monday, November 11, 2013


I've been preoccupied for several years, so I was unaware of Adventure Time, despite the fact that I love cartoons and Bender Bending Rodriguez does the voice for Jake. My introduction to it, however, has been disconcerting. The first character I've been made aware of is Lemongrab. Holy...what gosh, put it down! Take the shot!

That would have given me nightmares as a kid. Heck, it might give me nightmares now.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

This I Know

The sermon I heard this morning was good, but the sermonizer made a point I disagree with. He was pointing out that God loves us all individually, and that this is taught in the Bible. Then he brought up a children's song that my kids sing:

Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to him belong,
They are weak, but He is strong. 
Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me,
The Bible tells me so.

The sermonator then said that this song is "biblically accurate". I leaned over to my wife and said, "No it isn't." Now, again, what he meant by this is that God cares for each individual ("Jesus loves me"), he doesn't just care for humanity as a collective or in the abstract. And that this concept is taught in the Bible ("the Bible tells me so"). I agree with both of these points. What I disagree with regarding this song is that the reason one can know Jesus loves him is because the Bible says so. That's not correct: we know it because of the testimony of the Holy Spirit. The second line of the song should not read "For the Bible tells me so," because that's not the reason the vast majority of Christians believe it. If it were, then each person would have to do a complete assessment of the Bible's reliability before they could really know that Jesus loves them. That's absurd. The Christian believes Jesus loves him and that the Bible is trustworthy because of the testimony of the Holy Spirit.

This is kind of ironic since I actually argued myself into Christianity, so if anyone can make a claim to believing Jesus loves them because the Bible says so, having investigated the reliability of the Bible and found it to be satisfactory, it would be me. And I'm certainly not prone to religious experiences, much to my detriment.

Of course, some may object that many Christians, perhaps most, don't believe because of the testimony of the Holy Spirit. They believe because that's just how they were raised. Their second line should read: "For my parents told me so." On this I make no comment.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A suggestion

I have an idea to make football -- American football -- more, shall we say, interesting, and everyone I've mentioned it to likes it. My idea is that after a touchdown the team has to score the one or two point conversion from their last field position. So if someone runs it in from the 50-yard line, that's where they have to score the extra point(s) from. Since many touchdowns will be scored from a starting position so far down the field, it will not be possible to kick the ball through the uprights, so they will be forced to try for a two-point conversion. The only downside is that you'll have people deliberately running the ball out of bounds at the one-yard line rather than score in order to give them better field position and ensure a more certain extra point once they actually score a touchdown. But still, wouldn't it make the game more interesting?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

...and on the topic of Ender's Game...

Here's an interesting article on Ender's Game and Maneuver Warfare (subtitle: How the famed sci-fi novel reflects a revolution in military thinking). When I was in the Marines, we had to read a certain number of books per year, which surprises a lot of people. In order to count, the books had to come from an approved list, most of which were pretty basic biographies of people's experiences in war. I owned Iwo Jima: Legacy of Valor by Bill Ross, and had read it several times (I wrote about another book by Ross here), so I submitted that. It was on the list for Colonels and above, and it gave me enough points for my entire tour of duty. Anyway, my point was that Ender's Game was on the list of approved reads because of its detailed accounts of military strategy.

There's also a boycott of the Ender's Game movie, apparently because Orson Scott Card, the author of the book, is opposed to gay marriage. Read one person's reasoning here. I have to say, I'm unimpressed by her account. She says that Card took her under his wing, and went above and beyond in helping her become an author, never expressed any political or social views to her, and didn't give any indication that he gave a fig that she is gay. But he's opposed to same sex marriage, and that means he's a bad person. I have to agree with what this guy says about her article: she thinks the fact that Card does not support gay marriage indicates homophobia, which in turn indicates hatred for gay people, which she (falsely) equates to racism and advocating violence against gays, and finally to being an inhuman monster. Of course, none of these steps follows from the previous premises, so it's just an exercise in justifying her own hatred of people who do not agree with her politics. At any rate, if I only read books and saw movies that advocated positions I agree with, I'd read and see a lot less.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Some articles

The most recent Christianity Today has some interesting articles. The first one I read was Kirsten Powers's account of her conversion to Christianity. Some parts of it are similar to my own experience (which I wrote about here), and other parts are not. For example, when she writes, "When I returned to New York a few days later, I was lost. I suddenly felt God everywhere and it was terrifying. More important, it was unwelcome. It felt like an invasion", I very strongly identify with the unwelcome and invasion part, but not with the feeling like God was everywhere. I have always had the opposite problem: I tend not to see God  anywhere, and that's part of what it means to me to say that belief in God was unwelcome and an invasion. And when she writes further that she ultimately reached a point where she "had not an iota of doubt", I have never reached that point about anything. That's one reason why I don't understand philosophers who display enormous confidence and even arrogance in strongly counterintuitive positions. I don't have that much confidence in the things that you'd have to be crazy to deny.

Then I read this interview with Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, on his most recent book on C.S. Lewis. Interesting, but I've always been more impacted by Lewis's non-fictional works like Miracles and The Abolition of Man.

Third, I read a review of the new Ender's Game film, which I need to see. I've been waiting for it for thirty years.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thought of the Day

The first moment after God banged the universe into existence was the first moment God existed. Not because God began to exist, but because moments began to exist.