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Arguing About Gods 7: Other Arguments

01/16/2012

Kindle Notes:

it is worth noting that mystical experiences seem to have much in common with familiar experiences that occur in doxastically untrustworthy states induced by drugs, tiredness, starvation, and the like – and, indeed, that mystical experiences are often induced by taking drugs, fasting, refusing to sleep, and the like (8364).

it is not very controversial to claim that, in the typical case, the sensory states and conditions for making observations of those who have mystical experiences are of a kind that we have independent reason to suppose are unreliable. We have plenty of independent reason to suppose that taking drugs, fasting, doing without sleep, and so on affects the normal functioning of the brain; indeed, we have plenty of independent reason to suppose that ‘mystical experiences’ are simply cases in which the brain malfunctions as a result of some kind of insult or abuse (8447).

Second, non-believers might suppose that they have independent reason for thinking that similar claims in similar circumstances have turned out to be unreliable or mistaken (8452).

Finally, non-believers might suppose that there are alternative causal explanations for the reporting of the various kinds of religious experience (8466).

it is enough if non-theists can reasonably believe that, at least in principle, there is always a naturalistic causal explanation to be given (8479).

What non-question-begging reason is there to suppose that, while moral properties cannot supervene upon natural properties, they can supervene upon supernatural properties? (8522)

even if the parting of the Red Sea does demand a supernatural explanation, it is not clear that the best supernatural explanation is to suppose that it is the result of the actions of an orthodoxly conceived monotheistic god (8978).

It isn’t hard to dream up alternative supernatural explanations that those who are not antecedently convinced of the existence of an orthodoxly conceived monotheistic god may well find no less plausible than the hypothesis that the Red Sea was parted by an orthodoxly conceived monotheistic god (8983).

Swinburne’s account of prior probabilities is problematic. First, as we have seen, Swinburne claims that a theory is more likely to be true if it postulates ‘entities of a kind whose nature and interactions seem natural to us’. But why should we suppose that ‘what seems natural to us’ is a reliable guide to likely truth? Indeed, isn’t it one of the lessons of twentieth-century physics that we live in a universe whose fundamental constituents are very plausibly entities whose nature and interactions are not in the least bit natural to us? (9325).

If any of Swinburne’s ‘inductive arguments’ is to succeed – and, in particular, if his ‘argument from consciousness’ is to succeed – then, by his own lights, he needs to be able to establish that the hypothesis that there is an eternal, perfectly free, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good person without a body who created the universe ex nihilo is simple (9347).

to Swinburne, (i) theism postulates the simplest sort of person there could be – that is, a person who has the simplest sorts of capacities, beliefs, and intentions; (ii) theism is simple because it holds that all phenomena that have full explanations have complete personal explanations, so that everything that can be explained can be explained in terms of one type of explanation; and (iii) theism postulates that explanation stops at which is intuitively the simplest and most natural terminus for explanation, namely, personal explanation. Finally, according to Swinburne, (i)–(iii) constitute compelling reasons for holding that theism is a simple hypothesis (9355).

– on the assumption that we allow that it is possible for a particle to have infinite velocity – surely the fact that the velocity is that velocity – rather than some other velocity – would be just as much in need of explanation in either case (9366).

Swinburne’s argument in favour of a theistic explanation of the presence of consciousness in the universe has two main components, namely, (i) an argument to the conclusion that theism is a good explanation of the presence of consciousness in the universe, and (ii) an argument to the conclusion that theism is a better explanation of the presence of consciousness in the universe than any competing explanation (9495).

there are various reasons why we should be sceptical of Swinburne’s claim to have established that the presence of consciousness in the universe is best explained on the hypothesis that there is an orthodoxly conceived monotheistic god. For (i) Swinburne does not provide persuasive reasons for ruling out non-scientific competitors to his favoured theistic hypothesis; (ii) Swinburne does not provide persuasive reasons for supposing that his favoured theistic hypothesis is particularly simple; (iii) Swinburne does not provide persuasive reasons for supposing that, on his own favoured account of simplicity, simple theories are more likely to be true (9529).

(iv) because Swinburne does not consider the strongest formulations of materialism – functionalism, various supervenience theses – his case against materialist explanations of the presence of consciousness in the universe is plainly incomplete; and (v) most important, the case that Swinburne makes for the claim that Pr(e/∼h&k) is lower than Pr(e/h&k) is undermined by these, and other, objections (9533).

Neither the assumption that there is a hitherto undiscovered naturalistic explanation nor the assumption that there is an orthodoxly conceived monotheistic god enables us to make any progress at all in understanding the detailed working out of consciousness – or moral values, or love, or understanding, or language, or whatever – in our at least partly physical world (9692).

There is at least some reason to suppose that it is dangerous to link moral considerations to expected rewards, because such links tend to undermine genuine morality. If parents give rewards to children – cash, sweets, and the like – when they engage in morally admirable behaviour, then the upshot is that children develop a diminished tendency to engage in morally admirable behaviour, particular when the rewards stop coming (9841).

It seems to me that, if people are to be proper moral agents, then they should not be disposed to say that the reason why one ought to behave morally is that one will secure certain rewards in heaven iff one behaves morally; rather, they should say that one ought to behave morally simply because that is what morality enjoins (9846).

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