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Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology 6: The Argument from Reason


Basically, if naturalism is true, then rational processes reduce to non-rational processes. Therefore there really isn’t rationality if naturalism is true.

I don’t really see this as successful. Eyesight can be reliable, even if it works causally. Light hits our optic nerve, and we are caused to have visual sensations based on those experiences. We can see when our eyes are not working well when it is not reliable, or it contradicts itself, or falls in line with previously known flaws. Or we could, with other senses, discover truths, and if our visual abilities contradict those, then we have reason to doubt our eyes reliability there. This holds without having to presuppose libertarian free will, or a soul. Something could be a deterministic robot, and still have a way to judge reason and non-reason.

So why can’t it be the same with reason? Reason is like being able to sense truth-hood. Using this sense, we can tell when arguments are false. Some people have lesser abilities than others, and when our reasoning abilities are defective, it is possible to see as much.

This analogy probably breaks down somewhere. I’d like to read Carrier’s response at some point. He’s taken seriously by Reppert, so I think it is worth looking at.

Kindle Notes:

Consider the following classic syllogism: 1. All men are mortal. 2. Socrates is a man. 3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal. If it is a consequence of naturalism that nothing like this ever happens, that no one ever draws these types of conclusions from premises, then the belief that naturalism is true is in a lot of trouble (9371).

Note: If we can base some knowledge directly on sensory data, and if Reppert admits this fits into naturalism, could we say that logical relationships can be directly perceived as well?

In the first edition of Miracles, Lewis presents the version of the argument from reason that Anscombe criticized. We can formalize it as follows: 1. No thought is valid if it can be fully explained as the result of irrational causes. 2. If naturalism is true, then all beliefs can be explained in terms of irrational causes. 3. Therefore, if naturalism is true, then no thought is valid. 4. If no thought is valid, then the thought “materialism is true” is not valid. 5. Therefore, if materialism is true, then the belief “materialism is true” is not valid. 6. A thesis whose truth entails the invalidity of the belief that it is true ought to be rejected, and its denial ought to be accepted. 7. Therefore, naturalism ought to be rejected, and its denial accepted. (Lewis 1947, pp. 26-31) (9391).

1. States of mind have a relation to the world we call intentionality, or aboutness. 2. Thoughts and beliefs can be either true or false. 3. Human can be in the condition of accepting, rejecting, or suspending belief about propositions. 4. Logical laws exist. 5. Human beings are capable of apprehending logical laws. 6. The state of accepting the truth of a proposition plays a crucial causal role in the production of other beliefs, and the propositional content of mental states is relevant to the playing of this causal role. 7. The apprehension of logical laws plays a causal role in the acceptance of the conclusion of the argument as true. 8. The same individual entertains thoughts of the premises and then draws the conclusion. 9. Our processes of reasoning provide us with a systematically reliable way of understanding the world around us. (Reppert 2003a, p.73) (9474).

Note: Presuppositions of rational inference.

If you were to meet a person, let us call him Steve, who could argue with great cogency for every position he held, you might be inclined to consider him a very rational person. However, suppose that on all disputed questions Steve rolled dice to fix his positions permanently and then used his reasoning abilities only to generate the best-available arguments for those beliefs selected in the above-mentioned random method. I think that such a discovery would prompt you to withdraw from him the honorific title “rational” (9555).

Note: The dice pressuppose low odds of being correct. Begs the question. If his thoughts just popped into existence from nowhere, and it turned out through rigorous testing that he was always correct and could point to correct rationales, I would call him rational.

In order to keep the strands of the argument straight, I divided the argument from reason into the following six subarguments: 1. The argument from intentionality 2. The argument from truth 3. The argument from mental causation in virtue of propositional content 4. The argument from the psychological relevance of logical laws 5. The argument from the unity of consciousness 6. The argument from the reliability of our rational faculties I will analyze just three of the arguments here: the argument from conscious, propositonal intentional states; the argument from mental causation; and the argument from the psychological relevance of logical laws (9668).

a good deal of confusion in the discussion of neuroscientific discoveries and their relation to the philosophy of mind often occurs at this point. What neuroscience is often able to do is provide correlations between certain mental states and activity in certain parts of the brain. These are often taken as proof of materialism, but there is no good reason why dualists should not expect these correlations to exist. Further, it must be emphasized that correlation between mental states and physical states is not the same as identification of mental states with physical states (9916).

Note: There are ways to triangulate causal relations though.

If, as I believe, God is a rational, personal being, surely that makes it more likely that rational creatures shold arise in a world God creates because persons by nature are interested in communicating with other persons (10324).

The theist explains the existence of rationality in the universe by appealing to the inherent rationality of God (10348).

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