Evidence for God: Argument From Reason Redux

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My post on The Argument From Reason generated considerable discussion but not nearly enough understanding. I’m going to take another run at explaining those things here, since I think some of the blame is mine for not being clear enough as to what the argument was intended to do.

What The argument intends to do

This is an argument against a form of atheist materialism (or naturalism, or physicalism) that believes that nothing exists in all reality except matter and energy interacting according to natural necessity (natural law). For the remainder of this post I will use “materialism” to refer to that specific belief. There are atheists who do not accept this kind of materialism, but it’s a prominent opinion among New Atheist leaders including Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, Sam Harris (although he is agnostic with respect to consciousness), Alex Rosenberg, and Lawrence Krauss.

Indirectly it is an argument for God, since the conclusion of this argument is that there must be something going on in humans that can’t be explained the way most non-theists explain in. It’s one piece in a cumulative case for the God of the Bible, but on its own it isn’t intended to be a direct argument for God, and it isn’t intended to be an argument for the God of the Bible specifically.

The form of the argument

  1. If materialism is true, then reasoning and rationality cannot exist.
  2. Reasoning and rationality exist.
  3. Therefore materialism is false.

I need to make it clear that the argument in (1) is that reasoning and rationality cannot exist in any form, in any organism, to any degree whatsoever. The existence of any reason or rationality at all thus fulfills (2).

The materialist who agrees, in a way

I was asked in the last thread to name materialists who accept (1) and (2). (I was never actually quite clear what I was being asked by the person who made that request, but this probably comes somewhere close to it.) I am only aware of one materialist, Alex Rosenberg, who accepts (1). He concludes that reasoning is an illusion.

  1. If materialism is true, then reasoning and rationality cannot exist.
  2. Materialism is true.
  3. Therefore reasoning and rationality do not exist.

It’s an odd conclusion and a performative contradiction. A performative contradiction is a statement that may not be logically contradictory in itself, but which cannot be expressed truly. For example, “I have not been born yet,” or, “I am unable to express any thoughts in words,” or (á la Rosenberg) “I conclude that reasoning does not exist.”

Materialists mostly disagree

Other than Rosenberg, who is refreshingly honest about what materialism entails even if he is not logically consistent with it, I do not know of any materialists who accept (1). If they did, they could hardly be materialists except after the manner of Rosenberg. Therefore I see it as my responsibility in this post to show that (1) is true, and that materialists who deny (1) are wrong.

Back to the past post

I thought about replaying that argument here, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I’m still satisfied with the way I did it in that previous post. I’m hoping that clarifying my intentions and my terms here will help us continue the discussion more successfully.

This is one version of what’s known as the Argument From Reason. Lenny Esposito wrote another version as chapter seven in True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism.

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78 Responses to “ Evidence for God: Argument From Reason Redux ”

  1. It’s not that reasoning and rationality don’t exist at all, but they just are not grounded in an ultimate objective reality.

    Most theists plus Alex Rosenberg say lack of ultimate grounding means the reasoning and rationality don’t really exist at all, but most atheists say the reasoning and rationality can still exist in a way even if they aren’t objectively grounded.

  2. John, that’s not what most theists and Rosenberg say at all. It’s not about grounding. I didn’t bring that up as an issue, and I don’t recall anyone else doing so either. Maybe you meant a different word?

  3. If it’s not about grounding, then what justifies the premise that reasoning and rationality don’t exist if materialism is true? Sorry this just went totally over my head.

    Sure I read the four or five reasons you gave in the previous post, and it’s true you didn’t specifically mention the word “grounding,” but that’s how I sum up at least part of your argument. Are you saying that grounding has absolutely nothing to do with it?

  4. John Moore, I’m saying that this argument has nothing to do with grounding.

    Now, it might be that you and I are using the word “grounding” in different sense. In ethical discussions it has to do with what is the ultimate ethical reference point. In epistemology it can be some solid basis upon which all knowledge depends. That’s the way I understand it; if you’re using it differently let me know, please.

    My argument has to do with capacity or ability, not grounding. I’m saying that if reality were causally closed upon the physical, then it would be impossible for human brains/minds to conduct any rational processing operations; that our decisions could never be the result of our reasoning to a conclusion, for it would be impossible for that to be the cause or reasons, for our decisions; that we therefore literally could not reason.

  5. Hi Tom,

    “My argument has to do with capacity or ability, not grounding. I’m saying that if reality were causally closed upon the physical, then it would be impossible for human brains/minds to conduct any rational processing operations; that our decisions could never be the result of our reasoning to a conclusion, for it would be impossible for that to be the cause or reasons, for our decisions; that we therefore literally could not reason.”

    If the earth was a closed system, the second law of thermodynamics would render evolution impossible. However energy is constantly being added to the earth via the sun, so the earth is not a closed system. In the same way I think you are making an error to say the mind is part of a closed system and therefore cannot be it’s own impetus to reason. The mind (what I would call our brain) is constantly receiving input from a wider world through our senses. This input fuels our own understanding of logic and reason through our experiences and our ability to learn and remember our past experiences.

    Am I misunderstanding your argument?

    Respectfully
    Shane

  6. Shane,

    Am I misunderstanding your argument?

    Yes and the answer is directly in what you quoted.

    You write:

    I think you are making an error to say the mind is part of a closed system and therefore cannot be it’s own impetus to reason. The mind (what I would call our brain) is constantly receiving input from a wider world through our senses.

    Tom wrote:

    reality were causally closed upon the physical

    Tom is referring to the whole of reality being casually closed upon the physical, not the mind itself that is a closed system.

  7. Hi Melissa,

    “Tom wrote:

    reality were causally closed upon the physical

    Tom is referring to the whole of reality being casually closed upon the physical, not the mind itself that is a closed system.”

    Yes. The universe itself is a closed system and entropy is increasing in that system. But in that system, there are pockets where disorder is decreasing, as in the earth, because there is energy being added to it. Whilst the mind/brain might be in a closed physical system, there can still be information/causes being added to the mind/brain from elsewhere in the system. Essentially anyone’s mind is not the entirety of the closed system that is the physical universe. Therefore other parts of the physical universe can act as impetus for our rational processing operations.

    Thanks
    Shane

  8. Shane,

    Essentially anyone’s mind is not the entirety of the closed system that is the physical universe.

    And once again no one is arguing that it is. Reality being causally closed on the physical just means that everything that happens is solely due to physical causes.

  9. I think premise one would be controversial. I understand a materialist would not say that a reasoning/rationality/belief is a material structure in the brain, but rather that these are instantiated by material structures in the brain. For example numbers are concepts that are thought of by human beings by means of their brains, they are not material structures in human brains. Following on from this, some materialists are naturalists and have no problem allowing for some kind of ontological status for non-material things, like beliefs, reasons, concepts, numbers and so on.

  10. Hi Melissa,

    “And once again no one is arguing that it is. Reality being causally closed on the physical just means that everything that happens is solely due to physical causes.”

    Right. And why would this make reasoning impossible?

    Shane

  11. Shane, why would you ask that question as if it hasn’t already been addressed here, and in the original post plus 344 comments here?

    Pardon me, but when someone says a is impossible because of b, and gives multiple reasons c, d, e, f, g, … for that; and when the discussion on all these things goes on for days; and then someone involved in that discussion finally says, “Right. But why would b make a impossible,” how should we respond? How? What sort of answer were you expecting when you asked that question?

    Here’s a great way to advance a productive conversation. Wait until it’s been running for a week, and then ask the same vague, general, challenging question any completely uninformed person could have asked from the very beginning, ignoring everything that’s been said in the interim.

    If you have an informed question to help us move the discussion forward, then pardon my complaints about the one you just asked, and go ahead and ask it.

  12. GrahamH,

    I’m hardly surprised that you would think premise 1 would be controversial. It’s been the subject of controversy for a week over on this thread. And it almost makes one wonder if you might have missed this paragraph in the OP here:

    Other than Rosenberg, who is refreshingly honest about what materialism entails even if he is not logically consistent with it, I do not know of any materialists who accept (1). If they did, they could hardly be materialists except after the manner of Rosenberg. Therefore I see it as my responsibility in this post to show that (1) is true, and that materialists who deny (1) are wrong.

    I’d be interested to know what you mean by “instantiated by material structures in the brain.” Are you thinking of something like property dualism, supervenience, epiphenomenalism, brain structure/systems-mental event identity … ?

  13. Yes, Shane @#5, you’re misunderstanding my argument, but that question is a good one. I should have read it before I posted my last critical comment to you a few minutes ago.

    Thermodynamics is about energy, mostly, as I understand it, and the second law has to do with energy becoming dissipated over time without possibility of recovery. There is no solution to this except locally, where new energy is infused into a system from outside that system.

    Now in that layman’s rendition of the 2nd law you’ll see something going on that’s very different from what’s going on with the brain in a causally closed physicalist sort of reality. The easiest way to see it is to notice that energy shows up everywhere. There is energy on the earth, some of which is being put to useful purposes, bringing about local decreases in entropy associated with life. Other energy is running the tides, powering the weather, and doing other less grand things like making it hard to walk barefoot across blacktop on bright summer days. In all these cases what’s going on is very much identifiable as energy. Whether it’s doing work or simply being dissipated as heat, it’s constantly being replenished from outside the system by the very same thing: energy.

    There’s no analogy there to the situation with mind, thoughts, and brain. In order for it really to be analogous, you would have to posit some kind of external mental “stuff” outside the brain infusing mental “stuff” into the brain. Not just any stuff would do, in order for your analogy to work: it has to be mental stuff; just as what’s replacing energy on the earth is energy from outside.

    But physicalism says that what’s entering the brain is neuronal impulses. The senses do not deliver sight, sound, taste, or anything like that: they deliver electrochemical alterations over time. Obviously our brains interpret those as signals, and we see, we hear, we taste, etc. As soon as we acknowledge that, though, we recognize that what’s being input is not in the same class as what’s going on inside. So while it it’s correct to say that the brain receives input that fuels understanding, it’s an entirely different thing to say that this input fuels the raw capacity to process signals in an understanding manner, and to reason based on those signals.

    Your analogy fails because it’s not energy-in replacing energy-dissipated; it’s not A replacing A. It’s electrochemical impulses-in fueling reasoning, as you’ve presented it. It’s B helping A along. The two situations are too different to be treated as analogies.

    So your analogy misses the real question, which was (by way of reminder), if everything in all reality is purely physical, and if everything that happens, happens according to physical necessity, then how can some mental event happen because of a non-physical reason?

  14. Tom

    I think it is perfectly ok to conclude (as a reliable working hypothesis at the very least) that brain causes mind even if we do not understand how.

    Why? If the brain causes mind, then:

    1- Brain states will correlate to mental and behavioral states.
    2- Brain maturity will correlate with mental and emotional maturity.
    3- Changing the brain’s function (with drugs, electrical or magnetic stimulation, or other methods) will change mental function.
    4- Damaging to the brain will damage the mind.
    5- There is no mental phenomena in the absence of brain function.
    6- When the brain dies, mental function ends.

    We don’t need to confuse the question of “does the brain cause the mind” with “how does the brain cause the mind”.

  15. Hi Tom,

    “Yes, Shane @#5, you’re misunderstanding my argument, but that question is a good one. I should have read it before I posted my last critical comment to you a few minutes ago.”

    It’s all good.

    “In all these cases what’s going on is very much identifiable as energy. Whether it’s doing work or simply being dissipated as heat, it’s constantly being replenished from outside the system by the very same thing: energy.”

    “But physicalism says that what’s entering the brain is neuronal impulses. The senses do not deliver sight, sound, taste, or anything like that: they deliver electrochemical alterations over time. Obviously our brains interpret those as signals, and we see, we hear, we taste, etc. As soon as we acknowledge that, though, we recognize that what’s being input is not in the same class as what’s going on inside.”

    But a living thing collects that energy and converts it. Photons from the sun hit the green leaves of a plant and through photosynthesis they are converted into chemical energy in the form of carbohydrates/sugars. Animals eat the plants and convert them again and animals eat animals and convert them again. In the past plants that had absorbed the energy from the sun were buried and converted into coal and oil, another source of energy. To me this seems identical to us converting external stimuli through our senses into a electrochemical reaction which feeds into our brain and can be stored as memory. Especially as I think you agree that is exactly what happens?

    “So while it it’s correct to say that the brain receives input that fuels understanding, it’s an entirely different thing to say that this input fuels the raw capacity to process signals in an understanding manner, and to reason based on those signals.”

    I don’t understand why. Do you see a problem with my “stone learning” story? Is that not an example of learning to understand and reason through repeated “input that fuels understanding”?

    “The question remains, if everything in all reality is purely physical, and if everything that happens, happens according to physical necessity, then how can some mental event happen because of a non-physical reason?”

    Well as a materialist I don’t believe a mental event can happen because of a non-physical reason. I believe remembering happens either as a response to an external stimuli or because of the connection to another act of remembering (which I believe is an electrochemical occurrence in the brain). Can you give me an example of one?

    Cheers
    Shane

  16. Graham, haven’t we already discussed this on the other thread? This is old news. Your evidences show that mind is associated with brain, not that brain causes mind.

    If a radio causes The Beatles’ music, then

    1. Radio states will correlate to musical states.
    2. Radio quality will correlate with musical quality
    3. Changing the radio’s function (with an equalizer, a new speaker, etc.) will change the musical output.
    4. Damaging the radio will damage the musical output.
    5. There is no music in the absence of electronic function in the radio.
    6. When the radio dies, the music dies.

    We don’t need to confuse the question of “does the radio cause the music?” with “how does the radio cause the music?” We see clearly enough that radios cause music.

    (Come to think of it, based on #6 I should have used “American Pie” as my musical reference.)

  17. Tom,

    I don’t know the rules here; I put this in the original thread, #346 or something like that. I thought I’d paste it here, if that is okay? I know repetition can be cluttering, so if this is bad form please just delete it. Time limits don’t permit me to re-invent all of this right now…. 🙂

    Here’s the copy/paste:

    Melissa,

    I want to say thank you for the links you just provided. Clearly there is presupposed intentionality / reasoning hovering beneath some of the physicalist’s arguments 😉

    FYI in the Scientific American essay here we see that the part (memory) becomes destructive to the whole (reasoning) the more that the other (non-memory) parts are forced out of the process. Time pressure drives out non-memory Parts of reasoning and reasoning suffers: “…..replicated this finding in a second study, finding that under no time pressure during fluid reasoning, working memory only explained about a third of the differences in reasoning performance”. As Time Pressure is removed, other non-memory parts impact reasoning.

    Overall “…..the strength of the correlation between working memory and fluid reasoning has been all over the map, making the true relationship between working memory and fluid reasoning difficult to determine.” As working memory is unloaded, and as other non-memory contributors to reasoning are allowed to play a role, reasoning improves. Raw memory is all that is left in Fast-Intelligence and as such “reasoning” becomes a matter of mere “reflex”, which leads to error in time-pressured settings. “These contradictory findings make sense in light of Chuderski’s study: when fluid reasoning tasks have strict time limits, they are essentially tests of working memory. So you would expect more of a transfer from working memory to fluid reasoning under such conditions. But when fluid reasoning tasks have more relaxed time pressures, working memory is more weakly associated with fluid reasoning, and other cognitive mechanisms come into play….”

    Correlation between memory and reasoning gets weaker as mere reflexology (fast intelligence) fades and time allows other cognitive functions to join the party. Learning entails memory, as does reasoning, and each is different than the other, and each form of learning / reasoning (Invention? Eureka?) needs other components besides memory if they are to be maximized. Raw Memory amounts to reflexology. That is when terrible events lead to time-pressured reasoning out of sheer memory and errors in what we call judgment ensue.

    It concludes with, “Working memory and fluid reasoning: same or different? It depends. Imposing extreme time pressures on an IQ test forces people to draw almost exclusively on their limited capacity working memory capacity, whereas giving people more time to think and reason gives them more of a chance to bring to the table other cognitive functions that contribute to their intellectual brilliance.”

    An interesting comment following the article was, “Unfortunately I could not access the full research report, but following computational models, suggesting that memory and instruction logic are the same thing is nonsensical. More appropriately, it should be considered here that reasoning ability/performance is functionally constrained by limitations in working memory capacity.”

    Which of course makes perfect sense: the Whole is limited by the capacity housed within the Parts. If Part A is limited, it limits the Whole. The Whole works better when all other parts are in-play.

    This leads to the same conclusion which you make, that memory is a part of, but not the whole of, reasoning. “Other cognitive functions” which work in tangent with memory are invoked for good reason in this conclusion. We find that a brain state of X, which is Memory-X, in summation, do impact reasoning, but, of course, there are other factors for, unfortunately for those who foist (blindly) the disproven notion that [Memory = Reasoning], when the pressure is on, the memory “percentage” goes up and the ability to reason, or the reasoning “percentage” goes down.

    Without evidence it is one thing to blindly foist this business of “Reasoning is Memory” but when there is reproducible evidence that other arenas are necessary then clearly the claim that Memory houses sufficiency becomes unscientific. And worse, when the percentage of memory-reliance increases, the capacity for reasoning decreases, which simply reinforces the falsity of the identity claim. Memory is not sufficient to explain reasoning. It merely shows that the Whole is constrained by its Parts.

    This is proof that the [Memory is Reasoning] identity claim is a false identity claim. It’s just too simplistic. It’s not a reasoned, scientific identity claim, and it just assumes that correlation equals identity. One can still hold onto one’s physicalism, but one will need to change definitions and mechanistic appeals. In other words, one will have to agree with you, that the Part is not the Whole. IMO this makes sense given the two phenomena of invention and of eureka, which each simply outreach such a simplistic mechanism.

    Also, in this essay here we find that there are brain states which, though full of memory and learning, are yet distinct from the self which is found observing them. Of note, the point of intention, intact throughout all of it, cannot be found to be a brain state, and in fact observes memories from some outside vantage point.

    That I should observe the stream of memories your electrical probe induces me to watch and observe my own Self and observe the new memory of this whole event and observe that there is a disconnect between intention and these other brain states is another fascinating nuance to add to the discussion, whither it may lead.

    All of this is offered only to show the logical error of insisting that the Part is the Whole, or, to show that believing, without evidence, that correlation equals identity, is an unreasoned move. One who so believes must look “at” the memory of “using memory” and then “infer” upward into the realm of the non-remembered if one hopes to see the error of one’s way here 😉

    I stand convinced that [Memory = Reasoning] is merely an unscientific, un-reasoned, false identity claim. The necessary and sufficient will be found elsewhere.

  18. Shane,

    Well as a materialist I don’t believe a mental event can happen because of a non-physical reason. I believe remembering happens either as a response to an external stimuli or because of the connection to another act of remembering (which I believe is an electrochemical occurrence in the brain). Can you give me an example of one?

    Yes, but do you think we act because of reasons? We say we do and we think we do but that is not the case according to you. Our actions are not the result of us thinking and reasoning about the external world and our place in it but rather just another event in a continual physical flux. There is literally no difference between our actions and pebbles rolling back and forth at the bottom of a river.

  19. GrahamH, RE: #14

    In reading True Reason, I note this statement from David Wood in Chapter 8: The Explanatory Emptiness of Naturalism, p. 115:

    “If a scientist wants to know what’s in my brain, he can give me an MRI scan: if he wants to know what’s in my mind, he has to ask me.”

    I find this to be a pithy summary of the difference between the brain and the mind.

  20. GrahamH,

    I think it is perfectly ok to conclude (as a reliable working hypothesis at the very least) that brain causes mind even if we do not understand how.

    Is it reasonable to continue to conclude when reasons are given why though cannot be physical in principle. I would say no, unless you can say why the reasons are wrong.

  21. Hi Melissa,

    “Yes, but do you think we act because of reasons? We say we do and we think we do but that is not the case according to you. Our actions are not the result of us thinking and reasoning about the external world and our place in it but rather just another event in a continual physical flux. There is literally no difference between our actions and pebbles rolling back and forth at the bottom of a river.”

    Why is that not the case according to me? Why can we only reason if our mind is immaterial? Can you give me an example of mental event that happens due to a non physical reason?

    Thanks
    Shane

  22. Hi Jenna,

    “If a scientist wants to know what’s in my brain, he can give me an MRI scan: if he wants to know what’s in my mind, he has to ask me.”

    Except that it has been agreed here that memories are stored in the brain. And no memory can be seen with an MRI.

    Respectfully
    Shane

  23. Melissa

    Yes I also disagree with the claim that if mind is just neurons, then there is no reason or rationality. Meaning is all ultimately subjective, but logic is about internal consistency. 1+1=2 no matter what the substance of mind is.

    It is true as I have previously admitted that it is difficult for the materialist to show how the physical brain might possess intrinsic intentionality. But like I pointed out, the question of how is a separate thing and not fatal to materialism. The evidence otherwise supports materialism. There is much unknown about how the brain works, but there is abundant evidence that brain causes the mind as stated earlier.

    Neuroscience has overwhelming empirical data, and plausible hypotheses as to mechanism as already discussed. You may disagree as to mechanism – that’s fine – but you cannot rule out the emergent hypothesis in my opinion. Regardless – we can know that the brain is mind without knowing how.

    The upshot is that although the old mind-body problem has not been resolved, I don’t see the OP as a serious attack on materialism, or substantial help to theism, unless you are impressed with an “argument from final consequences” – the mind cannot be material because then the world won’t work the way people want it to (given their subjective intellectual preferences), or because then they cannot impose their notion of “meaning” onto the world.

  24. @ Tom #16 That looks like circular reasoning to me – the analogy assumes dualism (the Beatles vs the Radio). Perhaps that is why we are at an impasse on this point.

    No matter – we can still be friends.

  25. GrahamH,

    Have you not noticed that your “abundant evidence that the brain causes the mind” has all been strongly rebutted? Have you no interest in engaging with rebuttals. Are you determined to press on regardless of the fact that nobody here thinks your opinion has any evidence going for it, and we’ve explained why?

    It’s too late in the game for you to blithely say your position has a lot going for it. We’ve explained why it doesn’t.

  26. Shane,

    Why is that not the case according to me? Why can we only reason if our mind is immaterial?

    For the many reasons that have been already proposed in this and the other thread. Tom asked you before and I want to know the answer as well –

    Why do you ask that question as if the preceding conversation has not even occurred? As if Tom did not give reasons in the original post? If you think you have given relevant objections to those reasons, you haven’t and that has also been shown many times in the previous thread. Most of what you’ve done has been obviously false (equating reasoning with remembering) or misunderstanding what is being argued. We don’t need to provide those reasons again you can find them yourself. You are neither thinking carefully about what is being written nor thinking carefully about your own position. I don’t think you have grasped fully how much of what you assume is true is undermined by materialism.

    To clarify my previous comment when I refer to reasons, I mean things I decided to do because of a chain of reasoning, not due to unintentional, undirected physical causes.

  27. No, GrahamH, my analogy in #16 doesn’t assume dualism. It assumes the possibility of dualism, to be sure, but since the question is whether dualism is possible, that’s a fair assumption. To assume that dualism is impossible is to beg the question rather badly. That, then, would be circular reasoning–don’t you agree?

    If we are at an impasse, it’s not because I’ve been reasoning in a circle.

    Let me explain further.

    Your #14 presents a number of evidences that you think show that the brain solely causes the mind. My point in 16 is that those kinds of evidences are not necessarily evidences of sole causation. They could be evidences of partial causation; they could be evidences of necessary yet not sufficient causes (which implies something like partial causation); they could be evidences of transmission rather than causation.

    That means, in other words, that your evidences do not do the work that you say they do. They are evidences that the brain is involved in the mind, but not the brain solely explains the mind.

  28. Melissa,

    Shane already committed earlier with me to Pan-Psychosis via deterministic means/ends in physicalism’s methodology of “reason” as Mind misrepresents all of reality, and so on.

    We already know that [Memory = Reasoning] doesn’t measure up.

    We already know he has conceded that intentionality is illusion.

    You seem surprised at his perpetual equivocation?

    Why?

    Haven’t you figured it out yet?

  29. Illusions and Holograms.

    That is the ontologically necessary end of regress for Atheism’s various sentences. The alternative of Intentionality, of Will is unthinkable.

  30. Hi Melissa,

    “To clarify my previous comment when I refer to reasons, I mean things I decided to do because of a chain of reasoning, not due to unintentional, undirected physical causes.”

    Can you please give me an example.

    Thanks
    Shane

  31. Shane,

    Can you please give me an example.

    Look Shane, I know what your game is. If I point to my writing this comment because I read your comment, reasoned that it was illogical and irrational, then typed this comment, you are going to tell us all some just so story that attempts to reduce it to purely physical causes. Fine if you want to do that but then you are just agreeing that if materialism is true then reasoning doesn’t exist, it’s all just stones rolling on the riverbed, except that it is not even that because it is our interest that picks out the stones from the continual flux of particles and energy. The incoherence runs deep through materialism. It is, as Dennett descibed it. the universal acid, but it doesn’t stop at religion as Dennett would arbitrarily have it. No, it eats away the self, causation, science and more itself until you are left with an incoherent mess.

    Do you understand how you offering reasons why reasoning doesn’t exist is a contradiction?

  32. scblhrm,

    Illusions and Holograms.

    That is the ontologically necessary end of regress for Atheism’s various sentences. The alternative of Intentionality, of Will is unthinkable.

    Maybe it’s like kids and vegetables and they need a certain number of exposures to the problems with their worldview before they will start to take it seriously.

  33. Hi Melissa,

    “Look Shane, I know what your game is. If I point to my writing this comment because I read your comment, reasoned that it was illogical and irrational, then typed this comment, you are going to tell us all some just so story that attempts to reduce it to purely physical causes.”

    If you think I am playing a game you are entirely incorrect. I didn’t ask the question thinking you would be unable to answer it. I genuinely want an example because it seems like it would settle the argument. Tom’s OP could have been “Reasoning is immaterial because [insert example of it that is not predicated by a physical cause]. If reasoning is immaterial then there is a non physical aspect to the universe. Therefore materialism is incorrect.” Now why aren’t examples of mental states with no physical causes all that people are putting forward to defend this position? It seems to me that is all you need to win the argument.

    Again, this is not me playing games to get to this position. If this was a preconceived notion it would have been my first response. I am posting it now, because it is occurring to me now. This idea has developed in my mind through the conversation we have had. Specifically it’s a direct response to Tom saying

    “So your analogy misses the real question, which was (by way of reminder), if everything in all reality is purely physical, and if everything that happens, happens according to physical necessity, then how can some mental event happen because of a non-physical reason?

    Tom asks the question as though it is the end of the argument. And if there is an example it quite possibly is. So let’s just concentrate on that. Can you provide an example?

    Sincerely
    Shane

  34. Do you want an example of a mental state with no physical cause?

    Then fill in this blank.

    1. No planet is made of hockey pucks.
    2. Glirg is made of hockey pucks.
    3. Glirg is not a _______ .

    Now, see this post and the prior one to know why that’s an example.

    By the way: I could have used this for an example, too: consider the mental state that preceded the writing of this.

    What you want, Shane, isn’t an example, because if we’re right, then every free and rational thought is an example. Every free and irrational thought is an example. Every non-free and rational thought is an example. (I’m not so sure of non-free irrational thoughts.)

    What you want is to keep believing what you want to believe even though it’s been roundly refuted.

  35. Memory clearly is not Reason.

    That was an illusion of Shane’s.

    While Tom is free to believe otherwise, Shane is not.

    If Shane breaks free of one illusion it will be
    a lateral move to another illusion in a perpetual flux of cascading quarks.

    On his own concession.

    Yet he chooses. Reasons. All the while assuring us he never chooses, never reasons, and all the while using (invalid) reasons to persuade, and that intentionally.

    “Universal Acid”?

    Absolutely.

  36. Hi Tom,

    “What you want is to keep believing what you want to believe even though it’s been roundly refuted.”

    No, I don’t. What I want is to know the truth.

    “Do you want an example of a mental state with no physical cause?

    Then fill in this blank.

    1. No planet is made of hockey pucks.
    2. Glirg is made of hockey pucks.
    3. Glirg is not a _______ .”

    Filling in the blank is dependent on me reading your statements which is a physical cause. The process of filling in the blank is dependent on my remembrance of how a Syllogism works, and remembering is a physical act.

    “By the way: I could have used this for an example, too: consider the mental state that preceded the writing of this.”

    My reply that you refer to is also responding to something I have read.

    “What you want, Shane, isn’t an example, because if we’re right, then every free and rational thought is an example. Every free and irrational thought is an example. Every non-free and rational thought is an example.”

    I’m not sure that a non-free and rational thought would be an example. But either of the two free ones should be, and a free and irrational thought would seem to be the most ideal example, but probably the hardest to demonstrate.

    Also, what if you are wrong? Or how would the world be different if I’m right and reasoning (or the illusion of reasoning?) was a physical thing that occurred only in the physical brain?

    Maybe I’m too dumb to understand the point your making, but to me it really feels like we’re headed to the same conclusion as the morality argument. As in you cannot conclusively disprove either point of view. If that’s the case I have no problem with ending the discussion here.

    Respectfully
    Shane

  37. Shane,

    Filling in the blank is dependent on me reading your statements which is a physical cause. The process of filling in the blank is dependent on my remembrance of how a Syllogism works, and remembering is a physical act.

    And my prediction was true. Filling the blank requires actually making rational inferences not just remembering how a syllogism works. Since the equation reasoning = rembering has been roundly refuted ( most thoroughly by scblhrm) why are you still trotting out these unthinking responses. Tom is not arguing that reasoning happens in a vacuum with no input from our sense experience. Misreading seems to be a thing with you.

    Also, what if you are wrong? Or how would the world be different if I’m right and reasoning (or the illusion of reasoning?) was a physical thing that occurred only in the physical brain?

    You still don’t get it do you? The argument is that reasoning cannot in principle be a physical process. You need to refute the actual arguments, not just give us counterfactuals. The fact that we do reason, that we do grasp concepts is then evidence that materialism is false. The only reason why you would deny that we really do reason is because of a prior commitment to naturalism. You are ignoring the very obvious evidence that we do reason because it doesn’t fit with materialism and the denial is absurd.

    Resorting to an illusion doesn’t help you because the very idea of an illusion, which is a type of misrepresentation, presupposes meaning and intentionality.

  38. @GrahamH:

    Meaning is all ultimately subjective, but logic is about internal consistency. 1+1=2 no matter what the substance of mind is.

    The second sentence is true, but it is not a sentence *you* can make. And *if* you do indeed subscribe to it, perhaps unaware of what it implies, then you have just refuted materialism all by yourself.

    The first sentence is simply meaningless; as if “internal consistency” or “logic” means anything (heh) above and apart everything else that is supposed to be chucked out as “ultimately subjective”.

  39. But like I pointed out, the question of how is a separate thing and not fatal to materialism.

    I agree, GrahamH, that’s why we aren’t discussing ‘how’, we are discussing ‘what’. This is what kills off materialism.

    As an aside, this comment reminds me of the many conversations with skeptics who insist that ‘how’ questions are the most important when it comes to God. In other words, many skeptics insist that if you cannot explain how miracles occur then that becomes fatal to Christianity. I’m not attributing this to GrahamH.

  40. The process of filling in the blank is dependent on my remembrance of how a Syllogism works, and remembering is a physical act.

    And when the physical process selects the memory, it is guaranteed to result in the truth – even if it’s actually not true.

  41. Melissa,

    “….why are you still trotting out these unthinking responses……”

    Perpetual semantic dances of equivocation on definition. Memory is Reason is Memory is Reason.

    Science is of no concern to Shane.

    I think he has proven that.

    His goal is not information, but only everlasting escape hatches into illusions and semantic equivocation, and when all else fails, when pressed for a commitment either to presupposition or to definition, a dive into the shadows of mereological nihilism will be forthcoming.

    It’s not easy to have a fruitful dialogue with someone like Shane.

    I admire your attempt.

    I’d like to talk with him.

    But I don’t exist.

    Not really.

    I’m not really here.

    There is no here.

    There is no I.

  42. SteveK,

    Physical fluxes don’t “select”. They ricochet and reverberate. Memories don’t “select” either. How could they?

    Reason does select.

    Hence you are perfectly correct.

  43. Hi Melissa,

    “And my prediction was true.”

    Does pointing out a flaw in statement before you give it negate the flaw in any way?
    Is it wrong/rude of me to point out the flaw, even though you correctly predicted I would do that?
    And most importantly, do you agree that the mental state I was taken to when answering Tom was caused by the physicality of me reading?

    Now you might be trying to say that somewhere in the process I was using my non physical mind to reason because of some other non physical action of my mind and this then proves that my mind is non physical. I’m sure you agree that this is faulty reasoning.

    If there can be no mental state not caused by a physical process can we agree that Tom’s question does not move forward the argument for the non physicality of the mind?

    “Since the equation reasoning = rembering has been roundly refuted ( most thoroughly by scblhrm)”

    The article s/he linked to shows that there is correlation between the amount of time available to make decisions and the reliance of using working memory to make those decisions as opposed to being able to reason. It makes no qualitative statement about what reasoning is at all. The conclusion “when the percentage of memory-reliance increases, the capacity for reasoning decreases, which simply reinforces the falsity of the identity claim (that reasoning is memory)” is not one you can reach from the data provided. We know there is a difference between short term memory and long term memory but no study that showed time constraints forced reliance on one of these types of memory more than the other could have any bearing on whether they were both types of memory. I cannot walk and run at the same time but to suggest that means they are in no way similar is incorrect.

    Lightbulb moment here. I’m not trying to suggest that all memory/reasoning is the one thing. I’m sure you agree that short term and long term memory are different and separate things, but they do operate on a very similar process, that being storage of “information” and retrieval of same. Add to that the ability to use language. All possible because we have stored that information and can retrieve it. With respect to the study above, would you find it surprising if people under time constraints when making decisions also had a diminished capacity to talk? As in my example of learning about “a stone” I think that logic and reason is another thing we learn and store in memory.

    “Penfield goes on to note that “There is no place in the cerebral cortex where electrical stimulation will cause a patient . . . to decide”

    This is an interesting argument from the second blog post scblhrm linked to. I think it is more accurate to say that “Penfield (and possibly mankind) did not know of a place in the cerebral cortex …” I would think discovery of the ability to do that would be a decent argument against dualism. But the fact that we haven’t found it yet is not an argument for dualism.

    “You still don’t get it do you?”

    Apparently not.

    “The argument is that reasoning cannot in principle be a physical process.”

    Because of the following argument (as best I understand it) … I am going to try different rebuttal but would enjoy an real world examples you can come up with to support the claims.

    1. Rational thoughts cannot be created through entirely physical processes because:
    a. Physical things can not be “about” other physical things.

    Memories are physical things.
    Memories are about other physical things.
    Physical things can therefore be ‘about’ other physical things.

    b. Physical things can not be true or false.

    Memories that reflect reality are physical things.
    Memories that reflect reality can be true or false.
    Physical things can be true or false.

    c. There are clear differences between rational inferences and physical processes.

    This is not evidence against a connection. There are clear differences between the laws of physics at the atomic level and the macro level but the second relies entirely on the first.

    d. There is no known mechanism whereby mere physical processes could reliably produce truth-related outputs.

    Even if this was true it is not the same as evidence that physical processes can’t produce truth-related outputs.
    I would also say that this seems to be a restating/combining of the arguments in 1 and 2. If my examples prove them wrong, then this is also refuted.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  44. Shane,

    Does pointing out a flaw in statement before you give it negate the flaw in any way?

    My prediction was that you would post another just-so story as an irrelevant objection which you did.

    And most importantly, do you agree that the mental state I was taken to when answering Tom was caused by the physicality of me reading?

    Your reading it was one of the physical events preceding the chain of events leading up to your mental state. That’s all. Between you reading it and a final conclusion there was reasoning.

    If there can be no mental state not caused by a physical process can we agree that Tom’s question does not move forward the argument for the non physicality of the mind?

    The argument is not in the example but rather in the in principle demonstrations that reasoning cannot be physical. We actually don’t need to move the argument forward. It’s been there all the time not being dealt with by you.

    Lightbulb moment here. I’m not trying to suggest that all memory/reasoning is the one thing.

    When you have dealt with every objection that has been raised re the reasoning = remembering claim then you may continue to suggest it as a serious position for consideration, until then I will just direct you to look back at the thread and remind you that the fact that we can learn to reason is not disputed.Anyway the claim does not get you where you need to be anyway so it’s kind of irrelevant.

    1. Rational thoughts cannot be created through entirely physical processes because:
    a. Physical things can not be “about” other physical things.

    Memories are physical things.
    Memories are about other physical things.
    Physical things can therefore be ‘about’ other physical things.

    You are begging the question that memories in the form of thoughts about things are physical. I think a bit of background might be in order because I don’t think you really understand what is entailed by materialism.

    Materialism involves (among other things) the denial of natural teleology. This means that meaning and purpose are not intrinsic to natural things and therefore no physical thing points beyond itself to something else. The heart is not for pumping blood, the acorn does not point beyond itself to the oak tree, nor is any physical thing necessarily directed towards anything other thing.

    To be about something or represent something is just for something to point beyond itself to something else.

    You have correctly stated that our memories are about things, they point beyond themselves to the event that we are remembering.

    Putting all that together.

    1. If materialism is true nothing points beyond itself.
    2. Thoughts (or memories) are about things.
    3. For something to be about something is to point beyond itself to something else.
    4. Materialism is false.

    Memories that reflect reality are physical things.
    Memories that reflect reality can be true or false.
    Physical things can be true or false.

    To reflect reality is this instance just means to represent reality accurately therefore it presupposes intentionality and falls to the problems explained above. Also you again beg the question with your statement that memories are physical things.

    As you can see c and d are not part of the argument, but I will just comment on this:

    This is not evidence against a connection. There are clear differences between the laws of physics at the atomic level and the macro level but the second relies entirely on the first.

    There is no science to show this is true. It is a conclusion that follows only from the assumption that reductionism is true.

  45. Tom

    I think your rebuttal is not very strong at all, and I think the evidence I have presented is more potent than you say. Your Beatles vs Radio analogy demonstrates what I see is your mistake in this. You assume the mind (the Beatles song) is immune from deterioration of its integrity and it is failure of the Brain (Radio) that occurs. But that is not what the evidences in16 shows.

    In your analogy the medium and transmission of the song may deteriorate through the deterioration of the radio, but we can still tell it is the same Beatles song (until the radio deteriorates that much to conceal the song entirely). 16 shows as the Brain (radio) deteriorates, so does the integrity of the Mind (Beatles song). It is obvious even through distorted transmission to tell when the Beatles can not sing in tune, play in time and miss their notes etc.

    Your basic point is that the material brain cannot cause mental activity because it is immaterial. I don’t think you have established that premise positively as far as I can tell.

    One clear connection between the material brain causing immaterial thoughts and feelings is information. The brain can store, receive, and process information. Descriptions of abstract meaning to patterns in that information processing occurs. That does not mean that the abstract meaning is separate from the pattern of information. Information is material and abstract concepts are not.

    You seem to be treating consciousness as if it is this immaterial thing that exists. There is no argument or evidence that requires that consciousness is any more than an abstract description of the ongoing activity of the brain.

    You may rightly point out that my evidences are mere correlation and this does not prove causation. But there are multiple independent correlations all pointing toward the same causal relationship. Many scientific and medical findings are built reliably on this method.

    It seems a reliable fact that altering brain function alters consciousness and there is no evidence of consciousness existing outside the context of brain function. To put it bluntly, there is one hypothesis that is consistent with all the evidence: brain function causes consciousness.

  46. Graham,

    Where have I assumed that the mind is free from deterioration? I don’t believe that at all! I’d go so far as to say the mind can be deeply degraded.

    The point of the radio analogy is simply this: the presence and influence of a material object involved in a certain output is insufficient proof that the material object is the sole cause of that output. Your evidences in 14 are (everyone agrees!) confirmation that the brain is involved in the output of mental processes in the world. They are not enough to conclude that the brain is the sole cause of the mind.

    Your evidences are consistent with the brain causing the mind, but they are also consistent with the brain being the point of interface through which immaterial mind connects to material reality. They are consistent with two hypotheses, not one. Since your evidences in 14 are consistent with more than one explanation, they demonstrate neither your explanation nor mine.

  47. And really, GrahamH, you should know better than this:

    You seem to be treating consciousness as if it is this immaterial thing that exists. There is no argument or evidence that requires that consciousness is any more than an abstract description of the ongoing activity of the brain.

    First, I haven’t gotten to the topic consciousness yet. This article is about reason, which is another topic altogether.

    Second, if you’re going to make a definite claim like, “there is no argument or evidence that … ” you really ought to back it up with something other than your say-so. You ought to interact with the arguments and evidence that people bring forth.

    But not now; you’ve jumped the gun by objecting to a point I haven’t made yet.

  48. Hi Melissa,

    “Between you reading it and a final conclusion there was reasoning.”

    “The argument is not in the example but rather in the in principle demonstrations that reasoning cannot be physical. We actually don’t need to move the argument forward. It’s been there all the time not being dealt with by you.”

    Are you saying that

    “… if everything in all reality is purely physical, and if everything that happens, happens according to physical necessity, then how can some mental event happen because of a non-physical reason?”

    is the same as the argument Tom made in the OP?

    “Rational thoughts cannot be created through entirely physical processes because of a, b, c and d.”

    Because they are not. His later question asserts that mental events happen for non physical reason. The OP is attempting to show that mental events cannot happen for purely physical reasons. Essentially he is shifting the burden of proof in the later question from him to me.

    This is why I asked for an example of a mental event happening for non physical reasons, because such an example would probably prove his case that reasoning is non physical. To assert that it is non physical and therefore proves the theory of it being non physical does not help the argument.

    “because I don’t think you really understand what is entailed by materialism.”

    It would not surprise me.

    “Materialism involves (among other things) the denial of natural teleology. ”

    Why is that? You used it as an answer on the other thread. I have not replied there because I don’t understand why they are incompatible and my brief searches for an explanation have not helped me as yet.

    Thanks, as always.
    Shane

  49. Shane,

    Are you saying that

    “… if everything in all reality is purely physical, and if everything that happens, happens according to physical necessity, then how can some mental event happen because of a non-physical reason?”

    No. I’m saying that if materialism is true we don’t reason and Tom in the OP gave some of the reasons (arguments) why this is true.

    The OP is attempting to show that mental events cannot happen for purely physical reasons. Essentially he is shifting the burden of proof in the later question from him to me.

    This is why I asked for an example of a mental event happening for non physical reasons, because such an example would probably prove his case that reasoning is non physical. To assert that it is non physical and therefore proves the theory of it being non physical does not help the argument.

    No he is not shifting the burden of proof to you. He has already shown why reasoning cannot be physical in the OP. You asked for a example that was not caused by the physical and he offered an instance of reasoning. If Tom’s arguments in the OP work then you reasoning is an example of an event not caused by the physical. What you need to do is to address the reasons he gives in the OP and not go off into irrelevant tangents.

    Why is that? You used it as an answer on the other thread. I have not replied there because I don’t understand why they are incompatible and my brief searches for an explanation have not helped me as yet.

    Materialism holds that everything is just particles in motion. You yourself seem to buy into that assumption – that everything is in principle reducible to physics even if it is not practically possible. Science in general ignores any teleological aspects of reality, therefore if science is supposed to be able to describe all reality teleology does not exist. Since the ancient Greeks materialism has been contrasted with teleological understandings of nature.

  50. Hi Melissa,

    “Materialism holds that everything is just particles in motion. You yourself seem to buy into that assumption – that everything is in principle reducible to physics even if it is not practically possible. Science in general ignores any teleological aspects of reality, therefore if science is supposed to be able to describe all reality teleology does not exist.”

    How does this specifically relate to

    “This means that meaning and purpose are not intrinsic to natural things and therefore no physical thing points beyond itself to something else. The heart is not for pumping blood, the acorn does not point beyond itself to the oak tree,

    I don’t understand why Materialism means the heart is not for pumping blood.

    Or where is the contradiction in believing that things happen for purely physical reasons AND believing that the heart evolved to pump blood.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  51. Shane,

    I don’t understand why Materialism means the heart is not for pumping blood.

    Or where is the contradiction in believing that things happen for purely physical reasons AND believing that the heart evolved to pump blood.

    That depends on how you define the physical. If it is defined as purposeless, meaningless particles in motion then the concept heart and the purpose (for pumping blood) do not exist objectively. They only exist as projections of the mind onto material things. You might have noticed materialists referring to apparent purpose in nature, that ‘s what they mean. Now if you are going to try to explain the mind in terms of the brain there is no where else to locate meaning and purpose and so the explanation will necessarily be an elimination of meaning and purpose.

  52. Richard Swinburne on the mind/brain issue.

    I like what he said at the beginning, that the first-person experience has a way of knowing about a mental event that an outsider does not. If the brain is the mind then everyone would have access to the exact same way of knowing.

  53. Hi Melissa,

    “That depends on how you define the physical.”

    In the course of this thread doesn’t it depend on how Materialists define physical? Or how Tom does?

    “If it is defined as purposeless, meaningless particles in motion then the concept heart and the purpose (for pumping blood) do not exist objectively. They only exist as projections of the mind onto material things.”

    You mean the labels are man made and as such meaningless? The things we have labelled do exist and do fulfil a function no matter what label.

    “Now if you are going to try to explain the mind in terms of the brain there is no where else to locate meaning and purpose and so the explanation will necessarily be an elimination of meaning and purpose.”

    Is this because it’s a paradox to think about the meaning and purpose of the organ doing the actual thinking? I don’t see why this is, but can’t you get around the paradox by examining someone else’s brain/mind with your own?

    Sincerely
    Shane

  54. Hi SteveK,

    “I like what he said at the beginning, that the first-person experience has a way of knowing about a mental event that an outsider does not. If the brain is the mind then everyone would have access to the exact same way of knowing.

    This would be true with sufficiently advanced technology capable of reading all the nuances of the brain. Perhaps this will be possible in the future.

    Cheers
    Shane

  55. This would be true with sufficiently advanced technology capable of reading all the nuances of the brain.

    Not really. All that technology would never allow an outsider to have the *same* first-person experience – which is knowledge.

  56. Shane,

    In the course of this thread doesn’t it depend on how Materialists define physical? Or how Tom does?

    How materialists define the physical and they define it is being devoid of teleology.

    You mean the labels are man made and as such meaningless? The things we have labelled do exist and do fulfil a function no matter what label.

    There are particular things that we label hearts but the concept heart is a universal and universals do not exist according to the materialist.

    Is this because it’s a paradox to think about the meaning and purpose of the organ doing the actual thinking?

    No it’s not a paradox but an impossibility caused by the materialists own stipulations about what counts as real. For the purposes of science our experience of the world is reduced to those aspects that are quantifiable. It is an abstraction that ignores first-person experience, purposes, meaning etc, initially all of these were relocated to the mind. It is for this reason that the mind will not similarly explained by science – it’s the place where everything that can’t be reduced has been parked.

  57. Shane

    SteveK’s reference captures the odd affair of what was (in part anyway) discussed in this essay here. We find that there are brain states which, though full of memory and learning, are yet distinct from the self which is found observing them. Of note, the point of intention, intact throughout all of it, cannot be found to be a brain state, and in fact observes memories from some outside vantage point. That I should observe the stream of memories your electrical probe (physically) induces me to watch and observe my own Self and observe the new memory of this whole event and observe that there is a disconnect between “me / my intention” and these other brain states you are physically inducing is evidence weighted against raw physicalism.

  58. Hi schblrm,

    “We find that there are brain states which, though full of memory and learning, are yet distinct from the self which is found observing them. ”

    It seems to me this is simply a distinction between the present and the past. I am aware of the difference between sitting here typing this reply, and remembering doing the same thing yesterday. I can remember yesterday and experience now simultaneously, and it doesn’t represent evidence against physicalism at all.

    Thanks
    Shane

  59. Hi Melissa,

    “There are particular things that we label hearts but the concept heart is a universal and universals do not exist according to the materialist.”

    Why?

    “It is an abstraction that ignores first-person experience, purposes, meaning etc, initially all of these were relocated to the mind. It is for this reason that the mind will not similarly explained by science – it’s the place where everything that can’t be reduced has been parked.

    I don’t understand why locating these in the mind excludes the possibility of explaining it. And I’m not sure what you mean by “can’t be reduced”?

    Thanks
    Shane

  60. Shane,

    Universals are not physical. The concept is not reducible to any particular instance. If your why question is why do materialists deny they exist, I don’t know, I think it’s an absurd position to take.

    I don’t understand why locating these in the mind excludes the possibility of explaining it. And I’m not sure what you mean by “can’t be reduced”?

    Let me use an example that is a riff on one the Feser uses but is probably more familiar to us. Let’s say you’ve got company coming and so you run around the house picking up all the odds and ends that are out of place and you throw them in the hall cupboard. The house is nice and tidy for company. Now let’s consider that you want to tidy the house completely. You either have to put the things in the cupboard in their rightful places in the house or you throw them in the bin.

    So imagine the things lying around the house are first person experience, purpose and meaning, abstract objects, the self etc. For the purposes of science we stuff them in the cupboard, which in this case is the mind. The house looks tidy – science does give us good and accurate explanations but they are not exhaustive. There are lots of things left in the mind. If you want to explain those things you either need a philosophy that puts those things back in their rightful places or you throw them out. The thing you should keep in mind is that a realism re purpose and meaning makes science more intelligible not less.

  61. Shane,

    And this:

    That I should observe the stream of memories your electrical probe (physically) induces me to watch and observe my own Self and observe the new memory of this whole event and observe that there is a disconnect between “me / my intention” and these other brain states you are physically inducing is evidence weighted against raw physicalism.

    The physical is not “non-entity” to the Self, for, God makes Man (the whole of him) out of dirt and…… This is akin to your logical error of assuming Memory = Reasoning, that the Part is the Whole, when there is good evidence, reproducible evidence, that such is not the case (at best) or that such is probably not the case (at worst)…… that is, given the evidence. These findings of Part/Whole necessitates the interplay of the Physical, which is perfectly coherent with Scripture. And the evidence deduced from the electrical probe stuck in my brain and from Memory/Reason is also coherent with Scripture, for the same reason.

  62. Hi Melissa,

    Thanks for the analogy … but it hasn’t helped me. It seems that everything that you leave in the house; the dining room set, the lounge chairs, the coffee table, etc, are physical things obeying physical laws. And the things in the hall cupboard are things that aren’t, but they are arbitrarily chosen. “Meaning”, for example, I would suggest is an imaginary thing, which is quite different to my “first person experience”, which is obviously real and made up of memories of my interactions with the rest of the furniture in the house (physical things obeying physical laws).

    Thanks
    Shane

  63. Shane,

    It seems that everything that you leave in the house; the dining room set, the lounge chairs, the coffee table, etc, are physical things obeying physical laws.

    Not quite which is why analogies will only take you so far. What’s left in the house are abstractions. A lounge chair entails a thing with the purpose of sitting on and a form to suit that purpose and both of those are in the cupboard.

    And the things in the hall cupboard are things that aren’t, but they are arbitrarily chosen. “Meaning”, for example, I would suggest is an imaginary thing, which is quite different to my “first person experience”, which is obviously real and made up of memories of my interactions with the rest of the furniture in the house (physical things obeying physical laws).

    If the things in the hall cupboard are arbitrarily chosen, that’s hardly my fault … although as I’ve said numerous times the things in the hall cupboard are those aspects of material things that cannot be reduced to quantitative properties.

    You are not quite getting what is meant by meaning, I think you are reducing it down to what someone values. If meaning is an imaginary thing then I could never be wrong about what my experience of the world means. If I claim a cat is a type of tree I am not wrong in any objective sense, I’ve just violated an imaginary labelling scheme.

    May I suggest you get your hands on a copy of Feser’s “The Last Superstition”. I gives a introduction to a lot of these concepts.

  64. Tom

    You say my evidences “are not enough to conclude that the brain is the sole cause of the mind.” And that “they are also consistent with the brain being the point of interface through which immaterial mind connects to material reality”. No they are not, or more specifically an immaterial mind (or realm) is absolutely not required, and nor have you presented any evidence (convincing to me) they are or that they exist.

    1) The “brain causes mind” hypothesis has held up to all scientific observations. Every correlation predicted from this hypothesis has been observed, and there is no established evidence that is incompatible with this hypothesis.

    2) The brain is sufficient to explain the mind, meaning that we do not require something other than or more than the brain to explain the phenomenon of mind.

    So while some form of dualism cannot be excluded on philosophical grounds, dualism is completely unnecessary.

  65. GrahamH,

    Reasoning as defined here has not held up to any physical observation which you or anyone else has provided in this thread. Unless you mean thoughts being unintentional. You have not provided any evidence of any physical system demonstrating intentionality. As such, reasoning is non-entity. That is, unless you mean to commit to the illusion of intentionality, and thereby the illusion of intentional thinking. If it’s all illusion, then so be it, but this is not what we mean by the verb “reason-ing“.

    So while the illusion of intentional thinking cannot be excluded by you on any grounds, dualism remains wholly necessary.

  66. . That is, unless you mean to commit to the illusion of intentionality, and thereby the illusion of intentional thinking. If it’s all illusion, then so be it, but this is not what we mean by the verb “reason-ing“.

    Except that even illusion presupposes meaning and intentionality.

  67. Yes I am happy to admit (and have done so) that intentionality and causation are fertile areas of investigation. My point is I see no compelling argument why this is evidence for God (directly or indirectly), unless you are persuaded by the “here is an area science, materialism or naturalism can not adequately explain a phenomena, therefor insert God” style of argument which makes the situation more complicated and poses greater problems, not least of which the dualist interface.

    For example, Nancey Murphy and Warren Brown’s Did My Neurons Make Me Do It? outlined a clear explanation of reason without resorting to any obscure dualisms or simplistic reductionisms. They then introduce notions of freedom and responsibility and free will which is a separate topic.

    It is a well researched explanation on the latest thinking about meaning, reference, causation, reductionism, representation and rationality. It is presented in an empirically-based and philosophically-informed context. Whether a theist finds it convincing is another matter, given how much further work is required, but it’s a credible theory of how strictly physical beings can have causally effective and rational minds. No need to “slot in God”.

  68. The end of regress in all physical systems is deterministic indifference void of intentionality.

    Every physical system we look at confirms this.

    Every time.

    It is a well researched explanation on the latest thinking about meaning, reference, causation, redu ctionism, representation and rationality that all physical systems comprising every one of these just are the afore mentioned physical systems. It is presented in empirically-based and philosophically-informed contexts. Whether an atheist finds it convincing is another matter, given how much further work is required to convince him that he can believe the mammoth anthology that is Physics, but it’s a credible, evidence based fact of how strictly physical things just do not have causally effective and rational minds. No need to “slot in the illusion of intentional thinking” and thereby attempt to borrow from some other ontological end of regress.

  69. Melissa,

    Yes, sorry about using the illusion-thing again. It most certainly does presuppose meaning and intentionality, but, a presupposition which runs contrary to every bit of physics is the best the materialist has to work with………

  70. scblrm

    My point boils down to this: if we don’t have a philosophical account and/or a scientific explanation of the problem of “aboutness” in philosophy of mind; I would say that this appears true, but so what?

  71. GrahamH,

    It seems unreasonable to hold out for physical systems / bags of quarks to act volitionally. Physics just makes such a belief a leap of irrational faith for such an odd kind of “faith” must contradict every bit of physics. My heart does not pump with volition. Not the sort of volition we mean anyway. The problem with unintentional, un-volitional thinking is the death of reason, and, the problem with un-volitional us is the death of love. Void of Logic and Love, I do not recognize the Self and the Other and the Us one would be supposedly explaining. Because one would not be explaining any of it.

  72. Hi scblhrm

    Indeed that is a thought provoking comment. I can’t help thinking we do not have at this time some absolute understanding (or even agreed definition) of reason, causality and even love. Our understanding of these things, along with future discoveries of the brain and the mind, may need to be refined or even redefined. I see no reason or basis behind an assumption that we have an entitlement to the absolute understanding of such things right now. No harm exploring though.

  73. GH,

    I take it, then, you are holding out for collections of quarks to act volitionally?

    Or, it’s “enough” that the “illusion” of volitional thinking is so thoroughly convincing that it’s sort of okay that we don’t really “reason”?

    I’m not sure the materialist has anything to hold out for — remember I am defining reasoning as necessarily housing – in part – volitional thinking. That is why I say there cannot be any such reality to hold out for.

    As in:

    Materialism:

    Brute Fact:

    A = Deterministic Indifference

    Z = Deterministic Indifference

    [Actuality] = [A – (Deterministic / Indifferent Effervescing Fragments of Psychic Phosphorescence) – Z]

  74. I am afraid you can’t say that with such certainty. Nor can it be supposed all explanations involving a strictly material basis need be reductionistic. There are lots of non-reductive materialists who argue that new properties of mind (e.g., intentionality) arise when physical elements are organised in a certain way with proper relationships to external conditions. A perfectly viable working hypothesis in my opinion that is in accord with the evidences of the brain. These arguments may not be convincing to you, but certainly to me seem more plausible and simple than invoking the supernatural.

  75. Yes, you are holding out for bags of quarks to behave with volitionality as their end of regress, free of nature.

  76. GH,

    Yes, you are holding out for bags of quarks to behave with volitionality as their end of regress, to be – at bottom – free of nature, free of themselves.