Afterall.net

Consider all. Test All. Hold on to the good.

Illogic Primer Quotes Clippings Books and Bibliography Paper Trails Links Film

Metaphysics

Metaphysics

Thomas Nagel on Cosmic Authority

Go

My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind. Darwin enable modern secular culture to heave a great collective sigh of relief, by apparently providing a way to eliminate purpose, meaning, and desiring as fundamental features of the world. Instead they become epiphenomena, generated incidentally by a process that can be entirely explained by the operation of the nonteleogical laws of physics on the material of which we and our environments are all composed. There might still be thought to be a religious threat in the existence of the laws of physics themselves, and indeed the existence of anything at all, but it seems to be less alarming to most atheists.

Naturalism and Libertarian Agency

Go While most philosophers agree that libertarian agency and naturalism are incompatible, few attempts have been offered to spell out in some detail just why this is the case. My purpose in this article is to fill this gap in the literature by expanding on and clarifying the connection between naturalism as it is widely understood today and the rejection of libertarian agency. To accomplish this end I begin by clarifying different forms of libertarian agency and identify the key philosophical components that constitute libertarian agency per se. Second, three different aspects of contemporary scientific naturalism are analyzed and the relations among them clarified: the naturalist epistemic attitude, etiology, and ontology. This is followed by a presentation of six arguments for the claim that libertarian agency should be rejected by advocates of scientific naturalism. Finally, I criticize a recent attempt by Randolf Clarke to reconcile libertarian agency and scientific naturalism. ~ Abstract

Naturalism, Christianity, and the Human Person

Go

What is the nature of the human person? A mere conglomeration of matter that consists of different levels of brain state or a being that is also endowed with a soul? In this final part of the series on Naturalism, Dr. J. P. Moreland exposes the philosophical inadequacies of physicalism and explains why the Christian message is more convincing.

Is the Human Person a Substance or a Property-thing?

Go

In an era where the defence of human rights is prominent, a fundamental question is who counts as a human person and, more specifically, when does human personhood begin and end? The answer to the question at both ends of the spectrum requires metaphysical reflection in three areas: 1. What is a substance and what is a property-thing?; 2. What does it mean to be a human being?; and 3. What does it mean to be a human person? In this paper, we will address these questions in order to lay a metaphysical foundation for ethical decision-making concerning human rights at the edges of life. While the implications of this analysis extend to a variety of ethical issues, we will limit our application to the ontological status of the unborn, and argue that zygotes, embryos and fetuses (hereafter referred to synonymously) are fully and equally human beings, and consequently, human persons. We shall not address the abortion question directly, though we trust the implications of the arguments presented will become obvious.

Anthony de Mello on Presuppositions

Go

Think of a flabby person covered with layers of fat. That is what your mind can become — flabby, covered with layers of fat till it becomes too dull and lazy to think, to observe, to explore, to discover. It loses its alertness, its aliveness, its flexibility and goes to sleep. Look around you and you will see almost everyone with minds like that: dull, asleep, protected by layers of fat, not wanting to be disturbed or questioned into wakefulness. ¶ What are these layers? Every belief that you hold, every conclusion you have reached about persons and things, every habit and every attachment. In your formative years you should have been helped to scrape off these layers and liberate your mind. Instead your society, your culture, which put these layers on your mind in the first place, has educated you to not even notice them, to go to sleep and let other people — the experts: your politicians, your cultural and religious leaders — do your thinking for you. So you are weighed down with the load of unexamined, unquestioned authority and tradition.

Francis Crick’s Astonishing Hypothesis

Go

The Astonishing Hypothesis is that “You,” your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.

David Chalmers on the Hard Problem of Consciousness

Go

The really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. When we think and perceive, there is a whir of information-processing, but there is also a subjective aspect. As Nagel (1974) has put it, there is something it is like to be a conscious organism. This subjective aspect is experience. When we see, for example, we experience visual sensations: the felt quality of redness, the experience of dark and light, the quality of depth in a visual field. Other experiences go along with perception in different modalities: the sound of a clarinet, the smell of mothballs. Then there are bodily sensations, from pains to orgasms; mental images that are conjured up internally; the felt quality of emotion, and the experience of a stream of conscious thought. What unites all of these states is that there is something it is like to be in them. All of them are states of experience…It is undeniable that some organisms are subjects of experience. But the question of how it is that these systems are subjects of experience is perplexing. Why is it that when our cognitive systems engage in visual and auditory information-processing, we have visual or auditory experience: the quality of deep blue, the sensation of middle C? How can we explain why there is something it is like to entertain a mental image, or to experience an emotion? It is widely agreed that experience arises from a physical basis, but we have no good explanation of why and how it so arises. Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all? It seems objectively unreasonable that it should, and yet it does. If any problem qualifies as the problem of consciousness, it is this one.

Consciousness Reconsidered

Go

This is one of the early philosophy books that started to make sense on the issue of consciousness. Comming from a decade where Joe Levine told us there was a gap, Frank Jackson that materialism left something out, McGuinn told us we could not understand it, the Churchlands wanted to get rid of the thing, this book is a great relief. Consciousness, according to Flanagan, is a natural phenomenon, rooted in the brain. It is real, capable of being defined, it evolved, and tractable scientifically. We need not despair, nor look in wrong and exotic places like quantum mechanics. Psychology, phenomenology, neurobiology and cognitive science will do. … This is good philosophy indeed. Consicousness is portrayed simply, as a natural phenomentol being understood through science. There are some objections one could make, but in all, considering the philosophical views of consicousness, this one is science friendly and informative. This is the kind of constructivism that one should expect from philosophers. ~ Carlos Camara at Amazon.com

David Papineau on Science and First Philosophy

Go

At one level, the continuity of philosophy and empirical science is uncontentious. Many philosophical problems arise because of apparent tensions or conflicts within the assumptions which empirical evidence recommends to us. The most obvious examples are issues in the philosophy of science, such as problems about the interpretation of quantum mechanics, or the asymmetry of time, or the logic of natural selection. But other less specialist philosophical questions, like the existence of free will, also arise because of difficulties raised by empirical assumptions (in particular, in this case, by assumptions about the extent to which human beings are subject to the same laws of nature as the rest of the
world).

John Searle on Naturalizing Content

Go

So far no attempt at naturalizing content has produced an explanation (analysis, reduction) of intentional content that is even remotely plausible. A symptom that something is radically wrong with the project is that intentional notions are inherently normative. They set standards of truth, rationality, consistency, etc., and there is no way that these standards can be intrinsic to a system consisting entirely of brute, blind, nonintentional causal relations. There is no mean component to billiard ball causation. Darwinian biological attempts at naturalizing content try to avoid this problem by appealing to what they suppose is the inherently teleological, normative character of biological evolution. But this is a very deep mistake. There is nothing normative or teleological about Darwinian evolution. Indeed, Darwin’s major contribution was precisely to remove purpose, and teleology from evolution, and substitute for it purely natural forms.

Basil Mitchell on the Theatre of Irrevocable Choices

Go

I looked at the Gita and was deeply moved, as who could fail to be, but I was not convinced. When it came to the point I found myself quite unable to believe that what happened in the world as the result of my actions was not of ultimate importance. To be sure it mattered little what I, as a single individual, did as the German tanks rolled into France, but what thousands like me did might make a crucial difference to the course of human history. At that moment I discovered myself to be profoundly occidental. ¶ I do not suppose that even now I can render fully explicit what lay behind that conviction, but it had, I believe, something to do with the Christian pattern of Creation and Redemption and a consequent vision of the world as the theatre of irrevocable choices.

Nominalism and Abstract Reference

Go

What kinds of things are redness, hairiness, and humanness. We take such things for granted. And yet, there is great controversy about the ontological nature of such properties. There are three basic approaches: “Extreme Nominalism (properties do not exist), Nominalism (properties exist and are themselves particulars), and Realism (properties exist and are universals).” Moreland argues for the superior explanatory power of Realism in accounting for these realities. While this argument may seem academic, there is a lot at stake for the Naturalistic world view in at least one respect. If, in fact, non-physical properties exist, then the universe is not comprised solely of matter and energy. The door creaks open for other kinds of non-physical entities like numbers, consciousness, and perhaps even God. ~ Afterall

A Review of Fontinell’s Self, God, and Immortality

Go

This work is a technical monograph in pragmatist, process metaphysics. It seeks to answer this question: Given the inadequacies of materialism and classical dualism, can we still believe in personal immortality today? Fontinell answers with a tentative “yes” (in keeping with his pragmatism) by developing a doctrine of the self along Jamesian lines in two steps. Chapters 1-6 focus on the possibility of life after death, and chaps. 7-8 discuss the desirability of an afterlife.

Body, Soul and Life Everlasting

Go

The book defends a functional integration of human life (body and soul are separate but dependent) on earth and in heaven but a disembodied intermediate state wherein the body and soul will be both separate and independent. Cooper’s research, objective and scrupulous, examines the widest spectrum: (1) Traditional Christian anthropology and its modern critics; (2) Old Testament anthropology’s holistic emphasis; (3) Old Testament anthropology’s dualistic implications; (4) The anthropology of intertestamental eschatology; (5) The monism-dualism debate about New Testament anthropology; (6) Anthropology and personal eschatology in the New Testament’s non-Pauline writings; (7) Anthropology and personal eschatology in the New Testament’s Pauline epistles; (8) New Testament eschatology and philosophical anthropology; (9) Practical and theological objections against dualism; (10) Holistic dualism, science, and philosophy; (11) And finally, a vindication of holistic dualism. ~ Blake G Edwards

An Enduring Self

Go

It is well known that the various forms of process thought are agreed in denying the existence of an enduring self which maintains absolute identity through change.’ Process thought-regardless of whether time is taken to be continuous or discreet, or whether one holds to an A series or B series view of time-is committed to some form of ancestral chain model of the self wherein the self is a series of interrelated actual occasions in which earlier occasions are prehended by later members of the chain toform a serial nexus. There is no stable essence running through all members of the chain; the “persistent” self is a derived unification of momentary selves.

Thomas V. Morris on Theological Realism

Go

The Judeo-Christian religious tradition, is not just a domain of poetry, imagery, mystical transport, moral directive, and non cognitive, existential self-understanding. Interacting especially with the philosophically developed tradition of Christian theology, [I] joint the vast majority of other leading contributors to contemporary philosophical theology in taking for granted theological realism, the cognitive stance presupposed by the classical theistic concern to direct our thoughts as well as our lives aright. It has been the intent of theologians throughout most of the history of the Christian faith to deserve correctly, within our limits, certain important facts about God, human beings, and the rest of creation given in revelation and fundamental to the articulation of any distinctively Christian world view. In particular, reflective Christians throughout the centuries have understood their faith as providing key insights into, and resources for, the construction of a comprehensive metaphysics.

Thomas Nagel on a Theory of Consciousness

Go

What is needed is something we do not have: a theory of conscious organisms as physical systems composed of chemical elements and occupying space, which also have an individual perspective on the world, and in some cases a capacity for self-awareness as well. In some way that we do not now understand, our minds as well as our bodies come into being when these materials are suitably combined and organized. The strange truth seems to be that certain complex, biologically generated physical systems, of which each of us is an example, have rich nonphysical properties. An integrated theory of reality must account for this, and I believe that if and when it arrives, probably not for centuries, it will alter our conception of the universe as radically as anything has to date.

Richard Swinburne on Science and Secondary Qualities

Go

There is a crucial difference between these two cases. All other integrations into a super-science, of sciences dealing with entities and properties apparently qualitatively very distinct, was achieved by saying that really some of the entities and properties were not as they appeared to be; by making a distinction between the underlying (not immediately observable) entities and properties and the phenomenal properties to which they give rise. Thermodynamics was conceived with the laws of temperature exchange; and temperature was supposed to be a property inherent in an object. The felt hotness of a hot body is indeed qualitatively distinct from particle velocities and collisions. The reduction was achieved by distinguishing between the underlying cause of the hotness (the motion of the molecules) and the sensations which the motion of molecules cause in observers. The former falls naturally within the scope of statistical mechanics — for molecules are particles; the entities and properties are not now of distinct kinds. But this reduction has been achieved at the price of separating off the phenomenal from its causes, and only explaining the latter.

Daniel Dennet on the Illusion of Uncaused Acts

Go

Whatever else we are, we are information-processing systems, and all information-processing systems rely on amplifiers of a sort. Relatively small causes are made to yield relatively large effects. … Vast amounts of information arrive on the coattails of negligible amounts of energy, and then, thanks to the amplification powers of systems of switches, the information begins to do some work — evoking other information that was stored long ago, for instance transmuting it for the present occasion in a million small ways, and leading eventually to an action whose pedigree of efficient (or triggering) causation is so hopelessly inscrutable as to be invisible. We see the dramatic effects leaving; we don’t see the causes entering; we are tempted by the hypothesis that there are no causes.

William Hasker on Computers as Extensions

Go

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 insight than a television set is an independent source of news and entertainment.

J.L. Mackie on Moral Properties

Go

Moral properties constitute so odd a cluster of properties and relations that they are most unlikely to have arisen in the ordinary course of events without an all-powerful god to create them.

Roy Batty on Death and Meaning

Go

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams … glitter in the dark near Tanhauser Gate. All those … moments will be lost … in time, like tears … in rain. Time … to die.

Willard V. Quine on External Things

Go

Our talk of external things, our very notion of things, is just a conceptual apparatus that helps us to foresee and control the triggering of our sensory receptors in the light of previous triggering of our sensory receptors. The triggering, first and last, is all we have to go on. In saying this I too am talking of external things, namely, people and their nerve endings. Thus what I am saying applies in particular to what I am saying, and is not meant as skeptical. There is nothing we can be more confident of than external things — some of them, anyway — other people, sticks, stones. But there remains the fact — a fact of science itself — that science is a conceptual bridge of our own making, linking sensory stimulation to sensory stimulation; there is no extrasensory perception.

C.S. Lewis on Biology, Theism, and Reason

Go

Once, then, our thoughts were not rational. That is, all our thoughts once were, as many of our thoughts still are, merely subjective events, not apprehensions of objective truth. Those which had a cause external to ourselves at all were (like our pains) responses to stimuli. Now natural selection could operate only by eliminating responses that were biologically hurtful and multiplying those which tended to survival. But it is not conceivable that any improvement of responses could ever turn them into acts of insight, or even remotely tend to do so. The relation between response and stimulus is utterly different from that between knowledge and the truth known. Our physical vision is a far more useful response to light than that of the cruder organisms which have only a photo-sensitive spot. But neither this improvement nor any possible improvements we can suppose could bring it an inch nearer to being a knowledge of light. It is admittedly something without which we could not have had that knowledge. But the knowledge is achieved by experiments and inferences from them, not by refinement of the response. It is not men with specially good eyes who know about light, but men who have studied the relevant sciences. In the same way our psychological responses to our environment — our curiosities, aversions, delights, expectations — could be indefinitely improved (from the biological point of view) without becoming anything more than responses. Such perfection of the non-rational responses, far from amounting to their conversion into valid inferences, might be conceived as a different method of achieving survival — an alternative to reason. A conditioning which secured that we never felt delight except in the useful nor aversion save from the dangerous, and that the degrees of both were exquisitely proportional to the degree of real utility or danger in the object, might serve us as well as reason or in some circumstances better.