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Lewis's "annihilation" by Anscombe? Not so sure...

Lewis's "annihilation" by Anscombe? Not so sure...

Postby The Exodus » 07 Apr 2009, 04:54

The question is - what DID Lewis think about his debate with Anscombe? Obviously there was disagreement, but I think his overall philosophical point was sharpened (reason rather came from a-rational/nonrational causes, rather than irrational). He didn't abandon this argument, seeing as he even revised and clarified it in the 1960 edition of Miracles, adding 10 pages after the paragraph ending "a proof which there are no such thing as proofs - which is nonsense." He also continued to write philosophical essays and read them.

Does anyone have any insight (not something they've read on google or someone's blog) about what Lewis thought about this encounter? Maybe something by Walter Hooper, or Lewis himself? I've heard all kinds of nonsense that this debate made Lewis "abandon philosophy and reason" as a means of proving God. Which I think is quite silly, considering the reasons mentioned in the above paragraph.

Anyway, this is my first post - so Hello fellow Lewis fans!
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Re: Lewis's "annihilation" by Anscombe? Not so sure...

Postby Bluegoat » 07 Apr 2009, 19:57

The Exodus wrote:The question is - what DID Lewis think about his debate with Anscombe? Obviously there was disagreement, but I think his overall philosophical point was sharpened (reason rather came from a-rational/nonrational causes, rather than irrational). He didn't abandon this argument, seeing as he even revised and clarified it in the 1960 edition of Miracles, adding 10 pages after the paragraph ending "a proof which there are no such thing as proofs - which is nonsense." He also continued to write philosophical essays and read them.

Does anyone have any insight (not something they've read on google or someone's blog) about what Lewis thought about this encounter? Maybe something by Walter Hooper, or Lewis himself? I've heard all kinds of nonsense that this debate made Lewis "abandon philosophy and reason" as a means of proving God. Which I think is quite silly, considering the reasons mentioned in the above paragraph.

Anyway, this is my first post - so Hello fellow Lewis fans!



I'm not sure, but I believe that Anscombe commented on this herself?
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Re: Lewis's "annihilation" by Anscombe? Not so sure...

Postby postodave » 09 Apr 2009, 22:04

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Re: Lewis's "annihilation" by Anscombe? Not so sure...

Postby larry gilman » 04 May 2009, 18:12

I think that there is actually some evidence for a watered-down version of what Victor Reppert (see link in post just above) calls the “Anscombe Legend” — the view that Lewis was so shattered by his trouncing at Anscombe’s hands before the Socratic Club that he dropped out of apologetics. Of course he didn’t drop out of apologetics, but there were certainly no more books like The Problem of Pain and Miracles. The evidence is in George Sayer’s account of the Anscombe aftermath on pp. 186-187 of his biography of CSL, Jack: C. S. Lewis and His Times (1988). There Sayers says that Lewis “told me that he had been proved wrong, that his argument for the existence of God had been demolished. . . . ‘I can never write another book of that sort,’ he said to me of Miracles.” But Sayers presents this as not a singlehanded demolition of Lewis-the-apologist by Anscombe, so much as CSL’s unwillingness to take on “the new school of Oxford philosophers” and the whole postwar philosophical scene that “had changed very much since he [Lewis] had taken first-class honors.”

It’s worth noting that Anscombe was not triumphalist about the affair and does not buy the Sayer account of Lewis's reaction to the debate. She writes,

Rereading the argument of the first edition [of Miracles] and my criticisms of it, it seems to me that they are just. At the same time, I find them lacking in any recognition of the depth of the problem. I don’t think Lewis’ first version itself gave one much impression of that. The argument of the second edition has much to criticize in it, but it certainly does correspond more to the actual depth and difficulty of the questions being discussed. I think we haven’t yet an answer to the question I have quoted from [Lewis]: “What is the connection between grounds and the actual occurrence of the belief?”

The fact that Lewis rewrote that chapter, and rewrote it so that it now has these qualities, shows his honesty and seriousness. The meeting of the Socratic Club at which I read my paper has been described by several of his friends as a horrible and shocking experience which upset him very much. Neither Dr Havard (who had Lewis and me to dinner a few weeks later) nor Professor Jack Bennett remembered any such feelings on Lewis’ part. The paper that I read is as printed here. My own recollection is that it was an occasion of sober discussion of certain quite definite criticisms, which Lewis’ rethinking and rewriting showed he thought were accurate. I am inclined to construe the odd acounts of the matter by some of his friends — who seem not to have been interested in the actual arguments or the subject-matter — as an interesting example of the phenomenon called “projection.”


My own opinion on the argument against naturalism is that it is highly suggestive, pointing at a chronic and profound epistemological problem, but that it is not a conclusive argument against naturalism. I take Anscombe’s objection to be ultimately that a thought might be mechanically, causally, “irrationally” produced, and yet still be true: why not? (For Lewis's argument to be conclusive, one has to prove that it cannot.) I think Lewis’s claim that thoughts so produced are prima facie invalid gets him arguing in an elaborate circle. Yet he is circling around a real problem . . . Also, I think Lewis goes very astray when he pronounces on what natural selection can or cannot have done in producing the human brain/mind, based on purely philosophical considerations.

You can download the essay by Anscombe quoted above, as well as her original paper contra Lewis, at http://www.larrygilman.net/misc_documen ... vs_CSL.pdf .

Regards,

Larry
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Re: Lewis's "annihilation" by Anscombe? Not so sure...

Postby The Exodus » 06 May 2009, 01:51

larry gilman wrote:I take Anscombe’s objection to be ultimately that a thought might be mechanically, causally, “irrationally” produced, and yet still be true: why not? (For Lewis's argument to be conclusive, one has to prove that it cannot.)I think Lewis’s claim that thoughts so produced are prima facie invalid gets him arguing in an elaborate circle. Yet he is circling around a real problem . . . Also, I think Lewis goes very astray when he pronounces on what natural selection can or cannot have done in producing the human brain/mind, based on purely philosophical considerations.


Interesting. Perhaps to be "conclusive", Lewis would have to "prove" causal thoughts cannot be rational, but I think the argument still very persuasive.

It's an important distinction to make between irrational causes (things illogical, or "incorrectly formulated") vs. a-rational causes (causes which are cause-effect, though have no inherent logical value - i.e. gravity causes something to fall because that's the way it works, not because it has a logical, mathematical necessity of working that way.) This, I think, is the different Lewis was making in cause-effect relationships and ground-consequence relationships. Lewis's point was, IF thoughts are produced by mechanical means, we have no reason to believe they are anything more than cause-effect relationships. So, in my view, the burden of proof is still on the other end: showing how a mechanical process can be something more than a cause-effect relationship, and actually entail a truth-falsity relationship. This is not to say I don't think Nature could produce a certain type of "brain" that functions in some sort of interactive relationship with the world around it, but, if it is "merely" a Naturalistic process that produces this, we have no reason to think it actually reflects what is in that universe, what is actually "out there". We wouldn't think apes have a comprehensive picture of what's "out there"...

And, to further another of Lewis's points, IF all this came about by "merely" Natural processes, if the brain is the ogran of thought, and not an organ *through which* we think (two very different things), it really functions just like any other organ - meaning it only reacts to its environment. Undoubtedly it is more complex than, say, the stomach, but it is not more complex is a different way. It thinks exactly the way it is meant to, if it is presented with certain stimuli, etc. This brings in the question of free will (which I think is impossible without us having some sort of soul.)

So, in my opinion, I don't think he goes astray at all saying what unguided, or "merely" Naturalistic Natural selection can or cannot do, since the theory rests on some very basic and elementary assumptions. Additionally, Natural selection is unequipped, in my opinion, to tackle such problems as the evolution of the human microstructure (particularly the brain).

What are your thoughts?
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Re: Lewis's "annihilation" by Anscombe? Not so sure...

Postby postodave » 14 May 2009, 22:18

If I think I am holding a cup in my hand then why do I think that. A common sense answer might be that my belief that I am holding a cup is caused by the fact that I am holding a cup. Lewis would deny this. For Lewis I have certain sensations of sight and touch and then from these sensations I infer the existence of the cup. For Lewis I think there is a cup there because (GC) that is the best explanation for certain sensations. For the materialist or some materialists, with whom I am inclined to agree, I think the cup is there because (CE) the cup itself causes certain sensations. Lewis concedes that in the actual biography of any individual we do not come to believe in the reality of the external world through an inference process but still says that this is somehow what is really happening. Lewis did get as far as seeing that some of the cartesian arguments, especially Descartes assumption of solipsism as a starting point may have been a category error but he seems not to have seen the implications this would have for the argument from reason.For although I say that it is the cup that causes me to think there is a cup my knowledge that there is a cup subsists in a social context; I experience an external world and other people in it long before I come to doubt them and so need to use reason to infer their existence.

The Exodus said:
And, to further another of Lewis's points, IF all this came about by "merely" Natural processes, if the brain is the ogran of thought, and not an organ *through which* we think (two very different things), it really functions just like any other organ - meaning it only reacts to its environment. Undoubtedly it is more complex than, say, the stomach, but it is not more complex is a different way. It thinks exactly the way it is meant to, if it is presented with certain stimuli, etc. This brings in the question of free will (which I think is impossible without us having some sort of soul.)

I think the brain could be the organ of thought without only reacting - even the more sophisticated of the behaviourists recognise that, for example Skinner sees behaviour being controlled by its consequences and therefore calls what has traditionally been called voluntary behaviour operant behaviour that is behaviour whereby an organism operates on its environment rather than reacts to it. It's also possible that a complex system like the brain could generate something like like a capacity to choose as an emergent property. Lewis is very careful not to bring the concept of a soul as a distinct substance into the argument for then we will be up against the problem of how a non-material substance can interact with matter, a problem at least as tricky as matter giving rise to reason.
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Re: Lewis's "annihilation" by Anscombe? Not so sure...

Postby larry gilman » 15 May 2009, 12:55

Dear “The Exodus,”

Thanks for that very thoughtful response. The kind of dialogue one hopes for, when one gets into a forum like this one.

You write,

So, in my view, the burden of proof is still on the other end: showing how a mechanical process can be something more than a cause-effect relationship, and actually entail a truth-falsity relationship. This is not to say I don't think Nature could produce a certain type of "brain" that functions in some sort of interactive relationship with the world around it, but, if it is "merely" a Naturalistic process that produces this, we have no reason to think it actually reflects what is in that universe, what is actually "out there". We wouldn't think apes have a comprehensive picture of what's "out there"...


I think you summarize the basic issues pretty accurately -- even Lewis and Anscombe struggled to get clear on what the terms of discussion were -- and I continue to agree that there is a real problem here. But I offer the following thought-experiment to suggest why I think a “merely” naturalistic process might produce valid knowledge whose validity can in some sense -- perhaps not absolute, but is absoluteness real or necessary? -- be checked. In Chicago I often noticed that wet leaf on a young concrete sidewalk will make a chemical print of itself. The leaf then blows or washes away and the leaf-print is left on the concrete for a while. Here, by purely causal, “mindless” processes, valid information about the leaf has been stored. A pattern exists that, to borrow your phrase, “actually reflects what is in the universe, what is actually ‘out there’.” Extrapolate to much greater complexity. Can it be logically ruled out that by processes of causal imprinting, mechanical transformation, and selective fitting to circumstances, by processes not different in principle from the leaf printing itself on the concrete, information of high complexity might arise (in brains) that partly reflects what is “out there”? Such a process might not produce absolute epistemological certainty, but what if absolute epistemological certainty is a chimera, not necessary, never attainable? What is the _logical_ difference between a belief state in a nervous system (e.g., “oak leaves have such-and-such a shape”) and a leaf-print on a sidewalk?

Mind, I’m a Christian, not a materialist. But I am far from sure of what “matter” is and how it relates to “spirit.” Beware reductionism, but beware simplistic dualism too. Lewis veers far enough toward a strict matter-spirit dualism to make me uncomfortable: the spirit as a sort of subtle quasi-substance, unamenable to observation yet somehow having physical effects, biffing bits of chemistry at opportune moments and places in the brain, a flap here and a flap there of the supernatural butterfly wing that produces the neural hurricane of a fully-formed thought or utterance or choice down the line . . . Well, of course I can’t prove it’s not so. Maybe it is so. But it is (a) falsifiable in principle by sufficiently detailed observations of neural events, so look out, (b) irksome to me aesthetically -- I speak personally -- that is, it is not in what seems to me the divine style.

You continue,

. . . if the brain is the ogran of thought, and not an organ *through which* we think (two very different things), it really functions just like any other organ - meaning it only reacts to its environment. Undoubtedly it is more complex than, say, the stomach, but it is not more complex is a different way. It thinks exactly the way it is meant to, if it is presented with certain stimuli, etc.


That would follow, yes. That is, given precisely the same brain and brain-state, the same stimuli would always produce the same outcome. Exactly the same leaf, exactly the same sidewalk, exactly the same print. But this is an experiment we cannot practically perform, since brains are far too complex to set up controlled initial conditions in. Also, we must add a note of caution to the causal picture. If the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics is right, events are not ontologically but statistically causal. Whether or not quantum randomness can be somehow amplified to affect systems as gigantic as neurons is disputed. (In principle, as I see it, quantum randomness must be able affect human thoughts or else we would not be thinking about it: we would have no knowledge of it. But external amplification may be necessary, e.g. experimental setups.)

This brings in the question of free will (which I think is impossible without us having some sort of soul.)


I don’t know what free will is: I just know that I have it. It is easy to experience, hard to define -- infamously hard to define. (Are free choices caused? If so, how are they free? If not, how can they happen at all?) And “soul,” what is that? How important are soul-beliefs to Christianity? The New Testament offers no metaphysic of soul. The word “soul” does not appear in the Nicene Creed, though the resurrection of the body does. The more I ponder these things, the more it seems to me that we don’t exist apart from our bodies, and that what might seem the weirdest, most embarrassing doctrine of all, the resurrection of the body, actually makes more sense than any alternative. But how it would work -- beats me like a rug!

You write,

Additionally, Natural selection is unequipped, in my opinion, to tackle such problems as the evolution of the human microstructure (particularly the brain).


I hear that you’re just offering an opinion -- so I don’t mean to jump on you with my Darwinian fangs exposed -- but an opinion must have a basis. What is your basis here? What limitations on natural selection do you perceive? Note: brain microstructure is, at some level of detail, known not to be determined genetically, that is, by natural selection: there are trillions of synaptic connections, far too many to be specified by the 750 megabytes or so of information in our DNA (one CD-ROM’s worth). Their overall patterns and conditions of development are genetically set, but the ultra-details are not. If they were, we couldn’t learn anything: we would be read-only.

My thanks again for an excellent conversation,

Larry
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Re: Lewis's "annihilation" by Anscombe? Not so sure...

Postby larry gilman » 15 May 2009, 13:33

Postodave,

Acute observations, I thank you for them and learn from them.

It seems to me that although Lewis does not introduce any "soul" terminology, and argues (Ch. IV, Miracles) that

The distinction we have to make is not one between "mind" and "matter," much less between "soul" and "body" (hard words, all four of them) . . .


he does come down in favor of a two-substance dualism and run smack up against "the problem of how a non-material substance can interact with matter":

It is, frankly, a picture in which Nature (at any rate on the surface of our own planet) is perforated or pock-marked all over by little orifices at each of which something of a different kind from herself—namely reason—can do things to her. (Ch. IV)


Or:

A man's Rational thinking is just so much of his share in eternal Reason as the state of his brain allows to become operative: it represents, so to spak, the bargain struck or the frontier fixed between Reason and Nature at that particular point. . . . The various and complex conditions under which Reason and Morality appear are the twists and turns of the frontier betweenNature and Supernature. (Ch. VI)


Mind, neither of us is saying that Lewis is dumb. A close read finds him making good distinctions, introducing salutary subtleties. And his above-quoted description of our situation has the very great plus of accurately describing what it feels like to be a thinking, choosing human being. But there also seems a strong two-substance tendency. What do you think?

Best regards,

Larry
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Re: Lewis's "annihilation" by Anscombe? Not so sure...

Postby postodave » 17 May 2009, 16:52

Hi Larry

I think he's ambivalent over this two substance business. I think he sees the problem clearly that if you have complete determinism then it's hard to see how thought gets in but I think he's more drawn to the higher level question of whether a universe created by a rational God is more suited to having reasoning creatures than one where matter was basic and gave rise to everything else. Even if the universe was created by a rational God in order to house rational creatures it might still look very like a Godless matter based universe if God had so arranged it that mind emerged from matter. On the other hand if there was some other stuff, a substance which gave rise to thought, that could also be self-existent. In both cases I don't think the nitty gritty problems would depend much on whether there was a God.

I seem to be very unimpressed with the argument from reason and I don't particularly want to be. Have you read Reppert's book?

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Re: Lewis's "annihilation" by Anscombe? Not so sure...

Postby The Exodus » 23 May 2009, 01:58

larry gilman wrote:
Thanks for that very thoughtful response.


Right back at ya.

larry wrote: In Chicago I often noticed that wet leaf on a young concrete sidewalk will make a chemical print of itself. The leaf then blows or washes away and the leaf-print is left on the concrete for a while. Here, by purely causal, “mindless” processes, valid information about the leaf has been stored. A pattern exists that, to borrow your phrase, “actually reflects what is in the universe, what is actually ‘out there’.” Extrapolate to much greater complexity. Can it be logically ruled out that by processes of causal imprinting, mechanical transformation, and selective fitting to circumstances, by processes not different in principle from the leaf printing itself on the concrete, information of high complexity might arise (in brains) that partly reflects what is “out there”? Such a process might not produce absolute epistemological certainty, but what if absolute epistemological certainty is a chimera, not necessary, never attainable? What is the _logical_ difference between a belief state in a nervous system (e.g., “oak leaves have such-and-such a shape”) and a leaf-print on a sidewalk?


This is an interesting analogy, and I've spent some time thinking about it, but I don't quite think it captures what must happen in order for the universe to naturally produce something that possesses a trait that is not already present in that universe: namely, consciousness.

Now, I'm not saying I find proof of this being impossible. I only think it is not likely, and I do not see how a "mindless" or "consciousnessless" universe could produce something that is completely alien to it: not something irrational, but arational, producing rationality. This is the distinction I'm making between cause/effect and grounds/consequences. I can understand a purely natural universe - that is, one that does not have a mind and is not going in any sort of direction - producing causes and effects, e.g. solar flares, hurricanes, big bangs. But I don't see how such a place could produce things it does not have: love, hope, truth, consciousness, meaning. The way I see it, if the universe does not have these qualities elementally - as it has matter and the laws of physics - then these things are illusions.

larry wrote:Mind, I’m a Christian, not a materialist. But I am far from sure of what “matter” is and how it relates to “spirit.” Beware reductionism, but beware simplistic dualism too.


I'm not proposing simple dualism, though it may seem like it. I agree, there are problems with trying to figure out how a "spirit" could interact with a material "body", but the problems aren't nearly so bad as they would be with a purely naturalistic mindset. There is room to say "I don't know", for example. In fact, if someone did know, I'd be skeptical. I think the reason so many, like yourself, are turned off by the fuzzy dualism of Lewis is that it doesn't fit into water tight compartments. I can understand that, but it isn't logically inconsistant for this reason, since, by definition, it permits for some element of mystery.

larry wrote:But it is (a) falsifiable in principle by sufficiently detailed observations of neural events, so look out


I'm not sure how it is falsifiable by neural events *in principle*. Could you explain? I'm not aware of how any observation of bodily events is equipped to falsify the claim, because how can you prove the brain is doing the thinking versus being thought through?


larry wrote:That would follow, yes. That is, given precisely the same brain and brain-state, the same stimuli would always produce the same outcome. Exactly the same leaf, exactly the same sidewalk, exactly the same print. But this is an experiment we cannot practically perform, since brains are far too complex to set up controlled initial conditions in.

But it hardly matters if we can perform it, doesn't it? We have good reason to believe that, given a purely natural explanation of existence, we can't control our brains any more than our stomachs.

larry wrote:Also, we must add a note of caution to the causal picture. If the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics is right, events are not ontologically but statistically causal. Whether or not quantum randomness can be somehow amplified to affect systems as gigantic as neurons is disputed. (In principle, as I see it, quantum randomness must be able affect human thoughts or else we would not be thinking about it: we would have no knowledge of it. But external amplification may be necessary, e.g. experimental setups.)


Well, admittedly, I'm not in the least bit knowledgeable about physics, but I understand the word "causal". My point is, if our thoughts are purely causal (whether statistical or ontological), and the universe is purely naturalistic, all things which are not contained in that universe (free will, truth, love, consciousness, etc), are illusions. And a cause/effect universe cannot produce ground/consequence relationships. All is actions are, necessarily, cause/effect, regardless of what we think them to be, since our thinking contains illusory thoughts, which are actually cause/effect happenings. This is what Lewis meant by saying, unless we admit some element of Supernature into Nature, we have no reason to trust our own thinking process.

larry wrote:I don’t know what free will is: I just know that I have it. It is easy to experience, hard to define -- infamously hard to define. (Are free choices caused? If so, how are they free? If not, how can they happen at all?)


How can you know you have it, unless you know what it is? :cool:

I admit, the question is difficult, but, the burden on proof is on the Naturalist to say what his free will is, if he thinks he has one. Otherwise, the way I see it, it follows that his thought processes are 100% cause/effect.

larry wrote: And “soul,” what is that? How important are soul-beliefs to Christianity? The New Testament offers no metaphysic of soul. The word “soul” does not appear in the Nicene Creed, though the resurrection of the body does. The more I ponder these things, the more it seems to me that we don’t exist apart from our bodies, and that what might seem the weirdest, most embarrassing doctrine of all, the resurrection of the body, actually makes more sense than any alternative. But how it would work -- beats me like a rug!


I don't think doctrines of the soul are very important to Christianity (for that matter, I don't think many doctrines at all are important to it.) I just think it's kinda cool to think about. :toothy-grin:

I think your "soul" is you. You don't have one. You are one. It's the mingling of your body and mind. Lol. I don't know. It's whatever is possessing this body of ours that we have. I think the doctrine of the resurrection of the body makes as much sense as anything. But, I don't think we are "only" or "merely" our bodies...Well, I don't think that if we are purely "natural". However, if you think the universe to have "supernatural" elements, I think we are our bodies.

larry wrote:I hear that you’re just offering an opinion -- so I don’t mean to jump on you with my Darwinian fangs exposed -- but an opinion must have a basis. What is your basis here?


My basis is very basic. I've yet to find convincing evidence that the myriads of different life forms on this planet have entirely evolved to fit their environments. I lean more toward intelligent design. But, this is really peripheral to the current argument.

larry wrote:My thanks again for an excellent conversation


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Re: Lewis's "annihilation" by Anscombe? Not so sure...

Postby Kolbitar » 23 May 2009, 14:19

Hey Dave, and all.

Victor Reppert states in his book The Dangerous Idea (p.57), that some people take Lewis to be implying an inferential theory of knowledge, and Victor goes on to say that it’s not necessary to assume that. Apart from Reppert’s comment, I had wondered the same thing, but concluded, likewise, that I need not assume that.

To begin, Lewis states, in a number of places, that everything but the present moment is inferred; a statement by which I think he involves our senses in a direct perception of the physical world. From that perception, moreover, we conceive ideas; this is important because he also states that knowledge must be caused by the thing known, which he confesses might be considered a (CE) cause, but a special one, having no comparison with physical (CE). The reason the two (CE) causes differ lies in the “aboutness” of the former. In other words, I don’t know my ideas, I know through my ideas – my ideas are about the thing I know, not the thing I know. Naturalism, however, implies that it’s not the thing we know, which involves a “wholly immaterial relation”, but our own mental states – that is, our own mind. Now, if we take inference to mean what Lewis elsewhere calls a chain of reasoning, then he says it involves three things: facts, intuition, and arranging the facts to produce a proof (discursiveness). If the facts, however, are not about things but are mental states, then there is nothing to arrange into “intuitable steps”, thus there is no “reasoning.”

Dave, you write:

“For the materialist or some materialists, with whom I am inclined to agree, I think the cup is there because (CE) the cup itself causes certain sensations.”

But, you see, it is the cup itself which also has to cause the idea of the cup, and this cannot be without the “aboutness” of knowledge – that ideas are about the thing, not the thing we know. Lewis consistently can be seen to imply that the objects of our ideas come through sense perception, are then discursively arranged in intuitable steps, and are in this sense inferred from sensation so that he does not mean we are not directly aware of the cup. Moreover, Lewis confesses you may call this knowing-by-the-thing-known a (CE) cause, but, he says, it’s entirely unique, and is, I believe, how he solves the fact that it must be an event (CE) cause as well as a (GC) cause. In fact, as I tiredly go over some of his arguments I have before me, it seems to me the whole of the argument is not (CE) vs. (GC), but also includes the one, unique type of (CE) involved in (GC) vs. the other type of (CE). Given the unique type of (CE), it is the thing itself which we know about, which is the cause of our ideas; however, given the non-rational (CE), devoid of “aboutness”, it must be our mental state itself, that is, our own mind, of which we are aware. However, “mind” is inferred, that is, it must be known about, and since there is no aboutness therefore there is no mind for my ideas to be “about”.

I think this agrees with what he says elsewhere, “It is as if… when I knocked out my pipe, the ashes arranged themselves into letters which read: ‘We are the ashes of a knocked-out pipe.’ But if the validity of knowledge cannot be explained that way, and if perpetual happy coincidence throughout the whole of recorded time is out of the question, then surely we must seek the real explanation elsewhere.” And, “If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents — the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts — i.e. of materialism and astronomy — are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milkjug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.”

To put it in more modern terms, if thought is an epiphenomenon of matter, that is, a projection on the screen of our minds caused by matter, then it’s the projection itself of which we’re immediately aware. But once you admit that it’s the projection itself of which we’re aware, then there’s no possible way outside of that claim, for to go outside of it would be to claim aboutness of the object of knowledge -- “aboutness” always includes the object of which the idea is about. Again, to say our mental representations are the sole objects of knowledge is to admit, at the same time, that that which they supposedly represent remains outside of knowledge, a statement which, therefore, has no meaning – for by definition you don’t, and can’t, “know” them.
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Re: Lewis's "annihilation" by Anscombe? Not so sure...

Postby postodave » 23 May 2009, 21:36

Kolbitar wrote:
Victor Reppert states in his book The Dangerous Idea (p.57), that some people take Lewis to be implying an inferential theory of knowledge, and Victor goes on to say that it’s not necessary to assume that. Apart from Reppert’s comment, I had wondered the same thing, but concluded, likewise, that I need not assume that.

He says it is not necessary to assume an inferential view of knowledge to affirm the argument from reason; he does not say Lewis does not hold that view. If you do not hold that view it makes the problem for the naturalist much less severe than Lewis implied. But there were things said in the discussion following the Lewis/Anscombe debate that suggest that other people thought Lewis was holding an inferential view of knowledge and Lewis claimed he was not - but the sense in which he is not seems to be the autobiographical one.
To begin, Lewis states, in a number of places, that everything but the present moment is inferred

Which seems to be going a bit too far with the whole inference thing; do I really infer the past or do I remember it? is memory really a form of inference?.
a statement by which I think he involves our senses in a direct perception of the physical world
But does he mean by that whatever I am aware of in the present moment which could be sensations as easily as entities.
; F
rom that perception, moreover, we conceive ideas; this is important because he also states that knowledge must be caused by the thing known, which he confesses might be considered a (CE) cause, but a special one, having no comparison with physical (CE). The reason the two (CE) causes differ lies in the “aboutness” of the former. In other words, I don’t know my ideas, I know through my ideas – my ideas are about the thing I know, not the thing I know.

I like this idea of knowing through my ideas very much; it reminds me of Polanyi's distinction between tacit and focal awareness.
Naturalism, however, implies that it’s not the thing we know, which involves a “wholly immaterial relation”, but our own mental states – that is, our own mind.

I don't see why naturalism implies this. Hence I don't see why this follows
Now, if we take inference to mean what Lewis elsewhere calls a chain of reasoning, then he says it involves three things: facts, intuition, and arranging the facts to produce a proof (discursiveness). If the facts, however, are not about things but are mental states, then there is nothing to arrange into “intuitable steps”, thus there is no “reasoning.”


But, you see, it is the cup itself which also has to cause the idea of the cup, and this cannot be without the “aboutness” of knowledge – that ideas are about the thing, not the thing we know

Again I like this; I think it takes things forward.
Lewis consistently can be seen to imply that the objects of our ideas come through sense perception, are then discursively arranged in intuitable steps, and are in this sense inferred from sensation so that he does not mean we are not directly aware of the cup.

So is Lewis simply making a distinction between sensation and perception and seeing perceptions as inferences. If so I think it makes more sense to say it is the sensations that are infererred from the concrete experience of perception rather than vice versa. I am not sure how the word intuition is being used.
Moreover, Lewis confesses you may call this knowing-by-the-thing-known a (CE) cause, but, he says, it’s entirely unique, and is, I believe, how he solves the fact that it must be an event (CE) cause as well as a (GC) cause. In fact, as I tiredly go over some of his arguments I have before me, it seems to me the whole of the argument is not (CE) vs. (GC), but also includes the one, unique type of (CE) involved in (GC) vs. the other type of (CE).

Thus far I'm with you and I think this takes things forward.
Given the unique type of (CE), it is the thing itself which we know about, which is the cause of our ideas; however, given the non-rational (CE), devoid of “aboutness”, it must be our mental state itself, that is, our own mind, of which we are aware. However, “mind” is inferred, that is, it must be known about, and since there is no aboutness therefore there is no mind for my ideas to be “about”.

And here I lose you again. To re-use the argument Larry uses above a leaf print is 'about' a leaf in the sense that it accurately reflects it and there is no mind involved. Where I can perhaps see a problem is in terms of I-ness. Where is the I that is perceiving and how does it differ from the mental images perceived?
I think this agrees with what he says elsewhere, “It is as if… when I knocked out my pipe, the ashes arranged themselves into letters which read: ‘We are the ashes of a knocked-out pipe.’

But the ashes can tell you something; they do image the event that caused them but not linguistically.
But if the validity of knowledge cannot be explained that way, and if perpetual happy coincidence throughout the whole of recorded time is out of the question, then surely we must seek the real explanation elsewhere.” And, “If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents — the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts — i.e. of materialism and astronomy — are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milkjug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.”

But there is no reason on the basis of evolutionary naturalism for thinking of thought as an accident. I can concede that there is a problem of explaining how such very abstract thought has become possible but on an evolutionary basis thought as such is not accidental. It has to be at least accurate enough to aid survival.

To put it in more modern terms, if thought is an epiphenomenon of matter, that is, a projection on the screen of our minds caused by matter, then it’s the projection itself of which we’re immediately aware. But once you admit that it’s the projection itself of which we’re aware, then there’s no possible way outside of that claim, for to go outside of it would be to claim aboutness of the object of knowledge -- “aboutness” always includes the object of which the idea is about. Again, to say our mental representations are the sole objects of knowledge is to admit, at the same time, that that which they supposedly represent remains outside of knowledge, a statement which, therefore, has no meaning – for by definition you don’t, and can’t, “know” them.

I don't see why a naturalist can't claim that there is aboutness. It would seem essential to the evolutionary framework that thoughts can be about things out there. What I cannot see is whether you are advocating a dualism of mind and matter and if so how you see the two relating.
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Re: Lewis's "annihilation" by Anscombe? Not so sure...

Postby Kolbitar » 27 May 2009, 23:11

Hey dave.

::He says it is not necessary to assume an inferential view of knowledge to affirm the argument from reason; he does not say Lewis does not hold that view.

In the footnotes on page 57 he does say that “what [Lewis] says seems perfectly compatible with the idea that we perceive physical objects directly, without performing inferences in so doing.”

::If you do not hold that view it makes the problem for the naturalist much less severe than Lewis implied.

I don’t agree that the problem is much less severe. Every noun is a universal idea in our mind; every noun that doesn’t have an immediate perceptual instance in our experience, like Nature, and Universe, is a result of drawing inferences from those that do. In the case of those that do, Lewis says that they can be (CE) caused, though uniquely, and that they can be arranged in a series of intuitable steps leading to logical conclusions (GC), i.e., discursive reasoning -- presumably including both deductive and inductive conclusions (though he seems mostly to deal with the latter).


::But there were things said in the discussion following the Lewis/Anscombe debate that suggest that other people thought Lewis was holding an inferential view of knowledge and Lewis claimed he was not - but the sense in which he is not seems to be the autobiographical one.

I don’t follow that last part. Do you mean that when he recounts the process he admits that he believes there are real physical objects causing sensations, but that he has already cut himself off from saying that by somehow admitting sensations are the object of knowledge, and not the physical thing -- like, say, Descartes?

::Which seems to be going a bit too far with the whole inference thing; do I really infer the past or do I remember it? is memory really a form of inference?

To be, presently, IN the memory is not an inference. But, to think about the memory you were just in as a memory of the past is to be outside that memory, and in an inference.

::But does he mean by that whatever I am aware of in the present moment which could be sensations as easily as entities.

I tend to give a mind like Lewis’ the benefit of the doubt :-)

::::Naturalism, however, implies that it’s not the thing we know, which involves a “wholly immaterial relation”, but our own mental states – that is, our own mind.

::I don't see why naturalism implies this. Hence I don't see why this follows

Given the naturalist assumption, mental states are the result of the function of the brain: “The brain secretes thought like the liver secretes bile.” If naturalism is going to allow for a faculty that can apprehend immaterial truths, then naturalism is going to have to allow for an immaterial faculty. In short, if naturalism is going to admit, with Lewis, that this faculty is dependent upon the brain to think, but does not use the brain to think, then that’s well and good -- but it’s also tantamount to redefining Naturalism in such a way that it’s hardly distinguishable from a supernatural worldview.

::So is Lewis simply making a distinction between sensation and perception and seeing perceptions as inferences. If so I think it makes more sense to say it is the sensations that are infererred from the concrete experience of perception rather than vice versa. I am not sure how the word intuition is being used.

As far as I know, Lewis would say that sensations attend perception. However, sense perception, in itself, does not include the “species”, that is, the concept, which is an essential part of reason. To conceive the idea (species) “sensation” is to know it intellectually a.k.a., rationally; to conceive the idea “perception” is to know it intellectually, a.k.a., rationally; etc.

By “intuitable steps”, I mean intuition in the intellectual sense, that is, as the self evident “seeing” of logical connections.

::And here I lose you again. To re-use the argument Larry uses above a leaf print is 'about' a leaf in the sense that it accurately reflects it and there is no mind involved. Where I can perhaps see a problem is in terms of I-ness. Where is the I that is perceiving and how does it differ from the mental images perceived?

As I see it, the problem with Larry’s leaf print argument is that the metaphorical leaf print would have to be the supposed mental representation of which we’re aware. There is, then, no way to infer that the mental object is a representation of a real leaf, for the idea “real leaf” isn’t about the real leaf, but is itself our own mental entity which is the direct object of awareness. On the other hand, if Larry wants to say that our “leaf print”, i.e., idea about the leaf, is the aboutness of the leaf itself, then he’s tacitly admitting a relation to the leaf that requires a faculty which would convert his naturalism to a supernatural, um, naturalism :-)

::::I think this agrees with what he says elsewhere, “It is as if… when I knocked out my pipe, the ashes arranged themselves into letters which read: ‘We are the ashes of a knocked-out pipe.’

::But the ashes can tell you something; they do image the event that caused them but not linguistically.

If there’s no connection between the objects of our knowledge, which in this case are our own mental entities, and real entities outside those mental entities, then everything you think exists is as likely really to exist outside what you know (which is your own mental entities) as the ashes are to arrange themselves in the manner Lewis described.

::But there is no reason on the basis of evolutionary naturalism for thinking of thought as an accident. I can concede that there is a problem of explaining how such very abstract thought has become possible but on an evolutionary basis thought as such is not accidental. It has to be at least accurate enough to aid survival.

That’s assuming thought can be about the object of thought, in which case we’re talking about a dimension to reality which naturalism has never acknowledged (though it assumes it in order to come to its conclusions).

::I don't see why a naturalist can't claim that there is aboutness. It would seem essential to the evolutionary framework that thoughts can be about things out there. What I cannot see is whether you are advocating a dualism of mind and matter and if so how you see the two relating.

Let’s remember, scientists have no problem accepting the conflicting data of micro and macro physics; the irreconcilable interpretations of the two fields, in one way or another, merely awaken us to our own limitations. Likewise with the facts of mind and matter. Naturalists like to frame the debate as naturalism vs. Descartes’ “ghost in the machine”, but this is nothing but a dogmatic construct arbitrarily imposed upon their opposition. I don’t proceed from the criteria that clear and distinct ideas are so many natures, and that therefore mind and matter are entirely separate substances. Instead, I proceed from the fact that I have sense and intellectual knowledge, am one substance, and therefore any view which discounts these facts (I must add, all the while assuming them) is a truncated view, the problem of which ultimately boils down to the temper and will of the individual holding it.

Peace,

Jesse
The man who lives in contact with what he believes to be a living Church is a man always expecting to meet Plato and Shakespeare tomorrow at breakfast. He is always expecting to see some truth that he has never seen before. --Chesterton

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Re: Lewis's "annihilation" by Anscombe? Not so sure...

Postby postodave » 30 May 2009, 09:50

I think I'm going to bow out of this one graciously. There seem to be gaps in your argument but I don't doubt you could fill them. But then I think the whole picture might be too big for me to grasp. I am not sure I would be able to pursue this with the level of attention the subject deserves. And I don't want to descend into a series of squabbles about detail.

But peace indeed

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