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Anscombe's criticisms just nitpicking?

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Anscombe's criticisms just nitpicking?

Postby Mornche Geddick » 31 Oct 2009, 15:20

I know Lewis took them seriously enough to revise his argument, but I don't see, personally, that they make much difference. Anscombe objected that physical events should be seen as "non-rational" rather than "irrational", but a chain of reasoning is broken by any link that isn't rational. If someone tells me there are aliens on Earth and they put implants in peoples' brains, it doesn't matter if he is a Scientologist or a schitzophrenic. He's wrong.

Similarly with "veridical" and "valid". Used of "argument", the two words are synonymous.

So why the big deal?
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Re: Anscombe's criticisms just nitpicking?

Postby Sven » 31 Oct 2009, 15:55

My understanding is that the problem wasn't that Anscombe proved Lewis wrong, it's that she proved he argued poorly. So much so that Lewis, who quite properly esteemed himself as a debater, felt he had let the side down by making such a sloppy argument.
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Re: Anscombe's criticisms just nitpicking?

Postby agingjb » 31 Oct 2009, 16:09

I wouldn't have said that to hold any false belief is necessarily irrational. That would imply that where there is any dispute over facts, then one of the proponents is irrational (or both are).
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Re: Anscombe's criticisms just nitpicking?

Postby mgton » 02 Nov 2009, 18:38

By the way, Victor Reppert defends an argument that is basically the same as Lewis' in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. If you're interested in lewis' argument I would definitely check it out. http://books.google.com/books?id=Nu1iosy7ELYC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_v2_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=&f=false
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Re: Anscombe's criticisms just nitpicking?

Postby archenland_knight » 04 Nov 2009, 01:42

Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
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Re: Anscombe's criticisms just nitpicking?

Postby larry gilman » 04 Nov 2009, 19:01

I know Lewis took them seriously enough to revise his argument, but I don't see, personally, that they make much difference. Anscombe objected that physical events should be seen as "non-rational" rather than "irrational", but a chain of reasoning is broken by any link that isn't rational. If someone tells me there are aliens on Earth and they put implants in peoples' brains, it doesn't matter if he is a Scientologist or a schitzophrenic. He's wrong.


You can get a PDF of Anscombe’s full argument contra Lewis at http://larrygilman.net/misc_documents/Anscombe_vs_CSL.pdf.

Lewis and Anscombe were not discussing thoughts or claims that might contain no logical fallacy but that are highly improbable or unsupported by factual evidence (like your aliens-amongst-us example, which is a defective thought not because it asserts a logical impossibility but because it is based on no appropriate evidence). They were discussing what the grounds are for considering good thoughts valid, those that are “rational” in the sense of obeying the canons of reason (e.g., “2+2 = 4”). Lewis maintained (in his original argument, e.g., Chap. III of the 1947 edition of Miracles) that a thought can only be valid if it does not arise from a cause-and-effect chain of events, a source he characterized as inherently “irrational”: “We may in fact state it as a rule that no thought is valid if it can be fully explained as the result of irrational causes” (Miracles, 1st ed.).

Anscombe argued that we cannot and do not, in fact, judge the “validity” of a piece of reasoning on its causal pedigree, on how it came about, but on whether it obeys what I’m here calling the canons or rules of reason. Otherwise (this is not Anscombe’s language) we commit the genetic fallacy -- judging a thought on its origins rather than its merits. Anscombe said, in effect, as I understand her, that where thoughts come from is irrelevant to the question of whether they are valid or not.

Lewis agreed, when pressed, that the validity of a thought is defined by its obedience to the laws of logic, not its origins: “ . . . I admit that the cause and effect relation between events and the ground and consequent relation between propositions are distinct” (God in the Dock, p. 146). He did continue to insist, however, that a difficulty remains: if the two kinds of relation are so distinct, how can cause-and-effect relations give rise to valid ground-and-consequent chains of thought?

A good question -- that is, a question with no self-evident answer, including none instantly fatal to materialism. Perhaps cause and effect can give rise to valid ground-and-consequent thinking. Why, exactly, couldn’t they? Computers are strictly causal systems, and can solve problems in formal logic. Answering that we have built them to be logical would be to evade the nub: they are deterministic, "irrational" on Lewis's original terms. They establish that a deterministic mechanism can instantiate logical processes, embody them: the claim that it cannot originate them is, to my mind, unproven, perhaps unprovable. Or un-disprovable.

I think that Lewis’s argument is excellent as a pointer to an open question (or family of questions) in philosophy, but a failure if deployed as a would-be smackdown, game-ender argument against materialism. Such battles are never won by formal logic, still less by lone Silver Bullets of logic. CSL’s argument does not attain proof or closure; it raises a problem but does not dispose of it.

And I think Lewis might have agreed: after all, he changed his chapter title from “The Self-Contradiction of the Naturalist” to “The Cardinal Difficulty of Naturalism.” And claiming a “difficulty” is a giant step down from claiming a “self-contradiction” . . .
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Re: Anscombe's criticisms just nitpicking?

Postby Mr Bultitude » 04 Nov 2009, 21:43

Larry I appreciate your analysis of the formal logic involved in both of these arguments. It's kind of a new interest of mine, and when I'm not on my blackberry I plan on downloading Anscombe's response and having a look.
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Re: Anscombe's criticisms just nitpicking?

Postby larry gilman » 05 Nov 2009, 15:53

Here is a fairly complete Reader on the CSL/Anscombe imbroglio. It contains (in this order) George Sayers's account of the incident, Lewis's 1947 chapter in Miracles, Anscombe's response, and Lewis's 1960 revision of the Miracles chapter:

[link removed: see my next post, below]

Hope this is of use,

Larry
Last edited by larry gilman on 05 Nov 2009, 21:00, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Anscombe's criticisms just nitpicking?

Postby Sven » 05 Nov 2009, 20:40

Larry, if you don't have the appropriate permissions from the Lewis estate and Sayer's agent, you're going to have to remove that link.
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
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Re: Anscombe's criticisms just nitpicking?

Postby larry gilman » 05 Nov 2009, 20:59

I have little regard for Disney-engineered copyright laws that enable immortal corporations to batten indefinitely on the writings of dead people while restricting the right of live humans to read, learn, and enjoy, but I understand that a website such as this must observe the legalities.

Thus:

Anybody who e-mails me at lnpgilman [ a t ] wildblue [ d o t ] net will receive a free, directly shared, non-publicly-available copy of the abovementioned PDF document for personal use in accordance with Title 17 of the US code, which states that "the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright" (http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#107). I assert that my provision of the abovementioned excerpts to specific individuals who have expressed their desire to learn about the C.S.Lewis/Anscombe debate falls under the rubrics of teaching, scholarship, and research. If CSL Pte. Ltd. and the University of Minnesota want to sue me, then, that's my lookout.
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