J. P. Moreland on Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism (Part One)
January 7, 2010 — 10:27

Author: Bill Vallicella  Category: Books of Interest  Comments: 48

Apart from what Alvin Plantinga calls creative anti-realism, the two main philosophical options for many of us in the West are some version of naturalism and some version of Judeo-Christian theism. As its title indicates, J. P. Moreland’s The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism (SCM Press, 2009) supports the theistic position by way of a penetrating critique of naturalism and such associated doctrines as scientism. Moreland briefly discusses creative anti-realism in the guise of postmodernism on pp. 13-14, but I won’t report on that except to say that his arguments against it, albeit brief, are to my mind decisive. Section One of this review will present in some detail Moreland’s conception of naturalism and what it entails. Sections Two and Three will discuss his argument from consciousness for the existence of God. Section Four will ever so briefly report on the contents of the rest of the book. In Part Two of this review I hope to discuss Moreland’s critique of Thomas Nagel’s Dismissive Naturalism. Numbers in parentheses are page references. Words and phrases enclosed in double quotation marks are quotations from Moreland. Inverted commas are employed for mentioning and ‘scaring.’


I What is Naturalism?
Moreland views contemporary naturalism as consisting of an epistemology, an etiology, and a general ontology.
A. The epistemology of naturalism is (weak or strong) scientism with its concomitant rejection of first philosophy. Strong scientism is the view that “unqualified cognitive value resides in science and nothing else.” (6) Weak scientism allows nonscientific subjects some cognitive value, but holds that “they are vastly inferior to science in their epistemic standing . . . .” (6) On either weak or strong scientism, there is no room for first philosophy, according to which philosophy is an autonomous discipline, independent of natural science, and authoritative in respect to it. So on scientism, natural science sets the standard in matters epistemic, and philosophy’s role is at best ancillary. The method of explanation allied to this scientistic epistemology is combinatorial and third-personal. It is combinatorial in that every complex entity is to be understood as a combination of simpler entities. Whether this enormously fruitful approach, which resolves wholes into parts and complexes into simples, can work for types of unity such as consciousness is one of the key issues in the debate. The scientistic method of explanation is third-personal in that first-personal “ways of knowing” are eschewed in favor of third-personal ways. (8)
B. The etiology or “Grand Story” of naturalism is an event-causal account of how everything came to be, spelled out in the natural-scientific terms of physics, chemistry, and evolutionary biology. There are three main features of the Grand Story. The first is that the event-causal account must proceed bottom-up, as is done in the atomic theory of matter and in evolutionary biology, not top-down. A second feature is “scientistic philosophical monism” according to which everything falls under the aegis of the methods of natural science. As monistic in this sense, naturalism is most consistently understood to entail strong physicalism, the view that everything is “fundamentally matter, most likely, elementary ‘particles’ (whether taken as points of potentiality, centers of mass/energy, units of spatially extended stuff/waves, or . . . ) organized in various ways according to the laws of nature.” (9) If a naturalist fights shy of this strong physicalism, in the direction of admitting supervenient or emergent entities, he will nonetheless have to maintain, if he is to remain a naturalist, that all additions to his ontology in excess of what strong physicalism allows must be rooted in and dependent upon the physical items of the Grand Story. The third feature of naturalism’s Grand Story is that its account of things, because it is event-causal, must reject both agent-causal and irreducibly teleological explanations. Fundamentally, the only allowable explanations are “mechanical and efficient-causal.” (9) A corollary is that the Grand Story is both diachronically and synchronically deterministic. Diachronically, in that the state of the universe at a given time together with the laws of nature determines or fixs the chances for the state of the universe at later times. Synchronically, in that the properties and changes of macro-wholes are determined by and dependent upon micro-events.
C. The general ontology of naturalism countenances only those entities that figure in a completed physics or are “dependent on and determined by the entities of physics. . . .” (6) There are three main features of naturalism’s general ontology. The first is that the only admissible entities are those “knowable by third-person scientific means.” (10) The second feature is that it must be possible, with respect to any entity admitted into the general ontology, to show how it had to arise by chains of event causation in which micro-entities combine to form increasingly complex aggregates. The third feature of naturalism’s general ontology concerns supervenience/emergence. The idea is that anything admitted in excess of the entities of physics, chemistry, and biology must be shown to be determined by and depend upon (whether with metaphysical or nomological necessity) natural scientific entities.
Moreland grants that a naturalist can stray ‘upwards’ from strong physicalism by admitting emergent properties, but in only two senses of ’emergence.’ A feature is emergent0 if it can be deduced from its base. Moreland gives the example of fractals. For a simpler example, my own, consider the weight of a stone wall. Its weight can be computed (and thus deduced) from the weights of its constituent stones. Suppose the wall has a weight that is utterly novel: nothing in the history of the universe before this wall came into existence had its exact weight. The property of weighing 1000.6998236 lbs, say, despite its utter novelty, is innocuously emergent and surely no threat to naturalism’s epistemology or Grand Story or ontology. Ordinary structural properties are emergent1. The property of being water, for example, is structural in that it is “identical to a configurational pattern among the subvenient entities,” (10) in this case atoms of hydrogen and oxygen. Structural emergent properties are also easily countenanced by naturalists. But there are five other types of emergent entities that according to Moreland are beyond the naturalist pale: sui generis epiphenomenal properties; sui generis properties which induce causal liabilities in the things that have them; sui generis properties that induce active causal powers in the things that have them; emergent egos which are consciously active and rational; emergent egos which are conscious, active, and rational and are rights-possessors.
With the exception of the first two types of emergence, emergent entities, whether properties or substances, “defy naturalist explanation and they provide confirmation for biblical theism construed as a rival to naturalism.” (11-12) Human persons in particular “are recalcitrant facts for naturalism and provide evidence for Judeo-Christian monotheism.” (14) At this point I need to register a misgiving I have over Moreland’s use of ’emergence.’ On his way of thinking, human persons are emergent entities, albeit ones that cannot be accommodated by naturalism. But I should think that, because Moreland’s purpose is to “provide confirmation for biblical theism,” human persons and “suitably unified mental egos” (11) are precisely the opposite of emergent. If persons are created by God in his image, then they do not emerge since what emerges emerges ‘from below,’ from suitably organized material configurations. But it all depends on how we will use ’emergence.’ There is an innocuous sense of the term according to which an entity emerges just in case it manifests itself or comes into being. Apparently this is the way Moreland uses the word. But in its philosophically pregnant sense, ’emergence’ is a theoretical term, a terminus technicus, that always implies that that which emerges has an origin ‘from below,’ from matter, and never ‘from above,’ from spirit or mind. (See the opening paragraph of Timothy O’Connor’s SEP article, Emergent Properties.) I suggest we use it as a technical term, but Moreland is of course free to disagree.
II The Argument From Consciousness for the Existence of God
Finite consciousness exists. But naturalism is “utterly incapable in principle” (16) of explaining it. Moreland concludes that “the existence of God is the best explanation for finite examples of consciousness in creatures such as humans and various animals.” (16) This is the gist of Moreland’s argument from consciousness (AC) for the existence of God. Here, verbatim, is Moreland’s argument in formal dress:
1. Genuinely non-physical mental states exist.
2. There is an explanation for the existence of mental states.
3. Personal explanation is different from natural scientific explanation.
4. The explanation for the existence of mental states is either a personal or natural scientific explanation.
5. The explanation is not a natural scientific one.
Therefore
6. The explanation is a personal one.
7. If the explanation is personal, then it is theistic.
Therefore
8. The explanation [for the existence of mental states] is theistic. (22-23)
This deductive version of AC is plainly valid. Let us consider what can be said in support of the premises.
Ad (1). Pace eliminitivism, it is an undeniable datum that there are mental states, but why should we think that they are “genuinely non-physical”? Why couldn’t they be identical to physical states? There are a number of well-known reasons why token-token mental-physical identity is untenable. One reason is that, to put it in my own way, some mental states have a Feiglian raw feel and a Nagelian ‘what -it-is-like’ that it makes no sense to ascribe to physical states. The felt quality of a pain, for example, is no attribute of any brain state. By the Indiscernibility of Identicals, if two items are numerically identical, then they must share all properties. Since felt painfulness is a property of pains but not of physical states, no pain can be identical to any physical state. At most, pains are correlated with physical states, but identity is not correlation. A second reason, which also invokes the Indiscernibility of identicals, is that physical states are in space while there is no clear sense in which mental states are in space. A third reason is that some mental states such as beliefs are true or false, while it makes no sense to ascribe a truth value to any physical event or state or process. A fourth reason is that some mental states exhibit intentionality: they are intrinsically characterized by directedness to an accusative which may or may not exist, or, in the case of propositional accusatives, may or may not be true. But nothing like this is the case for any physical state: as Moreland puts it, “physical states aren’t about anything.” (21) (But aren’t dispositional states physical states that are about something in a manner closely analogous to the way conscious intentional states are about something? See my post Intentionality, Potentiality, and Dispositionality: Some Points of Analogy.) A fifth reason is that mental states, quite unlike physical states, are private and accessible only in a first-person way to the one who experiences them.
Ad (2). It is undeniable that there are mental states and that they cannot be reduced to physical states. But why must there be an explanation for their existence? On this point Moreland doesn’t have much to say beyond “the appearance of mental entities and their regular correlation with physical entities are puzzling phenomena that cry out for explanation.” (24)
Ad (3). If there are irreducible mental states, and they require explanation, then the explanation must be either personal or natural-scientific. A personal explanation of an event is an explanation in terms of the irreducible purposes of an irreducible agent. Let the event be Wesson’s moving of his trigger finger. A natural-scientific explanation of this event could invoke nothing other than mechanistic event-causes operating according to natural laws. A personal explanation, by contrast, does not specify a mechanism but cites an agent with various abilities, the agent’s basic action, together with his intentions and purposes. Thus Wesson’s moving of his trigger finger would be explained, roughly, by saying that Wesson, with the end in view of causing Smith’s death, agent-caused the basic action of his moving of his finger. (23-24)
Ad (4). This premise states that the explanation of mental states is either personal or natural-scientific. Is this perhaps a false alternative? Moreland considers Colin McGinn’s mysterianism and panpsychism as third possibilitites but plausibly dismisses both. (36-40)
Ad (5). According to the fifth premise, the explanation of mental states is not a natural-scientific one. Moreland adduces four reasons. The first concerns the uniformity of nature. On naturalism, the appearance of mind is inexplicable because there is no accounting for why consciousness arises here, in brains like ours, and not in the rest of nature. Everywhere nature is the same: just myriads of physico-chemical reactions of various sorts. In general, such reactions do not produce consciousness. But they do in brains. This fact goes unexplained on naturalism. In some regions of space, non-spatial consciousness arises. Why in some regions but not in others? (24-25) I would add that even in our brains, not everything going on there manifests consciousness. Some brain states do and some don’t. How does naturalism account for that?
Moreland’s second reason has to do with the contingency of the mind/body correlation. It is a contingent fact that we are conscious at all, as the conceivability of zombies seems to show, and specific mind-brain correlations are contingent as well. (There is of course the question whether conceivability entails possibility, and in a fuller treatment Moreland would have to confront this question.) So, “Given the requirement of causal necessitation for naturalistic causal explanations, there is in principle no naturalistic explanation for either the existence of mental states or their regular correlation with physical states.” (25)
Moreland’s third reason concerns the causal closure of the physical domain, a principle to which naturalists are committed. The idea is that physical events have only physical causes: trace the causal ancestry of any physical event and you will never have to leave the physical domain. The naturalist is committed to this principle since its rejection would imply the impossibility of a complete and comprehensive physical account of all physical phenomena. Now given that there are mental states, and that they are genuinely nonphysical (see ad (1) above), it follows from the causal closure principle that mental events are epiphenomena: they have causes but no effects in the physical domain. For if genuinely nonphysical mental events had effects in the physical domain, then not every physical event would have only physical events in its causal ancestry, which would be a violation of causal closure. But mental causation is an undeniable fact, and so epiphenomenalism is false. It follows that naturalism, with its commitment to causal closure, cannot explain the existence of mental events.
The fourth reason why naturalism cannot explain mental events hinges on the inadequacy of evolutionary explanations. What evolutionary explanation could there be for the very existence of consciousness? As Moreland points out, “the functions organisms carry out consciously could just as well have been done unconsciously. Thus, both the the sheer existence of conscious states and the precise mental content that constituted them is outside the pale of evolutionary explanation.” (26-27)
From the foregoing five premises, Moreland concludes that the explanation for the existence of mental phenomena must be personal. And assuming, as Moreland does at line (7), that if the explanation is personal, then it is theistic, he concludes that the best explanation for the existence of mental phenomena in beings like us is theistic.
III The Argument from Consciousness Evaluated
What should we say in evaluation of this argument? Suppose you are an atheist, one who believes that a God of the sort that Moreland envisages either does not or cannot exist. Perhaps some version of the argument from evil convinces you of the falsity of theism, or the evil argument in conjunction with others. Which premise or premises would it be reasonable for you to deny? To deny (1) would be to bite on granite. But why accept (2)? Why accept that there must be an explanation for the existence of mental states? I myself think that (2) is more reasonably accepted than rejected, but surely it is not as luminous to the intellect as (1), and if I were an atheist who was convinced , by the argument from evil say, of the nonexistence of God, then I would be within my epistemic rights in demanding to know why mental states could not simply exist as a matter of brute fact. Could they not just exist without explanation, natural-scientific or otherwise? Moreland makes a very powerful case, to my mind a crushingly powerful case, that they do not have a natural-scientific explanation. I would go further and claim that they cannot have such an explanation. (If a naturalist pins his hopes on future science, a science that can do what contemporary science manifestly cannot do, then I say our naturalist does not know what he is talking about when he bandies about the phrase ‘future science.’ He is merely gesturing in the direction of he knows not what. He is simply asseverating that somehow science will someday have all the answers. That’s as ‘theological’ as the assurance that, though now we see through a glass darkly, later we will see face to face. What do faith and hope have to do with science? Furthermore, why should anyone hope to have it proven to him that he is nothing more than a complex physical system?) But of course it does not follow from the fact that mental states have no naturalistic explanation that they have a personal explanation: they might have no explanation. For me (5) is as difficult to deny as (1), but (2) seems reasonably deniable. It is reasonably deniable so long as Moreland cannot show that they must have an explanation. And if I were an atheist, I would be tempted to say to Moreland: “You accept that God’s existence is without explanation, so in principle you cannot have any objection to states of affairs that obtain without explanation; why then can’t this be the case as regards mental states in us?”
As for premise (7), why must we think that a personal explanation is a theistic, i.e., monotheistic explanation. Could not a personal explanation be polytheistic?
An atheist could also be expected to raise the following objection. “You demand an explanation for the existence of mental states, and you argue that this explanation cannot be natural-scientific. This leads you to posit God as explanatory of mental states in us. But God is a mind and presumably enjoys mental states. What then explains the divine mental states? If the divine mental states do not require explanation, then why do ours?
An atheist would also be quick to point out that the argument from consciousness does not support the existence of the very specific God that Moreland accepts. God for Moreland is triune; but for all the AC shows, God could have the radical unicity of Allah. Moreland is out to “provide confirmation for biblical theism construed as a rival to naturalism.” (11-12) At best, however, Moreland’s critique of naturalism confirms generic theism rather than biblical theism.
I have just listed four possible objections to Moreland’s AC. Although I am sure he has responses, the availability of these and other objections shows that the AC is not rationally compelling. But I don’t consider this much of a defect inasmuch as few if any arguments for substantive philosophical theses are rationally compelling. A rationally compelling argument is one that must be accepted by everyone who understands it on pain of being irrational in the case of nonacceptance. But although the AC is not rationally compelling or ‘knock-down’ in this stringent sense, it does, I think, render reasonable the belief in something like the Judeo-Christian God. Indeed, it makes it more reasonable to be such a theist than to be a naturalist, at least if the AC is taken together with the rest of Moreland’s arguments.
IV The Rest of the Book
Chapters 3, 4, 5, and 6 treat respectively of free will, rationality, the substantial soul, and objective morality. There is a wealth of material here that cannot be adequately summarized in a few pages. The book concludes with an appendix entitled “Dismissive Naturalism: Responding to Nagel’s Last Stand.” (165-180). Nagel’s position is a serious competitor to Moreland’s and I hope to discuss it in Part Two of this review.
All in all, Moreland’s is an impressive achievement. It exhibits two important virtues: well-informed attention to detail combined with systematic sweep. One could build a great course around it in a graduate or upper-level undergraduate seminar.

Comments:
  • Bill Rowley

    It might be worth noting (I imagine that Moreland duly cites this in the book), that this argument is basically the one of the arguments that Richard Swinburne offers in The Existence of God.

    January 7, 2010 — 20:13
  • christian

    Hi Bill,
    I think I would deny (4). There can be an explanation for mental states that is neither personal nor natural scientific. For example, there could be a metaphysical explanation for mental states.
    Here are two ways such an explanation might go:
    First, there are psycho-physical causal laws that relate physical (brain) states to mental states.
    Second, mental states are metaphysically grounded in physical (brain) states, but not through causal laws, but instead, through metaphysical laws.
    I think one of these options is right. I don’t know which is right. But if either is correct, then (4) is false.

    January 7, 2010 — 23:09
  • Bill Vallicella

    Christian,
    Good comment. I hope Professor Moreland shows up here and answers it. I wonder if if he might respond like this: Zombies are conceivable. What is conceivable is possible. (This premise is debatable.) So it is possible that the brain states that ground mental states not ground mental states. Therefore, it cannot be metaphysically necessary that the brain states that ground mental states do so. Therefore, there cannot be metaphysical laws that explain mental states. This might deal with your second option.
    As for your first option, what explains the psycho-physical causal laws? Presumably they are metaphysically (broadly logically) contingent. Moreland might urge that such laws require a personal explanation.

    January 8, 2010 — 7:28
  • Bill Vallicella

    Bill Rowley,
    You are quite right. Moreland credits (p. 23) both Robert Adams and Richard Swinburne with slightly different arguments from consciousness.

    January 8, 2010 — 7:36
  • Gordon Knight

    Hello Bill,
    My chief difficulty with Moreland’s approach is found in your first sentence:
    “Apart from what Alvin Plantinga calls creative anti-realism, the two main philosophical options for many of us in the West are some version of naturalism and some version of Judeo-Christian theism”
    From a rhetorical point of view, this approach is sensible. Most atheists are naturalists, so one way to inch such philosophers towards theism is to try to demonstrate that naturalism is false.
    But in insisting on this dichotomy Moreland is also encouraging us to ignore important philosophical alternatives. I note that he “dismisses” panpsychism, and I gather he would also dismiss Kantian, Berkeleian, or absolute idealism (even though B’s idealism is theocentric). One can construct devastating philosohical arguments in just a few pages, so maybe M has done this w/respect to panpsychism. Maybe you can say how this argument goes.
    On the other hand, suppose one is convinced that naturalism cannot explain consciousness and ALSO assumes something like naturalism is true for the rest of the universe, that is, that the physical universe is just as,e.g. D. M. Armstrong thinks it is, except with that little point about minds being part of the physical world.
    In this case, it seems to me Moreland’s argument is quite powerful. For if minds are mere anomalies attached to living organisms in a mostly naturalistic world, the best explanation for the existence of mind may be supernatural intervention in the natural world.

    January 8, 2010 — 9:23
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    If the divine mental states do not require explanation, then why do ours?
    One answer to consider is that God’s mental state’s are supposed to be metaphysically necessary, whereas ours are evidently contingent (non-necessary). Of course, (2) would need to be adjusted:
    (2*) There is an explanation for the existence of contingent mental states.

    January 8, 2010 — 9:57
  • christian

    Bill,
    I go the other way on the Zombie argument. I think zombies are conceivable (in some weak sense of the word), but metaphysically impossible. You’re right though. If they were metaphysically possible, then an appeal to metaphysical laws would not work.
    By the way, this is a move Moreland cannot (or shouldn’t) make. That God does not exist is clearly conceivable, but metaphysically impossible if Moreland is right. Thus, the Christian of Moreland’s variety shouldn’t assent to the conceivability-possibility tie in the first place.
    Suppose that Moreland were to move to the question “What explains psycho-physical laws?” and then argue that they require some personal explanation. Now we have a very different argument. Here are two worries for it.
    First, the appeal to brute facts here is very plausible, whereas in the case of consciousness it wasn’t very plausible. The naturalist will think that the laws of nature explain, but don’t need explanation.
    Second, the appeal to a personal explanation will require a further appeal to the existence of metaphysical laws. Namely, if God wills that the laws be thus-and-so, then they will be thus-and-so. I take it that these laws will be brute (or grounded in God’s nature which is brute). This means that the personal explanation offers no advantage.
    Then, of course, there may yet be a metaphysical explanation for the natural laws (which include psycho-physical laws). This is a coherent option anyway and will depend upon which account of natural laws we are working with.

    January 8, 2010 — 13:26
  • Bill Vallicella

    Joshua,
    It is no doubt standard doctrine that God is a necessary being (one who exists in all metaphysically possible worlds); but could he be necessary in every aspect of his being? If S knows that p, and p is contingent, then S’s knowing that p must also be contingent. It would seem that God’s knowledge of contingent truths entails that some of his mental states are contingent. So my question could be put as follows:
    If contingent divine mental states do not require explanation, then why do ours?

    January 8, 2010 — 17:46
  • Bill Vallicella

    Hi Gordon,
    You are quite right that there are alternatives to both naturalism and theism. (Though one cannot reasonably fault Mioreland for not covering the alternatives in a book that already treats with a fairly high degree of rigor a lot of material.) I would add that Plantinga’s trichotomy: theism or naturalism or creative antirealism also leaves something to be desired. For example, there is no place for McTaggart in that tripartition. He is none of the three. Same goes for Advaita Vedanta and some forms of Buddhism.
    So I suggest the trichotomy: spiritualism or naturalism or creative anti-realism. (But I don’t have time to spell that out.)
    >> suppose one is convinced that naturalism cannot explain consciousness and ALSO assumes something like naturalism is true for the rest of the universe

    January 8, 2010 — 18:07
  • christian

    Bill,
    I think zombies are impossible. But point taken. Moreland shouldn’t appeal to a conceivability-possibility entailment. Conceivably God doesn’t exist, If He exist, His existence is necessary, S5 modal logic is right–but then there goes theism. So, those are two reasons for avoiding your first response.
    As to the second, these laws will be brute. The naturalist can say this. This is more plausible than claiming that the existence of mental states is brute.
    I also don’t see how a personal explanation of natural laws is going to avoid bruteness. It fairs no better here.

    January 8, 2010 — 19:48
  • Bill Vallicella

    Christian,
    There are some tricky questions here. One is whether conceivability entails possibility. As you point out, the nonexistence of God is metaphysically impossible, but conceivable. To paraphrase Hume, whatever we conceive as existent we can just as easily conceive as nonexistent. So this is a reason to think that conceivability does not entail possibility. I suppose Moreland could say that, although conceivability does not entail possibility, it is defeasible evidence for it.
    >>the laws of nature explain, but don’t need explanation.> the appeal to a personal explanation will require a further appeal to the existence of metaphysical laws. Namely, if God wills that the laws be thus-and-so, then they will be thus-and-so.

    January 9, 2010 — 13:02
  • Bill Vallicella

    Christian writes,
    >>As to the second, these laws [metaph. cont. psyhcophysical laws] will be brute. The naturalist can say this. This is more plausible than claiming that the existence of mental states is brute.

    January 9, 2010 — 13:17
  • Bill Vallicella

    Does anyone have J P Moreland’s e-mail address?

    January 9, 2010 — 13:52
  • tedlagebreyesus

    Here’s JP’s email address:
    JP Moreland
    I hope he joins the discussion here.
    Cheers,
    Tedla

    January 9, 2010 — 14:04
  • tedlagebreyesus

    Sorry–there is a problem that I can’t fix. I tried to submit JP’s email address twice. The email address fails to show up.
    I’m trying to do it as follows, it’s: jp (without space between j and p)dot followed by moreland at biola dot edu.
    Hope that helps.
    Tedla

    January 9, 2010 — 14:11
  • Bill Vallicella

    Tedla,
    That does indeed help. Thank you. I’ll shoot a message to JP.

    January 9, 2010 — 16:10
  • Bill Vallicella

    With J P Moreland’s permission, I reproduce the following e-mail from him to me:
    Hi, Bill.
    I had someone tip me off to your excellent and gracious review of my book. I am so very thankful for it. I don’t like to get in to blog discussions, and to be honest, as a personal commitment to my wife and due to my schedule and other commitments, I just can’t–and won’t–get started down that line. So thanks for the invite, but I must decline. Three words of response may be useful. First, I take strong conceiving to be a defeasible, but generally reliable guide to modality. We use it all the time successfully, and I don’t know of a better ground for modal judgments. And I take conceiving to be grounded epistemically in a relevant form of rational (and sometimes sensory) intuition, e.g., eidetic intuition. I am aware of mental properties by first-person introspction, I have good knowledge of the development of physics/chemistry for 350 years, so I have a good grasp of the nature of physical objects, properties and relations, along with the direction future research is likely to take, and see no necessary connection between them (and as one respondant pointed out, it is contingent connection that needs explanation) and should not be taken as a brute fact if there is a plausible explanation for the contingent existence and connection to the physical, in this case, personal explanation. The fact that God has mental states is a necessary fact, though some of his contingent mental states do, in fact, have an explanation (e.g., the obtaining of their intentional objects). Second, I am limiting my remarks in the book to the debate between theists and those who think scientific naturalism is the only plausible rival (so I am setting aside Berkeley, Kant, etc.). Third, your review helped me realize that I did not make this clear in my book, namely, that I do not myself believe that mental substances or properties are emergent; rather, I am arguing that even if they are, the naturalist cannot adequately explain them (as opposed to, say, structurally supervenient properties.
    One more thing. I agree with you about the PC nature of gender related language, I am politically conservative, and repent of my pacifism in light of your comments.
    Blessings to you.
    JP

    January 10, 2010 — 17:40
  • I’d like to hear more on “A feature is emergent0 if it can be deduced from its base.” Specifically, on what “deduced” means.
    Does it just mean: “It is metaphysically impossible for the base to exist without that feature existing”? But then emergent1 properties probably also count as emergent0. Moreover, depending on one’s metaphysics, too much will count as emergent0. For instance, maybe it is metaphysically necessary that if an apple is dropped on earth in the absence of countervailing causes, then it falls. But do we want to say that the apple’s falling is emergent0 from its being dropped on earth in the absence of countervailing causes?

    January 10, 2010 — 19:08
  • christian

    Thanks for your attention Bill.
    Having read Moreland’s response, it seems to me, still, that premise four involves a false dilemma.
    It’s hard to know what to make of the idea that “strong conceiving” is a generally reliable guide to modality. Also, if Moreland is “limiting my remarks in the book to the debate between theists and those who think scientific naturalism is the only plausible rival”, then I think he has missed his main opponent.

    January 10, 2010 — 19:29
  • Bill Vallicella

    Moreland doesn’t say much about the differences among the seven levels of emergence he discusses. And he doesn’t address your interesting question. But perhaps the difference between the zeroth and the first level is the difference between analytic a priori necessities and synthetic a posteriori necessities.
    If a wall consists of nothing but 100 10 lb stones, then it follows analytically that the weight of the wall is 1000 lbs. That a quantity of liquid is water, however, is not an analytic consequence of its being a hydrogen-oxygen compound. Water is necessarily H2O but this is a fact knowable only a posteriori.
    As for your apple example, Moreland would deny that the laws of nature are metaphysically necessary.

    January 10, 2010 — 20:06
  • Bill, how about this example? That Judas would betray Jesus is analytically entailed by God’s having caused a prophecy of Judas betraying Jesus. But is Judas’ betraying of Jesus emergent0 from God’s having caused a prophecy of Judas betraying Jesus?
    I am guessing that in addition to derivation, we need some sort of explanatory condition: y is emergent0 from a base x only if x is somehow explanatory of y.

    January 11, 2010 — 9:14
  • M.

    One answer to consider is that God’s mental state’s are supposed to be metaphysically necessary, whereas ours are evidently contingent (non-necessary). Of course, (2) would need to be adjusted:
    (2*) There is an explanation for the existence of contingent mental states.

    I have a question about this. Why assume that the person responsible for the existence of consciousness as posited by Moreland’s AC is necessary? That auxiliary claim seems like it’s in need of independent support. Otherwise, we might as well just posit the necessary existence of human mental states and bypass the argument entirely. Implausible, yes, but many won’t find the idea of a necessary God very plausible, either.

    January 11, 2010 — 14:49
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Bill,
    If contingent divine mental states do not require explanation, then why do ours?
    I think one can maintain that contingent divine mental states do have an explanation. E.g., God’s knowing that I exist is explained by the fact that I exist; God’s wishing to create this world is explained by God’s being impressed by this sort of world (cf. Pruss on the taxicab objection); and so on.
    Christian,
    Why can’t Moreland say that conceivability is a defeasible guide to possibility? In the case of conceiving God’s non-existence, the evidence is defeated once one realizes that one can equally conceive of God’s existence and that given S5 it cannot be that both God’s existence and non-existence are possible.

    January 12, 2010 — 11:20
  • christian

    Hey Joshua,
    This is a huge topic. Here are a few thoughts.
    Why can’t Moreland say that conceivability is a defeasible guide to possibility?
    He can. The devil is in the details. I don’t know what ‘defeasible guide’ means, but if we give up entailment, I think conceiving that P is possible must make it more probable than otherwise that P is possible. How is this going to work?
    The probability that P is possible is 0 or 1. So, it cannot have its probability raised by a conceiving. So you then need a subjective interpretation of probability. But from the Principle Principle, rational credences should correspond to the objective chances. But these chances are 1 or 0. So, again, the probability that P is possible cannot have its probability raised.
    Moreover, there are infinitely many propositions that are conceivable and impossible, and also, infinitely many propositions that are conceivable and possible. So, how does a conceiving raise the probability that some proposition P is possible?
    Suppose both of those worries have satisfactory answers. Why don’t we think that the intuition that zombies are possible is defeated? Perhaps it is defeated by one’s evidence that equally competent people conceive that they are impossible. There are other defeaters too.
    In the case of conceiving God’s non-existence, the evidence is defeated once one realizes that one can equally conceive of God’s existence and that given S5 it cannot be that both God’s existence and non-existence are possible.
    But then both claims are defeated.
    By the way, I think I do agree with your main point. I think intuitions generate justification. That it seems to me that P is possible gives me prima facie justification for believing that P is possible. I’m okay with that. I don’t think this is terribly interesting. Prima facie justification is cheap. I don’t see how this will help Moreland’s argument.

    January 12, 2010 — 18:44
  • Bill Vallicella

    Joshua,
    The contingent fact of God’s knowing that you exist can be explained by the fact of your existence, which fact can explained by God’s free decision to actualize our world. But then the free divine decision goes unexplained. But perhaps I am not following you.

    January 12, 2010 — 19:20
  • Bill Vallicella

    Christian,
    You make an excellent point. Conceivability does not entail possibility. So one is tempted to say that it is defeasible evidence of possibility. But this implies that it raises the probability. Conceiving that p, however, cannot raise the probability that p. For that probability is either 1 or 0. (And your reason for this, I take it, is the characteristic S5 axiom, Poss p –> Nec Poss p.)
    And yet we seem to have modal knowledge. Surely I know that my desk, which is 2 inches from the wall, might have been 3 inches from the wall. But how do I know this if conceivability neither entails nor is evidence for possibility? No doubt I can both imagine and conceive my desk being 3 inches from the wall. But what does this have to do with the possibility of the desk’s being 3 inches from the wall?
    You have caused me to see a problem I hadn’t seen before. The epistemology of modal knowledge is a most vexatious topic. Here is a post of mine that may be of interest. http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2009/01/notes-on-van-inwagen-on-modal-epistemology.html

    January 12, 2010 — 21:22
  • christian

    Bill,
    Indeed.
    “And your reason for this, I take it, is the characteristic S5 axiom, Poss p –> Nec Poss p.”
    We don’t even need S5. If possibly P, then the probability that possibly P = 1. It’s also true that the probability that necessarily possibly P = 1. But the latter is not required, logically, for the former (I have serious doubts about S5, btw).
    The whole issue vexes me as well. Thanks for the link.

    January 12, 2010 — 22:06
  • Bill Vallicella

    Christian,
    You say, “If possibly P, then the probability that possibly P = 1.” You have asserted this twice without giving a reason. So it must be obvious to you. But it is not obvious to me. So perhaps you could explain it to me.
    My desk is 2″ from the wall, but, possibly, it is 3″ from the wall. That is a possible, but unactual, state of affairs. Call it S. What are we talking about when we talk about the probability of S? We are not talking about the probability of S’s being actual, for S is precisely an unactual (unrealized) state of affairs. (We may even assume that it will forever remain unactualized.) Are we talking about the probability of the existence of that unactualized state of affairs, where existence is distinguished from actuality? If yes, then it is not obvious that that probability is automatically either 1 or 0.
    More fundamentally, it is not clear (to me at least) what exactly is meant by talk of the probability of unactual possibilities. Is there a literature on this?
    Of course, everything actual is possible, and so saying that the probability of the possibility of my blogging right now is 1 is perfectly clear since it is actually the case that I am blogging right now.

    January 13, 2010 — 7:04
  • Mike Almeida

    If possibly P, then the probability that possibly P = 1.
    Surely that’s right. And surely it is right that the possibility that p is either 1 or 0 (assuming p is not indeterminately possible, I suppose). But how does all of this show that the probability that p is possible cannot take a value between 0 and 1?
    Some quick examples: I flipped a fair coin yesterday and it came up either heads or tails. What probability do you place that it’s heads? What is it’s epistemic probability? Answer: .5. What is the probability that the Aztecs built more temples than have been discovered so far? Well, they either did or didn’t, but our epistemic probability is neither 0 nor 1.
    Is conceivability evidence of possibility? The answer has to be yes, I think. It’s “sort of” true that conceivability does not ensure (metaphysical) possibility. But this really gets Kripke wrong (or half right), assuming Kripke’s aposteriori necessary truths are your counterexamples. Kripke provided the bad news about conceivability, but he also provided the good news. When you conceive that p = water might not have been H2O, you are concieving of a genuine metapysical possiblity alright, but not quite the one you think. The possibility you have in mind is p under a different guise, e.g. ‘the watery stuff might not have been H2O’ (‘the watery stuff’ and ‘water’ both pick out H2O in our world, so it’s an understandable mistake). And that is a genuine metaphysical possibility, since in many worlds the watery stuff is not H2O. So conceivability does entail the possibiliy of something close to p, if not p. The even better news, if Kripke turns out right, is that conceivability does entail possiblity in cases where there is no guise which is providing the illusion that p is possible. (This is particularly important when you’re conceiving of God in ontological arguments, where there is no obvious guise misleading you. Those arguments do not fail because conceivability fails to entail possibility).

    January 13, 2010 — 9:47
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Bill,
    But then the free divine decision goes unexplained.
    I am thinking that this decision can be explained (contingently) by certain necessarily obtaining divine mental states. And the contingent explanation, in turn, can be explained by other facts, perhaps ad infinitum (cf. Pruss on taxi-cab or something I wrote ).
    Christian,
    Yes, there are thorns in the details. For what it’s worth, I think there are good reasons to doubt that epistemic probability conforms to the probability calculus (e.g., the objective chance that I came to exist is surely lower than my epistemic probability regarding that fact). Also, your suggestion of the infinitely many counter-examples is interesting and deserves careful consideration.

    January 13, 2010 — 16:47
  • christian

    Bill,
    I don’t know how to defend that claim, namely, “If possibly P, then the probability that possibly P = 1” without appealing to S5 or by claiming it’s intuitive. I’ll have to think more about it. Thanks for the challenge.
    “What are we talking about when we talk about the probability of S? We are not talking about the probability of S’s being actual, for S is precisely an unactual (unrealized) state of affairs.”
    I was just thinking about these things the way that I was taught, a way that I thought was standard. There is a space of exclusive and exhaustive possibilities, and the probability assigned to them is the probability that each occurs (or is actualized, or obtains, or…). If you stipulate that a particular possibility is not actualized, then the probability that it is actualized is 0. I guess I think of these possibilities as states of affairs, sometimes conjunctive, etc.
    “Of course, everything actual is possible, and so saying that the probability of the possibility of my blogging right now is 1 is perfectly clear since it is actually the case that I am blogging right now.”
    Agreed. I would think the chance and probability that your are blogging right now = 1. The same for the conditional probability that you could be blogging given that you are blogging. It’s 1 too.
    Mike,
    I’m thinking in terms of objective probability.
    Joshua,
    The tense and mood of the claims matter a lot. I think the chance you existed = 1. I think the chance you had existed is undefined without more info. I think the chance that you had existed given that you existed = 1. It’s hard to hear “that you came to exist” as other than indicative, so I give it a chance and probability of 1.Anyway, this is all controversial. I have no theory. Here’s one to look at though…
    David Barnett “Zif Would Have Been If” in Nous, Forthcoming. Look at the section on probability. The paper is also available on his website.

    January 13, 2010 — 17:43
  • Mike Almeida

    Mike,I’m thinking in terms of objective probability.
    Didn’t you invoke the principal principle (PP) above for cases of subjective (epistemic) probability, claiming that if the objective chance of p = 1, then the epistmeic probabiliy must = 1 (I seem to recall something to that effect)? I’m responding to that. The epistemic probability = the objective probability, given PP, only if you know the objective probability. Otherwise, as I’ve noted, it might be anywhere between 0 and 1. The fact that the possibility of P is either 0 or 1 does not entail that the subjective (epistemic) probability does not lie in between. A proof of a mathematical theorem might be evidence that the theorem is possibly true, but the proof might not be conclusive. It might need mechinized (computer) checking in various ways. So we can have an epistemic probability of less than 1 and greater than 0 for the claim that what the theorem states is not impossible, i.e. is possible. But it is certainly either possible or not.

    January 13, 2010 — 19:26
  • Mike Almeida

    It’s hard to hear “that you came to exist” as other than indicative, so I give it a chance and probability of 1
    1. The chance that I exist.
    2. The chance that I came to exist.
    3. The chance that I existed (yesterday?).
    4. The chance that I existed (at some point in the history of the world?).
    I can see how (1) is 1 (though I’d put it at less than 1). I can’t see how (2) is anywhere close to 1. First, how to do specify chances for somethng coming into existence? What is that non-existent thing whose chances of existing you are talking about. I can also see how you might put (3) at 1 (though once again, I’d put it at less than 1). (4) is not determinate, as far as I can tell, like (2).

    January 13, 2010 — 19:33
  • christian

    Mike,
    The epistemic probability = the objective probability, given PP, only if you know the objective probability. Otherwise, as I’ve noted, it might be anywhere between 0 and 1. The fact that the possibility of P is either 0 or 1 does not entail that the subjective (epistemic) probability does not lie in between.
    First, I’m not sure what to say about subjective probabilities. Nonetheless, the following claim sounds awfully strange to me: “I know the objective chance that P is true is 0 or 1; however, given what I have to go on, I think the right thing to say about whether P is true is that it is 50% likely to be true.”
    Well, part of me says “No!” The right thing to say is that the probability that P is true is either 0 or it is 1, and I simply don’t know which. One thing I do know, however, is that the chance that P is true is not 50% and so, by the Principle Principle, I should not assign a 50% probability to P.
    About (1) through (4), maybe you’re right. In particular, I agree with your assessment of (1), (3) and (4), and that (2) is problematic. Perhaps I should have said it is undefined. Again, I need to think much more about this.

    January 14, 2010 — 0:44
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Christian, thanks for the link.

    January 14, 2010 — 11:25
  • Bill Vallicella

    Christian,
    Above you write, “The probability that P is possible is 0 or 1. So, it cannot have its probability raised by a conceiving.” I don’t know what this means.
    There are no unicorns. But I can conceive that there are. Now one question is whether my ability (or rather our ability) to conceive of the existence of unicorns is evidence of the possibility of there being unicorns.
    You seem to be saying that the probability of there being this possibility cannot be raised by any act of conceiving. One problem is that it is not clear what it could mean to raise the probability of there being a possibility. But even if you can assign meaning to this talk, it seems you are missing the point. The point is not to raise probability but to provide a reason for thinking that it is really possible that there be unicorns.
    It is also not clear why the probability that p is possible must be either 1 or 0. Of course, the merely possible state of affairs, *The existence of unicorns*, either obtains or does not. But in this discussion we are not talking about the probability of the obtaining of a merely possible state of affairs, but the probability of there being a merely possible state of affairs.

    January 14, 2010 — 13:33
  • christian

    Bill,
    “Above you write, “The probability that P is possible is 0 or 1. So, it cannot have its probability raised by a conceiving.” I don’t know what this means.”
    Consider the proposition that P is possible and call this proposition Q. I said the probability that Q is true = 1 or else the probability that Q is true = 0.
    Suppose it is 1. If so, then it cannot have it’s probability raised since 1 is the upper limit for a probability. Suppose it is 0. If so, then it cannot have it’s probability raised since 0 times any number = 0, and probabilities get “raised” by conditionalization, which involves multiplication.
    “But even if you can assign meaning to this talk, it seems you are missing the point. The point is not to raise probability but to provide a reason for thinking that it is really possible that there be unicorns.”
    I thought I conceded this much when responding to Joshua. There I wrote: “By the way, I think I do agree with your main point. I think intuitions generate justification. That it seems to me that P is possible gives me prima facie justification for believing that P is possible. I’m okay with that.” I just want to hear more how one can get a reason to believe P, where this reason doesn’t raise the probability of P given one’s background evidence.
    “One problem is that it is not clear what it could mean to raise the probability of there being a possibility.”
    Indeed. This is my point!
    “It is also not clear why the probability that p is possible must be either 1 or 0.”
    Well, P is possible iff P is necessarily possible. All necessary truths have a probability of 1. All equivalent claims have the same probability. Thus, that P is possible has a probability = 1. Ditto in the other direction.
    “But in this discussion we are not talking about the probability of the obtaining of a merely possible state of affairs, but the probability of there being a merely possible state of affairs.”
    Agreed. I’m saying that the probability that there could have been unicorns = 1.

    January 14, 2010 — 15:12
  • Mike Almeida

    Above you write, “The probability that P is possible is 0 or 1. So, it cannot have its probability raised by a conceiving.” I don’t know what this means.
    It’s obviously Christian’s point to argue, but (I think) his view is not so controversial. The proposition P is either true or false.
    P. It is possible that there are souls.
    If (P) is true, then the chances that (P) is true is 1. If (P) is false, then the chances that (P) is true is 0. Therefore the chances that it is possible that there are souls is either 0 or 1. It is not entirely uncommon to put the chances of true propositions at 1, though not everyone does. And this is consistent with the epistemic probability of (P) being somewhere between 0 and 1. Anyway, for what it’s worth.

    January 14, 2010 — 16:43
  • Jason

    Let us say conceivability does not entail possibility. Doesn’t conceivability in some way presuppose possibility? I define presupposition in a Strawsonian sense. You can then set up a sort of transcendental type of argument for the justification of possibility (using conceivability). I haven’t thought much on how to flesh out an argument, but was wondering what initial thoughts some you might have on this idea?
    Of course, if one is suspicious of transcendental arguments, then this proposal is wanting.

    January 14, 2010 — 23:09
  • Bill Vallicella

    Jason,
    Your suggestion is interesting and worth exploring. Much depends on how conceivability is unpacked. Here is a suggestion off the top of my head. Suppose we say that proposition p is conceivable just in case it is possible that there be a subject S such that (i) S entertains p, and (ii) after careful consideration S finds no logical contradiction. Then one might argue that since some propositions are conceived, that some are conceivable, and so there must be at least one (metaphysical) possibility, namely that there be at least one S who satisfies the above two conditions. Thus the fact of conceivability would entail the existence of at least one metaphysical possibility.
    But what is usually meant by the question whether conceivability entails possibility is whether the conceivability that p entails the possibility that p, not the possibility of some proposition distinct from p.
    Mike and Christian,
    Thanks for your stimulating comments. I will have to dig into some of the papers in the Gendler anthology on conceivability and possibility.

    January 18, 2010 — 10:18
  • Mike Almeida

    Christian, you write,
    First, I’m not sure what to say about subjective probabilities. Nonetheless, the following claim sounds awfully strange to me: “I know the objective chance that P is true is 0 or 1; however, given what I have to go on, I think the right thing to say about whether P is true is that it is 50% likely to be true.”
    Anyone doing history or anthropology makes such claims all the time, and (keeping the two senses of probability distinct) it makes sense. Did the Aztecs build more temples than the one’s we know about? The answer has to be yes or no (barring vague temples). That is, they’ll concede that the chances are either 0 (false) or 1 (true) that there are more temples. But now they want to know which it is. The epistemic probability is just the probability that there are temples, given what we know. We know either there are temples or not. But (suppose) we also know that Smith seems to have found something resembling a temple. That evidence can make the epistemic probability greater than .5 but less than 1. So we really need both sorts of probability.

    January 18, 2010 — 11:38
  • christian

    Mike,
    I find what you said above pretty intuitive. It’s appearing to Smith that he has found a temple raises the probability that there is a temple, given what Smith has to go on. In general, If Pr(P) = n, and n is greater than 0 and less than 1, then Pr(P given that it appears to one that P & one’s background knowledge) > Pr(P given one’s background knowledge). In short, for many propositions, it’s appearing to one that that proposition is true raises the probability that that proposition is true given one’s background knowledge.
    My worry is how we ought to apply this thought to modal propositions, that is, if we assume their probabilities are either 1 or 0. You think that we can assign such propositions a subjective probability of, for example, 50% and run the same line. I wonder how we can assign to modal propositions a probability of 50% in the first place. There are examples according to which it seems that we can, e.g. The Continuum Hypothesis. I agree that these examples are intuitive.
    However, I think this line runs up against a simple thought that is motivated by the Principle Principle. Here’s that thought:
    If I know the chance that P is true is not = n, then the subjective probability of P given my background knowledge is not = n. So, for modal propositions, if I know the chance that some modal proposition is true does not = 50%, then the probability I should assign to that proposition should not be 50%. Perhaps I should assign no probability at all to such propositions. Perhaps the probability I should assign is an indeterminate one. Perhaps I should assign the probability [0, 1] where this reflects my judgment that the proposition should receive a probability of 0 or 1. I don’t really know.
    Maybe that thought is wrong. Nonetheless, it seems pretty plausible to me.

    January 19, 2010 — 9:59
  • Mike Almeida

    If I know the chance that P is true is not = n, then the subjective probability of P given my background knowledge is not = n
    That’s interesting, but the conditional in PP goes the other way: if the chances are n then the EP should be n. You’re suggesting that if it is not the case that the chances are n, then it is not the case that the EP should be n. But, by contraposition, you get that if the EP is n, then the chances should be n. But that’s not true. Many times I know what the EP of p is, but I can’t conclude anything about the chance of p. No?

    January 19, 2010 — 16:32
  • christian

    Right, the conditional in PP does go the other way. I find the converse of PP to be plausible and was appealing to it.
    The contraposition of my converse PP should be (something like) the following:
    If the EP of P should = n, then the objective chance that P is true = n.
    Many times I know what the EP of p is, but I can’t conclude anything about the chance of p. No?
    Can you think of a case in which you know what the EP of P should be, where you can’t conclude anything about what the chance of P is? I’m having a hard time thinking of a clear case.

    January 20, 2010 — 13:01
  • M.

    Can you think of a case in which you know what the EP of P should be, where you can’t conclude anything about what the chance of P is? I’m having a hard time thinking of a clear case.
    Sure; see Humphreys’ paradox. Given that a dead person has a bullet hole through his head and no other visible injuries, the EP that the person died from a gunshot wound is high. However, the objective chance that the person was shot through the head is impossible to estimate.

    January 22, 2010 — 4:16
  • Mike Almeida

    Given that a dead person has a bullet hole through his head and no other visible injuries, the EP that the person died from a gunshot wound is high. However, the objective chance that the person was shot through the head is impossible to estimate.
    The person has a bullet hole through his head and the objective chance that he was shot through the head is impossible to estimate? Why isn’t the chance 1? Maybe you mean, the chance before the obvious fact that you are shot through the head? The chances are pretty good that the person is shot through the head given that, well, he is shot through the head.
    Can you think of a case in which you know what the EP of P should be, where you can’t conclude anything about what the chance of P is? I’m having a hard time thinking of a clear case
    Sure, suppose you’re trying to get to the center of a labyrinth and you know there are two turns left. At each turn a coin is flipped for you to go right or left. You need two lefts to get to the center. Supposing they’re fair coins, your objective chance of reaching the center is .25. In fact, suppose they biased in your favor, (heads) left: your chances of reaching the center is nearly 1. But your evidence is that both coins are seriously biased against you and next to certain to come up tails (right). You conclude that the EP of getting to the center is 0.

    January 22, 2010 — 8:47
  • christian

    Supposing they’re fair coins, your objective chance of reaching the center is .25.
    Then I think you should assign a .25 probability to reaching the center.
    In fact, suppose they biased in your favor, (heads) left: your chances of reaching the center is nearly 1.
    Then, in this case, I think you should assign a probability near 1 to reaching the center.
    But your evidence is that both coins are seriously biased against you and next to certain to come up tails (right). You conclude that the EP of getting to the center is 0.
    So, your evidence is misleading, and if you conclude the EP of getting to the center “should be” 0, then you’re wrong. It’s not the case that it should be 0.

    January 23, 2010 — 21:28
  • Mike Almeida

    But your evidence is that both coins are seriously biased against you and next to certain to come up tails (right). You conclude that the EP of getting to the center is 0.
    So, your evidence is misleading, and if you conclude the EP of getting to the center “should be” 0, then you’re wrong. It’s not the case that it should be 0.

    Well, no. Unless you’re assuming that I cannot have good evidence for a false proposition or (stronger) cannot be justified in beliving a false proposition. If so, then we just disagree about whether someone can have evidence for a false proposition. I do think so, since I don’t want to be in the position of claiming, for instance, that we never had good evidence for Newtonian Physics.

    January 24, 2010 — 8:03