Monday, October 2, 2017

Five Proofs on The Daily Wire


Last week I did a Skype interview with The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro.  The interview has now been posted at Ben’s Facebook page.  (You can also watch it on YouTube.)  We talk about Five Proofs of the Existence of God, and also about free will and neuroscience. 

100 comments:

  1. Your room needs more books ๐Ÿ˜œ

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ed I'm thinking this was your office at work or something. It's a legit library in there. We you have two shelves of books that form a walkway it's now a library.

      Delete
  2. So cool! I'm so glad to see you getting more exposure! Maybe you could get Ben to connect you with The Joe Rogan Experience, Lowder With Crowder and/or the Rubin Report (where Bishop Robert Barron just appeared). I'm sure they'd be more than willing to have you! appears on

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really just want (need) Jordan Peterson and Edward Feser to have a discussion.

      Delete
    2. That would need to be too long. There is too much difference between their philosophical assumptions for just an hour or even two.

      Now, a series would be interesting.

      Delete
  3. Dr. Feser,
    I was wonder whether you'll be responding to any of the latest activity from the New Atheists. Dawkins recently tweeted, "Durn tootin’, great shootin’. Cool dude sertin’ he’s 2nd Mendment rahts. Hell yeah!...", insinuating that pro-2nd Ammendment Americans are both too idiot to express an articulate thought and emphatically congratulatory of the deadliest civilian shooter in US history; this despite the fact that presumably many of the victims of the massacre are pro-2nd Ammendment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ...In other words, he's ridiculing victims of the deadliest mass-shooting in the history of our country while bodies are still being counted.

      Delete
    2. I don't think Dawkins is speaking as a new atheist in those tweets.

      Delete
    3. ...he appears confused about which accent he's trying to parody.

      Thought he'd went off the deep end ranting about 'SJWs' and tweeting pics of books with 'Save the White Race' slogans?

      Delete
    4. It has been hilarious seeing the New Atheists fall apart over the issue of identity politics. But my sympathies, personally, are with Dawkins. He represents good, clean idiocy.The SJW are a convulted, contradictory mess of stupidity.

      Delete
  4. It is delightful to see your work reach a wider audience.

    Some atheists are actually taking the time to read, reflect on and consider the arguments.

    Your work is making a difference.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is great Dr. Feser. Your work is getting the attention it rightfully deserves. Hopefully we can expose the public to the rationale of classical theism.

    ReplyDelete
  6. You mention your retorsion argument of ~PSR in this video. I don't know if you're aware but over at the Classical Theism Forum (in the 'Scholastic Metaphysics and PSR' thread) and in one of your comboxes, we've been discussing whether or not it could actually work. Tyler put it nicely in my previous discussion with him in your "Radio Activity" combox. I'm going to try to give the gist of our critique:

    If we are to say that ~PSR would make our cognitive faculties unreliable or untrustworthy because it is at least possible in a ~PSR world that our cognitive deliverances are brute facts, then we would have to become radical skeptics concerning our cognitive faculties. But if we hold that ~PSR entails radical skepticism because of the mere possibility that our cognitive faculties are governed by brute facts, then we would have to be committed (even in a PSR world) to radical skepticism, because scenarios like brains in vats (BIV) or a cartesian demon (CD) are at least possible. That is, if the mere possibility of brute facts entails radical skepticism, then the mere possibility of BIV, CD, or any other epistemic scenario would entail radical skepticism in even a world in which PSR holds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I mean one could deny the mere possibility of BIV, CD, or any other epistemic scenario which would undermine the reliability of our cognitive faculties--but I take it that many probably wouldn't go there, considering how it seems to just be special pleading.

      Delete
    2. RomanJoe

      I think you've missed an important point in the argument - the "for all we know" (if I recall correctly) part.

      A Cartesian deus deceptor being logically possible is one thing. This is a possibility that merits the "mere" qualification, as there's actually no reason to believe it's really possible.

      Denial of PSR leaves you in a situation where the deliverances of our perceptual and cognitive faculties, although seemingly furnishing evidence, cannot be reasonably said to -really- do so, as there is no reason to believe they are in any way determined by reality. And this is not a mere logical possibility, per PSR denial it's a real one.
      An example: per PSR-denial your hesitation concerning the retorsion argument really can have nothing to do with your scrutiny of it, nor is your belief that it does give you any reason to think so - for all you know, it's really possible that it is brute.

      You might reply that it is possible that it does, and I'd agree. The problem is, PSR-denial leaves you bereft of the ability of ratinally deciding one way or another. Hence scepticism.

      Delete
    3. @ Georgy

      What is this distinction you're wanting to draw between a real possibility and a "merely" logical possibility?

      Delete
    4. @Hayekian

      "Real possibility" here means possibility the reality of which we have reasons to believe. A-T potencies are examples of these. I believe logical impossibility can be converted into "real impossibility" (given the truth of PNC), but not the positive.
      I refuse to give much import to the Cartesian scenario because I have no reason to do so, scepticism is not rationally forced upon me: surely the fact that deus deceptor is no square circle lends no evidence to even a possibility of the scenario (what reason is there to believe demons with powers of comprehensive deception and leeway to apply them can obtain in reality, let alone do obtain?).

      The PSR-denier grants that brute facts can be real, that is, they are a real possibility, not just a logical one (the position of a PSR agnostic would be accordingly different). Once that is granted, however, scepticism is forced upon us, as intelligible facts and brute facts become rationally
      indistinguishable, nor can, say, probable evidence be adduced, as under PSR-denial the role of these considerations as evidence is itself put into question.

      Delete
    5. @Georgy

      Hmm I like the distinction between real and logical possibility you draw here. I suppose one could say this with regards to PSR denial:

      We only believe in the truth or likelihood of a conclusion insofar as the conclusion is a real possibility, meaning we have a justifying reason to believe in it. Logical possibilities are possible insofar as they don't undermine the principles of logic. They aren't, unlike real possibilities, premised on a justifying reason and therefore can't compel us to believe that they pertain in reality (for instance, the fact that unicorns are logically possible--considering their internal notes aren't contradictory--doesn't compel us to believe that they are actually possible). There is, then, a metaphysical gap between merely logical possibilities and real possibilities.

      Logical possibilities concerning the reliability of our cognitive faculties don't entail radical skepticism precisely because they aren't real possibilities. They aren't real possibilities because we have no justifying reason and can't in principle have a justifying reason for their reality. There is no justifying reason to believe in ~PSR and there can't in principle ever be a justifying reason because ~PSR (like the other epistemic scenarios) would undermine the reality of our cognitive faculties, thus making it impossible for us to even give a justifying reason for a belief in ~PSR. Therefore, ~PSR is not a real possibility.

      Would this entail that ~PSR is, at the very least, a logical possibility?

      Delete
    6. @ Georgy

      I'm not sure this kind of distinction is sufficient.

      From RJ's argument, there's nothing incoherent about accepting the possibility a Descartes style demon is deceiving us. It's a real or metaphysical possibility. And I don't see how this could possibly be ruled out in principled. To put it otherwise, Matrix type scenarios seem entirely metaphysically possible.

      Likewise, if we deny PSR, it's a real or metaphysical possibility our faculties are functioning inexplicably.

      Why does the one metaphysical possibility pose a problem if the other does not?

      Thanks for raising this point Roman Joe, I hadn't thought of it before, but it's an interesting way of approaching these skeptical type arguments.

      Delete
    7. @Hayekian

      Georgy can correct me if I'm wrong, but I take it that he's arguing that we can't be compelled to believe in the reality of something on the basis that it's merely possible. We are, however, compelled to believe in the reality of something if we have a justifying reason to believe in it. For instance, I have good reason to believe that I will be 5' 10" instead of 5' 11" tomorrow because I have measured myself recently and I have remained that height for quite awhile. What comes after "because" in the prior sentence would be my justifying reason. Now, of course, one could posit the mere possibility that I have been tricked by a demonic being into thinking that I'm 5' 10" and that tomorrow he might perhaps withdraw the illusion from me and reveal that I'm actually an inch taller. Now this is possible, metaphysically possible, but we have no justifying reason to believe it is the case. So, given the absence of a justifying reason, I don't have to be radically skeptical about the constancy of my height.

      This would extend over into those epistemic scenarios as well. We could only be radical skeptics of our cognitive faculties if we had a justifying reason to believe that our cognitive faculties are unreliable. But when it comes to the cartesian demon or ~PSR we can't in principle ever have a justifying reason for their reality because in both cases our cognitive faculties are rendered null, unreliable. Therefore, we could never *really* give a justifying reason for believing in these scenarios. But, as I take Georgy to be arguing, we are only compelled to believe in the reality of something insofar as we have a justifying reason for said belief. This means, then, we can never be compelled to believe in ~PSR because we can never give a justifying reason for its reality. We can merely assume its reality and bite the bullet, so to speak, willfully subscribing to a damning radical skepticism about our thoughts and cognitive deliverances. I don't know why you would want to do this though.

      I'm not sure Georgy would totally agree with everything I said. I find it perhaps persuasive. I need to think about it a bit more.

      Delete
    8. Wait, I actually think I just crafted a different retorsion argument. That is, you can never be justified in believing in ~PSR because, given ~PSR, you can never be justified in its reality. This argument could also be leveled against the cartesian demon or the brain in a vat scenario.

      Delete
    9. We can't argue that just the possibility of our cognition being unreliable in a non PSR world is grounds for radical skepticism (as Feser does) if we don't think that the Demon in a PSR world doesn't lead us to the same radical skepticism. Because aren't both metaphysically on par with each other? If we say non PSR leads to radical skepticism because on non PSR it's possible that brute facts could infect our cognition, then by that logic we should also say in a PSR world we would be radical skeptics because, like non PSR, there is a metaphysical possibility (e.g.the Demon or the Matrix) that our cognition is unreliable.

      Delete
    10. Yes, as Tyler and I discussed elsewhere, if there is a parity between ~PSR and the Cartesian Demon then, on the sheer basis of metaphysical possibility, we either admit radical skepticism with regards to both, or we admit that both don't entail radical skepticism. If we choose the former then it undermines the retorsion argument by showing that radical skepticism isn't exclusive to a ~PSR world. If we choose the latter then this undermines the retorsion argument completely by revealing that it doesn't actually have any grounds for making the case that radical skepticism is entailed by ~PSR.

      Delete
    11. Since, as was Descartes's whole point, the Cartesian Demon is in fact metaphysically impossible, it is somewhat otiose, but this argument seems to assume that the retorsion argument for PSR requires that radical skepticism is exclusive to assumption of a non-PSR world. But, logically speaking, this is not how retorsion arguments work. If someone gives a retorsion argument for the principle of noncontradiction, based on the fact that if you reject it, you cannot even make coherent statements, the argument does not imply that if the principle of noncontradiction is true, one's statements are necessarily coherent. Obviously other things might make one's statements incoherent; the retorsion argument points to a necessary condition, not a sufficient one.

      Delete
    12. @ Brandon

      I think the issue, though, is that it doesn't seem we can eliminate some types of skeptical scenarios as possibilities. Or, as the user RomanJoe mentioned in the other thread put it, there are possible worlds in which our faculties are completely unreliable (e.g. as a result of brains in vats). Yet we don't take that to commit us to skepticism, typically.

      Likewise, assuming PSR to be false entails assuming there are possible worlds in which our faculties are unintelligible or inexplicable.

      Why would the latter scenario commit us to skepticism, then, if the former does not? I think the main point they're trying to make here is that, for any given skeptical scenario, the fact that there are possible worlds in which that scenario occurs isn't sufficient to entail skepticism.

      Delete
    13. "I think the main point they're trying to make here is that, for any given skeptical scenario, the fact that there are possible worlds in which that scenario occurs isn't sufficient to entail skepticism."

      Bingo. The retorsion argument is premised on this idea: if it is possible that our cognitive faculties are victim to brute facts, then we can't say they're reliable. But, if Feser wants to be consistent, he should also take other metaphysically possible scenarios like brains in vat or a Demon to entail the unreliability of our cognitive faculties.

      To be clear, I think PSR is true, I'm just not certain that Feser's argument can show this to be the case.

      Delete
    14. I'll give my 2 cents on this:

      IF such an objection works, the PSR defender can actually bite this "bullet" of granting possibility to the general cartesian skeptic scenarios. The problem is, however, that we actually have answers as to why these regular skeptic scenarios (such as Descartes's demon, or the brain in a vat scenarios, etc) do not work or are improbable, and thus don't affect the reliability of our cognitive faculties. We have, for example:

      1- Descartes's own answer as an appeal to God;

      2- Best explanation arguments and responses that show how the skeptical scenarios are not on par with our regular beliefs, or are objectively improbable;

      3- Some kind of common sense foundationalism that grants basicality to our beliefs about the external world, etc.

      However, these kinds of answers will not work for the PSR skeptic, because of how PSR completely undermines everything *in general* by the inclusion of brute facts, instead of regular skeptical scenarios which only work by positing *competing explanations* for (e.g.) our sense experience. A "basic belief" response to the PSR skepticism scenario would be pretty much to hold that it is a basic, common sense fact that contingent facts have explanations. A response based on objective probabilities will not work (as Koons and Pruss explain it, and as Feser quotes them), and so on.

      So, if I understood it right, the problem is that the skeptical scenario entailed by the PSR is way more problematical than regular skeptical scenarios; you can't really get out of it without PSR, but you can get out of regular skeptical scenarios by multiple ways.

      Delete
    15. Entailed by the denial* of PSR. Typo.

      Delete
    16. there are possible worlds in which our faculties are completely unreliable (e.g. as a result of brains in vats).

      There are no possible worlds in which our faculties are completely unreliable. But if one did posit such a thing, per impossibile, it would, in fact, require complete skepticism if there were no way to tell whether you were in such a possible world.

      Delete
    17. The retorsion argument is premised on this idea: if it is possible that our cognitive faculties are victim to brute facts, then we can't say they're reliable.

      This is simply incorrect; if this were its principle, it logically would not be a retorsion argument.

      Delete
    18. Joe, are you Poe?

      Delete
    19. . . .it would, in fact, require complete skepticism if there were no way to tell whether you were in such a possible world.

      So what's the relevant difference between the scenarios? For instance, what kind of reason could we have for holding we're not in a (say) BIV possible world such that we couldn't give a parallel reason for holding -- given ~PSR -- that we're not in a possible world in which our faculties behave unintelligibly or inexplicably?

      Delete
    20. Hayekian,

      As I said in my post, there are possible answers to skeptical scenarios such as the brain in a vat one. We can say that BIV is improbable or less probable than the common sense view of external world and cognitive faculties; as David Deutsch argues, BIV and cartesian demon scenarios are parasitic on our real world, they are less simple and more convoluted hypotheses.

      The same, however, cannot be used against the PSR retorsion argument. We can't say the scenario is improbable because objective probabilities are tied to tendencies or laws of nature, such that if there is a certain probability for a fact, then it can be given an explanation in terms of laws of nature or objective tendencies. But if PSR is false of a contingent fact then no probability can be attached to it. We can't even say that violations of PSR are improbable if PSR is false, differently from BIV and other regular skeptic scenarios.

      Notice how regular skeptical scenarios work by positing *alternative (crazy) explanations* for contingent facts. The brain in a vat scenario, the evil demon scenario, etc etc. Introduce brute facts, however, and the problem becomes something much bigger.

      Delete
    21. I don't understand what the structure of this question is.

      (1) There is no relevant difference between the scenarios; you are simply misreading what it means to say there is no difference. The problem at hand is whether ~PSR is a faculty-vitiating principle like the Cartesian Demon or any other principle that makes it impossible to know whether one's faculties are trustworthy or not. Thus the question is whether ~PSR is itself a problem like a BIV or Cartesian Demon or whatever. Given the parallel, any general reasons for rejecting a BIV world or such would apply by parity, to ~PSR itself. Your "given ~PSR" makes no sense in this context; putting it in requires assuming that any supposition of ~PSR does not itself affect the question of whether our faculties are trustworthy. But you can't assume this in the context of a retorsion argument against ~PSR.

      It would be different if someone were arguing that he had proof that we could know that our faculties are trustworthy even under ~PSR. But this is a very different argument.

      (1) To say that we're not in a world in which our faculties behave unintelligibly or inexplicably is to say that we're in a world in which the behavior of our faculties have sufficient reasons, so that one can at least use a PSR to reason about them. Thus the very description of the world establishes that there is a major domain in which PSR must apply, and then the only question is whether there is any coherent and intelligible limitation or restriction.

      Delete
    22. Pruss explains why we can't say the scenario is improbable if PSR is false. Feser exlains it as well in Scholastic Metaphysics, for instance.

      My point is that this sets the PSR skeptic scenario apart from other skeptical scenarios.

      Delete
    23. Miguel said: Notice how regular skeptical scenarios work by positing *alternative (crazy) explanations* for contingent facts.

      This is a fair enough point that would have to be taken into account as a minor correction to what I said above. Other faculty-vitiating suppositions provide hypothetical reasons for holding there is no account of the right sort to avoid skepticism; ~PSR eliminates the need for reasons.

      Delete
    24. @ Brandon

      Do you have any idea how one might go about formalizing the retorsion argument? I wonder if it might clear up some of the confusions you say I and other users are having.

      Also, your point about avoiding skepticism requiring affirming PSR at least for a limited domain in the actual world is well-taken, although of course Kant is rather famous for giving precisely such a reason wherein we might affirm PSR for some domain and not others.

      @ Miguel

      Thanks for the replies, although, intuitively, I find it hard to see how we could give a reason for thinking those scenarios are unlikely in any event. Are the probabilities not simply inscrutable? And do you think there are any good papers for further reading?

      Cheers.

      Delete
    25. Do you have any idea how one might go about formalizing the retorsion argument?

      Retorsion arguments are practical arguments, based on performative inconsistency or self-defeat -- the retorting of one's claim or argument on oneself so as to show that the claim itself is inconsistent with the putting-forward of the claim or argument, or, in weaker versions, makes it very problematic; I don't know any methods for formalizing them as such, because they aren't sets of claims, although one can often formalize the description of the inconsistency itself.

      Indeed, exactly the problem with some of the comments above is that they are treating retorsion as if it were a general and abstract argument about skepticism rather than a retorsion. Thus the possible worlds talk is irrelevant; retorting upon an adversary's claim or argument requires supposing your actual adversary's position to be true in the actual world. This is related to the problem I noted above: it's a mistake to think the retorsion argument for PSR requires that radical skepticism is exclusive to assumption of a non-PSR world. Retorsion arguments aren't structured this way; they apply to the principle at hand (in this case, denial of PSR) insofar as it can applied reflexively in some way. Thus the most that a successful retorsion argument against X could possibly establish is that the person putting X forward cannot consistently, coherently, or intelligibly put X forward if X is assumed to be true in their own case. It doesn't tell us about any other potential pitfalls if X is false -- those might require different retorsion arguments, or, indeed, different kinds of argument entirely. One would not expect a retorsion argument against denial of the principle of noncontradiction to eliminate inconsistencies that can arise even if you accept the principle of noncontradiction; likewise, one does not look to the retorsion argument against denial of PSR for any information about skepticisms you might have even granting PSR. Retorsion is a targeted act.

      One can, of course, gerrymander any kind of principle to eliminate the reflexivity on which retorsion depends; this isn't relevant to the retorsion argument itself, and instead of looking at the bare denial of PSR, one would look at the means and method for the gerrymandering, and that would be a matter for very different kinds of arguments.

      Delete
    26. @Brandon
      "Thus the possible worlds talk is irrelevant; retorting upon an adversary's claim or argument requires supposing your actual adversary's position to be true in the actual world."

      Yes I agree, Feser's argument supposes that the PSR skeptic believes ~PSR is not merely possible (in the sense of being true in some possible world) but rather that it's operative in the actual world.

      The argument Feser offers, however, seems to use metaphysical possibility to show that ~PSR entails radical skepticism, thus undermining "the possibility of any rational inquiry." This would include any rational inquiry concerning ~PSR.

      For instance, he says, "for all we know, what moves or causes us to assent to a claim might have absolutely nothing to do with the deliverances of our cognitive faculties." He's implying that it *might* be the case that in a ~PSR world our cognitive faculties are victim to brute facts, but it isn't necessarily the case--perhaps an actual ~PSR world has one brute fact, two, three, sixteen, and perhaps none of these brute facts concern our cognition. In effect, Feser is saying it's the *sheer possibility* that our cognitive faculties might be victim to brute facts, and that we can't tack any objective tendencies to these brute facts, that entails radical skepticism. It's not that our cognitive faculties are necessarily brute facts in a ~PSR world that entails radical skepticism, rather it's that "for all we know" they might be. I don't know how else to understand this than by viewing it as an appeal to metaphysical possibility.

      Perhaps I'm just misunderstanding you and perhaps you've already answered this, but my issue is that if the metaphysical possibility that our cognitive deliverances are victim to brute facts in an actual ~PSR world is enough to entail radical skepticism, then shouldn't we also admit that even in a PSR world BIV and CD (or any other metaphysically possible epistemic scenarios) would also entail radical skepticism, by virtue of being metaphysically possible? Now one may object that, unlike ~PSR with regards to our cognitive deliverances, we can actually determine whether or not such scenarios are probable. I'm not sure you can, however, because this would presuppose the reliability of your cognitive faculties which you would need in order to arrive at a conclusion regarding the probability of said scenarios. So any objection you might throw at these scenarios just becomes part of the epistemic conspiracy against your own cognition.

      Delete
    27. Also this is totally irrelevant but how do you italicize in comments?

      Delete
    28. It's just the usual html tags, i.e. < i > and < / i > (without the spaces).

      Delete
    29. @RomanJoe,

      You wrote:

      “Now one may object that, unlike ~PSR with regards to our cognitive deliverances, we can actually determine whether or not such scenarios are probable. I'm not sure you can, however, because this would presuppose the reliability of your cognitive faculties which you would need in order to arrive at a conclusion regarding the probability of said scenarios. So any objection you might throw at these scenarios just becomes part of the epistemic conspiracy against your own cognition.”

      I don’t think this is correct because the skepticism involved in, say, an Evil Demon (ED) type scenario arises from the metaphysically possible *operations* (and our cognitive ignorance of those operations) of a theoretical ED; operations, whose epistemic consequences would follow *only posteriorly* to a prior adjudication of the probable *real* existence of an ED in the first place. Let me explain:

      I grant that IF an Evil Demon with the power to deceive cognitive faculties *actually* exists THEN, just as with ~PSR, cognitive skepticism ensues, and for the very same reason; namely, because of the mere metaphysical possibility that the ED (or in the case of ~PSR, the Brute Fact (BF)) might always or often be *operatively* undermining cognitive reliability. Notice that the metaphysical possibility which entails the skepticism in both cases, is *not* simply the metaphysical possibility of the *existence* of an ED or BF(s); but rather has to do with the *operation* of the ED or the BF(s) (and in particular *our* inability to know when the ED or BF(s) might be operative against cognition). Only if the existence of an ED or BF(s) actually obtains in the real world, does the metaphysical possibility that ED or BF(s) might be always or often deceiving cognition yield the radical skepticism.

      But, when first presented with the mere metaphysical possibility of the *existence* of an ED scenario, I see no reason why one must, just in virtue of being presented with such an existential metaphysical possibility, admit that the existence of an ED is *actually* probable. One can provide reasons (some of which have been mentioned above) for holding it improbable that an ED with power to deceive cognitive faculties really exists, as opposed to being a mere metaphysical possibility. Now compare that stance to someone who actually affirmed the real existence of an ED with the power to deceive cognition, BUT who also insisted that, despite the *real* existence of such an ED, he was nevertheless somehow justified in trusting his cognitive faculties. Here, I suggest, is where the *metaphysical* possibility that the (real) ED might always or often “for all we know” be *operatively* undermining cognitive reliability does indeed entail radical skepticism. Why? Because the metaphysical possibility that an ED might be always or often *operating* to deceive cognition cannot be placed under any cogent probability analysis (just as the operation of BF(s) under ~PSR defy probability analysis).
      cntd . . .

      Delete
    30. In other words, what one cannot coherently do is affirm that some sort of THING (whatever it is – an ED, BIV, or BF) with the power to operatively deceive human cognitive faculties *actually* exists, and at the same time, and despite the real existence of such a THING, go on to have reasonable trust in one’s cognitive faculties. BUT, if one has justifying reasons for thinking that no such THING with power to deceive cognition probably *actually* exists in first place, then any radical skepticism which might follow upon the metaphysical possibilities attached to that THING’s operations drop out of the picture. I deny the probable real existence of an ED, and have justifying reasons for doing so. Therefore, no appeal to the metaphysically possible deceitful operations of a putative ED, and the skeptical consequences necessarily entailed by those operations, can be used to accuse me of begging the question when I *antecedently* use cognitive faculties to give reasons for denying the probable existence of the very thing that could (only if it were real) force radical skepticism in the first place through my ignorance of its operations. The question of the probable real existence of the ED is negotiated logically prior to any consideration of the epistemological impact which the *operations* of such a theoretical ED might have.

      But the person who *actually* affirms the real existence of Brute Fact(s), while insisting that his cognitive faculties are probably reliable, is like a person who actually affirmed the *real* existence of an ED with power to deceive cognition, while also insisting that his cognitive faculties are probably reliable. The incoherence in both cases arises fundamentally from actually affirming the *real* existence of some THING with power to globally deceive cognitive faculties (ex. ED or BF(s)). Once that step is taken, the metaphysical possibility attached to the operations of the *real* ED or BF(s) (along with our epistemic ignorance about such operations) is what entails the skepticism. Therefore, it seems to me, that the reason the two cases are meaningfully different is this. The PSR denier faces incoherence because he actually affirms the *real* existence of BF(s), whose metaphysically possible operations (along with his epistemic ignorance about such operations) entail radical skepticism; whereas a person presented with an ED type scenario, precisely because he is capable of giving logically prior arguments as to why an ED probably does not really exist in the first place, ipso facto avoids the skeptical entailments of the metaphysically possible operations of such a theoretical ED, and so avoids any incoherence with respect to trust in his cognitive faculties.

      To charge the later with incoherence would require *first* showing that his reasons for denying that an ED probably really exists in the first place are not good reasons. It’s no good for the critic to say “yeah, but, but, *IF* an ED exists, he might be always or often deceiving your cognitive faculties, so see, these reasons you give for denying the probability of an ED’s real existence necessarily become part of the epistemic conspiracy against your own cognition”.

      That “IF” in the critic’s retort must be adjudicated first. For the critic to insist that the epistemic consequences of the *operations* of some metaphysically possible ED undermines the reliability of cognitive faculties *before* cognitive faculties have even been used to assess the probability of the *very existence* of some ED who might carry out such operations - *that* seems like begging the question.

      Delete
    31. He's implying that it *might* be the case that in a ~PSR world our cognitive faculties are victim to brute facts, but it isn't necessarily the case--perhaps an actual ~PSR world has one brute fact, two, three, sixteen, and perhaps none of these brute facts concern our cognition. In effect, Feser is saying it's the *sheer possibility* that our cognitive faculties might be victim to brute facts, and that we can't tack any objective tendencies to these brute facts, that entails radical skepticism.

      Again, this is not right. He is not making general claims about what might be; he is running a retorsion argument, which starts with the position in question and retorts it on proposer of it. ~PSR requires that in the actual world things may exist and occur for which there is no adequate reason; the retorsion argument retorts this on the person making the claim. It is entirely an error to bring in possible worlds without the reference to what is supposed, on the hypothesis, as true in the actual world. In other words, it is not sheer possibility that is the issue, but the difficulty the supposition creates for one's status as a rational person in the actual world. Think of part of the retorsion as a challenge-argument rather than a deduction: Given the supposition, in which there are things that happen without reason, how do you establish, non-circularly, that your own reasoning and view are not actually among these things.

      my issue is that if the metaphysical possibility that our cognitive deliverances are victim to brute facts in an actual ~PSR world is enough to entail radical skepticism, then shouldn't we also admit that even in a PSR world BIV and CD (or any other metaphysically possible epistemic scenarios) would also entail radical skepticism, by virtue of being metaphysically possible?

      This is precisely the reason why I keep noting that it is not "sheer possibility": it is the implication of the supposition, supposed to be true in the actual world, for what we can actually know. ~PSR immediately raises the question of whether one's own reasoning is a case of brute fact, and at least apparently provides no way to answer it. BIV and CD scenarios, on the contrary, are not implications of PSR; they require additional suppositions. (They are, indeed, suppositions few if any PSR supporters accept. And indeed, one conclusion that could be drawn Descartes on CD or, say, Bouwsma on BIV, is that these suppositions are actually inconsistent with principles that are at least closely connected to PSR.) Nothing whatsoever rules out a PSR advocate, after running a retorsion argument on ~PSR, going on to do the same with CD and BIV. The retorsion argument against ~PSR tells us nothing about any other kind of skepticism; those will be matters of different argument.

      Delete
    32. Brandon, is the issue primarily one of the PSR denier having to hold that (a) PSR is false in the actual world; and (b) PSR is not false in the actual world at least for some domain which includes the operations of our cognitive faculties? And are you essentially arguing it's going to be very difficult for them to give some principled account of why they're assuming their faculties behave intelligibly if it's not the case everything has an explanation?

      For instance, they might try to argue our faculties and other things have some property X such that whatever has X necessarily has an explanation, but whatever doesn't have property X need not have an explanation (so PSR is true for the X domain and false for the ~X domain). And I'm starting to realize it would be very difficult for them to give some account of why X specifically entails the need for explanation; indeed I can't think of any plausible candidates for such a property might be. I know Kant tried to do something like this with the distinction between the phenomenal world and the noumenal world, but perhaps that's not a good route to take if one isn't already a transcendental idealist.

      Thanks for taking the time to explain this, by the way. It's been very helpful. Cheers.

      Delete
    33. @monk68

      But the person who *actually* affirms the real existence of Brute Fact(s), while insisting that his cognitive faculties are probably reliable, is like a person who actually affirmed the *real* existence of an ED with power to deceive cognition, while also insisting that his cognitive faculties are probably reliable. The incoherence in both cases arises fundamentally from actually affirming the *real* existence of some THING with power to globally deceive cognitive faculties (ex. ED or BF(s)). Once that step is taken, the metaphysical possibility attached to the operations of the *real* ED or BF(s) (along with our epistemic ignorance about such operations) is what entails the skepticism.

      I think you have a point here. I do think someone would perhaps be engaging in special pleading if they affirmed ~PSR while holding that their cognitive faculties are part of a domain untouched by ~PSR. This just doesn't make sense to me because on ~PSR there is no necessary connection between a thing and its explanation, therefore, there really is no reason to suppose that our cognitive faculties are preserved from brute facts and that they will consistently remain that way.

      Onto your other point. You seem to be arguing that, yes, metaphysical possibility of BF or ED, BIV, etc. only entails radical skepticism if we affirm these scenarios are operative in the actual world. Otherwise, there's no reason to suppose that our cognitive faculties are actually in danger of being unreliable. That is, the metaphysical possibility of an epistemic conspiracy entails radical skepticism if said epistemic conspiracy (I'm using this term as a catch all for BIV, ED, ~PSR) is operative in the actual world rather than--say--some possible world. On this account, then, the mere metaphysical possibility of ED is not enough to entail radical skepticism. However, its affirmation of being operative in the actual world would entail such skepticism.

      Feser's argument concerns an affirmation of ~PSR in the actual world. Therefore, according to your account, ~PSR would entail radical skepticism. I'm wondering, however, why should we hold that metaphysical possibility entails radical skepticism in a ~PSR actual world (for it could still be the case that our cognitive faculties are inexplicably preserved from brute facts), while saying it does not entail radical skepticism with regards to epistemic conspiracies concerning possible worlds that may be the actual world. And, I understand, you could argue that one is begging the question when they claim that any evidence you could give contra ED just becomes part of the epistemic conspiracy against you. I'm not so sure it's really begging the question because all it's admitting is that it may be the case that we live in an ED world, not that it is. In other words, it's not assuming anything beyond the possibility of ED.

      Delete
    34. @Brandon

      ~PSR requires that in the actual world things may exist and occur for which there is no adequate reason; the retorsion argument retorts this on the person making the claim. It is entirely an error to bring in possible worlds without the reference to what is supposed, on the hypothesis, as true in the actual world. In other words, it is not sheer possibility that is the issue, but the difficulty the supposition creates for one's status as a rational person in the actual world.

      I completely agree that the PSR skeptic is affirming ~PSR in the actual rather than saying it's at least possible (in the sense of being possible in some world). My concern is that ~PSR doesn't entail that one's cognitive faculties are victim to brute facts--the PSR skeptic could at least maintain that his cognitive faculties have explanation and it's just other things that don't (though this may just be special pleading on his part). So, radical skepticism is born out of not knowing whether or not (in an actual ~PSR world) your cognitive faculties are preserved from brute facts all the time, some of the time, or none of the time. That is, radical skepticism concerning our cognitive faculties is entailed by the epistemic possibility that in an actual ~PSR world we could never know whether or not our cognitive faculties are operating intelligibly.

      This is what Feser is arguing: that, given an actual ~PSR world, our cognitive faculties would be rendered unreliable because of the possibility that they are victims to brute facts. Now, of course, it may be the case that they aren't victims to brute facts in an actual ~PSR world, but the mere possibility that they are is enough to establish radical skepticism. This is why Feser says, "There might be no connection at all between our perceptual experiences and external objects and events we suppose cause them [...] For all we know what moves or causes us to assent to a claim may have absolutely nothing to do with truth or standards of logic."

      So my issue with the retorsion argument is that if radical skepticism is entailed by the fact that our cognitive faculties might be victim to brute facts in an actual ~PSR world, then should we not--for consistency's sake--also be radical skeptics with regards to ED or BIV, both being epistemic scenarios that might be, unbeknownst to us, operative in our world.

      Note, I am not a radical skeptic and I believe in PSR. I'm just taking issue with this particular retorsion argument because I think it may entail the absurd.

      Also, thank you Brandon and others who have replied to my questions. I appreciate the lengthy and well thought out criticisms of my criticism.

      Delete
    35. @ RomanJoe

      Not to speak for Brandon but, if I understand him rightly, he's pointing out we cannot coherently deny PSR for our cognitive faculties, as trusting our faculties requires assuming they have sufficient explanations. If they are unwilling to accept this they are, directly, committing themselves to skepticism. Possibilities or probabilities don't come into play.

      So PSR must be affirmed for at least some domain in the actual world, namely some domain which includes the operations of our faculties. So they have two options here, essentially, if they're to avoid the skeptical threat:

      (a) They can affirm PSR for all domains.

      (b) They can affirm PSR for some domain that includes their faculties, but not some other domain.

      Obviously, if they wish to reject PSR, (a) isn't an option. The only option they have, then, is (b). But they have to provide some principled reason for drawing this distinction: if PSR is denied for that domain, why isn't it also denied for this domain (which includes our faculties)?

      If they can't give a good reason, then, as Brandon said, they might be engaging in gerrymandering, i.e. tailoring their philosophical assumptions to get a result they want. And that would, at the very least, seem to be highly problematic.

      Delete
    36. Hayekian is quite right, although there is arguably more to be said.

      RomanJoe said:

      So my issue with the retorsion argument is that if radical skepticism is entailed by the fact that our cognitive faculties might be victim to brute facts in an actual ~PSR world, then should we not--for consistency's sake--also be radical skeptics with regards to ED or BIV, both being epistemic scenarios that might be, unbeknownst to us, operative in our world.

      Again, this is overlooking the fact that the argument is not an argument about possibilities in general or in the abstract but retorsive. It takes the ~PSRist, and retorts the ~PSR supposition on the ~PSRist; thus the only possibilities in view are those following directly from the supposition of ~PSR itself. Your attempt to say the same of the PSRist does not actually maintain the parallel; none of the skeptical scenarios follow directly from the supposition of PSR itself; PSR says nothing about brains in vats or Cartesian demons, the way ~PSR says there are brute facts. Those can only come from other suppositions, and, as I noted, (1) those other suppositions might not even be consistent with PSR; and (2) even if they are, are not exhaustive -- the PSRist can run a different retorsion argument against each until he ends up with PSR without global skepticism. Another way to look at it: ~PSR is already an at-least-local skepticism, and the only question is how far it goes, which the retorsion argument is pressing by applying ~PSR to the ~PSRist himself; PSR is not a skepticism at all, so you have to add things to it to get skepticism, so there's nothing for an analogous retorsion argument to do -- if you apply PSR to the PSRist, you don't get any kind of skepticism. As I noted, it would be at least closer to think of it not as a discussion of abstract possibilities but as a challenge to the ~PSRist to show non-question-beggingly that he is not, in fact, mired in global skepticism.

      Delete
    37. Wish I had seen this sooner.

      While the argument being discussed here might work, I'm not at all sure how the original isn't supposed to be understood in terms of retorsion implying it's possible our faculties are unreliable. Don't have the book in front of me now but it's exactly the argument you can see here (http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2014/03/an-exchange-with-keith-parsons-part-iv.html):

      But if PSR is false, then we can have no justification for supposing that any of this is really the case. We may in fact believe what we do for no reason whatsoever, and yet it might also falsely seem, again for no reason whatsoever, that we believe things for reasons. And our cognitive faculties may have the deliverances they do for no reason whatsoever -- rather than because they track objective truth and standards of logic -- and yet it might also falsely seem, for no reason whatsoever, that they do track the latter.

      So, if one denies PSR, this commits them to the falsity of PSR in the actual world. Agreed. But this doesn't thereby commit them to the position that their faculties are unreliable.

      Keith Parsons replied like so:

      Could we be wrong about everything? Sure, if by “could” we mean “is a logical possibility”—and, again, the evil genius is not exorcised merely by invoking the PSR. But—and this is the only answer to the bogey of universal skepticism—the logical possibility that I could be wrong is insufficient reason to think that I might actually be wrong. All contemporary epistemologists of whom I am aware are fallibilists, that is, they hold that we can know that P even if possibly not-P. For skepticism to have any bite against a fallibilist epistemology, it must do more than simply indicate that we could be wrong. The skeptic must take on a burden of proof and show not just that mistakes are possible but that they have some significant degree of probability. Likewise, for your skeptical argument to be cogent, you would have to show that your scenario is not only possible but significantly probable. That is, you would have to show that, given the possibility of brute facts, they are likely to pop up even where they most clearly seem to be absent, i.e. where we seem most clearly to have reliable explanations (e.g. lunar eclipses).

      Delete
    38. Thanks for clearing that up for me Hayekian. I do think ~PSR does become a contrived and embarrassing position to hold once one starts implementing 'domains' into the picture. It really is just special pleading to assume one's faculties operate with PSR in a ~PSR world.

      I see your point Brandon. That is, ~PSR admits brute facts into the picture necessarily, whereas PSR does not necessarily admit BIV or ED. But couldn't one argue this:

      PSR doesn't necessarily entail epistemic scenarios which undermine our cognitive faculties (e.g. BIV, ED), therefore we don't fall into radical skepticism merely by affirming PSR. However, the same could be said for ~PSR--that is, ~PSR doesn't necessarily entail that our cognitive faculties are victim to brute facts, therefore we don't fall into radical skepticism merely by affirming ~PSR.

      Delete
    39. Tyler, I'm wondering what you think about this distinction. On ~PSR brute facts immediately become operative in the actual world. That is, ~PSR necessarily entails the actual operation of brute facts. Whereas PSR does not necessarily entail the actual operation of say an evil demon or mad scientist. So perhaps one should make a distinction between PSR and ~PSR with regards to the operation of epistemic conditions that are necessary for cognitive unreliability. We both agree that on PSR and ~PSR epistemic scenarios concerning the undermining of our cognition are possible. However, only on ~PSR the conditions for cognitive unreliability are actual and operative in the world. On PSR it may be the case that there is an evil demon or mad scientist, but given PSR, there is not a necessary entailment that such a demon or mad scientist is operative (unlike ~PSR which says brute facts are operative). I actually think this was Brandon's point, I'm just trying to further explicate it.

      Delete
    40. The objection I've raised has nothing to do with skepticism given the truth of PSR. Brandon's argument is an obvious red herring.

      Here's my point: Assume PSR is false in the actual world. So what? All this entails is that, in the actual world, it's possible our faculties are inexplicable. Does it imply it's likely our faculties are inexplicable? Nope, not at all.

      What follows from this? Well, literally nothing follows from it. If Feser, Brandon, etc. want their argument to work, they're free to add additional premises.

      Otherwise, it's just a bad argument. I can't think of a single philosopher working in epistemology that would be worried about the fact that X implies, in the actual world, it's possible our faculties are unreliable.

      Delete
    41. Brandon has been pressing home the retorsive nature of the argument against the (un?)Principle of Insufficient Reason — that is, it is a retort, it twists the claim back on itself. It's worth highlighting, because understanding how this sort of argument works is crucial to seeing how it applies to the PIR.

      You might be more familiar with retorsion under its technical logical designation, argument from so's-your-mama. In its most general form, to someone who is more interested in being clever than in being right, it involves a sardonic, "Oh, really?"

      For example, to the nihilist who wants you to believe that nothing has any meaning, you should retort, "What do you mean by that?" To the scientificismologist with more education than sense who insists that real knowledge comes from and only from science, you ask, "Which peer-reviewed paper are you citing?" To the relativist who in his confusion of outlaws with in-laws claims that there are no absolutes, demand, "Are you absolutely sure about that?" And to the neurotic neurologist who announces with great excitement that he has eliminated beliefs, "Yeah, but you don't really believe that, do ya?"

      Attacks on reason itself provoke the most exquisite applications of retorsion, for the proposer trips himself up the moment he attempts to provide any justification for his illogic. ("Logic", from logos, "reason"... or "word", without which one couldn't formulate his position (neither without forms or ideas — well, you see how all this ties together).) Someone might try to deny the Law of Non-Contradiction, but if you maintain that it's true, what can he do, contradict you? It would be hypocritical of him to try.

      And should he wish to assert that reason does not suffice? (Give me one good reason to believe that!) This undermines our reasoning in a way that envatted brains or deceiving demons do not. Evil demons might be possible in some sense, yet we might be fortunate for there not, in fact, to be any; we might even be able to argue against such. Given the possibility of the PIR, we might also be lucky to live in a world where in fact everything did, as it turns out, have a sufficient reason — but that does not help us in this case. Reason does not simply mean getting the right answer: it also must be justified — lucky guesses don't count. That is, the right answer has to be for the right, er, reason.

      But if PIR were even possible, then we could never be justified in taking any argument truly to demonstrate its conclusion. If I shoved you, but right at that very moment you jumped, then I didn't really push you after all. It might look like I pushed you, but you were going to move anyway, independent of my apparent prodding. Likewise, under PIR, the problem is not merely that some effects might not have causes; it's that even when they do have (seeming) causes, we cannot take the causes to have produced the effect. Because maybe the effect Just Happened anyway; the quasi-cause could just as well be a coincidence as an actual cause.

      And since for reason to be reasoning, the argument must cause the conclusion in the right way, a world where reason might not apply everywhere is one where it applies nowhere. Even if a given conclusion had an argument that could have explained it, and even if the argument did explain it, if it were so much as a possibility that PIR could hold, we could never be justified in taking it as such. Demonic misdirection is an outside attack, so to speak; whereas denying the PSR undermines reason by having it saw off the very branch on which it is sitting. The PSR-denier cannot even begin to defend his position, because from the start it precludes taking anything he says as a valid argument.

      Quod erat retorquendum

      Delete
    42. Tyler, you seem not to understand the nature of a retorsive argument. Perhaps you should do some studying before making such strong and dismissive claims of other people's positions.

      Delete
    43. Mr. Green what do you mean by the ED being an "outside attack"?

      Delete
    44. @ Mr. Green

      I understand perfectly well that retorsion is latching onto a position that someone takes and showing it leads to some kind of practical inconsistency or performative contradiction.

      In the case of the retorsion argument for PSR, it is claimed denying PSR entails an incoherent skepticism in virtue of us being unable to have reason to think our cognitive faculties are functioning intelligibly.

      I agree, 10000000%, that if that conclusion is demonstrated, the argument would have force. My entire point is I don't think the inference used to support that conclusion works. Why? Because, as I've said, nothing about PSR being false in the actual world entails it's the case our faculties are actually behaving unintelligibly. And, as Parsons said, nothing about PSR being false in the actual world even entails it's likely our faculties are behaving unintelligibly.

      Why, then, would I be unjustified in trusting the deliverances of my cognitive faculties merely because I assumed PSR is false, if you can't even give me a reason to think it's probable they're unreliable given the falsity of PSR?

      Delete
    45. I'm not sure how analysis of probability, or even plausibility for that matter, even remains possible on ~PSR.

      Delete
    46. RomanJoe: what do you mean by the ED being an "outside attack"?

      Just that the Evil Demon isn't breaking the laws of logic (so to speak); he's attacking you, not reason itself.


      Tyler: Why, then, would I be unjustified in trusting the deliverances of my cognitive faculties merely because I assumed PSR is false, if you can't even give me a reason to think it's probable they're unreliable given the falsity of PSR?

      But you have been given a reason why cognition would be definitely unreliable; I'm not sure what it is you think doesn't follow given what Ed or Brandon or Miguel or Hayekian or Roman Joe or I have said. (Turn it around: as soon as you deny the PSR, you can't give me a reason to think they could be relied on.)

      Delete
    47. But you have been given a reason why cognition would be definitely unreliable . . .

      No, I haven't. To say PSR is false in the actual world logically commits one to saying there is at least one thing in the actual world that is inexplicable.

      It does nothing more than that. By no means does it commit one to holding that their faculties are inexplicable, or even that they're likely to be inexplicable.

      Delete
    48. Tyler: It does nothing more than that.

      Ah, you play the role of PSR-denier well! In which case, sure nothing else would follow because without the PSR, nothing can entail anything, that's kinda the problem....

      OK, I guess what you mean is that the world might be such that, say, this pencil on my desk has no explanation but everything else does. And sure, you can simply stipulate that our cognitive faculties work. You just can't get anywhere interesting from that. Every PSR-universe has endless cognitively indistinguishable non-PSR counterparts, so if you don't get to define our cognition into reliability as part of the scenario, then our faculties are cannot be relied on when it comes to, say, that pencil.

      And of course, to deny the PSR in general means our reason cannot be relied upon when it comes to possibly anything — or in other words, without the PSR, our reason is unreliable.

      Delete
    49. And of course, to deny the PSR in general means our reason cannot be relied upon when it comes to possibly anything — or in other words, without the PSR, our reason is unreliable.

      This seems to be begging the question, as it's precisely what I'm questioning to be a legitimate inference in the first place.

      Again, as Brandon and others have rightly argued, it's not possibility per se that is the problem. Clearly the PSR denier is saying PSR is false in the actual world.

      However, PSR being false in the actual world doesn't entail our faculties do not behave intelligibly, and, as far as I can see, it doesn't even make it likely that our faculties don't behave intelligibly.

      So, what is it, exactly, that's committing one to the view that there faculties are unreliable? As far as I can tell, even if PSR is true in the actual world, there's no positive reason to think this is the case. It's possible to be sure, but so what? And if there's no positive reason to think they're unreliable, then I see no reason to think we can't trust them.

      Delete
    50. So, what is it, exactly, that's committing one to the view that there faculties are unreliable?

      *their

      Delete
    51. Feser argues against brute facts while introducing his own brute fact, god.

      Why does god exist as opposed to absolutely nothing at all? Feser will say because god is necessary and cannot fail to exist.

      God is Feser's brute fact.

      How is this not glaringly obvious to all?

      What makes the brute fact of physical existence superior to the brute fact speculation of god? God is merely just that, speculation. An invisible being people simply imagine.

      If you think physical existence is imaginary I suggest you see how long you can hold your imaginary breath to not breath any more imaginary air.

      Delete
    52. I thought one of the issues that touched off this long but interesting discussion about the PSR was the claim that an appeal to God is not an appeal to brute fact but to the ground of the PSR. Didn't Feser want to isolate God from the realm of "brute fact"?

      So, does one get to call God "brute fact" only if one has successfully rejected the PSR?

      Delete
    53. Anonymous October 13, 2017 at 12:01 PM

      "I thought one of the issues that touched off this long but interesting discussion about the PSR was the claim that an appeal to God is not an appeal to brute fact but to the ground of the PSR. "
      --A ground is a reason. One asks what are the grounds for X? Meaning, what are the reasons X is the case?

      Stanford:
      "The Principle of Sufficient Reason is a powerful and controversial philosophical principle stipulating that everything must have a reason, cause, or ground. "
      --This is just what Feser so strongly objects to, the notion that everything must have a cause.

      "Didn't Feser want to isolate God from the realm of "brute fact"?"
      --Yes, and in doing so he blatantly commits the fallacy of special pleading.

      Feser says, in effect, god is not a brute fact, he just has to exist. What nonsense.

      If everything needs a cause then god needs a cause.

      If not everything needs a cause then something other than god could be the thing that does not need a cause.

      To say god must be the only thing that does not need a cause is special pleading for a being not in evidence. God is some invisible being, a fantasy, which somehow deserves special pleading as the only allowable brute fact which is somehow not a brute fact while the material existence that is so abundantly in evidence all around us is somehow barred from being at base a brute fact.

      What pretzel logic is the theistic psyche.

      Delete
    54. This is all completely irrelevant to the discussion we've been having thus far. I'm eagerly awaiting for Brandon and Tyler to start up again.

      Delete
    55. RomanJoe October 13, 2017 at 2:44 PM

      "This is all completely irrelevant to the discussion we've been having thus far."
      --My statements are relevant to the OP, which is the video Feser linked. I watched it. Shapiro was completely out of his depth and looked like a deer caught in headlghts while Feser held forth on Aristotelian nonsense.

      In the video Feser very strongly objects to the assertion "everything must have a cause".

      Shapiro should have called him out and told Feser he is objecting to that so he can use special pleading to call his brute fact somehow not a brute fact. But Shapiro did not have a clue in that respect.

      Delete
    56. Who the hell is this guy? Is he serious?

      Delete
    57. Whether he's seriously obtuse or flippantly trolling, nobody knows, and few care. He has seriously been banned from some places, regularly mocked or ignored in others. Ignoring is of course the appropriate action for one so gob-stoppingly ignorant. (That, and Prof. Feser has asked folks not to feed the troublemakers; but I acknowledge that the temptation can be hard to resist.)

      Delete
    58. Stardusty Psyche

      We can squabble over whether or not God is a brute fact some other time. I'm wondering, however, what you think about the issue we've been discussing for the past couple weeks: does ~PSR entail radical skepticism of one's cognitive faculties (what Feser holds) or not?Tyler is arguing it does not, Brandon and Mr. Green are arguing that it does. I'm currently undecided.


      Tyler is arguing that ~PSR does not necessarily entail that our cognitive faculties are victim to brute facts--it could be the case that just ONE thing is a brute fact and that our cognitive faculties are not that one thing. You can't, he argues, establish that it is likely that one's cognitive faculties are brute facts in a ~PSR world. Furthermore, no one would take seriously, Tyler argues, that we should subscribe to radical skepticism concerning our cognitive faculties merely because it is possible that they are unreliable. In a ~PSR world it is possible that our cognitive faculties are victim to brute facts. Tyler claims Feser is arguing that on ~PSR we should be radically skeptical of our cognitive faculties because we could never know whether or not they are victim to brute facts (perhaps you believe in a conclusion not because of any reasonable premises, perhaps it's a brute fact, and perhaps you think you have reasonable premises for no reason at all, perhaps you thinking that you have reasonable premises is also a brute fact, and so on and so forth--you could never know whether or not your cognition is operating with under-girding brute facts). But, as Tyler is arguing, the mere possibility of the unreliability of our cognitive faculties is not enough to justify radical skepticism concerning their operation. Consider how it is at least possible in a PSR world that a Cartesian Demon is toying with our cognitive faculties--we wouldn't conclude that we should be radical skeptics concerning our cognitive faculties merely because it is possible that they may be victim to some external force toying with them. Therefore, we shouldn't say that we should be radical skeptics in a ~PSR world merely because it's possible that our cognitive faculties are victim to brute facts.
      [...]

      Delete
    59. [...continued]
      I'm still trying to understand Mr. Green's and Brandon's point of view. I take it that they're trying explain to Tyler the nature of a retorsion argument, considering that we're debating over Feser's retorsion argument against the PSR denier (Feser claims the PSR denier can't even argue for ~PSR because on ~PSR he can never even know whether or not he has reasoned to the conclusion free of any brute facts--he could also never know, in general, whether or not any rational thinking is intelligible or not since it might be the case that his thinking is victim to brute facts). Mr. Green and Brandon are arguing that a retorsion argument doesn't care about mere possibilities (what Tyler is concerned with)--the possibility of a given epistemic scenarion, Mr. Green and Brandon argue, are not relevant to the retorsion argument's method. Rather, a retorsion argument operates by immediately retorting one's claim back on them. So, in this case, the claim that there is no PSR could immediately be retorted back on the PSR denier: "Oh yeah? If PSR does not actually hold then how do you know that your very thought that PSR doesn't hold is not a brute fact? How do you know it is the product of reliable rational thought?"

      Mr. Green is also making the argument that PSR doesn't just undermine our rational thinking, it undermines logic in general. Because, on ~PSR, there is no necessary connection between a conclusion and its premises, a cause and its effect, and so on. But if there is no necessary connection then we can never really be justified at all in thinking that there really are laws of logic, that there really is such a thing as rational thinking--in the same manner that we wouldn't be justified in thinking that there really is a law of gravity if there is no necessary connection between any given particle's mass and its gravitational attraction to other particles.

      I may not be presenting their positions in the clearest manner, and perhaps I misunderstand some of their points (correct me guys if I do).

      Delete
    60. Whoops, Houdini is me. I forgot to change from the default name. Also sorry for feeding him.

      Delete
    61. Tyler: However, PSR being false in the actual world doesn't entail our faculties do not behave intelligibly

      It does, because if something in the world is unintelligible, then our intellect can not be relied on about it. Suppose that you insist that Superman is real because you saw him on television; and when I demur, you launch into a defence of your visual faculties. But of course it doesn't matter how good your eyesight is: the problem is not (merely) the reliability of your seeing Superman on TV; it's seeing Superman on TV. Television just isn't the kind of thing that can be relied on in that way, no matter how good your vision is — and no matter how many other things that you see on TV might, in fact, happen to be real. It's not a question of there being some possible world where everything on television is fictitious; if TV is not a reliable indicator of whether things are real, then our faculty of seeing-stuff-on-TV is not reliable.

      Now, if you get to stipulate that only some particular thing is unintelligible, then I suppose you can claim that our cognition is unreliable only in that particular way — just as you can stipulate that if we assume everything one sees on TV is real, then we can rely on your seeing Superman on TV. But of course it's not philosophically helpful to say that if we assume our cognition is reliable except for the given exceptions, then our cognition is reliable except for those exceptions.

      If the PSR does not hold, then the world is not the kind of thing on which rational faculties can reliably operate. The PSR-denier cannot even give an argument why the unintelligibility is limited in some way, because an argument cannot carry any weight unless our intellectual faculties are reliable, so to offer any such argument implicitly assumes that the PSR does apply — hence the retorsion.

      Delete
    62. RomanJoe: it could be the case that just ONE thing is a brute fact and that our cognitive faculties are not that one thing.

      I'd say that the problem isn't that if some things are unintelligible, then our reason might be one of those things (and thus unreliable); it's that the world is unintelligible, and thus even if your reason worked, there's nothing suitable for it to work on (although your faculties are of course part of the world, so that also applies). (Being "partly intelligible" is in this case sort of like an argument that's "partly correct" — a chain is only as reliable as its weakest link.)

      Contrast this to the case of the Deceptive Demon: if an evil spirit flummoxes you, you may be unable to understand a given argument. Heck, we don't need anything so extraordinary — if every time you try to reason through the argument, I throw a brick at your head, you will certainly find your cognitive abilities unreliable! But the argument still holds in itself even if you never get to figure it out. On the other hand, without the PSR, any line of reasoning backfires on itself simply by virtue of being reasons in a world that is insufficiently reasonable.

      So, in this case, the claim that there is no PSR could immediately be retorted back on the PSR denier: "Oh yeah? If PSR does not actually hold then how do you know that your very thought that PSR doesn't hold is not a brute fact? How do you know it is the product of reliable rational thought?"

      Yes, whatever act of cognition came to that conclusion had to take it for granted that there is sufficient reason to ground it. But the PSR-denier cannot take reason for granted under his own premise (thus the retorsion) — no matter how many good reasons there might be out there, he is not entitled to help himself to them (at least not to start with), not without blatant special pleading.

      Delete
    63. RomanJoe October 13, 2017 at 7:56 PM

      Stardusty Psyche

      "We can squabble over whether or not God is a brute fact some other time."
      --The topic of the OP is " Five Proofs on The Daily Wire ".

      That refers to Feser's assertion of 5 "proofs" of the existence of god, and his appearance on the Shapiro show.

      " I'm wondering, however, what you think about the issue we've been discussing for the past couple weeks: does ~PSR entail radical skepticism of one's cognitive faculties (what Feser holds) or not?Tyler is arguing it does not, Brandon and Mr. Green are arguing that it does. I'm currently undecided."
      --The PSR is that everything has a cause, or a reason. If that is true it is true irrespective of human senses or even human existence.

      Feser claims in the linked video very strongly that his arguments do not rest on the PSR.
      5:20
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaSSSst3JBo
      He goes on to use the antiquated, useless, and in modern times absurd 4 "causes" described by Aristotle in a thoroughly erroneous attempt to support his claims.
      For example at 6:45 Feser makes a claim against conservation of matter/energy by stating the very existence of (for example) a cup has to be actualized by something else going on here and now.

      Shapiro is much too far out of his depth to point out the many errors of Feser.


      "Tyler is arguing that ~PSR does not necessarily entail that our cognitive faculties are victim to brute facts--it could be the case that just ONE thing is a brute fact and that our cognitive faculties are not that one thing."
      --What is the special significance of the number ONE in this context? I suspect it is related to the monotheist's erroneous notion that monotheism is somehow logically superior to polytheism. The use of ONE in this context also correlates to the very limited thinking of Aquinas in concluding a single first mover.

      If one is going to engage in the idle speculation of a first mover, or god, or first cause, or special pleading brute fact then there is no upper bound on the number of such beings that can be speculated. There could be trillions, or a googleplex or any number if there can be ONE.


      "You can't, he argues, establish that it is likely that one's cognitive faculties are brute facts in a ~PSR world."
      --Things happen for apparent reasons over time. As we look closer at them we explain those reasons in terms of the actions and properties of constituents. Feser actually makes a good point at 9:40 in the video in this regard. He says that if at base (fundamental physics whatever that turns out to be) we get to a brute fact that takes down the explanatory force of everything else above it. And in absolute terms he is correct, hence atheism leads to reductionism.

      What Feser fails to acknowledge is that the explanatory value of science is selfconsciously provisional, relative, and not absolute, so there is no such problem on naturalism.


      Delete
    64. Oink oink moooo

      Delete
  7. Hi Dr. Feser,

    I know this is a little off-topic, but I enjoy your writings on the Trinity and Mysterianism.
    I found the following mathematical model of the Trinity, and I'm kind of skeptical that it doesn't fall into one of the classic heresies. Could you take a look?
    https://books.google.co.jp/books?id=p0bpyag497oC&lpg=PA4&dq=piotr%20lukowski%20trinity%20paradox&pg=PA29#v=onepage&q=Trinity&f=false

    ReplyDelete
  8. Prof. Edward Feser with Prof. Jordan Peterson and Prof. Anthony Esolen - this is the dream team.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Since Dr. Feser is in Pasadena, I would like there to be a character based on him entered into The Big Bang Theory to let a little air out of their materialistic scientism. It might save a certain amount of people from developing shallow, flippant opinions.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Dear Prof. Feser, I am enjoying your book tremendously. I appreciate your painstaking work. And the Shapiro interview is entertaining in so many ways.

    One question about your book and the nature of Christ:

    On page 29 of your new book you write: "Since existing within time entails changeability, an immutable cause must also be eternal eternal in the sense of existing outside of time altogether". Does this not directly refute the claim that Jesus was God? Given his existence in time.

    Thank you in advance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Read the prologue to the Gospel of John. Jesus Christ is the Word of God and through Him all things were made.

      Delete
  11. Omar Najjarine: Does this not directly refute the claim that Jesus was God? Given his existence in time.

    When you refer to Christ you are presumably thinking of His human nature, which of course exists in time. Qua man, Christ exists in time. Qua God, Second Person of the Trinity, He exists outside of time. Since the Son of God is one person in two natures, we have to distinguish which nature we are discussing when it comes to questions like this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Playing devil's advocate, but how is it possible for a single suppositum to have two natures that are seemingly contrary to each other? For instance, it doesn't seem logically possible for something to have both an irrational and rational nature. Likewise, how is it possible for something to be both immutable and mutable, eternal and temporal, divinely simple and composite, immaterial and material?

      Delete
    2. RomanJoe, are you immaterial and material as a person?

      Delete
    3. @OceanD

      Good point. I'm not sure this solves the other difficulties, namely those with immutability, simplicity, and eternality. Can really say that a suppositum can possess these attributes while simultaneously possessing their finite correlatives: mutability, composition, and temporality.

      Delete
    4. The way I see it is that like the soul is related to the body just the same way God's Spirit (or more importantly the second person of the Trinity) is related to Christ's soul. The soul is eternal the body is temporal. I am not sure if this is in line with the Catholic Church's teaching as this is my own personal take on this.

      Delete
    5. OceanD

      What would "God's Spirit" even be? Assuming that he's a completely simple being, can we really say God *has* a spirit? The Incarnation is definitely a perplexing issue--I suppose we should expect no less when it comes to grappling with the divine nature.

      Delete
    6. What would "God's Spirit" even be? Assuming that he's a completely simple being, can we really say God *has* a spirit?

      I think what we can say given simplicity that God is Spirit where spirit being "a living, intelligent, incorporeal being". God's Spirit can be said to be the formal cause of our souls.

      The Incarnation is definitely a perplexing issue--I suppose we should expect no less when it comes to grappling with the divine nature.

      I agree

      Delete
  12. Dr. Feser, I am eagerly awaiting an announcement from you concerning a certain british show! It's already doing the rounds. I knew badgering the host would pay off one day . . . . .

    ReplyDelete
  13. Prof James Madden (whose book "Mind, Matter, and Nature: A Thomistic Proposal for the Philosophy of Mind" was referred here by Feser) has an interesting talk on SoundCloud called "Neuroscience and the Soul"

    https://soundcloud.com/thomisticinstitute/prof-james-madden-neuroscience-and-the-soul-march-2017

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot for sharing.

      Delete
  14. I think it's time to update the profile pic....

    ReplyDelete
  15. Feser chides neuroscientists for failing to look at the material, formal, efficient, final "causes", asserting they are only studying half the story.

    This is like criticizing a cosmologist for failing to take into account the influence of the Greek gods Jupiter, Mars, and Venus.

    Neuroscientists look for electrochemical causal sequences in conjunction with human psychology, behavior, and communication, which are just the right places to look and is not somehow failing to look in the right places. What other places should one look?

    Of what use are absurd Aristotelian notions of 4 "causes"?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Shoo! Shoo! Shoo!

    ReplyDelete