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December 19, 2012

jonathangroover:

I think gun control works…

Originally posted on Amanpour:

In Japan, you cannot buy a handgun, much less an assault rifle. In fact, even off-duty police officers are banned from carrying guns.

You can buy a shotgun or an air rifle, but it is not easy:

  • First, you have to take a class and a written exam.
  • Then there’s a skill test at a shooting range
  • Next is a drug test
  • Then a mental evaluation.
  • Assuming you pass all those tests, you file with the police, who then run a background check.

No wonder Japan has one of the lowest gun ownership rates in the world.

Butdoes it work?

In 2008, the U.S. had 12,000 gun-related murders. Japan had 11. More than double that number were killed in the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

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August 26, 2012

Originally posted on You can take everything I have..:

Warning:  This will be a long post. :) In the last post I argued that if we accept the starting point of Total Depravity, then Calvinism makes perfect sense.  In other words, if in the sequential ordering of God’s redemptive plan, we begin with Adam’s fall—with that fall being complete so that man is utterly unable to respond to God—then God is the only one who can intervene in the process.  Therefore, Calvinism proposes that because man has sinned against God, God would be perfectly just to condemn mankind to eternal punishment.  He could have chosen to let mankind stay in its state and justice would be accomplished.  However, God offers free grace unconditionally to those whom he elects.  We may think it is “unjust” for God to choose some over others, but God didn’t have to choose anyone, and so for him to save even one person is an…

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August 24, 2012

jonathangroover:

I still find this two part post to be one of the most compelling arguments against Calvinism, if I do say so myself. :)

Originally posted on You can take everything I have..:

2416216707_dd28c1e62d1Posting anything about Calvinism can be a frightening thing in the blogosphere, if for no other reason than it could potentially open a torrent of comments from believers with a desire to correct an “erring brother” to the point where my every waking hour could be spent responding to the comments and proof texts hurled my way (in love of course :) ).  This subject used to consume my thoughts and spiritual searching, but living in Thailand (where Christianity is less than 1% of the population) tends to trivialize the need to duke it out.

However, occasionally I will be thinking about the topic (I can’t say I’ve been able to stop thinking about it entirely!), and thoughts will occur to me that I want to share. So here we go. But before we begin a couple of comments are in order:

  1. Feel free to stop by and comment. But…

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C. S. Lewis and the “Argument From Reason”: An Examination and (Modified Defense), Conclusion

August 23, 2012

VI.             A Modest Re-Explanation of the Argument from Reason

In honestly appraising Beversluis’s critique of Lewis’s Argument from Reason, we find—as we do in most philosophical arguments—that Lewis’s argument is not nearly as flawless as it initially appears.  It is the nature of philosophical arguments to be picked at and shown to be, at times,  inconsistent, incomplete, and presumptuous.  Enough philosophical rigor will eventually where down the strongest of arguments.  This is not to take away from Beversluis’s objection.  Indeed, he is right to insist that Lewis is too often uncritically absorbed by Christians who are searching for a basis for a reasonable faith.  However, while the formal version of Lewis’s argument (as seen above) has premises that are possibly unsound, imbedded in Lewis’s own case is powerful statement that provides fuel for a reformulation of his argument:

 It is agreed on all hands [according to Naturalists] that reason, and even sentience, and life itself are late comers in Nature.  If there is nothing but Nature, therefore, reason must have come into existence by a historical process.  And of course, for the Naturalist, this process was not designed to produce mental behavior that can find truth.  There was no designer; and indeed, until there were thinkers, there was not truth or falsehood.  The type of mental behavior we now call rational thinking or inference must have been ‘evolved’ by natural selection, by the gradual weeding out of types less fitted to survive.[1]

Now, Beversluis believes that Lewis is arguing based on this fact—which all Naturalists would agree with—that the processes of the human mind cannot be rational.[2]  However, at least in this particular statement, Lewis is not suggesting as much.  Rather, he is suggesting the point that I made earlier in regards to Anscombe:  in such a universe, reason is ultimately accidental, subjective, and meaningless.  Let me explain.

For the Naturalist, there is no Mind (or Logos) behind the universe.  As such, the universe is ultimately a mindless, impersonal, physical brute fact.  It just is.  Yet, as we have shown, in such a universe there is no objective value, for nature is value-neutral.  Lewis takes this one step farther:  in such a universe there is no “truth or falsehood” (ultimately).  This is because both value and truth are intrinsically personal and rational terms.  Hence, both value and truth require minds.  So, for Lewis, if Naturalism is true, then truth, falsehood, value, and other terms requiring personhood or minds, are not intrinsic to the universe itself, but “late comers” in this accidental process called Nature.  Late comers indeed.  Until human beings—with the requisite minds needed for reason—which did not show up until several thousand years ago, there would have been no such thing as reason, truth, or value.  Yet, does this situation not present an oxymoron of sorts?  Again, allow me to explain.

We often here the phrase “fish out of water” to indicate something, or a someone that does not fit the environment or context that he or she is in.  A fish out of water is something that simply does not fit; it’s oxymoronic, for as we all know, fish are water creatures.  But this is precisely what Naturalists are asking us to accept when they suggest that a reasonless, meaningless, valueless,  universe gives rise to creatures who are reasoning, meaning-making, value-making beings.  We are the ultimate “fish out of water” creatures, for we are born into a universe that at its very core is fundamentally different than us.  It would be rather like an evolutionary process that causes fish—with all their water-specific natures—to emerge in a desert.  We are creatures—with all our reasoning, value-making, meaning-making natures—born into the vast desert of an accidental, reasonless universe.  At bottom, this is what the Naturalist is asking us to accept.

Of course, no naturalist—Beversluis included—accepts this either.  Science is predicated on the discovery that the universe is, in fact, intelligible.  It corresponds to our reason-making natures.  Now, the naturalist may assert that naturally the universe must be intelligible to support the existence of intelligent creatures.  But all he or she has done here is make an assertion.  This has not even begun to approach what is an explanation or a why to such a phenomenon.  As we all know, however, an assertion does not go very far in explanatory power.

So with Naturalism, we still end up with the phenomenon of human reasoning and the phenomenon that nature, itself, is reasonable and intelligible.  It contains laws of logic and mathematics and physics that human reasoning can discover.  The universe seems meaningful and reasonable.  In Naturalism, this is a sheer inexplicability.  And yet with Theism and the belief that there is an ultimate Mind, or in Christian theology—a Logos—that the intelligibility and rationality of the universe is grounded in and is derivative of, suddenly we have an explanation.  Suddenly the rationality and intelligibility of the universe is, itself, reasonable.

 VII.          Conclusion

This proposal of a modified Argument From Reason does not prove Theism.  It can only strongly suggest the plausibility of Theism.   While C. S. Lewis’s own formulation of the argument does not, itself, provide undeniable proof that the existence of reason shows the existence of God, it does provide the groundwork for a very sound and persuasive case that the intelligibility and rationality of the universe makes far better sense in Theism than it does in Naturalism.  At least in Theism, we do not arrive at human beings being the perennial “fish-out-of-water.”

 

 

 


[1] Lewis, Miracles, 220.

[2] Beversluis, C. S. Lewis and the Search, 150.

C. S. Lewis and the “Argument From Reason”: An Examination and (Modified) Defense, Part V

August 22, 2012

Objection #2:  G. E. M. Anscombe and Different Types of Explanations

A second, important objection to Lewis’ argument is that Lewis does not distinguish between irrational and nonrational causes[1] nor between different types of “explanations” of the same event.  These are the argument first proposed by G. E. M. Anscombe against Lewis, and Berversluis spends considerable space, not only in presenting Anscombe’s argument in detail, but chronicling the debate that took place between them.  Though Lewis does not explicitly mention so , Berversluis effectively shows that Lewis’ second edition of Miracles takes into account Anscombe’s objections.  The pages devoted to this section are not only philosophically potent, but historically fascinating as well.

The first objection that Anscombe makes against Lewis is that he fails to distinguish between irrational and nonrational causes.  Because this objection is primarily waged at the first edition of Miracles we will bypass it and move onto the second part of her argument that still applies to Lewis’ second edition.  According to Anscombe, Lewis could make the following rebuttal to her point of distinguishing between irrational and nonrational causes:

 That kind of explanation…would show that what the person said was not caused by reason at all, but by nonrational processes.  Although the person offered arguments in support of what he said, since everything we say can be fully explained by nonrational causes, his arguments would also have been derived from a chain of nonrational causes.[2]

However, this will not work, according to Anscombe, because Lewis is failing to distinguish between causes and reasons.[3]  That the reason a person comes to a particular conclusion is through a process of logical reasoning is no way undermined by the fact that the cause is a physical event (i.e. mental/chemical processes).  At least, Lewis does not show how it is undermined, for he confuses the cause of a person’s thinking and the reasons a person thinks the way he or she does.  Beversluis writes, “If we distinguish the ground of a conclusion from the cause of the asseration of that conclusion, the alleged incompatibility disappears…It follows that the naturalistic explanations of human thought ‘have no bearing,’ on the validity of human reasoning.”[4]

Anscombe bolsters her argument by showing how different—and equally valid—explanations can be given for a single event, depending on what a questioner wants to know.  Beversluis makes the point this way:  “To say that human thought can be fully explained in terms of causal laws does not preclude other kinds of noncausal explanations.  There is no single explanation that is the explanation, that is, the right and only explanation and everywhere the same.”[5]  Anscombe, in fact, offers four kinds of “full” explanations depending on the question being asked.  First, there are causal explanations that “explain in terms of physical law”; second, there are logical explanations that “explain by showing the connection between ground and consequent”; third, there are psychological explanations that “explain why a person, in fact, believes something”; and fourthly, there are personal history explanations that “explain how someone come to hold the view he holds.”[6]  The point of all this is that none of these explanations invalidates the other explanations; there is not one explanation “to rule them all.”

Beversluis follows this conclusion and develops it in a somewhat different way.  Rather than “granting that explanations in terms of nonrational causes fully explain thought causally and then introducing other kinds of noncausal explanations, we can deny that explanations in terms of nonrational causes fully explain mental events.”[7]  In “explaining” why Beethoven wrote, and rewrote, and rewrote his Fifth Symphony, the psychologist may provide causal reasons such as his compulsive need to succeed, while the musicologist may explain, that Beethoven didn’t give up because he saw that the piece had promise, and continued to work with it—much like a potter does with clay—until it was what he wanted.[8]  The question Beversluis asks, then, is:  “Why should we concede that either of these kinds of explanation fully explains what they set out to explain?”[9]  In fact, Beversluis goes so far as to admit that it is very likely that, in terms of psychological explanations (i.e. a class of “nonrational” explanations), we will never be able to fully explain the creativity of a person like Beethoven.  In an intensely revealing statement, Beversluis all but admits the “unexplainability” of certain types of thinking:

 Even if we assume for the sake of argument that Beethoven was ‘driven’ by an irresistible creative urge to compose, that still does not take us very far toward a full [emphasis his] psychological explanation of why he composed it or anything else, for that matter.  Part of the reason is that in the case of the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth we are talking about a series of unique events in need of explanation, whereas in talking about creativity in general we are talking about a class of events that fall under the scope of some scientific law.  And it is unlikely that we will ever get explanations of creativity in general [emphasis mine]—not to mention the creative process of a giant like Beethoven—based on any known laws of psychology.[10]

Beversluis seems to be saying that there are classes of events—in this case, creativity—that are so unique, or phenomenal, that he (at least) is doubtful that any full psychological explanation can be given.  This, though, sounds eerily familiar to what Lewis is saying about the “phenomenon” of reasoning itself.

In response to both Anscombe’s objection and Beversluis’ slightly different formulation of it, I would like to make several points.

In regards to Anscombe’s objection, I believe she largely succeeds in demonstrating that Lewis has not completely shown that the process involved in reasoning and the physical processes that cause thinking “events” are incompatible.  Therefore, if we look at my formulation of Lewis’s argument, we may take issue with point (v).  Though naturalism and reasoning might seem incompatible, it has not been shown that they are, in fact, so.  Beversluis’s words are apt here:

If I argue ‘If it rains, the picnic will be cancelled; the picnic was not cancelled; therefore, it did not rain,’ my argument is valid because it instantiates a valid argument form known as modus tollens:  If p then q, it is not the case that q; therefore it is not the case that p.  To be sure, my chain of reasoning is caused by a series of physiological or neurobiological events that take place in my brain.  But how does that impugn the validity of my argument?[11]

Thus, as far as Lewis’s argument depends on us accepting the “wholly distinct” separation of the reasoning process and the physical process that causes the thinking event, it fails.  There is no logical contradiction between these two spheres of thinking.

However, I am not persuaded that Anscombe’s objection has the force that it might initially seem to have.   For it depends on the acceptance of her reasoning that different explanations can be full explanations in an equal way.  While I accept that depending on the question being asked, an explanation can serve as the entire explanation to that question, I believe there is a question that precludes all other questions:  the question of “ultimate meaning.”  That is, I could pose the following question:  what is the ultimate explanation (or cause) of the reasoning processes in our brains?  Or, what lies behind all other reasons for our reasoning processes?  If this question is posed, then in a naturalist framework, we must admit that the ultimate, final explanation is that our reasoning processes are due to a series of chemical processes in our brains.  Now, this may not prove that our reasoning is thereby invalid, but it does bring up the issue of significance or value.

Nature or material is value-neutral.  Atoms, particles, and the like, no matter how sophisticated the conglomeration (i.e. living beings) are ultimately meaningless, just as in naturalism, the universe itself, is ultimately meaningless.   If that is so, then because the most fundamental answer to the question of what is the “explanation” of human reasoning is that it is a result of chemical processes, we must conclude that the process of reasoning, is in the end, ultimately meaningless or valueless.  We may assign value to it based on function and arrive at a type of Utilitarian explanation to the “function” of reason, but we can hardly say that in the grand scheme of things, our reasoning has any intrinsic value to it.

Yet, what a far cry this is from how we typically approach the idea of reasoning!  I doubt very much if Beversluis would want to draw the conclusion that his entire life’s work—that of philosophy—is ultimately meaningless or valueless.  While, at a cognitive level, he may accept the fact that subjective, personal value is all he may ever assign to his own reasoning, and reasoning itself, at a deeper level, I wonder if he does not recoil at this.  Do not we who are engaged in philosophical endeavors, seeking truth for truth itself, believe that our endeavors are meaningful or valuable beyond our own personal opinion—or even beyond our biological need to survive as posed by evolution?  If so, then we must, at least, see the explanatory power of Lewis’ argument.  To believe in naturalism is to acknowledge that our reasoning faculties are ultimately a result of random, natural, evolutionary processes, and while they serve an evolutionary survival function, beyond that, they are ultimately valueless.

As for Beversluis’s formulation, by admitting that explanations rarely serve as the full explanation of our reasoning processes and acknowledging that psychological explanations in particular will likely never be able to explain unique aspects of our reasoning processes, such as the process of creativity, he is conceding to what appears to be the inexplicability of the process of reasoning.  He is acknowledging there is a part of the universe—namely our reasoning faculties—that cannot fully be accounted for.  Sure, he may acknowledge that undergirding all of this is a physical brain with physical processes; but that is not something a theist will necessarily deny.  What the theist will want to affirm, however, is that there is more than the person’s merely physical processes in reasoning:  that there is personhood and volition involved that makes such reasoning uniquely and phenomenally human.  While Beversluis goes this far in his understanding of the uniqueness of one aspect of our reasoning—creativity—it is not something that his naturalism will easily allow for.  Beyond the assertion that naturalism can account for such a phenomenon as human reasoning because obviously the fact that humans exists shows such a phenomenon exists, there is no defense of how naturalism can account for it.  Thus, by acknowledging the inexplicability of reasoning, Beversluis strengthens Lewis’s claim that reasoning is something that, in naturalistic terms, cannot be accounted for.


[1] At least in the first edition of Miracles.

[2] Beversluis, 156-157.  This is, of course, Beversluis’ summary.

[3] Ibid., 157

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 158

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 167.

[8] Beversluis uses this example of Beethoven to make his point, 167-168.

[9] Ibid., 167.

[10] Ibid., 169

[11] Ibid., 165.

C. S. Lewis and the “Argument From Reason”: An Examination and (Modified) Defense, Part IV

August 21, 2012

IV.             Exploring Beversluis’s Rebuttal(s): Lewis Offers “False Dilemmas”

            I must confess there is no way to do real justice to Beversluis’s entire case against Lewis’s Argument from Reason in this brief essay.  Beversluis spends upwards of fifty pages on this one argument and attacks it from every possible angle.  However, by offering two of his strongest objections, we may gain an understanding into the strength—or weakness—of Lewis’s argument as a whole.

 

Objection #1:  Lewis offers only two alternatives:  deterministic naturalism and supernaturalism

Beversluis dives in by pointing out that Lewis attempts to allow for delineation between only two options, deterministic naturalism and supernaturalism.[1]  Lewis believed that for the naturalist, “nature is a self-contained and closed system.”[2]  Beversluis comments that “closed” for Lewis “means causally closed” and thus considers naturalism a form of determinism.  By defining naturalism so, Lewis’s argument “depends on the assumption that there are only two alternatives: deterministic naturalism and supernaturalism.”[3]  What strikes Beversluis as exceedingly odd is that Lewis pays lip-service to a Quantum Theory as a scientific theory that allows for spontaneity and freedom in the natural systems.  Presumably, many of these quantum theorists are naturalists themselves and are, by definition, not deterministic naturalists based on their scientific theory.  Yet, Lewis simply passes this alternative by when he writes, “I cannot help thinking they [quantum theorists] mean no more than that the movements of individual units are permanently incalculable to us, not that they are in themselves random and lawless.”[4]   Thus Lewis sets up a false dichotomy and need not be accepted.

For my part, I largely agree with Bevesluis here.  Lewis does leverage a great deal of his argument against one form of naturalism—mainly determinism.  He would like for us to accept reason as something that is not “causally connected” to a great chain of prior physical events, as something that is spontaneous or “free.”  And, in a very real sense it does involve a degree of freedom and “intentionality.”  However, if we acknowledge that spontaneity is part of “the system,” then the uniqueness of intentional reasoning disappears.  The two become compatible.

I wonder, though, if Bevesluis has considered the implications of Quantum Theory.  If the universe is an “open” system (at least to some degree) then that leaves open the possibility of something being “outside” or “beyond” the system.  That is to say, does Quantum Theory lend very well to naturalism?  Is not Naturalism more coherent when nature operates like a machine of causally connected processes, rather than like an organism that is alive?  In fact, that is one of the major arguments leveraged against Naturalism:  the sheer randomness of nature seems to make the existence of living things—especially reasoning beings—inexplicable.  At least with determinism, the Naturalist can retort that the process of cause-and-effect seems to be one of machine-like precision.  It seems as though Naturalism is predicated on deterministic processes of cause-and-effect.  That is why many biologists, and neurologists are determinists.  The whole thing makes more sense—in Naturalism—if all that is, is an unfolding of an inevitable (non-free!) process.  So while Beversluis shows a logical “loop-hole” so to speak; he would need to do for deterministic naturalism what C. S. Lewis does not do for indeterministic naturalism:  show how it is a faulty view.


[1] Beversluis expresses great angst at Lewis’ constant “false dilemmas”:  offering the reader only two (or three) options, one being absurd, and the other by default, imminently more reasonable:

Again and again his refutation depends on the shaky foundation of the straw man and the false dilemma.  Either hold (the absurd view) that the feeling of certainty we express by the words ‘therefore’ and ‘must be’ is a ‘mere feeling in the mind’ or grant that reason provides  ‘genuine insights’ into reality.  Either hold (the absurd view) that there is no such thing as rational inference or grant that reason is ‘independent’ of nature and puts us in touch with something ‘behind’ it…As with the Lunatic or Fiend Dilemma and the Lord, Lunatic, and Fiend Dilemma, these alternatives are not the only ones and they simply do not exhaust out options.  Intermediate positions remain open to us.  Naturalism is one of them,” in C. S. Lewis and the Search, 193-194.

[2] Beversluis, C. S. Lewis and the Search, 145.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Quoted in Beversluis, C. S. Lewis and the Search, 147.

C. S. Lewis and the “Argument from Reason”: An Examination and (Modified) Defense, Part III

August 20, 2012

III.             Unpacking the Extended Argument in Miracles

             In order to feel the weight (and the substance) of Lewis’s argument, we will necessarily have to trek with him through his terms, definitions, and steps.  As most philosophical arguments go, the entirety of the argument is built step by step from a common base of definitions.  For Lewis we must begin by explaining what we mean by “nature” and “Naturalism,” or in his words, what the Naturalist believes.

 

Nature/Naturalism

Lewis defines “nature” as that which “happens ‘of itself’ or ‘of its own accord’:  what you do not need to labour for; what you will get if you take no measures to stop it.”[1]  In other words, nature is that which “just happens.”  Now, admittedly, this may be a definition with which the naturalist disagrees with.  He or she might be more comfortable by saying that nature is that “which is”—or everything.  However, Lewis feels this evades the issue, for of course, the naturalist is going to define it such, since, for him or her, supernaturalism is ruled out ipso facto.  Thus Lewis attempts to arrive at a definition of nature that both naturalists and supernaturalists can agree upon.

Assuming that this definition is viable, Lewis then proceeds to explain what the naturalist believes.  Accordingly, he or she believes several things:  first, that the “ultimate Fact”—the thing that you cannot go behind (i.e. the Origin or First Cause or Event) is a process that is ‘going on of its own accord,’ or naturally.[2]  From the first event, every other particular event (like the fact that I am sitting here writing) is the direct result of a prior event, which is a direct result of a prior event, so on, and so on.[3]  Thus, spontaneity is outlawed by default, except of course, for the original event.  All events, being natural and derivative of the first Event, are causally linked to prior events, and ultimately to the first Event.  Being a book about miracles, Lewis points out that miracles, in such a view, are obviously impossible because an “outside” event from this interlocking system of causal connections is ruled out from the beginning.  For the naturalist, then, everything that is, occurs within a system of causally connected events going all the way back to the First Event, which itself occurred ‘of its own accord’ or “naturally.”  There is nothing that occurs that is not a result of this process.  From here, Lewis forges ahead to discuss the implications of Naturalism, and the major difficulty that emerges—the Argument from Reason.

 

Implications of Naturalism and The Argument

Though Lewis does not initially make the following implication, it does permeate his argument nonetheless.  This is the implication that in Naturalism, all that is, is physical—or matter.  Thus, for all intents and purposes, Naturalism and Materialism are coterminous.  Accordingly, everything that exists is a result of natural and physical processes.  Based on this view, Lewis argues that if Naturalism is true, “every finite thing or event must be (in principle) explicable in terms of the Total System.”[4]  That is, in principle[5] everything that occurs should be able to be reduced to a natural (and material) process.  The act of human thinking, then for the Naturalist, is ultimately the result of natural process—i.e. a series of chemical reactions in the human brain.

With the foundation that, for the naturalist, all events, including thinking events, are the result of material causes, Lewis argument proceeds thus:  for knowledge to be “valid,” [6] it must be the result of a certain kind of thinking.  To put it simply, it must result from a certain process of reasoning.  Lewis asks his readers to consider two senses of the word “because.”  The first sense is found in the following sentence: “Grandfather is ill today because he at lobster yesterday.”  The second sense is found in this sentence: “Grandfather must be ill today because he hasn’t got up yet (and we know he is an invariably early riser when he is well.”[7]  For Lewis, the first statement cannot be an act of genuine knowledge because it is a sheer fact of “Cause-and-Effect.”  Certainly it is true in the sense that it occurs, but it cannot be true in the sense that 2+2=4 or in the sense the law of gravity is true because scientists have done a great many measurements and then inferred that there is, indeed, an observable reality of gravity.  Rather, the first sentence is just a fact.

The second sentence’s sense of “because” however is the result of a genuine knowledge because it emerges through a process of reasoning.  Lewis calls this the “Ground-Consequent” sense, because “The old man’s late rising is not the cause of his disorder but the reason why we believe him to be disordered.”[8]  Put differently, the “ground” for why we believe Grandfather to be sick is based on the fact, or consequence of his sleeping in.  One does not just observe that ‘Granfather’ is sick; rather, one draws the conclusion based upon the available evidence and the inferences drawn from it.  This of course is an example of inductive reasoning; however, the same type of process would be true with an act of deductive reasoning.  In either case, the point is that for genuine[9] knowledge to occur, it must happen as a result of this process of reasoning and drawing conclusions.

If we can agree with Lewis (and we may not) up to this point, then according to him, we have a “cardinal” difficulty with naturalism.  For in naturalism, everything that occurs, does so in the “Cause-and-Effect” sense—even the “events” of thinking in our brains.  For, as we have mentioned, everything that occurs is a result of natural and physical (cause-and-effect) processes.  So if the “reasoning” that we do is ultimately not a result of the “Ground-Consequent” of “because,” but a result of a “Cause-and-Effect” physical process (i.e., chemicals moving in our brains) then our knowledge is not “valid” or, to use a more modest word, “warranted.”  Lewis therefore draws the following conclusion:

Unless our conclusion is the logical consequent from a ground it will be worthless and could be true only by a fluke.  Unless it is the effect of a cause, it cannot occur at all.  It looks therefore, as if, in order for a train of thought to have any value, these two systems of connection must apply simultaneously to the same series of mental acts…But unfortunately the two systems are wholly distinct.[10]

According to Lewis, this is devastating for Naturalism.  If “valid”—genuine—reasoning arrives only by a process of reasoning, and Naturalism is a theory that say thoughts are “events” that happen by physical causes, then Naturalism ultimately undermines or “disproves” itself.  For, Naturalism is a view about the way the world works that is reached by a process of reasoning.  Yet, this process of reasoning leads to a view of reality that posits that there is not genuine reasoning!  Again, it is like saying, “I reason that there is no reason.” And, it is for this reason that Lewis writes:  “It [Naturalism] offers what professes to be a full account of our mental behavior; but this account, on inspection, leaves no room for the acts of knowing or insight on which the whole value of our thinking as a means to truth, depends.”[11]

My own understanding of Lewis’ argument could be formulated as follows:

(i.)     Naturalism suggests that the thoughts I have are a result of natural processes—chemical reactions—in my brain.

(ii.)    As natural processes they are determined or “automatic”; they simply occur (as events).

(iii.)   By reasoning, we typically mean that process by which we make inferences based on information or premises to draw conclusions.  In other words, we take an active role (i.e. not  automatic) in our coming to “truth,” or knowledge.

(iv.)   It is through reason that we come to know something as true.

(v.)     Reasoning and Naturalism seem prima facie to be incompatible with one another.

(vi.)    Naturalism is a belief about the world that supposedly is arrived at through a process of reasoning.

(vii.)   Thus Naturalism is a conclusion, through a process of reasoning, that reasoning is impossible.  This, therefore, undermines Naturalism.

(viii.)  Thus, we have no ‘reason’ to believe Naturalism to be true, as it is self-defeating.

It would seem that Lewis has a slam-dunk case against Naturalism, but John Beversluis does not think so.  With that, we turn to his extensive rebuttal.


[1] Lewis, Miracles, 214.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.  Thus, for Lewis, to be a strict naturalist is to be a determinist.

[4] Lewis, Miracles, 217.

[5] Lewis maintains, that of course, the naturalist does not have to actually produce an explanation that is accurate, for this would be impossible being that scientific knowledge is progressive.  However, the naturalist must maintain that “in principle” every event can be explained naturally, 217.

[6] The philosophical term is “warranted” or “justified” belief.

[7] Miracles, 219.

[8] Ibid.

[9] The debate on what constitutes as “warranted” belief among epistemologists far outweighs the current discussion.  I think it is safe to conclude that however one arrives at knowledge, it is more valuable to have done so through a process of reasoning.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Miracles, 220.

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