Craig’s Argument from Intentionality

Here is my summary of Craig’s “argument from intentionality” in his recent debate with Alex Rosenberg.

5. God is the best explanation for the intentional states of consciousness in the world.
Philosophers are puzzled by states of intentionality, the state of being about something or being of something. It signifies the object-directendess of our thoughts, such as thinking about my summer vacation or about my wife. But no physical object has this capability. A chair, a stone, or a glob of tissue like the brain is not about or of something else. Only mental states or states of consciousness are about other things.

As a materialist, Rosenberg recognizes this fact and so concludes that, on atheism, there really are no intentional states. Dr. Rosenberg boldly claims we never really think about anything. But this seems incredible. Obviously, I am thinking about Dr. Rosenberg’s argument! This is a reductio ad absurdum argument against atheism. But on theism, it is not surprising that there should be finite minds. Thus, intentional states fit comfortably into a theistic worldview.

(1) If God did not exist, intentional states of consciousness would not exist.
(2) Intentional states of consciousness exist.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

Maybe I am being dense, but what would be wrong with the following response?

Regarding Dr. Craig’s argument from intentionality, he says, "But no physical object has the capability of intentionality." But that statement simply begs the question against materialism. The statement, "No physical object has the capability of intentionality," is true if and only if reductive materialism is false. If reductive materialism is true, then the mind just is the brain and the intentional states of consciousness just are brain states. So the proposition that "No physical object has the capability of intentionality" is both a premise and a conclusion in his argument, and thus his argument is massively question-begging. Indeed, a materialist would be no more guilty of begging the question if he were to declare, "But there is no such thing as a mental substance apart from a physical substance," and then argue from that to the falsity of theism. So I don’t think Dr. Craig has shown that God is the best explanation of the intentional states of consciousness.

About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Carr/100001542808342 Steven Carr

    CRAIG
    When it comes to pain, then, the question is: might the behaviors that we associate with animals that look to be in pain constitute something like “blindpain”–showing all the behavioral symptoms of real pain, but without the conscious awareness? Amazingly, given what we know about the functioning of the brain, the answer might be yes. Those parts of the brain most closely associated with consciousness of pain, are also the parts that were the last to arrive among mammals: the pre-frontal cortex.

    CARR
    Can a pre-frontal cortex explain how people can be aware that they are in pain?

    CRAIG
    A chair, a stone, or a glob of tissue like the brain is not about or of something else. Only mental states or states of consciousness are about other things.

    CARR
    My mistake.

    A pre-frontal cortex has no explanatory role in how people can be aware that they are in pain.

  • Fergus

    Forgive me, but I am having difficulty understanding the response to Craig here. I cannot see how the invocation of reductive materialism is at all relevant to the argument.

    Craig’s argument (as I take it) is that intentionality – the property of ‘aboutness’ that Brentano took to be the distinguishing feature of the mental – cannot arise from physical objects. Thus a ball cannot be ‘about’ something. The response seems to be that if we adopt an identity theory of the mind we can avoid the problem, since by doing so we reduce the intentional states to purely physical ones and thereby show the falsity of the original premise that physical objects cannot be intentional. The accusation of question begging is based on the argument that we have to assume non-reductive materialism (that is, a theory of mind that denies the identity-thesis) in order to argue from the impossibility of intentional objects to the falsity of reductive materialism.

    But does this response not itself beg the question? Craig is not trying to argue against reductive materialism, but materialism simpliciter. His argument works just as well if he says that ‘atoms cannot be intentional’ (a plausible premise), so that to take an identity theory of mind will not help at all. If we reduce mental states to brain states, we still have not provided an explanation of intentionality. So the response seems to be the argument that:

    1) If materialism is true, then physical objects are capable of intentionality (an assertion which Craig simply denies and therefore not helpful in an argument)
    2) Materialism is true
    3) Therefore, physical objects are capable of intentionality
    4) Therefore, materialism is true

    Or have I completely misunderstood what is being argued?

    • AdamHazzard

      I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I think you have misunderstood the argument.

      Craig begins with the premise that no material object is capable of intentionality. Thus, either the brain is not a material object or the brain is not capable of intentionality — supposedly a paradox for the materialist.

      Chris rightly points out that Craig’s premise is an ungrounded assertion that the brain, if it generates intentionality, is not a material object. A materialist (in the broadest sense of that word) might respond that, on the contrary, the question arises precisely because only some material objects display a capacity for intentionality. (She might also add that only evolved biological organisms display this capacity — an important clue, if we really want to understand what intentionality is and how it arises.)

      The subtler question is how intentionality (or consciousness) supervenes on objects and processes that are not themselves intentional (or conscious). It’s a perfectly legitimate question, but, as other posters have pointed out, theism doesn’t even begin to address it.

  • Denis Robert

    Yet again, WLC proves he’s an idiot. Of course, a thing can be about another thing, in that its state can be linked with the state of another object. In the end, “intentionality” as Craig describes it is just that: linked states. No great mystery there, unless you are in the business of mystification.

    • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

      Denis, can you explain in more detail how object A can be linked to object B and exhibit inherent intentionality? For example, how was your brain when you wrote your comment linked to the body of WLC (since you thought he was an idiot)?

      • josh

        Craig’s body makes words in the form of air vibrations. These are recorded on, e.g., a digital camera, which preserves some of the relations between air vibrations via relations on electro-magnetic storage. These are retranslated into sounds on your computer. Your ear converts some of this information into neural electro-chemical signals. These signal (after further processing) become part of a much larger complex of neural information that is continuously processed, stored and retrieved. We call this complex your mind, it is an evolved system which attempts to model and anticipate the world around it. The relations between Craig and his words out in the wider world are echoed, in low-resolution, by the relations between your idea of Craig and your idea of his words. Your model includes many more relations in the context of which it tries to place Craig and his words. In Denis’s model, Craig is lumped in with his idea of idiots.

        That your mind can be about Craig is no more mysterious than that a video recording can be about his image and sounds, or that a footprint can be about the foot that makes it.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          Thanks for trying Josh but your attempt falls short.

          An audio/video recording is not inherently about Craig even if it contains his voice and image. The recording may have been caused by Craig in the way you describe but the hard drive itself (or whatever) is not about Craig. It takes a mind to derive that the information on the hard drive is about Craig. Moreover, my idea of Craig or of idiocy is what needs explaining since those are examples of inherent intentionality, yet you include them in your explanation.

          • josh

            “It takes a mind to derive that the information on the hard drive is about Craig. ”

            Why? You are making an assertion, not an argument here. Generally, we would say that the hard drive has a certain mass, whether or not you “derive” what it’s mass is. Why wouldn’t you treat “aboutness” the same way? The hard drive doesn’t have thoughts about Craig, but that is irrelevant to the argument.

            You need to lay out some criteria for judging whether or not a thing possesses intentionality. If your contention is that only minds possess intentionality then you are begging the question.

            My explanation above sketched out the answer to your question “…how object A can be linked to object B…” Perhaps you don’t understand the question you are asking.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            Why? You are making an assertion, not an argument here. Generally, we would say that the hard drive has a certain mass, whether or not you “derive” what it’s mass is. Why wouldn’t you treat “aboutness” the same way? The hard drive doesn’t have thoughts about Craig, but that is irrelevant to the argument.

            We do not derive the mass of the hard drive in the same way that we derive information from a hard drive. We simply discover the mass of the hard drive. But we must interpret the information on the hard drive by appealing to the algorithm that came from the programmer’s mind.

            The audio/video recording of Craig’s speech is represented on the hard drive as a series of ones and zeros (bits). A computer programmer (a mind) writes software (e.g., a media player) to give this series of bits meaning (e.g., a sound, an image). But there’s nothing in the bits themselves that says it’s a sound or image. A programmer could just as easily interpret the bits as a number or a letter, for example.

            You need to lay out some criteria for judging whether or not a thing possesses intentionality. If your contention is that only minds possess intentionality then you are begging the question.

            In Philosophy of the Mind, Edward Feser defines intentionality as: “that feature of mental states like beliefs, desires, and thoughts by virtue of which they are about, directed at, mean, or represent, something beyond themselves. (In the typical case anyway, though sometimes a mental state could be about, directed at, mean, or represent itself” (p. 247).

            While he mentions intentionality is a feature of mental states there is nothing in the definition that would rule out a block of cheese from having beliefs or desires. It’s merely a matter of fact that it does not.

            My explanation above sketched out the answer to your question “…how object A can be linked to object B…” Perhaps you don’t understand the question you are asking.

            You left out an important part of my question: “can you explain in more detail how object A can be linked to object B and exhibit inherent intentionality?”

          • josh

            “But we must interpret the information on the hard drive by appealing to the algorithm that came from the programmer’s mind.”

            No, we just need to know the process that relates the information on the drive to the original images/sounds/whatever. Human data encoding is of course chosen by us to be convenient to our purposes, but we regularly extract information about things (c.f. feet/footprints above) without any designed encoding. Like mass, the information is there, whether or not you know how to get at it, or even that it is there at all.

            “In Philosophy of the Mind, Edward Feser defines intentionality as: ‘that feature of mental states like beliefs, desires, and thoughts by virtue of which they are about, directed at, mean, or represent, something beyond themselves. ‘ ”

            Circular definition is circular. If I could teach you one thing it would be ‘don’t rely on Ed Feser for critical thought.’ :) Intentionality is a feature in virtue of which something is about, directed at, means, or represents something beyond itself? What could this possibly mean? I’ve given you common examples of things which convey information about other things beyond themselves. Or on the flip side, how do you determine that a certain mental state is about something outside itself?

            Perhaps you have in mind that intentionality is somehow dependent on a mind intending, in the sense of planning or anticipating an outcome, say, that a videotape represent a visual image. But then the chain of representation presents no difficulty for a physical theory. And it would be begging the question to assume that the mind itself is unphysical.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

            Josh, I’m not sure why you find Feser’s defintion so problematic. Here’s a longer take from Bill Vallicella on why your foot/footprint example is insufficient:

            If I am thinking about Jude Acers, my thought is about him: he is not about my thinking. Generalizing, we can say that intentionality is an asymmetrical relation: if X stands in the intentional relation to Y, then Y does not stand in the intentional relation to X. (Brentano rightly pointed out long ago that intentionality is not a relation, strictly speaking, but ein Relativliches, something relation-like; but this nuance does not harm my point.)

            Now in Dennett’s example, is the lock about the key or the key about the lock? Well, there is a sense in which each is about the other. By studying the key, I can infer something about the lock, and by studying the lock I can infer something about the key. Each provides information about the other, and to a locksmith, a great deal of information.

            There are many cases like this. Animal droppings on the trail provide information about what manner of critter has been by recently. Bear scat ‘means’ bears have been around. One sort of footprint ‘indicates’ that a coyote has passed by, another sort a mountain lion. The paw of a coyote provides information about the type of print it would leave if it were to leave a print, and a footprint provides information about the design of the paw. (Here ‘design’ just means pattern.)

            So in the coyote case as in the lock and key case we have symmetrical aboutness: lock is about key, and key about lock; paw is about footprint, print is about paw. Or consider a compass needle. It is about magnetic North in the sense that one can infer where magnetic North is from the direction in which the the needle is pointing. But equally, one can infer from the location of magnetic North where a properly functioning compass needle will point.

            The symmetry of this sort of aboutness — call it aboutness1 — gives us excellent reason to distinguish it from intentionality, or aboutness2, which is asymmetrical.

            From this one can see that Dennett is completely mistaken in his claim that lock-and-key aboutness is a “form of intentionality.” It is not a form of intentionality, and to think that it is is to confuse the the two senses of ‘aboutness’ lately distinguished. Dennett himself seems to be aware of this since at the end of the passage quoted he shifts his ground and speaks of “quasi-aboutness.” This fudge is very telling. No doubt there is some likeness as between lock-and-key aboutness and intentional aboutness, but that proves nothing since everything is like everything else in some respect.

            The point is that one gains no insight at all into how intentionality emerges — if it does emerge — by having it compared with locks and keys. Note also that to infer something about the lock from the key presupposes genuine intentionality on the part of the locksmith.

            To sum up. To build his gradualist bridge, Dennett looks for a form of primitive intentionality below the level of mind or consciousness. He thinks he has found it in his lock and key example. But what I have just shown is that the symmetrical aboutness in the lock and key case is not, and cannot be, a form or type or species of intentionality — which is asymmetrical. The former merely resembles the genuine article. But if A resembles B, it does not follow that A is a form of B. A decoy duck resembles a duck but is not type of duck.

            You also asked “how do you determine that a certain mental state is about something outside itself?” The answer is introspection.

          • josh

            Jayman-
            Feser’s definition is problematic because it doesn’t elucidate the concept, it doesn’t give me a way to decide the question apart from Feser’s opinion. Same with your introspection answer directly above. Defining a vague concept in terms of other vague synonyms doesn’t advance an argument. According to my introspection, physical states can be about things as needed to satisfy what we observe of mental states.

            Your quote from Vallicella doesn’t really introduce a valid distinction.
            First note “if X stands in the intentional relation to Y, then Y does not stand in the intentional relation to X” is clearly wrong quite apart from materialism/dualism/etc.: I can think about Bill while Bill is thinking about me. But more to the point, physical relations display the same ‘asymmetry’, so far as he’s been able to specify it. Even in the examples he cherry-picked, the relation is asymmetrical but it is a matter of degree. Consider light from a star, which falls on a scientific instrument, say, a telescope. The telescope can tell you about the light, the light can tell you about the star. But the telescope has an utterly negligible effect on the star (if any), so studying the star by some other means doesn’t tell you about the instrument. Or perhaps I should say: it only tells you about the impression it will leave on the instrument, but not about the processing done on that information at the instrument site.

            “A decoy duck resembles a duck but is not type of duck.” And an idea is not the same thing as the object the idea is about. As I said, it’s a model. You are experiencing what it is to be a certain model of the world around you (including a partial model of yourself). That model itself (your brain) was not intended by anyone or anything to be a representation of the world around it, in the same way that a footprint is not intended to model a foot. The model evolved because the behavior of a model-like system, connected with responses, is adaptively useful along our trajectory of evolution.

          • Keith Parsons

            Vallicella’s distinction seems fishy to me. He says that a compass needle pointing north is a symmetrical relationship because if we know where magnetic north is, we also know where a correctly-functioning compass will point. The orientation of the needle provides information about the direction of magnetic north, and the direction of magnetic north provides information about the orientation of the needle. This supposedly makes the pointing of a compass in principle unlike the “aboutness” of intentionality, since the relationship there is asymmetrical. For instance, my concept of, say, John Boehner will be about John Boehner, but John Boehner is not about my concept.

            Actually, the symmetry of the relationship between the compass needle and magnetic north is due to a causal relationship involving the behavior of magnets in magnetic fields. Given freedom to rotate, a magnet will align itself parallel to the lines of magnetic force, and this alignment permits information about the needle to be information about magnetic north, and vice versa.. But can there not also be a similar symmetry between representation and object? Of course, many different stimuli might make me think of John Boehner. For instance, the image of his lachrymose countenance on TV, or perhaps my recollection of Obama’s joke that he looked forward to working with Speaker Boehner as another person of color (only Boehner’s color is not found in nature).

            Ultimately, though, if my concept is indeed to be ABOUT John Boehner, there must be SOME genuine information about John Boehner represented in my concept. If not, if for instance someone is told that a “John Boehner” is a type of Bavarian pastry, then that person’s concept will not be about John Boehner at all. Further, the usual way that I learn about physical things is for there to be a causal connection between those things and the stimuli that make me think of them. As a physical being, John Boehner enters into causal relationships of the sort that transmit information about him, for instance the reflection of light from his face causes a unique pattern of traces to be recorded in a video device. Those traces, through a complex series of physical transformations become for me an inner representation (which, so as not to beg any questions against materialism, we will assume to be fully realized in the physical operations of my brain). In other words, just as physical interactions cause the alignment of the compass needle with magnetic north, so (vastly more complex) physical interactions cause certain of my inner representations to align with the real John Boehner.

            Could I have a concept of some physical X even if my concept has no causal connection with X? Well, maybe, for instance, God could reveal to me the future existence of some X which, since it does not yet exist, can have no causal connection to my concept of it, yet God’s true revelation insures that my concept is accurate. Yet even admitting such possibilities shows that the causal connection between a concept and its object is contingent, and not the sort of in-principle asymmetry Vallicella proposes.

          • Keith Parsons

            I think that the discussion concerning the video recorder is really a version of the old thought experiment proposed by Leibniz. Leibniz imagines that we can be shrunk to microscopic size so that we can tour the brain as we would tour an enormous factory. We could observe the brain’s functioning down to the smallest detail, but we would seemingly never encounter intentionality or qualia or any other of the distinctive features of consciousness. Yet, as Paul Churchland points out in The Engine of Reason, the Seat of the Soul (pp 191-195), this in no way shows that instances of perceiving, sensing, thinking about, etc. are not identical with tokens of the complex events occurring in that vast and intricately connected machinery. Those with the necessary knowledge might in fact be able to recognize that certain event-complexes do constitute an instance of thinking about or sensing a quality. Leibniz’s image is a terrific intuition pump, but that is really all it is. As Churchland points out, viewing the the brain’s functions from within and asking “But where is the MENTAL?” is like the old vitalist who could view all of the processes of molecular biology, but still ask “But where is the LIFE FORCE?”

  • Blue Devil Knight

    Seems almost not worth our time his argument, almost like feeding a troll at a blog. Craig’s claims may be an argument against Rosenberg’s half-baked brand of naturalism, but certainly the majority of naturalists would not agree with premise 1, especially when the term ‘intentional states’ is interpreted generally as ‘mental states’ as he seems to be doing. On its face, this argument comes off as simply disingenuous.

    • Blue Devil Knight

      I should replace ‘Rosenberg’s half baked’ with ‘a caricature of Rosenberg’s actual’ in the above. Rosenberg is not actually as bad as I made it sound in that previous post–he doesn’t think minds don’t exist, but is more attacking propositional attitude psychology, which is NOT at all a crazy thing to do.

      But the way he expresses this could use some refinement, as it invites attack that could be avoided if he were simply more felicitious. The Churchlands already went through this, and I find it strange he hasn’t drawn more from their work, and learned a lesson or two from them in the meantime.

  • Jason Thibodeau

    This argument is very typical of a brand of arguments that Craig is fond of, including the moral argument and that argument from meaning. The structure of all of these arguments is something like this:

    “There is some difficult to account for phenomenon (morality, intentionality, meaning) that atheism/materialism cannot account for. [Insert argument for why materialism cannot account for it here]. But theism can account for it. Therefore atheism is false and theism is true.”

    Jeff, your response, along with most of the responses that I have come across, is to suggest that the argument that goes in the blank spot (e.g. the argument that materialism cannot account for intentionality) is bad (e.g., because question begging). I think that this is a legitimate response and a perfectly reasonable one. However, I also think that it neglects to point out the greatest flaw in this pattern of reasoning. This flaw is the claim that theism can account for the (allegedly) difficult-to-account-for phenomenon.

    In the passage that you quoted, Craig’s only support for the claim that theism can account for intentionality is “But on theism, it is not surprising that there should be finite minds. Thus intentional states fit comfortable into a theistic worldview.” But this is merely a bald assertion, not an explanation. Craig demands that the materialist explain how intentionality arises in a material world, but he does not provide the equivalent theistic explanation. How is intentionality possible on theism? Theism says that there is an infinite mind, but this is not an explanation of how such a mind is possible. Nor does Craig explain how this infinite mind is able to endow finite minds with intentionality. He merely asserts that it happens.

    If intentionality really is the difficult-to-account-for phenomenon that Craig says it is, then we should be utterly shocked that there is an infinite mind capable of having intentional states. How is such a thing possible? The same issue arises for the moral argument. Craig says (in various places) that, on atheism, it is difficult or impossible to explain the existence of moral value. He then asserts that, on theism, moral value is to be expected because God is the source of such value. But that moral value is to be expected is not an explanation of it. Craig, as far as I know, offers no explanation of how it is that God is intrinsically valuable. He says that the atheist must explain how moral value can arise in a material world, but he does not explain how it arises in a theistic world; he merely asserts its existence.

    I think that atheism is better served by pointing out such double standards than by questioning the assumption that materialism cannot account for the phenomena.

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      I completely agree. There are obviously many problems with this argument, but the blatant question begging just stood out to me.

    • Timmy

      Hi Jason,
      I think the difference is you use the phrase “difficult to account for” instead of “impossible.” The point Craig is making is that if it is impossible for intentional states to exist in a purely physical brain, and we see intentional states actually occurring, then it is impossible for there to be only the physical.
      Rosenberg agrees with this. That is why, in order to avoid the conclusion, he denies intentional states exist. He says that intentionality is an illusion, so it is still possible for the world to be purely physical.
      Craig’s rejoinder is that an illusion is an intentional state as well: it is an illusion of or about something, and therefore Rosenberg’s denial of the premise is self-contradictory.

      • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

        So, what is the argument for the conclusion that it is impossible for intentional states exist in the brain? I haven’t encountered a good one.

  • busterggi

    May I ask Mr. Craig exactly what evidence he has for intent in these situations? Other than his opinion.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

    On the one hand, I don’t think intentionality disproves atheism (you could be an atheist and a dualist of some form, for example). On the other hand, we might expect intentionality to exist in a universe created by a being with a mind.

    Regarding Dr. Craig’s argument from intentionality, he says, “But no physical object has the capability of intentionality.” But that statement simply begs the question against materialism.

    His statement seems to be based on the observation that “a chair, a stone, or a glob of tissue like the brain is not about or of something else.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Carr/100001542808342 Steven Carr

      ‘On the other hand, we might expect intentionality to exist in a universe created by a being with a mind.’

      How on earth did you get that?

      Are you saying that you *expect* things created by human beings to have a mind, because human beings have a mind , so you would *expect* them to create things with intentionality?

      I don’t ‘expect’ beings with minds to create things that have minds, anymore than I expect yellow paintings to be created by beings with yellow skin.

      Or is this a case of , with hindsight, I can see that my god has created minds, so with hindsight, I now can adjust my prior probability of what I expect my god to do?

      (Incidentally, why would you not also expect your god to stop his children being mown down by illness, disease and death?)

      Why does Craig need a brain? Does he use it to think with? Is it used to cool the blood?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Carr/100001542808342 Steven Carr

    ‘God is the best explanation for the intentional states of consciousness in the world.’

    Other way around surely?

    The fact that human beings have intentional states explains why the gods they create also have intentional states.

    This is a very productive theory. It even explains why Winnie-the-Pooh ,Tigger and Jimminy Cricket have intentional states,

    They were created by human beings.

    If A.A. Milne is going to give Eeyore intentional states, then Craig is certainly going to give his god intentional states. After all, his god must be wiser than a donkey :-)

  • Richard_Wein

    I think “intentionality” is a misguided concept that would be best dropped altogether. If we simply want to understand “aboutness” it’s best to look at the sort of intelligent system which we fully understand, namely a computer or simple robotic system. Imagine a simple robotic vacuum cleaner which moves around a room, recording the positions of objects that it’s bumped into so it can avoid hitting them again. Such a system acquires data about its environment. We can imagine it displaying such data on a screen, in which case it is producing patterns which are about something. That’s “aboutness”. It’s no big deal.

    Of course we would not consider this to be consciousness. But if the issue of concern is consciousness we should say so, and not talk about “intentionality” or “aboutness”.

    Craig’s error (based on the account given above) is in asking what the physical stuff is about. He should be asking what the actions or productions of a complex physical system (like a computer) are about.

  • Perplexity

    Lowder: Intentionality is still evidence that at least on god exists (the affirmation of which I call ‘theism’). Intentionality would have to exist given theism, but it wouldn’t have to exist given atheism. Thus, intentionality is more likely given theism than atheism and therefore evidence for the former. I’d very much like to have a written debate with you on this–and related issues–as I think there are formidable novel and neglected arguments for theism (and polytheism for that matter).

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Carr/100001542808342 Steven Carr

      ‘ Intentionality would have to exist given theism, but it wouldn’t have to exist given atheism.’

      Why? Why would intentionality have to exist given theism?

      For billions of years, there was no intentionality on Earth. As theism means that intentionality must exist, the lack of intentionality proves there was no god for that time period.

      • Perplexity

        Intentionality would be exhibited by a deity via things like its knowledge. Whether anything exhibited this property on Earth for billions of years doesn’t strike me as all that relevant, and to say nothing bore this property for billions of years simpliciter just begs the question.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Carr/100001542808342 Steven Carr

          I don’t think your reply makes sense – at least not to me.

          ‘Intentionality would be exhibited by a deity via things like its knowledge. ‘

          So as no deity has exhibited any knowledge….

          And it is not begging the question to say that when for billions of years there were only single celled animals on the Earth, then there was no intentionality. It is stating a fact.

          • Perplexity

            If a god existed, it would have mental states that exhibited intentionality. Thus, Theism entails intentionality. That’s not controversial.

            In saying nothing exhibited intentionality for billions of years, you’re assuming that no gods existed in the last billions of years. But, since their existence is what’s under consideration, you are just begging the question against the theist. The fact that you’ve raised the objections you have indicates you’re not familiar with the issue. I’ll leave it here unless Lowder is interested in debating God’s existence.

          • Keith M. Parsons

            One of the most common kinds of theistic arguments appeals to the likelihood of some phenomenon (intentionality, “fine tuning,” moral values, etc.) and claims that this is more likely given theism than naturalism. That is, for some X, p(X/T) > p(X/N). Therefore, the existence of X confirms theism (T) over naturalism (N). In evaluating such arguments it is crucial to ask just what content is given to T and N. If T is tacitly defined as “An omnipotent being who intends X” then, p(X/T) = 1 since (assuming that the actualization of X is logically possible) nothing can prevent the realization of the intentions of an omnipotent being.

            This is a rather dubious kind of trick, being the stock-in-trade of all sorts of paranormalists and pseudoscientists. Things going bump in the night? Heavy furniture moved about? Smells of rotting meat and groaning noises? Must be a poltergeist. The poltergeist hypothesis is confirmed by those sinister phenomena over any competing naturalistic hypothesis (e.g. a troubled adolescent who wants attention) because, well, that is just the kind of thing that poltergeists do. Poltergeists just ARE invisible, malevolent beings who go bump in the night, push things around, create stinks, etc.

            Still, if this is the game we are playing, there is no reason that naturalists cannot play it too. The naturalist can claim that intentionality, or whatever, was in the cards all along. That is, given the initial conditions of the universe and the fundamental laws of nature (which are taken as brute facts), the evolution of creatures with intentionality was inevitable Given enough space and time (and we have plenty of those), intentionality is one of the features that matter will eventually come to exhibit. In other words, if I is the existence of intentionality, then p(I /N) = 1. Of course, evolution is a chancy process, and there was no guarantee that it would produce US, but the claim is not that WE were inevitable. The claim is that, given the initial conditions of the universe and the basic laws of nature and sufficient space and time, intentionality is bound to develop somewhere in the universe. If it is replied that this is all speculative, the naturalist can reply, tu quoque, that talk about omnipotent beings with various intentions is also speculative.

            Sauce for the gander.

          • Perplexity

            I agree, that sort of game gets us nowhere. I don’t arbitrarily define gods to fit the data though. I derive an image of godhood from our paradigmatic examples of gods, and stick to it for better or worse. It just happens that this notion of god entails certain phenomena. Every hypothesis has its entailments, and it’s a common Bayesian strategy to identify something entailed by a hypothesis but not by its negation and argue that it obtains. What better way to show that the phenomenon is more likely on h than on ~h? William Rowe has employed this strategy in his Bayesian argument from evil, and theists conceded it shows there’s evidence for atheism, they just dispute its significance. Atheism has its entailments too.

          • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

            Keith can certainly speak for himself, but if I may interject here: I think I see your point, but — you knew there was a ‘but’ coming — the argument here strikes me as incomplete.

            We’re working without a rigorous definition of “intentionality,” but on an intuitive level let’s grant that “intentionality,” whatever it means, is a property that God, as an unembodied mind, has. I’m inclined to agree with you that it is not ad hoc to say that intentionality is an attribute of God, so theism logically entails that at least one instance of intentionality–God’s intentionality–exists.

            What seems incomplete about this is to call this an explanation. There is no description of the ‘mechanism’ which ‘allows’ God to have intentionality. The obvious retort will be that that God is a se and can do anything which is logically possible (and so does not need to be ‘allowed’ to do anything), which is true as far as it goes, but this doesn’t really explain anything.

            I guess if I were to try to put this into a slogan, I would sum it up as this: “theism may be able to ‘explain,’ at a superficial level, human intentionality by reference to God’s intentionality, but it doesn’t provide an explanation at a deeper level by explaining why any intentionality at all exists.”

          • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

            BTW, if you do have a rigorous definition of “intentionality” which you can post/share, I would appreciate it!

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Carr/100001542808342 Steven Carr

            JEFF
            I guess if I were to try to put this into a slogan, I would sum it up as this: “theism may be able to ‘explain,’ at a superficial level, human intentionality by reference to God’s intentionality,…

            CARR
            SO how do theists explain the existence of yellow things, unless their god is yellow?

            Are they really claiming that a creator with intentionality must create things with intentionality?

            Why must a creator create something that reflects itself?

            We have intentionality, yet theists strenuously deny that anything a human being can create can have intentionality?

            On the contrary, we know that the only things human beings create with intentionality are fictional characters like poltergeists.

          • Keith M. Parsons

            The point is that
            this “common Bayesian strategy” is often misused to
            “confirm” bogus hypotheses, and it is not clear that the same thing
            is not going on with such theistic arguments. Suppose that E = “We have
            randomly observed ten ravens and they have all been black.” Two
            hypotheses are proposed to account for this fact:

            H: 98% of all
            ravens are black

            H*: All ravens
            are black because the devil cursed them.

            p(E/H) = .82

            p(E/H*) = 1

            So, our
            observations of ravens confirms H* over H, right? (This example is based
            on one devised by Michael Martin some years back).

            Of course, the
            way we deal with this and keep the evidence from confirming all sorts of goofy
            hypotheses is by giving such hypotheses infinitesimal background probabilities.
            Thus, with respect to the above example, we rate p(H*) as approximately
            zero (and p(H) considerably higher) so that H*’s likelihood advantage over H is
            wiped out. Similarly, why can’t I rank God hypotheses with devil
            hypotheses and likewise give them an infinitesimal background probability?
            Why not p(G) of approximately zero? What epistemic duty do I
            contravene by doing so?

            I think that the
            reply would be that by making p(G) approximately zero, atheists are displaying
            a naturalistic bias and that such a move is tantamount to ruling out theistic
            hypotheses a priori. What, then, other than naturalistic bias, would
            justify a rating of nearly zero for p(G)?

            Almost any
            paranormal or pseudoscientific hypothesis will have a greater likelihood vis-à-vis
            the evidence than any competing scientific hypothesis. This is because advocates of theories postulating
            ET’s, demons, poltergeists, etc. attribute mysterious occult powers to those
            putative beings and those alleged powers are a blank check permitting those
            hypotheses to entail any evidence.

            For instance, Erich
            von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods postulated
            “ancient astronauts” to account for much archaeological evidence. Sure enough, that evidence is highly likely,
            indeed entailed, by the ancient astronaut hypothesis. How?
            Von Däniken simply attributed to his ET’s whatever powers and intentions
            were needed to get the job done! The
            likelihood of the archaeological evidence given the ancient astronaut
            hypothesis was one! No scientific hypothesis
            could possibly compete! And this, of
            course, is the reason that such hypotheses are banished from science. Hypotheses postulating occult or unknown entities
            wielding inscrutable, inexplicable powers tailor-made to entail the data are
            banished by being given a nearly zero background probability.

            I know that the
            comparison is invidious, so I apologize in advance, but how is a hypothesis
            postulating an omnipotent being really any different from those paradigmatic
            paranormal and pseudoscientific hypotheses?
            Omnipotence is precisely the
            kind of occult, inscrutable, inexplicable , unconfirmable, power that constitutes
            an explanatory blank check. For any E
            whatsoever, the likelihood of E given that it was intended by an omnipotent
            being is one. If this is a rigged game
            with respect to ancient astronaut hypotheses, why not with God hypotheses?

          • Keith M. Parsons

            The point is that
            this “common Bayesian strategy” is often misused to
            “confirm” bogus hypotheses, and it is not clear that the same thing
            is not going on with such theistic arguments. Suppose that E = “We have
            randomly observed ten ravens and they have all been black.” Two
            hypotheses are proposed to account for this fact:

            H: 98% of all
            ravens are black

            H*: All ravens
            are black because the devil cursed them.

            p(E/H) = .82

            p(E/H*) = 1

            So, our
            observations of ravens confirms H* over H, right? (This example is based
            on one devised by Michael Martin some years back).

            Of course, the
            way we deal with this and keep the evidence from confirming all sorts of goofy
            hypotheses is by giving such hypotheses infinitesimal background probabilities.
            Thus, with respect to the above example, we rate p(H*) as approximately
            zero (and p(H) considerably higher) so that H*’s likelihood advantage over H is
            wiped out. Similarly, why can’t I rank God hypotheses with devil
            hypotheses and likewise give them an infinitesimal background probability?
            Why not p(G) of approximately zero? What epistemic duty do I
            contravene by doing so?

            I think that the
            reply would be that by making p(G) approximately zero, atheists are displaying
            a naturalistic bias and that such a move is tantamount to ruling out theistic
            hypotheses a priori. What, then, other than naturalistic bias, would
            justify a rating of nearly zero for p(G)?

            Almost any
            paranormal or pseudoscientific hypothesis will have a greater likelihood vis-à-vis
            the evidence than any competing scientific hypothesis. This is because advocates of theories postulating
            ET’s, demons, poltergeists, etc. attribute mysterious occult powers to those
            putative beings and those alleged powers are a blank check permitting those
            hypotheses to entail any evidence.

            For instance, Erich
            von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods postulated
            “ancient astronauts” to account for much archaeological evidence. Sure enough, that evidence is highly likely,
            indeed entailed, by the ancient astronaut hypothesis. How?
            Von Däniken simply attributed to his ET’s whatever powers and intentions
            were needed to get the job done! The
            likelihood of the archaeological evidence given the ancient astronaut
            hypothesis was one! No scientific hypothesis
            could possibly compete! And this, of
            course, is the reason that such hypotheses are banished from science. Hypotheses postulating occult or unknown entities
            wielding inscrutable, inexplicable powers tailor-made to entail the data are
            banished by being given a nearly zero background probability.

            I know that the
            comparison is invidious, so I apologize in advance, but how is a hypothesis
            postulating an omnipotent being really any different from those paradigmatic
            paranormal and pseudoscientific hypotheses?
            Omnipotence is precisely the
            kind of occult, inscrutable, inexplicable , unconfirmable, power that constitutes
            an explanatory blank check. For any E
            whatsoever, the likelihood of E given that it was intended by an omnipotent
            being is one. If this is a rigged game
            with respect to ancient astronaut hypotheses, why not with God hypotheses?

          • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

            I agree with most of what everything Keith writes here. In particular, I agree with this.

            Of course, the way we deal with this and keep the evidence from confirming all sorts of goofy hypotheses is by giving such hypotheses infinitesimal background probabilities. Thus, with respect to the above example, we rate p(H*) as approximately zero (and p(H) considerably higher) so that H*’s likelihood advantage over H is wiped out.

            But I differ from Keith somewhat when he writes this.

            Similarly, why can’t I rank God hypotheses with devil hypotheses and likewise give them an infinitesimal background probability? Why not p(G) of approximately zero? What epistemic duty do I contravene by doing so?

            Unlike Keith, I don’t assign the God hypothesis a prior probability of virtually or approximately zero, for reasons I explain here. In a nutshell, I can use (1) degree of modesty and (2) degree of coherence to assign an intrinsic probability to theism. For reasons I explain on that other page, I think theism has a lower intrinsic probability than naturalism. But, at the same time, I don’t think modesty and coherence support assigning theism a probability of zero. (Or, more weakly, I don’t see any reason to think that modesty and coherence justify assigning theism a probability of zero.)

            I also disagree with Keith somewhat when he writes this.

            Almost any paranormal or pseudoscientific hypothesis will have a greater likelihood vis-à-vis the evidence than any competing scientific hypothesis. This is because advocates of theories postulating ET’s, demons, poltergeists, etc. attribute mysterious occult powers to those tative beings and those alleged powers are a blank check permitting those
            hypotheses to entail any evidence.

            Let’s distinguish two kinds of supernatural explanations: (1) personal explanations and (2) ontological explanations. Personal explanations attempt to explain some evidence E in terms of the acts, desire, will, feelings, beliefs, etc. of a supernatural person who brings about E. Ontological explanations are not personal explanations. Indeed, they may not even be explanations but instead explanation fragments. Ontological ‘explanations’ simply appeal to the fact that an instance of E is exhibited by a supernatural person, independent of whether that supernatural person wills other instances of E into existence in the natural world.

            I think Keith’s comments are spot on when it comes to personal explanations. In addition to what he writes, I would add that proponents of personal explanations have a burden of proof to show that, if the alleged supernatural person exists, that supernatural person WOULD bring about E. In other words, proponents of personal explanations have to provide some reason to believe the supernatural person DESIRES E.

            As for what I have called ontological ‘explanations’, such explanations do not address the desires or will of a supernatural person at all. In the case of intentionality, for example, they merely point out that, independent of human and other naturalistic persons, God is an unembodied mind who possesses intentionality. So, on theism, the probability of at least one instance of intentionality (God’s mind) is exactly one.

            In my opinion, that type of ‘explanation’ is in a totally different class from, say, Pat Robertson stupidly declaring that some natural disaster is the wrath of God. The key difference is that whereas theism entails intentionality, theism does not entail God causing a specific natural disaster.

          • Keith Parsons

            Jeff.

            I am not sure whether we disagree or whether we are just talking past one another on these points. I also am not sure I understand what you mean by “modesty” or “coherence” in your justification of not giving the God hypothesis a near-zero prior probability. Are you saying that any hypothesis that is not demonstrably incoherent should be given a (substantially) nonzero prior? Honestly, I don’t see any justification for this and numerous prima facie counterexamples pop into mind: It is coherent to suppose that my cat devised a new modal version of the ontological argument last night, but I think that I rightly regard the prior probability of such a supposition as near zero.

            Further, I am not claiming that the God hypothesis MUST be given a very low prior probability, only that it MAY be. Again, what epistemic duty do I violate if I do? My reason for assigning the God-hypothesis a very low initial probability is that, like innumerable other paranormal hypotheses, it incorporates an explanatory blank check in the form of an occult power tailor-made to account for its alleged effects (and otherwise undetectable). Like witches’ curses, astrological influences, and the powers of ancient astronauts, divine omnipotence is impenetrably mysterious (now, just how again does that work?), unfalsifiable (one size fits all!), and obscurantist (hard to dislodge when a real explanation comes along). The best way to treat such hypotheses is to banish them to near-zero prior land before they can do their mischief.

            Yes, I was talking about personal explanations by putative supernatural beings, since I thought that was the topic. Consider, for instance, the old-earth creationist “explanation” of the existence of birds: It is a bright spring day in the late Jurassic. Suddenly, there is a roll of drums, a brilliant light, and Archaeopteryx lithographica strides forth! Now, of course I am being flippant here, but, really, isn’t this what any theistic account amounts to? God says it and POOF! it happens! What applies to birds applies to all other alleged explananda for theistic hypotheses–”fine tuning,” intentionality, irreducible [sic] complexity, etc.

          • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

            Keith — Maybe we don’t disagree after all. Here is what I have in mind when I refer to coherence.

            The degree of coherence of a hypothesis depends on how well its parts (i.e. its logical implications) fit together. To the extent that the various claims entailed by a hypothesis support each
            other (relative only to what we know by rational intuition), the
            hypothesis is more coherent. To the extent that they count against each other, the hypothesis is less coherent. Hypotheses that postulate objective uniformity are, other things being equal, more coherent than hypotheses that postulate variety, either at a time or over time.

            Your thoughts?

          • Keith Parsons

            Jeff,

            I could quibble with various parts of this definition, but, overall you seem to be saying something similar to what Richard Swinburne says when he claims that it is the alleged simplicity of the theistic hypothesis that gives it a not-too-low initial probability. I have criticized this claim extensively elsewhere. Here I will just note (1) that the God hypothesis does not appear very simple, and (2) the simplicity of a hypothesis is no reason for assigning it a higher objective, a priori degree of probability. Of course, simplicity is an important criterion in theory-choice, but not because we have a priori, metaphysical assurance that simpler theories, qua simple, are objectively more probable.

            The theistic hypothesis does postulate a single entity–God, though trinitarian considerations might complicate this story. Further, there is no reason that an ultimate naturalistic hypothesis could not also postulate a single initial reality (e.g. a primordial singularity). Is God a simple type of entity? The essential predicates of God–the “omni” predicates–were attached to the concept of God for religious, not logical reasons. Indeed, these predicates do not entail one another. It is entirely conceivable that a being could be all-knowing yet have very limited powers of acting on that knowledge. Conversely, a being could have unlimited power (like the demonic six-year-old in the famous “Twilight Zone” episode) but limited knowledge. As Descartes envisioned, a being could have all the power of God, yet lack all of his moral attributes. On the other hand, a being could be perfectly good, but, tragically, devoid of the power to actualize that good. The various “omni” predicates of God are therefore logically heterogeneous and do not entail one another.

            Swinburne claims that it is in some vague sense more natural or reasonable to think that a being with one kind of maximal attribute would have other kinds as well. Of course, he is free to entertain his own intuitions on these matters (and I am free to entertain mine). Further, the powers attributed to God are of a completely different type than anything observed in the universe. Nothing like omnipotence is known to physics. So, the attributes of God are of a totally different type from anything known to science and are arbitrarily joined together as predicates of a single being. How is this simple? Is God a simpler hypothesis than other possible transcendent first causes, e.g. a Plotinian One?

            Even if the simplicity of the theistic hypothesis is granted, what is the basis for saying that a simple hypothesis, qua simple, is objectively and a priori more probable than one that is not? Would it be more likely that a universe consisting of just one proton would exist than one consisting of two protons? Why? What established metaphysical principle dictates that this would be so? Why would a simple possible world be more likely to be actualized than a somewhat more complex one?

            Now in actual theory-choice situations we do, other things being equal, prefer the simpler theory. However, the reason that we do not encumber our theories with unnecessary and arbitrary assumptions is not because we harbor a metaphysical conviction about the greater probability of actualization of simple universes. Rather, this is a pragmatic practice based on the realization that nature is under no obligation to respect our speculations. The more arbitrary assumptions we build into our hypotheses, the more hostages we give to fortune. We do not accept arbitrary assumptions because they are, well, arbitrary.

          • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

            Hi Keith —

            Despite the similarities to Richard Swinburne’s approach, I reject Swinburne’s appeal to simplicity, partially because of your arguments!

            The approaches seem similar in large part because often “simpler” hypotheses are intrinsically more probable than complicated ones because often the more modest and more coherent a hypothesis it is, the simpler its simplest formulation will be. (I owe this point to Paul Draper.) But, again, despite the similarities in approaches, they are not identical.

            So the question is whether the approaches are sufficiently similar that your objections to simplicity also apply to the modesty+coherence approach. Do they? I’m not sure. You write:

            Here I will just note (1) that the God hypothesis does not appear very simple, and (2) the simplicity of a hypothesis is no reason for assigning it a higher objective, a priori degree of probability. Of course, simplicity is an important criterion in theory-choice, but not because we have a priori, metaphysical assurance that simpler theories, qua simple, are objectively more probable.

            Regarding (1), I agree with you. The parallel point (for the modesty+coherence approach) would seem to be that the God hypothesis is not very modest and/or coherent. We may be talking past one another here. I didn’t make an ‘absolute’ estimate of theism’s intrinsic probability; rather, I offered a comparative one. Actually, I made two comparative judgments. First, I said that naturalism and supernaturalism are symmetrical claims and so they have equal intrinsic probabilities. Second, I said that theism is more specific (and hence less modest) than supernaturalism, which means that theism is less intrinsically probable than naturalism.

            Both of those points seem to be fully compatible with your (1). So, as I say, we may be talking past one another here.

            As for (2), the parallel point (for the modesty+coherence approach) would seem to be that the modesty and coherence of the God hypothesis is no reason for assigning it a higher objective, a priori degree of probability. I don’t know if you would endorse that parallel point or not.

            For my part, I reject the parallel point, call it (2′). It seems intuitively obvious that hypotheses which are more modest (and thus risk less) have higher intrinsic probabilities than those which are less modest (and thus risk more). Likewise, it seems obvious that things which have greater coherence (and thus things that support one another) have higher intrinsic probabilities those which have less coherence (and thus things that undermine one another). Or to put the point another way, it seems obvious that coherence and modesty must, at the very least, affect intrinsic probabilities. It’s possible that other factors may also affect the intrinsic probability of hypotheses, but it’s not obvious what other factors would be relevant. I agree with you that “simplicity” doesn’t work.

            You write:

            Even if the simplicity of the theistic hypothesis is granted, what is the basis for saying that a simple hypothesis, qua simple, is objectively and a priori more probable than one that is not? Would it be more likely that a universe consisting of just one proton would exist than one consisting of two protons? Why? What established metaphysical principle dictates that this would be so? Why would a simple possible world be more likely to be actualized than a somewhat more complex one?

            Again, modesty+coherence does not equal simplicity. So does your objection here apply to the former approach? If we reword it, it becomes the question, what is the basis for saying a modest hypothesis, qua modest, is objectively and intrinsically more probable than one that is not? And, what is the basis for saying a coherent hypothesis, qua coherent, is objectively and intrinsically more probable than one that is not?

            Take modesty first. A hypothesis which assert less (and so has fewer ways to be false) is to that extent more likely to be true. Now consider coherence. Again, “Hypotheses that postulate objective uniformity are, other things being equal, more coherent than hypotheses that postulate variety, either at a time or over time.” It is a necessary truth that objective uniformity is intrinsically more probable than objective variety. (I owe this point to Draper.)

          • josh

            Perplexity, if you define a god as having intentionality, then you are simply introducing intentionality as a premise of theism. It therefore has no explanatory power as to why intentionality exists or how it could exist in ourselves. So it can’t possibly be used as an argument for preferring theism. On the contrary, a physical understanding of it, as I and others have outlined below, is actually simplifying and powerful.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Carr/100001542808342 Steven Carr

            ‘If a god existed, it would have mental states that exhibited intentionality.’

            But Craig’s argument is that any creation by his hypothetical god would have intentionality, not that his god has intentionality.

            Did you read the opening post?

            ‘God is the best explanation for the intentional states of consciousness in the world.’

            It is totally uncontroversial to say that a god that has intentionality is the best explanation for a god having intentionality.

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      If intentionality is evidence favoring theism over naturalism, then so be it. All I have argued in this post is that Craig’s argument from intentionality, as it stands, is massively question-begging against materialism.

      • Perplexity

        Sure, that’s fair. Just trying to take intentionality in a more interesting direction.

  • http://www.theaunicornist.com Mike D

    Um… maybe I’m completely missing something, so feel free to school me in light of my utter wrongness, but it seems to me that the conflation of mundane physical objects with the brain is itself a sort of materialist reductionism. Craig seems to basically be saying that the brain is physical stuff, which is of course true. Rocks are physical stuff, and they don’t exhibit intentionality, ergo the brain cannot exhibit intentionality. So, you have to have dualism and a God to explain it.

    Like, what the fucking shit, is WLC fucking serious? Let me procure a similar line of airtight logic: Atoms cannot learn jiujitsu. Humans are made of atoms, ergo humans cannot learn jiujitsu.

    Obviously it’s absurd to reduce any object to its constituent parts and suggest that because the parts cannot have function x, neither can the whole. Craig appears to be guilty of a fallacy of composition (again). Whether in physics, chemistry, biology, or whatever, we commonly observe aggregates taking on unique properties that are not present in their constituent parts.

    So to suggest that the brain, which is a vastly complex network of 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses, cannot account “intentionality” merely because, like a rock, it fits into the hugely broad category of physical stuff, does not demonstrate that a brain is anything at all like a rock.

    And that’s not even beginning to touch the supernatural nonsense. How do you asses the probability that something can be explained by theism? That’s like saying you can explain something because, y’know, magic!

    • Timmy

      Hey Mike,
      I think what you are missing is in your analogy. The argument wasn’t “neurons cannot be about something, therefore the brain cannot be about something.” That, of course, would be the fallacy of composition. The argument uses the brain as a whole. The fact that the brain, a purely physical object, could not be in an intentional state is affirmed by Rosenberg himself in this debate. The implication is that if the brain as a purely physical object, cannot be in an intentional state, and we exhibit intentional states, then the brain is not all there is and the mind must also include a non-physical component. Rosenberg avoids this conclusion by denying that we are in intentional states at all. He argues thought is an illusion. Craig points out, however, that an illusion is an intentional state as well.

  • G

    Rosenberg himself accepts and states that natural things have no intent, so Craig’s use of the argument at that debate was good since his opponent grants the hardest premise to grant.

  • Timmy

    Hi Jeff,
    The proposition, “no physical object has the capability of intentionality” is not the conclusion; merely the first premise. The conclusion is, “therefore, minds cannot be purely physical.”
    1. No physical object has the capability of intentionality.
    2. Our minds exhibit intentionality.
    3. Therefore, our minds are not (solely) physical.

    It seems to me this fixes your objection.

    • http://notnotaphilosopher.wordpress.com/ Jason Thibodeau

      To restate my question from above: what is the argument for premise 1? It seems subject to the following objection:

      1. The human brain is a physical object.
      2. The human brain exhibits intentionality.
      3. Therefore, at least some physical objects exhibit intentionality.


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