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.

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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.