The Instigator
socialpinko
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
popculturepooka
Con (against)
Winning
31 Points

The position of naturalism stands on much firmer evidence then that of supernaturalism.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 5 votes the winner is...
popculturepooka
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/2/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,299 times Debate No: 14966
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (11)
Votes (5)

 

socialpinko

Pro

As pro I will argue that naturalism is backed up by much more evidence then supernaturalism. Con would either argue that supernaturalism is superior, or that neither conclusion is backed up by sufficient evidence.

Definitions:

Naturalism: The system of thought holding that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws.
http://www.thefreedictionary.com...

Supernaturalism: Of or relating to existence outside the natural world.
http://www.thefreedictionary.com...

Evidence: something that furnishes proof
http://www.merriam-webster.com...

Firm: Securely fixed in place
http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
popculturepooka

Con

Thanks to socialpinko for challenging me to this debate.

As an aside, although I agreed to debate, I want to make clear something that should be familiar to anyone who's read the philosophical literature - there is no widely accepted definition or way of distinguishing what it means for something to count as "natural". Sure naturalism, or naturalists rather, say that it means that "there exists nothing outside of nature" (metaphysical naturalism) or, roughly, "things should only be studied and investigated while only making recourse to natural causes and effects" (methodological naturalism). But it never tells us what exactly is ruled out except - it's emphatically insisted - supernaturalism. If there isn't an, at least, reasonable way for us to distinguish the two it doesn't seem very useful or productive to me to pit one against each other on those terms. No doubt a naturalist from the 18th century would have considered many of the entities accepted by today's naturalists as supernatural - things like quantum mechanics and this mysterious, spooky, action at a distance. Things like dark matter and strings. This leads us to a difficulty in defining naturalism, as it commonly is, as confined the position that the only things that exist are entities that are posited by science. If we are defining naturalism this way and in terms of current science that it is almost certainly false as science constantly is bringing in new evidence and the entities posited by science change or evolve or are sent to the dustbin of inadequate theories. But, yet, if we say naturalism the position that only the entities posited by an idealized science then we that renders naturalism vacuous as we have no idea what entities that future science will contain. For all we know science might have posited full blown substance dualism to explain the mind by then which is absolute anathema to naturalists today.

I ask socialpinko to go further than his definition of naturalism and specify what exactly is supposed to be meant by "natural" so I can have a clear notion of what I'm supposed to be arguing against.

Supposing these difficulties can be ironed out and I have an argument against a version naturalism or materialism that I think should be acceptable to pretty much all naturalists.

Victor Reppert outlines that 3 theses that a naturalist ought to be committed to:

"1. The physical level is to be understood mechanistically, such that purposive explanations must be further explained in terms of non-purposive substratum. This will be called the mechanism thesis.

2. The physical order is causally closed. No nonphysical causes operate on the physical level. The physical level is a comprehensive system of events that is not affected by anything that is not itself physical. This is called the causal closure thesis.

3. Other states, such as mental states, (if they exist) supervene of physical states. Given the state of the physical there is only one way the mental, for example, can be. This is called the supervenience thesis." [1]

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Argument from Reason
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The argument from reason is an argument that purports to show that the necessary conditions of reasoning - rational inference - imply that naturalism is false. I'll just point out a few of these necessary conditions in this debate and issues to give social pinko space to respond.

One is a familiar problem in philosophy of mind: intentionality. [2] In short this means the "aboutness" of things like thoughts. Certainly I can think about things like this debate, breakfast, jogging, etc. For there to be any kind of reasoning it has to be about something, obviously. The problem comes in when you look at physical objects. None of them are "about" anything and I'm inclined to think it's incoherent to attribute "aboutness" to a relationship between physical state of affairs. Does it make sense to say that, for example, my current brain state is about this debate? I know what it means to say my brain is in a current state that such-and-such neurons and synapses are firing and that such-and-such chemicals are being released but it seems absurd to say that this state is about this debate. I know what it is for my current mental state be about this debate however. By what virtue can a physical state be "about" another physical state? Are there conditions that can be specified of a physical state that when met one could tell that it's about something else? The prospects look dim for providing these conditions. The existence of reason looks to be in bad shape if physical states can't be about yet a necessary condition of reason requires that thoughts be about other things. This violates thesis 1 of naturalism.

John Searle illustrates this point with devastating force:

"So far no attempt at naturalizing content has produced an explanation (analysis, reduction) of intentional content that is even remotely plausible. A symptom that something is radically wrong with the project is that intentional notions are inherently normative. They set standards of truth, rationality, consistency, etc., and there is no way that these standards can be intrinsic to a system consisting entirely of brute, blind, nonintentional causal relations. There is no mean [middle] component to billiard ball causation. Darwinian biological attempts at naturalizing content try to avoid this problem by appealing to what they suppose is the inherently teleological [i.e. purposeful], normative character of biological evolution. But this is a very deep mistake. There is nothing normative or teleological about Darwinian evolution. Indeed, Darwin's major contribution was precisely to remove purpose, and teleology from evolution, and substitute for it purely natural forms of selection." [3]

Another difficulty is one with mental causation of sorts. [4] with naturalism in regards to reason is when one looks at the nature of causality and modality involved inherently in the act of reasoning contrasted with the nature of causality and modality involved between physical objects. Reasoning involves a ground-consequent relationship where if you see that these premises are grounds: 1) "If we charge high fees for university, only the rich will enroll," and 2) "We charge high fees for university" then, by consequence, 3) "Therefore, only the rich will enroll". [5] The argument is logically valid - if the premises are true then the conclusion MUST, by logical necessity, be true. It could be no other way. The difference between this relationship and the one between physical objects couldn't be more striking. No physical relations happen by logical necessity. One couldn't plausibly say that water boils by 100 degrees Celsius due to logical necessity; that is a simple matter of cause and effect. How exactly do processes that do not have any sense of logical necessity about them somehow give arise to processes that do? We are left an extraordinary mystery, some would say incoherence, here on behalf of the naturalist. Saying that mental states aren't reducible to brain states and instead supervene on them doesn't help either because, if they are non-physical, they can have no effect on the physical as that would violate thesis 2 of naturalism.

In the end, I maintain the very existence of reason itself provides a strong argument against naturalism (as I defined it) and for supernaturalism as "supernaturalists" aren't committed to any of the theses that make the existence of reason so problematic for the naturalist. I'm not exactly sure what evidence Pro is going to come up with that can surmount this problem for naturalism but I'm open to seeing it.

=========
Sources
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[1] C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea, Victor Reppert, pg 52
[2] http://plato.stanford.edu...
[3] BCNT, Victor Reppert, pg 368
[4] http://plato.stanford.edu...
[5] http://plato.stanford.edu...
Debate Round No. 1
socialpinko

Pro

socialpinko forfeited this round.
popculturepooka

Con

Unfortunately, my opponent has not posted an argument for me to interact with. Extend my arguments for this round as well.
Debate Round No. 2
socialpinko

Pro

socialpinko forfeited this round.
popculturepooka

Con

Extend my arguments. This was disappointing. :(
Debate Round No. 3
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 6 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
Damn, excellent offering pop and then a forfeit.
Posted by popculturepooka 6 years ago
popculturepooka
Hmm....

:(
Posted by vardas0antras 6 years ago
vardas0antras
"This ought to be good!" <----
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 6 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
"There are numerous arguments against naturalism."

Yes, I was just noting it would be more interesting to see a discussion advocating supernaturalism rather than an argument for example that we can not know anything and thus neither have any evidence.
Posted by Jay_Walk 6 years ago
Jay_Walk
I dont think you have to worry cliff. There are numerous arguments against naturalism.
Posted by popculturepooka 6 years ago
popculturepooka
It's always a mistake to be overconfident (imo) so I'll just say that I intend to put up a challenge. :)
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 6 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
"Going to be interesting to see how pop is going to crush him."

I don't see this being a curb-stomp, but yeah, ambitious definitely.

"Con would either argue that supernaturalism is superior, or that neither conclusion is backed up by sufficient evidence."

I hope we see a discussion on the first and not the latter as that could be addressed simply by claiming there is not sufficient warrant for naturalism without postulate.
Posted by Jay_Walk 6 years ago
Jay_Walk
Going to be interesting to see how pop is going to crush him.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 6 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
socialpinko, give you credit, you challenged one of the stronger debaters on the site in the area that they are most comfortable discussing.
Posted by GeoLaureate8 6 years ago
GeoLaureate8
This ought to be good!
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by nonentity 6 years ago
nonentity
socialpinkopopculturepookaTied
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: I think PCP scared him off o_O
Vote Placed by TUF 6 years ago
TUF
socialpinkopopculturepookaTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 6 years ago
RoyLatham
socialpinkopopculturepookaTied
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Reasons for voting decision: It is very bad conduct to post a challenge and then forfeit without making arguments.
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 6 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
socialpinkopopculturepookaTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Obvious debate is obvious.
Vote Placed by J.Kenyon 6 years ago
J.Kenyon
socialpinkopopculturepookaTied
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: Lol, maybe you can re-use the case you wrote sometime in the future?