Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Justice and causation

Here's a valid informal argument. Again, soundness is the question. If I react to the shape of x, then x's shape plays a role in a causal explanation of my reaction. If I react to the injustice of situation, then, by parallel, the situation's injustice must be play a role (perhaps a privative one) in a causal explanation of my reaction. I do react to the injustice of some situations. But if naturalism is true, then justice and injustice do not enter into causal explanations. Hence naturalism is false.

4 comments:

GeachAnscombefan said...

Could one try to argue [most likely unsuccesfully] that the injustice which plays a role in the causal explanation of your reaction to a situation can be reduced to something a little more 'naturalistic' (e.g., sentiment, or the like).
They would just claim that what really causes your reaction is not caused by the injustice but by something else. Does that seems like a fair move for the naturalist? [albeit most likely refutable, but it seems like a possible objection]

Alexander R Pruss said...

I don't think it's a fair move absent independent evidence that in fact injustice is a matter of sentiment.

Brena said...

"Hence naturalism is false."

You keep using those words. I do not think they mean what you think they mean.

These "Hence naturalism is false" arguments (HNFs) are question-begging and vacuous when one fails to specify what "nature" and "naturalism" is and just what range of entities (actual) naturalists cannot/do not countenance.

It appears that you believe that naturalism (or naturalists) do not recognize/believe in entities, properties, or phenomena like, say, "injustice", "market forces", "romance", or "literary criticism". This is bizzare; a claim that is from a family of related stereotypes about naturalism that are more representative of (mis-)attributions than of the actual nuanced positions of naturalists today. "Justice" and "injustice" enter into causal explanations as much as "digestion", "warfare", and "anger" do.

The myriad of the "HNFs" offered on this blog (and, sadly, elsewhere) indicate deeply-held and erroneous presumptions about what ontological entities naturalism and naturalists cannot (and do not) recognize. Arguments such as these are mostly whimsical and are bound to fail under further scrutiny when they consist of attributing vague, unclear, and contentious ontological commitments held by a small or unknown minority of adherents of a position to a majority of a position.

In other words, whatever version of naturalism is defeated by way of these HNFs, is certainly not the naturalism I adhere to, nor does it resemble the naturalism of others I have known and read. Whatever is being defeated by these arguments, I highly doubt that "naturalism" is found among the casualties. Is philosophy advanced, or is any knowledge gained, by showing that the position(s) of a handful of people (somewhere, perhaps) to be thin or vacuous? Can one proclaim the defeat of a nation (or coalition thereof) upon the slaying of a few soldiers? or the throwing of a few ~90-word stones? Is defeating "JohnFrumism" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Frum) entail the falsehood of Christianity?

The falsity of naturalism here, at least, is more the product of grandiosity and wishful thinking than of careful philosophy (yes, I know this is a blog...).

Graham Oppy says makes a concluding comment in a review of Craig and Moreland's (eds.) Naturalism: A Critical Analysis that is equally relevant to these "HNF" arguments offered on this blog (and elsewhere, sadly):

"The main difficulty is one which is tacitly acknowledged by the editors on the first page of the preface: there is no consensus amongst the various authors about what "naturalism" amounts to. Given that each author is allowed to decide for himself what "naturalism" is, there is no sense in which the essays in the volume constitute a sustained attack on a single target. Moreover, since some of the authors insist on an absurdly strong characterization of "naturalism", there is a good sense in which some of the essays do nothing but set fire to figures of straw." *

*(emphasis mine)

Alexander R Pruss said...

Fair enough. To lay my cards on the table, I take naturalism to entail the following claim: "Only the entities and properties of the correct science enter into causal explanations."

Now, it may be that nations and wars would be posited as causally efficacious by the correct sociology, that anger would be posited as causally efficacious by the correct psychology, and so on. But I doubt that injustice would be posited as a causally relevant property by any science, except an Aristotelian one (and I take the naturalism that I am targeting to entail the denial of Aristotelian naturalism). Currently the sciences strive to avoid normative vocabulary, except as heuristic, and even when, say, an anthropologist uses normative vocabulary as heuristic, she needs to be very cautious not let herself be misled by the heuristic.

Of course, naturalists can posit that perceptions of injustice are causally relevant. They can posit that there various causally relevant correlates of injustice. But that injustice as such is causally relevant seems to me to be an unlikely claim for a naturalist to make.