Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Man With a Problem

Last night I watched "A Man With a Problem" online, an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode. I think it's pretty close to being the best suspense film I've ever seen--at only 26minutes.

14 comments:

radical_logic said...

Hi Dr. Pruss!

Do you reject the following argument?


1. If biological entity X has capabilities that biological entity O do not have, it is plausible these capability differences can be explained in terms of differences in the physiology of X and O.
2. If it is plausible these capability differences, between X and O, can be explained in terms of differences in physiology, then it is plausible there are natural reasons or explanations for the capability differences between X and O.
3. Jesus had various supernormal capabilities that no non-supernormal human beings have. [Let's suppose]
4. Therefore, it is plausible these capability differences, between Jesus and all non-supernormal human beings, can be explained in terms of differences in the physiology of Jesus and all non-supernormal human beings. (from 3, 1)
5. Therefore, it is plausible there are natural reasons or explanations for the capability differences between Jesus and all non-supernormal human beings. (from 4, 2)

Alexander R Pruss said...

In 1, the answer is true by definition if X and O are purely biological beings--i.e., beings all of whose capabilities are explained by biology. Otherwise, I cannot affirm 1 in general. It depends on what exactly the differences in capability are.

radical_logic said...

Christians maintain that Jesus was "fully human" -- thus he was a biological entity, was he not?

radical_logic said...

If one is "fully human," then one is "fully biologically human." does this not follow?

Alexander R Pruss said...

It does not, however, follow that he was purely a biological entity, for two reasons:
1. Human beings are not purely biological entities, being both fleshly and spiritual.
2. Christ was fully human but he wasn't purely human in the sense of being human and nothing else. For he was fully human and fully divine.

radical_logic said...

Okay, but (1) does not purport to make a claim about only "purely biological entities." It makes a claim about biological entities, pure or not. Perhaps I can rephrase (1) to read:

If biological entity X has capabilities that biological entity O do not have, barring overwhelming reasons to assume otherwise, it is plausible these capability differences can be explained in terms of differences in the physiology of X and O.

This premise is consistent with the claim that it is plausible these differences can be explained in terms of supernatural causes, for multiple competing explanations can be plausible. Do you agree?

radical_logic said...

Moreover, the premise is consistent with the claim that the differences can be explained in terms of physiology + supernatural causes -- it does not claim the differences are explainable solely in terms of physiology.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I deny (1), unless its scope is restricted to purely biological entities.

radical_logic said...

I'll modify the premise to read:


1. If biological entity X has capabilities that biological entity O do not have, then barring very good reasons to suppose otherwise, it is plausible to assume these capability differences can be explained, at least in part, in terms of differences in the physiology of X and O.

Is (1) not a principle widely accepted?

radical_logic said...

Here is what I want to say:

1. If biological entity X has capabilities that biological entity O do not have, then barring very good reasons to suppose otherwise, it is plausible to assume these capability differences can be explained, at least in part, in terms of differences in the physiology of X and O.

2. If it is plausible to assume these capability differences, between X and O, can be explained, at least in part, in terms of differences in physiology, then it is plausible to assume there could be natural reasons or explanations for the capability differences between X and O.

3. Jesus had various supernormal capabilities that no non-supernormal human beings have. [Let's suppose]

4. There are no very good reasons to suppose it is not plausible to assume the capability differences, between Jesus and all non-supernormal human beings, can be explained, at least in part, in terms of differences in terms of physiology.

5. Therefore, it is plausible to assume these capability differences, between Jesus and all non-supernormal human beings, can be explained, at least in part, in terms of differences in the physiology of Jesus and all non-supernormal human beings. (from 4, 3, and 1)

6. Therefore, it is plausible to assume there could be natural reasons or explanations for the capability differences between Jesus and all non-supernormal human beings.(from 5, 2).

Alexander R Pruss said...

Surely 4 is false. Certain capabilities are such that the hope of a natural explanation is extremely weak if not completely non-existent. For instance, the capability of casting out demons at a word (this is obvious if one takes demonic possession literally; but it is likewise true if demonic possession should be read as mental illness; I actually think it need not be an either/or here), the capability of raising the dead to life, the capability of restoring sight to the blind, the ability to walk on water and to give another the power to do so, etc.

radical_logic said...

Let's consider the capability of, say, restoring sight to the blind.

What very good reason do you have that would make it true that it is not *plausible* (not necessarily probable) to assume the capability difference can be explained, at least in part, in terms of differences in terms of physiology?

How do you know an advanced alien couldn't perform the same feat?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Aliens--maybe. But we are talking about a human. Moreover, the alien hypothesis just does not seem to me to be as plausible as the supernatural one. I suppose that is because I do not have that strong a preference for natural explanations over supernatural ones.

The best case for me is resurrection from the dead, at least if one is a dualist, since then resurrection requires somehow "getting hold of" the soul of the deceased.

radical_logic said...

"Aliens--maybe. But we are talking about a human. "

Are we, really? Jesus had no biological father. Hence it's entirely plausible to assume he wasn't fully human. Why not?

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Moreover, the alien hypothesis just does not seem to me to be as plausible as the supernatural one. I suppose that is because I do not have that strong a preference for natural explanations over supernatural ones.
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Nevertheless, if the hypothesis is *plausible*, even if some other hypothesis is more plausible, premise (4) stands.