Monday, March 17, 2014

Even more on simplicity and theism

Some naturalists say that theism needlessly complicates our view of the world by positing that

  • in addition to the material concrete contingent things, there is something immaterial, necessary and concrete.
But the naturalist needs to say that the naturalist needlessly complicates our view of the world by being committed to the claim that
  • in addition to the dependent concrete contingent things, there is something independent, concrete and contingent.
(Say, the Big Bang or the universe as a whole.)

Does talking of needless complication get us ahead here?


Heath White said...

Um, no.

Brian Cutter said...

But there's an asymmetry here, right? That which the naturalist describes as independent, concrete, and contingent (e.g. the big bang or the universe) is something whose existence the theist accepts, though she denies that it satisfies that description. By contrast, that which the theist describes as immaterial, necessary, and concrete is something whose very existence is not accepted by the naturalist.

Maybe here's a response to this worry: Yes, the *theist* can accept that there is this asymmetry, but the naturalist can't. For the naturalist, unless he thinks that fictional entities really exist, cannot describe the disagreement as I did above, by saying something of the form: "there is something to which theists apply a certain description D whose existence we naturalists deny." Instead, he might describe the situation by saying: "There is some description D-- e.g. "necessary, concrete, contingent"-- which the theist believes has instances and we naturalists do not." But as you point out, the theist can make analogous claims about the naturalist, so it's not clear that the naturalist is in a position to make a "needless complication" charge against the theist.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Neat move and a very clever reply, Brian!

johzek said...

Here's a way to consider the issue that is quite simple and not at all complicated. It is the task of our senses to make us perceptually aware of objects external to our consciousness whereupon they can be identified and subsequently conceptualized. We can learn nothing of external reality by consulting the content of our minds. Our likes or dislikes and hopes and dreams and imaginations have no bearing on the nature of reality. It is vitally important to always keep this distinction between what is real and what can only be imagined in mind to avoid "needless complication". By the way, I don't understand how the words immaterial and concrete can be used to describe the same thing.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Josh Rasmussen and I like to stipulate that a concrete being is one that is capable of being a cause. Then there is no obvious contradiction between being concrete and immaterial.

MiloŇ° said...

There are great confusion in ''public'' philosophy about ords concrete, immaterial, abstract and material. For example some editor of Wikipedia wrote in article abt Gilbert Ryle that he believed that human mental life can be explained without stipulation of abstract sole or self. But no one ever think that souls/selfs are abstract like numbers, propositions, sets etc.

If Cartesian ego exist it is clear example of immaterial and concrete entity - immaterial because it is not composed of matter and concrete because it has casual power.

Second possible example is God - if God exist He is immaterial and causally omnipotent entity.

Abstract entities like numbers, sets, propositions and like - if they exist - don't have casual powers. For me it is interesting question does tropes can count as abstract entities? (if we accept theory about numbers as tropes).

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Does any naturalist use the exact phrase "needlessly complicates"? I'm not sure if this matters, but I haven't seen any naturalists put the point like that. Rather, I have read naturalists who claim that supernaturalists, including theists, posit one or more extra entities in their ontology: in additional to natural / physical / material objects, there are also supernatural persons. From that perspective, I'm not sure how you would generate a parallel objection to naturalism in the spirit of your original post.

MiloŇ° said...

I believe that Prof Pruss try to show that naturalist also think that there are two basic kinds in ontological inventory: material concrete contingent things (like my computer) who is also dependent and concrete, contigent and independent objects (like Big Bang or Universe).

In some way naturalist admit that this things are uncaused or that those specific state of affairs is exception from principle of causality (Oppy wrote something like this in several places) or that those specific objects are exceptions from PSR (Bob Hale and Crispin Wright wrote something like this). And in all that cases we have two different types of things. Maybe I misread Prof Pruss post, but I hope that I catch basic idea.