Tuesday, June 28, 2016

My Book Is Now Available - Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God



My book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God, in paperback HERE and HERE.

as a Kindle book HERE,

and hard cover HERE

You can contact me at: johnpiippo@msn.com.

Abortion: A Logical Argument


Backgammon, in Jerusalem

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court, America's definition-changing machine, struck down a Texas law that would have reduced the number of person-killing options in the state.

"Person-killing," because the inborn thing in the mother's body is a "person." If it's not a person, then let the killing continue unabated. And please take the logic all the way to Peter Singer, and let the babies be euthanized. (See here, and here. For atheist Christopopher Hitchen's opposition to abortion because it's killing a person, and Hitchen's disgust at atheist Peter Singer's views on infanticide, see The Faith of Christopher Hitchens.)

But if the inborn whatever is deemed a "person," then massive sympathy should go out to people like myself who are outraged at what we see as the mass slaughter of defenseless persons who are denied a life on this earth.

Abortion is irrational. To demonstrate this, here is Baylor University philosopher and jurisprudential scholar Francis Beckwith’s logical (not religious) argument against abortion. (See Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice.)

Beckwith’s argument does not depend on any particular religious beliefs. I think it’s a good argument to use in my logic classes because logical arguments are to be non-emotive. The abortion argument can get very emotional! 

In logic, the idea is - attack the argument, not the argument-maker. To do the latter is to commit the informal logical fallacy called ad hominem abusive. Attacking a person rather than the argument is, I think, mostly ineffective.

FRANCIS BECKWITH’S LOGICAL ARGUMENT AGAINST ABORTION[1]

1. The unborn entity, from the moment of conception, is a full-fledged member of the human community.

2. It is prima facie[2] morally wrong to kill any member of that community.

3. Every successful abortion kills an unborn entity, a full-fledged member of the human community.

4. Therefore, every successful abortion is prima facie morally wrong.

This is not a religious argument, but a logical argument. No appeal to religion needs to be made.

By “full-fledged member of the human community” is meant that the conceptus[3] is as much a bearer of rights as any human being whose rights-bearing status is uncontroversial, like you or me. As Beckwith says, “the unborn entity is entitled to all the rights to which free and equal persons are entitled by virtue of being free and equal persons.” “Full-fledged member of the human community” cannot mean something like “viability,” since then we have two problems:

1) the arbitrariness of deciding who’s a full-fledged member and who’s not; and
2) the odd philosophical idea that there is suddenly a “moment” (call it time ‘t’) when the conceptus/fetus/inborn child becomes a person, which means at time ‘t-minus-1 second’ it was not. “Abortion advocates argue that the unborn entity is not a person and hence not a subject of moral rights until some decisive moment in fetal or postnatal development.” (Beckwith, 130) Such a position is incoherent and fraught with philosophical problems.

“Virtually no one disputes – including leading defenders of abortion-choice – that every mature human being was once an adolescent, a child, an infant, a baby, a newborn, a fetus, and an embryo.” (131) But the abortion advocate argues that it is morally permissible to end a human being’s life at the embryo stage of human life. How is this possible? Beckwith says they argue that not all human beings are equally intrinsically valuable (IV) because some do not have the present capacity to exhibit certain properties or functions that would make them IV. (130) Thus, the fetal self is not “intrinsically valuable.”

Beckwith holds to a “substance view of persons.” This means that a human being “is intrinsically valuable because of the sort of thing it is and the human being remains that sort of thing as long as it exists”. That is, an individual “maintains absolute identity through time while it grows, develops, and undergoes numerous changes”. To use another example, the term “universe” refers to one entity that goes through various stages. The universe at t + 1 second, though much smaller and far more inchoate then the universe now, was still at that time as much “the universe” as it is now. So, the term “universe does not suffer from vagueness. It is in precisely that sense that “person” does not suffer from vagueness as well.

Various functions and capacities, whether fully realized or utilized do not constitute a person. Thus a human being is never a potential person, but is always a person at different stages of development, whether potential properties and capacities are actualized or not.

To explain: a human being may never realize the ability to reason logically. It would then lack this ability. In contrast, a frog is not said to lack something if it can’t study logic, because by nature it is not the sort of being that can have the ability to do logic. But a human being who lacks the ability to think logically is still a human being because of her nature. A human being’s “lack” makes sense if and only if she is an actual human person. (E.g., a rock does not “lack” the ability to see.)Most pro-abortionists argue that personhood is not inherent or intrinsic, but based on certain capacities and functions, be it consciousness, sentience, self-awareness, the ability to reason, and so on.

WHAT ABOUT THE FOLLOWING POPULAR ARGUMENTS FOR ABORTION CHOICE? Beckwith says they many commit the informal logical fallacies of “appeal to pity” and “begging the question.”

“An argument from pity is an attempt to show the plausibility of one’s point of view by trying to move others emotionally, although the reasonableness of the position stands or falls on the basis of other important factors.” Here are some arguments from pity:

Argument from the dangers of illegal abortions

If abortion is made illegal then women will perform illegal abortions.If women perform illegal abortions then women will be harmed.Therefore if abortion is made illegal then women will be harmed.
This argument “begs the question.” Only by assuming that the unborn are not fully human does the argument work. “But if the unborn are fully human, this abortion-choice argument is tantamount to saying that because people die or are harmed while killing other people (i.e., unborn people), the state should make it safe for them to do so.” (94) Therefore, the argument begs the question.

Argument from financial burden

We can’t minimize the fact that there are tragic circumstances, like a poor woman with four small children who becomes pregnant by her alcoholic husband.“But once again we must ask whether the unborn entity is fully human, for hardship does not justify homicide.” (98)For example, if I knew that killing you would relieve me of future hardship, that’s not sufficient justification for me to kill you.

Argument from the unwanted child

This argument, again, begs the question.Because only if we assume that the unborn re not fully human does this argument work.It is extremely difficult to argue that the value of a human being depends on whether someone wants or cares for that human being.

Argument from the deformed and handicapped child

First, if this argument succeeds in showing that abortion is justified if a woman is pregnant with a deformed or handicapped fetus, it only establishes the right to abort in those kind of situations.But this argument again begs the question. “For if the unborn are fully human, then to promote the aborting of the handicapped unborn is tantamount to promoting the execution of handicapped people whoa re already born.”[4]Of course having a handicapped child can be a terrible burden. “But it is important to realize that if the unborn entity is fully human, homicide cannot be justified simply because it relieves one of a terrible burden.” (102)

Argument from interference in career

Again… this begs the question. “For what would we think of a parent who kills his two-year-old because the child interfered with the parent’s ability to advance in his occupation?” (104)

Argument from rape and incest

This is a horrible thing, of course.Note: this argument is not relevant to the case for abortion on demand.Note also this: “the unborn entity is not an aggressor when its presence does not endanger it’s mother’s life (as in the case of a tubal pregnancy). It is the rapist who is the aggressor. The unborn entity is just as much an innocent victim as its mother.” (105-106) Again… this argument begs the questions by assuming that the unborn is not fully human.

Another popular argument is the Argument from Imposing Morality.
This argument says: It’s wrong for anyone to “force” his view of morality on someone else. Pro-lifers, by attempting to stop women from having abortions, are trying to force their morality on others.
But this argument cannot be right. Because it’s not always wrong for the community to institute laws that require people to behave in certain moral ways. E.g., it’s not wrong to institute a law against child molestation. If the unborn entity is fully human, forbidding abortions would be perfectly just. Any law prohibiting abortion would unjustly impose one’s morality on others only if the act of abortion is good, morally benign, or does not unjustly limit the free agency of another. The real issue is: what counts as a “person,” a full-fledged member of the human community.

[1] All quotes from Francis Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice

[2] Prima facie is a Latin expression meaning “on its first appearance”, or “by first instance”. It is used in modern legal English to signify that on first examination, a matter appears to be self-evident from the facts. In common law jurisdictions, prima facie denotes evidence that (unless rebutted) would be sufficient to prove a particular proposition or fact.

[3] The fertilized egg

[4] See Peter Singer, who admits that “pro-life groups are right about one thing: the location of the baby inside or outside the womb cannot make such a crucial moral difference… The solution, however, is not to accept the pro-life view that the fetus is a human being with the same moral status as yours or mine. The solution is the very opposite: to abandon the idea that all human life is of equal worth.” (In Beckwith, 101)

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My recently published book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Robert George on Peter Singer and Infanticide





Robert George is Professor of Law at Princeton University. Here's Robert George's take on Peter Singer's logic re. abortion and infanticide:

"Once one recognizes that the scientific evidence establishes that the fetus, no less than the newborn, is a human being, one must logically treat the two the same in assessing the question of their rights and our duties towards them. And so Peter Singer, a leading advocate of abortion and a recent appointee to a distinguished professorial chair of bio-ethics in my own university, argues that infanticide is sometimes morally justifiable and ought, up to a certain point, to be legally permissible. While Singer's views have caused outrage and made his appointment at Princeton controversial, the truth is that he is merely following the logic of a pro-choice position in light of an honest assessment of the scientific facts. He recognizes that "birth" is an arbitrary dividing line when it comes to the humanity and rights of human beings in the early stages of their development. Hence, if abortion is morally justifiable, so is infanticide. Of course, I believe that Singer is tragically wrong in supposing that abortion and infanticide are morally justifiable; but he is right in claiming that either both of these practices are justifiable, or neither can be justified."

But of course!

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My recently published book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Empirical Verifiability of Sin

University of Michigan


I was recently asked, "What, if anything, is the common thread running through the world's religions?" The answer to that is: the world's religions all agree that ours is a troubled world. The world's religions all attempt to help people live in our messed-up world. (See Prothero, God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World.)

We, the people, are messed up. Including you and me. This is beyond-easy to verify. Alvin Plantinga, in Knowledge and Christian Belief, writes: "G. K. Chesterton once remarked that of all the doctrines of Christianity, the doctrine of original sin has the strongest claim to "empirical verifiability."" (K1179) Crudely, this means: open your senses and behold how screwed up humanity is. 

"Empirical verifiability" means this: a statement is true (= a certain state of affairs obtains) if that statement is verifiable in principle via the five senses. (Analytic statements, such as A is A, are true analytically; i.e., the predicated state of affairs is contained in the subject.) Plantinga writes:

"It has been abundantly verified in the wars, cruelty, and general hatefulness that have characterized human history from its very inception to the present. Indeed, no century has seen more organized hatred, contempt, and cruelty than the late and unlamented twentieth; and none has seen it on as grand a scale." (Ib., K1188)

People who live self-reflective lives have, upon introspection, discovered "seeds of destruction" and "violence within." I have. You would see the same in you, if you routinely subjected yourself to self-examination.

One more thing: the cause of most human suffering due to sin has been perpetrated, at least in the 20th century, by atheists. Plantinga writes elsewhere:

"Of course the world’s religions do indeed have much to repent; still (as has often been pointed out) the suffering, death, and havoc attributable to religious belief and practice pales into utter insignificance beside that due to the atheistic and secular ideologies of the twentieth century alone." (Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism . Oxford University Press. Kindle Location 104.) 

Thus we can be done with the sophomoric, unstudied idea that sin is the special province of religious people. And the truly foolish idea underlying John Lennon's "Imagine" song that we can make a better world and live as one without religion.

Change Is Dangerous Because It Always Involves Loss

Some of the Redeemer kids I teach (along with Daniel and John)

I'm enjoyed reading Walter Fluker's Ethical Leadership: The Quest for Character, Civility, and Community. Fluker has written before on the spiritual and social relationship connecting Martin Luther King, Jr. and Howard Thurman (See They Looked for a City: A Comparative Analysis of the Ideal of Community in the Thought of Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King, Jr.) In Ethical Leadership Fluker deepens and strengthens the King-Thurman connection and its importance to ground social ethics in individual and community spiritual formation and transformation.

This means, among other things, that we need to change, individually and in community. Our selves and our communities must walk in ongoing renewal and transformation, lest we die and perpetuate the cultural nihilism of this dark world.

Fluker quotes Ronald Heifetz and Martin Linsky:

"You appear dangerous to people when you question their values, beliefs, or habits of a lifetime. You place yourself on the line when you tell people what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear. Although you may see with clarity and passion a promising future of progress and gain, people will see with equal passions the losses you are asking them to sustain." (Fluker, Kindle Locations 237-239)

Change feels dangerous to the human heart because it always involves loss.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Read Larry Taunton's New Book on Christopher Hitchens



I felt sad when atheist Christopher Hitchens died. I felt sad this week when I read Larry Taunton's The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World's Most Notorious Atheist.

I laughed when I read it, too (and I don't laugh at many things).

This book is beautiful and brilliant. I couldn't put it down.

Taunton was a very good friend of Hitchens. They traveled together and hung out together, a lot. Taunton has insights into Hitchens that increase my interest in him and my compassion and even respect for him.

Taunton is a Christian theist. Was Hitchens an atheist? Maybe. Maybe not. You have to read this book to understand this. Even well-known atheist Michael Shermer says, "Read this book."

Part of my respect for Hitchens was that he was no ideologue. He despised and dismissed most atheists, and especially his adoring Facebook fan atheists. And even, it seems, atheist Bill Maher.

Hitchens upset Maher on the latter's show. Taunton writes:

"In a 2006 appearance on Maher’s Real Time, Maher wrongly assumed that because he and Hitchens were both atheists and vociferous critics of religion that the two would be ideological soul mates. Indeed, one gets the distinct impression that Hitchens is, for Maher, something of a hero. Christopher promptly dispels any such notions of solidarity when Maher infers that George W. Bush’s religious beliefs were no less nutty than those of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. When Maher’s anti-Bush audience applauds this remark, Hitchens comes off the turnbuckle like a professional wrestler: “Your audience, which will apparently clap at anything, is frivolous . . .” The audience boos loudly and Christopher raises his middle finger to them and says enthusiastically, “. . . F— you!” Maher looks genuinely hurt. But Hitchens isn’t done.

[Hitchens] "I’ve been on the Jon Stewart show, I’ve been on your show, I’ve seen you make about five George Bush I.Q. jokes per night. There’s no one I know who can’t do it. You know what I think? This is now the joke that stupid people laugh at. It’s a joke that any dumb person can laugh at because they think they are smarter than the President . . . like the people who make booing and mooing noises in your audience . . . none of whom are smarter than the President."

He finishes with another middle finger."

I am not a fan of the middle finger. I haven't used it in forty-seven years, except to play guitar, finger-style. Actually, I spend my life attempting to invert the message of the middle finger. But I do admire Hitchens correctly identifying the mindless ideological stupidity of Maher and Maher's fans.

Get this book and read it.

***
After that, get my book and read it. Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Solitude Comes Before Community (and Before Conversation)



Manistee, Michigan


The ontological order of spiritual formation into Christlikeness is:

1. Solitude.
2. Community.

Then, return to solitude, and back to community, over and over again and again, year after year. This is a dialectical movement, meaning a forward motion where every return to solitude is a small but significant gain in Christlikeness, which is then brought to community, and so on and on as Christ is formed in us. (Galatians 4:19)

Practically, in my life, it looks like this.

I take time alone with God.

Linda and I meet with a small group of Jesus-followers every week (we've done this together for 43 years).

Linda and I meet with the large group community (our church family, on Sunday mornings at other times).

Then it's back to solitary, alone-times with God, and the forward-moving spiral begins again.

Solitude makes me better in community. Henri Nouwen writes:

"Why is it so important that solitude come before community? If we do not know we are the beloved sons and daughters of God, we are going to expect someone in the community to make us feel that we are. We will expect someone to give us that perfect, unconditional love. They cannot." (Nouwen, 
A Spirituality of Living, p. 21) 

(For a presentation of how solitude comes before conversation, see Sherry Turkle's brilliant Reclaiming Conversation.)




The Argument from Consciousness for the Existence of God

Downtown Monroe
The Argument from Consciousness for the Existence of God
This argument is J.P. Moreland’s, and is found:


·         jpmoreland.com. Go to “Resources.” Scroll down to: "Argument from Consciousness for God's Existence." ($1.95 for the mp3)


·         Moreland’s hyper-academic  Consciousness and the Existence of God:A Theistic Argument.





J.P. is one of the best teachers I have ever encountered. His writing is crisp-clear. He's a brilliant thinker. He understands the relevant issues. Ultimately this argument succeeds as an example of abductive reasoning:

1) irreducible consciousness exists
2) the best explanation for irreducible consciousness is either theism or naturalism
3) it's not naturalism
4) therefore, theism is the most probable explanation for the existence of irreducible consciousness.


Here is a synopsis, notes I use when I teach students this argument.

1.  A “Recalcitrant Fact” – a fact that resists explanation by a theory.

a.    Imagine, e.g., that you are a prosecuting attorney has strong evidence that John committed a murder. HOWEVER…  there are 10 credible people who say they were watching a ball game with John at the time the crime was committed.

b.    That is a “recalcitrant fact.” It does not fit your theory.

c.    You could try to explain it away. How?

d.    But every attempt to explain away the recalcitrant fact fails. The fact remains “recalcitrant” (unyielding; won't go away).

e.    At this point the recalcitrant fact provides evidence for an alternative theory.

2.  The existence of consciousness is a recalcitrant fact for atheists.

a.    If atheism is true, then all that exists is matter and its various arrangements.

b.    This is called “naturalism,” or “scientific naturalism,” or “philosophical naturalism.” Or “materialism.”

c.    If all that exists is matter, then how can you get “mind” from “matter?”

d.    But “mind” does exist.

e.    Therefore the existence of “mind” (consciousness) is a recalcitrant fact for atheism-as- philosophical naturalism.

f.     Antony Flew, in There is a God, points to the existence of consciousness as a problem for atheists.

g.    Also presenting a problem for atheists is free will, and a “unified I.”

h.    But what if Christianity is true? If it is, then it follows that we are made in the image of God. There’s something about us that is like God.

 3.  Consciousness – what is it?

a.    Think about water. Water can exist in three states: liquid, solid, and gas. Each of these three states is a different state of water.

b.    In the same way there are at least 5 states of consciousness.

                                          i.    A Sensation.

                                        ii.    A Thought

                                       iii.    A Belief

                                       iv.    A Desire

                                        v.    A Volition, or an Act of Free Will

 4.  #1 – A Sensation (Mental State #1)

a.    Two levels of sensations.

                                          i.    Those that come through a sense organ.

1.    An awareness of “yellow”

2.    An awareness of “sweetness”

3.    An awareness of the smell of a rose

4.    Note: If I see a red object in lighting that makes it look orange to me, I experience it as orange, even though it is red.

                                        ii.    Those that do not come through a sense organ

1.    Pains, itches, emotions, etc…

2.    The difference between a pain and an itch is that they are different forms of sensory awareness.

3.    The difference between anger and the taste of a banana is that they are different forms of sensation.

b.    A sensation cannot be true or false.

                                          i.    It can be accurate or inaccurate.

                                        ii.    E.g. – Upon seeing a banana I say, “I have a sensation of ‘yellow’.”

                                       iii.    This sensation is not “true” or “false,” but accurate or inaccurate.

c.    You can have sensations without being able to think.

                                          i.    E.g. – I am sure that frogs have sensations. But it’s not clear to me that frogs can think.

                                        ii.    Frogs can feel pain, they can see flies. But they can’t have thoughts about flies.

d.    A sensation is just “a state of sentience.”

5.  A Thought (Mental State #2)

a.    A “thought” is the mental content that can be expressed in a sentence.

b.    For example:

                                          i.    Schnee ist Weiss.

                                        ii.    Nieve es blanca.

                                       iii.    Snow is white.

c.    All three of these sentences have the same content.

d.    The content is in my mind; the sentence is on the board, or on the sheet of paper.

e.    The sentence isn’t the same thing as the thought.

                                          i.    You can see the sentence.

                                        ii.    You can’t see the thought.

f.     A thought is a state of consciousness.

g.    Thoughts are different than sensations.

                                          i.    A thought can be true or false.

                                        ii.    A sensation cannot be true or false.

h.    Thoughts are different states of consciousness than sensations are.

6.  A Belief (Mental State #3)

a.    A belief is something you take to be true, between 51% and 100%.

                                          i.    For example, I am 80% certain that the Lions will make the playoffs this year. I’m “80-20” on this.

                                        ii.    For example, I am 100% certain that I exist. I’m 100-0 on this.

b.    A belief is your view of how things are; of what you take to be true, or to be the case.

c.    Beliefs are like thoughts – both can be true or false.

d.    But beliefs aren’t the same things as thoughts.

                                          i.    E.g. – thoughts only exist while you are having them.

                                        ii.    But you have many beliefs that you are not now aware of or thinking of.

                                       iii.    E.g., as I now speak to you I have thousands of beliefs about…

1.    Linda

2.    The multiplication table

3.    The New Testament

4.    Frogs in my backyard

5.    History

6.    Birds

7.    Etc…..

                                       iv.    I have many beliefs I am not now paying attention to (not now thinking of).

                                        v.    But it wouldn’t make any sense to say, “I now have a thought that I’m not thinking about.”

1.    Thoughts only exist when you are having them.

2.    Beliefs exist whether you are aware of them or not.

                                       vi.    Another example: I have thoughts that I don’t believe.

1.    E.g. – I am now doing a great job teaching.

2.    You can have a thought that you don’t believe; you can have a belief that you are not thinking.

e.    Thoughts and beliefs are like liquid and solid. They are different states of consciousness.

7.  A Desire (Mental State #4)

a.    A “desire” is a felt inclination toward or away from something.

                                          i.    E.g. – a desire for a cupcake.

                                        ii.    E.g. – a desire not to have a root canal.

                                       iii.    E.g. – a desire to be a good friend.

b.    Desires are not thoughts or beliefs.

                                          i.    A thought doesn’t have a felt inclination for or against something.

                                        ii.     

c.    Desires aren’t the same things as sensations.

                                          i.    Many people confuse a desire for God with a sensation of God’s presence, or an experience of God.

                                        ii.    People can have a desire for something that is a long-term desire…

1.    Like a desire to be a good teacher, or a good friend, or a godly parent.

                                       iii.    You can tell a long-term desire by the behavior that comes from it.

                                       iv.    E.g., the desire to be a good guitar player.

8.  A Volition; an Act of Free Will (Mental State #5)

a.    A mental action

b.    An exertion of effort

c.    This is a state of consciousness, of free will.

d.    Libertarian free will – a conscious choice that cannot be fully reduced to prior (antecedent) causal conditions.

9.  All 5 of these are states of consciousness. Not one of them is physical.

a.    But how do we know that?

b.    How do we know that these 5 states of consciousness are not physical?

c.    You don’t need a brain to think.

d.    E.g. – God doesn’t have a brain, and God can think.

e.    God doesn’t miss not having a brain.

10. Three Reasons Why Consciousness Is Not Physical

a.    There are things that are true of consciousness that are not true of the physical brain.

                                          i.    If this is true, then consciousness and the brain cannot be the same thing.

                                        ii.    Like what?

1.    A thought can be true or false. But no physical state of your brain can be true or false.

2.    E.g. – when you think, “That cupcake was good,” there is brain activity going on. Something may be happening, in your physical brain, that is closer to your left ear than your right ear, and it may be 10 cm long.

3.    But the thought “That cupcake was good” is not nearer your left ear than your right, and it is not 10 cm long.

4.    Thoughts don’t have geometrical size or shape. But the states of your brain do have geometrical sizes and shapes.

                                       iii.    Another example: Think of a pink elephant. Some of you may be able to think of putting a blue blanket on it.

1.    The thought is of “pink” and “blue.”

2.    But there is nothing physically pink and blue in your brain. Right now, if we could examine your brain, we would find nothing that is pink and blue.

                                       iv.    Therefore there are things that are true of consciousness that are not true of the physical brain. If this is true, then consciousness and the brain cannot be the same thing.


b.    There is a “what it is like to feel consciousness…”

                                          i.    E.g. – What it is like to feel pain…

1.    … to feel anger…

2.    … to be thinking about lunch…

                                        ii.    This is available from a first-person perspective.

                                       iii.    BUT NOTE: There is no first-person perspective on “what it is like to be physical…” Everything that is physical is only available from a 3rd-person perspective.

                                       iv.    See here Thomas Nagel’s famous essay “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?

1.    Here Nagel suggests that the subjective aspect of the mind may not ever be sufficiently accounted for by the objective methods of objective science.

                                        v.    E.g., suppose a physicist knew all the physical facts about the universe.

1.    Suppose she was blind from birth.

a.    Then, all of a sudden, she gained the ability to see.

b.    This person would learn some brand new facts. There would be facts about “What it is like to see the color yellow.” Etc.

c.    She already knew all the physical facts. But now she gained a bunch of new facts.

d.    From this it follows that the new facts she has come to know are not physical. They are, instead, mental facts.

e.    Thus, there is knowledge that is not available from a 3rd-person perspective.

2.    A scientist can know more about your brain than you do.

a.    But he cannot know anything about your mind, about what it is like to be you, unless you tell him.

b.    You alone have 1st-person knowledge of your mind, but not your brain.

c.    If your mind was your brain, you should be able to have a scientist tell you what is going on in your mind by reading it off what’s going on in your physical brain.


c.    Intentionality

                                          i.    This is “of-ness”; “about-ness.”

1.    Your thoughts/beliefs/sensations are “of” or “about” things.

2.    My sensation is a sensation of a tree.

3.    My desire is a desire about a cupcake.

4.    My fear is a fear of tornados.

                                        ii.    Our thoughts/beliefs/sensations are said to have “intentionality.” Which means they are “of” things or “about” things.

                                       iii.    Pure physical states don’t have intentionality.

1.    It doesn’t make any sense to point to an an area of the physical brain and say, “That brain state is about the Second World War.”

                                       iv.    States of consciousness do have intentionality.

1.    Therefore, the states of consciousness are not states of the brain.

                                        v.    For these three reasons (and others) the 5 conscious states are not physical.

11. What About the Brain?

a.    Science can establish correlations between the brain and the mind.

                                          i.    This doesn’t prove that they are the same thing.

                                        ii.    E.g. – just because fire causes smoke, it does not follow that fire is the same as smoke.

                                       iii.    Just because I poke you and it causes pain, this does not mean that the thing going on in your physical brain is pain. 

b.    It’s possible that consciousness uses the brain to work, like a driver uses a car to move.

c.    Moreland uses out-of-body experiences to validate this. Therefore, people don’t need brains or eyes to see.

d.    So, establishing correlations doesn’t prove they are the same thing.

12. The Problem for Atheistic Naturalism

a.    The problem is… if you begin with matter… and start with matter as it is described in physics and chemistry…

                                          i.    …then the history of the universe will be a history of the rearrangement of matter into ore and more complicated arrangements of matter.

b.    The problem is…  before sentient (conscious) life existed, there was no consciousness, on naturalism.

                                          i.    If this is true, then how can you get something from nothing?

                                        ii.    How do you get consciousness coming into existence from matter by merely rearranging brute, inert matter according to the laws of chemistry and physics?

                                       iii.    Moreland says: “There is no explanation for the origin of consciousness if you start from matter. Period.” Moreland says he has read every attempt, on naturalism, to explain this.

                                       iv.    Moreland says: “This is why the majority of philosophers working in philosophy of mind today deny the reality of consciousness.

13. Consciousness is explained if Christian Theism is true.

a.    If you begin the universe with mind (logos) rather than with matter (b-bs), then you already start the universe with conscious self, and the existence of subsequent selves is no problem.

b.    This is because the universe at its core is a Conscious Being, not brute matter.