Friday, January 26, 2024

Victor Reppert's Argument from Reason for God's Existence

(See Victor Reppert, C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea)

In my MCCC Logic classes I presented Victor Reppert's Argument from Reason for the Existence of God. It is especially interesting to a logic class because of the idea of a "claim of inference" that exists between premises and a conclusion.

If an argument is "logical" this to do with a “claim of inference.” This is also called “rational inference.” The "claim of inference" is the inner "Aha!" For example, consider this argument:

1. Socrates is a man.

2. All men are mortal.

Given these two premises are true, there should arise an "inner Aha!" An "I get it" experience. One sees the claim of inference, and says:

3. Therefore, given P (1) and P (2) are true, Socrates is a man.

C (3) follows "logically." It's a logical law of reason.

Now Reppert thinks this kind of thing is plausible if theism is true, but implausible if atheism is true. And by "atheism" Reppert means philosophical naturalism, or physicalism. So Reppert reasons:

1, If naturalism is true, then logical laws either do not exist or are irrelevant to the formation of beliefs.
2. But logical laws are relevant to the formation of beliefs. (Implied by the existence of rational inference.)
3. Therefore, naturalism is false.

Again, "naturalism" is the view that the natural world is all there is and that there are no supernatural beings. There are no non-natural things. Whatever takes place in the universe takes place through natural processes and not as the result of supernatural, non-natural, or spiritual causation. Physicalism is a form of naturalism (all that is really is physical and nothing more). The basic substances of the physical world are pieces of matter.

So... what about a logical, rational "claim of inference?" (The inner "I see it!" experience.)Reppert claims that such logical laws are not physical laws. That is, the logical “claim of inference” cannot be explained by physics, or physical laws. How can he claim this?

Because if the laws of logic can be explained by physics, then there is no real claim of inference.
The so-called “claim of inference” would only be mechanistic and non-purposive. The claim of inference is not possible in a naturalistic/physicalist world. So “reason,” and meaning by this logic, seems to be not possible on an atheist worldview. Reppert writes: “The existence of reason makes sense in a theistic universe but not in a physicalist universe.”

But atheists themselves use reason to try to logically disprove that God exists. For example:

1. If God exists, then there can be no gratuitous evil.

2. Probably, there is gratuitous evil.

3. Therefore, probably God does not exist.

Does the atheist want “us” to be persuaded by this argument? Do they want “me” to see the logical connection, the logical claim of inference? Do they want "me" to "get it," to "see it?" If it's some rational claim of inference they are wanting to make, then I, as a theist, want to know whether an event can be at the same time the motion of brain matter in a mechanistic universe and, at the same time, the inference to a conclusion from its premises.

Reppert believes that the atheist here assumes the reality of a claim of inference, and uses it to argue that there is no God. But if reality is only physical, then human “reasoning” is impossible. (Like saying, “Ah, I see the logical connection!”) But human reasoning is possible. Therefore, probably theism is true.
(Yes, I've read Richard Carrier's criticisms of Reppert here and Reppert's response to Carrier here. See Reppert's current response to Carrier in "Defending the Dangerous Idea: An Update on Lewis's Argument from Reason " here.