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February 17, 2015

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Hi Jamie,

One more point: I concede that naturalists think they can explain the relevant phenomena without appealing to non-natural properties. But isn't that because they think that all the relevant phenomena are natural phenomena? After all, if you think that there are non-natural phenomena, then I don't see why you would think that you could explain that without appealing to non-natural properties. So the naturalist must have some prior reason for thinking that there is no non-natural phenomena that needs explaining. And why do they think that? I don't know? Because they think the view that there is no non-natural phenomena is more parsimonious? But it isn't on my view of parsimony. So I assume that they have to appeal to the SEP view, which I don't see the appeal of absence some view involving God and his desire to keep things simple for us.

Doug,
I'm not suggesting merely that all actual people might be unable to avoid having a credal state toward a proposition in the absence of evidence (upon wondering whether it is true), but that all possible people are unable to do so--because it's constitutive of contemplating whether p that one have a credal state toward p. I grant you that the mere contingent fact that some actual person, or even all actual persons, are unable to avoid having some particular credal state would not suffice to make that credence justified. What I'm saying is unattractive is the conclusion that follows (from my constitutivity claim, and the claim that no credence would be justified) that every possible person who contemplated whether p, whenever there is no evidence for or against p, would respond in an unjustified way.

I know you don't want to say that, so denying the impossibility/constitutivity claim is surely the better option. Here's my argument for the constitutivity claim. If you consider whether p, and you're not certain that p or that not-p, then you're uncertain whether p. But uncertainty whether p just is a (possibly imprecise) credal state toward p, somewhere in the range between 0 and 1 (exclusive). Granted, it doesn't follow from the fact that you don't have credence 1 or credence 0 that you have some other credence, but only because you needn't have any attitude toward p at all. But being uncertain about p is a (credal) attitude toward p.

One other point: your last response to Jamie touches on something I said before, about naturalism being able to explain all the phenomena that can be identified in a non-question-begging way. To claim that naturalism can explain all the data because all the data is naturalistic is, indeed, question-begging. But similarly, to claim that naturalism can't explain all the data because there is non-naturalistic data is similarly question-begging. A non-question-begging argument for naturalism is that it explains all the phenomena (e.g. moral truths, moral motivation, moral supervenience, moral knowledge) that can be identified in a way that doesn't start out by assuming that there is/is not anything nonnatural. That's what I try to offer.

Hi Steve,

Thanks for clarifying. If understand you now, here's your argument:

P1) If you contemplate P and you don't have a credence of either 1 or 0 in P, then you're uncertain whether P. P2) If you're uncertain whether P, then you have a (possibly imprecise) credal state toward P, somewhere in the range between 0 and 1 (exclusive).
C) Therefore, if you contemplate P and you don't have a credence of either 1 or 0 in P, then you have a credal state toward P.

You seem to take P2 to be a conceptual truth. That is, you hold that being uncertain whether p just is to adopt an attitude toward it -- namely, that of being in a credal state somewhere in the range between 0 and 1 (exclusive). But if that's right, I reject P1. I don't see why lacking two credal states (two attitudes) entails having some other credal state (attitude). How is this supposed to follow? Do you think that to contemplate P is just to adopt an attitude toward P? But that doesn't seem right to me. It seems that just as I can contemplate whether to A without intending to A, intending to not-A, or having some other intention toward A, I can contemplate whether to believe P without believing that P, believing that not-P, or having any other doxastic state toward P.

On the other issue, right: you've claimed that naturalism explains all the phenomena (e.g. moral truths, moral motivation, moral supervenience, moral knowledge) that can be identified in a way that doesn't start out by assuming that there is/is not anything nonnatural. And I need to read your book. But I hope that you don't expect me to just take your word for it that naturalism can do what you say it can do. It's not that I think that you're untrustworthy. It's just that when it comes to a contentious philosophical claim, I need more than just that someone has made that claim before I'm willing to accept P. And, as things stands now (prior to reading your book), I'm very skeptical that naturalism can explain normative truths, what it's like to be bat or to feel pain, the fact that, using concepts that are sufficiently comprehensive, I can conceive of experiencing some pain while disembodied, and many other things.

But I take your point that the naturalist needn't appeal to parsimony in arguing that naturualism can explain all the relevant (non-question begging) data without appealing to non-natural properties.

Doug,
Since you just mean 'gets higher credence' by 'is more plausible', of course I agree that when A is a logical consequence of B and B is not a logical consequence of A, A is more plausible. Was this your only point?

The reason I keep stressing other virtues is that I think the point of parsimony is that it carries explanatory power with it. That is the main virtue in brings to a theory. A theory can be extremely weak logically, and therefore a consequence of many other theories that are not a consequence of it, but be very bad at explaining things. When theories get very weak logically, they do tend to be bad at explaining things.

Hi Doug,
I think we're on the same page now. I grant that my argument turns on some controversial (though in my view intuitive) assumptions, so it's perfectly reasonable for you to reject some of them, and I won't push my case any further here--except to register that it seems very intuitive, to me, to understand uncertainty in terms of an intermediate credence. Perhaps I should grant that there are ways in which one may contemplate whether p without reaching either certainty or uncertainty--but I don't see how this is possible in cases where we linger on the question. No need to reply, though.

(In case it wasn't obvious, the rest of the argument was supposed to show that since believing the disjunction isn't justified, the justified credence in the proposition with no evidence either way (e.g. there is an invisible dragon in the room) must be extremely low--thereby being/justifying belief that it is false.)

And yes, of course you shouldn't believe that naturalism can be vindicated merely on my say-so; I was just registering my disagreement with your opinion, and pointing out that there are non-question-begging (I hope!) cases for naturalism that don't depend on NAT. I expect lots of people will remain unconvinced by my book, too. My challenge to those people is to say what (non-question-begging) data it fails to explain.

Doug,
I don't think I understand what you say at 10:01.

One more point: I concede that naturalists think they can explain the relevant phenomena without appealing to non-natural properties. But isn't that because they think that all the relevant phenomena are natural phenomena?

I don't know what you have in mind here. The kinds of phenomena I was thinking of were things like: the moral supervenes on the natural; moral claims do not seem to be analyzable in naturalistic terms; moral judgment is practical. These don't seem like the kinds of things it would be helpful to call 'natural' or 'non-natural'. So it would help if you could say which phenomena you have in mind.

Hi Jamie,

And I'll let you have the last word if you like. It's time for me to move on to other things.

My only point was to argue that my view is more plausible than what I called the SEP view.

I think the point of parsimony is that it carries explanatory power with it. That is the main virtue in brings to a theory.

I don't see it that way. A theory that claims both that there are Fs and that there are no Gs is less parsimonious than a theory that claims only that there are Fs. And this is true even if neither theory is able to explain any phenomena by appealing either to the presence of Fs or absence of Gs. A so the latter theory doesn't seem to get any extra explanatory power just by being more parsimonious the former.

Regarding 10:01, I had in mind various events in space and time, such as certain neurons firing in the brain (those associated with the judgment that I'm required to X) and this causing the events that constitute my X-ing. Of course, we don't need to appeal to non-natural properties to explain any events in space and time. But that doesn't mean that there isn't any phenomena (perhaps, normativity or what it's like to be in pain) that we can't be explained without appeal to non-natural facts.

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