I was thinking about the short argument I gave here and was wondering if it could be turned into a positive argument for theism. I came up with this:
- If God doesn’t exist, then our cognitive faculties arose from non-purposive processes.
- No purposive system can arise from non-purposive processes.
- Therefore, if God doesn’t exist, then our cognitive faculties are non-purposive.
- Rationality is purposive.
- Therefore, if God doesn’t exist we aren’t rational.
- Therefore, atheism is self-defeating.
It seems promising. Although, I suspect I should read JP Moreland, Alvin Plantinga and Victor Reppert to get a better idea of the contemporary debate around this stuff. I think (4) is pretty solid (see the previous post for why), and I’m uncertain any atheist will disagree with (1), lest they open themselves up to Aquinas’ fifth way. So, presumably, (2) is the key premise. But this certainly does seem plausible.
Consider the following argument against materialism (the thesis that only physical things exist):
- If materialism is true, then the deliverances of our cognitive faculties are caused by a purely physical system (eg. our brain)
- Purely physical systems are not purposive
- Rationality is purposive
- Therefore, if materialism is true, then we are incapable of being rational
- Therefore, if materialism is true, we cannot rationally assent to materialism
- Therefore, materialism is self-defeating
(1) seems plausible, since on materialism only physical systems exist. When I say something is “purposive” I mean that it seeks to achieve some goal, ie. there’s teleology. So (2) seems plausible, since physical systems are typically understood to behave based on previous conditions, not in an attempt to bring about an outcome. Why think (3) is true? Well, if someone comes to a conclusion, but they weren’t trying to be rational in their reasoning (ie. seeking the rational conclusion) or they weren’t seeking the truth, then can we really say they were being rational? I don’t think so.
I was thinking about the law today, as people do, and I was wondering which of the following two categories serves to ground the other:
- Inherent human rights, value or dignity (we’ll just call this “value”)
- Human duties or law (we’ll just call this “law”)
By “duties” I mean [legal, moral and/or parental] obligations (what we “ought” do) and prohibitions (what we “ought not” do).
For example, consider the following questions and their plausible answers if value grounds law:
- “Why shouldn’t we murder?” “Because human life is inherently valuable”
- “Why should we have freedom of speech?” “Because humans have dignity and therefore deserve to have their opinions heard”
Alternatively, if you thought that duty grounds value then the questions and answers look something like this:
- “Why is human life valuable?” “Because we have laws that preserve it”
- “Why do humans have dignity?” “Because their opinions are protected by law”