Dale Tuggy is in town and we met up on Thursday and Friday. On Good Friday morning I took him on a fine looping traipse in the Western Superstitions out of First Water trail head to Second Water trail to Garden Valley, down to Hackberry Spring, and then back to the Second Water trail via the First Water creek bed. We were four hours on the trail, 6:55 - 10:55, both of us wired up (in both senses of that term) for one of Dale's famous podcasts. One of the topics discussed was the Buddhist anatta/anatman doctrine which we both respectfully reject. I believe that Dale concurred with all of the following points I made and with some others as well:
1. The nonexistence of what one fails to find does not logically follow from one's failing to find it. So the failure to find in experience an object called 'self' does not entail the nonexistence of the self.
2. So failure to find the self as an object of experience is at least logically consistent with the existence of a self.
3. What's more, the positing of a self seems rationally required even though the self is not experienceable. For someone or something is doing the searching and coming up 'empty-handed.'
4. There are also considerations re: diachronic personal identity. Suppose I decide to investigate the question of the self. A moment later I begin the investigation by carefully examining the objects of inner and outer experience to see if any one of them is the self. After some searching I come to the conclusion that the self is not to be located among the objects of experience. I then entertain the thought that perhaps there is no self. But then it occurs to me that failure to find X is not proof of X's nonexistence. I then consider whether it is perhaps the very nature of the subject of experience to be unobjectifiable. And so I conclude that the self exists but is not objectifiable, or at least not isolable as a separate object of experience among others.
This reasoning may or may not be sound. The point, however, is that the reasoning, which plays out over a period of time, would not be possible at all if there were no one self -- no one unity of consciousness and self-consciousness -- that maintained its strict numerical identity over the period of time in question. For what we have in the reasoning process is not merely a succession of conscious states, but also a consciousness of their succession in one and the same conscious subject. Without the consciousness of succession, without the retention of the earlier states in the present state, no conclusion could be arrived at.
All reasoning presupposes the diachronic unity of consciousness. Or do you think that the task of thinking through a syllogism could be divided up? Suppose Manny says, All men are mortal! Moe then pipes up, Socrates is a man! Could Jack conclude that Socrates is mortal? No. He could say it but not conclude it. (This assumes that Jack does not hear what the other two Pep Boys say. Imagine each in a separate room.)
The hearing of a melody supplies a second example.
To hear the melody Do-Re-Mi, it does not suffice that there be a hearing of Do, followed by a hearing of Re, followed by a hearing of Mi. For those three acts of hearing could occur in that sequence in three distinct subjects, in which case they would not add up to the hearing of a melody. (Tom, Dick, and Harry can divide up the task of loading a truck, but not the ‘task’ of hearing a melody, or that of understanding a sentence, or that of inferring a conclusion from premises.) But now suppose the acts of hearing occur in the same subject, but that this subject is not a unitary and self-same individual but just the bundle of these three acts, call them A1, A2, and A3. When A1 ceases, A2 begins, and when A2 ceases, A3 begins: they do not overlap. In which act is the hearing of the melody? A3 is the only likely candidate, but surely it cannot be a hearing of the melody. For the awareness of a melody involves the awareness of the (musical not temporal) intervals between the notes, and to apprehend these intervals there must be a retention (to use Husserl’s term) in the present act A3 of the past acts A2 and A1. Without this phenomenological presence of the past acts in the present act, there would be no awareness in the present of the melody. But this implies that the self cannot be a mere bundle of perceptions externally related to each other, but must be a peculiarly intimate unity of perceptions in which the present perception A3 includes the immediately past ones A2 and A1 as temporally past but also as phenomenologically present in the mode of retention. The fact that we hear melodies thus shows that there must be a self-same and unitary self through the period of time between the onset of the melody and its completion. This unitary self is neither identical to the sum or collection of A1, A2, and A3, nor is it identical to something wholly distinct from them. Nor of course is it identical to any one of them or any two of them. This unitary self is given whenever one hears a melody.
The unitary self is phenomenologically given, but not as a separate object. Herein, perhaps, resides the error of Hume and some Buddhists: they think that if there is a self, it must exist as a separate object of experience.
(The following review will be crossposted shortly at Prosblogion. Comments are closed here, but will be open there.)
Apart from what Alvin Plantinga calls creative anti-realism, the two main philosophical options for many of us in the West are some version of naturalism and some version of Judeo-Christian theism. As its title indicates, J. P. Moreland’s The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism (SCM Press, 2009) supports the theistic position by way of a penetrating critique of naturalism and such associated doctrines as scientism. Moreland briefly discusses creative anti-realism in the guise of postmodernism on pp. 13-14, but I won’t report on that except to say that his arguments against it, albeit brief, are to my mind decisive. Section One of this review will present in some detail Moreland’s conception of naturalism and what it entails. Sections Two and Three will discuss his argument from consciousness for the existence of God. Section Four will ever so briefly report on the contents of the rest of the book. In Part Two of this review I hope to discuss Moreland’s critique of Thomas Nagel’s Dismissive Naturalism. Numbers in parentheses are page references. Words and phrases enclosed in double quotation marks are quotations from Moreland. Inverted commas are employed for mentioning and ‘scaring.’
A guest post by Peter Lupu. Comments in blue by BV.
If there are immortal souls, would murder be a grave moral breach?
1) Theists, like their atheist adversaries, consider murder a severe breach of morality. Unlike causing a minor physical injury to another or damaging or even completely destroying their home, car, or other belongings, murder is considered to be an altogether different matter. The emphasis upon the moral gravity of murder compared to these other moral infractions is, of course, justified and the justification rests in large part upon the finality and irreversible nature of the consequences for the victim. We can perhaps put these consequences as follows: once dead, always dead! Compared to those other infractions where we can perhaps assess the damage and convert such assessment into some sort of tangible remedy, we have no clue how to even begin such appraisal of harm when it comes to a matter such as ceasing to exist forever. If death would have been a temporary state, such as a long sleep for instance, from which one returns into being once again, I am certain we would have found a way to assess the damage done and assign suitable remedy. But, of course, death is not a temporary state such as sleep. Or is it?
The idea behind the Potentiality Principle (PP) is that potential personhood confers a right to life. For present purposes we may define a person as anything that is sentient, rational, and self-aware. Actual persons have a right to life, a right not to be killed. Presumably we all accept the following Rights Principle:
RP: All persons have a right to life.
What PP does is simply extend the right to life to potential persons. Thus,
PP. All potential persons have a right to life.
PP allows us to mount a very powerful argument, the Potentiality Argument (PA), against the moral acceptability of abortion. Given PP, and the fact that human fetuses are potential persons, it follows that they have a right to life. From the right to life follows the right not to be killed, except perhaps in some extreme circumstances.