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Monday, November 28, 2011


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Theological determinists I have known, disliked being labeled fatalists. Their viewpoint was that fate was an impersonal force, whereas God was a personal force guiding history.

Do you think that your viewpoint on the source of necessitation of fatalism is completely unapplicable to such theological determinists? For example many argue that all that happens in history down to the falling of a dust particle is for the glory of God and has been chosen to happen to maximize God's glory. This seems to me to be a logical necessitation of history within their viewpoint.

I'm not sure how Inwagen's account of fatalism can handle more particular cases. For instance: I go to the soothsayer and he tells me that I am fated to die by falling down the stairs. Since van Inwagen's account is general, I can't see how he can allow for the possibility (which we seem to want to grant) that one can be fated to do x, but free (whatever that amounts to in this context) with regard to the rest of one's acts.


I can undestand why some dislike the term 'theological fatalism.' But the term is fairly standard. It is worth noting that the adjective shifts the sense of th enoun it modifies. 'Fatalism' suggests an impersonal, implacable force. But 'theological' removes the connotation of impersonality.

But this is a merely terminological quibble.

I think it is important clearly to distinguish among three sources of necessitation: necessitation via Excluded Middle and the nature of truth and of popositions; necessitation via the divine foreknowledge; and necessitation via the laws of nature and prior causal conditions.


You bowed out of the earlier discussion of property dualism just when it was getting good. You came to see my point, namely, that there is something deeply problematic about saying that one and the same physical particular can instantiate irreducibly mental and physical intrinsic properties.

But if mental properties are functional properties, then they are relational, not intrinsic. And this solves our problem, does it not? Something that is wholly physical can easily possess a mental property if said property is relational. See my recent post on functionalism.

Unfortunately for materialists, functionalism is untenable, and so property dualism is as well -- assuming that the only way to solve our problem is via functionalism.

It would be interesting to see if you agree with me now.


Yes, I agree that if the property dualist holds that the brain is exhaustively physical then he is in trouble. As you point out, he can try to solve the problem by claiming that the exhaustiveness is restricted to intrinsic/non-relational properties, and become a functionalist. And I agree functionalism is untenable. (And if he is a functionalist then he isn't really a property dualist worth his salt: why would functional properties be thought to pose a problem for physicalism?)

My problem is that I failed to distinguish between neutral monism and property dualism. Neutral monism, presumably, will fare much better since it will drop the problematic exhaustiveness requirement. What arguments would you marshall against this position? (It's what I was trying to defend originally.)


Yes, we need to distinguish between property dualism and neutral monism. The latter is not open to the objection we made. I'll have to write a separate post on neutral monism.

Going the functionalist route is one way of rescuing property dualism. But what I am not completely sure about is whether it is the ONLY way to rescue property dualism.

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