Notes: Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible by Joel Green

Joel Green's Thesis: "If, as is often alleged, neuroscientists have discredited a dualist interpretation of the human person, I want to explore the usual corollary that, in doing so, they have also discredited the biblical faith. It will become clear that I take the former claim to be true, the latter to be false."[1]

According to Green, the sciences have discredited a dualist ontology of the human person. Green argues that human identity is not grounded in the reference to a substantive, embodied soul but to a set of capacities or functions enabled by a physical base.[2] Green thinks a non-reductive physicalism is compatible with Christian belief and that the Bible does not provide any determinative support for dualism. The most urgent question in taking this position is the question of the intermediate state. Green argues for His argument is roughly as follows:

(1) Neuroscience has shown that a dualistic anthropology is false
(2) If the Bible either assumes a dualistic ontology or describes an intermediate state, then the Bible (or parts of it) is false
(3) The Bible does not assume a dualistic anthropology
(4) The Bible does not describe a disembodied, conscious human entity (intermediate state)
(5) Therefore, it is not the case that if dualism is false, then the Bible (or parts of it) are false

Green claims that scientific discovery supports non-reductive physicalism and that the Bible does not deny it. According to Green, we are distinctively human to the degree to which we obtain six powers or capacities. These capacities are present in other animals to some degree but highly developed in the human species. The six capacities are language, a theory of mind, episodic memory, conscious top-down agency, future orientation, And emotional modulation.[3]

Green’s view is a form of functional holism, the view that a person’s faculties work together in a single system. This doesn’t tell you anything about what is functioning. Is it a soul, a brain, or what? Compare it with its ontological cousin, ontological holism, the view that a person is composed of a single substance. Notice that functional holism does not imply its cousin. One cannot move in that direction. If, however, one holds to ontological holism, then perhaps functional holism follows.

Green accuses theologians of importing Hellenistic and Cartesian presuppositions into biblical interpretation.[4] It has long been argued that there is a difference between the Hebrew conception of reality and the Greek conception of reality while Hellenistic thought is defined by reference to a dual natured reality, Hebrew thought urges a holistic view whereby entities are not considered in terms of their parts. Consequently, though there are multiple terms for aspects of human life within the Hebrew scriptures none should be taken to refer to a distinctive, substantive, and ultimately separable, entity from the body. Since the Greek New Testament is derived from the presuppositions of the Hebrew Old Testament we should no more read Hellenistic presuppositions into the New Testament than we should read them into the Old.[5]

Of central importance for a theology of human beings is a consideration of the meaning intended of “image of God.” Green conceives of the imago dei as “fundamentally relational.” Green considers the image of God to refer to a power or capacity for personal relatedness particularly in respect to God. Human experience can be described in terms of the proper functioning of the set of capacities bestowed on him by God in creation:

the distinguishing mark of human existence when compared with other creatures is thus the whole of human existence… As the Genesis story unfolds, the vocation given humanity entails individuality within community and the human capacity for self transcendence and morality - that is, the capacity to make decisions on the basis of self deliberation, planning and action on the basis of that decision and responsibility for those decisions and actions.[6]

Thus, there is a dual capacity for relatedness to God and proper functioning within the human family and in the world God created. The moral instincts of human beings uniquely arise from the use of their relational capacities. The social ethic is consequent upon right relationship to God who informs the relational conscience of the human being.[7]

Green notes that the phrase “image of God” does not appear much in the rest of the Bible. Rather, the Bible portrays the functioning of that image as its potential is variously actualized in the world. The fall, then, is conceived of as the failure of human beings to function properly or “soulishly.” Green’s conception of Christ as the image of God is as a human being properly functioning in the world according to how human beings were designed to function. The renewal of human beings is, therefore, the restoration of the proper functioning of human beings in relationship to God and to human community. Green cites Colin Gunton who writes : “Jesus represents God to the creation in the way that the first human beings were called, but failed, to do… he enables other human beings to achieve the directness to God of which their fallenness has deprived them.”[8]

In support of his view, Green points to recent research into neuro plasticity. Neuro plasticity suggests that as we develop habits and are subject to formative experiences our brains develop neural connections that are maintained or discarded. To speak of a person being converted is to speak of the restoration of the proper function of the brain and, therefore, the body. Importantly, the functions in question are the capacities that Green calls the soul:

if the neurobiological systems that shape how we think, feel, believe, and behave are for ever being sculpted in the context of our social experiences, then in a profound sense we must speak of personal transformation in relational terms. Our autobiographical selves are formed within a nest of relationships, a community. The exclusion context of conversion could scarcely be more sharply emphasized.[9]

Green’s conception of salvation includes a taxonomy of neurobiological transformation. Not only does neural plasticity demonstrate the connection between the changing characteristics in a person and the remolding of the physical base but several other features of human life changed at a physical level. Green argues that our interpretive faculties have a synaptic base from which we form concepts: “In order to make life events meaningful, we must conceptualize them and we do so in terms of well worn paths in our brains - that is, imaginative structures or conceptual schemes that we implicitly take to be true, normal, and good. Our hermeneutical equipment, then, is formed at presynaptic level.”[10]

Green argues that the neurobiological base is sufficient for the organization of information. There is, therefore, no possibility of rationality apart from the brain. This most adequately explains the causal relationship we can demonstrate between brain damage and the consequent impeding of rationality.[11]

How then does this square with the biblical account of conversion? Green argues that the biblical authors consider conversion in terms of a “transformation of day-to-day patterns of thinking, feeling, believing, and behaving.”[12] Repentance should be analyzed in terms of a transformation of the capacities of human beings to operate according to their design.

Green links the renewal of the mind to perception. Perception, for Green, is not merely understood in terms of the appearance of some object before the sensory equipment of a person but as the application of conceptual schemes to experiences. Conversion, thus understood, is the embracing of a new conceptual scheme, “a new way of seeing things, and opening of the mind to understand what was previously incomprehensible.”[13]

Conversion is manifested in the community of God’s people. Thus, conversion is a process of socialization formed by the reorientation of life. The practices of the church are means by which conversion is experienced as the faculties of the human being are trained to function properly, actualizing the powers fully and in the correct direction. The emphasis on socialization leads Green to conclude that salvation, broadly understood, should refer to the transformation of global society through renewed practices, the embodiment of a converted, renewed community.

EXCURSUS: Physicalism and free will

Green notes that on most views of physicalism one is hard pressed to support a libertarian view of free will. To what degree is a human agent morally responsible if he is causally determined? Green argues that if one is morally responsible then one has acted out of a desire. The act itself is freely done if and only if it is done according to the volition of the agent and are not coerced. Green’s form of compatibilism denies that a person is morally responsible if and only if they could have chosen to do otherwise.

The intermediate state and resurrection of the body

Perhaps the most challenging question for the non-reductive physicalist project is how to answer the question: what is it that endures between the time of bodily death and the resurrection? This is a paradigmatic question for the issue of personal identity. What is it that we identify as the entity which persists through time and, in this case, endures after physical death and prior to the resurrection of the body? Green argues that personal identity is not grounded in a substantive entity such as a substantive soul but personal identity “is narratively and relationally shaped and embodied, the capacity for life-after-death is not intrinsic to humanity but is divine gift, and resurrection signifies not rescue from the cosmos but transformation with it.”[14]

On Green’s view, death can only mean the dissolution of the capacities that human beings have. In other words, all the six functional abilities referred to as soul cease to function entirely: “Death is the cessation of life in all of its aspects, and especially the severance of all relationships - relationships with God and with every person and everything in the cosmos.”[15]

In contrast, life is defined in terms of relationship especially relationship with God. Green points to several texts that speak of life and death in terms of relationality and concludes that this is the primary sense of those terms in scripture. If death is the cessation of the capacities for personal relationship, resurrection is the restoration and renewal of those capacities. Rather than the continuance of a substantive soul in the afterlife Green argues for a view which allows for no conscious experience to occur between the bodily death of a human being and the resurrection when a glorified body is provided.[16]

At this point Green critiques Cooper’s argument for the substantive soul in the intermediate state. In contrast to Cooper, Green argues that the Old Testament never suggests that an essential part of a human being survive death. There is no personal existence beyond death until the resurrection. What, then, should we say about the New Testament? It seems that the New Testament presents some specific examples of the endurance of personal identity between the time of bodily death and resurrection. For example, the story of the rich man and Lazarus portrays a dead rich man fully conscious and speaking prior to his resurrection. Green argues that in order to interpret this as assuming the endurance of a conscious substance between death and resurrection one has to view the parable having taken place at the time of telling. But this is not necessitated by the parable. One has to assume that the time in question is during the intermediate state but this is not demanded by the text. Rather, Green thinks it more plausible that the time in question is after the resurrection. Lazarus already finds his place in Abraham’s bosom. Surely this picture conjures up a future, fully restored, and embodied state not a state of waiting. Green also suggests that the suffering of the rich man indicates that he has reached Hell, a place of continual torment. If so, then the parable does not clearly indicate a conscious disembodied state.

Perhaps it might be argued the Bible does not indicate a conscious intermediate state. Let’s concede this point. However, it is still far from clear how an identity can endure even if we assume that the Scriptures do not indicate a conscious enduring of identity. What exactly is it that does endure between death and resurrection? One might accept that a body is identical to a person and that same body is resurrected at the future time but if there is a gap in which there is no conscious subject what exactly endures through time? Green recognizes the problem and seeks not to suggest that the necessary and sufficient condition for the endurance of a personal identity is found within the body. This might be a tempting strategy but as any good physicalist will tell you is an extremely difficult thing to do even when the identity and question is of a living conscious person. Even more difficult then to provide the necessary and sufficient conditions for the persistence of persons when they are dead.

Wisely, Green suggests another strategy, that is that identity is not grounded in the faculties of the human being alone but also in the mind of God. In order to contemplate a possible way in which personal identity persists after death and prior to the resurrection Green argues for a somewhat Lockean view of personal identity. John Locke thought that human identity is a feature of a set of experiences stored in the memory. To endure through time, according to Locke, is to sustain that set of memories. If those memories continue in a subject as memories experienced by that subject, then that person persists through time. “our identity is formed and found in self-conscious relationality with its neural correlates and embodied narrativity or formative histories.”[17] Since the memories can be restored to resurrected bodies a person can cease to exist entirely if as memories are stored somewhere and then returned to be resurrected body. Though Green is not clear on this point it seems that he conceives of identity in terms of the storage of those memories of that personal narrative within the mind of God in the intermediate state. Though strictly there is no person who endures through time there is nonetheless the content of that person’s memory, even perhaps an idealized comprehensive memory that, when the time comes, can be put back into the resurrected body such that, at least as far as the resurrected person experiences it, is continuous with the life is lived before death.

Points of Discussion/Objections

Recall the argument:

(1) Neuroscience has shown that a dualistic anthropology is false
(2) If the Bible either assumes a dualistic ontology or describes an intermediate state, then the Bible (or parts of it) is false
(3) The Bible does not assume a dualistic anthropology
(4) The Bible does not describe a disembodied, conscious human entity (intermediate state)
(5) Therefore, it is not the case that if dualism is false, then the Bible (or parts of it) are false


Has neuroscience proven that there is no soul? Do you think it is likely that any science could prove that there is no soul? How might there be empirical evidence for the non-existence of the soul?

The standard Gage argument is something like this: If personality is a property of the soul then it should not be affected by changes to the brain. But plainly personality is affected by changes to the brain (Gage’s personality was affected by injury). Therefore, personality is not a property of the soul. Whadaya think?

Here is one argument, the argument from localization: With the increased ability to watch the brain in real-time comes an increased knowledge of how tasks relate to particular parts of the brain. Research that shows that there are local parts of the brain that are responsible for memories, language, and other mental events. Since it has long been assumed that memories and perception were related to a nonphysical entity, the fact that the brain appears to have parts with designated tasks lends credence to the point of view that the brain achieves tasks commonly thought to be solely those of the soul. How strong/weak is the argument from localism?

Recently, scientists have invented a micro chip that, when implanted in the brain, can restore the function of a previously nonfunctioning limb. Does this show that dualism is false? Also recently a group of scientists have discovered that one can increase a person’s capacities for learning information through stimulating the scalp with electrical currant. Would information transfer itself prove dualism false (think Matrix and “downloading” information into Neo).

In the movie Collision a one man has another man’s memories implanted in his mind. He sees the world as if he is the other person. If this was possible would it prove dualism false? Why or why not?

If neuroscience has not proven that there is no substantive soul, what has it shown? Plausibly, the best neuroscience could show is that the phenomena usually associated with a substantive soul can be adequately explained without reference to a substantive soul and only with reference to a body. Does this argument work? Why or why not?

Green presupposes a view of the relationship between science and religion. He says, “the neurosciences and biblical studies come at these issues from quite different perspectives but end up making a series of complementary affirmations.”[18] How does Green suppose that science and faith are integrated? Do you think he takes the right view? How else might one relate the two?

PREMISE (3) and (4):

Has Green successfully dealt with the text? Is his exegesis sound? Which way does the evidence point? Does the text remain neutral on the existence of a substantive entity? Can it “take” both positions equally well? Does the grammar tell us anything about whether it is being used as a noun (the soul) or as a set of capacities?

Green interprets the image of God functionally. Do you agree? What reasons are there to reject this view? If capacities/powers are fundamental to human persons, are they fundamental to persons per se? What follows from this? Are there any ethical objections? (An ethical objection might be: An embryo has no functions. Therefore, an embryo is not a person).

Green argues for a functionalist account of personhood. Human beings are persons in virtue of a set of capacities, powers, or functions. If personhood is reduced to functions, then perhaps it follows that the persons of the Trinity can be reduced to functions: One might object to Green thusly: It is not the case that the persons of the Trinity can be reduced to functions. Therefore, human persons cannot be reduced to functions

Green supposes that a person can cease to exist and then be brought back to life. Is this intelligible? What might be a good reason to reject this view? If person, A, ceases to exist at t1, in virtue of what exactly, is it that the person who is recreated at t2 is the same person who existed at t1?

Consider A living for a minute or two and then being annihilated and then, after a minute or two, being brought back to life. Suppose this system of living meant that A exists only half of the time. A would be immortal if this kept on going since A’s moments would never be a last moment. Yet A would only exist for half the time. A would have a half-life, so to speak. Odd or just a consequence of the view?

Does memory do the identity trick? Consider: Person A is the same person prior to t1 when she ceases to exist as t2 when she is recreated if and only if the memories of A are the same memories at t1 as they are at t2. But this is just another way of saying that A is the same person. Memories are had by a person. If you say person A is identical to her memories, then you are not a physicalist. If you say the memories are not identical to the person, then you still have to say what makes A the same person at t1 and t2.

[1] Joel Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2008), 32.
[2] Ibid., 37.
[3] Ibid., 42.
[4] Ibid., 48.
[5] Ibid., 55.
[6] Ibid., 63.
[7] Ibid., 63-64.
[8] Colin Gunton, quoted in Green, 69.
[9] Ibid., 116.
[10] Ibid., 118.
[11] Ibid., 121.
[12] Ibid., 123.
[13] Ibid., 127.
[14] Ibid., 144.
[15] Ibid., 147.
[16] Ibid., 152.
[17] Ibid., 179.
[18] Ibid., 33.

Naturalism and the Language of Thought Hypothesis

According to naturalism, the world can be adequately described in terms of what is physical. But what is a good naturalistic explanation of thought? Beliefs, desires, and other propositional attitudes appear not to fit within the physical universe. While the physical universe can be analyzed in terms of causation, and laws of nature, the life of the mind appears to involve more. What it is to reason about some action seems very different to what it is for a neuron to initiate a causal chain that results in an action. If causation cannot account for reasoning, then what it is that does the reasoning cannot be accounted for in physical terms. Thoughts also appear to be about something, they point at something beyond themselves. But it is difficult to imagine physical entities being about anything and, since the mind is what does the thinking, it would follow that the mind could not be a physical entity. The language of thought hypothesis (LOTH) attempts to provide a naturalist answer according to which thought should be analyzed in terms of an internal language physically realized in brains.

In this paper I argue that the account fails for two reasons.[1] First, the LOTH reverses semantic meaning and syntactic structure and seeks to explain the former in terms of the latter. I will argue that there is no successful way to account for meaning on the LOTH view. Second, a naturalistic account of thought accounts for propositions in terms of sentences (in this case, sentences in the language of thought). I will argue, in agreement with Alvin Plantinga, that propositions cannot be concrete and that if propositions are not concrete, materialism is false.

The most prominent defender of the language of thought hypothesis is Jerry Fodor (pictured above) who argues that attempts to naturalize the mind through analysis of behavior or some form of reductive physicalism fail.[2] Fodor posited that a computational/representational theory of mind combined with an innate language of thought could provide a materialist account for thought in terms of a psychological project. The language of thought hypothesis suggests that thinking is done in a mental language, a symbolic system physically realized in the brain. On this view, the objects of propositional attitudes are sentence-like concrete objects in the brain that represent the world to a subject.

LOTH seeks to account for thought in terms of causal processes. It is, therefore, a form of functional materialism in which mental representations are realized by physical properties of the brain.[3] Alan Turing developed the idea of a machine capable of complex tasks comparable to the human mind.[4] Indeed, Fodor argues that the computational theory of mind is the only plausible candidate for a psychological project.[5] It is not difficult to see why a computational theory of mind is so plausible for a functional materialist. There is obvious evidence for the view that material things can process information.

However, the view that minds are computational does not say how information processing can carry meanings. One either needs some story in which process carries meanings or one should abandon intentional realism. Since Computers are “environments in which symbols are manipulated in virtue of their formal features”[6] the obvious candidate for the job are symbols combined, systematized and produced in various ways in order to be candidates for intentionality and rationality. Crucially, it is maintained that computers preserve the semantic content during their processing. In the same way, the mind, according to CTM, preserves semantic content during the processing of symbolic representations.

Fodor argues that if the mind is computational, then it must be representational: “no representations, no computations. No computations, no model.”[7] A representational theory of mind suggests that the world is represented to the mind through some medium. Fodor argues that this accounts for human cognitive processing in way other theories cannot. He argues that the human ability to deliberate, perceive, and learn concepts can be best explained by conceiving of the mind in terms of a capacity to represent possibilities, compute various options and come to some plausible or rational conclusion.

Fodor gives three reasons to conceive of the mind as representational. First, when agents are confronted with choices they represent options to themselves and compute the outcomes of actions. The best way to describe considering options is in terms of computation. And if the process is computational, then the agent must represent to itself the various options. Second, concept learning is “essentially a process of hypothesis formation and confirmation… the experiences which location is the learning in such situations… send in a confirmation relation to what was learned.”[8] In order for such learning to take place, Fodor argues, we must account for inductive reasoning by assuming that the human subject can represent relevant experiences to herself. She must be able to come to an informed belief about predication based on multiple experiences that lead to a hypothesis and the application of confirmation of the truth of her experiences. Crucially, Fodor argues, this is only possible if the subject represents to herself the experiences as experiences that confirm the hypothesis.[9] Finally, perception relies on picking out invariant properties of entities that have been experienced in the past. Therefore, perception relies an inference to the best explanation based on representing past experiences to oneself and forming a conclusion based on confirming a hypothesis.

In order for there to be a representation to oneself, there must be some medium by which one represents. This medium, says Fodor, is an internal language of thought: “Representation presupposes a medium of representation, and there is no symbolization without symbols. In particular, there is no internal representation without an internal language.”[10] The language of thought is an innate language by which symbols are manipulated in order to combine constituent symbols to form complete thoughts and produce various combinations of symbols in order to produce various thoughts. Just as computers manipulate and process formal languages, the brain manipulates and processes natural languages. Sentences in natural languages are translated into mentalese, the language of thought.

The language of thought is causally efficacious, structurally combinatorial, and computable.[11] On the LOTH view, thoughts and their contents are causally efficacious. That is to say, reasoning is a matter of causal relationships between thoughts. Thoughts are composed of parts that stand in physical and causal relations to one another. When parts are assembled according to logical form they succeed in exhibiting sound structure. Finally, sentences rely on the completeness of higher order logic and so when sentences succeed in obtaining syntactic properties of well-formed formed formulas, they can become part of a mechanical process of inferences in the same way a computer calculates outputs according to the wffs of its inputs.

It is easy to see how, given these features of the LOT, the mind is analogous to a computer. As Fodor suggests, “the operations of the machine consist entirely of transformations of symbols; In the course of performing these operations, the machine sensitive solely to syntactic properties of the symbols; And the operations that the machine performs on the symbols are entirely confined to altering their shapes.”[12]

In sum, Fodor provides a picture that is supposed to account for thought. However, there are at least two remaining stories to be told for an adequate naturalistic account for thinking. The first involves an account of mental states in relationship with propositions. In other words, what it means for a subject to believe something to be true. The second involves an account of semantic content: How is it that sentences in the LOT carry meaning?

In regards to propositional attitudes, Fodor argues that a subject’s mental state can be analyzed in terms of a relationship the subject has with a sentence-like concrete entity in the brain that represents the world. Propositional attitudes have syntactic structure in virtue of which they have semantic content and truth conditions which can be attached to them in virtue of their composition.[13] Propositional attitudes are generally taken to be the relations subjects have to propositions.[14] Propositions are grasped, entertained, and assented to or rejected. They are capable of bearing truth values and are expressed by sentences of natural languages. The language of thought is not a natural language but an internal representational system that represents concepts to the agent. On the LOTH view, for a subject to have a propositional attitude is for the subject to stand in relation to sentence-like entities in an internal language that is capable of linguistically representing semantic meaning to the subject. Consequently, it is not propositions that bear truth values but sentences in mentalese.

For this picture to work, the subject must have a propositional attitude toward some entity that has content. On the LOTH view, semantics supervene on syntax. If the mind is computational and its cognitive processes are linguistic, then the meaning of sentences in mentalese supervene on the syntactic structure of those sentences. In contrast, many philosophers of language contend that syntax is determined by semantics. The structure of sentences is determined by the intended meaning the sentence is supposed to communicate. On the LOTH view, however, the brain computes in symbols that, in turn, provide the meaning.[15] Natural languages consist in physical entities that are causally efficacious. They are used by speakers to cause a change in the mental state of hearers whose mental state, if the communication is successful, changes to accord with the mental state of the speaker. To communicate by producing wave forms is for the speaker to produce a wave form of words standardly used for communicating an intended description that is recognized by the hearer: “communication consists in establishing a certain kind of correspondence between their mental states.”[16]

Those who hold to the LOTH are generally intentional realists. Intentional realism is the view that thoughts or symbols succeed at being about something.[17] Traditionally, what thoughts are about are objects of some kind, propositions. Propositions are entities that have aboutness, they are about something and bear truth values dependent upon whether what they say about that something turns out to be true or false. Linguistic intentional realism, however, differs with respect to the mental state itself, the attitude the subject has. On the LOTH view, the mental state is a complex structure that “the syntactic structure of mental states mirrors the semantic relations among their intentional objects.”[18] Thoughts have combinational semantics, they combine meanings and are productive of novel thoughts. Fodor argues that since natural languages have the ability to produce novel semantic content through combining their parts in novel ways, the likelihood of mental states having the same property is increased. What else is there? Fodor argues that since we lack a convincing story about non-linguistic intentional realism apart from reducing it to a version of neuroscience according to which one refers to the connections of neurons as an explanation, then the LOTH presents the best option.

In Sum, if what is required for thinking is a symbolic system that can capture semantic properties and a mechanistic physical base, then we have a powerful option for a naturalist understanding of the mind. However, I will argue that the account fails. First, I will argue that the account fails to show how sentences in the language of thought can carry any semantic content. Second, I will argue that what we believe—propositions—cannot be concrete and that if they are not concrete, then they are not in languages of thought, at least not in languages of thought that are physically realized.

My first claim involves the suggestion that sentences cannot have intentionality. Intentionality is a property of thinking. If thoughts are representations in an internal language of thought, then the question is: what is it about that language that gives it intentionality? On the LOTH, one’s propositional attitude consists in a mental representation of P in mentalese that means P. Therefore, Brentano’s question becomes a question about mentalese. What gives mentalese the ability to be about anything?

The obvious answer is that intentionality is an appeal to Tarski-style truth conditions according to which the truth conditions of LOT are analogous to the truth conditions of propositional logic. A complex sentence is true or false in virtue of the truth values of the simple sentence from which it composed combined with the rules which govern the functions of the connectives between each simple sentence. The most relevant semantic property, after all, is the truth value of a sentence.[19] As in logic, the semantic properties of a sentence are determined by atomic sentences which compose it combined with the rules which determine their relations. This, combined with some naturalistic understanding of mental states such as a referential and causal account, should provide enough material to solve the problem.

The latter claim involves the input from the external world which causes the internal representation in LOT. A causal theory appeals to the idea that entities, events and such in the external world cause representations to occur. Given this view, LOTH proponent is committed to saying that a subject’s mental state is intentional only if it is in a causal relation both with other mental states and with inputs from the subject’s environment.[20] The problem with such a view is that many thoughts bear no relation to the environment in which the subject is actually in. One might be thinking about fictional characters, or one might be thinking about people or things that are not and have never been in one’s environment. One reply is to say that thought about entities not in our environment are parasitic on entities which are. It might be possible to construct representations based on what actually in one’s environment in order to generate thoughts about representations that are not.

The deeper problem of a causal theory was raised by Karl Popper. Popper argues that any causal series has a beginning—the entity causing the representation—and an end—the mental state representing the entity. The problem Popper highlights is that given the mass of options for inputs from a particular environment there is nothing that can determine which particular bit of the environment triggers the series. If so, then one needs to appeal to some other factor apart from the causal series to determine which bit of the environment is the beginning of the chain (and, mutatis mutandis the end of the series). According to Popper, there is a set of mind-dependent factors such as purpose and interest that determine what, out of an incredibly complex and large amount of environmental inputs ought to be the thing to think about.[21]

A further argument can be advanced against the language of thought itself. Sentences themselves are composed of parts. Indeed, the LOTH is supposed to hold explanatory power because it explains how thoughts can have compositionality. However, it is not clear at what level, or at which part, of a sentence in mentalese meaning resides. There appear to be two options. Either meaning is carried at the atomic, primitive level of symbols from which sentences are composed or at the molecular, sentence level. If it is at the atomic level, then it cannot have the property of bearing truth on a Tarskian view since, on the Tarskian view, it is sentences that have truth conditions. If, on the other hand, it is at the sentence level then it may be a candidate for truth conditions but it is not clear how one obtains the components except by having a semantic interpretation at the atomic level.[22] Therefore, as Aydede and McLaughlin suggest, “officially LOTH would only contribute to a complete naturalization project if there is a naturalistic story at the atomic level.”[23]

In The Language of Thought: A New Philosophical Direction, Susan Schneider proposes that we analyze meaning at an atomic level but instead of loading the symbol with the burden of carrying some property of meaning derived from the molecular level, we should look to a pragmatic theory at the atomic level in virtue of which meaning is a function of the role the symbol plays in the total system. “symbols must be individuated by what they do, that is by the role they play in one’s cognitive economy, where such is specified by the total computational role of the symbol.”[24] In Schneider’s view, pragmatic atomism is the thesis that symbols are individuated by the role they play or by what they do. They stand in relation to entities in the world causally and then play a role in the total system in order to produce relevant results according to internal rules.

The problem with this response is that pragmatism cannot privilege the role an entity plays according to any intrinsic property the entity has. Consider, for example, the carrot. Is it for nutrition or for a snowman’s nose? On pragmatism, neither is privileged according to anything internal to the carrot. The carrot can function as either and neither is more privileged than the other. On pragmatism, what is true of the carrot is true for anything else and mutatis mutandis, for symbols.

Furthermore, if the theory of meaning is pragmatic at its most fundamental level, it is not easy to see how one could justify the claim. In seeking a naturalistic explanation for thought one is seeking for something that is true about the world, some way in which thought can be accounted for in terms of what is permitted in a world described in naturalistic terms. If one of those truths is: “thought is explained by the existence of a mental language physically realized in the brain” then surely the desiderata of such an account is that it be true. But how should one justify the claim? If we say that meaning is at the atomic level and that it is determined by the role symbols play, then we shall have to appeal to pragmatism to justify our claim. But pragmatism only gives us what it is rational to believe in order to further our own interests.[25] Surely, though, an argument for LOTH is supposed to show us evidence from which we can infer that it is true. One might believe something for one’s best interest despite it being false. Making pragmatism the final court of appeal, therefore, undermines the justification of the claim and ostensibly the whole LOTH project.

My second objection comes from Alvin Plantinga who argues that propositions are not the kinds of things that can be concrete. However, in order for a sentence in the language of thought to have causal powers it must, on the naturalistic assumption, be a concrete object.[26] There are some straight forward objections to the view that propositions are concrete. For example, there are propositions that no one has yet entertained let alone believed. If there are such propositions, then LOTH is false since the LOTH admits only sentences in the language of thought and if there are sentences that have not been represented to any subject then they either do not exist or LOTH is false and those propositions exist outside the language of thought.

Second, different language speakers believe the same thing. But it cannot be the same thing if it is a concrete object, an inscription in the brain, since different brains contain different inscriptions. One might reply that the inscriptions are the same, but that would be to assume that there is something more than the inscription itself, an abstract object beyond the inscription that is expressed by the inscription. But if the inscription is all there is, then the two inscriptions, no matter how similar they are in shape and form, cannot be said to be the same.

A LOTH proponent could reply that the LOT is not concrete but rather is a description of mental states which are what we call propositions. This reply would be a species of conceptualism whereby propositions are mind dependent thoughts which exist in virtue of being thought, in which case the LOT would serve as propositions. However, this would defeat the aim of providing a naturalist account of thought by admitting some entities that are not describable in physical terms. Furthermore, such a view only generates a finite quantity of thoughts. But surely there are thoughts that have not been had which are nonetheless true.

Plantinga’s strongest argument suggests that the cost of believing that propositions are concrete are modal truths. On LOTH, if there had been no human beings, then there would be no propositions. Yet, if there had been no human beings, “there are no human beings” would have been true. The feature most associated with such an assertion is that it is necessarily true that if there were no human beings, then “there are no human beings” would have been true.

The response might be that the proposition in question cannot both exist and be false, a kind of weak necessity. “for a proposition p to be necessary, it is not required that p be such that it could not have failed to be true: all that’s required is that p be such that it could not have been false.”[27] In other words, for a propositions to be weakly necessarily true what is required is and if p exists, then p is true. The problem, according to Plantinga, is that the belief, held by the LOTH proponent, that “there are brain inscriptions” cannot be have been false since the LOTH proponent thinks it is true in which case it cannot have been false that there are brains. Plantinga concludes that if propositions were concrete then there would be far too many necessary truths and far too few possible truths.

The LOTH is supposed to give us a naturalistic account of thought. It does so by postulating the existence of an innate language of thought combined with a representational/computational theory of mind. I have argued that syntax cannot convey intentionality unless it is conceived of pragmatically in terms of functional materialism in which case it cannot be epistemically justified. Furthermore, I have argued that propositions cannot be concrete and, therefore, cannot be sentences.

[1] There, perhaps, many more reasons for rejecting the view. However, for the sake of brevity I will focus on objections about rationality and intentionality on the LOTH view rather than objections to the computational theory of mind.
[2] Jerry Fodor, The Language of Thought (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1975), 1–2. Fodor, Jerry A., and Zenon W. Pylyshyn. 2014. Minds Without Meanings: An Essay on the Content of Concepts. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2014), 3–6.
[3] Murat Aydede and Brian McLaughlin “The Language of Thought Hypothesis”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .
[4] Alan Turing, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”, Mind 59 (October, 1950): 433-60
[5] The Language of Thought, 27.
[6] McLaughlin, 16.
[7] The Language of Thought, 31.
[8] Ibid., 34–35.
[9] Ibid., 37.
[10] Ibid., 55.
[11] José Luis Bermúdez, Thinking Without Words (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 22–24.
[12] Jerry Fodor, Psychosemantics: The Problem of Meaning in the Philosophy of Mind (Cambridge, Mass: A Bradford Book, 1987), 19.
[13] Mark Richard, “Propositional Attitudes”, in A Companion the Philosophy of Language eds. Bob Hale and Crispin Wright (Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishers, 1997), 208.
[14] Ibid., 197.
[15] John Searle’s “Chinese room argument” is supposed to show that semantics cannot come from syntax. John Searle, “Minds, Brains, and Programs” in The Nature of Mind ed. David Rosenthal (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 509–519.
[16] The Language of Thought, 108.
[17] Psychosemantics, xi.
[18] Ibid., 138.
[19] Alfred Tarski, Logic, Semantics, Metamathematics; Papers from 1923 to 1938 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1956).
[20] Edward Feser, Philosophy of Mind (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2005),
[21] Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutations; the Growth of Scientific Knowledge (New York: Routledge, 1963), 395–402.
[22] Aydede and McLaughlin, 18.
[23] Ibid., 19.
[24] Susan Schneider, The Language of Thought: A New Philosophical Direction (Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2011), 163.
[25] Michael Rea, World Without Design: The Ontological Consequences of Naturalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 139.
[26] Alvin Plantinga, Warrant and Proper Function (New York: Oxford, 1993), 117–119.
[27] Ibid., 119.

Why We Should Argue About Worldview: A Reply to Jonathan Merritt.

Conservative Christians keep losing at culture wars. So argues Johnathan Merritt. Merritt thinks he knows why. They are obsessed with arguing about worldview. Consequently, Conservative Christians are failing to persuade people:

They focus on ideology while ignoring people: When Christians talk about [x], they often frame it as a clash of worldviews or ideologies...Those who have a more progressive view... use concrete language and share specific stories. They talk about real... people with real struggles who experience real oppression. Narrative framing usually wins in public debates because it touches listeners’ hearts.

Whether or not Merritt is right about convincing people is hard to tell. What I would like to quibble with is the suggestion that to argue about worldviews is to ignore people. Worldviews matter and are worth arguing about because worldviews are about people. Every personal story assumes a worldview, every way we interpret the world assumes a worldview, and worldviews inform decisions and decisions have consequences.

First, I'm not sure that worldviews are the only thing Conservative Christians talk about as Merritt claims, at least not in an abstract way. There are plenty of Christians telling their stories in order to persuade people of their view. For a good example, watch John Piper's personal testimony about racism (here).

Perhaps Conservative Christian narratives focus more on what we have done wrong than what society is doing wrong to us. While the progressive one that Merritt talks about is often about "people with real struggles who experience real oppression" (and, I presume, most of the struggles are related to corrupt societal systems), the Christian narrative is often thus: I am the oppressor, the sinner, the one who deserves no favor; yet I am saved by the favor of God through believing in one who was oppressed and killed in my place.  This is the power of the song, Amazing Grace.  However, some of the most powerful narratives of the kind Merritt has in mind are not non-Christian. The paradigmatic example is Martin Luther King who sung the distress of the oppressed and gave people hope, opposed evil and did so from a decidedly Christian worldview.

The amazing thing about the Christian story is that both those oppressed and the oppressor unite in being freed from bondage. A slave trader and a civil rights leader both sing that Grace is truly amazing and both, as King preached, seek to solve the worlds problems at the "feet of Jesus." (MLK "Loving Your Enemies" Speech, November 17, 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama)

Merritt suggests that arguing about worldview shows that Conservative Christians don't care about people. But worldviews matter precisely because they matter for people. I can't see that arguing about worldview is necessarily uncaring or ignores people. How people think about the world and their place in it is worth arguing over. If your worldview teaches you something that is immoral or teaches that there is no such thing as morality, then the argument should be about worldview precisely because it is about people. All people have worldviews, ways to think about the world. But if a worldview is false and it being false is going to mess up your life, then it is compassionate to argue about it.

Merritt suggests that a better strategy for Conservative Christians would be to argue from science. Science, Merritt presumes, doesn't involve worldviews; it is worldview neutral. In contrast, Conservative Christians often appeal to scripture, a worldview heavy justification for any belief and one only acceptable to those who already accept some authority in scripture:

They prooftext from scripture while ignoring science: Christian discussions about [x] issues often skip over science and use scripture to prooftext their positions. 

It is mildly spurious to suggest that Conservative Christians ignore science. Of course, it depends what you mean by science. Some people are naturalists and think that science entails naturalism. But that is false (a topic for another time). But notice that we will only know that naturalism is false if we engage in a debate about worldviews--naturalism verses theism. This shows us something else - science is not necessarily neutral; it is carried out by people with worldviews.

However, using scripture is not silly or irrelevant. Neither is appealing to reality on which to base ethical decisions. If reality is a flux of matter, then what is it that makes some activity immoral? If no answer is forthcoming there is very little sense in talking about oppression since oppression seems to appeal to some fundamental idea about what is right and wrong. If the stories of struggles and oppression are to make sense, they require some assumptions about what is right and wrong and what it is about reality that makes it so. How do you know about reality? If the Bible is indeed the very word of God, then you bet Christians are listening and basing ethical judgments on its contents. But everyone is appealing to a version of reality on which to base their judgments because everyone has a worldview and worldviews are worth arguing about.

The final problem with Conservative Christian is they often descend into fear-mongering. If Conservative Christians wish to persuade anyone, they will have to stop fear mongering about societal meltdown:

They rely on fear while ignoring facts: Conservative Christians often rely on bombast to create a feeling of panic and urgency on culture war issues. They will often talk as if the future existence of Western society–or every society–depends on the matter.

I'm am mildly apocalyptic by nature so I recognize a fair criticism. I can often imagine where some decision might lead and overstate the consequences (this propensity I share with many a politician!). However, an argument that says there are consequences to actions is not coercion if there are in fact consequences to actions. History is littered with bad actions resulting in really terrible consequences. Warning people that decisions made now will wind us up in a bad spot is neither mongering anything nor ignoring facts. Whether warnings turn out or not is another matter. But warning people about what'll happen if they sleep around is not ignoring facts. It is appealing to facts, predictable results from actions. The fact is Conservative Christians, if they love God, don't want people to make a mess of their lives. And sometimes they will try to persuade people not to do one thing or to do another thing. And quite often, although not always (because, according to the Conservative Christian worldview, we are all sinful) they do it precisely because they care deeply about the people they are trying to persuade.

Plastic Theseus

The famed puzzle about the Theseus' ship getting its parts replaced involves an assumption: the ship is made of wood and so are the replacement parts. But what if the parts used to replace the old parts are not wood, but plastic? Perhaps, over time, each wooden part of the ship is replaced with a plastic part. We can even follow the story where it usually goes: the old parts are reassembled in some warehouse somewhere. There lies in the warehouse an old ship with all the old wooden parts while at sea a plastic ship goes about its business bearing the famous name. The question is: does this alter one's judgement about persistence? Would we think of the old wooden parts having a better claim to being the ship of Theseus or are we prepared to allow grandeur to attach to a plastic ship? If you want to make the story more clashing, just imagine the plastic ship being bright yellow, you know, lego yellow.

If you are partial to the plastic ship, consider the following: What if your body was gradually replaced by new parts but those parts are not body parts but plastic artifacts? Presumably the rather macabre version of this story includes thinking about reassembly but let's not go there unless we have to. So you have plastic arms, legs, internal organs et al but you retain your brain. They all work fine and so you are alive. Would you be that object?  Perhaps you might wonder how you could be a bunch of plastic machinery. Perhaps you are your brain. As long as that's there, then so are you.

So, consider it the other way round. What if, instead of your body, your brain is the thing getting replaced, not all at once, but piece at a time. According to much contemporary neuroscience, the brain is divisible into parts with each part responsible for various functions you and I take  for granted. So perhaps we just replace those parts--function specific parts--one at a time with computer chips. Each function is retained (the chip is advanced enough to cope with the processing power needed for each function) and you go about your daily life until your entire brain is now a collection of chips working smoothly together to generate what you call a personal experience, a life. Do you buy it? If not why not? What is it about your brain that makes you reject this?

Here is one reason: Let's say you have all your body parts replaced by plastic parts and suppose that while all your parts are being replaced an identical body is being made from identical parts. So, once all your parts have been replaced you sit across the room from something that is the same as you except devoid of a brain. Now imagine your brain is gradually replaced with chips. And imagine that the parts of your brain that are removed are placed in the head of the counterpart. When all is done you sit across the room from something that is the same as you in body but very different inside the head. The question is: which one are you? Did you follow the brain matter or stay put? You cannot be conscious in two places, you could not be in both bodies. So where are you?

Perhaps you are thinking that you are neither your brain nor the chips, but an immaterial soul. In which case it doesn't much matter about what your body is made out of. The Lord could have made plastic bodies instead of fleshy bodies. If so, which body you are in may be rather less significant. Intuitively, you might think that going with the brain makes more sense. After all, that is what you were originally designed with. There is a problem with this however. The brain was transferred part by part. The question is: which part did the soul tag along with? Perhaps that's is not so difficult. As long as you transferred with it, it doesn't matter if you went with the first part or the last.

If you don't think you are a soul the dilemma is a little deeper. You either stayed put or transferred to the other body. If you think that you went with your brain, there must have been some definitive moment at which you crossed over. The brain went over piece by piece. So which piece is you? If you are not your soul, then you are a piece of your brain. But this seems weird. It means that some definitive part, perhaps a very small part, of your brain is you. So, when you say, "I went to the pub" you are referring to a small bit of your brain and you have really no idea which bit.

If you stayed put, there is another problem. If you remained with the now entirely artificial object, then you are not identical to any physical part. There are no physical candidates left. And if you are not identical to any physical part, then you are not material. You are a soul.

Notes: Material Beings by Peter van Inwagen

“There are no visible objects but men and women and cats and other living organisms… There are no tables or books or rocks or hands or legs.”[1]

10 metaphysical presuppositions:

1. The identity relation is absolute and allows for no relative identity. Absolute identity holds that for any x, x is identical to y iff all that is true of x is true of y. Relative identity is the denial of absolute identity and suggests that identity is sortal relative.
2. Four dimensionalism, the thesis that an object’s parts include its temporal parts (time-slices) is false.
3. Logic is an ideal but the use of non-standard logics in consideration of vagueness should not impinge on the general use of traditional logic.
4. Lewis’s counterpart theory about modal statements is false.
5. Material things are ultimately composed of simples, irreducible parts.
6. The constitutionalist theory of objects is false. The constitutionalist theory holds that a concrete particular can be composed of two objects, material and form (Lumpy and the statue of Athena)
7. In terms of personal identity all mental predicates require a singular subject. These singular terms expressed in a predicative sentence apply to single reference.
8. Mereological essentialism, the thesis that wholes have their parts essentially, is false. It is possible for an object to be composed of different simples at different times and maintain its identity.
9. Ontology is not determined by convention. Conventions are not possible without some sort of grasp on an independent reality.
10. There are no conditions outside of spatial and causal relations by which parts are made into wholes. A theory about an object’s composition cannot appeal to a mental judgment but must only appeal to the candidates permissible within a three-dimensional space.

Definition of a material object:

Some thing is “a material object if it occupies space and induce three-time and can move about in space (literally move about, unlike a shadow or a wave or a reflection) and has a surface and has a mass and is made of a certain stuff or stuffs.”[2]

Composition Question

If one is confronted with a stack of parts, what would one have to do in order to get them to be a whole? Van Inwagen’s answer: there is no good answer this question. If one believes that the whole is formed by the contact of the parts, have we formed a new object when two people shake hands?[3] Suppose many people jam into a subway car. All the people are touching. Do all the touching people form a new object for the duration of the journey? Furthermore, there appears to be no way to quantify the amount of objects created through contact. If bricks are parts and the house is a whole, then there is no way to know if there are not many objects composed by the parts as well as the house. This is not to say that we are not justified in calling a house what we do, only that in theory of contact cannot tell us that there are not more objects lurking in the composition.[4]

Perhaps then there is a stronger bonding that must take place in order for parts to compose object and that that object is unique, in other words there is only one object formed. The second answer might be some kind of fastening. However, suppose two men shake hands and become paralyzed; they are unable to retract their hands and thus remain locked together, fastened. Yet surely we would not want to say that the two men have formed one new object. Even if the hands were forced to cohere so that they cannot be pulled apart without breaking their hands they surely would still not be referred to as a new object.

Finally, van Inwagen considers considers the most radical form of bonding, fusion, the merging of two objects. Something fuses with another object if and only if there is no discernible seam where the two objects come into contact. However, consider: a mad scientist joins a set of children by cutting off their arms and binding them together so that there is no discernible point at which one child begins and the other ends. It seems that we would not want to consider the set of children to be one new object.

The only remaining options available are Nihilism and Universalism. Nihilism is the thesis that, for any region of space, that region contains only elementary particles or simples. More precisely:

There exists some y such that the x’s compose y if and only if there is only one of the x’s.

Nihilism entails the view that nothing exists or, more precisely, that nothing bears properties unless it is a simple. Van Inwagen notes that this would entail that you and I do not exist and this is false. Furthermore, you and I have parts. Therefore, nihilism is false.

The more plausible view is universalism. Universalism is the view that in the arrangement of parts one always brings about the existence of an object: “It is impossible for one to bring it about that something is such that the x’s compose it because necessarily if the x’s are disjoint something is such that the x’s compose it.”[5] Universalism entails that for any set of disjoint objects, in other words objects which are not joined to one another such as “my left tennis shoe, W V Quine, and the Taj Mahal, then there is another object that those three things compose” (Rea (1998), 348). It is worth paying attention to van Inwagen’s argument for the falsity of universalism. It is as follows:

A. I exist now and I existed 10 years ago B. I am an organism (in the biological sense), and I have always been an organism. C. every organism is composed of (some) atoms (or other) at every moment of its existence. D. consider any opposite organism that existed 10 years ago; all of the atoms that composed it 10 years ago still exist. E. Consider any organism that exists now and existed 10 years ago; none of the atoms that now compose that organism is among those that compose that 10 years ago. F. If universalism is true, then the x’s cannot ever compose two objects. That is, the x’s cannot compose two objects either simultaneously or successively. More formally, If universalism is true, then it is not possible that $y $z $w $v (the x’s compose y at the moment w, And the x’s compose z at the moment v, and y is not identical with z)[6]

The premise in question is F. A universalist thinks that, by virtue of their existence, objects compose an object even though they are not joined together. In other words, the arrangement of parts is not relevant to the composition of wholes. Van Inwagen proposes a dilemma for the Universalist. He asks us to consider an object made up of parts. The object’s parts are then scattered through time and space moving constantly in relation to one another. If the Universalist believes that the object goes out of existence as soon as the parts begin to scatter then he is committed to positional essentialism. Positional essentialism entails the view that for any movement of an object the object ceases to exist. When van Inwagen sits on his car turns the wheel there is strictly speaking a large set of different cars that he is driving. If, however, the Universalist believes that the object continues to exist after the scattering of its parts to the four corners of the earth, then the object continues to exist no matter how disparate and disjointed those parts become. Van Inwagen argues, “assume the truth of universalism; Consider that that the atoms that compose me 10 years ago; if F is true, those atoms compose me now; But those atoms obviously do not compose me now, and universalism is, therefore, false.”[7]

Rea’s reply: Why should we accept that scattered parts composing something entails that they cannot be arranged in some way so as to compose something new? Arranging parts “as a model of Salisbury Cathedral is necessary and sufficient for creating an object that is essentially a model of the Salisbury Cathedral.”[8] To say that parts come to be arranged as something is to say that the parts are arranged according to a kind. If set, S, of parts are scattered parts (to the four winds, so to speak) and then come to be arranged as a human being, then S goes out of existence. The key to Rea’s objection is a defense of the fundamentality of kinds. Parts are arranged function wise and thereby constituting an object according to a kind. A computer, for example, is “endowed with a purpose or function” and thereby constitutes an important type of organization analogous to the organization of an organism. If one is not limited to living organisms on this score, then any arrangement as an object composes an object iff it is arranged for some purpose or function. Rea concludes, “any type of organization can be kind constituting.”[9]

The Proposed Answer to SCQ.

Van Inwagen’s proposed answer to the special composition question is that the necessary and sufficient conditions for composition essentially involve a causal relationship between parts:

There exists some y such that the x’s compose y and only if the activity of the x’s institutes a life or there is only one of the x’s

Where there is a certain causal activity obtaining in a collection of simples such that we are warranted to denote it as having life, then there is an object. That object is an organism, a biological self-sustaining collection of simples causally related to each other internally. Where no such life obtains, where there is no self-sustaining organizing life principle, there is not an object but only simples arranged object-wise.

What sorts of features distinguish the event of a life in distinction from other kinds of events? By life, Van Inwagen means the event of a self organizing and persisting through time.

Parts are both shared and new parts are brought into the life. Van Inwagen calls this internal causation since the causal relations obtain within the complex organism. One of these self directing or self maintaining features is the feature of an intentional life. What van Inwagen needs to provide is some account of the statement “I exist.” Inwagen assumes that Descartes is right in looking for a unity of thought, a singular subject. But how is this possible if we are a collection of parts that composes organic life? While Inwagen accepts the Cartesian argument for the unity of consciousness he rejects the conclusion that the one doing the thinking is a separate substantial soul. But why think that a unity of thought requires a unity of substance such that the substance is a simple in its self such as a soul would-be? The ground of unity is just as likely to be “a dynamic storm of simples, a jealous event.”[10] Cartesian arguments force Inwagen to concede that some organisms think. Inwagen does not believe that one has to conclude that there is a simple thinking self as the grounds for unity of thought. In contrast “the fact that I am a thinking being shows that there is at least one composite material object. But it does not explain how it is possible for there to be a composite material object. The fact that I think presupposes but does not explain the fact that certain simples compose something.… it is possible… that I might cease to think—that I might lose the very capacity forethought—and continue to exist… The fact that a certain feature of a being is of pre-eminent, even transcendent, value to that being does not even seem to show that that feature is metaphysically essential to it.”[11] Inwagen thinks that Descartes commits a fallacy for he assumes that one is able to think of a thinking thing since it seems closer to the subject then everything else. Thoughts are right here whereas hands and feet are over there.

Hasker’s objection: Hasker argues that a thinking thing cannot be composed of parts. No complex of material simples can produce thought. He believes he has this in common with Inwagen. For Hasker, this implies that if physical complex objects cannot determine any more than the properties and relations of its parts, then it is not the physical complex object that is doing the thinking. Inwagen, on the other hand, argues from the same premise that complex objects, namely human organisms, must be an exception. If Holism is false, then complex objects (organisms) cannot be determined by anything above the properties and relations of their parts.[12] Does Hasker fall by his own sword? If a complex of simples cannot produce thought, how could it produce a soul?

Here is an argument van Inwagen could make:[13] Suppose there is a set of simples composing the brain of A. Now what simples are in or out of S is not clear (van Inwagen claims there are boundary simples that are neither in or out of S). So, it follows that there is at least one other set, S`, composed of all of S plus simple, x. If sets of simples think then it doesn’t matter about whether S or S` is doing the thinking. But what if arrangements of simples produce souls? If S and S` are sufficient for the production of a soul, then what’s to say there are not two souls present or many souls? Surely the problem of overcrowding is far more pressing on the emergent dualist than it is on van Inwagen. The emergent dualist might deny vagueness (I’m not sure what Hasker would say about vagueness) but he would have a tough job given paradoxes.


An organism persists if and only if its life continues. Olson argues that this has the consequence that when an organism ceases to function, when it ceases to organize itself through a complex internal structure, it ceases to exist.[14] If, as Inwagen argues, the complex concrete particular of the human being as an organism is dependent upon its composition conditions for life, then, if those conditions cease to obtain, then the object itself ceases to exist.

Van Inwagen however argues that there is at least some part of the brain that persists as an object through time since he also believes that the resurrection of the dead entails the persistence of personal identity after death.

So what does van Inwagen think about the brain he is inclined he tells us to follow in the footsteps of Daniel Dennett who proclaimed that where his brain goes he goes. The thesis of being identical to one’s brain or to referring to oneself in the first person meaning a reference to one’s brain one has to consider two thought experiments. The first considers a case in which your brain is carefully removed from your skull then placed within this goal of another body. The question in this case is: who went where? The second question concerns the gradual reduction of a body until we reach a part after which we cease to exist, call this be shaving question. Call the first problem the body Switch.

According to the shaving question various body parts can be detached without impinging on the continuance of the life. Suppose one loses a finger. Should the finger be considered as part of the life? According to the Inwagen, since the finger is no longer part of the self-organizing organism it no longer counts as an object in the strict sense, it is merely a collection of simples arranged anything otherwise. Notice that this view does not entail that there was a finger as an object prior to it’s being removed. Rather, “before the finger was cut off the samples that virtually composed it were all caught up in a life, but their activities did not constitute that life… After the finger that was cut off, however, they were not caught up in a life at all.”[15] What has been said about a finger could be said about other body parts as well. Further, consider that the removal of the head is done gradually during a speech made by the subject and that the removal of his body is done so that he has not aware that it is happening to him. Inwagen presumes that this leaves us with the conclusion that though the subject loses his body he continues to be the same person. Of course the shaving problem ultimately leads to the naked brain or the brain in a vat. The case of the brain in the vat is no different to the case of the man who has lost a finger. Though many functions are lost and in the case of the brain in that all the functions that we associate with a human being are lost there is in principle no logical difference between this shaving of body parts and the shaving of all body parts until one is left only with the brain.

What does van Inwagen say about the body switch problem or the brain transplant problem? Van Inwagen asks us to recall that though we regard the brain in the vat as a radically maimed person he does not believe that there is an object in the vat. The brain is a virtual object. The part which is not the brain is merely the brain compliment is a virtual object and is thus a brain compliment and not an object. The largest part of the organism is not the brain but the individual cell

Consider Inwagen’s analogy of an Empire. The empire is run from the palace and the palace administrates the organization of the Empire. Then a catastrophe destroys or removes the communication and organization of Paris from the Empire. Van Inwagen claims that this would not destroy the Empire but only isolated very small remnants of the administrative staff. Van Inwagen argues that in reducing the Empire A new object is not thereby created for nothing can become a preexistent object for that would violate the principle of the transitivity of identity. Recall that van Inwagen suggests we think of the shaving problem not in terms of an object such as the finger existing either before it is severed or after.


Inwagen suggests that the fact that there are no tables does not imply that he is suggesting we are somehow at fault for saying things like, “there is a table over there.” In ordinary daily life we use terms that are imprecise, vague and only pragmatically employed. In philosophy, however, we should precisify our language. Inwagen suggests that it is rather like a group of settlers who come across a black tiger and call it a bliger. At some point they discover that the bliger is really just a combination of animals and not a tiger at all. What do you think? One might respond by saying, “well, now we know that there are no bligers we can say that there are no bligers.” And what goes for the bliger goes for the table.

In the final couple of chapters Inwagen concedes that membership of the set, S, of simples that compose organisms is vague since one can come up with x’s whose membership of S is indeterminate

Vagueness of identity

Evans’ argument:[16]
(1) Indeterminately (a=b)
(2) It is not the case that indeterminately (a=a) since a is identical to itself.
(3) b has the property of being indeterminately identical to a, but a does not have the property of being indeterminately identical to a
(4) Therefore, it is not the case that (a=b) (2,3 and by Leibniz Law)

What is Inwagen’s response? Inwagen employs a third category logic whereby some sentences are assigned a truth value neither true nor false. It is vague that p iff it is neither true or false that p.[17] Inwagen designates sentences of this type with the truth value ½. Other options might be to employ degreed truth values.[18] A sentence might be valued in degrees of truth (0, 0.25, 0.5, 0.75, 1).

Harold Noonan notices something about Inwagen’s argument. He says that Evans’ is arguing against metaphysical vagueness and for semantic vagueness. According to Noonan, Evans’ argument works because it forces the metaphysical vagueness proponent to locate vagueness in language. What does van Inwagen do? Precisely that, says Noonan.[19]

[1] Peter van Inwagen, Material Beings (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990), 18.
[2] Ibid., 17.
[3] Ibid., 35.
[4] Ibid., 39.
[5] Ibid., 74.
[6] Ibid., 75.
[7] “it follows from A and B that I existed 10 years ago and was then a biological organism. It follows from C that 10 years ago that organism—I—was composed of certain atoms. Let us use T as an abbreviation for’ the atoms that composed me 10 years ago’. By D, all of T still exist. Now assume that universalism is true. Then T now compose something. Call it’ the thing that is at present the sum of T’ or’+T’. from universalism and F it follows that T composed Plus T 10 years ago. But, By definition, T composed me 10 years ago. Therefore, by F, I was plus T 10 years ago. But then IM plus tea now. If 10 years ago a certain object and I were such that there Was only one of us, then there is only one of us still: anything and itself cannot go their separate ways. But I am not now plus T at present, Plus T, if it exists at all, is (I would suppose) a rarefied spherical shell of atoms, About 8000 miles in diameter and a few miles; in any case, Plus T is now composed of atoms none of which are now parts of me. Our assumption of universalism has, therefore, led us to a falsehood, and universalism must be rejected.” Ibid., 78.
[8] Micheal Rea, “In Defense of Universalism” in Philosophy and Phenomological Research, Vol. 58, No. 2 (June, 1998), 349.
[9] Ibid., 355.
[10] Ibid., 121.
[11] Ibid., 120-121.
[12] William Hasker, The Emergent Self (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999), 140–144.
[13] This is essentially the argument Igor Gasparov makes against Dean Zimmerman’s view in Igor Gasparov, “Emergent Dualism and the Challenge of Vagueness,” in Faith and Philosophy Vol. 32 No. 4 (October 2015), 434.
[14] Eric Olson, What Are We? (New York: OUP, 2007).
[15] Ibid., 170.
[16] Ibid., 244.
[17] See Elizabeth Barnes, “Vagueness” in The Routledge Companion to Metaphysics, eds. Poidevin, Simons, McGonigal Cameron (New York: Routledge, 2012.
[18] For example, see Graham Priest, Logic (New York: Sterling, 2000), 93–103.
[19] Harold Noonan, Review of Material Beings

A Humean Dillema for Analogies and Artifacts

William Paley

"I knew Paley’s argument from design, knew about the watch and the watchmaker, and I knew now that these people—these Jesus freaks—were trundling out the same old argument dressed in new clothes. Intricacy requires design, that was what they said. And design requires a designer. That was as far as they could see, that was it, case closed: God exists. And the earth is ten thousand years old, just like the Bible says" (Dave, a character in a T.C Boyle story).[1]

William Paley’s analogical argument from design is simultaneously the best known and most derided argument for the existence of God. Ironically, the derision started before Paley wrote it. David Hume had been busy dismantling analogical arguments some years before Paley put quill to parchment. In this paper I will argue that though most of Hume’s objections to the argument fail, there is one that succeeds in sufficiently weakening the probability of the conclusion. I will argue that the objection forces the proponent of the analogical argument from design (AAD) into a dilemma. Either the AAD proponent must appeal to a priori knowledge or show that she has had sufficiently relevant experiences of divine designers. Unless the AAD proponent can claim to have experienced a divine designer she is forced to appeal to a priori knowledge. If she appeals to a priori knowledge the argument is no longer an argument from experience. At best this leaves us with a weak analogy that is limited to a hypothesis about a divine designer whom we can know very little about.[2] In honor of Paley’s valiance in the face of ridicule I quote him in full:

In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there, I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had laid there for ever; nor would it, perhaps, be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be enquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that, for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as four the stone? Why is it not as admissible in the second case as in the first? For this reason, and for no other, viz., that, when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive (What we could not discover in the stone ) that it’s several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g., that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that, if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, of a different size from what they are, or placed after any other manner, or in any other order then that in which they are placed, either no emotion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it.… this mechanism being observed, the inference, we think, is inevitable, that the watch had a maker: that there must have existed at some time, and some place or other, and artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer: Who comprehended its construction and designed its use… every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; With the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater and more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation.[3]

It is important to to note that Paley’s argument is not merely an inductive design argument. Rather, Paley’s conclusion depends upon a sufficient analogy between the relationship between the human designer of an artifact—in this case, a watch—and a divine designer of the world. To argue by analogy is to compare two entities and their attributes. An argument by analogy catalogues the attributes that are the same for two entities and then moves to an additional attribute known to be an attribute of one of the entities and suggests that the other entity has that attribute as well. An argument by analogy is strengthened by appealing to the relevancy, number and diversity of similarities between the analogues. It is weakened by appealing to a disanalogy, pointing out dissimilar attributes, and specificity in the conclusion.[4] A rough version of Paley’s argument runs like this:

(1) We know that a watch is designed
(2) The world is analogous to a watch
(3) For all we know, the world is designed.[5]

The first premise rests upon a disanalogy. Paley asks us to consider our reaction to finding a watch as we are crossing a heath as opposed to our reaction to kicking a rock on the heath. While we would not be surprised to find a rock, our attention to the watch would produce a different reaction. The watch, a complex mechanism endowed with purpose, would force the walker to presume that an intentional action carried out by an agent brought the watch into existence.

Paley’s argument is an inductive a posteriori argument. Paley’s appeal is to the common ground of experience. Both theist and atheist can imagine discovering a watch on a heath and concluding its design. While this creates common ground between Paley and his opponent it simultaneously restricts his grounds. He cannot, for example, having appealed to experience, smuggle in any a priori premises. This will be crucial to Hume’s criticism. Hume regards experience as foundational to any claim.[6]

Paley’s first premise does not rest solely upon the appearance of design in an artifact, as if one could know what designedness is prior to any experience of artifacts, but the knowledge that artifacts have designers. While he might tell the story as if one could spot designedness merely from experiencing the artifact he thinks that knowledge of its design is possible in virtue of background knowledge including knowledge of designers. As such, his argument appeals to an analogous relationship between designers of artifacts and the designer of the world. If the world exhibits qualities that are similar to artifacts, then the process by which the world came into being is similar to how the artifact came into being. Paley knows that artifacts are designed (from prior experience of artifact design). Therefore, he concludes, the world is probably designed.

The second premise relies on building an analogy between the watch in the world. Strictly speaking, Paley argues that within the world one can see particular evidences of design. He generalizes from specific instances of design to the conclusion that the world had a designer. Paley compares an eye with a telescope. Both appear to be complex mechanisms endowed with purpose or proper function. Clearly, Paley tells us, both complex mechanisms indicate design. If design is indicated not only by the telescope, which had a human designer, but by the eye that uses the telescope, then the conclusion, that the whole world was designed, follows by generalization. The step from the analogy between the artifact and the world passes through, as it were, an analogy between an instance of design found within the world—the human eye—to a generalization about the whole world. The reason for this step is that there are no other experiences of worlds to suggest any law like relation that obtains between them.[7] On the other hand, specific instances of entities that one is able to have multiple experiences of, such as eyes and other complex functioning organisms, can be grouped into a kind according to a set of law like common features. Since there is no other world-like item to compare our world with, the argument proceeds from the observation that several organic entities possess the relevant feature of design and therefore we can infer that the whole world posses such a feature.[8]

Enough has been said about the argument itself to prepare it for Humean criticism. It is important to note that Hume’s critique of the argument from design precedes Paley’s version of it in terms of publication. The argument, however, was in common use my other apologists impressed by the Newtonian worldview.[9] The Newtonian worldview had inspired mechanism, a view that “all of the properties of physical objects…can be accounted for in terms of mass, motion, charge, and so on, and therefore the laws governing these properties can give a complete explanation of all physical occurrences that can be explained.”[10] Paley’s appeal, then, is an appeal to a common conception of nature held supposedly by Christian and opponent alike.

Humean critiques of arguments for design from analogy are generally grouped into four. First, Hume attacks the analogous relationship between artifacts and the world. This criticism focuses on the generalization from specific instances of apparent design to the whole world having the same feature. Second, Hume suggests there are other competing designers such as demons or multiple gods that could explain the order of the world. Third, Hume suggests that laws of nature would work equally as an explanation for design. Fourth, Hume argued that since ideas and the life of the mind seems to be self-organizing there is no reason to suppose that matter cannot be similarly self-organizing.[11]

Hume’s central criticism of AAD is that the analogy is, at best, weak. His criticisms focus on the relevant experiences sufficient to conclude that the world was designed. Hume suggests that the analogy between the watch and the world is not as close as the AAD proponent suggests. Hume suggests that human artefacts do not possess attributes which are similar enough to warrant the conclusion. While one can plainly see the similarity between a watch and other humanly built artifacts, there is precious little reason to suppose that these human artifacts possess the same attributes as the world. The relevant feature lacking from the analogy is found in the experience of the AAD proponent. He argues that while we know from experience that a house has a builder we cannot know any such thing when it comes to the world. Recall that, in part, Paley’s argument rests on not the intrinsic properties of two objects but on an inference rooted in experience. Hume argues that we know from experience that a house is built by human builders but because we do not know from experience that the world was built by anyone we cannot form an analogous relationship between them. What we can know from experience is that the world exhibits order but we cannot know that there is an intentional agent behind such order.

Hume argues that if the theist wants to argue from experience he can only provide instances of observed conjunctions of objects. Hume’s Philo argues that valid inferences are drawn from experiences and produce facts which are testable through observation. He concludes: “When two species of objects have always been observed to become join together, I can infer, by custom, the existence of one where ever I see the existence of the other.”[12] Since no one has observed an intelligent designer, such as the one in question, causing anything to happen to an object we cannot conclude merely why the observation of defects that the causing question is intelligent let alone divine. If, however, the apologist was to appeal instead to some idea and not experience then the argument no longer can appeal to observation. In other words, if the idea is supposed to be found in experience but experience cannot provide it, then it is not open to the theist to appeal to any a priori reasoning to support his conclusion. In essence, Hume responds to the third premise, the claim that for all we know the world is designed, by suggesting that either we do know but we do not know through experience (and thus refusing the second premise) or we do not know that the world is designed.

Paul Russell, in his book, The Riddle of Hume’s Treatise, suggests that Hume’s engagement with Joseph Butler’s analogy formed the basis for his views on inductive reasoning. Butler’s analogy was that supposed to show that our experience of God’s world serves to provide strong evidence for a religion consistent with revealed religion. Our reasoning, Butler contended, is inductive, relying on the uniformity of nature - our experiences in the past will be repeated in the future. Hume’s response to Butler demonstrates Hume’s treatment of providing a foundation for probable reasoning based on analogy. Hume distinguishes between what in practice one relies on but what one cannot know in principle. While it is true that in practice we can infer from past experience what is highly likely in the future we cannot know in principle that the future will resemble the past. This observation sheds light on Hume’s reluctance to accept any argument from analogy supported by experience that seeks to demonstrate something that cannot only be known practically but can be known in principle. Hume’s “skeptical argument leads to the conclusion that none of our probable reasoning can be justified period insofar as religious inductive reasoning is considered at all, it is just one instance of this general skeptical problem. That is to say, that granted that the uniformity of nature lacks any justification, there is no basis for any reasoning from the past to the future.”[13]

The AAD defender could suggest that the limitations we have in our experience of the world’s designer is analogous to the experience of a Martian who, upon visiting earth is confronted both with the rock and with the watch. It seems plausible to think that the Martian would concur with Paley. The watch would appear to be designed even to a person who has never met a designer. In response, it might be said that a Martian who has never experienced any design or designer is an unintelligible thing. How would the Martian be able to agree with Paley if the Martian has never experienced anything like design? Knowing about design is not obtained through a priori means and if a person has had no experience of design or someone designing something, then the Martian would not have the conceptual equipment to answer the question as to whether or not the watch or the world appears designed.

Hume assumes that designedness cannot be found in matter. It is only upon experience of an artificer designing an artifact from matter that the concept of design is possible. Once one has experienced design one can observe similar features. This line of thought clearly expresses Hume’s anti-Aristotelian worldview. Matter, on Hume’s view is inert and can have no intrinsic capacities.[14] Paley’s view supposes that since we can observe purposive design there must be a designer who gives purpose to matter. If the AAP proponent thinks matter has intrinsic proper function, then there is no need to bring God into the equation. If, however, matter requires the intentional activity of a mind to give it purpose, then it must be shown from matter that there is a purpose to it. However, Hume argues, matter itself can show us no such thing. If it is possible to think that some object is designed one must have experienced a designer designing an artifact in the past. The Martian has had no experience. Therefore, the Martian cannot know that the watch is designed.

Perhaps the Martian has experienced artifacts and their designers, but on his planet there is no such thing as telling time. Perhaps he has so many suns that it is always light and he is of a species of Martian that never sleeps. He couldn’t mark time because he is not really aware of it as we earthlings with our seasons and nights are. Would the Martian recognize the watch as an artifact or would he see it like sees the rock? It seems plausible that the Martian would see a difference. He might even infer that the watch is an artifact. Crucially, he could know this without having a clue what the watch is for. As with the watch so with the world. If one is sufficiently able to spot an artifact, then one does not need to know the particular artifact is for. Knowing what design is does not entail that one has to know what a designed thing is for.[15]

Analogously, the world, even if it is conceded that it displays features that appear to be the result of an intentional mind does not tell us what it is designed to do. What does it mean for the world to be designed? The most obvious response is to suggest that just as the watch is designed for the purpose of telling the time, the world is designed for some purpose. The trouble is that coming up with the purpose for the world is slightly more difficult that suggesting the purpose of a watch. Perhaps a child comes across a tachistoscope. Would the child know that the tachistoscope is an artifact? It seems plausible to think so. Like our Martian, the child recognizes design without knowing the purpose of the artifact. If this is true, then it is equally plausible to confer such an observation on the world. While we can’t tell what the world is for just by looking at it, it might be possible to suggest that there is a purpose for it even if we don’t know what it is.

Though this view might be plausible to some, a Humean critic may find it weak. A Humean ontology includes inert entities that are related to each other spatially and temporally. Classes of entities are defined by similarities between entities. However, in order to posit a similarity one needs a class of entities each of whose members instantiate properties that resemble other members. However, while one can infer that there are a class of artifacts that exhibit features of design (i.e. they are made for some purpose or other), there is nothing that exists that resembles the world. There is a difference between experiences of artifacts and creations. I have had frequent experiences of artifacts and the designers who made them. In contrast, I have not had any experiences of any worlds apart from this one. If, in order to determine a class of designed worlds, I need more than one, then there is no way to determine the probability of God having created this universe given the order of this universe verses some other universe. Since the argument is supposed to show the probability a posteriori, the probability is indeterminate.

According to Hume, an analogical argument of this stripe can only appeal to experience. That is, after all, the common ground the AAD proponent seeks to build on. Since no one has either observed any designer making a world nor experienced being in an undersigned world, there is no reason to think the world we do live in is designed. Hume’s central criticism then is aimed at showing the irrelevancy of the experiences in question. In this paper I have argued that the latter argument forces the proponent of the AAD into a dilemma. Either the AAD proponent must appeal to a priori knowledge or he must show that he has had sufficiently relevant experiences of divine designers. Since the AAD proponent cannot claim to have experienced a divine designer designing anything he is forced to appeal to a priori knowledge. If he appeals to a priori knowledge the argument is no longer an argument from experience.

[1] The sentiments of Dave, a character in “Bulletproof,” a story about an atheist going up against a Christian teenager in a debate over creationist curriculum in American schools. T.C. Boyle, “Bulletproof,” in Wild Child and Other Stories (New York: Penguin, 2010), 96.
[2] There is a way to strengthen the conclusion by appealing to religious experience. One might suggest that AAD coupled with an argument from religious experience might strengthen the conclusion. In this paper, I focus exclusively on Paley’s (and Cleanthes’) form of the argument and I take the argument on its own merit without the context of a more culminative case argument. An AAD may indeed offer evidence as part of a culminative case for theism but taken alone I am inclined to agree with Hume’s central criticism. Furthermore, for the sake of retaining a narrow scope, I will ignore the contemporary cousin of Paley’s argument – the fine-tuning argument.
[3] William Paley, “The Analogical Teleological Argument,” in Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, eds. Peterson, Hasker, Reichenbach & Basinger (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 212–213.
[4] Patrick Hurley, A Concise Introduction to Logic (Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2008), 527.
[5] My version stresses the epistemological content of the argument. The criticism I am going to focus on depends on highlighting this aspect of the argument. If the reader prefers it can be stated more simply as one might find it in an introduction to the philosophy of religion: (1) A watch displays features of design (2) the world, like the watch, displays features of design (3) designed things have designers (4) ergo, the world has a designer.
[6] “That all inferences, Cleanthes, concerning fact are founded on experience, and that all experimental reasonings are founded on the supposition, that similar causes prove similar effects, and similar effects similar causes.” David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 23.
[7] Keith Yandell, Hume’s “Inexplicable Mystery”: His Views On Religion (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990), 177.
[8] Whether or not this is a fallacious move in the argument rests on whether or not one can mount a case that a sufficient quantity of experiences of entities within the world would give one warrant to generalize to the whole. But even this won’t do it. As Yandell remarks, it is possible to suggest that even though all the parts are machines, this still does not necessitate that the whole is a machine. Yandell, 179.
[9] Paul Russell, The Riddle of Hume’s Treatise (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 147–166.
[10] James Madden, Mind, Matter and Nature (Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2013), 219–220.
[11] I am roughly following Tim Mawson’s characterization of Hume’s criticisms. T. J. Mason, Belief in God: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 134–135.
[12] David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 26.
[13] Russell, 139.
[14] Strictly speaking, Hume’s point was epistemological: one cannot know from experience of matter whether or not it is endowed with capacities or powers.
[15] Resting in the background of this criticism is Hume’s view of causation. Hume thought that causation was not apparent through observation even while we practically assume it. In human work? Hume argued that if Adam were to confront two billiard balls having experienced no causes or affects before and if he was asked to predict what would happen when one billiard ball was rolled into the next, Adam would not know. After seeing many such instances of one billiard ball apparently causing another to move Adam would begin to conclude that the first billiard ball was causing the movement of the second. This, Hume argued, would be a mistake for there has been no additional knowledge added to Adam’s experience of billiard balls in comparison to the first experience. Therefore, Hume concluded that though in practice we rely on cause and effect it cannot be shown by observation.