evolutionEpiphenominism - Philosophy and Phenomenological...

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Philosophy and Phenomenological Research Vol. LXVIII, No. 3, May 2004 Evolution, Epiphenomenalism, Reductionism ALVIN PLANTINGA University of Notre Dame I Semantic Epiphenomenalism A common contemporary claim is the conjunction of metaphysical natural- ism-the idea, roughly, that there is no such person as God or anything at all like God-with the view that our cognitive faculties have come to be by way of the processes to which contemporary evolutionary theory direct our atten- tion. Call this view ‘N&E’. I’ve argued elsewhere’ that this view is incoher- ent or self-defeating in that (1) anyone who accepts it has a defeater for R, the proposition that her cognitive faculties are reliable, which then gives her (2) a defeater for any proposition she believes, including, of course, N&E itself. The argument for (l), in turn, depends essentially on the proposition that (3) P(R/N&E) is low or inscrutable. To support (3), I divided N&E into mutu- ally exclusive and jointly exhaustive subcases, arguing that in each subcase Si, P(R/N&E&S,) is low or inscrutable. I won’t repeat this argument here, but I do want to focus on a certain essential aspect of the argument for (3). But first we must note that one who accepts metaphysical naturalism will likely be a materialist or a physicalist with respect to human beings: materi- alism is almost universally thought to be de rigueur for naturalists. So let’s at least temporarily assimilate materialism with respect to human beings to naturalism. Now suppose materialism is true: given that there are such things as beliefs, what sort of thing will a belief be?2 Since we are assuming materialism, it will presumably have to be a material process or event-perhaps a long-standing neural event of some kind in the nervous Warrant and Proper Function (New York Oxford University Press, 1993). chapter 12; Warranted Christian Belief (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000) pp. 227ff. A materialist might hold that human beings sometimes display the property of believing p, for some proposition p. while denying that there are any such things as beliefs; belief talk would then be paraphrased into talk about the property of believing. For what follows this difference will make no difference. 602 ALVIN PLANTINGA
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~ystem.~ Perhaps it will be a neural event involving some of the approxi- mately 10" neurons most of us enjoy; perhaps it will involve these neurons being connected in a certain fashion, firing in a certain sort of pattern, responding in a certain way to differential input from other neural processes, and so on. So considered, beliefs will of course enter the causal process that leads to behavior. So considered, however, beliefs will have two quite different sorts of prop- erties. On the one hand, such an event will have neurophysiological proper- ties-number of neurons and neural connections involved, strength and rate of firing at different times and in various parts of the event, rate of change of strength and rate of firing in response to differential input, and the like. But if
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This note was uploaded on 01/31/2012 for the course RELI 4500 taught by Professor Power during the Spring '09 term at University of Georgia Athens.

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evolutionEpiphenominism - Philosophy and Phenomenological...

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