The Argument from Consciousness

J.P. Moreland has recently written a brief article for True U giving a brief summation of his argument from consciousness, entitled (coincidentally enough) The Argument from Consciousness. In the article, J.P. Moreland notes:

I believe those who argue for consciousness by theistic explanations are correct, and in what follows, I shall say why. As a preliminary, I shall assume a commonsense understanding of mental states, such as sensations, thoughts, beliefs, desires, volitions and the very selves that have them. Understood in this way, mental states are in no sense physical, since they possess five features that physical states do not:
  1. There is a raw, qualitative feel or a "what it is like" to have a mental state such as a pain.

  2. Many mental states have intentionality — ofness or aboutness — directed towards an object.

  3. Mental states are inner, private and immediate to the subject having them.

  4. Mental states require a subjective ontology — namely, mental states are necessarily owned by the subjects who have them.

  5. Mental states fail to have crucial features (e.g. location) that characterize physical states and, in general, cannot be described using physical language. For example, a thought that lunch was good isn't, say, two inches long, but the brain state associated with the thought is.

This is a pretty good summary and I commend it to others to read through it.


Rachel said…
Very cool article! I wonder what a naturalist's response would be.
Jason Pratt said…
Victor Reppert debates this and related 'Argument from Reason' issues, including plenty of articulate naturalistic responses, at DangIdea2, as well as occasionally touching on the topic back at his original DangIdea journal.

While I'm definitely a fan and proponent of AfRs, there are many different kinds and (in my own evaluation) some are much weaker than others. The kind JPM features here, isn't one I bother with, respectable though it is.

I'll be dedicating most of a whole series of chapters to a version of the AfR, later in my metaphysics entries; probably no earlier than early summer, though. It's basically my key reason for rejecting atheism.

Steven Carr said…
'I believe those who argue for consciousness by theistic explanations are correct, and in what follows....'

How does an unconscious man regain consciousness?

Does the unconscious body create consciousness, or does God?
Jason Pratt said…
The question of how an unconscious man regains consciousness is no more relevant than how unconscious matter gains consciousness in the first place; if problems are perceived with the latter, the same problems will be perceived with the former.

{{Does the unconscious body create consciousness, or does God?}}

False dilemma, insofar as most AfR variants are concerned (including this one). Supernaturalistic theism doesn't exclude natural operations; God works through Nature to create effects within and with Nature. The relevant question is (in terms of this AfR variant) whether unconscious-and-only-unconscious behaviors can of themselves result in conscious behaviors.

However: the answer could be 'yes' depending on how one defines consciousness, which in practice is a more difficult distinction to nail down than some other distinctions. Which in turn is a key reason for why I don't personally appeal to this particular AfR variant (though I do respect the attempt and understand what it is the proponents of this variant are trying principally to demonstrate.)


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