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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Darwin and Worldview again

Here is something that a Darwinist might say in reply to my linked post. "It seems that the crucial aspect of worldview forming for you is the role it plays in the personal integration of the agent, which means the role it has in cultivating virtues in the agent. An integrated agent is one whose actions and reason are appropriately tied to virtues. But if that is right, then this poses no inconsistency for Darwinism. What makes a tendency a virtue is that in tends to maximize some good whether that end be truth, in the case of intellectual virtues, or happiness, in the case of moral virtues. The fruitfulness of virtues with respect to these ends is what makes those virtues virtuous (or simply "right"). And if one has several virtues, whether intellectual or moral, each of which is right, then a person is right through and through. What more can "integration of the agent" ask for? But it is clear that there is no paradox between this picture of personal integration and Darwinism. Methodological naturalism is an example of an intellectual virtue in this sense and right dispositions can be selected by fitness. In fact, Darwinism expects that picture. So Darwinists do get their worldview without a hitch after all."

This plays on a distinction that Aristotle makes between intellectual and moral virtues, which is a distinction not only between intellect and character but also a distinction between two senses of how something can be a virtue. On standard interpretations, for Aristotle an intellectual disposition is virtuous if it maximizes truth relative to error, but the benefit of a moral virtue is intrinsic to the disposition itself. Further, intellectual virtues are passive and receptive, while moral virtues are active and agent-expressive.

However, one could suggest that we see moral virtues as being like Aristotle's intellectual virtues, as virtuous because they maximize goods relative to bads. And one could even suggest that we see intellectual virtues as being like Aristotle's moral virtues, as privileging the truth that intrinsically results from a certain form of inquiry. To make a long story short one could identify four kinds of virtue; (a) intellectual passive virtues, (b) intellectual active virtues, (c) moral passive virtues, (d) moral active virtues. A problem with Aristotle's selections, (a) and (d), is that many see them to be in a kind of tension. One solution is to either adopt (a) and (c) or (b) and (d) to deny the tension. But another option is to accept all four to embrace the tension more uniformly.

In my first post, it seems clear that by worldview formation, I had in mind cultivating an intellectual virtue of type (b) to facilitate cultivating moral virtue of type (d). But I also think that virtues in the sense of (a) and (c) a relevant and necessary for this to be possible. This means i embrace the strategy of seizing the tension. The cultivation of active virtues in necessarily involved in rendering the results of the passive virtues into a coherent system for ourselves as agents. But that means accepting the point that this system is more tenuous than either (a) and (c) or (b) and (d), although the only (b) and (d) option is still open for me.

The Darwinist however avoids my objection by embracing only (a) and (c) and he does so successfully.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"There's this guy named William Alston . . ."

At the link, Pastor Tim Keller of Church of the Redeemer, gives a summary of some of his recent book of arguments for God and their relation to faith at Author's@Google. Keller is a highly competent pastor and church organizer and leader. He is also a fairly good reader of philosophy as a representative of an educated profession. His presentation gives examples of some of the best stuff out there in current philosophy, science, and social thought. This is pretty much as well as we can expect from him and he has done a good job. But he immediately gets sandbagged by the first objection, which clearly is given by someone who knows either professional philosophy or some other highly academic field. However, this hardly amounts to being a reason for giving up, since his own experience in reading let's hims know that there could be something that someone could say in professional philosophy against it and his own argument was that it is reasonable to take a chance on God in spite of the evidential uncertainty surrounding the claim of His existence.

If we accept that God is bigger than us and may have reasons for allowing suffering that we are not in an adequate position to detect, does it follow that anything follows from the nature of God and his "goodness", such as rewarding an atheist for his lack of faith or condemning a theist for believing? Does it follow that since some things that God tolerates are not what we expect that we cannot form reasonable expectations at all in what counts as good or evil for us within our ability to judge? I reasonable expect that if I trust Him, He will respond to me even though its possible, for all I know, that he could be justified in not doing so. I reasonable expect that if I do not trust Him, He will not respond to me even though its possible, for all I know, that he could be justified in doing so. This is because it is reasonable to think that God's character constrains His actions such that not just anything at all is possible, even if I cannot always tell what should or shouldn't happen. It still seems that Keller's conclusion is sustained that it takes less of a risk to believe in God than to not do so.

Do Darwinists get a worldview?

A worldview is serious attempt to reflectively integrate ones thinking into a coherent, comprehensive, and practical interpretation of all of life in order to situate oneself as an intelligent unified agent within the world. A worldview is necessary to unified agency. Without one, we become morally schizophrenic, having personaes isolated from one another that are engaged according to circumstances rather than reflective choice, A worldview is a life time achievement that is one of the necessary tasks of progressive moral development. Which is puzzling if you are talking about Darwinism.

On the one hand, it seems to be clear that Darwinism is one of the most rigorous worldviews one might have, with a strict methodology and a strict standard of evidence, which is meant to systematically apply to every sphere of life. Darwinism holds to methodological naturalism and scientific evidentialism, with the result that if there is any moral duty at all it must be hedonism.

But on the other hand, if Darwinism is true then there are no unified moral agents whose unity is prior to its properties. If Darwinism is right then its "moral schizophrenia" all the way down. Human beings are not natural agents. At most they are random artifacts with no intrinsic unity so that even hedonism is relativism.

This suggests to me that Darwinism is a view that we cannot take seriously, since it is logically totalizing and fragmentizing at the same time.