A defense of the supernatural

Let us hypothetically assume materialism, that all possibilities are completely described by physical specification. Under this assumption, I do not believe that any moral statements can be justified. In a materialistic universe, all possibilities are adequately described physically; therefore, a moral statement would be a reason for preferring one physical arrangement to another. On what grounds could one make such a claim? The preference could not refer to any non-physical standard, such as symmetry or order, for such a standard, if true, would be a true non-physical statement and thus contradict the assumed materialism. The standard cannot be contained in some portion of the physical universe, for rules for mapping states to prescriptions are without limit, and the rule used would then become a non-physical statement.1 The standard could not be correspondence of the whole universe to itself, for that is tautologically true. Therefore, no standard is consistent with materialism, whether not founded on any physical facts, on some facts, or on all. Consequently, no preference among possible configurations of atoms can be justified.

But, following our original assumption of materialism, only configurations of atoms exist, and thus all things, including thoughts, are solely configurations of atoms. Thus, within a materialistic universe, no belief is preferable to any other. Consequently, if materialism is true, the set of atoms corresponding to belief in materialism is in no way preferable to that corresponding to disbelief, even though the former is true and the latter false: the consistent materialist cannot prefer truth to falsehood.

On the other hand we may consider the rule that belief in truth is better than belief in falsehood. This being a nonphysical fact, it is inconsistent with materialism. If it is true, then to believe it is better than to believe the contrary; if false, not. Thus, I conclude that belief in materialism is, even if logically consistent, irrational, for belief in the preferability of truth to falsehood is better than belief in materialism if true, but is not worse if false.

1: Thus we may dispense with attempts at materialistic egotism. Whence does the materialist determine that the arbitrary group of atoms he considers himself are preferable as a normative standard?

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4 Responses to A defense of the supernatural

  1. Edward says:

    You are confusing correlation with causation. Consider the Compatibilist argument proposed by A. J. Ayer, “It is not when my action has any cause at all, but only when it has a special sort of cause, that it is reckoned not to be free.” These ‘special’ causes take the form of coercion. Thus, free will (and moral choice) can coexist with a Deterministic (or as you call it, Materialistic) world.

  2. The Ambulatory Sesquipedalian says:

    I am afraid that you misunderstand me. I say not that free choice is impossible in a materialistic world, but rather that rational choice is, for no ethical propositions (of the form “A ought to do X in this situation”) can be. My argument holds even if free will does exist; in fact, I believe that I presuppose it (as the entire notion of choosing to believe makes no sense in an incompatible deterministic world).

    Moral choice depends on two things: the existence of an alternative and rational reason to prefer one alternative to another. Materialism allows the first (if we concede a materialistic explanation of the mind) but does not allow the second.

  3. Will says:

    Your complete premise is an entirely nonsensical straw man.

    “The preference could not refer to any non-physical standard, such as symmetry or order, for such a standard, if true, would be a true non-physical statement and thus contradict the assumed materialism.”

    The key is your usage of ‘if true’. You are trying to apply objective value judgments to a subjective framework. Truth is irrelevant if you are attempting to make an honest analysis of subjectivity, because if you’re still clinging to notions of inherent truth or value while discussing subjectivity you’re missing the point. If you truly deny the existence of a metaphysical world beyond matter, your ‘standards’ or ‘truth’ are just words that serve no function – and the fact that they can appear to create coherent thought in conjunction with subjectivism does not mean it is plausible or honest to do so, eg “This statement is false”.

    The rest is just wharrgarbl, verbose self-indulgence that hides a lack of understanding of the subject matter at hand.

  4. The Ambulatory Sesquipedalian says:

    I assumed objective truth as a framework because a “subjective framework” is self-contradictory. What, precisely, does such a framework entail? Not, certainly, that it is the correct framework for analyzing the universe, for that entails objective truth. But not any notion of subjective belief, for that too entails the truth of objective statements. In fact, no matter what the proposed definition of subjectivism, its usefulness as a definition becomes an objective truth. Consider your own post: “Truth is irrelevant if you are attempting to make an honest analysis of subjectivity”. An objective statement. If I were to incorporate that statement into my analysis of subjectivity, I would introducing an objective sense of truth into my analysis.

    If you disagree, I challenge you to create a framework for subjectively analyzing what I attempt to analyze that neither entails nor assumes the truth of any proposition. If you can do this, I concede the issue.

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