Argument from Reason

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info.gif Argument from Reason: An argument for God’s existence "...based on the reality of reason in human persons." The argument can take on many different forms, but in general "...it attempts to show that the necessary conditions of logical and mathematical reasoning... require the rejection of all broadly materialist worldviews." Proponents of this argument include C. S. Lewis, Alvin Plantinga, and Victor Reppert.

Craig, W.L., and Moreland, J.P. (2009). Introduction. In W.L. Craig and J.P. Moreland (Eds.), The Blackwell Companion the Natural Theology (xi). Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell

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    Barefoot, Darek

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    A Response to Nicholas Tattersall's "A Critique of Miracles by C. S. Lewis"

    "If 'truth' has no meaning because reasoning, the process of arriving at truth, has no correlation with phenomena, then our intuitive notion that 'truth' is real is merely a glitch in our mental programming. We cannot know anything to be 'true,' which is another way of saying we cannot know anything. Acts of 'knowing' would be, to use Lewis's words, no more than 'subjective events, items in somebody's psychological history,' and all human knowledge would prove illusory. However, in the course of discrediting all knowledge, the knowlege of the mind/brain as purely phenomenal is discredited as well. Any reductionist theory which entails the conclusion that we cannot know anything ultimately refutes itself."
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    Barefoot, Darek

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    A Response to Richard Carrier's Review of C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea

    "C. S. Lewis's argument from reason (AfR) claims that the process of inference by which consideration of premises causes us to adopt a conclusion cannot be coherently conceived of in terms of physical cause-and-effect alone. In C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea, Victor Reppert maintains that the argument still poses a strong challenge to naturalism. However, Richard Carrier has attempted to refute Reppert's version of the AfR by invoking developments in cognitive science and computational theory. In this essay Darek Barefoot argues that advances in cognitive science do not affect the AfR since there is an absolute conceptual divide between rational mental causes and physical computational ones. Furthermore, if the AfR is successful, it reveals that rationality is fundamental to the universe, not simply a by-product of physical cause-and-effect; and this, in turn, is readily explicable on theism, but problematic for naturalism."
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    Byl, John

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    Naturalism, Theism, and Objective Knowledge

    "We explain our varied experiences in terms of our worldview. The rational defense of any worldview requires the prior acceptance of the existence of other rational minds, mental causation and free will, an objective language, and objective logical and rational standards. A worldview is self-refuting if its defense necessarily presumes entities that are explicitly denied by the worldview. This essay maintains that, on these grounds, various forms of relativism and naturalism are self-refuting. Theism, on the other hand, provides the epistemic and metaphysical basis to fully account for our diverse knowledge."
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    DePoe, John M.

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    The Argument from Reason

    "Why does reason exist? Where does the 'furniture' (i.e., logic, propositions, modality, etc.) of rationality come from? These are strange questions, but they are important ones. We use reasoning all the time. We rely on logical principles every day for decisions ranging from the trivial to the momentous. What accounts for these fundamental concepts that we depend upon for our day-to-day living? Everyone agrees that Christian theism can readily account for these entities. Some Christians, however, claim that naturalism, the leading atheistic rival to theism, cannot account for the furniture of rationality."
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    Groothuis, Doug

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    The Great Cloud of Unknowing: From Naturalism to Nihilism Through Epistemology

    "James Sire argues in The Universe Next Door that Naturalism leads to Nihilism when consistently pressed to the logic of its presuppositions. One of the 'bridges from Naturalism to Nihilism' is 'the great cloud of unknowing.' The basic argument concerns the justification of knowledge (or epistemology) in light of one’s worldview. Sire and others (see below) argue that humans would have no reason to trust their reasoning or observations should the universe be merely an impersonal product of purposeless matter that functions according to natural law without a Law Giver."
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    Koons, Robert C.

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    Plantinga on Naturalism

    "Lewis's argument is what is known as a 'transcendental argument'. If naturalism were true, then rational knowledge would be impossible. So, for rational knowledge (knowledge by rational inference) to be possible, naturalism must be false.This doesn't prove theism (since naturalism & theism aren't the only alternatives), but it does give a reason for thinking naturalism to be false: we do have rational knowledge, so naturalism must be false...Plantinga's conclusion is less amibitious. He wants to establish: it is impossible to believe rationally in naturalism. Belief in naturalism leads to an epistemic catastrophe (in which nothing we believe is rational). This isn't a transcendental argument. Naturalism could be true, and we could have rational beliefs, so long as we didn't believe naturalism to be true. However, it does create obvious problems for the naturalist. At the very least, it should motivate the naturalist to look at alternative worldviews that avoid this catastrophe."
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    Koons, Robert C.

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    Lewis on Naturalism

    "...[I]f naturalism is true, there are no acts of knowing...Naturalism cannot draw the required distinction between (1) those causal elements that constitute the object of knowledge, and (2) those causal elements that constitute the normal functioning of the mind in its normal environment. What naturalism lacks is an adequate account of normativity: how the mind is supposed to work...Suppose the naturalist appeals to some argument linking biological usefulness and truth. In appealing to such an argument, the naturalist is assuming the value of human reasoning. But this is just what is at issue, so the naturalist would be begging the question (reasoning in a circle)."
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    Lewis, C. S.

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    "The Cardinal Difficulty of Naturalism", Chapter 3 of Miracles

    "To call the act of knowing--the act, not of remembering that something was so in the past, but of 'seeing' that it must be so always and in any possible world--to call this act 'supernatural', is some violence to our ordinary linguistic usage. But of course we do not mean by this that it is spooky, or sensational, or even (in any religious sense) 'spiritual'. We mean only that it 'won't fit in'; that such an act, to be what it claims to be--and if it is not, all our thinking is discredited--cannot be merely the exhibition at a particular place and time of that total, and largely mindless, system of events called 'Nature'. It must break sufficiently free from that universal chain in order to be determined by what it knows."
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    Lovell, Steven

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    C.S. Lewis’s Case Against Naturalism

    "...[I]f naturalism is true, then not only are all our thoughts fully explicable by the operation of non-rational causes … all your thoughts are explicable in that manner. Indeed, if naturalism is true, the very thoughts you’ve had while reading this chapter can be so explained. No doubt, the shape of the marks on these pages plays an important role in this causal story, but so too does the physical constitution of your cognitive faculties and various other things besides. While in a moment of abstraction I can nearly bring myself to think the naturalists causal explanation of a person’s thinking consistent with a reasons based explanation, I cannot but agree with C.S. Lewis, that 'it is, to me at any rate, impossible' to regard my own thinking that way and at the same time, to regard it 'as a real insight into external reality.'"
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    Matteo, Anthony

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    Reasonable Doubt: Why naturalism might not be able to solve the problem of consciousness

    "There appear to be good grounds to doubt that evolutionary epistemology can deliver on its promise to provide a credible and convincing account of the fundamental reliability of the cognitive capacities that we inevitably employ in our ongoing search for truth. But the reigning Neo-Darwinian paradigm is firmly entrenched and adherence to such paradigms runs deep. Whether a paradigm shift, such as that suggested by Nagel and Kauffman, or even a return to a traditional theistic account recommended by Lewis and Plantinga, is in the offing, time can only tell. But it is only by raising the kinds of critical questions found in their arguments that the increasing need for such a shift can at all become evident to a wider and wider circle of inquirers."
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    Menuge, Angus

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    Libertarian Free Will and the Argument from Reason

    "The argument from reason is really a family of arguments to show that reasoning is incompatible with naturalism. Here, naturalism is understood as the idea that foundationally, there are only physical objects, properties and relations, and anything else reduces to, supervenes on, or emerges from that. For our purposes, one of the most important claims of naturalism is that all causation is passive, automatic, event causation (an earthquake automatically causes a tidal wave; the tidal wave responds passively): there are no agent causes, where something does not happen automatically but only because the agent exerts his active power by choosing to do it. The most famous version of the argument from reason is epistemological: if naturalism were true, we could not be justified in believing it. Today, I want to focus on the ontological argument from reason, which asserts that there cannot be reasoning in a naturalistic world, because reasoning requires libertarian free will, and this in turn requires a unified, enduring self with active power."
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    Nunley, Troy M.

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    A Defense of Alvin Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism

    "Alvin Plantinga argues that naturalism it is irrational for a reflective person to hold to the doctrine of naturalism. If naturalism is true, some evolutionary doctrine must also be true and our evolutionary history must be accounted for in terms of only random mutation and natural selection. The probability of our being reliable cognitive agents given these origins is low or, at best, inscrutable. But it cannot reasonably be thought to be high. Consequently, the naturalist cannot reasonably hold to the belief that they are reliable cognitive agents. And since the reliability of their cognitive apparatus has been called into such grave question, naturalists are rationally bound to dismiss any belief accepted on the basis of trust in that apparatus. Specifically, to the extent that the naturalist is rational, they will give up their belief in naturalism. In this dissertation, I explicate and defend Plantinga’s attack on philosophical naturalism. My thesis is that it has survived all the current attacks available in the literature."
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    Plantinga, Alvin

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    Naturalism Defeated

    "In the last chapter of Warrant and Proper Function I proposed an 'evolutionary argument against naturalism'. Now oddly enough, not everyone who has heard this argument has leapt to embrace it; there have been a number of fascinating objections, some published and some unpublished. These objections for the most part revolve around the notion of a defeater--a notion crucial to contemporary epistemology, but so far largely unexplored. In this paper I want to examine and respond to those objections, in the process hoping to learn something about defeaters."
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    Plantinga, Alvin

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    An Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism

    "Naturalistic evolution gives its adherents a reason for doubting that our beliefs are mostly true; perhaps they are mostly mistaken; for the very reason for mistrusting our cognitive faculties generally, will be a reason for mistrusting the faculties that produce belief in the goodness of the argument...The traditional theist, on the other hand, has no corresponding reason for doubting that it is a purpose of our cognitive systems to produce true beliefs...The conclusion to be drawn, therefore, is that the conjunction of naturalism with evolutionary theory is self-defeating: it provides for itself an undefeated defeater. It is therfore unacceptable and irrational."
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    Reppert, Victor

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    QCI Interview: Dr. Victor Reppert on the "Argument from Reason"

    The Quality Christian Internet interviews Dr. Reppert on his formulation of the Argument from Reason.
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    Reppert, Victor

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    The Argument from Reason

    "There are various phenomena that believers in the existence of God can appeal to to support the claim that God exists. One can look to the beginning of the universe, the design of the universe, to our moral experience, to evidence in support of miracles, and religious experience to ground belief that God does exist. One phenomenon that is sometimes neglected in the development of theistic arguments is the existence of rational thought. Does our very thinking provide evidence that the universe is more likely to be the kind of place that theists say it is than the kind of place that atheists say it is. The argument I will be presenting attempts to answer that question in the affirmative."
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    Willard, Dallas

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    Knowledge and Naturalism

    "We have argued that there is no place for truth or logical relations in a world where the only properties are physical, and therefore that noetic unity is also impossible in such a world. Since it is possible--many things are known and there are people of great knowledge--Naturalism must be false. It cannot accommodate the ontological structure of knowing and knowledge."