martedì 9 febbraio 2016

Parfit on brute facts By Edward Feser

Parfit on brute facts By Edward Feser

  • Derek Parfit’s article “The Puzzle of Reality: Why Does the Universe Exist?”... It’s an admirably clear and comprehensive survey of the various answers that have been given to that question,
  • Parfit appears to sympathize with the “Brute Fact View”according to which the universe simply exists without explanation, and that’s that. The claim here is not that there is an explanation but that we don’t and even can’t know what it is. It is rather that there is no explanation at all,
  • This is , of course, implicitly to deny the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR), according to which everything does have an explanation,
  • Parfit describes and defends the Brute Fact View in the following passage:
  • there would exist an arbitrary set of messily complicated worlds. That is what, with a random selection, we should expect. It is unclear whether ours is one such world... It would be in one sense inexplicable why the Universe is as it is. But this would be no more puzzling than the random movement of a particle. If a particle can simply happen to move as it does, it could simply happen that reality is as it is...
  • For one thing, he seems to allow at least for the sake of argument that there might be a kind of “process”which “selects”whether anything exists etc. but in a “random”way that is not ultimately explicable.
  • If you’re going to commit yourself anyway to the idea that the universe is just an unintelligible Brute Fact, why not simply say that the universe just exists and that’s all that can be said and leave it at that? Why posit, between the universe on the one hand and sheer Bruteness on the other, some intermediate “process”of “selection”
  • Aquinas argues, chance always presupposes the convergence of lines of causation: example, when a farmer finds buried loot while he is out plowing his field, that is a chance occurrence. But that a robber decided to bury his loot there and that the farmer decided to plow the field that day were not chance occurrences.
  • Analogia. To see what is wrong with this, suppose police come across a dead body and start batting around possible explanations -- murder, suicide, accident, heart attack, etc. Suppose one of the policemen who has heretofore been silent interrupts and says: “I don’t know why you guys are wasting time considering these different explanations. I say it’s just an unintelligible, inexplicable brute fact that this corpse turned up here and now. Case closed, we can go home now... No one would accept this for a moment, of course.
  • A third issue raised by Parfit’s remarks is the stuff about the random behavior of particles,
  • No one claims that the motion of the particles in question is simply unintelligible... random motion of particles is something which it makes sense to think of as occurring given quantum mechanics. The theory provides an explanatory context
  • If you’re giving a theoretical description of some “random”phenomenon which gives it a kind of intelligibility, then you are ipso facto using “random”in a qualified sense.)
  • There is no larger background theory in the context of which such a “random” occurrence makes sense. So there just isn’t any parallel here with quantum mechanics.
  • Parfit’s remark that “randomness may even be less puzzling at the level of the whole Universe, since we know that facts at this level could not have been caused.”
  • he is blatantly begging the question when he says that “facts at this level could not have been caused.”For isn’t the claim that such facts are caused precisely what theism says? But Parfit is not ruling out theism a priori here.
  • he is saying that even if God is the cause, God’s own existence would not have a causal explanation and thus would have to be explained in some other way.
  • So far so good, then. The problem is with what Parfit seems, at the end of the essay, to think follows from this point... from the premise that “X does not have a causal explanation”it simply doesn’t follow that “X is random,”
  • Something that lacks a causal explanation could have an explanation instead in terms of its own nature, say, or by virtue of being a necessary truth. The fact that 2 + 2 = 4 does not have a causal explanation but it is hardly “random” that 2 + 2 = 4.
  • Anyway, even apart from the problems with Parfit’s account of it, we can know the Brute Fact View is false, because we can know that PSR is true.
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