Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Accepting brute facts makes theism a live possibility...

...even if one is a naturalist.

I never see theists bringing this up, and I think it's for the usual reason: it involves talking about a God or gods that they're not really invested in, and whose existence they'd find unsettling. But it seems to me straightforwardly obvious that the acceptance of brute facts - the acceptance that some things can exist, or come into existence, utterly without cause or explanation - means that the existence of God or gods has to be considered. They're just one more thing that can exist or come to exist brutely.

In fact, insofar as theism is presented as either a view that avoids brute facts, or that is inevitable if one avoids brute facts, there's some unevenness between the theistic and naturalistic worldviews. Theism is automatically true if a theistic picture of the world is true, obviously. But theism isn't automatically false, given the intellectual chimera known as naturalism. In fact, given a naturalistic universe, there seems to be no way to be sure one also lives in a non-theistic universe.

Does that mean we should all be theists by default?


Mr. Green said...

Well, the atheist could presumably retort that even if any gods did exist, they could have popped out of existence for no reason at all. To which I'd reply that we shouldn't believe in atheists, because even if someone claims to be one, he might really be a theist who is just saying he's an atheist for a BRUTELY FACTUAL NO REASON AT ALL. Or maybe he actually said he was a theist, and it just sounded as though he said not FOR NO REASON. Or maybe he just doesn't exist and his words appeared out of nowhere FOR NO REASON. Really, "brute facts" leave us with no choice but to be agnostically mad, they undermine reason leaving us no foundation to stand on. That's why I can't muster any patience for the very [non-]concept. It's just a way of saying, if I carry on reasoning I might end up at God, so I'm just going to draw a line and stop here (for no reason!!!).

Mr. Green said...

I do like these arguments that point out that whatever the objection is, it at most rules out one particular variety of theism, or even only one particular manifestation of one particular variety. I quite like the ramifications of Bostrom-type simulations, too, but it occurs to me that this can be combined with "brute facts": even if we weren't in a simulation, how could you ever rule out that a higher-level universe didn't just appear "around" us for no reason? So even if you were to insist on sticking to the indefensible claim that everything is natural, you still have to allow for natural "gods" coming out of nowhere.

Crude said...

Well, the atheist could presumably retort that even if any gods did exist, they could have popped out of existence for no reason at all.

They certainly could! But what I find interesting is that /theism is possible even on a naturalistic view of the world/. That, I think, is pretty wild itself.

Worse, even if this never happened before, who's to say it couldn't happen eventually? Brute-fact naturalism doesn't get one to atheism. And God help us (ha) if we start talking Simulations, multiverses, and more.

I like the speculation about a universe appearing around us. That's creative.