The Argument from the OCI

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Reply Wed 3 Mar, 2010 07:45 am
In his Meditations, Descartes asks the question, how we (imperfect creatures as we are) could have possibly acquired the very idea of a Perfect Being, and concludes that since such a thing is inconceivable, that God Himself must have implanted that idea in us. He then concludes that there must be a Perfect Being. How else could we have conceived of a Perfect Being? This is caled the watchmaker argument for God, because Descartes tells us that God placed his stamp on us to show that He exists and that we are His creatures, just as a watchmaker stamps his creation.

But what is this argument for God based on? It is based on the premise that the idea of God could not possibly have been conceived by Man, so that it the idea must come from God. But, that premise is dubious, since it not only begs the question, but it is what A. Flew calls an "ostensibly counter-evidential intuition" (OCI). It is "ostensibly counter-evidential" because all around us we see that although people have the idea of God, there is no evidence that God implanted that idea in us. It is just an intuition that it would be impossible for us to have conceived of the existence of a Perfect Being. But all the evidence available is that is exactly what did happen.

I bring this up not for the sake of the example, since then I would have posted it in the religion forum. But because of the kind of argument it is an example of. An argument from the OCI. And, another example of this argument is that since it was impossible for Man alone (if he were only a material object) to be creative, or to compose music or create art (in other words do things that he does do) that Man cannot be just a material object, and that therefore, Man must be spiritual.

Yet, this argument is clearly just an example of the argument from the OCI, and has exactly its same weakness: That all the evidence we have is that Men are only material object, yet have created what they have created. The argument precedes from an ostensibly counter-evidential premise. And so does the argument, for example, that mind could not have come from matter. You can think of others for yourself.

This argument always begins on a note of shock, namely that the very notion that something could be true (how could mind come from base matter!?) implying that such a thing is clearly absurd. When, of course, all the evidence available is that exactly what seems shockingly impossible to the arguer is what is true.
 
ughaibu
 
Reply Wed 3 Mar, 2010 07:53 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;135328 wrote:
This is caled the watchmaker argument for God, because Descartes tells us that God placed his stamp on us to show that He exists and that we are His creatures, just as a watchmaker stamps his creation.
Your post is straightforward enough, I just want to check a historical point. Who called this the "watchmaker argument"? I ask because it's a bizarre appellation, the watchmaker doesn't doesn't affix his stamp so that the watch knows who made it.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 3 Mar, 2010 08:05 am
@ughaibu,
ughaibu;135331 wrote:
Your post is straightforward enough, I just want to check a historical point. Who called this the "watchmaker argument"? I ask because it's a bizarre appellation, the watchmaker doesn't doesn't affix his stamp so that the watch knows who made it.


. Oh, I see what you mean. The idea is that we are like the watches. I agree it is a little convoluted. But, there you are.
 
ughaibu
 
Reply Wed 3 Mar, 2010 08:09 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;135339 wrote:
They used to in Descartes' time. Also sculptures, and paintings, etc.
Amazing. Thanks.

ETA: okay, not so amazing, just bizarre. No specific author of the term "watchmaker argument"?
 
Dave Allen
 
Reply Wed 3 Mar, 2010 08:11 am
@kennethamy,
I associate the Watchmaker with Paley rather than Descartes.

Another point might be the fact that many conceptions of God aren't perfect. The Greeks didn't veiw Zeus as perfect - he was almighty, but not moral or flawless. Most polytheists have pantheons of gods of whom none are perfect, and many that are downright despicable.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 3 Mar, 2010 08:18 am
@Dave Allen,
Dave Allen;135342 wrote:
I associate the Watchmaker with Paley rather than Descartes.

Another point might be the fact that many conceptions of God aren't perfect. The Greeks didn't veiw Zeus as perfect - he was almighty, but not moral or flawless. Most polytheists have pantheons of gods of whom none are perfect, and many that are downright despicable.


Of course, Descartes was talking about the concept of the Christian (more specifically, Roman Catholic) God. I don't imagine he thought that Zeus was perfect either.
 
mickalos
 
Reply Tue 16 Mar, 2010 06:19 pm
@kennethamy,
I think the argument in the Third Meditation is valid; at least "mostly valid", meaning with a few minor adjustments, or perhaps some implied premises (obviously something can't be literally "mostly valid". In a nutshell, and with a bit of simplification, it goes:

P1) My idea of God has objective reality, X
Descartes makes a distinction between the amount of 'Objective reality' and 'formal reality' that ideas have. The amount of formal reality a thing has can be thought of as how complex that thing is. So the Colosseum has more formal reality than a stone, but the idea of a stone and the idea of the Colosseum both have the same amount of formal reality, because the things we are concerned with are both ideas. However, ideas have content; they represent, or are about, something. The amount of objective reality an idea has depends on the complexity of the content of the thought. Thus the idea of the Colosseum has more objective reality than the idea of a stone.

P2) For any idea with objective (or formal) reality X, there must be a cause with formal reality X or greater formal reality.
The Causal Adequacy Principle. It seems to me to concern both causation, and the origin of ideas. Concerning causation, an appropriate analogy would be "For any object to have X amount of energy, there must have been a cause with X amount of energy, or more", i.e. cause and effect involves some kind of transmission of properties from cause to effect, which I believe has traditionally been a popular view on causation (before Hume, that is). Concerning the origin of ideas, the implication is if we have an idea (a clear and distinct perception as Descartes would put it) of something complex, then there is some extra-mental thing that is at least as complex as that.

P3) I do not have formal reality X or greater

Descartes bases that on the idea of God as an infinite and perfect being.

Therefore
C) God exists

My point is that it is very abstract metaphysical beliefs (the Causal Adequacy Principle, and Descartes' notions of existence), rather than particular 'counter-evidential' beliefs, that get Descartes into trouble. The question that follows seems to be, can metaphysical beliefs be 'counter-evidential' in the same way that (I think, because I haven't read him) Flew is talking about? They can certainly be out of line with how we ordinarily use metaphysical concepts, but I think it is difficult to be so damning as to say the metaphysics of certain philosophers is counter-evidential.

That said, there are lots of arguments in philosophy that we don't class as sophistry, but that we immediately feel are somehow fallacious, yet can't quite pinpoint why straight away. I think Descartes' Third Meditation falls into this class, and early-modern philosophy in general seems to be full of that sort of thing. For example, Descartes' two proofs of God, Berkeley's Master Argument, perhaps even Hume's arguments on induction and causality (although, there are at least three or four plausible interpretations of Hume's views on causality, and one might feel different about each). Are these kinds of arguments bad? I don't think they constitute bad philosophy, because they tend to nudge along our progress and understanding rather than hold it back. Indeed, the example you give about immaterialism hints at the problem of consciousness, which is at the forefront of the philosophy of mind today.
 
sammy phil
 
Reply Tue 16 Mar, 2010 08:16 pm
@kennethamy,
maybe we have just been waiting for the release of human 2.0 Very Happy upgrades rock.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Tue 16 Mar, 2010 08:31 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;135328 wrote:
all the evidence we have is that Men are only material objects


But there is surely much evidence for the difference between men and other types of material objects, such as inanimate objects. I don't see how you can say 'there is no difference'. Obviously, inanimate material objects do not speak or converse or behave. Men do this. So, if men are 'material objects' as you claim, why do they do things that other material objects do not do? What is it about the materiality of humans that makes them different to lamp-posts or doorknobs?
 
sammy phil
 
Reply Tue 16 Mar, 2010 09:59 pm
@kennethamy,
we are material objects because we are seeing it that way, because it's true you can touch it and feal it but without a mind to think this thought and recieve the touch what is there but mass and energy? we have a special gift compared to our fuzzy little animals being that we can conceive and build this thought. if atleast to let us know it's something and at most maybe everything.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Tue 16 Mar, 2010 10:12 pm
@kennethamy,
A human is a subject first, object second. To treat humans as material objects is intrinsically demeaning.
 
sammy phil
 
Reply Tue 16 Mar, 2010 11:12 pm
@kennethamy,
your looking at it like there is a differance in iron deposit's in the ground compared to the deposit's in our body. the fact is it's iron, our makeup is more complex but it is quite simply from the same materials. to say we are objects is true like i said, to say nothing is the same is true because they all have a differance of make-up. but all of this depends on how you are seeing the object in focus.
 
 

 
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