Moreland on Consciousness

(redated post originally published on 14 November 2011)


There have been some further developments in this discussion. See:

Graham Oppy “Critical Notice of J. P. Moreland’s Consciousness and the Existence of God” European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 3, 1, 2011, 193-212

J. P. Moreland “Oppy on the Argument from Consciousness: A Rejoinder” European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 3, 1, 2011, 213-226

Graham Oppy “Consciousness in not Evidence for Theism” in C. Meister, J. P. Moreland, and K. Sweis (eds.) Oxford Contemporary Dialogues Oxford: OUP, forthcoming. (Should be out early in the new year. Also contains a chapter by Moreland, defending his argument from consciousness, which I haven’t yet seen.)

Re the above link to Moreland’s blog: In Arguing about Gods, I discuss two arguments from consciousness. First, I (briefly) consider the argument in Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding that is critiqued by Mackie in The Miracle of Theism. Second, I provide a fairly lengthy discussion of the argument in Swinburne’s The Existence of God. I do not think that the main criticism that I make of these argument in Arguing about Gods is that “the theist’s use of personal explanation regarding consciousness is a bogus form of explanation” (cf. the claim in Moreland’s blog). (See p.401 of Arguing about Gods for a summary of five of the criticisms that I make of Swinburne’s argument. The claim that Moreland attributes to me is not among these five criticisms ….)

The most important point to note — vis a vis this discussion — I think, is this: The worst case for the naturalist is one in which ‘conscious state’ is an ideological primitive, with an ideologically primitive connection to ‘neural state’ (or the like). But, for theists like Moreland, ‘conscious state’ is evidently an ideological primitive — for, of course, Moreland thinks that God is conscious, and does not suppose that God’s consciousness is explained in terms of something else — and the connection between consciousness and the rest of God’s ‘state’ is also ideologically primitive. So, on a proper accounting of theoretical costs, the worst case for the naturalist is no worse than par with the view that Moreland defends. (And, of course, if the naturalist can provide a ‘reduction’ of consciousness, then the naturalist has a theoretically more virtuous position.) But, if this is right, the considerations about consciousness cannot possibly favour theism (regardless of the outcome of attempts to provide a naturalistic ‘reduction’ of consciousness).