An Image in your head.

Posted: November 18, 2006 in Intelligent Design, Theo/Philo

fibonacci1.jpg 

After reading Angus Menuge’s excellent book ‘Agents under fire’ plus a paper he produced available at http://www.iscid.org/papers/Menuge_DennettDenied_103103.pdf.

(I have started a thread over at ARN regarding Agency to see what thoughts others have)

My thoughts are regarding agency, which for me can be defined as goal directed behavior (either intelligent or otherwise) or the presence of intent.

  1. That agency and Naturalism are incompatible.
  2. That agency could not be produced from a random purposeless process, agency requires agency in order to exist.

3.   The other issue is plainly this –if agency or goal directedness is an illusion,(as some naturalists claim) such that the reality of the situation is that all entities including us are really determined (however tightly or loosely) either by a combination of factors or just chemically-then how can we claim to be objective or for objectivity to exist? If agency is a lie then science has no foundation in objectivity.

Menuge again:

‘..if intentionality is a real characteristic of human cognition, then there is significant reason to think that design is exemplified by reality. This is so because among the things one can conceive of is a future project; some plan of action; or an idea for a book, proof strategy, or a new experiment. But such conceptions are precisely designs, and the empirical fact that human actions are correlated with these designs provides excellent and abundant evidence for the existence of designed objects.’

The burden of proof is with the naturalists to explain why only chance and contingency  are the accepted categories within Science, both of which are goalless  yet we see how effective and ubiquitous  goal directed activity is.

As Angus Menuge’s says in his book and quoting Daniel Dennett ‘…natural selection is never directed at non-existent states of affairs, but only makes a “choice” after the fact between actually existing alternatives. So natural selection does not exhibit intentionality, and this is why there is no warrant for attributing representations to it.’

The representations Menuge speaks of are the ability to mentally represent various alternative choices and there respective outcomes, take the pink pill or the green one? No representations mean no intention means no goal directedness as options cannot be represented or acted upon.

So where did the ability to represent choices mentally come from?

The presence of agency cannot be explained in naturalistic/reductionist terms. There exists no explanation of subjectivity of experience or personal intent.
In fact as Menuge has said ‘To adopt an explanatory stance toward something is to seek to understand its behavior, by showing how it falls under certain kinds of concepts. Even adopting the physical stance requires us to understand a system in terms of its physical constitution and operation, but this is to view it in a certain way and to adopt an intentional attitude (understanding) toward it.’

Goal directedness doesn’t infer consciousness as long as proxy agency is used to explain design. By Proxy agency I mean at some point a conscious inferring agent can program another agent to produce goal directedness –for instance a computer programmer producing a program

How can intentionality/goal direct behavior or agency in general be part of our experience, unless we have been designed by an agent the source of our agency?
I happen to think that the simplest explanation is the right one and the simplest explanation for why we see goal directedness/agency/intentionality is that these phenomena are a product of design.
Evolution is not goal directed /does not see possible outcomes prior to there happening/cannot plan and as such is no different from a body of water finding the lowest point on a terrain.

How can undirected causality produce directed causality?

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Comments
  1. marco says:

    ” If agency is a lie then science has no foundation in objectivity.”

    If agency doesn’t exist outside the framework of the agent then it doesn’t matter. It’s hard to argue with the results of methodological naturalism. Works pretty good so far and there is no reason to suspect that it won’t in the future.

    “How can intentionality/goal direct behavior or agency in general be part of our experience, unless we have been designed by an agent the source of our agency?
    I happen to think that the simplest explanation is the right one and the simplest explanation for why we see goal directedness/agency/intentionality is that these phenomena are a product of design.”

    The simplest explanation is that intentionality is self generated and goal directed behavior doestn’t exist outside of the agent. I doubt if any sort of ideas have a life of their own outside the framework of our nervous system. Communication only requires a transmitter and a receiver. Maybe I’m being dense but I don’t see the need to bring in an outside “designer”. Great topic, though. The nature of perception; What else is there worth discussing?

  2. Mike Godfrey says:

    Hi Marco,
    Thanks for posting.
    You said:’ If agency doesn’t exist outside the framework of the agent then it doesn’t matter’
    I’m not too sure why it doesn’t matter?
    From my perspective agency cannot spontaneously exist, agency from non agency is an illusion -for instance Daniel Dennetts ‘Intentional Stance’ a recognition that agency from a naturalistic beginning cannot be, yet we choose to treat each other as if there is agency because it happens to describe best how things work.
    Of course I would say it describes it best because it is the most accurate description of ‘man’ that is agency is real because we come from an agent.
    I think I’m the dense one, because I cannot see how real agency can exist within a naturalistic framework?
    Agency, the ability to make representations of things that don’t exist, coupled with goal directed behaviour cannot occur unless we are relatively free of deterministic influences such as chemical/genetic/cultural/historic etc.
    With Naturalism man is just the material plus nothing else, so those influences are all there is. Within a theistic framework there is a dualism so that man is more than the material-yes there are influences but they are not decisive, because man is more than the material.

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