Sunday, October 26, 2014

Post Index: Blogging Through R. Scott Smith's Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality

Introductory Post: Overview of the book and some preliminary remarks
Smith's critique of Armstrong's theory of perceptual knowledge
Smith's critique of Dretske/Tye/Lycan accounts of perceptual knowledge
Getting clear on Smith's core argument against naturalistic accounts of concept acquisition, correction, and application
Smith's core critique of naturalistic accounts of perceptual knowledge
Smith's core critique of naturalistic accounts of concept correction
Smith's core critique of naturalistic accounts of concept formation
Smith's core critique of naturalistic accounts of intentionality

Smith's Argument Against Naturalistic Accounts of Intentionality

(Very rough draft)
So far, we've looked at Smith's arguments against naturalistic accounts of (i) perceptual knowledge, (ii) concept formation, and (ii) concept correction. In this post, I aim to finish (or at least nearly finish) discussing Smith's book by focusing on Smith's last main type of argument against naturalism: (iv) arguments against the compatibility of perceptual knowledge and naturalistic accounts of intentionality.

As before, Smith's focus is (broadly speaking) Dretske-style accounts of intentionality. According to such accounts, a concept or perceptual state is of or about its referent just in case the former reliably covaries with the latter when functioning properly. So, for example, when functioning properly under normal conditions, thermometer readings co-vary with temperature, and scale readings co-vary with the weights of objects on the scale. Because of this, thermometer readings reliably represent temperatures, and scales reliably represent the weights of objects. In a similar way, sensations reliably represent the external environment when functioning properly under normal conditions. 

The heart of Smith's criticism is that if naturalistic accounts of intentionality are correct, then we can't know if our perceptions are veridical. Smith uses two main arguments to support this conclusion. Smith's first main argument is that if naturalistic accounts of intentionality are correct (again, think Dretske et al.), then intentionality is essentially a matter of a law-like correlation between external object and internal brain state. On such accounts, the object of immediate awareness is the internal brain state, and there is no way to "see" beyond it to see if such states are caused by, and reliably represent, their external referents. And finally, if that's right, then there is know way to know if the former reliably represents the latter, since (argues Smith) knowledge of some x requires the potential knower to have immediate, direct acquaintance with x. Therefore, naturalistic accounts of intentionality entail that we can't have perceptual knowledge of the external world.

What to make of this argument? As we mentioned in the last post in this series, Smith is aware that Dretske and other naturalists can appeal to an externalist account of knowledge, according to which knowledge doesn't require "getting outside one's own skin", as it were, to check if one's beliefs and/or internal representations reliably represent their external referents. Rather, all that's required for knowledge, on such accounts, is that the connection between beliefs and/or referents are, in fact, reliable. However, Smith replies that this sort of response is inconclusive at best, since he thinks knowledge requires conceptualization of its object, and he thinks he has shown that the forming the requisite concepts is impossible given naturalism. Therefore (argues Smith), epistemic externalism is at best necessary, but not sufficient, for knowledge. Unfortunately, as we saw in the previous post in this series, it's not at all clear that Smith is right about that.

Smith second main argument is that if naturalistic accounts of intentionality are correct (again, think Dretske et al.), then we shouldn't think our concepts are veridical, on the grounds that intentionality is at root a causal process. But the problem is that causes always modify what they act upon. But if so, then intentionality must modify the relevant brain states involved in perception. And if that's right, then (claims Smith) perceptual experience must be (or at least probably is?) distorted. And if it's distorted, then it's not veridical. Smith then goes on to use the point as a reply to Dretske's epistemic externalist rejoinder to Smith's "causal chain" objection to naturalistic perceptual knowledge. For if intentionality distorts perception, then we have grounds for thinking that perception is distorted.

What to make of this argument? Perhaps the most obvious worry is the inference from "causes modify" to "causes distort". For while a cause can modify its object for the worse, it can also modify it for the better. And this is no less true when the object of modification is representational. To take an obvious example, consider perceptual registrations in the eye. In this sort of process, the pupil of the eye receives light from the external environment, which in turn registers an accurate two-dimensional image of its referent on the retina at the back of the eye. So here we have a case of a cause that modifies its object for the better from a representational point of view. And given the prima facie plausibility of the view that reliably tracking one's environment is conducive to survival and reproduction, there are strong reasons to think that evolution would select for reliable representational processes in organisms. (Smith claims that his argument doesn't depend on Plantinga's evolutionary argument against naturalism, so let's leave discussion of the latter for another day).  I therefore find this argument unpersuasive.

New Podcast Episodes: New Insights and Directions for Religious Epistemology

Here. Required listening.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

New Work From Schellenberg

As can be seen from recent updates at his academic page,  J.L. Schellenberg's trend of producing lots of important work in philosophy of religion continues unabated. I'm especially looking forward to his two forthcoming books: 

(i) Renewing Philosophy of Religion: Exploratory Essays (with Paul Draper). OUP, forthcoming in 2016. I expect that it will be the book to look to in relation to the current trend to unmoor philosophy of religion from the undue influence of apologetically-oriented Christian theism.

(ii) The Hiddenness Argument: Philosophy's New Challenge to Belief in God. OUP, forthcoming in 2015. The book's aim looks to be to bring the arguments from Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason to a general audience.

He has also added a slew of new papers to his site. No doubt they will be required reading, along with the rest of his corpus. Happy reading! 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Smith's Argument Against the Compatibility of Naturalism and Concept Formation

In the previous post in this series, we looked at Smith's argument against naturalistic accounts of concept correction. In this post, we'll take a brief look at Smith's argument against several naturalistic accounts of concept formation.

Here's a first pass at expressing Smith's argument:

1. If the views of Dretske et al. are correct, then every act of introspection requires that the representation of its referent come to us automatically pre-packaged with a conceptualization. 
2. If every act of introspection requires that the representation of its referent come to us automatically pre-packaged with a conceptualization, then the process of forming concepts can never get started. 
3. If the process of forming concepts can never get started, then we can't form concepts.
-------------------------------------- 
4. Therefore, if the views of Dretske et al. are correct, then we can’t form concepts. 
5. We can form concepts. 
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6. Therefore, the views of Dretske et al. are not correct.

What to make of this argument? Perhaps the most obvious concern is that (2) is implausible as expressed above. For if every act of introspection requires that the representation of its referent come to us automatically prepackaged with a conceptualization, then it would seem that the process of forming concepts can get started; by the very accounts Smith attributes to the authors in play, the process gets started automatically, with an agent's first act of introspection.

Smith seems to realize this, however, as indicated by his parenthetical remark that if the authors' view were correct, then we couldn't form concepts "in a way that involves understanding". By this, he means a conscious, intentional process, as opposed to a process that is sub-personal, unconscious, and automatic. Let us therefore revise (2) accordingly:

2'. If every act of introspection requires that the representation of its referent come to us automatically pre-packaged with a conceptualization, then the process of consciously, intentionally forming concepts can never get started.

Unfortunately, (2') isn't much of an improvement over (2). For its consequent doesn't obviously follow from its antecedent. Thus, assume that our minds have been forming concepts automatically and sub-personally for as long as you please -- say, up to our 21st birthday.  It nonetheless seems possible that we can get started forming concepts in a conscious, intentional way on our 21st birthday.  Therefore, (2') seems false. Of course, if Smith's gloss on the authors' views in play are correct, then those concepts will have constituents that were not consciously and intentionally formed by the agent, but why is that a problem? We saw in the last post that Smith worries about the reliability of concepts that aren't formed consciously and intentionally, without pre-conceptual acquaintance with the external world, but we also saw that it's not at all that clear his worries are warranted.

In any case, what does seem true is not (2'), but rather

(2'') If every act of introspection requires that the representation of its referent come to us automatically pre-packaged with a conceptualization, and the process of forming concepts is essentially a non-automatic, conscious, intentional process, then the process of forming concepts can never get started.

(2'')'s consequent seems to follow from its antecedent, and so in this sense, at least, (2''') is an improvement over (2'). But to preserve the validity of the argument, we'll need to add a premise that states the new clause present in (2'')'s antecedent. Let's therefore revise the argument accordingly:

1. If the views of Dretske et al. are correct, then every act of introspection requires that the representation of its referent come to us automatically pre-packaged with a conceptualization. 
2''. If every act of introspection requires that the representation of its referent come to us automatically pre-packaged with a conceptualization, and the process of forming concepts is essentially a non-automatic, conscious, intentional process, then the process of forming concepts can never get started.
2 1/2.  The process of forming concepts is essentially a non-automatic, conscious, intentional process.
3. If the process of forming concepts can never get started, then we can't form concepts.
-------------------------------------- 
4. Therefore, if the views of Dretske et al. are correct, then we can’t form concepts. 
5. We can form concepts. 
--------------------------------------
6. Therefore, the views of Dretske et al. are not correct.

Unfortunately, the problem now lies with (2 1/2): Why think the process of forming concepts is essentially a non-automatic, conscious, intentional process? It certainly doesn't seem to be known a priori. Perhaps one can weaken (2) and (2 1/2) by removing 'essentially', so that the relevant clause is a contingent truth. But then it becomes an empirical claim. Now Smith appeals to some of his own experience of forming concepts, and that of his daughter, as supporting empirical evidence, but of course that's not sufficient to support the claim. What's required is a representative sampling of the empirical literature on concept formation, as well as defeaters for nativist accounts of concept possession. Unfortunately, Smith nowhere addresses this literature.

However, some of Smith's remarks in the chapter suggest that he's pursuing a weaker line of argument. According to this latter construal of his argument, it is granted arguendo that some concepts may be innate, in which case the problem of accounting for coming to have concepts at all is mitigated. However, the worry is that even if this is so, it's not plausible that we have enough innate concepts to account for all the concepts that we possess. The background assumption seems to be that on any plausible account of this sort, the sources for concepts are limited to (i) a modest stock of innate concepts and (ii) those that can somehow be built up from combining representational elements from that stock (presumably via imagination or some automatic process). We can express this line of reasoning as follows:

1. If the most plausible glosses on the views of Dretske et al. are correct, then (a) every act of introspection requires that the representation of its referent come to us automatically pre-packaged with a conceptualization, (b) the concepts involved in such packaging are all innate, (c) all our concepts are either innate or constructed from such, and (d) we have no other resources for forming new concepts.
2. If (a) every act of introspection requires that the representation of its referent come to us automatically pre-packaged with a conceptualization, (b) the concepts involved in such packaging are all innate, (c) all our concepts are either innate or constructed from such, and (d) we have no other resources for forming new concepts, then we wouldn't have nearly as many concepts as we do.
3. The consequent of (2) is false.
---------------------------------------
4. Therefore, the most plausible glosses on the views of Dretske et al. are not correct.

I'm unable to see the plausibility of (1), however: why think the most plausible gloss on the authors' views in play includes clauses (c) and (d)? After all, it's natural to think that any account of concept formation worth its salt will include some story about the contributions of perceptual experience, whether or not the process involved in such input is intentional or automatic. It therefore seems that the most plausible glosses on their accounts will include a story involving the contributions of this source. And if that's right, then (1) looks to be false or otherwise unjustified. Again, Smith might worry that the contributions of experience are suspect, but we've seen in previous posts that those worries aren't sufficiently motivated.

Finally, some of Smith's remarks suggest a slightly different complaint. According to this variant of the argument, it's not the very general claim that we can't form concepts at all if naturalism is true, and it's not quite the complaint that we can't form enough concepts if naturalism is true. Rather, it's that we can't form a certain set of concepts if naturalism is true. In particular, we can't form the family of concepts associated intentionality itself, viz., registration (or representation, or indication), veridicality, and ofness. For such knowledge requires the ability to be directly acquainted with a referent x that has some property F, compare it with our concept of F-ness, see if they match, and then form the judgement that x is F. But if Dretske-style accounts of intentionality are correct, then this cannot be done, as all experience is overlaid with concepts, in which case the requisite direct  perceptual acquaintance with the external world is ruled out.

For the moment, let's assume, arguendo, that Smith is right about this. Why is this supposed to be problematic for naturalism? Smith's remarks suggest two key problems. First, if we can't form these concepts, then the naturalistic theories of intentionality spelled out by Dretske et al. would seem to suffer from something on the order of self-referential incoherence or performative contradiction. For their accounts would then entail that we can't form the concepts involved in their explanans and explanandum. Second, Smith argues that the family of concepts associated intentionality itself, (viz., registration, representationindication, veridicality, and ofness) are necessary prerequisites for having any knowledge at all.

What to make of this argument? Well, we've seen that Smith's arguments against naturalistic accounts of concept formation are less than compelling, but beyond that, I find an additional source of puzzlement in the present argument: why think we need the concept of indication (or representation, or ofness) before we can acquire some perceptual knowledge? This strikes me as too intellectualist to be plausible. For example, it's implausible to think my daughter had the concept of representation, or indication, or ofness when she was four, and yet it seems I could make correct knowledge attributions to her regarding simple perceptual reports. But Smith's argument seems to imply that I'm wrong about that (Me: "What's that big puffy thing floating in the sky?" Daughter: "A cloud, Daddy." Me: "So you think your perceptual experience that seems to be of a cloud reliably indicates the presence of a cloud, and that your perceptual state is veridical? Daughter: "Huh?" Me: Oh, for a moment I thought you knew a cloud was in the sky. My mistake.").

Smith anticipates that Dretske will raise just this worry, and (relatedly) the epistemic externalist's point that it's not necessary that one (rightly) conceptualize one's perceptual states as reliable in order to have knowledge about their external referents. Rather, it's enough if the process that produces the belief is in fact reliable. However, Smith has a few more things to say in reply, which I'll explore in the next post in this series.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Smith's Argument Against the Compatibility of Naturalism and Concept Correction

In this post, I'd like to look at Smith's argument that Dretske/Tye/Lycan-style naturalistic accounts of concept acquisition can't account for the possibility of correcting faulty concepts.

As with the other arguments we've discussed from the book, Smith doesn't explicitly lay out his argument in standard form. But I think it can be expressed fairly as follows:


1. If the views of Dretske et al.  are correct, then the act of introspection requires that the representation of its referent comes to us pre-packaged with a conceptualization.
2. If the act of introspection requires that the representation of its referent comes to us pre-packaged with a conceptualization, then we cannot introspect our experiences in a non-conceptual way.
3. If we cannot introspect our experiences in a non-conceptual way, then we cannot compare what is non-conceptually represented in experiences with a concept.
4. If we cannot compare what is non-conceptually represented in experiences with a concept, then we cannot correct concepts.
----------------------------------
5. Therefore, if the views of Dretske et al. are correct, then we cannot correct concepts.

The argument is clearly valid. Furthermore, (1) seems to be true in virtue of the views of the authors referred to in the premise, and (2) and (3) are at least prima facie plausible, if not something in the neighborhood of analytic truths. But why does Smith think we should accept (4)? From our discussion in the previous post, we see that (4) expresses Smith's view that the only way to correct mistaken concepts is via comparing the concept to its referent via non-conceptual awareness of the latter to see if they "match". But why think that? It seems to me that there are at least three reasons to doubt (4).

First, it doesn't take too much trouble to think up epistemically possible ways to correct our concepts even if our introspected experiences come pre-packaged with them. Off the top of my head, here are three: (i) Those who regularly produce and retain concepts that are wrong about things are likely to die quickly (e.g., "That creature running toward me is friendly"; "These (poisonous) berries are nutritious", etc.), and are thereby naturally selected out of the gene pool. By contrast, those with more accurate concepts are more likely to survive and reproduce. (The argument is supposed to be independent of Plantinga's evolutionary argument against naturalism, so let's leave it aside for another day.); (ii) less drastically, faulty concepts can be corrected or replaced by inference through rudimentary hypothesis-testing. Concepts that are inept or inferior with respect to helping us navigate our way through the world are revised or replaced; (iii) faulty concepts can be corrected through communication with others and testimony. Perhaps there are some fundamental problems with each of these proposals, but unfortunately Smith doesn't tell us what they are.

Second, whatever one thinks of these epistemic possibilities, Smith's argument should immediately make one think something must be wrong with premise 4. For if we can’t correct concepts that can't be directly compared to their referent to see if they "match", then truth-conducive theoretical reasoning, including scientific theorizing, is impossible, and I don't think even Smith wants to grant that. 

Finally, it's not clear how Smith can accept (4) without accepting a logically inconsistent set of propositions.  This is because he later wants to argue that we can have indirect, inferential knowledge of God through inductive and deductive reasoning. Given that clearing the decks to make room for the the latter claim is the primary aim of the book, it would seem that Smith is committed to rejecting (4).

That's it for now. Next time, we'll look at Smith's argument against  the compatibility of naturalism and concept formation.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Smith's Master Argument Against Naturalistic Accounts of Perceptual Knowledge in Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality

Last time we discussed Smith's book, we focused on his master argument against naturalistic accounts of concept acquisition and correction. Here I'd like to focus on his master argument against naturalistic accounts of perception. As with the former argument, Smith nowhere explicitly lays out the argument in standard form. However, I think it can be fairly expressed as follows:
1. If naturalism is true, then either naturalistic direct realism (think Armstrong, Dretske et. al.) is true or some version of indirect realism is true.
2. If some version of indirect realism is true, then we don’t have adequate internally accessible grounds for believing that our perceptual experiences are caused by and accurately represent the external world.
3. If we don’t have adequate internally accessible grounds for believing that our perceptual experiences are caused by and accurately represent the external world, then we don’t have perceptual knowledge of the external world.
4. Therefore, if some version of indirect realism is true, then we don’t have perceptual knowledge of the external world.
5. If naturalistic direct realism is true, then a causal chain stands between the external world and our perceptual beliefs.
6. If a causal chain stands between the external world and our perceptual beliefs, then we don't have internally accessible grounds for believing that our perceptual beliefs are caused by and accurately represent the external world.
7. If we don't have internally accessible grounds for believing that our perceptual beliefs are caused by and accurately represent the external world, then we don’t have perceptual knowledge of the external world.
8. Therefore, if naturalistic direct realism is true, then we don't have perceptual knowledge of the external world.
9. Therefore, if naturalism is true, then we don’t have perceptual knowledge of the external world.
The argument is clearly valid. However, it's also clear that one can raise a number of worries about its premises and their justification. Here though, I'd like to raise three worries for the argument. First, perhaps the most obvious worry is that the argument relies on the truth of internalism with respect to knowledge (See premises 3 and 7). It would thus be helpful if Smith engaged with the recent literature on the internalism/externalism divide, and  provided an argument for epistemic internalism in his book. Unfortunately, one will look in vain to find such

Second, it seems that Smith is operating with a very narrow notion of internally accessible grounds, viz., (i) immediate, direct acquaintance with the referent (for basic beliefs), and (ii) an argument from (i)-type grounds (for non-basic, inferential beliefs). But this is to ignore an account of internally accessible grounds from one of the dominant versions of epistemic internalism today, viz., phenomenal conservatism. According to the latter sort of account, perceptual seemings constitute a basic source of evidence or justification for beliefs, even if these seemings don't involve immediate, direct acquaintance with their referents. So, for example, it seems to me that I'm in my office. In at least this sense, then, I have non-inferential, internally accessible evidence that I'm in my office. Why isn't this sufficient internally accessible (defeasible) evidence for the perceptual belief at issue? Again, one will look for an answer to this reply (and, more generally, for engagement with the literature on phenomenal conservativism) in vain if one looks for it within the pages of Smith's book.

Finally, Smith doesn't adequately develop his grounds for thinking that perceptual knowledge is impossible even on the conjunction of indirect realism and his narrow conception of epistemic internalism. This is troubling, given semi-recent arguments that begin with Smith's starting points and reach the opposite conclusion. See, for example. the case for an abductivist route to internalist accounts of knowledge and justification for perceptual beliefs from Bonjour, Vogel et. al. 

In short, Smith fails to show that naturalists who are (i) externalists about both knowledge and justification, (ii) externalists about knowledge but internalists about justification, or even (iii) internalists about both knowledge and justification -- i.e., virtually everyone -- can't have perceptual knowledge or justified perceptual beliefs.  For at least these reasons, then, Smith's master argument against naturalistic accounts of perceptual knowledge is unsuccessful.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Argument from Tragic Moral Dilemmas

Here's another argument I'm toying with. It's a variation on the problem of evil. The basic line of thought is that there are tragic moral dilemmas in our world, i.e., contexts in which a moral agent must make a choice, but all available choices will ruin a good person -- they must choose something that is a moral abomination. The paradigm case of this sort of tragic moral dilemma is the central case in the movie, Sophie's Choice. Recall that in this case, the mother must choose which of her two children to hand over to be killed by the Nazis. If she refuses to choose, both children will die. (We can add that if she offers herself in their place, the Nazi soldier will kill all of them).  The argument can be stated simply as follows:

1. If theism is true, then there are no tragic moral dilemmas.
2. It's not the case that there are no tragic moral dilemmas.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
3. Therefore, theism is false.

Premise 2 seems true. What about premise 1? Perhaps the theist could construct a theodicy or defense to undercut the premise, but what could it be? It seems that free will defenses and soul-making theodicies fall flat in such cases. What, then?

In any case, that's the basic argument. Thoughts?

The Argument from Environmental Mismatch

Here's another argument I'm toying with. The Earth is filled with harmful and lethal flora and fauna. Furthermore, such flora and fauna are often either undetectable, or look harmless upon first inspection. Theism makes this surprising, as the Earth is supposed to be our home, and not a Hunger Games scenario. By contrast, such a human-inhospitable environment is expected on the conjunction of naturalism and evolution. So if theism is true, then there appears to be a root mismatch between goal and outcome. Such an argument is conceptually distinct from arguments from evil; it's a planning or implementation problem at root, and not a moral problem.

In any case, that's the basic idea. Thoughts?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Getting Clear on One of Smith's Core Argument in Part I of Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality

(Rough Draft)

In this post, I'd like to try to get clear on the master argument of Smith's critique of naturalistic accounts of concept acquisition in Part I of Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality.  

Smith's master argument in Part I relies on his own picture of concept acquisition, correction, and application, so it's crucial to get clear on the latter first. Unfortunately, Smith's account is never explicitly laid out, relying on several illustrative examples in lieu of such. His account is thus frustratingly under-explicated. But we can extract from Smith's examples a programmatic sketch of his account of concept acquisition and application in terms of the following five phases, adding labels to each one for ease of reference:
Phase 1: Acquaintance: One becomes directly aware of the entity (for knowledge of an individual), or of a sufficiently large quantity of particular tokens of a type of entity (for knowledge of kinds of entity), in an unvarnished, pre-conceptual mode of presentation. 

Phase 2: Feature-Noticing and Labeling: One notices the features of the entity (or a series of entities, for knowledge of kinds of entity) and labels (i.e., associates a term with) them.
Phase 3: Object/Kind Recognition and Abstraction: One begins to recognize which features of the entity (or kind of entity) are individuative of it (or them) -- at least at a level sufficient for practical purposes.  
Phase 4: Comparison and Correction:  When needed, one compares the object (or tokens of the type of object) with the concept to determine if the concept needs correction. In at least some cases (esp. borderline cases/"close calls"), this process relies upon (i) a capacity to compare object to concept to determine whether they "match", which in turn relies upon (ii) the capacity for introspective awareness of one's concept and (iii) the capacity for non-conceptual awareness of one's current experience and non-conceptual recall of one's past experiences. This process is, in at least some cases, (iv) a conscious, intentional process, not sub-personal and automatic.

Phase 5: Competent Application: One is able to regularly and successfully apply the concept to the entity (or tokens of that type of entity). In at least some cases (esp. borderline cases/"close calls"), this process relies upon(i) a capacity to compare object to concept to determine whether they "match", which in turn relies upon (ii) the capacity for introspective awareness of one's concept and (iii) the capacity for non-conceptual awareness of one's current experience and non-conceptual recall of one's past experiences. This process is, in at least some cases, (iv) a conscious, intentional process, not sub-personal and automatic.
So that's Smith's account of concept formation, acquisition, and correction. With his account in mind, we can express his master argument in Part I simply, as follows:

1. All of Phases 1-5 (of Smith's account) are required for genuine concept acquisition, correction, and application as we find them in humans 
2. Naturalistic accounts don't have the materials to account for all of Phases 1-5.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3. Therefore, naturalistic accounts can't explain genuine concept acquisition, correction, and application as we find them in humans.

So that's the master argument against naturalistic concept acquisition. Why should we accept the premises? Smith's grounds for 2 consist in a critique of what he takes to be a representative sampling of the most promising naturalistic accounts of knowledge on offer. 

What about premise 1: Why should we accept it? That is, why think all five of Smith's phases are required for genuine concept formation, correction, and application? Smith doesn't say much about Phases 2 and 3, but I find them relatively plausible. Furthermore, we've already seen Smith's rationale for Phase 1 in our discussion of ch. 1., viz. that without direct awareness of the external referents of perception, one falls prey to radical skepticism about perceptual knowledge, as one can never be sure that one's internal representations of them are caused by them and accurately represent them.[1] 

What about Phases 4 and 5? Recall that Smith thinks both phases require three capacities:
(i) a capacity to compare object to concept to determine whether they "match".
 which in turn relies upon 
(ii) the capacity for introspective awareness of one's concept.
 and 
(iii) the capacity for non-conceptual awareness of one's current experiences and non-conceptual recall of one's past experiences. 
Finally, Smith thinks that 
(iv) this process is, in at least some cases, a conscious, intentional process, not sub-personal and automatic.
I'm inclined to agree with Smith that (iv) is prima facie plausible. But why are we supposed to think (i)-(iii) are required? We'll go into these in some detail in a future post, but for now I want to note that Smith's core rationale is that otherwise we can't be sure if our concepts are accurate. Thus, the same assumption is at the heart of Smith's objections to naturalistic accounts of both percepts and concepts: knowledge of external referents is impossible if an intermediary stands between mind and world -- sense data in the case of perceptions of the world, and concepts in the case of conceptualizations of the world. In short, Smith's core assumption is that naked, unmediated access to the world and our experience of it are required for knowledge.

Our reconstruction of Smith's master argument in Part I reveals three core issues to explore in evaluating it: one for premise 1 and two for premise 2:

Re: premise 1: (a) Are all five of Smith's phases of concept acquisition required? In particular, does concept acquisition regarding the external world require unmediated, unconceptualized access to both it and our introspective states?

Re: premise 2: (b) Are the naturalistic accounts of knowledge Smith criticizes representative? (c) If they are representative, are his criticisms successful?

That's it for now. Next time, I'll explore question (a).
----------------------------------------------------
[1] We discussed the merits (or lack thereof) of Smith's response to the epistemic externalist's reply on this score in the post on ch. 1.

CfP Announcement: Explaining and Explaining Away in Science and Religion

CFP: Explaining and Explaining Away in Science and Religion

Submission deadline: November 7, 2014

Conference date(s):
January 8, 2015 - January 9, 2015

Conference Venue:
University of Ulster 
Belfast, United Kingdom

Topic areas

Details
EXPLAINING AND EXPLAINING AWAY IN SCIENCE AND RELIGION
Belfast, 8-9 January, 2015

Overview
In discussions about the relationship between science and religion, it is sometimes argued that scientific explanations remove or undermine the need for religious explanations. Although such explanations might be logically compatible, the claim is that there is no need for two explanations when one will do. Given Occam's razor and the success of science, it is claimed that religious explanations are no longer needed for features of the world around us. Is this correct? Has science 'explained away' the need for religion? This conference will address this issue by exploring topics such as:

• what are the similarities and differences between scientific and religious explanations?
• can science explain away religious beliefs?
• can religious explanations complement scientific explanations?
• case studies from the history of science and religion on the above themes

The conference will be of interest to philosophers, scientists, theologians and historians of science. Keynote speakers include:

Revd. Dr. Rodney Holder (Cambridge)
Prof. David N. Livingstone (QUB)
Prof. Roger Trigg (Oxford)

Call for Papers
Contributed papers are invited on the topics identified above (or related topics relevant to the conference theme). An extended abstract of no more than 1000 words should be submitted to Dr Shuwei Chen (s.chen@ulster.ac.uk) by Friday 7 November and decisions will be made by 21 November. We will be approaching a publisher about the possibility of publishing a volume based on papers presented at the conference.

Funding is available to support travel and accommodation expenses for speakers.

This conference is part of a two year project on 'Explaining and Explaining Away' at the University of Ulster which is funded by the John Templeton Foundation. Details of the project can be found at:

(via)