The Argument from Neo-Carnapian Metametaphysics

Rough draft.

Here's another argument to add to the list. According to a popular and well-motivated version of neo-Carnapian metametaphysics, the accidental, essential, and/or individuating properties attributed to an entity aren't "deep", but rather are attributed to an object via linguistic rules about the application-conditions of an expression used to denote a referent, where these rules are created and revised on the basis of our practical interests[1]. But if so, then there is non-trivial epistemic pressure to think the accidental, essential, and/or individuating properties we attribute to God aren't deep, either, but are likewise selected, negotiated, and revised on the basis of our practical interests. Indeed, the history of theological and philosophical reflection on the concept of the god of traditional monotheism seems to confirm this point, as theologians and philosophers of religion continue to tinker with the concept of God right up to the present. Furthermore, the reasons for doing so seem to clearly relate to issues of practical interest, such as, e.g., renegotiating and revising the medieval concept of God as absolutely simple, static, and impassible being to a dynamic, temporal, empathic being so as to align more closely with our personal wants and needs. Similarly for the recent trend of renegotiating and revising the gender-terms associated with God. But according to traditional monotheism, the accidental, essential, and/or individuating properties attributed to God are deep, and not carved out and negotiated on the basis of our practical interests. Therefore, to the extent that one is moved by the arguments for neo-Carnapian metametaphysics, one has a significant reason to doubt that our concept of the god of traditional monotheism carves reality at the joints[2]-- or even that there are mind-independent divine joints there to be carved in the first place.

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[1] Exceptions are the apparently innate concepts for agency, number, and the generic sortal for objects (cf. Carey's The Origin of Concepts). But as Thomasson argues, these were selected for by evolution to aid in survival and reproduction, and there is no reason to think their selection was truth-aimed. So while such concepts seem to be innate, they are like our non-innate concepts in the crucial sense of being produced primarily to serve our practical interests.

[2] One might object that the existence of the specifically traditional theistic god could be confirmed via inference to the best explanation (IBE), but Thomasson argues (a la Shalkowski, Saatsi, and others) that while IBE may be a legitimate form of inference in ordinary contexts (e.g., in confirming that a mouse is in the house via data such as small droppings, gnawed holes in food bags, etc.) and in the sciences, it isn't legitimate in metaphysics. This is because hypotheses of the former sorts can be independently confirmed in ordinary contexts (say, by waiting up to catch the mouse with a mousetrap), but not in metaphysics. Indeed, IBE itself can be independently confirmed as a reliable method of inference in ordinary contexts (via empirical feedback), but not in metaphysics.

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