Search Results for: Angus Menuge

Angus Menuge on AI and the Metaphysics of Mind

In 2016, Angus Menuge gave a presentation for the European Leadership Forum’s conference on the topic, “Artificial Intelligence and the Metaphysics of Mind.”

Description: Ray Kurzweil and others have suggested that computers will very soon exhibit Artificial General Intelligence (AGI).  AGI implies that the systems will not be domain-specific (like chess-playing systems) but can adapt to a wide range of contexts.  Few would dispute that these systems will solve problems which unaided humans could only solve by using their intelligence, and that the AGI systems will often be faster and more accurate.  If one wants to call this ability “intelligence,” then doubtless AGI systems are intelligent.  But this impressive progress does nothing to bridge the chasm between computers and the metaphysics of mind.   The human mind has a number of intrinsic characteristics, such as subjectivity, intentionality, teleology, and rationality, which a computer can only simulate.  If one defines “intelligence” in terms of a subject’s capacity to seek out and acquire knowledge of the real world, then I see no reason to think that the most sophisticated AGI system is a substantial advance on a pocket calculator.

Rejoinder to Angus Menuge on Ramified Personalized Natural Theology

This article is a rejoinder to Angus Menuge’s latest proposal of “a third way between standard natural theology and Gethsemane epistemology” for the Christ-Shaped Philosophy project.

I contend that we do not have a stable third way, because any alternative to Gethsemane epistemology, like the arguments of traditional natural theology, neglects the distinctiveness of the evidence for the self-authenticating Christian God and does not offer a resilient defense of belief in this God.

Advocates of the traditional arguments of natural theology fail to represent the ontological and evidential uniqueness of this God.

The full-text of this article is available for FREE by clicking here.

Welcome Angus Menuge!

We are grateful to host Dr. Angus J. L. Menuge as our new contributor to the EPS blog. Look for his first post in the next few days! (He recently made news in a New Scientist article that attempted to report on the resurgence of “Cartesian dualism” among neuroscientists and philosophers of mind).

Angus J. L. Menuge is Professor of Philosophy at Concordia University Wisconsin. Born in England, he became an American citizen in 2005. Menuge has written articles on the vocation of scientist, Intelligent Design, philosophy of mind and apologetics. He is the author of Agents Under Fire: Materialism and the Rationality of Science (Rowman and Littlefield, 2004) and editor of Reading God’s World: The Vocation of Scientist (Concordia Publishing House, 2004). He shares a website with Gene Edward Veith devoted to the Reformation doctrines of Vocation and the Two Kingdoms,

Angus, a member of the EPS, is also a frequent contributor to Philosophia Christi.

His most recent article appeared in our 10:1 issue, “Intelligent Design, Darwinism, and Psychological Unity.”

Menuge’s other Philosophia Christi articles include his “Beyond Skinnerian Creatures: A Defense of the Lewis and Plantinga Critiques of Evolutionary Naturalism” in our 5:1 issue and his “Whereof One Can Speak, Thereof One Must Not Be Silent: A Review Essay on Tractatus Logico-Theologicus” in the 6:1 issue.

2008 EPS Papers (Menuge)

Angus Menuge

Is Downward Causation Possible?

Abstract: Materialists have advanced several arguments to show that “downward causation” (mental to physical causation) is impossible. It is claimed that downward causation: (1) violates the causal closure of the physical; (2) is incompatible with natural law; (3) cannot be reconciled with the empirical evidence from neuroscience. This paper responds to these objections by arguing that: (1) there is no good reason to believe that the physical is causally closed; (2) properly understood, natural laws are compatible with downward causation; (3) recent findings in neuroscience reported by Schwartz, Beauregard and others provide strong empirical support for downward causation.

International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism & Human Rights


Join EPS President Angus Menuge, Chad Meister, John Warwick Montgomery, and Craig Parton in Strasbourg, France, July 10-21, 2018, for a unique training opportunity to learn how to defend historic biblical faith in an increasingly secular age devoid of a solid basis for human rights.

The International Academy will offer the following lecture and seminar program, taught in English by the Professors in Residence:

  • The Apologetic Task Today
  • Biblical Authority
  • Philosophical Apologetics
  • The Problem of Evil
  • Scientific Apologetics and Medical Issues
  • Historical Apologetics
  • Legal Apologetics and Human Rights
  • Cults, Sects, and the World’s Religions
  • Literary and Cultural Apologetics

Each of these nine subjects will be treated by one or more of the Professors in Residence for a minimum of 4 hours (total class instruction: 45 hours). A reading list will be provided on initial registration so as to permit background study prior to the summer session.

To learn more about this unique training opportunity and its various activities, please

Darwinian Conservatism and Free Will

Ordered Liberty and Darwinian Human Nature

Darwinian Conservatism claims that the central ideals of political conservatives are supported by Darwinism. In particular, Larry Arnhart argues that a Darwinian view of human nature fits nicely with the conservative ideal of ordered liberty: the intrusive central planning of the state can be minimized if citizens take personal responsibility for their actions (see Arnhart 2005 Darwinian Conservatism). This kind of buck stopping responsibility arguably assumes that a human agent has libertarian free will. Thus, Arnhart concedes that in order to support his claim that Darwinism is supportive of ordered liberty, he must show that libertarian free will plausibly arose via Darwinian processes.

Arnhart is aware that many Darwinists have understood the Darwinian paradigm as an inherently reductionist one, according to which human beings are machines that exist to preserve their genes. He grants that this makes it hard to see how there could be free will. At the same time, Arnhart thinks the Darwinian view is incompatible with dualistic schemes which assert that minds could exist independently of the physical world. However, like John Searle, Arnhart sees emergence as a third alternative. On Arnhart’s view, a mind with powers of rationality and free will emerged as a consequence of the selection in humans of frontal lobes with greatly increased size and complexity (for more on Searle, see his 2007 Freedom and Neurobiology, and then also my “Neuroscience, Rationality and Free Will,” Philosophia Christi 15:1 [2013] 81-96).

My critique of Arnhart

My area of specialization is philosophy of mind, and in my chapter, I argue, contra Arnhart, that the kind of libertarian free will presupposed by the conservative ideal of ordered liberty is not plausible given a Darwinian view of human nature. This is because four of the ontological requirements for libertarian free will exceed those available in the naturalistic framework presupposed by Darwinism.

1. The Self is a Continuant

For a self to be responsible for its decisions, it must be the same self who deliberates, decides and acts, which means that on Arnhart’s view, the self that emerges must be a continuant something that persists over time. However, I argue that there is nothing about the underling physical processes that explains or predicts a continuant self, because those processes are in flux.

2. The Unity of Consciousness

The unity of consciousness also does not plausibly emerge from physical processes because a subject’s thoughts are inseparably tied to that subject and this is utterly unlike physical structures of separable objects or events. The primitive unity of the self cannot simply emerge from the rearrangement of separable parts in aggregates or processes.

3. Teleology

Selves make choices in order to achieve various goals which they can represent in intentional states (states that are about something beyond themselves) such as desires. However, the whole point of the Darwinian paradigm is that there is no teleology within nature: undirected processes are sufficient to account for the appearance of design. I argue at length that various attempts (including Dennett’s) to explain how human purposes and intentionality arise from non-purposive and non-intentional processes are incoherent.

4. Downward Causation

If we have libertarian free will, then our choices make a difference to what our brains and bodies do. But as Jaegwon Kim has argued, the kind of emergence assumed by Arnhart is inconsistent. For if one rejects dualism, one must claim that every physical effect has a sufficient physical cause. So any mental states that emerge from underlying physical states cannot act back on the physical world. Indeed, I argue that to say that the mind has independent causal power is to be a dualist: emergent libertarian physicalism is not a genuine option.

Future Directions

My view is that philosophy of mind is increasingly dominated by bad faith naturalism: theories claiming to be naturalistic typically presuppose entities more at home in a non-naturalistic framework. Is it a coincidence that ’emergence’ has become an increasingly popular option, favored by both secular and Christian physicalists? I think that the term is generally poorly defined and frequently conceals inconsistencies both between the usage of various authors and in the thinking of a single author who hopes to mentally enjoy his mind and physically eat it too. What we most need is careful work closely defining and distinguishing various interpretations of ’emergence,’ followed by critical examination to see which (if any) of them has merit.

My concern is that ’emergence’ is too often employed as a non-explanatory veil of confusion and evasion of more important issues. For example, has emergence become popular partly because philosophy of mind has been too preoccupied with an ontological paradigm of physical event causation? Is it really plausible that a self (something apparently in the category of a substance) can emerge from underlying event causal processes? Is not a better approach (as pursued by E. J. Lowe , J. P. Moreland , and Richard Swinburne) to reconceive causation in general (and hence agent causation in particular) as fundamentally a relation between substances? If so, is emergence helpful in conceiving an agent’s powers of rational deliberation and free will? Are there more promising alternatives? (for more on this see E. J. Lowe 2008 book, Personal Agency: The Metaphysics of Mind and Action; J. P. Moreland’s 2008 Consciousness and the Existence of God and his 2009 The Recalcitrant Imago Dei; and then Richard Swinburne’s 2013, Mind, Brain, and Free Will).

More fundamentally, would we arrive at the idea of emergence if we had started by taking God Himself as the paradigm example of a rational agent? How much philosophy of mind, even when pursued by Christians, is driven by an impatient scientism, rather than a thoroughgoing theocentric and Christocentric view of reality? Philosophy of mind informed by a deep understanding of the nature of God and the hypostatic union of the two natures of Christ may lead to some fascinating breakthroughs.

To learn more about the contributions of Darwinian Evolution and Classical Liberalism: Theories in Tension (Lexington Books, 2013), click here for a fuller discussion at the EPS website. Readers are also encouraged to take advantage of a 30% discount when purchased through Rowman and Littlefield’s website (Lex30Auth14 – this discount expires 12/31/2014).

The Contingency Problem: Why Human Rights Cannot be Naturalized

PRECIS: “The Contingency Problem: Why Human Rights Cannot be Naturalized,” chapter 3 of Angus J. L. Menuge, ed., Legitimizing Human Rights: Secular and Religious Perspectives (Ashgate, 2013).

A human right is a just entitlement one has simply in virtue of being human: human rights are universal, inherent and inalienable.  Rooted in our nature as human beings, they can neither be granted nor revoked by the state or any other temporal authority.  Many of today’s ardent defenders of human rights are secularists whose underlying worldview is naturalism.  But can naturalism provide an adequate foundation for human rights?

For naturalism, a human being is one occurrence among many, distinguished only by its natural history.  That history consists of contingent events which have shaped every human faculty, including the moral sense.   As Charles Darwin emphasized in The Descent of Man, this has radical implications for our understanding of morality.  It implies that if our natural history had been relevantly different, our moral sense would not be the same.  Thus:

If…men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters; and no one would think of interfering (Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1998), 102).

In Darwin’s nightmare scenario, human beings might have thought that fratricide and infanticide were moral duties.  But the important question for human rights is:

Would fratricide and infanticide then have been moral duties? 

Evolutionary Ethics (EE) offers two answers to this question: Weak EE and Strong EE. Weak EE is a thesis of moral psychology: it gives an account of the origin of moral sentiments and beliefs.  It has no ontological implications for morality (it is compatible with both the existence and the non-existence of objective moral values), and it does not imply that our moral perceptions are reliable.  Strong EEclaims that our psychological states reliably track moral reality and that they do so because what counts as a moral value itself depends on biological history, so it does have ontological implications.

Yet, whether strong or weak, EE is in trouble. First, suppose Strong EE is affirmed.  Then there cannot be inalienable human rights, because changes in biological history can abridge or even withdraw those rights.  For example, if all human beings have a fundamental right to life, this must include brothers and female infants.  Yet, as Darwin points out, there are possible biological histories in which these humans have no such right, because fratricide and female infanticide are moral duties.  Indeed, by social engineering, a tyrant might make it the case that fratricide and female infanticide are right by compelling people to raise their children like hive bees!  So the whole idea that one has a right to life as a matter of normative necessity is undermined.Now suppose Weak EE is affirmed.  Then although being raised like a hive bee would not make fratricide a duty, our moral sense would tell us that it was.  If so, our moral beliefs do not provide reliable access to moral reality.  Even if our actual moral beliefs about fratricide happen to be true, this is a coincidence.  It no more constitutes knowledge than does the belief of someone lucky enough to learn the right time from a broken clock.  So Weak EE fails to account for moral knowledge.

So, the basic dilemma for EE is this.  If EE is correct then either: (1) human rights do not exist or (2) they are unknowable.   In fact, I argue that either moral skepticism or moral anti-realism is the most plausible conclusion to draw from a Darwinian account of human nature.  Quite obviously though, those supporting human rights protections believe that human rights are both real and knowable, and so they are best advised to look elsewhere for a noncontingent foundation for human rights, with biblical theism a leading candidate (as Paul Copan shows in his chapter).

For further exploration

  • One response to the metaphysical inadequacies of standard versions of naturalism as a foundation for objective moral values is naturalized Platonism.  On this view “nature” includes both ordinary contingent physical objects and abstract objects, which might include moral universals.  This allows for the existence of objective moral values and hence is consistent with the existence of human rights.  But how plausible is this view?  Can it really claim in good faith to be a version of naturalism?  How and why do objective values exist?  Why, given all the other contents of the cosmos, are humans especially valuable?  What, if any, is the connection between the Platonic realm of values and the physical cosmos?  Is there any credible account of how we could come to know these moral values?
  • In his recent book, Mind and Cosmos (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), Thomas Nagel offers a third way between naturalism and theism, a panpsychist version of neutral monism according to which the cosmos includes both standard physical laws and teleological principles.  Unlike his anti-realist colleague Sharon Street, Nagel is a moral realist.  Could his neutral monist scheme provide an alternative non-theistic foundation for human rights?  If human flourishing is among the goals of the teleological principles built into nature, does that explain why there are human rights?  Or is the existence of such teleological principles just as puzzling as the human rights it is invoked to explain?
  • Can a naturalist hope to show that even if humans do not have certain rights as a matter of normative necessity, still it is an important contingent fact that all and only recent humans do have special rights?  In particular, given the apparent physical differences between human beings (with many physical properties being degreed and/or not uniformly distributed), can naturalists locate some feature of all and only recent human beings in virtue of which it can plausibly be claimed that they all have special value?  Is there any way for the naturalist believer in human rights to overcome Peter Singer’s allegation that such talk is “speciesist”?
  • The Christian theist should agree with the naturalist that human beings do have important limitations: we are finite creatures, infected by sin.  Given our flawed cognitive capacities, how credible is it, even on theism, that we can know human rights?  Given the disagreements among theists about human rights, what are the best criteria for adjudicating disputes?
  • If a naturalist philosopher follows Peter Singer in concluding that human rights do not exist, what is the best approach to convincing her that they do?  Is it reasonable to think such a person can be persuaded to accept human rights while remaining a non-theist?   Or is it better to provide other arguments for theism and then show the theistic support for human rights?

Precis of Legitimizing Human Rights: Secular and Religious Perspectives

The following is a precis of Legitimizing Human Rights: Secular and Religious Perspectives (Ashgate, 2013).

Outline of the Book

The collection is divided into three sections.  The first section concerns the bedrock foundation of human rights, and contributors explore the merits of theistic and naturalistic accounts.  A second section explores the nature, scope and limits of religious freedom.  The third section discusses the best way to motivate cultural acceptance and enforcement of human rights protections.

I. The Foundation of Human Rights.

In the first chapter, Paul Copan investigates the ontological foundation of human rights and provides rigorous arguments to show the superiority of theism over naturalism.  He also provides an extensive rebuttal to the perennial Euthyphro dilemma, showing its attempt to undermine a theistic foundation for ethics to be without merit.   By contrast, the second chapter by Paul Cliteur supports the contrary view that human rights derive from secular sources.  He argues that religion is an inadequate foundation because it can and does promote harm discernible by secular reason, and thus the secular state is justified in restricting religious liberty when it promotes such harm.
Cliteur’s attempt to secularize human rights depends on the assumption that right and wrong can be determined through an understanding of human nature without God.  This would appear to require a naturalistic account of the origin of human nature, as some claim to find in Darwin.   In my contribution to this volume (chapter 3), I explore the merits of this proposal by examining the case for Evolutionary Ethics.  I argue that on Darwinian grounds, the most reasonable conclusion is that human rights are either non-existent or unknowable.  This is because of the radical contingency of our moral sense on our natural history, a point Darwin himself emphasized.  I end with the suggestion that this shows the importance of a transcendent foundation for human rights as found in the Bible.
Yet, in chapter 4, Friedrich Toepel raises the concern that in a world of religious pluralism, appeal to revelation, while it may be correct, is not a practicable way to implement human rights legislation. For example, the death penalty for apostasy recognized in some Islamic states, is inconsistent with the right of the freedom of religious conscience recognized by Jews and Christians.  This worry arises even among secularists because, for example, Kantians, utilitarians and Aristotelians have quite different understandings of what constitutes human flourishing.  Thus, Toepel raises the pragmatic question: given the disagreements about human rights, what is the best legal model for advancing human rights protections?  Toepel offers a framework (“constructo-positivism”) for implementing human rights legislation.

II. Religious Liberty and the Secular State.

A founding ideal of the United States is that the best protection for religious freedom is a secular state which permits the free exercise of religions without establishing any of them.  But what is meant by a secular state, and what guarantee is there that it will be neutral among religions?  In chapter 5, John Calvert argues that since “secular” means “not religious,” whether or not a secular state will be neutral depends crucially on its definition of religion.  His key point is that religions include non-theistic belief systems, like secular humanism, which should not be allowed to masquerade as neutral.  Thus if “religion” is defined narrowly, as theistic belief, the state is liable to lose its neutrality by favoring non-theistic religions over theistic ones.  Appealing to both philosophical and legal authorities, Calvert argues that the correct definition of religion is a broad one.   This conclusion has important consequences for the way theories about the origin of the life and the nature of human sexuality should be presented in public schools.

The question of religious liberty is also complicated by the diversity of religious beliefs in modern, pluralistic democracies.  In chapter 6, Vito Breda explores Lautsi v. Italy, a landmark case heard by the European Court of Human Rights on religious symbols in the classroom.  The Court took the view that in a pluralist context, secularism can no longer be presumed to be a neutral, default position, since this would effectively empty the public square of some religious expressions while allowing secularism itself to be established.  So, within certain limits, the Court decided that states should be allowed discretion in order to accommodate a plurality of religious perspectives.

But what are those limits on religious freedom?  Surely Paul Cliteur is right that some people have advocated harm in the name of religion, and particularly in a pluralistic context, citizens need protection from religiously motivated violence.  In chapter 7, John Warwick Montgomery explores the vexed issue of when and where restrictions on religious liberty can be justified.  It turns out that this depends on a correct understanding of religious freedom, which is something religions disagree about!  However, as a noted apologist as well as a human rights advocate, Montgomery argues that the Bible can be defended as the most reliable standard.  This source discloses the nature and limits of religious freedom, and, Montgomery argues, can be shown independently to be best for society.

III. Enforcing and Motivating Human Rights.

There is little point calling something a human right if there is no redress in case that right is violated.  Thus the very idea of a human right is connected to the proper means of punishment for human rights abuses.  In chapter 8, Hendrik Kaptein considers how best to understand the idea of retributive justice.  He argues that it is best understood as an attempt to restore victims (as far as possible) to the situation they were in before the abuse occurred.  Retribution is one way to show what it means for a human right to be respected, as it attempts to restore the enjoyment of that right.   Kaptein also argues that the chasm separating human rights law and actual enforcement requires urgent reform.
Dallas Miller agrees, and in chapter 9, he notes that while international human rights protections abound, massive abuses continue.  Despite the historic abolition of slavery in England and the US, a new kind of slavery is actually increasing worldwide.  Miller contrasts secular and religious motivations for human rights reforms and provides historical and contemporary data to show that the most effective human rights movements have been guided by Judeo-Christian principles.  These principles provide not only an ontological foundation of human rights but also a pragmatic foundation, since they lead people to recognize and care about the value of all human beings.
Finally, in chapter 10, Dobrochna Bach-Golecka explores the pivotal role of the Church in promoting a high view of human worth and dignity. The church influences the norms a culture accepts, provides criteria for right and wrong, and can call both its members and society to repentance.  She shows how the Catholic Church operates at the congregational, regional and international level to support the value of all human life and to promote solidarity in the face of oppression.