Friday, March 26, 2021

Incinerating Presuppositionalism: Year Sixteen

It’s that time of year again when we all get to sing a round of “Happy Birthday” for Incinerating Presuppositionalism. At sixteen years of age, this blog is eligible for a drivers license… at least in some states. Just don’t cause an accident!

If my goal is to go a full twenty, I’d say I’m on my way. And for those of you who actually read any of my entries, you have my enduring gratitude! Even more so if you comment! You know who you are. (Yes, I do read your comments.)

As I always do on my blog’s birthday, I list out the entries I posted over the previous year. Then this entry itself goes up in the sidebar section named Blog Chronology. This navigation section used to be really helpful for me – for I had always had it in my mind when I had posted a certain entry I was looking for, and this made it easy to find. But nowadays, I have to stop and think “Was that in Year Seven, or Year Nine? Hmmm…. Let me see….” And then I fumble around until I realize it was in Year Four! My blog is more faithful than my own memory sometimes. But I still think these anniversary pages serve a good purpose, so here goes:

478. WSIBC: “God and Mind” - April 22, 2020

479. WSIBC: “God and Science” - May 18, 2020

480. WSIBC: Presup Enters Rehab - May 26, 2020

481. Reader Email Backlog - June 28, 2020

482. WSIBC Jump Page - July 28, 2020

483. My Refutation of STB: Ten Years On - August 27, 2020

484. Presuppositionalism and Induction - September 28, 2020

489. Anderson versus Materialism - February 25, 2021

In November 2019 – back in Year Fifteen, I had posted the initial entry of my multi-post series examining James Anderson’s book “Why Should I Believe Christianity?” I did not complete this within the period covered in Year Fifteen, nor was that really my intention. But I did complete it in Year Sixteen – I even posted a jump page for this series, probably the longest on my entire blog. So readers can go there and access every installment, if they so choose. I am pleased with this work and provide it as evidence to support my contention that, if apologists think they can vindicate the Christian worldview, they need to take a different path. Judging by the view count of several of the installments, I’m guessing that some readers may think similarly.

In the latter months of Year Sixteen, I began a loose series discussing various aspects of induction and how this amazing cognitive ability relates to presuppositional apologetics. Apologists following Greg Bahnsen and his fellow-travelers have taken Bahnsen’s assertions about induction at face value in a most unself-conscious manner. I admit that I find it gratifying to point this out. Even more intellectually fulfilling is pointing to the conceptual basis of induction as the source answering Hume’s canard. I’ve often noted that Objectivism has the answers apologists wish they could call their own, but cannot, given their allegiance to the primacy of consciousness metaphysics. Since induction is a special interest of mine, I may revisit related issues and continue that series at some point.

My work has involved me in numerous engaging projects over the past several months, some which are more complicated than first supposed, and some with looming deadlines. So while I intend to keep some activity going here on IP, I’m afraid I cannot promise twelve entries per day. Most recently I interacted with the first of several objections which James Anderson has raised against materialism. I have received some positive feedback on that and am encouraged to explore more of Anderson’s objections in future posts. Let’s see what that might raise to surface!

So here’s to another year of Incinerating Presuppositionalism!

by Dawson Bethrick

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Anderson versus Materialism

In a recent post on his blog, Christian apologist James Anderson takes NT scholar Bart Ehrman to task for his (the latter’s) overt confession of materialism. Really, Erhman’s post announcing his materialist views serves as a good opportunity for Anderson to articulate challenges against materialism; tarnishing Erhman’s worldview as an indirect way of undermining his views regarding a historical Jesus may be a meager but happy bonus. For the present purposes, Erhman is just a bystander. The main event here is Anderson’s critique of materialism. 

The springboard for Anderson’s attack on materialism is Erhman’s statement that “This materialist view creates enormous conceptual problems that I wrestle with all the time.” Admissions of internal troubles is like baiting sharks with the smell of blood. Curiously, however, this notion of “enormous conceptual problems” shows up in several places in Anderson’s blog entry, which makes me wonder on behalf of both Anderson and Erhman: If either party is wrestling with problems of a conceptual nature, what exactly is their respective worldview’s theory of concepts? 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Presuppositionalism and Induction: Thoughts on the Uniformity of Nature

It is very common for presuppositionalists, when making the problem of induction a debating point, to center the issue on the uniformity of nature and demand that non-Christians explain their assumption that nature is uniform in a way that does not imply theism. Induction, it is said, presupposes the uniformity of nature, and if one cannot justify his presupposition that nature is in fact uniform, then he has no justification for his inductive inferences. 

In this way, the use of the problem of induction in debate gets stuck in a short-sighted rut, focusing all energy on a discussion of the uniformity of nature and how we can justify the uniformity that is observed in nature, an observation which in itself owes much to our powers of inductive reasoning. In essence, this is a set-up, and once one accepts this approach, his fallacies line up for the picking. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Presuppositionalism and Induction: The Humean Condition

In my previous post, I raised the concern over the very real specter of the problem of induction falling prey to the fallacy of the stolen concept. The problem of induction is not postured as a single blade of grass one innocuously passes over unknowingly as he goes about his business, but rather as a massive jungle blocking one’s path entirely.

But that’s what gives away the game. The problem of induction offers the conclusion that our generalizations are unreliable, and yet we are to accept that conclusion as reliably applicable to all generalizing. It is as though one stated, “All generalizations are unreliable, and my generalizations prove that!” And yet, theists who deploy the problem of induction as an apologetic device apparently do not see how it falls on its own sword.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Presuppositionalism and Induction: Exhuming Hume

When apologists raise the problem of induction in their encounters with non-Christians, they apparently expect non-Christians to be freshly familiar with both David Hume and also his argument undermining the reliability of induction. Or at least, to be familiar with the conclusion of an argument which brings the reliability of induction into serious doubt. Either that, or they’re raising the problem of induction in the hopes that their non-Christian sparring partners are not at all versed on matters relating to Hume’s skeptical argument and thus will be easily ensnared by the apologist’s waiting trap.

The former expectation does not seem very realistic. Albeit anecdotally, in my experience, most people I’ve surveyed over the years (many of them very intelligent and well educated individuals) have little or no familiarity with David Hume, let alone with any particular argument he championed. Even among those who took an introductory philosophy course back in junior college, few seem to remember much of anything about Hume.

The latter expectation, or rather hope, strikes me as rather devious and scheming. The problem of induction neatly lends itself as a ready gateway to a god-of-the-gaps style apologetic.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Presuppositionalism and Induction: Apologists Courting Hume

As I mentioned in my previous entry, presuppositionalists routinely take Hume’s skeptical conclusion on the reliability of induction for granted, acting as though Hume’s position must be “answered” on Hume’s own terms. 

 Let’s survey a few poignant examples of this. 

Monday, September 28, 2020

Presuppositionalism and Induction

Presuppositionalists who raise the problem of induction as a debating point in their encounters with non-theists, typically point to the uniformity of nature as the key issue to unlocking and solving the problem. After all, say the presuppositionalists, if nature were not uniform, then we’d have no basis for supposing that the future will resemble the past, which would throw induction under the bus.

In fact, the uniformity of nature is only one of several key issues, and, I’d argue, not the critical one. Even if nature is uniform, this alone would not explain how we know it’s uniform, nor would it explain what the human mind does when drawing inductive generalizations. Indeed, the Objectivist view is that nature is uniform regardless of what anyone thinks, believes, knows, prefers, hopes, etc. It’s something we discover, but this is only the beginning, not the end of explaining induction. After all, if nature is uniform, it’s not uniform only in my experience, but also in my cat’s experience. However, my cat will never draw the general conclusion that touching hot stovetops will result in a painful burn. But I can. Surely there’s more to the issue than merely “here’s why the assumption that nature is uniform is justified.”