Will the Real TAG Please Stand Up?
I went through his responses to Dr. Moore in search of any statements which Paul might have intended to encapsulate TAG, and in my estimation the following seem to come closest to what he believes TAG is trying to argue:
1. "we are saying something more like, because you ARE NOT ignorant of X, that shows you presuppose that God exists."
2. "The argument is that if your worldview were true, [logic] would not exist."
3. "The argument is that laws of logic are inconsistent with your worldview."
4. "E’ is only possible in the a Christian worldview, CW, therefore, using E’ is to assume the truth of CW."
5. "The claim of TAG is that you cannot explain or account for ANYTHING."
6. "My argument is that the Christian worldview is true because it is transcendentall necessary for the possibility of knowledge."
7. "I argue that the character of logic is incompatible with the character of matter, therefore the cannot exist because immaterialk entities do not exist, and never will, given *what you say*."
8. "I'm saying, for the upmteenth time, that the *reason* you can't account for logic is because it wouldn't exist given your worldview."
9. "I'm saying something about the character of matter and the character of LoL. If matter is all there is, then logic does not exist (except as convention, or linguistic constructs, but then you have the conventionalists problems)."
For the most part, however, Paul's arguments seem to be concerned with materialism in particular; specifically he seems concerned to prove that materialism and logic are incompatible. And while this ambition has its own share of problems, even if it were successful, it would not prove the reality of the Christian god, which is what I understand to be the goal of TAG. After all, the acronym TAG is short for "transcendental argument for the existence of God," is it not? However, the supposition that logic and materialism are incompatible with one another in no way necessitates the existence of any invisible magic beings, unless of course that supposition is inserted by theistic prejudices. But if that is the case, then the supposed tension between logic and materialism could not itself be used to validate those theistic prejudices as this would beg the question.
So already it seems that Paul has introduced some confusion into the fray, for the argument that he wants to say is innocent of the charge of reliance on ignorance does not appear to be TAG proper. And this is what he seems to overlook throughout his messages to Dr. Moore: that while TAG is concerned (or at least supposed to be concerned) with proving the existence of the Christian god, atheism is not incompatible with the view that logic is not material. Occasionally one finds an astute Christian believer who is willing to concede this, such as when Greg Welty admits that
materialism is not 'the consistent testimony of the modern atheist.' Many atheists believe that something more than concrete, material objects exist, and present plenty of arguments for that view. Acting as if they're all materialists makes us look, well, a bit outdated. Sort of like never progressing beyond Hume in our understanding of 'the inductive problem'. (Re: On b) and possibly not-a)
we are saying something like, because you ARE NOT ignorant of X, that shows you presuppose that God exists.
Again trying to summarize his conception of TAG, Paul wrote:
The argument is that if your worldview is true, [logic] would not exist.
The argument is that the laws of logic are inconsistent with your worldview.
The fourth key statement from Paul actually takes the form of an argument. He wrote:
E’ is only possible in the Christian worldview, CW, therefore, using E’ is to assume the truth of CW.
In the case of this version of TAG, E' is presumably supposed to represent some non-material something, with the name 'logic' slapped on it, and because it is said to be other than material, it "is only possible in the a Christian worldview." [sic] This is the same tired, outworn assertion that logic can only make sense on specifically Christian presuppositions - as if logic required a basis in metaphysical subjectivism and a universe analogous to a cartoon, as if logic were only possible in a reality in which the objects of consciousness conform to the intentions of consciousness. At least for the sake of entertainment, it is assertions such as this that achingly beg for support, and only then - once the apologist presents what he takes to be sufficient justification of such assertions - will we have something to examine for the purpose of determining whether or not presuppositionalists can make their case without relying at some point on their own ignorance of rival positions. As Paul has set up his conception of TAG, its whole strategy seems to assume that there are only two contenders to be considered: materialism (conceived as necessarily cancelling out logic) and Reformed Christianity (asserted to be the only worldview that can "account for" logic). Thus the deck is stacked, but not very cleverly. In fact, it is hard to see how one could assert such a dichotomy on any basis other than ignorance to begin with, and at this point we might question whether the apologist is truly concerned for the stability of logic, or for the welfare of his mystical precommitments.
Furthermore, by saying that logic "is only possible in the a Christian worldview" [sic], Paul is saying that logic is not possible in any worldview other than the Christian worldview (specifically, as he conceives of it, since there is such a wide assortment of Christian worldviews). In order to substantiate such a claim, the apologist seems to have three alternatives at his disposal:
1. Prove a negative (how and where does he do this, and what basis does he assume?)
2. Argue from ignorance (which proves only delusion or desperation, not intended conclusions)
3. Deliberately build the notion of the Christian god into one's conception of logic (which would strap the apologist into the ready room of circular argument).
Moving along, Paul attempted to summarize his conception of TAG again:
The claim of TAG is that you cannot explain or account for ANYTHING.Well, if TAG's claim is that I "cannot explain or account for ANYTHING," then clearly TAG is false. There are many things I can explain, such as how to decline adjectives and conjugate verbs in Russian, resolve French sixth chords by primary function, market heavy and intermediate marine fuel oils in domestic and international ports, import foodstuffs into the US from Asian nations, add new print-on-demand items to online ordering inventories, etc. I can also explain why the versions of TAG that I have examined tend to rely at least in part on argumentum ad ignorantiam. There was a time in my life when I could not explain any of these things, but as I learned these processes firsthand (i.e., by thinking with my own mind, not by pretending to think someone else's thoughts), I can now teach others to do the same. I had thought that TAG claimed that the Christian god would need to exist in order for me to do these things, but now Paul has corrected me: TAG argues that I cannot do these things at all (apparently he thinks that the Christian god creates incompetent beings in its own image).
As Paul's TAG continues to change shape, he offers yet another version of it:
My argument is that the Christian worldview is true because it is transcendentall necessary for the possibility of knowledge. [sic]Now, this is quite different from the argument that I "cannot explain or account for ANYTHING." It must be evolving as he tries to address new criticisms. Of course, what Paul presents here is not an argument, but an assertion - "that the Christian worldview is true because it is transcendentall necessary for the possibility of knowledge." To make this case, the apologist would at the very minimum need to show that knowledge can be possible on the subjective basis and in the cartoon universe of Christian theism. But we already know that knowledge requires an objective basis in a universe which is not analogous to a cartoon, both of which are incompatible with and disaffirmed by Christianity's metaphysics. Furthermore, one wonders how apologists could claim authority for Christianity in particular in the area of knowledge when their bible has no native theory of concepts. This is crucial since concepts are the building block of knowledge, and our conclusions and evaluations are no more valid than our concepts. Presuppositionalists seem frightfully unaware of this.
Paul's argument changes yet again. His argument now proceeds as follows:
I argue that the character of logic is incompatible with the character of matter, therefore the cannot exist because immaterialk entities do not exist, and never will, given *what you say*. [sic]It is completely unclear what Paul might mean by his statement that "the character of logic is incompatible with the character of matter." Similar could be said about oil and water as well as heat and plastics. But these things exist nonetheless, and I see no reason why a materialist would not agree. Is Paul saying that logical principles do not apply when matter is involved? Well, when is matter not involved when we usefully apply logical principles? For instance, I would say it is logical to open the car door if you want to get out of the car (notice the application of logic to goal-oriented action). Certainly the car is made of matter. Is Paul saying that this would be a misapplication of logic? How then does he get out of a car? So, at best, Paul needs to make his argument clearer than it is so far, in spite of the constant revision to which he subjects it. While he's at it, it would be beneficial if he could tell us why he might think the laws of logic are "entities."
Paul's next two attempts to clarify his argument reiterate his contention that logic is incompatible with materialism and thus I will consider them together:
I'm saying, for the umpteenth time, that the *reason* you can't account for logic is because it wouldn't exist given your worldview... I'm saying something about the character of matter and the character of LoL. If matter is all there is, then logic does not exist (except as convention, or linguistic constructs, but then you have the conventionalists problems).Notice how presuppositionalism has taught Paul to presume for himself the ability to speak on behalf of his opponent. He says that "logic… wouldn't exist given your worldview." It may be the case, however, that Dr. Moore's understanding of logic differs from Paul's understanding of logic in some relevantly significant way such that the incompatibility that concerns Paul does not really exist in Dr. Moore's worldview. What is ironic is that, in spite of the standard presuppositionalist worries about being able to provide an "account," Paul does not seem to have taken this possibility into account. Again, he seems to be merely regurgitating Bahnsen's thoughts after him.
Furthermore, it seems that Paul has assumed a false dichotomy, namely that either a) logic is set of divine or supernatural "entities" (in the sense that they "reflect" his god's nature and/or thoughts and thus necessarily imply the existence of his god), or b) logic is conventional, relative, non-absolute, non-existent or ultimately meaningless. Such bifurcation itself is something we would expect to see if someone did not have a conceptual understanding of logical principles, and thus seems to be borne on the clipped wings of ignorance. It is not unlike what some primitive human beings might have thought in regard to thunderstorms, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and other momentous natural threats which they did not understand. The god of lightning bolts has apparently given up its throne in deference to the god of the law of identity. And yet, when we investigate both the cause of lightning and the axiomatic basis of the law of identity, we find no gods whatsoever.
In conclusion, we have seen many broad generalizations, resolute assertions and shuffling of conclusions, but we have seen no guarantee that TAG is not a veiled argument from ignorance.
by Dawson Bethrick