Can the Water in My Drinking Glass Turn into Merlot?
Bolt’s dissatisfaction for my response was expressed in his reply to Dr. Funkenstein’s own resounding indictment of presuppositionalism, both of which can be found in the comments section of Bolt’s blog Dawson Bethrick, The Man Who Builds His House Upon The Sand.
In response to his expressed dissatisfaction with my initial response to his question, I posted the following comment to his blog:
You apparently do not accept the answer I gave to your question about knowing whether or not water will turn into merlot the next time I drink it. My short answer to this was: by a means of knowledge, specifically by reason (since reason is my only means of knowledge).
I gather that my answer was insufficient for you, possibly because the concept of reason is foreign to your understanding of human conscious activity. Fair enough. Please allow me to provide a little more detail (without writing 20 pages on the matter).
First, it is important to understand what reason is. Reason is “the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses.” Its method is logic, “the art or skill of non-contradictory identification.” (These definitions come from Rand’s essays “The Objectivist Ethics,” in her book The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 20, and “Philosophical Detection,” in her book Philosophy: Who Needs It, p. 15, respectively.) Objectivism is correct to take the “testimony” of the senses as metaphysically given, precisely because they are metaphysically given (they are part of our identity as biological organisms). I suspect that you’ll have a problem with this, but I’ll leave it up to you to raise your own objections here.
Now, on an objective understanding of reality, which Objectivism provides, there would need to be something which causes the water in a drinking glass to turn into merlot. In other words, since we reject the notion of "causeless action" as self-contradictory, the conditions which could cause water to turn into merlot would have to exist in order for the water in a drinking glass to turn into merlot.
Since the objective view of reality is firmly premised on the primacy of existence, this securely eliminates any form of wishing or commanding as a potential cause for water in any drinking glass to turn into any type of wine. Given the primacy of existence (a principle which would have to be true for someone even to deny it), then, the idea of an invisible magic being willing water into wine must be rejected as contrary to reality. The actions of consciousness cannot alter the identity of objects. Why? Because existence holds metaphysical primacy, i.e., the objects of consciousness hold metaphysical primacy over the subject of consciousness. Hence Objectivism. The negation of this principle, that a subject holds metaphysical primacy over its objects, is known as metaphysical subjectivism. On a worldview premised in metaphysical subjectivism, one cannot in principle raise any objection to the idea that a consciousness can alter the objects of its awareness, such as by an act of will. When a theist affirms that wishing doesn’t make it so, or that atheism is not true simply because the atheist does not believe in a god, he is in effect borrowing from worldview which fundamentally unlike his professed theistic worldview (though he probably does not realize this, since he is not accustomed to examining worldview questions in terms of the subject-object relationship).
So this means that, if one wants to entertain the notion that water could turn into merlot, he would have to identify a cause for such transformation which squares with the primacy of existence. We know that merlot wine is produced by a process which involves the fermentation of a specific kind of grape in large quantities. This process requires a sufficient amount of time for the fermentation of the grapes to take place. Without the grapes, the fermentation, and the time it requires for the grapes to ferment, merlot is not going to be produced. (Ask any viniculturalist if you’re unsure on this.) Since a glass of water has no grapes to ferment (we can know this by inspecting the glass of water), we know that the causal conditions for producing wine in the glass of water do not exist. Given this fact, one can be wholly certain that the water in his glass is not going to turn into any type of wine, including merlot. You can even let the glass of water stand for several days, but since the causal conditions for the production of merlot are not present, the water in the glass is not going to turn into merlot.
Now, I highly doubt that any of this is going to satisfy your inquisitiveness, since you’re probably eager to find some way to discredit it, and - as we have seen so far - you tend to critique rival positions according to your own worldview's premises. But how are you going to do this without tacitly employing the very principles which Objectivism affirms? And what would motivate such eagerness, if not religiously-motivated resentment for the fact that people who disbelieve in your god have solid grounds for certainty? Meanwhile, I have yet to see how someone who affirms the existence of a universe-creating, reality-ruling consciousness which is known for turning water into wine (cf. John chap. 2), could know that the water in his water glass will not turn into merlot, without of course borrowing from a worldview which diametrically conflicts with his own theistic premises.
I welcome all comments on the reply I have given to Chris Bolt above. If you as my reader suspect that there is a weakness in the content of my response, that its wording could be improved, or that I am simply off my rocker, please feel free to comment. I want to hear from you. As my readers should know, I do not moderate the comments that are posted in response to my blogs. I don’t even delete so-called “drive-by comments,” regardless of how annoying they can be. So don't be shy.
by Dawson Bethrick