Sunday, April 08, 2012

Answering Dustin Segers’ Presuppositionalism, Part II: The Nature of Logic

In this second installment of my series answering Dustin Segers’ apologetic questions for atheists, I focus on Segers’ question about logic. (My initial blog entry responding to Segers can be found here).

This one’s a biggie, so buckle up and hold on tight. You’re in for a wild ride!
Let’s begin by looking at Segers’ second question:
2. Logic - I asked, "If you believe that only matter exists, (a) how do you account for the immaterial, universal, propositional, immaterial [sic] laws of logic given your philosophical materialism apart from an appeal to God and (b) how to you make sense out of our obligation to be rational?"
Segers’ question raises numerous red lights which need to be addressed before the essence of his question can be understood rationally. So let’s address these problems first.


1. The Presumption of Materialism

First of all, in response to the question’s lead-in: according to my worldview, existence exists, and only existence exists. I have never affirmed the view that “only matter exists,” nor would I, for I do not think this is the case. For example, I recognize that consciousness exists, but so far as I understand what matter is, I don’t think consciousness is a material substance. It is indisputable, however, that consciousness is biological in nature (as I have argued here).

But let’s be clear on fundamentals here: If something exists, it exists; if it happens to be composed of “matter,” it still exists, flat and simple. If something is known to exist, there’s no rational justification for denying its existence. And if its nature is causally relevant to an area of inquiry, it won’t do for purposes of rationality to deny or ignore its existence or relevance.

Clearly Segers assumes that his interlocutor will be a materialist. The assumption that atheism automatically entails materialism is routinely taught to Sunday school students as part of their standard indoctrination curriculum. It does not matter to Christians that it is false; if you point out the falsity of this assumption to a Christian, nine times out of ten he’ll continue repeating it as though it were as vital to his apologetic as breathable air is to the human organism.

The primary distinguishing feature of materialism is the denial of the axiom of consciousness, whether implicit or explicit, in particular volitional consciousness. Philosophical materialism constitutes a rejection of the faculty of volition, not merely in the sense of the ability to select between alternatives, but as cognitive self-regulation. Given the facts that (a) Objectivism is atheistic and (b) explicitly affirms the axiom of consciousness, it should be clear to any sensible person that atheism does not automatically entail materialism. For in Objectivism we have an atheistic worldview which is not materialistic in nature. This throws a massive wrench into the presuppositionalist machine, and apologists are never prepared to deal with it. Since Objectivism explicitly affirms the axiom of consciousness as one of its founding pillars and is developmentally consistent with this axiom throughout its entire system, it would simply be a mark of brute obstinacy to insist that Objectivism is materialistic in nature. Unfortunately, however, Christian apologists are more interested in easy kills than in facts (as we saw in the previous entry in this series, their worldview treats facts as subjective, ultimately depending on supernatural whim).

Since Christians are constantly vilifying materialism, can they identify what the root of the problem with materialism must be? If the denial of the axiom of consciousness is not the essential flaw afflicting materialism, what is? My experience is that Christian apologists have a very hard time answering this question.


2. Characterizing Logic as “Immaterial” (x2 even!)

Now, as for how I “account for the immaterial, universal, propositional, immaterial [again?] laws of logic” on the basis of my worldview, apart from any appeal to some invisible magic being, I must first correct Segers’ characterization of logic as “immaterial.” The term ‘immaterial’ does not denote any positive characteristics, while logic has many positive characteristics. Thus even if ‘immaterial’ is a legitimate concept (Segers is welcome to argue for this if he likes), it is ill-suited as a useful descriptor of logic. If logic has positive characteristics, why describe it by saying what it is not rather than identifying what it is?

Segers might respond to this by saying that he’s included other descriptors which are positive. And that is true; we will get those in turn. The problem which he would be overlooking at this point is the fact that the term ‘immaterial’ – to the degree that it is conceptually legitimate – is too broad to be useful as a distinguishing characteristic. The term ‘immaterial’ presumably applies to a wide assortment of phenomena which are quite different from logic. After all, theists think that “spiritual entities” which have personality (i.e., which possess some faculty of consciousness) are “immaterial” in nature, while logic is certainly not such an animal. Segers has characterized logic as both universal and propositional as well. But personal beings are specific concretes, and propositions do not have minds of their own.

Moreover, theists need to consider, given their devotion to things immaterial, whether something a person imagines is material or immaterial. It’s hard to see how something one imagines would be material in nature. If I imagine a ball, what I imagine does not have mass or physical dimension; no one else can see it; it is not a concrete existing independently of my imagination. So it couldn’t be material. And if it’s not material, what is the alternative if not “immaterial”?

If theists reject such questions due to implications which they find objectionable, there still remains the perplexing problem of how we are to distinguish what they call “immaterial” from something that is merely imaginary. There may be no one-size-fits-all answer to this question; it may have to be answered on a case-by-case basis, given the wide assortment of phenomena to which theists apply the term. Indeed, I’ve asked numerous theists to explain to me how I can reliably distinguish what they call “God” – which they characterize as “immaterial” – from something they might merely be imagining, and have gotten no good answers on this at all. This is a serious problem for the theist, and any reluctance on the part of apologists to address it in a clear and definitive manner is itself indicative of its scope as an epistemological stumblingblock.

I suggest that instead of “immaterial,” that Segers consider whether or not logic is conceptual in nature. He has already characterized logic as “propositional.” Since propositions consist of concepts, he should not object to this. After all, how could there be propositions without the concepts which inform them?

My suspicion is that Segers would be reluctant to jettison his use of the term ‘immaterial’ in characterizing logic, just as he would likely be unwilling to refrain from assuming that atheism entails materialism, and essentially for the same reason: his apologetic program would suffocate without these questionable assumptions. Indeed, Segers is so horny for logic being “immaterial” that he apparently doesn’t realize that he’s included this term twice in his list of descriptors characterizing logic. In case you didn’t notice the first few times, here’s Segers again (underlines added):
2. Logic - I asked, "If you believe that only matter exists, (a) how do you account for the immaterial, universal, propositional, immaterial laws of logic given your philosophical materialism apart from an appeal to God and (b) how to you make sense out of our obligation to be rational?"
That he uses the term ‘immaterial’ twice in such close succession like this, suggests that Segers regards it as having paramount importance. In fact, logic is a cognitive system, and as such an investigation into its nature properly belongs to the branch of philosophy known as epistemology. But presuppositionalists want to treat logic as a metaphysical phenomenon. This is their motivation for using descriptors which would contrast logic from matter. That they may be ignoring (or at any rate, downplaying) the epistemological nature of logic, does not seem to concern the apologists.

If we are to avoid misleading ourselves on the nature of logic, we need to refrain from using misleading descriptors when discussing it. Removing “immaterial” from the list of characteristics describing logic will not in any way lessen its distinction. We won’t miss it. Furthermore, if we emphasize logic’s nature as a cognitive system by correctly characterizing it as a conceptual method, our attempts to distinguish logic from other cognitive aptitudes (e.g., perception, emotion, imagination, etc.) will be improved (I hope to make this clear in what follows).

Of course, by pointing out that logic is conceptual in nature rather than “immaterial,” I am alluding to our philosophical need for a theory of concepts. And our need for this is critical. I have searched the Christian bible for anything remotely approaching a theory of concepts, and have found that it is completely silent on the matter. There seems to be no such thing as a distinctively Christian theory of concepts. By contrast, the philosophy of Objectivism offers the objective theory of concepts, as laid out in Ayn Rand’s Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Readers who do not have access to Rand’s book may find Allan Gotthelf’s paper Ayn Rand on Concepts helpful.

Pointing out the error of characterizing logic as “immaterial” is a real stumper for presuppositionalism; Segers is so horny for logic being “immaterial” that he includes this quality twice in his list of descriptors. However, the presuppositionalist’s bewildering preoccupation with “the immaterial” is neither unexpected nor unprecedented. In regard to this correction, see my refutation of Sye Ten Bruggencate’s “proof that god exists” website. In this critique of Bruggencate’s case for the existence of his god, I demonstrate just how insufficient and wrongheaded it is to go down the presuppositionalist path.


3. The Presumption of a “Duty” to be Rational

Lastly, there is no such thing as an “obligation to be rational.” First, what does it mean to be rational? What is rationality? Sadly, I cannot find any discussion of the nature of rationality in the Christian bible, so I hope that Segers will permit me to defer to non-biblical sources for intelligence on this crucial issue. Ayn Rand provides the following conception of what distinguishes rationality:
The virtue of Rationality means the recognition and acceptance of reason as one’s only source of knowledge, one’s only judge of values and one’s only guide to action. (“The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 25).
So if rationality “means the recognition and acceptance of reason as one’s only source of knowledge,” etc., what is reason? Again, I cannot find any discussion of the nature of reason as an epistemological standard in the pages of the Christian bible, so again I will defer to extra-biblical resources:
Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses. (Ibid., p. 20)
Rand goes on to note that reason
is a faculty that man has to exercise by choice. Thinking is not an automatic function. In any hour and issue of his life, man is free to think or to evade that effort. (Ibid.)
Thinking rationally is an effort which an individual must choose to undertake on his own. Nothing in reality will force him to do this; nothing in reality is commanding him to do this on pain of punishment. As Peikoff puts it, an individual “must initiate step-by-step cognitive functioning; he must be willing to expend the effort required by each step; he must choose the steps carefully” (Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, p. 116). Man is rational by choice, not by compulsion. He chooses to be rational because it is in his own best interest to be rational. There is no gun to man’s head forcing him to be rational, and there’s no stick scaring him into being rational when he really wants to be irrational. He has no “duty” or “obligation” to be rational; he chooses to be rational and enjoys its fruits, or to evade rationality and live with the consequences of that choice. Rational philosophy is not religious in nature; it does not require men to sacrifice themselves for some “higher cause” beyond his interests, control or understanding. Man is not rational to suit someone else’s purposes, but rather to identify and pursue his own purposes. Thus the choice to be rational is by its very nature anti-religious. Rationality and religion are inherently incompatible.

Again, is this really where Segers wants to take his apologetic?

Let’s turn back to Segers’ question now that these erroneous assumptions lurking in it have been corrected. Let us remove its offending premises and try to reconstruct his question in a way that makes at least a little more sense. Let us try the following:
If you don’t believe in the Christian god, (a) how do you account for universal, propositional, conceptual and invariant laws of logic given the atheism of your worldview apart from an appeal to the Christian god, and (b) why would you choose to be rational?
Readers should notice that I have removed the following from Segers’ question:
(1) the erroneous assumption that the atheist must be a materialist
(2) the deeply problematic descriptor of ‘immaterial’ in characterizing logic (I’ve replaced it with the descriptor conceptual, and have added invariant just to raise the stakes on the atheist responder), and
(3) the philosophically untenable presumption that one has an “obligation” or “duty” to be rational (which I have replaced with an acknowledgement of the fact that an individual must choose between being rational and evading rationality).
The next hurdle in understanding this improved version of Segers’ question is determining the meaning of “account for” as it is used in this question. Presuppositionalists use this term as a matter of habit in the deployment of their apologetic program, and figuring out what exactly it is supposed to mean is complicated by the fact that the “accounts” with which presuppositionalists themselves are apparently satisfied (e.g., pointing to some invisible magic being which we can only imagine as the factor responsible for or guaranteeing some aspect of cognition) are astoundingly uninformative and strikingly irrelevant to the matters they are intended to explain. Indeed, when apologists claim that they “account for” the universal, propositional, conceptual and invariant laws of logic by pointing to a god which we can only apprehend by imagining it, how does this explain anything about the nature of logic, why it is useful to man’s cognition (given his non-omniscience, his fallibility, and his need to ground what he knows in what he perceives), and its relationship to knowledge of reality? Blank out. Indeed, it seems that presuppositionalists are interested only in the most superficial treatment of the topics they raise for debate, and only so long as that treatment can be used for apologetic advantage. Increasing our knowledge about logic, truth, knowledge, induction, reason, or what have you, does not seem to be an interest of theirs.

Certainly “account for” cannot mean a logical proof in the context of the present question, for logic is precisely what is under the microscope at this point. So Segers’ challenge to “account for” logic cannot be asking how one proves logic, for this would be both redundant and circular: it would assume the validity of logic (which would make the whole enterprise redundant) while using logic to prove itself (which would make the effort a circular exercise).

Perhaps the best way to understand this challenge, then, is as a call for some kind of explanation for the features which we know logic to have (as corrected in my analysis above). An explanation need not be an argument per se, but rather a systematic identification of the fundamental factors which are responsible for logic’s universality, propositionality, conceptuality and invariance. In other words, what makes logic universal, propositional and invariant?

To explore this, we need at least a general understanding of what logic is. Again, I’m sorry to say, I cannot find a definition of logic in the Christian bible. The Christian holy text appears to have nothing to say about the nature of logic or its epistemological composition. These matters seem not to have been a concern at all for the early Christians or their Hebrew forebears. So again, I hope Segers will pardon me for seeking elsewhere for some intelligence on what logic is, for I have no alternative. Rand describes logic as follows:
Logic is the art or skill of non-contradictory identification. Logic has a single law, the Law of Identity, and its various corollaries. (“Philosophical Detection,” Philosophy: Who Needs It, p. 15)
Some critics of Objectivism have apparently been uncomfortable with Rand’s categorizing logic as an art. But clearly Rand did not think logic was the same thing as painting a picture. Betsy Speicher, who was a student of Ayn Rand’s, once asked Rand about her definition of ‘logic’ and her use of ‘art’ to inform it. Speicher writes:
I once asked Ayn Rand why she used the word ‘art’ in the definition of logic and she said she was using the word to mean a skill based on specialized knowledge. (source)
So logic, then, is the skill based on specialized knowledge of non-contradictory identification. Identification is a task of consciousness. We perceive things around us, and we identify at least some of those things. We identify them by means of concepts, and integrate those concepts into a larger sum of knowledge. Because we identify and integrate the objects of our awareness by means of concepts, and because logic is the specialized skill of identifying the objects of our awareness in a non-contradictory manner, logic is essentially a conceptual method.

As the quote above makes clear, Rand noted the fact that the fundamental principle of logic is the law of identity. Of course, the law of identity as a formal recognition about nature presumes the axiom of identity: to exist is to be something specific. In other words, A is A. If A exists, it must be A. The axiom of identity is one of the fundamentals of Objectivism. According to Objectivism, given the primacy of existence, the axiom of identity is the recognition that the objects of consciousness exist and are what they are independent of the activity by which the subject of consciousness has awareness of them.

Given the conceptual nature of logic, we can now begin to see why logic has the characteristics we are indicated in the corrected version of Segers’ question above. Indeed, that logic is in fact conceptual in nature, explains or “accounts for” each of the qualities about which the question inquires. Let’s look at them one by one.


The Universality of Logic

The question presumes that logic is universal. At the very least, this means that logic applies to general classes of objects which we find in existence. If something exists, then in principle it can be identified and integrated into the sum of our sum of knowledge without contradiction. This principle applies universally, i.e., to all things which exist. But we do not perceive all things which exist. Rather, we perceive only a tiny portion of everything that exists. If our cognition were bound only to what we perceive, this would of course be a problem. But in fact, our cognition is not bound only to what we perceive. We have the ability to form concepts on the basis of what we perceive. Concepts are open-ended integrations of two or more units which we do perceive, but unlimited by the specific measurements of what we actually perceive. This is because concepts are formed by a process of abstraction, and part of that process involves an operation which the objective theory of concepts calls “measurement-omission.” Measurement-omission is a key factor in understanding why the range of a concept’s meaning, denotation or reference, is open-ended.

In the case of forming the concept ‘man’, for instance, none of us have personally seen every man who has existed in the world. And yet, by means of the concept ‘man’ we have a cognitive tool which allows us to treat all men who have existed, who do exist, and who will exist, as a single class of entities. We only need to have personally encountered two or more specific men to start the process of forming the concept ‘man’, which both identifies these individuals (and others) and integrates them into the broader sum of our knowledge. By means of abstraction, we retain the characteristics of each of these individuals without specifying the measure or quantity in which they exist. One individual may be 44 years old, 5’7” tall, dark-haired, portly, unkempt, working as an accountant, married, living in a detached house, etc., while another may be 37 years old, 6’2” tall, blonde, slim, well-groomed, working as a high school gym teacher, single, living in a high-rise condo, etc. These specific attributes are integrated into the concept ‘man’, but due to the abstraction process, the details of these attributes are not specified. As Rand explains:
Bear firmly in mind that the term “measurements omitted” does not mean, in this context, that measurements are regarded as non-existent; it means that measurements exist, but are not specified. That measurements must exist is an essential part of the process. The principle is: the relevant measurements must exist in some quantity, but may exist in any quantity. (“Concept-Formation,” Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, p. 12)
That “measurements must exist in some quantity, but may exist in any quantity,” is the perhaps the most effective guiding principle underlying abstraction that can be formulated. A man who actually exist must have some (specific) height; he must have some (specific) age, etc.

Porter offers the following points to help clarify Rand’s overall view on this matter:
To regard as non-existent is to ignore. To omit without ignoring… is to include… The variation omitted (included) must exist somewhere in that range or category… but may exist anywhere within it… [E.g., a man may be 22 years old or 72 years old; he may be 5’4” tall or 6’6” tall; but he must have some age and some height] This compensates for spreading our net wider than the known variation, by ensuring that our quarry remains inside it… Distinguishing an attribute from its variation in degree, and omitting its [specific] measurements, means selectively de-specifying specific details of the objects known [e.g., those objects we’ve personally perceived]. Only cognition de-specifies; everything that isn’t produced by cognition is fully specific. But how do we know this? Is this a fortunate fact we’ve discovered, about the whole universe? No, this is our knowledge that de-specifying is a process of cognitive selection. (Ayn Rand’s Theory of Knowledge, p. 34)
Because of this process of cognitive selection, then, the product of the process – a concept - is open-ended. In other words, because the concept is formed on the principle (implicitly recognized and applied from our earliest efforts to conceptualize the world around us) that “measurements must exist in some quantity, but may exist in any quantity,” its scope of reference is not limited to a specific number of units, but indeed has no quantitative limit at all. The concept ‘man’ for example, does not cease to be applicable after the 50th, 500th or 150,000th individual denoted by it. Nor does it apply only to those individuals who are presently living. Indeed (and this is most crucial), one of the measurements which a concept omits (or “de-specifies” as Porter puts it) is time. The concept ‘man’ is not restricted to individuals existing at any specific time or during any specific period of time. The concept ‘man’ includes men who live today, who lived 2,000 years ago, and who will live 2,000 years from now. The open-endedness of the concept ‘man’ is in essence the universality of its range of meaning, denotation or reference.

Universality, then, is a by-product of concept-formation. And a very important one. Perception gives us awareness of a very limited quantity of specific individuals. By contrast, the process of concept-formation expands man’s awareness beyond the limit of his perceptual awareness by providing him with the cognitive means of treating entire open-ended classes of entities as units of thought. As Rand puts it:
Conceptualization is a method of expanding man’s consciousness by reducing the number of its content’s units—a systematic means to an unlimited integration of cognitive data. (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, p. 64)
So in essence, universality is essentially the open-endedness of conceptual integration, as explained here. Consequently, since logic is in fact conceptual in nature, it stands to reason that logic should also be universal in its applicability as an organizing structure to man’s knowledge, ensuring not only hierarchical integrity, but also non-contradiction. But without a solid understanding of the nature of concepts, one will be without the tools he needs to present a proper philosophical analysis of these relationships, and will consequently be found floating adrift far from the shores of reason as he gropes his way further and further into the depths of unprincipled speculation on these affairs.

For additional insights on the open-ended nature of conceptual integration, see my blog Demystifying Universality.

For insights on how the structure of logical inference owes its universalizing applicability to the open-endedness of conceptual integration, see my blog Does Logic Presuppose the Christian God? Part II: Reasons Why Logic Cannot Presuppose the Christian God, #2: Christianity’s Lack of Concept Theory.

The Invariance of Logic

Logic is commonly presumed to be invariant, meaning: its principles do not change over time, according to personal preferences, or due to particular circumstances which might happen to obtain (e.g., “situational logic”). Logic’s normative principles are thought to be absolute, unchanging, invariant. This presumption about the nature of logic is one of the leading reasons why thinkers reject the view that logic is “conventional” in nature – i.e., subject to mass agreement, dependent on communal consensus which somehow has authority over the content of logical principles.

But what “accounts for” this unchanging absoluteness of logic? The Objectivist answer to this begins with the axiomatic concept of ‘identity’, the fundamental recognition which formalizes the elementary principle of thought known as the Law of Identity.

It should be noted that the truth of the Objectivist axioms does not change. The axioms identify general, fundamental facts about reality which are constant. The axiom of existence is the formal recognition that existence exists, that there is a reality, that things do in fact exist. This is a general recognition whose truth obtains literally universally (since it applies to everything which exists – i.e., to the whole universe) and whose truth does not change. The same is the case for the axiom of identity. The axiom of identity is the formal recognition that to exist is to be something specific. If something exists, it must be something specific; it must be itself. In other words, it must have specific attributes which distinguish it from other things (which are also specific) which exist.

Invariance, then, is already an implicit feature of the most fundamental principles of thought, namely the axioms which serve as the conceptually irreducible anchor of all integrated cognition. As an attribute of rational thinking, invariance, constancy, absoluteness – call it what you like – is present in our cognition from our first efforts to identity what we perceive. For any act of identifying what is perceived – even if that effort has errors in it – always involves a subject interacting with some object of its awareness. This constancy is necessarily concurrent with any action of awareness, since awareness is always the awareness of a subject with some object it perceives and/or considers. If this invariance is already present at the perceptual level of cognition, how much more is it involved at the conceptual level of cognition? Even more, I would say.

At the perceptual level, the invariance of awareness always having some object is counterbalanced by the ubiquitous variation in measurements of the specific objects one happens to perceive. This variation in measurements of specific objects is what causes confusion for presuppositionalists. They like to characterize the universe as a realm of constant “flux” or “change,” ignoring the unchanging fact that these concepts invariably presuppose some object which does the “fluxing’ and “changing” they have in mind. The invariance that they’re pretending not to see is right under their very noses; their very complaint couldn’t make sense to anyone else without it. And yet, because of their worldview’s systematic decapitation of the mind’s ability to focus on essentials, theistic apologists habitually assume that non-believers also cannot isolate the constants which undergird human cognition which they themselves, out of apologetic expedience and worldview default, fail to recognize. Because of the anti-conceptual nature of their underlying worldview, the presuppositionalist suffers from a system-wide debilitating myopia which pervades his epistemology, and subsequently projects his resulting shortsightedness onto everyone else.

For example, one apologetic resource hosts an article which asks:
How can the atheist, consistent with his worldview, account for unchanging laws in a constantly changing universe? He can't. His worldview undermines what is he doing! Admission of objectivity in the laws of logic or the external world is an admission that the atheist is secretly reliant on the Christian Deity in order to argue against the Christian Deity.
The answer to the opening question here, contrary to the authors own opinion that the atheist “can’t,” is that the atheist has the ability to focus on certain constants which are in fact inescapable in any action of consciousness, in any mode of awareness, such as the facts that there is a reality; that every instance of awareness involves an object; that the objects of awareness hold metaphysical primacy over the subject of consciousness; that both the objects of awareness and the subject of that awareness have identity (i.e., that they are distinct from each other and from everything else that exists); that the actions performed by consciousness in perceiving its objects have identity and operate according to a specific course of causality, etc. Since these constants are real, present in man’s experience and available to his awareness, and because man has the ability to recognize and identify them in conceptual form (as I just have done here), the alleged inability of non-believers to acquire awareness of those constants and identify them as such due specifically to their rejection of the Christian worldview, simply does not exist. To insist that the non-believer does not have the ability to have the capacity to be aware of the constants which underwrite the laws of logic, is nothing more than a blatant denial of man’s consciousness as such, which is self-defeating (since one would need to be conscious in order to affirm such a denial in the first place). Moreover, since the constants which underwrite logic are not creations of consciousness (i.e., they are objective, not subjective), the task of his worldview in grounding logic in unchanging facts is not to “provide” these preconditions (as if a worldview had the power to supply something which is already present in reality; see here, here and here), but to discover, identify and integrate them in a hierarchical manner such that they can in fact serve as the basis of man’s epistemology. The constants exist and obtain independent of anyone’s wishing, imagining or commanding, and we can discover and identify their relationship to our knowledge. That secures the point, and it’s far more than anything Christianity will ever dare to do.

Or, as Greg Bahsnen asks:
since the laws of logic are universal, invariant, abstract, eternal truths, how do they continually apply in our changing world of experience? How do we get those laws from “above” down into the historical process? (Pushing the Antithesis, p. 205)
The answer to Bahnsen’s question (again, notice he’s asking questions here, not offering arguments) is to stop expecting the solutions to such problems to come “from ‘above’,” but instead to recognize that they’re right here on earth underlying every aspect of cognition, and have always been right here.

Since, as I have already pointed out in response to Segers’ first question for non-believers, truth is the non-contradictory, objective identification of fact, it would be indeed shortsighted to expect that the “universal, invariant, abstract, eternal truths” which inform the laws of logic are brought “down” to human cognition without any reference or relation to the general facts underwriting man’s experience. So-called ‘truths’ without factual basis are not truths at all. And facts are what we discover throughout the universe. They are discovered by looking outward at the world, beginning with perception, and identified and integrated by an objective, conceptualprocess. The facts which inform what Bahnsen calls “universal, invariant, abstract, eternal truths” are here, in the universe, as integral aspects of the universe, beginning with the universal, invariant, abstract and eternal fact that the universe exists. There is no need to look beyond the universe, or to expect that these truths have some basis in some supernatural realm which must be imagined in order to apprehend it. Nor is the basis of these truths discoverable by ignoring the fundamental facts of the universe and the preconditions of man’s experience and looking inward and allegedly consulting otherworldly transmissions from an invisible magic being which zaps them into being by an act of will.

Sadly, Bahsnen only sees a “changing world” in man’s experience. But what is experience, and what are the preconditions of experience? Experience is essentially the conscious interaction between the subject of awareness and its objects, and its preconditions are not otherworldly revelations which are undiscoverable in experience. On the contrary, the preconditions of experience are right here, in the universe, residing along with us, in fact making our life here possible in the first place. The preconditions of experience are the facts that there is a reality (the axiom of existence), that man has a means of awareness (the axiom of consciousness), and that the objects of man’s consciousness – like his consciousness itself – have specific natures (the axiom of identity). Rand is entirely accurate when she writes:
It is axiomatic concepts [i.e., ‘existence’, ‘consciousness’, and ‘idenity’] that identify the preconditions of knowledge: the distinction between existence and consciousness, between reality and the awareness of reality, between the object and subject of cognition. Axiomatic concepts are the foundation of objectivity. (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, p. 57)
Commenting on this, Porter adds:
Axiomatic concepts distinguish the objects known from the function, means and experience of knowing them… Explicitly conceptualizing axiomatic facts… recognizes and reminds us that their constraint is immutable… That’s the primacy of existence. Philosophers who deny axiomatic facts do mean to deny the primacy of existence. Those who deny existence don’t mean nothing exists. They only mean to reject the absolutism of existence; when it’s important [to them], consciousness can be unconstrained. (Ayn Rand’s Theory of Knowledge, p. 215)
Objectivism links the invariance of the principles which inform logic is directly to the axiomatic facts which it explicitly identifies at the foundation of the cognitive hierarchy of man’s knowledge. These facts are perceptually self-evident, irreducible to any more fundamental facts (since there are no facts which are more fundamental than axiomatic facts), implicit in all cognition (since cognition always involves a subject interacting with some object(s)), and inescapable (since wherever you go, existence still exists).

Closely related to the invariance of logical principles is the notion that they constitute what Bahnsen above called “eternal truths.” He holds that
According to cosmic evolutionary theory all is ultimately subject to random change and is in a constant state of flux. But our very rationality requires laws so that things may be distinguished, classified, organized, and explained. Rational comprehension and explanation demand principles of order and unity in order to relate truths and events to one another. Consequently, on the basis of the non-believer's worldview rationality itself has no foundation. (Pushing the Antithesis, p. 152)
Christian apologists are profoundly threatened by the theory of evolution, and their fear of its implications for theism are sensed in every direction. They scurry like rabbits afraid of a hungry pterodactyl gliding overhead looking for a snack. Their fear of evolutionary theory motivates in them a desire to find opportunities to shoot holes in it every chance they get. And the easiest way to do this (again, going for easy kills is their guiding directive) is to pillory the theory of evolution where it does not apply. The theory of evolution pertains to the development of biological organisms, to the appearance of species throughout geological epochs here on earth. It does not make a statement about the universe as a whole. The theory of evolution does not apply to rocks; rocks do not evolve over successive generations. Indeed, rocks don’t procreate in the first place!

But many thinkers, including perhaps some scientists themselves, have used evolutionary concepts to describe features of the universe. This is where Bahnsen likely gets the idea of a “cosmic evolutionary theory” which characterizes everything in the universe as “ultimately subject to random change” and the universe itself as “a constant state of flux.” These characterizations of the universe and the entities within it are very common among Christian apologists. Bahnsen’s statement here demonstrates how apologists exploit these characterizations for apologetic purposes. And one can sympathize with the essence of his concern here: if everything in the universe is “subject to random change” and “in a constant state of flux,” where in the universe would we find factual basis for the unchanging, eternal laws which rationality requires?

We have already seen that the constant facts which underwrite logic and provide human cognition with objective stability are present in the universe and available to man’s awareness. (If they weren’t, how could we have identified them?) Bahnsen’s concern is that, since everything is “subject to random change,” the particular facts of the universe are unreliable because they could change at any moment. While it is true that many particular facts do in fact change (e.g., the number of cars on any particular road at any moment, the time of day, the direction and intensity of a wind, etc.), the axiomatic facts discussed above denote general facts which in fact do not change. Indeed, the facts that there is a universe and that the entities which make up the universe have specific identities are themselves preconditions for change. There could be no change without the existence of things which have identity to begin with, and there could be no talk of change without individuals possessing the conceptual level of consciousness and thereby capable of forming the concept ‘change’. If the “non-believer’s worldview” identifies these general facts and recognizes systematically their underlying, fundamental relevance to human cognition, then Bahnsen’s concerns have been assuaged and his claim that “the non-believer’s worldview… has no foundation” for rationality, is false.

But what about the eternality of these general facts? Doesn’t logic need “eternal truths” to vouchsafe its reliability for human cognition? And doesn’t basing the laws of logic on facts inherent in a universe where particular facts change on a constant basis threaten to destabilize logic?

What is change? Change is essentially the identity of action. Yes, actions happen, thus they exist, and since they exist, they have identity. We even identify actions. Ever heard of verbs? A man walks, a fish swims, a bug crawls, a rabbit runs, a presuppositionalist scurries. All of these are actions, and if action did not have identity, statements like these would be impossible, for there would be nothing to identify. But already we have an unchanging fact: namely the fact that change has identity. This fact itself does not change. There can be no such thing as a change which has no identity. If something has no identity, what justifies calling it a change? Blank out. The point is that general, unchanging “eternal” facts are all around us. We just have to identify them.

What is eternality? The literal sense of eternality means non-temporal, outside of time, exempt from the measure of time. What is time? Time is the measurement of motion. What is motion? Motion is action of some thing which acts. Therefore, time presupposes the existence of things that can and do act and move. In other words, existence is a necessary precondition for time. Existence, then, is eternal. Existence is also one of the axiomatic facts which Objectivism explicitly identifies at the base of human cognition. So already we have an “eternal truth” to ground logic and rationality: the fact that existence exists.

Are there more “eternal truths”? Sure, a whole bunch of them. Some have already been pointed out. For example, the fact that entities which exist have specific identities. That’s an unchanging fact, and the proposition explicitly denoting this fact is eternally true. How about the fact that change has identity? That’s an eternal fact. How about the fact that the existence of things which act is a necessary precondition for change? That’s another one. How about the fact that consciousness always involves an object? There’s another.

The point is, we can go on and on identifying facts inherent in the universe right here in reality which are relevant to the epistemological basis of knowledge and which in fact serve to ground our knowledge in fact.

We should also make note of another fact, inherent in the nature of concepts (and therefore in the nature of logic), namely the fact mentioned earlier that concepts are formed by omitting measurements, and one of the measurements which are omitted in forming general concepts of entities, is the measurement of time. As I explained above, the concept ‘man’ for example includes all men, including those who exist now, who have existed in the past, and who will exist in the future. So eternality is already implicit in conceptual integration. So it is the very conceptual nature of logic, along with the general facts which lie at its foundation, is what lends logic its eternal applicability. Since time is one of the measurements which most concepts omit (including not only concepts of entities, but also the axiomatic concepts), the concepts informing logical principles are themselves not time-bound. The syllogism “All men are mortal/Socrates is a man/Therefore Socrates is mortal” represents a structure which, being conceptual in nature, produces a truth that is eternally reliable. Indeed, Socrates died over two thousand years ago, but thanks to the conceptual nature of logic, we can discover truths about him.

So contrary to what the presuppositionalists are telling us, we don’t have to give up searching for “eternal truths” in a universe which is “subject to random change” and existing “in a constant state of flux,” and fantasize some alternative in the form of an invisible magic being to whose whims everything obediently conforms. Since the facts which satisfy Bahnsen’s concerns are right here in reality, there is no justification for abandoning it and retreating into the imaginary.

So we have accounted for the universality and invariance of logic, and we have done so by pointing to facts residing right here in reality, apart from any appeal to a god, and by examining the conceptual nature of logic itself. One other attribute which Segers listed in his description of the laws of logic is propositional. Logic, says Segers, is propositional, and he wonders how an atheistic worldview would account for this fact.

Let’s begin by asking: what is a proposition?

In his blog entry, Segers cites Anderson and Welty’s paper The Lord of Non-Contradiction: An Argument for God from Logic, and states that in his dealings with the atheists he encountered at the “Reason Rally,” he “essentially simplified and used” the argument presented in this paper. In that paper, the authors make the following statement about propositions:
Philosophers typically use the term ‘propositions’ to refer to the primary bearers of truth-value. So propositions are by definition those things that can be true or false, and by virtue of which other things can be true or false. (p. 3)
I have already presented several points of criticism in response to Anderson and Welty’s argument (see here and here), and in my criticism of their argument I disputed precisely this conception of propositions. In a comment dated 1 January of this year to this blog entry, I offered the following counterpoints to what Anderson and Welty say here:
The authors tell us that "propositions are regarded as primary truth-bearers because while sentences (i.e., linguistic tokens) can have truth-values by virtue of expressing propositions, propositions do not have truth-values by virtue of anything else." Really? How do they establish this? Perhaps they think it's self-evident, but it isn't to me. Rather, propositions are composed of concepts, and are thus not conceptually irreducible. Without concepts, how could one formulate or "know" any propositions in the first place? I would argue, then, that concepts are in fact the primary bearers of truth, and that truth is an aspect of identification. Since we identify objects by means of concepts, their objectivity is crucial in accurately identifying what we are identifying. If a faulty concept finds its way into a proposition, that proposition's truth-value is severely affected. So the truth of a proposition really does depend on the truth of our concepts as identificatory integrations.
In my follow-up blog entry on Anderson and Welty’s argument, I elaborated on this problem:
My critique of Anderson and Welty’s argument can be strengthened even further by pursuing the implications of [this point] – namely that propositions are not the primary bearers of truth, but are in fact composed of concepts, which can only mean that it is not true that “propositions do not have truth-values by virtue of anything else," as Anderson and Welty have asserted. Since concepts are more fundamental than propositions, a proposition can only have truth-value by virtue of the truth-value of the concepts which happen to inform it.
But if propositions are in fact composed of concepts, then we’re ready to seal the coffin on Anderson and Welty’s argument for good. I have already argued that an omniscient mind would not have its knowledge in conceptual form. And although he found the relevance of my argument puzzling, Christian apologist Peter Pike attempted to interact with this argument, but endorsed its conclusion, affirming outright that “God’s knowledge… is not conceptual.” If propositions are composed of concepts, while the Christian god’s own knowledge is not conceptual in nature, it’s hard to see how any knowledge characterized as “propositional” in nature could imply the Christian god.
By pointing to the objective theory of concepts, we kill two birds with one stone. First, we answer Segers’ concern for how we can “account for” the propositional nature of logic. Since propositions are composed of concepts, and since the universality, invariance and eternality of logical principles is accounted for by the fact that logic is conceptual in nature, the propositionality of logic is also accounted for by reference to its conceptual structure. Logic is propositional only because it is first conceptual.

Second, pointing to the objective theory of concepts destroys the variety of argument which Segers has used to link logic to the alleged existence of his god. Since the objective theory of concepts addresses the issues which this line of argument utilizes in establishing its theistic conclusion, that argument is effectively removed from the table.

So Segers’ question about logic has been answered, and it has been answered chiefly by pointing to the objective theory of concepts. This is doubly damning for Segers and other presuppositionalists. Not only does the objective theory answer their questions from the viewpoint of a worldview which is atheistic in nature, it also underscores a fatal shortcoming of the Christian worldview, namely the fact that the Christian worldview has no account for concepts. Since Christianity has no theory of concepts, it leaves its adherents groping in the dark for answers to questions like those which Segers, Bahnsen and other apologist raise. These are real questions, to be sure, and they persist to be merely questions for apologists, precisely because they have no conceptual understanding of the issues to which those questions pertain. This profound deficiency in the Christian worldview leaves it smoldering in its own ashes.

by Dawson Bethrick

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57 Comments:

Blogger Justin Hall said...

@Dawson

I think the link to your original responce to Sager is broken.

April 08, 2012 6:45 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Thanks, Justin. I have fixed it!! There are so many pesky little details to attend to when posting these. It's as though editing might never end!

Regards,
Dawson

April 08, 2012 6:57 PM  
Blogger Hezekiah Ahaz said...

Hey Dawson Remember me?

"I’ve asked numerous theists to explain to me how I can reliably distinguish what they call “God” – which they characterize as “immaterial” – from something they might merely be imagining, and have gotten no good answers on this at all."

Not at all Dawson. I've actually hammered your brilliant little question and have put it to good use. It's a great apologetic tool. Thanks.


Now, when you claim that "God is imaginary" because the only "alternative you have is to imagine him" How do you know what you claim to be imagining is not real?

April 08, 2012 9:31 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Nide,

Yes, I remember you. You seem to like it here at my blog, since you keep coming back here. I guess you’re starved for attention. That’s okay. In the days of old, every court had its jester.

In my blog, I wrote: "I’ve asked numerous theists to explain to me how I can reliably distinguish what they call ‘God’ – which they characterize as ‘immaterial’ – from something they might merely be imagining, and have gotten no good answers on this at all."

You replied: “Not at all Dawson.”

That’s right. No good answers at all. Why is that?

You continued: “I've actually hammered your brilliant little question and have put it to good use. It's a great apologetic tool. Thanks.”

You’re welcome. Unfortunately it will only backfire on you, since your worldview cannot distinguish between what is real and what is merely imaginary. That’s the whole point.

But perhaps you can answer a question that I raised in my blog entry: When you imagine something, is it material, or is it immaterial? I have Christian apologist Peter Pike on record (see here) affirming the view that something imaginary “exists immaterially.” You wouldn’t happen to disagree with him, would you?

You asked: “Now, when you claim that ‘God is imaginary’ because the only ‘alternative you have is to imagine him’ How do you know what you claim to be imagining is not real?”

I know this by integrating the primacy of existence with my introspective awareness of what I’m imagining. If I imagine a pizza, what I’m imagining is not real; I can’t imagine a pizza and consequently, because of this, start eating a slice.

Now, in my previous blog’s comment thread, you asked (on 7 April): “Have your senses ever deceived you?”

My answer is: No, my senses have never deceived me. Indeed, the notion that they can deceive me is fallacious. It may seem innocent enough, but the erroneous belief that the senses deceive us typically stems from a failure to distinguish between perception and identification. Perception is non-volitional, while identification is volitional.

But perhaps I’m wrong. So I want to open the floor to you. If you think the notion that the senses can deceive a thinker, can you cite some examples you might have in mind here? Let’s look at them, and see if we can find a solution to this problem.

While you’re gathering some examples, there’s a question from Alex that I was hoping you could answer:

“Would a deceiver tell you that he’s not a deceiver if he was trying to deceive you?”

Let me know. I’m curious.

Regards,
Dawson

April 09, 2012 2:15 AM  
Blogger Hezekiah Ahaz said...

Dawson said:

"Hello Nide"

No it's Richard but how is it that your senses are not deceving you?

"Yes, I remember you. You seem to like it here at my blog, since you keep coming back here. I guess you’re starved for attention. That’s okay. In the days of old, every court had its jester."

You sure Dawson?


"That’s right. No good answers at all. Why is that?"

The sleight of hand.


"You’re welcome. Unfortunately it will only backfire on you, since your worldview cannot distinguish between what is real and what is merely imaginary. That’s the whole point."

Really? and you could?

"But perhaps you can answer a question that I raised in my blog entry: When you imagine something, is it material, or is it immaterial? I have Christian apologist Peter Pike on record (see here) affirming the view that something imaginary “exists immaterially.” You wouldn’t happen to disagree with him, would you?"


I don't know I live by faith.


"I know this by integrating the primacy of existence with my introspective awareness of what I’m imagining. If I imagine a pizza, what I’m imagining is not real; I can’t imagine a pizza and consequently, because of this, start eating a slice."


Yea, but you could also be imagining that too. So, how about answering my question here it is again:

Now, when you claim that "God is imaginary" because the only "alternative you have is to imagine him" How do you know what you claim to be imagining is not real?

"My answer is: No, my senses have never deceived me. Indeed, the notion that they can deceive me is fallacious. It may seem innocent enough, but the erroneous belief that the senses deceive us typically stems from a failure to distinguish between perception and identification. Perception is non-volitional, while identification is volitional."


Ok, we will use your language. Have you ever misidentified sensory information if so how is it that you are not misindentifiying it right now?


"But perhaps I’m wrong. So I want to open the floor to you. If you think the notion that the senses can deceive a thinker, can you cite some examples you might have in mind here? Let’s look at them, and see if we can find a solution to this problem."


Have you ever made any errors, mistakes, misjudgements etc. if so how is it that you are not making one right now?


"“Would a deceiver tell you that he’s not a deceiver if he was trying to deceive you?” Let me know. I’m curious."


Sure here you go:

http://hezekiahahaz.blogspot.com/2012/04/is-god-deceiver.html


Oh, here is another good one. It's inspired by you. Congrats.

http://hezekiahahaz.blogspot.com/2012/04/absolute-proof-that-christian-god.html




Blessings.

April 09, 2012 6:43 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Nide wrote: “No it's Richard but how is it that your senses are not deceving you?”

My senses are not deceiving me. I reproduced the record that I discovered in my inbox in this blog’s comment thread (see my three comments from 7 April). I suggest, if you want me to start calling you “Richard,” that you examine that record and start accounting for your very questionable activity on my blog.

I wrote: "But perhaps you can answer a question that I raised in my blog entry: When you imagine something, is it material, or is it immaterial? I have Christian apologist Peter Pike on record (see here) affirming the view that something imaginary ‘exists immaterially’. You wouldn’t happen to disagree with him, would you?"

Nide responded: “I don't know I live by faith.”

You don’t know you live by faith? You’ve affirmed faith many times. I had presumed that you know about yourself when you speak about yourself. Or, are you saying you don’t know whether or not something you imagine is immaterial or material? Your worldview does seem to have many profound deficiencies, Nide. Indeed, you don’t even seem to know who you are.

In response to one of Nide’s questions (“when you claim that ‘God is imaginary’ because the only ‘alternative you have is to imagine him’ How do you know what you claim to be imagining is not real?”), I responded: “I know this by integrating the primacy of existence with my introspective awareness of what I’m imagining. If I imagine a pizza, what I’m imagining is not real; I can’t imagine a pizza and consequently, because of this, start eating a slice."

Nide then responded: “Yea, but you could also be imagining that too.”

I could also be imagining “what” here? What is your evidence for your answer? Or, do you think that possibilities can be manufactured from thin air, by whim?

Nided continued: “So, how about answering my question here it is again: Now, when you claim that ‘God is imaginary’ because the only ‘alternative you have is to imagine him’ How do you know what you claim to be imagining is not real?”

As I stated in my previous response to this, I know this by reference to the primacy of existence. My answer to your question will not change simply because you repeat your question and/or do not understand my answer. Do you really think that the pizza I imagine is truly edible and nutritious? How do you know or not know?

[Continued…]

April 09, 2012 7:35 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: "My answer is: No, my senses have never deceived me. Indeed, the notion that they can deceive me is fallacious. It may seem innocent enough, but the erroneous belief that the senses deceive us typically stems from a failure to distinguish between perception and identification. Perception is non-volitional, while identification is volitional."

Nide asked: “Ok, we will use your language. Have you ever misidentified sensory information if so how is it that you are not misindentifiying it right now?”

Yes, I have misidentified sensory data before. For instance, when I was in a department store recently with my wife, we got separated for a period. When I went to look for her, I saw a woman who vaguely resembled my wife from behind – basically just a flash across my senses of someone with roughly similar features, and I thought it might be her. When I looked closer, I saw that it was not my wife. So my initial thought that the woman I saw for a very brief instant might be her, turned out to be wrong. How did I discover this? By using my senses again! Amazing, isn’t it?

Seriously, how could you have any problem with this? If you do have a problem with this, it’s your problem, not mine.

I wrote: "But perhaps I’m wrong. So I want to open the floor to you. If you think the notion that the senses can deceive a thinker, can you cite some examples you might have in mind here? Let’s look at them, and see if we can find a solution to this problem."

Nide responded: “Have you ever made any errors, mistakes, misjudgements etc. if so how is it that you are not making one right now?”

I’ve asked you to give examples of what you would call instances of the senses deceiving a thinker. Instead of coming back with examples of what you might have in mind, you come back with more questions. This doesn’t work. If you think there are cases where the senses deceive people, please cite examples. If not, then it’s time for you to concede to my position.

I asked (after Alex Botten): “Would a deceiver tell you that he’s not a deceiver if he was trying to deceive you?” Let me know. I’m curious."

Nide responded: “Sure here you go: http://hezekiahahaz.blogspot.com/2012/04/is-god-deceiver.html”

In your blog entry, you indicate that *you know* your god “cannot lie” (apparently it has no choice whether it lies or not) “by faith.” In other words, you claim to know “by faith” that your god will not deceive you. Can you explain how this works? How does “faith” work as an epistemological solution to this question? How does it work as an epistemological process? How is “faith” different from just wanting to believe something? If you have a choice over what you put your faith in, how to do you determine what deserves your faith, and what doesn’t? How do you determine where to put your faith? Can you offer more than these two words (“by faith”) to “account for” the epistemological process by which you allegedly know what you claim to know? If you can’t, then just say so.

You see, simply saying “by faith” is so alarmingly uninformative that it suggests that you really have no answer to these questions to begin with, and are simply trying (in a most juvenile manner) to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. Unfortunately, your wool is like worn-out burlap – it lets through a lot of light that it’s being used to block out.

Regards,
Dawson

April 09, 2012 7:37 AM  
Blogger Hezekiah Ahaz said...

BB said: "My senses are not deceiving me"

Oh really, Dawson, I guess I am suppose to take it on your say so. You should be embarrased.

BB said: "I reproduced the record that I discovered in my inbox in this blog’s comment thread (see my three comments from 7 April). I suggest, if you want me to start calling you “Richard,” that you examine that record and start accounting for your very questionable activity on my blog. "


I'm Richard. There you go.


BB said: "You don’t know you live by faith? You’ve affirmed faith many times. I had presumed that you know about yourself when you speak about yourself. Or, are you saying you don’t know whether or not something you imagine is immaterial or material? Your worldview does seem to have many profound deficiencies, Nide. Indeed, you don’t even seem to know who you are."


See the key word SEEM. The only alternative I have dawson is to imagine it along wiht you. Looks like your trick has come back to haunt you. It's ok I have put it to good use.


BB said:"I could also be imagining “what” here? What is your evidence for your answer? Or, do you think that possibilities can be manufactured from thin air, by whim?"


You could be imagining that you're imagining a pizza that you can't eat. So, how is it that you are not imagining that?


BB said"As I stated in my previous response to this, I know this by reference to the primacy of existence. My answer to your question will not change simply because you repeat your question and/or do not understand my answer. Do you really think that the pizza I imagine is truly edible and nutritious? How do you know or not know?"


That's what I am asking you. How do you know existence is not deceiving you?

How do you know, Dawson, the objects you claim to be perceving are real?

How do you know, Dawson, that your "reality" is real?


Good luck. have fun




BB said: "Yes, I have misidentified sensory data before.


Ok good.


Skipping the personal story.


BB said: "How did I discover this? By using my senses again! Amazing, isn’t it? "

Actually no. I think you know what we are getting at here but instead you willfully want to confuse the conversation.


Now, when you claim that "God is imaginary" how is it that you are not misindentifying sensory information?

BB said: "Seriously, how could you have any problem with this? If you do have a problem with this, it’s your problem, not mine."


Seriously, how is it that you are not delusional?


BB said: "I’ve asked you to give examples of what you would call instances of the senses deceiving a thinker. Instead of coming back with examples of what you might have in mind, you come back with more questions. This doesn’t work. If you think there are cases where the senses deceive people, please cite examples. If not, then it’s time for you to concede to my position."


Which position? the one you may merely be imagining. So, how is it that you are not?


cont.

April 09, 2012 10:43 AM  
Blogger Hezekiah Ahaz said...

BB said: "In your blog entry, you indicate that *you know* your god “cannot lie” (apparently it has no choice whether it lies or not) “by faith.” In other words, you claim to know “by faith” that your god will not deceive you. Can you explain how this works? How does “faith” work as an epistemological solution to this question? How does it work as an epistemological process? How is “faith” different from just wanting to believe something? If you have a choice over what you put your faith in, how to do you determine what deserves your faith, and what doesn’t? How do you determine where to put your faith? Can you offer more than these two words (“by faith”) to “account for” the epistemological process by which you allegedly know what you claim to know? If you can’t, then just say so."


It's called taking things for granted.

Remember, dawson, Faith is the precondition for all reasoning and hence knowledge.

Now, in spite of the fact that in the past you have "misidentified sensory information" why do you keep using your senses? Is it by faith? It is possible that everything you claim to know is simply your senses extremely deceving you?


BB said: "You see, simply saying “by faith” is so alarmingly uninformative that it suggests that you really have no answer to these questions to begin with, and are simply trying (in a most juvenile manner) to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. Unfortunately, your wool is like worn-out burlap – it lets through a lot of light that it’s being used to block out."


Well, dawson, the only alternative I have is to imagine it along with you.



Have fun.

April 09, 2012 10:43 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Dawson: I’ve read many book reviews that use the term ‘tour de force’, and always that raises a flag that the reviewer may be engaging in hyperbole. In the case of this essay, I’m tempted to ladle out a serving of ‘tour de force’ save for two minor quibbles.

When you addressed Bahnsen’s point that

“According to cosmic evolutionary theory all is ultimately subject to random change and is in a constant state of flux.”

Why didn’t you present the fact that cluster/galactic/stellar/planetary formations happen due the casualty of existence? Large scale structures in our cosmic domain act according to their natures and to that of space time itself due to gravity, the affect of a cosmological constant or quintessence. Bahnsen, and his followers who dogmatically adopt his teachings, simply are putting their ignorance and incompetence on display.

The second quibble had to do with time and the Socrates syllogism. The way in which you parsed it implied B-mode Eternalism rather than A-mode Presentism. I think you should have wrote

All men have been, are, and will be mortal./ Socrates was a man who lived long ago, but now he’s dead./ While Socrates was alive he was mortal, but now he’s only an idea drawn from information found in the writings of long dead authors.

This is still a timeless truth because time is what we measure on a clock. The actions that make up our clock occur and then are no more. The action that happens instantaneously to mark the current time passes away not into the past but into an event log of recorded happenings. The events/happenings/actions that will occur to denote some instant yet to be measured do not yet exist. In Presentism there is only now.

But even if we had a time machine and could go back to fifth century Athens to rescue Socrates from death by drinking poison hemlock. If we had a rocket ship that could travel at almost the speed of light, and put Socrates on it to travel at just less than C so that the Lorentz time dilation would slow time to almost a stand still on the rocket ship and relative to Athens, Socrates would still be mortal even if the rocket ship traveled until the heat death of our universe. If the rocket ship then decelerated to normal velocity, and Socrates was still alive, he’d still be mortal and would live out his life as long as the rocket ship could sustain him. When he would then subsequently pass away. He’d sill have been mortal while he was alive. So indeed it is a timeless concept that Socrates was mortal because all men are, have been, and will be mortal in the eternal now within which they experienced a bit of duration.

Nevertheless, this essay of yours conforms to your highest standards of excellence.

April 09, 2012 12:43 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: "My senses are not deceiving me"

Nide responded: “Oh really, Dawson, I guess I am suppose to take it on your say so. You should be embarrased.”

This is a pattern which makes it pretty much impossible to maintain an adult conversation with you. You ask numerous questions, many of them off-topic, often quite in a random manner, as though you cannot handle the present course of the dialogue. When an answer is given to you, you simply reject it out of hand, especially if it’s a straightforward answer. And then you attack your conversation partner personally. You come across as someone who simply does not want to grow up.

Your particular brand of incoherence reaches greater degrees of incline when you reject answers to your questions like the one above, huffing to the effect “I guess I am suppose [sic] to take it on your say so,” while at the same time claiming to know your position is true “by faith,” which, when pressed to explain this, you simply say it “It's called taking things for granted.” You appear to have no rational process of selecting what you will take for granted, what you’ll take on someone else’s say so, or what you’ll reject because you don’t want to take it for granted or on someone else’s say so. I’ve asked how this all works in your position, and you seem unwilling or simply unable to explain beyond these bizarre stammerings which continue to serve as your trademark.

By the way, if “faith” in your view simply means nothing more than “take for granted,” why use the word ‘faith’, which is layered with multiple dimensions of negative connotations (which persist when you don’t answer questions like those I’ve posed to you), and not simply say “take for granted” in the first place? For instance, when you’re asked how you know that your god is not deceiving you, why reply “by faith” when you apparently really only mean you “take it for granted” that your god doesn’t deceive you? My point is: why not strive for clarity in presenting your position? This is really all I ever want from Christians, but they stubbornly resist this. I have my own explanations for this, but when Christians don’t clarify their own position, they aren’t helping themselves.

[Continued…]

April 09, 2012 4:43 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

In regard to my calling you Nide, I have documented my reasons for doing so in the comments here. You have not explained your activity on my blog and have given me no secure reason to suppose you are someone other than the individual who blogs under the name “Nide Corniell” (which I suspect is made up as well). For a long time you have been presenting yourself under the name “Hezekiah Ahaz,” which I also suspect is completely fabricated. Your activity indicates that you’re trying to conceal your identity, perhaps because you’re trying to hide something. As you indulge in this shape-shifting behavior, it erodes your credibility. Given all this, for all we know your name could be Richard, it could be Johnny, it could be Brian, it could be Lenny. If you insist that your name is Richard, perhaps we should call you Dick from now on. How’s that?

[Continued…]

April 09, 2012 4:47 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

In regard to the senses, you again expose increasing incoherence on your part the further we go in this conversation. I have asked you to present examples of situations where you think the senses are deceiving a person, and you have not done so. You continue to badger on as though the senses really do deceive people, and seem to take umbrage when others don’t accept this view, even after giving reasons for not doing so – reasons with which you do not interact or even seem to grasp. After giving an example of how I’ve misidentified what I have perceived, you then ask the massively point-missing question:

“…in spite of the fact that in the past you have ‘misidentified sensory information’ why do you keep using your senses?”

Does it occur to you that if I don’t use my senses, I would have no way of acquiring awareness of your end of the conversation?

In the example I gave, about trying to find my wife in the department store after we had become separated, you seem unclear on the point that my senses were not in any way at fault for my passing error, and in fact were instrumental in correcting that error. Your question here can only be understood as signifying that you did not understand this, or that you’re simply going out of your way to be provocative. It could be both, a mixture of stupidity and dishonesty. But you’re free to explain yourself if you feel otherwise.

[Continued…]

April 09, 2012 4:48 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Our senses are our primary means of awareness of reality, Nide. I go by the input of my senses because I want to have awareness of reality. Your question implies that we have the power to simply turn off our senses. I frankly don’t know how I could do this. I hit my head the other day walking into my bathroom (doorways here in Thailand are often not designed for tall westerners in mind), and I would’ve loved to be able to turn off my senses for a few moments, since it was quite painful. If you know something I don’t, please tell me. If you think my explanations are flawed or untrue, please explain where you think I’ve gone wrong. Please try at least for some clarity if you can. But try to put down the snarky childishness here if you can. It does not help your position in any way.

You then asked “Is it by faith?” that I “keep using [my] senses.” Your explanation of “faith”, as we saw above from your own comments, suggests that you only mean “take for granted.” Presumably one has volitional control over whether or not he takes something for granted (you’re welcome to clarify if you think otherwise). But even this would commit the fallacy of the stolen concept. Volition gives us the ability to select between alternatives present in our awareness. But if I am not using my senses, then I’m not aware of anything, including alternatives. So I wouldn’t be able to make a selection. I have to perceive first before I can operate volitionally. So your question, again, is quite amiss.

You then asked the bizarre question: “It is [sic] possible that everything you claim to know is simply your senses extremely deceving [sic] you?”

No, this is not possible. As has already been explained to you by more than one individual, the senses do not deceive. Again, if you think I’m wrong, please trot out some examples of where you think your senses have deceived you, and let’s look at them case by case. Otherwise, you come across as one who’s most anxious to score some point while refusing to be rescued from a sinking dinghy. I see a lot of this mentality here in SE Asia. It’s called “saving face.” You might feel quite at home with some of the irrational behavior I witness on a daily basis here.

Again, I have to emphasize this so that perhaps you’ll sit down and think about this: You have the persisting habit of asking many, many questions and simply rejecting the answers that you are given in response to those questions, and continue asking additional questions and repeating the same behavior. I don’t care why you do this, since there can’t be any rationality to such an exercise. But I’m going to draw your attention to it explicitly here in case you’re not aware of your own habits. You need to think about what you’re doing a little more carefully if you want to reach an adult level of mentality in life. We already know that Christianity is not going to help you here. In fact, it may be a big part of what’s hindering your development.

Regards,
Dawson

April 09, 2012 4:49 PM  
Blogger Hezekiah Ahaz said...

Dawson,

Is Ayn Rand a deciever?

If not how do you know?

What's wrong Dawson can't answer the hard questions?

How does it feel to have your own tricks come
back to haunt you?



If you live in a glass house maybe you shouldn't throw stones.

April 09, 2012 5:23 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Robert,

Thanks for your excellent contributions to my blog, and for your insightful reaction to what I have written. You wrote: “I’ve read many book reviews that use the term ‘tour de force’, and always that raises a flag that the reviewer may be engaging in hyperbole. In the case of this essay, I’m tempted to ladle out a serving of ‘tour de force’ save for two minor quibbles.”

Only two? I must be doing pretty good!

You continue: “When you addressed Bahnsen’s point that

‘According to cosmic evolutionary theory all is ultimately subject to random change and is in a constant state of flux.’

Why didn’t you present the fact that cluster/galactic/stellar/planetary formations happen due the casualty [causality?] of existence?


Hmmm. Honestly, it hadn’t occurred to me to mention this. Do you think this is what Bahnsen had in mind? It may be. Typically when I see theists talking about “evolutionary theory” – even if they qualify it as “cosmic” – I suspect that they’re extrapolating from biological theory and misapplying it to everything else in the universe. I am aware of theories about how galaxies and stars form, and sometimes the word ‘evolve’ is used here. But I think it’s important to be careful to draw clear lines of distinction between the evolution of the species and the formation of celestial bodies. In both categories entity-based causality is of course the driving force. But while the evolution of the species is teleological (in the sense that life is goal-oriented), the formation of stars, galaxies, planetoids, etc., on my understanding, is by causal default (e.g., as you rightly put it, “due to gravity”).

It’s very possible that such distinctions don’t concern Bahnsen. Bahnsen just wants to characterize the universe in such a way that all focus is on “change,” and no attention is afforded to observe any constancies. I have attempted to correct this nastiness by drawing attention to the facts that change is not possible without certain constants in place, and that those constants satisfy any concern for grounding logical principles.

You write: “Bahnsen, and his followers who dogmatically adopt his teachings, simply are putting their ignorance and incompetence on display.”

Well, to be fair, since my birth, there have been many opportunities in my life to display my own ignorance and incompetencies… ;) The past nearly 11 months living in a wildly different culture than the one in which I grew up has presented numerous such opportunities! But I do try to learn and adapt as I go.

What Bahnsen and his ilk are displaying, really, is at root their dishonesty about the facts. They are deliberately focusing on one thing – the fact that things in the universe do change – while doing their best to sustain the pretense that something else does not exist – namely the constants which make that change possible. It would not suit Bahnsen’s apologetic purposes to say something to the effect, “Yes, there’s a lot of change in the universe, but that change would not be possible without these unchanging facts being in place,” and go on to list some of them out as I have. He’s trying to set up a mirage in his audience’s minds. And we already know that’s what (specifically) presuppositional apologetics is all about.

[Continued…]

April 09, 2012 6:04 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You had another beef with my paper:

The second quibble had to do with time and the Socrates syllogism. The way in which you parsed it implied B-mode Eternalism rather than A-mode Presentism. I think you should have wrote

All men have been, are, and will be mortal./ Socrates was a man who lived long ago, but now he’s dead./ While Socrates was alive he was mortal, but now he’s only an idea drawn from information found in the writings of long dead authors.

This is still a timeless truth because time is what we measure on a clock. The actions that make up our clock occur and then are no more. The action that happens instantaneously to mark the current time passes away not into the past but into an event log of recorded happenings. The events/happenings/actions that will occur to denote some instant yet to be measured do not yet exist. In Presentism there is only now.


Wow, Robert, interesting point. I have to admit, I’m not up on my B-mode Eternalism and A-mode Presentism. Frankly, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen these labels before – if I have, it was a long time ago. But I would definitely agree that the present is all that exists, that it is always now, and that ‘past’ and ‘future’ are conceptual systems which have meaning now but which denote entire complexes which do not exist now. As you’ll see in my next installment on induction (if I ever get to finishing it!), one of the points I would raise when presuppositionalists bring up the problem of induction (since they see induction primarily in terms of estimating the future based on the past) is: what specifically does the concept ‘future’ denote? Simply, what do we mean by ‘future’? This question is not meant to refute anything, or even stump anyone, but rather to get the conversation focused on the meaning of what the apologist is asking. I think that’s a critical issue which is too often overlooked by apologists themselves.

As for the syllogism that I used in my blog entry, I used it because it’s the standard syllogism we see used as a model syllogism in many introductory logic lessons. It’s a very easy syllogism to follow, and it tracks the basic ‘A is B/B is C/Therefore A is C’ model of inference very neatly. While the premises in the syllogism you propose as an alternative to the one I used are true, and it’s conclusion is also true, my concern was to draw on what may already be familiar in the minds of readers in the hopes that the conceptual nature of the relations expressed in a simple inference will be clearer.

Also, my concern was not so much to draw attention to the timelessness, say, of Socrates’ mortality, but on the intersection of Rand’s principle of measurement-omission (“the relevant measurements must exist in some quantity, but may exist in any quantity”) and the nature of logical inference. I attempted the same thing in this blog (where again I use the Socrates syllogism, primarily because it’s very simple and likely already to be familiar in the minds of readers). The point I’m trying to develop here is the reason why argument form can be modeled symbolically – e.g., “A is B/B is C/Ergo A is C.” The symbols are essentially conceptual place-holders which, for the argument form to work, must have some term/value/identity, but may have any term/value/identity (paraphrasing Rand’s principle) in order to the validity of the argument to obtain.

I would be the first to say that this can all be improved, and no doubt many before me have probably already done that work, but perhaps for different purposes than mine. My concern is to highlight the conceptual aspects of logic vis-à-vis Rand’s concept theory.

Does that help?

Regards,
Dawson

April 09, 2012 6:04 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

You wrote, to Hezekiah: "...you then ask the massively point-missing question."

You've inspired another moniker for Hezekiah: "The Massive Point-Missing Questioner."

And great work on your latest blog entry!

Ydemoc

April 09, 2012 6:04 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Nide: “Is Ayn Rand a deciever?”

See, here we go again. More questions manufactured at random with no bearing on the foregoing conversation. And most likely, no matter what answer I give, unless I come out and affirm that Rand was stark raving deceiver, Nide is not going to accept what I have to say, no matter how much effort I put into substantiating my position. So why does he ask?

Nide: “If not how do you know?”

Much of Rand’s life was on public display during her life, and many scholars have examined her life, her writings and her ideas during her life and since she died in 1982. I have pored through much research of my own on her. I have found no evidence to suggest that she deliberately sought to mislead anyone. In fact, when she wanted to have sexual relations with a partner outside her marriage, she famously consulted her husband before doing so instead of doing this behind his back and without his consent. I find this quite remarkable as evidence vouching for her honesty.

Similarly, her philosophy demands brutal honesty on the part of its practitioners. At minimum, it requires one to acknowledge that his preferences, wishes, desires, fantasies, imaginations, etc., do not alter reality, and that reality sets its own terms independent of our wishes, preferences, desires, etc. This is very difficult for many people, especially if they’ve been raised in a worldview which does not teach this. Moreover, her worldview’s ethical and political principles are specifically geared toward independent individuals honestly dealing with one another. See for example what Rand called ‘the trader principle’. This principle and the context surrounding it requires the utmost honesty of a person, and Rand’s philosophy shows that honesty is indeed in a person’s own best rational interests. To be honest is to be rationally selfish. And there’s no question that Rand’s philosophy is all about adhering to reason.

So the charge that Rand was a deceiver or out to deceive certainly does not mesh with the ideas which she developed and advocated. There’s also the fact that the suggestion that Rand was a deceiver is not accompanied by any argument or citation of facts to support it. Really, if those who want to charge Rand with deception produce no documentary evidence to support this charge, I see no reason to take it seriously, especially in light of other facts which are known to be true and which can only suggest otherwise.

Here’s a question for you, Nide, hopefully to bring home the point:

When you say your name is “Richard,” how can we know that you’re not trying to deceive us again?

This is a serious question, whether or not you want to treat it seriously.

Regards,
Dawson

April 09, 2012 6:17 PM  
Blogger Hezekiah Ahaz said...

Dawson,

Will a deciever tell you he's deceiving you?

How does it feel to get the tables turned back on you?

How do you know you're real Dawson?

This "reality" that you keep taking about how do you know it's real?

Is it possible that you are presently believing in "misidentified information"?

April 09, 2012 6:33 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

You wrote: "The invariance that they’re pretending not to see is right under their very noses; their very complaint couldn’t make sense to anyone else without it. And yet, because of their worldview’s systematic decapitation of the mind’s ability to focus on essentials, theistic apologists habitually assume that non-believers also cannot isolate the constants which undergird human cognition which they themselves, out of apologetic expedience and worldview default, fail to recognize. Because of the anti-conceptual nature of their underlying worldview, the presuppositionalist suffers from a system-wide debilitating myopia which pervades his epistemology, and subsequently projects his resulting shortsightedness onto everyone else."

I experienced this very thing the other evening with my brother, as he tried to suggest through his questions that (a) the universe (existence) had to come from somewhere (b) that somewhere has to be an invisible magic being (b) that if it wasn't created by his invisible magic being, then it must exist my chance.

I did my best under the circumstances to explain to him the folly of his notions. But his confessional investment is quite strong, and is supported by an emotional commitment along with identity attachment.

But I was able to chip away at some of the ideas he holds, telling him in no uncertain terms that the only reason he believes what he does (Conversational Donkeys, Chit-Chatty Snakes, City-Strolling Corpses; denying evolution, etc.) is because those who believe just like him have taught and told him to him to do so.

And he was heavily projecting his shortsightedness onto everyone else. Funny how reason comes to a screeching halt when it comes to a mind that quests to protect and defend the arbitrary, using hope in the imaginary as it only guide.

It truly was an anti-conceptual experience of biblical proportions.

Ydemoc

April 10, 2012 2:10 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hail: (Roman Centurion Salute) Dawson, Justin, Ydemoc, friends and readers

This one is for Nide

Further to my pervious comment (in the Seger part 1 thread) wherein I showed you cannot demonstrate a higher probability of magic resurrection of Jesus’ alleged corpse over naturalistic explanations of the missing body such that you have no rights of any sort to attempt to engage anyone including Incinerating Presuppositionalism’s blog comment participants in a Socratic dialog or to ask questions. This is because your religious world view is subject to many powerful criticisms not the least of which come from other religious traditions that you, in you arrogance and ignorance, outright reject. Nevertheless the following criticism of Christianity adds additional weight to your burden of proof the hoisting of which is required to have even minimal rights to ask the sort of very silly questions you have been indulging in.

Consider that if substantial historical accuracy of the Gospel stories is gratuitously granted, then Jesus was a false apocalyptic prophet.

MT 16:28, MK 9:1, LK 9:27 Jesus says that some of his listeners will not taste death before he comes again in his kingdom. This was said almost 2000 years ago.

This passage and others indicate that Jesus was to come again in a relatively short period of time and not just "quickly" as present day Biblicists assert. All of his listeners are now dead, yet Jesus has not come again in his kingdom. Jesus was a false prophet.

In Deu 18:20-22 can be read: "But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.' And if you say in your heart, 'How may we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?'--when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you need not be afraid of him."

Thus the believer in the god YHWH would have a religious duty to kill Jesus if he were alive.

This means Christianity is a false religion and you are a follower of a false prophet. Thus you have not right to demand answers to any question at all.

End message: Robert Bumbalough

April 10, 2012 2:42 PM  
Blogger Hezekiah Ahaz said...

Robert,

The only alternative I have is to imagine it along with you.


End message: HA

April 10, 2012 3:42 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Robert,

I also find that the bible "jumps the shark," (obviously, from the get-go, with the whole, "In the beginning..." crap; and then it pretty much "jumps the whale" from that point forward, with all its other nonsense), all over the place, especially in how Storybook characters' reactions to events are portrayed. In many, many instances, we are told that these characters are astonished, amazed, or afraid at the powers displayed by their invisible magic being.

Here we have middle-eastern mystics, who prattle on and on, telling others about such things as: raising dead people, curing the blind, parting seas, stopping the sun in the sky, living inside a whale, a worldwide flood, talking donkeys, talking snakes, turning water into wine; corpses walking about a city, etc., etc., etc -- and after all this, we're supposed to believe that all these people continue to be astonished or amazed over and over and over again?

This is quite telling to me. For if they believed in a god (and we are told they did), if they witnessed its power, if they knew that such things were a common occurrence with said god, why be astonished, afraid or amazed?

This to me is only one of many telltale signs that the Storybook is nothing but fiction. Case in point:

Mark 16

"8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid."

Afraid of what? They believed in Talking Donkeys didn't they? They believed in talking snakes, didn't they? They'd seen Jesus perform miracles, hadn't they? What's the problem?

"11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it."

Why not? See above.

These aren't the only examples where the bible reads even worse than a bad movie script.

It is clearly constructed as a theological sales pitch, with more holes in it than Noah's Ark would've had, had it actually existed.

Unfortunately for the theist, the wise and the rational recognize this and aren't buyin'.

Ydemoc

April 10, 2012 4:28 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

@Ydemoc

sorry but I must make a correction here, the common phrase is now nuke the fridge. Jumping the shark is so out dated and passe at this point:)

April 10, 2012 4:37 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Justin,

Thanks. I just looked it up, and I remember watching Indiana Jones and seeing him hide in that refrigerator during the nuclear explosion, thinking to myself, "Oh, pleeeeese..." Even for a fantasy, action/adventure pic, that was ridiculous.

But I like "nuke the fridge," and it has the same quality to it as does "jump the shark" or "live in a whale" or "rose from the dead" or "seeing the invisible" or "awareness creating existence" or "all-knowing being" -- one must actually suspend recognition of reality in order to accept such moments and notions.

Ydemoc

April 10, 2012 4:53 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Peter Boghossian, "Faith Based Belief Processes Are Unreliable"
By John W. Loftus at 4/11/2012

This is a must see video! You can skip to 9:00 to hear Dr. Boghossian's talk if you wish. I love his passion! I love what he said about delusions at the 26:00 mark: "We are forced to conclude that a tremendous number of people are delusional. There is no other conclusion one can draw..." At 33:00 he utilizes the Outsider Test for Faith! And at 38:30 he says, "The most charitable thing we can say about faith is that it's likely to be false." I honestly think that sometime in the future there won't be such a thing as an informed Christian, especially an informed Evangelical. An informed Christian will become an oxymoron. In fact, it's already here.

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2012/04/peter-boghossian-faith-based-belief.html

April 11, 2012 7:14 AM  
Blogger Hezekiah Ahaz said...

Robert,

How do you know Peter is not delusional?

April 11, 2012 7:43 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Nide:

Because no version of ontological arguments for God is sound, no a-priori reason for thinking God exists obtains. Because there are no positive evidences for existence of God when there should be very good evidences, the God hypothesis is falsified. There are no valid teleological design arguments, cosmological-first-cause arguments, arguments from fine tuning or strong anthropic principle. All arguments from Christian’s alleged religious revelation are cancelled by similar arguments from alleged religious revelations from adherents of other religions. There are no a-posteriori reasons to think God exists.

Presuppositional apologists (PA) are unjustified in blithely assuming God exists as a basal premise of their arguments. All PA arguments (or in the case of Incinerating Presuppositionalism blog comments, the blathering nonsense of Nide, the delusional liar) that start from a premise that God exists automatically fail due to petitio principii.

Besides presuppositionalism’s arguments are either in the form of Affirming the Consequent fallacies, employ cum hoc ergo propter hoc (non-casual inferences) fallacy, false dilemma/dichotomy/bifurcation fallacies.

Affirming the Consequent fallacy has the form If P, then Q. Q; therefore P.

When the PA argues:

a. If God, then logic (L) or morality (M) or reason (R) or knowledge (K) or uniformity of nature (UN), ect.
b. L or M or R or K or UN ect, therefore God

They are making an Affirming the Consequent fallacy.

Cum hoc ergo propter hoc has the form: A is regularly associated with B, therefore, A causes B.

When the PA argues:

a. God has been associated in the past with L or M or R or K or UN ect by other PA authors, Church tradition, or inference from sacred scripture.
b. Therefore God causes L or M or R or K or UN ect.

They are making a cum hoc ergo propter hoc false cause fallacy.

False dichotomy or false dilemma fallacies are a mainstay of the PA’s tool kit. It has the form: Either X or Y; X is false; therefore Y is true. C.S. Lewis’ famous trilemma of Lord or Liar or Lunatic is a good example. Lewis purposefully excluded other choices of myth or legend thus making his trilemma a fallacy. If there are other unmentioned choices, then the dichotomy of dilemma is false.

The PA seeks to trick her victim into accepting a false choice of either L or M or R or K or UN ect being “accounted” for by “materialism” or by action of the PA’s Christian God. The PA then asserts “materialism” cannot “account” for L or M or R or K or UN ect., therefore God must have done it. They often ask non-believers to account for L or M or R or K or UN ect, then reject with snarky snarling contempt any explanation offered by the non-believer in favor of alleged actions of their mythological God.

Alternative choices offering hypotheses describing how L or M or R or K or UN ect obtain, but not offered by the PA’s bifurcation, are specified in Objectivism, Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, modern neuroscience, and perhaps others, of which, I am not aware. Thus the PA’s mainstay is a fallacy and an epic failure.

A valid modus ponens syllogism has the form:

If P, then Q. | P, therefore Q.

If presuppositional apologetics are an epic fail, then presuppositional apologetics cannot show God exists.

Presuppositional apologetics are an epic fail; therefore, presuppositional apologetics cannot show God exists.

Reiterating the prior question I asked of Nide:

Do you have any valid, sound, objective evidence for existence of your god?

Note: The term objective does not include any notions stemming from any form of TAG or your silly worldview.

Dawson and others have shown God and all other beings of pure consciousness are either impossible and hence don’t exist because they can’t, or are so extremely improbable as to not be worth thinking about. In light of that, when a religious person rejects valid and sound argument and evidence in favor of his religious dogma, they are acting under influence of strong delusion.

April 11, 2012 9:26 AM  
Blogger Hezekiah Ahaz said...

Robert,

That's what I call useless rhetoric.

Now, how is it that Peter is not delusional?

April 11, 2012 9:40 AM  
Blogger Whateverman said...

I apologize...

I found this blog / thread, and thought that the first few response might make for interesting reading. But then I got to Hezekiah's first comment, and had to skip past the next ~35 responses.

Any theology that would lead a person to intentionally derail a conversation seems, to me, to be little more than mental masturbation placed on an altar. It's difficult accepting a world view that asks its adherents to annoy other people.

April 11, 2012 2:26 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Whateverman,

I saw the question you posted over on Hezekiah's blog. That's a good question -- let's see if he answers it. He certainly hasn't answered many, many questions I've posed to him about his worldview.

Ydemoc

April 11, 2012 4:50 PM  
Blogger Hezekiah Ahaz said...

Stranger,

You are not allowed to look at my blog.

April 11, 2012 4:58 PM  
Blogger Whateverman said...

Thanks Ydemoc. I confidently predict that he'll avoid addressing the question, as do most of the presupp apologists I've talked to. When you get right down to it, it's fairly easy to reduce PA to the dishonest rhetoric it actually is.

I thought your analysis here was thorough and to the point, BTW. I've seen your comments on the blogisphere, and am happy to have found your home. Cheers!

April 11, 2012 5:03 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Whateverman,

You're welcome. And thanks for your kind words!

Ydemoc

April 11, 2012 5:18 PM  
Blogger Hezekiah Ahaz said...

It's always nice to see "atheists" bonding.

April 11, 2012 5:40 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hezekiah,

Okay, at the risk of encouraging you, I'll give you some slight credit here: Your last two comments, though they contributed absolutely nothing in terms of the current thread or the topic of Dawson's blog entry, or the questions we've asked you to answer, or much of anything else -- they did make me chuckle a little.

Perhaps that sense of humor I detected in the podcast is finally being actualized in your online character and is your one true redeeming quality, because not much of anything else is being actualized by you up to this point.

Ydemoc

April 11, 2012 5:51 PM  
Blogger Hezekiah Ahaz said...

Yea,

I've always been told I'm funny.

Not be funny but everytime I decide to say anything to you I feel really weird.

April 11, 2012 6:05 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 11, 2012 6:18 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hezekiah,

You wrote: "Not be funny but everytime I decide to say anything to you I feel really weird."

Hmmm. You don't say...

Ydemoc

April 11, 2012 6:20 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

"To someone absolutely committed to reason, the reaction to any faith-based view is: 'He has nothing.' Or, as Thomas Paine (a famous atheist persecuted in his time) put it: 'No falsehood is so fatal as that which is made an article of faith.'" (Michael J. Hurd, http://capitalismmagazine.com/2012/04/atheism-the-untouchable-subject/)

April 11, 2012 6:24 PM  
Blogger Whateverman said...

Hezekiah, what makes you think I'm an atheist?

April 11, 2012 7:39 PM  
Blogger Hezekiah Ahaz said...

Nothing. There are no "atheists" didn't you see the marks around the word.

By the way check out "van til and self-deception" on my blog it's laid out nicely.

Blessings.

April 11, 2012 7:56 PM  
Blogger Whateverman said...

There are no "atheists" didn't you see the marks around the word.

Then you must have made a mistake when you called us atheists

April 11, 2012 8:08 PM  
Blogger Hezekiah Ahaz said...

Ok,

Do you know what putting quotations marks around a word or phrase means?

You can't be this clueless.

April 11, 2012 9:06 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

Dawson,

Hello, newbie to your blog here. Before reading your work I had only a very basic awareness of Objectivism, mostly on the level of its ethics and politics. However, I'm now learning about its epistemology and I'm finding that quite convincing; I also appreciate your work countering the inanity of presuppositionalism. If you have time, though, there is an area in which I'm confused.

You say that logic is conceptual in nature. According to the Ayn Rand Lexicon, "To form a concept, one mentally isolates a group of concretes (of distinct perceptual units), on the basis of observed similarities which distinguish them from all other known concretes (similarity is “the relationship between two or more existents which possess the same characteristic(s), but in different measure or degree”); then, by a process of omitting the particular measurements of these concretes, one integrates them into a single new mental unit: the concept, which subsumes all concretes of this kind (a potentially unlimited number). The integration is completed and retained by the selection of a perceptual symbol (a word) to designate it."

As such the impression I have is that concepts exist in relation to things that are strictly material in nature. Given that logic is more of a process, or as Peikoff puts it, "Man’s knowledge is not acquired by logic apart from experience or by experience apart from logic, but by the application of logic to experience. All truths are the product of a logical identification of the facts of experience", in what sense is logic a concept? On one hand it is stated that logic is a concept; on the other hand, Peikoff states that logic is necessary to even form concepts in the first place.

I'm a little puzzled. I suspect that you already have something written somewhere that would address this for me, so if a link is sufficient to clarify things for me then I'd be perfectly happy with that.

Lastly I hope my question makes sense. I am, alas, a tired college student who should be sleeping right now.

-Alex

April 11, 2012 10:13 PM  
Blogger Whateverman said...

Do you know what putting quotations marks around a word or phrase means?

Hezekiah, are you saying you didn't call us atheists?

April 12, 2012 4:23 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Greetings friends and trolls

Here is a link to a scholarly paper defending direct realism, "the philosophy of perception that holds that perception is an immediate or direct awareness of mind-independent physical objects or events in the external world."

http://www.reasonpapers.com/pdf/12/rp_12_7.pdf

This is a well written paper that defends the evidence of the senses from eight common attacks stemming from Descartes' Representationalism subsequently adopted by various species of Idealists, Phenomenalists, Rationalists, Kantians and other modern Analytic Philosophies that seek to attack human cognition.

April 12, 2012 1:29 PM  
Blogger Reynold said...

Hezekiah Ahaz
Nothing. There are no "atheists" didn't you see the marks around the word.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but there are indeed atheists. Deal with it and stop that arrogant baloney about the idiotic assumption that everyone on earth somehow already knows that your god exists. If that was the case, there'd be no need for missionaries.

By the way check out "van til and self-deception" on my blog it's laid out nicely.
Cant' be laid out any worse than those "conversations with atheists" you keep posting on there!

You presuppers are masters of self-deception. That's what happens when you disregard even the concept of evidence and just go with what you want to believe.

April 12, 2012 4:24 PM  
Blogger Hezekiah Ahaz said...

Reynold,

I have decided to no longer interact with you.

April 12, 2012 5:30 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Alex,

Welcome to my blog. I’m glad that you are beginning to become more familiar with the epistemology that Objectivism has to offer. I’ve long suspected that individuals who excoriate Objectivism do so only on the basis of *some* familiarity with Objectivism’s politics, and even then it is typically contaminated by external impurities (such as the standard Hollywood depiction of capitalism). There’s a lot that most of Objectivism’s detractors are missing. Well, that’s their loss.

You had some great questions that I wanted to address, but due to little time at my disposal I will have to be brief.

You wrote: “As such the impression I have is that concepts exist in relation to things that are strictly material in nature.”

This is not true of Objectivism. At no point in Objectivism will you find any stipulation that concepts denote only things that are material in nature. In fact, when Rand discusses the concepts ‘physical’/’matter’, she points out that these are very complex scientific concepts, and as such they would not be available until we reached that stage of knowledge (cf. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (ITOE), pp. 245-251).

I’m guessing that your impression that this is the case was generated at least in part by considering the examples of concept-formation which involved material objects, like pencils, balls, dogs, tables, etc. While it is true that a child begins by forming concepts denoting the perceptual concretes he personally encounters, the method of concept-formation is in no way limited exclusively to this level of cognition. In ITOE, Rand shows how her method enables a thinker to integrate concepts he’s already formed (e.g., the concepts ‘table’, ‘chair’, ‘bed’, ‘desk’, ‘stool’, ‘dresser’) to form higher abstractions (e.g., ‘furniture’). These concepts can in turn be integrated to form yet even higher abstractions (e.g., ‘man-made’, ‘design’, etc.) and even higher beyond that (e.g., ‘procedure’, ‘process’, etc.). See chapter 3 of ITOE – “Abstraction from Abstractions.”

Moreover, Rand devotes an entire chapter of ITOE (chapter 4) to analyzing the process of forming what she calls “concepts of consciousness” – i.e., concepts formed by the same general process we use to fomr concepts of perceived concretes, but which denote characteristics and activities of cognition. This latter category (“concepts of consciousness”) includes what she calls “concepts of method,” which

“are formed by retaining the distinguishing characteristics of the purposive course of action and of its goal, while omitting the particular measurements of both… For instance, the fundamental concept of method, the one on which all others depends, is logic. The distinguishing characteristic of logic (the art of non-contradictory identification) indicates the nature of the acitons (actions of consciousness required to achieve a correct identification) and their goal (knowledge) – while omitting the length, complexity or specific steps of the particular cognitive problem involved in any given instance of using logic.” (ITOE, p. 36).

[Continued…]

April 12, 2012 7:42 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You asked, “in what sense is logic a concept?”

There are three important distinctions that may be helpful for you to keep in mind. They are:

1) the systematic method of non-contradictory identification which we call “logic” and employ as part of our cognitive effort to understand the world and the objects, actions, relations and situations we encounter;

2) the concept ‘logic’ which we use to denote this method;

3) the claim that this method is a conceptual method – i.e., a method that operates on a conceptual basis, specifically one which treats its terms as open-ended categories which can stand for anything but must stand for something (following Rand’s principle of measurement-omission: “the relevant measurements must exist in some quantity, but may exist in any quantity” – ITOE, p. 12).

I’m guessing that the first two distinctions are what may be eluding you, and hopefully by drawing explicit attention to them, your confusion will be cleared up. Logic is a method, and we denote this method by means of a concept, namely the concept ‘logic’. The last point may or may not be involved in what is causing your confusion, but it is relevant insofar as the topic of my blog entry above is concerned, and is offered here as food for thought, hopefully not confuse you more!

But to elaborate a bit on the third point, I’m basically taking Rand’s point that

“The relationship of concepts to their constituent particulars is the same as the relationship of algebraic symbols to numbers. In the equation 2a = a + a, any number may be substituted for the symbol “a without affecting the truth of the equation. For instance: 2 X 5 = 5 + 5, or: 2 X 5,000,000 = 5,000,000 + 5,000,000. In the same manner, by the same psycho-epistemological method, a concept is used as an algebraic symbol that stands for any of the arithmetical sequence of units it subsumes.” (ITOE, p. 18)

and applying it to the basic form of a logical inference. E.g., in the syllogism “A is B/B is C/Ergo A is C,” any terms can be substituted for the symbols A, B and C without effecting the validity of the syllogism. Of course, whether a specific syllogism is sound will depend on the specifics of the case. Both the validity of an inference as well as the truth of its premises are preconditional to a deductive argument’s soundness.

You wrote: “On one hand it is stated that logic is a concept; on the other hand, Peikoff states that logic is necessary to even form concepts in the first place.”

These two statements are not in conflict. And here’s why: whatever process we use to form even our first concepts, that process must take place before it can be an object of our awareness and thereby available for identification. In other words, if logic (as Objectivism broadly conceives of it; see above) is the method by which we form concepts or arrive at knowledge or what have you, that method must exist (i.e., have been performed) before we can conceptualize it; we cannot conceptualize something that does not exist, unless of course we have analogous models upon which to build such conceptions. But such models would only be available later, after we’ve conceived of the notion of method to begin with (the most fundamental of course being logic). But broadly, as I pointed out, there’s a crucial distinction to bear in mind here: the method which we call “logic,” and the concept which we use to denote that method, namely the concept ‘logic’.

Now, no doubt this does not address all your questions. But hopefully it will help you bear certain distinctions in mind going forward. But please don’t hesitate to raise more questions. They help!

Regards,
Dawson

April 12, 2012 7:42 PM  
Blogger Negative Entropy said...

Hey Dawson,

You write so god-damn long posts. Yet, I confess I always have a great time reading them. Good job man. I had stopped visiting your blog because I had not seen anything new. Big mistake.

Best.

April 26, 2012 1:17 PM  
Blogger Negative Entropy said...

any terms can be substituted for the symbols A, B and C without effecting [sic] the validity of the syllogism

Could not resist. It should be "affecting."

April 26, 2012 1:20 PM  
Blogger Negative Entropy said...

Dawson,

Ever since I have been reading your blog (quite a time, though I have not posted before the ones above), I have found your stuff and answers, and discussions, quite reasonable. Of course, they require attention to detail, but they always strike me as very reasonable, well thought. However, it seems as if objectivism is completely ignored by philosophers, often characterized as a cult. When objectivism is mentioned, it is mischaracterized (I compare what they say and what you say, and the confusion is NOT understandable, other than leading me to think that philosophers allow any kind of straw man and other bullshit in the field, with little if any criticism on some sides).

Anyway, perhaps my question is: is there a root cause for this misbehaviour? Any reason why objectivism, despite its power and reliance on reason, is so ignored? Or is it mostly that I have come across the worst of philosophy?

(Example, I've got an invitation to a discussion about perception of reality and such shit, mentions a few of the obvious philosophers, but no objectivist/objectivism)

Just wondering. Maybe there is no answer.

Best!

May 01, 2012 3:04 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Negative Entropy (NE) wrote: “You write so god-damn long posts. Yet, I confess I always have a great time reading them. Good job man. I had stopped visiting your blog because I had not seen anything new. Big mistake.”

Hi Negative Entropy. Thanks for your comments, and thanks for pointing out my error in choosing to write “effecting” instead of “affecting.” You’re right – “affect” is a verb, “effect” is a noun. Editing is never finished! A couple weeks ago I was reading in Wells’ latest book, Cutting Jesus Down to Size, and instead of “conception” I found “coneption” (Wells was discussing the virgin birth stories in the NT). I’m fascinated not only with Wells’ handling of his topics, but also his amazing writing skills. But even he needs an editor more on her toes.

As for not visiting my blog more regularly because you hadn’t seen anything new, shame on you! ;) Actually, I have to confess, I’m the guilty party here. So far as blogging is concerned, I really wish I could be more present and active on my blog. For the last month I’ve been extremely busy. I had two off-site business conferences and last week my wife and I moved to a new house. All while working full time. Things are starting to settle down a bit, but there will be another off-site soon, and there are still more mountains to move with the new house… There’s always the “honey-do” list, you know. “Honey, can you do this?” There’s no end in sight!

You wrote: “Ever since I have been reading your blog…, I have found your stuff and answers, and discussions, quite reasonable.”

Thank you, NE. I appreciate that. I try my best, given ever-increasing constraints, to make my points all the more accessible to those who are willing to take the time needed to understand what I’m trying to say. Writing my blog takes time; so does understanding my points.

[Continued…]

May 07, 2012 7:40 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

NE wrote: “However, it seems as if objectivism is completely ignored by philosophers, often characterized as a cult. When objectivism is mentioned, it is mischaracterized (I compare what they say and what you say, and the confusion is NOT understandable, other than leading me to think that philosophers allow any kind of straw man and other bullshit in the field, with little if any criticism on some sides).”

You’re right. We must keep in mind that one does not cease being human when he becomes a philosopher or emerges from some “institution” with a certain certificate of academic achievement. Philosophers are still human beings, and thus are capable of being convulsed by irrational impulses. The problem you identify is not in your imagination; it is very much real. Objectivism is of course associated with Ayn Rand, and she was an outsider to academia. She was not an academic philosopher graduating with a degree from some prestigious university. To the folks in the Ivy League, she was a mere country bumpkin encroaching on sacred grounds. How dare she! How dare she presume to have anything important to say on philosophy, when she was just a businesswoman who wrote scripts for 2-bit Hollywood productions and a couple novels that happened to become bestsellers?

For the elitist academics, Rand had many fatal strikes against her, including (but not limited to):

- she was a businesswoman (business is evil);
- she was a novelist (how can anyone take a novelist seriously? Except Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gorky, Melville, Shakespeare, Joyce, etc.);
- she advocated selfishness (good grief, who in their right mind would do such a thing?!);
- she advocated capitalism (how naïve! The ultimate sacrilege!);
- she denounced communism (how fascist of her!);
- she did not kow-tow to Kant, Plato, Berkley, Hegel, Popper, Russell, Sartre, Foucault, Heidegger, or any of the other revered insiders; etc.

You asked: “is there a root cause for this misbehaviour?”

If you ask me, I think Rand identified the cause of this malady in one word – “envy” – or, as she put it, “hatred of the good for being good.”

You asked: “Any reason why objectivism, despite its power and reliance on reason, is so ignored?”

I think your question, as you phrased it, contains its own answer. Reason is light. Cockroaches don’t like light. Philosophy doesn’t have to be complicated. Rand showed that. She had the audacity to solve the problem of universals (and with it, the problem of induction) in a mere 87 pages (or less)! Besides, who has the time to read such “argumentum ad verbosium” when they can read NT Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of Man (at 740 pages); Greg Bahnsen’s Van Til’s Apologetic (at 764 pages); or Craig Keener’s Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (at 1172 pages)?

You asked: “Or is it mostly that I have come across the worst of philosophy?”

I’m not an expert on the literature of philosophy (who is?), but from my experience, the “worst of philosophy” is the norm. Objectivists are a most unusual (and, to me, refreshing) exception.

Regards,
Dawson

May 07, 2012 7:45 AM  

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