Saturday, September 15, 2012

Answers to “50 Important Philosophical Questions”

I recently saw a blog entry on Thoughts On The Line (TOTL) titled 50 IMPORTANT PHILOSOPHICAL QUESTIONS (no, that’s not me shouting), and after reading some of the questions I thought I’d take some time and answer all fifty questions. So here they are, in the order in which they appear on the TOTL blog entry:
1. Does God exist? (Metaphysics + Philosophy of Religion)
While theists might find this answer emotionally disturbing, if “God” is supposed to denote some kind of “supernatural” consciousness, the answer is no. Since that which is imaginary is not real, that which is imaginary does not exist, for that which is not real does not exist.

Consider: Would it be possible to “believe in” a deity even if it didn’t actually exist? The very insistence that Christianity is the “one true religion” and other religions are false, suggests that this is indeed possible. It is always possible to imagine a god, even the Christian god, such as when one is reading a “sacred text.” Just as the characters of “Harry Potter” come alive in one’s imagination when he reads one of J. K. Rowling’s novels, the Christian god and all the other characters of the Christian bible “come alive” in the imagination of the believer who reads it and invests his reading experience with emotional projections. Essentially speaking, there is no fundamental difference between the two cases. Since it is always possible to imagine a god, one will always be able to imagine the Christian god. But this alone does not tell the whole story of Christianity’s problems. While the mere ability to imagine the Christian god is in itself sufficiently damning, the fact that believers and non-believers alike have no alternative but to imagine the Christian god, even within the variable contexts of contemplating arguments supposedly proving its existence, is far more damaging to theism than any refutation of a pro-theistic argument.

Defenses of theism do nothing to eliminate the need to rely on the imagination when contemplating or worshiping the god or gods whose existence they are intended to establish. Moreover, getting behind apologetic sound bite formulae common in some theistic circles – e.g., “the proof that God exists is that without Him you couldn't prove anything,” “the impossibility of the contrary,” “God has revealed the truth of His Word such that we can be certain of it” – is entirely possible in spite of the fact that the god being so promoted is merely imaginary. On the contrary, given the imaginative nature of religious confessional investment, such slogans are to be expected among the faithful as prompts intended to keep them from straying. For those who may be interested, I have already exposed these points in my blog The Imaginative Nature of Christian Theism and have presented A Proof that the Christian God Does Not Exist on my blog.
2. How can we know that He exists? (Epistemology + Natural Theology + Philosophy of Religion)
This is a question that theists need to address, but sadly they continually fail to deliver on it. Christian apologist John Frame tells us, “We know without knowing how we know” (Presuppositional Apologetics: An Introduction (Part I)). This comes from the same camp which relies on an apologetic method which consists of continually repeating the question “How do you know?” over and over against non-believers (as is acknowledged here). So while apologists like to press non-believers to explain how they know what they claim to know, apologists themselves seem entirely unprepared to answer their own question on behalf of their own knowledge claims.

Meanwhile, Christians need to make a choice: either acknowledge that the imaginary is not real and abandon theism altogether, or go on pretending as though something which theists can only imagine is truly real in spite of the fundamental distinction between the real and the imaginary.

Moreover, Christians need to recognize once and for all that the claim to have secured knowledge by means of “revelations” only indicates that they have no epistemology proper to speak of. Claiming to know something “by revelation” means that the person making such a claim cannot identify the steps by which he came to the “knowledge” that he claims to possess. Presumably he “receives” knowledge without performing any mental steps which he could identify in the first place. On the theist’s view, knowledge is not a product of mental activity performed by the knower, but a deliverance from a supernatural realm which he passively receives by some means which the knower himself cannot identify, understand or articulate. The claim “It was revealed to me” really means that the believer wants to ignore penetrating epistemological inquiry and expects his audience to accept his claims without rational basis and without regard for the need to tie knowledge objectively to reality. As such, the retreat to revelation is an outright assault on reason and the abilities of the human mind.

The problem for Christians who claim to know things by means of “revelation” is the impossible tightrope which such a claim forces them to try to walk. On the one hand, when the “it has been revealed to me” card is played, the apologist implies that he has received some kind of direct, private revelation from the god he claims to worship. This is essentially a claim to infallibility on the part of the apologist: he is essentially saying he cannot be wrong about what he claims, since he has “received” it directly from an omniscient and infallible source. Supposedly infallibility is thereby transferred by means of supernatural manipulation of his mind. After all, how could a revelation from an infallible and omniscient supernatural consciousness be wrong? Such a presumption amounts to a denial on the part of the apologist of the very nature of his own mind, which, if he is a human being, is indeed fallible.

It also suggests that the apologist fancies himself as one of his god’s favorites. Why else would the believer be receiving all these revelations from a supernatural source while everyone else is relegated to bystander status? Naturally, the believer will want some kind of psychological compensation for the emotional investment he’s put into his god-belief. So why not do his best to believe that what his theology urges people to believe is “revealed” by a supernatural being? In the believers’ mind, labeling his beliefs as “revealed” makes them unquestionable. Of course, this doesn’t work for everyone else who tries this maneuver.

On the other hand, if by “revelation” the apologist merely means that he read something in some sacred text, such as the Christian bible, then all bets are off: he’s on the same level as everyone else, and thus just as fallible as the next person. The biblical text is available for anyone, believer and non-believer alike, to examine, scrutinize, and judge. What the apologist resents is when non-believers examine and judge the bible. The apologist essentially says that the non-believer has no right to judge the content of the biblical text. And yet, the same apologist insists that non-believers acknowledge its supposed truth. But to say that something is true is to pass judgment on it just as much as saying that it is false is passing judgment. So again, the apologist finds himself in a futile epistemological pickle here, essentially a trap set by his own worldview.

Either way, an appeal to revelation is a declaration that reason is not the only means of knowledge by man, for revelation and reason are certainly not the same. Indeed, they are mutual exclusive. In the case of revelation, the human mind allegedly receives knowledge passively, without any epistemological process performed by the knower. It does not rely on awareness of reality by means of perception; it does not rely on the formation of concepts on the basis of perceptual input; it does not rely on any tie to reality external to the human knower which is distinguishable from imagination (such as the objects of perceptual awareness). On the other hand, reason depends entirely on its content ultimately from perceptual input. Reason is the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by the senses. Without perception and perceptual input, there is no reason. Reason is not a faculty by which man discovers facts about reality by turning the focus of his attention inward, such as into the fantasies of his imagination. Revelation is essentially indistinguishable from consulting one’s imagination as the source of his “knowledge,” for it involves the pretense that knowledge of reality can be gained without consulting the facts which one directly perceives in the world around him.
3. Does God have a nature? (Phil. of Religion + Metaphysics)
Not according to Christians. Christians say that their god is “infinite.” That which is “infinite” has no specific identity, no nature. To exist is to have attributes which can be measured, even if only by means of rough comparisons to attributes possessed by other entities (indeed, this is how measurement begins for all of us). But to say that something is “infinite” is to say that it is beyond any specific measurement, which means it cannot be measured, not even roughly. Of course, this amounts to a self-contradiction: they are essentially saying that their god’s nature is that it has no nature. It is extremely important that theists understand that this is not the non-believer’s problem.
4. Does God have properties? (Phil. of Religion + Metaphysics)
Only those which its beholders imagine it has, for it is the believer’s imagination which ultimately calls all the shots – even if those shots are inspired by some written text – when it comes to developing an image of one’s god.
5. Can we gain knowledge about God’s nature or properties? (Epistemology)
Not by rationally investigating reality. Since the notion “God” and religious claims associated with it have no tie to reality, either perceptually or conceptually, it is not something that one can discover by looking outward at reality. One can only gain “knowledge” of a god’s “nature or properties” ultimately by turning one’s focus inward, namely by consulting one’s own imagination and calling it “theology.”

It is important to keep in mind the fact that reason, man’s only means of knowledge, rests squarely and uncompromisingly on the primacy of existence metaphysics. We discover facts about reality by looking outward, by observing reality, not by imagining alternatives to what we perceive. To say that a claim is true is to imply that it is true independent of our wishes, our desires, our preferences, our emotions, our imagination, our fantasies, etc. In other words, to say that something is true is to imply that it is the case independent of conscious activity. That is the primacy of existence.

In contrast to this, religious belief assumes the primacy of consciousness metaphysics. The primacy of consciousness is the fundamental keystone and distinguishing characteristic of religious ontology. In metaphysics, the primacy of consciousness is instanced any time one posits that some form of consciousness – either one’s own or someone else’s, whether real or imaginary – holds metaphysical primacy over selected objects or reality as such. Staple religious doctrines such as the doctrine of creation, of miracles, of divine foreordination, divine sovereignty, historical providence, faith, prayer, salvation, sin, revelation, atonement, incarnation, resurrection, etc., etc., etc., all presuppose the primacy of consciousness. Since the primacy of consciousness denies the primacy of existence, any view which grants metaphysical primacy to any form of consciousness entails a denial of the very preconditions of truth as such. Consequently, religious belief, including Christianity, performatively contradicts itself any time it affirms its doctrines as truths. So religion is no friend to truth. Indeed, religion is an assault on truth.
6. Is God the source of all reality? (Metaphysics + Phil. of Religion)
No. The very notion that some entity or thing is “the source of all reality” is irreversibly incoherent. If one posits that reality is sourced in something, would this not imply that the source of reality is something other than a part of reality? Why not start with reality, which we know exists, and forget about trying to make sense of the self-refuting notion that reality has its source in something other than itself? Other than what we can imagine, there is no alternative to reality. And any alternative we can imagine, is imaginary. So such questions as the one posed here are philosophically inert – they have no genuine intellectual value; they rest on anti-intellectual premises.
7. What does it mean to say that God is transcendent over His creation? (Phil. of Religion)
While “sovereignty” denotes the primacy of divine whim over reality, history, and human nature, “transcendent” signifies immunity from the strictures faced in the human condition. According to Theopedia, “transcendence” in this context “means that God is above, other than, and distinct from all he has made - he transcends it all.” So, to say that a god is “transcendent” means to say that said god enjoys significant freedoms that human beings do not enjoy. Human beings, for instance, face a fundamental alternative, namely life vs. death. A transcendent god, however, faces no such alternative: it cannot die, even if it wanted to. It is supposed to be eternal, unchanging, immortal, never knowing any need. Human beings need values and are susceptible to harm. But a transcendent god knows no threats and needs nothing in order to exist. It has no need for values, and thus no need for morality. Morality simply would not apply to such a being.

In this sense, the notion of “transcendent” is code for the primacy of the believer’s own imagination in dictating the fundamentals of his worldview. It is a religious expression of the primacy of consciousness translated into theological terminology. For instance, the believer imagines that his god is a living being, but he also imagines that it has no moral responsibility, somewhat like a dog or an ant. Like dogs and ants, it cannot be held morally responsible for its actions. It is not bound to the same standards as man is. But unlike dogs and ants, it cannot be harmed, it cannot suffer, it cannot die, it cannot be killed.

Ultimately, so far as theology is concerned, “transcendence” signifies nothing more than divine aloofness, and it translates into an excuse from any responsibility on the part of the god which is so characterized. This can easily be massaged into excuse for believers as well, and a god’s excuse from moral responsibility (albeit disguised as “transcendence”) is crucial to the believer’s maintenance of a self-imposed euphoric calm in response to the troubles of this world, which are to be downplayed as ultimately insignificant; he is not to experience or express outrage at mass destruction of human values which, according to his worldview, would be caused or enabled by his god. A “transcendent” god is one which is not held to be morally responsible for its chosen actions by its worshipers. It can do anything it chooses to do, and no matter what it may be that it does, it is not morally liable for its actions and thus not to be judged. A human being performing the same chosen actions would be condemned by the same moral code as that which believers claim is based on their god’s nature, but which believers are reluctant to apply to their god.
8. Is God the source of morality? (Ethics + Phil. of Religion)
No, absolutely not. The source of morality is existence, particularly man’s existence given his nature as a biological organism capable of the conceptual level of consciousness and confronted with the fundamental alternative of life vs. death.
9. What is Morality? (Ethics)
Morality is “a code of values to guide man’s choices and actions—the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life” (Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 13). Man needs morality because a) he faces a fundamental alternative, namely life vs. death, and because of this he needs values in order to live; b) he has no automatic means of knowing what is a value and what is a non-value, so he needs a rational system by which he can determine these things; and c) he has no automatic means of knowing what action or actions will preserve his life as opposed to actions which will put his life in danger, so he needs a rational system by which he can determine actions proper for his life. Rational morality is essentially the application of reason to the task of living. It has nothing to do with worshiping something we can only imagine; it has nothing to do with serving something that has no needs; it has nothing to do with sacrificing oneself to something that could never use, need or benefit from anything one could sacrifice. The entire project of morality is primarily geared toward preserving and improving one’s own life. As such, morality would not and could not apply to a being which faces no fundamental alternative as man does. A rock does not need morality, for it cannot die. An ant has no use for morality because it does not have the capacity for reason, namely the conceptual level of consciousness.

An immortal, indestructible god which has no needs would clearly have no use for morality. Its existence is inalterable: nothing can harm it, it cannot die, and it can know no deprivation. Moreover, an omniscient and infallible god would have no need for reason, for reason is a means of discovering, identifying and validating knowledge. Such a faculty would not be necessary or even useful to a mind which is said to already know everything. Indeed, an omniscient mind would not have its knowledge in the form of concepts, which is the very ability which makes reason possible to man in the first place.
10. What is Good? (Ethics)
“All that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good,” (Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual, p. 122).
11. What is Evil? (Ethics)
“…all that which destroys [the life of a rational being] is the evil,” (Ibid.).

The concepts of good and evil can only apply to man in the context of his life and his ability and choice to live it. They cannot rationally apply to ants or rocks any more than they could apply to imaginary beings, such as gods and deities. Nor can their basis or meanings be sourced in ants, rocks or imaginary beings. The good is not something that can be commanded any more than it can be wished into existence. The good is something man must earn, and he must earn it by reasoned productive effort.
12. How can we tell what is Good and Evil? (Ethics + Epistemology)
Only by using reason as our only means of knowledge, our only standard of judgment, our only guide to chosen action. To determine whether some thing or action is good or evil, one must use reason to discover the relevant facts of the matter and weigh their impact on one’s individual values (assuming those values themselves are objectively defined).
13. Why should I be moral at all? (Ethics)
You should be moral only if living is your ultimate goal. So to answer this question, you must determine whether or not living is your ultimate goal. No one else can answer this for you. No one can “command” you to want to live. No one should need another person to “command” him to want to live. If a person does not value his life, commands will not change anything. If someone values his life, commands accomplish nothing other than interfering with one’s choice to value his life. Moreover, there is no “duty” to live. An individual rationally values life by choice, not because he’s “obligated” to do so. An obligation implies a broader goal or purpose. But if living is one’s ultimate goal or purpose, then there could be no such obligation to live. For the rational human being, life is an end in itself, regardless of who disapproves.

But consider this question from the perspective of religious morality. Religion holds that morality entails obedience to divine commandments. On this view, to be moral means to obey a god’s commandments, to do according to a god’s will. But if this is the case, why be moral? To outsiders, it seems that theists are essentially saying that religion teaches that one should be moral for fear of the consequences of disobedience: obey god’s commandments or you will be punished. While this is clearly modeled in sacred texts like the bible, believers often insist that this is not their view of moral motivation. But it certainly seems to be the case, given what we find modeled in the bible. And if it is an accurate characterization, it is important to note that such a moral view does not offer any goal on behalf of moral action except to avoid a god’s displeasure. The motivation here is not to gain and/or secure values, but to avoid wrath. This means that, on the religious view, there is no value to be gained as a result of moral action; moral action is to be performed only to stave off a supernatural consciousness’ pointless anger, and this does not yield anything that man can use for living his life. If there were any value to be achieved as a motivating goal for morality, then such action would be selfish, and religious morality is notorious for its condemnation of selfishness. But in spite of its condemnation of selfishness, religious morality cannot escape selfishness in moral motivation completely, for even the goal of avoiding punishment is itself an end in a person’s self-interest.
14. Are humans just physical entities or do they have an immaterial self? (Metaphysics)
Human beings are integrations of matter and consciousness. They are physical entities, and they possess, among other attributes, the faculty of consciousness. However, consciousness itself is not an entity, nor is it an independently existing concrete. On the contrary, it is a type of activity which organisms like human beings perform. Consciousness is biological in nature. As a living organism which is an integration of matter and consciousness, man is indivisible. Contrary to what religion has taught for millennia, man is not a ghost inhabiting a corpse.
15. Do humans have an essential nature? (Metaphysics)
Yes: rational animality.
16. Do humans have free-will? (Philosophy of Mind + Metaphysics)
Yes, in the sense of being able to select between alternatives. Either one chooses to acknowledge this fact, or he chooses to evade it. Conceptual awareness would not be possible without volition.
17. Are humans morally responsible for the things they think, do, intend, etc.? (Philosophy of Mind + Metaphysics)
Human individuals are morally responsible for any action they choose to perform, since choice is the province governed by morality. One is not morally responsible for having a heart murmur, getting the hiccups, having a fever, etc. Such things lie beyond the reach of one’s volition, and morality applies only to action which is chosen.
18. Does the personal identity of a human persist through change? (Metaphysics)
Yes, so long as the change in question does not result in the destruction of the person, for if a person is destroyed, his identity is extinguished. Man’s identity includes all of his attributes, including his capacity to act and change within certain limits.
19. What are the anthropological implications of determinism? (Metaphysics)
Inescapable fatalism, and the anti-philosophical wasteland that this implies.
20. If we can prod the brain and produce a physical or even a mental effect, what implications follow? (Phil. of Mind)
Nothing more than or contrary to the facts that man is a physical being, that he is a biological organism, and that he is an integration of matter and consciousness. If man is a a biological organism integrating matter and consciousness, we should expect external manipulation of the brain to have certain effects, up to and including effects on one’s conscious experience.
21. How can God know the future? (Philosophical Theology + Phil. of Religion)
Only by means of some believer imagining that his god knows the future. (Roulette, anyone?)
22. Does God know counter-factuals? (Phil. of Religion)
Only if some believer imagines that his god knows such things.
23. Is God within time or outside of time? (Metaphysics, Philosophy of Time/Science)
Time is not a room or box which one is either inside or outside of. The part that the theist needs to come to terms with is the fact that if something acts, its actions can be measured in relation to the actions of other entities, including the actions which serve as the standard of temporal measurement, for time is the measure of motion.
24. What is time? (Phil. Of Time/Science)
Time is a means of measuring motion and action. As such, time is epistemological, since measurement is epistemological; what time measures is metaphysical.
25. Is time a physical entity or a metaphysical entity? (Phil. Of Time/Science)
Neither. Time is not an entity; it is not even metaphysical. It is a process. It is a process of measurement. It is an epistemological activity, essentially similar to counting.
26. How can humans have free-will and God be sovereign all at the same time? (Phil. of Religion)
I’m glad this is not my problem. There is no non-contradictory reconciliation or compromise between the volitional nature of man’s consciousness and the notion of an all-controlling sovereign god which “controls whatsoever comes to pass” (Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, p. 160).
27. Is science compatible with religious belief / Christianity? (Philosophy of Science)
No, science and religion are not compatible. Science is pro-reason, and religion is anti-reason.
28. What is science? (Phil. of Science)
Science is the systematic application of reason to a specific field of study. Reason rests on the primacy of existence, and religion rests on the primacy of consciousness, which is in direct contradiction to the primacy of existence and which is logically self-refuting.
29. Is there only one scientific method? (Phil. of Science)
Broadly speaking, yes, since the systematic application of reason is the only epistemological methodology available to science. Science is not the application of mysticism or irrationalism to some field of study. Only the application of reason can qualify as a scientific endeavor.
30. Do the findings of science imply naturalism or materialism? (Phil. Of Science)
They imply Objectivism, and necessarily so. There has never been a scientific discovery which undermines or refutes the tenets of Objectivism.
31. Which fields of study count as science? (Phil. of Science)
Only those accessible by the systematic application of reason.
32. What theological implications follow from the findings of Quantum Physics? (Phil. of Science)
Only those which theists imagine as following from the findings of Quantum Physics.
33. Is scientism a rational view? (Epistemology)
As I have seen the term ‘scientism’ used, it is laden with negative connotations, typically by those who find science as such a threat to their worldview. Personally I have never encountered someone who claims to be an adherent of “scientism,” so I do not have much to go on as to what “scientism” as a worldview teaches save for those who have hoisted it up as something to shoot arrows at.

As for determining whether or not a particular viewpoint is rational, it really should not be as difficult as some seem to think. Rationality is uncompromising reliance on reason; it is adherence to reason as one’s only means of knowledge, one’s only standard of judgment and one’s only guide to action. So ask the question: does the view in question adhere uncompromisingly to reason? From there one needs to check the premises of the view in question to determine whether or not this is the case.
34. Isn’t Evil incompatible with God’s being real? (Phil. of Religion)
According to Christians, their god has sufficiently moral reasons for allowing evil. For example, Greg Bahnsen holds that “God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists” (Always Ready, p. 172). Clearly they believe their god is on cozy terms with evil. Of course, this can only mean that such a god is not good. There is no compromise between good and evil, and there is no such thing as “a morally sufficient reason” to commit or allow (“ordain”) evil. This is essentially like saying there is a morally sufficient reason to be immoral. What form of morality grants license to violate its own norms? For more on this matter, see my blog entries Christianity’s Sanction of Evil and Greg Bahnsen on the Problem of Evil.
35. Do God’s “omni” properties make sense? (Philosophical Theology)
Of course not. It is all part of the believer’s irrational worldview. But this does not stop theists from calling their theology “knowledge.”
36. Can God do anything? Even something logically incoherent? (Phil. of Religion)
Is anything that takes place in a Bugs Bunny cartoon “logically incoherent”? For more on this matter, see my series of articles on the Cartoon Universe of Christianity.
37. What is Truth? (Epistemology)
Truth is the non-contradictory, objective identification of fact. It is only possible on the unbreached adherence to the primacy of existence.
38. How can only one religion be true? (Phil. of Religion)
Religion is mystical in nature. No form of mysticism is true since mysticism as such rests on metaphysical premises which deny the very basis of truth, namely the primacy of existence metaphysics.
39. How can one effectively compare different religions or views to see which one is true? (Phil. Of Religion + Epistemology)
One can only “effectively compare different religions” by recognizing first that religion is a primitive form of philosophy. Religion is primitive in the sense that it is irrational and pre-scientific, and it lacks the benefits of an objective understanding of the nature of human mental activity, including concept-formation, reasoning, psychology, etc. Since religions are irrational, it can safely be said that no religion is true or philosophically sound.
40. Is the trinity a coherent concept? (Phil. of Religion)
No, it’s not. (Further reading: see here.)
41. How could God become a man? (Phil. of Religion)
How can Wiley E. Coyote crawl out from underneath a 40-ton boulder that dropped on him? Very easy: in a universe that is analogous to a cartoon, anything can happen. E.g., men can walk on unfrozen water, water can suddenly become wine, dead persons can be resurrected. The cartoonist can even pencil himself into his cartoons and perform as one of their characters. Again, see this series of articles.
42. What does it mean to say that Jesus has two natures? (Phil. of Religion + Metaphysics)
It means to contradict oneself. The idea that Jesus is “wholly God, wholly man” simply means that Jesus is a walking contradiction. See here and here.
43. What are miracles? (Phil. of Religion)
Miracles are a type of fantasy imagined on the part of a believer in which a supernatural consciousness brings about certain outcomes by means of manipulative will. (Further reading: see Craig Keener on Miracles.)
44. Are miracles possible? (Phil. of Religion)
Not if wishing doesn’t make it so.
45. Can we examine ancient documents and gain knowledge from them? (Epistemology + Philosophy of History)
Of course. For instance, we can examine ancient documents and learned what at least some people back then may have believed. (Further reading: see here.)
46. Can we know certain truths without evidence? (Epistemology)
If by “truths” we mean non-contradictory, objective identifications of facts (cf. question #37 above), and by “evidence” we mean factual input from reality acquired by rational means which inform what we call “truths,” then no, we cannot know any truths without evidence. What we call “truth” depends on facts which we discover in reality by means of an objective process and which we identify and integrate into the sum of our knowledge in a non-contradictory manner. Anything other than this could only be a “truth” falsely so-called, i.e., some ideational content consisting of and/or resting on stolen concepts, ignorance, fantasy, imagination, etc.
47. What role do “supernatural experiences” or “mystical experiences” have to play? (Phil. of Religion)
What role do these things have to play in what? What exactly is a “supernatural experience”? What is a “mystical experience”? Human beings have experiences. This is undeniable. But determining their nature and their causes is subject to reason. Since reason inherently presupposes the primacy of existence (e.g., the recognition that “wishing doesn’t make it so”), and rationality is adherence to reason as one’s only means of knowledge, one’s only standard of judgment, and one’s only guide to action, then any course of inference which concludes that a particular experience is or was caused by something which contradicts the primacy of existence, cannot be rational. Since supernaturalism inherently assumes the primacy of consciousness (which contradicts the primacy of existence), any course of “reasoning” which seeks to establish one’s personal experience(s) as supernatural in origin, cannot be rational. Typically the work of one’s own imagination is not difficult to spot in such cases. See for instance my blog Carr vs. Cole.
48. Do abstract objects exist (i.e. does the number 2 exist)? (Metaphysics)
Only as the form in which the human mind identifies and integrates the material provided by the senses. Abstractions, or concepts, are mental integrations; they are the method by which the mind organizes and retains what it discovers in the world. As such, abstractions are not independently existing concretes, but rather a process by which the human mind functions. Because of early philosophers’ ignorance of the process by which the human mind forms concepts, debate raged for millennia on the proper way to classify abstractions metaphysically. While they were distracted with such issues, they lost sight of the epistemological status as well as the process by which concepts are formed, and the function they play in cognition, which are the real philosophical issues to which philosophers should be paying attention.
49. If abstract objects exist, what is God’s relation to them? (Metaphysics + Phil. of Religion)
There is no objective relationship between properly formed abstractions (i.e., abstractions formed on the basis of objective input) and imaginary beings. The proper relationship entailed by abstractions is the relationship between human consciousness and the objects discovered existing in reality which those abstractions identify and integrate. It is this relationship which has eluded philosophers for over two millennia of philosophical musing, and focusing on theological nonsense (literally, nonsense) has prevented thinkers from fully understanding the nature of concepts and their importance to human knowledge. The presence of stolen concepts in mystical thinking is sure evidence of this.

Notice how theists are concerned about how their god is related to “abstract objects.” Notice also that they seem completely disinterested in how the human mind, including their own, is related to “abstract objects.” They apparently presume that their minds can only be related to “abstract objects” by first having some kind of relationship with their god, a relationship via which they are subsequently able to enjoy a relationship with “abstract objects.” Abstractions, then, are known, either through revelation or anamnesis, prayer or faith, or some other alleged mystical medium which makes psychic communion with the otherworldly possible. For such thinkers, abstractions are not the product of human mental activity; perhaps they presume that this would automatically make abstractions subjective. Given theism’s departure from the objective orientation between the human mind and reality, it certainly would result in subjectivism. But so does basing abstractions on a being which the human mind can only access by means of imagination. The solution to these anti-conceptual pursuits is grounding conceptual knowledge on the axioms and the primacy of existence and forming them according to the proper method of concept-formation, as laid out by the objective theory of concepts (see Ayn Rand’s Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology; see also Allan Gotthelf’s Ayn Rand on Concepts).
50. Do universals exist? (Metaphysics)
That the question is categorized as a metaphysical issue confirms that its author does not understand universality as an epistemological concern. And the likely reason why he does not understand universality as an epistemological concern is because he does not understand universality as an aspect of conceptual awareness. Universality is not some object existing in some supernatural dimension apart from the objects we perceive in the world. Rather, universality is essentially the open-endedness of conceptual reference. I have posted an entire blog on this issue here.

So there you have it – 50 “important philosophical questions” answered. Will anyone learn from this?

by Dawson Bethrick

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107 Comments:

Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

The part about "abstractions" drives home the point that those who succumb to theism have, somewhere along the lines, failed to attend to the tether that keeps their concepts and premises connected to or grounded in, reality.

Believers could really be called, "The Untethered" -- might be a good title for a movie, book, or article.

Ydemoc

September 15, 2012 10:42 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Good suggestion, Ydemoc. I was thinking of referring to them as "The Departed," but I understand that this title has already been taken by DiCaprio & Co. Never saw it. Is it any good?

How about "The Already Departed"? For they have departed from reality...

Regards,
Dawson

September 15, 2012 10:54 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

Either my memory is really bad or the movie didn't make a tremendous impact on me.

I'm pretty sure I saw it (and may even have it here on DVD in my home), but frankly, I would need to go read a synopsis of it somewhere to refresh my memory in order to render an opinion that might be anywhere close to being useful. But then again, it is Scorsese.

However, I did see Woody Allen's latest, "To Rome with Love" and, though not as good as "Midnight in Paris," it was still enjoyable to watch. Howard Roark even gets a mention. The dialogue where his name is mentioned went by pretty fast, and I'd have to hear it again (or read it somewhere) to determine whether it was intended as a compliment, put-down, or was just neutral. While watching, it struck me as somewhat neutral, but then again, Alec Baldwin's character was delivering it, so...

"The Already Departed" sounds good to me -- maybe with funeral services for such dearly departed minds occurring every hour of every day.

One other quick note (and you pretty much say this in your blog entry), "transcendental" as it is used by theists, essentially means "Imaginative" or "outside reality."

Given this, TAG could legitimately be renamed, "The Illogical (or Imaginative), Nonsensical Argument for the Non-Existent," or INANE.

(That took me a little longer than I thought it would, to find some words to match up with the letters INANE, and visa versa).

Ydemoc



September 15, 2012 11:47 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

Because I am a gutton for punishment I am going to answer all 50:)

September 15, 2012 2:31 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

uh, that is glutton

September 15, 2012 2:31 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

Over at Debunking Christianity, I posed your question about prayers changing god's plan to a blogger who goes by the name "patrick.sele" -- here's our exchange.

Ydemoc: “Can prayers change god's plan?”

From Numbers 14,1-20 one can draw the conclusion that this is indeed the case.

Ydemoc: “After you get done answering that, can you tell me how it is in any way coherent to speak of an immortal, indestructible, all-knowing being as having
anything resembling a "plan" or a "goal" when these concepts arise as a result of and obtain only with reference to beings that face an alternative?”

I don’t see why an immortal, indestructible,
all-knowing being cannot have anything resembling a “plan” or a “goal”.

----------end of exchange----------

I thought you'd get a kick out of this. A response is forthcoming.

Ydemoc

September 16, 2012 7:29 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Everyone,

My comment is now up, in case anyone is interested.

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2012/09/resonding-to-rauser-on-wildly.html#comment-652332133

Ydemoc

September 16, 2012 8:41 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Could you expand a bit on why you believe determinism implies fatalism? I think Richard Carrier's views on the matter are persuasive (he takes the opposite position) but perhaps he is wrong.

Also, the most succinct definition of philosophical naturalism I've encountered is the notion that "mind is not fundamental". It must arise from non-mental processes, rather than the reverse, and reality isn't being dictated by a person whose nature is irreducibly mental. It seems to me that one could fairly deem Objectivism to be a naturalist strain of philosophy on that account.

September 16, 2012 9:24 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Unknown,

Welcome to my blog. Thank you for posting your comment and questions.

You asked: “Could you expand a bit on why you believe determinism implies fatalism?”

Sure. Determinism entails the control of everything in the universe by some conscious agent, often alleged to exist outside it. Determinism is not the same thing as causation. Determinism explicitly assumes the primacy of consciousness metaphysics. As such, it can only mean that agents within the universe, that are part of it, like human beings, can have no volition; we are mere puppets, very much how the apostles and their movements are portrayed in the book of Acts.

Also, to the degree that any particular variant of determinism holds that the universe-controlling consciousness is some kind of “planner,” that it has through its determining “wisdom” planned all future activity of the universe from some point prior to it all taking place, it can only mean that anything that happens is “fated” to happen, and nothing can change it, nothing can prevent it, nothing can redirect it. That’s fatalism in a nutshell. There is a strong fatalistic streak in eastern mysticism, more pronounced and less compromised than in the Aristotelian-influenced West. Living here in SE Asia has given me an up-close-and-personal opportunity to witness its effects on culture firsthand.

You wrote: “I think Richard Carrier's views on the matter are persuasive (he takes the opposite position) but perhaps he is wrong.”

I’m not an expert on Carrier, but judging by what I have read by him, I wouldn’t put much stock into what he has to say about philosophy. He makes great insights on ancient historical texts, but I would not go to him as an authority on philosophy.

You wrote: “Also, the most succinct definition of philosophical naturalism I've encountered is the notion that ‘mind is not fundamental’.”

While this may at first blush appear to resemble Objectivism, I’d say the similarity is superficial. Why is “mind not fundamental” according to “philosophical naturalism”? Is it the same answer that Objectivism would give? Objectivism holds to the primacy of existence. While this subsumes the view that “mind is not fundamental,” it is not entirely equivalent.

You wrote: “It must arise from non-mental processes, rather than the reverse, and reality isn't being dictated by a person whose nature is irreducibly mental. It seems to me that one could fairly deem Objectivism to be a naturalist strain of philosophy on that account.”

Of the versions of philosophies styling themselves as “naturalism” of one kind or another (e.g., “metaphysical naturalism,” “philosophical naturalism,” etc.) which I have examined, I have noted that none explicitly affirm the axioms of existence, identity and consciousness as their founding concepts. Moreover, none affirm the primacy of existence as Objectivism informs it. These failings allow for the tendency to metastasize into outright materialism, which entails a denial of the axiom of consciousness (which is explicitly self-contradictory).

Indeed, if Objectivism were merely a “strain” of naturalism, why aren’t more “naturalists” attracted to Objectivism? The “naturalists” I’ve encountered seem to have nothing but scorn for Objectivism. This latter point is admittedly only anecdotal, but it counts for something given the limited and variable development which “naturalism” seems to enjoy today.

Does that help?

Regards,
Dawson

September 16, 2012 4:57 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hello Dawson

Usually when I comment I'm signed in with a Google account, which identifies me as "Crom" or something similar. I'm not sure why it hasn't in my previous comment, my apologies.

Thanks for your explication re determinism. I've not actually run into that usage before; whenever I've run into it in a philosophical discussion, it's been used to mean something like "cause and effect relations hold for all events in the universe with the possible exception of quantum phenomena". Christian apologists often seem very keen to dismantle the notion, as it has negative implications for Christian conceptions of non-causal "free will", in which one can make choices that have no causal relation to the physical state of one's brain. I think Dr. Carrier does a reasonably good job of arguing that this is not a breed of free will one could want even if it were possible.

Regarding Naturalism and Objectivism, it seems to me that Obectivism is necessarily Naturalist since it rules out the irreducibly mental, but the converse is not true; Naturalism is not necessarily Objectivist for the reasons you've pointed out. I can't really speak about the failings of Naturalist philosophers generally or eliminative Materialists specifically, since I don't agree with the latter and can't presume to represent the former. It is interesting, though, that Objectivism doesn't seem to have gained wider currency with Naturalist thinkers. The Objectivist axioms seem like they should find a natural home with thinkers that question or reject the supernatural.

September 16, 2012 6:12 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

"Christian conceptions of non-causal "free will", in which one can make choices that have no causal relation to the physical state of one's brain."

great choice of words. I was trying to convey this myself on my blog, wish I had worded like this.

September 16, 2012 7:25 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Unknown, Crom, or whoever:

You wrote: “Usually when I comment I'm signed in with a Google account, which identifies me as ‘Crom’ or something similar. I'm not sure why it hasn't in my previous comment, my apologies.”

It’s okay with me either way. Many bloggers use a moniker, just as I do. But you could sign your comments with your name. That way I’d know how to address you. It’s your call if you don’t want to.

You wrote: “Thanks for your explication re determinism. I've not actually run into that usage before;”

I’m drawing on the standard Objectivist meaning of the term, which views determinism as an expression of the primacy of consciousness, either as a view which assumes the primacy of consciousness metaphysics as a fundamental, or as a view which results from the denial of the primacy of existence. There are variants of determinism which are relatively more effective at disguising its allegiance to the primacy of consciousness, such as in the case of behaviorism and certain sociological theories. But it’s there nonetheless.

You wrote: “whenever I've run into it in a philosophical discussion, it's been used to mean something like ‘cause and effect relations hold for all events in the universe with the possible exception of quantum phenomena’.”

Yes, I’ve seen determinism defined in such ways as well. While they may seem harmless on the surface, I strongly suspect that the underlying understanding of causality assumed by such views harkens back to Hume, who regarded causality as a relationship between “events,” a view which affords no sense of necessity to causal relations (see also here). The Objectivist view rejects the Humean view of causality, and understands causality instead to be a relationship between an entity and its own actions, which is inherently necessary (in the sense that the dependence of an entity’s actions on its nature is absolute – see also here). While I’m no expert in physics, I admit I don’t see how “quantum phenomena” could be an exception to this, but I’m guessing many thinkers would insist that they are.

You wrote: “Christian apologists often seem very keen to dismantle the notion, as it has negative implications for Christian conceptions of non-causal ‘free will’, in which one can make choices that have no causal relation to the physical state of one's brain.”

Christian apologists are going to do all they can to distance consciousness, including especially volitional consciousness, from biology, a move which at the end of the day strikes me as just as much a rejection of the axiom of consciousness as materialism is. And yet they can provide no objective evidence for the existence of consciousness outside of biological organisms. Even when they try to argue for such things (cf. theistic arguments), we are left with no alternative but to imagine the conscious agent whose existence they’ve tried to prove. I don’t see how anyone could seriously deny the volitional nature of man’s consciousness, but I am convinced that the fact that man possesses volitional consciousness cannot be reconciled with the Christian worldview, regardless of the apologists’ stammering to the contrary.

[continued…]

September 17, 2012 5:26 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Regarding Naturalism and Objectivism, it seems to me that Obectivism is necessarily Naturalist since it rules out the irreducibly mental, but the converse is not true; Naturalism is not necessarily Objectivist for the reasons you've pointed out.”

Much of this depends on how “naturalism” is defined, what it is taken to entail, and what it is taken to rule out. Here’s Christian apologist James Anderson on the topic:

“Naturalism, simply stated, is the view that nature is all there is. The universe is a causally closed spatiotemporal system—and that’s it. Thus the only things that exist are natural things, that is, things that are spatiotemporal in nature, enter into causal relationships with one another, and can be studied by the natural sciences (all of which ultimately reduce to physics). According to the naturalist, therefore, everything can be ultimately explained in terms of fundamental physical entities (such as particles, waves, and fields—whatever the current ontology of the empirical sciences happens to be) in conjunction with the natural laws that describe their behavior. Consequently, there exist no supernatural or nonnatural beings, such as souls, ghosts, angels, or—most importantly—God.” (“Presuppositionalism and Frame’s Epistemology,” in Speaking the Truth in Love: The Theology of John M. Frame, p. 452 – a PDF version of this chapter can be accessed .)

Christian apologists argue that naturalism so-conceived necessarily rules out the conscious realm since the conscious realm is presumably not reducible to physics, observable through a microscope, or deterministic in the sense of Humean event-based causal relations. Consequently naturalism cannot “account for” such things as reason, logic, science, morality, mathematics, etc. It sounds very much like an argument against materialism since the definition of naturalism given here seems to be nothing more than materialism under a different name.

Contrast “naturalism” as it is defined in Anderson’s paper with what Objectivism holds. Objectivism holds that existence exists, and only existence exists. Objectivism does not stipulate that everything which exists must be “spatiotemporal in nature,” nor does it assert that everything must “reduce to physics.” Objectivism rules out supernaturalism because supernaturalism assumes the primacy of consciousness and is thus self-refuting (like the notion of square circles). Moreover, Objectivism explicitly recognizes the distinction between reality and imagination and properly acknowledges that supernaturalism rests squarely on the latter category. The conception of “naturalism” which Anderson battles against seems to make no mention of this crucial distinction, let alone the issue of metaphysical primacy. Even more broadly, since Objectivism explicitly affirms the axioms of existence, identity and consciousness at the fundamental level of all thought, there is nothing in Objectivism’s foundations which suggest that the conscious realm is impossible. So it does not fall prey to refutations like the one Anderson provides in his paper.

You wrote: “I can't really speak about the failings of Naturalist philosophers generally or eliminative Materialists specifically, since I don't agree with the latter and can't presume to represent the former.”

I wouldn’t think one would need to agree with a position or presume himself to be a representative of it in order to be able to speak about its failings. After all, I write about the failings of Christianity, but I neither agree with Christianity nor do I consider myself a representative of it. Perhaps there’s some other reason why you are reluctant to weigh in with your judgments?

[continued…]

September 17, 2012 5:26 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “It is interesting, though, that Objectivism doesn't seem to have gained wider currency with Naturalist thinkers.”

Many thinkers have come under the influence of the customary emotional outrage one witnesses among those who hate Rand personally for one reason or another, often based on mischaracterizations of her philosophy or person (or both) and stemming from unexamined premises which they sense are threatened by Rand’s philosophy. Many of Rand’s detractors, from what I’ve seen, do not read Rand for themselves and instead take the word of others who hate her (often with inexplicable froth) but who likewise do not seem to have read Rand for themselves. There seems to be a long pedigree of people handing down hatred for Rand (and consequently her philosophy) because the progenitor of that hatred didn’t like something she said to Phil Donahue or Mike Wallace or what have you. It is curious how much a person can hate something out of sheer ignorance and unwillingness to investigate. Ydemoc can vouch for this given his recent interaction with some folks on the web.

You wrote: “The Objectivist axioms seem like they should find a natural home with thinkers that question or reject the supernatural.”

I would think that the Objectivist axioms should find a natural home with any thinker. After all, thought is conscious activity about things that exist. That’s all three axioms right there. The facts they denote would have to obtain in order for any thinking to take place.

Regards,
Dawson

September 17, 2012 5:26 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Here's the link to Anderson's paper:

Presuppositionalism and Frame's Epistemology.

I had intended to include this link in one of my above comments, but I didn't complete the HTML string for it. Sorry about that!

Regards,
Dawson

September 17, 2012 6:01 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hello Dawson

It does appear that Mr. Anderson wants to argue against some form of eliminative Materialism, rather than a variant of Naturalism. My guess would be because that's rhetorically easier. Christian apologists I've encountered elsewhere have commonly been very keen to ascribe such views to me as a self-described atheist; I assume it's part of the script.

I can't really speak of the failings of Naturalist philosophers generally because I have quite a bit of reading to do! I've only begun to scratch the surface of Naturalist philosophy, really, and I don't want to misrepresent or neglect something crucial.

The axioms SHOULD find a home with any thinker, yes. I only meant to point out that supernaturalists can be expected to rail against them for emotional and ideological reasons, but naturalists lack those particular commitments.

Crom

September 17, 2012 10:06 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Crom,

Thanks for your inquiries on these matters. It’s given me a chance to address some things that have been in the back of my mind for a long time. I like that!

You wrote: “It does appear that Mr. Anderson wants to argue against some form of eliminative Materialism, rather than a variant of Naturalism. My guess would be because that's rhetorically easier.”

Maybe. I don’t know. What exactly distinguishes Naturalism from eliminative Materialism? Perhaps Anderson’s sources have not made any relevant distinction here clear, or perhaps he simply doesn’t see any distinction. I have to say, I don’t see much of a distinction either. If there is a fundamental distinction here, Naturalists need to review their marketing strategies, for it’s not clear to someone like me who looks expressly for such distinctions. But I would tend to agree: if there is a fundamental distinction between the two camps, fighting the one may very well be rhetorically easier than fighting the other. We cannot expect Christian apologists to go out of their way to make their task harder, though I would hope that Anderson would be above that.

You wrote: “Christian apologists I've encountered elsewhere have commonly been very keen to ascribe such views to me as a self-described atheist; I assume it's part of the script.”

Absolutely, it is part of the script, and most apologists seem unable to see the script’s inapplicability when it becomes useless. And such a script is useless against Objectivism, precisely because we do have the axioms. It’s pretty difficult to overcome these when you have to assume their truth to do anything.

Crom: “I can't really speak of the failings of Naturalist philosophers generally because I have quite a bit of reading to do! I've only begun to scratch the surface of Naturalist philosophy, really, and I don't want to misrepresent or neglect something crucial.”

Yes, I imagine there’s a lot of reading to be done, but what should one read to get the true picture of what Naturalist philosophy teaches? I would have many questions at the start of my investigation, such as:

- What is Naturalist philosophy’s starting point?
- By what means of awareness is the Naturalist philosopher supposed to be aware of what his starting point identifies?
- What is the proper relationship according to Naturalist philosophy between consciousness and its objects?
- What is the Naturalist philosophy understanding of concepts?
- What role does reason play in Naturalist epistemology?
- What is reason according to Naturalist philosophy?
- What is man, and what makes him different (if anything) from other biological organisms?
- What are values according to Naturalist philosophy?
- What is morality according to Naturalist philosophy?
- According to Naturalist philosophy, does man need morality, and if so, why?
- What are the cardinal values of Naturalist philosophy (if it affirms any)?
- What are the political implications of Naturalist philosophy’s moral teachings?
- Are Naturalist philosophy’s explicit teachings on political theory consistent with its teachings on morality?
Etc.

Such questions are not intended to “trip up” the Naturalist philosopher. On the contrary, I think these are extremely important issues that any serious attempt to develop a philosophy should address with great care. Indeed, these are the kinds of questions that have guided my investigation of Christianity.

[continued…]

September 17, 2012 4:12 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

My impression is that “Naturalist philosophy” is a kind of catch-all bucket for dissatisfied former religionists to seek refuge in. It won’t challenge the views they already have, but it will provide at least a thin cover of protection against Christian apologists. In my mind, they somewhat resemble the democratic party, ever attempting to placate groups of conflicting interests, such as public sector employees, private sector unions, the environmentalists, teachers unions, the gay lobby, handout recipients, etc., etc., etc., without ever really coming to terms with the natural clashes these groups inevitably have amongst themselves. Many former believers (and even folks who never believed in the first place) are out there championing “atheism,” all the while protesting that atheism itself is not a worldview. While I agree that atheism as such is not a worldview, it makes me wonder what exactly these folks are *for*; we know they’re against Christianity, but what are they *for*? As soft-boiled as my impressions of these things may be, I can’t really tell. Their message seems to be another version of simply wiping out, without seriously advocating anything in the resulting vacuum. That to me is no solution at all. But it doesn’t seem so mysterious at all to me what the solution is. The solution is a full-fledged application of reason to philosophy. So why aren’t these folks out for that? Something’s holding them back from that. What?

Notice also that Christian apologists are continually taking aim against such atheist positions, such as “Naturalist philosophy,” and I suspect they do so, not because Naturalism is a well-developed position that poses a long-term threat against religion, but precisely the opposite: since seems to be quite unsystematic, a hodge-podge of conflicting positions that are forever internally compromised and unprepared to address serious philosophical questions (such as above), and thus makes for easy pickin’s. On the other hand, Objectivism is developed, it is systematic, it does address the serious questions, and apologists tend to avoid contact with it. I don’t know where Carrier, Lowder & co. have addressed questions like the ones I’ve listed above. But Christians should have no problem finding my blog where I focus on these kinds of questions and their implications for Christianity. Unfortunately, they avoid interacting with my work. Why is that?

You wrote: “The axioms SHOULD find a home with any thinker, yes. I only meant to point out that supernaturalists can be expected to rail against them for emotional and ideological reasons, but naturalists lack those particular commitments.”

Yes, I realize that was your point. I guess my point is that we should not be so quick to suppose that naturalists lack comparable stumblingblocks. I remember years ago reading one guy’s published scorn for Rand (and subsequently anything she had to say on philosophy). He listed a number of complaints about Rand, such as her smoking, her accent, her “angry tone,” and the fact that she couldn’t possibly have been attractive in a bathing suit any time in her life. Such complaints amounted to his reasons for rejecting Objectivism. I’ve seen similar, but this one was noteworthy in how openly unintellectual his reasons were and how seriously he seemed to want to be taken. But they’re not all that unusual from what I’ve seen. Check out the recent discussion Ydemoc had with some frothy Rand-haters here. I don’t know how much you know about Objectivism, but these folks surely missed the entire semester of O-101, if you get my meaning. What drives such spite?

Regards,
Dawson

September 17, 2012 4:13 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Interesting points all.

I'd say the difference between naturalism and eliminative materialism is simply that the latter denies the existence of anything non-physical, and the former doesn't neccessarily. Unsatisfying perhaps, but then I'd say that naturalism is a very general, broadly encompassing category, of which elminative materialism is a subset.

You ask

"Unfortunately, they [Christian apologists] avoid interacting with my work. Why is that?"

Well, it seems to effectively scuttle their scripted attempts to reduce all worldviews into the same slurry of post-modernist mush. Without the chance to rhetorically undermine human reasoning, the script can't proceed.

Which reminds me, I read an exchange you were having on an atheist blog with Sye Ten B, who was trying to make you concede that trusting one's reasoning was viciously circular. The exchange ended when you got him to admit that simply using reason as such is not circular in itself, and that trust cannot be considered operative at the level of cognition being discussed. WIth the script fatally undermined, he had nowhere to go. I really enjoyed it, given how juvenile and censorious presuppers can be.

If you should have the time and inclination, could you please expand on that topic sometime? To be more specific, the reasons why the use of human cognition is not viciously circular, arbitrary or epistemically unjustifiable, and why charges that one 'trusts' it on pure faith are mistaken.

Crom

September 17, 2012 5:01 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Also, now that I do a second pass;

"Their message seems to be another version of simply wiping out, without seriously advocating anything in the resulting vacuum. That to me is no solution at all. But it doesn’t seem so mysterious at all to me what the solution is. The solution is a full-fledged application of reason to philosophy. So why aren’t these folks out for that?"

Well, officially I gather that they are! How successful that project has been so far is questionable.

September 17, 2012 5:08 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Ok, at the risk of spamming the comments here a little bit, please let clarify my intent a little bit. I've read through a fair amount of your blog over the last few years, and I think I could probably do a pretty passable sketch of the argument I'm asking you to put together myself. I think the components are either mostly or entirely here already, so perhaps a link or two is all I really need.

However, I can't recall ever reading your thinking go in the particular direction it did during the aforementioned exchange, and it was really mindbending. A number of things kind of snapped into place for me at once. I think it could be really illuminating if you were to do a post as if you were addressing Sye on this particular point, and fully explicate the questions that bear on it. You challenged him to answer a few things, and of course he slunk away, but I suspect it would be marvellous if you indulged me and answered them yourself.

Sincerely,
Crom

September 17, 2012 5:24 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Crom,

You wrote: “I'd say the difference between naturalism and eliminative materialism is simply that the latter denies the existence of anything non-physical, and the former doesn't neccessarily. Unsatisfying perhaps, but then I'd say that naturalism is a very general, broadly encompassing category, of which elminative materialism is a subset.”

I’m sure everything you say here is fairly accurate. At least, I know of no specific reasons to dispute any of it. But it does not confirm what I had always thought about Philosophical Naturalism (PN). I would remark that, if EM can be classed as a subset of PN, then PN does not guard very well against false views. It seems to take all comers, and this alone calls for caution in my mind. PN is not a negative like atheism. As I have understood it, PN is supposed to be a philosophy proper, not just a broad category inclusive of diverse and even mutually opposed philosophical viewpoints. If so, my reference to the democratic party seems all the more accurate.

I suppose the most direct way to tease this out would be to inquire on EM’s and PN’s respective starting points. I suppose the first question is: do they have starting points? If so, what are they? Could they at all be genuinely fundamental, as in the case of the Objectivist axioms? Recall that the axioms are genuinely fundamental in the following ways:

- they identify perceptually self-evident facts;
- these facts are the broadest generalities possible, especially in the case of the axiom of existence – the concept ‘existence’ is the widest of all concepts, including everything that exits;
- the concepts informing the axioms (‘existence’, ‘identity’ and ‘consciousness’) are conceptually irreducible – i.e., they are not inferred from other facts or from prior knowledge; they do not assume the truth of prior or more fundamental concepts – there are none!
- they denote facts which are ever-present throughout all knowledge;
- to deny them, one must assume their truth in that they would have to be true in order to deny them (retorsion).

I have no idea what criteria either EM or PN might possibly have for determining a proper philosophical starting point. For all I know, they may not follow a foundationalist model to begin with, which in my view would render any attempt to formulate a philosophy suitable for man completely unsuitable, since man’s knowledge is clearly hierarchical in nature, this strongly implying the need for a starting point.

One cannot rationally found a philosophy on an “axiom” like “matter is all that exists” or “nature is all that exists, for not only are these statements not conceptually irreducible, they are not perceptually self-evident truths. Indeed, if either of these statements is/were true, one could not legitimately know either of them at the fundamental level of knowledge; they would need to be discovered later in one’s cognitive experience.

I apologize if none of this interests you, and no, I don’t expect you to answer on behalf of a position you do not necessarily embrace. But it is important to develop some points on this matter, in case it comes up again.

[continued…]

September 18, 2012 5:24 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “I read an exchange you were having on an atheist blog with Sye Ten B, who was trying to make you concede that trusting one's reasoning was viciously circular. The exchange ended when you got him to admit that simply using reason as such is not circular in itself, and that trust cannot be considered operative at the level of cognition being discussed. WIth the script fatally undermined, he had nowhere to go. I really enjoyed it, given how juvenile and censorious presuppers can be.”

Yes, that was something else, wasn’t it? That exchange was on Alex Botten’s blog We’re still waiting for Sye to answer. The answers that Sye had given in response to my questions in the main post, although microscopically brief, were damning enough. Then he had to make matters worse for himself, and the outcome was him giving up in frustration and abandoning the party in progress. Some apologist!

You wrote: “If you should have the time and inclination, could you please expand on that topic sometime? To be more specific, the reasons why the use of human cognition is not viciously circular, arbitrary or epistemically unjustifiable, and why charges that one 'trusts' it on pure faith are mistaken.”

Don’t worry about spamming my comments, Crom. You have a long way to go if you want to come anywhere close to Nide Corniell.

I’ll post some thoughts here on what you’ve asked about, but I don’t have time to go as in depth as you might like. Perhaps what I say here can help you raise additional specific questions.

First of all, it seems that to say that human cognition is viciously circular means to say that human cognition is inherently fallacious. But this identification would itself be a product of cognition, and announcing it for others to accept it as truth would require cognition on the part of those one expects to persuade. So it seems necessarily self-defeating: if human cognition is inherently fallacious, then anything one says would be inherently fallacious. However, I don’t think this is Sye’s position. While he is bent on trying to expose fallacies in his rivals’ positions, even if he has to manufacture and put them there himself, he’s essentially saying that without his theistic worldview being true, one would be stuck with fallacies all the way down. Thus, goes the template, a non-Christian cannot justify reasoning in a manner that is philosophically consistent with his rejection of Christianity. Moreover, as I have pointed out before, if one begins with the axioms – i.e., where conceptual awareness bonds with the objects of perceptual awareness – there is no circularity whatsoever, since we are not seeking to establish the validity of our consciousness on the basis of a proof. This is why I challenged Sye (not sure if it was in that comments or another one on Botten’s blog) to explain how he can validate his consciousness without assuming its validity. I’ve raised this challenge with other presuppositionalists; the responses are quite interesting. Objectivism avoids circularity here by beginning with an objective starting point: the axioms. Merely being aware of something (which is a metaphysical fact) is not something that is produced by means of an argument or inference, so circularity is simply inapplicable here, regardless of how vehemently Sye and other presuppositionalists insist that it is. Something is not circularity simply because someone says it is. But this is essentially all that Sye has, hence is appeal to “revelation.”

[continued…]

September 18, 2012 5:25 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Recall the conversation:

When I pointed out that that “Using reason to identify objects is not circular,” Sye responded:

”No, but trusting its accuracy in the identification process with which you try to justify its accuracy is."

He stated the same thing in response to my statement that “Using reason to identify the operation… …is not circular.”

When I asked him to explain how he knew that “trusting its accuracy in the identification process with which [I] try to justify its accuracy is” circular, he simply said “I know it by revelation from God.”

Unfortunately, Sye never explained why trusting the accuracy of something is circular or even viciously circular (he subsequently asked, “Do you deny that trusting the accuracy of your reasoning in the identification process with which you try to justify its accuracy is viciously circular???”). Broadly speaking, Sye needs to explain how merely *trusting* something is circular or viciously circular. We can, prior to “trusting” something, identify that it is accurate; Sye already went on record acknowledging that identifying something is not necessarily circular or fallacious. What’s important at that point is that we have the basis to *know* that something is accurate, and knowing and trusting are two different things.

Additionally, circularity (the fallacy, as it is defined in logic texts) has to do with inference, not trust. So far as I see it, there is a distinction between trust and inference; trusting as such does not strike me as something that can by itself be fallacious. So already it seems that Sye has strayed from the norms of logic just in trying to rescue his crumbling apologetic. I’ve never read in a logic text that *trusting* something can be fallacious. So that’s a new one on me. Can anyone enlighten me on this?

To be sure, there’s much more to be said on all these topics, but it’s my bedtime here, and I need to shower up. So, until later.

Regards,
Dawson

September 18, 2012 5:26 AM  
Blogger . said...

yo Dawson thanks for the shout out buddy. However,you got the name wrong again.

Later.

September 18, 2012 10:57 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

September 18, 2012 1:38 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

and that folks was the blogger formerly known as hezekiah ahaz, now simply "." Ydemoc have you seen my posts about the fifty questions. I have been slogging my way thru them and will have the last 10 done sometime tomarrow.

September 18, 2012 1:39 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Justin,

I've made several trips over to your blog, and I've seen the questions and have been meaning to read your responses, but I ended up just reading the most recent comments on your other entries.

Hopefully soon, I'll be able to give your responses a closer look.

Ydemoc

September 18, 2012 2:12 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Flyspeck, is that you? What have you been up to lately?

Regards,
Dawson

September 18, 2012 2:45 PM  
Blogger . said...

Lately I have been working out my salvation with fear and tremble checking to see if I am in the faith.

September 18, 2012 4:11 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Thanks for the update, Nide.

Here's a question for everyone to consider: Is fear important? Yes or no? Why or why not?

Regards,
Dawson

September 18, 2012 5:13 PM  
Blogger . said...

Fear is important. It preserves life.

September 18, 2012 5:26 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

You wrote: "Here's a question for everyone to consider: Is fear important? Yes or no? Why or why not?"

Good question. I think fear can be extremely important, but only temporarily. Such a reaction can tell you that you have identified a threat to your values. How you handle that fear and react to that threat, seems to me to be what's really important. Do you let fear run your life? Or do you deal with and extinguish that threat to one's values, realizing that it isn't something that is the norm, but only a temporary bump on the road of life?

Jokingly -- I'd like to think that I would do the latter, but I'm also afraid sometimes I won't.

That being said, I had an interesting discussion with this woman, a stranger, who by the end of our conversation I had determined was probably half-crazy.

Anyway, we got to talking about intuition or some such thing. And I asked her: If people were born with knowledge, then why wouldn't a baby be afraid of having a gun pointed at it? Or: Why isn't a toddler cognizant of the danger of running into traffic?

She really didn't answer the question(s), other than to assert something to the effect of, "Oh, but I think they are afraid of guns."

She obviously didn't know what she was talking about. As Peikoff points out in OPAR on p. 154, "First the person must know in some terms what the object is. He must have some understanding or identification of it (whether true or false, specific or generalized, explicit or implicit). Otherwise the object is nothing. It is a cognitive blank, which no one can respond." And then Peikoff talks about evaluating the object.

In the case of a gun pointed at a baby, the baby would have no clue -- no identification, no evaluation; hence, no fear.

This brings me to the fear that a theist might feel. Where is the **object** that can be identified and evaluated? Where is this god or devil? It seems to me that the only place such "objects" can have life and cause fear, would be solely in the imagination, because one certainly does not find them in reality.

Ydemoc

September 18, 2012 8:15 PM  
Blogger ... said...

"In the case of a gun pointed at a baby, the baby would have no clue -- no identification, no evaluation; hence, no fear."

So, what?

The gun is still there just like God is in spite of the circumstances.

September 18, 2012 10:35 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for your comments Dawson. Lots to think about going forward.

Crom

September 19, 2012 10:30 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Nide wrote: “Fear is important. It preserves life.”

While I agree that fear is important, I would not be so hasty as to say that fear as such “preserves life.” A reaction of fear in response to an identified threat can predispose a person to act to protect himself against that threat, and if the threat is real, such action would be necessary to preserve life. Fear itself is not a substitute for life-preserving action. So Ydemoc is correct when he writes “How you handle that fear and react to that threat, seems to be what’s really important.” I also agree that unabated fear is not and should not be a normal condition in life. Fear is not the rational individual’s guide to life or the standard of his knowledge.

We must keep in mind that fear itself is a form of emotion. It is not a means of knowledge. When you fear something, your fear itself does not tell you what it is that you fear or why you fear it. It is merely a reaction. Indeed, in itself, fear is not a value: it is not something a rational person acts to gain and/or keep.

Ydemoc’s point about an infant not reacting with fear to the sight of a gun pointed at it, has very important implications here. Fear presupposes knowledge. Try pointing a gun at a dog. What does the dog do? He might wag his tail or just look at you with those sad puppy-dog eyes as if to say, “When’s my next snack?” The dog will not react in fear towards the gun. Every morning when I leave for work, I have to pass though a pack of four or five dogs lounging on my street. The dogs clearly see my vehicle approaching them, but they pay no mind. I could be speeding at them with no signs of slowing down, and I would plow right over them. They typically don’t move until I’m right on top of them. It’s not that they’re stupid. Rather, it’s just that they do not possess the conceptual level of awareness that human beings have, so they don’t react until they just have to make room for an object.

So I think the implications of Ydemoc’s point include at minimum the fact that knowledge and at least an implicit sense of values hierarchy are preconditional to the experience of fear.

Earlier in this thread, in my musings on Philosophical Naturalism, I raised the issue of starting points and the importance of identifying them when examining a philosophical code. Starting points are crucial – they need the load-bearing capacity to support an entire worldview. So what is the starting point in the Christian worldview? The closest statement I’ve found in the bible which speaks to this question is Proverbs 1:7, which states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” I have pointed out before (such as here) that premising knowledge on some sort of fear reverses the logical priority of the two, thus constituting an instance of the fallacy of the stolen concept. This alone is sufficient to tell us that the worldview in question needs to start packing and hit the road – it is unsuitable for human cognition since it has the cart before the horse. (Mind you, this is before we get to all the other problems in Christianity!)

So while fear is important, it is not an end in itself, nor is it a means of cognition. Also, it cannot be the starting point of one’s worldview. Any worldview which begins with fear as the basis of knowledge can only mean that its adherents must sustain a sense of fear at all times as an unabated norm in their psychological experience in order to hold up the entire artifice, for once that fear vanishes, the whole thing crumbles.

Regards,
Dawson

September 19, 2012 2:25 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

Thanks for another insightful comment.

I've often pondered FDR's famous phrase, "...nothing to fear but fear itself." I could be wrong, but I think Rand wrote something about this somewhere (perhaps in "Letters of Ayn Rand," or "Journals of Ayn Rand, both of which are sitting right here on my desk, within arm's length). Maybe I'm being highly-critical (and definitely fighting an uphill battle against those that contend it's one of the greatest phrases of all time), but under examination, that phrase comes across to me as doing nothing more than moving fear back a step, and leaves one still fearful, but just of fear.

On the other hand, if it's meant as "In the current economic climate (1932), the only thing that we should be highly concerned about threatening our values is irrational fear," then that I can buy, somewhat, into what FDR was saying.

However, given FDR's welfare-state mentality, and his expressed anti-capitalist views, e.g., in the same inaugural address he says: "Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men."... because of this, I have my reservations.

Ydemoc

September 19, 2012 3:52 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I don’t recall reading Rand on this famous FDR quote (I only have her “Letters,” not her “Journals,” and I have not read the former cover-to-cover), but I would say that, as a philosophical maxim, FDR’s statement doesn’t seem to have a lot of worth. I certainly don’t think it’s one of the greatest phrases of all time. Given the historical context, however, I see it as an attempt to calm the growing fears of a nation embroiled in a most bleak economic crisis. It’s one of the early models of the sound bite for the increasingly mediagenic role of the presidency. (This would later be solidified by such statements as Eisenhower’s “military industrial complex” and Kennedy’s “Ask not” phrase.) In that vein, I think Churchill’s “We shall never surrender” is far more heroic given its defiant stance against threats that had already breached his nation’s borders.

Philosophically, the notion of fearing fear itself seems purely self-referential. It calls to mind the image of a ten-lane Cairo roundabout – once you get stuck in there, you can’t get out. You’ll just continue going in circles all day, hoping for a chance to move to the perimeter so that you can finally get out of the dang thing. At peak hour, it’s pretty hopeless, so I’ve been told.

As for what FDR endorsed, it seems people should have feared that, for look what his statism has morphed into!

Unfortunately, these are everybody’s problems!

Regards,
Dawson

September 19, 2012 5:21 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

I just did a cursory search online and in books sitting here on my desk, and so far it looks like I may have been mistaken about Rand commenting about FDR's "fear itself" phrase.

I have a sense, though, that I've heard some commentary about it from some Objectivist source somewhere.

Perhaps Peikoff addressed it on his radio show in the 90's. (I ended up taping most of those shows as it aired locally, and still have them on cassette, but haven't listened to them in a long, long time)

In any event, thanks again for your input.

Ydemoc



September 19, 2012 6:11 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

And one more thing...

You wrote: "Philosophically, the notion of fearing fear itself seems purely self-referential. It calls to mind the image of a ten-lane Cairo roundabout – once you get stuck in there, you can’t get out. You’ll just continue going in circles all day, hoping for a chance to move to the perimeter so that you can finally get out of the dang thing."

Seems that way to me too. Like you say, it puts you into kind of a loop. If the only thing you have to fear is fear itself, then you'll be constantly afraid of fear. So you'd always be afraid. That would be pure paralysis.

The "fearing fear itself" also seems to treat "fear" as if it's something capable of existing on its own, apart from anything biological, which is silliness.

For your amusement, here's some parodies that popped into my mind:

The only thing we have to be sad about is sadness itself.

The only thing we have to be silly about is silliness itself.

The only thing we have to be mad at is madness itself. (I actually kinda like this one!)

The only thing we have to be happy about is happiness itself.

The only thing we have to laugh at is laughter itself. (What a loony-bin that would be!)

The only thing we have to be surprised about is surprise itself.

Ydemoc

September 19, 2012 6:53 PM  
Blogger ... said...

Well, before fearing God you would have to know about him.

In other words,

God begins the process.

God > fear > knowledge

September 19, 2012 11:01 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Nide wrote: “Well, before fearing God you would have to know about him.”

But this is not stated in the passage I referenced. And again, it’s the closest reference to a starting point for knowledge that I’ve ever seen in the bible. Your rendition means that there’s an exception to the rule stated in Proverbs 1:7, since it does not conform to it. But what gives believers license to start inventing exceptions to principles that are clearly laid out in the bible?

Nide wrote: “In other words, God begins the process.”

What exactly is this “process”? How does it work? What are the specific steps that compose it, from beginning to end? This is what needs to be explained, and it needs to be explained in a manner that is both consistent and compatible with what Proverbs 1:7 states. Each step of the “process” needs to be identified and enumerated in its proper order in that “process.”

Nide: “God > fear > knowledge”

I notice that there’s no mention here of concepts, and I would also point out that the objective understanding of concepts does not involve fear as a step anywhere in the process of forming concepts (a process which is detailed in Ayn Rand’s Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology). Objectivism proves that one can have knowledge without relying on fear as some kind of epistemological foundation. On the other hand, whatever the bible considers “knowledge” at this point, cannot be conceptual in nature. It is entirely incompatible with the objective theory of concepts. So there is a great divide here: on the Objectivist side, there is reason; on the biblical side there is faith in fear.

Regards,
Dawson

September 20, 2012 5:02 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Ydemoc,

I like those examples very much. They bring out the absurd implications in at least one reading of the FDR quote. It brings to mind the so-called "golden rule" - "Do unto others as you would have done unto you." Wouldn't applying this rule turn masochists into sadists?

Regards,
Dawson

September 20, 2012 5:05 AM  
Blogger ... said...

"But what gives believers license to start inventing exceptions to principles that are clearly laid out in the bible?"

Im not. I'm simply reading the bible in context.

"What exactly is this “process”? How does it work? What are the specific steps that compose it, from beginning to end? This is what needs to be explained, and it needs to be explained in a manner that is both consistent and compatible with what Proverbs 1:7 states. Each step of the “process” needs to be identified and enumerated in its proper order in that “process.”"

It begins with the washing and regeneration of the holy spirit.


"on the biblical side there is faith in fear"

No it begins with fear in YHWH.


"Objectivism proves that one can have knowledge without relying on fear as some kind of epistemological foundation"

Fear isn't the foundation. It always takes fear to learn.

September 20, 2012 10:45 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: "But what gives believers license to start inventing exceptions to principles that are clearly laid out in the bible?"

Nide: “Im not. I'm simply reading the bible in context.”

Please, elaborate. What other verses provide a context specifically enlightening Proverbs 1:7 in the matter presently under discussion, namely the starting point of knowledge? Proverbs 1:7 clearly states that a form of fear is “the beginning of knowledge.” Now you seem to be agreeing with me that knowledge is in fact a precondition of fear, remarking (without explanation) that “before fearing God you would have to know about him.”

Fear freezes the mind, which means it cannot act freely. Fear can only impede rationality, for it directly inhibits choice-making, and rationality functions best when choices are freely considered and made. Rationality does not flourish under duress. When a group of Nazis show up at your door at midnight with their guns pointed at you, you are not free to act according to your rational judgment. You’re in fear, and all you can do is obey whatever command may be issued to you, regardless of its impact on your values. That’s not a circumstance that allows rationality. If you know that someone is pointing a gun to your head, you won’t be able to ignore it. You won’t be able to focus on anything else. We’ve all heard the expression “petrified with fear.” That means the mind is essentially frozen – it comes to a stop. An epistemology premised on fear is no epistemology at all, for it precludes the free functioning of the human mind, and freedom is indispensable to discovering and validating knowledge. So if knowledge is the goal, Proverbs 1:7 goes out with the trash.

I wrote: "What exactly is this ‘process’? How does it work? What are the specific steps that compose it, from beginning to end? This is what needs to be explained, and it needs to be explained in a manner that is both consistent and compatible with what Proverbs 1:7 states. Each step of the ‘process’ needs to be identified and enumerated in its proper order in that ‘process’."

Nide: “It begins with the washing and regeneration of the holy spirit.”

Several problems here:

1. I asked you to identify the specific steps that inform this “process” you mentioned in passing and to enumerate them in their proper order. You’ve not done this. You’ve only identified what appears to be the first step in that “process.”

2. Proverbs 1:7 is the only passage in the bible that I know of which speaks to the issue of a starting point for knowledge. (You’re welcome to identify others if you think they pertain here and to argue for their alleged pertinence.) And yet Proverbs 1:7 says nothing about “washing” and “regeneration” of something call “the holy spirit.” It’s quite plain: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

3. By saying that the knowledge process “begins with the washing and regeneration of the holy spirit,” you are in effect saying that the human mind takes a completely passive role in the knowledge acquisition process, that the mind is something that is acted upon by some external force.

4. Similar to point 3, but in need of emphasis, the first step that you propose in the “process” of gathering knowledge by the human mind in fact relies on the initiation of force on the mind to get it all happening. This takes us back to the Hobbesian worldview which views the human mind as some kind of aberration that needs to be compelled under force. Of course, Hobbes was simply borrowing from the Christian worldview. Like St. Paul, Augustine and other early Christians, Hobbes resented the idea of human freedom. A free mind is sacrilegious.

5. This still leaves completely unclear any supposed relationship between fear and knowledge.

[continued…]

September 20, 2012 3:13 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: "on the biblical side there is faith in fear"

Nide responded: “No it begins with fear in YHWH.”

This still is not reason. Reason is not possible to a mind under perpetual duress. And you yourself have already stated that “before fearing God you would have to know about him.” So by what means does one “know about him” if not by faith? You’re leaving out faith, and yet the bible is all about having faith! Read Hebrews 11 some time. Earlier your words suggested that you were concerned for keeping the issue within the biblical context, and yet here you’ve completely dropped it, even after I tried to maintain it!

I wrote: "Objectivism proves that one can have knowledge without relying on fear as some kind of epistemological foundation"

Nide: “Fear isn't the foundation.”

I know. But it’s good to see that you now seem to be recognizing that Proverbs 1:7 is false.

Nide: “It always takes fear to learn.”

Why suppose this? When I’m trying to learn something new, such as the other day when I wanted to learn the Thai word for “continue” (which is roughly translated as ‘tor nueng’), there was no fear involved. When I learn, my motivator is desire, not fear. And when I learn something, I experience pleasure. Since I really love pleasure, I want to learn more. See, there’s no fear involved in learning. Not with me. And look how much I’ve learned in life!

I thought Christians had a *desire* to learn about their god. Now you say it’s actually fear, not desire. See, they were lying to me. I knew it!

Regards,
Dawson

September 20, 2012 3:13 PM  
Blogger ... said...

"Please, elaborate."

Well, if we read the bible in context it says, for example, that the heart of man is desperately wicked, that no man seeks after God, the natural man can't obey God. It also says that all men know God, that faith is a gift from God and so on.

What I am saying is there is an inherent knowledge and fear of God in man built in by God. Therefore, God is the foundation of fear and knowledge.

"Fear freezes the mind, which means it cannot act freely. Fear can only impede rationality, for it directly inhibits choice-making, and rationality functions best when choices are freely considered and made."

Not all the time.

"I asked you to identify the specific steps that inform this “process” you mentioned in passing and to enumerate them in their proper order. You’ve not done this. You’ve only identified what appears to be the first step in that “process.”"

The holy spirit washes and regenerates and hence man can now obey God. The fear of God that is built into him he can now heed to. It's a fear that leads to life.

2. Like i said you have to read the bible in context.

3. No what I am saying is you first need the ability to heed to the fear that is inherent in all men.

4. Well, i think we need understand what knowledge the bible is talking of.

5. To gain life you need to fear or obey God.

"This still is not reason. Reason is not possible to a mind under perpetual duress."


No, you have to fear to reason.

"I know. But it’s good to see that you now seem to be recognizing that Proverbs 1:7 is false."

If I accepted your approach then yea but I don't.

Reading in context. Those are the key words.


"Why suppose this? When I’m trying to learn something new, such as the other day when I wanted to learn the Thai word for “continue” (which is roughly translated as ‘tor nueng’), there was no fear involved."

Didn't you fear that you wouldn't get it?

"I thought Christians had a *desire* to learn about their god. Now you say it’s actually fear, not desire. See, they were lying to me. I knew it!"


Well, you will know when you are washed and purified. However, I have a desire to learn about God but I also fear him.

September 20, 2012 3:51 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

this is beginning to remind me of old times. Will we get to 725 posts this time? Is it just me or are the standard biblical responses here just so much non sequitur nonsense. I cant speak for anyone else but I can honestly say some of the worst decisions I have ever made were done in stats of fear or panic.

September 20, 2012 3:52 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: "Please, elaborate."

Nide: “Well, if we read the bible in context it says, for example, that the heart of man is desperately wicked, that no man seeks after God, the natural man can't obey God. It also says that all men know God, that faith is a gift from God and so on.”

Do you seek after this same god? Are you a man?

It’s curious to hear things like “the bible says that no man seeks after God,” and yet history is littered with millions of people who have claimed to be out seeking their god and its will for their lives.

Nide: “What I am saying is there is an inherent knowledge and fear of God in man built in by God.”

This can only mean that neither the fear nor the knowledge proclaimed by the bible is rational in nature. I’ve explained this to you before. It is a matter of force, not a matter of reason.

Nide: “Therefore, God is the foundation of fear and knowledge.”

This does not necessarily follow. It still needs to be argued for. Something can put something in place without at the same time being the foundation of what has been put into place. Human beings built the Empire State Building, but the foundation is bedrock, not human beings.

Besides, even on Christianity’s own terms, Proverbs 1:7 cannot be true – fear cannot be the beginning of knowledge. For the bible claims that its god has knowledge, and yet it doesn’t fear anything, does it? This can only mean that fear is not inherently fundamental to knowledge, on Christianity’s own premises! So again, we uncover another self-contradiction here.

I wrote: "Fear freezes the mind, which means it cannot act freely. Fear can only impede rationality, for it directly inhibits choice-making, and rationality functions best when choices are freely considered and made."

Nide: “Not all the time.”

Intensity certainly plays a factor. But the more intense a particular fear experience is, the greater the degree that fear incapacitates the mind. How intense is your fear of your god, Nide?

I wrote: "I asked you to identify the specific steps that inform this “process” you mentioned in passing and to enumerate them in their proper order. You’ve not done this. You’ve only identified what appears to be the first step in that “process.”"

Nide: “The holy spirit washes and regenerates and hence man can now obey God. The fear of God that is built into him he can now heed to.”

It’s still not clear what any of this has to do with *knowledge*.

Nide: “It's a fear that leads to life.”

In the case of Jesus, it lead to his death. Don’t you remember this? “Not my will, O Lord, but yours.” And next he was crucified. Many say he died that way.

[Continued…]

September 20, 2012 5:21 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Nide: “2. Like i said you have to read the bible in context.”

But the “context” is continually shifting and undermining itself with its own choking contradictions (see above for instance). There’s no uniformity of context here. Why else would so many thousands of differing interpretations of the “message” in the bible be around today? When it comes to clearly identifiable facts, there’s no mass of competing interpretations about it. Again, knowledge seems as far a concern from the biblical worldview as one can get.

Nide: “3. No what I am saying is you first need the ability to heed to the fear that is inherent in all men.”

But according to Christianity, there’s nothing any individual can do about this. This ability you speak of has to be forced into a person by an external agent. The Christian worldview denies the role of volition in knowledge, which means reason is simply not part of the equation. It’s just by chance that the “holy spirit” (something we must *imagine*) picks one individual and passes another by. Perhaps you could call me, as an “unbeliever,” part of the Holy Spirit’s Passover, since on the Christian worldview I’ve been passed over.

Nide: “4. Well, i think we need understand what knowledge the bible is talking of.”

So it gets even more complex, and yet we’re supposed to be discussing a fundamental matter, before any complexity comes into the mix. So again, you’re just confirming how inadmissible the biblical worldview is when it comes to a rational understanding of the nature of knowledge.

Nide: “5. To gain life you need to fear or obey God.”

“…fear *or* obey God”? Which is it?

At any rate, I have already “gained” life, since I am alive. Fear had nothing to do with this. It’s all biology. We learn about this through science, not through faith in revelations. Now that I am alive, what I need to do is act in order to keep it, if I want to continue living. And for this I need knowledge, and in order to get knowledge I need to apply reason. So I’ll go with reason, thank you. Christians can have their god, and I will go with reason.

I wrote: "This still is not reason. Reason is not possible to a mind under perpetual duress."

Nide: “No, you have to fear to reason.”

No, I need to perceive and *think* in order to reason. Fear and thinking are two different things, my friend.

I wrote: "I know. But it’s good to see that you now seem to be recognizing that Proverbs 1:7 is false."

Nide: “If I accepted your approach then yea but I don't.”

No, you don’t accept my approach – not openly anyway. You continually borrow from it while condemning it at the same time. Reason is not a part of the biblical worldview, Nide. If you think it is, you do not understand what reason is. We have you on record (see ) openly and insistently thwarting reason, all the while trying to maintain a straight face. You then hid your face for four months. Now you come back out playing the same losing hand, and still you’re afraid to show your name.

[continued…]

September 20, 2012 5:22 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Nide: “It always takes fear to learn.”

I asked: "Why suppose this? When I’m trying to learn something new, such as the other day when I wanted to learn the Thai word for “continue” (which is roughly translated as ‘tor nueng’), there was no fear involved."

Nide: “Didn't you fear that you wouldn't get it?”

I notice that you did not answer my question. Instead, you responded with yet another question. But I’m happy to answer that. And my answer is: No, I didn’t. I wanted it. This is not the same thing as fearing that I wouldn’t get it. I’ve lived 46 years without knowing the Thai word for ‘continue’. Life is possible without it. And I very well may forget it if I do not make an effort to remember it along with all the other Thai words I’ve learned. But life will go on for me just the same. And even if I did fear not getting it, this fear would not be a foundation for me learning it. My ability to identify and integrate the material provided by my senses is the foundation for it. It’s called the conceptual level of consciousness. As I’ve pointed out (and you’ve implicitly agreed), the conceptual level of consciousness is a precondition to fear. Remember my point about the dogs on my street? They lack conceptual ability. So they don’t get up and move when they see my car approaching from a distance. They wait until the car is right on top of them, and even then sometimes I need to honk. If you deny affirm that knowledge is premised on fear, you’re denying the conceptual level of consciousness, which means: you’re advocating for the regression of the human mind to the level of a dog’s “mentality.”

I wrote: "I thought Christians had a *desire* to learn about their god. Now you say it’s actually fear, not desire. See, they were lying to me. I knew it!"

Nide: “Well, you will know when you are washed and purified.”

Really? How does one know this? It seems that Christians simply proclaim this since they want to consider themselves as part of “the chosen” rather than “the damned.” But yet many Christians who claim to have been so cleansed disagree vehemently with each other on even essential doctrinal issues. So I would say that the means by which anyone claims to “know” that he is “washed and purified” by some supernatural agency is at best gravely questionable.

Nide: “However, I have a desire to learn about God but I also fear him.”

Okay, so you fear the god you love and worship. Interesting admission!

Let me say, Nide, if you’re back to vindicate your worldview in any way, you’re off to a very poor re-start.

Regards,
Dawson

September 20, 2012 5:22 PM  
Blogger ... said...

Justin,

that's not my intention.

September 20, 2012 5:25 PM  
Blogger ... said...

I'm off to a poor restart?

How do you describe the world to a man born blind?

September 20, 2012 5:52 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Richard (aka Hezekiah, aka, Dot) wrote: “Therefore, God is the foundation of fear and knowledge.”

Dawson replied: "even on Christianity’s own terms, Proverbs 1:7 cannot be true – fear cannot be the beginning of knowledge. For the bible claims that its god has knowledge, and yet it doesn’t fear anything, does it? This can only mean that fear is not inherently fundamental to knowledge, on Christianity’s own premises! So again, we uncover another self-contradiction here."

Dawson once again exposes the unavoidable inconsistencies so prevalent in worldviews built upon stolen and invalid concepts.

How do people clinging to such worldviews overcome facing up to such inconsistencies? They rely upon faith, or "the substance of things hoped for, or the evidence of things not seen," which is indistinguishible from products of imagination.

As Dawson points out in "Faith as Hope in the Imaginary:

"And what does the faithful believer hope for? According to the bible’s own teachings, he does not hope for things that he has perceived and knows are real. Romans 8:24 confirms this:

'For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?'

(continued...)


September 20, 2012 6:39 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

A little later in the entry, Dawson writes: ... faith validates fantasy [for the believer] through his hope in what he imagines.(http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2008/06/faith-as-hope-in-imaginary.html)

And when it comes the inconsistencies that Dawson has exposed above, "faith" ends up serving as a place holder for the believer, sort of a psychological dumping ground littered with all the inconsistencies and contradictions which the believer finds cognitively difficult to deal with.

And even if the believer is honest enough with himself to get to the point of asking, "How do I justify believing in something so blatently inconsistent?", he is then faced with a choice: Keep heading down the honest path or relieve the cognitive dissonance by taking the road of evasion all the way to the dumping ground of faith.

Richard's hiatus seems to have not changed the course he's on one iota.

But welcome back anyway, Richard.

Ydemoc

September 20, 2012 6:40 PM  
Blogger ... said...

"Besides, even on Christianity’s own terms, Proverbs 1:7 cannot be true – fear cannot be the beginning of knowledge. For the bible claims that its god has knowledge, and yet it doesn’t fear anything, does it? This can only mean that fear is not inherently fundamental to knowledge, on Christianity’s own premises! So again, we uncover another self-contradiction here."

Well, maybe God fears God. However, if God has always known then he doesn't need to fear.

The self-contradictions is something you are simply making up.

"This does not necessarily follow. It still needs to be argued for. Something can put something in place without at the same time being the foundation of what has been put into place. Human beings built the Empire State Building, but the foundation is bedrock, not human beings."

Yea but without humans beings there would be no buildings. We can build and destroy at will. In other words were ultimately the foundation.


"But the “context” is continually shifting and undermining itself with its own choking contradictions (see above for instance). There’s no uniformity of context here. Why else would so many thousands of differing interpretations of the “message” in the bible be around today? When it comes to clearly identifiable facts, there’s no mass of competing interpretations about it. Again, knowledge seems as far a concern from the biblical worldview as one can get"

So, what that doesn't mean there isn't a true and correct interpretation. I know you would agree that there are rules and ways to interpret things.

"Really? How does one know this? It seems that Christians simply proclaim this since they want to consider themselves as part of “the chosen” rather than “the damned.” But yet many Christians who claim to have been so cleansed disagree vehemently with each other on even essential doctrinal issues. So I would say that the means by which anyone claims to “know” that he is “washed and purified” by some supernatural agency is at best gravely questionable."

Yea, really It's pretty simple. You compare your life with the plain reading of the bible. The light exposes darkness.


For the question I didn't answer:

fear always plays a role in knowing whether explicit or implicit it is always there.



September 20, 2012 7:22 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Nide wrote: “Well, maybe God fears God.”

It appears you’re just making things up ad hoc and throwing them out to see what might perchance stick in order to salvage the Christian worldview, which has been decimated into shambles (remember?). I have news for you: nothing’s sticking.

Nide: “However, if God has always known then he doesn't need to fear.”

But you yourself stated at the very end of your own comment (!) that “fear always plays a role in knowing whether explicit or implicit it is always there.” So if as you say “fear always plays a role in knowing,” and your god knows anything, then your god must have fear. Does your god fear me?

Nide: “The self-contradictions is something you are simply making up.”

Not at all. I did not make up the biblical text or the Christian worldview. The self-contradictions of Christianity, whether implicit or explicit, are always there.

I wrote: "This does not necessarily follow. It still needs to be argued for. Something can put something in place without at the same time being the foundation of what has been put into place. Human beings built the Empire State Building, but the foundation is bedrock, not human beings."

Nide: “Yea but without humans beings there would be no buildings. We can build and destroy at will. In other words were ultimately the foundation.”

Now you’re equivocating on the concept of a foundation of knowledge. In epistemology, a foundation of knowledge means its base, the bedrock on which it sits, as in the analogy that I used. You said that your knowledge is built by your god and therefore it is the foundation of your knowledge. I still recognize that this does not necessarily follow, and in the context of what we’re discussing, my analogy shows that it does not necessarily follow. As I stated, it still needs to be argued for. And you’re not arguing for it. You’re simply re-affirming it. Perhaps you have no argument to begin with?

[continued…]

September 21, 2012 5:16 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: "But the ‘context’ is continually shifting and undermining itself with its own choking contradictions (see above for instance). There’s no uniformity of context here. Why else would so many thousands of differing interpretations of the ‘message’ in the bible be around today? When it comes to clearly identifiable facts, there’s no mass of competing interpretations about it. Again, knowledge seems as far a concern from the biblical worldview as one can get"

Nide: “So, what that doesn't mean there isn't a true and correct interpretation. I know you would agree that there are rules and ways to interpret things.”

What it means is that millions of insiders think they have the “true and correct interpretation,” and according to millions of other insiders they don’t; so for any believer who affirms one interpretation as the “true and correct interpretation,” several hundred other believers will condemn that interpretation as biblically invalid. The disintegration is entirely within Christendom. This is not something that outsiders to the Christian faith are responsible for.

The divisions within Christianity are seemingly endless, and there’s always a new interpretation on the horizon. How is one supposed to determine which of the thousands if not hundreds of thousands of interpretations is the one “true and correct interpretation”? You can answer this question by starting with yourself: assuming you took any steps to determine that the variant of Christianity to which you subscribe is the “true and correct interpretation,” what were those steps? If you didn’t do anything to vet the interpretation that guides your understanding, just say so.

It seems that, with all the thousands of differing biblical interpretations infesting the Christian landscape, this would be an important issue. Isn’t it?

I wrote: "Really? How does one know this? It seems that Christians simply proclaim this since they want to consider themselves as part of ‘the chosen’ rather than ‘the damned’. But yet many Christians who claim to have been so cleansed disagree vehemently with each other on even essential doctrinal issues. So I would say that the means by which anyone claims to ‘know’ that he is ‘washed and purified’ by some supernatural agency is at best gravely questionable."

Nide: “Yea, really It's pretty simple. You compare your life with the plain reading of the bible. The light exposes darkness.”

I see. So, it’s completely subjective. Got it.

Nide: “For the question I didn't answer: fear always plays a role in knowing whether explicit or implicit it is always there.”

I know that my daughter likes lime-flavored ice cream. Can you explain exactly what role fear plays in this particular item of knowledge of mine? Please, try to address this, since your above statement is absolutely starving for explanation.

Regards,
Dawson

September 21, 2012 5:17 AM  
Blogger ... said...

"It appears you’re just making things up ad hoc and throwing them out to see what might perchance stick in order to salvage the Christian worldview, which has been decimated into shambles (remember?). I have news for you: nothing’s sticking."

It's amazing how you have to try and keep assuring yourself that somehow my wordview is in shambles. What are you afraid of?




"But you yourself stated at the very end of your own comment (!) that “fear always plays a role in knowing whether explicit or implicit it is always there.” So if as you say “fear always plays a role in knowing,” and your god knows anything, then your god must have fear. Does your god fear me?"

In regards to all men.

"Now you’re equivocating on the concept of a foundation of knowledge. In epistemology, a foundation of knowledge means its base, the bedrock on which it sits, as in the analogy that I used. You said that your knowledge is built by your god and therefore it is the foundation of your knowledge. I still recognize that this does not necessarily follow, and in the context of what we’re discussing, my analogy shows that it does not necessarily follow. As I stated, it still needs to be argued for. And you’re not arguing for it. You’re simply re-affirming it. Perhaps you have no argument to begin with?"

It's such a clear idea that it amazes me that you would ask me for an argument. I don't have to argue for the self evident.

"It seems that, with all the thousands of differing biblical interpretations infesting the Christian landscape, this would be an important issue. Isn’t it?"

It is. However, my point is that when the authors of the bible wrote they intended to get a message across. For example, When the book of acts says that all those that were appointed to eteternal life believed, it is clear that not all have been chosen for salvation.

"I see. So, it’s completely subjective. Got it."

There's a subjective part of it. You're the alone one that knows your internal states, however, there is also an objective part to it too.

"I know that my daughter likes lime-flavored ice cream. Can you explain exactly what role fear plays in this particular item of knowledge of mine? Please, try to address this, since your above statement is absolutely starving for explanation."


Well, it's not as simple as you want to make it. Think about why people go to school, get a job and so on.

September 21, 2012 10:58 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Richard wrote: "When the book of acts says that all those that were appointed to eteternal life believed, it is clear that not all have been chosen for salvation."

Forgetting for a moment that it is incoherent to speak of an all-powerful, all knowing being as choosing, appointing or electing anything (on par with, "What does the color blue taste like?"-- at least *all* the concepts within my question have ties to reality), is it just by chance that you are among the chosen, Richard?

Many have believed just as you have, professed the faith just like you have, claimed to be just as "certain" of it, just as strongly as you, yet they've walked away. Since they walked away, were they just being deceived in thinking they were "among the chosen" at one point in their lives? How do you know you're not now, thinking that you are one of god's chosen, like they were then, thinking that they were one of god's chosen?

Again, is it just by random chance that you are among the elect?

Ydemoc

September 21, 2012 12:30 PM  
Blogger ... said...

"Again, is it just by random chance that you are among the elect?"

The only thing the bible says is that God does things according to his will and good pleasure.

On the other hand will I be saved? If I persevere to the end, yes. Is God working in me? That's the real question. I learn this by comparing my life with the bible.

September 21, 2012 1:38 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Richard,

You wrote: "The only thing the bible says is that God does things according to his will and good pleasure."

Even with the bible saying this, it would not preclude such a being from being arbitrary or random, would it? After all, the dictionary defines "arbitrary" as:

* "based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system"

Or...

* "(of power or a ruling body) unrestrained and autocratic in the use of authority"

And it defines "will" as:

* "the faculty by which a person decides on and initiates action"

Or...

* "deliberate or fixed desire or intention"

So when theists like yourself talk about a deity acting on "will" or "good pleasure," what they are essentially saying is that the deity's actions are random or arbitrary.

You can't get more arbitrary or random or whimsical than acting without any reason (theists call this "mystery,") and just "doing what one wants."

You write: "On the other hand will I be saved? If I persevere to the end, yes."

But isn't your "perseverence" really in your deity's hands? What do you have to do at all with any of it? What action can you take to ensure your own salvation? You are either among the elect or you aren't, right? According to Christians like you and to the cult of Calvinism, it was all "decided" for you according some deity's "good pleasure" before you were ever born, wasn't it? Before the world was even made, right? So what part could you possibly be playing in all of this?

None that I can see.

Or is life for you like watching yourself in some movie, call it "The Perseverance of Richard" starring Richard Corniel as himself.

The movie has already been scripted, the ending already decided, but you, as the audience member, just don't know how it ends? You *hope* there's a "happy" ending, you have *faith* that it ends well, but all you can really do is just watch. Is that it? And there's really nothing you can do about it anyway, since the film's already in the can, so you just sit back and watch as the events unfold?

Or am I way off the mark on my little movie analogy?

(continued...)

September 21, 2012 3:41 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

You wrote: "Is God working in me?"

Your very question indicates that you really don't know.

You wrote: "That's the real question."

And everyone here has tried to give you the answer.

You wrote: "I learn this by comparing my life with the bible."

But you really won't know until the movie's over, will you? -- when you'll, allegedly, be able to compare the script, i.e., bible, with the movie? As it is now, you have no idea how the movie will end, for it may depart drastically from the script, right?

As Dawson notes at the end of "Is Anyone Truly a Christian?":

"...given the fact that the bible itself undermines assurance of salvation through the use of a multitude of devices which keep the believer continually off-balance (we sampled only a few above), and since the bible’s only recommended form of evidence vouching for a believer’s salvation is “enduring to the end,” no apologist can say with any certainty that he is truly saved or that he will not depart from the faith sometime in the future, as many have, and as many will. If “enduring to the end” is the only sure evidence of salvation, the apologist has no proof that he is saved so long as he is living. And if departing from the faith voids the claim to ever having been a Christian to begin with, then so long as there remains any possibility that the apologist will defect from Christianity at some point in the future, we have no certainty that he is saved even now. Such a possibility is, as Alvin Plantinga might put it, “inscrutable”(Warranted Christian Belief, p. 240). His insistence that he will not leave Christianity in the future may have its sentimental charm, but it is the same report many former believers made while they were yet in the clutches of the faith. So such insistence is worthless." (http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2012/08/is-anyone-truly-christian.html)

Ydemoc


September 21, 2012 3:41 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: "It appears you’re just making things up ad hoc and throwing them out to see what might perchance stick in order to salvage the Christian worldview, which has been decimated into shambles (remember?). I have news for you: nothing’s sticking."

Nide: “It's amazing how you have to try and keep assuring yourself that somehow my wordview is in shambles. What are you afraid of?”

Remember, Nide, it is *your* worldview, the Christian worldview, which is premised on fear, and it is adherents to the Christian worldview who are *motivated* by fear. My worldview is not premised on fear; it’s premised on reason. You seem anxious to conjoin the two, but you’ve not been able to make it stick, not in the least. And yet you continue to affirm that fear is involved in knowledge somehow, since the bible is very clear that fear is essential to the believer’s devotional life. Just a couple days ago in this thread (see above), you yourself stated: “I have a desire to learn about God but I also fear him.”

As for me, you’ve got me all wrong. My motivation is not fear. Rather, my motivation is like someone who’s discovered something amazing and wants to tell it to a world perishing from mysticism. I heard recently a quote attributed to Carl Sagan: “When you’re in love, you want to tell the world.” Whether those were the exact words or whether Sagan really said this, it does not matter. The description of the sentiment is applicable. There’s no book telling me I have to do what I do or face some kind of punishment. I do this purely by choice and purely for selfish reasons. It’s a most profound pleasure. People don’t have sex one time and then never do it again. They have sex over and over and over again throughout their lives. The same is the case here: the pleasure I get from exposing Christianity’s evils and irrationality is a wonderful pleasure. It is almost as pleasurable as writing a piece of music, another hobby of mine. When I finish a piece of music, and I’m happy with it, there really is no satisfaction like it. It is all me, and I can say: I did that! The same is the case with my blog writing – it’s a great source of pleasure. And my worldview allows me to enjoy these and other pleasures in life without any hint of contradiction, so I have no guilt, especially no unearned guilt, which your worldview wants everyone to accept on its mere say so. Pleasure is experiencing life as an end in itself, and this is why my worldview cherishes it (it is a reward that one earns by means of productive effort), and this is why your worldview condemns it (it defies the servile and self-loathing mentality of an obedient worshiper who’s expected to do whatever he’s commanded).

[continued…]

September 21, 2012 6:15 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: "But you yourself stated at the very end of your own comment (!) that ‘fear always plays a role in knowing whether explicit or implicit it is always there’. So if as you say ‘fear always plays a role in knowing’, and your god knows anything, then your god must have fear. Does your god fear me?"

Nide: “In regards to all men.”

Then it’s not the case that “fear always plays a role in knowing” – since your god can allegedly know without fear? If your god can have knowledge without fear, then fear is not inherent in the knowing process (a process you alluded to, but which, in spite of my query, you never explained).

I’ve asked for you to identify the role which you think fear “always plays… in knowing” in the case of human knowledge, but so far you’ve not come forward on this. I gave the example of my knowing that my daughter likes lime-flavored ice cream. But you haven’t explained how fear is involved in my knowing this or what role it plays in my knowledge of this fact. Why?

I wrote: "Now you’re equivocating on the concept of a foundation of knowledge. In epistemology, a foundation of knowledge means its base, the bedrock on which it sits, as in the analogy that I used. You said that your knowledge is built by your god and therefore it is the foundation of your knowledge. I still recognize that this does not necessarily follow, and in the context of what we’re discussing, my analogy shows that it does not necessarily follow. As I stated, it still needs to be argued for. And you’re not arguing for it. You’re simply re-affirming it. Perhaps you have no argument to begin with?"

Nide: “It's such a clear idea that it amazes me that you would ask me for an argument. I don't have to argue for the self evident.”

I agree that perceptually self-evident truths do not need to be argued for. But recall what we’re talking about here: we’re talking about your claim that “God is the foundation of fear and knowledge” and your apparent inability to defend this argument with any kind of argument. It certainly is not a perceptually self-evident truth; it can’t be, since your god is said not to be perceptible in the first place. So the only available alternatives available here are: either this is true and we can know it by means of inference (in which case, you would need to produce an argument), or it is a fancy of the imagination. Let me know when you decide there’s an argument that can support your claim.

[continued…]

September 21, 2012 6:16 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: "It seems that, with all the thousands of differing biblical interpretations infesting the Christian landscape, this would be an important issue. Isn’t it?"

Nide: “It is. However, my point is that when the authors of the bible wrote they intended to get a message across. For example, When the book of acts says that all those that were appointed to eteternal life believed, it is clear that not all have been chosen for salvation.”

You’re sidetracking here, Nide. The issue that I surmised should be important to believers is not deciding the meaning of any particular verse, statement or passage within the bible, but determining, on the *general level*, which interpretation is right and which ones are wrong. As I asked above: “How is one supposed to determine which of the thousands if not hundreds of thousands of interpretations is the one ‘true and correct interpretation’?”

If you read what I had written above, you’ll recall that I suggested that you address this question by starting with yourself: “assuming you took any steps to determine that the variant of Christianity to which you subscribe is the ‘true and correct interpretation’, what were those steps?”

I also stated: “If you didn’t do anything to vet the interpretation that guides your understanding, just say so.”

You’ll see that I wasn’t asking about any one particular verse, statement or passage. I was asking for a more global principle which allows a believer to separate the wheat from the chaff with confidence.

I wrote: “I see. So, it’s completely subjective. Got it."

Nide: “There's a subjective part of it. You're the alone one that knows your internal states, however, there is also an objective part to it too.”

I see the subjectivity involved here – and it’s not simply that you alone know your “internal states” – but I don’t see the “objective part” to any of this. Besides, comparing your life to the bible seems so impractical. Which character are you to compare yourself to? There are hundreds to choose from. Do you compare yourself to King Saul, King David, Jonah, Daniel in the lion’s den, Joseph of Arimathea? Naturally you’re going to find profound differences between yourself and anyone depicted in the bible. What do you do then? Is that some kind of red light? Or, is it more organic, e.g., do you just go by some of the sayings, and check to see if you’re guiding your life by them (such as Mt. 5:28-29, which states: “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell)?

You have a lot of explaining to do here, Nide.

[continued…]

September 21, 2012 6:16 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: "I know that my daughter likes lime-flavored ice cream. Can you explain exactly what role fear plays in this particular item of knowledge of mine? Please, try to address this, since your above statement is absolutely starving for explanation."

Nide: “Well, it's not as simple as you want to make it.”

Nide, you’re the one who said that “fear always plays a role in knowing whether explicit or implicit it is always there.” So here’s a sample case for you to explain how fear plays a role in my knowing. I’m not trying to make this simple or hard. I’m just trying to understand what you’ve asserted, for then we can determine if it is true or not. So far as I understand it, I can assure you that it is not true in the least. But I’m willing to let you explain yourself. What role did fear play in my knowing that my daughter likes lime-flavored ice cream? Please, explain this. If you cannot, then it’s time to abandon Proverbs 1:7 once and for all.

Nide: “Think about why people go to school, get a job and so on.”

Okay, I’m thinking about it. I’m supposing there are many reasons, but generally I would say that the most common reason is the pursuit of values, not a response to fear. But the question you ask here is about motivation to take on a large-scale undertaking. Before we get to that, however, we need to understand your claim that fear *always* plays a role in knowing. This needs to be understood before we get to considering why people go to school, get a job, and so on. We’re talking the fundamentals of human epistemology here. What can you say about it?

Regards,
Dawson

September 21, 2012 6:17 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

You wrote, to Nide: "It certainly is not a perceptually self-evident truth; it can’t be, since your god is said not to be perceptible in the first place."

Maybe I've already shared this, but a few weeks back, while having a (semi-heated) discussion with a Calvinist at my home, I asked, "When you get to heaven, will faith be required for you to see your your Lord?"

He said, "No."

Very telling.

Ydemoc

September 21, 2012 8:20 PM  
Blogger ... said...

"You can't get more arbitrary or random or whimsical than acting without any reason (theists call this "mystery,") and just "doing what one wants."

No, he actually has a reason.

"None that I can see."

If you were to open the eyes of a blind man, do you think he would ever want to be blind again?

"But you really won't know until the movie's over, will you? -- when you'll, allegedly, be able to compare the script, i.e., bible, with the movie? As it is now, you have no idea how the movie will end, for it may depart drastically from the script, right?"

No, we actually know now if we are saved and the end. All good trees bear fruit.




September 21, 2012 10:10 PM  
Blogger ... said...

"You can't get more arbitrary or random or whimsical than acting without any reason (theists call this "mystery,") and just "doing what one wants."

No, he actually has a reason.

"None that I can see."

If you were to open the eyes of a blind man, do you think he would ever want to be blind again?

"But you really won't know until the movie's over, will you? -- when you'll, allegedly, be able to compare the script, i.e., bible, with the movie? As it is now, you have no idea how the movie will end, for it may depart drastically from the script, right?"

No, we actually know now if we are saved and the end. All good trees bear fruit.

September 21, 2012 10:21 PM  
Blogger ... said...

"My worldview is not premised on fear; it’s premised on reason"

Why do you reason? Is it out of fear?

We fear pain so we go and learn how to avoid or get rid of pain. In this case it goes:

pain> fear> learn to avoid pain>

fear leads to knowledge.


"Then it’s not the case that “fear always plays a role in knowing” – since your god can allegedly know without fear? If your god can have knowledge without fear, then fear is not inherent in the knowing process (a process you alluded to, but which, in spite of my query, you never explained). "


If you knew it all, there would be nothing to fear. Men don't know it all. They have everything to fear.


"I’ve asked for you to identify the role which you think fear “always plays… in knowing” in the case of human knowledge, but so far you’ve not come forward on this. I gave the example of my knowing that my daughter likes lime-flavored ice cream. But you haven’t explained how fear is involved in my knowing this or what role it plays in my knowledge of this fact. Why?"

Because that case is not life threating.

Regarding the argument you are asking for, I gave you a sufficient answer. Without builders there wouldn't be buildings. What part do you want me to clarify?

"You’ll see that I wasn’t asking about any one particular verse, statement or passage. I was asking for a more global principle which allows a believer to separate the wheat from the chaff with confidence."

The global principle is letting the author speak for himself.

"You have a lot of explaining to do here, Nide."

I compare myself to the words of Jesus, apostles and disciples. It's really not that hard.

Taking the book of proverbs in context there's much talk about preserving one's life.

I'm revising what I said:

Fear always plays a role when it's a life threating situation. Fear motivates us to learn how to avoid those kind of situations.

People have values because not having any scares them.






September 21, 2012 11:14 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Richard,

You keep bringing nothing but dogma to the table. Untethered, unthinking, incapable-of-being-validated, dogma.

I wrote: "You can't get more arbitrary or random or whimsical than acting without any reason (theists call this "mystery,") and just "doing what one wants."

You responded: "No, he actually has a reason."

Having “a reason" to do anything presupposes a faculty of consciousness capable of identifying and integrating the material provided to the senses. And this faculty has to be exercised by choice.

Since these are the facts, what use would an omniscient, omnipotent being (as if this even makes sense) have for:

(a) a faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided its senses? (what does it need to identify or integrate?)

(b) senses? (why does it need eyes?)

(c) perception, as a means of awareness? (it knows and is aware of all already)

(d) making choices or planning? (what alternative(s) does it face?)

(e) knowledge in the form of concepts?

Furthermore, to speak of consciousness while ignoring the fact that it is, as Dawson has pointed out, "...essentially a species of biological action," -- is grossly incoherent. Does your invisible, imperceptible, indestructible deity have a consciousness which is a species of biological action, Richard?

(continued...)

September 22, 2012 1:16 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

If you say "no,” that it does not have consciousness which is a species of biological action, then this does not bode well for your being able to provide a basis in reality for telling us that this "being" is conscious, let alone that it can reason, choose, plan, feel, etc.

If you say "yes,” that this deity does have a consciousness that is a species of biological action, then you've got other problems to deal with, not the least of which is that it flies in the face of such a "being's" indestructibility, (and not to mention that it goes against everything else we've been told about the Christian god.)

So if you cannot coherently answer everyone of these questions, what justifies your use of such descriptors when characterizing your deity?

If you have no basis for using such descriptors when speaking of this "being," then what would you suggest **my** justification should be for believing in your deity, or in anything you tell me about it?

Indeed, what basis would you say **anyone** would have for believing in such a "being"? What would be your suggestion to them?

You are on terribly shaky ground here.

To drive the point home further, you refer to your deity as a "he," but what justifies your use of the pronoun "he" in this instance. What qualifies this deity as being a "he," i.e., what justifies your referring to this deity as a "he" when such a being lacks several major attributes that would qualify it as being called a "he"? Where in **reality** can we look to verify that this invisible, indestructible, presumably non-biological "being," is actually a "he"?

(continued...)

September 22, 2012 1:18 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Scripture? This does us no good, for again, the same question applies: Where in *reality* can we look to verify that scripture is accurate in referring to an invisible, imperceptible, indestructible, non-biological deity as a "he"?

You may plead, "But scripture is self-authenticating! It *is* the basis in reality that you are looking for!" No. It's a book filled with concepts (via symbols, i.e, words that denote these concepts), many of which **are** tethered to reality, i.e., many concepts in the bible **can** be reduced to the perceptual level (if these concepts couldn't be reduced, then they, too, wouldn't be valid, and it would be even more obvious than it is now how incoherent the bible really is).

Such concepts as “rock” “mountain” “fish” “born” “star” “door” “feet” “face” “he” etc. -- are all legitimate concepts which are used in the bible. I don’t think you would have too much trouble telling me where in reality you can find the referents for such concepts, (higher level concepts would be a different story, but they still need to be reduced, back through the hierarchical chain to the perceptual level, to be legit.)

And since such concepts can be reduced to the perceptual level, they are all valid concepts. If they had no tie to things in reality, if they really didn’t refer to anything, if they were made up; or if feet, faces or fish, did not exist, then these would not be valid concepts. On what basis in reality would anyone have for forming or validating them? As Peikoff writes, quoting Rand, “Any such term is detached from reality and ‘invalidates every proposition or process of thought in which it is used as a cognitive assertion.’” (OPAR, p. 137)

(continued...)

September 22, 2012 1:20 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Likewise, when such concepts are combined to form propositions, then these propositions, too, must be able to be reduced back through the hierarchical chain, back to the perceptual level. You, yourself, actually rely on at least some concepts and propositions being valid, i.e., otherwise, as I said before, you wouldn’t be able to make any sense at all out of scripture!

As Leonard Peikoff notes in OPAR, p. 137 - 138: "Propositions too (if nonaxiomatic) must be brought back step by step to the perceptual level. They too are based on antecedent cognitions -- on the chain of evidence that led to them -- going back ultimately to direct observation. To a mind that does not grasp this chain, a higher-level proposition is arbitrary, noncontextual, nonobjective; it is detached from reality and from the requirements of human cognition."

If you are unable to reduce any proposition, in this case one that refers to god as a 'he,'" back to the perceptual level for us, what would be your basis for accepting or asserting this god is, in fact, a “he”? Faith? If so, all you’ve done is substituted another concept without doing the homework necessary that would verify for us that your god is, in fact, a “he.”. Faith or “the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen,” -- this mish-mash of verbiage -- does nothing for us. All it ends up being is an epistemological putty that allows believers to act or feel as if something is so, even though it isn’t so. Redirecting to faith is a believer’s way of having to deal with the fact that this is all in his imagination; and it serves to plug the inevitable cracks that emerge in a foundation built upon such imagination.

(continued...)

September 22, 2012 1:24 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Faith just shifts things around a bit, but leaves one in same position as before: still without proof, but using the malleable concept of “faith” to make it seem otherwise. It does nothing for us in terms of verifying that scripture is accurate in referring to an invisible, imperceptible, indestructible, non-biological deity as a "he.”

Your uncritical, non-thinking acceptance of the teachings of your book and of your indoctrinators, has left you prone to tossing out arbitrary notions as if they actually had a basis in fact.

Forget for a moment that the actions of your alleged deity would (despite your objection) be nothing but arbitrary; what I’ve exposed here is that you yourself, as a believer, have no valid basis, rationale, justification, or reason for asserting that the deity you worship is actually a "he," yet you and other followers continue to evade this fact and assert otherwise!

This is just one inevitable consequence accepting the arbitrary as real: What follows from such minds tends to be arbitrary too.

Ydemoc

September 22, 2012 1:39 PM  
Blogger ... said...

"So if you cannot coherently answer everyone of these questions, what justifies your use of such descriptors when characterizing your deity?"

False dilemma. I'm tempted to play our former games. You can add infinity to infinity.

"This is just one inevitable consequence accepting the arbitrary as real: What follows from such minds tends to be arbitrary too."

How would you reliably distinguish this conclusion from an arbitrary one?

September 22, 2012 7:20 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Richard,

I wrote: "So if you cannot coherently answer everyone of these questions, what justifies your use of such descriptors when characterizing your deity?"

You wrote: "False dilemma."

No, just a simple, open-ended question which you apparently are incapable or unwilling to answer.

Wikipedia: "A false dilemma (also called false dichotomy, the either-or fallacy, fallacy of false choice, black-and-white thinking, or the fallacy of exhaustive hypotheses) is a type of logical fallacy that involves a situation in which only two alternatives are considered, when in fact there is at least one additional option."

So let me introduce a new fallacy (perhaps it already exists). Let's call it, "The Perseverance of Richard Fallacy" and occurs when one...

...resorts to a baseless charge of a fallacy for the purposes of evading.

Ydemoc




September 22, 2012 8:38 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

September 22, 2012 9:02 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Richard,

I had written: "This is just one inevitable consequence [of] accepting the arbitrary as real: What follows from such minds tends to be arbitrary too."

You asked: "How would you reliably distinguish this conclusion from an arbitrary one?"

As I already have: In this particular context, I've done so by examining the evidence (i.e., what theists believe and what they assert) and I've concluded that what often flows from the minds of theists in their attempts to justify Christianity and their belief in it, tends to be arbitrary.

Hey, you can go ahead and consider yourself Exhibit A if you want to!

Ydemoc

September 22, 2012 9:07 PM  
Blogger ... said...

I'm not evading. The thing is we've been through this already. I have no desire to revisit it.

September 22, 2012 9:09 PM  
Blogger ... said...

"As I already have: In this particular context, I've done so by examining the evidence (i.e., what theists believe and what they assert) and I've concluded that what often flows from the minds of theists in their attempts to justify Christianity and their belief in it, tends to be arbitrary."

People look at evidence all the time and end up with arbitrary conclusions. How is it that you're not one of these people?

September 22, 2012 9:24 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Richard,

You wrote: "I'm not evading. The thing is we've been through this already. I have no desire to revisit it."

Fine with me. Just be aware that in the future, should you respond with answers or assertions that make about as much sense as calling "a loaf of bread" a "spiral galaxy," don't be surprised if I jump in to voice objections and challenges.

Ydemoc

September 22, 2012 9:28 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Richard,

You wrote: "People look at evidence all the time and end up with arbitrary conclusions."

What people? What evidence? When? What arbitrary conclusions? You'll have to be more specific.

In my examination of Christianity, I've identified the people (believers), I've laid out the evidence, (see all my posts and what the bible teaches and what believers tell me in defense of their belief). And my conclusions comport with the facts of reality, i.e., what often flows from the minds of theists is arbitrary, with "arbitrary" being claims "...for which there is no evidence, either perceptual or conceptual" and having "... no relation to man's means of knowledge... detached from the realm of evidence." (OPAR, p. 164)

Given that theists' subscribe to the primacy of consciousness, have no theory of concepts, and continually exhibit an inability to offer a coherent basis for their assertions, my conclusion regarding their tendency for arbitrariness is solid.

So this is how I know.

You wrote: "How is it that you're not one of these people?"

See above.

Ydemoc

September 22, 2012 9:56 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

Ydemoc, Dawson, check this out, Marc Hall raises a good point

http://fundamentally-flawed.com/2012/08/28/dont-say-darwin-when-you-mean-evolution-part-1/

September 23, 2012 11:36 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: "My worldview is not premised on fear; it’s premised on reason"

Nide: “Why do you reason? Is it out of fear?”

No, it’s not out of fear, Nide. A desire to live and enjoy life is not the same thing as a fear of death or pain. There is a profound difference.

For me, according to my worldview, life is the standard of values, and everything else I value falls in place by virtue of its service to this standard. Fear is not value: fear is not something I act to gain and/or keep. It is not my standard of value; it indicates that my standard of value is under threat. I reason because I love life; I don't reason because I fear threats. Fear of threats would not be possible if I did not first love life and pursue those values which make it possible.

Nide: “We fear pain so we go and learn how to avoid or get rid of pain. In this case it goes: pain> fear> learn to avoid pain> fear leads to knowledge.”

Nide, I realize that you want to find some way to make the biblical teaching seem plausible. But this simply doesn’t work. Fear is not the foundation of knowledge; fear is not the *starting point* of knowledge. This has already been established earlier in this thread. Remember Ydemoc’s example of a gun pointed at an infant? The infant has no fear of the gun because the infant does not know that the gun is a potential threat to its life.

Of course we want to avoid pain. No one is denying this. No one is denying that fear is real, that we respond to it, that it can motivate some actions. But this is not the same thing as saying that fear is the *starting point* of knowledge. Fearing pain as such does not result in knowledge of how to avoid pain. A person suffering from cancer can fear pain all day long, but this will not teach him infallibly how to avoid pain. Pain will continue, and fear may continue to, and his knowledge in this area may very well never grow.

Since you seem to make no progress in grasping any of this, I can only suppose that you just don’t have much understanding when it comes to epistemology. Try this: find one epistemology text which argues that fear leads to knowledge, and let’s take a look at the case laid out for this thesis. What do you say?

In the meantime, I’m still waiting for you to explain the role that fear *always* plays in knowing. Oh wait, you seem to have taken this position back? What, did you make some statements before really thinking things through?

[continued…]

September 23, 2012 4:07 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: "Then it’s not the case that ‘fear always plays a role in knowing’ – since your god can allegedly know without fear? If your god can have knowledge without fear, then fear is not inherent in the knowing process (a process you alluded to, but which, in spite of my query, you never explained). "

Nide: “If you knew it all, there would be nothing to fear. Men don't know it all. They have everything to fear.”

Knowledge does not eliminate threats to biological organisms. Man can know things, but still have fear because he faces a fundamental alternative (life vs. death) and one of the things he knows is the fact that things in the world can and do threaten his existence. But it certainly does not follow from this that men fear or should fear “everything.” I do not fear lime-flavored ice cream, for instance. I don’t fear my daughter’s laughter. Rather, I relish it! It is one of the sweetest sounds I’ve ever heard.

So again, I’m still waiting for you to explain the role that fear *always* plays in knowing. Oh yeah, I guess that’s not your position any more.

I wrote: "I’ve asked for you to identify the role which you think fear ‘always plays… in knowing’ in the case of human knowledge, but so far you’ve not come forward on this. I gave the example of my knowing that my daughter likes lime-flavored ice cream. But you haven’t explained how fear is involved in my knowing this or what role it plays in my knowledge of this fact. Why?"

Nide: “Because that case is not life threating.”

But it is a case of knowing, Nide. You said that fear “always plays” a role in knowing. You never stated anything about life-threatening factors. Nor does Proverbs 1:7.

Are you acknowledging then that in the one example of knowing that I raised, fear does not play a role?

Nide: “Regarding the argument you are asking for, I gave you a sufficient answer. Without builders there wouldn't be buildings. What part do you want me to clarify?”

The discussion has been about the basis and the starting point of knowledge. Your buildings and builders analogy has already been shown to be flawed in the context of this discussion.

Let me help you understand: the beginning of knowledge is awareness of objects. Without awareness of objects, man has nothing to know about and no means to know anything. Man has awareness of objects primarily in perceptual form. In other words, knowledge for man begins at the level of sense perception. But he’s not there yet; simply perceiving objects does not automatically give man knowledge. He must form concepts on the basis of what he perceives in order to have knowledge. This is why a theory of concepts is so crucial to a worldview, and that is why I stress the fact that Christianity has no native theory of concepts in pointing out the fact that the Christian worldview cannot account for man’s knowledge.

At any rate, Proverbs 1:7 is dead: it has no epistemological relevance.

[continued…]

September 23, 2012 4:07 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: "You’ll see that I wasn’t asking about any one particular verse, statement or passage. I was asking for a more global principle which allows a believer to separate the wheat from the chaff with confidence."

Nide: “The global principle is letting the author speak for himself.”

Okay, so the global principle which you affirm pretty much insures a myriad of competing interpretations. Any interpretation can be vetted by saying “Hey, I’m letting the author speak for himself.”

I would think that Christians would shy away from such a porous principle, since the real authors of the biblical texts, e.g., the apostle Paul, was supposedly not speaking for himself, but for his god.

I wrote: "You have a lot of explaining to do here, Nide."

Nide: “I compare myself to the words of Jesus, apostles and disciples. It's really not that hard.”

So, you’re saying that you’re adhering to *all* of Jesus’ requirements for discipleship? Can you enumerate what those requirements are, down to the details?

Nide: “Taking the book of proverbs in context there's much talk about preserving one's life.”

Indeed, there is a lot of folksy wisdom in the Proverbs. Some of it is at least marginally practical. None of it strikes me as divine in origin.

Nide: “I'm revising what I said: Fear always plays a role when it's a life threating situation. Fear motivates us to learn how to avoid those kind of situations.”

In other words, we experience fear when we know that our values (up to and including our very lives) are threatened. But we already know this. Recall what Ydemoc wrote in response to my query about the importance of fear: “Such a reaction can tell you that you have identified a threat to your values. How you handle that fear and react to that threat, seems to me to be what's really important. Do you let fear run your life? Or do you deal with and extinguish that threat to one's values, realizing that it isn't something that is the norm, but only a temporary bump on the road of life?”

Recall also my own statements: “A reaction of fear in response to an identified threat can predispose a person to act to protect himself against that threat, and if the threat is real, such action would be necessary to preserve life. Fear itself is not a substitute for life-preserving action.”

One thing that Ydemoc mentioned which should be stressed: For the rational individual, fear is not a normal condition in life. The experience of fear indicates that something is wrong, and that action needs to be taken to correct it and restore what is normal, namely happiness. Happiness and fear are not the same. When a person is gripped with fear, he’s not happy. For the rational individual, happiness, not fear, is the normal.

Contrast this with the Christian worldview: happiness is impossible since fear is an essential and inescapable part of devotion. Recall, Nide, what you yourself had written: “I have a desire to learn about God but I also fear him.” Your fear of your god will never be abated; nothing you learn will ease this fear of yours. So long as you continue to believe, you will also fear. Fear is the normal condition for the believer in Christ – it rules his life. Since a person is not happy when he is gripped with fear, Christianity is not a worldview which can support an individual’s quest for happiness in life.

Indeed, Nide, you do not strike me as a happy soul.

[continued…]

September 23, 2012 4:08 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Nide: “People have values because not having any scares them.”

How do you know why other people have values? Are you merely projecting your own fear-based morality onto the rest of the human race here? I do not have values simply because not having any scares me. A person who has given up on life and has chosen to end it has no values, and he’s not afraid of anything; he’ll take that plunge right over the bridge to his watery demise. Many people have done this. I have values, not because I’m afraid of not having any, but because I want to live and enjoy my life as an end in itself. Again, there is a profound difference, as profound as the difference between fear and happiness itself.

I hope this helps you understand some of the differences between the worldview I have chosen for my life, and the worldview that you have chosen for your life.

Regards,
Dawson

September 23, 2012 4:09 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

@Ydemoc

just to let you know, Lepar Watchman is back

September 24, 2012 9:00 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Thanks, Justin.

September 24, 2012 9:23 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Everyone,

For anyone who's interested, I have posted a somewhat lengthy, Dawson-infused (and properly cited, of course) response to a few of Dan's comments over on his blog.

http://debunkingatheists.blogspot.com/2012/10/what-is-truth.html?showComment=1349552441492#c3313593029864117126

Ydemoc





October 06, 2012 1:18 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

I would but my employer blocks obnoxious websites so I can't get to Dan's. I can get to Dawson's:-)

October 06, 2012 3:50 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Justin,

Cool. I just thought I'd let everyone know.

By the way, still no return of Leperwatchman since his most recent visit?

Ydemoc

October 06, 2012 5:05 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

nope, he has not posted in a while but I do see him in the real world now and again and he tells me he is very busy. He may be planning on it. I on the other hand have a few serious and damn long posts in the oven.

October 06, 2012 5:55 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello all,

Good to hear from you! I trust you’re all well back in the States. Can anyone send some Mexican food my way? I really miss that stuff!

Thanks for the heads up on your activity over on Dan’s blog, Ydemoc. I’d be curious to see how he responds to your questions. Judging from my experience with the guy, it seems that he’s quite skilled at compartmentalizing his beliefs in such a manner as to secure their conflicts with reality from ever manifesting themselves in his conscious experience. Talk about “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.” It’s one of the few things that Christians qua believers are “good” at.

I have been quite busy myself, but I did manage to carve out some time this weekend to work on my blog. While I too have some new entries in the oven, much of my work this weekend was spent on getting my archives page up to date. Before this weekend, I was about a year and a half behind! Well, that’s all fixed now – I’ve got everything archived up through the present blog entry.

Unfortunately, because of some conflict between my laptop and my PDF maker, I’m not able to include all the wonderful comments in my archive PDFs any more. While I had similar problems when I was using my desk top computer back in the States, I was able to overcome the problem. But it’s not working at all now. Since so much excellent activity on my blog happens in the comments, I will at some point try to find a way to archive the comments as well. But, that will have to wait for now.

I also added two of my responses to Dustin Segers (this one and this one) to my Resources on the Problem of Induction page on my website. I also put a link to the Resources page on my blog’s front page. So that’s an improvement.

I hope to get some new posts up later this month, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Regards,
Dawson

October 06, 2012 9:30 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

Thanks for the update! And for taking a trip over to Dan's blog to read my comments.

I couldn't resist responding to a few of his "nuggets." But there ended up being so many, some I forgot to address, like this beauty:

Dan wrote: "Besides the circularity of "existence exists", which of your senses lead you to this CONCLUSION? Could you be wrong? If not, why not? If you answer yes, you're still in the dilemma. What is your empirical evidence of existence? Things existing, as evidence of existence, is viciously circular keep in mind."

Anyway, perhaps Dan will come back with something akin to Peter Pike's responses in your blog entries Peter Pike on Concepts and Omniscience, and Pike's Pique. If so, I think I'll be prepared.

You wrote: "Can anyone send some Mexican food my way? I really miss that stuff!"

I think I may have told you this before, (and not to rub it in) but I'm married to a Mexican girl, so I get my share of Mexican food, that's for sure. But what I don't get enough of is Thai food!

Ydemoc


October 06, 2012 9:59 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

Oh, and one more from Dan which I failed to dig into:

Dan wrote: "Speaking of cartoon universe, nature couldn't have come about by natural means anymore than chocolate chip cookies can come about without the involvement of people or minds."

I seem to recall one of your entries where a baking analogy was used. I'm think I'll look that up.

And then perhaps I'll take a whack at this one and others in round two.

Ydemoc

October 06, 2012 10:12 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

There is an excellent Mexican place here in Portland called The Iron Horse.I could pick up something for you but getting it to you might present a problem:) They have really good margaritas:)

October 06, 2012 11:04 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Oh you guys are torturing me over Mexican food! I hope you’re happy with yourselves! Jeesh, I’d be happy with Taco Bell right now. That should tell you something!

As for Thai food, I think I’ve had enough to last a lifetime. There’s not much else out where I live. And frankly, while I really enjoy many Thai dishes, some of the things they put on plates here are beyond recognition. I think that’s why they pour on the chilies.


Ydemoc, you quoted Dan: "Besides the circularity of "existence exists", which of your senses lead you to this CONCLUSION? Could you be wrong? If not, why not? If you answer yes, you're still in the dilemma. What is your empirical evidence of existence? Things existing, as evidence of existence, is viciously circular keep in mind."

When I read statements like this, I’m utterly bewildered at how vacuous the human mind can become sometimes. He really seems to be very anxious to find something wrong with your position and will try anything to see if at least something sticks. The charge that “existence exists” is circular, only suggests that this guy either does not understand what circularity is, or that he is completely clueless on Objectivism’s fundamentals, or quite possibly both.

Try this: ask him if he thinks reality exists. If he says no, then he simply sinks his own boat. If he says yes, then ask him if the statement “reality exists” is circular. See where it goes.

“Things existing, as evidence of existence, is viciously circular”? If I see a tree in my neighbor’s yard and say, “I like your tree,” am I somehow begging the question? Again and again, this guy strikes me as simply being dishonest in order to play it slippery. He’s learned much from Sye.

Perhaps you can ask Dan (if you haven’t already) how he can be sure that he’ll still be a Christian a year or five years from now. That might spark an interesting discussion.

Ydemoc: “Anyway, perhaps Dan will come back with something akin to Peter Pike's responses in your blog entries Peter Pike on Concepts and Omniscience, and Pike's Pique. If so, I think I'll be prepared.”

Yeah I remember that. Pike is a gift that keeps on giving. The guy just has a habit of stepping in it in a most profoundly embarrassing manner. I’m glad I kept some of the stuff from his earlier websites (which he later dismantled).

Dan wrote: "Speaking of cartoon universe, nature couldn't have come about by natural means anymore than chocolate chip cookies can come about without the involvement of people or minds."

Sounds like Dan is simply conceding the cartoonish nature of his worldview’s conception of the universe. Really, there seems to be no other way to understand his statement here. He produces no argument here, either for his universally negative claim, or for supposing that the universe is in any way analogous to man-made objects. But I’m supposing if you make any statement on behalf of your views, he’s going to demand that you present an argument for them.

Regards,
Dawson

October 07, 2012 12:32 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

Dan seems to be laboring under the misunderstanding that the perceptually self evident requires a logical proof, poor guy... what a dumb ass!

October 07, 2012 12:38 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Justin: "...what a dumb ass!"

Agreed!

The question is: What is his excuse for being so stupid?

It must be deliberate.

Regards,
Dawson

October 07, 2012 12:42 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

Thanks for all the input! It will *definitely* come in handy.

I haven't had a chance to pop on over to Dan's to see if he's responded. But I'll be sure to let you know when we re-engage.

Ydemoc





October 07, 2012 7:45 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Everyone,

Welp, to all the points I made, to the eleven questions in my lengthy post, all Dan could muster is the following:

Dan: "Yea, it sure seems like you're seeking the truth. I really am the last to approach for that truth. Proverbs 3:5-6, John 14:26, and 1 John 2:27 attests to that.

The quickest way to the desired truth and knowledge id [sic] repentance. 2 Timothy 2:24-26

I would hats [sic] to get in the way."

And that's it! That's his response!

Perhaps this is just an initial reply (after all, I did tell him "no rush"), and maybe he'll have more to say later. But I get the sense that this won't be the case.

In any event, I don't think I'll take him to task for not engaging. Perhaps I'll wait awhile to see if he has more to offer.

If he doesn't respond in due time with something a little more weighty, maybe I'll just take a piecemeal approach to draw him out -- shorter comments that incorporate his response above with some of the points and questions that I initially posed.

We shall see.

Ydemoc







October 07, 2012 8:26 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Everyone,

I overlooked one of Dan's later comments, because I wasn't sure if it was addressed to me or not; but it appears that it was. He wrote:

"But I will look at what you asked and may post about them if I feel I have something of value to offer. I will pray about it. Thanks though."

So stay tuned!

Ydemoc



October 07, 2012 8:36 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

Ydemoc did you get around to seeing Looper yet?

October 07, 2012 1:56 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Justin,

Sorry for not responding sooner, but I was out for most of the day.

I haven't seen it yet, but I intend to.

Ydemoc

October 07, 2012 4:24 PM  

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