Friday, November 16, 2012

My Discussion with Michael Rawlings

In the comments section of my previous blog entry, Is Math Christian?, a visitor to my blog named Michael Rawlings has engaged me in a fascinating and, I’m happy to say, very civil discussion about Christianity.

Michael does not strike me as the typical apologist for Christianity. His tone is mature and he exhibits a refreshing willingness to examine ideas and take them seriously. He has also expressed admiration for Objectivism, which I find encouraging.

Still, Michael seems to have a persisting hesitancy to address direct questions responding to his statements. To his credit in this regard, he has expressed caution for taking things slowly and addressing issues in a sequential manner. However, the list of outstanding questions has been growing since the discussion first began. In his initial comment, dated 4 Nov., he announced, “Rand never properly understood Christian epistemology.” Just a few hours later, I posted my reply with the following questions:
1. Just what exactly *is* “Christian epistemology”? Where can it be found? What does it teach? What does it say knowledge is? What does it say about concepts? What is the process which “Christian epistemology” endorses, and how does it work?  
2. Who “properly” understands what you call “Christian epistemology”? There are hundreds if not thousands of different (and often opposing) versions of Christianity as such. For a Christian to say that he understands “Christian epistemology” (as though there were such a thing) means that he is saying that other professing Christians do not understand it.  
3. Where precisely does Rand speak on “Christian epistemology,” and how exactly does she get it wrong?
And even though the discussion between Michael and me continued since then, with many replies being posted by both of us, these questions still remain unanswered.

After some pressing on the question of what “Christian epistemology” is, Michael stated that “the epistemology of Judeo-Christian orthodoxy is a rational-empirical construct.” Unfortunately, this response simply raises more questions than it was originally intended to answer. Historically, strict empiricism involves a denial of the conceptual level of cognition, and rationalism involves a denial of the validity of the senses, their role in gathering knowledge, or at any rate an attempt to “deduce” all knowledge from some abstraction, without recourse to integrating facts discovered empirically in the world around us. Uniting these two forms of denial into a single “construct” would simply make knowledge even more elusive than either position would have it on its own. I doubt this is what Michael has in mind, but it is on his shoulders to explain what he has in mind.

And of course, there’s the matter of authenticating whatever view he presents as genuinely Christian. I have read the bible – some portions of it I’ve read many, many times – and I’ve never found any passage which makes this kind of affirmation about epistemology. If a position is not bible-authentic, what justifies calling it Christian-authentic? This is a question that I have raised numerous times in my discussion with Michael, but he has yet to address it.

Also in his initial comment where he charges Rand of never properly understanding Christian epistemology, Michael stated that “Christianity does not hold that finite consciousness has primacy over reality.”

In response to him, I asked:
Where does “Christianity” state this? Is it in the bible?
Michael has yet to answer this question, too. What Michael’s position does affirm is quite curious. For instance, on 10 Nov. he wrote:On the whole, despite its atheism, I find that Objectivism has more in common with Judeo-Christianity than any other single system of thought, at least as far as the temporal realm of existence is concerned, though not without some tension, which I have come to appreciate with even greater clarity; and from me, that is saying something, as I am familiar with most all of the various system’s of thought espoused in the history of Western culture.I find this statement quite curious, for Objectivism affirms numerous fundamental philosophical positions which are completely at odds with what Christianity has historically taught. For instance:
1. Existence is not created – it is eternal, absolute, and independent of consciousness – of any consciousness. It rejects as irrational the notion of creation by an act of consciousness, miracles, preordination of human history, etc. Objectivism affirms that consciousness is inherently biological, just as other biological functions are, such as digestion, respiration, circulation, reproduction, etc. There is everything natural about consciousness, and nothing supernatural about it. In contrast to Objectivism, Christianity explicitly affirms the primacy of consciousness metaphysics, whether it is with regard to a deity wishing the universe into existence, that same deity assigning identities to the constituents of the universe is wished into existence, its ability to revise the identities at any time by an act of will, the contingency of every fact in the universe on the will of this deity, its ability to intrude on human consciousness and direct its movements, etc. And for an individual human being interacting with the actual realm in which he lives, no amount of believing is going to enable him to walk on water. Mere “belief” has no ability to alter reality. But this is not what the biblical narrative illustrates.  
2. Reason is man’s only means of discovering and validating knowledge, his only standard of judgment, and his only guide to action. It rejects as irrational the notions of “divine revelation,” “sensus divinitatis,” the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit,” faith in invisible magic beings, prayer, etc. The core of Objectivist epistemology is its theory of concepts, which Rand described in her book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. By contrast, the bible presents no theory of concepts, and Christian apologists routinely fail to present any distinctively Christian theory of concepts. A theory of concepts explains how the human mind forms concepts from perceptual input. But since Christianity’s most basic “truths” are seated squarely in supernaturalism, those “truths” do not denote things which any human being can perceive. Such “truths” do not constitute conceptual knowledge, for they are not formed ultimately on the basis of perceptual input, and in fact require the believer to ignore perceptual input in forming conceptions of what is possible and what “ultimately” exists. It is for these reasons that Christian apologists typically take delight in playing the skeptic card against non-believers; non-believers, they claim, cannot “account for” the knowledge they possess while remaining consistent with their rejection of theism. This is why the tired “How do you know?” line of interrogation is so commonplace among the more visible presuppositional apologists. The unintended irony of such apologetic strategies is that the very apologists who deploy them in their offenses against non-believers famously show that they themselves cannot answer this very question when it is turned on them.  
3. A morality that is proper to man is inherently selfish, since it is premised on the concept of values and is focused on an individual’s pursuit of his own life, his own values, his own happiness; it rejects self-sacrifice in any form and for any purpose. Objectivism does not advocate that an individual “deny himself” and take up an instrument of torturous execution and follow someone who “gave his life” for others. In fact, Objectivism rejects as reprehensible the idea that the ideal should be sacrificed on behalf of the non-ideal, that the virtuous should be sacrificed for the sake of the wretched. Indeed, only by accepting the premise of the primacy of consciousness can a worldview hold an individual guilty of adultery, for instance, merely for looking at another person and entertaining sexual fantasies about that person. The Objectivist view of evil is that it is never morally excusable, while the Christian view is that there can be and is such a thing as “a morally sufficient reason” for allowing, even “ordaining” evil (cf. Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 172).  
4. Objectivism is well-known for its unflinching advocacy of laissez-faire capitalism, as defined and defended by Rand in her book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Capitalism is the political theory premised on the idea that the individual has a right to live for his own sake, that he is not to set himself up as the collector of other people’s sacrifices, nor is he to sacrifice himself for others. Objectivism rejects any form sacrificial ethics, including the view that man has some “duty” or obligation to sacrifice himself to a deity which he can only imagine, or to his “fellow man.” Christianity was the dominating philosophical influence over Europe from the fall of Rome until the Age of Reason, and no state during this time was capitalistic. This was no accident. What is modeled in the New Testament is the strongest overt indication of what Christianity holds as the proper model for human society, and what the New Testament models (cf. the Acts of the Apostles) is clearly communistic. The treatment of the individual as merely a part of a larger collective is commonplace in Christian thought. The human population is divided into two opposing collectives, the “chosen” vs. the “damned,” and in every thoroughgoing Christian political system, this collectivist division of humanity is of paramount importance. Whether it is Rome’s colonial missionizing of primitive societies, its Inquisitions shoving its nose into individuals’ personal affairs, whether its Calvin’s Consistory condemning individuals for heretical beliefs or Christian “conservatives” actively seeking to limit mutually consensual sexuality to its preferred templates, the underlying premise of Christian political theory has historically been the view that the individual should not be allowed to live his life for his own sake, but must obey some central authority which has a “right” to know everything about the individual’s life and control it.
Naturally, I could go on and on, and I have detailed numerous fundamental antitheses between the Christian worldview and Objectivism in many entries on my blog over the years. But this high-level summary should be sufficient to indicate that Michael’s claim that “Objectivism has more in common with Judeo-Christianity than any other single system of thought,” is at best a minority report (indeed, perhaps a minority of one?) and at worst a tragic failing to grasp the difference of two philosophical systems which really could not be more opposed to one another. Michael seems to believe that Objectivism largely describes the Christian worldview insofar as the relationship between the believer and the universe in which he finds himself is concerned. But of course, Objectivism would agree that it (Objectivism) accurately describes and therefore applies to any individual’s life, since its philosophical tenets are true. But it would not follow from this that Christianity advocates essentially the same views regarding reality, knowledge and values that Objectivism does. Indeed, far from it! It is this antithesis that Michael seems to be challenging, albeit with certain qualifications in place. But again, the question of bible-authenticity remains looming at large here.

Of course, if I have misunderstood him or mischaracterized his position in any way, I am willing to be corrected. I believe these points accurately characterize the essence of our debate, but of course there may be many nuances which he would cite as important. And likewise for myself; it’s hard if not impossible for anyone to be thorough in the confines of a few paragraphs. This goes for me as much as it does for Michael.

While these few observations are hardly sufficient to do justice to the scope of the discussion which Michael and I have been enjoying up to this point, they do highlight the important points which present significant hurdles for Michael’s position. Moreover, Michael has introduced the terms “the transcendence” and “the transcendent,” which he apparently believes denote actually existing things, but which he has yet to define, let alone defend, this in spite of the fact that I have inquired on their meanings on more than one occasion in our discussion.

It is here where we take up the present situation in my discussion with Michael.

In one of his latest replies, Michael wrote:
I understand the processes of sound knowledge, the proper course of integration, beginning with concretes at the base of knowledge, with each new inference or abstraction directly linked to the previous. Judeo-Christianity insists on it.
This is what I want to know: Where does Christianity insist on the epistemological elements that he lists in this statement? I just want to know where he thinks “Judeo-Christianity”
a) specifies “processes of sound knowledge,” b) explains “the proper course of integration,” c) indicates that knowledge begins with concretes at the base of knowledge, and d) presents analyses of integration and abstraction as directly linked to more fundamental knowledge.
Indeed, where does the bible ever express concern for guarding against epistemologically confusing one’s imagination with reality? The bible does not do this, but it does make its condemnation of “men’s wisdom” and “the wisdom of the world” very clear. The bible’s god is opposed to “men’s wisdom.” What is “men’s wisdom” and “the wisdom of the world” if not reason itself? Reason is the cognitive faculty by which a man can think independently and rely on his own mind. But throughout its texts, the bible is continually trying to discourage people from relying on their own minds, from thinking independently, from straying from the pack.

And as for the specifics which Michael has listed, I’ve never read anything about any of these things in the bible. I never heard anything about these things when I was a Christian. And after engaging probably several hundred Christian apologists over the past 15 years on the internet, nearly all strike me as fairly out to lunch when it comes to epistemology. They often make statements about epistemology, but typically these are constrained to talking points in their debate strategies and not in the interest of expanding anyone’s understanding of knowledge and how the human mind works. Moreover, when I eventually did learn about these things, it was only after I departed from Christianity and started learning about an atheistic worldview, namely Objectivism, where concern for these things is ever-present and unavoidable.

Indeed, the entire devotional program of Christianity is characterized by accepting belief claims on the basis of ignorance and fear. This is explicit in Christianity, and it is an undeniable part of the entire Christian faith agenda. Defenders of Christianity are constantly deploying apologetic schemes which are designed essentially to goad non-believers into throwing up their hands and saying “I donno, it must be God!” Typical examples include challenges like “How do you account for X” where X could be anything from the uniformity of nature to the “unchanging laws of logic,” from the very existence of life on earth to moral absolutes. The unwritten subtext to all of this is really nothing more than the believer himself didn’t know how to answer these questions rationally, and to whatever extent such questions are meaningful to him, he thinks the only available answer is supplied by pointing to a supernatural being which we can only imagine.

Granted, Michael does not come across as one of these types of Christian apologists. His approach seems more likely to affirm that rational philosophy is in fact true, albeit our understanding of certain components of it needs to be tweaked in order to reveal its basis in a god. This is why he apparently affirms a duplicitous metaphysical paradigm, one which affirms the primacy of existence in the case of man’s cognition, but which holds to the primacy of consciousness on the broader scheme of things. Unfortunately, this actually amounts to affirming a self-contradictory metaphysics, for the primacy of existence and the primacy of consciousness are not in any way compatible with one another. I’m supposing that there is more that Michael will need to learn about the issue of metaphysical primacy before he can fully appreciate these matters.

As for Christianity’s appeal to fear, there’s no denying this. It fills the bible’s pages, and Christian apologists often retreat to it as a last resort. The subtext here is essentially: “If you don’t believe, you’ll suffer in hell for eternity.” But threats are not a substitute for reason, and the mind certainly does not validate knowledge claims on the basis of fear. The “process of sound knowledge” does not involve a component in which raising a stick over a thinker’s head will somehow produce sound knowledge, or even supply premises sealing some true conclusion which would otherwise not be available.

Again, what Michael attributes to Christianity is not at all recognizable as Christian in nature. And his lack so far of connecting these specifics of epistemological import to Christian doctrine is not surprising.

If Michael cannot link these things to specific passages in the bible, then what justifies attributing these things to orthodox Christianity proper? Will he cite Augustine, a thinker heavily influenced by Neo-Platonism and Manicheaism? Such views don’t resemble Objectivism in the least. But all throughout this conversation, he’s been essentially maintaining that Judeo-Christianity affirms positions very similar to Objectivism in at least some of its metaphysics and in its epistemology.

It also needs to be noted, so that it is not forgotten or overlooked, that the view of oneself which Christianity insists the believer accept as part of the massage package of Christian belief, is one which denounces his spirit as a depraved misfit that can’t do anything right, either in knowledge or in deed. Rand showed that this is the exact opposite of the view of man which a pro-reason philosophy takes and must take. Reason requires an intact self-esteem, a sense that one is worthy of the knowledge he seeks to earn, indeed, that he can earn it in the first place, and that the fruits of knowledge are a benefit to oneself. Reason is selfish. A “selfless” epistemology would be one which expects its practitioners to sacrifice themselves, to deny the parts of their identity that make them human, to suppress their minds’ cognitive abilities in preference of some content whose claims to truth they could not verify, to ignore what their own mind might discover and validate in preference for commandments issued by an authoritarian source. A rational approach to knowledge does not tell man that he is essentially divided into two warring halves, each vying against the other, causing an unbridgeable rift between what he is expected to affirm as “right” and his desires, insisting that he forego judgment and rely on faith as his guide to action (as we find praised in Hebrews 11). We don’t find discourses put into biblical heroes’ mouths which have them affirming the virtues of rationality and independence, of adherence to reason as our only epistemological norm, of gathering facts from reality to confirm or refute claims one has fielded from others. The bible’s discourses have its heroes constantly referring back to “the book,” for “it is written” in their minds meant that it came from a divine source and is therefore not to be questioned or analyzed. For the bible’s heroes, importance is placed on obedience, not on understanding. The bible is emphatically not a pro-reason text. Far from it!

On the contrary, this “wisdom of the world” – i.e., reason – is condemned as being of the devil. Why else do we find Luther condemning reason over and over again in his writings? Luther thought the church had been contaminated by anti-Christian views. And he was right. We have Aquinas to thank for the incursions of non-Christian thought on Christianity. Luther and other Reformers sought to break from the Aristotelian influences which received the stamp of approval from Aquinas. The Christian who now posts comments on my blog under the name “Richard” (it seems to change from week to week) wrote earlier in the same thread: “Aristotle was wrong about much. It always amazes me that people take him seriously.” The Reformers wanted a revival of the sheer mysticism of the “original” Christianity, what they considered “orthodox” Christianity. Out with all the Aristotelian influences. Aristotle is unbiblical, and reason, “the Devil’s greatest whore,” said Luther, is “the greatest enemy that faith has.” Luther also announced that “reason should be destroyed in all Christians.” My point in citing Luther’s overt anti-rationality is not to broadbrush all Christians as similarly opposed to reason in such an overt manner, but to raise an important question given Michael’s attribution of certain elements to what he calls “Christian epistemology”: here was one of the leading Christian thinkers of his day, having earned a doctorate from the University of Wittenburg, vociferously denouncing reason as essentially satanic. If the things that Michael and I have discussed, from the primacy of existence to the importance of a “process of sound knowledge” in which higher levels of knowledge are abstracted from more fundamental, down to its roots in sense perception, are not merely compatible with Christianity, but “insisted on” by orthodox Christianity, how could someone with so much devotion to and study of Christianity and influence over later generations like Luther be so wrongheaded? Why didn’t Christians the world over simply denounce him as a heretic who strayed from Christianity’s (alleged) insistence on reason and show where he was wrong? To this day, there are millions of Christians who count themselves as Luther’s ecclesiastical ancestors. Anti-reason is the norm among Christianity’s flocks. I’ve already cited the explicit rationalism of folks like Gordon Clark. And let’s not forget the hundreds of Christian drive-bys who have “shared” their contempt for Objectivism right here on my blog and elsewhere.

All this is to say that, coupled with Michael’s lack of citation of evidence even casually suggesting that “Christianity insists on” these epistemological principles, there is overwhelming evidence blaring that quite the opposite is in fact the case. More and more Michael is beginning to resemble a renegade of sorts, a defector from orthodox Christianity who’s trying to revise it somehow.

Michael also wrote:
But you need to appreciate that according to Judeo-Christianity truth is from God and no other.
While I’ve been hearing this claim virtually all my life (people seem to repeat it without knowing what they’re saying), it has never made sense to me, and even after attempting to understand it from many Christians over the past decade and a half, it still doesn’t make sense. Specifically, it is not at all coherent with what I know truth to be. Truth is an aspect of conceptualization. It has nothing to do with any god. The Christian god is said to be omniscience, which can only mean that it would not have its knowledge in conceptual form (as I have argued here). The attempt to link truth to such a being, notwithstanding its basis in imagination, only exposes a very poor understanding of the cognitive nature of truth. Truth is the objective, non-contradictory identification of fact, and it is obtainable within reality between human consciousness and the objects they perceive and identify. There’s nothing “otherworldly” about truth; there’s nothing supernatural or mystical about it. It certainly is not supernatural in origin. It has everything to do with this world and its occupants.

So, while Michael says that I “need to appreciate” this position, it remains beyond my understanding what exactly I’m being asked to appreciate. Maybe I’m just too dumb to understand it. And while I may not be the smartest guy around, I do understand some pretty complicated things. So I’m open to examining the premises of such a claim.

Michael wrote:
True knowledge is analogical. The believer's reasoning is analogical, the non-believer's, univocal.
While the distinctions which Michael has in mind with such categories need to be explained and clarified, what he affirms here implies that “the non-believer’s” knowledge is not “true knowledge,” since “true knowledge” is said to be “analogical” and the non-believer’s reasoning is “univocal” instead of “analogical.” But this seems nonsensical; there are many truths that I know, and I have knowledge that can only be characterized as true knowledge, beginning with my knowledge that there is a reality. Objectivists begin with an incontestable truth. The truths that I know are conceptual identifications formed ultimately on the basis of perceptual input and according to an objective process. If that’s “univocal reasoning,” that’s good enough for me, for it conforms to the nature of my mind and its interaction with the world of fact around me, and it enables me to identify those facts in an objective, non-contradictory manner.

On 11 Nov., Michael posted two comments entries summarizing points regarding the biblical view of creatio ex nihilo. While I did read these posts no less than two times, their relevance to our discussion was not entirely clear to me. I’m already aware of the fact that Christianity affirms the notion of creatio ex nihilo. What I did note in reading Michael’s statements on this matter, is that he is apparently an “old-earth creationist” to the extent that he affirms creationism as such. He states, for instance, that “the immanent realm” (i.e., the universe in which we exist) is “approximately 14 billion light-years old, and it’s thought to be more than 150 billion light-years in diameter and expanding at an accelerated rate.” This is not the typical YEC version of Christianity! Michael also seems to believe that the Jews of the OT times were flat-earthers. He writes: “back in the geocentric realm of the ancients, the world was flat, literally supported by pillars anchored in the foundations of the Earth below.” There are passages in the OT which do in fact suggest this. In fact, at a cursory glance at least, Michael seems to be confirming certain details in Robert Schadewald’s The Flat-Earth Bible. At least, it was Schadewald’s paper, which I had read many years ago, that Michael’s own comments brought to my mind. I am not trying to suggest that Michael affirms everything in Schadewald’s paper, but rather simply noting that the statements he included in his comments on my blog resemble certain elements propounded by Schadewald in his controversial thesis. Michael writes:
I have a very good reason for going into the sort of detail that I did with regard to the construct of creatio ex nihilo (anchored in scripture), the fact of the immanent realm’s existence, it's essence and extent, the detailed state of our current knowledge as compared to that of the ancients (the latter anchored in scripture). As we examine the transcendence, I will be drawing from these facts and their implications as I expound the Bible’s metaphysics and epistemology.

I’m gratified that Michael had “a very good reason for going into the sort of detail” that he provided on this matter. But I must admit that his reason(s) for doing so have successfully eluded me, at least to this point in the discussion. I am aware of what the bible teaches. What I’m interested in is how biblical teaching supports his claims that Objectivism and Christianity agree at certain fundamental points. Objectivism rejects the notion that the universe was created.

So it is unclear how Michaels recapitulation of biblical teaching regarding creatio ex nihilo supports his claim that Christianity agrees with Objectivism at any point. So these are the issues on the table before us. There’s a lot here, and I appreciate Michael’s time and willingness to examine these things. There are many issues, an entire mountain range to traverse. Where do we go from here? How do we begin our next steps? I would propose that the best course for continuing the conversation is to start fleshing out some of the Christian categories which Michael introduced earlier in the discussion so that it will be clear to me what exactly he is talking about. I would also hope to see some effort to support his attributions of certain positions to Christianity proper with citations from the bible, what Greg Bahnsen called “the sourcebook and standard of Christianity” (Always Ready, p. 195).

by Dawson Bethrick

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372 Comments:

Blogger Richard said...

Dawson,

What Michael needs to be reminded of is that whoever sins is of the devil. I'm happy you mentioned Luther's feelings about the wisdom of this world.

The thing is objectivism and Christianity are incompatible. Really, what does darkness have to do with light?

It's pretty simple. Ayn Rand was of the devil.


Blessings.

November 16, 2012 9:22 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

And this would appear to be the place to continue. Thank you for the kind words. And, yes, much remains to be addressed.

I'm happy to finally get back to our discussion. I've had my hands full the last few days dealing with my mother's situation, but had a couple of hours to spare today. Sorry for the delay.

First, I’d like you to review my revision of that portion of the article I wrote on Objectivism which we discussed earlier. I happily agree that certain corrections and clarifications were needed. Your suggestions were very helpful. Thank you.

________________________

Rand's notion that consciousness is relationally dependent in the sense that "it cannot be aware only of itself" as "there is no 'itself' until it is aware of something" other than itself necessarily repudiates the notion of divine omniscience. Hence, the consciousness to which Rand refers is finite, and the independent reality that she has in mind is entirely material, for in Rand's scheme of things the asseveration that existence has primacy over consciousness is absolute. Existence subsists on its own terms independently of consciousness. The limits of consciousness or the imperfections/incompleteness of its concepts at any given moment during the process of knowledge assimilation does not impinge upon the reality of the perceptions or that of the objects perceived, or as Rand's intellectual heir Leonard Peikoff puts it:

“The fact that certain characteristics are, at a given time, unknown to man, does not indicate that these characteristics are excluded from the entity—or from the concept.”

Moreover:

A is A; existents are what they are, independent of the state of human knowledge; and a concept means the existents which it integrates. Thus, a concept subsumes and includes all the characteristics of its referents, known and not-yet-known.”

From there, Rand adroitly brings to bear the law of non-contradiction (A is B and A is not B are mutually exclusive) and conclusively establishes that concepts comprehensively encompass all of the pertinent attributes and referents of any given existent as distinguished from those of all other existents. Though some would beg to differ, she thusly annihilates epistemological skepticism and Kantian subjectivism.

(Like Rand, I have no tolerance for the inscrutable, philosophical meanderings of doubt and indecision.)
________________________
Note: in the original, the quoted portions of text are indented, but since that can’t be done here, they are setoff in separate paragraphs as they are in the original, albeit, enclosed in quotation marks.

November 17, 2012 4:46 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

First, I'm going to copy and paste the pertinent portions from the other thread dealing with the immanent realm of being, so that everything's in one place. . . .

METAPHYSICS: THE IMMANENT


The first book of the Pentateuch or Torah (Genesis) begins with the statement that “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. . . .” The term “heaven” in this instance either refers to the cosmos at large or, roughly, to our solar system. In other words, it’s not known beyond dispute whether the biblical narrative begins sometime after the creation of the space-time continuum or at the very moment of its creation.

For further clarification on this, see: http://michaeldavidrawlings1.blogspot.com/2012/10/a-mountain-of-nothin-out-of-somethin-or.html

However, it’s clear from both the Old and New Testaments that Judeo-Christianity holds that the cosmos is contingently finite, i.e., did not always exist, but was at sometime in the distant past created ex nihilo by God, despite the recent “scholarship” of liberal theologians which asserts that the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo was contrived by Second-Century Christians. This scholarship, among other things, merely confounds the early systematic works of Christian theology with the origin of the concept, as it inexplicably disregards the scriptural justifications given by the authors of these early works. More accurately, this scholarship, when it bothers to acknowledge these justifications, alleges that the early Christian theologians misunderstood the nature of these scriptural declarations.

Hmm.

It would seem that a whole lot of misunderstanding was goin’ on then, given the sheer volume of the apparent support for this concept: Isaiah 40:21 (Matthew 13:35; Luke 11:50; John 17:24; Revelations 13:8, 17:8; I Peter 1:20; Ephesians 1:4; Hebrews 4:3, 9:26); Proverbs 8:22-26; Isaiah 44:6, 48:12 and Revelations 1:8; Isaiah 44:24, 45:18, 46:9; Psalm 33:6-9; Romans 11:33-36; I Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16-20; Revelations 4:11; John 1:1-3; Ps 102:25-27 and Heb 1:2-3, 10-12, 11:3; Romans 4:17 and 2 Peter 3:5.

(A few of these references might require further explication, as their relevance to the concept of creatio ex nihilo are extrapolatory; that is, the necessarily obtain given the context and the attributes of divinity according to Judeo-Christianity. Let me know if that's the case.)

November 17, 2012 5:11 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Continued . . .

In Judeo-Christianity the immanent realm of being is the physical cosmos and all that’s contained therein. The substance or the essence of the immanent realm is material, empirical or natural; i.e., it consists of matter and energy, that which is immediately, though not always directly, accessible to the constituents of the various apparatuses of sensory perception that reside within it.

Currently, it appears to adhere to a four-dimensional structure, including three spatial dimensions and the dimension of time. It’s thought to have been a ten-dimensional expanse during the embryonic stage of its development. It’s approximately 14 billion light-years old, and it’s thought to be more than 150 billion light-years in diameter and expanding at an accelerated rate.

What lies beyond its expanse, if anything, is unknown, a mystery really, as the issue appears to involve the relational concept of location—a reference to something else. Where’s the cosmos located or situated in the larger scheme of things? Is that question even meaningful? given that it appears to be a problem that’s infinitely irresolvable. I Don’t know. It seems to be valid in some sense and absurd at the same time. But that’s just me getting weirdly curious and as precise as I know how to be at this stage of human knowledge about the immanent realm of being.

Obviously, beyond the fundamentals of origin and purpose, the ideas regarding our current state of knowledge are not contained in the Bible.

While the Bible does make a number of empirical claims, these are few. Among other things, God created man to govern and tend to the affairs of the Earth and its contents; He leaves the details of scientific investigation and discovery to us.

The ancients had no inkling as to the vastness of the universe in which they lived. Certainly what they could divine boggled their minds even within the constraints of their primitive technology. Their technology, of course, at the time of the writing of the Torah, was little more than the unaided apparatus of sensory perception with regard to astronomical concerns.

Imagine what they would have made of the vacuum of quantum mechanics, particles at the subatomic level randomly jumping in and out of existence. The Big Bang. The exertions of dark matter and dark energy on the perceptible fabric and forces and contents of the cosmos. Empty space, a substance of sorts after all with a force of its own. What the?! We’re scratching our heads. The more we know, the weirder things get. The more we learn, the less we know. Each new answer raises a multitude of new questions.

Meanwhile, back in the geocentric realm of the ancients, the world was flat, literally supported by pillars anchored in "the foundations of the Earth" below. Sheol was a physical place residing at some depth beneath their feet. Below the foundations of the Earth, resided "the waters of the great deep." The heavens were enclosed within a spherical dome, equipped with massive “flood gates” that periodically swung open to let in the rain, that is, the waters of the firmament stored above the heavens in the space between the spherical enclosure of the heavens and a spherical outer shell. These waters were continuously replenished by the waters of the great deep below. The Moon, the stars, the Sun, the solar system, the entire cosmos!—all of these things were thought to reside within the inner enclosure above the Earth, with the entire spherical structure suspended by the hand of God whose Heaven of heavens lay beyond.

See link: http://io9.com/5586362/a-scientific-diagram-of-the-ancient-hebrew-cosmos

Now read Genesis with that description and the picture depicting the ancient Hebrews cosmology in mind and watch it jump out at you, literally just so. This is precisely how they imagined things to be. Though wrong, their cosmology was rather ingenious, really, given the level of their calculi and means of discernment.

November 17, 2012 5:14 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

I suspect the following exchange will be important later. . . .

_____________________

You write: "But you’re right – if Objectivism did make the kinds of constraining contentions that concern *at the level of the axiom ‘existence exists’*, it would constitute a stolen concept – but not because it would 'hold the concept of proof hostage as an irreducible primary'. . . ."

No. It wouldn't, not based on that kind of error, but my contention in this instance isn’t predicated on that.

It's predicated on the idea that perhaps Objectivism proposes to "relegate transcendence, for example, to the realm of floating abstractions and leave it there without any recourse whatsoever; in other words, [perhaps] it . . . assumes that the idea of transcendence (1) cannot be abstracted from any demonstrable base of knowledge proceeded by an integrated, conceptual hierarchy and (2) has no basis in the perceptual level of existence."

If that is the case, I assure you, it would be attempting "to hold the concept of proof hostage as an irreducible primary."

November 17, 2012 5:27 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

This will be important. . . .
__________________________

I have a very good reason for going into the sort of detail that I did about the construct of creatio ex nihilo (anchored in scripture), the fact of the immanent realm’s existence, it's essence and extent, the detailed state of our current knowledge as compared to that of the ancients (the latter anchored in scripture as well). As we examine the transcendent realm of being according to the Bible, I will be drawing from these facts and their implications, particularly when I expound the Bible’s epistemology.

For example, it’s important to understand that for the ancient Hebrews the phrase “before the foundations of the Earth” refers to a time before the cosmos existed, as in their minds the cosmos was built on those very foundations. This idea, among others, is relevant to Judeo-Christianity’s rational-empirical construct of knowledge.

November 17, 2012 5:49 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Metaphysics: The Transcendent

Definitions first . . .

The following is consistent with the biblical view: the immanent is that aspect of existence “being within the limits of . . . [perceptual] experience” and the transcendent is that aspect of existence “extending or lying beyond the limits of ordinary [perceptual] experience” (Merriam Webster Online).

The transcendent realm of being consists of a substance that is not readily apparent to our physical senses. It’s substance is spiritual as opposed to physical. I say “not readily apparent” as aspects of it can be perceived by our physical senses when God allows it, when He “pulls back the veil” that separates the immanent and transcendent realms of being relative to our perspective of things from this side of the divide (Luke 1:26-35, 2:13-14).

The transcendent realm of being is not a juxtaposition, relative to the immanent, but a superimposition, separate in being and substance, independently residing over and above, yet interdimensionally intersecting with the immanent. Within this spiritual medium of being resides various creatures, including seraphim, cherubim, angels and the souls of the departed (Isaiah 6:2; Ezekiel 1:4-8, 10:20-21; Revelation 14:2-3, 19:3-8).

And this transcendent realm of being is essentially God Himself as understood from the ramifications of His omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience. God is spirit. He is present everywhere. Everything is in His immediate presence. Neither any place nor any occurrence is beyond His apprehension. Further, from Him and in Him all things subsist and by Him all things are sustained and held together (Colossians 1:16-20).

As the only uncreated, independently transcendent Being, God’s sovereignty is absolute (Daniel 4:35, Psalm 115:3, Isaiah 46:10).

He is omnipotent, unlimited in creative power and answerable to no authority but that of His own determination (Genesis 17:1, 35:11; Psalm 33:9; Jeremiah 32:27; Job 42:2, Matthew 19:26; Romans 1:20).

As such, not only is God not bound by any other will but that of His own, He is not bound by space or time. He is omnipresent, existing everywhere at once, residing in the eternal now (Jeremiah 23:23-24, Psalm 139:7-12).

Nothing is hidden from the only infinite Mind, and He cannot be fully known by anyone but Himself. He is omniscient.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom” (Isaiah 40:28).

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him is the glory forever” (Romans 11:33-36)!

With regard to His creation, the scriptural meaning of God’s immanence is “to be within” or “near.” God is “within” the cosmos as its preserving or perpetuating cause. He is always and everywhere present in the cosmos, yet distinct from it.

Finally, in contrast, despite the claim of the Gnostics, the cosmos is concrete—real!—not some illusory or ethereal matrix contrived by God in order to “orientate” human consciousness as distinguished from that of His own. And despite the claim of Platonic Idealists, God and the cosmos are not eternally co-existent entities. Also, Deism affirms God’s transcendence, but denies His immanence. Pantheism affirms God’s immanence, but denies His transcendence.

November 17, 2012 5:54 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Previously, you argued that the Bible contradicts itself with regard to the issue of primacy, something or another about the juxtaposition of the infinite Mind and the various finite minds of existence. Further, you suggested that certain acts preformed by celestial beings constitute instances of the finite overriding the unassailable parameters of existence.

But how could these allegations be true, let alone logically sustainable?

By definition a finite, contingently existent creature cannot override the sovereign authority of an infinite, eternally and independently self-subsistent Creator of all things. The only substance that could possibly validate allegations of this sort would necessarily have to be predicated on the content of scripture itself, namely, instances in which God the Creator is depicted to be a contingently existent creature! I defy you to show me these passages in scripture. The very idea is absurd.

But more to the point, you’re conflating the finite mind’s power of will over the substances of existence with the power of primacy over existence itself.

According to the Bible, celestial creatures are emanations of divinity. They do not have the authority or the power to do anything that the sovereign El Shaddai (“God Almighty”) does not allow or command them to do.

Further, we humans have the power of will over the substances of existence too. It does not follow that our power, coupled with our knowledge, to transform crude oil, for example, into gasoline or diesel or various plastics, as combined with yet other substances, constitutes the power of primacy over existence. There’s nothing magical or primary about any this. You’re talking about exertions of power at varying degrees of ability within the parameters of existence, not above or beyond them.

Either that or you’re conflating the issue of primacy with the paradoxes inherent to the problems of evil and free will. But these are not contradictions, but paradoxes that cannot be authoritatively resolved by finite minds in the absence of revelatory knowledge, for the conditions on either side of these central riddles prevail (The Book of Job). I don’t think you raised these problems as such, and there are a number of arguments that have been proffered over the centuries that logically resolve them. But these “solutions” are speculative, not affirmed by the Bible. Unless, you’re curious about them, I would prefer to avoid these distractions.

Saint Paul’s attitude toward the yet to be revealed secrets of the transcendent is sensible: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then [we shall see] face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (I Corinthians 13:12).

November 17, 2012 6:05 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Continued . . .

“I AM who I AM” or I am “the Self-Existent One” (YHWH or as transliterated, Yahweh).

“Moses said to God, 'Look, if I go to the Israelites and say to them, The God of your ancestors has sent me to you, and they say to me, 'What is His name?' what am I to tell them?' God said to Moses, 'I AM He who is. Tell them that I AM who I AM sent you (Exodus 3:13-14).

“In all truth I tell you”, Jesus declared, “before Abraham ever was, I AM” (John 8:58).

God (Divine Consciousness) exists! God—the necessary, transcendently infinite and uncreated Mind—is the ground of all existence and true knowledge (Proverbs 1:7, 22:17-21). Hence, God’s primacy over existence is absolute. So, yes, indeed, according to Judeo-Christianity, ultimately, consciousness does have primacy over existence.

Existence consists of two realms: the spiritual and the physical (the transcendent and the immanent). Existence contains conscious and inanimate entities. Finite consciousnesses do not have primacy over existence (Psalm 36:9, I Samuel 2:2). The latter is simply not possible. Period.

Within the immanent realm, there exist human beings who consist of physical bodies and souls. The substance of the latter is spiritual. The human soul is immortal. Ultimately, human beings are spirits/souls, their bodies, temporary vessels in which their souls inter-dimensionally reside within the larger matrix of existence (Matthew 10:28).

The cosmos is real, yet finite; hence, it’s knowable to finite creatures. In fact, theoretically, if not practically from this side of heaven, the entire cosmos is perceptually/inferentially accessible and comprehensibly knowable to them (Romans 1:18-25). Hence, the forms of perception and the objects of perception considered by the finite minds of existence are reality (Genesis 1:26-27, Romans 3:3-4, I Corinthians 4:7). Judeo-Christianity eschews philosophical skepticism and subjectivism (I Corinthians 1:18-31, 2:1-16, 3:18-21). And while God is knowable to finite creatures, He cannot be comprehensibly known by them (I Corinthians 2:11-12, 16; Romans 11:33).

Truth is existentially objective and absolute, universal and eternal, not relative (Isaiah 1:18, Romans 3:3-4; John 14:6; II Corinthians 10:3-5; Isaiah 5:20, 40:8).

Or if you please, let us observe the absurdity of asserting that there is no absolute truth except the absolute truth that there is no absolute truth, which is inherently false or self-negating. Moreover, two diametrically opposed propositions cannot both be true at the same time, in the same way, within the same frame of reference, or at least it is humanly inconceivable as to how that could be so.

And the long line of orthodoxy? From the earliest theologians, the Apostolic Fathers and Church Fathers of the Second and Third Centuries, those who took over the mantel of leadership from the Apostles of the First Century (Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus of Lyons, Tertullian of Carthage, Hippolytus of Rome, Cyprian of Carthage) to Augustine and Aquinas, from Luther and Calvin to Arminius and Wesley, from Edwards and Whitehead to Finney and Beecher, from Moody to Torrey and Alexander, from Barth, Maritain and Henry to the great Christian apologists of the Twentieth Century—Lewis, Schaeffer and Walls: all of these thinkers would happily agree with my summary of Judeo-Christianity’s metaphysics.

November 17, 2012 6:10 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Conclusion:

So with that we have a fairly comprehensive summary of Judeo-Christianity’s metaphysics, the fundamentals of its ontology and cosmology, along with the immediate epistemological ramifications of the same.

Naturally, this summary mostly relies on revelatory knowledge . . . most especially as far as the transcendent realm is concerned.

Hence, I’ve merely stated what the Bible tells us about reality, not how we get to this revelatory knowledge, i.e., the methodology by which God gets us there relative to the composition of things, including that of our minds.

The latter goes to an exegesis of Judeo-Christianity’s epistemology proper.

Any questions or comments before we go on to that?

November 17, 2012 6:13 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Finally, yes, indeed, the two systems of thought are ultimately incompatible, but insofar as Objectivism is unwittingly informed by the Imago Dei, the existence of which it denies, it's correct.

There is some light in Objectivism . . . obscured by the darkness.

As far as the "Hoofed One," that “Dragon of Old,” is concerned, he was defeated by God eons ago and, in terms of our sense of history, at the Cross as prophesized . . . long before Rand came along.

November 17, 2012 6:30 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Michael,

I hope all is well with your mother’s condition.

You’ve posted quite a few comments and there’s a lot to chew on here. I have scanned most of what you’ve written, but I will not have time right now to examine everything closely. I want to focus first on your summary of Rand’s position regarding the primacy of existence, since I think there are some important points here that you may not have grasped or are overlooking.

You wrote: “Rand's notion that consciousness is relationally dependent in the sense that "it cannot be aware only of itself" as "there is no 'itself' until it is aware of something" other than itself necessarily repudiates the notion of divine omniscience.”

Several points here:

1) Rand’s view is that there is no sense in which consciousness is not dependent on existence. For example, consciousness is dependent on the specific biological structures of the organism which possesses it; it is dependent on its need for an object; it is dependent on the nature of the organism which possesses it in regard to its purpose. Consciousness requires means (biological structures), an object(s) (things which exist independent of itself) and a purpose (survival of the organism possessing it). The purpose of consciousness is to allow an organism to differentiate between pro-life existents and anti-life existents in its environment. In neither respect can consciousness be said to be “independent” if this is intended to mean that it can exist apart from these factors.

“Consciousness is an attribute of perceived entities here on earth. It is a faculty possessed under definite conditions by a certain group of living organisms. It is directly observable (by introspection). It has a specific nature, including specific physical organs, and acts accordingly, i.e., lawfully. It has a life-sustaining function: to perceive the facts of nature and thereby enable the organisms which possess it to act successfully. In all this, there is nothing unnatural or supernatural. There is no basis for the suggestion that consciousness is separable from matter, let alone opposed to it, no hint of immortality, no kinship to any alleged transcendent realm.” (Leonard Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, pp. 33-34)

[continued…]

November 17, 2012 11:01 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

2) The primary reason why consciousness cannot be conscious of itself unless and until it is conscious of something distinct from itself, is that consciousness is essentially a type of action. Just as one cannot watch two people dancing until they are actually dancing, conscious activity cannot have itself as an object until that activity has taken place. There is no such thing as a consciousness that is not active in some way and in regard to some thing. I have discussed this in a previous blog here.

3)The implications of this fundamental truth about the nature of consciousness as such with regard to the view a god created everything that exists distinct from itself is that such a view amounts to affirming a consciousness capable of being conscious only of itself prior to creating anything distinct from itself, which simply collapses into self-contradiction. I have already detailed the arguments for this in my paper on The Problem of Divine Lonesomeness. Attempts to recover Christian theism by pointing to a trinitarian god does not solve this problem. On the contrary, it just multiplies the problem three-fold.

4) The notion of divine omniscience is a fiction. It is an attempt to find a shortcut to knowledge that does not and cannot exist, and thus constitutes an expression of the pursuit of the unearned. Such a notion is a contradiction in terms since it is an attempt to affirm knowledge apart from any means by which the objects to which that knowledge would correspond could be perceived and apart from any process by which said knowledge was discovered and validated. Discovery and validation are simply not a part of the equation. Quite a fantasy. But the notion ultimately derives from a failure to understand the conceptual nature of knowledge coupled with the failure to distinguish between reality and imagination. Have you ever wondered why the bible does not provide a theory of concepts? Its authors simply didn’t know anything about concepts. This is a clue of unfathomable importance.

5) The human mind does enjoy certain freedoms, the most unrestrained being its ability to imagine, which is “nothing more than the ability to rearrange the things he has observed in reality” (“The Metaphysical and the Man-Made,” Philosophy: Who Needs It, p. 25). So even here, imagination is dependent on consciousness already having at least some content. We can and do observe our own consciousness, and we do this by means of introspection – turning consciousness inward on itself. People most commonly perform this task with regard to their emotions – “Why do I feel this way?” (however, not enough people do this to begin with). We can imagine different forms of consciousness, consciousness which are free of the factors which in reality do constrain consciousness (as I mentioned in my first point). For instance, we can imagine a consciousness which holds metaphysical primacy over existence, wishing things into existence, assigning them their identities as it pleases, revising their natures at will, etc. But this is merely imaginary. This is why I had asked in the previous conversation:

1) When I imagine the Christian god (or any other god), how is what I’m imagining not imaginary?

2) What is the alternative to imagining then Christian god when trying to apprehend it?

I can imagine an omniscient being. But what I’m imagining is imaginary. I would have to be dishonest to ignore this fact and pretend it’s real.

[continued…]

November 17, 2012 11:01 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Hence, the consciousness to which Rand refers is finite, and the independent reality that she has in mind is entirely material, for in Rand's scheme of things the asseveration that existence has primacy over consciousness is absolute.”

A couple very important points:

1) For Rand, there is no such thing as an “infinite consciousness.” Such a notion is self-contradictory. To identify something as one thing is to mean it is not something else. This recognition concisely tracks reality: to exist is to be one thing as opposed to something else. A is A; A is not both A and something more than A. This is to say, if something exists, it is finite. Peikoff points out:

“’Infinite’ does not mean large; it means larger than any specific quantity, i.e., of no specific quantity. An infinite quantity would be a quantity without identity. But A is A. Every entity, accordingly, is finite; it is limited in the number of its qualities and in their extent; this applies to the universe as well. As Aristotle was the first to observe, the concept of ‘infinity’ denotes merely a potentiality of indefinite addition or subtraction. For example, one can continually subdivide a line; but however many segments one has reached at a given point, there are only that many and no more. The actual is always finite.” (Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, pp. 31-32).

Since consciousness exists (it is an attribute of certain organisms, as we saw above; it is not an entity in its own right), consciousness is necessarily finite. It must be, if it exists.

2) When Rand speaks of existence having primacy over consciousness, what she’s talking about is the relationship between a consciousness and its objects, whatever those objects may happen to be. Rand does not stipulate that all reality is material; in fact, she does not hold that consciousness is material. She uses the concept ‘existence’ here not only because existence is an irreducible primary, but also to emphasize that metaphysical primacy is not constrained only to one group of objects and not some other, but to all objects, real and potential, i.e., all existence. She would not say that consciousness is “immaterial,” for this does not positively identify anything; it only says what it is not, and Rand resists defining important concepts strictly in terms of negations. Just as existence is an irreducible primary, consciousness is also an irreducible primary; conceptually, we cannot define either in terms of more fundamental concepts, and metaphysically they cannot be broken down into more fundamental constituents. (This does not mean that we cannot subdivide conscious actions, such as perception, conceptualization, emotion, remembering, etc.). Recall that Rand holds that consciousness is not an independent entity, but essentially a type of action performed by a specific category of entities, namely biological organisms. What kind of action is consciousness? The answer is: Its own kind of action. Again, it cannot be reduced to something more fundamental.

The primacy of the object in the subject-object relationship means that the objects of which a subject is conscious exist and are what they are independent of the conscious activity by which the subject is conscious of them. The objects do not conform to the consciousness’ contents; on the contrary, consciousness conforms its content based on the data it can gather about its objects. By contrast, the primacy of consciousness metaphysics affirms the metaphysical primacy of the subject in the subject-object relationship. This view holds that the subject has the metaphysical upper hand over its objects. This includes the view that subject of consciousness creates the objects it is conscious of, that the subject assigns its objects their identities, that the subject can revise their identities at will, that the realm of objects conforms to whatever content the subject of consciousness wills into being.

[continued…]

November 17, 2012 11:02 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Given these points, it should not be difficult to recognize that Rand holds that the primacy of existence obtains even in the case of introspection, i.e., when consciousness turns its focus inward and its own activity becomes its own object. This is most obvious in the case of pleasure and pain. If you feel pain, you cannot simply wish it away; the cause of the pain you experience will not conform to your conscious intentions. Consciousness cannot turn pain into pleasure. But it also holds in the case of other types of conscious experience. When I introspectively explore the process by which I learned how to drive on the left side of the road here in Thailand, the conscious activity by which I introspect this process will not alter it; I can overlook different factors, I can fail to identify certain factors accurately, I can superimpose something I have imagined to fill gaps in my memory, etc., but none of this will alter what actually happened. The action of the original process is complete and is no longer taking place and thus inalterable; the action by which I introspect the original process takes place later, after the original process is set and done. One thing I remember most was having to undo a lot of habits I had engrained in my automatized motor skills as a result of driving for nearly 30 years in the USA.

So it is not the case that “the independent reality that she has in mind is entirely material,” for the primacy of existence obtains even when conscious activity is the object in question. The primacy of existence describes the orientation between a conscious subject and *any* object it might be conscious of.

The closest we can ever come to approximating what the primacy of consciousness would be like, is in our ability to imagine. While we need to have content in our consciousness from reality before we can imagine anything, when we do imagine something, what we imagine directly conforms to our intentions. Whether I am imagining a hot delicious pizza sitting right here on my table or sitting in a dentists chair, the details of what I imagine are details that I deliberately select: the pizza is as big as I choose to imagine it and has as many toppings as I choose to imagine it has, and my projected experience in the dentist’s chair is as pleasurable or uncomfortable as I choose to imagine it. This is why the cartoon universe analogy so elegantly captures the essence of the theistic worldview: a cartoon models a realm in which consciousness does not have to conform to the objects which exist; rather, what “exists” in a cartoon is only that which the consciousness of its creator wants to exist.

[continued…]

November 17, 2012 11:02 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Existence subsists on its own terms independently of consciousness.”

And the foregoing should emphasize that by “existence” here Rand means any object of consciousness which actually exists, including consciousness itself as a secondary object (i.e., consciousness conscious of itself, but not only of itself). In other words, because existence exists independent of consciousness, and because consciousness also exists, consciousness literally exists independent of consciousness. Going back to the three ways in which consciousness is dependent on existence (its means, its need of an object(s), its purpose), we can see that this means that consciousness does not create itself, it cannot revise the means by which it acquires awareness of objects (which means, as my razor points out, if one concedes the truth of the primacy of existence in the case of his own consciousness, then his epistemology must be consistent with its implications), it cannot dispense with its need of objects (so again, the problem of divine lonesomeness), and it cannot revise its own essential purpose (unlike an immortal, indestructible robot, for instance, we cannot alter the fact that we face a fundamental metaphysical alternative, namely life vs. death).

All of these points have only destructive implications for Christianity. They are based in fact, so they have to be accepted as truths. And because their implications for epistemology are rich, they are only the tip of the iceberg. As you had indicated that you think there would need to be “a lot more” to Objectivism’s critique of theism, there is a lot. But just so you don’t get the wrong impression: Objectivism would not accept any claim that it has an “obligation” to refute Christianity or any other form of mysticism. Objectivism can stand by and simply point out that mysticism chokes itself in fallacies and self-contradictions, as any attempt to build a philosophy on arbitrary premises will naturally do all by itself, without outside help.

That will have to do for now.

Regards,
Dawson

November 17, 2012 11:02 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

I write: "Rand's notion that consciousness is relationally dependent in the sense that 'it cannot be aware only of itself' as 'there is no 'itself' until it is aware of something' other than itself necessarily repudiates the notion of divine omniscience.”

In response, you make several points.

Yes. I agree that points one through five are what Objectivism asserts. I grasp these things; that's my understanding as well. No problem there. However, there is a problem with the word “necessarily” in the above as it anticipates the conclusion of Rand’s argument in lieu of its constituents. I know what Rand has in mind; from her premise, I know what necessarily follows. But the reader doesn’t necessarily know that, and I end up confounding the matter, not only for the reader, but for me as well, as I inadvertently express an argument with which I resoundingly disagree LOL!

You did not raise this issue directly. I just now recognized the problem. I’m sure you’ll agree that one is most especially prone to express unintended ideas during the early throes of wrapping one’s head around a system of thought that is relatively new to one, whether one is passively expounding it or actively refuting it. Oh, I have a pretty solid understanding of Objectivism’s fundamentals and, therefore, their subsequent implications, but I don’t have that more comprehensive, instinctual familiarity that comes with greater experience.

This is better:

“The ramifications of Rand's notion that consciousness is relationally dependent in the sense that ‘it cannot be aware only of itself’ as ‘there is no 'itself' until it is aware of something’ other than itself (Allan Gotthelf, On Ayn Rand) allegedly overthrow the notion of an eternally existent, self-contained consciousness, for example, the Judeo-Christian concept of God as an eternal spirit of pure consciousness Who precedes the existence of all other entities.”

I'll address the law of identity's inherent dichotomy of self-other later.

November 18, 2012 4:31 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

By the way, your notions about the socioeconomics of Judeo-Christianity, relative to the "sacrificial" essence of Christian love, and the historical outcomes of Judeo-Christianity’s influence on Europe are all wrong.

While the idea of laissez-faire economics as such was first propounded by Frenchmen, the more general notion of sociopolitical laissez-faire was rightly extrapolated by the Father of classical liberalism John Locke from Judeo-Christianity’s moral system of thought several decades before.

Also, Augustine's conception of private property emphasized stewardship over that which ultimately belongs to God and eschewed the notion of the State as the final arbiter of rightful ownership. Rightly understanding Augustine, in my opinion, requires a great deal more nuance than that typically exhibited by most Catholics. In other words, Augustine’s notion does not commend the idea of state-enforced redistribution of property, rather, the loving and responsible use of private property in accordance to the good pleasure of the will healed by God’s grace.

Calvin's view is even more perfect, as it emphasis both the responsibility to wisely invest and increase wealth and the responsibility to share it with the needy according to one's ability.

But this pertains to voluntary action, not compulsory action arbitrarily required by the state.

Locke's view rightly defends the natural right of private property as it emphasis the ever-present threat of government abuse, admirably supported by scripture.

The fact that Protestants and Catholics have historically asserted a dramatically different view of the role of government should have alerted you to the possibility that you’re assessment of things is based on a store of knowledge that is short a few loads of grain. And the fact that the more scripturally orthodox Jews and Christians in America are among the most vehement opponents of collectivist rhetoric and policies should have set off alarms in your head. Reformed Lutherans, Presbyterians and Catholics, unlike their more liberal brethren, do not vote Democrat in any significant numbers either. Just the same, today’s Roman Catholic Church vehemently opposes Marxism.

Rand didn’t know what she was talking about. Perhaps she failed to appreciate the fact that the more secular the people of America became as a whole, the less they held to the principles of their nation’s founding. But then Rand was a Russian émigré. Perhaps her impressions of American history were not as deeply rooted as those of many natural-born citizens.

We Christians of biblical faith are the original classical liberals of this world, and as things get worse, as they close on the coming calamity, believers will come to see the truth of this with ever-increasing clarity. You have been deceived. Statism is the original, most ancient form of idolatry, an abomination to God and His children.

But beyond this post, I’m not going to argue that here all over again. You’ll have to visit my blog and read the numerous articles I’ve written on that topic, beginning with the article on Objectivism.

Prufrock’s Lair: http://michaeldavidrawlings1.blogspot.com/

November 18, 2012 6:11 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

That's all I have time for now, as I only had a couple of openings here and there. Tomorrow and the rest of the week I'll have a bit more free time on my hands.

November 18, 2012 6:15 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Michael,

"rand didn't know what she was talking about"

"you have been deceived"

Great lines. You're right.

Satan has blinded the minds of those who reject Christ. See the book of Corinthians.

Ayn Rand was an anti-Christ. A beloved daughter of Satan.

Blessings.



November 18, 2012 7:55 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Michael,

You ask a really good question in your post on Rand:

"For if the senses provide the material of all knowledge, by what means does cognition provide the understanding of this material?"

I wonder how Dawson and his followers would answer this?

How did the objectivist know that he could know?

November 18, 2012 10:18 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Michael,

I took a few moments and reviewed some more of what you have written above, and I made some notes on specific points you made.

You wrote: “The following is consistent with the biblical view: the immanent is that aspect of existence ‘being within the limits of . . . [perceptual] experience’ and the transcendent is that aspect of existence ‘extending or lying beyond the limits of ordinary [perceptual] experience’ (Merriam Webster Online).”

A few points:

1) I notice that you have specified “perceptual” in brackets in both definitions. I take it that this distinction - perceptual experience as opposed to other kinds of experience (e.g., emotions, memory, imagination, etc.) – is important to differentiating between the two categories into which Christianity dichotomizes existence. For instance, I cannot perceive my memories with my senses. Would this make them “transcendent”? Certainly my memories exist, but since they are not accessible to my perceptual faculties (I can’t see, hear, taste, touch or smell them), it seems that they could not be part of “the immanent” realm as described here. Is that correct? Or have I misunderstood something?

2) I can imagine many things “extending or lying beyond the limits of ordinary [perceptual] experience.” Would what I imagine therefore be part of the “transcendent” realm, since what I imagine cannot be perceived, either by me or by anyone else?

I ask this in part because one apologist has implied that imaginary things are examples of “the immaterial” realm. For example, this apologist once wrote:

<< When something “exists” it is. Note that this does not mean that we are dealing with physical or material existence. Indeed, immaterial existence also exists. (For evidence of this, imagine a red ball. The red ball you have imagined does not have any physical existence; it exists immaterially. Granted, one can argue that the immaterial existence is based on a material brain, but the ball that is imagined is not material. It does not exist physically anywhere.) >>

(Details can be found here. Incidentally, the apologist who wrote this has since taken down the essay where he made this statement.)

It seems that he’s saying something “exists immaterially” when it is actually imaginary. I have to say, this is quite an admission coming from a Christian apologist. It’s a virtual smoking gun. Was he simply being sloppy and careless? If so, how would you correct him in the point he’s trying to make?

[continued…]

November 19, 2012 4:13 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

3) As you develop your notion of “the transcendent” realm (assuming you have more to say about it; hopefully when you get to epistemology you will), I will be looking for several things:

a) Do you have direct awareness of the realm you call “the transcendent” realm?

b) If yes to a), can you identify the means by which you have this direct awareness? Can you distinguish the means by which you say you have such awareness from your own imagination? If so, how? How can I reliably distinguish between the means by which you allegedly have direct awareness of a “transcendent” realm and your imagination?

c) If you do not have direct awareness of this realm, are you relying on inference, or on something else? The “something else” here could include simply believing something you’ve read in a source that you consider authoritative (for whatever reason). If it’s this latter, please confess as much. If it is something that you have inferred, I will be looking for you to spell out the details of this inference, including your starting point, the means by which you have awareness of your starting point, the means by which you identify your starting point, the elements involved in the inference, and the means by which you identify what you call “the transcendent” given the definitions you have provided above.

d) Also, I will be looking to see if every point in your development of this knowledge chain is consistent with the primacy of existence, which you have already affirmed as applying to human consciousness (I assume you are human and, therefore, that the primacy of existence is a principle which must apply epistemologically to everything you affirm).

[continued…]

November 19, 2012 4:13 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You stated: “God (Divine Consciousness) exists! God—the necessary, transcendently infinite and uncreated Mind—is the ground of all existence and true knowledge (Proverbs 1:7, 22:17-21). Hence, God’s primacy over existence is absolute. So, yes, indeed, according to Judeo-Christianity, ultimately, consciousness does have primacy over existence.”

It is good that you acknowledge Christianity’s basis in the primacy of consciousness. It is not merely its “ultimate” foundation, but indeed it’s fundamental starting point. As Peikoff points out in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand ( p. 21):

<< Witness the popular question “Who created the universe?” – which presupposes that the universe is not eternal, but has a source beyond itself, in some cosmic personality or will. It is useless to object that this question involves an infinite regress, even though it does (if a creator is required to explain existence, then a second creator is required to explain the first, and so on). Typically, the believer will reply: “One can’t ask for an explanation of God. He is an inherently necessary being. After all, one must start somewhere.” Such a person does not contest the need of an irreducible starting point, as long as it is a form of consciousness; what he finds unsatisfactory is the idea of existence as the starting point. Driven by the primacy of consciousness, a person of this mentality refuses to begin with the world, which we know to exist; he insists on jumping beyond the world to the unknowable, even though such a procedure explains nothing. >>

So take note, Michael: Here you concede Objectivism’s position that Christianity is fundamentally premised on the primacy of consciousness. Also, you have earlier conceded Objectivism’s position that the primacy of existence obtains at least in the case of human consciousness.

Are you aware of the extent of the damage either of these concessions have with respect for Christianity? Are you aware of the extent of the damage their conjunction means for Christianity? Really, you’ve given away the farm as well as the family fortune, my friend.

[continued…]

November 19, 2012 4:14 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Previously, you argued that the Bible contradicts itself with regard to the issue of primacy, something or another about the juxtaposition of the infinite Mind and the various finite minds of existence. Further, you suggested that certain acts preformed by celestial beings constitute instances of the finite overriding the unassailable parameters of existence.”

The bible in fact does contradict itself with regard to metaphysical primacy, as does any claim which affirms a reality which reduces the primacy of consciousness as something which really exists. The most obvious one (for those who fully grasp the distinction between the primacy of existence and the primacy of consciousness anyway), is found in the claim “God exists.”

On the one hand, this claim attempts performatively to make use of the primacy of existence (as does any existence claim, whether true, false or arbitrary) in that it affirms that some state of affairs obtains independent of the speaker’s consciousness (since he’s presumably not saying “God exists because I *wish* that he does). So performatively such a claim affirms the truth of the primacy of existence.

On the other hand, in the content of this claim we have the explicit affirmation of the primacy of consciousness. The content of this claim is saying that there exists a consciousness which has metaphysical primacy over all of its objects (which means the *subject* of consciousness has primacy over all its objects, i.e., metaphysical subjectivism).

The claim “God exists,” then, makes use of the primacy of existence in order to affirm that the primacy of consciousness is true. But truth is only meaningful on the basis of the primacy of existence. The claimant implicitly knows this, but he has not conceptualized this explicitly; he has not considered the nature of the relationship between the subject of consciousness and its objects.

You asked: “But how could these allegations be true, let alone logically sustainable?”

If by “these allegations” you mean my charge of internal contradiction, they can be true if in fact they correspond to what’s happening in, for example, the claim that “God exists,” as I have explained here. And it is logically sustainable if in fact the elements which inform this critique are involved in the context of such a claim. I do not assume that theists are logically consistent in their views, Michael. It is very possible for theists to say one thing and assume something which is in conflict with what they verbally affirm. If their worldview does not teach them explicitly about the proper relationship between consciousness and its objects, the presence of such conflicts should not be a surprise. Ignoring the relationship between consciousness and its objects only invites carelessness where this issue is a factor. And what issue, in philosophy, in thought, in science, in wisdom, is this relationship not a factor?

Do you see, Michael, that the concerns which Objectivism raises, are in fact not forms of “darkness” or “satanic” or in some way evil in nature? Why should one ignore the proper relationship between consciousness and its objects at any point in his worldview???

[continued…]

November 19, 2012 4:14 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “By definition a finite, contingently existent creature cannot override the sovereign authority of an infinite, eternally and independently self-subsistent Creator of all things.”

If I were a Christian, I would surely be hesitant to say that such a state of affairs obtains “by definition,” but rather that it would obtain as a result of divine edict. The Christian god is not beholden to definitions, is it? And if I believed in such a thing as a “transcendent” consciousness which was “infinite” and had “sovereign authority” over everything it has created, I couldn’t think of any independently existing reason constraining such a consciousness from relinquishing its “divine sovereignty” to another being, even if that other being is something that the consciousness is said to have created.

There are two points to my objection here, Michael. One is that I would suppose that people who *truly* believe in what you claim to believe would be reluctant to shackle your god to definitions, as if they held some kind of constraining power over it. The other is that when we build a worldview on something we are merely imagining, we are free to imagine it any way we choose, just as the alternative to your “by definition” scenario which I propose suggests.

You wrote: “The only substance that could possibly validate allegations of this sort would necessarily have to be predicated on the content of scripture itself, namely, instances in which God the Creator is depicted to be a contingently existent creature! I defy you to show me these passages in scripture. The very idea is absurd.”

The only real “substance” either of us have to go on here, is what we can *imagine* based on the various inputs that we have gathered from the world into which we were born and in which we live. If I can imagine a “transcendent” realm, I can also imagine a “super-transcendent” realm in which the inhabitants of the “transcendent realm” which you defend are actually creations of some “super-transcendent” consciousness existing beyond the “transcendent” realm. One implication of this equally plausible projection (it’s “equally plausible” since it grants the same primacy to imagination which notion of “the transcendent” requires) is that the being you call “God” in the “transcendent” realm is a renegade from the “super-transcendent” realm, and is actually deceiving its followers. If it is a deceiver, its claims cannot be trusted. And if we grant the notion of the “transcendent” realm legitimacy, I see no reason why we would be rationally prohibited from granting the notion of a “super-transcendent” realm even greater legitimacy (since hierarchically it would have to come prior to the “transcendent” realm), since rationality has already been abandoned by positing the notion of a “transcendent” realm to begin with. Once we are on the turf of fantasy, whatever one fantasizes rules the moment, for fantasy takes over as a proxy for existence. It is stubbornly unclear how those who rely on “divine revelation” can dispel the possibility that they have been deceived by an imposter. I realize that Christians don’t want to believe that they’ve been deceived. But given the fundamental premises which their worldview requires one to accept, there’s no escape from this potential (an issue which I discuss here).

If there are supernatural beings and you’re believing what you think they’ve told you, how can you be sure that you haven’t been deceived? This question is especially pertinent if any “knowledge” you accept is “revelatory” in nature. In fact, even if Christianity is true, how can you know that you’ve understood its teachings correctly? How can you know that some rogue or rebellious “spirit” which has abilities that surpass your own, has not infiltrated your mind and distorted your interpretation of what you read in “the good book”?

[continued…]

November 19, 2012 4:14 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “But more to the point, you’re conflating the finite mind’s power of will over the substances of existence with the power of primacy over existence itself.”

This accusation needs to be clarified before I can understand it. I don’t know what you mean by “the finite mind’s power of will over the substances of existence. Also, what specifically do you mean by “the power of primacy over existence”? What are the referents of these categories? Are they things in the real world which Objectivism recognizes? Or, are they things in the cartoon universe of Christianity?

You wrote: “According to the Bible, celestial creatures are emanations of divinity. They do not have the authority or the power to do anything that the sovereign El Shaddai (“God Almighty”) does not allow or command them to do.”

It would not follow from this, especially on Christianity’s own premises, that such “celestial creatures” could not at one time or another enjoy subjective primacy over existence. It just says that, if the “God Almighty” allows such celestial beings to enjoy subjective primacy over existence, nothing lower on the hierarchy of existences that your worldview proposes could stop them from enjoying it. Everything here hinges on what “God Almighty… allow[s] or command[s] them to do,” and what believer is privy to such information? How would any believer be privy to such information? Christians typically admit that their god chooses to “reveal” some things and thereby imply that their god withholds information about other things. And if the human mind (such as yours, Michael) is beholden to “revelation” to know any of these things, then it is beholden to whatever consciousness which divulges these things has *chosen* to divulge about them. So a mind dependent on “revelation” is dependent on whatever content the revealer *chooses* to “reveal” to it. I certainly cannot trust a Barack Obama to “reveal” truth to me, and Barack Obama is someone I can perceive and know to be real. How much less could I trust a mind which I cannot perceive and know to be real to “reveal” to me trustworthy content?

[continued…]

November 19, 2012 4:15 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Further, we humans have the power of will over the substances of existence too.”

Actually, we don’t. The substances of existence do not obey our wills. I can will that my house is positioned over the mother lode of oil wells. But willing this will not make it so. And even if perchance my house is located on top of an oil reserve of any size, my mere willing will not bring the oil to the surface, nor will my willing contain it, transport it, process it, refine it, distribute it to the market, or guarantee a profit. We only have direct will over our certain actions of our bodies, and even here we are constrained by factors which we cannot overcome. Rand was fond of quoting Bacon’s famous dictum: “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.” Nature will not conform to our will, it will not obey our commands.

If we want to accomplish anything in the world in which we live, we need to discover the identity of the things which are involved in our experience, and *act* in accordance with what we discover, per the norms of reason, which are the epistemological norms by which we are rationally constrained. So there is some truth to your subsequent point that:

“ It does not follow that our power, coupled with our knowledge, to transform crude oil, for example, into gasoline or diesel or various plastics, as combined with yet other substances, constitutes the power of primacy over existence. There’s nothing magical or primary about any this.”

You wrote: “Either that or you’re conflating the issue of primacy with the paradoxes inherent to the problems of evil and free will.”

I don’t think I’m “conflating the issue of [metaphysical] primacy with the paradoxes inherent to the problems of evil and free will.” Neither of these issues are problems for the Objectivist. In regard to the problem of evil, Objectivism does not affirm that the universe was created by an “all-good” or “perfect” creator, in which case the existence of evil or imperfection needs to be explained. In the case of free will, since Objectivism recognizes volition as a type of causation, there’s no contradiction between man’s volitional consciousness and the law of identity. So there’s no conflation here, not on my part anyway.

[continued…]

November 19, 2012 4:15 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You also wrote: “Truth is existentially objective and absolute, universal and eternal, not relative (Isaiah 1:18, Romans 3:3-4; John 14:6; II Corinthians 10:3-5; Isaiah 5:20, 40:8).”

Two very brief but fundamental points:

1) Objectivity is the primacy of existence applied to epistemology. It is instanced when one’s epistemology adheres to the principle of the primacy of existence. The metaphysical antithesis of truth is the primacy of consciousness metaphysics. On the primacy of consciousness, there could be no such thing as truth, even the claim “there is no such thing as truth.” Pure, utter chaos is the only thing that would obtain. For consciousness, this would be an unrelieved nightmare. As Thorn points out, jealous god which is both angry and unchanging would be an eternally miserable god (see here)

2) If one concedes that Christianity ultimately reduces to the primacy of consciousness, as you have done yourself, Michael (see above), then you concede that objectivity is not on the side of Christianity. Objectivity is the primacy of the object in the subject-object relationship. By contrast, subjectivism is the result of a worldview premised on the primacy of consciousness. Primacy of consciousness means the primacy of the *subject* in the subject-object relationship. Hence “subjectivism.” So if truth is objective, then Christianity has no part in it; Christianity is fundamentally antithetical to truth.

I’m glad these aren’t my problems!

That will have to be enough for this evening.

Regards,
Dawson

November 19, 2012 4:15 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

One last one before I retire for the evening...


Nide (“Richard”) posted a question which he said came from your (Michael’s) blog:

"For if the senses provide the material of all knowledge, by what means does cognition provide the understanding of this material?"

I have not read the original article from which this question was quoted, and given Michael’s affirmations that he is familiar with Objectivism, I can only guess that it is rhetorical. But in case it is a question posed in earnest, I will give a succinct answer:

The means by which cognition *ascertains* (this seems to be more accurate than “provides”) understanding of the material provided by the senses, is identification and integration by means of concepts. This process is spelled out in Rand’s book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, which I would say requires multiple readings over a period of time for its contents to eventually sink in fully.

I would think, however, that Michael would have anticipated this answer, if he is indeed familiar with Rand’s epistemology.

It just brings me back to the point that I had raised earlier: the bible does not provide a theory of concepts. In fact, its authors demonstrate no understanding of the nature of concepts, the process by which they are formed, the relationship between a concept and its referents, the proper method of forming objective definitions of concepts, etc., etc. We learn nothing about the nature of concepts or the process by which the human mind forms them from the bible. So I can understand why Christians would not know the answer to the question Michael has (purportedly) posed.

Regards,
Dawson

November 19, 2012 4:22 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Dawson,

I'll put it the question in the way I understand it. I honesty don't think you have answered it. It's a question about a priori knowledge.

if knowledge begins with perception, how do you account for the ability to make sense of perception? How does one know that he can integrate and indentify?

November 19, 2012 4:42 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Nide wrote: “I'll put it the question in the way I understand it. I honesty don't think you have answered it.”

I have. You just don’t understand why my response does in fact answer the question, albeit briefly. You don’t understand it because you do not understand the nature of concepts or their bearing on the topic.

Nide: “It's a question about a priori knowledge.”

There is no such thing as “a priori knowledge,” Nide. If you think there is, go ahead and try to prove the validity of such a notion.

You asked: “if knowledge begins with perception, how do you account for the ability to make sense of perception?”

One can “make sense of perception” only after there is something to “make sense” of – i.e., only after he’s done some perceiving. This fact only plays in the objective theory of concepts.

You asked: “How does one know that he can integrate and indentify?”

He can only know this *after* he’s done some identifying and integrating in the first place (cf. my analogy regarding observing dancers dancing above). And he can only know this by introspectively identifying and integrating his mind’s actions of identifying and integrating. The “how” of cognition cannot take place without the “what” of cognition, and our knowledge of how our cognition functions cannot be “prior” to our knowing of anything else. We have to know things about the world before we can know things about how we know about the world. Keep in mind that consciousness is not diaphanous. It has identity.

Regards,
Dawson

November 19, 2012 4:56 AM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Richard,

I don't necessarily mean that Dawson has been deceived in the spiritual sense, but in the academic sense. His assessment of history with regard to Judeo-Christianity's sociopolitical and economic theory is wrong. His view is based on superficialities, an old canard that assumes that the statist Medieval Church is representative of Christianity proper. We biblical Christians, on the other hand, know that this statist Church was an abomination that suppressed the development of biblical economic and sociopolitical theory in the West and that the Reformation, followed by the Enlightenment, constitute “the second breakout of Christianity” in the West. We know that America came to most perfectly reflect Christianity’s sociopolitical and economic principles.

We also note that once again statism is on the rise, even here in America.

Who is driving this collectivist claptrap in America?

Biblically orthodox Christians?

Of course not!

The culprits are mostly secular progressives. Some of them are so-called Christians, leftists, imagining that the Bible commends some form of Marxism. They are absurd and insane. They are outside their minds, way out!

I’ve got to go . . . my mother again.

I will be back in an hour or two.

November 19, 2012 8:14 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

BB said: "it because you do not understand the nature of concepts or their bearing on the topic."

I don't have to.

BB said: "

"There is no such thing as “a priori knowledge,” Nide. If you think there is, go ahead and try to prove the validity of such a notion."


I don't have to. It's self-evident. For example, time, space, reason etc. are all built in.

"One can “make sense of perception” only after there is something to “make sense” of – i.e., only after he’s done some perceiving. This fact only plays in the objective theory of concepts."

The burden is on you. You have any evidence that we begin with a clean slate?

"I have to know things about the world before we can know things about how we know about the world. Keep in mind that consciousness is not diaphanous. It has identity."

No, you don't. It's already built in, for example, see the bible. And for a secualr source see Kant's book on reason.

But let me give a fuller qoute from Michael:

"While Rand's rejection of the rationalist-empiricist dichotomy as a false alternative is commonsensical, things get a bit confusing when she simultaneously argues that a priori knowledge is impossible.19 For if the senses provide the material of all knowledge, by what means does cognition provide the understanding of this material? It's one thing to argue that the actualities of existence are what they are regardless of what one might think about them. It's another thing to argue that these actualities may be assimilated by consciousness without a preexistent structure of rational knowledge. It's clear that due to the commonality of cerebral physiology a number of human perceptions and behaviors are universal. The innate faculties of conceptual and mathematical logic, and language formation constitute the preexistent structure of knowledge. In other words, a number of a priori concepts are necessarily justified: the principle of identity, the principle of non-contradiction, the principle of excluded middle, the principle of causality, the concepts of quality and quantity, and so on. . . .
And while the object of perception and the form in which it is perceived are reality, albeit, relative to the open-ended, deductive-inductive process of concept-formation, it does not follow, as Rand contends, that the analytic-synthetic distinction is an irredeemably false dichotomy simply because the Kantian exegesis of it succumbs to subjectivism relative to the temporal realm of being.20 For the innate apprehension of this distinction is the impetus of concept-refinement; it's our awareness of it that compels us to develop an increasingly more perfect understanding of existence beyond the temporal realm of being. Nevertheless, insofar as it's unwittingly informed by the imago dei of human consciousness, there is much to recommend in Rand's philosophy."

http://michaeldavidrawlings1.blogspot.com/2012/10/objectivism-uninspired-religion-of.html#more


Blessings.

November 19, 2012 9:03 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Michael said: "I don't necessarily mean that Dawson has been deceived in the spiritual"

Michael do you believe the bible?

"His assessment of history with regard to Judeo-Christianity's sociopolitical and economic theory is wrong. His view is based on superficialities, an old canard that assumes that the statist Medieval Church is representative of Christianity proper."


Yea, it's a big problem among the atheist.

"The culprits are mostly secular progressives. Some of them are so-called Christians, leftists, imagining that the Bible commends some form of Marxism. They are absurd and insane. They are outside their minds, way out!"


I agree. The real problem is their disdain for the bible. It's clear that the bible condemns laziness while also commanding all men to work and provide for their families.

It's interesting that atheists ignore of all this.





1 John 2 "22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father."


Mike let's not rely on our own understanding.


Blessings.

November 19, 2012 9:23 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Michael,

You wrote: "His assessment of history with regard to Judeo-Christianity's sociopolitical and economic theory is wrong. His view is based on superficialities, an old canard that assumes that the statist Medieval Church is representative of Christianity proper."

This is quite a charge, one quite premature given that you have not had the benefit of knowing my full position on this matter. I have not stated that “the statist Medieval Church is *representative* of Christianity proper.” My broader point is that Christianity is a statism-enabling philosophy. A mountain of evidence, both historical and philosophical in nature, can be brought in to support this.

Millions of Christians can and do go along with statist regimes, actively supporting and encouraging them even as they progress from a relatively free society to a society which systematically deprives them of their individual rights. Where does the bible urge believers to oppose such trends? Christians are supposed to present their bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1), they are supposed to be “subject unto the higher powers,” for “the powers that be are ordained of God,” that “whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation,” and the “reasoning” or this is that “rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil” (Rom. 13:1-3). Obedience to authority is the prime directive for the life of the believer. He is not to question authority. Their sacred writings never question the notion of a king as their ruler, and they nowhere spell out a doctrine of individual rights. Believers are to count themselves as depraved and unworthy, and not to expect happiness in this life. They are explicitly taught to find joy in suffering, deprivation, sacrifice, and the Roman church turns model believers who exemplify these vices into “saints.”

[continued…]

November 19, 2012 2:56 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Christians who have had the benefit of living in the West are historically peculiar. They have benefited from the relatively more rational worldview of the Age of Reason and its political ramifications. So they are in a better situation to be informed about these things in terms of principle. For Christians living in other societies and throughout history prior to the Age of Reason and the rise of America’s individualistic heritage, there was no rational model, there was no set of rational principles, there was no rational spirit comparable to what Christians in the West have enjoyed and have taken for granted. They surely were not going to learn about individual rights from the bible. The bible was used to keep masses of humanity suppressed by countless rulers in pre-Enlightenment civilizations, precisely because it could be used in such a manner. This is history, and human history has philosophical causes. Even the republican form of government, based on a constitution explicitly specifying key political freedoms of a society’s members and limiting the role and scope of government in social life, is wholly antithetical to the monarchical system we see modeled and encouraged in biblical texts. Even in our courts, there is the important principle of the presumption of innocence. By contrast, the bible presumes everyone is guilty, both in spirit and in deed. The two are simply not philosophically compatible.

And do not forget that America’s productive success is a result of selfishness, not self-sacrifice. There’s no disputing the fact that Christianity condemns selfishness. Selfishness is the root of sin, the door to the devil, the ultimate alienation from its jealous god. If societies operated on the sacrificial ethics of the bible, they would be like what we have in places like Sudan or Ethiopia, utter stagnation, people would live bleak, empty, boring lives, prohibited from pursuing their self-interest, prohibited from questioning authority, essentially prohibited from enjoying life. Christianity, far from discouraging any of this, actively promotes and encourages the anti-selfishness which statist regimes need in the cultures of the societies they seek to take over.

[continued…]

November 19, 2012 2:58 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “We also note that once again statism is on the rise, even here in America.”

Yes, but this is not something that just started recently. This has been happening incrementally for over a century now. Many Objectivist authors have documented the factors involved in this rise of statist tyranny in America for some time now. Rand herself predicted much of what we are seeing in her novels and her non-fiction writings. Have you ever read her book The New Left? Leonard Peikoff’s exploration of the rise of Nazism in Germany, The Ominous Parallels, pieces together the philosophical causality that gave momentum to the Hitler movement and a very religious society complicit in its atrocities. In surveying the various factors which propelled the rise of Nazism, Peikoff reminds us (p. 20):

<< Religious writers often claim that the cause of Nazism is the secularism or the scientific spirit of the modern world. This evades the facts that the Germans at the time, especially in Prussia, were one of the most religious peoples in Western Europe; that the Weimar Republic was a hotbed of mystic cults, of which Nazism was one; and that Germany’s largest and most devout religious group, the Lutherans counted themselves among Hitler’s staunchest followers. >>

Russia was “Christianized” by royal edict under Prince Vladimir I in or around 988 AD. It was the dominating religion of Russia for centuries. It went communist in 1918. Christianity prepared the soil of Russian culture for the self-sacrifice that the communists would expect in full from its society. And Christianity did a very good job of this.

There are many more examples that can be cited. But the lesson that needs to be learned here is the same in each: mysticism is always the reliable handmaiden of statism, both in its philosophical validation and in its cultural rise.

You asked: “Who is driving this collectivist claptrap in America? Biblically orthodox Christians? Of course not!”

Well, it certainly isn’t the Objectivists, Michael! Christians are always telling me that America is a Christian nation, that the vast majority of America’s citizens are Christian believers, that its principles are Christian (though they cannot support this claim by connecting them to “Scripture”), and that atheists are a tiny, insignificant minority, that Objectivists are kooks, that “Ayn Rand was of the devil,” etc. Objectivists were not the ones out there voting Obama in for a second term. I can guarantee you that! Where did Obama get all his votes? Not from the massive Christian majority in the USA???

History is repeating itself. Christians in America need to take ownership of what their worldview will lead to when it is taken seriously and practiced consistently. But they won’t. They will shirk this responsibility and do it all over again if they get a chance. History documents precisely this, and it’s happening again right now in the USA. Frankly, I’m glad I’m not living there now.

Regards,
Dawson

November 19, 2012 2:58 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

In response to my statement “the consciousness to which Rand refers is finite, and the independent reality that she has in mind is entirely material, for in Rand's scheme of things the asseveration that existence has primacy over consciousness is absolute”, you write: "For Rand, there is no such thing as an ‘infinite consciousness.’ Such a notion is self-contradictory."

This statement is prefatory, and what follows merits our immediate attention, requires a more definitive understanding of things.

(I replaced “entirely material” with “physical”, as the latter unmistakably encompasses the meaning I’m after. The term “material” means the same thing, but sans additional context, that is, standing alone, entails connotations that might mislead the reader. Nevertheless, its meaning as intended in this instance anticipates or “covers” your analogies regarding the substance of the cognitive activities of imagination and introspection.)

1. If all of reality is physical, all instances of consciousness would necessarily be finite; existence, which, again, is physical, would necessarily have primacy over consciousness absolutely. My expression of the Objectivist’s conception of things is axiomatic.

2. My understanding is that Objectivism holds that consciousness is the sum of physiological structures and biochemical reactions. Yes? Whether or not this satisfactorily explains the essence of qualia, for example, does this not amount to a materialistic view of consciousness?

According to Objectivism, consciousness is not a dualistic interaction between the central nervous system (corporeal) and the soul (spiritual) as it is in Christianity, right?

With respect to my intent from the beginning and for our purposes here, let the Objectivist construct of consciousness subsume the cognitive activities of imagination—whether they occur in real time or not, whether they be introspective or not. I believe we’re on the same page here.

You write: “When I introspectively explore the process by which I learned how to drive on the left side of the road here in Thailand, the conscious activity by which I introspect this process will not alter it. . . .

Indeed!

You continue: “So it is not the case that “the independent reality that she has in mind is entirely material,” for the primacy of existence obtains even when conscious activity is the object in question. The primacy of existence describes the orientation between a conscious subject and *any* object it might be conscious of.”

I Agree. But I’m talking about the ultimate substance of consciousness itself, which subsumes all cognitive activities, again, whether they occur in real time or not, whether they be introspective or not.

According to Objectivism, what precisely is the substance of consciousness, this sum of structures and processes, if not inevitably material/physical?

Understand, I’m not intimating that this “sum of things” evinces an immaterial soul in the biblical sense; I’m just wondering if Objectivism offers any definitively empirical answer beyond the philosophical.

But, it would seem, that the following answers that question, a question, no doubt, anticipated by you, as you write:

“Recall that Rand holds that consciousness is not an independent entity, but essentially a type of action performed by a specific category of entities, namely biological organisms. What kind of action is consciousness? The answer is: Its own kind of action. Again, it cannot be reduced to something more fundamental.”

Indeed. This is “the law of identity applied to action” (Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 1037). I grasp this.

November 19, 2012 4:56 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

3. You go on to say: “To identify something as one thing is to mean it is not something else. This recognition concisely tracks reality: to exist is to be one thing as opposed to something else. A is A; A is not both A and something more than A. This is to say, if something exists, it is finite.”

But this evinces the univocal reasoning of the materialist. And so does this:

“ ‘Infinite’ does not mean large; it means larger than any specific quantity, i.e., of no specific quantity. An infinite quantity would be a quantity without identity.” But A is A. Every entity, accordingly, is finite; it is limited in the number of its qualities and in their extent; this applies to the universe as well. As Aristotle was the first to observe, the concept of ‘infinity’ denotes merely a potentiality of indefinite addition or subtraction. For example, one can continually subdivide a line; but however many segments one has reached at a given point, there are only that many and no more. The actual is always finite” (Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, pp. 31-32).

But according to Judeo-Christianity, the infinite capacity of God’s mind is grounded in a specific quality. God is Love. That is His nature. Ultimately, That’s What and Who He is. He cannot do anything that is contrary to His nature. The quantity of His attributes—omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience—are all grounded in and bounded by this irreducible primary, this specific identity, this specific actuality. He is not anything less than or other than perfect love. (Granted, this does not yet get to what we typically mean by the term “substance.” I’ll get to that momentarily. This goes to God’s ultimate essence with regard to action.) Hence, He is infinite consciousness in the sense that He is unlimited in creative power, and whatever He conceives cannot escape His immediate presence or understanding.

On the other hand, indeed, “the actual is always finite” . . . for the human mind; that is, it can only stand as it were in one spatial matrix or in one moment of time “at any given point” during any cognitive activity. The past is gone, the future is yet to be. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the infinite cannot exist, for the human mind readily apprehends that a line, for example, can be divided without end. That’s a self-evident apprehension, not an object of perception.

Can the cosmos be divided without end?

Peikoff wrongfully implies, if that’s what he’s doing, that Aristotle would agree with the notion that “[a]n infinite quantity would be a quantity without identity” or that Aristotle is talking about anything else but the actualities of human consciousness at any given point in time. In fact, in this instance, human consciousness aside, Aristotle is not talking about what can or cannot exist at all.

On the contrary, Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover necessarily has no megethos (“magnitude”); i.e, He has no body of time or spatial dimension. God moves things or causes them to be by sheer will or thought in an infinite realm of “time.” In fact, He is that realm, and He created time to govern the cosmos. God is necessarily infinite, as an infinite chain of effect needs an infinite chain of cause. What there cannot be, according to Aristotle, is an infinite magnitude or physical substance. Magnitude is divisible. God is not (Aristotle, Metaphysics 12.7-10).

November 19, 2012 5:05 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

4. You write: “The primacy of the object in the subject-object relationship means that the objects of which a subject is conscious exist and are what they are independent of the conscious activity by which the subject is conscious of them. The objects do not conform to the consciousness’ contents; on the contrary, consciousness conforms its content based on the data it can gather about its objects. By contrast, the primacy of consciousness metaphysics affirms the metaphysical primacy of the subject in the subject-object relationship. This view holds that the subject has the metaphysical upper hand over its objects. This includes the view that subject of consciousness creates the objects it is conscious of, that the subject assigns its objects their identities, that the subject can revise their identities at will, that the realm of objects conforms to whatever content the subject of consciousness wills into being.”

Indeed! So? Nowhere in scripture is it asserted that a finite mind (subject) can have primacy over an existent (object).

You write: “In other words, because existence exists independent of consciousness, and because consciousness also exists, consciousness literally exists independent of consciousness.”

I follow that, and agree . . . insofar as finite minds are concerned.

5. You write: “Objectivism would not accept any claim that it has an “obligation” to refute Christianity or any other form of mysticism. Objectivism can stand by and simply point out that mysticism chokes itself in fallacies and self-contradictions, as any attempt to build a philosophy on arbitrary premises will naturally do all by itself, without outside help.”

Of course not, conversely, neither would Judeo-Christianity; however, Objectivism may allege “that mysticism chokes itself in fallacies and self-contradictions” only by incessantly imposing, as it does, it’s univocal premise on what it in fact an analogical system of thought.

November 19, 2012 5:17 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

You write:

“Traditionally theism, in the west at any rate, describes its god in terms of consciousness: it is “personal,” it is aware, it knows, it speaks, it remembers, it makes decisions, it judges, it has emotions (anger, for instance), it has desires (a will, for instance), it plans, it watches, etc. All these functions entail a consciousness very much like we know it as human beings (indeed, many thinkers, including Rand as well, have pointed out that God is essentially a selective projection of attributes of human consciousness . . .” (Dawson, “Before the Beginning: The Problem of Divine Lonesomeness”, Incinerating Presuppositionalism).

Really? More univocal reasoning? How about the idea that we are created in God’s image? That is why we are very much like Him.

And you continue: “As we probe deeper into this matter, it appears more and more that a starting point of utter subjectivism seems unavoidable here for our lonesome deity, and by extension for the believer’s worldview” (Ibid.).

Perhaps what we have here is the subjectivism of Objectivism nonsensically insisting that what we recognize to be objects per the law of identity, for that’s what we’re really talking about here in terms of irreducible primaries, must necessarily be physical in some sense. Can it be said that the Objectivist’s univocal line of reasoning is subjective?

I wonder, given the fact, as I have shown, that the materialist’s ontological presupposition cannot be empirically demonstrated. It’s a notion, an idea, an abstraction. It’s not an object of perception!

“It cannot be said that sensory perception, the sum of the mere “nuts and bolts” of a mechanical apparatus, conceives this constraint [existence is strictly physical]. That would be absurd, for this constraint is a notion, an idea, an abstraction. It’s not an object of perception. Consciousness would have to be the force behind the busy fingers which imagine this constraint and attach it to reality. In short, it’s an abstraction that doesn’t necessarily follow from the percept on which it’s predicated: namely, the limitations of sensory perception” (Rawlings).

November 19, 2012 5:20 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

You write:

“So the problem of divine lonesomeness involves the question of how one can legitimately posit the existence of a conscious being when there's nothing else in existence for it to be conscious of. The problem is further exacerbated by the stipulation that said conscious being is incorporeal, or bodiless, as is supposed to be the case with the immaterial deity of Christianity. The problem as it arises for Christianity, then, is really two-fold: not only (a) do the implications of the description which Christians give of their god suggest that it could have no object to be conscious of prior to creating anything distinct from itself, but also (b) that description also indicates that it would have no means by which it could be conscious of anything (Ibid.).

For a moment, let’s consider the alternative, by no means because the actuality of God relies on the negation of the alternative, but because the larger context of existence entails the problem of origin.

Let’s establish what the Objectivist must necessarily hold: a physical realm of being has always existed in some form or another. Hence, the inanimate over time and by way of some coalition of natural processes eventually produced entities of consciousness. The inanimate (the unconscious) eventually came to contemplate itself, came to acquire the power of will over its very own substance. This implies that the inanimate possess the properties to manufacture something arguably greater than itself sans any blueprint or preconception. Instead, this marvel was contrived by some coincidentally random convergences of mindless forces and chemicals.

You continue: “Now the theist might come back and say that his god has attributes other than only its consciousness, attributes that are distinct from its consciousness, and these other attributes would provide themselves as the objects of its consciousness in its lonesome state.

This is a common rejoinder to the problem of lonesomeness. But what are these other alleged attributes that are distinct from its consciousness?” (Ibid.).


This is close, but no cigar. For according to the Bible, divine consciousness is not an attribute. This would not be the “common rejoinder” of a learned orthodox Christian.

November 19, 2012 5:29 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

According to scripture, God is an eternally existent spirit of pure consciousness; i.e., this is His very substance. Hence, Toner’s “solution,” which imagines divine consciousness to be a contingent attribute of divinity rather than the very essence of divinity is neither biblical nor anything else but a circuitous dead end. It doesn’t explain precisely what God consists of (i.e., the substance of the entity in which the attribute of consciousness is grounded) or how God knew Himself to be in the absence of other actually existent entities. Toner’s answer elicits more questions . . . rather, in truth, it compels us to ask him the very same questions again!

Nevertheless, Toner is on to something when he concludes that the means of God’s self-awareness is different than that of humans . . . insofar as the temporal realm is concerned, for do not forget that, ultimately, according to Judeo-Christianity, the human being is a spirit of pure consciousness as well, not a body, a mere biological machine, however relatively sophisticated it might be.

(However, humans are designed in such a way, scripture tells us, that they are not complete without a body of some sort. Those who have already departed in Christ are clothed in the spiritual substratum of God until the resurrection, at which time they will be reunited with their bodies, albeit, as “transliterated” replicas of a spiritual substance without blemish.)

But all this hand-wringing over nothing, over an issue settled by Christian theology centuries ago, is something to behold! For the answer to the question is really quite simple.

God’s “body” is composed of the coeternal attributes of unlimited power and wisdom and knowledge: the “other” for God is the apprehension of the eternally potential existents of His conception. Indeed, God is not corporeal. He’s neither bound by the trappings of the space-time continuum nor was He spoken into existence as celestial beings. He’s the speaker! Past, present, future—these are the constituents of a finite creature’s perspective, not those an eternally existent Creator’s perspective.

The God of the Bible exists in the eternal now!

The “other” is always “standing” right in front of Him, in His very presence.

Moreover, God is Love. He yearns for an object that possess the power of reciprocation. And the first object of His love, according to scripture, is Himself. God is a coeternal, triune being. He is the first, the original Expression of the law of identity. He is the eternally existent “Self-Other.”

In other words, the God of Judeo-Christianity redundantly fulfills the law of identity, not because the rational forms and logical categories of the human mind require it; rather, the human mind has no choice but to adhere to this principle or flounder in error, as God is the original Expression, the Blueprint, and we, the copy, in Whose image we were created.

It’s not the other way around.

November 19, 2012 5:48 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Your asseveration that the concept of the Trinity merely compounds the problem threefold is nonsensical, for even if God were stripped of His attributes, though that be absurd, why wouldn’t any One of the Three Persons in the spiritual substratum of God not be aware of the Others?

Moreover, let’s get something straight. The Bible depicts a spiritual substratum that is concrete—solid!—filled with smells and tastes and sights and sounds. There are persons and even inanimate things that can be touched and felt. Apparently, there are “compositional,” “structural” and “mechanical” laws and forces that govern the transcendent realm as well.

We simply cannot know what this alternate infrastructural solid is precisely. Believers on this side of the divide have yet to experience it in its totality. Non-believers do not experience it at all. Looky here, the physical realm with which we are familiar is mostly composed of empty space. Our bodies and everything around us is mostly composed of empty space, whatever that is.

In any event, the very essence of divinitas perfectus, regardless of the number of Persons comprising the Godhead, remains the eternal apprehension of “other.”

Only finite minds are hemmed in by the constraint of time relative to their beginnings.

You write: “Most typically, the theist will say that his god is aware of its own being. But what does that mean? This is certainly not sufficient to undo the implications already present in theistic descriptions suggesting that their god is a pure consciousness, without a body (“incorporeal”), without anything specific to point to as an attribute existing independently of its consciousness (such as body parts in the case of biological organisms). In fact, such a reply seems to be an attempt to cover the probable fact that the theist himself doesn’t really get the point of the problem of lonesomeness and offers a last-ditch effort to put up a smokescreen by retreating into the utterly vague.”

*crickets chirping*

Let what I’ve written here expose the misconceptions, the irrelevancies and the strawmen informing these charges. The Bible is centuries old. Its inspired authors and its theologians—brilliant men!—have not overlooked the inherent concerns of the three classic laws of logic or failed to address the pertinent concerns of reality all these many years.

There is nothing inherently contradictory about the existence of God as depicted by the Bible.

November 19, 2012 6:01 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

That is, "Our bodies and everything around us are mostly composed of empty space, whatever that is."

November 19, 2012 6:05 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Michael,

Here are some reactions to what you have just recently posted.

You wrote: “1. If all of reality is physical, all instances of consciousness would necessarily be finite;”

This is not what Rand would argue. Rand would not say that the finiteness of consciousness is dependent on all reality being physical – in fact, she nowhere claims that “all of reality is physical.” As I mentioned, Rand holds that consciousness exists, but she did not think consciousness is a physical entity, for instance. Rather, Rand holds that consciousness is necessarily finite because it exists, since to exist is to be something specific, i.e., finite, i.e., limited to itself.

You wrote: “existence, which, again, is physical, would necessarily have primacy over consciousness absolutely.”

Again, as I explained previously, the primacy of existence has nothing to do with whether “all of reality is physical.” It has to do with the relationship between the subject of consciousness and any object(s) it perceives and/or considers, regardless of its nature. All this focus on physical/material etc., is simply distracting you from more fundamental truths. In fact, Rand held that the concepts ‘material’ and ‘physical’ were highly advanced abstractions, certainly way beyond the level of axiomatic concepts. Also, she considered these concepts to be scientific rather than philosophical. If you have Rand’s Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, you can find her elaboration on these points in the transcripts from her workshops; see for instance pp. 245-251 and 290-295. In the former transcript, she explains “emphatically” (her word) that the axiom “existence exists” is not at all synonymous with “the physical world exists.” And her explanation is entirely consistent with the hierarchy of knowledge at issue in such a proposed equation. In the latter transcript, she emphasizes the importance to distinguish between truths that philosophers can know (via philosophy), and truths which require specialized scientific knowledge.

[continued…]

November 20, 2012 3:36 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “2. My understanding is that Objectivism holds that consciousness is the sum of physiological structures and biochemical reactions. Yes?”

I have never read anything in the Objectivist corpus which suggests this, and my impression of what this is saying is that it vies entirely against the irreducible nature of consciousness which Objectivist explicitly affirms. So I would say no. Perhaps you can cite where you got this understanding about what Objectivism holds regarding the nature of consciousness?

You wrote: “According to Objectivism, consciousness is not a dualistic interaction between the central nervous system (corporeal) and the soul (spiritual) as it is in Christianity, right?”

Objectivism holds that man, for instance (an organism possessing the attribute of consciousness), is an indivisible integration of matter and consciousness. While its consciousness does in fact depend metaphysically on the physiology of the organism possessing it, the notion that “consciousness is… a dualistic interaction between the central nervous system (corporeal) and the soul (spiritual)” seems to be proposing three different things: 1) the central nervous system (corporeal), 2) a soul (spiritual), and 3) consciousness (which is “a dualistic interaction between” these prior two things. For one, I have never read anything in the bible that suggests such a view (the authors of the bible don’t even seem to have had any clue as to what a nervous system is, let alone its relationship to consciousness), so I don’t see how it is native to Christianity proper. Perhaps later theologians have introduced such a view, but that would not make it original to Christianity so far as I understand.

Also, I have never read anything in the Objectivist corpus which suggests the view that you have described here.

[continued…]

November 20, 2012 3:37 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: “So it is not the case that “the independent reality that she has in mind is entirely material,” for the primacy of existence obtains even when conscious activity is the object in question. The primacy of existence describes the orientation between a conscious subject and *any* object it might be conscious of.”

You reacted: “I Agree. But I’m talking about the ultimate substance of consciousness itself, which subsumes all cognitive activities, again, whether they occur in real time or not, whether they be introspective or not.”

I don’t know what “the ultimate substance of consciousness itself” is supposed to mean, denote, or refer to. Objectivism holds that consciousness as such is an irreducible primary. To suggest that there is some “ultimate substance of consciousness itself” seems to deny this view, albeit perhaps not deliberately. But I really don’t know how else to make sense of it, other than that it may properly belong in the realm of scientific inquiry rather than in the realm of philosophy. In which case, I won’t be much help here. I’m not a scientist. The fundamental question I would have here is whether or not any fact that science could uncover and validate about the nature of consciousness could challenge the three forms of dependency that I mentioned previously (i.e., dependence on biological structures, the need for an object, and the need for a purpose). And I don’t see how any fact could do that.

You asked: “According to Objectivism, what precisely is the substance of consciousness, this sum of structures and processes, if not inevitably material/physical?”

Again, this question seems to be borne on a denial of the irreducible fundamentality of consciousness qua consciousness. So far as what I understand it to be asking, it is asking for what consciousness reduces to, and this blatantly ignores the position that it is not reducible. We do not hold that dependence on biological structures is the same thing as reducing to biological structures. Digestion depends on biological structures such as the mouth, stomach and the intestines, but digestion itself is not equivalent to any of these.

You write: “Understand, I’m not intimating that this “sum of things” evinces an immaterial soul in the biblical sense; I’m just wondering if Objectivism offers any definitively empirical answer beyond the philosophical.”

Objectivists are usually pretty careful about not overstepping their bounds as philosophers, to the extent that they are philosophers. Of course, this would not preclude them from citing scientific conclusions and outcomes of relevant experiments if they’re aware of any. But they properly belong to science specifically, not philosophy as such.

[continued…]

November 20, 2012 3:37 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

In response to the quote I supplied by Peikoff regarding the notion of an “infinite” consciousness, you wrote: “But according to Judeo-Christianity, the infinite capacity of God’s mind is grounded in a specific quality. God is Love. That is His nature. Ultimately, That’s What and Who He is.”

This is as incomprehensible to me as the notion that truth is “from God” is. It makes no sense with respect to what I know love to be. Love is a human being’s emotional response to his highest values. The whole genetic structure of what love is, on a rational understanding of it (i.e., an understanding which recognizes its basis in values), can only imply a being capable of valuing anything at all. And given the description which Christians give of their god, I don’t see how it could value anything at all. It certainly wouldn’t need to value anything, and it wouldn’t have any purpose in valuing anything. Values are those things which a biological organism need in order to exist. Biological organisms face a fundamental alternative: life vs. death, and since some things in existence constitute a threat to their existence, and other things are needed by them in order to exist, biological organisms have the capacity to value things. Human beings, thanks to their achievement of the conceptual level of cognition, have the ability to identify certain things as values and other things as threats or harmful.

Given its descriptions as an indestructible, immortal, eternal being needing nothing, the Christian god seems at best capable only of utter indifference. And if I were a believer, I would have a really hard time ignoring things like the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean as evidence of such indifference. Calamity strikes human beings indiscriminately. This is a “loving” being which does not act to protect the objects of its love? A human being exhibiting the same indifference would have a really hard time proving to anyone that it loves the things it allows to be destroyed.

[continued…]

November 20, 2012 3:37 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “He cannot do anything that is contrary to His nature. The quantity of His attributes—omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience—are all grounded in and bounded by this irreducible primary, this specific identity, this specific actuality. He is not anything less than or other than perfect love.”

I can only wonder *what* it is said to love, then. It is certainly not the folks down here on earth.

Now I have a basis of comparison. You do, too, Michael. I love my wife and daughter; you love your mother and I’m sure others as well. If my wife or daughter were about to be swept away and killed by a tsunami, I would act to save them. And that’s coming from a puny, weak, completely perishable human being. I would have a lot to lose, up to and including my life, in making such an attempt, but if I thought there were a chance that I could be successful, I would take it. But the Christian god has *nothing to lose* in acting to save any human being from disaster. And if it truly loves its finest creations, how is such indifference to be explained? We can imagine that there is a god out there that loves everyone, but by insisting that it loves people down here on earth, we would be destroying the concept of love (via stolen concepts). Objectivists are not willing to do that. Love is far too precious to give it away for a fantasy.

Indeed, this same “God” which is said to be “love,” is the same god which presuppositionalists say “has a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists” (Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 172). Imagine saying to your “loved ones” that you have “a morally sufficient reason” for allowing evil to come and destroy them. Tell me, Michael, would such a chosen action be indicative of what you understand love to be? This is a question of character more than it is a question of philosophy. Since I like you, I almost don’t want to know your answer.

[continued…]

November 20, 2012 3:38 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Hence, He is infinite consciousness in the sense that He is unlimited in creative power, and whatever He conceives cannot escape His immediate presence or understanding.”

None of what you’ve written so far has rescued the notion of “infinite” anything (including “infinite consciousness”) from the points that have been raised against it. In fact, they do not even seem to have been an attempt to rescue it. You labeled my reasoning and the quote from Peikoff as examples of “the univocal reasoning of the materialist” without explaining what you’re saying and apparently disregarding Objectivism’s forthright repudiation of materialism. Instead, you just seem to be affirming what Christianity teaches without either a) challenging what has been presented on behalf of Objectivism, or b) attempting to establish as true the version of Christianity that you have presented in opposition to Objectivism.

You did go on to say this: “On the other hand, indeed, “the actual is always finite” . . . for the human mind; that is, it can only stand as it were in one spatial matrix or in one moment of time “at any given point” during any cognitive activity. The past is gone, the future is yet to be. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the infinite cannot exist, for the human mind readily apprehends that a line, for example, can be divided without end. That’s a self-evident apprehension, not an object of perception. Can the cosmos be divided without end?”

Several points here:

1) I have presented some points on why Objectivism holds that the notion of an actual infinite is invalid. You have categorized it – rightly, wrongly, or arbitrarily – as “the univocal reasoning of the materialist,” but at no point do you show that anything that I have presented is false, misguided, fallacious, unreliable, etc.

2) You affirm that “the actual is always finite,” but curiously you qualify this with “for the human mind without explaining why this qualification is fundamental (which is what it would need to be if it is intended to allow for an “actual infinite”).

3) You indicate that this qualifying distinction (“for the human mind”) which you introduce, means that the actual “can only stand as it were in one spatial matrix or in one moment of time “at any given point” during any cognitive activity.” But this is not Objectivism’s rationale for supposing that the actual is always finite, nor does it challenge its rationale for supposing this. Objectivism holds that to exist is to be something specific, to be one thing as opposed to something else, regardless of whether it is accessible to human cognition, whether or not any cognitive activity interacts with it. For Objectivism, the necessary finiteness of the actual is a metaphysical truth, not merely an epistemological truth.

[continued…]

November 20, 2012 3:38 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

4) You state that “the past is gone, the future is yet to be.” And Objectivism would agree with this. Indeed, Objectivism holds that the past is finite and that whatever will happen in the future will also be finite. Again, whatever is actual, is necessarily finite. But again, none of this shows that Objectivism is wrong in holding this position.

5) When you write that “this does not mean that the infinite cannot exist,” it is not clear what the antecedent to your demonstrative pronoun ‘this’ is supposed to be; none of the foregoing points challenges the Objectivist viewpoint; none of the points you raise speak to the fundamental metaphysical principle on which Objectivism’s position on the matter hinges.

6) You say that “the human mind readily apprehends that a line, for example, can be divided without end. That’s a self-evident apprehension, not an object of perception.” I don’t think Objectivism would concur that this is a “self-evident apprehension,” since the process of dividing anything is itself a conceptually sophisticated process, one which requires at least some grasp of the concept of measurement (albeit, even if only on a merely perceptually comparative level, such as when one recognizes that one ball is bigger than another). Only after such measurement-related recognitions have been made, can the notion of dividing a thing into units smaller than the original be available to a human mind. But even then, it would not follow from this that Objectivism’s rationale for holding that the actual is always finite is wrong, nor would it follow from this that there is such a thing that an actual infinite is possible. Binswanger, in his discussion of this very issue (cf. his “The Metaphysics of Consciousness”), points out that, no matter how much one divides or multiplies something, the actual result will always be finite.

7) You asked: “Can the cosmos be divided without end?”

Binswanger’s answer is: no, it cannot, for the one(s) doing the dividing will always end up stopping at some point (either because they abandon the project for some reason, or they die), and the point at which the project is abandoned will always have a finite result. Human activity will end. But note also that it is not on the basis of this fact that Objectivism holds that the actual is always finite.

[continued…]

November 20, 2012 3:39 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Peikoff wrongfully implies, if that’s what he’s doing, that Aristotle would agree with the notion that “[a]n infinite quantity would be a quantity without identity” or that Aristotle is talking about anything else but the actualities of human consciousness at any given point in time. In fact, in this instance, human consciousness aside, Aristotle is not talking about what can or cannot exist at all.”

I don’t think Peikoff was making a statement as to what Aristotle would agree to. Indeed, if Aristotle were alive today, he might be open to being persuaded against some of the views he once held. So this is purely academic and ultimately irrelevant. I think Peikoff’s point is that Aristotle, whether he was consistent with it or not, was the one who first proposed the idea that the concept of infinity refers to a potential rather than an actuality. To the extent that the issue is constrained to what human conscious activity can do, it’s clear that a potentiality is the best we can affirm here (and, as Binswanger rightly points out in his discussion of the topic, even this is unachievable). Notice also that Peikoff cites Aristotle to buttress the epistemological implications of the notion of an actual infinite. Peikoff is not relying on Aristotle’s view to make the case for metaphysics; Objectivism has that wrapped up already.

As for Aristotle’s views in other areas, these are irrelevant. As one Objectivist I learned from once said, “Aristotle was not Aristotelian enough” (that’s a paraphrase, but the intended point should be sufficiently clear). Objectivists do not believe that Aristotle’s entire philosophy was entirely consistent. He did not completely escape the primacy of consciousness implications of his teacher. If anything, Objectivism is a huge improvement on Aristotelian philosophy. I love improvements on generally good things. Don’t you?

You wrote: “Nowhere in scripture is it asserted that a finite mind (subject) can have primacy over an existent (object).”

Are you expecting for some verse in the bible to come out and say this explicitly? I’m certainly not. The bible nowhere shows any explicit awareness for the issue of metaphysical primacy to begin with, let alone a good understanding of it. Everything we can glean from the bible on this matter, with regard to human consciousness at least, is at best implicit. (But even here, it gives us no epistemological guidance on how we can determine whether a given consciousness is human or something other than human.) What we can glean from the bible does in fact lean towards the primacy of consciousness even in the case of human consciousness. As I pointed out earlier, the New Testament in particular emphasizes the importance of believing; it does not buttress its concern for believing with a concern for fact-gathering, for validating evidential support, for anything comparable to the scientific method. “Just believe,” is what the bible tells us. And if you don’t believe, you’ll pay the consequences. The subjective procedure of simply believing what one hears from an assumed “authoritative” source, is backed up by the threat of force. As Rand put it, faith and force are corollaries. This has the primacy of consciousness written all over it, both from an affirmative perspective as well as from a negative perspective.

[continued…]

November 20, 2012 3:39 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: “In other words, because existence exists independent of consciousness, and because consciousness also exists, consciousness literally exists independent of consciousness.”

You responded: “I follow that, and agree . . . insofar as finite minds are concerned.”

And again, the notion of an “infinite mind” is self-contradictory. The actual is always finite. Remember? You haven’t demonstrated otherwise.

But for argument’s sake, consider either alternative with respect to the notion of the Christian god. Neither position is very comforting for Christian theism. On the one hand, if the Christian god’s consciousness exists independent of itself, then this implies a capper on the notion of divine providence: the infinite “omni” qualities attributed to the Christian god are thus not what they’re touted to be. But even worse, this outcome would imply a duplicitous metaphysic with respect to the Christian god: it would constitute an affirmation of the primacy of existence as well as an affirmation of the primacy of consciousness within the “transcendent realm.” The duplicity of Christian metaphysics is not constrained only to the conjunction of the “immanent” vs. the “transcendent” realms. Rather, it would contaminate the ultimate Christian metaphysical position itself, right down to its roots.

You wrote: “Objectivism may allege “that mysticism chokes itself in fallacies and self-contradictions” only by incessantly imposing, as it does, it’s univocal premise on what it in fact an analogical system of thought.”

Actually, Objectivism makes this argument on the basis of facts which the mystic himself must accept in order to think or say anything meaningful in the first place, namely the axioms. You can dismiss all of this by labeling it “univocal reasoning,” but a mere label is not an argument, nor is it a refutation.

[continued…]

November 20, 2012 3:40 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote (in my blog Before the Beginning: The Problem of Divine Lonesomeness:

<< Traditionally theism, in the west at any rate, describes its god in terms of consciousness: it is “personal,” it is aware, it knows, it speaks, it remembers, it makes decisions, it judges, it has emotions (anger, for instance), it has desires (a will, for instance), it plans, it watches, etc. All these functions entail a consciousness very much like we know it as human beings (indeed, many thinkers, including Rand as well, have pointed out that God is essentially a selective projection of attributes of human consciousness . . . >>

You responded: “Really? More univocal reasoning?”

Objectivism does not divide reason into mutually contradictory alternative methods. We offer what we offer as reasoning. If you have an argument against what we affirm, then you are invited to present that argument. Mere labels are not arguments. What’s important to note is that the Objectivist position is entirely consistent with its foundations. I suspect this is why you do not offer any counter-argument here.

But here are the various points you can choose to dispute:

a) “Traditionally theism, in the west at any rate, describes its god in terms of consciousness: it is “personal,” it is aware, it knows, it speaks, it remembers, it makes decisions, it judges, it has emotions (anger, for instance), it has desires (a will, for instance), it plans, it watches, etc.”

b) “All these functions entail a consciousness very much like we know it as human beings (indeed, many thinkers, including Rand as well, have pointed out that God is essentially a selective projection of attributes of human consciousness . . .”

I’m guessing that the point where you disagree is in the parenthetical statement in b) above. The view which I attribute to Rand is found in her book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, p. 148, where she writes that the notion “God”:

<<… is not a concept. At best, one could say it is a concept in the sense in which a dramatist uses concepts to create a character. It is an isolation of actual characteristics of man combined with the projection of impossible, irrational characteristics which do not arise from reality – such as omnipotence and omniscience. >>

That’s what Objectivists think “God” is, Michael. This is what you’re up against. And so much of what you’ve written, more than perhaps you realize, has confirmed this evaluation of the Christian notion of “God.”

[continued…]

November 20, 2012 3:40 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You asked: “How about the idea that we are created in God’s image? That is why we are very much like Him.”

Actually, it’s exactly the reverse. Since the Christian notion of “God” is an imaginative projection, a projection of selected human qualities of consciousness (e.g., direct awareness of objects, thought, memory, emotions, desires, anger, judgments, wishing, commanding, etc.), it is going to resemble various attributes of human consciousness. The reversal of this comparison is what the Christian devotional program expects of the believer, when in fact the origination of the Christian god is human imagination. In no way is the Objectivist contradicting himself, his worldview, or reason, by drawing this assessment of Christianity. The elements are all there, essentially handed to us by Christian believers themselves, almost begging us to make such conclusions (albeit implicitly).

I also wrote in my paper on the problem of divine lonesomeness: “As we probe deeper into this matter, it appears more and more that a starting point of utter subjectivism seems unavoidable here for our lonesome deity, and by extension for the believer’s worldview.”

You responded: “Perhaps what we have here is the subjectivism of Objectivism nonsensically insisting that what we recognize to be objects per the law of identity, for that’s what we’re really talking about here in terms of irreducible primaries, must necessarily be physical in some sense.”

And since Objectivism nowhere stipulates this to be the case, this objection does not hold. On the contrary, where Objectivism draws this inference is where you have defaulted: the relevant point is that the initial objects of consciousness must be some thing distinct from the activity by which a consciousness is conscious of those objects. But in the case of the situation implied by Christianity’s creationism, there is nothing distinct from the Christian god’s conscious activity prior to it creating something distinct from that activity. So what we have in the present context is an instance of the fallacy of pure self-reference.

You asked: “Can it be said that the Objectivist’s univocal line of reasoning is subjective?”

The Objectivist reasoning given here cannot be subjective, since it is entirely and consistently drawn on the basis of the primacy of existence – i.e., the primacy of the object in the subject-object relationship.

Where do you show that the Christian position enjoys such immunity from subjectivism, especially when you have already gone on record conceding that “according to Judeo-Christianity, ultimately, consciousness does have primacy over existence”? You have confessed the primacy of the subject is the fundamental report of Christian metaphysics. And yet you rhetorically ask whether or not it can “be said that the Objectivist’s… line of reasoning is subjective”? Michael, do you recognize where you stand here? Your words and procedure suggest that you do not.

[continued…]

November 20, 2012 3:41 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “I wonder, given the fact, as I have shown, that the materialist’s ontological presupposition cannot be empirically demonstrated. It’s a notion, an idea, an abstraction. It’s not an object of perception!”

A couple points here:

1) Objectivists are not materialists, so if this question is directed to me, it has been misdirected. Objectivism affirms explicitly the axiom of consciousness. This can only mean that Objectivists are not materialists, either explicitly or implicitly.

2) Objectivism does affirm the perceptual level of cognition, but it also affirms the conceptual level of cognition. If a truth can be objectively inferred from facts that we gather empirically from existence, it does not have to be an object of perception in order to be accepted as truth. We are not *strict* empiricists. You should know this, Michael.

You quoted from your writings: “It cannot be said that sensory perception, the sum of the mere ‘nuts and bolts’ of a mechanical apparatus, conceives this constraint [existence is strictly physical].”

Agreed. And as the points I presented above in regard to this matter should make clear, Objectivism nowhere affirms such a constraint. This is a projection which is not confirmed by what Objectivism itself teaches. Surely, Michael, you are willing to deal with Objectivism as it informs itself, are you not? Find for me one quote in the Objectivist corpus which claims that “existence is strictly physical.” I’ve never seen it, and I’ve already presented evidence to the contrary. Why does this caricature continue to persist??????

I suggest you go back and revise your writings… again.

[continued…]

November 20, 2012 3:41 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

In response to the problem of divine lonesomeness, you began your reaction with: “Let’s establish what the Objectivist must necessarily hold: a physical realm of being has always existed in some form or another.”

Before anything, we need to get Objectivism’s position in Objectivism’s own terms. It holds that existence exists, that existence is uncreated, that existence is eternal, whether it is physical, ultimately physical, or ultimately something else (as science can determine).

The alternative to this view is the view that existence is not eternal, that existence “began” to exist at some point in time. A person holding this view could imagine that existence spontaneously “popped” into existence from nothing, or that something “created” existence. Objectivism does not hold to either of these views since there is no evidence to suggest either. There is certainly no evidence suggesting that existence spontaneously popped into being from nothing. The ‘big bang’ theory, so far as I have understood it (there may be many competing versions of course) does not suggest this, since the present inflationary universe is thought to have originated from a singularity, i.e., from something that exists.

As for the notion that something “created existence,” that something which allegedly did the creating would itself have to exist, in which case we have a contradictory claim – it would be an attempt to explain existence by reference to something that (allegedly) exists, which is what the attempt implicitly denies.

Objectivism does not put much stock in “origin” theories, especially those which are inherently self-contradictory, lack evidence, or affirm the primacy of consciousness, either implicitly or explicitly. Even if one wants to take the notion of an “origin” of the universe seriously, it is hard to see what relevance it would have for philosophy. No matter how everything “got here,” it exists, we are still human beings, we still need to act in order to live, we still need values, we still must use our minds in order to continue existing. None of these central facts, facts that are vital to informing our philosophical viewpoint, would change.

There is much more that I can say on this topic, and I have on my blog. The essential point is that the alternative to starting with existence is starting with non-existence, i.e., nothing. But we already know that existence exists. So what would justify starting with non-existence, and why would we do that when we know that existence exists? My question to you is: what do you find objectionable, if anything, with starting with existence as opposed to non-existence?

[continued…]

November 20, 2012 3:42 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Hence, the inanimate over time and by way of some coalition of natural processes eventually produced entities of consciousness.”

Of course, this supposes that entities possessing consciousness have not always existed. While this is a common assumption, I personally do not know how one would go about proving it. Philosophically, this question really has no relevance: organisms possessing the faculty of consciousness do in fact exist, including human beings. How they “got here” will not change philosophical fundamentals . Moreover, philosophy has nothing to say on the origination of biological organisms. This is a scientific question; it requires specialized knowledge that does not come under the purview of philosophy as such.

You wrote: “The inanimate (the unconscious) eventually came to contemplate itself, came to acquire the power of will over its very own substance. This implies that the inanimate possess the properties to manufacture something arguably greater than itself sans any blueprint or preconception. Instead, this marvel was contrived by some coincidentally random convergences of mindless forces and chemicals.”

A couple points:

1) Biological organisms, including those possessing consciousness, do not have any elemental or chemical substances not already found existing otherwise in the universe. We are made of carbon atoms, nitrogen atoms, hydrogen atoms and other elements. None of these are otherwise alien to the world around us. They exist naturally in the universe.

2) However biological organisms originated on earth, supposing they originated here and from non-organisms, the process by which this would have happened would have been causal. This is essentially tautological, since action has identity. It is common for Christians to characterize such proposals in ways that make it seem so extraordinarily unlikely as to be completely unbelievable (meanwhile affirming a super-reality of invisible magic beings that are presumed to be perfectly believable). There is nothing odd or unusual about causality in existence. While the conditions necessary for biological causality to have occurred may be thought to be quite unusual, this is hardly persuasive in itself: the unusual happens all the time.

[continued…]

November 20, 2012 3:43 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: “Now the theist might come back and say that his god has attributes other than only its consciousness, attributes that are distinct from its consciousness, and these other attributes would provide themselves as the objects of its consciousness in its lonesome state... This is a common rejoinder to the problem of lonesomeness. But what are these other alleged attributes that are distinct from its consciousness?”

You responded: “This is close, but no cigar. For according to the Bible, divine consciousness is not an attribute. This would not be the ‘common rejoinder’ of a learned orthodox Christian.”

The common rejoinder that I considered here does not posit that divine consciousness itself is an attribute. Rather, it is the suggestion that the divine being has “attributes other than only its consciousness, attributes that are distinct from its consciousness.” It has been reasoned on this basis, presumably compatible with your “no cigar” assessment, that “these other attributes would provide themselves as objects of its consciousness in its lonesome state.”

You continued: “According to scripture, God is an eternally existent spirit of pure consciousness; i.e., this is His very substance. Hence, Toner’s ‘solution’, which imagines divine consciousness to be a contingent attribute of divinity rather than the very essence of divinity is neither biblical nor anything else but a circuitous dead end. It doesn’t explain precisely what God consists of (i.e., the substance of the entity in which the attribute of consciousness is grounded) or how God knew Himself to be in the absence of other actually existent entities. Toner’s answer elicits more questions . . . rather, in truth, it compels us to ask him the very same questions again!”

So, the problem of divine lonesomeness is a live issue then. There seems to be no solution.

Also, while it’s true that the bible nowhere explains *how* its god is supposedly conscious of anything, either of itself prior to creating things or afterwards, the problem of divine lonesomeness focuses on *what* it could be conscious of prior to creating anything distinct from itself. I just wanted to make this clarification. The problem is set up by Christianity’s own stipulations.

[continued…]

November 20, 2012 3:44 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Nevertheless, Toner is on to something when he concludes that the means of God’s self-awareness is different than that of humans . . . insofar as the temporal realm is concerned, for do not forget that, ultimately, according to Judeo-Christianity, the human being is a spirit of pure consciousness as well, not a body, a mere biological machine, however relatively sophisticated it might be.”

While the means by which the Christian god could be aware of anything has yet to be identified, it seems that what you’re saying here is that it could be similar or essentially the same to a human being’s means of consciousness in its “pure consciousness” form (i.e., sans body). Of course, I see no reason to believe any of this – it’s entirely fantastic. I can imagine it, but that means imagination.

You wrote: “(However, humans are designed in such a way, scripture tells us, that they are not complete without a body of some sort. Those who have already departed in Christ are clothed in the spiritual substratum of God until the resurrection, at which time they will be reunited with their bodies, albeit, as ‘transliterated’ replicas of a spiritual substance without blemish.)”

I do declare, Christians really do have very active imaginations.

Your proposed solution is: “God’s ‘body’ is composed of the coeternal attributes of unlimited power and wisdom and knowledge: the ‘other’ for God is the apprehension of the eternally potential existents of His conception. Indeed, God is not corporeal. He’s neither bound by the trappings of the space-time continuum nor was He spoken into existence as celestial beings. He’s the speaker! Past, present, future—these are the constituents of a finite creature’s perspective, not those an eternally existent Creator’s perspective.”

If you think this solves the problem of divine lonesomeness, I can only guess that you haven’t grasped the nature of the problem. The problem is asking what the divine consciousness was allegedly aware of – what constituted an object of its awareness – prior to creating anything distinct from itself. I see nothing here that answers this question. What you do present here is that, on the one hand, the Christian god has a “body,” but then you say “God is not corporeal.” I don’t know what this could mean; it has no referents analogous to anything I can understand. This seems to be a version of the objection I had considered in my paper, namely the proposal that the Christian god has “attributes other than only its consciousness, attributes that are distinct from its consciousness.” And yet we’re also told that the Christian god is a “pure consciousness,” which suggests (so far as I understand it) that it has no attributes distinct from its consciousness.

Most Christians with whom I’ve discussed these impinging issues, affirm that the Christian god has no body whatsoever. They are typically emphatic on this. By putting the word body in scare quotes as you have, it is unclear whether you agree with other Christians, or have departed from their view in some way. Frankly, it seems that you’re hedging, trying to play both sides in order to avoid a very damaging tangle.

[continued…]

November 20, 2012 3:44 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You say that your god’s ‘body’ “is composed of the coeternal attributes of unlimited power and wisdom and knowledge.” So again we have a god which has consciousness and other attributes, not a “pure consciousness.” There are other things, too. But it’s still quite messy. What is “unlimited power”? If this is simply its will, then this does not solve the problem of divine lonesomeness, for we’re back to consciousness being conscious only of itself here, since a will is simply a form of consciousness. The other two “coeternal attributes” you mention are “wisdom and knowledge.” But wisdom about what? Knowledge of what? There are no objects here. If you say these things do not require objects, then you would simply be affirming an extreme form of pure subjectivism – conscious operations with no object whatsoever. There is no subject-object relationship in such a case, and yet we’re told that the Christian god is a subject, since it is said to be conscious.

By saying that “the ‘other’ for God is the apprehension of the eternally potential existents of His conception,” are you proposing that this “other” is the object of your god’s consciousness, and was so prior to its creation of anything distinct from itself? This would amount to saying that the Christian god is aware of its own apprehension. This seems to be the same kind of mistake made by the representationalists, who say that we perceive appearances, not mind-independent objects. But again, apprehension of what? You say that it is “apprehension of the eternally potential existents of His conception,” which sounds like nothing more than divine imagination: those existents are not independently existing, they are merely “potential” – and eternally so (don’t they ever become real?), and they are borne of “His conception.” But conception of what????

You see, Michael, all of these are stolen concepts. You are using concepts of consciousness, which are formed on the basis of the axiom of consciousness (which recognizes that consciousness needs an object, and therefore so do the conscious functions or states that concepts of consciousness are intended to denote), all the while denying any objective referents for these functions or states.

What appears to be happening here, Michael, is that you’re trying to have you cake, and eat it, too. On the one hand, you are at pains to say that your god is an exception to everything we know about consciousness – it does not require a means by which it has awareness of anything, it does not need an object, and it certainly does not need any kind of purpose (what “goal” could an immortal, indestructible and eternal being have? Blank out). But on the other, you are attempting to satisfy truths that you implicitly know to be true about consciousness, thus proposing a long string of stolen concepts, quite possibly out of panic, hoping that something, anything sticks. Moreover, since the bible itself does not address this problem, you cannot truly say, from a Christian perspective, that your proposed solution is bible-authentic and revelatory in nature. Rather, even on your position, it seems at best to be purely speculative. And yet, as we can see, it doesn’t solve anything!

[continued…]

November 20, 2012 3:45 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “The ‘other’ is always ‘standing’ right in front of Him, in His very presence.”

But since this “other” is “the apprehension” of merely “potential existents” which spring from its “conception.” Aside from the stolen concepts involved in all this, you are still not pointing to anything that could be distinct from its own conscious activity.

I suggest you continue exploring this, Michael. Your “solution” needs a lot of work.

You then write: “Moreover, God is Love. He yearns for an object that possess the power of reciprocation. And the first object of His love, according to scripture, is Himself. God is a coeternal, triune being. He is the first, the original Expression of the law of identity. He is the eternally existent ‘Self-Other’.”

I’ve already addressed the “God is love” thing above. It makes no sense to me, just as the notion of commanding a person to prepare his own son as a burnt sacrifice makes no sense as a loving gesture, either on the part of the one issuing such a commandment (i.e., “God is love”), or the person who is unflinchingly willing to carry out such a commandment.

As for the Christian god’s “yearn[ing] for an object that possess[es] the power of reciprocation,” you say that this object is “Himself.” But again, if the Christian god is said to be “pure consciousness,” this amounts to consciousness conscious only of itself again. And this internally self-contradictory jumble is “the original Expression of the law of identity”? You could say I’m still incredulous, Michael.

Indeed, the law of identity is conceptual in nature. As such, it is an open-ended principle, and certainly not a conscious entity itself. I have already considered the Christian claim that the law of identity is explicitly affirmed in the bible here. It’s not.

[continued…]

November 20, 2012 3:46 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Your asseveration that the concept of the Trinity merely compounds the problem threefold is nonsensical, for even if God were stripped of His attributes, though that be absurd, why wouldn’t any One of the Three Persons in the spiritual substratum of God not be aware of the Others?”

The problem is that there is no object involved in any instance of either of these imaginary consciousnesses. For either of them to identify themselves as consciousness, they would have to be conscious of something distinct from itself. But in the case of three object-less consciousnesses supposedly being conscious of one another, what exactly is the object? For one consciousness to be conscious of a second consciousness, that second consciousness would need an object distinct from itself in order to be a consciousness. But to say that the consciousness conscious of that consciousness that has no initial object other than itself is the object of that consciousness, is simply to go around and around without dealing with the root of the issue. It’s like putting two mirror up face to face against each other. What are they reflecting? Pure undifferentiated darkness.

Certainly, Michael, you’re not going to believe that a problem of this magnitude, one that is exacerbated by the presence of a myriad of stolen concepts, can be solved by merely asking “Why?” Again, it’s not my problem, Michael. It is not my worldview which is affirming the existence of a non-biological consciousness in the first place. It is not my worldview which is attempting to deny the three dependencies of consciousness that I listed earlier. So none of this is my problem.

You wrote: “Moreover, let’s get something straight. The Bible depicts a spiritual substratum that is concrete—solid!—filled with smells and tastes and sights and sounds. There are persons and even inanimate things that can be touched and felt. Apparently, there are ‘compositional’, ‘structural’ and ‘mechanical’ laws and forces that govern the transcendent realm as well.”

Right. But presumably this “spiritual substratum” itself was created by the Christian god, according to Christian mythology. As Gen. 1:1 says, “God created the earth and the heaven.” Unless you’re saying that this “spiritual substratum that is concrete” has always existed, is uncreated, and has always been available for the Christian god to have as an object of its awareness, citing this depiction does nothing to rescue Christianity from the problem of divine lonesomeness.

You wrote: “We simply cannot know what this alternate infrastructural solid is precisely.”

But such depictions are not about knowing, Michael. They’re all about believing in the absence of knowledge. That is a tell-tale sign that this is all imaginary stuff.

You wrote: “In any event, the very essence of divinitas perfectus, regardless of the number of Persons comprising the Godhead, remains the eternal apprehension of ‘other’.”

Right, and we saw that this simply collapses into a string of stolen concepts. So while you may find it emotionally satisfactory, it has no philosophical solvency whatsoever. It simply plays havoc with the logical hierarchy of conceptual cognition. Sort of like a short-circuit in an electrical system.

You wrote: “Only finite minds are hemmed in by the constraint of time relative to their beginnings.”

In other words, “God is an exception to everything we know about consciousness.” Hardly persuasive, Michael, and completely anti-conceptual.

Regards,
Dawson

November 20, 2012 3:46 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

@Ydemoc

the current discussion has sparked a question that has kind of been on the back burner for a while and none of my objectivist source material that I have on hand seems to answer it. Could you stop by and take a look at my latest post

November 20, 2012 5:09 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Justin,

Thanks for letting me know.

Certainly, I'll do that. But I'm kind of under the gun with respect to working on some things. So I don't know if I'll have time to read it all, let alone comment.

But like I said, I'll check it out.

Ydemoc

November 20, 2012 6:04 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

Thats fine, my question will stand. Just something I would like clarification one. Thanks again

November 20, 2012 6:17 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Justin,

I posted something (albeit, hastily).

Ydemoc

November 20, 2012 6:36 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Justin,

How about that challenge?

See my blog.

November 20, 2012 7:04 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Michael,

To Dawson's credit, a lot of what you have brought up, he has interacted with before.

But notice how he keeps claiming that Christians are imagining things. So, I wonder how is it that we are not imagining him?

sometimes humor is our best defense. but honestly I wouldn't waste my time on rands empty-headed pseudo philopshy. well maybe if you wanna laugh.


Be safe in the lord.

Psalm 37:13 "the LORD laughs at the wicked for he sees that his is day coming"

November 20, 2012 7:20 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: "it because you do not understand the nature of concepts or their bearing on the topic."

Nide replied: “I don't have to.”

No, you don’t have to, that’s true. You don’t have to do anything, Nide. Except die.

I wrote: “There is no such thing as ‘a priori knowledge’, Nide. If you think there is, go ahead and try to prove the validity of such a notion."

Nide responded: “I don't have to. It's self-evident. For example, time, space, reason etc. are all built in.”

This is not self-evident to me. It’s not even clear what you’re trying to say here: “…time, space, reason etc. are all built in” – built into what? When you speak of “time” and “space,” are you talking about knowledge here? Or are you talking about the referents of these concepts being built into the universe around us? The latter would not constitute knowledge, and therefore it would not constitute ‘a priori knowledge’. If you mean the latter, it’s certainly not self-evident to me that such knowledge is “built in.” Many philosophers, physicists and other thinkers disagree over what time and space even are. So it’s unclear how one could consider them “a priori knowledge” that is “built in.”

As for reason, this is surely something one learns, and its entire process is a posteriori in nature. So this is not an example of something that is “built in.”

I suspect that people who think reason is “built in” or an example of “a priori knowledge” are taking far too much for granted about how the human mind works and the knowledge they’ve acquired in their lives.

[continued…]

November 21, 2012 1:56 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: “One can ‘make sense of perception’ only after there is something to ‘make sense’ of – i.e., only after he’s done some perceiving. This fact only plays in the objective theory of concepts."

You responded: “The burden is on you. You have any evidence that we begin with a clean slate?”

Well, the nature of the human mind for one thing. It acquires knowledge by means of cognitive action. Knowledge is something the thinking mind must earn.Many people resent effort, so they look for a shortcut. But this is merely a pretense.

For more dramatic evidence, consider the arduous trial-and-error journey of an infant through its toddler and childhood stages of cognitive development. I’ve been observing my daughter develop very closely since she was born. There is nothing that suggests that she is not generally typical with regard to the various stages of cognitive development. Everything she knows, she had to learn, and she’s made many mistakes along the way. She wasn’t born talking or spouting philosophical theses. She even had to be coached just to walk. Knowing how to stand on her own two legs and put one foot in front of the other was certainly not “built in” to her mind. This took months of practice, and even after she did take her first solo steps, she still had to learn to master it.

It was in February 2009, on her first visit to Thailand, when she verbalized her first concept. I remember this clearly. The family dog at her grandmother’s was named “Bob,” but my daughter did not realize that this was a proper name, and she started calling every dog she encountered “bob,” which for her was a concept, not a proper name. Family members just giggled, not realizing the breakthrough she had made. But it was one of the most significant milestones in her cognitive development by that point – that along with object permanence, which she achieved well more than a year previously.

Now, what kind of “knowledge” do you think is “built in”? You think lofty abstractions like “time, space and reason” are “built in,” while it’s clear that concepts of concretes, like dogs, are not? This is why I think you’re taking more for granted than you’ll probably ever realize.

Beyond that, I don’t think I have any further burden. The anecdotal evidence is more than merely circumstantial, since it bears directly on the matter at hand. I certainly have no burden to prove a negative – i.e., to prove that there is no content in a mind at the very beginning of life. Rather, I would say that the burden is on those who affirm the reality of so-called “a priori knowledge.” Prove that my daughter, for instance, knew what time, space, reason, and whatever else you think she knew apart from experience straight out of the womb.

I know, you’ll probably just say “I don’t have to.” But this will simply show you to be completely empty-handed on the matter.

[continued…]

November 21, 2012 1:56 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: “I have to know things about the world before we can know things about how we know about the world. Keep in mind that consciousness is not diaphanous. It has identity."

You responded: “No, you don't. It's already built in, for example, see the bible.”

Your advice – “see the bible” – completely contradicts what you’re claiming. If this knowledge were “already built in,” why would I have to “see” anything? Why would I have to consult some book to learn about this? If it truly is “built in,” you’re saying that I would already know it prior to experience. But I’m speaking for myself here. I didn’t know these things before experience, before, essentially, my own cognitive activity in regard to some content that I acquired through perceptual experience. Your advice is saying that I need a form of perceptual experience (“see the bible”) in order to “know” what you’re claiming. But that’s a posteriori, Nide. Are you capable of considering these matters with at least a little bit more care?

Nide wrote: “And for a secualr source see Kant's book on reason.”

This is more of the same – you’re advising me to undertake some course of experience so that I’ll know something in order to vindicate a priori knowledge! Bloody hilarious!!!!

[continued…]

November 21, 2012 1:56 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Now let’s look at the quote you (Nide) took from Michael’s website (which I have not visited).

Michael: “"While Rand's rejection of the rationalist-empiricist dichotomy as a false alternative is commonsensical, things get a bit confusing when she simultaneously argues that a priori knowledge is impossible.”

Really? I must say it took me some time to fully grasp certain technical aspects of Rand’s concept theory, but I never found her arguments against “a priori knowledge” to be “confusing.” I always found it quite straightforward and in fact more readily graspable than her objections against the rationalist-empiricist dichotomy (since this latter is more technical). Perhaps I was simply working from a different context than Michael. Or perhaps he’s trying to poison the well here.

Michael: “For if the senses provide the material of all knowledge, by what means does cognition provide the understanding of this material?”

I have already addressed this statement earlier. But I will restate the most important part:

<< The means by which cognition *ascertains* (this seems to be more accurate than “provides”) understanding of the material provided by the senses, is identification and integration by means of concepts. This process is spelled out in Rand’s book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, which I would say requires multiple readings over a period of time for its contents to eventually sink in fully. >>

[continued…]

November 21, 2012 1:56 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Michael: “It's one thing to argue that the actualities of existence are what they are regardless of what one might think about them. It's another thing to argue that these actualities may be assimilated by consciousness without a preexistent structure of rational knowledge.”

Agreed, these are two different issues. But what needs to be defined here is the notion of “a preexistent structure of rational knowledge.” What is at issue in the a priori vs. a posteriori debate is whether or not the mind has content at birth. A “structure of rational knowledge” may be intended to denote mental content arrayed in a hierarchical, logical structure. If this is what is meant by this term, I would side entirely on the a posteriori side of the debate. I’ve given some indications why above. We do not have mental content – i.e., conceptualized integrations – prior to having awareness of objects. The process by which the mind acquires awareness of (actually existing) objects is not a mystery, and neither is the process by which the mind conceptualizes that content.

If, on the other hand, this “preexistent structure” is intended to denote certain mechanisms present in the cognitive faculties of an individual at birth, apart from any content, then we’re not really talking about a priori knowledge after all. We’re talking about biological structures which provide for the potential for knowledge, once the knower starts interacting with the world, which would be experiential in nature, and thus wholly on the side of the a posteriori side of the debate.

So far as I know, the stomach is not formed with solid food already digesting in it at birth. Food needs to be introduced into the stomach, via the mouth and esophagus, before it can start the digestion process. I see no reason why we should suppose that consciousness works differently. The body does have the mechanisms in place for digestion, and they are naturally occurring in their proper order – mouth, esophagus, stomach, large intestine, small intestine, excretory system. The body also has mechanisms in place for consciousness, prior to the introduction of content acquired by experience once outside the womb. Can you think of any germane reason why these biological systems are not analogous in this respect?

Really, even if one claims with whatever level of support that the mind has “a priori knowledge” already “built in” right out of the shrink wrap of the womb at birth, it would not follow from this that said knowledge is reliably true. The whole question “How do you know?” is systematically annulled by such a proposal. A person claiming to “know” something “a priori,” would have no way of judging whether or not said “knowledge” is reliably true, unless of course he performed some kind of epistemological test on that content. But there’s the rub: if the epistemological test validated such knowledge, then its validation would be a posteriori, and so would its reliability. If the test invalidated that content, then so much for that content.

But if this is not enough to keep the a priorists from insisting that a priori knowledge is real, that it exists, and that it is innately valid and true, then okay: I know a priori that they’re wrong. Now what?

[continued…]

November 21, 2012 1:57 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Michael: “It's clear that due to the commonality of cerebral physiology a number of human perceptions and behaviors are universal.”

I’m happy to examine this claim. I’m happy to concede that human beings are physiologically similar: they have four limbs, a head, eyes, ears, noses, tongues, skin, various internal organs, brains, a spinal column, a constant need for food intake, subject to various environmental conditions (cold, heat, discomfort, etc.), vulnerable to certain threats, etc.

Let’s look at perceptions first. Are one person’s perceptions actually universal to everyone in the human race? It depends greatly on what this is intended to mean, but if I go on its plain reading (since in the quoted text there is no elaboration on its meaning), the only way I can understand this is that if I perceive a tree, everyone else perceives the same tree. But this clearly cannot be what Michael means. I perceive many things that none of you have perceived or will ever perceive; and vice versa. Perceptions, then, are not universal across the board of the human population. Michael says that “a number of human perceptions… are universal.” Well, if he does not mean my specific perceptions, of trees, chairs, cars, buildings, people, air conditioners, cockroaches, wall geckos, toothbrushes, cell phones, waste baskets, fruit baskets, etc., are universal, he needs to explain what he means. So far, however, it seems that this statement – “a number of human perceptions… are universal” is either carelessly constructed or simply wrong. Needs work.

Now, it may be that Michael means our ability to perceive is universal. Now, that is something I could sign onto. But this is not what is indicated given the wording which Michael has chosen. He needs to clarify this. It is not up to me to restate what he means.

As for the claim that “a number of human… behaviors are universal,” in a generalized sense, I think there’s more to this. For instance, I consume food with my mouth (as opposed to through my navel, for instance) and wear shoes on my feet (as opposed to on my ears, for instance). I would suspect that these behaviors are pretty much universal. But this would not validate the notion of “a priori knowledge.” Rather, the cause of such uniformity of behavior would be the physiological structure of the human organism as such, not the mental content of human beings at birth (i.e., “a priori knowledge”). And even these “universal behaviors” themselves must be learned - i.e., acquired cognitively through experience. Give a newborn infant a pair of shoes and see what it does with them. It’s not going to put both its feet into them, lace them up, and go for a jog.

The only basic structure that is universal to all human beings vis-à-vis the question of the nature of knowledge, is the subject-object relationship, which is the focus of the issue of metaphysical primacy, a concern which never comes up in any biblical discourse. This relationship, properly identified by the primacy of existence, implies a hierarchy between its elements, namely that the subject of consciousness must conform to the objects of its awareness, since the opposite is simply not possible. So if there is something cognitively universal among human beings, Objectivism is the only worldview to identify it explicitly and deal with it consistently.

Yeah, I know, Rand was simply “of the devil.” Fine. Go your way and see how far you get by trying to thwart these truths. It won’t bother me. It might do the gene pool some good.

[continued…]

November 21, 2012 1:57 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Michael: “The innate faculties of conceptual and mathematical logic, and language formation constitute the preexistent structure of knowledge.”

The notion of “innate faculties” needs to be explained. Objectivism recognizes that there are mechanisms in place in an individual at birth, but this is a far cry from suggesting that an infant “knows” these things right out of the womb. My daughter has been enrolled in a private kindergarten since June 2011, when she was about three years and three months old. I have watched her struggle with basic arithmetic problems, and I have watched her develop in this regard, too. She started with extremely simple additions, and now she’s doing more sophisticated math. She did not know any of this right out of the womb. None of this knowledge is “innate.” Indeed, she is continually learning new words, new concepts, new ways to express herself. She is now very conversant in both English and Thai, but her knowledge of the Thai language did not take root until she was put into a situation where she could learn it and practice it on a daily basis. You go and try learning Thai. It’s a language, and yet your knowledge of it is certainly not “innate.” I will watch and chuckle as you struggle with the most basic phrases in Thai, for I too have had an opportunity, via immersion, to acquire some facility in the language. Its structures and concepts are significantly different from English. Good luck knowing this innately, a-priorists!

My daughter is now at the point where she is making relatively sophisticated inferences. I have observed her progress from her first moments as a blank slate. The progress she has made is a beautiful thing to behold. And she did the work to earn it. No one could simply “give” it to her. She had to do this herself. We all had to. Again, I can only think that the “a-priorists” are taking more for granted than they can ever realize, unless of course they come to their senses (literally!) and recognize the amazing achievement that human knowledge truly is.

Yes, language is something a person must learn. There’s no doubt in my mind on this. Try picking up a foreign language. You’ll see that there is no short-cut here. You need to earn it. Any speaker does. The same is the case with logic, mathematics, and conceptualization. There are no shortcuts here. We are not the fantasies that the Christian religion enshrines in its god, an automatic knower which simply knows everything without any effort. Such fantasies are simply a delusion. It’s time to be an adult about these matters.

[continued…]

November 21, 2012 1:57 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Michael: “In other words, a number of a priori concepts are necessarily justified: the principle of identity, the principle of non-contradiction, the principle of excluded middle, the principle of causality, the concepts of quality and quantity, and so on. . . .”

None of the foregoing at all indicates that “the principle of identity, the principle of non-contradiction, the principle of excluded middle, the principle of causality, the concepts of quality and quantity, and so on,” are known a priori. Back on February 25, 2008, when my daughter was born, you could have asked her about these. If knowledge is supposed to be a priori, she should have been able to respond verbally; if she had knowledge of the things listed here at that most early part of her life, she should have been able to confirm such knowledge.

Rand’s system is an unspeakably superior improvement to all this, since she identifies the axiomatic concepts which are implicit in all knowledge and since she recognizes that the mind must earn its knowledge. It would be ridiculous beyond comparison to expect a newborn to know the things Michael lists here.

Michael wrote: “And while the object of perception and the form in which it is perceived are reality, albeit, relative to the open-ended, deductive-inductive process of concept-formation, it does not follow, as Rand contends, that the analytic-synthetic distinction is an irredeemably false dichotomy simply because the Kantian exegesis of it succumbs to subjectivism relative to the temporal realm of being.”

If it is the case that “the Kantian exegesis of [that analytic-synthetic distinction] succumbs to subjectivism” in any form, then the Kantian exegesis can be safely dismissed. This is because case for a position which reduces to subjectivism is in inherent conflict with an objective case.

[continued…]

November 21, 2012 1:58 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

But Rand’s rejection of the analytic-synthetic *dichotomy* is not premised on a rejection of Kant’s subjectivism per se. Rather, it is rejected on the dichotomy’s assumption of a false understanding of concepts. Peikoff explains (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, p. 115):

<< The epistemological basis of this dichotomy is the view that a concept consists only of its definition. According to the dichotomy, it is logically impermissible to contradict the definition of a concept; what one asserts by this means is ‘logically’ impossible. But to contradict any of the non-defining characteristics of a concept’s referents, is regarded as logically permissible; what one asserts in such a case is merely ‘empirically’ impossible. >>

The immediate issue here is the relationship between a concept and its definition and, in turn, the relationship between a concept’s definition and its referents. But the ultimate issue is really the relationship between truth and fact. The analytic-synthetic dichotomy seeks to create a disconnect between fact and truth, such that there are truths that do not need facts to back them up, and actual facts that we discover in reality are only “true” in one of many “possible worlds,” and thus logically dismissible because (in all honesty) one can *imagine* alternatives to them. This “test” goes back to Hume as much as it does to Kant. Objectivism rejects both schools of thought and is willing to go on its own into the realm of genuinely objective knowledge – i.e., knowledge that is fully consistent with the primacy of existence. Who else does this? Certainly not Christians!

Michael writes: “For the innate apprehension of this distinction is the impetus of concept-refinement;”

Really? “…concept-refinement…”? How so? Especially for the Christian, who has NO THEORY OF CONCEPTS to begin with???? Come on! Wake up, man! How can you have “concept-refinement” when you have no concept-formation to begin with????????

Michael: “it's our awareness of it that compels us to develop an increasingly more perfect understanding of existence beyond the temporal realm of being.”

Our “awareness” of specifically what “compels us to develop” this “increasingly and more perfect understanding”? Michael does not say. The what of consciousness is characteristically, and unsurprisingly, ignored here. And what does this notion of “existence beyond the temporal realm of being” refer to, if not to something one merely imagines? Indeed, where is any concern for the distinction between reality and imagination expressed here? It’s not, so far as I can see. And when one attempts to present a case for “a priori knowledge” and offers no provisions for distinguishing between either the content or the form of alleged “a priori knowledge” from imagination, that’s a red light in my book. But that’s me – I’m very concerned about making sure I don’t fail to distinguish between reality and imagination. Why don’t Christians exhibit this kind of concern?

Regards,
Dawson

November 21, 2012 1:58 AM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

I see that you haven't read my various posts on the inherent classical liberalism of Judeo-Christianity. You stated that "Christians are always telling" you "that America is a Christian nation," but can't back that up with scripture . . . or history, presumably.

You've been talking to the wrong Christians. I can back that up, and so can many others. It's an historical fact, one that leftists typically deny because they assume the essence of this truth is something other than what it is. Ironically, they seem to instinctively recognize the individualism of Judeo-Christianity and are alarmed by it.

But I like I said, I don't want to argue that here. At least not now. We have enough on our plate already.

November 21, 2012 6:58 AM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Richard, I'm not a huge fan of Kant.

November 21, 2012 8:18 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

BB said:

"No, you don’t have to, that’s true. You don’t have to do anything, Nide. Except die."

But I thought you cared about me? Why do you wanna see my die?

"This is not self-evident to me"

Why not?

"Many philosophers, physicists and other thinkers disagree over what time and space even are. So it’s unclear how one could consider them “a priori knowledge” that is “built in.”

That's because they haven't looked within.

"When you speak of “time” and “space,” are you talking about knowledge here? Or are you talking about the referents of these concepts being built into the universe around us? The latter would not constitute knowledge, and therefore it would not constitute ‘a priori knowledge’. If you mean the latter, it’s certainly not self-evident to me that such knowledge is “built in."

Time and Space are intuitive ideas. We are born with a sense of them. I'll admit that the understanding of them doesn't become evident till much later. However, they are there.

"As for reason, this is surely something one learns, and its entire process is a posteriori in nature. So this is not an example of something that is “built in.”"


Yea, but the ability is there. Ability implies knowledge. We get better at making rational decisions. However, human beings are inherently rational.

"The anecdotal evidence is more than merely circumstantial, since it bears directly on the matter at hand."


Gotcha. However, anecdotes don't equal proofs.

"Prove that my daughter, for instance, knew what time, space, reason, and whatever else you think she knew apart from experience straight out of the womb."

See above.

"Are you capable of considering these matters with at least a little bit more care?"

See above.


"This is more of the same – you’re advising me to undertake some course of experience so that I’ll know something in order to vindicate a priori knowledge! Bloody hilarious!!!!"

This is better than wishing death on me. But do remember that you have a soul. We live once then we "die"and then you have to face your creator. Are you ready?

"Now let’s look at the quote you (Nide) took from Michael’s website (which I have not visited)."

Ok. I'll let Michael speak for himself.


Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!!!!!!



November 21, 2012 8:45 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Michael,

Said: "Richard, I'm not a huge fan of Kant."

Yea, his stuff can be really annoying to read. But I think he has some good points.

The problem is before perception, you would need to be in space and time. Space and time are prior to perception. If those concepts were not built in, we wouldn't be able to function properly.



November 21, 2012 8:58 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Michael,

You wrote: “I see that you haven't read my various posts on the inherent classical liberalism of Judeo-Christianity.”

I have not visited your cite or any of the links you’ve provided. I simply do not have the time to do that. And I’ve seen no reason to, since you are free to bring any content which you believe bears on the discussion right here to my blog. Remember, Michael, you have come to me. I did not come to you.

You wrote: “You've been talking to the wrong Christians.”

Michael, this statement makes it sound like you think it’s my fault what Christians are telling me. It’s not. Christians come to me. They are the ones who have knocked on my door, stopped me on the street to hand out their tracts, invited me to their churches, visited my blog, etc. Christians themselves choose to do this. I do not make this choice, so it’s not my fault. If you think you have a better edge on these matters, you need to start getting out there and correcting the millions of Christians that live just in your time zone.

You write: “I can back that up, and so can many others. It's an historical fact, one that leftists typically deny because they assume the essence of this truth is something other than what it is.”

Leftists are habitually concrete-bound in their thinking; they do not think in terms of general, *rational* principles which guide their reasoning. They have a preset agenda to divide human populations into opposing collectives and place themselves in power over them. This end “justifies” every means they use, very much like a god which uses evil to demonstrate its glory – a “morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists” can go a long way in the hands of those who want to rule over others).

Many Christians *want* reliable principles to guide their lives, but the problem is that their worldview supplies no *rational* principles, since their worldview is premised (as you yourself have admitted) on the primacy of consciousness – cf. the view that wishing makes it so. You cannot have rational principles on the basis of a metaphysics which essentially says that wishing makes it so.

You write: “Ironically, they seem to instinctively recognize the individualism of Judeo-Christianity and are alarmed by it.”

If you think Christianity affirms a form of individualism, your conception of individualism must be quite different from mine. Here’s a brief statement from Rand on the topic (from her essay “Racism” in her book The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 129):

<< Individualism regards man—every man—as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life, a right derived from his nature as a rational being. Individualism holds that a civilized society, or any form of association, cooperation or peaceful coexistence among men, can be achieved only on the basis of the recognition of individual rights—and that a group, as such, has no rights other than the individual rights of its members. >>

None of this content comes from the bible, either in terms of content or principle. Where, for instance, does the bible present and endorse a doctrine of individual rights? I have already cited several passages which present the biblical view that the individual has a “right” (cough cough) to *sacrifice* himself and to obey his rulers, with no qualification made for breaches of public trust. The rulers, according to the apostle Paul, “are not a terror to good works, but to the evil” (Rom. 13:3). These are not principles upon which America’s constitutional structure was founded.

Regards,
Dawson

November 21, 2012 3:02 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: "No, you don’t have to, that’s true. You don’t have to do anything, Nide. Except die."

Nide responded: “But I thought you cared about me? Why do you wanna see my die?”

Where did I say that I *want* to see you die? I frankly don’t want to see anyone die. I’ve seen people die before. I don’t want to do that again. I’m just pointing out that there’s nothing you *have to do* except die. The same goes for me and everyone else, Nide. This has nothing to do with what I want to see, Nide. You’re reading things into my statement that aren’t there. Relax your emotions a bit.

I wrote: "This is not self-evident to me"

Nide asked: “Why not?”

The antecedent to the demonstrative pronoun ‘this’ in my statement above is the supposed validity of the notion of a priori knowledge. You said “It’s self-evident.” When I say it’s not self-evident to me, that means it is not something I can perceive directly; if it were true, I would have to infer it from facts that we can gather from reality. Do you understand what self-evident means? It means it’s something we can be directly aware of. The notion of a priori knowledge is the claim that we are born with knowledge already canned into our minds right out of the womb. It seems quite obvious, for points that I mentioned, that this is *not* the case. You can believe it all you like. But that will not make it true, Nide. Again, the primacy of existence.

I wrote: "Many philosophers, physicists and other thinkers disagree over what time and space even are. So it’s unclear how one could consider them ‘a priori knowledge’ that is ‘built in’.”

Nide: “That's because they haven't looked within.”

How do you know this, Nide? How do you know what these unspecified thinkers have and have not done? You must have amazing powers of omniscience! Can you tell me this week’s winning lotto numbers while you’re at it?

[continued…]

November 21, 2012 3:03 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: "When you speak of ‘time’ and ‘space’, are you talking about knowledge here? Or are you talking about the referents of these concepts being built into the universe around us? The latter would not constitute knowledge, and therefore it would not constitute ‘a priori knowledge’. If you mean the latter, it’s certainly not self-evident to me that such knowledge is ‘built in’."

Nide: “Time and Space are intuitive ideas.”

How did you formulate these ideas, Nide? Please, consider and address this question.

Nide: “We are born with a sense of them.”

What does it mean to be “born with a sense” of some specific idea, and how do you know that anyone is born with this? What exactly is your evidence?

Nide: “I'll admit that the understanding of them doesn't become evident till much later. However, they are there.”

Okay, so “we are born with a sense of” these “intuitive ideas” of “time” and “space,” but one’s “understanding of them doesn’t become evident till much later.” But you still insist that “they are there” – or have been there all along, before one ever understands them. So, on your view, people have these ideas in their minds at birth, but they don’t understand them until sometime later. So do you have any other lingering ideas in your head that you still have yet to understand? How do you know either way?

Again, what is your evidence for all this? Or, is it just a faith-belief that you don’t want to let go of for some reason?

Nide: “As for reason, this is surely something one learns, and its entire process is a posteriori in nature. So this is not an example of something that is ‘built in’."

Nide: “Yea, but the ability is there. Ability implies knowledge.”

Actually it doesn’t in many cases. For instance, the ability of the heart to pump blood through the blood stream of an organism does not imply any knowledge. The same is the case with an organism’s ability to digest, the ability of an organism to replace baby teeth, the organism’s ability to regenerate skin cells after a flesh wounds, the ability to grow hair, the ability to flatulate, the ability of hydrogen and oxygen atoms to combine and create water molecules, the ability of a strong wind to knock over a tree, the ability of saltwater to rust certain metals, the ability of layers of earth to create heat and pressure in underlying rock, etc., etc., etc.

I think you need to give this some more careful thought, Nide.

[continued…]

November 21, 2012 3:04 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Nide: “We get better at making rational decisions.”

Well, some of us do, Nide. But it’s not automatic. That’s my whole point!!! Knowledge is not automatic. That’s the gist of the a posteriori side of this debate. Your position is that at least some knowledge is automatic. Where’s your evidence?

I wrote: "The anecdotal evidence is more than merely circumstantial, since it bears directly on the matter at hand."

Nide: “Gotcha. However, anecdotes don't equal proofs.”

In the absence of anything stronger, anecdotal evidence, especially when a) it is generally uniform across a huge spectrum of sample data, b) it entirely supports a position in question, and c) no contrary evidence has been presented to support the opposing position, then such evidence is sufficient to validate the position it has been cited to support. Also, such evidence could be assembled into a logical proof. But this is a matter of academic formality. I’m concerned more about the evidence which bears on the topic. And you’ve cited none for the position you are affirming (and really have yet to defend).

I wrote: "This is more of the same – you’re advising me to undertake some course of experience so that I’ll know something in order to vindicate a priori knowledge! Bloody hilarious!!!!"

Nide: “This is better than wishing death on me.”

See above. You’re projecting, and reading something into statements that is not there. You’re taking things way to personally. It would help you immensely if you stop doing this. Try to work together.

Nide: “But do remember that you have a soul. We live once then we ‘die’ and then you have to face your creator. Are you ready?”

I can imagine this, Nide, but what I imagine is imaginary. Remember?

Nide stated in reply to Michael: “The problem is before perception, you would need to be in space and time. Space and time are prior to perception. If those concepts were not built in, we wouldn't be able to function properly.”

Well, for one thing, there is no “problem” here. Before perception is existence: existence exists. What part about “existence exists independent of consciousness” have you not understood? Also, before perception (a type of *activity*), there would need to be an organism which has the *ability* to perceive. See my points about ability not always implying prior knowledge above; this is what I mean by *ability* here.

The problem in your statement is that you’re confusing concepts with their referents. This is a very common mistake among thinkers who do not have the benefits of a worldview which explicitly spells out an objective theory of concepts.

Regards,
Dawson

November 21, 2012 3:04 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Aristotle’s view, the “unscribed tablet,” and Locke’s view, the tabula rasa, which is more at Rand’s view of things, are not the same thing. There is in fact a dramatic difference. Recall what I wrote earlier:

“Rand, in the Aristotelian tradition, holds that knowledge comes from perception and experience. Aristotle talks about the "unscribed tablet," though his rendition doesn’t preclude structural or categorical apriorities as Locke's tabula rasa does, the latter being closer to Rand's view or precisely that of Rand's.”

This will be important later. For now I skipped over your refutation of innate ideas as I’m about to launch into Judeo-Christianity’s epistemology. Let’s see if your refutation holds up.
_________________________________

However, a few points first. . . .

You write, quoting me: “If it is the case that ‘the Kantian exegesis of [that analytic-synthetic distinction] succumbs to subjectivism’ in any form, then the Kantian exegesis can be safely dismissed. This is because [a] case for a position which reduces to subjectivism is in inherent conflict with an objective case.”

Only as far as the physical realm is concerned.

I write: “For the innate apprehension of this distinction is the impetus of concept-refinement. . . .”

You respond: “Really? ‘…concept-refinement…’? How so? Especially for the Christian, who has NO THEORY OF CONCEPTS to begin with???? Come on! Wake up, man! How can you have ‘concept-refinement’ when you have no concept-formation to begin with????????”

Uh . . . Judeo-Christianity does have a theory of concepts. LOL! And we’re about to see that very clearly.

In the meantime. . . .

The analytic-synthetic dichotomy, a construct that will do for now, necessarily applies to God because the finite mind can never know Him as He is. To know Him as He is, to know Him comprehensibly, is to be Him.

You write: “But Rand’s rejection of the analytic-synthetic *dichotomy* is not premised on a rejection of Kant’s subjectivism per se. Rather, it is rejected on the dichotomy’s assumption of a false understanding of concepts.”

Yes. Per se. But the end result is subjectivism. The problem here is that my statement is taken out of a larger context in which I merely state the problem in general terms relative to the ultimate outcome. I’m not concerned with the intermediate details in that instance; they’re not relevant to the ultimate point that is made, which, by the way, goes to the Objectivist’s univocally subjective worldview . . . something the Objectivist just doesn’t see or refuses to acknowledge. The Objectivist’s worldview gives way to relativism too.


You write: “Objectivism rejects both schools of thought and is willing to go on its own into the realm of genuinely objective knowledge – i.e., knowledge that is fully consistent with the primacy of existence. Who else does this? Certainly not Christians!”

Certainly they do! that is, to the extent to which their minds have been renewed. For they are the only ones who have access to “the realm of genuinely objective knowledge.” For God is the only One around with a set of all-seeing eyes.

And Objectivism doesn't exactly "go on its own", but reflects Hume's empiricism almost to a tee. Hume is much closer to Rand than Locke or Berkeley. Hume, in many ways, is closer to Rand than even Aristotle. Your rather vague criticism of Hume is interesting. Indeed, Locke stretches his empirical premise to the breaking point, while Berkeley openly declares that even Locke’s primary qualities cannot be directly experienced.

Hmm.

Oh, well, on to the only sensibly consistent epistemology around, i.e., the rational-empirical consensus expounded by scripture.

I'm off Friday, so will "see you" then.

You need some time to go over what I wrote about the transcendent anyway.

November 21, 2012 3:36 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Michael,

You wrote: “Rand, in the Aristotelian tradition, holds that knowledge comes from perception and experience. Aristotle talks about the "unscribed tablet," though his rendition doesn’t preclude structural or categorical apriorities as Locke's tabula rasa does, the latter being closer to Rand's view or precisely that of Rand's.”

Can you show where in Rand’s writings that she affirms “structural or categorical apriorities” in the sense that this constitutes the possession of knowledge prior to and independent of experience? Please, link your characterizations of Rand’s view to statements she actually made. This would be helpful.

Regards,
Dawson

November 21, 2012 3:45 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Michael,

You wrote: “Judeo-Christianity does have a theory of concepts. LOL! And we’re about to see that very clearly.”

To make it clear that whatever you present as a distinctively Christian theory of concepts, I will be looking for biblical citations for the contents of that theory that you presumably will present at some point. But first of all, I would like to know the distinctively Christian theory’s definition of ‘concept’ – what, according to the bible, is a concept? Where can we find this definition in the bible?

I’m not talking about what theologians centuries or more later have proposed in order to address certain problems which have cropped up in the history of philosophy. A distinctively Christian theory of concepts would need to have its basis in the content of the bible. Otherwise, it’s what *men* have put together, and thus in need of disentangling from secular influences which may have played a role in the formation of such a theory.

But please, link what you present specifically to what the bible supplies. This is what I’m looking for.

Regards,
Dawson

November 21, 2012 3:52 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

I strayed a bit, as I noticed that more had been written.

So, Dawson, you're telling me in the above that your assessment of Christianity is based solely on what others have told you? Surely that can't be right.

There's something wrong with that. I can't quite put my finger on it. . . . Well, actually, I can. I'm just being coy. : )

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and to all a good night!

November 21, 2012 3:56 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

I write: “Rand, in the Aristotelian tradition, holds that knowledge comes from perception and experience. Aristotle talks about the "unscribed tablet," though his rendition doesn’t preclude structural or categorical apriorities as Locke's tabula rasa does [suppossedly], the latter being closer to Rand's view or precisely that of Rand's.”

You ask: "Can you show where in Rand’s writings that she affirms ‘structural or categorical apriorities’ in the sense that this constitutes the possession of knowledge prior to and independent of experience?"

No. I can't. That's my point. She doesn't. We agreed on that earlier.

Now I really do have to go.

November 21, 2012 4:10 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Michael,

You wrote: “So, Dawson, you're telling me in the above that your assessment of Christianity is based solely on what others have told you? Surely that can't be right.”

This is hardly a charitable interpretation of what I stated, and frankly I expect better from you. The background context of this point in the discussion specifically has to do with what Christians have affirmed to me and what they’ve been unable to support. I’ve read many things on this over the years as well as having discussion with Christians (who represent a broad variety of often conflicting philosophical views on all sorts of matters), and I remain completely unpersuaded that America’s distinctive, individualistic principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness do not have a Christian – i.e., biblical - basis. Surely many Christians have signed on to these ideas. That’s a different topic. I’m talking about the content of these principles, not the personalities who have championed them. Self-professing Christians get behind things that are alien to biblical Christianity all the time. I would say that this would be one such example.

Christianity is all over the world. Yet there is only one America. Christians have been around for nearly two thousand years. But America did not come into existence until 1776, and the ideas that led to her independence were vilified by many as they developed. Even on the issue of slavery, many leading anti-abolitionists were devout Christians and they cited biblical texts to support their endorsement of slavery. I can point you to Christians today who affirm that "slavery is entirely biblical."

Really, there's so much to be said here, but I don't want to bury you under any more avalanches right now. You have enough to worry about.

Regards,
Dawson

November 21, 2012 4:33 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

BB said:

" You can believe it all you like. But that will not make it true, Nide. Again, the primacy of existence."

But what is existence? Time and Space. Nothing can exist outside of it.

"How do you know this, Nide? How do you know what these unspecified thinkers have and have not done? You must have amazing powers of omniscience! Can you tell me this week’s winning lotto numbers while you’re at it?"

Because they don't know what time and space is.

"How did you formulate these ideas, Nide? Please, consider and address this question."

I didn't formulate them. I became aware of them.

What's a concept? An idea. What's an idea? A sensation. It's that simple.

Time and Space are the preconditions for making sense of other ideas or sensations.

All of our concepts are founded on our concept of time and space.

"What does it mean to be “born with a sense” of some specific idea, and how do you know that anyone is born with this? What exactly is your evidence?"

Reason.


Continued.......

November 21, 2012 7:53 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

BB said:

"Again, what is your evidence for all this? Or, is it just a faith-belief that you don’t want to let go of for some reason?"

Some of our perceptions activate knowledge. they don't create it.

My perception of the visible world activated my idea of time and space. My perception of a tree created the idea of a tree.

"I think you need to give this some more careful thought, Nide."

How about my ability to feel pain?

"Well, some of us do, Nide. But it’s not automatic. That’s my whole point!!! Knowledge is not automatic. That’s the gist of the a posteriori side of this debate. Your position is that at least some knowledge is automatic. Where’s your evidence?"

See above. My ability to make rational decisions activates the innate concept of human rationality.

For one to learn certain conditions have to be met first. For example, there has to be a rational structure put in place first.

"I can imagine this, Nide, but what I imagine is imaginary. Remember?"

Yea, I remember and it was pretty funny.

Cont......





November 21, 2012 8:14 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

BB said:

"The problem in your statement is that you’re confusing concepts with their referents. This is a very common mistake among thinkers who do not have the benefits of a worldview which explicitly spells out an objective theory of concepts."

Why do I need a theory of concepts?


See, Kant went overboard because he claimed that time and space were subjective. That is, they only exist in our minds. That's were we disagree.I believe that time and space are objective but that we have an innate idea of them because if we did not, we would not be able to function properly. Our biological functions work according to an internal sense of time and space that correspond to an external reality that make those functions possible. Without these innate ideas, we would have no idea of where we are and what's happening.

So, no, I'm not confusing our sensations with what causes those sensations.





End.




November 21, 2012 8:36 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Nide:

I wrote: "You can believe it all you like. But that will not make it true, Nide. Again, the primacy of existence."

Nide: “But what is existence? Time and Space.”

So, when I see a tree, it’s not really a tree, it’s really “Time and Space”? Fascinating.

Nide: “Nothing can exist outside of it.”

That’s odd. Christians usually tell me that their god exists outside of time and space. But you disagree with them. Okay.

I asked: "How do you know this, Nide? How do you know what these unspecified thinkers have and have not done? You must have amazing powers of omniscience! Can you tell me this week’s winning lotto numbers while you’re at it?"

Nide: “Because they don't know what time and space is.”

And you do “know what time and space is” [sic], and you know what these unnamed scientists know and don’t know. Again, fascinating! You have all the answers!

I asked: "How did you formulate these ideas, Nide? Please, consider and address this question."

Nide: “I didn't formulate them. I became aware of them.”

You “became aware of them.” Sounds experiential to me. I.e., a posteriori.

You wrote: “What's a concept? An idea. What's an idea? A sensation. It's that simple.”

I see. So, according to your worldview, the Christian worldview, concepts = ideas = sensations. Got it.

Nide: “Time and Space are the preconditions for making sense of other ideas or sensations.”

Well, even if this were the case, a precondition is not the same thing as a priori knowledge. Here’s an area where Kant got himself tripped up. He blurred the distinction between existence and consciousness, just as Christianity does.

Nide: “All of our concepts are founded on our concept of time and space.”

So now all of a sudden, “time and space” is a concept? How did that happen?

[continued…]

November 22, 2012 2:51 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I asked: "What does it mean to be ‘born with a sense’ of some specific idea, and how do you know that anyone is born with this? What exactly is your evidence?"

Nide: “Reason.”

Hmm… Which of my questions is your unexplained, single-word answer intended to answer? It’s not clear, nor is it clear how it answers any of them. So I have to ask.

I asked: "Again, what is your evidence for all this? Or, is it just a faith-belief that you don’t want to let go of for some reason?"

Nide: “Some of our perceptions activate knowledge. they don't create it.”

I see. So knowledge on your view is analogous to a cleaning agent – it needs to be “activated” by some means of causal activity. Sort of like the fizzing of a soda pop. Fascinating.

Nide: “My perception of the visible world activated my idea of time and space.”

This sounds at least quasi-a posteriori. Maybe even more so. At the very least, it suggests that there’s really no way for you to validate the claim that “time and space” – whether they are concepts, metaphysical preconditions, sensations, ideas, or what have you – are a priori. If it takes perceptual activity to “activate” these ideas, how do you know that they are not really a posteriori, based on experience rather than truly “innate”?

Nide: “My perception of a tree created the idea of a tree.”

But we already know that sensations, integrated automatically by biological mechanisms, are what constitute perceptions. But if ideas are sensations, as you affirmed above, then your sensations constituted your perception of the tree. So we’re right back to Kant here, via the “simple” Nidean shortcut. Nifty!

I wrote: "I think you need to give this some more careful thought, Nide."

Nide: “How about my ability to feel pain?”

What about it? Like many of the others I listed for you, your ability to feel pain does not imply knowledge. Sensations are preconceptual (I’m speaking here from an objective understanding of these things; I’m not speaking on behalf of your twisted, confused and apparently ad hoc worldview).

[continued…]

November 22, 2012 2:51 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: "Well, some of us do, Nide. But it’s not automatic. That’s my whole point!!! Knowledge is not automatic. That’s the gist of the a posteriori side of this debate. Your position is that at least some knowledge is automatic. Where’s your evidence?"

Nide: “See above. My ability to make rational decisions activates the innate concept of human rationality.”

Well, the exercise of an ability is what is need to “activate” a concept (which is also a sensation on your view), then it seems we’re on the turf of experience. That’s not a priori. But perhaps you’re simply not explaining your position very well.

Nide: “For one to learn certain conditions have to be met first. For example, there has to be a rational structure put in place first.”

But rationality is the consistent and uncompromised application of reason, and reason is the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by the senses. So this “rational structure” could only come as a result of applying reason, which means we need to be perceiving before there could be any “rational structure.” So for one to learn, one must have awareness of objects, one must perceive things that exist, as a root minimum. But your position completely takes this for granted. Why? I wager that it’s due to your worldview’s implicit denial of the axiom of consciousness. I’m glad that’s not my problem!

I wrote: "I can imagine this, Nide, but what I imagine is imaginary. Remember?"

Nide responded: “Yea, I remember and it was pretty funny.”

I suppose it’s funny, at least from a certain perspective. I’d think it would be pretty discouraging for those whose worldview has systematically disabled them from consistently distinguishing between reality and imagination. But then again, this form of intellectual suicide is chosen by the believer. So laugh it up. The joke is on you.

[continued…]

November 22, 2012 2:52 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: "The problem in your statement is that you’re confusing concepts with their referents. This is a very common mistake among thinkers who do not have the benefits of a worldview which explicitly spells out an objective theory of concepts."

Nide: “Why do I need a theory of concepts?”

Well, one reason would be so that you wouldn’t make the kind of mistake I just pointed out in your statement. But at least you’re admitting that your worldview has no theory of concepts. Your worldview must be quite different from Michael’s, for he insists that his worldview has a theory of concepts, though we’ve seen no details or source references as of yet.

Nide: “See, Kant went overboard because he claimed that time and space were subjective.”

And this is another reason why you need an objective theory of concepts, something you’ve admitted that you don’t have.

Nide: “That is, they only exist in our minds. That's were we disagree.I believe that time and space are objective but that we have an innate idea of them because if we did not, we would not be able to function properly.”

Why does functioning properly imply that we have “an innate idea of them”? We cannot “function properly” without being able to distinguish good food from spoil, and yet this is something we must learn – it is not innate.

Nide: “Our biological functions work according to an internal sense of time and space that correspond to an external reality that make those functions possible.”

Really? How do you know? How did you discover this? How do you validate it? How do you overcome objections to this view? Or, are you simply not aware of any?

Nide: “Without these innate ideas, we would have no idea of where we are and what's happening.”

But this does not validate the notion that they are “innate.” There are many analogous situations we face every day in which “we would have no idea of where we are and what’s happening” without knowledge that we learned by a rational process based on input acquired from reality by an objective means – i.e., experience. So you’re not making your case at all for a priori knowledge, if that’s what you think you’re doing. You’re simply affirming it and saying all these other things depend on it, without showing how they do in fact depend only on what you say they depend. It’s as though you were simply blowing smoke.

Nide: “So, no, I'm not confusing our sensations with what causes those sensations.”

Well, above, you confused sensations with concepts. So you’re all over the place here, Nide. Your position simply crumbles into greater extravagances of confusion with every effort you make to present it. Please, continue! It’s not hurting me.

Regards,
Dawson

November 22, 2012 2:52 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Michael,

I wrote, quoting you: “If it is the case that ‘the Kantian exegesis of [that analytic-synthetic distinction] succumbs to subjectivism’ in any form, then the Kantian exegesis can be safely dismissed. This is because [a] case for a position which reduces to subjectivism is in inherent conflict with an objective case.”

Michael replied: “Only as far as the physical realm is concerned.”

I’m not sure I understand what you want to say here completely. It appears that you’re suggesting (by disagreeing with the point I stated) that a case for a position which reduces to subjectivism is not in inherent conflict with an objective case when some realm other than “the physical realm” is concerned. Is this what you meant to say?

How about when the imaginary realm is concerned? Remember the section I quoted above from one apologist’s article defending the “immaterial” realm, where the author tries to explain what the “immaterial” is like by asking the reader to imagine a ball?

Here it is again in case you missed it:

<< When something “exists” it is. Note that this does not mean that we are dealing with physical or material existence. Indeed, immaterial existence also exists. (For evidence of this, imagine a red ball. The red ball you have imagined does not have any physical existence; it exists immaterially. Granted, one can argue that the immaterial existence is based on a material brain, but the ball that is imagined is not material. It does not exist physically anywhere.) >>

These are not my words. They came from a Christian apologist. Judging by what he says here, it’s clear that he thinks imaginary things are real.

Now when it comes to identifications of things that exist, regardless of whether or not they are “material” or “physical” or something else, if they exist, they exist independent of the conscious activity by which one has awareness of them. Of course, you are free to deny this, but this would mean that you think their existence does depend on the conscious activity by which the subject of consciousness is aware of them. It seems that you’re saying that there is no inherent conflict between objectivity and subjectivism in the imaginary realm of Christian fictions, since you appear to be saying that this inherent conflict obtains “only as far as the physical realm is concerned.” But if I’m misunderstanding you, please explain.

[continued…]

November 22, 2012 4:29 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: “But Rand’s rejection of the analytic-synthetic *dichotomy* is not premised on a rejection of Kant’s subjectivism per se. Rather, it is rejected on the dichotomy’s assumption of a false understanding of concepts.”

You wrote: “Yes. Per se. But the end result is subjectivism.”

Can you clarify this? The “end result” of what in particular?

You wrote: “The problem here is that my statement is taken out of a larger context in which I merely state the problem in general terms relative to the ultimate outcome. I’m not concerned with the intermediate details in that instance; they’re not relevant to the ultimate point that is made, which, by the way, goes to the Objectivist’s univocally subjective worldview . . . something the Objectivist just doesn’t see or refuses to acknowledge.”

What do you mean by “univocally subjective”? By ‘subjective’, do you mean primacy of the subject in the subject-object relationship, or something else?

If you think I just don’t see something, or that I’m refusing to acknowledge something, can you point it out for me? Please, be very clear. Connect all the dots. Substantiate your charges with direct references to the source material where you think these problems occur.

You wrote: “The Objectivist’s worldview gives way to relativism too.”

Can you explain this at some point, too?

[continued…]

November 22, 2012 4:29 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: “Objectivism rejects both schools of thought and is willing to go on its own into the realm of genuinely objective knowledge – i.e., knowledge that is fully consistent with the primacy of existence. Who else does this? Certainly not Christians!”

You responded: “Certainly they do! that is, to the extent to which their minds have been renewed.”

It’s statements like this which continue to suggest to me that you have yet to grasp what the primacy of existence is. You yourself stated earlier in this very thread that “according to Judeo-Christianity, ultimately, consciousness does have primacy over existence.” So how is “knowledge that is *fully* consistent with the primacy of existence” something that Christians have on their side with admissions like this?

Can you find one biblical passage which *explicitly* affirms the primacy of existence? I’m not asking about passages where the primacy of existence is implicitly assumed, for Objectivists already hold that the primacy of existence is ultimately inescapable, even when one violates it (as my point about the self-contradiction of the claim “God exists” makes clear). I’m just wondering where this is affirmed in an *explicit* manner anywhere in the bible.

Come to think of it, I’ve never seen Christian theologians or apologists raising objections to a position because it violates the primacy of existence. We don’t see Christians saying, “Hey, that’s got to be false since it contradicts the primacy of existence.” I’ve never seen it. If Christians affirm the primacy of existence as you seem to be saying, why don’t we ever see this? Why don’t we find it explicitly affirmed in the bible?

Also, how do you explain passages like Matthew 17:20, which has Jesus say: “verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you”? This instruction clearly reduces to an affirmation of the primacy of consciousness. It is completely incompatible with the primacy of existence. Is this not clear to you?

You wrote: “For they are the only ones who have access to ‘the realm of genuinely objective knowledge’. For God is the only One around with a set of all-seeing eyes.”

I didn’t know that a pure “spirit” had eyes. I thought eyes were biological organs, subject to degeneration. If it doesn’t have eyes, how can it be “all-seeing”?

Of course, I can imagine these things, but I’m still faced with the fact that what I imagine is merely imaginary.

As for your claim that Objectivism “reflects Hume’s empiricism almost to a tee,” I will have to take this up later, as I am completely out of time now (I have a big day at work, and I’m already running a tad bit late). There’s much to correct here, but it makes me wonder where you’re getting this impression, Michael. There are very crucial differences between Hume and Rand on empiricism. But that will wait till later.

Regards,
Dawson

November 22, 2012 4:29 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Dawson,

A few more items. . . .

You write: "This is hardly a charitable interpretation of what I stated, and frankly I expect better from you."

1. You have me all wrong here. I'm just teasing you a bit, nothing more. I understand the context. I'm just hinting at the fact that folks get things wrong about systems of thought all the time, not just that of Judeo-Christianity. The fact remains: we have any given system of thought “over here", and "over there," we have what people say. That applies to me too, ya know. I don't perfectly understand everything about Judeo-Christianity; I learn new things about it all the time, more at, I learn new things about God as revealed by the Bible all the time. After these many years, I mostly incorporate new information, which expands my understanding or compels me to adjust my understanding. On occasion, I still encounter new ideas that utterly overthrow what I believed to be true before.

The renewing of one’s mind is a process.

2. Richard quoted a portion of my article which read: “It's clear that due to the commonality of cerebral physiology a number of human perceptions and behaviors are universal.”

I don’t like this. The intended meaning of “perceptions” in this instance is “mental images.” But even that is inadequate, for what I’m after here has to do with how we experience mental images coupled with their concepts and referents. I also struck the term “preexistent” as it’s confusing. Hence, the paragraph has been revised to read:

“It's clear that due to the commonality of cerebral physiology a number of human cognitive experiences and behaviors are universal. The innate faculties of conceptual and mathematical logic, and language formation constitute the a priori structure of knowledge. In other words, a number of a priori concepts are necessarily justified: the principle of identity, the principle of contradiction, the principle of excluded middle, the principle of causality, the concepts of quality and quantity, and so on. . . .”

3.In the above, I write:

“On the contrary, Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover necessarily has no megethos (“magnitude”); i.e, He has no body of time or spatial dimension. God moves things or causes them to be by sheer will or thought in an infinite realm of “time.” In fact, He is that realm, and He created time to govern the cosmos. God is necessarily infinite, as an infinite chain of effect needs an infinite chain of cause. What there cannot be, according to Aristotle, is an infinite magnitude or physical substance. Magnitude is divisible. God is not (Aristotle, Metaphysics 12.7-10).

This is wrong. Aristotle, of course, held that time is infinite. The third sentence in the above should read: “In fact, He is that realm [in some sense]. Christianity holds that He created time to govern the cosmos.”

I think I started to revise the expression of this contrast, skipped up or down to another portion of the piece and forgot to come back and complete it. This contrast is important as it entails a centuries-old dispute between Christianity and classical Grecian thought. I don’t know if you caught it or not, as I merely scanned over your response to my refutation of (1) “The Problem of the Lonesomeness of God” and (2) “the problem of the infinite.”

November 22, 2012 4:47 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

3. I noted your utterly corrupt retelling of my refutations of your non-existent problems of “lonesomeness” and “the infinite.”

Even from what little I read, your logical fallacies are staggering in their number and degree of obtuseness. It would appear that you’re not cable of stepping outside of Objectivism’s rather black-and-white, univocal system of thought long enough to objectively assess the logic of Judeo-Christianity's analogical perspective on its own terms. Ultimately, this is what is meant by the “definition of terms.”

Why is that, Dawson? I’ve no problem following the Objectivist’s logic from his premise and subsequent perspective or revising my understanding when necessary.

Your logic has been utterly refuted on at least five points by my count thus far, but this flies right over your head.

We'll have to hold off on epistemology after all. We need to go back over a good many things . . . apparently, one thing and only one thing at a time.

I’ll have to review everything in detail tomorrow and respond. I’m the turkey master around here. Got to go back to work. It’s ready to carve.

November 22, 2012 4:50 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

BB said:

So, when I see a tree, it’s not really a tree, it’s really “Time and Space”? Fascinating.

No, it's a tree in time and space. amazing isn't it?

"That’s odd. Christians usually tell me that their god exists outside of time and space. But you disagree with them. Okay."

Not so fast! I actually explained this to you a long time ago. See the archives. Sadly, some Christians haven't thought things out.

"And you do “know what time and space is” [sic], and you know what these unnamed scientists know and don’t know. Again, fascinating! You have all the answers!"

I have a lot but not all.

"You “became aware of them.” Sounds experiential to me. I.e., a posteriori."

No, the sensation of time and space are prior to all other experience. You can't experience time and space. If this was the case, you would not be able to experience any other thing. Time and space make experience possible. As your cognitive functions develop, you are able to better understand these innate ideas. This is accomplsihed by internal analyzation and reflection. "Aware" was not a good choice of word.

"I see. So, according to your worldview, the Christian worldview, concepts = ideas = sensations. Got it"

Good.

"Well, even if this were the case, a precondition is not the same thing as a priori knowledge. Here’s an area where Kant got himself tripped up. He blurred the distinction between existence and consciousness, just as Christianity does."

You ever read any Kant?


"So now all of a sudden, “time and space” is a concept? How did that happen?"

Well, you need to pay more attention.

"This sounds at least quasi-a posteriori. Maybe even more so. At the very least, it suggests that there’s really no way for you to validate the claim that “time and space” – whether they are concepts, metaphysical preconditions, sensations, ideas, or what have you – are a priori. If it takes perceptual activity to “activate” these ideas, how do you know that they are not really a posteriori, based on experience rather than truly “innate”?"

Well, after some reflection, I have shifted my position a bit. See above


"But we already know that sensations, integrated automatically by biological mechanisms, are what constitute perceptions. But if ideas are sensations, as you affirmed above, then your sensations constituted your perception of the tree. So we’re right back to Kant here, via the “simple” Nidean shortcut. Nifty!"

Not really follwing you here but this is the deal. This isn't easy stuff. Memory plays a large role in this. A concept is a copy or mental representation of our sensations(perceptions). However, they are essentially the same thing.

"What about it? Like many of the others I listed for you, your ability to feel pain does not imply knowledge. Sensations are preconceptual (I’m speaking here from an objective understanding of these things; I’m not speaking on behalf of your twisted, confused and apparently ad hoc worldview)."

Well, ad hoc philosophy is the best philosophy.

"Why? I wager that it’s due to your worldview’s implicit denial of the axiom of consciousness. I’m glad that’s not my problem!'

Well, I don't even remember what the axiom of consciousness is.






cont........

November 22, 2012 9:46 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"Really? How do you know? How did you discover this? How do you validate it? How do you overcome objections to this view? Or, are you simply not aware of any?"

Analyzation.

"Well, above, you confused sensations with concepts. So you’re all over the place here, Nide. Your position simply crumbles into greater extravagances of confusion with every effort you make to present it. Please, continue! It’s not hurting me."

For you.

But See above for the sensation-concept relationship.


end.

November 22, 2012 9:54 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote; “So, when I see a tree, it’s not really a tree, it’s really ‘Time and Space’? Fascinating.”

Nide: “No, it's a tree in time and space. amazing isn't it?”

So existence is time and space, and when I see a tree, I see a tree in time and space, but the tree doesn’t exist?

Nide had stated: “Nothing can exist outside of [time and space].”

I responded: “That’s odd. Christians usually tell me that their god exists outside of time and space. But you disagree with them. Okay."

Nide now comes back: “Not so fast! I actually explained this to you a long time ago. See the archives.”

The archives to my blog are huge, and frankly I’m not sure what I’d be looking for. Here’s a chance for you to explain your position. If you say that “nothing can exist outside of [time and space],” and you claim that a god exists, that god must either exist in time and space (contrary to what many Christians have affirmed), or your god is a “nothing.”

Nide: “Sadly, some Christians haven't thought things out.”

Well, that’s what we’re discovering, isn’t it? Actually, I’ve known this for many years now. Typically Christians didn’t convert to Christianity because they thought things through beforehand and found a god at the end of a conclusion. Very often it’s the reverse: they invest themselves in Christianity emotionally and confessionally first, and only after this they start trying to think of ways to defend it (for who wants to face the fact that they’ve made a bad deal?).

I wrote: "And you do ‘know what time and space is’ [sic], and you know what these unnamed scientists know and don’t know. Again, fascinating! You have all the answers!"

Nide: “I have a lot but not all.”

But even with the answers that you do supposedly have, you sometimes find the need to revise them. How do we know that you’re not going to revise the answers you’re affirming now?

I wrote: "You ‘became aware of them’. Sounds experiential to me. I.e., a posteriori."

Nide: “No, the sensation of time and space are prior to all other experience.”

But even if we suppose this is the case (and you give no reason at all to suppose it is), this does not rule out experience as the means by which you become aware of time and space. In other words, even if the “sensation” of time and space are “prior to all other experience,” it is still experience that we’re talking about here. This is given away by your use of the phrase “all other” here.

Nide: “You can't experience time and space.”

I personally can’t? Or no one can?

Are you saying that one can have “the sensation of time and space,” but he “can’t experience time and space”? I’m lost. How is sensation not a type of experience?

[continued…]

November 23, 2012 1:22 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Nide: “If this was the case, you would not be able to experience any other thing.”

Can you explain why?

Nide: “Time and space make experience possible.”

And one can have “the sensation of time and space,” but he “can’t experience time and space”? He can’t experience what makes experience possible? Got any rationale, even a poor rationale, to support any of this?

Nide: “As your cognitive functions develop, you are able to better understand these innate ideas.”

Well, so far, you haven’t even explained what time and space are. Can you do that for me? According to your version of Christianity, what is time, and what is space? Got any bible quotes to authenticate any of this stuff as genuinely Christian?

Nide: “This is accomplsihed by internal analyzation and reflection.”

Can you take us through some of the basic steps of this “internal analyzation and reflection” by which “your cognitive functions develop” and enable you “to better understand these innate ideas”?

Nide: "’Aware’ was not a good choice of word.”

Then why did you use it?

Nide had stated: “What's a concept? An idea. What's an idea? A sensation. It's that simple.”

To make sure I was understanding him, I wrote: "I see. So, according to your worldview, the Christian worldview, concepts = ideas = sensations. Got it"

Nide reports: “Good.”

Okay, good. I understand your view. Now, can you show me where the bible affirms all this?

I wrote: “Well, even if this were the case, a precondition is not the same thing as a priori knowledge. Here’s an area where Kant got himself tripped up. He blurred the distinction between existence and consciousness, just as Christianity does."

Nide: “You ever read any Kant?”

Yes, I have. I have his Critique of Pure Reason somewhere on one of my bookshelves. It’s the Norman Kemp Smith translation. Ever read Kant in the original German?

[continued…]

November 23, 2012 1:22 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: “So now all of a sudden, ‘time and space’ is a concept? How did that happen?"

Nide: “Well, you need to pay more attention.”

I’m trying my best to follow along, Nide. But your responses to my questions are quite threadbare, often consisting of single words or just a short phrase, and generally characterized by a stark absence of explanation. You seem to be trying out a new brand of smoke to blow.

I wrote: “This sounds at least quasi-a posteriori. Maybe even more so. At the very least, it suggests that there’s really no way for you to validate the claim that ‘time and space’ – whether they are concepts, metaphysical preconditions, sensations, ideas, or what have you – are a priori. If it takes perceptual activity to ‘activate’ these ideas, how do you know that they are not really a posteriori, based on experience rather than truly ‘innate’?"

Nide: “Well, after some reflection, I have shifted my position a bit.”

You seem to shift your position a bit with every couple postings. It makes it very hard to follow you. Instead of sending me “above” or back into the archives, can you just address the questions that I raise and give more than a brief, uninformative statement to explain your position?

I wrote: "But we already know that sensations, integrated automatically by biological mechanisms, are what constitute perceptions. But if ideas are sensations, as you affirmed above, then your sensations constituted your perception of the tree. So we’re right back to Kant here, via the “simple” Nidean shortcut. Nifty!"

Nide: “Not really follwing you here”

Well, it can get complex, but the Objectivist view is that sensations and perceptions are not the same thing. Perceptions are automatic integrations of any quantity of sensations. Sensations are fleeting immediate responses to stimuli, and they cannot be retained in the memory; they last only as long as the stimulation which causes them lasts. I can remember that the pizza tasted good, but I cannot taste the pizza unless it’s in my mouth. What I retain in my memory is a perception, an automatic integration of a group of sensations, an integration which can be retained in the memory (such as when I recall how delicious the pizza was, long after I stopped tasting it).

Incidentally, it is here where a major distinction between Hume and Rand can be found. Hume thought that we had to *volitionally* piece together different sensations, and he was stymied as to how we do this. Implicitly denying the conceptual level of consciousness, Hume had no way to rescue himself from where his epistemology left him stranded. Rand was fully aware of this profound difference (see her essay “For the New Intellectual”) and Kelley explores it and validates Rand’s alternative over and above Hume’s. To suppose that Rand and Hume share views “almost to a tee” on such matters, only indicates unfamiliarity with Rand’s views, Hume’s views, or both.

[continued…]

November 23, 2012 1:23 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Nide: “but this is the deal. This isn't easy stuff.”

But earlier you said it’s simple. Now it “isn’t easy stuff.” How much thought have you given to all this?

Nide: “Memory plays a large role in this.”

Well, if perceptions are involved, yes, I would agree. We do not store sensations in our memory. I can recall that something was pleasurable, for instance, but my memory does not bring back the sensation of some experience to experience again. In the case of many pleasures, it would be nice if it could. But we need external causes for our sensations, not internal.

Nide: “A concept is a copy or mental representation of our sensations(perceptions). However, they are essentially the same thing.”

Well, earlier you said “good” when I pointed out that your position affirms the tripartite equation: “concepts = ideas = sensations” Now you say that “a concept is a copy or mental representation of our sensations,” and since you include “perceptions” in parentheses here, you seem to be equating sensations with perceptions. In which case, we would really have the following equation: “concepts = ideas = sensations = perceptions.” You have lot of unexplainably redundant concepts in your epistemology, Nide!

Nide had asked: “How about my ability to feel pain?”

I responded: "What about it? Like many of the others I listed for you, your ability to feel pain does not imply knowledge. Sensations are preconceptual (I’m speaking here from an objective understanding of these things; I’m not speaking on behalf of your twisted, confused and apparently ad hoc worldview)."

Nide now states: “Well, ad hoc philosophy is the best philosophy.”

I’m guessing if Jesus were walking the earth today, we might expect him to say something like this.

Michael, if you’re following this, would you agree?

Nide admitted: “Well, I don't even remember what the axiom of consciousness is.”

No, I realize that. You have ignored it throughout everything you’ve affirmed here, all the while using your consciousness to affirm what you’ve affirmed.

I asked: “Really? How do you know? How did you discover this? How do you validate it? How do you overcome objections to this view? Or, are you simply not aware of any?"

Nide: “Analyzation.”

What is that? Can you explain the basic guidelines involved in this?

Regards,
Dawson

November 23, 2012 1:23 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Michael,

You wrote: “I noted your utterly corrupt retelling of my refutations of your non-existent problems of ‘lonesomeness’ and ‘the infinite’.”

Since you do not explain this, it’s not clear what specifically calling “utterly corrupt retelling” of your “refutations” on these matters.

In regard to the notion of an actual infinite, I pointed out that such a notion is nonsensical since it violates the axiom that to exist is to be something specific, i.e., finite. You have not refuted this so far as I’ve seen.

In regard to the problem of divine lonesomeness, the fundamental question behind this problem is: what would a consciousness which is said to have created everything that exists distinct from itself be conscious of prior to creating anything distinct from itself? Your answers essentially affirm that it would be conscious of its own conscious activity. Your answer reduces to consciousness being conscious only of itself. I explained how your response does this.

You wrote: “Even from what little I read, your logical fallacies are staggering in their number and degree of obtuseness.”

Well, perhaps you need to read more. But I’m supposing that probably won’t help, especially if you’re simply insist that an actual infinite is a perfectly sound idea, and/or that there’s no problem with consciousness being conscious only of itself. As for the presence of any fallacies in what I have written, it is up to you to expose these if you think they’re there.

You wrote: “It would appear that you’re not cable of stepping outside of Objectivism’s rather black-and-white, univocal system of thought long enough to objectively assess the logic of Judeo-Christianity's analogical perspective on its own terms. Ultimately, this is what is meant by the ‘definition of terms’.”

More definitions would be really helpful, Michael. If, for instance, you think the notion of an actual infinite is conceptually solvent, please present your definitions. On the only definitions I know, they are not. I’ve presented reasons why I hold this view.

[continued…]

November 23, 2012 2:03 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Why is that, Dawson? I’ve no problem following the Objectivist’s logic from his premise and subsequent perspective or revising my understanding when necessary.

Michael, I’m doing my best, given my limited capacities (including, for instance, time constraints, difficulties figuring out how the affirmations you make are authentically biblical, and a growing frustration over your failure to answer numerous questions that I’ve posed to you, etc.), to understand you, to interact with what you affirm given what I know, to help you understand certain things about Objectivism that have apparently eluded your understanding, to prompt you with questions to help me understand your position better and link it back to a biblical source, etc. A great many of the questions that I have posed to you remain unanswered, and yet I still give my time to interacting with your comments. You charge me with fallacies, obtuseness, corrupt retellings, etc., when in fact I’ve been trying my best to treat your position as you present it, even though at certain times you find the need to revise what you had earlier stated (such as the previous two points you posted in the previous comment).

Now, back on 4 Nov., in response to your very first comment in the previous thread, I had asked you a series of questions about “Christian epistemology,” including what “Christian epistemology” is, where it can be found, what it teaches, what it says knowledge is, what it says about concepts, what the specifics of the epistemological process of “Christian epistemology” might be, where Christianity rejects the rational-empiricist dichotomy as a false alternative, etc., etc. Here it’s approaching 20 days since we first began our discussion, and even though I’ve restated several of these questions in our dialogue, you have yet to address them. Now you’re getting frustrated. On other “atheist” blogs, you’d have been tarred and feathered and run out of town wearing only a barrel over your naked body by now, but that hasn’t happened here. Numerous observers have taken interest in our dialogue, and several have already expressed frustration to me privately that you seem to be avoiding questions. I’ve been asking several of them to be patient, hoping there will be a payoff.

[continued…]

November 23, 2012 2:04 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Your logic has been utterly refuted on at least five points by my count thus far, but this flies right over your head.”

If that’s the case (and I can understand it would be frustrating if you really felt this were the case), then perhaps you need to do better in explaining you refutations. I am reading your comments and interacting with as much as I possibly can. But to date, in my mind, it seems quite the reverse, even more so. But I’m not a score-keeper, Michael. I don’t do that. I ask that you allow that I may indeed have some insightful criticisms of Christianity that you haven’t considered before, and that you consider the questions that I pose to you to help move the discussion along. If you don’t, the discussion will start to stagnate, and so will our mutual understandings.

You wrote: “We'll have to hold off on epistemology after all. We need to go back over a good many things . . . apparently, one thing and only one thing at a time.”

It’s hard to see how we can ignore epistemology while trying to dissect the metaphysical issues, since they’re so intimately related. But it’s your call if you want to postpone your presentation of “Christian epistemology.” Still, I would really like to know what the bible says about concepts, since you have affirmed (with your “LOL!” to boot) that “Judeo-Christianity does have a theory of concepts,” and you indicated (promised?) that “we’re about to see that very clearly,” which hasn’t taken place yet. (That was two days ago, on 21 Nov.).

You wrote: “I’m the turkey master around here. Got to go back to work. It’s ready to carve.”

Michael, you have no idea how much this is torturing me! There is no turkey in Thailand, none that I can find, and certainly nothing that even faintly compares to a real Thanksgiving dinner. I get rice and mushrooms most days of the week, and I’ve had to just turn off my western-bred appetite!

So stop with the unnecessary tauntings!!! (that’s my LOL!)

Regards,
Dawson

November 23, 2012 2:05 AM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Dawson, one idea at a time.

Let’s start with this notion about the so-called “problem of God’s lonesomeness,” which, as far as I know, exists nowhere in the world of substantive ideas—the history of inspired writ or in the literary history of philosophy or theology. The only place it apparently does exist is in the mind’s of Objectivists, and I’m not even sure that it exits in that case, that is, beyond your mind and those of your followers.

I’ve scoured the Internet and cannot find it anywhere but on your blog.

Does it even exist in the literature of Objectivism, which you are wont to go on about all the time? I don’t recall it from what I’ve read. Mind you, I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist in the Objectivist literature, perhaps under a different label or expressed in different terms.

But in any event, the notion certainly has not been uttered by any intellect of historical repute outside of Objectivism, because any such intellect would instantly—at a glance!—recognize it to be of the incoherent kind, in truth, much ado about absolutely nothing.

Even now you write in this thread in the above:

“In regard to the problem of divine lonesomeness, the fundamental question behind this problem is: what would a consciousness which is said to have created everything that exists distinct from itself be conscious of prior to creating anything distinct from itself?”


Yes, Dawson, I grasp this. I get it. I got it the first time around and the second time and the third time . . . though in fact this anthropomorphic imposition on the consciousness of divinicas perfectus is irrelevant. But let’s not get sidetracked by that again, as you would merely exclaim that I do not grasp the thrust of your argument . . . one inevitably bottomed on Objectivism‘s tautological presupposition.

I’ll accept your premise for argument’s sake for now, for it just so happens to be the case that God as depicted by the Bible is the original law of identity. He is the original apprehender of Self and other, and we, the copy created in His image.

It’s another aspect of His unfolding revelation to mankind, which the latter generally holds, albeit, in unrighteousness.

You continue: “Your answers essentially affirm that it would be conscious of its own conscious activity. Your answer reduces to consciousness being conscious only of itself. I explained how your response does this.”

WRONG! That is not the essence of my response at all. May I please have your full attention now? One that is open to grasping what the Bible actually posits, one that does not muddle it or filter it through the miasma of Objectivism’s univocal irrelevancies?

I’ll wait for your response.

November 23, 2012 9:47 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Michael,

I emailed you.

November 23, 2012 10:21 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

"So existence is time and space, and when I see a tree, I see a tree in time and space, but the tree doesn’t exist?"

The tree is something that exists.

"The archives to my blog are huge, and frankly I’m not sure what I’d be looking for. Here’s a chance for you to explain your position. If you say that “nothing can exist outside of [time and space],” and you claim that a god exists, that god must either exist in time and space (contrary to what many Christians have affirmed), or your god is a “nothing.”

God isn't bound by time and space. In fact, God is time and space. Remember?

"But even with the answers that you do supposedly have, you sometimes find the need to revise them. How do we know that you’re not going to revise the answers you’re affirming now?"

It doesn't matter. I am open to revision. So, If I do revise, we can deal wih it then.


"But even if we suppose this is the case (and you give no reason at all to suppose it is), this does not rule out experience as the means by which you become aware of time and space. In other words, even if the “sensation” of time and space are “prior to all other experience,” it is still experience that we’re talking about here. This is given away by your use of the phrase “all other” here."

Well, this objection doesn't apply since I revised my position.

"I personally can’t? Or no one can?
Are you saying that one can have “the sensation of time and space,” but he “can’t experience time and space”? I’m lost. How is sensation not a type of experience?"

It would be easier for me to say that time and space are subjective. That would be a lot easier to defend. But, that's not the case. I believe that there is an immaterial aspect to time and space but also a material one. As I said before, our biological functions work according to an internal sense of time and space. Do remember that concepts are a copy of our sensations. There is a distinction between them. However, they are essentially the same. So, in order for us to function properly the concept of time and space would have to be built in for us to make sense of all other concepts. So, for this case, you already have to have the idea there. So, you can't experience time and space, in the sense of, experience it as some new piece of knowledge or information.


"Well, so far, you haven’t even explained what time and space are. Can you do that for me? According to your version of Christianity, what is time, and what is space? Got any bible quotes to authenticate any of this stuff as genuinely Christian?"

Yea, acts 17, In God we move and have our existence.

"Can you take us through some of the basic steps of this “internal analyzation and reflection” by which “your cognitive functions develop” and enable you “to better understand these innate ideas”?"

Well, I don't think I worded it that way. What I said was, as your cognitive functions develop, you are better able to understand innate ideas by reflection and analyzation.


"Yes, I have. I have his Critique of Pure Reason somewhere on one of my bookshelves. It’s the Norman Kemp Smith translation. Ever read Kant in the original German?"

I don't know german but I commend you. You can bear a lot more pain than me. Reading kant is extremely painful but I have to admit that I haven't read the whole thing. I'm not sure if ever will be able to.




Cont......






November 23, 2012 11:23 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

"No, I realize that. You have ignored it throughout everything you’ve affirmed here, all the while using your consciousness to affirm what you’ve affirmed."

what?????????????


"What is that? Can you explain the basic guidelines involved in this?"

soon, i will. gotta run

November 23, 2012 11:25 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Michael,

Thank you for your comments. Here is my reply:

You wrote: “Let’s start with this notion about the so-called ‘problem of God’s lonesomeness’, which, as far as I know, exists nowhere in the world of substantive ideas—the history of inspired writ or in the literary history of philosophy or theology. The only place it apparently does exist is in the mind’s of Objectivists, and I’m not even sure that it exits in that case, that is, beyond your mind and those of your followers.”

While the label for this problem – “the problem of divine lonesomeness” – is my own, I did not originate the objection. The germ for the idea comes from Rand and Binswanger, and was subsequently developed by Anton Thorn. Rand points out in Atlas Shrugs (in “Galt’s Speech”):

<< If nothing exists, there can be no consciousness: a consciousness with nothing to be conscious of is a contradiction in terms. A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms: before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something. If that which you claim to perceive does not exist, what you possess is not consciousness. >>

Binswanger raises this point in his lecture “The Metaphysics of Consciousness” where he identifies the fallacy occurring in the notion of a consciousness conscious only of itself as the fallacy of pure self-reference. Thorn quotes Binswanger:

<< Consciousness cannot be purely self-contained. That applies to any specific act of consciousness just as it does to consciousness as a whole. A statement cannot refer only to itself. More precisely, It cannot refer only to itself qua statement; a statement cannot refer only to its own referring. Its own referring to what? >>

Binswanger cites statements committing the fallacy of pure self-reference as an easily graspable example of the problem, since both consciousness and statements need objects – objects for consciousness to be conscious of, and objects for statements to refer to.

I gave the problem its own label because I think this is a real problem for the theist who posits that his god created everything distinct from itself at some point long ago. Genesis begins with the words “in the beginning.” This problem explores the validity of affirming the existence of a consciousness “before the beginning,” hence the title of my blog.

[continued…]

November 23, 2012 3:23 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Now, you may think this is “much ado about absolutely nothing,” and that’s fine, Michael. I expect as much from theists. I cited three manners in which consciousness (according to an objective understanding of what consciousness is) is dependent on existence, namely a) its dependence on biological structures supporting its functions, b) its need for an object, and c) its need for a purpose (namely the survival of the organism possessing a faculty of consciousness). I know that theists already reject dependencies a) and c): with regard to a), they tell us that their god does not have a biological body (or perhaps any body at all; this is unclear in your case, but certain you don’t think your god has a physical brain, a nervous system, sensory organs and the such, right?); and with regard to c), since theists hold that their god is immortal, eternal, indestructible and in need of nothing, it certainly would not need consciousness in order to secure its own survival – it does not need to identify those things it would need to exist (i.e., values), and it would not need to identify the proper types of action it would need in order to achieve those values (i.e., virtues).

With theism’s affirmation of a divine consciousness while ignoring these two dependencies a) and c), Objectivists are more than justified in dismissing theism as a mere fantasy, regardless of its historical development. It is, as Rand pointed out, nothing more than an imaginative projection of actual characteristics of man’s in a context which denies facts that we know about consciousness. You don’t have to like this, Michael, but it is the case with Objectivists.

My angle with regard to the problem of divine lonesomeness is to explore theism’s violation of dependency b), the need for consciousness to have an object. Now of course, the theist could say that there are plenty of objects in existence for his god to be conscious of right here on earth. The problem, however, is that this god is also said to have created the earth, the heaven, the magical beings which inhabit the supernatural realm, etc. Everything other than itself was created, so the theist claims, by this deity. So what about before it did any of this creating?

The theist’s own premises lead straight to this problem, Michael.

[continued…]

November 23, 2012 3:23 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: “In regard to the problem of divine lonesomeness, the fundamental question behind this problem is: what would a consciousness which is said to have created everything that exists distinct from itself be conscious of prior to creating anything distinct from itself?”

You responded: “Yes, Dawson, I grasp this. I get it. I got it the first time around and the second time and the third time . . . though in fact this anthropomorphic imposition on the consciousness of divinicas perfectus is irrelevant.”

Well, if “anthropomorphic imposition on the consciousness of divinicas perfectus is irrelevant,” in one instance, then why wouldn’t it be irrelevant in all instances? Theists claim that their god sees, knows, commands, gets angry, is jealous, loves, etc. All of these and other cognitive activities that theists attribute to their god strike me as “anthropomorphic impositions,” Michael. The problem of divine lonesomeness goes to the root of all of these (anthropomorphic) activities: the nature of consciousness and its inherent dependence on existence. You can’t have seeing, knowing, commanding, anger, jealousy, love, etc., without consciousness, and yet theism affirms consciousness in a manner that defies facts that we know about consciousnesses which see, know, command, get angry, get jealous, love, etc. As I had stated in an earlier response to you, in theism’s projection of all of these onto their god, they all become stolen concepts. I’m not sure if you are familiar with the fallacy of the stolen concept, but you will find information on it in the Objectivist literature. If you need some pointers, let me know.

Incidentally, Michael, an observer to our discussion e-mailed me and mentioned that he could find “no reference at all to the search string ‘divinicas perfectus’," even on your blog. But I’m not going to complain about this. I just thought this was rather ironic.

You wrote: “I’ll accept your premise for argument’s sake for now, for it just so happens to be the case that God as depicted by the Bible is the original law of identity.”

This doesn’t make sense to me, since the notion of “the original law of identity” strikes me as incoherent, and also because by affirming the Christian god as “the original law of identity,” Christianity would be establishing the law of identity on the primacy of consciousness, which you have already conceded as the ultimate metaphysics of Christianity. As you stated on 17 Nov. in this very thread:

<< So, yes, indeed, according to Judeo-Christianity, ultimately, consciousness does have primacy over existence. >>

The law of identity would make no sense on the basis of the primacy of consciousness. The law of identity states that a thing is what it is (A is A) independent of consciousness. So this seems to be a problem. It’s one of those “Christianity caught with its hands in the cookie jar” moments – an attempt to assimilate genuine philosophical principles into the context of Christian mythology.

[continued…]

November 23, 2012 3:23 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: “Your answers essentially affirm that it would be conscious of its own conscious activity. Your answer reduces to consciousness being conscious only of itself. I explained how your response does this.”

You protest: “WRONG! That is not the essence of my response at all.”

Well, I’m just going by what you had written in response to the problem of divine lonesomeness. Observe again what you had written:

<< God’s “body” is composed of the coeternal attributes of unlimited power and wisdom and knowledge: the “other” for God is the apprehension of the eternally potential existents of His conception. >>

Wisdom and knowledge are cognitive attributes: if prior to creating everything distinct from itself, your god was conscious of its “wisdom and knowledge,” then we have only its own conscious activity that it was conscious of. Apprehension is cognitive activity, and so is conception. So you’re only citing as potential objects of its pre-creative conscious state, its own conscious activity. Indeed, there could be nothing else, given theism’s premises! This is consciousness conscious only of itself, what Objectivism holds as a contradiction in terms.

Now, you may reject the Objectivist principle and suppose that it’s perfectly fine to affirm a consciousness conscious only of its own conscious activity. That’s fine, Michael, it’s your choice, I can’t stop you, and I wouldn’t. It’s your mind, you are free to govern it as you see fit. But so is the Objectivist. And I’m pretty confident that any Objectivist who explores the issue as I have would come away with the same conclusion, that this is an inescapable problem for the theist. But for the Objectivist, this would really be academic, for we already have ample, solid and rationally justifiable reasons for rejecting theism in toto.

I hope that helps!

Regards,
Dawson

November 23, 2012 3:24 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

You have been roundly refuted, Dawson, and no amount of confounding my metaphorical comparison between the concept of body and the inherent attributes of divinity as depicted by the Bible overthrows the cogency of the proposition that an eternally existent, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient consciousness exists in the eternal now!

No amount of confusion, like stripping the phrases “in the absence of other actually existent entities” and “the apprehension of potential existents” from their context, which merely relate the answer in terms of the finite mind’s perspective, overthrows the actual existence of “the other” for the One Who exists in the eternal now!

No amount of talk about corporeal bodies or body parts, which amounts to the silly argument that God cannot exist because God is not human, overthrows the necessity of the premise’s conclusion. The construct is logically sound, inherently consistent throughout.

The God of the Bible exists in the eternal now! Therefore, the God of the Bible eternally apprehends actually existent objects!

Allow me to make this abundantly clear. Once again:

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. . . .

. . . For You formed my inward parts. You covered me in my mother’s womb. . . . My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret. . . . Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Psalm 139:1-6, 13, 14-16).


For God, there was never “a time” when David did not exist. There was never “a time” when David was not the King of Israel. There was never a time when David’s body did not die and his soul tarry in Sheol awaiting Christ’s crucifixion.

The American Revolution is occurring for God right now, as is the creation of the cosmos within which it was fought . . . not merely in His mind, but as actual existents apart from Him. What you and I will think or say or do or dream a week from now, relative to our perspective of things, is occurring for God right now, again, not merely in His mind, but as actual existents apart from Him! He exists everywhere and in every instance of “time” right now.

For God, the cosmos and everything contained in it and everything that has ever happened in it has never been that which at some time did not exist or potentially exist. It has always actually existed.

This has always been the understanding in the history of inspired writ. This is the understanding of divine perfection in the corpus of philosophical and theological thought, i.e., relative to the concept of Divine “timelessness,” though the Greeks, for example, posit the relationship between God and time differently. That's why you won't find the "problem" raised anywhere else. It's not a problem!

November 23, 2012 5:45 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

continued . . .

God is the eternally existent spirit of pure consciousness. That is His very substance; hence, His substance is not an attribute. His consciousness is not “the other” insofar as existents apart from Him are concerned. And His attributes are not “the other.”

You write: “It has been reasoned on this basis, presumably compatible with your ‘no cigar’ assessment, that ‘these other attributes would provide themselves as objects of its consciousness in its lonesome state.’ ”

No. Wrong. Is it sinking in now?

There is no need for me to address the other irrelevancies with which you obscure the logical consistency of this understanding. No where in “Before the Beginning: The Problem of Divine Lonesomeness” do you demonstrate an awareness of either (1) the biblical asseveration of a consciousness that exits in the eternal now or an awareness of (2) this asseveration’s immediate ramification.

Nothing of the sort is to be found in your refutation of Toner’s silly and, therefore, irrelevant theologizing or in your equally irrelevant discourse about corporeal or sensory attributes. You don’t mention the attributes of God as posited by the Bible or the ramifications thereof in “Divine Lonesomeness” at all.

Not once. Not ever.

Indeed, in the above, you errantly write:

“Also, while it’s true that the bible nowhere explains *how* its god is supposedly conscious of anything, either of itself prior to creating things or afterwards, the problem of divine lonesomeness focuses on *what* it could be conscious of prior to creating anything distinct from itself. I just wanted to make this clarification. The problem is set up by Christianity’s own stipulations.”

The Bible doesn’t explain it?! False! It most certainly does. I unmistakably expounded the underlying particulars of the explanation and premised them on scripture. The problem is with you. You have yet to demonstrate that you grasp the ramifications of divinitas perfectus, that is, the ramifications of a Being Who is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient.

And I will not entertain the allegation that this construct is imagined, dreamt up or otherwise contrived . . . relative to Objectivism’s univocal presuppositions, for they do not obtain in the analysis of a construct within Judeo-Christianity’s analogical system of thought. Enough of this exasperating nonsense. I know what Objectivism holds. Judeo-Christianity holds that existence consists of two levels of being, and the logical validity of it’s asseverations are not subject to Objectivism’s univocal presuppositions.

In other words, for the moment, the issue before us is this: The title of your piece and its introduction explicitly express your intent to show that the conceptualization of God as an eternally preexistent Creator is inherently contradictory in and of itself.

You write: “In its most basic form, the problem of divine lonesomeness highlights an irresolvable predicament crippling the creator-deity before it could have any opportunity to create anything distinct from itself” (Ibid.).

Your allegation is false, and the argument in your piece is raised against a straw man.


November 23, 2012 5:49 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

continued . . .

Related matters. . . .

1. Okay, I can see the Rand-Binswanger connection now. I thought it might be something like that followed by your own original observation. It’s not a problem. I’m just wondering why it hasn’t occurred to the Objectivist to wonder a bit harder about why a problem of such allegedly existential proportions has never occurred to anyone else, in secular or sacred thought, after all these many years. I read Atlas Shrugged years ago, I vaguely remember Rand’s hero uttering what you quoted, but would have never made that connection.

2. Divinitas Perfectus is an allusion to Saint Anselm’s ontological observation that the idea of God entails that which is the greatest conceivable thing, namely, “perfect divinity.” The Latin term denoting perfection has a very specific meaning when linked to the term for divinity, as it entails the attributes of omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience. The larger context in other languages has been lost over the centuries.

3. You write: “Now the theist might come back and say that his god has attributes other than only its consciousness, attributes that are distinct from its consciousness, and these other attributes would provide themselves as the objects of its consciousness in its lonesome state.”

Emphasis mine. Do you see the problem? Your phrasal antecedents imply that divine consciousness is an attribute. If this is not what you meant, fine. But it’s confusing the way it’s written. Now, you do express—either above or below this?—an idea unmistakably akin to the actual biblical view, so it appears that in this instance you got the biblical view somewhat tangled up with the Objectivist’s view, i.e., consciousness as an attribute.

END.

November 23, 2012 5:50 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Michael,

Here is my reply to your latest volley of comments.

You wrote: “You have been roundly refuted, Dawson, and no amount of confounding my metaphorical comparison between the concept of body and the inherent attributes of divinity as depicted by the Bible overthrows the cogency of the proposition that an eternally existent, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient consciousness exists in the eternal now!”

Well, for one thing, Michael, “the proposition that an eternally existent, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient consciousness exists in the eternal now” has no cogency to begin with, at least on a rational basis (where rationality denotes uncompromising adherence to reason as one’s only epistemological standard). In order for this proposition to be rationally cogent, it would need facts to support it. It has none. It is purely fantastic in nature, a fantasy.

My point has been to show that this fantasy, given its central affirmations, suffers from an internal conflict that has apparently eluded most theists, and that their attempts to rescue the fantasy from this internal conflict either flat out fail or lead to further problems. In the case of your attempt, it’s been a little bit of both.

At its very root, the theistic proposition attempts to make use of the concept ‘consciousness’ while ignoring the uniformly attendant factual context of consciousnesses that we discover and observe in the non-fantastic realm of nature. This context includes at minimum the fact that consciousness is a type of action and that it is dependent on existence in three fundamental ways – i.e., a) on biological structures, b) on having an object, and c) on having an objective purpose. The theistic consciousness is stripped of this objective context and projected into a fantastic realm where it enjoys freedom from each of these and in their place has qualities which are never observed in the non-fantastical realm of nature, such as primacy over its objects, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, etc. It has no eyes, but it “sees”; it has no ears, but it “hears”; it has no body, but it is “everywhere,” etc.

[continued..]

November 24, 2012 6:04 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “No amount of talk about corporeal bodies or body parts, which amounts to the silly argument that God cannot exist because God is not human, overthrows the necessity of the premise’s conclusion. The construct is logically sound, inherently consistent throughout.”

For the “construct” to be “sound,” its premises need to be factually true. But theism has no facts to support its imaginative constructs. And as one would expect, you haven’t been citing any facts to support your position. Rather, you only cite what your position affirms and what has apparently been ratified by a long history of theological deliberation, essentially saying “This is what we as orthodox Christians believe.” From an objective perspective, this does not carry the same weight as “this is what we discover in the realm of facts” – far from it! And essentially you’ve admitted, whether you realize it or not, that you cannot cite any facts to support your view, since you have no recourse but to appeal to what your position calls “revelations” from an allegedly divine source for information about “the transcendent.” You go on the authority of an imaginary personality, not on facts that we can both freely examine in the non-fantastic realm of fact.

My argument has never been “that God cannot exist because God is not human,” nor does it “amount to” this. I do not hold that dogs cannot exist because they are not human. So this is not my course of thinking on this at all. Everything that we can objectively discern about the nature of consciousness is that it is an attribute of biological organisms (which, as I have pointed out numerous times, includes human beings, but is not limited to human beings). I pointed out that I already know that theists deny the dependency of consciousness on biological structures. But this just amounts to fantasizing alternatives to what consciousness really is.

A fundamental fact about consciousness that we discover by looking at the realm of facts, is that conscious activity is a type of activity. And activity takes place over time. So to say that something is conscious of something, is necessarily to imply that its consciousness is temporal. I know that theists want to posit their god as an exception to this and many other facts that we have discovered about consciousness. I get that. But it’s a fantasy, Michael. Fantasies do not have the power to refute facts, no matter how many exclamation points one uses in asserting them.

[continued..]

November 24, 2012 6:04 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “For God, there was never ‘a time’ when David did not exist. There was never ‘a time’ when David was not the King of Israel. There was never a time when David’s body did not die and his soul tarry in Sheol awaiting Christ’s crucifixion.”

This would only suggest that it did not really create David or anything else, and certainly that it did not design anything either. Everything that it was aware of and at one time or another would create according to other Christian doctrines, already existed (thus not needing to be created) and was already “canned in” to its eternal content, and it had no choice about this. It’s just by chance that all this stuff was already contained in its consciousness, and its these internal contents of its own conscious activity that it has always been aware of. As contents of its own consciousness serving as objects of its own consciousness, however, we still have consciousness conscious only of its own activity. There is nothing objective here for the god to be aware of for the entire “eternal now,” since, as you have admitted, “according to Judeo-Christianity, ultimately, consciousness does have primacy over existence.” Couching all this in additional contradictions will not rescue the one they were intended to dispel.

Essentially you’re saying that there never was a “before the beginning,” or averring that “before the beginning” only has meaning from the perspective of “the immanent” realm where time mechanistically applies, which is not the fundamental perspective to be concerned with anyway (given Christianity’s dichotomous view of reality). But instead of resolving the problem, it’s simply making it an eternal problem while undercutting your god’s own volitional participation with regard to its conscious contents, their nature (cf. “design”), the “plan” which they “fulfill” in the “immanent realm,” etc., which means you get more than you bargained for when you set out to tackle this issue. Insisting that these existents that are distinct from the Christian god are “actual” also does not solve the problem, for they ultimately have their source in the divine consciousness to begin with, according to the mythology.

That’s the only way I can piece all this together into a comprehensible whole, Michael, though I admit that my ability to imagine all this is probably not as finely-tuned as yours. But at the end of the day, what else do either of us have to go on?

[continued..]

November 24, 2012 6:04 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “The American Revolution is occurring for God right now, as is the creation of the cosmos within which it was fought . . . not merely in His mind, but as actual existents apart from Him.”

This calls to my mind, in attempting to imagine what you say here, the idea of a massive image file, as with a multi-gigabyte movie. It might work as an electronic storage solution, but I can’t fathom how consciousness would ever be able to work this way. It seems to collapse everything in on itself, denying time to occurrence, denying causal sequence to happenings, as a result of maximally subjectivizing everything that could possibly be considered distinct from your god. But if this has always been the case (“the eternal now”), then it seems to be saying that your god didn’t create these things to begin with. It all strikes me, again, as an attempt for you to ensure that your god has its cake, and eats it, too.

Now don’t get too sore at me for all this, Michael. I realize that it’s probably frustrating for you. But I am trying to grasp all this, even though it implicitly defies everything I know to be true about the nature of reality and consciousness on so many levels that naturally. If I’m going to try to explain all this explicitly, it’s going to sound as absurd as what you seem to be describing. I see no factual basis to any of this, and the story becomes more incomprehensible the more it is explored.

You wrote: “What you and I will think or say or do or dream a week from now, relative to our perspective of things, is occurring for God right now, again, not merely in His mind, but as actual existents apart from Him! He exists everywhere and in every instance of ‘time’ right now.”

It sounds like your god is the divine set of exceptions to everything factual that we know about reality. Why would anyone ever believe any of this is true?

[continued..]

November 24, 2012 6:04 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “For God, the cosmos and everything contained in it and everything that has ever happened in it has never been that which at some time did not exist or potentially exist. It has always actually existed.”

Then, as I suspected above, it seems that it didn’t create any of it after all. If “it has always actually existed,” it never needed embodying into actuality by some creative activity at any point. It was already always actual. So Gen. 1:1 is apparently false. In that case, there was no “in the beginning,” in which case there would be no “before the beginning” – i.e., before a creation that never took place to begin with – in which case the problem of divine lonesomeness would not apply to your version of Christianity. Deny creationism, and you’re fine. But I wouldn’t think that believers would call taking this option a victory for Christianity, Michael.

It seems equally silly to say this is all a matter of differing perspectives, from “God’s” perspective on the one hand, and from ours on the other hand. Either these things you mentioned have always existed, or they haven’t. I realize this may be too “black and white” for you, but then again many thinkers have recoiled at Objectivism for what they call its “absolutistic” tone.

You wrote: “This has always been the understanding in the history of inspired writ.”

Hmmm… I always thought that Christians have historically affirmed Gen. 1:1 as absolutely true in their construct of Christianity’s doctrines, i.e., that the Christian god did actually create these things and that they only actually existed once they were created. But Christians do frequently contradict themselves and they also haplessly destroy concepts on a routine basis. What you have described above is full of such instances.

[continued..]

November 24, 2012 6:05 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “This is the understanding of divine perfection in the corpus of philosophical and theological thought, i.e., relative to the concept of Divine ‘timelessness’, though the Greeks, for example, posit the relationship between God and time differently. That's why you won't find the "problem" raised anywhere else. It's not a problem!”

Well, the reason why we won’t find this problem in the literature is the very same reason why we probably won’t find the same literature wrestling with the Christian god’s alleged consciousness apart from biological structures supporting it. Christians, by virtue of being Christians, downplay the realm of facts and elevate the realm of fantasy in its place as their guide and standard. You had opened your message with the notion of “the cogency of the proposition that an eternally existent, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient consciousness exists in the eternal now,” and yet I can find no non-contradictory way in which I could accept any of what you have written as rational knowledge, not only because it affirms fantasies in place of facts, but also because it continually doubles back on itself, e.g., affirming on the one hand that everything distinct from itself was created, and on the other affirming that everything it is said elsewhere to have created has actually existed always.

So the problem of divine lonesomeness has been useful: it has helped draw out contradictions inherent in your position, contradictions which ultimately arise due to using making use of legitimate concepts while denying their genetic roots – i.e., stolen concepts.

I wrote: “It has been reasoned on this basis, presumably compatible with your ‘no cigar’ assessment, that ‘these other attributes would provide themselves as objects of its consciousness in its lonesome state.’ ”

You responded: “No. Wrong. Is it sinking in now?”

When I wrote the above statement, I was not describing your position. I was describing what other Christians have stated in response to the problem of divine lonesomeness. I believe you’re the first to affirm that the things which the Christian god created have always existed in order to answer this problem.

[continued..]

November 24, 2012 6:05 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “There is no need for me to address the other irrelevancies with which you obscure the logical consistency of this understanding. No where in ‘Before the Beginning: The Problem of Divine Lonesomeness’ do you demonstrate an awareness of either (1) the biblical asseveration of a consciousness that exits in the eternal now or an awareness of (2) this asseveration’s immediate ramification.”

Michael, theists, especially Christians, come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes. One of the ironies that I’ve noticed over the years is how un-uniform Christians are in their theologies. Some say, for instance, that slavery is wrong and that it is condemned in the bible, while others say that “slavery is perfectly biblical.” I am always learning new things about what Christians claim to believe. But you’re right, when I had first written my piece, I did not address the potential objection that the things which the Christian god is said to have created also have always existed. But I am very thankful that you’ve pointed this out. It only helps my overall position.

You wrote: “Nothing of the sort is to be found in your refutation of Toner’s silly and, therefore, irrelevant theologizing or in your equally irrelevant discourse about corporeal or sensory attributes.”

Well, if a person’s theologizing can be dismissed as irrelevant due to its silliness, that is one thing Christians have universally in common.

In my paper, I write: “Also, while it’s true that the bible nowhere explains *how* its god is supposedly conscious of anything, either of itself prior to creating things or afterwards, the problem of divine lonesomeness focuses on *what* it could be conscious of prior to creating anything distinct from itself. I just wanted to make this clarification. The problem is set up by Christianity’s own stipulations.”

[continued..]

November 24, 2012 6:05 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You responded: “The Bible doesn’t explain it?! False! It most certainly does. I unmistakably expounded the underlying particulars of the explanation and premised them on scripture.”

I must have missed this, Michael. Perhaps what I had in mind in my paper is different from what you understand it to be. For instance, I have awareness of objects by means of sense perception, which involves a chain of nerves connecting my sensory organs to my brain. When your god is aware of the same objects (since you affirm that it is aware of them, and always has been), by what means is it aware of them? What is the mechanism by which it has such awareness? Saying it is a “pure consciousness” does not address this; it gives no understanding of the means by which it is conscious of anything. It’s just an acontextualized assertion. The attendant claim that your god is not a biological organism, meaning it does not have sensory organs, nerve chains, a brain, etc., means that it cannot have awareness of things by means comparable to how I have awareness of things. So if you think you’ve addressed this, and think that the bible explains this, can you repost it? It’s most curious that you come back in the manner that you do, for many, many Christians that I have discussed this matter with, very typically retreat to the common refrain, “God has not revealed this to us,” in one guise or another. But you apparently see matters quite differently. So please, enlighten me.

You wrote: “The problem is with you. You have yet to demonstrate that you grasp the ramifications of divinitas perfectus, that is, the ramifications of a Being Who is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient.”

Well, if that’s the case, I think I can be excused on this. For the whole thing seems entirely incoherent, full of contradictions and stolen concepts, and completely departed from the realm of fact. There’s no way to integrate all of it into a non-contradictory whole.

You wrote: “And I will not entertain the allegation that this construct is imagined, dreamt up or otherwise contrived . . . relative to Objectivism’s univocal presuppositions, for they do not obtain in the analysis of a construct within Judeo-Christianity’s analogical system of thought.”

That’s because Christianity systematically blurs the distinction between the real and the imaginary. Your refusal to consider this any further is borne on attitude, not on intellectual merits. If you grant that there is such a thing as a fundamental distinction between what is real and what one imagines, then it’s hard to see why you would not consider this issue more thoughtfully. As I have mentioned before, I can imagine the things I read in the bible. But what I imagine when I read them is merely imaginary. The same is the case with all the things you tell me about “the transcendent” and the “divinitas perfectus.” From the perspective of the primacy of existence, it all seems indistinguishable from divinitas absurdus. Nothing you have contributed in any of this discussion has persuaded me to consider otherwise.

[continued..]

November 24, 2012 6:06 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Enough of this exasperating nonsense.”

I don’t think concern for consistently distinguishing the real from the imaginary can ever reasonably dismissed as “exasperating nonsense.” You mark yourself with these comments, Michael. They are autobiographical.

You wrote: “I know what Objectivism holds. Judeo-Christianity holds that existence consists of two levels of being, and the logical validity of it’s asseverations are not subject to Objectivism’s univocal presuppositions.”

Such as the fact that there is a fundamental distinction between the real and the imaginary. Believe me, Michael, this has sunk in for long time now.

You wrote: “In other words, for the moment, the issue before us is this: The title of your piece and its introduction explicitly express your intent to show that the conceptualization of God as an eternally preexistent Creator is inherently contradictory in and of itself.”

Yes, and my paper is successful in this endeavor. If prior to creating everything distinct from itself, it could only be conscious of its own conscious activity, this would be a starting point for theism of a consciousness conscious only of itself, which, as Rand has rightly pointed out, is a contradiction in terms.

From my paper: “In its most basic form, the problem of divine lonesomeness highlights an irresolvable predicament crippling the creator-deity before it could have any opportunity to create anything distinct from itself”

You responded: “Your allegation is false, and the argument in your piece is raised against a straw man.”

Well, within the fake environment of theism, the objection is sustainable, either because it exposes theism’s dependence on affirming an original consciousness conscious only of itself (a contradiction in terms), or it goads the theist into affirming other contradictions in order to salvage his theism from it (such as claiming that the things that it created have always existed).

I wrote: “Now the theist might come back and say that his god has attributes other than only its consciousness, attributes that are distinct from its consciousness, and these other attributes would provide themselves as the objects of its consciousness in its lonesome state.”

You responded: “Emphasis mine. Do you see the problem? Your phrasal antecedents imply that divine consciousness is an attribute. If this is not what you meant, fine. But it’s confusing the way it’s written. Now, you do express—either above or below this?—an idea unmistakably akin to the actual biblical view, so it appears that in this instance you got the biblical view somewhat tangled up with the Objectivist’s view, i.e., consciousness as an attribute.”

Yes, I can see where you were confused. The first highlighted phrase could be revised to say “has attributes distinct from its consciousness” and the second could simply leave out the word “other.” I think this would be sufficient to avoid the implication that consciousness is merely an attribute for the Christian god. Would that help?

Regards,
Dawson

November 24, 2012 6:06 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Michael,

I just noted this:

On 17 Nov., you wrote:

<< it’s clear from both the Old and New Testaments that Judeo-Christianity holds that the cosmos is contingently finite, i.e., did not always exist, but was at sometime in the distant past created ex nihilo by God, despite the recent ‘scholarship’ of liberal theologians which asserts that the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo was contrived by Second-Century Christians. >>

Then, on 23 Nov., you wrote:

<< For God, the cosmos and everything contained in it and everything that has ever happened in it has never been that which at some time did not exist or potentially exist. It has always actually existed. >>

Any thoughts on this?

Regards,
Dawson

November 24, 2012 6:15 AM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

You write: "Yes, I can see where you were confused. The first highlighted phrase could be revised to say “has attributes distinct from its consciousness” and the second could simply leave out the word “other.”

But I wasn't confused. I correctly read and understood the meaning of the statement as written and responded accordingly.

Right?

November 24, 2012 7:18 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Michael,

When has the Christian God ever been alone?

But it's kinda funny that in the preface to rand's book, which her followers love suggesting that you read, she asks the reader to take their senses for granted. In other words, she is asking us to imagine something. Hilarious!! Anyway, the rumor is that rand died on welfare? What happened to being selfish?

By the way,

Knowledge doesn't start with objects. It starts with consciousness. Descartes' discovery is pretty
brilliant.

Just a little more coal for the fire.

November 24, 2012 8:51 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Michael,

I just want to say that I have really enjoyed your and Dawson's exchange. I trust that the current lull is just a "pause in the action," and that the discussion hasn't completely come to an end, especially in light of what you wrote earlier:

"Uh . . . Judeo-Christianity does have a theory of concepts. LOL! And we’re about to see that very clearly."

I was looking forward to seeing you lay this out. Do you have any plans to present this anytime soon?

Ydemoc

November 25, 2012 4:18 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

Ydemoc,

I was looking forward to seeing you lay this out. Do you have any plans to present this anytime soon?

I have been holding myself out of a request by Dawson, who thinks that Michael has some good qualities.

But let me tell you the first thing I noticed about Michael's comments: he just asserts that the Judeo-Christian "philosophy" does this, holds that, has thus, but he never shows how so. The few times he somehow tries to hold any of it, it does not go to the very roots of Judeo-Christianity (is it the Bible? If not, why not?), but to some theologian or some imprecise "orthodoxy" who holds this or that, but, again, never to show the pattern, the path, from biblical words, passages, and such (I would hope for non-contradictory ones if there's any), to how to derive a philosophy/theory of concepts/whatever from them. And that's at the heart of the problem. Michael can assert that for Christians this, for Christians that, but will he ever be able to justify it as coming out of the Bible? He shows again and again, mere assertions combined with obfuscating jargon. Maybe the jargon comes naturally and honestly to him, but it does nothing but obfuscate the very problem that he is not offering any paths towards getting what he says Christianity gives. Example, a theory of concepts. He offers post rationalizations at best (and if at all).

Compare that with Dawson's treatises. Those offer exact paths from first principles to whatever it is. Lots of jargon too, but not obfuscating jargon.

So, don't hold your breadth waiting for a proper layout by Michael. I doubt that such paths exist, and thus he would have to make them out.

November 25, 2012 4:55 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

Richard,

Knowledge doesn't start with objects. It starts with consciousness. Descartes' discovery is pretty

Consciousness of what Richard?

November 25, 2012 5:03 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 25, 2012 6:36 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi photosynthesis,

You wrote: "So, don't hold your breadth waiting for a proper layout by Michael. I doubt that such paths exist, and thus he would have to make them out."

Well, I sure hope your wrong. I'd hate to see this exchange come to an end without being able to examine exactly what Michael was referring to when he said that "Judeo-Christianity does have a theory of concepts. LOL! And we’re about to see that very clearly."

Maybe we should give him the benefit of the doubt on this. Maybe his delay in presenting this Judeo-Christian theory of concepts, along with his launching into a presentation of epistemology, is just part of what he was talking about when he wrote: "“We'll have to hold off on epistemology after all. We need to go back over a good many things . . . apparently, one thing and only one thing at a time.”
But, then again, he hasn't really "go[ne] back over a good many things" either.

The good thing is, should Michael resume his interaction with Dawson, I guess we can also look forward to seeing him "go back over a good many things," too!

Ydemoc

November 25, 2012 6:40 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"Consciousness of what Richard?"

Consciousness.

November 25, 2012 6:57 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Dawson,

Suddenly, out of nowhere, the tone and the spirit of this conservation has changed.

I note that you've written a multitude of arguments—where do you get the time?—that allegedly overthrow the entire edifice of Judeo-Christianity's rather formative and complex metaphysical system of thought. These recent posts of yours are quite shocking, really, chock full of incredible claims, but also weird, Twilight-Zone abruptions of crazy invariably laced with gratuitous ad hominems. But mostly you brazenly misrepresent what I’ve shared with you. You go on and on about things I never argued or said or believe as such. And I’m sure that’s my fault too or the fault of Judeo-Christianity’s supposedly “ill-defined” and “subjective” collection of fantasies.

But I’m not impressed by arguments leveled against stawmen, either comprised of things not held by Judeo-Christianity (mangled, misunderstood concepts) or against actual ideas, albeit, as stripped of their premises and replaced by Objectivism’s. Same thing really. At one point you suggest that all this must be disturbing to me, by which you mean that my observations or that some aspect of Judeo-Christianity has been demolished by your reasoning. You’re outside you mind. I’m exasperated with you, annoyed, not disturbed in the least.

But what is the point of all this confusion?

Here’s one of those Twilight-Zone moments:

"I don’t think concern for consistently distinguishing the real from the imaginary can ever reasonably dismissed as 'exasperating nonsense.' You mark yourself with these comments, Michael. They are autobiographical."

What?!

I know all about Rand’s reputation for being boorishly rude and arrogant to those with whom she disagreed.

Are you Rand or Dawson?

November 25, 2012 7:07 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Continued. . . .

I've already acknowledged that if the Objectivist worldview is correct, if it accurately depicts the state of reality, then Judeo-Christianity’s worldview is false. I was under the impression that we had already established that some time ago.

And given that you have yet (and in truth, cannot!) penetrate a certain wall—universally apparent to us all, separating Objectivism from its overly ambitious claims—you need to get a grip and stop pretending that Objectivism can possibly demonstrate beyond its presuppositions that Judeo-Christianity’s mysticism is irrational or “imaginary,” as if Objectivism had overcome what no other secular system of thought has ever overcome.

Once again:

“We have . . . what appears to be a constraint placed on reality that does not follow from the limitations of sensory perception at all. Instead, we have a condition attached to reality with a strip of willy-nilly tape—one that presumes a univocal conception of reality without any regard for the very real problem of origin.

It cannot be said that sensory perception, the sum of the mere ‘nuts and bolts’ of a mechanical apparatus, conceives this constraint. That would be absurd, for this constraint is a notion, an idea, an abstraction. It’s not an object of perception. Consciousness would have to be the force behind the busy fingers which imagines this constraint and attaches it to reality. In short, it’s an abstraction that doesn’t necessarily follow from the percept on which it’s predicated: namely, the limitations of sensory perception” (Rawlings).

In the above you acknowledge this (what else could you do?) in a backhanded sort way, going on about how it’s my responsibility to demonstrate something or another beyond merely pointing out the impossible.

If you say so, but then it’s you who keeps battering your head against this wall, not me. I’ve never claimed that the transcendent can be contemplated by any other means but reason. Moreover, you’re the one incessantly babbling about God and sensory organs! It all just flies right over you head. It never seems to occur to the Objectivist that his snide pronouncements about the mystical or transcendent necessarily require him to step out of the parameters of his very own system of thought, as if he were standing above and beyond it all, like an angel on wings, perceiving something that nobody else can from this side of sensory perception.

Stick to what Objectivism can credibly claim to know relative to the constraints with which it binds itself, all the while pretending that its scorn for the supernatural doesn’t violate the principle of those constraints.

You want a fight, Dawson? All I need do is keep copying and pasting the above.

November 25, 2012 7:09 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Continued. . . .

But then I thought that we were engaging in a respectful exchange of ideas in the academic sense, for what other exercise would be beneficial in this case?

That settled, the goal on my part was to explain Judeo-Christianity's epistemology as requested, which requires an accurate understanding of Judeo-Christianity's metaphysics as stated from its analogical perspective. At the same time, I was under the impression that you were open to the idea of explaining precisely what existence is to the Objectivist, from his univocal perspective.

For now, why can’t you just simply grasp what Judeo-Christianity’s holds on its own terms, not what it holds relative to Objectivism’s assumptions about things. All this incessant bickering, instead of defining terms: it causes you to muddle the actualities. You’re arguing with phantoms. Of course Judeo-Christianity logically falls if were prefaced on Objectivism’s view of things. But it stands and stays relative to its own premises, thank you very much. And you have got them all wrong.

And, yes, I’m coming from the orthodox school of thought. It’s the original, rooted in First- and Second-Century apostolic thought. Is this body of thought monolithic? No. Of course not, it’s comprised of thoughts contributed over the centuries by a myriad of persons with different backgrounds and experiences in real life. But these things overwhelming go to sacramental expressions, apparent or incidental differences due to the differences in subjective, spiritual experiences. We are individuals, with unique abilities and needs. God lovingly and respectfully deals with us accordingly. It does not follow from that that Judeo-Christianity is a subjective system of thought proper. It’s resoundingly absolutist. As for the fundamentals and their immediate ramifications, agreement is virtually universal. You just imagine more division than actually exists.

On the other hand, orthodoxy has profound disputes with the liberal or secular theological traditions of hermeneutics and doctrine. Toner’s college, for example, sports a very liberal school of divinity.

I am a competent representative of orthodoxy. I’m not gong to explain these thing to you again!

November 25, 2012 7:11 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Continued . . .


By the way, Dawson, you incessantly suggest that the diversity of thought among Christians is a problem for me or for Judeo-Christianity. LOL! No it’s not. I have no problem with the fact that individual’s experience God differently, that there is in fact a unifying truth behind it all. Of course, some notions are not aspects of divinity, but rather leftover aspects of minds under spiritual renovation. You’re the only one who has a problem with it, apparently, conflating the distinction between the teachings of the Bible and the various levels of understanding evinced by its students.

My problem?

This is just another example of your knee-jerk, black-and-white think causing you to confound the categories of things relative to a universally understood and very human dynamic. Your incessant, time-wasting complaints about the varied or developing understandings of things by different Christians is naive, annoying and hysterically overstated.

The opinions of persons who are too stupid or smug to recognize the very same foibles in themselves and others relative to any given system of thought are of no interest to me.

News flash: I’m aware of the chasm in Objectivist thought owing to the advent of multiculturalism and political correctness—early followers repudiating aspects of Rand’s epistemology, ethics and aesthetics on what amounts to subjective or relativistic grounds. No system thought is monolithically coherent as understood and practiced by its followers.

November 25, 2012 7:14 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Continued . . .

Here’s another Twilight-Zone moment:

“And as one would expect, you haven’t been citing any facts to support your position. Rather, you only cite what your position affirms and what has apparently been ratified by a long history of theological deliberation, essentially saying “This is what we as orthodox Christians believe.”

Just how seared is your conscience?

Bull! I quoted chapter and verse as I put down Judeo-Christianity’s metaphysics. This attitude of yours would logically render the enterprise of an objective exchange of ideas between us impossible.

If what you say is sensible. . . .

The thing about any collection of false or misleading statements, Dawson, is that they invariably reek of inconsistency.

First you say I haven’t cited “any facts to support [my] position.” Than you say, in effect, that I have cited facts, albeit, only those that support my position. But wait a minute. This allegation implies that you possess knowledge about other scripture in the Bible that counters the claims of the scripture cited. It also implies that I possess knowledge of the same and ’am intentionally withholding it. “And as one would expect” from this collection of tripe, no objectively examinable intelligence is offered to support it. But even worse for you, alluded to in the above and stated more emphatically now, is the unwitting admission that you did in fact recognize the cogency of my observations insofar as the citations provided are concerned, for after all, that is the basis of your allegations. Finally, you attack the preeminent principle of academic tradition, namely, consensus, as if a centuries-old consensus of “theological deliberation” were a bad thing or irrelevant.

I strongly suggest, once again, that you stick with what you know and can back up. I may not have the time you have to respond as frequently and voluminously, but that doesn’t mean I don’t grasp what you think to be arguments of profundity or can’t handily refute you, particularly when it comes to these childish asides, these spectacles of sophistry.

This is my touché.

Play these games all you want; it’s your blog after all, but don’t be surprised that when you waste my time on these false and egotistic irrelevancies that you soon find your pants down around your ankles with your ass hanging out before God and everybody.

How many times have you declared that Christianity doesn’t have an epistemology as we move toward it? Another falsehood. Another waste of time I’ve read over a dozen works on the topic in addition to the great secular works. There must be hundreds more. The following are among the very finest of the orthodox tradition, and, yes, they are steeped in scriptural citations:

November 25, 2012 7:23 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

A Survey of Christian Epistemology by Cornelius Van

The Elusive God: Reorienting Religious Epistemology by Paul K. Moser

Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience by William P Alston

Reason for the Hope Within by Michael J. Murray

Christianity and the Nature of Science by James Porter Moreland

God and Other Minds: A Study of the Rational Justification of Belief in God by Alvin Plantinga

Theological Science by Thomas F Torrance

And of course all of the most renowned works of systematic Christian theology—written by the likes of Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Barth, Maritain, Torrance, Henry and others—include comprehensive epistemologies. Objectivism’s epistemology hampered by its univocal worldview is a monosyllabic-stuttering retard next to the epistemological colossus of Judeo-Christianity.

November 25, 2012 7:24 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Continued . . .

Now, back to the issue at hand. . . .

In the above you comment about how Objectivism might be too black-and-white or absolutist for me. No. Nothing could be too absolutist for me, but I don’t live by the black-and-white thinking of a system shackled to a univocal conception of a reality that actually consists of two-levels of being. The fact that reality is analogical is self-evident to me, and absolutism cannot be sustained against the ravages of human folly on anything else but divine authority. Understanding that reality is two-fold and that truth is absolute is just the beginning of understanding just how nuanced and infinitely complex reality is.

Is the construct of the eternally existent now complex? Yes. Reality is analogical. Is it incoherent. No! And you’re full of it. Once grasped from contemplating on the ramifications of God’s attributes, the brilliance of its logical consistency, especially in the light of the three classic laws of logic with their collectively unifying principle between Self (absolute) and other, is apprehensible and stunningly self-evident to all.

Is it ultimately true? . . .

The understanding of it, rather, the recognition of it, which is almost visceral, is key to understanding Christianity’s epistemology. It’s the rational nexus between divine and human mind. It’s the first principle, the foundation, of Christianity’s epistemology.

It’s very important.

And despite your shenanigans, I’d be willing to venture that at least one or two persons following this discussion have seen it for the first time in their lives.

Richard astutely asks, “When has God ever been alone?”

Answer: Never!

Richard sees it. I see it. The Christians I know see it. I’ve lead others to see it, both believers and non-believers. I know you can see it as well.

I sympathize, Dawson. I really do. You put a lot time and effort into “Divine Lonesomeness”. More to the point, you have a lot vested in that argument. Sorry. Truth is more important than your pride. And at this point, what I mean by truth goes to the fact that the construct of the eternally existent now is logically consistent and can be seen as such by all.

Just how seared is your conscience?

Guess what? It’s you who has his pants down around his ankles again!

November 25, 2012 7:34 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Continued . . .

“The title of your piece and its introduction explicitly express your intent to show that the conceptualization of God as an eternally preexistent Creator is inherently contradictory in and of itself” (Rawlings).

In this case the conceptualization would be that of the Bible.

Once again, from the above:

“Nowhere in “Before the Beginning: The Problem of Divine Lonesomeness” do you demonstrate an awareness of either (1) the biblical asseveration of a consciousness that exits in the eternal now or an awareness of (2) this asseveration’s immediate ramification.

Nothing of the sort is to be found in your refutation of Toner’s silly and, therefore, irrelevant theologizing or in your equally irrelevant discourse about corporeal or sensory attributes. You don’t mention the attributes of God as posited in the Bible or the ramifications thereof in “Divine Lonesomeness” at all.

Not once. Not ever” (Ibid.).

And, amazingly, even after the matter is spelled out to you in no uncertain terms (and predicated on scripture to boot!), you continue to claim that your thesis “exposes theism’s dependence on affirming an original consciousness conscious only of itself (a contradiction in terms) . . .”.

Theism? What theism? Got specificity? I’m talking about the theism of the Bible and no other.

For the sake of argument, the only instance in which “an original consciousness conscious only of itself” would constitute “a contradiction in terms” would be a univocal reality in which the inanimate precedes consciousness. On the other hand, if existence is comprised of two levels of being wherein consciousness precedes the inanimate all of your guff is moot.

According to the Bible, the reason that human consciousness, for example, is bound by the law of identity is because the Creator in Whose image we are made is the eternal apprehender of an actually existent Self and an actually existent other. The Bible emphatically declares that God has always been consciousness of His creation as an actually existing entity apart from Himself.

But what is even more amazing, once again, even after it’s spelled out to you in no uncertain terms, is that you claim that your thesis “goads the theist into affirming other contradictions in order to salvage his theism from it (such as claiming that the things that it created have always existed).”

Theist? What theist?


I’m showing you what the Bible says. I’m not its author, and the Bible precedes Objectivism by centuries. How could the former be goaded by the latter? The former was already established.

Your babbling incoherently, Dawson.



November 25, 2012 7:36 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Continued . . .

And in the parenthetical phrase in the above, why are you still confounding the distinction between the nature of the existence of a finite entity relative to its perspective in time and that of divinity as depicted by the Bible relative to the perspective of timelessness? You knowingly failed to add “from the perspective of the creature in the dimension of time” in your parenthetical phrase, didn’t you? Presumably, you do understand that one’s personal biases relative to ultimate reality are irrelevant in an objective analysis of any given system of thought on its own terms (you know, for the sake of argument), and presumably you have a dictionary understanding of such terms as omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience and timelessness.

You write: “For [a] ‘construct’ to be ‘sound,’ its premises need to be factually true.”

Indeed.

And what is your premise?

The Bible holds that before any created thing existed, God was alone. Hence the only thing He could have possibly been conscious of before any created thing existed in the space-time continuum was His own consciousness or some inherent attribute thereof.

False!

The Bible doesn’t hold to that at all. You have yet to correctly state what it does hold, so how could it be that your thesis overthrows that which it never addressed?

But you do write this: “I did not address the potential objection that the things which the Christian god is said to have created also have always existed.”

Indeed, you didn’t, because the implications of a Being Who exists in the eternal now never before occurred to you. You never saw it coming. But this is the closest you’ve come to acknowledging the ramifications of God’s attributes according to the Bible, albeit, from behind your wall of bluster and deceit.

You continue: “But I am very thankful that you’ve pointed this out. It only helps my overall position.”

It utterly destroys it, and you know it.

I know you grasp the cogency of the immediate ramification of a Being Who exists in the eternal now. For centuries, thinkers, both secular and sacred, have had absolutely no problem grasping what the Bible asserts and why it logically holds up.

It’s self-evident.

November 25, 2012 7:38 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Contined . . .

In your last few posts following my exegesis of this construct you jump here and there all around it, incessantly imply that I have expressed ideas or arguments that contradict it, none of which is true, but you never once acknowledge the true essence of the construct in and of itself.

(The precision with which you place my alleged contradictions on either side of the central idea is eerie. It gives me goose bumps.)

Why?

Because to acknowledge it, to state it correctly and openly, is to acknowledge that “Divine Lonesomeness” is a voluminous waste of words and time.

For example, you write:

“Michael,

I just noted this:

On 17 Nov., you wrote:

<< it’s clear from both the Old and New Testaments that Judeo-Christianity holds that the cosmos is contingently finite, i.e., did not always exist, but was at sometime in the distant past created ex nihilo by God, despite the recent ‘scholarship’ of liberal theologians which asserts that the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo was contrived by Second-Century Christians. >>

Then, on 23 Nov., you wrote:

<< For God, the cosmos and everything contained in it and everything that has ever happened in it has never been that which at some time did not exist or potentially exist. It has always actually existed. >>

Any thoughts on this?”

Yes. You’re imply that the first statement contradicts the second. But you don’t come right out and say it. Why? Because you’re pretending not to understand that (1) the context of the first statement is the perspective of the creature who exists in the diminish of time and (2) the context of the second statement is the perspective of the Creator who exists outside the dimension of time. Theoretically, it’s possible that you’re not being dishonest, but then if that’s the case, I strongly suggest that you stop reading Aristotle and read comic books instead, given that you would never understand his alternative rendition of the potential and the actual relative to divine infinity if this is the best you can do with the biblical construct of the eternally existent now.

Just how seared is your conscience?

November 25, 2012 7:41 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Michael said: "Play these games all you want; it’s your blog after all, but don’t be surprised that when you waste my time on these false and egotistic irrelevancies that you soon find your pants down around your ankles with your ass hanging out before God and everybody."

I bet Ydemoc would love to see his hero's behind. Michael you made someone's day.

November 25, 2012 7:59 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

In another instance you imply that I make God’s attributes out to be the objects of His contemplations in contrast to a statement in which I emphatically deny that they be objects. But of course I did no such thing. The unmistakable meaning of the statement in question is that His attributes are the means by which He contemplates the objects of His creation in the eternal now. And soon after that you claim that I didn’t address the means by which He perceives entities apart from Himself . . . as you go off on another tangent, nattering more nonsense about sensory organs of biological organisms and God.

You’re so cute, Dawson. I’m getting’ warm-fuzzy feelin’.

How could the immediate ramification of divine perfection—the notion of an eternally existent now—be as incoherent and foolish as your obviously bastardized regurgitation would have it? How could this pathetic notion of yours, this unimaginative, decrepit thing, this monstrosity, have escaped the ridicule you rightly heap on it all these centuries if it resembled the actual idea?

You seem to have lost touch with reality. So much for existence having primary over consciousness.

I’ll tell ya what. Write a formal paper on your rendition of the eternally existent now, i.e., the immediate ramification of divinity’s attributes according to the Bible as you claim to see it. Send it off to Harvard’s School of Divinity. Heck, I’ll pay the postage. Bill me. Let’s see how it holds up under the scrutiny of peer review. Just don’t be surprised when your juvenile scholarship comes back to you stained with the tears of laughter and the stench of feces from the many orifices on which it was used to wipe. Submit your “Divine Lonesomeness” paper too. That would be a hoot.

Instead of derisively dismissing my earlier warnings that what you regarded to be huge problems for Christianity were nothing of the sort, that there were other arguments more interesting, you should have been regarding the possibility of that with a bit more respect.

Hmm?

By the way, the construct can be graphically expressed and parallels with the theoretical motifs of general relativity and quantum mechanics.

Shut up, Dawson, and come clean. This is so much simpler to grasp. State it correctly, Dawson, so everyone can here. Make a picture of it in you head if that helps.

Naturally, you’ll have to step out of that black-and-white box you live in. It’ll be good for you, a little fresh air.

November 25, 2012 8:00 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Mich,

You came out swinging today.

But thanks for allowing Ydemoc to see his heroes
behind. He can die happy now.

Making atheists happy one day at a time.

November 25, 2012 9:35 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Grammar alert!

I wrote, "simpler to grasp." Oops.

It's easier to grasp.

November 26, 2012 7:39 AM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Richard,

You write: "Knowledge doesn't start with objects. It starts with consciousness. Descartes' discovery is pretty brilliant."

Yes. On that point he is correct, but of course the consciousness that it all started with is God.

I’m reluctant to acknowledge this on the blog because the closed-box thinkers will confound this and waste more time. Obviously, we have to get to epistemology to see why that is true . . . at least from the biblical perspective, which is different than Descartes’ notion. Well, different in the sense that the introspection of the finite mind cannot establish what Descartes tries to establish. He’s close and essentially correct about the central issue, but his overall formulation of the matter, despite the fact that cogito, ergo sum prompts him to conclude that God exists, inevitably gives way to subjectivism. The Bible, of course, avoids his errors. God is the one Who stands and stays, not unaided, disconnected human reason. While the fact of finite consciousness is self-evident, the fact of finite conscious is contingent to an object that precedes it. I’m speaking in very general terms here and so I’m assuming that you’re familiar with the larger context.

Dawson, of course, is the only one holding things up with his nonsense, not I. He has been roundly refuted on all points with regard to what the Bible actually teaches; He just doesn't see it yet and neither do the members of his peanut gallery.

Well, whether they will admit it or not, WHETHER THEY WILL ADMIT THAT IT HAS SUNK IN OR NOT, they see it now in regard to the construct of the eternally existent now! The Bible doesn’t teach what Dawson claims it does in his silly and dishonest hermeneutics, his intentional distortion of the idea. Any honest person with an IQ above that of a gnat can see that now!

What else is Dawson wrong about?



photosynthesis,

You write: "

November 26, 2012 9:23 AM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Oops.

photosynthesis,

You write: "But let me tell you the first thing I noticed about Michael's comments: he just asserts that the Judeo-Christian "philosophy" does this, holds that, has thus, but he never shows how so."

Seriously, are you really that dense? Do you not understand what phrases like “for the sake argument” or “the process of defining terms” entail?

Of course, I’m telling you what the Bible holds to be true about being. Biblical metaphysics. The ontology and cosmology of the Bible. What else would I be doing at this point in the process of defining terms?

As to the why or the how of things, actually I’ve given you quite a bit of information on that too, just not in any comprehensively detailed fashion that would connect the conceptual dots as it were.

But just when I was about to move on to epistemology, what do I see on this blog?

A huge pile of odiferous claptrap utterly confounding everything I had just put down.

You write: “Michael can assert that for Christians this, for Christians that, but will he ever be able to justify it as coming out of the Bible?”

I’ve been doing that all along. Where have you been?

I’ll tell you where you’ve been. Like a good sycophant, you’ve been rooting around in Dawson’s poop shoot, getting all confused and dizzy from the fumes.

My task, as requested, by the way, is not to explain what the Bible holds in Objectivism’s terms. The task is to establish what the Bible actually holds on its own terms.

You write: “Compare that with Dawson's treatises. Those offer exact paths from first principles to whatever it is. Lots of jargon too, but not obfuscating jargon.”

Yeah. Let us compare Dawson’s idea of defining terms with mine. The former is nothing but obfuscating jargon, the latter goes like this:

“I've already acknowledged that if the Objectivist worldview is correct, if it accurately depicts the state of reality, then Judeo-Christianity’s worldview is false. I was under the impression that we had already established that some time ago.”

Or like this:

“For the sake of argument, the only instance in which “an original consciousness conscious only of itself” would constitute “a contradiction in terms” would be a univocal reality in which the inanimate precedes consciousness. On the other hand, if existence is comprised of two levels of being wherein consciousness precedes the inanimate all of your guff is moot.”

You see this is how opposing views are objectively, accurately and succinctly juxtaposed for the sake of defining terms. And right now the terms I’m defining are those of the Bible, its metaphysical concepts directly backed by scripture—you liar!—and thoroughly expounded, hermeneutically and logically.

November 26, 2012 1:43 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Continued . . .

Now what has Dawson done in response?

Instead of simply and accurately writing back to me what the Bible says relative to the inherent logic and hermeneutics of my exegesis, and asking for clarification here and there as required so that we’re on the same page, he has incessantly bickered with me over the cogency of the Bible’s metaphysical concepts, not relative to the context or the premises or the logic or the hermeneutics of the biblical citations, but, rather, relative to the presuppositions and subsequent conclusions derived from Objectivism.

These are two distinctly different enterprises confusingly melded into one!

See how accurately and succinctly I summarize things?

You haven’t been paying attention. Get your head out of Dawson’s ass.

And what is the result of Dawson’s confusing approach?

Precious time has been squandered and now we have to go back over ground already covered so I can make sure that the pertinent metaphysical and, therefore, underlying concepts of Judeo-Christianity’s epistemology are mutually and correctly understood starting with the arguably most important of them all: namely, the construct of the eternally existent now.

You know, the construct over which it became necessarily for me to grab Dawson’s pants and hank them down around his ankles. Perhaps I now have his attention and he is willing to do things the right way.

Hence, I write:

“For now, why can’t you just simply grasp what Judeo-Christianity’s holds on its own terms, not what it holds relative to Objectivism’s assumptions about things. All this incessant bickering, instead of defining terms: it causes you to muddle the actualities. You’re arguing with phantoms. Of course Judeo-Christianity logically falls if it were prefaced on Objectivism’s view of things. But it stands and stays relative to its own premises, thank you very much. And you have got them all wrong.”

Dawson is more than qualified to tell me what he thinks of the Bible’s concepts relative to what Objectivism holds . . . insofar as he correctly understands what the Bible holds.

Stawmen don’t count.

I do not doubt for one moment that Dawson is the expert here on Objectivism. But he seems to think that he is the reigning expert on the Bible as well. Well, clearly, he is not.

I am.

November 26, 2012 1:45 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Continued . . .

As for Objectivism, I’m listening. I’m taking it in. I’m learning at Dawson’s feet. Ironically, I’ve learned a lot from his refutation of the Bible’s metaphysics. Unfortunately, much of what he’s argued against is not the Bible’s metaphysics. Notwithstanding, while very little is being learned about Judeo-Christianity’s metaphysics, much is being learned by me about Objectivism. But I still have a lot of questions, things I’m not clear on and would like to address—nearly two pages of questions. But here I am, instead, having to go back over things already put down.

Here I am having to pause and explain the problem on top of everything else.

Now, who is the person who has revised, altered, struck or otherwise amended his understanding about or his article on Objectivism per the other person’s instruction?

Me.

No doubt, I will have to amend much more.

It’s not I who’s holding things up.

Unless Dawson boots me, we’re going to get clear on what the Bible actually holds on several points, not as they are filtered through the Objectivist’s worldview whereby they come out the other side all mangled or distorted—unrecognizable monstrosities, falsehoods, that have absolutely nothing to do with the Bible.

November 26, 2012 1:45 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Let me amend something I said in the above: ". . . and asking for clarification here and there as required . . ."

Actually, Dawson has asked for clarification on a few things, so I revoke that statement in spite of the fact that more often than not he goes on to refute whatever it is he thinks I’m saying before getting the clarification.

My apologies.

November 26, 2012 1:58 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Michael what do you think about these qoutes from descarte:

"Hence there remains only the idea of God, concerning which we must consider whether it is something which
cannot have proceeded from me myself. By the name God I understand a substance that is infinite [eternal,
immutable], independent, all−knowing, all−powerful, and by which I myself and everything else, if anything
else does exist, have been created. Now all these characteristics are such that the more diligently I attend to
them, the less do they appear capable of proceeding from me alone; hence, from what has been already said,
we must conclude that God necessarily exists.
For although the idea of substance is within me owing to the fact that I am substance, nevertheless I should
not have the idea of an infinite substance since I am finite if it had not proceeded from some substance
which was veritably infinite."






"And the whole strength of the argument which I have here made use of to prove the existence of
God consists in this, that I recognise that it is not possible that my nature should be what it is, and indeed that I should have in myself the idea of a God, if God did not veritably exist a God, I say, whose idea is in me, i.e. who possesses all those supreme perfections of which our mind may indeed have some idea but without understanding them all, who is liable to no errors or defect [and who has none of all those marks which
denote imperfection]. From this it is manifest that He cannot be a deceiver, since the light of nature teaches us that fraud and deception necessarily proceed from some defect."



November 26, 2012 2:59 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"I have always considered that the two questions respecting God and the Soul were the chief of those that
ought to be demonstrated by philosophical rather than theological argument. For although it is quite enough
for us faithful ones to accept by means of faith the fact that the human soul does not perish with the body, and
that God exists, it certainly does not seem possible ever to persuade infidels of any religion, indeed, we may
almost say, of any moral virtue, unless, to begin with, we prove these two facts by means of the natural
reason. And inasmuch as often in this life greater rewards are offered for vice than for virtue, few people
would prefer the right to the useful, were they restrained neither by the fear of God nor the expectation of
another life; and although it is absolutely true that we must believe that there is a God, because we are so
taught in the Holy Scriptures, and, on the other hand, that we must believe the Holy Scriptures because they
come from God (the reason of this is, that, faith being a gift of God, He who gives the grace to cause us to
believe other things can likewise give it to cause us to believe that He exists), we nevertheless could not place
this argument before infidels, who might accuse us of reasoning in a circle. And, in truth, I have noticed that
you, along with all the theologians, did not only affirm that the existence of God may be proved by the
natural reason, but also that it may be inferred from the Holy Scriptures, that knowledge about Him is much
clearer than that which we have of many created things, and, as a matter of fact, is so easy to acquire, that
those who have it not are culpable in their ignorance. This indeed appears from the Wisdom of Solomon,
chapter xiii., where it is said Howbeit they are not to be excused; for if their understanding was so great that
they could discern the world and the creatures, why did they not rather find out the Lord thereof? and in
Romans, chapter i., it is said that they are without excuse; and again in the same place, by these words that
which may be known of God is manifest in them, it seems as through we were shown that all that which can
be known of God may be made manifest by means which are not derived from anywhere but from ourselvesand from the simple consideration of the nature of our minds. Hence I thought it not beside my purpose to
inquire how this is so, and how God may be more easily and certainly known than the things of the world."



http://www.vahidnab.com/med.pdf

November 26, 2012 2:59 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Michael,

check out the comments on my latest blog post.

November 26, 2012 4:26 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

I think Descartes was a brilliant thinker and mathematician. He was way smarter than me.

It's been sometime since I read him. He does preface his argument of divine perfection, following the cogito, with the problem of origin, right? In other words, in his method of doubt, he does ask where he came from before he launches into the latter abstraction, right?

Anslem's argument from divine perfection is rendered more fully and more convincingly. But in any event, it's among the several ontological abstractions, self-evident upon reflection.

But the problem of origin, which is at the base of knowledge, precedes these. Everyone sees this problem, not everyone goes to the next level. One has to consciously will it against the tide of one's corrupt and fallen nature.

Personally, I didn't come to God by way of the higher abstractions. It was a life crisis that compelled me to cry out from the “instinctual” impression at the base of knowledge: namely, the problem of origin.

That's what most people do. Later upon reflection they see the higher ontological arguments . . . though, of course, they are always there waiting for us to come to them.

Solomon, and later, Paul, in Romans, are talking about the apprehension of origin coupled with the classic laws of logic. These are instinctual; they’re at the base of knowledge, regardless of the name we give them.

What do you say?

November 27, 2012 8:30 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

"What do you say?"

Well, I read the meditations some time ago but it's interest that descartes says:

"Romans, chapter i., it is said that they are without excuse; and again in the same place, by these words that which may be known of God is manifest in them, it seems as through we were shown that all that which can be known of God may be made manifest by means which are not derived from anywhere but from ourselvesand from the simple consideration of the nature of our minds. Hence I thought it not beside my purpose to inquire how this is so, and how God may be more easily and certainly known than the things of the world."

It seems that he believed that the existence of God was self-evident. For example, If one reflects, he will inevitably come to the conclusion that God exists.



November 27, 2012 9:08 AM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Dawson,

I just noticed that in my first post of the last round that I wrote, "gratuitous ad hominems." Though you were somewhat appealing to sentiment rather than reason, in my opinion, it was more at "gratuitous pejoratives."

November 27, 2012 12:19 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Richard,

You said, “It seems that he believed that the existence of God was self-evident. For example, If one reflects, he will inevitably come to the conclusion that God exists.”

Yep!

In truth, Descartes' argument is the immediate recognition of divine perfection inherent to the problem of origin; Anslem's rendition goes to the more abstract ramifications of the same just beyond it.

November 27, 2012 12:32 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Michael,

I’ve had two very busy days at work already this week, and the rest promises to be just as busy. I opened my messages Monday evening and saw a boatload of messages from you. I’ve been able to set some time aside and read through your markedly emotional replies.

You open your latest spree of comments with the following statement:

<< Suddenly, out of nowhere, the tone and the spirit of this conservation has changed. >>

I really hope you’re not blaming this on me. Remember that you have come to me, and your initial comment on my blog was one full of accusations which you still have not defended, even after numerous questions posed to you still go unanswered. I’ve been very patient with you, and I’ve extended ample opportunity to you to make good on your claims. Now you’re annoyed and frustrated, and you’ve jettisoned any inhibition to keep your temper under control.

Your comments have become increasing laden with a most biting, even contemptuous tone, not only towards me, but also towards others who visit my blog. Here are just some examples:

“You’re outside you mind.” [sic]

“Just how seared is your conscience?” (this appears three times, written exactly the same way each time)

“…don’t be surprised that when you waste my time on these false and egotistic irrelevancies that you soon find your pants down around your ankles with your ass hanging out before God and everybody.”

“…despite your shenanigans…”

“It’s you who has his pants down around his ankles again!”

“Your babbling incoherently, Dawson.”

“Like a good sycophant, you’ve been rooting around in Dawson’s poop shoot, getting all confused and dizzy from the fumes.”

Is this kind of language really called for, Michael? You seem personally offended by the current course of this discussion, so much so that you have brought it to a new low.

Meanwhile, you have now found it necessary for some reason to characterize certain statements and concerns of mine as “Twilight-Zone abruptions of crazy.” Come now, Michael. The Twilight Zone? Between Christianity and Objectivism, which worldview resembles the Twilight Zone more? It’s certainly not Objectivism!

With your tone degenerating from scolding to downright spiteful, it’s clear that you’ve become very sore with me, and yet you keep coming back to me. You say “I thought that we were engaging in a respectful exchange of ideas in the academic sense,” but would you say the many fits of acerbic paroxysm in just these several comments of yours are characteristic of “a respectful exchange of ideas in the academic sense”? I have to say, given the attention you had earlier sought to draw on behalf of your credentials, I really did not expect you to condescend like this. You’re certainly not coming across as a winner here. And you definitely don’t come across as someone who knowingly has a god on his side behind all this.

But it’s good to see that ol’ Christian spirit of charity is alive and well.

And seriously, do you seek to continue discussions with people you really think are “babbling incoherently”? You seem to have hit a wall of frustration. You apparently blame me for this, and yet you keep coming back to me. I have to say I really don’t get it.

That being said, Michael, Objectivists are happy to frustrate mystics. Your latest display of frustration, consisting of 17 installments on my blog, is historic if not record-breaking.

[continued…]

November 27, 2012 1:54 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

One of the statements of mine that you characterized as a “Twilight Zone moment” was:

<< I don’t think concern for consistently distinguishing the real from the imaginary can ever reasonably dismissed as ‘exasperating nonsense’. You mark yourself with these comments, Michael. They are autobiographical. >>

Recall that this statement was part of my reply to a statement of yours, namely:

<< I will not entertain the allegation that this construct is imagined, dreamt up or otherwise contrived . . . relative to Objectivism’s univocal presuppositions, for they do not obtain in the analysis of a construct within Judeo-Christianity’s analogical system of thought. Enough of this exasperating nonsense. >>

It’s not at all clear to me why you think my response to the unwillingness you express above constitutes a “Twilight Zone moment.”

Keep in mind that you have affirmed the reality of something called a “transcendent realm.” In a comment dated 17 Nov. above, you defined ‘transcendent’ in this context as “extending or lying beyond the limits of ordinary [perceptual] experience,” and I asked a series of questions for you, such as:

<< a) Do you have direct awareness of the realm you call “the transcendent” realm?

b) If yes to a), can you identify the means by which you have this direct awareness? Can you distinguish the means by which you say you have such awareness from your own imagination? If so, how? How can I reliably distinguish between the means by which you allegedly have direct awareness of a “transcendent” realm and your imagination?

c) If you do not have direct awareness of this realm, are you relying on inference, or on something else? The “something else” here could include simply believing something you’ve read in a source that you consider authoritative (for whatever reason). If it’s this latter, please confess as much. If it is something that you have inferred, I will be looking for you to spell out the details of this inference, including your starting point, the means by which you have awareness of your starting point, the means by which you identify your starting point, the elements involved in the inference, and the means by which you identify what you call “the transcendent” given the definitions you have provided above.

d) Also, I will be looking to see if every point in your development of this knowledge chain is consistent with the primacy of existence, which you have already affirmed as applying to human consciousness (I assume you are human and, therefore, that the primacy of existence is a principle which must apply epistemologically to everything you affirm).
>>

To help explain part of the context behind my questions, I quoted one Christian apologist who, in his defense of Christianity’s “transcendent realm,” clearly equated something one imagines with “immaterial existence.”

[continued…]

November 27, 2012 1:54 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Not only have you not addressed my questions, you’ve resisted addressing the issue of the role of imagination in all of this. When I remind you that Objectivism is very careful about the fundamental distinction between reality and imagination, you get huffy and announce that “Objectivism’s univocal presuppositions… do not obtain in the analysis of a construct within Judeo-Christianity’s analogical system of thought.” I have to say, I don’t recall the bible ever giving any explicit teachings on how an individual can distinguish between reality and imagination either. But you’re the bible expert. When you eventually do get around to taking questions, can you address this one?

You say that you “know all about Rand’s reputation for being boorishly rude and arrogant to those with whom she disagreed.”

Can you ever recall where Rand said anything like “It’s you who has his pants down around his ankles again!” or “you’ve been rooting around in Dawson’s poop shoot, getting all confused and dizzy from the fumes”?

Wow, Michael. You’re a fine one to talk.

[continued…]

November 27, 2012 1:54 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Regarding your statement that “We have… what appears to be a constraint placed on reality that does not follow from the limitations of sensory perception at all,” the “constraint” you had in mind here was indicated in your earlier statement (dated 11 Nov. in the previous thread) where you stated:

<< I don't see the justification for what appears to be Objectivism’s arbitrarily imposed constraint on the extent or the essences of existence. >>

We need to make the meaning of all this explicit so that we can finally put it to rest. I addressed your points, explaining that “Objectivism does not set any constraint on what existence can or must be at the level of the axioms ‘existence exists’. This is simply a fundamental recognition; it is not stipulative in any way, including in the manner that your objection requires.” I explained further, quoting Dr. Peikoff, that Objectivism holds that “Existence exists – and only existence exists” (“The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy,” Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, p. 109). That there is a reality is an irreducibly fundamental recognition. Only later do we get to the position in order to contemplate alternatives to existence, such as things we might imagine in a storybook, like Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter or the New Testament. Since the primacy of existence assures us that there is a fundamental distinction between what is real and what is merely imaginary, we have all the principled justification we would ever need to reject fantasized alternatives to existence as unreal.

This is not an “arbitrarily imposed constraint” which we put on reality, as if we controlled reality, as if we set the terms of what reality can and might be. Nor is this principle isolated to the perceptual level of consciousness. The axioms consist of axiomatic concepts, and they make explicit certain fundamental recognitions that are already present in perceptual awareness. But by this point we’ve already graduated to the conceptual level of cognition. But notice also that we have not abandoned the perceptual level of cognition: we build our knowledge on it. There’s no clash here.

[continued…]

November 27, 2012 1:55 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Now there’s something I’ve noticed in your statements that is rather alarming to me, and I want to check with you to see if what your statements imply is really what you hold. Consider the following paragraph of yours:

<< It cannot be said that sensory perception, the sum of the mere ‘nuts and bolts’ of a mechanical apparatus, conceives this constraint. That would be absurd, for this constraint is a notion, an idea, an abstraction. It’s not an object of perception. Consciousness would have to be the force behind the busy fingers which imagines this constraint and attaches it to reality. In short, it’s an abstraction that doesn’t necessarily follow from the percept on which it’s predicated: namely, the limitations of sensory perception. >>

After stating that “this constraint” is “not an object of perception” and that sense perception itself could not conceive of it, you then say that “Consciousness would have to be the force behind the busy fingers which imagines this constraint and attaches it to reality.” What is implied here, so far as I can tell, is that you seem to think that consciousness does not include sense perception, that sense perception happens “over here” and consciousness happens “over there,” such that sense perception is not included under the heading ‘consciousness’. Did you mean to imply this?

If so, we have a fundamental rift between our respective understandings of consciousness as such. Objectivism holds that there are three general levels of consciousness: the sensory, the perceptual, and the conceptual, and that they are hierarchically ordered: the conceptual level of consciousness is dependent on the perceptual level of consciousness, and the perceptual level of consciousness is dependent on the sensory level of consciousness. But sensory consciousness is consciousness as much as perceptual consciousness is consciousness as much as conceptual consciousness is consciousness. Perception is a form of consciousness. We do not hold that there is sense perception on the one hand, and consciousness on the other, as if sense perception were something foreign or alien to consciousness.

[continued…]

November 27, 2012 1:55 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You go on to say that “I’ve never claimed that the transcendent can be contemplated by any other means but reason.” But what do you mean by ‘reason’ in this case?

I provided Objectivism’s definition of reason in my 9 Nov. comment, where I stated:

<< Objectivism defines reason as “the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses” (“The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 20). “Reason integrates man’s perceptions by means of forming abstractions or conceptions, thus raising man’s knowledge from the perceptual level, which he shares with animals, to the conceptual level, which he alone can reach. The method which reason employs in this process is logic—and logic is the art of non-contradictory identification” (“Faith and Force: Destroyers of the Modern World,” Philosophy: Who Needs It, p. 62). So reason necessarily involves sense perception, i.e., the “empirical” level of awareness. Objectivism defines rationality as “the recognition and acceptance of reason as one’s only source of knowledge, one’s only judge of values and one’s only guide to action” (“The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 25). The point here is that, for Objectivism, coupling the concept ‘empirical’ with the concept ‘rational’ is redundant, which leads me to suspect that on the understanding taken by “Christian epistemology” (as you have presented it so far), the “rational” and the “empirical” are somehow separated from each other. >>

This gravitates towards a larger point pertinent to discussions between Objectivists and theists: Objectivists base their reasoning (given what it understands reason and the formation of concepts to be) explicitly on the basis of perceptual awareness. This does not leave Objectivism stranded at the level of concretes; concept-formation allows us to build an entire hierarchy of abstractions on this basis. (Again, I keep coming back to the importance of a good theory of concepts!)

[continued…]

November 27, 2012 1:56 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

On the other hand, Christians seem to think, “Yeah, sense perception is important so far as this impermanent world of contingent facts is concerned, but we’re not married to it, nor is sense perception of fundamental importance to ‘ultimate truth’, for consciousness is not fundamentally awareness of concrete objects, but rather awareness of the transcendent divinitas perfectus that’s all around us but which we cannot see, touch, taste, hear, hold a conversation with, etc.”

All this is to say that there are some fundamental differences of understanding involved here on both the nature of consciousness and the nature of reason. I’ve been trying to get these differences on the table, but so many of my questions to date have been ignored. And you say you’re “annoyed”?

Recognizing the fundamentality of sense perception to the conceptual level of cognition is not arbitrary. This is not an “arbitrarily imposed constraint” on reality. Nor is recognizing that the imaginary is not real. We begin with perception of objects (the subject-object relationship) and we form our conceptual identifications and integrations on that fundamental basis. Ultimately this must be what you mean by “univocal reasoning,” for this is the reasoning I employ. But what legitimate fault can you find with it?

So the Objectivist’s starting point should be easy to grasp. We begin with the fact that existence exists. We certainly do not begin by cutting reality into two opposing divisions and elaborating a massively complex theology in which the real and the imaginary are at many, many points indistinguishable (since the issue of metaphysical primacy is never dealt with explicitly).

What is your starting point? I posed this question to you back on 6 Nov. I have yet to recognize anything you’ve stated as an answer to it.

[continued…]

November 27, 2012 1:56 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You say: “Moreover, you’re the one incessantly babbling about god and sensory organs!!”

Actually, Michael, Christians are the ones who are incessantly babbling about “God.” Objectivists have no doubt that sensory organs exist, and we reserve the right to “babble” about things which are real, especially if they are relevant to important philosophical topics, like epistemology. So tell you what, we will go with sensory organs, and you can go with your god. How’s that?

But seriously, was my point about sensory organs really so unreasonable as to warrant this characterization from you?

I had stated in my article that the bible does not explain how its god is supposed to be conscious of things. It really only says how it could not be conscious of them. Since it is not a biological organism, it couldn’t be conscious of things by sensory organs. But apparently Christians don’t think that the perceptual level of awareness is a form of consciousness to begin with. So perhaps because of this the question is lost on them. Nevertheless, you protest:

<< The Bible doesn’t explain it?! False! It most certainly does. I unmistakably expounded the underlying particulars of the explanation and premised them on scripture. The problem is with you. You have yet to demonstrate that you grasp the ramifications of divinitas perfectus, that is, the ramifications of a Being Who is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. >>

I then explain myself again, when I wrote:

<< I must have missed this, Michael. Perhaps what I had in mind in my paper is different from what you understand it to be. For instance, I have awareness of objects by means of sense perception, which involves a chain of nerves connecting my sensory organs to my brain. When your god is aware of the same objects (since you affirm that it is aware of them, and always has been), by what means is it aware of them? What is the mechanism by which it has such awareness? Saying it is a “pure consciousness” does not address this; it gives no understanding of the means by which it is conscious of anything. It’s just an acontextualized assertion. The attendant claim that your god is not a biological organism, meaning it does not have sensory organs, nerve chains, a brain, etc., means that it cannot have awareness of things by means comparable to how I have awareness of things. So if you think you’ve addressed this, and think that the bible explains this, can you repost it? It’s most curious that you come back in the manner that you do, for many, many Christians that I have discussed this matter with, very typically retreat to the common refrain, “God has not revealed this to us,” in one guise or another. But you apparently see matters quite differently. So please, enlighten me. >>

[continued…]

November 27, 2012 1:56 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Now Michael says I’m “incessantly babbling about god and sensory organs.” Michael, if you cannot address the issues I raise with respect and maturity, why do you keep coming back here? What are you trying to accomplish with these temper tantrums and outbursts? Threatening to “keep copying and pasting [what you had written] above” will not accomplish anything, since it is not addressing the question that I have raised, and it’s implying an arbitrary division in the concept ‘consciousness’ that I simply do not accept.

Now, while you have stated “I don't see the justification for what appears to be Objectivism’s arbitrarily imposed constraint on the extent or the essences of existence,” I must, not that I’ve corrected this, point out that I have yet to see any rational justification for dividing reality into two realms – namely “the immanent” vs. “the transcendent.” You offered definitions of these, but I had posed some questions about them (see above and also my several comments dated 19 Nov.). I have already quoted one Christian apologist whose point about “immaterial existence” includes things that are merely imaginary. So this is a live issue. You haven’t addressed it. You’ve not addressed any of these things so far as I can tell. If you think you have, you’re apparently not making it plain enough for stupid little ‘ol me.. Make it crystal clear, Michael. Avoid metaphors. Define your terms explicitly. Try to resist your urges to erupt into fits and temper tantrums involving what appear to be homoerotic fixations on anal references on your part.

[continued…]

November 27, 2012 1:56 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You ask: “How many times have you declared that Christianity doesn’t have an epistemology as we move toward it? Another falsehood.”

Actually, my contention is that Christianity does not have a theory of concepts. You insist that Christianity does have a theory of concepts, but you’ve never cited any passages in the bible which lays one out. I even asked you to give the Christian worldview’s definition of concept, and you haven’t delivered. Now you post a bunch of books written by theologians and apologists. I’ve read lots of Van Til, some of Moreland and Plantinga, and less of Alston and Murray. I can’t recall specifically whether I’ve read Torrance or Moser, but their names are familiar. In none of what I’ve read of these authors have I seen anything approaching a theory of concepts (which is something I’m always specifically looking for). I have the PDF version of A Survey of Christian Epistemology, and while a search of the document will prove that Van Til throws the word ‘concept’ and its cognates around quite a bit, he never tells us what the Christian definition of ‘concept’ is or lays out a theory of concepts proper. Naturally, there’s much more to be said about this, and what these authors do say, with respect to concepts. But that can wait for another time.

You repeated an earlier comment: “Nowhere in ‘Before the Beginning: The Problem of Divine Lonesomeness’ do you demonstrate an awareness of either (1) the biblical asseveration of a consciousness that exits in the eternal now or an awareness of (2) this asseveration’s immediate ramification… Nothing of the sort is to be found in your refutation of Toner’s silly and, therefore, irrelevant theologizing or in your equally irrelevant discourse about corporeal or sensory attributes. You don’t mention the attributes of God as posited in the Bible or the ramifications thereof in ‘Divine Lonesomeness’ at all.”

I’m sorry that you don’t see the irrelevance of this notion of “a consciousness that exists in the eternal now” to the objection I have raised. Aside from its utter incoherence, it completely ignores your earlier admission that “according to Judeo-Christianity, ultimately, consciousness does have primacy over existence.” This can only mean that there are ultimately no mind-independent objects for the “divinitas perfectus” to be aware of in the first place. The claim that this “consciousness exists in the eternal now” does nothing to extinguish this underlying precommitment. You seem to think the issue ultimately to when the “divinitas perfectus” is conscious of its creations (being eternal instead of temporal) or the different perspectives that you can foist onto the issue. But in fact, what’s at issue is the orientation between the consciousness and its (in this case supposed) objects. Your admission to the primacy of consciousness seals the case on the matter.

[continued…]

November 27, 2012 1:57 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

What you’re doing, Michael, without realizing, is superimposing the primacy of existence into a context which assumes the primacy of consciousness in order to address the objection I’ve raised. Only on the basis of the primacy of existence can objects of consciousness truly be independent of consciousness. This is one of the hazards of a worldview which grants validity to the primacy of consciousness: it cannot completely disentangle itself from the primacy of existence (which is necessary for any sense-making to begin with), so a position which assumes the primacy of consciousness, however confined it is said to be, can never be consistently informed.

You cannot retract your acknowledgement of the primacy of consciousness as the ultimate metaphysics of Christianity; it’s written all over Christian metaphysics. You simply admitted it. The problem, to use your kind of language, is that the primacy of consciousness always comes back round to bite its advocates in the ass.

Moreover, the notion that the “divinitas perfectus” is an omnipresent consciousness ultimately could only mean that the cosmos is not actually external to its consciousness. Contrast this with human consciousness: there are things which exist external to our consciousness; the seat of our consciousness is confined to a specific location – within our bodies. So the concretes which we perceive exist “out there” – they are external to our consciousness. But this is not the case, so we are told, for the Christian god: it does not have a body, its consciousness is not confined to any specific location, it is “everywhere” and “always,” basically swaddling everything in its path. And since it still has not been explained how this god is conscious of whatever it’s said to be conscious of these things, it’s unclear what could possibly distinguish its conscious processes (if it has any) from the suggested objects of its consciousness.

You have said that your god’s “attributes are the means by which He contemplates the objects of his creation in the eternal now.” But this does not explain anything; it certainly does not detail any process by which “He perceives entities apart from himself.” The concept ‘perceives’ has a very specific meaning in epistemology. But does this meaning transfer in the case of the “divinitas perfectus”? Or, does it acquire a completely new meaning?

[continued…]

November 27, 2012 1:57 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I cited the sensory organs of biological organisms to give you a reference point from where I’m coming from. I can point to the means by which I am conscious of things existing independently of me. I don’t see why you would object to me asking you to identify the means by which your god is supposedly conscious of everything around it. Saying “His attributes are the means” leaves the matter so entirely vague that I can only guess that you don’t really have an answer beyond this vagueness, or that you simply don’t understand the question. I don’t think it’s the latter, but perhaps it is.

You complained that I “imply that [you] make God’s attributes out to be the objects of His contemplations in contrast to a statement in which I emphatically deny that they be objects.” But if the Christian god is capable of introspection, I don’t know why you would deny that its own attributes could be objects of its awareness. We human beings introspect, and what we become aware of by means of introspection are the objects of this awareness, including the means by which we are aware of things. They become secondary objects of consciousness in such a case. Remember, by ‘object’ I mean anything one perceives and/or contemplates. There is no equivocation here on my part here.

[continued…]

November 27, 2012 1:57 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Now, on 17 Nov. you wrote: “It’s clear from both the Old and New Testaments that Judeo-Christianity holds that the cosmos is contingently finite, i.e., did not always exist, but was sometime in the distant past created ex nihilo by God.”

Note this: “the cosmos… did not always exist.”

Then on 23 Nov. you write that “the cosmos… has always actually existed.”

You prefaced the 23 Nov. statement with “For God,” and you prefaced the earlier statement with allusions to “both the Old and New Testaments,” i.e., “God’s word.” You seem to think that the notion that your god “exists in the eternal now” somehow overcomes the obvious contradiction here. Perhaps for the mystical mind which is accustomed to throwing around the concept ‘consciousness’ without understanding its metaphysical preconditions. Positing consciousness “outside the dimension of time” is incoherent, since consciousness is a type of activity. Whether it is seeing, hearing, touching, thinking, judging, feeling, loving, hating, condemning, experiencing jealousy, commanding, praising, remembering, imagining, etc., conscious action is action. Action necessarily implies time, since action is what time essentially measures. If there’s action, there is time. It is incoherent to affirm the action of something “outside” of time. Since consciousness is a type of action, consciousness metaphysically implies the capacity to be measured by time.

To illustrate this, consider an analogous, though more benign example. On a rational view, the concept ‘five’ denotes a number following the number four and preceding the number six, and it assumes equal measure in its units. But suppose someone comes along and says there’s an ultimate “pure five,” and this “pure five” can do all kinds of things that the concept ‘five’ as we know it cannot do, but at the same time it’s clear that he does not think it follows four, it does not precede six, its units are not equal in measure, it is not half of ten, and it is not the square root of 25. It’s “pure five,” so we would be fools to expect it to be like “ordinary five.” On this basis he affirms such “Twilight Zone abruptions” as “five plus four are sixty-two” and “five times five times five are one.” Naturally you and I would find this completely absurd, given its blatant anti-conceptualism. But this is essentially what Objectivists see happening in the case of the Christian’s (mis)use of the concept ‘consciousness when he projects it into this “transcendent” realm he imagines: he takes a concept that is perfectly legitimate in “this” realm and applies it to a realm which is fundamentally different from (if not opposed to) ours, all the while denying its biological nature, it need for genuinely mind-independent objects, its biological purpose, its active nature, etc. It is clearly a case of anti-conceptualism, and given its fundamental (axiomatic) importance, it is far more devastating to one’s philosophy than the fellow who affirms the “pure five” described above.

[continued…]

November 27, 2012 1:58 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

But to explore the view that you have presented as the biblical view, you say that “For God, the cosmos and everything contained in it and everything that has ever happened in it has never been that which at some time did not exist or potentially exist. It has always actually existed.” My question here is: Was there ever a time “for God” when it actually created the cosmos? If “for God… it has always actually existed,” why would it need to create something that “has always existed”? Did it just suddenly decide to create time as well at some point? But the same issue would apply: “For God, [time] has never been that which did not exist or potentially exist. It has always actually existed.” Perhaps part of the problem is how you’ve phrased things, or that I’m even stupider than you have so far surmised. But the more this notion is explored, the more incoherent it seems to become.

But even worse, as we’ve seen, given the foundational backdrop of the primacy of consciousness on which the entire Christian edifice stands, there could “for God” be no mind-independent objects for it to be aware of in the first place. So in the final analysis, we do find in Christianity a form of consciousness being conscious only of itself.

You seem to believe that the view that the notion of a consciousness conscious only of itself is a contradiction in terms, is only valid in “a univocal reality in which the inanimate precedes consciousness.” Well, not exactly. I have already explored this elsewhere on my blog, but the point was made sufficiently by Rand. I don’t think you’ve shown how positing an existence “comprised of two levels of being” overcomes this. I’ve already addressed much of this in previous posts, but so far as I can tell you have yet to really come to terms with any of it. The issue involves the primacy of consciousness, the facts that consciousness is a type of activity, that it needs an object, that a relationship between a subject and object that lacks an object is no relationship at all (which is tautologically obvious and certain, but ignored in Christianity’s case). Again, Christianity keeps running into the wall of the fallacy of pure self-reference. It’s unavoidable, Michael.

[continued…]

November 27, 2012 1:58 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: “I am very thankful that you’ve pointed this out. It only helps my overall position.”

You responded: “It utterly destroys it, and you know it.”

Come now, Michael. In the heat of your emotional paroxysms you grow in exaggeration and diminish in credibility. Know thee not that my *overall position* does not depend on the success or failure of one minor objection to a slender thread of Christian dogma? Good grief, man, you’ve helped open a huge can of worms that you now have to wrestle with. None of this is my position’s problem, Michael. The internal integrity of my worldview does not depend on butchering the concept of consciousness. But Christianity’s does.

There’s much more, but this will have to do for now. If you want to continue this conversation, however, I strongly urge you to compose yourself with more maturity and avoid the unnecessarily provocative language going forward. It does you more harm than good.

Regards,
Dawson

November 27, 2012 1:58 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Photosynthesis wrote: “I have been holding myself out of a request by Dawson, who thinks that Michael has some good qualities.”

Photo,

I apologize if I gave you the impression that I wanted you to stay out of the conversation. That was not my intention at all. You’re welcome to join in, and have always been so. That goes for others as well. I just wanted to keep things friendly with Michael, and I’ve tried to do so in spite of his stalling and refusal to address plainly laid out questions directed to him. But he’s been lowering the bar on even this and is quickly running the risk of proving your initial impressions of him true. So feel free to respond to him in kind.

Regards,
Dawson

November 27, 2012 1:59 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Michael,

You wrote: “I just noticed that in my first post of the last round that I wrote, ‘gratuitous ad hominems’. Though you were somewhat appealing to sentiment rather than reason, in my opinion, it was more at ‘gratuitous pejoratives’."

Is it at this point that I get to ask, “Just how seared is your conscience?”?

I find many of your statements, especially lately, very puzzling. Your accusation of “gratuitous ad hominems” was one of them, and I chose not to pay attention to it in my last set of replies. You did not cite any examples of this, so it was a rather empty-handed charge so far as I could tell. I’ve been trying to be patient with you, and I always try to resist making any of this personal. I try to focus on the ideas, but often people mistake certain things for personal attacks which are in fact not intended as such.

Now you’ve revised your earlier statement to “gratuitous pejoratives,” but still you do not cite any examples. And yet, this comes on the heels of your own recent slew of comments which are “chock full” (as you say) of sudden, unexplained and definitely uncalled for use of language involving what apparently resembles homoerotic fixations on anal references. And yet you charge me with “gratuitous ad hominems” and now “gratuitous pejoratives”? Can you find anything in my comments that even comes close to the sort of language you’ve used in your recent spate of fits and tantrums? I must say, I don’t recall witnessing such a profound shift in mood swing on the part of a Christian before in a written exchange of this nature, as we have on record from you. You seem almost unstable, perhaps in need of professional help that I am not qualified or able to deliver.

Is there anything else in your statements that you’d like to revise? Now’s the time.

Regards,
Dawson

November 27, 2012 1:59 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

Ydemoc,

Well, I am sorry, but I read many of Michael's posts even after reaching my conclusion (which, to be honest, might not have taken long enough). The conclusion has held so far. But who am I to stop you from giving him the benefit of the doubt.

November 27, 2012 6:34 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

Dawson,

Sorry for the confusion. I meant to say I have stopped myself because I did not think I could keep it friendly. I did not mean, nor did I ever think, that you wanted me out of the conversation at all.

Regards!

November 27, 2012 6:37 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

photosynthesis,

Thanks for the reply.

You had written earlier: "[Michael] is not offering any paths towards getting what he says Christianity gives. Example, a theory of concepts. He offers post rationalizations at best (and if at all).

Compare that with Dawson's treatises. Those offer exact paths from first principles to whatever it is. Lots of jargon too, but not obfuscating jargon.

So, don't hold your breadth waiting for a proper layout by Michael. I doubt that such paths exist, and thus he would have to make them out."

And then, just recently, you wrote: "Well, I am sorry, but I read many of Michael's posts even after reaching my conclusion (which, to be honest, might not have taken long enough). The conclusion has held so far. But who am I to stop you from giving him the benefit of the doubt."

Well, I suppose it can't hurt to hold my breath just a little longer to see what transpires.

By the way, photo, do you have a blog of your own? Unless I over- looked another one, the one I saw in your profile has been idle for quite some time. Or are you mostly over on SMRT?

Ydemoc

November 27, 2012 6:58 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

Michael,

I had not noticed your answer to my comment. All I will say for now is this: I don't have an objectivist worldview. I said so before. Where have you been?

Anyway, no time to answer precisely to your comments. I don't know if they deserve an answer yet. This was more of an acknowledgement that I saw them, not an acknowledgement that I read them carefully enough.

See ya.

November 27, 2012 7:03 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

Hey Ydemoc,

I hope you are not saying that I contradicted myself.
:)

My conclusion about Michael was reached after his first and second comments, probably. In that sense it might count as too soon. But by the time I told you not to hold your breath, Michael had produced quite a long thread of stuff confirming my suspicions time and again. Now he seems rather angry. Apparently the anger allowed him to be a tad clearer in a point or two, which might make it much easier to confirm further what I previously just suspected. I have not read it carefully enough though.

I have no blogs. I go to SMTR from time to time, but absent mostly. I am a better commenter than blogger.

November 27, 2012 7:21 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi photo,

You wrote: "I hope you are not saying that I contradicted myself."

Your hopes have been realized! No, I just used quoted material for clarity, and even then, mostly for my own -- clarity, that is.

And thanks for your quick reply.

Ydemoc

November 27, 2012 7:32 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"homoerotic fixations on anal references"

hilarious.

Well, Dawson, at least somebody enjoyed it ie Ydemoc.

I bet he couldn't wipe the happy smile off his athiest face!!

November 27, 2012 8:17 PM  
Blogger Michael David Rawlings, a.k.a. "Bluemoon" said...

Dawson, the same logic applies to both system's of thought. Why? Because the fundamental principles of logic are universal. What is not universal are the premises of a univocal worldview. The premises of Judeo-Christianity's analogical worldview are not the same as yours.

You're alleging nonexistent contradictions in regard to the Bible based on the premises of your worldview.

Do you understand the thrust and the logic of these observations?

You're telling me things about Objectivism that may be readily extrapolated from its premises. Dude, I got it! I have no problem shifting my perspective to grasp the inherent logic of your worldview.

You don't seem to be able or willing to shift your perspective in order to accurately grasp the logic of Judeo-Christianity’s worldview.

Instead you go on and on and on and on and on about the contradiction between these two competing worldviews as if you were illustrating inherent contradictions in the Judeo-Christian system of thought itself.

“Why?” I ask myself and you.

You keep raising BIG questions and concerns, when all we should be needing to do at this point is tighten up certain details owing to the definition of terms so that we're on the same page.

You have got to break out of your perspective! You’re still going on in the same fashion.

I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

I don’t have time for this.

How do I get your attention?

Can it be done?

November 28, 2012 3:04 PM  
Blogger Andrew Louis said...

I gotta tell you, Michael makes a great point here; probably the one and only highlight of everything he’s said thus far. The point is, Dawson is expecting Michael to give an account for God that’s based upon Objectivist’s intuitions, or the Objectivist’s philosophical game if you prefer. The problems here are obvious, A.) Michael is clearly not an Objectivist, so doesn’t play by Objectivist presupp’s, and B.) Neither side can really demonstrate the validity of their worldview, and at the same time no one is willing to give any ground.

I mean both of you treat your presupp’s like God, and neither exist.

November 28, 2012 4:03 PM  
Blogger Andrew Louis said...

I mean look, axioms are not justifications for circular reasoning, they are simply that which all our actions, speaking and reason flows from – or even we may presume to follow from. You guys aren’t even having a debate here, you’re just arm waving over the other with mindless factoids about your own positions. You’re saying, “what you said here isn’t consistent with my Objectivist world-view.” On the one hand, and “Well your objectivist world view is consistent with mine.” On the other, and you both claim to have the “Right” world-view, as if anyone knows what that really is.

Kinda funny really….

November 28, 2012 4:30 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Michael,

I don't understand something. Maybe you can explain it to me.

How can you, with any sort of sense of fairness, accuse Dawson of not dealing exclusively with your worldview -- on its own terms -- when you yourself are constantly comparing and contrasting it with Objectivism and infusing it with Objectivist principles? When even in your very first post on this blog, you brought up Rand's name?

How can Dawson possibly avoid talking about Objectivism or refrain from using, what you have termed "univocal reasoning," when you yourself have admittedly embraced the primacy of existence, a major principle in Objectivism!
(At least, that's how I read it -- according to you, you have embraced this principle insofar as it pertains to, as you have called it, "the immanent realm.") See for example, your November 11 comment, where you write: "The parenthetical caveat in the above should read: 'It should be noted, however, that this argument in no way undermines Objectivism’s idea that existence has primacy over consciousness with regard to the science of knowledge, i.e., epistemology . . . insofar as immanently based instances of consciousness are concerned.'"

Technically speaking, since you've explicitly staked out this particular position, i.e., of existence having primacy over existence in a particular realm, it would not at all be outside the bounds of fairness for Dawson to supply answers from an Objectivist perspective to every single thing you've stated! I mean, according to Objectivism, the primacy of existence is inescapable -- and you have explicitly embraced that principle and therefore its inescapably, at least insofar as the "immanent realm" is concerned. So it is obtaining with your every action. (I'm assuming, of course, that you yourself are in the "immanent realm")

Here are some other examples of statements you've made which, it seems to me, make it very difficult to address without doing so from an Objectivist perspective:

"Existence consists of two realms: the spiritual and the physical (the transcendent and the immanent). Existence contains conscious and inanimate entities. Finite consciousnesses do not have primacy over existence (Psalm 36:9, I Samuel 2:2). The latter is simply not possible. Period."

(continued)


November 28, 2012 5:02 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

And then: "Finally, yes, indeed, the two systems of thought are ultimately incompatible, but insofar as Objectivism is unwittingly informed by the Imago Dei, the existence of which it denies, it's correct."

And then: "There is some light in Objectivism . . . obscured by the darkness."

Also, in response this, by Dawson: “To identify something as one thing is to mean it is not something else. This recognition concisely tracks reality: to exist is to be one thing as opposed to something else. A is A; A is not both A and something more than A. This is to say, if something exists, it is finite.”

You reply with: "But this evinces the univocal reasoning of the materialist."

Wouldn't you agree that it would be silly for Dawson not to answer these statements of yours, and answer them according to his worldview?

How is it all fair to accuse Dawson of using his worldview as Objectivism informs it, to critique your worldview as Judeo-Christianity informs it, when you yourself co-mingle Objectivist principles with Judeo-Christianity?

In all sincerity, I don't get it. Can you explain this to me?

Thanks.

Ydemoc

November 28, 2012 5:02 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Ydemoc,

Always ready to defend his hero's wordview as long as its not another atheist.

aren't you gonna give Andrew an answer for the hope that's in you?

November 28, 2012 5:09 PM  

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