A Lesson on Presuppositional Gimmickry
D.A.N. really does not care about knowledge, how we acquire it, how we can rationally put to rest skepticism’s gimmicks, etc.
In a discussion going on currently in the comments of this entry on D.A.N.’s blog, commenter Pvblivs stated:
Knowledge is obtained through observation and reasoning.
Did you use your senses and reasoning to come to that conclusion? Again, is it viciously circular to employ your senses and reasoning to validate your senses and reasoning?
Then D.A.N. asks essentially the same question which I have already addressed in my blog On the Validity of the Senses. Thus it has already been explained to D.A.N. that the senses are self-validating in a non-circular way. See, I was right! D.A.N. doesn’t really care about how to resolve what amount to inescapable puzzles for his worldview; he really doesn’t care about knowledge, validity, avoiding fallacies, drawing sound conclusions, logical integrity and the such. He thinks it’s fallacious for one to use his own mind to come to conclusions! D.A.N. has damned his own mind and wants to see others forced into doing the same by using the very gimmicks he himself has fallen for.
Fundamental to D.A.N.’s persisting confusion and evasion in his apologetic is the dishonesty inherent in his worldview and character, which Pvblivs has rightly pointed out. There is nothing anyone else can do to correct this: D.A.N. makes his own choices, and unfortunately some people choose to be dishonest to themselves, to others, and to the facts of reality. That D.A.N. would continue to go around using the same cheap gimmickry that has already been completely defused, is sufficient evidence of his dishonesty in action. Again, he does not care about the issues his questions focus on. These questions are merely the means to his apologetic ends.
But on top of this, to make things worse, D.A.N. does not know what reason is. And he doesn’t know what reason is because his worldview does not teach him what reason is. But why would this be the case? Clearly, reason is antithetical to faith. Reason liberates man’s mind so that he can think and live independently of others. But Christianity is not about liberating individual thinkers so that they can govern their lives independently of others. Christianity is inherently collectivistic and characterizes human beings as belonging to two opposing collectives: the chosen vs. the damned. Independence, rationality, self-esteem – these are not virtues that one will find promoted and defended in the bible. Rather, faith, obedience, submission, unquestioning acceptance of “doctrine” are. So from the foundations of the worldview which D.A.N. has chosen to champion, he has already accepted his place as an enemy of reason.
Reason is the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by the senses. And in my blog answering D.A.N., I have already identified the facts which assure us of the axiomatic validity of the senses. We perceive things. This is rationally undeniable. We also have the ability to form concepts on the basis of what we perceive. This too is rationally undeniable. D.A.N.’s own apologetic must implicitly assume the truth of these facts in order to goad other minds into calling them into question. And yet, if we identify these fundamental facts explicitly and acknowledge their proper place in the knowledge hierarchy (i.e., at its foundation), it becomes more and more evident that D.A.N.’s entire apologetic hinges on an entire series of stolen concepts.
Simple questions can be used to tease this out. For example, ask D.A.N.: Is it fallacious for a thinker merely to be aware of things? Is it fallacious for a thinker merely to perceive objects? Is it fallacious for a thinker to use his own mind to think and draw conclusions based on what he perceives? If so, what fallacy is he committing? If D.A.N. wants to say it’s “viciously circular,” then he clearly does not understand what the fallacy of circular reasoning is. As I pointed out in my previous blog, circularity is a fallacy involved in deductive arguments. Merely perceiving objects is not an instance of circular reasoning or any other fallacy. Identifying what one perceives by means of concepts is not an instance of circular reasoning or any other fallacy. So already we should see that by relying on reasoning, we’re off to a good – i.e., non-fallacious – start. If D.A.N. concedes that none of these activities is fallacious, then what is the problem? Blank out.
Another point to keep in mind which prevents Christians from understanding these matters rationally is the fact that their worldview has no theory of concepts. One will not learn about the nature of concepts, the process by which they are formed, their relationship to what they integrate, the process by which multiple concepts can be integrated into higher abstractions, the proper procedures in forming definitions, etc., by reading anything in the bible. The bible is completely silent on such matters. And yet, it is by means of concepts that the human mind identifies and integrates the material provided by the senses. In other words, reason is a conceptual faculty. But since the devotional program of the Christian bible is opposed to reason, it should not surprise us that the bible provides nothing even approaching a theory of concepts. Unfortunately, this can only mean that the Christian worldview has no account for knowledge as such, since knowledge is conceptual, and a worldview which has no theory of concepts has nothing of value to offer on the matter of “accounting for” knowledge.
Meanwhile, we should note the very close relationship between induction and concept-formation. We form concepts – i.e., open-ended mental integrations which include an unlimited quantity of units – on the basis of our perception of only two or more such units. None of us have perceived every man, but we formed our concept ‘man’ on the basis of the men whom we have perceived. And yet, the concept ‘man’ includes every man who lives now, who has lived, and who will ever live. The same is the case with other concepts that we form of concretes. Now compare this with induction: induction follows essentially the same pattern, but with more complex structures – i.e., by integrating several conceptual units – into more refined integrations, very often involving an application of the law of causality. E.g., a rock thrown up in the air will fall back to the earth; a bird flies by using its wings; chopping off your arm with an ax will result in pain; etc. Inductive conclusions can be stated in terms of specifics, as in the case of my examples. But they can be applied generally as well, thanks to the open-endedness of the concepts informing them.
Now, in the case of D.A.N.’s first question (“Did you use your senses and reasoning to come to that conclusion?”), he asked this in response to Pvblivs’ statement “Knowledge is obtained through observation and reasoning.” Now since we do have knowledge, and we acquire it through specific means, there is no reason why the nature of knowledge itself and the means by which we acquire and validate it cannot themselves be the objects of study. Indeed, that’s what epistemology is – the science of studying the nature of knowledge and the means of acquiring and validating it. (Again, we will not find an epistemology laid out in the bible – it keeps the nature of knowledge and the means of acquiring and validating it completely mysterious to the believer.) And since we do have minds, we can use our minds to conduct this investigation. We use our minds to discover and validate knowledge about all sorts of things which exist, and this in itself is not circular (if D.A.N. says it is, he’s essentially condemning all knowledge as fallacious, including the knowledge he assumes in making such a claim, thus it would be utterly self-negating). So there is nothing circular about using our minds to discover and validate knowledge about the nature of knowledge itself and the means by which we acquire it. Thus we do not admit to circular reasoning by answering D.A.N.’s question to Pvblivs by saying that we did conclude that knowledge is obtained through observation and reason by using our senses and reasoning.
So, since presuppositionalists are so fond of soundbite-quality slogans, brief answers to D.A.N.’s questions can be formed as follows:
Q1: “Did you use your senses and reasoning to come to that conclusion?”
A1: Yes, I did. I used my mind to discover the nature of knowledge and the means by which we acquire and validate it.
Q2: “Again, is it viciously circular to employ your senses and reasoning to validate your senses and reasoning?”
A2: Not if we begin by acknowledging the fact that the senses are self-validating in a non-circular way and that reason itself is the only valid means by which man can acquire and validate any knowledge.
Again it must be stressed that we will never learn any of this by reading the bible, which means that presuppositionalism is a bald-faced sham. The bible has nothing at all intelligent to say about the nature of knowledge, validity, how to avoid fallacies, the role of perception in reason, concept-formation, etc. Indeed, this is the dirty little secret which presuppositionalism seeks to conceal from its intended victims, which is precisely why its tactics are designed specifically to put non-believers on the defensive and disarm them with a line of interrogation devised expressly to catch them off-guard and render them speechless. If presuppositionalism’s victims are immobilized by cheap gimmicks ripped off from the skeptical school of philosophy, they are less likely to inquire as to how exactly these same issues are addressed and solved by the content of the bible. The presuppositionalists’ goal is to force open a cavity of ignorance in the minds of its intended victims and fill it with something worse than ignorance – i.e., outright lies borne on irrational premises and stemming entirely from a platform of metaphysical subjectivism.
by Dawson Bethrick