Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Presuppositionalist Pseudolosophy

The Exploitation of Ignorance

As an example of how theistic apologetics gorges itself on ignorance, consider the ready eagerness of apologists to treat things that are abstract as though one could “account for” them only by appealing to the supernatural. Lacking a good understanding of the nature of concepts and the process by which the human mind forms them from perceptual input, theists assume that abstract ideas have no dependence on the facts we observe in reality around us. How we have knowledge of abstract ideas is supposedly mysterious (it is indeed mysterious to those unacquainted with rational philosophy), so the supernatural must be involved behind the scenes somehow. The world is an ever-changing collection of matter in motion, so – it is presumed – general principles which are static and absolute could not possibly “arise from” our awareness of the things in the world. The essence of the theist’s thinking on these matters amounts to: “I don’t know how man can get unchanging, absolute and universal laws from the ever-changing realm of particulars, so they must come from God.” In precisely this way, ignorance of the nature of knowledge provides an open doorway to mysticism.

Buttressing this presumption in the mind of the theist is the fact that, as such, affirmations about supernatural beings have no objective tie to reality: we do not perceive supernatural beings by means of our senses, so “knowledge” of these things cannot originate from sense perception. So a commonality between the presumption that general principles of thought cannot have their ultimate source in perception and the supernatural, emerges as an obvious truth for the theist. Just as we do not perceive the Christian god, angels, demons, heaven, hell, etc., we also do not perceive moral truths, the laws of logic, the inductive principle, etc. Typically theists readily grant that knowledge of their god is not something that one can derive from what we perceive: the Christian god is imperceptible, so knowledge of it does not come by means of perceiving; this knowledge must be “revealed” to us by the initiative of the supernatural itself. Christian apologists are anxious to justify their god-belief by appealing to the fact that we have knowledge of moral truths and the laws of logic, even though we do not directly perceive these things. Similarly with the Christian god: we do not perceive it, but clearly we (or some) have knowledge of it.

Again, we find more and more of the theist’s path to his god-belief hinging on ignorance: “I don’t see how universal and absolute moral knowledge could possibly come from the ever-changing realm of particulars, so it must come from God.”

Since sense perception gives us awareness only of those concrete objects that are right before us, material things which are ever changing, corruptible, and finite, it is supposed that any knowledge that “transcends” this must come from some place beyond the realm of concrete objects, i.e., from the realm of the supernatural. Awareness of concrete objects can only yield at best knowledge of unrelated particulars which are ever-changing, ever in flux. Thus there can be no causal tie between knowledge of general, abstract truths (such as moral truths, the laws of logic, etc.) and awareness of concrete objects. Two distinct realms of knowledge are presumed to be at play here, and knowledge of the abstract could never be dependent on knowledge of the particular.

Moral truths and logical principles are supposed to be absolute and unchanging. Thus it is believed that they cannot have any dependent relationship to the realm of facts, which are ever-changing and thus non-absolute. Indeed, it is surmised, facts could be otherwise, so they are at best “contingent,” while moral truths and the laws of logic are said to be “necessary.” Knowledge of moral truths and the laws of logic must have its basis in something other than the realm of ever-changing facts; it must have its basis in something eternal, immutable, infinite, and authoritative. Thus this knowledge must have its basis in something like the Christian god.

Notice that it is not some set of facts by reference to which such “reasoning” seems to imply theism, but in fact a vast chasm of unexamined ignorance and, along with this, an apparently happy willingness to discount any active role which the human mind might play in formulating general knowledge from awareness of particulars.

Thus complicit in this uniting of supernatural notions with abstract truths among the more sophisticated apologists, is the view that induction can give us only generalities that are at best tentative if at all reliable. Inductive conclusions will always be haunted by the possibility of defiant exceptions, it is thought, thus induction as such is insufficient to provide us with the certain and absolute generalities we need as reliable guides. If you pull 99 blue marbles out of a sack, it’s possible that the 100th marble will not be blue. And yet, it is ignored that this assessment of induction is itself an inductive generalization: the claim ‘all inductive generalities are tentative’ could itself be only an inductive generalization. But for some reason this one is allowed to be treated as certain and absolute, as though it were not tentative. Why? Not because it is demonstrably true, but because it serves an apologetic need.

To make matters worse, apologists happily allow what they are willing to consider ‘possible’ to be contaminated by the arbitrary. “I don’t need any evidence to say that something *possibly* exists,” one apologist once wrote, “all I need to do is conceive its existence.” In other words, if one can imagine something, then it must be considered a legitimate possibility. This view, one presuppositionalists share with David Hume, lends itself quite nicely to the ‘possible worlds’ locution commonly employed to defend the retreat into arbitrary scenarios and the treatment of the facts of the worlds as provisional, unbinding, contingent. It just so happens to be the case that water at sea level boils at 212F and that the earth has only moon, but we can imagine otherwise, so things didn’t have to be this way. In the strictest sense, these are not “necessary” truths. We can “conceive” – i.e., imagine – a “possible world” wherein water boils at 58F at sea level and the earth has 48 moons or no moon at all. So the imagination ultimately holds primacy over facts in what is considered possible, compliments of the necessary-contingent dichotomy. This is just one of the many ways that the primacy of consciousness metaphysics systemically interweaves itself throughout presuppositionalist “epistemology.”

When non-theistic thinkers point out the fact that abstract knowledge in fact finds its ultimate basis in perception and is formulated by a process of conceptualization ultimately based on perceptual input, theists will typically react, not by considering the account so proposed and weighing its merits, but by condemning the senses as unreliable, or at any rate affirming that “trust” in the reliability of the senses is preconditional to such methodology and therefore “a priori” in nature, which would imply that the view that abstract knowledge finds its basis in perception and is therefore a posteriori, is self-refuting. This of course is false: one does not “trust” anything before he first perceived, and the operation of the senses is not contingent on anyone’s trust of anything. “Trust” (which is a mental activity) is certainly not preconditional to either the operation or the reliability of the senses, nor is trust a substitute for the discovery of their reliability, a discovery which is made possible by means of reason. In this way such objections commit the fallacy of the stolen concept: they rely on reversing the proper relationship between automatic physiological functions and volitional mental activity. Objections of this nature are motivated, not by actual facts relevant to the matter, but by apologetic need, such as the need to sever man’s knowledge from the realm of facts (which are characterized as “contingent,” as we saw above) and the need to undermine man’s confidence in his own mind (just as inductive truths are supposed at best to be tentative and possibly false or incomplete, one has no “epistemological right” to take the validity of the senses for granted).

Reason – The Antidote

If reason – i.e., the building of knowledge on the basis of perceptual input by mental activity guided by an objective method – is not unseated as the ultimate standard by which knowledge claims are vetted and validated, then not only are individual human beings at liberty to think for themselves, but also theistic claims have no hope of being passed off as rationally acceptable. So again we find apologetic need motivating the theist’s attack on the human mind: reason must be toppled for the apologists’ ends to be achieved. Apologists use both the gimmickry of the skeptics and the doctrine of unearned guilt to accomplish the task of bringing the human mind to its knees. Complete intellectual surrender is the apologists’ goal. Reason is their arch-nemesis. Man must not be free to govern his own mind; he must be philosophically and psychologically emasculated, just as the apologists have allowed to happen to themselves. On page 121 of their book Knowing God 101, Christian authors Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz proudly brandish an anonymous quote: “Sin is man’s Declaration of Independence from God.” Accordingly, “sin” is a desire for liberty, and this desire must be condemned, and men must be brought to languish in the most profound guilt for having this desire.

By contrast, the rational man declares his independence daily, and he does not accept the unearned guilt peddled by mystical charlatans for using his mind against their disapproval. This is the spirit of defiance which the apologists seek to kill. In the good old days of Christian hegemony, the fishers of men did not need to resort to voluminous arguments delicately constructed to answer objections and demolish the human mind. People in those days had yet to be emancipated by the Age of Reason. They had no philosophical defense against the mystics’ tyranny of the arbitrary. Evangelists in olden times could simply and effectively shrivel individuals into submission by threatening them with divine wrath and everlasting hellfire. Few lacked the courage necessary to challenge such taunts, especially when they were backed up by state-sponsored Inquisitors who specialized in using force to extract even the most reluctant confessions. Man must not be free, and he must be punished if he dares to desire freedom.

Once Thomas Aquinas rediscovered Aristotle, things began to change, albeit slowly at first. Reason was loosed from its bottle and slowly men found not only the courage but also the means they needed finally to think for themselves. It was an uphill battle, of course, as Christianity’s witch doctors did whatever they could to put reason back in her bottle. This typically involved recourse to the use of force. From Spain’s Inquisition to Calvin’s Consistory, examples had to be made; the people needed to see in graphic form what happens to those who dare to defy their authority and think with their own minds. Whether it was Michael Servetus or Galileo Galilei, the lessons of the Church were clear: all thinking outside the confines of the pre-approved Christian box was subject to the charge of heresy, and accordingly punishable by Church officials. The message was crystal clear: Dare not presume to be able to think for yourselves, Church leaders have a direct pipeline to the mind of God and are His mouthpieces to the world. It was a simple message anyone could understand: obey, or suffer. Take your pick.

So the churchmen of the olden days had it pretty easy, so long as they had in their possession the keys to power. Taunts and threats were sufficient to make most men’s spirits buckle and shrink to the level of a snail. But once men began to emancipate themselves, thanks primarily to the Rebirth of Reason, the churchmen faced new challenges. Now they needed to dust off those old arguments that the church fathers had used when Christianity had to compete in the marketplace of ideas. But a good many of those arguments had by now been debunked, and still others were useful only against other forms of mysticism. Reason turned out to be a bigger challenge than any of them had ever anticipated. Thus apologists had to up the ante, so to speak, in their assault on the human mind. It wasn’t going to be so easy as threatening people with eternal damnation to make them surrender. They needed a different kind of stick. They thus found it necessary to refine their arguments, or even invent new ones, such that today they are churned out by the dozen. Thus if one argument doesn’t work, another can be readily unpocketed and deployed.

The Shallowness of Presuppositionalism

Treating the human mind as though it played no active role in the formation of general principles or the development of abstract ideas (the human mind is unreliable: it is fallible, prone to error, innately depraved, etc., so its products are doomed to unrelieved doubt), apologists prefer to focus on what would at best be superficial affinities between such knowledge and what they call “the supernatural.” The supernatural, they say, is “immaterial,” and wow – so is abstract knowledge! What a coincidence! Of course, all of this rides on the unargued assumption that abstract knowledge is some kind of entity in its own right, something that “transcends” the “material universe,” something that is not a product of human mental activity. The human mind, condemned as helpless by its own fallibility and, even worse, its “sin-nature” inherited from Adam, could have no active role in the formation of abstract ideas, and therefore must at best be merely a passive recipient of such supernaturally-sourced entities passed by means of “revelations.”

Thus if abstract ideas are entities, they must be “immaterial.” Hence these “abstract entities” are “immaterial entities.” And “immaterial entities” are not what we perceive by means of the senses. Thus knowledge of these “immaterial entities” cannot itself originate in sense perception. This is a concurrent thread in the reasoning underlying the apologetic program of Vantillian presuppositionalism. Thus we do not need any tangible evidence for the Christian god (it’s everywhere all around us anyway, so they claim), since the nature of knowledge itself should be sufficient evidence already: the “abstract entities” which populate human knowledge are “immaterial” in nature, and the Christian god and other supernatural beings are also “immaterial” in nature.

It is essentially on the basis of this kind of sophistry that presuppositional apologist Michael Butler can say (in his TAG vs. TANG):
That the Christian worldview can account for the principles of logic is readily demonstrable. Christianity allows for abstract and universal laws. Abstract because the Christian worldview teaches that more things exist than material objects. Thus it makes sense for there to be abstractions.
Christian apologists somehow find such tenuous rationalizing impressive. But such “explanations” do nothing to improve our understanding of how the mind works, how its content relates to the world, or how to avoid error when considering such matters. Indeed, in all three of these areas, the aim seems to be obfuscation and even the predatory exploitation of believers’ ignorance on the nature of knowledge and how the human mind goes about acquiring and validating it. On the surface, the apologetic goal here is to characterize certain mental phenomena as though it served as evidence of the supernatural by associating those phenomena with characteristics that purportedly belong to supernatural beings, such as their alleged “immaterial” nature. Only an “immaterial” god can “account for” the “immaterial” nature of “abstract entities.” Below the surface, a more insidious motive is at work, namely the systematic crippling of the human mind.

But it is not difficult to see through this mirage which apologists seek to conjure in order to cloud the mind. Once we grasp the fact that knowledge is conceptual in nature along with all that this implies in relation to the issues which apologists seek to hijack in service to their defensive strategies, the presuppositional program cannot fail to crumble. Additionally, when we couple this understanding with the recognition that the imagination is indispensible to mystical theorizing and stipulation, the fate of presuppositionalism as a doomed defensive strategy is sealed.

The fundamental key to exposing presuppositionalism’s inherent weakness in these matters is recognizing that the “evidences” which apologists seek to contrive from the fields of ethics, logic, science, et al. on behalf of their god-belief, are psychological in nature. Properly understood (that is according to an objective approach to identifying their nature), moral principles, logical principles, inductive principles, etc., are conceptual in nature, a category which fits into the broader genus of psychological activity. Other categories falling into this broader genus would include emotions, desires, memories, and imagination. Thus by citing things like moral principles and the laws of logic as things that are similar to their god, apologists inadvertently concede that their god is analogous to psychological phenomena – i.e., it’s all in the mind.

Presuppositional apologists characteristically focus on conceptual phenomena, such as ethical and logical principles, without identifying them as such, and without drawing attention to other psychological phenomena which may in fact play a formative role in the substance of what they are seeking to defend. And yet, they’ve already put their god into this category as a pivotal function of their apologetic, so there’s no going back.

by Dawson Bethrick

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Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hey Dawson,

So I'm talking to my Christian relative the other evening. The topic of conversation somehow led me to ask him these questions:

"You do know that your bible is composed of concepts, don't you? You don't dispute this, do you?"

His knee jerk response was to claim that I was trying to "deceive" him and that what I was saying was "right from the pit." When he finally calmed down a little (and actually *listened*), he admitted that, "yes, the Bible is composed of concepts."

I asked, "Doesn't that tell you that there is something more fundamental than what is written in your bible? Where would you say these concepts that make up your bible, came from? You're not denying that concepts existed before your bible was written, are you?"

He was unable to respond to these questions; he still doesn't understand the import. It's just like you wrote:

"Lacking a good understanding of the nature of concepts and the process by which the human mind forms them from perceptual input, theists assume that abstract ideas have no dependence on the facts we observe in reality around us. How we have knowledge of abstract ideas is supposedly mysterious (it is indeed mysterious to those unacquainted with rational philosophy), so the supernatural must be involved behind the scenes somehow."


August 21, 2013 6:53 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

and if on queue, I think my current exchange with Rich Warden is somewhat relevant to the topic, enjoy.

August 21, 2013 8:21 PM  
Blogger Lothar Lorraine said...


I do believe that presupositionalism fails as a theory of knowledge.

Nevertheless I think it is valid as a theory of hope: if you've no evidence that something is true but there is no defeater out there, you're allowed to hope in its truth so long it is not refuted.

Kind regards from Germany.

Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

August 22, 2013 1:59 AM  
Blogger freddies_dead said...

Lothar Lorraine said...



I do believe that presupositionalism fails as a theory of knowledge.

It fails full stop.

Nevertheless I think it is valid as a theory of hope:

It's a theory of what now?

if you've no evidence that something is true but there is no defeater out there, you're allowed to hope in its truth so long it is not refuted.

But presuppositionalism has a defeater - the metaphysical Primacy of Existence. Presuppers have to steal concepts left, right and centre to even propose presuppositionalism as a valid worldview. The system is one giant fallacy. It has been refuted.

Kind regards from Germany.

The same from merry old England.

Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

August 22, 2013 5:57 AM  
Blogger NAL said...

Don't abstract entities have the property of being casually inert? Not the kind of god Christians imagine. So the Christian god must have a different property from an abstract entity. That difference can't be the "immaterial" property.

Glad this isn't my problem.

August 22, 2013 9:46 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Lothar,

Thank you for your comment.

You wrote: “I do believe that presupositionalism fails as a theory of knowledge.”

Even this seems rather generous. It’s hard to see how one could think that presuppositionalism could be taken seriously as presenting a theory of knowledge in the first place. But to the extent that its proponents style it as such, I would agree that it fails.

You wrote: “Nevertheless I think it is valid as a theory of hope:”

For it to be “a theory of hope,” I’d expect presuppositionalism to give some kind of explanation of what hope is, how it is generated in human psychology, its relationship to values, its role in motivating choices and actions, etc. But I don’t find presuppositionalist authors addressing these matters and formulating such explanations. Rather, it seems that, when presuppositionalists do in fact make reference to hope and hoping, they take much for granted, typically expecting the mention of hope to accomplish something their arguments can never achieve. And given the fact that presuppositionalism is intended as a defense of Christianity, it’s hard to see what value it would have in promoting any hope to begin with. Christianity distinguishes itself from other religions in large part by portraying its deity as willingly sacrificing its “only begotten” child, which is supposed to be pure and perfect, to those who are impure, imperfect, even vicious. The Christian god could have rescued its child Jesus from evil men who sought to torture and execute him, but instead of intervening on Jesus’ behalf, it allowed the merciless slaughter to continue. What kind of parent does this? If that is the kind of deity the belief in which presuppositionalism is intended to vindicate, where is there any cause for hope? What child could hope on a parent that allows evil people to come along and kill it? Again, what kind of parent does this?

I would suppose that a person who finds “hope” in such a scenario as that presented in the Christian gospel message, has been conned into finding hope in something that is utterly hopeless through and through.

You wrote: “if you've no evidence that something is true but there is no defeater out there, you're allowed to hope in its truth so long it is not refuted.”

First of all, to my knowledge, no one here is arguing that one should be “disallowed” from putting his hopes in anything, whether it’s the Christian god or some pebbles he finds on the beach. Rather, we question the choices and actions that individuals make on the basis of false or arbitrary premises.

Second, I personally see no value whatsoever in putting one’s hopes in something that is *arbitrary* - i.e., in something for which there is no evidence. I have no evidence that one day I will be able to breathe water. Why then should I put hope in the assumption that one day I’ll be able to breathe water? Why?

Third, if you’re talking about presuppositionalism, there is a defeater, as freddies_dead has mentioned, namely the primacy of existence. And of course, along with this, there are many more. But so far as presuppositionalism is concerned as a source of hope, its outlook couldn’t be more hopeless.

If you think otherwise, please explain.


August 23, 2013 2:22 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...


Good to hear from you.

You asked: “Don't abstract entities have the property of being casually inert?”

It's hard to be sure. What does “causally inert” actually mean? Does it mean that something that is “causally inert” has no and can have no causal effect on something else? If so, how would one be able objectively to determine one way or another in the case of something that is said to be “abstract”?

Perhaps the question is whether or not a concept (something that is legitimately abstract in nature) has causal power over something that is material in nature. I suppose we could test this. I’m happy to try this.

So I place my coffee cup near the corner of my table. Then I say “Center! Center!” Well, the coffee cup does not move towards the center of the table. Hmm… Is it my voice? Is it my word choice? Am I not emphatic enough? Is it the insufficiency of the intention behind my words? Is it the time of day? Is it the angle of the sun over Paris? Is it the presence of an improperly placed comma in a grade student's homework? What's impeding this urge?

Perhaps “causally inert” implies the primacy of existence. Should I just think the concept “center”? Well, I did that, even before I uttered my incantation. Very frustrating! The coffee cup doesn’t move at all! Maybe abstract entites really are causally inert.

What would suggest otherwise?

NAL wrote: “Not the kind of god Christians imagine.”

Yes, that’s true. Christians do not liken their god to mere concepts in all of their conversation. Only when it’s apologetically expedient does linking their god to the phenomena of abstract thought seem to have argumentative value for them. But of course, concepts (“abstract entities”) surely have no mind of their own; they are not themselves conscious beings; they do not have wills, they do not have intentions, they do not self-generate, self-sustain or self-regulate; they don’t even procreate like biological organisms. But the Christian god is supposed to be a living being, with a will, a goal (or set of goals), the ability to act, etc. Quite unlike any concept I’ve ever known.

NAL wrote: “So the Christian god must have a different property from an abstract entity. That difference can't be the ‘immaterial’ property.”

I think you’re right. The descriptions we find of the Christian god in the Christian literature are fundamentally different from anything we find in the realm of human mental activity. I would even go so far to say that it’s hasty to categorize psychological phenomena as “immaterial” in nature. Just because we do not experience thoughts, beliefs, wishes, feelings, imaginations, desires, ideas, concepts, etc., as physical in nature, does not necessarily mean that they ultimately are not physical in nature. After all, what do I need a brain for?

NAL wrote: “Glad this isn't my problem.”

Good grief, me too!!!


August 23, 2013 3:12 AM  
Blogger NAL said...

Objectivism Refuted

That the senses give us an accurate perception of reality can only be confirmed by belief in a reality we cannot perceive with the senses. As one must know what reality is independently of himself in order to measure his perception by it and establish the idea that what he perceives is, in fact, reality. Ergo, faith in a metaphysic is a necessity in the evaluation of any claim that concerns a knowledge of reality. Hence, objectivism is false, as it is not the senses that give a knowledge of reality, since they must be measured by an a priori knowledge of reality, but the metaphysic by which knowledge is gained by faith.

"The validity of the senses is an axiom. Like the fact of consciousness, the axiom is outside the province of proof because it is precondition of any proof."

How does one confirm their accurate perception of a "reality we cannot perceive with the senses?" Only by belief in a reality we can perceive with the senses?

August 23, 2013 1:28 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Thanks for sharing this, NAL.

Those advancing this kind of objection apparently do not recognize that their own proposed solution does not solve the problem they think is there for perception. If the issue is whether or not our means of contact with reality provides us with “accurate” awareness of it, and the only way we can confirm that our means of contact with reality is accurate is by some other means of contact with reality, then why doesn’t the problem which allegedly afflicts the first means of contact with reality also affect the other means of contact with reality?

I think this is essentially what NAL’s closing questions are getting at.

But look again at the first sentence: “That the senses give us an accurate perception of reality can only be confirmed by belief in a reality we cannot perceive with the senses.” This is essentially Kant’s view: the phenomenal realm – accessed by means of the senses vs. the noumenal realm – accessed by means of faith.

Likewise, B.C. Hodge (who apparently wrote the passage NAL quotes, according to the website where it is found) posits two different realities: one accessed by means of the senses, and another which cannot be accessed by means of the senses. For sake of keeping things clear, we can call these, respectively, Reality #1 and Reality #2. This is necessitated by Hodge’s first sentence: two different realities – one which we can perceive (Reality #1), and the other which we cannot perceive but for whatever reason we must at any rate have “belief in” (Reality #2).

And yet, as we read through the rest of Hodge’s passage, this distinction is blurred. He writes: “As one must know what reality is independently of himself in order to measure his perception by it and establish the idea that what he perceives is, in fact, reality.” In this sentence, the word ‘reality’ occurs twice. But in both cases Hodge makes no effort to clarify which of the two realities necessitated in his first statement is intended.

This confusion does not hinder Hodge from drawing a conclusion: “Ergo, faith in a metaphysic is a necessity in the evaluation of any claim that concerns a knowledge of reality.”

How this follows from the above is unclear. Moreover, Hodge does not explain how either his “belief in a reality we cannot perceive with the senses” or his “faith in a metaphysic” escapes the problem he alleges as hampering perception. The underlying implication, however, seems to be that, so long as reality is accessed by some means, whatever that means might be must be unreliable or at any rate insufficient, presumably because it is some means to begin with. Thus knowledge by no means (“belief in a reality we cannot perceive with the senses” and “faith in a metaphysic”) is apparently suited to escape this problem insofar as Hodge’s proposed items are not means of accessing reality in the first place. If that’s the case, then his “solution” to his own invented problem is that there should be no means at all by which the mind acquires knowledge, at least of Reality #2, which is supposedly of greater importance than Reality #1 (since it’s supposed to be the standard against which we measure perception of Reality #1). So Hodge prefers knowledge no how.


August 23, 2013 7:39 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

That Hodge does not identify any means by which one can (a) objectively access Reality #2, (b) properly formulate “belief in a reality we cannot perceive with the senses,” or (c) reliably secure “faith in [some unspecified] metaphysic,” only suggests that Hodge is not concerned with identifying the steps of a reliable methodology by which the (allegedly) needed knowledge can be acquired and validated.

What can be said of Hodge’s “refutation” of Objectivism was already stated by Rand in her assessment of Kant’s philosophy (For the New Intellectual, p. 30):

his argument amounted to a negation, not only of man’s consciousness, but of any consciousness, of consciousness as such. His argument, in essence, ran as follows: man is limited to a consciousness of a specific nature, which perceives by specific means and no others, therefore, his consciousness is not valid; man is blind, because he has eyes—deaf, because he has ears—deluded, because he has a mind—and the things he perceives do not exist, because he perceives them.

Hodge’s overall conclusion from his own anorectic confusion is: “Hence, objectivism is false, as it is not the senses that give a knowledge of reality, since they must be measured by an a priori knowledge of reality, but the metaphysic by which knowledge is gained by faith.”

So if “objectivism is false,” what is the alternative if not some species of subjectivism? And does Hodge not realize that he’s making use of the primacy of existence in all this? He’s affirming that something is the case, thus implying that it is the case regardless of what anyone believes, feels, wishes, stipulates, dreams, imagines, prefers, etc.

This is the kind of stuff that fuels so many attacks against Objectivism. It amounts much more to an autobiographical statement about its proponents than it does about anything having to do with knowledge.


August 23, 2013 7:40 PM  
Blogger NAL said...

That's exactly what my closing questions were getting at, except phrased better.

I found Hodge's blog via The Thinker and his blog, Atheism and the City. The Thinker's post Excavating The Empty Tomb was a real eye opener about the New Testament and especially, Mark. The numerous YouTube videos (click on the Watch on YouTube to get the full set) are based on a book by Dennis R. MacDonald that Richard Carrier called incredible.

August 23, 2013 9:04 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Dawson,

Yesterday, I posted a notice over on B.C. Hodge's site, that you had replied directly to his "objectivism refuted" entry. He has now put up a reply.

I was going to respond to what he wrote, but right now, I can't afford to devote the time it would take to do so.

However, I will say this: Besides Hodge admitting that: "So I am arguing for a species of subjectivism, one based upon faith," which we already knew to begin with, he seems to be totally unaware that (among many other things) Objectivism is not tied to the concrete, to the perceptual level, thanks to it's theory of concepts.

Anyway, here is his full reply, in case anyone wants to offer their thoughts:

"In essence, he misconstrues both what I am arguing and to what extent I am arguing for. His rebuttal consists of a tu quoque fallacy. I am not attempting to answer the objection here. I am only stating the objection, which he has not sufficiently answered. Merely arguing that the sense are reliable because we use them automatically is merely descriptive. It says nothing as to whether we are sensing all of reality. In fact, much of my argument above is pointing out that we have no way of knowing whether we are sensing reality by our senses because we have no one else, in an atheist system, to verify that for us. All we can do is experience the physical, but this too cannot tell us whether we are experiencing the physical en toto or merely in part. So there is no sufficient argument that addresses this in his answer. Beware of sophistry that doesn't hit the main objection head on.

Second to this, the argument that I am implying that there are "no means" to access an accurate view of reality is bogus. I can understand a historical event via faith in the report. Likewise, I can understand all things through a metaphysical view of the universe that is given via report. I am not in the position to judge empirically whether my belief has given me an accurate view of reality, but that is my very point. So I am arguing for a species of subjectivism, one based upon faith. And that is where everyone must begin.

Hence, my ultimate argument would be that, as a Christian, I believe that man is completely reliant upon God to know the essential nature of the universe and thereby access reality. If He chooses to leave one in his deceptions or be led into others, there is no way for a man's belief to be correctly placed. If He chooses to lead one out of such a mess via His leading him to the right report and faith therein, then a man can have access to an accurate, analogically based, view of reality."


August 24, 2013 7:17 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

"So my point is basically that objectivism is self refuting and cannot be revived by merely assuming that the senses are valid because they don't need to be validated; and they somehow don't need to be validated because they are already in use. That is like saying that a dog need not validate whether he judges a rose to be black and white, since he automatically does not see in color already. Such is the stuff of nonsense. We know, having higher senses than the dog, that the true color of the rose is not black or white, but red. Its senses are not meant for it to have full access to reality. They are only meant to help it function in what it needs to do in its world.

Hence, I am not arguing that no reality can be known through the senses, but that only partial reality can be known. That's why his division of my argument as confusing two realities doesn't understand what I'm saying. These are not two realities, but one reality that can only be accessed fully via faith and reason together. One must have faith in a metaphysic in order to attempt to describe the whole of reality. One does not need a metaphysic in order to attempt to describe the part of reality one can access via the senses.

Hence, the problem surfaces when one attempts to use the reality that he can only access through the senses as all-encompassing. It is at that point, the point when one attempts to say something more about reality than the senses allow, that faith in a metaphysic comes to light."

Perhaps I'll offer some of my own thoughts on this a little later.


August 24, 2013 7:18 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Ydemoc,

Thanks for letting me know about this.

I took some time this morning and wrote up a response to Hodge. I have posted it in a new blog entry here:

Hodge's Hedgings

The guy strikes me as quite confused, thanks no doubt to his Christianity.


August 24, 2013 7:16 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hello Everyone,

Rather than going through a whole, elaborate rebuttal to what B.C. Hodge wrote above, does anyone think I would be off the mark in simply asking him the following?:

Why isn't that object on the vine over there -- red in color, smooth in texture, squishy when squeezed, etc. -- a tomato? I've perceived, identified, defined, and classified it as such? Why would the theist claim that we can't be certain of this without faith? Where would faith be involved in such a process? In what way does faith help and not hinder us in the process of identifying such an object -- in this case a tomato -- as a tomato? What further evidence is needed (or what is missing in such a process) that would in any way suggest that we cannot have knowledge that this object, is in fact, a tomato?

The theist reveals a profound insecurity in positing faith as necessary for the acquisition of knowledge. It's as if the theist senses -- by whatever glowing embers of reason that still remain among all that have been extinguished -- how untenable their position actually is. So to shore things up, they do so with the desperate grasp of: "Hey, wait! Faith ***must*** be necessary for knowledge. If it's not, the mystical investment I've made has all been for naught and it will come crashing down! And I don't ever ***want that*** to happen!"


August 24, 2013 7:57 PM  
Blogger NAL said...

Hodge would want to know about the "spiritual" nature of the tomato.

August 24, 2013 8:29 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Dawson,

I that my comment above was written after you'd already replied to B.C Hodge. I look forward to reading your reply -- and letting B.C. know that you have done so.


August 24, 2013 8:44 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Dawson,

On a technical note: The "Theological Sushi" link in the first paragraph of your latest blog entry, takes me to my blogger dashboard. The other ones I clicked on seem to be working fine.


August 24, 2013 8:57 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Ydemoc,

Thanks for pointing that out! I have corrected it now.


August 24, 2013 9:05 PM  
Blogger Luiz Claudio said...

"it’s all in the mind"

elementary, my dear Dawson

September 02, 2013 6:12 PM  

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