Thursday, August 29, 2013

Subjectivism in Hodge's View of Reality and Knowledge

B.C. Hodge has posted a response to my blog Hodge’s Hedgings.

In a much more protracted blog entry, Hodge seeks to defend the idea that perception of reality is somehow epistemologically insufficient for knowledge, and that what really is vital for knowledge is some kind of faith in what he calls “subjective apprehensions.”

In telling his readers of his awareness of my responses (in my comments here and my main blog entry here) to his initial blog entry and follow-up comments, Hodge states that my efforts to rebut him “fail miserably to understand the argument and address the problem” which he apparently believes he has successfully laid forth. Hodge suggests that my intention is “to merely exhaust readers by lengthy posts that give the impression that [I have] actually said something relevant” to his argument. That I interact directly with Hodge’s statements is apparently not sufficient for my reaction to be relevant to what he has argued.

Referring to what I have written as a “sort of sophistry,” Hodge claims that such licentious discourse “is evident in these long posts when they attempt to nitpick everything about my argument, but the argument itself.” So interacting directly with a Hodge’s statements as I have constitutes “nitpicking” which is focused on “everything about [his] argument” somehow misses “the argument itself,” and word count is supposedly an indication of this. Hodge huffs:
”Hey, if you’re going to bluff, make sure you do it with a lot of words so it seems like you’ve got something to back up your claims.”
I noticed that Hodge’s own blog entry was itself quite lengthy, so I compared the length of mine with the length of his. I found that, while my blog had a total of 5,197 words, Hodge’s new blog entry exceeds this, with a total of 6,124 words, nearly a thousand words and over 15% longer than mine. I must say I feel quite humbled to be out-worded like this! But if word count is any indication, it seems that Hodge’s “theology served raw” is a bit over-cooked.

Now, I am happy to examine the entirety of Hodge’s reply to me, but in the present entry I want to focus on the very first paragraph he writes in his newest entry.

Here’s what Hodge writes there:
I recently wrote a little blurb dealing with Objectivism a few weeks ago. By "Objectivism" I really mean the belief that we can obtain a true knowledge of reality of the whole by evaluating what we can only experience, as we can never know if we are experiencing the partial or the whole. Of course, if one is wrong in his belief of whether he is experiencing the partial or the whole is to distort the nature of reality, and therefore, the phenomena he is experiencing. Hence, he is not really experiencing the nature of reality as it exists, but merely as something distorted by his metaphysic. In order to experience reality with some sort of analogical accuracy, he must get his metaphysic right. That metaphysic cannot be confirmed and known to be right, however, through what he experiences, as that would be to beg the question of what he is experiencing when he comes into sensory contact with phenomena, whether he is accessing something partially or completely in terms of its nature.
I think it will be fruitful to examine what Hodge states here in order to clarify certain fundamental distinctions which lie at the root of the disagreement between Hodge’s view and mine.

First, notice that in his earlier blog entry, Hodge sought to refute “objectivism” with a small ‘o’, as can be seen in the texts of his blog and subsequent comments he posted there. He provided no definition explaining what he meant by ‘objectivism’, and yet he proclaimed in that blog entry to have refuted it.

Hodge now says he had posted “a little blurb dealing with Objectivism” (capital ‘O’), and provides an explanation of what he means by this:
By “Objectivism” I really mean the belief that we can obtain a true knowledge of reality of the whole by evaluating what we can only experience, as we can never know if we are experiencing the partial or the whole.
I have never seen this definition of “Objectivism” before, and Hodge gives no indication of where he got it. Nor does he cite any school of philosophy which adheres to this definition of “Objectivism.”

At points throughout his blog he makes statements to the effect that his aware of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. For instance, he writes the following statements:
[1] FYI, I was reading Rand when the objection came up in my mind. I found her supposed rationale against what I’ve said to be an exploration into the same type of question begging I’ve addressed above.  
[2] I was specifically addressing Rand's idea that one can access reality objectively through the senses.  
[3] Hence, what is forming the concept is not the data gained from sensory perception, but the faith in a metaphysic that then uses the data to reason to his view of reality. In other words, it's all circular, but he wants to argue, along with Rand's Objectivism, that he has direct access to unmediated facts that alone make up the totality of the characteristics of reality via sense perception and concept formation based upon the data collected by it.
In spite of these references, I have found no quotations in either Hodge’s previous blog entry or his latest of Rand’s or any other Obejctivist’s writings.

What is clear from what Hodge does write, is that what he means by “Objectivism” is a type of belief. By contrast, “Objectivism” as Rand used it denotes a specific philosophical system distinguished from others at least in part by its consistent application and uncompromising adherence to the metaphysical primacy of existence in the subject-object relationship. At no point in his two blog entries does Hodge evince informed awareness of the issue of metaphysical primacy, even after quoting in his reply to me a statement of mine in which I make direct reference to this matter.

Here it is important to point out a fundamental difference between Objectivism as Rand developed it, and numerous other worldviews, in particular the religious worldview which enshrines belief in some sort of “supernatural” realm, with regard to the source of knowledge. Typically most people are willing to acknowledge man’s non-omniscience: man does not have all knowledge. In fact, Objectivism specifically holds that man begins tabula rasa - as a ‘blank slate’ – with no mental content already in his mind when he is born (and certainly not when he is first conceived). We must acquire knowledge of reality through some kind of mental effort, and we must acquire that knowledge from some source. Objectivism holds that we must do this by looking outward at the world around us, by observing what we perceive and by identifying what we observe by means of concepts, as opposed to looking inward at the contents of our own consciousness as though knowledge of what’s “out there” were already present in our minds apart from observation of the world around us. The objective view of knowledge, then, is that knowledge is acquired by looking outward at reality and forming knowledge according to an objective method, while the subjective view of knowledge is that knowledge is acquired by looking inward, consulting the contents of one’s feelings, wishes, imagination, etc., as the source of knowledge of reality. It is by looking inward that religionists think they have contact with a realm contradicting the world which we perceive around us when we look outward.

This distinction is crucially relevant to the major disagreements which Hodge has against Objectivism. It’s clear that he thinks we must acquire knowledge by looking inward; perception of reality can only distort what reality really is, and thus any supposition “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.”

Also involved in Hodge’s objections to Objectivism is the notion of whether or not “we are experiencing the partial or the whole” of reality. He writes: “if one is wrong in his belief of whether he is experiencing the partial or the whole is to distort the nature of reality, and therefore, the phenomena he is experiencing.” Notice the tremendous power which this statement grants to conscious activity over reality: if one’s belief is wrong, the result is “to distort the nature of reality” and “the phenomena [one] is experiencing.” If you have a wrong belief, the nature of reality is affected. Whether Hodge actually intended to say this or not, what he does in fact write here can only suggest that reality in some way conforms to or is at any rate altered by the content of consciousness. This is known in Objectivism as the primacy of consciousness: existence does not exist independent of consciousness, but in fact depends on and can be altered by conscious manipulation. It’s a neat trick, but I’ve never witnessed it outside of storybooks like Harry Potter and the New Testament gospels.

Because, on Hodge’s view, mere belief is invested with so much power over reality, if one has a “wrong” belief, “he is not really experiencing the nature of reality as it exists, but merely as something distorted by his metaphysic.” So if I have a “wrong” belief, this is sufficient to “distort” whatever it is that I am experiencing. If I have a “wrong” belief, then, when I’m drinking a cup of coffee for instance, what I’m experience has somehow been “distorted” by the presence of this “wrong” belief in my mind. I may think I’m holding a cup of coffee to my mouth, but in fact I might be directing a movie shoot, levitating over Okinawa, or piloting a supertanker into Felixstowe. Because of my “wrong” belief, I’m “not really experiencing the nature of reality as it exists, but merely as something distorted by [my] metaphysic.” And because of this distortion of reality caused by the presence of a “wrong” belief in my mind, I have no way of knowing whether I’m actually drinking a cup of coffee (which is what I think I’m doing) or watching Okinawans going about their business from 1500 feet in the sky.

Thus, Hodge stipulates, “in order to experience reality with some sort of analogical accuracy, he must get his metaphysic right.” So, for Hodge, getting one’s “metaphysic right” holds metaphysical primacy over experience proper. In other words, the inner holds epistemological primacy over the outer: we must look inward and get our internal mental affairs in order before we can have any confidence that when we look outward we’re really experiencing “reality as it exists” (as opposed to some distortion resulting from the presence of a “wrong” belief which has the power to alter the fundamental nature of our experience). The inner holds epistemological primacy over the outer because the inner holds metaphysical primacy over the outer: the presence of a “wrong” belief (an inner state) is sufficient to “distort the nature of reality.”

To confirm that the inner holds epistemological primacy over the outer, Hodge insists that
The metaphysic cannot be confirmed and known to be right, however, through what he experiences, as that would be to beg the question of what he is experiencing when he comes into sensory contact with phenomena, whether he is accessing something partially or completely in terms of its nature.
So if I have a metaphysic which tells me that, when all my senses cooperatively and consistently indicate that I’m drinking a cup of coffee (I can see the coffee cup before me, I can feel it in my hand as I raise it to my lips, I can smell the coffee as it steams from the cup, I can hear the coffee swishing around, I can taste the coffee as I take a sip from the cup, I can feel the coffee passing through my throat as I swallow it, etc.), I cannot confirm this metaphysic through what I’m experiencing, as this would purportedly “beg the question.” My metaphysic which tells me that the consistent testimony and cooperative experience of all my senses working together is legitimate, valid, real, or what have you, must have been determined before any experience and independent of any experience, and without this metaphysic I could not know that my experience is “accurate.” Otherwise I beg the question of the cup of coffee (“what [I am] experiencing”) when I “come… into sensory contact with phenomena,” this allegedly being the case whether I am accessing the cup of coffee “partially or completely in terms of its nature.” Indeed, when I’m drinking a cup of coffee (indeed, perhaps owing to a “wrong” metaphysic, I’ve never done this even though I “believe” I’ve done it thousands of times since my mid-teens), how can I determine whether or not I’m accessing that cup of coffee “partially or completely in terms of its nature”?

While it’s clear that this “accessing something partially or completely in terms of its nature” has special significance for Hodge, I admit that it’s completely unclear what it means or why it’s an issue in the first place, and it’s doubly unclear how one is expected to translate this concern into understanding any experience one might have, such as drinking a cup of coffee. But given how little effort Hodge has made in clarifying what he has in mind here and explaining why he thinks it’s so important, I must say it’s quite difficult to determine whether or not so far I have experienced Hodge’s refutation of Objectivism either “partially or completely in terms of its nature.”

But one thing is certainly clear: Hodge’s view rests on the metaphysical primacy of consciousness, and its implications in epistemology point entirely to a subjectivist view which requires that one look inward into the content of one’s feelings, wishes, imagination, etc., in order to establish a “metaphysic” suitable to interpreting one’s experiences, since the presence of a “wrong” belief has the power to “distort the nature of reality.”

By contrast, Objectivism holds that reality exists and is what it is independent of both conscious activity and mental content, that beliefs do not have the power to alter reality, that reality continues to exist and be what it is regardless of what anyone thinks, believes, feels, wishes, hopes, imagines, etc., and that the task of consciousness is not to dictate or alter the nature of reality by embracing some view independent of experience, but to identify the objects one finds in reality according to facts one observes in those objects and to integrate what he has identified into a non-contradictory sum. Thus it should be clear going forward that the nature of the dispute between Hodge and myself is ultimately a clash between a worldview premised on the primacy of consciousness (i.e., metaphysical subjectivism) in the case of Hodge’s position, and a worldview premised on the primacy of existence (i.e., Objectivism). Hodge’s view is that reality is ultimately dependent on consciousness, and yet in affirming that this is the case he tacitly makes use of the primacy of existence principle: he’s essentially saying that “this is how reality is, and we must accept this because it’s this way regardless of what we believe, think, feel, prefer, wish, imagine, etc.” Thus he makes use of Objectivism’s distinguishing principle in his very attempt to “refute Objectivism.”

I’m glad these aren’t my problems!

by Dawson Bethrick

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33 Comments:

Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hey Dawson,

Yet more of Hodge's dodges here:

http://theologicalsushi.blogspot.com/2013/08/objectivism-again.html?showComment=1377820722573#c7077341903955256329

Ydemoc

August 29, 2013 6:37 PM  
Blogger NAL said...

Although I doubt Hodge read or understood your comments, I appreciated the paragraph that started: "Actually, my view does not make this assumption." It puts cart-horse in proper relationship.

August 30, 2013 8:56 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hodge has a new one-sentence entry up where he quotes from Michael Shermer's book The Believing Brain. Here's the full entry:

Atheists and I Agree, Objectivism Is Nonsense

Thursday, August 29, 2013

"Beliefs come first, reasons for beliefs follow" (Michael Shermer, The Believing Brain, 133)
__________________________________

I couldn't find the quote in context. But since Shermer is a skeptic, I have reason to doubt that that he subscribes to this, but I will say...

Beliefs composed of **what** if not concepts!? Based upon **what** content, if not that which is provided by perception of that which exists!?

Ydemoc

August 30, 2013 9:42 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Above it should read: "...I have **no** reason to doubt that he subscribes to this."

August 30, 2013 9:43 AM  
Blogger blarkofan said...

I suspect that, in context, Shermer is referring to higher-level beliefs (faith healing, ghosts, homeopathy, etc.) and not to beliefs as preconditional to perceiving reality. I think Shermer is just describing how people adopt fringe beliefs, not proposing it as a model for rational cognition. I haven't read this book (yet), but have heard Shermer interviewed several times. His skepticism relies on critical thinking and reason, not on adopting beliefs for no reason.

August 30, 2013 1:38 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

NAL wrote: “Although I doubt Hodge read or understood your comments, I appreciated the paragraph that started: ‘Actually, my view does not make this assumption.’ It puts cart-horse in proper relationship.”

Yeah, it’s very common for Christians to project their own ways onto non-Christians, and it’s quite possible that in many cases the shoe fits. But it certainly doesn’t in my case. I genuinely do not begin the way Hodge has stated that I do. And notice that Hodge does not cite any evidence to show that I do. He simply projects and announces what he believes on the basis of his projection. Christians begin with a huge set of assumptions – “presuppositions” – they do not even list them out for us when they tell us things like “We all begin with presuppositions.” They don’t tell us how many “presuppositions” they begin with, they don’t identify them, even when asked to. I’ve asked many apologists to list out their most basic “presuppositions,” indicate how many they have, and try to validate them. It never happens. Their appeal to an unspecified number of unstated “presuppositions” represents the dark labyrinth that they want to reserve for themselves as a final retreat. Identifying an actual starting point is anathema to the Christian devotional program. It is as though the notion of a conceptually irreducible starting point were simply beyond their ability to grasp. To them a knowledge hierarchy consists of a huge number of underlying assumptions swallowed whole at the very outset – they don’t know what they swallowed, they don’t know how much they swallowed, they don’t even know why they swallowed it. All they’re really saying is that swallowing what they swallowed was the right thing to do, and we did similarly, only we swallowed the wrong thing. Why else would apologists be so eager to raise parallels to “The Matrix”? The notion of everything we perceive being some kind of CGI mirage behind which a “real reality” is hidden doesn’t go very far, for even in the context of such a notion, where’s the guarantee that what is supposed to be a “real reality” is not itself yet a further GCI mirage? The real parallel is swallowing something whole without knowing what exactly you’re swallowing. Frame says it all: “We know without knowing how we know.” After 40 years of teaching Christian theology, don’t you think he’d have learned something about epistemology? Egads! This is their problem, but they “presuppose” that we’re all burdened with it. It’s their own ignorance speaking.

Regards,
Dawson

August 30, 2013 5:24 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Ydemoc,

Thanks for the update from Hodge’s page. I hadn’t seen this.

Hodge writes: “Atheists and I Agree, Objectivism Is Nonsense”

It is true that many atheists think Objectivism is nonsense. But now a Christian finds it expedient to start lining up with atheists on philosophical matters? That’s an interesting twist. Or, is it? Perhaps the atheists in question (Hodge’s headline implies that all atheists agree with him) are simply borrowing from Christianity?

Atheists are a mixed bag. We all know that identifying oneself as an atheist only tells us what they do not believe. It does not positively indicate the views that they actually hold. Many atheists do not have a well-thought-out philosophy to begin with. Many apologists like to point out that C.S. Lewis was an atheist before he became a Christian. Whoop-de-doo! Technically speaking, we’re all born atheists – we’re born without any beliefs whatsoever, including a god-belief. The question I have for such apologists is: Was Lewis an Objectivist before converting to Christianity? There’s no evidence that he was.

Look, the central issue is the primacy of existence in metaphysics and the role of reason in epistemology. A person who is willing to recognize consistently the primacy of existence in metaphysics is not likely going to have serious problems with a philosophical outlook that consistently integrates the implications of the primacy of existence throughout its positions on various philosophical issues.

Notice Hodge’s resistance to address the question about identifying any method by which one can reliably distinguish “the non-physical” from something a person may merely be imagining. He won’t come near this matter with a ten-foot pole. Same with most other theistic apologists. Doesn’t that tell us something right there??? I think it does. They avoid the matter by simply choosing not to discuss it. What will happen if one does choose to discuss it? Remember Prayson Daniel? He at least gave it a whirl. Let’s see if Hodge takes it up.

Regards,
Dawson

August 30, 2013 5:26 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hodge quotes Michael Shermer: “Beliefs come first, reasons for beliefs follow."

Yes, Michael Shermer is a fairly thorough-going skeptic who bristles at any pronouncement of certainty and pretty much dismisses the good for being good. This makes for popular book-selling. He’s sort of a print version of Bill Maher.

In my discussion with Hodge, one of the central points of dispute is the relationship between beliefs and perceptions. Hodge clearly thinks that beliefs come before perceptions (“Perception is not more fundamental than belief when forming concepts, as the reasoned formation needs those beliefs to form it in the first place” – Hodge). But I don’t think Shermer’s quote is taking a position in our dispute. Rather, I’m supposing that Shermer has religious belief in mind and is saying that religious believers accept their beliefs before they ever come into any awareness of reasons for accepting them. The development of reinforcing reasons comes later as those beliefs – already accepted and committed to – are defended and protected.

So it’s most ironic that Hodge would quote Shermer here. To the degree that Hodge supposes that Shermer’s statement addresses our dispute, he’s basically agreeing with Shermer’s account of the grand reversal in which the religious mind locks itself.

As for Shermer, it’s unclear whether he would accept that perception comes before the formation of beliefs. I haven’t read Shermer in a number of years now as I think he’s been pretty much discredited on most matters, and I never found him very enlightening to begin with. Overall, to the extent that Shermer has an epistemology, it seems to be colored, at least to some extent - probably not entirely, with skepticism’s nihilistic approach to the human mind, which is affirmed with glee in writings like Hodge's: “the human mind can’t do this and it can’t do that, we can’t know this and we can’t discover that…” etc. It’s almost as though they were delighted in telling us what the human mind cannot do while never exploring or appreciating what the human mind can do and has done. In this way they take a lot for granted and just show themselves to be a bunch of ingrates, having the gall to use computers to broadcast their mind-hating dogma.

Okay, gotta run.
Dawson

August 30, 2013 5:28 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson and blarkofan,

Thanks for both of your comments regarding Shermer. I can see now that I was hasty in stating that I have "no reason to doubt that he [Shermer] subscribes to this" [i.e., that beliefs come before perception].

Until I can confirm that this is, in fact, Shermer's view (as Hodge seems to want us to believe it is), I clearly *do* have room for doubt that this is his view.

Ydemoc

August 31, 2013 8:21 AM  
Blogger The Thinker said...

I appreciate your work refuting the presuppositionalism of Hodge, and presuppositionalism in general.

August 31, 2013 10:38 AM  
Blogger NAL said...

A review of Shermer's book The Believing Brain: Why Do We Believe?:

The central theme of Shermer's book is that people first believe in what they want to believe and then search for justification afterward. In other words, "beliefs come first; reasons for beliefs follow in confirmation of the realism dependent on the belief." This is the persistent theme of his book.

I don't think it means what Hodge thinks it means.

September 01, 2013 6:00 AM  
Blogger freddies_dead said...

Dawson noted this:

"This is their problem, but they “presuppose” that we’re all burdened with it."

Rather amusingly it's the "tu quoque" that Hodge tried to accuse you of early on.

September 02, 2013 7:53 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello friends: I think Hodge's Idealism as an expression of metaphysical primacy of consciousness is a most uninformed position as Kant refuted it in "Critique of Pure Reason" long ago. I learned this a few years ago after reading Matthew McCormick's essay “Why God Cannot Think: Kant Omnipresence and Consciousness.” http://www.philoonline.org/library/mccormick_3_1.htm that is published in Michael Martin's anthology "The Impossibility of God."

Dawson noted: ”Objectivism holds that we must do this (acquire knowledge of reality) by looking outward at the world around us, by observing what we perceive and by identifying what we observe by means of concepts, as opposed to looking inward at the contents of our own consciousness as though knowledge of what’s “out there” were already present in our minds apart from observation of the world around us. “

There is an even more foundational concern antecedent to acquisition of knowledge. For a mind to realize in the first person sense expressed by Descartes in his famed Cogito, I think; therefore, I am. the mind must be able to distinguish itself as subject from objects other than self. Consciousness presupposes the ability to distinguish self from non-self and that if a mind is aware of itself as subject, then there must actually be objects in an external world that are not that being. This means that self-awareness as a mind can only be possible because of the existence of mind independent external objects, and that any being with a mind must be able to distinguish its automatic perceptions as differing from that which is perceived and understand that as subject it must correctly identify objects of perception because it may be the case that it can misidentify.

Immanuel Kant, despite his erroneous representationalism, correctly refuted Descates' and Berkly's view that self-awareness was possible prior to knowing of external reality or even without external reality in his “Refutation of Material Idealism.” He said: The consciousness of my own existence is simultaneously a direct consciousness of the existence of other things outside of me. Explaining the relation between self-awareness and object awareness, Kant noted: The “I think” must be capable of accompanying all my presentations. For otherwise something would be presented to me that could not be thought of at all-which is equivalent to saying that the presentation either would be impossible, or would be nothing to me. {*}

Kant's observation that Descartes' Cogito, if it is to be self-aware, must necessarily be an awareness of itself as a thing among other things in an objective world was the closure of Idealism. A being can only recognize the difference between its perceptions and the objects it perceives if and only if that being is also capable being self-aware. Object vs. perception-of-object discrimination can't obtain without self vs. other or subject vs. object discrimination because they are complimentary aspects of the same faculty.

Rand acting on Kant's cue formed a most apropos principle that:

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. ~ http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/consciousness.html

This is sufficient to refute Hodge's claim that the evidences of the senses aren't sufficient to allow one to know there is an external world.

{*} Kant cited from Matthew McCormick's worthy essay “Why God Cannot Think: Kant Omnipresence and Consciousness.” http://www.philoonline.org/library/mccormick_3_1.htm


September 02, 2013 9:20 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Good morning, happy Labor Day, and Best and Good to the readers.

September 02, 2013 9:21 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Dawson indicated that Hodge stated: “in order to experience reality with some sort of analogical accuracy, he must get his metaphysic right.”

Does Hodge mean something along the lines of Kant's categorical imperatives? If so, he would be contradicting himself here because for Kant, the phenomenological self can never be acquainted with the noumenal self due to the objective nature of the categorical imperatives. But Hodge is asserting as an objective fact that one's subjective "beliefs" have a casual role in a schema wherein consciousness somehow constitutes its own objects. So if he is stumbling with Kant towards representationalism, then he's here falling down.

September 02, 2013 12:22 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

David Kelly in "The Evidence of the Senses" anticipated and defeated the question begging charge Hodge has made. Kelly wrote:

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. This fourth point is a derivative one, but it has an important implication:
if realism is true, there is no way to prove realism, to prove that the objects of awareness exist independently of consciousness. A proof requires the use of premises known independently of the
conclusion. A proof of the primacy of existence could not begin by
premising facts external to consciousness, since that would beg the question. But it could not begin by premising facts about consciousness itself, since the very thesis implies that such facts cannot be known before we have knowledge of the external world. To attempt the latter sort of proof, as some realists have, is implicitly to endorse a Cartesian view that undercut? their case. The primacy of existence is therefore not a conclusion at all. It must serve as an axiomatic foundation for any inquiry into the nature and functioning of our cognitive capacities ..

This does not mean, however, that the thesis is an arbitrary postulate or an act of faith. The point is rather that it is self-evident, and its self-evidence can at least be exhibited. I will try to do so in three different ways.

First everything I have said about the primacy of existence could also be said about Descartes' cogito. It would be impossible for me to prove that I am conscious, since that fact is implicit in the grasp of any premise that might be used to establish it, as it is implicit in any knowledge. Yet reflection on the cogito reveals that the truth of the proposition "I am conscious" is implicit in all knowledge. In the same way, the primacy of existence cannot be established
by argument because it is implicit in any instance of awareness, but that fact can be revealed by reflection on the thesis.


[RB] Interesting that people like Hodge never claim it's an exercise in question begging to assume the Cogito is valid.


September 02, 2013 12:54 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Dawson and everyone,

A new entry from Hodge.

Up Dawson's Creek
http://theologicalsushi.blogspot.com/2013/09/up-dawsons-creek.html

I haven't had time to read it all, but jumping ahead in the blog entry, I caught the following:

1. The statement that existence exists is vague. In fact, it assumes that what exists is what is being experienced to exist by our senses. But this point is already at dispute by half of the world's religions. How would Dawson and his crowd answer the question, How do you know existence exists without begging the question that it does? How do you know it exists without first believing the metaphysical claims of Christian Scientists, for instance, is false and yours true?
_______________________

Oh boy.

Ydemoc

September 06, 2013 1:48 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

"But this point is already at dispute by half of the world's religions"

...and I care why?

September 06, 2013 9:47 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Justin, Ydemoc, Dawson, Freddie, Nal and everybody. Hodge refuses to recognize what Rand identified.

"Existence exists—and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists.

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.

Whatever the degree of your knowledge, these two—existence and consciousness—are axioms you cannot escape, these two are the irreducible primaries implied in any action you undertake, in any part of your knowledge and in its sum, from the first ray of light you perceive at the start of your life to the widest erudition you might acquire at its end. Whether you know the shape of a pebble or the structure of a solar system, the axioms remain the same: that it exists and that you know it.

To exist is to be something, as distinguished from the nothing of nonexistence, it is to be an entity of a specific nature made of specific attributes. Centuries ago, the man who was—no matter what his errors—the greatest of your philosophers, has stated the formula defining the concept of existence and the rule of all knowledge: A is A. A thing is itself. You have never grasped the meaning of his statement. I am here to complete it: Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification.~ Galt’s Speech,
For the New Intellectual, 124

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/axioms.html

Perhaps he has some psychological issue that compels him to such ridiculous extremes as he has exhibited in his blog. However, I for one am pleased he uses his blogging as an outlet for whatever motivates him rather than embarking on some sort of Jihad against rational minded folk. That which is self-evident needs no proving. Existence, consciousness, and identity are the basis of all tools used to demonstrate propositions either reduce to facts of existence or not.

Now it's time for another episode of The Walking Dead. Cheers.

September 07, 2013 5:51 PM  
Blogger NAL said...

And yet another post:

Two Questions for Objectivists:

Can you conceive of a possible world where there are non-material entities that cannot be perceived through sensory perception?

How exactly would you be capable of knowing that such a world is not the possible world you live in without presupposing a naturalistic worldview?

I'm guessing the only way out is to deny that one can conceive of a possible world where naturalism is untrue, but I cannot see how one would do this without defining everything through the lens of naturalism in the first place.

September 08, 2013 6:02 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Billy Joel, Billy Joel - Movin' Out (Anthony's Song) [HQ with lyrics]

2:05 - 2:13 "You should never argue with a crazy mi mi mi mi mi mind"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJoZe5vkxws

September 09, 2013 9:17 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Nice explanation of the Conjunction fallacy.

https://www.facebook.com/AtheismResource/posts/729103930438394

September 09, 2013 12:08 PM  
Blogger freddies_dead said...

Can you conceive of a possible world where there are non-material entities that cannot be perceived through sensory perception?

I see Hodge is resorting to a game of "lets all imagine together", as if that has any bearing on the discussion. Instead of fannying about telling us what these entities aren't (material or perceivable) can he provide a positive ontology for these entities he's imagining.

September 10, 2013 4:44 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

freddie queried: "...can he provide a positive ontology for these entities he's imagining"

Of course he can't. Presuppositionalism argues from ignorance. Those employing it thrive in ignorance. Their technique of choice is the 'god of the gaps' tactic aimed at prompting some ignorant sod to think 'Duh - I dunno. Must be God done it.'

Freddie your point seems to me to spring from a 'Specificity Theory of Meaning'. That is for an entity to exist, it must be something specific. Since the god notion lacks specificity, it lacks primary characteristics, and so can't be validly held to have secondary or relational characteristics.

Cheers and Best


September 10, 2013 5:24 AM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

BC is so obsessed with his own version of everybody else's worldview, and the problems he imagines those worldviews to have that he can't distinguish what we argue from what he imagines that we must be holding to. Very hard to help such an addled mind make a bit of sense. It's just impossible to keep count of the many things that he adds to what we say as if we truly said such things.

September 11, 2013 5:38 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

photo,

And I enjoyed the way you brought those very points out over there.

Ydemoc

September 11, 2013 6:58 PM  
Blogger freddies_dead said...

So he takes his own worldview entirely on faith. He can't distinguish between his God and something he's merely imagining but he's certain it's God regardless. And, apparently, this irrational basis qualifies him to judge the merits of other people's worldviews.

What an utter moron.

Those other worldviews may even suffer from some of the problems he claims they do, but he can't actually be certain of it, he can only take it on faith that he's right.

It's pretty hilarious and - as Dawson notes - I'm glad they're not my problems.

September 12, 2013 7:07 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

I posted my replies to Hodge at


http://robertbumbalough.blogspot.com/2013/09/a-reply-to-mr-bc-hodge.html

Best Good

September 12, 2013 7:27 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Is there any way to make sense or understand the primacy of consciousness or discover it as intelligible?

Is there any way to show that the objects of awareness are internal to me as subject of awareness in a first person perspective mode?

Can it be shown in an objective manner and in a third person modal schema that subject-object relationship isn't necessary for the subject to be aware of itself as subject of awareness?

Is it possible for consciousness conscious only of itself to not be a contradiction in terms?

September 13, 2013 6:23 AM  
Blogger NAL said...

INCINERANDO O PRESSUPOSICIONALISMO

I'm assuming it's in Portuguese since the author is in Rio.

September 13, 2013 8:01 AM  
Blogger Luiz Claudio said...

Ydemoc said...
photo, And I enjoyed the way you brought those very points out over there.

So did I. Well done photo

September 13, 2013 12:56 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

Thanks Ydemoc and Luiz.

September 13, 2013 2:29 PM  
Blogger Luiz Claudio said...

NAL said...
INCINERANDO O PRESSUPOSICIONALISMO

I'm assuming it's in Portuguese since the author is in Rio.

You are right.

September 14, 2013 5:30 PM  

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