Saturday, November 16, 2013

Examining Stefan's Presuppositionalism

StefanMach (to whom I shall again refer as Stefan going forward) has left a series of comments responding to my blog A Reply to Stefan on Induction and Deduction. Stefan is clearly sympathetic to presuppositionalism, though he seems to be wary of Greg Bahnsen, which is curious in itself.

Below I reply to Stefan’s comments.
Stefan wrote:
On Blarko as a replacement for God in the ontological argument: Simply replacing the term ‘God’ with the term ‘Blarko’ changes nothing at all.
That’s pretty much my point: in an arbitrary argument, you can replace one arbitrary term with another, and the whole still remains arbitrary.

But in terms of religious worship, there would be a difference. Unlike the Christian god, for instance, Blarko did not have a son. This would throw everything off kilter for the Christian worldview.

My point in raising the example of the ontological argument in my post replying to your comments, is that it provides an example of the harrowingly anti-conceptual consequences that can arise when one reverses the order of the steps of concept-formation. As I pointed out, in the objective theory of concepts, the step of defining a concept comes at the end of the process of forming concepts. It does not begin by affirming a definition and then going out to try to validate it somehow. The objective procedure adheres to the principle that knowledge of reality begins by looking outward (thus objective - since it bases knowledge on the nature of the objects we discover in the world through a rational process), while the ontological argument exhibits the opposite procedure – the subjective procedure which begins by looking inward (thus subjective - since it basis knowledge on the subject of consciousness – internally consulting the contents of consciousness and taking this as the standard of what exists “out there”).

Objectivism consistently incorporates the objective theory of concepts since one of its founding axioms is the recognition that existence exists independent of conscious activity – i.e., the primacy of existence.

So when the ontological argument begins by affirming the definition of the notion ‘God’, two things immediately come to mind. First of all, since a concept is a mental integration of two or more units (e.g., the concept ‘man’ integrates an indefinite quantity of men), and since we define concepts (as opposed to proper names and grunting), stating that the word “God” has a definition assumes that it is a concept and that it therefore integrates more than one unit. And yet, “God” is supposed to be sui generis - meaning that there is supposed to be only one “God” (and thus a proper name, not a concept). But if there were only one “God,” then “God” could not be a concept, and thus no definition could be applied. Thus the ontological argument bungles its own terms from the inside.

The other thing that comes to mind would of course be the question: Where did this definition of “God” come from? Again, since I already know that we do not begin with definitions (definition is the final step of concept-formation), this definition – in order to be true – must have some objective basis. Indeed, since definitions are in fact statements identifying the distinguishing essentials of the units a concept subsumes, they can be true or untrue. So to determine if the definition which the ontological argument applies to “God” is true, we would need to examine the units subsumed by “God”. But if we could examine the units subsumed by “God,” then we would have awareness of those units independent of an argument that seeks to establish their existence by means of an analysis of the definition of “God,” which would render the entire venture of the ontological argument completely unnecessary. For example, we do not seek to prove the existence of men by an analysis of the definition of the concept ‘man’. Most thinkers would recognize right off that this procedure has things completely backwards. And yet somehow we are expected to assume that this procedure, when employed by the ontological argument, is perfectly legitimate. It isn’t – it represents a complete logical reversal of how knowledge is acquired.

Stefan wrote:
I think that one thing presuppositionalism is attempting to point out is that if one begins their reasoning process univocally, that is to say with one voice, which is to say without reference or any kind of submission to a primary mind, than what occurs is that all philosophy reduces to pragmatism, or what works.
Presuppositionalism shares with the ontological argument the same reversal in the process of acquiring knowledge. It begins by looking inward at the contents of one’s mind and then seeks to infer “what must be the case” outside the mind in order for the mind’s contents to be what they are or understood to be. Thus it does not begin with an objective starting point. Nor does it begin with a conceptually irreducible starting point, as Stefan’s own statement makes clear. Our knowledge begins with perception – awareness of the world of objects that we perceive with the senses. This comes before we have any conceptual content, for concepts must be formed on an objective basis. The only alternative to this would be mental content void of objective reference – entirely lacking objective input. In such a state we would be held hostage by our emotions, emotions with nothing to anchor them to reality, which would be a most profound form of terror – cf. “the fear of God is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7). But emotion is not a means of knowledge – it is not a means of identifying what exists. And basing one’s worldview on one’s emotions could not in any way lead to an objective worldview. We need objective input to inform our knowledge, so we must start with perception – man’s pre-conceptual form of awareness of the world.

Notice how the notion of “a primary mind” has no objective reference. We have no alternative but to imagine such a thing. We do not acquire awareness of “a primary mind” by looking outward at the world. Rather, it is something one concocts in his imagination and secures in place given other notions that lack objective reference.

Of course, it does not follow that if one does not begin by imagining “a primary mind” to which we are supposedly expected to submit, that his only alternative is therefore some form of “pragmatism, or what works.” Of course, if something works, that’s a good thing. Since as biological organisms we face the fundamental alternative of life vs. death, we need things that are successful. But success does not depend on fleetingly pragmatic consequences which happen to obtain at some given point in time. Rather, it depends on conforming our knowledge and action to facts. Facts are entities in specific contexts. Perception gives us direct awareness of facts. We identify the entities we perceive by means of concepts, and this identification can be true or untrue; there can be errors. Thus we need an objective method by which we identify things, which means: we need reason. Reason is the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by the senses. Applying reason consistently helps us avoid error in our identifications. Identification which conforms to the facts of reality are true identifications, and thus requires us to look outward at those facts first to have awareness of them and then identify and integrate them by means of concepts. Identifications which are obtained by looking inward lack objective reference and thus could not be identifications of facts, but rather ideational content informed by fantasy and emotion. Objectivism takes the looking outward approach while presuppositionalism, as an application of Christian notions, takes the looking inward approach.

Stefan wrote:
I see in the objective theory of concepts this limitation. We establish a concept which has for is members those that meet certain fundamental qualities inherent in the idea by means of measurement-omission.
This too is rather mangled. To be clear, we do not begin by first establishing a concept and then going out to look for members which satisfy the requirements which we built into the concept. This would be another application of the looking inward approach. Rather, on the objective theory of concepts, the first thing we do is perceive objects – things existing independent of our conscious activity – i.e., looking outward. Thus upon perceiving certain self-evident similarities isolated from the rest of what we perceive (e.g., we see two men walking on a field), we apply the process of measurement-omission such that the specific incidental differences between the two men (one man is taller than the other, one is huskier than the other, one has a mustache, the other is completely clean-shaven, one is wearing a construction helmet, the other a fedora, etc.) are included but not specified as criteria essential to their grouping. Then when a third man comes along who’s taller than the one but shorter than the other, who wears a beard and has a big, rotund belly, we can included him in that same grouping thanks to the process of measurement-omission. At no point does this process begin by looking inward.

Stefan continued:
We agree on the idea.
But who is agreeing with whom here? Concept-formation takes place in an individual’s mind. It is not something that we do as a group; there is no such thing as a collective consciousness – certainly not among human beings. (The only way this could be approximated by human beings is for each individual in a group to wipe out the contents of his consciousness and then try to backfill it with a trance-like state in which a single-syllable groaning is repeated over and over, but even then there would be no consciousness to speak of.)

Agreement among individuals on objective identifications can only come later – after each individual in the party has made some identifications, applied a mutually understood system of visual-auditory symbols to represent those identifications (i.e., words, language, grammar, etc.) and then undertake the task of communicating with one another, just as we attempt to do here on Incinerating Presuppositionalism.

Stefan wrote:
But let us consider for a moment one of these sure concepts, that of “man”. What of great import have we said about the class? What great questions of the philosophers have we answered? We have not reached beyond physics to metaphysics, so we have said nothing metaphysical.
In my blog post, I used the example of the concept ‘man’ as one whose content is rich with immediate implications about all units that qualify as members of the class. Given the overall context of my point, I raised the example of ‘man’ to show that true (as opposed to “strong” or “weak”) inductive generalizations are possible. Thus my concern was to derive inductive conclusions which are true about all members of a class of things. Whether the inductive conclusion that “all men are mortal” is “of great import” or not is really neither here nor there. The point is that it is true. The point was not to answer “great questions of the philosophers,” whatever those might be (hopefully they’re of greater import than how many angels can dance on the head of a pin).

As for the distinction between physics and metaphysics, Stefan’s view seems to be quite different from mine. Peikoff explains what the term ‘metaphysics’ denotes according to Objectivism:
The branch of philosophy that studies existence is metaphysics. Metaphysics identifies the nature of the universe as a whole. It tells men what kind of world they live in, and whether there is a supernatural dimension beyond it. It tells men whether they live in a world of solid entities, natural laws, absolute facts, or in a world of illusory fragments, unpredictable miracles, and ceaseless flux. It tells men whether the things they perceive by their senses and mind form a comprehensible reality, with which they can deal, or some kind of unreal appearance, which leaves them staring and helpless. (Leonard Peikoff, The Ominous Parallels, p. 23)
Rand discusses this branch of philosophy as follows:
Are you in a universe which is ruled by natural laws and, therefore, is stable, firm, absolute—and knowable? Or are you in an incomprehensible chaos, a realm of inexplicable miracles, an unpredictable, unknowable flux, which your mind is impotent to grasp? Are the things you see around you real—or are they only an illusion? Do they exist independent of any observer—or are they created by the observer? Are they the object or the subject of man’s consciousness? Are they what they are—or can they be changed by a mere act of your consciousness, such as a wish?  
The nature of your actions—and of your ambition—will be different, according to which set of answers you come to accept. These answers are the province of metaphysics—the study of existence as such or, in Aristotle’s words, of “being qua being”—the basic branch of philosophy. (“Philosophy: Who Needs It,” Philosophy: Who Needs It, p. 2)
Naturally, since Objectivism rejects the notion of “the supernatural” altogether, and since man has a genuine philosophical need for a set of comprehensive principles identifying the nature of the universe in which he lives, metaphysics as Objectivism informs it is an explicitly this-worldly area of focus.

By contrast, physics is the branch of science which studies the particulars pertaining to matter, energy, motion, force, etc. It is not a branch of philosophy, but rather one of the special sciences – i.e., a systematic application of reason to some specific area of focus. It requires specialized knowledge and in fact rests on general philosophical principles, including comprehensive principles about the universe as such. Thus physics presupposes metaphysics.

Stefan continued:
We can in no way make any ethical declarations, for without any true metaphysical knowledge, knowledge which cannot be had by a univocal earth bound reasoner, we cannot be sure we have the mind of God/ not God on the subject.
And again, my point in citing the pregnant inductive implications already present in the concept ‘man’ was not to “make ethical declarations.” But since Stefan raises this topic, consider the implications of the recognition that all men are mortal. This can only mean that every man faces the fundamental alternative of life vs. death. In my blog The Moral Code of Life, I contrast the moral code geared towards enabling man to taking those actions necessary given the factual requirements of his life to preserve his life (i.e., the moral code of life) with its alternative – i.e., the code of death. The code of death undermines man’s life by systematically distracting him from recognizing his nature as a biological organism and identifying the factual requirements of his life as fundamental to his task of living.

Now compare Stefan’s notion of “metaphysical knowledge” which he characterizes as “knowledge which cannot be had by a univocal earth bound reasoner,” with the alternatives Rand employs in the questions she asks in the statement I quoted above. She asks:
Are you in a universe which is ruled by natural laws and, therefore, is stable, firm, absolute—and knowable? Or are you in an incomprehensible chaos, a realm of inexplicable miracles, an unpredictable, unknowable flux, which your mind is impotent to grasp? Are the things you see around you real—or are they only an illusion? Do they exist independent of any observer—or are they created by the observer?
What metaphysical view does Stefan’s notion of “metaphysical knowledge” assume? Does it stand on the view that the facts of reality are real and that they exist independent of any observer – or does it stand on the view that the facts conform to the “primary mind” he mentioned earlier? Does Stefan’s notion of “metaphysical knowledge” as he informs it stand on the metaphysical view that the human mind is capable, or on the metaphysical view that the mind is impotent?

Yes, the contrasts are indeed striking.

Stefan wrote:
Any [And?] what about epistemology? If God does lie behind the curtain, and has made man in God’s image via the original Word, so that words beget creation beget more words, than an epistemology that does not take this in to account is actually wrong about what is going on with regards “knowing”.
What Stefan describes here is clearly the approach to knowledge that begins by looking inward, even for man. Clearly the Christian does not think that his god gets its knowledge by looking outward. Before the Christian god created anything, there was nothing for it to look outward at in the first place. And since everything distinct from the Christian god is supposed to have been created by an act of the Christian god’s will, whatever exists is whatever the Christian god wanted to exist, and is whatever the Christian god has chosen it to be. This is pure primacy of consciousness.

But the primacy of consciousness spills over into the worldview of the adherent as well. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump, so the saying goes. A Christian is at the very least a believer in the Christian god. Thus a Christian is an individual who constructs his rendering of the Christian god, given inputs taken from some narrative source for example, in the confines of his imagination, and then projects it as though it really exists outside himself, when in fact it is merely imaginary. How does he know that his god is real? By “revelation.” Are revelations things that we perceive in the world? No, they are not. Revelations are allegedly communicative transmissions from some supernatural realm into the mind of the believer. So how does he know that he has received a revelation? By looking inward. How does he discover the contents of this alleged revelation? By looking inward. How does he know that he has not misinterpreted this alleged revelation? By looking inward. How does he know anything about the world? He claims to know it by looking inward. Clearly this is all an exercise in metaphysical subjectivism.

Stefan wrote:
It is the case of Neo in the Matrix. The entirety of his world was in one sense false.
This is directly analogous to Christianity. The “physical world” – the “world of the flesh” – is a corruptible creation. The “real” reality is some supernatural realm which the believer can only imagine.

Stefan wrote:
Say Neo had been an objectivist. Say he was asked, “are physical objects as you perceive them real in a physical sense?” Surely he would have said, “Yes, that is air I am breathing”. But he would have been wrong, and this in every particular. As it turns out, his whole life is a dream, and he is basically a car battery for some robot.
Is this supposed to be a serious statement about reality? Or is it just a thought experiment borne on imaginative scenarios? It is hard to see how it could be taken seriously as anything other than the latter. On this view, one would be right to identify himself (how he would do this is not indicated) as a car battery, but he would be wrong to identify himself as breathing air. On this view, a car battery has consciousness and can be dreaming, but not a biological organism like man. Such arbitrariness can only seem useful in the defense of something that is equally arbitrary. It is essentially an attempt to make the point that we cannot deal with reality on its own terms, but rather that we must fantasize alternatives to reality and take them seriously before we could ever be justified in identifying what we perceive. Thus it is borne on a whole series of stolen concepts.

Consider Peikoff’s treatment of such arbitrary scenarios:
As an example, I will quote from a recent skeptic, who asks: “How can I be sure that, every time I believe something, such as that there are rocks, I am not deceived into so believing by … a mad scientist who, by means of electrodes implanted in my brain, manipulates my beliefs?” According to this approach, we cannot be sure that there are rocks; such a belief is regarded as a complex matter open to doubt and discussion. But what we can properly take as our starting point in considering the matter and explaining our doubt is: there are scientists, there are electrodes, men have brains, scientists can go mad, electrodes can affect brain function. All of this, it seems, is self-evident information, which anyone can invoke whenever he feels like it. How is it possible to know such sophisticated facts, yet not know that there are rocks? The author, who is a professor of philosophy, feels no need to raise such a question. He feels free to begin philosophizing at random, treating advanced knowledge as a primary and using it to undercut the direct evidence of men’s eyes. (Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, p. 140)
In the case of Stefan’s Matrix example, we can be sure that there are things like dreams, car batteries, robots, but we would be wrong to say that there are physical objects, perception, breathing, air, “and this in every particular.”

Stefan wrote:
Now people often shrug this off as “silly”,
And they are entirely right to do so. But notice that Stefan thinks it should be taken seriously. Also notice that the Matrix scenario cannot escape the infinite regress that it naturally invites: if this world is really just a simulation projected from a world behind it, why can’t the world which is projecting this world as a simulation also be a simulation projected by some world behind it, and so on and so on? Blank out.

Stefan wrote:
but in fact it is just such questions and details with which philosophy has to do.
I take this as an autobiographical statement indicating what kind of books Stefan has had his nose plugged into. The “philosophy” he describes here is as useless as can be, and is in fact what has given philosophy a really bad reputation in other disciplines. A philosophy which takes seriously the notion that you are wrong to identify yourself as a human being breathing air and proposes that in reality you are really a car battery dreaming all this up, is not a philosophy that is prepared to offer rational individuals anything of intellectual value.

Stefan wrote:
Prove the idealist vision of reality is false. Your not going to do it by kicking your foot against a rock.
The purpose of philosophy is not to refute arbitrary alternatives to what is real. “The task of philosophy is to provide man with a comprehensive view of life” (Ayn Rand, “The Chickens’ Homecoming,” Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, p. 45).

Again, note the stark contrasts here: Objectivism is this-worldly, taking reality seriously, and learning about it by looking outward; presuppositionalism is other-worldly, taking fantasies seriously, and learning about it by looking inward and calling it “true.”

Stefan wrote:
What Neo needed in this example of what I am saying by analogy, was he needed “outside input”.
But that’s what Objectivism has been saying all along: we have objective input if we look outward. We do not get objective input by looking inward. Man’s means of looking outward is by starting with perception of entities. Only then can he acquire awareness of facts – i.e., entities in specific contexts. He cannot acquire this awareness by looking inward. Fantasies such as Stefan’s Matrix scenario do not in any way invalidate perception or the reliability of perception. Rather, they can only trade in stolen concepts which invalidate their entire enterprise.

Stefan wrote:
To “know” is to be in possession of a true conclusion that is based upon previously known truths all the way back to your presuppositions about metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. Both Bahnsen and Van Til would have said that unbelievers used induction and deduction properly as tools. They just would have said that at the most fundamental level, that of their presuppositions, they were guessing as proven by the fact that the world, full of its univocal reasoning, has come up with numerous and varied sets of presuppositions, none of which they can prove, because having refused to admit God into their paradigm of what it means to know, they are without the one necessary tool for knowing, the blue pill ( I think it was blue).
Swallowing a pill, submitting to an invisible magic being, praying to Brahma, wiping out your mind through transcendental meditation so that you don’t come back as a cockroach, etc. – the world is full of various recipes for checking out. All of it leads to the same place if taken seriously and practiced consistently, namely death.

Stefan mentions “the most fundamental level,” which of course is of greatest importance. If one is off at the most fundamental level of his thinking, everything thereafter is at best suspect. Of course, most thinkers are not entirely consistent throughout the sum of their knowledge. Many borrow from other worldviews. For example, Christians borrow from Objectivism when they make statements like “saying that it is so doesn’t make it so” or “wishing doesn’t make it so.” These are expressions of the primacy of existence, a principle which Christianity rejects and which is entirely discordant with the teachings of Christianity. By contrast, Christianity assumes the primacy of consciousness. An obvious example is the Christian doctrine of creation: the Christian god simply wished the universe into being, and voilá, reality conformed itself to the Christian god’s wishes.

Another clear example of the primacy of consciousness can be observed in the following:
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9)
Presuppositionalism offers a formula that is similarly built on the primacy of consciousness: If you believe in the Christian god, then all your reasoning will magically become reliable and true. If you don’t believe in the Christian god, then you are trapped in the vanity of futile reasoning. The switch from the one to the other is as simple as “believing” what the presuppositionalist program tells you to believe. And Bahnsen tells us (as I showed here) that we are to believe before we understand what we’re expected to believe. In other words, one is to accept some set of beliefs as true before he has any understanding of what he is calling true. It is just another means of negating one’s own consciousness.

So no, Van Til and Bahnsen were not onto anything new. People have been seeking ways to negate the consciousness of other men, and even their own, for thousands of years. Van Til and Bahnsen were just a new batch of witch doctors – different packaging, but surely the same poisonous brew.

Stefan wrote:
I get that Objectivism makes sense to you, and to many others, but not to all.
Of course, Objectivists are fully aware that many – the vast majority of people throughout the world – reject Objectivism, either explicitly or by implication of the mystical beliefs that they have swallowed whole, like a pill, before understanding what they were swallowing (a la Greg Bahnsen).

There is only one Objectivism. There are many varieties of mysticism. Christianity is one general category of mysticism, and yet within Christianity there are hundreds if not thousands or even more sub-varieties. Islam is another variety, with its own internal divisions, factions and schisms. There are eastern religions as well. There are tribal animistic religions. There are other forms of theism as well. But there is only one Objectivism. There is only one worldview which begins with the axioms of existence, consciousness and identity and firmly and consistently recognizes and adheres to the primacy of existence. All forms of mysticism represent different consequences of rejecting all of these.

Most people have a kind of hodgepodge of philosophical notions, most of them far from being explicitly identified and understood, sort of a tossed salad of ideas mixing the mystical with the objective and thereby teeming with contradictions. When a Christian, for example, takes action to produce values for himself and preserve those values that he already has, he is not applying Christian principles of self-sacrifice and anti-selfishness; on the contrary, he is making use of principles that are completely alien to Christianity. The Christian worships a god which is said to have allowed its own child to be tortured and executed by vicious, evil people, and yet it did nothing to intervene and protect its child from these evil-doers. And yet we do not see many Christians themselves acting this way. But the Christian turns around and tells us that only his worldview provides an absolute basis for morality, even though his worldview imagines that there is such a thing as “a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists” (Greg Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 172), which he says his god has! What good is a standard of good when it can justify any evil that it allows to take place? Blank out!

Stefan wrote:
Arguing about each others positions from the tree tops of our respective world views does no good.
I agree. So why not identify your starting point, just as Objectivism does? We can examine it to see if it is in fact fundamental. Does it identify something we directly perceive? I.e., does it identify something we have awareness of when we look outward? Or, can we only have awareness of it by looking inward? Is the identification of whatever it is objectively true, or is it based in the imagination? Indeed, how does one distinguish what the Christian calls “God” from something the believer may merely be imagining? Blank out. Is whatever the Christian identifies as his starting point conceptually irreducible and thus not secretly resting on any number of unstated assumptions? Or, does it in fact conceal notions that one has already accepted (and believed before he could have understanding of them) and thus seeks to smuggle them into the mix?

So yes, I agree – the tree tops is not where we need to be focusing. Let’s get right down to the roots. Let’s look at the issue of metaphysical primacy. Let’s see who’s looking outward at the facts and who’s looking inward into one’s own fantasies.

Stefan wrote:
We have to stand in one anothers shoes, and show that from that position, that our presuppositions stand together as coherent or not.
That’s easy to do. Simply address the following questions:
1. Do you acquire knowledge of the facts by looking inward or by looking outward?  
2. Does wishing make it so? Yes (the primacy of consciousness) or No (the primacy of existence)? Why?  
3. Does saying that something is the case make it the case? Yes (the primacy of consciousness) or No (the primacy of existence)? Why?  
4. Is there a fundamental distinction between reality and imagination? Or, do you think they are one and the same? Or, do you think they overlap at some point?  
5. Can you explain to me in a clear, logical manner how I can reliably distinguish between what you call “God” and what you may merely be imagining?
Naturally each of these questions could branch off into discussions of their own, but clearly they are all related, and they have very much to do with worldview fundamentals. But typically Christians shy away from these and similar questions. That does not surprise me though.

Stefan wrote:
Of course my Christianity does not make sense from outside of Christianity.
But from what Bahnsen tells us, making sense is not a criterion which even the Christian can use in vetting what he is expected to believe. He is, as Bahnsen makes very clear here, to accept any number of beliefs before - and therefore without - understanding them. So all this talk of “making sense” is not presuppositionally consistent from the believer’s perspective to begin with. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not for the Christian – he’s supposed to swallow it whole because, we are told:
God has the right to command and be obeyed. He has, therefore, the right to tell us what we must believe. (John Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God, p. 51)
But notice also that it is always men who appoint themselves as this alleged supernatural being’s mouthpieces – telling us what it demands us to believe. This supernatural being does not itself come to us personally and tell us what it wants from us. It’s always other men who designate themselves as spokesmen representing this being which we can only imagine. It is not as though it were appearing before us, as it is said to have done on behalf of Saul of Tarsus who was out actively persecuting Christian believers.

Stefan wrote:
Applying non Christian presuppositions to Christianity shows it to be absurd. I mean come on.
One thing that presuppositionalism does embrace is this notion of “coherentism” – i.e., the idea that truth is ensured by the internal coherence of a set of ideas in which that truth is said to rest. This is an abandonment of the correspondence theory of truth, which holds that truth obtains as a result of properly identifying facts we observe in reality so that truth is tied to reality. The coherentism of presuppositionalism can be applied to any scenario and likewise find it to be “true.” The story of Hansel and Gretel, for example, can be said to be “true” because it is internally incoherent. The same with The Wizard of Oz and any fantasy created by Christian C.S. Lewis. If it’s “internally coherent,” then it must be true.

Stefan wrote:
I believe someone rose from the dead, which is looney tunes given say atheistic presuppositions about the non existence of God.
Of course, such a belief is not necessarily “looney tunes” if one grants primacy to the imagination over the facts of reality and envisions the universe to be analogous to a cartoon. But this would abandon any objective standard for truth. This is precisely what Christianity does, which is why presuppositionalists glom onto the “coherentism” implicit in its approach to knowledge.

Stefan wrote:
However, if you honor me as a thinker by standing within my presuppositions about metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, no problem. Still unusual, but not problematic.
Of course, just as the Christian, I can imagine Jesus rising from the dead in his tomb after he was executed by means of crucifixion. In fact, if I read any of the gospel stories, this is precisely what I would be doing when I got to this part of the tale: I would be imagining the scenes described in the narrative. And yes, there is nothing unusual in this. I would do the same thing (imagine what I’m reading) when I read any story – whether it’s Harry Potter or Alice in Wonderland.

The problem comes in supposing that what is merely imaginary is real. Now when I read the gospel narratives and imagine Jesus rising from the dead, I know that I am in fact imagining. I know this because this is a volitional type of mental activity that I perform in my mind. While I am real and I really am imagining, what I am imagining is not real. But belief in what the Christian worldview would not be possible without blurring this fundamental distinction between what is real and what is merely imaginary. Thus to accept the Christian worldview, one must ignore this distinction in order to allow certain figments of one’s own imagination to be treated as though they were real, when in fact they are merely figments of the imagination and nothing more.

Stefan wrote:
How I see all univocal systems of reasoning, is that they cannot speak intelligently about basic philosophical categories of inquiry, because they are subject to the limitations inherent in a man on his own.
It’s very simple, actually. Man is neither omniscient nor infallible. He does not know everything, and he can make errors in his attempts to validate knowledge. These are the reasons why man needs reason in the first place. Man can in fact perceive, and he can form concepts on the basis of what he perceives. These abilities are not to be taken for granted. And yet, the notion that man is inherently impotent takes precisely these abilities completely for granted while at the same time ignoring their importance to his existence. It is in this way that arguments seeking to undermine man’s confidence in his own mind by citing “limitations” and treating them as some kind of fatal disability commit the fallacy of the stolen concept. They thus invalidate their own conclusions by attempting to draw them on the basis of a string of conceptual fallacies.

Stefan wrote:
That does not mean that their members do not “get on in the world” or make right inferences. It just means that they cannot justify what they are doing beyond being pragmatic from within their univocal system.
Of course, this assumes that said systems have no objective tie to reality. And in fact, we have already seen that there are many such systems. But this is not the result of rejecting mysticism. On the contrary, such disconnects are the result of embracing some form of mysticism, or at the very least incorporating certain mystical or anti-intellectual premises into one’s thinking. A worldview which, for instance, fails to observe the fundamental distinction between reality and imagination, such as Christianity, can provide no objective justification for anything. But this is not a problem for Objectivism, for Objectivism consistently and systematically applies the primacy of existence, a principle which even Christians performatively borrow while denouncing its truth.

Stefan wrote:
What they need is analogical knowledge, or a connection to the one who resides behind the veil, which I believe they certainly have.
Notice that, given the unspecified “limitations” which Stefan has attributed to man, he does not cite reason as the solution. He does not cite the epistemology of looking outward to ground man’s knowledge in reality and to provide a source of objective inputs to inform his knowledge. On the contrary, what Stefan prescribes here is just more of the tired, outworn epistemology of looking inward. Where else would we find this alleged connection that he speaks of? Where else would we look for it? And supposing one believes he has found such a connection, how would he know that it is the real thing? Since, on the view which requires recourse to a connection with the mystical in the first place, man is subject to all these debilitating limitations, how is he to have confidence that, once he has persuaded himself that he has found such a connection, that it is genuinely a connection to the right mystical source? The appeal to a supernatural connection does not escape the limitations which are alleged to make such an appeal necessary; rather, it just moves the whole ordeal deeper into the subjective confines of one’s imagination, the tie to reality being long abandoned.

Stefan wrote:
That it is hard to hear someone else from their own context, and that you refuse to do it, is shown by your statement:
"If deduction came first, what would be deduced, and from what would it be deduced? We have already seen above that, if deduction is the process of moving from general information to a specific conclusion, then clearly we need that information first.”
Your correct, in a godless universe.
I am correct given the nature of man’s mind. Man perceives objects, and therein recognizes self-evident differences and similarities. He applies an objective method to group items according to essential similarities and omit their specific measurements in order to form concepts which integrate those items into open-ended mental units. These open-ended units, i.e., concepts, include all the information pertaining to each of its units, which is subsequently available to draw general inferences about the entire class of items. This is, as Rand points out (per the quote I gave in my previous reply to Stefan, essentially a process of induction.

Stefan then opined:
It is amazing that you quoted me, and then immediately said that you did not hear me.
It is amazing that Stefan is so concerned about preserving his god-belief that he fails to take into account the nature of man’s mind when trying to determine an epistemology that is appropriate for man.

Stefan wrote:
Stand in my shoes. Part of my presuppositional framework is that God projects reality via speaking so that God’s mind has primacy over objects, God’s word over the objects it creates. Word begets creation begets reflexive language.
If I were to stand on the premises which Stefan indicates here (which are as explicitly affirmative of the primacy of consciousness as one could ever hope to see from a Christian), I would be contradicting myself in saying that any of it is true, since the statement that “X is true” performatively makes use of the primacy of existence principle. And yet in this case the “X” would be explicitly contradictory to the principle that I would be performatively applying. Presuppositionalism’s enlistment of coherentism does not escape this, since even coherentism requires logical consistency and eschews contradictions. A contradiction between the primacy of existence and the primacy of consciousness is still a contradiction. The Christian can pretend that it does not exist or that it is only a consideration as part of an external critique. But this ignores the basic nature of consciousness as such – the very faculty he is attempting to use to outrun a fundamental contradiction. If the believer is conscious, he is conscious of some object(s), thus there is an undeniable relationship, whether his worldview acknowledges it or not. Attempts to suppress this contradiction inherent in his position by saying it’s all part of some external critique, is simply an attempt to revise reality and, as such, an attempt to apply the primacy of the believer’s own consciousness over the facts of reality. Unfortunately for him, the facts do not conform to the dictates of his conscious intentions.

Stefan wrote:
Given my starting point, there is coherence in what I say.
But this is not compelling in the least. Someone taking a Harry Potter novel as his starting point could easily make the same appeal to coherence. But as I pointed out above, Stefan’s “starting point” cannot be objective, nor would it be at all conceptually irreducible. It could only be “known” by looking inward, which means it can only be subjective (not objective), and it would assume the truth of Objectivism’s axioms, which can only mean that it is not conceptually irreducible.

Stefan wrote:
Given your starting point, what I say makes no sense. I guess we are going to have to appeal to a higher authority, one who can tell us if I am right or you are right. Oh that’s right, we can’t, at least not from your shoes.
But since reality does not conform to consciousness, it cannot be the case that both of our views – given their diametric opposition to each other – correctly model reality. At best, only one of us could be right. But again, since reality does not conform to consciousness, appealing to some personal authority to whose dictates everything is imagined to conform (thus having the authority to settle difference by fiat), is clearly the wrong path to take, since this would contradict the very reason why we both cannot be right. To determine which if either of our positions is correct, we need to look outward to the facts of reality – which exist and are what they are independent of anyone’s conscious activity – as opposed to looking inward at the contents of our imagination and emotions to find a “connection” to some supernatural consciousness to whose dictates reality automatically conforms. Thus, given presuppositionalism’s own emphasis on coherency, the believer should be compelled to abandon Christianity since Christianity itself cannot measure up to coherentism’s demand for internal coherence. Any way you slice it, Christianity comes up contradictions.

Stefan wrote:
Good slam by the way on the whole Stefan trying to declare as true something after undermining deduction by undermining induction. You nailed that one. In perfect form I said, “there are no absolutes”. What a jackass.
If Stefan is willing to learn from his mistakes, he should not be so hard on himself. It is very common to hear detractors of induction making use of assumptions that could only be acquired by means of induction to undermine induction. This is a classic example of the fallacy of the stolen concept, and Stefan is right to recognize this error and grow from his mistake.

Stefan wrote:
Of course, I do not believe that there are no absolutes. and I like what you bring to the table from objectivism as a means for explaining what we are doing when we use language. I was more interested in how you would save the inductive/ deductive process.
Objectivism has much to offer. I would also encourage Stefan to recognize the stolen concepts inherent in any view premised in the primacy of consciousness. But this will be difficult for Stefan to do if he is as confessionally invested in Christianity as I suspect he is. It will require brutal honesty on his part, and it is up to him whether he chooses to be honest or to evade.

Stefan wrote:
The notion of God assumes the primacy of God’s consciousness, not man’s.
It is a good start when a Christian confirms that his worldview assumes the primacy of consciousness. The primacy of consciousness is self-contradictory. And affirming that the primacy of consciousness is true is also self-contradictory, for it performatively makes use of the primacy of existence – it is essentially saying “reality is this way independent of any conscious activity.” while saying that reality is whatever some form of conscious activity makes it to be.

But the primacy of consciousness is undoubtedly involved on the part of the believer as well. We saw this above. Indeed, the believer has no alternative but to imagine the god he claims to worship, and yet he insists that this god that he imagines is real. Any “epistemology” that begins by looking inward to the contents of one’s own consciousness as opposed to looking outward at the facts of reality, is an expression of the primacy of consciousness in the realm of thought. And this is evident throughout Christianity. Consider the doctrines of revelation, salvation and prayer for starters.

Stefan wrote:
Your statement: "To be sound, a logical proof must rest entirely on the primacy of existence" is a presupposition, not proven truth.
I do not accept the dichotomy assumed in this statement. Specifically, I do not hold the view that a proven truth cannot also be a presupposition. A conclusion of a proof can used as a premise supporting a subsequent truth, which would mean that the conclusion of the proof is “presupposed” by the subsequent truth. Thus it is possible for a proven conclusion to serve as a presupposition of a subsequent truth.

Stefan, however, is using the term ‘presupposition’ to mean something closer to an unproven axiom – some statement or affirmation taken for granted or assumed to be true without proof. But it is not the case that what I stated above is a presupposition in this sense.

The very concept of truth presupposes and rests on the primacy of existence. This is because a truth is an identification of facts formulated by means of an objective method – i.e., reason. Facts are what they are independent of consciousness, and as such they instantiate the primacy of existence. Without facts informing our identifications, we cannot claim that our identifications are true. Thus, since truth rests on facts which are what they are independent of consciousness, identifications which are true must be wholly consistent with the primacy of existence. Subsequently, to be sound, a logical proof must be formally valid and have true premises - which means: its premises must rest entirely on the primacy of existence.

Consider the alternative – i.e., the supposition that the concept of truth is compatible with the primacy of consciousness. So we have two individuals – both conscious agents – making statements about the capital of the state of New York. Person A recognizes that true statements need to be informed by facts which obtain independent of anyone’s beliefs, wishing, feelings, imagination, etc., and affirms that Albany is the capital of the state of New York. On the other hand, Person B rejects the view that truth must rest on facts that obtain independent of conscious activity and declares “Schenectady is the capital of the state of New York because I want it to be the capital of New York!” Unfortunately for Person B, truth does not conform to conscious intentions any more than facts do, and that is because to be true, statements identifying facts must conform to the facts they identify, not to conscious activity.

Notice how Person B would still be wrong if he stated that Albany is the capital of New York because he wants it to be the capital of New York. Truth is contextual because identification is contextual. If the context of the identification includes the assumption of the primacy of consciousness at any point, it must be rejected. Truth is only possible on the basis of objective identification, and identification can only be objective if its entire context is wholly consistent with the primacy of existence.

So I stand by my statement above that “To be sound, a logical proof must rest entirely on the primacy of existence,” and since I can prove it by citing the facts which validate it, it is not an unproven presupposition that one must accept without rational justification.

Stefan wrote:
There are other presuppositions that disagree with yours.
Indeed, there definitely are. Here in Thailand (where I currently reside), the “presuppositions” of the Buddhist religion (which is the predominating worldview here) include the notion that “desire” leads to “suffering,” Thus the culture of the people teaches people not to desire things. Consequently the vast majority of people do not desire to learn, to grow, to mature, to grow up, to accomplish things, to increase their skill sets, to improve their lives, to maximize their potential, to be productive, to achieve personal fulfillment, etc. It is a culture of the deep sleep, a culture of stagnation, a culture of self-inflicted intellectual retardation.

And back in the United States where I lived before this, I was surrounded by people who routinely confuse reality with their imagination, presupposing that what they imagine is real because of the impact it has on their emotions, and using their emotions to justify their confusion of the imaginary with the real. They are called Christians. And they go door-to-door sometimes, interrupting my privacy to “share the gospel,” a fantasy which they call “historical” and interpret as having the power to put all these obligations on people, principally an obligation to sacrifice one’s own self-interests on behalf of a deity that one can only imagine.

So yes, I realize that many people – indeed, the vast majority of human beings – have “presuppositions” which differ from mine. But the very fact that there are such differences confirms that human beings need an objective method by which the facts of reality can be discovered and properly identified such that we can confidently know what the truth is. Notice that both the Buddhist and the Christian worldviews both share the same fundamentals: mystical reality beyond the reach of the senses, the primacy of looking inward over looking outward as the means of “knowing,” the repudiation of selfishness, collectivistic politics, etc. They’re essentially the same, only the packaging is different.

Stefan asked:
By what right other than the supremacy of your mind over mine do you dogmatically assert that you are right and that I am wrong.
For one, since I am explicitly applying reason to these matters, it is not a “dogma” that I am asserting. Also, I carefully step through the process – beginning with perception, which anyone reading my words is clearly capable of doing – to the verdicts that I have drawn. Moreover, what I am doing here on my blog in no way infringes on anyone else’s rights: Stefan has every right to reject what I affirm and suppose that I am a complete bonehead if he so judges.

What I hope Stefan would take away from this is an enlightened understanding about the fundamentals underlying the notions of true and untrue, right and wrong, accurate and mistaken, and recognize their nature with respect to the issue of metaphysical primacy – i.e., the proper orientation between the subject of consciousness and the objects of consciousness. See for example my discussion above about the concept ‘truth’ necessarily presupposing the primacy of existence. Stefan will not learn about these things by reading the bible.

Stefan wrote:
I am on an equal footing with you as far as being authoritative goes, which is shifting sand for both of us.
I cannot speak for Stefan. But I am certainly not expecting anyone to take what I say as truth merely on my own say so. Reason is my only authority. It is the only objective authority. An objective authority could not be a consciousness to whose dictates reality allegedly conforms. If such a consciousness existed, there could be no reliable standard to anything we identify. We could identify something as a rock one minute, and the next the ruling consciousness could decide to turn it into a steamship. I certainly do not style myself as such a consciousness. I am only interested in going by the facts, and that is why I recognize my need for reason.

Stefan wrote:
You appear to be suffering from the irrational/ rational tension.
Stefan does not identify what he takes as an indication of this tension in anything that I have affirmed. So it is unclear why he thinks I “appear to be suffering from” it.

Stefan wrote:
Assuming something to be true so completely that you don’t even realize that you are assuming it.
If this is what Stefan thinks I’m doing, he is mistaken. I am extremely careful not to take unwarranted assumptions for granted. That is why I think it is so important to begin with a starting point that is conceptually irreducible - a starting point which does not rest on more fundamental identifications, notions, assumptions, beliefs, etc. This is accomplished in the Objectivist axiom of existence: it does not rest on more fundamental knowledge or assumptions.

Stefan wrote:
I own my presuppositions as just that. Apparently you do not.
What exactly this means, depends in large part in the meaning that Stefan packs into the notion “presuppositions.” To parse his statement and determine whether or not his suspicions about me with respect to what he says here are true, he would need to make the elements of meaning involved in the notion “presuppositions” as he uses it here explicit.

Stefan wrote:
I will keep reading.
That is the least that any online blogger could hope for!
Stefan wrote:
Thanks for the response in book form.
Stefan is most welcome. I enjoyed writing another blog entry on induction.

Stefan wrote:
I do think is some ways you have misread Bahnsen, but I am not interested in defending him. Given a different set of circumstances, he would have been a mass murderer, by his own admission. That Theonomy is scary shit.
I’m reminded of a brief passage that Rand included in “Galt’s Speech” in her novel Atlas Shrugged:
Every dictator is a mystic, and every mystic is a potential dictator. A mystic craves obedience from men, not their agreement. He wants them to surrender their consciousness to his assertions, his edicts, his wishes, his whims—as his consciousness is surrendered to theirs. He wants to deal with men by means of faith and force—he finds no satisfaction in their consent if he must earn it by means of facts and reason. Reason is the enemy he dreads and, simultaneously, considers precarious; reason, to him, is a means of deception; he feels that men possess some power more potent than reason—and only their causeless belief or their forced obedience can give him a sense of security, a proof that he has gained control of the mystic endowment he lacked. His lust is to command, not to convince: conviction requires an act of independence and rests on the absolute of an objective reality. What he seeks is power over reality and over men’s means of perceiving it, their mind, the power to interpose his will between existence and consciousness, as if, by agreeing to fake the reality he orders them to fake, men would, in fact, create it.
At no point in the bible do we find a prohibition of the use of force against individuals. There is no doctrine of individual rights laid out in the bible. The concept of individual rights is completely alien to a worldview which holds that the fundamental purpose of our lives is to serve a “king” – even if that king is nothing more than a figment of men’s imaginations. The very notion of “the Holy Spirit” coming into a man’s mind and “regenerating” him such that he “sees” the “Truth” and “knows” his god’s wishes for his life, is an example of the initiation of the use of force against man. Presuppositionalists themselves tell us that their arguments cannot convince us; indeed, they cannot convince me, but not for the reasons that they offer. They cannot convince me because I know they are fundamentally erroneous through and through. But presuppositionalists insist that their arguments are sound, even if they do not formulate them correctly (Van Til affirmed this). Rather, they say that it is “up to God” whether or not a person “sees the light” – meaning, we are not to be persuaded to accept the truth by means of reason, but that we need to be forced by some irresistible phenomenon that we cannot see, touch, or even reason with. Reason is out. Force is in. Faith and force are corollaries.

Stefan wrote:
Last note: I do not see any reason to refute the tree top observations of objectivism. It is not the details but the presuppositions I am interested in. Sorry I did not go in to your list of presuppositions for objectivist thought.
There is much in my two blog posts responding to Stefan already. But even more going back nearly nine years on my blog. I invite Stefan to continue reading at his leisure and to inquire with any questions he may have.

by Dawson Bethrick

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77 Comments:

Blogger NAL said...

Stefan's Matrix comments remind me of the "brain in a vat" (BIV) conundrum. Theists have argued that there worldview answers the BIV problem.

Hilary Putnam deals with BIV in her book: Reason, Truth and History (pdf). "They cannot think or say that they are brains in a vat (even by thinking 'we are brains in a vat')."

Peter Schombert (UC-Irvine) writes about her argument:

The crucial premise in this argument is that to be able to refer meaningfully to something we must have had some perception of the thing we are referring to.
...
Thus the only meaningful claim we can make along these lines is something to the effect that “there may be more to reality than what we have observed so far, although I can say not what”, and this claim is so empty that we might as well simply not make it at all.


Which is exactly what Hodge claims: that there is more to reality than what we perceive. An empty claim.

November 18, 2013 3:53 PM  
Blogger NAL said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 18, 2013 3:53 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

Dawson,

Very very long, and just as informative.

November 18, 2013 4:20 PM  
Blogger NAL said...

Oops! Hilary Putnam is a "he." My bad.

I also like Dawson's argument of an infinite regress of BIVs. Once you imagine one BIV, there's no stopping.

November 18, 2013 5:22 PM  
Blogger StefanMach said...



Well you have done it. I hoped you would, and you did. You stated the heart of the matter, and in doing so, even helped me to see it more clearly than I had before, so thanks for that. I am not saying that I didn't know it before, for I did, and would have stated it as "the mind/no mind behind reality option", but I can do better now. I know you asked some questions, and not answering someones questions can be perceived as rude, I know. However, they were not really "heart of the matter" questions, but more climbing around in the trees, so I think I will dedicate this post to laying out the heart of the matter as I, and I believe you, see it, ( I know you do not accept that you have what are known as ultimate presuppositions, but you do. Nevertheless, I do think you accept that we have a fundamental difference of what we take to be axiomatic). I will then take a short time to review it, and make it clear. Next, I will show how you ultimately support my presupposition, not yours. I will go in to why this is deadly to your cause, and then I will look at the failure of full blown presuppositionalism and Objectivism.

Your last post was long, but essentially filled with one central idea. Stefan has come as close as he can to exalting consciousness above objects, whereas objects have primacy over consciousness, as is proven by being obvious. Your most basic presupposition is this:

"God does not exist and objects have primacy over consciousness." I realize that you have stated it differently by saying "objects have primacy over consciousness, but the non-existence of God is silently explicit (a creative use of the word I know but something can be said to be explicit without being voiced when it is a necessary part of the whole), Therefore, I have voiced what was silent in both your ultimate presupposition and mine to follow.

This is a presupposition. Not in the sense that it is serving as a previously established fact having served as a conclusion in a previously inducted argument, for then it would not be an axiom in the truest sense. Everyone must admit to having a starting point. A starting point is just that. We call them axioms or ultimate presuppositions. These reveal your ultimate faith commitment.

I say faith commitment, because there is an alternative starting point, one which you wont allow, which you have shown to be the case by your repetition of the above "axiom" as its own defense, which I do not agree is axiomatic, and so still up for debate.

You see, when someone says either directly or by form through time, that "a" is true because "a" ( direct) or "a" is true because "duh, i mean come on!" (form), they are "presuming" "a", not proving it. This should be obvious to the one who is doing it, the proof of which is that an alternative position has been placed upon the table for consideration, and pressed the opponent to provide better reasons for accepting the one above the other, and yet no more than a chain of induction/ deduction has been brought forth, a chain not accepted by both parties, a chain that begins and ends with the said axiom. Now before you think, "I got ya", let me say that though I do not believe that all reasoning falls prey to an inherent weakness in induction, as stated before, it is not for your reason ( that certain inductions can be viewed as certain based upon the way their conclusions are come to), but rather for my own reason, which will be stated as my half of the essential battle, my presupposition, from which I work.

November 19, 2013 3:00 PM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

My ultimate presupposition, one which cannot be proven by normal means, because it is a presupposition, the first premise in a long chain of reasoning to follow, just like yours above is:

God exists and so God's consciousness has primacy over objects (which are Gods deductive conclusions stemming from God as original premise), one of which is me, who as part of the world has been given a mind form fitted to deal with the objects of sense, so that what I am doing when I think is "thinking God's thoughts after Him", when I think correctly.

I will not argue for it as you have, by quoting your mental masters, saying "blank out" over and over again, maligning the alternative as obviously wrong, etc.

What I will do, is viewing both my original commitment and yours as presuppositions, ask the pertinent question. What would have to be true for either myself or yourself to "know with certainty" our chosen starting point. In other words, what tool in your toolbox can you use to prove me wrong (the contrary view to objectivism as just one form of mysticism), and with what tool will I prove you wrong (the contrary view to analogical thinking as just one form of univocalism)?

You see, basic or ultimate presuppositions can not be analyzed in the same way that other ideas can, simply because they serve as a presupposition to all other ideas, and that because there are alternative views on the subject, can not be said to be proven with certainty except by a different form of argument fit for the task. Induction and deduction are not the only form of arguments. Consider earlier where we discussed the foolishness of saying, "there are no absolute truths" and by extension, any statement that at base says essentially the same. The fact that there are absolute truths is proven by the "impossibility of the contradictory", simply because the contradictory contains within it the attribute of an absolute assertion. Without this form of argument all axioms with alternatives can only be said to be faith commitments which make the most sense to the believer. To say that you have proven your ultimate presupposition by a chain of reasoning is to make a grave error in reasoning. To fail to recognize an ultimate presupposition as a faith commitment when as yet there is still an alternative contradicting "axiom" on the table is also an error in reasoning. So assuming also that you have not done this intentionally but as a slip in your reasoning, let's proceed to ask the question, "what would have to be true for my ultimate presupposition to hold?" If the answer is that a more primary idea can stand as a previous premise, well then that becomes the new ultimate presupposition, and we have not yet worked our way back far enough. If we end up on a long chain of reasoning so as to then come back full circle, well you know, we will have to determine if it is a vicious circle.

November 19, 2013 3:01 PM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

A vicious circle is here defined as " a circular line of reasoning that rests upon an axiom proven to be self contradictory by its impossibility as stated".

So if the formula lays out as follows:

Objectivist:

God does not exist and objects have primacy over consciousness ( here designated "a")

"a" because "a" (potential vicious circle). Note that just because someone inserts a long line of inductive/deductive arguments between "a" because "a" does not mean that they haven't reasoned thusly, and it reveals that their "a" is a presupposition ( a belief maintained as a takeoff point for understanding). Also note that all axioms when challenged end up in circular reasoning because they serve as both the original premise and final conclusion for their own defense. All people reason in a circle, but not necessarily a vicious circle.

and

Presuppositionalist:

God exists and God's consciousness has primacy over objects (which are Gods deductive conclusions stemming from God as original premise), one of which is me, who as part of the world has been given a mind form fitted to deal with the objects of sense, so that what I am doing when I think is "thinking God's thoughts after Him", when I think correctly.

"b" because "b" ( potential vicious circle). Note that just because someone inserts a long line of inductive/deductive arguments between "a" because "a" does not mean that they haven't reasoned thusly, and their "b" is a presupposition ( a belief maintained as a takeoff point for understanding)

then

we must use a different form of argument to deal with the two choices in question, one fitted to the task of determining which if either are able to show "proof" as "true", which is the same thing as to say which one can be "known". You cannot know a falsehood, you can only believe it.

November 19, 2013 3:02 PM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

The only way this can be settled is by the argument known as "the impossibility of the contradiction with respects God in general and the impossibility of the contrary with respects God in particular". To establish the contrary as impossible, it must be shown that two views can be said to be all inclusive by virtue of the one view being unique and all other views being forms of the same view. That our two views both claim this is the case against one another has been shown above. So for example, to prove "c" is false ( I don't yet want to designate you as wrong) you must show that "c" is shown false by both affirming "d" and affirming "c". Thus "c" as the contrary of "d" is proven false and "d" is proven true by the impossibility of "c" so "d" can properly be said to be "known" or certain. It is right to say that any thing come to be "known" in this way is more sure than any other fact of experience shown via induction or deduction resting upon induction as it does. The only thing you or I have agreed on so far makes this point. There are absolute truths as proven by the impossiblity of the contradictory.

As you have stated, you see my view as one form of the mystical worldview in contrast to objectivism, and I see your view as just one form of the univocal worldview in contrast to analogism. In other words, we have all kids on the bus, and to show the one as affirming the other is a death blow.

OK. Are you ready? Here it is, again, but I hope with the above it is clear what I am doing. It is the great error of debaters to assume the other party understands them correctly. I have really tried not to do that.

November 19, 2013 3:03 PM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

To know that " God exists and that therefore God's consciousness has primacy over objects as they are His deductive conclusions stemming from Himself as original premise", what would have to be true. It should be clear. The answer is "b" because "b". God would have to tell me this through general revelation available to all by reasoning if they are willing to do the hard work of loving wisdom, whatever the outcome. Human beings can not be said to have the tools to know ultimate truth or what lies outside of the bounds of human experience unless God exists outside of those bounds, and even God's existence does not guarantee that we are accurate about anything else. As it turns out, the existence of God as conscious over objects including my mind is unique because of its necessity as the precondition for statements pro and con concerning God's existence and any things non-existence in general. By way of example, if someone says 9/64 inch wrenches exist, we might assume they have seen one. If we choose to say "9/64 inch wrenches do not exist" we run into the problem of a universal negative. For a universal negative to be known, God would have to exist to tell you. This is because inherent in the statement of a universal negative is universal knowledge as an attribute of the speaker or mental connection to someone with universal knowledge. Only one source of universal knowledge has ever been put forth, God. Thus, only those with universal knowledge or access to someone with universal knowledge can predicate non-existence of anything.

To know that God does not exist and objects have primacy over consciousness, what would have to be true? The answer is "a" because "b". God would have to tell me this through general revelation available to all if they are willing to do the hard work of loving wisdom, whatever the outcome.

In other words "a" is true if it is false. "b" is true if it is true. "a" could only be true if "b" was first true, but since "b" is the universal contrary to "a", "a" is false. There is no getting out of the impossibility of predicating dogmatically non-existence of anything whatsoever without presupposing an omniscient mind that is communicative.

Your toolbox has been inspected, and found to be wanting. By your own admission, your tools are your senses and the laws of logic, which include as the second of the three classic laws of thought the law of non contradiction. You choose where and when not to apply this law which reveals that it is you who has borrowed capital, and it is you who from the outset use your imagination as opposed to what you know. You imagine that you “know” God does not exist which is impossible. I don't see the floorboards under the floor, but I know they are there or the floor would cave in. If I believe in the floorboards without reference to past experience, I do not get accused of "imagining". If I discount the floor boards, I get accused of viewing the floor as a magic carpet hovering on its own. You discount that God is a necessary being even though your very axiom asserts that God exists because it contains as a necessary attribute within existence an omniscient being. Said like Van Til, you slap your fathers face which is only capable because he holds you in his lap.

November 19, 2013 3:03 PM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Objectivism you should note as the general way in which we acquire knowledge of the bulk of our information is true in the context of my view. My view includes your view as the tools are essentially the same. It is actually truer in my view than in your view, for you start with induction by your own admission whereas I see objects of sense as God's deductions. In fact, what I am really arguing for is primacy of both God's consciousness and the objects of sense over man's consciousness, not just objects. Thus your view, "objects have primacy over consciousness" is contained in my view, with the slight alteration “objects have primacy over man’s consciousness”. I did not induct God’s existence (tentative) nor did I deduct God’s existence ( still tentative though possibly valid given its relationship as a conclusion to a set of premises). Rather the notion is forced upon me as axiomatic by its inescapability. It would appear that you chose your axiom, and mine chose me.

Below I want to give short descriptions on what I see as:

The failure of presuppositionalists as Christians misusing presuppositionalism: something which will surely surprise you, and

The failure of objectivism as objectivists over reach their own prescribed bounds to kick God out of the universe.

November 19, 2013 3:04 PM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

The failure of presuppositionalists as Christians misusing presuppositionalism:

Christian presuppositionalists go too far when they claim "self attestation" for the Bible because:

a. It is true that God must exist as the precondition for arguments pro or con concerning God's existence and the non-existence of anything in general, thus God must exist, but
b. It is not true that God must supply man with a self attesting book to get on in the world, for
c. God's existence as the glue creating the coherency of our starting axiom and also the correspondence between our objects of sense and our description of them plus his giving us use of the laws of reason make
d. the general use of the objectivist axiom right and proper for day to day affairs, hence
e. all matters of belief that fall under what is typically known as "special revelation" remain matters of faith, not proven facts, which should result in
f. humility of spirit when discussing matters of "faith as belief" due to one's own understanding of how God and God's creation relate in particulars, so
g. Christians who are dogmatic about at best inducted beliefs show the foolishness of their attitude by what I just said. I hope this clears up why I am a presuppositionalist who does not support the likes of Bahnsen in full. Plus I am against mass murder. Just sayin.


The failure of objectivism as objectivists over reach their own prescribed bounds to kick God out of the universe.

a. Most people who consider themselves clear and cogent thinkers have ceased to predicate universal negatives. Saying that something exists requires one to have been some form of witness to its existence. Saying something does not exist requires one to have a certain attribute or access to the one who has that attribute. Saying "God does not exist" is the most ridiculous of the universal negatives for the attribute required is strictly applied to God, namely universal knowledge. thus
b. Objectivists due their position a great disservice when stating the non-existence of God as fact because
c. this requires them to be in some sense deity which
d. is again ridiculous because they end up saying, "I do not exist". The whole position reveals an ulterior motive to dispensing with God, Therefore
e. objectivists should rather say something along the lines of "I do not understand how God would figure in to my reasoning process so I do not include God as part of my reasoning process". For why this is still a statement of philosophical failure, see above.
In Summary, it is a self contradiction to say the tools have not the power to prove God's existence and then turn around and say they can prove God's non-existence. No one but God can predicate as certain the non-existence of anything.

From this point forward, if you respond, I would like to address your text as you have addressed mine. However, when I copied part of what you said out of the blog, it inverted the text and the background, which ruined the appearance. Why I do not know. Is there a way other than retyping that you pull the text from the blog without this happening. Might be my machine. I am on a Mac.

Thanks,

Stefan

November 19, 2013 3:05 PM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

NAL wrote:
Peter Schombert (UC-Irvine) writes about her argument:

The crucial premise in this argument is that to be able to refer meaningfully to something we must have had some perception of the thing we are referring to.
...
Thus the only meaningful claim we can make along these lines is something to the effect that “there may be more to reality than what we have observed so far, although I can say not what”, and this claim is so empty that we might as well simply not make it at all.


My response in short to that is that I make the claim to have had perception of God even if you have not, and I dare say claiming the non-existence of something is emptiest by default :), and I will stop debating atheists when they stop talking about the non-existent God.

November 19, 2013 3:09 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

Stephan,

You wrote a very long answer that only comes to show that you did not pay a lot of attention. First problem is your claim that Objectivism's "axiom" is that "God does not exist and objects have primacy over consciousness." Read again, nowhere will you find such a thing. That "God" does not exist is something that can be derived from the primacy of existence, but it's not a "starting point." Axioms in Objectivism are identified, not pulled out of somebody's ass like yours. I insist: read again. You missed the whole thing.

November 19, 2013 8:03 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

Stefan,

Macs have no problems with blogger. Concentrate on the text alone. Don't worry about backgrounds.

November 19, 2013 8:05 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

Stefan,

a. Most people who consider themselves clear and cogent thinkers have ceased to predicate universal negatives.

Then their thinking is not that clear.

Saying something does not exist requires one to have a certain attribute or access to the one who has that attribute. Saying "God does not exist" is the most ridiculous of the universal negatives for the attribute required is strictly applied to God, namely universal knowledge. thus

False. Incoherent, nonsensical objects cannot exist by definition. No universal knowledge necessary. For example, a square-circle cannot exist. This is philosophy 101.

b. Objectivists due their position a great disservice when stating the non-existence of God as fact because
c. this requires them to be in some sense deity


As I said, it doesn't. If the concept of some god is incoherent, nonsensical, like a square-circle, then such god does not exist. Simple.

which
d. is again ridiculous because they end up saying, "I do not exist".


This is an clear and nice example of a non-sequitur.

The whole position reveals an ulterior motive to dispensing with God,

This only comes to prove that you can't pay attention to what people explain to you at length, because, had you read Dawson's opening post, you would know how Objectivists figure out the "square-circleness" of "God."

Therefore
e. objectivists should rather say something along the lines of "I do not understand how God would figure in to my reasoning process so I do not include God as part of my reasoning process". For why this is still a statement of philosophical failure, see above.


This was pure and unadulterated gibberish.

In Summary, it is a self contradiction to say the tools have not the power to prove God's existence and then turn around and say they can prove God's non-existence. No one but God can predicate as certain the non-existence of anything.

Again, false. A failure of the most basic reasoning skills. See square-circles above, and search for such thing in this blog. Then read carefully.

It seems though, that you lack reading skills. Unless you were just lazy to read carefully Dawson's opening post. But, does it pay to be lazy when you come to the defence of your faith Stefan? Shouldn't you make sure that you actually understand what Dawson wrote before putting together your defence? If so, then I suggest you really put your mind to it, instead of posting these lengthly comments showing time and again, word by word, that you paid no attention. If it's problems with reading comprehension, then go remedy your problems. Maybe after that you could come back and have a meaningful exchange.

November 19, 2013 8:29 PM  
Blogger NAL said...

I use a Mac and have no problem copying and pasting Dawson's text into the comment window. For example:

StefanMach (to whom I shall again refer as Stefan going forward) has left a series of comments responding to my blog A Reply to Stefan on Induction and Deduction. Stefan is clearly sympathetic to presuppositionalism, though he seems to be wary of Greg Bahnsen, which is curious in itself.

Concerning the rest of Stefan's comments, what a mess. Revelation through reasoning? What? I'll let Dawson try and figure out Stefan's comments. I'm glad it's not my problem.

November 19, 2013 9:18 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

photosynthesis,

You wrote: "This only comes to prove that you can't pay attention to what people explain to you at length, because, had you read Dawson's opening post, you would know how Objectivists figure out the 'square-circleness' of 'God.'"

Well said! And if Stefan is interested, here is Dawson's piece on exactly that: the "'square-circleness' of 'God.'"

Gods and Square Circles
http://katholon.com/squarecircles.htm

Ydemoc

November 19, 2013 10:09 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Stefan,

I see you wasted no time trying fully to digest what I wrote in reply to your remarks.

I have read through your latest volley of comments and, as others have already noted, there are a number of mistakes.

The only problem on my end is deciding where to begin in identifying and correcting the many problems in your comments. So I will touch on one that has been addressed by other commenters already.

Before digging into the major bullet points, I wanted to draw attention to something you stated. In your initial paragraph, you referred to something you called “the mind/no mind behind reality option.” If your god-belief entails what you refer here to as “the mind… behind reality option,” I can only rest in the confidence that your god-belief is completely arbitrary and self-negating. The notion of something “behind reality” can only mean that whatever is posited as being “behind reality” could not itself be real. If something exists, it is real. If it doesn’t exist, it is not real. But the notion of “behind reality” only implies that the one affirming such a notion is trying to have his cake while eating it, too. It also seems irresistibly to invite the infinite regress that the Matrix scenario entails: if there’s something “behind reality,” then why not posit something “behind” that, and so on?

Hopefully that’s clear enough, so I’ll move on.

[continued…]

November 20, 2013 4:04 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I notice that throughout your reaction, you nowhere interact with the fundamental epistemological issue which I emphasized throughout my blog entry, namely the antithesis between the looking outward model of Objectivism and the looking inward model of Christianity. For example, at no point in your reaction do you make any effort to show that this antithesis does not exist between Objectivism and Christianity, nor do you make any effort to show that Christianity involves or is compatible with the looking outward model affirmed by Objectivism.

So I must re-affirm my question #1:

<< 1. Do you acquire knowledge of the facts by looking inward or by looking outward? >>

It seems rather telling that you did not address this question.

You say that “[I] imagine that [I] ‘know’ God does not exist which is impossible,” and yet even here it is not entirely clear what ‘it’ is intended to refer to: are you saying that it is impossible for your god not to exist, that it is impossible for me to imagine that I know your god does not exist, or that it is impossible for me to *know* that your god does not exist?

In my blog entry above, I pointed out regarding your notion of “a primary mind” that “we have no alternative but to imagine such a thing.” And though you do not interact with this directly, you certainly have not identified any alternative to using the imagination as a means of “knowing” what you call “God.” Even if one attempts to assemble an argument concluding that “God exists,” we still have no alternative but to imagine the god it supposedly proves. Indeed, I pointed out the fact that “when I read the gospel narratives and imagine Jesus rising from the dead, I know that I am in fact imagining.” The same is the case when I imagine a god: I am already aware of the fact that what I am doing is imagining. I also already know that there’s a fundamental distinction between the real and the imaginary. When I imagine a 900-foot man attacking Tulsa, Oklahoma, there is in reality no actual 900-foot man attacking anything. And even though I draw your attention explicitly to this knowledge of mine, you make no indication of what I am supposed to do with this knowledge when you insist that your god is real. Am I supposed to simply *suppress* this knowledge? But Christians fault me for suppressing “knowledge” of their god – which actually turns out to be nothing more than indulgences of the imagination. So we have one of those “impossibility of the contradictory” scenarios right here.

[continued…]

November 20, 2013 4:04 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

In regard to the Objectivist axioms, you seem to have made an elementary mistake. You say that “Your most basic presupposition is this: ‘God does not exist and objects have primacy over consciousness’." You do not even quote me affirming this as an axiom or “most basic presupposition.” My axiom makes no statement about any gods, Christian or otherwise. My axiom is simply: ‘existence exists’ – i.e., the fundamental recognition that things exist, that there is a reality, expressed formally in a single-concept axiom. The recognition that there are things which exists in turn implies the recognition that the one recognizing this fact is conscious. Hence we have the axiom of consciousness. Consciousness is always consciousness of something, hence there is in every act of consciousness an object of consciousness as well as the relationship between consciousness and its objects. Thus we have the issue of metaphysical primacy: which holds metaphysical primacy in this relationship? Do the objects conform to the dictates of consciousness (the primacy of consciousness), or do they exist independent of conscious activity (the primacy of existence)?

In addition to confusing yourself as to what my axiom is, you also referred to a presupposition as a “faith commitment,” presumably insofar as an alternative to that presupposition is held by other thinkers. (This is how I have interpreted your comments on this point; if I’m mistaken, you will need to clarify.) And yet, I would contend that there really is no alternative to the axiom of existence. What could be an alternative to it? Perhaps one thinks that it is possible to deny it outright. But this would mean affirming that nothing at all exists. And yet, one would need to exist in order to affirm it, thus performatively contradicting himself. Or, perhaps one could argue that it is not in fact fundamental. But in fact, the axiom ‘existence exists’ formally asserts not only the validity of the axiomatic concept ‘existence’, but also its referents – i.e., anything and everything that exists. This concept is in fact conceptually irreducible; it does not assume any more fundamental concepts. To what would any allegedly more fundamental concept refer if not things which exist? If it referred to things which exist, it would be affirming the axiom of existence by implication. If it referred to things that do not exist, it would not be referring to anything, and thus an arbitrary construct, one that would not be possible to form unless one existed in the first place, thus standing as a unit of reference for the concept he is trying to deny. So here we have another of those “impossibility of the contradictory” moments you mentioned.

[continued…]

November 20, 2013 4:04 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Moreover, notice that the “alternative axiom” that you have affirmed – namely “God exists and so God's consciousness has primacy over objects” – necessarily assumes the truth of the Objectivist axiom of existence while at the same time lacking the axiomatic features that the axiom of existence satisfies, namely the fact that the axiom of existence identifies a perceptually self-evident fact, that it is objectively true, its truth is implicit in all knowledge (since knowledge is knowledge of things which exist), its truth is rationally undeniable, and it is conceptually irreducible (i.e., it does not rest on or assume any more fundamental premises or affirmations). The assertion “God exists” does not meet any of these requirements, and even worse, it is a notion which can only be informed by imagining.

You concede that Christianity affirms the primacy of consciousness – at least insofar as its god is concerned – but insist that Christianity affirms that “objects have primacy over man’s consciousness” – the inclusion of the modifier “man’s” here constitutes your “slight alteration.” Of course, I have never found this view affirmed anywhere in the pages of the bible, and I would contend that it does not comport with what we read in the bible (think of Peter walking on the water once he “believed”; also, in my blog I cited the examples of the doctrines of revelation, salvation and prayer as examples of Christian notions which imply metaphysical primacy to man’s consciousness.

[continued…]

November 20, 2013 4:05 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

In reaction to your “slight alteration” of the primacy of existence principle, I would point out two things:

1. It is hard to see how anyone could seriously restrict the primacy of consciousness orientation specifically to man’s consciousness. We find that it applies in the case of all animal consciousness. The things we find in reality neither originate in nor conform to the conscious activity of squirrels, dolphins, buffalos, salamanders, domesticated cats, parakeets, rattlesnakes, etc. The primacy of existence is the uniform and exceptionless testimony throughout nature. So in fact, when you affirm that your god’s consciousness holds metaphysical primacy, you are affirming an exception to something we consistently find to be the case throughout nature – i.e., in the case of all objectively verifiable specimens of consciousness that we find in the world (i.e., outside our imaginative musings). And yet, you offer no justification for positing such a radically disparate exception.

2. If you concede, as you apparently have, that the primacy of existence obtains in the case of man’s consciousness, then you must subsequently concede that man requires an epistemology that is wholly consistent with the primacy of existence. (I affectionately call this principle “Dawson’s razor” – you can learn more about it here.) Consequently, if one wants to claim that the god he imagines is real and insists that he *knows* this to be the case, he will need to show how he knows it to be the case in a manner that is entirely consistent with the primacy of existence principle. And yet, the primacy of existence principle allows for no exceptions (I already explained how truth necessarily presupposes the primacy of existence; you have not challenged that case), but in fact you have already conceded that your god-belief assumes the primacy of consciousness. So again, we have another of those “impossibility of the contradictory” moments here.

It’s not looking very good here, Stefan, but I’m afraid I’m not finished yet.

[continued…]

November 20, 2013 4:05 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

In reply to your statement that, “For a universal negative to be known, God would have to exist to tell you,” Photosynthesis has already pointed out the example of the notion of a square circle. You state that a god would need to tell us square circles do not exist “because inherent in the statement of a universal negative is universal knowledge as an attribute of the speaker or mental connection to someone with universal knowledge.” I admit that I’m a bit confused to see you reciting this kind of argument if you read my first blog entry responding to you (A Reply to Stefan on Induction and Deduction). In that blog I explained why it is the case that “through the process of abstraction, we have universal knowledge based on perception of just a few objects.” Because the conceptual level of knowledge expands our awareness well beyond the perceptual level in an objective manner, and because knowledge in the form of concepts is knowledge in terms of open-ended classes (and thus *universal* in nature – i.e., about an entire class of objects), omniscience is not necessary for recognizing the truth of certain universal negative statements.

I used the example of the concept ‘man’ explicitly to make my point that it gives us essential knowledge of all men who live now, who have ever lived, and who will ever live. I made this point in connection with my subsequent point that inductive generalizations which draw on this essential knowledge (e.g., “all men are mortal”) to formulate inductive generalizations which can be reliably accepted as true (as opposed to merely “strong”). And if I’m not mistaken, you yourself have conceded that your earlier claim to the effect that all inductive generalizations must be at best “strong” and never regarded as true offers itself as an exception to its own rule, thus defeating itself. Universal knowledge, in the sense we require to draw inductive generalizations as well as confidently affirm universal negatives, is an inherent aspect of conceptual awareness. To argue against this, one would essentially need to defend the view that we do not have concepts, and yet he would need to use concepts to do this, which would be yet another example of the “impossibility of the contradictory” you have yourself cited.

[continued…]

November 20, 2013 4:06 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Meanwhile, there is no justification for positing a supernatural mind which we allegedly need to access in order to have such knowledge or make such affirmations. As I’ve shown, the human mind is perfectly capable of doing this on its own; the notion that there must be an omniscient mind whose knowledge man must somehow tap into seems to stem directly from ignorance of the conceptual nature of man’s knowledge. Also, it only opens the door to the imaginary, and therefore the arbitrary, as a substitute for actual facts relevant to the matter. Hence the huge diversity within Christianity alone. Thus it constitutes yet another example of the looking inward epistemological model which can only guarantee subjective results and sever any connection between our mental content and reality.

Indeed, it seems that one could come up with all kinds of universal negatives that are undeniably true all day long. For example:

- there are no 900-storey buildings anywhere on earth;
- there are no 10-legged human beings;
- there are no water-breathing men;
- there are no human beings which can eat 400,000 potatoes in 10 minutes;
- there is no place on earth where it is snowing while the temperature is 112F;
- there is no state in the USA that is larger in area than Alaska;
- there are no countries on earth that are more populous than China;
Etc.

Indeed, if I believed in an omnipotent deity to whose dictates reality automatically conformed, how could I confidently affirm any of these? Such a being could make me a liar in a snap. I could only affirm these statements along with the disclaimer “if God is willing” to account for the lack of certainty that would necessarily result from such a belief.

[continued…]

November 20, 2013 4:06 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Now, as you acknowledged, I did ask some questions, and even though you stated that you do not consider them to be “heart of the matter” questions, I do in fact disagree with this assessment, and while you are still free to think that they are not directly relevant, I would still be interested in your answers. So here they are again:

<<1. Do you acquire knowledge of the facts by looking inward or by looking outward?

2. Does wishing make it so? Yes (the primacy of consciousness) or No (the primacy of existence)? Why?

3. Does saying that something is the case make it the case? Yes (the primacy of consciousness) or No (the primacy of existence)? Why?

4. Is there a fundamental distinction between reality and imagination? Or, do you think they are one and the same? Or, do you think they overlap at some point?

5. Can you explain to me in a clear, logical manner how I can reliably distinguish between what you call “God” and what you may merely be imagining?
>>

That’s all I had time to address tonight. If there was something pressing that I did not interact with, please underscore it and I will take a look when I have some time.

Regards,
Dawson

November 20, 2013 4:07 AM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Bahnsen Burner said:

The notion of something “behind reality” can only mean that whatever is posited as being “behind reality” could not itself be real. If something exists, it is real. If it doesn’t exist, it is not real. But the notion of “behind reality” only implies that the one affirming such a notion is trying to have his cake while eating it, too. It also seems irresistibly to invite the infinite regress that the Matrix scenario entails: if there’s something “behind reality,” then why not posit something “behind” that, and so on?

You are misusing words. You should first understand what the writer means by a given term, and then refute the argument being put forth. Whereas you are correct to say what you did defining reality as all there is, the term was being used to denote the source of all save the source. Thus no slip.

You sway I suffer an infinite regress reasoning as I have. No one knows all there is to know about any object of existence, more can always be said. Does this incomplete knowledge base force an infinite regression before one can know anything at all? Of course not.

Science falsely so called cannot come up with any explanation for reality as we know it that does not include an eternal quality of some sort, which would seem to force an infinite regression at least of time if nothing else which is absurd.

I did not say I believed in the Mind over no mind option because I do not like the no mind choice. Your primacy of objects over consciousness, which is by the way something you said was axiomatic, which by definition is a starting point, is inherently problematic. I have to go to work.

Your hostile blogger should calm down. bad form of reasoning to be nasty. Just state the facts as you see them. That will be enough. I will read your article concerning square circles.

Thanks,

Stefan

November 20, 2013 4:39 AM  
Blogger Dan, the Roofin' Raven Fan said...

Dawson,
One thought. You continually refer to god making man a "liar" if god was to change a truth that man was attesting.

Say I said "There are no pink giraffes."

I would have been accurate right up until god made a pink giraffe. I would have been mistaken if I had made the claim after God had made a pink giraffe, but I was unaware. I would have been a liar if I knew reality was different, and made the assertion to the contrary.

A minor point, for sure.

I grew up being taught that god's nature restrained and controlled his conscious decisions. god can not lie. He must act certain ways because his nature dictates it. Is this a more accurate understanding of the Christian Theists primacy order? God's Nature (Object)---> God's Consciousness---> Objects ---> Man's Consciousness?

This conversation is way out of my league... Thanks,

November 20, 2013 4:50 AM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Bahnsen Burner said:

1. Do you acquire knowledge of the facts by looking inward or by looking outward?

The way facts are acquired is by looking outward and analyzing what I am presented with with the tools I have for their analysis. Induction, deduction, laws of thought. The reason I believe deductive conclusion is because I have previously accepted their premises as true. The reason I believe inductions is for the same reason. I accept the weaknesses inherent in both forms of reasoning. The reason I do not believe in the absence of absolute truth is because a law of thought forces me to by the impossibility of the contradictory. All statements that have inherent in them as an attribute belief in that which makes the statement false I refuse to believe. I do not believe in square circles because the idea of "squareness" contains within it "non-circularity" and so a square circle is a self contradiction. The reason I do not accept active belief in the non-existence of anything that does not offend Its own definition like a square circle is because I do not have omniscience nor do I have God's mind on the issue. That I do not lose sleep at night on whether the sun will come up tomorrow is different from a belief that it must, but is so strong inductively as to be not worth my wasting my time. The reason I do not accept active belief in the non-existence of God is because it makes the same mistake as believing in a square circle. Inherent in the statement "there is no God" is belief in personal omniscience or having God's mind on the subject. It is not worth my time to believe such self refuting notions.

November 20, 2013 6:58 AM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Bahnsen Burner said:

You say that “[I] imagine that [I] ‘know’ God does not exist which is impossible,” and yet even here it is not entirely clear what ‘it’ is intended to refer to: are you saying that it is impossible for your god not to exist, that it is impossible for me to imagine that I know your god does not exist, or that it is impossible for me to *know* that your god does not exist?

The last one. It is impossible for anyone to "know" that something does not exist. "knowing" is different from "I am so sure as to not worry about it". Specifically with regards "God as omniscient mind", it is impossible for you to know that this God does not exist because it is false as proven by the verbal assertion of it containing that God in the statement. We can believe what is false. We can not know it. Be very aware I am not arguing for anything more than "God as omniscient mind" and the statement concerning my ultimate presupposition which contains in it this notion. I am not arguing for Christianity nor will I, though I be a Christian. I have been consistent in this.

November 20, 2013 7:07 AM  
Blogger blarkofan said...

Dan tRRF,

If god existed, his nature would not be an object, but the qualities that characterize him. Regarding god’s nature, we should note:
• Since he didn’t create himself and can’t change his nature, god’s nature is just whatever it happens to have always been. It’s random/arbitrary.
• All we know of god’s nature is what people wrote in an old storybook and what we imagine.
• You say god cannot lie, but if god had a deceitful nature, how would you know? He might say he never lies but be lying about it.
• To avoid being a liar, god could just alter history, rewrite the bible, or tweak everybody’s memories, as described in this quote from a Christian site:
“God does not lie, as He defines truth. I believe that. If the first statement to Isaiah was that Hezekiah would die, then that was his destiny, the reality, and the truth. When God changed his mind, he made a new reality and a new truth and a new destiny” (http://extraordinaryvisions.wordpress.com/2007/06/11/does-god-change-his-mind/)
• Most of the parts of god’s nature either have no meaningful content or conflict with each other. To say god is good or righteous has no content, because you also say god is the standard for goodness and righteousness.

November 20, 2013 7:14 AM  
Blogger blarkofan said...

Great post & replies. I know the Matrix discussion was yesterday’s news, but I wanted to add my two cents.
Stefan wrote:
Say Neo had been an objectivist. Say he was asked, “are physical objects as you perceive them real in a physical sense?” Surely he would have said, “Yes, that is air I am breathing”. But he would have been wrong, and this in every particular. As it turns out, his whole life is a dream, and he is basically a car battery for some robot.
Say Neo had been a presupper. Say he was asked, “Is the Bible the infallible word of God?” Surely he would have said, “Yes, that truth has been revealed to me in such a way that I can be certain of it.” But he would have been wrong. His belief, and his absolute confidence in its truth, would just be the product of manipulation of his mind by the Matrix. As it turns out, his whole life is a dream, and he is basically a car battery for some robot.
To the extent that Stefan is proposing the Matrix as being possibly true, he is admitting that his Christian beliefs may be nothing more than a Matrix-induced delusion. If we are actually (or possibly) caught in the Matrix, then he is too.

November 20, 2013 7:16 AM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Bahnsen Burner said:


In my blog entry above, I pointed out regarding your notion of “a primary mind” that “we have no alternative but to imagine such a thing.” And though you do not interact with this directly, you certainly have not identified any alternative to using the imagination as a means of “knowing” what you call “God.”

Stefan's Reply:

We know God as primary mind exists because we affirm him in denying him. I know this by the same means I know there are no square circles.

BB:

Even if one attempts to assemble an argument concluding that “God exists,” we still have no alternative but to imagine the god it supposedly proves.

Stefan:

My argument proves it by the impossibility of the contrary from the start. It is circular but not vicious.

BB:


Indeed, I pointed out the fact that “when I read the gospel narratives and imagine Jesus rising from the dead, I know that I am in fact imagining.” The same is the case when I imagine a god: I am already aware of the fact that what I am doing is imagining. I also already know that there’s a fundamental distinction between the real and the imaginary. When I imagine a 900-foot man attacking Tulsa, Oklahoma, there is in reality no actual 900-foot man attacking anything. And even though I draw your attention explicitly to this knowledge of mine, you make no indication of what I am supposed to do with this knowledge when you insist that your god is real.

Stefan:

I agree with all you have said above. I am not arguing as Bahnsen for the entire contents of the Bible, only for God as primary mind. That perhaps you find this of no value I find strange, so in this we differ.

Am I supposed to simply *suppress* this knowledge? But Christians fault me for suppressing “knowledge” of their god – which actually turns out to be nothing more than indulgences of the imagination.


Stefan:

Right on. Christians who do what you describe are a pariah to their own position of Christianity as faith. I am epistemologically self conscious enough to "know" that the Gospel contents are taken by faith and are not known to be true.This does not contradict what I have been saying.

BB:


So we have one of those “impossibility of the contradictory” scenarios right here.

Stefan:

Only with regards God as primary mind, not with the contents of Christianity as faith. You are not contradicting yourself to not believe Christianities contents. You are going to have to deal with me a little differently than with Bahnsen.

November 20, 2013 7:19 AM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Bahnsen Burner said:

In regard to the Objectivist axioms, you seem to have made an elementary mistake. You say that “Your most basic presupposition is this: ‘God does not exist and objects have primacy over consciousness’." You do not even quote me affirming this as an axiom or “most basic presupposition.”

Stefan said:


You did say it was axiomatic. Nevertheless, you now affirm that it is not but rather a conclusion based upon what now you declare to be your starting point, "existence exists" which is to define a word with itself. Don't you just love it when they do that in a dictionary. Trying to find out what something means, and they don't tell you. I will accept it anyway and say. What exists, and how do you know where to place the bounds of existence?

You then said:

My axiom makes no statement about any gods, Christian or otherwise. My axiom is simply: ‘existence exists’ – i.e., the fundamental recognition that things exist, that there is a reality, expressed formally in a single-concept axiom. The recognition that there are things which exists in turn implies the recognition that the one recognizing this fact is conscious. Hence we have the axiom of consciousness. Consciousness is always consciousness of something, hence there is in every act of consciousness an object of consciousness as well as the relationship between consciousness and its objects. Thus we have the issue of metaphysical primacy: which holds metaphysical primacy in this relationship? Do the objects conform to the dictates of consciousness (the primacy of consciousness), or do they exist independent of conscious activity (the primacy of existence)?

Stefan said:

the objects and the laws of thought (mental objects) have primacy over consciousness. Thus I would say that it is in some sense both, for laws of thought are strictly speaking acts of consciousness. Take someone who is conscious but severely retarded. They are conscious of objects, but the objects for them are unable to be organized, because their mind cannot work with them without a recognition of the laws of thought. Just take our argument for instance. to say that objects do not conform in any sense would remove the possibility of argument. Please don't say I am retarded. We all use the laws of thought better or worse. The laws of thought are themselves not to be thought of as conformable to consciousness but the action of consciousness. Laws of thought have primacy over consciousness too while simultaneously being a part of it. So primacy needs to be consistently understood as you have laid out, that which does not conform to the other.
Fact is, for a man, objects and thinking coexist. Conformity takes place in both directions. If we are talking about spoon bending, objects have primacy. If we are talking about laws of thought, primacy of said object and consciousness are the same.

November 20, 2013 10:06 AM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Bahnsen Burner said:

In addition to confusing yourself as to what my axiom is, you also referred to a presupposition as a “faith commitment,” presumably insofar as an alternative to that presupposition is held by other thinkers. (This is how I have interpreted your comments on this point; if I’m mistaken, you will need to clarify.)

Stefan said:

Yes. If it can be shown that there is legitimate contention over what is axiomatic or proven as true by substitution of a contradictory starting point, then until one or the other can be proven as true by the impossibility of the contradictory/ contrary, then both exist as faith commitments. If I say, your idea is stupid, I don't prove it as being so. If we are at the beginning and want to avoid vicious circularity, one of the said axioms is going to have to break by self contradiction or we will be left with subjectivism and skepticism.

Bahnsen Burner said:


And yet, I would contend that there really is no alternative to the axiom of existence. What could be an alternative to it?

Stefan said:

I will accept it! What exists will have to yet be determined.


Bahnsen Burner said:


Perhaps one thinks that it is possible to deny it outright. But this would mean affirming that nothing at all exists. And yet, one would need to exist in order to affirm it, thus performatively contradicting himself. Or, perhaps one could argue that it is not in fact fundamental. But in fact, the axiom ‘existence exists’ formally asserts not only the validity of the axiomatic concept ‘existence’, but also its referents – i.e., anything and everything that exists. This concept is in fact conceptually irreducible; it does not assume any more fundamental concepts. To what would any allegedly more fundamental concept refer if not things which exist? If it referred to things which exist, it would be affirming the axiom of existence by implication. If it referred to things that do not exist, it would not be referring to anything, and thus an arbitrary construct, one that would not be possible to form unless one existed in the first place, thus standing as a unit of reference for the concept he is trying to deny. So here we have another of those “impossibility of the contradictory” moments you mentioned.

Stefan said:

I believe you are getting it while not getting it. I am confused by this. As you see above, we are getting somewhere. I accept your "existence exists" as being conceptually irreducible, and impossible to be denied by the impossibility of the contradictory. All statements that by their affirmation or denial unhinge themselves can be said to be false and their contradictory true.

November 20, 2013 10:19 AM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Bahnsen Burner said:

Moreover, notice that the “alternative axiom” that you have affirmed – namely “God exists and so God's consciousness has primacy over objects” – necessarily assumes the truth of the Objectivist axiom of existence while at the same time lacking the axiomatic features that the axiom of existence satisfies, namely the fact that the axiom of existence identifies a perceptually self-evident fact, that it is objectively true, its truth is implicit in all knowledge (since knowledge is knowledge of things which exist), its truth is rationally undeniable, and it is conceptually irreducible (i.e., it does not rest on or assume any more fundamental premises or affirmations).

Stefan said:

It simultaneously presumes a thinker as it is an expression of thought and is a modification of "I think, therefore I am", or as Bahnsen once said "I stink, therefore I am". I see in the statement that though you have tried to remove the thinker from the thought, you really have not. Since it is a modification of an argument which presumes what it is intended to prove, it does not seem all that special, although I cannot see how anyone could achieve a less reducible starting point that somehow did not involve the thinker.


Bahnsen Burner said:


The assertion “God exists” does not meet any of these requirements, and even worse, it is a notion which can only be informed by imagining.

It meets the requirement that if its denial or affirmation results in an absurdity, then it is true or false. God as omniscient mind is presupposed in the dogmatic assertion of the non existence of anything, which is of course different that the actual non-existence of a thing. I am sure many conceivable things do not exist, but I do not make a habit of asserting their non existence. Why waste my time? You do make a habit of asserting the non existence of God, which is absurd for the same reason as a square circle is absurd.

Bahnsen Burner said:

You concede that Christianity affirms the primacy of consciousness – at least insofar as its god is concerned – but insist that Christianity affirms that “objects have primacy over man’s consciousness” – the inclusion of the modifier “man’s” here constitutes your “slight alteration.” Of course, I have never found this view affirmed anywhere in the pages of the bible,


Stefan said:

You yourself quoted the Bible where it says that God said' "let us reason together", suggesting that the Bible affirms man's use of the tools of reason, even in conversation with God.


Bahnsen Burner said:



and I would contend that it does not comport with what we read in the bible (think of Peter walking on the water once he “believed”; also, in my blog I cited the examples of the doctrines of revelation, salvation and prayer as examples of Christian notions which imply metaphysical primacy to man’s consciousness.

Stefan said:

I agree that when Christians brow beat people with "the Bible says" as though that makes it true, they err. This is because the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Bible is false, and not even supported by the Bible. The Bible calls its ideas matters of faith. The Bible says that God tests hearts by providing a scenario in which prophets lie, scribes scribe falsely, etc. Paul says in one place that his words to follow are not the Lord's. Well which is it? Are they not the Lord's or is Paul wrong when he says they are not the Lords? Either way, some Scripture is not of God at the very least.

Can something miraculous take place in the world? If it is God's world I suppose so. Should I believe in a miraculous event which I am not a witness to just because it is found in some book. I would hope not.

November 20, 2013 10:43 AM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Bahnsen Burner said:

In reaction to your “slight alteration” of the primacy of existence principle, I would point out two things:

1. It is hard to see how anyone could seriously restrict the primacy of consciousness orientation specifically to man’s consciousness. We find that it applies in the case of all animal consciousness. The things we find in reality neither originate in nor conform to the conscious activity of squirrels, dolphins, buffalos, salamanders, domesticated cats, parakeets, rattlesnakes, etc. The primacy of existence is the uniform and exceptionless testimony throughout nature.


Stefan said:

Noted. I was talking to a man, about ideas that men have, and I didn't mean to dizz the snakes.


Bahnsen Burner said:



So in fact, when you affirm that your god’s consciousness holds metaphysical primacy, you are affirming an exception to something we consistently find to be the case throughout nature – i.e., in the case of all objectively verifiable specimens of consciousness that we find in the world (i.e., outside our imaginative musings). And yet, you offer no justification for positing such a radically disparate exception.



Stefan said:


As God is by definition, that from which all creation flowed other than God's self, which is posited as the eternal mind, as opposed to the eternal non mind, the exception is not illogical. As far as no justification goes, I know I am beating this to death, but square circles, absolute truths, your existence exists, to which I will add, squirrels are squirrels, the sun is the sun, mountains are mountains; an exhaustive list would take too long to write :)

All statements that can be made which have as an attribute the requirement of the existence of the thing which they affirm are true, and all statements that can be made which have as an attribute the requirement of the existence of the thing which they deny are false.

This is a law of thought which you consistently use except with regards an omniscient mind. You can win this argument by losing it. You can stop talking about God's non-existence as a verifiable fact. Of course, then I win because you stop debating.

November 20, 2013 10:55 AM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Bahnsen Burner said:

2. If you concede, as you apparently have, that the primacy of existence obtains in the case of man’s consciousness, then you must subsequently concede that man requires an epistemology that is wholly consistent with the primacy of existence. (I affectionately call this principle “Dawson’s razor” – you can learn more about it here.) Consequently, if one wants to claim that the god he imagines is real and insists that he *knows* this to be the case, he will need to show how he knows it to be the case in a manner that is entirely consistent with the primacy of existence principle. And yet, the primacy of existence principle allows for no exceptions (I already explained how truth necessarily presupposes the primacy of existence; you have not challenged that case), but in fact you have already conceded that your god-belief assumes the primacy of consciousness. So again, we have another of those “impossibility of the contradictory” moments here.

It’s not looking very good here, Stefan, but I’m afraid I’m not finished yet.


Stefan said:

As you were once confused by what I said, such is the case for me here. If you want to clarify anything for me in a future post so I can respond, this would be a good place to do so.

November 20, 2013 11:01 AM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Bahnsen Burner said:

In reply to your statement that, “For a universal negative to be known, God would have to exist to tell you,” Photosynthesis has already pointed out the example of the notion of a square circle. You state that a god would need to tell us square circles do not exist “because inherent in the statement of a universal negative is universal knowledge as an attribute of the speaker or mental connection to someone with universal knowledge.”


Stefan said:

The absurdity of the square circle does not prove anything.

The reason we can know there are no square circles is because inherent in the idea of "squareness" is the idea of non-circularity, thus a square circle is a contradiction in terms.

A 9/64 inch wrench could exist, because there is nothing in the definition that prevents its existence. To know that something capable of existing does not exist requires what I have stated. Thus, stating as verifiably certain the non-existence of anything is not well reasoned.

Stating this non existence concerning God as omniscient mind, the one thing required for the statement to be capable of being known, is absurd. Next your going to ask me if God can make a rock so big he can't pick it up, or some other such mental trickery.



Bahnsen Burner said:

I admit that I’m a bit confused to see you reciting this kind of argument if you read my first blog entry responding to you (A Reply to Stefan on Induction and Deduction). In that blog I explained why it is the case that “through the process of abstraction, we have universal knowledge based on perception of just a few objects.” Because the conceptual level of knowledge expands our awareness well beyond the perceptual level in an objective manner, and because knowledge in the form of concepts is knowledge in terms of open-ended classes (and thus *universal* in nature – i.e., about an entire class of objects), omniscience is not necessary for recognizing the truth of certain universal negative statements.

Stefan said:

What you just said makes sense for objects of perception. Correct me if I am wrong, but what you are saying is that if I define an apple as an object of perception having such and such characteristics by is it measurement and omission (?), I then acquire as the fruit of my labor a concept of apple ( open ended class) to which all apples apply. Apples exist. Tell me, by what perception resulting in what conception do you perceive anything not yet perceived by you as necessarily not existing other than square circles and other absurdities, which are by extension nothing more than statements of affirmation concerning your chosen delineation of open ended classes? All squares are non circular. All circles are not square. There is no such thing as a square circle. I applaud the genius depicted in this astute observation.

November 20, 2013 11:18 AM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Bahnsen Burner said:

I used the example of the concept ‘man’ explicitly to make my point that it gives us essential knowledge of all men who live now, who have ever lived, and who will ever live.

Stefan said:

I guess you are not an evolutionist, at least at the macro level, which has the essential nature of man flowing out of something definitely not included in the open ended class of men.

What are you then? Certainly not a creationist?



Bahnsen Burner said:


I made this point in connection with my subsequent point that inductive generalizations which draw on this essential knowledge (e.g., “all men are mortal”) to formulate inductive generalizations which can be reliably accepted as true (as opposed to merely “strong”). And if I’m not mistaken, you yourself have conceded that your earlier claim to the effect that all inductive generalizations must be at best “strong” and never regarded as true offers itself as an exception to its own rule, thus defeating itself.


Stefan said:

I conceded that the affirmation that all general statements are tentative is a singular known exception based on the uniqueness of the statement as self refuting. Self refutation does force the mind to accept the contradictory. Thus, I have to concede there are absolute truths, at least one, namely that there are absolute truths or truth, or confine myself to self refutation and absurdity. I will not do this, not to save face, nor for any other reason. I do not believe things having as an attribute something self refuting. Not for long, once exposed as such.

I do not concede that induction can be saved as a whole in this manner, and I would point out that declaring your inductions as true because they do not speak outside of your own proscribed definitions included in said induction leans heavily on an idea uncomfortably close to consciousness as primary in that it gives too much credit to the "knowing agent", as if any of their knowledge were quantitatively and or qualitatively filled up. Your statements are true as extended tautologies. So what, or am I missing the point? Please refer me to your best writing on this saving of induction. You need not write it again. I am not lazy as your blogger suggested. We have never battled before. This is our conversation wherein I am seeking to understand you and refute what I see as inconsistent.


Bahnsen Burner said:


Universal knowledge, in the sense we require to draw inductive generalizations as well as confidently affirm universal negatives, is an inherent aspect of conceptual awareness. To argue against this, one would essentially need to defend the view that we do not have concepts, and yet he would need to use concepts to do this, which would be yet another example of the “impossibility of the contradictory” you have yourself cited.

Stefan said:

So we have developed a concept of apples, and we have developed a concept of fruit, and so we say, all apples are fruit, which is universally true. How does this serve us to prove that something is not existent that is simultaneously not absurd. Square circles are able to be proven in your system of thought as non existent because you first derived the concepts so as to be mutually exclusive of one another. Me too. How is the notion of an omniscient mind suffering from this same kind of absurdity? If you say, all minds that I have perceived have as an essential characteristic limitation, and because all concepts are formed via perception, so that all minds are limited, then limitless mind is an absurdity and a self contradiction, well I will say that you have failed to include in your definition of mind the omniscient mind of God, which is known to exist via the absurdity resulting from the declaration of His non-existence. Laws of thought are no more modifiable than are your objects of perception.

November 20, 2013 12:11 PM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Bahnsen Burner said:


Meanwhile, there is no justification for positing a supernatural mind which we allegedly need to access in order to have such knowledge or make such affirmations. As I’ve shown, the human mind is perfectly capable of doing this on its own; the notion that there must be an omniscient mind whose knowledge man must somehow tap into seems to stem directly from ignorance of the conceptual nature of man’s knowledge.

Stefan said:

You seem to confuse what you have perceived with what is able to be perceived. Now whereas I would agree that my perceptions cannot substitute for your perceptions, stating universal negatives by combining concepts not yet combined in a way as to have been perceived by you and then positing verifiability of that which by definition cannot be verified, somethings universal absence, is intellectual arrogance.

Bahnsen Burner said:

Also, it only opens the door to the imaginary, and therefore the arbitrary, as a substitute for actual facts relevant to the matter. Hence the huge diversity within Christianity alone.


Stefan said:

Intellectual arrogance over matters of faith is more detestable than intellectual arrogance over matters of direct sense.


Bahnsen Burner said:

Thus it constitutes yet another example of the looking inward epistemological model which can only guarantee subjective results and sever any connection between our mental content and reality.

Stefan said:

Just dawned on me. You know Bahnsen is dead right? I am not him. You are so used to arguing with the presuppositionalist who comes at you with supposed assurance of every detail of his religious baggage, that you cannot see that I am not that guy. I affirm that man's mind is capable of taking perceptions, forming concepts, attaching concepts together in the form of propositions, building proposition on proposition, and in that context knowing what he is talking about. I simply do not agree with any argument that posits within it an affirmation of an attribute which it denies.

Universal negatives that are not absurd by virtue of their being inherently self contradictory due to their respective formations as concepts but have within them the possibility of existence are not to be denied as existing if one can retain the universal open ended concept of the "limited acquirement of knowledge that is capable of being acquired by a man". I mean come on, I perceive that I learn new things that happen to be true almost everyday. From this I build a concept concerning mans mind; "all mens minds are limited with respects what can be known both quantitatively and qualitatively". "Stefan and Bahnsen Burner are both men". "Therefore Stefan and Bahnsen Burner have quantitative and qualitative limitations to what they know. From this I say, "When Stefan and Bahnsen Burner make universal negative declarations that are not self contradictions, they err no matter how obvious the statement appears to them". Also, "When Stefan and or Bahnsen Burner make the universal declaration of God's non-existence as omniscient mind, they err more grievously in that This God is posited as the necessary precondition for the intelligibility of that statement.

That you consistently use this principle of rejecting self contradictory statements except in the case of God's existence as omniscient mind shows me that you hate the concept of God no matter what form it takes, but you are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I see the injustice resulting from dogmatic religious assertions and I hate that too. But I also see the vanity and vexation of pure bred atheism and its debilitating effects it has on its adherents. I perceive this directly as a former atheist for the first 24 years of my life.

I go to review objectivistic thought and find people praising greed, individualism to the point of harm to community, etc. I see atheists writing articles on how objectivism gives atheism a bad name. From these perceptions I form a negative concept of objectivism.

November 20, 2013 2:14 PM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Bahnsen Burner said:
Indeed, it seems that one could come up with all kinds of universal negatives that are undeniably true all day long. For example:

- there are no 900-storey buildings anywhere on earth;

Stefan:

Earth is not universal in scope and so your statement is not a true universal negative in the way I have been using it. By limiting area to earth, you remove the universality of the statement, and save it from foolishness. If you had said, There is no such thing as a 900 story building, I would probably agree, but wonder, "what the hell was the point of that statement", and "he doesn't know that".

I would have said not long ago, "there is no such thing as a train which travels up a steep incline", but I would have been wrong to say it. Oh, and I would not have said it, because I know not to having learned from experience. Universal negatives are a waste of time and often wrong.

Bahnsen Burner said:

- there are no 10-legged human beings;

Stefan said: affirming such would be a self contradiction based upon your own rules of concept formation based upon perception.

However, someone might be inclined to say, "there are no individual human bodies with two minds", which would be wrong. Siamese twins.



- there are no water-breathing men;

Stefan: unless you count that crazy fluid that is so oxygenated you can fill your lungs with it.


- there are no human beings which can eat 400,000 potatoes in 10 minutes;

Stefan: Variables of stomach size, chewing efficiency, and minimum potato size make such a statement absurd. Inherent in the statements contradictory are ideas like. A heap of potatoes the size of a small house can be placed inside a human stomach through the process of eating in 10 minutes.


- there is no place on earth where it is snowing while the temperature is 112F;

Stefan: To say the opposite self contradicts the definition of snow as water in a soft airy frozen state and the general understanding of temperature.


- there is no state in the USA that is larger in area than Alaska;

Stefan: Again, what does this have to do with the non-existence of a thing anywhere in the universe?
It is a fact based upon what constitutes the USA and what constitutes the boundaries of the states.

- there are no countries on earth that are more populous than China;

Stefan: You obviously misunderstood what a universal negative is. It means "not true period anywhere". I get that you can say your examples are true in full, which is different than saying they are universal negatives.

Argue against my idea, not someone else's idea.


November 20, 2013 2:30 PM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Bahnsen Burner said:

Indeed, if I believed in an omnipotent deity to whose dictates reality automatically conformed, how could I confidently affirm any of these? Such a being could make me a liar in a snap. I could only affirm these statements along with the disclaimer “if God is willing” to account for the lack of certainty that would necessarily result from such a belief.

Stefan:

Going outside of what I have been trying to limit myself to, I must say that this statement has in it an assumed quality of the nature of God. Bahnsen I believe would say that first off, he would not allow himself to be engaged in arguing as I have, over a component part of His system, but only with his system as a whole. I have not done so.

But I can recognize your assumption. Bahnsen would probably counter with something like the Scripture about the whole creation revealing the glory of God, and so working backwards from God's creation and the uniformity of nature as evidence of God's nature. Throw in that perceptions reveal to me the uniformity of nature, and so I wouldn't worry too much about god flipping your house upside down or waking up on the moon.

However, if you do wake up on the moon, you can apologize later about dictating to God what He can and cannot do :) I am just kidding.

I get that trust of any form of deity is not in your matrix. We are on to an issue of faith. For our discussion, I suggest we get out as quickly as possible.

November 20, 2013 2:38 PM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Bahnsen Burner said:


Now, as you acknowledged, I did ask some questions, and even though you stated that you do not consider them to be “heart of the matter” questions, I do in fact disagree with this assessment, and while you are still free to think that they are not directly relevant, I would still be interested in your answers. So here they are again:

<<1. Do you acquire knowledge of the facts by looking inward or by looking outward?


Stefan:

You asked this earlier again and I posted concerning it.

November 20, 2013 2:39 PM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Bahnsen Burner said:

2. Does wishing make it so? Yes (the primacy of consciousness) or No (the primacy of existence)? Why?

Stefan:

I hope not, or I am going to jail :)

As my consciousness is subject to existence as primary, the answer would be no.

However, wishing something was true does in the sense of invention take what begins in the mind as created from the previously established concepts whose basis was perception which had primacy of existence as axiomatic ( am I getting it right) and makes it true sometimes. There seems to be after the initial starting point a limited in scope primacy of consciousness over matter in rearrangement and invention. Sometimes people even make themselves sick by worry which is mind having primacy over healthy matter, but I realize this is all founded upon the initial axiom as true.

November 20, 2013 2:44 PM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Bahnsen Burner said:

3. Does saying that something is the case make it the case? Yes (the primacy of consciousness) or No (the primacy of existence)? Why?

No. Same answer as number 2 above

November 20, 2013 2:46 PM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Bahnsen Burner said:


4. Is there a fundamental distinction between reality and imagination? Or, do you think they are one and the same? Or, do you think they overlap at some point?


I would say there is overlap>


Reality strictly speaking would be all there is that exists, known by various means to exist, through accurate application of perceptions leading to concepts vocalized by symbols combined in propositions combined into arguments of induction and deduction, plus the laws of thought.

Imagination would be ideas sometimes believed, sometimes wished to be true, but that by no means have been shown to be true to the one who is imagining.

The overlap would be at least twofold. An overlap of reality could be said to exist between members of the class of those capable of both imagining and perceiving reality such that what one member has perceived accurately as real another member can only imagine. The second point of overlap could be found as a description of invention wherein what is imagined becomes true through time.

This could certainly be incomplete. Had not thought of it before.

November 20, 2013 2:53 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

Stefan,

It would really pay off if you tried to understand what is explained to you. Otherwise we are going in circles:

Inherent in the statement "there is no God" is belief in personal omniscience or having God's mind on the subject. It is not worth my time to believe such self refuting notions.

Nope. Again, if the concept of a god is found to be absurd, like a square-circle, then we don't need omniscience to deny its existence. Why don;t you try and find out why Dawson finds the Christian god to be a square-circle instead of trying this absurd and already refuted red-herring?

1. So, the first problem with your "reasoning" here is that you forget that absurdities cannot exist, even though you have admitted that square circles are contradiction of terms, and thus, the universal negative: there's no square circles, does not require omniscience.

2. The second problem (not necessarily in order of importance), is to say that denying the existence of *your* god requires omniscience, which means that you're not paying attention. We have found your god to be a square-cirlce! A contradiction of terms. Therefore we don;t need omniscience to deny its existence.

3. Your particular version of the Christian god is a version of the Christian god, which comes with a lot of baggage besides omniscience. Therefore, if your argument was sound (which it isn't), it would be far from affirming the existence of your god, since the many versions of the Christian god (within and without particular doctrines), contain internal and external contradictions.

4. The most you could claim from an empty denial of your god (which is the one that might "require" omniscience, and which is not the way we deny your god), is that it **might** be wrong. Not that it affirms your god. That we would require omniscience to deny a non-absurd omniscient god (if there was such a thing, and which is not your god), does not mean that therefore an omniscient god must exist. It just means that we are claiming to have something we don;t have. Not that something else must have it. That's a non-sequitur.

5. Therefore the denial of an omniscient god is far from confirming the existence of such god, since the most you could say is that the claimant might be wrong. Not that the claimant is definitely wrong.

Your logic is lacking big time.

November 20, 2013 4:10 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Stefan,

You have succeeded in flooding my inbox. You appear to have much time on your hands, and you also seem to be deeply stirred by this discussion. If only you were as stirred to do some homework before you comment…

I have assembled some responses to some of what you have written. I have read closely some of what you have written, glanced over others, and left the rest for later reading as time allows. For now, I wanted to comment on some of the earlier content in your latest flurry of postings.

Of course, others are welcome to chime in if they have something they would like to add.

…………

Regarding my initial reaction to your notion of something being found “behind reality,” you wrote:

“You are misusing words. You should first understand what the writer means by a given term, and then refute the argument being put forth. Whereas you are correct to say what you did defining reality as all there is, the term was being used to denote the source of all save the source. Thus no slip.”

Though I’m certainly open to the possibility that I have not understood what you may have wanted to say, I do not think I’m misusing words at all. I try to be very careful words since I try to be very careful with concepts, which words symbolize.

Now keep in mind, Stefan, that you did not explain your words “the mind/no mind behind reality option” (let alone produce an argument defending the notion). When I see statements like this, I question whether the notion “behind reality,” which your proposed option assumes, makes sense. I don’t think it does. And since you did not explain what this means, I really have no option myself but to take what you say plainly and literally.

To say that something is *behind* something else is at the very least to imply that the one is distinct from the other. If I tell my wife that I parked my car behind the house, clearly I’m acknowledging that the car and the house are distinct from one another. Moreover, as is the case with this illustration, it also suggests that the one “behind” the other is *outside* the other. Thus in the “mind… behind reality” scenario that you have suggested, I can only suppose that you mean that this “mind” that is alleged “behind reality” is also *outside* reality, thus it would not be *part* of reality, thus it could not be *real*. Seriously, I don’t think this objection should be too difficult to grasp. Essentially, my point is that, since reality is the realm of existence, the notion of something existing outside reality is incoherent.

As for the notion that there is a “source” of reality, I too find this in need of explanation and defense. On my view, reality is not a creation, nor is it something that sprang forth from something else, as from a “source.” This simply does not make sense to me whatsoever. Matters get even worse when it is supposed that reality finds its source in an act of consciousness. This just goes right back to the cartoon universe premise of Christianity, and far from it being objectively informed, it is something that we could only imagine.

[continued…]

November 20, 2013 4:29 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Stefan wrote: “Science falsely so called cannot come up with any explanation for reality as we know it that does not include an eternal quality of some sort, which would seem to force an infinite regression at least of time if nothing else which is absurd.”

I don’t think it is the task of science to come up with an “explanation for reality” as such. Science is the systematic application of reason to some specialized area of focus, and thus is centered within reality. It does not study something *outside* reality, nor does it need to explain the fact that existence exists. The fact that existence exists is the only proper starting point. We formally acknowledge that existence exists and begin our quest for knowledge within that context. We need knowledge, not to be know-it-alls and win debates or to position ourselves in authority over others, but to make living life possible.

You wrote: “Your primacy of objects over consciousness, which is by the way something you said was axiomatic, which by definition is a starting point, is inherently problematic.”

As I stated in my blog, the primacy of existence is “one of [Objectivism’s] founding axioms is the recognition that existence exists independent of conscious activity – i.e., the primacy of existence.” And this is true, but it is not whole picture. Objectivism’s initial axiom is the axiom of existence, as I explained. And, as I explained, this leads to another concurrent fundamental truth – i.e., the truth that the one recognizing the fact that existence exists is conscious of this fact. Hence the axiom of consciousness. There’s also the axiom of identity – i.e., the recognition that something that exists is itself, that A is A.

In regard to the primacy of existence, since this identifies the proper relationship between consciousness and existence, we cannot grasp the nature of this relationship until we have recognized the facts that existence exists and that we are conscious of existence. So we need to formally acknowledge the facts that existence exists and that we are conscious before we can formally grasp the fact that existence exists independent of consciousness. But this fact obtained all along – we simply need to recognize it. And it is axiomatic in the sense that it is a fundamental, unchanging constant implicit in all knowledge and in the sense that it is a precondition for all proofs. We know it directly (not by inference or proof), even if this knowledge is merely implicit (i.e., not explicitly recognized or understood). It represents the intersection of the axioms of existence and consciousness: once you have these, the recognition of the primacy of existence is unavoidable. However, this has not kept thinkers from trying to find ways of evading it. That’s where mysticism comes in.

[continued…]

November 20, 2013 4:30 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

In your earlier comments, you attributed to me as my “faith commitment” the “presupposition” that “God does not exist and objects have primacy over consciousness." This is simply wrong. For one, it only indicates that you are unfamiliar with the basics of Objectivism and therefore that your attempts to critique it are premature. Moreover, we do not begin by denying or negating. We begin by perceiving things, recognizing that they exist, and, if we so choose, undertake the task of identifying what we perceive. Perception is automatic: it is not something we choose to do. You cannot choose to turn off pain just as you cannot choose to see a Ferrari in your front yard instead of a Pacer. Fundamental recognitions are implicit until we formally grasp them, which represents the axiomatic level of knowledge: this is where our knowledge is initially anchored to reality. If we’re careful in observing the nature of this knowledge and apply its implicit principles to the rest of our knowledge consistently, the rest of our knowledge has a good chance of remaining anchored to reality. If we begin with the primacy of consciousness, as religion does (and as you have conceded your worldview does), then there is no anchor to reality whatsoever. The result is not knowledge but fantasy. Without the guiding principle of the primacy of existence, there is no explicit recognition of the boundary between reality and imaginary available. Thus there is no guide to tell the mind that one thing is really real and another is only merely imaginary; the real and the imaginary are mixed together into a terrifying construct that has no positive value for man’s life whatsoever.

Now notice, Stefan, that you will not learn any of this by reading the bible.

[continued…]

November 20, 2013 4:30 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I asked: <<1. Do you acquire knowledge of the facts by looking inward or by looking outward?>>

Stefan responded: “The way facts are acquired is by looking outward and analyzing what I am presented with with the tools I have for their analysis. Induction, deduction, laws of thought.”

My first thought when reading this is that you are not taking this from the bible. I have never read words to this effect anywhere in the bible. Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s a good thing if you are adopting aspects of Objectivism once you’ve been called to clarify certain fundamentals about how you go about acquiring knowledge. My concern is that you probably never really gave this question much thought before.

Now I notice that you nowhere mention *perception* as the means by which you acquire awareness of facts when you look outward. I find this omission quite conspicuous. Did you mean to leave it out, or did you just forget it? Or, do you think you have awareness of facts by some other means? If so, can you identify it? In fact, that you say “the way *facts* are acquired is by looking outward..” is itself a little suspicious. On my view, facts exist independent of conscious activity. In contrast to what you say here, I would say that “the way *awareness* of facts is acquired is by looking outward.” See the difference? It is important.

I also notice that you seem to think that you begin by *analyzing* rather than by *identifying*. But how does it make sense to analyze something that you have not yet identified?

You mention “induction, deduction, laws of thought.” But you nowhere mention concepts, which come before all of these. You won’t learn about these in Christianity either. But they’re so crucial to the whole thing. Knowledge is concepts. We identify, integrate and retain what we learn in the form of concepts. Language only comes after this, since language is a code of symbols. The symbols cannot stand for nothing – they need to represent something. They represent concepts. Thus we need concepts before we have language. Also, if we are to make inferences (e.g., induction and deduction), we need some kind of *content* from which to induce and deduce. But we do not do this from empty analysis. We do this using concepts. And “laws of thought”? I’m guessing you mean logic here. But logic is conceptual in nature (I elaborate on this here). So we need concepts, thus we should not overlook or ignore their importance to knowledge.

By the way, how do you acquire awareness of these “laws of thought”? Do you find them by looking outward also?

[continued…]

November 20, 2013 4:31 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “The reason I believe deductive conclusion is because I have previously accepted their premises as true.”

But what does ‘true’ mean if it is not underwritten by the primacy of existence? If truth is not tied to facts by means of an objective method of identifying them (i.e., by means of reason), then what informs truth? What gives truth the stable reliability that rational thought requires?

Much of what you have written on this matter strikes me as a kind of rationalism – an effort to deduce things without reference to reality. You make no effort to identify any means by which you connect your thoughts and identifications to reality, and you make no effort to identify the means by which you have conscious contact with reality. But this is key to knowledge. If we did not have consciousness of things that exist, of facts, of entities, we would not be able to formulate knowledge of reality to begin with. So if I may borrow an expression, your entire epistemology seems to be suffering from a missing link of sorts.

For example, you write: “The reason I do not believe in the absence of absolute truth is because a law of thought forces me to by the impossibility of the contradictory.”

And yet, this does not indicate what truth is, what relationship, if any, it has to reality, or how it can be known. This “law of thought” that you mention “forcing” you to do something seems to be something *internal*. You affirm that you acquire knowledge by looking outward, but you do not explain how looking outward gives you knowledge of this “law of thought” that seems to have irresistible power over your mental actions (reducing you to an automaton or puppet of sorts).

[continued…]

November 20, 2013 4:31 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “All statements that have inherent in them as an attribute belief in that which makes the statement false I refuse to believe.”

But again, by what means do you have awareness of any of this? Do you discover any of this by looking outward? You do not explain how looking outward gives you awareness of the things you describe here. It all seems to be more looking inward. We have statements, we have beliefs, we have truth, we have falsehood, but where does any of this connect to reality? Where’s the tie to what is real? Where’s the analysis of how we go from looking outward to making the kinds of statements you’re making here? I see none in what you’ve written.

You wrote: “I do not believe in square circles because the idea of ‘squareness’ contains within it ‘non-circularity’ and so a square circle is a self contradiction.”

Again, what you describe here appears to be nothing more than looking inward: you draw conclusions by analyzing *ideas*; you do not describe gathering facts, identifying them by means of concepts and integrating them into a non-contradictory sum based on and informed by facts according to an objective method – i.e., the looking outward model of epistemology. You look inward to discover all these “truths.” That is what you are describing here.

[continued…]

November 20, 2013 4:31 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “The reason I do not accept active belief in the non-existence of God is because it makes the same mistake as believing in a square circle.”

And yet, we saw above that the reason you do not believe in a square circle hinges on the looking inward model of epistemology. And why do you actively believe in your god? I doubt suddenly you’re going to switch to the looking outward model here. When we look outward, we see finite material objects, objects that are corruptible, objects that are perceptible. But a god is said to be none of these things; a god is said to be invisible, immaterial, infinite, incorruptible, everything that what we perceive is not. So it would be wrong to say we find “evidence for God” by looking outward. Of course, nothing will stop us from imagining that there is, as Van Til put it, “back of” the things we perceive. I can imagine demons, devils, angels, resurrected saints, ghosts, phantasms, invisible dragons, magic wizards, even the Christian god itself along with Blarko, Avalokitesvara, Geusha, etc., etc., etc., all lurking around “back of” everything I see in the world. And if I did not have the primacy of existence, I very well might mistake what I imagine for reality.

I’m glad that’s not my problem!

[continued…]

November 20, 2013 4:31 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “It is impossible for anyone to ‘know’ that something does not exist.”

Really? So when I know that square circles do not exist, I don’t really know this? When I know that there are no 900-storey buildings on earth, I don’t really know this? Why?

You wrote: “’’knowing’ is different from ‘I am so sure as to not worry about it’.”

Okay. What exactly is the difference?

On my view, knowing is conceptual identification of facts by means of an objective method. Thus I can identify using this method that the claim “There is a 900-storey building in downtown Bangkok” is untrue. I can look at the skyline of Bangkok out my office window, which gives me a very wide panorama of the city, and I see that the tallest building is in fact Baiyoke II, which is only 85 stories tall. So why does this not logically imply that there is no 900-storey building in downtown Bangkok, and why can’t I make this immediate inference with certainty? In fact, I can. So I do not at all accept your claim that “it is impossible for anyone to ‘know’ that something does not exist.” If a claim that something does exist contradicts known facts, then I can say with certainty that it is not true and thus conclude that it does not in fact exist. There is nothing illogical about this.

[continued…]

November 20, 2013 4:32 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Specifically with regards ‘God as omniscient mind’, it is impossible for you to know that this God does not exist because it is false as proven by the verbal assertion of it containing that God in the statement.”

I’m afraid that I don’t follow this, so it is unclear how you are justifying this inability you attribute to me. I’m capable of doing quite a number of things, among them knowing that certain things simply do not exist. You don’t have to like this about me, but it is true, as I showed above.

Here’s a fun little argument that I formulated some time ago:

<<Premise 1: That which is imaginary is not real.
Premise: 2: If something is not real, it does not actually exist.
Premise 3: If the god of Christianity is imaginary, then it is not real and therefore does not actually exist.
Premise 4: The god of Christianity is imaginary.
Conclusion: Therefore, the god of Christianity is not real and therefore does not actually exist.
>>

The syllogism that I present here is formally valid, and I contend that the premises are true. If they are true, then, the conclusion is soundly established. In that case, I would offer this as direct proof that your claim that it is impossible to know that something does not exist, is not true.

[continued…]

November 20, 2013 4:32 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “We can believe what is false.”

To say that a claim is ‘false’ is to acknowledge that its support has at least some connection to reality, but that some mistake has been made along the way. But this is actually not the case when it comes to god-belief. The claim that a god exists is worse than false – it is arbitrary since it has *no* connection to reality whatsoever.

You wrote: “We can not know it.”

It is always very curious to me that people who believe in a god are always telling us that our minds cannot do things that they in fact do do. With their all-capable omnipotent can-do god tucked neatly in their imaginations, this deity that allegedly created us in its own image, they tell us “man cannot do this” and “man cannot do that,” particularly when it comes to knowing. Our minds are impotent, they are essentially telling us, all the while expecting us to accept this as knowledge.

But notice that the claim is implicitly self-refuting. The claim that we cannot know that something does not exist is the claim that our minds do not have what is necessary to have said knowledge. It is the claim that the ability we need to know what is in question does not exist. But this in itself is a species of knowing that something does not exist. And yet, that is what we are being told that we cannot know. If you say that what we need to know X is something that we do not have, then you are essentially saying that whatever it is that we need to know X does not exist, and if the claim were true, we could not know this. And yet here you are affirming this outright.

Again, Stefan, I think you need to give these matters some more careful thought. But care alone is not sufficient. You need objectivity – you need grounding on reality, and you need reason – you need to inform your knowledge with *facts* rather than fantasy.

[continued…]

November 20, 2013 4:33 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Stefan wrote: “We know God as primary mind exists because we affirm him in denying him.”

Who is “we” here? And how does this work? If I deny Blarko, does that mean that I also know Blarko “as primary mind exists”? Why or why not? And how does this means of “knowing” that “God” is an actually existing “primary mind” instantiate the looking outward model of epistemology? It all appears to be more of the same, worn-out looking inward method of mysticism.

Indeed, I can make this claim about anything that I imagine. I can even replicate the claim you make about your god, since I too can imagine your god. But that is not a means of validating knowledge. It is not a means of acquiring knowledge of reality since it constitutes a failure to look outward at reality in an effort to identify reality on its own terms.

And notice the contradiction involved here at the level of metaphysical primacy: to affirm that something exists is at the very least the affirmation that it exists *independent of consciousness* and thus this claim rests squarely on the primacy of existence. And yet, when we examine *what* is being claimed, we discover that it affirms the primacy of consciousness – i.e., the claim performatively contradicts its own content. This is like saying “There is no such thing as a proof, and I have a proof which proves this!” It’s just more stolen concepts.

Stefan wrote: “I know this by the same means I know there are no square circles.”

But just above you stated “It is impossible for anyone to ‘know’ that something does not exist.” Now you state that you “know there are no square circles.”

Seriously, Stefan, I think you need to give your epistemology, in fact your entire worldview, some really careful thought.

[continued…]

November 20, 2013 4:33 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: “Even if one attempts to assemble an argument concluding that ‘God exists’, we still have no alternative but to imagine the god it supposedly proves.”

Stefan replied: “My argument proves it by the impossibility of the contrary from the start. It is circular but not vicious.”

Okay, so you claim to have an argument for your god and that it is of the “impossibility of the contrary” species. I guess I simply haven’t seen this argument yet, so I have nothing other than your word that “it is circular but not vicious.”

But none of this addresses my point above. You can assemble proofs for your god all day, Stefan, but that will not impress me. That is not because I’m doing something against your arguments on purpose. Rather, as I indicated quite clearly above, arguments attempting to prove the existence of a god leave me no alternative but to *imagine* the god they are attempting to prove. This is not a situation that I create. This is a situation that attempts to prove a god make for me. I still have to imagine what you claim to have proven. And I’m aware of this fact. What am I supposed to do with this knowledge? Am I supposed to ignore it? Am I supposed to suppress it? I am too honest to do any of these things.

Okay, that’s all I have time for at the moment. But it’s devastating enough.

Regards,
Dawson

November 20, 2013 4:33 PM  
Blogger blarkofan said...

Stefan wrote:

"All statements that can be made which have as an attribute the requirement of the existence of the thing which they affirm are true, and all statements that can be made which have as an attribute the requirement of the existence of the thing which they deny are false."

Does that mean the statement "there are pink unicorns living on the dark side of the moon" must be true, and the statement "square circles do not exist" must be false?

November 20, 2013 7:58 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Stefan,

I had some more time this afternoon to look at your comments. I have some responses below.

Regarding the primacy of existence, you wrote: “You did say it was axiomatic.”

And it is, in the sense that I explained above.

You wrote: “Nevertheless, you now affirm that it is not but rather a conclusion”

The primacy of existence is *not* a conclusion, and I have nowhere affirmed it as such. We do not establish it by means of any proofs. Rather, it is a precondition for proof. The primacy of existence is a factual constant that obtains even on the level of sensations. Existence does not depend on any conscious activity, whether sensation, perception, conceptualization, wishing, emotions, imagination, recalling, etc. We do not infer this to be the case, we *recognize* it since it is self-evident. In terms of a fundamental recognition, its truth is implicit in all our thinking and actions. As an axiom, the primacy of existence *formally recognizes* these facts in an explicit manner. The principle of the primacy of existence makes explicit what has been implicitly known all along. That’s why it’s very common when people first learn of the primacy of existence, their initial reaction is: “of course, that’s true – it’s obvious! And they’re right: it is obvious, but many thinkers throughout history have ignored or tried to evade the obvious. Thus it is doubly right for Objectivism to affirm it explicitly.

You wrote: “based upon what now you declare to be your starting point, ‘existence exists’ which is to define a word with itself.”

Okay, two things here:

First of all, I have not changed my starting points. If you go back through my blog history, you will find that I have consistently affirmed the axiom of existence (‘existence exists’) as my *initial* axiom.

Second, your statement here constitutes another elementary mistake on your part. The axiom ‘existence exists’ is not an attempt to *define* any words. It is an explicit recognition in the form of a single concept of the fact that there is a reality, that things exist, that existence exists. But I stated this already. Are you not willing to learn what my position actually holds?

You wrote: “I will accept it anyway and say. What exists, and how do you know where to place the bounds of existence?”

It’s hard to make sense of this question unless it simply smuggles the primacy of consciousness into the mix without you even realizing it. I do not “place the bounds of existence” any more than I place a limit on how many seeds are in a pumpkin.

If the question is “how do we discover the bounds of existence,” this is a little more sensible (since if existence has bounds, they would have to be discovered by us, not “placed” there by us). But such knowledge is surely not available at the level of the initial recognition that things exist. Here we must gather facts. And we need to identify those facts by an objective method. Thus we need reason. If we do in fact know anything about reality, we know it by means of reason – i.e., the faculty which identifies and integrates what we perceive in reality.

[continued…]

November 21, 2013 3:32 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Fact is, for a man, objects and thinking coexist.”

Since thinking is an action of consciousness, and consciousness is consciousness of some object[s], conscious activity such as thinking always has an object. An object in this case is any thing one perceives and/or considers.

You wrote: “Conformity takes place in both directions.”

The objects of consciousness do not conform to conscious activity. Conformity takes place only on the part of consciousness. And consciousness must conform to the objects if we are to identify them in a consistent and objective manner.

The only place where we can simulate objects conforming to our conscious activity is within the confines of our imagination.

You wrote: “If we are talking about laws of thought, primacy of said object and consciousness are the same.”

Here you are confused. If by “laws of thought” we mean, for example, logical principles, these do not conform to conscious intentions any more than the objects we perceive conform to our wishes or preferences. For example, I cannot take modus ponens and fundamentally alter it around to suit my preferences and have it still be modus ponens. Modus ponens and my *thinking about* modus ponens are not one and the same; they are distinct. Moreover, the identity of modus ponens - i.e., what distinguishes it from other logical principles as well as from banana trees, rocket ships, television sitcoms, car stereos, etc. – obtains independently of my knowledge of modus ponens, my ignorance of it, my preferences that it should be other than what it is, my imaginations about it, etc. So even within the context of conceptual objects (e.g., logical principles), the primacy of existence (i.e., the principle that the objects of conscious activity are what they are independent of our conscious activity) holds without exception.

[continued…]

November 21, 2013 3:33 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “If it can be shown that there is legitimate contention over what is axiomatic or proven as true by substitution of a contradictory starting point, then until one or the other can be proven as true by the impossibility of the contradictory/ contrary, then both exist as faith commitments.”

I have affirmed as my initial axiom the axiom of existence: existence exists. This is the fundamental, conceptually irreducible and explicit recognition of the perceptually self-evident fact that things exist, that there is a reality, that existence is real. Contention over a position would at the very least have to have rational backing to be considered legitimate. But what legitimate contention could one have over the axiom of existence? One would have to exist in order to raise any contention against it, which would mean that it would have to be true in order for him to raise his contention. Thus the axiom of existence cannot be considered a ‘faith commitment’ by any means.

Meanwhile, legitimate contentions (many!) can be raised against the assertion “God exists and so God's consciousness has primacy over objects.” For one, it has no tie to reality; it is purely imaginary in nature. So it cannot even be accepted as possibly true. So it does not identify a perceptually self-evident truth to begin with. Nor is it conceptually irreducible: it makes use of a number of various concepts. Also, since it does not identify a fact in the first place, it does not and cannot identify a fact that is implicit in all knowledge. Moreover, it contradicts a truth that it is immediately implicit in the axiom of existence, which would have to be true in order for one to affirm this assertion, namely the primacy of existence. Furthermore, contrary to what you have claimed, Stefan, denying the claim “God exists” does not in any way contradict itself or commit oneself to absurdity. One does not contradict himself or undermine his rationality by denying the claim “God exists” any more than he would by denying the claim “Blarko exists,” “Allah exists” or “Geusha exists.” Indeed, the claim “God exists” has nothing going for it above any of these alternatives.

So, Stefan, while your view reduces to a concept-stealing faith commitment which assumes the truth of my axioms while at the same time essentially denying them (such as when Christianity affirms that existence is a creation) and must compete with other equally arbitrary alternatives (e.g., “Blarko exists,” “Geusha exists,” etc.), my axiom is a genuine, indisputably true axiom.

You wrote: “If I say, your idea is stupid, I don't prove it as being so.”

Exactly. That’s because existence holds metaphysical primacy over consciousness.

[continued…]

November 21, 2013 3:33 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “If we are at the beginning and want to avoid vicious circularity, one of the said axioms is going to have to break by self contradiction or we will be left with subjectivism and skepticism.”

Luckily we have the axiom of existence. This is not a proof or an attempt to draw a conclusion. It is simply a formal recognition of what we perceive directly. So there is no opportunity for circularity, vicious or otherwise.

But let’s lay out the contrast between our positions clearly.

Consider two sets of proposed axioms.

Axiom Set A identifies general facts which we perceive directly and which are implicit in all knowledge. They are conceptually irreducible, they do not rest on more fundamental assumptions, and one would have to assume their truth in an attempt to deny them.

Axiom Set B refers to hazy notions which have no reference to reality and which are only available when one constructs them in his imagination. Moreover, in addition to their failure to identify a fact which we directly perceive, they are not conceptually irreducible, and they implicitly assume the truth of the axioms in Axiom Set A.

Objectivism’s axioms are of the type found in Axiom Set A.

Christianity, to the extent that one could say it has any axioms to begin with, are of the type found in Axiom Set B.

I’ll go with Objectivism. I don’t care if this displeases anyone.

[continued…]

November 21, 2013 3:34 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “I believe you are getting it while not getting it.”

What am I getting while not getting at the same time? And why do you think this?

You wrote: “I am confused by this.”

Agreed.

You wrote: “I accept your ‘existence exists’ as being conceptually irreducible, and impossible to be denied by the impossibility of the contradictory.”

But it also identifies a perceptually self-evident fact: when we look out at the world (remember looking outward?), we see things, we hear things, we feel things, we taste things, we smell things. We have direct awareness of things - things that exist, regardless of what they are or what we might later identify them to be. So we have immediate, firsthand perceptual awareness of things when we look outward at the world. The axiom ‘existence exists’ formally recognizes the existence of things that exist – a fact that is perceptually self-evident.

An axiom is a starting point. Think of where we begin. What is it that we are first aware of? We are always aware of specific things, but we can roundly indicate the whole universe of things with a general concept that includes and pertains to all of them. That is the concept ‘existence’: ‘existence’ is the widest of all concepts. Whether you were first aware of your mother, of a beeping sound, of light coming in from a window, of a mobile hanging over your crib, etc., etc., all of these things existed at the time and thus are part of the general collection of ‘things which exist’ – i.e., existence.

I have a daughter approaching six years of age. I have never taught her to imagine a god which allegedly created her and everything else. No one else has, either. She has never asked something to the effect “Daddy, isnt there a supernatural consciousness which created me and you and everything else we find in the world?” She has expressed no knowledge of such things, not even an inkling. She learns about the world primarily from me, so she learns from a this-worldly, reality-based, primacy-of-existence model. She observes the world around her and interacts with it according to its own terms. She does this because she observes me doing this, and thus learns how it’s done properly. She’s not throwing tantrums when she doesn’t get her way – she has learned that the world has its own way, and we need to deal with it according to its terms if we want to achieve our ends. Think of Bacon’s dicum, “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.”

I’ll also add that the axiom of existence also identifies a fact that is implicit in all knowledge. Since knowledge is knowledge of something, and since knowledge is held by a knower who exists, the fact of existence is implicit in all conscious activity.

[continued…]

November 21, 2013 3:34 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “I see in the statement that though you have tried to remove the thinker from the thought, you really have not.”

Why do you think I “have tried to remove the thinker from the thought”? What at all in anything I have written here or elsewhere suggests that I have sought to do this? Objectivism explicitly affirms the axiom of consciousness as well as the axiom of existence.

If you make statements like this, it would be most helpful if you tied them to things I have actually stated. Thus if you can quote where you think I “have tried to remove the thinker from the thought,” there might be some misunderstanding on your part that I can correct. But as of right now, you do not tie this characterization to anything I have stated, so I have no idea where you’re getting this. For the record, it’s simply not the case that I “have tried to remove the thinker from the thought.”

You wrote: “Since it is a modification of an argument which presumes what it is intended to prove, it does not seem all that special, although I cannot see how anyone could achieve a less reducible starting point that somehow did not involve the thinker.”

Again, several points of correction are needed here, since you are apparently talking about the axiom of existence:

1. The axiom of existence is *not* an argument. I’m not sure how many times I will need to say this, though I would urge you to save me the trouble and simply get this much right. The axiom is a fundamental recognition, as I have explained several times now.

2. Since the axiom of existence is an axiom – i.e., a formal recognition – it necessarily implies consciousness – i.e., it implies a consciousness which does the recognizing. Hence we have in addition to the axiom of existence, the axiom of consciousness.

3. Since consciousness is consciousness of things that exist (at least, when we are perceiving), there is inherent in any instance of consciousness a relationship between consciousness and the objects of which it is conscious. This is the issue of metaphysical primacy: what is the proper orientation between the subject of consciousness and its objects? Does the subject of consciousness have metaphysical primacy over its objects (i.e., subjectivism)? Or, do the objects of consciousness hold metaphysical primacy over the subject of consciousness (i.e., Objectivism).

4. The axiomatic concepts of ‘existence’, ‘consciousness’ and ‘identity’ are conceptually irreducible. They do not rest on more fundamental concepts or assumptions, and they are not defined in terms of other concepts. They are defined ostensively.

5. Yes, there is a thinker. The thinker is man. The thinker is a biological organism which possesses the faculty of consciousness. Consciousness is a biological function. Man’s consciousness has reached the conceptual level: it can form concepts on the basis of perceptual input. Man perceives, and he identifies and integrates what he perceives in the form of concepts. The most fundamental concepts are those which identify factual constants which obtain throughout his thinking, namely the concepts of ‘existence’, ‘consciousness’ and ‘identity’.

These are some Basic Objectivism 101 tenets that I would implore you to integrate and keep in mind when trying to understand Objectivism (and I would advise understanding Objectivism *before* you attempt to refute it).

[continued…]

November 21, 2013 3:34 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I had written: “The assertion ‘God exists’ does not meet any of these requirements, and even worse, it is a notion which can only be informed by imagining.”

Stefan responded: “It meets the requirement that if its denial or affirmation results in an absurdity, then it is true or false.”

The requirement that an axiom be assumed in its own denial is a necessary requirement, but it is not a sufficient requirement for a proposition to be an axiom. There are others, as I have pointed out. The axiom of existence meets all the requirements of a genuine philosophical axiom. The assertion “God exists” does not.

But you have not even demonstrated that the assertion ‘God exists’ “meets the requirement that if its denial or affirmation results in an absurdity, then it is true or false.” Specifically, you have not shown that denying the claim ‘God exists’ somehow results in an absurdity. You have asserted this to be the case, but given the primacy of existence, merely saying so doesn’t make it so. So here it goes: I deny the claim ‘God exists’. Where’s the absurdity? Existence still exists. I am still conscious of things which exist. Existence still holds metaphysical primacy. I still need reason to acquire and validate knowledge of reality, etc. Nothing legitimate has been denied.

You wrote: “God as omniscient mind is presupposed in the dogmatic assertion of the non existence of anything, which is of course different that the actual non-existence of a thing.”

From what I’ve seen, your reasoning behind this claim is that the human mind cannot affirm universal negatives without having some kind of pipeline transmission from an omniscient mind, in which case the denial of the existence of said omniscient mind constitutes an affirmation of a universal negative and thus denies the very thing that makes such affirmations possible in the first place. But this has been addressed. It is bunk, Stefan. Go back and review our discussion to date if you haven’t seen it.

[continued…]

November 21, 2013 3:35 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “I am sure many conceivable things do not exist, but I do not make a habit of asserting their non existence. Why waste my time? You do make a habit of asserting the non existence of God, which is absurd for the same reason as a square circle is absurd.”

Actually, I do not have a “habit of asserting the non existence of God.” Rather, my concern is not expressly to *deny* things, but to defend and promote reason and rational individuals. This means protecting them from mystical attacks, such as Christian apologetics. If you examine my blog, you’ll see that this is really what it’s all about.

You wrote: “You yourself quoted the Bible where it says that God said ‘let us reason together’, suggesting that the Bible affirms man's use of the tools of reason, even in conversation with God.”

Yes, I have quoted this verse before. It is one of the precious few places in the entire bible where the word ‘reason’ even occurs in its pages. Most occurrences of the word ‘reason’ in my bibles are used as in the phrase “by reason of,” which is another way of saying “because of.” But there’s no way that the bible can be said to be laying out an epistemology of reason when (a) it mentions the word ‘reason’ only in passing and (b) commands people to believe what they’re told on pain of eternal torment (which is clearly an abandonment of reason altogether).

Indeed, how does one reason with someone who can never be wrong and who supposedly has the right to command and be obeyed (as John Frame states in Apologetics to the Glory of God, p. 51)? Genuine reasoning requires freedom from compulsion, coercion and sanction. Job 13:3 has its main character declare “I desire to reason with God,” and look what happened to him.

[continued…]

November 21, 2013 3:35 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I had written: “It is hard to see how anyone could seriously restrict the primacy of consciousness orientation specifically to man’s consciousness. We find that it applies in the case of all animal consciousness. The things we find in reality neither originate in nor conform to the conscious activity of squirrels, dolphins, buffalos, salamanders, domesticated cats, parakeets, rattlesnakes, etc. The primacy of existence is the uniform and exceptionless testimony throughout nature.”

Stefan responded: “Noted. I was talking to a man, about ideas that men have, and I didn't mean to dizz the snakes.”

We were talking about the primacy of existence and therefore the proper orientation between consciousness and its objects. Recall that it was you who sought to modify the primacy of existence with a “slight alteration” to confine it specifically to man’s consciousness. Thus my concern here is not that you “dizz the snakes” or any other family of organisms. Rather, as I point out in the last sentence of my paragraph above: “The primacy of existence is the uniform and exceptionless testimony throughout nature.” Everything we find in reality when we look outward attests without exception to the primacy of existence in the relationship between consciousness and its objects. But you posit your god as some grand exception to what we find when we look outward, and you identify no means by which we can have “awareness” of what you call “God” other than imagination. We must look inward to “find” this consciousness to whose dictates reality allegedly conforms, and yet when we look outward we find no confirming evidence whatsoever. It is completely arbitrary.

[continued…]

November 21, 2013 3:35 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “As God is by definition, that from which all creation flowed other than God's self, which is posited as the eternal mind, as opposed to the eternal non mind, the exception is not illogical.”

We define *concepts*, not specific, mind-independent concretes. We define the concept ‘rock’; but we do not “define” every rock we encounter in the world. As I pointed out in my earlier replies to you, definition is the final step of concept-formation.

And yet, here you say that “God is by definition…,” which suggests that ‘God’ is a concept, since definitions apply to concepts. Concepts are part of man’s psychology: they are the form in which he identifies, integrates and retains what he has perceived. But “God” is not supposed to be a concept, nor is it supposed to be psychological. In fact, since “God” is supposedly sui generis - i.e., completely unique in all existence, being only one anywhere – there could be no concept ‘God’ in the first place, since concepts integrate two or more members of a class. Thus you seem to be giving away the farm, just as Bahnsen did at his debate with Stein, by letting it slip that your god is merely psychological – and not even conceptual, but rather a construct of the imagination. Since you have little understanding of what concepts are, it is hard for you to distinguish between genuine concepts and what you are merely imagining.

You wrote: “As far as no justification goes, I know I am beating this to death, but square circles, absolute truths, your existence exists, to which I will add, squirrels are squirrels, the sun is the sun, mountains are mountains; an exhaustive list would take too long to write :)”

It’s not clear what you wanted to say here. But I’ve seen no justification of your god-belief claims anywhere in your comments so far.

[continued…]

November 21, 2013 3:35 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “All statements that can be made which have as an attribute the requirement of the existence of the thing which they affirm are true, and all statements that can be made which have as an attribute the requirement of the existence of the thing which they deny are false.”

What does it mean to say that a statement has “as an attribute the requirement of the existence of the thing which [it] affirm[s]”? How would one go about discovering whether or not a statement has such a feature? It appears that we would need to look inward to discover this, for we do not discover features of statements as such by looking outward; when we look outward we find specific concretes, not statements about specific concretes. So it seems, Stefan, that you are in such a habit of relying on the looking inward model of epistemology that you aren’t even aware when you’re doing it.

You wrote: “This is a law of thought which you consistently use except with regards an omniscient mind. You can win this argument by losing it. You can stop talking about God's non-existence as a verifiable fact. Of course, then I win because you stop debating.”

My concern is not about “winning.” This may be your concern, but I’m concerned about defending and promoting reason, rationality, objective values, rational self-interest and individual rights.

So tell you what, Stefan: you claim that there is a god. Fine. I’m perfectly happy if you want to believe this. It’s your mind to use or waste. But let me ask you:

How would I go about discovering that there is a god? What mental steps would I need to take to arrive at this knowledge? How does whatever process is involved in this differ from imagining? Can you identify the starting point of such an inquiry, and enumerate the specific steps that I would need to take here?

I’m not hopeful that you can since already you have affirmed that the starting point is in fact the affirmation that said “God exists,” which, along with the many other indicators I’ve exposed in your comments, can only suggest that your entire god-belief rests on the looking inward view of knowledge. Thus I can only suspect that it’s all imaginary. But if you want to revise your starting point and then identify a step-by-step process by which I can come to this knowledge without contradicting anything I already know to be true, please do so, as I would love to examine it.

[continued…]

November 21, 2013 3:36 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

In regard to my points about Dawson’s razor, you wrote: “As you were once confused by what I said, such is the case for me here. If you want to clarify anything for me in a future post so I can respond, this would be a good place to do so.”

I would be happy to clarify, but until you pinpoint where exactly you are confused, I won’t know what it is that I need to clarify. Try re-reading what I wrote above. I also included a link to another blog where I expound on this idea. But if you have specific questions, I’d love to help.

Okay, that will have to do for this evening.

Regards,
Dawson

November 21, 2013 3:36 AM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Blarkofan wrote:


Stefan wrote:

"All statements that can be made which have as an attribute the requirement of the existence of the thing which they affirm are true, and all statements that can be made which have as an attribute the requirement of the existence of the thing which they deny are false."

Does that mean the statement "there are pink unicorns living on the dark side of the moon" must be true, and the statement "square circles do not exist" must be false?


Stefan wrote:

You are right to see the error. What I meant was not to affirm all statements, no matter what, that have anything in them, which is what I did. Be merciful as in the flurry of posting mistakes might be made.

What I do affirm is that if a statement denies the existence of something either implicitly or explicitly while simultaneously requiring its existence, than the statement is openly illogical or oversteps the bounds set to man as one who cannot know everything, and does so while making a self refuting illogical statement.

If I say there are no pink unicorns living in all of reality, perceived and not perceived, I say:

something not worth the time to be said, and
something I do not know. I do not know it because I do not know everything. However, knowing everything is a requirement to make such statements with perfect knowledge of their truth, Therefore embedded in the statement is a claim to perfect universal knowledge, the requirement to universally ( meaning strip from all existence) negate the existence of the thing.

How this very specific point is not understood I do not know.

That is why I repeatedly affirm that God as omniscient mind is a required existent for the validity of all statements of universal non- existence, none of which Bahnsen Burners examples met.

These examples do meet my requirements:

There are no 9/64 inch wrenches in all of reality, perceived or unperceived.

Basically, there are no (fill in the blank with a non self refuting existent, square circles disallowed according to their definition as categorically distinct from one another and so inherently absurd) in all of reality, both perceived and unperceived.

That is why I see the declaration of the atheist position of "there is no God" as breaking the rule.

You mean nowhere, both perceived and unperceived? You know that, with perfect knowledge of all there is? How did you come by perfect knowledge of all there is? I guess you are "god as omniscient mind". And I will say it, Blank out!

When Bahnsen Burner claims that the above is not the case, he reveals that he is toying with words, so he is able to make universal statements of negation, although non of his examples met the requirement, and say he knows it because he knows everything because he lives in a mental vat of open ended categories some of which are imagined but are nevertheless real because he has them in his head. Subjective objectivism.

November 21, 2013 3:48 AM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Closing statements:

I read all your posts from yesterday, and as you claim I do, you do yourself and more obviously.

All your points include “proof texts” from me. Just like a believer to proof text. Not one of them deals with my distinction, which I repeatedly made, between that which does not exist, and the “universal knowledge of the non existence of a thing anywhere within the bounds of what can be perceived but for some reason for the observer has not yet been perceived. You obviously don’t get this, but you do well to avoid my drawing this distinction in every objection I made to your examples.

Take one, once again. Saying you know that there are no 900 story buildings on earth meets not the requirements of what I have said as a refutation to it. Why? Because it reduces the scope of the requirement to be met to earth alone, which you may have traveled, and studied, etc. Saying there are no 900 story buildings anywhere in the universe or multiverse or whatever is out there is a declaration of a universal knowledge affirming a universal negation. Most people wouldn’t dare to number the stars by saying, “there are no galaxies in which there exists greater than x to the 49th power stars, but to do so would only require the knowledge of the whole physical universe, which no one has. You make a much greater claim. You say, in all that there is, both known and unknown to you, that you know ultimately “what is” and by extension “what is not". Amazing!

I said these were closing statements and they are:

I have been doing a thought experiment. It is why I addressed you to begin with
It is called, Van Til or Kuyper
the test calls for taking the most rigorous form of univocal thinking out there, as I was told, namely Objectivism, and seeing if there was any common ground and if so, was there any ability to hear another’s points not already incorporated into the system.
My conclusion is Kuyper for now anyway, based on this one run through of the experiment


The above shows you are an example of perfect arrogance of thought. No where do you allow for the slightest wonder to exist. In imagining yourself to be perfectly objective, you imagine you have full knowledge. I suppose what you have not yet perceived does not in fact exist “out there”? Talk about perfect subjectivism. In attempting to be perfectly objective you end up being perfectly subjective. All that exists for anyone else has to be confined within the bounds of what you already know and this gives you the power to declare universal negatives according to my requirements. Tell me, how many stars are there? You must know, because you know how many there are not.

November 21, 2013 3:57 AM  
Blogger StefanMach said...

Objectivism reduces to subjectivism, by its own form of turning inward, and so does not solve the philosophical problems of man concerning knowledge, as you claim
Objectivism by trying to fix mens heads rips out mens hearts as proven by its diseased fruit of selfishness as virtue, maligning generosity, etc.
Objectivism makes Bahnsens Presuppositionalism look like childs play when it comes to arrogant no it all points of view.There is more than one way to conclude you know it all. Your way, existence exists, perception via five senses, concept formation, advanced grunting, propositional grunting, argument forming grunting ( I know all there is to know based upon what I have in my head)
Neither full blown pre sup or Objectivism reflect the world as it is
Both groups suffer from elitist mentalities which are dangerous.

An answer to your declaration that my God is a square circle.

That is just what I would expect from a two dimensional being interacting with ideas larger than his as yet perceived reality. Your a member of flatland, who interacting with a three dimensional being, makes dogmatic assertions, “its a circle”, “its a square circle”, “no, its an absurdity”. You can’t interact with an idea larger than your own, so you deem it false, and I suppose you must, to remain faithful to yourself. So I simultaneously assert that you are honest, and you are honestly wrong, and it is because of your 2d limitations that you cannot recognize what I have said above. Go on and skip over it once again. You yourself have said that I interacted with your thoughts. That is because they are contained within my thoughts, not as all there is, but as a smaller part of the whole. You of course will say, “no, because they are all there is, which you are party to, and the rest of your thoughts are pure mysticism.

We will never agree. Kuyper is my conclusion.

I will leave you to your hole in the ground, your self proclaimed destiny and desire.

Stefan

November 21, 2013 3:57 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Stefan wrote: “What I do affirm is that if a statement denies the existence of something either implicitly or explicitly while simultaneously requiring its existence, than the statement is openly illogical or oversteps the bounds set to man as one who cannot know everything, and does so while making a self refuting illogical statement.”

By contrast, when one makes an affirmation which performatively makes use of a principle while the content of that affirmation contradicts that principle, the affirmation must be rejected and cannot be accepted as truthful.

This is what occurs in the claim “God exists.” It performatively makes use of the primacy of existence principle while its content contradicts that principle by assuming the primacy of consciousness. Thus the claim “God exists” must be rejected and cannot be accepted as truthful.

See? It’s another one of those “impossibility of the contrary” moments, Stefan.

Regards,
Dawson

November 21, 2013 3:59 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Stefan,

It appears you've left the scene. That's too bad, because I was hoping you might entertain another "thought experiment" by addressing the following:

In your comments on this blog you refereed often to "analogical knowledge" and "univocal reasoning." Would you say that the doctrine of analogy (in the context of theism) was developed by theologians in an attempt to address the paradox they faced on how they should properly speak of a god whose existence they had already accepted as a fact?

Would you also say that there were (and still are) disagreements among believers about the application of these doctrines?

Thanks.

Ydemoc

November 25, 2013 10:29 AM  

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