Monday, November 25, 2013

Rick Warden’s Ill-fated Effort to Refute the Argument from Metaphysical Primacy

Precisely one year ago today, on November 25, 2012, Rick Warden of the Templestream blog posted a blog entry titled A Refutation of Dawson Bethrick's Central Argument Against Theism. In this blog entry, Warden set out to achieve what the title suggests: he attempted to refute the argument from metaphysical primacy.

You see, Warden really wants his god to be real, and he wants his god-beliefs to be true. And like every good Christian, he wants everyone else to believe likewise and submit. Unfortunately, his zeal to vindicate his god-beliefs has clouded his critical faculties to a devastating degree.

In summary, the argument from metaphysical primacy concludes that the claim “God exists” cannot be true (and consequently, that god-belief is inherently irrational) because it necessarily assumes the primacy of consciousness metaphysics, which is not true.

Things do not look good for Warden from the very beginning. Early on in his blog, he made an ill-fated attempt to interact with the axiom of existence. He wrote:
No matter what the given subject, Randian objectivists hold to an underlying set of presuppositions referred to as axioms that are supposedly rock-solid, conceptually sound truths. For example, one Randian axiom is, "existence exists." As others have noted, the word existence is an abstract concept. Existence does not exist because existence is nothing in particular at all. Matter exists, people exist, and, in very real sense, the laws of physics exist, even though though we may not be able to see them.
Warden would have a chance of doing much better than this if he did a little homework. In Objectivism, “’Existence’ is a collective noun, denoting the sum of existents” (Leonard Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, p. 4). This is elementary Objectivism 101 stuff. When Objectivism affirms the axiom ‘existence exists’, it is not saying that the abstract concept ‘existence’ exists out there some place, but rather that the things denoted by the concept ‘existence’ exist. This is not unusual, for people generally use concepts precisely this way. When we say “man exists,” we are not making a statement about the concept ‘man’; rather we are making a statement about the things denoted by the concept ‘man’. If we say “the internet exists,” we are not talking about the concept ‘internet’, but rather the vast electronic networks known collectively as “the internet.” Thus the axiom of existence is simply a general, fundamental and explicit recognition that things exist stated in a single-concept axiom.

This elementary blunder gives us a foretaste of things to come: in his zeal to refute and devastate non-Christian points of view, Warden is happy to destroy everything and anything in his path, including his own chances for understanding fundamental truths.

Warden then wrote:
Even if you forgive the blunder of this summarized statement, presuming that things in the universe "just exist" with no metaphysical cause or explanation is nothing more than a metaphysical presupposition.
Warden needs to give his own criticisms more critical thought. The axiom ‘existence exists’ denotes a basic fact of which we are first aware. When we look out at the world, the first thing we notice is that it exists. Thus we have the axiom of existence, which explicitly formalizes this fundamental recognition. Warden can deny the fact that existence exists all he likes, but he would have to exist first in order to do this, thus refuting himself even before he opened his lips. If by ‘presupposition’ Warden simply means a “faith commitment,” then clearly the axiom of existence does not qualify as such. The axiom of existence identifies a fact that is perceptually self-evident, and thus its truth is not known by means of looking inward (as would be the case in faith-based “truths”), but by looking outward. The axiom of existence is an undeniably true recognition.

But notice that Warden wants to raise the notion that existence is the product of some prior cause. But also notice that this notion is utterly absurd: causality presupposes existence. Existence does not presuppose causality. If something is caused, something must do the causing, which means: existence is a precondition for causality. There could be no causality without something first existing, just as there could be no dance without a dancer. Causality is the law of identity applied to action: it is the identity of action as such. And we know that action has identity, otherwise verbs like ‘walk’, ‘think’, ‘run’, ‘fly’, ‘swim’, ‘eat’, ‘argue’, ‘change’, etc., would be impossible. These concepts are possible because actions have identity and therefore are distinct from one another, which means we can identify them – just as we do with the verbs which our language supplies.

Warden wrote:
It is not a metaphysically incontrovertible axiom.
The only way that the axiom of existence could not be incontrovertible would be if nothing at all existed. But if that were the case, we could not be here disputing the meaning of ‘existence exists’. Again, Warden could have avoided elementary blunders such as this if he had only done a little honest homework. I know… that’ll be the day!

Warden himself cites my paper Does Logic Presuppose the Christian God? But he does not seem to have read it very carefully. In fact, in his paper, he quoted from the following paragraph; unfortunately he did not quote its very first sentence, and throughout his attempt to refute my argument, he has ignored the advice given in this sentence. The paragraph in full reads:
It is important to keep in mind that objectivity has ultimately to do with therelationship between a subject of consciousness and its objects. In metaphysics the objective position is the view that the objects of consciousness are what they are independent of any subject’s conscious activity, while the subjective position is the view that the objects of consciousness depend in some way on a subject’s conscious activity, either for their nature, the actions they perform, their very existence, etc. Given this explicit understanding of these two antithetical metaphysical viewpoints, it should not be difficult to see how theism rests on the subjective orientation in the subject-object relationship, particularly in the case of its object of worship, a universe-creating, reality-ruling consciousness which sovereignly calls all the shots. The notion that the universe as a whole is a cosmic king’s whipping boy, obediently conforming to its commands and dutifully carrying out its wishes, undeniably assumes the metaphysical primacy of consciousness.
In reaction to this paragraph, Warden wrote:
As noted, Dawson offers that there is an "objective position" and "subjective position" that are "antithetical metaphysical viewpoints" in an either-or dichotomy. Dawson believes his objective position is true and the subjective position is false.
As I have noted elsewhere on my blog, the primacy of existence is universally and absolutely attested throughout nature: every organism which possesses the faculty of consciousness is an example of the primacy of existence in reality, and therefore evidence for its truth. In each case, whether it is a fish, a reptile, a fox, a horse, a chimpanzee, or a man, an organism’s consciousness gives it awareness of objects which exist and are what they are independent of its conscious activity.

Suppose I sit at my desk and look at my bookshelf some 10 feet away. I focus on one of the books on the shelf – say one of Bahnsen’s apologetics books. Here I am the perceiving subject, conscious of an object, and the book on the shelf that I’m looking at is the object of my conscious activity. Now while I focus on that book, I make a wish: I wish that it withdraw itself from the stack and float over to my table so that I don’t have to get up and get it physically. In terms of “an either-or dichotomy” as Warden puts it, either the book obeys my wishing, or it doesn’t. What do you think will happen? Unfortunately, the book did not obey my wishes. Now I will simply imagine the book pulling itself out of the bookshelf and levitating over to my table. I close my eyes and imagine. But when I open my eyes, I do not find that the book has moved at all. Apparently I must be doing something wrong if in fact the primacy of consciousness is true. So this time I verbally command the book to withdraw itself and float over to my table. Sadly, the book remains on the shelf completely unaltered.

Then I try praying: I pray to whatever ruling consciousness supposedly exists in some supernatural realm to give me “a sign” that it is real and move the book from the bookshelf to my table for me. I pray fervently. I plead with the ruling consciousness to demonstrate its power. Well, what do you think happened? Even Christians will have to admit that the book remained where it was all along.

Now, this should not be difficult for anyone to understand, especially if they are honest with themselves. One can try this experiment anywhere, any time. Just focus on some object that you’re perceiving, and submit it to various experiments of conscious intension, such as wishing, imagining, commanding, pleading, praying, etc. You will find that the objects of your consciousness do not conform to your conscious activity. This is obviously true. It is so obviously true that people simply take it for granted while never explicitly recognizing or understanding it. And yet, we continually hear, even from Christian apologists, things like “Just because you don’t believe it, doesn’t mean it’s true” or “truth does not hinge on your likes and preferences.” Or the old, “wishing doesn’t make it so.” These are all true statements, but they do not get to the heart of the matter, which is: the proper relationship between the subject of consciousness and its objects.

Warden continued:
In accordance with criticisms he has received, at some point, Dawson had refined his argument to exclude a key aspect of God's nature, questions related to God's creative ability,
This is misleading and it ignores an important point. For one, I never had to alter the essence of my argument. And in spite of Warden’s insinuation that I have had to change my argument in response to criticisms, Warden does not show that I have done this. That having been said, in attempting to clarify the argument for those who have gone out of their way to misrepresent it, naturally I have had to correct numerous critics of my argument.

For example, it has been suggested that I’m trying to “define” the Christian god out of existence. But this is false, and I explain why here. This was an accusation from a Christian. But consider: what would be wrong with trying to “define” something out of existence? Clearly it would be an instance of assuming the primacy of consciousness; in essence, it would be the claim that reality conforms to whatever definitions we concocted, and if I concoct a definition which excludes the Christian god from existence, then I would be assuming the primacy of consciousness. Essentially, the complaint that I am trying to define the Christian god out of existence is the complaint that I’m relying on the primacy of consciousness, and yet this is exactly what the theist wants to preserve – the primacy of consciousness. Again, we have an indication that people are so casually unaware of the issue of metaphysical primacy that they are not aware of what side their stated position stands on.

On another occasion it was asserted that my argument does not succeed because, according to Christianity, its god did not create itself. Thus, it is assumed, if the Christian god did not create itself, then there’s no instance of metaphysical subjectivism here. I deal with this objection here. In this blog, I make the following clarification:
The Objectivist argument which I defend is not that god-belief is subjective because its god allegedly created itself. Rather, the argument is that god-belief is subjective because it ascribes metaphysical primacy to a subject (e.g., “God’s will”) over any and all of its objects, regardless of whether or not that subject is said to have created itself. That is where the root of subjectivism lies in the Christian worldview: in the relationship between its god as a subject and any objects distinct from itself.
Clearly what I’m doing here is trying to correct misunderstandings and possible misrepresentations of my argument. This is not the same thing as altering it from what it originally argued.

Notice the very last line which focuses on where the subjectivism in the Christian worldview is to be found: in the relationship between its god as a subject and any objects distinct from itself. All this is laid out very clearly.

But in spite of this, Warden still says that my argument is flawed. He writes:
at least two logical fallacies are noted in a post from (12/26/08).
The date in parentheses in this quote contains a link to my blog The Inherent Subjectivism of God-belief, which I have replicated here.

Warden then quotes from the passage I quoted above, but for reasons that are not explained, he leaves out significant portions. Below is the same portion of the paragraph that I quoted above; the italics here indicate the portions which Warden has left out in his citation of it:
The Objectivist argument which I defend is not that god-belief is subjective because its god allegedly created itself. Rather, the argument is that god-belief is subjective because it ascribes metaphysical primacy to a subject (e.g., “God’s will”) over any and all of its objects, regardless of whether or not that subject is said to have created itself. That is where the root of subjectivism lies in the Christian worldview: in the relationship between its god as a subject and any objects distinct from itself.
Also notice that where my statement begins with “The Objectivist argument which I defend…,” Warden quotes it as “The objective argument which I defend…” Also, Warden inserts two parenthetical statements of his own in his quotation of my statement: (1) after the word ‘defend’, Warden adds parenthetically “(actually special pleading)”; and (2) after the words “allegedly created itself” Warden adds “(straw-man: excluding the nature of God’s creativity)”. In addition to omitting the portion of the quote indicated by italics above, Warden critically ignores my own parenthetical “(e.g., ‘God’s will’).” The “e.g.,” here indicates that what follows is merely an example of the point that I am making; it does not in any way restrict my point exclusively to the example that I cite. This will have some importance as we examine Warden’s objections.

But to be clear, Warden is charging my argument with two fallacies, namely special pleading and mischaracterization. Assuming that these are the extent of his objections, then, if it turns out that my argument can be vindicated of these charges, then Warden should have no further objections to it and thus must accept its conclusion as soundly established. But something tells me that Warden will continue to resist my argument’s conclusion even if it can be shown that his charges of fallacy are untenable.

Also, I might point out that it is somewhat ironic that Warden would charge my argument with straw-manning Christianity when in fact he straw-man’s my argument! As we can see above, he does not even give it justice in his selective omissions of my statement of it. But I’m used to this; I do not know Christians for their honesty.

But Warden does say that my argument is not objective to begin with. He writes:
in accordance with the tenets of critical thinking, Dawson is not offering an objective argument at all, which is a bit ironic. According to both the scientific method and the basics of critical thinking, any influential variables should be included in any hypothesis in order to achieve valid, objective results.
If my argument were an attempt to draw conclusions based on scientific experimentation, this objection might hold water, but even then we would have to consider the specifics of the case. However, my argument does not proceed on the basis of findings from experiments other than the experiments one can perform on his own to verify the primacy of existence, such as the experiment I described above about the book on the shelf. The results in that case are clear and undeniable, for they clearly and undeniably point to the absolute truth of the primacy of existence.

But what Warden seems to be insinuating here is that I have failed to integrate what he refers to as “influential variables” in my argument about the Christian god. Actually, I didn’t know that the Christian god had any “variables” – it is supposed to be “absolute” and “unchanging,” thus nothing about the Christian god is supposed to be “variable” in the first place. But let’s suppose that Warden means that I’m ignoring certain relevant factors that somehow mitigate the conclusion of my argument. Since the issue of metaphysical primacy is focused directly on the relationship between the subject of consciousness and its objects, and since my argument explores precisely this relationship as it would apply in the case of the Christian god as it is described by Christianity, I do not think I’ve overlooked any such factors at all. On the contrary, what I suspect has happened is that Warden has misunderstood the argument and/or that he is trying to divert attention away from this relationship in order to salvage his god-belief from the scrutiny of the argument from metaphysical primacy.

In his charge that I have mischaracterized Christian theism, Warden writes:
The nature of God's creative abilities is certainly a valid aspect to consider when attempting to honestly evaluate subject-object relationships and Theism. But Dawson's metaphysics conveniently removes this question that would disprove his argument.
I can only wonder what Warden thinks my argument is or whether or not he actually read my blog which he himself cites and quotes. For as evidence supporting my argument, I explicitly cite the Christian doctrine of creation. Notice my methodology: first I explain what the primacy of existence and the primacy of consciousness entail, and then I examine what Christianity teaches to see which orientation the Christian worldview attributes to its god.

To explain what the primacy of existence is, I offered the following thought experiment, essentially similar to the one I gave above:
For example, suppose I see a stapler on my desk. My seeing the stapler does not bring the stapler into existence. It exists independent of my perception of it, my awareness did not cause it to exist. Now if I wish that the stapler be full of staples when in fact it has already run out, my wishing will not automatically reload it so that it is full again. Wishing does not have this power, and that is because the objects of consciousness hold metaphysical primacy over consciousness. If I want the stapler reloaded, I would have to physically reload it, and I could do this only if I have a set of staples to put into it. I could command that the stapler levitate itself to my hand if it is out of my reach, but will the stapler obey my command? No, it won't. Again, it exists independent of my conscious activity. I could imagine that the stapler is really an Asian elephant, but does my imagination turn the stapler into an elephant? No it does not: it remains a stapler all the same, and that’s because existence holds metaphysical primacy over consciousness, the objects of consciousness are what they are regardless of conscious activity. I could forget that my stapler is on my desk. But when I turn around, it’s still there. Why? Because it exists independent even of my forgetfulness, too. I could continue this experiment and test other conscious functions, but the result will always be the same: existence exists independent of consciousness. The primacy of existence cannot be defeated.
It should be noted that nothing in my position has changed here: the objects of consciousness do not conform to conscious activity. One can wish, imagine, command, etc., that an object of his consciousness do what one desires, but the objects do not obey conscious actions. No amount of mere wishing, imagining, commanding, etc., will cause an object to do what is desired of it. This is the primacy of existence: the objects of consciousness exist and are what they are independent of conscious activity.

Then I consider whether or not this relationship – the primacy of existence – is what Christianity attributes to the relationship between its god as a conscious agent and the universe of objects it is said by the Christian worldview to have created. Observe what I wrote:
Now does this principle, the primacy of existence, characterize the orientation which the Christian god is supposed to enjoy between itself as a conscious subject and any objects in its awareness? It’s hard to see how a theistic believer would think so. A brief look at the Christian god’s career, as described in the bible, is sufficient to settle this question definitively. One need look no further than the opening verses of the book of Genesis, where we read that the god it describes “created the earth and the heaven.” Christians typically take this act of creation by their god to be comprehensive.
I then gave several quotes from Christians themselves who confirm precisely what I am saying. In fact, I did this expressly to avoid the hazard of mischaracterizing the Christian position. Since Warden apparently missed every one of these quotes, I shall re-quote them here:
We find the following quote from Cornelius Van Til, writes:
Christianity holds that God is the creator of every fact... God’s thought is placed back of every fact. (Christian Theistic-Evidences, p. 88; quoted in Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis, p. 378)
Christians usually describe their god’s creation of the universe as an act of will. Again we have Van Til, who wrote:
God wills, that is, creates the universe. God wills, that is, by his providence controls the course of development of the created universe and brings it to its climax. (“Apologetics,” 1959)
Elsewhere Van Til wrote:
We now know that the world exists simply because God wills it. (“The Election of All Men in Christ,” The Great Debate Today, 1970)
Or, as one source puts it (this is now a broken link; the PDF page from which the following was quoted in Dec. 2008 has now been removed from the internet):
Fact: God willed the universe into being. Fact: He willed the universe into being by simply speaking it into existence instantaneously. References: Psalm 33:6,9 Psalm 148:5 Hebrews 11:3 Thought: He did not have to speak in order to create, but He did. God could have just thought the universe into being. Instead, He spoke it into being. He used His word to create.
Similarly, apologist Douglas Wilson, in his article The Metaphorical Word, writes:
God spoke the created universe into being. God the Father "God-the-Son-ed" light, and there was light. God the Speaker Worded the heavens and the earth, and so they came to be.
In addressing the question What Do Christians Believe? Answering Islam’s Terrell Smith states:
God is Creator of everything, this vast universe. All was created by His Word. He spoke it into being. It is written: (Genesis 1:3) And God said... and it was so. His Word is powerful... God's Word spoke the universe into being. His Word is powerful beyond our comprehension.
Likewise, in answer to the question Can you explain why God created the universe? Christian author Mike Scott writes:
All things came into being through the will of God. It was God's pleasure that the universe and everything in it be created.
And lastly, Jack Cottrell, in his Sovereignty and Free Will, explains:
God's will is the final and exclusively determinative power of whatsoever comes to pass. The nature of any created thing is what it is because of an act of determination in relation to it on the part of God.

These quotes were all given in my blog entry, which Warden himself cites, to substantiate my point, relative to my overall case regarding the Christian worldview’s affirmation of the primacy of consciousness metaphysics, that Christianity attributes to its god the power to create things at will – i.e., essentially by wishing, commanding, and/or speaking them into being. Thus it is hard to see why Warden thinks I have ignored the “the nature of God's creative abilities” which he thinks “is certainly a valid aspect to consider when attempting to honestly evaluate subject-object relationships and Theism.” Indeed, I cite this aspect of Christianity’s notion of its god explicitly and emphatically.

Warden asserts that my argument “is basically a subjective one” and goes on to say:
As Dawson states in the article, "Now it’s well and good that a system of god-belief holds that its god did not create itself." This subject is actually not very "well and good" for Dawson's argument, because this is quite enough to show that volition and consciousness do not hold metaphysical primacy in Theism. If God cannot whimsically cause Himself to exist and not exist, then there is no metaphysical primacy of volition is [in] Theism.
Clearly Warden has not read my blog entry - either at all, or at any rate carefully. Several points can be cited in defense of my argument here. For one, Warden’s “if… then…” argument here is a textbook example of a non sequitur: it does not follow from the fact that Christianity holds that its god did not create itself that metaphysical subjectivism is therefore not instantiated in Christianity. Indeed, this is one of the points I make in response to Drew Lewis and David Parker in my blog entry which Warden himself purports to be refuting. Second, as I did above, I made the point that Christianity asserts that its god has the power to bring things into existence by means of an act of will. I quoted numerous Christian sources affirming this. This means that, even if the Christian god is not imagined as having created itself, it is still imagined as having created everything distinct from itself, including the universe as well as other supernatural beings and destinations – such as angels, demons, devils, heaven, hell, etc. In all these cases, according to Christianity, the Christian god essentially “thought” them into being. This is the primacy of the subject over its objects. Indeed, one cannot get more subjective than this!

So already, in his attempt to cite me with mischaracterizing Christianity, Warden shows that he must ignore basic elements of the argument I have presented, disregard the many quotes that I presented to substantiate my characterization of Christianity, and engage in non sequitur reasoning in order to sidestep the serrated edge of my argument against theism. These fallacious maneuvers on Warden’s part fail to do justice to my argument and only succeed to make him look desperate to protect his god-belief.

In fact, if you want some irony of the juiciest sort, observe what Rick Warden has to say in reaction to the claim made by scientist Robert Lanza (known for his work on stem cell research and cloning), namely that “the theory of biocentrism teaches that death as we know it is an illusion created by our consciousness” (per this Mail Online article). In reaction to Lanza’s claim, Warden recently wrote:
In essence, Lanza proposes that consciousness holds supremacy over the material world. This, of course, is in keeping with the biblical account of Genesis in which the material world was created by the consciousness and will of God. (Quantum physics proves that there IS an afterlife, claims scientist)
Now all of a sudden Warden finds it expedient to endorse Christianity’s primacy of consciousness metaphysics explicitly. And he makes it clear that this has been “the biblical account” all along, as I had already pointed out in the blog entry which Warden sought to critique!

So who’s special-pleading here?

Warden goes on (in his post critiquing mine) to say that:
By excluding this important issue, Dawson is committing the fallacy of special pleading and he is offering a straw-man God whose unique creative abilities are being ignored in the subject object relationships of Theism.
How can Warden say that I am “excluding this important issue” – namely the “unique creative abilities” which Christianity attributes to its god – when I cite them explicitly as evidence supporting my argument’s premises?

Warden then cites an unidentified source regarding the nature of subjectivism. He writes:
According to the standard philosophical definition of subjective reality, God's own mind and God's own existence satisfy the qualifications for discerning that reality in accordance with God's existence is not subjective. The philosophical definition of subjective is as follows: relating to or of the nature of an object as it is known in the mind as distinct from a thing in itself.
It is not at all uncommon for a term to carry a variety of definitions, one of which applies in a given circumstance depending on attending context. If Warden took the definition he cites above from an online dictionary (such as Dictionary.com, which gives the definition he cites here verbatim), then clearly he selected it specifically from a collection of definitions, some of which may indeed be more in line with the way I am using the term ‘subjective’. For example, the same online source offers the following definition of ‘subjective’:
belonging to, proceeding from, or relating to the mind of the thinking subject and not the nature of the object being considered
The “proceeding from” aspect here is closer to how I have used it in my blog, and Warden should be sharp enough to recognize this.

At any rate, it should be clear in my blog entry what I mean by ‘subjective’ when I write:
in the case of the Christian god the subject of consciousness is described as holding metaphysical primacy over its objects (i.e., subjectivism).
Indeed, if objectivity is the fundamental recognition that the objects of consciousness exist and are what they are independent of the conscious activity by which a subject is aware of them, how can the theist claim that this is the relationship which obtains between his god and the universe?

At this point, Warden is frustrated that I am using definitions which hinge explicitly on the issue of metaphysical primacy. He writes:
Why should we rely on Dawson's own personal definition of "subjective" when there are more commonly accepted definitions? The impetus is on Dawson to convince us why this is necessary, but, instead of strong reasoning, we find confusion within the ranks of objectivists as to how to define the mind / body relationship.
For one thing, how various individuals define “the mind / body relationship” is entirely irrelevant to the matter at hand. Here Warden is simply trying to send the reader down new rabbit trails that distract attention from the issue at hand. He speaks of “find[ing] confusion,” and yet he is the one who is expressly trying to create it here. If Warden were truly confident that my argument is so flawed, why would he find it necessary to draw the reader’s attention away from it in this manner?

The case for the definition of ‘subjectivism’ that my argument assumes is entailed in the issue of metaphysical primacy and the need for concepts which identify applications of the primacy of consciousness in worldview positions. Subjectivism in metaphysics is clearly the position which grants metaphysical primacy to the subject in the subject-object relationship. That is where the “subject” in “subjectivism” comes from.

Consider the definition of ‘subjective’ which Warden cites: “relating to or of the nature of an object as it is known in the mind as distinct from a thing in itself.” What knowledge of objects is exempt from subjectivism according to this definition? Since knowledge of an object is in fact distinct from the object itself, using this definition seems to render all knowledge subjective, even if that knowledge is acquired by applying an objective methodology. Thus knowledge based on reason and “knowledge” based on emotions, imagination, wishing, etc., are all equally subjective on this definition, to the degree that said knowledge is knowledge of any object. No distinction between objective methodology and subjective processes are taken into consideration here. To the extent that this is the case with this definition, it is philosophically deficient. And notably, Warden makes no argument for its philosophical legitimacy other than that it happens to be what he found in a dictionary.

Consider the points that I made in reply to Christian apologist Chris Bolt in a comment on my blog How Theism Violates the Primacy of Existence. In a discussion with Bolt, note my questions and Bolt’s answers:
Me: "You hold that the existence of the universe depends on your god’s conscious activity, do you not?" Bolt: “I do.” Me: "You believe it created the universe, gave everything in the universe its identity, and controls everything that happens in the universe by means of its will – i.e., by some conscious activity. Right?" Bolt: “Right.”
I then replied to Bolt:
Look at what you just affirmed - that the existence of the universe depends on your god's conscious activity. That's existence depending on consciousness. Do you not see how your god’s “sovereignty” and “control” of everything in the universe constitutes an expression of the primacy of consciousness? Does not your god’s will (a form of consciousness) call all the shots always, everywhere and in every thing? Is anything distinct from your god’s consciousness independent of its will, its “plan,” its intentions? Isn’t everything subject to its will? What holds metaphysical primacy in the relationship between your god as a consciousness and everything in its scope of awareness: your god as conscious subject, or the objects it is said to have created? Everything Christians say about their god points to their god as the one holding metaphysical primacy, and all its objects conforming to its will. That’s the primacy of consciousness, Chris.
How is this not clear? How am I ignoring the “unique creative abilities” which Christianity attributes to its god? How am I mischaracterizing the Christian worldview? Christians affirm its subjective tenets explicitly. Why is Warden so out of sync with other Christians?

Warden writes:
The distinction between God's knowledge and God's nature is definable and rationally understood in the context of Theism.
This is wholly irrelevant to the matter.

Warden writes:
If God cannot will Himself to exist or not to exist, then God's existence is not subject to the knowledge of His existence or God's will.
This too is irrelevant. The view that the Christian god created itself is not a necessary condition for the primacy of consciousness to apply in the Christian worldview. Warden implies that this is the case, but he nowhere presents any argument for this assumption. On the contrary, the presence of subjectivism in Christian metaphysics is unmistakable given the relationship which the Christian worldview attributes between the Christian god as conscious subject and every object distinct from itself, which is claimed to have been created by an act of the Christian god’s will.

Indeed, the view that the Christian god could not have created itself is just confirmation of the fact that the primacy of existence is unavoidably true. This of course does not help theism. It only shows that it trades on two mutually contradictory metaphysical paradigms: it affirms metaphysical subjectivism (“God created the universe”; “God controls whatsoever comes to pass”; “every detail of human history proceeds according to God’s will,” etc.) while tacitly conceding that the primacy of existence is inescapable in the final analysis. This tells us explicitly that Christianity has no consistent metaphysics in terms of the issue of metaphysical primacy. That’s not the Objectivist’s problem.

Warden writes:
If God cannot will Himself to sin or to lie - against His eternal nature - then God's nature is not subject to the knowledge of his nature or His will to change it.
Again, this is irrelevant. The instantiation of metaphysical subjectivism in Christianity according to my argument is not between the Christian god as knowing subject and itself as an object of its own consciousness, but between the Christian god as knowing subject and everything that exists which is distinct from the Christian god, such as the universe, the world, everyone in the world, every atom, molecule and subatomic particle that it is said to have created, etc. At no point does Warden acknowledge the legitimacy of the relationship that my argument focuses on (even though one of the major points of my blog entry was to clarify this for those who were similarly confused), let alone address it! It’s as if Warden didn’t even know that his worldview posits such a relationship, even though it is central to Christian teaching.

In fact, in this regard, he writes:
Dawson's emphasis on the Creator-created relationship is an arbitrary condition used to display his subject-object argument.
Warden provides no argument for this. And why would we consider this emphasis “arbitrary”? Indeed, it is central to Christian teaching. From the Old Testament through the New Testament, from pastors addressing their congregants to street preachers seeking to net men in their fishing nets, the constant factor is the same: our relationship to the Christian god, its commandments for us, our alleged transgressions of its law, its plan for human history, our place within that plan, our obligation to “submit,” its “love” for the world, its son’s sacrifice for us, etc., etc., etc.

Perhaps when apologists tell us that we need to “get right” with their god, we can tell them, per Rick Warden, that their emphasis on our relationship with the Christian god is arbitrary.

One wonders how deep into worldview-denial Warden’s desperation will take him.

Warden writes:
He avoids the more subtle distinctions between personal volition and personal nature that would undermine his argument.
The so-called “more subtle distinctions between personal volition and personal nature” that Warden has in mind here are presumed by him to be contained within his god – its personal volition with regard to its personal nature. But since my argument has nothing to do with this, it is irrelevant. This is simply not the issue at hand, and I explain why in my blog entry. Warden is showing the world that he simply cannot deal with my argument on its own terms.

Warden writes:
Dawson's argument conveniently eliminates aspects of God's nature by using the unique definition of 'subjective' offered by objectivists, which, as I'll show, has no justification. In creating his own definitions and defining limited arbitrary parameters, Dawson is only advancing his own disconnected definitions and theories. It is a straw man argument supported by straw-man definitions utilizing a straw-man God. Once conventional definitions are used, the arbitrary nature of Dawson's God and Dawson's argument parameters becomes evident.
Several points here:

1. What “aspects of God’s nature” does my argument “conveniently eliminate”? My argument focuses on the relationship which the Christian worldview attributes to the Christian god vis-à-vis any and all objects distinct from itself. If the Christian god were real and it were conscious and if it were conscious of things that are distinct from itself, then this relationship would necessarily obtain. No other “aspects of God’s nature” would negate this relationship. Only if this relationship were not implied by Christian teaching would my argument be guilty of mischaracterizing Christianity.

2. Warden is free to reject my definitions, but simply rejecting them does not mean that they are not philosophically viable.

3. Warden prefers “conventional definitions,” but he offers no reason for doing so. What should be noted is that he does not offer biblical definitions on behalf of the terms in question. But this is because the bible nowhere presents any informed discussion on the nature of the relationship between consciousness and its objects. Indeed, observe how confused Warden himself on the matter is.

Warden writes:
When asked to justify his unique definition of 'subjective,' Dawson stated, "And the definition which Objectivism provides for the concept ‘subjective’ is entirely consistent with its metaphysics and epistemology."  
1. Dawson claims "Objectivism provides for the concept ‘subjective’ is entirely consistent with its metaphysics and epistemology."  
2. When twice asked to summarize his theory that defines the mind/body relationship (a fundamental issue regarding subjectivism) with respect to a number of other explanations offered by objectivists, Dawson refused to actually define it in philosophical terms within this context.  
3. Therefore, Dawson, in his apparent unwillingness to clarify his own definitions with respect to the many other inconsistent variants, is underscoring the fact that Objectivism does NOT allow for definitions entirely consistent with its metaphysics and epistemology.
Several points here:

1. The issue of metaphysical primacy and a “theory that defines the mind/body relationship” are two fundamentally different things. The former has to do with the relationship between consciousness and its objects, regardless of how we come to understand the nature of the relationship between consciousness and the organism which possesses it. That Warden wants to shift focus on this only shows that he cannot deal with my argument on its own terms.

2. I have not been unwilling to clarify my definitions. On the contrary, I’ve been at pains to lay them out and correct deliberate efforts to misrepresent them, such as Warden’s own. I predict that Warden still won’t get it, not because I haven’t been clear and not because he’s not intelligent enough, but because he seeks to disintegrate knowledge rather than integrate it.

3. Let’s examine what actually happened in the exchange that Warden cites and see if I really was so “unwilling” to state my position as he says I was:
Rick wrote:
”Let me see, that must be why all the objectivists are all on the same page and in perfect agreement with these ‘entirely consistent’ mind/body explanations: ‘Nathaniel Branden has tentatively plumped for panpsychism. Roger Bissell holds what appears to be a version of identity theory, with hard-deterministic implications. Binswanger has the above causal substance dualism, which is apparently ‘controversial’ among Objectivists. But it is hardly any ‘spookier’ than Rand and Peikoff's position, which from what can be made out, is a vague but interactionist position’."
I responded
”For one thing, what I stated in my comment to you had to do with the consistency of a *definition* with fundamental principles of Objectivist metaphysics. Now you want me to answer for what certain *personalities* have allegedly affirmed somewhere. And you don’t even quote what those persons have themselves affirmed. Rather, you’re quoting from a source which clearly has an ax to grind against Objectivism. All this is to say, you’re really reaching here. I suppose you have no options left though, since you’ve been summarily answered on your “refutation” of my argument. 
Branden left Objectivism a long time ago, and I have not followed him closely. He has stated many things that strike me as reasonable, and others that seem far-fetched. But I see no reason why I would need to try to reconcile his views with mine. Same with Bissell and Binswanger as they are interpreted by the “aynrandcontrahumannature” blog.  
There really is no “mind/body problem” in Objectivism. Consciousness is biological, just as other functions of an organism are. Rand puts it clearly in Atlas Shrugged:  
<< Man is an indivisible entity, an integrated unit of two attributes: of matter and consciousness, and . . . he may permit no breach between body and mind, between action and thought, between his life and his convictions. >> 
The “mystery” here is essentially residue from thousands of years of thinkers trying to reconcile human nature with the mystical premise that it is the creation of a supernatural consciousness. This is not Objectivism’s problem.  
As for what Binswanger, Bissell, Peikoff and Branden have affirmed, I strongly, strongly urge you to go directly to the source on these things. The fellow who runs the blog you’ve run to for help is simply promoting a smear campaign.
I stated this last point because rather than getting the facts from their source, Warden chose to go with what he learned from Daniel Barnes at the “aynrandcontrahumannature” blog, a group known for their hatred of Rand and pretty much anything that smacks of objectivity. To date I’ve seen no indication that Warden has acted on my advice.

Presumably Warden would not suppose that I should get my information about Christian teachings from those who are perceived be Christians to be hostile towards Christianity, such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris or Christopher HItchens. By the same token, Warden should be show himself to be more concerned about accuracy than about blindly repeating sources that are explicitly hostile towards Objectivism, and consult primary sources on the matters relevant to the issues at hand. I suggest that Warden swallow his pride and follow my example of quoting sources that are sympathetic to the position under consideration.

Now, since the topic of mind/body dualism is irrelevant to my argument, it warrants no further response. The only thing that I would point out here is that, regardless of Warden’s criticisms of Rand’s views on other matters, such as mind/body dualism, this in no way constitutes a rational basis to reject the definition of subjectivism that I have been using. (And Warden wants to complain about fallacies?)

Warden writes:
We theists… do not summarize God merely as a personal will that has a sovereign volition. By narrowing God down to one characteristic and focusing only on God's volition, Dawson is offering another straw man version of God.
It’s very simple. A direct question will best cut to the chase on the issue here:
Can Warden cite one thing that exists in the universe which, according to Christianity, is not subject to the Christian god’s will?
I’m tending to think not. And even if there were a few things here and there that Warden thinks are not subject to his god’s will, clearly as a Christian he thinks at least some things are subject to the Christian god’s will. Thus my argument’s relevance to Christianity is thereby firmly established.

Warden writes:
God is not merely a personal being with volition, God is also eternally conscious and eternally existent, and, therefore, in a temporal sense, there is no dichotomy according to the ultimate metaphysical reality proposed in Theism according to the true theist "notion" of reality.
Statements like this again confirm that Warden does not understand the issue of metaphysical primacy. The issue of metaphysical primacy has to do with the relationship between consciousness and its objects. Warden does affirm that his god is a conscious agent; that it is said to be “eternally existent” is neither here nor there. If the Christian god is supposed to be conscious, then it must be conscious of something, in which case, it would be conscious of some object(s). Thus a relationship between the Christian god as a conscious subject and that object(s) would obtain. Therefore we can examine the implications of Christian theism’s view of its god in terms of metaphysical primacy – i.e., in terms of the orientation between the Christian god as a conscious subject and any object(s) it is said to be conscious of.

Once consciousness enters into the picture, there must be some object the said consciousness would be conscious of. Therefore, once consciousness enters the picture, the issue of metaphysical primacy becomes fundamentally relevant. There is no way to sidestep this.

Warden writes:
All the three main branches of Theism underscore that God is an eternal being. For example, Isaiah 57.15 offers that God is the "High and Lofty One...who lives forever." Even if a skeptic were to propose an absurd notion that God could create Himself, that would be irrelevant to this argument, because that is not what scripture offers.
Everything Warden states here is irrelevant to my argument. None of it vies against my argument’s pertinence as a critique of theistic metaphysics.

Warden then wrote several brief paragraphs summarizing points about “The True Nature of God.” In this section, we find damning hints of Warden’s true lack of understanding of my argument.

Warden wrote:
Ultimately, Theism ascribes metaphysical primacy to all aspects of God in harmony - God's existence, God's consciousness, God's glory, God's holiness, God's truth, God's nature, God's omnipotence, God's omniscience, God's omnipresence, all hold metaphysical unity and primacy in the universe and there is no dichotomy between these aspects of God.
To the extent that any of this is relevant to criticizing my argument, it actually confirms the pertinence and relevance of my argument as well as its central premise that the Christian god as conscious subject holds metaphysical primacy over all objects distinct from itself. Thus Warden offers a crucial concession to my argument (as he did in his blog entry on Robert Lanza). Since Christian theism attributes metaphysical primacy to a subject in the subject-object relationship, we have in Christian theism the affirmation of metaphysical subjectivism. That’s what my argument argues. Here Warden basically gives away the farm.

Warden writes:
Nowhere in scripture is it implied that God's own nature is subservient to His will. Numbers 29.13, for example, implies that God's will is metaphysically subservient to His nature: "he is God, that cannot lie."
Even if this is true, it is irrelevant. It is clear that, according to the Christian worldview, everything that the Christian god is alleged to have created is subservient to its will. The Christian god simply thinks of something and wishes it into being, like magic. That’s the primacy of consciousness. It’s most puzzling that Warden does not grasp this.

Warden writes:
Unchanging aspects of a person's inherent nature hold metaphysical primacy over a person's volition.
To the extent that this is relevant, it only proves that Christianity has no consistent metaphysics in terms of metaphysical primacy. At times the primacy of existence obtains (such as in the case of the relationship between the Christian god’s conscious activity and the Christian god’s nature as such), and at other times the primacy of consciousness obtains (such as in the relationship between the Christian god as conscious subject and the universe of objects distinct from the Christian god and alleged to have been spoken into being by the Christian god). Thus we have fundamental contradictory metaphysics characterizing the very root structure of Christian theism. Thanks for confirming this, Rick Warden!

Warden wrote:
What holds ultimate metaphysically primacy (God's existence) represents the most significant aspects of reality in the universe.
And to the extent that the Christian god is said to have providential power over everything that exists in the universe, such that it can will things into existence (e.g., the doctrine of creation), it assigns existents their identity (e.g., as we see in the Genesis tale of the creation of animals), it can alter causal relations (e.g., the doctrine of miracles), all by an act of will, then we have the primacy of consciousness metaphysics in full force. Warden is free to reject these things, but he would thereby be rejecting staple tenets of the Christian worldview. Cornelius Van Til tells us that “miracles are at the heart of the Christian position” (The Defense of the Faith, p. 27) and elsewhere he writes “kill miracle and you kill Christianity” (Christian-Theistic Evidences, p. i).

Warden wrote:
Because there is no dualism or primacy between existence and consciousness in the eternal unchanging God, then there is no dualism or primacy in the most significant aspects of reality in the universe.
Again Warden seems to be confusing mind/body dualism with the issue of metaphysical primacy, which is an elementary blunder on his part. It’s very simple: if the Christian god is said to have created things that exist, and/or that those things which exist distinct from the Christian god conform to its will, then the metaphysical primacy of consciousness obtains in Christian teaching.

Warden wrote:
It is quite clear that Dawson is offering convoluted straw-man arguments based on anything that will possibly help his case and justify the world view he has chosen to believe, no matter how he has mischaracterized his "objective" argument and the true nature of God.
It is quite clear that Warden simply has not grasped the fundamental nature of my argument. Part of this is due to the fact that his own worldview, Christianity, does not teach its adherents to be aware of and understand the nature of the relationship between consciousness and its objects. Another part of this is due to Warden’s own zeal to refute first and never understand later. None of these failings point to flaws in my argument. The flaws here are squarely on his shoulders.

Warden wrote:
Because Ayn Rand, Dawson Bethrick and other objectivists are quite intelligent and aware that the theist God is described in scripture as a much more than simply task master barking commands, then one is forced to surmise that either their arguments against God's existence are based upon an intentional dishonesty, or, as the Bible describes, their minds are "blinded" to the point where they cannot perceive logical fallacies such as their straw-man arguments.
No part of the argument from metaphysical primacy stems either from misunderstanding of what Christianity affirms about its god or from a dishonest desire to attack religious worldviews. Since the issue of metaphysical primacy is the most fundamental issue in all philosophy, and since the Christian worldview attributes consciousness to the god which its adherents are to enshrine in their imagination, the Christian god as a religious construct (i.e., so “defined” by the Christian worldview) can be examined in terms of the relationship between itself as a conscious subject and any objects existing distinct from itself – e.g., the universe of finite, corruptible concretes which it is said to have created by an act of will. The implications of such notions in terms of metaphysical primacy are unmistakable.

Warden wrote:
So, what do you believe is the case with Dawson Bethrick? Why does he perpetuate obvious straw-man arguments against Theism? Do you believe he is intentionally disingenuous, or do you believe he is simply blinded to the reality of his own straw-man God?
At the time of this writing (November 25, 2013), there have been 94 comments left on Warden’s blog entry critiquing my argument. Of these, the only comments defending Warden’s criticism of my argument are his own. All the others are to one degree or another attempting to expose Warden’s own misunderstandings, misrepresentations and dishonest debating tactics, save for a few confused and unhelpful offerings supplied by Nidiot. Where are all those whom Warden persuaded with his critique of my argument?

Warden wrote:
The fact that this type of argument has been perpetuated since Ayn Rand was alive and many people continue to support it implies that these people simply aren't conscious of the fact that their "objective" philosophy and arguments are loaded with materialistic preconceptions.
If this argument has been so widely promulgated, why is Warden forced to do all his criticizing on his own? Rand died in 1982. Most of her major philosophical works were published in the 1960s. It seems that, by now (Warden wrote his critique of my argument in 2012), there’d be vast literature in the Christian corpus from which Warden should have been able to draw in constructing his critique. In fact, however, quite the opposite is the case: here we find Warden hopelessly groping for whatever he can grasp in order to attack the argument from metaphysical primacy, all the while simply succeeding in showing the world that he has not understood it from its very foundations. That’s not a formula for success if one’s goal is to effectively critique an argument.

Warden wrote:
These "objectivists" have truly believed that their arguments against Theism are logical and valid.
And what’s more, we know that our argument is sound. Nothing Warden has supplied in his attempt to critique my argument shows Objectivists to be wrong on this.

Warden wrote:
Thus, the biblical explanation of their actions seems to hold more veracity as an answer, that they are simply blinded to the truth.
There is no “biblical explanation” for my actions any more than there is a “biblical explanation” of the proper relationship between consciousness and its objects. On the former matter, there is just a series of assertions given in the bible to reinforce the us-vs.-them mentality desired of worshipers; on the latter, there is deafening silence.

Warden wrote:
Though fraught with problems, Free Thought Blogs recommends Bethrick's blog and calls presuppositionionalism "intellectually dishonest" - as though Bethrick is offering an intellectually honest and valid argument against God's existence.
Hey, someone out there besides Rick Warden is plugging my blog. That’s great news!

Warden wrote:
Is it logical to answer theist presuppositionalism with atheist presuppositionalism? Hardly.
Is it illogical to examine a worldview’s implications with respect to the issue of metaphysical primacy, the most fundamental issue in all philosophy, an issue that is inescapable once consciousness enters the mix? Hardly!

Warden wrote:
Why am I not surprised Free Thought Blogs would recommend Dawson Bethrick? Free Thought Blogs is the home of PZ Myers - who rails on theism and offers no logical arguments for his beliefs whatsoever.
I have heard of PZ Myers, but I am unfamiliar with the particulars of his views, so I cannot speak on this.

But I can say that Warden’s attempts to critique my argument have fallen at the first hurdle – namely the point at which he should have first sought to understand what my argument argues rather than seeking instead to mutilate it for an easy kill (which even Warden doesn’t manage to pull off). And no, merely quoting statements of mine in no way guarantees that Warden has understood the points I raise against theism.

In the final analysis, we should not expect someone like Rick Warden to be persuaded by any anti-theistic argument. Warden walks by faith, not by reason. Like Christian apologist Mike Licona, Warden wants Christianity to be true. His desire to see only positive outcomes for his religious belief effectively blinds him to the true nature of facts. That is the power of faith; its efficacy can be measured in the degree to which one denies the facts of reality.

by Dawson Bethrick

Labels: , , , ,

74 Comments:

Blogger Justin Hall said...

I remember his "argument". I recall it being a train wreak of incoherency and self contradiction. Really one has to do nothing, in this intense Rick does our work for us.

November 25, 2013 11:05 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

Warden wants "conventional definitions." I'm always tickled whenever I see Christians like Warden resorting to a dictionary and "conventional definitions." How is it that such Christians fail to keep in mind what Paul instructed?

1 Corinthians 1:20: Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

1 Corinthians 3:19 - 20: For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight."

Yet when in a bind, what do Christians do? They run to a source that contains "the wisdom of this world," even though such "wisdom... is foolishness in God's sight."

Ydemoc





November 25, 2013 12:46 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

From what I’ve seen (and I’ve seen enough), Warden himself is a train wreck every time he attempts defend his god-belief against arguments critical of theism. In the case of his attempt to refute my argument, he accuses me of straw-manning Christianity because I allegedly fail to take into account the Christian god’s “unique creative abilities”; specifically he accuses me of “offering a straw-man God whose unique creative abilities are being ignored in the subject object relationships of Theism” (elsewhere he writes: “straw-man: excluding the nature of God’s creativity”). But none of this is true – I cite the doctrine of creation explicitly as an example of Christianity affirming the metaphysical primacy of consciousness. Meanwhile he never explains how “God’s creativity” voids my argument in the first place. If the Christian god creates the universe and “controls whatsoever comes to pass,” as Van Til tells us, all by an act of will, how is this *not* an expression of the primacy of consciousness? It’s as though Warden had really no idea what he was trying to argue against.

Then in his own “refutation” of my argument, he writes:

<< Theism ascribes metaphysical primacy to all aspects of God in harmony - God's existence, God's consciousness, God's glory, God's holiness, God's truth, God's nature, God's omnipotence, God's omniscience, God's omnipresence, all hold metaphysical unity and primacy in the universe and there is no dichotomy between these aspects of God. >>

So how is this supposed to void out my argument? If the Christian god is a conscious being, and its consciousness is all-powerful as Christians are constantly telling us, that it creates everything by conscious activity, that it controls everything by conscious activity, that it governs everything by conscious activity according to a grand “plan,” how is any of this *not* an expression of the primacy of consciousness? Warden never explains this, so he never deals with my argument in the first place.

Then, when he writes about how scientist “[Robert] Lanza proposes that consciousness holds supremacy over the material world,” Warden baldly remarks:

<< This, of course, is in keeping with the biblical account of Genesis in which the material world was created by the consciousness and will of God. >>

There you go! That’s the primacy of consciousness!

Yes, a train wreck indeed!

Regards,
Dawson

November 25, 2013 1:44 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

While rereading your blog, Paul's "Necessary Propositions," I came across a most relevant passage, one that -- along with Bolt's answers to your questions -- should be of some interest to Rick Warden, should he venture on over here. Here it is, from http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2006_12_01_archive.html:
____________________________

Then Paul [Manata] conceded that the theistic view of reality is ultimately subjective:

"But in theism, there’s a sense in which reality is subjective - based on the divine mind"

What more need I say? Paul has finally come to admit that the theistic view of reality is subjective in nature. Note how obvious an error it is to assume that “reality is... based on [a] mind.” Is that mind not also supposed to be real? If so, then how can reality be based on it? If not, then how can reality be based on it? Either way, the theist comes up all blanks.

In spite of this admission, Paul wants to add a qualification to dilute it:

"but it’s still objective for us humans."

Qualifications like this simply demonstrate that theists have no consistent metaphysic to begin with. Paul is essentially saying that reality is both subjective and objective, as if the orientation between subject and object could be redirected by the flipping of a switch, or as if one could strike a compromise between the two and integrate them into a non-contradictory worldview. The problem is that the assumption that the orientation between subject and object can be redirected at will itself reduces to subjectivism, and that subjective and objective metaphysics cannot be integrated without contradiction. What happens when one tries to mix food with poison? One can still swallow it, but it will no longer be fit for human life.
________________________________

Ydemoc

November 25, 2013 5:57 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

Oh, I neglected to include the next paragraph in that blog entry. Here it is:
____________________________________

According to theism (as Paul has clearly admitted), reality is ultimately subjective, and that’s all there is to say. It’s not “objective” for anyone, for everything must ultimately conform to the dictates of a consciousness. Theistic creationism essentially teaches that the universe came into being as a result of supernatural wishing. You cannot get any more subjective than this. Any “objectivity” that the theist wants to claim, is borrowed from a rival worldview, one which holds diametrically opposite foundations and principles. And even within the Christian worldview, to whatever extent it might ostensibly seem to “make sense” to claim objectivity in regard to some method or assessment, it is always subject to being overturned by the whims of the ruling consciousness. Every believer can be made a liar by the turn of the deity’s tail. Objectivity simply does not apply, for the preconditions of objectivity simply do not exist in such a universe. In theism, reality is comparable to silly putty: ever-pliant, conforming to whatever shape is desired. We should not forget the implications that metaphysical subjectivism has in epistemology. Knowledge on such a view ultimately reduces to sheer imagination. That is why tokens such as faith, prayer, belief unto salvation, et al., are so common in religious worldviews. They follow naturally from the subjective metaphysics of religious doctrines.
___________________________________

Ydemoc

November 25, 2013 6:04 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Ydemoc,

Thanks for posting these quotes. Yes, they're quite appropriate, and they show that this kind of objection (really, a confusion on the part of the apologist) has been encountered and corrected before here on IP. But I would think that an intelligent person who gave these matters some honest thought could figure all this out on his own. It's not that difficult - at least, it shouldn't be. But given that so many make the same kind of mistakes indicates just how far off people are in thinking clearly about fundamentals, fundaentals that are in place throughout their day-to-day life. Clearly whatever worldview they have adopted has not taught them to grasp such rudimentary truths as the proper relationship between consciousness and its objects. This is why it is so important, in my view, to continue drawing attention to this relationship - it speaks to everything.

Having a busy week here. Happy T-Day everyone!

Regards,
Dawson

November 27, 2013 2:33 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Dawson,

My pleasure supplying those quotes. As it so happened, I was actually re-reading Paul's "Necessary Propositions" when your latest blog entry came down the pike. So they were at the forefront of my mind (and open on my desktop) as I was reading your latest reply to Rick Warden.

Also, I went over to his blog at the hyperlink provided, (his blog entry: A Refutation...), and I left a comment, notifying him of your response to him. Last I checked, he hadn't published my comment.

Thanks for the T-Day well-wishes! Your being out of the country notwithstanding, you have a good one, also!

Ydemoc

November 27, 2013 4:53 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Ydemoc,

I just swung by Warden's blog - I did not see your comment posted. Perhaps he hasn't seen it yet. I guess we'll see... or not!

....................

Here’s something else to consider about Warden’s defense.

Warden frequently refers to “God’s nature” as if it had some limiting quality keeping its will in check. For example, Warden writes:

<< If God cannot will Himself to sin or to lie - against His eternal nature - then God's nature is not subject to the knowledge of his nature or His will to change it. >>

So he's essentially saying that “God’s will is limited by His nature.”

And yet, at the same time, Christianity tells us that its god is “infinite” – which can only mean that its nature itself is not in any way. (Recall Michael David Rawlings’ painfully dismal efforts to validate the notion of an infinite - i.e., unlimited - being.)

Thus if the Christian god’s nature is “infinite,” then appealing to it as some kind of factor limiting its will is completely unfruitful. An infinite nature would not limit its will in any way, particularly when considered in the context of other attributes, such as omnipotence and its ability to create matter at will and manipulate the objects it created at will. In a contest between “God’s will” and some thing that it is said to have created, what could prevail if not “God’s will” – every time???

So again, I can only suppose not only that Warden simply does not grasp my argument, but also that he fails to integrate the theological teachings of his own worldview. This is a double fail of biblical proportions.

Regards,
Dawson

November 28, 2013 3:55 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Correction to my last:

"...which can only mean that its nature itself is not *limited* in any way..."

Now, that's better!

Regards,
Dawson

November 28, 2013 4:08 PM  
Blogger Karen S. said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sA64V6AIbiw

"Why the Primacy of Existence is No Problem for any Presuppositionalist"

Dear Mr. Bethrick:

The topic of the above video, I hope, is self-evident by its title. You will need to watch it to get the message, as I am trying to determine if it is indeed a good recommendation to those who try to counter the presups like myself: I do YouTube videos concerning the countering of presuppositionalism, especially that as currently practiced by "Sye-Clones" who use the tactics of Sye Ten Bruggencate.

I would like to know if you believe that the primacy of existence does not suffice as a response to the presup's question "Can you be certain of anything" as Ozy (the producer of the video) has informed other atheists in this video (much to the propagandizing delight of certain theists on YouTube, who now believe their "primacy of consciousness" is vindicated.)
Could you also verify that the questions about "certainty" are something that have come about SINCE the original pre-suppers (VanTil and Bahnsen) and don't really "belong" in the pre-supp methodology. I do not have their books, but have listened to Bahnsen in several debates and classes, and have not seen him speak of certainty in the way the current pre-sups do (or ask the "certainty" questions).
Because if that is so, another approach should be taken to counter this.

Thanking you in advance, Karen S

December 03, 2013 5:50 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Karen,

Thank you for your comment, and for sharing the link to the YouTube video.

I looked at the video you referenced. The guy has really nice hair and a nice marquee at the end of his video. Unfortunately, in the substance of his talk, he does not demonstrate a good understanding of the primacy of existence. In fact, his 'understanding' of the POE is essentially no better than most apologists' understanding (including, e.g., Rick Warden). The issue involved in the primacy of existence is not whether or not something must "first exist" before it can act (actually, that is the principle of causality: the action of an entity is dependent on the nature of the entity acting, and thus existence precedes action in this respect), but rather the relationship between consciousness and its objects. The speaker in the video does not discuss this relationship at all, and seems quite confused on other topics (so far as I could tell as I was trying to follow what he was saying).

I agree with the speaker that slapping the label "virtuous" on a circular argument is not sufficient to resuscitate it (as though simply calling an argument something is sufficient to make its fallacious character vanish).

Overall, I have to say I'm saddened by videos such as this, since they demonstrate such a poor understanding of something that should be very easy to grasp. The speaker in the video does not seem dumb. But he does not seem to grasp some very basic issues as well. This is a common problem. Notice that he does not interact with things that I have actually written (which one can take his time to read and understand, as opposed to a video with someone spewing a bunch of words into the air).

In fact, it is not always clear what this guy is trying to say.

Anyway, my $0.02.

Regards,
Dawson

December 04, 2013 2:16 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Karen,

Dawson is correct. This person makes no mention of the relationship between consciousness and the objects of consciousness, which is what the POE principle is all about.

The person in the video also mentions "trust" with regard to the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by the senses. Fortunately, Dawson has already addressed this here:

http://anatheistviewpoint.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/were-still-waiting-for-sye-to-answer/

This link will take you to a 2011 interaction between Dawson and Sye. Here's just a sample (I've condensed it for readability, e.g., removed in-between comments, date and time stamps, etc.):

________________________________

Dawson wrote: "Using reason to identify objects is not circular."

Sye writes: “No, but trusting its accuracy in the identification process with which you try to justify its accuracy is.”

Dawson wrote: "Using reason to identify the operation... ...is not circular.”

Sye responded: “No, but trusting its accuracy in the identification process with which you try to justify its accuracy is.”

Dawson responds: “Good. At least now you acknowledge that my epistemological methodology is in fact not circular. I'm glad I could finally help you see this. But I'm guessing you'll put it safely out of your mind so that you can continue to use your fallacious apologetic which trades on denying what you've just admitted."

Sye had asserted the following: "...but trusting its accuracy in the identification process with which you try to justify its accuracy is."

To which Dawson writes: "How do you know this? Hint: Watch those stolen concepts! (E.g., how'd you get the concept 'trust'? Blank out.)"

Sye responds: “Do you deny that trusting the accuracy of your reasoning in the identification process with which you try to justify its accuracy is viciously circular???”

(continued)

December 04, 2013 7:09 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

After dealing with a claim by Sye's that he "know[s] it by revalation from God...", Dawson addresses Sye's "Do you deny...?" question [I've taken the liberty of separating this into paragraphs]:

As I suggest in my response to Sye, the problem with his debating strategy here is that it trades on a stolen concept. It relies on making use of a concept while ignoring its genetic roots. That’s what the fallacy of the stolen concept is. A blatant example would be someone denying the validity of basic arithmetic and then claiming that he can show its invalidity by means of a geometric proof. The problem is that geometry conceptually relies on the validity of basic arithmetic, and one would have to accept the validity of basic arithmetic in order to accept the results of the geometric proof proposed to prove that basic arithmetic is invalid.

Unfortunately most stolen concepts that linger in philosophical thought are much more subtle and not so easily detected. That’s why they linger. And they can do considerable damage to one’s position. An example is Sye’s own question. There is such a thing as a fallacious question. For example, the fallacy complex question seeks to goad a person into accepting a premise assumed in the content of the question when that premise is in fact not true. A common example is the question: “Have you stopped beating your wife?” The question assumes that the one to whom it is posed not only has a wife, but also that he has been beating her. But either of these premises could be false, and if so, the question is fallaciously complex. Sye’s question (“Do you deny that trusting the accuracy of your reasoning in the identification process with which you try to justify its accuracy is viciously circular???”) is fallaciously complex because it contains a premise which commits the fallacy of the stolen concept. It does this by giving “trusting” a role which it could not have at the level at which it is being posited as operational, as indicated by the implication that trusting one’s reasoning process in some way is viciously circular. Trust is a product of successful identification, not its basis, its means, or its standard. So circularity here is actually impossible on an objective model of knowledge (which is only possible if one consistently adheres to the primacy of existence). (An additional problem is that Sye’s original question was of the “how do you *know*…?” variety, whereas now he’s changed it to a matter of *justification*; these are not identical. It’s a sleight of hand which may escape the unsuspecting; it probably escaped even Sye’s notice.) Any successful execution of the identification process provides a basis for trusting its effectiveness and reliability. The “trusting” of course comes later. Trust is not the starting point, nor is it the method of validation which the identification process uses. Rather, trust is a psychological by-product of the process, and a vital one at that. But trusting one’s own faculties is not circular, since it is in fact a result of their successful operation, not their precondition.

(continued)

December 04, 2013 7:10 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Sye’s question ignores the conceptual position of trust in the hierarchical structure of knowledge in relation to the identification process, and is phrased apparently with the intent of catching the one to whom it’s been posed off guard.

Luckily this time Sye’s question was posed to someone who understands the conceptual nature of knowledge, and actually has a rational epistemology which is impervious to stolen concepts, given the explicit awareness of the nature of the breach in the knowledge hierarchy which stolen concepts commit. So it doesn’t work on me. That’s why Sye gave up: he saw not only that his gimmicks would not succeed, but also that the devices they employ will be exposed. He should go back to being a tradesman.
__________________________

The full exchange is worth a read if you get a chance.

For more on the primacy of existence (as well as for more on Sye and others of his ilk), I would recommend the following blog entries by Dawson:

A Critique of Sye Ten Bruggencate’s www.proofthatgodexists.org

http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2010/08/critique-of-sye-ten-bruggencates.html

A Reply to Dustin Segers’ Dismantled Blog Entry on Objectivism

http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2011/11/reply-to-dustin-segers-dismantled-blog.html

The Axioms and the Primacy of Existence

http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2006/12/axioms-and-primacy-of-existence.html

Ydemoc

December 04, 2013 7:11 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi again, Karen,

For more on the primacy of existence, also see this blog entry from Dawson:

Has the Primacy of Existence Been Refuted?

http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2011/10/has-primacy-of-existence-been-refuted.html

In this piece, Dawson exposes Dustin Segers' attempt to refute the primacy of existence, showing it to be a complete failure.

Also, within the piece, there are several hyperlinks available, which will take you to other blog entries where Dawson goes into great detail about the primacy of existence.

Ydemoc

December 04, 2013 3:13 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Good points, Ydemoc. Thanks for the snippets. They’re quite helpful.

In regard to the video that Karen linked to, again, I find it most unfortunate that folks who toss around the words “primacy of existence” – whether they are theists are atheists – often show little or zero understanding of what it refers to. We see this above in the case of Rick Warden.

I realize that theists are motivated by their confessional investment to mangle this fundamental concept; but many atheists also seem to have similar motivations. As I’ve pointed out before, simply being an atheist does not make a person’s worldview pro-reason in its orientation. Sadly, many atheists have accepted many of the theist’s premises uncritically.

Take for example Sam Harris’ view that “the only rational basis for morality is a concern for the happiness and suffering of other conscious beings.” (Do We Really Need Bad Reasons to be Good?) The immediate question that arises here is: What is the rational basis for “a concern for the happiness and suffering of other conscious being”? Why should I be concerned about my neighbor’s “happiness and suffering”? Blank out.

I’m not at all concerned about my neighbor’s welfare. He needs to be concerned for his own well-being, just as I am concerned for my own well-being. That person is not concerned for my well-being, and rightly so. When I got my electric bill the other day, where was he? When my daughter had a fever last month, where was he? I’ve seen to it that neither he nor anyone else is needed here. I’ll take care of my own.

A much better view would be: you leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone. Frankly, my happiness and well-being are far too important to me to leave in someone else’s care. I’ll do a much better job on my behalf. Do you really want to entrust someone else with your values?

So it is common for even many atheists to adopt the irrational premises of the religions they vocally despise. Harris is a good example. He accepts the view, for example, that morality is informed by “obligations,” and that “concern for others” is the hallmark of morality. It’s not. But like the religionists he condemns, Harris thinks it is. He makes it clear that “alleviating human suffering” is a focal point in any public conversation about morality. And he does this in the context of the ramp-up to a presidential election. Harris thinks he’s really talking about a fundamental shift from religious morality, but in fact he’s accepted religion’s defining premises, and in the political context the end is always the same: take from those who have produced values and redistribute them to those who have not earned them. After all, that’s the Christian way as we find modeled in the gospel narratives themselves. Harris nowhere winces at religion’s foundation on self-sacrifice. He’s happy to go right along with that.

I point to this case to provide a clear example of how atheists often accept religion’s premises while claiming to be against religion. We see this all the time, but few seem willing or able to identify it for what it is.

[continued…]

December 04, 2013 4:54 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

As for Sye, notice that he feigns concern for the logical integrity of a view by scorning the (alleged) presence of fallacy in one’s support for it. And yet, not only do Sye’s detection abilities allow for only one form of fallacy (the circular reasoning/begging the question fallacy – he seems to know of no other), he does not even seem to understand what circular reasoning actually is. Nor does he ever explain how something he says is circular commits the fallacy he claims to have detected.

In regard to reason, Sye acknowledges (he realizes that he has no rational alternative) that using reason to identify things is not circular, but he insists that “trusting its accuracy in the identification process with which you try to justify its accuracy is.” He nowhere explains this. He does not even explain how his acknowledgement and his charge are logically compatible: If using reason to identify things is not circular, why would “trusting” its accuracy be circular? He gives no explanation here. He does not even exhibit any understanding of the identification process. In fact, when Sye insinuates that knowledge is acquired by means of revelations from a supernatural source, he’s telling us that there is no identification process involved in the first place. So he can’t possibly have any firsthand knowledge on what he’s talking about.

Also, Sye does not explain what role (if any) “trusting” plays in the identification process. He makes no effort to connect what he claims to the matter at hand. Indeed, to the extent that “trusting” plays a role in the identification process, it would presumably play that role in *any* instance of identification one accepts as reliable, including the one which Sye himself makes – namely the identification that “trusting” the “accuracy” of something is circular. Thus Sye’s own condemnation does not escape its own damning implications. But this is so like Sye (and other apologists): he likes to make these blanket statements implicating everyone’s reasoning process while acting as though he were immune to those same implications. He pawns himself off as an exception to his every rule.

[continued…]

December 04, 2013 5:00 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

When Sye was called on this – and urged to substantiate what he claimed – he reached for the common intimidation tactic: “Do you deny that trusting the accuracy of your reasoning in the identification process with which you try to justify its accuracy is viciously circular???” Yes, I do deny this. How can trusting reason be viciously circular? If using reason to identify objects is not circular, why would trusting reason be circular? Can one say on the one hand that “2 + 2 = 4” is not circular while maintaining, on the other hand, that “trusting” that 2 + 2 = 4 *is* viciously circular? If so, how? I want to see the *reasoning* for this – and I want to see reasoning for this that can escape its own damning implications.

If Sye or anyone else produced an argument to the effect that trusting the results of reasoning is viciously circular, that conclusion would have to apply to any trust one puts in that conclusion itself. In other words, it would be viciously circular to “trust” the conclusion of such an argument. And yet, presumably that’s the best that Sye would be able to muster on behalf of his self-implicating claims (though he didn’t even go that far – he chose intimidation over argument, and that too failed). So the stolen concept here is inescapable, even though Sye wants to feign immunity to the problem of his own making. And yet, there is no rational basis to claim that simply trusting the accuracy or reliability of reason as an identification process is viciously circular.

In the end, it’s clear that Sye was simply making a last-ditch effort to undermine confidence in the human mind, all the while using his own human mind to do this. His pretense to being immune to his own self-damning assertions is just that – a pretense. It’s all part of his bluff, and I called him on it. You’ll notice that he does not come around to Incinerating Presuppositionalism to engage me. He stays clear of this place. He hasn’t even posted anything new on his own blog since last January – though I’m guessing he’s still making videos of himself some place.

Regards,
Dawson

December 04, 2013 5:03 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

A minor (insignificant) correction on my above:

I wrote: "And he does this in the context of the ramp-up to a presidential election. Harris thinks he’s really talking about a fundamental shift from religious morality."

Actually, it was in the context of the ramp-up to the mid-term elections of 2006, not a presidential election.

Regards,
Dawson

December 04, 2013 5:52 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Ydemoc,

You may have noticed that Rick Warden has replied to your comment over on his blog (in your comment you informed him about my above interaction with his blog entry). Readers will have to scroll all the way down to find Warden’s recent comments (he posted two in reply to Ydemoc). It is unclear how Warden can think that anything he has written would persuade someone as informed as Ydemoc on these matters.

As one might expect, Warden does not interact with what I have presented in my blog above (much of it correcting his own confusions and misunderstandings). As in the case of his blog entry, Warden seeks in his comment to dismiss what I have presented without interaction or argument.

He writes: “Dawson is quite free to write whatever he would like to at his blog.”

Well, that’s quite magnanimous of Warden to give me such permission.

He continues: “There is generally a lot of gratuitous fluff in Dawson's posts.”

There is generally a lot of gratuitous fluff in Warden’s posts (this in addition to an astounding level of confusion, misunderstanding and outright distortion of others’ views).

Warden writes: “1. Dawson, and other ‘objectivists’ prefer their own personal subjective definitions of what ‘subjective’ means”

Notice that even when I define one of my key terms, Warden simply dismisses it as a “personal subjective” definition. He offers no reasons for calling it thus, but clearly he is not prepared to interact with my argument according to the definitions which I have explicitly presented. He also does not interact with the reasons I gave in defense of my definition of ‘subjective’. At no point does Warden engage my argument at the level of the subject-object relationship. It’s as though he were desperate simply to ignore this aspect of my argument – its very distinguishing aspect!

Clearly we need a concept which denotes the orientation between consciousness and its objects which grants metaphysical primacy to consciousness over its objects such that the objects are thought or imagined to conform to the content or dictates of consciousness. If someone says “X is so because I *want* it to be so,” would this not be diametrically opposite of the view that “X is so regardless of what anyone says or wants”? The view that “X is so because I *want* it to be so” reduces to the view that the subject of consciousness holds metaphysical primacy over its objects. Since there are in fact people who affirm essentially this, we need to distinguish it from the opposite view that the objects of consciousness exist and are what they are independent of conscious activity. Since the concept ‘subjective’ as I have employed it in my argument does in fact take this fundamental distinction in mind and is defined accordingly, Warden’s charge that this definition of ‘subjective’ is itself subjective is unwarranted, in fact ironically so, for he is using the concept in essentially the same way that I have defined it!

[continued…]

December 05, 2013 2:36 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Warden writes: “And their personal subjective definitions of the mind-body relationship are, of course, all that count.”

I explained in my blog that Warden is confusing the issue of metaphysical primacy with the mind-body problem. They are not one and the same. Warden does not even attempt to show that they are the same, or at any rate argue for the relevance of the latter to my argument. Rather, he introduced the mind-body problem expressly in order to malign Objectivist thinkers – not by citing their own stated positions on the matter, but by citing a source which is overtly hostile to Objectivism in the first place. Warden’s concern here is not to present a sustainable counter-argument to mine, but to discredit by contrived associations which would have no bearing on the matter even if there were merit to the characterizations they involve.

Warden writes: “So, to summarize, ‘Objectivists’ begin with their own subjective definitions of objective phenomena and then pretend to build an objective structure on that foundation. Need I go on?”

No, Warden does not need to go on. In this very statement, he shows how miserably impoverished his understanding of Objectivism is. We do not begin with definitions – let alone subjective definitions – in the first place. Nor do we pretend to be doing anything. This kind of lack of seriousness and understanding characterizes much of Warden’s efforts to defend his theism and attack non-Christian viewpoints. It’s very typical.

Warden writes: “As I noted in my previous post, Dawson's own description of his view, from his website Kathalon, offers that there is an ‘objective position’ and ‘subjective position’ that are ‘antithetical metaphysical viewpoints’ in an either-or dichotomy.”

Here Warden comes close to suggesting that treating the primacy of existence (Objectivism) and the primacy of consciousness (subjectivism) as jointly exhaustive amounts to a false dichotomy. Would he suppose the same with truth and untruth?

If this is what Warden is saying here, then perhaps he could identify some third alternative and argue for its legitimacy at the level of metaphysical primacy. But I am gravely doubtful that this will happen seeing that Warden has yet to demonstrate understanding of the issue of metaphysical primacy in the first place.

In fact, I am of the impression that Warden deliberately resists engaging my argument on its own terms since to do so would be utterly futile.

[continued…]

December 05, 2013 2:36 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

In my blog above, I wrote the following: <<The instantiation of metaphysical subjectivism in Christianity according to my argument is not between the Christian god as knowing subject and itself as an object of its own consciousness, but between the Christian god as knowing subject and everything that exists which is distinct from the Christian god, such as the universe, the world, everyone in the world, every atom, molecule and subatomic particle that it is said to have created, etc.>>

Reacting to this, Warden wrote: “Should we remind Dawson that a metaphysical claim for the ‘primacy of existence’ versus the ‘primacy of consciousness’ does not allow for this type of selective cherry picking as to what phenomena we can examine.”

The Christian worldview claims that its god is a conscious being. It also claims that it created the universe by an act of consciousness. Thus how is it “selective cherry picking” to examine such claims? Does Warden think we should ignore this? I would think not. After all, this is a staple tenet of Christianity. So I am not doing anything at all illicit when I examine this doctrine in terms of the issue of metaphysical primacy. Since the issue of metaphysical primacy has expressly to do with the relationship between consciousness and its objects, and since Christianity claims that its god is a conscious being which can create its own objects by conscious activity, the issue of metaphysical primacy applies. There’s nothing Warden can do to invalidate this angle of examination so long as Christianity affirms that its god is a conscious being.

Warden wrote: “The biblical God is both eternally existent and eternally conscious.”

Thus we can examine Christianity’s notion of “God” in terms of the relationship between its consciousness and objects that are distinct from it – such as the objects which exist in the universe which it is said to have created. I quoted numerous Christian apologists who explicitly affirm the orientation between the Christian god as a conscious subject and its objects which Objectivism identifies as the primacy of consciousness.

Warden wrote: “And the nature of the biblical God is not ‘irrelevant’ with respect to the nature of personal Christian beliefs.”

In a comment that I posted above in this same blog entry, I pointed out that Christianity affirms that its god is “infinite” in nature. Thus appealing to its “nature” as somehow serving as some kind of limit on its will is fruitless. But even without this, Christianity still affirms that the objects distinct from the Christian god were created by an act of its will and that they conform to its will throughout their existence. That’s the primacy of consciousness. You can’t get more subjective than this!

[continued…]

December 05, 2013 2:37 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Warden wrote: “If Dawson would like to demonstrate how an eternally existent and eternally conscious God is not metaphysically possible, then he could choose to offer such an argument, but he does not,.”

Since on a rational understanding both the concepts ‘true’ and ‘possible’ presuppose the primacy of existence, any claim which assumes the primacy of consciousness cannot possibly be true. Thus, since the notion of the Christian god assumes the primacy of consciousness, the claim that the Christian god exists cannot possibly be true.

There. How’s that?

Warden wrote: “He simply states that such a concept is ‘irrelevant’."

Examine the record. Specifically, what I identified as irrelevant are the following:

1. The mind-body problem;
2. Warden’s claim that “the distinction between God's knowledge and God's nature is definable and rationally understood in the context of Theism”;
3. The notion that “God cannot will Himself to exist or not to exist”;
4. The notion that “God cannot will Himself to sin or to lie - against His eternal nature”;
5. The notion of “the more subtle distinctions between personal volition and personal nature”.

Since none of these points undo Christianity’s notion of a god creating the universe by an act of consciousness, of objects conforming themselves to the contents and dictates of the Christian god’s wishes and commandments, they are irrelevant to my argument. Christianity affirms that its god created the universe by an act of will. This is an instance of the primacy of consciousness. It is thus an instance of metaphysical subjectivism. None of Warden’s distractions overturn the Christian doctrines of creation, miracle, providence, prayer, salvation, etc. They are precisely that – attempts to distract from the matter at hand. To the extent that Warden truly thinks these are relevant (indeed, he nowhere shows that they are), he only demonstrates that he has yet to grasp what my argument is all about.

[continued…]

December 05, 2013 2:37 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Warden wrote: “It seems that Dawson is attempting to offer a ‘metaphysical’ argument that applies universally while at the same time attempting to offer a criticism of Christian thought according to his predefined parameters. In attempting both in one argument and avoiding the central issues, calling them ‘irrelevant’ he has failed miserably.”

This is just more last-ditch effort of a man desperately trying to salvage his god-belief from controlled demolition. Christians claim that their god is a conscious being. Thus we can examine its claims about its god in terms of metaphysical primacy – i.e., in terms of the relationship presupposed between the Christian god and any objects distinct from itself. The universality of my argument owes to its applicability to the examination of any similar claim by rival religions. We can do the same in the case of Islam’s Allah, for example. It, too, assumes the primacy of consciousness, and for the same reasons.

Warden had some advice for me. He wrote: “Some advice for Dawson: If your argument for the primacy of existence is supposed to be universal and a refutation of Christianity, then you must take a hypothetical look at biblical Christianity with an eternally existent and eternally conscious God who cannot create himself.”

I have done precisely this. Christianity affirms that its god is a conscious being which created the universe by an act of consciousness. That it is said to be conscious means that there would be a relationship between itself as a subject and any objects it is aware of. Thus the issue of metaphysical primacy must apply, even if only hypothetically. That this conscious being is said to have created objects distinct from its by an act of will, essentially wishing them into existence, means that the primacy of consciousness is thereby affirmed by such views. But that’s exactly what I have argued. If Warden had bothered to understand my argument, he would see that his advice is utterly superfluous.

Warden also wrote: “If your theory cannot handle this, then it does not refute Christianity in any way shape or form.”

If Christianity cannot sustain being examined in terms of the issue of metaphysical primacy, then Christians should stop running around claiming that Christianity is true. Truth presupposes the primacy of existence. This means that any view which assumes the primacy of consciousness cannot be true, and that the claim that such a view is true is self-contradictory. But my guess is that Warden will not allow himself to learn from such encounters.

That’s not my problem.

Regards,
Dawson

December 05, 2013 2:37 AM  
Blogger Karen S. said...

Wow, thanks for all the great information!

December 05, 2013 6:14 AM  
Blogger Karen S. said...

Wow, thanks for all your great comments!

December 05, 2013 6:17 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

Thanks for the update. I'd almost given up that Rick would address my post.

Warden wrote: “If Dawson would like to demonstrate how an eternally existent and eternally conscious God is not metaphysically possible, then he could choose to offer such an argument, but he does not,.”

You wrote: "Since on a rational understanding both the concepts ‘true’ and ‘possible’ presuppose the primacy of existence, any claim which assumes the primacy of consciousness cannot possibly be true. Thus, since the notion of the Christian god assumes the primacy of consciousness, the claim that the Christian god exists cannot possibly be true.

There. How’s that?"

Rick seems to think it changes matters if he attaches the concept "eternal" to his invisible magic being. It doesn't. We're talking about one thing and one thing only: What is the relationship between consciousness and the objects of consciousness. Do believers think that their god is conscious? If so, can it wish things into being or can it change things just by thinking or speaking? If yes, then that's the primacy of consciousness!

Rick, like other subjectivists, thinks that not wanting it to be so will make it not so.

Not that it will do any good, but perhaps I should pop on over to Rick's and introduce him to one Anton Thorn and "The Argument from the Fact Existence":

http://www.oocities.org/athens/sparta/1019/AFE/AFE_B_Linked.htm

Maybe I should also leave him with a link to Thorn's "Possible Objections - To the Argument from Existence - Examined and Disabled"

Oh, and maybe Thorn's "The Issue of Metaphysical Primacy":

http://www.oocities.org/athens/sparta/1019/AFE/Metaphysical_Primacy.htm

And since Rick seems to be unable to grasp and/or accept that his god belief qualifies him as a defender of the primacy of consciousness metaphysics, then maybe he should start with Thorn's "The Ruling Consciousness - The Idea of 'God' as a Form of Consciousness":

http://www.oocities.org/athens/sparta/1019/AFE/Ruling_Consciousness.htm

Ydemoc

December 05, 2013 9:37 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Karen,

You wrote: “Wow, thanks for all your great comments!”

You’re welcome! I hope it was all helpful.

Regards,
Dawson

December 05, 2013 7:06 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Ydemoc,

You wrote: “Rick seems to think it changes matters if he attaches the concept ‘eternal’ to his invisible magic being. It doesn't.”

Right on both points: 1) he thinks his god being “eternal” makes a difference, and 2) it doesn’t make a difference.

The reason why Warden thinks it makes a difference is because he is persistently confused on the matter at hand. He cannot untangle from his confusion the erroneous understanding that my argument requires his god to have created itself. It doesn’t require this at all. But this was all explained explicitly. Warden has no excuse not to grasp this.

You wrote: “We're talking about one thing and one thing only: What is the relationship between consciousness and the objects of consciousness.”

Right again. Only Warden thinks this is “selective cherry picking.” It’s not. It’s a fundamental feature of the Christian worldview. It teaches that its god is conscious, and it teaches that it creates things by an act of consciousness. It teaches that the nature that any object has is the nature which the Christian god chose for it to have. It teaches that it can change that nature at any time – such as water being magically transformed into wine. It teaches that it can make an object act in a manner that is contrary to its nature – such as a man walking on unfrozen water. It teaches that facts conform to whatever the Christian god chooses. Van Til makes this very clear when he writes (The Defense of the Faith, p. 27):

<< God may at any time take one fact and set it into a new relation to created law. That is, there is no inherent reason in the facts or laws why this should not be done. It is this sort of conception of the relation of facts and laws, of the temporal one and many, embedded as it is in the idea of God in which we profess to believe, that we need in order to make room for miracles. And miracles are at the heart of the Christian position. >>

There’s no “selective cherry picking” here. Christians insist that we accept these doctrines as “the Truth.” And unless Warden thinks there are aspects of Christian teaching which contradict these teachings, his claim that I am ignoring other key features of Christian teaching by allegedly “selective cherry picking” here, he’s simply blowing smoke. The primacy of consciousness is a fundamental aspect of Christianity. If anyone is guilty of “selective cherry picking,” it must be Warden. He apparently does not want us to examine this key aspect of Christianity very closely at all.

You asked: “Do believers think that their god is conscious?”

Every source I’ve encountered on the Christian religion – whether it is their Old and New Testaments, theological treatments, apologetic defenses, street preaching, etc. – would make no sense unless the god Christians affirm and defend were imagined to be a conscious being. If it were not a conscious being, how could it speak? How could it judge? How could it be angry? How could it show mercy? How could it plan? How could it command? How could it reveal knowledge?

You asked: “If so, can it wish things into being or can it change things just by thinking or speaking?”

Again, every source on Christianity that I’ve encountered affirms that it can do these things and more, all by its “will.”

[continued…]

December 05, 2013 7:07 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “If yes, then that's the primacy of consciousness!”

There you go. The only way Warden or any other Christian can wiggle out of this is by denying core Christian teachings. Let them deny that their god is conscious. Let them deny that their god can create things by an act of will. Let them deny their god the power to cause miracles. Let them deny their god the ability to control history. To the extent that they affirm their worldview, they affirm the primacy of consciousness. It is essential to their worldview.

You wrote: “Rick, like other subjectivists, thinks that not wanting it to be so will make it not so.”

I think this is true. The primacy of consciousness is so fundamental to their worldview that it contaminates their entire epistemology. Consequently, that the primacy of consciousness should infect their arguments and apologetic defenses is to be expected.

Warden himself affirms they key premise of my argument implicating Christianity with the primacy of consciousness when he writes (in his blog Quantum physics proves that there IS an afterlife, claims scientist):

<<In essence, Lanza proposes that consciousness holds supremacy over the material world. This, of course, is in keeping with the biblical account of Genesis in which the material world was created by the consciousness and will of God.>>

Warden has gone the full course of evangelical Christianity, allowing his mind to compartmentalize itself so that complete epistemological disintegration prevents him from putting two and two together to derive four. When the primacy of consciousness essential to Christianity is pointed out to him, he denies this and scolds the messenger for “selective cherry picking”; but later, when a physicist announces his opinion that there’s evidence “that consciousness holds supremacy over the material world,” he happily climbs on the bandwagon saying that Christianity has taught this view all along.

In conclusion, I can only surmise that Warden is blinded by his own attitudinal resistance to facts. And this in itself is evidence of his commitment to the primacy of consciousness metaphysics.

Regards,
Dawson

December 05, 2013 7:07 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

I dropped in over at Rick Warden's blog and let him know that comments were waiting for him over here.

I also supplied him with links to Anton Thorn's site.

Ydemoc

December 06, 2013 8:28 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hello Dawson, hope you are well.

Why should I be concerned about my neighbor’s “happiness and suffering”? Blank out.

If you plan to help build or maintain a society with your neighbours, surely it helps to be concerned with their happiness and suffering on some level, even if only in a general way? I don't see how the concept of "society" can even be sensible if everyone has literally no concern whatsoever for the well-being of their neighbours.

I’m not at all concerned about my neighbor’s welfare. He needs to be concerned for his own well-being, just as I am concerned for my own well-being. That person is not concerned for my well-being, and rightly so. When I got my electric bill the other day, where was he? When my daughter had a fever last month, where was he? I’ve seen to it that neither he nor anyone else is needed here. I’ll take care of my own.

I feel it's safe to assume that you are unable to procure all of the medicine and electricity that you would ever need entirely on your own, though, so aren't these somewhat specious examples? Moreover, chances are that you have accessed these in the form of publicly subsidized services to at least some degree at some time in your life, so it's not quite right to imply that your neighbours have never been concerned with your welfare.

December 06, 2013 2:29 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Unknown,

You wrote: “Hello Dawson, hope you are well.”

I am very well.

I had written: “Why should I be concerned about my neighbor’s ‘happiness and suffering’? Blank out.”

You asked: “If you plan to help build or maintain a society with your neighbours, surely it helps to be concerned with their happiness and suffering on some level, even if only in a general way?”

Well, for one, I’m not planning to help build or maintain a society. I’m planning on taking care of myself and my family. That’s my focus. Also, my focus is not on some anonymous person’s happiness or welfare. I don’t even know my next door neighbor’s name. I can’t even communicate with the person. I’ve seen her all of three or four times since I moved here a year and a half ago. If she’s unhappy in life, that is not my problem. It’s her problem. What is she doing about it? If she’s doing nothing about it, why should someone else?

I guess I just don’t get the point of the question.

You wrote: “I don't see how the concept of ‘society’ can even be sensible if everyone has literally no concern whatsoever for the well-being of their neighbours.”

Perhaps the import of the issue has to do with what assumptions are loaded into the term ‘concern’. What is concern? What does it do? Suppose I’m concerned for the happiness for my neighbor. Now what? Am I supposed to do something different now? Am I supposed to redirect my focus from my own life? Why? I won’t.

I get concerned when their actions start interfering with my life, my values, my property. And that’s when I take action to protect my own. If they’re minding their own business, I’m not concerned.

You wrote: “I feel it's safe to assume that you are unable to procure all of the medicine and electricity that you would ever need entirely on your own, though, so aren't these somewhat specious examples?”

For one, my neighbors do not procure my medicine and electricity for me. People produce things and want to sell them in the marketplace. If I want those things, I go to those who are producing them and want to sell them. Those who are producing and selling goods are not doing it for my sake. They’re doing it for their own sake. They don’t give these things away for free. They want something in return for them. It’s called trade: my best effort for your best effort. There’s certainly no obligation on anyone’s part to participate.

You wrote: “Moreover, chances are that you have accessed these in the form of publicly subsidized services to at least some degree at some time in your life, so it's not quite right to imply that your neighbours have never been concerned with your welfare.”

Since so much now is publicly subsidized, it’s a safe bet that we all have utilized services that are publicly subsidized, whether it is schooling, libraries, police departments, etc. But this is possible only by means of force, not by benevolence. Like me, my neighbors have been forced to part with a portion of their earned wealth to finance things designated by bureaucrats as beneficial for “the public good.” My neighbors did not fund these things voluntarily any more than I have. They did not do this because they were concerned for my welfare – they had no choice in the matter.

Anyway, I think you need to give some of this a little deeper thought.

Regards,
Dawson

December 06, 2013 2:50 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Google still isn't tagging my comments with my preferred handle, Crom. That's the tag I've used here previously, just for clarity and consistency.

Well, for one, I’m not planning to help build or maintain a society.

I...see. Well, actually I don't. Do you live in a hovel in the woods, cut off from societal supports altogether?

I’m planning on taking care of myself and my family. That’s my focus. Also, my focus is not on some anonymous person’s happiness or welfare.

Generally speaking, I think it's safe to say this is also the focus of most people living in Western societies. I don't see how this is incompatible with neighbourly concern, though. It's entirely possible to care about oneself and ones' family first and foremost while also caring about ones' neighbours.

Perhaps the import of the issue has to do with what assumptions are loaded into the term ‘concern’. What is concern? What does it do? Suppose I’m concerned for the happiness for my neighbor. Now what? Am I supposed to do something different now? Am I supposed to redirect my focus from my own life? Why? I won’t.

In the context of how I used the term, I think a reasonably charitable interlocutor can understand exactly what I mean. If everyone cares nothing at all for their neighbours, how is any manner of joint endeavour feasible?

December 06, 2013 6:48 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

For one, my neighbors do not procure my medicine and electricity for me. People produce things and want to sell them in the marketplace. If I want those things, I go to those who are producing them and want to sell them. Those who are producing and selling goods are not doing it for my sake. They’re doing it for their own sake. They don’t give these things away for free. They want something in return for them. It’s called trade: my best effort for your best effort. There’s certainly no obligation on anyone’s part to participate.

A marketplace is a joint endeavour that requires some level of mutual goodwill from its participants to function. If anything, modern-day marketplaces rely on a tremendous amount of co-operation and presumptive goodwill. What's more, the need to trade with others in order to procure the goods you need demonstrates the falsity of your contention that no-one other than yourself is needed to look after your own well-being. At least if you plan to have medicine and electricity; I am quite willing to concede that you could go without medical care or modern conveniences if you wanted to.

Since so much now is publicly subsidized, it’s a safe bet that we all have utilized services that are publicly subsidized, whether it is schooling, libraries, police departments, etc. But this is possible only by means of force, not by benevolence.

Many, if not most people who participate in society in this way understand public goods to be part of the social contract, so I'm afraid you are mistaken. These are at least somewhat possible due to benevolence, rather than "only" force.

Like me, my neighbors have been forced to part with a portion of their earned wealth to finance things designated by bureaucrats as beneficial for “the public good.”

Taxes, by their nature, are not "your wealth". The wealth you generate in a given society would never have been generated in the first place if not for a sizable quantity of publically-maintained goods; taxes are meant to be the fee you pay for services rendered. Refusal to pay taxes while continuing to allow society to protect and serve you in various ways would be theft.

My neighbors did not fund these things voluntarily any more than I have.

Living in a society is itself a choice that you make. I have chosen to live in a society where it has been democratically decided that my taxes pay for various things; I can opt out at any time by emigrating somewhere with a less burdensome, or even non-existent, tax regime.

They did not do this because they were concerned for my welfare – they had no choice in the matter.

Speaking for myself and many others, I absolutely am happy to pay for public goods, particularly ones that I know will effectively help my neighbours, and I absolutely did vote for candidates who pledged to support them. I could also leave, like I say above, so it's not factually accurate that I have no choice in the matter.

Anyway, I think you need to give some of this a little deeper thought.

Likewise, but is that really necessary to point out?

Kind regards;
Crom

December 06, 2013 6:48 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Crom,

I considered writing up a full response to your every point, but I don’t think that would be beneficial to the discussion at this time. I want to constrain the discussion to the fundamental issue so far as I see it – namely the notion that one should be “concerned” for his neighbor’s happiness, welfare, suffering, etc. I think it is imperative to get a clear understanding of what this is supposed to mean, for it seems that much of the disagreement here hinges on its meaning.

I wrote: “Perhaps the import of the issue has to do with what assumptions are loaded into the term ‘concern’. What is concern? What does it do? Suppose I’m concerned for the happiness for my neighbor. Now what? Am I supposed to do something different now? Am I supposed to redirect my focus from my own life? Why? I won’t.”

You responded: “In the context of how I used the term, I think a reasonably charitable interlocutor can understand exactly what I mean.”

I think it is best for you to explain what you mean, since otherwise I would be left to going on what I might merely be assuming what you mean, as charitable as that may be. Can you articulate precisely what you mean? As I mentioned, I think this has a lot to do with your query, thus I think it would be important to be able to explain it clearly. When you are concerned for your neighbor, what exactly does that mean as you use it in your questions to me? Is this just a feeling? If so, what difference do a person’s feelings make? Is it something more than merely feelings? Is it some kind of *action* that is supposed to take on behalf others? If so, what actions are those, and why should one take them?

And just to be clear, by “neighbor” I essentially mean people whom I do not personally know – not friends, family, close business associates, pupils, etc. I’m talking the anonymous guy on the street, the person living down the street from me, the lady in line at the drug store, a guy behind the counter at a convenience store, someone who passes me on the motorway, etc. If you mean anything other than this in the context of your premises, please explain this as well.

Please speak to these questions. Try to be specific. Give examples.

Regards,
Dawson

December 07, 2013 3:10 AM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

@Dawson and Crom

Perhaps we could introduce the objectivist concept of a hierarchy of values. For example I care first and foremost for myself, that is the primary value. Then in a kind of descending teleological way I would care next for my family. Not quit as much as for myself but close. There loss would severely negatively effect my life and thus I would put my life in considerable danger to assist them if needed. Next down the line are my friends, neighbours and wider community. I would put family first before them but would still but them before complete strangers. Still further removed is the notion of nation or state. I would rather see the taxes that I contribute to society be spent on my society and not say for example foreign aid. Wider still I would put the interests of my species before that of any other and so on.

One point also that I Would like to point out is that that we are a social species, there is no deigning this. The full weight of 20th century sociobiology supports this conclusion. A morality that is designed for purely solitary beings would be ill suited for us. It seems to me that there is a constant struggle in human history between balancing the primary needs of the individual and what he must surrender in order of the society to function. A proper morality for man would recognize this see-saw struggle and balance. I would like to say I have it all figured out but truly I don’t. Every time I put forth a case for say a libertarian stance on a give subject I take a step back and look at the wider systematic and indirect causation and see the harm a strictly individualist morality will have for us all in the long run. Ok sorry I have babbled enough, just wanted to say I see the points that both of you are trying to make and I struggle to reconcile them.

December 07, 2013 7:40 AM  
Blogger Karen S. said...

Hello, this is Karen S again. I apologize for the 2 "Wow" comments, I was having connectivity problems and wasn't sure if the first comment had been sent.

I'd like to get back to the second paragraph of my initial comment concerning the use of the word "certainty" and how the pre-sup methodology may have changed with the advent of the "Sye-Clones"--those who use pre-sup as Sye had developed it.

For example, if I asked a pre-sup to provide evidence of "the impossibility of the contrary" of worldviews, instead of any discussion, they revert to "god has revealed it to me in a way I can be certain (that every other worldview is false and mine is true)."

My understanding is that a classical pre-sup, even Greg Bahnsen, would not respond this way. They would actually try to make a coherent explanation.

I am considering doing a video about how pre-sup has changed in its methodology in this way, a sort of history if you will. If you could provide some guidance it would be appreciated.

Also, I've been reading the posts as recommended and they have been extremely helpful.

Thanks again, Karen S

December 07, 2013 10:23 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Karen,

I’m glad you have found the resources here helpful. That’s what they’re for.

As for the topic of your study – essentially the evolution if you will of presuppositionalism and Sye’s own version of it: if you’re planning to do a video on this, I strongly suggest doing some penetrating research. I would not recommend “thorough” research as the amount of literature you would need to consult in such a case is tremendous, and frankly I don’t think it would be needed. But I’ll offer a few tips here.

First, to confirm what you have suspected: True, I have never read the statement “God has revealed it to me in such a way that I can be certain of it” (or words to that effect) in Van Til’s writings or those of Greg Bahnsen, John Frame, Richard Pratt, Vern Poythress, etc. – i.e., the bigger names in presuppositional apologetics (who have published in print as opposed to the internet). Frankly, I think this slogan (and that’s pretty much all it is) comes too dangerously close to implying private revelation to the believer for their taste, and while such a view seems unavoidable given Christianity’s high degree of mysticism, I don’t think Bahnsen would have gotten behind this. But maybe I’m wrong. One of the presupper’s primary goals is to shift attention away from his worldview’s particulars and focus the spotlight on the non-believer and his system. So pat, uninformative sloganistic retorts such as Sye’s signature repartee tend to play an important role in their apologetic schemes. The purpose of such slogans is essentially to tell the non-believer, “Don’t pay attention to the guy behind the curtain” where the guy behind the curtain is the fraud and bluff of the presuppositional strategy. The impetus for this strategy is already present in “classical pre-sup,” so I don’t think it represents a complete break from tradition. But more and more I see internet apologists taking the route of “Let’s ignore my worldview’s details for now, and focus on a set of carefully designed questions that I have for your worldview.” (The apologist hopes that non-believers never realize that the apologist’s own worldview cannot answer these same questions.)

This is not to say that Bahnsen would choose instead to offer coherent explanations. It’s just that Bahnsen would likely try to deploy more crafty forms of haziness drawn from his familiarity with the history of philosophy. I suspect that Bahnsen would find Sye’s tactics simply too crude and unrefined. But both share the bunker mentality that presuppers tend to find so irresistible. All schools of presup, however, tend to hold on ready reserve the retort that their non-believing interlocutors simply don’t understand presuppositionalism once problems start being detected. So there’s a vested interest in playing fast and loose with the jargon and maintaining a haze of shadows around the apologist’s maneuvers.

[continued…]

December 07, 2013 4:19 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

At any rate, my suggestion would be more in the interest of systematizing your approach. E.g., first get a good understanding of “classical pre-sup” – start with Van Til and move through some of the earlier theorists who published in print – and then trace the development of presuppositionalism as it has been implemented on the internet. The point here would be to show how presup has changed over the course of a few generations. So some homework is in order here.

Eventually Sye will pass away and be replaced by yet another breed of apologists. The earlier presuppers had demonstrable familiarity with the academic philosophy of the day (which was horrific enough in itself). But folks like Sye do not seem to have much background knowledge in philosophy at all, which is why all the more they rely on canned slogans.

A good online resource would be VanTil.info. Lots of stuff there. In particular, I would suggest a thorough reading of Michael Butler’s The Transcendental Argument for God’s Existence.

One last note: I think it’s very important to let the apologists speak for themselves. Use their words. Quote their statements. Cite their texts. Show others where they say what they say. Don’t simply restate their position in your words – you might get it wrong, and you open yourself up to the charge of mischaracterization. We don’t need to mischaracterize them. They tell us what they’re all about in their own writings. I’ve tried to bring out a lot of their own statements to light in my blog entries.

Hope that helps!

Regards,
Dawson

December 07, 2013 4:19 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Justin,

Thanks for your comment.

Yes, you’re right to consult your own hierarchy of values. And rational philosophy is what is needed to provide the principles which inform such a hierarchy, beginning with an understanding of what values are and why we need them.

You state that “we are a social species.” The same could be said for ants and pack wolves. So it does not say anything distinctive about man. Man, we must remember, is the *rational* animal. His distinctive feature is his rational faculty – his ability to reason, beginning with forming concepts to developing a non-contradictory sum of knowledge. It is this distinctive feature – our capacity for reason – which needs to be the focal point from which a morality fit for man should be developed.

You say that “a morality that is designed for purely solitary beings would be ill suited for us.” But we must keep in mind that morality’s primary focus is the individual, not the group, not the collective, not “society,” not the tribe, not the village, etc. We need morality to guide our own individual choices and actions, for we are individually irreducible units. A collective is not an entity, but a man is. No amount of emphasis on the importance on society or the group will change the fact that we think with our own minds and need a rational code of values to guide our own choices and actions.

Recall Rand’s words in Galt’s Speech (from Atlas Shrugged):

<<You who prattle that morality is social and that man would need no morality on a desert island—it is on a desert island that he would need it most. Let him try to claim, when there are no victims to pay for it, that a rock is a house, that sand is clothing, that food will drop into his mouth without cause or effort, that he will collect a harvest tomorrow by devouring his stock seed today—and reality will wipe him out, as he deserves; reality will show him that life is a value to be bought and that thinking is the only coin noble enough to buy it.>>

So a rational individual needs a morality fit for him, given his nature as a rational animal, regardless of the context he finds himself in – whether in the midst of an urban metroplex or on a desert island. His life needs do not change given the number of people that happen to surround him. He still needs values, he still needs to act, he still needs a guide to identify those actions he needs to take in order to live.

[continued…]

December 07, 2013 5:12 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You also mention the “constant struggle in human history between balancing the primary needs of the individual and what he must surrender in order [for] the society to function.” But keep in mind that “society” is not an entity in its own right; society is made up of individuals. Again, their nature and their needs do not change given the fact that they are in the company of two others or two hundred thousand others.

Yes, history shows a tragic record of conflict. But if you look at the conflicts, there seems to be two things involved every time: 1) the pursuit of the unearned and 2) intellectual default. The pursuit of the unearned involves individuals seeking to obtain another person’s values – property, wealth, belongings, etc. – by force, coercion, fraud, etc. Intellectual default is when people who know better do not act – such as when people are aware of injustice happening and do nothing to intervene and stop the injustice. The first cannot go uncorrected without the second.

There is a meta-ethical pretext to all this, namely the moral view that the individual does not have the right to exist for his own sake, but rather must sacrifice himself – either to a god, to his “neighbors,” to the state, etc. This is not the moral view of the framers of the USA. They were explicit in stating the social implications of their moral view – namely that each individual has an inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – of his own happiness. They did not found the new nation on the idea that the individual must consider himself lower than his neighbor, that he must sacrifice himself, his life, his values to anyone who should come along and put a claim on them. The nation was founded on the principles of the self, but this has eroded significantly as the culture has moved away from this and back towards the tired, outworn view that the individual has a “duty” to serve others. This is the key setup for the two elements involved in injustice that I point out above.

[continued…]

December 07, 2013 5:12 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

In his essay “Assault from the Ivory Tower: The Professors’ War Against America” (in The Voice of Reason, pp. 186-208), Leonard Peikoff traces the erosion of the morality of self-interest and the culture’s deterioration into a morality of sacrifice in university curricula, particularly in the humanities departments. He gives many observations that have proven to be as prophetic as Atlas Shrugged, and buttresses these with anecdotes from university courses. At one point, he writes (p. 208):

<<Our colleges are allegedly open to all ideas, yet on the fundamental issues of philosophy we hear everywhere the same rigid, dogmatic viewpoint, just as though the faculties were living and teaching under government censorship. I visited Columbia’s graduation exercises last year [Peikoff wrote this essay for a lecture he gave in April 1983], and the priest who delivered the invocation declared to the assembled students: “The age of individual achievement has passed. When you come to Columbia, you are not to be motivated by the desire for money, or personal ambition, or success; you are here to learn to serve. And my prayer for you today is that at the end of your life you will be able to say, ‘Lord, I have been an unworthy servant.’” If that priest had come out with a plug for the Communist party, it would have caused a stir; if he had upheld the superiority of Catholicism, ditto. But to state as self-evident the moral code common to both caused not a murmur of protest.>>

Today our rights have been eroded to an unprecedented degree in the context of “the American experiment.” And this has been made possible thanks to the movement of our culture away from the morality of rational self-interest (the kernels of which were involved in its founding) to the morality of self-sacrifice. We are told over and over that we are not to be “selfish,” that we are our “brother’s keeper,” that we need to be “concerned” for our neighbors, regardless of who they are or what kind of moral character they have. We are essentially told that, if a person has need, it is the duty of others to meet his need. It is on the basis of this kind of morality that folks like Crom have voted to elect candidates who promise to confiscate wealth from those who create it and redistribute it to those who clamor for the unearned. Thus the intellectual default of the voters has been entirely instrumental in the erosion of individual rights in America. And I can only suspect that it’s only going to get worse in the coming years since I see no indication on the public stage that any of this is being seriously questioned, let alone challenged, at the highest levels, save perhaps for two or three voices which are all too easily drowned out by the mobocracy that has commandeered the country.

So much more to say here, but I have to get on with my day.

Regards,
Dawson

December 07, 2013 5:13 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Quotes for thought:

“A wise and frugal government … shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” -Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

“To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.” -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816

“Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.” -Thomas Jefferson

“I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”
-James Madison, 4 Annals of congress 179 (1794)

"Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.”
-James Madison

In 1854, after vetoing a popular appropriation to assist the mentally ill, President Franklin Pierce said, "I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity." To approve such spending, argued Pierce, "would be contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded." - from Walter Williams article, "Charity Not a Proper Function of the American Government";
http://www.liberalinstitute.com/CharityNotProperGovernmentFunction.html

"I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity." To approve such spending, argued Pierce, "would be contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded." - Ibid.

"With respect to the two words 'general welfare,' I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators." - James Madison

____________________________________

To say the least, these men were onto something.

Ydemoc

December 07, 2013 9:16 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Good collection of quotes, Ydemoc. Those were the good ol' days!

What's happening now... it's worse than watching Rome burn.

Regards,
Dawson

December 08, 2013 1:22 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

I see that I inadvertently copied and pasted the same quote twice. The second Pierce quote should instead have been a quote from Grover Cleveland who, on February 16, 1867, rejected the "Texas Seed Bill," which was intended to help suffering farmers. Here's just part of what he had to say in an address to the House of Representatives:
___________________________________

Though there has been some difference in statements concerning the extent of the people's needs in the localities thus affected, there seems to be no doubt that there has existed a condition calling for relief; and I am willing to believe that, notwithstanding the aid already furnished, a donation of seed grain to the farmers located in this region, to enable them to put in new crops, would serve to avert a continuance or return of an unfortunate blight.

And yet I feel obliged to withhold my approval of the plan as proposed by this bill, to indulge a benevolent and charitable sentiment through the appropriation of public funds for that purpose.

I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the government, the government should not support the people.

The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.

Source: http://mises.org/daily/3627)
___________________________________

Cleveland had it about right. Nowadays, if any politician took such a stance, sadly, he or she would be labeled a kook.

Ydemoc

December 08, 2013 6:58 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Ydemoc,

Thanks for posting the link to Dr. Hurd’s article. As could be expected from Dr. Hurd, it’s a good article, and what he says there needs to be said again and again and again.

There are a few parts where I cringe slightly, such as when he writes

<<…the economy grows by leaps and bounds when everyone is permitted to keep the products of his labor.>>

The notion that the individual should be “permitted” still seems to concede a key fundamental to the statists – i.e., the notion that the individual needs “permission” to act (particularly on his own behalf). I would rather Dr. Hurd write something more like:

<<…the economy grows by leaps and bounds when everyone’s right to keep the products of his labor is protected by a government whose purpose is to do just that – protect the individual’s rights.>>

But Dr. Hurd is right on the money when he writes:

<<[Pope Francis]’s entirely correct that unfettered capitalism has no place in the teachings of the Catholic Church.>>

Everyone – including Protestants – needs to let this fact sink in.

And his final point bears repeating (until we’re blue in the face):

<<Sooner or later Catholics, like the rest of the world, will have to choose. Politically: It’s either freedom, or socialism. Morally: It’s either self-interest, or self-sacrifice. You can’t have both. Obama and the Pope understand this, but their opponents have yet to figure it out.>>

Regards,
Dawson

December 16, 2013 3:36 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

By the way, Ydemoc, Rick Warden has finally posted your comment (which you submitted back on Dec. 6) and replied with two comments of his own.

Click here and scroll down: http://templestream.blogspot.com/2012/11/refuting-dawson-bethricks-objectivist.html

Again, Warden comes off as bewilderingly clueless on fundamental philosophical issues.

In reaction to the statement “The primacy of existence (of reality) is the axiom that existence exists, i.e., that the universe exists independent of consciousness...," Warden writes:

<<This is not an objective metaphysical approach but, rather, presupposes that God does not exist from the onset.>>

This is simply an admission –whether Warden intends it as such or not – that theism presupposes the primacy of consciousness. And yet his whole attempt to refute my argument consisted in claiming that pointing this fact out (i.e., that theism presupposes the primacy of consciousness) overlooks or ignores other attributes of the Christian deity (whose relevance to the matter he was never able to explain). So just by saying this, Warden inadvertently concedes a key premise in my argument.

Warden asserts: <<The "Metaphysical vs. Manmade" dichotomy is merely presuppositional atheism and is not metaphysically objective.>

It’s not clear what this is supposed to mean. Is Warden denying the obvious distinction between, say, a rock and a toaster oven? Does Warden give any argument here? No. Does he demonstrate any comprehension of what he’s talking about? As is typically the case, no he doesn’t.

Since he clearly rejects the primacy of existence, one can only wonder what Warden means by “metaphysically objective.” He does not explain his use of this term so far as I have seen. And of course, the bible does not either (it’s not even something one finds mentioned in the bible).

Warden states: <<A truly objective metaphysical approach would allow for the possibility of God's existence as a metaphysical condition.>>

Warden fails to grasp the facts that the concept ‘possible’ presupposes the primacy of existence to begin with, and also that to deem something as ‘possible,’ one must produce at least some evidence for it. Also, there would have to be no evidence against it, and yet it’s clear that he has been presented with several links to Anton Thorn’s work showing that there is a whole universe of evidence against the existence of the Christian god. I see that Warden does not interact with any of it beyond his unargued denials of a statement here and there.

Does Warden think that “a truly metaphysical approach” is one that should “allow for the possibility” of other things that we have no alternative but to imagine?

[continued…]

December 16, 2013 4:00 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Warden writes: <<The scientific method calls for a fair and unbiased test of a hypothesis on the conditions of that hypothesis.>>

Warden acts as though the scientific method were a self-sufficient, irreducible primary. It’s not. It has a metaphysical basis – namely the primacy of existence. Warden himself should realize this since so often he enlists presuppositionalist methods to argue on behalf of his god-belief. And yet here he ignores the fact that the scientific method itself has “presuppositions” – i.e., truths that are more fundamental and on which the scientific method rests – including truths about the proper relationship between consciousness and its objects. Suppose one claimed that the scientific method rests on the primacy of consciousness – i.e., that facts are whatever some consciousness wants them to be from moment to moment. Water could consist of hydrogen and oxygen one minute, and then of zinc and barium the next, simply because the ruling consciousness commands it to be so. There’d be no basis whatsoever for the scientific method in such a case. The issue here is not the uniformity of nature – but even more fundamental – i.e., metaphysical primacy. The former can be used by those who don’t look very deeply to obscure the latter, which is the real fundamental issue.

Warden quotes an argument from WLC:

<< Premise 1: If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
Premise 2: Objective moral values exist.
Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.[2]
>

Apparently Warden thinks this argument is impressive.

How about the following?

<<P1: If Blarko did not exist, arguments in favor of Christian theism would not exist.
P2: Arguments in favor of Christian theism exist.
C: Therefore, Blarko exists.
>>

See, I just “proved” the existence of something that is merely imaginary. Warden should be very pleased!

Regards,
Dawson

December 16, 2013 4:00 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

Thanks for the update. I haven't had time to fully digest all of what Rick Warden has written in his reply to me. On a quick once-over, I did catch these comments:

Rick wrote: "I do not frequent Dawson's blog so I am not aware of his blog comments there."

He must mean he doesn't frequent it much *anymore*, because in the past he certainly made his presence known. If I'm not mistaken, I believe his comments and questions occupied the better part of two or three comment threads.

You wrote, regarding the Thorn links I supplied to Rick: "I see that Warden does not interact with any of it beyond his unargued denials of a statement here and there."

Right! In fact, Rick goes so far as to admit that: "There is no need to read five Randian essays in order to make such an assessment."

Well, wasn't he the one asking that someone “demonstrate how an eternally existent and eternally conscious God is not metaphysically possible...”?

I thought you did so in your blog entry, writing in response: "Since on a rational understanding both the concepts ‘true’ and ‘possible’ presuppose the primacy of existence, any claim which assumes the primacy of consciousness cannot possibly be true. Thus, since the notion of the Christian god assumes the primacy of consciousness, the claim that the Christian god exists cannot possibly be true.

There. How’s that?"

Thinking that Rick might like to see another demonstration, I sent him those Anton Thorn links. And what does he do? Evidently, according to Rick, he dismisses them without even reading!

I'm glad he published my comments though. That way, others who venture to his blog will be able to use those links and see for themselves which worldview is rational and which one isn't.

Ydemoc

December 16, 2013 11:10 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Ydemoc,

Yes, I think you’re probably correct; there was a time when he would come to my blog and post comments. His efforts were not very effective, but at the same time those same efforts betrayed the fact that either he had not read anything here very carefully, or at any rate did not integrate what he read. For he is remarkable in the consistency with which he makes the same blunders in comprehension.

Warden says “there’s no need to read… to make such an assessment.” This essentially translates to mean: ‘there’s no need to be informed in order to stick with my stated prejudices.’ Reading is a good way to become informed of a position. But Warden doesn’t think he needs to bother reading. This is not a statement about what he chooses not to read; it’s a statement about himself.

[continued…]

December 16, 2013 2:25 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

In his comments, Warden did offer an argument of his own. He offered the following:

<<P1. Non-living, unique, complex, hierarchical and interdependent systems (A) function together in the universe in a manner that allows for life.
P2. Either (A) are the result of intelligent creation, the result of chance, or of necessity.
P3. All new forms of (A) that we observe are created systems made with, or aided by, the purposeful use of intelligence and energy.
P4. No new forms of (A) that we observe are systems that have occurred by chance or necessity.
P5. Therefore, the best explanation is that the (A) of the universe have been created by a powerful and intelligent being.
P6. The only being that could have created the universe is a supremely powerful and intelligent one.
C. Therefore, God exists.
>>

So far as formal argumentation is concerned, I notice that his conclusion introduces a term (“God”) that is not present anywhere in the supporting premises. Arguably he could say that this is what is intended by the notion of “a powerful and intelligent being” affirmed in P5 and P6. But a careful arguer would make this equation explicit; Warden does not do this, and yet he complains about me allegedly not following rules (such as the scientific method). Any logician worth his salt will tell you that an argument’s conclusion is no place to introduce a key term.

But even if Warden made this equation explicit – i.e., that “God” = “a powerful and intelligent being,” this would not be sufficient to meet his argument’s requirements for soundness. After all, where does this notion come from? What would lead us to suppose that there is such a thing in the first place? What does it denote? By what means would one have awareness of such a thing? What prophylactic measures has Warden put in place to secure his premises from confusing what he calls “a powerful and intelligent being” with what he may merely be imagining? Or, does this latter point simply not concern Warden? After all, his argument does not anticipate this concern, let alone address it outright.

Warden would likely claim that the notion of “a powerful and intelligent being” is necessitated by the first two premises. I would say that he fails entirely in making this case. The second of these premises is where he introduces the notion of “intelligent creation,” and he pits this against “chance” and “necessity.” It is not clear what he means by “necessity” here, for he does not elaborate on this aspect of P2 in his blog entry where he defends this argument. If “necessity” is essentially another word for causality, then I would certainly go with causality as the factor accounting for whatever legitimate notions he cites in P1; at no point in the development of his argument does he show that causality cannot be responsible for the state of affairs in the universe which allow for life. If he does not mean causality in P2’s “necessity,” then his argument systematically ignores the very factor that nullifies his theistic account of the state of affairs mentioned in P1 (which is essentially an appeal to magic). Either way, his argument flops on its face.

[continued…]

December 16, 2013 2:25 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

In fact, as I glance through his blog entry, it appears that the only form of causation that he is willing to acknowledge is causation by a conscious agent – e.g., essentially *wishing* things into being. Thus it assumes the primacy of consciousness – the very point which my anti-theistic argument calls into question. So this argument of Warden’s is beyond pre-mature: he needs to deal with the issue of metaphysical primacy first. Sadly, we’ve already seen how prepared he is for that.

I also notice that P3 and P4 make reference to observation. But where do we ever observe conscious activity zapping things into existence in the way that his god-belief requires? P3 states that “All new forms of (A) that we observe are created systems made with, or aided by, the purposeful use of intelligence and energy,” and though I do not see where he specifies what these “new forms of (A)” are (Warden himself implies that we need not inform ourselves), he says that they come about by “the purposeful use of intelligence and energy.”

Unfortunately, the only instance of “the purposeful use of intelligence and energy” that I have ever observed are of biological organisms (e.g., man) physically putting into action their intentions. The key here is physical action: the action of one physical body effecting other physical bodies, such as when moves a piece of furniture in his house, or builds the house outright. There’s no reality-conforming-to-consciousness going on here – there’s only consciousness working with and obeying reality. Again, reality holds metaphysical primacy over consciousness. When I turn on my kitchen faucet, I’m not *willing* the water to come out of it – on the contrary, I’m conforming my own actions to the nature of the faucet in my kitchen and acting according to its nature; I cannot alter the nature of any constituent in this process by means of conscious activity. Yet this orientation between consciousness and reality (i.e., the primacy of consciousness over reality) is what Warden’s argument requires, but curiously it does not acknowledge this explicitly (let alone validate it). It simply seeks to smuggle this premise through the backdoor of approximate locutions. If Warden’s case were rationally legitimate, he would not need to do this.

So again, Warden is showing that all he can do is continue to beat his head against a brick wall here. He only ends up bloodying his face this way. Whose problem is that?

Certainly not mine.

Regards,
Dawson

December 16, 2013 2:25 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Dawson,

Thanks for the comments. The last week or so I've been going back through your archived material. I'm thoroughly enjoying doing so.

Just over three years ago, you wrote a blog entry entitled "Rick Warden's Critique of Objectivism."

http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2010/10/rick-wardens-critique-of-objectivism.html

In that blog entry, you exposed Rick Warden as woefully uniformed as to what Objectivism teaches.

You wrote: "Also notice that, after reading my argument, Rick does not come out and endorse the primacy of consciousness, which I argue to be the underlying premise of theism. This is not unexpected. Theists typically try to distance themselves from explicitly endorsing the primacy of consciousness metaphysics once its failings have been pointed out to them. And yet, like other theistic critics of Objectivism who are reluctant to admit the subjective underpinnings of their worldview, Rick does not explain how his theism could survive without it; he does not explain how one could believe in a universe-creating, reality-ruling god without assuming the primacy of consciousness."

To which "Cynthia" in the comment thread of that same blog entry, wrote: "I suspect he will avoid it like the plague."

Both you and Cynthia were spot on, for that is exactly what Rick Warden has done: Attempted to distance himself from Christianity's primacy of consciousness metaphysics.

Yet, when convenient, Rick had no problem endorsing the primacy of consciousness, as was the case when he wrote the following:

"In essence, Lanza proposes that consciousness holds supremacy over the material world. This, of course, is in keeping with the biblical account of Genesis in which the material world was created by the consciousness and will of God." (http://templestream.blogspot.com/2013/11/quantum-physics-proves-that-there-is.html)

To date, I don't know if Rick Warden has addressed this discrepancy: His unwillingness to admit to Christianity's primacy of consciousness metaphysics -- basically completely denying that it applies -- in his interactions with you and your material, versus what he wrote above where he admits that it *does* apply to his worldview.

Perhaps I should make an inquiry to see what he has to say about this.

Ydemoc

December 22, 2013 9:58 PM  
Blogger Rick Warden said...

The Pseudonym poster Ydemoc visited my blog and informed me of the above published post. I asked Ydemoc to provide a summary of the specific premises and logical syntax of the argument, if he could, as referenced in the above post:

"In summary, the argument from metaphysical primacy concludes that the claim “God exists” cannot be true (and consequently, that god-belief is inherently irrational) because it necessarily assumes the primacy of consciousness metaphysics, which is not true."

So far, Ydemoc has not posted any such premises and syntax. Why don't you help him out, Dawson and clearly define what you consider to be a strong argument against God's existence within the structure of a logical argument, as opposed to piecemeal links to blog posts here and there. When you or anyone has such a logical argument, do post it at the following link:

http://tinyurl.com/create.php

In the mean time, Dawson, you might want to lend your creative writing talents to Reader's Digest or another publisher that tends to emphasize eloquent language and proper grammar over logical philosophical arguments.

December 24, 2013 8:25 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

I was poking around on Google and came across this entry over on Dustin Segers' blog, Grace in the Triad:

http://graceinthetriad.blogspot.com/2011/10/a-brief-refutation-of-objectivisms.html

It seems that he has revised his original blog entry which he had removed shortly after his errors were exposed: He notes:

"The following article has been significantly modified since it was originally written on 10-24-2011. Based upon interactions that I had with Objectivist adherent Dawson Bethrick, I misrepresented Ayn Rand's argument against God from the primacy of existence. My information was gleaned from interactions with other internet Objectivists who misrepresented Rand's views and then communicated their misinformation to me. Thus, I responded to their misinformed arguments. Out of intellectual honesty I took the original article down to do further research and the following is the result."

I haven't read his updated version, but it should be interesting. However, it looks like he stopped writing in midstream, though, as his blog entry stops right where comments begin. Perhaps there's "Read More" hyperlink I'm not noticing or something.

Ydemoc


December 24, 2013 11:40 AM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

By the way, the hyperlink in your archived blog entry (Dustin Segers’ Failed Attempt to Refute the Primacy of Existence) still takes me to Segers' blog entry which reads, "Sorry, the page you were looking for in this blog does not exist."

Just in case the link I supplied to you in my previous comment doesn't get you to his update (at least, I think I supplied it), you can also access the update through Segers' "Blog Archive" (October 2011).

But I still haven't figured out how to access the rest of his blog entry.

Ydemoc

December 24, 2013 1:10 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Ydemoc,

Thanks for your recent comments. I'm glad you're enjoying the archives. I admit I enjoy reading my own stuff and keep wanting to go back and read more, but I've been extremely busy this month and haven't been able to do much of anything on my blog. I'm trying to remedy that.

Interesting development on Segers' blog. I had never seen that updated entry before. I wonder when it was posted. It is dated Oct. 2011 when all that went down, but when I checked Segers' blog for some time after all the fireworks two years ago, I never saw this one (I think I would have if it were there). I suspect it was posted more recently and post-dated. At any rate, I'm puzzled as well since it does cut off midstream and does not seem to have any way of continuing on to the points he says he's going to make. It just stops. Perhaps he died while dictating (ba-dam ba-dam!).

Regards,
Dawson

December 24, 2013 2:05 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Rick,

I’m glad you stopped by my blog and left a comment. I do hope you might choose to read something I’ve posted this time.

You wrote: “I asked Ydemoc to provide a summary of the specific premises and logical syntax of the argument, if he could”

This is most odd, Rick. You had already attempted to refute the argument in question in a blog entry of your own. Now you’re asking what its premises are. How do you think your attempts to refute an argument can be successful if later you essentially acknowledge that you have not known what its premises are all along? How do you account for this confused spectacle you’ve generated all by yourself?

You wrote: “So far, Ydemoc has not posted any such premises and syntax.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Ydemoc post a series of links to pages where “such premises and syntax” could be found? See the comments he left on your blog here.

Ydemoc posted a link to a recent blog of mine (in which I examine your own flawesome efforts to refute the argument from metaphysical primacy) and several to articles written by Anton Thorn (specifically in which Thorn delivers his Argument from the Fact of Existence).

In response to Ydemoc’s attempts to provide you with what you need to improve your understanding of the Objectivist position, you asserted (without argument) that the primacy of existence “is not an objective metaphysical approach” (if the recognition that the objects of consciousness exist and are what they are independent of conscious activity is not objective on your view, what is?) and then stated that “There is no need to read five Randian essays in order to make such an assessment.”

Now you come here saying that what needs to be provided has not been provided and are asking for more. I’m guessing that if more is provided to meet your undefined requirements, you will find some excuse for not reading it (and thereby denying yourself the opportunity to understand it). That’s my concern. I hope it does not turn out to be true.

[continued…]

December 24, 2013 2:51 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “Why don't you help him out, Dawson and clearly define what you consider to be a strong argument against God's existence within the structure of a logical argument, as opposed to piecemeal links to blog posts here and there. When you or anyone has such a logical argument, do post it at the following link:”

For one, as a rule I do not visit “tinyurl” sites. I have my blog and this is where I post my writings.

But in the hopes that the concern I stated above turns out to be ill-founded, I’ll put a new blog together and present some very tidy “premises and syntax” for you. Would you like that? Once it’s posted to my blog, I’ll post a link to it in the comments here.

But none of this will do any good if you do not at least make the effort necessary to read and understand what I am arguing. Simply dismissing it will not do, for this only indicates that you cannot deal with the arguments I have presented.

Of course, it is important to keep in mind, Rick, that no one has any onus to prove that the non-existent does not exist. If your god does not exist, no one needs to prove this for it to be the case. Ultimately, the onus is on the believer to prove that his god does in fact exist, and if folks like me remain unpersuaded by your attempts to meet that onus, that’s just something you’re going to have to learn to live with. One point that I continually stress is the fact that arguments hoping to prove the existence of a god always leave us with no alternative but to imagine the god they are said to prove. That’s a fatal problem so far as I see it. But you’re welcome to believe otherwise if you so desire.

That having been said, here’s a simple argument that even a caveman should be able to understand:

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.


(From my July 2011 blog entry A Proof that the Christian God Does Not Exist)

How do you defend your god-belief from this argument?

[continued…]

December 24, 2013 2:51 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

You wrote: “In the mean time, Dawson, you might want to lend your creative writing talents to Reader's Digest or another publisher that tends to emphasize eloquent language and proper grammar over logical philosophical arguments.”

So says the individual who has championed an argument in which its central key term is introduced in its conclusion – a wild departure from logical norms (so much so that it calls into serious question your grasp of logic and philosophical argumentation).

At any rate, Rick, stay tuned. I’ll try to have something up soon. I look forward to hearing from you.

Regards,
Dawson

December 24, 2013 2:51 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Rick,

Merry Xmas!

I took some time this morning and assembled a new blog post in an attempt to meet your stated specifications by providing "the specific premises and logical syntax of the argument." Arguably there are probably many different ways of stating the argument, but I tried to come up with a format that was easy to follow. It's all right here:

Three Steps Proving that Theism Cannot Be True

Since you posted a comment over on your blog mentioning the discussion happening here, perhaps you might post a link from your blog to my new entry addressing your special needs.

Also, you'll notice that there is no comment moderation on new blogs within the first 24 hours of their posting.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Regards,
Dawson

December 25, 2013 3:05 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Dawson,

I just emailed Dustin Segers the following, at the email address located on his blog "Grace in the Triad."
_______________________________

Hi Dustin,

I am a frequent poster over on Dawson Bethrick's blog, "Incinerating Presuppositionalism." While poking around on Google, I came across an update for your blog entry "A Brief Refutation of Objectivism's Primacy of Existence Argument" (Monday, October 24, 2011).

When I ventured over to "Grace in the Triad" to read it, I saw the "Note" indicating the revisions you'd made in your "refutation." However, this new version doesn't seem to be complete (at least, I don't seem to be able to access it in its entirety). It seems to cut off in midstream after the sentence, "What follows suggests that her point is that it is impossible that nothing other than" --

I was interested in reading the rest of your update. Do you know how I might be able to go about doing so?

Thanks.
____________________________________

Hopefully he writes back and lets me know how I can access this "update."

Ydemoc

December 26, 2013 10:38 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Ydemoc,

Have you gotten any responses from Dustin Segers on your query? If he has anything new to say about the primacy of existence, I'd love to see it. After all, he did say he would do further research, but he never approached me for help with this. Rather, at the time, he seemed to prefer simply shutting down and not pursuing the discussion. I wonder if he has allowed himself to grow over the past two years.

I also notice that Crom has not come back to continue my discussion with him. I was hoping that we could unpack the meaning he invests in the concept 'concern' as he uses it in the above context. Perhaps he's still thinking about it.

Regards,
Dawson

December 28, 2013 2:20 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Dawson,

You wrote: "Have you gotten any responses from Dustin Segers on your query?"

I wasn't aware of it at the time, but the email address listed under "Contact Information" on "Grace in the Triad" (and to which I sent my query to Dustin Segers), was actually for Sovereign Grace Baptist Church (pastor@sfofgso.org).

I presume that Dustin is a pastor there, because I received the following reply from another pastor/teacher who used the name of that church in his email signature:

"I’ll forward your email to Dustin. He will answer after the first of the year..."

I sent a "thank you" reply back. This was yesterday, December 27th, and that's the last contact I've had with anyone associated with Segers.

If I haven't heard anything at some point soon after the first of the year, I'll try to reach him again. I mean, I'm curious to know why his "refutation" was left incomplete on his blog, and I'd really like to read the rest of it.

Ydemoc

December 28, 2013 4:59 PM  
Blogger Rick Warden said...

Hello Dawson, Thank you for providing a summarized version of your objectivist primacy argument. The following is a link to a response:

Bethrick’s Refined Primacy Argument Against God Refuted

templestream.blogspot.com/2013/12/bethricks-refined-primacy-argument.html

Hope that you are willing to turn over a new leaf this New Years.

December 29, 2013 11:15 AM  
Blogger wakawakwaka said...

so Dawson what do you think of this new arguement from Rick Warden

December 29, 2013 7:11 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

I see once again Rick dances around the real issue here. That being what is the relationship between god (the subject of consciousness) and everything else (the objects of consciousness). He wrote pages and never once addressed this and yet it goes to the core of the argument that theism is subjective and thus incompatible with knowledge. He seems to think if he can only define god just so then POE will go away never realizing its about the relationship between god and everything else that matters, not the minutia of theologies descriptions of god's identity.

December 29, 2013 8:19 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Justin,

Yes, you're correct - Warden fails to interact with the matter at hand. My argument nowhere talks of any god creating itself or nullifying its own existence. My argument neither mentions these things nor depends on these notions being part and parcel of theism. Yes, you're correct that the issue has to do with the relationship between consciousness and its objects - whether that consciousness is real, or imagined (as in the case of theism's god). And yes, you are correct again, Warden does not interact with this matter. Instead, he claims that I am mischaracterizing theism while in fact he's mischaracterizing my argument. If mischaracterizing is wrong (as when Warden accuses me of doing so), then why isn't he concerned about avoiding mischaracterization when he attempts to refute my argument? These are the same basic blunders he made in his previous attempt to take down my position, and even after I've corrected him on them, he repeats them as if they were true. They aren't.

So for all who have been watching and/or who are interested, I have posted a new entry on my blog decisively interacting with Warden's latest kernel of idiocy.

It can be found here:

The Vindication of My Argument Against Theism from Rick Warden's Ill-fated Maneuvers

Rick, I invite you to post a link to my new blog interacting with your "refutation" over on your blog. I'd submit a comment myself, but I'm doubtful that it would ever get past the moderator there.

Regards,
Dawson

December 29, 2013 11:11 PM  
Blogger Ydemoc said...

Hi Dawson,

I received a reply from Dustin Segers, dated January 1, 2014. I was a little tardy in retrieving as I wasn't checking my email. Here's what he wrote:
____________________________________

Hello Ydemoc,

I never completed a "revision" of that article because I became busy with work and family. Also, I don't have access to the "Grace in the Triad" blog anymore so I wouldn't be able to finish it even if I wanted to. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you.

Have a happy New Year,

Dustin
____________________________________

I sent a reply back, thanking him for his prompt response and telling him that it was not at all an inconvenience.

Although I didn't mention or suggest it to him in my reply, but setting aside his being too "busy with work and family," I don't see why his not being involved with "Grace in the Triad" would preclude him from finishing his revision. It seems to me he could simply copy it, work on it, and post it elsewhere.

Ydemoc

January 03, 2014 2:18 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Ydemoc,

Thanks for the updates.

I’m glad Segers got back to you. But like you, I too am puzzled as to why not being part of the Grace in the Triad blog means he cannot finish what he himself started. This seems like a very weak excuse, and I’m surprised if he’d think you’d be satisfied with it. If he wants, he can send his revised version (if he has one or ever finishes it) to me, and I’ll posted on my website. But I’m guessing there will be a reason why he can’t do this as well.

Regards,
Dawson

January 03, 2014 3:32 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Dawson and to Rick Warden (if he's reading this):

Dawson correctly rebutted Rick Warden with:

But notice that Warden wants to raise the notion that existence is the product of some prior cause. But also notice that this notion is utterly absurd: causality presupposes existence. Existence does not presuppose causality. If something is caused, something must do the causing, which means: existence is a precondition for causality. There could be no causality without something first existing, just as there could be no dance without a dancer.

Indeed. Existence is not only the metaphysical precondition (nothing at all abstract here) for casualty but also for time, instantiation, identity, information, and hence consciousness. Without time or entities there can be no casualty.

BTW Rick, consciousness is a function of the brain and spinal column; it's not magic It's not a substance that somehow (How? Somehow. Blankout.) obtains independently of existence as in substance dualism. Mind has never been detected by any instrumentation, but we do know with as great a Bayesain certainty as is possible to have in any science that first person experience of consciousness directly maps with a brief time delay to brain and spinal column activity. That means that your consciousness is what your brain and spinal column does. And it implies consciousness is dependent upon existence of matter and evolution of organisms with brains;hence, the metaphysical primacy of existence is indeed valid.

Best and Good


Best wishes

February 23, 2014 9:54 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Rick Warden's tiresome haranguing on the alleged nature his god has no merit arguing against the metaphysical primacy of existence because the theistic point that logic or morality or reasoning or some other aspect of human cognition is rooted in the nature of his god is a complete ad hoc rationalization: nothing about the notion of a god indicates that it must be necessarily anything or rational. Humans are capable of being both logical and illogical, it is clearly impossible for a more powerful being to not be able to do such a simple thing as make an illogical proposition or lie or terminate itself or lay aside its alleged powers or act contray to beliefs of bronze age pre-scientific supperstitious prelates.

Rick's assertions ignore the direct contradiction entailed by his religious view of his god's attributes of libertarian contra-causal free will and its omniscience. Since its will is contra-casual, its decisions are not produced by any process of reasoning from values or any other cause. Such decisions are indistinguishable from randomness, thus it cannot "know" what it might do in response to its adherents pleas for favorable interventions. It can't "know" when or if it'll answer prayers or violate uniformity of nature with a miracle. That means Rick's alleged god can't, since it can't know when or if it'll answer prayers or perform magic miracles, "know" if it will perform moral goodness, so it can't know if it's good. Since, it's alleged "knowledge" is claimed to be its essence or nature, then it is indeed an ad hoc rationalization to predicated objections to the metaphysical primacy of existence upon notions of such silliness. Rick and all other theists or deists are simply playing make believe.

February 23, 2014 1:49 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Robert,

Thanks for your thoughtful comments lately. I’ve had a real busy weekend taking care of my daughter and doing all kinds of stuff around the house… Also I’m working on a boat load of new blog entries, and just trying to find time to do my research and writing. Lots in the mill! Now it’s about 5 am Monday morning here in Bangkok, about to start my work week. Time for coffee!

Yes, Warden has failed to think through these matters carefully. All he is concerned about is protecting his god-belief. Nothing else matters. When a person sacrifices himself to his god, the first thing to go is his mind. If he hasn’t sacrificed his mind, he’s holding something back from his god.

You wrote: “Rick Warden's tiresome haranguing on the alleged nature his god has no merit arguing against the metaphysical primacy of existence because the theistic point that logic or morality or reasoning or some other aspect of human cognition is rooted in the nature of his god is a complete ad hoc rationalization: nothing about the notion of a god indicates that it must be necessarily anything or rational.”

Yes, completely ad hoc indeed! This is all part of the theist’s efforts to assimilate legitimate philosophical issues into his god-belief and retrofit them with theistic endowments.

Yesterday I was reading some of the interplay between “Wintery Knight” (a Christian blogger) and his readers in a blog entry titled Can atheists be moral? Of course, the apologist needs to walk a tightrope in answering this question with both a yes and a no.

But at one point in the comment exchange, WK writes: “There is no standard without a design” (see his comment dated 03/30/2010 at 11:06 AM about a quarter of the way down the page). I’m wondering how this rule would avoid an infinite regress. By my reading, it could only mean that for the Christian god to serve as a standard, it too would have to be designed, and its designer, to be a standard, would also need to have been designed, and so on. It strikes me as not only ad hoc but also self-defeating. But it probably sounds nifty in the theist’s mind as he’s trying to find ways to define the debate, so he blurts it out there thinking it’s closed off every option for the non-believer.

I notice that theists typically do not say things like “there is no standard without facts,” and yet this seems to be what is actually the case with any standard that man could have any use for. A Harry Potter novel has a design for its narrative, but I do not find it to be of any use as a “standard” in my life. But my body does have certain needs, and this is factual, and it serves as a standard which I can use in my life (I better, or I won’t get very far).

Anyway, thought that was worth sharing.

Time for coffee!

Regards,
Dawson

February 23, 2014 2:12 PM  

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