Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Reply to Matthias on "Analogous Knowledge"

I continue now with my reply to Matthias McMahon. In the present installment, I explore some of the premises and implications of the Christian view that man’s knowledge is somehow “analogous” to the “knowledge” which the Christian god is said to have. Drawing on some points which I have made in previous responses to Matthias (see here and here for example), I focus on two major areas: namely the issue of metaphysical primacy (i.e., as it pertains to the relationship between the subject of consciousness and its objects) and the nature of conceptual identification.

In my blog Confessions of a Vantillian Subjectivst, I noted that “there are fundamental qualitative differences between man’s knowledge and the Christian god’s so-called ‘knowledge,’” focusing on the antithetical nature of their respective subject-object relationships (namely the primacy of existence in the case of man, and the primacy of consciousness in the case of the Christian god, given Christianity’s descriptions of it).

In essence, I argued that
(a) since man is neither omniscient nor infallible, he needs a means of gathering and validating his knowledge, and since the objects of his knowledge are not creations of his conscious activity or conform to his conscious intensions, he need to look outward at the world to acquire knowledge of these objects, which means that the method by which he acquires and validates his knowledge must be objective in nature (e.g., not based on his emotions, preferences, likes or dislikes, wishes, commands, imagination, dreams, etc.), and 
(b) since the Christian god is supposed to be both omniscient and infallible, it would not need any means of gathering and validating knowledge, and since the objects of its “knowledge” are supposed to be creations of its conscious activity and conform to its conscious intensions, it would not need to look outward for the content of its “knowledge”
there is therefore no analogous relationship between human knowers and the objects of their knowledge of them on the one hand, and the Christian god and the objects of its “knowledge” of them.

On the contrary, what we have here is a fundamental antithesis between how and what man actually knows (he knows things that exist independently of his consciousness by means of looking outward) and how and what the Christian god is said to “know”(it “creates” the objects of its consciousness by first looking inward and essentially wishing them into existence and “knows” them automatically for all eternity without any need for an objective process of acquiring and validating its “knowledge”).

I have enlarged on these points in my blog A Reply to Matthias on Objective Knowledge vs. the Subjectivism of Theism Given the facts that,
(i) for man, (a) the world of objects exists independently of his conscious activity, (b) he must acquire awareness of those facts by looking outward (as opposed to looking inward at his own conscious activity, such as wishing, imagining, emoting, hoping, etc.), (c) he must identify and integrate what he perceives by forming concepts which are based on what he discovers by looking outward, and (d) he must validate what he identifies and integrates by means of reason, and 
(ii) given Christianity’s description of the Christian god as (a) a consciousness which creates the world of objects by an act of will, (b) to whose conscious dictates the objects of the world conform, (c) which is supposed to be omniscient and therefore already knows everything, (d) whose “thoughts” create whatever exists distinct from itself, (e) which does not have to either acquire or validate its knowledge by any process (including an objective process – it’s already omniscient and infallible), and (f) which does not need to condense data into conceptual form in order to retain it in its consciousness
I argued that the difference between man’s knowledge and the Christian god’s “knowledge” would not simply be a matter of degrees of knowledge, but a fundamental difference which defies any attempt to draw an analogy between the two.

My view is that Christians in general (and presuppositionalists in particular) who claim that there is some analogy between man’s knowledge and the Christian god’s “knowledge,” do so in ignorance of two crucially important areas of philosophical inquiry, namely:
1. The issue of metaphysical primacy – i.e., the relationship between consciousness and its objects (something we never learn about by reading the Christian bible); and 
2. The nature of concepts and the means by which man’s forms them on the basis of facts which he discovers in the world by looking outward at it (again, another topic one will never learn about by reading the Christian bible).
A profound lack of understanding in both of these areas turns up again and again as attempts to apologize for the theistic worldview are examined from a perspective which benefits from informed familiarity with them. Indeed, where would a Christian believer find any information about either the proper relationship between consciousness and its objects or the nature of concepts? A perusal of the Old and New Testaments reveals that its authors were greatly concerned about tribal solidarity, preserving hereditary lines, circumcision, blood sacrifices, dietary rules, wallowing in self-pity (as found in many of the Psalms), keeping women in “their place,” rooting out heretics, disobedience to priests, inculcating widespread guilt, battling rival tribes, predictions of peril and doom, etc. But they showed no interest in matters of primary philosophy.

In the hands of modern-day thinkers, the primitive philosophy that is Christianity steers apologetic treatments well clear of objectively grasping basic truths in both the issue of metaphysical primacy and concept theory. In fact, presuppositionalists themselves have wandered so far from what knowledge actually is that their pronouncements bear no recognizable relation to man’s means of knowing and the source from which he derives knowledge. Consider for example the following statement written by Greg Bahnsen (Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis, p. 230):
What we must take account of is the fact that God does not discover truths about Himself or about the world and history. Nor does He observe data (receive sensations, etc.) that He organizes into interpretation. Rather, God is the “original knower” in that He has comprehensively known Himself from all eternity and has created the world, as well as planning every detail of history, according to his own “pre-interpretation.” He is and He makes the truth that man comes to know. He did not simply find out the truth earlier, more intuitively, or in greater scope than man. He is the Creator, and man is the receiver. Thus, God’s interpretation of the world and history is constructive of that world and history, whereas man properly interprets (or knows) the world and history, he is “reconstructive” of God’s original interpretation or thinking about them. The same holds for truths about God or man: man’s self-knowledge and theological knowledge are gained by “receptive reconstruction” of what God originally knows.
Bahnsen’s description here reveals that the real analogy is between the Christian god and a rock: the Christian god “does not discover truths about Himself,” and neither does a rock; the Christian god “does not discover truths… about the world,” and neither does a rock; the Christian god “does not discover truths about… history,” and neither does a rock; the Christian god does not “observe data,” and neither does a rock; the Christian god does not “receive sensations,” and neither does a rock. The Christian god cannot learn, and neither can a rock; the Christian god cannot change itself, and neither can a rock. With all these fundamental similarities between the Christian god and rocks, why suppose that we “receptively reconstruct” our knowledge about the world from the Christian god any more than we “receptively reconstruct” it from the content of a rock?

By contrast, however, man does discover truths about himself, about the world, about history; man does observe data and “receive sensations”; man can learn, and he can change himself in many ways that neither the Christian god nor a rock can. Thus we can safely say that the Christian god has more in common with a plain old rock than it does with man.

Bahnsen continues (Ibid., pp. 231-232):
God’s knowledge is different from man’s with respect to the subject (the knower) and the act of knowing.
This statement constitutes an understatement of monumental proportions. With respect to the subject of knowledge, in the case of the Christian god the contents of its knowledge are not independently existing things; the Christian god does not “know” the objects of its knowledge by looking outward. On the contrary, the objects of its knowledge depend on and conform to its conscious intensions: if the Christian god wants man to have two arms instead of 16, man as object of the Christian god’s knowledge will adjust itself accordingly; if the Christian god wants water to become wine, it will be transformed into water, just like magic. Thus for the Christian god, the subject of consciousness holds metaphysical primacy over its objects. In fact, since the Christian god is supposed to have been omniscient for all eternity, there is no “act of knowing” to speak of on behalf of the Christian god, given how Christianity describes it, to begin with.

By contrast, man must look outward just to acquire awareness of the objects of his knowledge (while looking inward without reference to what exists independently of consciousness strands the mind in the wilderness of wishing, emotion and imagination). The objects of man’s knowledge, whether it’s trees, automobile transmissions, a sales report, the Declaration of Independence, etc., exist independently of his conscious activity, and they do not conform to that activity. To have knowledge of these things, man must perform specific mental actions with regard to what he perceives, including concept-formation and integration of that content into the sum of his knowledge.

The contradiction between these two scenarios – man’s knowledge, the manner in which he acquires and validates it, the form in which he retains it vs. what Christianity claims on behalf of its god’s conscious content – lies at the foundation of it all, at the level of metaphysical primacy. On man’s side, we have the primacy of existence: the objects of knowledge exist independent of man’s conscious activity. On the Christian god’s side, we have the primacy of consciousness – the objects of knowledge depend on and conform to the conscious intensions of the Christian god. And since the Christian god is said to have created man in the first place, the ultimate starting point here is a starting point premised on the primacy of consciousness metaphysics.

Bahnsen himself makes it clear that, on the Christian view, man’s acquisition of knowledge is passive in nature - not an active process: man’s knowledge is something he “receives” from a personal source which chooses to bestow it, in whatever measure, not actively acquires, validates, and integrates by an active process which he performs volitionally on his own. And at best it would have to be this way given the primacy of consciousness metaphysics on which “knowledge” as Christianity imagines it would depend. Knowledge of reality necessarily corresponds to the objects known. But if those objects depend on and conform to some being’s conscious intensions, there would be no rational way for man (who must look outward to acquire and validate his knowledge) to discover the true nature of the objects of knowledge and reliably expect the nature of those objects to remain causally stable when those objects are continually conforming to whatever the ruling consciousness happens to be determining them to be. Since on such a view all causality ultimately reduces to divine whim (water is water one moment, then wished into wine the next; a man walks successfully on unfrozen water one moment, then starts to sink the next, etc.), there would be no objective basis for conceptual integration whatsoever.

Such a view necessarily strands man’s mind to the immediately perceptual level of witnessing concretes firsthand, with no basis to draw generalizations about the nature of entire classes of objects beyond his immediate experience. For instance, one could not, on the Christian view, hold that donkeys do not speak human languages; it may be the case that most do not, but Christianity requires the believer to halt the conceptualization process by allowing for the possibility that at least one or more donkeys have spoken human language, because the ruling consciousness wished it so and a storybook held to be sacred says someone once witnessed this. Bahnsen tells us that the Christian god “could make the stones cry out” (Always Ready, pp. 109-110), which means we would be wrong to induce the generalization that rocks do not cry.

Consequently the Christian believer, having to allow for whatever possibilities the primacy of consciousness metaphysics may imply for the world, has no consistent basis to discriminate between fact and absurdity. If a person claims that his donkey talked to him or that a stone in his garden started crying out, or that he walked on unfrozen water or that the water he had put into a pitcher turned into wine, the Christian would have no stable philosophical basis on which to dispute such claims. He would have to accept these and other such claims as entirely possible and take the attitude, “Well, I wasn’t there... the Lord works in mysterious ways! Praise the Lord!” Given what little epistemological guidance Christianity does offer (as whatever that might be would have to be subordinated to teachings such as Psalms 115:3, which states: ”But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” and Bahnsen’s “God’s thoughts make the world what it is and determine what happens” [Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis, p. 243]), the believer would have no way of knowing either way whether such claims should be believed. It might as well be a 50/50 choice for him: “Do I believe it, or not?” Even Matthias’ own principle (namely that believers “conceive of how reality must be in light of how God is”) seems to offer no help here whatsoever. The believer may as well toss a coin. But then he risks the hazard of doubting a miracle or assenting to demonic suggestion. He would have no objective basis of determining either way. Even if he chooses simply not to think, he risks defying what the Christian god, for all he knows, may really want him to do.

This just underscores the fact that the Christian worldview, premised as it ultimately is on the primacy of consciousness, requires that the believer allow for utter randomness in place of conceptual integration in what he accepts as “knowledge,” all due to the dogmatic assertion, itself premised in the imagination, that a supernatural consciousness could at any time come along and completely revise anything the believer has accepted about knowledge.

The bottom line here is that the primacy of existence (characterizing the relationship between man’s consciousness and its objects) and the primacy of consciousness (characterizing the relationship between the Christian god and its objects) cannot be integrated without contradiction, for at root they are diametrically opposed metaphysical viewpoints with respect to the subject-object relationship.

This constitutes an abysmal abuse of man’s capacity for conceptual integration. Premising knowledge on metaphysical subjectivism can only mean that there is ultimately no objective input on which man can form his concepts, which means: there would be no objective basis for his knowledge. By divorcing his conceptualizations from objective input, the open-endedness of the believer’s concepts is no longer anchored to reality. Thus the believer is held captive to mere hearsay as the source of whatever he accepts as “knowledge,” and even here he is epistemologically lost and ultimately abandoned by his worldview to psychological turmoil. This is modeled throughout the Old and New Testaments. The believer is to accept the “testimony” of supposed “eyewitnesses” as the determinative source of what he calls “knowledge,” regardless of his lack of understanding, regardless of its direct conflict with what he has already discovered about the world. Jesus’ own disciples are repeatedly depicted as failing to understand their master’s teachings when he was right there with him. As Michael Morrison of Grace Communion International puts it, “Although they had a perfect Teacher, they often failed to understand him correctly” (Disciples Who Didn’t Understand). But “Scripture” anticipates with Proverbs 3:5, which states: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” One’s “own understanding,” generated as it naturally is on the basis of looking outward at reality, is to be subordinated to what one discovers by looking inward and “conceiv[ing] of what must be in light of what God is.”

Thus if someone says “I saw Jesus risen from the dead,” the believer is to take this over any factual input he might gather from the world as “truth,” even if that factual content shows consistently and without exception that human beings do not come back to life after being dead for three days (or longer, as in the case of the “saints” rising from their graves in Mt. 27:52-53). The god that the believer enshrines in his imagination is surely capable of raising people from the dead if it wants to. No mere fact – which is imagined to have been created by the same deity anyway (“every fact is what it is because God has said it is what it is” [Chris Bolt, “Redemption in Apologetics,” The Portable Presuppositionalist, p. 162]) – is sufficient to challenge the theistic program.

Thus we can see the epistemological causes as well as their consequential fallout of the irreconcilable antithesis between faith and reason: faith incapacitates man’s conceptual faculty by denying man’s need for objective input. This is nothing short of complete epistemological suffocation. Faith begins by looking inward into the contents of one’s emotions, wishing, imagination, etc., and determining what is “truth” on this basis (cf. “We conceive of how reality must be in light of how God is”). To whatever extent faith can be said to make use of logic, it is at best deduction without reference to reality, which leads to delusion, not knowledge.

A poignant illustration of deduction without reference to reality would look like the following (cf. Romans 10:9):
Premise 1: If I confess with my mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in my heart that God raised him from the dead, then I will be saved. 
Premise 2: I confess with my mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in my heart that God raised him from the dead. 
Conclusion: Therefore, I am saved!
Here we have an attempt to use the form of logic in order to derive a conclusion from antecedent premises. The question, then, is whether there is any factual basis behind those premises to give their content truth. But if facts are really just creations of a supernatural consciousness anyway, and we discover what those facts “must be” by looking inward and consulting beliefs already accepted about a being which the believer can only imagine.

Does anything we find in reality by looking outward at the world of facts tell us that any premise in the above syllogism is true? Of course not. Believers get this from a storybook which they deem sacred, and yet its own authors could themselves have only arrived at such notions by looking inward and calling what they imagine “divine revelation.” Indeed, how exactly would one distinguish “divine revelation” from something he may merely be imagining? The apostle Paul, who was the most prolific single author of the New Testament, nowhere explains this, but in fact claims at many points that he was passing on what he “received” by means of revelations. Later evangelists tried to provide more substance to the Christian story by concocting stories of people who traveled around with Jesus and actually witnessed him performing miraculous stunts, things that Paul nowhere alludes to. But as we saw above, even they are portrayed as not understanding what they witnessed firsthand.

Religious faith cuts off the human mind at the brain stem. We “receive sensations,” but we are not to process them beyond this. Rather, we are to “receive” what is erroneously called “knowledge” that has been “pre-interpreted” by a being which we can only imagine. The facts we observe in the world by looking outward are at best to be taken as tentative circumstances that obtain temporarily owing to their dependence on a cosmic mind which is not only said to have “created” them, but which also “sustains” them according to its will, which the human mind is to regard as incomprehensible and inscrutable. The believer is to suppose that “with God all things are possible” (Mk. 10:27; reaffirmed in Mt. 19:26). Contrast this with the moderns who check out on knowing anything with certainty and excuse it by saying, “Well, anything’s possible.” Can deceased persons rise from the dead and crawl out of their graves? Well, if the sacred storybook says this is possible, then we are to accept it as a real possibility; even more so if it claims that this actually happened. Can man walk on unfrozen water? Well, if the sacred storybook says this is possible, then we are to suppose that it really can happen; even more so if it claims this really did happen. Can a man command a mountain to cast itself into the sea, and the mountain actually obeys such a command? If the sacred storybook says this is possible, then we are to suppose that it really can happen. (The only reason why we don’t see this is because apparently believers either do not have enough faith, or they say there is no reason to attempt this, thus indicating the purposelessness of such a teaching.)

Thus, as I stated in my blog Confessions of a Vantillian Subjectivist:
there are fundamental qualitative differences between man's knowledge and the Christian god's so-called "knowledge," as I have indicated above. It's not simply a matter of degrees of knowledge (one possessing more than the other), but the relative subject-object orientations of the two kinds of consciousness involved in Warren's working model: the Christian god's consciousness (the subject holds primacy over the object) vs. man's consciousness (the objects hold primacy over the subject). Two wholly contradictory standards are thus endorsed at the heart of Christian theism.
In response to this, Matthias commented:
If they’re not ontologically equivalent in their opposition (and they’re not, per the Creator/creature distinction) they cannot be said to be contradictory, except only apparently so. This, Van Til terms "paradox."
The “equivalence” here is at the “ontological” level, namely because it is confined to the level of the relationship between consciousness and its objects, as even my quoted statement above makes clear. The view that the objects of consciousness depend on and conform to the subject of consciousness is fundamentally and diametrically contradictory to the fact that the objects of consciousness exist and are what they are independent of the subject of consciousness. The two cannot be integrated (even if one supposes that there are different conscious subjects involved here) without contradiction. Pointing to the so-called “Creator/creature distinction” does not erase the contradictory clash between the primacy of existence and the primacy of consciousness, nor does dubbing this clash merely an “apparent contradiction” or “paradox.” The notion of a “square circle” is not just “apparently contradictory,” nor is it a “paradox.”

The contradiction between the primacy of existence and the primacy of consciousness is most prominently evident when an individual affirms some position which assumes the primacy of consciousness metaphysics as factually true. This is the case because of the following:
a) When an individual affirms that something is the case (e.g., “Topeka is the capital of Kansas”), he is implicitly affirming that this is the case independently of his own conscious activity (e.g., his wishes, his preferences, his likes or dislikes, his feelings, his imagination, his dreams, etc.). He is not saying (e.g.,) “Topeka is the capital of Kansas because I say it is” or “because that’s what I want to be the case.” Moreover, he is implying that this is the case regardless of what anyone else wishes, prefers, likes or dislikes, imagines, feels,, etc., as well. Thus he performatively makes use of the primacy of existence metaphysics in the very act of making the affirmation in question: that which is the case, is the case independent of anyone’s conscious activity. The appropriate task of consciousness assumed here is namely the awareness and identification of what happens to be independent of its own conscious activity. In this way an affirmation is being made in an effort to maintain objectivity as the norm in the subject-object relationship. 
b) When the content of that claim affirms the existence of a consciousness which creates its own objects and/or to whose conscious intensions those objects conform (cf. the Christian god), he is affirming the opposite metaphysics, namely the primacy of consciousness. This would essentially constitute the affirmation that subjectivism is the norm in the subject-object relationship, since given such a consciousness, the subject of consciousness holds metaphysical primacy over its objects. The task of this proposed consciousness is not mere awareness and identification of what happens to be, but the creation and control of whatever states of affairs it brings into existence and makes what they are according to its own conscious intensions. In such a case, the individual would be explicitly saying that existents, facts, the various states of affairs which obtain in the world, etc., actually do depend on and conform to someone’s conscious activity while at the same time performatively implying that this is the case independently of anyone’s conscious activity (as indicated in a) above).

Thus we have two completely contradictory metaphysics endorsed simultaneously by the same mind in the very act of affirming some ideational content which assumes the primacy of consciousness (e.g., “God exists”) as truth. This cannot be resolved by simply saying that the primacy of consciousness obtains in the case of one mind (e.g., “the Creator”) while the primacy of existence obtains in the case of another (e.g., “the creature”). An attempt to affirm both results in mixed metaphysics - i.e., an attempt to integrate two diametrically opposite and incompatible metaphysical viewpoints into a single worldview. This would be the same thing as affirming both subjectivism and objectivity as the proper norm in regard to the subject-object relationship, which is an irreconcilable contradiction. All claims to knowledge would have to defer to the dictates of the ruling consciousness, and who would know what those are other than the ruling consciousness itself?

The primacy of existence and the primacy of consciousness cannot be integrated without contradiction, and Matthias offers nothing here to suppose that they can be so integrated. A consciousness operating on the primacy of existence identifies and integrates the objects it perceives as objects which exist and are what they are independent of conscious activity. If, for example, I perceive an object and identify it as a book, my identification of this can only be correct if the principle of objectivity obtains. But the primacy of consciousness constitutes a frontal assault on the principle of objectivity, for it holds that the objects of consciousness depend on and conform to conscious intensions. Thus if I perceive an object and identify it as a book, the ruling consciousness could alter it at any time; suddenly the book is a doorknob, a mushroom or an ocean liner. What Christian would deny his god the power to alter a book in such radical fashion? Christians might object that their god would not or at any rate does not alter things in this manner. Indeed, if their god is merely imaginary, we would not expect such alterations of reality to be taking place. Thus whatever excuse they may come up with to explain their god’s not altering things in such radical fashion simply underscores the fact that the objects of consciousness exist and are what they are independent of conscious activity, and thus we again find that we have no alternative but to imagine said god.

Since the irresolvable tension between the primacy of existence and the primacy of consciousness is present already at the level of the relationship between consciousness and its objects, Matthias’ objection that they are not “ontologically equivalent in their opposition” is unsustainable. The problems for the theistic worldview are only compounded by the affirmation of the “Creator/creature distinction,” since this in essence is saying that the subjective orientation between consciousness and its objects (i.e., the position that the subject of consciousness holds metaphysical primacy over its objects) is the ultimate metaphysical condition to all existence. In other words, metaphysical subjectivism is the starting point in Christian metaphysics. Christians do not explain how objectivity can arise from subjectivism. Subjectivism rules out objectivity from the very outset, choking it at its roots and incapacitating a mind from making objective identifications. Indeed, if the objects being identified find their origin in the mind doing the identifying in the first place, there’s no possibility for an objective standard to apply. The “Creator/creature distinction” does not overcome this since, as Christianity teaches, the ruling consciousness can still alter whatever objects it has created at will - e.g., Jesus turning water into wine in John chapter 2. Since the identity of any object distinct from the ruling consciousness is on this view dependent on the ruling consciousness’ intensional activity to begin with, any act of identifying performed by the ruling consciousness is no less arbitrary (i.e., lacking any objective standard whatsoever) than the its original creative actions or subsequent alterings of objects.

Of course, while these conflicts, tensions and contradictions do in fact afflict theistic metaphysics, we should not ignore the imaginative nature of such a consciousness to begin with. All evidence that we discover in the world about the nature of consciousness confirms consistently and absolutely that consciousness is biological in nature. Whether it is human consciousness, canine consciousness, avian consciousness, reptilian consciousness, insect consciousness, etc., all objectively verifiable instances of consciousness demonstrate that conscious activity is not possible without sensory organs and some central nervous system of some kind integrating their conductivity of stimuli from the external world.

Christianity of course affirms that its god is a conscious being, and yet it nowhere explains how it could be conscious of anything, let alone create its own objects by an act of will. Indeed, no example of objectively verifiable consciousness that we find in reality possesses the ability to create objects which can exist as things distinct from itself. No consciousness which we discover in reality by looking outward demonstrates an ability to zap physical objects into being from the contents of its conscious activity. Of course, we can imagine such a consciousness. But what objective evidence even remotely suggests that such a consciousness is possible, let alone actually exists? No apologists whose work that I have examined have ever even paused over this problem, let alone addressed it.

In my blog, I wrote:
It will not do for the Christian to say that man's knowledge is 'analogous' to the Christian god's supposed 'knowledge' by pointing to similarities that simply aren't there.
In response to this, Matthias replied:
Of course to say something that isn't there is there is absurd. But the illustration I gave above easily dispels your assertion that they aren't.
I have examined the illustration that Matthias references here in my blog A Reply to Matthias on Objective Knowledge vs. the Subjectivism of Theism. Unfortunately, upon analysis the conclusion that the notion that there is some kind of “analogous” relationship between man’s knowledge and what is described as “knowledge” belonging to the Christian god is riddled with incapacitating and insuperable problems, problems stemming from a profound failure to grasp the issues involved here with regard to the subject-object relationship and the conceptual nature of man’s knowledge. Throughout my analysis I have uncovered numerous fundamental philosophical errors, including the failure to distinguish adequately between the nature of man’s knowledge, its source, the method by which he acquires and validates it on the one hand, and what Christianity attributes to its god on the other, as well as many instances of the fallacy of the stolen concept.

Of course, the Christian view is not just that man’s knowledge is “analogous” to the “knowledge” it claims its god possesses, as though this were some happy coincidence. On the contrary, as we saw above, they are claiming that there exists some fundamental similarity between the two on the basis of the claim that man’s knowledge is a “’receptive reconstruction’ of what God originally knows,” and that this “receptive reconstruction” is something man “receives” by “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” But it should be clear now that such views arise ultimately from a profound lack of understanding of the issue of metaphysical primacy as well as the nature of concepts and the means by which man forms them. A rational man thinks his own thoughts, using his own mind, identifying facts that he himself observes by looking outward at the world and conforming the content of his consciousness objectively to the input of his awareness of a reality that exists and is what it is independent of his wishing, imagination, emotions, dreams, preferences, likes and dislikes, temper tantrums, and the like. The very words “thinking God’s thoughts after Him” represent a wholesale dismissal of reason precisely due to its preference for looking inward over looking outward for its standard and content of “knowledge.”

In my blog, I wrote:
Nor will it do to say that 'man's knowledge of the facts is then a reinterpretation of God's interpretation' (Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology, 203f), for the process of discovery and validation is not equivalent to reinterpretation of another mind's wishing.
Responding to this in his comment, Matthias wrote:
This is only if you fail to take into account the creative nature of God’s consciousness as informed by Christianity. And so man’s reinterpretation of pre-interpreted facts is not equivalent to “reading minds.”
It is unclear how anyone who has read my blog entry might come away with the impression that I have somehow managed to “fail to take into account the creative nature of God’s consciousness as informed by Christianity.” In fact, I have repeatedly and explicitly highlighted precisely this. I have noted explicitly what the implications for knowledge would be if in fact the objects of knowledge were merely creations of some cosmic consciousness. I have pointed out explicitly that this results to metaphysical subjectivism, a metaphysical paradigm in which the conscious activity of a knowing subject causes whatever objects exist to exist, assigns them their identity, and retains the ability to manipulate them at will. Indeed, the conclusions which I have drawn here, have been drawn on the explicit underscoring of these points. It should also be noted here that Matthias does not explain how taking “into account the creative nature of God’s consciousness as informed by Christianity” would challenge or undo the conclusions which I have drawn explicitly from what Christianity affirms about its god supposedly being a knowing subject which created the objects which populate the world and which can revise their natures and causal capacities at any time. It is because of these teachings that Christianity’s metaphysical premises are subjective in nature.

As to the claim that believers are “thinking God’s thoughts after Him,” how exactly is this fundamentally distinct from the claim to being able to read the mind of a supernatural consciousness? Bahnsen’s own assertion is instructive here (Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis, p. 226):
In knowing anything, according to van Til, man thinks what God Himself thinks: there is continuity between God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge, and thus a theoretical basis for the certainty of human knowledge. At the same time, of course, when man knows something, it is man doing the thinking and not God – which introduces a discontinuity between the two acts of knowing, a discontinuity that is greater and more profound than the discontinuity between one person’s act of knowing something and another person’s act of knowing it.
Is this merely a matter of degrees here? I don’t think so. This affirms some connection between between the Christian believer and the god that he imagines which itself cannot be examined objectively. Indeed, what exactly is meant by ‘knowing’ here would be beneficial. Fortunately, on the very next page, Bahnsen gives us an indication of what he means by ‘knowing’ (Ibid., p. 227.152):
Knowing is an activity relating a mind to the truths known by it.
How this avoids an infinite regress is a mystery in itself. The act of “knowing” as defined here necessarily involves prior knowing (“truths known by it”). Following this definition’s own implications to their logical conclusion leads to interminable regression:
Knowing is an activity relating a mind to the truths related by it to truths related by it to truths related by it to truths related by it to truths related by it to truths related by it to... ad infinitum.
Meanwhile, notice that there is no mention of knowing objects which exist independently of the knowing subject just as there is no mention of truths depending on objective input informed by facts which exist and are what they are independent of conscious activity. Quite simply, given Bahnsen’s stipulations about “thinking God’s thoughts after Him” and the nature of the act of knowing as such, there is no room for objectivity whatsoever!

But is Bahnsen himself entirely consistent with the notion that the believer can “think God’s thoughts after Him”? To be able to do this, it would seem as a minimum condition that the believer would need to be able to access the Christian god’s thoughts in order to “think” them “after Him.” But there are times when Bahnsen disallows this. For example, elsewhere Bahnsen actually appeals to the inscrutability of the Christian god’s thinking as an excuse for not being able to identify the “morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists” which he proposes as his solution to the problem of evil. He writes (Always Ready, p. 173):
We might not be able to understand God’s wise and mysterious ways, even if He told us (cf. Isa. 55:9). Nevertheless, the fact remains that He has not told us why misery and suffering and injustice are part of His plan for history and for our individual lives.
So there is, on the one hand, “thinking God’s thoughts after Him,” but on the other, things which the Christian god thinks that cannot be thought by human knowers “after Him,” for whatever reason. (But we’re to be sure that the Christian god is thinking them, whatever they may be!)

Matthias himself made it clear that Christians “conceive of how reality must be in light of what God is,” which rules out discovering what reality is by looking outward (for we do not discover any supernatural consciousnesses by looking outward). After examining the Vantillian literature on this notion, it appears that the notion of “thinking God’s thoughts after Him” began as an attempt to put in place some ready-made prophylactic by which Christian apologists could assimilate truths discovered by non-Christians as a means of saying “those truths have been compatible with Christianity all along.” Only subsequently has this notion been developed in an attempt to make it seem more palpable under examination by believers, however superficial that might be.

In my blog Confessions of a Vantillian Subjectivist, I wrote the following:
As can be seen, however, there is no basis to the claim that man’s knowledge is in any way like the knowledge Christianity claims for its god. Man discovers and validates his knowledge, and the Christian god whips its “knowledge” out of nowhere, declaring its self-authored content “truth” by fiat.
In reaction to the very last line here (about the Christian god’s knowledge coming from nowhere and being declared “truth” by fiat), Matthias replied:
It follows quite naturally that if God creates self-authored content, it is therefore “truth,” “by fiat,” and necessarily so.
So Matthias essentially agrees with my analysis here: the Christian god “declares its self-authored content ‘truth’ by fiat.” This is the view that truth is ultimately based on whims rather than on facts. Is truth really ultimately based on whims? What answer to this question would be consistent with itself? If someone said “Yes, truth is ultimately based on whims,” would this answer be consistent with its own implications? Would the person be affirming this on the basis of his own whims? Or, would he be affirming it as a fact of reality that obtains independently of anyone’s whims? If he affirms that it is true on the basis of someone’s whims, but that someone decides on a whim that truth should be based on facts instead of whims, would this be possible? Why wouldn’t it be possible? If it is then based on facts, could it be reversed?

The Objectivist view is that truth is based on facts which are discovered and identified by an objective process. This is diametrically opposed and wholly incompatible with the Christian view that self-authored content can be declared “true” by fiat, that truth is ultimately based on whims. The Objectivist view is entirely consistent with itself. The Christian view either crumbles into absurdities and infinite regresses (given its premises informed by stolen concepts), or secretly makes use of Objectivist principles which are entirely incompatible with Christian affirmations from their very foundations.

In my blog entry, I wrote:
The fundamental distinctions outlined here can only mean that Christians should probably use a completely different term to refer to whatever it is they think their god has in its consciousness, for it surely could not be knowledge as man has it.
In response to this, Matthias replied:
With respect, the term existed before Objectivist philosophy ever laid hands on it. But Christians do use a different term than “knowledge” for God. We use “God’s knowledge.”
The issue here is not how long the term has existed, but what it means given its conceptual roots, which I have outlined above. Using the qualifier “God’s knowledge” does not do away with using the term in question – i.e., the term ‘knowledge’. Only in theology do we ever find the term ‘knowledge’ applied to a god. Outside this, the term ‘knowledge’ always has human knowers in mind, with their distinctive nature of consciousness, their means of accessing the source of knowledge by looking outward, and their need for an objective process for acquiring and validating knowledge entirely in view. On each of these points, the Christian god is entirely disanalogous. For example, since whatever content the Christian god supposedly has
(a) could not be a product of any active process (it’s supposed to be an infallible and omniscient being which is unchanging and immutable, meaning it has always been omniscient for all eternity); 
(b) could only be accessed by looking inward (as opposed to looking outward); 
(c) could have no objective basis (since all objects distinct from the Christian god are said to have been created by it through an act of will in the first place); and 
(d) could not be conceptual in nature (since concepts are a means of condensing an enormous amount of data by means of measurement-omission expressly for use by a mind which is not omniscient – such as man’s mind)
its nature, origin, and form (or formlessness) precludes it from being anything like the knowledge man has. Man reasons because he need to determine conclusions from premises given their logical implications. An omniscient being would not need to do this. Man needs reason because he does not already possess the knowledge he needs right out of the shrinkwrap and must actively engage his mind in order to acquire and validate it. Man thus needs reason because he needs an objective standard to ensure against mistakes. Man needs to retain his knowledge in conceptual form because his mind does not have the ability to retain in consciousness all individual bits of data that he has come in contact with (e.g., the “crow epistemology”). For example, we need to use the symbol ‘29’ to represent: IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII. An omniscient mind would not be limited by such constraints. Man’s consciousness has a particular identity, and his means of acquiring, validating and retaining knowledge must be suited to the nature of consciousness that he has. But we have already seen that the consciousness which Christians attribute to their god is fundamentally different from the consciousness man has. Reality does not conform to man’s consciousness; he does not create his objects by an act of will; he does not discover the facts of the world by looking inward; and he does not have the ability to retain in consciousness all the individual bits of data he has encountered and collected throughout his experience. The concept ‘knowledge’ entails all of these points, for it was formed to conceptualize the content of man’s mind given the nature of his consciousness and the form in which he retains that content. Thus again, I submit that, given Christianity’s radically different view of what its god supposedly has as content in its consciousness, it is not what we call “knowledge.” Christians thus need to create a new concept for this. But what objective inputs would they used to inform it? There would be none available, for Christians can only “access” their god by looking inward into the contents of their imagination and speculating what “must be” from there. Consequently, so long as Christians insist on claiming that their god has “knowledge,” they are committing the fallacy of the stolen concept: they are in essence making use of a concept while ignoring or denying its genetic roots.

Thus I can only reaffirm the conclusions which I originally drew in my blog Confessions of a Vantillian Subjectivist. Time and again we find profound fundamental differences between the way man knows, what he knows and the form in which he retains what he knows on the one hand, and what Christianity claims on behalf of its god. The contradiction between the primacy of existence characterizing man’s conscious orientation to the world of facts and the primacy of consciousness assumed in the notion of the Christian god cannot be reconciled. Man does not read minds or think another mind’s thoughts, but rather uses his own mind to think his own thoughts, and therefore needs an objective standard by which to determine what is true and what is not. An objective standard is not available to a worldview which rests on metaphysical subjectivism and affirms that self-authored content can be declared true by fiat. Consequently, there could be no analogous relationship between man’s knowledge, based as it is on facts which exist and are what they are independent of conscious activity, validated by an objective method, and retained in the form of concepts, and the “knowledge” which Christianity attributes to its god, based as it would be on its whims, without any objective basis, and retained without the benefit of concepts. Indeed, we have seen that affirming the Christian view incapacitates the believer’s own ability to develop and maintain an integrated sum of conceptual knowledge without contradiction.

by Dawson Bethrick

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12 Comments:

Blogger QuantumHaecceity said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

January 31, 2014 11:12 AM  
Blogger QuantumHaecceity said...

@Dawson Bethrick

Awww Dawson. First you're cowardly enough to refuse to interact and engage these strong refutations of Obejctivism, and now you're dishonest and cowardly enough to refuse to post my responses to you. For shame sir.

By the way. I suspected you would be cowardly and abuse your ability to show comments you like, and censor comments you don't, so I copied my response, and I will post it below before your ability to censor kicks in.

You're running from the truth Dawson. Either man up and refute these links I give you, or admit Objectivism is false and take this blog down. Don't be dogmatic like creationists. I don't want to start calling you Dawson HACKrick.

Engage this one below:

http://www.oocities.org/athens/olympus/2178/itoe.html

January 31, 2014 11:21 AM  
Blogger QuantumHaecceity said...

@Dawson Bethrick

"Essentially a spectator"

That's false. I've actually engaged people here, and taken on ARCHN, like on the issue of Ayn Rand's supposed blunders on innate knowledge, Tabula Rasa, and instinct. I also intellectually engaged them by taking on one of their attacks in its entirety.

"a troll delights in purposeless provocation"

Rather silly. It can hardly be purposeless when you're being presented with the very life blood of this blog which is having opposition or attacks against Objectivsm to critique or go after.

If you disagree with that being the life blood of this blog, then certainly we can say it's not purposeless since the purpose is to address these critiques and show that they do not prove Objectivism to be wrong.

"he wants to watch a fight."

Not at all. Just want to get your take on these sophisticated and serious refutations of your worldview.


"He does not give his real identity,"

Silly reason for claiming someone is a troll. If it was true, you would have to label Freddies_dead, NAL, YDEMOC, PhotoSynthesis, and ActionJackson864 as trolls.


"He does not contribute any intelligent commentary on the blog entry to which he has attached his comments"

How is that a prerequisite for anything? And who deems that this is a prerequisite for avoiding the insult of troll?


"It’s completely off-topic."

It's generally on topic, though not specifically. Since it's about philosophy, Objectivism, and you. If you had a problem with off-topic, you would have said something when Justin Hall was off-topic with his abuse over and over. So you don't really care too much about things being off-topic.


"When his queries are answered, he intensifies his provocation"

Yeah, correct me if Im wrong, but I dont recall you ever answering my queries in an intellectual manner.

I only recall you responding either by staying quiet and refusing to say anything, or with sarcasm, and other times with insult.

January 31, 2014 11:26 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Dawson: Good morning. Thank you for another good blog.

I think you made an error in your argument. This may only be a quibble, but I think it a mistake nonetheless.

Your(a) premise reads in part "... and since the objects of his knowledge are not creations of his conscious activity or conform to his conscious intentions ...".

This isn't true. A person's body is physical and material, is one of the objects of their knowledge and conforms directly to their conscious control, at least in part, volitionally. This fact was quite useful to G.E. Moore who when asked how he knew there was an external world contra Idealism held up his hand and observed, "Here is a hand." That objects of our knowledge include our physical bodies and that we can control our physical bodies by our physical minds means we can show via that aspect of our subject-object relationship that there is an external world. Additionally, a person can train their physical brain to change it's physical state by using aspects of their awareness via meditation practice. Such meditative states are objects of awareness and are directly affected by one's conscious awareness. We are capable of directly affecting by our physical consciousness (neuro-chemical and bio-electrical potentials of our brains) comprising at least some objects of our awareness.

Entities or things other than our physical bodies and brains cannot be directly affected by our conscious awareness in any sort of unmediated fashion, for it is still a metaphysical truth that nature to be commanded must be obeyed.

Best and Good

February 01, 2014 6:02 AM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

I hope Matthias loves this sentence as much as I do.

Thus we can safely say that the Christian god has more in common with a plain old rock than it does with man.

Indeed. One of the alleged Divine Attributes is that the Christian God is Perfect. From this is derived other attributes such as Immutability and Omniscience; it's Essence is its Knowledge. By definition the Christian God cannot change in any way. If the set of all that exists is thought of as a clock, then what time it is constantly changes. For the Christian God to "know" what time it is in the sense of the state of all that exists at any instant, it's knowledge must continuously update and change, so its Essence and Knowledge must continuously update and change. Therefore it can't be both Immutable and Omniscient and hence cannot exist. If the Christian God is like a rock, then it can't be Omniscient and if it can be Omniscient, then it can't be like a rock or Perfect. Either way it can't be God because contradictions can't exist.

Funny stuff like this prompts me to hope good guys like Matthias will come to understand theism isn't necessary or desirable to live a fulfilling life.

Best and Good

February 01, 2014 6:36 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Robert,

Thanks for your comment. It allows me to clarify something that may confuse some thinkers.

I wrote: "... and since the objects of his knowledge are not creations of his conscious activity or conform to his conscious intentions ...".

You wrote: “This isn't true. A person's body is physical and material, is one of the objects of their knowledge and conforms directly to their conscious control, at least in part, volitionally.”

For one, my body is not a creation of my conscious activity. Nor is your body a creation of my conscious activity, or anyone else’s. No consciousness *wished* our bodies into being. So I don’t think my point (a) is at all false here.

But what about our volitional control over our bodies – is this an example of the primacy of consciousness, where an object conforms to conscious activity? I would say no.

Recall that Objectivism holds to mind-body integration: man is an integration of consciousness and matter. Peikoff notes the following in regard to mind-body integration (OPAR, pp. 195-196):

<<The metaphysical fact about man that underlies these truths is that man is not a battlefield of contending dimensions, spiritual and physical. He is, in Ayn Rand’s words, “an indivisible entity, an integrated unit of two attributes: of matter and consciousness.” Consciousness in his case takes the form of mind, i.e., a conceptual faculty; matter, of a certain kind of organic structure. Each of these attributes is indispensable to the other and to the total entity. The mind acquires knowledge and defines goals; the body translates these conclusions into action.>>

But even here, the nature of the human body qua object of one’s own consciousness does not conform to conscious activity. While I can volitionally raise my hand, stand up from a seated position, walk from one end of the room to the other, speak the words I choose, drive a car, etc., I cannot make my arm 10’ long, walk 200 miles an hour, jump over my house, levitate across the room, sprout wings and fly to work instead of driving there, etc. I cannot do away with shaving if I don’t want a beard. So even here, in the context of mind-body integration, Bacon’s dictum – “nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed” – applies: my conscious activity must conform to the nature of its objects, even when the object in view here is my own body.

If I stub my toe, I cannot feel pleasure as a result of the injury simply because I prefer it over pain. If I break my leg, the fracture will not be mended by merely wishing this. If I get cancer, I cannot cure it by means of imagining. If I lose a limb, I cannot grow a new one by wishing it back. I cannot wish my stomach full when I’m hungry. Etc.

So while I can control certain movements of my body (and not even all of them), my conscious interaction with my body cannot revise my body’s nature or defy its natural limitations. I may, with practice, be able to push some of those limitations beyond their present position, such as when I practice my bass guitar, I can improve my ability. Practicing does help improve control. But even then, the object holds metaphysical primacy: my left hand has four fingers opposite my thumb; I cannot play the instrument with seven fingers opposite my thumb; I cannot have one finger holding down a string at the second fret while another finger from the same hand is holding down another string at the 16th fret. I have to work within limits given the nature of my body, and those limits do not conform to my conscious activity.

The primacy of existence does not deny mind-body integration. In fact, they are perfectly in line with each other.

So I don’t think there’s anything untrue in (a). Do you still think there is?

Regards,
Dawson

February 01, 2014 6:04 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi again Robert,

You wrote: “For the Christian God to "know" what time it is in the sense of the state of all that exists at any instant, it's knowledge must continuously update and change, so its Essence and Knowledge must continuously update and change. Therefore it can't be both Immutable and Omniscient and hence cannot exist.”

Of course, I think you’re right. In fact, whatever thinking or knowing that the Christian god is said to perform would necessarily imply change. On the broad scheme of things, it is important to keep in mind that consciousness is not a static, unchanging state. On the contrary, consciousness is a type of *activity*. Notice how we use verbs to identify conscious actions – that’s because they’re actions, and verbs are action words. To think is a type of activity; so are emoting, wishing, commanding, getting angry, deriving conclusions, detecting errors, planning, forecasting, connecting ideas, imagining, hoping, experiencing pleasure, etc. All of these are types of actions, and action always involves change. So to say that the Christian god thinks, is essentially to say that it acts, which can only mean that it does in fact change.

Do you want something that doesn’t change? We have it: the fact that existence exists does not change. So Objectivism’s very starting point is an immutable truth.

This reminds me of a claim that Greg Bahnsen made in his radio discussion with George H. Smith. (Audio can be found here.) The exchange starts around 37:00

Smith: “I’m saying my view of causation is essentially that causation is the law of identity applied to action. Things act as they do because they have specific, determinant characteristics, and the nat… the physical or whatever nature of an existing thing determines the nature of the actions that that thing can take…..

Bahnsen (37:32 – 37:53): “Well it’s a tremendous philosophical mistake to assimilate the law of causality to the laws of logic. But if you study the history of philosophy, you’d know that this idea that things have a determinant nature and that’s why they behave the way they do, is associated with the conclusion that there can be no change. That is, it’s impossible [Smith murmurs – inaudible] Well, because the law of identity prevents them from changing.”

Every time I hear this, I’m embarrassed for Bahnsen. (In fact, if I’m not mistaken, I think Chris Bolt once raised this same objection.) It’s embarrassing because it’s so easily refuted.

If action did not have identity, we could not identify an action as an action. Is walking the same action as swimming? No. Is reading the same action as opening a door? No. Is counting widgets the same action as drawing a picture? No. Is picking up a backpack the same action as composing a sonata? No. Is a person running the same action as a volcano erupting? No. Is wind blowing the same action as a radio picking up a broadcast? No. Etc.

Clearly we can distinguish between different kinds of actions. But if actions did not have identity, we could not do this; we could not form concepts which distinguish one type of action from all others, which means we could not have verbs in our language. But clearly we do have verbs. In fact, a sentence in English is not complete without a verb of some kind.

So just by using verbs in any sentence he speaks, Bahnsen is contradicting what he stated here.

See how much fun it is to use reason?

Regards,
Dawson

February 01, 2014 6:42 PM  
Blogger Justin Hall said...

@Dawson

Nide also had this persistent belief that in order for causality to have identity then identified objects must never change. I have pondered this and the only thing I can think of is that they have difficulty in extrapolating current states to past and future states. In other words a failure to integrate concepts across time. They seem to have space down OK but time not so much.

February 02, 2014 9:35 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Justin,

Yes, that's probably true re: Nide. But let's face it, we all know that Nide was simply parroting objections he learned from others.

The whole confusion here (e.g., denying identity to action) boils down to a false understanding of concepts. They tacitly equate the meaning of a concept exclusively with its definition, all the while failing to recognize that a concept includes a massive amount of information - in fact, everything we learn about a class of objects, including the actions that are possible to its member units. The same is the case with concepts denoting actions (which would not be possible in the first place if actions did not have identity).

As for space, I think there's confusion here as well, especially where induction comes into play. I pointed out in a recent blog entry responding to Matthias McMahon that Christian faith, for example, requires the beleiver to remain utterly concrete-bound in his thinking, cutting off his access to conceptual integration. For example, we have never observed corpses rising from their graves. But allegedly the author of Matthew is either said to have witnessed this himself or at least passed on testimony originating from firsthand witnesses of such an event happening (cf. Mt. 27:52-53). When we object that corpses do not rise from the dead and crawl out of their graves (Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video comes to mind here), we are challenged to support this. What is implied is that we are wrong to draw inductive inferences about classes of things; if someone is said to have perceived something contrary to what we can objectively generalize about a class of objects, our generalizations are treated as invalid. Meanwhile, they themselves make use of concepts (general classes!) to affirm and communicate their denials. After all, if the class of objects denoted by the concept 'corpse' were not informed as it is objectively, we might as well say "So what? What's so neat abou that?" in reaction to Mt. 27:52-53. The entire aim of using miracle stories to make an impression on the believer assumes the validity of conceptual generalization that is being denied, which means we just have more stolen concepts.

From head to toe, their whole worldview is a blasted mess.

Regards,
Dawson

February 02, 2014 3:52 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hi there everybody. I hope all are well. Please forgive the tardiness of this comment. I'm on St. John's Wort today as my bipolar depression took me to a very dark place these past few days. The drug helps me to have normalish emotional states without unpleasant side effects. When I'm depressed, I don't converse on the net as I can't trust myself to maintain proper civility. I turned off the Super Bowl when it started looking like a blow out for Seattle and fired up the puter to read the rest of Dawson's latest blog. Here's something that prompted a comment.

Dawson wrote regarding Bahnsen's statement.

Bahnsen continues (Ibid., pp. 231-232):

God’s knowledge is different from man’s with respect to the subject (the knower) and the act of knowing.

This statement constitutes an understatement of monumental proportions. With respect to the subject of knowledge, in the case of the Christian god the contents of its knowledge are not independently existing things; the Christian god does not “know” the objects of its knowledge by looking outward.


This is one of the many paradoxical and contradictory Divine Attributes. Since all is alleged to be within the alleged Deity's consciousness in the primacy and continuous creation ideaological tenses, there would, if the Deity obtained, be nothing distinct from the Deity. Because a consciousness can't simply be aware of itself as a self without first being aware of that which is not itself in order to be able to distinguish itself, then the Christian Deity couldn't actually be self aware as a person. Yet, it is supposed to be a person. That is Personhood and Omnipotence are contradictory. Ideas that are contradictory are conceptually invalid and non-cognitive and consequently nonsense. Dawson fingered yet another reason why any notion of a magic mind imagined to qualifiy as teleological provider for a set of religious ideals can't be reasonable. Good job Dawson. Thanks.

February 02, 2014 7:03 PM  
Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Dawson: "One’s “own understanding,” generated as it naturally is on the basis of looking outward at reality"

I think that's an inaccurate generalization. Cognition starts with perception rather than sensation. Sensory data is automatically integrated into perceptions with can be consciously integrated into concepts and are automatically integrated by one's subconscious into emotions. Rand described the later process.

Just as the pleasure-pain mechanism of man’s body is an automatic indicator of his body’s welfare or injury, a barometer of its basic alternative, life or death—so the emotional mechanism of man’s consciousness is geared to perform the same function, as a barometer that registers the same alternative by means of two basic emotions: joy or suffering. Emotions are the automatic results of man’s value judgments motionsintegrated by his subconscious; emotions are estimates of that which furthers man’s values or threatens them, that which is for him or against him—lightning calculators giving him the sum of his profit or loss. http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/emotions.html

Emotions are objects of cognition. Rand identified them as concretes from which concepts can be formed. She wrote in answer to Prof. D:

Prof. D: Then a mental entity is a concrete?
AR: As a mental entity, yes. It is a concrete in relation to
the wider abstraction which is the concept of “concept.”
Take another, similar case: the concept of “emotion.” What
are its concretes? The various emotions which you observe
introspectively, which you are able to conceptualize. And
first you conceptualize them individually. You would form the
concepts “love,” “hate,” “anger,” “fear,” and then you arrive
at the concept “emotion,” the units of which will be these
various emotions that you have identified.
ITOE p.160

Best Wishes and Regards

February 02, 2014 8:01 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Robert,

I wrote: "One’s ‘own understanding’, generated as it naturally is on the basis of looking outward at reality"

You wrote: “I think that's an inaccurate generalization.”

Really? What particularly do you find faulty in my statement?

You wrote: “Cognition starts with perception rather than sensation.”

Agreed. My statement does not conflict with this. Indeed, “… on the basis of looking outward” is entirely compatible with this.

You wrote: “Sensory data is automatically integrated into perceptions with can be consciously integrated into concepts and are automatically integrated by one's subconscious into emotions.”

Yes, but my statement does not conflict with this either.

My point in the passage from which my statement quoted above is taken, is that the Christian worldview requires one to subordinate what he learns by looking outward to what he learns by looking inward. The distinction in view here is knowledge acquired by looking outward vs. the so-called “knowledge” one acquires by looking inward (e.g., into the contents of his imagination, emotions, wishing, preferences, as though they were a source of input on the nature of reality). This subordination to what is discovered by looking outward to one’s inner ideational content informed by wishing, imagination, emotions, etc., is quite evident among creationists, who delight in mangling facts in order to suit their pet theological speculations.

Regards,
Dawson

February 03, 2014 2:50 PM  

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