Saturday, June 07, 2014

Dave's McPresuppositions, Part I

Christians who comment on my blog typically indulge in the practice of mere assertion: they simply assert what they believe and give no background rationale for why they believe or how they came to believe it. The how of knowledge is completely missing from their slogan-laced spiel. Also missing from what they offer in their comments is any informed concern for maintaining objectivity. Objectivity has at root to do with the relationship between consciousness and its objects. But the bible gives believers no guidance on this matter, keeping it safely out of view.

One might suppose that this is accidental, and for the primitives responsible for authoring and compiling the writings that eventually made their way into the bible, this may be the case. But for modern-day believers, their failure to consider the relationship between consciousness and its objects in an explicit manner is philosophically inexcusable. This is especially the case when apologists for a religious worldview condemn rival positions for being “subjective” or “irrational.” Such objections carry no weight when coming from a religious perspective, since religious perspectives themselves are inherently subjective and irrational.

Objectivity is adherence to the primacy of existence throughout one’s knowledge and judgments. Rationality is adherence to reason as one’s only means of knowledge, one’s only standard of judgment and one’s only guide to action. One will not find these virtues either explained or endorsed in “sacred writings” like the biblical storybook. On the contrary, at every turn throughout the biblical narrative, one finds assault after assault on the integrity of the human mind, as though this one thing – claimed at the same to have been created by the Christian god itself – were the source of all evil and woe in the universe, as though it were a “dung heap” that needed to be flushed down some cosmic toilet once and for all.

Like so many other Christian apologists who have attempted to squat in the comments sections here at IP, Dave McPhillips’ postings (see this comments thread)consist mostly of assertions to the effect that I am wrong and questions aimed at raising skeptical suspicions. Conspicuously, he does not teach, even though enlightenment is what we would expect from proponents of a worldview that has all the answers. Instead, he gravitates towards strategies geared toward fostering doubt, uncertainty and eventually incapacity of mind.

You see, religion needs skepticism; it feasts on people who have given up on their own minds, convinced that their ability to think for themselves is useless and doomed. Skepticism is the handmaiden of faith. Confidence in one’s own faculties is the mortal enemy of religion the world over. This is the underlying theme throughout Christian apologetics, with Sye Ten Bruggencate providing the most bare-boned example of this. The goal of Christian apologetics, especially on the internet, is to corner men into doubt and ignorance so that they are disarmed and unable to defend themselves. What must they be disarmed of? What is their defense? Reason. Martin Luther was right when he preached that reason is the enemy of faith (see here for a examination of Luther’s expressly anti-rational worldview).

Let us turn now to an examination of Dave’s comments in the thread linked above. As this file has gotten quite large, I will break into several posts for easier digestion.

Since Dave had objected to certain statements that I had made about the nature of existence, I asked Dave to explain what the bible means by ‘existence’. Specifically, I asked:
1. According to the bible, what is existence?
In response to this, Dave replied:
Existence is all things within God's created order. (Gen.1.1ff.). It is, all things which live move or have being (Act.17:28).
I then commented:
None of these verses which you have given in response to my questions specifies that these are supposed to be taken as definitions of the concept ‘existence’. So your citation of these verses strike me as ad hoc.
Dave then replied:
However I believe your question was “according to the “bible”, what is existence?” your question was not “which specific verses in the bible gives a detailed definition of the term existence?”
Take a look at Dave’s response to my question. He begins his response by stating “Existence is…” which implies that he is giving a definition of the concept in question here. He does not preempt any potential misunderstanding by clarifying that he is not giving a definition here. But even if he was not intending to give a definition of the concept ‘existence’ here, my objection still stands nonetheless since the passages which Dave cites in response to my question in no way suggest that they are to be taken as an answer to the kind of question Dave has been called to answer. The verses in question do not indicate that they are speaking to the meaning of existence as such. Had a passage directly indicated the biblical view of what existence is, I’m sure Dave would have cited it instead. But citing what he has cited again strikes me as ad hoc – i.e., simply trying to cite something in order to appear to have an answer to the question at issue when in fact the bible does not actually address the question in the first place.

But now that Dave has drawn a distinction between what he offered and an actual definition of the concept ‘existence’, what exactly is the biblical definition of the concept ‘existence’? This is a fundamental concept – in fact, the most fundamental concept, since it applies to everything that exists. But Dave’s own statements suggest that there is no biblical definition for this fundamental concept to be found, for he continues:
The bible is not a dictionary
This defense indicates a conspicuously myopic perspective on the matter. A text – especially one laying out a philosophical system – need not be a dictionary in order to define its own terms. A responsible thinker will carefully explain the meanings of his terms even if he is not writing a dictionary. But Dave’s disclaimer here simply suggests that the bible does not define its own terms; that one must seek outside the bible in order to bring understanding to one’s reading of the bible from outside.

Standard desktop dictionaries are secular in nature; they are not inherently religious, either Christian or otherwise, in their content and perspective. Thus to rest on the policy that “the bible is not a dictionary” can only suggest that bible-believers themselves would have to consult a secular source to get a clear and explicit understanding of concepts used in the bible when in fact the content found in a secular dictionary may not cohere with biblical content. This is a clear case of intellectual default.

Dave writes:
My citations were to show that God is the source of all existence, that all things are contingent upon Him.
Some Christian apologists have recognized the incoherence of affirming that existence is contingent upon something else. What is the alternative to existence if not non-existence? That Dave addresses my question in a manner which excludes his own god from the scope of reference of the concept ‘existence’, only indicates that Dave’s god belongs in a category other than existence. To make the claim that existence is a product of something else can only mean that the “something else” in question is not part of existence, and thus does not exist. But we already know this: imaginary things are not real.

Dave wrote:
Even His own existence is dependent upon the fact that He is God,
And round and round we go… It reminds me of John Frame’s reply to Michael Martin: “God presupposes logic and logic presupposes God” (A Second Response to Martin).

But compare Dave’s statement here with what he says facts are. On this matter, he wrote: “Facts are truth claims based on our experience of nature.” So putting this understanding of what facts are together with his statement above about the Christian god’s existence being “dependent upon the fact that He is God,” we get: the Christian god’s existence is dependent on a truth claim based on our experience of nature. This can only mean that truth claims as such must obtain independently of the Christian god, otherwise we have an infinite regress. Moreover, who has experienced the Christian god? Ah yes, Christians have made this kind of claim. Consider Canon Michael Cole’s story about a time he says he experienced Jesus standing right next to him. Unfortunately no one else present saw Jesus standing next to Cole. How can one reliably rule out the possibility that Cole was simply caught up in the emotion of the moment and imagining Jesus standing right next to him? Certainly nothing Cole himself states about his experience rules out this possibility.

Dave wrote:
He is not outside existence He is existence.
And yet its existence is dependent on a truth claim. But do truth claims exist? Again, we observe Dave’s entire worldview crumbling into utter incoherence. On Dave’s view, existence is contingent, but yet his god “is existence.” On Dave’s view, existence is “the created order,” and yet Dave’s god is supposed to be uncreated.

In the final analysis, Dave’s problem is that he is unaware of just what the proper philosophical starting point for rational thought is.

Dave wrote:
He says to Moses, I am, who I am (Ex.3:14).
One could make any imaginary character say this about itself. The cartoon character Popeye makes a very similar statement. But who worships Popeye?

In response to Dave’s ad hoc explanations of what ‘existence’ supposedly means according to Christianity, I noted:
(1.) The Christian God is not *part* of existence
Dave replied to this:
When I said that existence is everything in God’s created order, I did not include God within the created order because He was not created.
Dave did not include his god because he equates “existence” with “the created order.” This is all Dave’s doing. Given this, since the Christian god is not part of “the created order,” it cannot logically be part of existence. Of course, I wasn’t asking about “the created order,” but about the biblical meaning of the concept ‘existence’. That Dave equates existence with “the created order” is quite telling. Specifically it tells us that he needs to give his entire worldview fundamental reconsideration.

Dave wrote:
I was speaking of existence in terms of that which exists in creation as I believed this to be in the context of the discussion.
My question did not in any way suggest that Christianity’s arbitrary partitions of existence should be assumed. This was entirely Dave’s doing.

Here’s the thing: if the Christian holds that his god exists and that “the created order” exists, then he needs to explain the concept ‘existence’ in such a way that it includes both his god and whatever it is alleged to have created. So far Dave has not done this, and yet that was the context of my question.

Recall also that Dave himself posed the following questions to me:
You don’t answer the important questions, “What is existence? How is existence possible? Why is it that we have existence rather than non-existence? How do you know the way in which things exist today will be the same tomorrow?
Since Dave already knows that I do not affirm any form of god-belief, he should be sharp enough to figure out that I do not affirm that the universe was created by an act of consciousness. Thus he should know that I do not affirm such a notion as “the created order” in the first place. So when he posed these questions, it is hard to suppose that he believed “creation” was part of “the context of the discussion.” Rather, what I think happened is that Dave commented before thinking through the implications of what his worldview affirms when it comes to fundamental concepts. The result of his post-first, think-later methodology is that he has conceptually pushed his own god out of the category of existence by equating existence as such with something created and not inclusive of that which allegedly did the creating.

I am of the view that internally incoherent gaffs of this nature have their genesis in the facts that Christianity itself does not have any explicitly stated starting point, that any starting point it might purport to have could not be objective in nature, and that Christians generally (and Dave included) have not given these matters the close attention that they deserve.

Dave wrote:
God is outside of existence inasmuch as He is not a part of that which exists in creation.
And yet, above Dave said that his god “is existence.” This could mean only that his god is outside of itself, a god that has jumped out of its own skin as it were. And yet all existence is created. And yet the Christian god’s “own existence is dependent upon” a truth claim made on the basis of human experience of nature. Notice how one little question aimed at the very foundations of worldview metaphysics shows how Christianity reduces to absurdity. I’m glad this isn’t my problem!

Either a thing exists, or it doesn’t. There is no in-between, and there’s no such thing as something existing “outside of existence.” If the Christian god existed, it would be one more thing in existence.

Moreover, there are no “degrees” of existence; no thing exists “more” or “less” than something else. Again, either something exists, or it doesn’t. The notion of “contingent existence,” at least insofar as Christian apologists tend to use it, essentially denotes things whose existence depends on wishing: a form of consciousness wished them into being; a form of consciousness wishes them to continue existing; a form of consciousness can wish them to cease existing; a form of consciousness can wish them into something else at any moment. It all reduces to the primacy of consciousness metaphysics – a metaphysical assumption which the believer cannot maintain consistently throughout his worldview (for he performatively contradicts himself every time he says any of this is true).

To be continued…

by Dawson Bethrick

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26 Comments:

Blogger Ydemoc said...

Dawson,

The Creator/Creation" distinction that Dave and other apologists often mention, is just another in a long line of theistic rationalizations, manufactured in an attempt to explain away the epistemic difficulties that come with embracing an irrational notion like god-belief.

(FYI... It sure took longer than I thought it would, getting that paragraph to where I was satisfied with it!)

Great entry!

Ydemoc

June 07, 2014 9:28 PM  
Blogger l_johan_k said...

Great!

June 08, 2014 5:09 AM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

Dear Bahnsen Burner,
I will offer no comment to the continual straw man argumentation or ad hominem insults which you display in your responses.
You wrote:
“Objectivity is adherence to the primacy of existence throughout one’s knowledge and judgments. Rationality is adherence to reason as one’s only means of knowledge, one’s only standard of judgment and one’s only guide to action. One will not find these virtues either explained or endorsed in “sacred writings” like the biblical storybook.”
When you say that objectivity is adherence to the primacy of existence you presuppose that existence is primary. As you have defined it, “existence exists independent of conscious activity.” You keep stating that the primacy of existence is some kind of axiomatic truth about reality. However things do exist in this world that are in fact “dependent” upon one’s conscious activity. Certainly man is capable of brining objects into existence, for example when men propose to build high rise skyscrapers they require an architect’s conscious activity in creatively designing the structure proposed. The architect then gives the plans to the contractors who use their conscious activity in applying their acquired skills to the task of building the mega structure. When finished the building is something which has come into existence by means of the conscious activity of men. Its existence is therefore dependent upon their conscious output. Perhaps however you mean existence in terms of the natural world, if so, you are distinguishing between two kinds of existence i.e. one natural and one man made. Why then do you criticize me when I distinguish between God’s existence and the existence in the created order? Seems a bit prejudicial.
You claim that reason is one’s only standard of judgment and guide to action. By this I assume you believe that the laws of logic exhibit such characteristics as: universality, immutability, transcendence, authoritative etc. I believe that the laws of logic display these characteristics too, but I can provide a “reason” for my belief in these qualities. I believe that these laws are a reflection of God’s rational character which He has made manifest through His creation. But on your worldview I fail to see how you can give a reason in assuming the laws of logic possess such qualities. So far all I’ve heard is something along the lines that reason is self-evident or an axiomatic truth, which is to say, it’s just that way. Imagine if I were to say, well, God exists because He just does, it’s just that way. That’s simply not acceptable; ones assumptions must be rationally justified. How do you rationally justify the laws of logic as being absolute, invariant, universal and transcendent truths according to your worldview?
You go on to make the claim, “One will not find these virtues either explained or endorsed in “sacred writings” like the biblical storybook.”
On the contrary, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov.1:7)
“In whom [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col.2:3).
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5).

June 09, 2014 11:52 PM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

“acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding.” (Prov.4:7).
“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,” (Corinthians 1:30).
You wrote:
1. “According to the bible, what is existence?
In response to this, Dave replied:
Existence is all things within God's created order. (Gen.1.1ff.). It is, all things which live move or have being (Act.17:28).
I then commented:
None of these verses which you have given in response to my questions specifies that these are supposed to be taken as definitions of the concept ‘existence’. So your citation of these verses strike me as ad hoc.
Dave then replied:
However I believe your question was “according to the “bible”, what is existence?” your question was not “which specific verses in the bible gives a detailed definition of the term existence?”
Take a look at Dave’s response to my question. He begins his response by stating “Existence is…” which implies that he is giving a definition of the concept in question here. He does not preempt any potential misunderstanding by clarifying that he is not giving a definition here. But even if he was not intending to give a definition of the concept ‘existence’ here, my objection still stands nonetheless since the passages which Dave cites in response to my question in no way suggest that they are to be taken as an answer to the kind of question Dave has been called to answer. The verses in question do not indicate that they are speaking to the meaning of existence as such. Had a passage directly indicated the biblical view of what existence is, I’m sure Dave would have cited it instead. But citing what he has cited again strikes me as ad hoc – i.e., simply trying to cite something in order to appear to have an answer to the question at issue when in fact the bible does not actually address the question in the first place.”
First, I gave you a definition of what the bible teaches regarding existence. my definition is derived from studying the Scriptures as a whole, there references were not given as a definition from the bible. I gave my definition and gave biblical references to show why I came to that opinion. Other verses which you may find more helpful would be (Col.1:16-17; Jn.1:2-3).
I wrote”
“My citations were to show that God is the source of all existence, that all things are contingent upon Him.”

June 09, 2014 11:52 PM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

You replied:
“Some Christian apologists have recognized the incoherence of affirming that existence is contingent upon something else. What is the alternative to existence if not non-existence? That Dave addresses my question in a manner which excludes his own god from the scope of reference of the concept ‘existence’, only indicates that Dave’s god belongs in a category other than existence. To make the claim that existence is a product of something else can only mean that the “something else” in question is not part of existence, and thus does not exist. But we already know this: imaginary things are not real.”
What you are failing to consider in your reply is what Christianity teaches regarding God. There is a distinction within Christian theology between “temporal” existence and “eternal” existence, or what we might call, the created order and the Divine nature. Van Til called this the Creator creature distinction. God is self-existent and therefore is in a category all His own as only God can possess this quality. God is also the Creator and as such created all things within temporal existence or “the created order.” God is outside of the created order and therefore outside of temporal existence. Christianity isn’t pantheism, it does not make God subject to His own creation (i.e. laws of nature etc.) rather God upholds these characteristics of the created order by the word of His power (Heb.1:3). When you say that either God is (apart) of existence or not, you propose a false dichotomy. You fail to present Christianity in a true light according to what it says about itself. Again you offer yet another straw man argument.

I wrote:
“Even His own existence is dependent upon the fact that He is God,”
You replied:
“But compare Dave’s statement here with what he says facts are. On this matter, he wrote: “Facts are truth claims based on our experience of nature.” So putting this understanding of what facts are together with his statement above about the Christian god’s existence being “dependent upon the fact that He is God,” we get: the Christian god’s existence is dependent on a truth claim based on our experience of nature. This can only mean that truth claims as such must obtain independently of the Christian god, otherwise we have an infinite regress. Moreover, who has experienced the Christian god? Ah yes, Christians have made this kind of claim. Consider Canon Michael Cole’s story about a time he says he experienced Jesus standing right next to him. Unfortunately no one else present saw Jesus standing next to Cole. How can one reliably rule out the possibility that Cole was simply caught up in the emotion of the moment and imagining Jesus standing right next to him? Certainly nothing Cole himself states about his experience rules out this possibility.”
Notice my statement said that ‘facts are truth claims based on OUR experience of NATURE.’ When I said that facts are truth claims based on our experience of nature, the “facts” in question are those related to nature (I.e. the natural world/created order). I was not discussing how facts are derived in relation to the Divine nature; again you fail to acknowledge the Creator creature distinction. The way I learn about the natural world is through my experience of it, the way in which I learn about God is through revelation. You may not find this persuading but I don’t expect you to. The fact of God’s

June 09, 2014 11:53 PM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

existence is a fact which was granted me in Christ; it was “given” or “revealed” to me from the Father. This is the miracle of regeneration however; this doesn’t preclude God’s existence from having a rational basis. On the contrary faith is the precondition to knowledge. For example, if we propose that sense perception is a valid standard for knowing truth we must put faith in the reliability of our senses before we can appeal to them as a standard for knowing truth. When we are ill we seek the diagnosis of a doctor but before we learn of the illness with which we are afflicted we must put faith in the doctor’s ability to give an accurate diagnosis. Likewise, the bible states that the “fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov.1:7).

June 09, 2014 11:53 PM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave wrote: “You keep stating that the primacy of existence is some kind of axiomatic truth about reality.”

The primacy of existence is axiomatic.

Dave wrote: “However things do exist in this world that are in fact ‘dependent’ upon one’s conscious activity.”

Notice that earlier Dave had conceded that existence exists independent of human consciousness. Now he’s backtracking on his own words. Now he wants to say that existence does depend on human consciousness. But also notice that in attempting to make this claim, he shows that he does not understand the issue he’s talking about.

Dave wrote: “Certainly man is capable of brining [sic] objects into existence, for example when men propose to build high rise skyscrapers they require an architect’s conscious activity in creatively designing the structure proposed.”

This is Basic Objectivism 101 stuff. It is true that human beings build structures such as skyscrapers. But they do not simply wish them into being. Conscious activity by itself will never be able to bring even two boards together, let alone a high-rise office building. Men need to act in order to get anything done. Simply activating their consciousness will never be enough. Why? Because reality does not conform to conscious activity. This is what I’ve been pointing out all along. In an effort to find some loophole or another to the primacy of existence, Dave ignores the necessity of physical action to get anything done. If Dave had given more care to thinking these matters through and integrating what has already been presented to him, we should not see him making such elementary blunders as this.

What human beings do when erecting structures is not at all analogous to what Christians claim their god can do. Human beings do not wish the materials that they build with into existence, but the Christian god allegedly can. Human beings do not wish their building materials into their desired shape – on the contrary, they have to use tools and develop skills in order to do this, and they can still make mistakes. By contrast, the Christian god simply wills things into their desired shape, and everything obeys and conforms immediately; also, it is said that it cannot make mistakes. Human beings have to work with their building materials according to their nature – cf. Bacon’s dictum “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.” But the Christian god can simply revise a thing’s nature simply by wishing.

Clearly, human beings operate on the primacy of existence principle while the Christian god is said to operate on the primacy of consciousness. We can imagine this, but we find no evidence in reality of any consciousness which has such power over its objects.

[continued…]

June 10, 2014 3:05 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave wrote: “You claim that reason is one’s only standard of judgment and guide to action.”

What I have stated is that rationality is the commitment to reason as one’s only source of knowledge, one’s only standard of judgment and one’s only guide to action. Clearly some people choose to abandon reason, and I acknowledge this. For example, some people pretend that they have a direct line of communication with some supernatural being which we can only imagine. There’s no adherence to reason here.

Dave wrote: “By this I assume you believe that the laws of logic exhibit such characteristics as: universality, immutability, transcendence, authoritative etc. I believe that the laws of logic display these characteristics too, but I can provide a “reason” for my belief in these qualities. I believe that these laws are a reflection of God’s rational character which He has made manifest through His creation. But on your worldview I fail to see how you can give a reason in assuming the laws of logic possess such qualities.”

This failure is not my fault. I have written extensively on these matters on my blog and on my webpage. They’re there if Dave wants to explore them and begin to “see”.



Dave wrote: “Imagine if I were to say, well, God exists because He just does, it’s just that way. That’s simply not acceptable;”

So, does Dave think that something caused his god to exist?

Dave wrote: “ones assumptions must be rationally justified.”

Why not simply identify your starting point and ask whether or not it is truly conceptually irreducible – i.e., not resting on more fundamental “assumptions,” premises, etc.? That’s what Objectivism does. That’s why we begin with the fact that existence exists. There’s nothing more fundamental than existence.

In reference to objectivity and rationality, I had stated: “One will not find these virtues either explained or endorsed in ‘sacred writings’ like the biblical storybook.”

Dave responded: “On the contrary, ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge but fools despise wisdom and instruction.’ (Prov.1:7)”

I see nothing here about either objectivity or rationality. On the contrary, this verse can only mean that knowledge is based on some form of emotion - i.e., fear. This means that “knowledge” as Christianity informs it has no *factual* basis, which can only mean: it has no objective basis. Emotion is its ultimate standard. That’s subjectivism to a T.

Dave wrote: “In whom [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col.2:3).

Again, I find no reference to either objectivity or rationality here. On the contrary, this verse can only imply that whatever “the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are supposed to be are not available to man by means of an independent method of knowledge – i.e., by means of reason. It essentially means that man’s mind itself is helpless and impotent, needing to be spoonfed its knowledge from some supernatural source.

Dave wrote: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5).”

Again, no reference to either objectivity or rationality here. But let’s test what it does say: let Dave ask his god when my wife’s birthday is. Surely his god knows this information, and according to this verse, Dave’s god supposedly “gives to all men generously and without reproach,” and that if one asks this god, “it will be given unto him.” So how about it, Dave? What is my wife’s birthday?

Regards,
Dawson

June 10, 2014 3:06 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave wrote: “First, I gave you a definition of what the bible teaches regarding existence.”

So, it *was* a definition after all? Wait, I thought you said that the bible is not a dictionary.

Dave wrote: “my definition is derived from studying the Scriptures as a whole,”

Ah, so this really wasn’t *the bible’s* definition, but something Dave finagled from the text in order to provide an answer to what I had asked (actually, his own question to me turned back around to him).

Dave confirms this when he wrote: “I gave my definition and gave biblical references to show why I came to that opinion.”

So it’s *his* definition based on his *opinion*. As I stated: ad hoc.

Dave wrote: “What you are failing to consider in your reply is what Christianity teaches regarding God.”

Notice how Dave acknowledges that failure is happening here, but hastens to pin it on me. I asked *him* to tell us the bible means by “existence.” Going by what he had stated in response to these, I found a number of incoherencies and absurdities. Now he’s saying that the failure here is my fault. Look, I’ve simply asked him to present what his worldview teaches on this, and after he did so, I examined it and found it quite sub-par. It’s up to him to explain his worldview.

Dave wrote: “There is a distinction within Christian theology between ‘temporal’ existence and ‘eternal’ existence,”

But notice that the words “temporal” and “eternal” here both qualify the same concept – ‘existence’. So, logically, we need to know what this concept means before applying any qualifiers to it could be meaningful. But this is what I asked Dave to explain – the concept ‘existence’ – apart from any modifiers he might want to attach to it after the fact. This is what Dave has failed to do in any coherent manner.

Dave wrote: “Van Til called this the Creator creature distinction.”

If both notions “creator” and “creature” denote things that *EXIST*, then they do not apply at the fundamental level that I’m inquiring on – i.e., existence as such. If something exists, regardless of what attributes one claims it has or wants to attach to it, it exists. So what does “exists” mean according to Christianity? What does “existence” mean here? How does Christianity define its own terms?

[continued…]

June 10, 2014 3:27 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave wrote: “God is self-existent and therefore is in a category all His own as only God can possess this quality.”

But my question was not about what or who possesses such qualities. Dave is caught up in his own worldview’s philosophical red herrings. He says his god exists, okay – so what does “exists” mean? What is “existence” according to Christianity? If his god exists, then whatever “exists” and “existence” mean according to Christianity, they must be defined in such a way that they would be applicable to the Christian god. If the universe exists, then they have to be defined in such a way that they would be applicable to the universe as well. It’s bizarre that anyone would find this simple question difficult to understand.

Dave wrote: “When you say that either God is (apart) of existence or not, you propose a false dichotomy.”

I’m not sure who Dave’s addressing here. I have never stated that “God is (apart) of existence.” It’s not clear to me what the parenthetical “(apart)” means here. Either the Christian god exists, or it doesn’t. If it exists, how is “existence” being defined? If it exists, how is it *not* part of existence – i.e., included in the sum total of all that exists? Is the Christian god included in the sum total of existence, or not? If it is, how is “existence” to be defined here? If it is not part of the sum total of that which exists, then how can one say it exists? That would be a flat contradiction.

Dave wrote: “You fail to present Christianity in a true light according to what it says about itself. Again you offer yet another straw man argument.”

Actually, this is not at all true. What I’ve brought out is that the bible does not even speak to these fundamental matters, and what’s happened is that apologists bent on trying to defend Christianity find that they get themselves tangled up in Christianity’s own internal traps when they try to sort things out in an effort to address fundamental questions. This is precisely what’s happening. The reason is that Christianity as such is a wholly incoherent worldview built on a Mt. Everest of unexamined assumptions, many of them directly contradictory to one another.

But hey, that’s not my problem!

Regards,
Dawson

June 10, 2014 3:28 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave wrote: “Notice my statement said that ‘facts are truth claims based on OUR experience of NATURE.’ When I said that facts are truth claims based on our experience of nature, the “facts” in question are those related to nature (I.e. the natural world/created order).”

While Dave did stated that “facts are truth claims based on our experience of nature,” he in no wise restricted this to facts that are “related to nature.” He did not qualify this in any way. In fact, his intention was to contradict the view that I had given by presenting his own. In doing so, he affirmed a view of facts which equates them with “truth claims” (regardless of how they’re derived), and then affirmed that his god’s existence “is dependent upon the fact that He is God” (which in itself is incoherent). I simply put Dave’s two affirmations together to show how they reduce to absurdity. Again, I think he’s not given these matters the careful scrutiny that they require. But that’s the gist of Christianity: swallow it whole before you examine it.


Dave wrote: “The way I learn about the natural world is through my experience of it, the way in which I learn about God is through revelation.”

Thus Dave indicates that his worldview involves a mixed epistemology, the one being completely opposite to the other, but somehow the product of both meriting the label “knowledge.” Dave explains neither, nor does he explain how they can work in concert together. Also, Dave still does not explain how one can reliably distinguish between what he calls “God” (or even “revelation”) and what he may merely be imagining. These are not my problems, and yet he wastes no time accusing me of some kind of failure in all this.

Dave wrote: “You may not find this persuading but I don’t expect you to.”

Dave is right not to expect me to be persuaded by what he has presented, since virtually all of it is incoherent and contrary to reality. As I pointed out before, Dave does not even attempt to persuade me. Dave did acknowledge that this is true. But that simply makes me wonder: what exactly is his purpose here? What does he hope to achieve here? If he’s hoping to discredit himself as a thinker, he’s doing a very good job of it. But I suspect that he’s not after this, but after something else. But he does not disclose his ambitions here. Instead, he keeps them concealed for some reason.

[continued…]

June 10, 2014 3:54 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave wrote: “The fact of God’s existence is a fact which was granted me in Christ; it was ‘given’ or ‘revealed’ to me from the Father.”

Recall that the discussion at this point revolved around our respective conceptions of what a fact is. I had stated what I consider facts to be – specifically pointing out that they exist independent of conscious activity. Dave disagreed with this and gave his definition of fact (namely “Facts are truth claims based on our experience of nature”). Now Dave backtracks yet again, stating that this definition only applies to facts found in nature, not to facts allegedly obtaining elsewhere. Now he affirms that his god’s existence is a fact. So again, Dave fails to explain himself: What is a fact on his view? Recall that he expressly disagreed with my view that facts obtain independently of consciousness. Thus on his view facts depend on conscious activity. Now he says his god’s existence is a fact. If facts depend on conscious activity, then Dave’s god depends on someone’s conscious activity. But I’ve already pointed out that the Christian god is imaginary. So again Dave inadvertently concedes one of my chief objections to Christianity.

No doubt he’ll say I’m mischaracterizing something. But what specifically am I mischaracterizing here? I’m simply trying to see how well Dave’s own points can be integrated. The problem is that they cannot be integrated without contradiction. That’s not my fault!

Dave wrote: “this doesn’t preclude God’s existence from having a rational basis.”

What does it mean to say that a thing’s *existence* has “a rational basis”? A rational basis is something some people have for holding certain conclusions they’ve inferred and choosing some course of action. But can we say that a rock has “a rational basis” to exist? Clearly rocks exist. Again, I don’t think Dave has given any of this very careful thought. A fundamental problem throughout all of Dave’s efforts is the failure to grasp the distinction between the subject of consciousness and its objects.

Dave wrote: “On the contrary faith is the precondition to knowledge. For example, if we propose that sense perception is a valid standard for knowing truth we must put faith in the reliability of our senses before we can appeal to them as a standard for knowing truth.”

This is a dead horse that’s been beaten to death already. It clearly shows that Dave has not done his homework here at IP. It’s just more stolen concepts. I see no reason why I need to keep correcting people on something so perfidiously disingenuous. Dave needs to explore the archives.

Our senses are our primary contact with objects existing independently of our conscious activity. This is not a faith claim. Nor do the senses operate on the basis of “trust.” Nor is their reliability a matter of faith or trust. To claim that they are is to commit the fallacy of the stolen concept. But this is well beyond Dave’s understanding at this point if he thinks men building skyscrapers constitutes an example of the primacy of consciousness.

Regards,
Dawson

June 10, 2014 3:54 AM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

Dear Bahnsen Burner,
I wrote: “You keep stating that the primacy of existence is some kind of axiomatic truth about reality.”
You replied:
“The primacy of existence is axiomatic.”
Just because you claim something is an axiom doesn’t make it so, I can also make the claim that God is an axiom but I doubt this would be acceptable to you. Where is your justification for your assertion? Certainly existent things do exist otherwise they wouldn’t be existent things. The statement “existence exists independent of conscious activity” exists, but where can I go in the natural world and observe this statement? Nowhere. Statements are conceptual; their reality is contingent upon ones conscious activity. You seem to suggest that concepts merely point to the reality of the object in nature, ok, so where can I go and find “existence” in the natural world? Nowhere, “existence” is itself a concept. I can see and experience “instances” or “representations” of “existence” but I cannot see or experience “existence” in the natural world. Without conscious activity the concept “existence” wouldn’t exist.
I wrote: “However things do exist in this world that are in fact ‘dependent’ upon one’s conscious activity.”
You wrote:
“Notice that earlier Dave had conceded that existence exists independent of human consciousness. Now he’s backtracking on his own words. Now he wants to say that existence does depend on human consciousness. But also notice that in attempting to make this claim, he shows that he does not understand the issue he’s talking about.”
With regards to the natural world existence is independent of man, however as I stated some realities are contingent upon man’s conscious activity such as statements or concepts.
You wrote:
“This is Basic Objectivism 101 stuff. It is true that human beings build structures such as skyscrapers. But they do not simply wish them into being.”
I never said they did.
Cont..
“Conscious activity by itself will never be able to bring even two boards together, let alone a high-rise office building. Men need to act in order to get anything done.”
This is true however the concept t which the architect has about the building is contingent on his conscious activity and that concept does exist.

June 11, 2014 2:54 AM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

Cont…
“Simply activating their consciousness will never be enough. Why? Because reality does not conform to conscious activity.”
I agree “simply activating” their consciousness will never be enough. But that doesn’t negate the fact that the buildings existence is “ultimately” dependent upon conscious activity. Before one can apply action one must first be consciously determined to do so, without conscious determination there is no action.
You wrote:
“ What I have stated is that rationality is the commitment to reason as one’s only source of knowledge, one’s only standard of judgment and one’s only guide to action.”
In other words, rationality is ones application of the laws of logic in their reasoning, a “commitment” to view reason as the “only” standard for knowledge. How do you justify the claim that reason is the “only” standard for knowledge without presupposing the validity of reason? Moreover, you have previously stated than humans gain knowledge from perceiving objects in the universe over time. Which one is it? Is the “only” standard for knowledge Reason or sense perception?
I wrote:
“Imagine if I were to say, well, God exists because He just does, it’s just that way. That’s simply not acceptable;”
You wrote:
“So, does Dave think that something caused his god to exist?”
Absolutely not, and I don’t understand how you made this inference. I was asking for a rational argument that would justify you’re your claim that the primacy of existence is an axiomatic truth. I nowhere was referring to causality I was rather asking for a rational justification of your statement.
I wrote: “ones assumptions must be rationally justified.”
You wrote:
“Why not simply identify your starting point and ask whether or not it is truly conceptually irreducible – i.e., not resting on more fundamental “assumptions,” premises, etc.? That’s what Objectivism does. That’s why we begin with the fact that existence exists. There’s nothing more fundamental than existence.”
Your starting point may be existence exists, but I still ask, what is your epistemological foundation for holding to this starting point? You have offered a metaphysical conclusion, but how do you know what you know? Through the primacy of existence? Moreover, what constitutes existence? you must have an idea of what things exist and what things don’t but what standard do you apply to evaluate existence claims? If you say reason you, once again beg the question. You are assuming the existence of reason in order to use it as a standard for determining existence.

June 11, 2014 2:54 AM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

I quoted Scripture:
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5).”
You replied:
“Again, no reference to either objectivity or rationality here. But let’s test what it does say: let Dave ask his god when my wife’s birthday is. Surely his god knows this information, and according to this verse, Dave’s god supposedly “gives to all men generously and without reproach,” and that if one asks this god, “it will be given unto him.” So how about it, Dave? What is my wife’s birthday?”
Firstly, the reason for my quotations was to demonstrate that the bible does endorse reason and objectivity and my citations did indicate that the bible does endorse reason exhorting us to seek wisdom from God, who is Himself objective to man. You then challenge me to ask God to give me the knowledge of your wife’s birthday. However, the verse doesn’t state that God gives “all” knowledge to those who ask, if you knew anything about Christian theology you would realize that such a request is sinful, given that it is an attempt to be like God, for only God possesses omniscience.
I wrote: “First, I gave you a definition of what the bible teaches regarding existence.”
You wrote:
“So, it *was* a definition after all? Wait, I thought you said that the bible is not a dictionary.”
That’s right the bible isn’t a dictionary. It isn’t a compilation of words and there definitions. There are many different literary genres contained within the 66 books of the bible. (e.g. Historical narrative, poetry, parables, phenomenological language, hyperbole etc.). From our studying of all the books of the bible we derive a systematic theology. This theology informs us on what the bible’s position on certain issues are.

I wrote: “my definition is derived from studying the Scriptures as a whole,”
You wrote:
“Ah, so this really wasn’t *the bible’s* definition, but something Dave finagled from the text in order to provide an answer to what I had asked (actually, his own question to me turned back around to him). “
I did not finagle my definition from the text; again it was derived from my theological understanding of the Scriptures.

I wrote: “There is a distinction within Christian theology between ‘temporal’ existence and ‘eternal’ existence,”

June 11, 2014 2:54 AM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

You wrote:
“But notice that the words “temporal” and “eternal” here both qualify the same concept – ‘existence’. So, logically, we need to know what this concept means before applying any qualifiers to it could be meaningful. But this is what I asked Dave to explain – the concept ‘existence’ – apart from any modifiers he might want to attach to it after the fact. This is what Dave has failed to do in any coherent manner.”
The concept “existence” denotes things which have being. In this strictly defined manner God falls into this category. However within that category is another category, “temporal” existence, which denotes things which have “temporal” being or that is within the created order and is confined by the created order. In this manner God doesn’t fall into this category. There is also another category called “eternal” existence meaning that which has eternal being. Within this category is only God. You may wish to offer your own qualifiers in your secular philosophy such as, physical existence and conceptual existence etc.
I wrote: “Van Til called this the Creator creature distinction.”
You wrote:
“If both notions “creator” and “creature” denote things that *EXIST*, then they do not apply at the fundamental level that I’m inquiring on – i.e., existence as such. If something exists, regardless of what attributes one claims it has or wants to attach to it, it exists. So what does “exists” mean according to Christianity? What does “existence” mean here? How does Christianity define its own terms?”
I have already explained how the bible defines existence. it is all things which God created (Jn.1:3; col.1:16) As you can see the bible deals with primarily with “temporal existence” it does not so much seek to explain “Divine existence,” and for good reason. Man possesses a finite capacity of knowledge while God’s knowledge is infinite or omniscience (Isa.55. 8-9).What it does teach us about God’s existence is that He is eternal and therefore self-existent. (Ps.90:2; Isa.46:9-11; Rom.11:36; Col.1:16; Act.17:28; Rev.1:8, 22:13).
What I would be interested to know is how you define existence? is existence merely physical or do you also allow for abstract existence? does consciousness exist? And is not consciousness’ existence dependent on conscious activity? If consciousness were void of conscious activity consciousness wouldn’t be possible.
You wrote:
“Either the Christian god exists, or it doesn’t. If it exists, how is “existence” being defined? If it exists, how is it *not* part of existence – i.e., included in the sum total of all that exists? Is the Christian god included in the sum total of existence, or not? If it is, how is “existence” to be defined here? If it is not part of the sum total of that which exists, then how can one say it exists? That would be a flat contradiction.”

June 11, 2014 2:55 AM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

As I have mentioned above, God is part of existence in that He has being. However, he is not a part of the existence which is temporal or governed by the bounds of nature. God is rather in His own category of eternal self-existence. Still waiting on your definition of existence though.
I wrote: “You fail to present Christianity in a true light according to what it says about itself. Again you offer yet another straw man argument.”
You wrote:
“Actually, this is not at all true. What I’ve brought out is that the bible does not even speak to these fundamental matters, and what’s happened is that apologists bent on trying to defend Christianity find that they get themselves tangled up in Christianity’s own internal traps when they try to sort things out in an effort to address fundamental questions. This is precisely what’s happening. The reason is that Christianity as such is a wholly incoherent worldview built on a Mt. Everest of unexamined assumptions, many of them directly contradictory to one another.”
Here you accuse me of holding to “unexplained assumptions” and that my position is “contradictory”. Yet throughout our whole discussion I have asked you repeatedly to explain your own assumptions about reality, knowledge and ethics. Such an explanation hasn’t been forthcoming. Again you appeal to absolute laws of logic, claiming that I have violated them by being “contradictory” however you are yet to show how such laws are even possible given your worldview and why I should be subject to them. You haven’t explained how logic possesses its universal, abstract, absolute and law like character given your world view. You have assumed the objectivity of reason and yet done so subjectively by your assumption. You keep saying that the primacy of existence is an axiom, how you verify this is still unknown. You have offered me this uniquely absurd explanation of the concept “future” and how it somehow presupposes uniformity and regularity in nature. If anyone has a wholly incoherent worldview it’s you Dawson.
You wrote:
“Thus Dave indicates that his worldview involves a mixed epistemology, the one being completely opposite to the other, but somehow the product of both meriting the label “knowledge.” Dave explains neither, nor does he explain how they can work in concert together. Also, Dave still does not explain how one can reliably distinguish between what he calls “God” (or even “revelation”) and what he may merely be imagining. These are not my problems, and yet he wastes no time accusing me of some kind of failure in all this.
All knowledge comes from God to man through revelation. Revelation is the means by which knowledge is manifested. God has revealed Himself to man conspicuously both immediately (being made in His image) and mediately (through creation) so much so that men are inexcusable for unbelief (Rom.1:18). My apprehension or acquiring of this knowledge is twofold, my belief in God comes by way of regeneration. My belief about “facts” in the universe is apprehended through experience. How do I distinguish between God’s revelation and imagination? Through the impossibility of the contrary, that is that which is contrary to the truth of God ultimately leads to irrationality and therefore cannot make sense out of human experience.

June 11, 2014 2:55 AM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

You wrote:
“What does it mean to say that a thing’s *existence* has “a rational basis”? A rational basis is something some people have for holding certain conclusions they’ve inferred and choosing some course of action. But can we say that a rock has “a rational basis” to exist? Clearly rocks exist. Again, I don’t think Dave has given any of this very careful thought. A fundamental problem throughout all of Dave’s efforts is the failure to grasp the distinction between the subject of consciousness and its objects.”
For a rock to be in the conceptual category of “existence” you must validate why it fits into that category. How do you know a rock exists? Through sense perception? If sense perception is the method used to validate the rocks existence how does one rationally account for ones assuming the basic reliability of sense perception? How does one justify that sense perception comports to reality? That’s why things must have a rational basis in order for us to gain knowledge about reality. Now this is different from saying that if I cannot provide a rational basis for something then that something doesn’t exist. You’re not being able to provide a rational basis for logic doesn’t preclude its existence it just means your worldview is unworkable and that your classification of things existing is are arbitrary.

June 11, 2014 2:56 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I wrote: “The primacy of existence is axiomatic.”

Dave replied: “Just because you claim something is an axiom doesn’t make it so,”

Of course, this statement is true. But why is this statement true? Because existence holds metaphysical primacy over consciousness. I certainly do not claim that the primacy of existence is axiomatic *because* I claim it is. It is axiomatic whether I claim it is or not. Consider any experience you have – it always involves consciousness of some object. Notice that the object is what it is independent of conscious activity. This is fundamental, and it is implicit in every act of consciousness. We make this recognition explicit by identifying it formally, in the form of a fundamental principle.

Dave asked: “The statement ‘existence exists independent of conscious activity’ exists, but where can I go in the natural world and observe this statement?”

Again, Dave confuses identification (in this case, a statement about reality) with the thing identified (in this case, the nature of the relationship between consciousness and its objects). This goes back to a fundamental blurring of the distinction between the subject of consciousness and its objects that is endemic throughout Christianity and other primitive worldviews. Where do we observe the fact that existence exists independent of consciousness? In every act of consciousness we have. Observe something sitting on your table: now command it to turn into something else. Does it conform to your commanding? No? Why not? Now wish that it turn into something else. Does it conform to your wishing? No? Why not? Now imagine that it turn into something else. Does it conform to your imagining? No? Why not? Again, existence holds metaphysical primacy over consciousness. We did not wish the universe into being any more than we imagined it into being. It existed before we were born, and it will exist after we die. It exists independent of our conscious activity.

Why is this so hard to grasp?

Dave writes: “Statements are conceptual;”

Right. So are thoughts. So are logical relations. Where does the bible enlighten us on this? Dave is now borrowing from a non-Christian worldview to make statements about epistemology.

Dave asked: “You seem to suggest that concepts merely point to the reality of the object in nature, ok, so where can I go and find ‘existence’ in the natural world?”

As Objectivism informs the concept ‘existence’, everything and anything in the natural world is existence. A rock is existence. An apple is existence. A city is existence. Think of the concept ‘thing’: what does “a thing” look like? The concept ‘thing’ is extremely wide: it includes a huge variety of objects. It includes coffee cups, iPods, pebbles, business cards, aircraft engines, broken shards of wine bottles, etc., etc., etc. Similarly with the concept ‘existence’: it is the widest of all concepts, for it includes everything that exists. Ever seen a pizza before? Then you’ve seen existence. Ever seen a cloud before? Then you’ve seen existence. The concept ‘existence’ is all-inclusive with respect to anything and everything that exists.

[continued…]

June 11, 2014 5:43 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave wrote: “Nowhere, ‘existence’ is itself a concept.”

Again, Dave is ignoring the distinction between identification and that which is identified. Yes, we have the concept ‘existence’; there is also everything it denotes – i.e., existence. Similarly we have the concept ‘man’; also, we have everything it denotes: men.

Dave wrote: “I can see and experience ‘instances’ or ‘representations’ of ‘existence’ but I cannot see or experience ‘existence’ in the natural world.”

That’s too bad. For Dave. It would be a terrible disadvantage to go through live never experiencing existence. I’m glad I’m an Objectivist!

Dave wrote: “Without conscious activity the concept ‘existence’ wouldn’t exist.”

That’s true (but again, where does the bible tell us this? It doesn’t!). But it would not follow from this that what the concept ‘existence’ denotes would not exist if no one formed the concept ‘existence’. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that concepts are the form in which we identify, integrate and retain what we have perceived. When we form a concept, we are not creating a new existent. Metaphysically, concepts are a type of activity - the entity in question already exists, namely the individual who does the concept-forming.

[continued…]

June 11, 2014 5:43 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave wrote: “however as I stated some realities are contingent upon man’s conscious activity such as statements or concepts.”

Dave did affirm this (contrary to his earlier statement conceding the truth of the primacy of existence in the case of human consciousness). But as I’ve explained, this is a gross misunderstanding on Dave’s part.

Human beings do build structures, like houses and skyscrapers. They do this by means of physical action. Their conscious activity directs their physical actions, but their conscious activity does not bring anything into existence that did not exist before. All they have done is bring pre-existing materials into new relationships. No new material has been added to the universe. So consciousness did not create existence in such a case. Also, once the building has been erected, it still is not “contingent” upon consciousness. For it to be contingent upon conscious activity, its existence would have to be dependent on someone perceiving and or considering it, or wishing or imagining that it stands, etc. (since these are forms of conscious activity). But even if everyone in the whole world ignores its existence, forgets that it exists, wishes that it stop existing, imagines that it’s something other than a building (like a bowl of rice or a turnip field), it will continue being what it is independent of all that conscious activity. That is the primacy of existence.

Dave is trying to undermine the primacy of existence by mischaracterizing it and the primacy of consciousness. The man-made does not constitute an exception or violation to the primacy of existence. To help Dave out, I suggest he bone up on the distinction between the metaphysical vs. the man-made.

I had written: “It is true that human beings build structures such as skyscrapers. But they do not simply wish them into being.”

Dave replied: “I never said they did.”

But in order for skyscrapers and other man-made things to qualify as an exception to the primacy of existence, they would have to qualify as examples where the primacy of consciousness obtains. But that would make them subject to conscious activity such as wishing, imagining, believing, preferring, etc. So again, Dave has not given this matter the careful thought it deserves.

Seriously, does anyone think Objectivists would affirm a principle that is so obviously refuted by the fact that human beings make things out of pre-existing materials? As I stated, this is Basic Objectivism 101 stuff.

[continued…]

June 11, 2014 5:44 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave wrote: “I agree ‘simply activating’ their consciousness will never be enough. But that doesn’t negate the fact that the buildings existence is ‘ultimately’ dependent upon conscious activity.”

Notice that Dave is applying the primacy of existence right here – ultimately in an attempt to take the principle down.

A building’s existence is not “ultimately dependent upon” anyone’s conscious activity. What depends on conscious activity are the choices which the builders put into action. This does not make the products of that activity dependent on consciousness, for they still stand even if everyone wishes that they vanish or imagines that they turn into mushrooms. The people who built the Empire State Building are likely all dead now. But the building still exists. How could this be if it depended on their conscious activity? Is there one or two last persons who worked on it sustaining its existence with conscious activity, and when they die (and thus their conscious activity ceases), the Empire State Building will likewise cease to exist? Is that what Dave believes?

Dave wrote: “Before one can apply action one must first be consciously determined to do so, without conscious determination there is no action.”

And that’s fine: people act by choice. But it does not follow from this that the products of their actions are therefore dependent on someone’s conscious activity. I cannot assemble a bookcase and, sometime after it’s been assembled and standing in my study, I can make it vanish from existence by means of wishing. But that’s what would be possible if the products of human activity were ultimately dependent on consciousness: consciousness could wipe them out of existence by means of mere conscious activity.

Dave asked: “How do you justify the claim that reason is the ‘only’ standard for knowledge without presupposing the validity of reason?”

Does Dave really want to know this? Or is he simply trying to manufacture more questions in order to keep the attention off of his worldview? He asks a lot of questions, but even after they’ve been answered, he shows no willingness to understand and integrate what’s been explained to him, for he continues to come back making the same elementary blunders which he could have avoided had he just paid a little closer attention and given the matters at hand the kind of attention they deserve.

As for the question Dave asks here, it is addressed in the Objectivist literature. If Dave really wants to know what Objectivism teaches, why is it my responsibility to spoon-feed him every morsel? When does he take up the responsibility of doing his own research and learning?

[continued…]

June 11, 2014 5:44 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave wrote: “Moreover, you have previously stated than humans gain knowledge from perceiving objects in the universe over time. Which one is it? Is the ‘only’ standard for knowledge Reason or sense perception? “

Again, this is Basic Objectivism 101 stuff. Reason is the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by the senses. Reason is not simply logic. Logic is form, but knowledge needs content. How do we acquire this content? Logic does not provide the content. We need to look outward and gather facts. These facts need to be identified and integrated according to an objective standard – i.e., reason, which operates on the objective theory of concepts. It is the relationship among the concepts so formed which logic allows us to navigate. This is one of the several key reasons why I have pointed out that logic is conceptual in nature.

Dave asked: “Your starting point may be existence exists, but I still ask, what is your epistemological foundation for holding to this starting point?”

The foundation for this is the fact that the axiom ‘existence exists’ identifies a fundamental (i.e., conceptually irreducible), perceptually self-evident fact that is implicit throughout all conscious activity (since conscious activity always involves some object). The foundation is thus factual in nature.

Dave wrote: “You have offered a metaphysical conclusion, but how do you know what you know?”

By means of reason: i.e., by identifying and integrating what I perceive by means of an objective process – namely the objective theory of concepts.

[continued…]

June 11, 2014 5:44 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave wrote: “Moreover, what constitutes existence?”

I’m not sure what exactly Dave is asking here, or why. Existence is fundamental, irreducible, unanalyzable. Even if you take a rock and break it down into tiny bits, those tiny bits exist. Does this question assume that existence is constituted by something other than existence? If so, then it’s fallaciously complex. If not, then it’s not clear what it’s asking.

Dave wrote: “you must have an idea of what things exist and what things don’t but what standard do you apply to evaluate existence claims?”

The primacy of existence for starters.

Dave wrote: “If you say reason you, once again beg the question. You are assuming the existence of reason in order to use it as a standard for determining existence.”

That’s not what begging the question is. Begging the question is not assuming the existence of something one uses as a standard. If one used a ruler to measure something, he is not begging the question by assuming that the ruler exists. Besides, Dave’s objection here assumes that reason is always inferential in nature (for that is the only occasion where informal fallacies can occur – in inferences). But as I’ve pointed out, reason is the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided the senses. Just by identifying anything we perceive by means of concepts, I’m applying reason. But there need not be any inference involved, since I may be identifying what I perceive directly. We do not need to infer the existence of something we perceive directly.

Dave wrote: “Firstly, the reason for my quotations was to demonstrate that the bible does endorse reason and objectivity and my citations did indicate that the bible does endorse reason exhorting us to seek wisdom from God, who is Himself objective to man.”

None of the verses which Dave has cited make any mention about either rationality or objectivity. That he wants to *interpret* them to have such virtues in mind only indicates the degree to which he is willing to take an ad hoc approach to matters. If there were any clear, unambiguous statements in the bible about rationality and objectivity, I’m sure Dave would have presented them by now.

[continued…]

June 11, 2014 5:45 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave wrote: “You then challenge me to ask God to give me the knowledge of your wife’s birthday. However, the verse doesn’t state that God gives ‘all’ knowledge to those who ask, if you knew anything about Christian theology you would realize that such a request is sinful, given that it is an attempt to be like God, for only God possesses omniscience.”

If (a) “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are “hidden” in Jesus (Col. 2:3), (b) the bible encourages people to “ask of God” for that wisdom which they lack (Jas 1:5), (c) this same god “gives to all men generously and without reproach (ibid.), and (d) “it will be given to him” (ibid.), why would making a request for knowledge to the Christian god be “sinful”? How does requesting something from the Christian god constitute “an attempt to be like God”? Asking the Christian god for knowledge and wisdom would be done on the premise that “only God possesses omniscience.” So I find this response quite baffling. It would suggest that asking the Christian god for any knowledge and wisdom, which the James verse actually encourages (!), is to be considered sinful.

I suspect that Dave just doesn’t want to come back empty-handed here, so he’s inventing an excuse not to put himself at risk of failure.

Dave wrote: “The concept ‘existence’ denotes things which have being. In this strictly defined manner God falls into this category.”

Then if the Christian god exists, it is just one more thing within the category of “things which have being.” Now the Christian apologist’s task is to demonstrate that his god actually does number in that category rather than in the category known properly as imaginary. So far Dave has not come close to accomplishing this task.

[continued…]

June 11, 2014 5:45 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave wrote: “What I would be interested to know is how you define existence?”

Again, more Basic Objectivism 101 stuff here. Since the concept ‘existence’ is axiomatic in nature, it is conceptually irreducible. Thus it cannot be defined in terms of more fundamental concepts; there are no concepts that are more fundamental than the concept ‘existence’. Stating that the concept ‘existence’ denotes things which have being is fine insofar as it goes, but this is not an actual definition, but simply another way of expressing the same concept. We can only define this concept ostensively.

Dave asked: “does consciousness exist?”

Of course, just as do other types of activity, e.g., running, walking, gliding, singing, peering, etc. But like these other actions, consciousness is not an entity - rather, it is a type of activity performed by an entity – e.g., man.

Dave asked: “And is not consciousness’ existence dependent on conscious activity?”

No. Consciousness is dependent on those biological functions which make it possible, e.g., the nervous system, the brain, sensory organs, etc.

Dave wrote: “If consciousness were void of conscious activity consciousness wouldn’t be possible.”

By its very nature, consciousness is a type of activity. Every verb we use to denote what consciousness does is an action verb, e.g.: perceive, see, hear, feel, touch, observe, think, remember, infer, conceptualize, identify, integrate, want, emote, consider, imagine, envisage, etc., etc., etc. These are all actions. Consciousness is active in nature.

Regards,
Dawson

June 11, 2014 5:45 AM  

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