In the present installment, we pick up from where the last one left off – specifically with an examination of the implications of Christianity’s foundations with regard to the issue of metaphysical primacy.
I had written:
(2.) “Your statements confirm my analysis that Christianity assumes the primacy of consciousness at the most fundamental level – i.e., characterizing existence as having its source in some act of consciousness – i.e., metaphysical subjectivism.”
Yes, you are right. I do believe in the primacy of consciousness, not my own or any other human but God’s. without the mind of God nothing is possible.
Most apologists dance around the primacy of consciousness all the while affirming views which clearly assume the primacy of consciousness. But even here Dave indicates that his worldview has no consistent metaphysics: the primacy of consciousness applies in the case of his god, but it does not apply in the case of man (presumably it does not apply in the case of other forms of animal consciousness, e.g., cats, dogs, dolphins, chipmunks, zebras, etc.), but who knows when it comes to other supernatural beings which Christians imagine (e.g., angels, demons, devils, “unclean spirits,” etc.). These latter are characterized in the Christian bible as having at least some magical control over reality. But Dave makes no mention of them here.
Given that, according to Christianity, the primacy of consciousness characterizes the ultimate metaphysical relationship (namely that between the Christian god as a knowing subject and anything else which exists, since anything else is supposed to have been created by the Christian god as a knowing subject), Christian metaphysics is therefore ultimately subjective: a subject of consciousness holds metaphysical primacy over everything else that exists.
It will not do to say that because this relationship only obtains in the case of the Christian god’s consciousness of objects that objectivity is therefore the proper norm for man’s conscious interaction with the world, for this would mean that objectivity ultimately arises from subjectivism and that objectivity finds its basis ultimately in subjectivism. How could this be? The bible certainly does not explain this, for it exhibits no concern for objectivity whatsoever. In fact, it should be clear to anyone who understands what objectivity is that the bible consistently and emphatically promulgates epistemological subjectivism on the part of believers given their reliance on faith (and therefore abandonment of rationality), prayer, “revelation,” “just believe,” and other mystical preferences.
Once one grants metaphysical primacy to consciousness, subjectivism infects his entire worldview. This is because the issue of metaphysical primacy is a matter of fundamental importance. With respect to philosophy (i.e., worldviews), the relationship between consciousness and its objects (i.e., the issue of metaphysical primacy) is the most fundamental and most important of them all. This is because all knowledge, all thinking, all identification, all reasoning, etc., involve consciousness relating to some object(s). If one’s worldview rests ultimately on the primacy of consciousness, then his worldview cannot escape the clutches of metaphysical subjectivism which serves as its ultimate anchor. Only by clearing the slate entirely of all assumptions and identifying an objective starting point – i.e., the fact that existence exists – can one have any chance of building a worldview free from subjectivism’s contamination.
But since Dave seems to be affirming that his own consciousness does not hold metaphysical primacy over reality, he seems to be conceding that the objects of his consciousness hold metaphysical primacy over his conscious activity. If that is what he is acknowledging, how consistently can he maintain fidelity to this fundamental fact throughout his worldview? This is where Dawson’s razor comes in. This principle states:
One’s epistemological methodology must be consistent with the nature of his consciousness and the relationship it has to its objects.
Things do exist independent of man but man has no way of knowing this outside of his experience.
Christians are typically apriorists – supposing that knowledge is possible apart from and prior to any experience whatsoever. Of course, what they include in this category of “knowledge” are notions which are indistinguishable from imaginary things, e.g., the god they claim to worship and everything they say they “know” by means of “revelations” from a supernatural source. Additionally, they often include in this category general assumptions about reality, which only suggests that they do not understand how such understanding can be derived from experience – i.e., it means they do not understand the how the conceptual level of awareness relates to the perceptual level of awareness.
What Christians affirming the “a priori” category of knowledge typically fail to do is explain how they know that whatever they include in this category is genuinely “a priori” in nature – i.e., known or knowable apart from and prior to any experience. If an individual claims to know something a priori - i.e., apart from and prior to any experience whatsoever – how does he know that this is truly a priori knowledge? How does he know he hasn’t mistaken something he learned through experience at some early point in his life as something that is known apart from experience? Often when we learn things, especially when we are young, we are unaware of the process by which we learned what we learned; we typically do not even remember the occasions when we learned certain things. But there was a process involved nonetheless, a process of drawing from inputs made available through experience – i.e., through conscious interaction with the world around us. The claim to a priori knowledge simply wishes all this away in a single wave of the hand.
Also, if one affirms that he knows something a priori, this can only mean that there is no how of such knowledge in a firsthand sense: the knower in such a case did not perform any kind of epistemological process of acquiring and validating the item in question, so how can he know whether what he calls “knowledge” is true or not? He would at best be taking it merely on faith that whatever it is he has claimed as a priori knowledge is true. This allows emotional commitments to take the place of reason and rationality: the believer is emotionally committed to whatever it is he claims as a priori knowledge, and as he actively reinforces this commitment, it becomes confessional in nature – a fundamental component of his psychological identity, something he is married to through thick and thin, even if it is false or completely arbitrary. Reason is thus systematically replaced by pointless obstinacy.
Anyone who is willing to be dishonest about what he knows, can easily claim that he “knows” what he wants to be true by means of some non-rational means – e.g., “revelation” or some form of “just knowing.” The notion of a priori knowledge readily lends itself to such use. If he understood that his knowledge has an objective foundation, he would not choose to resort to such artifice. Indeed, he would be able to point to the facts that inform his knowledge and support his position. But a theist has no way of doing this. All he can do is retreat to the imaginary.
No one has experienced the future, that is, no one has experienced that which is not yet, the only way I can know things about reality is if I extrapolate my experiences of the past or present into the future. In other words, I must assume that the future will be like the past. When you appeal to reason you are assuming its universality, validity and unchanging character. You are not alone in this, Christians assume this too.
Furthermore, so long as it is objectively formed, the concept ‘future’ does not denote an imaginary realm that contradicts the world which we perceive, but rather denotes the continuation of the realm which we perceive from the present. And we can form this concept objectively in part by integrating the fact that we perceive objects continuously over time rather than as isolated sense clusters separated from one another in snap-shot fashion, as though the persistence of the identity of the objects we perceived were merely a happy coincidence. On the contrary, we perceive the persistence of the identity of the objects of our awareness directly over time. Much of Dave’s skeptical treatments referring to “the future” as though it were synonymous with “the unknowable” represent the outcome of the failure to integrate these points.
Also note that, throughout his statement here, Dave makes frequent reference to “assuming” and “assumptions.” Assumptions are suppositions which one takes for granted; the notion ‘assumption’ implies allowance for the possibility that the supposition so accepted may be mistaken or unfounded and suggests that one may have subscribed to it without sufficient justification. Dave states that he “must assume” certain things in order to do other things, and he says that I assume things when I do certain things as well. He does not give any argument as to why he “must assume” certain things, nor does he explain how he knows that I assume certain things when I do certain things. In fact, he seems to be simply assuming that this is the case and that there is no alternative to doing so. But nowhere does he allow for the possibility that such suppositions themselves may be wrong or prematurely affirmed.
Contrary to what Dave apparently assumes here, there is an alternative to taking suppositions for granted, to simply resting one’s views and methodology on assumptions one takes for granted, possibly without sufficient justification. There is certainly an alternative to taking suppositions for granted in the absence of explicitly understood principles. And that is one of the values which Objectivism provides. Unlike Christianity and other forms of mysticism, Objectivism does not begin with a mass of unexamined assumptions which one accepts in wholesale manner and subsequently sets out to vindicate after he’s already built his whole worldview upon them. On the contrary, just as it is the case that the unexamined life is not worth living, Objectivism holds that the unexamined assumption is not worth holding.
The alternative to accepting an undifferentiated mass of unexamined assumptions as the basis of one’s worldview (a necessity to Christianity given its affirmation of biblical inerrancy), is to begin with an objective starting point - i.e., the axioms of Objectivism. The axioms of Objectivism do not rest on more fundamental or prior truths; there are no truths that are more fundamental than the axioms. One of the key principles to beginning with the axioms is that one should first clear away all assumptions and start from scratch. What is the mind first aware of? We are first aware of objects which we perceive – things existing in the world which we see, hear, touch, etc. Perception is pre-conceptual and therefore pre-assumption – i.e., prior to any assumptions, suppositions, notions, presuppositions. At no point does Dave indicate that he has considered the possibility of such a system. That’s his loss.
To be continued…
by Dawson Bethrick