Monday, June 09, 2014

Dave's McPresuppositions, Part II

I continue now with my examination of Dave McPhillips’ comments which he posted here. This is a continuation from Part I of this series.

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.”
Dave replied:
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.
Finally one of them concedes one of my fundamental objections against Christianity!

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.
Can Dave’s epistemological methodology by which he claims to know that, in the ultimate scheme of things, consciousness holds metaphysical primacy over existence, remain wholly consistent with the nature of his own consciousness and the relationship it has to its objects? So far Dave has not shown that he can meet the challenge set by this principle. Indeed, it seems that he has taken all of these matters completely for granted, for he exhibits no evidence that he has given them the careful, scrutinizing and critical thought that they well deserve.

Dave wrote:
Things do exist independent of man but man has no way of knowing this outside of his experience.
This is vague and unsupported. Precisely what does Dave mean by “experience”? This is key to deciphering what he is trying to say here. Depending on what ‘experience’ means, should we expect a person to be able to know anything apart from experience? This raises the a priori vs. a posteriori dispute. The notion of a priori knowledge is supposed to signify knowledge that one supposedly possesses prior to experience – that is: prior to any experience. The idea behind the concept of a posteriori knowledge is that all knowledge is acquired on the basis of experience – either direct experience of a thing or indirect experience (as through inferences from things that we directly 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.

Dave wrote:
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.
Here Dave ignores the fact that we perceive objects over time. Perception is not a static snap shot of objects in our awareness, but rather an active interaction that maintains contact with the objects of our awareness for as long as we focus on them. Thus we experience objects continuously over time.

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

Labels: , , , , ,

25 Comments:

Blogger Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello Friends

"Dave replied:

*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.*"

Dave's beleif is silly. The claim there is "something" anticeedent to existence is scientifically testable. When reality is studied at the smallest scales and highest energies, there's nothing there except particles and the void. Dave's belief implies his further belief that science and math are false. Believers like Dave should read Quinten Smith's paper on why Steven Hawking's Wave Function of the Universe entails there can't be a magic mind that makes reality, especially section 6.

https://web.archive.org/web/20131020051400/http://www.philoonline.org/library/smith_1_1.htm

I'm very busy with multiple major projects. I'll have to catch up reading at a later time.

Best Regards for Making Your Life the Best It Can Be.

June 09, 2014 7:16 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Robert,

You wrote: "Dave's belief implies his further belief that science and math are false."

Dave's beliefs, affirmations, objections and counter-points all rest on the same foundation: a fundamental rejection of reason as such. This is the underlying core and the uniting theme of Dave's entire worldview: reason is the enemy and must be squashed.

This is not unique to Dave. It is inherent in all religion, including Christianity. This is why the predominant occupation of Christian apologetics is the inculcation of radical skepticism. Without the adoption of a skeptical attitude towards one's own mind, religion has no chance. One must first surrender his own rational faculties in order to adopt Christianity.

This is why folks like Sye Ten Bruggencate focus so much on questions of the “how do you know?” sort, questions which their own worldview can nowhere answer. They want everyone to believe that the human mind is utterly incompetent so that they can position themselves as authoritative spokesmen for the supernatural before us.

If only we sacrifice our minds, then the mystics – every one of them a potential dictator – can hold dominion over each of us, which is what they lust after. The independent, reasoning mind is the ultimate threat to their worldview. They want to rewrite our minds for us, in their own image, the image of self-sacrifice, the image of something less than man seeking to lower itself ever more. They did this themselves, and now they want everyone else to.

Regards,
Dawson

June 09, 2014 3:53 PM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

Dear Bahnsen burner,
You wrote:
“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.”
I don’t see why this is a problem for you unless you are denying the Creator creature distinction. Things are objective with regards to man’s understanding of the universe but all things within the created order are ultimately dependent upon the mind and counsel of God. How does this interfere with the objectiveness of man’s understanding of nature? God, who cannot lie, has promised to uphold the universe in an orderly and consistently uniform way until the consummation of all things. This gives us a rational basis for objectivity, but when you just assert objectivity as a “self-evident” truth without a rationally cogent basis you demonstrate nothing but a subjective opinion about the nature of reality. Again, how do you justify your belief in objectivity? Saying existence exists independent of conscious activity begs the question; you are giving an argument for objectivity which presupposes the objective truth of the statement. Let’s review your argument.
P1. Objectivity exists
P2. The primacy of existence is objective
C. Therefore, objectivity exists.
You wrote:
“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.”
I don’t see how you make this leap. The created order (temporal existence) is not subject to man but rather man is subject to the created order (i.e. through the laws of nature etc.), the created order exists outside of man and isn’t dependent upon him, therefore it is objective. God however ISN’T subject to the created order but rather the created order including man is subject to Him! He created and sovereignly controls it. Man is not on equality with God no matter how much you may want him to be. But given your understanding of objectivity, how is it even possible for you to know anything about reality including nature’s objectivity? At best you can assume it to be so, but you cannot provide a rational basis for your assumption. Seeing as though you do not believe in a God that sovereignly controls the universe in an orderly way what is to prevent the universe from exhibiting dis-order and subjectivity tomorrow?

June 10, 2014 2:17 AM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

You wrote:
“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.”
You start by saying one must clear the slate of all “assumptions” but then turn around and say that we must identify an objective starting point i.e. the fact that existence exists. If one were to abandon all assumptions the assumption that there is such an objective starting point should likewise be abandoned. One cannot be philosophically neutral, everybody assumes things which they take for granted at the outset of their reasoning. These are our “presuppositions,” they are our basic or fundamental beliefs about the nature of reality, knowledge and ethics which are not validated by the methods of science and in terms of which we interprets the world. To begin with, humans presuppose their own existence, their personal identity over time, the basic reliability of sense perception, memory, their reasoning faculties, their ability to communicate, and so on. Your very statement assumes that a worldview built on subjectivism is wrong, and therefore you have cleared all assumptions by assuming.
I wrote:
“Things do exist independent of man but man has no way of knowing this outside of his experience.”
You replied:
“This is vague and unsupported. Precisely what does Dave mean by “experience”? This is key to deciphering what he is trying to say here. Depending on what ‘experience’ means, should we expect a person to be able to know anything apart from experience? This raises the a priori vs. a posteriori dispute. The notion of a priori knowledge is supposed to signify knowledge that one supposedly possesses prior to experience – that is: prior to any experience. The idea behind the concept of a posteriori knowledge is that all knowledge is acquired on the basis of experience – either direct experience of a thing or indirect experience (as through inferences from things that we directly experience).”
What I was alluding to in my statement was that man’s knowledge of nature comes by way of experiencing it. Through his experience and observations of nature man can draw conclusions about the natural order. This is called the method of induction, whereby man studies and observes things over and over and then makes a general conclusion such as “all trees have trunks.” Now, man can only operate in this way and obtain knowledge about nature if his underlying assumption is that the universe operates in a uniform and regular way. But how does man prove that nature is in fact uniform? He cannot do it empirically he can only attempt to account for it rationally. How does he do this? By proposing a worldview which is rationally coherent and which gives a logical justification for nature’s uniformity.
You wrote:
“Christians are typically a priorists – 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

June 10, 2014 2:17 AM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

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.”
Judging from your tone in your response you don’t allow for a priori knowledge, yet you believe in axiomatic claims like the primacy of existence argument. How do you know that existence exists independent of conscious activity? Did you discover this empirically in which case have you experienced every instance of existence? I think not. You simply take it for granted as you’re a priori starting point.
I wrote:
“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.”
You replied:
“Here Dave ignores the fact that we perceive objects over time. Perception is not a static snap shot of objects in our awareness, but rather an active interaction that maintains contact with the objects of our awareness for as long as we focus on them. Thus we experience objects continuously over time.”
I have never said that man doesn’t experience things over time. However what we do is assume that our past experiences are somehow valuable in the future. When we learn to drive a car we don’t learn it all in one day, we learn in stages. But we do learn some things about driving a car each day; we first learn the basics and then advance in our knowledge through our experience. We don’t learn the basics new every day. We assume that the knowledge we have acquired about the basics in our past experience is useful in our future experience. The whole concept of learning presupposes the uniformity of nature. To progress is to gain knowledge of the world round about us, but we couldn’t know anything of the world if it were disorderly and random, whatever we experienced in the past would be irrelevant to the future.

You continued:
“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.”
The concept “future” presupposes “time,” that is it! It does not presuppose or denote the regularity in nature. The “world which we perceive” is present it has not been perceived in the future seeing as

June 10, 2014 2:17 AM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

though no one has experienced the future. We rather project our present perception of nature into the future because we assume its regularity.
You wrote:
“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.”
Again, we do perceive objects over time because we presuppose that knowledge can be gained concerning them, which presupposes that objects exhibit certain characteristics that are unique to them and are therefore unchanging characteristics. This ultimately assumes the uniformity of nature, something you have not yet rationally justified.
You wrote:
“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.”
How do I know you are assuming things? By the fact that you are attempting to apply the laws of logic in your reasoning. You attempt to construct a rational framework for your philosophical viewpoint, and attempt to refute my position by alleging rational inconsistencies. You are therefore assuming an absolute and universal standard of reasoning (i.e. Laws of logic), a standard that you take to be authoritative and which would apply objectively both to your arguments and mine. If you claim that reason and or the laws of logic are not assumed, I challenge you to validate the laws of logic without assuming the laws of logic in your argument. Of course this cannot be done. Everybody assumes things about metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. What I would like to know is how do you account for your assumptions in a rationally meaningful way?
You wrote:
“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.”
First, Christianity isn’t a form of mysticism. You don’t offer any evidence for this claim. Second, Objectivism does in fact start with many assumptions, it assumes objectivity, reason, consciousness, existence, concepts, uniformity in nature etc. one cannot help but assume things at the outset of ones reasoning, nobody is neutral!

June 10, 2014 2:18 AM  
Blogger dave mcphillips said...

You wrote:
“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. “
First, Objectivism is an assumption.
Second, saying that objectivism is an axiom is assuming that it is self-evident.
You continued:
“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.”

Again, it is impossible to clear away all assumptions and start from scratch, for one thing you are assuming that this is something one “ought” to do which assumes some sense of moral obligation. To ask “what is the mind first aware of,” presupposes the existence of the mind. You say it is first aware of objects we perceive, again this presupposes perception in particular, sense perception and its reliability. How can perception be pre-conceptual if one must first assume that sense perception is reliable? Assumptions are by nature conceptual. You are right at no point have I considered such a system because such as system is irrational and absurd.

June 10, 2014 2:18 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave wrote: “I don’t see why this is a problem for you unless you are denying the Creator creature distinction.”

The very notion of “the Creator creature distinction” itself assumes the primacy of consciousness metaphysics. To then turn around and say that this alleged distinction really exists – that it denotes an actual distinction between two different types of reality, for example – makes use of the primacy of existence on the part of the one making this affirmation. For example, Dave is not saying that “the Creator creature distinction” is real because he wants it to be real, or because he believes it, or because he feels better because of it, or because of any conscious activity on his part making it a reality.

So Dave is performatively contradicting himself at the most fundamental level of knowledge just by affirming this alleged distinction.

Dave wrote: “Things are objective with regards to man’s understanding of the universe but all things within the created order are ultimately dependent upon the mind and counsel of God.”

This would entail that objectivity has its basis in ultimate subjectivism. But Dave does not explain how objectivity could have its basis in subjectivism to begin with. Indeed, he does not explain how his epistemological method of knowing anything is compatible with objectivity. Since he appeals to revelations, it can’t be. Revelations are not something we find in reality. Revelations are imaginary.

Dave wrote: “God, who cannot lie,”

Something would have to exist in order for it to be possible for it to lie. If the Christian god does not exist, then clearly it cannot lie.

Dave wrote: “has promised to uphold the universe in an orderly and consistently uniform way until the consummation of all things.”

Are “miracles” to be counted as part of “an orderly and consistently uniform way”? If yes, then “an orderly and consistently uniform way” as Christianity informs it provides no stable basis whatsoever for inductive inferences. As Brian Knapp concedes, Christianity does not affirm that the universe is “absolutely uniform” (“Induction and the Unbeliever,” The Portable Presuppositionalist, p. 140). If not, then miracles, which “are at the heart of the Christian position” (Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, p. 27), are incompatible with the uniformity of nature. Either way, the Christian position destroys all foundations of induction.

Dave asks: “Again, how do you justify your belief in objectivity? Saying existence exists independent of conscious activity begs the question;”

How does pointing to a fundamental fact “beg the question”? Dave does not explain. If the primacy of existence is axiomatic (as I have stated), then it is not the conclusion of a prior inference. So there’s no opportunity for informal fallacies of any kind to enter in. Again, Dave has failed to considered these matters carefully and is attempting to interact with them before he’s understood them.

This elementary deficiency infects pretty much everything he’s offered here.

Regards,
Dawson

June 10, 2014 4:51 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave wrote: “The concept ‘future’ presupposes ‘time’, that is it!”

It presupposes much more than this. Even more fundamentally, it presupposes existence, identity and action. Thus it presupposes the truth of the Objectivist axioms. They are inescapable. They provide the basis for the objective formation of the concept ‘future’ qua: the continuation of existence from the present.

Dave wrote: “It does not presuppose or denote the regularity in nature.”

It does if it presupposes the axioms. Recall that regularity or uniformity in nature, properly understood, means the concurrence of identity with existence. Thus if the concept ‘future’ presupposes the axioms of existence and identity, as I have affirmed, then it does in fact presupposes regularity in nature by way of implication.

Dave wrote: “The ‘world which we perceive’ is present it has not been perceived in the future seeing as though no one has experienced the future.”

The concept ‘future’ does not denote an object, but a continuation of the objects which exist. Since time presupposes existence, existence exists outside of time. Existence is eternal. Time can only take place if things exist. Time is essentially the measurement of motion, and is thus epistemological in nature. What time measures – motion, action, activity – is metaphysical. So again, the trap that Dave is falling into here is the failure to grasp the distinction between the objects we perceive and the concepts we form to denote those objects and relationships which we discover about each. We learn nothing about these matters from the bible. The bible nowhere speaks to the relationship between consciousness and its objects, the proper way to form concepts, the meaning of concepts like ‘existence’ and ‘future’, etc. The bible offers no answers on the questions that Dave himself raises here.

Dave wrote: “We rather project our present perception of nature into the future because we assume its regularity.”

Actually, we do not project “perceptions” into the future. Rather, we make inferences utilizing concepts which we have formed on an objective basis. That’s what Objectivism holds anyway. The bible, of course, has nothing to say on how the human mind does this, so again Dave is afloat with neither paddle nor rudder on these matters.

Regards,
Dawson

June 10, 2014 5:16 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave wrote: “You start by saying one must clear the slate of all ‘assumptions’ but then turn around and say that we must identify an objective starting point i.e. the fact that existence exists. If one were to abandon all assumptions the assumption that there is such an objective starting point should likewise be abandoned.”

Dave is lost in a level confusion here. Having an objective starting point and stating that we need such a starting point are not on the same level. Our need for an objective starting point is more fundamental than our recognition of this need. We don’t start with the “assumption” that we must clear the slate of all assumptions. We in fact do start with the fundamental recognition that existence exists. Our recognition that this is fundamental and our understanding of what objectivity is work together, subsequently to our starting point, to inform us that we need to clear the slate of all assumptions to identify an objective starting point. Indeed, we do not begin with the assumption that there is an objective starting point. We begin with the starting point and later learn to recognize why this is so vital to knowledge. Indeed, it is something that Christianity cannot offer given its ultimate basis in subjectivism.

Clearly we already know a lot of things. Given its conceptual nature, knowledge has a hierarchical structure. What we need is an objective basis to the structure of our knowledge. We can know this, now, given all that we do know. What’s necessary in discovering what this objective starting point must be is clearing away all the hidden assumptions that we’ve taken for granted and identifying the fundamental basis of knowledge – namely the recognition that things exist, that reality exists, that existence exists. Conceptually, this comes before everything else. The concept ‘existence’ is conceptually irreducible and the fact that existence exists is perceptually self-evident: our awareness of anything affirms it.

What is the alternative that Dave suggests? Reading between the lines here, and given all his emphasis on protecting unidentified “assumptions,” it appears that Dave prefers anything but an objective starting point. This would explain his retreat into the mysticism of Christianity, whose fundamental basis is emotional in nature (cf. Prov. 1:7) and therefore subjective.

[continued…]

June 10, 2014 6:13 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave wrote: “One cannot be philosophically neutral,”

I agree: either one is wholly pro-reality, pro-objectivity and pro-reason, or he isn’t. I’ve made my choice. So has Dave.

Dave wrote: “everybody assumes things which they take for granted at the outset of their reasoning.”

How does Dave McPhillips know what everyone does? Perhaps he’s just assuming that everyone assumes things which they take for granted. But merely assuming something does not make it so.

Dave wrote: “These are our ‘presuppositions’,”

If so – i.e., if “presuppositions” essentially denotes notions that one assumes and has accepted as true by taking them for granted – then all the more reason to sweep them aside and identify an objective starting point. Don’t worry: if some of those assumptions happen to be true, we’ll discover them, and in their appropriate context within the conceptual hierarchy this time. Why should anyone resist this?

Dave wrote: “they are our basic or fundamental beliefs about the nature of reality, knowledge and ethics which are not validated by the methods of science and in terms of which we interprets the world.”

Just as, according to Socrates, “the unexamined life is not worth living,” I would say that an unexamined assumption is not worth holding. There goes the entirety of the bible…

Dave wrote: “To begin with, humans presuppose their own existence,”

Actually, this too, along with the other things Dave mentions here, is something we *discover* - cf. the axiom of consciousness. Only then is it available for us to utilize in subsequent inferences.

Dave wrote: “Your very statement assumes that a worldview built on subjectivism is wrong, and therefore you have cleared all assumptions by assuming.”

Actually, assuming is not the means by which I have cleared all the assumptions. The process which I have used is called reduction. It is by means of this method that I confirm not only the fundamentality of my starting point, but also its truth and its objectivity. That a worldview built on subjectivism is wrong is not my starting point; rather, this too is a subsequent discovery.

Again, I strongly urge Dave to make the choice to begin examining these matters with much greater care and more maturity.

Regards,
Dawson

June 10, 2014 6:14 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I had some more thoughts to offer in response to Dave's comments here...


I had written: “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.”

Dave replied: “Again, we do perceive objects over time because we presuppose that knowledge can be gained concerning them, which presupposes that objects exhibit certain characteristics that are unique to them and are therefore unchanging characteristics.”

This is more unchecked rationalism on Dave’s part. The fact that we can and do perceive objects over time does not rest on any ideational content that we might happen to “presuppose.” A dog can perceive an object over time just as a spider can, just as a human being can. Perception gives us awareness of entities qua entities – i.e., as irreducible wholes. Organisms with highly developed senses – including many birds and of course mammals like human beings – have the ability to observe the entities which they perceive continuously from moment to moment. This ability and even the action of doing so do not depend on some “presupposition” that one happens to hold. Again, the error in Dave’s understanding can be traced to a failure to grasp properly the relationship between perception and conceptualization. Perception comes before conceptualization. No, you will not learn this in the bible. I challenge Dave to show us where the bible discusses this.

Dave wrote: “This ultimately assumes the uniformity of nature, something you have not yet rationally justified.”

As I’ve pointed out numerous times already now, the objective understanding of uniformity has its basis in the axioms: uniformity is essentially the concurrence of identity with existence. Try to think of anything that exists that does not have a specific identity. There is no such thing. It is impossible. It would be something that is something and yet nothing in particular; its attributes would exist but in no specific way or measure. It might have a color, but no color in particular; it might have some shape, but no shape in particular. It might have attributes, but no attribute in particular. The recognition that to exist is to be something specific is the axiom of identity. Since the axiom of identity applies to everything that exists, the uniformity of nature is directly axiomatic by virtue of expansion.

We do not have to “prove” that nature is uniform. Proof presupposes the truth of the axioms. Proof is essentially the formal process of logically reducing that which is not perceptually self-evident to that which is perceptually self-evident. If I see something before me, I do not have to prove that it is something before me – that there is something before me is perceptually self-evident. I may misidentify it, but this is why we need reason: reason inherently presupposes both non-omniscience and fallibility. Hence it would be an instance of the fallacy of the stolen concept to say that the Christian god, which is imagined to be both omniscient and infallible, is rational. Rationality would be completely superfluous for such a being.

[continued…]

June 11, 2014 1:16 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I had written: “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.”

Dave replied: “How do I know you are assuming things? By the fact that you are attempting to apply the laws of logic in your reasoning.”

Again, Dave answers an epistemological question by citing something other than the methodology that he uses to know something. He does not explain the how of his knowledge here. He simply points to a fact and apparently supposes that answers the question that has been posed to him. It doesn’t. He does not identify the method by which he arrived at what he claims to know.

Dave wrote: “You attempt to construct a rational framework for your philosophical viewpoint, and attempt to refute my position by alleging rational inconsistencies. You are therefore assuming an absolute and universal standard of reasoning (i.e. Laws of logic), a standard that you take to be authoritative and which would apply objectively both to your arguments and mine.”

Here Dave makes the mistake of equating making use of something with assuming something. The two are not the same. Assuming, as I pointed out, is taking for granted some ideational content which one has not critically examined and supposing it is true for reasons irrelevant to its actual content (e.g., one may have heard someone he “trusts” affirm it, and thus he accepts it, assuming that it is true). But to suppose that this is what’s going on in Objectivism is to announce complete ignorance of Objectivism’s fundamentals. Specifically, it ignores the fact that we begin explicitly with an objective, conceptually irreducible starting point and build our knowledge step by step from there. Thus we have solid, objective grounding – as opposed to a vast collection of unexamined assumptions – for our knowledge and reasoning, including our understanding of logic. Granted, to someone on the outside, it may appear that it’s all resting on unexamined assumptions, but to go by mere appearances in such matters risks mistaking something critically examined for something that’s swallowed uncritically in one gulp – like the Christian believer who accepts the entirety of the 66 books of the bible as though it were all true long before he’s read much if any of it.

[continued…]

June 11, 2014 1:16 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave wrote: “If you claim that reason and or the laws of logic are not assumed, I challenge you to validate the laws of logic without assuming the laws of logic in your argument.”

What I’m saying is that Objectivism does not uncritically accept broad categories of assumptions and build on them without understanding whether or not they are true and have objective basis. Here I’m simply trying to keep the meaning of “assumption” as it is typically used in such discussions at the forefront. It does not apply in the case of Objectivism, and if Dave thinks this is what Objectivism is doing, then he is welcome to present his analysis for examination. But this would take much greater familiarity with Objectivism than Dave has at this time (recall that he thought that men building skyscrapers constitutes an example of the primacy of consciousness!), and if he did have such familiarity with Objectivism already, he would not be making such uninformed charged about Objectivism. Dave should simply admit to himself that he knows very little about Objectivism at this point and is primarily reacting to it because it is not theistic in nature and thus considered emotionally threatening to his god-belief.

Dave wrote: “Of course this cannot be done. Everybody assumes things about metaphysics, epistemology and ethics.”

Let’s suppose this is the case. Let’s suppose we have all just blindly accepted any number of assumptions about the world. And in fact, I don’t doubt that many people have done this. But here’s the thing: now that we are aware of this, shouldn’t we examine those assumptions and determine whether they are worthy of holding? Should we examine those assumptions and find out what among them is true, and if they’re true, why they’re true? Shouldn’t we explore the foundations of our knowledge to determine what exactly is fundamentally true, what is in direct contact with reality, what anchors our knowledge to facts, and whether or not we have mistaken something we may merely be imagining as fact? That is the gist of what I’m getting at in this. Throughout it, I sense that Dave is resisting this proposal, that instead of critically examining any assumptions we might hold, that we should instead simply accept that we have assumptions, assume they’re there to stay, and possibly even assume they’re all true based on… on what? On an appeal to authority? On an appeal to “revelations”? On appeal to some supernatural something that we can only imagine? Why? I cannot speak for anyone else but myself, but my mind is far too valuable to me to throw it away on unchecked assumptions like that.

[continued…]

June 11, 2014 1:17 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave wrote: “What I would like to know is how do you account for your assumptions in a rationally meaningful way?”

If Dave is still asking things like this, I can only suppose that he’s not been grasping what I’ve tried my best to deliver directly into his hands. It may be that he is attitudinally unteachable.

I had written: “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.”

Dave wrote: “First, Christianity isn’t a form of mysticism.”

According to what Objectivism means by mysticism, Christianity is a classic example of mysticism. See here. Again, if Dave were familiar with Objectivism, he would know this already.

Dave wrote: “Second, Objectivism does in fact start with many assumptions, it assumes objectivity, reason, consciousness, existence, concepts, uniformity in nature etc. one cannot help but assume things at the outset of ones reasoning, nobody is neutral!”

For one, Objectivism is not claiming to be “neutral”. We are wholly pro-reality, pro-fact, pro-reason, pro-man, pro-mind. There’s nothing neutral in such a stance.

Also, Dave does not present any argument for his claim that “Objectivism does in fact start with many assumptions.” It’s quite amazing that Objectivism can be so explicit and expressly forthright about its fundamentals and its detractors still make statements such as this. Existence, identity and consciousness are axioms: they are explicitly formulated statements identifying facts which are implicit in all cognition. Thus they are not “assumptions” – they’re axioms. Assumptions are not explicitly stated; they’re assumed without acknowledgement and often without understanding. That is not the case with Objectivism’s axioms. As for objectivity, reason, the fact that we identify and integrate things we perceive in the form of concepts, etc., these are not “assumptions,” but facts that we discover and, again, identify explicitly and integrate with great care. They are not simply “assumed at the outset” of our reasoning, for we have an explicitly identified starting point which is in fact conceptually irreducible, something Dave will never find in Christianity.

[continued…]

June 11, 2014 1:17 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

I had written: “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. “

Dave replied: “First, Objectivism is an assumption.”

No, Objectivism is a philosophy. It is the Philosophy of Reason.

Dave added: “Second, saying that objectivism is an axiom is assuming that it is self-evident.”

I do not hold that Objectivism (i.e., a comprehensive, systematically integrated philosophy) is an axiom. But the axioms of Objectivism (specifically, the axioms of existence, identity, consciousness and the primacy of existence) are axioms. They are self-evident. They are implicit in every act of awareness, including perception, and the axioms recognize them explicitly and formally.

Dave wrote: “Again, it is impossible to clear away all assumptions and start from scratch,”

If Dave believes this, that’s simply a commentary on the miserable state his worldview has put him in. Notice how Christianity requires the believer to swallow 66 books full of unchecked assumptions as though they were true before he ever has occasion to examine them. I remember testing a Christian friend of mine on just this once some years ago. I asked she if he accepts everything that the bible affirms. Like a good Christian, she said yes. I asked if she had read the entire bible, and she acknowledged that she had only read a portion of it – less than half if I recall correctly. I asked if she accepted as true the story of Jeremiah turning the shoe into a tree. She said yes. When I told her that there is no such story in the bible, she then accused me of bearing false witness against the bible. What she did not get was the fact that her confessional investment had so destroyed her own critical faculties that she was willing to accept anything as true so long as it happened to be affirmed in a certain text. So long as the text affirms it, she was willing to accept it as true even if there’s no evidence for it, even it is as absurd as the example I had given, even if it is as absurd as the examples that really are contained in the bible. After that she stopped trying to evangelize me, which was disappointing. I really did want to discuss these matters with her more.

Dave wrote: “for one thing you are assuming that this is something one ‘ought’ to do which assumes some sense of moral obligation.”

This too is not assumed; it is discovered, explicitly understood and integrated appropriately into the sum of our knowledge at its proper level in the conceptual hierarchy.

Dave wrote: “To ask ‘what is the mind first aware of’, presupposes the existence of the mind.”

Of course. We know that we have minds. Objectivists know this anyway. It is something we have discovered. So there’s nothing illicit about using the knowledge we have already acquired and validated to guide our further inquiry into the nature of our knowledge and its proper basis. That we know the fact that we have minds, does not stop us from asking what our minds are first aware of. In fact, that is a priority so far as I’m concerned: where does our knowledge begin? Where does the content of our minds come from? What supplies the inputs? Our imagination? Our wishing? Or the objects which we automatically perceive in the world when we simply open our eyes?

[continued…]

June 11, 2014 1:18 AM  
Blogger Bahnsen Burner said...

Dave wrote: “You say it is first aware of objects we perceive, again this presupposes perception in particular, sense perception and its reliability.”

Again, we know that we have senses, that they have a certain function – i.e., to give us conscious contact with the things which physically stimulate them (for consciousness is biological in nature). So again, why should we treat such knowledge as off-limits, especially when that knowledge is so crucially relevant to fundamental epistemology?

Also, when a baby perceives something, like a blanket or its mother or a ball in its crib, it does not yet know that it is perceiving something – it simply perceives. This is automatic and non-volitional. We cannot choose to turn off our senses; if we could, we’d never have headaches or the need for painkillers. Also, since it does not know what perception is and it does not even know that it is perceiving in the first place, it is not “presupposing” the reliability of its senses or perceptual functions. Since these are automatic, non-volitional and – importantly - pre-conceptual, the concept ‘reliability’ does not and cannot apply at this level. To push this matter as skeptics so eagerly do, is to indulge in stolen concepts.

Dave wrote: “How can perception be pre-conceptual if one must first assume that sense perception is reliable?”

One does not have to “first assume that sense perception is reliable” – if “first” here means: before perceiving anything. Dave does not even try to validate the premise of this complex question. Again, he has not given these matters the close, careful attention they require. His worldview has not equipped him with the intellectual tools necessary to do so.

Dave wrote: “Assumptions are by nature conceptual.”

Right! Exactly! That’s why they are not present in pre-conceptual cognitive activity, such as sense perception. Give the man a cigar!!!

Dave wrote: “You are right at no point have I considered such a system because such as system is irrational and absurd.”

Dave is leading himself through a pitch black labyrinth and using his blindness as his guide.

Regards,
Dawson

June 11, 2014 1:18 AM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 12, 2014 3:16 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 12, 2014 3:16 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 12, 2014 3:16 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 12, 2014 3:16 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

Dave said,

God, who cannot lie, has promised to uphold the universe in an orderly and consistently uniform way until the consummation of all things.

The mere idea that this imaginary being cannot lie is meaningless. Not just because the being in question is imaginary but because the construct is nonsensical. Whatever this god does would automatically be true. Therefore, this god would say "I never promised such a thing" and this would immediately be true, because whatever this god wishes and commands is true regardless of time, space, and so on.

The idea that "God cannot lie," contradicts the very idea that truth depends on this god. To claim that "God cannot lie," necessarily implies that truth is independent of this god's wishes, thoughts, etc. Therefore that the primacy of existence holds at any "level," not just the "creature" level.

No matter how Christians twist and spin about it, their worldview crumbles under the weight of its nonsensical nature.

June 12, 2014 3:16 PM  
Blogger David Barwick said...

I just listened to the Matt Dillahunty/STB debate. Matt did a decent job making him look silly, but I wish Matt had stopped by and read this blog first.

June 12, 2014 4:43 PM  
Blogger photosynthesis said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 13, 2014 11:11 AM  
Blogger praestans said...

why must me see the bible as 66 books as protestants do? catholics have 73...the ethiopian church has 81 - 35 books in the NT.

Christianity is not agreed as to the extent of canon / scripture (some even making distinction between these two words)

August 31, 2014 12:48 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home