Friday, May 17, 2013

Some Thoughts on Pope Francis’ Recent Condemnation of Capitalism

A news story I read this morning reports that Pope Francis thinks that money is a form of “tyranny.” This is coming from the head of one of the wealthiest institutions in the history of mankind, the Catholic Church.

The story can be found here:

I actually think it is a good thing that the pope came out and made this position of his explicitly clear. The usual M.O. for authoritarians is to obscure their true colors in a cloud of euphemisms, feel-good slogans, apologetic platitudes and contentless bromides which are designed to engender sympathetic sentiments. Coming out and stating openly that one believes that money is a form of “tyranny” is far too candid to be misconstrued. So while I do not applaud anything the pope has stated, it is good that he comes out and shows the world what he’s all about in such unmistakable terms.
According to the article, the pope “said free-market capitalism had created a ‘tyranny’ and that human beings were being judged purely by their ability to consume goods.” Thus it is essentially freedom which the pope despises. According to what he affirms, it is a form of “tyranny” when individuals have the freedom to assemble, to trade with others on a mutually consensual basis, to produce values and earn their own wealth, and to live their lives independently of others. To “even out” the playing field – to erase the wide gulf between “the rich” and “the poor,” freedoms need to be dissolved. This is the essential view of every statist.

According to the pope, “money should be made to ‘serve’ people, not to ‘rule’ them.” I can only wonder what the good pope thinks of a federal government which uses its tax-collecting agency as a means of punishing its citizens. The pope has called “for a more ethical financial system and curbs on financial speculation.” And while the article does not provide any indication of what this “more ethical financial system” might look like (we already know that individual freedom is targeted as the real culprit), this means that “countries should impose more control over their economies and not allow ‘absolute autonomy’, in order to provide ‘for the common good’.” So the pope is surely no friend of capitalism, which means he is no friend of the concept of individual property rights, which means he is no friend of individual liberty. Not by a long shot!

According to the pope’s admonition, in each country, the state is to exercise even more control over individuals’ lives than it already does. The pope is clearly a statist, and this is only consistent with his religious worldview. If someone gets “too wealthy,” this is not a result of successful investment, of rational planning, of producing values that others are willing to trade for, of earning wealth through productive effort. Rather, it can only be the result of some base viciousness that needs to be rooted out and stopped, even if this means the use of force, preferably by some group of men who are exempt from the rule of law (like many government agencies in the United States, and elsewhere in the world, today).

I do notice that the pope himself is living with abundant means at his disposal – far more than I’ll ever enjoy, I’m sure. What kind of productive work has he done over his life in order to earn such resources? What values has he produced? Did he earn his way to his present station? If so, his doing so performatively contradicts the underlying determinism of his view of the world. If not, then he is just another part of the problem he complains about.

Perhaps what folks like the pope resent is the fact that people earn the wealth they enjoy. Whether he wants to acknowledge this or not, many “wealthy” people in the world do indeed fall into this category. Often many people who are wealthy today did not start out wealthy, but worked hard and worked smart, and devoted their lives to their productive goals and earned the values that they eventually acquired. It can only be on the basis of stolen concepts (cf. “all property is theft”) that one can characterizes such individuals as “tyrants.” Such individuals did not acquire their wealth by means of force, fraud or coercion. They earned it. And yet, according to folks like the pope, they have some mysterious “duty” to sacrifice some measure of their wealth to anonymous people labeled as “poor.”

On the other hand, there are those who seek the unearned, some of whom actually attempt to implement ways of disenfranchising others of the wealth that rightly belongs to them. Such persons essentially do not recognize the concept of individual rights and typically think of money as some sort of “necessary evil,” but definitely a form of evil. The “rich” are “filthy” (cf. “filthy lucre,” I Tim. 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7, 11; I Pet. 5:2), so they should be parted from their wealth somehow, either by means of some psychological sanction (e.g., religious guilt motivating “charitable” contributions, tithing, etc.), or by some institutionalized form of confiscation (e.g., the IRS). While the former ensures the breaking of man’s spirit (reducing him to a sniveling, guilt-ridden shmoo anxious to garner approval from authority figures), the latter ensures a greater degree of compliance and provides a systematic means of distributing rewards and punishments.

Like any statist, the pope (whether intentionally or by accident) endorses a view of humanity that is essentially collectivistic in nature. Statists can hardly have a chance at rising in power without resorting to some sort of class-warfare tactics. Here the pope is trading on the age-old “rich vs. poor” paradigm which not only divides all of humanity into two opposing collectives, it also erroneously treats the level of one’s wealth, whether he is rich or poor, as a deterministic state of affairs that is fixed for all eternity. (This is one of the premises of statism that has its roots in the primacy of consciousness metaphysics.) The poor are poor for no fault of their own, and those who happened to have won the lottery of life and own wealth should “help” the poor out of their miserable state, over which they are powerless. Given what is stated in the article, there are no words from the pope encouraging those who are “poor” to become more productive and forge lives for themselves that are not dependent on the handouts of others. On the contrary, the message to the poor here is: ‘You are all victims of other people’s greed, but don’t worry, we will tell those who [allegedly] defrauded you to rescue you from your hardships.’ So any “poor” person taking the pope’s message seriously will find no motivation encouraged in that message to do something about his situation.

The pope’s message brazenly overlooks the moral meaning of money. What is the moral meaning of money? Ayn Rand spelled this out very clearly in her novel Atlas Shrugged:
So you think that money is the root of all evil? . . . Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?  
When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not an ocean of tears nor all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor—your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money. Is this what you consider evil?  
Have you ever looked for the root of production? Take a look at an electric generator and dare tell yourself that it was created by the muscular effort of unthinking brutes. Try to grow a seed of wheat without the knowledge left to you by men who had to discover it for the first time. Try to obtain your food by means of nothing but physical motions—and you’ll learn that man’s mind is the root of all the goods produced and of all the wealth that has ever existed on earth.  
But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth is the product of man’s capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is made—before it can be looted or mooched—made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can’t consume more than he has produced.
The pope complains that “the gap between rich and poor was growing and the ‘joy of life’ was diminishing in many developed countries.” And he blames capitalism for this. Does he blame socialistic worldviews for this, you know, the kind that gave us the Soviet Union, communist China, Hitler’s nationalist socialism, Pol Pot, North Korea, etc.? No, they all apparently get a free pass in the misery index. Does the pope ever stop to consider what form of social policy made the advent of “developed countries” possible in the first place? Are “developed countries” the offspring of the Dark Ages, an outcome of the spread of communism, the result of socialism? Of course not. The very notion of a “developed country” owes its causal heritage to capitalism, the greatest wealth-producing and individually liberating social system known to man.

Ayn Rand gave us the best definition of ‘capitalism’ in her book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal:
Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned. (p. 19)
(For more information on what capitalism really is, see here.)

It is this social system, the social system which recognizes “individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned,” that the pope wants to condemn as the source of the world’s problems. His alternative? Clearly any alternative to capitalism is going to be some form of social system which denies individual rights, including property rights, and rejects the premise that property should be privately owned. Does the pope realize that this has been tried before, and it never resulted in happiness for anyone (even those at the top who could not trust anyone and who could not have relations with others as equal in any moral context)?

By referencing the “joy of life,” the pope draws attention to individual happiness. Happiness is a state of non-contradictory joy, which entails logical consistency between one’s stated purposes and his psychological premises. The presence of psychological conflict will only impede one’s ability to achieve a state of non-contradictory joy. The pope seems to think that mere possession of money is the source of an individual’s joy, when in fact the source of an individual’s joy is progress in achieving his own purposes. But if one adopts a worldview which insists that his own purposes are sin-ridden and wicked, that they are borne of iniquity and bound to “the flesh,” which is next to evil if not evil outright, then his capacity for non-contradictory joy has been systemically sabotaged by the worldview which he is expected to adopt as his driving conviction. If one’s worldview teaches an individual that his greatest moral destiny is to sacrifice himself, either to others or to some imaginary non-entity which is supposed to worship, he will only jettison his source of non-contradictory joy along with everything he is expected to sacrifice. Moreover, the degree to which he retains that source can only mean that he is not conforming to his worldview’s teaching, for he would not be sacrificing according to what his worldview teaches. A worldview which teaches along with this that there is “joy in suffering,” will only encourage men to seek their happiness where it cannot be found.

Christianity thus sabotages man’s very capacity for happiness. (If you're still not sure on this, see here.) If Pope Francis were truly concerned about increasing the level of happiness in human life around the world, he should renounce Christianity and adopt a genuinely pro-man worldview, namely Objectivism. But this will never happen. Given Christianity’s repudiation of selfishness, its teachings can never lead men to happiness and its leaders could never allow men the psychological freedom necessary for happiness. Thus we should consider the importance of the nature of one’s philosophical outlook to the efficacy of his efforts in achieving happiness. If the worldview which one adopts undermines the preconditions necessary for achieving happiness, he will not be able to achieve a state of non-contradictory joy. A worldview which teaches that there is “joy in suffering,” for instance, will only lead to the miseries which Pope Francis complains about when that worldview is adopted on a mass scale throughout a community.
At a speech before foreign ambassadors in the Vatican, the pontiff stated that “The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly human goal.” Typically people go out and earn their money and use it to make living their lives possible; they use it to buy shelter, food, clean water, clothing, furniture, education, health care, etc. What is “unhuman” about these goals? How would people pursue these goals without money? Money is a means of trading values among individuals who live independently of each other. Why does he think this entails a “cult” or “dictatorship”? What alternative to trading values in the context of non-coercive relationships does Pope Francis have in mind? What goals does Pope Francis think people should be pursuing? Does the pope think, as many altruists have throughout history, that the mere existence of poor people on the planet constitutes a lien on everyone else’s livelihood and happiness? I submit that a mentality such as this – e.g., the view that everyone is his brother’s “keeper”, that everyone is responsible for everyone else’s welfare – is what will sabotage man’s purpose, happiness and quality of life.

Pope Francis complains that “While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling.” But if money is so evil, this state of affairs should imply that evil is being eradicated from among the majority. But something tells me that the pope is not comforted by this. He urges greater control over individuals and thus less freedom for individual human beings.

“Unchecked capitalism” is, according to the pope, what is responsible for creating “a new, invisible, and at times virtual, tyranny.” But what is capitalism? As we saw above, capitalism is the social system which is founded on the concept of individual rights. However, thanks to such cultural forces as Hollywood, socialist professors and the Age of Envy, many seem to think “capitalism” is primarily an economic system, namely one founded on the pursuit of wealth with no concern for the moral implications of the means by which it is achieved. But this is a straw man and in fact is precisely what the alternative to capitalism inevitably amounts to. What socialistic system consistently recognizes the individual’s right to his own property? Blank out.

According to the article, the pope “loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but the Pope has the duty, in Christ’s name, to remind the rich to help the poor, to respect them, to promote them.” So the pope’s “duty” is simply to remind everyone else that they should (or “have the duty to”) “help the poor” and “promote them”? So once the pope has finished reminding everyone to do this, his “duty” is fulfilled, and yet everyone else needs to start working on fulfilling the “duty” that the pope has dispatched to them? Who gives the pope or any other person the right to issue “duties” to others? If the pope does not think everyone has a “duty” to “help the poor” and “promote them,” why should anyone do these things?

Under capitalism, every individual is free to help others or refrain from helping others. But those who think man is a duty-bound herd animal resent the very notion of such freedom and seek ways of divesting men of such freedom to one extent or another. Thus they can only find themselves in league, philosophically speaking, with any state that institutionally subjugates its citizens according to rights-suppressing policies and programs. At the end of the day, this means that any consistent religionist is philosophically joined at the hip with the statist. Both view the free individual as an enemy and a rogue who needs to be constrained and forced to comply with whatever program they seek to implement.

by Dawson Bethrick


Ydemoc said...


I haven't had a chance to read your latest blog entry yet, but I plan to do so a little later this afternoon.

In the meantime, I wanted to draw your attention to another "condemnation of capitalism," which I was reminded of after seeing the title of your blog entry. It's from, a commentary by Paul B. Farrell: "Capitalism is killing our morals, our future / In a Market Society, everything is for sale."

I was going to leave a comment for Mr. Farrell, but I didn't see where to do so.


Justin Hall said...

To all that would condemn capitalism I ask "and what would you propose in place of it?" To date nothing I have heard is any better and a lot are demonstratively worse.

Ydemoc said...

Off-topic I know, but I was just ressarching a few things as I continue to craft my response to DanOhBrian, when I came across something from Anton Thorn's site which really resonated with me, especially in light of the interactions I've had with my Christian relative:

Thorn writes: "I consider any time someone condemns me or anyone else to 'going to hell' and 'suffering all eternity' simply for not accepting mystical ideas, to constitute a death threat. The threat of hell has only one purpose: to compel obedience. Believers who employ this threat to badger or intimidate non-believers simply reveal their own worldview's elevation of death to a place of high importance and their own worship thereof. In this sense, I agree completely with George H. Smith, who writes:

'The threat of punishment for disbelief is the crowning touch of Christian misology. Believe in Jesus - regardless of evidence or justification - or be subjected to agonizing torture. With this theme reverberating throughout the New Testament, we have intellectual intimidation, transcendental blackmail, in its purest form. Threats replace argumentation, and irrationality gains the edge over reason through an appeal to brute force. Man's ability to think and question becomes his most dangerous liability, and the intellectually frightened, docile, unquestioning believer is presented as the exemplification of moral perfection.' (Atheism: The Case Against God, [Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1989], p. 169.)"


Bahnsen Burner said...

The common complaint against capitalism typically revolves around the fact that people create wealth. But those who condemn capitalism act as though capitalism is responsible for creating poverty. “The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer,” goes the old saying. But capitalism did not create poverty; poverty existed long before capitalism ever came along. What capitalism did is provide a way for people to create wealth. Capitalism is not the cause of poverty – it’s the remedy for poverty!

Now the real issue I see with capitalism is that of individual liberty. The haters of capitalism are generally concerned about wealth, poverty, disparity, financial empowerment, etc. “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money” – B.H. Obama. But they do not express the concern that people should be free. Rather, they think government controls are needed to “correct” the disparities they find between different *groups* (collectives) of people, which only means a curtailment of freedoms. In practical terms, this translates into who controls the means of production (and wealth-creation), which thus means that this control, essentially by means of policy, winds up in the hands of a few governmental elites who had nothing to do with the creation of the means of production and wealth-creation in the first place. How is that just????

Don’t the haters of capitalism realize that, if people are truly free, some are going to go out and create wealth for themselves, while others will not, for whatever reason? When people are free, people are free to be productive or non-productive. Some will choose to be productive, some won’t; some will succeed, some will fail. So “disparity” is unavoidable when people are free. What we’ve had is at least a relatively good deal of freedom (by comparison to previous eras and current situations in other parts of the world), and some went out and created wealth for themselves while others did not create wealth for themselves. That’s going to happen when people are free.

But the haters of capitalism resent this *outcome*. They want everyone to be at the same level – they want everyone to be “equal” in terms of outcome, and they treat this desire of theirs as having primacy over everyone else’s lives. But this “equal” outcome can only be achieved by limiting freedoms, including most importantly property rights. They are willing to deny people their rights in order to achieve the outcome they want, i.e., the end justifies the means. Either way you slice it, this is evil. And it’s exploding right now before our faces.

Everyone should be alarmed by what’s happening now, but in fact everyone should have been alarmed a long time ago. Rand was blowing the whistle back in the 50’s and 60’s, and people laughed and sneered at her. Many are still laughing and sneering, while millions are unemployed, some 48 million are on food stamps and another 10 million are on some kind of “disability.” But meanwhile people’s freedoms are being quickly eroded, and all due to policies that have been put into practice. The destruction we are watching take place now is not the result of some natural disaster, a hurricane, tsunami, earthquake, drought, etc., but of policy. It is man-made destruction of the good that is happening. It is deliberate.


Anonymous said...

Good points Dawson. It's sad to see the USA go the way of the USSR, but it's beyond the tipping point and ,me thinks, cannot be saved. Next time a republican administration get elected, it'll be operating in a new context of normal established by the Obama administration. Some new republican president may be able to roll back or ameliorate a bit of Obama's statist theme, but most of Obama's effect will remain in place for the duration until the USA collapses and fails. At least, that's what I think.

I appreciate Dawson correctly identifying Capitalism as a social system where individual rights and liberties are protected rather than a bifurcated economic system glued onto society.

Thanks for a good blog.

Anonymous said...

For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors—between those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and that the good is to live it. ~,_the.html

Ydemoc said...

Hi everyone,

Following-through on letting everyone know when I was done with my response to Dan O'Brian, I would like to announce that I have published "Part I" of my reply. It is available here on Dan's blog:

Even though most of you already familiar with the material, perhaps you'll enjoy reading it anyway.

"Part II" should be up shortly.


Anonymous said...

Hello Ydemoc. Thank you for taking time and expending effort to compose an O-ist response to Dan's rather silly mysticism. I'll give it a read tonight after I return home from the gym. Have a great weekend everybody. Best and Good too.

Anonymous said...

Hello Ydemoc. Thank you for taking time and expending effort to compose an O-ist response to Dan's rather silly mysticism. I'll give it a read tonight after I return home from the gym. Have a great weekend everybody. Best and Good too.

Ydemoc said...

Hi Robert,

You wrote: "Thank you for taking time and expending effort to compose an O-ist response to Dan's rather silly mysticism."

You're welcome. It was quite a challenge, pulling it all together. Of course, I relied heavily on the works of others, and it is probably way too long, but I wanted to make sure I was accurate and covered everything thoroughly.

You wrote: "I'll give it a read tonight after I return home from the gym."

Great! Let me know what you think it. Also, "Part II" has been posted and is currently awaiting approval from Dan.

You wrote: "Have a great weekend everybody."

You too.


Ydemoc said...


Dan O'Brian has published "Part II" of my reply. It is available here:


Ydemoc said...


Dan O'Brian has published "Part III" of my reply to him. That should be the final installment, unless I need to make clarifications or corrections.

Here's the direct link to "Part III":

And, once again, "Part I" can be accessed here:

And "Part II," here:


Thanks for giving it a read! And no problem at all on the delay.


Anonymous said...

I just finished reading part 2 of Ydemoc's interaction with Dan at

Good stuff and well written. Thanks again Ydemoc.

l_johan_k said...

Maybe this could be of interest for you. It is a presupp. who attacks the axioms:

best regards.

Justin Hall said...

Hey guys just thought you might find some amassment in this. I am sure you all remember Michael (blow my top) Rawlings. Well over at his blog he is still pimping the math proves god thing. This time he has a link to an article which asserts that eight fulfilled prophesies prove the existence of god with odds better then 1 to 100,000. Problem is they all concern Jesus who's actual historical existence is far from proven in the first place.

Ydemoc said...

Hello, "I_johan_k",

Thanks for the link. It seems that Jason Peterson, the author of the piece, ran into someone on Facebook who had some familiarity with Objectivism.

Based upon my selected read of the piece, it appears Mr. Peterson has very little familiarity or understanding of Objectivism, and that he is just shooting from the hip in response and/or repeating pressupositional apologetic slogans.

For example, the individual familiar with Objectivism, Mr. Peterson wrote: "I already answered, truth is merely correspondence with reality and logic is thinking in accordance with that reality based upon self-evident truths such as existence, identity and consciousness.”

Mr. Peterson responds with: "The way you define truth and reality like a conclusion rather than a presupposition. In order to determine what truth is by your definition you should be able to validate that it corresponds reality. But then how would one go about deciphering reality and then arrive at ultimate truth from an inductive basis? Atheists only have one option for building a foundation for epistemology and that in inductive reasoning. However, inductive reasoning does not deal with absolutes. It only deals in probability. But if things are only known by probability then you end up with an infinite regress of uncertainty."

Here are a few other missteps by Mr. Peterson:

The person familiar with Objectivism correctly identifies the axioms: existence, identity, consciousness.

Mr. Peterson's complaint?: "... existence itself has no epistemological benefit, for there are things that exist that have no knowledge."

And then: "...consciousness provides no foundation for epistemology for other assumptions beyond consciousness must be made."

And then this: "...your axioms don’t provide any epistemological benefit. If your basis for discerning truth is inductive you can’t have any sort of epistemic certainty. You are only left with probability. If this is the case, then by relying on axioms you are contradicting your own worldview.(Again.) Thus, your foundation for epistemology is self contradictory."

And this: "...when you make absolute statements such as 'There is no God' or 'I can have knowledge without God' you are merely falsifying your foundation for epistemology and thus falsifying the atheist worldview."

And: "There is nothing that we have stated that commits the stolen concept fallacy."

Need I go on?

Mr. Peterson writes: "There are multiple 'how to debate a presuppositionalist' sites out there. Every single method that I have seen atheists use I have seen fail."

I did a search on Mr. Peterson's blog for the following names: "Dawson Bethrick," "Anton Thorn," "Incinerating Presuppositionalism," "Objectivism," and "Ayn Rand."

None came back with hits, leading me to surmise that he has had little to no in-depth exposure to quality Objectivist atheology.

But we already knew that, didn't we?

Perhaps it's time to clue him in.


Justin Hall said...

uh that was meant to say amusement:)

Justin Hall said...


Yeah I read his post too and all I could think was "hey buddy nice strawman but Objectivism is over there"

Ydemoc said...

A correction:

The following sentence in my last comment should read: "For example, responding to the individual familiar with Objectivism, Mr. Peterson wrote..."


Justin Hall said...


you said "Perhaps it's time to clue him in."

I would say yes great fun as well. However I have come to the conclusion that there is no point id debating or even discussing anything with an authoritarian except for the comic value it might have.

Ydemoc said...


If I knew Mr. Peterson would actually take the time to examine the ideas over here, I could just provide him a link to Dawson's nine-part series with RazorKiss, located here:

And here:

Maybe there's a way to do that without looking like I'm just dropping off a drive-by link -- perhaps a little engagement, then the link, then more interaction, then another link, etc.


Anonymous said...

Hello Good Morning: Ydemoc makes a good point here. These conversations are only fun if the counter party chooses to engage. It's unlikely Peterson would respond to mere links. Religious people desperately want to believe in their fairy tales and so will ignore any ideas they may think are even remotely contrary to their fantasies. For instance, I asked one of my religious coworkers if he as a devout was familiar with Humes' philosophical skepticism. He immediately went into mental defense mode curling into his theological shell because he thought I was attacking his faith. However, I explained that Humes' skepticism was his friend as a Christian because it portended that humans are incompetent to comprehend what existence, casualty ,and consciousness are. I further informed him that if indeed humans are competent to obtain objective knowledge of existence, casualty, and consciousness, then they would know consciousness is a prioritized relation between themselves as subject of thought and perceived objects of thought wherein the objects have priority. He responded with complete befuddlement indicating his evangelical protestant religious catechisms hadn't included lessons on Humes, skepticism or philosophical realism.

Thanks for the links to Dawson's interactions with "Razorkiss". That should be a fun read while I'm recovering from the last two workouts.

Best and Good.

l_johan_k said...

Also, if you ppl. by any chance also have a fb-account >> please, feel-free to join the group "Presuppositional Apologetics is Dead" and discuss these matters. :)

best regards,

Justin Hall said...

@Ydemoc, Robert, Dawson. I posted a reply to the resupper Ydemoc brought to our attention recently. It was to fun to pass up.

Ydemoc said...


Over on Peterson's blog?


Anonymous said...

Hello Friends. During my morning commute I read Rand's essay "Who Is The Final Authority In Ethics." Wow, she eloquently and concisely smashed all forms of subjective whim based ethics in 2038 words. She was an awesome intellect. The essay is online at

I'll make time to drop by and read Justin's comment. Although, I'm still a neophyte O-ist, perhaps I'll be able to recognize an obvious fallacy and will get my muse on to specifically identify it and foundational axioms it violates.

Best and Good

Unknown said...

Thank you, Dawson. Before I was presumptuous and posted willy-nilly, I wanted to make sure that it was O.K. with you.

So, I will try my best to whittle our correspondence down to the main ideas, but being that I am not by any stretch a philosopher or logician, it is often hard for me to accurately separate the chaff from the wheat, as it were. I can start by saying that I am not really even sure with what "label" to classify myself . I think this frustration comes through both on my end and his. We will start with the point where requisite pleasantries have been exchanged and I begin to state my views.

From Him:

My main question for you, given naturalism, is this: how can naturalism account for the kind of conversation that we think that we're having? Given naturalism, mind is reducible to brain. (Sam Harris has, more than many of the other New Atheists, attempted to bite this bullet, denying free will, etc.) But if a brain is just a really complicated clump of electro-chemical activity, in what way is our conversation here meaningful? As one apologist put it, aren't we just doing what our brains do at this temperature and pressure? The kinds of judgments that we seem to be making about truth and morality, without which this conversation is simply pointless, don't seem to be possible given physicalist assumptions.

In a fully Christian worldview, however, this conversation makes complete sense. As image-bearers of God, we would expect to find ourselves discussing these kinds of things, and we would expect that the universe around us is ordered in such a way that our conclusions *matter*.

This is why I ask about the purpose of the universe. If the universe is indeed purposeless (as it must be, given naturalism), this conversation is truly pointless (although we can pretend otherwise). You might be "right" in some sense about the universe, but if you are, does it matter? In the absence of any real meaning in the universe, you have to invent some purpose for your life, to make daily living possible. Maybe I've just done the same thing, with Christianity. Given naturalism, neither your fairy tale nor mine is relevant. We're all just pretending.

But I don't think that you think that. I think that you think your ideas are *right* and *meaningful.* Rational people *ought* to hold them. But I can't see naturalism accounting for these legitimate inclinations.

This is the nature of a transcendental argument. What I contend is that, if you're worldview is right, you can't rationally account for our having this discussion.”

Unknown said...

From Me:

Our lines of questioning presume that a world view can provide the necessary groundwork for the comprehensibility of reality. Have you ever consider whether this is even an accurate assumption? We would all love to think so, wouldn't we? But let's be stalwart and continue on like a blind guy whacking at a pinata, shall we?

I can help direct our conversation a little bit though. I might be able to elucidate my position a little bit better. You said:

“Given naturalism, mind is reducible to brain. (Sam Harris has, more than many of the other New Atheists, attempted to bite this bullet, denying free will, etc.) But if a brain is just a really complicated clump of electro-chemical activity, in what way is our conversation here meaningful?”

First of all, although I don't like it and although I find it a trivializing and understated way of putting it, I will grant you that mind is reducible to brain in the naturalistic approach. But it is reducible in the same way wood is reducible to ash. You can't turn a brain into a mind (so far) any more than you can turn an ashes into a spruce. Secondly, your thinking might be pre-judging of atheism. Not all atheist believe the same thing, much the same as Protestants. Atheism is not a worldview in and of itself. We must look at other ideologies to help with a worldview. Whether Sam Harris or anyone else wants to make free will a write-off is entirely up to them. Considering our vague understanding of the topic of free will, any definitive statement one way or the other is merely speculation. Just because some atheist are explaining away free will doesn't mean we all are.

But again, what makes our thought processes possible are basic cognitive tools such as object awareness, automatically formed perceptions, memory of perceptions, volitional consciousness and the mental process of measure-omitted induction to name a few of the basic. Our sciences and understanding of the issues related to cognition are just beginning to bud so it is still unclear to what natural process we owe our thanks, but studying our relatives here on earth will inevitably give us insight. It is undeniable that we have come a long way since the days of Aristotle and Christ and we have made leaps and bounds since the days of Descartes. Give science some more time and there will be a whole host of enlightening things come to our attention. I happen to hold to volitional consciousness and I do so without any compromise to my belief in naturalism. I hold to free will and I hold that we can have interactions meaningful to us all based on our level of evolved consciousness.

Unknown said...

You said:
“The kinds of judgments that we seem to be making about truth and morality, without which this conversation is simply pointless, don't seem to be possible given physicalist assumptions.”

The fact that you can't see how an opposing world view can find a source for truth and morality is autobiographical. Which is fine. Nothing wrong with that, if that's the kind of conversation we're going to have. But I am intrigued by your choice of words here. You are switching my worldview of naturalist for that of a physicalist. Either way, I am neither. I would never argue that all that exists is physical. All that exists, exists. Consciousness exists but it is not physical. But it does arise biologically. I am a methodological naturalist in that, I do not believe in the supernatural (as opposed to a metaphysical naturalist) and this worldview, though related to materialism is not synonymous with it. I believe all that we see and know is from natural origins. To go beyond my methodological naturalism I must look to other philosophies to inform my view. But as a volley, given that the Christian God has no respect or concern for human values, how does having him as your starting point, in any way, help you to determine human values?

You said:

“Maybe I've just done the same thing, with Christianity. Given naturalism, neither your fairy tale nor mine is relevant. We're all just pretending.”

“But I don't think that you think that. I think that you think your ideas are *right* and *meaningful.* Rational people *ought* to hold them. But I can't see naturalism accounting for these legitimate inclinations.”

I am not going to attack your fairy tale; not yet, anyway. But you're right in that naturalism doesn't have a built-in system for making truth and value judgements. But that's like finding fault with evolution because it can't explain the evolution of a species that is yet undiscovered. But it does allow that our faculties for rationality developed natural without appealing to supernatural agents. It is by this natural rationality that we then determine “right” and “meaningful” “should” and “ought”. And if we do not pay close attention to the epistemology of our reason we are prone to stray. We stray precisely because there is no supernatural agent guiding us. It is precisely because we do not receive revelation from an omniscient and perfect being that we are all prone to err. No one is exempt. But there is an assumption in your above assertion that assumes that I can not derive an “ought” from my worldview. While it is true that I can not derive a duty from a fact, it is not true that I have no tie between the two. I have my objective values as a biological entity, which are based on my “fundamental alternative” (life vs. death) and facts based on reality that do not conform to conscious intent, and I have my consciousness. These serve to help me form a code to apply to the task of living on first, an individual basis and secondly, a social basis. This is just a cursory view and depending on how you want to delve into this topic we can leave a detailed argument for later times.”

Unknown said...

From Him:

Given, then, the assumption of metaphysical naturalism, why does it matter what I think about metaphysical naturalism? In other words, if I (by choice or sheer neglect) opt to reject naturalism, have I made a *bad* choice? One that I *ought* not make? If so, on what basis would you make that claim?
I take it that the conversation that we are having is one that is aimed at “truth.” Furthermore, I take it to be the case that both of us believe that *something* obligates us to argue in certain ethical ways, and that, when faced with certain kinds of arguments or evidence, that we *ought* to concede the point. This kind of conversation, then, assumes that a person who will not abide by these strictures is in some relevant way derelict in his duty. He has failed in terms of his obligations.
(...) the pursuit of truth is not simply a game that we occupy ourselves with. We think that this is transcendentally important. And so again what I’m asking is this: given the commitment to the metaphysics of naturalism, how can this conversation be of that kind? Where is the sense of obligation grounded? *This* is what I mean by the meaningfulness
You rightly ask, in one of your chains of questions, about the possibility that we are able to create meaning, even if the universe, taken as a whole, is without purpose. It seems to me that, given the assumption of naturalism, that really would be the only viable option. But it doesn’t seem to me that this explains the kind of conversation that we’re having. Such a move seems to reduce the value of rationality to something as arbitrary as the rules of chess: “That idiot over there won’t play right!” someone might exclaim. But no one would say that there is a reason that he *must* play chess right. I think, again, if I violate principles of good thinking and argumentation, you’d want to make a stronger claim against me. And I don’t think that the notion of “creating our own meaning” allows you to make that claim.
Let me get right to the heart of this: there exist organizations that insist that humanity is a plague on this planet, and that the world would be better if we went extinct. They advocate for voluntary extinction, not by murder or suicide, but simply by refraining from reproducing. Are they wrong? If so, why? Is there a non-speciesist answer to that question, given naturalism?
One last thought. You raise the prospect, in your last message, that perhaps it is not the case that "a world view can provide the necessary groundwork for the comprehensibility of reality." I think this an absolutely important line of inquiry, and another reason that I find naturalism unsatisfying as a rational position. Given naturalism, there is simply no good reason to assume that our cognitive faculties give us truth (this is Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism). If Christianity is true, however, we have reason to believe, being image-bearers of God, that our thoughts (in an admittedly finite way) comprehend reality.
This would be another way of stating the argument I've already presented: the kind of conversation that we're having here *presupposes* certain things that only hold given Christianity. This conversation is quite groundless otherwise.”

Unknown said...

Now, this is where it sits. I realize I have made some errors so far and I don't want to proceed until I have a clear understanding of both the errors I've created and a better idea of the issues in my friend's argument. I know they are there, but I just don't know how to proceed.

I do know that I would rather ditch the whole topic of “meaning” for now and focus on his “one last thought” of the above. What I am saying is that, to me at least, I was thinking that I should pursue the idea raised in Dawson`s string of posts entitled, “Can A Worldview “Provide” The Preconditions of Intelligibility” ( and see what arises from there.
So, now I turn to you all and await your advice and thoughts on this matter.

Yours In Humanity,

Justin Hall said...


Nah, I posted it over at mine. I was pretty snarky and honestly I see no point in debating authoritarians. I wrote up my response more for the intellectual exercise then anything else.

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Daniel,

Thanks for posting portions of your conversation with your friend.

I do not have time right now to review it all, but I have saved it and will examine it later. I did look at some of the things your friend stated in your first comment above, and I have a ton of things to say in response to it all - none of it to the advantage of your friend's position. It appears that you also replied to him and his response to you is where things currently stand.

My reaction to his initial piece will likely differ from yours if you are trying to defend something called "naturalism," which - as I've come to learn - needs to be defined on a case by case basis since there seems to be many different conceptions of what this is supposed to mean.

On the other hand, I do not defend "naturalism" nor do I call myself a "naturalist," not only because these do not seem to have very stable meanings, but also because I do embrace Objectivism and therefore consider myself an Objectivist. I do not know if either you or your friend have much familiarity with Objectivism, but what Objectivism has to offer shatters the assumptions and claims that your friend is making here at their very roots. Hopefully I'll be able to give some indication as to why I think this, but that will have to wait. Perhaps this weekend if I get time?

Until then, others may want to chime in with reactions of their own.


Ydemoc said...

Your theistic pal wrote: "Given naturalism, mind is reducible to brain."

Given Objectivism, I like how Dawson answered a similar charge from Greg Bahnsen:

Dawson writes: " does make sense to speak, for instance, of validity and invalidity in an argument, or talk about premises and conclusions, if we have concepts. In fact, concepts not only allow us to speak of issues regarding validity of argument, but also of electro-chemical reactions in the brain. (Without explanation, Bahnsen says the physical brain as if he had to specify it in contrast to a non-physical brain.) And yet, it is specifically a theory of concepts which Bahnsen lacks in his bible-based worldview. So ironically, he is accusing non-believers of something he himself cannot produce: an account of human reason.

Incidentally, the reason why an electro-chemical event in the brain cannot meaningfully be said to be valid or invalid, is not because the supernatural is real, but because concepts of validity apply to conceptual methodology, and electro-chemical events are not a conceptual methodology. Had Bahnsen understood this in full, he would have seen the philosophical futility of this application of his apologetic."

I also found this helpful, also from Dawson: "Why is 'mind not fundamental' according to 'philosophical naturalism'? Is it the same answer that Objectivism would give? Objectivism holds to the primacy of existence. While this subsumes the view that 'mind is not fundamental,' it is not entirely equivalent...

Of the versions of philosophies styling themselves as 'naturalism' of one kind or another (e.g., 'metaphysical naturalism,' 'philosophical naturalism,' etc.) which I have examined, I have noted that none explicitly affirm the axioms of existence, identity and consciousness as their founding concepts. Moreover, none affirm the primacy of existence as Objectivism informs it. These failings allow for the tendency to metastasize into outright materialism, which entails a denial of the axiom of consciousness (which is explicitly self-contradictory)."

I would also ask your theistic pal to tell me on what page his bible speaks to all these matters. What chapter and verse can we find it speaking directly about a theory of concepts? Or reason? Or the proper orientation between a subject and its objects?

Where does it state explicitly, that reality (the realm of existence) does not conform to the contents of consciousness? That things are what they are, independent of of anyone's wishes, desires, resentments, emotions fantasies, etc.? (Anton Thorn)

I put this together fairly quickly, so I may have missed the mark in a few areas. But in any event, I hope some of what I've presented helps out.

Perhaps more later.


Unknown said...

Thank you all for your feedback so far. It is more helpful than you all can possibly know.
@Dawson: Thank you for passing these notes on to your blog. I as for my “label”, when I left behind the strict transcendental presuppositional Christian upbringing of my youth, I spent many years in “limbo” as I did some soul searching, reading, and studying, I explicitly chose NOT to have a label. Now that I have explored the other options in worldviews and found all of them deficient, I cannot tell you what a breath of fresh air finding your blog (which subsequently led me to Ayn Rand) has been for me. Now I want a label and as far as “naturalism” goes, I have seen the problems you have noted for my own. This is precisely why I tried to explain to my friend that I am a methodological naturalist. This sort of naturalism is restricted strictly to issues of science and would be where philosophical naturalism would get its bite. I have not yet stated to him that I consider myself an Objectivist (even though my familiarity with it is only a few months old). He doesn’t want to define the presuppositional argument (big surprise; a presupp’er not wanting to define something ;)), instead he stated he would rather just employ it. So, I see no need to be forthright with him on my tricks either. Why not just employ Objectivism against him?
Thank you again, Dawson, for everything.

Unknown said...

@Ydemoc: Thank you for a lengthy and detailed response. The time you spent is not taken for granted.

I have already read/saved Dawson’s “Theistic Misuse of the Concepts Meaning, Value and Purpose” (along with his entire archive) and found it immensely helpful. This is precisely why my friend continues to try to explain what he means by “meaning”. I badgered him (and continue to do so) to define his terms but so far all I am getting is abstract analogies and ambiguousness. On par I guess. I was just wondering if he did indeed present his version of “meaningfulness” appropriately and if perhaps it was just me who is failing.
As far as your list (a-e) I understand where you are coming from here, but what I think he is trying to do is to be one step before all that and “presuppose” that none of the points raised in your list “mean” anything or would exist if it weren’t for us being “image-bearers” of his god.
Thank you for reminding me about that quote from Dawson’s, “The Axioms and the Primacy of Existence”. I completely forgot about it. I guess that is the one down fall of finding Dawson’s work: there is just so much good information I just can’t keep track . It’s a good problem to have!
The conversation that you quote between Dawson and Bahnsen, is precisely what I needed. Thank you. And thank YOU, Dawson.

In Humanity,

Anonymous said...

Hello Daniel. Nice to meet you. I hope all is well with you and yours.

Ydemoc commented on your theistic friends question:

"My main question for you, given naturalism, is this: how can naturalism account for the kind of conversation that we think that we're having?" Ydemoc's response is spot on. A different tactical maneuver that may be of benefit to you it to challenge your friend to prove he is really saved. Dawson pointed this out in his blog at

Since all concepts of proof rest upon the metaphysical primacy of existence and objectivity, then any theist who takes up the challenge automatically contradicts themselves via stolen concepts or performative inconsistencies.

Best Regards in the Volitional Choice to always love my own life and think with my own mind.

Ydemoc said...

Hi Daniel,

You wrote: "Thank you for a lengthy and detailed response."

You're welcome! And, as I stated recently in a post on another blog, doing so allows me to further integrate material which I was familiar with. So in that sense, thank you!

You wrote: "The time you spent is not taken for granted."

I can tell -- your comments below reflect your appreciation.

You wrote: "I have already read/saved Dawson’s 'Theistic Misuse of the Concepts Meaning, Value and Purpose' (along with his entire archive) and found it immensely helpful."

Nice! And if I find anything else that I think may be helpful to you, I won't hesitate to post it, (in fact, I may do so shortly, as I still have a few outstanding items of interest which I didn't have time to peruse and/or post, yesterday)

As a matter of fact, here are a couple them right now!

Objectivist Answers

Objectivism Online

You wrote: "This is precisely why my friend continues to try to explain what he means by 'meaning'."

What, no definition in his bible?! The very book which provided the inputs for his god-belief? A book about an invisible magic being which he claims that without, life would have no meaning!? Shocking!

You might try this angle: Ask him if he thinks the concept "meaning" can be reduced, ultimately, to the perceptual level of awareness, i.e., if it is a valid concept that fits within a hierarchy of knowledge, and is based upon and tethered to reality.

If he asks you what you "mean" by all this, refer him to Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, p. 133, where Leonard Peikoff writes:

"Reduction is the means of connecting an advanced knowledge to reality by traveling backward through the hierarchical structure involved, i.e., in the reverse order of that required to reach the knowledge. 'Reduction' is the process of identifying in logical sequence the intermediate steps that relate a cognitive item to perceptual data."

Or, refer him to p. 136:

"In regard to higher-level concepts, reduction completes the job of definition. The purpose of a definition is to keep a concept connected to a specific group of concretes. The definition of a higher-level concept, however, counts on the relevant lower level concepts, which must themselves be connected to concretes; otherwise, the definition is useless.

Reduction is what takes a person from the initial definition through the definitions of the next lower level and then of the next, until he reaches the direct perception of reality. This is the only means by which the initial definition can be made fully clear."

After he's done this homework (and perhaps a bit more), ask him: So where is a god needed in all this again? Where again is faith needed in the acquisition and validation of knowledge? Somewhere along the line, I must have missed the role that "faith," and/or "god" plays in all this. Could you please tell me where they fit?

You wrote: "I badgered him (and continue to do so) to define his terms but so far all I am getting is abstract analogies and ambiguousness. On par I guess."

Yes, not dissimilar to what we get from his storybook.

You wrote: "I was just wondering if he did indeed present his version of 'meaningfulness' appropriately and if perhaps it was just me who is failing."

Well, I'll have to look more carefully, I suppose, at your exchanges to answer that very question myself. Regardless, he still should try and address at least a few of the comments I raised earlier about "hierarchy" and "reduction." But he'll probably refuse or be unable to, probably because he's so immersed in the idea that all knowledge comes from on-high.


Ydemoc said...

You wrote; "As far as your list (a-e) I understand where you are coming from here, but what I think he is trying to do is to be one step before all that and 'presuppose' that none of the points raised in your list 'mean' anything or would exist if it weren’t for us being 'image-bearers' of his god."

Maybe ask him how it is in any way coherent to posit something prior to that which provides the basis for all knowledge, i.e., the perceptual level, i.e., reality, i.e., existence, consciousness, identity.

I've noticed that theists often attempt this maneuver: leaping backwards, prior to that which provides the basis for all knowledge in the first place, in an attempt to prop up or make room for their god. But if all knowledge starts with what the axioms explicitly identify (which it does) and if the primacy of existence obtains (which it does), then the only place the theist is landing when attempting such a leap, is merely a product of his or her imagination.

You wrote: "Thank you for reminding me about that quote from Dawson’s, 'The Axioms and the Primacy of Existence'."


You wrote: "I completely forgot about it. I guess that is the one down fall of finding Dawson’s work: there is just so much good information I just can’t keep track . It’s a good problem to have!
The conversation that you quote between Dawson and Bahnsen, is precisely what I needed. Thank you. And thank YOU, Dawson."

Again, my pleasure. And here are some other links to more of Dawson's stuff that may have slipped your mind. I think they could be useful:


Answering Dustin Segers’ Presuppositionalism, Part II: The Nature of Logic

In this, Dawson address in detail the following question from Dustin Segers': "If you believe that only matter exists, (a) how do you account for the immaterial, universal, propositional, immaterial [sic] laws of logic given your philosophical materialism apart from an appeal to God and (b) how to you make sense out of our obligation to be rational?"


Considering Tony's Offerings

In this blog entry, Dawson skillfully refutes and shows to be absurd, such groundless charges from Tony as:

"But if you pause and think carefully—reflecting deeply and using only your naturalistic, materialistic worldview assumptions about the nature of reality you will find that you cannot even validate, in terms of your own worldview, your own personal existence..."


"It seems in blogging about metaphysical and epistemological matters, you should be able validate (in terms of your own materialistic worldview assumptions) the personal existence of you yourself, the blogger."


"If you are honest, given your worldview assumptions, you are actually only embracing matter—any personal nuance in the understanding of, and relating to, your loved one can only be but an irrational figment of your materialistic worldview's imagination."

Perhaps more later.


Ydemoc said...


One more thing...

I was just reading Dawson's "Considering Tony's Offerings" and I thought this quote from Dawson might be useful to you:

"...Indeed, any flaws in my worldview are irrelevant to a serious case for validating the claim that the Christian worldview is true or that a god exists. My worldview could have all kinds of flaws, and your god could still be imaginary. So if you want to validate your belief that your god is something more than just a figment of your imagination, you need to focus on presenting that validation, not on finding some fault in my worldview.

Put it this way: the conclusion that your god is real does not logically follow from the premise that my worldview is somehow flawed. You need an argument. But you don’t present one."

I thought this might be something to keep in mind when dealing with your apologetic pal, whether you consider yourself an Objectivist or not.


Anonymous said...

Hello friends: I owe myself a debt in the form of an apology to you as Objectivists and fellow Homo Sapiens. When I was a young man I practiced social metaphysics and surrendered values as an intellectual appeaser in lieu of membership in a group of savages, a Christian cult. Please forgive me for throwing away my intellectual integrity when I was younger. Although I was then as now of only average intelligence, by consistent effort and diligent application I could have become a key person in a worthy capitalist enterprise to the benefit of all. However, to my credit I did come to my senses in time to salvage my self-esteem. Now its time to work and be proud, so chat ya later.

Best and Good

NAL said...

Daniel GodIsTime:

In a fully Christian worldview, however, this conversation makes complete sense. As image-bearers of God, we would expect to find ourselves discussing these kinds of things, and we would expect that the universe around us is ordered in such a way that our conclusions *matter*.

That is exactly why the Christian worldview is a human invention, it satisfies human psychological needs, as long as you don't dig too deeply. Afraid of death? The Christian worldview offers eternal life. Need purpose in your life? The Christian worldview even offers a purpose for the entire universe. Want revenge for your enemies? The Christian worldview offers your enemies an eternity in hell. Feeling insignificant? The Christian worldview says that you are the apple of their god's eye.

God's existence must be demonstrated, first. Otherwise, all the ramifications of a Christian worldview are meaningless.

Anonymous said...

Hello friends. Nal observed: God's existence must be demonstrated, first. Otherwise, all the ramifications of a Christian worldview are meaningless.

Peikoff did a podcast addressing the issue of "God".

Since the "God" notion is entirely arbitrary, it's not something that meets the basic qualification for demonstration, and hence is nonsense.

Ydemoc said...

To All,

I fired off a very brief reply to Jason Peterson over on the blog:

It is currently awaiting moderation. I wonder if it will post at all. We'll see.

In any event, here's what I wrote (misspellings, grammatical errors, and imprecisions included) in all its sloppy glory:

Hello Jason,

You make some very interesting statements in your above blog entry.

You write: "..but consciousness provides no foundation for epistemology for other assumptions beyond consciousness must be made. "

I see. So the widest of all abstractions, that which subsumes everything that is, was, or will be, including every action, attribute, relation, etc., (including consciousness), "has no epistemological benefit"? And "the faculty of awareness -- the faculty of perceiving that which exists" (Rand) provides "no foundation for epistemology"?

Could you then please tell me how anyone could have any knowledge at all -- let alone a theory of knowledge -- without something which exists, along with a faculty capable of being aware of it? In other words, how can you even form any concept which would inform such epistemology, without:

A) Existence (an axiomatic concept, answering the question, "Knowledge of **what**?")

B) reasoning, thought, observation, learning, concepts, etc. -- all actions of consciousness, i.e., the axiomatic concept "consciousness" (answering the question **Knowledge** of what?")

C) Identity, i.e., if something exists (existence), then some **thing** exists (identity); it is what it is, A is A.

"Inherent in any man's grasp of any object is the recognition, in some form, that: there is something I am aware of. There is -- existence; something -- identity; I am aware of -- consciousness. " (Leonard Peikoff)

So when you say, "There is nothing that we have stated that commits the stolen concept fallacy," well, you couldn't be more mistaken, for your blog entry -- indeed your entire worldview -- is chocking in stolen concepts.

Do you even have a grasp of what a "stolen concept" is? Your hasty denial above gives no indication that you do.

Perhaps I'll address more of your blog entry later. In the meantime, here's a link that may better inform you as to where I'm coming from. By some of the links on your blogroll (Sye in particular), you may already be familiar with the the auther and his material (but given your interaction above, it's difficult for me to come to that conclusion). His name is Dawson Bethrick:

Anyway, the following is his nine-part series:

RazorsKiss on the Christian God as the Basis of Knowledge

Here is Dawson's interaction with what Dustin Segers has to say about the primacy of existence:

And here is a link to all of Dawson's blog entries in his multi-series "Answering Dustin Segers" on: The Nature of Truth, Logic, The Uniformity of Nature, The Problem of Induction, Objective Morality, and Collectivism, Evil and Slavery.



Ydemoc said...

To All,

Hmmm. I just went over to Jason Peterson's blog entry to see if my reply had posted. I went to the following URL:

Here's what came up:

"Not Found, Error 404

The page you are looking for no longer exists. Perhaps you can return back to the site's homepage and see if you can find what you are looking for. Or, you can try finding it with the information below."

Perhaps this is only a temporary glitch. Perhaps not.

Stay tuned!


Ydemoc said...

To All,

UPDATE: Even though I recognize that my comment and his post could appear at any time, I'm still getting an "Error 404" message over on Jason Peterson's blog.

Fortunately, in anticipation of responding to and interacting with Jason Peterson, I made a full copy of his post.

For now, I think I'll keep the full version in my back pocket. However, if the situation should ever warrant it -- for instance, if Jason should ever drop in over here and I'm in the mood to see some rationalization, backpedaling, evasion, etc. -- then that's when I'll bring it out.


Ydemoc said...

I should also mention that Justin has interacted with a full version of Jason Peterson's post over his (Justin's) blog:


Anonymous said...

I posted a comment on Peterson's blog at

It is awaiting moderation. Here is the text.

Hello Jason from Robert Bumbalough; I too would like to comment on your statement identified by Ydemoc who remarked regarding your post now taken down that was at
and which is cached at

Ydemoc remarked You make some very interesting statements in your above blog entry. about

You [Jason] write: "..but consciousness provides no foundation for epistemology for other assumptions beyond consciousness must be made. "
Indeed this is interesting, for how is it that a person of nominal intelligence could hold such a position of complete skepticism assuming reality and consciousness aren’t real? Surely you’re intelligent enough to understand that your statement is an assertion of fact which itself denies the validity of both existence and consciousness. What purpose could it serve in promoting your religious worldview to embrace such nihilism in the sense of “extreme skepticism, according to which nothing in the world has a real existence.”

Ydemoc provided links to Dawson Bethricks blog where he interacts with more than a few Christian presuppostional internet apologists. Those bog are highly recommended, and if you’d take time to carefully read and compose responses you’ll be sure to have an audience of unbelievers to pitch your case.

Best and Good, Have a Great Day.

Justin Hall said...

Hey everyone, Peterson has his post back up and surprise surprise, no comments by either Robert or Ydemoc.

Ydemoc said...


I went there, but I'm still getting an 404 Error message.


I see that your comment still hasn't posted on the link that you provided.


Anonymous said...

Good morning all.

I left another message for Mr. Petersen.

Hello Mr Petersen from Robert Bumbalough

Yesterday I left a comment regarding the comment of another commenter, Ydemoc, and I see you've either not yet had time to moderate the comments or have decided to not post them. It's of little matter; however, I'd very much like to discuss your presuppositional apologetics case over either at Dawson Bethrick's blog or here. Would you be agreeable to allow Ydemoc, Justin, myself, Mr. Bethrick and some of his readers to engage you in a gentlemanly and civil discussion on these interesting philosophical matters? If so, drop by Incinerating Presuppositionalism and give us a notice.

Best and Good, Have a Great Day

Anonymous said...

Here's a gratuitous Rand quote from the foreward of ITOE. (part 1)

The issue of concepts (known as “the problem of
uni versals”) is phi losophy’s central issue. Since man’s
knowledge is gained and held in conceptual form, the
validity of man’s knowledge depends on the validity of
concepts. But concepts are abstractions or universals, and
everything that man perceives is particular, concrete. What
is the relationship between abstractions and concretes? To
what precisely do concepts refer in reality? Do they refer to
something real, something that exists—or are they merely
inventi ons of man’s mind, arbitrary constructs or loose
approximations that cannot claim to represent knowledge?
“All knowledge is in terms of concepts. If these concepts
correspond to something that is to be found in reality they
are real and man’s knowledge has a foundation in fact; if
they do not correspond to anything in reality they are not
real and man’s knowledge is of mere figments of his own
imagination.” (Edward C. Moore, American Pragmatism:
Peirce, James, & Dewey, New York: Columbia University
Press, 1961, p.27.)
To exemplify the issue as it is usually presented: When
we refer to three persons as “men,” what do we designate
by that term? The three persons are three individuals who
differ in every particular respect and may not possess a single
identical characteristic (not even their fingerprints). If
you list all their particular characteristics, you will not find
one representing “manness.” Where is the “manness” in
men? What, in reality, corresponds to the concept “man” in
our mind?

In the history of philosophy, there are, essentially, four
schools of thought on this issue:

1. The “extreme realists” or Platonists, who hold that
abstractions exist as real entities or archetypes in
another dimension of reality and that the concretes we
perceive are merely their imperfect reflections, but the
concretes evoke the abstractions in our mind.
(According to Plato, they do so by evoking the memory
of the archetypes which we had known, before birth, in
that other dimensi on.)

2. The “moderate realists,” whose ancestor
(unfortunately) is Aristotle, who hold that abstractions
exi st in reality, but they exist only in concretes, in the
form of metaphysical essences, and that our concepts
refer to these essences.

3. The “nominalists,” who hold that all our ideas are
only images of concretes, and that abstractions are
merely “names” which we give to arbitrary groupings of
concretes on the basis of vague resemblances.

4. The “conceptualists,” who share the nominalists’
vi ew that abstracti ons have no actual basi s i n reali ty,
but who hold that concepts exist in our minds as some
sort of ideas, not as images. (There is also the
extreme nominalist position, the modern one, which
consists of declaring that the problem is a
meaningless issue, that “reality” is a meaningless
term, that we can never know whether our concepts
correspond to anything or not, that our knowledge
consists of words—and that words are an arbitrary
social convention.)

Anonymous said...

part 2 of Rand from the foreward to ITOE.

If, in the light of such “solutions,” the problem might
appear to be esoteric, let me remind you that the fate of
human societi es, of knowledge, of science, of progress and of every human
life, depends on it. What is at stake
here i s the cognitive efficacy of man’ s mind.
As I wrote in For the New Intellectual: “To negate man’ s
mind, it is the conceptual level of his consciousness that
has to be invalidated. Under all the tortuous complexiti es,
contradictions, equivocations, rationalizations of the post
Renaissance philosophy—the one consistent line, the
fundamental that explains the rest, is: a concerted attack on
man’s conceptual faculty. Most philosophers did not intend
to invalidate conceptual knowledge, but its defenders did
more to destroy it than did its enemies. They were unable
to offer a solution to the ‘problem of universals,’ that is: to
define the nature and source of abstractions, to determine
the relationship of concepts to perceptual data—and to
prove the validity of scientific induction.... The philosophers
were unable to refute the Witch Doctor’s claim that their
concepts were as arbitrary as his whims and that their
scientifi c knowledge had no greater metaphysical validity
than his revelations.”

These are the reasons why I chose to introduce you to
Objectivist epistemology by presenting my theory of
concepts. I entitle this work an “Introduction,” because the
theory is presented outside of its full context. For instance, I
do not include here a discussi on of the validi ty of man’ s
senses—since the arguments of those who attack the
senses are merely variants of the fallacy of the “stolen
concept.” For the purposes of this seri es, the validi ty of the senses
must be taken for granted—and one must remember the
axiom: Existence exists. (This, incidentally, is a way of
translating into the form of a proposition, and thus into the
form of an axiom, the primary fact which is existence.)
Please bear in mind the full statement: “Existence exists—
and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary
axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that
one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness
being the faculty of perceivi ng that which exists.” (Atlas

Ydemoc said...


Thanks for that quote.

Every time I read her material, I'm reminded how misguided apologists are in thinking that:

1) they have come anywhere close to breaching and/or undermining Objectivism's axioms, the primacy of existence, and its theory of concepts,

2) that they have presented us with anything approaching a coherent case that would justify our accepting their mystical worldview.

So, thanks!


Anonymous said...

Hello Ydemoc

You wrote 2) that they have presented us with anything approaching a coherent case that would justify our accepting their mystical worldview.

When religious apologists claim the Primacy of Existence is invalid they are question begging as David Kelly noted about Descartes first meditation.

Consider, for example,the first Meditation. Descartes begins by seeking any grounds for doubting the truth of his ideas-i.e., for doubting that they stem from and correspond to reality. The first such grounds he finds-sensory illusions and dreams-are actual occurrences, and in these cases we know that reality is not what it seems. For that reason, however, these occurrences could not raise the general question whether reality exists beyond our ideas; to identify an experience as an illusion, one must have enough knowl­edge of the objective facts to know that he is misperceiving them. Descartes therefore rests his case for universal doubt on the hypothesis that an evil demon may be deceiving him about everything. But what sort of ground for doubt is this? illusions and dreams actually occur, but demons do not-the hypothesis is pure invention. As such, it would be completely subjective and could not provide an objective reason for doubting anything. Then why does Descartes suggest the hypothesis? It can only be as a way of concretizing a possibility he has already accepted: that everything we are aware of exists merely as the representational content of our ideas, ideas that do not, because they are modes of consciousness, depend on anything outside consciousness and could therefore be put into our minds by an evil demon even if there were nothing out­side consciousness. In accepting this possibility, Descartes is clearly presupposing the theory of ideas presented later in the Meditations. ~ David Kelly, "Evidence of the Senses", p.15

Unknown said...

Has anyone seen the "Atheist Experience" #567 in which Matt D. and co-host go through their objections to Rand's Objectivism? It is rather old, and I am interested in reading a rebuttal to it. Also, has Bethrick ever spoken with Dillahunty on their differing worldviews and if so, is the correspondence available for a read?

In Humanity,


Ydemoc said...

Hello Daniel,

I recall seeing an episode where they had a discussion on Rand. It was a while ago, and I cannot remember specifics, but I do remember being left with the impression that Matt and his co-host really didn't have a firm grasp of Objectivism.

You wrote: "Also, has Bethrick ever spoken with Dillahunty on their differing worldviews and if so, is the correspondence available for a read?"

I'm really not sure.

As for your interest in reading a rebuttal, if I find anything, I will be sure to post it.


Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Daniel,

You asked: “Has anyone seen the ‘Atheist Experience’ #567 in which Matt D. and co-host go through their objections to Rand's Objectivism?”

I recall some time ago watching a video on YouTube which featured Matt and another individual railing on Rand and Objectivism, but I do not know if it was the episode you specify here. It may have been, but maybe not. Also, like Ydemoc, I do not recall the specifics, but I do recall the speakers reacting at some point against the morality of rational self-interest. I do not recall learning any new or groundbreaking criticisms of Objectivism from this broadcast; rather, it all seemed to be the same, tired, highly emotional venting that we can expect from juveniles who resent getting in trouble for damaging someone else’s property. Their treatment of the issue did not strike me as either philosophically informed or mature in nature.

You continued: “It is rather old, and I am interested in reading a rebuttal to it.”

I have not written a rebuttal to the broadcast that I watched. Frankly, I did not think it merited one, but perhaps you saw something different. But tell you what, if you think there were any criticisms worthy of attention in the episode you saw, perhaps you could post them in a comment and we could have a look.

You asked: “Also, has Bethrick ever spoken with Dillahunty on their differing worldviews and if so, is the correspondence available for a read?”

I know that I have never spoken with Dillahunty, and I do not ever recall corresponding with someone having that name.

In the meantime, I finally got a new entry posted. You can all find it here:

Klouda-ing the Issue


Unknown said...


I was just wondering. I didn't find anything particularly compelling about the “broadcast”, but I figured I would pose the question anyway.

In regards to their treatment of Objectivism, even I found that they seemingly didn't have good grasp on the material. Which is disheartening. They have a popular platform from which to speak and it would be edifying to see them have solid metaphysics at their base.

In Humanity,

Ydemoc said...

Hi Dawson,

Here we go again...

I just came across an excerpt in Salon, from a new book ("Beautifully Unique Sharkleponies") written by Chris Kluwe, a former Minnesota Vikings punter.

The title of the article is: "Here's what's wrong with Ayn Rand, libertarians: A world full of Ayn Rands would be a terrifyingly selfish place, writes the outspoken NFL star in his new book."

I can't say I'm the least bit surprised, though, at how uninformed Chris is, how many unstated premises are lurking within his diatribe, how many things he gets wrong in his excerpt, starting with the very title , i.e., lumping Objectivists in with libertarians: Objectivists are not libertarians. No, I can't say I'm surprised at all, since his worldview is essentially ripped right from the pages of the very book he's criticizing: Atlas Shrugged. Altruistic in the purest sense of the term; a true "hatred of the good for being good" mentality.

Here's the link:

And even if he isn't the one responsible for titling the article, that doesn't get him off the hook as far as I'm concerned. Not even close.

After reading the piece, I came to the following conclusion: Chris needs to get a Kluwe, but I doubt he ever will.

(Like he's probably never heard that one before.)

I'm thinking that it might be worth it to register with the Salon so I can log-in a comment, because this fellow definitely needs some pushback.


Anonymous said...

Good morning all. Ydemoc noted No, I can't say I'm surprised at all, since his worldview is essentially ripped right from the pages of the very book he's criticizing: Atlas Shrugged. Altruistic in the purest sense of the term; a true "hatred of the good for being good" mentality.

It's very common for the enemies of Man to strawman capitalism, Objectivism, Rand, freedom, liberty in order to conflate into a package deal rational self-interest-
egoism with egotistical-sadomasochism-brutality-criminality so as to offer a false dichotomy of altruism vs barbaric aggressive internecine warfare as the only two choices as basis of civilization. There are an almost unlimited number of misinformed people like Kluwe to be found on any of the social media sites. It's good to defend rational self interest as the basis for morality, so it's time study and organize the common responses.

Best, Good, Great Day

Ydemoc said...


With Pope Francis having been named Time Magazine's "Person of the Year," I figured this might be a good time and place to post a link to an article by Michael J. Hurd, where he discusses the pontiff's most recent disparaging comments concerning capitalism.

Pope Francis Blasts America
Michael J Hurd (2013.12.03 )