Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hodge's Hedgings

In the comments section of my blog Presuppositionalist Pseudolosophy, NAL, a frequent visitor, posted in its entirety the blog entry of a Christian blogger named C.B. Hodge. Hodge runs the blog Theological Sushi and the blog entry in question can be found here: Objectivism Refuted

I read through Hodge’s brief entry and posted my own reaction to it in two comments on my own blog, where NAL had originally drew attention to it.

A little later, Ydemoc, another frequent visitor to my blog, posted a comment over at Hodge’s blog entry informing him of my critique of his refutation of objectivism (note the small ‘o’ here – it appears that Hodge has some generic understanding of objectivism in mind here; he makes no reference to Rand, Peikoff or other Objectivist author, and he does not interact directly with any of Objectivism’s own stated positions; moreover, he apparently expects his readers to “just know” what he’s addressing, since he provides essentially no explanation of what he’s trying to refute; in his blog entry, Hodge confines his refutation to an attack on the senses, and he presumably expects his readers to learn of his position by perceiving and interpreting the little marks he’s created on his webpage).

So my initial response to Hodge can be found there, in my comment on my blog.

Now Hodge has replied to me, in the comments of his own blog, in reply to Ydemoc’s comments drawing attention to my interaction with Hodge’s piece. So here is my interaction with his response to my criticisms of his “refutation.”

Hodge writes: "In essence, he misconstrues both what I am arguing and to what extent I am arguing for.”

What exactly is he arguing then? Why doesn’t he make more effort to be clear about what he’s arguing? It was clear in his first statement that he essentially thinks there are two opposite realities – one which can be perceived, and another which cannot be perceived. But after this he makes no effort to clarify which of these two realities he has in mind when he uses the word ‘reality’.

Hodge writes: “His rebuttal consists of a tu quoque fallacy.”

This is completely untrue. I do not say that he is in the same boat as I am in. I don’t accept that the problem he ascribes to perception is legitimate in the first place. My point was clear: he ascribes a problem to perception, and yet his solution does not escape this problem. That’s not a tu quoque.

Hodge writes: “I am not attempting to answer the objection here. I am only stating the objection, which he has not sufficiently answered.”

Is Hodge’s view that he has sufficiently stated his objection? If so, then the points I made in my critique stand.

Hodge writes: “Merely arguing that the sense are reliable because we use them automatically is merely descriptive.” What does “merely descriptive” mean? He makes this statement as though “merely descriptive” were some kind of defect of failing. Of course, I did not argue that the senses are reliable simply because we use them automatically. I never even attempted this in my criticism of his post.

Hodge writes: “It says nothing as to whether we are sensing all of reality.”

“…sensing all of reality…”? Who makes the claim that we are “sensing all of reality”? What precisely does it mean?

Hodge writes: “In fact, much of my argument above is pointing out that we have no way of knowing whether we are sensing reality by our senses because we have no one else, in an atheist system, to verify that for us.”

I see. So on Hodge’s view, we need “someone else” to come along and say “Yes, you are actually sensing reality, not something other than reality.” No one ever comes along and tells me that what I'm perceiving is real. I have to figure this out myself. We all do. But Hodge acts like there's a little angel sitting on his shoulder vetting everything he perceives. Why does Hodge think we need this?

Does Hodge ever consider the distinction between perceiving and imagining? I can perceive a rock, a car, a fence, a house, a dog, a human being, a cell phone, etc. But I cannot perceive a god. However, I can imagine one. If Hodge truly thinks that we cannot know on our own that when we are perceiving, whether or not we’re actually perceiving reality, what about when we imagine a god? Does Hodge have any concerns here? If I imagine a god, for instance, am I imagining the right god, or the wrong one? What about him? What’s his solution to this? Christians have been infighting since the days of the Pauline epistles. Essentially they were clashing because different factions imagined the Christian god differently. Neither group could point to anything objective to settle their differences, since they had already retreated into the imagination. Rather, they had to appeal to “revelations” to “validate” their own imagined deity. That’s hardly convincing.

Hodge writes: “All we can do is experience the physical, but this too cannot tell us whether we are experiencing the physical en toto or merely in part.”

Notice that Hodge has moved the goalpost. Before it was a question of whether what we are perceiving was real or not. Now it’s whether we’re perceiving “en toto or merely in part.” If by perceiving “en toto” Hodge means we perceive everything in reality (or in this case, everything physical in reality) all at once, in one gulp as it were, who claims that we do this? Objectivists surely do not. When I perceive, I perceive only those things which exist within the reach of my senses. If I’m on a high vantage point, on a clear day I might see for several miles. Perhaps the furthest thing I can perceive is a star in the night sky, but I perceive it merely as a little speck of light. And that light had to travel to me; my senses do not travel to it. But I don’t perceive Hodge’s immediate surroundings just as he does not perceive mine. So the question is whether or not Hodge is going to allow that the physical is real. Is his own flesh real? Is his skin real? Are his eyes real? Are his ears real? Are his fingers real? These are physical things. Does he really deny their own reality? Why? If his worldview denies the reality of his own physical body, what good is it?

If Hodge does concede that his own physical body is real, does he then deny that the physical objects that he perceives beyond his own physical body – such as the chair he sits on, the computer he uses to type up and post his blog entries, his toothbrush, his slippers, his toenail clippings, his hairbrush, his shaving cream, his tissue paper, etc. – are real? Hodge keeps everything all safely abstract so that questions like this never come up, at least on his side. But I’m raising them. How does he answer them? Are these things he perceives real or not? That’s the question. What’s his answer?

Hodge writes: “Beware of sophistry that doesn't hit the main objection head on.”

Wow, this guy is most ironic!

Hodge writes: “Second to this, the argument that I am implying that there are ‘no means’ to access an accurate view of reality is bogus.”

This sentence is in bad need of editing. What is the subject of “is” in “is bogus”? Is it “the argument that I [Hodge] am implying”? Is Hodge implying a bogus argument?

Hodge: “I can understand a historical event via faith in the report.”

What does the faith part do in enabling understanding? When I examine the report of a historical event, I understand it by integrating the concepts that are used in delivering that report. This is not an act of faith. It is an act of mental integration.

Hodge writes: “Likewise, I can understand all things through a metaphysical view of the universe that is given via report.”

And he uses faith for this, too, I presume? It sounds like a recipe for beaming out if there ever were one. Remember Marshall Applewhite? How about David Koresh. How about millions of Muslim jihadis? They all rely on faith. So did the Inquisitors. When are people going to grow up, put away childish things, are start using their minds responsibly? One can accept any view he wants based on his emotions and imagination and call it “faith.” That is not a path to knowledge of reality.

Hodge writes: “I am not in the position to judge empirically whether my belief has given me an accurate view of reality, but that is my very point.”

And since he’s abandoned reason (he has epistemologically sabotaged his own capacity for reason), he’s also not in a position to judge rationally whether any of his beliefs are “accurate.” That’s my very point.

Hodge writes: “So I am arguing for a species of subjectivism, one based upon faith.” See, Hodge agrees with my point!

Hodge writes: “And that is where everyone must begin.”

And he concludes that everyone must begin with a species of subjectivism based upon faith thanks to a number of subjective premises which he’s accepted on faith. He cannot claim that those premises are objective, for he’s already denied objectivity as such. Essentially, he wants the form of consciousness which he imagines to be real, so his “argument” that everyone must begin with a species of subjectivism based upon faith is driven by theological need, not by facts that he has objectively gathered and integrated into a non-contradictory whole.

Hodge writes: “Hence, my ultimate argument would be that, as a Christian, I believe that man is completely reliant upon God to know the essential nature of the universe and thereby access reality.”

And the Blarko-believer’s ultimate argument would be that, as a Blarko, he believes that man is completely reliant upon Blarko to know the essential nature of the universe and thereby access reality. Hodge’s belief is no better than the Blarko-believer’s. Why believe either of them? “Arguments” which are essentially statements of what one believes which are informed by a species of subjectivism accepted on faith are no substitute for reason. Like the Blarko-believer, Hodge has no alternative but to imagine his god. None of us have any alternative to the imagination when it comes to this. I must imagine Hodge’s god just as he does, if I want to contemplate it.

Essentially, without acknowledging it as such, Hodge is seeking to vindicate the imagination as a reference point enjoying primacy over the things he perceives. What we perceive we cannot be sure is real, he is saying, unless we appeal to some supernatural consciousness which we can only imagine. And somehow this makes perceiving things a legitimate means of awareness. Again, the motivation here is driven by theological need: vindicate the god-belief at all costs.

Hodge writes: “If He chooses to leave one in his deceptions or be led into others, there is no way for a man's belief to be correctly placed.”

So on Hodge’s view, it is very possible (and indeed a reality in the case of many persons) that his god can choose to leave people in their deceptions. There’s nothing that a man can do to overcome this; if the Christian god chooses to leave Hodge in his deceptions, Hodge would be none the wiser. He wouldn’t know that he’s been abandoned by the Christian god to his deceptions. Since he’s lost in his own deceptions, he’d not recognize his deceptions as deceptions; he’d think they’re the gospel truth. There’s no way for Hodge himself to overcome the inherent uncertainty guaranteed by his own theological formulations: “there is no way for a man’s belief to be correctly placed.” This is just one reason why the claim “God has revealed it to me in such a way that I can be certain that it’s true” is utterly hollow. A person making this claim has no means of confirming whether or not he’s got the real truth, or that he’s been abandoned to his own deceptions.

So again, back to my previous assessment: Hodge prefers knowledge no how.

Hodge writes: “If He chooses to lead one out of such a mess via His leading him to the right report and faith therein, then a man can have access to an accurate, analogically based, view of reality."

And of course Hodge wants to believe that this is what’s happened in his case. He has been passively led to the truth by the guiding hand of an invisible magic being which he can only imagine. No method performed volitionally by the human mind can lead to such truth. That’s why the pretense of having an argument to sustain all his bullshit is just a ruse. Argument is a method which man volitionally performs to lead to truth. But Hodge is saying that whether one has truth or not is simply a matter of divine whim: the Christian god can choose to lead a man to truth, or it can choose to let man languish in his own deceptions, like leftovers forgotten in the back of the refrigerator, abandoned to their own rot.

Hodge writes: “So my point is basically that objectivism is self refuting and cannot be revived by merely assuming that the senses are valid because they don't need to be validated;”

For one thing, Hodge has not shown that either objectivism (little ‘o’) or Objectivism (capital ‘O’) is self-refuting. Certainly in the case of Objectivism, Hodge has executed nothing approaching an internal critique, which is what he would need to undertake in order to even have the hope of showing that Objectivism is self-refuting.

On the contrary, I would suggest that Hodge do some research and learn about what Objectivism actually teaches before he attempts to refute it. He clearly does not understand the axiomatic nature of consciousness, and he treats perception as though it were something other than a form of consciousness. The denial of perception as a form of consciousness is, from what I’ve seen over the years, always implicit in any attack on the senses. If we perceive at all, then we are perceiving something – we are aware of some object. This is not an activity which we perform volitionally. In this respect perception is no different from hair growth, the heart beat, digestion, respiration, metabolic processing of nutrients, etc. We cannot simply choose to turn it on or turn it off. If someone drives a screwdriver into your kneecap, you cannot choose not to feel pain. You’re going to feel pain. Is feeling this pain under such circumstances not “valid”? (Strictly speaking, validity has to do with formal argument, but those who attack Objectivism typically do not grasp this.) Imagine going to a surgeon who’s accepted Hodge’s view of perception:
“No, that screwdriver in your kneecap has nothing to do with your subjective experience of pain. The senses are not valid! You can’t say that the senses are valid simply because you’re assume they’re valid! How do you even know that there’s a screwdriver sticking out of your kneecap? You don’t think the senses need to be validated? Well, you need to have faith! That’s all! Here, have faith in my invisible magic being, then you can say that what’s sticking out of your kneecap is a screwdriver and that what you’re experiencing really is pain!”
All the while, the surgeon expects you to hear his words – i.e., to perceive what he is uttering – and that you’ll be able to learn the content of what he wants to communicate by means of perceiving his utterances. Thus he performatively refutes his own position regarding the validity of the senses, just as Hodge does when he expects visitors to his blog to learn what he wants to say in his blog entries by perceiving the little squiggles on the computer monitor.

Consider the following dialogue between a subjectivist denier of the validity of the senses and an Objectivist:
Subjectivist: “The senses are invalid. You couldn’t know that they give you awareness of reality unless you had access to another reality which you cannot perceive.”  
Objectivist: “So you’re saying there are two realities?”  
Subjectivist: “You’re misconstruing my point. Beware of sophistry that doesn't hit the main objection head on.”  
Objectivist: “Well, what exactly is your point?”  
Subjectivist: “That you need faith in a metaphysic, that you need belief in a reality that we cannot perceive in order to know what reality is independently of yourself in order to measure your perception by it and establish the idea that what you perceive is in fact reality.”  
Objectivist: “Again, it sounds like you’re affirming the existence of two different realities – one we can perceive, and one that we cannot perceive.”  
Subjectivist: “You’re misconstruing both what I am arguing and to what extent I’m arguing for. That the senses give us an accurate perception of reality can only be confirmed by belief in a reality we cannot perceive with the senses.”  
Objectivist: “It still sounds like you’re positing two different realities – one which we can perceive and one which we cannot perceive.”  
Subjectivist: “Look, you need to have faith is what I’m saying.”  
Objectivist: “Why?”  
Subjectivist: “Because, my ultimate argument would be that, as a Christian, I believe that man is completely reliant upon God to know the essential nature of the universe and thereby access reality.”  
Objectivist: “But that’s not an argument. It’s just a statement of what you believe. Why do you believe it? Why should anyone believe this?"  
Subjectivist: “Because you can’t know that your senses give you an accurate perception of reality unless you can know what reality is independently of your perceiving it.”  
Objectivist: “So when I see my daughter running to me with her homework and asking me a question about math, I can’t know that this is really my daughter, that this is really happening, unless I have knowledge of this by some means other than by perceiving?”  
Subjectivist: “Again, you’re misconstruing what I’m saying.”  
Objectivist: “I don’t think I am. Where do you get all this?”  
Subjectivist: “As a Christian, I go by the Scriptures.”  
Objectivist: “Do you mean the Christian bible, the Old and New Testaments? ‘It is written…’ and all that?”  
Subjectivist: “That’s right. God’s written revelation to man.”  
Objectivist: “So this is a written text, right?”  
Subjectivist: “Yes, that’s right. It is written, thus saith the Lord.” Objectivist: “So I have to learn what it says by reading it, right?”  
Subjectivist: “Or alternatively, faith cometh by hearing.”  
Objectivist: “But both hearing and reading are perceptually-based activities.”  
Subjectivist: “Well… er, umm…”  
Objectivist: “Which means just to learn what you’ve stated here about the senses not being confirmably accurate without prior knowledge of what reality is through some other, as yet unidentified means, I have to rely on sense perception.”  
Subjectivist: “Er…. Well… now you’re misconstruing again…”  
Objectivist: “And in the case of the Christian bible, this is something I must read, right? I need to read the letters on the page in order to learn what it’s saying, right?”  
Subjectivist: “Well, explain this, then. How do your senses and black squiggles on paper or sound convey meaning and abstract concepts? Explain that, smart boy!”  
Objectivist: “Well, how did you know what appears on the paper are black squiggles?”  
Subjectivist: [pause] “Umm…. I can’t answer that question.”
Hodge’s original argument implied that his view is that there are two different realities, and that (without taking his own implication into account) that one would need to have knowledge of reality independently of his perceiving of it in order to know that his perception of reality is “accurate.” This is unmistakably clear in what he originally wrote. And yet, Hodge identifies no means other than perception by which we can have awareness of the things we perceive. Again, when I perceive my daughter coming to me with a homework problem, do I really need to have awareness of her by some means other than perception in order to confirm that my perception of her is “accurate”? It is at this point – with Hodge’s use of “accurate” – that he invites confusion between perception and identification. Without clearly distinguishing between perception and identification, Hodge allows himself to fall into a very common trap, which we’ll see below.

But before moving on to that, I want to revisit a point I had made in my interaction with Hodge’s original blog entry. And that is that, if I need to have awareness of reality by some means other than perception in order to confirm that my perception of reality is “accurate,” why do we get to just assume that this alternative means (whatever it might be – Hodge has not indicated any means other than perception by which I could have awareness of my daughter coming to me with a homework problem) is “accurate”? Why wouldn’t we need yet another means of accessing reality in order to confirm that this alternative means of accessing reality is “accurate”? And so on, into infinity. At no point does Hodge seem aware that his position invites this line of inquiry, and yet when it is raised he accuses me of the tu quoque fallacy. This is not a tu quoque fallacy – I’m not the one who’s saying that we need access to reality independent of perception in order to confirm that our perception of reality is “accurate.” This is necessitated by his premise that perception needs to be confirmed by some means of accessing reality independent of perception. The point is that, if one means of accessing reality cannot be confirmed as “accurate” without using some means independent of it, then what allows us to automatically assume, as Hodge seems most willing to do, that this other means gives us “accurate” awareness of reality? Hodge does not address this and is utterly mistaken in characterizing it as a tu quoque.

Now, as to Hodge’s hapless confusion of perception with identification, note his objection to the view that the senses “don’t need to be validated because they are already in use.” In reaction to this, he states:
That is like saying that a dog need not validate whether he judges a rose to be black and white, since he automatically does not see in color already.
Notice that Hodge has again shifted the issue. Originally the issue was whether or not perception is valid. Now it’s whether or not the identification of what one perceives is accurate. These are two different matters, and yet it is extremely common for those who attack the senses to confuse the two. Identification is a conceptual task, and it can only come after we perceive things, for it is what we perceive that we identify, just as in the case of Hodge’s example of the dog. Hodge has moved away from whether or not the dog has actually perceived something to whether or not it has accurately judged the color of what it has perceived.

Hodge then writes: “Such is the stuff of nonsense.”

Boy, if he only knew!

Hodge goes one: “We know, having higher senses than the dog, that the true color of the rose is not black or white, but red. Its senses are not meant for it to have full access to reality. They are only meant to help it function in what it needs to do in its world.”

The point which Hodge makes here confirms Objectivism rather than argues against it. The color in which we perceive something is one of the forms in which we perceive it. This is dictated by various particulars of the set of eyes doing the perceiving. If I perceive a rose and I perceive it as red (apart from what I judge it to be), I have no choice about this. This has to do with the interaction between my senses and the objects which stimulate them. We perceive objects according to their nature just as we perceive in a particular form according to the nature of our perceptual faculties. All these are factual parameters that are preconditional to any experience we have. We do not choose to perceive something that’s really blue as something that’s red. If another organism comes along and perceives the rose which we see as red, but perceives it as blue, this would be due to the particulars of its perceptual faculties. Indeed, if we, seeing the rose as red in color under normal lighting conditions, look at the same rose when the light is very dim, it may appear to be a different color. The point is that the form of our perception is just as “objective” as the object we perceive in the sense that it is not subject to our preferences, wishes, etc. It is not a matter of “faith” or “belief in a metaphysic,” that we perceive the rose one color or another. Perception is more fundamental than belief. This is what attacks on the senses like Hodge’s fail to acknowledge.

Hodge continues: “Hence, I am not arguing that no reality can be known through the senses, but that only partial reality can be known.”

What exactly is this intended to mean? And how is this supposed to integrate into Hodge’s refutation of Objectivism? What is it in Objectivism that he is reacting to here? Objectivism does not claim that we perceive everything in reality. While sitting here in Bangkok, Thailand, I am not perceiving the living room of my house back in the United States. Nor do we say that, when we see a rose, we see things inside the rose that are not accessible to vision. For instance, if I see one side of the rose pedal, I’m not seeing the back of the rose pedal at the same time. I’m only seeing the surface of the pedal that is facing me and from which adequate light is being reflected.

Now, if Hodge is suggesting that there are things in reality which are by their very nature beyond the access of any of our sense modalities (sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell), he needs to argue for this. He should not special plead his case here, insisting that we need to validate the senses while giving himself a free pass from having to validate claims about some “reality we cannot perceive with the senses,” especially if he indicates no method by which we can reliably distinguish between what he calls “reality we cannot perceive with the senses” and something he may merely be imagining.

Hodge continues: “That's why his division of my argument as confusing two realities doesn't understand what I'm saying. These are not two realities, but one reality that can only be accessed fully via faith and reason together.”

I readily admit that there may be aspects in Hodge’s view that I do not understand, but I would hasten to add that this is not due to my inability to understand things, but rather due to his failure to articulate his position in a coherent and consistent manner. But his first statement very clearly affirms two different realities. Let’s look at it again:
Hodge wrote: “That the senses give us an accurate perception of reality can only be confirmed by belief in a reality we cannot perceive with the senses.”
On a plain reading of this, there is (according to Hodge) on the one hand a reality which we can perceive and, on the other, “a reality we cannot perceive with the senses.”

Now, it could be that Hodge meant something other than what he has written here. But in that case, this would be his mistake, not mine. So again, I would urge that he put more care into expressing his own position so that it is not so easily misunderstood.

Also, I would point out that faith and reason are not compatible. Faith rests on the primacy of consciousness metaphysics while reason requires the primacy of existence. These are not reconcilable. I’m guessing that, if Hodge does not accept this, he does not have a very good understanding of reason; he may not even understand faith very well for all we know.

Hodge writes: “One must have faith in a metaphysic in order to attempt to describe the whole of reality.”

Why? What part of the task of “attempt[ing] to describe the whole of reality” is beyond the reach of reason? Hodge does not explain this, nor does he attempt to argue for it. He simply asserts it and leaves it at that, and presumably his readers are expected to accept it on his say so. I don’t.

Hodge writes: “One does not need a metaphysic in order to attempt to describe the part of reality one can access via the senses.”

Perhaps Hodge needs to explain what he means by “a metaphysic,” and then explain why “one does not need a metaphysic in order to attempt to describe the part of reality one can access via the senses.” I suggest Hodge put some effort into defining his terms, explaining what he wants to say with greater care, and – finally – actually putting an argument before his conclusions. It would also help if he simply identify his ultimate starting point. In the interest of doing so, he should take care to make sure it really is fundamental – i.e., conceptually irreducible – and identify the means by which he has awareness of what he takes his starting point to be.

Hodge writes: “Hence, the problem surfaces when one attempts to use the reality that he can only access through the senses as all-encompassing.”

What exactly is that problem? I perceive objects and formally recognize the fact “existence exists.” This recognition is all-encompassing – it encompasses everything that exists. It leaves nothing that exists out. And yet, I did this by beginning with perception and then forming concepts on the basis of direct perceptual input. Where’s the problem? Hodge has identified no problem here.

Hodge writes: “It is at that point, the point when one attempts to say something more about reality than the senses allow, that faith in a metaphysic comes to light."

The senses do not disallow the formation of concepts. The senses simply provide the initial input for concept-formation. Since concept-formation involves the process of measurement-omission, the conceptual level of cognition expands our awareness beyond that which we immediately perceive. This does not require an appeal to “a reality we cannot perceive with the senses,” but rather a process of abstraction from perceptual input. It does not require that we posit a supernatural consciousness which magically installs knowledge in our minds, a supernatural consciousness which we can only “access” by means of imagining it. Rather, it requires us to recognize the fact that what we imagine is not real, that what we perceive is real, regardless of whether we like it or not. Thus I doubt Hodge is suddenly going to adopt a warm attitude towards Objectivism (big ‘O’) in spite of his flailing errors in trying to take down objectivism (little ‘o’).

by Dawson Bethrick


NAL said...

B.C. Hodge has elaborted:

It [his metaphysic] allows me to know that the universe and its characteristics are not illusions.

"Existence exists" does this coherently.

Metaphysics discusses the essential nature of the universe, not merely its physical characteristics. Hence, questions concerning the physical nature of an object of study is what I use empirical observation and experiential reason to study. Questions that have to do with the essential nature of an object of study, e.g., whether it is purely a physical object or phenomenon, or whether there is a spiritual element to it, cannot be answered by empiricism and experiential reasoning.

So, only the "spiritual" aspect of reality can be accessed via his metaphysic. He imagines an aspect of reality that only his metaphysic can discern. I wonder what his metaphysic tells him about the spiritual nature of a rock.

Yes, I noticed the goalpost moving.

Love the part about using our "unreliable" perception to learn about the metaphysic that tells us perception is unreliable.

Bahnsen Burner said...

Over in the comments section of Hodge’s blog, Hodge addressed a question that NAL had asked in response to something Hodge wrote.

Hodge wrote: “One must have faith in a metaphysic in order to attempt to describe the whole of reality.”

NAL asked: “How has this faith in a metaphysic helped you describe the motion of the Solar System?”

Hodge replied: “It allows me to know that the universe and its characteristics are not illusions.”

How exactly does it do this? Why would anyone think that the universe and its characteristics are illusions in the first place? Where did Hodge get the concept ‘illusion’? By what means does he have awareness of the universe and its characteristics if not by perception?

Meanwhile, we have the primacy of existence. This principle explicitly distinguishes between the subject of consciousness and its objects and affirms that the objects of awareness exist and are what they are independent of the activity by which the subject is aware of them. Without this principle, there is no such thing as a distinction between illusion and reality. But by claiming to have refuted objectivism, he has essentially affirmed that the objects of awareness do not exist independently of conscious activity.

Hodge wrote: “It helps with a number of a priori beliefs needed to establish that my assessment of it reality is to some degree accurate.”

So Hodge has accepted some beliefs that are not acquired and validated on the basis of reason (otherwise they would not be “a priori” beliefs), and his “faith in a metaphysic” “helps with” some of these beliefs in some unspecified manner. It all seems so approximate.

Hodge continues: “However, the question confuses categories of inquiry.”

Really? How so?


Bahnsen Burner said...

Hodge explains: “Metaphysics discusses the essential nature of the universe, not merely its physical characteristics.”

So where’s the confusion? The universe exists. The solar system exists. The solar system moves. Where’s the confusion? What is “the essential nature of the universe” if it’s not the same as all the characteristics that make it up? If the characteristics of the universe are for some reason supposed to be different in nature from “the essential nature of the universe,” how would one go about determining this? Hodge nowhere explains any of this. But it’s clearly a premise that helps drive the rest of what he wants to say.

Hodge continues: “Hence, questions concerning the physical nature of an object of study is [sic] what I use empirical observation and experiential reason to study.”

So it seems we’re back to the two different realities again. Reason is suited to one, but the other needs some unexplained “faith in a metaphysic” to know. What justifies the positing of some other reality to begin with? We already saw that Hodge’s own pre-emptive justification for this leads to an infinite regress. Moreover, it is based in part on a confusion between perception and identification, and in part on an ignorance of the nature of concepts, and motivated by theological need, not by facts.

Hodge writes: “Questions that have to do with the essential nature of an object of study, e.g., whether it is purely a physical object or phenomenon, or whether there is a spiritual element to it, cannot be answered by empiricism and experiential reasoning.”

Just so it’s clear, is Hodge saying that such questions cannot be answered by using reason? This is a yes-no question for Hodge to address directly.

Also, if one supposes that “there is a spiritual element” to something, how does he ensure that he has not mistaken what he may merely be imagining for something real? We do not automatically have knowledge; we must discover and validate it, and we can make mistakes. This is why we need an objective method – this is why we need reason. But Hodge and other mystics treat their mystical claims as though they were immune from error, as though they were infallible in their mystical insights, when in fact it is among their mystical claims that mystics have their greatest clashes and disputes. Once one is on the turf of faith, he’s renounced reason as his method. He has no objective method to guard against error and ensure the truth of his verdicts. This is precisely why faith and reason will never be compatible.


Bahnsen Burner said...

Hodge writes: “Hence, I either must believe a report that claims to be from One who [is] transcendent and knows the essential nature of the object, or I must guess and believe, via pure speculation, that such is the essential nature of the studied object.”

Notice that for Hodge, reason is not even a contender here. Either he must simply accept, on faith, reports that are claim to have come from a supernatural consciousness which he can only imagine, or he must “guess and believe, via pure speculation.” He does not even consider reason. He may think that reason just is guessing and believing via pure speculation. It’s not. But this is probably what has been taught to him and he never questioned.

Hodge writes: “Neither the object, nor my method for studying its physical nature, can tell me whether I have landed on the right metaphysical belief.”

So clearly he’s not employing reason. He tells us this right here. Whatever “method” he is using for “studying,” it’s not reason. Also, by characterizing the end goal as “landing on the right metaphysical belief” suggests that it’s all a very approximate affair of groping and, by luck, finding what he calls “the right metaphysical belief.” How he determines that whatever belief he’s accepted is “the right metaphysical belief,” he does not explain.

Hodge writes: “Yet, the belief itself is necessary in concluding any view of reality that attempts to include its essential nature (which are all views of reality).”

This is Hodge’s theology speaking. However his faith can be characterized as indispensable, it’s a live option, he will likely take it, even if it explains nothing, even if it systemically abandons reason altogether.

It would be interesting, though, if Hodge could explain what he means by “essential nature” and why he continually qualifies “nature” as “essential nature.” Aquinas made the harrowing mistake of treating essence as a metaphysical concept, as though a thing’s existence and its nature were two distinct things. Objectivism rejects this: “Existence is Identity. Consciousness is Identification” (Ayn Rand). By contrast, Objectivism rightly treats ‘essence’ as an epistemological concept, thus avoiding the hazard of blurring the epistemological with the metaphysical, the method of knowing and the object so known.

Hodge writes: “Hence, one must assume a metaphysic in order to conclude a metaphysic. The data in between says nothing about it.”

And round and round we go, like a dog chasing its own tail.


Bahnsen Burner said...

Hodge writes: “So if I was a philosophic naturalist, I have to limit reality [to] what I, and the assumed other minds around me that are in the same boat as mine, can personally perceive.”

Apparently Hodge’s concern is that, if he didn’t take the faith route, reality would be limited in such a way that his theological confessions did not apply. And he wants to avoid this. But his entire approach is backwards. He approaches the matter as one who must accept an unspecified number of “presuppositions” about reality prior to investigating reality and allowing those “presuppositions” (“belief in a reality we cannot perceive with the senses,” “faith in a metaphysic,” “a report that claims to be from One who [is] transcendent,” etc.) to govern what is and what is not accepted as truth about reality.

Also, Hodge seems to resent the prospect of being “in the same boat” with others, even though he, like everyone else reading this, is a human being with a human consciousness and thus neither omniscient nor infallible, able to perceive and form concepts, facing a fundamental alternative between life and death, thus needing to identify what he perceives in order to make living possible, and thus in need of an objective method by which he can reliably identify what he perceives. But throughout all his efforts to refute objectivism (whether big or small ‘o’), he’s continually made statements to the effect that reason is never going to be on his side unless he makes some radical changes in his thinking.

We all start with what we perceive. It’s what we do with what we perceive that is the game-changer. If one wants to evade what he perceives in preference for something one merely imagines, religion is the more philosophically developed result. If one does not seek to evade what he perceives, then he needs an objective method by which to identify what he perceives. But seeking to refute objectivism, Hodge declares war on objectivity. This is only fitting given his devotion to his imaginary god.

Hodge writes: “But whether I have landed on a true view of the essential nature of reality cannot be perceived.”

Hodge clearly wants to narrow the options between directly perceiving something and having “faith in a metaphysic.” Like so many other mystics, he does not understand the relationship between the conceptual and the perceptual. He probably assumes there is no relationship, and in the case of much of what he considers “knowledge,” there is no relationship. But it would not follow from this that the conceptual level of cognition has no relationship to perceptual awareness. It is more ignorance-borne speculation on the part of the theist which closes the door to reason and objective knowledge.

Hodge writes: “I am merely guessing that it is so, and that guess is in the realm of belief, not experience. My experience is then interpreted in light of that belief to conclude other things about reality. But the belief comes first, and it is subjective. Hence, objectivism is false.”

This just confirms my point above, that it’s all ignorance-borne. Perception is more fundamental than belief. But Hodge has yet to understand this.


Ydemoc said...

Hi Dawson,

On the previous thread, I wrote:

"The theist reveals a profound insecurity in positing faith as necessary for the acquisition of knowledge. It's as if the theist senses -- by whatever glowing embers of reason that still remain among all that have been extinguished -- how untenable their position actually is. So to shore things up, they do so with the desperate grasp of: 'Hey, wait! Faith ***must*** be necessary for knowledge. If it's not, the mystical investment I've made has all been for naught and it will come crashing down! And I don't ever ***want that*** to happen!'"

On the blog entry for this thread you wrote: "Essentially, he wants the form of consciousness which he imagines to be real, so his “argument” that everyone must begin with a species of subjectivism based upon faith is driven by theological need, not by facts that he has objectively gathered and integrated into a non-contradictory whole."

What you've written regarding "theological need" is precisely what I was attempting to express.


The Thinker said...

Nice post. I've had many long debates with Hodge in the past on his blog. Presuppositonalists are so very annoying. Hodge's starting point, is literally faith in the infallibility of the Bible, and then he "reasons" from there. He will readily admit that he takes it on faith, but he'll try to accuse you of doing the same thing with naturalism. Naturalism is a conclusion derived from the senses not a presupposition.

He also believes that demons haunt the world and cause suffering. When I confronted him with the evidence that there are natural explanations for diseases and disasters, he tried to rationalize this by saying that demons use the natural laws of physics as their medium. But then their existence and nonexistence is indistinguishable. So belief in them offers no explanatory power, it's utterly redundant. The whole metaphysic in the supernatural, that Hodge clings to, on the power of faith, is utterly redundant.

NAL said...

It seems to me that Aquinas' essence (whatness) is a product of identification and his existence (thatness) is identity. That is, ascertaining essence is a conceptual activity. Aquinas then tries to project his identification onto the existent as some kind of attribute of its nature.

Some Objectivist forums claim essence and existence are the same thing, but I've found nothing from Rand.

Unknown said...

Hello friends,

Hodge wrote: “It helps with a number of a priori beliefs needed to establish that my assessment of it reality is to some degree accurate.”

Witch doctors enthralled with their superstitions and rejecting the evidence of the senses as valid evade realization of the high cost of their magical thinking by ignoring that models of "belief" whether representational, functional, or behavioral, all presuppose contingency to material information as an encoding embodied in atomist, reductionist, material particles that can only be perceived by means of the senses or extensions of the senses via instrumentation. Magical thinking, of course, is directly attributable to active imagination. That's why it's a fallacy. I'm glad this isn't my problem. Many thanks to Dawson for yet another good blog. :) Chreers.

Unknown said...

Best and Good Too.

Unknown said...

Dawson noted: “If I perceive a rose and I perceive it as red (apart from what I judge it to be) ”

This is interesting as it points out a distinction between minds and some aspect of how existence self-relates. Organisms with minds are capable of participation in subject-object relationships and so can judge as well as perceive. Blind forces of nature can’t do that. Now the Christian god is said to be omnipresent meaning located at all spatial points simultaneously doing magic to maintain existence existing. This would mean that it would be unable to distinguish objects apart from itself as all would be it. If Hodges god were omnipresent, it couldn’t think, judge, discern, have propositional knowledge as these cognitive actions all require ability to distinguish objects from the subject. It would be merely an aspect of nature rather like a fundamental force and could not be identified as a mind. Ha LOL. Xanity (and theism) reveals itself to be more absurd every time I think about it.

Unknown said...

Hodge wrote: “That the senses give us an accurate perception of reality can only be confirmed by belief in a reality we cannot perceive with the senses.” and Dawson noted regarding it that "On a plain reading of this, there is (according to Hodge) on the one hand a reality which we can perceive and, on the other, “a reality we cannot perceive with the senses.”

It seems Hodges holds to a species of Cartesian Substance Dualism. How does he deal with the many well known problems with that belief? For instance, How can the non-detectable by any physical means substance(the spirit realm?) interact with physical material substances? How can one causally affect the other? Where do such interactions between the spirit realm and physical reality occur? The list goes on especially since many Christians like Hodge believe that their "souls" and "minds" are composed of such spirit substance. Then a typical question might be how a mind/soul with free will can control a physical body subject to deterministic forces.

Not to worry, magical thinking will rescue Hodge from the evils of reasoning and answer the call of theological need. ;)

NAL said...

While researching the Metaphysics/Epistemology distinction, I came across this: Essential Meanings:

We can get rid of essences altogether, and instead hold that the sorts of modal properties we're interested in belong to our linguistic descriptions, not to the objective individual. I really like that idea.

Me, too.

Linguistic descriptions belong in the Epistemology camp.

Unknown said...

The main definition of essence is, “The intrinsic or indispensable properties that serve to characterize or identify something.“ -

The main definition of intrinsic is, “1a : belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing“ -

The main definition of indispensable is, “Not to be dispensed with; essential.“ -

The main definition of essential is, “Constituting or being part of the essence of something; inherent.“ -

The secondary definition of constitution is, “The composition or structure of something; makeup.” -

The xantian god is said to have an essence that is its knowledge. Nal quoted a source thusly: “We can get rid of essences altogether, and instead hold that the sorts of modal properties we're interested in belong to our linguistic descriptions, not to the objective individual. I really like that idea.“

The source Nal cited hit upon the idea underpinning the Argument from Non-Cognitivism also used by Anton Thorn to show the word “God” is meaningless. The meaning of essence as seen in the above definition chain presupposes existence and nature, so the term essence is that which is stolen by theists to form a bogus concept of an immaterial being. This can be used as a justification for the strong atheist position.

Ydemoc said...

Hi Dawson,

So I moseyed on over to B.C. Hodge's site, to see if he'd posted anything in response to your blog entry. Here's what I found:

Objectivism Again
Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I've yet to read the entire response. However, what Hodge writes at the end (pasted below) demonstrates the absurdities one is forced to defend when accepting a reversal at the most fundamental level: the primacy of consciousness.

Hodge quoting Dawson: "This just confirms my point above, that it’s all ignorance-borne. Perception is more fundamental than belief. But Hodge has yet to understand this."

Hodge then responds: "This just confirms my point above, that it's all ignorance-borne. Perception is not more fundamental than belief when forming concepts, as the reasoned formation needs those beliefs to form it in the first place. But Bethrick has yet to understand this."

Wow. This is just crazy talk.

Am I reading him right? That he thinks beliefs are more fundamental than perception? If so, then among other failings, he has no grasp of the hierarchical nature of knowledge.

A biblical mentality in action.


freddies_dead said...

How the hell does he expect to form beliefs without first perceiving things? Oh, wait, that's right, God magically inserts those beliefs directly into your brain by ... well ... erm ... "mysterious ways".

It's just a mind bogglingly absurd claim.

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Ydemoc,

Thanks for pointing this out. I hadn't seen it. I have saved a copy and will read through it as time allows. I'm several paragraphs in already and already I've seen numerous howlers.

At one point, Hodge writes (he is attributing this view to me):

"The idea that physical objects make up the sum total of reality is a metaphysic that cannot be confirmed through sensory perception. Yet, he still affirms it in his definition of reality."

Seriously, where have I done this? I have never asserted "the idea that physical objects make up the sum total of reality," and yet he say I affirm this as my "definition of reality." He does this right after a paragraph in which he accuses me of setting up a straw man. He does not quote any statement of mine to support his characterization of my "metaphysic."

The guy seems to have his head so far up his own faith-assumptions that he's passing out from his own fumes.


Unknown said...

I'm going to post this question to Hodge.

Regarding the notion of non physical objects, regardless of Objectivism's stance, it seems to me a non-cognitive floating abstraction and stolen concept. What would be the primary attribute of "non-physical"? Lacking such the notion would not have justifiable secondary or relational attributes and so the term "non-physical object" would have no specific referents and would consequently be meaningless.

Ideas and indeed all cognitive content are instantiated brain states and so are physical. Does Hodge mean to imply there can be objects without temporal spacial existence? If so, is he referring to Branes within String Theory's M-Space or regions of True Vacuum within Chaotic Eternal Inflation's False Vacuum? Since there is still space of sorts within each hypothesis and time is what is measured on a clock to gauge passage of action due to events and in both hypothesizes there occur events, then both False Vacuum and M-Space are temporal and spatial even if they lack space-time as in our cosmic domain or universe.

Unknown said...

I posted my comment and question to Hodge at his blog.

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Robert et al.,

Thanks for your contribution!

I have posted a reply to a portion of Hodge's latest blog entry. You can find my new post here:

Just reading through Hodge's blog entry, I can tell that it's a treasure trove of religiously induced hysteria. If you want to observe a mind systematically detaching itself from reality, Hodge provides himself as a specimen for many future lessons.