Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Reply to Matthias on Holy Inference vs. Reason: How Do We Know What’s Inside the Box?

In this post I continue my interaction with Matthias’ comment on my blog Confessions of a Vantillian Subjectivist, a comment that provides abundant opportunity for me to make some very important points. I have already posted one new entry interacting with Matthias’ comment here: A Reply to Matthias on Philosophical Starting Points. More will be forthcoming soon.

In the present entry, I explore the implications of some statements which Matthias made in his comment regarding epistemology – specifically regarding how believers “conceive of how reality must be in light of how God is.” In my exploration of this, I propose a test scenario in which we find sealed box on our doorstep with no indication of what is inside it. The question is: Do we discover its contents by looking inward (e.g., considering what “must be” in the box “in light of how God is” – which I dub “holy inference”), or by looking outward at the facts of reality (i.e., in this case, by opening the box to discover its contents)?

Now, I grant the possibility that I may be misunderstanding some or all of what Matthias wanted to say in his comment. However, I think his words are plain enough, and I’m only going by what he states in what I find to be a refreshingly clear fashion (in conjunction with statements by other Christians of the presuppositionalist bent), and considering how what he states would play out in real-world situations. Since our worldviews are antithetical to one another (purportedly wholly so, according to presuppositionalists), it is important that the differences between Christianity and Objectivism be articulated as clearly as possible. And yes, I would agree that the differences between holy inference on the one hand, and going with reason on the other, are striking. But if I am perchance misunderstanding what Matthias wanted to say here, it will be up to him to correct me.

Matthias wrote:
We conceive of how reality must be in light of how God is (in cases where the Bible doesn’t describe how a certain part of reality is. It’s all systematic in nature, which is appropriate for a worldview.).
Matthias indicates that there is a “systematic” way in which one can “conceive of how reality must be in light of how God is,” and specifies that this “systematic” process (if that’s what it is) applies “in cases where the Bible doesn’t describe how a certain part of reality i.” So he presumably has in mind facts or states of affairs which are real but which are not described by the bible. If the process by which the Christian worldview can guide believers to do this “in light of how God is, is supposed to be “systematic in nature,” I’d like to see it laid out for examination. For example, if my computer is having a problem (a “case where the Bible doesn’t describe how a certain part of reality is”), I’d surely like to know what is the process by which I can “conceive of how reality must be in light of how God is” and hopefully also determine how to fix it.

But I cannot help but suspect that what Matthias is describing here is really just a poorly camouflaged version of the looking inward approach to knowledge that really does not provide any actual answers about “how reality must be.” The looking inward approach to knowledge is one in which the knower consults the contents of his consciousness (e.g., his preferences, wishes, likes or dislikes, emotions, imagination, dreams, etc.) as a source of input about reality. This is contrasted with the looking outward approach to knowledge in which we acquire awareness of facts obtaining in the world independent of our conscious activity and identify and integrate them by means of an objective process.

It would be most instructive to observe how the approach which Matthias describes here would play out in an actual real-world situation. Matthias makes it clear that the approach he has in mind here applies to “cases where the Bible doesn’t describe how a certain part of reality is.” Of course, we encounter thousands upon thousands of situations in our everyday experience which fit what Matthias describes here.

But I’ll throw a more or less salient example out, at least for grins. The other day when I got home from work, I found a box sitting on my doorstep. The box was wrapped in plain brown paper and had obviously been delivered by the mailman (given the postage stamps on top of it). As far as I could make out, it came to the right address and seemed to be addressed to my wife (though my facility reading handwritten Thai is not the best). Beyond that, there was no indication as to what the box contained, and so far as I knew, my wife was not expecting anything. There were no discernible markings other than the addressee and the sender (which I did not recognize), and none of this indicated to me what the contents could be. So whatever the box contained was a complete mystery to me. Now on the basis of my worldview, there’s no problem here: I do not assume omniscience, and I recognize that to discover what exists in reality requires me to look outward and apply an objective process. To discover the contents, then, my worldview holds that I would need to open the package and take a look inside.

But what about Matthias’ Christian worldview in which believers “conceive of how reality must be in light of how God is (in cases where the Bible doesn’t describe how a certain part of reality is)”? Now, I suppose I could first flip through the Old and New Testaments to make sure that no part of the bible already includes a passage telling me what’s in the box that was delivered to my house. But somehow I don’t think I would be surprised to find that this would not help me move forward toward discovering what’s in the box. But never fear, Matthias tells us that we can “conceive of how reality must be in light of how God is.” He also says “it’s all systematic in nature,” so there must be some clear step-by-step set of instructions that anyone should be able to perform that would tell us what “must be” in the box “in light of how God is.” So Matthias should be able to apply this methodology (what specific steps the believer is supposed to take here is not explained) and tell me what “must be” in the box. Specifically, his methodology of going by “how God is” should not rely on my methodology of looking outward at reality, for opening the package and looking inside it could not be a methodology that proceeds “in light of how God is.” Moreover, we are told (in Pushing the Antithesis: The Apologetic Methodology of Greg L. Bahnsen, p. 96) that:
The Christian worldview does not simply differ with unbelieving worldviews at some points, but absolutely conflicts with it across the board on all points.
So the Christian approach "must be" completely antithetical to the Objectivist approach. Thus it could not make use of reason as Objectivism understands it. So how would this work?

Matthias wrote:
You said in a comment on the other post that your understanding of concepts is largely garnered through or by reason of your senses/experience. And from there it seems you conceive of possible ways God God must be in light of your understanding of how reality is. And so the Christian approach is fundamentally different than that of the Objectivist.
First of all, Objectivists are not theists; we are atheists. This means we do not affirm the existence of any gods. So we do not “conceive of possible ways God... must be” to begin with. There are no gods.

Also, if something does exist (specifically, something that exists independent of our conscious activity), we do not discover its nature and validate our identification of it by means of looking inward. Objectivists are not rationalists (where “rationalism” is essentially deduction without reference to reality). We look outward, observe the entities which exist, taking note of what we discover about their nature, identify them on this basis by means of concepts and thereby integrate them without contradiction into the sum of our knowledge. Generally this procedure is called reason: the method by which we identify and integrate the material provided by the senses.

To discover the contents of a box that we find on our doorstep, for example, we do not look inward into the content of our imagination or hoping about an imaginary being and deduce from this what “must be” in the box. On the contrary, we open the box and take a look inside. This is what Objectivism holds that we should do, given our nature as biological organisms which possess a means of awareness that has a specific identity, namely sense perception.

In my previous post, I quoted a number of statements by leading presuppositionalist thinker Greg Bahnsen who urges that apologists “attack” whatever positions and methodologies non-believers “espouse.” Thus to be faithful to the presuppositionalist agenda, Matthias should “attack” the Objectivist view which teaches that we should open the box to discover and identify its contents. In fact, given what Matthias has stated above about “conceiv[ing] of how reality must be in light of how God is,” it is unclear how the believer could be consistent with what Christianity teaches and still apply reason in his efforts to identify the facts he encounters in the world. Bahnsen also states (Always Ready, p. 78):
The apologist... must take God’s word as his self-evidencing presupposition, thinking God’s thoughts after Him (rather than attempting to be neutral), and viewing God’s word as more sure than even his personal experience of the facts.
Suppose then that there are two Christians who want to know what is inside the box. One of them suggests that, given his god-belief, he can “conceive of” what “must be” in the box “in light of how God is,” and proceeds to look inward, consulting what he imagines his god to be, and deduces from this that it must be the Shroud of Turin beach towel which he recently ordered from Eerdmans. On this basis he is confident that this "must be" what is in the box. If this is “more sure than even his own personal experience of the facts,” he should not need any further input to seal his conclusion.

But the other Christian says, “Maybe we should open the box and confirm that it’s the Shroud of Turin beach towel your ordered.” But the first Christian is incensed by this suggestion and accuses his brother of autonomous reasoning. The second Christian tries to reason with him, saying he thinks it would be wise to check the contents to be sure that a mistake in holy inference has not been made. But the first Christian retorts with a huff, saying “God is infallible! He does not make mistakes! We are to view God’s word as more sure than even our own personal experience of the facts.” Meanwhile, the second Christian hastily opens the box and finds inside it a Virgin Mary head scarf. Indeed an error has been made – Eerdmans picked the wrong item when filling the order, for indeed the packing slip clearly states that a Shroud of Turin beach towel was supposed to be in the box. I would say that an even graver mistake has been made, specifically an epistemological (if we dare call it that) mistake. Looking inward is no substitute for looking outward. Even the second Christian had enough sense to suppose it’s necessary to confirm a holy inference by checking the facts by looking outward.

It should also be noted that, since the only legitimately meaningful concepts available to us are those that are formed on the basis of an objective process (i.e., as detailed by the objective theory of concepts), Christianity’s use of various concepts to describe their god leads invariably to contradictions of various sorts in their use of such concepts. Essentially, Christianity misappropriates concepts, applying them without explicit understanding of how they are formed, how they relate to what they denote, and how the mind should consistently recognize the fundamental distinction between reality and imagination.

For instance, Objectivism draws our attention to the fallacy of the stolen concept. This fallacy occurs when one employs a concept while ignoring or denying its genetic roots – i.e., the foundations on which it stands and without which it has no objective content. An example would be if a person affirms the validity of Euclidian geometry while denying the truths of basic arithmetic. Since geometry makes use of basic arithmetic, one could not affirm the validity of geometry while denying the truths of basic arithmetic. This would be a contradiction within the conceptual hierarchy.

Consider the concept ‘knowledge’. The concept ‘knowledge’ denotes a mental grasp of reality made possible by means of reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by the senses) and retained in the form of concepts (mental integrations which condense a potentially limitless quantity of data into a single unit made possible by a process of abstraction). Thus knowledge is something that must be acquired (since we don’t already know it) and validated by an objective process (since mistakes can be made). Along with this it should be noted that knowledge serves a purpose. Knowing is not an end in itself. It serves a genuine human need. The purpose of knowledge is not to go out and win debates, but to make living possible. Man faces a fundamental alternative – life vs. death, and he needs values in order to live. Thus life is conditional. Man needs knowledge of reality in order to identify what is a value to his life and what is a threat to it, and also to identify the proper actions he should take to acquire the former and avoid the latter. Etc.

But when Christians apply the concept ‘knowledge’ to their god, they ignore these genetic roots of the concept and apply it in a context which outright denies their involvement. The Christian god is supposed to be “omniscient,” meaning that it has always known everything for all eternity. It “just knows” everything, not as a result of applying some process (for this would imply a starting point of non-omniscience, and Christians typically deny this about their god), but as a result of its nature qua “God” (i.e., something we must imagine). Thus it did not acquire its knowledge by means of applying reason to what it perceived; indeed, it can hardly be said to have perceived anything since it is also said to be non-physical, having no body, no parts, etc., which means: it does not have eyes, ears or other sensory organs; it has no brain or central nervous system; it has no biological structures needed to make perception possible in the first place. So it could not reason to begin with; indeed, if it already knew everything, it wouldn’t need to reason. So reason is completely out of the equation here. Also, the Christian is supposed to be eternal, immortal, indestructible. Thus it would not face the fundamental alternative between life and death that man faces. Thus it would not need to identify what is a value and what is a threat to its existence; it would not need any values to begin with, and nothing could threaten its existence. Thus it would have no objectively defined purpose for knowledge. Indeed, I have already presented an argument concluding that an omniscient mind would not have knowledge in conceptual form (see here). All these points indicate that ‘knowledge’ becomes a stolen concept when theists apply it to their god as they describe it. To whatever extent, then, that Christians affirm that their god has “knowledge,” it could only be “knowledge” falsely so-called.

Other examples of stolen concepts resulting from theistic misappropriation of concepts include ‘life’, ‘love’, ‘purpose’, ‘value’, ‘morality’, ‘justice’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘good’ and ‘evil’, etc., etc.

So indeed there are stark contrasts informing the antithesis between Christianity on the one hand, and Objectivism on the other. Where Christianity rests on the looking inward model of “knowledge” which seats knowledge on imagination, emotions and speculations informed by the stories of supernatural beings, miracles, super-human heroes of ancient lore, Objectivism adheres to the epistemological model of looking outward at the facts of reality to identify and integrate the proper contents of knowledge. Christianity requires the believer to guide his thinking according to the contents of an ancient storybook, whose authors were undoubtedly captivated by figments of their own imagination, and to discount the facts that they experience firsthand; by contrast, Objectivism teaches the individual why it is important to look outward at the facts to inform his knowledge on the basis of reason, since only knowledge that is informed by objective input can meet his need for knowledge as such. The contrasts here are eloquently brought out into the light in salient examples such as determining the contents of a box we find delivered to our doorstep: while the Christian worldview would have believers look inward to determine by holy inference on the basis of what their god “is” to conclude what “must be” in the box, the Objectivist procedure would be to open the box and look inside it. To charge this with fallacy (e.g., the so-called “crackers in the pantry” fallacy a la Greg Bahnsen) is to say that employing reason to acquire and validate knowledge is fallacious activity. I can think of nothing so intellectually disingenuous as a worldview that seeks to foist such clearly false teaching on its adherents as this.

by Dawson Bethrick


c papen said...

Dawson Wrote:
I would say that an even graver mistake has been made, specifically an epistemological (if we dare call it that) mistake. Looking inward is no substitute for looking outward. Even the second Christian had enough sense to suppose it’s necessary to confirm a holy inference by checking the facts by looking inward.

From the context I assume that the inward in bold was supposed to be outward?

QuantumHaecceity said...

@Dawson Bethrick

How would you interact with and counter these two very sophisticated refutations of your worldview of Objectivism:



Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi C Papen,

Thanks for pointing that out. Yes, it sould be "outward" there. I have corrected the offending typo.


Bahnsen Burner said...

Quantum Hack,

You asked: "How would you interact with and counter these two very sophisticated refutations of your worldview of Objectivism:"

Very simply - by checking their premises. It works every time.


QuantumHaecceity said...

@Dawson Bethrick

Awww Dawson, Quantum HACK? Don't be a meanie like so many people are to Ayn Rand.

When you said hack, my brain immediately remembered that hack smear that was made by the Maverick philosopher towards Ayn Rand.

Don't be like that. These are really serious attacks against Objectivism, and given your adamant espousal of it, it would be really fascinating to see you INTERACT and engage these critiques in a posting.

If I may offer an "urging", I would really like to hear what you have to say on the first one.

Matthias said...

Hello Dawson,

Sorry it’s taking so long to respond. I plan to as soon as I get a chance to sit down and look at it all at once (gotta get the mind into momentum, as it were). Thanks for the exchange so far.


freddies_dead said...

Holy shit but those links from QH are appalling.

1) Is someone with an appalling lack of ability when it comes to reading for comprehension, leading them to create strawman after strawman of the statements they were supposedly critiquing.

2) Is someone who just moans endlessly about what he perceives are problems in Objectivism but never really shows how they are problems, he ignores plenty of what Objectivism affirms and mostly just points at other philosophers and says "they did it better". His biggest problem is with ethics though, yet nowhere does he show Objectivist ethics to be at odds with it's principles. Basically he doesn't like the ethics on an emotional level and tries to express that dislike as if it's an intellectual attack on Objectivism. It isn't.

I had to laugh that that's QH's idea of sophisticated refutation.

Unknown said...

Hello @Matthias and @Dawson

Matt when you wrote: "We conceive of how reality must be in light of how God is (in cases where the Bible doesn’t describe how a certain part of reality is. It’s all systematic in nature, which is appropriate for a worldview.)." did you mean to infer magic by use of the term " light of..." ?

Many Thanks and Best Wishes

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello freddies,

You wrote: “Holy shit but those links from QH are appalling.”

While I have not visited the links that Quantum Hack posted in his comment, I’m not the least bit surprised by what you have to say here about what you saw there. Remember, QH is the guy who was impressed with the AynRandContraNature blog, which I have seen, and about which I had a very similar impression as you indicate here.

QH doesn’t like me calling him “Quantum Hack.” It’s a term of endearment at this point given his trolling habits here at my blog. But to date his actions have been indistinguishable from those of an internet troll. Essentially a spectator, a troll delights in purposeless provocation; he wants to watch a fight. He does not give his real identity, and he does not give specifics. He does not contribute any intelligent commentary on the blog entry to which he has attached his comments. It’s completely off-topic. When his queries are answered, he intensifies his provocation.

I have no idea why QH would have any interest in what my reaction to anything might be, especially given the fact that he has offered nothing intelligent on the matters discussed here. What indication does he give that he’s actually interested in discussing legitimate philosophical issues? None that I have seen.

If QH is truly interested in my views, I’ve got nearly nine years worth of blog entries for him to read. Has he read any of them? Does not the content of the writing which I have already published on my blog and on my website not already give enough of an indication of how I respond to critics of Objectivism?


Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Matthias,

No problem taking your time. We all have lives to lead and we’re all busy, so you should not feel like you’re under pressure to respond within a certain time interval. But I’m glad to learn that you’re still enjoying the discussion so far.

But I am very curious to see how you respond to some of these points. Given your comments about how to conceive of how things “must be in light of what God is… in cases where the Bible doesn’t describe how a certain part of reality is,” I’d really like to see how this plays out in a real-world example (such as my computer having a problem or a mysterious box that has been delivered to my doorstep).

Objectivism holds that we need to look outward at reality, beginning with perception of objects which exist independent of our conscious activity, identify relevant facts, integrate them into the sum of our knowledge, make inferences from them, etc., all by means of reason. For example, if I want to know what is in a box that has been delivered to my house, I open it and look inside.

But your statement suggests a radically different approach to learning what is in the box, namely that believers can somehow consult what “God is” and on this basis “conceive of how reality “must be.” I don’t see how this could at all be compatible with the looking outward model that I briefly describe above, for what I look outward, I do not acquire awareness of any gods. And Christians themselves have told me that I should not expect to do so, since they have described their god as immaterial, invisible, imperceptible, beyond the reach of the senses, etc.

Moreover, I have quoted statements by Greg Bahnsen to the effect that whatever I as an atheist affirm in my worldview must be opposed and even attacked by the Christian apologist. For example, Bahnsen writes (Pushing the Antithesis, p. 96):

<< The Christian worldview does not simply differ with unbelieving worldviews at some points, but absolutely conflicts with it across the board on all points. >>

Elsewhere Bahnsen writes (Always Ready, p. 77):

<< what is needed is not piecemeal replies, probabilities, or isolated evidences but rather an attack upon the underlying presuppositions of the unbeliever’s system of thought.>>

Given these points, it seems that, as a Christian apologist, you’d have to take me to the woodshed for supposing that I should look outward - e.g., open the box and look inside it – to determine the contents of a box that has been delivered to my house. If everything my view espouses is wrong, false, un-Christworthy, etc., then surely I must be wrong for supposing that I should open the box and look inside it to identify its contents. Moreover, I’d like to see how the alternative you describe would work.

If you could address this, it might be helpful in furthering my understanding (which I guess I’m not supposed to “lean on” any way, per Prov. 3:5).


Unknown said...

Good Morning Friends

I had a few thoughts about How do we know what's inside the box? I hope this isn't boring any of the readers. I've posted about these issues before, yet I think these points remain salient. BTW, if I've ever offended any of the readers, please accept my apology. Also I hope the reader is feeling well and will live long and prosper. [Vulcan Salute]

Gosh. If I were still a Christian believer who was presented with Dawson's question and the alleged Paul's list of "spiritual" gifts, including what is read at 1 Cor. 12:8, Sophia and Gnosis, I'd retreat to Christian traditions regarding these words found in Strong's concordance.

However, I think almost all believers must punt to mystery when asked for an explanation as to why their alleged Omnipotent and Omniscient God can't or won't simply inform them as to what's in the box when it allegedly can inform them according to the Strong's meaning of Sophia, "wisdom, broad and full of intelligence; used of the knowledge of very diverse matters." and gnosis, "knowledge signifies in general intelligence, understanding." Why won't Matthias' God inform him as to what's in the box when the author of much of the New Testament claimed his God could?

Since we are aware of what 1 Cor 12:8 claims and we could alternatively ask, instead of what's in a box, the question why didn't Matthias' God inform the Catholic and Protestant religious prelates in the early 16th century during the Council of Trent and 30 Years War that the appended ending of the Gospel of Mark was spurious while much of the rest of the New Testament is interpolated and redacted and that Catholics and Protestants shouldn't fight wars against one another? I suspect almost all Christians,including Matthias, would either punt to mystery or invoke some version of the morally sufficient reason theodicy. The problem with the former is that it goes contra to what 1 Cor 12:8 claims about Christian Sophia and Gnosis while the later admits the Christian God, if it could possibly exist, would use evil as a means to achieve its ends.

Christians can use the morally sufficient reason theodicy to try and defend the alleged goodness of their God but at cost of scraping out the notion their God's alleged moral nature is an absolute standard of morality. If the ends justify the means for the idea of the Christian God, then it's devoid or deficient of moral principles and hence can't be "perfect" and thus can't be "God". But if the Christian's alleged gifts of the Spirit can't as a function of Sophia and Gnosis provide answers to simple question like "What's in the box?" or notify Christianity's religious prelates and leaders that the Bible is laden with falsehoods, fallacies, absurdities, atrocities, and contradictions, or that Catholics and Protestants shouldn't fight wars against one another then the Christian's gift of the Spirit theodicy is invalid and false as well. Regardless which horn of this dilemma one is impaled upon, Christian Theism is either false or is highly probably false.

Best Wishes for Continued Success

Justin Hall said...

Ah QuantumHaecceity you are back. Just a reminder, my challenge still stands. Of course since I suspect you can not argue your way out of a wet paper sack I think it will continue to be not met.

Justin Hall said...


Heads up our old Kruger Dunning boy wonder Mr Warden is once again whining and complaining over at templestream. I love how he claims Anton Thorn never resented a argument in a valid syllogism and yet here I have it as it was published by him online years ago. Does Rick do any fact checking before opening his mouth?

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Justin,

Thanks the note.

Warden's new blog entry (apparently he's been praying and fasting... and furiously pumping away at his latest and greatest for the past week) can be found here:

Rand’s Primacy of Existence Argument Refuted

And yes, Thorn does present a formalized version of his argument here:

The Argument from the Fact of Existence Presented as a Formal Syllogism

Warden seems to be clowning around when he says that the primacy of existence and the primacy of consciousness is a false dichotomy. Is that because he wants this to be the case (the POC), or because it is indeed the case independent of anyone’s wishes, dreams, preferences, imagination, feelings, etc. (the POE)?

To support his view that the POE vs. the POC is a false dichotomy, he talks about mind-body dualism and NDEs! This simply proves that he still does not understand the issue at all. I don’t know what to say… I really didn’t think someone could be so out of touch with reason as this.

Also, notice what Warden writes:

<<The phrase, “existence exists” conflates the abstract with the real. Existence does not exist. Things such as trees, physical laws and time exist with real qualities, but existence of itself does not exist. Existence is contingent upon something else existing. >>

Notice the astounding errors in just this one statement. First, he confuses the concept 'existence' with its referents. Objectivism is very clear on this (see Peikoff, OPAR, chapter 1). Second, he asserts (without any kind of argument) that “existence does not exist.” Then he says that “things” exist. But if ‘existence’ is a collective noun noting everything that exists (as Objectivism informs its founding axiom), then existence does in fact exist. But in the same breath, Warden says that “existence is contingent upon something else existing” – which could only make sense if existence exists.

This guy is beyond being merely a joke. At this point, I think he needs professional help.


Justin Hall said...

Yes I caught that glaring error about existence exists as well. I kind of lost interest at that point. If he is going to straw man that badly I kind lose all confidence in his ability at reading comprehension. Also while the NDE issue is a red hearing it should also be pointed out that the consensus of peer reviewed psychology and psychiatry is that there is no supporting evidence and that the entire phenomena is an inter subjective hallucination caused by a brain dying from lack of oxygen. Sure you can find the one off paper here and there but if he wants to invoke the authority of science then he must go with the consensus. In fact practically no one in the field of study relevant takes the issue of NDE seriously.

Bahnsen Burner said...

Good points, Justin.

But even more to the point, notice that Warden still resists addressing any of the questions that I have posed to him.

For example, the following (which I posted over a week ago here:

<<According to Christianity, what you call “supremacy of God’s consciousness” in the context that you yourself intended (“with regard to the physical world”) entails the primacy of the Christian god’s consciousness with respect to any objects distinct from itself. Observe:

1) If your god wills that an apple exists in a certain location at a certain time, will the apple come into existence as willed or not? A yes here would affirm the primacy of consciousness since the apple’s very existence results from your god’s conscious actions. A no here would mean that any apple that exists, exists independent of your god’s conscious activity – i.e., your god would not have supremacy over the physical world.

2) If your god wills that the apple is of the golden delicious variety, will the apple be a golden delicious apple? A yes here would affirm the primacy of consciousness since the apple (the object of your god’s consciousness) obeys your god’s conscious actions. A no here would mean that the apple would not obey your god’s consciousness – i.e., your god would not have supremacy over the physical world.

3) If your god wills that the apple becomes a banana, will the apple become a banana? A yes here would affirm the primacy of consciousness since the apple obeys your god’s conscious actions. A no here would mean that the apple would not obey your god’s consciousness – i.e., your god would not have supremacy over the physical world.

So how do you answer these questions?

1) Yes or no?
2) Yes or no?
3) Yes or no?

Don’t tell me, you’re not going to answer, right?

Notice my prediction at the end. Warden is proving my case over and over again without ever seeming to realize it.

And you're right - all he can do is dodge by battling straw men and trying to move the discussion away from the issues at hand. Sure signs that he's simply at his wits end on the whole matter.


Unknown said...

There is a way to blur the distinction between primacy of existence and primacy of consciousness that Christians won't utilize as they want to believe in their fantasy. Human brain consciousness is a physical biological process that can directly affect brain tissue via neuroplasticity.

This blurrs distinction between POE and POC perhaps allowing for counter argument against the Fact of Existence argument against theism and mysticism. Could a Christian apologist gain traction against the FOE argument by employing neuroplasticity?

Anonymous said...

Hey guys,

A quick hello and a very short comment.

I think that the most problematic of all things for theists is that they put a lot of effort to defend something that cannot but be imaginary. They spend a lot of time trying to refute the obvious, as if just because they believe that their imaginary fiends are real, therefore what we can observe is not ... or something like that. No matter how much these guys try and challenge anybody else with straw-men, and whatever else, their worldview is still based on the imaginary. So, what's there to discuss?

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Robert,

I have not checked the article you linked to (I simply don't have time), and I don't know what "neuroplasticity" means. So I can't comment on this particularly.

I am convinced however that there is no way to refute the primacy of existence. An attempt to refute the POE would have to assume the POE, thus contradicting itself. Even the claim that neuroplasticity is a real phenomenon, as a premise in that attempt, would make use of the POE.

Observing Rick Warden's efforts to battle against the issue of metaphyscial primacy, however, shows that theists either do not grasp the matter and its relationship to epistemology, or they simply do not want to yield to it (which is an attitudinal expression of the POC). Whether it's ignorance or attitude, the POE still obtains.


Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Photo,

It's nice to hear from you.

I think you're right that theists spend a lot of their effort battling against obvious facts. Virtually every theist who has attempted to interact here has demonstrated this to one degree or another. I have challenged theists for many years now to explain how I can reliably distinguish between what they call "God" and what they may merely be imagining. While there is a range of reactions which this question receives from theists, none have been able to answer it in a manner that vindicates their theism.

You asked, "So, what's there to discuss?"

My answer: the importance of reason to human life.

I also think it is important to fine practice the art of philosophical detection. It's like playing the piano or learning a second language - use it or lose it.


Bahnsen Burner said...

I have posted the following query in the comments section of Rick Warden's new blog entry:


Hi Rick,

You gave the following and called it an "objective definition of metaphysical primacy":

"that which is considered to be the most primary and universally relevant supervening, preeminent force in terms of both being and existence."

I did not see any source which you might identify as the origin or text that you may have gotten this definition from. Can you link to a philosophical source where you got your definition?



Warden has condemned Rand for making up her own definitions (allegedly simply to suit her own prejudices). Now I'm sure Warden wouldn't be doing the same thing he accuses Rand of doing....


Anonymous said...

Hi Dawson,

My answer: the importance of reason to human life.

Of course!

Thanks. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Robetr,

Neuroiplasticity does not break POE. Essentially, yes, using our brains results in rearrangements/restructuring of neuronal connections, ion channels, etc. But that's far from being a case for wishing makes it so. It's the physiology makes it so. Mere wishing wouldn't work. No matter how much I desire for my brain to improve, it won't do unless I find the proper exercises to improve and take advantage of a physiology that I did not wish to be, it already is (or isn't, in which case I would have no hope for improvement) regardless of my desires, etc.

I find this to be one of those things that's very clear in my mind, but very hard to explain. So I hope that was clear enough.