Friday, February 14, 2014

At a Loss for Words: Rick Warden's Latest Comment

On occasion some of my readers have criticized my blog entries for being too lengthy, that I am too wordy, that I apparently have too much to say. It is true, I do have a lot to say, and I can’t sit on it. I cannot stand still and just watch what’s happening to the world I’m living in and do nothing. The old adage has it that the pen is mightier than the sword, and much of history supports this view. I'm doing my best to do my small part.

So it might come as a surprise to my readers when I am struck with a loss for words. This does not happen often for me, but it did happen this evening, at least temporarily, when I opened my e-mail and saw a comment posting from Rick Warden on his own blog entry saying something that was so bizarrely false that I really did lose my voice for a few moments.

Here is the entirety of his comment:
"Metaphysical primacy" is a central concept in Ayn Rand's central proposition, the 'existence- consciousness' dichotomy. Instead of clarifying specifically what "metaphysical primacy" refers to, Dawson claims that it is a "red herring" to ask for the definition of the central concept of the central argument. No wonder Dawson has made himself scarce, even after I took the time to answer his three important questions.  
1. Learning the tenets of the definition of the central concept of Rand's central argument would help to elucidate the truth of that argument.  
2. Dawson Bethrick refuses to define or clarify what Rand's "metaphysical primacy" specifically refers to.  
3. Therefore, it is evident that Dawson is not really interested in elucidating the truth of Rand's central argument.  
We can also see this avoidance of truth clearly in the fact that Dawson refuses to admit that Rand's definitions of "existence" and "universe" presuppose materialism.
Now for folks who are reading Rick’s comment without the benefit of reading what came before this, one might suppose he’s completely right here when he says that I have not “clarif[ied] specifically what ‘metaphysical primacy’ refers to” and that “Dawson Bethrick refuses to define or clarify what Rand’s ‘metaphysical primacy’ specifically refers to.”

But for Rick to say this after all the work I’ve put into several posts over the past couple months laboring to help him understand some of the most basic things in primary philosophy, I really don’t know what to say. I have not ever met Rick personally, but since I first began reading some of his own blog entries I suspected that this guy is in la-la land. Being a Christian does not help his credibility of course. But I have observed numerous signs of what school children used to call “being dense.” Yet in this case, this seems to be an understatement of biblical proportions. It is possible that Rick is suffering from some sort of mental disorder and needs professional treatment. While I am not a specialist in this area, I do hope that Rick recovers from whatever it is that has incapacitated his mental functions.

At any rate, for the record, I went back through a number of blog entries that I posted over the past two or so months (going back to late November 2013) and found numerous instances where I did precisely what Rick has said I have refused to do – i.e., clarify what the issue of metaphysical primacy as Objectivism informs it refers to. As I have stated in the past ad nauseum, the issue of metaphysical primacy has to do with the relationship between consciousness and its objects.

(As for Rick's claim that "Rand's definitions of 'existence' and 'universe' presuppose materialism," see Justin Hall's blog entry Rick Warden causes me to face palm yet again. Indeed, Rand was adamant that the concept 'existence' cannot be defined in terms of prior concepts - a point which flies right over Rick's head; also, since the concept 'universe' as Objectivism informs it essentially means "the total of that which exists" (see here),  if something exists, regardless of its nature, it is included in what is meant by "the universe" by definition. Thus Warden is way, way, way off here.)

Below I have collected no less than 16 (!) quotations from my own blog entries responding to Rick Warden’s attempts to critique my argument in which I explicitly clarify what exactly the issue of metaphysical primacy has to do with. Keep in mind that these quotations come directly from blog entries themselves, not from comments that I have left on my blog or on Rick’s own blog. Several of the quotes document that weeks ago I was pointing out that Rick had failed to grasp what the issue of metaphysical primacy is all about, hence my efforts to clarify this on repeated occasions.

So here they are:

In Warden’s Failure to Integrate, I write:
…Moreover, any rational individual should see that the Objectivist doctrine of the issue of metaphysical primacy addresses a fundamental and important philosophical matter, namely the relationship between consciousness and its objects. 
…On the contrary, since the issue of metaphysical primacy relates to the relationship between consciousness and its objects, it relates to all areas of thought and knowledge, including religious beliefs.
…Briefly, the issue of metaphysical primacy has to do with the relationship between consciousness and its objects  
…Anyone examining my argument and points that I have offered in support of it can see that the issue of metaphysical primacy as it is understood in my argument has expressly to do with the relationship between consciousness and its objects. 
…Thus Warden has AGAIN ignored what I have consistently and emphatically pointed out, namely that metaphysical primacy as my argument incorporates it has precisely to do with the relationship between consciousness and its objects. Over and over again, Warden attempts to refute my argument without EVER grasping this distinction and incorporating it into his approach to critiquing it. Instead, Warden avoids – and from all that I can tell, deliberately - dealing with my argument on its own terms
…Moreover, when it has been pointed out numerous times now that the issue of metaphysical primacy as my argument understands it has expressly to do with the relationship between consciousness and its objects, Warden has no excuse for antics such as this. 
….Warden hastens to draw attention to “what theism assumes” as he understands it (i.e., with digressions concerning the details of his worldview’s particular mystical notions) in order to gain control of the discussion. But this only shows how desperate he is to avoid discussing the issue of metaphysical primacy – i.e., the relationship between consciousness and its objects - as it relates to my argument and the conclusion I draw in it. 
…Warden insists on continuing to see darkly. His mistakes are unjustifiable, and corrections have been brought to his attention on numerous occasions now. I have repeatedly explained in my responses to Warden that the issue of metaphysical primacy has expressly to do with the relationship between consciousness and its objects, and yet Warden continues to avoid dealing with this matter. 
…I have been clear in laying out my argument’s premises and explaining the meaning of their terms as my argument incorporates them. I have given examples and corrected many of Warden’s basic errors on numerous occasions now. Since Warden is clearly unwilling to examine my argument according to its own terms – specifically avoiding the discussion of metaphysical primacy in terms of the relationship between consciousness and its objects – I can only conclude from my interactions with Warden’s ill-fated attempts to refute my argument (first without knowing what its premises are, and then subsequently repeating fundamental mistakes that have already been corrected) that he senses the devastating damage it poses to theism and therefore is hell-bent on destroying it at all costs.
…Warden’s god is supposed to be conscious, correct? Since the issue of metaphysical primacy has to do with the relationship between consciousness and its objects, then I have isolated the factors relevant to my argument successfully. 
…Consciousness is consciousness *of some object*. When you are aware, you are aware *of something*. So there are two players involved here: (1) the conscious subject, and (2) any object(s) the conscious subject is conscious of. So there’s a relationship between the two when the subject is conscious of something. The issue of metaphysical primacy has to do with this relationship: which – the subject of consciousness or its objects – holds metaphysical primacy over the other? Do the objects of consciousness conform to or obey the dictates of consciousness? If I look at the apple sitting on my table and wish that it transform itself into a pile of hundred-dollar bills, will the object conform to my wishing? The primacy of consciousness says yes; the primacy of existence recognizes the fact that consciousness has no such power. 
…If something is not clear to Warden, then on what basis can he dismiss it as “false”? He clearly has not shown that the issue of metaphysical primacy is false; to do this he would have to show that there is no subject-object relationship. And yet, in order to do this, he would have to be a subject participating in relationship to certain objects. Indeed, just by saying it’s “false,” Warden is illicitly making use of the primacy of existence – that is, unless he’s saying it’s false because he wants it to be false, in which case we need only say: wishing doesn’t make it so. So Warden commits the fallacy of the stolen concept.
…what Warden seems to be insinuating here is that I have failed to integrate what he refers to as “influential variables” in my argument about the Christian god. Actually, I didn’t know that the Christian god had any “variables” – it is supposed to be “absolute” and “unchanging,” thus nothing about the Christian god is supposed to be “variable” in the first place. But let’s suppose that Warden means that I’m ignoring certain relevant factors that somehow mitigate the conclusion of my argument. Since the issue of metaphysical primacy is focused directly on the relationship between the subject of consciousness and its objects, and since my argument explores precisely this relationship as it would apply in the case of the Christian god as it is described by Christianity, I do not think I’ve overlooked any such factors at all. On the contrary, what I suspect has happened is that Warden has misunderstood the argument and/or that he is trying to divert attention away from this relationship in order to salvage his god-belief from the scrutiny of the argument from metaphysical primacy. 
…The issue of metaphysical primacy and a “theory that defines the mind/body relationship” are two fundamentally different things. The former has to do with the relationship between consciousness and its objects, regardless of how we come to understand the nature of the relationship between consciousness and the organism which possesses it. That Warden wants to shift focus on this only shows that he cannot deal with my argument on its own terms. 
…The issue of metaphysical primacy has to do with the relationship between consciousness and its objects. Warden does affirm that his god is a conscious agent; that it is said to be “eternally existent” is neither here nor there. If the Christian god is supposed to be conscious, then it must be conscious of something, in which case, it would be conscious of some object(s). Thus a relationship between the Christian god as a conscious subject and that object(s) would obtain. Therefore we can examine the implications of Christian theism’s view of its god in terms of metaphysical primacy – i.e., in terms of the orientation between the Christian god as a conscious subject and any object(s) it is said to be conscious of. 
…It is quite clear that Warden simply has not grasped the fundamental nature of my argument. Part of this is due to the fact that his own worldview, Christianity, does not teach its adherents to be aware of and understand the nature of the relationship between consciousness and its objects. Another part of this is due to Warden’s own zeal to refute first and never understand later. None of these failings point to flaws in my argument. The flaws here are squarely on his shoulders.
So there you have it. It’s astonishing that anyone who has read what I have posted on my blog – not only over the past couple months, but since I began my blog back in March of 2005 – could come away with the impression that I “refuse” to clarify what the issue of metaphysical primacy has to do with. Rather, I could understand if someone got the opposite impression – namely that I over-emphasize this issue (though I don’t think it can be over-emphasized, for obvious reasons). But for Rick Warden to have written what he has written in his comment above, can only suggest to me that there’s something disturbingly wrong going on in Rick Warden’s worldview. Or possibly his mind. Probably both.

by Dawson Bethrick


blarkofan said...

Hi Dawson,

The guy is amazing. You are kind to assume Rick is merely "dense"; I think it is just as likely he is deliberately dishonest. I think Rick knows that most of his readers will only skim what he writes looking for anything that confirms their beliefs, and that few of them will ever visit your blog to see what you actually have written. This emboldens him to say whatever he wants, as part of the long tradition of liars for Jesus. I am reminded of a quote from Martin Luther:

“What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church ... a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them.”

Justin, thanks for your "facepalm" blog. Enjoyed it very much.

Justin Hall said...

I just had an anonymous poster try to tell me on my blog that I am incorrect in stating there are no known instances of the infinite. He used the example the number pi. I took the time to explain the difference between the potential and the actual. However I think I was wrong. I think there really is an example of the actual infinite in reality, the irrational stubbornness of one Mr Rick Warden.

Justin Hall said...


Did Rick take down this post in embarrassment. I am unable to locate it on his blog. Also I see that he is unwilling to interact with what I have posted.

Justin Hall said...


never mind I found it, my browser had a old version of that page cached.


Hey rob given your interest in science I was wondering if you could read this over and tell me if I conveyed the information in a easy to understand manor.

Unknown said...

One of the beautiful aspects of the argument from the fact of existence related to the issue of metaphysical primacy is that all rational minded organisms directly sense their own subject vs object and perception vs awareness-of-perception relationships. We all, regardless of what species we may be or upon what planet we may live, know that to be aware of our own selves as subjects of consciousness we must first be aware of some object that is not our own consciousness. Otherwise then if self-awareness were not simultaneously an awareness of objects distinct from the subject of consciousness, Kant's consequent would validate. He knew this when he noted

"The consciousness of my own existence is simultaneously a direct consciousness of the existence of other things outside of me."

Explaining the relation between self-awareness and object awareness, Kant noted:

“The 'I think' must be capable of accompanying all my presentations. For otherwise something would be presented to me that could not be thought of at all-which is equivalent to saying that the presentation either would be impossible, or would be nothing to me." (I.K., Refutation of Material Idealism)

It seems quite impossible for a consciousness to "exist" without existence.

Christians cannot get past Philosophy 101. That's OK. They can believe invisible pink unicorns are in their shoes if they wish, but there will be issues is they demand others do special things to their shoes in order to make the unicorns happy.

Unknown said...

Cool Beans Friends. Pope Francis has hired JK Rowling To Rewrite The Bible. Can anybody give me an "You're only imagining your god."

Harry and Jesus together at last. Tis a match made in ??????.

breakerslion said...

Thanks. I followed your link, and now my head is full of fuck.

Seriously, can God create a knothole so small that He Himself can't force an argument through it? ... let alone his minions?

Happy New Year. Glad to see that some of us are still blogging. I'll be back.

breakerslion said...

@ Justin Hall re. the infinite:

"Truth is finite, bullshit is infinite." - JWB

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Breakerslion,

It's good to hear from you after all this time!

Yes, sorry about the head-hurt after visiting the link on my blog. I probably should have posted a warning along with the link. Perhaps I've become a bit desensitized to Christian psychopathy.

I am still going strong, since March 2005. I have plenty in the works for future postings. Frankly, I have so much still yet to say that I am having a hard time finding the time I need to keep at it.

You wrote: "Truth is finite, bullshit is infinite."

Well said! If there is anything that is "infinite," it is the extent to which an evader seeks to rationalize his evasions.

I do like Justin's response to the claim that Pi is infinite. It's less than 3.2, a clearly finite quantity. How can a number that is less than a finite quantity itself be infinite? Indeed, we could say that Pi is less than 3.1416. I think Justin's response really puts the capper to this supposed counter-example.

I have to say, I never find myself tiring at the amazing accomplishments of the human mind operating on reason.


Anonymous said...


I told Rick that I was puzzled that he did not notice all of your explanations about the primacy of existence, and what primacy means, despite you talk about that quite often, and that you explained that carefully and at length in your answers to his claims. The comment has not passed moderation after some days. What could that possibly mean?

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Photo,

That's odd. Whenever I've posted a comment on Warden's blog, it went right through and published immediately, without requiring moderator approval. Maybe he's granted me some special pass without my knowing? I kinda doubt that.

Justin posted a comment there recently.


If you're reading this, do you recall having to wait for moderator approval on Rick Warden's blog when you commented there recently?

But yes, Photo, I think one could say I was quite tireless in emphasizing just what the issue of metaphysical primacy has to do with, so Warden's behavior is quite inexplicable. Hence my loss for words!


Justin Hall said...


No, my comment much to my surprise went straight threw where as my earlier attempt never posted at all. Oh by the way my anon poster has come back with more posts. I am having great fun trying to improve how I can explain why there are no infinites. He has asked me to clarify my use of the terms actual infinities and potential infinities. I will respond hopefully sometime tomorrow or the day after.

Ydemoc said...

Regarding the posting of comments over on Warden's blog:

Last I checked, one (or maybe two) of my initial comments that I left over there, still hasn't been posted.

When I brought my missing post to Warden's attention, he said that he checked his spam folder, but could not locate my missing comment.

By the way, when I first began posting comments over there, I always had to wait for moderator approval. But then, when I submitted my post informing Rick of my missing comment, it went through immediately -- there was no waiting for approval.


Bahnsen Burner said...


I saw Warden's latest comments in reply to you and Vince (here).

Seriously, I frankly don't know what to say. He is so strung out on tangents, it's clear that he will never face the fundamental issues.

At one point (details here), he makes an accusation: “Dawson Bethrick refuses to define or clarify what Rand's "metaphysical primacy" specifically refers to.”

As I have shown in the link, this accusation is so wildly off the mark as to suggest that Warden simply hasn’t paid any attention whatsoever to what has been presented to him, or that there’s some deeper defect in his comprehension skills.

When you remind him of this, he launches off into yet further diversionary tactics, never once acknowledging that his accusation is completely false. In fact, he calls your comment “truly astounding” and goes on to accuse me of other transgressions.

He then goes on to repeat his charge that I have indulged in “metaphysical cherry picking.” By this he apparently means I’m wrong to focus on certain facts which support my case (such as Christianity’s assumption of the primacy of consciousness in the relation between its god and everything it is said to have created). Why this would be wrong is beyond me.

Then he goes on about my lying analogy, which I introduced simply to make a point which he has completely missed. He references an earlier post of his where he asks: “Why is Bethrick’s lying analogy an extremely poor example of metaphysical primacy regarding Premise 4?” But the lying analogy was not intended as an “example of metaphysical primacy,” but rather to show that an inconsistency does not erase anything that is actually there.

Here’s what I originally wrote (here):

<< By analogy, suppose someone is caught lying. The evidence that he was lying is clear, and he even admits that he was lying. It will not do to say that in some other situation he was not lying, as if this would cancel out the fact that he was indeed lying in the first case. A lie is still a lie. >>

Warden has repeatedly attempted to defend theism against the charge that it assumes the primacy of consciousness on the basis that theism does not claim that its god (a) created itself or (b) can extinguish itself by an act of will. None of this addresses the charge in question, just as citing a situation in which a liar was not lying does not erase (“cancel out”) the fact that he did lie on a particular occasion. I have shown ample evidence that theism assumes the primacy of consciousness in the relationship it affirms between its god and everything distinct from itself. Warden’s defense ignores all this and his own admissions to the same. If anyone is guilty of “metaphysical cherry picking,” it’s him, not me.

I have repeatedly pointed out that even theists cannot maintain the primacy of consciousness consistently - i.e., in all areas of thought. Warden ignores this too.


Bahnsen Burner said...

In my several blog posts and comments interacting directly with Warden’s attempted defenses, I asked many, many questions, virtually all of which he has ignored. I pressed him repeatedly on three in particular:

<< 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?

2) If your god wills that the apple is of the golden delicious variety, will the apple be a golden delicious apple?

3) If your god wills that the apple becomes a banana, will the apple become a banana?

These are straight-to-the point polar questions (i.e., they need to be answered yes or no) which focus on the relationship in question – namely between the Christian god as a knowing subject and some object distinct from itself that it is claimed by Christianity to have made.

When Warden did finally address my questions (see his 10 Feb comment here), he answered them each with a “yes”. Of course, he has to. But in so doing he confirms the truth of the charge that Christianity assumes the primacy of consciousness in the relation between its god as a knowing subject and anything and everything distinct from itself - regardless of whether or not that god is thought to have created itself or can or cannot extinguish its own existence.

He also says that I “claim… that it is a ‘red herring’ to ask for the definition of the central concept of the central argument” (emphasis added). But in fact I have nowhere said or even implied that it is a red herring simply to “ask” for a definition. Rather, Warden used his own confusions on the definition of metaphysical primacy in a most embarrassing attempt to shift focus away from my argument in order to quibble over some matter which his own worldview does not even address! All of Warden’s concern at this point was to avoid dealing with the implications of theism in terms of the subject-object relationship. That’s when Warden then accuses me of “refusing” to explain what the issue of metaphysical primacy refers to, which at this point can only be a bald-faced lie.

Even worse now, instead of acknowledging that in fact I have addressed the concerns which Warden claims I “refuse” to explain, he now gives you a list of duties that you are now supposed to perform.

He says that I have “made [myself] scarce,” but in fact I’m right where I’ve always been.

The guy is really whacked.


samonedo said...

Dawson wrote
"Frankly, I have so much still yet to say that I am having a hard time finding the time I need to keep at it"

I am glad to hear that. Your blogs only get better and clearer.

Bahnsen Burner said...


I saw your recent attempts to hold-hand Rick Warden to the truth - one today and one last week some time. He simply refuses to acknowledge that he was completely wrong. I'm guessing he won't even check out the blog entry above that you linked to. It's clear as day that he is utterly wrong on so many points. Yet when called on it, he calls you a troll and wants to dissolve the discussion. Then he challenges others who may be reading to address his questions. Does he realize that his questions have already been addressed? If he does not read what has been explained to him, how could he know that his questions haven't already been answered? Like Jason Lisle, Warden is a pathlogical liar for Jesus through and through.

As I stated, at a loss for words...

At least these folks are showing the world what they're all about.


Unknown said...

You seem highly educated and extremely assured on your atheism ...having visited Rick Wardens blog could I invite you over to the blog by Randal Rauser The Tentative Apologist blog Im sure youd be a welcome contributor over there.Randal

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Frank,

Thank you for your comment and your invite.

Yes, I am absolutely certain in my atheism.