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.
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.
by Dawson Bethrick