Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dave's McPresuppositions, Part III

In this post I continue my exploration of Dave McPhillips’ comments which he posted here.

This is the third of a series of installments in which I interact with Dave’s attempts to defend his god-belief and promulgate the skeptical view of the human mind that is so vital to religious faith. For earlier installments, readers are invited to read Part I and Part II of this series.

In this installment, we explore Dave’s claim that “Christians have a rational basis” for their beliefs and his questions about reason from the perspective of rational philosophy. Indeed, it is good when a mystic at least asks about reason and its foundations, for his own worldview will not provide suitable answers to these. That is because the mystic’s worldview is fundamentally opposed to reason.

Dave wrote:
However Christians have a rational basis for this assumption which I have explained previously.
Christianity rests on the claim to “revelation.” This can only mean that any such “basis” which Dave claims his worldview provides for any assumption he makes cannot be rational in nature. I already explained this when I wrote (in this blog entry):
by appealing to revelation, Dave is signifying that reason is not involved in discovering and validating any of this. Rather, reason is replaced by faith in revelations. Faith is hope in the imaginary. Revelation itself is imaginary. So faith in revelations is essentially hope in imaginary revelations. That can only mean that his worldview is necessarily irrational, since rationality is the commitment to reason as one's only source of knowledge, one's only standard of judgment and one's only guide to action. Appeal to revelations constitutes a rejection of reason.
Nowhere in the bible do we find any informed concern for rationality. It’s as though its authors had no inkling of what rationality is. Belief in invisible magic beings, prayer, exorcism, commanding mountains to move, cursing fig trees, preaching about devils and “unclean spirits,” leaving families and loved ones to follow an unproductive itinerant trouble-maker, virgin births, mass visions, dead people rising out of graves, men walking on water, heaven, hell, etc., etc., etc., none of these practices and beliefs exemplify a commitment to reason as one’s only means of knowledge, one’s only standard of judgment and one’s only guide to action.

Given what Christianity does affirm and what it does teach, what could “rationality” possibly mean? What does the bible mean by ‘rationality’? Oh, that’s right, one will search the bible in vain for this concept. One must look outside the bible to get any kind of understanding of what rationality is. And since Christianity rests ultimately on the primacy of consciousness, the believer’s appeal to rationality constitutes an instance of the fallacy of the stolen concept: he’s making use of a concept in the context of a worldview which denies the very basis of that concept.

Dave asks:
But on what basis can the unbeliever make sense of his assumptions?
A better question, in light of the foregoing, would be: what is a given thinker’s starting point? How does he know it’s true? What does it correspond to? By what means does he have awareness of it? Is it conceptually irreducible? Is its truth perceptually self-evident? Does a denial of his starting point entail the assumption that it’s actually true? How does he build his worldview upon that starting point?

The Objectivist can address these questions directly and explicitly. But where does the bible address them? It doesn’t. The closest I’ve found that the bible speaks of a starting point, is Proverbs 1:7, which states: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” This means that a type of emotion - namely fear – is the Christian worldview’s starting point. Thus Christianity has its basis in emotion, not in fact, not in perception, not in looking outward, but in looking inward, and in making the elementary blunder of treating one’s emotions as a primary.

Contrast this with Objectivism’s starting point: the axiom of existence. If we clear our minds of all assumptions and dig down to what first enters our awareness, we find that the beginning of our awareness is in the form of perception of objects. We can only look inward if there is content in our minds to look inward at. But before we have any content in our minds, we need to look outward at the realm of existence – i.e., at the things that exist independent of our conscious activity.

When we look outward, we see, hear, and touch objects which exist independent of our seeing, hearing and touching. They have to exist in order for us to see, hear and touch them since these sense modalities react only to actually existing physical stimuli. Thus there is, on the one hand, the things existing in the world independent of our seeing, hearing and touching, and on the other, our seeing, our hearing and our touching of those objects. In other words, there are the objects of consciousness and the activity of consciousness. Thus there is a relationship between awareness and the objects of awareness, and this relationship is fundamental - it comes well before we make any identifications, assumptions, suppositions, etc. This form of awareness is perceptual in nature, as opposed to conceptual activity, which comes later. No, you will not learn about any of this by reading the bible. It takes all these things completely for granted and never provides its readers with an informed understanding of how it all works. It leaves the human mind tragically stranded on the perilous rocks of unexamined assumptions.

Identification, especially in the case of identification of general classes of objects, is at root a conceptual process based on perceptual input. We see two balls and we unite them into a single mental unit, the concept ‘ball’, by a process of abstraction. But in order to do this, we need to see the balls first. Assumptions, suppositions, inferences, conclusions, etc., all come later, after there is conceptual content available to inform them. So we do not begin with “assumptions” as Christian apologists typically assume. (They assume this ultimately because they do not understand the relationship between the conceptual level of cognition and perception.)

Dave wrote:
No one is asking you to prove reason without using reason, as this is impossible. What I am asking is how do the characteristics which you assign to reason make sense within your worldview?
“[H]ow do the characteristics which [I] assign to reason make sense within [my] worldview?” We have to be careful here, for I do not “assign” characteristics to reason. Rather, I discover them as a result of conducting an investigation into the nature of reason. How is it that the characteristics that I discover in reason “make sense” within my worldview? Again, my worldview begins with explicitly stated axioms, including the axioms of existence, identity and consciousness, and remains loyal to these axioms throughout every identification, every integration, every inference, every position, every branch of philosophy and every method of thought. Reason does not violate the axioms at any point. Reason is the application of the axiom of identity to the realm of knowledge.

What is reason? Again, we cannot answer this by looking in the bible. We have to look out at reality, not into the fantasies of imagination. Reason is the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by the senses. So already we see some fundamental characteristics of reason, and it should be clear how these characteristics themselves are integrated throughout Objectivism, specifically by means of the principle of objectivity. Objectivity is volitional adherence to the primacy of existence (i.e., to the recognition that existence exists independent of conscious activity) throughout one’s knowledge throughout one’s philosophy, throughout one’s judgments, throughout one’s interaction with reality. Reason has a specific identity – we discover this by using reason to investigate the nature of reason – and Objectivism remains consistent with its nature throughout its every branch.

If Dave thinks that reason is incompatible with the fact that existence exists, with the law of identity, or with the nature of human consciousness, it is up to him to raise these objections against Objectivism and defend them. For only if reason were incompatible with the facts denoted by the axioms could there be a problem here. Otherwise, it appears that Dave is simply trying to manufacture a problem where no problem actually exists.

To be continued…

by Dawson Bethrick

1 comment:

Ydemoc said...

Yep, what johan said: Great! -- as well your most recent comments in the threads.