Thursday, December 25, 2014

Jason Petersen on Objectivism and the Laws of Logic

A visitor to my blog recently asked me to comment on an article by Jason Petersen titled 28. Q and A: Objectivism and the Laws of Logic. As with virtually everything else I’ve read by Jason Petersen, this article has the dubious propensity to cause informed readers involuntarily to perform a double face-palm while trying to maintain the resolve to read on to the second paragraph.

In his article, Petersen presents a question – purportedly from a visitor to his site Answers for Hope - and proceeds as though he had something positively instructive to say in response to it. But since there’s always the possibility that some readers will find themselves more baffled after reading Petersen’s article than before they even knew of its existence,

The questioner, Jay, writes:
I have a question about how objectivsts account for Laws of Logic.
Now, the first question that flashed through my mind when I read this, was: Why would anyone go to Jason Petersen with a question about how “objectivists account for Laws of Logic”? Why suppose that Jason Petersen knows anything about the laws of logic, let alone Objectivism’s view of logic, in the first place? Perhaps Jay was feeling hopeless and figured that Jason Petersen could provide some “answers for hope.” We may never know whether or not Jay found Petersen’s responses to be satisfying, but we will take a look at them and determine their worthiness for ourselves.
Jay continues:
Im sure you know they say its an axiom of existence, not a thing, a nature of existence, etc..
Notice that Jay does not cite any sources to inform or substantiate his characterization of how Objectivists “account for Laws of Logic.” He tosses around some familiar-sounding words as though their mere mentioning would make his own superficial understanding seem legitimate. We will find that Petersen nowhere corrects Jay’s deficient grasp of Objectivism.

Jay writes:
I understand the epistemological problem of this (observe particulars therefore universally true – arbitrary non-sequitur).
If Jay thinks Objectivists argue “observe particulars therefore universally true,” he doesn’t know the first thing about Objectivist epistemology. That’s not Objectivism’s fault. There are many sources – some of them freely accessible on the web in fact – where Jay could learn about Objectivist epistemology if he were truly interested in understanding it. But statements like this are sufficient to tell the world that he’s not done a first night of homework on the matter. That he would expect Jason Petersen to further his enlightenment only serves to cement brewing doubts about any prospects this blind-leading-the-blind venture may lead to.

Jay asks:
Is there anything problematic with this ontologically like how problems arise when you claim they are material?
Jay expects to evaluate a position on a matter that is epistemological as though it were an ontological matter. This is the norm among Christian apologists when it comes to epistemological matters since they have no epistemology to speak of in the first place. They raise issues like the laws of logic, induction, science, etc., without grasping the epistemological issues involved in such issues. Note, for example, how apologists commonly assume that discussions pertaining to the problem of induction are confined to debates over the uniformity of nature, as though this alone were the real issue.

Logic is epistemological, not metaphysical or ontological. Objectivists will not hesitate to point out the fact that logic is not analogous to the concrete particulars that we find in the world around us, which makes statements like Jay’s above – which insinuates that Objectivists affirm the view that the laws of logic are “material” – all the more indicative of a failure to investigate the matter honestly or responsibly.

To understand the nature of logic fully, one needs to understand the rudiments of conceptualization. But where would a Christian go to discover those rudiments? Do they find them in some chapter in Isaiah or Deuteronomy, in Obadiah or one of the New Testament epistles? Clearly not. The Christian bible offers no informed treatment on the nature of concepts, the process by which they are formed, the ways in which they can be integrated with other concepts, etc. One would have to look outside the Christian bible for this.

Unfortunately, most of those Christian philosophers who have looked outside the bible for answers on epistemological matters have looked in the wrong places and settled too quickly for answers to these issues. This is evident in apologetic programs which continue to treat “the problem of universals” as though it were an ontological quandary rather than an epistemological matter. But this error itself is a product of a religious-driven agenda, namely to relate the conceptual level of cognition to a supernatural realm which is only accessible to human thinkers by means of imagination. The path that apologists use to make such a connection is invariably an argument from ignorance, as though to say: “We don’t know how the mind integrates the material provided by the senses into conceptual form, therefore our ability to do so must be due to some supernatural agency.” Don’t be surprised when such a platform lays buried beneath an array of disguises lurking within the apologist’s talking points.

Jay writes:
To me this sounds acceptable within Christianity.
It’s unclear from the context what Jay is referring to here with his use of the demonstrative pronoun “this”: precisely what “sounds acceptable within Christianity” – that there is an ontological problem, that problems arise, that someone says something is “material”? None of this is clear, which is fittingly ironic: when one makes a pronouncement about something being “acceptable within Christianity,” it can’t get any blurrier.

Also ironic here is the fact that virtually any view – especially a bad one – on universals and the laws of logic can be made to “sound… acceptable within Christianity” given the fact that Christianity’s primary source – the Old and New Testaments – gives no informed presentation on either universals or the laws of logic in the first place. What theory of universals “sounds acceptable within” a Harry Potter novel? What “account for” the laws of logic “sounds acceptable within” Alice in Wonderland? So far as I know, none of these pieces of literature provide anything approaching a developed epistemology, and I know of no reason that relevantly distinguishes the books of the Christian bible in this regard.

On this note, it would be instructive to observe, when apologists make pronouncements about universals, the laws of logic, or any other issue falling under the purview of epistemology, whether they do in fact cite biblical passages which inform, substantiate or at any rate support their characterizations of what they take these things to be in terms of their worldview significance. Sadly, in my experience, this is precisely what we typically do not find when apologists discuss such matters. The bible might as well not even exist at that point.

Jay writes:
Im not too sold on Laws of Logic being abstract things, instead they are just descriptors of God’s nature and how he thinks.
This too is most ironic. We will find in Jason Petersen’s reply that he charges Objectivism with an “ontological issue” (i.e., a philosophical problem of sorts), namely the is-ought problem. On that point, Petersen states:
Simply put, one cannot show that something is prescriptive by describing it. For instance, if the laws of logic are part of the nature of reality, as an objectivist would assert, that description would not justifiably lead to an obligation to follow the laws of logic when we are using reason.
I will address Petersen’s accusation below. But notice here that Jay is affirming that the laws of logic “are just descriptors” of something, which hazards the very problem Petersen charges against Objectivism. However, at no point does Petersen raise any concern over Jay’s characterization of the laws of logic as descriptive in nature.

Jay had an additional question for Petersen regarding a blog entry of Petersen’s regarding science (Jay calls it Petersen’s “science article” and Petersen himself refers to it as “my article on operationalism, Christianity, and the philosophy of science”). Readers are free to investigate this portion of Petersen’s blog entry on their own; I will not be examining it in the present entry.

So how does Petersen respond to Jay’s comments and questions? Does Petersen ask for clarification on points that are vague and sloppy? No, he does not. Does he correct Jay’s mischaracterization of Objectivism? No, he does not. Does Petersen demonstrate any informed familiarity with Objectivism insofar as either universals or the laws of logic are concerned? No, he does not. Does Petersen acknowledge his own lack of knowledge of Objectivism and direct Jay to sources which might help him discover the answers to his questions and grow in his understanding of Objectivism? No, he does not. Does Petersen point out that Jay’s own characterization of the laws of logic as descriptive in nature invites one of the very objections he (erroneously) cites against Objectivism? No, he does not.

Instead, Petersen seems all too content to allow Jay to remain ignorant on these matters.

Take for example what Petersen states here in response to Jay’s questions:
You already pointed out a major epistemological issue with objectivism so I will not be talking about the problem of universals.
The only portion in Jay’s statement that Petersen could possibly have in mind at this point is Jay’s characterization of Objectivism as promoting a view that reduces to “observe particulars therefore universally true – arbitrary non-sequitur.” Neither Jay nor Petersen cite any sources to legitimize this characterization (which is no surprise – they can’t), nor is it at all accurate (it fails to take into account the objective theory of concepts which Rand explicates in her book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology). Objectivism does not leap from “observ[ing] particulars” to general conclusions (“therefore universally true”). We perceive specific objects, form concepts which integrate them by an objective process, integrate those concepts into broader or more refined concepts – also by an objective process, integrate those concepts into propositions about what we perceive which are either true or not true. There’s certainly no “arbitrary non-sequitur” here, especially given the fact that “arbitrary” essentially mean ‘devoid of evidential support’ (cf.’s entry for ‘arbitrary’: “capricious; unreasonable; unsupported:”).

Now, either Jason Petersen knows that Jay’s characterization of Objectivism misconstrues its target in a relevantly significant manner – in which case he is being dishonest when he writes that Jay has “pointed out a major epistemological issue with objectivism”; Or, Petersen is equally clueless on what Objectivist epistemology teaches – in which case he is speaking out of ignorance and is complicit in promulgating a dishonesty by not being forthcoming about his ignorance.

Neither alternative bodes well for Petersen’s credibility as a thinker.

But I will say that it’s good that Petersen does not stick his foot any further in his mouth by choosing not to speak more about “the problem of universals.” Then again, which book, chapter and verse(s) should we consult in the Christian bible to get an “inspired” or “God-breathed” understanding of the problem of universals and the distinctively Christian solution to this problem which has plagued so many philosophers through the ages before Ayn Rand? I would love to see Petersen address this question specifically, but I don’t recommend that we hold our breath.

In spite of statements which call into serious question his familiarity with Objectivism, Petersen continues:
One ontological issue that objectivists face concerning the laws of logic is known as the is-ought problem. Simply put, one cannot show that something is prescriptive by describing it. For instance, if the laws of logic are part of the nature of reality, as an objectivist would assert, that description would not justifiably lead to an obligation to follow the laws of logic when we are using reason.
Jay’s question, we might recall, had to do with “how objectivsts account for Laws of Logic.” Petersen immediately stated that he would not discuss “the problem of universals” in response to Jay’s query. But where does Petersen discuss “how objectivsts account for Laws of Logic”? He doesn’t. Instead, he skips beyond this and focuses on what he proposes to be another problem for Objectivism, namely: Why use logic? How a philosophy “accounts for the laws of logic” and how it explains why logic is useful, are two different matters. Petersen, in his characteristic sloppiness with such important matters, runs roughshod over such important distinctions.

Again, Petersen shows his deep ignorance of Objectivism in what he does say here. Right off he errs in characterizing what he calls “the is-ought problem” as an “ontological issue.” But this is a moral issue since it pertains to chosen actions and motivations on the part of human thinkers. The ‘is-ought problem’ in philosophy does not fall under the heading of ontology, but under the heading of morality (see for example here and here).

Petersen says that “an objectivist would assert” that “the laws of logic are part of the nature of reality.” Does he cite any sources to support this characterization? What exactly does it mean to say that “the laws of logic are part of the nature of reality”? Would this imply that the laws of logic exist apart from conceptualization? If so – and to the degree that this is what such an expression implies – it has already departed wildly from Objectivism’s conception of the laws of logic. Broadly, such a view ignores the distinction between the subject of consciousness as well as any and all objects of consciousness as well as the distinction between specific concretes and general principles. The principles of logic, according to Objectivism, are conceptual in nature. Of course, to grasp this fully, one needs a theory of concepts, something the Christian worldview does not have. For more on the conceptual nature of logic, see my five-part paper Does Logic Presuppose the Christian God?

Petersen then states that “that description would not justifiably lead to an obligation to follow the laws of logic when we are using reason,” though it did not occur to him to point out how this bears on Jay's own view that the laws of logic "are just descriptors of God's nature and how he thinks." 
At any rate, Petersen errs here by not taking into account the fact that Objectivism does not contend that we have “an obligation to use the laws of logic” in the sense of a “duty” of sorts. There is no “duty” to use logic any more than there is a “duty” to eat food. We use logic by choice, just as we eat by choice. And just as consuming food is not an end in itself, using logic is not an end in itself. If a man wants to live, he will choose to consume food. If a man wants to know, he will choose to apply logic to what he discovers in the world. In just this way, Objectivism holds to hypothetical imperatives geared toward moral goals as opposed to categorical imperatives which are to be followed regardless of whatever goals one might have. Objectivist morality, given its hypothetical imperatives, its values-based principles and its life-oriented goals, leads to life and the preservation of values; by contrast, Christianity, given its “duty” to obey and to subordinate one’s life needs and values to the whims of an invisible magic being, leads to Abraham’s willingness to butcher his own son (cf. Genesis chapter 22). I’ll go with Objectivism; Petersen can have his primitive worldview all he likes.

Moreover, to suggest that there is an “is-ought” problem ignores the fact that, as Peikoff points out in his essay Fact and Value, “values are a type of facts; they are facts considered in relation to the choice to live.” But all such points are completely lost on Petersen; he’s most likely not even aware that criticisms such as his have either been answered directed or headed off at the pass – or even before his horse passed the saloon on the way out of town!

Rand taught that logic is the method of reason (cf. “Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World,” Philosophy: Who Needs It, 62). It is a conceptual method, which means only a consciousness which has the ability to form concepts can use logic. Since logic is a method, it is not accurate to group logic in the same category as specific concretes, like pebbles, tumbleweeds and hairbrushes. Of course, we would never learn this by reading the bible, which may be a contributing factor to much of Petersen’s persisting confusion on such matters.

Man needs reason – and therefore logic as its method – not in order to satisfy some “obligation,” but because he is neither omniscient nor infallible. Man needs a method by which he can learn new knowledge and protect his knowledge from error to whatever extent he is capable. Reason, with its method logic, is the faculty which equips him for just this. Many men do in fact choose to forego the use of reason, pretending that logic can provide them with knowledge of reality without the input of reason, all the while ignoring the nature of both logic and reason as well as the reasons why they need reason in the first place. Such individuals are naturally drawn to religion of one sort or another in their quest for unearned knowledge.

Petersen raises another pseudo-problem:
There is another question that also arises as well: Are the laws of logic a priori or a posteriori? A priori knowledge is knowledge that is known priori to experience. A posteriori knowledge is knowledge that is gained from experience. Ayn Rand, the woman that developed the philosophy of objectivism, followed the lead of the Greek philosopher Aristotle when she claimed that we all start off with blank minds. This, of course, means that objectivists completely reject the notion of a priori knowledge.
The notion of “a priori knowledge” is simply an attempt to negate the entire project of epistemology altogether. One of the central questions of epistemology is: How do we know what we know? The notion of “a priori knowledge” is the pretense that man is born with knowledge already canned into his mind prior to any experiential interaction with the world. It’s a form of the claim to “just know,” without any how of knowing. This beckons John Frame’s gleeful statement of ignorance, “We know without knowing how we know” (see here).

Knowledge of logic is not automatic, innate, or indicative of anamnesis or any other alleged mystical means of “knowing.” The entire history of the philosophical development of logic should be sufficient to testify to precisely this: thinkers through the ages, beginning with Aristotle, have poured countless amounts of time and energy into pondering logic, discovering its principles, its relationships, its integrating prowess. To call this an example of “a priori knowledge” just shows the crass willingness to take great human achievements completely for granted in an expression of ignorance of biblical proportions.

Moreover, if logic is conceptual in nature, as I have argued (again, see here), then the concepts which inform logical principles need to be formed by a mental process. In other words, human beings who want to learn logical principles need to perform conceptual labor. This is not possible without experience (i.e., conscious interaction with the objects we discover in the world by looking outward) any more than breathing on the moon is possible without a space suit. An experience-starved brain is no more functional than an oxygen-starved body.

It is ultimately sheer ignorance about the nature, not only of logic, but also of concepts and the process by which the human mind forms them, that apologists retreat to the “a priori” cave of their primitive philosophical ancestors. And for them, given the ignorance to which they stubbornly cling, this seems most expedient, especially since it allows them to point to the deity which they concoct and enshrine in their imaginations as the “answer” to their willfully unanswered questions about the nature of logic. Apologists raise the issue of the laws of logic precisely because their lack of understanding of both logic and concepts has created an enormous gap in their understanding into which they are zealously eager to insert their god. The premise of “a priori knowledge” is simply a means to furthering this illicit, subjective end.

But if logic is in fact conceptual in nature, and we have a theory of concepts which explains how the human mind forms concepts (qua general classes and categories) from perceptual input, as the objective theory of concepts does, then there is no inscrutable mystery here which compels us to posit supernatural solutions. That we do in fact form concepts from what we perceive and retain our knowledge of the world in the form of concepts is indisputable (let anyone who disputes this, frame his disputation without recourse to concepts).

Consider the fact that our most basic concepts – those which Objectivism identifies as axiomatic concepts, are based directly on perceptual input and entirely general in nature. The concept ‘existence’, for example, denotes everything that exists, all in one mental unit. To speak of all of existence is to speak as widely as possible, leaving out nothing that actually exists. This is not a concept that we form absent of perceptual input, and thus not a concept available to us prior to or apart from experience. Who remembers “knowing” this concept before they were born, or before they were conceived for that matter (for it could be argued that, even in the womb, we experience things – medical ultrasonography records how unborn babies react to stimuli, and it is held that a fetus can feel pain)? If axiomatic concepts, the most basic concepts of all, are formed on the basis of perceptual input, as the objective theory of concepts demonstrates, then the notion that logic is “a priori” must be rejected in toto. Indeed, what argument does Petersen give for the conclusion that logic is “a priori”? Blank out.

Petersen continues:
This is problematic because if the law of contradiction is not known prior to experience, then no experience would be intelligible.
Why is that? Petersen does not provide a definition of what he means by ‘experience’, but I understand experience primarily to be conscious interaction with external objects. So what are the requirements for an experience to be “intelligible”? Should we turn to Leviticus or the Gospel of St. Luke to discover this? I trow not. I would propose that, to be “intelligible,” an experience must: (a) involve a conscious subject (by definition); (b) involve some object distinct from the knowing subject, even if this is in the form of a memory or daydream (the what of experience); and (c) be discernable (i.e., distinct from other things, including other experiences). What experience does not satisfy these requirements by virtue of its nature as an experience? Can Petersen identify any examples?

The problem with what Petersen proposes here is that it commits the fallacy of the stolen concept. This fallacy occurs when one makes use of a concept while ignoring or denying its genetic roots. The concept in this case is the concept ‘knowledge’, which Petersen wants to use apart from and prior to experience – i.e., its genetic roots. So-called “knowledge” without experience would be knowledge without objective input, and thus without discernable content. It would at best be knowledge formed in a subjective vacuum, starved of objective content and therefore entirely lacking any basis in reality.

As can be expected from a thinker who bases his pronouncements about human knowledge on ignorance, Petersen backs up his unargued assertion with a question. He asks:
How would one be able to tell the difference between a true proposition and a false proposition if the law of contradiction is not known prior to experience?
At this point, we are apparently expected to throw up our hands in utter dunderheadedness and say “Duh, I donno!” and subsequently concede the point, for which no argument has been presented. In fact, it is very common to find apologists treating questions – often fallaciously complex or left unanswered by their own worldview – as though they served as an apt substitute for argumentation.

But consider how much awareness of the world perception alone gives us, before we ever even begin forming our first propositions. If you place a tennis ball and a basketball before a toddler, before it has ever formed the concepts ‘big’, ‘bigger’ and ‘biggest’, the child can, at the perceptual level of awareness, discern which ball is larger than the other, just from what is perceptually self-evident. The concepts ‘big’ and ‘bigger’ are not metaphysical preconditions for either the size relationship between such objects or this kind of discernment at the perceptual level to take place.

We can demonstrate this by means of experiments with animals which have not reached the conceptual level of cognition. For example, if you roll both a basketball and a tennis ball towards a dog, it will attempt to pick up the tennis ball in its mouth before it ever tries to do so with the basketball. In fact, I would wager that most dogs would not even attempt to pick up a basketball in their mouths, but I’ve known many dogs who apparently experience great pleasure in retrieving a tennis ball. The point is that discriminated experience is already taking place in the perceptual level of cognition well before (and apart from) the administration of the conceptual level of consciousness. It is when we get to the conceptual level that we identify such distinctions in conceptual form. But those distinctions existed before we identified them (they had to – otherwise we wouldn’t have them to identify in the first place), and we were aware of them prior to identifying them (which is why we are in the position necessary for us to be able to identify them). We perceive things prior to identifying them. Otherwise we would be identifying something that we are not aware of. How much sense would that make? But this is precisely where Petersen’s “epistemology” leads: ‘knowledge’ in a complete void.

But Petersen, in his haste to manufacture any objection he can muster against Objectivism, has run roughshod over such fundamentals, ignoring discriminating cognition which already takes place at the perceptual level. This is clear from what he states here:
If you can’t recognize whether or not the proposition is trustworthy, then you cannot learn by experience.
Experience is not limited to knowledge and evaluation of propositions. In fact, we have a whole chain of experiences long before we form our first propositions. We need to have formed concepts before we can ever form propositions, and we need to perceive objects (thereby experiencing the world around us) before we can form concepts in the first place. Since perceptual experience both (a) comes before conceptual integration and (b) is a necessary precondition to forming concepts (and therefore to forming propositions by extension), Petersen’s claim is a non sequitur. Indeed, we learn from experience all the time, even if we cannot determine the trustworthiness of certain propositions. (Try listening to someone speaking Turkish or Chinese and see how able you are at determining the trustworthiness of the propositions he utters.)

In our earliest months and years of life, we in fact do learn from experience, long before we form basic propositions or acquire even a basic understanding of logical principles. A toddler who burns himself by touching a hot stove will learn very quickly to be more careful around stoves; a toddler who is confronted with an aggressive dog will likewise learn very quickly to be careful around animals. Discerning the trustworthiness of propositions is a much more complex mental task. In fact, Petersen has it completely backwards: if we cannot learn from experience, we will never be able to determine the trustworthiness of propositions.

Petersen continues:
The objectivist’s ontological views of the law of logic leads to a self-refuting skepticism, for if the law of contradiction not being known a priori results in a worldview where knowledge simply isn’t possible.
The latter set of clauses in this cumbersome sentence is grammatically incoherent (it begins, after the comma, with a compound conjunction – “for if” - necessitating two clauses where only one is given, followed by another clause – beginning with ‘where’ – which does not provide the former with a complete thought). But it’s clear that Petersen is eager simply to repeat – regardless of how unfamiliar he is with Objectivism and in spite of the fact that he nowhere supports his characterizations by citing Objectivist sources on the very matter at issue here – his pet claim that Objectivism “leads to a self-refuting skepticism.” This is what Petersen wants to assert, and it’s clear that he’s intent on asserting it at all costs, even though he provides no defense which bears under scrutiny.

Unlike Christianity, Objectivism actually has an epistemology – beginning with the objective theory of concepts – and in no way seeks to do away with epistemology (such as when thinkers affirm the notion of “a priori knowledge”). Moreover, Objectivism bases logic on the axiomatic concept of identity, a concept which Christianity seeks to evade and whose philosophical tenets obliterate. Logic is not possible on Christian grounds. A worldview which requires of its adherents the unthinking acceptance of mystical dogma is wholly antagonistic to the very essence of logic. And Petersen, a defender of Christian mysticism, charges that Objectivism “leads to a self-refuting skepticism”? Skepticism is the Christian’s very starting point: “We can’t know, so we might as well believe.” That is not the path to knowledge. The announcement that “We know without knowing how we know” signals that no promising epistemology is to be expected from such a worldview.

Petersen writes:
I agree with you that the laws of logic are not abstract objects.
How many types of objects are there? Objectivism recognizes the conceptual nature of logic, and therefore its role in the subject-object relationship of a consciousness capable of forming concepts on the basis of objective input. We perceive specific concretes, and we integrate these concretes into mental units – i.e., concepts – by means of a specific mental process – i.e., concept-formation. Given the content of our concepts and the subsequent integrations we perform with that content, we are able to draw inferences and formulate conclusions, both general and specific. We could not do this if we did not first form the concepts involved in such inferences and conclusions. But the Christian bible provides no account of any of this, at any point, from beginning to end. It is as though its authors – far from showing any interest in such matters – took all of it completely for granted without ever grasping any step in such processes with any clarity of understanding.

Petersen writes:
In fact, William Lane Craig is working on a book on abstract objects. At one time, he used to view things like numbers and laws of logic as abstract objects, but he has recently come out and said that he has changed his position on this matter. I think his new book will be an interesting read for all Christians once it comes out.
Where would anyone find in the Christian bible any discussion of whether or not the laws of logic are “abstract objects”? Indeed, what does Petersen (or anyone else for that matter) mean by “abstract object”? Can the define such a term positively rather than merely telling us what it is not? Where should we go to find the answers to such questions? If the Christian bible had any passage which spoke directly to such matters, why would Craig’s work – or any extrabiblical source for that matter – be necessary? I do not know Craig’s views on “abstract objects” specifically – nor do I think it important to go and find out his views on such matters – but it seems that such a venture would involve a healthy dose of borrowing from extra-biblical sources, a high degree of conjecture and an even higher degree of deliberately tailoring whatever pronouncements Craig makes to satisfy deep-seated religious prejudices that have been in place all along.

In sum, I submit that we have here, once again, another fine example of Jason Petersen pontificating out of his own gaping chasms of ignorance. Will he use my corrections as an opportunity to learn? Sadly, I very much doubt it.

by Dawson Bethrick


Ydemoc said...

Thanks for the latest, Dawson. And happy holidays to all!

By the way, I came across this as I was reading:

"We identify things that we are aware of prior to identifying them. Otherwise we would be identifying something that we are not aware of. How much sense would that make? But this is precisely where Petersen’s “epistemology” leads: ‘knowledge’ in a complete void. "

Does the first sentence above have a typo or a missing word? Or am I missing something?


Bahnsen Burner said...

Good catch, Ydemoc!

No, you're not missing something. That was an error. Not sure why - I think I had been editing that paragraph and got happy fingers at some point. Hope I'm not losing my mojo!

I've revised the sentence to state:

"We perceive things prior to identifying them."

Thanks for your eagle's eyes!


l_johan_k said...

Thank you, Dawson, for another great article!
regards, Johan

Anonymous said...

Believers don't want to go to main sources of information. They are lazy. They rather get their favourite bullshitter (aka apologists) to deal with that. Once I posted a few things at Jason Lisle's blog. Lisle ignored them, but they bothered some reader so much that the reader begged Lisle to deal with them. The reader was worried, but rather than reason, he asked for help from the apologist.

Tommy Hunslapper said...

Is it just me or does the Christian attempt to plant a flag in greek thought, in the name of Jebus, symoblise the utter ignorance and inherent dishonesty of much (if not all ) 'apologetics'?

Their constant harping on something they clearly do not understand is as annoying as it is transparent and pathetic.

I have demonstrated the provenance of the classical laws of logic from mere observation/identification in what I imagine is a similar way to Aristotle.

Your right hand is your right hand (A=A) and is not your left hand (A =/= -A), and if u hold up any one of your hands it is either your left hand or your right hand, it cannot be neither or both. (forgive me my inability to reproduce this law in notational form)

And that's it.

Other than making the distinction between the abstraction of the laws and the observations the laws represent, what else is there, and why is this so hard to grasp?

95BSharpshooter said...

Asking Petersen about Laws of Logic and/or Objectivism is like asking Bob Uecker about the fine are of hitting.

95BSharpshooter said...

Don't I recall something about "...bearing false witness" in the witless dolts orders?

(German accent affected: "I MUST HAVE ORDURS!")

l_johan_k said...

Hi Dawson.
has some great articles on PA.
It might be of interest to you.
regards, Johan

Unknown said...

I'm writing a new blog called. Here's how it starts. I'll send an invite here when it's done. This anecdote is not fiction. The boy is my son.

A father sits at the breakfast table with his six year old son. The boy chomps away at a big bowl of Cheerios enjoying every bite as though it is exactly what all five of his senses were built to do at that moment. His father breaks his son's concentration by interjecting with a innocent looking question.

"Son, where did that spoon come from?"

"People made it."

"Yeah, people made it. And the bowl too?"


"What about your Cheerio's? Who made those?"

"People. People cooked them from this wheat on the box....see....and drizzled in honey [they're honey-nut] put them in the box and sent them to the store in a truck."

"Good answer, son." His father smiles at his son's attention to detail on some things. "What about the wheat that grows in the field, you know, that the farmers farm? Do they make that? Or just grow it? Where does it come from?"

"It comes from seeds," answers the boy flatly slurping up a spoon full of milk with a few half drowned circles of compressed grain bobbing around on it's surface.

"Ok", says the father. "How about the ground where the seeds are grow? Where does it come from?"

"The earth", says the boy.

"And the earth?", asks the father.

"From space", answers the boy, matter-of-factly. "You know, where all the stars and other stuff is out in space."

"Ok, son. Who made space?" asks the father knowingly bringing in a creator to see if it trips the boy up. The boy pauses from slurping milk from his up-lifted bowl, looks at his father and says, "No one."

"No one? It's just always been there?"

"Yeah." The boy slurps the rest of his breakfast up and sets down his bowl. "It's not like stuff we make or build. You can't just build space. Some stuff no one made."

"I see." His father looks out the apartments wide picture window. "Son. What about Santa. How does he get down into the apartment to put the presents under the tree?"

The boy gets up from his parson's chair with a jump, wiping his chin with his sleeve even though his napkin was inches away from his fidgety hands the entire time.

"Magic," says the boy and dashes off to his room probably to build something with his Lego.

"Hey! Come back here! Your bowl belongs in the sink if you're done!" says his father to himself, God and Santa. His son was already gone, lost in his imagination, but creating something real from it.

In the blog I'm going to explore the notion that there is an innate sense of God or a higher power or intelligence and how that relates to man's sense of "meaning and purpose".


Justin Hall said...

I would not be surprised if Jason had not posted that question himself using a sock puppet account.

95BSharpshooter said...

Re: Daniel GodIsTime

Get into detox right away!

Unknown said...

Re: Sharpshooter

I made a blanket statement about what my next paper is about. Why do I need detox for that?

The subject arose due to a conversation I had with a relative who made the assertion that he feels man (as a whole) intrinsically seek a god or higher power for explanation and that that alone must speak to a tangible "why" (i.e. there must be something out there that man innately "senses"). That's what I'm exploring in my paper.

The story/dialogue is a framing device that I'm using. Did someone drug me and I might not know it?


Anonymous said...

Happy new year people!

Daniel GodIsTime,

I think that your starting point and whatever you are saying that you'll write about is not very well thought yet. An innate sense of "God"? because your kid believes in Santa? You are not considering how the social environment might have influenced your kid to believe in Santa, and that your kid is/might be motivated by the idea that he might get a gift if he believes. Nothing to do with being "wired" to believe in "God."

Then what you that even mean? That we have an innate sense of "God"? Do you mean that some god put that into us? Do you mean that we have a tendency to believe that there's a god?

Also, you have to take into account loads of alternatives. Most societies develop myths about gods. Does that mean that we have an innate "sense" for "gods"? That there's lots of gods out there implanting that into us? Or, could it be that we humans tend to anthropomorphise what we don't understand and from that derive these gods?

See ya.

Unknown said...

Photo and all,

I am done speaking about my site and it's content on Bethrick's site. He has been more than gracious.

I would like to correct your misconceptions but to do so here would be presumptuous of Dawson's hospitality. When my paper is done it can be discussed then. Cheers all! And happy new year!