Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Definitions of Atheism



In times past for the sake of clarity, precision and dialogue I had no problem with defining "atheism" as a lack of belief in God/Goddess/gods/goddesses. I'm still willing to use that definition for the sake of discussion. However, I'm not longer certain it aids in precision. In fact, I now lean toward that popular definition as making things less precise. See the podcast I link to below where Justin Schieber interviews "Ozymandias Ramses II". Contrary to that popular contemporary definition, in the European philosophical and theological tradition of the last few hundred years atheism was defined as a belief in the non-existence of gods. Only in recent years has it been defined as a lack of belief in gods. It was within that European tradition that atheist crusader Charles Bradlaugh first precisely defined atheism as a lack of a belief in gods in his "A Plea for Atheism" (1864). He had noted elsewhere that "no position is more continuously misrepresented" than atheism. He stated: "Atheism is without God. It does not assert no God." It was probably Thomas Henry Huxley who first to coined the term "agnostic" in 1869.

Modern atheists distinguish between positive atheism and negative atheism (also called strong and weak atheism). Positive atheism is the positive belief that there are no gods. Negative atheism is merely the lack of a belief in gods. Depending on one's perspective, negative atheism can be seen as a form of agnosticism or agnosticism a form of negative atheism. While some positive atheists claim they can disprove ALL gods, knowledgeable positive atheists deny that one must be able to prove the non-existence of all gods and supernatural entities (even if one can disprove some). According to some estimates there have been over 2,500 different gods and supernatural entities believed in and/or seriously described and recorded in human history. To disprove all of them would be an enormous inductive task. But even if, hypothetically, one were successful at disproving all those that does nothing to address unknown, unrevealed or un-thought of supernatural entities. In many cases it's very difficult to prove universal negatives. This is especially true when it comes to supernatural entities because they have a wide variety of claimed attributes, powers, characteristics and personalities. For example, one can easily disprove the existence of gods that actually live on Mount Olympus. But what if Mount Olympus is symbolic of something spiritual and immaterial? When it comes to atheists, for all they know the finite god Zeus does exist but doesn't literally and physically rule from Olympus.

In recent years George H. Smith's book Atheism: The Case Against God was one of the most influential books to disseminate and make popular the definition of atheism as merely a lack of belief in God/Goddess/gods/goddesses.

Here's a link to an article by Smith on Defining Atheism

It is only ignorant atheists who claim that atheism only ever meant a lack of belief in gods. The following will be a list of definitions from reputable (sometimes even authoritative) sources which demonstrate that atheism can mean and has (at least in the past) meant a belief in the non-existence of gods. Some of these sources are contemporary rather than antiquated works. Apparently, these sources are still influenced by the European philosophical and theological tradition I mentioned earlier.


"According to the most usual definition, an atheist is a person who maintains that there is no God, that is, that the sentence "God exists" expresses a false proposition." - Paul Edwards in Encyclopedia of Philosophy Volume I page 175


"Atheism is the view that there is no God." - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
http://www.iep.utm.edu/atheism/


" 'Atheism' means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God." - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/atheism-agnosticism/


"Atheism is ostensibly the doctrine that there is no God." -- Oxford Companion to Philosophy (2005)


"Atheism (from Greek: a + theos + ismos "not believing in god") refers in its broadest sense to a denial of theism (the belief in the existence of a single deity or deities)."- New World Encyclopedia
http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/atheism


"atheism, in general, the critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or spiritual beings. As such, it is usually distinguished from theism, which affirms the reality of the divine and often seeks to demonstrate its existence. Atheism is also distinguished from agnosticism, which leaves open the question whether there is a god or not, professing to find the questions unanswered or unanswerable."- Encyclopædia Britannica
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/40634/atheism


"ATHEISM (from Gr. ἀ-, privative, and θεός, God), literally a system of belief which denies the existence of God. The term as generally used, however, is highly ambiguous." - Encyclopædia Britannica 11th edition
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/34209/34209-h/34209-h.htm#ar219


“Atheism is the deliberate, definite, dogmatic denial of the existence of God. It is not satisfied with appropriate truth or relative truth, but claims to know the ins and outs of the game being quite clearly the absolute denial of the absolute.” - Etienne Borne

Atheism, from the Greek a-theos ("no-god"), is the philosophical position that God doesn't exist. It is distinguished from agnosticism, the argument that it is impossible to know whether God exists or not (Academic American Encyclopedia).

Atheism, system of thought developed around the denial of God's existence. Atheism, so defined, first appeared during the Enlightenment, the age of reason (Random House Encyclopedia-1977).

Atheism (from the Greek a-, not, and theos, god) is the view that there are no gods. A widely used sense denotes merely not believing in God and is consistent with agnosticism. A stricter sense denotes a belief that there is no God, the use has become the standard one (Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy-1995).

Atheism is the doctrine that there is no God. Some atheists support this claim by arguments, but these arguments are usually directed against the Christian concept of God, and are largely irrelevant to other possible gods (Oxford Companion to Philosophy-1995).

Atheism is disbelief in God (Introduction to Philosophy, Perry and Bratman, Oxford University Press-1986).

Atheism from the Greek a (not) plus theos (god). The doctrine of disbelief in a supreme being (Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion, William Reese, HumanitiesPress-1996).

Atheism (Greek, a- [private prefix] + theos, god) is the view that there is no divine being, no God (Dictionary of Philosophy, Thomas Mautner, Editor-1996).

Atheism is the belief that God doesn't exist (The World Book Encyclopedia-1991).

Atheism, Greek atheos-Disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of God (Oxford English Dictionary-1989)

Atheism, commonly speaking, is the denial of God. Theism (from the Greek theos, God) is belief in or conceptualization of God, atheism is the rejection of such belief or conceptualization.In the ancient world atheism was rarely a clearly formulated position (Encyclopedia Americana-1990).

Atheism, the critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or spiritual beings. Atheism is to be distinguished from agnosticism, which leaves open whether there is a god or not, professing to find the question unanswerable, for the atheist, the non-existence of god is a certainty (The New Encyclopedia Britannia-1993).

According to the most usual definition, an atheist is a person who maintains that there is no god…(rejects eccentric definitions of the word) (The Encyclopedia of Philosophy-1967).

Atheism is the doctrine that God does not exist, that belief in the existence of God is a false belief. The word God here refers to a divine being regarded as the independent creator of the world, a being superlatively powerful, wise and good (Encyclopedia of Religion-1987).

Atheism (Greek and Roman): Atheism is a dogmatic creed, consisting in the denial of every kind of supernatural power. Atheism has not often been seriously maintained at any period of civilized thought (Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics-Vol II).

 Atheism is the rejection of theism: a-theism. Atheists maintain some or all of the following claims: that theism is false; that theism is unbelievable; that theism is rationally unacceptable; that theism is morally unacceptable. G. Oppy, "Arguments for Atheism," S. Bullivant & M. Ruse, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Atheism (OUP, 2014), 53.
See also how these three intelligent atheists Justin Schieber, Ben Watkins and Ozymandias argue for why the new definition is inappropriate.
https://realatheology.wordpress.com/2017/05/31/ra010-interview-ozymandias-ramses-ii-on-atheism-and-lacktheism/
I've archived this podcast HERE.

Some quotes taken HERE


See this YouTube audio with William Lane Craig



Reasonable Faith podcast with William Lane Craig on the definition of "atheism"
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-definition-that-will-not-die



Book Reviews of Recent Atheist Authors 
by Christian Apologists
http://misclane.blogspot.com/2013/09/book-reviews-of-recent-atheist-authors.html

90 comments:

  1. Hi Annoyed Pinoy,

    I hope you are well.

    And again, nice collection!

    I was wondering if you had forgotten to add Steve Hays' own definition of atheism, which he presented in the comments of his blog Atheism has no brakes. That definition goes as follows (Steve Hays' own words verbatim):

    "technically, atheism is just a statement of what an atheist doesn't believe rather than what he does believe"

    Is there any reason why you wouldn't want to add Steve Hays' own definition of atheism to this collection? Is he not an authority on the matter?

    Regards,
    Dawson

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    1. I think Steve's statement there is off the cuff. He would probably answer differently if asked to give a precise definition that would anticipate many future objections. Also, as you noted Steve isn't a reference work, and so won't be recognized by atheists as an authoritative source. Part of the reason why I wrote this blogpost is to point out that while I'm willing to accept (ad arguendo) the relatively recent definition of atheism as "a lack of belief in gods", that's not the historic definition in the European philosophical tradition. Of course, atheists are free to reject that as a standard, even to the point of complaining that it's a form of Eurocentrism. Admittedly, if you go deep enough into European history (e.g. ancient Greece), Europeans had a wide range of definitions for atheism.

      The reason I prefer the historic Western definition is that it comes from a tradition of advancement, development and refinement in philosophy. In my opinion, the popular contemporary definition is retrogressive and in some senses disingenuous. For example, often (not always) those who hold to the new definition want all the "bang" that strong atheism provides, without the cost of having to pay the "bucks" of providing positive evidence for the non-existence of any gods. Often it's an expression of wanting to have their cake and eat it too (if I'm using that idiom correctly).

      BTW, Steve Hays is my all time favorite apologist because I haven't seen any apologist who is as widely read and knowledgeable in many fields of Christian apologetics as Steve. However, that strength is also his weakness. He's a jack of all trades, master of none. He hasn't specialized in any one field. He has no particular hobby horse.

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  2. Hi Annoyed Pinoy,

    Thanks for your response. I mulled over what you wrote after I read it, and I admit I’m a bit puzzled by some of what you say.

    For example, when you say that Hays’s statement was off the cuff, I don’t really know what you mean here, or even how you can speak for him. He introduced the meaning of ‘atheism’ that he offered with the word ‘technically’, suggesting (against what you’ve suggested) a concern for precision. And he used this definition when responding to an atheist who was engaging him on this very topic.

    I’m sure you would agree that a concept can have more than one definition, no? I see this in dictionaries all the time. On that note, how would you define the concept ‘nontheist’?

    Also, you state that atheists won’t take Steve Hays as an authoritative source. I know I can be a little slow at times, but I fail to see why this would constitute a worthy reason for choosing to exclude the definition which he has repeated. After all, you cite sources which, I’m confident, many atheists would also not consider authoritative – e.g., Etienne Borne and Graham Oppy. At least, I personally don’t take either as authoritative. Perhaps I’m just unusual?

    In my experience (take it for what it’s worth), apologists seem to insist that atheism means an express rejection of theism, a positively affirmed denial of the existence of any gods, even a deliberate choice not to believe in a god (suggesting that one can simply choose to believe in a god). I have long suspected that the real reason why apologists prefer this definition is that it supposedly lends support to the contention, held by many apologists, that people who do not believe in a god shoulder some sort of burden of proof. But I’ve seen only weak arguments for this position. Perhaps you don’t share this view, but I know you’re very thoughtful on these matters and I was interested in your take.

    If, say, my daughter (she’s 8 years old now) does not believe in a god, that would make her “technically” (as Hays puts it) an atheist. Given this, do you think she needs to *prove* that there are no gods to someone? If so, to whom, and to whose satisfaction? Whether she can prove that there are no gods or not, that does not change the fact that she’s an atheist in such a case. Since she’s not out trying to convince people one way or another, I don’t see why she would have any burden of proof.

    So I’d like to ask you your thoughts on this. If someone identifies himself as an atheist, and by this he simply means that he does not believe that any gods other people believe in are real (i.e., a merely negative condition in regard to theism), do you think that individual has some kind of obligation to prove something? If so, why, and to whom do you think that person is so obliged?

    Finally, if the issue is which side has the evidence going for it, I’d simply ask: What more than the metaphysical primacy of existence does one need as evidence that belief in a god is irrational?

    Again, thanks for your response.

    Regards,
    Dawson

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think we've all had conversations when we've used the word "technically" without intending to be exhaustive or anticipating every subtle future objection beyond the current conversation. It's not like Steve has never before written about atheism and given more exhaustive definitions and/or descriptions. I've followed Steve's blogs enough to know that he uses multiple definitions for various positions depending on his purposes and the audience in mind.

    I'm also curious as to why you seem to be fixated on Steve's definition. You quoted it in your 9/11/16 blogpost, which I browsed that very day. It's been 2 1/2 weeks since then. I think there are times when writing on a topic thoroughly and exhaustively is a good thing. But that blogpost (like many of your blogpost) seems unnecessarily long. I'm reminded of what Polonius said in Hamlet, "brevity is the soul of wit." Especially since you seem to have said many of the same things in past blogposts. Though, I'm not faulting you on focusing your attack on presuppositionalism or in defending objectivism. Some might call them your hobby horses, but I think concentrated attention on a topic can be a good thing. As I said, Steve's strength is his weakness.

    I’m sure you would agree that a concept can have more than one definition, no? I see this in dictionaries all the time.

    Sure. That specific definition by Steve isn't broad enough for the purposes of this blogpost. Also, I doubt he would want me to add his definition to my list. Precisely because it wasn't his intention to be exhaustive. It was posted in the comments section to a particular person for Pete's sake. It wasn't even in the main blogpost.

    On that note, how would you define the concept ‘nontheist’?

    It all depends on the context of the conversation. Presumably we're talking about a self-conscious agent (as opposed to inanimate objects like rocks, though I can imagine an android equipPed with Strong Artificial Intelligence lacking a belief in gods). A nontheist may regard himself as such by lacking a belief in the existence of all non-natural personalities. Though, it's theoretically possible to have a supernatural personality (e.g. angel, fairy, jinn) be a nontheist in the sense of acknowledging the existence of the supernatural but denying "gods" or specifically an Omni-God (i.e. a God possessing "omni" attributes). Given that latter definition, Zeus could be a "nontheist" if he saw himself as lacking a belief in the existence of an Omni-God.

    After all, you cite sources which, I’m confident, many atheists would also not consider authoritative – e.g., Etienne Borne and Graham Oppy.

    I wanted a list that couldn't be construed as biased on my part by atheists. Steve isn't a well known philosopher or even atheist philosopher (like Oppy), so many atheists wouldn't respect his opinion. Also, I didn't collect all of the above definitions all by myself. An atheist might not take Oppy as "authoritative", nevertheless most knowledgeable folks consider Oppy to be one of the top living atheist philosophers in the world. Even William Lane Craig calls him "scary smart". Steve Hays recently said "He's super-smart".

    CONT.

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    1. I have long suspected that the real reason why apologists prefer this definition is that it supposedly lends support to the contention, held by many apologists, that people who do not believe in a god shoulder some sort of burden of proof.

      That depends on one's worldview. As a Van Tillian presuppositionalist, I don't believe in neutrality. IN ONE SENSE, people who profess to merely not believe in gods (i.e. lack such a belief) don't shoulder a burden of proof. But once they claim to know that no gods exist, then that moves from nontheist to atheist (assuming the traditional definition).

      Simplistic strong atheists claim that they know and can disprove all gods. Or that they have all been disproven by someone somewhere at sometime. I suppose that includes all possible gods including those which haven't been conceived of yet by man, as well as the gods who have been biding their time, waiting to reveal themselves sometime past the year 3,000 CE. Though, theoretically, one could bypass inductive arguments, for a silver bullet deductive disproof of all gods. Some sophisticated strong atheists say they BELIEVE that no gods exist, but Don't KNOW it, and therefore aren't required to have justified or warranted reasons for that belief of theirs, OR provide to others reasonable evidence and/or arguments in favor of such a positive belief. However, most people expect from other people, as well as from themselves, to have positive reasons for their positive beliefs.

      IN ANOTHER SENSE, I believe all human beings are theists. That we're born with innate knowledge of God. This knowledge may or may not require a posteriori triggering conditions. Or such conditions may reinforce such belief and knowledge. Say, if you as a parent talks about the concept of God to your 8 year old. There are such philosophical categories as occurrent and non-occurrent beliefs and occurrent and non-occurrent knowledge. I also believe in the sensus divinitatis/deitatis which all people have existentially. I believe these and other things based on Scriptural teaching, but since you don't accept Scripture's authority, I don't expect you to agree with me.

      CONT.

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    2. If, say, my daughter (she’s 8 years old now) does not believe in a god, that would make her “technically” (as Hays puts it) an atheist.

      From my perspective that begs the question, just as I'm sure you think my statement above begs it as well. As I've pointed out in my blogpost HERE, some experiements suggests that humans are neurologically hardwired to believe in supernatural entities. There are also experiments that indicate that many professing atheists subconsciously believe in God. See the further comments, links and videos in that blogpost. If we were actually born with a tabula rasa, we'd never be able to learn anything. The first few pages of Vincent Cheung's Presuppositional Confrontations uses tennis to dramatically illustrate why we can't have been born with a tabula rasa (BTW, I'm not a modified Clarkian presupper like Cheung). Language and language aquisition by infants is more and more demonstrated to be another example.

      Finally, if the issue is which side has the evidence going for it, I’d simply ask: What more than the metaphysical primacy of existence does one need as evidence that belief in a god is irrational?

      I know this has a lot to do with your objectivism. I know very little about the subject. I'm a hack philosopher and amateur apologist. Presumably, you agree that the atheist's experience of his self-consciousness is more primary than his experience of the physical world. Especially since, even atheists can perform the thought experiment in which only minds exists apart from a physical realm. For example, an idealist world like that of Berkeley which he called "immaterialism". Presumably, atheists have awoken from dreams and realised that not all experiences of what one thought was a physical world are real. The teddy bear about to eat you isn't necessarily physical. Showing thoughts are more fundamental epistemologically (if not also metaphysically/ontologically). Even now, an atheist usually can't (using the various atheistic worldviews I'm aware of in my limited inductive experience) demonstrably prove he's not currently dreaming (for example, while reading this paragraph).

      Regarding your questions which you posed by using your daughter as an example, I would recommend my two following blogposts which are intricately related to one another. In them, I was as exhaustive, thorough and needlessly prolix as you are in some of your blogposts. ;-)

      "Unveiling" The Hiddenness of God

      AND

      Detecting and Finding God

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    3. In my experience (take it for what it’s worth), apologists seem to insist that atheism means an express rejection of theism, a positively affirmed denial of the existence of any gods, even a deliberate choice not to believe in a god (suggesting that one can simply choose to believe in a god).

      Unless I need to read them even more carefully, all of the definitions I've collected above does define atheism as the "express rejection of theism". As opposed to mere nontheism. I collected the definitions to demonstrate that the popular definition of internet atheists is the novel/new one. BTW, I do doubt that DIRECT doxastic voluntarism is possible. However, I do believe in INDIRECT doxastic voluntarism. One can choose to immerse oneself into areas of study that can inform them in such a way that it can tend toward belief of a position. For example, studying Christian apologetics can lead to a firm conscious belief in God.

      I provided a link to my blogpost HERE where scientists have done experiments showing people are incurably "supernaturalists" (so to speak). That blogposts includes links like:

      Scientists discover that atheists might not exist, and that’s not a joke

      Daring God Makes Atheists Sweat

      Atheists get sweaty when daring God

      And other similar links in that blogpost.

      Also this video that I highly recommend titled, Is Atheism a Delusion?
      https://youtu.be/_Ii-bsrHB0o

      Above I mentioned how even to atheists mind (i.e. their self-consciousness) is epistemologically more fundamental than matter. However, there are quantum experiments which suggest that mind is just as (if not more) fundamental than physical reality.

      See for example this video Quantum Physics Debunks Materialism
      https://youtu.be/4C5pq7W5yRM

      See my collection of similar videos in my blogpostScientific Evidence Against Materialism.

      On a related note, I also recommend my blogpost Evidence and Arguments Against Materialism and Naturalism

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    4. I forgot to say that I posted some of the videos and links that show we're naturally and incurably "supernaturalists" not as PROOF that supernaturalism is true/real or that God actually exists, but to undermine the claim by many atheists are people are talked into theism. That it's (supposedly) patently obvious that we're all born atheists. In in actuality, it may be the reverse. People are talked into atheism. Either by others, or by their own disappointments with God. Or a dislike/aversion to some conception of god/gods/God. I'm convinced that many atheists actually reject a very poor and inadequate conception of god, rather than the truly Biblical God. If they had a fully Biblical conception of God, they would be less quick to reject it out of hand.

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  4. Hi again Annoyed,

    I see you’ve been quite active in this conversation. I’m delighted! Thank you for taking the time to interact with me. I’ll have to be brief tonight as I have a busy evening planned. I will introduce your statements with the initials “AP” if you don’t mind.

    AP: “I'm also curious as to why you seem to be fixated on Steve's definition.”

    I’m always fascinated when apologists make statements that go against the grain of general apologetic trends as well as telling admissions that I can add to a collection of my own.

    I asked: “I’m sure you would agree that a concept can have more than one definition, no? I see this in dictionaries all the time.”

    AP: “Sure.”

    Good.

    I asked: “On that note, how would you define the concept ‘nontheist’?”

    AP: “It all depends on the context of the conversation.”

    Suppose the conversation was something like the following:

    Smith: “Do you believe in God?”
    Jones: “Actually, I’m a nontheist.”

    So, in the context of this conversation, how would you define ‘nontheist’?

    AP: “A nontheist may regard himself as such by lacking a belief in the existence of all non-natural personalities.”

    For clarity’s sake, I regard myself as a nontheist (and atheist, esp. as Hays has defined it – in my view these are interchangeable) because as a matter of fundamental principle I don’t believe imaginary things are actually real. I consider the supernatural things found in religious teachings in the category of imaginary things. Similarly, I don’t believe werewolves are real. I don’t believe Darth Vader is real either. I’m an a-werewolfist as well as an a-Darth-Vaderist.

    AP: “Steve Hays recently said [of Oppy] ‘He's super-smart’.”

    Yeah, I saw that.

    I wrote: “I have long suspected that the real reason why apologists prefer this definition is that it supposedly lends support to the contention, held by many apologists, that people who do not believe in a god shoulder some sort of burden of proof.”

    AP: “That depends on one's worldview.”

    Actually, I’m speaking anecdotally here: this is the impression that I have gotten from many believers. Once they learn that I don’t believe in their god, they apparently think I have some obligation to launch into proofs that their god does not exist – not that they would ever accept anything I present, but I always get the impression that they are looking for ways to discredit me personally. Just the fact that I don’t believe in their god somehow seems threatening. But in fact, I intend no threat whatsoever! I’m just being honest. It puzzles me that anyone would find honesty threatening. But sadly that's common in our culture today.

    AP: “As a Van Tillian presuppositionalist, I don't believe in neutrality.”

    I certainly don’t advocate neutrality when it comes to philosophical truths. I think anyone familiar with my writings would grasp this. One is either explicitly pro-reason or not explicitly pro-reason. The alternative to Objectivism is essentially some form of subjectivism.

    AP: “IN ONE SENSE, people who profess to merely not believe in gods (i.e. lack such a belief) don't shoulder a burden of proof.”

    If that "one sense" is a fundamental sense, I agree.

    If someone doesn’t believe in Darth Vader, do you think there’s a sense in which he shoulders a burden of proof? Is there a burden to prove that the non-existent doesn’t exist? I don’t think so.

    AP: “But once they claim to know that no gods exist, then that moves from nontheist to atheist (assuming the traditional definition).”

    Maybe they know something you don’t. Are you able to eliminate that possibility with absolute certainty?

    Suppose a person claims that he knows that square circles do not exist. Would you think he has an obligation to prove something? If so, to whom is the person in question supposed to present a proof, and why?

    AP: “IN ANOTHER SENSE, I believe all human beings are theists. That we're born with innate knowledge of God.”

    Of course, this is just a belief.

    Regards,
    Dawson

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  5. Thank you for taking the time to interact with me.

    Thanks for thinking I'm worthy of you interacting with me. I'm just an amateur apologist. There are better Christian apologists who rise to your level of argumentation. And no, I don't mind being called "AP". It's much easier for others.

    So, in the context of this conversation, how would you define ‘nontheist’?

    I know the various ways *I* define "nontheist", but shouldn't I allow Jones to define what he means by calling himself a "nontheist"?

    Once they learn that I don’t believe in their god, they apparently think I have some obligation to launch into proofs that their god does not exist...

    Generally speaking, I don't think a nontheist has such an automatic obligation. Not even when encountering Christianity [say for the first time], since I don't think General Revelation and the sensus divinitatis automatically and clearly point to the Christian God [as the true spirituality] apart from the 1. outer/external and/or 2. inner testimony of the Holy Spirit.

    ...but I always get the impression that they are looking for ways to discredit me personally.

    From the Christian perspective, it's sinful for a Christian to attempt to personally discredit someone for no good reason. Christians ought to discredit false positions/worldviews while attempting to win those people holding to a false worldview. As the Bible says we ought to "speak the truth in love" (Eph 4:15), and "do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" (Gal. 6:10).

    If someone doesn’t believe in Darth Vader, do you think there’s a sense in which he shoulders a burden of proof?

    Not necessarily, no. He may not even be aware of who "Darth Vader" is or the Star Wars franchise. Think of your Lincoln analogy in your blogpost.

    Is there a burden to prove that the non-existent doesn’t exist? I don’t think so.

    There's no automatic burden to prove that the non-existent doesn't exist. However, the person who first encounters the concept of "Darth Vader" can't just assume a priori that Darth Vader doesn't exist or is non-existent. Shouldn't he naturally be agnostic on the topic until he learns a little bit more about it?

    I think there's enough evidence, at the very least (if not more than this), to suggest the existence of the supernatural, and for a cosmic designer. From a non-Christian point of view, it's technically possible for the supernatural to exist and yet there there not be an Omni-God. The former doesn't necessitate the later. Though, an Omni-God would makes some sense in grounding such a supernatural world. Similarly, a cosmic designer doesn't necessarily equate to an Omni-God. One ought not postulate a cause greater than is necessary to produce the effect. A finite god or gods would suffice. So would finite simulators, assuming we live in a simulated world. As some scientists are now seriously considering based on the design and fine-tuning of the universe and other aspects of cosmology and physics.

    See for example this 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate: Is the Universe a Simulation?
    https://youtu.be/wgSZA3NPpBs

    Here's one Christian response to the Simulation hypothesis.

    Digital Physics Argument for God's Existence
    https://youtu.be/v2Xsp4FRgas

    CONT.

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    1. Maybe they know something you don’t. Are you able to eliminate that possibility with absolute certainty?

      That depends on what they (or anyone else) claim to know. If for example, they claim to know that the laws of logic don't exist or that nothing exists, or that rational thought doesn't exist, or that no minds exist, I think I can safely dismiss such nonsense. Again, I don't believe in neutrality. I begin with knowledge from and of God. I don't start from finite inductive experience or consciousness. I might do so epistemologically and proximately, but not metaphysically and ultimately.

      Suppose a person claims that he knows that square circles do not exist. Would you think he has an obligation to prove something? If so, to whom is the person in question supposed to present a proof, and why?

      Good example that I should have used. If explained properly, most rational people can grasp why square circles cannot exist. But some people might need that explained to them. For example, a 5 year old. People have different intellectual aptitudes and not everything is patently obvious or self-evident (even to adults). Some things are clearer than others. Two plus two equals equal four is easily comprehended by a 6 year old, but the intricacies of calculus or the Mandelbrot set isn't. Even I don't understand the implications of the Mandelbrot set. Higher dimensional thinking (e.g. mathematics, geometry, physics etc.) can come to counter-intuitive conclusions. For example, "the tesseract is to the cube as the cube is to the square. Just as the surface of the cube consists of six square faces, the hypersurface of the tesseract consists of eight cubical cells. The tesseract is one of the six convex regular 4-polytopes."

      Would you think he has an obligation to prove something?

      Some claims are more unusual than others. It would depend on who one is encountering and the nature of the claim. For example, a culture that has never experienced ice may find it difficult to believe that it can get so cold that the water on a lake can solidify hard enough that one can ride a sleigh of horses on top of it to cross the lake. We all have different worldviews and some claims are more plausible than others given our worldviews. Possibility and impossibility, probability and improbability, plausibility and implausibility are both 1. rated by and 2. are a function of one's worldview. Though, that's not to say that some belief cannot be changed. However, in one's web of beliefs the core beliefs are more difficult to change than those at the periphery.

      The claim that square circles don't exist or cannot exist is, in my view, much more plausible than that God doesn't exist or cannot exist. There are brilliant atheists as well as brilliant theists out there. Anyone claiming apodictic proof or disproof of God has a tremendous burden on his shoulders.

      CONT.

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    2. AP: “IN ANOTHER SENSE, I believe all human beings are theists. That we're born with innate knowledge of God.”

      DB: Of course, this is just a belief.


      But is it a true belief or a false belief? That's an assertion on your part. Would you like to argue for that claim? I've provided multiple links that provide scientific evidence that suggests we are all supernaturalists.

      Mind you, it's theoretically possible doxastically (from a non-Christian worldview) that everyone is a theist and/or supernaturalist even though there is no God. Meaning, a universal belief in God is not, by itself, proof that a God does exist. Though, it is consistent with the existence of a God. In fact, if a God did exist, it would make sense as to why there would be such a universal belief in a God (or at least belief in a supernatural). Though, admittedly, that's not the only possible theoretical cause of such a universal belief.

      Again, I appeal to the categories of occurrent and non-occurrent belief and knowledge. Not all beliefs are at the level of consciousness, or current consciousness. Sometimes they surface, sometimes they remain submerged and yet rise and fall at different depths at different times. We also can suppress belief in things as well. Especially uncomfortable beliefs, like the existence of a God to whom we are accountable to and who will righteously judge our every thought, word and deed. As you know, Greg Bahnsen wrote his doctoral dissertation on the topic of self-deception. Which, BTW, is freely available for download here:

      A Conditional Resolution of the Apparent Paradox of Self-Deception
      http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15799coll3/id/388025

      Rationally, one ought not to rule out a priori both 1. the universal belief in the supernatural and 2. the existence of the supernatural. They are not the same thing, and to deny (or refute) the one is not to deny or refute the other. So, for example, let's say one is able to refute the contention that all (or most, or some) people are innately believers in the supernatural; that of itself doesn't disprove the supernatural. Because even universal denial or rejection does nothing to effect the reality of something. If everyone denied the existence of broccoli, that wouldn't cause the non-existence of broccoli.

      Delete
  6. Hi AP,

    I have lots to say on your recent messages, but first I want to address a matter that came up earlier:

    I had asked: “What more than the metaphysical primacy of existence does one need as evidence that belief in a god is irrational?”

    AP: “I know this has a lot to do with your objectivism. I know very little about the subject. I'm a hack philosopher and amateur apologist.”

    You’re certainly bright enough to understand the rudimentary principle of the primacy of existence. But I realize it’s probably brand new to you (Christianity certainly does not teach it, nor do most philosophies as far as I’ve seen). It has to do with the relationship between the subject of consciousness and the objects one is conscious of.

    Briefly, the primacy of existence is the fact that the objects of consciousness exist independent of conscious activity, that the task of consciousness is not to create and manipulate its own objects, but to perceive and identify them (cf. wishing doesn’t make it so). Hence objectivity.

    The opposite is the primacy of consciousness: the view that consciousness is more fundamental than its objects, that the objects of consciousness are creations of the subject of consciousness or at any rate conform in some way to the subject of consciousness (cf. wishing makes it so). Hence subjectivism.

    Notice how any time one makes a truth claim, he is typically not saying that it’s true because he wants it to be true or because he prefers it, or because he dislikes alternatives, etc. Rather, he intends to mean that what he is affirming as a truth corresponds to reality as it is regardless of anyone’s conscious activity. To say “X is the case” is to say something about reality that holds (or is thought to hold) regardless of anyone’s wishes, preferences, likes, dislikes, beliefs, etc. In this way, the very concept of truth presupposes and stands on the primacy of existence.

    For example, if I say “there’s a tree in my backyard,” I’m not saying this because I am only imagining a tree where in fact no tree is standing; rather, I’m saying this because there really is a tree in my backyard. It is a statement which presumes that the task of my conscious activity is not to create or dictate what is real, but to identify what I have perceived.

    AP: “Presumably, you agree that the atheist's experience of his self-consciousness is more primary than his experience of the physical world.”

    No, I certainly do not agree with this. Self-consciousness is secondary to consciousness of objects independent of one’s own consciousness. We start by looking outward, not by looking inward.

    AP: “Especially since, even atheists can perform the thought experiment in which only minds exists apart from a physical realm.”

    Thought experiments are an application of the imagination. And yes, we can imagine such things. But it would not follow from our ability to imagine such things, nor from any instance of imagining such things, that therefore one’s “experience of his self-consciousness is more primary than his experience of the physical world.” Since imagination involves selectively re-arranging things that we have observed and experienced in our interaction with things that exist independently of ourselves, we would not be able to imagine anything until we’ve first had some experience with things that exist independently of ourselves. I could not imagine a tiger-headed alligator if I had not first observed tigers and alligators (either in real life or in illustrations).

    Moreover, if reality and imagination are fundamentally distinct (as the primacy of existence affirms), we should be careful not to confuse what is real with what we imagine. This is a major reason why I am not a theist.

    [continued…]

    ReplyDelete
  7. AP: “Presumably, atheists have awoken from dreams and realised that not all experiences of what one thought was a physical world are real. The teddy bear about to eat you isn't necessarily physical.”

    And the teddy bear in my dream is not real, whether it seems real in my dream or not. Indeed, even after the teddy bear tears a chunk out of my leg during the dream, I find that my leg is entirely intact when I wake up. That’s quite a noticeable distinction!

    AP: “Showing thoughts are more fundamental epistemologically (if not also metaphysically/ontologically).”

    Thoughts are “more fundamental” than what? None of this indicates that thoughts are more fundamental than existence.

    AP: “Even now, an atheist usually can't (using the various atheistic worldviews I'm aware of in my limited inductive experience) demonstrably prove he's not currently dreaming (for example, while reading this paragraph).”

    Why would he have to prove that he’s not currently dreaming, and to whom? Some things are self-evident and thus wouldn’t need proving. Proof is essentially a process of logically reducing that which is not self-evident to that which is self-evident. If I open my eyes and see an object, I don’t need to construct a proof that I’m seeing an object.

    More later, as time permits.

    Regards,
    Dawson

    ReplyDelete
  8. Briefly, the primacy of existence is the fact that the objects of consciousness exist independent of conscious activity, that the task of consciousness is not to create and manipulate its own objects, but to perceive and identify them (cf. wishing doesn’t make it so). Hence objectivity.

    You wrote, " the primacy of existence is the fact". Is it a fact? How do you know? Earlier I pointed out atheists (which presumably include objectivists like you) begin epistemologically with their own consciousnesses, and I cited dreams as an example that one's apparent perceptions of an external world aren't necessarily true. Then gave an example of Berkeley's idealism that questions materialism. You wrote, "the objects of consciousness exist independent of conscious activity". But I cited a source that show scientific experiments demonstrate that consciousness is as fundamental, or more fundamental than the physical world. For example the famous "double slit" experiment. Here's the Christian video that cites non-Christian scientists arguing for this: https://youtu.be/4C5pq7W5yRM. According to these experiments, consciousness DOES manipulate the physical world to be one way rather than another. If it is the case that human consciousness is as fundamental (or more so) than the physical world, then that opens up the possibility of a universal mind/consciousness, which we call God.

    You wrote, "that the task of consciousness is not to create and manipulate its own objects, but to perceive and identify them..." Is that a prescriptive task? If so, what obligates consciousness to do so, and to do so honestly? How do you know that your consciousness correctly identifies objects? As you said, wishing [and I might add, "hoping"] doesn't make things so. Presumably you hold to Evolutionary Reliabilism. In my previous comments I linked to my blogpost that links to articles that critique evolutionary reliabilism in light of Plantinga's famous EAAN (these articles HERE and HERE). Also, how many objects and substances do you think you perceive? Are you a metaphysical monist or pluralist? Do you believe things have parts or do you hold to mereological nihilism? Are you a solipsist? If not,why not? Some non-Christians argue for versions of panpsychism. Have you ruled those out? Also, as an atheist, how do you overcome the challenge of Eliminative Material which some non-theistic philosophy of mind adherents argue entails that things like consciousness, beliefs, desires and choices/deliberations aren't real given materialism? Do you hold to the A-theory or B-theory of time? Are you a presentist or eternalist? How do you overcome the problems either theory has on human personality, identity and consciousness? Seeing that you want to be rational instead of thinking God's thoughts after him analogically. Given the A-theory, how do you account for personal identity over time (cf. Heraclitus' arguments concerning flux)? Given the B-theory and the implications of Minkowski's "block universe" theory, how can you account for discursive reasoning if change is an illusion (cf. Parmenides' and Zeno's arguments concerning stasis)?

    CONT.

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    Replies
    1. You wrote, "The opposite is the primacy of consciousness: the view that consciousness is more fundamental than its objects,". How do you know that it's not the case that consciousness only perceives other consciousnesses, or the effects of other consciousnesses, like God's (e.g. idealism coupled with occasionalism, or occasionalism separated from idealism [i.e. in conjunction with a physical world])?

      ...In this way, the very concept of truth presupposes and stands on the primacy of existence.

      As you know, presuppositionalists argue that the very concept of truth presupposes the existence of God (presumably, you're aware of these articles by Anderson, HERE, HERE and HERE).

      ...rather, I’m saying this because there really is a tree in my backyard.

      How do you know there really is a tree there? Or that even space and matter exist? Maybe you're dreaming. Maybe a Cartesian Daemon is tricking you. Maybe you're a "brain in vat" [a la Hilary Putnam] being neurologically manipulated by an Ungerian mad scientist to think you are seeing a tree.

      ...but to identify what I have perceived.

      There are major problems with (non-Christian) empiricism. I'm a Van Tillian presupper, but Clarkian presuppers have shown how perceptions (per se) cannot lead to knowledge, much less truth. See for example, the works of Gordon Clark, or for free materials the works of Vincent Cheung. It's a logical leap to go from "I see [i.e. perceive] a tree" to "there is a tree". I HIGHLY recommend Gordon Clark's "The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God". If your local public or seminary library doesn't have a copy, I'm happy to buy you a copy if you have an Amazon.com Wishlist.

      Self-consciousness is secondary to consciousness of objects independent of one’s own consciousness. We start by looking outward, not by looking inward.

      I'd like to see an argument for this. Also, that seems to beg the question 1. that there is an external world, 2. that it's physical.

      ...we would not be able to imagine anything until we’ve first had some experience with things that exist independently of ourselves. I could not imagine a tiger-headed alligator if I had not first observed tigers and alligators (either in real life or in illustrations).

      That seems to assume empiricism, a tabula rasa, and doesn't allow for the possibility of innate knowledge whether a Christian kind, or even Plato's knowledge of universal forms. Hence his doctrine of recollection [anamnesis] that states we never really learn anything, but only recall those things already within us. There are other worldviews that argue for innate knowledge beside these two I mentioned.

      CONT.

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    2. Moreover, if reality and imagination are fundamentally distinct (as the primacy of existence affirms), we should be careful not to confuse what is real with what we imagine. This is a major reason why I am not a theist.

      That begs the question, since there are streams of Christian thought that believe the world that exists (or worlds, if a multiverse/world ensemble is true) is merely the actualization and instantiation of what God has eternally imagined according to his natural/necessary knowledge or His middle knowledge.

      Indeed, even after the teddy bear tears a chunk out of my leg during the dream, I find that my leg is entirely intact when I wake up. That’s quite a noticeable distinction!

      How do you know you've waken up? May people have had dreams where they woke up from a dream only to realize they're still dreaming and only dreamed that they woke up. In fact, multiple levels of dreams where they woke up, from a dream, from a dream, from a dream etc. There are Eastern worldviews that believe we're in a dream. Some New Agers think we might be in God's dream. Some mystics believe every finite consciousness is a manifold manfestation of God's unified mind splintered during his dreaming. Even humans can have splintered personalities during dreaming. For example, one time I was dreaming and someone in my dream told me such a funny joke that I woke up laughing out loud. Then I asked myself, who told the joke? Evidently, I told the joke to myself. I both knew and didn't know the punchline simultaneously. You might say, "See you know you woke up!" But that's because I have MY Christian worldview. I was asking you how on your worldview (given your epistemology and ontology) you know you've awoken?

      Why would he have to prove that he’s not currently dreaming, and to whom?

      Given atheism (broadly speaking), I don't think atheists have to live according to reality. I think consistent atheism allows for living according to one's own self-deception. Especially since the various atheistic worldviews I'm (finitely, fallibly) aware of are hard pressed to provide a coherent epistemology, ontology/metaphysic, and ethic (i.e. a worldview). However, if an atheist does want to live according to reality, then presumably he would want good reasons for his beliefs. Especially, if he's going to claim knowledge and proclaim to others, whom he thinks exists (presuming he's not a solipsist and believes in the existence of other minds which he can't empirically verify or perceive).

      Delete
    3. Regarding one's theory of time (e.g. eternalism, presentism, possibilism), there are more questions that could be posed for an atheist. But the ones I've mentioned I think are a good starting place.

      Hume, similar to many Buddhist practitioners, asked how a bundle of sensations can make sense of the concept of self? And so, I think the challenge of eliminative materialism is something all atheists have to address.

      Here's a link to an article on it in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
      http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/materialism-eliminative/

      As one person put it:

      "...naturalism requires believing, as many naturalists say they do, that some or all of these things are not real but illusions. Our conceit of being the highest animal is, as Peter Singer puts it, a disreputable sort of “speciesism.” Consciousness is an illusion, say Paul and Patricia Churchland. Morality is a fraud perpetrated on us by evolution, says Michael Ruse. Free will is fake, says Sam Harris. Thinking doesn't exist, thinks Alex Rosenberg."
      http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2013/06/naturalism-is-a-strange-belief/

      Delete
    4. Presumably you also believe in science but are not a logical positivist. Since, the claim that one can only know things through the methods of science is not itself something that one can know through the methods of science. That's a self-refuting claim, like "There are no sentences longer than three words".

      Science itself assumes axioms or presuppositions which themselves cannot be proven through the methods of science. For example:

      (1) the existence of a theory-independent, external world;

      (2) the orderly nature of the external world;

      (3) the knowability of the external world;

      (4) the existence of truth;

      (5) the laws of logic;

      (6) the [general] reliability of our cognitive and sensory faculties to serve as truth gatherers and as a source of justified true beliefs in our intellectual environment; [this includes things like memory, reasoning ability, and so touches upon the ***epistemological*** problem of induction]

      (7) the adequacy of language to describe the world;

      (8) the existence of values used in science (e.g., "test theories fairly and report test results honestly");

      (9) the [presumed] uniformity of nature and [propriety of the use of the principle of] induction; [and so touches upon the ***metaphysical/ontological*** problem of induction]

      (10) the existence of numbers, or at least the usefulness of mathematics and mathematical formulas. The fact that so much physics can be done through mathematics cries out for an explanation for why the universe seems to be structured around math. Is it just serendipitous.

      These presuppositions make sense (ontologically) given theism and it makes sense to assume them (epistemologically) given theism, but not so much (if at all) given atheism. Interestingly, these presuppositions suggest that most atheists live by "faith" (so to speak) when they operate with these working/operating assumptions which they cannot prove.

      Delete
    5. BTW, since you run the blog http://Bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/, I recommend Bahnsen's History of Western Philosophy lectures. I think you'll find them interesting and entertaining. There are three parts, 1. Ancient Philosophy, 2. Renaissance Philosophy, 3. Modern Philosophy. They can be purchased at www.cmfnow.com OR www.wordmp3.com. They seem to be cheaper at www.cmfnow.com.

      Delete
    6. Earlier I gave a dead link to Vincent Cheung's website. Here's the correct and direct link to his library: http://www.vincentcheung.com/library/

      Here's a link to #1 Clarkian website, DIRECT LINK to free mp3s by Gordon Clark and John Robbins. They include lectures on Empiricism, to Veridicalism, to Veridicalism and Empiricism, to (non-Christian Rationalism, to The Philosophy of Ayn Rand Refuted by John Robbins, which I highly recommend to you.

      Again, I'm not a Clarkian. I cite Clarkian resources as they relate to empiricism and non-Christian rationalism. I reject Clarkian and Cheungian presuppositionalism for the reasons given HERE.

      BTW, even secular folks recommend Gordon Clark's history of philosophy titled, Thales to Dewey (Amazon link).

      Delete
    7. Steve Hays wrote in his Why I Believe in God PART ONE (here's PART TWO):

      QUOTE
      2. The Cryptographic Universe
      The classic conundrum of knowledge lies in the hiatus between the subject of knowledge and the object of knowledge. For the mind doesn’t enjoy direct access to the external world. In order to receive information from the outside world, such input must be encoded.

      For example, a sensible object reflects light. So the surface texture is encoded as electromagnetic information, and transmitted to the eye, where it is reencoded as electrochemical information and transmitted to the brain.

      But the match between input and readout is ineluctably teleological. Like a lockbox with one key to open and another to close, the system must be designed so that the constituent parts operate in conjunction. No random process could run through every conceivable combination or solve for all possible permutations.
      END QUOTE [bold by me, AP]

      As I asked above, why assume that your subjective perception of the external world (assuming an external world exists) corresponds to reality? Given theism, God adapted our organs and faculties to be able to reliably (generally speaking) gain input from our external environment. But given atheistic evolutionary reliabilism, that shouldn't be taken for granted as true. There are no free lunches in philosophy. As a Christian I believe in reason and being rational, but I'm not a "rationalist" in the various secular senses that word can mean. As I understand it, Objectivism takes pride in its claimed rationalism and rationalist worldview.

      Because I merely linked to them before, it's easy to miss these article. Here they are with their titles:

      The Circularity of Evolutionary Reliabilism

      The Evolutionary Basis of Self-Deception

      Speaking of empiricism, here's Vincent Cheung's debate with atheist Derek Sansone that I found hilarious:

      Biblical Rationalism vs. Psycho Assertionism

      Also, are you a compatibilist, libertarian or illusionist regarding free will?

      Delete
  9. Hi AP,

    I am really, really enjoying this dialogue, and I want to thank you for taking time out of your day to carry it on.

    A few thoughts here:

    I wrote: "the primacy of existence is the fact…"

    AP: “Is it a fact?”

    Yes.

    AP: “How do you know?”

    I know by objective means of knowledge. It’s called reason.

    I wrote: "the objects of consciousness exist independent of conscious activity".

    AP: “But I cited a source that show scientific experiments demonstrate that consciousness is as fundamental, or more fundamental than the physical world.”

    Then why do you yourself invoke the primacy of existence?

    Like many who first encounter the issue of metaphysical primacy and try to refute it before fully grasping it, you’re missing the fundamental nature of the relationship which the principle of the primacy of existence identifies between the subject of consciousness and its objects. And yet, you assume it all the time. It states that the objects of consciousness (whatever nature they happen to have) exist independent of conscious activity, including the conscious activity by which one is aware of those objects. The very notion of a scientific experiment would be meaningless if the objects of consciousness did not exist independently of conscious activity. Indeed, there’d be no need for scientific experiments, for the task of scientific experiments is to discover facts and confirm identifications of those facts. If consciousness actually held metaphysical primacy over its objects, one could simply wish that ‘facts’ were such and such, and they would conform accordingly. But then how could we ever have the idea of facts which obtain independently of people's conscious activity? There would be no such thing. Rampant wishing would rule the day, and reality would be a swirling cacophony of utter chaos with "billions and billions" of consciousnesses all competing for the moment's rule. Really, it should not be so difficult to understand this.

    AP: “For example the famous ‘double slit’ experiment.”

    Yes, I’ve addressed this on my blog. Notice how the statement “the double slit experiment demonstrates that consciousness holds metaphysical primacy over its objects” commits the fallacy of the stolen concept. This fundamental error alone is sufficient to tell us that the conclusion many have drawn from the double slit experiment rests on some faulty assumptions. What is the starting point?

    But notice how you yourself had made use of the primacy of existence principle a few messages ago when you wrote (on 30 Sept):

    AP: “Because even universal denial or rejection does nothing to effect the reality of something. If everyone denied the existence of broccoli, that wouldn't cause the non-existence of broccoli.”

    Of course, you’re right here. But do you not see how you’re applying the principle of the primacy of existence here? You’re essentially saying that reality does not conform to conscious activity. One can wish whatever he wants, but whatever is the case remains the case all the same. Ditto for hoping, emoting, imagining, believing, throwing temper tantrums, casting spells, etc.

    But how would you as an adherent of Christianity account for what you’ve just affirmed? Christianity in fact holds that there are consciousnesses which can create and alter reality by an act of will, and it’s clear that you want to challenge the primacy of existence. But here you’re making use of the very premise in question quite clearly. What principle in Christianity informs and supports the view you state here? And how can your embrace of Christianity be wholly consistent with that principle?

    Regards,
    Dawson

    ReplyDelete
  10. I know by objective means of knowledge. It’s called reason.

    What is "reason" in your view? You seem to be reifying "reason". Is reason physical or non-physical (e.g. immaterial)? If it's a concept, is it a physical or non-physical concept? If your mind is merely your brain, then why assume you can make rational deliberations when your brain functions based on the fixed laws of nature? Given your view, you're not really thinking, you're merely fizzing atheistically based on the invariant laws of nature. Similar to a rock rolling down a hill, you can't help it. Saying or asserting or stipulating one has "objective means of knowledge" isn't an argument. Especially when the very issue in question is whether you have beliefs, whether any of it amounts to "knowledge", and whether they're "objective". That includes the question of whether there's a "you" to begin with rather than an evanescent bundle of transient sensations. The law of identity, "A is A" assumes "A" doesn't change. For it to change, it would cease being "A" and be "Non-A" (e.g. B or C or D etc.). Since you are constantly changing, the "A" that is 'you" doesn't remain "A". How then can you claim personal identity through time and change? As Heraclitus said, you can't step into the same river twice. Unless, with Parmenides & Zeno you deny the reality of change and claim it's an illusion. Also, you haven't explained how you have direct access to the external world and why you can trust your perceptions or your reasoning capacities (I already pointed out how non-Christian philosophers serious call into question the reality of human consciousness, beliefs, desire and deliberations etc. in their advocation of eliminativism). If you, as an atheist, can't trust your perceptions all of the time, how can you know when you can and can't trust them?

    The very notion of a scientific experiment would be meaningless if the objects of consciousness did not exist independently of conscious activity.

    Exactly. I argued that on many (most? all?) atheistic worldviews science doesnt make sense. Given atheism, why assume things like causation or the uniformity of nature? If God didn't exist, it's completely plausible that nature is wholly contingent such that events happen causelessly and irrationally; like monkeys the size of the moon popping into existence out of nowhere (and from nothing) and swallowing the larger sun. The fabric of spacetime and the laws of nature might constantly (or slowly) be changing but you're not aware of it. Just like in those time travel movies where the timeline is changed and no one affected by the change is aware of the change (e.g. the movie Time Cop). Also, is consciousness not also an object of consciousness? What of self-reflection? 1. Is that a subjective objective experience? 2. Or an objective subjective experience? 3. Or an objective objective experience? 4. Or a subjective subjective experience? How do you know that when you believe you're seeing an apple it's really an apple rather than something else? Given that atheism denies biological teleology/design why assume your brain functions in such a way as to reason properly? Oops, cross out "properly", since atheism denies teleology. However a brain functions, it functions. Things just are what they are, and do what they do. There's no right or proper way for things to behave or operate/function. That's why brain cancer is neither good nor bad, and the effects of cancer on thought processes is neither good nor bad, nor the product right or wrong.

    CONT.

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    Replies
    1. Why assume that your organs like eyes and ears access the external world in such a way that they transmit information to your brain in a corresponding way? How have you escaped Plato's Cave? How do you know that the phenomena you think you experience reveals anything of the noumena (ding an sich)? It's like the difference between html code and how that code is displayed using an internet browser. Or, think of Mario from Donkey Kong (and his other video games). Hypothetically, were he sentient, no matter how much he examined his world, it's laws/rules, limitations and nature, he'll never come to know the underlying computer programming that makes his world possible. How do you know you're not in a similar situation? Why assume, as it seems you do, scientific realism? Citing the "fact" that science "works" is compatible with an anti-realist conception of science (e.g. opperationalism or instrumentalism).

      AP: “For example the famous ‘double slit’ experiment.”

      DB: Yes, I’ve addressed this on my blog.


      There have been more recent experiments that demonstrate my point and at a larger scale than quanta. The video I linked to cites those recent experiments. Here's the link again: Quantum Physics Debunks Materialism
      https://youtu.be/4C5pq7W5yRM

      DB: But notice how you yourself had made use of the primacy of existence principle a few messages ago when you wrote (on 30 Sept):

      AP: “Because even universal denial or rejection does nothing to effect the reality of something. If everyone denied the existence of broccoli, that wouldn't cause the non-existence of broccoli.”


      I was talking from the perspective of human beings. I obviously didn't include God in that statement. Especially when as a Christian I believe (with Van Til and the Calvinistic tradition) God's thinking CAN make things so. Van Til was fond of using the analogy of going up stairs to see whether there are socks in the drawer. God doesn't need to look in the drawer, His thinking it makes it so that there are socks in the drawer.

      CONT.

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    2. You’re essentially saying that reality does not conform to conscious activity.

      By this statement, you either prove too little, or prove too much:

      Either #1. you have a consciousness/mind that can overcome the determinism forced upon you by the fixed laws of physics and chemistry over your brain, in which case that better comports with an immaterial soul;

      OR #2. the phrase "reality does not conform to conscious activity" is true such that reality (including the impersonal laws that govern matter) eliminates the existence of your conscious activity. Meaning, you have no volition and are not really willingly your arms to move, nor are you really thinking thoughts, nor are you really making decisions. They're all just an illusion.

      Which is it? Which do you choose, #1 or #2? If you're going to claim that matter can have emergent properties (as some do), then argue for it in such a way that it doesn't appear to ultimately be an atheistic appeal to mystery. As an Objectivist, you're committed to having rational reasons for your beliefs.

      Ditto for hoping, emoting, imagining, believing, throwing temper tantrums, casting spells, etc.

      Given reductive physicalism, naturalism, materialism and eliminativism, atheists don't emote, don't imagine, don't believe, don't express temper tantrums, nor make fallacious or cogent or sound arguments, because they don't argue at all.

      But here you’re making use of the very premise in question quite clearly.

      Not at all. You unknowingly misrepresented my position as a Christian.

      Presumably, you've listened to the Paul Manata vs. Dan Barker debate. If you haven't here's the link:

      https://youtu.be/dk-SqQh-Fw0

      Delete
    3. I wrote: As Heraclitus said, you can't step into the same river twice.

      That's because the "second time" both you and the river has changed.

      DB: Some things are self-evident and thus wouldn’t need proving. Proof is essentially a process of logically reducing that which is not self-evident to that which is self-evident. If I open my eyes and see an object, I don’t need to construct a proof that I’m seeing an object.

      Don't you think that's an intellectually lazy cop out? I thought Objectivists were rigorous and thoroughgoing rationalists. Stipulating something as "self-evident" and not in need of proof or argument is easy. I can do it too. "God's existence is self-evident and doesn't need proof. The fact that there are vastly more theists than atheists in all periods of recorded history demonstrates that." Would you really accept such an assertion and blatant commission of the ad populum fallacy? How about, "Atheism is self-evidently false"? At least Alvin Plantinga argues for why belief in God is properly basic. For anyone interested, here's a link to my collection of W.L. Craig's discussions on belief in God as properly basic: HERE.

      If I open my eyes and see an object, I don’t need to construct a proof that I’m seeing an object.

      The Problem of Perception [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]
      http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/perception-problem/

      Delete
  11. Hi AP,

    I wrote: The very notion of a scientific experiment would be meaningless if the objects of consciousness did not exist independently of conscious activity.

    AP: “Exactly.”

    Right: science does not assume the primacy of consciousness, but in fact presupposes the primacy of existence. Science does not rest on the metaphysics of wishing makes it so. That immediately and absolutely eliminates theism as a basis for science.

    AP: “I argued that on many (most? all?) atheistic worldviews science doesnt make sense.”

    What precisely was your understanding of science when you made this argument? What basis did you recognize science as having in terms of the subject-object relationship? Was your argument itself based on wishing makes it so? On prayers perhaps? Did any premises of your argument arise from dreams and visions?

    AP: “Given atheism, why assume things like causation or the uniformity of nature?”

    Atheism is simply a negation of theism. One does not begin by denying, but by perceiving, recognizing and affirming. If existence exists independent of consciousness, then whatever existence is, it is independent of conscious activity. Thus we can be certain that no invisible magic beings are messing with the objects that populate the universe by means of wishing. Moreover, since identity is concurrent with existence, uniformity is simply the persistence of identity throughout existence.

    Your statements about identity are ironically primitive (which is probably why they’re still very popular among academics); specifically, they assume that action itself does not have identity. But we wouldn’t be able to form concepts of actions (cf. verbs) if that were the case, and we clearly do. We identify actions all the time, distinguishing them from other actions and also from non-actions. E.g., a bird walks, then it eats, then it flies, then it lands, etc. A good theory of concepts begins with an objectively informed understanding of identity, which is the task of the axioms and the primacy of existence.

    I have numerous posts on these matters over on my blog, if you're interested.

    AP: “If God didn't exist, it's completely plausible that nature is wholly contingent such that events happen causelessly”

    Not if causation is identity applied to action.

    [continued…]

    ReplyDelete
  12. I wrote: But notice how you yourself had made use of the primacy of existence principle a few messages ago when you wrote (on 30 Sept):

    AP: “Because even universal denial or rejection does nothing to effect the reality of something. If everyone denied the existence of broccoli, that wouldn't cause the non-existence of broccoli.”

    AP response: “I was talking from the perspective of human beings.”

    As opposed to what? Do you think there are in fact consciousnesses which can alter facts by denying and rejecting?

    AP: “I obviously didn't include God in that statement.”

    Ah, so you do! See, the Objectivist argument hits theism’s most vulnerable Achilles’ heel. See why I enjoy this stuff so much?

    AP: “Especially when as a Christian I believe (with Van Til and the Calvinistic tradition) God's thinking CAN make things so.”

    Thanks for confirming! Christianity rests on the metaphysics of wishing makes it so. That is why, in terms of universal principles, you cannot provide a consistent, uniform account for your own use of the primacy of existence, even though you do it all the time. You’ve been borrowing from my worldview all along, AP, and you didn’t even know it. It also means you’ve been performatively denying Christianity all along and not recognizing it. Time to come out of the darkness.

    AP: “Van Til was fond of using the analogy of going up stairs to see whether there are socks in the drawer. God doesn't need to look in the drawer, His thinking it makes it so that there are socks in the drawer.”

    Exactly – wishing makes it so. Again, thank you for conceding the point.

    I wrote: If I open my eyes and see an object, I don’t need to construct a proof that I’m seeing an object.

    AP: “The Problem of Perception [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]” [link]

    Posting a hyperlink is not an argument. Of course, by posting a hyperlink in our exchange, you’re performatively giving away the assumption that I’ll be able to see it when I get to it. So when the issue is the contention that I need to prove that I perceive objects when I perceive objects, or whether or not sense perception is reliable, you commit the fallacy of the stolen concept. I’m guessing you just don’t understand this yet for you continue to do it over and over in many of your responses.

    Also, firing off a dozen or so questions in succession, most of them irrelevant to the topic at hand, also does not constitute an argument.

    So why do you want to refute the primacy of existence when you yourself invoke it as a matter of habit?

    Regards,
    Dawson

    ReplyDelete
  13. Right: science does not assume the primacy of consciousness, but in fact presupposes the primacy of existence. Science does not rest on the metaphysics of wishing makes it so. That immediately and absolutely eliminates theism as a basis for science.

    That seems to assume that science is the only means of knowledge regarding all realms of reality. But there might be realms of reality that science cannot examine, explore, test or investigate (e.g. various supernatural realms). If, by definition science only applies to the physical world, and you limit the knowledge of all reality by means of science, then it would be impossible to know anything about the supernatural EVEN IF the supernatural existed. Your approach rules out a priori the possible discovery of the supernatural. That's like someone saying, "Only what I can catch in my butterfly net exists, or are butterflies", as if fishing nets don't exist and as if fish can't be (and have never been) caught. Or it would be like saying, "Only what I can see with my eyes can be seen or are visible." When in fact there are other wavelengths of the spectrum that other creatures can see. Or saying that microbes don't exist because you can't see them with telescopes (as if microscopes don't exist).

    ...but in fact presupposes the primacy of existence.

    The primary existence of what? If God alone is "a se" (i.e. self-existent, independent and necessary; hence the attribute of aseity), then primary existence (viz./namely God) is personal. The physical creation would be derivative, dependant and secondary to the primary and foundational existence of God. In Christianity God is the fount and source of all other being, beings, substance and substances. Instead of being agnostic on the issue of God, your definition of existence and "universe" (in the sense of all of reality) defines God out of existence, and so begs the question. Banging a definitional hammer doesn't do the work you think it does.

    Was your argument itself based on wishing makes it so? On prayers perhaps? Did any premises of your argument arise from dreams and visions?

    This assumes all types of consciousnesses and minds are the same type/kind, level. God's consciousness and powers go beyond creaturely consciousness and powers. As an analogy think of the powers of a programmer and the powers of a character in a video game. What may be impossible for Mario or Zelda is possible for the programmer. Even a child can understand this type of distinction (as experiments and research has shown).

    Atheism is simply a negation of theism. One does not begin by denying,...

    As we know, there are many definitions of atheism. Also, I don't think you're using the word "negation" in the same way as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy does. As I quoted above, " 'Atheism' means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God." - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/atheism-agnosticism/
    [Emphasis by me, AP]

    I suspect you only read my list of definitions and didn't read all of the introductory material before I gave the list above. Otherwise, you'd know the reason I collected THOSE particular definitions, and why Steve's off the cuff definition doesn't belong on the list. Namely, I collected those definitions to show that traditionally atheism is the denial of the existence of God, not merely a lack of belief in God. I may have misinterpreted some of the above definitions I've included, but as I currently see it, all of them deny the existence of God.

    CONT.

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    Replies
    1. If existence exists independent of consciousness, then whatever existence is, it is independent of conscious activity.

      That seems to be a circular tautological definition. People better at philosophy and grammar have expressed what I'm about to attempt to say imperfectly. Existence is not a thing. Existence doesn't exist. Existence is a property of things that do exist. If you're talking about (i.e. referring to) being, then it does no good to beg the question as to whether all being is impersonal, or whether ultimate or foundational being is ultimately impersonal. According to Christianity foundational and ultimate being is personal, namely the Supreme Being (viz. God). I propose ultimate cosmic Personalism, you propose ultimate cosmic Impersonalism. Verbal gymnastics isn't a valid shortcut to resolving this issue. Either you're agnostic on the existence or non-existence of God, or you're gnostic. Are you claiming to know that no gods or God exists? If so, the above is not a good argument in favor of that position.

      If by "existence" you mean "being", then your statement could be translated this way. "If being exists independent of consciousness, then whatever being is, it is independent of conscious activity." But that doesn't answer how many beings there exist, what types of beings exist and what their varying natures and attributes are. Think for example of the different levels and kinds of being in the Neoplatonic "chain/scale of being". Also, just because some being and beings are impersonal, that doesn't entail all being or beings are impersonal. That smacks of the Fallacy of Composition or possibly the Fallacy of Hasty Generalization. Muchless does it tell us whether ultimate Being is personal or impersonal.

      Also, as I said before, your own psychological inner life is more immediately real to you than the external world. Especially since the external world is mediated to you by your organs. Even your knowledge of your organs is mediated to you by your organs. You DON'T have direct access to the external world. To claim otherwise is either ignorant or dishonest. And since your own psychological inner life, your consciousness, is more immediate to you, you should consider mind and mental reality as more certainly real than the external world (cf. how I posited hypothetical idealism as a defeater for naïve empiricism). In which case, from an experiential point of view, mind is more fundamental than the external physical world. As René Descartes said, "cogito ergo sum", "I think, therefore I am". Descartes pointed out that he could doubt everything, including his experience of the external world, but he couldn't deny or doubt his self-consciousness. To doubt his own consciousness would be contradictory. For doubting requires consciousness. Whereas it's easy to doubt your sensory faculties to the external world and your interpretation of their input. So, if you're willing to grant that consciousness is more "fundamental" (so to speak) in some sense than the external world, then you should have no problem admitting the possibility that maybe an Ultimate Mind/Consciousness exists, namely God. Though, this isn't intended to be evidence or proof for God.

      CONT.

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    2. Thus we can be certain that no invisible magic beings are messing with the objects that populate the universe by means of wishing.

      That's like Mario saying, there is no programmer since I can't see him and since he could only have powers that I have.

      Moreover, since identity is concurrent with existence, uniformity is simply the persistence of identity throughout existence.

      Identity of what? Existence of what? Please define "identity" and "existence".

      A good theory of concepts begins with an objectively informed understanding of identity, which is the task of the axioms and the primacy of existence.

      How do you come to your axioms? They haven't been revealed to you from above by Divine Revelation. Why assume they are true and not others? Why accept/choose those axioms and not others? Did you (or do you) have a non-arbitrary way of picking or accepting the axioms you do subscribe to?

      Not if causation is identity applied to action.

      I guess that's part of the Objectivist script. George H. Smith said the exact same thing in his dialogue with Greg Bahnsen (transcript or audio). Smith said, "I’m saying my view of causation is that causation is essentially the law of identity applied to action...." Bahnsen said, "Well, it’s a tremendous philosophical mistake to assimilate the law of causality to the laws of logic, but if you study the history of philosophy, you’d know that this idea that things have a determinate nature and that’s why they behave the way they do is associated with the conclusion that there can be no change, that is, it’s impossible for things to change, well, because the law of identity prevents things from changing. So now I would continue the discussion. Let’s look at our underlying assumptions. How is it possible to extrapolate into the future, if you use the law of identity—there’s no change to look for in the future."

      Again, you didn't answer many of my basic philosophical questions which a rationalist should have answers for. Like I said, I believe in being rational, but I'm not a rationalist, I'm a revelationist, and therefore I'm not obligated to have all the answers to these basic questions. Regarding the issue of causation, you didn't answer my earlier question of whether you hold to the A-theory or B-theory of time. Or whether change is real (as Heraclitus claimed) or illusory (as Parmenides and Zeno claimed). There were many, many, many basic questions which I asked for which you didn't give an answer (even a tentative/provisional one). Because they were basic questions, it wasn't unfair of me to ask such questions. There was no setup involved. As an example, it's only fair (and legitimate) for me to ask whether you believe in the A-theory or B-theory with regard to your view of causation.

      Parmenides was more profound in his philosophy. For example, as it is exemplified in his statement that "Whatever is, is". This truly deep if one really ponders it. If I weren't a Christian, I'd be tempted to be a Parmenidean monist, or pantheist. Minkowski's "block universe" would seem to be a modern scientific analog. Being (or "existence", possibly in your view, or to use your language) is more real than becoming. If something exists, then, by the law of identity, being exists unchangingly and uchangeably. Being would be immutable. In which case, causation, change, and movement doesn't exist. Hence, Zeno's famous paradoxes. But you haven't addressed these foundational and basic questions regarding time, change, being, and substances and how they relate to your Objectivist worldview.

      CONT.

      Delete
    3. BTW, I recommend reading the links to the following Triablogue blogposts which use the phrase "existence exists".
      Having read some of them years ago, there are Christians who commented in those blogposts who better examine the grammar and definition of the phrase than I do. I plan to read or re-read some of them as I have time.

      https://www.google.com/search?as_q=&as_epq=existence+exists&as_oq=&as_eq=&as_nlo=&as_nhi=&lr=&cr=&as_qdr=all&as_sitesearch=triablogue.blogspot.com&as_occt=any&safe=images&as_filetype=&as_rights=

      As opposed to what? Do you think there are in fact consciousnesses which can alter facts by denying and rejecting?

      The Bible says that God cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13). God cannot deny, contradict or alter His nature. He wouldn't want to because He's perfect. He is True and Ultimate self-existent Being. But that's not true regarding lesser derived being. God can change, add, substract, create and manipulate lesser being and substances. As a programmer can manipulate a virtual world. This isn't hard to grasp. A child can grasp that.

      Thanks for confirming! Christianity rests on the metaphysics of wishing makes it so.

      Programming language rests on the principle of wishing makes it so. Hence, there are no programmers or programs. Doesn't make sense, huh?

      You’ve been borrowing from my worldview all along, AP, and you didn’t even know it.

      Uhm... You're the one who's borrowing my worldview by assuming consciousness, beliefs, desires, deliberations is possible despite all the challenges of eliminative materialism. By assuming knowledge of the external world is possible despite the challenges to empiricism. By assuming the laws of logic even though they are immaterial contrary to your (presumably) materialist metaphysic. By assuming the laws of morality by which honest discourse is demanded (rather than not arguing in good faith). By assuming personal human identity is possible despite how either theory of time destroys human identity given atheism and/or materialism. By assuming the existence and reality of Reason, even though, given atheism and materialism that would involve reification. I could go on and on with examples (both in this discussion, and in the wider apologetical literature). You have barely addressed or answered my various questions, challenges and defeaters to your worldview. Instead, you skip all that and go on to makes assertion after assertion with minimal argumentation.

      AP: “Van Til was fond of using the analogy of going up stairs to see whether there are socks in the drawer. God doesn't need to look in the drawer, His thinking it makes it so that there are socks in the drawer.”

      DB: Exactly – wishing makes it so. Again, thank you for conceding the point.


      No, I wasn't conceding your point. I was enlightening you on what Christians believe. Apparently, as a critic of Vantillianism, you weren't aware of what Van Til taught or what Christians believe. You wrote as if we unknowingly believe something implicitly which you had to open our eyes to and make explicit. When, as a matter of fact, we explicitly believe it.

      Posting a hyperlink is not an argument. Of course, by posting a hyperlink in our exchange, you’re performatively giving away the assumption that I’ll be able to see it when I get to it.

      I don't need to argue for something EVERY philosopher or first year philosophy student knows. Namely, that naïve empiricism has been debunked and that the philosophical problems of perception are serious. Hand waving dismissal, THAT is not an argument.

      CONT.

      Delete
    4. ...you’re performatively giving away the assumption that I’ll be able to see it when I get to it. So when the issue is the contention that I need to prove that I perceive objects when I perceive objects, or whether or not sense perception is reliable, you commit the fallacy of the stolen concept. I’m guessing you just don’t understand this yet for you continue to do it over and over in many of your responses.

      As a Christian I believe you DO have generally reliable sense perceptions. That's not in question. Nor was that the issue. Since, I believe you live in God's world and were created by Him to have reliable perceptions. Please keep your eye on the ball. THE ISSUE IS whether given aspects OF YOUR WORLDVIEW, you can justifiably account for that general reliability. And you didn't, attempt, or EVEN BEGIN to attempt to address the problems of evolutionary reliabilism or the challenges of Plantinga's EAAN (Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism). So, contrary to your claim, I'm not committing the fallacy of the stolen concept.

      Also, firing off a dozen or so questions in succession, most of them irrelevant to the topic at hand, also does not constitute an argument.

      I showed how those questions are VERY relevant as can be seen regarding the issue of causation and it's relation to time, change, identity, being etc.

      I'm not angry or shouting, though I use bold font. I use them for emphasis. I sincerely wish you well. I really do. I've spent a lot of time on apologetics precisely because (among other things) I care about the lost who don't have a personal loving relationship with God through Jesus (and by the Holy Spirit). I hope and pray that you will consider deeply the things I've written and whether they might possibly be true.

      Delete
  14. Dawson, I want to apologize for my uncalled for snarky comment "Please keep your eye on the ball." I really am concerned about glorifying God and blessing my fellow man (which is you in this situation). God calls me to love everyone and that was unloving of me. Again, I apologize. That wasn't very Christian of me.

    There are times to have an attitude, but none of what you've said so far has called for it. I hope we can continue our friendly dialogue. You have been clearly friendly. I've tried to be friendly too. Though, I've focused so much on the arguments that I haven't made sure to make that friendliness clearly evident. Part of my focusing on the arguments is because I enjoy these types of discussion and debate like you. But more than winning an argument I need to keep in mind my Christian goal. One of which includes demonstrating Christ's love and patience. As well as winning people above winning arguments.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hello AP,

    You wrote: “Dawson, I want to apologize for my uncalled for snarky comment ‘Please keep your eye on the ball’."

    Yeah, I saw that. Actually, I do my best to keep my eye on the ball, but I appreciate the encouragement. I’m a busy man (I can’t post as many comments as you do in such a brief period of time; it’s enough to find time to read it all!), and I’m just speaking from what I know and what I’ve learned over the course of my life. Please don’t get frustrated with me, or with dialoguing with me. Ideas are very important to me, and I have so much to share on everything you’ve written (and asked).

    AP: “There are times to have an attitude,”

    I agree, AP. And given the tenor of the times, I can appreciate anyone having an attitude! Really, I can.

    AP: “but none of what you've said so far has called for it.”

    I hope not. I know we have some stark disagreements. But I’m sure you can see that I’m a reasonable person. Indeed, how much more reasonable can one get than promoting a worldview which is explicitly rational, which explicitly recognizes the distinction between the subject of knowledge and the objects of knowledge, which insists on distinguishing between reality and imagination? All this and more is why the primacy of existence is so important, not only in my writings, but in my whole life!

    You have raised a lot of questions in your responses to me. But in fact, since I’ve addressed pretty much all of them in my blog writings, I’m not very concerned about them. That is one reason why I haven’t stopped to address every one of your questions. Other reasons: I don’t have time; I don’t want to sit here and hunt down hyperlinks and simply past them into my responses; I want to focus on what I consider fundamental here, namely the primacy of existence. As Porter once put it, the primacy of existence is the most important principle in all of philosophy (I’m paraphrasing). I wholeheartedly agree.

    As for focusing on arguments… Why are they so important? I agree that argument, as a means of making explicit one’s own inferences from premises to conclusions, is a very important exercise. But they aren’t the end-all and be-all of life. I’ve reached a point in my life at which living it and enjoying it are far more important than constructing some “perfect proof.” And if I have the primacy of existence going for me, then in fact I am the most liberated of persons! For then, constructing arguments can easily become a mere academic exercise, and who’s persuaded at the end of the day? What did all that effort to construct the perfect proof accomplish? Did it make me any more virtuous? Probably not. Did it make me a better snob at a cocktail party? Well, I never go to cocktail parties, so I’ll never know!

    Personally, my view is that virtue is more important than winning arguments. And by virtue, I mean chosen devotion to values. In my life, those values include my life and happiness, my wife’s life and happiness, and my daughter’s life and happiness. These all come first, for they must be earned – they aren’t the given in life. They all require focused, rationally-guided effort. And I’m all too happy, relishing even, to earn these values. There’s no substitute for values one earns by his own focused, chosen, rationally-guided effort.

    So, it’s dinner time, and I must close for now. Thanks for reading!

    Regards,
    Dawson

    ReplyDelete
  16. (I can’t post as many comments as you do in such a brief period of time; it’s enough to find time to read it all!)

    That's completely understandable.

    Please don’t get frustrated with me,...

    I hope you don't get frustrated with me either.

    But in fact, since I’ve addressed pretty much all of them in my blog writings, I’m not very concerned about them. That is one reason why I haven’t stopped to address every one of your questions.

    That's understandable. Even Steve Hays does and says the same thing. However, I do appreciate Jason Engwer's efforts to organize and collect the links to his major blogposts on various topics and post them as blogposts. I wish Steve had done that. He's got so much great material. I've done that on the topic of the Trinity HERE.

    Did it make me a better snob at a cocktail party? Well, I never go to cocktail parties, so I’ll never know!

    heh heh [grin]. Good point!

    There’s no substitute for values one earns by his own focused, chosen, rationally-guided effort.

    I recently re-listened to John Robbins' lecture critiquing Rand and her Objectivism . One thing he did commended her for was her attempt to formulate a rational, comprehensive and internally consistent worldview. Contrary to many modern folk during her time and since. I commend you for that attempt too. I don't think anyone on earth has perfectly executed that noble goal. Unfortunately in the lecture Robbins only had time to critique Rand's political views. He says in the lecture that his book addresses all aspects of her worldview including her metaphysics, epistemology etc. You might want to read the book. I'm certainly interested. The book is titled, Without a Prayer: Ayn Rand and the Close of Her System by John Robbins.

    Would there be any book or books of Rand's, or anyone else's that you would recommend to me? For example, on Objectivism, or atheism, or the historical or mythological Jesus et cetera? Or even fiction. I'm a science fiction fan (of movies, television and books). For example, I've read a number of Robert Heinlein novels (despite their often anti-Christian sentiments). I've been thinking of reading one of Rand's novels. Ideally her massive Atlas Shrugged.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi AP,

    I’m well aware of John Robbins and his criticisms of Objectivism. In fact, years ago, I’m guessing 1999 or 2000, maybe earlier, I was on an old listserv with a number of squabblers over religious views, and Robbins was too. I had the pleasure at that time of debating several topics with him, at least, I tried to, but he had a notoriously belligerent attitude, at least over email. So it was not easy interacting with his statements. (He could certainly snarl up a storm if he wanted!)

    Anyway, I could tell he was passionately against Objectivism, but also noted that his understanding of Objectivism was pretty malnourished and indulged in mischaracterizing many of Rand’s views. (Sort of a ‘with charity toward none’ of Rand’s statements kind of romp.)

    For example, he liked to refer to the primacy of existence as “the primacy of unconscious.” That may be cute, but it only indicates that he was not willing to examine Objectivism in a sober, adult manner. It apparently did not occur to him that “unconscious” has a specific meaning in relation to consciousness proper, so it was painfully clear he either missed the point or was trying to obfuscate it. Neither alternative bodes well for his reputation as a thinker.

    A few years later (2001-2003?) I also subscribed to another forum, called the OWL List, which was primarily Objectivists, but some notable detractors as well. (People seem to get really angry at Objectivism for some reason… I find that rather telling!) There was an extended discussion of Robbins’ book there as well, with some detailed analysis. I wish I had kept all those! I might have some somewhere on some back-up drive, but finding them would be an effort!

    At any rate, the same general conclusion quickly emerged: Robbins was grinding a personal axe against Objectivism and was clearly more eager to smear it than to debunk it or illuminate ways to improve it. There’s a broad streak throughout western culture of naysaying, a habit of scoffing at anything and everything of value and never promoting something that is good and noble – the latter making one vulnerable to his peers’ own scoffing. It’s really an expression of nihilism. I always got the impression that Robbins was infected to some degree with this debilitating social disease. At least, from my own interactions with him and what I’ve seen in some of his writings, I very much got that impression.

    You can find some critiques of Robbins’ book on my own website – for example, see the following:

    The Theological Theatrics of John Robbins, by Jim Peron

    Has Objectivism Been Refuted? by Bryan Register

    You can also read my own John Robbins and the Foreclosure of His Critique of Objectivism which I wrote in response to Chris Bolt.

    I will say, I’ve often noted how quickly “Vantillian” presuppers will turn to the Clark-Robbins crowd when things get tough, all the while repeating the disclaimer “I’m not a Clarkian.” I’ve seen this many times and pointed it out to Bolt on at least one occasion.

    Regards,
    Dawson

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm impressed by your interactions with John Robbins. As a Vantillian, I know how he doesn't always properly represent his opponents views (e.g. his criticisms of Vantillianism [and continuationism, hence my blog on the topic]). You being an Objectivist are no doubt in a better position to determine where Robbins strawmanned Objectivism.

    Thanks for the links. I'll take a look at them.

    I will say, I’ve often noted how quickly “Vantillian” presuppers will turn to the Clark-Robbins crowd when things get tough, all the while repeating the disclaimer “I’m not a Clarkian.”

    From a Christian, and specifically Calvinist perspective, I think Clarkians are strong in some things and weak on other things. For example, they are strong in critiquing empiricism and championing reason and logic. However, I do think they sometimes hold to hyper-rationalist positions and methods which ironically slip into forms of irrationalism and non-Christian views. Clarkianism is a mixed bag like all "isms", even Vantillianism.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi AP,

    You wrote: “As a Vantillian, I know how [John Robbins] doesn't always properly represent his opponents views (e.g. his criticisms of Vantillianism [and continuationism, hence my blog on the topic]).”

    Right. Hey, if you think he mangled the views of other Christians, when it came to Objectivism, he pulled out all the stops. Today I re-read portions of my own interaction of his statements that I linked to above. I always try to see the good in people, but unfortunately when I go back and review the record, that typically means their offenses were worse than I remember. Robbins was a frothing dogmatist hell-bent on assassinating the character of any opposing position, especially if it’s on friendly terms with reason.

    AP: “You being an Objectivist are no doubt in a better position to determine where Robbins strawmanned Objectivism.”

    Oh, his caricatures are pretty hard to miss for anyone who has a pretty good understanding of Objectivism.

    Hey, I also reviewed some of our ongoing dialogue above and I wanted to ask you about this statement of yours in particular:

    AP: “Existence doesn't exist. Existence is a property of things that do exist.”

    I’m having a real hard time understanding what you’re trying to say here. So, in your view, existence is a property of things that do exist, and yet this property itself doesn’t exist? Yikes! How does that work? Is this from the bible some place? What does the bible say about these matters?

    Regards,
    Dawson

    ReplyDelete
  20. I’m having a real hard time understanding what you’re trying to say here. So, in your view, existence is a property of things that do exist, and yet this property itself doesn’t exist?

    Earlier I posted this google link to various blogposts at Triablogue that uses the phrase "existence exists" because I was trying to recall some observations made by critics of Objectivism:
    https://www.google.com/search?as_q=&as_epq=existence+exists&as_oq=&as_eq=&as_nlo=&as_nhi=&lr=&cr=&as_qdr=all&as_sitesearch=triablogue.blogspot.com&as_occt=any&safe=images&as_filetype=&as_rights=

    I'm currently reading some of the blogposts in that link and some further blogposts linked to them. I'm not a professional philospher so maybe I'm using terms incorrectly. Maybe you're using the term "existence" in the sense of "reality". Meaning, "reality is real". But that doesn't tell us anything about the nature of reality.

    For example, Bill Vallicella (AKA Maverick Philosopher) says the following.

    Re:Existence, God, and the Randians

    Here are some quotes:

    "....But then Peikoff tells us that to postulate something supernatural such as God is "to postulate something beyond existence." Now it may well be that there is no God or anything beyond nature. It may well be that everything that exists is a thing of nature. But the nonexistence of God does not follow from the triviality that everything that exists exists. Does it take a genius to see that the following argument is invalid?

    1. Existence exists, ergo

    2. God does not exist.

    One cannot derive a substantive metaphysical conclusion from a mere tautology. No doubt, whatever exists exists. But one cannot exclude God from the company of what exists by asserting that whatever exists exists. Now it is not nice to call people stupid, but anyone who cannot appreciate the simple point I have just made is, I am afraid, either stupid, or not paying attention, or willfully obtuse."

    CONT.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "...For Peikoff to get the result he wants, the nonexistence of God, from the premise 'Existence exists,' he must engage in the linguistic mischief of using 'existence' to mean 'natural existence.' Instead of saying "only existence exists," he should have said 'only natural existence exists.' "

      "...What Peikoff is doing above is smuggling the nonexistence of the supernatural into the term 'existence' Now if you cannot see that that is an intellectually dispreputable move, then I must say you are hopeless."

      "...It is like a bad ontological argument in reverse. On one bad version of the ontological argument, one defines God into existence by smuggling the notion of existence into the concept of God and then announcing that since we have the concept of God, God must exist. Peikoff is doing the opposite: he defines God and the supernatural out of existence by importing their nonexistence into the term 'existence.' But you can no more define God into existence than you can define him out of existence."

      Re: Is Ayn Rand a Good Philosopher? Rand on the Primacy of Existence

      "...If we think about Rand’s axiom, we see that it conflates three distinct propositions:
      P1: Each thing exists independently of any consciousness.
      P2: Each thing satisfies the Law of Identity in that, for each x, x = x.
      P3: The identity of each thing consists in its possession of a specific nature."

      "...... But P2 does not entail P1. For if each thing is self-identical, it does not follow that each thing exists independently of any consciousness. To see this, suppose that God exists and creates everything distinct from himself. On this supposition, each thing distinct from God is self-identical but precisely NOT independent of any consciousness. Since P2 does not entail P1, these two propositions are logically distinct. Note that all I need is the mere possibility of God’s existence to show the failure of entailment. "

      "...It follows that self-identity implies nothing about mode of existence. To point out that x is self-identical leaves wide open whether x is an accident, a substance, a mind-dependent entity, a mind-independent entity, an abstract object, a concrete object, a process, a continuant, a nonexistent object of an hallucination, an existent object of a veridical perception, etc.

      In sum, Rand is attempting to squeeze controversial metaphysical assertions out of a mere logical axiom. It can’t be done.

      It is also clear that P2 does not entail P3. P2 merely says that each thing is self-identical. But this implies nothing as to natures. If a thing has a nature, then it has some essential properties. But it is possible, and many philosophers have held, that all of a thing’s properties are accidental. Therefore, it is possible that a thing be self-identical and yet have only accidental properties – which shows that P2 does not entail P1."

      CONT.

      Delete
    2. "...Suppose we construct an argument on Rand’s behalf:

      1. Necessarily, every x is self-identical.
      2. To exist = to be self-identical
      Therefore
      3. Necessarily, every x exists
      Therefore
      4. Every x exists necessarily.
      Therefore
      5. No x exists contingently.
      Therefore
      6. No x can come into existence or pass out of existence.

      The problem with this argument lies with premise (2). Rand needs (2), but (2) does not follow from (1). (2) must be brought in as a separate premise. But, unlike (1), (2) is scarcely self-evident. For even if it is true that x exists iff x = x, it does not follow from this that the existing of x consists in x’s being self-identical. It is conceivable that there be a nonexistent object such as Pegasus that is self-identical but does not exist. This shows that the biconditional given is circular: x exists iff x = x & x exists. There is more to existence than self-identity."

      I would need to study both Objectivism and criticisms of it to better address your deeper questions. The quotes above show me that the issues are beyond my ability to fully address.

      Apparently, Paul Manata had addressed some of these deeper issues with you. It was him (I think) who wrote:

      "... A problem here, though, is that "existence" doesn't "exist" on a materialist and nominalist understanding of the world. "Existence" is a universal that can be said to be exemplified by exisTENTS. Thus I can kick a rock, I can't kick "existence." Thus I can blow up a house, I can't blow up "existence." Therefore, "existence" doesn't "exist" on a materialist and nominalist understanding of the world (I've asked Bethrick to send me a picture of "existence" and not an "existent." His answer was, "I don't have a digital camera, or else I would." Needless to say, hardee har har)."

      That's what I was trying to get at.

      Delete
  21. Hi AP,

    Unfortunately, none of this explains how on the one hand, existence does not exist, and yet on the other, existence is a property of things that do exist. I’m expecting that you’ll be able to speak on behalf of your worldview, and you’ve made a worldview-level statement here about the nature of existence. Dragging out criticisms of Objectivism does nothing to defend what you’ve affirmed.

    In fact, it’s doubly confusing to contemplate your statement and then go over to James Anderson’s latest post in which he lists six things that people take for granted on which he bases his case for the Christian worldview, and the first thing he lists is – you guessed it – existence! Perhaps Anderson doesn’t know that “existence doesn’t exist”?

    But before you go any further, I want to point out that, some years ago, I addressed Bill Vallicella’s bungled analyses of Objectivism. In fact, it’s clear that he was trying to refute something before actually grasping it (why??), and he won’t grasp it if he does not practice more care and charity in examining what Objectivism actually teaches as opposed to filtering what little he knows of Objectivism through his anal. phil. lenses (which is obvious from the quotes you pasted above).

    What he ends up doing is giving at best a rather botched external critique, but nothing at all approaching an internal critique. (I’m assuming you know the difference here.) Fundamentally, he errs in trying to measure Objectivism with rationalistic assumptions. Contrary to what some might believe (and this speaks to comments you made above), Objectivism is NOT a variant of rationalism – where rationalism is essentially deduction without reference to reality. Objectivism nowhere affirms that its philosophical principles are to be “derived” or deduced from the axioms; this is a blatant mistake on his part (as I explain here; Manata made the same mistake). At any rate, you can find a catalogue of Vallicella’s errors here: The “Maverick Philosopher” on Objectivism.

    [continued…]

    ReplyDelete
  22. Also, on my blog I have posted numerous responses to Paul Manata’s ill-fated efforts to critique Objectivism. Harking back to 2006, his errors have become legendary on my blog. I suggest starting with the following: The Axioms and the Primacy of Existence. Please read this very carefully.

    But I’m still wondering how you can say on the one hand, “Existence doesn’t exist” and then, on the other, affirm that “existence is a property of things that do exist.” In fact, I think you summed up a major contradiction which is implicit in analytic philosophy and which Objectivism expressly rejects (and avoids!).

    As I have explained many, many times in my writings on these matters, as Objectivism uses the concept ‘existence’ in the axiom “existence exists,” it is a collective noun denoting anything and everything that exists. As you look around yourself and see things that exist, that’s existence. The concept ‘existence’ is the widest of all concepts and includes all of what you personally perceive and more without specifying any further. It doesn’t need to specify any further - it’s a starting point. It is very much like saying “reality is real.”

    And to your point, the task of the axiom of existence is not to “tell us anything about the nature of reality” beyond what it affirms and implies. What’s important to note is that the axiom of existence (a) is obviously true, (b) is conceptually irreducible and (c) therefore fundamental, (d) must be true to question or dispute it, and (e) implicit in all thought, judgment, choices, etc. In fact, one cannot affirm any alternative to the axiom of existence as one’s starting point without implicitly presupposing it. I elaborate on the task of the axioms in many of my writings, including ones I linked to above.

    [continued…]

    ReplyDelete
  23. At one point, Manata notoriously mistook the axiom as a statement about the concept ‘existence’ rather than what it denotes. There is in fact a difference here, but he cannot find any statement in any Objectivist literature which will corroborate his error. Rather, the axiom ‘existence exists’ is a fundamental recognition of an undeniable fact: that things exist. The beauty of the axiom is that it consists of a single concept – ‘existence’ (both its noun form as well as its verb form), ensuring that Objectivism’s starting point is conceptually irreducible, meaning: there’s nothing more fundamental than the axiom of existence. Thus, since everything that exists is existence, yes, when you kick a rock, you’re kicking existence – on the Objectivist understanding, just as when I wear a shoe, I’m wearing a shoe. The concept ‘shoe’ includes every shoe that exists now, that has existed and will exist; this does not mean that the shoe I’m wearing on my right foot is not a shoe. That would be ridiculous! But that’s essentially the reasoning we find in Manata’s objections – he refuses to allow the concept ‘existence’ to denote anything in reality. This leads to needless contradictions such as the one you have openly affirmed.

    All of this underscores the need to have a good understanding of the nature of concepts. But you’ll not get this from the bible; I don’t think you’ll get this from Vallicella either. But you will get it in Objectivism.

    Simply put, all the objections and criticisms that you’ve raised in your many comments here have been tried before and summarily addressed, most of them resting on errors in desperate need of correction. Not only are they built on mistaken notions about the axioms, they arise from worldviews that have no objective starting point of their own, making their use as objections to Objectivism all the more ironic.

    It’s always baffled me how critics of Objectivism either simply cannot understand what Objectivism teaches on these matters, or insist that what Objectivism teaches means something other than what it teaches. Either way, they seem hell-bent on disallowing Objectivism to speak for itself. I have my suspicions why this is the case though.

    So again, please explain, from your worldview, how it can be the case on the one hand that “existence doesn’t exist” and yet “existence is a property of things that do exist.” How can these two statements be integrated without contradiction? That is what you need to explain here.

    Regards,
    Dawson

    ReplyDelete
  24. But I’m still wondering how you can say on the one hand, “Existence doesn’t exist” and then, on the other, affirm that “existence is a property of things that do exist.”

    So again, please explain, from your worldview, how it can be the case on the one hand that “existence doesn’t exist” and yet “existence is a property of things that do exist.” How can these two statements be integrated without contradiction? That is what you need to explain here.

    I prefaced my comments by saying that I wasn't sure if I'm saying what I want to say correctly. The exact quote is [i.e. I said], "People better at philosophy and grammar have expressed what I'm about to attempt to say imperfectly." And that sentence was also a link to those Triablogue blogposts. My worldview doesn't stand or fall with that critique. I can take it back if, upon further reflection, I realize it actually inconsistent with my worldview and/or irrational, non-sensical or a strawman representation et cetera.

    I’m expecting that you’ll be able to speak on behalf of your worldview, and you’ve made a worldview-level statement here about the nature of existence.

    I'm not wedded to my past criticism of Objectivism. I don't know much about Objectivism, as I said. Maybe I'm wrong about "existence". You seem to know something about it. Tell me what "existence" is? That is, what you mean by "existence". How much or many "existence" is there? What types of existence is there? Is it only material, only supernatural, both material and supernatural? How do you know? On the one hand "existence exists" coupled with the law of identity seems to imply monism in which existence doesn't change (i.e. with motion, time, causation etc.). Yet, you're not a monist but believe in different things, as well as believing in causation [presumably, you also believe some things WITHIN the universe are contingent rather than necessary]. Also, I don't understand how you get materialism from that. As I said before, "Some non-Christians argue for versions of panpsychism." Why assume the material universe is "existence" rather than God who created the contingent physical universe?

    As I have explained many, many times in my writings on these matters, as Objectivism uses the concept ‘existence’ in the axiom “existence exists,” it is a collective noun denoting anything and everything that exists.

    Again, why aren't you a monist who believes in one unchanging eternal timeless block of existence? That's more in keeping with the law of identity in its changelessness. Also, how do you know spiritual, or supernatural or non-natural stuff doesn't exist? For example, what about immaterial Platonic forms? Why can't they exist?

    As you look around yourself and see things that exist, that’s existence.

    Why assume that only what we can see or detect exists? That doesn't follow at all. If we cannot see or detect a multiverse, or dark matter, or dark energy does that mean they doesn't exist?

    The concept ‘existence’ is the widest of all concepts and includes all of what you personally perceive and more without specifying any further.

    If it's so wide, why do you narrow to only material things? Why not include non-material things?

    CONT.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It doesn’t need to specify any further - it’s a starting point. It is very much like saying “reality is real.”

      That's what I said earlier, "reality is real". But then I asked, "But that doesn't tell us anything about the nature of reality." I don't see how you have ruled out non-material reality. As Bill Vallicella also points out.

      Rather, the axiom ‘existence exists’ is a fundamental recognition of an undeniable fact: that things exist.

      But that doesn't tells us what possible kinds of things exist.

      All of this underscores the need to have a good understanding of the nature of concepts.

      Do concepts have a nature? Are they things that exist, or part of existence? Are concept material? Are the laws of logic material? Is the law of identity, or of non-contradiction material?

      Before I read what Bill Vallicella said, I thought the same thing. I too thought that Objectivism mirrors bad ontological arguments but in reverse. However, instead of defining God into existence, Objectivist attempt to define God out of existence.

      Ultimately, I'm not interested in being an expert on Objectivism. It doesn't appeal to me because I'm convinced of the reality of the supernatural and most, if not all, Objectivists are materialists. Manata asked whether Objectivism necessitates materialism, or whether it's theoretically possible for it to allow the supernatural. His exact words are, "(I say Dawson’s since I don’t know if materialism is necessitated by Objectivism)"

      Materialism, as commonly conceived, is patently false based on my own experience and the testimony of many Christians and non-Christian past and present. I devote an entire blog on the topic from a Christian point of view: my blog Charismata Matters. One of my blogposts is titled, Testimonies of the Supernatural Among Respected Christian Leaders. Some of the testimonies come from some Christians who hold to cessationism, and so believe supernatural experiences are very rare in this age between the 1st and 2nd advents of Christ. Cessationists are usually very skeptical about claimed supernatural experiences. Yet, interestingly, they too have them.

      QUOTE: "One of my favorite grad school professors at Yale once confided to me something that, he said, as an atheist, really bothered him. "Get enough really smart people in a room together, give them enough to drink, and eventually you'll hear stories that don't make sense in an atheistic, materialistic universe." He looked perplexed. And he was right."
      END QUOTE - Tom Morris
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-morris/interview-with-a-philosop_4_b_5522218.html?page_version=legacy&view=print&comm_ref=false

      Delete
    2. A conscious person in a simulation (think of the movie "The Thirteenth Floor") would think his type of existence is the true existence, when he's only digital. He wouldn't realize that there's a reality above his own. Or even above that one. So, why assume only what we call the physical world is the only world and the only type of "stuff" there is? That's analogous to sea creatures thinking only aquatic life exist. Not realizing land animals exist. Even animals that fly in the air.

      Even on non-Christian grounds many physicists are seriously considering we might be in a simulation. Then beyond the simluation hypothesis, Nick Bostrom as proposed his Simulation Argument which argues that given the number of possible simulated civilizations (some being nested above and below), there's a liklihood that we're such a simulation.

      For anyone interested, here's (non-Christian) Nick Bostrom's video interview on his argumenthttps://youtu.be/nnl6nY8YKHs

      Then there are Christian arguments that use the simulation hypothesis to argue for theism.
      Digital Physics Argument for God's Existence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2Xsp4FRgas

      Delete
    3. Typo correction:

      On the one hand "existence exists" coupled with the law of identity seems to imply monism in which existence doesn't change (i.e. with motion, time, causation etc.).

      I meant, "(i.e. WITHOUT motion, time causationetc.)."

      As I said before, "Some non-Christians argue for versions of panpsychism."

      I forgot to point out that I don't see how Objectivism justifiably asserts existence is non-conscious. Since, there are various views of reality that assume consciousness is part of the physical world, like versions of panpsychism.

      Nick Bostrom as proposed his Simulation Argument which argues that given the number of possible simulated civilizations (some being nested above and below), there's a liklihood that we're such a simulation.

      as proposed = has proposed

      R.C. Sproul's basic introduction to philosophy includes short lectures on "Monism and Pluaralism" as well as "Parmenides, Heraclitus and Zeno"

      Here's the link to the series, for those interested.
      http://www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?sourceOnly=true&currSection=sermonssource&keyword=ligonier&keyworddesc=&subsetcat=series&subsetitem=The+Consequences+of+Ideas

      Delete
  25. Hi AP,

    AP: “I prefaced my comments by saying that I wasn't sure if I'm saying what I want to say correctly. The exact quote is [i.e. I said], "People better at philosophy and grammar have expressed what I'm about to attempt to say imperfectly." And that sentence was also a link to those Triablogue blogposts. My worldview doesn't stand or fall with that critique. I can take it back if, upon further reflection, I realize it actually inconsistent with my worldview and/or irrational, non-sensical or a strawman representation et cetera.”

    Just for the record – earlier you had affirmed: “Existence doesn’t exist. Existence is a property of things that do exist.”

    Do you still affirm this? Or do you take it back now? I just want to be clear. Do you understand that this statement is self-contradictory? Are you willing to re-consider the statement “existence exists”? Do you still think that “existence doesn’t exist”? Or are you now starting to understand that existence in fact does exist?

    AP: “I'm not wedded to my past criticism of Objectivism.”

    Well, frankly, most of what you’ve posted aren’t even your criticisms of Objectivism – they’ve been produced by other people. And from what I can tell, virtually all of it suffers from unfamiliarity with what Objectivism actually teaches and a healthy dose of straw-manning.

    One thing I’ve learned in my life (and I learned this long ago, but it’s never too late in my opinion): Don’t let other people do your thinking for you. Think for yourself. True, many will disapprove of this. But so what? You can take that risk.

    AP: “On the one hand ‘existence exists’ coupled with the law of identity seems to imply monism in which existence doesn't change (i.e. [without] motion, time, causation etc.).”

    Can you explain why you think this? Or, are you just repeating Bahnsen here? It’s not what Objectivism teaches, so there’s no hope of an internal critique here. The law of identity includes everything about an existent’s nature, including its actions, its attributes, its potential, etc. Again, a good understanding of concepts is vital here. But where will you as a Christian find a good theory of concepts? I’ve never found anything in any of my bibles which illuminate an understanding of the nature of concepts and the processes in which we form them.

    AP: “Why assume that only what we can see or detect exists?”

    I don’t. Didn’t you read what I wrote? You quoted me here: ”The concept ‘existence’ is the widest of all concepts and includes all of what you personally perceive and more without specifying any further.”

    If you see five pairs of shoes in my closet, would you automatically assume that those are the only five pairs of shoes in all existence? I would hope not.

    May I politely suggest that you exercise more care when dealing with ideas? Your mind is precious. Treat its contents that way.

    Again, the axiom of existence is my starting point. It’s not a stopping point.

    [continued…]

    ReplyDelete
  26. AP: “If it's so wide, why do you narrow to only material things?”

    Where have I ever done this??? Why are you attributing views to me that I haven’t expressed? Is it so hard to refrain from straw-manning? C’mon, AP. I know you’re capable of better here. You don’t have to feel threatened by me.

    AP: “Why not include non-material things?”

    What do you mean by “non-material things”? Saying that something is “non-material” only tells us what something isn’t. Does it have a positive identity? If so, what is it, and how do we have awareness of it? Or do we have awareness of it at all? Is it merely imaginary? How do we reliably distinguish that which is supposedly “non-material” from that which is merely imaginary? These are just some of the questions we need to explore.

    AP: “I don't see how you have ruled out non-material reality. As Bill Vallicella also points out.”

    See above. Did you read my critique of Vallicella’s objections to Objectivism? If you’re willing to read what Vallicella has written, why not be willing to read my response to him?

    AP: “But that doesn't tells us what possible kinds of things exist.”

    It’s not meant to. Again, it’s my starting point. We don’t stop observing and gathering facts about reality at that point – it’s where it all begins! Seriously, why is that hard to grasp?

    What is your starting point, AP? How does it avoid assuming the truth of the axiom of existence?

    Either you start with existence, like Objectivism, or you start with non-existence, when in fact we know that existence exists. Or, you can try to blur all this and start with something imaginary. But then you’re smuggling the axiom of existence without acknowledging it. Thus you would be beginning with a stolen concept. A worldview founded on fallacy won’t produce truth. That should be simple enough to grasp.

    AP: “Do concepts have a nature? Are they things that exist, or part of existence? Are concept material? Are the laws of logic material? Is the law of identity, or of non-contradiction material?”

    All fascinating questions, but much learning must come before all this. Again, as a Christian, where are you going to learn about Concepts? The Book of Job perhaps? II Corinthians? Obadiah? What did the apostle Paul know about concepts?

    In the meantime, you might want to read my paper Does Logic Presuppose the Christian God?

    AP: “However, instead of defining God into existence, Objectivist attempt to define God out of existence.”

    It doesn’t. See my paper Do Objectivists Try to “Define God Out of Existence?

    AP: “most, if not all, Objectivists are materialists.”

    Do you have any evidence for this?
    AP: “Materialism, as commonly conceived, is patently false”

    What makes it false, and why suppose that it’s the only alternative to supernaturalism? In fact, Objectivism holds that both materialism and supernaturalism rest on the same stolen concept at the most fundamental level of thought.

    [continued…]

    ReplyDelete
  27. AP: “I don't see how Objectivism justifiably asserts existence is non-conscious.”

    I suggest that it’s better to learn what Objectivism does actually teach before attributing notions that Objectivism nowhere affirms. That’s the responsible and honest thing to do. Also, much of your confusion stems from the fact that you haven’t yet grasped the primacy of existence principle, even though you assume it all the time.

    AP: “Since, there are various views of reality that assume consciousness is part of the physical world, like versions of panpsychism.”

    Human beings and other biological organisms have consciousness, and they’re physical. Consciousness is biological in nature. See my blog The Biological Nature of Consciousness. But by “panpsychism” do you mean the view that everything around us is conscious, like rocks and dead leaves and piles of dirt? We can imagine this, but the primacy of existence reminds us that imagination is not the same as reality. For knowledge of reality, do you look inward to your feelings, wishes, preferences, imaginations, etc.? Or, do you look outward at the realm of entities and facts? Which of these alternatives brings you to “God”? When I look outward I find no supernatural conscious beings. But I can find them when I look inward into the contents of my imagination. But as Steve Hays has admitted, “an imagined Jesus is just an imaginary Jesus.” Exactly!

    Regards,
    Dawson

    ReplyDelete
  28. Do you still affirm this? Or do you take it back now? I just want to be clear. Do you understand that this statement is self-contradictory? Are you willing to re-consider the statement “existence exists”? Do you still think that “existence doesn’t exist”? Or are you now starting to understand that existence in fact does exist?

    It depends on what one means by "existence" Using one definition, I agree with Manata's distinction between existence and existents. If, however, by existence one means "reality" so that the phrase is equivalent to "reality is real", then I have no problem with that either. However, "existence exists" can smuggle in a monistic idea that (it seems) Objectivism both exploits for it's purposes of denying the supernatural, yet at the same time denies monism by affirming a plurality of things within existence (as you put it, "a collective noun denoting anything and everything that exists"). Objectivism wants to have its cake and eat it too. Either affirm or deny monism. Either there is one existence or many existenceses. This as to do with the problem of the one and many (one of, if not the most ancient of philosophical problems). Is monism or pluralism true? How does one get unity out of diversity and so get a "uni-verse" (universe being a combination of UNI-ty and di-VERSity). Saying, reality is real doesn't tell us anything about reality and whether there are various kinds or levels of reality. How many types of substances are there? Maybe there are an infinite number of substances or beings or existence or existents: 1. matter,
    2. spirit,
    3. A,
    4. B,
    5. C,
    6. D,
    7. E
    ad infinitum.

    Don’t let other people do your thinking for you. Think for yourself. True, many will disapprove of this. But so what? You can take that risk.

    I do that. But it's also true that we can learn things by standing on the shoulders of giants. We don't have to re-invent the wheel every generation. "The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains, proves that he has no brains of his own."- Charles H. Spurgeon, Sermon #542

    Or, are you just repeating Bahnsen here?

    No, it's a natural inference from what I know about the problem of the one and the many, of change vs. stasis etc. That's everywhere in Van Til's writings.

    The law of identity includes everything about an existent’s nature, including its actions, its attributes, its potential, etc.

    And I don't see how one can derive anything about an existent's nature from the trivial and uncontroversial fact that everything that exists exists.

    But where will you as a Christian find a good theory of concepts? I’ve never found anything in any of my bibles which illuminate an understanding of the nature of concepts and the processes in which we form them.

    Why would the Bible need to formally and directly address a theory of concepts? The Bible does address God as a personal God who has thoughts and concepts. I don't know how you as a materialist can explain the "hard problem of consciousness" given your physicalism. Eliminative materialism seems perfectly consistent with materialism and naturalism.

    If you see five pairs of shoes in my closet, would you automatically assume that those are the only five pairs of shoes in all existence? I would hope not.

    If you only see physical things with your physical eyes, would you automatically assume only physical things exist?

    CONT.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. May I politely suggest that you exercise more care when dealing with ideas? Your mind is precious. Treat its contents that way.

      Given materialism, neither of us have minds. We only have brains that operate by the fixed laws of nature. Given materialistic determinism, we can't think any other than the way we do. There's no good reason (literally no Reason) to think we possess reason or think (as the weakness of evolutionary reliabilism shows).

      What do you mean by “non-material things”? Saying that something is “non-material” only tells us what something isn’t. Does it have a positive identity? If so, what is it, and how do we have awareness of it? Or do we have awareness of it at all? Is it merely imaginary? How do we reliably distinguish that which is supposedly “non-material” from that which is merely imaginary? These are just some of the questions we need to explore.

      I'm not interested in lessons on Objectivism. It's not taken seriously in the academic world which is already predominantly secular. There could be various non-materials things and realms. For example, there is God's being/substance, and the being/substance of the angelic species. Maybe there are more than one substances/beings regarding the various angelic species. If they exist, then they would have positive identity since whatever something is it is.

      If so, what is it, and how do we have awareness of it?

      I don't have exhaustive knowledge of such things. And I don't need to. We can have awareness of them by divine revelation as well as supernatural experiences. Both Christians and non-Christians have experiences of the supernatural (e.g sometimes, Divine, angelic, demonic etc.).

      How do we reliably distinguish that which is supposedly “non-material” from that which is merely imaginary?

      Some supernatural experiences have effects on the physical world (e.g. healing, miracles, etc.). Sometimes supernatural experiences convey information not attainable naturally (say of the present or future).

      I've collected some in my blogpost Testimonies of the Supernatural Among Respected Christian Leaders

      Such examples cannot be dismissed by honest open minded individuals.

      If you’re willing to read what Vallicella has written, why not be willing to read my response to him?

      Probably because of a similar reason why atheists like yourself often refuse to investigate examples of the supernatural like the ones I've collected above. Objectivism is a minority report even in the secular community. There are better defenses of atheism out there I could be focusing on. Whereas the reality of the supernatural is something most people have believed at all times, all places all castes (or levels of society), all professions by both Non-Christians and Christians.

      We don’t stop observing and gathering facts about reality at that point – it’s where it all begins!

      Good. That attitude, taken to its logical and practical conclusion leads to a belief in the supernatural.

      What is your starting point, AP? How does it avoid assuming the truth of the axiom of existence?

      That would depend on whether one means epistemological starting point, or metaphysical starting point. I answered that above. I wrote, "I begin with knowledge from and of God. I don't start from finite inductive experience or [finite] consciousness. I might do so epistemologically and proximately, but not metaphysically and ultimately."

      CONT.

      Delete
    2. Or, you can try to blur all this and start with something imaginary. But then you’re smuggling the axiom of existence without acknowledging it. Thus you would be beginning with a stolen concept. A worldview founded on fallacy won’t produce truth. That should be simple enough to grasp.

      I don't believe that God is imaginary. You do. We both know the difference between internal and external critiques. I've done (IMO) a devastating internal critique of many (not all) atheistic worldviews (which seems to include atheistic Objectivism).

      All fascinating questions, but much learning must come before all this.

      You do a lot of setting aside or placing on a shelf. That's fine and sometimes legitimate. But I might want to appeal to that as an escape hatch in the future too. If you want to convince me of the possibility of Objectivism I'd have to have some answers to the critiques and defeaters I've presented. Even JUST ONE would be enough. Say, picking the problem eliminative materialism, or of the problems of naïve empiricism, or scientism. I've mentioned many in this discussion.

      Or one can address the problem of monism. As R.C. Sproul put it, "[R]eality, to be REAL, cannot be changing. Because that which is changing, never truly IS." Since, "existence" in Objectivism seems to be changing, it's not really real. It doesn't really possess Identity, since it never "IS" (i.e. BEING) but is always and only "BECOMING". Whereas in the Christian worldview, God, who is Being Itself (the ens perfectissimum), upholds our finite becoming so that we can be real.

      Again, as a Christian, where are you going to learn about Concepts? The Book of Job perhaps? II Corinthians? Obadiah? What did the apostle Paul know about concepts?

      The Bible tells us that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ (Co. 2:3). That Christ is the Logos (i.e. literally the Reason of God) in John 1:1. That Jesus is the Alpha and Omega (the first and last letter of the Greek alphabet, meaning [among other things] Jesus is the source of all reality, truth, propositions, concepts, power etc.). In Christianity, we have an eternal Mind who eternally had mental concepts. Given materialism, it's hard to account for mental states or concepts etc. Need I mention again the secularly admittedly "hard problem of consciousness" or of "eliminative materialism" or of the problem of normativity et cetera?

      As Manata put it,
      (iii) Dawson has made this claim: “Propositions are functions of a consciousness.” And so the problem here is what to do with necessary propositions? Granting Dawson’s claim that propositions are functions of consciousness, it would appear that he’d need to have a necessary consciousness that exists in all possible worlds. Though I’d not use the term “function,” it appears that Dawson’s stating Theistic Conceptual Realism!

      In other words, given one of your claims, it would entail the existence of God.

      CONT.

      Delete
    3. AP: “most, if not all, Objectivists are materialists.”

      I don't know if there are any non-materialist Objectivists. Maybe there are. Can you name me one?

      DB: Do you have any evidence for this?
      AP: “Materialism, as commonly conceived, is patently false”


      I've already provided internal critiques of materialism as well as provide evidence for the supernatural by citing those testimonies. Here are other blogposts of mine that address the problems of materialism.

      Evidence and Arguments Against Materialism and Naturalism
      https://misclane.blogspot.com/2014/01/evidence-and-arguments-against.html

      AND

      Scientific Evidence Against Materialism
      https://misclane.blogspot.com/2014/09/scientific-evidence-against-materialism.html

      Consciousness is biological in nature.

      That's not the same thing as saying, consciousness is ONLY biological in nature. I agree that it's possible that consciousness may be biological. There are Christian physicalists out there. However, I'm a dualist who believes humans are both 1. body and 2. spirit/soul or 1. body, 2. soul, and 3. spirit.

      For knowledge of reality, do you look inward to your feelings, wishes, preferences, imaginations, etc.? Or, do you look outward at the realm of entities and facts? Which of these alternatives brings you to “God”? When I look outward I find no supernatural conscious beings.

      1. That's a false dichotomy. One can look inward and outward to learn about reality. As a Christian I believe in both General and Special Revelation. General Revelation includes things that are external to us as well as internal. I mentioned earlier Cheung's analogy of tennis. 2. Even the Objectivist isn't consistent with his epistemology since he can't really look outwardly in the sense of direct access to the external world. 3. That conflates inward introspection with imagination of what's not real. One can imagine real things. That's part of conceiving things whether concrete things or abstract concepts.

      Delete
    4. For those following this conversation, the following is a long excerpt from Vincent Cheung's Presuppositional Confrontations. I post it here to show how the human mind cannot be a tabula rasa.

      THE PRECONDITION OF MEANING
      Imagine that we are watching a game of tennis on television, although for our purpose it
      can be just about any kind of game – basketball, football, or even chess. Suppose that I
      know the rules of tennis, but you do not. And suppose further that we have muted the
      television, so that we receive no verbal communication from the commentator. Finally,
      suppose that there is no visual communication, so that not even the scores are shown. Now,
      my question is whether the game will be intelligible to you at all.

      If I pay close attention, I should still be able to follow the game even without any verbal
      communication, because I already know the rules of the game. Likewise, the players themselves should be able to follow the game without constant assistance from the announcer or the scoreboard. On the other hand, although you are watching the same game, you will not be able to make sense out of what you are seeing, since you do not know the rules.

      This means that when you are watching a game, what you observe does not provide its own intelligibility and interpretation. Rather, for a game to be intelligible to you and for you to have the correct interpretation of what is happening, you must bring a considerable amount of knowledge to the act of watching the game, and this knowledge does not come from
      watching the game itself. If I had explained the rules before the game, or if I explain the
      rules as we are watching the game, then what you are watching will become intelligible,
      and you will be able to correctly interpret what you are seeing.

      You may argue that it is possible to derive some of the rules by observation. But this is not as simple as most people think. For example, suppose you observe that after every "checkmate," the two players would walk away from the chessboard. What can you infer from this? You cannot infer that one of them won unless you know the rules. Perhaps "checkmate" means a draw. Perhaps it means that the players are bored and decide to give up chess. Maybe it means that it is time for lunch. You need to know that it is a game, that it can be won or lost, and how it is won or lost. Even if you infer that one of them won, where did you obtain the categories of "winning" and "losing" in your thinking? You cannot get them from observing the game itself. You must bring these ideas to the act of observation.

      What about the ideas of time and causation? They are required to make sense of a game,
      but you cannot derive them from watching the game. You must bring these ideas to the act of observation. Some ethical principles are also presupposed. You must assume that the
      players would not usually cheat, and that the players cannot get away with cheating, or else the game would not have sufficient regularity for you to derive any rules from it. However, if a person cheats and gets away with it, how will you know that he is cheating, or if his action is just an exception allowed by the rules?

      CONT.

      Delete
    5. If we take the time to enumerate, we can make explicit dozens, or more probably hundreds
      or even thousands of presuppositions that are necessary for the game to be intelligible to
      your observation, when at the same time these presuppositions cannot come from the act
      of observation. To make matters more difficult, there are thousands of arbitrary elements
      to every game that are not essential to the rules, although they are objects of observation. For example, if a chess game is played by two men in formal attire, what can you infer from this? Are you to infer that this is an essential rule of chess? And if so, must women also wear men's suits, or are they allowed to wear dresses? Of course, people wear regular clothes when they are playing chess in other settings. But how do you know that they are not in violation of the rules, and that they are just getting away with it? Or do you assume without warrant that if they were indeed in violation, the rules would always be enforced against them?

      Without knowledge that comes apart from observation, observation itself can make no sense or communicate any information. The intelligibility and interpretation of observation presuppose knowledge about the objects of observation, and this knowledge cannot come from the act of observation itself. That is, the intelligibility and interpretation of an experience is made possible by knowledge that comes apart from the experience. This knowledge may be something that is innate or something that is received by verbal instruction.

      If the mind is totally blank, so that it does not even possess categories such as time, space, and causation, intelligibility and interpretation are impossible. In fact, if your mind is a blank, without any knowledge that comes apart from observation, your world will be to you as a whirlwind of sensations with no way to organize them or interpret them. However, if a prior non-observational knowledge of reality is required in order to properly interpret observation about reality, this means that the order and meaning you observe is imposed on what you observe, and never derived from what you see. This is another way of saying that the meaning of what you observe is governed by your presuppositions.

      Returning to our initial illustration, what happens if you presuppose the rules of basketball or chess when you watch the tennis game? Even if it appears that you are able to make sense of the things that you observe, because the wrong rules are presupposed, your interpretation will be false. Therefore, it is not enough to recognize that non-observational presuppositions precede intelligibility and interpretation, but we must realize that not all presuppositions are equal, and that they can be true or false.

      We have established several possibilities regarding what happens when we watch a tennis
      game:
      1. The mind is totally blank, in which case nothing is intelligible, and interpretation is impossible.
      2. The mind contains only basic categories with no knowledge of the rules of the game, so that it acknowledges concepts such as time, causation, ethics, and winning. Interpretation is still impossible.
      3. The mind applies false presuppositions to the game, so that it may apply basketball rules to tennis. Interpretation is either impossible, or yields false results when attempted.
      4. The mind contains the right presuppositions about the universe in general and about tennis in particular. Correct interpretation is possible.

      The result is that two people can observe the same thing and come up with contradictory
      interpretations. However, this does not need to result in relativism, since one person may
      be correct and the other may be wrong. It depends on which one has the correct presuppositions about the universe in general, and about the object that is under observation in particular.
      END QUOTE

      Delete
    6. I don't understand why someone like myself (a Christian, an amateur apologist etc.) should study Objectivism very deeply when there are other Christian apologists who are more philosophically sophisticated who have addressed it already (whether accurately or not). I'm not as philosophically capable as them so I couldn't contribute anything on my Christian side, or really teach you anything on your side (since you've interacted with those better apologists).

      I don't see the benefit for me, or others or how it advances my Christian goals. I don't see any rational, epistemological, metaphysical existential or practical benefit for me to study it in-depth. If there is a good reason, I'm not aware of it. That's not to say I refuse to look into it a little more. But we can only invest our time in a limited fashion. As a Christian I need to pick my battles and interests wisely.

      Delete
  29. Hi AP,

    Thank you for your comments. I had some thoughts in response to some of what you have written.

    Regarding your statement: “Existence doesn’t exist. Existence is a property of things that do exist.”

    I asked: Do you still affirm this? Or do you take it back now? I just want to be clear. Do you understand that this statement is self-contradictory? Are you willing to re-consider the statement “existence exists”? Do you still think that “existence doesn’t exist”? Or are you now starting to understand that existence in fact does exist?

    AP: “It depends on what one means by ‘existence’”

    What did you mean by ‘existence’ when you stated it? Can you state your definition, if you have one? Essentially, you’re saying that existence is a property that doesn’t exist. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this. And when I ask if you still mean it, you respond with “It depends.” But it was your statement.

    In your view, does every existent have this property that doesn’t exist?

    AP: “And I don't see how one can derive anything about an existent's nature from the trivial and uncontroversial fact that everything that exists exists.”

    Who said anything about “deriving” anything about an existent’s nature from the explicit recognition of a basic fact? I already pointed out that Objectivism is not rationalistic; we don’t claim to deduce all this knowledge from a concept. We observe and gather facts about reality.

    I asked: But where will you as a Christian find a good theory of concepts? I’ve never found anything in any of my bibles which illuminate an understanding of the nature of concepts and the processes in which we form them.

    AP: “Why would the Bible need to formally and directly address a theory of concepts?”

    I don’t think anyone said it “needs” to do this. The fact is that it doesn’t. So the question I asked is: where would you find a good theory of concepts? What is your understanding of concepts, and if you have an understanding of concepts, where did you get it? Did it come from some non-biblical source? I’ve scoured many of Bahnsen’s and Van Til’s writings and haven’t found any informative discussion of concepts.

    [continued…]

    ReplyDelete
  30. AP: “The Bible does address God as a personal God who has thoughts and concepts.”

    Where specifically does the bible indicate that the Christian god has concepts? In fact, I presented an argument a number of years ago arguing that, given the nature of concepts as condensations of information which economically meet the needs of non-omniscient thinkers (i.e., human beings), an omniscient being (if there were such a thing) would not have its knowledge in the form of concepts. My argument for this can be found here. And to confirm the conclusion I defended in this argument, Peter Pike (you know him?) agreed, saying “God's knowledge--what He Himself knows--is not conceptual” (see here). Meanwhile, apologist Jason Peterson tells us “Concepts have no place in Christian epistemology” (see here). It seems like apologists have no recourse but to make things up as they go when it comes to such matters.

    I asked: If you see five pairs of shoes in my closet, would you automatically assume that those are the only five pairs of shoes in all existence? I would hope not.

    AP: “If you only see physical things with your physical eyes, would you automatically assume only physical things exist?”

    I’m guessing you didn’t get the point of my statement. Concepts are open-ended, meaning: they include a lot more than what we have personally experienced firsthand. Recall that you had asked “Why assume that only what we can see or detect exists?” And of course, I don’t assume this, just when I see five pairs of shoes, I don’t assume that only five pairs of shoes exist in the world.

    AP: “Given materialism, neither of us have minds.”

    Since I’m not a materialist, I’m glad this isn’t my problem!

    I asked: What do you mean by “non-material things”? Saying that something is “non-material” only tells us what something isn’t. Does it have a positive identity? If so, what is it, and how do we have awareness of it? Or do we have awareness of it at all? Is it merely imaginary? How do we reliably distinguish that which is supposedly “non-material” from that which is merely imaginary? These are just some of the questions we need to explore.

    AP: “I'm not interested in lessons on Objectivism. It's not taken seriously in the academic world which is already predominantly secular.”

    That doesn’t keep you from studying Christianity, does it? Seriously, why consider “the academic world” (as though it were monolithic) to be some kind of standard? Why let that make your decisions in life? Don’t you want to learn about reason?

    AP: “There could be various non-materials things and realms.”

    Again, what do you mean by “non-material things”? Before we can agree that “there could be various non-material things and realms,” we need to understand in positive terms what we’re talking about. Can you enlighten me here?

    [continued…]

    ReplyDelete
  31. AP: “For example, there is God's being/substance, and the being/substance of the angelic species.”

    How do you know? Is this the case because you want it to be the case (the primacy of consciousness), or because you’ve performed an objective examination into the matter and found non-imaginary evidence that unmistakably confirms the existence of such things? I’m persuaded that the latter is impossible since it would involve a blatant contradiction at the most fundamental level. Of course, that wouldn’t preclude you from *imagining* such things. I can imagine them too, but then what I’m imagining is only imaginary.

    Again, as I’ve mentioned in my writings many times, I know when I am imagining something: it is a volitional exercise – one chooses to imagine. And I also know that when I contemplate supernatural beings, I’m using my imagination. I can look out at the world and see actually existing things and yet *imagine* that they were created by supernatural beings, or that they’re somehow being supported and manipulated by supernatural beings. But since I’m imagining, why would I confuse those things with what is actually real? Do you think I should ignore the fundamental distinction between what is real and what I imagine? Or do you just deny that there is such a distinction here?

    AP: “If they exist, then they would have positive identity since whatever something is it is.”

    I would think so! But theists seem capable of only using negations (like “immaterial” and “non-physical,” “incorporeal” and the like) to describe the supernatural. Even the term “supernatural” does not have objective meaning given the fantasies it readily conjures.

    And if one accepts claims about the supernatural, how can he discriminate between differing supernatural claims? They may not be obviously incompatible in terms of the religious views which they assume. A Christian might claim that he was visited by a supernatural being in his kitchen. How would another Christian be able to determine whether or not this actually happened?

    I asked: If so, what is it, and how do we have awareness of it?

    AP: “I don't have exhaustive knowledge of such things.”

    I don’t think you need to have “exhaustive knowledge of such things.” I’m only inquiring on what you claim to know. If someone says he has a non-material dragon in his backyard, how could I acquire awareness of it (without using my imagination)?

    AP: “We can have awareness of them by divine revelation”

    How does that work though? How do you distinguish between what you call “divine revelation” and what you may merely be imagining? People throughout history have claimed to have received mystical revelations, and yet so often they turn out to be charlatans. Or do we just suspend our rational faculties and believe everything anyone claims?

    [continued…]

    ReplyDelete
  32. AP: “Both Christians and non-Christians have experiences of the supernatural (e.g sometimes, Divine, angelic, demonic etc.).”

    Of course, people have experiences. But people are fallible, and if they’ve accepted metaphysical subjectivism (e.g., wishing makes it so), being guided more by emotion and imagination than by facts and reason, they may very well mis-identify the nature of the experiences and their causes. So if someone claims to have had a “supernatural experience,” and when I ask them if they understand the concept of objectivity they come back with something that nowhere informs an understanding of the nature of the relationship between consciousness and its objects, how can I have any confidence that his claim results ultimately from an religiously inspired indulgence in some subjective fantasy? If he tells me that things that exist have a property that he himself says does not exist, how can I have any confidence in his reports?

    I asked: How do we reliably distinguish that which is supposedly “non-material” from that which is merely imaginary?

    AP: “Some supernatural experiences have effects on the physical world (e.g. healing, miracles, etc.).”

    How do you know? Again, we can attribute imaginary causes to the things we observe in the world. And it’s often been the case that believers in supernaturalism found their belief in miracles on the basis of ignorance – e.g., “I don’t know how [X] could have happened, so it must have been God!”

    AP: “Sometimes supernatural experiences convey information not attainable naturally (say of the present or future).”

    Of course, this is testable. Can you tell me what will happen in my life tomorrow or on June 19 next year? Be specific.

    AP: “Such examples cannot be dismissed by honest open minded individuals.”

    I guess that depends on what they’re open to. If they’re open to treating fantasies as though they were reality, such individuals would have no philosophical basis for dismissing any arbitrary notions.

    I asked: If you’re willing to read what Vallicella has written, why not be willing to read my response to him?

    AP: “Probably because of a similar reason why atheists like yourself often refuse to investigate examples of the supernatural like the ones I've collected above.”

    I see. So, you admit that you’re unwilling to read what I’ve posted then. But why characterize your decision on the basis of what you believe other people have chosen to do? It seems like you’re trying to shirk your responsibility for the choices you’ve made. And how do you know that I “often refuse to investigate examples of the supernatural”? Where have I expressed such a refusal? And why would that matter? You introduced Vallicella’s criticisms of Objectivism into the discussion, and I informed you that his criticisms have been corrected. So what I’ve posted is certainly relevant. But if you prefer not to read it now, that’s fine. I wanted to let you know that it’s there, and now you know in case you want to be better informed. That, of course, is a choice you must make for yourself.

    Regards,
    Dawson

    ReplyDelete
  33. What did you mean by ‘existence’ when you stated it?

    I already explained the different senses and in what senses I accept and reject the term according to context.

    And when I ask if you still mean it, you respond with “It depends.” But it was your statement.

    Manata's explaination of one way the term "existence" is used as distinct from existents is clear. I agree with his conclusion per that understanding/definition of existence.

    ...an omniscient being (if there were such a thing) would not have its knowledge in the form of concepts.......Peter Pike (you know him?) agreed, saying “God's knowledge--what He Himself knows--is not conceptual”

    Yes, some theologians believe that God's mode of thought is not like ours such that God doesn't have concepts as we have them. So in one sense God does, an in another sense God doesn't have concepts. Our think is is discursive. Whereas God's is comprehensively exhaustive in one eternal intuition. Various Christian traditions have addressed this. See for example, For a Vantillian interpretation see John Frame's book Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought.

    It seems like apologists have no recourse but to make things up as they go when it comes to such matters.

    Actually, Christian theologians have been discussing these things since the 2nd century onwards. This can be seen even as early as the Christological controversies of the earliest Christian apologists (e.g. Justin Martyr). They understood Christ to be the Logos, Wisdom, Word of God and attempted to draw inferences and conclusions from that based on the Biblical data.

    Since I’m not a materialist, I’m glad this isn’t my problem!

    That might be good or bad new to me. I wonder if you're using "materialist/materialism" in a non-standard way. Do you believe that only matter exists? Or are you agnostic on that? If you're not a materialist, what are you? What would you describe yourself? Idealist? Naturalist? Existentialist? Solipsist? What's your metaphysical position?

    That doesn’t keep you from studying Christianity, does it?

    Because I have an interest in Christianity. I don't see why I should have an interest in Objectivism. Whatever truths I've gleaned from it I already believed and they were trivial uncontroversial truisms.

    Seriously, why consider “the academic world” (as though it were monolithic) to be some kind of standard? Why let that make your decisions in life? Don’t you want to learn about reason?

    As an amateur Christian apologist I try to address relevant opposition to Christianity to the degree I can given my level of aptitude. While some Objectivists oppose Christianity, they are a minority voice in the marketplace of ideas. I'm not saying they shouldn't be addressed. But it takes philosophical training and ability I don't have. While others have already addressed it better than I ever could. There's nothing much for me to do in that area and there are plenty of other areas of apologetics that are more relevant and which I can address in terms of aptitude, training, knowledge etc. Whatever brilliant insights Objectivists might have, there are also bright non-Objectivists (both Christian and Non-Christian) I can learn from who aren't in their own sheltered self-ghettoed enclave. Every clique has a tendancy to echo each others beliefs and teachings, saying the same thing in different ways. That's true for both Christian and non-Christian subcultures. I try to be aware various groups so as to inform and refine my beliefs, views, understandings and methods.

    CONT.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How do you know? Is this the case because you want it to be the case (the primacy of consciousness), or because you’ve performed an objective examination into the matter and found non-imaginary evidence that unmistakably confirms the existence of such things?

      1. I have good reasons to believe God exists. I believe the testimony of God concerning the existence of angels. 2. I also have credible testimonies from both Christians and non-Christians of supernatural experiences which also include angelic encounters. The literature on angels and demons is very extensive. Many of them are non-Christian, and even those that purport to be are usually sub-Christian (in the sense of falling short of my doctrinal standards). Testimonial evidence of course must be sifted and judged on a case by case basis. Rejecting testimonial evidence off hand is both biased and inconsistent since many of our beliefs is based on testimony. For example, most people haven't personally seen all 7 continents, or viewed all (now) 8 planets through a telescope, or understood the mathematical formulas undergirding modern physics etc. We believe such things by testimony.

      Here's my blogpost Evidence and Testimonies of Demonic and Angelic Encounters

      I’m persuaded that the latter is impossible since it would involve a blatant contradiction at the most fundamental level.

      That's claim I doubt you back up.

      I know when I am imagining something: it is a volitional exercise – one chooses to imagine.

      Dreams are usually not voluntary. Even Lucid dreams aren't completely voluntary. Also, you assume you can distinguish between real and imaginary when despite your (ISTM) inadequate epistemology.

      Do you think I should ignore the fundamental distinction between what is real and what I imagine?

      No, but you shouldn't limit reality to what you can believe or conceive. Apparently, you can't conceive of the reality of the supernatural. That's a deficiency on your part. To borrow from Hamlet, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Dawson,
      Than are dreamt of in your [Objectivist] philosophy."

      Or do you just deny that there is such a distinction here?

      What am I an idiot? Of course there's a distinction there. But the distinction doesn't entail that supernatural beings cannot exist. You keep repeating yourself like a broken record. Why don't you lay out for me your knockdown proof that supernatural entities cannot possibly exist. That's a gargantuan burden of proof you have that brilliant atheistic minds have not shouldered. I doubt you can do it. Otherwise, you'd be the most famous man in the world. Even a prodigiously brilliant intellect like the scary smart Graham Oppy hasn't accomplished that feat. BTW, I think you're clearly smarter than I am. So, I'm not in any way trying to insult you.
      CONT.

      Delete


    2. I would think so! But theists seem capable of only using negations (like “immaterial” and “non-physical,” “incorporeal” and the like) to describe the supernatural. Even the term “supernatural” does not have objective meaning given the fantasies it readily conjures.

      Must something be exhaustively understandable for you in order for it to exist? Are existents only possible if you can conceive of it? I'm sorry, but Reality is bigger and greater than your brain. It's dangerous to have too high an opinion of one's mental ability. Sometimes epistemic humility is the way to knowledge. Whereas, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." - Proverbs 16:18

      And if one accepts claims about the supernatural, how can he discriminate between differing supernatural claims?

      Before one can discriminate between differing supernatural claims (say that of a Hindu and a Jew), it's still possible to establish the reality of the supernatural even if one weren't able to determine which worldview (if either) is true (maybe Islam is true rather). Jason Engwer and Steve Hays repeated addressed these topics in many of their blogposts. I've collected many at my blogpost:

      Links on the Subject of Miracles in the Context of Craig Keener's Recent Book

      Steve Hays on Cessationism

      A Christian might claim that he was visited by a supernatural being in his kitchen. How would another Christian be able to determine whether or not this actually happened?

      Are you implying that he would have to know that it really did happen to the other Christian to justifiably know that they ever happens to anyone ever (past and present)? That's ridiculous standard. That's like saying, I have to know for certain that the person in front of me having a heart attack really is before I can believe anyone has ever had one before. Nevertheless, if the testimony of the Christian is someone who is known to be honest, rational, not given to hyperbole and has a healthy skepticism then his testimony has some weight. Especially if he's not trying to sell you something or profit from it. What if the angel communicated something about the future that was highly unlikely and it came to pass? That too would suggest the veridical nature of the experience. Or if the angel said that God has healed him of an incurable sickness and he is healed. Or if the angel conveys a message like "Your missionary son is in danger, prayer for him" and weeks later it turns out the son was in danger that very hour. I've already addressed many of the questions you're asking. You seem to be repeating yourself. You say I'm repeating myself. But that's because I don't have a grasp of your involved philosophy so its understandable. But when you repeat yourself it's regarding simple issues I've already addressed which aren't involved. Also, you claim to be a former Christian. Even then, you've presumably studied Christian material including presuppositionalist material. So you should have no excuse. Yet, often I have a sense you're knowledge of Christian theology is seriously lacking.

      We're both sounding like broken records. You're not willing to address my basic philosophical questions. And I'm not willing to delve too deeply in Objectivism because I haven't (so far) seen the need or the benefit to do so. I haven't seen anything actually special in terms of insight.
      CONT.

      Delete
    3. How does that work though? How do you distinguish between what you call “divine revelation” and what you may merely be imagining?

      When there are indications of veridicality to them. I've given examples in my blogpost:

      Testimonies of the Supernatural Among Respected Christian Leaders

      In that link I link to Ravi Zacharias' testimony of being healed. A colleague of his told him (Ravi) God had told him (i.e. the friend) that God would deal with "3, 4, 5". The friend didn't know what that meant, but Ravi explain to him he'd been having serious back problems for 27 years and 3, 4 and 5 likely referred to his vertebrae. Then it turned out that his back was healed.

      I've included many testimonies of the supernatural there.

      For example, Mike Licona describes how when he was young his father (who was an ex-Mason) would often do interviews about why Masonry is incompatible with Christianity. Often when his father would do those interviews they would experience poltergeist-like activity in their house. As if to scare them into silence. He gave various examples including a towel that twirled in the air when no human being was holding it.

      Here's a video link that already cued up: https://youtu.be/pUajktSCaeo?t=2h12m36s


      ...being guided more by emotion and imagination than by facts and reason, they may very well mis-identify the nature of the experiences and their causes.

      People rejection of the supernatural can also be motivated by emotion and vested interest and pride etc.

      CONT.

      Delete
    4. Of course, this is testable. Can you tell me what will happen in my life tomorrow or on June 19 next year? Be specific.

      If I were to say that a lamp would break in your home tomorrow and it happened you'd chalk it up to coincidence. God is not in the business of performing magic tricks or jumping through hoops to satisfy disbelievers. God regulates the evidences for Himself as Pascal says in his Pensées

      QUOTE: Willing to appear openly to those who seek him with all their heart, and to be hidden from those who flee from him with all their heart, God so regulates the knowledge of himself that he has given indications of himself which are visible to those who seek him and not to those who do not seek him. There is enough light for those to see who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition. END QUOTE

      He also said, QUOTE: The prophecies, the very miracles and proofs of our religion, are not of such a nature that they can be said to be absolutely convincing. But they are also of such a kind that it cannot be said that it is unreasonable to believe them. Thus there is both evidence and obscurity to enlighten some and confuse others. But the evidence is such that it surpasses, or at least equals, the evidence to the contrary; so that it is not reason which can determine men not to follow it, and thus it can only be lust or malice of heart. And by this means there is sufficient evidence to condemn, and insufficient to convince; so that it appears in those who follow it, that it is grace, and not reason, which makes them follow it; and in those who shun it, that it is lust, not reason, which makes them shun it. END QUOTE

      He also acknowledges that ultimately God regulates the knowledge of Himself to the elect.

      QUOTE: 577 There is sufficient clearness to enlighten the elect, and sufficient obscurity to humble them. There is sufficient obscurity to blind the reprobate, and sufficient clearness to condemn them, and make them inexcusable.—Saint Augustine, Montaigne, Sébond.

      574 All things work together for good to the elect, even the obscurities of Scripture; for they honour them because of what is divinely clear. And all things work together for evil to the rest of the world, even what is clear; for they revile such, because of the obscurities which they do not understand.

      562 It will be one of the confusions of the damned to see that they are condemned by their own reason, by which they claimed to condemn the Christian religion.

      576 God has made the blindness of this people subservient to the good of the elect. END QUOTE

      CONT.

      Delete
    5. I guess that depends on what they’re open to. If they’re open to treating fantasies as though they were reality, such individuals would have no philosophical basis for dismissing any arbitrary notions.

      And your obviously prejudiced against and closed minded to the supernatural.

      It seems like you’re trying to shirk your responsibility for the choices you’ve made

      What responsibility are you referring to and to whom? To God? You don't believe in God. Even given atheistic moral Platonism, that doesn't provide a basis for moral DUTY. How much less a non-Platonic-like atheistic morality.

      And how do you know that I “often refuse to investigate examples of the supernatural”?

      I wrote: "Probably because of a similar reason why atheists like yourself often refuse to investigate examples of the supernatural like the ones I've collected above." I didn't mean to say you did that. I meant by "like yourself" atheists like you. Not you specifically. I specifically meant to write the later. In my many interactions with atheists I haven't assumed that regarding specific atheists I'm dialoguing with for years.

      You introduced Vallicella’s criticisms of Objectivism into the discussion, and I informed you that his criticisms have been corrected. So what I’ve posted is certainly relevant.

      Did I say that they weren't? Maybe you're interpreting something I said about relevance incorrectly. OH, I think I know what you're referring to. I meant wider apologetical relevance. Yes, your comments were relevant to OUR discussion. I was talking about my overall apologetical goals and the overall apologetical issues facing Christianity.

      But if you prefer not to read it now, that’s fine. I wanted to let you know that it’s there, and now you know in case you want to be better informed. That, of course, is a choice you must make for yourself.

      If you had to choose one of your papers which I should read, which one would you recommend?

      Delete
    6. I wrote: And your obviously prejudiced against and closed minded to the supernatural.

      That doesn't contradict my statement that I'm not assuming you haven't investigated claims of the supernatural. Both are possible. That is to say, it's both possible that someone could investigate the supernatural and still be biased against it. In fact, that could explain why the investigations don't lead to their acceptance of their reality. The reason I do think you're prejudiced against the supernatural is how you (in effect, i.e. virtually) aprioristically exclude their possibility based on your questionable Objectivist inferences that lead you to conclude what you do regarding the supernatural.


      Typo corrections:

      Yes, some theologians believe that God's mode of thought is not like ours such that God doesn't have concepts ***as*** we have them. So in one sense God does, an in another sense God doesn't have concepts. Our think is is discursive. Whereas God's is comprehensively exhaustive in one eternal intuition.

      I meant to say, "Our thinking is discursive."

      That might be good or bad new to me.

      Should be "news".

      Also, you assume you can distinguish between real and imaginary when despite your (ISTM) inadequate epistemology.

      Strick out the word "when"

      Before one can discriminate between differing supernatural claims (say that of a Hindu and a Jew), it's still possible to establish the reality of the supernatural even if one weren't able to determine which worldview (if either) is true (maybe Islam is true rather).

      Strick out "rather"

      ...but Ravi explain to him

      Should be "explained"

      Here's a video link that already cued up: https://youtu.be/pUajktSCaeo?t=2h12m36s


      that = that's

      People rejection of the supernatural can also be motivated by emotion and vested interest and pride etc.

      People = People's

      Delete
  34. Hi AP,

    Thank you again for your thoughtful comments. I am really enjoying this discussion!

    Regarding your assertion that “existence doesn’t exist,” I’m still having a hard time understanding your position on this matter. So let’s try again.

    In your recent spate of comments, you wrote: “Manata's explaination of one way the term ‘existence’ is used as distinct from existents is clear. I agree with his conclusion per that understanding/definition of existence.”

    I guess we just have different standards when it comes to being clear. For one, I didn’t see a definition of the concept ‘existence’ in Manata’s statement; he did say it’s a universal, but that’s not a definition – it’s just naming a category in which the concept belongs. Also, upon closer examination, his use of the distinction between ‘existence’ and ‘existent’ is unhelpful in its own right, and it does nothing to untangle what appears to be a blatant contradiction on your part.

    Again, your statement: “Existence doesn’t exist. Existence is a property of things that do exist.”

    A clear reading of this can only mean that you think existence is a property which doesn’t exist and that, according to your metaphysical viewpoint, “things that do exist” have this property that doesn’t exist. In fact, I know of no reasonable way to understand it otherwise. So I’m looking for your help here.

    Unfortunately, as I had stated earlier, the statements you quoted from Paul Manata are quite unhelpful here. What’s curious is that you haven’t made much effort to explain why you think Manata’s statements do help untangle what by all accounts appears to be a blatant contradiction.

    Now, at one point, you did state in regard to your statement: “I can take it back if, upon further reflection, I realize it actually inconsistent with my worldview and/or irrational, non-sensical or a strawman representation et cetera.” But when I asked you, in the interest of clarity, if you were taking it back, you came back with “it depends” and went into a digression about monism and smuggling and what Objectivism seems, per your limited understanding of it, to do. The upshot is that you haven’t taken it back, so I’m inferring from this and your own statements that your statement above is actually consistent with your worldview.

    [continued…]

    ReplyDelete
  35. As for the distinction between ‘existence’ and ‘existents’, I don’t think anyone is denying any distinction here: on my view, the concept ‘existence’ is a collective noun denoting anything and everything that exists; the concept ‘existent’ individuates specific existing things (e.g., “this existent” as opposed to “that existent”), whether they are entities in their own right, or attributes of entities (for both do in fact exist).

    But perhaps there was something in the Manata quote that I missed? In fact, I don’t think Manata fares any better here. Like you, he asserted that “’existence’ doesn’t ‘exist’,” but he qualified this (without explanation) as being the case “on a materialist or nominalist understanding of the world.” (Why “a materialist or nominalist understanding of the world” is relevant here is a mystery; what is *Manata’s* view? What is *your* view, AP?) But he seems to agree that “existence doesn’t exist” when he says “I can kick a rock, I can't kick ‘existence’" only then to repeat what he had just stated about this being the case “on a materialist or nominalist understanding of the world,” which means he doesn’t move any closer to presenting any kind of argument here. Notably, he does not, at least in the quoted section, indicate an understanding of the world in which existence does exist (cf. Objectivism). He also stated ‘Existence’ is a universal that can be said to be exemplified by exisTENTS.” So, “exisTENTS” on this view are, presumably, real things, but they “exemplify” a “universal” that doesn’t exist. That’s some “metaphysic” there!

    Frankly, when Manata originally made his statement, I got the impression that he was simply trying to be contrary in order to discredit Objectivism, plying his habit of –ism-dropping to make it seem more credible and scholarly, when in fact it’s quite the opposite. It didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work now: just as 10 years ago, his statement still ends up as a murky mess of contradictions.

    [continued…]

    ReplyDelete
  36. Regarding the Christian god having knowledge in conceptual form, recall that you had stated: “The Bible does address God as a personal God who has thoughts and concepts.”

    I asked you where specifically the bible states that its god has concepts. But I don’t see that you have cited any passage in either the OT or the NT that does this. Can you understand now why I might get the impression that believers are making things up as they go?

    When I cited my argument that an omniscient mind would not have its knowledge in conceptual form – and Peter Pike’s express agreement with my conclusion to boot, you indicate that there is actually some disagreement among theologians on the matter after all. You say “in one sense God does, and in another sense God doesn’t have concepts.” Well which is it? Does the Christian god have its knowledge in conceptual form, or not? Now you seem to be on the fence on the matter, and you don’t explain the distinction between the two senses you introduce.

    As for Frame’s book on Van Til’s thought, I’ve studied this volume myself quite closely, and when I study the work of presuppositionalists and other apologetic texts, I always keep my eyes out for any informed discussion of the nature of concepts. I don’t recall anything that speaks directly to my question here, but if you can narrow it down to a specific page, please do and I’ll revisit it. I did just check the subject index of Frame’s book, and there is no entry in the alphabetical listing for the headword concepts.

    [continued…]

    ReplyDelete
  37. I wrote: It seems like apologists have no recourse but to make things up as they go when it comes to such matters.

    AP: “Actually, Christian theologians have been discussing these things since the 2nd century onwards.”

    In other words, Christians have a tradition of making things up as they go spanning nearly two millennia. That’s inevitable when one’s ultimate standard is imagination.

    AP: “This can be seen even as early as the Christological controversies of the earliest Christian apologists (e.g. Justin Martyr).”

    Oh, sure. Indeed, Christians have been disputing each other since Christianity’s inception. This is evident even in the Pauline epistolary layers. It seems that Christianity as a worldview has never had its house in order and keeps needing to re-invent (“reform”) itself in an effort to outpace contradictions which cripple its very foundations.

    AP: “They understood Christ to be the Logos, Wisdom, Word of God and attempted to draw inferences and conclusions from that based on the Biblical data.”

    And of course, in order to draw inferences from such premises, those premises would have to have some kind of meaning. But if that meaning is itself ultimately a product of imagination (each believer seems to imagine his god in his own unique ways), we would expect all kinds of differences to arise, as in fact they have, as well as efforts to align them with certain dogmatic stipulations and call anything that deviates from it a “heresy.” I’m glad these aren’t my problems!

    [continued…]

    ReplyDelete
  38. AP: “Do you believe that only matter exists?”

    We hold that existence exists, and only existence exists. I have never affirmed that “only matter exists.” But matter does in fact exist. If we discover that there are things that are other than matter, why would I be opposed to that? Since reality doesn’t conform to anyone’s conscious intensions, reality certainly doesn’t conform to my conscious intensions. So I don’t expect reality to obey what I affirm; rather, I expect to discover what exists in reality and conform the contents of my consciousness to what I can objectively discover and verify.

    Now, you had indicated that it seems to you that my epistemology is inadequate. But you yourself have already confessed that you know very little about Objectivism. You did pose a long series of questions, but it seems unreasonable to expect a full discussion of each one in the space of these comments in a week’s time. Also, I had indicated to you that these questions have been addressed in the Objectivist literature, and you’ve expressed disinterest in pursuing the matter any further in order to find answers to your questions. So, the “seems to me inadequate epistemology” clearly stems from a lack of familiarity and may also be a result, at least in part, of your own bias against Objectivism, given your awareness of the fact that Objectivism is nontheistic. So, given your supernaturalist prejudices, of course you’re going to want to view my epistemology as inadequate.

    But briefly, I would emphasize here, for your benefit, that the epistemology of Objectivism is that of reason: reason is the faculty which, guided by the primacy of existence (cf. wishing doesn’t make it so) identifies and integrates the objects of our awareness, and it does so by means of concepts. Hence, the importance of a good understanding of the nature of concepts and the process by which the human mind forms them. This is a discovery that, in my survey of the history of philosophy, is quite unique to Objectivism, given not only its emphasis on the principle of objectivity, but also its unflinching and honest application of logic in order to produce an integrated, non-contradictory whole. It’s something I’ve come to relish, and I’m aching to share what I’ve learned with the world, for the world needs rationality so badly! Rationality is the acceptance and application of reason as one’s only means of knowledge, one’s only standard of judgment, one’s only guide to action. And people will not adopt rationality as their epistemological standard if their worldview is premised on the metaphysics of wishing makes it so.

    [continued…]

    ReplyDelete
  39. Regarding your affirmation of the existence of “supernatural substances,” I wrote: Is this the case because you want it to be the case (the primacy of consciousness), or because you’ve performed an objective examination into the matter and found non-imaginary evidence that unmistakably confirms the existence of such things? I’m persuaded that the latter is impossible since it would involve a blatant contradiction at the most fundamental level.

    AP: “That's claim I doubt you back up.”

    I’m guessing you have a lot of doubts. But this I can back up. For one, you have not presented any objective examination into the matter and you have not produced any non-imaginary evidence that unmistakably confirms the existence of such things. One thing I’ve found with arguments for theism is that, no matter which argument is presented, I always find that I still have no alternative but to *imagine* the god whose existence is said to be so proved. Moreover, since the basis of the concept of objectivity is in fact the primacy of existence (cf. wishing doesn’t make it so; existence exists independently of conscious activity, etc.), there can in principle and in fact be no such thing as objective evidence for a consciousness which creates existence, either physical or otherwise. People can imagine this, people can believe it, people can want it to be true, people can hope it’s true, people can pretend that it’s true, people can act as if it’s true, people can get angry at others for not believing it’s true (I hope you don’t, by the way), but none of this changes the fact that such a notion rests on the primacy of consciousness which is self-contradictory metaphysics. To assert “X is true” when “X” assumes the primacy of consciousness metaphysics, is to contradict oneself at the very foundations of thought. For a fuller defense of this, see my blog. It’s there.

    I wrote: I know when I am imagining something: it is a volitional exercise – one chooses to imagine.

    AP: “Dreams are usually not voluntary.”

    I’m not talking about dreams. I’m talking about the faculty which I know I use when I contemplate Christianity’s (and other religions’) claims, namely the imagination. I presume you know when you’re imagining, do you not? If not, then this needs to be addressed, and quickly! But if you do know when you’re imagining, I’m supposing you’re very much like me: you choose to imagine – it’s a volitional activity. There was a time when I was a Christian myself; I was raised to believe this stuff. I’m guessing you were too. So was Van Til (see here). But as I tried and tried harder and harder to believe what Christianity wanted me to believe, I began to realize that all along, I was suppressing a fundamental fact that for a long time I didn’t want to face, and which I was in fact encouraged to ignore, namely that all the while my imagination was actively involved in all my god-belief activity. I was in fact trying to live a pretentious lie, lying to myself that what I was only imagining was real, when in fact it was merely only imaginary. Eventually I summoned up the strength to be honest to myself and admit that in fact I was simply imagining the Christian god and all that is supposed to come with it: belief in heaven and hell, believe in angels and demons, belief in predestination and prayer, etc. Once I admitted that all of this was imaginary, the whole artifice sloughed off me like a dead skin that I never needed in the first place. And that was the beginning of my intellectual liberation.

    So, while dreams may not be voluntary, I know that imagination is volitional, and I know that I have no alternative but to employ my imagination when contemplating supernatural notions. I really don’t think you’re any different from me in this respect. After all, you’re human, you have a mind, and you too can imagine things, right?

    [continued…]

    ReplyDelete
  40. I asked: Do you think I should ignore the fundamental distinction between what is real and what I imagine?

    AP: “No,”

    Good, neither do I.

    AP: “but…”

    How did I know there was a ‘but’ coming here?

    AP: “you shouldn't limit reality to what you can believe or conceive.”

    I don’t presume to limit reality to anything. I don’t presume to have any power to limit reality. I certainly do not hold that reality is limited to what I believe or conceive. Remember the primacy of existence? Rather, I look out at reality and I discover what’s in it, I identify everything I can that is relevant to my life and its needs, and I make doubly sure that I don’t confuse what I imagine with what is real. Do you think there’s anything wrong with this policy?

    AP: “Apparently, you can't conceive of the reality of the supernatural.”

    I’m not sure what this is supposed to mean. I have already conceded that I can imagine supernatural things. I can imagine Moses talking to a burning bush just as I can imagine Yoda using the force to lift a spaceship out of a swamp. I also have the ability to evade reality and pretend that what I imagine is real. But my conscience won’t let me do that. I’m quite sensitive to contradictions. So I choose the honest path instead. It’s a much better way to live!

    Regards,
    Dawson

    ReplyDelete
  41. I was busy during the weekend and was under the weather yesterday. I'm still not 100%. I'll try to address your comments today if possible.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Hi AP,

    No problem! Please don't feel like you need to put anything in your life aside in order to carry on this conversation. It should not be your priority in life. We all have more important things to do. Take care of yourself and preserve your health. It's far more precious than some internet discussion.

    If you have further thoughts to share, I'll be happy to read them when you get to them.

    Regards,
    Dawson

    ReplyDelete
  43. Reviewing our conversation, I think it's arrived at a level where it can't go much further. It would require both of us to know more theology, philosophy and each other's worldview much better. Both of us could go on to try teaching the other more of our respective worldviews and how they address the other's objections. But that would take time to type, time to read, and time to respond to. I've already attempted to answer many of your criticisms, and you've attempted to answer some of mine. You claim you've addressed the other objections I've addressed which you haven't responded to on your blogposts. I believe you. Though, that doesn't necessarily mean you've adequately resolved the problems I've raised or explained why you take one stand over against another (e.g. monism vs. pluralism, flux vs. stasis etc.). But by this point we are just basically repeating ourselves. I think we both have more important things to be doing.

    I thank you for engaging me in this discussion. I think the present and future readers of this blogpost will benefit from both our contributions in this conversation. They get a flavor of Objectivism, it's defense, and links to your blogposts. As well, they get a taste of some objections to Objectivism that I and other critics have made (other critics who are more philosophically capable than I am).

    The following will pretty much be my last criticisms of Objectivism. There seems to be an apparent contradiction in Objectivism which attempts to affirm and apply Identity to a contingent changing world (i.e. our physical universe). When, as a matter of appearance, ***everything*** that Objectivists observe with their eyes is (apparently) changing (unless one wanted to take a Parmenidean position). That's why Plato denied that anything could be known in this changing world and believed only the world of unchanging ideas or forms really exists, or is truly real. Interestingly, the Christian teacher R.C. Sproul is fond of shocking Christians by arguing that God doesn't exist. He does so by pointing out that technically, the word "exist" comes from the Latin existere—ex means "out of", and stere means "to stand". That is, to stand out of being. God doesn't "exist" in this sense because God doesn't stand out of being. God just IS pure eternal unchanging Being (the Supreme Being). Whereas creatures and creation (like the physical universe) is changing and therefore "exist" because they are "becoming". They aren't examples of real Being. If applied to the Objectivist maxim that "existence exists", then truly the Law of Identity could not apply to the changing/becoming physical world.

    CONT.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This metaphysical issue also has epistemological implications for Objectivists because of the Problem of Induction. In a changing world not governed by a God of providence, one cannot justifiably extrapolate from the (apparent) past anything about the future. Thus destroying science. On a related issue, the Christian conception of God can account for abstract categories, universals, kinds and species because they eternally exist in the eternal Universal Mind of God. However, given an empiricist epistemology, a changing physical world would not be able to account for the use of abstract non-material categories (like the concept of "human", even the laws of logic). It's not clear that the traditional translation of Exodus 3:14 has God referring to Himself as "I AM" or "I AM THAT I AM". But if it is, then that makes sense of how God is the God who is Being rather than Becoming. Ultimate reality, namely God, would be an unchanging personally conscious Being who self-Identifies Himself (using the Law of Identity which is part of His nature) as the "I AM THAT I AM". So that the enduring topics which Objectivists are focused on, namely 1. existence, 2. consciousness and 3. identity are ultimately and non-contradictorily unified in the one truine God. For those interested in how the unity of God might be related to plurality, see my blogpost HERE.

      Dawson, you're free to continue posting. As I'm free to pick and choose which comments I might want to address. If you want to post more links to your blogposts, that's fine too.

      Delete
    2. typo correction:

      It's not clear that the traditional translation of Exodus 3:14 has God referring to Himself as "I AM" or "I AM THAT I AM"

      I meant it's not clear that the traditional translation is the correct way to translate the underlying Hebrew. But if it is, then that has interesting philosophical implications.

      Delete
  44. Hi AP,

    Thanks for your comments.

    AP: “The following will pretty much be my last criticisms of Objectivism.”

    Does this mean that you will not be explaining how your statement (“Existence doesn’t exist. Existence is a property of things that do exist.”) is not self-contradictory? In my previous set of comments, I explored your previous attempts to smooth this over and, in so doing, I uncovered even deeper problems with it. Shall we leave it with that?

    AP: “There seems to be an apparent contradiction in Objectivism which attempts to affirm and apply Identity to a contingent changing world (i.e. our physical universe). When, as a matter of appearance, ***everything*** that Objectivists observe with their eyes is (apparently) changing (unless one wanted to take a Parmenidean position).”

    There’s no contradiction in Objectivism here, not even close. For one, Objectivism rejects the analytic-sythnetic dichotomy and all its various expressions (including the necessary-contingent dichotomy, which your objection assumes); see Dr. Leonard Peikoff’s essay on this if you’re interested on why Objectivism rejects these silly dichotomies. And consider: if existence exists independent of conscious activity, then clearly existence cannot be said to be “contingent” on conscious activity. On what else would it be “contingent”? Blank out.

    Also, there are numerous underlying constants of a general nature, all denoted explicitly or implicitly by the axioms (that’s another strength of theirs), and your objection ignores them while taking them for granted (resulting in more stolen concepts). For example: the fact that existence exists does not change; everything we perceive is existence (we wouldn’t be able to perceive it if it did not exist); consciousness is consciousness of some object or group of objects; objects exist and are what they are independent of conscious activity; there can be no action without something that performs it; the actions of an entity depend on the nature of the entity which performs them, etc., etc. These (and many more) general facts do not change. So it’s certainly not at all the case that everything is changing. We’re aware of many things that are not changing.

    [continued…]

    ReplyDelete
  45. Ask yourself: Does the fact that “everything that Objectivists observe with their eyes is changing” itself change, or is it unchanging? In fact, the notion that “everything is in flux” is misguided – such a notion is self-contradictory: is the (presumed) fact that “everything is in flux” itself in flux? Blank out. It’s hard to see how one can miss such obvious errors here, but we see them repeated over and over as if they were solid, intransigent truths. Clearly they aren’t.

    Moreover, Objectivism corrects the errors of past philosophies by recognizing that the identity of an existent is a sum that includes not only what we can observe or know about that entity at some given moment, but also things we don’t know about it yet, the actions it performs and can perform (even if it never does actually perform it), whatever it is across time. So there’s certainly no conflict between identity and change. In fact, change itself has identity; if it didn’t, we could not identify it as change in the first place. That’s pretty elementary.

    Since we reject the primacy of consciousness and integrate the primacy of existence to our understanding of reality, we recognize the fact that whatever an entity is (its nature, its identity) is not constrained to what we know or say about that entity at any given time. Rather, we grant that there are things we may have yet to discover about the nature of any given entity. The application of the law of identity, then, guided by the primacy of existence, involves the recognition that every aspect of an entity’s identity is real, including the actions it performs as well as its ability to perform actions which it may not ever actually perform, and all of this must be included, if only implicitly, in our concept of identity if we want our concepts to correspond to what exists. “Thus,” as Dr. David Kelley once put it, “a thing's identity at any given point in time includes its potentialities for acting and reacting in later points in time.” There’d only be a contradiction here if the law of identity did not take into account all of an entity’s attributes, the actions it does and can perform, the changes that it does and can undergo, etc. But clearly that’s not the case in Objectivism, so there’s no contradiction here.

    So again, much of this has to do with starting points: do we start with the fact that existence exists and thereby recognize that the task of consciousness is to discover and validate its knowledge of what exists in accordance to what we discover when we look outward at reality, or with consciousness and arbitrarily assume that whatever exists is either a “reflection” or product of conscious activity by looking inward at the contents of our wishing, preferences, prejudices, imagination, dreaming, feelings, faith, etc.? Plato and a long list of other thinkers throughout the history of philosophy chose the latter option, and we can see firsthand the destruction this has caused throughout the world. As I had stated previously, the only alternative to Objectivism is some form of subjectivism. To Paul Manata: “In theism, there’s a sense in which reality is subjective – based on the divine mind.” I’m glad those aren’t my problems!

    [continued…]

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  46. AP: “This metaphysical issue also has epistemological implications for Objectivists because of the Problem of Induction. In a changing world not governed by a God of providence, one cannot justifiably extrapolate from the (apparent) past anything about the future. Thus destroying science.”

    Of course, one can always approach the problem of induction (and other philosophical problems) with the attitude which essentially states, “I don’t know how to solve this philosophical problem, so a supernatural being must exist in order to account for it.” But basing one’s “solution” to philosophical problems on ignorance does no better in moving one closer to knowledge than does basing one’s understanding of reality on imagination. In fact, it’s even worse if one seeks to fill his gaps of knowledge with what is merely imaginary, as we find in apologetic treatments of these matters.

    Additionally, I’d like to make some high-level statements here.

    First of all, the problem of induction cannot be resolved on the basis of the metaphysics of wishing makes it so. This puts theism completely out of the running on the matter. Given the primacy of consciousness (cf. the metaphysics of wishing makes it so), which theism inherently assumes, induction would be utterly impossible, for every existent would be a complete wild card: its very existence, nature and behavior would depend on the conscious activity of an imaginary being, and man would be in no position to know what any supernatural consciousness will do to the objects which exist, or whether any object will even continue to exist, or turn into something else, etc. What exists and what happens would be completely a matter of divine mood swings, a supernatural phenomenon which no man could identify or predict. Moreover, according to Christianity, it’s not just the Christian god that can manipulate reality, but so can other supernatural beings (what believer could definitely say that’s not the case?). Reality would thus be an utter chaotic mess. Nothing could put a damper on science worse than this.

    Consider for example what we find in the legends and myths of the Old and New Testaments. In the non-cartoon universe of the primacy of existence, human beings cannot walk on unfrozen water; but in the cartoon universe of theism, if you wish hard enough (i.e., “have enough faith”), you can walk on unfrozen water – but only so long as your wishing holds up (Peter started to doubt his wishing, and reality conformed accordingly, causing him to start sinking). This is the material of fantasies.

    Of course, reality isn’t a chaotic mess, people cannot wish water into wine, men cannot walk on unfrozen water by faith, and that’s because existence holds metaphysical primacy over conscious activity. If to exist is to be something specific, and an entity’s nature is what it is independent of conscious activity, then identity is concurrent with existence and the axioms provide an objective, normative basis for knowledge of reality.

    [continued…]

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  47. But theism has no claim to objective normativity given its assumption of the primacy of consciousness. I recall asking Sye Ten Bruggencate (I can’t say “once” here as it took repeated efforts to get him to address the question) whether or not on his view the uniformity we find in nature is a product of conscious activity. He eventually conceded that, on his view, the uniformity exhibited in nature is a product of conscious activity – some consciousness wished nature to be uniform. His evidence for this faith-based belief? Zilch. He could only recite the jingoistic call of the presuppositionalist: “God has revealed this to much such that I can be certain of it.” In other words, he admits that he did not learn this by looking outward at the realm of facts and applying an objective standard to the matter, but rather he looked inward into his feelings, beliefs, imagination, and theological speculations as to what must be the case given his confessional commitments. This is utterly subjective.

    As for the problem of induction, an examination of what originally led to (e.g.) Hume’s anti-inductive conclusions reveals a long series of false premises, which I have documented in my writings (see my index Resources on the Problem of Induction). It’s curious that, when Bahnsen would ever raise the problem of induction, he never seemed to recognize the underlying errors in Hume’s very conception of the problem, and yet he insisted that people take Hume’s conclusions seriously.

    Since induction is a conceptual process, the only proper account of induction would have to proceed on the basis of the axioms, the primacy of existence, and the objective theory of concepts. But Christianity rejects the axioms, affirms the primacy of consciousness (cf. wishing makes it so) and has no theory of concepts whatsoever. So induction and Christianity are philosophical opposites; believers use induction, not because it “makes sense” on Christianity’s terms, but in spite of their commitment to it.

    [continued…]

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  48. AP: “On a related issue, the Christian conception of God can account for abstract categories, universals, kinds and species because they eternally exist in the eternal Universal Mind of God.”

    Of course, we can *imagine* such things, but then we’d merely be imagining. Moreover, such an “account” fails to provide any useable knowledge on the nature of abstractions, how universals are formed, why they denote what they denote, and – importantly – the operations man’s mind performs in forming and applying these tools, which are clearly conceptual in nature. In fact, such an “account” is precisely what we would expect in the absence of a good understanding of concepts. Again, Christianity has no theory of concepts, which really means: it has no genuine epistemology. Hence we find biblical heroes relying on faith, dreams, visions, revelations, prayer, etc. All imaginary stuff.

    AP: “However, given an empiricist epistemology, a changing physical world would not be able to account for the use of abstract non-material categories (like the concept of "human", even the laws of logic).”

    Again, two points need to be emphasized here: 1. As I pointed out above, there are numerous unchanging constants that can and should be objectively identified at the foundations of one’s worldview, beginning with the axioms, and 2. We need a good theory of concepts; knowledge is conceptual in nature, and this needs to be understood. But we won’t find this in Christianity, while Objectivism satisfies this need with the objective theory of concepts.

    If both of these points are ignored, overlooked, or at any rate not understood, I can understand why one would have difficulties in “accounting for” the use of abstractions and retreat to the imaginary in order to claim to have such an “account.”

    [continued…]

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  49. AP: “Ultimate reality, namely God, would be an unchanging personally conscious Being who self-Identifies Himself (using the Law of Identity which is part of His nature) as the "I AM THAT I AM". So that the enduring topics which Objectivists are focused on, namely 1. existence, 2. consciousness and 3. identity are ultimately and non-contradictorily unified in the one truine God.”

    In fact, the notion of the supernatural constitutes a rejection of the axioms of existence, consciousness and identity in that: (a) these facts are not recognized and integrated as fundamental, (b) supernaturalism is positioned on the primacy of consciousness metaphysics, (c) the attempt to re-package the axioms only succeeds in blurring distinctions vital to non-contradictory knowledge, and (d) all of these make objectivity impossible at the very foundations of a worldview which embraces supernaturalism.

    In fact, it would be philosophically naïve to interpret Exodus 3:14 as an affirmation of the axiom of identity since, while Exodus 3:14 refers at best to a specific existent, the axiom of identity applies *universally* to everything that exists, not selectively to just one thing that exists. Of course, this does not mean that Exodus 3:14 fails to assume the truth of the axiom of identity – it certainly does assume it! All thinkers assume the truth of the axioms; that is not in dispute. The axioms are inescapable; they have to be assumed in order to be questioned or disputed. The problem is that they are taken for granted, not understood and integrated explicitly, and ignored on a casual basis in preference for personal biases, imagination, feelings, preferences, comfort zones, etc., which implicitly deny them.

    Of course, from the Christian perspective, such an interpretation is not even biblical. Rather, this is an attempt to re-package biblical teaching in an artificial manner in order to make it seem like biblical teaching is somehow compatible with the axioms, when in fact it’s not. Indeed, you have already affirmed that “existence doesn’t exist” and have affirmed that existence is a property that doesn’t exist. See how easily you find it to deny the axioms?

    Regards,
    Dawson

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