On Presuppositionalism …

I have as of late been posting about one topic which is both a counter to Atheistic criticisms of just belief in God and that defeats the Presuppositionalist complaint of needing a basis for all beliefs, or that all beliefs must be justified through reason or reasons to assert.

I am unconcerned with the Atheist’s criticisms because I agree with them, and generally they agree with how I do in fact justify my beliefs about God.

The Presuppositionalist is a spurious creature however. Their argumentation platform is actually more related to “Foundationalism” than to anything Van Til proposed. Their idea is that a belief must ultimately​ be traced back to a special kind of belief that must also be justified but cannot be justified by other beliefs. This sort, they call “Properly Basic”, or “Cornerstone Propositions”.

The idea is that in order to say justfication hinges on reliable methods, for example, there must be a properly basic belief that “the future resembles the past” or “there is general order to change over time, uniformity, regularity, order” and so on. The problem lies in the fact that if we merely justify these beliefs through presuming or assuming these are in fact the case, then the “foundation” is not truth. It follows then that it is literally meaningless as a preliminary for justifying other, non basic beliefs such as the initial belief that justification hinges on reliable methods; which pragmatically and justly affirms that belief time and again. The common complaint that Science isn’t the basis of Science or that it doesn’t justify itself using itself is moribund. The evident, obvious fact that it works not only vindicates Science and its methods and philosophies, it is justified because by “true” we can only mean “it works” and in a particular way which correlates to the subject of the “work”; ie. a demonstration that a proposition is describing a real state of affairs.

It suffices that Foundationalism isn’t a very interesting theory of human knowledge in Epistemology and is generally​ easy to defeat, as I initially attempted above.

However, we can indeed agree for the sake of argument that there must be a foundational belief outside of rational criticism because it is justified aside from other beliefs. We can also take up the charge that all beliefs must be justified. This is where I engage “entitlement” in the various forms given by Dretske, Wright, Burge, and Peacocke.

Entitlements are beliefs that are warranted because they are apparent and obvious, compelling, in terms the Foundationalist describe properly basic beliefs. However, we don’t presume these things or assume these things are true. We consently hold to the Foundationalist change that there are justified beliefs for which reason and evidence are not required. So where Foundationalism yields to self-refutation (no rational person would say supposition is justification, or that assuming is either), entitlements purport to be beliefs which are obviously true, and unlike Foundationalism again, defeasible.

The Atheist may worry that we can’t or shouldn’t say any belief is warranted without reason or evidence, but then several assurances follow. First, that “God” or any other metaphysical proposition cannot be an entitlement by definition. Second, that a volume, a volley, a landslide of examples of warranted beliefs which are properly basic do exist. Third and last is that the Skeptic is going to be more inclined to want some other basis of their Epistemology than beginning with presumption and assumption, and entitlements provide just that.

And for interesting trivia, notice those in the list of Anti-Foundationalists:

Roy Bhaskar
Jacques Derrida
John Dewey
Stanley Fish
Michel Foucault
G.W.F. Hegel
William James
Friedrich Nietzsche
Charles Sanders Peirce
Richard Rorty
Wilfrid Sellars
Ludwig Wittgenstein

Each in their own way defeat this idea of the need of foundations, be it Derrida making the case that beliefs are tied to language more than reality, or Peirce describing a closure principle of beliefs much like the web of meaning created by the words in a dictionary, though in the broadest sense all beliefs entail other beliefs cleanly, semiotically without any other problems like foundations.

In the end, the Presuppositionalist is claiming we presuppose some beliefs, but what they imply is that we only merely assume they are true and since assumptions create assess, as the saying goes, “God” (whatever the hell that term means!) ought to be the foundation for all knowledge claims. But that just carries assumption into credulity and desire and definition. In contrast, Entitlements are neither presumed true nor assumed true. They are asserted true and find warrant in their obviousness as being the case and for the fact that the only sort of reasoning which can be done about them is to justify doubting they are true; which of course no one can do, especially since the Entitleist can adopt all the initial positions of the Presuppositionalist yet not contradict itself in the end.

No, Presuppositionalist, I don’t presume anything in any of my beliefs; they are all justified beliefs that are either so, obviously, or not so obviously which then requires me to otherwise argue their justification.

Just a thought.

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