Monthly Archives: October 2017

Traditionalists Against Tradition

From the onset of Judaism, God is unknown. In Exodus, we learn through Moses that God is being itself, eternally present, as Augustine sees it. We learn, through Philo early on in the Christian tradition of the Jewish unknowability of God, His transcendence, maintained but shown in participation, He is temporally known; the God of Abraham (Teaching), Isaac (Perfection), Jacob (Practice). And we have Gregory of Nyssa particularly certain on the point. No one can know God’s nature, His essence. Nature, the material, is all man can know, except for the suspicion and growing conviction of His existence and His power.

At some point during the Enlightenment, and particularly in the last fifty years with those like Norm Geisler, R.C. Sproul, and other eager folk back in Chicago in 1978, God was reduced to a book, literally (see Geisler in “Systematic Theology, Volume I”, deny the whole of Christian thinking from the apostles onward in this move).

The thrust, the motive of the more than two thousand year old tradition in Jewish and Christian thinking on the complete transcendence and unknowability of God was to preserve our ideas of His majesty, keeping us humble and God, ultimate. “Other, other, other is the Lord God Almighty!” Essentially, it was respectful. For the Christian, it also put the greatest possible emphasis on Jesus of Nazareth, the complete image of God on Earth, the proposed sole means a man could know God.

It seems to me that over the years, Christianity has become a bit cheap in the bid for certainty; a Bible that’s inerrant and not interpreted, an infinite God it somehow captures the nature of, whose pages are quoted to the horror of the oppressed, the poor, the outcast, yet preferred to the image of God through the actions of Christ who loved them all.

May one of these traditions die right on the vine!

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The Simple Truth

Common language makes sense when talking about things like knowledge and truth, but if it is inspected, people tend to get uncomfortable, fast.

For instance, it makes sense to ask, “How do you know that’s true?”, and the answer will be along the lines of “Because of x, y, and z.” Ask what knowledge is and you get something like “Knowledge is all of the things we know.”, as if that answers something. Ask about truth and folks mean “the way things are.”

None of that makes sense, however. If knowledge is the collection of everything we know, then truth must be what we know. This makes “How do you know that’s true?” an absurd question. If something is true, it is by definition, something we know, at least in the general sense. The appropriate question then is, “Why do you think that’s the case?” And when one seeks to answer with some, any, explanation, one is justifying a belief. Simple thoughts on “Truth is that which corresponds to reality” are revealed as meaningless, considering it begs the question of “What corresponds?” and how one would know when “correspondence” is reached? For certain, “truth” would be the test for correspondence in that case, which leads right back to a simple fact of justification. Too, if truth is “the way things are”, then substitution works wonders! “The way things are corresponds to reality”; or in other words, reality is reality. When discussing these things, we must be thoughtful and make sense, and common use doesn’t, it turns out to be absurd in most cases.

Finally, when we realize all of the above, it shouldn’t shock anyone hearing that there’s no genuine difference between saying something is true and something is justified.

However, for many, and not just laymen, such a remark unleashes something akin to a swarm of the hornets’ nest, or the frantic sprawl of a fireant colony on three alarms.

After years of interrogating theories of knowledge and looking at our use of these terms, it can only suffice to say that knowledge is all the stuff we think is true, and what’s true are only our ideas about what the case is, and stating what we think the case is, or even believing what the case is, requires justfication, warrant, in every case from belief to doubt to reserving judgment.

Just a thought.

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The Silly Things People Say!

The formal set of fallacies to Presuppositional arguments that “The existence of the laws of logic proves the existence of God.”

The argument is formally as follows:

p→q :. ~p→~q, q :. p

In English, (i) if the existence of God explains the laws of logic, then if there is a God, there are laws of logic, therefore if God does not exist, the laws of logic do not exist, (ii) and since the laws of logic do exist, God exists.

i. Denying the antecedent
ii. Affirming the consequent

And if you’re a Presuppositionalist and needed the English version, stop clamoring on about the laws of logic! Logic is a formal description of how folks think, doesn’t tell us anything about reality, doesn’t entail truth, and is artificial, entirely a product of reason, not gods; ask a Logician!

“Of these two conditions, the logician as such is concerned only with the first [validity]; the second, the determination of the truth or falsity of the premises, is the task of some special discipline or of common observation appropriate to the subject matter of the argument.”

https://www.britannica.com/topic/formal-logic

“When the conclusion of an argument is correctly deducible from its premises, the inference from the premises to the conclusion is said to be (deductively) valid, irrespective of whether the premises are true or false.”

Ibid

“The bottom line is that logic alone can tell us nothing new about the real world.”

https://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/philosop/logic.htm

“Traditionally logic was considered a normative description of the workings of an ideal mind.”

http://www.filosoficas.unam.mx/~morado/RLH.htm

“[The principles of logic] are non-contingent, in the sense that they do not depend on any particular accidental features of the world. Physics and the other empirical sciences investigate the way the world actually is.”

http://philosophy.hku.hk/think/logic/whatislogic.php

“The principles of logic … are derived using reasoning only, and their validity does not depend on any contingent features of the world.”

Ibid

“… the proof of the validity of these inferences depends upon the assumption of the truth of certain general statements concerning relatives.”

http://www.peirce.org/writings/p41.html

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There Are Still Presuppositionalists?!!!

All Presuppositionalists are Foundationalists, but not all Foundationalists are Presuppositionalists.

Ultimately, Presuppositionalism fails because it essentially asserts that the foundation of knowledge is assumption; not just any assumption, but the correct one, which is to say, God.

It fails exactly because suppositions are by definition, baseless, and consequently then, God is no better or worse than any other supposition, but the Presuppositionalist really means that the ultimate foundational belief isn’t a presumption at all but instead is a warranted belief, a justified belief, an objective one.

So if in fact there is a justifiable, foundational belief, then “God is it” also falls prey to Foundationalism’s tendency toward infinite regressions of justification.

“God is it” turns out to be meaningless because being a justifiable proposition, it begs the question, why?

As it turns out, no theory of knowledge requires a foundation. What matters is that our beliefs have warrant. Warrant simply means that we are entitled to some beliefs, and others require a clear line of thinking leading to the concluded belief.

For instance, if one suggests experience is the foundation of knowledge, then preceptions give rise to warrant, not our ability to explain why we believe what we do. So, when we consider other minds, our own existence, the reliability of reason and our reasoning, and so on, these are not presuppositions. They all have warrant, to the extent that suggesting we merely suppose them isn’t just absurd, but unjustifiable; just because we could be mistaken isn’t grounds to suggest we are, and we aren’t merely assuming these things.

One may say that “you are presupposing because you don’t know and can’t prove these things are true!”

This person, however, has lost contact with the reality of what these terms all mean. For example, that I exist is warranted rather than presumed. Warrant is either from justification or entitlements. Knowledge is in the broadest sense, “things that we believe and can’t yet doubt”. In other words, warranted beliefs.

So, I know I exist, I know there are other minds, I know tomorrow will be like today was like yesterday, and so on.

I do not suppose these things, I do not even suppose the truth of these things; because truth is indistinguishable from warrant.

Just a thought.

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That Right Is Earned!

Often in Philosophy, something quite simple is missed and that is, few stop to think about when they are in fact presupposing.

For instance, most people think that in order for beliefs to be justified, we must have reasons for a belief. However, beliefs simply come to be and aren’t invented and can’t be chosen. In that case, not all beliefs can be justified via “reason to assert” and not all warranted beliefs require justification; entitlements, for example.

But the main problem is that people fixate on the idea that justification puts onus on the believer rather than on the interlocutor. So when a person insists some x, y, and z isn’t justified until there’s an explanation, the response should simply be that such an x, y, z belief exists, and what positive reasons are there to doubt it?

In other words, genuine beliefs can already be seen as justified, and doubting them or questioning their validity puts onus on the examiner, not the one being examined.

That means that the fitness of a belief isn’t in any essential way, tied to justification, but tied to, well, fitness! Is a belief sustaining its application? In that sense of justification, then the foundation of belief is ordinary experience, not supposition nor justification. It’s the application of an idea and its fitness for that application which warrants belief.

In “The cat is on the mat”, justification doesn’t hinge on infinite regresses of propositions that must be proven before a conclusion can be reached. Simply, when there appears to be a cat on the mat, the only sensible question that must be justified is “Why should I doubt the cat, the mat, or that the cat is on it?”

“Because you may be wrong” or “Because you can’t be certain” isn’t here or there because absolutely no conditions exist in which we can be absolutely certain of anything and for the fact that nothing ensures we will conclude rightly or wrongly, and that the former is only a matter of Psychology, and the latter, a fact of human inquiry and knowledge.

Why should I believe? No, why should I doubt?

Just a thought.

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