Tag Archives: philosophy

Start With “Uncle!”

Christian apologetics can’t get it right if it begins with presuppositions or faith. In claiming that we must presuppose God, the apologist admits there’s no real reason to believe; we must simply suppose it is true. When the apologist says one must have faith, he likewise admits there’s no reason to believe and instead is suggesting merely that one ought to hope something is true. As it concerns propositions and truth-telling, there are ethical duties and obligations that come with. Justification is the primary obligation. There’s no justification in assumption or in hoping something is true because neither indicate whether something is true. So if this is part of Christian apologetics, it admits up front that there’s no reason to believe, and follows that by divorcing itself from the ethics of truth-telling from there. In a propositional sense and in the moral sense, it just can’t get it right.

Just a thought.

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God Is Not A Being

P1) It is said that God is love.

P2) It is said God cannot act against his nature.

C1) If God can choose to love, then God’s nature isn’t love.

P3) If God always chooses to obtain the best, or optimal outcomes in each moment, then God having the ability to choose is identical to God having no choice.

C2) If we hold to philosophical simplicity, we must accept God is not volitional and therefore, not a being, or that

C3) God is a being who can and does choose not to love, and is a being that could choose the best outcomes but chooses less favorable ones, or cannot identify them, or simply cannot obtain them.

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Doubling Down

Johnny lived in a sorted neighborhood. There was all kind of mischief all the time. Johnny’s roommate one morning offered Johnny a bet. “I will bet you ten bucks that your car is not outside, someone stole it.” There had been a rash of car thefts recently and Todd, Johnny’s roommate, was serious about the bet but easily using it to comment on how bad things had gotten that such a bet could actually be made.

Johnny had worked late last night and parked his car near a street light. If he were a car thief, he would have been in bed by that time and wouldn’t pick such a visible target. Still, you never know. Johnny believed his car was right where he’d left it. Ten bucks is ten bucks though and, having thought about it, Johnny knew the odds at that point were about even.

Though Johnny genuinely believed “My car was not stolen” rather than “My car was stolen”, Johnny did not take Todd’s bet. Doubting either proposition wasn’t a factor. Johnny didn’t believe one because he doubted the other. He believed them both. He just had more compelling reasons for thinking one way versus the other.

Johnny is said to have a doxastic belief and an epistemic belief about “My car was stolen”. It should be clear that it is possible to hold many dispositions toward the same state of affairs including contradictory ones yet not be thinking incoherently. Johnny genuinely believed “My car was not stolen”, for one set of reasons, and that “My car was stolen”, at the same time but for another set of reasons. Johnny has a “propositional attitude” in contrast to his other beliefs about the state of affairs about which the proposition is speaking.

It is then not always telling to suppose we know what a person believes merely by asking what their conclusion is; after all, truth be told, Johnny believes more that his car wasn’t stolen than he believes otherwise, but how would Todd know, Johnny didn’t take the bet.

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“In And Around The Lake”

Each side of The Great Debate has its annoying particulars. For Theists, it’s Presuppositionalism. For Atheists, it’s the nonsense of lacking belief. I don’t know which is more irksome either.

Atheists, there’s a difference in lacking a belief in God and lacking belief about God. For instance, I lack belief in the existence of Santa Claus, and I believe Santa Claus doesn’t exist. I can believe you exist and not believe in you. I can believe I know the ideas associated with deity and not believe in them.

The point of labeling one’s self or others is to be clear, not to preemptively suggest you don’t have to justify yourself.

Atheism is simply a way of saying one sees the world without deity and an Atheist is one who would reject “There are deity” and accept “There are no deity”.

A Theist would accept “There are deity” and reject “There are no deity”.

Agnostics would reject “There are deity” and reject “There are no deity”.

An Ignostic would say, “Bad question!”

Apatheists would accept “There are deity” or “There are no deity”, but think the truth of either is irrelevant, a waste of time.

There’s never just one proposition where “contraries” exist; binary, mutual exclusivity. The first is “There are deity” and its contradiction is “There are no deity”. So again, an Agnostic will reject both being the case. An Atheist doesn’t at all reject “There are no deity”. So, the Atheist may well not be disposed to “There are deity”, but doesn’t at all lack a disposition to its contradiction.

If you’re going to take part in The Great Debate, be honest first and foremost, and then follow established conversational etiquette such as Grice’s maxims of quantity, quality, speaking only to what you know, and speaking only to what you genuinely believe.

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It Happens …

One of the most mistaken aspects of reasoning in the Great Debate is over aspects of propositions, and namely, what denial is.

Example: “This is a square.”

We could deny this and mean a couple of things. First, we may lack sufficient reason to agree that “This is a square.” We may actually have sufficient reason to believe that it isn’t true that “This is a square”, though we may not know what else it actually is. Finally, we may actually know better. “This is really a rectangle.”

People usually mistakenly translate the denial of a proposition as the belief that its contradiction is true. So, mistakenly, denying “God exists” means one thinks “God does not exist”. This is not the case.

When denying “This is a square”, it’s clear that there’s no contradictory belief to hold. There’s no opposite to “square”. This implies denial applies to how the case is presented. In other words, “This is a square [is the case]”. Denial applies to this property of the proposition. Denial is then as follows:

Correct: [It is not true that] This is a square [is the case]

Incorrect: This is not a square [is the case].

Don’t see a difference?

If the proposition is “Steve’s T shirt is green” and I deny it, it’s not because I believe “My T shirt is not green.” It’s because I am not wearing a T shirt. Hence, denial is correctly “[It is not true that] Steve’s T shirt is green [is true]”. This shortens to simply “That’s not the case.” And consequently, I would deny the contradiction, “Steve’s T shirt is not green”.

The mistake happens honestly because of “negative facts”, contradiction, and “The Excluded Middle”. Folks mistake denial for contradiction. Above, with “This is a square”, insufficient reason and reason to doubt cause denial rather than contradiction. When two ideas cannot both be true at the same time, and cannot both be false, there’s a contradiction. With contradiction, something either is or isn’t. Either there is a God or isn’t, either it is a square or isn’t, either my T shirt is green or it isn’t. These have no “middle” ground. But as we see with my T shirt, denial isn’t contradiction though contradiction can cause denial.

So denying that “God exists” doesn’t mean a person believes “God does not exist”. It means they deny there’s reason to believe “God exists [is the case].” It happens that Atheists, Agnostics, and Theists alike, can all deny the proposition “God exists” yet have various beliefs about the existence of God.

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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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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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I’ve Got A Feeling …

It’s not just me this occurs to but also to the theorists:

Belief begins as a non cognitive sense about something in the world. That’s like the belief that “things fall when dropped” or “there will be a tomorrow” or “similar things always happen”. That not all beliefs are consciously deliberated leads Philosophers and Psychologists to define belief as an attitudinal disposition toward a state of affairs. This pre cognitive aspect of belief coupled with its seeming foundational role in cognitive conclusions leads these same thinkers to the idea of Doxastic Involuntarism; the idea that we cannot choose what we believe. It seems the role of reason and evidence isn’t as decisive as some would like. Its role seems to be to flesh out what is already believed, or to provide reasons that may cause us to feel differently than we do; the effort being about building confidence, which is again, about feeling, about sentiment.

There are times when we cannot make logical sense of something, however, we still are disposed to thinking a certain way about it. There are times when we have a perfectly logical idea of what could be going on. However, and likely we’ve all experienced this before, until we both think and feel the same way about things, we don’t generally say that we believe what we’re thinking. In both situations, the foundation seems to be sentiment, pre cognitive pursuation. Disposition isn’t consciously determined.

Ideally, truth isn’t correspondence with reality but an accord stuck between the appearance of states of affairs and what we think and feel about them; ultimately hinging on the reasons we ought feel one way versus another, in terms of establishing warrant.

Just a thought.

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Properly Meaningless Beliefs

Most have heard the question, “How do I know reality is real or whether or not I’m just a brain in a vat?” Some think that if we can’t tell, then we don’t have any way to know what’s true and what isn’t. But for any question that cannot be answered using evidence or some other means of falsification and validation, the answer either way doesn’t actually matter.

If we must merely suppose things like reality or God or regularity and uniformity in nature or the existence of other minds, then we are equally merely supposing we ought to act one way versus another; it’s artificial.

It turns out that supposing reality is really real or that I’m a brain in a vat doesn’t at all effect my behavior either way, as long as I cannot discover what the case actually is. The same is true with the existence of God and so on. In that case, these “cornerstone positions” are only so-called. That’s for the fact that the reliability of how I go about justifying my experience only hinges on how well my means and methods help me come to describe my experiences, whatever world that may be; reality or vat. Since I’m able to experience, my relation to whatever world I may be in is what matters rather than knowing what lies outside my ability to know. Warrant from these propositions is drawn from the functional role between myself and my surroundings, even if fictive. That role is simply coming to know how to properly interact within an environment.

Therefore, regarding reality, brains, and vats, warrant hinges on justified beliefs, beliefs entail to action, and justification can only ever be vindicated; meaning that there is a payoff when acting one way versus another.

In other words, is what I’m thinking about things the way those things seem to be, because it actually matters.

For all such category of beliefs for which there can be no answer through reasoning or evidence, their import is exactly tied to the fact that they are not truth-bearing propositions. There may actually be a case for reality, vats, deity, other minds and so on, but they have literally no meaning to our human existence except the meaning we ascribe to them.

That’s for the very fact that we can’t know if they actually matter at all.

Just a thought.

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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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