April 23, 2009
Presuppositionalism, Part 4 (answering Cameron)
In the comments to Part 1 of this series, Cameron takes up the presuppositionalist argument for the existence of God. I don’t think his answers respond to my original claim. Here’s my evaluation of Cameron’s specific arguments:
1. Particles may appear to be in one place and not in one place at the same time. But even if they were actually and completely in one place and not in one place at the same time, then this actually has nothing to do with the 3 laws of logic. The reason is because phenomenons in nature are only descriptive of how nature is, not prescriptive of how something should be. If electrons behave differently and were always in one place, then that would have no bearing on whether or not nature would still exist (theoretically ). But if the law of identity can violate itself, then you can’t think, hence why it’s prescriptive.
I think you’re missing the point of this argument, which is that electrons can violate the law of identity (A=A) by being both particles and not-particles at the same time. The fact that they are in two places at once is also a pretty stern caution to us about trying to turn our general intuitions into universal laws that operate at the quantum level. We don’t really know that logic is absolute; that’s my point.
We require the law of identity to be in tract in order to for you to identify what “being there” and “not being there” is, or what a “particle” is as opposed to what a “particle is not”, for you to even attempt to make your case. You require the law of identity to be in tact to say the law of identity doesn’t need to be in tact (or can be violated).
Again, if I were to take your reasoning to it’s full conclusion, and we can identify A as non-A, then we couldn’t be logical, thus think. You might make the statement, “Christianity is false”. But because A can be non-A to you, then I have every right to interpret you as saying “Christianity is true”.
Right, I understand the significance of the law of identity to human logic. All I’m saying is that we don’t have sufficient warrant to claim that the “law” of identity also operates on the fundamentals of the universe.
Let me give you an example: when we have a discussion on this blog, we do so in English as a precondition for holding a meaningful discussion. That doesn’t mean that everyone speaks English, or that if we found another language you and I have in common, we couldn’t switch to that as well. It just means that we accept English as a precondition for discussion. My argument is that we also accept the law of identity as a precondition for discussion and debate; that doesn’t necessarily raise it to transcendental status.
2. Who cares if it’s said that “Atheism isn’t a worldview”. You as a person have a worldview. You have a belief about the way things really are, as opposed to the way things really aren’t, hence there being no God or gods, morality, what the basic components of the universe are, etc. Thus, you have a view of the world. This type of clarification that atheists give is just silly to me.
Sure. My point here is that you need to engage my actual worldview, and not just straw-man it. One typical way in which Christian apologists often do this is by assuming that all atheists are hardcore materialists, who in turn are necessarily physicalists. Those assumptions are unwarranted.
3. If Zorbleen is said to be eternal, immutable, omniscient, all good, etc, then anyone would have a rational epistamological starting point to things such as logic and morality. But the question I would ask next is, “where is your revelation of Zorbleen?” The Christian’s special revelation is Scripture and the testimony of the Holy Spirit. Types of general revelation would simply be accounting for logic and real morality.
What’s your warrant for the claim that special revelation is a source of knowledge?
4. I’m not going to argue that strongly from induction because I don’t think it’s the strongest argument. I will say though that the Christian presupposes that God is even more natural then the “natural”. The Christian believes that this finite world is held together by God’s eternal being, thus the natural is evidence of the supernatural, we just don’t think in these terms because we experience constant uniformity. Any non-uniformity is only non-uniform to us because we’re not as familiar with it (miracles), but still uniform to God. If miracles happened all the time, however, then we would begin to consider them to be uniform. With the argument of induction, it’s not so much that you don’t know if nature with behave just as uniform as in the past, but moreso of having a reason to “trust” it will behave as it has in the past. And if God has done miracles in the past, then we would expect Him to be the cause of them again if they were to happen. But again, me saying I trust that God will keep the universe uniform (in accordance to His promises and will) is only begging the question of His existence, hence why I don’t want to get into that type of argument. Just wanted to clarify some things.
I don’t think you’ve answered the central offensive response I’ve made here, which is that in the Christian worldview, we would not expect a reliable world from which induction is possible, because the Christian explicitly holds out the possibility of a nonconforming miracle at any time.
5. You can’t explain the Trinity with logical formulas. If you study the doctrine of the Trinity you wont get very far because you’ll run into a paradox. It is believed that the essence of the oneness of God in contrast to the essence of the 3 persons of God is different yet similar in a way we ants can’t fully grasp. We can come to conclusions of the Trinity, but we can’t really do those conclusions justice because of our ant brains. And as a Christian I’m fine with this because while I believe that the laws of logic are characteristic of the personal and not the impersonal, I believe God’s person is way beyond my own, which I can barely even grasp.
That’s fine. However, when you concede that God operates by a “different” logic, you’re necessarily admitting that the laws of logic are not transcendent and universal, and thus TAG fails.
Remember that my goal here is not to convince you to give up Christianity; you can believe what you want to believe. My goal is to convince you that it is rational for me to be an atheist, and that the apologetic arguments telling me to give up atheism lack sufficient justification. I think I’ve done that.
6. You can’t enforce that in an alternative universe with no minds that 1 + 4 = 5 puppies. This is begging the question. In that universe there are no such things as “puppies” or “1″ or “plus”, etc. This is attempting to argue outside of your mind and act neutral to the dilemma, yet you can’t! You can’t think from “nature’s” standpoint. You can only think by use of the laws of logic. You don’t say that the sun isn’t also cold because it isn’t, but only because the laws of logic force you to say it isn’t. All of reality, even all your 5 senses, must be filtered through the laws of logic in order for you to perceive what you believe to be reality. This is what Matt D’s girlfriend or whatever didn’t grasp.
Okay. Again, I think this response concedes that the TAG is groundless.
7. And if you have a hard time with the Trinity accounting for abstract, universal, and transcendent laws, then what IS your foundation after all?
I would say that there are no abstract, universal, transcendent laws; that everything we think of as an abstract universal law is either the product of a reasoning mind (such as morality) or descriptive of the universe (such as the fact that 1 + 4 = 5).
I would argue the laws must be eternal and come from an eternal mind.
1. How does the finite and the logic-less bring about absolutes?
2. How come something be absolute unless it’s eternal?
3. The laws of logic are relational because they are used for knowledge and communication. Thus, whatever source they come from is most likely personal.
4. Maybe you you believe there is an eternal personal source but are agnostic about what it is. If so, that is fine. I would call whatever that thing is “God” though.
Respectfully, I’m not sure that these questions/points make sense. We know that the human mind can bring about absolutes thanks to Immanuel Kant. So that really covers your first two questions. Your next two points assert that something used for knowledge and communication comes from a personal source, and I just don’t see the warrant for that assertion.
I think the more parsimonious explanation for the “laws” of logic is that they are the product of human brains and are a convention we accept for discussion and debate. The fact that we see people who are unable to grasp the “laws” of logic is pretty strong evidence that those laws emanate from an earthly and not an otherworldly source.