Sunday, October 23, 2016

Atheism (Without the Thing in Itself)

Benjamin argues metaphysical naturalism is more probable than not from scientific 'facts'. He takes the latent assumption in the scientific method, namely methodological naturalism, as evidence for metaphysical naturalism.  Benjamin formulates his argument inductively with probability theory. His argument can be construed in terms of abduction or Bayesian probabilistic confirmation theory. For example,

If observations O then the best explanation of O is theory T. 

The internal critique of Ben's worldview offered by Tim, Carlos, Owen and Luke surrounded Ben's epistemology as to justify metaphysical naturalism. The intractable problems identified were as follows:

(1) Ben's empiricism, explicitly or implicitly, commits the logical fallacy affirming the consequent. Moreover, Benjamin failed to explain precisely the conditions in which beliefs are acquired. If he affirms some form of representational realism and/or correspondence theory of truth then there is no independent criteria to confirm any given mental image or belief, in fact, matches with the truth of reality.  Of course, then on such an account the problem of Kant's ding an sich (i.e. thing in itself) surfaces itself (there is irony here). A view with all the room needed for skepticism. Perhaps, better put, it has all the necessary ingredients of skepticism. 

The problem of induction (deriving a universal from particular examples) was discussed as a decisive feature of any given empirical theory yet Benjamin felt his view was exempt from the problem. He merely asserted induction as a properly basic belief without an account of epistemic justification. Hence, at which point, any belief can simply be asserted as properly basic (e.g. Still, probability assumes induction. Likewise, probability is predicated on limited, background-relative, data. Such that new data can always skew the results of old data. Thus  limited data can revise any given theory by new data. Therefore, any theory dependent upon probability is subject to whole sale revision. Not much security in probability.

(2) Benjamin asserts his particular epistemic theory is self-justifying. That's fine as far as the claim goes. Nevertheless, Benjamin's rationalism, explicitly or implicitly, collapses to either fideism or skepticism (unless, of course, he can show otherwise).   Ben attempts, I think unsuccessfully, to evade fideism or skepticism with some form of non-inferential epistemic internalism (e.g. Phenomenological conservativism). But since no criteria of conditions are provided to prefer one particular epistemic theory over another then the selection of any given epistemic theory (including Benjamin's theory) becomes viciously circular (e.g. Armstrong). Benjamin argues if a proposition appears to be true then that is a prima facie reason to believe it is true in the absence of any defeaters. Again, Kant's phenomenal and nomenal world comes back full force with such a view. On such grounds, it seems, we have a prima facie reason to reject Benjamin's epistemic theory, since it appears to be false, in the absence of any evidence to warrant his theory. . However, Benjamin may be able to provide a criteria of conditions to evaluate the virtues of any given epistemic theory and assess what qualifies as a properly basic belief.  In which case, Ben would need to show his particular epistemic theory meets the conditions provided (for the truth of any given epistemic theory to render it self-justifying and/or is properly basic) and tease out the philosophical tensions or apparent contradictions between his empiricism, rationalism and Platonism.  Further, Ben's epistemic theory prompts more questions: (i) how does Benjamin know reason, in general, or the laws of logic, in particular, aim at truth? (ii) how does he know beliefs aim at truth? (iii) how does Ben know the nature and limits of reason and/or truth? Ben asserts platonic realism as to abstract objects; yet how does abstract objects enforce or impose themselves on particulars?

(3) The discussion on ethics was intriguing. Benjamin affirms moral realism and not moral nihilism. But Benjamin's version of moral realism suffers the same problems as metaphysical Platonism. How does a particular person possess universal moral values and duties? How do these universal moral values and duties interact/relate with particular persons? What is a universal moral law without a moral lawgiver? How does Benjamin's view avoid the naturalistic fallacy (e.g. GE Moore)? 

As to Clarkian apologetics, SRR should continue to address the problems leveled against Scripturalism. (e.g.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Heavenly Freedom?

Read this:

If the link doesn't work, try cut and paste. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

How is 'is' known?

How does one know the term 'is' in a non-circular way? 

My first thoughts as I encounter the question. I think each persons beliefs interconnect that form a web. At the core of the web are beliefs that are the ultimate standard to interpret the web of beliefs. These core beliefs can be construed as either properly basic beliefs with defeating defeaters. Or can be understood as self-justifying as explanatorily ultimate.  Is it circular? Yes, but not in a vicious form. There are exclusions to the informal fallacy of begging the question. Walter Sinnott has a good article on this. I'd say I can define and explain the term 'is' but it will entail beliefs that lead to my core beliefs. Vincent Cheung would challenge my core beliefs with Scripturalism, infalliblism and internalism. I think I'd be immune to his criticisms, like AquaScum, if I take either epistemology (with reliabilism and externalism). I don't think an axiomatic system can evade admitting there is some circularity that is not vicious

It is quite simple to cite Webster's dictionary to define 'is'. But this will be an inadequate answer. Proof would be demanded to show the Webster dictionary 'is' a competent authority. Moreover, even if there 'is' sufficient proof the Webster dictionary 'is' a competent authority, the proper interpretation of the dictionary may further be doubted. A critic may always be critical, of anything, even of critical analysis itself. We are fallen creatures thus often fall into irrationality.  Hence, I think the question is an important one. In my judgment, God has created us with: properly functioning cognitive faculties, innate ideas, innate categories and innate grammar. Therefore, I follow in the tradition of St. Augustine. But I, as did Ronald Nash, depart from St. Augustine's insistence of denying any significant role of sense experience. I think we do, in fact, learn via reason (a priori) and sense experience (a posteriori). They are the secondary means for us to acquire true beliefs. But, I agree with Augustine, the primary means for us to acquire true beliefs is God. As we experience the world our minds filter and organize sense experience with our noetic structures (of innate ideas, categories and grammars) to acquire true beliefs. God sustains and secures our beliefs so as to match His thoughts with our thoughts (via the means mentioned). The inter-witness of the Holy Spirit testifies to the truth of Scripture. He is invincible  defeating all defeaters.  Thus we acquire items of knowledge by a reliable belief-forming process. Furthermore, I take some beliefs to be properly basic (e.g. God's existence, an external world, other minds, sense perception, induction). Those beliefs are acquired by a reliable belief-forming process, independent of any arguments, and are rational to believe in absence of defeaters. 

The question can be answered directly. I learned the word 'is' by my parents and school teachers. I acquired the belief: 'is' refers to an English word that symbolizes the meaning 'to exist or be' or used as a designator. This belief was acquired via reason and sense experience, with or without my awareness, by a reliable belief-forming process and thus I'm rational to believe it in the absence of defeaters. But, perhaps, this is unsatisfying. Let's take a different approach. Logically prior to the question, is all forms of logical circularity fallacious? If you answer yes, then can you demonstrate this in a non-circular way? Counter arguments can be given that a valid distinction can be made between vicious and virtuous circularity (e.g. Armstrong, Frame). 

Remember the way to get out of the Clarkian system is to take up a different system. I don't think my view leaves us with the conclusion of the argument below, as Cheung would have us think: 

(1) If sense perception is necessary to interpret the Bible then sense perception is the definitive standard of truth not the Bible. 
(2) Sense perception is necessary to interpret the Bible (in any form of empiricism).
(3) Therefore, sense perception is the definitive standard of truth not the Bible. 

Premise (3) takes the primacy of sense perception and extra-Biblical ideas to be essential in constructing a system to best understand the Biblical teachings. 

The problem with this argument, besides the sloppy premises, is a conflating of ontic and epistemic priority. One can ontologically use sense perception to know a teaching of scripture without epistemically assuming sense perception is the definitive standard of truth. The point is one can build a system of thought placing the definitive truth in the scriptures and not the reverse (i.e.  Definitive truth placed in the means of knowing instead of the scriptures themselves as prerequisite for the possibility of knowledge).

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Naturalistic Fallacy

Do Christians derive an obligation from nature? How do we bridge the is/ought gap? It must be admitted the naturalistic fallacy is an informal fallacy thus there can be exclusions to the rule (e.g. an explanatory ultimate of any given ethical theory). How do Christian ethics deal with this fallacy? 

We do not derive an 'ought' from an 'is' in the sense we start without moral values and duties then derive them from nature (e.g. Physics or Chemistry). However, we do concede we derive an 'ought' from an 'is' with good reason. We start with God's intrinsic value, He chose to create man in His image. We may argue:

 (1) If God created all mankind in His image with contingent intrinsic infinite moral value and worth then moral values and duties are properly basic. 

(2) God created all mankind in His image with contingent intrinsic infinite moral value and worth

(3) Moral values and duties are properly basic.

Premise (2) presupposes God necessarily possesses intrinsic infinite moral value and worth (hence He is worthy of all worship) and created all mankind in His image with contingent intrinsic infinite moral value and worth to reflect God. 

Moreover, God is that being which no greater can be conceived, thus He is the most perfect being. As the most perfect being, God is goodness itself; therefore, He is both the starting and stoping point of moral values and duties. God is necessarily both the one and many, object and subjects, particular and universals, descriptive and normative. God 'is' what He 'ought' to be. Since 'ought' is derived from God's commandments as they express His character, will and nature. He is both simultaneously the substance and the ideal. He possesses both the indicative and imperative. Therefore, God is the ground of all ontic, epistemic and moral norms.

Sunday, August 14, 2016


I've been discussing Gordon Clark and Vincent Cheung on the Bible Thumping Wingnut Facebook page. Our discussion has been primarily epistemology. I think if Cheung follows Clark's necessitarianism then sense pecerception is necessary to occasion God ordaining a direct causal connection between any given cause and effect. One clear problem with Occassionalism is it presupposes continuous creation which entails there is no single ontological personal identity through out time. Each thing, including any given person, is recreated at each moment in time.

 If I were a Clarkian I'd much prefer pre-established harmony than Occasionalism 😜

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Evil and Sin

If God is all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing, why does evil exist? 

No simple answer. Some (e.g. Oliver Crisp, Plantinga, Van Inwagen) would appeal to the possibility of  libertarian freedom. Roughly, a person is free if she can choose equally options A or B. She is understood as the primary source of her choice. As the first cause of her choice, she creates the causal chain between actions and acts, hence agent causation. This construal of freedom may be true without the principle of alternate possibilities (PAP). It denies the possibility of libertarian freedom and determinism to be compatible, thus incompatabilistic. This appeal fails to explain precisely how sin came to exist since libertarian freedom seems to reduce to indifference. Yet others see sin as a privation of good. They would argue Satan, a created peccable Angel,  chose a lesser good, namely self-love, above the greatest Good, God himself.  Notice, this is consistent with divine determinism and (compatibilistic) freedom. A person is free if she can choose from her strongest inclination either option A or B without coercion or constrain. This view allows for hypothetical alternate possibilities.  However, it concedes determinism and freedom (i.e. as so defined) is compatible. . 

Why would God allow this to obtain? God has a morally sufficient reason, it is for His glory and our good. However, more reasons can be provided:

God has a morally sufficient reason for why he allows evil to exist. To argue he doesn't cannot be shown by limited human knowledge. 

 It is for a greater good. We do not see the big picture of all the events that occur but God is orchestrating them for ultimate good. For example, Jesus died by the hands of wicked men so those that repent and trust in Him may have everlasting life.

 God created laws of nature. If God intervened every time evil or suffering occurred then people would demand God to intervene for everything at every time. It sounds like people want heaven on earth.

 God uses evil and suffering to build our character.

God gave humans originally the freedom of choice. God did not force Adam and Eve to love and obey him. He gave them the ability to choose good or evil.
If God removed evil from the world, God would be obligated to punish not just some but all evil and suffering. Hence, everyone would cease to exist because most evil and suffering is the results of sin. Everyone is guilty of sins thus not innocent so all would cease to exist if God chose to destroy evil now instead of deal with it through the cross of Christ.

God created all things, rules all things, controls all things, and owns all things. This means God has the right to do whatever he wants with his property (i.e. creation). Or as Romans 9 puts it, the potter has power over the clay to do whatever he wills with it.
How are Humans Sinners? 

Sin was transmitted either by realism or federal headship. I take both to be true. If realism and traducianism are true then sin can be inherited. Adam sinned thus God justly remove His goodness and restraining grace from man. The result was catastrophic, the very heart of man was corrupted and darkened.  Some may reject realism and traducianism, then one can resort to federal headship with creationism. God gave a command to Adam. Adam disobeyed. Therefore, as punishment God creates each human soul with a sinful inclination then embodies it.

Federal headship accounts for guilt imputed. We possess Adam's guilt since he represented us before God. Once he sinned we were liable for his sin. Moreover, we sin by imitation as we encounter sinful role models that influence us to sin. 

Therefore, we are sinners by inheritance, imputation and imitation.

Clarkianism Refuted?

A few remarks. 


If logic is taken as self-evident then the criterion of such a belief presupposes evidential foundationalism. But this is false. The belief that all beliefs must be based on self-evident beliefs is not itself self-evident. Thus this epistemic criterion is too restrictive; it is self-refuting.  


Kant's argument made the foundation of logic (e.g. the categories etc.) man's psychology. Why doesn't that work? It tries to ground universals from particulars. It utterly fails. It fallaciously affirms the consequent. Moreover, our friend simply asserts logic. He is a fideist. But his fideism cannot provide an overarching explanation of the world in terms of logic alone as an axiom. 

So our friend made a great attempt but failed to provide an epistemic foundation.

Perhaps this might help in his analysis: 


But if logic is understood as divine thoughts, then some form of conceptualism is true.  Clarkians affirm some form of the Augustinian Logos doctrine. If  (as Clarkians affirm) the Bible is the revealed thoughts of God then the Bible is embedded with logic. But precisely how does this not leave the Clarkian with an instance of logic and not logic itself ( i.e. the property)? The laws of logic are used in Scripture but not mentioned. I don't think the Clarkian epistemology package (i.e. Scripturalism plus internalism) works. But I think some form of conceptualism with an Augustinian Logos doctrine can help make it coherent (e.g. Ronald Nash).