Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Matt Dillahunty v. Sye Ten Bruggencate





My comments on the Refining Reason Debate, with its topic, "Is it Reasonable to Believe God Exists?"  

Ten Bruggencate's opening statement sought to argue that any worldview, specifically Dillahunty's, which does not start with God is reduced to absurdity. He argues in favor of the topic by the following argument:

(1) It is reasonable to believe that which is true.              P->Q
(2) It is true that God exists                                             Q->R
(3) Therefore it is reasonable to believe God exists.        P->R

Rightly, Ten Bruggencate identifies premise (2) as the most controversial. So he sets his guns towards Dillahunty's worldview to indirectly prove (2). Ten Bruggencate goes about this task by pointing to the epistemic fruits of Dillahunty's worldview. Dillahunty's worldview requires solipsism to be, in principle, possible, if not actual. Dillahunty's worldview permits this on the grounds that solipsism cannot be disproven, and thus could be true, but he thinks this in no way impinges his worldview. Ten Bruggencate uses Dillahunty's admission to solipsism as a primary example of the absurdity that flows from unbelief. Ten Bruggencate goes to the second phase of his attack by chipping away at Dillahunty's theory of truth. Dillahunty defines truth as that which corresponds or coheres to reality. Bruggencate presses Dillahunty to provide sufficient justification, to know, Dillahunty's beliefs correspond or cohere to reality. Dillahunty concedes the problems Ten Bruggencate raise. So Dillahunty takes a reductionist view of knowledge and whittles it down to mere belief, one might say, opts for Fideism. 

Dillahunty counters Ten Bruggencate's arguments as arbitrary. In fact, he construes all forms of presuppositionalism as a method of utter arbitrariness. He then faults Ten Bruggencate for not demonstrating the uniqueness of Christianity.        

Dillahunty in his opening statement admits to arbitrarily selecting logic, truth, realism, and parsimony as presuppositions. Dillahunty's admission strikes me as Fideism. Likewise, Dillahunty refuses to defend any form of knowledge claims; and he equates any given belief as knowledge. Moreover, Dillahunty views the evidence for solipsism as underdetermined and thus he arbitrarily believes realism. I can't help but wonder if possible world semantics would show, by model logic, Dillahunty must espouse solipsism. Here is a feeble attempt:

1. It is possible for solipsism to be true in all possible worlds.
2. If it is possible that solipsism be true in all possible worlds then solipsism is necessarily true in some possible world.
3. If solipsism is necessarily true in some possible world, then it must be true in every possible world. 
4. If solipsism must be true in every possible world, then it must be true in the actual world.
5. If solipsism must be true in the actual world, then solipsism is true.   

If  Dillahunty grants premise (1) then he logically must affirm solipsism. I think Dillahunty misses Bruggencate's whole argument when he demands proof for exclusively Christianity. Dillahunty is interpreting Ten Bruggencate's argument through evidential lenses. Ten Bruggencate's argument is from the impossibility of the contrary. It is an argument against all tokens of the same type--namely non christian. Dillahunty does not see the necessity of presuppositions that, coheres well into a worldview and, has wide explanatory power.        

I would recommend Dillahunty read Dr. James Anderson's  first  and second reply  to my encounter with a fellow atheist fideist.  









19 comments:

shotgun said...

Not sure how you got premise 3 in the modal argument.

R.C. Dozier said...

I'm trying to use axiom S5 in premise (3). Sorry for not making it clear, but this is merely my feeble attempt; I need to be more proficient in modal logic.

Maybe the argument can be better understood and formulated as follows:


(1) Possibly, S.
(2) Necessarily, possibly, S. [from (1) and axiom 5]
(3) Necessarily, S.

(1) It is possible for solipsism to be true.
(2) If it is possible for solipsism to be true, then it is necessarily possibly true in some possible world.
(3) If solipsism is necessarily possibly true in some possible world, then it is true in every possible world.
(4) If solipsism is true in every possible world, then it is true in the actual world.
(5) Therefore solipsism is true in the actual world. .

Remember in premise (3) necessarily is to be understood as true in all possible worlds.

shotgun said...

Where are you getting "axiom 5" from? I'm not sure what that is.

It doesn't seem to follow that because solipsism is true in some possible world, that it's true in every possible world.

I can see someone arguing that if solipsism were true in some possible world, we'd never be able to know if we're in that world.

The only way to avoid this is if we prove that solipsism is not possible in any world.

Still, there's a difference between the following two propositions:

1. Solipsism is true in every possible world.

and

2. I can't know if solipsism is true in the actual world or not.

The first is an existential claim, the second is an epistemological one. We might live in a world where solipsism is false, but we cannot know it's false.

shotgun said...

On another note, I've been thinking about Sye's argument.

It seems fallacious, specifically from premise 1.

One might have many true beliefs, without them being rationally justified.

I think Sye brought that out in the debate in numerous ways, so I know he would realize this, and if we're gracious towards him and what he's trying to do, then we might let him slide on it - but it seems to be technically precise, he'd have to change the wording in premise 1.

Stan Edmonds said...

Thank you for your article. There is good clarity in what you explain.

R.C. Dozier said...

It follows, in model logic, that if solipsism is "necessarily" (i.e. obtains in all possible worlds) true in some possible world, then it is true in every possible world. Don't take my word for it, look up the axioms of model logic, specifically axiom S5.

In regards to Ten Bruggencate's argument, do you think it should be reformulated? In what way do you think? Your point is taken quite well. There must be room for internalism vs. externalism with justification of beliefs. However, Bernard Williams has argued, quite persuasively, that all beliefs aim at truth. So, we would still want to say, beliefs are not acquired, unless we take them to be reasonable.

Tony Lloyd said...

Agreed the second premise in Sye’s argument is the more contentious. But I think you have missed a consequence of the first premise.

Where it is reasonable to believe that which is true, it is reasonable to believe that which is true whether or not any other conditions hold. There is no need to sort out one’s presuppositions. “How do you know that” holds no force: it is reasonable to believe x if x is true, whether or not x is known. “How do you account for x in your worldview” is a pointless question: what matters for rational belief is whether x is true.

Fideism is fine. We may, for argument's sake, concede that Matt is fideist about “ logic, truth, realism, and parsimony”, but if “ logic, truth, realism, and parsimony” are true then Matt holds them reasonably. Fideism is reasonable where it is fideism about true propositions.

To show then that a belief is unreasonable one would have to show, amongst other things, that the belief was false. To show that “there is no God” was unreasonable one would have to prove “there is a God”. This sounds rather direct to me and Sye’s methodology of attempting to “indirectly prove” premise 2 contradicts his first premise. (Indeed it strikes me that the first premise contradicts the all of presuppositionalism).

shotgun said...

On your modal argument, a few points:

1. I think it's awesome to try and trap Dillahunty into this. Still, atheists are like wasps; mess with their nest and they'll swarm out and crawl into every crack of your clothes ... or argument in this case. So I'm trying to offer a few off-the-cuff observations about what doesn't seem quite right about it.

2. I'm not sure how 2 follows from one. We're supposing Dillahunty grants 1, sure, but that solipsism might be true in every possible world, doesn't seem to imply that, therefore, it is *necessarily* true in one of those worlds. At least, I don't see how it follows.

3. Seems to be a difference between the following:

1. X is true necessarily

and

2. X is necessarily true in some possible world.

1 means x is true in all possible worlds, where as 2 means that x could not have been otherwise in a particular possible world.

So, if premise 2 shows that X is necessarily true, then premise 3 is superfluous.

If premise 2 shows that X is necessarily true in some possible world, then I'm not sure how 3 follows.

But maybe it's just my ignorance of the logic involved? Still - if you ever debate this with Dillahunty, you can't simply refer him to a textbook, you'll have to be prepared to explain the mechanics.

-------------------

As for Sye's argument, I think he should have approached the entire debate differently (but that's hindsight talking).

In "Warranted Christian Belief" Plantinga highlights at least four different ways we might take somethings being "rational"...and concludes that all four come up short - at least when trying to determine some "de jure" grounds of challenging Christian beliefs.

I think Sye should have demonstrated that we can only talk about "rationality" if we are operating within a Christian view ...

As for his argument...

I still think premise 1 is fallacious.

1. It's reasonable to believe that which is true.

2. It's true there is a mouse under my bed.

Conclusion: Therefore, it's reasonable to believe there is a mouse under my bed.

...but suppose the mouse is under there making no noise and isn't moving at all. I'd have no reason whatsoever for holding my true belief.

For next time, Sye should restructure his argument something like:

1. It's reasonable to believe X if and only if, [our belief X has been formed with properly functioning cognitive faculties, aimed at truth, in a conducive environment, according to a design plan (etc.etc...)] - call all that "Y".

2. Dillahunty cannot account for Y.

etc... (tailor the rest of the argument as needed)...

Tony Lloyd said...

Hi shotgun

Is “(i)t's reasonable to believe that which is true” fallacious?

Take it
- that there is some requirement “R” beyond truth that is required for rational belief; and
- we can rationally disagree on some topics

It follows that for any topic on which there is rational disagreement either:

1. Someone has “R” for the true belief on the topic; or
2. Anyone holding the true belief should reject the truth in favour of falsity.

“1” seems wholly implausible. “2”, though, rather seems to contradict the “aimed at truth” stipulation in your “Y” and renders rationality, in areas, aimed away from truth.

Tony Lloyd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony Lloyd said...

I don’t see “necessarily possibly P then necessarily P” as an axiom of S5.

Of course, there’s nothing to stop you creating “S5.1” that has that axiom. But there is an issue with using “possibly P then necessarily possibly P” and “necessarily possibly P then necessarily P” at the same time.

It is possible that England will win the World Cup (“e”) Don’t laugh: It’s possible, it’s highly unlikely but just about possible. It is also very very likely and, so, possible that England will not win the World Cup (not-e).

Using “L” for “necessary” and “M” for “possible”:
1. Axiom: LMx then Lx
2. Axiom: Mx then LMx
3. Premise: Me (It’s possible that England will win the World Cup
4. Premise: Mnot-e (It’s possible that England will not win the World Cup)
5. LMe (2, 3)
6. LMnot-e (2, 4)
7. Le (1, 5)
8. Lnot-e (1,6)
9. Help myself to another axiom: Lx then x
10. e (7,9)
11. not-e (8,9)
12. e and not-e (10,11)

arensb said...

Maybe I'm missing something, but doesn't the logical argument near the end of the OP basically boil down to "maybe solipsism is true; maybe we're living in the Matrix"?
Okay, maybe we are. But that doesn't imply that there's any good reason to think that God exists, whether inside the Matrix or outside, in the "real world".

I thought the worst problem in Ten Bruggencate's presentation was that he simply assumed his conclusion, that God exists and everybody knows it, and didn't even attempt to show why this is reasonable.

R.C. Dozier said...

Thank you, Stan, for your kind comment.

R.C. Dozier said...

Tony Lloyd,

“Where it is reasonable to believe that which is true, it is reasonable to believe that which is true whether or not any other conditions hold.”

I think you make the same point Shotgun made. The justification of an acquired belief, making it reasonable, can come to an agent by a reliable belief forming process without the process being cognitively accessible to the agent. This is taking externalism over internalism to justify beliefs.

“There is no need to sort out one’s presuppositions. “How do you know that” holds no force: it is reasonable to believe x if x is true, whether or not x is known. “How do you account for x in your worldview” is a pointless question: what matters for rational belief is whether x is true.”

I think we do need to sort out presuppositions, since they are the criteria we use to interpret beliefs. I don’t see how any belief can be determined as reasonable or true without presuppositions. When we talk of beliefs and truth, we are talking about different components knowledge. So questions about how we know x, is directly related. And how we account for x, is related to the presuppositions we use to provide coherence, consistency, and explanatory power of our webs of beliefs as we encounter x. You raise a point: Is a belief’s truth-value alone sufficient to render it reasonable? I think not and this is why people talk about justification of beliefs (e.g. externalism vs. internalism).


"Fideism is fine. We may, for argument's sake, concede that Matt is fideist about “ logic, truth, realism, and parsimony”, but if “ logic, truth, realism, and parsimony” are true then Matt holds them reasonably. Fideism is reasonable where it is fideism about true propositions. To show then that a belief is unreasonable one would have to show, amongst other things, that the belief was false."

How so? If Matt arbitrarily believes in realism, and it so happens realism is true, I do not see how Matt should be considered reasonable, unless you want to argue that Matt acquired this belief by a reliable belief forming process (e.g. as Alvin Plantinga has argued). This very discussion reminds me of the Gettier Problems. Perhaps you can provide some criteria to make Matt’s Fideism less arbitrary. As I think through your points I wonder how can fideism be reasonable without a criteria to determine what is: reasonable or irrational, and true or false? Your argument sound like, we believe in Fideism because it is true, or we have no other choice. How is this not utterly arbitrary?

R.C. Dozier said...

Shotgun,


You make valid points. I must say my argument is a feeble one at that. I’m still not sure if it follows. And if anything, I want it to be modest and not wish to prove too much.

The first formulation:

1. It is possible for solipsism to be true in all possible worlds.
2. If it is possible that solipsism be true in all possible worlds then solipsism is necessarily true in some possible world.
3. If solipsism is necessarily true in some possible world, then it must be true in every possible world.
4. If solipsism must be true in every possible world, then it must be true in the actual world
5. If solipsism must be true in the actual world, then solipsism is true.

The second formulation of the argument:
(1) It is possible for solipsism to be true.
(2) If it is possible for solipsism to be true, then it is possibly, necessarily true (i.e. true in all possible worlds) in some possible world.
(3) If solipsism is possibly necessarily true (i.e. true in all possible worlds) in some possible world, then it is true in every possible world. 

(4) If solipsism is true in every possible world, then it is true in the actual world.
(5) Therefore solipsism is true in the actual world.

I think your comments are toward the first formulation. I want to say in the first formulation:

(1) X is possibly true in all possible worlds.
(2) Given (1) X is necessarily true (i.e. true in all possible worlds) in some possible world.

This jump from possibility to necessity is riding on the axiom S5, the very same axiom Alvin Plantinga used in his modal ontological argument.

I do not wish to defend it against Dillahunty; but it could be used as a modest attempt to show he would be reasonable to hold to solipsism. The reason I wouldn’t want to defend it is since (1) in the first formulation seems counterintuitive, if not implausible.

R.C. Dozier said...

Tony Lloyd,

Beliefs aim at truth and truth is one component of knowledge. But in order to bridge the gap between beliefs and truth, to gain knowledge, we need justification. If you think not, then how can one show or know beliefs aim at truth? By justification: either in the form of externalism or internalism. Yes beliefs aim at truth, but we have the ability to suppress the truth by self-deception. Bernard Williams makes this same point.

I think the salient points from your argument are two things: first we must not confuse metaphysical and epistemic possibility, and second the whole argument hinges on the first premise that can be turned on its head.

Tony Lloyd said...

“If Matt arbitrarily believes in realism, and it so happens realism is true, I do not see how Matt should be considered reasonable, unless you want to argue that Matt acquired this belief by a reliable belief forming process (e.g. as Alvin Plantinga has argued).”

I was not, in my post of June 6, arguing that Matt was reasonable, but that Sye’s first premise entails that Matt is reasonable in the case that what he says is true. Sye claimed that it is reasonable to believe that which is true. On your hypothesis, realism is true, so Matt is reasonable to believe it, if the truth of a belief entails its reasonableness.

I’m inclined to agree with Sye’s first premise, for the reasons given in my post to shotgun. But my agreement or otherwise with Sye’s first premise has no relevance on whether given that premise Sye has accepted that no “basis”/”presuppositions”/”justification”/”warrant” is needed for true belief to be reasonable.

If Sye were to change his mind and posit a criterion in addition to truth for reasonable belief then he needs to either:
- Show how his position satisfies that criterion; or
- Show how his position is, somehow, exempt from the need to satisfy that criterion
Neither of which he even attempted to show.

(On Plantinga, note that Plantinga does not show that a belief in God has been acquired by a reliable belief forming process. Plantinga argues that, if Christianity is true, then it may have been acquired by a reliable belief forming process. Let’s drop the “may have” modaility and take it that has been acquired by a reliable belief forming process. Where do we get to if we adopt Plantinga’s criterion instead of Sye’s first premise? With Plantinga, Christianity is reasonable if true. With Sye’s first premise, Christianity is reasonable if true. We need a fair bit of modal logic to differentiate the two).

Rick Taylor said...

It's very important in discussion like these to distinguish between epistemic and metaphysical modalities. When Matt concedes he can't be completely certain solipsism is false, he's admitting it's epistemically possible it is true, not that it is metaphysically possible, that is, objectively possible or factually possible.

S5 only makes sense if we are working in a metaphysical modality. It cannot be used to draw conclusions from Matt's assertions which are about epistemic possibility.

R.C. Dozier said...

Rick Taylor,

Your point is well taken. The distinction between epistemic and ontic possibility should be kept in mind. But if Matt concedes it is metaphysically possible for solipsism to be true, the argument would logically follow regardless of epistemic uncertainty?