Bahnsen and TAG

Discussion in 'Defending the Faith' started by Josiah.W, Apr 27, 2012.

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  1. Josiah.W

    Josiah.W Puritan Board Freshman

    So I've been studying Presupp. apologetics recently and only just beginning to understand how transcendental arguments work. Bahnsen challenges the unbeliever to provide the preconditions necessary for things such as the uniformity of nature. An inability to provide this indicates that upholding the uniformity of nature is merely arbitrary since there is no valid reason to suppose that the future is like the past etc.

    In Bahnsen's debates, I've not seen any good responses to this from the non-believer. The only way I can think of is that they must necessarily appeal to an absolute, but would attempt to ensure that what they are describing is not God...

    Besides this, I would guess that the other alternative for the unbeliever is to simply state that preconditions are unnecessary and from there their worldview is shown to be relativistic (but inconsistent with how they think and behave).

    Are these two directions generally the outcomes of such questions?

    How might an unbeliever try to justify their assumptions about uniformity, logic and morality?

    This is certainly in-depth stuff for me but I see its usefulness in practise. There are so many who simply "trust in science" and it's useful to be able to challenge their own presuppositions. I look forward to your responses!
  2. Hilasmos

    Hilasmos Puritan Board Freshman

    As far as logic, I heard an atheist affirm that there were transcendent logical absolutes, but these logical absolutes are non-conceptual. His point was that TAGers equivocate on the term Logic, as conceptual reasoning processes of the mind, with logical absolutes, the non-conceptual absolutes that the conceptual logic points to. In other words, in this world we make logical statements that are conceptual (the rock exists and does not not exist at the same time); but, just because this logical statement is conceptual, it is a fallacy to say that the absolute that this conceptual statement references is also conceptual. By analogy, this is like having a conception of an apple and then affirming that the nature of the apple is conceptual.

    When pressed on the question of the nature of the logical absolutes, however, no answer could be given. By affirming that logical absolutes were non-conceptual he affirmed that this didn't mean that they were material in nature (because they are transcendent). He held that there is a 3rd option, apparently, but said that he didn't know what it was other than to define it by its negation: "transcendentally non-conceptual." Of course, we can critizce this position by pointing out that if you don't know what something is how can you say what its not? Although true, it seems this could be countered by the fact that this is ultimately how we define the trinity, or the immateriality of God -- by negative statements (eg. we generally define immaterial as something not extendend in space).

    So, in the end, I think to handle this objection you have to clearly define the nature of logical absolutes and why they must be this way.
  3. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    By questioning the need for justification.
  4. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    If one goes that direction, then at what point does one have to justify something? Is there anything that actually needs justification?

  5. Hilasmos

    Hilasmos Puritan Board Freshman

    Or, isn't the questioning itself justification, and therefore it is self refuting from the start?
  6. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman

    I think there is some ambiguity when we say that a person "needs to justify something". It is not like they are going to spontaneously combust if they don't 'justify' their actions, their conclusions, etc. In that sense, 'justifying' one's beliefs are not mandatory.

    BUT, justification IS a requirement IF you wish to avoid being arbitrary. For those of us who believe in cause and effect (and I think all of us do), if a person 'believes' something, then it is very likely that they have a reason for believing it. I honestly do not think that there is any belief or action by man that is wholly 'uncaused', 'arbitrary', or 'without reason'. Keep in mind that when I say that a person has a 'reason' for doing something, it means that there was a cause (or multiplicity of causes) that led that person to do (or believe) something.

    For example, if a person honestly believes that I should be executed for being a Christian, there IS a 'reason' why they believe this. Even if my executioner does not tell me his reason for killing me, he does indeed have a reason. As for the purpose behind humans 'justifying' their beliefs and their actions, it seems that this is done to avoid utter chaos.

    Let us again consider the example of the man who wants to murder me. You see, I don't wish to be murdered, and so I would really like to try and persuade him NOT to kill me. For this reason I would try to figure out the cause, purpose, or 'reason' behind the actions of my murderer (I am seeking a motive). He might do the same for me, trying to figure out why I want to preserve my life, and why I don't just let him kill me. Then again, he might not care, and simply kill me without even bothering to allow me to speak a word. Yet in the end the question is: is the man justified or not in killing me? Should he be stopped? Should he be punished? Should someone seek to protect me?

    Here is where justification is important. If humans are not held to some sort of standard, then utter chaos is the only result. This applies BOTH to morality and to the realm of logic. To justify something is to provide a foundation for something to be true (in the case of logic) or something to be morally right (in the case of ethics). If there is no need to justify ANYTHING, then there is no way to discern truth from falsehood, right from wrong.

    So for the philosopher who believes that abortion is immoral, we ask him to 'justify' his reasoning. We ask him to tell us WHY it is wrong, and WHY he believes it is wrong. If he says that he does not need to justify anything, then we can very simply say that according to that statement he has no place to ever question someone else's beliefs or actions. If a person truly believes that their own actions or beliefs do not need to be justified, then they act inconsistently if they then declare the actions or beliefs of others as wrong or false. They cannot ask for others to justify their own actions or beliefs if they do not seek to justify their own (if they wish to avoid inconsistency). As soon as they declare that something is wrong or false, they have immediately implied that there is no justification for that belief or action.

    For this reason I think it is very easy to deal with someone who questions the need for justification. If they wish not to justify any action or belief, then all actions and all beliefs become equally valid. Everything results in arbitrariness and chaos. If the philanthropist does not need to justify his actions, than neither does the mass-murderer (unless of course we wish to hold to double-standards).
  7. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Depends on who's judging and what the standard of judgment is supposed to be.


    Not necessarily, at least not in the sense that you are talking about. Certain propositions may simply be self-evidently true and in need of no further justification. Cause and effect, for instance, are intrinsically related.

    Ok---reasons aren't justifications. For example, the law of cause and effect is believed as the result of practices which entail it as a piece of tacit knowledge. That's not justification in your sense, though (that is, a metaphysical story that purports to explain why it happens to be this way in this particular world).

    Ah, so spasms and epileptic seizures are now examples of 'reasons'? Those are caused.

    What counts as a foundation? And what do we do when two people with similar foundations have moral disagreements?

    So all beliefs stand in need of justification? What of foundational beliefs? We're approaching a kind of positivism of justification.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2012
  8. Hilasmos

    Hilasmos Puritan Board Freshman

    The "questioning of a need for justification" is a means of justifying having assumptions without justification. Therefore, the assumptions are not without justification.
  9. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    How so? Asking a question is not (to my knowledge) used as a means of justifying anything---it's asking the original questioner to first give a reason why his rationalist methodology is to be accepted and why the subject ought to submit to his judgment.
  10. Hilasmos

    Hilasmos Puritan Board Freshman

    Your statement was in repsonse to "how might an unbeliever justify their assumptions...," so I did not interpret "questioning" as asking a question, but "expressing disagreement" that they need to justify belief X. Presumably this disagreement would be for various good reasons, which loosely defined is how I am using the word justification.
  11. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Ok, but it's generally possible that these reasons are implicit. For example, we all know how to tie a shoelace, but have you ever tried to describe the way the knot works? You have the information, but it's so internalized that you have to meditate deeply in order to express it.
  12. Apologist4Him

    Apologist4Him Puritan Board Freshman

    TAG smokes materialists because logic, morality, etc. are immaterial. TAG smokes non-believing rationalists, because they cannot give an account for rationality, and personal relativism can only fail to account for logical absolutes (like the law of non-contradiction). TAG smokes non-believing empiricists, because they cannot give an account for the predication of the universe (not to mention the universality of commonly shared experiences), because it presupposes an order (design, purpose) to the universe. The non-believer is likened to the metaphor Van Til once used, like a child sitting on their daddy's knee and slapping him in the face...or even worse pretending they're not sitting on their parents knee, while refusing to acknowledge they even have a daddy! Has God not made foolish the wisdom of this world? I believe so, TAG exposes the foolishness.
  13. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    I'm curious as to why things that are necessarily the case would be in need of accounting.
  14. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    Is there a problem with saying, "I know how to tie my shoe laces (by demonstration) but I don't know the process well enough to explain it.?"

  15. Hilasmos

    Hilasmos Puritan Board Freshman

    Are they then necessary, contingent, or brute?
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2012
  16. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Yes---because you're conceding that this knowledge might need to be explained in order to be complete. The way to demonstrate that you can tie your shoelaces is to tie them. Propositional knowledge is not required for knowledge here, but is merely second-order and derivative.

    How can you have a necessary, contingent, or brute reason for believing something? I'm not sure this question makes a whole lot of sense.
  17. Hilasmos

    Hilasmos Puritan Board Freshman

    I am not asking if the belief is necessary, contingent, or brute, but the reasons implicit to the thing itself; are they necessary, contingent, or brute.

    ---------- Post added at 03:55 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:52 PM ----------

    For example, I say one cannot account for the uniformity of a proton's positive charge; the response is, why do I need to account for this? the reason for its positive charge is implicit in the thing itself. Well and fine, but do those implicit reasons exist in a necessary, contingent, or brute way.
  18. Apologist4Him

    Apologist4Him Puritan Board Freshman

    Brother Philip, could you please explain what you mean by "necessarily the case"? Non-believers necessarily live on "borrowed capital". They cannot consistently live as though rationality were merely personal relative or "that's just the way it is" which isn't saying much or explain anything. Here is the problem of rationality for non-believers stated differently, if all humans ceased to exist, would logic cease to exist? If logic then is just a part of how we think, then it is personal relative, but if that is the case, it makes no logical sense to claim or live or believe in logical absolutes like the law of non-contradiction. I'm not sure if I've addresses your curiosity or not, but hopefully I have.
  19. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman

    Self evident to whom? They do indeed need to be justified. Because something that is self-evident (in your opinion) might not be very self-evident in my opinion. How comes you have the 'correct' understanding/interpretation of the universe and I have the 'incorrect' understanding/interpretation of the universe? Do you believe that cause and effect are self-evident? What if a person did not think there was sufficient evidence to warrant such a conclusion. Perhaps it is all just extreme coincidence. From a non-Christian perspective (such as Hume's) there is no reason to believe that in the future, similar causes will produce similar effects as has been seen in the past.

    And the reason why cause and effect exists is because of God. Our foundation is God. The unbeliever cannot provide us an answer why cause and effect exist as they do. To them it 'just is'. But even so, if someone were to come along that did not believe cause and effect existed, why would they be wrong? They simply could say that cause and effect 'just aren't'. So a reason for something is very much related to justification. If you have a justification for a particular believe, you ALSO have a reason why you believe what you believe. If you have no justification for what you believe, you also have no reason for believing what you believe. The two concepts are inseparable.

    They are caused, and they themselves are also causes (they are causes of other effects). You can't break the chain of causality within the universe. By the way, 'reasons' are simply a subset of 'causes' (it can also be simply another word for 'causes'). Everything has a cause, but whenever we speak of actions involving agents that have a will, we usually use the term 'reasons'. Both 'reasons' and 'causes' are related to the question: 'Why?'. Why did this person start foaming at the mouth? The reason they foamed at the mouth was because they were having an epileptic seizure. Now obviously the term 'reason' can refer to different types of events, such as those events caused by willful agents, or those events that are caused by natural forces (non-willful agents). I recognize the different ways that the word 'reason' can be used. This does not change the fact that a person's belief needs to be justified. I mean, even in the case of someone having a spasm, you are basing your conclusion (you conclude that a person is having a spasm) off of the information that is being presented to you from your different senses. Why do you believe that what you see, hear, and feel, is true? Are these things always true? How comes your senses are correct at this moment and not others?

    Moral disagreements? Well, we talk about WHY a person has a particular moral view as opposed to a different moral view. We try and figure out the basis for their moral foundation. We show them that (if they are unbelievers) they are basing their moral foundation in man, which can only result in chaos and arbitrariness (relativism). The only solid ground is in scripture as the revealed Word of God. The only moral system that is both absolute and consistent is the Christian system. As for your suggestion that two people have similar foundations but also have moral disagreements I am not sure you are using the term 'foundation' properly? Do they both have a foundation in Christ? Do they both consider scripture to be the word of God? How similar are their foundations? Better yet, how different are their foundations?

    That is the whole point Philip. All beliefs require a foundation, just like all effects require a cause. Yet when you continually proceed backwards on the chain of cause and effect, you either believe in infinite causes, or you believe that there is an uncaused first cause of the universe (God). In the same way, all beliefs stand in need of justification, and when we proceed backwards on the chain of justification and belief, we either end up believing in infinite justification, or we believe in the self-justified (and self-revelatory) God of the universe.

    ---------- Post added at 03:17 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:07 PM ----------

    Because we could all simply sit here and come up with whatever belief we want and say 'this is just necessarily the case'. Again, what makes your belief correct and someone else's belief incorrect? If I don't have to account for my beliefs, then how could you possibly show me that I believe wrongly or falsely? And if you declare that your beliefs do not need to be accounted for, then there is certainly no room for you to discern between truth and falsehood. If your beliefs don't need to be accounted for, then no one else's beliefs need to be accounted for either. The beliefs of others are just as valid and correct as yours.
  20. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I just finished listening to a set of lectures by Bahnsen about Van Tillian apologetics from WTS on iTunes. I've heard them before but it's worth listening to again.

    I think the thing to keep in mind is that one can never fully persuade a person who is objecting to being a creature dependent upon the Creator for life, being, and knowledge. By saying this, I believe a person can be shown to be inconsistent but, as pointed out, someone may simply assert "...that's just the way it is..." and have cognitive rest for something that is cosmically foolish.

    I've seen attempts at TAG that make the claim that a person has no other option but to accede to the logic of the case but the problem is one of ethical hostility to what we believe is plain. Van Til speak of epistemological self consciousness by which he means that we need to listen to what the person believes is the foundation to knowledge and then challenging him to see that he is ultimately not arguing consistently according to his foundation. I've witnessed more than a few debates where this is done well and one never witnesses the person abandoning his foundation but simply clinging to it in spite of it.

    I see in Van Til (and I also believe Bahnsen held to this) a desire to maintain in Apologetics what we have been born again into by way of Special Revelation. We were God haters and made to believe in Christ by the power of the Word. We understand, now, that the heavens declare our dependence as creatures upon the Creator for knowledge and Apologetics performs its service to remind the creature that he is, in the end, still a creature who suppresses knowledge of the Creator. This is why Bahnsen would never abandon the Gospel call as part of Apologetics or leave the idea of the true Trinitarian God for a theoretical God as First Mover or First Cause because he denied the idea that God was a brute fact that men were in a position or ability to reason toward. The point of contact was not unaided reason and the rules of logic but the Divine image that we share and the confidence that men were what the Scriptures say about them. Training in philosophy helped Van Til and Bahnsen to see clearly the various ways that men were applying their autonomous reason to the world around them and put their finger on the pits men fell into but the solution is always found in Christ.

    Check out some of the free iTunes lectures at Scott Oliphant has a great critique of the pitfalls Christians can get into as we place philosophy before theology. He argues that some of the notable Christian philosophers today would have benefited greatly from being good Theologians first and being properly trained in it. He doesn't despise the knowledge of philosophy but points out how we can unwittingly start from the wrong foundation and make our theology fit rather than beginning with a theology based on the Word of God and then using philosophy as a sharpening tool or even protecting us from some of the allures that these systems offer.
  21. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    I don't think that you can have necessary, contingent, or brute reasons.

    You're conflating things. You're arguing that fact A must have a fact B to account for it---that's fine. When we talk about why I believe what I believe, however, we're not talking about this at all, because we're talking about belief-formation. Why do I believe that protons have an electric charge? Easy---the instruments give this reading every time, so given my methodology for scientific investigation, I end up believing this and will continue to do so whether or not I can come up with a good explanation for why this is the case.

    Take the law of contradiction: this is necessarily true, therefore one is inherently warranted in believing it---no further explanation is needed. If someone starts to question it, you simply restate it, after which you begin doubting their sanity.

    There's all kinds of speculation out there on this. How do we go about speculating regarding a world with no minds in it?

    I will make an attempt to answer other posts later.
  22. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Ok, but here you're dealing with incorrigible beliefs. What evidence, for example, would you give for your belief that a certain single-celled organism is a human being? To give a foundation for a belief is to give the conditions that would lead you to reject it.

    Sure there is: Hume himself admitted it---you can't live like that. The burden of proof is on the skeptic---it is always on the skeptic.

    But is that the reason that you believe in cause and effect? Did you form a syllogism with a first premise that "God exists" and concluding with "therefore cause and effect exists" (whatever that means)? If you didn't then God is not the foundation of your belief in cause and effect in terms of your epistemic system.

    Yes, but this is a fairly warranted belief, given that the proposition is tautological.

    Not necessarily. A justification is a logical argument intended to satisfy some particular skeptic---a reason doesn't have to satisfy skeptics.

    Oh dear, we seem to be heading toward hard determinism.

    Here's where I'm going to call you out: who is judging you for having unjustified beliefs? Who has to be satisfied by your reason for your belief to be properly justified? Whose standard are we using and can you justify its use?

    Why shouldn't I think so? If you can give me a reason why my senses are (in fact) failing me in this particular circumstance, then and only then am I in need of justification for belief. And even then, that would require you verifying the fact by means of appeal to the senses.

    Both consider Scripture to be the authority and both are regenerate. I know brothers in Christ who see particular moral issues differently, and oddly enough, we point to the exact same passages to warrant our beliefs. We're talking good reformed folks disagreeing on particular issues.

    What about belief in God?

    This is a foundation in terms of metaphysical systems, but not in terms of systems of belief (ie: how you get to know stuff, or the basis for belief X). You're confusing the order of being with the order of knowing.

    Not at all. Necessary truths are obvious: "all bachelors are unmarried," "all effects have causes," "a self-contradictory position is necessarily false." These are terribly obvious beliefs that need no further justification.

    By demonstrating it. Your argument has been that the only way to argue is de jure, whereas I would argue that de facto arguments are much stronger. De jure argumentation is useful when the goal is to help someone to strengthen or reinforce their existing beliefs by questioning them---it is not helpful (generally) for showing them to be false.
  23. BarryR

    BarryR Puritan Board Freshman


    It is my pleasure to interact with you on this topic. You seem well read regarding this subject, however I feel you are allowing the autonomous man too much ground regarding his justification (or lack thereof) of something like logical absolutes. Why would you find it appropriate to allow this individual to not have to justify something like logical absolutes? I submit to you that all facts do indeed need some foundational form of justification regardless of the necessary nature of the fact.

    Allow me to use your example of "all bachelors are unmarried" as a necessary truth that needs no further justification. I would argue that there are so many levels of "justification" that would need to be explored before you even were able to get to the truth of that statement.

    For it to be true one would have to assume things like the definition of the word bachelors that is being used:
    1. An unmarried man.
    2. A person who has completed the undergraduate curriculum of a college or university and holds a bachelor's degree.
    3. A male animal that does not mate during the breeding season, especially a young male fur seal kept from the breeding territory by older males.
    4. A young knight in the service of another knight in feudal times.

    You would also have to assume that there are such things as "universals". Can I see bachelorness? What is the justification for something such as universals?
    You would have to assume things like language - what is the justification that your words would be understood by others?
    Uniformity - why would a "universal" like bachelor exist two seconds from now?

    I could continue down this road for quite sometime, but I trust you see my point. Just because something is necessarily true doesn't mean that it can escape justification. Will the autonomous man still use the hammer that was left for him without needing to give a reason as to why or where it came from? Of course he will. The fact of the matter is that the Bible makes it clear that he actually does know where the hammer came from and who left it - he just suppresses the truth in unrighteousness. So to allow the unbeliever to say certain things are just "necessary" without needing to give further justification is really allowing them a "pass" on something very, very critical.

    Take care,
  24. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman

    I don't quite see how giving a foundation for a belief is to give the conditions what would lead you to reject it. A foundation for belief is exactly that, a foundation. As for your single-celled organism scenario, a human being by definition is not a single-celled organism. It would be contradictory for me to state that a single-celled organism is a multi-celled organism. I am reasoning per the assumption of a law of logic. Of course, if I were asked where this supposed law of logic comes from, I would indeed point to God. For the unbeliever, he simply believes that the law of logic exists. In his mind "it just is". He assumes that a law exists without a law-giver. By the way, I consider evolution to be a rather silly theory, but then again, many a smart minds consider it to be truth. They believe they have a strong foundation to assume that single-celled organisms eventually evolved into human beings.

    What Hume ends up showing is that he cannot exist outside of a universe created by God. No matter how hard he tries to interpret the universe apart from his Creator, he cannot. He lives the way he does because he is a creature of God. He cannot avoid using borrowed capitol. He will never naturally admit that God is required to make sense of the universe, to understand the laws of nature for what they are, and where they come from. He cannot avoid assuming a uniformity of nature. He tries as hard as he can to find an answer to the question that is not God, and fails. He shows how much he depends upon God, although he will never admit it. That is why people can continue to live the way they do. In one sense they live irrationally (not allowing that God is the creator of the universe and the laws of nature). In another sense they live rationally (they borrow from a Christian worldview because they cannot avoid being made in the image of God, and living in a universe that he created). This is exactly why atheists can be 'relatively good', and act morally. They don't follow through with their beliefs that there is no afterlife, no God, and no divine justice. They often live more moral lives than many Christians. But such actions and behaviors are inconsistent with their supposed 'atheistic' worldview.

    I have always believed in cause and effect and have assumed it to exist. Not until I became a Christian did I realize that all of this time I was living on borrowed capital. Both believers and unbelievers alike cannot help but live in a universe that has cause and effect. Both believers and unbelievers alike cannot help but believe in cause and effect. This does not mean that they can justify or account for their beliefs. Have you never come across a person who believes something without fully understanding why? There is always a reason why someone believes something. Sometimes a person believes things without really thinking deeply about them. I mean, unbelievers often commit sin without consciously thinking of themselves as rebelling against God. Certainly there are a few God-haters out there who are very outspoken, but I would say that this is not the majority. There are even some people who honestly don't think of God in any hateful or despicable way. Does this mean that they are not actually rebels against God? No, they are still under his wrath. So we see that a person can act and believe in certain ways without always being fully conscious of it. This does not mean that there is no reason for their actions. There is still a reason, even though it might be very difficult to see it immediately.

    So in the case of cause and effect, God is the only foundation for my belief that makes any sense and is consistent. As a child I believed in cause and effect because when I stuck my hand in the fire, it burned. As I did this enough times, I came to assume that all fires burn. I based my beliefs upon my senses. I was a natural empiricist. Of course, I came to eventually realize that my sense are not always correct, so I cannot consistently rely upon my senses as providing me with true information. They should not be the ultimate foundation for my beliefs. As an unbeliever, the best that I could do is say that I simply have to accept that cause and effect exist. They 'just are'. It is much easier just to assume them to be true in order to get on with my life. Have I accounted for my belief? No. Have I justified it? No. I have simply thrown up my hands in despair to trying to find an explanation, ANY explanation that WAS NOT God. What a wonderful rebel that I was.

    Warranted based on what? How is it warranted? Because he believes his five senses? Because the majority of humans have said so? I don't doubt that he can believe in cause and effect for a variety of reasons, but are any of those foundations consistent? Are any of those foundations a true rock on which to build a worldview?

    I don't care about 'satisfying' a skeptic. They will never be satisfied. A justification is a logical argument intended to provide the foundation for a particular belief. I do not agree that a justification is a logical argument intended to satisfy a skeptic. Even if no skeptics existed in the entire world, I would still have to justify my beliefs in order to avoid simple arbitrariness and chaos. I mean, every time I say that 'this is false', 'this is true', 'this is right', or 'this is wrong' I am essentially looking at whether a belief or action is justified. If I avoided looking at the foundation for anything, then I would never be able to discern between truth or falsehood. Often times this is subconscious. Consider the case of pilots. Often times when they are flying they actually feel like they are turning, climbing, or descending. They believe it so strongly at times that they will sometimes crash the plane into the ground thinking that they are climbing. In order to discern between truth and falsehood they must essentially seek to justify their beliefs. If I believe that I was turning left, I need to ask myself why I would feel this way. Was I recently turning left? Was the airplane losing control? In the end we are instructed to look at our instruments (because instruments are more likely to tell the truth than our own senses). I wasn't really turning left, even though I felt that I was. Usually I believe my senses, but this time they were wrong. I essentially compare the foundation for my belief. Do I belief my own senses, which I know can be deceived? Or do I believe my instruments, which I know are almost always correct? These thoughts are nearly subconscious, because they happen in a split-second. Yet no matter how fast these thoughts proceed, or how subconscious they are, they do happen.

    You assume incorrectly. Just because I believe in cause and effect does not mean that I have exhaustive knowledge of all causes. I believe in secondary causes as well, and I believe that man does have a will. There are an innumerable amount of causes that lead me to do the things that I do. With this in mind I do not believe that a person has to be a hard-determinist to believe that cause and effect exist, and that causality is indeed a chain (albeit a VERY long, wide, and complicated chain that cannot be grasped except by the mind of God).

    God is certainly judging me for having unjustified beliefs (if I was an unbeliever). If I were an unbeliever, and God asks me why I did not repent of my sins and worship him (and why I thought that he did not exist), any excuse I give would not be justified. God would not be satisfied with my excuses. His wrath would not be satisfied, no matter how much I believed myself to be right. God would show me his standard, and would show me how I failed to live up to his standards. He can justify the use of such standards because He is God, and there are none like him.

    The point here is that even if I was the ONLY human being alive, I would still subconsciously seek to justify my beliefs. It is how we operate as humans. This does not mean that all of my reasons for doing something are right, or that my conclusions are correct. In a sense, the unbeliever (who has a sense of the divine, and knows that God is his creator), is always seeking to justify his rebellion. It is the only way to avoid the hard truth. He seeks to build his beliefs upon a false foundation, anything to avoid giving credit to God.

    Reference the pilot scenario above. I don't doubt that even when I look at the instruments I still am 'believing what my eyes see'. But I still have yet to show WHY I should believe my senses. Is it because they have been correct so far? There is no guarantee that this will continue to be true. Also keep in mind that Adam, when he sinned, was not being deceived by his five senses. He was still wrong, and not justified in believing the serpent to be correct. Did God have to appeal to the senses in order to show that Adam was wrong?

    Ahh, but is this because scripture is unclear or inconsistent, or because not all Christians have a full understanding of the word of God? Right here we see the limitations and weaknesses of man, but not the weaknesses of scripture. Or do you believe that scripture is at fault, and not humans?

    The foundation is in God. No one believes in the God of scripture unless by the power of the Holy Spirit. Just like God is the uncaused first cause. This question of yours is very similar to the "who created God?" question.

    You can't know it unless it exists. For humans, being exists before knowing. You still have a reason for believing something to be true, or for believing something to exist. Knowledge is very much tied to and connected with metaphysics. There are causes for our beliefs just like there are causes for things that exist.

    Obvious to who? To the majority of people? To you? They certainly do need justification. People believe that bachelors are unmarried because they cannot conceive of a married bachelor. Their minds exist in a universe created by God, a universe that is not contradictory. They believe in the law of non-contradiction, yet they really don't know why. Why is it a law? They live by borrowing from a theistic worldview, albeit unknowingly. Believing in a uniformity of nature seems to make sense, but in the end instead of recognizing it as part of God's creative decree, they simply say 'it just is'.

    How would you demonstrate it? By demonstrating it you would unknowingly be showing that my justification for my belief is wrong, whereas yours is right. Your belief would align better with the 'facts' and with 'reasoning'. Your belief would be consistent with itself, and not contradictory. You would be unable to avoid comparing foundations in your 'demonstration'. So again, you cannot discern truth from falsehood without looking at the justification for a particular belief or action.
  25. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Philip is the Puritanboard's resident sceptic regarding Van Til's apologetic. It's a good thing, as Vantillian argumentation can be tested to the limit.
  26. Josiah.W

    Josiah.W Puritan Board Freshman

    That's a great site, cheers for the info.

    Appreciate all the responses so far, thanks
  27. Hilasmos

    Hilasmos Puritan Board Freshman

    Do reasons exist? Secondly, if they do, don’t all existing things exist either necessarily, contingently, or as a brute fact? I am a sucker for the principle of sufficient reason, so I don’t really believe in brute facts; but, nonetheless, it is a conceptual answer that some may give. This was the sense and nature of my question, but perhaps I have been expressing it wrongly or we are talking about different things.

    Q: What is the reason an atom holds together? (the holding together over time would represent a uniformity)
    A: Electromagnetic force

    Q: What is the reason for the electromagnetic force?
    A: The interaction between negatively charged electrons and positively charged protons.

    Q: This reason (electromagnetic force) is contingent upon the interaction of positive and negative particles?
    A: Yes

    Therefore, an Atom holds together for the reason of electromagnetic force; but this reason exists contingently (i.e., it is a contingent reason).
  28. Josiah.W

    Josiah.W Puritan Board Freshman

    Philip you've offered a great degree of critical thinking in this thread. Forgive me if this is too simple a reduction but is this the thrust of your challenge to transcendental arguments, that an unbeliever doesn't have to provide a basis for their presuppositions? Surely if certain presuppositions render other aspects of their world-view contradictory and inconsistent, then they would have to give an account for these presupps?
  29. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    The burden of proof is on the skeptic.

    But it's perfectly obvious which sense is meant. Further, how would you go about justifying a definition?

    Why? I'm an Occamite, I don't think I have to assume this at all.

    The fact that they are?

    Sorry, I don't. These aren't justifications---the only way that I need to justify the statement is if you assert the contrary, and even then, there has to be a mutually-agreed-upon methodology.

    Life begins at conception. You missed the point of my example entirely.

    But Eric, this is where you are confused: to give a justification is not to give an explanation, but to give the reason why you believe X to be the case. Your foundation for belief in X has nothing to do with your metaphysical system---or even with whether you have one.

    Sure: plenty of people know stuff without understanding how they came to believe it.

    Eric, you've just confused the issue by conflating things again. Accounting for your beliefs has nothing to do with whether you can explain why X is X---only with how you are warranted in believing X to be true. In this case, practical necessity dictates that you believe in cause and effect.

    The fact that to be an effect is to be caused.

    In the first sentence you decry skepticism, while in the second you play the skeptic. And even then, you're confused for the simple reason that you're still confusing epistemology and metaphysics.

    So Eric, are people with Down Syndrome incapable of telling whether something is true or false?

    Ok, but here's what you are doing: you are applying a certain methodology---you're not questioning empirical sense, but using it in a different way. This isn't a metaphysical foundation at all.

    You can't very well believe your instruments unless you believe your senses to a certain degree.

    That's not what I meant at all. What standard has to be satisfied for a belief to be considered justified? What are the conditions that must apply for this to happen, and how are you going to convince the unbeliever to accept this standard (you can't have a meaningful argument without an agreed-upon standard of evaluation). You seem here to be conflating justification with truth-value here.

    God doesn't judge unbelieving man for having epistemically unjustified beliefs: he judges man for unbelief.

    The reason why you should continue to believe them is that you still have no good reason not to. As for Adam, of course you can't show him that he was wrong empirically because his mistake wasn't an empirical one. Again, you're confusing your methodologies.

    Eric, you miss the point entirely---one can have all the right methodological foundations and still come to the wrong conclusions. Reason is fallen too.

    Eric, again, you're conflating things and confusing the issue. When you were born, how did you learn? What methodologies did you adopt in order to get to know the world around you. If your epistemology cannot account for the knowledge of the world had by a newborn, then it's false. Newborns don't have a metaphysic.

    Having causes and reasons for belief is not the same as having metaphysical explanations. I don't give a metaphysical account in order to warrant my saying "there is a desk in front of me." Now it may well be that this belief entails certain metaphysical beliefs, but those are second-order beliefs that are not justificatory in nature.

    Ok, but what's wrong with saying that something "just is"? I say that God "just is." It doesn't seem clear to me why necessary truths need further justification for me to believe them any more than a necessary being needs any more justification for me to believe in His existence. Unless you can show that there are possible worlds that contain things like spherical cubes or rocks too big for God to lift, then you're going to have to come up with much better proof that these things are contingent.

    Not necessarily---justification depends on information that you have. You can't be held responsible for stuff that you couldn't have known. If we're disputing a point of scientific theory and we design a new experiment, it may well turn out that one of us was right and one of us was wrong, but it says nothing about the justificatory status of our previously held beliefs because justification has nothing to do with truth-value. Knowledge isn't justified belief---it's justified true belief. Justification is simply warrant sufficient for a knowledge-claim.

    I don't see how doing an experiment would constitute a comparison of foundations at all.

    Sure you can: you can look at the world outside your epistemic structure. Your epistemic structure colours the way you view reality, but reality is external to it---justification is internal to it.

    Here's a good justificatory question for you Eric: how do you know that in your belief system you haven't committed a logical fallacy somewhere?
  30. Hilasmos

    Hilasmos Puritan Board Freshman

    I am not convinced that you have established why the Christian in this scenario is the ultimate skeptic. Both agree that the laws of logic exist; both agree that one can pragmatically function without justifying them; a proof of their existence is not being requested because they are not being denied; therefore, what exactly is the Christian being skeptical of. The Christian should affirm that even if the non-Christian cannot account for them it doesn’t mean he or she should actually question their existence, because that has already been assumed as true. The non-Christian is ultimately the skeptic because he is denying a central tenet to the laws of logic that he already presupposes; perhaps we could say he is denying a version of the principle of sufficient reason, and therefore is under the burden of proof of why the PSR doesn’t apply to his assumptions. To me PSR is self-evident and fundamental to all rationality, to presuppose the laws of logic is to presuppose PSR, therefore the one that denies it carries the burden for their skepticism.
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