Is Van Tillianism Foundationalist?

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by BayouHuguenot, Mar 8, 2015.

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  1. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I wonder how much this issue has been explored. Ignoring the fine distinctions between ancient and modern foundationalisms, does VTianism posit properly basic beliefs, and if so, what are they?

    Foundationalism is often tied to internalism and justified true belief. Bahnsen explicitly affirmed such in CVT: R&A, p. 178. I debated a certain cultist on this passage and he refused to own up to it. Not sure why, since I wasn't actually attacking his system.
     
  2. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    What is your opinion? I have found from your posts that your questions posed often belie a strong unstated opinion that emerges only later in the discussion. Given that you have debated the matter, I would rather have it all out in the open before innocently wading into Whack-A-Mole tactics. ;)
     
  3. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Sorry. I meant no duplicity. I do think it is a sorts of foundationalism. I myself hold to a moderate foundationalism. Bahnsen tends to lend toward a foundationalist reading of Van Til, given his explicit statements on epistemological internalism and justified, true belief.

    I don't hold to Bahnsen's internalism, but I think we are on the same page with regard to at least a basic form of foundationalism. I'm honestly asking with no hidden motivations. I haven't seen this come up in Van Tillian literature.
     
  4. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    You seem to be making a fallacy of either or. Either one is a foundationalist or a non foundationalist. There are more options than that. Plus why does believing that knowledge is "justified true belief" makes you foundationalist? Foundationalists, as I understand, says that there certian self evident beliefs upon which all other beliefs are based.
     
  5. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Which is why I hinted at some presupps being coherentist.


    Because in the literature all of them are. Most foundationalists are epistemological internalists. I suppose it's not logically necessary, but this area hasn't been explored.


    That's true of later foundationalists. It's debatable whether Aquinas, for example, phrased it like that. Wolterstorff (1983) said Aquinas did. Eleanor Stump said he didn't. Plantinga (2003) seemed to think he didn't, either.

    I am a moderate foundationalist and I don't believe that we have to have self-evident beliefs which serve as the foundation.

    Coherentism

    Coherentists say a belief is true if in coinheres with one's system. I've had Clarkian friends, and Norman Geisler seems to think that Clark said this, affirm coherentism. But, Clark also posited Scripture as the foundational axiom of all beliefs, hence a certain form of foundationalism--something coherentists generally don't do.

    I don't think I was doing that. I was exploring options (and allowing for more than an either/or). It's just that in the literature on epistemology that is how the discussion reduces to.
     
  6. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

  7. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor


    Foundationalism of any sorts will have a basic belief which serves as a foundation upon which other beliefs are. In this sense I am not criticizing Van Tillianism. I would assume that both CvT and Clark would be foundationalist (starting with either Scripture, Creation, or the Trinity as the basic belief). That seems to be the case (and I would probably be really close to CvT on this point) but I haven't seen a Van Tillian say this in print. (To be fair, I read Oliphint 8 years ago and can't remember what he would have said, if he dealt with this).
     
  8. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    I think the whole discussion here is dependent upon the difference between a properly basic belief (PBB) and a presupposition (P). For Foundationalism a PBB is is some beleif that some how needs no justification or warrant but it is assumed to build other true beliefs. A P is much more organic in nature, we form them from our nature plus experience and everything else involved in being human. This is why Van Til didn't get into the technicalities of epistemology, he didn't need to. A P is not some first premise in an argument it is who we are and our deepest and most religious beliefs. Foundationalism makes a PBB basically a first premise. The actual logical forms of the differences between the two are striking. P. F. Strawson is great here. But I think this is what your getting at?
     
  9. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    For the record no Clarkian or Vantillian has ever espoused Foundationalism. We may be guilty of it, which remains to be shown, but we do not espouse it. I don't think we are guilty of it but I've been wrong before.
     
  10. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    I want to be clear here here though, there is much writing on what a P is logically speaking. So a P does play a role in certain types of formal arguments, to anyone who may be not be familiar with formal arguments it is the lovely statements like "if X is true than Y is true". They are the form of an argument and can get very tedious to follow if you read stuff with that stuff in it. There are different forms of logical arguments.

    Back to the matter at hand. As I understand it Jacob if the truth value of a PBB is located outside itself than it cannot be a PBB. Although the truth value of a P can be located outside itself. For instance if I say "my wife is no longer sick" than the P of that statement is that I'm married but in fact I'm single so the P is not true. So the statement "I have a wife" is the P of "my wife is no longer sick" but it is not strictly a PBB because it depends on other statements being true. A PBB cannot be a PBB if it depends on other statements being true.

    By internalist I don't exactly know what you're getting at here. I would assume that all epistemologies are in some way internalist.
     
  11. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Kind of, except I am not using foundationalism in the Cartesian sense. I agree that Van Til didn't get into it that much. He was trained in the Idealist school, which would have been more coherentist in outlook. His two best students, Bahnsen and Frame, were analytic philosophers. While Bahnsen didn't go into foundationalism specifically, he did talk about justified, true belief, which every foundationalist espouses (or warranted belief).
     
  12. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    internalism: true belief is accessed via a source in the mind. The ground of justification is internal to the subject. Typically speaks of knowledge in justificationist terms. While Bahnsen didn't use the specific terminology of internalism, he specifically espoused JTB in Van Til: Readings & Analysis, p. 178.

    externalism: the grounds of knowledge are not internally accessible to the subject.

    EDIT:

    However, to be fair to Bahnsen, I think he was about to interact with Plantinga, Warrant, and Externalism before he died. I actually got to go to one of Bahnsen's friends filing cabinets and behold a number of almost-finished mss on epistemology and ethics!
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2015
  13. Nicholas Perella

    Nicholas Perella Puritan Board Freshman

    From what I understand from reading Van Til and taking a course from a professor who walked with Van Til around Westminster Theological Seminary is that the presupposition of Van Til is answered by this question, "What is the starting point?". For Van Til this is God Himself, and then for man what God reveals about Himself and man. We presuppose there is a God and we are made in His image. This natural revelation of God we are to know without excuse (Romans 1). Yet due to the fall and sin God has revealed His Word to us now in the form of the Holy Scriptures and during those 33 years that the Word became Flesh over 2000 years ago, which obviously the Word in the form of Scripture is what we have now. Natural revelation is no longer there for us uncorrupted without God's special revelation of Himself to us by His written Word made effectual by the Holy Spirit. Why? Because of the fall and the noetic effects of sin. Calvin's special revelation glasses put on in order to see God's natural revelation, Psalm 19.

    Professor Richard Gamble, "The Bible provides the theoretical or complex foundation for that which we know beyond our presuppositions." [Gamble, Richard. The Whole Counsel of God, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing), 266.]

    I quote Dr. Gamble here because he footnotes Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, 63 to this sentence: "All knowledge that any finite creature of God would ever have, whether of things that pertain directly to God or of things that pertain to objects in the created universe itself would, in the last analysis, have to rest upon the revelation of God." (Ibid., 266.)

    Eventually for anything meaningful to come about whether in this discussion or working in the saw mill there must be a revelation from God as to Who He says He is and what God reveals of man as to who man is by His Holy Scriptures even by necessary consequences. Thus to infer what the true, certain meaning is, is revealed by God, or else, ambiguity sets in, of course this is my opinion.
     
  14. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    By the way I'm jealous of you having access to Bahnsen's notes but that is another discussion. I think I see where your going but keep in mind that just because Vantillians and Foundationalists both agree on true knowledge being JTB doesn't mean they have everything in common. To be fair you haven't said that but I think the two POV have enough differences between them to qualify as different POV. That Vantillians are not Foundationalists and vice versa.
     
  15. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    First off welcome to the PB! Second nice post. I agree but with one qualification Van Til insisted that due to our finite creaturnes Adam still needed special revelation before the fall.
     
  16. Nicholas Perella

    Nicholas Perella Puritan Board Freshman

    Hi. Thank you.
    When it comes to pre-Fall, and I did not make this very clear at all, yes God, being supernatural, did condescend to Adam and Eve and therefore a special revelation, meaning a direct communication from God or a walk with God was necessary in order for there to be proper interpretation and being, etc.... What is different is that pre-Fall natural revelation had no corruption. God still had to provide a special revelation in order for natural revelation to make any sense Pre-Fall, so much the more now (post-Fall), but all of nature was very good and glorifying God in Eden as opposed to now (post-Fall). There is disorder in the world now. Sickness, death, man not glorifying God, and what we know from Scripture, e.g. Job, in which Satan tempts and does evil upon the world: all the wages of sin. Of course even by Satan in the broad sense God is glorified for His will is never deterred and all is to His good pleasure. Yet now we can know, by special revelation, not only that there is evil, evil does not mirror God, and is blasphemy against Him; but also, our total depravity is not a state of nature that is exclusive and absolute in how to interpret and understand reality. By the work of salvation in Christ we may change and know of a reality that is much more than those in Adam will ever know and enjoy. Pre-Fall 'things in nature', our sin, or what Satan may do was not present and so all was very good so natural revelation in the strict sense always did glorify Him. Post-Fall, sin, in the strict sense, does not glorify God but rebels against Him. There was none of that Pre-Fall corrupting natural revelation. All pointed to Him. God was clearly revealed specially and naturally pre-fall and strictly speaking there was no sin misleading and not glorifying God. I do not know how much of this, what I just said, reflects Van Til, for these are my thoughts, but to affirm what you said about Van Til I quote him below:

    Van Til, "Moreover, in paradise, supernatural revelation, that is, thought-communication on the part of God accompanied God's revelation in the created universe. Natural revelation therefore required supernatural revelation as its supplement even apart from the fact of sin. Even in paradise Adam had to regard all the facts of his natural environment in the light of the goal that God set for man in his supernatural revelation." [Van Til, Cornelius. The Defense of the Faith, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P &R Publishing, 2008), 205.]
     
  17. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    I
    Amen brother.
     
  18. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Let's look at it another way. Is the presupposition of the Christian God (ontological trinity; doctrine of creation, what have you) the presupposition upon which all knowledge is possible? I have the TAG in mind.
     
  19. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    Well if christianity were false would knowledge be possible or anything else for that matter? The ontological Trinity is not some first premise in an argument. But yes I would say that the presupposition of anything is the truth of christianity. This is the theological truth that Van Til tried to tease out into an apologetical method.
     
  20. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    That's why I see VTianism as a loose sort of foundationalism.
     
  21. Justified

    Justified Puritan Board Sophomore

    Building on what Jacob is saying, if you are saying that the truth of Christianity is the presupposition on which every belief is based, that is almost definitional of what foundationalism is. Foundationalist epistemologies base their beliefs on certain foundational beliefs, from which all other beliefs come and are justified. What you are calling a presupposition is really no different than what a foundational belief is.

    That doesn't mean Vantillianism is wrong at all. It just seems apparent to me that Vantillianism is some form of a foundationalist epistemology.
     
  22. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    Not in the same sense. If Foundationalism is defined in such a wide sense than I guess all POV are Foundationalist but that makes the term useless in practice. Just because an epistemology favors certain beliefs as being more central than others doesn't make those beliefs PBB. Vantillian apologetics is transcendental in nature, so pressupositions can and do provide the spectacles through which we view the the world without being PBB. Foundationalism suffers from the POV that you are either a Foundationalist or a skeptic but there are other POV that can possibly account for our knowledge, Rorty is great here.
     
  23. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Only if we assume modern foundationalisms began with Descartes. If we can find foundationalist elements in earlier thinkers (like Aquinas) and note they aren't using basic beliefs in the Cartesian or Cliffordian sense, then it's fine.

    True, Clarkians favor coherentist models and Iw ouldn't say they hold to PBB.

    True, but as Bahnsen was fond of saying (correctly, I think) that you don't prove your ultimate authority (presupposition) by another authority. If that is so, then presuppositions are acting like PBB.

    Cartesian/Lockean models, yes. Alston and others, however, have run Rorty through the gauntlet (not to mention Plantinga's classic answer to Rorty).
     
  24. Shawn Mathis

    Shawn Mathis Puritan Board Sophomore

    Sorry for being late to this fascinating discussion, but James mentioned "there is much writing on what a P is logically speaking"--could you point to some of this please? I did find a book of essays on similar topics (one of them by Strawson) but I was not able to find more about presuppositions beyond Van Til, Bahnsen, et. al.

    thanks,
     
  25. Toasty

    Toasty Puritan Board Sophomore

    I remember Bahsen saying in one of his lectures that one must have beliefs that are self-justifying or else there will be an infinite regress of justifying one's beliefs. The process of justifying one's beliefs cannot go on forever so there must be a belief that is self-justifying. Bahnsen believes that this statement is self-justifying: The Bible is the word of God.

    There are some similarities between foundationalism and Van Tillianism. Both foundationalism and Van Tillianism agree that there must be some beliefs that are not justified by other beliefs or else there will be an infinite regress of justifying one's beliefs.

    Obviously, Van Tillianism says that the ultimate authority is God, but foundationalism does not say what the ultimate authority is.
     
  26. Toasty

    Toasty Puritan Board Sophomore

    I think so.
    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).
     
  27. Justified

    Justified Puritan Board Sophomore

    I don't think that is the case. Certain forms of foundationalism would definitely say what the ultimate source of authority is. For instance, a rationalist would say that human reason as the highest authority, and an empiricist would say the same about sense experience.
     
  28. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    That is correct and is no different from Plantinga and Wolterstorff.

    That sounds more like Clark than Van Til. Van Til would say either creation or the ontological Trinity is our foundation. Such a statement, while self-justifying, is open to defeaters. It is in defeating the defeaters that the presup sees how close (or far away) he is to foundationalism.

    I agree, though there are differences between Cartesian/Lockean foundationalism and Reidian Foundationalism.

    That isn't what foundationalism sets out to do. Foundationalism tries to give an account of belief-formation and whether those beliefs are justified/warranted. It doesn't intend to give a theistic argument. It's like I go and yell at my plumber because he doesn't know how to do my taxes.
     
  29. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    Google Don Collett on this. He has written some excellent stuff.
     
  30. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    What I mean is if Foundationalism is defined in such a wide sense as to include Van Til than the term becomes meaningless in practice. Because than anyone would be a foundationalist but no one criticism of Foundationalism would be applicable to anyone nor would any useable analysis of what Foundationalism is would be possible because you would have to qualify everything to point of death. Why not make Foundationalism one thing and pressupositionalism another just to clarify things, because in practice you have to this anyway. This is to say that I could admit fine Van Til is a Foundationalist of sorts than some one could say "aha than you believe in PBB and your wrong for this reason" and I would reply no I'm not that kind of Foundationalist but this kind, which amounts to nothing.

    I don't know if Clark counts as a coherentist because there are other options than just that in the epistemological game. Both Van Til and Clark sought a Christian view of things. Also what Bahnsen meant was that a P cannot be directly proven but indirectly proven, he said that often. I mean you raise excellent questions but what is the end game? What difference would it make if one could define Van Til as a Foundationalist?

    On the question of authority yes you again cannot directly prove that your P of what is an ultimate authority is ultimate but indirectly prove it by how it explains the possibility of everything around us.
     
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