The Nature of Presuppositions (and what is allowed to be deemed as such)

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Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Sorry brothers, another question...

What is allowed to be classified as a presupposition? Consider this dialogue and see if you can help.

Believer - Nothing can be known at all unless Scripture's truthfulness is presupposed.
Unbeliever - Well, I presuppose that reality can be known.
B - Such an assumption is arbitrary when not given rational warrant.
U - Well, what is your rational warrant for Scripture's truthfulness as a starting point?
B - It is self-attesting. If I proved it with something else it would no longer be authoritative.
U - Okay, then my belief in a knowable reality is self-attesting.
B - You can't do that!
U - Why not? I believe it has such authority.


While belief in a knowable reality doesn't seem like it really can be an authority (that just doesn't make sense), why can't, say, autonomous reason be a self-attesting authority? Why can't the unbeliever list a bunch of self-attesting authorities?

Where does the madness end?! :confused:
 

cih1355

Puritan Board Junior
Sorry brothers, another question...

What is allowed to be classified as a presupposition? Consider this dialogue and see if you can help.

Believer - Nothing can be known at all unless Scripture's truthfulness is presupposed.
Unbeliever - Well, I presuppose that reality can be known.
B - Such an assumption is arbitrary when not given rational warrant.
U - Well, what is your rational warrant for Scripture's truthfulness as a starting point?
B - It is self-attesting. If I proved it with something else it would no longer be authoritative.
U - Okay, then my belief in a knowable reality is self-attesting.
B - You can't do that!
U - Why not? I believe it has such authority.


While belief in a knowable reality doesn't seem like it really can be an authority (that just doesn't make sense), why can't, say, autonomous reason be a self-attesting authority? Why can't the unbeliever list a bunch of self-attesting authorities?

Where does the madness end?! :confused:

Autonomous reason cannot be a self-attesting authority because it is not infallible and it is not omniscient.
 

sastark

Puritan Board Graduate
His appeal to his own authority is his downfall. Simply appeal to your own authority and ask on what basis his authority can trump your's. Appeal to one's self as ultimate authority fails because it is not a universal, transcendent truth. When he dies, what will be the ultimate authority in the world?
 

sotzo

Puritan Board Sophomore
Sorry brothers, another question...

What is allowed to be classified as a presupposition? Consider this dialogue and see if you can help.

Believer - Nothing can be known at all unless Scripture's truthfulness is presupposed.
Unbeliever - Well, I presuppose that reality can be known.
B - Such an assumption is arbitrary when not given rational warrant.
U - Well, what is your rational warrant for Scripture's truthfulness as a starting point?
B - It is self-attesting. If I proved it with something else it would no longer be authoritative.
U - Okay, then my belief in a knowable reality is self-attesting.
B - You can't do that!
U - Why not? I believe it has such authority.


While belief in a knowable reality doesn't seem like it really can be an authority (that just doesn't make sense), why can't, say, autonomous reason be a self-attesting authority? Why can't the unbeliever list a bunch of self-attesting authorities?

Where does the madness end?! :confused:

Autonomous reason CAN be a self-attesting authority. In other words,, one can hold any self-attesting authority they'd like and say "the buck stops there". The question is whether that self-attesting authority provides a basis upon which the external world is rational for anyone other THAN me. If my autonomous reason is self-attesting and authoritative it can only be so FOR ME because it is MY autonomous reason. And if my autonomous reason is self-attesting and authoritative for me, that means truths like the Pythagorean theorem are true because of my authoritative autonomous reason and not because it is true by its own nature...that of course would destroy the foundation of science and, for that matter, epistemology.

This is the pit of darkness the empiricists (and to some extent the rationalists) fell into, especially David Hume...once autonomous reason is deemed authoritative, then objective truths in the external world are subject to your own reason. And it won't do to appeal to logic and reasoning as something everyone can share because, again, if autonomous reasoning is king, then logic and reason are mere conventions to be manipulated at the will of the reasoner.

There is a reason (no pun intended!) why those who parade autonomous reason around don't live like this in actual practice...nobody can live that way...Hume recognized this with his billiard ball illustration...he said although he can't know for sure whether, in fact, striking a billiard ball in the same way will produce the same effect twice (ie, the first time it may go straight, and the second time it may curve around and do a hop over the bumper rail), he still played billiards assuming that it will indeed act the same way.

And it does act the same way because there is an external world, grounded ultimately in the creation of a God of authoritative, immutable character...when we bow the knee to that reality, we can let reality be...well, reality. And one ends up being freed from the prison of his own subjective, existential dilemmas.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Autonomous reason CAN be a self-attesting authority. In other words,, one can hold any self-attesting authority they'd like and say "the buck stops there". The question is whether that self-attesting authority provides a basis upon which the external world is rational for anyone other THAN me. If my autonomous reason is self-attesting and authoritative it can only be so FOR ME because it is MY autonomous reason. And if my autonomous reason is self-attesting and authoritative for me, that means truths like the Pythagorean theorem are true because of my authoritative autonomous reason and not because it is true by its own nature...that of course would destroy the foundation of science and, for that matter, epistemology.

This is the pit of darkness the empiricists (and to some extent the rationalists) fell into, especially David Hume...once autonomous reason is deemed authoritative, then objective truths in the external world are subject to your own reason. And it won't do to appeal to logic and reasoning as something everyone can share because, again, if autonomous reasoning is king, then logic and reason are mere conventions to be manipulated at the will of the reasoner.

There is a reason (no pun intended!) why those who parade autonomous reason around don't live like this in actual practice...nobody can live that way...Hume recognized this with his billiard ball illustration...he said although he can't know for sure whether, in fact, striking a billiard ball in the same way will produce the same effect twice (ie, the first time it may go straight, and the second time it may curve around and do a hop over the bumper rail), he still played billiards assuming that it will indeed act the same way.

And it does act the same way because there is an external world, grounded ultimately in the creation of a God of authoritative, immutable character...when we bow the knee to that reality, we can let reality be...well, reality. And one ends up being freed from the prison of his own subjective, existential dilemmas.

Ah...that makes tons of sense. The original interpreter, so long as he is a single man and not a Creator, can never have knowledge in his system.

What about if universal, unchanging, eternal laws of logic, physics, morality, etc. were all established as "self-attesting"? Would he have to give some kind warrant for such a belief by appealing to some authority which allows it to be that? Or would you just say that such things would be objectively unknown as long as a single man is the authority? Or maybe some better reply...?
 

sotzo

Puritan Board Sophomore
Ah...that makes tons of sense. The original interpreter, so long as he is a single man and not a Creator, can never have knowledge in his system.

What about if universal, unchanging, eternal laws of logic, physics, morality, etc. were all established as "self-attesting"? Would he have to give some kind warrant for such a belief by appealing to some authority which allows it to be that? Or would you just say that such things would be objectively unknown as long as a single man is the authority? Or maybe some better reply...?


Really depends on the person. Is he/she saying that eternal laws of logic, physics, morality, etc are self-attesting within a materialist framework? If it is someone with a basic commitment of materialism, then I'd respond by asking how an immaterial law can exist (whether self-attesting or not) in a closed materialist system. In other words,, I would grant, for the sake of argument, the self-attesting nature of logic, morality, etc and then ask for an explanation as to how a materialist can posit immaterial laws at all. Immaterial doesn't result from material.

I think I see what you are trying to reckon with...how a person cannot claim anything as self-attesting and then walk away in stalemate with someone who claims another self-attesting authority. Is this indeed what you are reckoning with? Also, I think a common question is how one can decide on which self-attesting authority is "best" if we employ logic / reason to make that decision. The answer to this is that logic / reason are indeed used to make such a "decision", but such "decisions" are not arrived at by starting with a tabula rasa and then selecting door #1, #2 or #3. The "decision" is made within a commitment to logic / reason as either transcendent or proximate....rooted objectively outside of me or subjectively in me. Stalemate is broken when the person claiming it exists inside them (or that it doesn't exist objectively apart from them) sees that they have just destroyed any hope of trusting the very logic / reason they so highly prize (per my previous post). Or stalemate is broken when one rightfully acknowledges the objective character of logic / reason and then recognizes this objective to necessarily be contingent on an immaterial personality.

Does that help?
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
By the way, whenever I come up with such difficulties I have for presuppositional apologetics, they are nearly always hypothetical. I want to make sure I can cover all my weaknesses as long as I think of them before I engage with other people. So, I can't really have a prolonged discussion with an unbeliever and keep it updated here, if that's what anyone was hoping for. All I can do is play devil's advocate, or have someone else do it.

Really depends on the person. Is he/she saying that eternal laws of logic, physics, morality, etc are self-attesting within a materialist framework? If it is someone with a basic commitment of materialism, then I'd respond by asking how an immaterial law can exist (whether self-attesting or not) in a closed materialist system. In other words,, I would grant, for the sake of argument, the self-attesting nature of logic, morality, etc and then ask for an explanation as to how a materialist can posit immaterial laws at all. Immaterial doesn't result from material.

The interesting thing you say about a materialist framework is that the self-attesting status of laws is basically nullified since it is logically inconsistent with the rest of the system. The upshot of this is that "self-attesting" descriptors cannot be thrown around at will and they still need a rational basis from some other part of the system, some more ultimate part.

I think I see what you are trying to reckon with...how a person cannot claim anything as self-attesting and then walk away in stalemate with someone who claims another self-attesting authority. Is this indeed what you are reckoning with?

Sort of...I just don't want to get into a debate/discussion where we each attempt to justify our presuppositions, and I can declare belief in the Triune God to be self-attesting without being arbitrary myself and without allowing the unbeliever to be arbitrary (by claiming his arbitrary presuppositions are self-attesting). In other words,, I want to see what exactly may be classified as self-attesting. It seems that only certain law-givers may be deemed as such; only beings/things which decide what is normative may be allowed to be classified as self-attesting. As you said, once an unbeliever declares certain laws to be self-attesting, the laws still have to be shown to be fitted into his framework, and at that point they are no longer self-attesting.

So, if someone attempted to say that a belief in a knowable reality is principally basic or is self-attesting, I would tell them that it simply can't be self-attesting because it carries extra assumptions. These extra assumptions can be "reduced" further, to one self-attesting authority, namely, the unbeliever's individual mind.

Of course, if I tried to demonstrate to them that their so-called "self-attesting presuppositions" can be reduced further (and thusly aren't self-attesting at all), and they disagreed, we would be at a stalemate. One girl actually did that. It was quite annoying. Anyway, I'm looking for objective proof, not subjective persuasion, so it's not much of an obstacle anyway.

Also, I think a common question is how one can decide on which self-attesting authority is "best" if we employ logic / reason to make that decision.

I'm not sure such a method is staying true to Scripture. If we have to determine which authority is best by some external standard, then we have dethroned Scripture, as well as any "authority" we are trying to choose from. I have thought about this, and I think it is best to say that Scripture is necessarily true even in order to try to determine authorities -- it must be true at the outset. There is not really a "fair" way to arrive at Scripture being the authority, just as neutrality is an utter myth; the Holy Spirit naturally leads us there upon regeneration. We don't have to establish fairness in methodology as long as we establish fairness in the legitimacy of presuppositions (i.e. what can be classified as self-attesting).

Does that help?

Absolutely! While you haven't given me the flat-out answers I was looking for (no offense), you sparked my mind to get what I was searching for. Praise Christ.
 
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