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Sunday, November 26, 2006

TAG: So Basic, It's Often Honestly Misunderstood (or is it due to a desire for autonomy?)


That Modus Ponens (MP) can be misapplied does not mean that one cannot know when MP is not being misapplied. Knowledge entails a true belief that is justified. In fact, if the belief is properly justified, then it must be true! Accordingly, with a proper view of a “justified” belief, one can reduce knowledge to a justified belief – if we agree that justification requires maximal warrant. Obviously then, when one misapplies MP, then that which such a person thinks he knows by the employment of MP cannot yield true knowledge since that which would be believed would not be justified since the justification would be based upon a misapplication of MP! However, does that then necessitate that one cannot be justified in his belief that he has employed MP properly? Can’t one who is fallible have knowledge after all? If not, then how could a fallible man know he had eternal life? Or how could the apostle John have know that he was writing Scripture when he penned the epistles that bear his name, etc.? Was he not fallible, yet didn’t he have knowledge? Are we to believe that since I can make a mistake in complex reasoning that, therefore, I cannot know when I apply the law of non-contradiction validly and with true premises? Are we to reason, after all, that since I can make mistakes that I cannot know when I have not made a mistake?Let he who has ears hear!

Dr Bahnsen, in his reader on CVT, offers a severe criticism of John Frame on this very point. Frame disagreed with CVT that there is an "absolute certain" proof for Christian theism. One of Frame's points in particular, which Bahnsen disagreed with, is that there is "room for error" in the formulation of arguments. Bahnsen argued against Frame's position in a reductio fashion, noting that Frame elsewhere argues that our "justification for believing" is not merely probable (page 86 in Apologetics to the Glory of God)! Bahnsen zeroed in on an inconsistency of Frame’s, noting that Frame “cannot have it both ways.” What's ironic is that Frame has acknowledged elsewhere (probably in DKG, but I don't remember) that with respect to our knowledge of salvation, which he appreciates we can possess with infallible certainty (an unnecessary qualification of knowledge I might add), is based upon logic! After all, one must reason with premises such as “Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved;” “I am included in the set of anyone;” “I have called upon the name of the Lord” etc. Our assurance is obviously more complex than embracing syllogisms, but nonetheless the Spirit bears witness with our Spirit according to truth of God’s word, which requires us to reason in a fashion just described. The simple point is that the basis for my assurance, which is multi-faceted and which Frame allows for, can include syllogisms. Accordingly, although I am capable of reasoning fallaciously - I can have epistemic certainty of my salvation by knowing that I have reasoned validly with true premises.

At the end of the day, it is child’s play to construct sound syllogisms for the existence of God. In the like manner, it is no great feat to construct a sound transcendental argument, which is not merely a use of modus tollens (but rather a particular use of argumentation that addresses the preconditions of human experience). Moreover, it is not fallacious to appeal to God’s word for the justification of premises. After all, don’t all systems of thought have a terminus authority? Professing atheists and Christian skeptics won’t accept such appeals but they will be hard pressed to show a fallacy just the same when dealing with ultimate truth claims. Having said that, to simply offer a sound argument such as: “God exits or nothing exists; not nothing exists; therefore, God exists” is utterly useless for it does not put forth a challenge to the unbeliever. Notwithstanding, the argument is indeed sound. TAG, however, when properly constructed, which can be found here:http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2006/03/impropriety-of-trying-to-prove.html
is quite useful in that it puts forth a transcendental challenge and, thereby offers a point of discussion with the atheist.

TAG is sound in that the form is valid and the premises are true. We must keep in mind that the truth of any valid conclusion is not predicated upon the consensus of the truth of the premises. No doubt – the unbeliever will not accept the truth claims of the Bible and, therefore, the premise that “If God does not exist then there is no intelligible experience since God is the precondition of intelligibility.” Consequently, all the apologist can do is refute the hypothetical competitors to the Christian worldview one by one. He does this by performing an internal critique of the opposing worldview, exposing it for its inconsistencies and arbitrariness. Secondly, he does not merely assert TAG, but rather he shows how TAG applies to ethics, reality, knowledge, etc. NOTE: This is not to argue for God's existence inductively or that there are an infinite number of possible worldviews, but rather it is to show that the atheist cannot defeat the claims of TAG no matter how long and hard he tries. (God's existence is argued for deductively through TAG. The formulation of TAG from the link I've provided is valid and the premises are true; now if any Christian wishes to deny the truth of the premises, then we must have to question whether such a one submits to the word of God as being a source of unquestionable truth!)

Note well that all the competitors to the Christian worldview are simply variations of the single-unbelieving worldview, which posits that intelligible experience can be justified apart from revelation. Consequently, there are not an infinite number of worldviews as some have claimed, but rather only two. I know this from Scripture, which is a reliable appeal for truth and the only appeal for those who wish to justify their knowledge of anything!

In the final analyses, the demonstration of the soundness of an argument does not make an argument sound. The apologist merely demonstrates the claims of TAG to a watching world when he exposes the various forms of the one unbelieving worldview for its arbitrariness and inconsistencies. Moreover, there is no limit to the number of sound deductive arguments for the Christian worldview. The problem with Christian-skeptics is that they believe that the only acceptable argument will be one that persuades the unbeliever, which is to confuse proof with persuasion and utilize the tools of predication without a justification. Sadly, these professing believers have deceived themselves into thinking that they cannot trust the Bible apart from “proving” it’s truthfulness by means that do not comport with the denial of the need to presuppose Scripture to argue against TAG! These Christians operate from the same autonomous platform as the professing atheist.

Ron

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26 comments:

Dennis said...

Good post Ron.

razzendahcuben said...

Excellent post, Ron.

The inductive criticism against TAG and the modus ponens criticism are very important because they unearth the true nature of understanding TAG. Step 2 of TAG might seem inductive, but you are right---the critic would still need to justify induction on his own---and then the presuppositionalist need only use TAG in defense of TAG. Ultimately, however, TAG is not defended by TAG, because TAG doesn't justify TAG. TAG is justified by scripture.

I see step 2 in the TAG syllogism as nothing more than a re-write of Proverbs 1:7, and this should be made clear. Were this not the case, and were step 2 not based on scripture, then yes, it would be inductive. Consequently, we should not pretend that TAG is a 'magic bullet' proof, because TAG doesn't prove anything by itself, apart from scripture. So instead trying to defend TAG as "the" foundational proof for Christianity, I simply back up to Proverbs 1:7---the real starting point---and ask, Does Christianity account for knowledge? Yes. Does Christianity say that every other worldview is wrong? Yes. Therefore, every other worldview is wrong. This can be demonstrated through TAG and its internal critiques, but these internal critiques do not prove Proverbs 1:7! Proverbs 1:7 is true because of who revealed it: an omnisicient, eternal God who cannot lie. How does that not justify Christianity?! And, of course, this progression from God's rationality to our knowledge is linear, not circular, as John Frame has pointed out in Five Views On Apologetics. I've also discussed this on my blog.

Nevertheless, the circularity inherent in our knowing the means by which knowledge is justified is considered unpersuasive. True, but no one presents the bottom line presupposition ("Christianity is true because it is revealed by a God who cannot lie") to the skeptic and then walks away. Rather, we demonstrate the truth of this starting presupposition via logical or even evidential reductio ad absurdums. God's word very clearly does this and indicates that this is how we should apologize (Prov. 26:4-5). Of course, the Christian critic is still hung up over the issue of unpersuasiveness. This is where he needs to kindly be reminded that the Holy Spirit does the persuading, not us. God supplies the arguments, we use them, and the Holy Spirit works in the unbeliever. That doesn't come across as exciting to a rationalist, but that's the rationalist's problem---he can work that one out with God. In this vein, you are correct---the real issue is an ethical one.

In conclusion, I think Bahnsen calls TAG the best proof for Christianity only because it can be demonstrated in the most persuasive fashion. Indeed, for this reason we (presuppostionalists) hold TAG in very high regard, and even call it "the crown jewel" in our arsenal. This seems to confuse many rationalists, then, who explore TAG in hopes of finding a proof that doesn't already presuppose Christianity.

Brian said...

Hello Kevin,

Consider the following argument:

Premise A-1: A-->B
Premise A-2: B-->C
Conclusion A: A-->C

This argument is valid. Let's say that someone asks you to justify premise 2, and you present the following argument:

Premise A-21: B-->A
Premise A-22: A-->C
Conclusion A-2: B-->C

Notice, this argument is valid and the conclusion of this argument (A-2) establishes premise 2 in the original argument. However, there is a problem. Premise A-22 is what is to be proved in the first argument! Premise A-22 is conclusion A. This is a classical example of circular reasoning, or what you might call "begging the question."

When the TAG apologist appeals to Scripture to establish the premise that all non-Christian worldviews fail to provide the sufficient conditions for knoweldge, he is commiting the very fallacy as was commited above. Do you really want to say this is valid?

Brian

razzendahcuben said...

Hi Brian. Let's examine what you just wrote:

Notice, this argument is valid and the conclusion of this argument (A-2) establishes premise 2 in the original argument.

...he is commiting the very fallacy as was commited above. Do you really want to say this is valid?

So circular reasoning is valid and not valid at the same time. Intriguing.

As I noted in my blog post, the "problem" with circular reasoning is that it is unpersuasive. This is your real contention with presupposing scripture based on God's say so.

He who is called Keith,
Keith
:)

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Brian,

You wrote: “Notice, this argument is valid and the conclusion of this argument (A-2) establishes premise 2 in the original argument.” Then you followed up with, “Do you really want to say this is valid?”

You’re of two mindsets. You appreciate that the argument is “valid” and even “sound” if you accept Scripture’s testimony, which sadly you have said you are not certain about. Yet simultaneously you maintain that such argumentation is not valid when used as a defense of another valid argument. You believe that valid arguments with true premises (i.e. sound arguments) can sometimes be fallacious. Not only is this an arbitrary stricture that you have placed upon argumentation that causes you to contradict yourself as above, it keeps you from confessing that one can be certain that he has any knowledge since all knowledge would be philosophically indefensible! Brian, your skepticism causes you to write things like: “The only being that has philosophical certainty is God. Again, I do not assert this with philosophical certainty.” Don’t your writings give you reason to pause? That you are not certain that God can be certain about anything should not only give you reason to pause; it should cause you to shudder. Tell me Brian, you said that you are not certain that God can be certain. Well, you must not be very certain that you are even uncertain about that!

Your creed denies that you can know you are saved, or that you even exist for that matter. You do know the latter is true and I pray you will come to rejoice in the former.

One of your problems might be that you don't appreciate that we're dealing with ultimate truth claims. Another problem is that your arguments against TAG presuppose something that must be true for you to even argue against TAG. Yet that which must be true for your argument to be intelligible or feasible is concluded as only possibly true by your use of induction. Accordingly, you're borrowing that which your worldview doesn't afford you so that you can argue against certainty! Your use of induction presupposes that which must first be true, which you never deductively conclude as true. In the final analyses, you, like the unbeliever, borrow from the Christian worldview in order to argue against the certainty we can have about the Christian worldview.

Ron

Jeff Downs said...

Gentlemen, you might be interested in a conference I'm working on for next year, Aug. 31-Sept. 1.

Brian Bosse said...

Hello Ron and Keith,

Thank you for you responses. You both pointed out where I claimed validity of an argument, and then in the next breath said an argument was not valid. Ron claimed that I contradicted myself. Allow me to clarify. Each argument as it stands on its own is valid. That is to say, taken by themselves they are valid. However, once you link the two together by using one argument to justify one of the premises in the other argument, then you create a relationship between the two arguments. If you assume the conclusion of the original argument in the supporting argument, then you invalidate the supporting argument. Again, the supporting argument taken by itself is valid, but when it is used as support to another argument it can become invalid. In the example I provided, I illustrated a case where it is invalid. It also happens to be the same thing as the apologist who appeals to Scripture to establish the key premise that all non-Christian worldviews do not provide sufficient conditions for knowledge.

Ron, I did not assume any argument as being sound. Soundness is determined in many ways. Validity is determined by the form of the argument. One can attempt to demonsrate soundness by using another argument to support a key premise. However, this other argument cannot assume the conclusion of the initial argument. If it does, then it only begs the question. Bahnsen many times criticizes positions for Begging the question. Think of Michael Martin or Bahnsen's critque of Russell. If you really want to allow the kind of circularity it seems you are wanting to allow, then all of these objections by Bahnsen go out the window.

As far as your belief that you have philosophical certainty, one of two things is going on: (1) You do not understand what is philosohpical certainty; and (2) You think you infallibly know one at least proposition. (Actually, you would need to know infallibly that you infallibly know at least one proposition. I guess this makes two propositions you need to know infallibly.) I believe your position to be (1). Position (2) is to confuse the creator/creature distinction. To know anything with philosophical certainty one needs to be omniscient and infallible, and you are not either. Any proposition that is revealed by God to you may be said to be certain. However, you do not know infallibly exactly what those propositions are. As much as you want philosophical certainty you can't have it because you are a creature and not the creator.

Now, techincally, one may claim that I do not know that I am saved in the sense that knowledge must be philosophically certain. If this is the case, then no one knows anything. But there is no reason to define things so narrowly. I can say I know I am saved in the sense that I have rational justification to believe I am saved.

Sincerely,

Brian
P.S. Please show me th coutesy of not say that in my last paragraph that I admitted that I do not know anything unless you provide the full context of the statement.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

“Thank you for you responses. You both pointed out where I claimed validity of an argument, and then in the next breath said an argument was not valid. Ron claimed that I contradicted myself. Allow me to clarify. Each argument as it stands on its own is valid. That is to say, taken by themselves they are valid. However, once you link the two together by using one argument to justify one of the premises in the other argument, then you create a relationship between the two arguments. If you assume the conclusion of the original argument in the supporting argument, then you invalidate the supporting argument. Again, the supporting argument taken by itself is valid, but when it is used as support to another argument it can become invalid.”

Again Brian, this is simply an arbitrary stricture that you have placed upon argumentation, which leads you to philosophical skepticism.

”Ron, I did not assume any argument as being sound. Soundness is determined in many ways.

Brian, you’re not reading very carefully. I wrote: “You’re of two mindsets. You appreciate that the argument is “valid” and even “sound” if you accept Scripture’s testimony, which sadly you have said you are not certain about.

Your philosophy does not allow for one to know that Scripture can afford true premises and, therefore, through valid formulations yield sound arguments. “If you were to accept Scripture’s testimony, which sadly you have said you are not certain about,” then you would appreciate that the argument was sound. You would have accepted it as “even ‘sound’ if you [were to] accept Scripture’s testimony, which sadly you have said you are not certain about.

”Bahnsen many times criticizes positions for Begging the question. Think of Michael Martin or Bahnsen's critque of Russell. If you really want to allow the kind of circularity it seems you are wanting to allow, then all of these objections by Bahnsen go out the window.

Brian, one example of Bahnsen’s criticism of those who beg the question is based upon a use of logic or induction that does not comport with the unbelieving worldview at hand. Bahnsen defends his own use of circular reasoning (e.g. in the Stein debate) by noting that when dealing with ultimate truth claims all reasoning must have a terminus point. Bahnsen certainly allowed and defended the terminus point of all reasoning when that terminus point was the all knowing, omnipotent God who is ultimate. Bahnsen showed the arbitrariness and inconsistency of finite men who could not account for logic or induction yet wanted to employ those tools – without a justification that can only come from revelation. After all these years, you have yet to understand that Bahnsen (as does Frame) defends circular reasoning with respect to ultimate truth claims. Obviously that doesn’t prove anything, but you really should be a little more reticent when evoking the name and reputation of Bahnsen. You did the same thing when you asserted that Bahsnen did not allow for full assurance due to the possibility of formulating an argument incorrectly, which I addressed in the above blog entry.

To know anything with philosophical certainty one needs to be omniscient and infallible, and you are not either.

Brian, have you ever defined philosophical certainty? Aren’t arguments valid, sound, invalid or unsound? Aren’t people certain or uncertain? Aren’t premises true or false? In any case, what’s the use in discussing this with a skeptic for even your statement that “To know anything with philosophical certainty one needs to be omniscient…” is one that you yourself say you are not certain about! You speak of “philosophically certain arguments” in a most unqualified way.

Any proposition that is revealed by God to you may be said to be certain. However, you do not know infallibly exactly what those propositions are.

Has God revealed to you that you cannot infallibly know that Jesus died for you thereby securing your final adoption in Christ? It’s sad to me that you are not able to embrace the Westminster Standards in this regard: “This infallible assurance does not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto.”

“As much as you want philosophical certainty you can't have it because you are a creature and not the creator.”

Again, your philosophy is that you are not certain about your assertion. More to the point, the Christian’s certainty is based upon God’s revelation for God cannot lie. Yet your philosophical position is that you are not certain that God cannot lie! You’re willing to admit that God could be a liar since your philosophy is that you are not certain that God cannot lie.

Now, techincally, one may claim that I do not know that I am saved in the sense that knowledge must be philosophically certain. If this is the case, then no one knows anything. But there is no reason to define things so narrowly. I can say I know I am saved in the sense that I have rational justification to believe I am saved.

You say you cannot be certain about anything. So what you now do in order to talk yourself into believing that you can know anything at all is lower the standard of true knowledge to inferences and deductions that you claim are rational, yet which you say you cannot be certain about. Brian, your philosophy, which is not after Christ, will keep you from the blessed assurance you might otherwise have in Christ. I’m not saying you’re not saved; I trust you are. I’m only saying that you pursuit of Christ will be obscured by your philosophy.

As I’ve said over and over and over to you, every bit of your discourse presupposes the revelation of a God who is ontologically necessary. Sadly, your philosophical conclusion is that God might not exist; yet your entire pursuit of your position presupposes that it is true that he does exist!

In His Grace,

Ron

P.S. In response to your post script, the context is quite evident.

razzendahcuben said...

Brian,

The creature/creator distinction is nothing more than a ploy to deny what God has clearly stated in His word. Look up John 8:32, John 17:17, Luke 1:4, Acts 1:3, Acts 2:36, and 2 Cor. 5:1-15. Either you will take God at His word or you will not!

Sadly, some of the philosophy professors at my (evangelical) school teach that we cannot have certainty because we are not omniscient. (Fortunately, the rest of the Bible faculty has responded strongly against them.) This position simply presupposes that God cannot reveal Himself in an infallible way to fallible minds. Admit it, Brian---you think you can tell God whether He is able to keep accomplish His purpose. You reject the intrinsic power of God's word (Heb. 4:12-13).

so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Is. 55:11)

In the end, Brian, you're a postmodernist. You fight God's words with the arguments of atheists like Lyotard, Derrida, Rorty, and Nietzsche. You are certain that we cannot be certain of anything. You are certain that God's word is not certain. Like the egalitarians and the progressive creationists and the neo-evangelicals, you confidently proclaim, "Yes, God, I know what you said, but let me tell you what you mean." And you will answer for this one day.

Anonymous said...

Hello Ron,

You have said that my objection to vicious circularity is “an arbitrary stricture that you have placed upon argumentation, which leads you to philosophical skepticism.” Whether or not vicious circularity leads to skepticism is irrelevant. However, if requiring a proof not to be viciously circular is arbitrary, then that could be problematic. Here are my thoughts on this.

When someone claims to have a proof of some proposition they are saying that they have some type of justification for their conclusion. Some call this authentication.

Definition (1): The justification of X is a proof of X to individual A if and only if the justification of X validly authenticates the truth of X to individual A.

When someone says they have objective proof for X, typically they mean that they have a justification for X that rationally applies to every individual A. In other words, A would be irrational to deny X.

Definition (2): The justification of X is an objective proof of X if and only if the justification of X validly authenticates the truth of X to individual A such that A would be irrational to deny the truth of X.

You claim to have an objective proof. You also acknowledge that it is viciously circular. You claim that vicious circularity is valid. Now, let’s take a real example and see if you are really willing to bite this bullet. My claim is that if you are willing to bite this bullet you are lead into contradiction. Here is my argument:

Premise 1: Brian’s critique is that Van Tillian apologetics does not provide an objectively certain proof for the existence of God.
Premise 2: “Van Tillian apologetics does not provide an objectively certain proof for the existence of God” is true.
Conclusion: Brian’s critique is true.

This proof is valid and premise 1 is true. Ron, your only objection to this argument is that premise 2 is false. So, I am going to justify premise 2 with the following argument:

Premise 1: "Van Tillian apologetics does not provide an objectively certain proof for the existence of God" is Brian’s critique.
Premise 2:Brian’s critique is true.
Conclusion: “Van Tillian apologetics does not provide an objectively certain proof for the existence of God” is true.

You have no objection at this point if vicious circularity is valid. Premise 1 is true, and premise 2 is established by the first proof. Since this proof is "sound" based on your criteria you now faced with a contradiction: “Van Tillian apologetics does not provide an objectively certain proof for the existence of God” is true (based on my “sound” proof), and “Van Tillian apologetics does not provide an objectively certain proof for the existence of God” is false (based on your “sound” proof).

The problem here is that in my second proof, I use an inauthentic truth (premise 2) to establish the conclusion. That means I am using a premise that has not yet been established to establish a conclusion. That means that conclusion established is inauthentic. If I am using this inauthentic conclusion as a premise in another proof, then the conclusion of that proof is inauthentic. This is the problem with vicious circularity. This is why vicious circularity is fallicious and not an arbitrary stricture.

Brian

Jason Jones said...

Hi, I was browsing the internet and came across your blog. A couple of points I would like to respond to your post TAG/MP. The first point is rather one of technicality; the second point directly focuses on TAG in general.

First, at the end of the third paragraph you state the following argument is sound. You say, “Having said that, to simply offer a sound argument such as: ‘God exits or nothing exists’; not nothing exists; therefore, God exists’. However, this argument is only sound if all the premises are true and deductively valid. The truth of first premises is the one in dispute. Specifically, it is the left disjunct “God exists” of the disjunction “Either God exists, or nothing exists” that is in dispute. Based on truth functionality, the whole disjunction is true if and only if both or one of the disjuncts is true. Since the right disjunct is obviously false, the left disjunct has to be true.

However, you need to establish the truth of left disjunct by some other argument or another. Consider, the argument, “Either God does NOT exist, or nothing exist”; “not nothing exists”, therefore, “God does NOT exist”. Compare,

(A v B), ~B; therefore, A

to (~A v B), ~B; therefore, ~A.

The argument that you gave has the same valid form that I just gave. Like yours, the left disjunct of the first premise is the one in dispute. I would have to give further argumentation that God does NOT exist. Therefore, your claim that the argument above in the third paragraph is sound is dubious. You need to demonstrate that the proposition “God exists” is true, by some other form of argumentation. However, if you did demonstrate the truth of the proposition that “God exists” by way of some other argument, then the argument you gave in the third paragraph is merely trivial.


Now, regards to the second point. I think the TAG has some problems, at least the way partisans have formulated it. The TAG argument attempts to prove too much. Here is what I mean. For example, a deist can develop a concept of God using perfect being theology and some sort of ontological argument. The deist can also use the TAG to say that reason, and morality, and the laws of nature transcendentally presuppose God’s existence. That is, God is the deist’s terminus authority. However, reason, not Scripture is the way to discern about God’s attributes and His existence. It seems that TAG is sufficient only to prove deism, not the particular God of Christianity.

I fail to see how TAG can specifically prove Christian theism, i.e. the Trinitarian and Incarnation concepts that are essential to the Christian God. It seems that TAG partisans would have to resort yet to further argumentation such as the historicity of the Bible, resurrection arguments, and so forth. That is, they seem committed to evidentiary/classical apologetics to prove Christian particularism. Yet reformed/TAG proponents deplore this method (at least at the outset they do). So, how could you debate a deist without resorting to either fideism or evidentiary apologetics?

What say you? I look forward to your reply.

Regards,

JJ

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

JJ,

You will be in italics:“You say…‘God exits or nothing exists’; not nothing exists; therefore, God exists’. However, this argument is only sound if all the premises are true and deductively valid."

I would agree that all truth can be justified deductively, though we do not come to know all truth through deduction.

The truth of first premises is the one in dispute. Specifically, it is the left disjunct “God exists” of the disjunction “Either God exists, or nothing exists” that is in dispute."

Correct.

Based on truth functionality, the whole disjunction is true if and only if both or one of the disjuncts is true."

Yes, at least one must be true.

Since the right disjunct is obviously false, the left disjunct has to be true.

The left has to be true IF the argument is sound, which it is. But that’s not your dispute.

However, you need to establish the truth of left disjunct by some other argument or another.

Why? I’m not saying that I can’t offer an argument but why do I need to? For instance, if I don’t offer an argument for the right disjunct of “not nothing exists,” does it somehow become untrue?

Consider, the argument, “Either God does NOT exist, or nothing exist”; “not nothing exists”, therefore, “God does NOT exist”…

The argument that you gave has the same valid form that I just gave. Like yours, the left disjunct of the first premise is the one in dispute. I would have to give further argumentation that God does NOT exist.


JJ, you would have to give further argumentation for what, to make the argument sound? The argument is sound or not sound whether any commentary or defense is given. In fact, it’s either sound or unsound whether anyone has ever even thought of the argument. Let me jump down to the bottom of the funnel and get to your lament. The argument is sound, which any Bible believing Christian acquainted with logic should know. To justify the left disjunct one must go to the Scriptures. Can you, a Christian, think of any better place to justify truth after all? The whole point of the example was to show that one may put forth a valid form with true premises that must be justified by the authority of Scripture. Proof of God, in other words, is child’s play.

Therefore, your claim that the argument above in the third paragraph is sound is dubious.

JJ, to say it’s “dubious” is to say that the Scriptures are not authoritative. Ironically, you wish to say that the right disjunct, “not nothing exists,” is obvious and presumably doesn’t need justification! Well, on what authority is the right disjunct true? How does one justify his metaphysic after all? You have placed what you believe to be reasonable (e.g. something exists) above the authority of Scripture's testimony that God exists or nothing exists. Moreover, Scripture is the only justification for the very concept of your reasonableness, which tells you that something exists!

The TAG argument attempts to prove too much. Here is what I mean. For example, a deist can develop a concept of God using perfect being theology and some sort of ontological argument. The deist can also use the TAG to say that reason, and morality, and the laws of nature transcendentally presuppose God’s existence. That is, God is the deist’s terminus authority.

This is a common mistake among many who are a little bit acquainted with TAG. You are confusing conceptual necessity with ontological necessity. On what authority does one KNOW that some unrevealed concept of god exists? To simply posit a conceptual necessity apart from any authoritative, self-attesting revelation is rather “dubious.” That you need a concept of God in order to try to save yourself philosophically is not to save yourself philosophically since your conceptual necessity does not come to you by anything authoritative.

However, reason, not Scripture is the way to discern about God’s attributes and His existence. It seems that TAG is sufficient only to prove deism, not the particular God of Christianity.

You haven’t grasped TAG. TAG entails a revelational epistemology. Moreover, TAG is not sufficient to prove deism since TAG apart from scriptural-revelation cannot justify the universal laws of logic, just for starters.

I fail to see how TAG can specifically prove Christian theism, i.e. the Trinitarian and Incarnation concepts that are essential to the Christian God.

The precondition for the justification of intelligible experience is God’s revelation, which is Scripture; and it is Scripture that justifies Christian theism.

It seems that TAG partisans would have to resort yet to further argumentation such as the historicity of the Bible, resurrection arguments, and so forth. That is, they seem committed to evidentiary/classical apologetics to prove Christian particularism. Yet reformed/TAG proponents deplore this method (at least at the outset they do). So, how could you debate a deist without resorting to either fideism or evidentiary apologetics?

The traditional Thomistic arguments are invalid deductive arguments wherein the conclusions exceed the scope of the premises. Evidentialistic arguments are inductive in nature, yet (a) induction cannot prove anything as true but only at best probably true; (b) induction cannot be justified on a posteriori grounds; (c) evidentialistic-induction assumes the uniformity of nature yet at the core of the Christian worldview is the resurrection, which is anything but uniform.

Regards,

Ron

razzendahcuben said...

Masterfully done, Ron, as always.

I am curious, can the argument that "conceptual necessity does not imply ontological necessity" be re-written or at least expressed as "a hypothetical God will only give hypothetical knowledge"?

raz

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Thanks Keith.

I guess it could be written as that, but how can we even justify any sort of "hypothetical" apart from a true God as opposed to a hypothetical God? :)

Ron

razzendahcuben said...

Well, you could just say the same time about conceptual necessity, couldn't you? The reason I use the statement I wrote is simply because its easier for most people to understand than "conceptual necessity does not imply ontological necessity".

I might as well ask another question. Arminians have the problem of infinite regress with regards to desires, no? Why would this infinite regress be considered irrational or false.

Thanks!
raz

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Raz,

I'm not sure I grasp your first question. Regarding your second, even if there could be an infinite regress (obviously there can't be), it would take a long time to make a choice if each choices required such a chain of events... :)

razzendahcuben said...

Hah... yeah I write too fast and then proofread too fast. I meant to say "same thing" not "same time".

I mentioned the infinite regress because it also applies to a debate I was having concerning certainty. I would say, "Are you certain of anything?" He would say No. I would say, "Are you certain of that?" He would say No. I would say, "Are you certain of that?" He would say no... and he claims that this infinite "outcropping" (as he described it) is not irrational, but I am trying to persuade him that it is. I responded by saying that one can't ground an epistemological argument on something that is inherently groundless, you can only state your position and then shutup. Interestingly, he hasn't responded to that one. :) So would agree that this is irrationalism on his part?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

JJ STATES: I think we are arguing semantics. Of course, the arguments are sound or unsound regardless of what we may say about them. I never claimed either, explicitly or implicitly, that was not the case. I was merely saying that the argument you gave would need some commentary or further demonstration of the veracity of the left disjunct “God exists”.

RON STATES: TAG is sound because the premises are true and the form is valid. The veracity of TAG is demonstrated - not proved - simply by demonstrating over and over again that intelligible experience cannot be justified apart from special revelation. Such a demonstration is in order. Notwithstanding, the demonstration does not prove TAG, for TAG is sound in and of itself given its form and premises.

JJ STATES: I would say that the second premise, that “not nothing exists” is a necessary truth on par with a statement like, “Not everything has all the same properties as everything else”. In other words, statements as such are obvious (a priori) and require little or no need of justification. On the other hand, a statement like “God exists” or “God does NOT exist” is not at all obvious, at least not to everyone. Those statements require some sort of justification.

RON STATES: A necessary truth? How does one account for a “necessary” anything, let alone a necessary truth, without presupposing the God of Scripture? Moreover, how does one justify necessity or truth apart from Scripture? You keep presupposing the justification for argumentation as you try to argue against TAG! There are no freebies in philosophy, yet you are asking for a pass.

As for the proposition “not nothing exists” not needing a justification since it’s “obvious (a priori) and requires little or no need of justification…” well I agree. Not withstanding, we’re supposed to be doing philosophy here. The question is how does one begin to justify such a self-evidencing truth apart from Scripture? Do you have universal knowledge of what is “obvious?” Are you going to make an appeal to something or someone in order to justify your claim? If so, what upholds that claim?

As for “God exists or God does not exist” not being obvious, of course it’s obvious, which every person knows a priori and a posteriori. Moreover, such can be proved with a sound argument. Finally, such is not a demonstration of TAG. It was merely put forth as an example of the simplicity of proving God’s existence.

JJ STATES: …to say that ONLY Scripture can justify these laws [of logic] seems patently false. Consider the law of non-contradiction. The law is justified by the fact that, if you deny it, you can prove anything.

RON STATES: JJ, you’ve just made an inductive inference. You haven’t experienced every law of non-contradiction so you must infer by asserting the consequent that one must presuppose the law of non-contradiction in order to prove all things provable. Now if we presuppose that unchanging God has guaranteed the law of non-contradiction by his nature which cannot deny (contradict) Himself, then of course we can work out a simple justification for the universality and unchanging nature of such abstract, immaterial entities given that we are created in His image and are held accountable not to bear false witness, which presupposes the law of non-contradiction. You wish to assume that there even is such a thing as truth yet without a justification for yourself, assumptions and truth.

JJ STATES: Humans therefore do not need Scripture/special revelation to justify these laws.

RON STATES: On what authority do you know that or defend that assumption? Moreover, the laws of logic have an ethical quality to them that place a demand on people, yet you cannot justify ethics apart from revelation.

JJ STATES: Secondly, Scripture in its current form did not always exist. It did not exist, for example, thirty five hundred years ago. Do you mean to say that the soundness of the TAG argument is contingent only upon the existence of revealed Scripture?

RON STATES: TAG is justified by special revelation, which today is only contained in Scripture.

JJ STATES: How did fallible men know which scripture should be included in the Hebrew Cannon?

RON STATES: Actually, whether they knew what should be included or not is irrelevant. The material point is that they got it right and I can know that because God promised to build his church upon the sure word of God. God is sovereign over the willful acts of men, is he not? Accordingly, the fallibility of man has nothing to do with the defense of the canon.

JJ STATES: It was on some sort of rationality/reason to decide which Scripture should be included.

RON STATES: Not necessarily so, but indeed most likely so. If those who received the canon never read the Scriptures and merely put the books to a blind vote, they could not alter God’s determination that the church would receive the canon. Even more, had they intentionally tried to put all the wrong books into the Christian canon, they could not have succeeded due to God’s plan to build his church on His sure word.

JJ STATES: You will probably say that God providentially directed these men to put the appropriate scripture in the Cannon. However, such a reply would clearly be circular reasoning (that is, “P because of Q”, “why Q?” “because P”).

RON STATES: The argument would be: Canon received because of God’s intention. “Why God’s intention” is not answered by Canon received!

JJ STATES: Still, another problem with TAG is that a Muslim or a theistic Hindu can equally say that THEIR scriptures are self-attesting revelations of God and that reason and rationality presuppose the truth of their scriptures.

RON STATES: I already addressed this simple point. Since you did not deal with the refutation the first time, I’ll pass.

JJ STATES: The (modal) ontological argument for God’s existence attempts to demonstrate that a perfect being exists in every possible world. That is, God is ontologically necessary, not merely conceptually necessary.

RON STATES: The ontological argument cannot justify the universal laws of logic, just for starters. Moreover, the ontological argument cannot prove that perfection requires existence.

JJ STATES: However, if a perfect being does exist and this being endowed humans with the faculties of reason, moral conscience, etc. then humans must indeed presuppose a God. However, it does not follow that you must presuppose Scripture to do this, nor the particular Christian triune God.

RON STATES: JJ, you haven’t understood a word I’ve written I’m afraid. First off, you don’t need to presuppose Scripture to presuppose God, but you do need to presuppose Scripture to JUSTIFY the presupposing of God! We’re to be talking about the JUSTIFICATION for intelligible experience and not the having of intelligible experience.

JJ,

This blog is not a message board, so I am going to pass on any future comments you make. I’ve labored with you long enough but you have repeatedly demonstrated that you do not grasp these matters, which is not a terrible thing of course. What is a terrible thing, in my estimation, is that you argue against that which you have demonstrated not to understand – unfortunately, not even in the least.

So long, JJ (whoever you are).

Ron

Anonymous said...

I have been tracking this with great interest. That was absolutely fantastic! Thanks Ron for explaining that so well!!!

David

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

I don't know how fantastic it was, but I hope I explained things o.k.

Unworthy but His,

Ron

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Brian, your comments are in italics:

"You have said that my objection to vicious circularity is “an arbitrary stricture that you have placed upon argumentation"

Brian,

It is not a “vicious” circularity when dealing with ultimate truth claims. Frame has written much on this matter so I’ll refer you to him in your journey. In any case…

"Premise 1: Brian’s critique is that Van Tillian apologetics does not provide an objectively certain proof for the existence of God.
Premise 2: “Van Tillian apologetics does not provide an objectively certain proof for the existence of God” is true.
Conclusion: Brian’s critique is true.

This proof is valid and premise 1 is true. Ron, your only objection to this argument is that premise 2 is false. So, I am going to justify premise 2 with the following argument:

Premise 1: "Van Tillian apologetics does not provide an objectively certain proof for the existence of God" is Brian’s critique.
Premise 2:Brian’s critique is true.
Conclusion: “Van Tillian apologetics does not provide an objectively certain proof for the existence of God” is true.

You have no objection at this point if vicious circularity is valid. Premise 1 is true, and premise 2 is established by the first proof. Since this proof is "sound" based on your criteria…"


Brian,

Please catch this. Neither proof is SOUND! In both proofs, PREMISE 2 is FALSE! Accordingly, both conclusions are unreliable. Besides that, the conclusions are also false! Brian, have you forgotten that sound proofs require true premises? Your mistakes are due to your thinking that a valid argument can be sufficient to justify a true premise. You do appreciate, don't you, that not all valid arguments are sound? What undergirds all your thinking is that truth values are determined by consensus or opinion.

"The problem here is that in my second proof, I use an inauthentic truth (premise 2) to establish the conclusion. That means I am using a premise that has not yet been established to establish a conclusion."

The problem is simply that the minor premises are false. It’s not a matter of what people will accept as inauthentic. At the end of the day you are assuming that which must be true for the very intelligibility of induction and deduction, while at the same time denying the truth value of that necessary precondition for those tools of induction and deduction that you find so useful. Remember going over this before?

Blessings,

Ron

Anonymous said...

In the Bahnsen- Sproul debate. Towards the end they were speaking in the Q&A section that the impossibility of the contrary does not get you to absolute certainty. It only gets you to certainty if you already think that we have knowledge, logic, reason, morality, etc (aka reality is not in fact a bunch of leaky buckets). But that’s an assumption, not something we can know from the impossibility of the contrary. So, can you expand on what's wrong with Sproul's leaky bucket? Is this actually apart of the PA method to show either the Christian God or absurdity?

Reformed Apologist said...

Certainty is an epistemic property that pertains to belief whereas arguments are strong or weak, valid or invalid, sound or unsound, etc. If we speak in terms of degree of certainty or strength of knowledge, TAG can play a part. However, it doesnt "get" us knowledge and whether we *think* we have knowledge doesn't seem relevant to me. I'm not tracking maybe.

Yes, tag's aim is to demonstrate the Christian God or absurdity, yet it's more than that. It shows that absurdity is only possible given God!

As for Sproul and the debate, I don't recall the details. I only recall Sproul showing himself unacquainted with these things. :) Terrrible shame given his influence and love for the faith.

Anonymous said...

"It shows that absurdity is only possible given God! "
I think this is where my confusion is coming from. I know that intelligible experience,truth,laws of logic, etc presuppose God . How does absurdity presuppose God? Are you saying absurdity means there must also be rationality to compare it to which then presupposes God? Or did I miss the epistemological target��?

Reformed Apologist said...

Yes, there must be rationality for there to be absurdity. So, to argue against God one must presuppose things that can only be accounted for if God's exists.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for answering that. (:
I wish you a goodnight. I've ran out of questions. But I'll be waiting to read your next article.