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Monday, May 15, 2006

Conceptual Necessity Not Enough!


Although Christianity as a posited conceptual scheme can offer a justification for intelligible experience, apart from Scriptural revelation one cannot justify that Christianity as a conceptual scheme reflects the truth of how things are or must be. As Michael Butler has succinctly stated, "Conceptual necessity does not guarantee ontological necessity..." (p. 88 of Festschrift For Greg Bahnsen), And "...the necessity of a conceptual scheme cannot guarantee anything about the way the world must be... This God is... a speaking God who reveals truths to us about Himself and the world... On the Basis of His revelation, therefore, which is itself the necessary precondition of experience, we can know truths about the world and God." (p. 123 Festschrift...)

It is possible for man unaided by Scripture to construct a sound transcendental argument for God's existence by the use of general revelation alone, simply on the basis of a conceptual necessity that would "make sense" of experience. Although man can construct a sound argument (i.e. an argument with a valid form and true premises), apart from Scripture it is impossible to justify the truth values of those premises, let alone argumentation in general. Again, "Conceptual necessity does not guarantee ontological necessity...." For "the necessity of a conceptual scheme cannot guarentee anything about the way the world must be..." After all, did Kant save science or simply psychologize it?!

Ron

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Neccessity of Scripture in Justifying (even) Logic

Since no man has observed every instance of the law of non-contradiction no man can justify an a priori knowledge of the universal, invariant nature of the law of non-contradiction; we need special revelation from the Divine Mind that the law of non-contradictoin applies in all circumstances. Accordingly, if a universal is not revealed by an ominiscient God who knows with certainty the universality of all universals, man - unaided by special revelation - cannot deduce that the law of non-contradiction is indeed a law. The justification of all tools of reason reduce to rational inferences if God has not revealed them to man through special revelation; yet rational inferences are unjustifiable apart from a true doctrine of creation and providence, which too must be grounded in special revelation. Moreover, the law of non-contradiction presupposes truth, which too cannot be justified apart from special revelation. This is not to say that man being made in the image of God does not know the law of non-contradiction a priori. He does (and because of that he can be found guilty of bearing false witness to the truth). Yet notwithstanding, man cannot ground even that essential and basic transcendental apart from special revelation, which today is found in Scripture alone.

Ron

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Friday, May 12, 2006

More on Induction and Knowledge



If knowledge is so broad as to include things believed by inductive inference, then either one can know something on faulty justification (e.g., my clock scenario in the previous blog-entry), or one cannot be 100% certain of the truth of that which is alleged to be "known" by way of induction. In other words, since inductive inference can be based upon rational yet faulty justification, then it follows that one cannot be 100% certain of what he “knows" by induction even if what is believed were true. Accordingly, in common parlance we’d have to distinguish between knowing something “for sure” and knowing something that we’re not 100% sure about. Why not then define "knowledge" as including only that which we can be 100% sure about? Imagine the judge saying: “Do you know that Mr. Smith killed his wife?” “Yes” says Mr. Jones, "I’m nearly 90% certain that it is true!" What is it to “know” something without certainty after all? At what point does one truly “know” anything through induction?

Given inductive-knowledge, either we can know things that are false, or else we can know things that we cannot be 100% certain about. If the latter is true – that we can know things that we cannot be 100% certain about - then we cannot know for certain that which we "know" when that which we "know" comes by way of induction. If that is true, then what does it really mean that we “know” things by way of induction?!

I often hear people say that they appreciate the limitations of induction as it stands in contrast to revelation and deduction, which would suggest that the only difference between philosophers is simply the semantic tagging of words. However, there is better reason to believe that this is not the case and that these people do not grasp the limits of induction. These misguided fellows are quick to argue that one could not even know he is saved apart from induction. They reason thereby that since they can know they are saved that, therefore, induction must be able to yield absolute knowledge. What they acknowledge with one hand they take away with the other! A recent response on this site stated this very sentiment with even a broader brush: “So my point is that if you are going to claim we can't know we know anything through induction, you then have to say the same thing about language and therefore God's Word. And thus knowledge is demolished.”

It is remarkable that so many Reformed thinkers are willing to redefine knowledge so as to include inductive inference in order that they can “know” more things, such as that they are saved! If it is true that induction cannot yield absolute certainty and if it, also, true (as some would have us believe) that we come to embrace God’s word through induction, then we must concede that we cannot know with absolute certainty the truth of the gospel! Yet we can know with 100% certainty the truth of the gospel. Accordingly, either induction can yield 100% certainty or else understanding God’s word is not based on induction. Thankfully, the latter is true. Induction cannot yield 100% certainty, but it is also false that we know the gospel by way of induction. {To introduce “psychological” certainty is simply to muddy the waters. The question is not whether I have a feeling of certainty, but what degree of warrant I have for my beliefs.} A belief in my existence or that Jesus died for me is not obtained through induction, which is precisely why one can know with infallible certainty he has eternal life.

A word or two about Clarkian axioms might be in order at this time. Axioms in geometry cannot be proved as long as they are not deducible or revealed by God. What can one appeal to after all to justify such an axiom? They’re not known as true-transcendentals for they are only posited in order to maintain a rational conceptual scheme. In other words, they are not revealed to men as ontological necessities but rather assumed by men for conceptual necessity. However, the axiom of God’s revelation can be proved since a sound deductive argument can be constructed based upon God’s say so.

What needs to be appreciated is that an argument is sound given true premises and a valid form, which is available to us in Scripture. Even the following is a sound proof for God's existence:

p1. God exists or nothing exists

p.2 Not nothing exists (something exists)

C. Therefore, God exists.

The above proof is not transcendental in nature because it is not concerned with what must be true in order for some other human experience to be intelligible. Notwithstanding, it does demonstrate that proof is child's play since sound arguments are concerned with truth and form, not persuasion. {Such proofs of mathematical axioms cannot be derived since there can be only an inductive appeal for the truth value of any such axiom.}

What is Clark's axiom – but that God exists! Well, I just proved that axiom with a valid form and true premises. Since Clarkians must affirm the form and the premises of the above argument, then why not the proof? The problem is that most Clarkians do not know what is entailed by a sound argument. Accordingly, they typically reduce themselves to skepticism since they can never justify any ultimate truth claim. Without a justification for their truth claims, their arguments are equally unjustified and arbitrary. Now if more Van Tillians would appreciate that TAG is a type of deductive argument http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2006/03/formal-blunder-on-van-til-by-wtj-no.html and that induction can NEVER prove an absolute truth value, I might sleep better…


Ron

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Induction and Knowledge


Does one know that the President of the United States in the 1980’s had the initials R.R. if he thinks that Roy Rogers was President then?
Let’s talk about time.

1. Justification: Inductive inference that the clock is working based upon history

2. Belief: Believe as true the time the clock indicates, which is 12:00

3. Truth: It is 12:00

Someone might say that since all the criteria for knowledege have been met, one can know it is 12:00 given inductive-knowledge. However, the 3 criteria justify the belief that it is 12:00 even when relying upon a broken clock! Shouldn't this intuitively bother us? Can we "know" things based upon false information? The problem with induction is that inferences that are rational to maintain can always be false. Let me try to make this even more glaring. Let’s say there is another man in the room who has strong reason to believe that the clock is broken. Accordingly, this man will not rely upon the clock. In fact, this man believes that any justification of the time based upon the clock will be unwarranted. The point should be obvious. The man who is most informed about the clock is not able to know the time, whereas the man with less information about the clock would be able to “know” the time if inductive inference allows for knowledge! If anyone is looking for a reductio, then here it is. Given and inductive-knowledge, having less information can be the source of more knowledge, and having more information can cause one to rationally lose the knowledge he once had. Ignorance truly would be bliss! It is one thing to have a justification for a belief and quite another thing to justify the truth value of what is believed. The latter can only come through revelation and deduction.

Now let me sum this up. The first man’s inference about the clock was rational because based upon history the clock had an extremely high probability of working; say 99.9%. The second man had an entirely different rational inference based upon his history with broken clocks. He believed that there was less than 1% chance of the clock working the day after he observed it not working. Both men were making rational inferences based upon their finite perspectives and information. At the very least, given inductive-knowledge, deductive or revelatory knowledge becomes something of a different order and not merely a difference of degree. We need to distinguish the two. I prefer applying the term knowledge to more than inductive inference.

Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?

Let’s say that there is one clock in the world that is the standard of time. In other words, let’s assume that it indicates the “true time.” Now let’s say we were to hook up a digital transmitter to the clock that would output the time to a series of data acquisition systems all running in parallel. Would all of the systems record the same time at any exact instance? No. How can we arrive at the true time then? Some might take the median time of all the times recorded and call it the true time. Someone else might take the arithmetic mean, whereas someone else the mode. Let’s say we were to conclude that at a particular instance the true time was 12:00 noon +/.000000000000000000000000001 milliseconds. How many points of time can fit between the variance? Well an infinite number of course. Accordingly, what is the probability of one knowing the true time? Well 1/infinity of course. Well, what is 1/infinity? Well zero of course. Consequently, no matter what the time is, nobody knows it!

Finally, induction always operates under the formal fallacy of asserting the consequent. It would be misleading, however, to say that inductive reasoning is always fallacious. Rather, by repeated tests through asserting the consequent a veracity of belief can be obtained. “If A, then B; B therefore, A” is of course fallacious. However: “If A, then B; B therefore, A would appear to have more veracity...” is of course the basis for science and indeed valid. To say that science cannot yield specific truth has great shock value but all such a statement really reduces to is that induction is not deduction, which is no great discovery - or at least it ought not be. Some have argued that induction can "prove" a truth value of a projection with some true degree of variance. This however is false, since to "prove" the truth value of any variance would require one to first "assert the consequent!" For instance: "If the variance of any projection has been proved by certain means, then by implementing those means to this set of circumstances I prove the truth of the variance. I have implemented those means to this set of circumstances, therefore, I have proved the truth of the variance." The fallacy is obvious. Again, science can only show how things might appear; we may not say that it is "true" that things will appear as they have in the past. And to say that it is true that things "might" appear a certain way, is to say that it is true that they might not. As for variances, all we can say is that it would appear, based upon the past, that variances are rational to maintain when arrived at inductively. However, we cannot even arrive at a truth value for the variance without asserting the consequent. Nonetheless, a variance can have veracity just as that which it surrounds can have veracity.

I’m sympathetic to the idea that we might actually know things through induction. However, I would say that we cannot know that we know things through induction. If we do know things through induction it is because God has granted a necessary, causal relationship to those things that appear to us as necessary. God would also have to grant us some warrant to believe that things must be the way they are. Does He do this? I don’t know nor do I think we can know.

What’s the beauty in all of this? Well, for one thing - I am more certain that Jesus lives than I am that toothpaste will squirt out of the tube in the morning!

Ron

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Adam's First Sin Not A Choice


Obviously Adam needed something additional to sustain him because given the circumstances presented to the soul he fell. Could Adam have defied the eternal decree anymore than Pilate? For Adam not to have fallen he would have needed to possess libertarian free will. Adam certainly possessed liberty, which is simply the ability to act according to one’s intention; he also possessed moral ability, which is the natural propensity or moral nature to act in a manner consistent with what is pleasing to God.

To choose is to act according to one’s intention or strongest inclination at the moment of choice. All choices, being rational, are intended; but intentions are not chosen. If intentions were chosen then each choice of an intention would require a more primitive intention that would also need to be chosen ad infinitum. Consequently, Adam’s action to choose contrary to God’s law was preceded by a sinful intention to act that was not chosen. Adam did not choose this (sinful) intention to act contrary to God’s law; for if he had, then that supposed choice of the first sinful intention would have required an even more primitive sinful intention.

Adam’s first sin was his un-chosen fallen nature, from which a specific intention to act sinfully proceeded. To deny this is to argue that Adam acted sinfully with a propensity and inclination to act uprightly! If Adam acted sinfully when his strongest inclination at the moment of choice was to act uprightly, then he could not be held responsible for his action of sin. It would have been a purely contingent act and, therefore, not one that he intended.

Options were presented to a man who was upright. The action was made in accordance to an intention, as all actions are if they are real choices made in accordance with liberty, the ability to choose as one wants. The choice was sinful. The question is whether a sinful action of choice can proceed from a pure intention. Can a choice to sin proceed from a strongest inclination that is not sinful? Can morally relevant choices be contrary to the strongest inclination at the moment of choice? If not, then the choice to sin must have proceeded from an inclination to choose contrary to God's precepts; and a sinful inclination toward a particular sinful choice can only come from a nature that is already fallen. There’s no mystery here. There are only two possibilities. Either the strongest inclination to act sinfully was a sinful inclination or it wasn’t. If it wasn’t, then the strongest inclination to act uprightly was followed by a sinful action, which would destroy the moral relevancy of the action since it would not have been according to what was intended at the moment of choice. If the strongest inclination was sinful, then the first sin was Adam’s inclination to act sinfully and not the action that followed from the sinful inclination. It’s not any harder than that folks. In sum, Adam was no less a slave to his strongest inclination at the moment of choice than an unconverted man. The issue is not whether Adam was created upright, which he was, but whether Adam possessed a radical freedom of the will that would have enabled him to choose contrary to how he intended. Such freedom, however, would destroy moral accountability for with such "freedom" one could end up intending to praise and end up cursing instead.

Ron

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