Sunday, December 30, 2018

Review of Kai Nielsen's Ethics Without God

Latest version as of this post, on

I am actually a theist solely because of this book. However, I consider preeminent atheist theoretician Kai Nielsen to be the greatest thinker of all time, and easily the greatest atheist philosopher of all time, because of a single argument he discovered in writing his book Ethics Without God:

Argument from the necessary prior standards of ultimate perfect goodness: We necessarily use prior standards of goodness that are already higher in epistemic authority than God in order to argue that God is good.

Since a being that is merely supremely powerful and intelligent could be evil, no believer in God can get their model for what one ought to be and do from merely knowing that this kind of totally unlimited being exists. And the fact that a supremely powerful and intelligent being issues commands does not by itself invest those commands with moral authority or obligation. Consequently, one must judge in advance---using one's own prior moral as well as intellectual standards---that this being is completely, ultimately, and perfectly good.

No being would be called God unless that being were taken to be, among other things, perfectly good by the person making that judgment. But to properly call this being God, we must already have judged that being to be ultimately good. This proves that our concept of goodness---and our criteria for goodness---are prior to and independent of our belief in the existence of an ultimate and perfectly good transcendent being.

This last can be generalized into an even stronger argument that covers *anything* about God including God's existence per se. Because the standards of analysis are already God-level. Try challenging that statement without assuming it in the process.

The necessary assumptions for inquiring into the matter already rule the mind's operations comprehensively, as an ideal that is necessarily approximated to some extent. (We can always choose to be irrational.) Ultimately as the supervisory court of last resort, exceptionlessly because those assumptions are a set of universals, and just as decisively and authoritatively as God, because they function as the invariant rules of thought for deciding the truth value of any claim or belief or statement whatsoever, including themselves.

In other words, general reason, including logic, common sense, and so on, already has a greater authority than God in order to be the standard for investigating---and passing ultimate and authoritative judgment on---whether the statement that God exists is true.

For theistic apologists, this means that they are using reason as a mind-God in arguing for God's existence at all. And to try to make God rational, in their theological doctrines and controversies, in that sense too God must submit to reason's authority, wear it's badge of approval, have all the proper rational explanations for specific divine policies and actions, and so on.

Christian apologetics in particular is essentially a cognitive worship-fest to reason. This is just one example of the faith/reason schizophrenia, and I'm wondering whether it fosters a kind of cognitive multiple-personality disorder---maybe even damaged DNA---because it's held to be a wannabe theory of knowledge that is logically basic to all thinking.

And for precisely the same reasons, this prior-criteria systems-type issue raises some thorny metatheoretic issues for atheism, agnosticism, and skepticism as well, but I don't think it threatens atheism, only hard or strong agnosticism and unqualified universal skepticism. But in terms of the inferential sequence of logical justification and the general prior method and criteria of analysis itself, atheism wins by default.

God needs reason to be distinguished from heartburn or The Great Pumpkin, but reason stands alone and invincible---it cannot be questioned, denied, doubted, or even thought about without assuming in those processes.

That's the same prior default that believers use to argue their own cases while denying the God-level authority of reason when Oz's curtain is pulled and what they are doing is exposed for what it is.

Atheism needs to drop materialism (whose truth value is eliminated in that reductive process itself as well as the influence-immune supervisory pretensions of that analysis itself, like all universal reductionisms do) and the childish problem of evil (which requires the negation of the intended conclusion in order to provide actual evils in the first place), and learn four arguments extremely well: the burden of proof argument (Angeles' Critiques of God), the insufficient evidence argument (which depends on the burden of proof argument), the incoherence argument against the very concept of God, and the prior independent moral criterion argument and it's generalized form I've mentioned above.

I highly recommend all of Nielsen's writings, especially this book and his 2005 edition of Atheism and Philosophy. which briefly reiterates the above argument that is thoroughly elaborated in Ethics Without God.

Unfortunately, however, for both Nielsen and atheists generally, both the Prior Moral Standard Argument and its generalized Prior Truth Standard Argument (apparently discovered by yours truly in 2006) are theistic Trojan horses.

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Crypto-Foundationalism of Anti-Foundationalism

Alvin Plantinga needs to read some Wittgenstein, as well as Urban, Suber, Boyle, Bartlett, Kordig, and Peels.

1) Treating reason as foundational is necessary in order to argue against it.

2) Belief in God is not as logically basic as the assumptions used to get out of bed in the morning, i.e. there is no parity, God needs reason logically, but not vice versa.

3) Using the assumptions necessary to analyze the issue are foundationalism in action.

4) The notions of epistemic rights, duties, "allowing", and "permitting" are obscure and question-begging.

5) Rights and duties about belief is an atheistic morality used to specify legitimacy of belief in God without having to argue for it.

6) Logically basic beliefs are not self-evident, but they are incorrigible.

7) Who is even talking about self-evidence in the last 20 years anyway? Much less vamping it as some kind of defense of a view. Plantinga's the only person I've ever heard of that talks about that.

8) Logically basic standards cannot be affirmed, denied, doubted, entertained, etc. without assuming them in the process. That's both the sense in which they are basic, and that's why they're basic.

9) The reasons why they are basic and invincible is precisely that set of reasons themselves as standards of all possible thought.

10) The fact that they are already logically basic exempts them from having to themselves be logically justified, precisely because they are necessarily basic both to themselves and any attempt to question them.

11) In fact, any attempt to criticize or falsify them or their basic status is itself the using of them as basic.

12) It's the invisible gardener problem in reverse. No matter what is appealed to, the same system must be used to try to refute that system itself, even in the process of denying that system by means of that same system.

13) At some point the question can no longer be evaded: how does Plantinga's own argumentation itself differ from foundationalism, if he apes it all the way to the bank in spite of his rejection of it?

14) Just how would intellectual hypocrisy be different from what he himself is doing?

15) Plantinga's own attempted refutation assumes my position, but he doesn't mention that analysis itself or its own assumptions---which are treated as incorrigible, in order to try to refute the incorrigibility of foundationalism.

16) No there are not always *other*---in the anti-foundationalist sense of always other different as-yet-unmentioned---beliefs for the logically basic system of reason itself.

17) The statements that make up general reason are foundational in the sense that they are logically basic to all else, certainly not always different as-yet-unmentioned claims.

18) The fact that they themselves do not need further "more basic" beliefs to justify them is due to how they are defined in the first place---as basic. To mark them off as logically basic for any thought whatsoever, thereby excludes them from the need for logically more-basic justification of themselves. In fact, to call them out about not being justified themselves by further propositional sources of logically-deeper propositions contradicts their already up-front-claimed status as basic in the first place, as well as assumes them as the sole instrument of finding fault with them.

19) Plantinga's, Bonjour's or anyone else's criticism of this form of foundationalism assumes that same foundationalism which it denies or argues against, in that very same process of argumentation or denial.  Notice that Plantinga's argument against foundationalism assumes the same analytic system I'm talking about---but (surprise, surprise) doesn't talk about it.

20) So the self-referential burden is on Plantinga and company to wake up to what they are both assuming and doing, in arguing against rationalistic foundationalism as I have described it.

21) And the fact that anti-foundationalist don't talk about their own assumptions and their own analysis itself tells me they either have too much credentialist and publishing skin in the game already to admit the lapse, or else really can't think in a thoroughgoing self-aware non-self-exempting way. Any one or combination of the above is a sad state of affairs.

22) Quine and company are just as oblivious and/or dishonest, of course, as I've demonstrated in the essay "Denaturing Quine's Naturalized Epistemology".

23) But the pretended muckrakers of theistic philosophy are actually themselves insulated from the very possibility of any accurate mapping of how people outside of crumbling academia actually think to what they address in their books and lectures. It's a scam---as well as an intellectual scandal.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Cheerleaders Of Genocide

"While it can seem noble enough when the stakes are low, pacifism is ultimately nothing more than a willingness to die, and to let others die, at the pleasure of the world's thugs.

It should be enough to note that a single sociopath, armed with nothing more than a knife, could exterminate a city full of pacifists. There is no doubt that such sociopaths exist, and they are generally better armed."

--Sam Harris, The End of Faith, page 199.