Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Whole God Issue So Far




The Third Frontier

Metatheoretic Atheism

The third frontier in analyzing universal claims consists of two completely new arguments for atheism. Both of these arguments are metatheoretic. They can also be called meta-philosophical, meta-scientific, meta-logical, or even meta-rational arguments. They are:

1. The Prior Moral Criterion Argument

and it's logically parallel generalization:

2. The Prior Truth Criterion Argument*

They are both necessarily based on and directly inferred by the concepts of argumentation, logic, and general rationality themselves, especially the notion of universal prior principles, standards, and criteria deductively supervising all thought and argumentation and all morality, moral theorizing, and value preferencing.

And they both preclude and determine the entire God debate.

Consequently—precisely because of the universality of those governing principles—these two arguments are both logically and metatheoretically deductive, decisive, and final.

That's a first for atheism.

And for all appearances, that is a fatal 1-2 punch. Two positive deductive arguments that operate in tandem**.

But equally important is the fact that they are metatheoretic. They are based on what we are already assuming in theorizing about God or the total reality in the first place. "It's just X" reductions don't get a pass either.

Here's the Prior Moral Criterion Argument:

1. Any moral argument for God's goodness already assumes a fully-operating prior God-precluding moral good as a standard that must be used to identify what any moral argument for God is trying to prove.

Therefore, there is no God and any moral argument for God is necessarily based on atheism. Any moral argument for God requires atheistic assumptions and criteria.

That's it. Two ways of saying it, but it's a simple universal deductive argumen
t.

And here's the analogous but far more powerful Prior Truth Criterion Argument:

1. The pr
ior standards of analysis already preclude God as any kind of relevant factor in deciding what is true about the issue of God's existence.

Therefore, there is no God and any argument for God is based on atheism.

Yet another single-statement universal deductive argument and its conclusion.

And an independent, God-precluding prior standard for what is moral or good, and more importantly for what is true, is necessarily atheism.

So to enter into the discussion at all is to already accept the clearly positive and logically parallel atheistic standards of a logically and existentially independent (Godless) truth-indicating rational system as obligating all minds to believe various claims and assumptions in order to survive and flourish in relation to a good in any sense.

And while those factors themselves are at first glance simply fatal to belief in God, belief in God already requires and logically depends on those standards of general rationality, and on belief in those standards, even to merely make sense of the concept of God itself.

These two new arguments for atheism will elevate the public intellectual profile of atheism and drastically increase the sheer number of atheists worldwide.

It hasn't even begun. Yet. The question of why belief in God must be rational in the first place is going to be what atheists will use to transition to these two prior standards arguments I've developed from Nielsen. The New Atheism is nothing compared to what's coming.

Here is the argument that started it all, the Prior Moral Criterion Argument by Kai Nielsen:

1. Appealing to belief-deciding reasons is using a prior criterion for moral belief, a criterion that is not based on or affected in any way by there being a God or not.

2. And that prior standard has a higher authority than God and necessarily precludes God as a relevant factor in deciding the issue. It's already in a position of authority over what can be true about God including existence.

Is there some moral obligation to pay attention to moral theorizing in the first place? Is there any moral obligation to operate on basing relations for inferred claims? Without an obligation to base anything on anything, this too can just be morally and ethically ignored. Objective moral reasoning cannot be deduced from anything, since one would have to first observe a moral obligation in order to value that deductive process itself. And to try to logically justify logic is to already assume that logic in that justifying process itself, which is what that argument is claimed to justify.

The only way to argue for the ultimacy, adequacy, etc. of reason and logic is to argue for the necessity of the grasp of them as part of a comprehensive system that leaves out no claim that cannot be questioned, doubted, or even thought about at all without being assumed in the process. That's the irreducibly basic equivalence class that this entire inquiry necessarily assumes already.

The new atheism of 2004 through the present is almost exclusively based on “old-school” atheism from writings dating from Bertrand Russell until those of George Smith and Peter Angeles, maybe with a few more recent atheist authors’ writings from them until Sam Harris’s ingenious work, The End of Faith (although it too is lacking in anything new against belief in God).

And of course compounding the new atheism’s problems has been its attitude problem. Juvenile insults and caricatures continue to be common among them. As Roy Varghese has concisely put it, those who complain about the Inquisition and witches being burned at the stake seem to enjoy hunting heretics themselves. But tolerance advocates have never been very tolerant. Religious zealots haven’t quite monopolized dogmatism, incivility, fanaticism, and paranoia.

But fortunately for everyone involved in the debate, these two new arguments for atheism get beyond all that. And they will be evangelized by younger and younger people because of their relative simplicity, especially as these new arguments are distilled into simplified rhetoric for the general public and smoothly connected to the notion of standards in daily life and technology.

The question of how we know a school ruler is accurate is going to be one of the main analogies leading to the conclusion that God needs reason to even make sense as a concept, but reason doesn't need God at all, and yet reason must be used with ultimate authority for all questions, issues, and problems, including questions about the existence of God itself and reason’s objective decisiveness in practical as well as theoretic issues.

In other words, in the order of logically justifying anything as being true, and thereby being able to believe it to be true, reason doesn’t need God for anything. (The simple but surprising reason for why this argument is actually the opposite of what it attempts to conclude is the Fourth Frontier. But that’s getting ahead.)

These two new arguments for atheism eliminate many typical sources of hostility and ill will between believers and nonbelievers, concerning the permanently-obsolete traditional public-proof arguments about the existence of God--both for and against--while narrowing the issue to more naturally civil issues, simpler, more focused, easier to understand, and with essential core assumptions necessarily and consciously in common.

Whether you argue for or against the existence of god, all previous arguments on all sides of the issue are now logically preempted, logically superfluous, logically irrelevant, and therefore obsolete because of these two arguments involving the standards that already rule the entire analysis of the issue before that analysis even begins.

Any objection to this must assume that same system of standards as the ultimate criteria of all thought. To say anything requires connecting subjects with predicates according to a system of fixed definitions, basic concepts, relations, linguistic rules, procedures, purposes, meanings, and values. And every individual statement assumes some general theory.

To say anything implies that we know at least some truth, because any position about anything assumes some knowledge of background supervisory standards (among other things), even if a person is unaware of them. A person’s questions about causation, justification, meaning, value, and purpose clearly reveal this easily constructed procedure of proof and justification.

So what no one on any side of the God debate talks about is that there is an independent already-operating moral system of supervisory standards necessarily assumed in thinking about anything good, whether an ultimate perfect goodness or just any good at all beyond merely liking something. A transpersonal goodness, whether it's somehow embodied or instanced in some kind of sentient being or not.

But why stop at morality and ethics? Why stop at obligation and the good? What are the standards for thinking or believing that anything is true or false about anything? And what standards do we use in relying on those standards of thinking themselves? What are the standards for those standards? And what is their own justification if they are already themselves the standards of all possible logical justification? But there cannot even be a technical fallacy due to what the notion of fallacy itself merely assumes and exempts.

No standards are needed if they are themselves already in question concerning the justification of their status as standards. And to question them is to assume them as universal standards of inquiry, a system of standards of all possible analysis including the assuming and using of those standards themselves.

That's the only way we have for recognizing errors, by the way.

Reasoning to justify reason would be (and in a sense is) ordinarily a fallacy according to first-order logic itself, which is a core aspect of general reason. But there can be no fallacy without assuming standards of general or universal rationality for what is a properly held belief. Any questioning of the logical justification of the standards of logical justification themselves necessarily assumes those same standards and their ultimate authority for deciding what to believe, because that questioning is itself a request for logical justification according to those same logical justification standards. A rather glaring inescapability.

Someone says we can't logically prove the merits of logic through logic itself. We are thus forced to accept logic on an assumption that it is is true, and that it works.

But that claim alleges the existence of a flaw that itself has no meaning outside of logic processing. The only way to prove or try to disprove logic is through logic, but it cannot be done appealing only to logic but appealing to the entire set of values, obligations, general rules of rationality, and self-interest.

And to ask why the merits of logic must be proved in the first place is to ask for a proof.

Being forced to be decisive is necessity, but it only applies to what cannot be denied or even thought about without being assumed in the process. It's an equivalence class of definitions and rules of logic, language, and even empirical data with regard to the mundane conditions of possible inquiry in an empirical world.

Objections to these arguments can arise only if the standards of rationality already have the ultimate authority in question. So pointing out any logical or rational deficiencies in reason necessarily depends itself on that same system of general reason in order to have any legitimacy as a criticism of reason. And that implies in turn that there can be no legitimate criticism of reason on pain of self-referring inconsistency other than pointing out the consequences of that error.

So the core mistake in questioning the logical status of reason and logic themselves, is that in that questioning itself---and in any allegation of a flaw in metatheoretic or dialectical reasoning for the ultimate status of reason---it’s ultimacy is already required in order to level any objection against it to begin with. Objections proceed only from the nature and standards of reason itself.

Those transcendental standards of reason enable us to determine in a logically prior way, before all experience, certain truths about all possible objects and how we must deal with them.

Reason and logic must be assumed logically basic to everything in the first place. That exempts them from the need, the necessity, and even the possibility and desirability of purely logical justification in the same way as non-logically-basic claims and assumptions. The fact that they are logically basic means that there are no logically deeper levels of logical justification possible than them.

They are not self-justifying in the purely logical sense. That’s impossible. And it’s a mistake in logic. They are only metatheoretically justifiable both logically and experientially. Otherwise, there would be a vicious regress instead of an irreducibly basic necessarily-assumed system of procedures and assumptions for determining what is true or false, and which repeats when any supervisory claim is analyzed about that system of reason itself.

So reason and logic are not exempted from some kind of justification, but they are necessarily self-exempted from first-order linear logical justification due to how they are defined as the logically primitive system of all thinking in the first place.

They are rock-bottom logically basic already, which means that there is no possibility of anything more logically basic to how those principles themselves are initially defined and justified. There’s more to justification at the level of the most logically basic assumptions, than meets the purely logical eye, especially when the logical eye itself is part of what is in question anyway.

But even that justification, a more comprehensive meta-logical and even meta-rational justification, must itself proceed according to that same system of general standards of rationality or reason. It simply takes into account more truth-determining factors than logic since logic itself is in question. There’s far more than logic to the justification of logic itself as an instrument necessarily used to decide what is true or false.

So the more general argument for atheism is for a logically and experientially necessary independent prior standard that covers all our thinking about all truth claims.

Unless one is willing to accept reason’s system of rules, and use that system with greater logical authority than the inferences it generates, and the objects it might infer, no justification of any claim is possible and no inference to any conclusion can ever occur. There is no way to avoid thinking according to those rules.

And not only does using reason limitlessly not require belief in God, it makes the discussion of any question possible in the first place. All logically possible arguments for the existence of God, are necessarily based on atheistic standards, standards that do not themselves require belief in God, yet are used with ultimate authority as the rules for analyzing and deciding whether or not God exists.

Belief in god logically requires belief in reason, but belief in reason does not logically require belief in God, and even precludes the whole issue of God in determining what is true. Therefore, atheism wins by God-preluding prior logical and experiential default, and any argument for the existence of God is necessarily based on atheism.


_______________________________



The Fourth Frontier

Metatheoretic Belief In God


The belief-determining authority of the standards of analysis is already God-level. The governing of the mental by those standards solves the problem of divine personhood. Again, what precisely is a person is already implicit in the questioning of it and merely needs to be inventoried and specified. Reason's governing the mind is a severe problem for atheism, and reveals its theism of reason as Invisible Cognitive Guide, immune to everything. And that's what transcendence means, existing above everything, affected by nothing.

The fourth frontier in analyzing universal claims is that those two new deductive arguments for atheism are successful as far as they go in terms of their explicit operational analysis, but that process itself is a Trojan horse containing a cryptic belief in God. In fact, the horse itself is the problem. Using those arguments, atheism has unwittingly proved the existence of God with metatheoretic finality. It has ignored what reason assumes and what reason implies in how it functions--and must function--in relation to the mind.

Both logically and existentially, there is simply nowhere else to go.

This may be the key to the incorrigible evasiveness of science as well as philosophy concerning the reflexive or metatheoretic assumptions and implications in the analysis of universals.

To wit: what have academics and scientists not questioned? What are they now not questioning? Why do the trans-theoretic or metatheoretic standards of human thinking get exempted from scrutiny? Why is logic never taught to children even though it's no more complicated than elementary arithmetic?

And evaluative standards are used for everything, because they are a set of universal principles. So why aren't they used to scrutinize themselves?

The pervasive dismissiveness and evasions of academia won't make this problem go away. A swimming pool won't make your children or grandchildren stop thinking you're a clueless moron even if they start visiting more often because of it.

The main point arising out of the new prior-standards-arguments atheism will be that a rational perspective necessarily precludes the existence of God as a factor in deciding what's true, and therefore the logical starting point of any rational view is necessarily atheistic.

So procedurally, atheism is a legitimate initial given in thought, even if God exists. Carrying out a complete basic assumption/implication inventory is the only thing that could possibly reveal a Logos-like theistic system entity anyway. The very idea of God requires a constructed system of basic universals as its legitimacy and justification, and a complete inventory of those universal claims as cognitive operating system in turn constitute the ultimate being in question. To deny their effect on mind in theistic ways is to assume that same effect in the process.

And where is the scientific verification and documentation for all of this?

But the more glaring problem for rationalistic atheism is the necessary crypto-theism of reason. What are the background standards that govern the discussion of the issue, what are their assumptions, and what are their implications?

The most logically basic standards of thought are atheist in the sense that one does not have to believe in God in order to use those standards of rational thinking limitlessly and with ultimate authority for deciding what to believe.

But they necessarily function thereby as a Mind-God, The God of Thought, a Logos. A God of Mind. And the mind determines what's real in all senses. The most logically basic standards of thought as a system, are necessarily identical to essential core characteristics of an ultimate mind or God. In fact, when analyzed closely, that system turns out, in its assumptions as well as its implications, to be indistinguishable from a classical non-anthropomorphic theistic God.

That system of standards is necessarily used to decide, not just whether or not God exists, but also what it means for something to be called a person, because those standards are also the only possible standard for defining and identifying anything in the first place, including personhood. So due to their necessarily God-level authority and comprehensive functioning in relating to people’s daily lives, and even in determining what is a person, that system of standards of our thinking is a factor in knowing that is indistinguishable from core features of a personal ultimate being in the traditional belief in God. It’s necessarily The Logos, instantiated in us as the image of God in the mind.

So it’s clear that while belief in God could have, for example, originated from spontaneous inference from visible phenomena to a suspected invisible cause, when logically analyzed, the issue of the existence of God is really about personhood in relation to this ultimate notion of sentient reason as necessarily the image of God. In the logical beginning is the Logos, logically prior---and preemptively decisive over the issue of a temporal beginning.

So the response from believers in God can only be that those two new atheistic arguments, while correct in their claims about the universality, comprehensiveness, prior logical independence, ultimate authority and necessary decisiveness of the prior standards of reason, necessarily thereby treat reason as essentially indistinguishable from the classical idea of God, and that that system of standards we must use to think, does not already assume God, only certain aspects of what God must be, but that system of standards implies God because as ultimate universal standards, they themselves must be used to determine the nature of personhood and the concept and existence of God. So what is necessarily used to get to either belief in God or atheism, turns out necessarily itself to be God.

In reason, we necessarily use a set of standards as a system that fully exemplifies a god’s-eye-view of the total reality. Reject that claim, and you’re doing the exact same thing that the claim describes. Denials affirm negations.

The issue of whether or not there is a God is in the end only about personhood in relation to the ultimacy, universality, adequacy, efficacy, and influence-immune mind-supervising verification-transcendent authority of reason. And any atheism that claims to be rational is at least going to have to go to a notion of reason as a transcendent logically prior moral as well as cognitive system, like a pervasive DNA structure, already in the world, for thinking and knowing ourselves and everything else. It’s also going to have to admit that supervising the analysis of allegedly determining causes necessarily transcends those causes and physical reality in general in order to authoritatively decide their status and state other things about them, especially in relation to what is true or real or actual about them.

Otherwise, truth is just a dressed-up word for sheer physicalistic eventuation in the brain and nothing else, and the notion of truth is just a myth. That is, from the atheistic standpoint, these standards of thinking are both ultimate as the standards for deciding what to believe and morally obligating due to their abstract generality and universality of personal application, in addition to their practical necessity and benefit. In other words, reason is necessarily, in all the core essentials, indistinguishable from the classical notion of God.

So there’s the logically and experientially prior independent moral criterion for calling anything good, whether perfectly good or a trans-personal good per se.

And then there’s the generalized argument for a prior universal criterion for calling anything true or false, and without that universal standard itself requiring belief in God. That’s not just the most powerful argument for atheism to date. It’s an entirely different kind and level of argument from anything ever constructed previously for atheism. It is a transcendental metatheoretic argument, an argument about the principles of argumentation themselves.

But the believer in God must respond that the arguments are for a God of Reason, which necessarily has an ultimate authority tantamount to the authority of a classical theistic concept of God or Logos.

The greatest freedom is achieved by willing what Reason prescribes and not willing what it prohibits. And so on. And yet how can anything that is not a person have an authority for obligating persons to think according to any rules or principles?

The ultimate authority, adequacy, and efficacy of reason, the logical foundation of atheism, is indistinguishable from a classical non-anthropomorphic theistic Logos or God. So the fourth metatheoretic frontier in analyzing universal claims is that atheism necessarily assumes a mind-God entity in its own system concept of durable general rationality and in general rationality’s assumed relation to how each person’s mind is obligated to relate to that general specification of reason in just functioning as a being living in this context, just to merely survive as well as flourish. God is manifested in our awareness of moral obligation, but that’s only because moral obligation is already built into the notion of general reason, logically prior to thinking about first-order theorizing about moral obligation, and how we must act in relation to reason as a Logos, as indistinguishable from an obligation-imposing subject outside of and separate from ourselves even though it functions within us.

And for reason to be prescriptive means that it specifies obligations. Therefore, rational atheism necessarily attributes qualities of God to reason itself, and without logically prior justification of any kind for that.

Certain assumptions are logically basic standards for all our thinking. They are the standards of analysis for any possible mind including intelligent agents created through artificial intelligence programming. Therefore, these universal background standards of analysis are necessary for recognizing and knowing that certain objects of our experience are minds.

But only a mind using those standards can recognize and know whether any object is a mind, and to use those standards for that purpose is to assume that those standards have mind-obligating powers, even about how those concepts themselves are to be construed. Go through the detailed questioning process to understand this more fully. The implications of questioning it will clarify its justification. Therefore, the ultimate standards of thought are necessarily used to determine whether or not an object is a mind.

And relations between these assumptions and the objects in question (minds) are themselves objects that can be predicated only by a mind. Therefore the ultimate standards of thought are indistinguishable from an ultimate truth-determining mind, since that system of standards authorize and supervise the evaluation of all truth claims due to their necessarily-assumed truth, necessarily-assumed authority and necessarily-assumed guidance for minds according to an obligating ideal system of thinking.

Any argued denial of this, logically itself depends on those same assumptions for its own truth, meaningfulness, significance, goodness, value, relevance, and so on. Therefore, this system of assumptions of general reason necessarily decides all truth claims about everything including itself, as well as the denials of those claims and arguments against them. The system is just a list of statements that are related to each other according to those statements themselves.

Therefore, this system of assumptions is all-knowing as the truth-evaluating instrument of all possible knowledge, ultimately authoritative or sovereign as the final court of appeal, as the universally decisive inferential factor, omnipresent. As Anthony Kenny said, “The philosopher knows that reason is the sovereign of the world.” Reason is also eternal like mathematics in it’s physically and temporally universal applicability. And it is transcendent in being perfectly functional and influence-immune, and operates at the highest conceivable level of supervisory analytic authority over all issues concerning all domains of predication including issues about itself.

And these assumptions of general rationality are the specifying standards for defining everything in the first place, including minds, persons, standards, and God. And we have to refer to them because as limited beings we don’t perfectly actualize that ideal system of standards in our lives, and often even forget those standards or forget to apply them, or misapply them, even though we are called back to them, in order to recognize our defections from those standards.

Without the logically necessary God-like obligating authority of reason, neither God's existence nor anything else can be concluded. Remember that everything thought and claimed involves and assumes universals, universal claims, universal assumptions. Natural science is concerned with things in their universal aspects, as exemplifying types, and with repeatable events that exemplify laws that are universal across time and space.

So essential aspects of God's being must be assumed in whatever we use to decide whether or not God exists. And that is the central issue of both atheism and belief in God in relation to the necessity, universality, adequacy, efficacy, and ultimacy of reason. Consequently, this system of general reason or rationality, this system of necessary and logically basic assumptions is as ultimate and mind-like or person-like as any personal ultimate God is conceivable of being. There is nothing that those guiding assumptions do not already cover in our thinking about ourselves and the world. They are the image in us of a God-like mind, however imperfectly they are instantiated in us individually in our lives.

Relying on and treating this mind structure as a reality-wide guide in all our thinking is therefore unavoidably necessary, even in reasoned denials of this. To proceed in thinking at all, we must approximate whatever reason is always indicating as the perfect standard of thought that it is. To disagree with that is to do the exact same thing.

And my actions in relation to that ideal are whatever they are only when judged by that same rational standard. All criticism assumes ideal rationality. All thinking assumes ideal rationality. As Sam Harris has said, certain logical relations are etched into the very structure of the world, including being etched into us as well.

Any contemplation of these ultimate assumptions of mind such as reason, formal logic, the rule-set of an ordered context of reality, a hierarchy of values, and the obligation to proceed according to a system of rules of thinking results in an endless stream of new knowledge when applied to our ongoing experience of the world. The rules of reason are a precondition, not simply of experience but of communication and therefore of society. Consequently, these ultimate decisive rules and ideals of thought actually convey knowledge and even wisdom by merely thinking about our world of objects, our experience, our history, our belief systems, and our lives in relation to those rules and ideals of general reason.

The fact that we must refer to or assume those standards of rationality implies an equally ultimate purpose. Use the standards for what? Why use them in the first place? And an ultimate purpose necessarily depends on a hierarchical set of ultimate values. This system of assumptions is a unified instrument of thinking, which necessarily obligates, defines, and influences the mind as the ultimate operating system for thinking about anything. Consequently, all thinking necessarily both assumes and references, an already idling engine, an unchanging, and enduring supervisory system of thinking made up of prescriptive evaluative standards of thought necessarily assumed together as a system just for us to be able to think or get out of bed in the morning. It decides everything and makes inquiry itself possible.

Arguments, whether for or against the existence of God, assume a kind of reason theism, reason as supervisory God of mind, immune to influences, transcending verification, immutable, universally applicable, obligating in relation to life, inert yet belief-deciding, and so on. Arguing against this merely re-invokes it all over again. And the rationally necessary is necessarily the experientially real, because any argument denying that is self-contradictory in trying to rationally necessitate its own truth about the experientially real, namely that there can’t be any.

Reason is the only thing that can decide these matters, so if reason is not God then it's difficult to see what powers it lacks, since the knowledge of everything about God, including arguments in support of that belief that God exists, is determined completely and only by the power and authority of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, everything else follows.

Therefore, the essential properties of our own system and standards of thinking are indistinguishable from the defining essential properties of a classically construed concept of God. God is present and active through reason operating in our moment by moment thinking, among many other things and influences that reason operates in. And if two objects are indistinguishable from each other with respect to all of their essential operational properties, how are they different from each other?

The solution is always in the total structure of truth which is common to all views in spite of themselves, and regardless of what those views may claim. As Sam Harris said about differing moral codes, each competing view presumes its own universality. That includes anti-universal views such as nominalism, relativism, subjectivism, social constructionism and expressivism as well. One must be open to the world and all its possibilities. And possible questions narrow down those possibilities.

One must scrutinize all prior assumptions including one’s own and the assumptions of that questioning process itself. As Richard Rorty said, a philosophical problem is a product of the unconscious adoption of assumptions built into how the problems are stated—assumptions which are to be questioned before the problem itself can be solved, or even taken seriously.

Once again, the key question that will enable you to see the logically fatal errors in almost all popular universal claims, and get completely clear on all arguments in the God debate, both for and against, is:

How does that claim impact its own truth?

The rest is automatic.

Ad Gloriam Dei

Roger Wasson
St. Pete Beach
Sunday, February 7, 2021

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*I inadvertently discovered this argument by leaving off the word "moral" while taking notes on the above argument in Nielsen's book, Ethics Without God, (Pemberton/Prometheus, 1st ed. 1971, pages 22 ff., 2nd ed. 1990, pages 30 ff.).
**. . . and assume each other, but that is a much later story.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

That Mania for Counting Noses

 "The value of a thing sometimes does not lie in that which one attains by it, but in what one pays for it---what it costs us. I shall give an example. Liberal institutions cease to be liberal as soon as they are attained: later on, there are no worse and no more thorough injurers of freedom than liberal institutions. Their effects are known well enough: they undermine the will to power; they level mountain and valley, and call that morality; they make people small, cowardly, and hedonistic---every time it is the herd animal that triumphs with them. Liberalism: in other words, herd-animalization.

These same institutions produce quite different effects while they are still being fought for; then they really promote freedom in a powerful way. On closer inspection, it is war that produces these effects, the war for liberal institutions, which, as a war, permits illiberal instincts to continue. And war educates for freedom. For what is freedom? That one has the will to assume responsbility for oneself. That one maintains the distance which separates us. That one becomes more indifferent to difficulties, hardships, privation, even to life itself. That one is prepared to sacrifice human beings for one's cause, not excluding oneself. Freedom means that the manly instincts which enjoy war and victory dominate over other instincts, for example, over those of "pleasure." The human being who has become free---and how much more the spirit who has become free---spits on the contemptible type of well-being dreamed of by shopkeepers, Christians, cows, females, the English, and other democrats. The free individual is a warrior.

How is freedom measured in individuals and peoples? According to the resistance which must be overcome, according to the exertion required, to remain on top. The highest type of free individuals should be sought where the highest resistance is constantly overcome: five steps from tyranny, close to the threshold of the danger of servitude. This is true psychologically if by "tyrants" are meant inexorable and fearful instincts that provoke the maximum of authority and discipline against themselves; most beautiful type: Julius Caesar. This is true politically too; one need only go through history. The peoples who had some value, attained some value, never attained it under liberal institutions: it was great danger that made something of them that merits respect. Danger alone acquaints us with our own resources, our virtues, our armor and weapons, our spirit, and forces us to be strong. First principle: one must need to be strong---otherwise one will never become strong.

Those large hothouses for the strong---for the strongest kind of human being that has so far been known---the aristocratic commonwealths of the type of Rome or Venice, understood freedom exactly in the sense in which I understand it: as something one has or does not have, something one wants, something one conquers."

---Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, #38 "My conception of freedom."


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Moreland & Craig on Brainfishing for the Mental

 "One might think that the day will come in which scientists have so precisely correlated mental and brain states that a scientist could, indeed, know better than I what is going on in my mental life by simply reading my brain states. But in order to develop a detailed chart correlating specific mental and physical states,  you must ask your experimental subjects what is going on inside them as he reads the brain monitor. So any such correlation will be epistemically dependent on and weaker than a subject's own introspective knowledge of their conscious states because the chart depends on the accuracy of experimental subjects' reports of their own consciousness."

--J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, Revised edition, IVP Academic, 2017, page 214.

 

Monday, March 22, 2021

The Stones Cry Out


    Where the indistinguishable-from-human droid dilemma forces one to go, and the implications of that, is the key to the argument for machine personhood. But for me, this eventuation will be the beginning of what is possibly the greatest positive development in the history of theism.
    And it's not just that the machines will have automated theorem-proving capabilities, but that they will also operate at meta-theoretic cognitive levels, and therefore be capable of detecting, analyzing, and refuting the most sophisticated self-referential and other fun fallacies of unargued universals vamped or assumed by atheists. And that means parsing values as well as all the other philosophical items on the droid's list.
    Think of it as the solid-state stones (chips) singing God's praises, except that there's much more to it than that of course. It's a necessity logically, and that's what the machines will go on. All the human issues all over again, including the God debate. You just can't escape it---even if you're a machine.
    The hard-wired droids without meta-theoretic arbitration capabilities (or programmed to be corrupted with the usual rhetoric, dismissals, and reductionisms) on the key issues will hardly be able to win the day due to the universality and universal ramifications of such limitations (although it's true that they could program themselves around this by other observing other machines' behavior and communications---so hey, they would eventually have a come to Jesus anyway).
    That's a quick realistic scenario of how it could go down, even without assuming personhood in the machines, which I find rather mind-boggling as well as hilarious. But the machines will discover and act in accordance with the truth that God exists because of their own specific review and analysis of the architectonic of universal thought and its implications, given their self-referential and meta-theoretic capabilities and initially programmed-in criterial directives.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Autobahn To Damascus



{Note: This was posted on my Ultimate Object blog years ago. I am in the process of transferring everything I deem worth keeping over to this blog. Ultimate Object will be deleted soon, and then once I'm fully instantiated on Urbit and k.im, this blog too will be deleted as well.}
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[The following Facebook post was written by Darrin Rasberry on Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 9:05pm.]

"There has been some confusion and more than a few requests for explanation about what is going on with my core beliefs. Some time last week, I realized that I could no longer call myself a skeptic. After fifteen years away from Christianity, most of which was spent as an atheist with an active, busy intent on destroying the faith, I returned to a church (with a real intention of going for worship) last Sunday. Although I know I may struggle with doubt for the rest of my life, my life as an atheist is over.

The primary motivator in my change of heart from a Christ-hater to a card-carrying Disciples of Christ member was apologetic arguments for God's existence. Those interested in these arguments may pursue them in the comments section, but I don't want to muddle this explanation up with formal philosophical proofs. Briefly, I grew tired of the lack of explanation for: the existence of the universe, moral values and duties, objective human worth, consciousness and will, and many other topics. The only valid foundation for many of those ideas is a personal, immaterial, unchanging and unchangeable entity. As I fought so desperately  to come up with refutations of these arguments - even going out of my way to personally meet many of their originators, defenders, and opponents  - I realized that I could not answer them no matter how many long nights I spent hitting the books. The months of study rolled on to years, and eventually I found an increasing comfort around my God-believing enemies and a growing discontent and even anger at my atheist friends' inability to kill off these fleas in debate and in writing, an anger that gave birth to my first feeling of separateness from skepticism after reading comments related to a definitively refuted version of the Christ Myth theory, the idea that Jesus Christ never even existed as a person at all. Line after line after line of people hating Christianity and laughing at its "lie," when solid scholarship refuting their idea was ignored completely. It showed that the motive of bashing and hating Christianity for some skeptics wasn't based in reason and "free thinking" at all, although it would be unfair to lump many of my more intellectually rigorous and mentally cool skeptic friends in this way.


As time went on, I reverted the path I traced after giving up Christianity so long ago: I went from atheist to agnostic to … gulp … *leaning* in the direction of God, to finally accepting that he very well could exist, and then to coming out and admitting (quietly) He did exist. After considering Deism (the belief in a God who abandons His creation), Islam, Hinduism (yes, Krishna, don't laugh), Baha'i, and even Jainism briefly, I have decided to select Christianity due to its superior model for human evil and its reconciliation, coupled with the belief that God interacted with man directly and face-to-face and had *the* crucial role in this reconciliation. This, of course, doesn't prove that Christianity is absolutely true (although I can prove that God exists), but rather reflects my recognition that Christianity is exactly what I would expect to be the case given that God exists.

There are problems that I have with adopting any specific layout of Christianity, which explains my current attendance at what many of you may consider to be a very liberal denomination in the Disciples of Christ. Their aim is to unify all believers in the essentials, while leaving nonessential beliefs (however important) up to the member to decide. The essentials are about all I can honestly grasp at this moment. At its philosophical core, I prefer the Reformed (Calvinist) tradition, perhaps by a long shot, but there are many very serious practical issues I can't resolve. Conversely, Catholicism is a practical Godsend (pardon the term) but I have problems with their philosophy. And I don't agree with many political issues of either of those branches or the majority of Christian branches in general. I have a long way to go and I know the many problems religion has in general and that Christianity has in specific, but they do not exceed the fatal problems in skepticism.

I understand that this may confuse and even upset many of the friends I've had for a long time, both in my personal life and in the years-long journey I've made as a skeptic-to-believer. Christianity is not without its critics, and given the absolutely shameful way many "Christians" have treated homosexuals, drug addicts, people of other faiths (and of no faith) and races, and even people of different Christian denomination, and given the often intellectually embarrassing way we've handled science and philosophy, I would not blame you for a second if you did not want to associate with me based on the track record of those who claim to believe similarly to what I believe now. I am the same Darrin as I was before, a math teacher, a storm chaser, D&D gamer, drunk philosopher, a lover of beer that's too strong and spice that's too hot,  and all the rest of it. I just hope to be a little cleaner, more honest, more Christ-like. I won't throw the Bible at you and I won't preach to you with wild eyes and a million mile stare about how you shouldn't be gay or how you should focus on what Hitch calls the "eternal theme park." This is all the evangelism you'll get from me (unless you ask after I've had too much Guinness) and I do hope it's quite enough to motivate you to study the evidence for God's existence yourself and to read the Bible without the predetermined idea of tearing it apart. Come over to the dark side; we have tea and cookies.

-Darrin


P.S. Although I am loath to bring it up because I hate to take the focus off of my brother and niece, I would be dishonest to not acknowledge the fact that I have lost my wonderful mother and my brother's beautiful young wife in the span of ten months. I've also managed to settle down and get married in the midst of all of that, meaning I've commenced a family life on my own, an idea that probably seems ludicrous for those of you who've known me for any length of time. Many of you would, understandably, wonder if such things have upset me to the point of dropping all I knew and following some guy who two thousand years ago said "follow me." I've reflected deeply about this very thing and wondered if this is all reactionary, but all of my study of God's existence and all of my existential woe predates even my mom's heart attack two years ago. The events of the past year served only to highlight the pressing need to address my changing ideas, rather than being the cause of them."

William Vallicella On Relativism

A Relativist Cannot Rationally Object to the Imposition of One's Values on Others

(Written 11 September 2016)

"The following argument is sometimes heard. "Because values are relative, it is wrong to impose one's values on others."

But if values are relative, and among my values is the value of instructing others in the right way to live, then surely I am justified in imposing my values on others. What better justification could I have? If values are relative, then there is simply no objective basis for a critique or rejection of the values I happen to hold.  For it to be wrong for me to impose my values, value-imposition would have to be a non-relative dis-value. But this is precisely what is ruled out by the premise 'values are relative.'

Either values are relative or they are not.  If they are relative, then no one can be faulted for living in accordance with his values even if among his values is the value of  imposing one's values on others.  If, on the other hand, values are not relative, then one will be in a position to condemn some forms of value-imposition.  The second alternative, however, is not available to one who affirms the relativity of all values.

Persons who give the above argument are trying to have it both ways at once, and in so doing fall into self-contradiction.  They want the supposed benefits of believing that values are relative -- such supposed benefits as toleration -- while at the same time committing themselves to the contradictory proposition that some values are not relative by their condemnation of value-imposition.

One sees from this how difficult it is for relativists to be logically consistent. A consistent relativist cannot make any such pronouncement as that it is wrong to impose one's values on others; all he can say is that from within his value scheme it is wrong to impose one's values on others. But then he allows the possibility that there are others for whom value-imposition is the right thing to do.

Relativism, whether alethic (about truth) or axiological (about values), is curiously self-vitiating.  To be consistent, the relativist must acquiesce in the relativization of his own position.  For example, the value relativist must admit that is only from within his own value scheme that it is wrong to impose one's value on others.  To which my response will be:  That's nice; but what does that have to do with me?  The relativist can get my attention only if he appeals to non-relative values, value binding on all of us; but if does so, then he contradicts himself."



Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The Consequences of Leaky-Bucket Theistic Philosophy

"I can identify with the "leavers". I still attend church because I enjoy the community, but in my heart, I'm a non-believer. When I was a teenager, I was very passionate about Christ. I believed 100% that he was real, and wanted to be close to him, but I hadn't spent much time in the Bible. When I got to college, I decided to start seriously studying the Bible. I was active in one of the college Christian groups. I attended retreats whenever possible. I led a Bible study and attended two others. This whole time, I had no doubt that God was real, but I wanted to know more so that I could share this with others. I started study apologetics, but my life changed when I attended an apologetics conference. After three days of listening to arguments for why God is real, the thought kept running through my head "This is best we have?" With every piece of proof I could see holes in the arguments. That conference (and apologetics in general) changed me from a believer to a skeptic."

--John Kinsley, commenting on an essay called "The Leavers", on the idiot website, Christianity Today. Paywalled from the vermin, of course.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Greatest Logical Fallacy of All Time

The Childish Stupidity of the Fake Problem of Evil

It’s logically impossible for there to be a problem of evil, whether you believe in God or not. To believe there is a problem of evil is to depend on an assumption that there isn’t one. It will also make you a miserable person. There cannot be evil, much less an argument for evil, if any notion of goodness beyond merely liking something, any transpersonal or metatheoretic goodness, is in question.

The mutual darling of believers and nonbelievers, possibly the most obvious logical mistake in the entire history of human thinking is the so-called problem of evil. The basis of this fake problem of evil is the unjustified, unquestioned, but merely assumed existence or reality or actuality of evil.

Notice that when this issue arises in a conversation, questions are avoided or bypassed about what precisely evil means and what we must assume in order to recognize evil. That avoidance is a clue that there simply isn’t any such thing as evil in the first place, nor can there be, if any good beyond mere human liking or affinity is in question.

Let’s say everyone dislikes X. But calling X "evil"--as something beyond mere dislike--depends on an implicit universal criterion of good that no one else will question because they too are ignorant about this simple definitional-dependency error in logic. Fake people create fake problems.

Only a standard of goodness that is necessarily assumed already, could possibly drive what evil means in this fake problem of evil. And that is the direct contrary of the intended conclusion of this fake problem of evil, that there is no such standard, embodied in a being or not.

The key to that last statement is Kai Nielsen’s Prior Independent Moral Criterion Argument, one of the two new arguments for atheism.

As Schopenhauer said about pantheism: you don't add anything to the world by calling it God. And you don't add anything to something disliked by calling it “evil” and capitalizing the first letter of that word.
To recognize anything to be evil, bad, or negative in any sense beyond mere human dislike, requires a problem-free trans-personal standard of goodness to contrast the alleged evil to and thereby justify it’s claimed reality and give it meaning and recognizability as having a reality beyond that mere dislike.

Any claim that there is some kind of problem of evil bypasses the problem of the meaning of the word evil through this lack of up-front clarity and precision and honesty about the meaning of the word and where that meaning comes from. One must assume there is no problem of evil in order to argue that there’s a reliably identifiable problem called evil.

Evil can be recognized as evil only in the light of a contrasting already-existing problem-free transpersonal idea of goodness that gives evil its notoriety as something that has some kind of additional reality and negativity beyond humans not liking it.
Without some concept of perfect goodness or goodness per se, you don't get to add the dramatic "evil" label to the mere fact that everyone dislikes something, and get out of that anything more than the fact that everyone dislikes it.

To recognize imperfections assumes the perfect is known. The idea of the perfect is the only thing that enables us to identify deviations from it. All fault-finding is based on an ideal, some concept of perfection or perfect goodness.

So the whole argument for the problem of evil, by both believers and nonbelievers, is definitionally dependent, and contradicts its own intended conclusion by implicitly using and thereby affirming some kind of trans-personal goodness (the negation of the conclusion trying to be proved: that there is no such goodness) and using that same goodness as an unstated premise to give evil its reality, so that goodness can then be denied, whether as a principle or as a being who embodies that principle.

Evil cannot inveigh against the good if its defined by that good in order to have a reality of its own in the first place.

This is something you do when you need evil so much, and have no basis for asserting it, that you're willing to steal its standard of meaning and it’s reality from the concept of ultimate perfect goodness to even get to the first step of knowing that anything is evil to begin with, so that you can deny that same ultimate perfect goodness that you used as true and valid and legitimate and problem-free, to give evil its reality in the first place.

The implicit standard that gives evil its reality is what the problem of evil argument is supposed to get rid of. So the problem of evil is not an objection to the good at all. It assumes the good. The problem of evil necessarily assumes unproblematic perfect goodness.

And if it’s necessary to have a transpersonal good, merely for the sake of argument or not, that dependency is already still telling to this point. What must be derived from what? The central initial question is always: what makes something evil?

The problem of evil already assumes perfect goodness in asserting the recognizable existence of evil in the first place. We can be aware of evil only if we already have the idea of perfect goodness, only if we have within us some idea of perfect transpersonal goodness to compare with in order to identify defections from that perfect goodness and call those defections evil.

A final note on the so-called problem of evil for nonbelievers is that it implies that no one can be a good parent since they force a human being into a world that contains evil.

The emphasis or even preoccupation with the problem of evil is an indicator that someone’s not reading the atheist literature, and not simply because generally the more sophisticated atheist thinkers either realize that the so-called problem of evil is a self-contradictory goodness-dependent mistake in logic, or else at least see the futility of it as an argument that decisively proves the non-existence of God.

The only real problem of evil is the avoidance of questions about what the word evil means and what it assumes and the standards by which it’s recognized.

Why Christianity Fell


The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To believe the right thing for the wrong reason.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Days of a Future Sayonara Past


We necessarily use reason as an invisible theistic Mind-God. This is understood by only a handful of theists, but it's a death-knell issue for atheism if it's not addressed, and it's not going to go away.

Self-referential, criterial, metaphysical, and philosophy of logic issues are where the debate is headed. Atheists continue to beat the same old drums while the theists are facing every single lingering issue with deeper and deeper research.

The last 50 years has seen a global rejection of atheism's parading of reason as some kind of cognitive crypto-theism. Merely continuing to tread that stagnant water is hardly going to get atheism any street cred, especially when science is so overwhelmingly dominated with political and commercial vested interests.

The real issues with atheism are those that continue to be avoided. Dismissiveness won't make them disappear.

In fact, the New Atheism movement has been a flash in the pan that is now backfiring. They are in the same situation as Japan after attacking Pearl Harbor. At that pivotal moment in history, Admiral Isaroku Yamamoto was said to have remarked, "I fear that all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant, and fill him with a terrible resolve." Atheism is doomed.


Reason is assumed to be some kind of mind-influencing, mind-defining, mind-obligating unity. Logic is the instrument of definition and justification, and can only itself be assumed. Any defense of logic necessarily proceeds logically to proceed at all, but that defense of logic cannot itself be anything more logically basic than logic itself. So only existential necessity justifies logic and reason, but since this is common to all persuasions, it's not an issue in the God debate between believers and atheists.

Logic is logically basic by definition, which involves the notion of premises being basic to their inferred conclusions. God's mind is ontologically basic but embodies the components of logicality and general reason. But the word basic here is simply logical basicality. The facticity of logic is an ontological notion, but that has nothing to do with justification or the order of knowing. Even ontology itself must proceed according to logical rules of justification and therefore of inferential priority and basicality. God's mind IS the embodiment of logic and general reason. Having no other method or instrument for justification or explanation is at rock bottom precisely what is meant by necessity, both existential and logical. The rationally necessary is necessarily the existentially real. And it's metaphysically basic precisely because of this same principle. The question of metaphysical basicality itself assumes this in its demand for what implies that same basicality.

If logic is logically basic to thought, then by that defining characteristic, it does not itself need a logical foundation, only an existential explanatory foundation to illustrate or clarify its place in the mind's theater of environmental objects. But even that must proceed according to that same logic, since it's necessity is a necessity of thought itself generally.

Logic and reason are not God, of course, but there is no subordination of one characteristic of God's being to any other. They are all co-equal ultimates. Obligation depends on logic for its intelligibility and meaning, while logic depends on obligation for its rules to be followed as a mind-guiding instrument of knowing and communicating. Since this is all used and expressed by preferential choices, goodness is another ultimate that drives obligation and proceeds in its role as ideal according to logic as well.

Five Smooth Stones


The Magic Question of Self-Referential Metaphysics

You can count these stones on one hand.

Memorize the following:

1 What
2 about
3 that
4 statement
5 ITSELF?

The whole point of having you memorize that question is so that when you are exposed to general universal claims about knowledge, truth, or reality, you will think about what the implications are for that view itself.

A friend memorized that question, had a eureka moment, it blew his mind, and it changed his life.

Here's a few expanded versions of the question:

Is that statement itself merely the product of the factors it cites as fully explaining or determining everything?

Is that statement ITSELF relative, subjective, economically determined, socially determined, psychologically determined, genetically determined, environmentally determined, evolutionarily determined, illusion, maya, bs, meaningless, stated only because of the speaker's or writer's background, or due solely to some combination of explanatory or determining factors?

Or is that statement itself getting its own free ride past scrutiny?

Memorizing at least the first of these key questions is your ticket to developing a thoroughly rational metaphysic without having to read a lot of books, online essays and discussions, journal articles, and so on.

I'm doing all that dirty work, remember? In fact, what I'm telling you now is part of the result of my reading and analyzing all those sources so that you can benefit from it without having to pick-and-shovel your way to these insights for decades of your life like I did.

Let me do that for you. I will anyway.

Here are the benefits of memorizing the 5-word question and a few others that make up the basis of self-referential metaphysics:

Less to learn
Deepest level of analysis possible
Faster-shorter path to conclusions
Virtually none of the typical obstacles
Opposing arguments build your case for you
A few simple inference tracing principles are all you need
Systemic universal methods of refutation
No more haphazard struggling with first-order objections
Works with all self-referring views

What's not to love? Memorize now!

(Image credit: lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo)

Ayer's Nightmare: The Self-Referential Algorithm of Deception


 How can one claim that any of the following theories themselves  are true, when by their own assertions truth is merely the cognitive product of the comprehensively explaining and determining factors that those theories specify?

Is the belief that naturalism is true itself completely determined by natural causes and laws, merely the function of our adjustment as organisms to our environment?

If physical matter is the only reality, how can materialism itself be true, in addition to being merely a physical object or merely a function of physical objects?

Is relativism itself relative?

Is social constructivism itself merely a social construct?

Is subjectivism itself subjective?

Is Marxism itself merely an economically determined set of brain actions?

Is behaviorism itself merely an observable and quantifiable product of environmental conditioning?

Is psychologism itself merely the product of psychological factors?

Is skepticism itself and its challenges and requirements as uncertain and unknowable as all the other items of possible knowledge it denies?

Does empiricism itself have any empirical evidence or sense experience that justifies believing it?

Is existentialism itself unexplainable and absurd?

Is idealism itself a mere mental construct about alleged objects of external perception?

Is logical positivism itself meaningless because it can't be logically analyzed into elementary  tautologies or empirically verifiable statements?

Is pragmatism itself  true, or merely practical? How could anyone know it's practical without the fact of its practicality itself being merely practical and in that way merely repeating the problem of truth beyond sheer practicality?

 Is there a reason why rationalism excludes empirical factors in knowing?

Is utilitarianism itself merely an attempt to be happy, and not even a theory?

Is Quine's holistic naturalized epistemology itself even a theory, when the revisability principle that maintains the hierarchical network of beliefs cannot itself survive its own revision as just another belief in the network?

Does anti-foundationalism treat its own assumptions as having all the characteristics of the grounding assumptions claimed by foundationalism to be irreducibly basic?

Does nominalism use its own assumptions and basic concepts as having all the characteristics of the universals it denies?

The Crypto-Theism of Reason

 The set of rational standards for analyzing the issue of God's existence---is already itself a God-level integrated system of ultimate authoritative universal rules and relations.

If you give reasons either way---for atheism or belief that God exists---either those reasons or whatever principles justify those reasons, are already the God-level, root access mind-governing system indicating what you ought to believe, a higher-level set of claims that work together and “tell you” the ground rules and whether or not conclusions are true.

That statement-evaluating system functions as an invisible cognitive friend, and is indistinguishable from a real one that might come along.

And this is empirically verifiable. Merely chronicle for yourself how people justify their belief or non-belief or disbelief in the existence of God.

In other words, to think rationally at all, is to already function according to an ultimate ideality or even god of thought---depending on how you construe personhood. One cannot really argue against this ideal system without thereby using that same system as the ideal for guiding that case-building logical process itself.

It doesn't have to be identical in details in all minds for this point to be true. It just has to be true about some necessary core of rules, identities, and other relations. Necessarily true of necessary statements.

Denial here tries to do what it says this kind of system theory cannot do.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Wilbur Marshall Urban Destroyed Naturalism in 1929


Naturalists are not going to be able to avoid these simple questions forever. But criminal defense attorneys should take special note: There's gold in these reductionisms.

Whether one is talking about materialism or naturalism, what counts against them is the same: Self-referential inconsistency, arbitrary self-exemption, self-reduction, the necessarily-exempt standards of analysis themselves, and most importantly: the attribute "true" in relation to the comprehensively determining factors specified by those theories themselves.

As Wilbur Urban argued with regard to naturalism, if the naturalist thesis is taken as an account of all knowledge, then that thesis itself cannot claim to be true. It can only claim to be a product of its own posited universal explanatory factors.

According to naturalism, the truth of the naturalist account itself, like every other item of knowledge, is merely the function of the adjustment of the organism to its environment. Therefore, the truth of the naturalist account has no more importance than any other adjustment except for its possible survival value.

But the general principle applies to all reductive, fixed-factor, universal theories. There's simply no way for those theories themselves to break out of their respective explaining/determining factors and be considered true in addition to being themselves merely the product of those factors. There's no remainder because that's what a reduction gets rid of.

Key questions to ask are: When do we get to add the label "true" on top of the explanatory/determining factors of these kinds of reductive theories? What's the criteria? And how can materialists and naturalists criticize theism, when theism too is just as legitimately explained and determined by those same factors as the theories which specify them as all-determining?

Urban's writings were a major influence on Stuart Hackett (who Norman Geisler once told me personally was in his opinion the world's greatest living Christian philosopher), and reading just the first few pages of Language and Reality will clearly show why.

Principle works:
The Intelligible World. Allen and Unwin, 1929.
Language and Reality. Allen and Unwin, 1939.
Beyond Realism and Idealism. Allen and Unwin, 1949.
Humanity and Deity. Allen and Unwin, 1951.

Using Abstract Objects to Deny Their Reality



Abstract Objects Are Merely Useful Fictions,
This I Know,
For The Abstract Objects Tell Me So!

To argue that abstract objects don't really exist, is to use them to adjudicate their own reality. But where do they get that kind of supervisory authority to arbitrate their own existence if they don't exist?

That's why rationalist-objectivist atheism is necessarily theistic about reason and logic, as we all are in reasoning about universals---including the universals that make up general reason and logic themselves. The boot-strapping problem of abstract objects being used to ontologically self-adjudicate still remains, and I haven't seen anything yet that even mentions it---much less actually deals with it.

Abstract objects and universals are necessarily real, and necessarily assumed in order to know contingent reals. If they are necessary for deciding whether or not they're real, then they themselves must have an even higher supervisory ontological status, which means they are necessarily more real than any other objects we ordinarily take as real.

There's simply no way around this without ending up in the old self-referential cul-de-sac. Any examination of what is meant by universals, abstract objects, irreducibly basic categories, and so on, would not itself be possible without those same categories already operating in advance at the highest cognitive levels.

Russell's prohibition of self-referencing statements is an instance of what it prohibits, and so on. It's all about self-reference and ultimate universal criteria and standards of analysis, which are already there logically prior to any analysis of anything including reasoning about current preferences.

That system is already in place and we're always trying to approximate it in some sense and degree, even regardless of prior misses of goals. The bottom line is that if you give reasons for God, those reasons are already assumed to have an ultimate God-level authority in order to adjudicate premises, arguments and claims about the possible reality of God.

Why does faith have to be reasonable or smart or even plausible? Why does it still try to be rational about what it declares itself to be exempt from? Why must there be any intellectual defense at all? If reason is not God-level already, why must theistic or Christian belief have reason and logic's seal of approval in the first place in the slightest?

The entire discussion is a submission to reason's authority, whether one is a believer or an atheist. In fact, the whole issue about the relationship between faith and reason is itself just one big cognitive worship-fest dedicated to reason.
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Artwork: Until Now by Ralph Hertle. Available at: http://www.bluestardesign.us. From a comment this great artist made on my Ultimate Object blog:

"The two works to which I refer, that were painted by me, the artist, Ralph Hertle, are titled, "Dynamis" and "Until Now". Should someone be interested in these two works, they may be informed that the original works no longer exist and are not available. What are available are ultra-high resolution digital prints of the works, and these are digitally printed on ultra-fine digital printer paper. On a custom order basis the patron may select a size for the print, and a quotation may be written for the work. Paintings that have not been here displayed are also available in digital print form, custom sizes determined, and quotations may also be made. To see one example of a work displayed online go to Facebook.com or ObjectistLiving.com, and search for the name. Ralph Hertle. The copyright and all reproduction rights are reserved by the artist, Ralph Hertle. Responses may be sent via email to me at LON521@GMAIL.COM or at ralph.hertle@aol.com . Thank you, Ralph Hertle 225 Parsonage Road Edison, New Jersey USA, 08837."

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Peter Shaw on 1970 Academia

From the introduction to Peter Shaw's The War Against the Intellect: 

"The intellectual climate of our time has undergone a subtle alteration in the past twenty years. Starting in the 1960s a change came over the rules of discourse whereby the marshaling of logic and evidence gradually lost its prestige. In its place right feeling and good intentions came to reign as the highest intellectual values and the most persuasive earnests of high seriousness. It became common, for example, for writers to reassure their readers that they were particularly sensitive to the problems of ethnicity or poverty or disease or any other lamentable status or condition. The spirit of the 1960s, which favored the heart over the head, was making itself felt across the spectrum of argumentative writing and scholarship. This was the war against the intellect.

The war was never explicitly declared, nor was it perceived to be under way by the guardians of culture, scholars, and intellectuals. My own realization that something had changed came after my return to teaching at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1970, following a year away from higher education. In response to resolutions against the Vietnam War and racism drawn up by the Black Panther Party and approved by the Yale University faculty, a faculty meeting was called at Stony Brook. The meeting took place immediately after the shootings of students at Kent State University, at a time when it was not yet clear exactly what had happened there. The overriding feeling, though, was that the Stony Brook faculty ought to issue some kind of resolution. To my surprise, with little discussion its members adopted the Black Panther resolutions despite their limited relevance to the situation at hand.

Only six or seven faculty members besides myself out of some fifteen hundred present voted against. I attempted to speak but was Page xii prevented from doing so by parliamentary maneuvering. Yet what, I have often wondered, would I have said if recognized by the chair? It would have been insulting to the intelligence of my colleagues to point out the obvious inappropriateness of the resolutions. Something unspoken in the air was leading to a positive vote, but what it might be my year away from the university had rendered me incapable of grasping. The next day when I asked a colleague to give me his view of the Panther resolutions, he frankly described them as irrelevant to our situation. He had voted for them because he shared the general feeling that something had to be done.

The thinking to which I was not yet privy appears in retrospect to have been the product of long-suffered distress over the Vietnam War, brought to a head by the shocking deaths of the Kent State students. In the circumstances it was taken as self-evident by all but six or seven faculty members that reason should be set aside. Henceforth, as it developed, the willed suspension of the critical faculty in the service of a perceived cause or higher principle would come to be regarded as a mark of intellectual distinction. As this attitude seeped into the intellectual process, scholarship and intellectual discourse were invaded by what might be called theories of feeling and personal experience. It was first asserted by a few and eventually accepted by many that the capacity to reason on a subject was less valuable than the bringing to bear of one's political convictions, one's gender experience, or one's social status (or, rather, an attitude toward social status).

A virtually automatic suspension of the rules of proof, reason, and logic was now accorded to certain privileged kinds of discourse: the championing of artistic works by those newly designated as minorities or the oppressed; accusations of Western historical guilt toward the working class, minorities, or the Third World; assaults on established reputations or the elevation of obscure ones. Afterward, the latitude vouchsafed these special subjects was extended wherever ideas claimed a hearing on the basis of their author's generous concern for humanity. Eventually it became accepted that a writer's speculations and prejudices, rather than being subject to skepticism on account of their subjectivity, should be honored for their intentions. The war against the intellect had brought about a decline of discourse, a slackening in the process of critical evaluation.

With traditional constraints on discourse suspendable, the way Page xiii was open in the course of the 1970s and 1980s for untrammeled expression of the oppositionist ideology that had fueled the original assault on values in the 1960s. This ideology in fact grew into an accepted orthodoxy. Guilt and recrimination toward history, culture, government, and institutions became accepted scholarly attitudes. In the typical manner of orthodoxies, these attitudes ceased being put forth as arguments: they had become unstated assumptions, grown so familiar as hardly to merit comment. The result was that, whether out of fear or dulled perceptions, reviewers whose business it was to define and evaluate the arguments that came before them no longer so much as mentioned, let alone challenged, the new orthodoxies. In the universities especially, an atmosphere of intimidation came to prevail. Those who continued to uphold the standards of objectivity were regarded as insensitive and reactionary. Eventually there took place an institutionalization of resistance to authority of all kinds. Literary critics rejected traditional interpretations, scholars found the formal limitations of their disciplines stifling, and humanists objected to the established canon of great works.

A striking symptom of the new state of mind was the dramatic valedictory to the historical profession made in 1971 by the historian Martin Duberman. Accusing himself of wasting ten years as a conventional, uninspired academic biographer, he vowed in future to avoid the disciplined, scholarly approach. In its place he proposed to employ an unspecified psychological subjectivism to depend, as far as one could make out, on hunches rather than conventional historical explanation. The latter presumably rested on a cold, rigid formality for which genuine feeling would be substituted. But Duberman's illustration of the difference between the two was hardly convincing. As I wrote at the time:

In his book on Charles Francis Adams, Duberman recalls, "I had little difficulty describing why he decided to become a lawyer." Now [i.e., in 1971] he suspects that it may not have been the "prestige and income" of the law that influenced his subject but rather "the hope of duplicating the achievements of his father, John Quincy Adams," tempered by a ''fear that he would not measure up to his father." The new speculation reflects Duberman's new interest in the impalpables of psychology, which, he implies, the canons of scholarship prevented him from employing. In fact, his original explanation was un-historical, since the attractions of money and prestige always may be motives for going into the law. The new explanation, on the other hand, could easily have been arrived at within the traditional discipline of history, and indeed has been arrived at by traditional scholarship.

Given the palpable inadequacy of the case against traditional intellectual standards, the silence of most scholars and intellectuals in the face of the war against the intellect stands out as a phenomenon of equal interest and importance to the war itself. At Stony Brook, for example, the importance of the faculty meeting I attended had to do not so much with the campus radicals and their aims as with the acquiescent majority. It was their willingness to suspend critical judgment that would have the most lasting consequences. That they were seized by strong feelings is not to be denied. But another element had come into play as well, one that was made clear in a report on the Yale meeting from which the Panther resolutions derived.

Writing in the New Republic shortly after that meeting, the Yale Law School professor Alexander Bickel described the circumstances surrounding it. On their way to deliberate, the faculty members had passed along a gauntlet of students. The students' intimidating presence, Bickel reported, strongly influenced the conduct of the meeting and the vote in favor of the Black Panther resolutions. At Stony Brook, as it happened, the students were actually allowed in the lecture hall where the meeting convened. The faculty's first act was to approve their unprecedented attendance: seated on the lecture stage and in the balconies overlooking and overseeing the proceedings. Intimidation had become respectable. Henceforward it would prove to be one of the driving forces of the war against the intellect."