Friday, September 12, 2008

Evasive tactics

Today, we're dealing with the 1st half of the Jolly Nihilist's latest response to me on the topic of his First Principle.

I will have to say that I agree with the JN's definitions of the Cosmic 1st Principle and the Philosophical FP, and at the same time question their utility. But it seems that the PFP is the best one can hope for out of a atheist nihilist, who believes that there was nothing, then a horrendous space kablooie, then a void filled with disparate kinds of matter, then a planet, then rocks, then from rock, life! And best of all, it just happened.

At 2nd glance, however, the PFP is a cop-out. It is "an indivisible, unsplittable foundation of human thought." And thus this principle did not exist before humanity did. Further, one has to ask whether it existed before the 1st person thought about these Big Questions. Could this PFP be only a few hundred years old, or less?

He goes on:
Evidentialism, as I embrace it, might be insufficient according to CFP standards but, once again, it is not a CFP.

But that's not the challenge I raised. It is my claim that the PFP has not responded to my challenges to it, contained here. Apparently, the JN's strategy is not to answer the challenges (he can't, anyway) but rather to define his "principle" so that it covers less ground. He's painted himself into a corner - his FP explains very little, and faced with further challenges, if he continues the pattern, it will explain almost nothing.

So, to review, his FP:
1) doesn't cover or explain anything before human thought appeared.
2) doesn't cover or explain anything, furthermore, before the first human who thought of it, thought of it.
3) is taken on faith (see point #1 in the original challenge).
4) is completely arbitrary (since he can, of course, marshal no evidential argument in its favor, since to do so would beg the question entirely).
5) can't pass its own test.
6) can't survive without smuggling in all sorts of other concepts he didn't mention. It's not a *FIRST* principle at all, but rather a tied-for-first-with-lots-of-other principles. Which is cheating. I have ONE First Principle. That's why it's called a FIRST principle.
7) tells us nothing about what we OUGHT TO do with the information we have, even if we grant that it is sufficient to overcome the first 6 challenges.
My FP does.

In regard to #5, the JN says:
one can marshal evidence to demonstrate evidence’s utility

He's been saying that for quite some time.
He has not explained how he escapes the problem of the infinite regress, and given that he's had at least 2 chances to do so, I don't know if he plans to try.

Although I have never directly observed my brain, it has been seen before.

The JN completely misunderstands the point.
I am not questioning that he has a physical brain inside his physical skull. However, if he were a brain in a vat:
1) the doctors seeing his brain were a figment of the chemical stimulations afforded his brain by the vat. They don't really exist.
2) Further, he never fell down the basement stairs.
3) Also, I don't buy this undocumented story that he fell down the stairs at one year old. Where are the multiple unbiased witnesses? The videotape proof? I mean, how likely is it that someone would fall down the stairs? Not very likely, right?
(Point #3 is sarcastic, mocking atheists' frequent challenges to the Resurrection of Christ, etc. It's not a strong argument.)
4) The JN says: I am still a living, thinking, conscious human.
You mean, YOU THINK you are, but in reality you're deceived.
See, I am demanding evidence that the JN is not a brain in a vat and nothing more, and he's giving me answers that are just as easily accounted-for in a brain-in-a-vat scenario. I thought he was supposed to marshal evidence!

The JN goes on to admit it:
Can I be certain there is no Cartesian Demon? No, I cannot.

Agreed. You can't, but I can.
Further, if the JN can't be certain there is no Cartesian Demon, neither can he be certain that the God of the Bible doesn't exist. I'm not saying he's said he's sure TGOTB doesn't exist, it's just a sidenote.

The Cartesian Demon’s construct would be reality, in every sense of the word we normally use.

Except for the fact that it *wouldn't* be reality. It would be fantasy, and it would SEEM to be reality. But lots of things aren't what they seem.

even if [the Cartesian Demon theory is true], nothing significant changes for us regarding method [of truth discovery].

Not in the world created for you by the CartDem, true. But the world the CartDem created for you is not real. Its mathematics are made up. Its physics are made up. Its morality (if one exists) is made up. Your brain is not transported by your physical body to different locations, doesn't sleep, doesn't love, etc. It is in a vat with electrodes stuck in it. It's unpleasant, but like you said, you can't rule it out and have no evidence to the contrary.

One cannot claim just anything to be manifest; in order for that word to be applicable, the fact at hand must be blindingly obvious

Neither the fact that you're a brain in a vat nor the fact that you're not a brain in a vat are blindingly obvious. Let's be consistent here.
Incidentally, the fact that actual infinites don't exist IS blindingly obvious, and that's a problem for your position in multiple ways.

The sun’s existence is manifest

Why? B/c you think you saw it? I have other possible explanations for it.
Perhaps it's a giant lamp created by highly-advanced extraterrestrial life.
Incidentally, this solution is far more harmonious with Occam's Razor than the literally billions of causes and forces that would have had to be marshaled to form a star with a planet like ours.

I, by clear contrast, am concerned with the world of experience.

Which, for all you know and for all the evidence you CAN'T marshal, is illusory.

My PFP accepts certain things as “granted,”

On faith. But this runs afoul of my 3rd point in the original post.
Since he has chosen a faith-based position for his First Principle, why not just go with "faith is the best way to discover truth"? Obviously evidence failed him in this question and faith resolved the problem. Why not just stick with that? Why go with what failed him in this most important, overarching question of First Principle?

the Chinese express bafflement as to why, if god has revealed himself, he has allowed so many centuries to elapse before informing them

Oh, that must by why the vast, vast majority of humankind throughout history has believed in the supernatural and in the idea that the world was created by some entity (leading them many times into paganism).
Ancient Chinese knew about God. Who cares if modern China has largely wiped out that idea? I recommend Don Richardson's Eternity In Their Hearts for anyone who's interested in this question.

I have been unfailingly clear in my rejection of moral truth.

Sometimes, and then other times you just put the Papal mitre right back on and make moral judgments, as if you expect anyone else should care about them. I call 'em like I see 'em, and I call inconsistency. Only I've done it over and over again. On this, the JN is incorrigible.

I'll deal with his response on the subject of the Flying Catfishghetti Etheremonster later. This is enough for now.

1 comment:

The Jolly Nihilist said...

Thanks for the response.

However, although I do intend to offer a reply, the usual alacrity with which I respond shall not be in evidence in this instance. I do not expect to get to this (or its forthcoming second part) until sometime in October.

Apologies for the delay.