Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The "no presuppositions" fantasy

Paul C said:
I'm not operating out of any "worldview" because the concept as used by presuppositionalists is meaningless. I don't have any "presuppositions" because the concept as used by presuppositionalists is meaningless. Neither of these points are relevant to this discussion - they are merely diversionary tactics used by presuppositionalists to divert attention from the failure of their arguments.

No presuppositions, eh? None? No fundamental axiom? This is simply ridiculous.
How do you prove that evidence is evidential?
That you are not a brain in a vat?
That evidence is a good way to discover truth?
How do you know that you know anything?
That your cognitive faculties are properly aimed at forming true beliefs?
How do you prove that the laws of logic are useful?

Anwer any of these without appealing to a fundamental axiomatic statement, and you will be begging the question. Such as:
"I know that evidence is a good way to discover truth because I use it every day to live my life."
You're begging the question - I simply ask how you know:
1) that you use it every day
2) that you are living your life
3) that it's good rather than bad for that purpose
4) that you actually arrived at truth.

And on and on.

How warm a welcome would Paul give to a statement like "God just is. That's it"? He'd call it circular. Indeed, and the same goes for his statements. The difference is that appealing to "God just is" is not viciously circular because the God of the Bible is self-justifying; He is where the buck stops. On Paul C's worldview (which he claims he doesn't have), the buck never stops, and that's a problem.

Here is a related post, and my long interaction with the Jolly Nihilist is instructive too. At any rate, Paul talks big and is obviously a sharp fellow, but sometimes he says amazingly poorly-thought-out things.

27 comments:

Paul C said...

How do you prove that evidence is evidential?

How do you prove that heat is hot? I've no idea what your question is supposed to mean.

That you are not a brain in a vat?

I can't.

That evidence is a good way to discover truth?

It isn't, it's a good way to discover fact.

How do you know that you know anything?

Again, I've no idea what this question is supposed to mean.

That your cognitive faculties are properly aimed at forming true beliefs?

I don't know that they are.

How do you prove that the laws of logic are useful?

Are the laws of logic useful? I've no idea what this question is supposed to mean.

He'd call it circular. Indeed, and the same goes for his statements.

Which of my statements are circular?

On Paul C's worldview (which he claims he doesn't have), the buck never stops, and that's a problem.

Why exactly is it a problem that the buck never stops?

At any rate, Paul talks big and is obviously a sharp fellow, but sometimes he says amazingly poorly-thought-out things.

I absolutely agree with the poorly-thought-out part, but not with the others. I'll answer all of your questions, if you can formulate them in a way that is comprehensible.

Paul C said...

p.s. You will also note that in the words that you quoted, I stated that I didn't have any "presuppositions" because the concept as used by e.g. you is meaningless. I did not say that I didn't have any axioms, which are a different thing as far as I'm concerned.

Rhology said...

Why exactly is it a problem that the buck never stops?

B/c then you have an infinite regress. Of course, you're on record saying that's not a problem. Have fun with that.

I can't help you with the rest of your 1st comment. Use your noggin.


What do you think is the diff between an axiom and a presupposition as I'm using the term?

Seth said...

Paul C,
A) Insisting that you operate out of no "worldview" and have no "presuppositions" is just arguing for the sake of arguing.

B) One definition below is for "axiom" the other for "presupposition", please explain the substantive difference insofar as Rho's post is concerned.

1 a maxim widely accepted on its intrinsic merit
2 a statement accepted as true as the basis for argument or inference
3 an established rule or principle or a self-evident truth

1 to suppose beforehand
2 to require as an antecedent in logic or fact

freelunch said...

While Occam's Razor isn't proof in any sense, it happens to work quite well. Why assume that something is part of the problem when there is no evidence for it or reason to invoke it?

Tentatively accepting the idea that reality is what we can observe seems to be working out pretty well. It has been helpful in developing science and keeping some of us from being derailed by meaningless speculation.

Paul C said...

B/c then you have an infinite regress. Of course, you're on record saying that's not a problem. Have fun with that.

You keep claiming that an infinite regress is a problem without ever giving an argument as to why it's a problem. Let me rephrase to help you: why is it a problem that an infinite regress exists?

I can't help you with the rest of your 1st comment. Use your noggin.

Why do I have to "use my noggin"? I'm under no obligation to prove things that I don't believe.

What do you think is the diff between an axiom and a presupposition as I'm using the term?

I'm ill-equipped to give you a philosophy lesson, Rhology, but I would like to note two things. First, it seems obvious that when you claimed that my "statements" (presumably my beliefs) are circular, you in fact had no idea what my beliefs were, and therefore no grounds for making your claim. Second, you are (yet again) using "presuppositional" arguments to try and distract attention from the fact that your other arguments have just collapsed underneath you.

Paul C said...

Seth

Insisting that you operate out of no "worldview" and have no "presuppositions" is just arguing for the sake of arguing.

No, it is not.

One definition below is for "axiom" the other for "presupposition", please explain the substantive difference insofar as Rho's post is concerned.

Can I humbly suggest that you read the two definitions that you've provided, and note two things. First, they're substantively different, suggesting that there is a substantive difference between them. Second, I am not arguing with the dictionary definitions of words: I am arguing with "Rhology's magical fantasy definitions" of words, which frequently bear no relationship to their actual definitions.

Paul C said...

Just to clarify: Rhology asserts that a) I have "presuppositions" which I do not in fact have and b) he has "presuppositions" which he does not in fact have. This is the sense in which I say that the word as he uses it is meaningless, in the sense that it doesn't relate particularly well to the real world.

Seth said...

Paul C,

Stating that they are substantively different is not the same as explaining for me why you believe that they are. I would not have provided the definitions if I didn't think they were close enough for our purposes. In other words, help me understand why you don't think you operate based on any presuppositions... since at this point I remain in agreement with Rho's position that you do.

Rhology said...

Paul,

Can you name anything in the universe that is actually infinite?

Paul C said...

In other words, help me understand why you don't think you operate based on any presuppositions... since at this point I remain in agreement with Rho's position that you do.

I don't think I operate on "presuppositions" in the sense that Rhology means. When he talks about "presuppositions", he means one presupposition and one only - that God exists. I don't have that presupposition, but nor do I have the presupposition that God does not exist. Therefore I don't believe that I have any "presuppositions" in the sense that Rhology means.

Can you name anything in the universe that is actually infinite?

Do you have an actual argument that an infinite regress is problematic, or not?

Seth said...

I don't have that presupposition, but nor do I have the presupposition that God does not exist.

Do you presuppose that humans are equipped to discern processes or beings that are super-natural, should they exist? Or do you presuppose humans can only discern the natural, regardless of whether there is or isn't a supernatural.

Paul C said...

Do you presuppose that humans are equipped to discern processes or beings that are super-natural, should they exist? Or do you presuppose humans can only discern the natural, regardless of whether there is or isn't a supernatural.

I presuppose neither.

Seth said...

Thus epistimology is futile, irrelevent, boring, meritless, yada yada? Then why bother debating? Live and let live, eh?

Paul C said...

Thus epistimology is futile, irrelevent, boring, meritless, yada yada? Then why bother debating? Live and let live, eh?

I have literally no idea how you make the leap from me not matching your false assumptions about my beliefs to making another false assumption about my beliefs. Perhaps you could explain it to me.

Seth said...

I asked a question, which you balked at, and then followed up by questioning the balk. I'm simply trying to understand what your beliefs are, relative to mine.

Do you have a preferred epistemology for observing the super-natural? If so, what is it?

Paul C said...

Reading through the record, I appear to have answered them succinctly and clearly, so perhaps you could illuminate which of your questions I've "balked" at.

Seth said...

1) Explain WHY you think a presupposition is significantly different from an axiom, relative to our purposes here.

2)Do you have a preferred epistemology for observing the super-natural? If so, what is it?

Paul C said...

1) Explain WHY you think a presupposition is significantly different from an axiom, relative to our purposes here.

"I don't think I operate on "presuppositions" in the sense that Rhology means. When he talks about "presuppositions", he means one presupposition and one only - that God exists. I don't have that presupposition, but nor do I have the presupposition that God does not exist. Therefore I don't believe that I have any "presuppositions" in the sense that Rhology means."

Further to that, I conclude that the difference between "presupposition" as Rhology uses it and "axiom" is significantly different. The word axiom was deliberately chosen to highlight the difference between "presuppositional apologetics" and actual philosophy, to be honest - I have subsequently come to regret using it, obviously, because for some reason you now think it's the most important point in the entire world.

2)Do you have a preferred epistemology for observing the super-natural?

No.

Seth said...

So you're disputing a "presupposition" that you neither affirm nor deny by appealing to a misuse of terminology when it turns out not to be "the most important point in the entire world". Meanwhile, you offer no means to validate or reject the original "presupposition" anyways. Awesome.
Well, I guess we're done here.

Paul C said...

So you're disputing a "presupposition" that you neither affirm nor deny by appealing to a misuse of terminology when it turns out not to be "the most important point in the entire world".

No. I'm pointing out that Rhology that I neither affirm or deny the main "presupposition" which he claims I hold, and thus the point he is attempting to make in this post is refuted.

Meanwhile, you offer no means to validate or reject the original "presupposition" anyways.

Why should I offer any means to validate or reject it when not only is it a "presupposition" that I don't affirm or deny myself, but a "presupposition" that I'm not even sure exists?

Paul C said...

I have also explained why

A) my position is very clearly not "just arguing for the sake of arguing", but points out the feebleness of "presuppositional apologetics".

B) my issue with the use of the word "presupposition" is largely because of its misuse by people such as Rhology, rather than a complaint against the dictionary.

Rhology said...

Paul C said:
why is it a problem that an infinite regress exists?

"The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea" - David Hilbert (source).

Paul C said...

"The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality.

Unless this gentleman has searched all of reality, then I fail to see how he can say this with certainty.

Let us be clear; I'm asking the question of why it would be a problem if an infinite regress existed. You have presented a quote making a philosophical case why an infinite regress may not exist. However that doesn't answer my question, and so far you have failed to present any reasons why an infinite regress would be a problem.

Until such time as you present such an argument, I have no reason whatsoever to believe your assertion that the potential existence of an infinite regress is in fact a problem. I also note that you have failed to acknowledge that the fundamental point of your post has clearly been refuted by my previous statements.

I suggest and predict that you give up at this point and move on to another thread where you will continue to claim that all atheists have the presuppositions that you assume and that an infinite regress is a problem - despite the fact that you have no evidence for either of these statements. Go for it!

Rhology said...

Sounds good. I'll leave you thrashing about in your "Yeah HUH an infinite regress is possible!!!!!!!!"s. Enjoy.

Rhology said...

I guess it's turtles all the way down, right?

Paul C said...

So just to summarize your position at the end of this thread:

1. Your original assertion that I have specific presuppositions - that you ascribe to me - has been shown to be false, and you have failed to respond to the point.

2. You have been unable to demonstrate that your assertion that an infinite regress would be a problem if it did exist has any grounds at all.

For some reason, you view this is a great "victory". For some reason - without having a clue what I actually believe - you think I'm "thrashing about" in... well, who knows what you think I'm thrashing about in?

If anybody viewing this thread would actually like to have a discussion about these issues, rather than just hoot like a cretin, please feel free to continue in comments below. I'm genuinely interested in discovering why people think an infinite regress would be a problem, since so many people seem to.