User Tag List

Results 1 to 9 of 9

Thread: One on One: Squishes v Hilston on God's existence

  1. #1
    Journeyman Squishes's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Changes frequently.
    Posts
    229
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post

    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Rep Power
    0

    One on One: Squishes v Hilston on God's existence

    I want to thank Knight for helping me navigate the forum, and I hope you all find this discussion with Hilston interesting, even if you do not find what I say ultimately persuasive.

    Hilston and I will be debating the existence of God, and more specifically, whether there are any successful arguments for God and whether it is reasonable to disbelieve in God. Some background before we get into specifics.

    Why agnosticism?

    Agnostics have had a tough time fitting in the past few years with the rise of the new atheists, so many times I find myself discouraged by the lack of philosophical sophistication on the side of the atheists even while I'm in fundamental agreement with many of their criticisms. Just so we are clear on what my position is, I hold that:

    (1) There are no successful arguments for God's existence.
    (2) Though none of the arguments for God's existence are successful, it is not irrational to believe in God.
    (3) None of the traditional religions are rationally compelling
    (4) Skepticism: The human mind is incredibly limited. There is no faculty of reason, only a bundle of evolutionarily-formed modules that do the best with what they have. From (4) follows my skepticism about:
    (4a): The universe (causation, laws, etc)
    (4b): God
    (4c): Knowledge
    (4d): Moral facts

    I am a skeptic in the Humean tradition, so many of our so-called common sense beliefs I take to be reflections of the mind and not, necessarily, of the world. Less important to me is my naturalism: roughly, the view that mysterious things are, in the end, mechanistic and/or physical (not mind-things). (For a less tendentious defense of this position, see this excellent defense of naturalism.)

    I take this to be not a good definition of agnosticism, but rather a list of implications of agnosticism. The most obvious difference between me and an atheist is that, more times than not, atheists are selective skeptics, whereas I am more of a global skeptic. The proposition "God exists" is either true or false, but since there are no good reasons to push us one way or the other, we ought to withhold belief.

    Naturalism

    With that in place we can move to the rationality of agnosticism. I take it that a defense of agnosticism amounts to a defense of naturalism. For a simple illustration of naturalism at work, consider the following discussion:

    Plato: There are numbers.
    Hume: I don't think so.
    Plato: Isn't 7 a prime number?
    Hume: Of course, but...
    Plato: If 7 is a prime number, then 7 is a number, and thus there are numbers. Hume, you are really a Platonist!
    Hume: This seems fishy...

    Naturalism is a Humean kind of skepticism towards what language can tell us about the world. What has gone wrong between Plato and Hume? Plato thinks that statements containing "There is ___" can tell us what furnishes the world. If there are true statements with an existential quantifier, then we have uncovered something metaphysically substantial.

    What Hume should have said is that true statements are not necessarily a guide to the world. That is, we have a further question to ask: It may be that there are numbers, but what does this tell us? I, along with a respectable tradition, think that mathematics comes after minds. In other words, true propositions can be telling us about the architecture of the human mind as much as it is telling us about the world. Naturalism, put another way, is the belief that there is more work to do after discovering which propositions are true and which are false. You have to discover what makes them true or false (or, where are they true or false: at the mind level, or the metaphysical level?).

    For a quick illustration and, hopefully, a proof, of this view, consider this revised discussion:

    Plato: There are atoms, forces and governments.
    Hume: What? I'll give you the physical, but there are governments too?
    Plato: Of course. The United States government was founded with the adoption of the Constitution. If that is a true statement, then there are governments.
    Hume: Ok, well in some sense there are governments. But they aren't really real. If all the people in the US died, there would be no government. So I disagree that governments exist in the same way as atoms and forces do. They are mind-dependent constructions, and these ground the truth-value of these kinds of propositions.

    So what?

    At this point you may be wondering why I just brought this up in a debate on God's existence. Well, consider the the sorts of statements made in favor of some argument for God's existence:

    "Everything that begins to exist has a cause."
    "Objective moral truths require a Divine lawmaker."
    "Only God could ground abstract truths such as the laws of logic."

    All of these statements rely on some kind of intuitional support about the nature and structure of the world. Hopefully I've demonstrated why I'm immensely skeptical about the work these sorts of statements can actually do.

    In conclusion, the purpose of my opener was to set a precedent for the arguments Hilston will, presumably, employ. The task of an agnostic interlocutor is a difficult one: I don't know and you don't either. It may very well be that Hilston, and by extension most theists and Christians, have access to some kind of knowledge that I simply do not. Nevertheless, without such knowledge I am justified, and reasonably, to disbelieve that there are good reasons to believe God exists.

    Thank you.
    The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
    And all the sweet serenity of books.

    --Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  2. #2
    Over 1000 post club Hilston's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Location
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    Posts
    1,206
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post

    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)


    Rep Power
    1683
    Let me preface this first post with a disclaimer and some caveats.

    I. Disclaimer and some caveats.

    A. Disclaimer (and thanks). First, I do not know Squishes, nor have I dialogued or debated with him in the past (that I know of). Apparently, he set forth a debate challenge in another thread, and someone referred him to me as a possible opponent. He PM'd me, I agreed to a One-On-One debate, and here we are.

    So I would like to thank Squishes, as well as the person who made the referral, for this opportunity to discuss Squishes' concerns about the existence of God. Before his opening post, I had no idea of Squishes' position (hereafter, Squishism, or Squishistic Agnosticism). I'm still not entirely comprehending Squishism, but I aim to change that in subsequent posts.

    B. Caveats: What I Am (not)

    1. I'm not a scientist or philosopher by training or by profession, as the terms are narrowly defined. However, in the broadest sense of the words, I would say that everyone is a scientist and a philosopher, that is, we all use science to varying degrees and with varying success as a means to understand our world, and we all invoke philosophical considerations as we try to make sense (or nonsense) of the world. To be human is to be a scientist and philosopher in the broadest sense, as we cannot escape the tools and methods of science and philosophy that inform us of the world around us.

    2. I'm not an Intelligent Design (ID) proponent or advocate. I disagree with the vast majority of ID apologists. I view the standard ID methods of argument as irrational and fraught with unfounded assumptions. I view the standard ID arguments, such as irreducible complexity, as specious and based on an incoherent and indefensible "Intelligent Designer of the Gaps" (IDOG) thesis.

    3. I'm not in support of the teaching of creationism in schools. The idea of the American government -- or any government -- mandating, and setting the standards for, the teaching of creationism to America's children is frightening at best.

    4. I am not a Big Meanie. As many Theology Online subscribers know from either personal experience or from witnessing my past debates, I can appear abrasive and off-putting in my "tone." Of course, there is really no "tone" when one is debating in a text-only environment, but nonetheless I have been called the full gamut of pejoratives for not only the things I say, but for my debating style, the kinds of questions I ask, and the annoying tendency I have of requesting definitions of ostensibly obvious words. Those who know me personally are often surprised by the degree of heat my debates have generated in the past, since they know that I'm not at all the kind of person who customarily behaves in the ways of which I'm so often accused. Please be assured that I do not typically do or say things just to be annoying, or to be insulting, or to be disrespectful. But when I do want to be annoying, insulting and disrespectful, I try to make it absolutely clear.

    II. About The Debate Itself

    A. The purpose of the debate versus my goal

    The stated purpose of this debate is to address the question of whether there are any successful arguments for the existence of God and whether it is reasonable to disbelieve in God. However, my goal in addressing this question is ultimately to present a clear and logically sound defense of the Biblical accounting of God's existence. It is not enough to only expose the fallacies of Squishes' position, for to delegitimize one view does not sufficiently prove the legitimacy of the opposing view. I must also provide a positive defense and proof for the Biblical view of God's existence. Thus, my aim is not only to demonstrate the errors and incoherence of Squishistic Agnosticism, but also to prove the theistic claims of the Bible.

    B. Winning the debate

    It should be duly noted that an argument does not need to be agreed to or accepted by everyone, or even the majority, for it to be nonetheless conclusive. There is a difference between personal persuasion, cogency and "compelling," which are subjective, and conclusive proof, which is objective. For example, despite whatever reasoning or facts are presented to him, a man can be unpersuaded that the engine of his car is on the verge of complete failure due to a lack of oil. He may even refuse to add oil to its crankcase. But the conclusive and objective nature of the case is that the motor will indeed seize up in a matter of time.

    III. Addressing specific claims by Squishes, prefacing Hilston's position and proof

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    (1) There are no successful arguments for God's existence. {Emphasis added by Hilston}
    Given your above complaint about the "lack of philosophical sophistication" among atheists, this is a notably dogmatic and anti-Humean thing for a "skeptic in the Humean tradition," not least a "global skeptic," to say.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    (2) Though none of the arguments for God's existence are successful, it is not irrational to believe in God.
    Now we're cooking. How does a "global skeptic" define "rational"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    (3) None of the traditional religions are rationally compelling.
    This is irrelevant. One man's "compelling" is another man's "boring." I am not willing to debate the subjective relevance or personal cogency of either argument, yours or mine. If your position were rather, "None of the traditional religions are logically sound," then we might have something to discuss on this point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    (4) Skepticism: The human mind is incredibly limited. There is no faculty of reason, only a bundle of evolutionarily-formed modules that do the best with what they have.
    How do you know this? How certain are you about this? And on what do you base this knowledge and certainty?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    The proposition "God exists" is either true or false, but since there are no good reasons to push us one way or the other, we ought to withhold belief.
    If there are no good reasons to push us one way or the other, then why should we go "that way" (i.e., withhold belief) and not "the other" (i.e., embrace belief)? How do you justify pronouncing what the rest of us "ought to do"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Naturalism

    … I take it that a defense of agnosticism amounts to a defense of naturalism.
    Why do you equate these? What is your definition of agnosticism?
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    For a simple illustration of naturalism at work, consider the following discussion:

    Plato: There are numbers.
    Hume: I don't think so.
    Plato: Isn't 7 a prime number?
    Hume: Of course, but...
    Plato: If 7 is a prime number, then 7 is a number, and thus there are numbers. Hume, you are really a Platonist!
    Hume: This seems fishy…
    This variation on the quintessential modus ponens, "All men are mortal," must be exposed for what it truly is: a tautology. The standard presentation goes like this:

    All men are mortal
    Socrates is a man.
    Socrates is mortal.

    The problem with this formulation is that, in order to affirm the major premise, you must have already checked Socrates (he is included as one of the "all men" who are "mortal"). The construction is simply restating that Socrates is mortal.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I, along with a respectable tradition, think that mathematics comes after minds. In other words, true propositions can be telling us about the architecture of the human mind as much as it is telling us about the world. Naturalism, put another way, is the belief that there is more work to do after discovering which propositions are true and which are false. You have to discover what makes them true or false (or, where are they true or false: at the mind level, or the metaphysical level?).
    Squishes' (and his "respectable traditionalists'") uncertainty about the world comes as no surprise, and this is the underlying problem with agnostic worldviews, to wit, an espoused lack of certainty about anything, despite living in a manner contrary to the claim. To the agnostic, uncertainty is worn like a badge of honor. However, when pressed, the agnostic reveals, either explicitly or by inference, that it is a rather selective uncertainty.

    Taken to the logical extreme, the true agnostic, the true skeptic, the true Humean will not sit in a chair until he has tested the chair to ascertain whether the chair will hold his weight. Even then, he cannot sit in the chair for very long, because at any moment, the chair's stability may be compromised, and he might come crashing to the floor.

    Then there's the the floor. The true agnostic cannot trust even the floor to support him.

    And what of the earth under the floor? It's turtles (egads, possibly weak ones!) all the way down. And despite all the rhetoric and ranting about what is real, what is quantifiable, what is a "thing," what is merely mental fabrication, the agnostic nonetheless lives as if there are such "things" as uniformity in nature and arithmetic and induction.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    For a quick illustration and, hopefully, a proof, of this view, consider this revised discussion: …
    Question: How does an agnostic define "proof"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Plato: There are atoms, forces and governments.
    Hume: What? I'll give you the physical, but there are governments too?
    Plato: Of course. The United States government was founded with the adoption of the Constitution. If that is a true statement, then there are governments.
    Hume: Ok, well in some sense there are governments. But they aren't really real. If all the people in the US died, there would be no government.
    Whence comes the requirement that all that which is "really real" must exist in the same way?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    (Hume, cont'd) So I disagree that governments exist in the same way as atoms and forces do. They are mind-dependent constructions, and these ground the truth-value of these kinds of propositions.
    Why is a "mind-dependent construction" less real (or not "really real") as compared to that which is allegedly not "mind-dependent"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    So what?

    At this point you may be wondering why I just brought this up in a debate on God's existence. Well, consider the the sorts of statements made in favor of some argument for God's existence:

    "Everything that begins to exist has a cause."
    "Objective moral truths require a Divine lawmaker."
    "Only God could ground abstract truths such as the laws of logic."

    All of these statements rely on some kind of intuitional support about the nature and structure of the world.
    That is true, but it doesn't stop there. The existence and attributes of God are what guarantee the existence and nature of those intuitions.

    Moreover, all of reality, the physical, the metaphysical, the abstract, the concrete, the universals and the particulars, are all, without exception, "mind-dependent constructions." That is to say, the entirely of reality, of real existence, depends entirely on the mind of God, in its conception, in its creation, in its maintenance and in its execution.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Hopefully I've demonstrated why I'm immensely skeptical about the work these sorts of statements can actually do.
    Note that Squishes' skepticism about these statements is irrelevant until he proffers a rational basis for it. So far, he has merely stated, without warrant, that he is selective about what he deems "really real," disallowing so-called "mind-dependent constructions."

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    In conclusion, the purpose of my opener was to set a precedent for the arguments Hilston will, presumably, employ. The task of an agnostic interlocutor is a difficult one: I don't know and you don't either.
    This is where agnosticism is blown up by its own petard: it is an anepistemology, that is, the negation of epistemology, which asks, "How does the agnostic know that he doesn't know, let alone that others don't know either?" Nothing could be more irrational, to say nothing of the fact that no one could actually live according to such a premise.

    IV. Hilston's Position and Proof

    A. Hilston's position
    It is not possible for God not to exist.

    B. Hilston's proof
    The proof of God's existence is that, apart from His existence, you could not prove anything.

    C. Further elaboration on the nature of the case
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    It may very well be that Hilston, and by extension most theists and Christians, have access to some kind of knowledge that I simply do not. Nevertheless, without such knowledge I am justified, and reasonably, to disbelieve that there are good reasons to believe God exists.
    Here lies the crux of Squishes' problem. Simply stated, he is in denial. As a believer in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, I take the Bible's words seriously and apply them to everyday life as much as possible. First, here is what the Bible says of those who question the existence of God:
    • They already know the truth about God's existence and attributes, but they suppress that truth in unrighteousness; [Ro 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold (i.e., hold down, suppress) the truth in unrighteousness;]
    • They innately know God, for He has sufficiently revealed Himself to them; [Ro 1:19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.]
    • They already see and are confronted with the knowledge of God's existence via the creation; [Ro 1:20a For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead;]
    • They have no defense [Ro 1:20b ... so that they are without excuse (anapologetos, without a reasoned defense)]

    If these things are true, then Squishes is truly in denial, and will no doubt deny that he is in denial (the first step to solving a problem is admitting that it exists, even if it is a mind-dependent construction).
    • The Bible says Squishes already knows the truth, but is suppressing it in unrighteousness. That is to say, Squishes already believes in God's existence, and lives accordingly, but he aggressively denies it in his unrighteousness. Thus, it is paramount to confront Squishes with the falsity of his agnostic claim.
    • The Bible says Squishes not only knows the truth, but that God has sufficiently revealed Himself to Squishes. Thus, I will not be trying to convince Squishes of what he already knows to be true (i.e. God's existence), for so doing would imply that God has not sufficiently done the job, and that God somehow now needs my help to further convince Squishes. Instead, I will be demonstrating the incoherence of his own view, and that it's not possible for God not to exist.
    • The Bible says Squishes has already seen sufficient evidence from God's creation, that he has sufficiently understood them to the extent of grasping the eternal power and Godhead of his Creator. For me to proceed as if this verse were not in the Bible, as if further evidence were needed, I would be affirming Squishes unbiblical claim that he has not seen sufficient evidence to convince him of God's existence. Thus I will be demonstrating how Squishes, his denials notwithstanding, lives and moves and exists in every way that is consistent with the existence of God.
    • The Bible says Squishes is "anapologetos," that is "without a reasoned defense." Thus, Squishes should not be able to say a word without first justifying the grounds upon which he says it, which he cannot do on an agnostic worldview. The Bible says that Squishes is a fool for questioning the existence of God and that he cannot even make a sentence, let alone present scientific evidence or use science, apart God's existence. Thus I will be demonstrating that the very act of debating, let alone his daily use of discursive reasoning and reliance upon the uniformity of nature, belies that which he is attempting to prove. That is, Squishes is a walking contradiction.


    Ps 14:1 "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God ..."

    The preceding verse could also be rendered, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God (yet)." Why does the Bible state that the fool says there is no God (or no "proven" God)? Because, as scriptures state, they already know about the existence of God, and of His eternal power and Godhead, because God has, innately ("immediately") and through the creation ("mediately"), sufficiently revealed Himself to those who question God's existence. This is why the self-professed agnostic is regarded in the Bible as a fool and without a defense. Squishes already knows, and lives accordingly, but chooses rather to deny and suppress the truth of God in his unrighteousness.

    I look forward to learning more about Squishism. Thank you for reading,
    Hilston

  3. #3
    Journeyman Squishes's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Changes frequently.
    Posts
    229
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post

    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Rep Power
    0
    I want to thank Hilston for his interesting response to what he calls "Squishism". I will take some time to shore up my position within this debate, answer his questions and press some objections of my own. We'll begin with his remarks on agnosticism.
    *I apologize in advance for the length.

    Am I Dogmatically Skeptical?

    I claimed that there are no good arguments for God's existence, to which he responded that this is a strange thing to say for a Humean skeptic. I take his point, but I don't think it is interesting. There are two ways in which a person might come to think that all of the arguments for God's existence fail. I could claim that they fail because of some anti-theist presupposition of mine (I take this to be a theme among the New Atheists), or I could claim that, as of yet, there has been no successful argument for God's existence. I take the latter route, since there is no reason in principle for there being no good arguments. In other words, I'm a ground-up skeptic about these arguments, not a top-down skeptic about the arguments. This is a prevalent Humean theme that commits you to keeping your nose to the ground and only make generalizations that don't seem far-reaching.

    What is it to be Rational?

    Something along the lines of being withing your epistemic rights. It's pretty easy on this definition to be rational. Just don't hold obviously false beliefs and don't hold obviously contradictory beliefs. Perhaps there needs to be some evidential support, but I'd be willing to give up that commitment.

    What is it for a Religion to be Rationally Compelling?

    I'll quote Hilston here:

    One man's "compelling" is another man's "boring." I am not willing to debate the subjective relevance or personal cogency of either argument, yours or mine. If your position were rather, "None of the traditional religions are logically sound," then we might have something to discuss on this point.
    I think we are just talking past one another here. It isn't mere willingness to believe that I'm talking about. For one, logical soundness is a very meager set of propositions for any religion, even my agnosticism. There just aren't that many. Most arguments, in fact, are inductive or abductive and thus depend to some degree on background beliefs. When I say no religion is rationally compelling, I mean there has been no reason for me to move from unbelief to belief.

    How Do You Know ________ ?

    I was expecting some of these questions given my self-professed agnosticism. For example, Hilston wants to know why I think the human brain is limited in its cognitive abilities, and why I think there is no faculty of reason. The reason I think this is that I looked, and that is what I found. The brain was pieced together by natural forces that we understand pretty well, even if we don't understand all the details about the interrelation between brain-states and mental-states.

    To be more specific, it's pretty easy to determine that the mind is modular--that is, there are well-defined, separate compartments of the brain that roughly correspond with some adaptive function. There are language centers, motor control regions, areas that control emotion, vision and memory. What we think of as the faculty of reason is just an easy way to talk about all these different problem-solving mechanisms. I believe this is true because it makes sense of my inner experience, makes sense of the data set I've accumulated (both informally in other fields and formally working in the cognitive sciences) and provides predictions that, thus far, have been fruitful.

    Why did I spend so much time talking about this? Well, I think it's useful to see how a skeptic can be moved into belief. There is no hard and fast rule, and I contribute very little (beliefs are things that happen to us, not something we pick out like the day's outfit). Lines of evidence converge on an answer, and I am constituted such that I assent to this answer.

    If there are no good reasons to push us one way or the other, then why should we go "that way" (i.e., withhold belief) and not "the other" (i.e., embrace belief)? How do you justify pronouncing what the rest of us "ought to do"?
    The reason you ought to withhold belief is because taking something that is unclear to be true can have epistemically malicious implications. It imparts a sort of false justification on beliefs that are built on that ambiguous belief and leads to compounded error down the line. Let's move down the line to his objections to agnosticism.

    Squishes' (and his "respectable traditionalists'") uncertainty about the world comes as no surprise, and this is the underlying problem with agnostic worldviews, to wit, an espoused lack of certainty about anything, despite living in a manner contrary to the claim. To the agnostic, uncertainty is worn like a badge of honor. However, when pressed, the agnostic reveals, either explicitly or by inference, that it is a rather selective uncertainty.
    I agree, in some sense. If what you mean by an agnostic has extremely strong beliefs that he does not doubt, then you are correct that think some things are certain. But if you mean that this entails a more traditional, Cartesian kind of certainty where it is also indubitable, then this is where we break company. Here is what you say that I think is important: The problem with agnostics is that they claim uncertainty but live like they are certain.

    It's unclear what this is supposed to mean. If it means we are irrational to sit in chairs, then I take that to be false. But the agnostic can bite the bullet and just claim that they don't much care about certainty. I sit in chairs because I have a strong belief that it will hold me. Am I certain? Nope. Do I care that I'm not certain? Not in the least. So unless living a coherent life is the logical implication of being certain in your beliefs, I find this objection uninteresting.

    Then there's the the floor. The true agnostic cannot trust even the floor to support him.
    What do you mean by trust? We are not certain that the floor will support us, and this is a good thing--I've heard stories of people falling through floors, and my awareness of this just weakens my belief in the stability of floors. It doesn't weaken it very much, but enough to make it less than certain.

    And despite all the rhetoric and ranting about what is real, what is quantifiable, what is a "thing," what is merely mental fabrication, the agnostic nonetheless lives as if there are such "things" as uniformity in nature and arithmetic and induction.
    My ranting was to avoid strange conclusions like yours. I don't, in fact, live a life as if there are things such as uniformity of nature and arithmetic, for the simple fact that those are not things. God is a thing, people are things, tables are things. Induction is a thing? So you're telling me that in the beginning (or right before, rather), the truths of mathematics were just things floating around in non-space with God? It sounds like you have a non-standard view of God's aseity wherein abstract objects really existed apart from God from eternity past.

    Minor Questions from Hilston

    Question: How does an agnostic define "proof"?

    I don't think there is an agnostic definition of proof since it resides in a different philosophical category. How do Christians define proof? I suspect there could be a number of different, consistent definitions. For myself, I just take it that we know it when we see it. I don't have stringent demands on the English vocabulary.

    Whence comes the requirement that all that which is "really real" must exist in the same way?
    I'm not sure. Historically, it seems to come from Professor Quine. Conceptually, it falls out of a desire to have the ability of finding out which things exist and which don't by finding all the propositions that are true. Thus, if we can say true things about numbers, then numbers exist. I think this is crazy, and thus the introduction of "really real", or to be more philosophically secure we can use the word "fundamental". Atoms are fundamental (or close to it), and governments are not.

    Why is a "mind-dependent construction" less real (or not "really real") as compared to that which is allegedly not "mind-dependent"?
    For the simple fact that when all the minds disappear, so do these phenomena. They aren't substantive things, but mental conceptions.

    Turning the Corner

    Hilston, I take it, is a presuppositionalist of the Calvinist variety (yes, there are non-Calvinist presuppers). This is why he is interested in things like "grounding" and "justification". This need to have everything unified in some source is apparent, and he admits as much here:

    [T]he entirely of reality, of real existence, depends entirely on the mind of God, in its conception, in its creation, in its maintenance and in its execution.
    Is it? I don't think so. I think all sorts of things exist apart from Divine activity. Am I partaking in a logical contradiction? Let's see.

    So far, he has merely stated, without warrant, that he is selective about what he deems "really real," disallowing so-called "mind-dependent constructions."
    Of course, but that follows trivially. If you take my definition of mind-dependence seriously (which you apparently do), then what I mean by "really real" is no longer going to be controversial. Numbers are creations of minds, we both agree. He thinks they are generated by God's mind and I by human minds. So why am I the one being selective about what's really real?

    He has one more go at agnosticism before he attempts a pseudo-argument for God's existence:

    How does the agnostic know that he doesn't know, let alone that others don't know either?" Nothing could be more irrational, to say nothing of the fact that no one could actually live according to such a premise.
    I'm just not sure what to make of this. I admit that I make presumptions that I may be wrong about. Here's one of them:

    *There are other minds and they mimic my own in form and function

    I don't *know* that to be true in a philosopher's sense of knowing, but that's just because that sense of knowing is extremely strict (that is, you could not be wrong about anything you know). Am I certain in my agnosticism? Absolutely not. I could be wrong. I'm open to being shown wrong. Have I yet? I don't think so. The question is, then, how am I able to live with such an outlook? The same way any of you do. We have a few practical considerations that rule our lives (or, I do at least):

    *Avoid pain and displeasure
    *Don't have obviously wrong beliefs
    *Be conservative in belief-formation
    *Etc.

    All of those have vibrant evolutionary explanations. So we can dispense with all of the perceived problems of being an agnostic who sits in chairs. He does it because he has the brain he does and lives in the kind of world he does. The practical problem is thus solved. What about the theoretical problem? Is there contradiction involved with an agnostic sitting in a chair? I don't think so, and here's why. Imagine two competing conditionals:

    (1) If I sit in this chair, then I will fall through and get hurt.
    (2) If I sit in this chair, then it will hold me and I can rest my feet.

    The agnostic picks up on patterns in the world and forms beliefs accordingly. The fewer occasions of chair-breaking he sees, the stronger his belief in (2) gets. Now, there is very good empirical evidence that this is how the brain works in toto (see here), but rarely do apologists look into what the evidence for these kinds of claims actually are. And that is to be expected given that they are on a quest for certainty and the agnostic is on a quest of proportionality.

    Deflating Hilston's Argument

    Hilston thinks I am insincere. He thinks that when I say there is not enough evidence I am really just venting my frustration or unrighteous desire to be able to do and act how I want. His proof is that the Bible claims I am thus and so, and therefore the strategy becomes showing how the agnostic worldview is somehow incoherent.

    Take this statement:

    The proof of God's existence is that, apart from His existence, you could not prove anything.

    I have to admit that I'm just unclear of what to think about it. I just don't know how to understand it. What is the connection between God's existence and the ability to prove things? Take 2+2=4. Why is that true? Because the definition of 4 is such that when you understand the terms '2' and '+' and '=' the conclusion follows by definition.

    How does God's existence relate to tautologies? It isn't clear. In fact, I take the following two propositions to be extremely good evidence that proof is completely disconnected from God's existence:

    (3) It is logically possible that nothing exists, even God.
    (4) It is not logically possible that 2+2 would not equal 4.

    Therefore, God's existence does not ground definitional truths.

    Pressing the Challenge

    Before I can formulate any sort of evidentialist argument against theism, I need to know a few things. Here are some questions for Hilston:

    A) Why do you think God exists?
    B) Are you certain He exists, and what separates this belief from beliefs that are merely probable?
    C) Since your philosophical case for theism relies on the truths of certain Biblical passages, why do you believe in the inerrancy and authority of the Bible?

    Thank you.
    The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
    And all the sweet serenity of books.

    --Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  4. #4
    Over 1000 post club Hilston's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Location
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    Posts
    1,206
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post

    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)


    Rep Power
    1683
    Preface
    First, let me apologize profusely for the delayed response. While I have been working on my reply in bits and pieces, other demands on my time became massively pressing. I hope interest hasn't been lost. My reply follows immediately below.

    In Squishes' last post, the apparent inconsistencies and ambiguities were too much for my modular brain and limited cognitive faculties to manage. I decided it would be best simply to seek further clarification on Squishism wherever possible and to offer occasional remarks in the hope of sharpening the focus of the debate. Also, based on the seemingly nebulous and contradictory content in the above post, I am now using the term "debate" advisedly, since it is not yet clear whether Squishes' apparent aversion to "grounding" and "justification" will sustain a non-thing such as a not-"really-real" debate.

    I. Seeking clarification
    What follows primarily comprises questions and requests for elaboration/clarification about the content of Squishes' last post. I apologize for the multitude of questions, but I really have no other way of exploring and of coming to a better grasp of Squishes' beliefs and of how he defines/explains certain concepts. Given the nature of this exchange, I cannot take for granted that the terms I use, such as "thing" or "trust" or "reason," mean the same "thing" according to Squishes' worldview.

    A. Squishistic Pragmatism
    Above, when asked to proffer his definition of "proof," Squishes says, "For myself, I just take it that we know it when we see it." The vagueness of his reply seems to indicate that Squishes is a Pragmatist, and appears to align with the less-than-stringent demands he places on English vocabulary. Notwithstanding, in my attempt to get a sense of what "we know it when we see it" actually means, I would request an example of a proof for something you did not previously believe that you "knew when you saw it."

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I could claim that, as of yet, there has been no successful argument for God's existence.
    Again, this doesn't sound like a very Humean thing to say. Hume said, "Nothing can be more unphilosophical than to be positive or dogmatical on any subject."

    What constitutes a "successful argument"? If your answer is the same as above, "we know it when we see it," please offer an example of a "successful argument," preferably one that made you change your mind about something you previously thought.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I take the latter route, since there is no reason in principle for there being no good arguments.
    What constitutes a "good argument"? If your answer is the same as above, "we know it when we see it," please offer an example of a "good argument," preferably one that made you change your mind about something you previously thought.

    B. Squishistic Correspondence Theory
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    In other words, I'm a ground-up skeptic about these arguments, not a top-down skeptic about the arguments.
    Why do you prefer Correspondence Theory over Coherence Theory? And assuming your sensory faculties are among the tools you employ in your "ground-up" procedure, why do you rely upon them to provide "really real" information about the world?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    This is a prevalent Humean theme that commits you to keeping your nose to the ground and only make generalizations that don't seem far-reaching.
    Then is it correct to say that you do not view the generalization, "There are no good arguments for God's existence," as "far-reaching"?

    I had asked Squishes, "How does a 'global skeptic' define 'rational'?" His reply:
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Something along the lines of being withing your epistemic rights.
    Please explain "epistemic rights," and where do they come from?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    It's pretty easy on this definition to be rational. Just don't hold obviously false beliefs and don't hold obviously contradictory beliefs.
    Please explain what is meant by "obviously false" and "obviously contradictory."

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston, previously
    One man's "compelling" is another man's "boring." I am not willing to debate the subjective relevance or personal cogency of either argument, yours or mine. If your position were rather, "None of the traditional religions are logically sound," then we might have something to discuss on this point.
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I think we are just talking past one another here. It isn't mere willingness to believe that I'm talking about. For one, logical soundness is a very meager set of propositions for any religion, even my agnosticism. There just aren't that many.
    Please elaborate on what you mean by "logical soundness is a very meager set of propositions for any religion." What value do you place on logical soundness?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Most arguments, in fact, are inductive or abductive and thus depend to some degree on background beliefs.
    To what degree, then, do arguments not depend on background beliefs? Do you have any examples of arguments that do not depend on background beliefs?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I sit in chairs because I have a strong belief that it will hold me. Am I certain? Nope. Do I care that I'm not certain? Not in the least. So unless living a coherent life is the logical implication of being certain in your beliefs, I find this objection uninteresting.
    You're missing the point. The question is not about whether you have a strong belief that chairs will hold you, but rather about whether your belief is justified and your worldview can sustain or account for such a belief. In your description below, you appeal to the inductive principle, making a general assumption about particular cases. As human beings, we are doing this constantly, sometime unconsciously, so I do not question its practice or application. What I do question is accounting for induction in a God-less universe.

    The Biblical reason we can rely on the inductive principle is because God, who has exhaustive knowledge of all particular cases, has assured to us that induction is reliable. Anti-theistic worldviews have no such assurance or warrant to invoke induction in their investigations of the world. Thus, when an agnostic appeals to induction and makes general statements thereby, he is living as if the God of the Bible exists.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston, previously
    Then there's the the floor. The true agnostic cannot trust even the floor to support him.
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    What do you mean by trust?
    Rely upon. The true agnostic cannot rely upon the floor to support him.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    We are not certain that the floor will support us, and this is a good thing--I've heard stories of people falling through floors, and my awareness of this just weakens my belief in the stability of floors. It doesn't weaken it very much, but enough to make it less than certain.
    You're missing the point. I'm not talking about whether the agnostic thinks the floor will hold him or not, but whether the agnostic has any warrant to expect any given floor will support him at any given moment. I don't dispute that agnostics and theists alike go about the world walking on floors and trusting those floors to support their weight. The problem for agnostics, whether they acknowledge it or not, is that their worldview cannot rationally accommodate or account for that expectation. Furthermore, the way they live (as if induction is a reliable principle, which can be true only since God exists) belies their espoused philosophy

    C. Squishistic Atomism
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I was expecting some of these questions given my self-professed agnosticism. For example, Hilston wants to know why I think the human brain is limited in its cognitive abilities, and why I think there is no faculty of reason. The reason I think this is that I looked, and that is what I found.
    What is the reason that you trust what you saw?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    The brain was pieced together by natural forces that we understand pretty well, …
    Why does the piecing together of the brain by natural forces preclude a faculty of reason? Why does that not preclude the faculties of sight and smell as well?

    D. Squishistic Behaviorism
    In his opening post, Squishes said, "There is no faculty of reason, only a bundle of evolutionarily-formed modules that do the best with what they have." This seems to indicate that Squishes is a Behaviorist, as does the following statement:

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    What we think of as the faculty of reason is just an easy way to talk about all these different problem-solving mechanisms. I believe this is true because it makes sense of my inner experience, makes sense of the data set I've accumulated (both informally in other fields and formally working in the cognitive sciences) and provides predictions that, thus far, have been fruitful.
    What do you mean by "makes sense"? What is the basis for your reliance on your inner experience and your perception of sense data?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Lines of evidence converge on an answer, and I am constituted such that I assent to this answer.
    What are your criteria for what constitutes "lines of evidence"?

    E. Squishistic Arbitrariness
    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston, previously
    If there are no good reasons to push us one way or the other, then why should we go "that way" (i.e., withhold belief) and not "the other" (i.e., embrace belief)? How do you justify pronouncing what the rest of us "ought to do"?
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    The reason you ought to withhold belief is because taking something that is unclear to be true can have epistemically malicious implications.
    How is your reasoning not arbitrary? Why not rather adopt a belief because rejecting something that is unclear can have epistemically malicious implications?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    It imparts a sort of false justification on beliefs that are built on that ambiguous belief and leads to compounded error down the line.
    This statement is riddled with question-begging assertions. How do the terms "false justification," "ambiguous belief," and "compounded error" make sense in an agnostic skeptic's worldview? And again, this appears arbitrary. Instead of rejecting, why not adopt a belief in case a failure to do so would lead to false justification, ambiguous belief and compounded error down the line? Please don't misunderstand; I am not suggesting that anyone actually do this. I'm only demonstrating the arbitrariness of prescribing that one "withhold belief" rather than adopt belief in the supposed absence of "good reasons to push us one way or the other."

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston, previously
    And despite all the rhetoric and ranting about what is real, what is quantifiable, what is a "thing," what is merely mental fabrication, the agnostic nonetheless lives as if there are such "things" as uniformity in nature and arithmetic and induction.
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I don't, in fact, live a life as if there are things such as uniformity of nature and arithmetic, for the simple fact that those are not things.
    What an odd sentence. That's like saying "I don't, in fact, drive along streets such as Fifth Avenue and Pico Boulevard, for the simple fact that those are not streets." How would you label uniformity in nature and arithmetic?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    God is a thing, people are things, tables are things. Induction is a thing?
    Of course it is. It is a noun. A noun refers to a person, place or thing. By elimination, induction is a thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    So you're telling me that in the beginning (or right before, rather), the truths of mathematics were just things floating around in non-space with God? It sounds like you have a non-standard view of God's aseity wherein abstract objects really existed apart from God from eternity past.
    No, before creation, the truths of mathematics, like the truths of love and beauty, existed as aspects of God's character and nature. Mathematics and logic obtain in the universe because they reflect the mind and nature of God.

    F. Car Crashes and Taxes
    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston, previously
    Whence comes the requirement that all that which is "really real" must exist in the same way?
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Conceptually, it falls out of a desire to have the ability of finding out which things exist and which don't by finding all the propositions that are true.
    By what method do you determine what exists, and how do you define "true"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Thus, if we can say true things about numbers, then numbers exist. I think this is crazy, ...
    Why is it crazy to say numbers exist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    ... and thus the introduction of "really real", or to be more philosophically secure we can use the word "fundamental". Atoms are fundamental (or close to it), and governments are not.
    Yet, if you violate both, the consequences can be equally dire. For example, if you attempt to defy atoms by trying to drive your car through a solid wall (a supposedly "really real" thing), the result could affect the rest of your life. Similarly, if you attempt to defy the government by refusing to pay your taxes (neither of which are "really real" according to Squishes), the result could also affect the rest of your life. So, as a pragmatist, what is the relevance of distinguishing the "real" ("fundamental") from the "not-really real" ("non-fundamental")?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston, previously
    Why is a "mind-dependent construction" less real (or not "really real") as compared to that which is allegedly not "mind-dependent"?
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    For the simple fact that when all the minds disappear, so do these phenomena. They aren't substantive things, but mental conceptions.
    Why is a mental conception not substantive?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Hilston, I take it, is a presuppositionalist of the Calvinist variety (yes, there are non-Calvinist presuppers). This is why he is interested in things like "grounding" and "justification".
    It is irrational to claim knowledge of any kind without being able to ground or justify the tools by which one understands the world. And apart from the existence of God, there can be no grounding or justification. In fact, the anti-theist must actually highjack the tools of the Biblical worldview in order to mount their attack against it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston, previously
    the entirely of reality, of real existence, depends entirely on the mind of God, in its conception, in its creation, in its maintenance and in its execution.
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Am I partaking in a logical contradiction?
    To even pose the question of logical contradiction, one must assume the existence of logic and its value in human experience. What is the basis of that assumption? To merely appeal to anecdotal experience doesn't justify the assumption. And to say, "Who cares?" derails the debate.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston, previously
    So far, he has merely stated, without warrant, that he is selective about what he deems "really real," disallowing so-called "mind-dependent constructions."
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Of course, but that follows trivially.
    Not having grounds for such a claim is far from trivial. In a debate that is (or ought to be) won or lost according to which party presents a coherent argument and exposes the incoherence of the other, the trivializing of justified logical arguments undermines the debate itself.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    If you take my definition of mind-dependence seriously (which you apparently do), then what I mean by "really real" is no longer going to be controversial.
    What you mean by it is not controversial. The controversy lies in how you justify the distinction.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Numbers are creations of minds, we both agree. He thinks they are generated by God's mind and I by human minds. So why am I the one being selective about what's really real?
    Not merely selective, but selective without warrant (see above). The grounds on which to say God's mind exclusively accounts for all of reality is rational and defensible. Apart from the existence and attributes of God, there are no rational grounds upon which to even discuss "mind-dependent constructions".

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston, previously
    How does the agnostic know that he doesn't know, let alone that others don't know either?" Nothing could be more irrational, to say nothing of the fact that no one could actually live according to such a premise.
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I'm just not sure what to make of this.
    If you truly lived according to your stated suspicion about the trustworthiness of floors, you'd be regarded as an odd bloke.

    "What's up with that guy over there?"
    "Who? Squishes?"
    "Yeah, why is he walking that way, so tentatively?"
    "He's an agnostic of the global skeptic variety. He has a weakened belief in the stability of floors."
    "Right."

    Of course, the same scenario should obtain when it comes to chair sitting, eating food and speaking sentences. But I highly doubt that Squishes tests every chair, sends every bit of food out for laboratory screening, and explains every word he utters in a sentence (just in case the meanings have changed, or the hearer understands the words differently). Surrealist artist Salvador Dali's lobster-telephone sculpture at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla. is accompanied by this caption: "I never understand why, when I ask for a grilled lobster, I am never served a cooked telephone." I'm not sure what Dali's actual point was (if he indeed was making a point), but the quote (perhaps unwittingly) illustrates the point that, apart from the existence of God, sentences, logical inference, and the predictability of the physical world would not be intelligible, would not make sense.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I admit that I make presumptions that I may be wrong about. Here's one of them:
    *There are other minds and they mimic my own in form and function

    I don't *know* that to be true in a philosopher's sense of knowing, but that's just because that sense of knowing is extremely strict (that is, you could not be wrong about anything you know).
    How do you know that you're not wrong about everything you know?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Am I certain in my agnosticism? Absolutely not. I could be wrong. I'm open to being shown wrong. Have I yet? I don't think so. The question is, then, how am I able to live with such an outlook? The same way any of you do.
    The question is not about how one is able to live with such an outlook, but how does one justify having such an outlook, and then live consistently according to that outlook. The everyday lives of most people do not align with the outlook you describe, else everyone would be distrustful of chairs, floors and food, and would be surprised every time they ordered a lobster and were not served a cooked telephone.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    We have a few practical considerations that rule our lives (or, I do at least):

    *Avoid pain and displeasure
    *Don't have obviously wrong beliefs
    *Be conservative in belief-formation
    *Etc.
    Yes, but none these "practical considerations" make sense in a God-less universe. In a God-less universe, there is nothing wrong with seeking pain and displeasure, holding obviously wrong beliefs, and recklessly forming beliefs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    All of those have vibrant evolutionary explanations. So we can dispense with all of the perceived problems of being an agnostic who sits in chairs.
    On what grounds can we "dispense with all the perceived problems of being an agnostic who sits in chairs"? Just because a fanciful explanation has been invented doesn't excuse the agnostic or anyone from having to account for being able to explain anything, fancifully or not.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    He does it because he has the brain he does and lives in the kind of world he does.
    But the question is not "what kind of brain does he have" or "what kind of world does he live in," but rather, "On what grounds does one expect that kind of brain to function today as it did yesterday, and on what grounds does one expect that kind of world to continue working the way it does?" The agnostic can only accept it on blind faith.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    The practical problem is thus solved.
    How so? In the absence of any warrant to believe that nature will continue to be uniform, that the senses can be trusted, that the mind is calibrated to reality, let alone that logical inference or the inductive method will continue to hold, on what basis does the agnostic declare the "practical problem" solved?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    What about the theoretical problem? Is there contradiction involved with an agnostic sitting in a chair? I don't think so, and here's why. Imagine two competing conditionals:

    (1) If I sit in this chair, then I will fall through and get hurt.
    (2) If I sit in this chair, then it will hold me and I can rest my feet.

    The agnostic picks up on patterns in the world and forms beliefs accordingly.
    Again, picking up patterns in the world and forming beliefs accordingly is unwarranted and arbitrary in a God-less universe. Picking up patterns implies induction and the uniformity of nature, neither of which can be accounted for by the agnostic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    The fewer occasions of chair-breaking he sees, the stronger his belief in (2) gets.
    Why?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Now, there is very good empirical evidence that this is how the brain works in toto (see here), but rarely do apologists look into what the evidence for these kinds of claims actually are.
    And rarely does the agnostic look into the lack of justification for claiming anything to be "empirical evidence," to say nothing of justifying the conclusions formed thereby.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    And that is to be expected given that they are on a quest for certainty and the agnostic is on a quest of proportionality.
    Please explain the difference.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Hilston thinks I am insincere. He thinks that when I say there is not enough evidence I am really just venting my frustration or unrighteous desire to be able to do and act how I want.
    Let's be clear. I don't know Squishes. I've never met nor spoken with him. My statements are therefore not personal, but rather a restatement of what the Bible claims, which, by the way, is true Correspondence, which is, saying what corresponds to the factual world that God has revealed. True Coherence is what exists within the Godhead and is manifested throughout His creation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston, previously
    The proof of God's existence is that, apart from His existence, you could not prove anything.
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I have to admit that I'm just unclear of what to think about it. I just don't know how to understand it. What is the connection between God's existence and the ability to prove things?
    The tools we use to make proofs, namely, our systems of logic, language and mathematics, reflect God's nature and character. His existence and attributes exclusively account for and justify our use of these tools and our reliance upon them in our everyday experience. In the absence of the God of the Bible (an irrational proposition), there can be no logic, no mathematics, no intelligibility in human experience, let alone the very existence of universals and particulars in any imagined universe (to say nothing of the existence of "imagination").

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Take 2+2=4. Why is that true? Because the definition of 4 is such that when you understand the terms '2' and '+' and '=' the conclusion follows by definition.
    What does "true" mean to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    How does God's existence relate to tautologies? It isn't clear. In fact, I take the following two propositions to be extremely good evidence that proof is completely disconnected from God's existence:

    (3) It is logically possible that nothing exists, even God.
    How so?
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    (4) It is not logically possible that 2+2 would not equal 4.

    Therefore, God's existence does not ground definitional truths.
    Without God's existence, nothing would be intelligible. Forget about formulating a discursive chain of reasoning. You couldn't even form the thought that initiates a sentence. It amounts to a blind belief in alchemy.

    III. Squishes' presumed autonomy and "not-really-real" fact-finding efforts

    A. Squishes' questions
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Before I can formulate any sort of evidentialist argument against theism, I need to know a few things. Here are some questions for Hilston:

    A) Why do you think God exists?
    To be clear, this debate is not about why I or anyone thinks God exists, but rather about whether He exists and whether there are good arguments for His existence. But I will answer the question. Belief in God, biblically speaking, is attributable to:

    (1) God's manifestion of Himself to all men from within (via man inner experience and reflection) and from without (via the natural order), and

    (2) God's action upon certain individuals, via the Holy Spirit, called regeneration, by which the previously dead spirit of an individual is made alive by the Spirit of God, from which follows conversion and belief.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    B) Are you certain He exists, and what separates this belief from beliefs that are merely probable?
    Again, these questions are irrelevant to this debate. But I will answer the question. I am certain He exists. That belief, and others established by the content of Scripture, is distinguished from beliefs that are merely probable in that the former is entirely grounded in correspondence to what is declared in the Bible, God's Word. The latter comprises inferences drawn, perhaps correctly, perhaps not, from the former, namely, what God has declared in His Word.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    C) Since your philosophical case for theism relies on the truths of certain Biblical passages, why do you believe in the inerrancy and authority of the Bible?
    This question as well is irrelevant to this debate. It still wouldn't be relevant even if no one believed in the inerrancy and authority of the Bible. But I will answer the question: I believe in the inerrancy and authority of the Bible for two reasons: (1) Because I was compelled to believe it by the witness of the Holy Spirit that resides in me and every believer; and (2) because given the existence of God, it is expected (predictable) that God would not only testify to His own existence within man and via His creation, but also that He would provide explicit, eyewitness testimony and documented guidance in understanding His will and purposes for mankind. I've found the Bible to be that document, and no other document can compete with it.

    B. Autonomous reasoning and the appeal to sheer authority

    The agnostic assents to the notion that he can attain knowledge about the world apart from God's Word and existence, that his own ability to observe the world and come to conclusions about it are independent, and that God's existence is irrelevant to that endeavor. Despite Squishes' declarations about his agnostic uncertainties, the fact is that he still claims to know his own agnosticism. If he is going to deny the existence of God, he must know something, at the very least, that he has the faculties and wherewithal to reject God's rightful demands upon him in toto.

    When I asked Squishes to justify his beliefs and methods of knowing, he begged off, baldly asserting on his own authority that he thinks "all sorts of things exist apart from Divine activity." To reject the relevance of God in one's thinking is to presume one's own authority. If grounding and justifying of one's beliefs and methods of knowing are off the table, then Squishes' personal standard is an appeal to sheer, asserted authority, no different in principle from my appeal to the authority of God's Word. When I claim to justify my beliefs and methods of knowing according to the authority of Scripture, I am asked to prove the verity of God's Word, which is tantamount to demanding that the Ultimate Authority be subjected to the judgment of finite man. Curiously, when I ask the same of Squishes, that is to justify his beliefs and methods of knowing, all I get is an appeal to his own indefensible, self-proclaimed, unjustified soi-disant authority. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    Thank you again for the discussion. I will do my best to reply more promptly next time.

    Hilston

  5. #5
    Journeyman Squishes's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Changes frequently.
    Posts
    229
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post

    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Rep Power
    0
    Let me first say that I'm excited that this exchange can continue. I always enjoy a bit of wit and rhetoric, and Hilston has written a very entertaining (as well as substantial) reply. He has great philosophical instincts and asks penetrating questions. I will try my best to keep up and defend the old, proud agnostic tradition.

    Hilston's reply is very analytic, and thus is fragmented. So what I'm going to do is bundle his questions that I feel are important as well as ones that I just want to answer, and then move to my own criticisms. I have been on the defensive for most of the exchange, and this comes partly from my own passivity and from my interest in philosophical discussions in themselves, the debated proposition be damned. Alas, it is a poor debate topic to try and fence your opponent's attacks without ever thrusting on occasion, so I regretfully have to do something I'm not very accustomed to. In preparation of this momentous task, I've broken out some very good red wine and turned on some Vivaldi. We will see how this turns out.

    A quick clarification:

    I apologize for the multitude of questions, but I really have no other way of exploring and of coming to a better grasp of Squishes' beliefs and of how he defines/explains certain concepts. Given the nature of this exchange, I cannot take for granted that the terms I use, such as "thing" or "trust" or "reason," mean the same "thing" according to Squishes' worldview.
    I think this is a spot-on observation. I will get into more detail as I field his specific questions, but just note that, for the most part, I use words in a very neutral way. Many philosopher's play the gotcha-game where as soon as they get you to say "thing" or some related buzzword, they take it that you are ontologically committed to a new kind of entity. For the most part, I do not believe that language is a key to the universe; this is in contrast with contemporary realists who state that a good language will "carve up the joints" of reality (see here for those interested). There is no way for me to invent my own language, so I generally co-opt terms and qualify them as needed.

    Hilston's Questions

    I would request an example of a proof for something you did not previously believe that you "knew when you saw it."
    This is difficult to do because it requires an attempt to dredge up an introspective moment from the past. But I think I could give you examples from science. As an undergrad in college I first heard of "Quantum Entanglement", whereby two particles become entangles such that you can change the spin of one and the other is affected instantaneously. I did a little research, looked over a few papers, talked to our chemistry professor and became convince it was a real phenomena.

    What constitutes a "successful argument"?
    I have a naturalistic view of success, where an argument is successful just if the strength of a belief is higher after hearing the evidence than before hearing the evidence. When there are two competing hypotheses, an argument is successful if a set of evidence raises your strength of belief to a higher degree than the competitor. I don't think there are objective, ideal standards of success or of a good argument. I place a great deal of importance on the priors that determine how one takes the evidence. Thus, if you never encounter a miracle in your life, you are unlikely to be moved by a report of a miracle since your prior belief in the laws of nature (observed regularities) make miracle-claims difficult to substantiate.

    Why do you prefer Correspondence Theory over Coherence Theory?
    I don't. I am a deflationist about truth, and thus find neither theory appealing.

    And assuming your sensory faculties are among the tools you employ in your "ground-up" procedure, why do you rely upon them to provide "really real" information about the world?
    I can't tell you why I trust my senses, only that I do and this belief is not up to me. Even if I wanted to import the strongest sort of skepticism into my daily life I could not. I take it as a presupposition, and I find myself unable to deny it. Now, I take it that it is further confirmed through experience; regularities occur, I can predict what I will sense in the future in some given time and location, etc, and so this belief is only strengthened with experience. But I cannot tell you why it is initially more plausible than not.

    Then is it correct to say that you do not view the generalization, "There are no good arguments for God's existence," as "far-reaching"?
    I don't think it is. I am open to there being good arguments for the existence of God, and I even concede that some arguments can be initially difficult to undercut. The Cosmological Argument taps into a near universal intuition that events need explanations. So I don't think I'm generalizing unfairly.

    Please elaborate on what you mean by "logical soundness is a very meager set of propositions for any religion." What value do you place on logical soundness?
    Soundness is a precursor to a meaningful argument. It's also very easy to come by for believers. Take for example the following:

    2+2=5 or God exists.

    Most Christians would accept that. The argument that you construct out of it is logically sound (these Christians think). The problem is that no one not initially convinced of the latter conjunct will find it persuasive. Further, a priori considerations will not get you very far. Reasons to believe in the resurrection are probabilistic and usually non-deductive. Soundness becomes uninteresting in these cases (or at least trivial).

    To what degree, then, do arguments not depend on background beliefs? Do you have any examples of arguments that do not depend on background beliefs?
    I don't know of any arguments that do not depend on background beliefs, but I suspect necessary truths would be the ones that get close.

    Why does the piecing together of the brain by natural forces preclude a faculty of reason? Why does that not preclude the faculties of sight and smell as well?
    Sensory neurons distribute information to specialized parts of the brain. "Reason" is too abstract to be physically realized, but the instances of "reasoning" are just the different modules doing their business. Determining how to get back home is a complicated process algebra on geometry, but these are quite literal processes where the neurons themselves do the work (not some faculty or part of the brain). A neuron represents your starting location, and a circadian clock along with some sensory details of velocity updates your current location in relation to you starting location. There is no CPU the information gets sent to, even if it feels sometimes that we are doing the mental lifting.

    How do the terms "false justification," "ambiguous belief," and "compounded error" make sense in an agnostic skeptic's worldview? And again, this appears arbitrary. Instead of rejecting, why not adopt a belief in case a failure to do so would lead to false justification, ambiguous belief and compounded error down the line?
    We don't adopt those beliefs because they are harmful. People who lived that way did not get to make babies with the same level of success as those who were more careful. There is nothing more rational about it. As Quine put it, "Creatures inadvertently wrong in their inductions have a pathetic but praiseworthy tendency to die before reproducing their kind."

    A noun refers to a person, place or thing. By elimination, induction is a thing.
    I don't accept this method. As noted before, I think that this move from language to ontology is inconclusive at best. Induction describes (it is a description, not a thing) a family of concepts all centered around absorbing experience into our decision making. There's a good reason we never bump into induction in the world, and it's precisely because it isn't a thing.

    Really Real?

    There are a few things I want to clear up. We are still stuck on a distinction that is blocking conceptual progress, so I will spend more time on this than I wanted to originally. However, I think this is an under-appreciated point, especially by Christian apologists.

    I will just take a realist view of substances for the time being. Take a "thing" to be a substance. God, if he exists, is a substance. People are substances. Presumably, governments are not substances. In our world, unicorns are not substances. This is a traditional view of ontology.

    Now, some people think that true statements track things--substantial things--in the universe. So, one might say, the task of a metaphysician is to find our best true propositions and construct a view of the world with them. This fits comfortably with a Truthmaker theory, where all truths have something-- literally, some thing-- that makes them true.

    On the other hand, I come from a proud line of skeptics that does accept truthmaker theory nor it's related shenanigans. We think the best way to find out what is in the world is to study the world, not fool around with sentences.

    So, we can talk all we want of different truths. We may even agree on many of them. But I will not accept the move from truth to metaphysical structure. The laws of logic may be necessarily true, but that in and of itself tells me nothing of the world of substances and things. It could never tell me about God.

    I wanted to throw this in for no other reason than to make sure that I still get to be in the Hume club:

    "Nothing can be more unphilosophical than to be positive or dogmatical on any subject."
    If anyone reads the Treatise, which I take to be my Bible of sorts (as close as I could get to a holy book, at least), you would be struck with the amount of material he takes to be utter nonsense. He frequently dismisses the Cartesians and Aristotelians as incoherent and childish. He was also master of rhetorical flourish, so I'd advise that we don't take any single statement as representative of his overall philosophy.

    I accept his dictum that certainty is unwarranted everywhere and unnecessary for anything of importance. As far as arguments for God's existence go, I never claimed to be certain in an epistemological sense that all the arguments fail. I just think they do, and I have no reason to think otherwise. Hume says as much about the arguments in his Dialogues.

    Induction, at Long Last

    I mentioned this a little before. Hilston wants to know why I trust inductive practices. Here is a short, concise, and hopefully clear exposition:

    I am made to do so.

    There are (at least) two kinds of universes:

    Universe A is random and unlawful and not conducive to any inductive practice.

    Universe B is not random but lawful and is conducive to inductive practice.

    I concede that it is logically possible that we are in either world. If I am in A then every inference I draw is unjustified. If I am in B then some can be justified. However, whatever universe I'm in has given me a brain to deal with the environment in a certain way. Creatures that made predictions and drew correct inferences were favored over others. Many recurring inductive practices were internalized, and even toddlers can recognize when causal relations have gone awry (further discussion of this point upon request).

    There is no solution to the logical problem of induction. But the behavioral problem has been solved. We believe it because we are forced to. We are forced to because it is genetically imparted. It is genetically imparted because it aided in survival.

    That's it. This is why I am a skeptic, and will continue to be an agnostic for the foreseeable future. What you take to be worldview shattering is what I accept and make due with. I sit in chairs because the brain that I was given produces beliefs in the trustworthiness of chairs. This belief is not irrational, but it is non-rational.

    The Challenge Returned

    Hilston's challenge to me is essentially the same problem that plagued Descartes and Pyrrho. The problem of induction is particularly powerful because there is no logical solution to it. That is, there are no necessary truths that entail the trustworthiness of inductive practices. On this much we agree. However, Hilston seems to think that invoking God can solve this problem:

    "Without God's existence, nothing would be intelligible."

    "In the absence of the God of the Bible (an irrational proposition), there can be no logic, no mathematics, no intelligibility in human experience, let alone the very existence of universals and particulars in any imagined universe (to say nothing of the existence of "imagination")."

    "Again, picking up patterns in the world and forming beliefs accordingly is unwarranted and arbitrary in a God-less universe."

    "In a God-less universe, there is nothing wrong with seeking pain and displeasure, holding obviously wrong beliefs, and recklessly forming beliefs."

    "The grounds on which to say God's mind exclusively accounts for all of reality is rational and defensible. Apart from the existence and attributes of God, there are no rational grounds upon which to even discuss "mind-dependent constructions"."

    "And apart from the existence of God, there can be no grounding or justification. In fact, the anti-theist must actually highjack the tools of the Biblical worldview in order to mount their attack against it. "

    Etc.

    I am not convinced. In a telling paragraph, Hilston just asserts the connection between the standards of rationality and God's existence:

    The tools we use to make proofs, namely, our systems of logic, language and mathematics, reflect God's nature and character. His existence and attributes exclusively account for and justify our use of these tools and our reliance upon them in our everyday experience.
    To this I press the Cartesian worry even further. Let's suppose we even know what it means to "reflect God's nature and character." Let's suppose that my earlier worry about the incoherence of the falsity of the rules of logic and the conceivability of God's non-existence. I'll ask a simple question:

    Why does God get out of the epistemological problem? How does God know he isn't a brain in a vat? How does God know he is in the real world and not in an illusion? How is God able to ground knowledge and give an account of induction? When God created the universe and set it's laws, how can he be sure they won't change?

    The God of Logic and the God of the Bible

    Further, even if I grant that a God must exist to account for all these related phenomena, there is a long jump to explicit Christian belief.

    I believe in the inerrancy and authority of the Bible for two reasons: (1) Because I was compelled to believe it by the witness of the Holy Spirit that resides in me and every believer;
    How are you sure that was the Holy Spirit? That doesn't sound very reliable.

    and (2) because given the existence of God, it is expected (predictable) that God would not only testify to His own existence
    within man and via His creation,
    There is no clear connection between the God of logic and this social God. Why would you expect God to testify to His existence? Isn't it logically possible that God would create the world and not interact with it? Perhaps God does not care if anyone believes He exists.

    but also that He would provide explicit, eyewitness testimony and documented guidance in understanding His will and purposes for mankind.
    That does not follow at all.

    In conclusion, I'd like to make a quick summary:

    * Hilston is correct in pointing out that I do not accept inductive practices for rational reasons.
    * It does not immediately follow that I am being irrational.
    * Assuming the existence of God does not solve deep skeptical problems.
    * There is no connection between the kind of God this presuppositional argument would prove and the God of the Bible, or any revealed religion.
    The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
    And all the sweet serenity of books.

    --Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  6. #6
    Over 1000 post club Hilston's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Location
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    Posts
    1,206
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post

    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)


    Rep Power
    1683
    To Squishes and to those following this exchange:

    I intend to finish and post my next rejoinder soon (within the next 24 hours). For those who have been patient, I am most appreciative. For those who have not, I am most sorry. As much as I would sincerely enjoy spending more time reading and posting here, it is just simply not possible.

    All the best, and I'll be in touch.

    Hilston

  7. #7
    Over 1000 post club Hilston's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Location
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    Posts
    1,206
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post

    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)


    Rep Power
    1683
    I again apologize for the long delays between my posts. It's quite obvious that I have a lot to say on this topic, and Squishes has provided lots of targets for me to aim at. To those who continue to follow this discussion, thank you. I hope it is of some use to you, and that the delays have been worth the wait.

    The N-Word

    To presume neutrality in any aspect of one's thinking is to tacitly allow the notion of objective standards that stand outside or above that which one is being "neutral" about. Here are two incongruous quotes from Squishes' previous post:

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    … for the most part, I use words in a very neutral way. …{emphasis added}
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I don't think there are objective, ideal standards of success or of a good argument. {emphasis added}
    The very attempt to be "neutral" presupposes a completely objective, ideal standard. Whether we are talking about being "neutral" about one's choice of words or of being "neutral" about one's rejection of "standards of success of a good argument," there can be no "neutrality." This is because all things without exception -- from the manners in which observational data are gathered and organized, to how evidence is framed and assessed -- are subject to each man's unique background, emotional makeup, prior experiences, etc. No man can untether his thinking from interpretative standards, as if he could approach "brute facts" and "raw data" with a blank mind. From the very start of an inquiry, the way one goes about looking for evidence betrays a bias in favor of the answer one expects to get. Moreover, even the framing of the argument or question relies on the inquirer already having a particular answer in mind in order guide his investigation.

    Brain Fizz: There Is No Mind

    Given all this subjectivity, by what standard should we assess the merits of competing hypotheses? Should we simply appeal to the cards we've been dealt, blindly asserting the legitimacy of our mental processes and assuming the verity of our sensory faculties without warrant? If our faculties of logic are merely descriptions of brain states and physiological electrochemical processes in that 3-pound meat computer between our ears, as Squishes asserts, then there can be nothing "illogical" or violations of logic. This is because the behaviorist-atomist-pragmatist-deflationist-materialist-naturalist reduces logic to synaptic fizzing and popping in the brain, and fizzing and popping in your brain is not necessarily the same as the fizzing and popping in mine. Thus, there can be no violation of logic, because such a critique isn't about logic, but rather instances of fizzing and popping. Your cerebral popping and encephalo-fizzing might make you believe that it is logical to dress lightly on a hot, humid day. Whereas the fizzes and pops in my brain make me want to wear a winter coat despite the 90 degrees and 95% humidity. Your brain crackles and says I am violating logic. My brain crackles and says I am being quite reasonable. On this view, there is no illogic, only a difference in physiology and instances of different synaptic events.

    Squishes wants to say his disbelief (i.e. brain fizz) in God is reasonable, yet he admits that sitting in chairs is non-rational (though not "irrational," mind you), as if logic were actually more than mere synaptic signalling in the brain, which he flatly denies. He says there are no successful arguments for the existence of God, yet he baldly asserts that he doesn't "think [i.e., more brain fizz] there are objective, ideal standards of success or of a good argument." It is clear that, despite Squishes skepticism about "standards" and "laws" and "knowledge," he behaves and operates as if they exist, and regiments his beliefs (i.e., brain fizz) accordingly.

    Squishian Solipsism

    What this all means then is that our debate is not really about the evidentiary merit of either hypothesis (since Squishes disallows standards of a good argument and knowledge), nor is it about logical soundness (given Squishes' skepticism about logical laws). Rather, it is about Squishes himself. The original wording of the quasi-proposition was "whether there are any successful arguments for God's existence, and ... whether it is reasonable to disbelieve in God," but it's clear from Squishes' posts that it should have been worded "whether there are any arguments for God's existence that will subjectively persuade Squishes to believe in God, and whether it is reasonable, despite the absence of such a 'really real' thing as 'reason,' for Squishes to disbelieve in God."

    Thus, it is important, paramount even, to recognize oft-repeated phrases (i.e., expressions of brain fizzing) in Squishes' posts: "I don't … I don't think so … I don't accept ..." And this should come as no surprise, since, as it turns out, this is not about the soundness of arguments by any legitimate standard, but about Squishes' particular persuasion. In fact, Squishes, by framing the debate in this way, exempts himself from justifying or legitimizing any single thing that he "doesn't think" or "doesn't accept," since his "thoughts" and "acceptance" are merely expressions of his brain fizz. He has, in effect, made his job much easier -- he even admits to a certain passivity in the discussion -- and has made mine infinitely harder (please excuse the hyperbole). That is to say, my task is not to persuade Squishes to change his thoughts and accept my arguments. Rather, I must alter the physiological processes of Squishes' brain, i.e., noodle around with his brain fizz chemistry. Thus, this isn't really a debate, but is instead an instance of two brains fizzing, that is, one organism with a particular kind of brain attempting to effect a change in another organism with a different kind of brain. And nothing could be more absurd.

    As I stated at the onset,
    It should be duly noted that an argument does not need to be agreed to or accepted by everyone, or even the majority, for it to be nonetheless conclusive. There is a difference between personal persuasion, cogency and "compelling," which are subjective, and conclusive proof, which is objective. For example, despite whatever reasoning or facts are presented to him, a man can be unpersuaded that the engine of his car is on the verge of complete failure due to a lack of oil. He may even refuse to add oil to its crankcase. But the conclusive and objective nature of the case is that the motor will indeed seize up in a matter of time.
    Thus far, it appears that Squishes is not interested in the reasoning or facts that are presented to him, but rather in how he feels, what he thinks (sans objective reason, sans standards of a good argument), and somehow knowing "it" when he see it -- all via some imagined neutrality, and all merely comprising electrochemical fizzing, popping and zapping in his cranial glands.

    The C-Word

    With each unfolding layer of Squishes' worldview and approach to knowing, massive contradictions emerge and belie the very notion of debate and discursive reasoning. Above, I demonstrated that Squishes' attempt to be "neutral" is contradictory to his denial of "objective, ideal standards." But the contradictions in Squishes' worldview don't end there.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston, previously
    I would request an example of a proof for something you did not previously believe that you "knew when you saw it."
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    This is difficult to do because it requires an attempt to dredge up an introspective moment from the past. But I think I could give you examples from science. As an undergrad in college I first heard of "Quantum Entanglement", whereby two particles become entangles such that you can change the spin of one and the other is affected instantaneously. I did a little research, looked over a few papers, talked to our chemistry professor and became convince it was a real phenomena.
    In Squishes' opening post, he stated that there is no faculty of reason, only "evolutionarily-formed modules" in the brain. From this pronouncement, he derives and declares his skepticism about causation, laws and knowledge. Yet, in the description of his investigations above, he clearly employs each of these. He asserts that he now believes, based on his investigations, that the entanglement of two particles can cause an instantaneous change in their spin. Note that he contradicts his earlier claim that he contributes very little to his belief, that they are "things that happen to us, not something we pick out like the day's outfit." Moreoever, he does not claim that such an instance is a one-off, but that he now believes "quantum entanglement" to be a real phenomenon, implying a regularity which necessitates an existing law that governs that regularity. While he appears to be careful not to say that he knows it is a real phenomenon, and apparently has an aversion to saying that quantum entanglement is "true," his behavior in seeking out the evidence shows that he presumes to know something about the process by which he investigated the concept and found it to be so (i.e. "true").

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I place a great deal of importance on the priors that determine how one takes the evidence.
    But, according to Squishes, " a priori considerations will not get you very far." Yet another contradiction of Squishism, placing "great importance" on something that will not get you very far.

    Furthermore, despite the "great importance" Squishes places on priors, he admits of blindly accepting his priors, because the "universe made him that way." But then he admits of the possibility that the universe is random and not lawful, yet behaves in this debate as if the universe is lawful and not random (i.e., using the rules of language and applying logic, despite his disbelief in such things). He admits of the possibility that the universe is lawful and not random, yet he denigrates the very tools by which its lawfulness is described, understood and made useful.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston, previously
    Then is it correct to say that you do not view the generalization, "There are no good arguments for God's existence," as "far-reaching"?
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I don't think it is. I am open to there being good arguments for the existence of God, …
    Another contradiction. Earlier, Squishes said "I don't think there are objective, ideal standards of success or of a good argument," yet he claims he will know one when he sees one. By what standard? How does he legitimize that standard? According to acetylcholine secretions in his brain?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    ... and I even concede that some arguments can be initially difficult to undercut. The Cosmological Argument taps into a near universal intuition that events need explanations. So I don't think I'm generalizing unfairly.
    Another contradiction. Squishes "concedes" that there are arguments that can be difficult to undercut. He "concedes" that the Cosmo' Argument has a near universal appeal. And then he says, "So," as in, "thus." But the statement that follows is out of step with the preceding concessions. It's like saying, "I concede that ice cream is difficult to resist, and I concede that it is nearly universally enjoyed. So I don't think my claim that ice cream is yucky is far-reaching."

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    We think the best way to find out what is in the world is to study the world, not fool around with sentences.
    Yet, Squishes comes here, and by the use of (gasp) sentences, he endeavors to convey meaning and relevance about … what? His study of the world? So, contrary to his claim, he does indeed fool around with sentences. In fact, he must do so in order to convey meaning and relevance about his study of the world. The contradictions in Squishes' worldview are vast and pervasive. It's like saying, "We think the best way to find out about food is to eat it, not fool around with recipes." Moreover, in his study of the world, he must assume and employ such "not really-real" "that-which-is-not-a-thing" non-things as induction, sensory observation and the scientific method, all without warrant, verification or justification; none of which make sense in a godless conception of the universe, and only make sense if the God of the Bible exists.

    The Unwinnable Debate

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I have a naturalistic view of success, where an argument is successful just if the strength of a belief is higher after hearing the evidence than before hearing the evidence.
    How does it make any sense to claim a "naturalistic" view of something that, according to Squishism, isn't natural. His sophism renders the concept of "successful" entirely meaningless.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    When there are two competing hypotheses, an argument is successful if a set of evidence raises your strength of belief to a higher degree than the competitor.
    Setting aside the rampant question-begging for a moment, notice how Squishes' statement here concedes the debate as stated. In other words, the quasi-proposition of this discussion, "whether there are any successful arguments for God and whether it is reasonable to disbelieve in God," is proven by the fact that there exist arguments (even bad arguments) that have successfully resulted in raising the strength of belief for scads of previously non-believing people, myself included. The only way his statement is not a concession is if his statement is really and exclusively about Squishes himself, not about what is logically sound or conclusive. Also, in response to my having affirmed that sitting in chairs is rational only if God exists, he says:

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    This belief [of sitting in chairs] is not irrational, but it is non-rational.
    How is this also not conceding the debate, i.e., that it is not reasonable (i.e., non-rational) to disbelieve in God? The only way Squishes' statement is not a concession is if his statement is solely about Squishes himself, and his conception of what constitutes rationality. According to the Squishistic neologisms set forth in this dialogue, this is an unwinnable debate.

    I'm still trying to get my head around the notion that logic and arguments are not "things," because for all the discourse we're having, despite Squishes' revisions of language, we're certainly behaving as if there is really something to these supposed "non-things."

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I don't think there are objective, ideal standards of success or of a good argument.
    Then what are we doing? I've agreed to a debate, which by definition, involves the presentation of arguments and critical assessments thereof. What I didn't know going in was that my opponent isn't really an opponent, but rather a self-vitiating solipsism whose inane pronouncements have no connection to his own behavior, and whose denials are without justification, validation or meaning. Debate is not possible with a Squishist because, not only are the goal posts moved continuously, there is no rulebook and there is no referee.

    Amputees, Sensory Calibration and Question Begging

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Thus, if you never encounter a miracle in your life, you are unlikely to be moved by a report of a miracle since your prior belief in the laws of nature (observed regularities) make miracle-claims difficult to substantiate.
    This does not follow. By definition, there must be prior observed regularities in order for a miracle to stand out and to be recognized as a non-regular event. This would make a miracle claim especially easy to substantiate.

    If, contrary to all prior observed cases of amputee patients, one patient regenerates a previously amputated limb, the recognition of that non-regular event is likely to move the entire medical community, and it would most certainly be easy to substantiate.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston, previously
    Why do you prefer Correspondence Theory over Coherence Theory?
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I don't. I am a deflationist about truth, and thus find neither theory appealing.
    Please accept my apology. Somehow I got it into my head that you espoused Correspondence.

    Based on a cursory perusal of Deflationism, I'm further convinced that this debate in an exercise in futility where Squishes is concerned. My only aim now is to demonstrate to the readers the absolute absurdity of Squishism, and the exclusive rationality of Biblical Theism.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I can't tell you why I trust my senses, only that I do and this belief is not up to me. Even if I wanted to import the strongest sort of skepticism into my daily life I could not. I take it as a presupposition, and I find myself unable to deny it.
    I understand, and the fact that Squishes cannot deny his trust in his senses should affirm to him of God's existence and attributes. But it should be stated that this appeal to a priori and intransigent/inexorable belief in one's senses neither justifies, nor calibrates them to reality. I know this all too well because I am color blind. I've learned not to trust my perception of color.

    Applying the reasoning (i.e. brain fizz) of the Squishian Sensory Imperative in another way, someone might just as readily claim that he can't say why he believes the horoscope, only that he does and that belief is not up to him. Even if he wanted to deny the horoscopes relevance, he could not, and finds himself unable to deny it. How is Squishes' appeal any different? What validates Squishes' appeal to the a priori nature and the intransigence/inexorability of his belief in his senses?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Now, I take it that it is further confirmed through experience; regularities occur, I can predict what I will sense in the future in some given time and location, etc, and so this belief is only strengthened with experience. But I cannot tell you why it is initially more plausible than not.
    It must be noted that Squishes' is here begging the very question. His confirmations through experience, his perceptions of supposed regularities, his predictions and their observed fulfillments, all depend upon the a priori assumption that his sense perceptions comport with reality. No one can calibrate one's sensory faculties using one's sensory faculties, as color-blind people know well, no more than we can use induction to verify induction, or apply the scientific method to validate the scientific method.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Reasons to believe in the resurrection are probabilistic and usually non-deductive. Soundness becomes uninteresting in these cases (or at least trivial).
    Biblically, the only sound reason to believe in the resurrection, despite whatever Josh McDowell or the various evidentialist Resurrection Apologists will assert, is the unequivocal teaching of God via the Bible. In a rational world, the only a priori consideration that matters is the existence and nature of God. What are the Squishistic criteria for "soundness"?

    Truth, Justification, and the Agnostic Way

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I don't know of any arguments that do not depend on background beliefs, but I suspect necessary truths would be the ones that get close.
    I could make a guess about what you view as "necessary truths," but it would be better to ask you directly: What are the "necessary truths"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston, previously
    Why does the piecing together of the brain by natural forces preclude a faculty of reason? Why does that not preclude the faculties of sight and smell as well?
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Sensory neurons distribute information to specialized parts of the brain. "Reason" is too abstract to be physically realized, but the instances of "reasoning" are just the different modules doing their business. Determining how to get back home is a complicated process algebra on geometry, but these are quite literal processes where the neurons themselves do the work (not some faculty or part of the brain). A neuron represents your starting location, and a circadian clock along with some sensory details of velocity updates your current location in relation to you starting location. There is no CPU the information gets sent to, even if it feels sometimes that we are doing the mental lifting.
    This doesn't answer the question. Why does the piecing together of the brain by natural forces preclude a faculty of reason? Why does that not preclude the faculties of sight and smell as well?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston, previously
    How do the terms "false justification," "ambiguous belief," and "compounded error" make sense in an agnostic skeptic's worldview? And again, this appears arbitrary. Instead of rejecting, why not adopt a belief in case a failure to do so would lead to false justification, ambiguous belief and compounded error down the line?
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    We don't adopt those beliefs because they are harmful.
    According to whom? What is a "false justification"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    People who lived that way did not get to make babies with the same level of success as those who were more careful. There is nothing more rational about it. As Quine put it, "Creatures inadvertently wrong in their inductions have a pathetic but praiseworthy tendency to die before reproducing their kind."
    Squishes arbitrarily defines "success" as being able to make babies. He presumes to declare what is harmful and that harm is to be avoided, all without warrant. He says this is rational, yet he cannot produce, let alone justify the criteria for his pronouncement.

    Quote Originally Posted by hilston, previously
    A noun refers to a person, place or thing. By elimination, induction is a thing.
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I don't accept this method.
    And I don't accept Squishes' linguistic sophistry. So, now what?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    As noted before, I think that this move from language to ontology is inconclusive at best. Induction describes (it is a description, not a thing) a family of concepts all centered around absorbing experience into our decision making. There's a good reason we never bump into induction in the world, and it's precisely because it isn't a thing.
    As noted above, Squishes and his ilk do not want to acknowledge the "Thing-ness" of things that do not have corporeal existence, despite their necessity in our everyday lives, because such an acknowledgement ineluctably confronts them with the necessary existence of God Who is back of rationality, and hence, is back of all predication, all abstract, universal and invariant entities that all men rely upon in their daily existence and experience.

    The Squishistic standard for "Thing-ness" is whether some"thing" can be bumped into. I will henceforth call this the "Stubbed Toe Criterion" for Squishian Thing-ness. But despite the sophism, the "that which isn't a thing" called induction describes an actual process of paramount relevance and utility in our daily lives; a "non-thing," not "really real" some"thing" "that which isn't a thing" that keeps us from touching fire, help us to stay out of jail, enables us to ride bicycles, to map genomes, to sit in chairs, to fly around the world, to avoid drowning, to raise our children and to find fulfillment and meaning in our lives. But no, it's not a thing because we can't stub our big toe on it.

    The Essence of Substance and Non-descriptive Descriptors

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I will just take a realist view of substances for the time being. Take a "thing" to be a substance.
    Why should we? Why can't we take a "thing" to be its essence? Why not both, reciprocally?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    People are substances. Presumably, governments are not substances.
    Yet, if Squishes gave up on induction, broke a "non-substantial" law prescribed by the presumed "non-substantial" government, Squishes could very well have his "substantial" hind-quarters hauled into a "substantial" prison. For all of Squishes' appeal to the pragmatic, the deconstructionist approach to language and meaning is anything but, and belies a fundamental component of everyday human experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    So, we can talk all we want of different truths. We may even agree on many of them.
    For example?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    But I will not accept the move from truth to metaphysical structure. The laws of logic may be necessarily true, but that in and of itself tells me nothing of the world of substances and things.
    Another contradiction. Elsewhere, Squishes has stated that induction is a description. Unless Squishes wants to invoke yet another neologism to the Squishian Lexicon, a description most certainly tells you something.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I accept his dictum that certainty is unwarranted everywhere and unnecessary for anything of importance.
    On what grounds do you accept this?

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    As far as arguments for God's existence go, I never claimed to be certain in an epistemological sense that all the arguments fail. I just think they do, and I have no reason to think otherwise.
    Of course not. Restating the statement according to Squishism, "I just 'brain-fizz' they do, and I have not the kind of 'brain-fizzing' to 'brain-fizz' otherwise. But here's a good reason: The Squishian worldview is absurd and irrational, self-contradictory, incoherent and does not align with human existence and experience, whereas the Biblical worldview is singularly sound, rational, self-consistent, coherent and comports in every way with human existence and experience, to the exclusion of all other god-conceptions.

    Induction vs. Inductive Practices

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    I mentioned this a little before. Hilston wants to know why I trust inductive practices. Here is a short, concise, and hopefully clear exposition:

    I am made to do so. … whatever universe I'm in has given me a brain to deal with the environment in a certain way.
    These are words that might very well haunt Squishes in eternity, should he continue to rebel against his knowledge of God. Man is made in God's image, which is to say, Squishes was made to trust inductive practices because logic reflects the mind of God, and God intended for man to feel after Him. Heretofore, Squishes has chosen to push away the innate, immediate and obvious knowledge that he is made in God's image, preferring to attribute his existence, self-awareness and logical processes not to God's special creative work, but to brain-fizzing as the result of godless evolutionary mechanisms.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Creatures that made predictions and drew correct inferences were favored over others. Many recurring inductive practices were internalized, and even toddlers can recognize when causal relations have gone awry (further discussion of this point upon request).
    Squishes presents his defense of his use of inductive practices, to convince us by an appeal to utility (inductive practices work). That is to say, he assumes the future will continue to be like the past. He says that he learns about the world by studying it, not mucking about with sentences. But Squishes hasn't seen the future, therefore, he must depend on something for which he has no legitimate claim: the truth of the uniformity of nature.

    Furthermore, induction goes beyond chair-sitting and causality. It is present in every aspect of our daily lives, in our very thinking, when we read sentences, when we balance our checkbooks (even unsuccessfully). Relegating induction to a mere linguistic convention (that only describes brain-fizzing) is contrary to our behavior and experience, in which we regard induction and other immaterial, abstract entities as absolute, universal and invariant laws. The pragmatism Squishes' proffers as a rational explanation is an effort eliminate the necessary precondition for the very notion of rationality. In other words, Squishes cannot justify the very tools he uses to advance his pragmatism.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    There is no solution to the logical problem of induction.
    There certainly is, and that is precisely and exclusively the existence and attributes of God.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    But the behavioral problem has been solved. We believe it because we are forced to. We are forced to because it is genetically imparted. It is genetically imparted because it aided in survival.
    Yet, those whom Squishes might call "brain-damaged," or "genetically abnormal," whose behavior and perceptions are different from the majority, might have a different belief about the world and induction. My genetically imparted color-blindness makes my visual perceptions different from the majority. But perhaps my perception is actually more accurate than the majority. Who's to say? Who is the arbiter in the dispute? And on what grounds is the majority declared correct? Squishes has no grounds on which to assert the correctness of his view over that of the other. Appeals to statistics, resulting "harm" (arbitrarily defined), etc., cannot be justified in a godless universe.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    That's it. This is why I am a skeptic, and will continue to be an agnostic for the foreseeable future. What you take to be worldview shattering is what I accept and make due with.
    It is indeed worldview-shattering, but Squishes' doesn't need to see it for it to be nonetheless true.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    However, Hilston seems to think that invoking God can solve this problem {of induction}:

    "Without God's existence, nothing would be intelligible. … In the absence of the God of the Bible (an irrational proposition), there can be no logic, no mathematics, no intelligibility in human experience, let alone the very existence of universals and particulars in any imagined universe (to say nothing of the existence of "imagination"). … Again, picking up patterns in the world and forming beliefs accordingly is unwarranted and arbitrary in a God-less universe. … In a God-less universe, there is nothing wrong with seeking pain and displeasure, holding obviously wrong beliefs, and recklessly forming beliefs. … The grounds on which to say God's mind exclusively accounts for all of reality is rational and defensible. Apart from the existence and attributes of God, there are no rational grounds upon which to even discuss "mind-dependent constructions". … And apart from the existence of God, there can be no grounding or justification. In fact, the anti-theist must actually highjack the tools of the Biblical worldview in order to mount their attack against it. " ...
    Etc.

    I am not convinced.
    Quite irrelevant. What Squishes is really saying is "My brain can't fizz that way." But he's wrong. To Squishes, the laws of logic are but a human construct, and they are not really laws (despite the fact that we all act as if they are). If everything is just matter in motion, which is the necessary implication of Squishism, and the "laws of logic" are merely brain states, then they can't be universal (despite the fact that we act as if they are), because what happens in one man's brain does not legislate over what is in another man's brain, nor does it necessarily correspond with what happens in the brain of another. If the laws of logic are merely human constructs or conventions, then what justifies the assumption that a "logical practice" that is demonstrated in one area of human experience be taken as true in other similar areas not yet experienced? On what grounds does someone posit "If A is B, and B is C, then A is C"? On what rational basis does one proceed through life on the assumption that such a transitive description should be taken as true in general? If the laws of logic are merely sociological constructs, then anyone can arbitrarily stipulate their own laws by claiming contradictions are factual truths, that question-begging is legitimate argumentation, that it's OK to be irrational, etc. But no one, including Squishes, comes to a debate or reads a debate expecting the participants to behave that way. Nor is it expected that they should first sit down and agree upon logical constructs. When Squishes and I raised the issue of induction or mentioned tautologies, we did not have to define these terms. When we step up to debate, it is already assumed (despite Squishes' assertions) that the laws of logic exist, are universal, invariant and necessary for discursive thought and rational discourse. But in spite of these tacit assumptions, evidenced by our behavior in this very discourse, Squishes wants to relegate "logic" to synaptic signalling in our encephalic glands, regardless of the fact that we do not share the same brain.

    If Squishes were to recognize that human rationality can only be accounted for if reality comprises immaterial, abstract, universal, invariant entities such as laws and concepts and minds, he would see that God alone, the God of the bible, is the necessary precondition for the intelligibility of human experience. But as a materialist, Squishes will not allow, and works very hard to deny, any such thing as an immaterial, abstract entity. The Squishian Stubbed Toe Criterion conveniently eliminates any consideration of nonphysical entities. Why? Because Squishianism and all its proponents recognize that allowing abstract entities to gain a foothold is to open the Pandora's Box of God's necessary existence, and hence their accountability to Him.

    Consider the following analogy:
    A young man who was out hunting fell over a precipice into the valley of the blind. There was no escape. The blind men did not understand him when he spoke of seeing the sun and the colors of the rainbow, but a fine young lady did understand him when he spoke the language of love. The father of the girl would not consent to the marriage of his daughter to a lunatic who spoke so often of things that did not exist. But the great psychologists of the blind men's university offered to cure him of his lunacy by sewing up his eyelids. Then, they assured him, he would be normal like "everybody" else. But the simple seer went on protesting that he did see the sun. ~ "Why I Believe in God," Cornelius Van Til
    Squishes wants us to be "normal," like him. But he cannot justify his "normal," nor can he account for the tools by which he seeks to advance his theory.

    Squishes' Questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    In a telling paragraph, Hilston just asserts the connection between the standards of rationality and God's existence:
    "The tools we use to make proofs, namely, our systems of logic, language and mathematics, reflect God's nature and character. His existence and attributes exclusively account for and justify our use of these tools and our reliance upon them in our everyday experience."

    To this I press the Cartesian worry even further. Let's suppose we even know what it means to "reflect God's nature and character." Let's suppose that my earlier worry about the incoherence of the falsity of the rules of logic and the conceivability of God's non-existence. I'll ask a simple question:

    Why does God get out of the epistemological problem?
    As the Ultimate Knower, God has exhaustive knowledge and experience. God can truly say, "All men are mortal." This is why the existence of God is the only solution to the problem of induction.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    How does God know he isn't a brain in a vat? How does God know he is in the real world and not in an illusion? How is God able to ground knowledge and give an account of induction? When God created the universe and set it's laws, how can he be sure they won't change?
    The same logic applies. Squishes' questions cannot apply to the Biblical God, Who is ultimate and transcendent, not subject to any authority, law or concept. It is not possible that God is merely a brain in a vat, or that His experience in the universe is merely an illusion, or that He cannot ground knowledge nor give an account of induction, or that He is uncertain about the permanence of His own laws, because such a "god" could not account for reality and rationality as we know it. God Himself, His existence and attributes, is the pre-condition for knowledge and rationality. It is not possible for the Biblical God not to exist, and it is not possible that the sort of god you describe could exist.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Further, even if I grant that a God must exist to account for all these related phenomena, there is a long jump to explicit Christian belief.
    Not at all, if by "Christian belief" you intend "Biblical belief." The fact is, the Biblical description of God is the only one that is self-consistent, self-attesting, non-contradictory and accounts for all the aforementioned phenomena.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston, previously
    I believe in the inerrancy and authority of the Bible for two reasons: (1) Because I was compelled to believe it by the witness of the Holy Spirit that resides in me and every believer;
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    How are you sure that was the Holy Spirit? That doesn't sound very reliable.
    Why is this relevant? The Bible says that His Spirit bears witness to the spirit of the regenerated individual that he is a child of God, that the claims and historicity of the Scripture are true. However, the Bible also says that all men, even the unregenerate, are without a reasoned defense, without excuse, and know that God exists and that they are accountable to Him.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston, previously
    and (2) because given the existence of God, it is expected (predictable) that God would not only testify to His own existence within man and via His creation,
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    There is no clear connection between the God of logic and this social God.
    That's like saying there is no clear connection between one's logical faculties and one's interpersonal ones. It doesn't make any sense. God is the Logos, the source of logic, and He is a trinity, a divine society within Himself, unified in thought, purpose and action.

    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    Why would you expect God to testify to His existence? Isn't it logically possible that God would create the world and not interact with it? Perhaps God does not care if anyone believes He exists.
    Not possible, given the way He designed us as creative, social and seeking people, created in His own image.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilston, previously
    but also that He would provide explicit, eyewitness testimony and documented guidance in understanding His will and purposes for mankind.
    Quote Originally Posted by Squishes
    That does not follow at all.
    It does absolutely. God is a lawful God. Nature follows laws, our mental processes are subject to laws. But these alone are not sufficient to give us guidance to live in a manner that is most pleasing to God and most beneficial to us. Thus it was necessary to provide special revelation from God to man, hence the documented word of God.

    Materialists, behaviorists, pragmatists, deflationists, atomists, physicalists, structuralists and naturalists have at least one thing in common: they deny the existence of abstract, invariant, immaterial entities, such as laws of logic and thought, concepts and the mind. Human perceptions of freedom, responsibility, creativity, and morality are merely illusions, according to the aforementioned "-ists," the results of biochemistry in the brain and the products of our conditioned physiology.

    What must be exposed concerning this view is the moral component, the true impetus behind it. Reducing humanity to sheer behavior conveniently eliminates moral accountability. If we are little more than bags of molecules bumping into one another, then there is no need to account for anything we do; there is no right or wrong, logic or illogic, no truth or goodness or beauty. As Squishes has elsewhere said, "… beliefs are things that happen to us, not something we pick out like the day's outfit."

    It is in this way that Squishes and others like him speciously seek to absolve themselves of what they already know deep down: That God is indeed watching them, that He exists and will hold them accountable for what they say and do. To be certain, they will disclaim any such motive (as if there were any such thing as "motive") and claim some imagined neutrality in their consideration of God's existence and arguments thereto. But this is a smokescreen, albeit a self-delusional one. For the Bible says that all men know that God exists, and that they are accountable to Him. They suppress, hold down and push away this truth in their rebellion, all the while pretending to others and to themselves that they are making honest and neutral inquiry into the "possibility" of God's existence, which is an irrational enterprise at best.

    Thank you again for this dialogue. I'm enjoying it very much.

    Hilston

  8. #8
    Over 1000 post club Hilston's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Location
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    Posts
    1,206
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post

    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)


    Rep Power
    1683
    There is an important omission/typo in my post that should be corrected. In the last section of my latest entry, I wrote:

    Not at all, if by "Christian belief" you intend "Biblical belief." The fact is, the Biblical description of God is only one that is self-consistent, self-attesting, non-contradictory and accounts for all the aforementioned phenomena.

    I should have written:

    Not at all, if by "Christian belief" you intend "Biblical belief." The fact is, the Biblical description of God is the only one that is self-consistent, self-attesting, non-contradictory and accounts for all the aforementioned phenomena.

    In other words, the Biblical description of God is not "only one," as if to imply that it is only one of many that are consistent and rational. Rather, it THE only one that is consistent and coherent.

    Thanks to my good friend Jerry for pointing this out. I'm deeply grateful for the help of critically thinking and astute friends who follow these posts.

    Cheers,
    Hilston

  9. #9
    Journeyman Squishes's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Changes frequently.
    Posts
    229
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post

    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Rep Power
    0
    Greetings everyone,

    This will probably be my last entry in this discussion. In a few days I will be on a plane to Europe for some conferencing and general tomfoolery before the fall semester begins. I'd like to thank Hilston in advance for participating and for the six of you that followed our entire exchange. Naturally, Hilston will have the final word since I opened. This response will serve as both a summary and a closing statement as well as some remarks on Hilston's recent criticisms. I want to begin by commenting on what I think is the central point here: the relationship between logic, rationality and God.

    God Does What?

    Whether or not my philosophically specified position is coherent and reasonable, it may be the case that I am wrong and Hilston is wrong as well. For example, there are agnostic/atheist Platonists who accept all the strange entities of a hyper-realist, but don't much care for the existence of God. This argument against TAG shows that no matter what you are, there is no connection between logic and the existence of God.

    For example, it is not necessarily false that the laws of logic could exist and God does not. Indeed, Plato was not stuck in contradiction when he posited the existence of God and transcendent laws besides, governing God's thought and deed. We may even construct a sort of Euthyphro dilemma where we ask the following:

    1) Is God rational because he created the laws of logic? Then they are not necessary truths.

    2) Is God rational because he thinks in accordance with the laws of logic? Then they are independent of him.

    Over and over Hilston just says God grounds rationality because he is ultimate and knowledgeable. But that is philosophically unsophisticated, and it's difficult to understand what the point is supposed to be. If God did not create the laws of logic, then they don't depend on him in any interesting way. If he did create the laws of logic, then God is in the same boat as the human race. If there is room for an alternative, then we have yet to see it from Hilston. But just for completeness' sake, let's look at what he said in response to this objection earlier:

    *The solution to the problem of induction is "the existence and attributes of God." It is? How? Which attribute?

    * "As the Ultimate Knower, God has exhaustive knowledge and experience. God can truly say, "All men are mortal." This is why the existence of God is the only solution to the problem of induction."

    So it seems that God solves the problem of induction because he has exhaustive knowledge and experience. But that does not answer the question. I want to know how he knows it. Just asserting that he knows does not do any work for you. And further, why should experience solve the problem for God and not for humans? His next paragraph is even worse, where he hides any connection behind a flurry of Psalmaic flourish:

    "The same logic applies. Squishes' questions cannot apply to the Biblical God, Who is ultimate and transcendent, not subject to any authority, law or concept. It is not possible that God is merely a brain in a vat, or that His experience in the universe is merely an illusion, or that He cannot ground knowledge nor give an account of induction, or that He is uncertain about the permanence of His own laws, because such a "god" could not account for reality and rationality as we know it. God Himself, His existence and attributes, is the pre-condition for knowledge and rationality. It is not possible for the Biblical God not to exist, and it is not possible that the sort of god you describe could exist."

    To paraphrase, God gets out of the skeptical problem because that God is not possible. If anything, this would prove my point. To formalize what I mean here:

    If God exists, then he would not be subject to skeptical problems.
    But God is subject to skeptical problems.
    ...

    Hilston cannot just assert that he is not subject to skeptical problems. He needs to defeat the skeptical problem, or else he would concede that God does not exist, which is more powerful than my belief that we do not know if God exists.

    In summary of this argument, TAG in its various forms are fun to think about and can be hard to understand. But every reformed apologist from Augustine to Bahnsen has left the connection between God and the skeptical problems a conceptual jungle.

    From God to...Christianity?

    As an agnostic, and despite Hilston's repeated attempts to formulate my position into something I would repudiate, I am open to the existence of God. What is beyond acceptability is the automatic jump from God's existence to Christian belief. Hilston would rather I use the term Biblical belief, but as this is a subset of Christianity, I want to make sure that this applies to more than a small group within a broad spectrum of historical development. This larger group believes that not only does God exist, but he came to earth to save us from our sins, among other things. Now, Hilston believes this is a small step from belief in God, since "the Biblical description of God is the only one that is self-consistent, self-attesting, non-contradictory and accounts for all the aforementioned phenomena."

    On the contrary, deism would ground the laws of logic quite nicely (if I go along with the claim that these necessary laws require grounding at all). Or maybe there's a God who is interested in us and even checks in once in a awhile, but he did not do it through Jesus of Nazareth. There are many kinds of theism that are more reasonable than Christianity because it requires fewer contested beliefs (creation story, resurrection, etc). Hilston appears to hold that Christianity just flows necessarily out of belief in God:

    "Biblically, the only sound reason to believe in the resurrection, despite whatever Josh McDowell or the various evidentialist Resurrection Apologists will assert, is the unequivocal teaching of God via the Bible. In a rational world, the only a priori consideration that matters is the existence and nature of God."

    Apparently, if I would have just thought about God's existence long or hard enough, you would just see that Jesus was resurrected. Since that is obviously false, the resurrection remains an empirical question of dubious epistemic standing.

    Brains and Fizzes

    Hilston thinks I am a materialist about minds. Unfortunately, this is false. Nearly no cognitive scientist (I literally can think of no one) thinks that the only interesting thing about brains is the chemical interactions therein. Minds are what brains do, and what brains do is perform functions, not just fizz. Brains compute and solve complex problems, not just fizz. I could go on forever, but the point is that what is interesting about a mind is not the chemical base but the configuration of those chemicals. The difference between the chemicals and soil and the chemicals in the head are functional differences. Therefore, it is highly inappropriate to say "and Squishes brain fizz did this or that". If this remains a point of contention, then I would humbly suggest reading this now classic paper and we can discuss it in another location.

    Agnosticism and Induction: Once More Into the Breach

    Hilston believes that I contradict myself all over the place. Let's look at some examples.

    * Neutrality and objectivity

    I made a remark that I want to use words in a non-contested way. He thinks this contradicts my view that an arguments success depends, at least in part, on the subject and their background beliefs. This is really grasping, though. In fact, the way one uses words and the subjective nature of updating our beliefs are wholly disconnected.

    *QM and causation

    When Hilston asked for an example of me being persuaded by a chain of reasoning, I gave a short story of quantum entanglement. From this, he derives that I must be a realist about causation and a non-skeptic about knowledge. But this is just wrong. Every scientist knows that they observe regularities and not causation, and the move from the former to the latter is a bit of inference. Thus, what I was convinced of is that two particles can become entangled, meaning that when some things happen some other things have been observed to happen. This is not causation. I should note that I am open to causal realism, but it would be a physical phenomena within the universe and not a metaphysical principle.

    * Priors and the a priori

    Here Hilston just gets confused. Having priors is not having a priori knowledge. Priors are a technical term in probability theories (and now epistemology) describing the background beliefs you bring into the reasoning process. I never claimed that we have these priors before experience. But besides this misstep, there is an important point to be made here:

    Furthermore, despite the "great importance" Squishes places on priors, he admits of blindly accepting his priors, because the "universe made him that way." But then he admits of the possibility that the universe is random and not lawful, yet behaves in this debate as if the universe is lawful and not random (i.e., using the rules of language and applying logic, despite his disbelief in such things). He admits of the possibility that the universe is lawful and not random, yet he denigrates the very tools by which its lawfulness is described, understood and made useful.
    Just to clarify, I only accept *some* beliefs without justification. My reliance on inductive practices is one of them. Further, I never once claimed that I think the laws of logic are contingent (though the rules of language certainly are), I only claimed that they are not substantial things. Further, I have not denigrated the tools logic gives us, and I am at a loss for why he would put this on me. I re-read our conversation, and though I have been less than careful with some of my comments I have yet to claim anything like what he claims here. This is a real problem with the philosophers in the presuppositional movement. Many times they group extremely nuanced positions into a single opponent, and this stifles philosophical progress (I'm considering starting a thread on this later.)

    Squishes "concedes" that there are arguments that can be difficult to undercut. He "concedes" that the Cosmo' Argument has a near universal appeal. And then he says, "So," as in, "thus." But the statement that follows is out of step with the preceding concessions. It's like saying, "I concede that ice cream is difficult to resist, and I concede that it is nearly universally enjoyed. So I don't think my claim that ice cream is yucky is far-reaching."
    If that were my only evidence, then it would be irrational for me to claim that ice-cream is gross. However, with the KCA, despite the initial appeal there is other information that casts doubt on the certainly of the premises. I do not find arguments for the causal premise to be convincing, so despite initial appearances there are defeaters for the KCA. Despite the near-universality of Newtonian thinking, we eventually replaced it with a better model. Humans are born with Newtonian sensibilities, and it is difficult to undercut, but undercut it was.

    Conceding the Debate?

    This debate is about the existence of God. Hilston claims that I concede the debate when I claim that inductive reasoning is non-rational. But how could that be? Consider two following propositions:

    A) If you accept the viability of inductive practices, then it is rational to sit in chairs.

    B) It is rational to sit in chairs.

    I should have been clearer about this in my original post. I think (A) is true while (B) is incomplete. I do not choose my antecedent in (A), but since I do and I also accept the proposition, then it follows that in some sense it is rational to sit in chairs. This is why I am a naturalist and not a Pyrrhonian skeptic. My acceptance of inductive practices leads to me to many conclusions about the world, even if acceptance of the antecedent is not itself rationally inescapable due to Humean skepticism. In other words, it is non-rational (not irrational) to believe that the past can be a guide to the future. But once you do accept these epistemically mysterious principles all kinds of beliefs fall out. I sit in chairs because it is reasonable given the assumption of inductive practices.

    Miracles

    This does not follow. By definition, there must be prior observed regularities in order for a miracle to stand out and to be recognized as a non-regular event. This would make a miracle claim especially easy to substantiate.

    If, contrary to all prior observed cases of amputee patients, one patient regenerates a previously amputated limb, the recognition of that non-regular event is likely to move the entire medical community, and it would most certainly be easy to substantiate.
    Fortunately, scientists do not use Hilston's criteria of testing where outlier data points shift an entire community of thought and theory. It takes trial after trial and voluminous study before a medical community substantiates anything. The do not take the ravings of street-corner prophets seriously about the medical effects of their urine, and neither should we take seriously the claims of people we never knew (Moses through Paul) who make similarly spurious claims.

    Skepticism and Rationality (assorted questions)

    What are the "necessary truths"?
    A proposition is necessarily true just if it could not be false.

    I claimed that "We don't adopt those beliefs because they are harmful.", to which Hilston responded:

    According to whom? What is a "false justification"?
    Not according to "whom", but to "what". Harm is an objective measure, and in this case is just the number-crunching algorithm of natural selection.

    Squishes arbitrarily defines "success" as being able to make babies. He presumes to declare what is harmful and that harm is to be avoided, all without warrant. He says this is rational, yet he cannot produce, let alone justify the criteria for his pronouncement.
    This is an unacceptable misreading. What I mean by success just is cashed out in terms of natural selection. Whether or not that's what you mean, it's what I mean. Now, you wanted to know why humans believe thus and so instead of something else. I gave you the reason. We died if we did not. Imagine two proto-humans on a Serengeti plain. PH1 believes that 2-1=1, and PH2 believes that 2-1=0. Now, it is clear why PH1 would be more successful than PH2. If they were chased by 2 lions, and Ph1 notices that one has broken off the chase, he is going to continue running until he escapes. PH2 sees a lion break off the chase and stops running since he thinks there are no more lions chasing him. PH1 is going to have a much higher chance of survival than PH2, and thus we have an objective explanation of why we believe what we do. Not all beliefs are equal, and I can freely help myself to whatever tools this story affords me.

    In conlusion:

    * We don't need certainty to track truths about the world.
    * Given human limitations and sparsity of data, we should form beliefs carefully. Even though we do not choose our beliefs, we can withhold consent in many cases. Since most of our beliefs about the structure of the world have been incorrect, we should hold any claim about the nature of world with deep suspicion.
    * There are no good arguments for God's existence. Hilston's argument about the relationship between logic/induction and God's existence and attributes is mysterious and unclear.
    * The assorted skeptical problems are not going away anytime soon, and positing the existence of God does not alleviate them. Indeed, God himself has no reason to trust that tomorrow will resemble today, or that he is not a brain in a vat, or that he is not being tricked by an evil demon.
    * However, atheism is a strong claim about the world that itself is unjustified. The most stable position is agnosticism about things we do not have access to.

    I want to thank Hilston for a fun exchange of ideas. I appreciate his willingness to accept my debate challenge, and his overall tone was professional and conducive to intellectual progress. I also want to thank those who followed along and asked questions in the "Observations" thread and in private message.
    The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
    And all the sweet serenity of books.

    --Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
About us
Since 1997 TheologyOnline (TOL) has been one of the most popular theology forums on the internet. On TOL we encourage spirited conversation about religion, politics, and just about everything else.

follow us