A Very Brief Response To Bahnsen Burner Concerning Conditions Of Knowledge

Unfortunately I see the recent response from Dawson Bethrick (available on his blog) as a lengthy discussion of topics rather irrelevant to the points I raised in my post that he is allegedly responding to concerning Conditions of Knowledge. I am at a loss as to why someone familiar with the topic at hand would understand my post as something other than a discussion of problems related specifically to a materialist understanding of the world.

When we speak of ‘belief in a proposition’ we usually mean ‘belief that a proposition is true’, not a belief that the proposition itself exists! Beliefs may be based upon knowledge obtained prior to the formation of those beliefs (for example, the knowledge that a proposition exists). The discussion of concepts being entailed in beliefs presented by Bethrick does not strike me as being any sort of refutation.

When I write that beliefs are not reducible to being natural or physical things I do not mean anything like what Bethrick takes “natural” to mean. That is, he is guilty of equivocation. Of course “concepts are a natural part of the human mind’s cognition” in many senses, but not when we define “natural” as “physical” as opposed to “non-physical”. The term “belief” is itself a mental term. I do not see that even its use fits with a tenable materialist position. Now Bethrick may not be a materialist. If he is not a materialist I would love to hear it for this would prompt further inquiry regarding his doctrine.

Bethrick writes that beliefs are “mental integrations”. He thinks that this answers what beliefs “are”, but he has not stuck to the challenge. Are mental integrations physical (natural) or not? If he states that they are physical then he falls back into the problems already set forth in the original post. If he states that they are non-physical then he, by his own standards, fails to state what beliefs actually are with respect to his statement. That is, Bethrick is only pressing the problem further back. What about consciousness itself; is it physical? Again, natural objects do not possess the feature of “aboutness”.

Concerning truth is Bethrick of the persuasion that an “aspect of conceptual awareness” is physical or not? Is the “contextual correspondence to the objects of awareness” physical or not? Bethrick writes, “Truth is a relationship between the subject of cognition and its objects” yet also maintains that “the objects of consciousness are what they are independent of anyone’s conscious activity”. Perhaps this is a misunderstanding on my part but it looks like these two statements lead to a contradiction if they are not themselves contradictory.

Bethrick writes, “the ‘belief’ that it is snowing in Miami because you dreamed it is snowing there, is only objectionable if one assumes the primacy of existence, the view that the objects of consciousness are what they are independent of conscious activity, that the task of consciousness is not to create or alter reality, but to perceive and identify it”. Actually no, for if the world is as God says it is then whether or not it is snowing in Miami is not contingent upon the human consciousness in view here. Perhaps it would be better for Bethrick to stick with the “self-evident” nature of the primacy of existence rather than to try and prove it through such large leaps. Of course I do not quite understand the Objectivists’ more specific objection to Christian Theism at this point anyway, their theory being that consciousness itself exists and hence the axiom of consciousness does not in any way contradict the metaphysical primacy of existence. If this is the case then I do not see where the problem is with the Christian God as a conscious being according to Objectivist standards.

Bethrick is missing my point here though. Even if the “primacy of existence” is assumed, why is it objectionable to suggest that there may be knowledge of snow in Miami based upon a dream? Why is it wrong to think this way? We are speaking of knowledge of facts, not facts themselves. We are not speaking of whether or not it actually is snowing or not in Miami. Bethrick appears to confuse these two categories.


One Comment

Bahnsen Burner

Hello Chris,

I appreciate your comments. I have posted a response here.

Regards,
Dawson


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