Agreus Attempts to Tackle TAG

The following is from the post,  “Two Initial Objections to TAG”.  It has been edited down to include only the attempts on the part of Agreus to interact with the initial post and my responses to him.

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Two of the most common objections to the Transcendental Argument for God from both inside and outside of Christianity appear to be inconsistent with each other.

Consider:

1. TAG is circular.

2. TAG is unstated.

Perhaps the two can be reconciled, but I believe it would take more than the typical surface level treatment of TAG to do so. One notable exception might be when a bare assertion is offered as the proof itself. However it would be odd to describe a mere assertion as “circular”.

C.L. Bolt

It is also clear that many of the examples that can be provided are not circular. For example, “If knowledge then God, knowledge, therefore God” does not appear to be circular. Likewise, “Logic, If not-Christianity then not-Logic, therefore Christianity” is not circular that I can see.

In the case of Van Til it is frequently claimed that he never actually offered an argument. Yet it is also frequently claimed that his argument was circular.

Agreus

I’m sorry, but both examples that you’ve presented actually do contain the implicit premise that God exists. Since your conclusion is assumed from the very beginning, both arguments are circular. You simply haven’t explicitly stated all of the premises of the argument.

C.L. Bolt

Where is the implicit premise “God exists” in either example? Are you saying that either of the examples contains the conclusion in the premises in a different way from all other such arguments? If not it is strange to single out TAG as being “circular”. Can you explicitly state all the premises of the argument?

The observation in the post still stands.

Agreus

The premise that God provides the necessary preconditions for knowledge is the one that needs to be proven. Obviously, if you are going to try to prove the existence of God, then you cannot start your argument with a premise that assumes God necessarily must exist or else knowledge could not exist. You first have to successfully argue that God is a precondition to knowledge. Most proponents of TAG even acknowledge this and unfortunately it is here where things usually fall apart for those trying to argue TAG.

C.L. Bolt

Since an unprovable premise is not the same thing as a circular argument and since you assume the argument may be stated; your assertions, even if true, are irrelevant to the original post.

Agreus

Declaring your premise unprovable doesn’t make it immune from being a circular argument. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could argue that way?

C.L. Bolt

A premise is not an argument, ergo you are not making much sense Agreus!

Agreus

I never stated that a premise was an argument. Your premise entails the truth of your conclusion (God’s existence), which is what makes your argument circular.

C.L. Bolt

What does “it” refer to in, “Declaring your premise unprovable doesn’t make it immune from being a circular argument”?

If “it” refers to a premise, then refer to my previous comment. A premise is not an argument.

If “it” refers to TAG, then your statement is correct. An unprovable premise does not mean that TAG is not circular. However, you are citing an allegedly unprovable premise in an effort to explain how TAG is circular. Since an unprovable premise is not the same thing as a circular argument and since you assume the argument may be stated (in your admission that there are premises); your assertions, even if true, are irrelevant to the original post.

But now you’ve written something I’m even more interested in, which is, “Your premise entails the truth of your conclusion (God’s existence), which is what makes your argument circular.” I asked earlier if the examples of TAG provided contain the conclusion in the premises in a different way from other like arguments.

C.L. Bolt

The conclusion of the first example is “God”.
The first premise is “If knowledge then God”.
The second premise is “knowledge”.

The first premise does not entail the conclusion by itself. The same is true of the second premise.

The conclusion of the second example is “Christianity”.
The first premise is “Logic”.
The second premise is “If not-Christianity then not-Logic”.

The first premise does not entail the conclusion by itself. The same is true of the second premise.

Perhaps you are saying that the premises entail the truth of the conclusions of the arguments and hence they are circular. For example, argument X:

If the premises of an argument entail the truth of the conclusion of the argument then the argument is circular.

The premises of argument X entail the truth of the conclusion of the argument.

Therefore argument X is circular.

Are you saying something like that?

Agreus

Chris, either you are making an arbitrary if..then statement or else you are presenting TAG with unstated (implicit) premises, in which case your argument is circular. If you are just making an arbitrary if..then statement, then I have no problem with it, other than the conclusion is false because the premise is false. If you are trying to present an argument for TAG, then you simply have not stated the argument to avoid it from appearing circular.

C.L. Bolt

What do you mean by “arbitrary if..then statement”? Would you consider the following to be an arbitrary if then statement?:

“If you are just making an arbitrary if..then statement, then I have no problem with it…”

Is this one an “arbitrary if..then” statement?:

“If you are trying to present an argument for TAG, then you simply have not stated the argument to avoid it from appearing circular.”

If not, why not? You will also need to establish your statement above. This is what I have been asking you to do. What is circular about either of the examples provided? Be specific, don’t just repeat what you have heard.

It seems that you are merely substituting “arbitrary” for my earlier “unprovable”. However, I have already answered you on this. An argument with an unprovable premise (or an “arbitrary” premise if I understand you correctly) is not a circular argument and a premise is not an argument.

Arguments with implicit premises are not necessarily circular. In order for your charge of circularity to stick with respect to the second option you will need to make the alleged implicit premises of the examples explicit and demonstrate how their presence results in circular argument.

You can repeat that the arguments appear circular all night long but it is a far cry from actually showing where and how they are circular. It is not up to me to produce premises that you imagine are hidden somewhere and believe constitute circularity in the arguments when revealed. This is very strange thinking on your part – if you know that there are implicit premises and you know that their being made explicit demonstrates that the arguments are circular then why not produce said premises and put this thing to rest?

Three more things worth noting:

1. I don’t think you actually addressed my questions from the last two comments.

2. You wrote, “Your premise entails the truth of your conclusion (God’s existence), which is what makes your argument circular.” I already addressed this in my previous comments and asked for clarification, but now you appear to be charging TAG with circularity while citing a different reason for doing so (an implicit premise)! Is TAG circular because a “premise entails the truth of [its] conclusion” or is it circular because I am “presenting TAG with unstated (implicit) premises”?

3. None of your comments is actually relevant to the inconsistency between the two surface level (but very popular) objections to TAG I presented. You are presumably trying to establish that TAG is circular or that it is unstated which is fine but it is difficult to see how you might go about establishing both!

Agreus Chris, your argument is a logically valid deductive argument, however that does not tell us much other than your argument is logically valid. Your premises, “If Knowledge, then God” has not been established and hence your argument is unsound. A sound argument is only sound if it is both logically valid and all of its premises are actually true.

If that is all there is to your argument and you have no problem with the unsoundness of it, then that is fine. But I doubt that you are satisified with that. Most people who argue TAG try to support their premises with some sort of argument, which I have always found to be a circular one.

C.L. Bolt “Chris, your argument is a logically valid deductive argument”

Glad you grant this!

“however that does not tell us much other than your argument is logically valid.”

It tells us the argument.

“Your premises, ‘If Knowledge, then God’ has not been established and hence your argument is unsound.”

An argument with an unestablished premise is not necessarily unsound.

“A sound argument is only sound if it is both logically valid and all of its premises are actually true.”

Yes, but note that just because a premise has not been established does not mean that the premise is false. Thus an argument with an unestablished premise is not necessarily unsound.

“If that is all there is to your argument and you have no problem with the unsoundness of it, then that is fine.”

Again, the argument is not necessarily unsound because the premise is not necessarily false, even if it has not been established. You would need to provide arguments in order to demonstrate that the premise in question is false in order to support your statement that the argument is unsound.

“But I doubt that you are satisified with that.”

You’re right, I’m not, because I do not believe that it is unsound.

“Most people who argue TAG try to support their premises with some sort of argument,”

What sort of argument do they try to support the premises with?

“which I have always found to be a circular one.”

If we remove these allegedly circular arguments given in support of the premises of TAG we are back to the problem of an unsupported premise, but an unsupported premise is not the same thing as a circular argument. But aside from this, notice that your claim is that the arguments given in support of the premises of TAG are circular and not TAG itself. So then TAG is not what is circular, but rather the arguments which support its premises. This is different (again!) from what you have said before.

Is TAG circular because a “premise entails the truth of [its] conclusion” or is it circular because I am “presenting TAG with unstated (implicit) premises” or is it circular because the premises of TAG are supported by “some sort of argument…found to be a circular one”? Not only are these different from each other, they are each problematic as explained.

To summarize, you have attempted to show that TAG is circular by making three different claims as to why it is circular. Your most recent claim implies that it is not actually TAG which is circular, but rather the arguments given in support of its premises which are circular. You have not established that TAG is circular. There is also implicit concession in what you have written that TAG is not unstated.

Notice that you have not established either:

1. TAG is circular.

or

2. TAG is unstated.

Not only have you been unsuccessful in raising either of these objections on its own, you have not reconciled the two so as to show that there is no inconsistency in affirming both objections.

Agreus

“If we remove these allegedly circular arguments given in support of the premises of TAG we are back to the problem of an unsupported premise…..”

Chris, what you are doing is not actually addressing the problems of TAG rather you are quibbling about semantics. As Dawson said, “You’re trifling here, perhaps in an interest to divert attention away from the point of the post and subsequent discussion”. For the purposes of clarification, let’s call TAG unstated version, TAG v1, which is the unsupported deductively valid form of the argument. Let’s call the second version, TAG v2, which is the enhanced version of TAG that attempts to argue in support of the premise “If God, knowledge.” With this clarification in mind, let’s review the questions you skeptically posed to me in your last post:

“Is TAG circular because a ‘premise entails the truth of [its] conclusion’”

TAG v2 is circular because its premise entails the truth of its conclusion.

“or is it circular because I am ‘presenting TAG with unstated (implicit) premises’”

I never said that either TAG v1 nor V2 were circular because you were presenting them with unstated premises.

“or is it circular because the premises of TAG are supported by ’some sort of argument…found to be a circular one’?”

Here you are referring to TAG v2, which is a circular argument because it presupposes what it attempts to prove, the details of which have yet to be expounded upon because we are nitpicking over semantics.

Typically if someone argues TAG, they will use the enhanced version as TAG v1 isn’t a persuasive argument for someone skeptical of the existence of God and TAG is supposedly the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God and not just a deductively valid argument (TAG v1). In fact, TAG v1.0 isn’t an argument for the existence of God at all and we may as well call it the Transcendental Assumption of God’s Existence.

That said, when you talk about the Transcendental Argument for God, you must have in mind TAG v2, which is in fact circular. In this case, you just have not stated the premises in full, which when revealed makes the argument circular. This is what has been pointed out to you for both of your arguments by Dawson. I hope this clarifies things for you.

“To summarize, you have attempted to show that TAG is circular ”

I have not delved into the problems of TAG rather I am trying to unravel your semantical confusions. Why you are expending so much energy quibbling over semantics is telling. Dawson is actually addressing the problems of TAG.

C.L. Bolt

Agreus,

You have not raised any problems with TAG. Rather, you have asserted over and over again that TAG is circular while providing different reasons which are inconsistent with each other as to why this is supposedly the case. I am not “quibbling about semantics.” A circular argument which is used to support a premise of TAG is not the same thing as TAG itself being circular, and an unsupported premise in TAG is not the same thing as TAG itself being circular. That’s not semantics; those are two different descriptions of two different situations. I am asking you why you believe that TAG is circular. So far you have not provided a cogent answer as I have addressed each of your answers every time you have produced them.

You have now divided TAG into v1 and v2 in an ad hoc attempt to save your argument. TAG v1 is not circular given your definition of it because an argument with unsupported premises is not necessarily circular and the examples of the argument I presented are clearly not circular.

TAG v2 you state is an “enhanced version of TAG that attempts to argue in support” of its first premise. You have now repeated yourself in stating that TAG v2 is circular because its premise entails the truth of its conclusion. I have already addressed this argument. The argument fails because a premise does not in and of itself entail anything. A premise must be placed within the context of an argument in order for it to entail a conclusion. But what does your objection then look like? Earlier I asked for more clarification from you on this when I wrote, “Perhaps you are saying that the premises entail the truth of the conclusions of the arguments and hence they are circular. For example, argument X:

If the premises of an argument entail the truth of the conclusion of the argument then the argument is circular.

The premises of argument X entail the truth of the conclusion of the argument.

Therefore argument X is circular.

Are you saying something like that?”

Rather than answering my question, you changed the reason you were giving for thinking that TAG is circular. Now you are denying that you have done this, for you wrote, “I never said that either TAG v1 nor V2 were circular because you were presenting them with unstated premises.” Yes you did, in this comment – http://www.choosinghats.org/?p=1207&cpage=1#comment-1595 – where you wrote, “Chris, either you are making an arbitrary if..then statement or else you are ***presenting TAG with unstated (implicit) premises, in which case your argument is circular***.” I quoted you directly. I have also already pointed out the problems with this supposed reason for circularity.

You quoted me, “or is it circular because the premises of TAG are supported by ’some sort of argument…found to be a circular one’?” You wrote in response, “Here you are referring to TAG v2, which is a circular argument because it presupposes what it attempts to prove, the details of which have yet to be expounded upon because we are nitpicking over semantics.”

Again, we are not “nitpicking over semantics.” Maybe you are no longer following the discussion, or you are intentionally trying to write off the problems with your claims, but the issue is your inconsistency, not semantics. You are giving reasons for your assertion that TAG is circular and I am telling you what is wrong with the reasons you are giving. The reasons you are giving not only each fail as explained in my comments, but they are in fact inconsistent with each other! You are saying *different* things; this is not reducible to “semantics”.

What do you mean when you write that TAG v2 “is a circular argument because it presupposes what it attempts to prove”? Where, specifically, does the argument do this? If you could please be very specific and stop changing your answer every time I ask you this it would be very helpful. You are free to expound upon the details; I am encouraging you to! I want to know why you think either of the examples provided is circular. So far you have failed to produce something to back up your frequent claims to this effect.

Please, tell me plainly, how are either of the two examples provided circular? I do not think you will surmount this difficulty because I do not believe that either of the examples provided actually is objectionable due to circularity. Your objection, I think, is based upon hearsay.

“Typically if someone argues TAG, they will use the enhanced version as TAG v1 isn’t a persuasive argument for someone skeptical of the existence of God”

In other words you cannot find where the arguments I actually presented are actually circular. Fine, so you think that the circularity rests in the support for the premises. Also fine, but as I’ve already mentioned this is not the same thing as saying that TAG is itself circular. Further, I am willing, ready, and waiting to see the alleged support for the premises and how it is circular.

“and TAG is supposedly the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God and not just a deductively valid argument (TAG v1).”

Since TAG stands for Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God you are saying that ‘TAG is supposedly TAG and not just a deductively valid argument.’ Maybe you can help me to make sense out of that.

“In fact, TAG v1.0 isn’t an argument for the existence of God at all and we may as well call it the Transcendental Assumption of God’s Existence.”

Rhetoric and subsequent boredom – let’s see the circularity!

“That said, when you talk about the Transcendental Argument for God, you must have in mind TAG v2, which is in fact circular.”

That’s what you keep asserting over and over again, yes. But where’s the demonstration that it is circular?

“In this case, you just have not stated the premises in full, which when revealed makes the argument circular.”

Actually I did state the premises in full. They are stated above in each of the examples provided. If you want to argue against some straw man of TAG then feel free to state it and show that it is circular, but I don’t know why you’d care to do that.

If you want to “reveal” whatever it is you think is being hidden (and here you’re talking again about implicit premises which you just a moment ago denied doing!) then feel free to do so. You are claiming that TAG is circular. Again, even if it were the case that the supporting arguments were circular, the supporting arguments are not TAG. It is up to you to state these supporting arguments and demonstrate that they are circular or else you have really failed to make any substantial case against TAG in terms of its circularity.

“This is what has been pointed out to you for both of your arguments by Dawson. I hope this clarifies things for you.”

You haven’t actually said anything new, so no you have not clarified anything. Please be specific and tell me how TAG is circular. I read what Dawson has written and do not see that he has done this, but I am asking you to provide this information for me.

In response to me writing, “To summarize, you have attempted to show that TAG is circular,” you wrote, “I have not delved into the problems of TAG.” However, you have certainly been repeating quite often your assertion that TAG is circular. You are correct that you have not “delved” into the alleged problems with TAG. You seem content just repeating yourself, but that is neither an argument nor persuasive.

“rather I am trying to unravel your semantical confusions.”

You have provided three different reasons for thinking that TAG is circular, each one has been answered now, and each one is inconsistent with the other two. You are the one claiming that TAG is circular and you need to provide some support for your claim. I’m not confused. I’m waiting for you to make a consistent and successful argument.

“Why you are expending so much energy quibbling over semantics is telling.”

More rhetoric. I am not quibbling over semantics. You are, however, hand waiving. When this conversation is complete I will be posting it as its own entry. If you do not demonstrate circularity within TAG in your next post the thread is over and the conversation is posted as is. It’s going to look bad at this point, so I do hope you produce some actual argument or evidence or whatever it is you have that demonstrates that TAG is circular!

“Dawson is actually addressing the problems of TAG.”

First, no he’s not. Second, that’s not the point of the post. Third, what about you? Fourth, you still have not clarified how TAG can be both unstated and circular.

Agreus

Chris, I just sifted through the past week or so of comments after having returned from a trip and all I can say is that the versions of TAG you have presented so far really are nothing more than bare assertions. It is what I earlier referred to as TAG v1 (or the Transcendental Assumption of God). Is this your idea of a good argument?

Agreus

Yes it’s a poor argument. The argument is deductively valid, as is the following:

If large green peas, then Jolly Green Giant. Large green peas. Jolly Green Giant.

Obviously, this isn’t a good argument for the existence of the Jolly Green Giant. Yet Chris, who supposedly is a huge proponent of TAG, seems to think these types of arguments are pretty convincing arguments for the existence of God.

C.L. Bolt Agreus responded, “Chris, I just sifted through the past week or so of comments after having returned from a trip and all I can say is that the versions of TAG you have presented so far really are nothing more than bare assertions. It is what I earlier referred to as TAG v1 (or the Transcendental Assumption of God). Is this your idea of a good argument?”

Agreus attempted to reconcile the two objections in the initial post. He has been presenting contradictory reasons for considering TAG to be a circular argument. Again, even if circularity is established, it is difficult to see how TAG can be both unstated and circular. Please see the original post – http://www.choosinghats.org/?p=1207

In this comment – http://www.choosinghats.org/?p=1207&cpage=1#comment-1712 – I wrote the following to Agreus:
“When this conversation is complete I will be posting it as its own entry. If you do not demonstrate circularity within TAG in your next post the thread is over and the conversation is posted as is. It’s going to look bad at this point, so I do hope you produce some actual argument or evidence or whatever it is you have that demonstrates that TAG is circular!”

As promised, the thread is now closed. I hope to post the conversation with Agreus and also interact some more with what Dawson Bethrick has written concerning circularity in a separate post. No promises on how soon that will be.


22 Comments

That Ol’ Time Atheist Religion | Choosing Hats

[…] is referring to TAG here and is asserting that it is a “poor argument”. At this point in the discussion, he still has not told us exactly why it is a poor argument (and still has not). He admits that the […]

Agreus

Thanks for posting this. It should be pointed out that when I stated that TAG is circular, I am not referring to what you presented as TAG, which does not resemble a proof argument for the existence of God, rather I am referring to an argument in which the premises are supported with an additional argument, which entails additional premises. This is what I referred to as TAG v2 so you would not confuse the two. In your discussion with me, you have presented an unsupported deductively valid argument, the soundness of which has not been established, and then repeatedly insisted I demonstrate its circularity.

I did claim TAG v2 was circular because the premise entails the truth of the conclusion (God’s existence), which makes the argument circular. However, because you presented me with TAG v1, which is merely an unsupported deductively valid argument, there was no necessity to demonstrate circularity on your bare assertion.

chrisbolt

Thanks.

“It should be pointed out that when I stated that TAG is circular…I am referring to an argument in which the premises are supported with an additional argument, which entails additional premises.”

Are you able to state this version of TAG with its additional premises and point out for me where it is circular since you claim to know these premises and the circularity of the argument? That would be immensely helpful.

Agreus

Chris, the Transcendental Argument from God will proceed by attempting to establish the premise that God is the necessary precondition of knowledge by arguing the impossibility of the contrary. It attempts to do this by demonstrating the internal incoherence of the negation of the premise. This is how I have observed TAG to be practiced by its proponents and as I have stated, their arguments end up being circular.

It’s important to understand TAG is not a proof argument for God’s existence. TAG is simply a proclamation that God is the answer (TAG v1) and then a challenge to all skeptics to present a perfectly coherent worldview. If the skeptic cannot meet this challenge, then somehow the Christian worldview is the default true worldview as all other wordviews are false as supposedly shown through a reductio ad absurdum fallacy.

So, briefly, in order for TAG to move forward it must 1) Put its opponent in the position to demonstrate that their worldview is coherent and 2) Presuppose the Christian God. This is not an argument for the existence of God. So in practice TAG commits two fallacies. It shifts the burden of proof and begs the question.

Agreus

Excuse the typos in my last post as I was a bit rushed when I wrote this.

chrisbolt

“Chris, the Transcendental Argument from God will proceed by attempting to establish the premise that God is the necessary precondition of knowledge by arguing the impossibility of the contrary.”

There is support offered for the controversial premise then. Okay.

“It attempts to do this by demonstrating the internal incoherence of the negation of the premise.”

This sounds very similar, if not the same as a reductio ad absurdum argument.

“This is how I have observed TAG to be practiced by its proponents and as I have stated, their arguments end up being circular.”

Let’s look at Plantinga’s description of a reductio ad absurdum:

“In a reductio you prove a given proposition p by showing that its denial, not-p, leads to (or more strictly, entails) a contradiction or some other kind of absurdity.” – Alvin Plantinga

Is it your contention that this type of argument is circular? If so, I would need for you to explain to me how this is the case, because I certainly do not see it.

“It’s important to understand TAG is not a proof argument for God’s existence.”

I do not know what a proof argument is. This may have been a typo.

“TAG is simply a proclamation that God is the answer (TAG v1) and then a challenge to all skeptics to present a perfectly coherent worldview.”

But you just wrote, “the Transcendental Argument from God will proceed by attempting to establish the premise that God is the necessary precondition of knowledge by arguing the impossibility of the contrary. It attempts to do this by demonstrating the internal incoherence of the negation of the premise.” That is more than a mere proclamation, that’s an argument.

“If the skeptic cannot meet this challenge, then somehow the Christian worldview is the default true worldview as all other wordviews are false as supposedly shown through a reductio ad absurdum fallacy.”

Well yes, because in terms of the support for the premise, “you prove a given proposition p by showing that its denial, not-p, leads to (or more strictly, entails) a contradiction or some other kind of absurdity.” If the argument is set up in terms of p v ~p, and according to you it looks like it is, then showing that ~p is absurd only leaves p.

“So, briefly, in order for TAG to move forward it must 1) Put its opponent in the position to demonstrate that their worldview is coherent”

Which it could conceivably accomplish through the use of a reductio.

“and 2) Presuppose the Christian God.”

Okay.

“This is not an argument for the existence of God.”

I’m not sure I understand why you would make this assertion. Exactly what is it that you think excludes it from being properly labeled as an argument? How can something which is *not an argument* properly be called “circular”?

“So in practice TAG commits two fallacies. It shifts the burden of proof and begs the question.”

The burden of proof is satisfied via the reductio. I still do not see where the argument, which you say is not actually an argument, begs the question.

chrisbolt

You also mentioned the “reductio ad absurdum fallacy.” I assume that you are aware that a reductio ad absurdum is typically an argument and not a fallacy? I do not see its fallacious nature here.

Agreus

Chris, I will have to continue this discussion as I have guests visiting. I will correct myself in so far that it is an argument, however it is a fallacious one as I have shown and will discuss in more detail when I have more time and am not rushed.

C.L. Bolt

That is no problem at all.

I am looking forward to clarification on how a reductio is fallacious.

Pierre-Simon Laplace

Chris Bolt says:

“The conclusion of the first example is “’God’.
The first premise is ‘If knowledge then God’.
The second premise is ‘knowledge’.”

——————————————————————-

Agreus said:

“I never stated that a premise was an argument. Your premise entails the truth of your conclusion (God’s existence), which is what makes your argument circular.”

——————————————————————–

(1) If knowledge, then God.
^ This isn’t a formula, or wff, or proposition on any classical or non-classical system of logic. Perhaps “knowledge” and “God” here are elliptical.

Here’s what Chris should say:

(1′) If there is at least one cognizer C, and at least one proposition p, such that C knows that p, then the Christian God exists.

(2′) There is at least one cognizer C, and at least one proposition p, such that C knows that p.

(3′) Therefore, the Christian God exists.

Agreus is wrong. None of the premises of this argument entail the truth of the conclusion of the argument. For example, the first premise might be true by virtue of the fact that the antecedent is false, and the consequent is false. If the antecedent is false, and the consequent is false, the conditional is still true. Since Chris affirms the antecedent in premise (2′), he must be committed to showing that the antecedent of the conditional is true, as is the consequent [which would lend a true conditional]. But one only comes to know that Chris looks at both antecedent and consequent as true subsequent to his affirmation of the antecedent in premise (2′). So for Chris premise (1′) here is not relied upon in such a way that it alone semantically entails (3′). Nor does Chris think that (1′) proof-theoretically entails (3′), rather it is the conjunction of (1′) and (2′) which semantically and proof-theoreticaly entails (3′). And because there is such entailment, the argument is valid.

I should say though, that the argument as stated by Chris is invalid since the premises are not formulas of any system of logic.

Agreus

Pierre-Simon wrote: “Agreus is wrong. None of the premises of this argument entail the truth of the conclusion of the argument.”

I agree. The argument does not entail the truth of the conclusion. I erroneously assumed Chris was attempting to present TAG, but just was not stating the argument to support the premises. Evidently he was just making a deductively valid argument.

Agreus

First, I’d like to clarify that the reductio ad absurdum is a method of argumentation and generally is not a fallacy. When TAG is put into action it uses reductio ad absurdum in a fallacious manner as I’ll explain later.

TAG fails in its reductio simply because it does not accomplish what it sets out to do, and that is to show that the denial of Christian theism is contradictory. In other words, TAG fails to establish that “The Christian God’s non-existence necessarily entails a contradiction.”
It is not possible to argue for the existence of a logically necessary being, without engaging oneself in circular reasoning. This becomes clear if you understand what a “logically necessary being” means exactly and how one would go about arguing for such an entity.

A “logically necessary being” is a theoretical being, which, if one were to deny the existence of, would entail a logical contradiction. To state that x is a logically necessary being is to basically define x into existence, as it is impossible for such a being not to exist. Hence when you attempt to argue for the existence of a logically necessary being (God) you have already presupposed God’s existence merely by defining God as it is logically impossible for such a being not to exist. This is circular reasoning.

TAG also fails in practice with its reductio simply because it uses reductio ad absurdum in a fallacious manner. For in order to prove a proposition of p, you must show that the denial of p leads to a contradiction, however when TAG is practiced the denial of p leading to a contradiction is not being demonstrated. All that is possibly being demonstrated is that cognizer c’s denial of p, may lead to a contradiction.

So not only is TAG circular, but it also relies on the weakness of the arguments of those who deny Christian theism in order to make itself somehow seem more presentable. Whatever the case, I believe I have given a brief overview of showing how TAG is circular.

Pierre-Simon Laplace

Chris Bolt is also confused.

He seems to think that his argumentation takes on the form of a reductio. A reductio is a way of saying that the logical form of one’s argument exhibits a logical form that is an indirect proof. Some ways of explicating the inference rules of propositional logic involve an inference called “reductio”…. Let me illustrate these two points and tie them into the discussion:

Here is what a reductio in the sense that Alvin Plantinga was intending:

(1) Assume that ~p. [assumption for indirect proof]
(2) … [some sentential sentence which follows (by the inference rules of the employed system) from the denial that p]
(3) … [some sentential sentence which follows(by the inference rules of the employed system) from the denial that p]
(4) Q [which followed from one of the lines above inside the assumption by the inference rules of the employed system]
(5) ~Q [which followed from one of the lines above inside the assumption by the inference rules of the employed system]
(6) (Q & ~Q) [Conj. (4) & (5)]

——-Close off the assumption for Conditional Proof————–

(7) If ~p, then (Q & ~Q). [CP (1)-(6)]
(8) Therefore, p. [REDUCTIO (7)]

This mock argument illustrates both senses of what’s normally meant in philosophical logic, by “reductio”. Proposition (8) models the inference rule “REDUCTIO” by inferring from (7) that p is true. The rule suggests that whenever a proposition p materially implies a contradiction, that proposition must be false. Or, whenever a proposition ~p materially implies a contradiction, that proposition must be true (i.e., p follows). This would-be inference rule is really nothing above and beyond a shortcut. We can infer from (7) that p, without this would-be inference rule. Here’s how:

(7’) ~p -> (q & ~q)
(8’) [p v (q & ~q)] [Impl. (7)]
(9’) [p v ~(~q v q)] [DeM (8)]
(10’) (q v ~q) [EMI]
(11’) ~~(~q v q) [DN (10), Com (10)]
(12’) p [DS (9), (11)]

So really our rule “reductio” serves to keep us from having to move through six extra lines in our deduction.

The sense that Al was using the term “reductio” was illustrated above in (1)-(8) [or (1)-(12’)]. I think that Agreus’ point is rather forceful when its put in the following way:

(Argeus’ Point): Where is an explication of the DEDUCTION suggesting that from “~P” where p = ’Christian Theism is true’, or ‘the Christian God exists’, TO a contradiction, lending us a use of the inference rule reductio [as seen in (7)-(8)] or the derivation illustrated by (7’)-(12’)?????

It’s been my experience with presuppers that the will NEVER provide you with a descriptive explanation of how it follows from the DENIAL of the proposition ‘that the Christian God exists’ or ‘that Christian Theism is true’ that a contradiction is the case. They usually just repeat themselves, ‘that nothing is meaningful without the existence of the Christian God’ (or something like this). Really, what this amounts to is an EPISTEMICALLY CIRCULAR belief in the following:

(Presupper EC-Belief): That a denial of the existence of the Christian God deductively entails a contradiction is epistemically justified by the bible’s teachings [or something like this].

Quite obviously this implies that the presupper is committed to an epistemically-circular belief. The epistemic justification they enjoy for the above proposition entails that the proposition they are trying to motivate is true. This is malignant epistemic circularity, for some obvious reasons I’d love to point out in a debate or discussion.

C.L. Bolt

Thank you both for the clarification.

Agreus,

Would you perhaps be available for debate one evening the week of the 13th of June?

Laplace,

Could you respond to the portion of my comment here – http://www.choosinghats.org/?p=1221&cpage=1#comment-1728 – which begins, “Perhaps we can clarify” and ends “Would you disagree?” It would be really helpful.

Agreus

Chris, I will not be available between June 12th until July 10th, however if you want to shoot for a different date, please e-mail me. In the mean time, if you care to respond to my comment regarding the circularity of TAG that I pointed out, then that would be great.

Christopher G Weaver

Bolt: “Perhaps we can clarify some more concerning your objections that the conclusion of a transcendental argument already presupposes the transcendental.”

I’m not sure what you mean here by “already presupposes the transcendental.” I was simply suggesting that any argument for CT, which presupposes CT, and if the nature of presupposing some proposition (say that p) is semantic in nature, then it follows that a premise of the argument will either be logically equivalent to the conclusion (in this case that CT is true), or entail that CT is the case. This is a logically circular argument.

Bolt: “Is it not the case that if a conceptual scheme is transcendentally necessary then one must necessarily use it even while talking about it?”

I’m sorry, but what’s a conceptual scheme? Donald Davidson, famously argued that there are no such things as conceptual schemes. So what do you mean by that phrase? Also, if there is such a thing as a conceptual scheme and its some way of individuating the perspectival nature of our experiences, there seems to be an argument from the existence of such schemes to the relativity of propositional content. Here’s that argument:

(1) Assume the T-schema (from Tarski). [premise]
(2) it is true that x is F iff it is true that x is F according to C [where C is a conceptual scheme] [premise]
(3) It is true that x is F according to C iff it is a fact that x is F according to C. [premise]

But by transitivity of the bi-conditional it follows that:

(4) it is true that x is F iff it is a fact that x is F according to C.

(5) x is F [premise]

(6) Therefore, it is a fact that x is F according to C. [from (4)]

(7) Therefore there are relative facts [facts which obtain only in accordance to Cs]. [from (6)]

So this argument moves from a rather plausible assumption about the nature of truth (i.e., Tarski’s Schema) and the real existence of would-be conceptual schemes, to the relativity of propositional content.

Bolt: “Would you disagree with the proposition that the existence of God is a precondition of knowledge itself?”

I’m a proper functionalist about knowledge. As such, I think that one has knowledge that p just in case one believes that p, p is true, and one’s belief that p enjoys warrant. One has warrant only if (this is just one necessary condition) one’s faculties are functioning properly in a specific type of environment, particularly an environment with a design plan. HOWEVER, one need not understand the design plan in supernaturalist terms. For example, the notion of epistemic fittingness re a design plan is perfectly compatible with eliminativism about the normativity of proper function. Second, even if we understood “design-plan” supernaturally, we need not think that any theistic deity tweeked the world for epistemic fittingness. Third, we especially need not think that the Christian God tweeked the world for epistemic fittingness (I mean, apart from some type of justification for this thesis).

So no, I don’t think that God’s existence is a necessary condition for knowledge (at least, not apart from some type of argument motivating that claim).

Bolt: “For all of the time that I have spent with those who are not theists I have not been able to escape that the non-theist who thinks that he or she is warranted in his or her non-belief is actually presupposing the existence of God even in his or her very denial of God.”

Since you think that presupposing is a semantic relation (in our conversation on UP, you mentioned Strawson’s account of the presupposing relation, though you then misrepresented them), you’re suggesting here (taking p to be the proposition that the Christian God exists) when someone affirms ~p, they by LOGICAL CONSEQUENCE are also affirming p, since in order for ~p to have any truth value at all, p must (necessity) true. While you and other presuppers on the internet, claim this….you all do so in an epistemically circular fashion. That is to say, it seems to me that lots of you like to affirm that in someone’s affirming that ~p, p follows in an epistemically circular way. You all never provide an explanation of how this works (you all definitely never give an argument, though I’m not asking for an argument). Your suggestion here is that there is a particular logical and semantic relation which obtains between propositions. If there is in fact this type of relation, there will be a way to represent it via some derivation which moves from ~p to p, but its precisely such a derivation that’s missing.

Bolt: “Naturally then, when I attempt to argue for the existence of God, I presuppose God’s existence. I would not think that this is objectionable, as though I am guilty of some type of vicious circularity applicable to arguments. It seems rather an inherent characteristic of the transcendental argument. Would you disagree?”

I think what you are trying to say is that the kind of argument you employ is EPISTEMICALLY circular, not logically circular.

Suppose I were to propose an argument which had as its conclusion that a particular belief source X was reliable (e.g. perception). If that argument contained as one of its premises a proposition which depended (for its justification or warrant) upon X, then the proposed argument would be EPISTEMICALLY CIRCULAR.

There are two kinds of epistemically circular arguments [EC-arguments]…

(Type 1): S’s belief in one of the premises of the argument depends for its justification upon X.

(Type 2): S’s act of inferring the conclusion from the premises is an instance of S depending (for justification) upon X.

You (and Bahnsen and others) claim that all arguments are epistemically-circular arguments in the sense of (type 2) in that, when one infers anything one is depending upon the “truth of Christian Theism” or something like this. This type of presuppositionalism is A WHOLE LOT CLEARER than what one gets in Bahnsen and Van Til….those guys don’t even talk about epistemically circular arguments. Van Til for example speaks only of circular reasoning, and how everyone is guilty of such type of reasoning. Bahnsen seems to think all circularity is logical circularity.

However, there are a HOST of problems with this type of refined presuppositionalism. I’ll mention just one here. Type 2 EC-arguments are arguments which have premises from which one can infer the relevant conclusion, and the idea is that one is DEPENDING UPON A RELEVANT BELIEF-SOURCE (e.g. reason, or some other faculty) for justifiedly believing that the inference from premises to conclusion is a valid inference. Christian Theism, or the existence of the Christian God is not a belief-source, nor is it a faculty of any kind. Michael Bergmann in his magnum opus “Justification without Awareness” is very clear about the fact that EC-arguments have to do strictly with arguments about the reliability of belief-sources, not arguments about other sorts of things.

There are other problems.

Christopher G Weaver

One quick addition:

Difference between EC-Arguments and LC-Arguments:

“a logically circular argument’s conclusion is equivalent to one of the premises whereas an epistemically circular argument’s conclusion is such that its truth is required for warranted belief in one of the premises.”

Michael Bergmann, Justification Without Awareness (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006) around page 190.

Christopher G Weaver

I said above: “You (and Bahnsen and others) claim that all arguments are epistemically-circular arguments in the sense of (type 2) in that…”

I should have said:

“You (and Bahnsen and others) SHOULD claim that all arguments are epistemically-circular arguments in the sense of (type 2) in that…”

My apologies.

C.L. Bolt

Is a transcendental argument which establishes the preconditions of intelligible experience (e.g. a priori elements which condition knowledge) always logically circular?
“I’m sorry, but what’s a conceptual scheme? Donald Davidson, famously argued that there are no such things as conceptual schemes. So what do you mean by that phrase?”
I know that Davidson argued that. I assume you mean that you are in agreement with Davidson. You affirm that there is no such thing as a conceptual scheme but you do not know what a conceptual scheme is?
“Also, if there is such a thing as a conceptual scheme and its some way of individuating the perspectival nature of our experiences, there seems to be an argument from the existence of such schemes to the relativity of propositional content.”
Again I am not sure how you know the consequences of a conceptual scheme if you do not know what a conceptual scheme is, so I assume you must think I am using it in a different sense.
It has been a while since I have dealt with the Davidson argument, but I think I can agree with him that humanly speaking there is only one conceptual scheme if we can even still call it that. This was what I was referring to in my question. If I am using the term too loosely or we need to find a new one that is fine. Since God possesses a conceptual scheme which is not our own, Davidson’s argument is incorrect.
What is wrong with the relativity of propositional content? Are you offering an argument from consequences or does some contradiction result from the argument you offered from the T-schema?
“For example, the notion of epistemic fittingness re a design plan is perfectly compatible with eliminativism about the normativity of proper function.”
This is exceedingly interesting to me. What would this look like? I assume that you reject this position?
“So no, I don’t think that God’s existence is a necessary condition for knowledge (at least, not apart from some type of argument motivating that claim).”
To clarify, you have not encountered this type of (successful) argument?
“Since you think that presupposing is a semantic relation…”
I am still working on this.
“in our conversation on UP, you mentioned Strawson’s account of the presupposing relation, though you then misrepresented them”
I mentioned it as being employed in an argument written by Collett whom you refused to read. I think the Collett article and argument is interesting, but I do not necessarily agree with him. In fact I am now inclined to disagree with him for various reasons. In any event you may want to reread that portion of my comment without going through Strawson.
“I think what you are trying to say is that the kind of argument you employ is EPISTEMICALLY circular, not logically circular.”
I think I would agree with this, yes. Again, I am referring to the inherent character of a transcendental argument. I do not see why this would be objectionable.
“You (and Bahnsen and others) [should] claim that all arguments are epistemically-circular arguments in the sense of (type 2) in that, when one infers anything one is depending upon the ‘truth of Christian Theism’ or something like this.”
Pretty sure we do. 😉
“This type of presuppositionalism is A WHOLE LOT CLEARER than what one gets in Bahnsen and Van Til….those guys don’t even talk about epistemically circular arguments.”
Have you read and listened to all of Bahnsen and Van Til? If not, then why are you making this assertion?
“Van Til for example speaks only of circular reasoning, and how everyone is guilty of such type of reasoning.”
We might ask what he means by “circular reasoning” then, and I think we will find an answer.
“Bahnsen seems to think all circularity is logical circularity.”
What seems to be the case is not always the case, and it certainly is not the case here. Bahnsen did not think that, no.
“However, there are a HOST of problems with this type of refined presuppositionalism.”
This is your claim, and you may have arguments to sufficiently support it, but would it be a schoolboy mistake in philosophy to accept this sort of presuppositionalism especially when one has not heard sufficient arguments against it?
“Type 2 EC-arguments are arguments which have premises from which one can infer the relevant conclusion, and the idea is that one is DEPENDING UPON A RELEVANT BELIEF-SOURCE (e.g. reason, or some other faculty) for justifiedly believing that the inference from premises to conclusion is a valid inference. Christian Theism, or the existence of the Christian God is not a belief-source, nor is it a faculty of any kind.”
God’s revelation to humanity is a relevant belief source.
“Michael Bergmann in his magnum opus ‘Justification without Awareness’ is very clear about the fact that EC-arguments have to do strictly with arguments about the reliability of belief-sources, not arguments about other sorts of things.”
That’s nice. 😉

Christopher G Weaver

Bolt: “I know that Davidson argued that. I assume you mean that you are in agreement with Davidson. You affirm that there is no such thing as a conceptual scheme but you do not know what a conceptual scheme is?”

I’m convinced that Davidson’s truth-theoretic semantics is mostly right: meanings are closely connected to truth-conditions (i.e., conditions under which a truth-bearer is true). When one says, ‘x is a conceptual scheme’, the meaing of that utterance is determined by the conditions under which the proposition expressed by the utterance is true. Davidson recommends that contemporary (at least during his prime) accounts of those conditions are problematic. As a consequence, the meaning of ‘x is a conceptual scheme’ is ambigious. I don’t know what a conceptual scheme is precisely because no contemporary account of that notion makes sense.

It’s just like when Peter van Inwagen says that he doesn’t know what an ‘event’ is. It isn’t that he doesn’t know of Kim’s property-instance account, or Tooley’s states of affairs account (etc.), it’s that these accounts don’t make sense on his view (i.e. he doesn’t understand how the relevant truth-conditions can be coherently or plausibly understood).

I hope that helps.

Christopher G Weaver

Bolt: “Again I am not sure how you know the consequences of a conceptual scheme if you do not know what a conceptual scheme is, so I assume you must think I am using it in a different sense.”

I think my remarks above help clarify things on this point.

Van Til's Argument Part I

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