Lost In A Sea Of Subjectivism

Mitch LeBlanc has posted the draft for his journal submission on The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God. In the Abstract for the article, he writes, “I present a couple of objections formulated by Sean Choi and Michael Martin and develop three of my own”. It has been pointed out already that whatever Mitch is arguing against, it is not Bahnsen’s TAG. Given that even I, though not very well read on TAG, had encountered the objections from Choi and Martin no later than 2007 and given the recent interaction found here and here with some of the material Mitch has already posted on this topic one should be thankful that Mitch has advanced three other arguments of his own in his article.

I propose firstly that a Euthyphro-like dilemma regarding the principles of logic reveals an insufficient, or at least, arbitrary justification. I then show that the symmetrical relationship between logical principles and the existence of God is a severe problem for Christian theism which must either reject the necessity for logical principles, or Christian theism altogether. I conclude that the existence logical principles cannot depend on the Christian God. Lastly, I show that the mere possibility that God justifies logical principles in any of the ways criticized by the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God requires further explanation from the Christian theist as to how divine justification differs from human justification.

There is certainly room to critique these arguments as well, but recall that Mitch has not provided an answer to the TA advanced in defense of the TAG. As already mentioned, Mitch is really dodging the brunt of the TAG. He has no place to stand whereupon he may raise his objections to the TAG. While elsewhere describing his position on logic as falling under the label of “conventionalism” and hence submitting himself to refutations of this view, he proposes another way of accounting for logic in his article.

It seems to me that some hybridization of any of the mentioned means of justification may bring about a new means of justification. For example, a hybridization of an a priori and conventionalist system may succeed in providing the justification of logic sought by Bahnsen, but in a manner wherein the new system may be thought of as unique to both previous a priori systems, and forms of conventionalism.

If the earlier position of “conventionalism” Mitch claimed to adhere to satisfies what the TAG proponent is looking for, then why is there a need for any discussion of hybrid systems? What exactly is the position Mitch adheres to? More importantly, why does he think that putting two leaky buckets together will give him somewhere to keep the water? If some feature of some kind of alleged justification is the same in various systems of alleged justifications then why should one expect that feature to hold in other systems where it has failed before given a similar context? Surely Mitch is not suggesting that there are an infinite, even an indefinite number of such features?

One more brief comment. Mitch presents Fristianity in his article in such a way as has already been seen to fail.

Fristianity is a worldview…which is identical to Christianity with the exception of the triune godhead…The distinguishing feature of Fristianity is that its godhead is a quadrinity rather than a trinity, it is essentially a “Christianity + 1”.

Unless Mitch shows that he is standing on something more than thin air in his utilization of logic to make his arguments, there is no real need for concern.


23 Comments

Mitchell LeBlanc

My mention of hybridization was not because I think conventionalism is “compromised”, it was a specific point drawn to a premise of the formulation. My paper is *not* on logical conventionalism. There are heaps of resources available should one want to explore the system, I’ve even mentioned one in a footnote for further reading.

Further, the form of TAG is not unique/indirect, it’s simply modus tollens. Even in Jamin’s article this is clear, he offers a formal representation.

As for Fristianity, the illustration is clear. I can simply add “or as close to Christianity” as possible in brackets to satisfy your problem, but it does not render it unsound.

I surely hope that this is not an attempt a full critical response to my paper.

C.L. Bolt

Since I did not state that your paper is on conventionalism, and since there are “heaps of resources available” should one want to explore the problems with conventionalism, and since conventionalism as a tenable position is at least as equally valid given your program as a “specific point drawn to a premise of the formulation”, I do not see that there is much by way of a counter in the first part of your comment. Bahnsen does not offer a trilemma, so you are arguing against a straw man, and I have shown the problem with proposing a hybrid. Since “or as close to Christianity as possible” with respect to Fristianity is not in your article, there is nothing wrong with my objection. You have a bit of a worrisome tendency to add things to your arguments after you have made them and then fault me for being faithful to your original arguments in my critiques. I critiqued parts of your article, not subsequent comments from you that are not in the article.

ZaoThanatoo

Nice picture… 😀

Mitchell LeBlanc

Bahnsen’s TAG from his debate with Stein, which Jamin says is a good resource, does invoke a trilemma. If you look at the subsection entitled “II. OPENING STATEMENT—BAHNSEN” I think this is quite clear.

I also do not think you can make so bold a claim as to say that you have knowledge of what every possible hybridized account of logic would “look like”. At least, if you want to, that burden is clearly on you.

As for the Fristianity point, I’ve said that I will add the bracketed note in the final draft so I would expect that you read it as such.

It’s not my intention to fault you for criticizing the original arguments, but in a dialog we move forward (so long as we’re not shifting goalposts).

Mitchell LeBlanc

Oh sorry, forgot to add… the mention of hybridization was a response to premise (2a) in my paper. A premise that is drawn, again, from Bahnsen’s debate with Stein.

C.L. Bolt

If it is so clear then quote the exact portion where Bahnsen offers a trilemma. You cannot, because he does not. Bahnsen offers different ways that the atheist might try to justify logic, but he never says that these examples are exhaustive; something you would need to have him say for the argument you made concerning this portion of the debate. This is why you have put something into the text of the transcript of the debate that is not actually there.

I do like one thing Bahnsen says though that is certainly relevant here. “To say that they are merely conventions is to simply say ‘I haven’t got an answer.'”

Mitchell LeBlanc

In the above passaged I’ve mentioned, Bahnsen explicitly makes the argument that no non-Christian theistic way to justify the existence of the laws of logic is possible, he then criticizes the a priori way, the a posteriori way and the conventionalist way.

Now it should be clear here that his point, that “no non-Christian theistic way to justify the existence of the laws of logic is possible” (premise 2 of the argument) cannot merely be asserted. But rather, from his statement we can extract the defending premises, that is where we get (2a) and (2b), they are required to make sense of (2c) and further (2).

You say that he never says his list is exhaustive, well he never explicitly says this, but in him presenting the three different ways, and asserting they must necessarily fail, and then stating (2) gives us a pretty justified reason to utilize this premise in a formal representation. In effect, (2a-c) are the required supporting premises of Bahnsen’s claim in the debate (as represented by premise 2)

Of course, if you still want to quibble with (2a) we could certainly just say that Bahnsen hasn’t/can’t provide an exhaustive list. But that does not move us from (2b) to (2c) and back to (2). If you really want to admit that the argument Bahnsen has given in his debate is invalid, that is fine with me, but such a move is not conducive to discussion (or his position).

My point against (2a) in my paper is pointing out precisely why the premise is questionable, and whether or not Bahnsen explicitly stated it, it’s tantamount to his argument in that debate. We can certainly ask for an exhaustive list, but I doubt he’d be able to provide one, and even if he did provide one it would necessarily include the three positions mentioned in the premise. If anything, we’d be attributing too little to Bahnsen’s claim, which does not give us a problem anywhere in my paper, save for where I say that a hybridization might account.

With that said, I give Bahnsen the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was not intending to (and indeed did not) make an invalid argument during his debate. Even if I am wrong in this, the majority of my paper does not depend on it. In fact, the majority of my paper (perhaps every section besides “Initial Objections” seems that it could be applied to any formal representation of the TAG so long as it attempted to establish the type of relationship between logical principles and God that has been attempted by Bahnsen/Frame.

As for Bahnsen’s quote on conventionalism, one could simply retort that to say they are part of God’s nature is also a non-answer. The reading I’ve suggested in my paper on conventionalism seems like a good place to start to understand why the ‘usual’ objections to conventionalism fail.

C.L. Bolt

Not only am I having difficulty finding this alleged trilemma in the debate transcript, I am likewise having difficulty finding the premises you are referring to. I am glad you admit that Bahnsen never explicitly states that the ways of justifying logic he mentions are exhaustive. Bahnsen provides examples of ways the atheist might attempt to justify logic. The trilemma, again, is something you are forcing into the text of the transcript. As Bahnsen mentions later, everything cannot be said in one debate. What Dr. Bahnsen has done here is analogous to what he does later in the debate in response to the question, “What solid evidence do you have to maintain that the Christian faith is the only true religion with a God?” You may read his answer there for some further insight.

With this out of the way though, what other ways might you think of to justify the laws of logic? I think Dr. Bahnsen has provided a pretty substantial list of examples, do you not? Since your hybrid example falls prey to the leaky bucket problem that Bahnsen uses in multiple other places there is no reason that I can see for either asserting it as some kind of tenable fourth option or accusing Bahnsen of having left it out in an attempt to provide an exhaustive list.
Since your argument concerning this point relies upon the premises you have mentioned, I must repeat what I mentioned at the beginning of this comment, which is that I am having difficulty finding the premises you are referring to in the debate transcript. Perhaps you could quote them for me. When I read the transcript, I see Bahnsen clearly stating his argument at the end of his opening statement.

“When we go to look at the different world views that atheists and theists have, I suggest
we can prove the existence of God from the impossibility of the contrary. The
transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove
anything. The atheist world view is irrational and cannot consistently provide the
preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist world view
cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to
understand the world, and moral absolutes. In that sense the atheist world view cannot
account for our debate tonight.”

This looks different from the argument you are attributing to Bahnsen and then writing about. You ascribe a trilemma to Bahnsen that he never states and then critique “him” on it, and then appeal to a formulation of an argument that Bahnsen never states in order to try and prove that the trilemma is in the text. It looks like you are not arguing against what Bahnsen said, but rather what you wish Bahnsen would have said. Another example of this is found in [7], which states, “Bahnsen erroneously assumes that if one is an atheist, they[sic] must be a materialist”. Try as I may, I cannot find this conditional in anything Bahnsen has said or written. Perhaps you could quote this for me from the text of the transcript while you are getting the other two quotations for me?

As for your conventionalism, you have written, “Conventionalism, as applied to logic, is the philosophical attitude that logical principles are grounded on agreements in society rather than any external reality” and then suggest that the case may be made that Bahnsen has misunderstood conventionalism. The suggestion is dubious, but at any rate you do not pursue this in your article, which is fine. You attempt to answer the charge of a lack of universality by writing that “it is impossible to think of anyone in existence who could visualize the effects of a proposition which violated the LNC[24] and in this regard the LNC is universally self-grounded”. This is an extremely bold and unproven assertion. You continue that “Bahnsen criticized conventionalism for being arbitrary and potentially giving way to people with contradictory logical systems”. Your answer is that “it is hard to imagine someone who has adopted a logical system in which there is no LNC or equivalent mechanism”. Nonsense! I do not even have to imagine this, as there are people who claim to have done so and even attempt to live in accordance with the claim. You continue by spelling out a consequence of such a view, writing, “Such a system would be as trivial as a magic eight-ball that answers ‘yes’ to every question[25]”. Well, sure, but what does this have to do with anything? This is merely a result of accepting your conventionalist program. You continue, “It is difficult to see why Bob or any of his friends would adopt a system with no mechanism to differentiate between any propositions”. Again, who cares? Do I need to know the reason someone adopts a position to know that they do in fact do so? Of course, I do know the reason people reject logic and attempt to embrace denials of logic and positions like conventionalism; it is because they are sinners. You next write, “On pragmatic grounds, it is entirely useless”. This is just your unsupported opinion though. Useless for what? I just gave one pragmatic reason for rejecting logic; logic presupposes the existence of God whom sinners want nothing to do with apart from God regenerating them and bringing them to repentance from sin and a trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Two quotes from the debate transcript may be brought to bear upon this discussion. The first is from Stein and the second is from Bahnsen. Together, they answer the alleged responses you provided to the brief critique of conventionalism that Bahnsen made.

“He says that the laws of logic are the same everywhere. This is not true, although they
are mostly the same. And I wonder if he ever heard of a Zen Koan, and the answer to a Zen
Koan, is something which is like – ‘what is the sound of one hand clapping’ is the most
famous Zen Koan – The answer to that kind of question is in a different kind of logic in a
sense, or extra logical, if you want to call it that.”

“It might be appropriate in some societies to say, ‘Well, my car is in the parking lot, and
it’s not the case that my car is in the parking lot.’ There are laws in certain societies that have
a convention that says, ‘go ahead and contradict yourself’. But then there are in a sense,
some groups in our own society that might think that way. Thieves have a tendency to say,
‘this is not my wallet, but it is not the case that it’s not my wallet.’ They may engage in
contradictions like that, but I don’t think any of us would want to accept this.”

The very last sentence in the quote from Dr. Bahnsen is important. There are people who will attempt to reject the kind of logic we need for intelligibility, and in a conventionalist program there are no worries in doing this. After all, “logical principles are grounded on agreements in society”, but then, how is it that logic is necessary?

Mitchell LeBlanc

There’s not much more I can say that has not been said in my last comment. If Bahnsen in his debate was not using the premises I’ve outlined, his argument is simply invalid. You cannot move from:

(1) There is a rational justification for the laws of logic

to:

(3) Christian theism is true

without:

(2) It is necessary that: if Christian theism is false, then there is no rational justification for the laws of logic

And further, (2) needs justification. Given Bahnsen’s criticisms in the debate, if he is attempting to construct a valid argument (which we can assume), he is doing so by the deduction from (2a-c), this is what gives him (2).

If he was not intending to give an exhaustive list, he could have just said that. But there’s no reason to infer that he did not think he was giving one, especially given how strong of a claim he was making… that *only* Christian theism can account for logic. I do think his list of examples is pretty comprehensive, but I cannot discount the possibility of some other system. It also doesn’t follow that if even these three all fail, a hybridized system containing them would also fail. That statement seems as if it would be a fallacy of composition. All I’m claiming in my paragraph there is the possibility, something Bahnsen needs to discount for the strong claims of his position to hold.

As for the justification, Bahnsen seems to assume that Dr. Stein is a materialist because he is an atheist: “What are the laws of logic, Dr. Stein, and how are they justified? We’ll still have to answer that question from a materialist standpoint.” (p. 23)

I do not think that Stein anywhere says that he is a materialist, and as such, Bahnsen assumes it.

As for conventionalism, some people may have adopted systems with no LNC-like mechanism, but these systems are trivial.

You said: “You continue, “It is difficult to see why Bob or any of his friends would adopt a system with no mechanism to differentiate between any propositions”. Again, who cares? Do I need to know the reason someone adopts a position to know that they do in fact do so? Of course, I do know the reason people reject logic and attempt to embrace denials of logic and positions like conventionalism; it is because they are sinners.”

A system with no mechanism to differentiate between propositions would still be classified as a logical system, but a trivial logical system. So if you are saying that these people reject logic, you are entirely incorrect. Conventionalism is not a denial of logic, it’s a denial of what you believe logic to be and there certainly is a difference.

As for the pragmatic justification of logic, a trivial system is useless because it does not permit us to make usable inferences. If the answer to every question is “yes”, what do we do with such a system? We must also take into account our evolutionary history and any development of language therein. How would a trivial system aid in our survival? Again, this is discussed at great length in the book I’ve cited in my paper.

Bahnsen’s criticism of conventionalism seems quite misunderstood, that is simply not how it works. But, as a commenter said elsewhere on this site, it perhaps is not your job to educate me on the TAG, and by this virtue, it is perhaps not my job to educate you on conventionalism.

So, in short, the formal version of the TAG I present *is* based on Bahnsen’s position as espoused in the debate.He does not explicitly state the trilemma, but if his argument in the debate is to be valid, he must be assuming it. Further, I’m not quite sure that Bahnsen understands conventionalism, at least in some present forms.

Also, these objections are fine and dandy but I do not feel that they address the ‘meat’ of my paper.

C.L. Bolt

I will take your repetition of what you have already stated and the lack of quotes as evidence that you are unable to answer my concerns over your representation of the argument Bahnsen actually used. I see no reason to repeat what I have already written and the quotes that I am able to produce in support of my understanding of the transcript. I will briefly mention that so far as I remember Stein did not deny the implication that he was a materialist and while he asked how a law could be material he immediately began what appears to be an attack on the opposite position from materialism during his cross-ex time which is when he made his famous error. It might be argued that in the history of Western thought atheists have traditionally been materialists, and it may also be that Bahnsen held an argument to the effect of atheism needing to be a materialist position to remain consistent, though I doubt this was the case. In any event, the conditional is far too strong to assign to Bahnsen when he stated no such thing.

Now if I understand you right, you are asserting that there may possibly be some other way to account for logic, but you do not have any idea what this would look like. Of course, if the three examples of attempts at justification fail, this leaves you in the position of being unable to account for logic and hence needing to accept Christianity upon pain of irrationality, but I suppose atheists must cling to such fideistic and irrational positions. If I may rip a quote from Bahnsen out of context and misapply it:

“One more interesting comment about that and we’ll let it go, he says ‘We do believe there are answers to these problems. We have yet to find them’. You see, that’s the problem: atheists live by faith.”

It appears that in light of my criticisms you have changed one of your views, for you write, “As for conventionalism, some people *may have* adopted systems with no LNC-like mechanism” which is certainly not consistent with your earlier, “it is *impossible* to think of anyone in existence who could visualize the effects of a proposition which violated the LNC” and “it is *hard to imagine* someone who has adopted a logical system in which there is no LNC or equivalent mechanism”. I suppose you may answer that it is impossible for you to think and that it is hard for you to imagine but nevertheless “some people may have adopted systems with no LNC-like mechanism”, but I will just repeat that it actually is the case that people have adopted such systems and your difficulty with it, if not based purely in ignorance, is that you are attempting to evaluate another society’s agreed upon logical principles from within your own, but why should your system be accepted rather than the other? I hope you will not make the mistake of appealing to the agreed upon logical principles of your society in answering this question.

You write: “A system with no mechanism to differentiate between propositions would still be classified as a logical system, but a trivial logical system. So if you are saying that these people reject logic, you are entirely incorrect.”

Not if I am right about logic. This aside, I am glad you agree that there could, according to your conventionalism, be other logical systems without such a “mechanism”. It is perhaps the case that you are only calling it trivial based upon your own society’s agreed upon logical principles though. Adherents to that system may not think it is trivial at all!

You continue, “Conventionalism is not a denial of logic, it’s a denial of what you believe logic to be and there certainly is a difference.” Unless of course what I believe logic to be is what logic actually is, but I did not write that conventionalism is a denial of logic anyway. For you to state that conventionalism is not a denial of logic is likewise to assume that your position on logic is correct. Also, it may be the case that in a system there is no difference between what people believe logic to be and what logic actually is, and as a conventionalist you certainly are not in a position to critique that system because you differ with it. It looks as though conventionalism is actually such a system.

“As for the pragmatic justification of logic, a trivial system is useless because it does not permit us to make usable inferences.”

This is circular, but aside from this you are again just assuming the agreed upon logical principles of your own society in making this claim, and the “trivial” system is certainly not subject to such a criticism as has already been mentioned.

“If the answer to every question is ‘yes’, what do we do with such a system?”

Yes.

“We must also take into account our evolutionary history and any development of language therein. How would a trivial system aid in our survival?”

I suppose we would use the agreed upon logical principles of our societies to try to answer this question.

The meat of your article actually does not look like it is TAG specific. Other than this, I briefly touched upon my approach in the original post.

It is not my job to educate you on the TAG when you are the one who is writing an argument against it, but then, it is “my job” to point out when you have made errors in your alleged refutation. The same may perhaps apply in the case of conventionalism, but add to this that you are supposedly using a conventionalist platform to argue from, so a reductio on the position leaves you…well, there is a picture.

Mitchell LeBlanc

I will likewise take your repetition of the problem to mean that you have not understood what I’ve stated. I assume that somewhere in obtaining your philosophy degree you were required to analyze texts and extrapolate arguments, in doing so, there are often times where a premise is not explicitly stated but must be assumed to maintain the validity of the argument. I will not repeat myself anymore, but this is one of those times. Now, moving on…

Yes, I am making the claim that if the three mentioned ways of justifying logic fail, it does not follow that all possible justifications fail unless these three are necessarily the only type of justifications. Your quotation just exemplifies something typical of religion in general, if I may utilize a quote of my own which I think applied beautifully here:

“Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned.”

You said: “If course, if the three examples of attempts at justification fail, this leaves you in the position of being unable to account for logic and hence needing to accept Christianity upon pain of irrationality, but I suppose atheists must cling to such fideistic and irrational positions.”

This is no better than a God of the Gaps argument, applied to logical justifications. Why can’t epistemology rely on the possibility of there being justifications? If you’re saying that the case is such that these three justifications have been shown to be false, and Christianity has not, therefore we must choose Christianity, I think you’ve just begged the question in favor of Christianity. If the arguments in the bulk of my paper hold up, it is an incoherent notion to state that logical principles can be grounded in the existence of God.

“It appears that in light of my criticisms you have changed one of your views, for you write, “As for conventionalism, some people *may have* adopted systems with no LNC-like mechanism” which is certainly not consistent with your earlier, “it is *impossible* to think of anyone in existence who could visualize the effects of a proposition which violated the LNC” and “it is *hard to imagine* someone who has adopted a logical system in which there is no LNC or equivalent mechanism”.”

There is no contradiction here, I was making a modal claim (I should have clearly stated this), there is a possible world in which a species/society/what-not has adopted a system with no LNC (think, different evolutionary pressures, or what not), and it is likewise impossible to think of anyone in existence (actual) who could visualize the effects of a proposition that violates the LNC.

You say that some societies have (presumably, societies in this world) contradicted the LNC, well… which societies do you think have contradicted the LNC?

As for non-logical societies, Bahnsen used the example of Buddhist societies, with the use of Koans. I think if you know the answer to that hand-clapping Koan, you instantly reach enlightenment. Do you know the answer, and happen to know that it’s “extra-logical” or is it just a really hard question that might not have an answer (maybe that is even the point of the question, but I digress)

In an effort to clear up some of this misunderstanding, I have modified footnote #23:

“Conventionalism, as applied to logic, is the philosophical attitude that logical principles are grounded on agreements in society rather than any external reality. This agreement is not necessarily voluntary (and perhaps is necessarily not-voluntary); of course, logical conventions may have very well arisen via evolution, giving us a neurological predisposition to the conventions we do hold. Another possibility is that we acquire logic at around the same time we acquire language, and once it’s in our minds, it can’t be changed.”

I think that this is where your confusion comes in, it’s not that we can actually will to change our logical system. Bahnsen famously said in his debate that logic can’t be actions in our brains, because all of our brains are different. Perhaps he means to say that our minds are different, because evolutionarily, we’re all the same species!

At any rate, as I’ve said before, a proper treatment of conventionalism was not the aim of this paper and is available elsewhere. Given that you might not fully understand this system, it is questionable as to why you’ve rejected it’s coherence outright.

The meat of my paper is specific to the claim “logical principles can be grounded in the existence of God”, a claim I would have thought you’d have embraced wholly.

BK

Hey Mitch … I see you and Chris are at it again 🙂

I don’t want to take up too much bandwidth here, but something you stated caught my attention:

“Yes, I am making the claim that if the three mentioned ways of justifying logic fail, it does not follow that all possible justifications fail unless these three are necessarily the only type of justifications.”

Do you believe that the proponent of TAG believes they must exhaustively list all the alternatives to Christianity and refute each one in order to prove that Christianity is true? Do you believe that this is the intended program of those who use TAG? (Note that I did *not* ask if *you* believe they must do this).

Thanks!

C.L. Bolt

When the proponent of a view explicitly denies an interpretation of his work and you subsequently argue against that interpretation as though it is correct you argue against a straw man. Perhaps if we let Bahnsen interpret himself (as we should) he has no argument, but then it is sufficient to point this out. You have not done this, but rather ascribe an argument to Bahnsen and argue against it as though it were his own. Further, if you do not have an argument to show the impossibility of demonstrating the premise in question then you have not refuted your alleged reformulation of TAG at this point since by your reasoning there is a possibility that it can be demonstrated.

“…there is a possible world in which a species/society/what-not has adopted a system with no LNC…”

I agree, it happens all the time in the actual world.

“You say that some societies have (presumably, societies in this world) contradicted the LNC, well… which societies do you think have contradicted the LNC?”

Actually I did not say this. I do not suppose one can contradict the Law of Non-Contradiction if the system of logic wherein it is supposedly contradicted does not have contradictions, but then, trying to operate in accordance with your view on logic, that may just be the way things look like to me.

As for societies etc. that have attempted to claim a system without the Law of Non-Contradiction and have attempted to live in accordance with this I provided some examples per Bahnsen and Stein. Other examples might include adherents to Eastern religions and philosophies, pluralists, and freshman philosophy students. The quote about the Koan is from Stein, not Bahnsen, and it is illegitimate to call it “non-logical” if you are to be consistent with conventionalism.

“…it is likewise impossible to think of anyone in existence (actual) who could visualize the effects of a proposition that violates the LNC.”

Again, this is a bold assertion that has not been given any support, and it likely is just a result of the agreed upon logical principles of your society blinding you concerning other systems.

In your arguing against TAG, you argue against a claim that you admit is not a part of the traditional presuppositionalist program. In my arguing against conventionalism, I argue against the position you describe in your footnote. You have now added to but have not changed your definition of conventionalism and your addition does not affect anything I have written with respect to problems with the view. Your attempt to write me off as having misunderstood conventionalism is telling. I have not misunderstood your conventionalism and I have been quoting your definition of it. To repeatedly claim that I have “misunderstood” a simple definition is almost as bad as an undergraduate philosophy student claiming that a brilliant scholar with a PhD in the realm of epistemology “misunderstood” conventionalism. It is becoming exceedingly clear that you do not have a counter.

You write, “I think that this is where your confusion comes in, it’s not that we can actually will to change our logical system”. Again, I beg to differ that I am “confused”, I think it more likely that you are using your rhetoric in lieu of argumentation. Where did I state “we can actually will to change our logical system”? How were any of my considerations contingent upon such an assumption? A voluntary or involuntary neurological predisposition toward logical conventions via evolution and or acquisition of logic at the same time as acquisition of language that cannot be changed is perfectly consistent with the actuality of various logical systems people adhere to that factors into what I have written. What do agreed upon logical principles in a society forced upon us by evolutionary processes have to do with rationality anyway? It is nevertheless dubious that people are incapable of changing their logical schemes, and the addition to your definition does not give rise to your statement that my “confusion comes in” because “it’s not that we can actually will to change our logical system”. If anyone is confused here, it is you, for the addition to your definition only states that “agreement is not *necessarily* voluntary”, “*perhaps* is necessarily not-voluntary”, “logical conventions *may* have very well arisen via evolution”, and another “*possibility* is that we acquire logic at around the same time we acquire language”. Further, it is either ignorant or disingenuous to attribute misunderstanding and confusion to people who have encountered conventionalism elsewhere and seen it defined as, for example, “the philosophical doctrine that logical truth and mathematical truth are created by our choices, not dictated or imposed on us by the world (Cambridge 184)” in opposition to your definition of it.

“Bahnsen famously said in his debate that logic can’t be actions in our brains, because all of our brains are different. Perhaps he means to say that our minds are different, because evolutionarily, we’re all the same species!”

All of us being the same species does not necessitate all of our brains being the same. In fact, our brains are not the same.

Not only are there problems with pragmatism, not the least of which is that it does not provide epistemic warrant, but it is difficult to see how the Law of Non-Contradiction is solely of pragmatic concern even given, contrary to some of my considerations, that its denial is not useful (Why do people lie?); for its denial is apparently more than pragmatically problematic, it is logically problematic; a contradiction. This is to say nothing of the total failure of logical positivism or the inconsistency with the dismissal of the analytic/synthetic distinction in Objectivism which program you used in debate with respect to logic. Further, if “logical principles are grounded on agreements in society rather than any external reality” then logic is not necessary, even if one tries to ground it in evolution or language for we could have evolved differently; “…there is a possible world in which a species/society/what-not has adopted a system with no LNC (think, different evolutionary pressures, or what not)” and “…there is a possible world in which a species/society/what-not has adopted a system with no LNC…”

I wrote that “if the three examples of attempts at justification fail, this leaves you in the position of being unable to account for logic and hence needing to accept Christianity upon pain of irrationality, but I suppose atheists must cling to such fideistic and irrational positions” to which you respond that this “is no better than a God of the Gaps argument, applied to logical justifications”. This is simply false, for I can deny that lightning is caused by Zeus and even come up with other explanations for it, even other unscientific explanations, and not be concerned about my entire epistemology crashing down. You actually cannot, however, deny that Christianity is the precondition for logic and come up with other “explanations” for it and not be concerned about your entire epistemology crashing down. If you are actually unable to account for logic then you are reduced to absurdity and unable to even entertain allegedly possible justifications for logic. You have no place to stand.

Since I have called into question your ability to advance even one argument by my utilizing a TA in defense of the TAG, it should be understood that we are debating actual justifications for logic here rather than mysterious “possible justifications” that you have no access to in your epistemological considerations. Even if you had a place to stand in making your arguments, you have offered little more than a Naturalism of the Gaps with respect to this point. You have not offered a consistent account of our experience concerning logic, and hence the TA has done its job. Your arguments are, as I believe you wrote of TAG elsewhere, “dead upon arrival”. “Religion” is in fact your only hope for redemption of your “philosophy”.

(The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy: Second Edition. Edited by Robert Audi. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. 1999.)

C.L. Bolt

By the way, I would like to tell you that I have very much enjoyed the conversation and that I appreciate you taking even my “jabs” “in stride”. Even philosophers have feelings somewhere deep inside, and I do not want my attempt at the rigorous interaction that you are likely to be familiar with to come across as hateful. I am not just concerned *about* you, I am concerned *for* you.

Mitchell LeBlanc

@BK:

No, they probably don’t. As I talk about in my paper, they may feel that they merely have to elucidate the failure of some proposition shared by all of them. But this, I think, leads into other problems. If the TAGer is going to make such a bold claim, as to state that no non-Christian theistic way can possibly justify the laws of logic, it is required that all possible means be ruled out.

@Chris:

I give Bahnsen the benefit of the doubt in assuming that he was attempting to make a valid argument. If he was knowingly making an argument that is invalid, and intended for this to be the case, then I have certainly erred in my inclusion of the exposition. Philosophy had to wait many years during Van Til before anything formal happened, and then some. Now, you folks complain that the formalizations are not accurate. Well, to this I say firstly that I disagree, and secondly that maybe you folks should get to work and make something cogent.

The thing about logic is that, similarly to programming languages, there might be different languages or systems and ways about going about some issue, but we can understand all of these nonetheless, we can communicate. The same is likewise the case for spoken languages, something obviously conventional in nature.

As for the Eastern Religions, pluralists and philosophy students, can be you please provide some evidence for these claims?

On the impossibility of visualizing a proposition which violates the LNC, you said: “Again, this is a bold assertion that has not been given any support, and it likely is just a result of the agreed upon logical principles of your society blinding you concerning other systems.”

Can you think of an elephant which is both pink and not pink? Can you conceive of anyone doing so? I think not, since doing so would be conceiving of it yourself!

You said: “Your attempt to write me off as having misunderstood conventionalism is telling. I have not misunderstood your conventionalism and I have been quoting your definition of it. To repeatedly claim that I have “misunderstood” a simple definition is almost as bad as an undergraduate philosophy student claiming that a brilliant scholar with a PhD in the realm of epistemology “misunderstood” conventionalism. It is becoming exceedingly clear that you do not have a counter.”

Except my statement is not an argument from authority, I’m basing it on your criticisms of conventionalism. The person with a PhD in epistemology should really not misunderstand conventionalism, and for this, one must wonder if they were just being dishonest in their presentation. As for having a counter, the counter is simply the literature on the topic, which would answer many of your questions in perhaps a much more succinct manner. My deference to the literature is due to the fact that my paper is not a defense of conventionalism, and does not rely upon a defense of conventionalism.

You said: “A voluntary or involuntary neurological predisposition toward logical conventions via evolution and or acquisition of logic at the same time as acquisition of language that cannot be changed is perfectly consistent with the actuality of various logical systems people adhere to that factors into what I have written.”

But surely you are keeping in mind the specific evolutionary pressures of our species, that is something that would be shared throughout every single human being. It could certainly give the illusion of an “abstract universal”, no?

You said: “What do agreed upon logical principles in a society forced upon us by evolutionary processes have to do with rationality anyway?”

Sounds like you are on the verge of forming a version of Plantinga’s EAAN. I’d be interested to hear some further argumentation down this line.

You said:

“If anyone is confused here, it is you, for the addition to your definition only states that “agreement is not *necessarily* voluntary”, “*perhaps* is necessarily not-voluntary”, “logical conventions *may* have very well arisen via evolution”, and another “*possibility* is that we acquire logic at around the same time we acquire language”.”

This seems to be common among presuppositionalists. If your opponent is not claiming absolutely certainty, you criticize them for this. I do not see the validity of such a criticisms, and it does not arise from confusion, it arises from honesty.

You said:

“All of us being the same species does not necessitate all of our brains being the same. In fact, our brains are not the same.”

If you could, be very specific on what you mean about our brains not being the same? My understanding of neurology is that all of our brains share a commonality in the manner of their basic functions. Of course, I’m not a neurologist or a psychiatrist, so I wonder what mental illnesses bring to the discussion. Probably, as with most disabilities of that type, biological errors in development.

You said:

“Not only are there problems with pragmatism, not the least of which is that it does not provide epistemic warrant, but it is difficult to see how the Law of Non-Contradiction is solely of pragmatic concern even given, contrary to some of my considerations, that its denial is not useful (Why do people lie?”

I do not think lying qualifies as a violation of the LNC. If I steal your bike, and I tell you that I did not. It is not the case that I did and did not steal your bike, it’s the case that I stole your bike and told you I didn’t.

You said:

” Further, if “logical principles are grounded on agreements in society rather than any external reality” then logic is not necessary, even if one tries to ground it in evolution or language for we could have evolved differently; “…there is a possible world in which a species/society/what-not has adopted a system with no LNC (think, different evolutionary pressures, or what not)” and “…there is a possible world in which a species/society/what-not has adopted a system with no LNC…””

I realize now that these statements were probably the result of writing at 4am in the morning, I could have been much more clear. If it is indeed, as I have said, impossible (for us, in this world) to visualize an elephant that is both pink and not pink, then there is no possible world in which one can visualize an elephant that is both pink and not pink (since doing so would thereby mean visualizing the visualizer and subsequently the visualization in question). It seems then that it is more accurate to state that there is no possible world in which this is the case (or you can embrace RK’s hypothesis and stop a few steps earlier).

So this requires that I change my statement about a possible world where they have evolved with no LNC. I suppose it is true though that they may have evolved with a LNC-like mechanism that is different than our LNC, a mechanism by which they can distinguish different propositions. The distinction needs to be made between evolving creatures and whether or not they are *thinking* beings. A world in which no thinking creatures ever evolved would perhaps satisfy my criteria for a “species evolving with no LNC”

Even if it were the case that conventionalism is wrong, if my criticisms in the paper hold, it follows that Christianity cannot provide the preconditions either. You might say, well you were borrowing from my worldview to establish that position, well even if this were true, the fact that the position has crumbled from within shows its failure. Isn’t this precisely what you folks mean by an internal critique? If, throughout my paper, I’ve been utilizing a Christian justification for logic and the end result of the paper is the conclusion that no Christian justification is possible, if my analyses are sound, I would have revealed the internal inconsistency of Christianity.

Your last paragraph can be summed up in what seems to be a common presuppositionalist mantra:

“You didn’t do it the way I want you to do it, therefore, you’re wrong”

I also have enjoyed the conversation, though it has taken a lot of time. I suppose I should thank you for your concern, if it is indeed genuine, but I do feel it is misplaced. Cheers.

C.L. Bolt

Unfortunately there are not many more ways I can state that arguing against your own interpretation of Bahnsen which conflicts with his interpretation of himself is an instance of the Straw Man Fallacy rather than the ‘accurate formalization’ you tenaciously claim that it is. The TAG is “cogent”, but you have not interacted with it as presented by Van Til and Bahnsen. It is the case that, according to conventionalism, there might be different systems of equally valid logic since logical principles are agreed upon by societies, and I am glad that you finally agree. The Hindu tenet “atman is brahman”, Oprah’s “many ways” theology, and a freshman’s exclamation in my philosophy class “all truth is relative!” are systems held by members of each of the three groups I mentioned which attempt to deny the Law of Non-Contradiction. It is not the case that if I cannot conceive of something myself then I cannot conceive of someone else conceiving of it; you need to think this through, and on a different point you need to realize that if conventionalism is true you are thinking it through according to the agreed upon logical principles of your own society and not necessarily upon someone else’s. Having taken your definition of conventionalism and having run it through a reductio in plain sight with no direct answer from you I cannot think of any pressing need to read the literature you have recommended to me in order to provide you with a defense of your own position on logic (and why assume that I have not read it anyway?). The truth of the matter is that you have not shown where either I or Bahnsen have misunderstood conventionalism at all even though you continue to assert that we have whereas I have shown that you have misunderstood it in some respects and that you have not offered any other counter than to tell me I need to read more about it when perhaps it is you who need to do so in order to better understand the devastating critiques written on it. You are mistaken to think that your paper does not rely upon a defense of conventionalism, for once again I have offered a TA in defense of the TAG you are allegedly attempting to argue against, and this TA calls into question the very basis upon which you make your arguments, which is prior to said arguments. Even given the specific evolutionary pressures of our species there may be differences between agreed upon logical principles from one society to the next as you have conceded above, and an “illusion” of an “abstract universal” is not the same thing as an abstract universal. Since you attempted to attribute a “misunderstanding” to me concerning conventionalism at the point of the agreed upon logical principles of a society being non-voluntary (in direct opposition to the Cambridge definition I provided), the burden was upon you to provide a definition of conventionalism wherein said logical principles are agreed upon in a society in a non-voluntary fashion, which you did not do. Instead you made an irrelevant comment about certainty as though it should not strike me as strange that you would charge me with misunderstanding conventionalism on a definitional point that you have conceded you do not actually know to be the case. Each brain differs physically from every other brain, no two being identical, but this is really a side point and not overly important since it is clear that people think very differently about even the most fundamental aspects of reality, our discussion providing all the evidence we need to establish the point. There is contradiction involved in stealing and not stealing a bike, however there is also contradiction involved in someone stealing a bike and then claiming that he or she has not done so, namely the contradiction between what is said and what is actually the case; but the greater point is that it is difficult to see how the Law of Non-Contradiction is solely of pragmatic concern. Assuming we are working within the context of evolved, thinking, social beings and want to ground the alleged necessity of logic in evolution, there is still the problem that we (being these beings in this instance) could have evolved differently, not to mention that societies are contingent entities and so, again, logic is not necessary on your conventionalism, contrary to your claims and practice. It would appear that you have offered a sort of pragmatic justification for the laws of logic only, if that.

Since your paper is offered in accordance with conventionalism, if conventionalism is wrong it does not follow that your criticisms in the paper may still hold, but rather it follows that they do not. It is true then, that you are borrowing from my worldview in order to even argue against my worldview, in which case you refute yourself and prove Christianity true. What you have stated as your belief about what presuppositionalists hold with respect to an internal critique is incorrect, as we propose that the only way by which an internal critique is possible is when it is carried out upon the Christian worldview. You may again deny that Christianity is true, but then you end in self-defeating subjectivism and ultimately skepticism, as has been shown. I will be praying that you do come to see the cogency of what I have presented, as fallible and unclear as I sometimes am, and as incapable as our philosophical systems are in expressing the truth of God. All of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ Jesus.

Mitchell LeBlanc

Around and around in circles we go, Chris.

The formal exposition of Bahnsen’s argument as presented in his debate is not inaccurate. It is either the case that Bahnsen’s argument is as I’ve stated, or that he was making an invalid argument. Given that Sean Choi has posted once on this blog here before, you may find it beneficial to get in contact with him and ask him about the formulation.

How precisely are the examples that you have given of the Hindu tenet, Oprah and freshman philosophy students violations of the LNC? I’m starting to wonder if we’re even thinking about the LNC in the same way (aside from the obvious differences between our positions).

Also, people who operate within a system that utilizes LNC-like mechanisms can still make false statements… humans don’t always deduce properly (like a computer would).

You said:

“It is not the case that if I cannot conceive of something myself then I cannot conceive of someone else conceiving of it; you need to think this through, and on a different point you need to realize that if conventionalism is true you are thinking it through according to the agreed upon logical principles of your own society and not necessarily upon someone else’s.”

I would wholly disagree. If you can conceive of someone conceiving P and not-P, you have thereby conceived of P and not-P. Furthermore, what is the problem of thinking about another logical system through the eyes of my own? As I said before, there is certainly communication between the different programming languages, spoken languages and also logical ‘languages’. Some research on “bootstrapping” will help to clarify these notions.

You said:

“Having taken your definition of conventionalism and having run it through a reductio in plain sight with no direct answer from you I cannot think of any pressing need to read the literature you have recommended to me in order to provide you with a defense of your own position on logic (and why assume that I have not read it anyway?).”

I have been responding to you this entire time. I assume that you have not read the literature precisely because of the criticisms you’ve been making. Similar things happen when atheists criticize the medieval version of the ontological argument, and dismiss present forms of the ontological arguments on that basis. I suspect that both Bahnsen, and yourself, may be thinking of conventionalism in a much previous form, and thus are not taking into account all of the factors. The book I’ve cited in my paper is a fairly recent explanation of conventionalism, and is beneficial for this reason.

You said:

“You are mistaken to think that your paper does not rely upon a defense of conventionalism, for once again I have offered a TA in defense of the TAG you are allegedly attempting to argue against, and this TA calls into question the very basis upon which you make your arguments, which is prior to said arguments. ”

You need this to be true so that you can avoid dealing with the bulk of my arguments, but unfortunately it’s incoherent. There would be nothing inconsistent with my paper claiming to begin from a Christian theistic account of logic. My criticisms in the sections entitled: “A Logical Euthyphro Application”, “God and the Abstract” and “The Mind of God” would still hold and if they are sound would lead to the rejection of Christian theism as an account of logic. This would not serve as a defeater to the conclusion of my argument, but rather to the system. Merely showing me that I need to “ground” logic by some other means.

Just as the presuppositionalist says if no non-Christian theistic ways can ground logic, than a Christian theistic way can, if the Christian theistic way cannot ground logic (which follows if my critique is sound), than a non-Christian theistic way can.

You said:

“Even given the specific evolutionary pressures of our species there may be differences between agreed upon logical principles from one society to the next as you have conceded above, and an “illusion” of an “abstract universal” is not the same thing as an abstract universal. Since you attempted to attribute a “misunderstanding” to me concerning conventionalism at the point of the agreed upon logical principles of a society being non-voluntary (in direct opposition to the Cambridge definition I provided), the burden was upon you to provide a definition of conventionalism wherein said logical principles are agreed upon in a society in a non-voluntary fashion, which you did not do.”

I gave you an entire book.

You said:

“Each brain differs physically from every other brain, no two being identical, but this is really a side point and not overly important since it is clear that people think very differently about even the most fundamental aspects of reality, our discussion providing all the evidence we need to establish the point.”

Sure Chris, but the fact that we can communicate is what is of the utmost importance. Even if we’re running programs written in different computer languages, bootstrapping lets me talk to you!

“There is contradiction involved in stealing and not stealing a bike, however there is also contradiction involved in someone stealing a bike and then claiming that he or she has not done so, namely the contradiction between what is said and what is actually the case”

It is not the case that Bob has both stolen and not stolen the Bike, nor is it the case that Bob has both said he has stolen the bike, and has not said that he has stolen the bike (in the same respect). You’re forgetting that key point, “in the same respect”. The contradiction between what is said and what is actually the case is not the type of contradiction the LNC deals with.

You said:

“Assuming we are working within the context of evolved, thinking, social beings and want to ground the alleged necessity of logic in evolution, there is still the problem that we (being these beings in this instance) could have evolved differently, not to mention that societies are contingent entities and so, again, logic is not necessary on your conventionalism, contrary to your claims and practice.”

This is an example of one of your statements which shows that you have not read, or have not understood the material on conventionalism.

There is a distinction between “object-level” and “meta-level”. Consider a meta-ethical circumstance, where an evolutionary account of morality may be charged with becoming eliminitivist. “if I do some good deed X just because I am programmed to, then X is not really good to do, it’s just part of my programming” But these statements are operating on different levels. Both the following propositions would be true: “X really is good to do” and “X really is just a part of my biological programing, and that’s the only reason I think X is good to do” A contradiction only occurs when both statements are taken to be expressing a proposition of the same level.

Applied to logic, “X is really necessarily true, everywhere, regardless of what anyone thinks, and regardless of anyone’s conventions. And X really is just part of a system of conventions I have adopted as part of my programming.”

There is no contradiction here because one statement is operating on the object-level, and the other is operating at the meta-level. These ideas are all integral to conventionalism and are all dealt with in the material.

In regards to your last paragraph, my mention of conventionalism was very specific and you have been somewhat taking it out of context. It is in a subsection dedicated to exploring possible ways that God might account for logic.

So all in all, I don’t find your criticisms very convincing, and even if they did hold, they would do little to the arguments in my paper. Further, I wonder why you are reluctant to deal with the very portions of my paper that would show a Christian theistic justification of logic is incoherent.

If you are indeed hinting that we should end the discussion here (your last paragraph sounds like it is), then I also thank you for your interaction and wish you the very best during this holiday season.

Mitchell LeBlanc

May I have your permission to reproduce our discussion here on my own website?

C.L. Bolt

This is more of the kind of interaction I was looking for with respect to conventionalism. I will likely take it up in the future, but I did in fact intend to end the discussion with my previous comment. There are no objections from me in your reproducing the discussion on your website. 🙂

Mitchell LeBlanc

Excellent! Have a very happy holidays Chris (and to you too BK and RK)

Responses to “The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God” | Urban Philosophy

[…] […]

ZaoThanatoo

I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of the discussion with my two cents, but since things appear to have temporarily died down…

Mitch said:

“As for conventionalism, some people may have adopted systems with no LNC-like mechanism, but these systems are trivial.”

“There is no contradiction here, I was making a modal claim (I should have clearly stated this), there is a possible world in which a species/society/what-not has adopted a system with no LNC (think, different evolutionary pressures, or what not), and it is likewise impossible to think of anyone in existence (actual) who could visualize the effects of a proposition that violates the LNC.

You say that some societies have (presumably, societies in this world) contradicted the LNC, well… which societies do you think have contradicted the LNC?”

An example of outright rejection of the LNC was introduced (by me) at the end of the comments on a recent thread here, via the Liar Paradox. The dialetheism which it introduces is averred as a non-trivial rejection of the LNC (to oversimplify just a bit).

I would suggest that if someone is going to advance a conventionalist rationale for logical laws such as the LNC, familiarization with this paradox and the attendant categories of dialetheism and paraconsistent logic would be advisable. Both can be succinctly researched by simply looking them up in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Also, (if interested in further reading) Graham Priest has written most prolifically in defense of dialetheism.

Given Mitch’s apparent familiarity with programming (considering the references to ‘bootstrapping’) I was surprised to note that he doesn’t appear to be familiar with the functional necessity of paraconsistent logic in advanced programming. The fact that these statements are made on the Internet makes their inherent irony intensely enjoyable. 🙂

I’m going to be doing some further thinking regarding his Euthyphro Dilemma redux…

Thank you both for a stimulating read.

Transcendental Argument for God: Mitchell LeBlanc, Pt. 1

[…] to Stand” (7/Dec/09). ChoosingHats.com. See also: “No Place to Stand, Part II” (8/Dec/09), “Lost in a Sea of Subjectivism” (8/Dec/09), and “A Brief Word on the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God” […]


Leave a Comment