No Place To Stand
People have repeatedly called my attention to three posts by Mitch LeBlanc at www.urbanphilosophy.net wherein he makes a “case against presuppositionalism”. There are reasons I have put off writing anything about them other than not having a great deal of time. The arguments contained in the posts are in fact not what they claim to be (arguments against presuppositionalism), but are arguments against the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God. The arguments presented do not originate with Mitch at all, a fact he readily admits, but are arguments familiar to many presuppositionalists that have been rehashed. Some of the arguments Mitch attempts to use against “presuppositionalism” are arguments that were created by presuppositionalists themselves in order to sharpen particular portions of particular arguments used in conjunction with presuppositionalism. All of this is to say that there is nothing new here, and what Mitch has rewritten is not made up of arguments against presuppositionalism as the posts and their titles would have readers believe, nor are the posts made up of arguments against the existence of God persay. Therefore my response will be brief and will focus on the last of the three posts found here: http://urbanphilosophy.net/philosophy/the-case-against-presuppositionalism-part-iii/ A few observations concerning the Strawman Fallacy will be followed by an example of an irrelevant argument and finally the Transcendental Argument will be employed in defense of the Transcendental Argument.
Mitch writes, “I have previously presented two main arguments against the claim that logic depends on God’s existence”. The arguments Mitch advances against this claim may be dismissed without evaluation since the majority presuppositionalist position which I am a part of does not involve this claim. Unfortunately, Mitch constantly employs this strawman and thinks he has thereby refuted presuppositionalism. God is a necessary being. Logic does not depend upon the existence of God; it is not contingent. Logic is necessary. Presuppositionalism is thus immune to the first argument Mitch makes.
The second argument Mitch makes is based upon the first with the added assertion that presuppositionalism presumes an Ontological Argument. Perhaps Mitch means that presuppositionalism presumes the conclusion of the Ontological Argument. In any event, he argues that since logic depends on God, if God possibly does not exist, then some law of logic may possibly fail. Since no law of logic can possibly fail, God necessarily exists. Now, I do not see how this argument shows that God necessarily exists, and as already mentioned, logic is not contingent, but even given that the argument works it directly contradicts the next premise. Mitch states in one premise that God necessarily exists and follows with another premise which states that there is a possible world in which God does not exist, which makes little sense to me. Aside from what appears to me to be an inconsistency at this point, Mitch fails to support the premise that there is a possible world in which God does not exist and shifts the burden of proof onto the person who would deny the premise.
In his third argument, the “impossibility of the contrary” is described as stating that if non-Christianity fails at accounting for X then Christianity accounts for X. Mitch thinks that the inability of non-Christianity to account for logic does not mean that Christianity can account for X. This neglects that Christianity may be shown to be able to account for X whereas non-Christianity does not, and furthermore it is absurd to assert that it is impossible to account for X. Mitch writes that “it may simply be impossible to account for X, that is to say the presumption of justification may not be valid”, but then none of this would be intelligible, especially terms like “impossible” and “valid”, so the power of a transcendental argument is seen in that both the acceptance and denial of X presuppose Y. If non-Christianity does not provide the preconditions for the accepted intelligibility of X then Christianity does. It is not like there is some third option.
Mitch immediately gives chase to a rabbit and asks his readers to consider four “worldviews”: Christianity, Christianity without the incarnation (C1), Christianity with four persons in God (C2), and Christianity with an extra disciple of Jesus (C3). Mitch writes that these, “are, in effect, non-Christian worldviews that match Christianity point for point in every regard, save for one difference”. Unfortunately for Mitch this assertion is false, as may be easily demonstrated. If there is no incarnation, then Jesus has not been raised from the dead. If there are four persons in God, then baptism is to be performed in the name of more than just Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If there is an “extra” disciple of Jesus, then the risen Christ was seen by more than “the Twelve” as the term was understood. Thus C1, C2, and C3 are not non-Christian worldviews that match Christianity point for point in every regard save for one difference and the statement Mitch makes is false. It is therefore doubtful that the rest of whatever Mitch argues in this regard makes sense. Sunday School teachers refute these kind of “worldviews” all the time, especially in cases where the class is made up of children. Since C1, C2, and C3 accept the authority of Scripture but contradict what Scripture teaches they are to be rejected as incoherent. Now I suspect that Mitch might change his argument, but really none of this should be of any concern anyway as will be seen in a moment.
One can follow Mitch down his rabbit trails for some time and in so doing miss what is really going on. Mitch continues to dodge the problems which have been raised concerning his worldview through offering in response argument after argument allegedly based upon logic. Yet when questioned about his use of logic itself, he provides no real answer, as he finds the “notion of ‘justifying logic’ is a peculiar one”. On the other hand, he has attempted to argue for the Law of Non-Contradiction on this site.
To begin with, Mitch is not entirely clear concerning what he believes about logic. Mitch writes that it “is clear and evident that logical principles exist as logically necessary abstractions…” but elsewhere writes in a self-contradictory fashion that logic “isn’t a thing, it’s a referrer to things” and argues that logic cannot be referred to as it is not an abstract object or entity. Again, Mitch supposedly holds that logic is a “referrer to entities”, a “referrer to things”, and “refers only to arguments”, yet such things are contingent and hence logic is as well, which contradicts the assertion made by Mitch that “logical principles exist as logically necessary abstractions”. Further, if one grants what Mitch wants to argue using TANG and turns one of his own arguments back on him, then logic is contingent upon a non-Christian theistic worldview, and hence is not necessary. Mitch writes that “logical principles are axioms and as such they are not subject to any proof or justification outside of themselves”, yet he attempts to argue for the Law of Non-Contradiction elsewhere by appealing to arguments outside of the law itself.
For all of his talk concerning logic, Mitch does not appear to be really clear on what exactly logic is, nor does he offer anything by way of attempting to account for logic from within his own worldview. If he wants to account for logic by converting to Fristianity, then we can meet him there, but so long as he remains an adherent to his current position he has no place upon which to stand and make any of his arguments.
What is Mitch standing on when he raises the Fristianity objection? What would Mitch have us to believe concerning the laws of logic, and how are they at all consistent with his worldview? How can such immaterial entities exist in a materialist universe? Why does logic continue to apply in a contingent realm of experience? How is logic imposed upon the world? Why should anyone care about adhering to the laws of logic? How is the universal and absolute nature of such laws consistent with the existence of only particular and finite minds? Such questions are only the beginning of an internal critique.
Mitch needs to give an account for his use of logic or cease using logic because given his presuppositions logic may be called into question. Mitch may continue to parrot old arguments against TAG, but what has been offered in reply is a TA in defense of TAG. I, for one, do not think Mitch is quite able to answer it. This may be the reason for the prolonged discussions concerning apologetic method as well as the search for anything on the Internet which might be used against the presuppositionalist method.
“If there is an “extra” disciple of Jesus, then the risen Christ was seen by more than “the Twelve” as the term was understood.”
Wasn’t Christ seen by the 500 brothers? If so, that’s already “more than the Twelve”. Thus your objection is dismissable.
except that it’s specific to “the 12” – which should be 13 by this idea, every time it’s mentioned.
No, He was seen by more than 500 brothers in a separate appearance from the one in which he was seen by the Twelve, thus my “objection” is not dismissable. There are likely other such “objections” available to the individual who is familiar with Scripture. The post appears to be in pretty good shape if this is the only objection someone might think of.
Joe – the main point being made here is that Christianity is systematic. If you change one single element, then the rest of the system is impacted by that change. If the rest of the system does not also change to accommodate that change, then the system becomes incoherent. The more the system changes, the more the system must continue to change to retain its coherence, because all elements of a systematic belief system fit together. That’s the reason Christianity (at least from a Presuppositional standpoint) is never defended in a “blockhouse” manner (i.e. as if you are adding one block at a time). Although you can only ever discuss one aspect at a time (for instance, the number of disciples), the system is defended *as a whole*
[…] Bolt from Choosing Hats has authored a response to my post, “The Case Against Presuppositionalism: Part III.” As expected, he is not […]
“Mitch thinks that the inability of non-Christianity to account for logic does not mean that Christianity can account for X. … If non-Christianity does not provide the preconditions for the accepted intelligibility of X then Christianity does. It is not like there is some third option.”
1. LeBlanc severally repeats Martin’s impoverished misunderstandings and, like Martin did, simply ignores the corrections that Frame had laid out in his informal debate with Martin. Logic is not some property external to God yet depending upon him. The principles of logic are a formal articulation of God’s self-revelations, or as Frame put it, “God’s nature is the ultimate basis of logic. On this basis, God presupposes logic and logic presupposes God.”
2. LeBlanc utterly defies basic principles of logic by arguing here that the falsehood of ¬P does not necessarily prove the truth of P, that somehow it is possible for P and ¬P to both be false at the same time and in the same respect. His argument here simultaneously tosses out the window both the Law of Non-Contradiction and the Law of Excluded Middle. The paralogism of his propaganda is astonishing.
“Mitch is not entirely clear concerning what he believes about logic. Mitch writes that it “is clear and evident that logical principles exist as logically necessary abstractions…” but elsewhere writes in a self-contradictory fashion that logic “isn’t a thing, it’s a referrer to things””
3. I should like to know what this X is to which logic refers, wherein logic is a referrer to X. From LeBlanc’s position that “logic is a referrer to things” we can conclude that (i) logic is not self-evident, for it is justified by its reference to X, and that (ii) logic is not itself necessary, but rather the X to which it refers is.
I quite enjoyed your article, Chris.
1. The corrections have not been ignored. What is required though, and is something I have asked of Chris in my most recent post, is a rigorous discussion of what the relationship between logical principles and God’s existence is purported to be.
2. I’ve never said such a thing. I do however have a strong disagreement with Bahnsen’s formulation of “Either Christianity, or not Christianity.”
3. Hopefully my most recent post clears up the confusion.
[…] response to my post here – https://choosinghats.org/?p=733 Mitch has written this – […]
Greetings, Mitchell—a fellow Canadian.
1. Frame’s corrections were in fact ignored, as evidenced by you propagating the original mistakes Martin committed that Frame had set straight. Whether you ignored Frame wilfully or inadvertently, nevertheless his corrections are conspicuously missing from your articles. Either you did not know they exist, which is difficult to accept since they were clearly published alongside Martin, or you knew they exist but dismissed them without any comment, which is intellectual dishonesty. Two examples should suffice to prove the matter: (i) the premise that “everything, including logic, is dependent on God” was roundly defeated by Frame, and yet it is propagated in your article in its original form without so much as a comment on Frame’s defeater of it; (ii) the argument that no inconsistency results from denying that God exists and affirming the law of non-contradiction was likewise defeated by Frame, and yet the argument is repeated in your article with zero comment on this defeater. Although you wondered aloud, so to speak, whether or not Martin’s argument was sound, you ignored the one person published alongside Martin who succinctly proved the fallacies it committed.
2. You did indeed say such a thing, for you argued that just because the non-Christian world view (¬P) cannot account for some X it does not follow necessarily that the Christian world view (P) does so. Except that is precisely what follows, for if ¬P is false then P is true, necessarily—which obtains by the fundamental laws of logic. That it is possible for P and ¬P to both be false at the same time and in the same respect is a logical contradiction.
3. Unfortunately, I do not know what post you are referring to, so nothing is cleared up yet.
P.S. I find it curious, and more than a little telling, that you have requested of Chris Bolt “a rigorous discussion of what the relationship between logical principles and God’s existence is purported to be,” and yet without the slightest twinge of irony you presume to write several articles on the case against presuppositionalism. Either you are already familiar with said relationship and your request a little disingenuous (which I doubt is the case, for your articles betray your ignorance of the relationship), or you are not already familiar and your articles were perhaps a little premature (a conclusion I lean toward, given the glaring absence of Frame’s several defeaters).
“As stated, the presuppositionalist will say that the very existence of logic (or logical absolutes) depends on the existence of the Christian God. Philosopher Michael Martin analyzes this claim in his Transcendental Argument for the Non-existence of God (TANG). This argument is often dismissed by presuppositionalists, but I have yet to hear a compelling case as to why such a dismissal occurs.” – Mitch LeBlanc
1. My understanding of Frame’s suggestion is not that it abolishes a relationship between logical principles and the existence of God, but rather it attempts to establish one in such a manner that logical principles retain their necessity. I’m asking for the argument which suggests this, rather than the oft-quoted “God’s nature” position which, in itself, does not really do much in terms of explanation.
2. There is the possibility that there is some X for which there can be no account. You may disagree with me, but I don’t see a contradiction here.
3. There should be a pingback, somewhere….
I’ve written on presuppositionalism utilizing the relationship evidenced in the quotations I’ve offered. I am curious as to whether or not Chris has something different as RK mentioned to me that they have been discussing this matter. As for the posts, they are an evolving series, they will no doubt evolve as my understanding does.
There is also somewhat of a misrepresentation of philosophy on the internet that seems to purport that whenever someone posts an argument, or essay, they have assumed 100% certainty that they’ve accomplished what they’ve set out to do. The nature of philosophy is one of continued discourse. With that said, I’m not sure about Chris, but I can certainly say that my posts shouldn’t be coming off with the tinge of certainty or smugness, the reason (I hope) that any of this material gets published at all is to further discussion and understanding.
Chris’ conception is the standard one. I’m always the oddball 🙂
Yes, that was stated in the very first post in the series. As I was telling Ryft, it’s an evolving one. (or at least it was intended to be, I might branch off to be more specific in the future)
1. It was not Frame’s task—nor is it Bolt’s—to articulate a relationship between logic and God. It was his task to subject Martin’s argument to critical analysis, for it was Martin who was attempting to make a case. The same applies here. You are attempting to make a case. The only thing Bolt has to do is critically evaluate your argument, which stands or falls completely irrespective of Bolt and whatever his position happens to be. If you are not familiar enough with presuppositionalism to make an informed case against it, then your articles should have demonstrated a great deal more tentativeness.
2. True. But that was not your argument I was critiquing. I was trying to disabuse you of the notion that it is possible for P and ¬P to both be false—a strict logical contradiction. As I had said, if the non-Christian world view (¬P) cannot account for some X, then it does follow necessarily that the Christian world view (P) does so. Whether or not some X requires an explanation is another matter entirely and therefore a Red Herring fallacy with respect to this point.
4. We do not point at the mere fact that your articles exist on the internet as indicative of certainty in their accomplishments. Rather, it is what your articles claim that suggests such a high degree of certainty. For example, “it seems that presuppositionalist apologetics are dead in the water,” and “one can safely conclude that presuppositionalism has been defeated,” etc. With consideration of my criticisms thus far, never mind the ones I have not yet made, the fate of presuppositionalism does not have the appearance you give it. In fact, as you have stated yourself in this comments area here, your case against presuppositionalism is far more tentative than your articles let on.
1. That’s fine. I was hoping for a dialog with Chris on the topic but perhaps this would be better conducted in private.
2. At this point, I’m confused. Specifically which point in the article are you critiquing? Could you paste it for me so that I’m sure we’re on the same page.
4. Note the term “seems”. At any rate, every publication (professional or non-professional) in philosophy is provisional, it seems almost an unspoken understanding that every conclusion only stands until a successful criticism.
On your second response: the law of non-contradiction is not so easily applied. Clearly, “P cannot account for X” is the denial of “P can account for X.” It is not a matter of any rule of logic I am aware of that this negation can be moved inwards, transforming “P cannot account for X” to “~P can account for X”. You’d need to offer a semantics for “can account for” to show this.
This is a sticking point for the debate. Mitch and I do not believe that things such as logic can necessarily be “accounted for” at all, meaning that “P cannot account for logic” and “~P cannot account for logic” may well be true for all P.
1. I can appreciate your interest in a personal dialogue with Chris, but quite frankly that is completely unrelated to the issue I was addressing. I am talking about the articles that you published open to the public, the conclusions reached therein and the manner in which they were reached. Is your comment (“That’s fine.”) to be understood as a concession to my above critiques?
2. I carefully specified the point I was critiquing. Again, “If the non-Christian world view (¬P) cannot account for some X, then it does follow necessarily that the Christian world view (P) does so.” You had argued to the contrary, so using the principles of logic I turned your argument on its head by showing that it violated at once both the LNC and LEM. Such a consequence means your argument was false, and necessarily so. If ¬P is false, then (given the LNC and LEM) P must be true.
4. I know it was provisional, and so do you. The problem was that evidently your language didn’t know it. That is what I was pointing out. You stated your case in language far stronger than the support upon which it was resting allowed—a somewhat common practice by armchair philosophers wanting to bolster their standing before their readership, which I’m sure you have likewise observed.
[…] Bolt, Chris. “No Place to Stand.” ChoosingHats.com. (Accessed 10/Dec/09. See also: “No Place to Stand, Part II”; “Lost in a […]
If I understood LeBlanc’s point adequately (and it may be that I did not), he was attempting to assert that ¬P being false does not necessarily imply P being true—where P is the TAG (that is, on the whole) and ¬P is the denial of the TAG. That is to say, it seemed he wanted to undercut the ‘impossibility of the contrary’ argued by the TAG by positing that the failure ¬P1 does not preclude the success of some ¬P2. However, it appears he missed the force of the TAG, for it implies any ¬P being false (i.e., ¬P1, ¬P2, ¬P3… n). In other words, ¬P is that which they all have in common, “the denial of Christian presuppositions of revelational epistemology, or the Christian view of God.”
For LeBlanc to hold that ¬P being false does not necessarily imply P being true is for him, by the very nature of the case, to assert a logical contradiction.
As for whether or not “logic can necessarily be ‘accounted for’ at all,” it must be remembered that terms like ‘justified’ and ‘accounted for’ are meant in the sense of metaphysical, not epistemic; i.e., the issue is that no ¬P can successfully explain the intelligible reality and nature of logic, being all reduced to absurdity under their own terms by virtue of being ¬P.
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