Absurdity In Atheism And Incredulity Concerning Inquiry

It can often be entertaining (though ultimately it is really and truly sad) to observe unbelievers flinching at the utter absurdity of their own worldview when they are asked direct questions about even their most basic beliefs. For example, while being grilled on such topics as morality Dan Barker has been known to appeal to the audience and imply that his opponent is too dumb to know right from wrong as he did in his debate with Doug Wilson. Or, recall Barker’s debate with Paul Manata where he responds to Manata’s questions by saying, “You’re not serious about that” to which Manata replies, “No, I am”. I would be embarrassed about my answers to questions like this if I believed, as Dan Barker does, that all we are is cosmic broccoli. Since we mentioned Manata, let us not forget about Derek Sansone repeatedly dodging Paul’s direct questions during that debate. By the end of the affair Sansone was trying to convince the audience that the answers to Paul’s questions are really not all that important, after all, “Logic is fluff”. During one of my public debates with an atheist I asked why it would be wrong to light a baby on fire and watch the baby burn to death. During his rebuttal time, my opponent brought the question up, scoffed at it, and answered matter-of-factly, “Killing babies is wrong because the government says that it is wrong”. Yikes! Not only should we recognize that the government does not say that killing babies is wrong, we should further understand this gentleman’s confusion about the difference between what is lawful and what is ethical and pray that he never  takes this understanding with him into political office!  It is in such absurd answers that I would suggest we find the reason for a tendency amongst unbelievers to try and reinterpret questions that they cannot reasonably answer as evidencing an inability on the part of the inquirer to answer the question on his or her own.

Enter Nocterro and Punchy Bloke who have been commenting on the post found here. It did not take long, once some of their beliefs were challenged, to start dodging my questions and doubting my sincerity. Punchy Bloke first suggests I may be “trolling”.

I’m starting to think that Bolt is trolling here. Are you trolling nocterro, here? or are you serious in all of the things you’ve said?

Then Nocterro makes a similar suggestion.

One must wonder if you are even being serious anymore. I suspect that you are merely nitpicking me, and know very well what is wrong with accepting every idea one is presented with. But if you truly think there is nothing wrong with this, allow me to present some ideas for you to accept…

Of course, I never said that I do not know what is wrong with accepting every idea one is presented with. Rather, I asked Nocterro what is wrong with accepting every idea one is presented with and he gave me no answer. Does Nocterro really think that the reason I ask him questions is for my own epistemological benefit? When someone asks questions it does not follow that the person asking them does not already have answers to those questions. The way that Nocterro responds seems peculiar but perhaps it is not if his response is understood as an attempt to shift the spotlight off of the absurdity inherent in his own position.

It is particularly telling that Nocterro and Punchy Bloke would demand “evidence” from me as though it is clear what kind of evidence they are looking for and even more telling that when I ask why they need evidence in order to accept claims it is interpreted as “trolling” and “nitpicking”. Rather than answering questions about his absurd position, Nocterro insists that we forget about all of the issues that he raised and begin our discussion again.

OK, Chris…This is rapidly descending into absurdity, so let’s start over and get back to the claim you made in the original post.

I agree with Nocterro that a closer look at the unbelieving worldview descends rapidly into absurdity. I do not understand why more unbelievers are not willing to just embrace this absurdity. Many have. Perhaps the gods of unbelievers like Nocterro and Punchy Bloke forbid critical thought concerning ultimate matters, but then, why are these gentlemen so hasty to try and use such critical thought with respect to Christianity?


44 Comments

Nocterro

“Rather, I asked Nocterro what is wrong with accepting every idea one is presented with and he gave me no answer.”

Yes, I did. I said:

“The problem is, actually accepting all claims would include accepting logically contradictory claims. One cannot possibly accept, for example, both “Mars exists” and “Mars does not exist”. This violates the LNC. It is not possible to conceive of.”

“Nocterro insists that we forget about all of the issues that he raised and begin our discussion again.”

This is what you wanted. You said:

“Much more importantly though, it has little to do with what the passages I quoted state.”

“Does any of this really have much to do with the post showing that you do in fact have presuppositions?”

“You are also ignoring the main thrust of the original post.”

So, I abandoned the discussion which you seemed to view as off-track and commented again on the original post.

“Perhaps the gods of unbelievers like Nocterro and Punchy Bloke forbid critical thought concerning ultimate matters,”

I thought there were no unbelievers, and that I consciously believed in God? Also, punchy bloke is a Christian.

C.L. Bolt

You gave me no valid answer, for in response to your statement, “The problem is, actually accepting all claims would include accepting logically contradictory claims.” I wrote, “Yes. And what is wrong with this?” and in response to your statement, “One cannot possibly accept, for example, both ‘Mars exists’ and ‘Mars does not exist’. This violates the LNC. It is not possible to conceive of.” I wrote, “Nonsense. People accept contradictory claims all the time. I want to know why you think they are wrong in doing so”.

“This is what you wanted.”

This does not have much to do with what you wanted though. I am fine with following the rabbit trails, but they are not cashing out and you have still not satisfactorily dealt with the original post.

“I thought there were no unbelievers, and that I consciously believed in God?”

Unbelievers meaning those who do not trust upon Jesus Christ.

“Also, punchy bloke is a Christian.”

Regardless of this he is arguing as an unbeliever might and is rejecting the clear teaching of several passages of Scripture in doing so, but I hope he will forgive me for being presumptuous with respect to whether or not he is a Christian.

Nocterro

““Nonsense. People accept contradictory claims all the time. I want to know why you think they are wrong in doing so”. ”

The problem is this: no one can actually accept two logically contradictory claims, as such a thing cannot be conceived of. How would one ACTUALLY accept both:

1) Mars exists.
2) Mars does not exist.

In the same respect and at the same time? Such a thing cannot be conceived of.

“Regardless of this he is arguing as an unbeliever might”

Why, because he disagrees with your theology?

“and is rejecting the clear teaching of several passages of Scripture in doing so”

YOUR interpretation. I will leave it up to him to defend his own interpretation. I will leave it up to you to defend your own.

As for the original post…to defend your claim that I do in fact consciously believe in God, you use scripture. Can you defend scripture as a source…and more specifically, your interpretation of it?

C.L. Bolt

“The problem is this: no one can actually accept two logically contradictory claims, as such a thing cannot be conceived of.”

No Nocterro, it can be conceived of. That is why I have been accused of having a logically incoherent interpretation of Scripture which, by the way, has not been shown yet, just asserted over and over again. People contradict themselves all the time. This is one of the things one should look for during the course of an argument. I do not think you have thought through your position very much at all. You have destroyed your ability to show others where they are mistaken as you believe it is inconceivable that they could accept logically contradictory claims.

“How would one ACTUALLY accept both:
1) Mars exists.
2) Mars does not exist.
In the same respect and at the same time?”

By violating the LNC.

“Such a thing cannot be conceived of.”

This remains to be seen.

“Why, because he disagrees with your theology?”

No, because he disagrees with the Bible.

“YOUR interpretation.”

Give me a break. An interpretation is only as good as the evidence which supports it. I have not misinterpreted the passages I used. If you need some straws I will be happy to mail you some.

“I will leave it up to him to defend his own interpretation.”

He has not provided one yet, and neither have you.

“I will leave it up to you to defend your own.”

It has not even been touched.

“As for the original post…to defend your claim that I do in fact consciously believe in God, you use scripture.”

Yes.

“Can you defend scripture as a source…and more specifically, your interpretation of it?”

Yes, but I do not need to. The point is that you attempt to presuppose it is not what it states that it is.

Mitchell LeBlanc

Chris, you raised the issue of people violating the law of non-contradiction in our previous discussion, but I still fail to see your justification. In our discussion you used lying as an example, but it simply doesn’t prove what you want it to prove.

As I’ve said in other writings it is absurd to think of a person which both accepts and rejects the propositions “Mars exists” in the same respect. I think this is easily demonstrable by the fact that if it is true that Bob thinks (1) and (2) (as previously defined) at the same time in the same respect then the propositions:

(3) Bob thinks Mars exists
(4) Bob does not think Mars exists

are both true, an obvious contradiction. Your example of people denying the LNC seems to just beg the question against the LNC, not to mention committing a fallacy of the stolen concept. I don’t really feel you’ve outline an adequate justification of this position. It may just be that you’re being unclear, but I think the entire endeavor is bankrupt.

Punchy Bloke

“Regardless of this he is arguing as an unbeliever might and is rejecting the clear teaching of several passages of Scripture in doing so, but I hope he will forgive me for being presumptuous with respect to whether or not he is a Christian.”

With all due respect Chris, I think that atheists subconsciously take for granted the things that God has granted them, i.e. logic, the laws of science, morality, etc and this is the way that they know God. You kept questioning things like ‘why do you presuppose the LNC,’ and you made no implicit attempt to tell us that you DID accept the LNC.

“No, because he disagrees with the Bible. ”
Actually, you’re the one who has changed it to ‘consciously disbelieving in God,’ you’re the one who thinks that the idea of a subconcious in the complex network that is the human brain, not to mention the soul and mind, no room for a subconscious.

P1: God is the author of both the bible and logic.
P2: God is not the author of confusion.
P3: If God is not the author of confusion, he wouldn’t want logic and the bible to be inconsistent with one another.
C: Therefore any interpretation of the bible must be logically consistent.

The reasoning above would show us that certain laws of logic must be invoked so that the universe must function properly, otherwise we live in Chaos were things like being a married bachelor is possible, or there are such things as round squares.

Suggesting that Atheists consciously believe in God, while at the same time maintaining that they reject his existence is logically absurd, and quite frankly frustrating to atheists. I dislike logically inconsistent things, so I decided to take place in the conversation. Now take a moment to ponder to yourself, what specifically would the implications be of atheists (according to you, there is no such a thing..) be? All atheists would have to have some type of ulterior motive to mantain that they do not believe in God, rebelling against a creator, sin, do you really think things serve as a proper motive for what is the massive conspiracy called “atheism”? All atheists would have to be, literally, purposefully damning themselves to hell. They’d consciously reject God fully knowing that the end result is -hell-; while their counterparts [Christians] went to heaven! it is a biological imperative for humans to avoid unpleasant things, something like being conscious of hell would serve as a proper deterrent for atheists to claim that they /believe/ in God.

I have a lot more to say but limited time, I apologize this post was all over the place.

C.L. Bolt

“Chris, you raised the issue of people violating the law of non-contradiction in our previous discussion, but I still fail to see your justification.”

My justification is that people actually do hold contradictory beliefs and do so often. Some actually encourage doing so, such as certain kinds of existentialists and those who have written extensively in support of paraconsistent logic. If you really believed that people did not violate the law of non-contradiction I doubt that I would see you being so interested in philosophy and argument. If I understand you correctly, even in several of your arguments against believing in God you start with the concept of God and seek to derive a contradiction which presupposes that those who believe in the concept under examination hold contradictory beliefs. Really the conversation has shifted ever so slightly though, as I am inquiring why we should not accept contradictory beliefs given that it is possible to do so. The reason given thus far against accepting contradictory beliefs has been that it is apparently impossible to do so; impossible to even conceive of, but this is not the case.

“In our discussion you used lying as an example, but it simply doesn’t prove what you want it to prove.”

Would it be fair to say that lying is saying of what ‘is’ that it ‘is not’, or of what ‘is not’ that it ‘is’? If I remember correctly this came into the discussion when you were promoting an acceptance of the LNC upon pragmatic grounds. It is not all that important right now anyway as there are other examples provided.

“Your example of people denying the LNC seems to just beg the question against the LNC, not to mention committing a fallacy of the stolen concept.”

I am not arguing against the LNC so neither of these apply.

……….

“With all due respect Chris, I think that atheists subconsciously take for granted the things that God has granted them, i.e. logic, the laws of science, morality, etc and this is the way that they know God.”

Well then there is hope for you. 😉

“You kept questioning things like ‘why do you presuppose the LNC,’ and you made no implicit attempt to tell us that you DID accept the LNC.”

Perhaps nobody asked.

“Actually, you’re the one who has changed [the Bible] to ‘consciously disbelieving in God,’”

Where did I write this?

“you’re the one who thinks that the idea of a subconcious in the complex network that is the human brain, not to mention the soul and mind, no room for a subconscious.”

Where did I write this?

“Suggesting that Atheists consciously believe in God, while at the same time maintaining that they reject his existence is logically absurd.”

Where did I suggest this?

“I dislike logically inconsistent things, so I decided to take place in the conversation.”

You “dislike” them? Is accepting the LNC for you somewhat like eating your favorite ice cream? You still have not shown anything logically inconsistent with anything I have written. You will need to show this to make your case, not repeat it.

“Now take a moment to ponder to yourself, what specifically would the implications be of atheists (according to you, there is no such a thing..) be?”

The implications of atheists? I do not understand your question. Also, where did I write that there are no such people as atheists?

“All atheists would have to have some type of ulterior motive to mantain that they do not believe in God”

Correct.

“rebelling against a creator, sin, do you really think things serve as a proper motive for what is the massive conspiracy called ‘atheism’?”

Correct.

“All atheists would have to be, literally, purposefully damning themselves to hell.”

Correct
.
“They’d consciously reject God fully knowing that the end result is -hell-; while their counterparts [Christians] went to heaven!”

Correct.

“it is a biological imperative for humans to avoid unpleasant things, something like being conscious of hell would serve as a proper deterrent for atheists to claim that they /believe/ in God.”

People do things all the time that they are consciously aware may bring them pain later on. This is very foolish of course, but atheists really love their sin.

Now that I have patiently gone through your straw men and fallacies of personal incredulity, here is what God says concerning the matter:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

Romans 1:18-23 (ESV)

Submit to the Word of God rather than the word of men.

Mitchell LeBlanc

I have no doubt that some people encourage doing this, but it does not mean that a person can actually do this. Advocates of paraconsistent logic are indeed intriguing, though there are some problems with the system. That being said, within paraconsistent logics negations are not really negations as we speak of them in the classical sense. According to Hartley Slater for example, they are simply subcontrary-forming operators. Of course, if paraconsistent logics really are defining negation as something which does not mean negation in the classical sense there is no problem. The argument can be made that it is still impossible for a proposition and its negation to be true. This is all beyond the specific issue you’re speaking of with the other two folks here, but I think it’s an important one in attempting to make sense of your position that people can indeed deny the LNC.

I do wonder if there are some subtle differences. Consider:

(1) At 9:46:01PM on Jan 11th, 2010 Bob conceived of a state of affairs in which he was both dead and alive in the same sense.

(2) It is both true and false that (1) obtains

It seems to me intuitively obvious that (1) and (2) are inconceivable states of affairs that is, they cannot possibly obtain. But I think the example you gave is interesting, in a reductio ad absurdum we are indeed attempting to draw a contradiction. Of course, we are attempting to draw a contradiction between some set of propositions such that some member is incompatible with another. Is this the same as the examples of (1) and (2). I think not, it seems to me that (1) and (2) express a sort of self-contradictory nature. They are inherently contradictory and, I think, cannot be conceived.

Now, let us take for example an argument which might purport to show that:

(3) God is atemporal
(4) God has knowledge of tensed facts.

There seems to be nothing inherently contradictory in either of these premises, but if an argument which showed their inconsistency with each other then it follows that any set which purported to contain both (3) and (4) is contradictory.

So what of the people that did believe in such a God? Does it follow that they conceived of a contradiction? I don’t think so. Given the fact that I’m not a brilliant supercomputer, I can only have a limited number of propositions running through my mind at the same time. That is, I might be able to conceive of (3) and I might be able to conceive of (4) but at different times, isolated and independent from each other. But if I attempted to conceive of some actualization of the set, that is a state of affairs in which an atemporal God possessed certain knowledge of tensed facts, I think I would fail at such a conception. I say this because the inconceivability of (1) and (2) arise from what seems to be conglomerative premises. If I were to formulate the set of (3) and (4) into such a premise we might have:

(5) God is atemporal and has knowledge of tensed facts

Now, if it is shown that the set is inconsistent then I think conceivability of (5) fails as does conceivability of (1) and (2). The premise is inherently contradictory. I say that if (1) and (2) are inconceivable then (5) must be inconcievable because I see no way in which I can differentiate between the contradiction that (1) and (2) generate and the contradiction which (5) generates.

So perhaps it is the case that people were compartmentalized in their thought in thinking (3) and (4) at different times or in different respects but never thinking (5), that is (3) and (4) as members of a set in the same respect. If this is true then the fact that someone professed belief in such a being would entail that they are simply mistaken, perhaps conceiving of (3) and (4) in different respects or not as members of the same set and merely uttering “I believe in a God who is both atemporal and knows tensed facts” in the same way that I might utter “I believe in a square circle.” I might profess to have the belief, but if it is truly contradictory then I must be mistaken. So we might have people professing to believe contradictions who might not actually believe the contradictions by virtue of the inconceivable nature of contradictions.

I realize now after seeing the length of this that it is indeed quite long and is quite off topic. I would still like to hear your thoughts, even if they are best expressed somewhere else as to not direct the flow away from the current conversation.

Cheers.

Nocterro

“Can you defend scripture as a source…and more specifically, your interpretation of it?”

“Yes, but I do not need to. The point is that you attempt to presuppose it is not what it states that it is.”

You do not need to defend scripture as a source?

Are you now going to claim that everyone consciously believes that scripture is a valid source?

Chris, I’m not unreasonable – you could potentially convince me that Christianity is true. But your stand-offish approach to apologetics makes it a bit frustrating to discuss things with you.

Also, one final comment regarding this statement:
“Also, where did I write that there are no such people as atheists?”

Do I really have to point this out? You cited Romans 1:21, saying,
“According to this passage Nocterro knows God.”

Now, either this passage applies to all who claim to be atheists, to some, or to none. If it applies to none, your claim that I do in fact believe in God is not justified. If to all, you are forced to conclude that there are no atheists. If to some, well then, how do you know to which individuals claiming atheism it applies and which it does not?

C.L. Bolt

The reason I do not need to defend Scripture “as a source” right now is because it is a different subject from the one I was arguing to begin with. My post was made to point out that contrary to your claims, you do have presuppositions and those presuppositions are contrary to the Word of God.

Atheists claim that there is no God. There are such people.

Mitchell LeBlanc

You should really define atheism in its proper form. An atheist is one who believes there is no God. -isms have nothing to do with claims, they pertain to beliefs. Under your criteria, there are no atheists only professed ones.

Nocterro

“My post was made to point out that contrary to your claims, you do have presuppositions and those presuppositions are contrary to the Word of God.”

So what if my supposed presuppositions are contrary to the supposed Word of God?

First, I do not feel that you have adequately shown that I presuppose God. Second, if your justification for making this claim is something in scripture, then of course you should justify scripture, as I have my doubts regarding scripture as a source for my own personal beliefs.

C.L. Bolt

“So what if my supposed presuppositions are contrary to the supposed Word of God?”

It would not be consistent with your earlier claims concerning presuppositions. https://choosinghats.org/?p=833

“First, I do not feel that you have adequately shown that I presuppose God.”

I did not even try.

“Second, if your justification for making this claim is something in scripture, then of course you should justify scripture,”

I do not have to get you to accept Scripture to show that you do not accept it.

“as I have my doubts regarding scripture as a source for my own personal beliefs.”

Precisely. You have presuppositions that are contrary to the Christian worldview. Thank you for conceding. Now we can move on, though I do not know that you would be interested.

Perhaps (oh I hesitate to suggest this) we can set up a friendly debate at some point. Mitch is still first in line though. 🙂

………………

Mitch,

If there are actually no atheists on my view then so be it, but you are probably right that I need to look into and think through my definitions here a bit closer. Also, I read through your comment on the LNC but do not have the time to respond right now.

Nocterro

OK, first off…

“Thank you for conceding. ”

I don’t think so. You may claim to have defeated me, but to claim I have conceded? No. Absolutely not.

I do NOT concede.

Second.

“It would not be consistent with your earlier claims concerning presuppositions. ”

What I originally said was:

“To be quite honest, I cannot think of anything that I presuppose.”

I did not claim to have no presuppositions.

“I do not have to get you to accept Scripture to show that you do not accept it.”

I thought that you were trying to show that I consciously believe in God, not that I reject scripture?

Here is where I think the problem lies, Chris: throughout this entire line of discussion, I have had tremendous difficulty following your reasoning and figuring out what you were actually claiming. So, how about this…give me a formal syllogism for whatever you’re trying to show about me. Give me some premises and a conclusion to work with…I think that will lead to a far more structured and to the point discussion between us.

C.L. Bolt

“I did not claim to have no presuppositions.”

I did not say that you did claim this. What you did claim is, “I do not presuppose ‘no God’.” Well, you do, and the original post concerning your presuppositions showed exactly that.

You write, “I have my doubts regarding scripture as a source for my own personal beliefs.”

Again, precisely. You have presuppositions that are contrary to the Christian worldview. This is what I have been claiming. I repeated this in slightly different words a number of times in the original post.

Now if you want to be shown that you really do presuppose God in your reasoning, we can go there, but this is not the best format for it.

C.L. Bolt

There is an apparent contradiction above that I am too tired to fix right now. I will likely be gone for a few days.

Nocterro

“Now if you want to be shown that you really do presuppose God in your reasoning, we can go there, but this is not the best format for it.”

What is the best format, then?

C.L. Bolt

Probably forums, email, or full blog posts.

C.L. Bolt

Or a chat channel. I forgot about that. But all of that is up to you.

Nocterro

Blog posts sound good. You can post here, and I can post on Urban Philosophy.

Dawson Bethrick

CL Bolt: “Now if you want to be shown that you really do presuppose God in your reasoning, we can go there, but this is not the best format for it.”

Chris, To suggest that my reasoning “presupposes” your god, is to indulge in utter fantasy. Proper reasoning presupposes the primacy of existence (see for instance here, here, here, and here), while your god-belief presupposes the primacy of consciousness (see here, here, here, here, here and here). The two are irreconcilable. This is why you have no alternative but to borrow from my worldview any time you make a statement about reality. To make a statement about reality is to make a statement about some state of affairs which exists independent of your act of making that statement, and hence presupposes the primacy of existence. So unless you consistently hold to the view that wishing makes it so, you are in fact borrowing a principle from a worldview which is diametrically opposed to Christianity from its very foundations (since Christianity affirms the primacy of consciousness).

Regards,
Dawson

Punchy Bloke

Okay so i know that I am a little late here but I’ll give it a go anyways ;D

[“With all due respect Chris, I think that atheists subconsciously take for granted the things that God has granted them, i.e. logic, the laws of science, morality, etc and this is the way that they know God.”

Well then there is hope for you. 😉 ]

………………… Right, if this has anything to do with orthodoxy and heresy, then please don’t continue down this line.

[ Perhaps nobody asked. ]

You’re debating tactics here are really starting to get on my nerves. You say as little as possible, then you hound us for something when you we make a false assumption which you implied to. If you’re objection to something is something online the lines of “why?” then you’re just going to make people make false assumptions, which is aggravating and not productive at all, be specific on what your views are so
we can have a conversation, eh?

[You “dislike” them? Is accepting the LNC for you somewhat like eating your favorite ice cream? You still have not shown anything logically inconsistent with anything I have written. You will need to show this to make your case, not repeat it.]

God is responsible for Logic, either directly through your view, or indirectly through Mitch’s view (conventionalism); either way because of this we know that logic is a trust worthy tool. As such, I am justified in accepting laws of logic, such as the LNC. I’ll be back to respond to the rest of it later.

Nocterro

Chris, here’s something for when you get back:

I want to discuss three things:

1) That I (and some or all atheists) presuppose God in my reasoning
2) That I (and some or all atheists) consciously accept both:
A) God exists
B) I do not believe God exists
3) That scripture is reliable.

Mitchell LeBlanc

@PunchyBloke:

While the existence of God and logical conventionalism don’t seem incompatible, I hope you are not saying that God grounds conventionalism. Conventionalism is the grounding for the “universal, invariant” laws of logic whether or not God exists. Well, unless you can show that some other precondition of conventionalism, namely, the existence of a Universe for example, depends on God. But that’s another matter…

C.L. Bolt

Punchy Bloke:

“Right, if this has anything to do with orthodoxy and heresy, then please don’t continue down this line.”

You have a problem with submitting to Scripture.

“You’re debating tactics here are really starting to get on my nerves.”

You mean my pointing out that you are committing fallacies is starting to get on your nerves. When people ask questions about other people’s views it does not mean that they do not have their own answers to those questions. I would suggest that you are upset concerning your own unwarranted assumptions and clearly unable to argue for any of the assertions you have been repeating. If God is the precondition for logic then you agree with me that unbelievers must borrow from the Christian worldview in order to get anywhere. Conventionalism is inconsistent with the existence of God and indefensible on its own terms. Unless you are willing to explain to me how logic can be both necessary and conventional and defend other features of the view you may not want to go with what you have written. I am not altogether sure you are really following what is going on.

Mitchell LeBlanc

“Conventionalism is …indefensible on its own terms. Unless you are willing to explain to me how logic can be both necessary and conventional… ”

I take it since our last discussion you’ve not read the book I recommended. Ernest Nagel explains a bit on the matter:

“… the principles of logic, such as the principle of excluded middle and others, are not to be taken as formulating generic characters of existences outside of inquiry or the traits of all possible being, but as rules by means of which the meanings of our terms is explicated and a transition is effected between various groups of statements. The principles of logic are thus conventional without being arbitrary. They are conventional in that they function in discourse and make explicit the various transitions which have been historically developed between various parts of discourse; and they are also conventional in that they help formulate the various usages of terms and sentences, and in that they represent implicit resolutions to continue a given usage or to conduct deductions in a given manner. They are not arbitrary, however, not in the sense they are fixed by the structure of a reality antecedent to inquiry, but in the sense that they are shaped and selected by the instrumental character of discourse, by the goals of inquiry and discourse.” (Citation upon request)

That logic is a convention yet necessary is not a stumbling block for conventionalism, it hasn’t been for perhaps more than a century one always hears presuppositionalists touting that it is. Could it be perhaps that they have not familiarized themselves with the system, or it just one big understanding. I can see if there is disagreement, but then the phrasing should be different. Presuppositionalists should not act as if this is a defeating problem for conventionalism to which conventionalism has been largely unsuccessful of addressing.

C.L. Bolt

Where did you address it? Is the quoted paragraph pertaining to how logic can be both conventional and necessary?

Mitchell LeBlanc

I personally addressed it in our correspondence shortly after I posted the draft of my paper. My point is that it *is* addressed but you would not think that from the way presuppositionalists speak about conventionalism.

The quoted paragraph explains precisely what is meant when a conventionalist states that logical principles are conventions, and that they are necessary. If this is the presuppositionalist’s only objection to conventionalism, that the principles it establishes cannot be necessary, then I don’t think this is much of an objection at all.

C.L. Bolt

No I am really trying to understand you here. The paragraph you posted appears to be arguing against the notion that conventionalism is arbitrary, not against the notion that it is contingent. Am I right or still not getting something? I also remember raising this question during our discussion of conventionalism, but do not remember getting an answer on it. I will go back and read though.

C.L. Bolt

Let me try again:

“…not against the notion that logic is contingent.”

I am going on precious little sleep right now.

Mitchell LeBlanc

I think the notions of arbitrariness and necessity are intertwined in our discussion. What I gathered from our previous correspondence is that if some people may choose to speak other languages, then there can be no necessity in any of the rules.

If there’s anything you asked in our discussion that I didn’t touch upon feel free to re-ask and I’ll do my best to give you an answer.

I’m actually going to sift through some of the papers I have collected on my hard-disk as I have some relevant material there. I might drop a couple of quotations here that express what I’m trying to in a far more eloquent manner. You’re also welcome to any pdf’s I might have on the topic, I can just send them over.

Mitchell LeBlanc

Alrighty Chris, I’ve tracked down some key portions of a paper I used for a previous paper of my own. I think I have about 700 words in quotations here… I’m going to go ahead and paste them, if you feel that it’s simply too much material to be a comment you can remove it and throw me an e-mail and I’ll send it through there. I’ll also try to track down my copy of the source. Hopefully these will express the ideas in a manner more clear than my attempts!

“Carnap made a refreshing and welcome suggestion: the axioms can be construed as definitions (implicit definitions) and their assertion as commitment to a language containing the terms so defined. The axioms or postulates need no further epistemic justification because a language is neither true nor false, and one is free to choose a language in any convenient way. If someone else should choose other apparently conflicting postulates, there is in fact no disagreement because each postulate set is constitutive of the concepts it employs, and hence the one body of postulates is not denying what the other is asserting. In this manner the postulates are not even intended to reflect an antecedently and independently existing reality, but rather literally to create the claims they express.

It may be that some postulate sets are better than others. But the ‘betterness’ in question concerns their practical usefulness: some are more powerful or easier to use than others. In terms of epistemic justification or cognitive warrant they are all on a par. Indeed, they are the ‘meter sticks’ for the justification of anything else. Epistemically
the choice among them is conventional, though the constraints imposed by pragmatic utility can be significant. For example, an inconsistent postulate set is not very useful. For most logicians of the period, including Carnap, every sentence as well as its negation would trivially follow from a contradiction. An inconsistent postulate set would therefore fail to draw any cognitively interesting distinctions among sentences or beliefs. Though the preference for consistent systems is treated as a pragmatic one, the pragmatic considerations are powerful indeed.”

“This discussion of pragmatic usefulness and explication must not obscure, however, the epistemic core of Carnap’s doctrine. The choice among alternative postulate sets is epistemically arbitrary; the choice is a matter of convention. Moreover, the postulates themselves are the fundamental epistemic doctrine.”

“At this point it would be well to say a bit more about convention, for it is not always clear what is at stake in saying that something is a matter of convention (Quine, 1936). Plainly, when Carnap speaks of the semantic and epistemic features of our language as conventional, he does not mean to suggest that they are the products of some actual legislative assembly convened in antiquity. But shorn of such unhelpful metaphor, what does conventionality come to? The answer, in essence, is that to lay down a linguistic convention is to adopt a certain scheme of justification. This scheme involves two specific features: first, there are alternatives to certain aspects of the justificatory system; and, second, the choice among these alternatives is arbitrary in the sense that no justification is required for the choice. In particular, to say that postulates are laid down by convention commits one to the idea that there are alternative postulates that could have been chosen, but were not. It commits one likewise to the idea that no further epistemic justification for the choice of postulates is required. Conventions are not designed to reflect antecedent and independent facts; if they were thus designed one would have to show that they had done so. Rather, the postulates (together with the other conventions) create the truths that they, -the postulates, express.”

“That the conventions constituting the system of justification are at bottom arbitrary poses no threat whatever to the objectivity of the postulates and their consequences. This was of particular concern to Carnap because he thought that all of logic and mathematics, insofar as the claims thereof can be assessed at all, is to be justified as are postulates and their consequences. Once a system of justification is chosen, i.e., once the various terms of the language are given a definite sense, it is a completely objective matter whether B is a consequence of A. It in no way depends on what any person may happen to imagine, think, believe, or know about these sentences. It is likewise a completely objective matter whether or not a given claim needs further justification. These things are no more subjective than the truth value of the claim “All swans are white”, given of course that the meanings of the terms are fixed. If the word ‘white’ has a sense different than it in fact does, then the truth value of the claim might be different, but this in no way impugns the objectivity of “All swans are white”.”

Source: Richard Creath, “Carnap’s Conventionalism” Synthese 93 (1-2)

If you’d like I’ll send over my copy of the pdf once I locate it, otherwise you might be able to find one through your school’s library.

C.L. Bolt

I found the answer you gave at the very end of our discussion.

Email them to me, if you do not mind, and if you need anything from me let me know. That is sort of strange though isn’t it? 🙂 I want to get this debate out of the way, but have been taking classes pretty steadily. Have we gotten enough out onto the table to have an audio debate, or need we do something through email prior to one?

C.L. Bolt

Whoops, guess I was too late.

Mitchell LeBlanc

Yikes, sorry about that. Erm, if BK sees that gigantic comment as a blemish he is more than welcome to remove it and I’ll simply e-mail the quotations. Once I find the pdf I will toss it your way.

As for the debate, I too am swamped with studies (I decided to take a couple of extra courses). I don’t know if our debate will be anything we haven’t touched on in our writing. To be quite honest with you, my atheism isn’t what it used to be. I’ve always identified as an agnostic atheist, but you may be interested to note that some recent readings have me moving away (though I don’t think I completely have yet) from that position.

C.L. Bolt

Well if he does delete it he had better send it to me first.

I still look forward to debating someone who knows some philosophy (that is, you) but also threw in extra classes. After all, I have to write that journal article on presuppositionalism and TAG.

Mitchell LeBlanc

You’re authoring a paper on it as well? =]

I think our debate will be an interesting one. If for some reason I’m a theist by the time we do debate I’m sure we can modify the topic as to have a discussion on presup/TAG.

C.L. Bolt

Well I was referring to a jab you threw my way some time ago about going to graduate school and publishing on the topic. 🙂

If you are a theist by then I would rather debate concerning the specific type of theist you are.

C.L. Bolt

alluding to*

Mitchell LeBlanc

Oh! I get it now. It wasn’t a malicious jab, I assure you.

I suppose that would be fine but I have this strange feeling that no matter what topic we discuss we’re going to eventually hit the TAG. That is, as long as we disagree on its coherency it will remain a thorn between us.

C.L. Bolt

Should I take that to be a concession as to the inescapability of transcendental argumentation with respect to such topics? ;p

Mitchell LeBlanc

I’m merely commenting that it will be inescapable in a discussion with you, or anyone else who shares your views. It’s your position that any justification of logic contrary to your own fails *necessarily*, I have no idea how we can have a discussion while avoiding that matter.

On a side note, Nocterro’s most recent comment seems to have been lost since I posted my mammoth comment. It’s up there somewhere.

With that said, let me know what you think of the explanation of conventionalism given by the quotations above. I think it is clearer than my explanation.

C.L. Bolt

I was joking. 🙂

I think Nocterro’s comment sounds good, but I need to get through this crazy week.

A Conventionalist Justification of Logic | Urban Philosophy

[…] is, and hopefully dispel some misunderstandings. I had initially posted these set of comments on a post at Choosing Hats but some emails, comments on my article regarding the TAG (those from […]


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