Discussion With Nocterro: Incomplete Final Response

Below are the links to the previous parts of an informal debate that I began with Nocterro some time ago. Unfortunately Nocterro had to take a break from the exchange and shortly thereafter I needed to as well. The final comments I offer here are rather incomplete and do not summarize the argument up to this point nor touch on every point which was a matter of contention. Nocterro has requested that I go forward with posting what I have anyway and I am happy to oblige. I want to thank Nocterro for being willing to engage in this discussion and for being kind throughout the exchange.


Discussion With Nocterro Concerning Three Topics: Opening Statement By C.L. Bolt

A Response to Bolt on Three Topics (Nocterro, Offsite at Urban Philosophy)

Discussion With Nocterro Concerning Three Topics: Rebuttal By C.L. Bolt

A Second Response To Chris Bolt (Nocterro, Offsite at Urban Philosophy)

Nocterro has co-authored a response to my rebuttal with Mitchell LeBlanc of Urban Philosophy wherein a summary of the relevant portions of Neo-Confucianism are presented again, an alleged lack of clarity on my part is brought up, and my objections to Neo-Confucianism are addressed. My conclusion will not include any topics or arguments that were presented but not brought up in this most recent response from Nocterro and Mitch and so I encourage readers to review that material in order to continue their research and make decisions concerning the subject matter discussed. I also want to express my thanks to Nocterro for his willingness to engage in this discussion and for his kindness throughout the exchange.

Particular tenets of Neo-Confucianism are restated at the beginning of the most recent response. My past formal education in Neo-Confucianism and my having read much of Alvin Plantinga’s work including all three of his books in the warrant series informed my understanding of relevant subjects while reading the Tien paper Nocterro relies so heavily upon. While reviewing the restated material taken from Tien’s paper might be beneficial to readers there is little covered that was not already covered in Nocterro’s previous response. My rebuttal was worked out from the Tien paper as presented by Nocterro. Three things that did stand out in this most recent restatement of Tien’s interpretation of Wang were the intuitive nature of Wang’s epistemology which I believe to be true to Wang, the centrality of selflessness, and [cut off].

There has been a complaint about a lack of clarity on my part that is probably not completely unwarranted. A list of quotes are provided and confusion is expressed in statements like, “Bolt clearly considers justification and normativity to be two different things” which is followed only a handful of lines later by, “…as evidenced by the quotes above from his opening post, he uses the terms ‘justification’, ‘warrant’, and ‘normativity’ interchangeably.” How can I “clearly” consider justification and normativity to be two different things and yet use justification and normativity interchangeably? I have been asked what warrant is, what justification is, and what epistemic normativity is.

Warrant and justification are terms denoting some necessary element of knowledge and epistemic normativity refers to an aspect of warrant or justification. Thus something like justification or warrant is required in order for someone to have propositional knowledge and this implies that beliefs should come about and be held in a proper manner. There are right and wrong ways to go about believing. One must ask how beliefs ought to come about and be held, but the answer to this question is normative rather than descriptive in nature. Given his anti-theistic worldview [Nocterro has since become a ‘deist or general theist’.], Nocterro cannot posit the notion of right or wrong ways that beliefs should either come about or be held and hence his position is reducible to absurdity. Some type of epistemic warrant must be accounted for in Nocterro’s view of the world because of the need for warrant in knowledge. There is no absolute person or persons on an atheistic view which provides an account for epistemic normativity. The possibility of even being able to have this discussion entails that atheism is false. Meanwhile, the character and command of God and His having created us in His image and obligated us toward Him provides for the epistemic normativity necessary to right belief. Thus without getting into debates about what constitutes warrant and without going into great detail about a consistent Christian view of warrant a fatal problem presents itself to the atheist since warrant, whatever it is, must be normative.

When I write that Nocterro “allegedly” provides a brief summary of Plantinga’s position I only mean to distance myself from any commitments to Nocterro’s summary as being a fair representation of Plantinga’s program, which is not to say that it is not a fair representation. There is no reason for Nocterro to state that I am thinking that he is assuming that my own position is the same as Plantinga’s as I do not assume it. Nocterro now states that he was “forced to go with the leading view” of “the concept of warrant” in order to discuss the topic at hand but this makes little sense to me given that Nocterro is free to hold and present whatever view of warrant he wants to present in order to defend his worldview. Further, the reason he gives for being “forced” into Plantinga’s conception of warrant is that I “never went into detail on what the concept of warrant entailed”. Yet it is clear from what I have written that whatever warrant is, it involves epistemic normativity.

Nocterro (or Mitch) attempts to answer a group of some of my objections to Neo-Confucianism. Recall what the liangzhi is according to the summary provided in the most recent response in view.

“The liangzhi is the mechanism by which one can come to know the li or the principle of all things. Liangzhi is both a cognitive and affective (thinking and feeling) faculty… Birth endows all human beings with a perfect mind or xinzhibenti…Liangzhi is a faculty of this mind which discerns ‘flawlessly, naturally and spontaneously between right and wrong,’ thus forming correct beliefs and correct affective responses.”

As it stands, Nocterro has not provided any explanation of how the liangzhi may have been designed to function as it is held to function as opposed to any other way. He responds, “Do questions such as these really have answers?” Perhaps they do and perhaps they do not, but that is not my problem since I am not the one adhering to a challenged Neo-Confucianist tenet. He writes that this question “strikes me as similar to asking why God is the way he is rather than other way.” Not only does Nocterro imply that questions “such as these” do not have answers, but he advances a tu quoque in asking about God. Further, Nocterro has offered a false analogy. God is necessary while the liangzhi is not. Nocterro uses the response that the liangzhi is a ‘brute fact’, writing, “Surely they are brute facts that are unexplained by any external states of affairs.” In other words, the liangzhi is “just that way.” How is it that this response is not open to anyone else? Christianity is necessarily true and thus all other positions are necessarily false and it is just that way. Somehow I do not believe readers will find this conception of the liangzhi as “brute fact” very satisfying. Regardless, this response is not open to Nocterro given what is quoted above concerning the liangzhi. Liangzhi is a faculty of the contingent, undesigned mind. The liangzhi must be the result of unintentional, undirected, non-human, non-divine, non-intelligent processes by which the liangzhi came to be or comes to be. Nocterro responds; “Or simply not a result of anything at all, similar to how God is not a result of any non-God thing.” It has already been explained why this is a false analogy. Nocterro writes a bit more along these lines.

If what Bolt is hinting at here is a sort of evolutionary objection in that it seems odd that evolution would develop liangzhi, I think we can agree with him. Of course, under Neo-Confucianism the existence of a mind necessarily entails the existence of liangzhi so that insofar as we have an explanation as for why evolution would bring about a mind, we have thereby explained why there is liangzhi. That liangzhi is the type of faculty that it is seems to be merely a brute fact.

Of course I never hinted at it being odd that liangzhi would be developed by evolution and such would not constitute an argument but rather incredulity. What I did write is “Nocterro has not provided any explanation of how the liangzhi may have been designed to function as it is held to function as opposed to any other way” and added that the “liangzhi must be the result of unintentional, undirected, non-human, non-divine, non-intelligent processes.” The liangzhi is contingent upon particular contingent minds which would, so far as I can understand Nocterro’s view; be the result of unintentional, undirected, non-human, non-divine, non-intelligent processes. The same is therefore true of the liangzhi which is no brute fact but explained in terms of the production of the mind as admitted by Nocterro. Thus my objection still stands.

In response to my objection that Nocterro states outright and without reason for doing so that the descriptive concept of li is likewise normative Nocterro reasserts that “the li is not only a descriptive concept, it is both descriptive and normative.” I wrote that the question remains as to why the li should be preferred over qi anyway. Again, epistemic normativity is lacking in this view and there is no apparent reason why one is obligated to conform one’s thoughts to li to begin with. Nocterro responds that this question “seems no different than asking why one would prefer or adjust their lives towards God over Satan.” Here is another tu quo que and another false analogy. Christianity does not teach dualism. God and Satan are not on par with one another. If it be the case that li and qi are on par with each other the questions follow as to why one should be preferred above the other and why one is obligated to conform one’s thoughts to li. If they are not then we enter back into the problems mentioned concerning monism in my previous response


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I would like to thank Chris for participating in this discussion, and for posting this final response.

To the readers:

Chris and I have both agreed to end our discussion here, for several reasons. If anyone has any questions that they think are unanswered, or general comments about this discussion, feel free to email me at: Nocterro42@gmail.com

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