The things you find while not looking for them…
“NB that choosing hats errantly supposes that by rational Bahnsen means deductive. But anyone with even a modicum of familiarity with Bahnsen and Van Til would know that both of them considered induction rational.” – Mark
Someone taking shots at me and my understanding of Bahnsen from afar as it were recently made the claim quoted above. I responded to his entire argument here.
Tonight as I was scanning Bahnsen for something completely unrelated I happened across the context of the passage from Bahnsen that was the focus of the discussion Mark was responding to.
But we realize even more clearly and definitively the distinctiveness of transcendental arguments when we contrast their logical character (that is, the truth-functional relation of their conclusions to their premises) with that of rational and empirical arguments. A deductive demonstration takes particular premises and draws a necessary conclusion from them; but if, in this rational argument, one of the relevant premises were to be negated, the conclusion would no longer follow or be established. Likewise, in an inductive or empirical argument, the premises include particular claims (or instances) of a definite sort; from them the conclusion draws a generalization with probability. However, if a component or relevant premise (or sets of instances) were to be negated, the general conclusion would no longer be the same as before (or would no longer be drawn with the same degree of probability). To put it simply, in the case of “direct” arguments (whether rational or empirical), the negation of one of their premises changes the truth or reliability of their conclusion. But this is not true of transcendental arguments, and that sets them off from the other kinds of proof or analysis. (Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic, 501.)
Remember Mark’s claim that “choosing hats errantly supposes that by rational Bahnsen means deductive.” Mark supposes that by “rational” Bahnsen means “inductive”. (Check the link provided above for the problems with Mark’s interpretation and my positive presentation of the meaning of that passage.) In the passage above Bahnsen is writing about transcendental arguments and contrasting “the truth-functional relation of their conclusions to their premises with that of rational and empirical arguments.” Note that Bahnsen mentions “rational” arguments first and then immediately turns to considering what he considers “rational” arguments. He writes, “A deductive demonstration takes particular premises and draws a necessary conclusion from them; but if, in this rational argument, one of the relevant premises were to be negated, the conclusion would no longer follow or be established. [Emphasis mine.]” It is not overly difficult to see that by rational Bahnsen means deductive. Why anyone would even want to argue differently in the first place honestly escapes me. So far and despite my requests no one has provided a single quotation from Bahnsen where he explicitly states that TAG is a deductive argument yet I have received many complaints that I am in some unspecified way doing something wrong in interpretting Bahnsen as explicitly denying that TAG is deductive or in writing about this topic to begin with. Meanwhile I keep running across more evidence in confirmation of my understanding of the matter. By the way, Bahnsen contradicts Mark’s understanding of his use of “rational” when he equates inductive with empirical in writing the sentence where he mentions “an inductive or empirical argument.”
Now compare what Bahnsen has stated above to how I interpretted the remainder of the passage without the aforementioned context. The relevant passage and my understanding of that passage which follows below may be found at the link I provided above.
Mark believes that I err in thinking “that by rational Bahnsen means deductive.” Note that Bahnsen mentions two type of “direct arguments” which are “rational” and “empirical.” Direct arguments are set in opposition to transcendental arguments. The two types of direct arguments are “rational” and “empirical.” When Bahnsen writes, “whether rational or empirical” he shows that he understands the two as being different types of arguments by his use of “whether” and “or”. Rational arguments are not the same as empirical arguments in the way Bahnsen is using the terms here. Now what might these two different types of arguments be? What Bahnsen writes next is that “the negation of one of their premises changes the truth or reliability of their conclusion.” Note that the use of “truth or reliability” parallels Bahnsen’s earlier use of “rational or empirical.” We may therefore link “truth” with “rational” and “reliability” with “empirical.” I will return to this in a moment. Let us take a few commonplace understandings from the history of philosophy which Bahnsen was well acquainted with and see if they assist us in understanding what Bahnsen means in this quote. Typically “rationalism” and “rational” are associated with deduction. It is also the case that “empiricism” and “empirical” are typically associated with induction. Finally, deduction and induction are often taken to be “the two” main kinds of argumentation. Recall what was mentioned just a moment ago about the parallel between “truth” and “rational” and “reliability” and “empirical.” Bahnsen states that “the negation of one of their premises changes the truth or reliability of their conclusion.” Again I suggest that “truth or reliability” refers to “rational or empirical” respectively. Thus the negation of one premise of a deductive argument changes the truth of the conclusion of the deductive argument. There is only one way to change the truth of the conclusion of an argument and that is to change the conclusion so that it is false. If the conclusion of an argument is false it is not reliable at all and thus the result of the reliability of the conclusion being changed cannot refer to the type of argument that Bahnsen has in mind at this point. The negation of one premise of an inductive argument changes the reliability of the conclusion of the inductive argument however the conclusion can still remain true and thus the result of the truth of the conclusion being changed cannot refer to the type of argument that Bahnsen has in mind at this point. Therefore I take Bahnsen to be equating “rational” with “deductive” and I believe I do so upon sound exegesis of the text in question.
Unfortunately Mark will likely never read this as he gets his information from a blog which refuses to link to Choosing Hats because of its allegedly being unbiblical and in violation of the Ninth Commandment due to misrepresenting Bahnsen. If I have misrepresented Bahnsen then someone needs to show where I have done so.
Keep an eye out for an upcoming podcast wherein even more evidence confirming the understanding of Bahnsen’s view of the nature of transcendental arguments as distinct from both deductive and inductive arguments will be presented! In the meantime go read Van Til and Bahnsen for yourself. 🙂
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