In response to a recent post on this site, our good friend Mitch from Urban Philosophy made the following comment:
One can grant that Van Til was a philosopher, but they need not grant that he was a competent philosopher. 😉
A few comments later, Pierre-Simon Laplace shared with us his own perspective on Van Til’s Presuppositional approach to apologetics. After sharing this, he then posted a rather interesting follow-up comment (in response to Mitch, as far as I can tell).
“Oh, and Van Til was NOT a Philosopher.”
At first blush, one might see this merely as a knee-jerk response to Mitch, and not worthy of a second look. After all, it doesn’t take more than a few moments to look up the word “philosopher”, compare what we know about Van Til to that definition, and see the significant overlap between the two. But is such a reading really fair to Pierre? After all, perhaps Pierre is simply using the term in a more limited sense. That is, perhaps Pierre has a more stringent definition that he holds to, and that he would like Mitch (and the rest of us) to fall in line with.
Let’s read on …
I’m fairly sure that none of Van Til’s 300+ publications appear in any academic (peer reviewed) philosophy journals.
Neither does he have any publications in any main line academic (peer reviewed) philosophy publishing presses.
Neither is any of his work reviewed in any of the main line academic (peer reviewed) philosophy journals.
He does not possess any graduate degrees in Philosophy, from an accredited institution, nor does he have any professional academic presentations at peer reviewed Philosophy conferences (whether nationally or internationally).
From Pierre’s ensuing comments, it seems that in order to be considered a Philosopher, one must meet one or more of the following criteria:
1. Be published and have one’s work reviewed in an academic (peer reviewed) philosophy journal.
2. Possess a graduate degree in philosophy, from an accredited institution.
3. Have presented at an academic (peer reviewed) philosophy conference.
So it does seem, then, that Pierre has a much more stringent definition that he holds to than the general population. This is not a problem, per se, now that we understand how he uses the word. In future discussions with him, we can keep in mind just how narrow his use of the term “philosopher” is, and take that into account. And so, there really isn’t much more to say at this point. Or is there?
Pierre makes one final comment, that (in my opinion) takes his response to Mitch beyond merely sharing his own definition of the term “philosopher”, as follows:
Interestingly enough, the same things we’ve said about Van Til apply to James White (though we could also say that White has no relevant work in the field of Theology either).
It seems odd to me for Pierre to try to draw a parallel at this point between Van Til and White, especially considering that Dr. White does not even represent himself as a Philosopher. However, considering further Pierre’s comment that “we could also say that White has no relevant work in the field of Theology either”, we begin to get the sense that Pierre is interested in doing more here than merely sharing with us his definition of the word “Philosopher”.
It seems that he is attempting to discredit Van Til (and White, for that matter), due to the fact that neither of them has accomplished that which Pierre feels are necessary to be given the honorific title of “Philosopher” or “Theologian”.
And so this leaves me wondering whether Pierre did not feel his earlier comments regarding Presuppositionalism are strong enough to stand on their own, thereby leading him to fallaciously attempt to discredit Van Til in general, and Presuppositionalism by extension.
Perhaps Pierre will clarify whether this was his intention.
[image courtesy of Stuck In Customs]
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