Your Thoughts Welcome...


The illustration here is one I use for teaching presuppositional apologetics. Feel free to comment on what may not be correct, how it can be improved upon, etc. I realize that it is not necessarily self-explanatory, but then if you read some of the other posts here or watch the recent videos you may get a better grasp of what I intend to communicate through this illustration.


4 comments:

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Chris,

If you want to use two circles to represent antithetical worldviews at the fundamental level, you would have to completely revise the contents of the circles you have illustrated on your blog. At the fundamental level of philosophy is the issue of metaphysical primacy – i.e., the proper relationship between consciousness and its objects. Most (i.e., by far the vast majority) of worldviews (including Christianity) take this concern completely for granted (where does St. Paul, for instance, address the issue of metaphysical primacy?), and in so doing they are prone to falling prey to the primacy of consciousness – i.e., the view that consciousness holds metaphysical primacy over objects distinct from itself in one capacity or another (or, in the case of the Christian god, in all capacities). This is a fundamental error which sets in motion throughout any worldview built upon this foundation a whole series of stolen concepts, floating abstractions, false dichotomies, arbitrary distinctions, package deals, etc.

The two-circle representation which I would suggest would illustrate the antithesis between those worldviews which assume the metaphysical primacy of consciousness (to whatever degree that they assume it), and the one worldview which is positioned wholly and consistently on the primacy of existence (namely Objectivism).

For some background information on this, I already have a post which defends the division which I am proposing here:

Only Two Worldviews?

Thus the two circles would include, on the one hand Objectivism (since it is premised exclusively on the primacy of existence), and on the other hand worldviews such as Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Mormonism, Logical Positivism, Leninism, etc., since these worldviews grant metaphysical primacy to a form of consciousness (e.g., "God," "Allah," "Brahmin," "the State," etc.). It would not include atheism, because atheism has no inherent commitment to either the primacy of existence or to the primacy of consciousness. Indeed, some atheists (like Objectivists) affirm the primacy of existence, while others hold to positions which are clearly underwritten by the primacy of consciousness (e.g., Marxists, Leninists, etc.).

As for the way you have your illustration presently laid out, you are right not to include Objectivism in either circle as your illustration defines their constituents. Objectivism does not belong in either camp, because Objectivism is not characterized either by “Ultimate commitment... to Christ of Scripture” or by “Ultimate commitment... to human independence from God” as a fundamental premise defining it. While Objectivism does hold independence as a cardinal virtue (see for instance here), it is not a starting point, as presuppositionalism often characterizes non-Christian worldviews. (Cf. Greg Bahnsen, who writes: “The thing that is most characteristic of the philosophy of the unbeliever is its presumption of moral and intellectual autonomy from God.” Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis, p. 109.) Nor does Objectivism advocate “neutrality” (even though presuppositionalists typically assume that all non-Christian worldviews do this): a position is either pro-truth or anti-truth. A worldview premised on the primacy of consciousness (such as Christianity) can only obfuscate truth and seek to replace it with a fantasy. Only by resting on the primacy of existence (a position which one would have to assume in order to deny it) can one truly and consistently build a worldview that is compatible with an objective conception of truth. This is evident any time someone says “wishing doesn’t make it so” or “it’s not true just because you say it is.” Since truth does not conform to conscious intentions, any position which ultimately grants metaphysical primacy to consciousness (to any consciousness) is at odds with this principle, and cannot provide a rational guide to identify and integrating facts discovered in reality. (Cf. Van Til’s claim that “God may at any time take one fact and set it into a new relation to created law” [The Defense of the Faith, 3rd ed., p. 27], which shows how Van Til’s system treats facts as subjective – i.e., as phenomena which conform to the intentions of a subject.)

I think the reason why Bahnsen & co. would consider the virtue of independence to be “the thing that is most characteristic” of non-Christian philosophies, is not because that is what these philosophies affirm as their starting point (for instance, as I pointed out above, Objectivism does not), but because it is what likely offends Bahnsen the most: Bahnsen resents other minds who do not submit to the god of his imagination so much that it colors the way he understands and characterizes rival philosophies. Non-believers typically do not found their worldview on statements such as “I’m going to develop a philosophy by which I can live independently of the Christian god!” and proceed according to such an imperative, any more than they would do the same in regard to Islam’s “Allah,” a Hindu pantheon, or the Lahu’s “Geusha.” There may be individual exceptions to this (though I know of none), but I can assure you that Objectivism does not do this. Notions of imaginary, non-existent beings are simply irrelevant and have no place in identifying fundamental principles of a rational worldview.

If you’re interested in learning more about rational philosophy (Objectivism), please let me know. I’d be happy to share.

Regards,
Dawson
sortion@hotmail.com

C.L. Bolt said...

I came across your writings some time ago and dismissed them rather quickly because you do not appear to have a very clear grasp of the presuppositional method of apologetics you often write against.

The non-Christian worldview represented by the circle on the right is not intended to provide an exhaustive list of manifestations of that worldview else Objectivism would be displayed.

That you still do not have a very clear understanding of what presuppositionalists are actually saying is clear from your following statement:

Objectivism does not belong in either camp, because Objectivism is not characterized either by "Ultimate commitment... to Christ of Scripture" or by "Ultimate commitment... to human independence from God" as a fundamental premise defining it.

It is by virtue of Objectivism not being characterized by an ultimate commitment to Christ of Scripture that it finds itself in the circle on the right. This is one of the most basic principles of our apologetic method derived from Scripture. If you do not get this then I do not expect you to understand much else regarding presuppositionalism. Secondly an ultimate commitment to human independence from God is logically entailed by any position, Objectivism in this case, which is not characterized by an ultimate commitment to Christ.

I understand that you may reject this, but said rejection only serves to further our case. Are you for Christ or against Him? Anyone reading your words will have little difficulty determining the answer to that question. Unfortunately this leaves you adhering to indefensible tenets such as "the cardinal virtue of independence".

You said much more which I would love to get to sometime in the near future. Perhaps your offer to help me learn more about Objectivism is a kind gesture should it turn out that I do not know much about it rather than an assumption of my ignorance in the area of philosophy. If it is an assumption then it is one based upon no evidence that I can see. Unfortunately I cannot say the same about my conclusions regarding your misunderstanding of presuppositionalism.

Thanks for the comment.

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Chris,

Thank you for your response.

Chris: “I came across your writings some time ago and dismissed them rather quickly because you do not appear to have a very clear grasp of the presuppositional method of apologetics you often write against.”

That’s too bad, for both of us. If you really do think I have a poor grasp of presuppositionalism, why not show me where I’ve misunderstood it? However, I don’t think I have misunderstood it. It's really not that difficult to understand (do you think it is?). Also I’ve devoured many of the writings of Van Til, Bahnsen and Frame, for instance (they’re primary sources in this school of apologetics, are they not?) and have interacted with much of their material in my own writings. Could it be that “he doesn’t really understand presuppositionalism” is just a defensive statement without any real merit? (After all, you’ve not shown where I have misunderstood presuppositionalism; more on that below.)

As evidence that I “still do not have a very clear understanding of what presuppositionalists are actually saying,” you quoted my following statement:

”Objectivism does not belong in either camp, because Objectivism is not characterized either by ‘Ultimate commitment... to Christ of Scripture’ or by ‘Ultimate commitment... to human independence from God’ as a fundamental premise defining it.”

You then wrote: “It is by virtue of Objectivism not being characterized by an ultimate commitment to Christ of Scripture that it finds itself in the circle on the right.”

I think what has happened here, Chris, is that you have not fully taken note of *my* point in my comment to you. I did my best to make this clear in the initial sentence of my comment, where I stated (with emphasis): “If you want to use two circles to represent antithetical worldviews at the fundamental level, you would have to completely revise the contents of the circles you have illustrated on your blog.” A so-called “commitment” (whether “ultimate” or “fundamental” or “primary”) for or against your god is simply not a concern whatsoever to Objectivism. In an apparent attempt to wring this out, you asked “Are you for Christ or against Him?” If we’re talking “ultimate commitments” (the defining criterion according to the divisions you have represented in the illustration you asked your readers to comment on), the answer is *neither*; this is a false dichotomy and the question is fallacious complex (since it requires one to accept an illicit premise). Your “Christ” is neither here nor there. An Objectivist’s position on Christ is simply not *fundamental* (the criterion on which my suggested improvement hinges). I’m not sure how else to make this more clear, but it seems I need to re-emphasize it in the present discussion so that it is not lost on you.

Chris: “This is one of the most basic principles of our apologetic method derived from Scripture.”

I realize that, Chris. Again, my point is that this “most basic principle” of your apologetic method is simply not fundamental. There is nothing more fundamental than the issue of metaphysical primacy, a defining factor which is inescapable at every level of human cognition (since cognition always involves a subject and some object(s)). Your apologetic method is based on an arbitrary division, probably motivated by resentment (as I pointed out in my prior message), or envy, and dubbed “ultimate commitment” when in fact it is not an “ultimate commitment” of other worldviews. Similarly, Objectivism and the other worldviews which you list in the circle labeled “~P” are not characterized by an “ultimate commitment to human independence from Allah” or an “ultimate commitment to human independence from Geusha.” To insist that any of them are characterized by such an “ultimate commitment” is to insist on a straw man.

Chris: “If you do not get this then I do not expect you to understand much else regarding presuppositionalism.”

I get it, Chris, believe me I get it. I simply don’t *buy* it, and for good reasons, as I’ve attempted to communicate here. I’m sure you’d agree that there is a significant difference between *understanding* a position and *accepting* it. I’m simply questioning the premise on which your division depends. Simply re-affirming that it is “one of the most basic principles of our apologetic method derived from Scripture” is not a defense of that premise; it simply tells me something I already know: why you use it. It certainly does not explain why this criterion has anything approaching the fundamentality of the issue of metaphysical primacy.

Chris: “Secondly an ultimate commitment to human independence from God is logically entailed by any position, Objectivism in this case, which is not characterized by an ultimate commitment to Christ.”

This is something I think you would need to show. I’m saying that Objectivism is *not* characterized by an “ultimate commitment to human independence from Christ” any more than it is characterized by an “ultimate commitment to human independence from Horus.” On the contrary, Objectivism is characterized by the ultimate commitment to the primacy of existence. False philosophies, such as Christianity, are rejected as a *consequence* of this ultimate commitment. Again, to insist otherwise is to endorse a straw man.

Chris: “I understand that you may reject this, but said rejection only serves to further our case.”

I’m sure one could spin it that way if he is so determined. But just keep in mind, Chris, that *rejecting* a position and failing to *understand* it are two different things. Above you seem to have charged me with failing to understand presuppositionalism. I don’t think I do. I reject it (for reasons that I have documented on my blog and website), but that’s not the same thing.

Chris: “Are you for Christ or against Him? Anyone reading your words will have little difficulty determining the answer to that question.”

I don’t think your question is properly posed in terms of the context of our present discussion. The question, given the parameters of the topic at hand – as defined by the criterion by which your illustration seeks to categorize worldviews, would more likely be: “are you ultimately committed to Christ or ultimately committed to independence from Christ.” My answer to this question would of course be *neither*, since my ultimate commitments lie elsewhere and have nothing to do with Christ, Horus, Geusha, Allah, Zeus, Thor, etc. Again, my point was to draw your concern to what is *fundamental*. Your illustration misses this. And in a major way.

Chris: “Unfortunately this leaves you adhering to indefensible tenets such as ‘the cardinal virtue of independence’.”

Oh, they’re defensible alright. To quote from the source I had cited in my previous message regarding the virtue of independence:

”Independence is the recognition of the fact that yours is the responsibility of judgment and nothing can help you escape it—that no substitute can do your thinking, as no pinch-hitter can live your life—that the vilest form of self-abasement and self-destruction is the subordination of your mind to the mind of another, the acceptance of an authority over your brain, the acceptance of his assertions as facts, his say-so as truth, his edicts as middle-man between your consciousness and your existence.”

Now, if you think it is proper to try to escape the responsibility of judgment and that it is possible to have a substitute do all your thinking, that someone else can live your life for you, how would that work? How would you go about validating such a position? When you drive your car, go to the grocery store, tally your bank book, discuss things with your friends and family members, etc., who’s there, Chris? Who’s at the controls in your mind? You, or something you imagine in place of yourself? The virtue of independence is hard for a lot of people because of the uncompromising honesty it requires. I know that a lot of people want to evade it, but I’ve never really understood why someone would *want* to. I suppose it has a lot to do with fear, which is the ultimate starting point for a mystical worldview (cf. Prov. 1:7).

Chris: “You said much more which I would love to get to sometime in the near future.”

I would welcome the dialogue, Chris! I’ve watched a few of your videos and I can tell you’re a nice man. You appear to have a naturally affable nature, and I can tell you try your best to be a careful thinker. I would love to help if I can.

Chris: “Perhaps your offer to help me learn more about Objectivism is a kind gesture should it turn out that I do not know much about it rather than an assumption of my ignorance in the area of philosophy.”

You’re welcome to consult me any time!

Chris: “If it is an assumption then it is one based upon no evidence that I can see.”

A good understanding of the issue of metaphysical primacy might be all it needs to open your eyes, Chris. As a former Christian myself, it did incalculable wonders for me.

Regards,
Dawson

C.L. Bolt said...

Most of this I have moved into the new posts, but I would like to comment on the paragraph following the quote about the virtue of independence. Nowhere have I attempted to “escape the responsibility of judgment”. Indeed, God holds us both accountable and liable for the judgments we as His creatures do make with our God-given faculties. Additionally, there is nothing in Scripture nor my words to imply that I believe it possible for some substitute to do all my thinking. God has given me a mind whereby I am able to think. It is when my thoughts are carried out as though they are these types of things the Objectivist rather dogmatically asserts they are that they become futile. I am to love the Lord my God with my entire mind, not expect God to delight in intellectual laziness. I must likewise live my own life; someone else cannot do it for me. Again these types of things you write are an indication that you have either not read or not understood what it is that presuppositionalists are saying. You write,

“When you drive your car, go to the grocery store, tally your bank book, discuss things with your friends and family members, etc., who’s there, Chris? Who’s at the controls in your mind? You, or something you imagine in place of yourself?”

The answer which is obvious to all, and not denied by Christianity or the presuppositional apologist, is that I am there. You appear to blur the distinction between proximate and ultimate when it comes to thinking. Presupposing what we do does not mean that we have a total disregard for our own faculties, it only means that we do not accept them as a final authority as you attempt to do. I say “attempt”, because if you really followed through on your concept of independence you would be unable to do the things you just listed. I hope to show this soon.

Christianity is not a “mystical” worldview and it does not start with “fear” as you anachronistically define the word by implication in the last words of the paragraph in question.