Ontological and Epistemological blunders: TAG

todangst's picture

The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God (TAG) asserts that whenever the non-believer employs the use of morality, logic, and science we do so from the presupposition that God exists, otherwise, how can we suppose that these sets of 'laws' would operate consistently? Without god as a foundation, they argue, everything falls into 'relativism' – where there are no absolute truths or valid foundations to justify any claims of knowledge. Christians themselves maintain that their own knowledge claims are validated through revelation that is received by them from God. In the absence of such revelation it is believed that the only alternative is chaos and a necessary ignorance of every issue.

Here is a review of how others have defined it:

Michael Martin writes:

Some Christian philosophers have made the incredible argument that logic, science and morality presuppose the truth of the Christian world view because logic, science and morality depend on the truth of this world view [1]. Advocates call this argument the Transcendental Argument for Existence of God and I will call it TAG for short.

http://www.reformed.org/apologetics/martin_TAG.html

The transcendental argument (TAG) is an argument for the existence of God that attempts to show that logic, science, ethics, and other often-thought-to-be good things in philosophy presuppose God's existence. That is, you can't make sense of them unless you stipulate that God exists. The argument is used by presuppositional apologists. Transcendental reasoning is inference about the prerequisite conditions for the possibility of knowledge. All major philosophies have transcendental theories.

http://www.fact-index.com/t/tr/transcendental_argument_for_the_existence_of_god.html

The transcendental argument (TAG) is an argument for the existence of God that attempts to show that logic, science, ethics, and other often-thought-to-be good things in philosophy presuppose God's existence. That is, you can't make sense of them unless you stipulate that God exists. The argument is used by presuppositional apologists. Transcendental reasoning is inference about the prerequisite conditions for the possibility of knowledge. All major philosophies have transcendental theories.

The TAG aims to prove God's existence from the impossibility of the contrary. Theists and nontheists alike rely on logic, science and ethics. The Christian God, being all logical, all uniform, and all good, exhibits his character in the created order. It is the Christian's contention that no other worldview can account for these things. Therefore, Christianity is true by being the sole contender left standing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcendental_argument_for_the_existence_of_God

The proof of God's existence lies in the fact that God's existence is the necessary presupposition for all human knowledge. Man, as a limited being, must START their knowledge with God and His revelation in order to know anything at all and interpret the universe at all. God, as the measure of all things, is where our reasoning MUST start.

http://www.christianguitar.org/forums/archive/index.php/t-12980.html

The problems with TAG involve errors in ontology and epistemology so basic and so numerous that my attempt to write a refutation is stymied by the puzzle of which refutation to choose to use first. Let's begin here:

TAG is a Naked Assertion

TAG is an assertion based on a presumed dilemma. It does not define its terms nor does it give us an explanation of just how TAG accomplishes the goal of eradicating the dilemma. It simply assert that belief in god is required for the world to make sense. How so? What does this belief accomplish? How does it work? No answer comes from the TAGer.

"Archer says, "Without a good and holy God in heaven above, however, there is no solution to be found in freethinking or any other kind of thinking." Again no proof or justification is provided. Just another assertion that is supposed to be sufficient unto itself. Too bad I didn't think of that approach! Instead of devoting so much time and effort to reading and research, I could have just forgotten about all my studies, thrown away my notes, discarded my citations, and told it like it is. That certainly would have been easier.'' - Dennis McKinsey from Bible Errancy (http://mywebpages.comcast.net/errancy/issues/iss160.htm)

Mavaddat, from this site, writes:

(T)o explain the human invention of logical systems as somehow the indirect work of God is to explain precisely nothing at all. It is as good of an explanation as saying "it just happened." Invoking God to explain anything is the very abdication of reason and insight. It is giving up the investigation and search for truth and filling it with some supernatural nonsense (literally). Instead, I think that people like Paul Feyerabend, Karl Popper, and Thomas Kuhn give us a good idea about how science and human knowledge progresses.

TAG is a Naked Assertion that relies on Incoherent Terms

TAG claims that one must presuppose 'god' in order to come to certain conclusions, but this claim is proven nonsensical when one considers that TAG is incoherent: it relies on incoherent terms. Terms such as "immaterial' and "transcendent' and "god' are purely negative terms without any ontological status.

http://www.rationalresponders.com/god_is_an_incoherent_term

TAG is a Naked Assertion that Relies on Incoherent terms, and violates the Concepts of Contingency and Necessity.

TAG offers up a confusion: While 'god' cannot be defined in positive terms, secondary traits assigned to 'god' such as 'omnipotent' and 'omniscient' can be examined independently. And it follows from the definitions of these secondary traits that anything created and sustained by an 'omnipotent creator' would exist contingently, as omnipotence obviates necessity by definition. Yet tautologies are necessarily true. How can a tautology be contingently true and necessarily true, at the same time?

TAG is a Naked Assertion that Relies on Incoherent terms, and violates the Concepts of Contingency and Necessity as well as Basic Ontology

Let's first consider the problem of a 'supernatural being' being as the fountain of natural laws.  We've already discussed the ontological dilemma with making a reference to anything beyond nature - anything defined solely in negative terms. Next, we know that nothing natural can point back to its own antithesis, the supernatural, as nothing with ontological status can point towards something without any ontological status. In addition, we would expect that any universe created by, contingent upon, and sustained by a 'supernatural' 'force' would be magical, not lawful. Otherwise, if this 'god' 'worked' lawfully, causally, this 'god', this 'god' would then enter the causal chain, and be a natural entity. And this would undermine the entire supposed point of requiring this 'necessary' being as the solution to the Kalam-esque problem of creation. Any 'god' that is part of the causal chain could not create ex nihilo.

So to return to the original point, any universe created by a supernatural 'being' would be a universe created by fiat, where every parameter of existence would exist by fiat alone... it wouldn't follow predictable, basic physical laws. It would be a world of magic. Does this represent our universe?

No.

On the other hand, if logic, reason, and order are universals that 'god' has to 'follow' if god were limited in some way, we leave theism altogether and enter pantheism. We'd have Spinoza and Einstein's god. The god of Christian theology would be out of a job.

Clever readers will recognize this answer to the transcendental argument as a permutation on Socrates' Euthyphro dilemma, indicating that the solution to this problem predated Christianity itself.

The most common theist response:

Theists will seek to avoid this dilemma by arguing that a third option exists: "Logic, etc. is/are part of god's 'character'. However this attempt to avoid both horns of the dilemma commits two blunders that, and ultimately forces the honest theist to return to one of the two horns of the dilemma.

Blunder number 1:

Ontological: This claim leads to a stolen concept fallacy. Here's how: 'Supernatural', 'is' defined as beyond nature - i.e. 'not nature', a purely negative definition without any remaining universe of discourse, ergo the term "supernatural" is a broken concept. As a broken concept it cannot refer to anything by definition. So to say that something beyond nature, has a nature, is to steal the concept of naturalism.

Attempted Rebuttal: Some balk at this as a play on words, by claiming that 'nature' and 'having a nature' are two different concepts altogether. This commits two more ontological errors. 1) This merely begs the question that we can speak of nature, devoid of nature! 2) Basic ontology tells us that to exist is to exist as something, to have identity, to have positive attributes. It is these positive attributes that give something a character. To define something as beyond nature is to rule out the ability to apply any positive attributes. Another way to understand this error is to recognize that any positive attribute is a limit. To have identity is to have limits. To define something as unlimited is to hold that it can't have limits. Ergo, it is beyond character/nature/identity.

Review:

Basic ontology, built off the basic axioms of reason, tell us that to exist is to exist as
something, to have identity, to have attributes. Existence and identity speak to limits. To be something is to not be what it is not. A=A. A does not equal NOT A.

To define something as supernatural is to say it is beyond limits, hence, beyond identity, hence beyond character, hence without a nature.

**********************

Blunder number 2:

It is a bizarre notion that 'logic' could be a part of any thing's 'character'. This is a category error of the first order! Logic applies to arguments, the referents to entities, not the entities themselves! By "logic" the TAGer can only mean that this 'god' has an ontology, a set of positive attributes, i.e. the TAGer can only be referring to metaphysics: ontology, and not "logic".

But we know from above that this 'god' has no ontological status.

Leaving this aside, let's assume for the sake of argument that this 'god' somehow has a 'character' and that this character is 'logical'. This leads us to the TAGer's next blunder:

Blunder number 3:

we must ask: can this 'god' change 'it's character?

If 'he' can, then we return to the first horn of the dilemma.

If 'he' cannot, we return to the second.

The attempt to seek sanctuary by placing 'logic' within 'god's character' fails on multiple fronts.

QED

TAG is a Naked Assertion that Relies on Incoherent terms, and violates the Concepts of Contingency and Necessity as well as Basic Ontology, including the concepts of Axioms

Whether or not the theist uses the term 'axiom', or other terms like 'reference point' (How can nature refer to it's own antithesis, the supernatural?!) is irrelevant. TAG boils down to a claim for 'god' representing an axiom, i.e. a necessary foundational part of any claim. (The fact that TAGers don't grasp what an axiom is is apparent in the flaws of TAG itself.)

1) Why God can't serve as an axiom*, and the Necessity of Epistemological Autonomy

A) The Presuppositionalists' "Presuppositions"

Leaving aside, for a moment the ontological problems of any reference to the supernatural, the second major fatal flaw of the presuppositionalist position is that there are axioms more 'properly basic' than his 'god' claim. In fact, the advocate of TAG must presuppose and employ the basic metaphysical axioms of existence, identity and consciousness before he 'presuppose' his 'god'.These axioms are properly basic to reason, they are epistemological in nature; they allow us to identify and know the world. Hence it is the TAGer who is stealing the concept within his own argument! He must rely upon naturalistic epistemology.

Can a presuppositionlist simply deny this claim?

If the presuppositionalist were to declare that God is more basic than the axioms of existence, identity, and consciousness he would argue himself into incoherence. He would turn 'nothing' into an axiom. Literally.

Finally, TAG advocates have asserted (not argued) that while logical law may certainly be axiomatic, the non-believer is unable to account for why these axiomatic laws exist. Here the theist appears to wander off into cosmology. These axioms exist because, again, because any entity has positive attributes, and any sentient entity is able to work out, a priori, from basic ontology, the basic axioms of existence: to exist is to exist as something, to have identity, and to be aware of this is to be conscious.

TAG is a Naked Assertion that Relies on Incoherent terms, violates the Concepts of Contingency and Necessity as well as Basic Ontology, including the concepts of Axioms and actually commits the same error that it supposedly exists to solve

I discuss this error in full here:

http://www.rationalresponders.com/an_easy_argument_to_refute_van_tillian_calvinist_presuppositionalism

Briefly:

The Christian "solution" for the insufficiency of the assumption of the Uniformity of nature is "God told me (via the biblical revelation) that he promises to uphold the general uniformity and intelligibility of nature."

In doing this the Christian believes he has at once justified induction (because our inferences will be made against a universe that will act uniformly) AND avoided the essential problem of induction because their conclusion about the Uniformity Of Nature is not based upon induction; but upon revelation. They have a "third way" of knowledge, unacknowledged in our world view, which "solves" such epistemological problems.

But...even accepting this as true for the sake of argument.... they don't solve it! They've just slipped the problem back a step. The Christian has simply predicated the Uniformity Of Nature on the Uniformity Of (a) God (who will purportedly uphold the uniformity of nature). You ain't gonna have any uniformity of nature if the God upholding it isn't uniform Himself. So we can ask the same question to the Christian about the foundation for their belief in the uniformity of God: Leaving aside, for a moment, the insurmountable ontological problems with the 'god' term, on what non-question-begging grounds can you justify your expectation that God will keep his promise, or that God will be as he is tomorrow as he was yesterday?" You run into the same meta-problems that follow from using the uniformity of nature argument!*

On the same argument used by the presupper, the conclusion is inescapable: they can't do so. They ARE appealing to induction whether they refuse to acknowledge it or not.

Recap

TAGers cannot explain how TAG actually works. They merely assert a dilemma based on a misunderstanding of the problem of induction, without even offering a proof that the dilemma exists. TAGers reveal a poor grasp of the basics of logic, metaphysics. TAG advocates fail to recognize the slew of concealed presuppositions that the transcendental argument ultimately relies upon. It does so in that it presents god to be the foundation for logical process and yet must employ the exact opposite view of using the axioms of logic in order to confirm its position.

On the other hand, non-believers need only presuppose these axioms when employing the use of logical process and therefore God as a presupposition is unnecessary and ultimately irrelevant.

See:

The Transcendental Argument for the Nonexistence of God

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/martin-frame/tang.html

TAG and the Fallacy of the Stolen Concept:
An Overview of TAG and Internal Reasons Why It Must Fail
by Anton Thorn

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Sparta/1019/Morgue/TAG_Stolen_Concept.htm

* A metaphysical axiom is an atomic statement, not capable of being broken down into smaller components, that is defended through retortion.

Retortion: Defense through retortion occurs when one is forced to rely upon the concept one seeks to refute. To deny existence, you must concede the existence of the axiom in order to deny it! There is nothing to the term 'god does not exist' that leads to an internal contradiction.

Question: Don't naturalists have to start out with unsupported assumptions?

This is a question that relates to foundationalism: the claim that all systems of thought must begin by making basic assumptions that are in turn used to get any system of knowledge 'off the ground'. Some putative examples (I don't necessarily agree on any of these being unsupported) might be: assuming the reliability of the senses allows me to make inferences from sensory knowledge, the assumption of the utility of reason to accurately know the world allows me to rely on reason, the need to assume that others experience a first person ontology, allows me to enter into meaningful discourse with others, etc.

I want to first note that one's epistemological starting point need not be foundationalism. One may employ other models instead, such as coherentism, (which denies that there is a need for foundationalism as there is no infinite regress problem), contextualism and pragmatism, which 'sidesteps the issue' by looking at the value of any human practice. Of course, one could also combine elements of any system, particularly if one is a Hegelian!

Now, I'd like to talk about naturalistic assumptions.
There are two types in my estimation: axiomatic knowledge, and basic assumptions that are not defended through retortion.

Axioms of reason would include the axiom of existence, identity and sentience.

Unfortunately, these axioms don't tell us anything about the 'world' around us, other than that 'something' exists, that whatever exists, exists as one thing and not another, and that these deductive truths demonstrate that we, the gleaner of these axioms, must be aware, seeing as we are aware of these axioms. If all we wanted out of life was a very basic metaphysic grounded in bedrock certainty, we would be content. If we want more, we must move past these axioms, and risk error.

And this is where a naturalist foundationalist would move to basic assumptions: self evident 'first principles' - beliefs that any natural being seems forced to make in order to operate in the world.

(Note: not all naturalists are foundationalists, see how complex this discussion really is?)

Hearing this, some might hold that since we must start with assumptions, this somehow grants us a freedom to assume whatever we like. However, this is a ridiculous strawman of the situation. While there are no deductive proofs for naturalistic assumptions, this does not mean that they are accepted without any grounds at all! And this is the basic error in theistic claims for equity between their assumptions, and naturalistic assumptions.

Let's look at how wrong their claim is:

1) The claim that we must make assumptions in order to begin to know the world would only justifies what is required in order to begin knowing the world.

If, for example, there is in fact a need to assume the existence of other first person ontology other than my own, this assumption only allows me to assume whatever is needed to unpack first person ontology, nothing more.

2) The claim that we must make assumptions in order to begin to know the world would never justify holding to an assumption that fails to adequately account for reality.

This is where pragmatism enters into any foundationalist approach to justifying knowledge. Pragmatic philosopher Nicholas Rescher declares that we are within our epistemic rights to hold to a basic assumption only as long as there is a bilateral feedback loop between assumptions and knowledge. Any claim, such as the future will resemble the past - may be presupposed, as long as the claim is open to revision/falsification. Thus, any assumption we use not only undergirdles attempts to gain knowledge, but must be subject to testing in the very process of gaining knowledge.

The presupposition of 'god' is incapable of being tested, rendering the 'god presupposition' pragmatically meaningless.

3) The claim that we must make assumptions in order to begin to know the world would not justify making any assumption that violated what we know of the world through rational-empirical methods.

Consider Stephen Hawkings here, in his description of speculative cosmological theory:

"There are cosmological models that have as much evidence going for them as astrology. They differ from astrology, however, in that they do not violate what we already know of the universe." - Universe in a Nutshell.

4) The claim that we must make assumptions in order to begin to know the world would not justify any supernatural or 'transcendent' assumption. Why? Because these terms, "supernatural" and 'transcendent' are defined from the outset, in such a way that they preclude the possibility of holding to them as 'properly basic beliefs' because each definition is a negative definition, devoid of any universe of discourse.

To clarify further:

A negative definition requires a universe of discourse for it to be able to tell us 'anything'. For example, if I hold out a box with two objects, a penny and a pencil and rule out the penny as the object I want to point out to you, the universe of discourse (items in the box) provides you with information concerning what the object in question 'is" - the pencil.

However, a negative definition devoid of any universe of discourse is necessarily meaningless. There's 'nothing' left over for it to 'be', so the definition cannot provide any ontological status. So, to go right to the heart of the matter, to say that the 'supernatural' is the antithesis of nature is to render the concept meaningless.

Review:

So, to review: a naturalist only assumes what is needed in order to active a particular system of thought, she drops any any assumption that is falsified*, she does not assume what appears to contradict what we know of the world, and she never assumes what violates basic ontology itself.

So, in finally answer the question: are these beliefs unjustified, I can say this: Yes, these beliefs are basic and they are unjustified in the epistemological sense in that there is no set of proofs or inductive evidence for them. But the claim that these beliefs are 'unjustified' in the colloquial sense of the word: that there's NO reason to hold to them, they are taken on faith!", is rendered nonsensical.

 

* A clever reader might say: "aha, but falsification itself appears to be an assumption!" Even if this is so, think this point through: are you trying to argue that a naturalist ought to reject falsification if falsification is falsified? Smiling

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

Todangst:In your essay, you

Todangst:

In your essay, you write, “TAG advocates fail to recognize the slew of concealed presuppositions that the transcendental argument ultimately relies upon.” This is ironic, as
the entire foundation of your argument against the TAG relies on concealed presuppositions of your own.
 
If you’ve encountered theists who have argued the TAG badly, it’s understandable why you have a faulty grasp of it. The TAG is not a naked assertion without proof; it is,
rather, an indirect proof of God’s existence by demonstrating the impossibility of the contrary. Its form is: X exists as a precondition of Y. Y, therefore X. The proof lies in
demonstrating that any worldview that does not presuppose the existence of God is reduced to incoherence and is without rational justification for the very conditions on
which reality is made intelligible. 
 
You write: “TAG…relies on incoherent terms. Terms such as ‘immaterial’ and ‘transcendent’ and ‘god’ are purely negative terms without any ontological status.”
 
We come to the heart of your argument, which you elaborate over the next several pages and use as the basis for other arguments against the TAG. But here is the
problem: your argument presupposes a purely naturalist worldview in which man is the ultimate reference point. If one presupposes that all that exists is the natural (which
is indeed what you presuppose), then of course one cannot understand anything beyond the natural, and terms like “transcendent” make no sense. But that is precisely the
point: the theist does not presuppose that all that exists is the natural; he presupposes a worldview in which man is born with a soul created in the image of God, that
reflects God’s rationality and has an innate sense of the divine (supernatural). The theist knows there is nothing contradictory about the supernatural interacting with the
natural, and that, indeed, the supernatural has revealed itself to the natural realm (through, e.g., miracles, the Incarnation, etc.).
 
These are all perfectly justified IF the theist presupposes the existence of the supernatural. It is NOT justified if he presupposes a purely natural universe, which is what you
do and which you, for some reason, expect the theist to do. But why should the theist accept your presuppositions as true? Your very arguments depend on the truth of your
naturalist assumptions, yet you fail to prove why such assumptions should be true.
 
This is why I do not accept your definition that “anything beyond the natural…is defined solely in negative terms,” or that “to have identity is to have limits” or that the
supernatural is “antithetical” to the natural (in any case, the anti-natural is antithetical to the natural; the supernatural is above and beyond the natural). These definitions
work only if one presupposes the natural is all that exists, and that all is thus defined only by the natural. But this is precisely the point you are trying to prove.
 
One sees, then, that your argument is circular: you presuppose naturalism in order to prove naturalism. But the question-begging is not the problem. All worldviews are at
bottom circular; the theist himself presupposes the supernatural in order to prove it. The question, rather, is which worldview is rationally superior? Which worldview can
provide a rational justification for the preconditions on which reality and knowledge are made intelligible?
 
Take, e.g., the laws of logic. What is the nature of the laws of logic? Are they universal and invariant, or manmade convention? If they are manmade convention (as atheists
must say), they are by definition changeable from one society or epoch to the next, for that is precisely what it is to be convention. This results in absurdity, such as that “A
does not equal not-A” could at one time not be true. If they are not manmade convention, then what are they? How does a universe that is the result of blind, impersonal,
purely material, non-rational forces give rise to the rational? To abstractions? The atheist can ultimately provide no rational justification for the laws of logic. He can only
say that the laws of logic simply are, that they simply exist, and no more. But this is not a *rational* explanation. As the laws of logic are a precondition on which reality is
made intelligible (they are a necessary part of our conceptual scheme without which nothing makes sense), then the atheist must admit that his worldview is at bottom
irrational. To repeat, if one admits that one cannot rationally explain the very preconditions on which reality is made intelligible at all, then one implicitly concedes one’s
worldview is fundamentally irrational. If so, he has no authority to criticize other systems for being irrational. He doesn’t have a rational leg, as it were, to stand on.
 
You claim it is bizarre that logic could be a part of anything’s character. This is not what the theist claims. He claims rather that logic reflects the thinking of God, whose very
nature is one of order and coherence. And to answer your question whether or not God can change His character, no, He cannot contradict that which is essential to His
nature. This is why, for instance, God cannot lie, for this would be a contradiction of His nature, which is Truth itself.
 
You later attempt to justify logical laws thus: “These axioms exist because…any entity has positive attributes, and any sentient entity is able to work out, a priori, from basic
ontology, the basic axioms of existence.”
 
With all due respect, this does not come anywhere near to justifying or explaining the existence of the laws of logic. It is a non-statement; it merely claims that an entity “is
able to work out” the basic axioms of existence without telling us anything more.
 
(You also refer to Michael Martin’s TANG; but his argument has been soundly refuted by Michael Butler, whose response you can find here:
 
http://www.reformed.org/master/index.html?mainframe=/apologetics/martin/pen896.html)
 
As to the problem of induction, I will give a detailed response to your other post on this subject.
 
 [fixed aiia]

Bump, awaiting caring Tod -

Bump, awaiting caring Tod - I'm not educated on this wordy subject, and this is just a bump rant, but I was taught to separate the simple g-o-d word from all traditional popular western religious based definitions and folklore. Supernatural makes zero sense to me. What the heck isn't natural, that has any evidence?

To admit I am lost in awe, and I can wildly imagine, doesn't lead me to arguing my imagination is a realistic understanding of the vast unknown, except to say, "I am the very nature of the cosmos experiencing itself." To say otherwise, would be for me to pretend. Therefore I humbly say, "I am god just as you, as all is god", as all is somehow connected naturally. Yes that's my "circular" opinion .... as I have no way of escaping the question, "what am I ?" What is to idolize, and how so, I ask the religious?  ~~~~

"We are afraid of the known and afraid of the unknown. That is our daily life and in that there is no hope, and therefore every form of philosophy, every form of theological concept, is merely an escape from the actual reality of what is. All outward forms of change brought about by wars, revolutions, reformations, laws and ideologies have failed completely to change the basic nature of man and therefore of society."  - Thomas Jefferson

Nietzsche mused, "The liar uses the valid designations, the words, to make the unreal seem real."

The clever greedy have always created false memes to pacify and enslave the gullible weak. ~ me

"In the end, religion is a personal expression of belief and used to justify actions." ~ rrs daedalus

We are the eyes of god, existence, the cosmos, looking at itself  ... as cool Carl Sagan mused ....

   Thanks, to all RRS posters. LOL 

todangst's picture

C wrote:Todangst:In your

C wrote:

Todangst:

In your essay, you write, “TAG advocates fail to recognize the slew of concealed presuppositions that the transcendental argument ultimately relies upon.” This is ironic, as the entire foundation of your argument against the TAG relies on concealed presuppositions of your own.

 

I've yet to meet a theist who doesn't give me this sort of childish tit for tat response. The reason why: because you all tend to project your problems onto others....

Quote:

If you’ve encountered theists who have argued the TAG badly, it’s understandable why you have a faulty grasp of it. The TAG is not a naked assertion without proof; it is, rather, an indirect proof of God’s existence by demonstrating the impossibility of the contrary. Its form is: X exists as a precondition of Y. Y, therefore X. The proof lies in demonstrating that any worldview that does not presuppose the existence of God is reduced to incoherence and is without rational justification for the very conditions on which reality is made intelligible. 
 
You write: “TAG…relies on incoherent terms. Terms such as ‘immaterial’ and ‘transcendent’ and ‘god’ are purely negative terms without any ontological status.”
 
We come to the heart of your argument, which you elaborate over the next several pages and use as the basis for other arguments against the TAG. But here is the
problem: your argument presupposes a purely naturalist worldview in which man is the ultimate reference point.


Sorry, but I make a point of specifically pointing out that this is not the case in my essay.

 

Please actually read the essay you think you are responding to.....    as I look through your post quickly, I can see each point was already dealt with, and refuted in my posts.

 

As for comments about Martin: please, you can't even come up with coherent terms for your claims, so you can't possibly have a rebuttal, let alone a refutation.

 

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

Books on atheism.

The first paragraph is a

The first paragraph is a generally accurate, though quite narrow, synopsis of TAG.  However, the sentence "Christians themselves maintain that their own knowledge claims are validated through revelation that is received by them from God." is not quite accurate.  It is true that there are certain things that we hold true based on the revelation of scripture, but that has nothing to do with the issue of logic.  We did not discover logic when God revealed it to us.

The other definitions of TAG are pretty accurate but are missing crucial details about the inferences being made.  Some of the articles do cling to the idea that God reveals logic to us, so I cannot totally blame the author for including it in his original synopsis. 

The next section says that "TAG is a Naked Assertion", i.e. that it does not define its terms or give adequate explanation on the inferences being made.  This may be true with certain versions of TAG, but the TAG argument-- if presented properly-- does define its terms.  A good proponent of TAG *does* offer justification and show that a theistic worldview can account for logic and its bases. 

The next section says that "TAG is a Naked Assertion that relies on Incoherent Terms", i.e. the terms "immaterial", "transcendent", and "god" are not clearly defined.  Once again, it depends on who is presenting the argument. 

The next section says that "TAG violates the concepts of contingency and necessity".  This part states that God cannot be defined in positive terms and yet God's qualities can be examined independently of him and therefore anything created by God exists contingently.  I'm not sure what that has to do with TAG.  Moreover, it is an invalid inference.  Just because we can examine God's qualities independently of God, it follows that anything created by God exists contingently? The ontological status of God's qualities are dealt with in the doctrine of Divine Simplicity.  Even if it is true that what God creates has a contingent existence, so what?  Once again, I'm not sure what this has to do with TAG.

The next section says that "TAG violates the concept of basic ontology".  This section appears to say that if God is consistent, then he has to be part of the natural order of events.  This does not really make any sense and it really has nothing to do with TAG.  It is also stated in this section that if a universe is sustained by God, then it would be magical and not lawful.  Even if that's true, so what?  I would assume that the basic premise is that it makes no sense to say that God is consistent and logical because that is something that we understand within the context of the physical universe.  That is not a valid inference and a digression.  I could also talk about the philosophical problems inherent in the idea of the uniformity of nature, but once again, it has very little to do with TAG.  I really do not see how this demonstrates that TAG violates "basic ontology", whatever that means.

The next section addresses common theist rebuttals.  The first rebuttal is the theist response to questions regarding the relationship between God and the logical absolutes. This isn't even addressing the TAG argument.  It is simply trying to show that the theist has no better account for logical absolutes than does the atheist.  But that is absurd since theism and atheism are the only two options: God either exists or he does not.  One of the worldviews *has* to account for logical absolutes because we know that they exist.  Moving on, the theist may state that logic is simply part of God's character, which is generally accurate but once again, it is not a detailed enough representation of the idea of divine simplicity.

The "Blunder", according to the author, is that any notion of a thing having a character or nature is stolen from a naturalistic worldview.  The exact sentence is "So to say that something beyond nature, has a nature, is to steal the concept of naturalism".  This sentence is a fallacy of equivocation.  It first uses the term "nature" to refer to the physical universe.  Then it somehow connects that term with the word "nature" referring to something's category of existence.  Then it connects the term "nature" qua category of existence with "naturalism", which refers to a particular worldview, even though the terms really have no connection.  "Nature" as a category of existence is not something that is based on any natural scientific inquiry.  "Nature" in this sense is concomitant with logic and the thought process associated with it.  This isn't just restricted to the physical universe.  These are concepts that have application in all possible universes, which is why we say that logical absolutes are transcendent.

The author then says that to define something beyond nature means that we can attribute any positive qualities to it. Okay.  What does that have to do with TAG?  I would presume that the author wants to say that we cannot attribute rationality to God because it is a positive quality.  Once again, the author is somehow connecting rationality to the natural universe, which is actually begging the question because the theist is arguing from the outset that rationality is transcendent.

The author concludes that if God is supernatural, then we cannot say that the logical absolutes apply to him because it would limit him, who is supposedly unlimited by his definition.  This is a total misrepresentation of the Abrahamic worldview, which does not hold that God is unlimited.  Moreover, it appears to beg the question in presupposing that logic and logical absolutes are ontologically dependent on the physical universe.
 
The next "blunder", according to the author, is that logic cannot be part of God's character because logic is not part of that category.  First of all, the author fails to make the crucial distinction between "logic" and "logical absolutes", which are the underlying principles.  "Logic" is the process through which the principles are employed.  It is a process.  What would be more properly attributed to the character of God would be rationality, which is an attribute (and for the sake of brevity, I'm not going to digress in a discussion of the distinction between God and his attributes).  And that is the next "blunder" that the author addresses:

If God is rational, then can God not be rational?  This is simply a variant of the paradox of omnipotence.  Seriously, all of this has very little to do with TAG.  The author is simply addressing one fascet of the argument and going off on a tangent to potential problems that a theist might face if he addresses certain rebuttals in a certain way.  This article is supposed to be about TAG and we have digressed into the paradox of omnipotence, or at least a variant of this.

In the next section, the author states that "TAG violates the concepts of Axioms".  The author defines "axiom" as "a necessary foundational part of any claim", whereas the dictionary (see Dictionary.com) primarily defines it as "a self-evident truth that requires no proof" or "a universally accepted principle or rule".  The author therefore offers a false definition of the term and asserts that God can be an axiom insofar that he is foundational to the existence of logic and logical absolutes. 

The author, building off his false definition of "axiom", goes into why God cannot be the foundation of logical principles.  The author states that there are more basic foundations than God and that the proponent of TAG must presuppose these very principles before God can be presupposed.  The TAGer is therefore using logic in order to prove that God is the foundation for logic.  But how does this prove that God cannot be the ultimate foundation?  I'm not quite clear on that.  Just because we use logic in order to discover its foundations are does not mean that these foundations are somehow posterior to logic itself.

The author then states that if the presuppositionalist says that God is even more primordial than just being the foundation of logic, then he is arguing himself into incoherence.  I would be inclined to agree but I have never seen any theist make that argument.

The next section states that TAG proponents will say that atheists cannot account for why they exist.  Of course we say that.  That is one of the basic theses of TAG.  The author then accounts for the logical principles by stating that the principles exist because all entities have positive attributes and has a priori knowlege of the principles. TAG proponents agree that these principles are inherent.  But just saying that they just are is not providing any account for them. Imagine if I said that "I just exist.  I don't need to account for my existence."  That is silly.  My existence is not self-sufficient to explain itself.  Likewise, one of the most crucial parts of the TAG argument, which has conveniently been ignored by the author up until this point, is that the logical absolutes are conceptual by nature.  We do not find them under trees or rocks.  They are not spiritual minds.  They are concepts.  We *think* them.  Therefore, they cannot exist without a mind.  You are then face a dilemma:  If they only exist in human minds, then how can we make truth statements about the world prior to the existence of humans?  Furthermore, human minds are different.  What if what I believe is logical is not what someone else believes to be logical?  Clearly, human minds cannot account for the universality and a priority of these principles.  Eventually, I would guess that the author would fall back on the principles as being descriptions of the behavior of the universe, which would contradict his original assertion that they are axiomatic (which, oddly enough, he went from using his own definition of "axiom" in reference to God to using it as the dictionary defines it in relation to the principles).

The author then makes another claim but refers us to another article that he wrote.  I'll read it some other time.  He then offers up the article in a synopsis.  The author states that Christians believe that the uniformity of nature was revealed to them by God.  What does this have to do with TAG?  TAG is about logic and the logical absolutes.  It is not about the uniformity of nature.  The uniformity of nature is only an issue when one assumes that logical principles are a posteriori and inductive.  They are not.  Furthermore, even if it were the case that God revealed that nature would be uniform, the bible does not go into scientific laws specifically.  So we still would not be able to figure out which patterns in nature are universal and necessary.  But once again, we have digressed from TAG into something different.

The author then wraps everything up and says that TAGers cannot actually explain how TAG works.  Well, that depends on who presents the argument.  The author says we assert a dilemma based on the problem of induction, without even offering proof that the dilemma does exist.  That is false.  The dilemma clearly exists for atheists:  Rationality exists in the world. Rationality requires a standard to which it can be judged.  What are the grounds for that standard?  Is it the physical universe?  Is it human beings?  It is chemistry of the brain?  Each answer is riddled with philosophical that need to be addressed because rationality is practically the foundation to everything.  The author has simply avoided the problem by pretending that it does not exist.  But things do not go away simply because you close your eyes and stick your fingers in your ears.  The author states that TAGers reveal a poor grasp of logic and metaphysics.  Once again, true with some proponents, not true with others.  The author then goes back to the idea that because we use logic to determine its grounding that logic itself cannot be based on that ground.  This is not a valid inference and does nothing to address the actual issue of logic and the underlying principles.  Once again, the author is merely trying to avoid the dilemma by pretending that it is not there.
 

Sleepy wrote:The first

Sleepy wrote:

The first paragraph is a generally accurate, though quite narrow, synopsis of TAG.  However, the sentence "Christians themselves maintain that their own knowledge claims are validated through revelation that is received by them from God." is not quite accurate.  It is true that there are certain things that we hold true based on the revelation of scripture, but that has nothing to do with the issue of logic.  We did not discover logic when God revealed it to us.

The other definitions of TAG are pretty accurate but are missing crucial details about the inferences being made.  Some of the articles do cling to the idea that God reveals logic to us, so I cannot totally blame the author for including it in his original synopsis. 

The next section says that "TAG is a Naked Assertion", i.e. that it does not define its terms or give adequate explanation on the inferences being made.  This may be true with certain versions of TAG, but the TAG argument-- if presented properly-- does define its terms.  A good proponent of TAG *does* offer justification and show that a theistic worldview can account for logic and its bases. 

The next section says that "TAG is a Naked Assertion that relies on Incoherent Terms", i.e. the terms "immaterial", "transcendent", and "god" are not clearly defined.  Once again, it depends on who is presenting the argument. 

Sleepy, this is not going to be a satisfying thread for you. It sounds more like a Monty Python skit. You sound like a lawyer trying to contest Jeffrey Dalmer's guilt (No offense intended). Everyone in the room knows its pointless but you have to go through the motions to see how far you'll get. As a believer I have to accept that God knowledge is revealed. Period. It is unfalsifiable. It is negative theology because noone actually knows what God is. For God to exist, he has to be a thing. But a thing cannot exist eternally or have infinite attributes. So we talk about God as though he is a thing but he is not a thing. So he IS in between what we call existence and nonexistence?!?! None of us actually knows what God is. We just have attributes we have memorized. But they don't make sense. And thats ok. Todangst is trying to explain to you that is doesnt make sense, no matter how you slice it. There is no way, at least yet in the history of mankind, to make it make sense. You would be the first to do this. Do you understand why this is going to be a challenge? If you use words like spiritual, infinite, omni-whatever, etc. even I dont know what you mean exactly. We all have stuffed different ideas into those words because the ideas are unfixed. Because there is no uncircular reference for them.

racorfield's picture

Proof using TAG epistemology

1) Christianity = (God guarantees the laws/rules of logic, the uniformity of nature, and the laws of science and a bunch of other stuff is true) (definition)

2) Christianity is true.  (fundamental axiom)

3) God guarantees the laws/rules of logic, the uniformity of nature, and the laws of science and a bunch of other stuff is true.  (from 1, 2 using substitution law of identity.  Wait a minute I can't use the substitution law of identity until I have actually derived: the laws/rules of logic are true.  Bugger. No point in continuing. 

Nobody has objective access

Nobody has objective access to the world and will interpret everything we think and observe through our conceptual framework and senses. Even the atheist must ground her epistemology in her presuppositions regardless if she is a coherentist or some sort of externalist. All humans will ultimately interpret the world through their worldview and conceptual framework. Atheist and Theist alike. To deny foundationalism does not relieve anyone of this issue of begging the question. Even Christians when they employ the TAG beg the question as they begin with God. But the atheist does the same when she begins her reasoning with "There is no God".

I may also add that there is not yet one system of epistemology that does not beg the question nor will there ever be such a system since we cannot observe any brute facts and must ground our coherence, observations, or foundation in our presuppositions and worldviews.

Brian37's picture

Quote:Nobody has objective

Quote:
Nobody has objective access to the world and will interpret everything we think and observe through our conceptual framework and senses. Even the atheist must ground her epistemology in her presuppositions regardless if she is a coherentist or some sort of externalist. All humans will ultimately interpret the world through their worldview and conceptual framework.

Humans do have flawed perceptions which makes scientific method the only valid tool to date that can filter out our personal bias. Whenever someone says "we don't know either", meaning atheists, they falsely think we are treating scientific method as a world view. It is tool, not human eyes. You are accusing the hammer of being the house at the same time. The hammer doesn't care how well you build the house or how crappy you build a house or who lives in the house. It is up to the user, to use the hammer with care so that whatever is built with it is solid.

No atheist here I consider credible would, or should suggest we become robots or not have emotions. But scientific method IS NOT A WORLD VIEW. It is a tool, that is used in labs and science classes in  schools  that teach ALL of humanity the FACTS of reality.

I don't get to chose those facts. DNA is a fact, not a political view or a world view or a religious view. It is simply a FACT that scientific method allowed scientists to uncover.

This is merely a veiled attempt to say "cant we all just get along" which is NOT our, or at least my issue, YES WE CAN AND WE SHOULD, but that does not mean FACTS are to be ignored simply because we sometimes don't like where they might lead. Otherwise the church was right in putting Galileo under house arrest simply because he told the FACT that the earth rotated around the sun.

We most certainly are entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts. Saying what you said above is why humanity has a hard time, more often than not, moving forward.

 

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
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