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Oct 28 2013

The thing about presuppositional apologetics…

I’ve said this about presuppositional apologetics before. But it’s sometimes hard to keep it in mind in the middle of actually talking to a practitioner, like Seth on yesterday’s show. So I’m writing it again just to remind myself.

The thing about presuppositional apologetics is that it’s not convincing to anyone who isn’t already looking for an excuse to continue believing in God. I’ve never in my life heard anyone say “I used to be an atheist, but then I realized that there is no basis for believing things based on logic and evidence, so I decided to believe in God.” That would be an embarrassing and transparent reason to explain a conversion moment. So presuppositionalism is absolutely about shoring up the morale of the troops, not changing anyone’s mind.

When I’m talking to a presup, there’s always a nagging feeling at the back of my mind that I’m doing it wrong in some way, and that the show comments are going to get flooded with criticisms about how we could have handled it better. Then I read the comments and they not only aren’t bothered, but deride the presuppositionalist as in way over his head. Sample from yesterday:

“Tonight’s show’s Theme did seem to be ‘lie to the faces of the hosts about what the hosts are saying’” –Jasper of Maine

“From the perspective of the show, if the whole point is ‘what do you believe and why’ and the person can’t or won’t get to a ‘why’ and refuses to even consider evidence, then (ahem) why are they calling?” –Aaroninmelbourne

“Part of the problem I see with many callers is that they don’t listen to what is actually being said to them.” –Ethan Myerson

“Tracie and Russell got to most of my points. Good job!” –EnlightenmentLiberal

Granted, these are all show fans, with a big bias towards agreeing with us. But we get critical emails all the time telling us when we screwed up, and I never, ever heard anyone refer back to a presup caller and say “Now that guy made a lot of sense.”

This is presuppositionalism boiled down to its essential components: You can’t prove logic using logic. Therefore you can’t justify that logic exists. Therefore if I say “God created logic,” you must either present an alternative “explanation” for logic, or just believe me and accept that God exists. That’s pretty much the whole ball of wax, the rest is window dressing.

But there’s a lot of window dressing involved, because showmanship is also a totally indispensable component of presup. Every presup I’ve ever met has filled his own conversation with a huge amount of smug self-congratulation. Seth had the line about how atheists are stabbing themselves and shooting themselves in the foot and so on. Stephen Feinstein, over the course of his five posts, kept telling everyone over and over again how he was “winning,” and what a crushing victory it was and how stupid I was being. But in the hundreds of comments that followed, either on our blog or his, I never saw one that said “This debate has swayed me to take Stephen’s side.”

I’ll be honest here… having a conversation where the other guy is trash talking and ridiculing you most of the time isn’t very much fun. Conversations with rude, angry people isn’t enjoyable, and rude comes with the territory. That’s why people who talk to presups often feel like they’ve said something wrong, even though presuppositionalism completely fails to make a positive case for God of any kind, any more than it makes the case for Pikachu or the Great Pumpkin or a time traveling Lynnea. Being verbally abused is all they’ve got, and that generally only works on the person you’re abusing, not on the listeners.

113 comments

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  1. 1
    Monocle Smile

    Seems like the self-aggrandizement of presuppositionalists is an attempt to Pavlov themselves into believing their own bullshit. It’s akin to a man repeating endlessly to himself that he’s navigating his car properly to his destination as he drives straight into the ocean.

  2. 2
    Counter Apologist

    One thing I’ve never quite gotten is why an atheist can’t appeal to logic being a property of material reality. That is “something material exists” and inherent in the nature of anything material is that it is what it is: ie. the Law of Identity.

    I think I saw you use something like this in your debate with Stephen, and I never saw a counterpoint to it.

    In the end the entire field of Presup seems to stem from the Münchhausen trilemma where rather than going with the traditional axiom solution, the Presup insists on the circular solution that somehow involves god being in the mix. At least that’s my experience anyway.

    1. 2.1
      trj

      Yeah, that’s pretty much the argument I like to trot out.

      Logic is not a set of laws imposed upon our universe. Rather, it’s an abstract representation of the mechanics of the universe. We derive the rules of logic from the inherent attributes of the universe.

      Any conceivable system, whether it exists in the real world or as purely academic thought experiment, will have a set of rules. Otherwise there can be no system. It follows that the system dictates the logic. Or even more simple: the system is the logic. They are the same thing.

      We live in a universe which has logic because it’s impossible to have it any other way.

    2. 2.2
      scourge99

      >>>One thing I’ve never quite gotten is why an atheist can’t appeal to logic being a property of material reality. That is “something material exists” and inherent in the nature of anything material is that it is what it is: ie. the Law of Identity.

      Because its an unsupported or unfalsifiable claim. If you are just asserting its true because it seems true or because it “makes sense” then you are in the same boat as theists by believing things that have no good reason/evidence.

      It may very well be that logic is a property of material reality. But you shouldn’t believe it until you have something more to go on. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing and admitting ignorance. Some people see that as a weakness, it really isn’t.

  3. 3
    arensb

    But there’s a lot of window dressing involved, because showmanship is also a totally indispensable component of presup.

    This seems to be a common trait of many varieties of apologetics, not just presuppositionalism. Whenever I read someone like Edward Feser, I’m struck by the erudition and striking style of his prose, and how little argument it actually contains. If I remember correctly, that was also Jerry Coyne’s experience when he tried reading up on theology: that theologians often write beautifully, but that the style masks an almost complete lack of substance.

    If I may quote Chris Hallquist:

    Robert M. Price has said on a couple of occasions that to explain apologetics is to refute it. In this case, to summarize [William Lane Craig's] non sequitur is to parody it.

  4. 4
    maudell

    The most disrespectful presup I’ve seen is Sye Ten Bruggengate (Hovind’s buddy), in a debate with Dave Silverman and other people (it’s on youtube). The topic was something like ‘is religion harmful’, actually not really related to the presupposionalist argument. Basically Sye just started with ‘do you know everything’, the atheist answers ‘no’, Sye replies “then you don’t know if you know anything”. Sort of the problem of solipsism, to which he believes he has a solution: the god of the bible (he doesn’t believe in other gods, but he won’t talk about it, since you don’t know anything, dummy!). For the rest of the debate, whenever an atheist tried to talk, Sye would cut him off and sneer: “why would I listen to you, you don’t know anything, you’re useless”. That guy is an incredible hack. His technique usually amounts to semantics, confounding “knowledge” and “truth”. I don’t believe these people actually want to have an exchange or a debate (I’m not referring to Seth or other callers here, but professional presup apologists like Sye).

    Oh right: Sye’s argument is also that we all secretly believe in the god of the bible, 100% of the population. It’s just that certain parts of the world have more people who want to sin.

    1. 4.1
      Monocle Smile

      Yeah, Bruggencate is the worst. I don’t know why he keeps getting a hold of a microphone.

      I call this the “99=0″ fallacy, and it’s typically employed by creationists. Basically, if you don’t know everything, then not only COULD you know nothing, but you DO know nothing. They know very well that rationalists will never assert absolute truth or knowledge because we’re honest, but they suffer from no such hindrance.

      1. Houndentenor

        Exactly. And if you can’t be 100% sure of everything you believe, they consider that a failure.

      2. Ethan Myerson

        I’ve never actually watched one of this guy’s debates. What’s his response when the other party points out that Sye himself also doesn’t know everything? I mean, it’s a trivial matter to demonstrate a piece of knowledge he doesn’t have (that is, something that is knowable but not known to him). Once that’s done, doesn’t he have to also classify himself in the “not knowing anything” category?

        1. robertbaty

          You asked:

          - “What’s his (Sye’s) response when the other party
          - points out that Sye himself also doesn’t know everything?”

          Sye claims you have to know everything or know someone that does in order to know anything.

          Sye claims to know someone who knows everything.

          1. Ethan Myerson

            Well, that makes “sense”. I’m sold. :)

          2. stevene

            Of course, since Sye doesn’t know anything, how would he even know that there is someone who knows everything?

          3. Monocle Smile

            ^And now you’ve identified why Bruggencate is forced into petty insults and little more. He doesn’t have an answer. There IS no answer. Presuppositional apologetics is an attempt to stroke one’s own ego while avoiding any and all questions.

          4. somnus

            This type of reasoning is so agonizingly transparent, I half suspect that people have such a hard time responding to it the first time they hear it because they’re flabbergasted by the breathtaking nerve it takes to assert it.

            I often see presups start out arguments by trying to get an atheist to admit that it’s possible that we’re wrong about everything right down to whether the universe exists. And they can get us to do that fairly easily, because admitting the possibility is the honest thing to do. Then they jump to arguing that if it’s possible that we’re wrong about that, then we don’t really *know* anything.

            But then they claim to *know* that God exists, and they hang all further knowledge claims on that basis.

            But here’s the key thing: they have no stronger basis for their claim to know God exists than we have for any of our knowledge claims. The *only* difference is that we’re willing to admit the possibility of being wrong, and they’re not. But refusal to acknowledge the possibility of an error does not mean that an error is impossible.

            It’s an inherently dishonest proposal. It boils down to “God exists because the people who don’t believe it are willing to admit they could be wrong, and the people who do are not.”

    2. 4.2
      gregbrahe

      I was a part of that conversation. The topic was supposed to be “Is Church Harmful” featuring Dave Silverman, then Eric Hovind asked to be on the show and Dave agreed. “Sure, could be fun,” he said. Then, the Friday before the show, Eric tells us he is bringing a film crew and Sye Ten Bruggencate, and Dr. Jones (host of that show on our network and founder of the network “The New Covenant Group”) gave it the green light as long as they provided us a full copy of all of their raw footage. Then the show became the train wreck you saw, and they never gave us the agreed upon footage, instead using it to create a DVD called “How To Answer The Fool”.

      My advice with Sye, just blacklist the guy. He is dishonest and predatory and actually knows nothing about philosophy, theology, or science. He is worse than a waste of time.

      1. robertbaty

        Greg,

        Glad to see you make an appearance here.

        It’s been a long time since we’ve been in a venue we could exchange messages.

        Anyway, when I saw your note I thought I would just respond to say “hi”.

        Come around one or more of my places (see below) sometimes and we can talk.

        Sincerely,
        Robert Baty
        https://www.facebook.com/pages/FFRF-v-US-IRC-107-Challenge/212102828961960
        https://www.facebook.com/BruggencatevBaty
        https://www.facebook.com/Atheism101CTE
        https://www.facebook.com/pages/Creationism-101-Critical-Thinking-Exercise/1423957481165720
        https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kent-and-Jo-Hovind-v-USA-IRS/339508739517135

  5. 5
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Presuppositionalism: the assertion that question begging is acceptable when using the God of the Gaps as the basis for epistemology.

    OR: Using logic to validate logic by introducing an illogic.

    OR: the denial that logic is axiomatic, with the insistence that God is.

    (I could keep going all day. Presuppositional apologetics is too transparently ludicrous for me to take seriously.)

    1. 5.1
      John Kruger

      I like to go with “Using an argument from ignorance to claim all logic must come from a god, then refusing all logic that could refute said god on that basis.”

      And as Russel points out, the “I win! I win! I win!” part seems to be a major component as well.

  6. 6
    heicart

    >and I never, ever heard anyone refer back to a presup caller and say “Now that guy made a lot of sense.”

    And you never will.

    >That’s why people who talk to presups often feel like they’ve said something wrong

    I clearly have not made the same habit you did awhile back of engaging them specifically. But I did not feel I said anything wrong. I felt that Seth changed the terms in mid-argument. He AGREED To agree that “true” is determined by comparison to reality. But the moment I asked him for his “reality” demo for god, he totally bailed on what we’d agreed upon earlier. When he asked how the Logical Laws could be demonstrated, I explained it. You can absolutely demonstrate them. Then, back to “so, can you demonstrate god?” And he just kept insisting the laws were not demonstrated–even AFTER agreeing that “open” had been demonstrated. That ipad mini demonstrates the logical laws in the very same way it demonstrates “open.” If he accepts I’ve demonstrated “open,” there’s simply no means of saying “It is what it is, and it’s not what it’s not,” is not demonstrated by the ipad mini in my hands. If I were trying to demonstrate and explain the logical laws, or the term “open,” to someone, that’s what I would use, and I don’t see how they wouldn’t grasp what I had demonstrated immediately. A child could observe what I was demonstrating and “get it.”

    So, demo your god. But no. OK, if you can’t demo it, then the term you agreed to earlier for “true”–that it must be shown to align with reality in order to be tested for a truth value–has failed. And we cannot assess your claim for a value, and we cannot reasonably call it “true.”

    1. 6.1
      Russell Glasser

      I don’t actually feel like your approach was philosophically sound. We don’t accept fundamental principles of logic such as “A is A” because we can observe them. We accept them because they are essentially part of the definition inherent in the way we reason.

      There is a fundamental difference between “proving” things in the realm of mathematics, and proving empirical reality of things that are contingent on observation. Mathematics, and pure logic, is essentially a way of organizing tautologies. It isn’t dependent on any observations we make in the real world; it’s just following the consequences of definitions. Scientific knowledge depends on using logic as a tool to reason, but logic isn’t contingent on observations of reality.

      1. chikoppi

        I found Steven Pinker’s works very illuminating on this subject. He very thoughtfully examines the relationship between language and cognitive function (for instance, the way we often apply spatial language to describe the relationship between non-material concepts: above, beyond, within, etc.). It would be interesting to re-read The Blank Slate or The Stuff of Thought with an eye toward identifying the linguistic cues that betray logical fallacies or false equivalencies. A more concise vocabulary might help cut through some of the typical semantic acrobatics applied by apologists.

        Also, if a deity determined the nature of logic by fiat, wouldn’t that imply that the statement “X cannot be X and also not be X” is entirely arbitrary? Can a world exist in which a thing is not the thing that it is? It seems that there is at least some objective logic to be found. Again, I think much of this rigmarole amounts to the careless or improper application of semantics.

      2. jacobfromlost

        “We don’t accept fundamental principles of logic such as “A is A” because we can observe them.”

        I think we start to get confused when we seem to conflate “logic” with “The Laws of Logic” or “The Logical Absolutes” or whatever we are calling them. The Laws of Logic are the basis of logic, but simply invoking “logic” is not the same thing (Matt pointed this out with Matt Slick). The Laws of Logic are also axiomatic without an empirical demonstration because you can’t HAVE empiricism at all if you don’t start with the assumption that things are what they are and are not what they are not. Thus, the very idea “DEMONSTRATION” already assumes the Laws of Logic without any demonstration at all.

        If something can be both what it is and what it isn’t, then there can be no logic, no truth, no falsehood, no existence, and no nonexistence (and no demonstration of anything).

        I think the reason the Laws of Logic are axiomatic is because they apply to themselves, are not contingent on anything else, and everything else must be contingent on THEM. Otherwise…well, to be honest, there is no otherwise. There is no category of things that both are and are not what they are. That’s it. That’s as simple as it gets, no empirical demonstration needed (as there could BE no demonstration of such a category, by definition).

        And as Einstein said, “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

        1. heicart

          But I would say that just because I can’t get around them does not mean I cannot demonstrate them. I can hold up the ipad mini and say “this ipad mini is not *not an ipad mini*.” We can go through all the things we identify as not being an ipad mini, and confirm the ipad mini is NOT those things. We can look at the attributes that make up an ipad mini and confirm the ipad mini IS those things. And in the end, it’s every bit as demonstrable as “open.” It doesn’t matter that “open” is / is not axiomatic. It’s still demonstrable using any item that will open as a demonstration. And the laws of logic can be demonstrated using any item that adheres to them (which, so far as I’m aware would be any item–existent or not).

          1. jacobfromlost

            “But I would say that just because I can’t get around them does not mean I cannot demonstrate them.”

            There are several problems with this.

            One, if you begin with the idea that “demonstrations” are a real thing, you’ve already started a priori accepting the Logical Absolutes…so demonstrating them is circular. It’s much like giving evidence that evidence is evidence–if you don’t start a priori with the idea that evidence is valid, what evidence could you supply to demonstrate that it IS?

            And two, a demonstration worthy of the word must be falsifiable. You can hold up an ipad mini and show that it adheres to all the attributes of such a thing, and is not anything outside of that. But that doesn’t demonstrate the Logical Absolutes–it demonstrates the ipad mini. In order to demonstrate the Logical Absolutes, you have to identify a category in which things can be what they are and also NOT be what they are, and distinguish that from a category where things are what they are and are not what they are not. Then you must demonstrate which of the categories in a given instant the Logical Absolutes fall under.

            That cannot be done, as there is no possible category of things that are both what they are and what they are not, and no way to demonstrate how THESE things over here “are what they are and are not what they are not”, and THESE things over there “are what they are not”.

            The demonstration you suggest of the Logical Absolutes is unfalsifiable, and thus not a useful demonstration.

          2. heicart

            I can’t seem to nest a reply to Jacob’s post, so replying to my own, as a respose to Jacob’s 10/30 post:

            >>“But I would say that just because I can’t get around them does not mean I cannot demonstrate them.”

            >There are several problems with this.
            >One, if you begin with the idea that “demonstrations” are a real thing, you’ve already started a priori accepting the Logical Absolutes…so demonstrating them is circular.

            I am talking about demonstrating them as observations, not through a logical proof, though. For example, my cats can see that “cat treats” are different than “fire.” So, even my cats can wrap their brains around “cat treats are cat treats…they are not *not cat treats*.” If a cat can understand this, and I can observe they are able to identify one thing from another—literally employing the law of identity in their small kitty brains—then I don’t see how it can be said my demonstration is a bust? It’s *observable*.

            > It’s much like giving evidence that evidence is evidence–if you don’t start a priori with the idea that evidence is valid, what evidence could you supply to demonstrate that it IS?

            If anyone can differentiate between any two things, then *that* is the law of identity at work. If the law of identity was not in effect, then nobody could tell one thing from another. As not only humans, but just about any other species is able to do this, it seems to be observable very broadly as integral to reality. The law of identity merely labels this. It does not prescribe, it describes.

            >And two, a demonstration worthy of the word must be falsifiable.

            See if you can get my cats to try and eat a flame or a brick. Then see if you can get them to eat a cat treat. Tah-Dah! They can tell that a cat treat is not a brick: Law of Identity demonstrated.

            > You can hold up an ipad mini and show that it adheres to all the attributes of such a thing, and is not anything outside of that.

            Yes.

            >But that doesn’t demonstrate the Logical Absolutes–it demonstrates the ipad mini.

            If anyone agrees that there are things that are not an ipad mini—and that the thing I’m holding up is not those things—they agree it is observable that the law of identity works. The only question is whether it works universally, and that’s irrelevant. They can’t demonstrate a god even in a LIMTED capacity. So, the laws of logic are more demonstrable than their gods.

            >In order to demonstrate the Logical Absolutes, you have to identify a category in which things can be what they are

            If the person I’m talking to can tell one thing from another, then that’s done.

            > and also NOT be what they are,

            I disagree here. The law of identity does not attempt to account for things being what they are not. In fact, such things would be OUTSIDE that law. Demonstrating a thing that is also what it is not would ONLY show the law is not universally applicable.

            > and distinguish that from a category where things are what they are and are not what they are not.

            Again, I don’t think that’s necessary. If I assert that material things have mass, I only need to show one material thing that has mass to make that correct. If there are no material things that do not have mass, that is no less true. If there are materials things that do not have mass, it is also no less true, just not universally true. But saying that “all material things have mass” is only meaningful if we have material things without mass, makes no sense to me.

            > Then you must demonstrate which of the categories in a given instant the Logical Absolutes fall under.

            I don’t agree.

            >That cannot be done, as there is no possible category of things that are both what they are and what they are not,

            So, you assert that all things subscribe, observably to the law of identity and no thing, observably, does not. If it can be observed, then logic need not be applied to demonstrate it. It’s observable. And unless you want to assert my cats or a jelly fish or an ant are applying logic, we have a problem, because they demonstrate a capacity to tell things from what they are not—and so they even acknowledge by their behavior, the law of identity resonates even with them.

            > and no way to demonstrate how THESE things over here “are what they are and are not what they are not”, and THESE things over there “are what they are not”.

            I don’t see the point of this line of thinking.

            >The demonstration you suggest of the Logical Absolutes is unfalsifiable, and thus not a useful demonstration.

            It is falsifiable. One must only demonstrate a thing that isn’t what it is. I can demonstrate that even creatures devoid of logical capacity can differentiate one thing from another, and the law of identity is demonstrated. It does not seem to require a grasp of logic to see that things are what they are, and other things (that they are not) are not them.

            If I say “stalactites are formed by mineral deposits dripping from springs that run above caves”—are you saying that if all stalactites are formed this way—then my hypothesis is unfalsifiable? I disagree. We examine more and more stalactites, to find if they are formed the same or differently. Each time we examine another one, it adheres to the hypothesis or it will dispute it. But as long as even ONE stalactite is formed that way, the statement is true—even if it’s found to not be universally applicable.

          3. jacobfromlost

            Tracie: I am talking about demonstrating them as observations, not through a logical proof, though.

            Me: I understand. But if you accept demonstrations and observations, you ALREADY accept the Logical Absolutes a priori. That’s the problem.

            Tracie: For example, my cats can see that “cat treats” are different than “fire.” So, even my cats can wrap their brains around “cat treats are cat treats…they are not *not cat treats*.” If a cat can understand this, and I can observe they are able to identify one thing from another—literally employing the law of identity in their small kitty brains—then I don’t see how it can be said my demonstration is a bust? It’s *observable*.

            Me: I explained this in below yesterday, but it isn’t observable in a falsifiable way. You are not distinguishing ONE category where things “are what they are and are not what they are not” from another category where things “are what they are not”. The analogies you give do not scan to the Logical Absolutes THEMSELVES, as both “cat treats” and “not cat treats” fall neatly ONLY under the Logical Absolutes (you are not distinguishing/observing/demonstrating them as valid opposed to other options, as there are no other options). What you are identifying/ in BOTH instances is the cat treats (or not), but NOT the Logical Absolutes. The Logical Absolutes are essential–essential to demonstration, to observation, to evidence, etc. The reason you can’t demonstrate the way you demonstrate “cat treats” or “not cat treats” is because there IS not category of “Not the Logical Absolutes”.

            You: If anyone can differentiate between any two things, then *that* is the law of identity at work.

            Me: I think I would agree, but that ISN’T a demonstration or an observation in a scientific sense (ie, falsifiable). It’s not the same as observing “cat treats” next to “not cat treats”.

            Tracie: If the law of identity was not in effect, then nobody could tell one thing from another. As not only humans, but just about any other species is able to do this, it seems to be observable very broadly as integral to reality. The law of identity merely labels this. It does not prescribe, it describes.

            Me: No, the Logical Absolutes are prescriptive (that’s what “absolute” means here). They are SO prescriptive that they are absolute (there is no situation in which they don’t apply).

            Me before: And two, a demonstration worthy of the word must be falsifiable.

            Tracie: See if you can get my cats to try and eat a flame or a brick. Then see if you can get them to eat a cat treat. Tah-Dah! They can tell that a cat treat is not a brick: Law of Identity demonstrated.

            Me: No, “treat” and “not treat” is demonstrated. The Logical Absolutes are not distinguished from “Not the Logical Absolutes”.

            Me Before: >In order to demonstrate the Logical Absolutes, you have to identify a category in which things can be what they are> and also NOT be what they are,

            Tracie: I disagree here. The law of identity does not attempt to account for things being what they are not. In fact, such things would be OUTSIDE that law. Demonstrating a thing that is also what it is not would ONLY show the law is not universally applicable.

            Me: I think you miss my point. In order to demonstrate the Logical Absolutes in the only useful way (a falsifiable way), you have to at least imagine the possibility of a category in which things are what they are NOT. If you can’t even imagine what that observation would BE, then pointing to observations of things being what they ARE is not a demonstration as it is unfalsifiable…which is why the Logical Absolutes must be axiomatic (and absolute).

            Me Before: > and distinguish that from a category where things are what they are and are not what they are not.

            Tracie: Again, I don’t think that’s necessary.

            Me: It is necessary if you want to say you observed the Logical Absolutes the way you observed the difference between “treat” and “not treat”. Observing the difference between “treat” and “not treat” is not observing the Logical Absolutes, but observing the difference between “treats” and “not treats”. To observe the Logical Absolutes (in the same falsifiable way you observe “treats” and “not treats”), you have to have the two categories of “Logical Absolutes” and “Not Logical Absolutes” which is philosophically and empirically impossible, as the Logical Absolutes are absolute. There is no situation, category, etc, in which they don’t apply–which is also why they must be axiomatic, not demonstrated (in the scientific, falsifiable sense).

            Tracie: If I assert that material things have mass, I only need to show one material thing that has mass to make that correct.

            Me: Ok.

            Tracie: If there are no material things that do not have mass, that is no less true. If there are materials things that do not have mass, it is also no less true, just not universally true. But saying that “all material things have mass” is only meaningful if we have material things without mass, makes no sense to me.

            Me: I’m not sure I’m entirely following you, but again, the Logical Absolutes are not analogous to the “treats”/”not treats” analogy, nor the mass analogy because they are absolute and essential, while “treats” and “mass” examples are not. The Logical Absolutes apply to BOTH “treats” AND “not treats”, as well as “mass” AND “not mass”, so there is no instance in which you have distinguished them from “Not the Logical Absolutes” because that is impossible.

            Me Before: > Then you must demonstrate which of the categories in a given instant the Logical Absolutes fall under.

            Tracie: I don’t agree.

            Me: I’m only saying this IF you want to demonstrate the Logical Absolutes in the same way you demonstrate the “treats” or the “mass” (from “not treats” and “not mass”). If you say those examples DO demonstrate the Logical Absolutes, you are only saying the Logical Absolutes are axiomatic and calling that a demonstration, as it isn’t a demonstrate the way we can demonstrate THIS is a “treat” and THAT is “not a treat”.

            Be before: >That cannot be done, as there is no possible category of things that are both what they are and what they are not,

            Tracie: So, you assert that all things subscribe, observably to the law of identity and no thing, observably, does not.

            Me: No. I’m saying it is axiomatic that observing anything a priori supposes the Logical Absolutes apply. As soon as you say, “Let’s see if we observe the logical absolutes”, you’ve already invoked them as inescapable before any observation has been conducted…and thus it isn’t through any observation that they are demonstrated valid. They are valid because they are axiomatic, philosophically and empirically.

            Tracie: If it can be observed, then logic need not be applied to demonstrate it. It’s observable.

            Me: It’s not falsifiably observable nor falsifiably demonstrable. The analogies you gave to demonstrate that they are do not scan to the Logical Absolutes themselves for reasons I explained above.

            Tracie: And unless you want to assert my cats or a jelly fish or an ant are applying logic, we have a problem,

            Me: No. Distinguishing between “cat” and “not cat” is not an observation of the Logical Absolutes, it’s an observation of “cats” and “not cats”. The essential nature of the Logical Absolutes makes it impossible to observe or demonstrate them in same way you demonstrate “cats” juxtaposed next to “not cats”.

            Tracie: because they demonstrate a capacity to tell things from what they are not—and so they even acknowledge by their behavior, the law of identity resonates even with them.

            Me: I clearly understand what you are saying, but the Logical Absolutes are still fundamentally essential axioms and not demonstrated.

            Me before:> and no way to demonstrate how THESE things over here “are what they are and are not what they are not”, and THESE things over there “are what they are not”.

            Tracie: I don’t see the point of this line of thinking.

            Me: The way you identify “cat” from “not cat” is observing that one has XYZ characteristics, and observing that ABC does not. You CANNOT do that with the Logical Absolutes. You CANNOT observe “things that are what they are and are not what they are not” NEXT TO observing “things that are what they are not.” That’s the point and the problem.

            Me Before: >The demonstration you suggest of the Logical Absolutes is unfalsifiable, and thus not a useful demonstration.

            Tracie: It is falsifiable.

            Me: I don’t agree.

            Tracie: One must only demonstrate a thing that isn’t what it is.

            Me: But what IS that? What are we talking about here, and HOW could such a thing be demonstrated or observed? It can’t, by definition.

            Tracie: I can demonstrate that even creatures devoid of logical capacity can differentiate one thing from another,

            Me: But they can’t distinguish “the Logical Absolutes” from “Not the Logical Absolutes”, which is what would be necessary to claim one observed or demonstrated “the Logical Absolutes” the same way you demonstrated ONE thing from ANOTHER thing.

            Tracie: and the law of identity is demonstrated.

            Me: It is not, it is axiomatically presumed.

            Tracie: It does not seem to require a grasp of logic to see that things are what they are, and other things (that they are not) are not them.

            Me: The Logical Absolutes are not logic, but they are the axiomatic basis of it.

            Tracie: If I say “stalactites are formed by mineral deposits dripping from springs that run above caves”—are you saying that if all stalactites are formed this way—then my hypothesis is unfalsifiable? I disagree.

            Me: No. It is easy to imagine and define a scenario in which they DIDN’T form by deposits dripping from springs that run above caves. You can even detail exactly what one would expect to see in situations where they DIDN’T form in this way. But the Logical Absolutes have no alternatives. There is no way to imagine how one observes something being Not Itself. This is why the Logical Absolutes are absolute and essential. Stalactites are not absolute nor essential.

            Tracie: We examine more and more stalactites, to find if they are formed the same or differently. Each time we examine another one, it adheres to the hypothesis or it will dispute it. But as long as even ONE stalactite is formed that way, the statement is true—even if it’s found to not be universally applicable.

            Me: Sure, but stalactites are not analogous to the Logical Absolutes.

            Fan note: You Rock Tracie! :-) (And everyone else, too.)

          4. heicart

            I did read your reply. And I found I was simply raising the same objections. It boils down to this for me:

            The law of Identity *IS* that A = A.

            If a person observes a cat treat is a cat treat, and not “not a cat treat,” then they have observed a demonstration of “A = A.”

            There IS a counter category. It’s described as “A = not-A.”

            If such a category were to be observed, it would still not invalidate “A = A”–it would only raise an exception.

            Whether that catetory *can* exist or not is not relevant. If we observe any Category, “A always contingent on B,” and it is not possible for A to exist without B–so that a category “A not contingent on B” isn’t possible, I don’t see how that makes “A always contingent on B” unfalsifiable. In fact, finding that every time we encounter A, it’s contingent on B, and never finding the counter example of “A not contingent on B” should add weight to the claim “A contingent on B.”

            If A = A (Identity) is repeatedly observed to be the case in every instance we examine, that should lend credibility to the claim “A = A” as a valid observation of reality. I don’t see that as undermining it.

          5. jacobfromlost

            I agree with what Russell said below, but I still feel that you (Tracie) don’t understand what I’m saying.

            I do feel that I understand what you are saying, so let me try to rephrase to see if I get it right. What you are saying is that since one of the Laws of Logic is the Law of Identity, also known as “A=A”, then when you observe things being what they are, you are observing the Law of Identity. Thus observing it, you see that it is valid, and even if you observed “A=Not A”, “A=A” would still be valid except in the instances where “A=Not A”. Is this correct?

            If so, there is a fundamental problem. What does it mean to observe something Not Being Itself? If you can’t define what that looks like, it can’t be observed.

            Moreover, the Logical Absolutes are (by definition) absolute. ***There are no exceptions***. (That’s what “absolute” means.)

            If you disagree that the Logical Absolutes (all of them, not just Identity) are absolute and essential, explain HOW they are not absolute nor essential.

            (Also note: I love you Tracie! lol I think this is the only thing I have ever disagreed with you about, so forgive me…and I won’t write such long responses anymore.)

      3. heicart

        It’s called “the law of identity” for a reason. I could not identify “Russell” if I could not differntiate what constitutes Russell, from what does not. You ARE what you ARE. And you’re NOT what you’re NOT. I can only identify things that adhere to that law. Things that do not adhere to that law would be what they’re not, and not be what they are–and so how would I begin to “identify” such a thing? How would I tell that item from the items it is not–if it is what it’s not?

        Taoism breaks this down very well. Everything exists as a duality–not mind/body or spirit/body, but X and not-X. This is the ONLY way we can navigate reality. Without that being true–how would I tell a park bench from those things which are not a park bench? I would be, literally, unable to identify any “thing” that did not subscribe to this law–that did not present as what it IS, and NOT as what it’s NOT.

        1. jacobfromlost

          I’m not sure Taoism is a good example for what you are saying. The two opposites in Taoism are not necessarily in conflict, and they also do not jibe with “X and Not X” as the very Yin-Yang symbol includes the little dots of the opposite in each side. The idea here is that there is no pure “opposite”. That there is always a bit of the “other” in everything…which doesn’t work well with “X and Not X” (a true dichotomy).

          Moreover, to even discuss this Yin-Yang idea, we have to say that the black dot on the white side is actually black, and the white dot on the black side is actually white, so that each thing is what it is and is not what it is not–dots and all.

          So I just am not seeing how the Logical Absolutes are demonstrated. They must be assumed axiomatically because they are the most basic of the basic (you can’t get any more basic, so you can’t support them or demonstrate them with anything more basic).

          1. heicart

            >I’m not sure Taoism is a good example for what you are saying. The two opposites in Taoism are not necessarily in conflict, and they also do not jibe with “X and Not X” as the very Yin-Yang symbol includes the little dots of the opposite in each side. The idea here is that there is no pure “opposite”. That there is always a bit of the “other” in everything…which doesn’t work well with “X and Not X” (a true dichotomy).

            When I read Lao Tzu/Chuang-Tze, it was very clearly indicated that “all things are one thing” until we begin to recognize distinctions–by being introduced to what things are not. So that a blank canvas is all there is until you apply paint. Now you have something distinct and separate from the blank canvas. This is a direct example that I believe was provided in the literature (although it’s been some years since I read Lao Tzu/Chuang-Tze), and also a perfect example of the law of identity. Once you have distinctions, you have the capacity to tell things from other things. In my reading of the translations, the central theme was that if you have a park bench, you have “not the park bench” as the dualistic counter example. This gives rise to the park bench. In other words, there would be no identifying “park bench” unless there was something that was not a park bench that we could distinguish it from.

            What I am not, is what gives rise to what i am–to me. That IS the law of identity. Dark is what light is not. “Not Tracie” is what Tracie is not. If you could not identify what I’m not, how would you be able to tell what Tracie is? How is this hard, and how is this not the dualism I read in Lao Tzu/Chuang-Tze?

            >Moreover, to even discuss this Yin-Yang idea,

            I’m not discussing Yin and Yang. I’m discussing the Taoist duality—of distinguishing one thing from another by being able to identify what it is not. Taoism correctly asserts this is what gives rise to any identity. If you can’t tell what I’m not—then you can’t recognize me when you see me.

            >have to say that the black dot on the white side is actually black, and the white dot on the black side is actually white, so that each thing is what it is and is not what it is not–dots and all.

            I am not discussing symbols. If one is a white swirl with a black dot, then it is not a black swirl with a white dot. The idea was merely that what is “not the black swirl” is what allows us to identify “black swirl.” It’s a very simple concept. Whether this is what you’re talking about with Yin and Yang, I have no clue. I’m talking about the translations I read of Lao Tzu’s/Chuang-Tze’s writings on Taoism, and the observations on how we distinguish one thing from another in our minds using our capacity to see what they are not.

            >So I just am not seeing how the Logical Absolutes are demonstrated. They must be assumed axiomatically because they are the most basic of the basic (you can’t get any more basic, so you can’t support them or demonstrate them with anything more basic).

            The fact you can tell anything from anything else would be IMPOSSIBLE without the law of identity. How do you tell one thing from another if you can’t tell what it is, which REQUIRES being able to tell what it’s not…?

          2. jacobfromlost

            (You are awesome Tracie.)

            I’ve read Eastern writings long ago also (including the Te Ching and the others you mentioned). But the duality (or probably more of a partnership) nature of reality described in them isn’t one that is exactly analogous to “A=Not A”.

            The point I was making with the Yin-Yang symbol (which is used in Taoism and elsewhere) is the idea that there is a little bit of the “opposite” in everything. That is what the dots represent. If we were to try to scan that to “A” and “Not A”, then we would have to say that there was a little bit of “Not A” in “A”, and a little bit of “A” in “Not A”…which doesn’t work.

            It’s a spiritual idea that pops up in mythology a lot and works well there (a little bit of evil in the hero, a little bit of good in the villain), but not so much in terms of the Logical Absolutes because of the Law of the Excluded Middle.

            I was only making that minor point here.

          3. heicart

            >the idea that there is a little bit of the “opposite” in everything.

            That was not my understanding of what I read. What I read indicated that what is not-A is what gives rise to A. So, not-A is necessary for A. The idea was that they are dependent on one antoher for their identity–not that they are included within one another in some way. So, that to tell the blue streak, it is required that we understand what is not a blue streak. The blue streak then, owes it’s identiy to that which is not a blue streak. They rely on one another, but are not within one another in the way you are describing it. I think the “dot” would represent a hat tip to the fact that “I could not exist without you things that are not me,” not that I am part those things.

            The entire Tao begins with “all things are one thing.” It then proceeds to describe how one thing becomes many, via capacity to differentiate–by observing what things are, and what they are not.

          4. jacobfromlost

            “That was not my understanding of what I read. What I read indicated that what is not-A is what gives rise to A. So, not-A is necessary for A. The idea was that they are dependent on one antoher for their identity–not that they are included within one another in some way.”

            The partnership idea is correct. They define each other. But there is a BIT of the opposite in each. It’s found throughout mythology, and is well known for being in Eastern Philosophy.

            The dots do indicate that BIT of the light in the darkness and the darkness in the light–in all things is a BIT of the opposite (is the concept).

            (I’m not making this up, I swear. lol

  7. 7
    shnowy

    A popular family man on Youtube lives a Mormon lifestyle. He discussed religion and reality a couple of times. He trusts technology, how medicine improves our lives, he seems to respect people with no/other religions. When it comes to nature and reality he puts that all aside and believes the bible and the scriptures as truth. The “what if..” questions he poses I find are silly. Why would I need to change my behavior, my morals, pray to “something” or “nothing”, to supposedly decrease my chances of gettng sent to hell.

  8. 8
    robertbaty

    I’ve concluded that Presuppositionalism, of the Bruggencate/Hovind/Bahnsen kind, is merely a conversational gimmick whereby by its promoters insist on starting the conversation based on their position being true and simply move from there to complaining about everyone else’s position.

    I’ve challenged Sye and his people to negotiate for a proper discussion with me regarding my objection to Sye’s “proof God exists” claim which I propose offers NO “proof God exists”.

    Sye and his people are on the run!

    See:

    https://www.facebook.com/BruggencatevBaty

    1. 8.1
      Cephus

      That’s very true. I’ve debated plenty of presups and the key to winning is to simply refuse to allow them to get started in the first place. They make presuppositions? Refuse to acknowledge them. Question every single one of them. Make your own absurd presuppositions and ask them to prove you wrong. Use their tactics and point out to the audience that you’re using their tactics and will continue to do exactly what they’re doing.

      Virtually all of them just walk away, cursing under their breath.

      A presupposition should only be allowed if both sides agree to it. I will never agree.

      1. Russell Glasser

        All praise to the magic tiara!

  9. 9
    J.E. Franklin

    837 was a great episode – glad I got to see it in person. I am working on my first debate with an old friend who is very much from the WLC/Reasonable Faith camp…I was really hoping to be challenged with more than the basic god of the gaps/ argument from ignorance garbage but so far, it’s proving to be quite easy… I’d love to post it to youtube once we finish it and have someone critique my techniques, etc. I’m really glad that I could hear the description of the technique where apologists make 50 different claims and wait for you to not address a few, then call you out on it. I’ve made it a point to address as many as possible to prevent this technique from snagging me.

  10. 10
    AtlantaAtheist

    “You can’t prove logic using logic. Therefore you can’t justify that logic exists.”

    This is what I don’t get about presuppositionalist apologetics and people who seem to have a hard time responding to them. I agree with Russell that the above statement IS what presuppositionalism boils down to. But, it’s wrong. Let’s just say I can’t prove logic using logic. OK. Fine. That does NOT mean I can not justify that logic exists. Not being able to demonstrate WHY or HOW a thing exists is not the same as not being able to demonstrate that it DOES exist and DOES work. I’ll demonstrate with an example.

    Currently, the question of abiogenesis remains a matter of debate among biologists. How did the first “life” come to be on this planet? What exactly were the conditions that brought it into existence? We don’t know. Does that mean we are unable to demonstrate that life exists on this planet? Of course not. Just because we don’t know HOW it happened does not prevent us from knowing that it DID happen.

    Essentially, this argument of presuppositionists boils down to one big Argument from Ignorance. “You can’t demonstrate how or why logic works, therefore you can’t claim to know logic works. You can’t even claim to be able to use logic.” Sorry…that’s not how this works.

    I don’t have to have an explanation for HOW it works or WHY it works to recognize and even demonstrate that it does work. My ignorance about the how and why is irrelevant. The funny part is, they don’t know how or why it works either. What they have done is used a standard God of the Gaps argument to fill in the missing pieces. You don’t know where logic came from? Must be God.

    That’s really all this is. An argument from Ignorance. It’s not that complicated.

    1. 10.1
      Russell Glasser

      I agree with Russell that the above statement IS what presuppositionalism boils down to. But, it’s wrong. Let’s just say I can’t prove logic using logic. OK. Fine. That does NOT mean I can not justify that logic exists. Not being able to demonstrate WHY or HOW a thing exists is not the same as not being able to demonstrate that it DOES exist and DOES work.

      It’s not really wrong in the way you’re saying, and I think this is what trips a lot of atheists up. Let me tell you off the bat that I HATE to play devil’s advocate for this bullshit. But that doesn’t mean that you should trivialize the assumption that logic justifies logic. If you start from a position that logic and reason don’t exist, you really can’t reason to a position that they do exist, since any logical argument is invalidated by the assumption that logic doesn’t work.

      I know it appears to be daft, but there’s a whole branch of philosophy discussing the pros and cons of this approach, known as “Foundationalist Theories of Epistemic Justification” and it’s by no means a settled issue.
      http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justep-foundational/

      It’s sort of like “Last Thursdayism” — where the world was created in its present form last Thursday, with all history and memories created from nothing. Or if you prefer, The Matrix, where the entire world you know is based on simulated electrical impulses. While it makes perfect sense to reject these as reality, I don’t think you can conclusively PROVE that they aren’t true. And for the most part you don’t really need to.

      1. Monocle Smile

        It’s the same reason you don’t need to disprove solipsism. It really changes nothing about reality or how we perceive things to work. Logic has proven to be a valuable set of axioms, given the track record of science, etc., and usually I pull out “Scoreboard!” whenever someone hurls crap at the scientific method or axiomatic logic or anything else commonly accepted and employed to great effect.

        1. Russell Glasser

          Sure, that’s fine. All I’m saying is that you should understand the issue enough to say “That is irrelevant to the argument that you’re trying to make,” and NOT pretend that logic is “proven” to be valid, or get mired in the whole epistemology argument. For the purposes of having a productive discussion, there are plenty of good reasons to dismiss the question. But saying that the question is inherently wrong isn’t accurate, and this can trip you up in the discussion if you insist on going that way.

          1. Cephus

            But that’s really the issue, the “laws of logic”, like just about everything else, are just things that man has made up. They have no objective existence. We made observations and invented a terminology to explain them. It’s like mathematics. We made it up. “1″ has no objective meaning. People saw a single item and arbitrarily assigned “1″ as a reference for that single item. “1″ doesn’t really mean anything. Likewise, we have made some logical observations, such as A=A, which seem to hold up under use. You can, in theory, falsify A=A by providing a single case in which A does not = A, yet no one has done so. The laws of logic are a useful tool which allow us to build off in different directions. They are not the end-all-be-all of philosophy. The presups really want to place the Bible on the same level as the laws of logic or mathematics as something that is considered true axiomatically, when it hasn’t earned that place.

            People need to stop acting like these things are just magically floating around out there in the ether. We made it all up as a useful tool.

          2. jacobfromlost

            We didn’t make up the fact that things are whatever they are, and are not whatever they are not. (That is, if we hadn’t conceived of this idea of the “Laws of Logic”, they are still valid.)

            And we didn’t come to the Laws of Logic via observation. Aristotle codified them, and wasn’t that big on rigorous observation. (Moreover, the Laws of Logic CAN’T be based on observation, because you would have to imagine a scenario in which a thing is both whatever it is and is NOT whatever it is, and specifically distinguish that from a thing that IS whatever it is. That isn’t a possible observation, but a self-contradictory abstraction.)

          3. Corwyn

            We didn’t make up the fact that things are whatever they are, and are not whatever they are not.

            Sure we did. You won’t find any such abstraction in the laws of physics. Enumerate all your atoms, all your electrons, etc. You will notice that you are exchanging them with your environment all the time. You replace ALL your atoms every 7 years or so. Are you still the same *you* that you were then?

            Electrons on the other hand are identical and interchangeable at a level where one can’t even say that you switched them.

            More philosophically, SAYING a ‘thing’ is what it is, is in itself inventing an abstraction called a ‘thing’. It is not clear to me that there is any way to express that concept in the mathematics of quantum mechanics.

          4. jacobfromlost

            Corwyn,

            You are getting concepts confused with the essence of things. Things are what they are and are not what they are not…****NOT because we made up that fact****

            Saying, “Sure we did” to that is ridiculous.

            We didn’t make up the fact that things are what they are and are not what they are not.

      2. AtlantaAtheist

        “I don’t think you can conclusively PROVE that they aren’t true. And for the most part you don’t really need to.”

        Yes. That was my whole point. I don’t have to prove why they work. My inability to explain why they work has no bearing whatsoever on the fact they do work, and we do use them.

        Therefore, the statement “You can’t prove logic using logic. Therefore you can’t justify that logic exists.” is wrong for precisely the reasons I laid out.

    2. 10.2
      Russell Glasser

      Here’s a famous amusing essay by Lewis Carroll about the difficulty of proving that logic is valid.
      http://platonicrealms.com/encyclopedia/Carrolls-Paradox

      And here’s a Wikipedia article analyzing the essay, also worth reading.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_the_Tortoise_Said_to_Achilles

      1. Curt Cameron

        Reading through that I’m having flashbacks of Hofstadter’s Goedel Escher Bach.

        1. Angela

          Reading through that made *me* want to throw up my hands and go play xbox X(

      2. John Kruger

        Interesting stuff, if a bit difficult to read in terms of vocabulary on the wiki page.

        All I can really take from it is that thought, unto itself, if not enough to prove anything (or perhaps that one can always appeal to the unknown and reject whatever one likes). The experience of other senses is required. Achilles’s escape seems to me to be to create an experiment that can put the validity of his entire initial argument to the test, the recursive infinite regress would then be irrelevant. Of course, even a positive result would not conclusively “prove” the validity of the argument, there could always be other factors creating the predicted result, but at least he is not dead in the water. Repeated successes without failure could always bolster the case of the conclusion and the argument as a whole. It would be justifiable to put some stock in the argument based upon observation of correct predictions even if complete confidence could never be granted.

        This is all the main reason I tend to reject any claims of logical or even moral absolutes. You just can’t get to the very top of the hill in terms of certainty, but that is not a good reason to sit in despair at the bottom (or just start making things up out of whole cloth pretending they are of equal validity as everything else!).

    3. 10.3
      Angela

      Bravo :)

  11. 11
    johzek

    The law of identity is axiomatic in the sense that to even argue that it isn’t true you would have to assume its truth. How would the statements you make or the things you refer to have any meaning otherwise.

    1. 11.1
      heicart

      I agree. If the law of identity were not demonstrable and observable, we would not be able to differentiate one thing from another. The entire universe would be a single thing with no means of differentiating anyting from anything else. The ONLY way I can tell one thing from another is because it is what it is, and it’s not what it’s not. Someone above noted the laws were not observable, but Taoist writers were explaining the law of identity, as they observed it, as far back as the 6th century BCE. They noted that “all things are one thing”–and that as we begin to observe the nature of the universe as things that are different from other things in some way–we begin to identify component parts…X and what is not-X. If we could not do this, if our minds could not draw these distinctions, then a mouse would be a phone would be a mountain would be a drop of water. The FACT that you can distinguish between ANY two items is a demonstration of the law of identity in action. The fact you can do it with every known item, only makes it broadly applicable.

      1. jacobfromlost

        Well, I was talking in terms a scientific observation in which the observation was falsifiable. You can indeed observe that things are what they are, and are not what they are not. But that isn’t an observation of the Logical Absolutes (in the sense we use the term “observation” to come to the conclusion that something is true rather than false).

        In order to observe the Logical Absolutes, you would have to a LEAST imagine a scenario in which they don’t apply (I won’t say “an instance in which they are false” because the Logical Absolutes are not about true/false, but ESSENCE). You would have to imagine what you would expect to observe if the Logical Absolutes don’t apply, and what you would expect to observe if they DO apply…and then go observe to see which it is you observe.

        The problem is that as soon as you mention “observe”, you already accept the Logical Absolutes and reject any scenario in which they would not apply. To observe something is to see that it is what it is, and isn’t what it isn’t. There is no observation of something that is what it isn’t, so the “observation” is already unfalsifiable.

        So you can colloquially say that you observe that things are what they are and are not what they are not, but it isn’t a useful observation…as the very act of observation assumes a priori that the Logical Absolutes apply.

        1. Corwyn

          You keep using the word ‘unfalsifiable’, I don’t think it means what you think it means.

          But I really think people (generally) are getting into a twist here. Logic is a form of mathematics. Math can be true without being useful (i.e. related in any way to reality) though this happens less often than mathematicians would seem to like, people keep finding uses for the most obscure math.

          The logical absolutes are just axioms (and not even one of the confusing ones), things which are simultaneously so fundamental and so self evidently true, that we agree to accept them without further proof. Atheists and theists arguing use them far more than any logician or mathematician does, while at the same time BOTH agreeing that they are, in fact, true. Weird.

          1. Corwyn

            If someone wants to do some real work with the logical absolutes, they can explain to me how they apply to superposition, without sounding completely stupid (the absolutes, not the explainer)

          2. heicart

            >Atheists and theists arguing use them far more than any logician or mathematician does, while at the same time BOTH agreeing that they are, in fact, true. Weird.

            What is even weirder to me, is that there seems to be this underlying idea that we are accepting them without osbervable demonstration they are correct. THAT’S where I’m scratching my head. Every single thing we can examine demonstrtates “A = A”–I don’t really understand what further demonstration one would require that “A = A” exists and can be observed. I don’t know what difference it makes that we can’t find examples of the counter category, which would be “A = not-A”. Yes, there is such a category–and the moment I find something that isn’t busy adhering to “A = A”–I’ll throw it in that bin.

          3. jacobfromlost

            Corwyn: “You keep using the word ‘unfalsifiable’, I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

            Me: “Unfalsifiable” means there is no imaginable nor definable circumstance under which a proposition could be demonstrated false. I’m open to have my understanding corrected or improved.

            Tracie: What is even weirder to me, is that there seems to be this underlying idea that we are accepting them without osbervable demonstration they are correct.

            Me: I’ve said this earlier, but maybe I could explain it better. The very act of invoking “OBSERVATION” already accepts the Logical Absolutes as valid before any observation. To have an observer, the Logical Absolutes MUST already be accepted a priori. To have an observation, they MUST be accepted a priori. To demonstrate ANYTHING, they must be accepted a priori, as they are necessary for anything to BE anything or NOT be anything, and thus you can’t BE an observer, you can’t BE an observation, you can’t BE a demonstration, without them. That is why they are absolute, essential, and axiomatic.

            To observe anything and say, “Yes, I observed that”, ***is to accept the Logical absolutes*** without a demonstration of them. (You are accepting “I” and “observed” and “that” all on the presumption that all of those things are what they are and are not what they are not. That isn’t an observation of the Logical Absolutes, but the simple fact that they are absolute.)

          4. Corwyn

            Me: “Unfalsifiable” means there is no imaginable nor definable circumstance under which a proposition could be demonstrated false. I’m open to have my understanding corrected or improved.

            In which case, if ‘falsifiability’ is dependent on YOUR imagination, than you can say you don’t see how a proposition is falsifiable, you CAN’T tell Tracie that she is wrong to say it is. She just has a better imagination than you do.

            I want a definition which is inherent to the proposition, not your imagination.

            So, could superposition falsify the law of identity? If not, why not? Please show your math.

          5. jacobfromlost

            Corwyn,

            I included more than “imaginable”, but imaginable stands (and not MY imagination–anyone’s). All you have to do is define SPECIFICALLY what would would expect to see in a situation in which the Logical Absolutes don’t apply.

            This isn’t an argument from ignorance, Corwyn. You can’t have a situation in which something isn’t what it is, and distinguish that from one in which something is what it is.

            If you think you CAN do that, all you need to do is define it so it is possible for any of us to recognize it when we see it (otherwise it can’t be observed, by definition).

          6. Corwyn

            All you have to do is define SPECIFICALLY what would would expect to see in a situation in which the Logical Absolutes don’t apply.

            How about a tuning fork which is both vibrating and not vibrating?

            If one claims that such a thing is would be a violation of the law of identity, then go talk to the physicists about how they can’t be doing that.

            If one claims that such a thing would not be a violation of the law of identity, then whenever a violation seems to be occurring, we define B to be ‘A and not A at the same time in a quantum superpostion’, and say that the thing is B and not ‘not B’, and thus the law of identity holds, then I think you HAVE gotten to the place where the law of identity is unfalsifiable, (and not terribly useful).

          7. jacobfromlost

            Corwyn: How about a tuning fork which is both vibrating and not vibrating?

            Me: Can you be specific about how they are BOTH vibrating and not vibrating at the same time? If so, then my point stands. If not, then you don’t know what it is you are “identifying” because you are not identifying anything.

            Corwyn: If one claims that such a thing is would be a violation of the law of identity, then go talk to the physicists about how they can’t be doing that.

            Me: It’s not a violation if you can describe specifically WHAT YOU MEAN by “both vibrating and not vibrating”. You didn’t do that. You just asserted both as if it is a contradiction and yet implied it has been identified as doing just that. If you can identify specifically WHAT IT IS DOING, you are not violating any of the logical absolutes. (And if you can’t identify what it is doing, then you just can’t say. That’s still not a demonstration of a violation of anything.)

            Corwyn: If one claims that such a thing would not be a violation of the law of identity, then whenever a violation seems to be occurring,

            Me: How specifically would a violation “seem to be occurring”? If you are identifying SOMETHING, then a violation has not occurred. And there is no way to identify something that is violating its own identity.

            Corwyn: we define B to be ‘A and not A at the same time in a quantum superpostion’, and say that the thing is B and not ‘not B’, and thus the law of identity holds, then I think you HAVE gotten to the place where the law of identity is unfalsifiable, (and not terribly useful).

            Me: You cannot define something as being itself and not itself at the same time. By simply slapping “B” onto it doesn’t solve the problem. If B=A, and A=Not A, all you have is A=Not A (B=A=Not A means the same thing, you just added a different name for “A”), which is impossible. WHATEVER “A” IS, that is whatever it is. You can’t pose that A is something than WHAT IT IS, even if you play with the letters.

  12. 12
    Aaroninmelbourne

    Perhaps the easiest thing to do is crack open the “Atheist Experience Bingo!” cards and “Play along with Seth and his amazing Presuppositional Apologetics game!”

  13. 13
    EnlightenmentLiberal

    @Russell

    Thanks.

    It’s easy to backseat drive. I haven’t had that many good opportunities to argue with such people – I think it would be fun. I do think that I’m an excellent logical anal pedantic thinker – comes with being a math major and professional programmer – and I think I could do a better job, but maybe I couldn’t.

    I do think your basic options are:

    1- The high road: Grant them everything for the sake of argument, and ask them what the hell this has to do with their christian god belief. The presupp argument applies equally well to many gods, and thus it fails just like Pascal’s Wager.

    2- Go the distance. Get them to agree that we have the presupp that we live in a shared reality. Get them to agree to the presupp that evidence based reasoning is a reliable way to learn about our shared reality. Get them to agree to the presupp that basic deductive logical reasoning works, or as Tracie beautifully did get them to agree that the correctness of deductive logic can be inferred from evidence based reasoning. Finally, get them to agree that any claim, belief, or knowledge must either be a starting presupp, or must have a non-circular finite justification. (Then inform them that they’ve agreed to basic skepticism.)

    With that out of the way, let them wander around in lala land. You have it exactly right Russell what their argument is. Hammer them to justify the claim that “logical absolutes” need a creator, cause, or explanation; hammer home that “logical absolutes” might be uncaused, and without an explanation. If they disagree, the onus is on them to demonstrate it, and they just agreed that the onus is on them to justify it.

    Then, it’s just a matter of stopping them dead in their tracks. You should have everything you need, but the pedantics and obtuse arguments make it exceedingly difficult. Eventually you should be able to show a contradiction, or if they water it down enough then only merely unjustified claims.

    I think a major stumbling block is many presupps are Platonic thinkers. I am definitely not, and subscribe to some parts of logical positivism. Ex: I don’t know what it means for “logical absolutes” to “exist”. I don’t know what “exists” means in this context. Normally, I understand what “exists” means in the context of observable phenomena in our shared reality. I also understand what “exists” means in terms of the existential operator of logic and math. I don’t see how either of those applies to “logical absolutes”, and so I have no clue what the presupp is saying.

    @Tracie

    I really like the idea of trying to justify the rules of deductive logic with evidence based reasoning. Weakly, I don’t think Russell is quite right. Some rules of basic syllogistic logic seem “self evident”, but the rules of modern math such as ZFC seem a bit more contentious, arbitrary, and amenable to the kind of justification that Tracie is supposing.

    1. 13.1
      heicart

      I may just be too thick to get it, but if the Law of Identity was not in play, none of us–and no other animal–would be able to tell one object from another. Plants, even, would not grow toward light, but just grow willy nilly in any old fashion…? Do people not understand how it is they navigate the external world or self-identify? How do I even talk about “me” if I can’t tell that I’m not, for example, a coffee mug? If I can tell “Tracie” from a coffee mug, and I’m not employing the law of identity–then I’d love to know how I accomplish this magical feat?

      1. EnlightenmentLiberal

        I’m not sure how to think coherently – e.g. logically – about thinking without logic. So, I don’t know. Sorry Tracie.

      2. jacobfromlost

        “I may just be too thick to get it, but if the Law of Identity was not in play, none of us–and no other animal–would be able to tell one object from another. Plants, even, would not grow toward light, but just grow willy nilly in any old fashion…?”

        The Logical Absolutes include more than Identity (Excluded Middle and Non-contradiction are essential also). The problem you suggest is even more fundamental. You can’t have “willy nilly” without the Logical Absolutes applying. You can’t observe anything, demonstrate anything, be anything, without them. You can’t even NOT observe, NOT demonstrate, and NOT be anything without them.

        They are absolute. (Which means you CAN’T have a situation in which any of them are “not in play”…because you can’t have “play” or “situation” without them.)

        1. heicart

          >They are absolute. (Which means you CAN’T have a situation in which any of them are “not in play”…because you can’t have “play” or “situation” without them.)

          And yet you assert you have never observed them. Or that seems to me the summary of what you’re saying. I am happy saying I observe them all over the place. I can’t get away from them. Yes, I know there are more than Identity–but I use identity because it’s the one that is simplest to address. But the point is–if we did NOT observe them all over the place, we would not have coined them as labels to describe this situation we’re observing pervasively.

          And as you note–the conversation we’re having would not be possible without them. And yet, you assert they’re not falsiable. Are we having this conversation? Is it possible without them?

          1. Russell Glasser

            I don’t think this conversation is focusing on relevant points. Tracie, your position in a nutshell was originally that you know the law of identity is true because you observe it to be true. Jacob is saying that it’s far more fundamental than that — the law of identity must be true as a precondition for observing anything at all. You’re responding by saying “So you admit that we do observe the law of identity.”

            That isn’t the point. No one is denying that the law of identity is consistent with things you observe. Rather, the point is that the reasoning is backwards. The law of identity has to be intrinsic to our understanding of things, with or without observations that confirm it. It’s unfalsifiable in the sense that there is no conceivable set of observations in which we could demonstrate its opposite. Hence, to say that “I know the law of identity is true because I observe it to be true” doesn’t mean anything.

            We all agree that such basic principles hold in all cases — even the presuppositionalists know that. The problem is that presups try to play this word game about God being required to “create” the laws of logic in order for them to be there in the first place. This hypothetically implies that if God did not exist, there could be a possible state where A does not equal A. As you and I know, this is bullshit. But by claiming your understanding of A=A is a result of your observation, in some subtle way you are giving credibility to their unstated claim that the law of identity could have not existed.

          2. Corwyn

            The law of identity has to be intrinsic to our understanding of things, with or without observations that confirm it.

            Does it? Why? Is Schrödinger’s Cat alive, dead, or both at the same time? If you observe it, it follows the law of identity and is either alive or dead. If you don’t observe it (according to some interpretations) it is both alive and dead at the same time. Is it violating the law of identity at that point? It seems to me that ‘observation’ is critical here (possibly in more way than one).

          3. Narf

            I think you’re confusing what is with potentiality, in that statement. QM (and thus the Schrödinger’s cat example) involve potentiality, according to my understanding.

          4. EnlightenmentLiberal

            @Corwyn

            Actually, touche. Nicely done. Quantum mechanics does play havoc with all classical thinking about our shared reality.

            I realize now that I actually think Tracie’s argument is weak, and I’ve attacked it before. Tracie wants to say we can intuit or observe that “1 + 1 = 2″, or similar claims. Well, that works when counting apples, and when comparing speeds at speeds relative speeds. However, it fails when counting the mass in nuclear physics (because mass is not conserved in nuclear physics), and it fails when comparing speeds in relativity (because 1 mph + 1 mph is not 2 mph in relativity).

            My way of looking at it is rather unique. As I’ve said frequently, what we’re really talking about is an algorithm which solves decision problems. You want to know if you’re going to observe X or not. That’s a decision problem. You can imagine more general decision problems (with more than a “true / false” answer). However, we’re still in the area of formal computation, e.g. computer science.

            Throw in some kolmogorov complexity – loosely the idea that for every “statement” there is a smallest possible way to encode that statement in a certain fixed language.

            It seems that in the English language, we’ve developed additional shared concepts, using words, which we commonly call today ZFC. ZFC is a way of precisely encoding algorithms to help us humans solve decision problems to inform our expectations of future sensory experience.

            I sometimes feel that ZFC is special in some way because it allows for extremely accurate and precision predictions while also doing so in a very information-concise way. I feel similarly, and more strongly, that the rules of basic syllogistic logic are even more special w.r.t. these algorithms, these decision problem solvers.

            Still, I don’t know what “objective truth” means outside of an axiomatic context where we have an agreed upon standard of what is true. That standard is necessarily a decision problem solver, an algorithm, as described above. For our shared reality, the decision problem solver is evidence based reasoning. For claims of pure math, if we accept ZFC axiomatically, then I can talk about the objective truth of some claims, but not of the base axioms of ZFC itself, any more than I can talk about the objective truth that evidence based reasoning “works”. (Such an idea is circularly defined.)

          5. Corwyn

            @Narf,

            What do you mean by potentiality? How would you describe QM superposition? In what way would you apply the law of identity to it? I just can’t wrap my head around it.

          6. jacobfromlost

            Tracie: And yet you assert you have never observed them.

            Me: I haven’t observed them in the way I observe “treats” next to “not treats” (a way that is falsifiable). No one has.

            Tracie: Or that seems to me the summary of what you’re saying.

            Me: The subtlety of the point is missed, I think. You can’t observe “The Logical Absolutes” next to “Not the Logical Absolutes” because one cannot define, describe, or even imagine what “Not the Logical Absolutes” would be. That by definition makes it unfalsifiable.

            Tracie: I am happy saying I observe them all over the place. I can’t get away from them. Yes, I know there are more than Identity–but I use identity because it’s the one that is simplest to address. But the point is–if we did NOT observe them all over the place, we would not have coined them as labels to describe this situation we’re observing pervasively.

            Me: But the Logical Absolutes do not ONLY apply to things we observe the the physical universe around us. They apply to EVERYTHING that exists and doesn’t exist. Even abstractions, concepts, etc.

            Tracie: And as you note–the conversation we’re having would not be possible without them. And yet, you assert they’re not falsiable. Are we having this conversation? Is it possible without them?

            Me: It’s not possible without them. Which means they are unfalsifiable. There is no imaginable, no definable, no describable way we could have this conversation without them being valid–that means they are unfalsifiable. (We can’t say, “If we were to see this specific set of observations, then the Logical Absolutes would be falsified.)

            Russell: Jacob is saying that it’s far more fundamental than that — the law of identity must be true as a precondition for observing anything at all. You’re responding by saying “So you admit that we do observe the law of identity.” That isn’t the point.

            Me in my Yoda voice: Listen to Russell you must.

            Russell: No one is denying that the law of identity is consistent with things you observe. Rather, the point is that the reasoning is backwards. The law of identity has to be intrinsic to our understanding of things, with or without observations that confirm it. It’s unfalsifiable in the sense that there is no conceivable set of observations in which we could demonstrate its opposite.

            Me: Exactly.

            Russell: Hence, to say that “I know the law of identity is true because I observe it to be true” doesn’t mean anything.

            Me: Exactly, yes.

            Russell: We all agree that such basic principles hold in all cases — even the presuppositionalists know that. The problem is that presups try to play this word game about God being required to “create” the laws of logic in order for them to be there in the first place. This hypothetically implies that if God did not exist, there could be a possible state where A does not equal A.

            Me: Yes, yes, double yes.

            Russell: As you and I know, this is bullshit. But by claiming your understanding of A=A is a result of your observation, in some subtle way you are giving credibility to their unstated claim that the law of identity could have not existed.

            Me: Correct. If the Logical Absolutes are NOT absolute, then a god could have created them. The reason a god COULDN’T have created them is because they are noncontingent, and apply to everything–even themselves. If you suggest that it is possible to observe the impossible (“A=Not A” is the very definition of impossible), then what’s the problem with saying god created them?

            Me still… If we view the Logical Absolutes for what they are–ie, absolute and essential axioms–then it is IMPOSSIBLE for them to be created, as existence itself is contingent upon them. If a god created them, he would have to do so while NOT EXISTING (ie, an impossible situation). The reason this impossible situation pops up when we consider that it is POSSIBLE for the impossible (ie, A=Not A) is because we flushed the basic, essential, and absolute nature of the Logical Absolutes.

          7. jacobfromlost

            I would never go so far as to claim a solid understanding of quantum mechanics, but based on my lay understanding…

            The Schrodinger’s Cat thing is a THOUGHT experiment. Insofar as it has been demonstrated, I don’t believe it actually suggests a REAL cat would be DEAD and ALIVE in any sense at macro scales (beyond our own ignorance of what is actually happening).

            There are those who hypothesize about many worlds, etc, that easily get out of the seeming paradox. (I think the problem is not the existence of an ACTUAL paradox–ie, a cat that is simultaneously dead and meowing for food–but an incomplete understanding of reality. We are never going to “discover” that something is NOT what it is! Once we seemly get to that point, we know we’re missing some piece of the puzzle.)

          8. Corwyn

            The Schrodinger’s Cat thing is a THOUGHT experiment. Insofar as it has been demonstrated, I don’t believe it actually suggests a REAL cat would be DEAD and ALIVE in any sense at macro scales (beyond our own ignorance of what is actually happening).

            Currently, we can’t do this at scale of a cat, but that limit is being pushed all the time. Superposition says that if we do get it work at that scale, we WOULD be a REAL cat that would be DEAD and ALIVE. Physicists have made a ‘tuning fork’ that is both vibrating and not in the QM sense about 400,000 atoms is my recollection.

            So my question remains: “Is it violating the law of identity at that point?”

          9. jacobfromlost

            Corwyn: Currently, we can’t do this at scale of a cat, but that limit is being pushed all the time. Superposition says that if we do get it work at that scale, we WOULD be a REAL cat that would be DEAD and ALIVE.

            Me: Who says? And how would we observe this if it were true? What does a cat look like that is both dead and alive at the same time? What would we expect to see if this were the result?

            Corwyn: Physicists have made a ‘tuning fork’ that is both vibrating and not in the QM sense about 400,000 atoms is my recollection.

            Me: And if you can specifically identify what that means, there is no problem.

            Corwyn: So my question remains: “Is it violating the law of identity at that point?”

            Me: No, obviously.

  14. 14
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Neither “god” nor the logical absolutes exist in the way that we claim that things exist in normal speech. There’s an attempt at a equivocation fallacy whenever an apologist tries to claim the existence of adjectives and then extend that over to nouns, as Tracie was trying to point out.

    But hey Russell, you did good too by insisting that Seth justify his position, rather than poke holes in what he claimed your position is. Him saying that your position is insufficient, even if true, doesn’t get him remotely to justifying his own position.

  15. 15
    Aaroninmelbourne

    In the meantime, I’ve thought of an easier way to put the problem of Presuppositional Apologetics. It basically falls into the category of theism that commits the “one step back” error:

    Is the presuppositionalist claiming to be omniscient? How can an individual judge whether someone knows everything without knowing everything themselves, prior to assessing the veracity of a claim of omniscience? Without first knowing everything yourself, you are in no position to determine whether someone else actually does know everything or not… and by the presuppositionalist’s standards, something they do not know and which they are in no position to determine may contradict everything they think they know, leaving the presuppositionalist with being unable to move from the “knowing nothing” position themselves. Their claim to “know” based on “knowing someone who does know everything” is thus shown to be a failed assertion.

    Further, while I am not omniscient I can still refute the suggestion that anything can be: if a deity for example claimed to be omniscient, how could that deity be certain they were not created by a meta-deity that determined to create them with a sense of omniscience while also having gaps in knowledge of the existence of the meta-deity? Indeed, such a meta-deity would contradict the deity’s presumption of omniscience, meaning that yet again, nobody can claim to be omniscient or know anyone that is.

    No matter how it is approached, presuppositionalism by its own standard of “omniscience or no knowledge” can never move beyond “We know nothing”. it merely takes a problem of its own making, and pushes it one step back, completely intact and burning the presuppositionalist in the process.

    In future, I shall refer to it as “The Sergeant Schultz Maneuver.”

  16. 16
    reverendrobbie

    I used to care whether logic was objectively true, but the objective truth of logic, like everything about objective truth itself, matters less and less to me all the time. What matters is my perception of reality and building models that help me navigate future experiences reliably. Logic is really useful in helping me make predictions. Belief in supernatural beings isn’t. If you want me to explain where logic comes from it’s a result of observing our experiences and using them to document the interactions of objects and beings (i.e. the laws of nature). Where logic comes from beyond that I don’t know and I barely care, nor does the question really make sense outside of the context of our experience.

  17. 17
    Muz

    As an aside, I wonder when/how TAE might join forces with Reasonable Doubts. That’d be a counter apologetics force of legend.
    Somehow shoehorn in a couple more spots on the desk (and a longer show) and gold is spun.

  18. 18
    Mr. Dave

    I equate presuppositionalists like Brugencate to finding a dog-shit on your lawn that expects you to roll around in it.

  19. 19
    wholething

    Proving logic by using logic would be circular. Using God to justify logic then using logic to justify God is circular. Logic is justified by empirical results, not by God. God is not justified by empirical results.

  20. 20
    davecampbell

    All this chatter about Logical Absolutes and Objective Truth and Perceived Reality is just so much mental masturbation and provides zero evidence that any gods exist. It gets very tiresome – very quickly.

    1. 20.1
      Jasper of Maine

      I like it. I like Free will discussions too. Don’t knock masturbation.

      1. davecampbell

        I’m glad you like it, good for you.

        But what has it got to do with what people believe and why they believe it? Whether or not my perception of reality is ‘true’, whether or not my will is ‘free’, it’s still my reality and my will. They are the tools I have to get me through life. I don’t see anyone offering any alternatives.

        And I am not knocking masterbation. I’m quite fond of it. But I don’t do it on the phone in front of a live TV audience.

  21. 21
    Raging Bee

    A huge chunk of presuppositional apologetics is a bluff: the presup will boldly say (as I used to say) something like “Science is based on arbitrary assumptions that are unproven and based on faith, just like religion,” and count on the listener not to say “Name the arbitrary unproven assumptions that science is allegedly based on.” Once you denand specifics, the entire presup argument folds up and blows away.

  22. 22
    Raging Bee

    You can’t prove logic using logic.

    No, you prove logic using EVIDENCE.

    1. 22.1
      Russell Glasser

      No, you don’t prove logic using evidence. “Evidence” means empirical observations. Empiricism is based on observations and logic. Pure math and pure logic are not contingent on empiricism.

      1. Raging Bee

        Yes, you DO prove the usefulness and validity of logic by observing whether it works (as in, gives you correct and usable insights) in the real world. If logic didn’t work in the real world, and give us observably true and useful conclusions, then we would not consider it “valid” or “real.”

        1. jacobfromlost

          “Yes, you DO prove the usefulness and validity of logic by observing whether it works (as in, gives you correct and usable insights) in the real world.”

          Not really. You don’t prove that LOGIC is useful and valid in the real world, you prove that in certain instances (all things being equal) a specific instance of the application of logic to the real world is can be useful and valid when applied.

          But you can also often apply LOGIC to the real world and have it not work at all–simply because you don’t know enough about all the circumstances, variables, etc. The LOGIC is fine–it just doesn’t work because of aspects to reality that you are unaware of, don’t understand yet, or have never observed.

          I think there is some equivocation going on between “pure logic” and the application of it empirically, and that could easily lead to huge misapprehensions.

          1. Raging Bee

            But you can also often apply LOGIC to the real world and have it not work at all…

            Yes, and the proof of how well it worked is found by observation of real-world evidence.

          2. jacobfromlost

            The proof of how well the application of the logic worked is found by observation of real-world evidence.

            The proof of the validity of pure logic is not.

          3. Raging Bee

            So if “pure logic” (whatever that really is) is not falsifiable, then what good is it?

          4. Narf

            You can say the exact same thing about math. Pure math does not necessarily relate to reality, but it gives us a good starting point from which to go out and kick reality to see how it kicks back.

            Both math and philosophy are just tools. We use them until we come up with something that works better.

          5. Raging Bee

            No, you can’t: math is falsifiable in the real world. that’s why we don’t have alternative forms of “pure math” where, say, 1+1=5. There’s the pure math that relates to the real world, and nothing else.

          6. Corwyn

            No, you can’t: math is falsifiable in the real world. that’s why we don’t have alternative forms of “pure math” where, say, 1+1=5.

            But we do. There is a form of math where 3+2=1.

            A significant portion of math is NOT falsifiable in the real world, because no one has (yet) found a domain in the real world where it even applies. And may NEVER find such a domain.

            Go read some math books. The subject is fascinating.

  23. 23
    gregbrahe

    Alex Botten over at Fundamentally Flawed Podcast has a fun alternate approach to this: when they ask him if he could be wrong about everything he thinks he knows, he replies “I know that I am not the God that you worship, and that I am not omniscient.” He is currently seven for seven using that one and actually having then try to convince him that he could be wrong about that, and that he may in fact be the God that they worship. It is a beautiful thing to behold.

    1. 23.1
      robertbaty

      Greg,

      I think that gimmick misses the mark because Sye and his people do not deny that “you” can know stuff.

      According to Sye and his people, more properly represented, “you” can know stuff only because God exists.

      That’s why Sye boldly declares “this discussion is over” when an opponent tries to claim that “he could be wrong about everything he claims to know”!

      There appears to be a lot of people on your side who want to deny they can or do know anything.

      Personally, I try to avoid that rabbit chase and try to chat with people about what they “think”.

      I try to leave the quibbling about whether or not we can know anything, how we can know anything if we can know anything, and what we can know if we can know anything to the more philosophic.

      Atheists don’t “think” there is any God.
      Theists do.

  24. 24
    grumpyoldfart

    Is there a standardized format for the presuppositional claim similar to the Kalam Cosmological argument?

    With the Kalam I can go through the steps one by one and find the flaws but presuppositionalism seems (to me) to be all over the place and I can’t get a handle on it.

    1. 24.1
      robertbaty

      Presuppositional Claim

      - If my worldview is right,
      - then your worldview is wrong.

      - My world view is right (presuppositionally).

      - Your worldview is wrong.

      The rest is just quibbling about the details as to why the wrong worldview, the one other than that presupposed by Presuppositionalist, is wrong.

      Sincerely,
      Robert Baty

      1. grumpyoldfart

        Holy Cow. It’s really that simplistic? I thought I’d been missing something but apparently not.

    2. 24.2
      Raging Bee

      …presuppositionalism seems (to me) to be all over the place and I can’t get a handle on it.

      Yep, that’s how it works.

  25. 25
    cubist

    Presuppositional arguments (and I mean all of them) pretty much boil down to this:
    “I’ll be happy to debate the validity of my premises—just as soon as you concede that my premises are valid.”
    My own favored approach, when dealing with a presup apologist, is to ask them “Are all presuppositions equally valid?”, followed by “How can you tell the difference between a valid presupposition and an invalid presupposition?”

    1. 25.1
      robertbaty

      Here’s the issue that Sye has refused to take up with me in a proper, negotiated discussion:

      I just checked, and Sye’s website still proposes that “the proof God exists is that without him you could not prove anything”, or logically stated in propositional form:

      - If God did not exist,
      - then you could not prove anything.

      I have proposed that making claims like that offers no “proof God exists”.

      What does Sye have to offer in support of his premise?

      Duh! That’s why they call it Presuppositionalism.

      He just presupposes it to be true and will actually admit when pressed that he is not about to put up any “proof God exists” because, also presuppositionally, everyone already knows that God exists.

      Sye says, “let’s just start with God”!
      The atheist says, “let’s not”!

      Too many atheists don’t stop there and attempt to work out where the discussion should go from there, if it is to go anywhere.

      Sincerely,
      Robert Baty

  26. 26
    KsDevil

    For some a presupposition is a beginning point from which to move forward. For others it’s an ending point from which to back track.
    When you move forward, you usually find something new. That can be frightening.
    When you move backward, you find something you already knew. That can be comforting.
    Courage or cowardice?
    Frankly, when a person is over the age of 21, it’s time they face their fears and let go of presuppositionalist comfort.

  27. 27
    chikoppi

    I actually had a conversation with a fundamentalist baptist this week. To cut to the chase, I asked how he could determine that his interpretation of the bible (which conveniently rejected certain passages) was true. In short, he claimed his interpretation was “inerrant” due to revelation.

    I asked if if others could receive such revelation. “Yes.” I asked if all Christians of other sects were lying or if they were sincere in their desire for and belief in revelation. “Sincere.” I asked if he agreed there were differences in interpretation of the bible between Christian sects. “Yes, sincere Christians believe different things.”

    I asked how I, as an independent observer, could determine who was correct…silence.

    If someone wants to presuppose “truth,” that’s fine. Give me an objective standard to evaluate one claim against another. Sans that ability, it’s nothing but make-believe time.

    1. 27.1
      robertbaty

      Sye Ten Bruggencate likes to pompously claim that not only does he know someone who knows everything that can be known but that that person (God) has revealed certain things directly, personally, literally and sensually to him so that he can know them with CerTainTee.

      I think it important to know such is the posture of your opponent so that you can deal with that issue before moving on, if you manage to move on at all.

      Sye can’t/won’t deal with it, and so he runs off.

  28. 28
    Togor

    To me the presupp-argument sounds like this: You can’t use reality to validate reality. I can, because my invisible friend says so.

    1. 28.1
      robertbaty

      On a more fundamental level, I would propose the Presuppositional argument looks something like this:

      - If God did not exist,
      - then (fill in the blank).

      Just fill in the blank with something that deals with something about this world:

      - you could not know anything.
      - you could not prove anything.
      - you could not expect the sun to rise in the morning.
      - you could not reason.
      - there would be no peanut brittle.
      - there would be nothing.
      - ad nauseum.

      It’s all presupposed by Presuppositionalists as part of a conversational gimmick that provides the platform upon which they simply whine about anyone’s position that disagrees with theirs; having no intention of allowing their affirmation to be put to the proof – it’s presupposed for a reason.

      - If God did not exist,
      - then atheists could not
      - correspond with Presuppositionalists.

      Alas, it seems too many take the bait and attempt to communicate with the skilled or not-so-skilled Presuppositionalist without first agreeing on where the conversation should start.

      Presuppositionalist:

      - Let’s start with God.

      Atheist:

      - Let’s not.

      That should pretty much put an end to the game-playing until such time as the Presuppositionalist agrees to a more reasonable, step by step approach to some topic of mutual interest.

  29. 29
    Togor

    To the “let’s not” I think I would add: How can I start with something other than myself?

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