Saturday, March 04, 2006

Maneuvering Around fatal Maneuvers

Vincent Cheung is back and thinks he's maneuvered around his opponent's fatal maneuvers of his apologetic method. His recent post attempts to show that those who think they've performed a "fatal maneuver" on him actually end up showing their own "stupidity."

For a while now there have been a lot of refutations put out against Cheung. Cheung has not responded, probably due to the busy life of being the worlds greatest theologian, but finally has carved out some time to respond to a couple of the critiques offered against him.

Cheung does not mention the names, nor does he provide links, of any of the people that have given these critiques so that we can cross check what Cheung says with the original, I assume he expects his readers just to take his word for it! This little detail, in and of itself, should serve to undermine the confidence Cheung's readers have in his ability to honestly assess and evaluate the arguments offered against him. Why? Well, simply put, he misunderstands, or misrepresents, the critiques leveled his way. Now, I understand that this is really not his fault. Cheung holds to occasionalism, which claims that,

"all knowledge must be immediately – that is, without mediation – granted and conveyed to the human mind by God. Thus on the occasion that you look at the words of the Bible, God directly communicates what is written to your mind, without going through the senses themselves. That is, your sensations provide the occasions upon which God directly conveys information to your mind apart from the sensations themselves." -Cheung, Systematic Theology


Therefore, upon the "occasion" of reading his critics' posts God must have communicated false information to Cheung. So, Cheung maintains his elevated status as "the best theologian in the world" while God takes the blame for not knowing how to read! Cheung has no problem with God deceiving Cheung. Cheung writes, "God causes people to believe lies as he wishes (and as Scripture teaches)..." (-Cheung, Short Answers To Several Criticisms). Thus Cheung and his followers should have no problem affirming what I've just written (that is, if God chooses to communicate my meaning to their mind. Maybe I just wrote, "Poodles eat spinach salad on Friday," how would they know otherwise! Or, maybe Cheung wrote that "God does not immediately communicate the meaning of what is written directly to the mind." How would I know otherwise?! So, maybe I am the one critiquing a straw man? It's all so very confusing). At any rate, Cheung/God has misunderstood his critiques.

Before I begin my response, though, I would like to point out some more of Cheung's schizophrenic tendencies. You see, when our (Aquascum, Hays, Sudduth, Manata) critiques were being posted Cheung gave his readers the reason he was not responding. At that time Cheung thought it saved face, now it serves to blush face. In his blog piece "Taking Time To Refute Cheung," Mr. Cheung wrote: "Nevertheless, if I ever realize that my materials are inadequate to handle a particular refutation, then of course I will take time to write a specific response." He has also stated, in that same post, he doesn't feel the need to respond unless the critique is "earth shattering." So then, since Cheung has posted a response to my critique of his view of occasionalism then I must draw the conclusion that he thought his works were inadequate to handle my refutation and, also, that he considered my critique "earth shattering." But in his latest post on the fatal maneuver he says my points were "outright stupid." He also claims that,

"The fatal maneuver of showing self-contradiction in your opponent's position can be a powerful and effective move in debate. Just make sure that the opponent's position is in fact self-refuting and that your objection does not backfire against you. See to it that this fatal maneuver is not fatal just for you. Of course, if it can backfire to show incoherence in your own position, then your position is wrong and not worth defending in the first place, as the above have shown."


My question is, how are my critiques "outright stupid" if Cheung's work was inadequate? How can something "earth shattering" be "outright stupid?" Cheung seems to think his apologetic writings are "earth shattering." Can they also be, at the same time, "outright stupid?" Also, why am I chided and chastised for not understanding Cheung's position (i.e., making sure the critique lands) when Cheung's works were "inadequate to handle the refutation?" If his works were adequate then he would not have written a response, per Cheung. So, his work is inadequate and then I am lambasted for not seeing how it doesn't apply to Cheung!? Furthermore, how can I "make sure" that the opponents position is in fact self-refuting? Do I have "control" over this? Doesn't God "immediately communicate" the meaning of what Cheung writes to my mind? This is similar to the moral dilemma determinists face. If physical and biological processes determine how we behave, then why blame a rapist? Why treat him as if he could have done otherwise? Can my "making sure" I have properly understood my opponent thwart God's desire that I will not? So, it seems a bit disingenuous to tell me to "make sure" that I understand something properly. At any rate it is not I who have misunderstood my opponent.


PART I

Since my interest is in my critique of Cheung's occasionalism, as it relates to Cheung's internalist constraint on justification, I will address that first. I will then make some comments on his other comments but leave the main defenses for those with more of a vested interest in that line of attack.

Cheung's entire response to my critique is this:

QUOTE
**********

Then, there is another objection that has to do with my view on divine sovereignty, and how it relates to metaphysics and epistemology. I affirm that God must be active in facilitating and controlling all human thoughts, whether true or false, biblical or heretical. The adherents of this other school of presuppositional apologetics once again tries to perform a fatal maneuver against me. They suggest that according to my view, I could be deceived in affirming my view. First, this is just outright stupid, since the Bible says that God can send evil spirits to convince people of error. So no matter how it happens, God is the one who decrees that someone would be deceived. Second, they demonstrate that they really have no idea how to perform this fatal maneuver, since it again backfires against them. If I am deceived in the way that the objection suggests (that is, by my own explanation of how one comes to believe falsehood), then it actually proves my position. If I am deceived in the way that I say one is deceived, then I am in fact not deceived. To illustrate, if God sends a demon to "deceive" someone into thinking that God does not send demons to deceive, then God does send demons to deceive. Likewise, if God causes me to believe the "falsehood" that it is God who causes one to believe falsehood, then God does cause one to believe falsehood, and I am in fact not deceived. In other words, my position cannot be demonstrated as self-refuting in the manner attempted by the objection.

***********
END QUOTE

Note first that he calls this maneuver of mine a maneuver from "the other school of presuppositional apologetics." But the Cartesian evil demon argument (or the Ungerian evil scientist argument) is not unique to "my school" of apologetics.

Second, Cheung's two responses to my argument are:

(1) It's outright stupid since the Bible tells us that God deceives people.

and

(2) It proves Cheung's position since if Cheung is deceived by God about his position then this fact proves Cheung's position because if God causes Cheung to believe the "falsehood" that it is God who causes one to believe falsehood, then God does cause Cheung to believe falsehood, and Cheung is in fact not deceived.

Both these fail miserably. One could say that they are "outright stupid."

All (1) contends is that my critique is "outright stupid" since the Bible tells us that God deceives people. Since my critique never implied that God did not (or does not, or can not) deceive people then all Cheung shows is that he never read what I wrote. What bearing does (1) have on my argument? None. And Cheung never tells us what (1) is supposed to accomplish. Indeed, my critique even states, "But we know that God does deceive (or gives over to delusions) people; as in the case of Pharaoh, some of Israel's enemies, and Paul's indictment in Romans 1 tells us." In fact, my critique was not: "God does not deceive people." My critique was not: "If God deceives some people (or has deceived, or has the ability to deceive) then we cannot know anything." My critique, as my post indicates, was that given Cheung's occasionalism, coupled with his internalism, lands us in skepticism.

Cheung says my fatal maneuver is this, "They suggest that according to my [Cheung's] view, I [Cheung] could be deceived in affirming my [Cheung's] view." Now, what was "the view" that I was attacking? Was it "the view" that people are deceived? No, since my post admits this! Maybe, just maybe, was it Cheung's occasionalism and internalism that I was attacking? I thought so, but maybe God deceived me. In any case, my post says (or appears to say!) that I was attacking Cheung's occasionalism. But, brilliantly, Cheung retorts that my argument against occasionalism is "outright stupid" because the Bible tells us that God deceives people. Well, as Cheung is wont to do, I ask for him to provide the valid deduction which proves this. So far we have:

1) God deceives some people in the Bible.


BIG GAPING HOLE

_________
C1) Therefore my view (occasionalism) is true.

So, yes, I still maintain that according to Cheung's views, he could be deceived regarding occasionalism qua philosophy of mind. Cheung could be deceived about whether it was Joseph or Benjamin who had the colored coat. Cheung could be deceived on any number of passages and about a many number of things (e.g., his being male, his occasionalism). Just because the Bible tells us that people were deceived does not mean that Cheung's view of occasionalism and his internalism are correct or if we can know that we have true beliefs.

More importantly, Cheung claims that,

"...true knowledge consists of only what is directly stated in Scripture and what is validly deducible from Scripture; all other propositions amount to unjustified opinion at best." (Ultimate Questions, P.43, emphasis mine)


So, he needs to have a verse directly stated in Scripture which tells was that God deceives in order to deduce that God deceives people. Does he have one? Well, he thinks so. But maybe there is no verse. Maybe all the verses that talk of God's deceiving people really say that God does not (or did not) deceive so and so. How does Cheung know that on the occasion that he reads the text of Scripture God makes him think that the passages which speak of God's not deceiving people speak about God deceiving people. How does Cheung know that there are propositions in the Bible which say this? Write the syllogism out. We do know that Cheung cannot say that God wouldn't deceive him because "God causes people to believe lies as he wishes (and as Scripture teaches)..." (-Cheung, Short Answers To Several Criticisms).

Cheung believes that the most brilliant theological minds have all had non-truths conveyed to them since he says that he has his own system and doesn't think any theologian got everything right. So, when those divines who argued for an infralapsarian position, from the texts of Scripture, their understanding of those texts were wrong, according to Cheung, and their understanding, according to Cheung, was immediately conveyed by God on the occasion that they read those texts. Is Cheung better than those men? Would God not deceive Cheung? What absolute standard does Cheung use to determine if God has not caused him to believe a lie? How was this standard obtained? If by his doctrine of occasionalism, then Cheung would need to show in a non-question begging manor that he was not deceived in this instance. But then we may ask Cheung how he came to the belief that his standard was correct and God did not deceive him in conveying this information? If by occassionalism (and it would have to be, see his quote on knowledge above), then Cheung needs to know that God did not deceive him into thinking that his standard was the ultimate standard he could employ to determine if he had been deceived or not... ad infinitum.

Lastly, we come to (2). (2) states that my critique proves Cheung's position since if Cheung is deceived by God about his position then this fact proves Cheung's position because if God causes Cheung to believe the "falsehood" that it is God who causes one to believe falsehood, then God does cause Cheung to believe falsehood, and Cheung is in fact not deceived. But, the concrete example I gave in my critique was on "Cheung's Apologetic Method." I never mentioned anything about the premise that God deceives people is wrong. Here is the "concrete example" I gave:

"Let's now give a concrete example to this argument: Cheung appears to think that he knows his apologetic method is true. On Cheung's blog he writes: "Here I will just refer all of you to the recommended readings listed on the blog entry in question (and listed again below) as my response to ALL criticisms that you can find ANYWHERE written by ANYONE on this subject. I have confidence in my products — they are accurate and irrefutable." Very well then, Cheung thinks his apologetic method is correct and he thinks he knows this. To claim to know something one must know that there is no possibility that one is wrong, according to Cheung. Or, one must have a reliable method which does not admit for error or mistake. But the method of Cheung's belief formation is just as unreliable and subject to false belief and error as, say, his points against intuition are (if not more so!)."

Where in any of this am I claiming anything like what Cheung thinks I claim in (2)? The only way (2) makes sense is if we substitute "God deceives people" with "my [Cheung] position." But that is also my position, and every other Christian's as well (i.e., that God does, or at least has the ability, to deceive people). So, I am not arguing that God does not deceive people. The problem here is that Cheung, being a smart fellow, really meant (occasionalism, or his apologetic method, or his brand of Calvinism) as "his position." We should make no mistake that Cheung is trying to defend his position on these matters and not trying to defend the boring claim that God has (or does) deceive some people. If Cheung is merely trying to defend the claim that God does indeed deceive people then we can note that (1) he's wasted his time and ours with his blog entry, (2) I already grant this, and (3) it would be a non-sequitur to reason from the fact that God deceives to the truth of Cheung's position. Since Cheung tries to slip a defense of his apologetic method and epistemology into pointing out that if I argue that God deceives people then I've proven Cheung's point that God deceives people, as well as saying that Cheung would not be deceived about God's deceiving people, if it were true that God deceived people, then many of his readers may have think that he scored a legitimate point here.

My critique is that given Cheung's desire for infallibalism and internalism with respects to his views on justification, coupled with his view of occasonalism, then Cheung cannot know much of anything. In his series on Arguing by Intuition Cheung makes clear his infallibalism:

However, all the “seems like” could be wrong. To paraphrase Clark, it might be that we think we have free will not because we know something (that we have free will), but because we don’t know something (that we really don't have free will). It might be that some people intuitively think certain things are true because they are ignorant. Luther puts it stronger, saying that we think we have free will because we have been deceived by Satan. In any case, the debate cannot be settled by intuition alone. (“Arguing By Intuition,” pp. 3-4, emphasis mine)


Cheung regularly makes this point. In the Fatal Maneuver Cheung writes,

Because they have stated that one must use his senses to know what the Bible says, now they must show either that our senses are infallible, or if our senses are fallible, that there is an infallible way of telling in which instances they are correct and in which instances they are incorrect. If they cannot do this, then they cannot read the Bible, so that their entire system — their whole Christian faith — collapses, and it does so just as easily as empirical atheism, or any non-Christian religion or philosophy.


But one could argue that Cheung's occasionalism is a more fallible belief forming process than sense perception is. Divine occasionalism is responsible for deceiving billions and billions of people on a daily basis (since no two people believe exactly the same on every thing). So, is Divine occasionalism infallible? No. Is there an infallible way of telling which instances of Divine occasionalism are correct and in which instances they are incorrect? No (because, per Cheung, all beliefs come from the fallible occasionalism)! Therefore, on Cheung's own terms, he cannot know that his apologetic method, his view of occasionalism, his view of divine sovereignty, his maleness, et al, is correct! Cheung's "entire system — his whole Christian faith — collapses, and it does so just as easily as empirical atheism, or any non-Christian religion or philosophy." As Aquascum noted in his review of my above critique,

"Yes, that sounds about right! As long as Cheung believes infallibility is required for knowledge, then Cheung’s occasionalism can’t give him knowledge at all. Cheung has refuted Christianity as a means of defending Christianity. Whereas Kant said, “I had to destroy reason in order to make room for faith,” the moral of this story is that Cheung had to refute Christianity in order to make room for apologetics."


Therefore, I maintain that Cheung has not even touched my critique. He dealt with nothing I said or implied. He showed no awareness of what I wrote. He implied that I denied things that my post affirmed. He failed to defend his view and this failure costs him everything. Will he respond? If so, was the above "earth shattering?" I'll quote what Cheung writes on "Fatal Maneuvers:"

"There is a fatal maneuver in debate where if you can show that your opponent's position contradicts itself or makes itself impossible, then you have effectively destroyed his position and all that follows from it. It is a powerful move. It checkmates your opponent."


Now, what was the above?


PART II

In this section I'll pick and choose some statements made by Cheung and offer rebuttal. I'll do it in the form of a dialogue. Vincent Cheung will be VC and Paul Manata will be PM.

I'll use Chung's claim that "...true knowledge consists of only what is directly stated in Scripture and what is validly deducible from Scripture; all other propositions amount to unjustified opinion at best. (-Cheung, Ultimate Questions, P.43,), for much of my ammunition.


VC: My system of philosophy and method of apologetics is rightly called "biblical" or "presuppositional."

PM: Do you know this? Is the above claim directly stated in Scripture and/or validly deducible from Scripture? If not, then is you claim that your system of philosophy and method of apologetics is rightly called "biblical" or "presuppositional" unjustified opinion at best?

VC: One prominent school of "presuppositional" apologetics protests that this surely goes too far. It admits that induction is fallacious, at least on its own, but then it is somehow redeemed when we operate under biblical presuppositions.

PM: No, it admits that unbelievers cannot answer the problem of induction given their worldview. If we said it was deductively fallacious in a non-Christian worldview but not deductively fallacious in a Christian worldview then that would be "outright stupid."

VC: It admits that sensation cannot yield knowledge, at least by itself, but then it can function as a reliable way to acquire knowledge once biblical principles are assumed.

PM: No, sensation does not all of a sudden start functioning in a reliable way once "biblical principles are assumed." Are you seriously implying that the "other school" basically thinks unbelievers eyesight is unreliable until they assume a Christian worldview?

VC: I have already critiqued this incoherent and unbiblical school of apologetics in a number of places, and it is not my main purpose to do it again here.

PM: So your post was not meant to "critique" us?

VC: Yet my point concerns something else, and that is how this school of apologetics attempts to refute mine, and how this backfires against them.

PM: Oh, so you do intend to critique our critiques?

VC: One frequent objection is that if we must begin from the Bible, then surely we must first use our senses to even read the Bible.

PM: Was that Aquascum's Sudduth's, Hays', or my objection?

VC: Because I have answered the objection, it has failed to damage me. However, now that my opponents have stated the objection, and stated it as something that is consistent with their position, then they must answer it themselves. Because they have stated that one must use his senses to know what the Bible says, now they must show either that our senses are infallible, or if our senses are fallible, that there is an infallible way of telling in which instances they are correct and in which instances they are incorrect. If they cannot do this, then they cannot read the Bible, so that their entire system — their whole Christian faith — collapses, and it does so just as easily as empirical atheism, or any non-Christian religion or philosophy.


PM: Oh, you must be begging the question against externalists and those epistemologists (e.g., Audi's Introduction to Epistemology, William's Critical Introduction to Epistemology) who argue that knowledge need not be infallible? Or, you're still assuming, and not answering, Aquascum's fatal maneuvers in this paper. See section three where your infallibalism is dealt with. If you don't all you're doing is begging the question.'

VC: One frequent objection is that if we must begin from the Bible, then surely we must first use our senses to even read the Bible. I have already answered this several times in several places, and there has been no successful attempt at a rebuttal. Among other things, this objection begs the question, and really ignores my position in the first place.

PM: Pot, kettle, black? Or, et tu.

VC: Some of them try to justify sensation as a reliable way to obtain knowledge. To argue for empiricism apart from Scripture is impossible, and they acknowledge this. And so, seemingly consistent with their own position, they argue for the basic reliability of sensation from Scripture. But what would it take to establish their position from Scripture? They acknowledge that our senses are fallible, and so they are not interested in supporting empiricism by arguing that the senses are infallible. However, if the senses are fallible, then they must establish from Scripture an infallible method by which to distinguish instances in which the sense are correct and instances in which they are wrong. But if they have a method at all, and if their method is fallible, then we still need to infallibly know how fallible it is and when it is fallible; otherwise, the whole thing collapses into skepticism again.

PM: See my argument against your view of occasionalism. Read what you wrote, and then what i wrote, and then you'll see why you're dead in the water. In other words, the whole thing collapses into skepticism again.

Well, I think I'm done for now. All Cheung's post is, is old hat. That is, he still assumes his internalism and infalliblaism, while never arguing for it. He still has not defined knowledge. Thus, he's still refuted.

6 comments:

  1. Occasionalism considers what most people call causes to be God's maintenance of connections between one type of event and another that we take to be causing it. So there's an intricate set of laws that determine certain events God will follow with other events according to the laws. God thus is involved in assuring that the laws are followed out, because nothing would happen if God weren't assuring it to go according to the laws.

    How you get from that to the view that God has specifically endorsed every event as good is beyond me. The most famous occasionalist was probably Malebranche, and he took great pains to distinguish his view from that of Leibniz, mainly because Leibniz thought of this world as the best of all possible worlds. Malebranche didn't want to say that, which means he wouldn't take God to be endorsing every happening as good. That means the fact that someone ends up concluding something faulty is no more God's responsibility than what would happen according to the standard view of caused and effect without God as mediator.

    Your critique of determinism is equally fallacious. Keep in mind that determinists think events taking place now determine what happens in the future. If so, then punishing someone or not might affect whether the person will be reformed by the punishment and thus stop doing criminal acts. Even the hard determinist who thinks we're not morally responsible thinks punishing people has good effects, and determinism has no trouble talking about the effects of actions.

    That's of course assuming hard determinism, which most determinists don't accept. Most determinists are compatibilists, and they accept that we are fully free and fully morally responsible, because we act according to who we are, our character, our desires, our beliefs, etc. That's freedom in a way that acting for no reason at all (and thus not on the basis of anything about your beliefs, desires, or character) could never explain. Randomness isn't freedom.

    I say this not to defend Cheung. I know little about him and don't care all that much. I just don't like to see classic philosophical views being misrepresented.

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  2. Jeremy,

    We're not used to having such a high-brow critic. Razor sharpens razor. Thanks for the input. I've enjoyed some of the pieces over at your own blog.

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  3. Hello Jeremy,

    I don't think Cheung's occasionalism is Malebranche's occasionalism. Remember that Cheung's maintains that God *immediatley* gives us the meaning of the text "upon the occasion" of our reading it.

    I never said that God endorses every event as good?? Maybe you could explain why you think this. I mean, I believe God "works all things together for the good of those who love Him," but my post never got into that.

    Anyway, if God gives me the meaning of the text, upon the occasion of my reading it, then God is the one who deceived me (if my understanding was different than what the text really said). I can't read it any other way than the way God wants me to. So, how could I "take greater care" not to misunderstand something? I could read it 5,000 times and on the occasion of reading it 5,000 times God might grant me the true meaning. But, it is also just as true that I could "take care" to read it 5,000 times and God could deceive me every time. Remember, Cheung says that God deceives and makes people misunderstand the text, "as He wishes."

    So, since Cheung's occasionalism isn't "classic ocassionalism" then I could not have misrepresented classic philosophical views. Cheung admits that it is God's "fault" that people misunderstand the texts. The belief of the heretic and the orthodox are equally given by God, immediately, upon the occasion of their reading the text. Therefore, the important thing to remember is that I was critiquing *Cheung* and not Malebranche.

    Your second point I totally disagree with. First off, my critique has been given by many, many anti-determinists and so it could be called a "classic" critique. Second, your claim that,

    "Keep in mind that determinists think events taking place now determine what happens in the future. If so, then punishing someone or not might affect whether the person will be reformed by the punishment and thus stop doing criminal acts."

    totally misses the mark. If someone is determined by biologoical and physical processes to do what they do, then when someone rapes someone why act as if they did something they could help doing? How could they "take care" not to do it? Can they violate the laws of physics and biology?

    You write,

    "Even the hard determinist who thinks we're not morally responsible thinks punishing people has good effects, and determinism has no trouble talking about the effects of actions."

    Which leads me to believe you might have not understood my point. I never even talked about "good effects." I simply said that if no one is morally responsible, then don't try to act and talk as if they are morally responsible. Since you admit that they say this, then how could I have misrepresented their views?

    Lastly, you write,

    "Most determinists are compatibilists, and they accept that we are fully free and fully morally responsible, because we act according to who we are, our character, our desires, our beliefs, etc. "

    As a Christian compatibalist I can agree with the above (but Cheung critiques Christian compatibalism and since he was the subject of my post, you have misunderstood my intentions) from a Christian perspective. As far as a naturalistic determinist goes, I disagree that they can provide a philosophical account of the above. I'm sure you're aware of the "classic" arguments against them, and so I don't feel I've misrepresented anyone.

    -Paul

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  6. Jeremy,

    It seems to me that, according to occasionalism, you don't have natural laws. That's the point of occasionalism: to eliminate second causes. God's primary causality is the only factor.

    What you have, instead, are law-like correlations, due, again, to the immediacy of the direct divine dynamic. But there is no natural force or mechanism mediating these effects.

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