Monday, October 30, 2006

Coming Out Of The Closet

Interlocutor asked Steve,

"Further, and I don't mean to but you in a difficult spot with the other contributors and supporters here, how do you feel about people like Paul Manata and Peter Pike/Calvindude who seem to think that TAG is a done deal?"

I might as well say it now, I've rejected the strong modal version of TAG for some time now (or, at least admitted that the case has not been made).

I've debated this back and forth with myself and others for the past 4-5 years. Others that I've had private dialogue with can vouch for this. Recently I included Steve in a group email exchange where I stated my views. All of this was months before these current claims about what my position is, so no one can accuse me of doing this ex post facto. In fact, see this thread where I argue against the strong modal claim (my moniker is "John Calvin").

What's the cash value of all this? Not much. I'm still a presuppositionalist, only a better one (in my opinion). I still have no problem with transcendental arguments, and I employ them. From where I'm standing, one can scale back the claim and argue for a "one and many" God. The problems with the strong modal version cannot be used by the atheist or the Muslim, so they're still stuck yelling from the sidelines. The only threat: thought experiments and made up worldviews which are basically the same as mine.

So, some "right wing" Van Tillians have said that my position is due to "intellectual dishonesty" and "immorality." I just think I'm being intellectually honest. I'm not a "left wing" Van Tillian either. I think I'm moderate. :-)

And so now I'm out of the closet. How liberating! I still use TAs, but now I just use more arguments. I'm a bigger threat. At least that's what I tell myself to make me feel better after I get embarrassed by the stellar arguments atheists put forth.

11 comments:

  1. What's a Moderate VanTillian suppose to look like?
    JOhn Frame?
    What'a LEft VanTillian suppose to look like?
    Francis Scaeffar (misspelled)?
    What's an example of a right wing VanTillian?
    Greg L. Bahnsen?
    YOu have much to educate me, Paul Manata!
    I have much to learn

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  2. I asked a question about that a few days ago (triune vs. half dozen gods), thanks for posting that thread. I've only really seen your interactions with atheists, so it was interesting to see you take on other presuppositionalists.

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  3. Jimmi,

    It depends on if you're speaking to their face or behind their back.

    If I'm moderate then Frame's a left winger since I think he's wrong about a few things regarding TA's (for example, I think a TA *is* a unique and specific kind of argumen).

    But to a "right-winger" I'm a left-winger.

    If I talk to Frame to his face I'll call him a "moderate," because who wants to be a left-winger.

    Some "right-winger's" who hear my view during our conversation would say, "okay, that's moderate." But when they tell their friends about it they'll call me a "left-winger."

    But, I call them a right-winger to their face, hard, radical, or extreme right behind their back.

    But then I guess a "righht-winger" might call Frame a "communist" since Frame can be viewed as wanting equal treatment for myriad apologetic arguments.

    But to his face they'd never say that.

    At any rate, I'd suggest calling everyone else a moderate Van Tillian (unless you're at an SCCCS conference, then you call them heretics) except the right-wingers. They seem to love the extreme and hard right designations. Some people need to feel like their on the outskirts. The constant state-of-war mindset keeps their reflexes quick.

    God uses all sorts of means. We need Sgt. Elias' and Staff Sgt. Barnes' As long as no one gets too crazy, we can defeat the NVA.

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  4. Hahaha,
    Paul Manata, that's a pretty funny response...
    if ever I'm around your area, I wouldn't mind buying you beer (I personally don't drink), and talking about apologetics
    But for now, UCLA midterms face me...
    Are you still with BTS?
    Your description of the NVA gives a whole new meaning to that acronym: NonVanTillian Atheists?

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  5. Jimmy,

    I'd take you up on that beer, especially at a UCLA football game.

    I'm not at BTS.

    NVA = Nullifidian Village Addle-pate

    :-D

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  6. What I've found interesting is that "Right-wing" Van Tillians, as you've called them, are willing to admit one's denial TAG is likely (if not certainly) due to immorality. I've had this thrown at me before. It strikes me analogous to J.S. Mill and others who claimed that to even challenge the idea that evils in this world consistitute powerful evidence (in fact) against God's existence is only due to the immorality of the theist. Like Peter van Inwagen has said in response to Mill and company, it seems entirely appropriate to respond to these Right-wing van Tillians, whoever they are, with: "Come off it!"

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  7. I might as well say it now, I've rejected the strong modal version of TAG for some time now (or, at least admitted that the case has not been made).

    The non-parenthetical part of this statement sounds even more radical than Steve's position. He seems to agree with your parenthetical statement--i.e. that the case is still being made.

    Anyway, if you reject "the strong modal version of TAG," which TA's do you support? [You wrote, "I still have no problem with transcendental arguments, and I employ them," and "I still use TAs, but now I just use more arguments."] How are these other TAs and your other arguments formulated? What are the arguments that you now use?

    I'm still a presuppositionalist, only a better one (in my opinion).

    This is where I need a little better understanding. It seems to me that "the strong modal version of TAG" is the very soul of presuppositionalism. I don't think I understand the project of presuppositionalism without this version of TAG.

    Take your debate with Barker (perhaps this was before your rejection of the strong modal version of TAG). In that debate you kept going back to the idea that his "worldview" could not account for laws of logic and yours could and if he used laws of logic, he was begging the question against your "worldview" (correct me if I am misrepresenting you).

    So, it seems that your presuppositional method was to take two "worldviews"--i.e. the Christian "worldview" and a materialist "worldview"--and to suggest that the "worldview" that could account for the laws of logic, for instance, was true and the one that could not was false.

    This method, however, appears to presuppose the strong modal version of TAG that you have either "rejected" or, at least, admitted that it has not made it's case.

    Let me clarify. Let's say that you say to Barker, "Your worldview cannot account for the laws of logic." Barker replies, "How do you know that?" You respond, "Well, tell me how you can account for laws of logic?" Barker says, "I don't know how to." You conclude, "Therefore, materialism cannot account for laws of logic and the Christian worldview is true." [Way oversimplified, I know.]

    This argument sounds different than the strong modal version of TAG (and it is). It is basically the argument, "If one worldview can account for 'undeniable phenomenon X' and another worldview cannot, then the worldview that can account for 'undeniable phenomenon X' is true and the worldview that cannot account for 'undeniable phenomenon X' is false." You suggest that Christianity can account for 'undeniable phenomenon X' (in this case, laws of logic) and that materialism cannot. According to your argument, then, Christianity is true and materialism is false.

    [Of course, it seems all that you could really hope to establish is that Dan Barker, a proponent of materialism [?], cannot account for 'undeniable phenomenon X' (viz. laws of logic, in that specific case), not that materialism per se cannot account for 'undeniable phenomenon X.']

    But more than that. You believe that Christianity can account for 'undeniable phenomenon X' by reference to the Christian God. So, if you are asked, "How do you account for 'undeniable phenomenon X'?" you will say, "God did/made/imposed/structured/etc. it" (of course, in a more specific and sophisticated way depending on the specific nature of 'undeniable phenomenon X'). But this runs us right back to the strong modal version of TAG.

    Recall Steve's formulation:

    i) We must isolate and identify the undeniable phenomena. . .

    ii) Given (i), we must then show how these undeniable phenomena are ontologically dependent on the nature and/or will of God. . .


    It seems that, in your debates (and in the debate of any "presuppositionalist") you presuppose both (i) the existence of 'undeniable phenomenon X' and (ii) the ontological dependence of 'undeniable phenomenon X' on the Christian God. At the very least, it seems that you presuppose the latter.

    So, if we are discussing laws of logic, for instance, and you ask Barker to "account for" laws of logic in his materialist worldview (if he is, in fact, a materialist) and he responds, "I can't. How do you account for laws of logic in your worldview?" You, then, answer something to the effect of, "God imposed his thought structures on the universe so that his thought structures determine how things behave" (I'm sure that your answer would be more well-developed than this, but mine might be along the general path of your answer).

    Now, if Barker takes the next step and asks, "How do you support this assertion?" we would fly headlong into a premise of the strong modal version of TAG. Recall that this version of TAG contends that 'undeniable phenomenon X' (in this case, laws of logic) are ontologically dependent on God. This is exactly what Barker is asking you to demonstrate. To demonstrate that your contention that God imposed laws of logic on the universe is to demonstrate that laws of logic are ontologically dependent on God. This, however, is exactly what you have either "rejected" or, at least, "admitted that the case has not been made."

    Or, perhaps, this is not true. Perhaps, all you are suggesting is that your "worldview" CAN account for laws of logic and that Barker's "worldview" CANNOT do so, but there are other "thought experiments and made up worldviews which are basically the same as mine." But this leads to a sticky problem (in fact, the problem that you allude to in your post). If all that is needed is that it is possible for a "worldview" to account for laws of logic, then materialism has a much better shot. The materialist doesn't have to explain "how" laws of logic can occur in that "worldview" (any more than you must explain "how" God imposed laws of logic on the universe) but only has to assert that the laws CAN exist in a materialist universe.

    The materialist, then, might say, "Though it may be extremely improbable, it is not impossible that the universe just came about in such a way that it is governed by laws of logic. In other words, laws of logic just are." The materialist, then, CAN account for laws of logic (even if the account "sounds improbable").

    Furthermore, "sounding improbable" is relative to the hearer. A "god" sounds improbable to many hearers, so accounting for the laws of logic by suggesting that a god imposed them on the universe may "sound" as improbable to the skeptic as the materialists' account based on chance is to the Christian. It doesn't seem that the argument has gone very far.

    No matter what the specifics are regarding what I wrote above, the question that I would really love to see addressed is, "If one does not accept the strong modal version of TAG, what is presuppositionalist project?" Bahnsen seemed to believe that the strong modal version of TAG was the heart of presuppositionalism. What is presuppositionalism without this version of TAG? What is your argument(s) if it isn't this version of TAG? What makes these arguments distinctively presuppositional? What is the presuppositional method if the strong modal version of TAG is rejected or the case has not been made for it?

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  8. Anonymous,

    "I asked a question about that a few days ago (triune vs. half dozen gods)"

    I'm still trying to learn the "ins and outs" of the TAG, but I think I can help. Polytheism is reductionistic, and thus, it doesn't solve the problem of the one and the many. You need a *transcendent* "One" to uphold such things as the laws of logic and the uniformity of nature. Furthermore, if I am not mistaken, the transcendent One must have diversity within the unity of His/its being in order to know anything outside itself. Aristotle's "thought thinking itself" god, who could only know itself (and thus, could not provide a ground for the uniformity of nature and laws of logic outside itself), is the logical conclusion of unitarianism. So, if there were to be "half a dozen gods", there would still have to exist a transcendent Being that gives everything else the grounding for existence itself.

    [Note: If I have made any sloppy philosophical errors, it is because I am not a philosopher. I welcome correction.]

    Paul,

    "The only threat: thought experiments and made up worldviews which are basically the same as mine."

    Aren't there sub-arguments that require *Revelation* in order to have epistemology (which would eliminate mere conceptual scheme "copy-cats" of Christianity)?

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  9. “What is presuppositionalism without . . . TAG?”

    Hmm . . . the Scripturalism of Gordon Clark.

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  10. Thanks for trying to explain it S&S, that explains why quadrune rather than a 4 membered pantheon was being argued.

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  11. hey Sean,

    Glad to see you're a John Frame fan now, what, after you called him a heretic -n- all.

    He isn't a TAGster, but he's a presuppositionalist. Guess you think the anti-hero is a Clarkian now!

    Oh, by the way, how do you know that presuppositionalism without TAG is Clarkianism? Can you deduce that from Scripture?

    No?

    Oh, it must be another one of your unjustified opinions.

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