I think your questions are excellent, and believe that our exchange will benefit the other readers here. Therefore I have decided to make my response to your comments a couple of articles.
Please feel free to disagree openly in comment with any part or all of my response. I’m not here to cudgel you into “right thinking”. I prefer to leave that tyranny to those most skilled at wielding it…the neo-Calvinists and other collectivist, Platonist ideologues.
A few preliminary thoughts for you:
My singular objective is to provide rationally unassailable foundations for the efficacious philosophy of man, which inexorably includes a Creator, because I submit it is impossible to account for the material existence of ANYTHING without the rational inclusion of God. In fact, for me, the argument for God is much more suitable in a REASONABLE, or even a “scientific”, venue than a spiritual one. It is the the extension of God’s rational necessity to the human ontological equation that leads me to accept the God of Israel as the ONE; and subsequently then it is reason which leads me inexorably to Messiah…God, incarnate.
This approach to our witness for Christ is superior to all others. If our faith cannot be rationally/logically disproved, then the mysticism and “blind faith” of vain philosophies is the sole purview of those who deny our beliefs, instead of the other way around…which I submit is currently the case.
My arguments are now and will only ever be rooted in rationally reconcilable assumptions. I will never appeal to mystery, or “divine” revelation, or contradictory ideas deftly blurred by hermeneutic trickery or blatant appeals to rational murder like “you have to believe before you can understand”. Despotism is the only outcome which is manifest when people accept that truth ultimately defies man’s existential reality, a reality which I concede is utterly comprised of ideas coupled together in a seamless fabric of individual material reality. Why? Because the first axiom is that man’s SELF, man’s existence, is THE singularity of all reality. That is, the individual is the ONLY objective ABSOLUTE.
Glenn, thank you again for your interest and the time you have taken to comment here. It means a LOT more to me than you probably realize.
Here is your first comment:
I just stumbled upon your blog today so I am a little late to the party. I read Paul Dohse’s blog and from him I found John Immel’s blog and then I found your blog. Just to make sure you understand where I am coming from (I consider it to be dishonest to ask people to spill their guts while withholding everything about myself) I am a Christian, not Reformed, but probably too conventional for your liking. One of the reasons that I hold to Christianity is that I believe in unchanging/objective/knowable truth and Christianity is the only religion/philosophy I am aware of that is consistent with that belief.
I would like to ask you several questions (in several parts) to help me understand what you mean by some of the statements you make. It is obvious that you have had training in philosophy and the language you are using is precise if not terribly clear to the uninitiated.
You made this statement:
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It took me almost no time at all between being in Sovereign Grace Ministries and leaving to understand that all appeals to paradoxical versions of truth was mysticism, period. That there is only one kind of TRUTH: Reasonable. Truth which resides in a place that man is fully capable of grasping and reconciling based on what he observes with his senses. Beyond that, there is no truth.
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If I understand you correctly this means that you are more in the Aristotle camp than in the Plato camp. Is that correct?
Also, how do you define “reason?” Is reason a logical system that you use to interpret the world around you? From what I have read there are more opinions on what “true” logic is than there are days in the year. Depending on whom you read you may find “propositional truth”, “dialectical theology”, mysticism, or some combination thereof promoted. Do you believe that our ability to reason correctly is innate?
I’m will go through your questions one by one and try to answer them systematically. My answers may overlap here and there, so forgive me if I get redundant.
The first thing I would like to do is define “reason”, because you are right, I do appeal to it a lot and your question helped me realize that I haven’t ever formally given a definition of the notion as I understand it.
To me, reason is indeed a “logical” system that is used to interpret the world. Some would argue that logic is purely subjective, however, I do no concede that. Truly, logic can be subjective; that is, contextual. For example, some would argue that it is logical to go to be early in the evening and rise early in the morning. However, this behavior would be illogical for someone whose living is worked out on the graveyard shift. So when I say “logic”, I mean that the argumentative premises can be boiled down to completely reconcilable, non-contradictory, non-paradoxical (I do not believe that paradoxes exist, except abstractly, btw) components; and that they can be objectively and empirically confirmed to not contradict by vetting them according to an objective and absolute standard of TRUTH…and of course, any absolute standard to TRUTH is, in fact, the exact SAME absolute MORAL standard as well; for what is absolutely TRUE must also be absolutely GOOD.
Hold up. Let me clarify that last point.
I mean this in relation to material reality (that which can be apprehended by the senses), not to conceptual abstractions. 2+2=4, yes, but this is obviously not a moral “truth” even though you and I would both concede it is “true” insofar as we both accept the premises of the mathematical abstraction (we concede the abstract definition of “two” of a thing or things, of the abstract relationship of “plus”, and the equally abstract conclusion of the equation). But “two” and “four” and “plus” don’t in and of themselves EXIST…thus, the “truth” is subjective, and the “good” is subjective, because what does not actually exist cannot by definition be objectively “good” or objectively true. These conceptual abstractions (“two”, “four”, “plus”) are thus only “good” insofar as they affirm the utter TRUTH and GOODNESS of the actual, material standard.
Because you are new to the site, Glenn, I will tell you that the only objective standard of TRUTH and MORALITY I concede is human individual life. Why? Because EVERYTHING which exists, must exist in DIRECT SERVICE to the individual SELF. And this is because everything you do and observe and know and concede and think and believe is a direct function of YOU, and YOU is your root material SELF; your very existence. In other words, literally, without YOU existing FIRST, nothing exists. This might sound mad, but I can assure you, it is utterly axiomatic and indefatigably true. YOU must come first in every epistemological, metaphysical, ethical, political, theological and even mathematical and physical equation, or there IS NO equation. Period. How do you know anything? By your existence. How do you do anything? By your existence. How do you receive “grace” from God? Revelation? Salvation? Via your existence. Nothing then happens to you outside of your individual existence. And as we are all individuals, existence of individual humanity is the source of everything in the universe. Without our conscious agency, there is no way to claim anything at all. By definition. And the only way then to apprehend truth, even to define God as God, is if you understand and concede the objective standard of SELF first.
Now, allow me to define abstraction. I define “abstract” as thus: any “thing” which cannot be observed as a material reality in and of itself. This “thing”, without an observable material body (object) to serve as its material “context”, is certainly beyond the senses of man, which means it is beyond the existence of man, since man apprehends his own existence directly via the senses. Thus the abstract “thing” must, if we concede that it “exists” outside of man’s existential frame of reference, be defined both as infinite (absolute) AND value-less (that is, NOT existing)…which are of course contradictory notions (well, partially…they both imply zero value; which is zero relevancy to man) . For example, there is no such thing as the color “blue” absent any object which can be observably valued as “blue”. There is no such thing as “the blue”. There is “the blue car”, or the “blue” curtains. But “blue” as a self-contained “thing” does NOT exist. If we say it does exist, absent any observable object which acts as the material contextual qualifier (e.g. the car, the curtains), then we can only assume it is infinite, as I said, and thus absolute. For “blue” without any material boundaries can only be defined thus: blue is blue. That is, it has no qualifier in material reality. Of course, this means that any time we seek to add a material object to the absolute of “blue”, blue is no longer absolute. Which then contradicts the idea the “blue” exists as a singular, self-contained “thing”, itself.
So the idea of a self-contained “blue” outside of man’s material reality is untenable. This thus leaves “blue”, and every other abstract idea, with only one logical definition: “blue” is a way man qualifies the relative relationship of objects he observes with his senses. Blue doesn’t exist except as a conceptual abstraction (i.e. a direct function of man’s mind) which man uses to organize his environment. In service to what? His individual LIFE, his SELF, of course. There is no other rational reason for such a concept. Why are things labeled “blue”? Ultimately to perpetuate man’s existence, because he–that is, his SELF–is the standard of TRUTH. Period. Full stop. Which means that without man, there is no such thing nor any such reason for “blue”. It is purely a concept devised by man for the purpose of serving his individual existence.
Okay, that was long. But important. I talk a lot about conceptual abstractions. It is therefore good for people to fully understand what I mean by that.
But getting back to reason…reason to me is a system of root and completely reconcilable assumptions utilized in service to the only objective standard of TRUTH/MORALITY: the individual SELF (conceptualized self stemming directly from the material, physical agent). In short, reason is a methodology which continually organizes and evaluates man’s environment solely for the affirmation of the idea that man is utterly himSELF. That he is of himself, for himself, and owns himself; again, as SELF is the only legitimate standard of all GOOD and all TRUTH, because there is no way to argue that anything you observe, concede, know, proclaim, do, say, etc., etc., can exist without the root of the individual SELF coming FIRST in the metaphysical, physical, and epistemological equation.
An idea is only reasonable, I submit, if it wholly concedes, via rationally/logically reconcilable presumptions and assumptions, the absolute and infinite truth of the SELF of the individual human agent.
Unlike John Immel, I do not have any formal educational background in philosophy or theology. Having said that, I do possess a professional doctorate degree (clinical, therapeutic, and industrial applications of this particular field of study) and an undergraduate degree in education, so I am not entirely unfamiliar with the use of discursive logic, research methodology, and various philosophical approaches. I have attempted to wade through the countless philosophical volumes authored by the major players, but to be honest I found the task so close impossible that I surrendered to reason, and stopped, LOL. I find that I would much rather work through ideas on my own than read the selected works of Descartes and Voltaire and Paine and Hobbs and Plato whilst prodding myself in the thigh with a pen knife to keep awake. The only major volumes I (somewhat) successfully wandered into and bushwhacked my way out of were John Locke’s “On Human Understanding” and Calvin’s Institutes…oh, and “the God Particle” by Leon Lederman, which is a book on the evolution of the Standard Model of physics.
I don’t refer much to John Calvin, himself, or the Institutes because frankly Paul Dohse is the expert and anything I could say about them he’s already said better. Plus, disputing Calvin to me is only interesting when you go after the logical inconsistencies, and that discussion is really one of “Irrationalism” vs. Reason, as opposed to Calvinism vs. something else. Outside of myself and John Immel, no one is really going after the root inconsistencies, so it is dreadfully difficult for me to find any conversations on Calvinism as it relates to CALVIN that appeal to me. Since practically all of Calvin’s critics (including Paul Dohse, I submit) concede the same logical inconsistencies, I find most discussions of Calvin, himself, mundane and of no real interest lately. That’s why when I discuss Calvinism it is really within the context of its inherent Platonism, and thus gets lumped in as merely one of many despicable collectivist philosophies.
John Immel has told me that my musings resemble Aristotle and he would certainly be in the position to know. I am glad of this because I cannot stand the philosophy of physics (scientific determinism…which is merely another bastard son of Plato) and Lederman in his book savages Aristotle; so I was glad to find myself a kindred philosophical pariah, alongside of Ari, in Lederman’s Platonist eyes.
One more thing I never tire of mentioning: I am first cousin (several generations removed, of course) to John Locke, the philosopher. So, I claim the legitimacy to speak on these ideas via ancestral osmosis.
Er…that was a joke. 🙂
“One of the reasons that I hold to Christianity is that I believe in unchanging/objective/knowable truth and Christianity is the only religion/philosophy I am aware of that is consistent with that belief.”
Me, too! So pleased to meet you, brother! Here is me, shaking your hand enthusiastically in my mind.
“If I understand you correctly this means that you are more in the Aristotle camp than in the Plato camp. Is that correct?”
Like I said, that great and snarky metaphysician, John Immel, has told me as much. And I trust his observation implicitly. John is a genius.
Also, how do you define “reason?”
I have already addressed this, so I’ll move on.
Do you believe that our ability to reason correctly is innate?
Insofar as every individual human being (assuming they are not cognitively compromised via some kind of medical or psychological pathology) is aware of their own absolute singularity of SELF, by inexorable definition, then yes. That is, existence is explicit proof of itself; it is the why of itself and it is the for of itself, and therefore, if you exist then you MUST possess the ability to understand that you are. And if you can understand that you are, then you can understand that YOU are the absolute, singular, and infinite constant in the universe. From this, you can understand that nothing can be true or good which contradicts this objective standard; the standard of the SELF.
By virtue of the inescapable axiom of BEING everyone is innately capable of reason. The willful rejection of the individual human SELF as the source of truth, then, in service to any other idea, is the veritable lowering of the drawbridge in open invitation to the hoards of evil which seek to burn and pillage the glorious temple of the Holy Spirit.
I will get to your second and third installments next, Glenn.
7 thoughts on “The Philosophy of Pure Reason: Response to Commenter Glenn”
Hello Again Argo,
Thank you for your response and the work you put into this. I have read this post with interest and look forward to reading your next posts.
Since you gave me some of your education background I figure that turnabout is fair play. I am an unrepentant techie. I have an MS in applied mathematics and an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering. By training and temperament this makes me “Aristotelian” even though I would chuck a lot of what Aristotle wrote out the window.
In the last ten years I have been trying to teach myself a bit of philosophy even though I don’t enjoy it. I have done this because I have sadly realized how much Greek philosophy has been introduced into Christian teaching. In my comments I will reference some philosophical concepts but please realize that my understanding of these is fairly high level.
It seems that your foundational premise (first principle for the techies out there) is that all I can know is “me” so all of my reality is contingent on “me”. I think you put it best when you said:
“And this is because everything you do and observe and know and concede and think and believe is a direct function of YOU, and YOU is your root material SELF; your very existence.”
Isn’t this the same thing Descartes did with his “Method of Radical Doubt.” This would mean that everyone’s reference point is themselves and they work out from there. My guess, and it only a guess, is that you wholeheartedly agree with Descartes Cogit Ergo Sum (I think therefore I am).
This leads me to a question: If everything which exists must exist in direct service to the individual self doesn’t this mean that if there is a God, and there is, we must exist in direct service to God? We should both be able to agree that God exists and that He is a person. Is it possible for everything to exist in direct service to both God and to us? If that is so doesn’t it logically lead you to accept universalism?
Given what you have told me it would appear that your answer to the question “If A Tree Falls In A Forest And No One Is There, Does It Make A Noise?” is no. That just doesn’t make sense to me (you can believe it if it makes sense to you). I guess that is the Aristotelian in me coming out.
Thank you again.
Great questions, Glen! I am enjoying reading this.
Glen, this stuff is not as wacky as you might think. I am coming across quite a few scholars/theologians from centuries past who are tracing a lot of what is considered orthodox Christianity right back to Plato and his teaching taht all material world is evil only spiritual good and we need Philospher kings to lead the ignorant masses. People with “special knowledge”. It matches so much of what has been passed down from Augustine. (I realize it was creeping in way before him)
The internet is certainly changing things!
You know, it sort of mirrors what a bible translator told me years ago. The best translators are trained linguists (even secular) NOT theologians. I had to change my thinking because as I considered taht over the years, I had to concede he was right.
Thanks for reading! I would like to respond to your comment.
“It seems that your foundational premise (first principle for the techies out there) is that all I can know is “me”. ”
Not at all. I am not declaring that all I can know is me. I am not merely offering an eloquent argument for metaphysical and moral relativism. It is not difficult to realize that without the ability to perceive and efficaciously define what is NOT me it would be impossible for me to know me. If all I can know is me, then I have no way to define mySELF, nor to even qualify my SELF as existing. Existence of SELF is utterly predicated upon the observable juxtaposition of NOT self. Even God cannot define Himself as God unless he can observe what is NOT God. In order for Him to be qualified as God, he must be God of something…or rather, someONE. And that someone cannot be Himself, obviously. You cannot observe yourself by yourself to know yourself.
In other words, without our senses, with which we observe OTHER, we cannot know ourself. So no, I would deny that definition.
I am not saying all I can know is me. What I am saying is that ME is a direct function of ME…not a direct function of OTHER. That the existence of SELF is OF the SELF and cannot logically be claimed to be the direct function of what it is not. I hold this to be axiomatic: whatever is a direct function of an absolute IS the absolute. If SELF is an absolute, and it is, then the SELF must be its own source.
The individual SELF is the only inexorable constant in one’s life. YOU must come first in any existential equation, period. What I am saying is that there is no way to argue that YOU are a direct function of anything but yourself without committing a logical fallacy. If you say that you are a direct function of something NOT you, you have contradicted your own existence. In which case, why would we even have this conversation? You couldn’t exist to have it. The only infinite absolute in one’s life is the SELF. You are YOU is an absolute axiom, because you cannot be you AND something else, too. The SELF cannot be parsed…if you are not absolutely you, and infinitely you, then you cannot exist.
“My guess, and it only a guess, is that you wholeheartedly agree with Descartes Cogit Ergo Sum (I think therefore I am)”
No. It would be more consistent with my philosophy to state it this way: I am, therefore I think.
“This leads me to a question: If everything which exists must exist in direct service to the individual self doesn’t this mean that if there is a God, and there is, we must exist in direct service to God? We should both be able to agree that God exists and that He is a person. Is it possible for everything to exist in direct service to both God and to us? If that is so doesn’t it logically lead you to accept universalism?”
No, again, to the first part of the question. In fact, I would say that the question itself is evidence of your ongoing Platonist metaphysical presumptions. It is impossible to exist in direct service to God. Everything we do is a direct function of our own absolute and infinite SELF; we can do nothing beyond the boundaries of SELF, then. That is why I argue that the sanctity of the individual is the greatest moral good (all individuals). It is utterly impossible for the absolute SELF to be a direct function of anything else, even God. You are presuming, I think, that I concede that human beings are a direct creation of God. I have never conceded that. It creates an impossible error of logic. If man is a direct function of God, then man IS God. In which case, man cannot know himself or God because man doesn’t exist. Further, man was not “made out of nothing” because nothing cannot exist, by definition. We honor and worship God in direct service to OUR infinite existential and moral worth as individuals, not to God’s…His own existence is in service to His own existential and moral worth. As Creator, God is the greatest affirm-er of man; THAT is why we worship Him. If the worship of God meant the denial of the SELF as the standard of absolute TRUTH, then it could not be validated as either good or true, I submit. I would think that these premises then would not make me a universalist.
“Given what you have told me it would appear that your answer to the question “If A Tree Falls In A Forest And No One Is There, Does It Make A Noise?” is no. That just doesn’t make sense to me (you can believe it if it makes sense to you). I guess that is the Aristotelian in me coming out.”
You are correct, my answer is no. But I deny that it merely “makes sense to me”. With respect, to answer that question any other way is irrational. There are no logical premises underlying the assumption that falling trees make sounds in the absence of human agents. The entire concept of “sound”, even down to the acoustic physics (which are predicated upon the assumption of natural laws, which are also purely conceptual and do not actually exist) of the notion is completely abstract. That is, it is a function of MAN’S conceptual brain. Sound itself is simply a specific way man qualifies and/or quantifies the relative movement (existence) of objects in his environment. It is literally nothing more than that. There are no “laws” of sound which exist absent the human conceptual abstraction. Devoid of man to recognize the relative movement of objects in his environment, these relative movements cannot EVER be qualified in any way, including EXISTING in the first place. If there is no one around to “hear” the “sound”, both of which are conceptual abstractions stemming from a human brain, and do not exist outside of individuals, then by definition it is impossible for these concepts to exist absent man. And I’ll go further. Without a human being, there is no “tree” and no “forest” either. “Tree” and “forest” are conceptual abstractions man uses qualify the relative movement/existence of objects he observes in his environment. Without man, they do not exist. Indeed, without man, EXISTENCE doesn’t exist.
Thank you for the response. You are correct in that I did presume that you believe that mankind is the direct creation of God.
I believe that a tree falling in the forest makes a sound in the forest whether or not anyone is there to hear it. That is because I believe that nature is also a direct creation of God. The basic idea for me is that God is always there to hear it (more precisely He made, and enforces, the “rules” including the laws of acoustics). It seems that you don’t believe that nature is a direct creation of God either (correct me if I’m wrong).
I don’t want to take up all your time in a back and forth in the comments. I look forward to your next post.
Yeah…the presumption is not your fault. I do refer to God as the “creator”, because He is. However, since He cannot create out of nothing, by definition, and He cannot create out of Himself without contradicting His own absolute and infinite SELF, I realized there had to be another way God created. I have a theory, and I think its a good one, but for the sake of “loving my neighbor as myself” I’ll spare you the details for the moment. LOL. Suffice to say that I believe categorically that without God, it would not be possible for man and other “objects” in the universe to engage in relative relationships. And without that, it is impossible for anything to be qualified as “existing”.
With respect to the “laws” or “rules” of acoustics/physics/nature, etc…the only logical assumption regarding their existence is that they are a product of man’s conceptualizing brain. They do not “exist” in actuality as it were. Here is why: there is no law of physics/nature which man has ever observed absent a material object. The material object, indeed, is a prerequisite for any experiment in any scientific field of study. That is, without an object to observe first, there can be no “law” deduced. This would imply, if scientists would forsake their ludicrous Platonist assumptions for five seconds stop pretending they are the smartest people in the world, that objects are not direct functions of the “laws of physics”, but instead the exact opposite is true. Laws of physics are direct functions of objects. Which means the laws of physics ARE the objects. In other words…objects ARE, and “laws of physics” do not make up any ACTUAL part of their being; how they relate is a function of the inherent being (or SELF) of the objects, not a function of the these ethereal “laws”.
What should be apparent then is that “laws of physics” are how man qualifies/quantifies the relative movement (relationship) of objects he observes. Without man, thus, there are no laws of physics, because the laws of physics reside completely in man’s mind. So God does not sustain or uphold the “laws of physics” because He did not invent the laws of physics. Man did.
Your comment about God hearing is an interesting one. My answer is a bit complicated. Sorry about that.
First, we need to understand that “nature” is of no logical relevancy to God. To suppose then that God “hears” nature absent man is to presume that He finds some relevance in hanging around nature by Himself. There is no real argument for that. All of the universe is for MAN, is the only way to understand the universe. Since man is the one responsible for qualifying and quantifying all he observes, as a function of his singular SELF, then the “existence” of the universe must SERVE man. Man is the absolute…everything He observes is valued according to the standard of HimSELF.
Now, in the context of individual humans, I concede that God does indeed function as a “person”, and thus can see and hear what we see in here. So, in that sense, He can see and hear a tree fall in a forest. But remember that “see” and “here” and “tree” and “forest” are not ideas that God created; man did. So what we need to not do is assume that these concepts existed PRIOR to man, or that they exist without man. The very concepts themselves have relevance only as functions of MAN’S existence, not God’s. In the sense that God “hears” a tree in the forest, we must conclude that he is functioning like a MAN; a human with the senses of a human and who concedes man’s qualifications/quantification of “hear” and “sound”, etc (a prerequisite of the Divine communicating with man). In the absolute context of God, Himself, these concepts are meaningless; they do not exist. We have no frame of reference for what God experiences in His own metaphysical/physical context, and there is no logical argument for God’ “hearing” the same way man “hears” when we are speaking utterly of God’s context as Himself. We only have a frame of reference for humanity.
So, if you say that God is in the forests to “hear” “sound” from “trees” in “forests”, and he is conceding that his experience is exactly like man’s experience even down to conceding man’s definition of the concepts themselves, then I am proved right. God is functioning as a “person”, hearing as man hears. It takes a SOMEONE to hear when a tree falls in the forest.
Glenn. No problem re the back and forth. Believe it or not it doesn’t take me that long to write these posts and comments. For the posts, it’s the editing for grammar and punctuation mistakes that’s the biggest hassle. 🙂
“So, if you say that God is in the forests to “hear” “sound” from “trees” in “forests”, and he is conceding that his experience is exactly like man’s experience even down to conceding man’s definition of the concepts themselves, then I am proved right. God is functioning as a “person”, hearing as man hears. It takes a SOMEONE to hear when a tree falls in the forest. “
In other words, he didn’t predetermine the tree to fall. The tree fell and he heard it. Just as we would hear it, if we were there. And I didn’t know where you were going with this tree in the forest stuff at first….
No…he certainly did not predetermine the tree to fall. Divine “pre-determining” of specific events is simply a reference to the general philosophy of “determinism”, which is completely contradicted by basic reason. If all is determined, then all we humans think and believe is just another function of the determining “force” (which IS, in fact, determinism itself…for determinism is absolute, and thus it cannot terminate in a “free” agent…this is a contradiction in logic). In which case, there is no such thing as “thinking” or “knowing” at all. Everything we “think” we believe is “true” cannot possibly be proved true; since everyone is merely a function of the determining force there is no one ACTUALLY around to affirm “truth”.