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.