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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Collett's Transcendental Argument

Here I reply to Don Collett's online paper "Van Til and Transcendental Argument Revisited" [sic], by denying his implication that arguments following Bas van Fraassen's presuppositional semantics are distinct from deductive arguments, and also by pointing out the invalidity of his sole stated example of a transcendental argument.

Twentieth-century developments in the Reformed tradition of theology have led a number of apologists to assert that there exist arguments which they call transcendental, which are neither identical with nor reducible to arguments of deductive or inductive form, and that only these arguments are faithful to God's plan for ministering to the unregenerate, that is, to non-Christians. However, this position leads us to certain problems---namely, if transcendental arguments are not deductive or inductive, then in what sense ought we regard their conclusions as justified? Collett's paper appears framed at least in part as an attempt to help answer this question by appealing to the logical system induced by van Fraassen's presuppositional semantics, since he evidently believes that this system is something altogether different from either induction or deduction. However, we shall see that Collett does not, in fact, accomplish this task, nor does he suggest any strategies for doing so, for the very simple reason that, contrary to Collett's analysis, van Fraassen's system is indeed one of deduction.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Limited Response to Anderson's Sketch

Here I respond briefly to James N. Anderson's online essay entitled "The Theistic Preconditions of Knowledge: A Thumbnail Sketch" (2006) by pointing out two serious problems I see in his outlined case for theism. To that end, I critique his central argument against naturalism, as well as his contention that epistemic normativity cannot be subject to human convention.

Following a tradition of presuppositionalist apologetics, Anderson takes up the position that God stands among the necessary preconditions for knowledge itself, and that we must assume the existence of a divine author of the universe if we are to free ourselves from a paralyzing epistemological skepticism. He bases his outlined case, a kind of transcendental argument for theism, on the observation that one of same notorious difficulties of metaethics also frustrates inquiries into epistemology, namely the question of how normative standards can arise out of the impersonal properties of the universe; for the very concept of rationality presupposes epistemological norms to which we ought to conform. Similar to certain moral arguments for the existence of God, he suggests that we cannot derive the prescriptive standards we need for epistemology from a Godless description of reality.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

An Argument Concerning the Trinity

Although I can identify certain sentences which educated Christians take as descriptive of the Trinity, I remain unable to meaningfully interpret those sentences as a cohesive whole, or to otherwise find any substance to the various supposed descriptions of the doctrine. I suspect that this is not my own failing, but rather caused by a genuine lack of meaningful content therein. Indeed, I submit that even those Christians who claim to understand the Trinity doctrine may not actually understand it. However, I make this suggestion humbly, and with an earnest desire for correction in case I am mistaken. So it is that I have sought at some length to meaningfully interpret it, by inquiring after Christians how to do properly so. Yet this process has proved invariably unsuccessful, for a number of different reason, chief among them, in my experience, the supposition on the part of certain Christians that a non-Christian is simply incapable of understanding the doctrine in the first place. These Christians are unwilling to discuss the matter because, according to them, I must come to know God, or some such, before I can appreciate the meaningfulness of the Trinity. In this discussion, therefore, I shall outline a defense for my position that the following three statements are inconsistent when taken together:

(I) Non-Christians cannot understand the Trinity.

(II) Christians always understand the Trinity.

(III) Accepting the Trinity is rational.