Monday, December 22, 2008

Correspondence Theory and TAG

I'm going to beat this thing to death for sure.

It occurs to me now that Goobers transcendental argument for God (TAG) assumes that the nature of Truth follows the belief that it is a Correspondence with reality - which of course is a philosophy I dismiss. Now I often talk about correspondence, however not with reality, but within a paradigm of thought, a language game, a community.

If one makes the statement, then, that the laws of logic are absolute (as absolutism in this sense implies correspondence), it would have to then pre-suppose that the system we're using to mirror that reality is adequate to do so. In other words, prior to certainty, one must have a sense of 'a priori' certainty regarding the nature of the language and rules for logic that one’s using to reach that reality.

Goober (The Creationist and TAG’ist) was asked:
How do you know your senses or your extrasensory perception were[was] reliable prior to and at the time of your revelation?
(NOTE: Goober believes that without God, one cannot have certainty, however with God, one has certainty)

So I’d like to rephrase just what this question is getting at in by restating the above thoughts:
Again, If we say that we have reached [T]ruth, and for that matter certainty, when our perceptions (and how we reflect them in language using logic and reason) , have successfully mirrored those perceptions with reality; then the question above is trying to flesh out the following from Goober – How can one be certain that the pre-existing language game (system of logic and reason) was adequate to the task of mirroring reality? Part of Goober’s premise on the “proof that God exists” is the axiom that logic and reason are absolute, with no basis for this other then the statement, “Does absolute Truth exist?” Not only is this not a proof of anything (as has been already pointed put in previous posts), but it’s a mere pre-supposition in itself. In other words the first premise helps itself to assuming its own existence and begs the question – yet again, this is given as part of the premise; which is merely to call out something supposedly given.

Goober’s response was as follows (and is quite laughable):
"It’s a package deal :-D God reveals some things to us, such that we can know them for certain...”

It’s a package deal?!? Is he serious? Not only does one have to pre-suppose God in this argument (which is fine, don’t we all) but it pre-supposes the vary thing it uses as proof, BUT WAIT, it’s a PACKAGE DEAL.

Let me quote Rorty again: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Pg. 318, 319:
“…The notion of knowledge as accurate representation lends itself naturally to the notion that certain sorts of representations, certain expressions, certain processes are “basic, “privileged”, and “foundational”. The criticisms of this notion which I have canvassed in the previous chapters are backed up with holistic arguments of the form: We will not be able to isolate basic elements except on the basis of a prior knowledge of the whole fabric within which these elements occur. Thus we will not be able to substitute the notion of “accurate representation” (element-by-element) for that of successful accomplishment of a practice. Our choice of elements will be dictated by our understanding of the practice, rather then the practice’s being “legitimated” by a “rational reconstruction” out of elements. This holist line of argument says that we shall never be able to avoid the “hermeneutic circle”…”

BUT WAIT:
Here Goober will respond, “A prior knowledge of the whole fabric within which these elements occur is a certainty granted by God; we don’t need this prior knowledge, God allows us to be certain of them.” (It’s a package deal, remember)

However this simply won’t do as the TAG argument goes from having premises which lead to a conclusion (God), to now beginning with and pre-supposing the conclusion as a means of validating the premise – and of course this horribly begs the question, it’s nonsense...

So the argument according to TAG becomes:
1.) God exists

(so what)

SIDE NOTE:
There’s another contradiction in the TAG line of reasoning which seems to arise out of the mixing and mingling of [T]ruth as correspondence with certainty as the result of a transcendental pre-supposition. In other words, by invoking a transcendental being as a means of certainty in one’s representations, it begs the further question as to how the transcendental being corresponds to reality beyond a mere subjective claim. This has the effect of blowing any evidence that we have adequate truths which correspond to reality completely out of the water along with the whole notion that we have certainty.

22 comments:

  1. This was beautiful Andrew. But useless against dishonesty. I will think about how to put it very clearly for others at least be able to grasp why I say the likes of Sye are blatantly dishonest.

    G.E.

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  2. G.E.
    thanks, I was going to post this over there, but then thought, I'm just going to get the response:

    "Is that absolutely true Andrew?"

    Nonetheless I still like to work these things out for myself.

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  3. Hello Andrew,

    I'm not sure if we've been formally introduced, but I notice you have my blog in a link list to the left, and though I don't get out much (in the blog world), I lighted upon this because of the Rorty.

    I can't say I understand much of the lingo being tossed around quickly, and I hate stepping in the middle of conversations anyway, but I was wondering if you ever read an obscure, un-reprinted essay of Rorty's, "Transcendental Arguments, Self-Reference, and Pragmatism." The gist of the article is that transcendental arguments _are_ possible, and useful, but only to beat the crap out of skeptics. I believe it's this article he says, roughly, "Davidson has created the transcendental argument to end all transcendental arguments." It's a great line. The idea is that an infinite regress is always going to happen unless you can repair to some stance that says, "Look, this is how shit's gotta' go down." This is the transcendental stance, which tells you how things have to be for things to be (or whatnot).

    Interpreting what kind of necessity that exactly is, however, has been the contentious thing, and what Kant and everybody, even Strawson, up until Davidson and then Brandom have gotten wrong. The problems of argumentation have plagued Rorty since the beginning and there's a clear line from his '63 paper "The Limits of Reductionism" to "Transcendental Arguments" in '79 to his paper on Brandom and God in his last collection. Until about '79 until his last few years, I think his weird relationship to Kant had been obscured. But this passage, which almost made my eyes bug out when I first read them, might be illuminating:

    "So the question about the existence of God is: 'can we get as good an argument for the utility of God-talk as we can for the utility of talk about time, space, substance, and causality?'
    For Brandom, the answer to this question is 'no.' For a priori philosophical inquiry into what exists is exhausted once such questions as 'why do we need to talk about reidentifiable spatiotemporal particulars?' have been answered. Giving a transcendental argument for the existence of objects, and of these particular sorts of objects, exhausts the capacity of philosophy to tell you what there just has to be (if we are to make inferences at all). There is no further discipline called 'ontology' which can tell you what singular terms we need to have in the language--whether or not we need 'God' for example." (Philosophy as Cultural Politics, 17)

    I think Rorty, rightly, does think a priori reflection can tell you some things--the trouble is that most philosophers have been wrong about what those things are. I think Brandom, and Rorty would've agreed, would say that the laws of logic are immutable (just as, in Truth and Progress, he finally got around to saying the concept of truth is absolute). However, they were also created, and they aren't always in point. Logic doesn't tell us the things Russell and Carnap and Quine thought it would. Brandom says logic is an aid, a tool for thinking, a way of helping us make what is implicit, explicit (hence the title of his monumental, and impossible to read, book, Making It Explicit).

    The thing with logic is important, I would think, because Goober doesn't have to care that he's begging the question--he's right, large belief-systems do come in packages. Don't forget all that hard work Rorty fought for in Contingency.

    But, yeah, aren't recalcitrant, unconversable theists annoying?

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  4. Matt,
    How you doing? Yes, I’ve read your blog quietly for quite some time, although you’ve been pretty dormant lately…

    Relative to Rorty I’ve only read “Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature” and “Philosophy and Social Hope”, both of which I’ve read a few times and keep dog-eared like the Bible for reference.

    You state:
    “This is the transcendental stance, which tells you how things have to be for things to be (or whatnot).”

    This seems to be nothing more then talking about the nature of whatever “normal discourse” we choose to agree upon; in other words we’re resigning objectivity to be whatever this community of believers says it is (which is fine, great). Sure there’s a certain use to pre-supposing (the base of the transcendental argument), but so what, it doesn’t make it absolutely true, it simply makes it the way we talk (more on that). I'm forcing myself here, sorry.

    You stated:
    “"So the question about the existence of God is: 'can we get as good an argument for the utility of God-talk as we can for the utility of talk about time, space, substance, and causality?'”

    Yes, this has always been my central question as I am in fact a theist, even though it may seem otherwise. I’m going to leave that one sit for now though as I’m more interested in something else you said…


    On the immutability and Absolute nature of Logic, let me list some examples of where I think this fails.

    1. Pierce and Frege's logic renders some laws of Aristotle's logic invalid.

    2. The adherents of intuitionism and the adherents of classical logic cannot agree whether the law of excluded middle is valid or not.

    3. The laws of classical logic are only valid in universes which have at least 1 object, so they are explicitly not universal in the sense that there are worlds in which they do not apply.

    4. Quine disputes with Kripke about whether it is logically valid to quantify into a modal context

    5. What is the correct modal logic of necessity? S5? S4? K?

    6. The laws of logic yield contradictions when applied to sorites cases, we will definitely have to revise them to cover things like "I'm not really bald, but I'm not not bald either..."

    7. Kripke has shown that Tarski's solution to the Liar paradox is not sufficient. There is literally no known way to consistently use a truth predicate in all cases. The best we've come is some stuff from Hartry Field, but he has to change all the laws which govern the logical constant "->" in order to get it to work, and it is still not 100% satisfactory.

    8. Putnam et all have seriously suggested that we revise the laws of logic to make quantum mechanics seem more reasonable (see "quantum logic").

    and finally:

    9. Goedel showed that we can't prove any sufficiently expressive formal system--of logic or anything else--to be consistent. Some super-Russell might find another paradox in our logic any day, then we'd have to revise it once again. We may never find a consistant logic--there may not even be one to be found.

    ----

    Having said that, there are two ways I tend to view truth relative to claiming absoluteness, and that is, in a ‘static’ way and in a ‘dynamic’ way. (Ok, so I’ve read Pirsig one to many times, I’ve listened to it probably 12 times on CD on my way into work, I have a problem)

    From the point of view of static truth we can say things like, Aristotle’s view of motion and the Ptolemaic world view are absolute relative to their use and application in time. In other words if science and reason never progressed beyond those truths and we were still using them today, we’d still be fruitfully applying them to the world in the same ways to suit our purposes. That is to say, their absolute truthness, (if I can be so bold as to say truthness), is relative to their internal consistency and their use. So we can say, then, that the truths we have today are absolute, however they have nothing whatsoever to do with the truths of the past – they’re different and internally consistent in their own ways relative to a different system of proof and logic.

    On the other hand if you view truth dynamically we have a tendency of thinking that modern science has come up with not just new and better truths, but in fact reinterpretations of the old truths; but, what reason is there to assume that the ‘motion’ Aristotle was talking about is the same ‘motion’ we’re talking about? As well, if we take this stance on truth, which seems to be nothing more the search for a commensurable discourse, then what certainty do we have that we’ve actually/finally found it? Sure we can apply our current laws of logic going back to the past as far as we’d like, and on into the future in the same way, but that doesn’t mean we should, or that it will be useful and/or relevant to do so.

    Whether we’re talking about truth from a static sense of a dynamic one I think we still run into problems with the Transcendental Argument for God. In the former case we can say, sure, the argument is true and absolute – but why should we keep it? how does it apply in todays world for todays problems? In the later case, how do we know we’ve finally found the one TRUE answer? How can you prove it? how can you justify it?

    Consider this argument (which has the same form as the TAG argument)

    My claim:
    Euclideam geometry is made possible by the existence of a cosmic iron that smoothes out the curvature of space.

    MANX:
    “How do you know that?”

    ME:
    “Because of the impossibility of the contrary.”

    MANX:
    “How do you know that?”

    ME:
    “Because without the cosmic iron, we wouldn’t have Euclidian Geometry.”

    Simple point to make here is; obviously the cosmic iron is a pre-supposition, but what need is there to pre-suppose it? We can’t prove it. Introducing the concept into our everyday speech doesn’t change geometry. Saying that we have certainty as a result of it doesn't change anything either… Who cares?

    This is where I should insert the argument, "if you don't believe in the cosmic iron, you're going to go to hell."

    But then I no longer have the TAG argument, I have Pascal's Wager.

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  5. Matt,
    Let me in short summarize all my nonsense there:

    1.)Either all truth is absolute, in which case truth is completely arbitrary; there’s no real reason why I should take one over the other except where one happens to be ‘better’ suited.

    2.)Truth is systemic (dynamic), and has the potential for being absolute; but in this case without appeal to circular reasoning how does one know he’s reached the point of certainty on the matter? And if he can only beg the question, why should I care?

    I’ll grant 1, but 2 is dubious.

    P.S.
    What was Davidson’s argument?

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  6. Oh, dude, you have to read Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity! It's the lynchpin, man!

    Okay, okay--you got me: I don't really know much about logic studies, nor do I care much. I took symbolic logic in college, picked up a few useful tools, and got bored with what the hell modal logic was supposed to help me with. I'm a humanities guy, not a sciencey guy.

    I'm also not the guy to be defending the use of "absolute." I pretty much get on without every having to mention it, except in attacking it or pragmatists from it. My Absolute Truth piece pretty much goes through all the motions I'm comfortable with: blame Plato, the positivists screwed up their answer, and pragmatists have to admit that "absolute" isn't a swear word. After all, we're constantly trying to get people to stop star-gazing like Plato and return them to the scene of life. Which is why, so I gather, you get little comments like, "Is that absolutely true Andrew?" which we can only imagine the writer intoning in his head with a squeaky weasel voice. They think it's funny, but it used to be a problem for the classical pragmatists because they accidentally got overexcited and conflated justification with truth.

    I take the proper response to be, "Yeah, sure, absolutely." It's a colloquialism, common sense speak, not philosophical speech. All we need to do is point out that the two are two different contexts with their own governing avenues of safe and unsafe linguistic behavior. (In other words, go Austin on their ass.)

    After years of getting upset myself with old-fashioned metaphysical prigs who toss around "absolute" and "necessity" like it was their birthday, I finally relaxed. I mean, make no mistake--we have to beat the crap out of representationalists at every turn. But I think we need to pivot more quickly to how you responded to the Rorty quote: "why should we keep it? how does it apply in todays world for todays problems?"

    I don't think we should get hung up on claims of absoluteness because, in the end, they aren't worth much. Successfully pop their bubble and everyone is still in the same boat as ever, what should I believe? Absoluteness is a distraction. I'm recommending more like a rhetorical strategy than an argument. The trouble with arguments of this kind is that, almost of necessity, each person is begging the question over the other--it is a picture that held us captive, said Wittgenstein. The problem with pictures is that the frame is what enables everything to go on inside of it. You can't toss it from the inside, you have to be standing outside of it.

    In the most virulent case, it's the picture of language as a mirror--you can't argue people out of that picture because your enabling assumptions are different than their's, meaning you're begging the question over them just as much as they do (I talk about this in the first part of my Begging the Question paper, oddly enough making the only useful thing yet out of my symbolic logic). The only thing you can do, which is what Rorty self-consciously did, is make negative points in their language, of the form, "Well, you're picture says there's supposed to be a tree here, but did you notice the burned out hole?" and then sketch your alternative and how it saves everything worth saving while avoiding everything worth avoiding (all, of course, dialectically achieved by the pressures of your conversational community). Shifting vocabularies is trickier than logical argumentation.

    On your assessment of my formulation of the "transcendental stance," yes, "this seems to be nothing more then talking about the nature of whatever 'normal discourse' we choose," is about right. We have to be social practice theorists, but there are conditions for our discourse (even if still optional social practices)--for instance, language would not function one bit without the concept of true. It just wouldn't work. This is why Davidson talks a lot about truth, and Rorty always squints his eyes, half not believing this is going to end well. But it always does with Davidson.

    I alluded to the problem of conflating justification with truth earlier. This is the so-called "pragmatist theory of truth," which says that truth just is justification--they are one and the same. This makes truth relative, and relativism a scary monster. We don't want to do this--the pragmatist theory of truth, truth is what works, doesn't work. Which is fine, we never really wanted a theory anyways.

    What Davidson suggests, and what helped Rorty come to Jesus with truth, is that truth is a primitive--completely indefinable, just as Moore said "good" is indefinable. What he also says, even more, is that truth is a semantic notion, but not an epistemic one. We need "truth" for language to work. But for our knowledge production, having two separate goals, reaching well-justified conclusions in front of our peers and reaching for the immortal truth in the heavens, doesn't help at all, and in fact casts up theoretical problems (though obviously scientists have never care in their practice which way it was).

    Truth is absolute, and therefore very boring. Justification is relative to audience, nobody denies that, and that's where all the action happens.

    The distinction between "static" and "dynamic" viewpoint is useful as being parallels of Rorty's normal/abnormal vocabulary distinctions in PMN. I find more useful Pirsig's distinction at the beginning of ZMM between "frontal truths" and "lateral truths." When you're employing a normal discourse, you just look straight ahead. When you're not sure suddenly, and often inexplicably, whether you shouldn't be looking in a different direction, you cast around, start speaking abnormally, looking for someplace new to dig in. Pirsig's image of Dynamic Quality and static latching helps define what progress looks like when moving from vocabulary to vocabulary.

    So, in regards to your summary:

    1) I wouldn't say "all truth" because that slides you immediately into hypostatizing truth and making it sound epistemic instead of just semantic. Truth is absolute, but the meaning of all sentences are relative to a language game, and figuring out what a sentence means is certainly a precursor to figuring out of it is true or not. Truth isn't relative, but generating true sentences is.

    2) Why should you care is indeed the sixty four dollar question. I think that question is what's hiding behind Rorty's piece on James in PSH. We can grant the theist, just as we grant the littérateur (and scientist, for that matter), the freedom to create language games to couch his beliefs. The question remains--why should we play it?

    p.s.

    The Davidson argument alluded to earlier that Rorty called the transcendental argument to end all transcendental arguments was simply his argument against the scheme/content distinction in "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme." Rorty had already assimilated it by the time he wrote PMN, so I'm guessing you're already familiar enough with it, just perhaps not in seeing it as having the form of a transcendental argument.

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  7. Matt,
    So what you’re saying is:
    “What is true, and what is not true, Pheadrus, need anyone tell us these things?”

    Is Absolute Truth synonymous with Quality? In other words, there is absolute truth, but we could never define it?

    On Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity!
    Definitely, it’s on the list.

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  8. Consider:
    “P” cannot be both “P” and “notP” at the same time.

    Some would consider this an example of an Absolute Truth, but I’m guessing you would simply say it’s [t]rue of logic. So what about prior to it?

    I could ask, “Did gravity exist prior to Newton?”
    Was the above statement from Aristotle true prior to him saying it?

    Thinking to myself here:
    If we say no, then are we not privileging human consciousness? Even with the non-existence of Aristotle’s phrase, cannot we still nonetheless say that Plato could not have been Plato and not-Plato at the same time and thus it holds true absolutely?

    This of course is where I’d argue that, the only things that holds the property of true and false are propositions; things in and of themselves (as with Plato) are not true or do not carry the property truth. In other words one would not say, “Plato is true.” So prior to Aristotle passing down the logic, we can’t say it was true as it would merely be a reflection of a belief.

    This is why I generally take the stance that truth is systemic, as we require a system of proof and/or a means of decision in order to come to a conclusion that something is true or false – is this way, truth is always (as you say) relative to a language game…

    Which gets me back to my previous post, “Is Absolute Truth like Quality?”

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  10. Your begging the question post is excellent, I shall have to take some time to absorb it.

    P.S.
    your link was bunk so I had to go find it.

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  11. Hmm, I must have accidentally pasted in the wrong link.

    Yeah, I don't think I would want to say Socrates' line, nor do I really want to go in for Pirsig's cute, "Hey, if two things are indefinable, then they must be the same," which is kind of how he justifies a couple of his conceptual slides.

    On "need we ask anyone these things?" my trouble is that Pirsig, Plato and Socrates are talking about intuition, a personal connection to good, and hell, even truth. We kind of have such a connection, but not as Pirsig and Plato thought. Plato was bequeathing us the first step to modern Cartesianism in that line, what Rorty had to narrow in on as "incorrigibility."

    On the other hand, we don't need anyone to tell us what "truth" is because it is so fundamental to how a language works, and if you are using a language, you ipso facto understand truth.

    This allows me to answer your "prior" question. You're right: propositions are true, propositions are made of sentences, sentences are made by people, and people have not always existed. Rorty's use of the linguistic turn has helped us see how to avoid idealism, both Platonic (with the Realm of Forms) and post-Hegelian (where you get shit like Absolute Mind and Jung).

    I think we need to be very naturalistic about this stuff. Was Aristotle's logic true before he stated it? No, but we understood it. Did truth exist before the word "truth"? Yes.

    This is where Brandom's revolution in the philosophy of language comes in handy (not to say I understand any of the technical shit). When we first started "speaking," they were grunts that did very basic things--directed behavior. As soon as our grunts became complicated enough that we started constructing sentences, that means we had nouns and verbs and truth and meaning and a host of other things even though they didn't have the names for them yet. The very idea of "concepts" came later, and the rise of reflection is a rise in non-action oriented linguistic behavior. We began thinking about what we were doing when we thought. That's the beginning of philosophy and the beginning of making things we did implicitly by using language explicit.

    Logic is a social practice, the social practice of making logical connections between statements explicit. It is one we can opt out of, but then we opt out of the community (big or small) that makes use of it. And why does the society use that practice? Because it works. Aristotle, by making logic explicit, helped us get shit done. If it hadn't been helpful, we would have never have heard of it.

    I'm not sure I'm making a whole lot of sense. It's like a year's worth of reading that I haven't written about yet being focused together for the first time, so it's a little inchoate.

    I think the gist is that if the behavior exists, then the concept exists implicitly, even if it doesn't exist explicitly. Come to think of it, Brandom's idea of helping Rortyan pragmatism out of the idealism problem is pretty much an Aristotelian tool in linguistic terms--potentiality/actuality. Huh. I never saw that before.

    Anyhoo, Absolute Truth is like Quality in a few respects, like being indefinable, but they aren't the same, just insofar as our behavior with them (including linguistic) differs in important respects. Reductionism is fine if we can get along with one notion instead of two, but I think it is important in a number of contexts to keep truth, value, and good separate.

    By the by, I'm not sure I see to the bottom of your formula, "truth is systemic." Do you have a potted summary in a post somewhere or anything?

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  13. On Systemic Truth, (in short)
    (after arguing in this way and not getting anywhere with it, I picked Rorty back up, hence this post)

    I generally get agreement when I make the suggestion that in order for something to be absolute it must fulfill the following criteria:

    1.) Exist Independently
    2.) Exist not in relation to other things
    3.) Exist not relative to other things
    4.) Be true for every possible circumstance

    As such in order to prove absolute you must show the following:
    A.) State a Law of Logic, or anything you consider absolute.
    B.) Demonstrate for us how that law of logic satisfies 1 – 4 above
    C.) Show how that law is not “Systemic”

    I say that truth is systemic because in order for something to be true one needs a system of proof, to prove we need a means of decision, a method of resolution, a way of coming to a conclusion that something is true. This method (however defined) must exist prior to the truth in order to be able to prove that it’s true, and this is in some sense why there can be no such thing as absolute truth.

    When I say method, I’m merely eluding to my contention that truth exists only propositionally, that is, it’s only propositions that are true; as already stated, things in and of themselves don’t carry the property truth. Outside of that, there isn’t any truth, at least none that we can make any sense of lacking a formal language to talk about it.

    Some may like to suggest that things like logic, or the periodic table, so on, are examples of absolute truths, but again those things can’t be true in and of themselves for reasons already stated; it’s only what we say about those things which are either true or false. Another argument may be calling something like evolution false, but once again the only thing true or false about it is what we say about it.

    If we consider before there was mind, perhaps before the earth existed, it’s a possible circumstance that there was no minds at all during this time. In this possible circumstance there were no truths at all. Nothing was true at a time when no minds existed, even if everything else existed. After there’s mind then we can create statements about that period in time before minds existed, but these statements would be belief statements that all this even ever took place.

    ---

    My shorted argument against Absolute Truth, or rather the question, “Does absolute truth exist?” goes something like this:

    All sentences contain a SUBJECT which I’ll denote with (x) and a PREDICATE which I’ll denote with [z]. So your sentence could be, “Is (x)[z]?”

    If the SUBJECT of your sentence is itself internally predicated, as in (xy), then it assumes (pre-supposes if you will) that the PREDICATE we’re applying to it is true of both SUBJECTS by themselves.

    In other words if your sentence is:
    “Is/Does (xy)[z]?”
    then what we really have is:
    “Is/Does (x[z]) (y[z]) = TRUE {together}?”
    As you can see, this sentence structure assumes that the predicate applies to both elements of the subject by themselves. The real question then, isn’t to the existence of either of them, but to the existence of both of them together.

    So we can simplify that by asking:
    “Is (x)[y]?”

    So, the question is:
    “Does Absolute Truth Exist?”
    What we really have is:
    “Does (Absolute[exist]) (Truth[exist]) = exist {together}?”

    So the first question one should ask is, does the PREDICATE “exist” apply to both Truth and Absolute by themselves? If it doesn’t and/or one cannot show it, then one has merely created an invalid subject for predication.

    On the other hand, if one can establish the existence of at least one absolute, than our question becomes (as we can now factor out exist):
    “Is Truth Absolute?”

    Notice that in this sentence a “NO” response does not yield the option of responding, “Is that absolutely true?” as by answering no we’ve invalidated Absolute as being an applicable predicate to truth; so in effect the question doesn’t make sense.

    However, in order to even get to that point one needs to establish the validity of the word ABSOLUTE, or one is merely spewing rhetorical bullsht. One's use of it (in context) PRE-SUPPOSES it’s reality – in other words one only has a self refuting statement when you pre-suppose absolute to be something real and proven. My position is, of course, the question is nonsense.

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  14. Matt,
    you stated
    "I think we need to be very naturalistic about this stuff. Was Aristotle's logic true before he stated it? No, but we understood it. Did truth exist before the word "truth"? Yes."

    I have trouble finding this meaningful (or unravling it for that matter). I find myself asking, ok, what was the truth that existed? Was it just whatever we (back then) understood? It seems contradictory to say that Aristotle's logic was not true prior to him, but that people understood it anyway. Because then I could ask, "What was it that people were understanding?" If you say they were understanding Aristotle's logic, well now your begging the question and you must re-answer YES.

    I get what you're saying here, but I'm roadblocked at the moment.

    Blah blah, I have to think on your Begging the Question post.

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  15. I've never understood how people find TAG convincing. God gives certainty, but how can you be certain about a being such as "god" giving you certainty? Apparently they presuppose god, and he only gives "certainty" to a few delusional people, which means it's not an objectively accessible knowledge, nor is it justified. TAG reduces "absolute certainty" to a special and private feeling one has about the nature of reality. And the whole "Logic is evidence for God" notion is completely absurd. But, I guess Stephen Law has effectively shown the fallacious reasoning behind that.

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  16. PD,
    I think what I’m drawing towards here is that it’s not God that is absurd, it’s the need for certainty that’s absurd.

    That is, if you believe in any form of epistemic certainty you’re going to be faced with the same problem of accounting for it as those who use the TAG argument to prove God. If you think logic is merely a tool and you have no certainty regarding it other then it works then that’s great, we can move on. However if you believe that through logic we can have some form of certainty, then how do you account for that certainty? If you account for it by appealing back to it, well that begs the question does it not.?. This is where Sye turns around and says, “If you can’t account for logic, then I won’t account for God, I’ll merely say he exists – but that’s not much of an argument.”

    So again, what I’m saying here is, let’s drop the whole idea entirely.

    All Stephen did was show that Sye begged the Question and that he didn’t have an argument(we all knew that), he never stated what epistemic position he was taking in doing so, if he even was. This is nothing against Stephen, he’s certainly far beyond me in terms of philosophical abilities… (he was merely trying to make Sye his bitch)

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  17. I understand your aversion to absolute certainty, but how do you feel about the notion of "beyond reasonable doubt"? Surely you have to make some reasonable assumptions to function in what we percieve to be an objective world.

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  18. I have no issue with "beyond reasonable doubt" strait off, so long as it doesn't imply certainty - and as long as we steer clear from, "God exists because..." and "God doesn't exist because..."

    Again, my opinion is that we should simply stay away from defining something (proving or disproving) which we can't find any use in anyway.

    Having said that, my use of God is rhetorical and simply identifies me as a theist - I can't account for it, so I try not to argue for it. To prove that I have a(the) right position, I'll rather appeal to the principles my beliefs stand for. If one finds that those principles are dubious, then we move on I suppose – what else can I say.?.

    i.e. If I say that Christianity (for example) has as fundamental principles, love, freedom and integrity, then that’s what I argue for. If one doesn’t believe in those principles, or does, yet finds that those principles are not inherent in Christianity, well now we have a real meaty discussion on our hands as apposed to one that centers around “un-provables”.

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  19. You said: "Again, my opinion is that we should simply stay away from defining something (proving or disproving) which we can't find any use in anyway."

    -Your opinion? And why should we agree with this? Also, do you really think you can convince the rest of us without defining your terms and justifying your position? I'm not sure you can.

    You said: "my use of God is rhetorical...I can't account for it, so I try not to argue for it."

    - If you can't justify your beliefs and principles by anything other than pseudo-profundity, I don't know why you'd bother doing philosophy.

    Andrew, you don't have to "Prove" things to an absolute certainty, but you do have to convince us if you're doing real philosophical argument. Argument in philosophy means using reason and logic to reach a convincing conclusion. You can't just abandon everything to the "indefinable" and "unprovable" abyss… If you do that, you might as well resign from all conversation with humanity.

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  20. Is it reasonable to assume one cannot define God, prove God, or disprove God?

    Is it true that an adequate proof which doesn’t beg the question does not exist for the above?

    You would argue that we can have *reasonable doubt*, but what’s that? That’s a privileged access claim, how do you know when you have it or not? How can you prove that a given proof displays it? You can’t.

    My point is that God is an empty useless concept – and I think you’d at least agree with that.

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  21. Perhaps we can clear some dust by getting you're opinion on the top post on the main page of the blog.

    We're arguing (I think) because of what you and I both think about truth, and subject/object metaphysics.

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