What is supernatural? It is other than natural, not part of reality. Whatever reality turns out to be, it is natural. If we have souls, they are natural. If there are angels, they are natural. Anything that is part of reality, is part of creation, and therefore natural. So, what is supernatural? It is something that does not have a nature, something that is not created, does not exist in our world. If God is said to be supernatural, what does that tell us about God? Nothing. It gives us no knowledge of him. It only tells us what God is not. God is not-universe, not created. God is wholly other than the universe. The word supernatural, then, is exploratory. It is a step into the unknown to try to give it a description. Those who use it disparagingly step into nothing briefly only to mock it. Those who use it with reverence express only a desire to know, to know the source of everything.
The question which intelligent design asks is a less important question than the Jewish/Christian question. The evidence of its less-importance is shown by the fact that any sufficiently intelligent being with enough resources could account for the intelligible arrangement of the stuff around us. So, the answer to the intelligent design question could be one or more of any number of beings. The Jewish/Christian question asks the origin of the stuff that is being arranged. In other words, why the whole thing instead of nothing? Whatever the answer turns out to be, whatever the source of everything is, we call God.
Dan O’ Brian:
Compared with the vastness of the universe, man is a mere speck in a remote region of the cosmos. Yet man can be considered a cosmos himself when we look closer at the smallest parts into which we ourselves are divided until division takes us into nothingness. Compared with that nothing, man is everything, the pinnacle of the universe, the most significant being. To be sure, it would take next to nothing for the universe to crush man. A small spoonful of water is all it would take. But, for all that, the universe is less significant than man because man knows he is being crushed. If the universe was slowly being destroyed, it would have no knowledge of it. The universe continues to expand into nothing and will keep enlarging inch by inch towards infinity. So, in nature, in between infinity and nothingness, we are a speck but we are something. We are not everything; but neither are we nothing.
Man is stuck between two abysses of infinity and nothingness; and man can neither fully comprehend the extremes of nothingness nor infinity. The end and the beginning are removed from him so far that it is beyond hope of his discovery. Man is drawn from nothing and engulfed in the infinite. Stuck in the middle of things, man tries to gain knowledge of the whole. But, is not this presumption that he can know the whole just as infinite as its object? It is a vain delusion. He imagines himself as equally capable or better than the capacity of nature of which he has not yet sounded the depths. The depths keep getting deeper, and man’s delusional ambitions keeps getting stronger. The extent of nature exceeds our limited sight. Our senses dwell in the middle of things, and testify of our limitations. A noise too loud deafens us. Too much light blinds us. We cannot see too great a distance nor too short a distance. Too long or too short a lecture threatens our understanding. Too much knowledge at one sitting bewilders us. First principles are too basic for us to prove them. Too much concord, as does too much dissonance in music is disagreeable to us. We cannot feel extreme heat or cold. An age too young or too old hinders our mental ability, as does too much or too little education. We are incapable of certain knowledge and absolute ignorance.
Who can deny his own limitations? Yet are we consumed with longing to know the whole and to stand on a sure foundation on which we can build a tower that reaches to the heavens. Can man be like God? Would not a man wish for ten years more added onto his life so that he may know more things? But what is ten years compared to the age of the universe? It is not worthy to be called a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.
All this is meant as a context for my objections to Objectivism and a defense of my own position.
After reading through some Objectivist writings, I have a comment before Ydemoc goes on.
Now, here’s an informal comment concerning the primacy of existence vs the primacy of consciousness. It seems to me that Objectivism thrives on the separation of the subject and the object. But, discerning a distinction doesn’t necessitate a separation. For, we know that, as human beings, we are subjects and objects. These two things are, in us, one and the same thing. We exist and we are conscious. Our consciousness exists and our consciousness is conscious. It is subject and object. To say I exist and I am conscious is to look at one and the same thing, namely myself, from different aspects. My existence just is my consciousness; and these two do not exist independent from one another. Thus, for my consciousness to conform to the fact of my own existence, I would have to first presuppose my own existence in order for my consciousness to conform itself to my own existence. The elephant stands on the turtle which stands on the elephant… you get the picture.
You wrote: “Now, here’s an informal comment concerning the primacy of existence vs the primacy of consciousness.”
What is metaphysical primacy? Anton Thorn explains: “Lying at the base of all knowledge is a relationship between existence and consciousness implied by the identification of the axioms [see below]. That there is a relationship between the objects of awareness (existence) and the means by which we are aware (consciousness), is undeniable. One would have to be conscious – and therefore be conscious of something – in order to dispute this. This recognition necessarily implies that the relationship between existence and consciousness is not a relationship of equals. There is a priority involved here, a hierarchical order implicit in any act of consciousness.”
David Kelley puts it like this: “Is consciousness creative, constituting its own objects, so that the world known depends on ourselves as knowers; or is it a faculty of response to objects, one whose function is to identify things as they are independently of it? In Ayn Rand’s terms, it is a question of the primacy of consciousness versus the primacy of existence: do the objects of awareness depend on the subject for their existence or identity, or do the contents of consciousness depend on external objects?”
Recall the axioms. They are:
1) that existence exists (i.e., there is a reality)
2) that to exist is to be something (A is A, the law of identity), and
3) that consciousness is conscious of something (the axiom of consciousness)
As Rand points out: “It is axiomatic concepts that identify the precondition of knowledge: the distinction between existence and consciousness, between reality and the awareness of reality, between the object and the subject of cognition. Axiomatic concepts are the foundation of objectivity.”
Existence is first. The universe exists independent of consciousness. Awareness (consciousness) with nothing to be aware of is incoherent, a contradiction in terms: Awareness? Awareness of **what**?
Consciousness (awareness, perception, thinking, and other mental processes) does not have the power to change the laws of nature or erase facts, as Peikoff puts it: “The function of consciousness is not to create reality, but to apprehend it. ‘Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification.’” If existence exists, then it has metaphysical primacy.
Dawson Bethrick elaborates: “Together these axioms imply a general, inescapable principle known as the primacy of existence – that is, that existence exists independent of consciousness, which means: the object(s) of consciousness holds metaphysical primacy over the subject of consciousness. This is the objective orientation of the subject-object relationship.
In the words of Anton Thorn: “The primacy of existence view recognizes in the form of a principle that existence exists independent of consciousness. In other words, reality (the realm of existence) does not conform to the contents of consciousness; things are what they are independent of anyone’s wishes, desires, resentments, emotions, fantasies, etc. Since existence exists, that which exists is that which exists (identity) regardless of who likes it or disapproves. On the primacy of existence principle, the function of consciousness is not to determine reality or the identity of its objects, but to discover and identify it.
Opposite to the primacy of existence principle is the primacy of consciousness view. This view holds that existence is in some way subordinate to consciousness, that things are the way they are not by virtue of the fact that they exist (as the primacy of existence teaches), but because of the desires of a consciousness. This is the view that reality conforms to consciousness, that, instead of acting to discover and identify the facts of reality by means of reason, the function of consciousness is to create and/or determine reality. On this view, one can persuade himself to believe that, if he has enough faith, reality will obey his commands and entire mountains will cast themselves into the sea. Explosives engineers need not apply.”
Unfortunately for theists (and for that matter, any subjectivist), a primacy of consciousness veiwpoint inherent in such a worldview can only backfire on them, as David Kelley explains: “The primacy of consciousness… is subject to the same self-refutation as is the denial of any other axiomatic principle. A person who asserts that the facts of reality depend on his own consciousness [or any consciousness] is making a claim about the nature of consciousness and reality. He intends his claim to be taken as objective, not as a reflective of his own whim. After all, he is asserting that the primacy of existence is false — not just for him, but even for its adherents. So he is assuming that there are facts, and that the function of his mind is to grasp them as they really are, at least in his own case. And that’s inconsistent with his assertion of the primacy of consciousness.”
Anton Thorn points out in his essay “The Issue of Metaphysical Primacy” that “the failure to grasp the distinction between the primacy of existence and the primacy of consciousness is the result of the failure to isolate essentials.” He asks readers who may be having difficulty, to consider the following two questions:
1. Can there be consciousness without existence?
2. Can there be existence without consciousness?
So, as you can see, quite a bit has been written on this topic.
You wrote: “It seems to me that Objectivism thrives on the separation of the subject and the object.”
Can you explain what you mean by “separation” here, and then cite where Objectivism does what you mean?
As laid out above regarding the issue of metaphysical primacy, Objectivism recognizes there is a fundamental distinction between the objects of awareness (existence) and the means by which one is aware of such objects (consciousness), and that there is a relationship between the two. As David Kelley notes: “Perception is a form of contact with the world, a real relation between subject and object, between the perceiver and what he perceives.”
So how does any of this imply “separation”? And, again, where does the the Christian bible speak directly to such matters?
You wrote: “But, discerning a distinction doesn’t necessitate a separation.”
How does anything that Objectivism advocates imply “separation”?
You wrote: “For, we know that, as human beings, we are subjects and objects.”
Dan? Where did your doubt go? You state this with such certainty!
As human beings, we can be perceivers and we can be perceived, we can be knowers and we can be known. And we can even become acquainted with the cognitive workings by which we acquire such knowledge, in which case our own consciousness can become an object to itself, as when we become aware of our own conscious activity when we introspect.
But this only means that consciousness can be a ***secondary object,*** (it’s not consciousness conscious *only* of itself — which would be a contradiction in terms, i.e., asserting “awareness” with nothing to be “aware of” — as if awareness could exist in an objectless-void. Again, “awareness” of **what**!?).
If I see tree, a house, a human being or any other object of awareness, I am perceiving it — it is an object.
When I think about my perception of the tree, house, or human being, my perception of such objects “becomes what is properly understood as a secondary object of consciousness” (since I *first* had to perceive the tree, house, or human being in order for my perception of any of them to be an object of awareness.)
An object is anything one perceives and/or considers. It can be an extra-mental entity like a house, tree, or another human being, or it can be a conscious activity, such as the awareness of these objects.
Dawson Bethrick explains further: “…introspective investigation of conscious activity always involves some object independent of consciousness. For instance, if I think about how I came to the conclusion that running with scissors in one’s hands is dangerous, I could be aware of my own conscious activity only **after I was aware of something *** in the world, **something independent of myself, something independent of my awareness**. Prior to being able to do this, my senses were active, giving me perceptual awareness of things like scissors and organisms capable of holding and running with them, consequently giving me the option of considering such activity and evaluating it, or ignoring it and going on with some other activity.”
In “The Argument from Metaphysical Primacy: A Debate,” Dawson puts it like this: “I perceive other human beings, and when I do they are objects of my awareness. But note that I cannot wish them into existence. Nor can I wish them to become something they are not (just as I cannot wish water to become wine). Why? Because the objects of consciousness hold metaphysical primacy over the subject of consciousness. It’s a fact whether anyone likes it or not.
One can perceive other persons, and for the perceiver those other persons are the objects of his perception. Also, I can introspect, so that I can have awareness of how my own conscious faculty works. But in such a case, consciousness is only a secondary object; I had to perceive something external to it to have something to identify as consciousness in the first place.
In the case of perceiving other human beings or introspecting on the operations of my own conscious activity, the same orientation between subject and object obtains: the objects remain what they are independent of the conscious activity involved in perceiving and/or considering them.”
You wrote: “These two things are, in us, one and the same thing. We exist and we are conscious. Our consciousness exists and our consciousness is conscious. It is subject and object. To say I exist and I am conscious is to look at one and the same thing, namely myself, from different aspects.”
I think that what has been explained above is more than sufficient to address your comment. But just in case it isn’t clear to you, here is a little more on the topic from Dawson Bethrick, from his blog entry: “Has the Primacy of Existence Been Refuted?”:
“Let me say a few words then about the nature of consciousness and how it secures the principle of the secondary objectivity of consciousness.
The principle of the secondary objectivity of consciousness holds that consciousness can in fact be its own object (where ‘object’ denotes something one is aware of), but only after it has content other than itself. Objectivism recognizes that consciousness is not an independently existing entity, but in fact a particular type of activity performed by a biological organism. I have already posted a discussion of mine in which I defend the view that consciousness is in fact biological (see my blog The Biological Nature of Consciousness). Speaking on the nature of consciousness as it pertains to philosophy, Rand wrote:
‘Awareness is not a passive state, but an active process. On the lower levels of awareness, a complex neurological process is required to enable man to experience a sensation and to integrate sensations into percepts; that process is automatic and non-volitional: man is aware of its results, but not of the process itself. On the higher, conceptual level, the process is psychological, conscious and volitional. In either case, awareness is achieved and maintained by continuous action.
Directly or indirectly, every phenomenon of consciousness is derived from one’s awareness of the external world. Some object, i.e., some content, is involved in every state of awareness. Extrospection is a process of cognition directed outward—a process of apprehending some existent(s) of the external world. Introspection is a process of cognition directed inward—a process of apprehending one’s own psychological actions in regard to some existent(s) of the external world, such actions as thinking, feeling, reminiscing, etc. It is only in relation to the external world that the various actions of a consciousness can be experienced, grasped, defined or communicated. Awareness is awareness of something. A content-less state of consciousness is a contradiction in terms.’ (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, p. 37)
And just as one cannot be conscious of a thing unless it exists, one cannot be conscious of an activity until it happens. Since consciousness is essentially an action performed by an organism, the action of consciousness would need to happen before it could be available as an object of any consciousness, including its own. In other words, an organism cannot be conscious of its own consciousness until it has performed those actions by which it is conscious of something; before this, it’s simply not available as an object to be conscious of.
This is true for the three basic levels of consciousness which man possesses, namely the level of sensation, of perception, and of conceptualization. One could not be conscious of one’s own sensations until he has sensed something; only then could his sensory activity be available as an object of his own consciousness. Similarly with perception: one could not be conscious of one’s own perception until he has perceived something; only then could his perceptual activity be available as an object of his own consciousness. Lastly, one could not be conscious of one’s own conceptualization until he has conceptualized something; only then could his conceptual activity be available as an object of his own consciousness.
So there are three fundamental facts about the nature of consciousness to consider here:
1. Consciousness requires an object.
2. Consciousness is essentially active in nature.
3. Consciousness cannot be its own object unless it exists, which means: until it happens.
It is for these reasons, as explained above, that conscious can in fact be an object of itself, but only as a secondary object – it must have an object distinct from its own activity before its own activity can itself be an object of its own activity. Thus Objectivism is correct in affirming that the notion of a consciousness conscious only of itself is a contradiction in terms: it would constitute an affirmation of consciousness while ignoring the nature of consciousness. Thus the notion commits the fallacy of the stolen concept.”
You wrote: “My existence just is my consciousness; and these two do not exist independent from one another.”
You seem to be ignoring basic facts and taking a lot for granted, treating consciousness as though it were an entity as opposed to an activity performed by an entity.
You continue: “Thus, for my consciousness to conform to the fact of my own existence, I would have to first presuppose my own existence in order for my consciousness to conform itself to my own existence.”
What do you mean by “presuppose” here? Why not simply acknowledge explicitly the fact that you do exist and proceed to use your consciousness in a rational manner? — after all, existence, which includes consciousness, is implicit in everything you do anyway. Why struggle against it?
You wrote: “The elephant stands on the turtle which stands on the elephant… you get the picture.”
Again, from Dawson Bethrick: “So, to put the matter in a nutshell and hopefully bring it home for those who may still be having a hard time understanding this, we can safely say: it is perfectly fine to speak of consciousness, and in so doing, consciousness is an object of our speaking – i.e., it is an object of consciousness at that point. But since consciousness requires and object, the very idea of consciousness of consciousness forces the question: Consciousness of consciousness of what? To answer this by saying “consciousness of consciousness of itself” is essentially to say: “Consciousness of consciousness of consciousness,” which in turn forces the obvious question: Consciousness of consciousness of consciousness of what? To continue lengthening the chain by adding more instances of “of consciousness” to answer this question, is to confess that one really has no answer, but insists on there not being any object independent of consciousness itself. At which point we can wonder why, but it couldn’t be important – no evasion of reality ever is.”
In other words, Objectivism avoids the charge of circularity/infinite regress implicit in your “turtles all the way down” charge, thanks to its conceptually irreducible and perceptually self-evident starting points, i.e., the axioms and the primacy of existence. So there is no occasion for circularity.
When I had difficulty grasping some of this (and I’m not saying that this is the case where you’re concerned…. I’m just throwing it out there), I found that answering the question “Awareness — awareness of **what**!?! — to be quite helpful.
But just in case there’s room for doubt as to whether or not I have, indeed, presented you with a tremendous amount of material, or that faith is somehow required to recognize this fact, let me leave you with a few more final thoughts, this from David Kelley:
“We do not begin as knowers with beliefs whose truth we must posit, without warrant, before we can develop standards for the reliability of belief-forming processes. We begin with the direct perceptual awareness of objects and their attributes; we notice similarities that allow us to form and apply concepts; and we are implicitly aware of the ontological facts that the principles of logic identify. Since we are capable of grasping facts, we are in a position to recognize errors when they occur, and thus recognize the fact of our fallibility. Since we are capable of identifying the nature of things in the world, we are capable of identifying the nature of our own faculties as things in the world, and of learning how to minimize the dangers of their malfunctioning. At each stage, from perception to concepts to the rules of evidence to the rules of justification, our conclusions are fully grounded in and justified by what came before. We cannot go back psychologically, taking with us only our epistemological principles, and actually relearn everything anew. But we can look back epistemologically, using the principles we have learned, and evaluate the whole structure of knowledge in a fully normative and noncircular way.”
There! That ought to do the trick!
Next we will be introduced to an formal Objectivist argument against God.
Having explained the Objectivist position, Ydemoc uses his philosophical position to point out seeming inconsistencies and contradictions that faith brings about. After this post is through, Ydemoc will have one more go, and then I will begin my response. Enjoy!
You say, “then in order to believe with certainty this observed condition of reality, one must reach that certainty by faith.”
As was pointed out, propositions are the precondition for any “beliefs,” and concepts the precondition for the formation of any propositions. So what then would be the precondition for the formation of any concepts? What would have to obtain before one could “believe,” “doubt,” “trust,” “have faith in” or “have knowledge of” — anything?
Objectivism affirms that sense perception is the epistemological basis for concepts (or knowledge). *All* knowledge is knowledge of reality, and is acquired on the basis of perceptual input, with reason being the faculty that identifies and integrates this material.
Rand notes that: “Reason integrates man’s perceptions by means of forming abstractions or conceptions, thus raising man’s knowledge from the perceptual level, which he shares with animals, to the conceptual level, which he alone can reach. The method which reason employs in this process is logic — and logic is the art of non-contradictory identification.” Reason is the faculty. Logic is the method. Truth is the product.
Peikoff adds: “The senses, concepts, logic: these are the elements of man’s rational faculty — its start, its form, its method. In essence, ‘follow reason’ means: base knowledge on observation; form concepts according to the actual (measurable) relationships among concretes; use concepts according to the rules of logic (ultimately, the Law of Identity). Since each of these elements is based on the facts of reality, the conclusions reached by a process of reason are objective. The alternative to reason is some form of mysticism or skepticism.”
*Metaphysically* speaking, the basis of all knowledge is existence (or reality). As Peikoff explains: “Before one can consider any other issue [including any so-called “condition” of reality], before one can ask what things there are or what problems men face in learning about them, before one can discuss what one knows or how one knows it — first, there must *be* something, [existence]. And one must grasp [consciousness] that there is. If not, there is nothing to consider or to know. Before one can ask *what* any existent is, it must be something [identity], and one must know this. If not there is nothing to investigate — or to exist.”
Peikoff has just described the preconditions of intelligibility, the starting points of knowledge: “existence,” “consciousness,” and “identity.” These axiomatic concepts, which are implicit in any act of awareness, are the fundamental recognitions which Objectivism makes explicit. They are perceived or experienced directly, but grasped conceptually. And, as Rand makes clear: “They sum up the essence of all human cognition: something *exists* of which I am *conscious*; I must discover its *identity*.
[The] underscoring of primary facts is one of the crucial epistemological functions of axiomatic concepts. It is also the reason why they can be translated into a statement in the form of a repetition (as a base and a reminder): Existence exists — Consciousness is conscious — A is A. (This converts axiomatic concepts into formal axioms.)”
Dawson Bethrick points out, these axioms are fundamental in the following ways:
“- they identify perceptually self-evident facts;
– these facts are the broadest generalities possible, especially in the case of the axiom of existence – the concept ‘existence’ is the widest of all concepts, including everything that exits [subsuming everything — every entity, action, attribute, relationship (including every state of consciousness) — everything which is, was, or will be]*
– the concepts informing the axioms (‘existence’, ‘identity’ and ‘consciousness’) are conceptually irreducible – i.e., they are not inferred from other facts or from prior knowledge; they do not assume the truth of prior or more fundamental concepts – there are none!
– they denote facts which are ever-present throughout all knowledge;
– to deny them, one must assume their truth in that they would have to be true in order to deny them.
The axioms provide higher knowledge with the solid conceptual basis needed for building the entire sum of one’s knowledge in hierarchical structure. The axioms identify in the broadest possible terms the context which makes knowledge possible and important to human life and as such they directly identify the very preconditions of intelligibility. The truth of the axioms is already implicit in our first perceptual experiences, since the axioms identify what we directly perceive. So long as we are conscious of anything, the axioms are present. In fact, the axioms are implicit in all perception, since perception is the fundamental, pre-conceptual awareness of some object by some conscious subject. Perception is perception of something, so the only validation that the axioms require is the relationship between a knowing subject and the objects it perceives.”
Based on all I’ve presented thus far, I think it’s safe to conclude that in the knowledge process — from its base, to its acquisition, to its validation — at no point is “faith” required. In other words, “faith” is not needed for “jumping the gap from the evidence to certainty,” for in the conceptual process just described, there is no “jumping” or “gap” to begin with.
But maybe I missed something. Let’s find out…
You write: “If you act on anything, you have faith.”
Flies and flees act. Do they have faith when perceiving and navigating their environment? How about a pig? A horse? A mouse? A dog? Do these and other animals have faith when they act?
According to Christianity, Satan acts. Would you say this character has faith?
According to Christianity, Judas acted. Did he have faith?
Christians tell us all the time that their god acts. Does it have faith? Can it doubt?
Christians allege that the Holy Spirit is a “person” who actually acts in their lives. Does it have faith?
Even though they weren’t Christian, would you say that the 9/11 terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center had faith when they took this action?
Does one act on faith when committing an evil act? When thinking about committing an evil act?
What is the difference between acting on faith to do good vs. acting on faith to do evil?
When you imagine heaven and being face-to-face with the Christian god, do you imagine that it will take faith to perceive him? Why or why not?
If I get into my car, having faith that when I drive down the highway, I will not get into a crash — but then I do get into a crash — would you say that it was an act of faith which was responsible for my getting into a collision?
You say: “This is completely unlike the modern idea that faith is something in the absence of evidence, and that the two are opposite methods of knowing the world.”
I’m not exactly sure what you’re trying to say here. “Faith” and **what** are “two opposite methods of knowing the world”?
As brought out earlier, the only means I know for knowing anything, including “the world” is: reason.
You also write: “This sort of faith is a trust in your own ability to properly know the world;…”
This is just more stolen concepts, brought to you by the Prior Certainty of Consciousness premise.
My cognitive tools (i.e., my “ability to properly know the world”) were reliable before I had knowledge of their existence. So how could “trust” even apply at that stage, at the perceptual level, prior to my knowledge of their (my cognitive tools) existence? In fact, at the perceptual stage, not only would “trust” not apply in “your own ability to know the world,” but neither would “distrust.” Try it sometime — try to “distrust” your senses (for example, by touching a hot stove), and see if they don’t still deliver reliable information about the world around you.
“Trust” is a higher abstraction, a concept that would be unavailable until the senses had already (and non-volitionally) given one awareness of something *to* trust. Where would “faith,” as you’ve described it, obtain prior to that happening?
This fallacy notwithstanding, I’m curious, (and I may have touched upon this earlier): What about my ability to properly know what “doubt” is? Does that take faith? And, per your assertion, that “[i]f you act on anything, then you act on faith”: If I act on doubt, does this mean that I am really acting on faith?
You continue: “…a faith that you really do see the things that you see and really do experience the things that you experience.”
Maybe it’s just your way of emphasizing your point, but I’m curious: Why detach perception from experience? To experience anything, wouldn’t one have perceive it in some fashion? And if one perceives something, isn’t one then experiencing something?
Be that as it may, I think I’ve already made the case that “faith” wouldn’t even be in play when it comes to the perception of objects or to the experiencing of something. If you didn’t really “see the things that you see” or really “experience the things you experience,” then there would be no basis on which to even form any concepts, including concepts like “faith.”
So your statement essentially advocates a complete reversal of the process.
You wrote: “Your mind could be mistaken or corrupted in some way so that you can’t truthfully see and know what’s going on in the real world, but most of us don’t question the accuracy of our minds.”
Let’s call this the “What If You’re Wrong?” approach to knowledge. Before I address it directly, let me (again) ask a few simple question: Would you say that we can know with 100% certainty that man is fallible? Do you doubt that man is fallible? Would you say that it requires faith to know with 100% certainty that man is fallible? Or are you certain of the knowledge you have that man is fallible, without faith?
There is no doubt whatsoever that errors can occur in one’s thinking. But what is an “error,” if not a departure from being right or correct? And what is “doubt,” if not a departure from its very basis: certainty? As Peikoff rightly asks: “How can one form such concepts as ‘mistake’ or ‘error’ while wholly ignorant of what is correct?”
He goes on: “Fallibility does not make knowledge impossible. Knowledge is what makes possible the discovery of fallibility… Doubt, rationally exercised, is a temporary, transitional state, which is applicable only to (some) higher-level questions — and which itself expresses a cognitive judgement: that the evidence one has is still inconclusive [a certainty in this context, by the way]. As such, doubt is made possible only by a vast context of knowledge in the doubter’s mind. The doubter must know both facts and logic; he must know the facts known so far [other certainties] — and also the means by which in principle his doubt is eventually to be removed, i.e., what else is required to reach full proof… Is man capable of certainty? Since man has a faculty of knowledge and non-omniscience is no obstacle to its use, there is only one rational answer: certainly.”
Additionally, Peikoff addresses your complaint head on, when he writes: “It is possible, the skeptic argument declares, for man to be in error; therefore, it is possible that every individual is in error on every question. This argument is a non sequitur; it is an equivocation on the term ‘possible.’
What is possible to a species under some circumstances, is not necessarily possible to every individual member of that species under every set of circumstances. Thus, it is possible for a human being to run the mile in less than four minutes; and it is possible for a human being to be pregnant. I cannot, however, go over to a crippled gentleman in his wheelchair and say: ‘Perhaps you’ll give birth to a son next week, after you’ve run the mile to the hospital in 3.9 minutes — after all, you’re human, and it is possible for human beings to do these things.’
The same principle applies to the possibility of error.
Doubting without a basis is the equivalent of — is indeed a form of — asserting without a basis. Both procedures, being arbitrary, are disqualified by the very nature of human cognition. In reason, certainty must precede doubt, just as a grasp of truth must precede the detection of error. To establish a claim to knowledge, what one must do is to prove an idea positively, on the basis of the full context of evidence available; i.e., a man must prove that he is right. It is not incumbent on anyone — nor is it possible — to prove that he is not wrong, when no evidence of error has been offered.”
So, Dan, what is your basis for doubt? Where is your evidence of specific error?
You wrote: “Thus, it takes faith to believe my statement.”
If so, then what does this say, not only about the truth-value of your statement, but also about the epistemological reliability of “faith” itself? If “faith” is what supports your belief in your statement, I’d say that this is quite an indictment, not only of “faith” and your statement, but also of whatever epistemological avenue that has led you to this point where you would make such a claim.
I have shown that the statement: “No evidence for factual things reaches 100%” — is not one which can be integrated without contradiction, nor is it one which can avoid stolen concepts, which means your statement is not in accordance with reason and therefore warrants rejection. Yet, here you are, positing “faith” as an end-around to your statement’s untenability, as if to say, “Why should contradictions matter? Why should stolen concepts matter? Why should reason matter? My statement can be believed anyway.” But, how? “Faith! The assurance of things hoped for, silly! …”
But faith is not an epistemological process by which knowledge is acquired and validated. Securing truths, whether done by identifying that which can be integrated without contradiction, (denoted by the concept “true”), or by identifying that which contradicts the evidence and/or some aspect of the wider context, (denoted by the concept “false”), or by identifying that which has no relation to evidence or context, (denoted by the concept “arbitrary”) — it is not faith that is required, but reason.
As stated earlier, “reason” is “the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses. *Rationality* is the unwavering “commitment to reason as one’s only source of knowledge, one’s only judge of values and one’s only guide to action.” As Dawson Bethrick points out: “A position secured by a consistent application of reason has no place, need, or room for faith; and a position accepted on faith will not sustain the demands, scrutiny or challenges of reason. Faith and reason are antipodes, regardless of how strenuously religionists deny this.”
So any acceptance (or rejection) of ideational content (be it the acceptance of 2 + 2 = 4, or the rejection the notion of a “deity,” or “square circles,” or the idea of Tiger Woods playing golf on Pluto, or your statement that “No evidence…”, etc., etc., etc.) on any basis other than reason, (whether that basis be hope, belief, faith, doubt, feelings, tradition, intuition, revelation, wishing, whim, “just knowing,” etc.) — is irrational.
Faith serves as the great enabler of the irrational, green-lighting the acceptance of ideational content, not only in the absence of evidence or proof, but **in spite of** evidence and proof contradicting such ideational content. 47 This is mysticism in a nutshell. If faith can foster acceptance of the kind of statement(s) you’ve posited, then what’s to stop anyone from accepting and acting on any crazy ol‘ thing, and doing so based upon faith?
Having nothing to do with our means of perceiving and identifying reality; born of wishing, hoping, and fear, none of which have anything to do with objects of desire or dread actually being real; reinforced by incoherent storybook teachings (cf. Romans 8:24, Hebrews 11:1), faith is as anti-reason of a concept as you can get.
Rather than serving as any kind of cognitive tool or “method” for going “from the evidence to certainty,” faith is fundamentally an emotion, a false-confidence, which its adherents appeal to and act on in an effort to suppress the uneasiness they experience when, for example, they are occasionally struck by faint realizations that what they are hoping, wishing, fearing, and wasting their life on, really is only imaginary.
So, to offer just one rewrite for your statement, “Faith is jumping the gap from the evidence to certainty”:
Faith is a feeling for avoiding the chasm that exists between what is real and what is only imaginary.
(By the way, since you’re a defender of faith and I’ve introduced the notion of “square circles” into this discussion, I would really be curious to know what you would say faith’s role would be in one’s acceptance or rejection of such a notion as square circles.)
I will let Peikoff speak for me in summing up just how intertwined mysticism (in this case, Christianity) and skepticism really are: “If mysticism advocates the promiscuous acceptance of ideas, skepticism advocates their promiscuous doubt. The mystic ‘just knows’ whatever he wants to believe; the skeptic ‘just doesn’t know’ whatever he wants not to believe. The operative term and guiding force here is ‘wants,” i.e., feeling. **Both** viewpoints reduce to emotionalism; both represent the reliance on feeling as a cognitive guide. Both represent a denial of man’s need for logic and an enshrinement of the arbitrary.
Both the mystic and the skeptic are exponents of faith… The mystic has faith that there is certainty which eludes the mind; the skeptic has faith that the mind’s certainties are no certainties at all… Both doctrines, if upheld at all, must be matters of faith; a proof of either would be fatal to it.”
Why would proof be fatal to both?
Peikoff explains: “A process of proof commits a man to its presuppositions and implications. It thus commits him to an entire philosophic approach — to the validity of sense perception, the validity of reason, the need of objectivity, the method of logic, the processes of conceptual knowledge, the law of identity, the absolutism of reality. This approach is incompatible with the ideas of mystics and skeptics alike.
A God susceptible to proof would wither and starve the spirit of mysticism. Such an entity would be finite and limited; it would be one thing among others within the universe, a thing bound by identity and causality, capable of being integrated without contradiction into man’s cognitive context, incompatible with miracles, revelations, and the other paraphernalia of unreason…
The same applies to the skeptic’s doubt. A doubt susceptible of objective validation would also have to be finite, contextual, and bound by the rules of evidence. Such a doubt would be one assessment among others within the universe of rational knowledge.”
Yes, for the sake of both the mystic and the skeptic, it’s best that their doctrines operate in the shadows, away from proof, for that is how faith and doubt thrive. To do otherwise and expose them to the shining light of reason, would cause them both to implode and, thereby, give away the game.
You continue: “No one is required to believe it, or anything really.”
That’s good to hear, but did you come to this conclusion based upon faith? Should I take this conclusion on faith? What if someone else comes along and tells me that I must believe your statement? Or they tell me I must reject evolution? Or that I must believe the statements contained in the bible, otherwise I will go to hell?
I’m reminded of a couple of things Rand wrote: “Faith in the supernatural begins as faith in the superiority of others” and “an error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error.”
You wrote: “And as long as one believes, for instance, that he or she exists, that belief was reached by faith, since even that can be cast upon with doubt.”
I’ve never understood why one would seriously entertain the notion of denying or doubting one’s own existence, let alone why one would posit the notion that “belief” in one’s own existence must be “reached by faith.”
It is certainly true that one can *cast* doubt upon all sorts of things. But that doesn’t mean such uncertainty has any basis in reality; i.e., that such uncertainty has any truth value, i.e., actually obtains or is rational. I can doubt that I’m actually staring at a computer screen as I type this right now. Jodi Arias can doubt she’s a convicted murderer. Neither are true.
As for for those who are sincere in denying or doubting their own existence, I say: Let’s see them demonstrate it.
So now I have a request: Please provide evidence that would serve as a rational basis on which to genuinely doubt that you, I, or existence, actually exists. In attempting such a feat, please do so without performatively contradicting yourself in the process, thereby nullifying the very thing you set out to prove, i.e., do so without demonstrating, with certainty, that you actually exist by the very act of being able to doubt, (or for that matter, even being able to present an argument).
In other words: No matter the content of your claim, argument or evidence, implicit in the very act of: researching it, formulating it, supplying me with it, etc.; breathing, eating, taking breaks, etc. — would be *all* of the following:
(a) something would have to exist from which to draw any content, (answering the questions: Knowledge of *what*? Or: Doubt *what*?)
(b) you would need to be conscious (or aware of that which exists, answering the question: *Knowledge* of what? Or: *Doubt* what?)
(c) you would be engaging in specific actions as opposed to other actions, e.g., evaluating, writing, thinking, doubting as opposed to getting drunk, sleeping, going to church, beating your wife, etc.
(d) there would be a relationship between the objects of awareness (existence) and the means by which you are aware of them (consciousness)
(e) these objects that you perceive around you would neither depend on nor conform to what you want, prefer, believe, have faith in, doubt, imagine, wish, feel, pray about, or emote, etc.
The only questions at that point would be: Is the content of your claim or argument and/or its supporting evidence consistent with all of the above? Or does the content contradict, cast doubt on, deny, ignore or otherwise attempt to undercut any or all of points (a) through (e)?
Incorporating your assertion into something from Rand, I paraphrase: “…’As long as one believes that he or she exists, even that can be cast upon with doubt,’ they chatter, blanking out the fact that ‘belief’ and ‘doubt’ presupposes existence, consciousness and a complex chain of knowledge: the existence of something to know, believe, or doubt; of a consciousness able to know, believe, or doubt it; and of a knowledge that has learned to distinguish between such concepts as belief, doubt and certainty.”
We have accepted, unquestioningly, the dogma of materialism that myths and fairy tales are lies. In another time, a thoughtful man described them as lies breathed through silver. Yet, we all indulge in, fully engage with, and enjoy these lies. We create them, but they are not true. Our truth is four walls. On every side we are surrounded by the physical. The open sky bids us rise to explore the utmost height, yet there is a point when with outstretched arm it decrees us go no further. The floor below, our immediate contact with our limits, grounds us and pulls us downward– or upon finding the edge beside an unknown depth it strikes fear that we may be lost in the abyss of darkness. The hard material truth, if one may rightfully see his surroundings, is that all of us are in prison. There is nothing beyond the limits of the material, and we cannot go any further. There is no light on the other side, no hope for escape. The four walls, the roof, and the floor testify we are inside a great expansive prison. It is the greatest jail anyone has ever devised and no one has ever escaped, still yet, no one has ever come to visit. If a wall were suddenly to break down or the whole prison itself were destroyed by the decay of time, we would break down with it. So that just at the point where it were possible to leave, we would lose all life within us. No strength would remain to cross that great boundary.
Myths and fairy tales are the result of man dreaming of a place beyond the prison. They are windows summoned by the magic of words that allow us a glimpse into the possibilities beyond our prison. The light truly shines through the window baptizing us into the new world, whilst in this one we appear still, as one dead, we are revived into another land. And while on our new journey, through the course of the story we find ourselves vanquished by our foe or traveled so far that we have come to the end, we are resurrected back into this world having become so much the better and grateful for the experience. And once awakened again to our surroundings, we see as with eyes afresh our own world colored with new light, the light from the window. It is here that we regain the perpetual wonder we once held as a child. We are reborn.
But, there are those of us who travel to and fro walking up and down the earth with the laws of nature in their mouths and jail keys in there hands who take upon themselves the duty to make us see the walls of our prison and remind us there are no windows to go through and no light to shine in. The stories are wrong. But, is it ever wrong for the prisoner to think of life outside of his prison? Who, indeed, is telling the lie?
By James N. Anderson and Greg Welty
“What is the relationship between the laws of logic and the existence of God? Perhaps the most obvious thing to say is that there is an epistemological relationship between the two, such that the existence of God—more precisely, rational belief in the existence of God—depends on the laws of logic. In the first place, any argument one might offer for the existence of God must conform to the laws of logic: the law of non-contradiction, the rules of deductive inference, and so forth. Furthermore, many would maintain that the concept of God must conform to the laws of logic as a precondition of rational belief in the existence of God. (This seems implicit even in a “Reformed Epistemology” view which says that rational belief in God doesn’t have to depend on arguments.) In this paper we do not propose to explore or contest those epistemological relationships. Instead we will argue for a substantive metaphysical relationship between the laws of logic and the existence of God, with the arrow of dependence running in the opposite direction. In other words, we will argue that there are laws of logic because God exists; indeed, there are laws of logic only because God exists. If we are correct about this metaphysical relationship, it is but a short step to a fascinating and powerful but neglected argument for the existence of God.”
Download it here:
Do you think there a difference between the God that Christians worship and the God that is described in the Bible?
I wonder what’s going on with this classification of Christianity as a disease. I’m pretty sure, with the way they describe it, this also applies to all religions as well. I mean, what are we supposed to say of the ancient man who first started to explain the world? That he was insane? This desire to explain our existence is a natural part of man, and the first man certainly felt it. And even today, if a man had no concept of today’s understanding of science and the natural world, if he were hidden away from the rest of humanity and left to explain things on his own, he would probably come up with the same thing as the ancient man: that God or gods formed the world in some manner. Are we to call this natural state of man crazy, insane, and all other sorts of things? One would have to view the whole history of the world as some kind of insane roller coaster ride that came to its highest peak around the time of Rome when Christ came into the world. Then the Catholic Church came and wrote this insanity into stone and held the world prisoner until the Renaissance. And even then it was just a prelude to a little bit of sanity. Nevermind what our Reformation brothers were doing nearby. They were just holding on to insanity. It wasn’t until the enlightenment when we could really begin to throw off the shackles of craziness and even then it was only a few people who did. And today, the world is still about 80% insane, but we expect this whole religious thing to die off soon.
The non-religious are calling religion a mental deformity, an abnormal state. The ancient and the modern man who do not subscribe to this modern naturalistic science mumbo jumbo are just insane. But the problem here is that, if anything, the modern naturalist is the abnormal one. The ancient and modern man are doing what comes natural. They are holding onto a purpose for the world, and can’t let it go without some modern education into abnormality. Then they can leave their insanity and join the vocal majority who dictate the new “normal.” Yes, let’s call an abnormal state a normal one and insult most every human in history right down to the last man standing who still intuitively sees purpose. That’s the best way to honor our dead relatives, not to mention our mothers who took us to church so that we wouldn’t turn out like blockheads.
At all times it is our duty to acknowledge the overruling providence of the Great Governor of the universe, and devoutly to implore his Divine favor and protection. But in the hour of calamity and impending danger, when, by fire and the sword, by the savages of the wilderness, and by our own domestics, a vindictive enemy pursues a war of rapine and devastation with unrelenting fury, we are peculiarly excited with true penitence of heart to prostrate ourselves before our great Creator, and fervently to supplicate his gracious interposition for our deliverance.
The United States in Congress assembled, therefore, do earnestly recommend that Thursday, the third day of May next, may be observed as a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer, that we may with united hearts confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and by sincere repentance and amendment of life appease his righteous displeasure, and, through the merits of our blessed Savior obtain pardon and forgiveness; that it may please him to inspire our leaders with incorruptible integrity, and to direct and prosper their councils; to inspire all our citizens with a fervent and disinterested love of their country, and to preserve and strengthen their union… and to render the connection formed between these United States and his kingdom a mutual and lasting benefit to both nations…; that it may please him to bless all schools and seminaries of learning, and to grant that truth, justice and benevolence and pure and undefiled religion may universally prevail.