January 27, 2021

The Council

Proclaiming the truth to the world.

The O.G. of Presuppositionalism.

I discussed in a previous article some of the basic principles of presuppositionalism. I think I might be able to expand on some of those principles.

1. Transcendental Argument:

In the last article, I briefly discussed the form of the transcendental argument and the disagreement that exist on how to formulate the Transcendental argument for God’s existence. The issue is that the transcendental argument for God’s existence isn’t merely one formulation, but rather a family of similarly formed arguments. I think it is perfectly acceptable to argue either form of the Transcendental argument. There was one objection that arose that neither of these arguments demonstrates that God is the necessary precondition for intelligibility(David Reiter). Reiter argued that this puts TAG proponents in a dilemma. TAG of these forms are either too weak to demonstrate that the Christian God necessarily exists or TAG is inadequate because it only shows that God does exist in the actual world. Dr. James Anderson notes that the Transcendental argument in Van Til’s thinking had Modal ramifications:

Van Til held not merely that God’s existence is a necessary condition of human thought (knowledge, predication, argumentation, etc.) but that his existence is a necessary condition of the possibility of such thought. Even had there been no human thought in actuality, God would still have had to exist, for his existence is a necessary condition of the mere possibility of human thought.

In the light of that insight, Dr. James Anderson formulates a Modal TAG:

  • Dr. James Anderson’s Modal TAG:
    (P1) Possibly, Human Thought.
    (P2) Necessarily, possibly, Human Thought.
    (P3) Necessarily, if possibly, Human Thought, then Christian Theism.
    (P4) If necessarily, possibly, Human Thought, then necessarily, Christian Theism.
    (C5) Necessarily, Christian Theism.

The more popular formulation of TAG is brought up by Dr. Greg Bahnsen’s protege Dr. Michael Butler. He would formulate TAG along the line of a disjunctive syllogism. Dr. Butler states it like this:

A TA takes on (roughly) the following form: For x to be the case, y must also be the case because y is the necessary precondition of x; since x is the case, y must be the case.

A disjunctive syllogism is this:

P1. P or Q.
P2. ~P
C. Therefore, Q.

His formulation would look something like this:

P1. Either the Christian worldview or Autonomy is the precondition of intelligibility.
P2. It is not the case that Autonomy accounts for intelligibility.
C. Therefore, Christian Theism is the precondition for intelligibility.

For more on the Don Collett version of the TAG, I recommend that you read this by Robin Ingles-Barrett.

2. Revelational Epistemology:

A major and important feature of Revelational Epistemology is its open use of “Epistemic Circularity”. That differs from Vicious circularity in that it does not use the conclusion as a premise in the argument, but rather where the conclusion operates as a presupposition of the argument. This is a common phenomenon seen in epistemology. This has been noted by individuals like William Alston. Some in attempt to avoid epistemic circularity try to strengthen their criteria for knowledge. The problem is that that response runs into an ancient problem of the criterion.

Ancient Pyrrhonian skeptics were puzzled about the disagreements that prevailed about any object of inquiry. They insisted that, in order to resolve these disagreements and to attain any knowledge, we need criteria that distinguish beliefs that are true from those that are false. However, there are also disagreements about the right criteria of truth. In order to resolve these disagreements and to know what the right criteria are, we need to know already which beliefs are true–the ones the criteria are supposed to pick out. We are thus caught in a circle.

If we understand the right criteria of truth as reliable sources of belief–sources that mostly produce true beliefs–we arrive at the following formulation of the problem of the criterion:

(1) We can know that a belief based on source K is true only if we first know that K is reliable.

(2) We can know that K is reliable only if we first know that some beliefs based on source K are true.

~The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

This is what Dr. Greg Bahnsen was using to show that Neutrality is impossible. He uses an example of a machine that sorts apples. How can the machine sort good apples from bad apples without already knowing something about apples? Without a method or standard how do distinguish good from bad apples? This is the debate between Methodist and Particularist. The Methodist wish to start with a method to distinguish knowledge from non-knowledge. The particularist wish to start with a specific instance of knowledge instead of having any criteria for it.

We should recognize that we are not unable to separate the sheep from the goats. I mean by that we are able to show some circles are not as good as other circles. In fact, all other circles contrary to the Christian circle is incoherent. We provide a transcendental argument for our worldview. We are not merely reduced to incommensurable worldviews or circles.

3. The Impossibility of the Contrary:

The usual objection to presuppositionalist after he refutes his opponents’ worldview is that you can’t refute an infinite amount of worldviews.

There are multiple ways to respond. The issue is that the objector has given up the ability to say that. He is not allowed to interpret the falsification of his worldview along neutral lines. You have shown that he can’t know anything and yet he launches his objection. We should also note that he is ignoring the fact that at base there are only two worldviews. That is between Christian theism and Autonomy. So, we don’t have an infinite amount of worldviews. Thirdly, he simply is begging the question against the Christian worldview. The Christian worldview presents a God that is independent of the world. Modal concepts must be understood in reference to the God of the Bible. Fourthly, the Non-Christian has created an underdetermination problem. Lastly, God has revealed in His word that they are wrong and that he his what brought everything into being. That He is the “Only True God” and that no other God exists.

Suppose for a moment we argued for logic with someone that rejected every system of logic. How would you demonstrate that logic holds to this person? I think the route we would go is a transcendental argument. That without logic we couldn’t make an argument for or against logic. Suppose such a skeptic states that we would need to refute an infinite amount of logic rejecting worldviews. Would you agree that logic is invalid? No, you know that at base only two worldviews are the case. The logical and the non-logical worldviews. As one proponent of TAG has stated:

In summary, the Christian need not evaluate an infinite number of worldviews in order to know (and justify) that there are only two worldviews. In the like manner, the Christian need not witness an infinite amount of deaths to know that all men are mortal. We have an appeal for such premises, the truth of God’s word, which tells us that there are only two worldviews; one is that revelation is the necessary precondition for the justification of intelligible experience and the other is a denial of the Christian worldview. Moreover, induction requires as its necessary precondition something more than a conceptual scheme for God’s existence.
~Ronald W. Di Giacomo “The Impropriety of Trying to “Prove” The Absolute Truth Value of a Transcendental Inductively”

Further reading:

A little Presup before Dinner

When a Cactus misses the Point

Doxastic vs Nondoxastic theories

Circular Reasoning and Circular Arguments