The following is from Chris Matthew and his conversation with some atheist. He’s an up-and-coming presuppositionalist:
There are a couple of remarks that merit response, @FondestAlloy. 1.) Do you deny the possibility of knowing whether something is objectively true? 2.) You describe pessimistic meta-induction well. In the future, there is the possibility (a high probability, even) that something will come to light that undermines the justification for our present knowledge claims. The glaring issue to this is that this makes human knowledge impossible. Indeed, impossible. You can’t recourse to some posited distinction between subjective/objective truth to escape from this fact. Two reasons for why that is so. a) First of all, if human knowledge is made impossible due to this fact, then the alleged objective/subjective dichotomy itself collapses. What is to say that our grounds for distinguishing between that which is objective and subjective will not be discredited in the future? This is dangerous global skepticism, something which no epistemologically self-conscious individual should accept. I quote from Bosserman, verbatim:
“Yet, again, the objector has lapsed back into the very sort of position that Van Til has proven untenable. If reality were the sort of place where subjective and objective truth could be so disconnected, the objector would have no ground for supposing that his reasoning process advances by objectively valid inferences.”
─ Trinity and the Vindication of the Christian Paradox
“I inductively reason the things I can believe to be truth and not true.”
The main problem with this is that induction itself is unintelligible on worldviews other than Christian theism. How do you justify that the future will be like the past, guaranteeing the truth of inductive arguments, on your worldview? You cannot. For sure, it could be the case that something discovered in the future could undermine your belief in the reliability of induction. See how pervasive your admission is? Conclusion Ultimately, the questions come down to one thing: you cannot provide for the preconditions of intelligible rational thought without the truth of Christian theism. The reasoning has been that: since you are not omniscient, you cannot know whether some fact yet to be known will defeat your currently-held knowledge claims. This, in turn, defeats the possibility of all knowledge ─ including knowledge of whether knowledge is impossible (which is self-refuting). This reduces to absurdity. Christian theism provides a way out of this predicament. The previous line of reasoning can be formulated along the lines of an epistemic trilemma (credits to @Necessitarian): Humankind can be omniscient (per impossible); we can have access to an omniscient Source (e.g., revelation from the Christian God), or knowledge is made impossible (per impossible). This illustrates the essential unity of knowledge. We can put this in terms of a formal argument that is deductively valid (cf. Anderson 2005):
P1. If no one has comprehensive knowledge of the universe, then no one can have any knowledge of the universe. P2. Only God could have comprehensive knowledge of the universe. P3. We have some knowledge of the universe. C: Therefore, God exists. Furthermore, to add another kilogram of weight to the corpse of unbelief, you appeal to induction without realizing that only Christian theism can justify the uniformity of nature (and hence, inductive reasoning).
“Do beliefs need justifications or are they just involuntary?”
Even if doxastic involuntarism is true, this has little to do with the epistemological issue of justifying your beliefs. The classical contention in support of doxastic involuntarism (the ‘classical argument’, according to Bernard Williams) is that subjects have already justified the truth of their beliefs before any kind of ‘free-standing’ judgement of the belief’s truth-value.
“Beliefs are attitudes about propositions, they’re emotive states”
“You don’t need to claim to “know” the sun will rise tomorrow, to feel it will.”
“What is “knowledge” anyway?”
“Do you think people had knowledge before Christianity existed? Did cavemen have knowledge?”
What is before Christianity? All men know the Christian God (Romans 1), even cavemen. We can say that Christian theism is an epistemic precondition. An epistemic precondition would be knowledge of some belief, x, where x is a belief about an ontological fact about the world that guarantees the possibility of knowledge.
“Hume already talked about the problem of induction and mentioned the mind having “habits of thought”. The belief the future will resemble the past is psychological.”
Yes. The issue, however, is not psychological but epistemological. What grounds can a subject appeal to, so as to justify their use of the inductive principle? They might be psychologically inclined to think that the future will be akin to the past, but that doesn’t justify the belief.
“Even animals exhibit this, and they don’t presuppose God?”
Animals aren’t rational. Animals don’t hold to worldviews. Animals aren’t epistemically bound.
“If you really believe in God, its an involuntary feeling, not an axiom you’ve arbitrarily chosen”
“Why do you assume knowledge is JTB, Justified True Belief? Is that not disputed by philosophers these days?”
I usually guide people out of thinking in terms of JTB when I question them.
“there are even philosophers that dispute some of the laws of logic like the law of excluded middle”
It’s amusing to me that you should pick, as an example of this, the LEM. In all actuality, the LEM is fairly uncontroversial. It is just that many modern logic systems replace the LEM with negation as failure (eg., as used as a foundation for autoepistemic logic). A better example of what you’re trying to get at would be Graham Priest’s ‘rejection’ of the Law of Non-Contradiction (LNC), or dialetheism. However, note that dialetheism only functions within paraconsistent logic: you need transcendent structures to ultimately unify and make sense of these things. The LNC necessarily and universally holds, even with examples of dialetheism or other such paradoxes; you will always have to utilize the LNC to deny the universality of the LNC.
Continuing my discussion with ‘The Fool’
“What is rationality?”
Rationality implies the conformity of one’s beliefs with one’s reasons to believe, and of one’s actions with one’s reasons for action.
“And not all humans know about Christianity, right? Do you believe that? How would a caveman know anymore than a hunter gather tribe living on north sentinel island?”
The epistemic precondition is the triune Christian God. Certain elements of the Christian religion (‘Christianity’), such as the Resurrection, do not need to be presupposed as one’s epistemic precondition. Cavemen, of course, lived before Christ’s resurrection. It is true that all men know the existence of the personal, triune Christian God (cf. Romans 1).
“Cavemen believed in Animism and stuff, not in monotheism”
The contention of the Covenantal apologist is not that all men verbally profess to believing in Christian theism or engage in conscious deception. The fact is that all men know the Christian God and, due to their wickedness of hearts, they suppress that knowledge due to its consequences of judgement and the need to change your life in conformity with God’s will. Suppressing that intrinsic knowledge of God includes forcing oneself to (falsely) believe that he does not know God. There is no contradiction involved in this process. Greg Bahnsen explained how natural man can believe that God exists (a first-order belief) and yet can deceive himself into believing that he does not have such a belief (a second-order belief). Thus the natural man does not believe both p and -p (which would be implausible), but rather he believes p and also believes (falsely) that he does not believe p. Moreover, self-deception, like falling asleep, is a self-covering intention. When self-deception is successful, the original intention is covered in the process. See Michael Butler, The Transcendental Argument for God’s Existence.
“If you can presuppose God. People can presuppose the laws of logic etc”
Let’s put it this way. Necessitarian says, “One would need to explain what these laws are. Why call them laws? Are they “things” at all to which we refer? Are they mere constructs? How do they retain normativity, timelessness, spacelessness, and multiple instantiation? Offering us the blank word “logic” without a metaphysical backdrop [a worldview] from which that word derives meaning is really to suppose our worldview can rest on a mysterious, empty category which: although it has no reason in itself to support autonomy from Christian revelation, supports autonomy”.
“You can presuppose the uniformity of nature, science does make that presupposition already, I thought? And pressupositions don’t need justifications, if you don’t believe a presupposition like God needs any justifications.”
“Animals do apparently hold worldviews, humans aren’t plants, they’re animals.”
“I don’t feel confident in asserting what “knowledge” is. That’s for the epistemologists to debate over, they disagree, and that disagreement makes me feel uncertain.”
Do you claim to know any belief-claim?
“You (presumably) advocate some form of foundationalism, maybe foundationalism is true, but my confidence in it is weakened by there being other epistemic systems.”
No, I do not hold to foundationalism. As a Covenantal apologist, I hold to a revelational epistemology. It is likely that you suppose my theory of justification to be foundationalism on the basis of your assumption that presuppositions are akin to axioms (which I refuted above). However, revelational epistemology (or RE) functions differently.
“Can people not make statements of belief, without making knowledge-claims?”
“I feel people can make utterances though that aren’t true or false, noncognitive expressions.”
Of course they can. This is uncontroversial. Non-cognitive expressions include imperatives/prescriptions or emotive states. For example, the expression: “Close that door!” is not a proposition with a possible truth-value. It cannot be either true or false.
“Why stop at saying moral-statements are noncognitive? I think we could say scientific or mathematical statements are noncognitive aswell maybe.”
“I was talking to a guy the other day in a different discord server that was basically an emotivist, but about all beliefs. It seems self-consistent for the saying all beliefs are emotive expression, to itself be emotional expression. Denying cognition exists seems extreme to me though.”