The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Sword to the Heart: Reason and the First Person

(presented in its third edition as “JRP’s Bite-Sized Metaphysics” series, here on the EU forum)
Sword to the Heart (Full 3rd Edition).pdf (2.06 MB)

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comment 1 (this one): TOC and links to other Section Overviews
comment 2: overview of the overviews
subsequent comments: links to, and topical summaries of, each series of entries in this section.

Section One (How Should I Be A Sceptic) can be found here.

Section Three (Creation and the Second Person) can be found here.

Section Four (Ethics and the Third Person) can be found here.

Section Five (The Story of Passion and Atonement) can be found here.

In order to provide a handy topical overview and linkset to the ongoing series of progressing metaphysical argument (which in my own past experience establishes the foundation of Christian universalism via orthodox trinitarian theism), I have created this series of “Overview” threads. Each comment will link to a particular series of entries, and will provide a quick topical description of that series.

This thread topically summarizes and links to the series of entries for Section Two: Reason and the First Person. In this Section, I consider how to identify a (or the) Golden Presumption of argument; the basic philosophical options of atheism and not-atheism (i.e. theism); why and how these two basic options are relevant to the GP; why it is important for either of these propositions not to run up against the GP; why I choose to start with analyzing atheism and its basic metaphysical characteristics; and why I end up functionally deducting atheism from the option list. (The question of whether not-atheism, or theism, should also be deducted, is raised afterward, and a preliminary discussion of this question leads into Section Three.)

Most of this Section therefore involves arriving at and deploying one variation of the theistic Argument from Reason (in a fashion that I could argue, and have done so elsewhere, C. S. Lewis was using in his crucial third chapter of Miracles: A Preliminary Study.)

New entries and links will be added below with the establishment of each new series of entries. Summary topical descriptions of each series, however, will be withheld until that particular series is finished.

Each series of entries represents a chapter or (far more likely) part of a chapter from the original SttH text composition. Chapter designations will be provided as I go along.

Chapter 14 – “The Golden Presumption”

Series 201

The axioms we use in reasoning determine what kind of results we will arrive at from valid reasoning; the most basic and fundamentally necessary assumption should therefore be one that would be nonsense to deny; theistic presuppositionalists, not unreasonably (and typically in admirable humility), want to assert God as this fundamentally necessary assumption; but this kind of assumption is a tool for purposes of human activity (argumentation)–should God be treated that way?; putting God there doesn’t help the non-theist apologetically–we’re talking about inferring corollaries from a functionally non-deniable presumption, so the non-theist would have to accept God in order to arrive deductively at existence of God (vicious circularity, i.e. cheating); note difference from an abductive argument hypothetically proposing God’s existence–that’s useful and fair, but not the same thing as treating God as the most basic and fundamenntally necessary assumption; also, God never quite gets into the Golden Presumption slot; even theistic presuppositionalists tacitly presume they themselves can think, prior to presuming God’s existence; a religious presumptionalist has work cut out convincing a sceptic (or anyone else!) that the sceptic actually presumes God’s existence as God every time the sceptic begins construction any argument; but our sentience is something sceptic and believer may both accept regardless of relative belief and scepticism on whatever topic; denial of our sentience also requires assuming our sentience in order for us (claiming personal rationality) to even try denying it; for ‘me’ (myself) to ‘deny’ that I can think, requires that ‘I’ have ‘some idea’ of what ‘a denial that I can think’ ‘means’ and then ‘actively’ deny it; even if I brutely propose it, I can’t do anything with the proposal without denying the proposal; nor does acknowledging its presumption count as proving “I can think” is a true proposition; even acknowledging causal priority (such as my existence) requires at least tacitly presuming my rationality as formal priority; the two presumptions have to be made for any argument, ‘I think’ and ‘I am’, but only one of those is intrinsically related to an argument as an argument; I could claim “I am, therefore I think” or “I think, therefore I am”; but first claim cannot get off ground as an argument unless I was presuming preparatory to the argument I can think; whereas, I could causally exist and then be behaving in ways which only seem like thinking (but which aren’t); my existence (factually and/or presumably) is no guarantee I can argue, or even presume anything, but my rationality is; trying to infer my existence would be circular, because I have to tacitly presume my existence in order to infer; but inferring the existence and character of causal priors which aren’t formal necessities for argumentation should in principle be possible; at the very least, atheists should accept and understand this; because they are not in the least reluctant to attempt many types of logical explanations about how we reason and how our sentience came into being, while still tacitly requiring as a necessary presumption (for formal purposes) that they themselves can in fact reason; so, as long as we (be we theists, atheists, pantheists, whomever) don’t produce what amounts to an argument that we can reason (which is circular and thus must fail), and as long as we don’t produce what amounts to an argument (or requirement) that we cannot reason (which is self-refuting); then we may legitimately attempt to deduce propositions from the presumption “We can reason”; and those propositions and conclusions may be about conditions or situations or entities, which are themselves causally (not formally) prior to any reasoning ability we in fact have; but what does it mean ‘to think’ or ‘to reason’?–this will need better establishing before going further.

Chapter 15 – A Necessary Characteristic of Reasoning

Series 202

“You and I can reason” has been argued to be the implicit or explicit presumption that must stand behind any argument advanced by any person on any topic; not an argument that we can in fact reason (which would be viciously circular); I may exist, but my existence does not necessarily require that I can reason; whereas my reasoning (including about my existence, and about any causes of my existence) necessarily requires that I exist but also that I can reason; but what is specially characteristic of reasoning?; contrast our presumed condition (you and I can think) to a piece of chalk; if chalk is not rationally sentient, what qualitative difference of behavior is there between the chalk and ourselves?; radically different chemical properties would not necessarily involve qualitative differences of behavior between us and the chalk; distinction of action capability compared to mere reaction; atheism considered as an example of this distinction in regard to the Independent Fact; atheist would usually agree that he intentionally acts, however, even if the IF does not; even if the atheist tries to deny this, he will be implicitly asserting it anyway, insofar as he claims personal responsibility for his beliefs; otherwise his claims enter a peculiar limbo that can only be resolved, one way or another, by the presumption of actively thinking entities judging his claims themselves; this presumed ability to act, not only to react, carries very serious deductive consequences.

Chapter 16 – Atheism and Real Action

Series 203: the key implication of real action

Another distinction between action and reaction: legal competency hearings; a man may be excused from criminal culpability if his behaviors can be explained as the equivalent of an unintentional sneeze (even if vastly more complex); mere automatic reaction to the environment is commonly used to explain away beliefs; few (if any) atheists would explain their atheism as being only and purely the result of automatic response to their environment; (extra example: I have heard atheists explaining away religious belief as being only or primarily the result of too large a God Module in the brain, but I have never heard an atheist explain his own rejection of religious belief as being only or primarily the result of too small a GM!–not while expecting anyone to take his atheism seriously); a presumed and commonly accepted distinction between action and reaction (whatever words we use to describe the distinction) is irreducibly and irreplaceably fundamental to the acceptability of a formal argument–including arguments about religious and/or philosophical truth; any attempt to propose further positions (either as hypotheses or conclusions) should be discarded if they contradict this position; but action entails addition to, instigation in, and freedom (in some fashion) from the web of reactive causation; atheism, as a chief branch of philosophy distinctive from “not-atheism”, either provides for this ability, or it does not; if it does not even in principle allow for this ability, it should be considered false and deducted from the option list; atheists themselves apply this same principle all the time, at a much later stage; if, for instance, a supernatural God does not exist, then no amount of clever historical argument or hypothesis-testing could ever possibly correctly conclude that Jesus of Nazareth was supernaturally resurrected by that God–any conclusion we reached that seemed to suggest otherwise, no matter how strong it might look, can and logically should be reliably dismissed as an error, even if the error has not yet been specifically detected; by the same token, and even more prior in argumentation, if atheism does not in principle allow for rational action, then it should be discounted as a possibility; apparent evidence to the contrary might be intuitively gauged by us as strong enough to warrant rechecking the original logical grounding, in order to ensure a mistake had not been made in the preparatory philosophical conclusion; but apparent evidence to the contrary would not be enough by itself to legitimately overthrow the prior deducted possibility-filter; atheism entails that the Independent Fact, upon which all other facts are based, does not act, does not initiate events, does not choose to do or not to do events; it may behave, but those behaviors are ultimately random and not intentionally guided in any way; if atheism is true, then the IF is utterly reactive as a system; but arguments to atheism require presuming the arguers can at least partially act; if atheism is true, reactions must be capable of producing actions; but if it is nonsensical for reactions to produce actions, then either none of us can actually act, or else the IF is itself capable of action; in the former case, all our arguments must be indefinitely mooted in a formal limbo (including any arguments in favor of atheism); atheism might still be true if none of us can act, but we would be in no position to cogently propose or defend it; the quality of all that category of behavior would be an illusion; but if the IF is capable of action, atheism must be false and some kind of not-atheism true; neither is agnosticism a rationally responsible option: it cannot be rationally defended if rational defenses are intrinsically impossible, and presuming rational defenses are possible (the Golden Presumption) points toward a truth or falsity of basic reality; the implications could be ignored (as a technically rational choice), but that would be acting to deny responsibility where responsibility is already acknowledged to exist; if the proposition ‘reactions produce actions’ is nonsense, then either atheism is false, or we might as well treat it as false because it can never, in any legitimate way, get going even as a live proposition (much less as a possibly cogently defended one); atheism could still be sheerly asserted; but a sheer assertion is not a reliable conclusion upon which to form a subsequent belief; two categories of defense may be attempted against this deduction.

Series 204: defenses against the implication of action

two categories of defense against the preceding deduction that we should reject atheism being true; (da) the proposal ‘reactions produce actions’ is not nonsensical; (db) defensible arguments (such as, for instance, atheism theories) can be produced purely by automatic reactions without actions; (db) to be discussed later; (da1) the terms ‘reaction’ and ‘action’ are proposed or demonstrated to be so vague and subjective that no distinctively useful definition of them can be formed, therefore aborting the question of whether it is nonsensical to say one comes from the other; (da2) reactions really exist, but actions are not distinctive from them, as they are merely our subjective perception of reactions, considered to be something ‘other than reactions’ purely for convenience in certain discussions–therefore, it is a non sequitur to claim that ‘reactions produce actions’ is nonsensical; (da3) reactions don’t really exist, all events being purely action–what we call reactions are only a term of convenience for particular discussions–therefore, it is a non sequitur to claim that ‘reactions produce actions’ is nonsensical; (da4) real actions and real reactions both exist–but we can successfully argue that reactive systems produce actions–therefore, it is not functionally impossible for reactions to produce actions, thus undercutting by demonstration the grounds for my attempted deduction; (da3) would mean some kind of not-atheism is true (maybe pantheism); (da2) is essentially the same as the (db) line of defense, and will be considered later; (da1)'s feasibility is sharply limited by inconsistent practical application; an atheist as an atheist holds a pretty strong distinction between intentional, instigative, purposeful behavior (action) and blindly automatic mechanism or ultimately random spontaneity (reaction); (da1) doesn’t even bulwark agnosticism, as a practical matter; an agnostic cannot maintain that this defense is usable without simultaneously requiring (whether she mentions it or not) that her own thoughts definitely have a certain quality or characteristic pertinently related to the distinction between action and reaction; and denying that gets her nowhere either; ‘No matter what I may seem to imply on occasion, being only human; please remember that it is in fact impossible for us to distinguish and apply a true and useful distinction between action and reaction’; ‘so you often make the mistake of assigning the possibility of definite value to her own statements–including about agnosticism on a topic?!’; her own practical opinion about the relevancy of her remarks, continues to require that her own remarks are (potentially, at least) truly capable of personally responsible action; which in turn leads into a discussion of (da4)

Chapter 17 – A Dialogue on Atheism and the Justification of Justification Ability

Series 205: atheism and rational action further considered

‘Atheism’ posits that the Independent Fact (the ground of all other facthood and the base for all reality) behaves only automatically, nonpurposefully, noninitiatively; not the same as naturalism–an atheist could be supernaturalistic; an atheist could even believe that the IF is ‘alive’ in some sense; could also consistently believe that a Most Powerful Thinking entity exists, that has been mistaken for being the IF, so long as it is not the IF; even a ‘thinking’ IF wouldn’t be worth much answer from an atheist, if the IF doesn’t act in any practical way; if God never takes any action that relates to my reality, then on every conceivable and practical point God might as well not exist; if God never takes any action that relates to natural reality, then we entities existing in Nature cannot possibly have any grounds for proposing God’s existence other than our own sheer assertion; might as well be or stay an atheist either way; but actions have consequences, and actions of God would have most far-reaching consequences; theists typically (and should) claim that God acts–one type of action being (perhaps) 'thinking; action of the IF is a claim worth effort confronting, to accept or to deny; action of myself as a thinker (atheistic or otherwise) is also a claim worth effort to accept or deny; as already noted, I presume intentional action of myself to make argumentative claims as having worth; my ability to think (and otherwise act) either comes from a fundamental reality which engages in action itself; or else blindly automatic reactions must be considered capable of producing events, such as my reasoning, which are themselves capable of active or only (yet sufficiently) reactive justification; a defense of atheism therefore sooner or later entails defending the contentions ‘it is possible that actions are ultimately produced by reactions’; or ‘it is possible that reactions can be reliably self-justifying’; the atheist may attempt to establish experimental and/or formal arguments of reactions producing actions, concluding that the principle is not nonsensical; but this leads next to a huge formal problem.

Series 206: the cardinal difficulty of atheism

(Since this is a dialogue, I’ll be skipping the summary.)

Series 207: the sceptical threat

(Since this is a dialogue, I’ll be skipping the summary.)

Series 208: a shared criteria, in favor of reason (and theism!)

(Since this is a dialogue, I’ll be skipping the summary.)

Chapter 18 – A Dialogue on Atheism and the Justification of Non-Justification Ability

Series 209: can evolutionary non-rationalism be sufficiently rational?

(Since this is a dialogue, I’ll be skipping the summary.)

Series 210: sauces, ganders and geese – non-justificational competency or incompetency cuts both ways

(Since this is a dialogue, I’ll be skipping the summary.)

Series 211: probability estimation and non-rational justification

(Since this is a dialogue, I’ll be skipping the summary.)

Series 212: the evolutionary development of instinctive probability estimation

(Since this is a dialogue, I’ll be skipping the summary.)

Series 213: the problem with not being a million-century-old alien

(Since this is a dialogue, I’ll be skipping the summary.)

Series 214: the unavoidable implications of reasoning (and the end of the dialogue).

(Since this is a dialogue, I’ll be skipping the summary.)

Chapter 19 – The Theistic Argument from Active Reasoning

Series 215

This (longer-than-usual) series is itself an extended summary of the AfR I’m using in this book, so I won’t bother to resummarize here. (Index page summaries should start again next chapter. :slight_smile: )

A far more colorful and (to me at least!) emotionally involving version of the same formal argument discussed in this Section so far, can be found here: The Argument From True Love.

Chapter 20 – A Serious Problem With This Argument For Theism

Series 216

Summary to be provided later.

Chapter 21 – Some Detours On The Problem of Theism

Series 217

Summary to be provided later.