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Friday, November 10, 2023


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Bill, this is another good post on presupp. I agree with your zeteticism.

>> He incorrectly thinks that because the existence of God is not ontically contingent, but is ontically necessary, the existence of God is epistemically necessary, i.e., ruled in by what we know and thus objectively certain.<<

The presupper takes as objectively certain the thesis that God exists.

It might be worth noting that presuppositionalism entails the negation of global doxastic fallibilism*, which is the thesis that all human beliefs, claims, etc. rest on inconclusive justification and that no belief can be objectively certain. Presupp. also entails the negation of a non-global or local doxastic fallibilism which holds that all claims of philosophy (or more particularly, all claims of metaphysics) rest on inconclusive justification and thus no such claims are objectively certain.

*Doxastic fallibilism differs from epistemic fallibilism, which is the thesis that knowledge is consistent with inconclusive justification, i.e., one can know that p and yet, given one’s inconclusive justification for p, might be wrong that p.

I wonder if presuppers take the thesis of presuppositionalism to be doxastically fallible. Or do they take presupp. to be a claim known with objective certainty?

If they take the thesis of presupp as objectively certain, what is their conclusive proof for presupp?

If they take the thesis of presupp to be fallible, then is it problematic that their claim that theism is objectively certain rests on the fallible thesis of presupp?

Helpful comments!

I'd say that global doxastic fallibilism is false: present felt pains and pleasures are objectively certain and absolutely indubitable. Here the subjectively certain and the objectively certain coalesce.

My doxastic fallibilism is local. You are right, Elliot, that presupp entails the negation of local doxastic fallibilism.

>>If they take the thesis of presupp as objectively certain, what is their conclusive proof for presupp?<<

Their conclusive proof is the Christian Bible with all the Calvinist add-ons. That is their absolute standard for the evaluation of everything. They 'prove' it conclusively by presupposing it.

The presuppers who are aware that a circular 'proof' is no proof at all, present a transcendental argument which also fails. It fails because they are unable to prove that the ultimate transc condition of all argumentation is the God of the Christian Bible.

In support of what I just wrote, see here: https://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2023/10/argumentative-circles-and-their-diameters.html


I agree that global doxastic fallibilism is false, and for the reason you give. Plus, one might argue, there are propositions of basic math and logic (e.g., that two plus two equals four) that are knowable with objective certainty, or at least something very close to it.

>>Their conclusive proof is the Christian Bible with all the Calvinist add-ons. That is their absolute standard for the evaluation of everything. They 'prove' it conclusively by presupposing it.<<

The presuppers seem to come close to fideism, if not landing squarely in fideism.

By the way, I’ve been acquainted with some folks who attended Calvinist seminaries and I’ve engaged in relatively substantive theological discussions with them. I got the sense that they had been taught Calvinist theology in a manner that presupposes something like epistemological coherentism and perhaps the coherentist theory of truth.

Regarding the former, it seemed that my acquaintances had learned Calvinism as a systematic theology which is epistemically justified (in their minds) because its various claims (they think) are logically consistent with each other.

Regarding the coherentist theory of truth, they seemed inclined to construe the supposed coherence of Calvinist claims as an indication not only of their justification, but also of their truth. But when I raised questions, such as about what justifies their whole system, or about whether particular propositions of their system are consistent with very reasonable beliefs about ordinary human experience, or about whether their interpretations of Biblical passages are as credible as non-Calvinist interpretations*, they seemed at a loss to answer, or to suggest that the Calvinist system is best explained to people who have already accepted it.

*About their interpretations of the Bible, it seemed to me that they were inclined to eisegesis, that is, to read their Calvinism into the Bible.


Elliot writes, >>The presuppers seem to come close to fideism, if not landing squarely in fideism.<<

This is a deep and difficult question in large part because it is not clear what fideism is. As I understand the term, a fideist is one who holds that there are truths to which we have access but not by sense experience or by reasoning. A proper subset of these truths are those to which we have access by faith. Consider the putative truth that God exists. I have been arguing that this truth, if it is a truth, cannot be demonstrated or proven by any arguments. (And the same goes for the putative truth, if it is a truth, that God does not exist.) Strictly speaking there are no God proofs or disproofs. And of course the existence of God is not a deliverance of sense experience. (The samew holds for the nonexistence of God. And yet I believe that God exists and that my belief is true. So that makes ME a fideist, right? Now read my next comment.

Pushing further, it seems to me that the presuppers are NOT fideists. And this because they think they have a knock-down argument for the existence of God. I now quote myself from an earlier entry:

>>. . . the existence of God is taken by them to be the ultimate presupposition of all reasoning such that, were God not to exist, neither would the possibility of correct or incorrect reasoning. No God? Then no correct or incorrect reasoning. According to John M. Frame,

. . . our [apologetic] argument should be transcendental. That is, it should present the biblical God, not merely as the conclusion to an argument, but as one who makes argument possible. We should present him as the source of all meaningful communication, since he is the author of all order, truth, beauty, goodness, logical validity, and empirical fact. (Five Views of Apologetics, Zondervan 2000, p. 220)

So if God were not to exist, there would be no meaning, truth, or logical validity. And if that were the case, then atheism could not count as rationally acceptable as defined above. Atheism is rationally acceptable, i.e., reasonable, only if arguments can be adduced in support of it. But if "God makes argument possible," then any argument the atheist gives would presuppose the existence of the very entity against which he is arguing. If "God makes argument possible," then atheism cannot be rationally acceptable, but is instead ruled out ab initio by the ultimate presupposition of all reason and argument, namely, the existence of God.<<

Given the fact that reasoning takes place, it follows that God exists! That is what they are saying! And so I deny that our presupp pals are fideists.

See here: https://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2023/10/the-presuppositionalist-challenge-to-position.html

The SEP article on fideism is good: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/fideism/


If fideism is the thesis that we should rely on "faith rather than reason, in matters philosophical and religious" (SEP article, Section 1) then the presupper's theism is not fideistic. They use the transcendental argument to support their theism.

But do the presuppers have an argument to justify their transcendental move? Or do they make that move on faith or some kind of religious presupposition? If so, their transcendental move seems fideistic.

Regarding whether or not you are a fideist, I don't think you are. Although you deny that there are any conclusive proofs for or against theism, I take it that you grant that there are arguments that justify theism and atheism. (I agree, by the way.) Hence, you grant that reason can justify one's belief regarding God's existence, and thus that reason is relevant to religious belief and can be applied to formulate a reasonable faith.

At any rate, this is my position. A careful and fair-minded thinker can use reason to justify his theism, atheism, or agnosticism. But reason cannot furnish an utterly conclusive, rationally compelling, debate-ending proof. Thus, in a nutshell, for matters philosophical and religious, reason is applicable but not invincible.


The presuppers want to have it both ways. For them the Christian Bible is the source of all truth. Why? Because it is the self-attesting Word of God. It is absolutely true because it is the the Word of God, and God exists because the Bible says so. But they also think that theirs is the only game in town and they try to prove that with a transc arg. So they use transc. reasoning to try to establish their fideism. If that makes no sense, the problem is theirs, not mine.

Plantinga's characterization of fideism at the beginning of the SEP article is too vague to be of much use.

You and I agree that there are good reasons to be a theist and good reasons to be an atheist, but no compelling reasons either way. So, yes, reason is applicable to the God question, but cannot decide the question. To my mind, that makes me a fideist by my definition given above. Faith goes beyond knowledge. It is not a kind of knowledge. It supplies contact with reality but this contact is non-cognitive. The contact is pistic rather than epistemic.

How do I KNOW that God exists, that morality has a transcendent support, that I will have to answer for my crimes and misdemeanours, that something of infinite value is at stake in this life, that it has an ultimate meaning and purpose, that I am more than a clever land mammal slated for utter destruction? I don't KNOW any of this; I Believe it. It comes down to free personal decision. I decide what to believe and how I should live -- after canvassing all the arguments and consideration pro et contra.

This brings us to the topic of doxastic voluntarism.

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