Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A short, theistic argument worth mentioning

Given that skepticism is a self-defeating epistemology (see here), one must give an epistemological account for what one thinks he knows. I mentioned the argument from morality a few posts ago, noting that moral nihilists had an adequate response to it. There is an equally short argument, however, which is destructive to all atheists. It might be called the argument from the contingency of knowledge:

For a being to claim to know a proposition is true presupposes that he knows it's truth is not contingent or, if it is, said being knows that upon which the veracity of the proposition is contingent. Let's call this being Ryan. This implies two things:

1. Ryan is omniscient or has acquired his knowledge from a being who is omniscient, as Ryan would be required to know the relation between a proposition and anything upon which the veracity of the proposition might be predicated (which in turn implies knowledge of everything, including respective contingencies).
2. Ryan's knowledge is infinite or has acquired his knowledge from a being whose knowledge is infinite, as there are infinitely many possible relations one might posit between the proposition in question and everything imaginable.

Or we may consider these questions: how does Ryan know the proposition he claims is true isn't contingent on x, y, or z? If Ryan doesn't know, can he justifiably claim to know the proposition is true? No.

What does this mean? A being necessarily exists who is omniscient, infinitely knowledgeable, and has revealed himself to men. While this isn't a unique evidence for Christianity - see the above blog post for that - it is a concise theistic argument that one may find useful.

P.S. Should anyone ask how I know that this argument is self-affirming, I'd point him to the Bible.


Evan said...

You know Ryan, your writing style tends towards the philosophical in terminology and expression, assumably for the sake of clarity, but have you considered writing versions of your arguments that are expressed more in a layman's theological style? Your current style basically obscures more than it reveals for those lacking in formal education in philosophy/theology.

Anyways, thanks for the refresher link to this argument. It's always fun to hit atheists on epistemology. I'm doing it right now to a girl who, on a thread asking for prayers, tried to claim science had proven prayer doesn't work. *forehead*desk*slam*

Ryan said...

I do not mind explaining things in simpler categories when asked to do so. However, as that usually requires more explanation than is necessary [for me] to understand my own points, and as I consider the purpose of any discussion, post, &c. to be primarily reflexive, I prefer conciseness. I can understand that as you are or were writing a book, you (rightly) take into account your audience. But my blog as yet has only attracted a few like minds anyways, so I haven't felt the need to change my writing style.

Jerry DeHaven said...

If an agnostic says, "I know for certain that no one can know for certain;" then the agnostic has made a truth claim that no one can know for certain; and we ask, "how do you know that?" To which the skeptic can't reply. And if replying back to us with the same question as to how we can know for sure there is a God, we say back, because there is a God.

But what if the agnostic's initial statement were worded to say, "I'm not sure if anyone can know for sure." In this statement he is not sure of anything, and is therefore not making any truth claims.

If the skeptic can only make truth claims based on his having his being within God's logic, how is this shown to him? By how he cannot account for it? I think it all comes down to "faith" (which puts worldviews at war with each other).

The skeptic will not believe, with whatever argument is thrown his or her way (whether by your argument, or by any evidentialist), until faith comes in by hearing the Word of God. Only then will God be seen in His creation (by the laws of logic, morality, and the uniformity of nature). Until then, neither the archeological evidences for the Bible, nor the presuppositional "proof," will make no difference until faith comes in.

Ryan said...

Of course it won't. Sound arguments are still conducive to discussion.

In your hypothetical, I don't know why you are letting the skeptic dictate the terms of the discussion. Just simply point out that the proposition "One cannot know anything" is either true or false. For one to know it to be true would make it self-defeating, for one to know it to be false would show it to have a defeater. Those are the only two possibilities, and either way, the proposition cannot be true, so the next step is epistemology: "how do we know?"

Jerry DeHaven said...

"One cannot know anything," is false. How would that show it to have a defeater? Please explain.

Ryan said...

In epistemology, a defeater is a belief B1 that is held to be incompatible with another belief B2, hence arguments or evidence supporting B1 can be used to refute B2.

"One can know something" is (B1), "One cannot know anything" is (B2).

Jerry DeHaven said...

All I know is, B1 is true, and B2 is false. How I know that, I cannot tell; perhaps it is a belief, but I don't know anyone who would object to it. Yet those who would object to there being a God, do so with strong "belief" also, just as those who would believe there is a God. Showing a skeptic an infallible proof of any kind, won't change the skeptics belief. God must intervene, and you know this to be true.

Ryan said...

"How I know that, I cannot tell..."

With a Christian world-view. Scripture is our justification of knowledge, sufficient for the good work of epistemology.

"God must intervene, and you know this to be true."

Yes, and nothing I've said contradicts that. I thoroughly understand our place in the evangelistic process and do not know what can have given you a contrary impression.