Justifying TAG? Part 2: A Response to Paul Manata

I am very glad that Paul Manata has responded to my various posts on presuppositionalism and laws of logic (the most recent post being this one). His response has been a long time in the making and I was beginning to wonder if it would ever arrive.

Below, I will comment on his response.

First, I should say this. I actually do have a good deal of respect for Paul. We've had some very valuable discussions in the past. I believe that he is well-reasoned and articulate, and I enjoy our dialogue because I feel that he pushes me to be more exact with my language.

Every now and then you will see me "trading barbs" with Paul in various comment boxes. I've more or less simply adopted the prevailing language of blogging, and the "insults" are meant to be playful banter and not taken seriously. [I suspect Paul thinks likewise about his barbs as well, and doesn't really believe I am an "ex-brainer."]

That said . . .

Paul states that the transcendental argument for the existence of God (TAG) is "person varied." When he states TAG,

<> P-->Q
<> P
:.Q

the "P" is that "which the skeptic accepts." Quoting Bahnsen, he fleshes this out:

If predication, reason, explanation, interpretation, learning, certainty, universals, possibility, cause, substance, being, or purpose, counting, coherence, unity, or system in experience or in a conception of a "universe," logic, individuating of facts, unchanging "natures" or laws in a chance universe, uniformity, science, connecting logic and facts or predication to reality, avoiding contradictions, avoiding the irrationalism or scepticism which arise from the tension between knowing discursively and knowing-asystematic, etc, are possible then God is the case .

Predication, reason, explanation, interpretation, learning, certainty, universals, possibility, cause, substance, being, or purpose, counting, coherence, unity, or system in experience or in a conception of a "universe," logic, individuating of facts, unchanging "natures" or laws in a chance universe, uniformity, science, connecting logic and facts or predication to reality, avoiding contradictions, avoiding the irrationalism or scepticism which arise from the tension between knowing discursively and knowing-asystematic, etc, are possible.

Therefore God is the case?
Though the question mark at the end seems out of place for a Reformed Christian, I won't make anything of that.

Essentially, Paul is asserting that if any of these things are possible, they are unfounded without reference to the Christian God. Which brings me back to the original question that I started with in my most recent post. Why is this the case? Why is the possiblity of any of these things unfounded without reference to the Christian God?

I stated that, in my experience, presuppositionalists do not attempt to give evidence of this assertion, but instead, they try to shift the burden of proof to make their opponent disprove their assertion.

Paul responds:

i. If the argument was that you could not account or make sense of logic within your worldview, then you'd need to show how you can.

But that IS NOT the argument! At least not the one that you presented. Your argument was:

<> P-->Q
<> P
:.Q

I.e. If some concept accepted by a non-Christian exists, then the Christian God exists; some concept accepted by a non-Christian exists, therefore the Christian God exists.

There is nothing about accounting for or making sense of logic within a world view. You make an assertion here. You state that a concept accepted by a non-Christian demands the existence of the Christian God.

Elsewhere, you may have stated that atheists can't account for held beliefs in their "world view" (see here for correction of this language), but we are talking about your transcendental argument, right? Why do you feel the need to change the subject here? Why not accept your burden to prove your assertion? You are the one presenting an argument, you should be the one to support its assertions.

ii. Since you have a burden as well, you need to show how you can reason autonomously. If you assume that you can have logic without God then you're begging the question against my worldview. So, you can't just assume you're autonomous and not expect to have to justify your autonomy.


Again, I don't have a burden in this transcendental argument. You are the one saying that a concept accepted by a non-Christian demands the existence of the Christian God. You are the one who must demonstrate this.

I have, elsewhere, dealt with my burden of the argument that you have introduced as a red-herring to shirk your obligation to prove your first premise in your TAG argument.

Let's remember that my question was about TAG. You have left that discussion and have introduced another argument that would, essentially, read, "If you can't 'account [for] or make sense of logic within your worldview,' then your world view is not true; you can't 'account [for] or make sense of logic within your worldview,' therefore your world view is not true."

This is a bad argument in its own right (one that, maybe, we can take up another day), but I want you to see that you have changed the topic. We aren't talking about the TAG that you presented any more. I want you to justify your first premise in your TAG argument.

iii. We're debating entire worldviews.

Not in the TAG argument you stated above! We are only debating if your first premise in your argument is true. You should be explaining your assertion that a concept accepted by a non-Christian (like the ones you quoted from Bahnsen above) demands the existence of the Christian God. Maybe later we can debate "entire worldviews," right now, though, we should be talking about your assertion in your first premise of TAG.

iv. If your argument assumes universal laws of logic then you must offer an account of how such things are possible, unless you just want some freebies.

I didn't make an argument, you did!

We are talking about your TAG argument. You are the one who is begging for "freebies" here. You want me to simply accept your first premise without asking that you support it. Why would I grant you this "freebie"? Why should I accept your first premise?

v. There's a two-step method in play. The first is to argue negatively, i.e., you can't account for logic given what you say about the world. The second is to show how, say, logic does presuppose God's existence.

So, let's look at your two-step method.

Step One: Are you now suggesting that your first premise is proven because it can't be disproved? Argumentum ad Ignorantiam! Are you saying that if logic exists, then God exists because I can't show otherwise? So, purple unicorns exist somewhere in the universe because you can't prove otherwise?

No, I don't think you are actually making this mistake. You are too smart for that. What you have done, though, is, again, forgotten that we are talking about the TAG argument that you presented. You are still referring back to your red-herring argument that you introduced so that you can neglect your responsibility of supporting your first premise of that argument.

The first step of your "two-step" method assumes that we are talking about your argument that I can't account for logic in my "world view." But that isn't what we are discussing. We are talking about the TAG argument you presented above, remember? I asked you to justify the first premise of that argument. I did not ask you to justify the first premise of the argument that you have introduced to avoid justifying the first premise of the argument you presented above.

Step Two: Now, this is the step I am actually asking about, and now we are actually talking about the argument you presented above. In this step, you must support your assertion that "logic does presuppose God's existence."

But wait, where is that support? Not in this comment. The next maybe?

vi. The argument is usually retortive in that the attempt is made to show that by denying the transcendental claim you do so only by performing it.

But how is this helpful?

I get what you are saying about transcendental arguments per se, but we are supposed to be evaluating this particular transcendental argument.

In other words, I agree that a transcendental argument for the existence of logic per se would be shown because any logical denial of the existence of logic would be a performance of logic which must exist. But your TAG is something else entirely. By "performing" logic (or any of the other items in Bahnsen's list above), I am only demonstrating that that item exists (whether in reality or perceived reality).

The only way that your argument would be "retortive" would be if by denying that the Christian God exists, I was affirming that the Christian God exists. Now, you do believe I am doing this, but only indirectly. You correctly identify my denial as an act relying on logic, but then you assume that the existence of logic demands the existence of the Christian God.

WHICH IS EXACTLY THE FIRST PREMISE OF YOUR ARGUMENT THAT I HAVE BEEN ASKING YOU TO SUPPORT!

Pardon the yelling, but it is a little frustrating. You are assuming the premise that I have asked you to support in order to prove the premise. Following that argument makes me dizzy, and I yell when I get dizzy.

Next, Paul begins to address my assertion that Greg Bahnsen's "TAG" (as presented here), doesn't sound like a modus ponens argument to me.

I see this as a peripheral issue to the one stated above. If there is a response to this post, I hope that the response focuses more on everything I have stated above rather than this part of my post.

The question I am most concerned with is, "How is the first premise of TAG justified by presuppositionalists?"

What follows is simply an issue I have with understanding how Bahnsen seems to put the argument.

In Bahsen's article, he writes, "Whose perspective is intellectually justified, the Christian's or the non-Christian's?"

I translated this to be:

P v Q

(i.e. the non-Christian's perspective is "intellectually justified" or is the Christian world view "intellectually justified")

He goes on to write, "In various forms, the fundamental argument advanced by the Christian apologist is that the Christian worldview is true because of the impossibility of the contrary."

I translated this to mean,

~P
:.Q

(i.e. the non-Christian world view is not "intellectually justified" (i.e. it is not "true"), therefore the Christian world view is justified).

Paul responds to my assertion.

i. The Christian worldview is true by the impossibility of the contrary. We're not trying to prove just "if logic, then God" but rather the entire worldview.

Well, according to TAG, the Christian God is true because logic (or one of the other items on Bahnsen's list) exists. And since this is part of your argument, I asked you to justify it.

ii. Transcendental Arguments take the form of modus ponens. I'll sidestep debate here because the burden is one you, considering the fact that you're the only person in the history of the world who has made the stricture of a TA a disjunctive syllogism.


But my point was that Bahnsen made it sound as if TAG was a disjunctive syllogism. I know the structure of TA's. I'm not arguing about how TA's should be stated per se. My point was about Bahnsen's structure, not TA's generally.

Here's what might have confused me. I was under the impression that, according to presuppositionalists, "the fundamental argument advanced by the Christian apologist" was the transcendental argument. Bahnsen writes, "the fundamental argument advanced by the Christian apologist is that the Christian worldview is true because of the impossibility of the contrary."

I therefore reasoned:

T = F
C = F
:. T = C

(i.e. The transcendental argument is "the fundamental argument advanced by the Christian apologist"; the "impossibility of the contrary" is "the fundamental argument advanced by the Christian apologist"; therefore, the transcendental argument is the impossibility of the contrary.

The assumption that I probably got wrong was that Bahnsen was referring to TAG when he named "the fundamental argument advanced by the Christian apologist."

But I think you can understand my confusion on this point. Throughout your post, when you were supposed to be discussing TAG, you have really been discussing this impossibility of the contrary argument. If TAG is not the "impossibility of the contrary" argument, then you, presuppositionalists, should be more clear on this. You seem to confuse the two throughout your post.

Additionally, you admit that the impossibility of the contrary argument really preceeds TAG.

You see, there are only two worldviews and all I've been doing is giving illustrations on how many different ways I can refute that worldview in its various forms. The non-Christian worldview is like a family in that there are different family members who look a bit different, but they are all members of the same family. Likewise, atheism and Buddhism are just distant cousins. So, my argument is not as you have set it up, rather, it is:

C v ~C

~~C

:.C.

You use TAG to demonstrate ~~C (which I'll give you the "freebie" of assuming that you don't mean everything that is not the Christian world view).

The first argument of a presuppositionalist is disjunctive. Either the Christian world view is true or another one is. In order to establish that another world view is not true, the presuppositionalist employees TAG. TAG states that all other world views hold a belief that can only be justified by the existence Christian God.

The problem, though, is with the justification of TAG. You must justify that argument before you can prove ~~C. And this is what I asked you to do in your response. And this is exactly what you didn't do in your post.

iii. Notice that EB misstates his symbols above. He says that the argument is "the Christian worldview or the non-Christian worldview." He translates that as:

P v Q.

Really, that would be translated P v ~P.

You really should be careful when accusing me of misusing formal logic. I'm pretty good at it.

If P equals "the Christian world view," ~P would equal "not the Christian world view." My cat is "not the Christian world view." So, are you saying that the Christian world view is true or my cat is true? That would be a mistake, huh?

I used Q as a "non-Christian world view" because I needed a symbol that could be used to describe world views, not everything else in existence besides the Christian world view.

We can engage in these formal logic pissing contests more if you want to, but I wouldn't recommend it, for your sake.

Okay, that was parts (2a) and (2b)of your post. In the heading, you said that you would (1) address some comments made by others on this blog, (2) Answer my question about how the first premise of TAG is justified (which is what I think you were trying to do in the pre-Bahnsen discussion above), and (3) refute an argument I have made in the past about the laws of logic.

I feel no need to comment on your first goal as it has nothing to do with me. Above is my response to your second goal (and I believe my response to part (a) shows that you failed to achieve that goal). I will respond to your third goal in a subsequent post (I have a paper due in class and need to attend to that).

I do enjoy the dialogue, Paul. Thanks.

By the way, I am still interested in a real justification of the first premise of the transcendental argument if anyone has one.

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