Transcendental argument

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The transcendental argument for the existence of God (TAG). Wikipedia defines the argument as follows:

"The Transcendental Argument is an argument for the existence of God that attempts to show that logic, science, ethics (and generally every fact of human experience and knowledge) are not meaningful apart from a preconditioning belief in the existence of God."[1]

The standard requirement to the argument is that there are transcendental things such as science, logic, morality, and mathematics which are not physically in existence which are also part of reality (when you stop believing in them, they don't go away). Since these systems exist, *waves arms*, God exists.

The argument is popular within presuppositionalism and the associated apologetics. Presuppositionalism however tends to reverse the argument and simple begin at the conclusion. Logic depends on God, therefore you can't use logic to argue against God as that would be self-contradictory.

Contents

Version 1 of TAG

That is, knowledge cannot be obtained absolutely unless the source of that knowledge is itself an absolute source (read: being/God). Therefore, either you subconsciously believe in an absolute being that upholds and makes absolute the laws of the universe/morality or you do not—and can not—know anything for certain.

  • There are some objective logical absolutes.
  • We can have concepts of these logical absolutes.
  • These logical absolutes are not physical (you can't find them within the natural world).
  • These logical absolutes are therefore conceptual.
  • Concepts require a mind.
  • Since the logical absolutes are true everywhere they must exist within an infinite mind.
  • That mind is God.
  • God exists.

Version 2 of TAG

Other iterations of the same general theme exist.

  • Logic is rational, but atheism presupposes that everything comes from material sources.
  • Logic isn't material, so atheism lacks any objective source for logic.
  • Without an objective source for logic, atheism cannot employ logic.
  • Therefore atheism is self refuting.
  • Since atheism is refuted, theism must be true.
  • God exists.


CARM.Org Version of TAG

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This is the version of the Transcendental argument presented by Matt Slick of the CARM:

  1. Logical Absolutes
    1. Law of Identity
      1. Something is what it is, and isn't what it is not. Something that exists has a specific nature.
      2. For example, a cloud is a cloud, not a rock. A fish is a fish, not a car.
    2. Law of Non-Contradiction
      1. Something cannot be both true and false at the same time in the same sense.
      2. For example, to say that the cloud is not a cloud would be a contradiction since it would violate the first law. The cloud cannot be what it is and not what it is at the same time.
    3. Law of Excluded Middle (LEM)
      1. A statement is either true or false, without a middle ground.
      2. "I am alive" is either true or false. "You are pregnant" is either true or false.
        1. Note one: "This statement is false" is not a valid statement (not logically true) since it is self-refuting and is dealt with by the Law of Non-contradiction. Therefore, it does not fall under the LEM category since it is a self-contradiction.
        2. Note two: If we were to ignore note one, then there is a possible paradox here. The sentence "this statement is false" does not fit this Law since if it is true, then it is false. Paradoxes occur only when we have absolutes. Nevertheless, the LEM is valid except for the paradoxical statement cited.
        3. Note three: If we again ignore note one and admit a paradox, then we must acknowledge that paradoxes exist only within the realm of absolutes.
  2. Logical absolutes are truth statements such as:
    1. That which exists has attributes and a nature.
      1. A cloud exists and has the attributes of whiteness, vapor, etc. It has the nature of water and air.
      2. A rock is hard, heavy, and is composed of its rock material (granite, marble, sediment, etc.).
    2. Something cannot be itself and not itself at the same time.
      1. It cannot be true to state that a rock is not a rock.
    3. Something cannot bring itself into existence.
      1. In order for something to bring itself into existence, it has to have attributes in order to perform an action. But if it has attributes, then it already has existence. If something does not exist, it has no attributes and can perform no actions. Therefore, something cannot bring itself into existence.
    4. Truth is not self-contradictory.
      1. It could not be true that you are reading this and not reading this at the same time in the same sense. It is either true or false that you are reading this.
    5. Therefore, Logical Absolutes are absolutely true. They are not subjectively true; that is, they are not sometimes true and sometimes false, depending on preference or situation. Otherwise, they would not be absolute.
  3. Logical Absolutes form the basis of rational discourse.
    1. If the Logical Absolutes are not absolute, then truth cannot be known.
    2. If the Logical Absolutes are not absolute, then no rational discourse can occur.
      1. For example, I could say that a square is a circle (violating the law of identity), or that I am and am not alive in the same sense at the same time (violating the law of non-contradiction).
      2. But no one would expect to have a rational conversation with someone who spoke in contradictory statements.
    3. If Logical Absolutes are not always true, then it might be true that something can contradict itself, which would make truth unknowable and rational discourse impossible. But, saying that something can contradict itself can't be true.
    4. But since we know things are true (I exist, you are reading this), then we can conclude that logical statements are true. Otherwise, we would not be able to rationally discuss or know truth.
    5. If they are not the basis of rational discourse, then we cannot know truth or error since the laws that govern rationality are not absolute. This would allow people to speak irrationally, i.e., blue sleeps faster than Wednesday.
  4. Logical Absolutes are transcendent.
    1. Logical Absolutes are not dependent on space.
      1. They do not stop being true dependent on location. If we travel a million light years in a direction, logical absolutes are still true.
    2. Logical Absolutes are not dependent on time.
      1. They do not stop being true dependent on time. If we travel a billion years in the future or past, logical absolutes are still true.
    3. Logical Absolutes are not dependent on people. That is, they are not the product of human thinking.
      1. People's minds are different. What one person considers to be absolute may not be what another considers to be absolute. People often contradict each other. Therefore, Logical Absolutes cannot be the product of human, contradictory minds.
      2. If Logical Absolutes were the product of human minds, they would cease to exist if people ceased to exist, which would mean they would be dependent on human minds. But this cannot be so per the previous point.
  5. Logical Absolutes are not dependent on the material world.
    1. Logical Absolutes are not found in atoms, motion, heat, under rocks, etc.
    2. Logical Absolutes cannot be photographed, frozen, weighed, or measured.
    3. Logical Absolutes are not the product of the physical universe, since that would mean they were contingent on atoms, motion, heat, etc., and that their nature was dependent on physical existence.
      1. If their nature were dependent upon physical existence, they would cease to exist when the physical universe ceases to exist.
    4. But, if the universe did not exist, logical absolutes are still true.
      1. For example, if the universe did not exist, it is still true that something cannot bring itself into existence; that is, anything that did exist would have an identity, and whatever could exist could not be itself and not itself at the same time.
      2. Therefore, they are not dependent on the material world.
  6. Logical Absolutes are conceptual by nature.
    1. Logic is a process of the mind. Logical absolutes provide the framework for logical thought processes. Therefore, Logical Absolutes are conceptual by nature.
    2. Expanded: Logical absolutes are either conceptual by nature or they are not.
      1. If they are conceptual by nature, then they are not dependent upon the physical universe for their existence.
      2. If they are non-conceptual by nature, then:
        1. What is their nature?
        2. If it is denied that Logical Absolutes are either conceptual or physical, then there must be a 3rd (or 4th...) option. What would that option be?
        3. If another option cannot be logically offered, then the only options available to us are conceptual and physical.
        4. Since logic is not a property of physical nature (see point 5 above), then we must conclude that they are conceptual by nature.
        5. Simply "denying" that Logical Absolutes are either conceptual or physical nature isn't sufficient.
  7. Thoughts reflect the mind
    1. A person's thoughts reflect what he or she is.
    2. Absolutely perfect thoughts reflect an absolutely perfect mind.
    3. Since the Logical Absolutes are transcendent, absolute, are perfectly consistent, and are independent of the universe, then they reflect a transcendent, absolute, perfect, and independent mind.
    4. We call this transcendent, absolute, perfect, and independent mind God.


Counter-arguments

There are transcendental systems which exist and are neither conceptual nor physical. If this suggestion is possible then the argument crumbles due to a false dichotomy suggesting that all non-physical things are conceptual.

Others claim that TAG is a variation of the ontological argument, in that they both blur the line between concepts and reality. Imagining the most perfect being requires that that being exists (existing is more perfect than not exist) the line between conceptual and real is arbitrarily crossed.

"Where is the number 7?" - Those advocating the transcendental argument must contend that 7 exists within reality or within the mind of God. However in all cases 7 must have an actual location (since abstract transcendental mathematics is assumed to not exist). It doesn't go very far, but it is always amusing.

TANG or the Transcendental argument against the existence of God attempts to show that such logical absolutes cannot be absolutes if they are subjective by being God based. God could simply ignore the number 7 or believe that killing children is good and the logical absolutes would change. Therefore, they would not be logical absolutes or objectively true but rather subject to the whims of God.

So what? Many non-theists, when they are backed against the wall, will admit that they know nothing with 100% certainty. Humans generally will prefer some explanation rather than no explanation. However, providing "some explanation" does not make the claims in the explanation true. Absolute certainty is in general meaningless as by definition one would have to be omniscient to acquire it. Atheists do not in general make claims to the absolute truth of things; this is usually the domain of the theist.

An example of what some may call absolutely certain is the idea that the sun will rise tomorrow. To be truly absolute in certainty, you would require precognition; however, that is generally useless. It's much more accurate to state that based on the evidence of many days prior as well as our understanding of chemistry and the composition of stars that the sun will not soon cease to rise.

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