WHY FRANCIS SCHAEFFER MATTERS: Epistemology – PART 5

Originally posted on Veritas et Lux:

Dr. Schaeffer’s epistemology is integral to his approach to apologetics and may be described simply as follows.  First, one must understand that pagan thought endorses a belief in the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system.  Propositional and verbal revelation is nonsense in this scheme.  Christian epistemology stands in stark contrast to the non-Christian worldview.  The presupposition of Christianity begins with the God who is there.  God is the infinite-personal Being who has made man in His image.  God made man a verbalizer in the area of propositions in his horizontal communications with other men.  Thus God communicates to us on the basis of verbalizations and propositions by means of the written Word of God (He Is There And He Is Not Silent, 326-327).

Thus the Christian epistemological system brings three things together in a unified whole; the unified field of knowledge that modern man has given…

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What Is A Philosophical Argument?

What is a philosophical argument?

There is a lot of confusion as to what an argument is as it relates to philosophy. Most of the time arguing is something more like a verbal quarrel between two or more people expressing subjective or personal ideas about something. A philosophical argument (PA) is a little different.

To begin with a philosophical argument shouldn’t be used to attack an opponent or impress an audience with ones fine oratory skills. A second thing that an argument is not is a default gainsaying of the opposing position. Even in cases where you know the rival position is wrong you haven’t made PA until you have stated reasons why it is wrong. That in a nutshell is what an argument is; giving good reasons to support your conclusion.

A PA will consist of reasons (or premises) leading to a conclusion. These premises will typically be take for granted and follow the assumption that if you accept these premises then you ought to accept the conclusion that follows. For example:

P.1 Everything which begins to exist has a cause
P.2 The universe began to exist there for the universe had a cause
C. This cause is what we call God

The premises in the argument above are marked with the P. and the conclusion with a C. Having said this there are three questions one ought to be asking herself when evaluating an argument like this:
1. Is the argument form valid?
2. Are the premises true?
3. Is the argument sound?
Each of these are completely independent issues so that one might agree with the premises but the form of the argument might be fallacious or wrong. In other cases the argument for is correct but the premises are untrue. Or in some cases both the argument form is bad and the premises are untrue.

In the argument above one could make the case that P.1 is wrong and give an example of an atomic photon light that enters and exits existence without any apparent cause. Then it would be up to the arguer to either accept the refutation, reject it on the basis of something like “apparent causes” not being a strong basis for refutation, or abstain.

Another way of attacking the argument is by attacking its form which will be a topic for another blog post.

The Paradox of Corporate Abolishment Movements

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I understand the concerns but there is something paradoxical about this.  The premise is we are pro-working class.  Corporations are against the working class.  Therefore we want to abolish corporations that employ the working class?

At any rate, I just wanted to share this humorous photo that attempts to capture the paradoxical nature of this movement. My favorite is the hair dye by Clairol.

Ship of Theseus and Personal Identity

In the Life of Theseus by Plutarch we read a story that harbor’s philosophical questions about personal identity(yes, that was a pun).  Theseus sailed his ship to Crete for a hostage rescue mission.  In the midst of his mission he fought and killed a Minotaur (a beast with the head of a bull and the body of a man).  After rescuing several Athenians from captivity he sailed back to Athens in his ship.  The event was so big that Theseus became an Athenian hero and was honored by the annual sailing of his ship.  This celebration went on for centuries.  As the ship became aged it became less sea worthy.  However, in order to keep the annual recognition of this great time in Athenian history Theseus’ ship was in a state of constant repair and up keep.  As planks aged and weathered they would be replaced.  As time went on some began to question if this was still Theseus ship; after all the planks that held it together had been removed and replaced several time over.  Moreover, if it is Theseus’ ship then by virtue of what does it remain to be Theseus’ ship.

To add a twist to the story, what if a second ship was built using the original planks of Theseus ship?  Lets say some enterprising harbor employee rummaged the trash bins after Theseus ship had been retrofitted with new planks.  He managed to keep all the original planks until he was able to build an entire replica of Theseus ship.  Would it be fair to call it a replica?  Wouldn’t it have more claim to being Theseus’ ship then the retrofitted ship?  This is just a question over man made objects asking us to consider the identity of things and how identity is established.  As complicated as this might be how much more complicated does it become when we speak of personal identity?  Does personal identity change?  What kinds of things influence change?  Obviously if I lost weight weight or started using dentures I would be qualitativly different but I would still maintain my identity.  The same would hold true about a heart transplant.  But, what about a brain transplant?

We probably cannot begin to answer these type of questions until we have established a concept of person from which to work from.  If you have one please leave it in the comments, I’d be interested to read it.

Analytic vs. Continental Philosophy

A few weeks ago I was stopped in mid-sentence when I was asked what fundamental differences are there between Continental and Analytic Philosophy.  I paused for a moment and asked myself the same question.  It seems that I was at a loss for words.  The razor sharp distinctions with witch I always treated the two approaches became as dull as gumdrops as I rapidly work through the issues in my head.  Obviously there are differences as every philosopher will attest; however they appear to be a bit foggy.
 
 
As an under graduate I came to think what divided the two was geography.  In other words if you’re doing “Continental” philosophy you’re doing philosophy common to the continent which happens to refer to Europe.  Therefore your interests would be in philosophers like Hegel, some of Kant, Nietzche, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Sarte, Gadamer, Foucault, Derrida, and others.  All of whom are representatives of Germany, France, and Denmark.
 
Generally speaking Analytic Philosophers like Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Austin, Moore, Carnap, and Quine (just to name a few) are not of “the continent” (with the exception of Wittgenstein who happens to be Austrian and Frege German).  The problem I have with making the geographical distinction is not that it doesn’t pass the test of consistency.  Rather, geography doesn’t determine a particular philosophers approach.  What we do find is the reverse where Philosophers of the same geographical region represent different approaches to philosophy.  For example, Aristotle and Plato are both considered ancient Greek philosophers and differed on many points.
 
If a geographical distinction is as fruitless as I am suggesting that it is then perhaps we can find a functional difference as some have suggested.  After all the designator “Analytic” comes from a function of linguistic analysis which is something Analytics enjoy doing among other things.  However, we find Continental philosophers are not restricted from and often will analyze language as well.
 
So how do we distinguish the two?  As I said above there is a difference.  We usually notice it when we come across it.  Many philosophy departments tend to place great emphasis on one or the other.  The differences can’t be lineage or influence since they both have the same lineage.  Influences have shown to cross philosophical approaches.  Both Husserl (Continental) and Moore (Analytic) were influenced by Brentano.  Many would be surprised to know that Derrida (Continental) was influenced by J.L. Austin (Analytic).  Both approaches are primarily influenced in different degrees by Hegel and Kant.  Moreover all are a “footnote to Socrates”.
 
The only distinctions I find useful are differences over style.  Analytic philosophers tend to place greater emphasis on argumentative clarity, formal logic and logical precision.  They tend to be more aligned with the sciences and mathematics.  Continental philosophers tend to be more literary, less reliant on formal logic, and are more concerned with political, social, and cultural issues.  I realize there are some like Brian Leiter who would like to see a more substantive divide.  Perhaps that’s a reasonable request.  Until that happens we ought to work at understanding the other side opposed to trying to distinguish it.

Artificial Intelegence: the Turing Test and the Soul

My son recently visited a local theme park and was very impressed with one of the attractions. Apparently it was some sort of animatronic that not only spoke but appeared to have the capability to hold conversations. “How do they do it dad?” He really wanted to know. From his perspective he was having a human dialogue with a machine. It answered questions, asked questions, and dialogued just as a human would. Impressive? Maybe, but the technology to execute these type of functions isn’t all too complicated. You can sample this here. However, what if increased technology can produce a machine that has the ability to think, generate genuine thoughts, be self conscious, in other words what if the technology allowed for machines to have a real mental life?

In 1950 Alan Turing published a paper in Mind (Journal) entitled Computing Machinery and Intelligence. Turing came up with a test to determine if a machine was demonstrating intelligence. The test consisted of a human judge who would have blind conversations with both machine and human attempting to determine which is which. If the judge incorrectly determines she is speaking with the human when speaking to the machine that would be regarded as evidence of genuine thinking on the part of the machine. Now as one may surmise there are many objection’s to Turing’s test and I might deal with them in later posts. But, what I find interesting is his theological objection.

Among the lists of objections that Turing lists, one that he cites is an objection from the position of God that can be framed this way:

i. Thinking is a function of man’s immortal soul generated by God

ii. There are some thing that God cannot logically generate (i.e. 1 = 2)

iii. There are no necessary conditions upon which God cannot logically generate a soul into other objects (i.e. inanimate objects like animals and machines)

Turing follows up by stating that, ” In attempting to construct such machines we should not be irreverently usurping His power of creating souls, any more than we are in the procreation of children: rather we are, in either case, instruments of His will providing .mansions for the souls that He creates”.

What can we conclude by this? If by adding a soul to an inanimate object does it become human? Or does God maintain the animate inanimate distinction by allowing only humans a soul? Or there is the less interesting conclusion of leaving God out of the  question which would create other philosophical problems that drift outside of Touring’s area of expertise.

What say you to this?

http://www.reading.ac.uk/news-and-events/releases/PR583836.aspx