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Oct 28

René Descartes

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I think, therefore, I am

 

Does this mean that atheists can at the very least know that they exist without presupposing the God of Scripture? No.

 

Consider, that Descartes is actually begging the question. In order to prove your own existence, you cannot start with yourself as that would be circular reasoning.

 

The correct start to the argument would rather be something like "There is thinking.." but then you'd have a hard time to prove the "I" from there.

 

To quote Bahnsen, this argument is like saying:

"More like I stink therefore I am..."

Or also,

"More like, I beg the question therefore I am."

 

The correct form of the argument would rather be:

God is, therefore, I am.
New Posts
  • Objections handled in the comments. The following video serves as a good introduction to the uniformity of nature. The author ironically mocks the only worldview that can solve the problem whilst explaining the problem. NYU defines the uniformity of nature as such: The uniformity of nature is the principle that the course of nature continues uniformly the same, e.g. if X is the cause Y, then Y will necessarily exist whenever X exists. In particular, the uniformities observed in the past will hold for the present and future as well. Greg Bahnsen wrote: Unbelievers claim: We only know things based on observation and experience. We only know things that are results of sense experience in the material world. But the problem arises: We have no experience of the future, for it has yet to occur. Therefore, on this experience-based scientific method, how can we predict that the future will be like the past so that we may expect scientific experiments to be valid? The unbeliever will attempt to respond: We know the future will be like the past because our past experience of the oncoming future has always been thus.‖ But this statement still only tells us about the past, not the approaching future we now must anticipate. Furthermore, you can‘t expect the future to be like the past apart from a view of the nature of reality that informs you that events are controlled in a uniform way, as by God in the Christian system. Even the renowned atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) admitted the principle of induction (that we can take past experiences and project them into the future, that we can know the future by gaining knowledge of the past) has no foundation in observation, in sense experience. Therefore, it has no scientific foundation. Yet all formal science and all rational human experience assumes uniformity. The problem of induction, which requires the uniformity of nature is defined by David Hume as - “instances of which we have had no experience resemble those of which we have had experience” The Problem of Induction . The original problem of induction can be simply put. It concerns the support or justification of inductive methods; methods that predict or infer. As Christians we don't have a problem assuming the uniformity of nature. The uniformity of nature is perfectly compatible with the Christian worldview. The absolute, all-creating, sovereignly-governing God reveals to us in Scripture that we can count on regularities in the natural world. The Bible teaches that the sun will continue to measure time for us on the earth (Gen. 1:14–19; Eccl. 1:5; Jer. 33:20), that seasons will come and go uniformly (Gen. 8:22; Ps. 74:17), that planting and harvest cycles may be expected (Jer. 5:24; Mark 4:26–29), and so forth. Because of this God-governed regularity in nature, the scientific enterprise is possible and even fruitful.
  • Adapted from Van Til Diagrammed . Hume said that all knowledge arises from experience.  Kant replied that we should also accept that which is necessary for the possibility of experience, even though it is never experienced:  "But though all of our knowledge begins with experience, it does not follow that it all arises out of experience" ( Critique of Pure Reason ). This type of argument is called a "transcendental argument."  Kant's specific argument is that the autonomous human mind imposes order on experience to make experience intelligible.  Van Til adopts Kant's transcendental type of argument, but rejects his specific claim, that the autonomous human mind can serve as a basis for intelligible experience.  Rather, starting with the autonomous, sovereign, self-sufficient Creator who is the source of both the unity and diversity of experience is necessary to account for the possibility of intelligible experience.  But by "starting point" here, Van Til means the ultimate source of knowledge , that which must be presupposed to account for the possibility of knowledge .  God is the ultimate starting point of knowledge .  But he says that God is not necessarily the proximate starting point .  We can deduce the necessity of God as the ultimate starting point from examining our proximate starting point - the facts of our experience.  That should lead us to conclude that God exists. We cannot be too careful about asking what the starting point of any one’s argument is. It is of the utmost importance that we find our way through the maze of confusion that prevails on this subject. As a help to clarification of this subject we may perhaps suggest a distinction between an immediate and an ultimate starting point. By an immediate starting point is meant the place where the knowledge of facts must begin. It is of course quite consistent with a theistic position to say that we must start with the “facts” as that term is understood ordinarily. Neither Augustine nor Calvin would have objected to saying that knowledge of self was their immediate and temporary starting point. But when the question of an ultimate starting point is raised the matter is different. In that case Augustine and Calvin would both have to say that their ultimate starting point is God. That is, they could intelligently think of their own non-existence but were unable to think intelligently of God’s nonexistence. The difference may perhaps be brought out by the analogy of a diving board. Suppose a diver was standing on the tip of a diving board and that all that he could see of the diving board was the very tip on which he was standing. Suppose further that all that he could see around him was water. Now if he should say that the very spot from which he was about to make his leap is his starting point he might mean either of two things. If we thought of him as unaware of the connection of the point on which he was standing with the foundation on which it rested he would be speaking of that particular spot as the permanent or ultimate starting point. On the other hand, if he were fully aware of the fact that the tip of the diving board is only a tip of a board that rests upon a solid rock under water, he might speak of that tip as a starting point but only as an immediate starting point. The real and ultimate starting point for him would be the foundation on which the whole diving board was resting. Similarly we may say that the question at issue is not that of what is the immediate starting point. All agree that the immediate starting point must be that of our everyday experience and the “facts” that are most close at hand. But the charge we are making against so many Idealists as well as Pragmatists is that they are taking for granted certain temporal “facts” not only as a temporary but as an ultimate starting point. . . .  Yet the very point in question is whether any statement can be made about any appearance at all without reference to the fact of God." A Survey of Christian Epistemology (Phillipsburg, NJ:  The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1969), pp. 119-21.
  • The following is from Dr Jason Lisle's response to Howe's objection in a written debate they had in 2013 . Ontology is the study of the nature of something, It addresses what kinds of things exist. Epistemology is the study of knowledge - how we know what we know. Howe is concerned about "'whether Presuppositionalism is making an epistemological point or an ontological point". Perhaps his confusion can be alleviated by recognising that presuppositionalism deals with both epistemology and ontology. These two things, while different, are inextricably linked. The kinds of things that exist will come to bear on how we know what we know. And our theory of knowledge will have a profound influence on what we believe to exist. For example, if our epistemology endorses the use of laws of logic in reasoning, then it would be ridiculous for our position on ontology to reject the existence of laws of logic . Ontology cannot be divorced from epistemology. The transcendental argument points out that if knowledge is possible (an epistemological premise), then God must exist (an ontological claim) since the biblical God is the basis for knowledge (a Scriptural claim). Howe states, "Greg Bahnsen was adamant that Presuppositionalism is making an epistemological and not merely an ontological point". Bahnsen is quite correct. The presuppositional method deals with both issues. Howe continues, " Obviously, if God is the Creator, then, if the Creator did not exist the creation would not exist. Making this ontological point is saying nothing that distinguishes Presuppositionalism from Classical Apologetics . ." This reveals a profound misunderstanding of the transcendental argument. The secularist denies that God is the Creator, and hence he denies that God is necessary for the universe to exist. In responding to this position, the presuppositionalist asks how the unbeliever's epistemology (e.g., that laws of logic are a useful standard for truth) can possibly comport with the unbeliever's ontology (that the universe is a godless accident). No unbeliever is able to account for the existence and properties of laws of logic, nor morality, nor uniformity in nature on his own professed worldview. His epistemology is rationally unjustified and in tension with his position of ontology. This is necessarily the case since all knowledge is deposited in Christ (Col. 2:3). And so when Howe says, "Bahnsen's position collapses back into ontology or metaphysics. which ends up making his method Classical", this cannot be defended. Presuppositionalists deal with ontology too. But the presuppositionalist does not depart from biblical authority as his ultimate standard. Howe says that "to argue that God's existence is necessary for something (in this case, argument) is to make a cosmological argument". No. this is not a cosmological argument at all, but rather the transcendental argument. The cosmological argument deals with cause and effect; usually it is presented that the universe has a beginning and therefore requires a cause, and only God is a sufficient cause. But the transcendental argument has nothing to do with cause and effect. Rather, it deals with rational justification. It argues that the existence of God is the necessary precondition for knowledge. Howe states, " If I construct a simple Modus Ponens argument. it can be entirely sound without any of the premises being 'God exists.' To be sure, the Modus Ponens could not exist without God, but, again, this ontological point is not Presuppositionalism " . It's not that Modus Ponens could not exist apart from God (though indeed it could not), but rather, Modus Ponens cannot be rationally justified as a universal, invariant, exception-less rule of inference apart from God. We could not know that Modus Ponens is legitimate (an epistemological issue), or universal and invariant unless God exists (an ontological issue). I hope this resolves any confusion on the matter.