Tough Questions Answered

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What Comes First? Epistemology or Metaphysics?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Actually the answer is neither, but we’ll get to that soon enough.  Why ask this question in the first place?  Because philosophy is a discipline that builds one layer upon another (just like many other disciplines), and since philosophy provides a foundation for all of the sciences, it is extremely important to understand where to start.

To examine this issue of the order of philosophical disciplines, we will refer to Tom Howe’s helpful notes on the subject (some of which are captured in his book Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation).  So what comes first?  Howe’s answer may surprise you, but the answer is . . . reality.  What is reality?

Simply put, reality is that which is. Notice that the characterization of reality is not, “what is.” To characterize reality as “what” implies that reality is basically some identity, or essence. When one asks, “What is it?” one is inquiring about the identity or essence of the entity in question. But, there are many identities in reality. That is to say, reality consists of many essences, or “whats.” But all essences have at least one thing in common, namely, that they exist. Therefore, reality at its most basic level is not a particular essence, or a group of essences. Reality is that which exists, or, as we have phrased it, “That which is.”

So the first thing we look at is that which exists, or reality.  Any philosophy that skips this step will go off the rails quickly.  The next question that must be answered after we’ve looked at that which exists is, “What is that which is?”  This is the discipline of metaphysics.  According to Howe, in metaphysics we are “inquiring into the nature of reality.”

After we examine the nature of that which exists, we may then move on to the next question in philosophy: “How do we know that which is?”  Howe writes, “Epistemology is the discipline that addresses [that] question . . .”  He continues:

Epistemology does not begin with itself and attempt to justify the existence of the extra-mental. Rather, epistemology must begin with the assumption that knowledge is a fact. If knowledge is not a fact of existence, then no one would be able to investigate its possibility, because any investigation necessarily assumes the fact of knowledge. Knowledge is a fact to be investigated, not a mere possibility to be actualized. If knowledge was not a fact to be investigated, then there would be no possibility of knowing this.

So there is our answer.  The order of disciplines in philosophy is 1) reality (that which is), 2) metaphysics (what is that which is?), and 3) epistemology (how do we know that which is?).  Virtually all of the confusion in modern philosophy is due to the fact that it has started with epistemology instead of reality and metaphysics.

Descartes got the ball rolling when he started his philosophical investigations by asking how he could know anything instead of first looking at that which exists.  Modern philosophy, following Descartes, never has answered the question of what the necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge are, and they never will.  Why?  Because knowledge depends on reality, not vice versa.  A philosophy that starts with epistemology and that skips reality and metaphysics is doomed to ask questions that can never be answered.


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Comments

  • tildeb

    The foundational assumption of metaphysics is incorrect, namely, that things presumed to have natures do not have natures.

    Once we get past this stumbling block where we assert the natures, we can start to gather evidence from reality to then tell us about reality. We can safely and without cost drop the ‘meta’ altogether and stop erecting unnecessary philosophical problems based on our assumptions, assertions, and presumptions about the nature of natures.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    What does physics tell us about the origins of the laws of physics?

  • tildeb

    I could be facetious and claim “42″ but that’s really what religious belief offers us to such questions.

    Studying physics gets us much closer to understanding how reality operates than simply making stuff up and claiming it to be an answer because it satisfies our urge to presume to know anything about ‘origins’. The fact of the matter about the origins of how reality operates is that I don’t know and you don’t either. But substituting pseudo-answers like goddidit is not an answer: it’s an evasion.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    How do you know that nobody knows about the origins of how reality operates? You can’t know something is not true unless you know what the truth is. That’s simple logic.

    You can’t claim that my answers are pseudo-answers unless you know what the true answers are. But you just got finished saying that nobody knows anything about origins!!

    The question of origins may be a question you don’t care anything about, but you are in a tiny minority. The rest of us mortals want to know where we all came from. I am always amazed by the abnormally stunted curiosity of atheists. You are content to study the movement of electrons and the combining of elements in the periodic chart, but you don’t care where any of it ultimately comes from. That baffles me.

  • tildeb

    You can’t claim that my answers are pseudo-answers unless you know what the true answers are.

    Sure I can. I don’t know the ‘true’ answers any more than you do; you are presuming answers that, in practice, answer nothing. And I can say they answer nothing because they don’t produce knowledge. And we know they don’t produce knowledge because it doesn’t fit with the knowledge we do have of physics that does work for everyone everywhere all the time.

    Because your claim of origins stands contrary to knowledge of physics we do have, that does work, that is reliable, that remains consistent, that informs technologies, therapies, and applications you entrust with your life on a daily basis, the we can make a claim with a high degree of probability that your ‘answer’ is not just contrary but at best equivalent to making stuff up. That’s why it’s not an answer but a pseudo-answer… one standing in place of an honest “I don’t know” nor replacing it with an honest “…but I believe it is so.”

    If you would make a claim based solely on a religious faith statement then that’s fine. But when the line is crossed by believers into pretending a faith statement is equivalent to a knowledge statement, then you’ve stepped too far because you do not know any such answer you pretend to know. You have no knowledge to support your faith claim; all you have is a faith-based belief that it is so. That’s why such faith statements are pseudo-answers that act as an evasion… to avoid having to do the hard work necessary to create knowledge.

  • tildeb

    Also, and in case you have not noticed, faith has yet to produce any application that works, any therapy that is efficacious, any technology that spurs new development. Ever.

    This is a hint about the quality of knowledge that supposedly informs faith-based claims; it’s missing in action. Always has been, currently is, and predictably will be absent for all time. By this evidence, I claim that faith is not the path to knowledge but an impediment to its attainment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Ryan/511764596 Andrew Ryan

    “You can’t know something is not true unless you know what the truth is. That’s simple logic.”

    I’m not sure that’s actually logical. You can claim that yesterday you ran to Los Angeles and back in 20 minutes. I may not know what you ACTUALLY did yesterday, but I can still say that you didn’t do that.

  • http://walttuckerministry.shutterfly.com Walt Tucker

    Tildeb, you presume that faith based statements are not grounded. Based on that presumption, what you say makes sense. However, you have not defended the presumption as true – it is merely presumed – a belief based on faith as you define faith. Your faith is based on your own experience informed by your prior beliefs – thus reinforcing your beliefs. This is exactly what you say of those who have biblical faith. Your claim that faith has not produced application that works is based entirely on a pragamatic approach to life. Not all things must produce technology. My marriage does not produce technology, yet it has a reality. My marriage has worked out much better when each of our lives were no longer based on what “works” for each of us, but what works for us being human, which cannot be discerned as well from an existential nor pragmatic perspective, but from what it means to be human which has a non-material aspect that is well defined in the Bible. So, the point is that you are asking for the wrong evidence as to what faith beliefs should produce and you in the end have beliefs that are not grounded on anything but other beliefs. Coherency of beliefs to grounded beliefs can have a bridge that can be suspended, but if one end of the bridge isn’t grounded, you don’t know that those extended beliefs are not a mirage.

  • tildeb

    Walt, faith is ‘grounded’ only by an authoritative presumption that it is true. In other words, faith is a belief in faith: reality plays no part in arbitrating this presumption.

    In contrast, knowledge is ‘grounded’ not by presumption that it is true because an authority says so; knowledge is arbitrated by reality. This arbitration process of knowledge is not done by me or you or Bill; it is arbitrated by what demonstrably works… for everyone everywhere all the time. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an equivalent kind of faith; it is an ongoing process that is grounded by applications, technologies, and therapies that work.

    It is a non sequitur to suggest that I am presuming that things must produce technologies that are practical in order to be true. Stick with what I wrote: knowledge statements require knowledge to inform them, not faith. If someone makes a faith statement and tries to pass it off as a knowledge statement, then you bet I’m asking for evidence arbitrated by reality. This is not unreasonable (and, in fact, all believers exercise this same guardianship when dealing with real life). And we know we have no evidence from reality to ‘know’ anything about the intentions and desires of some pre-Big Bang agency because we have nothing to work with. For someone to claim otherwise means the claim MUST be a faith statement born not from investigating reality – which is absent pre-Big Bang – but by making stuff up (including references to any ‘holy’ book (or ‘prophet’) whose authors faced the same lack of knowledge).

    I’m not asking for faith to produce knowledge because I am well aware that it cannot (by methodology). You need to tell other believers that they cannot use faith to produce knowledge – not me – for it is they who seem have eternal difficulty with this comprehension.

    You would do yourself a favour by referring to belief arbitrated by reality to be called ‘understanding’ versus the belief ‘grounded’ by religious authority to be called ‘faith’. This would go a very long way to allow us to identify what it is we’re talking about; by substituting understanding with belief and faith with belief, all you’re doing is muddying the waters in order to pretend that understanding something is another kind of faith, which is not. But you keep going back to this poisoned well time and again to try make your religious faith appear to be arbitrated by the authority of reality when you know perfectly well the authority for your religious faith belongs wholly and solely to what you interpretively call god, which is no different in method than what a muslim does or a zoroastrian. This discrepancy between the objects presumed to be divinely authoritarian is another in a long line of hints why faith does not – cannot – produce knowledge, by the way…

  • http://walttuckerministry.shutterfly.com Walt Tucker

    Tildeb, I’ll agree that your understanding of what faith is does not produce knowledge. My disagreement is with your understanding.

    Rejection of God because of the assumption that all religious positions are equally valid and equally substantive will lead, by use of logical principles, to a rejection of God. What is the historical basis for each one? Not what a historian who rejects even the possiblity of any supernatural activity before assessing the data says contrary to what the religion says, but what the historical basis is from the words of the prophets themselves. In other words, how did Zoraster, Muhammed, Moses, and Jesus come by what they taught? What is the relationship of the teachings of each and where do they diverge and why? To ignore the difference and why they exist is to miss a big portion of the available evidence. Yes, it must be interpreted from what information we have, but to sweep it all under the same rug is sweep what can be learned from each and relevant to faith in God.

  • tildeb

    Rejection of God because of the assumption that all religious positions
    are equally valid and equally substantive will lead, by use of logical
    principles, to a rejection of God.

    This is not an assumption, Walt; this is fact not because I think so but because all share the identical methodology to arrive at their different conclusions, namely, that by divine authority, each faith is true.

    Note also that, in all cases of faith, reality is afforded no means to arbitrate. There is no method in place for me, you, or anyone, to hold up each competing and contrary faith and allow reality to determine which is true. This differentiation is done solely by the person holding that faith to be true.

    In this sense, all religious positions are equally valid and equally substantive: none allows reality the authority to arbitrate its faith-based claims. And you can prove this point to yourself by asking yourself and answering yourself what evidence from reality would you accept that would allow you to know your faith in divine authority to be incorrect?

    It’s not my understanding that is at issue here, Walt; it is the over-reaching by both the faithful and faitheists to grant an unearned respect to the pseudo-answers of faith as if they were equivalent in merit to knowledge.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    It is logic and tildeb is completely confused by it and continuously makes self-refuting claims.

    Given your example, if I claim that I ran to LA and back in 20 minutes, you know it is almost certainly true that I did not do that yesterday because it is physically impossible for a normal human being to run that fast.

    You know lots of true facts that pertain to my truth claim: 1) you know that I am a human being, 2) you know about the possible running speeds of human beings, 3) you know about the distance from North Carolina to LA. So there is a lot of truth that you do know which pertains to my claim.

    You may not know exactly what I did yesterday, but that information is irrelevant in assessing the truth or falsity of my claim. In other words, you can determine the truth of my claim without knowing exactly what I did yesterday.

    When tildeb says that she knows that nobody knows anything about the origin of physical laws, then she must possess some true knowledge about the origins of physical laws. She just is not willing to admit what that knowledge is, or she has made an over-confident and all-encompassing truth claim that has backfired on her.

    It is not self-refuting to say, “I don’t know X,” or, “I have never seen a convincing answer to the question of X,” but to say that “Nobody knows anything about X” is clearly self-refuting. Because you at least know enough about what kind of thing X is that you think you don’t know anything about it! That is true knowledge about X which you have just denied anyone has.

    As long as a person is humble about what they know or don’t know, self-defeating statements are avoided. But whenever somebody trots out the statement, “I know that nobody knows anything about X,” the logic alarms start going off.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    How do you know that I, nor anyone else, knows about the origins of physical laws? You can’t say nobody knows because physics doesn’t give us the answer. That’s blindingly obvious. How could physics explain where the laws of physics come from? They can’t.

    What you are really saying is that you don’t know how to answer questions that can’t be answered by physics. That’s fine for you, but please don’t presume to speak for the rest of us.

    And by the way, how does physics give you the information you need to so confidently assert that you know what everyone else in the world can and cannot know about where physics came from?

  • tildeb

    You can turn off your alarm, Bill; I don’t anything about squwarfometics and I can say quite logically and with great confidence that you don’t either. In spite of the fact that I don’t know anything about them, I know you have no clue what squwarfometics are because the term is undefinable in exactly the same way your pseudo-answer has to be about the agency and its intentions and purposes that existed prior to the Big Bang. There is nothing to go by in reality to inform your pseud-answer with anything other than what you imagine. That’s how I know that you do not know anything about it.

  • http://walttuckerministry.shutterfly.com Walt Tucker

    Tildeb,

    “all share the identical methodology to arrive at their different conclusions, namely, that by divine authority, each faith is true.” How do you arrive at the idea that all have the identical methodology? My understanding of each religion is that they do not share the same methodology. Some were arrived at by visions, some by an angel that was first thought to be a demon and may have been the result of epilepsy, some by philosophy, and some by claims of direction revelation from a personal God Himself, and some by fraud. Some are the result of one prophet. Some are the result of thousands of year of various prophets with a consistent message. Some had eyewitness reports and some are entirely the product of a single person that had no verificable witnesses of the time. They may have the same conclusion, but they don’t have the same methodology to arrive at that conclusion. That makes some more suspect than others.

    “reality is afforded no means to arbitrate.” If all were developed in a vacuum, that would be true. As just stated, there are ways of arbitration for relative trustworthiness. And I continue to contend that when the bigger picture is taken into account, rather than just the local arguments separated from the whole (the coherence of the whole thing), a reality emerges that validates the relative truthfulness of the different worldviews.

    “all religious positions are equally valid and equally substantive: none allows reality the authority to arbitrate its faith-based claims.” That is an inductive conclusion based on your view of things. You don’t know that to be true and is contrary to my own conclusion – meaning it is not that obvious.

    “what evidence from reality would you accept that would allow you to know your faith in divine authority to be incorrect?” Already answered that before – that Jesus did not rise from the dead, or inconclusive (rather than conjectured) evidence that the story is fabricated.

    “It’s not my understanding that is at issue here” I insist it is because your understanding of faith is what is driving your conclusion rather that an understanding of faith as defined in the Bible. That said, I agree with you that some pseudo-answers of faith are over-reaching and are ill-founded. Yet, my issue here is not the over-reach and how they have come about, but whether you are under-reaching merely by your assumptions about what is validatable and what is not. If I assume from the start that a theory is not true based on my view of things (which can be a person with the over-reaching or the under-reaching answers) then I am less likely to consider the argument or the evidence. Some don’t consider some scientific theories because of their view of Scripture. Some don’t consider the source of Scripture because of their view of the world. It seems to me to be the same problem either way.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    You keep digging your hole deeper and deeper. You have now made up a nonsense word “squwarfometics” and you are saying that this made-up nonsense word is the equivalent of the phrase “origin of the laws of physics,” the topic which you claim nobody knows anything about.

    And what is worse is that you then go on to talk about the origin of the laws of physics as having agency, intentions, and purposes. Are all of these also nonsense words exactly the same as “squwarfometics”?

    For a topic which you claim nobody knows anything about, you sure have a lot say about it.

  • tildeb

    You assume some agency caused the laws of physics. I am saying this notion is nonsensical because reality provides us with absolutely nothing to go by. Nada. Zero.

    Presuming that such a reality, that included such an agency, existed prior to the Big Bang (to then cause the origin of the laws of physics we find in operation today) is nonsensical because you have nothing to go by… nothing from reality, that is (in the same way that you have nothing to go by to know anything about squwarfometrics). All you have is your imaginings. That is how I know your imaginings are the sum total of what informs your assumptions and presumptions about origins as well as squwarfometrics; both are nonsensical. Because the notion that you – or anyone else in the world – ‘know’ anything about an agency causing origins is nonsensical, the attributions (like the desires, intentions, purposes, goals, etc) you claim to know about this agency are equivalently nonsensical.

    And this is the problem of metaphysics; we cannot ‘know’ anything that exists outside of the universe we inhabit unless we eliminate reality’s arbitration of it, in which case all we have left are ill-informed musings that we do know can lead us badly astray.

  • Anon

    I smell logical positivism.

  • tildeb

    I asked, quite reasonably, what evidence from reality would you accept that would allow you to
    know that your faith in divine authority was incorrect? You answered that you’ve answered
    that before – that Jesus did not rise from the dead or inconclusive evidence that the story was fabricated.

    To be honest I have no clue what this ‘evidence from reality’ you have described might look like and I suspect (although I admittedly don’t know) if you do either. Can you elucidate?

  • Anon

    I don’t think the Mind-body problem is an “unnecessary philosophical problem,” even though the Mind-body problem arose because of our “assumptions, assertions, and presumptions about the nature of natures,” namely the assumption that nature is purposeless, meaningless, undirected and without essence.

    Also, take the statement “All knowledge can only be scientific knowledge.” Is this statement scientifically verified knowledge? Or is it just a philosophical assertion? Simply saying “because it works,” won’t help. “Because it works” is not a scientific experiment.

  • tildeb

    I wrote, Once we get past this stumbling block where we assert the natures, we can start to gather evidence from reality to then tell us about reality.

    What’s the stumbling block? The mind-body problem? No, I’m saying it’s the method of inquiry that assigns natures to things. This is an epistemology that does not work to produce knowledge.

    Now in regards to the mind-body problem artificially created by the use of this broken epistemology, all the evidence from reality shows us that the mind is what the brain does and not a separate entity from it. Again, the metaphysical approach that assumes the mind is separate from the body has not produced any knowledge. Do you detect a trend?

    It would help if you didn’t put into quotations statements I have never made, like “All knowledge can only be scientific knowledge.” What you have done here is a very good example of a Straw Man argument. What you assume I have written is not equivalent to what I actually have written, any more than what you believe I mean is not necessarily equivalent to what I actually do mean.

    A piece of advice: when in doubt, you could always ask for clarification. Of course, this presumes that one is willing to doubt one’s comprehension. You may not suffer from any such reticence.

  • Black Luster

    The way I see it, neither materialism nor dualism have produced scientific knowledge. Neuroscience has. Materialism and dualism are philosophical positions, for attempting to explain the hard problems of consciousness, rationality and intentionality. The history of the Mind-body problem rests on fascinating irony. Descartes, anyone?

  • Black Luster

    How can you smell something that died out decades ago?

  • http://walttuckerministry.shutterfly.com Walt Tucker

    Are you serious? I think you are being silly. One could postulate numerious scenarios and still be surprised by a reality one didn’t think of if such evidence surfaced. But one possiblity would be a document being found that can be sufficiently tied to the first disciples that explains what they taught to be a conspiracy and what actually happened to Jesus’ body. There are plenty of conspiracy theories, but none of them are based on anything but conjecture. Actual evidence from reality would be a credible document. The gospels were written at a time when many eyewitnesses were still alive (according to conservative estimates), and in reality someone could have written a contemporary account to show, conclusively, what the real story was. It would have to be something that is not a mere hypothesis, but clear substantial evidence that explains the beginning of Christianity from a credible witness.

  • tildeb

    Well, Walt, I don;t know about you, but would you have thought, for example, to document the absurdity of the Truthers, that they would form a conspiracy to tell us that the twin towers were brought down by the US government and/or Israeli fifth columnists? Would you have written such a document, had it somehow verified by a ‘credible’ witness, and then safely brought to light two thousand years from now? How would such a document affect those already willing to believe that a three day old corpse can come back to life? I think you would reject such a document as irrelevant to your current beliefs because I think you view all historical evidence pertaining to Jesus and the Gospels as already set as true, which is why what you offer as a falsifiable evidence you would accept to be impossible to fulfill to your satisfaction!

  • http://walttuckerministry.shutterfly.com Walt Tucker

    Tildeb, I have not read any of it, but I think there is stuff written on why the “Truthers” are full of it.

    I don’t believe the gospels to be true out of thin air. So, your idea that I have already set my mind on them being true would make contrary evidence irrelevant is flat wrong. What I have is more evidence in the positive that paints a positive picture of the resurrection than what I know of in the negative. The negative I know of presumes things to be negative from the start and then contrives stories to support the presumption. If substantive negative evidence came along, it would make a difference in what I believe. That is because, despite what you think about what I believe, there is a basis for belief that is based in reality. Yes, dead people do not come back to life after three days. But that is only one piece of evidence in the face of an entire movement based on events occuring in the first century (that understand dead people don’t rise, but that one did) that are closely tied to a history that goes several thousand years prior. There is some odd and tough stuff to believe in that 2000+ years.But to date, no one has come up with an explanation for that history that removes the supernatural element that all historians and scholars agree on. The best answer for what the text describes is that what it describes actually happened. It is always possible it didn’t happen. But, there is no good story to explain what happened other than the one given us. Much of the critical scholarship of the 18th through 20th centuries are now being debunked right and left as nothing but pure speculation based on an assumption from the start that the supernatural does not exist. You start with that assumption. You have no good reason to assume such other than that it doesn’t provide you practical knowlege from your idea of what is practical. People do indeed fall for things that aren’t true based on superstitions and so forth. But, there is just too much behind the history of the gospels to sweep under the rug and say it never happened and that there is NO reality on which to base the beliefs that that history has established. There are a lot of false ideas out there which make it easy to think the whole thing is false. But at the core, there is a reality that really does exist when one bothers to look at it.

    Those who seek the truth do truly find it and know they have. There are a lot who claim truth who don’t have it. There are a lot who have it, but claim more than they should claim by it. Nevertheless, it can be found. If one asked God to reveal Himself and He didn’t do it, then you have lost nothing more from what you started with. But, if He does reveal Himself by His Holy Spirit and His written Word as disclosed to prophets for thousands of years, then it makes sense to pay attention to it and much is gained by doing so. I assure you that there is a reality beyond your nose that exists if you will just ask that it be given to you. I can type till I die and not make a different to you. But, only you can decide to stop running from God and turn to Him and seek Him. He is there, and He is NOT silent. It is only your desire to shut Him out of your life that makes Him silent to you. If you are honest about wanting to know how to know the reality that is beyond what you can observe in a lab, then stop resisting and seek God yourself. It is not wishing. It is not ungrounded faith. Having a real relationship with God is something even few who call themselves Christians have truly experienced. They go through the motions, but have missed God Himself. But you too can experience Him if you will only call on Him. Pride is the biggest obstacle. Let it go and let live.

  • tildeb

    Walt, it’s not that I don’t believe you are earnest in trying to paint a picture of reasonableness regarding your faith; it’s that the beliefs you maintain that ask you suspend your critical faculties, suspend how nature operates, and insist you assume an unreasonable claim first, is not reasonable to begin with!

    One need look no further than the claim of reanimated cells already having undergone irreversible damage through decay leading to cell death. You have absolutely no evidence whatsoever that such a reversal for trillions of cells is a reasonable possibility, a reasonable allowance, a reasonable assumption. Yet you are quite willing to take the third hand accounts of witnesses of a ‘risen’ Jesus to be more reasonable in your painting of your faith than the knowledge you have that such irreversible damage to cells leads to their permanent death. This is a position you must take to uphold christian belief that requires the resurrection. The problem, however, is that this position of belief in the resurrection cannot be considered a legitimate conclusion based on reality because you and I both know that there is no evidence – absolutely none! – from reality from which you can deduce it. Allowing for the possibility in spite of overwhelming evidence from reality is not something ‘deduced’.

    This is important because the position reveals a fundamental a priori assumption that can only be taken on board from one method only: a faith-based belief that is demonstrably disassociated from the reality we share. You must be willing to believe, and as importantly willing to believe first, that reality does not play the determining role here to accept the claim. If it did, you would have nothing to go by. Something else has to play a greater role here to accept the claim.

    You can continue to try to convince others that your faith is a deduction from reality, that the testimony of third hand ‘witnesses’ is more reasonable than entrusting the knowledge we have about the operation of biology, a knowledge about cellular life that works the same for everyone everywhere all the time, but I know as well as you that this order you claim to have followed to arrive at your beliefs is not possible. In order to accept the christian claim of the resurrection, you must first be willing and then able to accept it by faith that bumps reality to the side.

    As for what you call the ‘historical’ claims that you use to support your faith in the resurrection, there are many possibilities that do not ask you to suspend your critical faculties, suspend the way we know nature works, and insist you make an exception in this one case. I happen to think these possibilities are more reasonable because the method does respect reality more than contrary faith claims. But any method that bumps reality to the side, Walt, is not a reasonable method for any inquiry into reality… no matter how many nebulous words you throw its way, no matter how metaphysical the bending of reality may be, no matter how earnest the wish that the supernatural claim be true. You either respect the determining role reality plays in claims made about it, or you do not. There is no middle ground here.

  • http://walttuckerministry.shutterfly.com Walt Tucker

    Tildeb,

    Sorry for the delay, I’ve been swamped this week.

    “it’s that the beliefs you maintain that ask you suspend your critical faculties, suspend how nature operates” That misses the point that if something is evidence for supernatural activity, that you don’t just discard the evidence because you don’t accept the possibility of supernatural activity. If supernatural activity is occuring, then by definition there is somehting operating beyond how nature normally operates everyday. If supernatural like things happened everyday, then it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary and a sign of God’s activitiy. Besides, I don’t start with this assumption. The evidence leads me to this position. It isn’t the other way where the postion is interpreting the evidence.

    “Yet you are quite willing to take the third hand accounts of witnesses of a ‘risen’ Jesus to be more reasonable” I have not been convinced that it is third hand accounts. I see that as an assumption because of disbelief in the possibility of miracles. I see nothing wrong with looking at explanations that do not require a supernatural input as the first approach, but I think it is denying the evidence that exists to have to say the accounts are third hand. And of course, if they were just third hand, that doesn’t automatically make them false, even if it does make them more suspected.

    “you and I both know that there is no evidence – absolutely none!” Only if you deny it. One has to deny 1 Jn 1:1-5 and 2 Pet 1:16-21, which are first hand accounts. I realized 2 Peter is challenged, but it isn’t compelling.

    “Something else has to play a greater role here to accept the claim.” I agree. You can’t judge the supernatural on the workings of the natural world alone.

    ” I happen to think these possibilities are more reasonable because the method does respect reality more than contrary faith claims.” One can have a very high respect for reality as perceived in nature and still find the evidence compelling that there is a supernatural basis behind that reality.

    “There is no middle ground here.” It seems there is. The exculsion is only in your presumptions.

    Tildeb, I don’t how to convince you anymore than you are trying to convince me that there is no evidence that you position is a faith position. While you can observe reality and gleam much from it. To exclude any possibility of a supernatural aspect to reality is truly a faith position as you define faith. It is withful thinking. You might be convinced that what you see is overwhelming in favor that there is no such entity, but it is still a faith statement because you cannot know for absolute sure that you are correct and I am wrong. God must open your eyes first, but it won’t happen until you are willing to accept that if there is a God, and He shows Himself to you, that you will accept it.

  • tildeb

    Walt, you write, To exclude any possibility of a supernatural aspect to reality is truly a faith position as you define faith. It is wishful thinking. You might be convinced that what you see is overwhelming in favor that there is no such entity, but it is still a faith statement because you cannot know for absolute sure that you are correct and I am wrong.

    And this section reveals why your line of reasoning is not deductive from reality but established a priori and imposed on it.

    Look, what you are doing is dishonest in the sense that you insist that because the truth of a supernatural claim might be possible it is an equivalent claim to those supported by compelling evidence from reality.

    That’s neither true nor accurate.

    What I’m saying is that at their most optimistic value, your supernatural claims are not equivalent. At best they are equivalent to “I don’t know but the claim might be true.”

    If you were consistent (you’re not) in this line of reasoning – that what is possible is an equivalent kind of claim to what is backed by compelling evidence from reality – then you would demonstrate the same allowance for all supernatural claims. Consider the Loch Ness Monster: you try to tell us that you deduce that it could possibly exist and so, therefore, it’s as reasonable a deduced belief as the existence of bicycles.

    This is quite silly.

    Something is askew in this line of reasoning you use here, Walt, and it belongs not to me and what you presume is my belief but to you. And you can prove this to yourself regarding almost all supernatural claims you reject out of hand…. not because you hold a different faith position that each of these or those supernatural claims are possibly true but for the same reason I reject the faith-claim in the resurrection: there is no compelling evidence from reality to suggest the claim is true (other than testimony) and much compelling evidence from reality against it (how reality is known to consistently and reliably operate).

    BTW, a non-woman is not another kind of woman, a non car another kind of car, a non stamp collector another kind of collector, any more than a non believer is another kind of believer. You really must stop dragging out this absurd faith description to paint those of us who do not share your special supernatural exemptions for a particular superstitious faith claim as just another kind of faith-based believer. We’re not… no matter how often you say we are.

  • http://walttuckerministry.shutterfly.com Walt Tucker

    Tildeb,

    “that because the truth of a supernatural claim might be possible it is an equivalent claim to those supported by compelling evidence from reality.” I never said such a thing! My claim is that it is a faith statement to exclude the possibility, not that it is equivalent. It is the evidence that exists that brings the possibility to a reality. You do not allow for the possiblity and thus are closed off from even evaluatiing it. Allowing for the possibility is not at all the same as saying it is true. But not allowing for the possibility will never arrive at truth if indeed it is true!

    BTW: A non-believer is one who does not believe in God (as the term is normally used). Thus they believe in not-God. A belief in non-God is a belief! So, notice that is not at all the same category as woman/non-woman and car/non-car. Thus your attempt to show problems with my statements about your faith is a categorical fallacy.

  • tildeb

    Your claim is that you have concluded that god exists and that he took the form of Jesus, died, and was resurrected. My point is that this is not a conclusion based on evidence from reality but stands contrary to what we do know about irreversibility of call damage leading to cell death. No such resurrection evidence exists in reality, so you are not being honest that you have concluded the story is true; you have first presumed the claim to be possibly true, and then relied on only supportive testimonial to maintain the claim has gone from possible to actual. But you hide how this factual claim goes from possible to actual behind the term ‘faith’ (It’s a miracle!) while slipping out from behind the shield of faith to pretend the claim really is actual based on evidence from reality. When confronted with this sly maneuver, you wave only the testimonial and pretend this alone has convinced you. Rubbish. And you know it’s rubbish because equivalent testimony about all kinds of superstitious nonsense does NOT convince you to believe in actual fairies and unicorns, does it? Something more is needed and you start with no faith that fairies and unicorns are actual. That’s why you require compelling evidence from reality to even consider such claims to be true in fact. But when it comes to Jesus, there is a difference, and that difference is the allowance you make prior to showing equivalent consideration of all other superstitious claims: you believe first and then cherry pick support as best you can. You have not one iota of evidence from reality that shows how dead cells can reanimate. This is entirely a faith-based claim detached from the reality we share and is in no way, shape, or fashion concluded from reality.

    A non-believer is one who does not believe in God (as the term is normally used). Thus they believe in not-God. A belief in non-God is a belief!

    A non stamp collector is one who does not collect stamps (as the term is normally used). Thus they collect not-stamps. Collecting not-stamps is collecting!

    *facepalm*

    Walt, the use of the negative defines what it is not. Non belief is not another kind of belief but its absence. Fiddling with and flipping the meaning of common language to make ‘up’ another kind of down, ‘black’ to be another kind of white, to suit your goal of making stuff up and pretending it comes from reality is not a category fallacy on my part but a transparent ploy to support your own.

  • http://walttuckerministry.shutterfly.com Walt Tucker

    Tildeb,

    “stands contrary to what we do know about irreversibility of cell damage leading to cell death” Of course! You can’t expect a non-natuiral event to be explained by natural explanation can you? If it wasn’t contrary, it wouldn’t be all that significant. By requiring resurrection occurences as common occurence removes the significance of the event!

    “And you know it’s rubbish because equivalent testimony about all kinds of superstitious nonsense does NOT convince you to believe in actual fairies and unicorns, does it?” In what way are they equivalent? I don’t see equivalence at all! Who in history testified to the reality of unicorns and what prior materials support those testaments?

    “there is a difference, and that difference is the allowance you make prior to showing equivalent consideration of all other superstitious claims:” Not true! What testimony should I be listening to as a serious testimony of other superstitious claims and what is the basis for accepting them? If a gospel account of Jesus appeared all by iteself and had no connection to events in history, prior to, and after, that were themsevles significant, then I would not have a basis for believe it either.

    “You have not one iota of evidence from reality that shows how dead cells can reanimate. This is entirely a faith-based claim detached from the reality we share and is in no way, shape, or fashion concluded from reality.” And it is a faith based claim that there is no way for it to happen what so ever! Just because you don’t know how it happened does not mean it didn’t happen. Not knowing that detail, and understaing it wasn’t meant to be a fluke natural event, you must go on the other testimony surrounding it!

    “Thus they collect not-stamps. Collecting not-stamps is collecting!” okay, and so you agree with my point that there was a categorial difference between a belief and a car or worman. Thus, just as collecting non-stamps is still collecting, your belief in not-God is still a belief based on faith. This idea of saying “non-belief” is what you have is pointless. You can’t have a non-belief, because you always have a belief in something. I didn’t redefine anything, but showed that belief is not the same as a car or a woman. A non-belief is not a belief at all. But you have a belief – that the resurrection is impossible and there is no God. My point was that your little statement made no sense in reality! You continue to deny you have faith in your belief system, when there is no other way to explain your belief system than on faith. It may make the most sense from what you know, but it is still established on faith. If that weren’t so, there wouldn’t still be philosophers saying much about the mystery of the grounding in epistemology.

  • tildeb

    A non-belief is not a belief at all.

    I’m glad you finally admit this.

    But you have a belief – that the resurrection is impossible and there is no God.

    Wrong.

    What you’re doing is substituting the two meanings of the term ‘belief’ only as it suits you in order to misrepresent my conclusion as a kind of equivalent faith. And this is a misrepresentation you make over and over again. This is why I asked earlier that you clarify which meaning is intended by using the terms ‘understanding’ for belief concluded from compelling evidence and ‘faith’ for belief asserted without such compelling evidence. This clarity matters.

    In the case of the claim that Jesus was resurrected, for example, I understand that there is no compelling evidence from reality to conclude that this claim is reasonable because it’s possible. It’s not possible as far as we know. And it’s not possible as far as we know because there is no evidence it is possible. There is zero evidence for this to be considered a reasonable claim (based on understanding that it’s possible) because you have nothing from reality to explain how this might be possible. Note, please, that this is not equivalent to me asserting that reanimation is impossible (it may someday be understandably possible). All I know is that no such possibility is understandably deduced – so far – from reality because we have no evidence that it understandably is possible, which is why I asked if you could produce such evidence and show this understanding. You cannot. Therefore, your belief that is possible is not deduced from any understanding but asserted by faith alone.

    To bolster this faith, you rely only on supportive testimonials. These testimonials do not further our understanding of how reanimation is possible. They, like you, simply assert that it is possible because they, like you, have faith that it actually occurred. This testimony is not evidence from reality. This is evidence of faith-in-action, presuming that a faith-based explanation that reveals no understanding of how something is possible is reasonable. It’s not. It is a faith claim protected from reality’s arbitration of it.

    When this tactic you use is pointed out, you do not show any insightful understanding that allows you to deduce your faith-based explanation to be a reality-based explanation; all you do is misrepresent the critic to be using the same faith-based tactic (while insisting that such a ‘miracle’ by definition cannot be supported by reality, in which case you probably don’t realize that you have just admitted that you have now rejected the very basis of how you might ‘deduce’ your faith-based claim from reality). This is not true.

    I consistently allow reality to arbitrate claims made about it, whereas you are demonstrably willing and able to allow your faith to arbitrate claims made about how reality operates here but not there, for it to be suspended at this moment but not then. Remarkable cherry picking.

    Your faith is not equivalent to reality to convince me that your assertions about it are equivalent to understanding. In fact, your faith-based explanations stand in conflict with our shared understanding of how reality works. No amount of 2000 years old contrary testimony will carry more authority for me than today’s understanding that can be shown to work for everyone everywhere all the time… an authority you are willing to selectively reject in order to privilege specifics of your faith. This shows me a willingness on your part to be inconsistent, to subjugate intellectual integrity not just on occasion to serve a very specific theological agenda but to subjugate reality itself to make allowances for your faith, to defend that privilege not by offering a deeper understanding or a more reasonable possibility, but by resorting to misrepresentations, abuses of language, and false accusations about the motivations and tactics of those of us who quite reasonably question your assertions and show why they are of such inconsistent and dubious quality.

    Your faith is not reasonable because it is deduced or concluded from compelling evidence; it is reasonable only in your mind based on very specific faith-based presuppositions taught to you. The problem here is not me; the problem is that you have allowed yourself no means by which you can honestly look at the truth value of these presuppositions because you have been convinced that reality is insufficient to arbitrate them. This problem is the same problem of granting authority to any faith-based belief; it is reasonable only in a vacuum but provides no further understanding applicable to reality. And evidence for this claim I make is apparent when we find that all faith-based beliefs produce no new knowledge.

    And a good example of this is regarding reanimation for thee and me inside your theology: it safely occurs on the ‘spiritual’ level, where we enjoy this ‘new’ life only after death where it can reside safely immune to any arbitration by the reality we share today.

    As the Church Lady would say, “How conveeeeninet,” but – really – not in the least surprising: after all, when it comes to ascertaining the truth value of faith claims, it’s business as usual.

  • Andrew Ryan

    The longer something’s been dead for, the worst it tends to smell.

  • http://walttuckerministry.shutterfly.com Walt Tucker

    “you do not show any insightful understanding that allows you to deduce
    your faith-based explanation to be a reality-based explanation;” and you have shown no understanding that your “reality based explanation” has a faith element! Because you think faith is blind rather than deduced, you fail to see that if your beliefs are deduced from your experience, rather than 100% provable. I am not twisting ANY words, I am telling you that your understanding of fatih is what you want to believe about it in order to distance yourself from those who claim to have “faith,” which biblically is trust in God based on His past actions, not belief in wishes with no foundation at all.

    “there is no evidence it is possible” from what we know from a pure naturalistic point of view.

    “These testimonials do not further our understanding of how reanimation is possible.” I’m not saying we can understand it from a natural perspective. If you have to have an explanation for everything you do and think about in life, you are going to have a difficult time.

    “all you do is misrepresent the critic to be using the same faith-based tactic” I don’t think so. I’m trying to wake up the critic to realize her thinking is limited and misrepresentative as well.

    “to allow your faith to arbitrate claims made about how reality operates” Replace “faith” with “wordview” -> to allow your worldview to arbitrate claims made about how reality operaties. Isn’t that what you are doing? Your worldview is dictating how you view the “evidence”

    “it is reasonable only in your mind based on very specific faith-based presuppositions taught to you.” DITTO again! By the way, I wasn’t taught faith. I’ve acquired it based on the evidence and God’s acticions in my life.

    “you have been convinced that reality is insufficient to arbitrate them.” Not at all! But I have been convinced that there is more to reality that what we see with our physical eyes. It isn’t that it is insufficient, but it isn’t all there is.

    You admit we might one day understand how a resurrection could occur. So, if possible, and there is testimony of such an occurence. why shut the door on it apriori?

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