Showing posts from April, 2008

How Should I Be A Sceptic -- in question of infinite regression

[Introductory note from Jason Pratt: the previous entry in this series of posts can be found here. The first entry can be found here. ] [Note: the previous entry ended with the questions, "So why can there not be grounds stretching on forever with no end, no Final Fact? Why can there not be an infinite regression?"] For what it is worth, I don't think it is possible to prove that an infinite regress does not exist--nor that it does exist. So I will presume each of these two mutually exclusive options; and then check to see if either or both of the options crash. Let me presume, for purposes of argument, that an infinite regress is real. What advantages does a proposed system of thought have, when based on this presumption? None! If an infinite regress is true, then we have no means of reaching valid conclusions. This is because we habitually presume, when we offer explanations or arguments, that somewhere 'behind' or 'under' the explanation (metaphorical

Space Aliens and Assumptions

What should be the starting assumption regarding God's existence in discussions about the existence of God? Should the starting assumption be that God doesn't exist? Is the starting assumption that God does exist? Is the starting point that we don't know whether or not God exists? Apparently, the response to this question was considered the highlight of a debate between atheist Richard Foley of the University of Missouri and theist Grant Sterling of the Eastern Illinois University -- at least, the article in the Journal-Gazette Times-Courier article about a debate begins with Dr. Foley's answer. The article, entitled Debate fails to settle question of God's existence , by Amber Williams, gives Dr. Foley's answer in the form of an analogy quoted from Dr. Foley wherein he claims that the starting point should be that God doesn't exist. Facing a question from an audience member on why he believes everyone should start out in life thinking like an atheist, Rich

How Should I Be A Sceptic -- a first consideration of Independence

[Introductory note from Jason Pratt: the previous entry in this series of posts can be found here. The first entry can be found here. ] In the previous chapter (i.e. the previous few journal entries), I brought to the forefront a term I have already begun to use here and there in this book: the IF, the Independent-or-Interdependent Fact. Now I will discuss this concept directly, not only because I will be using it with increasing frequency as I continue, but because I think its existence must be accepted to avoid nonsensical positions. [Footnote: the acronym for Independent or Interdependent Fact happens to be the English word 'if'; but this is only coincidental.] I have just finished explaining why I reject the position that God must be an abstract generality (and thus can have no particular aspects, even in principle, to be discovered). My reply was that in my experience the abstract describes the real (or, more accurately, we use 'the abstract' to describe the re

How Should I Be A Sceptic -- particular problems with generaleism

[Introductory note from Jason Pratt: the previous entry in this series of posts can be found here. The first entry can be found here. ] What is a 'generality'? The answer to this question can be horribly complicated; but I think the basic answer (upon which all other more advanced answers must be based) is that a generality is a description: it is about something, as distinct from being something. It is like a reflection in our minds of a pattern of what has happened, or can happen, or will happen. The pattern does not exist as a particular entity; it is about entities. [Footnote: Or, to be more specific, the pattern of 'aboutness' does not itself need to be the entity being described by the 'aboutness'. Obviously, there will be a few exceptions, such as when we think about thinking: yet the principle must still hold. Not everything I say with my tongue is 'about' my tongue, or about tongues; but I could also say something about tongues with my ton

The Gospel of John Displays Characteristics of Ancient Historiography

Often neglected in genre studies is the Gospel of John. Present scholarship tends to view Matthew and Mark as examples of ancient biographies. Luke is also often placed in this genre, though some point to its connection with Acts and see the two works as representative of ancient historiography. The Gospel of John, to the extent it is discussed, is usually mentioned along with Mathew and Mark as an example of ancient biography. The link is not usually dwelled on because many commentators view the fourth Gospel as much more concerned with theology than history. Leave it to Richard Bauckham to directly challenge such a dismissive approach to the Gospel of John. In his recent book, The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple , he looks through fresh eyes at the Gospel of John and seeks to understand what genre influences exerted themselves on the fourth Gospel. Bauckham’s conclusion is that “far from appearing the least historical of the four Gospels, to a competent contemporary reader J

How Should I Be A Sceptic -- an introduction to generaleism (or final abstraction)

[Introductory note from Jason Pratt: the previous entry in this series of posts can be found here. The first entry can be found here. ] As I follow my line of thought through these chapters, I am finding that certain issues which will be developed more clearly at the beginning of my second section are coming to the forefront now--and must necessarily do so. I worry about this, because I do not want to presume my later conclusions here in an unfair manner--for which I, as a sceptic, would be keeping a sharp and (rightfully) suspicious watch! Furthermore, I suspect some of my Christian (and other theistic) brethren will be taken aback at the strong criticisms I have leveled at certain people on 'my side of the aisle'. I do think such criticism is necessary; and I have tried to explain why I think this, as I bring up the topics. Yet I would not blame such brethren for being suspicious, at this point, about where exactly I am going with all this. Keeping these prudent suspicions i

Naturally, They Had to Say That

According to a brief report in World Science entitled Brain may prepare decisions in advance , human beings may not have free will because the brain makes decisions about 10 minutes before the person making decisions is consciously aware that the decision has been made. Cer­tain pat­terns of brain ac­ti­vity pre­dict peo­ple’s de­ci­sions up to 10 sec­onds be­fore the peo­ple are aware of them, ac­cord­ing to new re­search that casts fresh doubt on wheth­er we have free will. The an­cient de­bate over free will cen­ters on wheth­er it’s an il­lu­sion to be­lieve our thoughts and de­ci­sions are in­de­pend­ent, since our brains really con­sist of atoms bounc­ing around ac­cord­ing to their own rules. The new study sug­gests the ques­tion­ing may be jus­ti­fied. Re­search­ers tracked brain ac­ti­vity while peo­ple viewed a stream of let­ters on screen, and then pressed a but­ton. Each par­ti­ci­pant was asked to de­cide freely which of two but­tons to press and when to press it. Scan­ni

Taking a Stand

How can we as apologists, a term that describes all who defend the faith and stand for truth, use the gifts God has given us? I think there's many different ways we can use our knowledge of Christianity effectively in shaping our culture for Christ. Below is a list of these way: Blog/Write on websites and in print Discussion lists Email public officials and let them know what you think on different issues Call radio stations Talking with influential people that shape culture Publishing We all have different gifts in apologetics. Surely nobody has mastered everything. If your gift is historical studies, concentrate on using that for God's glory. If it's natural theology, don't be be afraid to call a radio show and discuss arguments for God's existence. The important thing to remember is that we, as apologists, stick to the few topics for which we either specialize in or are well acquainted with when we do the things listed above. Not everybody has to do all

Dutch Radical Criticism, Part 1: An introduction to their views

Just how far can skepticism go in the study of the New Testament? Many people are shocked at the idea that the existence of Jesus could reasonably be doubted. Thanks to the Internet and Youtube the views of Earl Doherty and other Jesus-mythers like Acharya Sen have become widely known. But few people know that another famous figure of early Christianity has come in for similar criticism over the years: the apostle Paul. There is a school of NT studies, with its roots in Tubingen under F.C. Baur and the Dutch Reformed Church, which denies the existence of the historical Paul or at least denies that he wrote any of his famous letters: Dutch Radical Criticism (even though this was not a label that its scholars applied to themselves, they soon positively appropriated it). This school included scholars such as Bruno Bauer, A.D. Loman, W.C. van Manen, and G.A. van den Bergh van Eysinga. Their most scholarly expositor and defender today is Hermann Detering, whose views I will be interacting w

HSIBAS -- catching up

As of Friday April 18th, I have started back up on my 'progressive synthetic metaphysics' entries; the current series of which is "How Should I Be A Sceptic". Rather than just plopping the next entry unannounced out of nowhere, I decided to provide a handy link sheet this Friday for readers to catch up where I am in the series. (Not only is it a complex series, but it moves along from point to point building on prior points as it goes. Thus, a 'progressive synthetic' metaphysic.) As I mention in the first entry, the whole work represents one very large book I wrote for my own critical exercise back in late 99/early 2000. Last summer (2007), I posted up almost all of the fourth volume in a series of entries titled "Ethics and the Third Person". This winter, I went back to the very start and began posting entries in a series titled "How Should I Be A Sceptic". So: here are links to the currently existent entries (updating as I post new ones),

The Argument from Consciousness

J.P. Moreland has recently written a brief article for True U giving a brief summation of his argument from consciousness, entitled (coincidentally enough) The Argument from Consciousness . In the article, J.P. Moreland notes: I believe those who argue for consciousness by theistic explanations are correct, and in what follows, I shall say why. As a preliminary, I shall assume a commonsense understanding of mental states, such as sensations, thoughts, beliefs, desires, volitions and the very selves that have them. Understood in this way, mental states are in no sense physical, since they possess five features that physical states do not: There is a raw, qualitative feel or a "what it is like" to have a mental state such as a pain. Many mental states have intentionality — ofness or aboutness — directed towards an object. Mental states are inner, private and immediate to the subject having them. Mental states require a subjective ontology — namely, mental states are necess

The King of Stories -- harmonization index

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: Early in 2004, for purposes of taking a winter break from book editing elsewhere, I decided to research and write up a harmonization study of the canonical Gospels. For Lent season, Easter 2007, I posted up roughly the last half of that study, one per day, on the Cadre journal; and then, beginning shortly before Christmas 2007, I began posting up the first half, ending around Easter 2008. This index page sorts the entries by Gospel/chapter/verse, and sorts the Gospel/chapter/verses by journal entry. Hyperlinks have been created for ease of navigation between entries, and for help in locating where particular Gospel elements ended up in my harmonization efforts. My primary method was to study pericope forms, classifying each pericope as to whether the author included very specific time/place cues; included no time or place cues at all; or fell somewhere on a paradigm line between those two extreme. (A pericope is like a small chapter telling a particu