Making Plantinga’s argument more accessible. – Colin Burgess

Alvin Plantinga, a philosopher at Notre Dame University, is noted well for his works in epistemology, or justification of belief. Anthony Flew notes that philosophers have been divided over the question of how knowledge is derived. 

Many philosophers argue that a proposition is true or false and exists, independent of our minds, but in order to be believed, a proposition needs a mind. It seems necessary to define what, both, a ‘proposition’ and a ‘state of affairs’ is, before we begin our journey into making Plantinga’s very valuable, yet difficult to understand, argument more accessible to the layperson. 
A ‘proposition’ (P) is a truth bearer, or a predicate, to a state of affairs, or subject term, (S) which are the truth makers. So P states that S obtains a set of conditions, such as ‘The weather is hot!’ Weather, being the subject, and ‘Hot’ being the predicate. The proposition is that the weather obtains conditions which we would define as ‘hot.’ In order for this to be true, the proposition needs a counterpart in reality. If the state of affairs fails to obtain what the proposition contains, the proposition has a truth value of 0.


We may now define a proposition to be a complex (consisting of more than one concept, related by a certain semantic connective) referential meanings. They may, or may not, be thought about, believed, or expressed by language. Every proposition is true or false, for a proposition affirms or denies what a state of affairs obtains.
1. Do not have existence in time&space.

2. Are not identifiable with the linguistic entities used to express them.

3. Are not sense perceptible.

4. They are universally held and can be held by multiple minds.

5. While propositions require rational minds, to be grasped, they needn’t be grasped by finite minds to exist. It could be said that there are unknowable propositions to finite minds.

6. They can be the object of thought when, for example, one is thinking about the contents of one’s own thought processes.

7. They are not physical entities. (see pt 1.).
Propositions have intentionality–this intentionality is a natural affinity or intrinsic directedness intentional object, or state of affairs it picks out.

The locution ‘state of affairs,’ which is the truth maker, is defined, then, as any actually existing whole that is ordered by the relation of predication or exemplification.

In summary, for a proposition to be true, it must reflect what the state of affairs obtains. Simple as that. The above jargon is only for the interested reader. But one important point is that propositions are universals, (pt 4.) They are had by, but not identifiable with, the mind. More than one mind, at a time, can believe the mathematical proposition ‘2+2=4,’ and its truth does not require that any minds exist to believe it. However, the question to be asked is, “What justifies the acceptance or rejection of a belief?”

We all have beliefs, some are substantiated objectively, others are held for personal reasons. We may not like a certain individual and we may have a bad feeling about their character. Our personal belief in this individuals character is not determined by our belief, alone, or the belief of others. This type of belief is subjectively held, unless some character deficiency can be shown. Some believe chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla, this is another example of a subjectively held belief. There is no warrant outside the individual which says one type of ice cream is better than another. What about objective beliefs? There are beliefs which are substantiated outside of a persons mind and their justification is objective, not subjective. These beliefs are statements about external reality, not the thought or feelings of any one individual. One may say they believe unicorns exist. This could be a personally held belief, or a belief with external warrant, provided one could demonstrate unicorns do, in fact, exist. In the absence of unicorns, defined as a horse with a horn, the justification for this belief is not well substantiated. There are less controvertible beliefs, or axioms, which need no proof, such as logical or mathematical propositions. There is no justification prior to the law of non-contradiction to being true, it just is true, and we accept it because its denial leads to an absurdity or a contradiction. These are properly basic beliefs, they do not need proof, they are self evidently true, much like morality. 

Once again, the above is jargon intended for the interested reader–a belief may be summarized as knowledge that is justified as true. The knowledge may be extrinsic, or it may be intrinsic, the level of justification may be high or low, depending if the belief is based on experience and inductive (a posteriori) or if it is independent of experience and deductive (a priori.)
The causal link between the acceptance of a belief and a belief being true is still missing. How do we know our minds are wired for acquiring knowledge, via our senses, and that our private beliefs correspond with the external world, which we have no access to, independent of our sensory experience? This involves a discussion on Aristotle’s causation.


An understanding of causation is important, to further this discussion. Not all causes are equal and Aristotle, the father of western logic, codified these nicely.
1. Instrumental cause. (That with which a task is performed.)

2. Efficient cause. (That through which a task is performed.)

3. Material cause. (That out of which a task is performed.)

4. Final cause. (That for which a task is performed.)

5. Formal cause. (The form of which a task is to be completed for.)
For this discussion, we need only concern ourselves with 2 and 4. The rest are not really important here. For something to count as an efficient cause, it is the act of agency. The paper you are reading has the efficient cause of the author. The final cause is what something is for. The final cause of this paper is to convey a point about epistemology and the justification of knowledge.

This is where we begin our roller coaster ride and things begin to get really interesting. 
We have established, that for a proposition to be true, it needs a counterpart in the state of affairs, for a belief to be accepted as true, it needs a certain level of justification. Plantinga argues that if our minds are accidental products of evolution that we do not have minds for thinking, we only have minds that happen to think. I will attempt to summarize his position in a syllogism.
    If God exists, then this sentence is true.

   This sentence is true. (MP) 

   Therefore, God exists.
Before the reader closes this paper in disgust, consider this, in the absence of God, or a designer, there are no final causes. We cannot say, without begging the question, that we can trust the deliverances of our 5 senses to give us true and accurate information. We must, in the absence of a designer, or God type figure, eliminate final causation and perform an etiological reduction, which is to explain function in terms of its efficient cause. We can still use the term “function,” but it would mean something else, we could not trust the deliverances of our mind to give us truth, but, with evolution as the efficient cause and in the absence of a designer, we would be begging the question to say our minds can go beyond the fight, flight, feed, breed instincts, which were selected by naturalistic evolution. Our minds did not evolve for logic, or to utilize the immutable truths of mathematics, they merely evolved for survival. 
According to Darwinian evolution, we are merely a black box as an organism, it does not matter what internal processes go on inside of the black box, as long as the output behaviour is conducive for survival. I do not understand the inner workings of the computer I am typing on, and as someone who is not a computer engineer I couldn’t care less if there was a mouse inside of this thing making it operate the way it does, as long as the output generated suits my purpose. So to is it with our minds; if they were not designed for a specific purpose, by God, to know truth, all we can say is they can be relied upon as far as the natural processes of evolution has allowed them to, and even here I am personifying evolution. Evolution is not trying to do anything, according to naturalistic evolution, there is no final cause,or end goal in mind. 
However, in contrast to naturalistic evolution, if our minds were put in us for a purpose, to truly acquire truth, then the acceptance of certain logical or mathematical axioms would no longer be question begging, but would be quite reasonable to accept prima facie, as there is no absence of a designer, thus the final cause of our mind is to acquire truth and knowledge about the external world, and any correspondence between a thought and a thing would be more than just a happy coincidence. There would be states of intentionality within our minds, which deliberately set out to acquire truth, and the proposition “2+2=4” would not be true by this happy coincidence, but would be true because we have a mind given to us, which has a function given to it. 
For the atheist, there seems to be a missing link between a proposition being accepted by a mind as being true, while for the theist, we can genuinely trust the deliverances of our minds, as far as design limitation goes, to give us reliable and factual information about the world, this causal link–which the atheist lacks–is provided by God. Any attempts, on the atheists part, to refute this, is presupposing that our minds are reliable and able to argue objectively about the nature of reality.

This would not be a fair paper, in the absence of considering objections. I have not come by any good refutations of this argument, which are not self-refuting, but anticipate that the anthropic principle could be used as an antithesis to this argument. The anthropic principle (weak) states that we are context sensitive observers and that we evolved to function in the conditions we inhabit, and that if we evolved in different conditions our faculties would function differently. How this could be used is to say that we evolved to know and understand truth and had there not been a correspondence between our minds and reality, we would not have survived. 

All the anthropic principle is doing, in this case, is adding up statistical averages and describing how we think on a normative basis, but this does not make the rules of logic normative or prescriptive. All evolution can do is tell us how we have come to think in the past, but it cannot tell us how we ought to think in the future, as the “rules” of thinking are not prescriptive, but are merely descriptive. Adding up votes does not determine truth.

The theist is able to link the acceptance of a proposition and the nature of reality, by means of God, which provides the final cause for the workings of our minds, our hearts and so forth, while the atheist is left begging the question with regards to the true deliverances of their minds and they are wallowing in self-stultifying agnosticism, regarding the nature of reality. Saying that our minds are reliable, simply because they are reliable, does not provide the necessary antecedent conditions for there to be a true correspondence between a thought and a thing. It is not unreasonable for us to act on the belief that there is beer in the fridge, my belief in there being beer justifies me getting up to get a beer. There is a certain intentionality from which we set forth to act upon beliefs that are justified as true, but only from a theistic perspective. Atheism does not provide the needed intentionality, but reduces the mind to being a black box, which could have any set of beliefs in them, which there value is unknown until they manifest themselves in some sort of behaviour. 
Take for instance, under the premise of naturalistic evolution being true, if I am acting under the pure instinct of fight or flight; consider my belief that tigers are cute and fuzzy and that the best way to love this tiger is to run and hide from it. Under the Darwinian model, it doesn’t matter what belief I have about that tiger, as long as my behaviour is beneficial for survival, so that I may pass on my genes to another generation. Any belief that the objector, to this provides, a valid behaviour can be provided in response. Naturalistic evolution does not have a teleological goal, or end in mind, the belief can be absurd, and it can only be evaluated when manifested as a behaviour.   

Plantinga, Alvin – Knowledge and Christian belief.

Lewis, CS – Miracles.

Flew, Anthony – Dictionary of Philosophy.

Platinga, Alvin – Warrant and Proper Function. 

Geisler, Norman – Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics – Truth, nature of. 

Moreland JP, Craig, William Lane – Philosophical Foundations for a Christian WorldView. 

Hanna, Mark – Biblical Christianity, Truth or Delusion?
For the more interested reader, one may wish to order the Philosophia Christi Journal, volume 14, from November 1 of 2012, where Plantinga develops this argument. CS Lewis develops this argument, however, at a more readable level, in his book on miracles. Plantinga’s “Knowledge and Christian Belief,” is a much more accessible read than his previous books on epistemology, which were intended for graduate level reading.


52 thoughts on “Making Plantinga’s argument more accessible. – Colin Burgess

  1. it seems you take great liberties speaking for philosophers and philosophy itself.

    1) propositions are sentences.
    2) all absolute truths are trivial; axioms, tautology, truism.
    3) propositions do not entail truth.
    4) non trivial “truths” are merely propositions we see as having the most reason to assert; these are deliberated.
    5) logic corresponds to how people think, not to reality.
    6) ALL things are subjective.
    7) objective is not the opposite of subjective.
    8) propositions do not bear truths; you’re mistaking frege’s meaning of “truth-value”.
    9) not all propositions have truth-values; see ayer on metaphysics, for example.
    10) belief is simply an attitudinal disposition toward an SOA.

    i could go on, but these are important for you to understand immediately before pointing out more areas of study that need care.

    1. Steven,

      Before presuming to speak in such a triumphalist tone, perhaps you could take care in noting that you are clearly coming from a perspective of psychologism, which reduces logic to being a construct of the mind not a metaphysical truth. If this were true, it would not be a true law, or a universal, but a particular which describes how people think on average.

      Perhaps you would do better to note philosophers who disagree with you as much as you do those who agree with you. I am aware of how your model sees deficiencies in mine and see no reason to espouse your postulates.

      1. I’m not speaking triumphantly. having spent thirty years in epistemology, be assured, i’ve read more than most and it’s fairly bad form, bordering on rude, to presume my interest in any of this is to support some idea i have in mind before studying at all. perhaps that’s projection?

        there is a fact that we are rational. a fact that ALL logic reduces to absurdity (take entailment in MP among hoards of others). a fact that logic approximates how people think. it is a fact that none of this is reductionism. it is starting with what we can justifiably state as matters of facts. if you want to say there’s something else metaphysical going of, that’s fine, but what’s the warrant?

        “psychologism”? no, it’s “pragmatism”. you know, the basis of most of western epistemology since the late 1800’s.

      2. Pragmatism, as a test for truth, is testing the belief by the results. A desired outcome does not guarantee truth generated the outcome, given many antecedent conditions can generate the same result; take, for instance, ethics.

        The metaphysical justification for the principles of logic being true is that they are not defensible by any prior justification but are self evidently true and defend themselves.

        I do agree, if God does not exist I do not see a viable mechanism to suggest that our minds are geared for logic, even if it is a metaphysical reality. I would agree with you, under non-theistic antecedents, that your outcome would be the result. Even if we had true concepts of logic, and our ideas corresponded to the thing itself, there would be no way of knowing it and psychologism, or even pragmatism, would be our only test.

      3. are you kidding? seriously? pragmatism isn’t a theory of truth! it is the assertion that there is no separating truth from the test of truth, and that given thousands of years of trying to say something about the “nature of truth” but failing to, we ought to change the subject … which is to say, we can’t say anything about capital “T” truth and when we assert something as “true”, we only literally mean “justified in asserting”.

        the test of truth is simply whatever folks agree justifies thinking some sentence achieves its goal in being being uttered at all.

      4. So, truth is determined by counting noses!? An idea becomes true as minds accept it as true, and a true proposition has no counterpart in reality!? Since when is truth an appeal to adherents of an idea.

        Your attempt to reduce truth to the subject makes it a statement about the subject, not the state of affairs. Man is not the measure of all things.

      5. nope. since people do not differ in how they think, and since people want to know what the actual state of affairs is, we’re going to seek out the best means we can to remove or discard bad ideas. we generally agree on means of justification. justification and truth, because of this, become synonymous.

        characterizing pragmatism as you have really sets in my mind your inexperience with epistemology.

      6. Ok, say that the way we think is conventional, as you suggest. Now you are still counting noses to determine truth. There lacks a mechanism to link a thought to a thing and all we’re doing is making statements about ourselves, and just because thousands-billions of people hold to an idea, the idea does not gain value, it could mean that many people are just plain wrong.

        If my characterization of pragmatism is wrong, then offer correction, please.

      7. i offered correction. now, i’ll give you clarity on the bit you seen to want it on.

        yes, many people could just be plain wrong.

        the link between a thought and a thing … i have no idea what you mean. if you mean to invoke or articulate correspondence theory, then i may as well note as a matter of history, that’s a failed enterprise. if all you’re asking is what makes some idea objective, then that’s something we can talk about.

        there is a reality we all share.
        we all want to know SOAs as they are.
        we don’t differ in how we think.

        these are the facts that link sentences to justification, and such sentences to justified belief, which is also abbreviated “knowledge”.

        objectivity is intersubjective agreement. it is agreement first on what filters were going to apply to ideas, and second, what ideas have passed the process.

        what links the thought “the present king of france is named françois” to a “thing”, “france” and “king” and “françois”? nothing, and that’s the problem with the idea of “tercium quid”. there is a perfectly fine sentence, but nothing signified in reality (see decartes’ representationalism, russell’s “on denoting”, or gettier on JTB for examples and objections).

      8. “Pragmatism is a philosophical movement that includes those who claim that an ideology or proposition is true if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning of a proposition is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it, and that unpractical ideas are to be rejected.”

        To avoid misrepresenting your view, as a whole, I found a simplistic definition which seems fairly accurate of what I was saying.
        If results determine truth, then I suppose if you’re trying to get a stubborn rotor off a wheel, or trying to build Ikea furniture, go for it. But does not setting out with a true idea and intentionality generally ensure results? Not all results are equal.
        At best, results serve as a negative test for truth.

        One question: How does appealing to the population to determine truth, as in logic, give it any kind of a prescriptive status or leave room for reform in our thinking–especially since reform involves dissent from the status quo!?

      9. no, because all one sets out to do is understand an SOA … not claim something about an SOA and then go out and try to make it so.

        objectivity is classically just being honest with the affair of truth-telling. this is how we have the phrase “objective opinion”. means of justification are what is a priori some proposition, be that some way of thinking (say, logic for example) or some methodology (science, for example). when we want to assert something as true, we’re not entitled to, objectively, until it is justified via the means we have all accepted.

        again, pragmatism isn’t a theory of truth. it is an assessment of theories of truth. it is noting that all we can say concerning truth is that there are common features of propositions deemed true, one of those being that sentences have goals and those that achieve those goals best are those called true. in other words, yes, a feature about true sentences is that they work. but this is not to say that what makes something true is THAT it works. no pragmatist would suggest that, including rorty. what makes a sentence true is that unlike all other sentences, it seems most justified to assert.

        no pragmatist would suggest either, that truth is determined by numbers. at most, he’d say that idea is simply a bad idea and that it betrays itself as having a predicate of capital “T” truth, as is truth is a thing “out there” rather than “in here” (be that descartes or rorty or putnam). instead, truth is best seen as a grade of propositions in which there are few grades one could give but all having reasons for assignment; true, false, of worth, worthless, incoherent, inconsequential, silly, or just plain uninteresting.

        whether it is a longstanding, traditional idea or something nouveau, it is justification, “reason to assert” that prevails. deliberation is about persuasion, and for rational persons, that means being objective.

      10. Well, your paradigm does seem interesting and I have learned a few things on it in our discussion. It certainly does have some merit, although I see too many deficiencies to accept it as being a good model. I will stick with realism, which asserts there is a link between a thought and a thing, which you wanted clarity on what I meant.
        By “a correspondence between a thought and a thing,” I meant that the Truth, as it exists independent of our theories about it, is what shapes our minds, our minds do not shape the Truth (with a capital T!)

        I can, at most, see pragmatism as a valuable tool for falsification. Once the results are not as desired/anticipated, we can dismiss a model as having any functionality in that regard or correspondence with reality, that or we should proportion our anticipations accordingly.

      11. Colin, there is reality. what you mean by “truth”, capital “T” or not, doesn’t apply to reality. it applies to sentences purporting to describe real states of affairs. and so, what we have learned is that the link between reality and ideas is sentences, and the link between sentences and reality is nil except to say that some sentence is useful for taking about reality in ways no other sentence can or does.

        realism is a dead idea, honestly.

        the question for you would be in this irony: what test could be devised in order to see how some human utterance “corresponds” to reality … because were it even possible, such a thing proves everything the pragmatist notes; that there’s no distinguishing truth from the test of truth, in which case, truth isn’t descriptive of reality but descriptive of a relationship of sentences corresponding to justifications.

        is there a capital “T” truth? maybe, but the irony comes into play here again (and in any case some sentence is asserted). one would have to deliberate, and in deliberation, one would either come to feel justified or unjustified to assert “Truth exists” based on how one tested the assertion for “truth”. that means again, truth and justification are identical.

        as rorty said, it is senseless to ask about the nature of truth, just as it is to ask whether the gods love the pious because they are pious or, whether the pious are pious because the gods love them.

        make sense?

      12. I think, in all of this, the irony is on your end and you are holding two views in tension with each other.
        A proposition is more than a sentence, propositions exist even if no language exists to express them and they are true even if no one believes them. They affirm or deny what a SOA obtains.

        Where the irony lies, on your end, is your negative presupposes a positive. You are making a claim assuming you have objective and outside knowledge that no objective truth exists outside of our own constructs. It is like the opposite of Plato’s cave, but you are still claiming knowledge that is external to your mind and are coming to absolute conclusions. I find this self excepting agnosticism to be self-stultifying, which is why I reject it.

      13. SOAs don’t exist. states exist.

        a proposition is simply: “x [verity] SOA”.

        what on earth do you mean by saying “propositions exist”? propositions are merely sentences that offer narrative “affairs” for some “state”.

        too, how on earth will you demonstrate “propositions exist” much less, “even if no one existed”?

        and in trying to justify that assertion, haven’t you just QEDed my point?

        as it is, i know you’re eager to throw out terms modern apologists use (like presupposition, absolutes, knowledge etc), but these folks using the terms (turek, strobel, van til, sproul) have zero time in epistemology and only perhaps slightly more exposure to philosophy at large. i’m not being mean. i’m stating the obvious case since these ideas have had no traction in these fields of study and the only folks like evangelical fundamentalists (also with no background) think these are significant ideas.

        let me respond this way:

        nothing i’ve said is said in absolution. i have said that truth is relative; not to persons but to justification.

      14. Propositions exist, not as we state them, but top down. Propositions are not to be conflated with the linguistic entities that express them nor do they have extension in time or space. These propositions do not gain truth as they become believed, nor do they lose truth. A true proposition is HAD by the mind, rather than created by the mind.
        Our language makes statements about the SOA, which does exist, but our language is not the SOA itself.
        The strength of realism is that it demarcates between a subject and an object. Without this distinction subjects would make statements about themselves, not necessarily about the object. This results in truth being in the eye of the beholder. I respect your devotion to epistemology and it is, no doubt, a valuable field of study, but you would do well to study metaphysics as well.

        The justification for truth is not found in the masses who affirm or deny it, but it is found in its correspondence with reality.

      15. language is not animated; meaning, language doesn’t “make statements”.

        ideas come to mind because of how reality is and because of how we are. this is the predicate idea of philosophy and psychology. it’s the principle of “place”.

        once again, i nor any pragmatist claim that justification for saying something is true is because lots of people say something is true.

        hear me.

        it is because we don’t differ in how we think as human beings that agreement is possible at all. it is not THAT we agree on something that makes it true. it is because when we seek to understand some SOA, we will agree on what should prove something asserted is assertable at all. this is BEFORE and INDEPENDENT OF any proposition made. objectivity here is that any “perfectly rational person” (in the parlance) would agree that the reasons for asserting have been met with respect to the criteria that existed for any assertion that could be made.

        to put is more sophomorically, reality restricts what is possible to say about reality, but within that swath of possibility, what is said is only limited by our own criteria (ways of thinking, of justifying, etc).

        so, given your insistence on realism, how does one venture to claim some sentence corresponds to reality, much less any statement at all?

      16. I think you need to beef up on Husserl who said psychologism is the death kneel to logic. I do think psychologism is what you are espousing here, even though you may say otherwise. I find your postulates to be unconvincing and do think you are well read, but espouse a model of epistemology that is incoherent, but certainly not due to a lack of intelligence.

      17. You are suggesting that logic is not a normative process of thinking and drawing valid inferences. The way you describe its validity is not in its internal consistency, but based on statistical averages. This view offers no resolute between differing views, and they are only different, but not better or worse than others. If man is the measure of all things, then we have in no way had a discussion about the nature of reality but our own personal moments of reflection.

      18. i’ve never said anything about validity. i have said, whether here or elsewhere, that 1) logic is a formal description of how people think, 2) logic does not entail truth, 3) the predicate of logic is reasonableness, 4) logic proves nothing not demonstrates anything about reality.

        these are non controversial statements.

        man isn’t the “measure” of anything. this betrays a desire to think there are absolutes, standards.

        as far as reality and man is concerned, reality is what it is but if man is going to say anything about reality, man is the only thing doing the measuring, as it were.

      19. 1. Implies psychologism. It is not descriptive, in its true form, it is prescriptive. If it is a description of how we typically think then nothing says why we should think a certain way in the future, but we can only evaluate a true claim after the fact and say why we happened to think a certain way in the past.

        I find myself in agreement with your other points, logic does not necessarily tell us what is actual, only what is possible, such as in possible world semantics. Ontology, the study of being, gives us the SOA which needs to be understood and interpreted, logically.

      20. how on earth is that prescriptive? to say that logic has such and such topology is wholly unlike stating that logic is equal to such and such ontology. of course it’s easy to see where one could make your mistake, it is none the less a mistake and not on any small scale.

        yes, there is nothing to stop us from saying that in the future, we will think a certain way at all, much less, as we do now. that’s completely non sequitur and doesn’t change a thing. again, the idea of “place” necessarily implies that at no point in time can we ever say we are thinking as we once did. that’s because of things like experience, history, culture, problems, goals, etc.

        what remains is the distinction between how we think (ie rationally) and how we’re thinking (ie contingently).

        in the whole of history, your hypothetical is reality! we view prior things believed true as not the case, because we see things differently. but again, that’s not too imply we’re at all that we have different logical principles (though indeed, sometimes we do, and again, that’s an entirely non sequitur conversation).

        does that make sense?

      21. What I am saying is, if logic is a true law then it functions without assistance and without minds to utilize it. It governs our thoughts as do the laws of nature govern the universe.
        What is required is an entity ontologically prior to it to make it a true law. Logic is not true because it is a carefully invented construct, it is true because it is rooted in the nature of God.

        However, if no God exists, then like I said last night, I would be forced to agree with you that logic is a highly refined method that describes the way we happen to think.

        If it is grounded in the existence of a Necessary Being, and our minds are wired to utilize it, then it is prescriptive as I have said.

        I have considered the antithesis to my beliefs here.

      22. Colin, you can use the prefix “true” as much as you like, but what would matter most is a real distinction.

        for instance, a law, insofar as we know them, are all man-made, and are all descriptive and alterable. these would of course be universal, but by necessity not ontology; meaning, we make laws for the purpose of applying them universally… not because they are.

        so if there are two ideas about “law”, we both can certainly talk about it, but i don’t think it’d be demonstrable that law was anything more than this subject, content, fantasy (as husserl himself offers as a counter TO realism), or more than suggesting that whatever else law may be, it is metaphysics and then a “hand without rules”, to quote dennett, or to abandon fregean truth-value thinking for kierkegaardian/neitzschean existential “resonance” (“truth” of being) value, in rortian terms.

      23. I tried to prefix truth as being a proposition that picks out what a SOA obtains, but you arbitrarily deny that any SOA exists, for whatever reason. A false proposition would fail to find a counterpart in reality.

        Let SOA be any actually existing whole that is governed by the rules of predication or exemplification.

      24. what does a sentence obtain … that’s the question. i would say it obtains understanding how we are thinking of an SOA given “for all we know”. you are going to of course say truth is obtained, but the question is what truth is then, and how do you have more than a fiat of it.


      25. I would suppose there still is a difference between a thought and a thing, but our thoughts can be closely linked to the thing as they are shaped by reality. This is as far as inductivism goes. There are deductive absolutes which are a priori and self evidently true. There is no prior experience that can falsify them, nor are there prior justifications. We use these principles and apply them to our study of reality.

      26. let me be clearer … the reason it is non sequitur is because the human race moves into the future together, and so, whether or not we retain our current ways of thinking or later develop a completely new way of thinking, totally discarding the old ways of thinking, we still assess what is true via our shared way of thinking.

        it would after all be more shocking to find an alien species who thought like humans do than the expectation they be very dissimilar. at least, those in AI, psychology, and those others concerning themselves with theories of mind, as i do and that i know, tend to want to find one more of a surprise than the other case.

      27. When you use language like “retaining our ways of thinking,” this specifically implies psychologism and you are, once again, counting noses to determine truth. I don’t need to see a show of hands to know contradictories are not true and even if I were the only one in the world who believed it the law of non-contradiction is immutable and I would still be right.

      28. sigh.

        fact: humans reason the same way. justification: intersubjective agreement and the ability to formulate a formal description of how humans do; ie logic.

        i don’t know how many times it would take for you to get that i’m saying objectivity isn’t in how MANY agree, but THAT we agree and it is contingent to the REASONS we agree.

      29. Objectivity is independent of us agreeing. All us agreeing, even our reasons, proves is that there is a high degree of probability an idea is true.

        People once had good reasons for holding to a flat earth and there was mass consensus. Their reasons were good for the time they lived and the information available to them, but an examination of the SOA forced us to concede to the facts which were mind independent.

      30. ummmm, no. that’s what WLC would like folks to believe, but no. no epistemologist i know would contend that’s the proper definition or especially the only.

      31. I don’t believe it because WLC or any other philosopher holds to it, I hold to it because it is coherent and true. Cite all the numbers and polls you want, people holding to a wrong idea are still wrong. Defend the idea, contend for your beliefs and demonstrate how they are coherent.

      32. coherence is no marker of what is true. i’m saying that in the field, none have this definition in mind. it begs the question of both WLC and you as to why you disagree and on what grounds you feel entitled to claim “it is true”.

        as for the rest … what I’m the world do you think i’ve been doing … all the while, your counters are merely dismissals and assertions that i’m wrong or something else is right. i mean, you are not and have not expressed anything in such a way as to suggest you’ve even studied the topic.

      33. Colin, for me, just on the most basic level, your paper has no citations or specific references not does it take itself and critique itself and i simply can follow behind each statement and offer reasons to discard what’s said, or rethink something said, or as provisos and so forth. but mostly, i read in order to indeed find out what you’ve studied and to what extent. that information was not there to be discovered.

        again, you’ve been seeing my mind on the issue all along, so, i don’t think that’s an important question anymore. what is more telling is whether or not at this point in time you feel there is one philosophy that is unassailable or that there is one “ultimate sentence to which all others aspire”, some final language for any given SOA?

        the answer should be, epistemically speaking, “no”, though from the queer tic in humanity, we may expect a hopeful feeling it may all be possible after all in the by and by.

      34. Excuse the lack of citations, I did include a suggested further reading at the end of each section. That is an early paper which I intend to upgrade again, and will provide more objections.

        No, I do not consider any philosophy unassailable. I find many paradigms lacking in one way or another and paradigms I disagree with I find they have strengths that call mine into question.
        Philosophy, as a second order discipline, is a mechanism which allows us to interact with other minds, even if they no longer exist–ie: The Bible, Aristotle and so forth. The subjective element in constructing a model of reality is unavoidable and we, the observer, cannot be factored out. Ultimately, at some point, we the inquisitor become part of the inquisition.
        This discussion has led me to challenge my views on pragmatism, although for reasons given (even if you disagree with them) I cannot accept it totally, but will incorporate the strengths I have found in its usage in my big paper, the time seems appropriate since I have less on my plate now and have learned much since last posting it.

      35. yes, by the way. facts are, if we only mean by “fact”, “something apparent”, mind-independent … but how they are perceived is completely contingent to minds.

        and when deliberating what some case is, we only have our perceptions, not any “ding an sich”.

      36. True, the facts or data do not interpret themselves and no observation is independent of an observer. This is why we evaluate the data using universal truths, such as logic and quantify it using mathematics. This is the value of positivism is that it, as much as possible, attempts to factor out the human/subjective element in the process of discovery. Although, positivism is not without its problems, as a total worldview.

      37. A universal truth is that which is not subjectively true. An emotion or a preference is a particular, but this does not make it untrue. Logic is universal and true in all possible worlds.

      38. truth is a word and everything is subjective, and objective is not the opposite of subjective. again, these are not controversial statements.

        logic is not universal. logic has nothing at all to do with truth, and had nothing to do at all with reality.

        and, i didn’t imagine folks were still employing medieval modal logic these days. 😉

        these are verbal fiats about truth. what is truth and, what is an EXAMPLE of a universal truth that’s not an axiom, a tautology, a truism. logic is not an example because it is in its entirety, a tautologous language of axiomatic structure, just as math is.

      39. True, objective is not the opposite of subjective, but objective truth is universal and subjective truth can also be had by multiple minds and once, but a subjective truth is not necessarily held by multiple minds. One may be happy about a sports team losing, the other can be sad, for example.

        True, logic is much like mathematics, in that it is a necessary truth and if the premises are true the conclusion necessarily follows.

        Medieval modal logic is where it’s at. Lol.

      40. what has objectivity to do with universality? 2+2 is not universal and has contexts. in base 10, the answer is 4, but in base 4, the answer is 10.

        taking about logical necessity has nothing to do with actuality, i should caution. we can easily craft things such that there exists a logically necessary truth, but is actually false in reality. the term limits itself to logic alone. see gettier, quine, peirce, russell and most other analytic philosophers.

        and, i suppose i should get out my chainmaille in that case. 😉

      41. sorry … wasn’t done but my phone thought i was. 😉

        i have said that knowledge is justified belief.

        i have said belief is an attitudinal disposition toward some SOA.

        i have said a proposition is a set of sentences which offer a conclusion one with thinks “is the case” or “is not the case” (generally, as one can withhold judgement, think the P is nonsense, etc).

        agnosticism, to be clear, is the position that nothing can be known about transcendent beings; given our frame of reference for all thought is the reality god transcends … which folks like fr. herbert mccabe in “god matters”, norm geisler in “systematic theology volume i, a.j. ayer in LTL, and george in “atheism: the case against god” all agree on.

      42. I think I see where we disagree. I hold belief to be justified as true knowledge. I have knowledge about ideas which I do not give the state of belief to. I have found no justification for certain items of knowledge to be acted on as true.

        Agnosticism can be taken and extended to non-transcendent items, such as the nature of reality. Some are agnostic about the knowability of reality, which is self defeating.

      43. “true knowledge” is a “true scotsman”.

        knowledge is the set “all beliefs we justifiably hold as being the case”.

        and not that i particularly want to go down this rabbit hole, but let me caution you in that when folks say something is a “self-defeating”, it’s usually not and what is offered is a poor cartoon of a sketch of what “it” is actually claiming and why. here, that’s agnosticism.

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