Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Genetic Fallacy: Critical Race Theory's Indispensable Tool [Pt.1]

by Hiram R. Diaz III

§ I. Whose Fallacy is it Anyway?

Whereas proponents of Critical Race Theory (hereafter, CRT) once claimed that “social justice contras”1 were ignorantly protesting CRT, they are now claiming that our criticisms are fallacious forms of genetic reasoning.2 Given that this latter accusation is a tacit admission that we are not ignorant of CRT, it follows that CRT proponents are the ones who are arguing fallaciously by moving the goalposts. The fallacy of moving the goalposts is committed when a speaker/writer demands that his debate opponent meet some criterion, but changes the criterion to be met when his opponent has met his initial demand. In the case of CRT’s incompatibility with Christianity, consider the following example –
Person A – “If you want me to take your arguments against CRT seriously, then you need to prove to me that you know what you’re talking about.” 
Person B – “CRT is x. It originated with y, was passed down through z, and is now held primarily by people from w.” 
Person A – “That’s all well and good, but how can I take your arguments against CRT seriously when you haven’t sufficiently demonstrated a link between CRT and the possibility of it being anti-Christian?”
This example of moving the goalposts, moreover, is only one level of fallacious counter-reasoning by proponents of CRT, for we have elsewhere shown quite clearly how CRT’s philosophical underpinnings are inseparable from its use as an “analytical tool.”3 What is argued against by the CRT proponent, therefore, is a straw man. Furthermore, the accusation that opponents of CRT have committed the genetic fallacy is ironic, given that CRT’s foundational assumptions are prime examples of the genetic fallacy.

In what follows, we will demonstrate how CRT is built and thrives upon the genetic fallacy. Additionally, it will be demonstrated from Scripture itself that some forms of genetic reasoning are not fallacious, and that our criticism of CRT falls under this category of valid genetic reasoning.

§ II. The Genetic Fallacy, Genealogical Analysis, & CRT

According to philosopher Frank Scalambino,
One commits the genetic fallacy (GnF) when advocating for a conclusion based solely on origin. This is a fallacy of relevance – irrelevance, really – because the origin of a claim may be irrelevant to its truth‐value. That is to say, providing an account of the genesis of a claim, its history or origin, may be informative and helpful; however, it need not determine the truth‐value of the claim. Therefore, when one draws a conclusion regarding the truth‐value of a claim based solely on the origin of the claim, then one may have committed the GnF.4
Scalambino’s explanation of the fallacy is particularly helpful, for he specifically identifies the theories of Michel Foucault and Sigmund Freud, two of CRT’s main philosophical progenitors, as utilizing the fallacy. Scalambino –
...Freud’s critique of religion involves tracing the genesis of religious belief for the sake of identifying a “wish” that such belief might be understood as fulfilling. That is to say, given the manner in which, when essentially helpless, children may be said to simultaneously fear parental figures while hoping for care from them, Freud identifies such a relation as the origin of later religious belief. 
Though...Freud’s genetic account may successfully propagate suspicion regarding religious belief and perhaps raise reasonable doubts, it does not necessitate that religious claims are false. Hence, were one to conclude in favor of atheism on the grounds of Freud’s argument, then one would be drawing a conclusion from fallacious reasoning. Similarly, Michel Foucault’s...genealogies regarding the claims upon which various societal institutions and conventions stand may also be seen in this light. That is to say, even considering knowledge and belief as social phenomena, illuminating the history upon which a social practice has emerged does not necessitate the falsehood of the principle for which it stands... 
Moreover, similar to the ability of Freud’s genetic accounts to provoke or incite suspicion, indicating the presence or absence of particular social practices among other historical periods or cultures may be helpful for illuminating different perspectives regarding current social practices; however, even convincingly showing the genesis of current social practices does not determine the truth‐value of claims that form the foundation of such practices.5
This kind of reasoning is fallacious because, as Kevin C. Klement explains,
...such things as the identity of who makes a statement, has a belief or advances an argument, and what brings him, her or them to do so are all taken to be generally irrelevant to a statement’s truth or an argument’s soundness. Whether or not a statement or belief is true is entirely a matter of its content.
If an argument is valid and has true premises, the argument is sound, regardless of the culture, class, race, gender, sexual orientation and political motives of the person advancing it, and regardless of the historical circumstances in which it is advanced.6
This is an elementary fallacy to commit, yet as noted above this kind of thinking, far from being uncommon in the history of philosophy and its cousin disciplines,7 has been the root fallacy at work in the writings of the philosophers and thinkers central to CRT’s core assumptions.

By his appropriation and transformation of Paul Rée’s genealogical method of analyzing morality8 Friedrich Nietzsche sought to demonstrate that traditional values and beliefs in religion and philosophy were not truths revealed by “N”ature or the Christian God, or any deity for that matter, but inextricably historically rooted social constructions. As Ken Gemes notes, Nietzsche thought that “all our beliefs [are] thoroughly conditioned,”9 perspectives that are irreducibly “human, all to human.” The philosophical and religious “will to truth” – whether in the realms of ethics, epistemology, or metaphysics – was viewed by the philosopher as a means of concealing a more primordial “will to power.” Gemes explains that according to Nietzsche,
In believing we are not reporting how the world is; rather, we are prescribing a way of looking at the world, a means for furthering a particular form of life. To bring others to share one's views is not to bring them into harmony with the pre-existing order; it is to create the very order one is allegedly describing…
While Nietzsche says that all will to truth is a will to power, in the case of his “genuine philosophers” it is a will to power that recognizes itself as such. In the case of others, for instance, Christians, it is, according to Nietzsche, a will that does not recognize itself as a will to power, preferring to hide itself with a pretense of disinterested, passive objectivity.10
Nietzsche sought to lay bare the human all to human basis for concepts and values that have been understood to be “just there” or revealed by God through by tracing the historical roots of those concepts and values.

As noted above, Freud sought to do the same in the realm of religious belief as a psychologist, and Foucault sought to do the same in his assessment of social institutions as a whole, specifically focusing in on educational and carceral institutions.11 With respect to Foucault, one of the more important sources of CRT’s foundational assumptions, Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rainbow write –
[Foucault] argues that modern power is tolerable on the condition that it masks itself – which it has done very effectively. If truth is outside of and opposed to power, then the speaker’s benefit is merely an incidental plus. But if truth and power are not external to each other, as Foucault obviously...maintains, then the speaker’s benefit and associated ploys are among the essential ways in which modern power operates. It masks itself by producing a discourse, seemingly opposed to it but really part of a larger deployment of modern power.12
Since knowledge, including moral and legal knowledge, serves to conceal other aims – namely, the aims of power – then it follows that the only way to deal with an offered philosophical, religious, ethical, or legal proposition or set of propositions is by subjecting that proposition or set of propositions to a genealogical analysis. Finding the origin of the proposition or set of propositions will result in validation or invalidation of the proposition or set of propositions.

It is this genealogical method of analysis, in psychology and history, that was brought first into Critical Legal Studies, and then into Critical Race Theory. As Nietzsche, Freud, and Foucault taught, CRT maintains that belief, values, and truths are not “just there” in “N”ature or divinely revealed – either by means of direct, indirect, general, or special revelation – but are socially constructed. They are means of exercising power. For as Farber and Sherry accurately relay, in CRT proponents “knowledge and power are...conflated.”13 Consequently, as was the case with Nietzsche and Freud and Foucault, in CRT the origin of a particular proposition or moral declamation is fundamental to judging the value of that proposition. For
...knowledge is intensely personal. Personal perspective, however, is not individual. Instead, it is based on membership in a group. Like everything else, knowledge is also political in the sense that it is a method of maintaining established hierarchies. Knowledge thus cannot be evaluated apart from the social roles—and, in particular, the race and gender—of those who claim to know.14
CRT proponents
...believe...that western ideas and institutions are socially constructed to serve the interests of the powerful, especially straight, white men. This leads them to attack such core concepts as truth, merit, and the rule of law...attack[ing] the concepts of reason and objective truth, condemning them as components of white male domination.15
Hence, “the idea of reason cannot be understood in the absence of the background knowledge about power relationships,”16 What was part and parcel of Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity, Reason, Truth, and Objectivity became part and parcel of Freud and Foucault’s critique of History, Society, Reason, Truth, and Objectivity. And it is the driving methodology of CRT. For Nietzsche, Freud, Foucault, and CRT proponents the genetic fallacy is an indispensable tool.17

[To be continued in Pt.2]

1 The term “social justice contras” refers to Christian opponents of the evangelical appropriation of CRT and its attendant social justice concerns, in which the present author is included.
2 Let the reader note that this is not a new tactic, but one that has been taken several years ago as well. For instance, see Smith, William H. “I Think I’ve Been Intellectually Snobbed,” The Aquila Report,, April 4, 2017.
3 See Diaz, Hiram R. “The AntiChristian Roots of Critical Race Theory,” InvoSpec,; Diaz, Hiram R. “Is Critical Race Theory AntiChristian? Yes.,” Biblical Trinitarian,
4 “Genetic Fallacy” in Bad Arguments: 100 of the Most Important Fallacies in Western Philosophy, eds. Robert Arp, Steven Barbone, and Michael Bruce (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2019), 160.
5 Bad Arguments, 161. (emphasis added)
6 “When is Genetic Reasoning Not Fallacious?” in Argumentation: An International Journal on Reasoning 16 (2002), 385. (emphasis added)
7 e.g. psychology, literary criticism, literary theory, etc.
8 See Coy, David C. “Nietzsche, Hume, and the Genealogical Method,” in Nietzsche as Affirmative Thinker: Papers Presented at the Fifth Jerusalem Philosophical Encounter, ed. Yovel Yirmiyahu (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1986), 20-38.
9 “Nietzsche’s Critique of Truth” in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research Vol. 52, No.1 (March: 1992), 51.
10 Nietzsche’s Critique of Truth, 52. (emphasis added)
11 Some have argued against the claim that Nietzsche and Foucault were guilty of committing the genetic fallacy, however a strong case may be made that these counter-arguments are guilty of special pleading. On this matter, see Koopman, Collin. “Two Uses of Genealogy: Michel Foucault and Bernard Williams” in Foucault’s Legacy ed. C. G. Prado (New York: Continuum, 2009), 90-108; Evans, Fred. “Genealogy and The Problem of Affirmation in Nietzsche, Foucault and Bakhtin” in Philosophy and Social Criticism Vol. 27 No. 3 (2001), 41-65; and Kleiman, Lowell. “Pashman on Freud and the Genetic Fallacy” in Southern Journal of Philosophy (Spring: 1970), 63-65.
12 Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics 2nd Edition (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1983), 130.
13 Farber, Daniel A., Sherry, Suzanna. Beyond All Reason: The Radical Assault on Truth in American Law (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 31.
14 ibid., 29.
15 ibid., 5.
16 ibid., 28.
17 Regarding Foucault’s influence on CRT, Farber and Sherry further explain –
In addition to their focus on race, gender, and sexuality, the new radical multiculturalists [including the Critical Race Theorists] expanded the core ideas of CLS [i.e. Critical Legal Studies] by emphasizing the thought of French postmodernists such as Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. This meant extending the insight that law is socially constructed into an argument that everything is socially constructed. 
Although CLS was mostly interested in indeterminacy as a way of threatening law's legitimacy, the new radicals were more concerned with how indeterminacy conceals racism and sexism. This view had its roots in another strand of CLS scholarship. Although CLS scholarship had often focused on the inevitable incoherence of legal doctrine, some critical legal scholars also suggested that indeterminacy allowed judges to combine progressive-sounding rhetoric with oppressive results. Thus, legal discourse “conceals and reinforces relations of domination.” The late Alan Freeman, for example, argued in one of the earliest CLS articles that antidiscrimination law actually undermined the cause of racial equality and legitimated discrimination...The radical multiculturalists focused on this legitimating function of law, finding confirmation in Foucault's writings. Where some had found doctrinal incoherence, the new radicals found instead a deliberate concentration of power in the white male establishment. Law (as well as everything else) is constructed by the powerful to maintain and enhance their own power. Derrick Bell, for instance, argues that Brown v. Board of Education actually served the interests of whites at least as much as it furthered the interests of blacks. Indeed, he contends that as a general matter, “the interest of blacks in achieving racial equality will be accommodated only when it converges with the interests of whites.” Radical feminist Robin West contends that our legal, political, and social cultures are “pervasively misogynist.” The radicals thus focus on the roles played by race and gender in the social construction of reality. Their mission is to expose the specific power relations that underlie legal doctrine and practice.
Beyond All Reason, 22-23. (emphasis added)

Monday, June 3, 2019

Irenaeus on the Trinity [Review]

Trinitarian apologists are often accused of quote-mining the patristic authors for anything that seems to bear a resemblance to succinct formulations of the doctrine of the Trinity in later, pro-Nicene writers. The fact is, however, that while some Christian apologists engage in that kind of superficial reasoning, not all of us do. Some of us go back to the sources themselves and then diligently search contemporary scholarship to gain a better understanding of how they and their colleagues interpret the fathers, and why they it is they affirm or deny a given father holds to one of the cardinal doctrines of the faith. Some of us understand that scholarship often times is driven by philosophical commitments that are assumed to be true and, therefore, are functioning as the grounding of all subsequent conclusions surrounding the church fathers and what they could or could not have known and, by implication, what they did or did not teach directly or indirectly in their texts. The doctrine of the Trinity is one of those doctrines whose complexity over time has led unbelieving scholars to conclude that it is not deducible from the Scriptures but was, instead, the hybrid offspring of Neo-Platonism and Aristotelianism as funneled through later church fathers who would write on the subject. But as Jackson Lashier’s book Irenaeus on the Trinity makes evident, this is not the case.

In fact, Lashier’s work helps us see that the closer one’s theology is tied to the Scriptures, the more clear he is in articulating what is essentially a pre-Nicea pro-Nicene form of Trinitarianism, complete with a distinction between the ontological and economic Trinity. By contrasting the philosophical terminology of Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, and Theophilus of Antioch surrounding the ad intra and ad extra personal relations of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit to one another with Irenaeus’ Biblically constrained language of God’s “two hands,” one readily sees that the former is more prone to misinterpretation than the latter. That is to say, the earlier fathers’ language regarding the Son and the Spirit as the 2nd and 3rd divine “entities” lent itself to the ontological subordinationism and hierarchy within the divine essence/Godhead that Irenaeus’ Gnostic opponents had built into a complex hierarchical ontology of aeonic emanations. Thus, Lashier argues that Irenaeus’ departure from the nomenclature of Justin, Athenagoras, and Theophilus (in most cases) is not due to his lack of a doctrine of the ontological and economic Trinity (a claim which some scholars have advanced over the past 100 years or so), but is due to his desire to employ the language of Scripture in order to avoid bearing a superficial resemblance to the subordinationist theology of the Gnostics.

What is more, by avoiding the Platonic notion of orders of being, or ranking of being, Irenaeus is able to show the equality of the divine persons from the Scriptural teaching that creation, redemption, and restoration are all solely the works of God, and yet they are acts attributed to the Father and the Son and the Spirit. The Father and Son and Spirit all create, all redeem, and all restore – they are perfectly equal, differing only in their ad intra and ad extra relations to one another.

Lashier is, of course, careful not to use later terminology developed at Nicea and beyond, lest his readers suppose he is reading back into Irenaeus’ writing orthodox Christian doctrine that wouldn’t come into being until a few hundred years later. Rather than speaking of the ad intra and ad extra relations of the divine persons, Lashier speaks of Irenaeus’ understanding the relation of the divine “entities” to one another before in creating, redeeming, and restoring all things. This is helpful not only in clearing Lashier of any charges that he is reading back into Irenaeus, but also in understanding that the specific terminology could very well be changed without affecting the substance of the doctrine. This means that Irenaeus’ doctrine of the Trinity may be translated without much difficulty into Nicene terminology, which further implies that the closer the fathers remained to the Scriptures, the more clearly they articulated a doctrine of the Trinity that is nearly identical to what we find articulated in the later in church history by pro-Nicene theologians.

Some attention is paid to the hermeneutical practices of each of these early church teachers, with some attention also given to several key texts which have a long history of being interpreted as articulating the doctrine of God’s Triunity, despite being parts of the Old Testament. For instance, the presence of the Voice of God in the garden of Eden is identified as the Logos, as is every instance of God personally speaking to individuals face to face (e.g. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Manoah, Samuel, etc). Similarly, Abraham’s meeting with Yahweh at the tents of Mamre (cf. Gen 18) was interpreted as the Lord meeting with his two “angels,” or “two hands,” an interpretation that is found much later in St. Augustine’s De Trinitate as well.

Unlike the philosophical depictions of the Trinity given by Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, and Theophilus, Irenaeus’ exposition of the Scripture brings the three persons into relief, compromising neither their undivided essence and attributes nor their distinct relations to one another (ad intra) and toward the creation (ad extra). Irenaeus on the Trinity is a helpful tool for the scholar, or pastor, or academically inclined Christian who wants to deepen his knowledge of church history and its more well known figures. It also is helpful in providing Christians with an understanding of how the church fathers approached Scriptural interpretation, a process which involved interpreting all of Scripture in light of all of Scripture.

You can find Lashier’s dissertation on the same subject for free here.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Contra Atheism [Pt. 4]

§ VII. Is God Real?

Consequently, atheism is only intelligible iff God is real; but if atheism is intelligible, then God is real, and atheism is necessarily false. This means that given atheism, atheism is logically possible but ontologically impossible. The assertion “God is not real” is proof that he is, in fact, real, and it implies that the atheist knows this to be true. This is so because he utilizes universal truths – e.g. the laws of identity, non-contradiction, excluded middle, deductive inference, etc – which he believes will lead him to objective truth – i.e. knowledge of things as they are apart from his subjective apprehension of them. If the atheist truly does not view the laws above mentioned as anything more than social constructs, then he can offer his opinion about theism, as well as his opinions on any other matter – including, in fact, his opinions concerning what reality is – but he cannot hope to come to know the truth about theism or atheism, or any other matter. Professing himself to be wise, he has become a fool.

§ VIII. Concluding Remarks

In his paper “Atheism,” philosopher Gordon H. Clark, in accord with the view expressed by the present author, wrote the following –
At first it may seem strange that knowledge of what God is more important than knowledge that God is. His essence or nature being more important than his existence may seem unusual. Existentialists insist that existence precedes essence. Nevertheless, competent Christians disagree for two reasons. First, we have seen that pantheists identify god with the universe. What is god? —the universe. The mere fact that they use the name god for the universe and thus assert that god "exists" is of no help to Christianity
The second reason for not being much interested in the existence of God is somewhat similar to the first. The idea existence is an idea without content. Stars exist—but this tells us nothing about the stars; mathematics exists—but this teaches us no mathematics; hallucinations also exist. The point is that a predicate, such as existence, that can be attached to everything indiscriminately tells us nothing about anything. A word, to mean something, must also not mean something. For example, if I say that some cats are black, the sentence has meaning only because some cats are white. If the adjective were attached to every possible subject—so all cats were black, all stars were black, and all politicians were black, as well as all the numbers in arithmetic, and God too—then the word black would have no meaning. It would not distinguish anything from something else. Since everything exists, exists is devoid of information. That is why the Catechism asks, What is God? Not, Does God exist?1
Clark understood that the question of God’s “existence” needed to be clarified in order to be understood and addressed. Once this is done, it is plain to see that atheists are not concerned with the “existence” of God but with his “reality.” This “reality” must be defined as well, but for the atheist there is no way of justifying a concept of such an objective “reality.” Apart from a non-empirical, disembodied, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, omnipresent mind, the universal truths requisite to cogent reasoning and speculation in the matters of metaphysics, epistemology, and even science do not “exist,” i.e. are not “real.” They are, instead, mere assertions whose truth value is uncritically accepted by the atheist in his complaints against Christianity.

In his attempt to identify God as unreal, the atheist turns to creation and imbues it with divinity. Not only does matter become the source of all power, all order, all modes of being, all knowledge, all history, whose ever evasive essence can only be known by a process of negative abstraction from reflection on physical things (i.e. the via negativa) – it becomes the teleological terminus of all of the atheist’s thinking and acting. Whereas Christianity loudly proclaims Soli Deo Gloria!, the atheist affirms Solam Materiam Gloria! And by so doing confirms that his lack of belief in other gods, including the one true God, does not indicate that he lacks belief in all gods. For the atheist, there is only one ontological entity greater than which none may be conceived; and that entity we all know as Matter.

1 “Atheism,” Trinity Foundation,, Accessed April 25, 2019.