Saturday, May 4, 2019

Contra Atheism [Pt. 3]

by Hiram R. Diaz III


§ V. Disambiguating “Existence”

Having demonstrated that the popular definition of atheism as a lack of belief in gods is untenable, we may now return to the question of existence. As we mentioned earlier on, assertions like “x exists” are either tautologous or non-tautologous. If they are tautologous, they are asserting nothing more than the proposition “This logical subject of predication is this logical subject of predication” or “x is x.” If they are non-tautologous, they are signifying some undefined property by the word exists. Assuming that the atheist intends to communicate something non-contradictory when he denies the existence of God, we must seek to understand what he means by the term exists.

As we begin, let us note that if by saying “There is no God” the atheist means “God cannot be empirically verified” or “There is no empirical being to which the term God properly applies” then he is confusing categories. As the London Baptist Confession of 1689, following the teaching of Scripture, states –
The Lord our God is…a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions.
The lack of empirical evidence for a being who is immaterial does not demonstrate that there is no such immaterial being. Some atheists will retort that immateriality is problematic, for it seems to allow us to affirm that there are other immaterial beings in addition to God. This, however, is neither a logical nor ontological problem. It is a problem for the materialist who believes that “existence” is synonymous with an empirically verifiable material instantiation of a given entity. But arguing against the idea that there is a God on such a basis is an exercise in fallacious, circular reasoning.

What does the atheist mean by the proposition “There is no God”? Given that he cannot say that a lack of empirical evidence regarding a non-empirical being is proof that there is no such being, we can only conclude that his proposition means “There is no non-fictional being to which the term God properly applies.” More to the point, the atheist’s belief is that God is not real. Unlike the unclear assertion that “God does not exist,” the proposition “God is not real” asserts that a particular logical subject [viz. God] is merely conceptual [i.e. is not real].” And while this is much clearer, it still suffers from a host of problems which we will now examine.

1. The Problem of Objectivity

The atheist’s belief that God is “not real” (i.e. does not “exist”) presupposes that there is a reality which he and theists can and do know. And given that he assumes he and theists know this reality, he is further assuming that reality is objective, i.e. that its constituent objects and attributes are what they are independently of his or the theist’s subjective apprehension of them. What is real, then, is that which corresponds to the collection of objects and attributes that are what they are independently of our subjective apprehension of them. For the atheist, God does not correspond to the collection of objects an attributes that are what they are independently of our subjective apprehension of them. Therefore, he believes that God is not real.

This reasoning is self-contradictory, for the act of scrutinizing any given entity is necessarily subjective. To put the matter clearly – One can only scrutinize a given entity by means of subjective apprehension. If one can only affirm as objectively real that which is what it is apart from one’s subjective apprehension of it, then one cannot affirm anything as real. This necessarily implies that the atheist cannot even affirm that there is an objective reality, for how could he verify that there is a collection of objects and attributes that are what they are apart from his subjective apprehension of them if he can only subjectively apprehend them?

The common reply to this is that the atheist can affirm certain entities as real by appealing to the testimony of others. However, this merely moves the problem backward by a step. For the atheist would still need to subjectively apprehend the testimony of others. He would not be obtaining knowledge about anything objective, therefore, by subjectively apprehending the testimony of others. And this introduces another problem.

2. The Problem of Other Minds

The problem of objectivity, as we have noted already, is not solved by appealing to the testimony of others. What’s more, appealing to the testimony of others presupposes that others have minds, and this is something that cannot be verified empirically either. One may attempt to sidestep this problem by asserting that the actions of other individuals necessarily signify that those individuals, like oneself, have a mind. But upon what basis? While some of the atheist’s physical activities may signify his correlative mental activities, this says nothing about the physical activities of others. How can the atheist know that the physical activities of others signify correlative mental activities? Upon what basis does the atheist believe that his own physical activities signify to others that he has a mind simultaneously performing correlative mental activities?

Given the problem of objectivity, he has no basis for believing that his actions signify to others at all. He believes that he knows his bodily activities correlate to his mental activities. And we may grant him that, for the sake of argument. But to extend this reality to others steps beyond what he claims to have empirical evidence for, namely the body-as-mind-signifier theory that undergirds his belief that one can observe the actions of another individual and soundly infer therefrom that he has a mind.

3. Other Problems of Induction

As atheism rejects the reality of an all knowing mind who is capable of revealing, and who has revealed, universal truths to men, it follows that universal affirmative and negative propositions are only approximately universal. Consequently, an atheist’s deductions from assumed universal propositions are always only approximately universal. Moreover, these approximations to universality are determined by the atheist himself who, by rejecting divine revelation, must determine the parameters of his inductions. These parameters, however, must also be determined by the atheist, leading to an infinite regress of such determinations, resulting with the atheist’s inability to justifiably assert any universal proposition to be or not be the case. The atheist, therefore, cannot claim to deductively prove any proposition he holds as true. Rather, his deductions are hypotheses given the inductive parameters he has arbitrarily established. The atheist is limited to inductive reasoning, in other words, which is even more of a problem for the following reasons.

a. Inductive Reasoning Implies Knowledge of at Least One Universal – This universal is what we may call the axiom of induction. It is the necessary presupposition that property sharing entities constitute a class. This axiom lies at the foundation of all induction, but it cannot be established by induction without the atheist already employing it. The axiom is a true proposition, and this is a problem for the atheist. For to whom does the truth belong? Whose mind is the source of this proposition? It cannot be the atheist, for the atheist is limited in what he knows, as well as in how he can possibly come to know what he knows, and the axiom of induction is a true universal proposition that cannot be established by means of induction.

b. Induction is Secondary to Deduction from the Axiom of Induction – Given that induction presupposes the axiom of induction, it follows that every induction proceeds upon the basis of a prior necessary deduction from the axiom of induction. The set of particulars from which the atheist desires to draw conclusions is generated by a deduction from the axiom of induction, namely –
All property sharing entities constitute a set.
A, B, C...n+1 are property sharing entities
Therefore, A, B, C...n+1 constitute a set.
The deduction of a set from the axiom of induction, therefore, precedes all induction. This elementary observation has profound implications, for it necessarily implies that the laws of inference precede induction and cannot be justified by an appeal to inductive arguments, for every induction follows from the deduction of sets from the axiom of deduction.

c. Deductive Set Generation Implies the Priority of the Laws of Logic & Deductive Inference – It is not problematic for the atheist merely that an axiom precedes the atheist’s attempt to draw inductive inferences, nor is it problematic for the atheist merely that a necessary deduction precedes his inductive reasoning. What is even more problematic for the atheist here is the fact that set generation depends upon the laws of logic – viz. the law of identity, the law of non-contradiction, and the law of the excluded middle – as well as the rules of inference. The laws identity, non-contradiction, and excluded middle, as well as the rules by which we may know if our deductively drawn conclusions are valid or invalid are propositions that precede the minds of all men. To whom, therefore, do these ideas belong?

§ VI. Does the Atheist Have Justification for his Belief?

Now that we have cleared away the brush from the atheist’s ambiguous language, we may ask –
Does the atheist have justification for asserting that God is not real?
No, he does not. This is so for the reasons we have established above, which we will now summarize very briefly.
1. The atheist does not, and cannot, have access to objective reality if he is confined to empirico-inductive reasoning. Because he cannot, and does not, have access to objective reality, he has no basis for believing that there is a collection of objects and attributes that are what they are apart from his subjective apprehension of them.

2. The atheist cannot verify that there is an objective reality, moreover, by appealing to the testimony of others. Because he has no access to objective reality, he can only subjectively apprehend the testimony of others. He also cannot justify his belief that these other minds are themselves objectively real, since he is not identical to them. He presupposes that his bodily activity correlates to his mental activity, with the body serving as a signifying mechanism to himself and others, but he cannot say that the same is true of others. Thus, even an appeal to the physical activities of others does not prove that they have minds like his own. He is, in the final analysis, confined to his subjectivity.

3. Inductive reasoning proceeds upon the basis of (a.) the axiom of induction, (b.) the deductive generation of sets, (c.) the laws of identity, non-contradiction, and excluded middle, and (d.) the laws of deductive inference. The axiom of induction, the deductive generation of sets – i.e. the discursive application of the laws of identity, non-contradiction, excluded middle, and deductive inference – are all immaterial content. Prior to induction, therefore, there are propositions that can be understood by finite minds, but which cannot be generated by finite minds.
In summation, the atheist’s belief that “God is not real” is one that he can only make by first presupposing that there is a mind that possesses and has generated universal truths apart from which man’s thinking cannot even get off of the ground. The atheist is not only unable to assert that God is not real, he is unable to assert that there is such a thing as reality at all.

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