Around the Blogosphere 4-14-05

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First: how are people finding me this week?

Biggest search event of the week: Someone with my name died Friday night, and I've been getting scores of searches every hour for it. That's what I get for monopolizing the Google ratings for my name. I've had to check my sitemeter every couple hours if I don't want to miss anything. I don't mind getting more traffic if it's people wanting to read my stuff, but this is just from frustrated people who can't find what they're looking for. At least people began to leave comments to help them after a bit.

Unfortunate misspelling of the week:
critically asses locke's distinction between primary and secondary qualities
The difference one letter makes. My students do this often enough, and spellcheckers can't catch misspellings that are real words. One of my colleagues regrets the existence of the word 'posse' because it means spellcheckers never catch 'posses' for 'possess'.

Conspiracy theory of the week:
mcwhorter's ties to swift boat veterans
John McWhorter is a linguist who writes popular books about race on the side. I can't even see the connection in content, never mind with the people. He didn't even vote for Bush in 2004, so I'm not sure why anyone would think he'd have much to do with the Swift Boat Vets, whose main goal was to prevent Kerry's election. All conspiracy theorists are intellectually dishonest in their speculative connections, but this one seems to be from just plain stupidity. Well, it's probably just racism, which is a kind of stupidity, particularly when it involves assuming that anyone who is black who says anything remotely like what conservatives say, even if it's for very different reasons, must have something to do with the most extreme people on the conservative side on issues unrelated to what that person even talks about. It's racist to assume a racial essence that requires black people to be liberal, and it's racist to assume that those who will say conservativish things must be mirror images of whatever your image of a conservative is. The only reason people will think such things is if they assume black people can't think for themselves.

False dilemma of the week:
is the death penalty racist or just
This one came earlier in the last week and then again yesterday. The second time, it had a question mark at the end. I don't suspect that was because they were less sure that those were the only options.

Attempt to Start a Slanderous Rumor by Means of a Google Search of the week:
norman geisler homosexual molester three times

Most bewildering search of the week:
philosophical meaning of eyeshadow

Christian Carnival LXV is at AnotherThink.

Vox Apologia XIII is up also, but I'm the only one in it with my cosmological arguument post, which has taken some heated criticism from a presuppositionalist who doesn't understand the role such arguments play in classical apologetics, therefore completely failing to address anything the post talks about. The Vox Apologia policy is now that you can submit stuff later on, and it will be added, so if you want to write something on that argument, you can get it retroactively in the symposium on that topic.

The Prickly Pear tackles Maureen Dowd's hysterics on religion. Key quote:

While their primary purpose is to bring the individual to God, religion must also function as a moral guidepost for society. Secularists not only know this, they demand it when it's convenient to them. A prime example is their criticism of German Christians for not speaking out against Nazism. If secularists believe Christians had a duty to risk their lives in Nazi Germany, then they have to accept the fact that Christians have a duty to speak out whenever they believe something is wrong. You can't restrict their speech to issues only you agree with.

Have you ever heard of plagiarizing from oneself? A former member of the Syracuse University administration is being accused of exactly that. He used parts of mission statements he wrote for other schools he worked at for a first draft of the one he's currently working at. I haven't looked at the details of this, but it sounds pretty silly from what I've seen so far.

Laurence Thomas has a nice post on male-female equality. He makes an interesting observation. Many people have thought that if men were able to bear children we'd have a much more equal society. Besides making the more obvious point that equality doesn't require sameness, he questions whether we'd have a better world if both men and women could bear children. Men and women might dispute who would bear a child or who would bear the next one. Men might not want to do it at all, or they may think women are hogging all the fun. This is all normal for the world as it is, because people fight over things in other aspects of life. What's different here, though, is that it involves children. When children are at the center of disputes between parents, it leads to nothing but bad. He imagines a few likely comments that parents would use as weapons in arguments that could devastate a child's sense of their love.

He also chimes in on the liberal faculty in academia issue. On the substantive moral issues, I don't think he's saying anything I haven't said before, but it's helpful to see his examples of the negative attitudes commonly expressed without thinking by most academicians toward theists, conservatives, or anyone who doesn't tow the party line in some other way. His examples fit very nicely with my own experiences. It's just nice to hear it from a member of the faculty of my own department.

Max Goss at Right Reason looks at an unwelcome consequence of the crude utilitarianism that some people are using to justify criticism of what John Paul II has called the culture of life. If it's ok to do anything that will lead to relieving of suffering that inflicts no suffering of its own, then we should kidnap, experiment on, and kill all the homeless people in our major cities. As long as we keep them sedated when experimenting on them, they won't suffer, and their overall well-being will actually be less bad because it won't be below zero. The experimenting will likely lead to good anyway. I hadn't thought of this objection to crude utilitarianism. It's nice to use cases that are politically incorrect, and this is definitely one.


Jeremy states:
"...some heated criticism from a presuppositionalist who doesn't understand the role such arguments play in classical apologetics."

Of course I would take exception with this false statement. I would refer people to this paper and also this paper for my understanding of some of these issues.

Also, if you are interested in these issues, I would refer you to the audio page on my site at and listen to some of the lectures by Michael Butler, Van Til, Tipton and others on Presuppositional apologetics.

Of particular interest might be Michael Butler's (MP3) lecture The Certainty of God's Existence.

Of course you don't agree with that assessment. That is how it's seemed to me, however.

I'm not going to listen to the audio, but the first paper you linked to seems all right for at least half of it. I think it's a little unfair to the evidentialist, who will not start with the same evidential set with everyone when not everyone accepts the same evidence. If someone doesn't accept the Bible, they'll begin with arguing for the Bible's reliability as a historical source and against the Qur'an's. I think those arguments are actually pretty good, though I'm not an evidentialist. With someone who accepts the Bible as a starting point, e.g. Jehovah's Witnesses, the support can come from a much larger body of evidence. Objecting that one argument addressed to one group doesn't help with a different group just misunderstands how the evidentialist works.

I've argued before that transcendental arguments are just deductive classical arguments reworked to make it sound as if they're coming at it from a different angle.

Transcendental arguments can have all the same problems as any others. For instance, presuppositionalists like the moral argument for God's existence. We all assume morality, and morality requires God. Therefore, we should by our own assumptions believe in God. Well, this doesn't show the God of the Bible, just some being that grounds morality. Also, many philosophers give alternate accounts of morality, and you'd need to argue against those. Finally, you can just reject the premise that morality exists. These are the same kinds of problems raised by the cosmological argument. You can deny the principle that there must be an explanation, or you could instead try to come up with an alternate explanation. I just don't see the difference between what the presuppositionalist proposes and what classical apologists do. Presuppositionalists are classical apologists in disguise who then argue against what they regularly do without realizing it.

Your assement (above) of presuppositionalism, shows that you are not well read in the field. I'll leave it at that and let the readers decide.

You brother in Christ,

I'm not pretending to be widely read in presuppositionalism. I know what presuppositionalists have said to me, and all it's done is convince me that I have no reason to be widely read in presuppositionalism. I've seen only bad arguments for the view, and the view itself seems to undermine the arguments the people I've interacted with seem happy to use just as much as it would undermine any other arguments. If there's more to it, then no one I've ever interacted with who believes it has been able to help me understand it, and it's not as if I'm the sort of person who has trouble grasping views I doesn't agree with. I make my living by understanding and explaining views I don't agree with and presenting them in a fair way. I'm not alone in this either. I have a philosophical colleague who is widely read in presuppositionalism who has ended up rejecting it because he independently came to the same conclusions I did after having examined it much more fully.

Mr. Pierce goes here:
"I'm not alone in this either. I have a philosophical colleague who is widely read in presuppositionalism who has ended up rejecting it."

Humm, argument ad populum, that's nice. You know very well (well, I'm assuming so) that Van Til new philosophy like the back of his hand. Bahnsen was the same way. We have individuals teaching at some of the best Christian institutions (Westminster Seminary, RTS, etc...) infinitum. All these individuals are presuppositionalist (i.e. having not rejected it).

I'm impressed, hope you all are as well

Argument ad populum is a fallacious argument that starts with some facts about who believes something and then concludes that it must be right. I did no such thing. The strongest conclusion I drew is that no one has been able to help me understand this stuff in a way other than the way I do, which you say is not what presuppositonalists believe. What I did was accept your statement that I'm not widely read in presuppositionalism and then explain why I don't think I have any reason to want to be widely read in it, because it seems like a waste of time from what I have read so far, from my interactions with people online, and from the observations of someone else I know who has the kind of analytic philosophical training I have, who has come to the same conclusions I have but from a much more careful and exhaustive reading of all the major presuppositionalist works (and from having been a presuppositionalist himself).

My point was that one of the few things I'm very good at is reading something and grasping the fundamental philosophical issues that are going on, and it would surprise me if I've drastically misunderstood what I've read by Clark, Van Til, et. al., because that's something I have reason to believe my training has made me pretty good at. No claim I made consisted of drawing the conclusion that my views must be true on the basis of who believes them, which is what the fallacy you referred to does. Your claim that it is that fallacy is therefore rather insulting and rude, since I never drew such a conclusion, either explicitly or by implication.

I do know that Van Til read some of the classic philosophers and talked about them a lot. I'm not convinced he understood them very well, but again I haven't read him in that much detail, and I'm likely to confuse the various figures and the people I've talked to directly, so I don't want to rely on that judgment. I have seen some pretty drastic misunderstandings of philosophers from presuppositionalists, (e.g. the view that Berkeley didn't believe the physical world isn't real or that he didn't believe in a physical world, bot of which are caricatures of his thought, since he simply claims that the physical world isn't external to minds but is more like the Matrix; the view that Hume was a skeptic about knowledge rather than the pragmatist he really was).

I don't imagine most people teaching at the major seminaries know philosophy that well, either, with the exception of Talbot of course. They may have taken a few courses, but that doesn't constitute knowing philosophy very well, not compared with Ph.D. level work in philosophy at top institutions, which is what the Talbot philosophy faculty have done. I can't think of any other seminary with more that one faculty member who did philosophy at a ranked department.


Presuppositional apologetics works about as well as dandruff shampoo on a bald man, when it comes to strong atheism, and anti-religion propaganda.

Every type of apologetic has it's use, and it's own audience - which was why I've been picking the topics I have for Vox lately.

I was hoping it would get picked up a little more, but that was the idea. Admittedly, I haven't advertised much, either.

If anyone wants to know my opinion, I think the presuppositional/classical/etc spats are just a bore. Personally, I know I have little enough time to blog about stuff that really matters, than to be commenting about an argument about whether presuppositional apologetics has any merit, or bragging rights about how MUCH merit it has.

But hey... that's just my two cents.

Or maybe I'm just less apologetical than thou? :D

Something to that effect. All I know is... girlfriends/fiancees eat up time in massive chunks. And leave you no time for blogging.

RK writes:

"Presuppositional apologetics works about as well as dandruff shampoo on a bald man, when it comes to strong atheism, and anti-religion propaganda."

Sounds like a man who has never listened Greg Bahnsen's debate with either Gordon Stein, George Smith or Eddie Tabash.

Listen here to his debate with George Smith (audio is terrible), Listen here to the Bahsen vs Stein debate and click here to purchase his debate with Tabash.

I am actually suprised at what you say regarding "strong atheism" as this seems to indicate a worldview held by someone. Presuppositional apologetics, has everything to do with a worldview apologetic. Presenting the "fact" of the resurrection to a "strong atheist" isn't going to mean anything to him.

I think there is a great deal at steak in these debates. But, I won't go into it - it's not the place.

"I can't think of any other seminary with more that one faculty member who did philosophy at a ranked department."

Although this wasn't really the topic, my seminary has two profs of the caliber you are talking about. One did doctoral work at Notre Dame and the other under Swinburne.

Well, that's good news for seminaries, then. I wasn't aware that they'd been getting such good candidates. Do you know if they settled for seminary work or if it's what they really wanted to do? I guess it's a tossup whether I consider it good news overall, because I think it's good when people with that kind of training will be part of the larger academic system and not isolated in seminaries, but it's definitely better for the seminaries that they're there.

Jeremy stated:

"Argument ad populum is a fallacious argument that starts with some facts about who believes something and then concludes that it must be right. I did no such thing."

According to an introduction to logic page, they give the following definition: "Argumentum ad Populum (popular appeal or appeal to the majority): The fallacy of attempting to win popular assent to a conclusion by arousing the feeling and enthusiasms of the multitude."

The page goes on to state:

"Snob Appeal: the fallacy of attempting to prove a conclusion by appealing to what an elite or a select few (but not necessarily an authority) in a society thinks or believes."

The fact that you one who can understand thing easy, you state you have only seen bad arguments. Then you refer to another individual who has more philosophical background and has supposedly studied the issue more...he also doesn't find it adequate.

You were obviously trying to give evidence of the non-plausability of presuppositional apologetics.

Jeremy, I am not sure if seminary work was their first choice. Actually, one of my profs has some posts on Prosblogion. His name is Greg Welty. He is the one that studied under Swinburne. I agree with you that it is good for such quality Christian philosophers to be at the big name schools in philosophy. But I think they are making a big impact at the seminary (I realize you were not saying otherwise). If it was a dinky seminary I might think they could do more elsewhere, but it is a very big seminary. Personally, I really appreciate having Prof. Welty as a teacher. He is Reformed in theology and very biblical and yet is a top notch philosopher, as evidenced by his schooling from UCLA and Oxford. This is a rare combination that I think is of great value in a seminary setting. It forces students to be biblical while thinking more precisely and rigorously. I know that all that I have learned will be invaluable for whatever I go on to do.

Explaining why I don't think presuppositonalism is worth exploring simply does not count as passing it off as thinking the you have access to the reasons I have for not finding the view plausible. That's why I gave arguments. I have so little time to read anything beyond what I need to do for my teaching and my own work. If I, in addition to those arguments, give an explanation why I have no motivation to do any further extended reading on an issue that seems to me to miss the point, especially given my time constraints, then I'm not sure why that's supposed to be equivalent to an argument for my view.

The two are simply not the same. One is a justification for my behavior, and the other is an argument for my view. I just read through that comment again, and I just can't understand how those words can be taken as an argument for presuppositionalism when it just seems so obviously to be an explanation of why I haven't read the major presuppositionalist authors at length.

Keith, did you mean that he's left comments at Prosblogion? I did find one post on fine-tuning arguments that he commented on. In standard blog terminology, a post is what you leave comments on. It's not like a message board, where they call everything a post. I'm pretty sure he was never a contributor to the blog. I've been around since the beginning, and as far as I know only one person has ever left. It's not really that important an issue, but you might confuse people if you call comments posts, so I think it's worth pointing that out.

Sorry, I am new to blogs and so have not been formally introduced to the proper terminology. I meant that he has left some comments. Thanks for pointing it out!

"His name is Greg Welty. He is the one that studied under Swinburne."

Greg is also a presuppositionalist.

You can find some of his work here.

Jeff, although I have not read the papers that you have provided a link to, I am not so sure that Prof. Welty is a presuppositionalist. In fact, comments made in my reading seminar would leave me to believe that he does have a place for the more evidentialist type of arguments (maybe even a good sized place). He may have taken issue with Geisler's treatment of Van Til and so forth, but I don't know that it automatically means he is a presuppositionalist.

I think he is a presuppositionalist. He's just a fairly moderate one. He's most attracted to the moderate presuppositionalism of John Frame, which D.A. Carson also seems to come closest to liking out of all the views out there. I think it's still too far in the direction of presuppositionalism myself, but you're right that it does recognize the value of the classical arguments. It just recognizing their value by saying that they've been misunderstood by classical apologists and are really part of a presuppositionalist framework. When it comes to the details of what he's saying, I agree with about half of it, probably the half of it that Jeff will disagree with.

Yes, I think a moderate presuppositionalist might be a better term. It just came across to me that Jeff was citing him as somebody who supported his own view, but I think Prof. Welty would disagree with Jeff on a number of points. Prof. Welty has spoken favorably of parts of Frame's book and also of Craig's view in the book on differing apologetic approaches.

Also some of those papers seem older and on one there is even a note that he is not so certain of the conclusion anymore. It seems that most of the papers were from his time at Westminster before doctoral work at Oxford.

Other comments in class have also made me feel that he would not be saying or agree with what Jeff is saying.

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