Transcendental argument for the existence of God

Last updated

The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God (TAG) is the argument that attempts to prove the existence of God by arguing that logic, morals, and science ultimately presuppose a supreme being and that God must therefore be the source of logic and morals. [1]

In logic and philosophy, an argument is a series of statements, called the premises or premisses, intended to determine the degree of truth of another statement, the conclusion. The logical form of an argument in a natural language can be represented in a symbolic formal language, and independently of natural language formally defined "arguments" can be made in math and computer science.

The existence of God is a subject of debate in the philosophy of religion and popular culture.

Logic Study of inference and truth

Logic is the systematic study of the form of valid inference, and the most general laws of truth. A valid inference is one where there is a specific relation of logical support between the assumptions of the inference and its conclusion. In ordinary discourse, inferences may be signified by words such as therefore, thus, hence, ergo, and so on.

Contents

A version was formulated by Immanuel Kant in his 1763 work The Only Possible Argument in Support of a Demonstration of the Existence of God , and most contemporary formulations of the transcendental argument have been developed within the framework of Christian presuppositional apologetics. [2]

Immanuel Kant Prussian philosopher

Immanuel Kant was an influential Prussian German philosopher in the Age of Enlightenment. In his doctrine of transcendental idealism, he argued that space, time, and causation are mere sensibilities; "things-in-themselves" exist, but their nature is unknowable. In his view, the mind shapes and structures experience, with all human experience sharing certain structural features. He drew a parallel to the Copernican revolution in his proposition that worldly objects can be intuited a priori ('beforehand'), and that intuition is therefore independent from objective reality. Kant believed that reason is the source of morality, and that aesthetics arise from a faculty of disinterested judgment. Kant's views continue to have a major influence on contemporary philosophy, especially the fields of epistemology, ethics, political theory, and post-modern aesthetics.

<i>The Only Possible Argument in Support of a Demonstration of the Existence of God</i> early work of I. Kant, published in 1763

The Only Possible Argument in Support of a Demonstration of the Existence of God is a book by Immanuel Kant, published in 1763, in the earlier period of his philosophy which he later saw as "dogmatic slumber".

In logic, a logical framework provides a means to define a logic as a signature in a higher-order type theory in such a way that provability of a formula in the original logic reduces to a type inhabitation problem in the framework type theory. This approach has been used successfully for (interactive) automated theorem proving. The first logical framework was Automath; however, the name of the idea comes from the more widely known Edinburgh Logical Framework, LF. Several more recent proof tools like Isabelle are based on this idea. Unlike a direct embedding, the logical framework approach allows many logics to be embedded in the same type system.

Transcendental reasoning

Transcendental arguments should not be confused with transcendent arguments, or arguments for the existence of something transcendent. In other words, they are distinct from both arguments that appeal to a transcendent intuition or sense as evidence, and classical apologetics arguments that move from direct evidence to the existence of a transcendent thing.

In philosophy, transcendence conveys the basic ground concept from the word's literal meaning, of climbing or going beyond, albeit with varying connotations in its different historical and cultural stages. It includes philosophies, systems, and approaches that describe the fundamental structures of being, not as an ontology, but as the framework of emergence and validation of knowledge of being. "Transcendental" is a word derived from the scholastic, designating the extra-categorical attributes of beings.

In religion, transcendence is the aspect of a deity's nature and power that is wholly independent of the material universe, beyond all known physical laws. This is contrasted with immanence, where a god is said to be fully present in the physical world and thus accessible to creatures in various ways. In religious experience transcendence is a state of being that has overcome the limitations of physical existence and by some definitions has also become independent of it. This is typically manifested in prayer, séance, meditation, psychedelics and paranormal "visions".

Intuition a phenomenon of the mind, describes the ability to acquire knowledge without inference or the use of reason

Intuition is the ability to acquire knowledge without recourse to conscious reasoning. Different writers give the word "intuition" a great variety of different meanings, ranging from direct access to unconscious knowledge, unconscious cognition, inner sensing, inner insight to unconscious pattern-recognition and the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning.

They are also distinct from standard deductive and inductive forms of reasoning. Where a standard deductive argument looks for what we can deduce from the fact of , and a standard inductive argument looks for what we can infer from experience of , a transcendental argument looks for the necessary prior conditions to both the fact and experience of . Thus, "I entitle transcendental all knowledge which is occupied not so much with objects as with the mode of our knowledge of objects insofar as this mode of knowledge is to be possible a priori ." (Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, Introduction, VII). [3]

Deductive reasoning, also deductive logic, is the process of deduction from one or more statements (premises) to reach a logically certain conclusion.

Inductive reasoning is a method of reasoning in which the premises are viewed as supplying some evidence for the truth of the conclusion; this is in contrast to deductive reasoning. While the conclusion of a deductive argument is certain, the truth of the conclusion of an inductive argument may be probable, based upon the evidence given. Many dictionaries define inductive reasoning as the derivation of general principles from specific observations, though there are many inductive arguments that do not have that form.

Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, establishing and verifying facts, applying logic, and adapting or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, mathematics, and art, and is normally considered to be a distinguishing ability possessed by humans. Reason, or an aspect of it, is sometimes referred to as rationality.

The argument

The TAG is a transcendental argument that attempts to prove that God is the precondition for logic, reason, or morality. The argument proceeds as follows: [4]

  1. God is a necessary precondition for logic and morality (because these are immaterial, yet real universals).
  2. People depend upon logic and morality, showing that they depend upon the universal, immaterial, and abstract realities which could not exist in a materialist universe but presupposes (presumes) the existence of an immaterial and absolute God.
  3. Therefore, God exists. If He didn't, we could not rely upon logic, reason, morality, and other absolute universals (which are required and assumed to live in this universe, let alone to debate), and could not exist in a materialist universe where there are no absolute standards or an absolute Lawgiver.

Cornelius Van Til likewise wrote:

We must point out ... that univocal reasoning itself leads to self-contradiction, not only from a theistic point of view, but from a non-theistic point of view as well... It is this that we ought to mean when we say that we reason from the impossibility of the contrary. The contrary is impossible only if it is self-contradictory when operating on the basis of its own assumptions.

(A Survey of Christian Epistemology [Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1969], p. 204).

Therefore, the TAG differs from thomistic and evidentialist arguments, which posit the existence of God in order to avoid an infinite regress of causes or motions.

Reception

Some reject the validity of the argument pointing out various flaws, such as a category error involved in the first premise of the argument, namely that just because there's a statement that's universally true it won't make that statement a part of reality in itself [5] . Another issue pointed out is that it's not needed to have a god to have logic or morality [6] . In particular the existence of multiple logic systems with differing axioms such as non-classical logic [7] as well as multiple radically different moral systems [8] [9] [10] [11] constitutes evidence against the idea that logic and morality are actually universals. Furthermore, the existence of theorems like Goedel's completeness theorem and the soundness theorems for classical logic provide justification for some logic systems like classical propositional logic without using any god hypotheses thus contradicting the first premise of the argument.

See also

Related Research Articles

The argument from morality is an argument for the existence of God. Arguments from morality tend to be based on moral normativity or moral order. Arguments from moral normativity observe some aspect of morality and argue that God is the best or only explanation for this, concluding that God must exist. Arguments from moral order are based on the asserted need for moral order to exist in the universe. They claim that, for this moral order to exist, God must exist to support it. The argument from morality is noteworthy in that one cannot evaluate the soundness of the argument without attending to almost every important philosophical issue in meta-ethics.

A cosmological argument, in natural theology and natural philosophy, is an argument in which the existence of a unique being, generally seen as some kind of god, is deduced or inferred from facts or alleged facts concerning causation, change, motion, contingency, or finitude in respect of the universe as a whole or processes within it. It is traditionally known as an argument from universal causation, an argument from first cause, or the causal argument, and is more precisely a cosmogonical argument. Whichever term is employed, there are three basic variants of the argument, each with subtle yet important distinctions: the arguments from in causa (causality), in esse (essentiality), and in fieri (becoming).

Skepticism or scepticism is generally a questioning attitude or doubt towards one or more items of putative knowledge or belief or dogma. It is often directed at domains, such as the supernatural, morality, theism, or knowledge. Formally, skepticism as a topic occurs in the context of philosophy, particularly epistemology, although it can be applied to any topic such as politics, religion, and pseudoscience.

Apologetics is the religious discipline of defending religious doctrines through systematic argumentation and discourse. Early Christian writers who defended their beliefs against critics and recommended their faith to outsiders were called Christian apologists. In 21st-century usage, apologetics is often identified with debates over religion and theology.

<i>Critique of Pure Reason</i> 1781 book by Immanuel Kant

The Critique of Pure Reason is a book by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, in which the author seeks to determine the limits and scope of metaphysics. Also referred to as Kant's "First Critique", it was followed by the Critique of Practical Reason (1788) and the Critique of Judgment (1790). In the preface to the first edition, Kant explains that by a "critique of pure reason" he means a critique "of the faculty of reason in general, in respect of all knowledge after which it may strive independently of all experience" and that he aims to reach a decision about "the possibility or impossibility of metaphysics".

Presuppositionalism is a school of Christian apologetics that believes the Christian faith is the only basis for rational thought. It presupposes that the Bible is divine revelation and attempts to expose flaws in other worldviews.

Michael Lou Martin was an American philosopher and former professor at Boston University. Martin specialized in the philosophy of religion, although he also worked on the philosophies of science, law, and social science. He served with the US Marine Corps in Korea. Martin died unexpectedly on 27 May 2015, aged 83.

Gordon Haddon Clark was an American philosopher and Calvinist theologian. He was a leading figure associated with presuppositional apologetics and was chairman of the Philosophy Department at Butler University for 28 years. He was an expert in pre-Socratic and ancient philosophy and was noted for his rigor in defending propositional revelation against all forms of empiricism and rationalism, in arguing that all truth is propositional and thus uses the laws of logic. His theory of knowledge is sometimes called scripturalism.

Moral nihilism is the meta-ethical view that nothing is morally right or wrong.

John M. Frame is an American Christian philosopher and Calvinist theologian especially noted for his work in epistemology and presuppositional apologetics, systematic theology, and ethics. He is one of the foremost interpreters and critics of the thought of Cornelius Van Til.

Greg Bahnsen Calvinist philosopher

Greg L. Bahnsen was an American Calvinist philosopher, apologist, and debater. He was a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and a full-time Scholar in Residence for the Southern California Center for Christian Studies (SCCCS). He is also considered a contributor to the field of Christian apologetics, as he popularized the presuppositional method of Cornelius Van Til. He is the father of David L. Bahnsen, an American portfolio manager, author, and television commentator.

Christian apologetics is a branch of Christian theology that defends Christianity against objections.

Theological determinism is a form of predeterminism which states that all events that happen are pre-ordained, and/or predestined to happen, by one or more divine beings, or that they are destined to occur given the divine beings' omniscience. Theological determinism exists in a number of religions, including Jainism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is also supported by proponents of Classical pantheism such as the Stoics and Baruch Spinoza.

Metaphysical naturalism is a philosophical worldview which holds that there is nothing but natural elements, principles, and relations of the kind studied by the natural sciences. Methodological naturalism is a philosophical basis for science, for which metaphysical naturalism provides only one possible ontological foundation. Broadly, the corresponding theological perspective is religious naturalism or spiritual naturalism. More specifically, metaphysical naturalism rejects the supernatural concepts and explanations that are part of many religions.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to metaphysics:

In epistemology, a presupposition relates to a belief system, or Weltanschauung, that is required for the argument to make sense. A variety of Christian apologetics, called presuppositional apologetics, argues that the existence or non-existence of God is the basic presupposition of all human thought, and that all people arrive at a worldview which is ultimately determined by the theology they presuppose. Evidence and arguments are only developed after the fact in an attempt to justify the theological assumptions already made. According to this view, it is impossible to demonstrate the existence of God unless one presupposes that God exists, with the stance that modern science relies on methodological naturalism, a myth, and thus is incapable of discovering the supernatural. It thereby fashions a Procrustean bed which rejects any observation which would disprove the naturalistic assumption. Apologetics argue that the resulting worldview is inconsistent with itself and therefore irrational.

Atheistic existentialism is a kind of existentialism which strongly diverged from the Christian existential works of Søren Kierkegaard and developed within the context of an atheistic world view. The philosophies of Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche provided existentialism's theoretical foundation in the 19th century, although their differing views on religion proved essential to the development of alternate types of existentialism. Atheistic existentialism was formally recognized after the 1943 publication of Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre and Sartre later explicitly alluded to it in Existentialism is a Humanism in 1946.

Cornelius Van Til Dutch theologian

Cornelius Van Til was a Dutch-American Christian philosopher and Reformed theologian, who is credited as being the originator of modern presuppositional apologetics.

References

  1. Michael Martin (1997). "Does Induction Presume the Existence of the Christian God?". Infidels. Retrieved 21 April 2011. But what about The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God (TAG)--the argument that logic, science, and objective ethical standards presuppose the existence of God?
  2. Martin, Michael (1997). "Does Induction Presuppose the Existence of the Christian God?". Skeptic. 5 (2): 71–75.
  3. Robert Greenberg (1 November 2010). Kant's Theory of A Priori Knowledge. Penn State Press. ISBN   0-271-04047-5.
  4. Meister, Chad V.; Mittelberg, Mark; McDowell, Josh; Montgomery, John F. (2007). Reasons for Faith: Making a Case for the Christian Faith. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books. ISBN   1-58134-787-1.[ page needed ]
  5. Atheist, Friendly. "Responding to the Most Common Arguments for God's Existence". Friendly Atheist. Retrieved 2019-08-27.
  6. Examined, Cross (2013-12-09). "A Dozen Responses to the Transcendental Argument for God (3 of 3)". Cross Examined. Retrieved 2019-08-27.
  7. Ciabattoni, Agata. "Non-classical Logics: Theory, Applications and Tools" (PDF).
  8. Alexander, Larry; Moore, Michael (2016), Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), "Deontological Ethics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2019-08-27
  9. Wong, David (2018), Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), "Chinese Ethics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2019-08-27
  10. Hursthouse, Rosalind; Pettigrove, Glen (2018), Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), "Virtue Ethics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2019-08-27
  11. Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter (2019), Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), "Consequentialism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2019 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2019-08-27
Notes

Articles

Debates