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Archive for August 27th, 2012

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The author Victor Reppert has spend a significant amount of time defending the argument from reasoning for the existence of God in various setting before this book was written (2003) and after this book was published as well. As the title reveal, the author is a fan of C.S. Lewis’ particular formulation of the argument from reason, though the author wishes also to improve it and develop nuances. Although my theological and apologetics biases is Calvinistic and Presuppositional, I would have to say that the discerning and Scripturally grounded reader can profit from this work, though of course there will be disagreements (For the record, the author is neither Reformed or Presuppositional). There is something to be gained here especially with some of the parallels with the Presuppositionalist’s Transcendental Argument in general and in particular as that form of argument is applied to the issue of Logic/reasoning.  The work only mention Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen once, and in the footnote in discussing about the author’s evaluation of a debate that Doug Wilson engaged in.  The first chapter of the book discusses about how some biographies of Lewis has been inaccurate about certain facts concerning Lewis’ life and apologetics. This chapter alone was worth the time and money of reading this book! Very fascinating. The author also discuss about Lewis’ argument from reason in the context of Lewis’ challenger, Elizabeth Anscombe. The author notes Lewis’ improvement of his argument as a result of this interaction and then the author goes on to provide some further improvements to the argument from reason against Naturalism and responses to some rebuttals. The following were quotes that I thought were beneficial, whether insights or illustration that would be useful for future conversation:

Four kinds of explanation: (1) naturalistic causal explanations [physical laws], (2) logical explanation [relationship between premises and conclusions], (3) Psychological explanation and (4) personal history explanations [how someone came to a conclusion over time].

“But if wind blown leaves were to spell out the premises and conclusion of an argument of the form modus ponens, would we continue to regard it as even an argument at all if we truly came to believe that the leaves got to be in that formation because they have randomly blown that way?” (61)

“Instead he [C.S. Lewis] argues that there are two types of connection, connection by cause and effect and connection by ground and consequent. Both types of connection use the word because, but these represent two different types of relationship. If we say, ‘Grandfather is ill because he ate lobster yesterday,’ we are giving a cause of Grandfather’s illness. If we are told, ‘Grandfather is ill because he hasn’t gotten up yet,’ we are not talking about the cause of his illness (which antedates his failure to rise early); what we are talking about is the evidence that Grandfather is ill. The former is an example of cause and effect, the latter an example of the ground and consequent relationship. While every event in nature must be related to one another by cause and effect, the premises in a rational inference must be related to the conclusion by the ground and consequent relationship” (63).

“If you were to meet a person, call him Steve, who could argue with great cogency for every position he held, you might on that account be inclined to consider him a very rational person. But suppose it turned out that on all disputed question Steve rolled dice to fix his position permanently and then used his reasoning abilities only to generate the best available arguments for those beliefs selected in the above-mentioned random method. I think that such a discovery would prompt you to withdraw from him the honorific title of ‘rational.’ Clearly the question of whether a person is rational cannot be answered in a manner that leaves entirely out of account the question of how his or her beliefs are produced and sustained” (64-65).

“Any adequate account of the relation between reason and causes must provide an account of the role that convincing plays in our cognitive economy. The idea of being convinced by something seems to imply that reasons are playing a causal role. Anscombe is attempting not merely to distinguish, but to divorce reasons-explanations from causal exaplanations, considering the former to be noncausal explanations. And insofar as she is divorcing these types of explanations, here critiques of Lewis is faulty” (65).

“Rational inference involves the employment of the laws of logic. These laws are not physical laws. Indeed they pertain across possible worlds, including worlds with no physical objects whasoever. So while the laws of physics denote the powers and liabilities of things in the physical world, the laws of logic tell us what must be true in any universe whatsoever. Even in possible worlds with no law of gravity, the law of noncontradiction still holds. If one accepts the laws of logic, as one must if one claims to have rationally inferred one belief from another belief, then one must accept some nonphysical, nonspatial and nontemporal reality—at least something along the lines of the Platonic forms” (81).

“It is often supposed that the laws of logic are true by convention. But this is clearly not a coherent idea. Before conventions can be established, logic must already be supposed. If logical laws are human conventions, then presumably it is at least possible for us to have different conventions. But the laws of logic are conditions of intelligibility; without them we could not say anything. Part of what it means to say anything is to imply that the contradictory is false. Otherwise, language simply does not function in a declarative way. So the reality of logical laws cannot be denied without self-refutation, nor can their psychological relevance be denied without self-refutation” (82).

“If the chief enemy of a creature is a foot-long snake, perhaps some inner programming to attack everything a foot long would be more effective from the point of view of surval than the complicated ability to distinguish reptiles from mammals or amphibians” (101).

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