Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A logically absolute proof for the existence of a world outside the mind

This argument is for Sye, who posed this question in his latest reply in our ongoing debate on the Transcendental Existence of God. To continue following that debate, feel free to scroll down and put your thoughts in the "peanut gallery" section. Otherwise, take your time to read over and comment on what I say here (including Sye!), unless making sure the world you perceive actually exists isn't a question that you feel is important.

Note that this argument proves the existence of the outside world by starting from the view of solipsism and leading to a necessary logical contradiction, and additionally, since my account for the laws of logic does not itself presume the existence of an outside world, I do not ultimately beg the question with this argument.


Logical Format of the proof

1. If solipsism is true, then everything that begins to exist has a cause, and this cause must be my perceptions or by an internal faculty able to cause perceptions.
2. The first state of my perceptions began to exist.
3. Therefore, my perceptions must have a cause.
4. (From 1) This cause must be my internal faculty that is able to cause perceptions to begin to exist.
5. My internal faculty that causes perceptions must have a content.
6. This content itself began to exist.
7. Therefore, this content has a cause.
8. This cause cannot be itself and cannot be from perceptions.
9. Therefore, solipsism is false.


Discussion and Justification

One of my philosophy professors, Dr. Stewart, used to pose hilariously to his classes the scenario of killing himself to end all of existence by pointing his forefinger to his head, hand in a gun-shape, and screaming "STOP OR I'LL KILL YOU ALL!"

Throughout almost all of professional philosophy, the question of whether one can absolutely verify the existence of a world outside our consciousness has been considered open and perhaps even unanswerable for thousands of years. Indeed, an absolute proof of the impossibility of solipsism by a professional philosopher would throw the philosophical community - or, more likely, bring that professional under extreme ridicule, since many philosophers (unlike Dr. Stewart, who regards it as a thoughtful joke) enjoy hanging this over the heads of others as a verification of the old canard that "you can't prove anything!" A proof is long overdue, and since professional philosophers cannot afford the risk of giving an irrefutable one, I thought I would present one myself.

For those of you unfamiliar with the A-time theory/B-time theory split, a brief explanation is necessary here before my disproof is given. A-time theorists, to paraphrase Dr. Craig, hold that things and events aren't equally real - only the present is metaphysically true; the past is no longer the case and the future will be the case, but it is absolutely true from every vantage in the universe that they are not currently the case. Only the present is such.

B-time theorists hold that there exists a point of reference by which the past, present, and future as experienced illusory by men all are true metaphysically. They are ordered by a temporal relation "before" and "after," where "a is before b" means simply that the truth of b requires the truth of a, but that the truth of a does not require the truth of b (simultaneous occurrence would require both).

To illustrate the difference more clearly, A-time theorists simply state that the universe exists in the temporal progression of one state to another. Thus, the notion of "x begins to exist," loosely, is that x exists over a timespan of finite measure. Yesterday has happened; tomorrow will happen; today is happening. B-time theorists hold that something's temporal existence (i.e. the whole of "yesterday") is simply extended finitely, exactly like a ball is finitely extended in space, when the universe as a whole is taken under consideration. This is what I think is usually meant by referring to time as "the fourth dimension."

That we perceive the "A-theory" of time is granted by the B-time theorist, but the B-time theorist states that this is due to our role as part of the universe, and that ultimately, this is, as stated previously, an illusion, as from the perspective of the entire universe all the past, present, and future simply exists in terms of ordered extensions in a dimension of space representing temporality. Thus, nothing begins to exist, even if its existence is finite in the time-dimension; it is simply finite in time-extension and no more begins to exist by virtue of this fact than a yardstick begins to exist by virtue that it has edges.

Note that if solipsism is true, then A-time theory is absolutely true, since the fact that we perceive a progression of events means that this is exactly the case, due to no other outside point of perception being at all possible. Therefore, all of our perceptions began to exist.

Now, under A-time theory, everything that begins to exist has a cause (under B-time theory, it needen't have a cause; it just *is*). A "cause" is the action of one entity upon another entity with the "effect" being the result of this action in accordance to the nature of the interaction of these entities. The nature of a bat and the nature of a ball, for example, entail that if the ball is hit by the bat, it goes flying, all things in context being fairly granted. Since "nothing" has no properties, i.e. no identity, and thus does not exist, then everything that begins to exist in A-time theory must be caused by other things or must be caused by itself, and that action must occur before the effect or in simultaneous relation to the effect (i.e. quantum entanglement).

Given solipsism, first note that I must begin to exist, because my perceptions are in motion and because this motion has not always been occurring. Thus, I have a cause, and if solipsism is true, I must have caused myself to begin to exist. This leaves three possibilities: I caused myself to begin to exist before I began to exist, a contradiction; or, that I caused myself to begin to exist at a later state of my existence, which would entail that the effect precedes the cause, an impossibility by definition; or, most plausibly, that I caused myself to begin to exist simultaneous to the moment of my beginning.

The latter statement is all that's left for solipsism at this point, so refuting it renders solipsism literally impossible. Note first that since my perceptions themselves began to exist, they must have a cause (they can't exist as "brute fact," as people positing solipsism love to say, since A-time theory is absolutely true under solipsism and thus it is absolutely certain they must have a cause). This cause must either be due to other perceptions, or due to a creative ability inherent in myself. At the moment when I began, my first perceptions cannot have been caused by previous perceptions, or else it was not the first moment when I began. Therefore, my creative faculty must have (simultaneously with my beginning) caused them to begin to exist. Furthermore, my creative force must itself begin to exist with a content with which to create, since it would otherwise be empty (as I have not perceived at the moment of my beginning) and thus would lack any means of creative power, since there would be nothing by which it has means to create - even God has an idea of what He creates if we presume theism and creation out of nothing on that account. So, I must begin to exist with some preconceived notions of what I cause to exist at my beginning. Therefore, these notions must themselves have a cause.

Since no other outside force (evolutionary processes, a nasty god, etc.) exist to supply these notions, and since these notions cause the perceptions to begin to exist (and thus, by logical precedence, cannot caused by these perceptions), we have nothing left to supply their necessary cause. Therefore, I could not have caused myself to begin to exist simultaneously at the beginning of my existence.

Therefore, we have nothing left to supply the necessary cause of the self under the assumption of solipsism. But this is a logical contradiction.

Therefore, an outside world exists absolutely, 100%, objectively, irrefutably, and inarguably exists by the impossibility of the contrary. So quit worrying that it could possibly be "all in your head". =P


By the way, if one does not accept my view of causation, and asserts that things may still begin to exist without a cause whatever their definition of cause may be (the loosest form is that "a causes b" means "not-a entails not-b"), then the solipsism assumption renders this impossible - if, assuming solipsism, a percept A began to exist uncaused, then there is necessarily no connection between it and my consciousness. At most, A can only have the property of being coterminal with my consciousness, since if it had dependence on my consciousness, then my consciousness causes its existence continuously even if it began to exist uncaused.

But even if A simply is coterminal with my consciousness, this means that the fact that it has no necessary dependence on my consciousness entails that it must exist independently of my consciousness, refuting solipsism. So under the assumption of solipsism, everything in the content of my consciousness must be caused by my consciousness, including their first state at their beginning, entailing my consciousness caused their beginning to exist. The argument thus still follows.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Agnostic v. Craig!

I have posted what my opening statement would be if I were scheduled to debate Dr. Bill Craig on the subject of God. This (rather long) statement is located here. Enjoy!

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Rejoinder to Tyro on existence, identity, non-contradiction, and the Laws of Logic

Since Sye will need to deal with personal matters until next week, I'm going to offer a slightly different theme than the normal religious nature of my blog. In the "Peanut Gallery" thread, Tyro made a few interesting and challenging comments, and I think they're significant enough for everyone to have their own voice in the matter. Tyro's comments, and my responses, will follow in the Comments section of this post. Keep it clean, kiddos!

Saturday, February 14, 2009


All people interested in the TAG debate other than Sye and yours truly should post in the commentary for this thread. Sye and I may wish to go into this thread and reply, but if either of us do so, what we post is fair game to quote and criticize in the main thread :)

Friday, February 13, 2009


Sye and I will post in the commentaries section below. Please post your own words on the thread above. For this section only, I will strike down any other posts but ours!

(From DC)

Sye and I have agreed to discuss this argument in a fair and civilized manner. To not clog the blog up with too many posts on this, the previous post (marked "Temporary") has now been deleted, and this post will replace it.

Recall that TAG seeks to demonstrate God by the impossibility of the contrary. This means, suppose that X is the subject Sye wishes to discuss at hand. Then the particular proof will go in the following manner:

1) If God does not exist, X cannot exist.
2) X exists.
3) Therefore, God exists.

X can mean "absolute laws of logic," "moral truths," and so on. This argument form's premises will be analyzed as each specific 'X' is brought to the discussion.

Additionally, specific topics may be asked of me not directly related to this form. I will address these as they come from Sye, as well.

Other responders are welcome, as always. However, Sye and I will primarily be focused on each other's arguments, so other commentators should be considered a sort of "peanut gallery" and ought not get offended if neither of us address your particular objections; we will, however, attempt according to our time constraints to look at what everyone else has to say.

Sye and I will respond as long as our schedules can afford.

Sye, you have the ball. I believe you began discussing sense perception on the radio show you linked last night, so we could begin with that.

Calvinism and Presuppositionalism: a Primer

I wrote this very brief paper on Calvinism and its apologetic branch, Presuppositionalism, a few months ago for Mary Sharp's "Confident Christianity" discussion group on Facebook a few months ago. It is edited by my friend Ben Maas, a Presuppositional Calvinist with whom I'm debating the account for the Laws of Logic that I cross-posted on my blog for Sye (who did not wish to discuss the particular style of that account; Sye, if you're still around, I've updated with a willingness to discuss it in a more conversational tone!).


Calvinism and Presuppositionalism: A Primer
By Darrin Rasberry (Agnostic)
Edited by Ben Maas (Calvinist)


(Five-Point) Calvinism is the Protestant Christian belief that holds to the TULIP theology, which many reading this may recall from the old days of high school lit and history. The following passage is intended as a reminder of these doctrines.

TOTAL DEPRAVITY means the complete inability for man to do a truly good act, including (according to the Reformed tradition and Catholic tradition of St. Augustine) the inability for man to autonomously choose to follow God. Additionally, the concept applies to any act of man that is apparently good; any act a man may do which is altruistic in nature will always have a selfish, wicked component.

Actual good acts committed by a wicked man are either due to an act of specific divine grace, in the action of God bringing individuals to Christ, described further in the “limited atonement” section, or in the action of common grace, in which God withholds man from doing the most wicked acts he truly desires so as to see His plan for divine election come to complete fruition.

Biblical support often cited for total depravity includes Paul's apostolic interpretation of the Psalmists lament in Romans 3:10-11: “There are none who do good, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God.”

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION, another Calvinist doctrine related to Augustinian tradition, arises from Romans 9:10-13: “And not only that, but also when Rebekah was pregnant by Isaac our forefather (for though [Jacob and Esau] had not been born yet or done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to election might stand, not from works but from the One who calls) she was told “The older shall serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”

Thus, Calvinism states that God's Divine election logically preceeds any deeds on the part of the individuals. It therefore does away with the common notion in modern American Christianity that the elect of which the Bible speaks are exactly those which God foreknew would choose Him, whether specific to the individual as in Arminianism/Molinism or in a general “body election” sense as in Open Theism.

In the Calvinist theology, a split occurs on whether God's plan for Adam's fall (and the subsequent Original Sin) is itself logically precedent to this election process. Infralapsarians hold that God first decrees the Fall, stating that the elect, described in the Bible as “saved,” have to, after all, be saved from something; the rest of the nonelect are left to their own means for salvation, so that even though God knows none will choose Him without His help, He has not positively foreordained their damnation (or “reprobation”). Supralapsarianism, however, holds that divine election and reprobation are both completely in God's hands, with the Fall and the Atonement logically proceeding this plan and enabling both salvation and damnation.

LIMITED ATONEMENT follows from this process of election in that it proclaims that Christ's sacrifice was only for the sins of the elect, and not for all of mankind. If Christ died for the sins of all, Calvinists maintain, then Christ must have died for the sin of unbelief, thereby making a universal salvation the only solution to holding an unlimited atonement. Furthermore, if Christ died for the sins of all, then since the Bible proclaims that some will be damned, the wasting of Christ's blood would occur for unsaved individuals.

This doctrine is also not held by a majority of churches outside of the Reformed (Calvinist) faith, as many hold to the free offer of Christ and the gospel to all mankind as proclaimed by the non-Calvinist interpretation of John 3:16. Limited Atonement is often stated to be the most controversial of the Calvinist TULIP doctrines when considered on an individual basis.

Biblical support for Limited Atonement comes from John 17:9: “I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given Me, for they are Yours.”

IRRESISTIBLE GRACE is the notion that none of God's elect will reject His call for them. The doctrine teaches that the Holy Spirit will first work salvation in a true believer before he or she outwardly expresses faith in Christ, an action seen as a direct consequence of this divine grace.

A reply to the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace, which teaches that God intervened on the behalf of all mankind and gave them the ability to choose to accept Him if they so wished, irresistible grace instead focuses on the positive divine power of God and His infallible working in a man or woman He foreknew for Himself. This also runs contrary to currently popular Christian beliefs, which normally proclaim one has the power to take or leave the call of God on one's own.

Biblical support includes John 6:65: “No one can come to Me unless it is granted unto him by the Father.”

PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS, the final petal in TULIP, teaches that men cannot fall away from Christianity once they are called by God. The common term is “once saved, always saved,” and can be taken to mean that “there are no true apostates.” If a Christian falls away from the faith, Calvinists state, then he or she was never called by Christ to begin with.

Biblical support for this doctrine is based on verses such as Romans 11:29: “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.”


From the TULIP doctrines, I will present a summary of what Calvinists generally view is the case for a believer (“elect”) and a nonbeliever (“reprobate”):

An ELECT will receive the Holy Spirit out of the grace of God. The elect, unable to believe on his own through his sinful nature, is thus caused by God to awaken to His enlightenment. He will then outwardly proclaim the gospel and start his new, regenerated life as a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17) and receive the kingdom of Heaven after the Last Judgment. This is in contrast to the more popularlized Christian view, where the elect are typically described as those who choose Christ freely and honestly, and in cases such as the Church of Christ, maintain this belief until their deaths.

A REPROBATE, on the other hand, will die in his sins, completely unable to choose God on his own and yet still standing guilty before Him out of their knowledgeable rejection of Him (Romans 1:18-19). Being without excuse, the reprobate will be condemned to eternal punishment for his sins and his ultimate rejection of God. The is contrasted by the popular view, which describes the damned as those who have willfully rejected the call of the Spirit all their lives even though they were able to choose Him freely, a choice that Calvinists maintain is impossible once God's will in the Spirit is implemented on a person (see irresistible grace).


HYPER-CALVINISM, a term often misused as a denouncement of full five-point Calvinists, is historically used to describe Calvinists who do not believe in proclaiming the Gospel. They believe that preaching the Gospel is not mandatory because God will eventually bring His elect to the Gospel Himself, and that evangelizing would allow the Christian to boast about saving individuals. Fred Phelps, of “God Hates Fags” fame, is close to a hyper-Calvinist, choosing to show the sins of the world instead of preaching Christ because “there's a Bible available anywhere for people to look it all up.”

POSTMILLENNIALISM is the commonly Calvinist belief that a Christian kingdom will be on Earth for a thousand years (literal or figurative) before Christ returns and judges humanity. Some Calvinists also hold that this millennium has already begun, with Christ spiritually reigning over the Earth for the indefinite time needed for all Elect to hear the Gospel (AMILLENNIALISM). The two are contrasted in that postmillennialists believe that the "thousand-year Christian rule" is first needed for Christ's return, where as amillennialists typically believe this is already figuratively in progress and has been such since the Resurrection and destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. Both, however, hold that the Gospel must first be preached to all of God's foreordained Elect as a necessary condition for the return.

This form of interpreting Revelation stands in complete contrast to premillennialism (specifically dispensationalism), the popularized notion of a dramatic rapture of Christians to Heaven, a horrific tribulation, and then a literal, bodily return of Christ to rule the world with His church for the thousand years predicted in Revelation ; post- and a-millennialists do not believe in a bodily rule of Christ, but a spiritual one. The dispensational premillennial notion is what is held by the “Left Behind” series, enormously popular in many Charismatic circles today.

EQUAL ULTIMACY is the belief that God actively works in all things directly, providing no room for any possible autonomy (even in the Compatibilist sense) on the part of man. Every action done on Earth is directly caused and worked by God, including evil. This view is held only by a vast minority of Calvinists. Another definition of equal ultimacy is that the process of election and reprobation are of equivalent Divine weight, but this definition will not be used in my paper.


PRESUPPOSITIONALISM is the apologetic method adopted by many Calvinists. The central claim is that one's presuppositions, or "worldview," will determine how one interprets facts. It holds that accepting the Bible as one's worldview is the only way to make sense out of life consistently; all other philosophies hold within their beliefs the very seeds which cause them to fail. Presups thus seek not to demonstrate the truth of their own beliefs, but to point out where the beliefs of their opponent fail and where their opponent's critiques are faulty (Van Til, Gordon Clark, John Frame); other methods of presuppositionalism seek to point out the opponent's sinfulness and wickedness in the eyes of God (moral presuppositionalism, used by speakers Ray Comfort and Paul Washer). Presuppositionalism in general (apart from TAG in specific) does not aim for demonstrating God's existence, since they typically hold men are saved by the grace of God apart from any workings of their own; therefore, this method suits the general Calvinist philosophy and is generally not found outside this Christian philosophy.

TAG: The transcendental argument, or TAG, is a form of presuppositional apologetics which demonstrates that the non-Christian borrows ideas such as the notion of causation (or induction) and logic from the Bible (as well as morality, described earlier), since they claim that it is used by their opponent yet cannot be demonstrated and relied upon by any means outside of taking the Bible as one's worldview. By this method, one attempts to demonstrate God's existence by the impossibility of the contrary: without the Christian God, the TAG arguer claims, the proposition in question would be impossible to even consider. Dr. Greg Bahnsen is perhaps the most famous presenter of the TAG.

The apologetic method, in accordance with Paul's statement in Romans 3 that none seek God on their own, stands in contrast with evidential and classical apologetics, which seek to demonstrate to the unbeliever the soundness of the Christian faith through neutral examination of the evidences for God and the claims of the Bible. For this reason, many Presuppositionalists are fervently opposed to classical and evidential apologetics, claiming that it grants too much to the unbeliever and starts outside the authority of Scripture. Nonetheless, many apologists from other camps, such as William Lane Craig, occasionally use a form of TAG, most commonly the Moral Argument for God's Existence (see Craig, Reasonable Faith).

Many Calvinists, most famously R.C. Sproul, Sr., and Alvin Plantinga, reject the Presuppositional Apologetic approach as a general methodology.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: See the Bahnsen/Stein debate (W, Bahnsen 1985) beginning here, the Bahnsen/Tabash debate (W, Bahnsen 1993) here, and the Bahnsen/Smith debate (W, Smith 1991) starting here.

Transcripts of the Bahnsen/Tabash and Bahnsen/Stein debates may be found with a simple Google search if you prefer to read 'em.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thoughts on the Problem of Evil, cross-posted from the Tweb message board

Over at the forums at theologyweb.com, I was asked:

//Anon. What's your query concerning the existence of God and the PoE?//

My response follows.

I don't have a query over it - I gave the POE as an argument that nearly swayed me to pos-atheism, before I realized that it was not a necessary conclusive logical argument after a quick brushup on informal logic. Some have presented an argument for evil (such as Dr. Craig's friend and sparring partner Raymond Bradley, who assumed the Biblical standard for good and attempted to prove the contrary), but the counterarguments given render the formal presentations of the POE inconclusive at various premises. However, given the existence of God and YHWH in specific, the POE has, in my views, always entailed answers from the part of the believer to merely raise the implausibility of formal premises in POE presentations, rather than render them defeated.

But the real weight of the POE is, admittedly, rooted in both emotion and logic. The gravity of natural disaster and the actions of evil men is a heavy burden everyone has to suffer at some point in their lives to some degree, and whatever you believe in, there's very likely something so horrible that will happen that will at least for a moment rattle whatever worldview you have right at the core.

My former pastor, Robert Jeffress, became a bit of an entertaining opponent for me during my years as a "Dawkins-prototype" Sagan-and-Randi atheist back in the late 90's. I'd write about him to the editor when he'd appear on the news doing something that chapped my political hide at the time (which was so sensitive then even Barker would cringe), and I'd even go back to his church on occasion to hear his sermons from a perfectly incorrect mindset. After I returned to studying theology with a more serious attitude and mature approach (my political wrath greatly diminished as well, but let's leave politics as the one topic of silence here anyway ), my old habit re-emerged and I began to wonder what he was up to far away in my old hometown, but I found he'd left to Dallas and left behind a massive controversy involving a new expensive church that admirers had given lots of money for, with specific thoughts to keeping him around. I browsed a few of his audio sermons and still found that old diametric opposition, albeit from the standpoint that his apologetics are about as strong as Ray Comfort's.

Near the point of giving up, I tuned in to a "stump the pastor" session found here http://prog.videorelay.com/fbdmedia/...34/20834DS.mp3. In general, it contained answers of mixed strength bolstered by his usual confident and talented voice, holding together especially when the current Southern Baptist atom bomb of Calvinism was tossed at him with accompanying loud "ohhhhhhh's" and hisses. But the most impressive moment by far in the clip, and in over a decade and a half of listening to his sermons off and on and judging his behavior mostly by the term "blowhard," is at the 5:30 mark. He's asked a question regarding how Romans 8:28is held in line with the tragedy a believer suffers, in this question specifically addressing Stephen Chapman's recent family tragedy.

Dr. Jeffress exegetes 8:28 in the context of 8:29 in a way that probably made the Calvinists tear up as if they took a bath in onion shavings, but before that, he gave five words that made my opinion of his honesty skyrocket, and not for reasons of finding a quote to take out of context, either. He said: "there are no easy answers."

Theological determinists like Gordon Clark do have easy answers, but they're terrible and would still send me running from this religion even if I end up unable to answer fully any of the apologetical arguments. Dr. Jeffress' quote, though, is what remains if TD is abandoned, and although not nearly the scarecrow that the "easy solution" is, it would still remain a strong epistemological and moral mountain even if granted that my metaphysical and historical skepticism is refuted to smithereens. Without significant thought or, most likely, a very tremendous leap of faith over the genuinely difficult pit I see from it, I'd have to go to Flew's Deism in such a hypothetical situation. But like anything else, it would be something to continuously study even as a nontheist, since it is a truly deep issue that itself (to me) does not formally logically necessitate the truth of either side of the debate - and since it is a problem needed to be studied by everyone regardless of belief.