Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Intro to Transcendental Argumentation

Transcendental arguments have two major distinguishing aspects:

One, is that they are circular. All circular arguments have the following features:

  • They are logically valid, and they prove themselves. Circular logic is most often found in the form of the conclusion being a restatement of the premise. This is not invalid reasoning, but the reason it is usually avoided is that it is not helpful. Simply restating your premise in your conclusion doesn't give any new information. But an argument that does not simply restate the premises, but nevertheless proves the premise in the conclusion, would both a) be logically circular and b) useful.
  • The major distinction between vicious circular reasoning and a transcendental argument, then, can be boiled down to the following: useless circular logic is arbitrary. But transcendental reasoning is not arbitrary. Another way of putting that is that transcendental reasoning is necessary. Or at least that it may be, as one means of being non-arbitrary.

Two, is that they are constructed in such a way that any attempt to refute them will result in any opposing argument contradicting itself. That is to say, a transcendental argument is tautologically true and all rejections of it are tautologically false.

Example one, taken from Jason Lisle, PhD, The Ultimate Proof of Creation, Master Books, 2009.

Major Premise; If there were no laws of logic, then we could not make an argument.
Minor Premise: There are laws of logic.
Conclusion: Therefore, we can make an argument.

"How do you know there are laws of logic?" This kind of response is common to most cases where a premise is asserted without reference to some other premise that has been established by consensus or previously concluded. But it does not apply, here. The minor premise is not arbitrary. It is not presented for no reason. This is shown when, if you attempt to deny the premise, you deny your own ability to argue against it. Any attempt to argue against this proof must implicitly rely on the existence of universal laws of logic that govern truth and falsehood.

If you deny the major premise, you claim that we can make an argument without laws of logic (nonsense) or that you cannot make an argument even though laws of logic exist (also nonsense). If you deny the minor premise, you are attempting to use logical argumentation to argue against your privilege to use logical argumentation. You contradict yourself, and are therefore wrong by the law of non-contradiction. Notice that this, too, is a law of logic -- but if you deny such laws, you are left incapable of arguing against the existence of such a law that is binding on your behavior. You are in a lose-lose position.

Something Dr. Lisle pointed out with emphasis in the book is that the entire proof is a logical argument, and utilizes the Modus Tollens method of denying the consequent (the second half of the first premise's if-then statement). It uses logical argumentation to prove that logical argumentation is necessary. This is circular. You haven't yet proven the conclusion when you begin to make the argument. But it is inevitable. And the thing that makes it recognizably transcendental is that any attempt to deny or refute any part of the argument results in self-refutation. Your opponent is forced to contradict himself.

As a matter of logical definition, there is no truth-value to the premises (true or false, that is, no matter which combination of calling them true or false) that results in a false conclusion; therefore, the conclusion is tautologially true. It isn't just true, it can't be anything but true, in any situation, ever. Thus, you can be completely confident that what you now know, will never change.

The Bible is transcendentally and tautologically true. With such a logical system at the core of our identity and beliefs about the world, Christians have complete, unwavering confidence that can never change, no matter what they encounter. This sort of faith in God is not blind, naive, or ignorant. It is so thoroughly based upon knowledge and logical reasoning that there is no possibility that anything else has ever been true or could ever be true, which contradicts the Bible. Not just because we hope so, but because it is materially impossible.

Here is an example of a transcendental argumentation form, using a common claim by atheists against God's existence:

Atheist: All positive claims have the burden of proof.
Christian: That is a positive claim. The burden of proof is on you to prove that the burden of proof is on those who make positive claims.

  If you (as 'the atheist') tried to say that the Burden of proof is not on you to prove that the burden of proof is on those who make positive claims, then you claim a) to have not made a positive claim, which is false or b) that the burden of proof is not on those who make positive claims. Your only logical conclusion is to accept that the burden of proof is on you to prove that the burden of proof is on those who make positive claims. And that is how you lose an argument in spectacular fashion. 

The point of this exercise is also partly to show that all claims are ultimately positive. There is no such thing as a negative claim, just like there are no negative numbers. "Negative" is just a direction from a reference frame. The position of skepticism toward a positive claim is the same as the positive claim that "positive claim x is not irrefutably true." And that is just what Christianity is--irrefutably true. Not just true, but necessarily true, and everything that disputes it is false, and cannot be otherwise, by definition.

This is a logical position of strong faith.

The Christian is not irrational by using the Bible to prove other religions wrong. He is not merely arbitrarily asserting one over the other. It is much deeper than the typical critic believes. The Bible refutes all other worldviews because all other worldviews contradict the Bible, AND that any attempts to defend those worldviews by arguing that the Bible is false will result in self-refuting states of affairs.

All circular logic is valid, and the conclusion proves the premise.
Non-arbitrary circular logic is necessary to form a foundation for knowledge.
Something is tautological if no matter what part of the argument (which of the premises) you pick apart to deny the truth or falsehood of, the conclusion will always be true.
Something irrefutable is something that can never be proven wrong by using logical reasoning.
A transcendental argument is recognized by the fact that it presents a seemingly arbitrary argument, which involves circular reasoning, and all attempts to refute it results in the creation of an internal contradiction within the opposing argument.

~ W

Further Reading: An excellent introductory chapter to AiG's newest book, available on site.

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