A response to a third and fourth attempt to refute the Transcendental Argument
by Matt Slick
The transcendental argument for God's existence (TAG) is universally rejected by atheists. After all, it is an argument that seeks to prove God's existence; and if you're an atheist, no matter what the argument is, it cannot be allowed to stand. Various individuals have tried to refute the particular version displayed on carm website. One such attempt is located at http://godlessons.com/2009/11/02/matt-slicks-not-so-slick-tag-argument/#. I e-mailed the person who wrote it and asked for permission to reproduce his entire argument, so that I might address it. I would like to note that I received, to the best of my recollection, no request from this individual to reproduce my argument (which he has done) on his website. Since I have not received permission to reproduce this material in total, I will quote relevant areas where he makes mistakes in his attempt to refute the transcendental argument for God's existence.
In my outline of the tag argument located at http://www.carm.org/transcendental-argument, he reproduced the version before a recent update. I will, therefore, reproduce my original statement with his comment and then my response to his comment.
In my original argument I stated in point 2 that "Logical absolutes are truth statements such as: That which exists has attributes and a nature; Something cannot be itself and not itself at the same time; Something cannot bring itself into existence, and Truth is not self-contradictory." He then said "Pay attention here. Logical absolutes are truth statements, they are not the things the statement is about. This means that they are concepts since there are no truth statements without a mind to think them. It is only the things truth statements refer to that may not necessarily rely on a mind. I will hereafter refer to logical absolutes as truth statements so that it is more clear what we are talking about."
I agree that logical absolutes are truth statements, and that they are concepts; but he mistakingly reduces truth statements to being equal to logical absolutes. It is true that I like blue better than green, and that I prefer steak over broccoli; but these truth statements are not logical absolutes. Therefore, logical absolutes are not merely truth statements. They are true, but TAG deals with the necessary preconditions that make the logical absolutes possible.
He doesn’t address this here. Also, by redefining logical absolutes as true statements he has not represented the TAG argument properly. He cannot properly substitute the term “logical absolutes” for “truth statements” and then attack his argument about truth statements. This is not a valid argument on his part.
In point 3 I said, "Logical Absolutes form the basis of rational discourse." He adds, "I would argue that it is not the truth statement that forms the basis for rational discourse, but agreement on the truth of the statements." Alright, logical absolutes do form the basis of rational discourse. Rational discourse cannot be had if a person violates the laws of logic. If I were to contradict myself in a discussion, how could my argument then be rational? Also, would a person not be correct in pointing out my contradicitons? Of course he would. The second law of logic, the law of non-contradiction, is the basis of the justification of pointing out such errors. But the issue is what is the necessary precondition for such a Logical Law, and can atheism provide a cogent explanation for such preconditions? Remember, restating Logical Absolutes as truth statements and then constructing an argument based on what he says are truth statements is not dealing with the original argument.
A second mistake he makes is when he says that agreement of the "truth of the statements" is what forms the basis of rational discourse. But his thinking is incorrect since it means that human agreements are what make statements valid. The implication is that logical absolutes (truth statements) are conventions. In other words, they are statements agreed upon by society and assume validity only when agreed upon. But this would mean that logic would only function if someone agrees that the logical absolutes thus defined were valid. This would mean that logical absolutes are based upon human reasoning, which I amply refuted in my original argument.
In point 4 I said, "Logical Absolutes are transcendent." He added, "Truth statements are not transcendent, the truth of the statement is all that is trancendent." He's failed to understand the argument. The laws of logic, such as the law of identity, the law of non-contradiction, and the law of excluded middle, are not dependent upon human minds for their validity. Neither is their validity dependent upon when they are spoken or where they are spoken. Hence, they are transcendent in that they are not dependent upon people, places, or time for their validity. But he just says they are without proving it. He is begging the question.
In point 4.3 I said, "Logical Absolutes are not dependent on people. That is, they are not the product of human thinking." He adds, "Notice that he says “human thinking”? This shows that there is something underhanded going on here. The thing truth statements are talking about do not rely on minds at all. I must also qualify this with the fact that if what a truth statement is referring to is a concept, that may also make this untrue depending on how it’s read). Should we take his argument seriously if he accuses me of being underhanded? In other words, he accuses me of being deceptive. Apparently, this person is trying to impugn my motives. This has no place in a serious and logical discussion about TAG. Nevertheless, it is true that the thing truth statements are talking about do not rely on minds at all. But that isn't the discussion. The point is that the logical absolutes are not dependent on human thinking because human minds differ and are often contradictory. I say this in the very next point in the original argument.
He goes on to say "the truth statement is a product of human minds, but the things the statements are about or not." Again, he fails to understand the TAG argument. The issue is the very nature of the logical absolutes; the first, second, and third laws of logic are themselves absolute, invariant, transcendent, and conceptual by nature. All this person is trying to do is confuse the issue by incorrectly substituting "true statements" for the term "logical absolutes." His argument is invalid because he's not addressing the original issue. Again, he merely substituted one term for another and then argued with his terms. This is an invalid refutation on his part, and it in no way addresses the necessary preconditions for the existence and transcendence of logical absolutes, which are conceptual realities.
He goes on to say that "only the things that truth statements speak about are not the product of the mind thinking them. The truth statement itself is a product of the mind." Need I say it again that he has completely missed the argument? If logical absolutes are the product of human minds, then they are contingent upon human thinking. But how do you have transcendent logical absolutes being true when they are the product of human minds, which are often self-contradictory and contradict each other? This is exactly part of the argument I've raised in the very article he is critiquing. Yet, he blatantly refuses to deal with this issue.
He goes on to say that I am “trying to confuse the definition he gave of logical absolutes being truth statements earlier.” I am trying to do no such thing. This person needs to stay with my motives and deal with the argument.
He continues on with the same vein of thought, confusing the issue, redefining terms, and failing to address the actual arguments I've raised. I've already shown that his refutation is invalid. Perhaps he might want to rewrite his attempt at refuting TAG and actually address the argument instead of misrepresenting it.
A second attempt by a person at godlessons.com to refute the transcendental argument for God's existence is found at http://godlessons.com/2009/11/30/matt-slicks-tag-further-refuted/. The first one he attempted was poorly thought out and invalid, but I thought I would tackle his second attempt as well. I have not received confirmation back from him that I am allowed to reproduce his material in full in this article. Since I do not want to violate copyright law, I’ll only quote sections of his article.
He begins his refutation with an egregious mistake. He says, “Matt is under the mistaken impression that minds all think alike, and that this is true because there is some source for absolute truth. The problem is, this is a misunderstanding of reality.” When I first read this, I was quite surprised since in the original article that he is supposed to have "refuted" I specifically state that not all minds think alike. I said in the original argument at 4.C “People's minds are different. What one person considers to be absolute may not be what another considers to be absolute. People often contradict each other. Therefore, Logical Absolutes cannot be the product of human, contradictory minds.” In 8.D.ii I said, “But this would mean that logical absolutes are a product of human minds, which cannot be the case since human minds differ and are often contradictory.” Seriously, did he really read the first article? How did he miss something so clear? I do not know.
Furthermore, to my surprise, he actually goes on to say later in his article as he references my argument, “Saying that because minds are different that there must be some truth statement outside of our minds in order to have rational discourse is like saying that since radios are different that you would hear different things through every different radio.” Let’s get this straight. He begins his article by saying that I think that all minds are alike, and then later in the same article he refers to me saying that minds are different. Amazing.
Seriously, how can anyone take this supposed refutation seriously when, apparently, the author cannot even get some basic facts right?
He goes on to say, “Things probably do exist outside our minds, and the things we see are probably the same things that others see in most cases, but the reason we can have rational discourse is not that the truth of things can be known absolutely, it is because we agree on things and call them truths.” Okay, I'm glad he thinks that things probably exist outside of our own minds. That's good. I'm sure the universe does not cease to exist when he dies. But, this person still fails to understand the transcendental argument for God's existence. The argument states that the necessary preconditions for intelligibility require a transcendent mind by which the transcendent logical absolutes are made to exist. Surely agreeing that something is true may help in a conversation, but two people who agree on something that happens to be false doesn't mean that their argument is sound. This person fails to see this as he argues against TAG. How can his argument be sound if his premises are not?
He goes on to say that a naturalistic worldview can explain logical absolutes. He says this is so because the fact "that objective reality is merely things that people agree upon . . . ” But what if people don't agree? What if one person says something is a fact that another person does not? Who is right? Why doesn't this person who is attempting to refute my article on TAG deal with such questions? I believe it is because he doesn’t understand the argument.
In conclusion, he has not refuted the Transcendental Argument for God's existence. He is self-contradictory, fails to understand the argument, and fails to actually address the points in the argument. TAG still stands.
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