January 26, 2014

Rand's Primacy of Existence Argument Refuted


Ayn Rand’s primacy argument is basically an illogical atheist rant dressed up in a cheap tuxedo. As I’ll show, Rand eschews the most basic logical principles, offers a specious and false dichotomy, and presupposes materialism in the definitions of her philosophical argument (I use the term “philosophical argument “very loosely in the case of Objectivism).

By age 13, Ayn Rand had declared herself to be an atheist, as noted in a New York Magazine article. The same article declares that, “she repeatedly withheld or distorted facts in order to feed her own mythology.” This quote is not surprising to me at all. I’ve come to see how Rand withholds critical information in her philosophical definitions in order to promote atheistic materialism. Rand’s primacy argument highlighting her specious definitions of consciousness and existence may be likened to a rigged election in which two fraudulent candidates are presented and both stand for basically the same agenda.
 
How have Ayn Rand and her objectivist followers attempted to pull off their slight-of-hand in supporting their atheist-materialist philosophy? Like any effective scam or magic trick, the key to the deception is not immediately apparent. I’ve been able to identify and document many of the subtly deceptive and fraudulent aspects of Objectvism by examining articles written by objectivists and by asking pointed questions.

Outline
  
I.                    The Avoidance of Basic Logical Principles
II.                  An underhanded Substitution of Theist Primacy
III.                Presupposing Materialism in Definitions


I. The Avoidance of Basic Logical Principles. 
 
Objectivist Anton Thorn defends Randian Objectivism in one ofhis published Internet articles. He does not mention any actual logical argument by Ayn Rand that we can critique. Rather, he challenges us theists to “adhere consistently” to Rand’s amorphous rant that is based on fallacious definitions:
“there is a simple test by which we can discover their (theists) true intention in regard to the metaphysical basis of their philosophical outlook. And that test is: Ask them if they are willing to adhere consistently to the primacy of existence metaphysics as advocated by Objectivism.”

No thank you, Mr. Thorn. I prefer basic logical principles and valid definitions as a starting point. Thorn introduces Rand's argument in a rather grandiose manner, apparently believing the position to be quite strong: “Rand introduces the idea of metaphysical primacy as the fundamental principle which guides all philosophy.”And, drum roll please, here is the primacy argument:

 “… the basic metaphysical issue that lies at the root of any system of philosophy [is] the primacy of existence or the primacy of consciousness… The primacy of existence (of reality) is the axiom that existence exists, i.e., that the universe exists independent of consciousness (of any consciousness), that things are what they are, that they possess a specific nature, an identity. The epistemological corollary is the axiom that consciousness is the faculty of perceiving that which exists - and that man gains knowledge of reality by looking outward. The rejection of these axioms represents a reversal: the primacy of consciousness - the notion that the universe has no independent existence, that it is the product of a consciousness (either human or divine or both). The epistemological corollary is the notion that man gains knowledge of reality by looking inward (either at his own consciousness or at the revelations it [allegedly] receives from another, superior consciousness).”
 
List of Logical Fallacies in Rands Primacy “Argument” (by no means an exhaustive list).
 
1.       Invalid Form: The most basic dictionary definitions of the word “argument” include such things as “points” and “premises,” a key transitional word, such as “therefore,” and a “conclusion.” We’re not talking about a high level of formal logic with mathematical symbols and equations, just the bare bones. A bloom of jellyfish has better form than Rand’s argument because at least the jellyfish in the bloom can be distinguished one from each other. The very first digits that Thorn offers for Rand’s argument, three dots known as an ellipsis (…), imply that Rand begins her relevant reasoning somewhere within the context of a run-on sentence. But gassing off run-on sentences does not count for much in terms of logical philosophical arguments. There are two possibilities: either, A) Rand was not interested in a valid “logical argument” and simply assumed that we should all just accept her ideas. Or, B) Rand did think she was offering a convincing and valid logical argument, even though she eschewed the use of specific premises in a logical syntax. Either way, is it any wonder that most professional philosophers and Rationalwiki do not take Objectivism very seriously?
   
2.       False Dilemma Fallacy: Without offering any underlying initial logic or reasoning, Rand offers a presupposed ultimate dichotomy at the onset of her proposition: “…the basic metaphysical issue (dichotomy) that lies at the root of any system of philosophy…” When asked to offer the name of one non-Randian philosopher who agrees with this supposed “root” dichotomy, objectivists don’t seem to have one example. Randoids simply assume that there is no mind-body dualism, that the two are really one. However, two noted Dutch peer-reviewed studies on near death experiences (NDE) published in the Lancet and referenced at blogs say otherwise. And this points to a more cohesive explanation, a physical-spiritual dichotomy, which is in harmony with quantum logic, something quite scientifically verified, that Randoids reject. Ignoring more explanatory dichotomies is not quite the same as disproving them.
     
3.       Reification: The phrase, “existence exists” conflates the abstract with the real. Existence does not exist. Things such as trees, physical laws and time exist with real qualities, but existence of itself does not exist. Existence is contingent upon something else existing. 
  
4.       Begging the Question: Rand subtly proposes that “existence” and the material “universe” are one and the same. The physical universe, as defined by Rand, is all that exists. Presupposing your conclusion in one of your initial premises demonstrates the logical fallacy of begging the question. Simply presupposing  that God and the spiritual dimension do not exist does not overcome the many logical arguments supporting God’s existence that have made William Lane Craig the world’s top debater. An objective atheist apologist, Luke Muehlausser is willing to acknowledge that Craig is the top debater in the world in his write up entitled, Christian Debater Beats all Atheist Opponents. Simply assuming that Materialism is true simply won't do.
   
5.       False Assumption:  Rand’s offers a false materialist assumption:The rejection of these axioms represents a reversal: the primacy of consciousness” Actually, the correct decision to reject Rand’s specious axioms and adopt more objective and valid ones, including an acceptable definition of “metaphysical primacy,” would represents a step towards a truly objective approach with quite a different conclusion.  As I’ll show in part III and IV, both of Rand’s primacy definitions are specious. 
   
6.       Straw Man: As I’ll show in part III, censoring the strongest relevant quality of your opponent’s position and then shooting it down is not actually a valid or convincing approach.
   
7.       Unsupported Claim:  For the most part, the statement is true: “…that man gains knowledge of reality by looking outward.” However, there are exceptions.  I am one theist among many who can testify that I have received more important insights into the meaning of life not by use of observation, but by use of meditation. The Apostle Paul described the “spirit of wisdom and revelation” as the most important aspect of understanding spiritual truth and the purpose of life. If anyone can offer a valid logical argument in favor of atheistic materialism, do let us know about it in the comment section.

 An Underhanded Substitution of Theist Primacy

Walking the downtown streets of New York City, once in a while you can come across a hustler with a card table and three walnut shells or three folded playing cards. One of the shells has something under it, as he shows. But as he begins his shuffle, it’s easy to lose track. Gamblers are challenged by both the shell game and the Three Card Monte trick because they trust completely in appearance and in their powers of observation. The hustler knows this. Be careful of those who wish for you to place all of your trust in appearances, because you will likely end up with empty pockets, both physically and metaphysically. Appearances can be deceiving both literally and in a more abstract and conceptual sense. In the objectivist primacy argument, the true theist primacy is substituted for a lesser attribute, as I’ll demonstrate.

There is another philosophy which advocates the position that truth and reality can only be based upon the visibly verifiable. The New World Encyclopedia describes how the similar philosophy of Positivism is considered a failure, for similar reasons that Objectivism is often considered: “Today, among most philosophers, positivism is dead, or at least as dead as a philosophical stance or movement ever becomes…”

As Anton Thorn has noted, Objectivism offers a challenge to Theism. A truly objective approach to the question of metaphysical primacy would begin with what? How about an objective definition of metaphysical primacy not couched in any latent preconceptions. Do we find this in any of Rand’s writings? No. Notice how Rand’s argument jumps immediately into the assumption of her own definitions. Let’s try something a little more objective than Rand’s approach and define some standards for metaphysical primacy.

Defining Metaphysical Primacy

As we’ll see, an objective definition of metaphysical primacy applies to all considerations of “existence and being” under all possible philosophical considerations. In avoiding the adoption of a valid definition of metaphysical primacy, Randian objectivists subtly incorporate a metaphysically censored definition of “primacy of consciousness” and then claim that their straw man argument against Theism is valid and victorious.

Any valid definition of universal primacy must incorporate valid aspects of both words “metaphysical” and “primacy.” The word “metaphysical” pertains to philosophical consideration of “being” and “existence.” It is an open-ended term with no loaded implications whatsoever. Typical dictionary definitions of primacy offer words such as “power, supremacy, and preeminence.” Again, for the sake of this subject at hand, keep in mind that the word “primacy” includes no limitations or prescriptions regarding the physical world or any philosophical preconceptions whatsoever. Keeping these facts in mind, what would an objective definition of “metaphysical primacy” look like?

An Objective Definition of Metaphysical Primacy:

the state of being most important or strongest with regard to the transcendent or reality beyond the perceptible senses. (this definition is outlined in a separate post, linked here)


If anyone disagrees with this definition, do post a comment and we’ll discuss your objection. After a bit of Internet debate with objectivist Dawson Bethrick, it has been shown how the objectivist position is cornered into denying a few aspects of this general definition of metaphysical primacy when they attempt to defend their consciousness-existence duality.

Argument Identifying the Invalid Objectivist Primacy of Consciousness Definition

1.            Objectivist Bethrick claims that Theism supports a primacy of consciousness metaphysics (PCM) that violates primacy of existence metaphysics (PEM).

2.            This claim is based on the fact that Theism describes a supernatural God who created the material universe through an act of volition.

3.            According to Bethrick, his definition of PCM excludes two aspects that undermine his claim.

4.            First, Bethrick claims that the fact that a supernatural and eternal God cannot logically nullify his own existence or recreate Himself is excluded from his definition of PCM.

5.            Second, Bethrick claims that the fact that theists cannot generally create objects through an act of volition is excluded from his definition of PCM.

6.            Objectivist Bethrick has created a highly specialized definition of a universal concept that denies the universality of that concept and arbitrarily excludes aspects that refute his claims.

7.            Any highly specialized definition of a universal concept of reality that denies the universality of that concept and arbitrarily excludes aspects for subjective reasons is an invalid and false definition of that concept.

8.            Therefore, Bethrick’s definition of primacy of consciousness is invalid and false.

Let’s give objectivist Bethrick the benefit of the doubt and see if there is any valid justification for denying two points that would most definitely undermine the claim that, “Theists assume a primacy of consciousness metaphysics.”

Bethrick’s Repsonse to Premise 4

 “Saying that the same supernatural consciousness did not create itself and/or cannot cause itself to go out of existence does not cancel out the points assuming the primacy of consciousness metaphysics which theism does affirm.”

First, note that Bethrick does not deny his metaphysical cherry picking, he attempts justify it. He has chosen a weaker theist metaphysical aspect to oppose, God’s creative abilities, rather than a stronger theist metaphysical aspect, God’s eternal existence. And he offers, fallaciously, that one is just as valid as the other due to a false assumption that one must “cancel out” the other in order for my criticism to be valid.

Bethrick’s phrase, “cancel out” is used repeatedly. No one has proposed that anything metaphysical has been “cancelled out.” The relevant question here is, “What supervenes and is preeminent?” The laws of aerodynamics do not “cancel out” the law of gravity, though they may be said to supervene over them at certain times. It is logically possible, and obviously true from a theist viewpoint, that God’s primacy of metaphysical existence does not “cancel out” His power of metaphysical creation. Whether you take Bethrick’s concept of cancelling out literally or conceptually, it fails and is a specious objection. In an extremely poor analogy of metaphysical primacy, Bethrick offers the following explanation attempting to justify the denial of God’s primacy of existence:

“By analogy, suppose someone is caught lying. The evidence that he was lying is clear, and he even admits that he was lying. It will not do to say that in some other situation he was not lying, as if this would cancel out the fact that he was indeed lying in the first case. A lie is still a lie.”

Why is Bethrick’s lying analogy an extremely poor example of metaphysical primacy regarding Premise 4? First, it is based on a specious objection that powers and concepts must “cancel out” each other, as I pointed out in my rebuttal to Bethrick’s Premise 4 comments.

Second, his analogy misses the most important aspects in question. The aspect of context is important. And the aspect of the degree of strength is the critical. These considerations that should not be neglected. The following analogy better highlights these two points:

Physical Primacy as an Analogy of Rand’s Metaphysical Primacy

In order to present a more viable analogy of metaphysical primacy, at least as Premise 4 is concerned, both the question of context and the degree of power must me somehow incorporated.  The question of physical primacy in the universe can be used for this purpose.

Mr. Jones tells Mr. Doe that Mr. Doe must hold a view that, “The laws of aerodynamics hold physical primacy over the law of gravity,” because Doe is a pilot and he flies a plane. Jones uses the following logic to justify his point:

“I know that generally apples fall from trees and gravity is the normal condition we see, but you actually fly planes and you therefore must believe that the laws of aerodynamics hold physical primacy over the law of gravity. All I need is one example to prove my point. To prove my point, I will give definitions for both aspects, the Primacy of Aerodynamics (POA) and the primacy of Gravity (POG). In my definition, not that I believe it is true, I tell you what you ultimately believe based upon one example I will choose. I have created a definition based on one valid example that you acknowledge, so you can’t deny it. It’s kind of like lying. All you need is one lie. I’ll show you objectivist Bethrick’s example on the Internet.”

Mr. Doe responds as follows: “I understand that gravity generally supervenes on planet Earth. And I do in fact acknowledge that the laws of aerodynamics do in fact supervene over the laws of gravity on Earth. But I disagree that, in a universal sense, the laws of aerodynamics hold physical primacy over the law of gravity because there is actually more to existence than planet Earth and its atmosphere and there are a number of example that shoot down your conclusion. First, have you considered that there are planets within the universe with such strong gravitational fields that no birds or planes that we know of could possibly fly under such conditions? The laws of aerodynamics are a moot point under such conditions. Second, supermassive black holes would not allow the laws of aerodynamics to function in any conceivable manner, at least according to a basic summary description:

 “Somewhat counterintuitively, black holes take the weakest of the four basic forces, gravity, to create a region of space with a gravitational field so powerful that nothing, not even light, can escape its pull.”

“So, you see Mr. Jones, when you consider a context beyond what you can see in front of your face, there is no reason to believe that the law of aerodynamics holds physical primacy over the law of gravity in a universal sense.”

“Not so fast, Doe.” It seems Mr. Bethrick on the Internet has more to say on this subject.” He claims, “The definition (primacy of consciousness in his case) is thus performing its task as a definition, and since the instances it subsumes are in fact united by a fundamental similarity and distinguished from everything else, the definition is legitimate.” So, Mr. Doe, my definition of POA is “performing its task as a definition.” And in my opinion, the instances of flying are “united by a fundamental similarity and distinguished from everything else.” -Therefore my definition of POA holds as legitimate!”

I hope that you can see by this example the correlation of reasoning between the question of physical primacy and metaphysical primacy, as presented by objectivists. The objectivist claim that God’s primacy of existence may be justifiably eliminated from the context of the discussion of theist metaphysical primacy is blatantly false and unjustified. The valid context of any discussion of metaphysical primacy necessarily includes all metaphysical considerations.

Bethrick’s Response to Premise 5

In response to Premise 5, Dawson claims,

“That the primacy of existence characterizes the relationship between human consciousness and its objects does not in any way cancel out the fact theism’s notion of a supernatural consciousness creating objects, assigning and altering their identity, etc., all by an act of will, assumes the primacy of consciousness metaphysics.”

Bethrick again regurgitates his specious objection regarding powers or concepts that allegedly “cancel out” each other, as already addressed in my critique of his reply to Premise 4.  Bethrick goes on to say that theists are “assuming” the objectivist worldview without acknowledging it.  The opposite is more likely, however, that objectivists are assuming aspects of the theist view. God eternal existence represents the ultimate objective standard to which all things are compared, and the objectivist view that objectivity is limited to the observable world is a materialist fallacy underscored by the fact that objectivists feel the need to reject scientific quantum logic because it does not line up with their classical interpretation of the physical world, as well as the fact that the Stanford Encyclopedia points how the moral standard of selfishness, as promoted in Objectivism, is opposite to what most people consider to be a true and virtuous standard.

We theists do not have to use illogical arguments riddled with fallacies and specious definitions in order to attempt to promote our views. And the tenets of Theism do not require the rejection of quantum logic, which is widely accepted as a scientific necessity in interpreting data in quantum physics.

Heavy Weight Championship Fight Analogy of Rand’s Metaphysical Primacy

The first boxer struts out of the locker room for the world heavyweight championship fight sponsored by a new boxing promoter, Slippery Selfish Sam. As the first boxer struts confidently down towards the ring as a voice announces, “Representing dodgy Randian Materialism and weighing in at 175 pounds, it’s the Materialist Primacy of Existence, also known as Matt Prime!” Half the crowd cheers. Then, there is a hush in the crowd as a huge muscular giant saunters out of the locker room. The announcer’s voice sounds hesitant, “Representing Theism, weighing in at, well, the scale broke at 300 pounds is all they could tell me, it’s God’s Supernatural Existence, also known as Maximus Primus!”

But then there is a scuffle as a man is seen moving through the crowd towards the ring and then talking to the referee and judges. He says, “Wait! Stop! Isn’t there any weight limit in the international heavyweight boxing rule book?” The judges leaf through the book. “No, it says there is no weight limit! None whatsoever!” Well, I have a lot riding on this fight and I never saw Theism’s Maximus Primus before in person. I really need for my guy to win, Matt Prime, so I’m going to substitute this guy over here who will represent Theism. The judges reply, “What are you talking about?” That guy doesn’t even look like a heavyweight! He looks like a welter weight! “Yes, I know,’ the promoter responds. “But I own this venue and I am paying for this fight so I can pick the contestants as I want to! You don’t like it, sue me! Besides, Creative Consciousness Clay did knock down a materialist once, so the theists can’t say he is not a real contender!” A judge replies, “Technically, this is your stadium if you do this today I won’t call the police. But, according to the standards of the international boxing committee, this fight won’t decide the real and official heavyweight championship. If anything, it’s just an entertaining show and that’s it!”

As Maximus Primus walks back to the locker room, Creative Consciousness Clay enters the ring wearing a straw hat that the assistant promoter had just given him in the locker room. The crowd begins to boo and some people can be heard shouting, “We want Maximus Primus!” But the promoter quickly tells the TV cameras to cut to a commercial break. Meanwhile, the promoter is doing his best to prepare some damage control. He tells the commentators to emphasize how Creative Consciousness Clay won a fight once and how he is the best representation for Theism because he is a very creative fighter. He offers the commentators some huge cash bonuses in order to make up for the unforeseen and unpleasant circumstances. After the commercial break, some fans can be seen making a sign using a large bed sheet. The sign says, “THIS FIGHT IS RIGGED!” Some respected professional boxers in the audience begin to walk out. Then almost half the crowd walks out of the hall in protest as a kind of boycott. Those who side with Matt Materialism Prime don’t see any serious problem with the circumstances at all because they are quite content in seeing their cause promoted. Those who are simply interested in knowing who the true heavyweight champion of the world is realize that this rigged match won’t be of much use.

The Objectivist Primacy Straw Man Fallacy

1.            In their primacy argument, Objectivists deny the theist position that God’s eternal supernatural existence as a valid example of theist metaphysical primacy.

2.            Denying any valid and relevant metaphysical aspect of an argument position in order to refute that position is tantamount to creating a straw man argument.

3.            Therefore, objectivists have created a straw man argument against Theism.

Presupposing Materialism in Definitions

Rand claims: “The primacy of existence (of reality) is the axiom that existence exists, i.e., that the universe exists independent of consciousness (of any consciousness),”

Here Rand whips out two ideas in one
hodge-podge fell swoop. One is fallacious and the other is unsupported, that basically presupposes her materialist conclusion. First, we have a phrase stating that “existence exists.” Then we have the presupposed notion that existence is part and parcel with the natural and material universe.

The most obvious problem with her phrase, “existence exists” is the observation that existence, in and of itself, does not actually exist. Specific things like trees, matter, time and the laws of physics exist as specific entities that do have the quality of existence. But the quality of existence does not exist independently of the things that give existence its quality of existence. Nor does existence hold primacy over the things that exist in actuality and do retain the quality of existence.

In noting how the property of existence of things in general is conflated with the actual existence of something, existence in this case, the material fallacy and the fallacy of reification become evident in Rand’s axiom.  The Oxford dictionary defines the word reify as follows:

To reify: make (something abstract) more concrete or real.

In Rand’s definition, the word “existence” is presented as a generality not anchored to anything specific or real, yet this abstract axiom is supposed to represent the ultimate reality, metaphysical primacy. The nature of Rand’s error lies in attributing a contingent reality with prime reality.

The material fallacy is defined as follows: reasoning that is unsound because of an error concerning the subject matter of an argument, as opposed to a formal fallacy.

Do things exist because some power or concept of existence exists? Or does the concept and quality of of existence exist as an idea because actual things exist? If you consider these questions with an open mind, I believe you will find that the latter is the case. This implies that actual and specific things hold metaphysical primacy over the quality of existence.

No amount of wishing by Randian objectivists can turn a quality of things into something more than the things themselves, in terms of metaphysical primacy. For theists, the organizing principal of the universe, the laws of logic and objective basis of morality all point to the existence of God as the basis or prime reality.

Further conflating the issue,  Rand immediately conflates “existence” with the natural “universe.” This is simply materialist presuppositionalism, plain and simple.  A highly-respected professor of physics named Alexander Vilenkin has mathematically demonstrated that our universe had a beginning. Space and time had a beginning at the beginning of the universe. In the “big” picture of eternity, our finite little universe is insignificant by comparison. To claim that our universe in time in space is tantamount to all of “existence” is a joke, both naturally and with regard to science and especially with regard to the much stronger arguments presented on behalf of Theism, as compared to “philosophical arguments” such as Ayn Rand’s.

My Challenge to Objectivists

There is a simple manner in which objectivists can display their true intentions. Compare Theism and Materialism using valid logical principles and an unbiased definition of metaphysical primacy as a starting point, a definition that acknowledges universal application and no arbitrary limitations or censorship.

Conclusion

Any objective approach to the question of metaphysical primacy should incorporate an accurate and objective definition of “metaphysical primacy” as a starting point and should compare contrasting beliefs with the same standards. Objectivists have written volumes in an attempt to support their philosophy promoting materialism and selfishness.  However, they do not have the philosophical integrity to present their metaphysical censorship plainly up front. It is tacit and deceitfully hidden, primarily discovered through debate and questioning.

If a group of men lived in England and decided that they wish to drive the way Americans do, on the right side of the street, this would be both strange and dangerous. There are reasons why we have agreed-upon standards of driving. There are also reasons why the rules of logic are used in mathematics and philosophy, and reasons why we have agreed-upon definitions for words, such as “metaphysical” and “primacy.” According to Theism, the danger of ignoring valid philosophical definitions is more than just the prospect of just living a depressing, selfish life that will likely lead to emotional abandonment and substance abuse. Nevertheless, the temptation to worship and idolize the self and one’s ego is a common one. The central ideal of selfishness in the philosophy of Objectivism is actually part in parcel with the central ideal of Anton Levay’s Church of Satan. You can likely guess what that implies, metaphysically speaking.

Tags: atheist presuppositionalism, primacy of consciousness versus primacy of existence, examples of logical fallacies, deception, spiritual blindness, metaphysical censorship, cherry picking, atheist philosophies, Satanism and Objectivism, straw man argument in Objectivism, faults of Objectivism

___________________________________________

Dawson Bethrick’s previous reply copied and posted in its entirety:

Warden's Persisting Failure to Integrate

Over on his blog, Christian apologist Rick Warden posted a new comment summing up his case for his claim that the Objectivist concept of metaphysical primacy is “flawed.”

Here is Warden’s comment in full:

Hi Dawson,

One of the valid points posted at RationalWiki is the fact that Randian objectivists incorporate "strange definitions"

I had asked you to acknowledge the flawed definition you incorporate in your argument against God's existence, as noted at the following link: http://templestream.blogspot.com/2014/01/metaphysical-primacy-timeless-truth-and.html

"If anyone disagrees with any of the premises and arguments I’ve offered in this second rebuttal to Bethrick’s primacy argument, please point out specifically which premise or premises you disagree with and why."

As noted in the comments of that post, Bethrick did not address his specious definition of POC. Rather, he offered to discuss snow flake colors instead.

I'll try again. Here I'll present my criticism in the form of a logical argument Could you please point out where you disagree with the following points and conclusion, Dawson?

1. Objectivist Bethrick claims that theism supports a primacy of consciousness metaphysics (PCM) that violates primacy of existence metaphysics (PEM).

2. This claim is based on the fact that theism describes a supernatural God who created the material universe through an act of volition.

3. According to Bethrick, his definition of PCM excludes two aspects that undermine his claim.

4. First, Bethrick claims that the fact that a supernatural and eternal God cannot logically nullify his own existence or recreate Himself is excluded from his definition of PCM.

5. Second, Bethrick claims that the fact that theists cannot generally create objects through an act of volition is excluded from his definition of PCM.

6. Objectivist Bethrick has created a highly specialized definition of a universal concept that denies the universality of that concept and arbitrarily excludes aspects that refute his claims.

7. Any highly specialized definition of a universal concept of reality that denies the universality of that concept and arbitrarily excludes aspects for subjective reasons is an invalid and false definition of that concept.

8. Therefore, Bethrick’s definition of primacy of consciousness is invalid and false.

It's difficult to debate with someone who chooses to use highly subjective definitions for metaphysical concepts.

Before we can continue debating, we need to clear up some major problems with your definitions. Can you address this, Dawson?

Notice that here, Warden is still complaining about my definition of the primacy of consciousness. But notice also that he does not explain what exactly is wrong with it. The task of a definition is to distinguish a concept from other concepts thereby keeping its units differentiated from all other existents. Definitions do this by isolating the essential(s) which distinguishes its units from other existents. To find fault with a definition, then, one would need to conduct an analysis of the definition in question to determine whether or not it fails in isolating the essential(s) which distinguishes its units from all other existents. Warden has not conducted such an analysis. In fact, I suspect such an endeavor would far exceed his ability. But so far, such an analysis has not been presented.

Instead, he parrots the claim he found on “rationalwiki” that Objectivism’s definitions are “strange.”

In a comment responding to this reaction on Warden’s part, I wrote the following:

Calling a definition “strange” is not an argument against its legitimacy. That something is “strange” to someone is simply a matter of one’s point of view and is thus autobiographical in this sense. Things are strange to people when they are not familiar with them. After driving for 30 years in the USA, driving on the lefthand side of the road here in Thailand was quite strange at first. But there’s nothing illegitimate about it. Besides, why is the primacy of existence “strange” when this characterizes the relationship between human consciousness and its objects while treating fantasies like “God created the universe by an act of will” as though they were true is not “strange”?

The entire Christian worldview is all about the strange – with deities, demons and angels lurking behind what we perceive causing mischief and bestowing favor, virgin births, walking on water, turning water into wine, zapping planets into existence by wishing, causing worldview destruction by an act of will, commanding mountains to remove themselves to the sea, raising people from the dead, walking through walls, curing congenital blindness by moistening dirt with spit, etc., etc., etc.

To me it’s “strange” that someone would get so worked up about a definition of a term while simultaneously twerking for a worldview like Christianity that delights in conjuring strange images in the imagination which we never find in reality. At least Objectivism defines its terms! This is quite a contrast to Christianity which tosses around all kinds of terms which its bible never even uses, let alone defines. For example, Christians are always telling us about how their worldview is so necessary for morality. But I can’t even find the word ‘morality’ in any of my bibles, let alone a definition of the concept ‘morality’! This is not only strange, it is intellectually irresponsible.

In a comment on my blog, frequent visitor Justin Hall made some valuable points when eh wrote:

It is really starting to show how desperate he is with his quibbling over definitions. I work in the IT profession. We out of necessity have taken common words and redefined them within the preview of our profession to mean very certain and precise things. This is necessary in any sufficient detailed and technical subject. When I speak of a bus when discussing computer processors for example I sure don't mean the number 9 to down town. I mean the architecture for passing information between memory and cpu. We are dealing with precise philosophical issues here and any argument should define its terms at the outset as you have done. Rick bitching and moaning about them just shows me that he cant actually deal with the argument, neither its premises nor its conclusion. To date Ricks argumentative style could best be summed up as the “HEY LOOK OVER THERE!” strategy.

And this is entirely accurate. It is very common for specialized use of terms to carry with it definitions for those terms which do not attend those same terms when used in everyday contexts. Justin’s example of the word ‘bus’ is a good example.

At the same time, however, I don’t see that this what’s happening in the case of the Objectivist term ‘metaphysical primacy’. It is not as though people commonly use the term ‘metaphysical primacy’ to mean one thing and Objectivists have come along and redefined it to mean something entirely different. Warden certainly has not shown that this is the case. But even if it were, Justin’s example of the term ‘bus’ shows that giving a term a new definition is not in itself illegitimate. Indeed, a perusal of a good dictionary will show that many if not most words in the English language have two and sometimes many more different meanings. What’s important is that definitions be made clear and that they are applied consistently; it is also important that they have conceptual integrity. But that’s one of the beautiful things about Objectivism – Objectivism has a theory of concepts which provides an objective analysis of the nature and formation of concepts, including the final step of the concept-formation process, which is definition!

Moreover, any rational individual should see that the Objectivist doctrine of the issue of metaphysical primacy addresses a fundamental and important philosophical matter, namely the relationship between consciousness and its objects. Since the relationship between consciousness and its objects is ever-present in all areas of thought and knowledge, the issue of metaphysical primacy is a most legitimate area of philosophical inquiry. Regarding the relationship between consciousness and its objects, the issue of metaphysical primacy essentially asks:

Do the objects of consciousness exist and are they what they are independent of conscious activity?

Or

Do the objects of consciousness depend on consciousness in some way for their existence and/or their identity?

The primacy of existence is the recognition that the objects of consciousness exist and are what they are independent of conscious activity. By contrast, the primacy of consciousness is the view that the objects of consciousness depend on and/or conform to conscious activity in some way.

Now it is curious that the Christian bible nowhere raises any of these questions. In fact, it completely ignores them altogether. (If Christians think their bible does raise these questions, they are invited to cite book chapter and verse where it allegedly does this.) So it keeps believers in the dark about such matters. Hence believers are likely to think questions about the nature of the relationship between consciousness and its objects is “strange” upon first encountering them. But it does not follow from this that the issue of metaphysical primacy therefore does not apply to the Christian bible’s teachings. On the contrary, since the issue of metaphysical primacy relates to the relationship between consciousness and its objects, it relates to all areas of thought and knowledge, including religious beliefs.

So there is no question of not only the legitimacy of the issue of metaphysical primacy as Objectivism informs it, but also its fundamental relevance to philosophy as such.

Now Warden writes that I “did not address [my allegedly] specious definition of POC.” He refers to my definition (and really, it’s not really mine in the first place) as “specious,” but nowhere has he shown that it is specious. In fact, time and time again Warden has shown either that he does not understand the issue of metaphysical primacy to begin with, or that he is simply bent on talking around it – the “HEY LOOK OVER THERE!” tactic that Justin points out above.

Warden then says that I “offered to discuss snow flake colors instead.” Warden clearly wants to trivialize matters, but by doing so he only reveals himself to be dishonest. In this way, he has fallen under the influence of the likes of WL Craig and other apologists who have already sacrificed everything – including their character – on behalf of their god-belief.

So let's look at his enumerated list:

His first point is clumsily stated. I do not claim that theism “supports” the primacy of consciousness metaphysics (PCM) – for there is nothing in reality that actually does “support” the primacy of consciousness to begin with. Rather, I have made it clear through ample repetition (necessary as it has been to clarify matters to people who don’t want clarity) that theism assumes the primacy of consciousness. I have provided abundant evidence for this, both in the form of teachings directly from the OT and NT, and also in the form of statements by theistic apologists as well (including Warden!).

Warden is right, in his second point, that “this claim is based on the fact that theism describes a supernatural God who created the material universe through an act of volition.” In fact, it’s based on a lot more than this, but this alone is sufficient to demonstrate theism’s assumption of the primacy of consciousness metaphysics.

In his third point, Warden refers to what he calls “two aspects that undermine [my] claim.” This is most odd. How can anything undermine the recognition that the notion of a supernatural consciousness wishing the universe into existence and causing miracles assumes the primacy of consciousness metaphysics? Keep in mind, an individual can affirm a wide variety of views on a whole spectrum of issues, and it is possible for those views to be inconsistent with each other and in fact incompatible with respect to their metaphysical assumptions. We’ll see that Warden has not taken this fact into account. But in fact it is the case with theists and theism proper: as is already clear, theism assumes the primacy of consciousness in its notion of a supernatural consciousness to whose will everything distinct from itself conforms (such as when it creates the universe ex nihilo, assigns objects their identity, manipulates them, etc., all by an act of will); on the other hand, it is clear (as my argument points out) that merely affirming that this figment of imagination is real attempts to apply the primacy of existence (for theists affirming that their god is real are not saying that this is the case because they merely wish it to be the case). So already we find clear evidence of mixed metaphysics swarming around in the theist’s worldview – an attempt to blend the primacy of existence with the primacy of consciousness. Objectivists have consistently pointed out that the primacy of existence is inescapable and that even those who affirm notions assuming the primacy of consciousness cannot do so consistently. Indeed, that’s the point of my argument: it exposes a fundamental contradiction in the very claim “God exists.”



Let’s look at the two aspects that Warden indicated and see if they really do “undermine” my identification of the primacy of consciousness being assumed by theism.



The first is:

Bethrick claims that the fact that a supernatural and eternal God cannot logically nullify his own existence or recreate Himself is excluded from his definition of PCM.

Notice that Warden has not quoted my words here. From the beginning, Warden has sought to defend theism against the charge that it assumes the primacy of consciousness by pointing out that Christians do not suppose either that their god created itself or that it can cause itself to go out of existence. But this is irrelevant to the matter, and it’s most curious that Warden does not recognize the irrelevance of this point to my case. We already have more than sufficient evidence that theism assumes the primacy of consciousness metaphysics: it holds that a supernatural consciousness created the universe, assigns identities to the objects which populate that universe, alters their identities at will, and “controls whatsoever comes to pass” (Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, p. 160). Saying that the same supernatural consciousness did not create itself and/or cannot cause itself to go out of existence does not cancel out the points assuming the primacy of consciousness metaphysics which theism does affirm.



By analogy, suppose someone is caught lying. The evidence that he was lying is clear, and he even admits that he was lying. It will not do to say that in some other situation he was not lying, as if this would cancel out the fact that he was indeed lying in the first case. A lie is still a lie.



Similarly, if some item of one’s set of beliefs assumes the primacy of consciousness, it does no good to say “But these other beliefs don’t assume the primacy of consciousness, so your claim is undermined.” This is as ridiculous an example of crass context-dropping as I’ve ever seen! Since the definition of the primacy of consciousness distinguishes the instances it subsumes from everything else, an instance of the primacy of consciousness is still an instance of the primacy of consciousness (just as A is A, just as a lie is still a lie), no matter what an individual may affirm elsewhere in his worldview or belief system. The definition is thus performing its task as a definition, and since the instances it subsumes are in fact united by a fundamental similarity and distinguished from everything else, the definition is legitimate.



So the recognition that theism assumes the primacy of consciousness is not undermined by the claims that theists hold that their god did not create itself and cannot cause itself to go out of existence.



Warden’s next aspect which he says undermines my case is as follows:

Bethrick claims that the fact that theists cannot generally create objects through an act of volition is excluded from his definition of PCM.

Again, Warden does not quote my actual words. But that’s fine. He really doesn’t need to, for this too is another dry well. That the primacy of existence characterizes the relationship between human consciousness and its objects does not in any way cancel out the fact theism’s notion of a supernatural consciousness creating objects, assigning and altering their identity, etc., all by an act of will, assumes the primacy of consciousness metaphysics. To suppose that Warden’s point here somehow undermines my case borders on lunacy. It’s just more of the “HEY LOOK OVER THERE!” tactic that Warden has taken on as a habit now.



Of course, Objectivists hold that the primacy of existence is true. In fact, the primacy of existence characterizes not only the relationship between human consciousness and its objects, but the relationship between any actual consciousness and its objects, whether this consciousness belongs to insects, mammals, reptiles, fish, etc.



As I pointed out in a comment I made in reply to Warden:

Objectivists have always pointed out that one cannot affirm the primacy of consciousness consistently. It is always intermingled with assumptions of the primacy of existence – just as my argument points out! In other words, your worldview assumes two opposite and mutually contradictory metaphysical paradigms – the primacy of consciousness in the case of your god’s consciousness (which you have affirmed), and the primacy of existence any time you want to say that something is true (since you clearly are not suggesting that what you say is true because you wish it to be the case). This does not mean that our definitions are somehow contrived in some inconsistent manner. On the contrary, Objectivists are being entirely consistent here. Ultimately your complaint boils down to: “Objectivists use their definitions consistently! Wahhh! I don’t like that!”

And it is true, Warden has openly conceded that his theism assumes the primacy of consciousness. Here are two examples from Warden’s own hand:

In essence, Lanza proposes that consciousness holds supremacy over the material world. This, of course, is in keeping with the biblical account of Genesis in which the material world was created by the consciousness and will of God. (Affirmed by Warden in his Nov. 14, 2013 blog entry Quantum physics proves that there IS an afterlife, claims scientist)

With regard to the physical world, however, God's conscious volition holds supremacy over all. (Comment by Rick Warden on Jan. 12, 2014 Bethrick’s Refined Primacy Argument Against God Refuted)

Now notice in the second quote that Warden asserts that “God’s conscious volition holds supremacy over all.” Regarding this, I pointed out the following in a comment relying to Warden:

Here you openly affirm the “supremacy” of consciousness. But thesaurus.com shows that ‘supremacy’ is essentially synonymous with ‘primacy’. Compare: “God’s conscious volition holds supremacy over all” and “God’s consciousness holds metaphysical primacy over all.” Are you saying that you affirm the view that “God’s conscious volition holds supremacy over all” but reject the view that “God’s consciousness holds metaphysical primacy over all”? Do you think there’s a difference? Oh, you’re going to try and trump up a difference now? That would be quite ridiculous.

Earlier Warden parroted “rationalwiki” complaining that Objectivism’s definitions are “strange.” And yet here Warden uses very similar language to clarify the nature of the relationship between his god’s consciousness as he imagines it and the world in which we exist. His other complaints do not show that Objectivism’s definitions are in any way illegitimate or “flawed”; indeed, he has nowhere conducted an analysis of Objectivism’s definitions. In fact, what we are consistently finding as we examine Warden’s complaints is that he can only grasp at irrelevant matters and apply his habit of failing to integrate in order to fabricate charges against my position. None of it sticks of course, and even his own words elsewhere reveal that my argument is right on target.



Warden’s next objection is:

6. Objectivist Bethrick has created a highly specialized definition of a universal concept that denies the universality of that concept and arbitrarily excludes aspects that refute his claims.

Here Warden reveals the severity of his confusion. We saw above the legitimacy of philosophical inquiry into the nature of the relationship between consciousness and its objects. The two possible viewpoints on the matter are indeed distinct from each other and thus require identification which recognizes this distinction rather than blurs it. Thus we have the terms primacy of existence to denote the recognition that existence exists independent of consciousness, and primacy of consciousness to denote the view that existence depends on or conforms to conscious activity (such as the notion of a supernatural consciousness creating the entire universe by an act of consciousness).



So these terms and their meanings are entirely legitimate philosophically. Nothing in Warden’s blog entries or comments shows that there is no relationship between consciousness and its objects or that philosophers are wrong to raise questions about this relationship. So there’s nothing arbitrary here. Nor is there any denial of universality here. Universality is a property of concepts, and Objectivism’s use of these terms is entirely in keeping with this fact.



But chiefly what Warden fails to grasp as a result of his failure to integrate is the fact that a worldview can in fact affirm various positions which are not consistent with each other in terms of their orientation to the issue of metaphysical primacy. The very claim that “God exists” is a fine example of a statement assuming contradictory metaphysics. Observe:



In terms of the content of this claim, it affirms the existence of a supernatural consciousness from whose will everything distinct from itself is said to originate (“God created the earth and the heaven” by an act of will), which assumes the primacy of consciousness: in the relationship between consciousness and its objects in the case of the Christian god’s consciousness, the Christian god’s consciousness holds the upper hand – i.e., it holds metaphysical primacy over its objects.



On the other hand, the affirmation of this claim as a truth implies the opposite orientation between consciousness and its objects – i.e., that the objects of consciousness hold metaphysical primacy over the subject of consciousness. When a person states “X is the case,” quite typically he is affirming this as a statement reflecting reality as it is independent of anyone’s wishing, feelings, likes or dislikes, preferences, imagination, dreams, etc., which means he is tacitly making use of the primacy of existence metaphysics.



Thus in terms of the relationship between consciousness and its objects assumed in the statement “God exists,” we have a performative inconsistency stemming from a contradiction at the most fundamental level of cognition – i.e., at the level of metaphysical primacy. For not only are the primacy of existence and the primacy of consciousness contradictory to one another, they are also jointly exhaustive, as this paper explains.



So we see that even in just a simple claim as “God exists,” a thinker can be performatively contradicting himself by affirming content which assumes the primacy of consciousness metaphysics while tacitly making use of the primacy of existence metaphysics just in making the claim. Moreover, given the many positions on the wide variety of issues in philosophy that a worldview can affirm, it is quite possible – especially if that worldview never raises questions about the proper relationship between consciousness and its objects in the first place – for a worldview to rest on mixed metaphysics – i.e, attempts to blend notions assuming the primacy of consciousness (such as Christianity’s notion of its god and other supernatural beings) with recognitions of the obvious fact that existence holds metaphysical primacy over consciousness. That one holds some views which are consistent with the primacy of existence does not mean that other views he affirms which do assume the primacy of consciousness are thereby metaphysically rehabilitated. On the contrary, they still assume the primacy of consciousness and the individual has allowed contradictions into his sum of knowledge. In the case of Christianity this reaches points of extremes in which the believer has at various points in his life lost sight of the distinction between reality and imagination.



Warden follows this point with his seventh point:

7. Any highly specialized definition of a universal concept of reality that denies the universality of that concept and arbitrarily excludes aspects for subjective reasons is an invalid and false definition of that concept.

This may very well be the case for those definitions which qualify as such. But Warden has not shown that any definition that I have affirmed qualifies in this category. We have seen repeatedly now that Warden’s charge that the definitions pertaining to the issue of metaphysical primacy constitute such cases rests on his own confusions, lack of understanding and failure to integrate points which have already been clearly and explicitly laid out.



Warden then affirms as a conclusion the assertion he’s been wanting to convince himself of all along:

8. Therefore, Bethrick’s definition of primacy of consciousness is invalid and false.

Notice that none of what Warden has presented involves an analysis of any definitions which Objectivism has applied to its terms. They may be “strange” to untutored individuals like Warden upon first encountering them, and they are likely to be “strange” to many people given their ignorance of the nature of the relationship between consciousness and its objects and the importance this relationship has for knowledge and philosophy. But just as the novelty of an idea does not constitute an argument against its legitimacy, neither does an individual’s ignorance of a key area of philosophical inquiry constitute an argument against the need to investigate it and understand its relevance to cognition.



The bible nowhere raises questions about the proper relationship between consciousness and its objects. It busies itself with stories of desert wanderings, debates over circumcision, abstinence from certain foods, codes regulating slave trade, stoning prostitutes, prophets having dreams, sacred meal traditions, temple building, missionizing campaigns taking heroes to far away places, etc., etc., etc., none of which is philosophically useful to man. The bible nowhere presents a frank discussion about the nature of consciousness, the relationship between consciousness and its objects, how the mind forms concepts, how to properly define concepts, and other things that are philosophically important. So bibliolaters like Warden are essentially outsiders when it comes to discussions of metaphysical primacy. His lack of familiarity in this area results in discussions of this nature appearing “strange” and contributes to persisting confusions on his part as he fails to integrate key factors that determine the relevance of their application. And in spite of my efforts to help educate him on matters, Warden proves himself over and over again to be attitudinally opposed to learning, and thus strikes me as one who insists on being unteachable.



Warden ended his comment with the following complaint:

It's difficult to debate with someone who chooses to use highly subjective definitions for metaphysical concepts.

Indeed, this is certainly true. Notice how Warden’s insistence on subjective assumptions (e.g., his entire theistic worldview and the contradictions contained in it) continually puts him at a disadvantage in debates of this nature. Attempting desperately to sidestep the issue of metaphysical primacy, Warden has reached for just about every tactic in the book – from fabricating charges of fallacies to “HEY LOOK OVER THERE!” to “I don’t like your definitions.” Indeed, what could “subjective” possibly mean according to Christianity? At one point in his writings Warden cited The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of ‘subjective’. But why go with a clearly secular source for one’s definitions? Cornelius Van Til famously asked: “Is not the important thing that Christian meanings be contrasted with non-Christian meanings?” (The Defense of the Faith, p.23n1). But what are Christians to do for definitions when their bible does not even provide any? And what hope can a Christian apologist have when he encounters topics in philosophical debate that his bible completely ignores, leaving him without any distinctively Christian approach to the matter?

The words “You’re screwed!” come poignantly to mind.

by Dawson Bethrick 


15 comments:

  1. Hi Rick,

    You gave the following and called it an "objective definition of metaphysical primacy":

    "that which is considered to be the most primary and universally relevant supervening, preeminent force in terms of both being and existence."

    I did not see any source which you might identify as the origin or text that you may have gotten this definition from. Can you link to a philosophical source where you got your definition?

    Regards,
    Dawson

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    1. Hi Dawson,

      In my article I wrote:

      "If anyone disagrees with this definition, do post a comment and we’ll discuss your objection.

      You are welcome to offer your opinion.

      The following is the rationale behind the definition, which you are welcome to object to:

      "Any valid definition of universal primacy must incorporate valid aspects of both words “metaphysical” and “primacy.” The word “metaphysical” pertains to philosophical consideration of “being” and “existence.” It is an open-ended term with no loaded implications whatsoever. Typical dictionary definitions of primacy offer words such as “power, supremacy, and preeminence.” Again, for the sake of this subject at hand, keep in mind that the word “primacy” includes no limitations or prescriptions regarding the physical world or any philosophical preconceptions whatsoever. Keeping these facts in mind, what would an objective definition of “metaphysical primacy” look like?

      An Objective Definition of Metaphysical Primacy:

      that which is considered to be the most primary and universally relevant supervening, preeminent force in terms of both being and existence.

      Delete
    2. Perhaps the reason I did not offer a third-party source is because the only group that seems to be supporting this argument is the Rand objectivist one. That, however, does not give Randian objectivists license to avoid basic definitions of the words "primacy" and "metaphysics" in creating their own definitions. I believe I have done justice to both words included in the phrase.

      Delete
  2. Hi Rick,

    Let me try again. I'm asking you to cite the source where you got this definition - as you've stated it. I'm not asking for a "third-party source," but rather the original source where you got this particular definition. Since you've shown great concern for definitions coming from authoritative sources, I am interested in what you take as an authoritative source for this definition. So a citation is definitely in order here.

    Regards,
    Dawson

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    1. Dawson,

      Let me also try again with you.

      You wrote:

      “Since you’ve shown great concern for definitions coming from authoritative sources.”

      I’m not sure which specific quote or quotes of mine you may be referring to here. Can you offer an example?
      My primary concern regarding Rand’s definitions of metaphysical primacy, as I’ve stated multiple times in my recent posts, is that she arbitrarily censors out metaphysical aspects from her definitions that undermine her claims. I’ve offered some rather elaborate allegories to demonstrate this problem. One regards physical primacy as an allegory, the other a heavyweight boxing match as an allegory. Did you not understand the underlying messages of the allegories, Dawson?

      I primarily appeal to logic, not authority in my arguments, unless I wish to point out the misuse of authority, as was the case with Rand’s argument. Rand, appealed to contextual authority in her primacy argument when she stated that the “root” of “all philosophy” is based on her consciousness-existence duality. In asking you to provide one example, historical or present, of one non-Randian philosopher who agrees with this, I was asking you to justify her claim. Evidently, her appeal to contextual authority was not justified.

      In intentionally setting out to propose a definition of metaphysical primacy that is not biased, I would refrain from appealing to only one definition exclusively from one particular philosopher or authority figure. On the contrary, I propose that common dictionary definitions of the words “metaphysics” and “primacy” would suffice for a person of average intelligence to grasp the meaning of “metaphysical primacy” accurately if the person is informed in a very basic understanding of the subject of philosophy. In my opinion, there is nothing mysterious, tricky or esoteric in the meaning of these two words or in the combination of these two words.

      It is possible that a person with a very low I.Q. could misinterpret the phrase, “jumbo shrimp” if he read a dictionary and thought that the word “shrimp” in this case meant “very small,” rather than a small sea creature. It is possible that a person from another country could misinterpret the phrase, “Super Bowl Sunday” to mean an extra-large pot luck supper at church, due to a problem of cultural context. It’s also possible that a phrase may be imbibed with esoteric slang meaning. However, in the case of the phrase, “metaphysical primacy,” I don’t see any of these kinds of dangers. What about you, Dawson, do you find the phrase “metaphysical primacy” potentially problematic for any of these reasons? Are there any additional unmentioned problematic concerns you have with the definition I offered?

      I appeal to the average I.Q., a basic knowledge of philosophy, and the average dictionary as sufficient resources for understanding the meaning of the phrase “metaphysical primacy,” unless someone can demonstrate why I should not. And I appeal to these same resources as suitable for claiming that Rand has not adhered to a basic and accurate definition of metaphysical primacy within the context of her primacy argument. This has been documented and explained quite thoroughly in the above article, Dawson. You could demonstrate some intellectual honesty by acknowledging the problems.

      Delete
  3. Rick,

    For the third time, identify the source where you got the definition of ‘metaphysical primacy’ that you presented in your blog entry. Just provide the link where you found the following:

    <<that which is considered to be the most primary and universally relevant supervening, preeminent force in terms of both being and existence.>>

    Anything else is mere obfuscation and evasion, which can only mean you’re trying to hide something.

    Citation please.

    Regards,
    Dawson

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    1. Hi Dawson,

      I will address your comment with a new post shortly.

      Regards,

      Rick

      Delete
  4. Rick,

    It's not clear why you can't just post a link to the source where you got your definition of metaphysical primacy ("that which is considered to be the most primary and universally relevant supervening, preeminent force in terms of both being and existence") right here. But if you want to create another blog post, that's your choice.

    In addition to identifying the source where you got your definition of metaphysical primacy, identify those philosophers, historical or present, who agree with this definition. If your definition carries any weight, this should be in order as well.

    Regards,
    Dawson

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    1. Hi Dawson,

      After more careful consideration, I have refined the definition of metaphysical primacy to include only the exact words combined from two published dictionary sources (both Webster's Dictionary). The reasons for this are explained in a recent post entitled, Definition of Metaphysical Primacy

      http://templestream.blogspot.com/2014/02/definition-of-metaphysical-primacy.html

      As noted there, there are reasons why trust in an authoritative source alone, without a logical analysis, is not a good idea. The following are some points:

      1. The first dictionary definitions were considered viable, though created without the use of previous dictionaries and authoritative citations.

      2. Therefore, authoritative citations are not necessary in creating viable definitions.

      Qualities of an Objective Definition

      1. An objective definition is one that accurately summarizes the key qualities of a subject without imposing bias or prejudice.

      2. It is logically possible for a single individual to use objective sources and summarize key qualities of a subject without imposing a personal bias or prejudice.

      3. Therefore, it is logically possible for a single individual to create an objective definition.

      >In addition to identifying the source where you got your definition of metaphysical primacy, identify those philosophers, historical or present, who agree with this definition. If your definition carries any weight, this should be in order as well.

      - Unlike Anotn Thorn, I never made the following type of claim:

      “Rand introduces the idea of metaphysical primacy as the fundamental principle which guides all philosophy.”

      I do not pretend to imagine that my conception of metaphysical primacy is "the fundamental principle which guides all philosophy.” - so I don't need to shoulder that burden. that burden is evidently on Anton Thorn's shoulders. But he offers no support for it in the article he posted, linked at this post:

      http://templestream.blogspot.com/2014/01/rands-primacy-of-existence-argument.html

      You might wish to ask Thorn how he supports his claim. Do you actually believe that claim is true, Dawson? I offered a few examples wherein metaphysical primacy has been used by other philosophies and, apparently, Rand's explanation is not prevalent.

      Regards,

      Rick

      Delete
  5. Rick,

    Your confusion seems to know no bounds. You have repeatedly affirmed one way or another that Rand's definition of metaphyiscal primacy is somehow faulty. Then you provide an alternative definition which you apparently thought was beyond challenge. When I asked you to cite the source of this alternative definition, you do not do so. When I asked you to identify other philosophers who agree with the alternative definition, you fail to identify any.

    Now you say "After more careful consideration, I have refined the definition of metaphysical primacy..." It appears that you're just making things up as you go, calling it "logical" by your own fiat and excusing any need to cite authorities, all the while committing the same error you accuse Objectivists of committing - i.e., guiding your points by your own bias.

    Then, in your latest post you wrote: "This issue came to my attention when I realized that the philosophy of Objectivism is based upon comparing two conditions of perceived metaphysical primacy without ever defining what metaphysical primacy is in the first place as a point of reference." So now you're saying that Rand never gave a definition of 'metaphysical primacy' in the first place! Amazing!

    Seriously, Rick, I think you need to take a major breather here. You're all over the place and finding that once you get ankle-deep into the matter, you need to backtrack because you failed to look before leaping. This is evident throughout so much of your attempt to challenge Objectivism. It's as though you had read a couple quotes about Objectivism, reacted against it because it is non-theistic, and then set out to "refute" it without any solid grasp of what Objectivism teaches in the first place. A good example is what you insinuate that Objectivism has provided no support for identifying the issue of metaphysical primacy as the most important issue in philosophy. Clearly you have not done you're homework, and you're just trying to wing it all along never realizing how you continue to paint yourself into arbitrary corners as a result. You need to clean your shoes now, Rick. Until you do that, you will make no progress here.

    Regards,
    Dawson

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    1. Dawson,

      As the official blog moderator at Templestream, I've decided that a thread on the topic of metaphysical definitions would be more appropriate at the following post:

      http://templestream.blogspot.com/2014/02/definition-of-metaphysical-primacy.html?showComment=1391458238041#c1555226673767652266

      Delete
  6. It seems like Dawson is only left with emotion and mere disagreement to fuel his argument.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I would agree that Dawson has offered nothing substantial as a cogent defense of Objectivism. Dawson's favorite tactic is apparently to label difficult questions and criticisms as red herrings. When pressed to provide his practical definition of "metaphysical primacy", a central concept of Ayn Rand's argument against Theism, Dawson ultimately chose to flee this blog and end our debate rather than provide an answer. It's all been plainly documented.

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  8. You do agree that reality is objective though right? It's just not logical to assert that nature comprises the entirety of reality as if it is one and the same

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    1. Yes, I do agree with the basic premise that objective reality exists and that having an objective approach to knowledge and truth is important. These are reasons why I find "Objectivism" to be both fraudulent and misleading. Here is an example of objective reality from a theist perspective:

      If God Exists, Then Objective Morality Exists

      http://templestream.blogspot.com/2012/08/if-god-exists-then-objective-morality.html

      Delete

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