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Re: Truthfunctionality & TA's: Bahnsen vs. Frame



(subject renamed to comply with rules!  Sorry James!)

David wrote:

> The purpose of the following notes, then, is to thank Aaron for the
> courtesy of his detailed attention, and to offer a single dose of
> guidance for the construction of a reply to objections such as the
> one he raises.

David, thanks for your response despite your time limitations.  Though I
didn't mentioned it, your article is extremely insightful and helpful,
despite the *alleged* error that I focused on in my post.  Since your
comments are to provide a "single dose of guidance", I will address them
generically rather than to you directly (after these introductory
sentences!).

Quick summary:

#1.  Bahnsen held that truthfunctionality is the principle of demarcation
for transcendental arguments.  Byron (and Frame) don't believe that this is
the case.
#2.  Byron's attempt to prove that truthfunctionality doesn't distinguish
transcendental arguments can be expressed in the following way (please see
the original at
http://www.baroquepotion.com/vantil/archive-Apr-1999/msg00020.html ,
or my
http://www.baroquepotion.com/vantil/archive-Aug-2002/msg00122.html ):

    (a)    If ~God, then ~(X or ~X)
    (b)    (X or ~X).
    (c)    Therefore, God.

Then the "victim" who has met one of us Van Tillians (or an odd philosopher)
retorts:

    (d)    ~(X v ~X)

Ergo, bad argument (no valid inference can be drawn from affirming the
consequent).  Ergo, no line of demarcation based on truthfunctionality.

#3.  This strategy *would* prove David's point, if it could be carried out.
#4.  This strategy could never, in principle, be carried out successfully,
because, sound transcendental arguments assert that the possibility of the
denial of the TP presupposes the conclusion, and therefore are *already
contained* in the TP.  Therefore *successful translation* would prevent #2
from ever being carried out.  This can be illustrated in any sound
transcendental argument (a gave three examples).
#5.  If an *illustration* is formalized, then only a finite number of "meta
moves by order of reference" can be written down.  However, if the terms
like "meaning", "intelligibility", etc., are 'captured' in the *translation*
correctly, then the victim's strategy will only remind us that it could and
should have been translated into the consequent of (a), had we anticipated
such a level of abstraction and sophistication in our *illustration*.
#6.  If they are indignant and continue the strategy, they will never reach
a point at which the intelligibility of their objection doesn't properly
belong in the consequent of (a).  In short, *they* would fall into an
infinite
regress, never able to provide example of 2, and therefore never able to
blur Bahnsen's principle of demarcation.

Now 1-3 are not in dispute.  But Byron denies 4, and offers the following
illustration:

>       "I neither affirm nor doubt that I exist; I'm agnostic on
>       the question of my own reality".

Remember that this is an attempt to disprove #4 by virtue of showing us (d)
in #2.  David writes,

> First, consider what permits the apologist to assume that the
> very act of claiming agnosticism regarding one's existence
> amounts to taking a definite stand on that very issue?  If the
> antichristian is agnostic *in general* regarding whether or not
> she exists, then she is likewise agnostic *in particular* about
> whether specific acts of withholding (or affirming or denying)
> entail existence.

Now the apologist isn't trying to *persuade* someone who is agnostic "*in
general*".  Rather, the apologist is *proving* that, regardless of her
ignorance of such matters, she could not be "agnostic on the question of
[her] own reality" (agnostic in general) any better than she can be agnostic
in particular about her existence-- she must exist regardless.  That is
because there
is an incoherence in the very idea.  If she insists that she sees no
incoherence, that certainly doesn't matter.

In another attempt to disprove #4 by showing #2 (d), David writes,

>The antichristian (say, a committed Buddhist
> of a certain flavor) would simply swallow the infinite regress
> of appeals to uncertainty, since the antichristian here is *not*
> overtly committed to the view that intentional acts are a
> non-illusory index of actual existence.

Again, though the Buddhist may not be *persuaded* by the fact that his
objection would require him to travel beyond Alexois Meinong's "existence
and non-existence", the incoherence of accomplishing such a task *proves*
that this attempt at (d) does not work.

Another attempt to disprove #4 by showing #2 (d):

I write to illustrate #4,
>  >Denying 2, "I say to you, it is not the case that *language is
>  >meaningful OR it is not the case that language is meaningful*!!!"

David responds,
> Here, as above, the stubborn antichristian might simply assert
> that he's not necessarily delivering meaning, but might instead
> be phenomenalizing without the least bit of epi, like a geyser.
> ("I *could* be arguing in my spare time", per John Cleese.)

I haven't the slightest idea what this means.  Sorry!  (does "geyser" means
something besides water coming out of the ground?)  At any rate, if somebody
insisted that they were communicating clear propositions through language
that was devoid of meaning, we wouldn't grant that the person understood
what they were saying.  Though they may not be *persuaded*, *proof* is
established by the incoherence of the notion.

> Then Aaron counterproposed that we take into account at least one
> layer) of the antichristian's likely, infinitely regressive reply:
>
>  >    If ~God, then ~(X or ~X or ~(X or ~X ))
>
> So then, does calling explicit attention to the lurking infinite
> regress *more fully express the intended meaning of Bahnsen's
> vague language*?  Possibly so, though clearly it does so only by
> way of pointing out a weakness rather than fortifying.  But the
> really interesting thing is that *swapping Aaron's revision into
> my earlier message does not affect my analysis of the Bahnsen/Frame
> disagreement at all*.  My point there, as outlined at the outset
> of the present note, is that in the midst of multiple definitions
> of "indirect" and "negative" Frame was talking about recasting a
> syllogism with fewer negated statements when he referred to
> "positive" formulations.  That this was my point is even obvious
> in parts of my formalization that Aaron quotes. And it's pretty
> obvious that Aaron's revision, like my initial illustration, can be
> altered  la Frame (by transposition of the TP) into a "positive
> formulation":

Calling explicit attention to the lurking infinite regress more fully
expresses that even a more sophisticated version of David's argument against
the principle of demarcation of TA's fails.  The infinite regress shows
that, in principle, your critique will never work.

David writes,
> Aaron's proposal (arbitrarily limited by him to one iteration of
> the regress -- without explanation or treatment of the regress
> problem he noted):

>  >    If ~God, then ~(X or ~X or ~(X or ~X ))
>  >    (X or ~X or ~(X or ~X ))
>  >    :. God
>
> Aaron's same proposal, JFramed:
>
>  >    If (X or ~X or ~(X or ~X )), then God.
>  >    (X or ~X or ~(X or ~X ))
>  >    :. God
>
> The joy of elementary logical equivalence.

Yes, I have had it too.  I am rejecting David's translation of the TA's.  I
have shown through three examples (none of which included Van Til's) that
they don't capture what is being asserted in semantics.  Therefore, if the
former is doesn't work, then by logical equivalence, the JFramed doesn't
work either!

David originally wrote,
>            a proper TA should be modal, but for simplicity I'll use
>            "(X or ~X)" to interpret "<>X" -- "possibly X" -- on the
>           simplistic assumption that possibility amounts to
>            truthvaluability

And then rebutted with this:

> I even called my formulation deliberately "simplistic", and used
> it as such because I correctly anticipated that for deciding the
> *semantic* issue between Bahnsen and Frame, that degree of
> simplicity did no harm.

But by making it simplistic, David made it inaccurate!  That is the whole
point!

And that wraps up David's rebuttal to my main point:  #2 could never get
off of the ground.  David has concluded that because there is an infinite
regress, the TA proponent cannot escape the "shouting match" or end up
"chasing the white rabbit as it leaps into the bottomless hole".  However,
the infinite regress only occurs in trying to pull off #2.  I wasn't
affirming #2 (a)-(c) but denying (d); I am denying (a)-(d), which is to say
I am denying all of #2 as a critique.  The examples I used show that the
translation from semantics to syntax wasn't capturing the TP.  In fact, I
think the only part of my essay David didn't quote was the following
conclusion:

>>Therefore, it appears that his translation is suspect.

My one comment where I hinted that David missed Bahnsen's point is precisely
tied to the notion of his translation of the TP.  When the TP is stated
correctly (as shown in paradigmatic TA's), then David's strategy doesn't
work.  Therefore, truthfunctionality remains a legitimate and useful way to
distinguish TA's.

Regards,

Aaron Bradford





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