Wednesday, March 27, 2019

GDSB: Prolegomena part 2

Image result for derrida
Jacques Derrida (1930-2004)

I will actually start making the argument on Monday

Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) is perhaps the closest thing to the major voice of postmodernism. If we were to try to sum up in one sentence a single idea emblematic of postmodernism we could not do better than to say postmodernism is the view that three are no meta narratives. Derrida, working in the philosophical heritage of Edmomnd Husseral. “Given this ontological critique, which Derrida claims pervades all of western philosophy, Derrida asserts a sort of post-metaphysical, post-foundational, perspective of reality that is not so much a new philosophy, but rather one that no longer naively accepts the arbitrary metaphysical claims of western thought.[1]  Derrida holds that western thought has always assumed a logos, or a transcendental signified. “For essential reasons the unity of all that allows itself to be attempted today through the most diverse concepts of science and of writing, is in principle, more or less covertly, yet always, determined by an historico-metaphysical epoch of which we merely glimpse the closure.”[2]
Rather than seeking to destroy all truth he seeks to show that the modern metaphysical referents to which the assumptions of logos pertain are inherently problematic.

To explain the meaning of the transcendental signified with reference to the article itself as well as my previous understanding of this concept, I can say that Derrida assumes that the entire history of Western metaphysics from Plato to the present is founded on a classic, fundamental error. This error is searching for a transcendental signified, an “ external point of reference” ( like God, religion, reason, science….) upon which one may build a concept or philosophy. This transcendental signified would provide the ultimate meaning and would be the origin of origins. This transcendental signified is centered in the process of interpretation and whatever else is decentered. To Derrida THIS IS A GREAT ERROR because... 1. There is no ultimate truth or a unifying element in universe, and thus no ultimate reality (including whatever transcendental signified). What is left is only difference. 2. Any text, in the light of this fact, has almost an infinite number of possible interpretations, and there is no assumed one signified meaning.[3]
For Derrida, as with Davies, there is nothing outside of the realm of signifier that we can latch onto and pull ourselves out of the quagmire of signs and signification. There is no touchstone of meaning outside of that realm because all meaning is based upon the shifting sands of signifier and differance.[4] So modern though is between a rock and a hard place. We are either trapped in the world of signification where meaning is arbitrary and always differed to the next signifier which is also arbitrary, or we are stuck in the Cul-de-Sac of scientific reductionism.
Jacob Gabriel Hale asserts that Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987) has the answer. Van Til was a Philosopher and Reformed Theologian best known for the transcendental Argument for God (TAG).[5] Hale compares Derrida to Van Til. Both understand modern thought to be trapped in the same dead end seeking a logos but unable to connect with it. While Derridia's answer is to give up on logos and tear down hierarchies and be stuck like a character in a Becket play, Van Til understands God as the true presupposition to logic.[6] Thus Van Til fills in the blank of the logos with the Christian Logos. The Christian intellectual tradition has always regarded God as the basis of logic probably going back to the Greeks and their idea of logos. It's a concept very reminiscent of St. Augustine in his association of God with truth.
Augustine expresses the concept of the super-essential Godhead many times and in many ways. Augustine was a Platonist. In that regard perhaps his greatest innovation was to place the Platonic forms in the mind of God. That is a major innovation because it trumps the Neo-Platonistic following after Plotinus, who conceived of a form of the forms. In Augustinian understanding the equivalent of the “the one” the form that holds all other forms within itself is the mind of God. Augustine never made an argument for the existence of God because for him God was known with certainty and immediacy. God is immediately discerned in the apprehension of truth, thus need not be “proved.” God is the basis of all truth, and therefore, cannot be the object of questioning about truth, since God is he medium through which other truths can be known.[7] Paul Tillich reflects upon Augustine’s concept:

Augustine, after he had experienced all the implications of ancient skepticism, gave a classical answer to the problem of the two absolutes: they coincide in the nature of truth. Veritas is presupposed in ever philosophical argument; and veritas is God. You cannot deny truth as such because you could do it only in the name of truth, thus establishing truth. And if you establish truth you affirm God. “Where I have found the truth there I have found my God, the truth itself,” Augustine says. The question of the two Ultimates is solved in such a way that the religious Ultimate is presupposed in every philosophical question, including the question of God. God is the presupposition of the question of God. This is the ontological solution of the problem of the philosophy of religion. God can never be reached if he is the object of a question and not its basis.
Augustine says God is truth. He doesn’t so much say God is being as he says God is truth. But to say this in this way is actually in line with the general theme we have been discussing, the one I call “super-essential Godhead,” or Tillich’s existential ontology. Augustine puts the emphasis upon God’s name as love, not being. Since he was a neo Platonist he thought of true reality as beyond being and thus he thought of God as “beyond being.” This makes no sense in a modern setting since for us “to be” is reality, and to not be part of being would meaning being unreal. But in the platonic context, true reality was beyond this level of reality and what we think of as “our reality” or “our world” is only a plane reflection of the true reality. We are creatures of a refection in a mud puddle and the thing reflected that is totally removed from our being is the true reality. It was this distinction Tillich tried to preserve by distinguishing between being and existence.[8] 

Augustine looked to the same passage in Exodus that Gilson quotes in connection with Aquinas. Augustine’s conclusions are much the same about that phrase “I am that I am.” This is one of his key reasons for his identification between God and truth. He saw the nature of God’s timeless being as a key also to identifying God with truth. The link between God and truth is the Platonic “one.” Augustine puts the forms in the mind of God, so God becomes the forms really. The basis of this identification is partly God’s eternal nature. From that point on it’s all an easy identification between eternal verities, such as truth, eternal being, beauty, the one, and God. The other half of the equation is God’s revelation of himself as eternal and necessary through the phrase, for very similar reasons to those listed already by Gilson, between I am that I am and being itself (or in Augustine’s case the transcended of being). “He answers, disclosing himself to creature as Creator, as God to man, as Immortal to mortal, eternal to a thing of time he answers ‘I am who I am.’”[9]

Problems with TAG

I am about to present am argument that also uses the term “transcendental.” Both arguments argue for belief in God. The difference being that TAG proceeds from presuppositional apologetics, while my argument is made on an evidential basis. Both assume that God is at the basis of all knowledge and meaning. This is what is meant by “transcendental,” it refers to the basis of the system of thought. My argument uses the TS as an evidential basis for belief while the presupositional argument merely assumes the truth of the argument then rejects the presuppositions of other views. TAG says nothing about signifier. To understand the insufficiency of TAG (thus they need for a new argument) we must examine TAG more closely. Greg Bahnsen was the champion of TAG[10]. Van Til never really makes the argument, never actually states it.[11] TAG is basically just the assumptions of Van Til's presupositional approach, he wants to scratch starting from a point of neutrality and trying to prove truth and asserting the presuppositions we believe: “ He maintained that because God, speaking in his word, is the ultimate epistemological starting point, there is no way of arguing for the faith on the basis of something other than the faith itself.  God's authority is ultimate and thus self-attesting.”[12]  That is really the basis of TAG. The problem is he never bothers to prove it. That is an instant turn off for most atheists, and since he never states the argument clearly, it's not real clear what it is. I like the idea of not being stuck with a phony neutrality because most atheists, at least new atheists lionize their assumptions, at least in my experience those I've dealt with tend to do that. I don't seek to argue for total proof but rational warrant for belief. This argument I will present in terms of the best explanation.
I think the approach I'm taking will offer a couple of things that Van Til doesn't. First, In dealing with Derrida’s world of signifiers and it's concept of the TS we are in a better position to insist that God is the presupposition, because all the Derridians agree Western metaphysics accepts TS and that is basically another version of God. So the difficulty in getting the secular thinker to accept the premise that God is the presupposition is not as great a gap to cover if we can start out assuming the tradition affirms a God-like premise in a logos anyway. Secondly, I don't think Van Til get's us out of the closed in world of his presuppositions. He asserts that the Triune deity is the presupposition to all logic, truth, and meaning but why would an unbeliever assume it? If my argument is successful it should become apparent that God is the best explanation.
Modern secular thought can't make the leap outside itself to find God because it either rejects God or uses itself as the standard of truth. Of course this is inadequate because that is the problem in the first place. God is truth but that's not obvious because it's too transparent, we are too close to the reality. St. Augustine made an argument that might be considered transcendental in that it assumes God as the presupposition to truth. Paul Tillich summarizes this argument:

Augustine, after he had experienced all the implications of ancient skepticism, gave a classical answer to the problem of the two absolutes: they coincide in the nature of truth. Veritas is presupposed in every philosophical argument; and veritas is God. You cannot deny truth as such because you could do it only in the name of truth, thus establishing truth. And if you establish truth you affirm God. “Where I have found the truth there I have found my God, the truth itself,” Augustine says. The question of the two Ultimates is solved in such a way that the religious Ultimate is presupposed in every philosophical question, including the question of God. God is the presupposition of the question of God. This is the ontological solution of the problem of the philosophy of religion. God can never be reached if he is the object of a question and not its basis.[13]

One might ask why, if God is so basic to be synonymous with truth we can't all recognize it? That is the reason, it's so basic. So it is with being, we write it off as “just what is” and go on looking for this “God” who can’t be found because we don’t understand he’s nearer than our inmost being. Such is the pitfall of scientific empiricism. The point of course is that God is too basic to our being, too much a part of the existence we share that we don't see any indications of presence. We take for granted the aspects of being that indicate God's reality. Some of the indications might be physical or cosmological, such as fine tuning or modal necessity. Others are experiential. The atheists pointed out that water is physical and can be detected. It's only an analogy and all analogies break down at some point. Analogies are not proofs anyway. I don't offer this as proof but as a clarification of a concept. In so clarifying we find a link to being; the connection between God and Being itself.
Heidegger approaches being in this manner, it is ready-to-hand, too basic to notice. In other words like a carpenter using tools we find being so inherently part of our experience, so ready-to-hand that we don't notice it. Paul Tillich worked in the vain of Heidegger, he used the philosopher to translate classic Christian theology into modern thought. In that vain we are too close to being, it's too fundamental to what we are to realize that our place in it is to be contingencies based upon the reality of God. God is also "detectable" but of course, not in the sense that physical objects are. Like a fish in water, being is the medium in which we exist. Given certain assumptions we can understand the correlation between experience of presence and the nature of eternal necessary being. When we experience the reality of God through the presence of holiness we experience the nature of being as eternal and necessary. All we need to do is realize the necessary aspect of being to realize the reality of God. This is why Tillich says:

The name of infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of our being is God. That depth is what the word God means. And if that word has not much meaning for you, translate it, and speak of the depths of your life, of the source of your being, of your ultimate concern, of what you take seriously without any reservation. Perhaps, in order to do so, you must forget everything traditional that you have learned about God, perhaps even that word itself. For if you know that God means depth, you know much about Him. You cannot then call yourself an atheist or unbeliever. For you cannot think or say: Life has no depth! Life itself is shallow. Being itself is surface only. If you could say this in complete seriousness, you would be an atheist; but otherwise you are not."[14] 
"Depth of being" and being itself are synonymous. Depth just means that there's more to being than appears on the surface. The surface is the most obvious aspect, that things exist. The existence of any given thing is the surface level. If we go deeper to probe the nature of being that entails the realization of the eternal necessary aspect of being and thus being has depth. Then we realize our own contingent nature and thus, we are at one and the same time realizing the reality of God (that is after all the basis of the cosmological argument and the ontological argument as well. This is why God seems to be hidden. God is not hiding himself. According to Hartshorne, "only God can be so universally important that no subject can ever wholly fail or ever have failed to be aware of him (in however dim or UN-reflective fashion)."[15]  Now the issue of why God doesn't hold a "press conference" has do do with the fact that God does not communicate by violating normal causal principles. In process terms, the "communication" of God must be understood as the prehension of God by human beings. A "prehension" is the response of an occasion to the entire past world (both the contiguous past and the remote past.) As God is in every occasion's past actual world, every occasion must "prehend" or take account of God.
It should be noted that "prehension" is a generic mode of perception that does not necessarily entail consciousness or sensory experience. There a two modes of pure perception --"perception in the mode of causal efficacy" and "perception in the mode of presentational immediacy." If God is present to us, then it is in the presensory perceptual mode of causal efficacy as opposed to the sensory and conscious perceptual mode of presentational immediacy.[16] That is why God is "invisible", i.e. invisible to sense perception. The foundation for experience of God lies in the nonsesnory non conscious mode of prehension. So now, there is the further question: Why is there variability in our experience of God?. Or, why are some of us atheists, pantheists, theists, etc.? Every prehension has an initial datum derived from God, yet there are a multiplicity of ways in which this datum is prehended from diverse perspectives.
I agreed with Hume that sense perception tells us nothing about efficient causation (or final causation for that matter). Hume was actually presupposing causal efficacy in his attempt to deny it (i.e., in his relating sense impressions to awareness).[17] Causation could be described as an element of experience, but as Whitehead explains, this experience is not sensory experience. From Hume's own analysis Whitehead derives at least two forms of non-sensory perception: the perception of our own body and the non-sensory perception of one's past.
But this is at an unconscious level. However, in some people, this direct prehension of the "Holy" rises to the level of conscious experience. We generally call theses people "mystics". Now, the reason why a few people are conscious of God is not the result of God violating causal principle; some people are just able to conform to God's initial datum in greater degree than other people can. I don't think that God chooses to make himself consciously known to some and not to others. That would make God an elitist. Now, the question as to why I am a theist as opposed to an atheist does have to do with me experiencing some exceptional religious or mystical experience; it does not have to do with amazing experiences that prove. Rather, I believe that these extraordinary experiences of the great religious leaders are genuine and that they do conform to the ultimate nature of things. It's not necessarily a "blind leap" of faith, as my religious beliefs are accepted, in part, on the basis of whether or not they illuminate my experience of reality.
The experience of no one single witness is the "the final proof," but the fact that there are millions of witnesses who, in differing levels from the generally intuitive to the mystical, experience must be the same thing in terms of general religious belief, the argument is simply that God interacts on a “human heart” (deep psychological) level, and the experiences of those who witness such interaction is strong evidence for that conclusion. This does not, however, remove the usefulness of deductive argument. The argument could be made as an inductive argument based upon religious experiences, yet with greater uncertainty. While deductive veracity is assurance of the truth of a statement, that assumes the premises are true, that's hard to establish with no basis in the empirical. that's hard to do if one finds it hard to believe that deduction can prove God we don't need to argue that. It can establish a rational warrant. For example we can't prove by observation weather the moon was a fragment of Earth or a captured meteorite, until we invent time travel we can't know empirically but we deduce a theory that makes sense. We might never know with certainty but we can have an indication that makes sense. So with deductive argument and God belief. Deductive argument can give us rational warrant for belief. The difference in warrant and proof is the difference in really knowing how the moon came to be and reaching a rational conclusion based upon deductive reasoning. One might ask “where does warrant get us in terms of belief in God?” It doesn't prove but may clear away the clutter so that we can come to terms with God on an existential level.

[1] Jacob Gabriel Hale, “Derrida. Van Til, And the Metaphysics of Postmodernism,” Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Volume 6, number 19 (Junje 30 to July 6, 2004) Third Medellin Ministries, on line Resource URL
[2] Jaques Derrida, The End of the Book and the Beginning of Writing, New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovonovitch, trans. Gayatri Spivak 1967 in Contemporary Critical Theory, ed. Dan Latimer, 1989, p.166
[3] Ayman Elhallaq. “Tramscemdemtal; Signiofioed as the basis of Deconstruction theory,” Literary Theory in Class,
[4] Hale, op cit,
Derrida intentionally spells “difference” with an “a” to remind the reader that the meaning signifier is not based upon an essential correspondence between signifier and signified but is arbitrary and meaning is always referenced by another word that is itself arbitrary. His overall point is that there is no ultimate meaning,
[5] Michael R. Butler.“The Transcendental Argument for God's Existence,” online resourse, URL:, viewed 7/3/15.
Mike Butler is Professor of Philosophy and Dean of Faculty at Christ College, Lynchburg, Virginia.
[6] Ibid
[7] Donald Keef, Thomism and the Ontological Theology: A Comparison of Systems. Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1971,140.
[8] Paul Tillich, Theology of Culture, New York: Oxford University press,1964 12-13.
[9] Carl Avren Levenson, John Westphal, editors, Reality: Readings in Phlosophy. Indianapolis, Indiana:Hackett Pulbishing company, inc. 1994, 54
“…St. Augustine’s view that God is being itself is based partly upon Platonism (“God is
that which truly is” and partly on the Bible—“I am that I am”). The transcendence of time as a condition of full reality is a central theme…[in Augustine’s work].”

[10] Greg L. Bhansen. Pushing the Antithesis, Powder Springs, Georgia: American Vision Inc. 2007Ibid., 6-7
[11] Gordon H. Clark, in Nash, op cit 301.
original, Gordon H. Clark, "Apologetics," Contemporary Evangelical Thought (Carl F. H. Henry, ed.),140.
[12] Butler, op.cit.
[13] Paul Tillich, Theology of Culture, London, op cit
[14] Paul Tillich. The Shaking of the Foundations. Eugene Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2012, 57.
[15] Charles Harthorne, The Divine Relativity: A Social Conception of God, New Haven: Yale University press, 1982, 70.
[16] Jon Mills. “Harthorne's Unconscious Ontology,” oneline,URL: accessed,7/3/15.
[17] This is common knowledge of Hume's take on causality that we don't see causes at work. This is the pojnt of the billiard balls.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

God and The Deep Strictures of Being: Prolegomena part 1

Image result for Heraclitus

Heraclitus  (c. 535 – c. 475 BCE)
 purveyor of the Logos

For the next few weeks I will develop my Deep Strictures argument (Transcendental Signifiers). It beings with a Prolegomena so this is before we are in a position to make an argument,It;s just laying the ground work, But it offers a new God argument no one else makes.

So what is a TranscendentalSignifier and why is it a problem? In semiotic terms, the TS is the ultimate source of meaning, the eye watching over things, saying what signifies what. The history of western philosophy, according to Derrida, has involved the belief in and search for The Transcendental Signifier, the Signifier of all signifiers, the concept that stabilizes the system of meaning and limits interpretive possibility. Call it Truth or the Platonic Ideal or G-d, or Man, or The Unconscious, or, for our purposes, Haman.

Western thought has always assumed a logos, a first principle that gives meaning to all ambiguity and grounds all knowledge and norms. This concept has been embodied in many different ideas, collectively Jacques Derrida calls them “transcendental signifiers” (TS). These differing notions all point to a single idea, the one thing that is necessary and universal that orders and gives meaning to all signs and signification. That is the thing signified by the words used to mark it, the transcendental signified (TS). Humanity has been unable to find any matching candidate for this post in modern thought primarily because we gave up the idea of a logos. Modern science has a sort of truncated logos in the idea that empirical observations will eliminate all hypotheses until just the true one's are left and that will give us the understanding we seek. That will never happen because it cannot; science can't render first principles in areas like ethics and morality and it can't delve into the spiritual, the phenomenological, the existential or anything not immediately verifiable empirically. Postmodern thought has given up on the whole project. They reject the concept of truth itself and seek not to understand anything beyond their self referential language game. Yet in rejecting the concept of truth, and tearing down hierarchies, they create their transcendental signifier differance, (with an a)[1]. Only the concept of God fits the parameters for the TS. God offers the best explanation for hierarchical ordering, thus offers the most likely correlate for TS. Or to put it another way, mind is the missing dimension that enables the TS to unite human experience of being with understanding. That in itself should warrant belief in God.
Human thought in general and Western thought in particular has always sought an ἀρχή, a first principle, a logos that will sum up everything and give meaning to reality. The Greek notion of the logos, which was always about finding a way to understand reality through observing the world: “...Heraclitus of Ephesus (540-480BC) succeeded best in giving mythos and logos a philosophical meaning in a new world structure and putting man in a position to find his rightful place in it. The establish the reality of observable phenomena, to uncover its governing force, and to teach man the proper way of relating himself to both.[2] The notion, in one form or another, was deeply rooted among the Greeks: the stoics, for example, used it to mean the divine animating principle pervading the universe.[3] William James, in The Varieties of Religious Experience, reflections upon Kant's notion of categories, “Ideas of pure reason,” that ground all our ideas and support all concrete knowledge even though they themselves are not given in sense data.[4]
...such ideas and others equally abstract, form the background for all our facts, the fountain-head of all the possibilities we conceive of...everything we know is what it is by sharing in the nature of one of these abstractions.We can never look directly at them for they are bodiless and featureless and footless, but we grasp all other things by their means and in handling the real world we should be stricken with helplessness in just so far forth as we might lose these mental objects, these adjectives, these adverbs and predicates and heads of classification and conception.[5] 
James argues that these abstract notions is one of the “cardinal facts” of our human existence. We can't escape them, we can't deal with life without them. He talks about Plato and Emerson as examples of thinkers whose grasp of such abstractions defined the nature of ideas in such a way as to both define thought and infuse ideas with a sense of the divine, “treat the moral structure of the universe as a fact worthy of worship.”;'[6]  Such notions, such links between the concrete and the abstract are replete in human history. Around the turn of the nineteenth into the twentieth century James observes this kind of transcendentalism moving into a scientific venue. “Science in many minds is genuinely taking the place of religion.”[7] He finds schools of thought that saw the Greek gods as reflections of the abstract ideas. While in the current age we find scientists openly talking about science replacing religion or providing a short cut to God.
The rise of Christianity saw a clear interpretation of the logos. In the rise of modern science we saw the Christian thesis discorded but another logos was put in it's place, in the form of the laws of physics.
It may seem bizarre, but in my opinion science offers a surer path to God than religion…People take it for granted that the physical world is both ordered and intelligible. The underlying order in nature-the laws of physics-are simply accepted as given, as brute facts. Nobody asks where they came from; at least they do not do so in polite company. However, even the most atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith that the universe is not absurd, that there is a rational basis to physical existence manifested as law-like order in nature that is at least partly comprehensible to us. So science can proceed only if the scientist adopts an essentially theological worldview.[8]
So modern thought assumes these disembodied laws that are sort of the residue of God without the will or volition. Pierre-Simon Laplace reshaped science in the post Newtonian era, removing all the independent clock winding and repairing Newton had God doing in his system, and when Napoleon asked him why he left out talking about God in his science he supposedly answered “I have no need of that hypothesis.”[9] It was upon that basis that God was taken out of modern science and all the built in theological assumptions with it, based upon the explanatory power of cause and effect. From that point on there has been steady progression of putting aside thinking about ideas and final causes and assuming laws of physics just are. They are out there they make God unnecessary (supposedly) and though we don't know where they came from we don’t need to know.[10] As Alfred North Whitehead once observed: "We are content with superficial orderings form diverse arbitrary starting points. ... science which is employed in their development [modern thought] is based upon a philosophy which asserts that physical causation is supreme, and which disjoints the physical cause from the final end. It is not popular to dwell upon the absolute contradiction here involved..”[11]
The climate of opinion in modern physics, according to physicist Paul Davies, is still similar. Physicists assume the laws of physics “have some independent reality, prior to universe they describe,” not in terms of prescribing what nature has to do but in terms of beingbase of explanatory chain.”[12] Davies argues that fine tuning of the universal constants is an embarrassment to modern physicists. They are embarrassed because it appears that the universe has been “fixed” to produce life. In order to cover the embarrassment modern physicists reduce physical laws to something less binding. “The Cambridge cosmologist Martin Rees, president of The Royal Society, suggests the laws of physics aren't absolute and universal but more akin to local bylaws, varying from place to place on a mega-cosmic scale.”[13]  Davies goes on:

The root cause of all the difficulty can be traced to the fact that both religion and science appeal to some agency outside the universe to explain its law like order.....This shared failing is no surprise, because the very notion of physical law has its origins in theology. The idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable laws comes straight out of monotheism, which was the dominant influence in Europe at the time science as we know it was being formulated by Isaac Newton and his contemporaries. Just as classical Christianity presents God as upholding the natural order from beyond the universe, so physicists envisage their laws as inhabiting an abstract transcendent realm of perfect mathematical relationships. Furthermore, Christians believe the world depends utterly on God for its existence, while the converse is not the case. Correspondingly, physicists declare that the universe is governed by eternal laws, but the laws remain impervious to events in the universe.[14]
But the model has lost coherence since they can't move away from the word “law” and yet the laws are said to be mere “descriptions.” They seek to avoid a law giver. Then they vacillate between resorting to prescriptive or descriptive laws. This will be discussed in much detail in chapter 4. Modern scientific thought lacks the principle of grounding necessary to complete a correlate between our theoretical picture of the world an understanding what actually is because we have given up on the logos. We have a fragmented set of observations, laws and principles but no higher scheme uniting the fragments under single transcendental signifier:

And most cosmologists agree: we don't need a god-of-the-gaps to make the big bang go bang. It can happen as part of a natural process. A much tougher problem now looms, however. What is the source of those ingenious laws that enable a universe to pop into being from nothing? Traditionally, scientists have supposed that the laws of physics were simply imprinted on the universe at its birth, like a maker's mark. As to their origin, well, that was left unexplained.[15] 
They are still assuming a framework at the top without knowing what that framework is. For those who have given up on the project of truth it's even worse.


[1] John D. Caputo, The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida, Bloomington, Indiana: University of aindiana Press, 1997 2. Difference is not God but it functioms as aTS
[2 ]Alexander Sissel Kohanski, The Greek Mode of Thought In Western Philosophy. Rutherford, Madison, Teaneck: Fairleigh, Dickinson University press, London, Toronto :Associated University Presses, 1984, 27.
]3] Cambridge Dkctiomary of Philosophy. London: Cambridge University Press, 2nd Edition, 1999, 45.,
[4]  William James,The Verities of Religious Experience, a Study In Human Nature: Being the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion Delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-1902. London, New York, Bombay: Longmans, Green, and Co, 1905 56
[5] Ibid.
[6]  Ibid., 57.
[7]  Ibid.
[8]  Paul Davies, “Physics and The Mind of God: the Templeton Prize Address,” First Things, August 1995, on line version URL: accessed Nov 25, 2016
[9[  Taner Edis, The Ghost in the Universe: God in Light of Modern Physics. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books; 2nd Printing edition ,June 1, 2002, 107.
Edis is professor of physics at Truman State University.
[10]  Ibid.
 [11] Alfred North Whitehead, Science and The Modern World. New York: Free Press, 1925, (1953), 76.
[12] Paul Davies “When Time Began” New Scientist (oct 9 2004) 4.
[13]  __________, “Yes The Universe Looks like a fix, But ;that doesn't mean God fixed it,” The Guardian, Monday (25 June 2007) 19.07 ED on line copy, URL:
[14] Ibid.
[15 ] __________, “Stephan Hawking's Big Bang gaps,” The Guardian. (Saturday 4 September 2010) 03.30 EDT

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Scientism: science is the only valid form of knowledge

Ian Hacking

Scientism is the understanding that science is the only valid form of knowledge . It's an ideology and permeates  real scientific circles. When thinkers whose understanding is colored by this ideology their defense of science against valid ordinary critique is ideological and programmed, We can always spot this kind of thinking immediately because they invulnerably see any valid criticism as an attack upon the very notion of science, This tendency to think of science as some fragile sacred truth that dare not be questioned is emblematic of ideological reverence, This attitude An example is fond in the essay by Marcel Kuntz is at the Laboratoire de Physiologie Cellulaire Végétale, CNRS/Université Joseph Fourier/CEA/INRA in Grenoble, The essay entitled "The Postmodern assault on  Science"[1]

Kuntz tells us "Postmodernist thought is being used to attack the scientific worldview and undermine scientific truths; a disturbing trend that has gone unnoticed by a majority of scientists.[2] 
Postmodernism undermines all truth. Kuntz wants to privilege his view as THE TRUTH! You Know I believe in truth but I don't believe science is the one and only truth,

The scientific method has been the guiding principle for investigating natural phenomena, but postmodernist thought is starting to threaten the foundations of the scientific approach. The rational, scientific view of the world has been painstakingly built over millennia to guarantee that research can have access to objective reality: the world, for science, contains real objects and is governed by physical laws that existed before our knowledge of these objects and laws. Science attempts to describe the world independently of belief by seeking universal truths, on the basis of observation, measurement and experimentation. [3]
I agree with several aspects of this view point, I think science is the chief means of understanding the naturalistic workings of the wold and that it does supply a less subjective means of understanding the regularities of the law-like framework of the universe's behavior. Yet when we frame it as "objective," even though it can be called that in a relative way, we set up the validity of the Postmodern critique, it is this very swaggering claim to the one and only truth that postmodernists are reacting against. The claim that science gives us access to "objective reality" is a metaphysical claim, that is guaranteed to open up not objectivity but philosophical critique, The statement about universal truth is a dead give away. Go's love is a universal truth, There might be a realm of the forms where Universal truths are housed, for all we know.This clam impinges upon all metaphysical claims and thus is itself a metaphysical assumption,That makes it fair game for philosophy,
The postmodernist school of thought arose to question these assumptions, postulating that claims about the existence of a real world—the knowledge of which is attainable as an objective truth—have only been relevant in Western civilization since the Enlightenment. In recent decades, the movement has begun to question the validity of claims of scientific truth, whether on the basis of their belonging to larger cultural frames or through heavy criticism of the scientific method. [4]
Postmodernism did not arise solely to question the assumptions of science and objective evidence, That's an unfair generalization. That's the hallmark of his  whole attack because it fails to distinguish between levels of postmodern thought, it lumps all philosophical critique of science into the same pile as the most extreme Postmdoerns,

When he gets specific the first one he goes after is Thomas Kuhn. Kuhn is probably the most famous and the most legitimately accepted and admired thinker to be labeled "Postmodern." If we must label him ofrm y money i wouldlabel him Postmodern light,

Thomas Samuel Kuhn (1922–1996) is one of the most influential philosophers of science of the twentieth century, perhaps the most influential. His 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is one of the most cited academic books of all time. Kuhn's contribution to the philosophy of science marked not only a break with several key positivist doctrines, but also inaugurated a new style of philosophy of science that brought it closer to the history of science. His account of the development of science held that science enjoys periods of stable growth punctuated by revisionary revolutions. To this thesis, Kuhn added the controversial ‘incommensurability thesis’, that theories from differing periods suffer from certain deep kinds of failure of comparability.[5]
"The concept of paradigm shift proposed by Thomas Kuhn in his famous book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962;),[6] has also given weight to the critics of science and of its pretension to understand reality. If science is not a gradual process of accumulation of knowledge, but rather subject to sudden “revolutions” that overwhelm outdated theories, they argue, how can one trust scientific knowledge?" (from Kuntz, Op cit)

Who are they? Who are these faceless critics of  science who are out to steal reality? He imagines this rival group of  knowledge preachers with their own meta narrative to sell,.That Is ideology pure and simple, It;s saying My meta narrative is true  not yours,

I don't believe he has read Kuhn, Here are a couple of red flags,First, Kuhn does not say there's a sudden change, Revolutions don't have to be sudden. The metaphor there is political not temporal. In fact Kuhn;s theory states that the shift happens when the paradigm can n longer absorb anomalies that can can a long time for the anomalies to pileup. He says that for an individual researcher it can come as a sudden realization but i;ts not coming overnight in terms of what;s gonging in the field as a whole. When Kuhn says it's not a gradual accumulation of knowledge he doesn't mean these questions haven't been floating around for a long time but that scientific knowledge is not cumulative. it's not a long slow piling up of facts util we find truth. Scientific knowledge can come in an instant he's talking about regular scientific knowledge. Another red flag his rhetorical question  how can one trust scientific knowledge? That is his take on Kuhn,Kuhn himself does not say that, Kunb never goes after science, He is not a science baser. He's ;not trying to foster doubt about science. 
 "If, as according to Kuhn, scientific revolutions are also political upheavals in scientific policy, it is easy to understand why Kuhn's theory has attracted so much attention in a period that calls into question the established political order in the Western world.[7] So here wants to make postmodernism some kind of communist-like threat to peace and civilized order, That strikes me as red Baiting, Is that a bad thing? Questioning the political order?

I find that extremely simplistic, lacking in any specificity that makes it applicable to Kuhn, Kuhn is very specific abouit how defense of a paradigm is like a topological battle. That is why he calls it the scientific revolutions because defense of the old paradigm is like a political regime defemdimg against a revolution,

Then he starts talking about the strong programme as tough Kuhn is in that movement, He was not, The strong programme is the extreme end of postmodernism that does seek to overturn all truth and all science and fits the stereotype, It was largely based in  Edinburgh- with thinkers like David Bloor [8]
Then he slides into talkinga about the ‘strong programme'  in such as way as toconvey the impression that it; related to Kuhn, He also milables and thus castigates other thinkers such as Ian Hacking,

Several deconstructionist thinkers, such as Bruno Latour and Ian Hacking, have rejected the idea that the concepts of science can be derived from a direct interaction with natural phenomena independently of the social environment in which we think about them. The central goal of science, defining what is true and what is false, becomes meaningless they argue, as its objectivity is reduced to ‘claims' that are simply the expression of one culture—one community—among many. Thus, all systems of thought are different “constructs” of reality and all additionally have political connotations and agendas.[9]
He starts out here Identified Hacking as a deconstructionist. Hacking is certainly not a decon. Hacking says He;s a Cambridge analytic philosopher [10]He has been lauded for his scholarship. I am a big fan of His, He is clearly a major historian of sicced,[11] If he can be labeled in the postmodren vain it would be as a Faulcaultian  not a Derridan, That's very different, [12] Faucult had no ax to grind against science.

The generalizations in implacable and them  vs us mentality against what should be considered a valid academic quest for knowledge is indicative of the ideological basis of geneticist thinking, That gives credence to the postmodern critic of the meta narrative,


all sources acceded 5/2/17  

Kuntz is at the Laboratoire de Physiologie Cellulaire Végétale, CNRS/Université Joseph Fourier/CEA/INRA in Grenoble, 

[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.

[5]  Alexander Bird,, "Thomas Kuhn", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), First published Fri Aug 13, 2004; substantive revision Thu Aug 11, 2011

[6] Thomas Kuhn, 

[7] Kuntz op coit

[8] David Bloor, "The strengths of the strong programme." Scientific rationality: The sociological turn (Springer Netherlands, 1984) pp. 75-94.

[9]Kuntz,  Op cit

[10] Ian Hacking quoted in "Who Are you? The Biosocial Being Ian Hacking  Ioan Davies memorioal lecture, (4/14/17) held at university of Troomnto, URL:

[11]Karen Grandy, "Ian Hacking"The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2016-06-10.
[12]Thomas P. Kasulis, Robert C. Neville, John Edwin Smith The Recovery of Philosophy in America: Essays in Honor of John Edwin Smith
on line copy google books:

he is Foucultioan