A good response from Dr James Anderson regarding the reliability of sense perception!

“The same goes for induction.  Everyone (or nearly everyone!) in the debate takes for granted that inductive reasoning is generally reliable.  The real question is: Which worldview, theism or naturalism, can *account* for the general reliability of inductive reasoning?  In particular, which worldview can account for the inductive principle, i.e., the uniformity of nature in time and space? Theism can readily account for (a) the uniformity of nature and (b) our justified *a priori* belief in the uniformity of nature. Naturalism, not so much! No, this is confused.  The Christian doesn’t justify the reliability of the senses by appealing to Scripture.  Rather, the Christian argues that the *biblical worldview* (i.e., the worldview reflected in Scripture) can account for the reliability of the sense whereas the *naturalist worldview* cannot. ”

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So I was just popping in the code to the security door to my work, and a thought struck me as to an analogy of the problem universals and particulars!

What is the nature of particular facts of our experience, and what is their relationship to one another and the universal laws that bind them together?

Van Til was fond of speaking of beads and string, and for the longest time I couldn’t understand what he was speaking about, but I eventually worked it out, hopefully this analogy will help too!

Think of each number on a keypad, like the one shown to the right, as each individual fact of our experience. The point of a keypad is to have a particular code entered into it, so that you can6761965591_5e434905a6_n open whatever it is you are wanting to use. The code here represents the interpretation of a particular fact of experience.  Let’s say the particular code that I have in mind has a 6, a 2, a 3 and a 5 in it (making it simple). If i tell you, ok, so what is the code to get into the door, you will note that there is a problem… What is the relationship of the numbers between each other? Is the code 6235? Is it 2356? What about 6352? etc! What about 223355566? What about 552663?

That is similar to the way our experience of facts of life would be, without a notion of the relationship of the facts one to another, except imagine  a near infinite keypad, with a near infinite code! Trying to put each individual fact in right relation to one another is simply impossible, unless of course, you were a person who was omniscient and knew what the correct code was all along!

This would be like having particularity over universals. You could only know a particular fact in isolation, apart from any other fact!

Consider the inverse, what if I gave you a blank keypad, and said that the relationship of the numbers together was in the shape of an L. What would the code be? 1478 you might think – but remember this is a blank keypad! The numbers could run in any order they wanted! In fact, who said anything about numbers? This keypad can have anything in all of reality on each button. So what is the code?

This would be like having universals over particulars. You could only know the universal laws that bind the particular facts together, but you wouldn’t know the content of the particular facts was!

In this way, God is the one who has the ‘code’ of reality, He has the original interpretation of the relationship of the facts to each other, and knows the particular facts themselves, so that everything hangs together in unity!

Numbers without relation = facts without relationship between them. eg: Random jumble of numbers without laws of maths or logic to give them any significance together.

Relationship of the keys without the content of what the keys are = universals without particular facts. eg:  All X are not Y –  but never knowing what the content of X or Y ever was. Were X Cats? Was Y dogs?

Now for some of us, we may not clearly have an idea of what a universal is and what a particular is, or may need something more general, so another example may help:

When I say, “I want you to think of the concept of a red fire truck”, you will no doubt be able to picture that in your mind. Now, does that mean that there is an actual fire truck in your mind? No, clearly not, you simply have had the experience of fire trucks in the real world that you have then conceptualised. Red fire trucks have the concepts of ‘redness’, ‘loudness’, ‘heaviness’ ‘rectangular’ ‘three dimensional’ ‘has wheels’ etc. All of these concepts put together is what helps you ultimately understand the main concept of ‘red fire truck’. But that concept itself is not an actual fire truck in the real world – its simple a concept in your mind. The question then becomes how that concept relates to particular individual fire trucks in your daily experience walking down the street.

Some types of universals to consider :

Immaterial laws:

Such as the laws of logic (law of non-contradiction, law of identity, law of excluded middle).

Relationships between facts:

Think of the red fire truck! How would you describe it? It has a ladder, a number of wheels, contains water, has a hose etc – in order to describe that fire truck, you have to pull in other facts of experience. A fire truck cannot be known in isolation, it can only be known relating to its particular constituent parts, which you will need to know what those constituent parts are, and how they relate to the fire truck itself, and the other parts of the fire truck.

Attributes of those facts:

So, the fire truck contains water. What is water? What are its attributes? “Wetness” “clarity” “tasteless” “odourless” – these are all immaterial concepts that we apply to particular facts of our experience.

Pulling all those things together, what makes a fire truck a fire truck? Who says so? Who determined it to be so? If it is man, we could never really know that what a particular fact was in and of itself, because we are not omniscient, we would need to know how it relates to everything else in reality, because you cannot know one particular fact in isolation from everything else, as everything else is in the web of facts. Is water always wet? Do we have all knowledge to say that in all of reality it is always the case that it is wet? However, there is one who has determined what a fact is, how it relates to other facts, how it relates to immaterial universal concepts and laws. Why is water always wet? Why can’t a dog be a cat? Because God has determined that a those things have particular attributes, relationships to other facts, and has a particular identity. It is then our job to find out this original interpretation given by God, to understand the relationship of a fact to another fact as God says it is, to understand the relationship of a fact to a universal concept as God says it is, and how that particular fact relates to universal laws as God says it is – our knowledge itself is true only as much as it relates to what God says reality is. If we stray from that, we can’t know anything at all.

To quote Van Til on this point:

“If the creation doctrine is thus taken seriously, it follows that the various aspects of created reality must sustain such relations to one another as have been ordained between them by the Creator, as superiors, inferiors or equals. All aspects being equally created, no one aspect of reality may be regarded as more ultimate than another. Thus the created one and many may in this respect be said to be equal to one another; they are equally derived and equally dependent upon God who sustains them both. The particulars or facts of the universe do and must act in accord with universals or laws. Thus there is order in the created universe. On the other hand, the laws may not and can never reduce the particulars to abstract particulars or reduce their individuality in any manner. The laws are but generalizations of God’s method of working with the particulars. God may at any time take one fact and set it into a new relation to created law. That is, there is no inherent reason in the facts or laws themselves why this should not be done. It is this sort of conception of the relation of facts and laws, of the temporal one and many, imbedded as it is in that idea of God in which we profess to believe, that we need in order to make room for miracles. And miracles are at the heart of the Christian position.”

Revisionary Immunity

Posted: December 31, 2013 in General

From : http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/PA018.htm

Conclusion and Consequences

It is now apparent that the attempt to find truth which is insulated from the world of contingency and uncertainty by classifying some statements as analytic (and hence necessary and a priori) is a misguided philosophical maneuver. The idea that truths can be divided into two classes namely, empirically significant yet contingent, or trivial yet necessary and that infallibility pertains only to conventions of language is an insupportable dogma. The analytic/synthetic distinction is not lucid or defensible; it has not been adequately explicated, and thus its application lacks justification.


In the course of arriving at this conclusion about a pervasive philosophical prejudice we have uncovered many valuable insights of epistemological significance. They bear repeating. Every thinker will grant a preferred status to some of his beliefs or knowledge-claims; such statements in his system of thought are privileged in that they are not allowed to be overthrown by isolated experimentation or simple experience. Within a particular conceptual scheme there will be central paradigms of truth. These will be accepted as immune from revision as long as the conceptual scheme remains unchanged. Little obvious argumentation is offered for these paradigms, but they are not arbitrary or insupportable. These are substantive truths, even though they function somewhat like stipulated truths. These basic convictions or presuppositions are not true in virtue of language, or words, or definitions alone; they have factual content and significance. What a man will deem rational to give up will be relative to his belief system and its central paradigms. Men who are taken to be “rational” will nevertheless differ among themselves on which truths should be presupposed; differences of opinion evidence themselves even with respect to allegedly necessary and “analytic” truths. Conflicts are even possible over the truths of logic. More broadly, different fundamental, central, or basic beliefs will bring with the various standards of reasonableness; another thinker is thought to be “irrational” because his outlook does not square with one’s own basic beliefs or presuppositions. Of the beliefs in one’s system of thought some will be more, some less necessary; some beliefs will be treated as more fixed or entrenched than others, and likewise some beliefs will be given up more easily than others. The statements of one’s system of thought will not be completely determined by empirical procedures, and they will not be tested one by one, in isolation of other statements. When a central conviction or presupposition is altered, it will often be difficult to say whether this represents a change of belief or a change of meaning; at the most basic level in one’s thought meanings and beliefs are not sharply separated.


What the above observations amount to is this. Different people will set apart different truths which are to be accepted under any and all circumstances; these statements will be a subset of the whole system of beliefs. Because such statements are centrally located within one’s network of beliefs they will strongly resist revision; within that conceptual system they will be given special treatment. They represent one’s epistemological priorities or what he takes as logically primitive. These principles are employed in making predictions, in judging other claims, in relating various beliefs to one another, etc. One’s system of thought as a corporate whole encounters the tribunal of experience, and recalcitrant or falsifying experience will force revisions somewhere in the system. However there is no set portion of the system which must be revised in response to some set experience; which beliefs will undergo alteration will depend on the presuppositions which are being used – the presuppositions being the very least likely beliefs to be revised. When the presuppositions are abandoned we have, not just a change in attitude toward particular facts, but rather an extensive shift in one’s concepts, standards, or paradigms.


Simply given a true statement in some natural language, who can say whether it should rank as immune from revision or not? Nobody can tell just from the isolated statement itself. It all depends on its place in a network of thought, its position in one’s conceptual system. Which statements should be taken as certain and granted revisionary immunity cannot be determined simply by the notations of a language (as has been erroneously thought with respect to “analytic” truths). Which points of truth can be properly taken as the firmly entrenched beliefs of a system of thought? That is like asking which geographical points in a country can be taken as starting points for a trip. The entrenched truths will vary from person to person, relative to one’s manner of life, goals, experience, etc. Any statement can be treated as immune from revision – immune no matter what a person observes (provided appropriate adjustments are made elsewhere in his conceptual system). Deciding which statements among the competing claims should be and properly are immune from revision is one of the most significant and difficult tasks of philosophy; the matter cannot be easily resolved by appeal to a muddled distinction between analytic and synthetic truths.


The human epistemological condition, then, is characterized by adherence to presuppositions which resist falsification and yet cannot be characterized as trivial. People have beliefs to which they will cling though everything else fails. Their thoughts and lives are governed by such presuppositional beliefs; whatever is inconsistent with them is to be eliminated. The presuppositions of a system of thought will be the standard of truth and evidence in it. They will reflect a person’s most basic commitments and will affect all areas of his life. Therefore, even though they will be taken as certain (and not simply probable), they will be far from trivial or simply conventional. Indeed, when all of the superficial cosmetic of objective and unemotional academics is stripped away, these presuppositions will be seen as matters of passion and highest personal concern. The meaning of one’s life is usually tied up with his presuppositional beliefs, and consequently they make a difference in all of his concerns, behavior, thoughts, etc. Revisionary immunity here does not imply that such presuppositions are informationally vacuous or insignificant! It is just because these beliefs are granted revisionary immunity that they are significant, substantive, and far reaching in their effects.


It should be noted in passing that there are many degrees of revisionary immunity exhibited among the beliefs of one’s system of thought. That is, some beliefs are more, some less, firmly entrenched in our thinking. Each belief governs one’s behavior and reasoning to some extent, but those which are least extensive in their effect and least firmly entrenched will be those which are the first to be revised or repudiated when his system of thought is challenged by counter-evidence. Every new experience and all new knowledge will be fit into our system of thought in such a way that a minimum of intellectual labor and of life-style alteration is necessary. The most firmly entrenched of our beliefs will call for the greatest revisions throughout the system of thought and behavior, and thus they are relinquished last of all. One will require more than usual counter-evidence before he will abandon his presuppositional commitments – if he will abandon them at all (rather than suspecting the alleged “evidence” in some way instead). Furthermore, it should be noted that two people can have the same presupposition and nevertheless develop differing systems of thought on the basis of it; this is because their secondary commitments, experiences, philosophical abilities, training and social influences will be different. Presuppositions have the greatest control over a system of thought, but they are not the only factor in that system’s development. Likewise, people who share presuppositions can respond to counter-evidence in different ways; the desire for simplicity, minimal disturbance, and social acceptability can lead people to seek consistency for their thoughts in different directions.

More on Naïve Presuppositionalism

Posted: December 30, 2013 in General

More on Naïve Presuppositionalism.



“Why do some people grow quickly and move on in the Christian life and others drift away or always seem stuck in neutral? Why do 2 young addicts profess faith, get involved in the life of the same church, have the same discipleship opportunities, gain new friendships and yet one quickly begins to flounder whilst the other grows and excels in their Christian life? How do we explain it when we invest hours and hours of intense discipleship into people and yet, when left to their own devices, they continually seem to make the wrong choices and fall into serious sin? Yet others pick up the baton and excel under the challenge of living for Christ?”

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