Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Philosophy, the Great Cheat, and the Great Delusion

         Even though they rightly chastise their students for question begging, philosophers themselves always beg the question.  They always cheat.  If they did not cheat, if they did not beg the question, they could not do philosophy at all.  Philosophers begin with a colossal cheat and cannot proceed without it.  They beg the question, THE question, the question before all questions, right from the start. 
         Here is the question:  “Are mind and senses together a reliable way of understanding the world?
         In order to answer that question properly, in order to answer it without begging it, philosophers must not use the mind and senses in question.  But they do it any way.  They know that not to cheat here is not to begin.  In the choice between beginning with a cheat or not beginning at all, they elect to cheat.  They construct an entire system of reason on the foundation of a begged question, which is the philosopher’s version of the house built on sand.  Theirs is a system of reason based on unreason, even anti-reason.  Theirs is a rationality that is irrational at the root.  They start with a non-starter and march boldly forward nevertheless.  They build, in effect, a metaphysical Potemkin village, something far less profound and substantial than what meets the eye.
         Not to do so brings their entire project to a halt.  To acknowledge that initial cheat, and to refuse to go forward until it is resolved, is to bring the philosophic endeavor to an abrupt end at the very beginning, and that they will not permit.
         They do not permit it because to the great cheat they add the great delusion, which is the pose and pretense that human creatures are careful, precise, and objective seekers after the truth.  They are not.  They are wicked, sinful, self-glorifying sinners whose heart, Calvin rightly observed, is an idol factory.  It displaces and replaces God at every possible turn.  The philosophic impulse, like everything else about us, is fallen.  That’s because the will to power is stronger in us than the will to truth or to validity.
         If the philosophers have such knowledge about their crippled, indeed morally dead, selves, they deny it or suppress it.  If they do not have such knowledge, they are even more woefully ignorant and self-deceived than we yet have said.  They beg the question not only concerning a starting point, but also concerning themselves.  To the question “Even assuming that mind and senses are reliable, am I myself to be trusted in this philosophical pursuit?" they must begin by assuming that they are indeed capable or else not begin at all.  Somehow, that they have cheated at the outset of the philosophical enterprise by begging the question of mind and senses does not does not lead them to conclude that they are cheaters who cannot be trusted.  No; instead they cheat and then cheat again:  If they know they have cheated just to begin, they are deceivers and cannot be trusted.  If they do not know that they have cheated just to begin, they are incompetent and cannot be trusted.  Nevertheless, they trust themselves to begin.
         Do not follow them in their mistake, in their whirling self-delusion.
         Philosophers are like all other human creatures.  They are desperately fallen and deeply wicked.  They are not objective and truth-seeking analysts.  No one is.  Philosophers are subject to the same debilitating noetic effects of sin as are we all.  Ignorant of, or defiant of, the fundamental truth about us, philosophers march boldly and publically forward, spinning out false universes in their minds, hoping to lure you into the vortex of their delusions, mocking those who refuse to follow, but doing so only on the basis of the house of cards they have constructed for themselves and the lies they believe about themselves.  They not only misconstrue the world, they misconstrue themselves and God, which is utterly fatal to wisdom.  They do not know what Calvin knew:  Wisdom is comprised of two things:  knowledge of God and knowledge of ourselves.  Calvin knew that such knowledge is a package deal.  Those two foci of knowledge come tied closely together and are gotten only through Christ, Who is both truly God and authentically human.  He is known only through the historical events narrated and explained in Scripture, which for their work philosophers reject.  Were they to accept Scripture as the basis for their thinking, they would not be philosophers but theologians.
         In a display of unmitigated hubris, some philosophers even think they can reason their way up to God Himself.  They think that they can, simply by means of the mind and senses they cheated to use, construct a system of thought that encompasses and rightly understands the world, themselves, and even things beyond the world.  Regarding the last, they do not know that whatever they reach by such means is not God.  They do not know that God cannot be reached; He reaches.  We cannot get from here to there; He can and does get from there to here.  To know Him requires revelation and regeneration.  It requires raw, undiluted, redeeming and transforming grace, which is no part of philosophy.
         How to avoid begging these questions I have explained elsewhere.  Here is but one:

         (An aside:  some philosophers think they can justify their use of mind and senses because mind and senses can be shown to work.  But that is simply to mistake pragmatic preference and utility for metaphysical warrant, which it is not and never can be.  It also simply continues to beg the question because both to determine and to measure utility requires mind and senses.) 


David L. Russell said...

Good writing Mike. I will be passing this along to my philosophy students at Mercer Univ. I am reminded of what Lewis said............. Good philosophy must exist because bad philosophy needs to be answered,

beyondthedish said...

Michael, Would you classify yourself as a presuppositionalist?

Dr. Michael Bauman said...

BTD, No. See here: