Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Necessary Preconditions of intelligibility

Apropos to my last post, while reading Dawson Bethrick's reply to a budding presuppositionalist, I was inevitably drawn deeper into the Interwebz to read background and related material. Dawson provides a series on world views and intelligibility beginning at Can a *Worldview* "Provide" the "Preconditions of Intelligibility"? - Part I.

I was reminded of Deacon Duncan's post on the same subject - containing a much more concise passage that addresses the issue:

The necessary preconditions of intelligibility are simple: reality must be consistent with itself. Intelligibility requires that we be able to employ concepts, which are mental representations corresponding to properties and/or objects in the real world, at some level of abstraction. To be meaningful, concepts must be consistent (at some level, at least), with objective reality, and that in turn requires that reality be consistent with itself. Otherwise we end up with concepts that refer only to some inconsistent and thus non-meaningful state, thus making them unintelligible and useless.

Notice that to reach this conclusion we need assume neither Christianity nor atheism. Intelligibility depends on the self-consistent nature of reality whether there’s any God or not. Indeed, if reality lacked this quality, God Himself would not exist in any meaningful way, because when reality itself is lacking in self-consistency, knowledge is meaningless and impossible, which means God could not be omniscient. (He also would be unable to be omnipotent or loving or eternal, but I’ll leave a discussion of that as an exercise for the reader.)

Dawson goes a step further, by pointing out how backwards this is:

... it should be clear that the assumption that a worldview can “provide the preconditions of intelligibility” (or “intelligible experience”) plays a central role in the presuppositionalist playbook.

Unfortunately for presuppositionalism, however, the idea that a worldview can “provide the preconditions for intelligibility” – at least with respect to the most fundamental of those preconditions – is itself incoherent. That is because those preconditions would already have to be present in order for a worldview to exist in the first place.

in order to avoid the mental contortions that a presuppositionalist has to perform in order to believe what they say, I'll summarize what both Duncan and Bethrick exposit:
  1. reality exists
  2. reality exhibits patterns that can be recognized (it is consistent with itself)
  3. entities such as ourselves need minds that can recognize the patterns in reality in order to have coherent perceptions
  4. our minds need to be able to construct, maintain and update nets of perceptions in order to develop a mental picture of what the world is like ("world view")

1 comment:

  1. How do you know that reality exists? A friend of mine once told me that maybe we are living in a simulation.
    I don't really believe that we are living in a simulation.
    So how do you know that reality exists?