We've been discussing the fact that the Objectivist viewpoint is self defeating, precisely, because it must assume what it cannot verify objectively. You can read some of that discussion here, and Dawson's attempt to respond to me in the comments of the previous post, as well as here and here.
I tried to point out that Dawson, and his ilk, are merely begging the question with pretty much every argument, and question, they pose to me. Dawson, of course, denies this and claims that he has no assumptions, but rather reasons to his worldview without first assuming it. He is just experiencing unmediated reality and reasons from there. But I wanted to show how this is being done at the foundations of their argument. He summarizes the Objectivist stance, and what follows is my summation of that argument:
1. Existence exists.
2. I experience what exists through my sensory perception.
3. Man is a blank slate, and his finitude does not hinder his ability to explore the true nature of reality; and thus, nothing initially hinders this perception or the identification that follows (i.e., there seems to be a hidden premise here that the senses are reliable in perceiving whatever exists).
4. I can therefore confirm through my senses that what exists is the natural world.
5. I also experience imagination.
6. I can imagine things that are not real and so make a distinction between what is imagined and what is real.
7. Ergo, things that are imagined are not real unless one can verify them through sensory perception or the conceptualization of reality that is rooted in that sensory perception of an unmediated reality.
8. If things that are imagined, and cannot be confirmed through sensory perception or the conceptualization that is rooted in it, are not a part of reality, then God, angels, demons, souls, etc. are not a part of reality.
9. Hence, none of that exists.
The Objectivist, therefore, thinks that he has logically found a way to describe reality apart from presupposing his view of reality. He just starts with what exists.
Here is the problem with that, and anyone savvy in the field of epistemology already sees the problem here.
1. The statement that existence exists is vague. In fact, it assumes that what exists is what is being experienced to exist by our senses. But this point is already at dispute by half of the world's religions. How would Dawson and his crowd answer the question, How do you know existence exists without begging the question that it does? How do you know it exists without first believing the metaphysical claims of Christian Scientists, for instance, is false and yours true?
2. But since I am a Christian, I am willing to grant P1 (Premise 1), which is why Dawson, in attempting to pigeonhole me to a primacy of consciousness fails at this point. We both agree that existence exists. We both agree that there is a reality beyond my consciousness of it (I would actually argue, however, that it is Objectivism that ties reality with my consciousness by assuming that what I experience must be what is real, since I am the standard and judge of what is real--hence, it is Rand, not her critics, who commit the fallacy of the stolen concept; but I'll save that for another day).
This, then, brings us to P2. How exactly does one know that what he is experiencing is, in fact, what exists? How does a man in a mental ward, who sees persons who do not exist, and thoroughly believes that they exist to the extent of talking to them, feeling the sense of touching them, and even loving them? How does the dog know what color the rose is (which was an objection that goes unaddressed by Dawson when he attempts to describe what is happening when a dog perceives--this has nothing to do with my argument)? In other words, how does one know that he is experiencing reality unless he first knows what reality is, and can, therefore, confirm that what he is experiencing is truly reality, as opposed to the man in the mental ward? In other words, this also begs the question.
3. The most obvious of cases in which he begs the question is in stating that man is a blank slate. Christians believe that man is in rebellion against God, born with a desire to supplant God, and without God in the world, so that the reality he begins to assess is distorted by these desires. He does not want to conclude in favor of God, so he makes arguments about reality that do not include Him.
God is also not a part of his reality because he has no relationship with God, so this lack of relationship distorts his understanding.
Of course, Hindus, Buddhists, Christian Scientists, Scientologists, etc. believe that we are trapped in an elaborate delusion and that there is no physical world, only the illusion of it. Hence, we are not born as blank slates, but as deceived aspects of a universal mind that has come to believe it has individuality.
My point is that Dawson has to beg the question as to human nature before he can even come to an understanding of human nature. One cannot make claims about human nature without first assuming something about it, since he is using human nature to assess the truth about it.
4. There is no reason to believe that my senses can perceive reality unless one first assumes it. In fact, here the naturalistic assumptions come out strongest. How exactly do I know that my senses would pick up aspects of reality that are beyond its abilities to perceive without first assuming that reality exists as only that which I can perceive? In other words, I must first beg the question as to what exists and my capabilities of accessing that information before I even begin to make the above argument made by Objectivists. Yet, I cannot assert what I need to prove by the very assertion that needs to be proven. That is exactly what is being done here by Dawson and his ilk.
5. How does one make a distinction between imagination and what is not imagined? Again, one must beg the question in order to obtain to such knowledge. I must first know what reality is and then argue against anything that does not accord with that, but supposedly I am arguing for reality by using imagination. How exactly am I arguing to what is real by using what is not real without first identifying what is not real by what is real?
6. I am completely incapable of making a distinction between what is real and what is not without begging the question as to what is real in the first place.
7. The entire conclusion fails as to a logical argument. If Dawson wants to restate all of this as just stuff he believes without any evidence to establish it first, then he'd be fine. But he wants to claim that he is being objective, so he ends up ignoring all of this question begging.
8 and 9. Since the entire argument fails, and P7 is without warrant, 8 and 9 are false conclusions as well.
Hence, his argument does not merely beg the question at one point, but at every point. His argument is nothing more than a pure, unwarranted belief asserting itself as objectively true and pretending to be an argument.
The idea that a must rely on b in order for its justification tells us that b must be justified, and that eventually we get to the idea of the "given." But this idea is precisely what must be assumed, and this is not a mere irreducible axiom, as it is only irreducible if one begs the question of his own worldview first. It is not irreducible in all possible worlds and worldviews. Hence, it cannot be held as a given.
It doesn't matter if I can define non-physical objects, or can make a good case for a Christian epistemology, or can find this or that methodological naturalism in the Bible (why would I find it there? The Bible makes more sense in arguing that faith is primary in making justifications for our beliefs about reality). That's all smoke and mirrors, folks. It's "lawyerese." I know. I was going to become a lawyer at one time. They're rhetorical parlor tricks. Even though I have answered these, and can answer them further, I don't have to answer any of them in order for my objection to be true (which is why I originally said, and still affirm, that Dawson is making a tu quoque). This sort of thing works on layman, but Dawson's Jedi mind-tricks aren't going to work on me, even though he seems to have actually fooled himself with them.
In fact, look at the questions given to me, "How do you distinguish between what is real and what is imagined?" "How do you discern between truth and error." In other words, if you don't assume naturalism and the Objectivism that relies upon it, how can anyone empirically verify what is true? But this too begs the question as to whether I can or should be the one to verify ultimate truths. It also begs the question as to whether such is possible. I have argued that such is not possible, even within the Objectivist methodology, as it must assume what it must prove to make its case.
Instead, my interlocutors are so entrenched in their worldviews they cannot even see what they are doing. Even their questions beg the question and assume that man is reliant upon himself to discern questions of ultimate reality.
In this, they are right that if left without Objectivism, as many atheists have concluded, man can really know nothing. He must just believe and reason from there. I agree with these latter atheists. However, because I believe that man is reliant, not upon himself, but God, through faith and reason, man can come to a sufficient knowledge of the world through the analogy of language. Hence, revelation is mandatory if God exists and we are to know the true nature of ourselves and the reality in which we live. But I don't believe you're going to find that revelation in philosophy and science. You're only going to find that in the Bible.
Without revelation, and without the acknowledgement that man must first believe and then make sense of what he experiences (Objectivism has a problem confusing the chronology of experience with the logical justification of what we believe about our experience), we are left, with Dawson and his friends, up an epistemological creek without a paddle.