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definition - Transcendental_argument_for_the_existence_of_God

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Transcendental argument for the existence of God

                   

The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God (TAG) is the argument that attempts to prove God's existence by arguing that logic, morals, and science ultimately presuppose a theistic worldview, and that God must be the source of logic and morals.[1] A version was formulated by Immanuel Kant in his 1763 work The Only Possible Argument in Support of a Demonstration of the Existence of God.

The TAG is not considered a mainstream subject of the Philosophy of Religion and is rarely addressed in textbooks on the topic.[2] Most contemporary formulations of the Transcendental argument have been developed within the framework of (Christian) Presuppositional apologetics, hence they tend to conclude that the God of Christianity is the one whose existence is being demonstrated. [2]

Contents

  Transcendental reasoning

Transcendental arguments should not be confused with transcendent arguments, or arguments for the existence of something transcendent. In other words, they are distinct from both arguments that appeal to a transcendent intuition or sense as evidence, and arguments that move from direct evidence to the existence of a transcendent thing (Classical Apologetics).

They are also distinct from standard deductive and inductive forms of reasoning. Where a standard deductive argument looks for what we can deduce from the fact of X, and a standard inductive argument looks for what we can infer from experience of X, a transcendental argument looks for the necessary prior conditions to both the fact and experience of X. Thus, "I entitle transcendental all knowledge which is occupied not so much with objects as with the mode of our knowledge of objects insofar as this mode of knowledge is to be possible a priori." (Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, Introduction, VII).

  The argument

The TAG is a transcendental argument that attempts to prove that God is the precondition of all human knowledge and experience, by demonstrating the impossibility of the contrary; in other words, that logic, reason, or morality cannot exist without God. The argument proceeds as follows:[3]

  1. If there is no god (most often the entity God, defined as the god of the Christian bible), knowledge is not possible.
  2. Knowledge is possible (or some other statement pertaining to logic or morality).
  3. Therefore a god exists.

Cornelius Van Til likewise wrote:

We must point out that reasoning itself leads to self-contradiction, not only from a theistic point of view, but from a non-theistic point of view as well... It is this that we ought to mean when we say that we reason from the impossibility of the contrary. The contrary is impossible only if it is self-contradictory when operating on the basis of its own assumptions.
—(A Survey of Christian Epistemology [Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1969], p. 204).

Therefore, the TAG differs from Thomistic and Evidentialist arguments, which posit the probable existence of God in order to avoid an infinite regress of causes or motions, to explain life on Earth, and so on. The TAG posits the necessary existence of a particular conception of God in order for human knowledge and experience to be possible at all. The TAG argues that, because the triune God of the Bible, being completely logical, uniform, and good, exhibits a character in the created order and the creatures themselves (especially in humans), human knowledge and experience are possible. This reasoning implies that all other alternatives such as Buddhism and Islam, when followed to their logical conclusions, descend into absurdity, arbitrariness or inconsistency.

  Objective morality

One aspect of the TAG regards objective morality. The argument asserts that an omnibenevolent God provides the basis for attributing right and wrong to any thought or action. In creation God equips humanity to act as moral beings, and in self-revelation God demonstrates how people should act. People then have an objective source for their standard of morality by which to condemn evil thoughts and actions (or to commend good ones).

The argument further states that meta-ethical relativists, by contrast, cannot condemn theft, rape or genocide (nor commend generosity, marriage, or the preservation of life) without relying on the assumption of an objective source for morality. No moral assertions, it is argued, can be explained by the relativist's own worldview; they are instead derived from unconsciously "borrowed capital" from Christianity, proving the truth of the Christian worldview.

  Criticisms

The chief criticism of all formulations of the TAG revolve around its premise that "without a god, knowledge cannot exist". While acceptance of this premise can lead to the conclusion that a god must exist, the argument itself, as is characteristic of all deductive reasoning, provides no demonstrated necessity to accept the premise. Martin (1997) suggested the invalidity of this assertion when he reformulated the TAG as the 'Transcendental argument for the non-existence of God' using the replacement premise, 'the existence of knowledge presupposes the non-existence of God'[2]

Several other criticisms of the TAG have emerged. One says that TAG is not a distinctive form of argument: this objection claims that the form of the TAG (indirect, transcendental) is really just a reworking of the standard deductive and inductive forms of reasoning; it claims that there is really not much difference between Thomas Aquinas and Cornelius Van Til.

  Responses to Criticisms

In response to the criticism that the premise "without a god, knowledge cannot exist" is unsupported, Christian apologist Timothy McCabe has suggested the disputed assertion can be demonstrated deductively beginning with Atheistic presuppositions and concisely summarizes as follows:

Atheists claim their own conclusions are randomly generated accidents.[4]

McCabe's argument is represented by the following deductive syllogisms:

  1. If Atheism is true, then Everything is ultimately the direct result of purely random, uncoordinated and undependable accidents.
  2. Everything includes Our Conclusions.
  3. Therefore, if Atheism is true, then Our Conclusions are ultimately the direct result of purely random, uncoordinated and undependable accidents.
  1. If Atheism is true, then Our Conclusions are ultimately the direct result of purely random, uncoordinated and undependable accidents (from 3 above).
  2. Knowledge does not exist if Our Conclusions are ultimately the direct result of purely random, uncoordinated and undependable accidents.
  3. Therefore, if Atheism is true then knowledge does not exist.

  See also


  References

  1. ^ Michael Martin (1997). "Does Induction Presume the Existence of the Christian God?". http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/induction.html. Retrieved 21 April 2011. "But what about The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God (TAG)--the argument that logic, science, and objective ethical standards presuppose the existence of God?" 
  2. ^ a b c Martin, Michael (1997). "Does Induction Presuppose the Existence of the Christian God?". Skeptic 5 (2): 71-75. 
  3. ^ Meister, Chad V.; Mittelberg, Mark; McDowell, Josh; Montgomery, John F. (2007). Reasons for Faith: Making a Case for the Christian Faith. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books. ISBN 1-58134-787-1. http://books.google.com/books?id=N3OJ0sz35dsC&lpg=PA231&ots=PEWHUcys_B&dq=Greg%20Bahnsen%20transcendental%20argument&pg=PA236. [page needed]
  4. ^ McCabe, Timothy. "What's an easy way to demonstrate that Atheism is false?" The God Contention. <http://www.godcontention.org/index.php?qid=431>
Notes
  • E. R. Geehan, ed., Jerusalem and Athens: Critical Discussions on the Philosophy and Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980).
  • Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til's Apologetic: Readings and Analysis (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1998).
  • John M. Frame, Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1995).
  • Steven M. Schlissel, ed., The Standard Bearer: A Festschrift for Greg L. Bahnsen (Nacogdoches: Covenant Media Press, 2002).
  • Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith". Robert R. Booth, ed. (Nacogdoches: Covenant Media Press, 1996).
  • John M. Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God: An Introduction (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1994).
  • John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1987).

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